Posts tagged “vampire

Freshly Sketched: Pike the Mad Elf


Game Name: Legacy
Game System: Palladium RPG
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Character Name: Pike
Game History: The Palladium Roleplaying Game System was my first foray into serious gaming. At the time I was knee-deep in Marvel Super Heroes and was gearing up for my first venture into Vampire: The Masquerade. I was surrounded by other closet gaming geeks therefore I was privy to knowledge not known to the likes of mortal men and women. One tasty bit of information came in the form of the super secret (but no so secret) location of a magical building called The Forbidden Planet.

I know. It just sounds nerdy, right?

It’s hard to describe what this was. It was like a gaming strip club for nerds. You had to ascend a flight of steps lined with Manga posters and collectors item toys before you actually reached the main floor. Flanking the stairway to your right was the Fortress of the Cashier post manned by the Sentry Geek. There he or she (depending on who was stationed at the time) would stand amidst a halo of gaming paraphernalia. From dice to cards to pewter figurines, you name it, the Sentry Geek had it. He was a bastion of worldly wisdom and would wait patiently overlooking the book and toy landscape. The Sentry Geek was a prophet and quite often could answer your questions with only a few words. The shop itself was narrow yet stretched for as far as the eye can see. Books upon books lines the walls. Statues, posters, painting supplies, board games, tv and movie memorabilia and even a life-size Wookie could be found throughout the tight spaced isles. It was a hobbyist’s wet dream and a playground for the gaming elite. It was here that the Palladium Fantasy RPG first caught my eye. I had long wanted to run a Lord of the Rings style game and this system sang to me like a siren on the horizon.

I ended up purchasing a total of 6 books for this particular game over the course of the two years (and still have them to this day).

The Character: Pike was by far my most favorite character to date and that’s saying a lot considering some of the outlandish roles I’ve had over the years. He was my first deviation from the “me look” and persona. He was brash, egotistical, arrogant and could start a fight in an empty room. Some could say I act like that now but back then it was a stretch for a low-key cool cat like myself.

The story took place in a world called Vale. It was a place of magic, mystery, mystical creatures, and kingdoms of men. Pike grew up in a time many thousands of years after the fall of the great Elven kingdoms. It was the Age of Man and not many of his people remained. Those that did went into hiding or had assimilated into human society, adopting their ways and their Gods. He grew up in a small farming community on the outskirts of the Western Empire called Thenyn. The first of three children by way of Varius and Ecstacia, Pike spent the early years of his life following his father’s footsteps. Varius,  the town blacksmith, taught his son the trade and had him working in the forge before he could even hold a weapon.

At the age of 12 Pike’s life took an unfortunate turn. Thenyn was attacked by a marauding horde of Midland trolls. They were merciless in their assault and slaughtered everything in sight. His mother and sisters managed to escape the onslaught but his father perished trying to save his fellow villagers. Those that didn’t find death at the end of a blade were taken captive and marched south towards the Old Kingdom Mountains. The trolls were doing the bidding of a ruthless band of mercenaries called the Red Blade. They had established a labor camp at the base of Mount Icera and were importing slaves from neighboring lands to work the quarry. For years he toiled without hope in sight bearing the loss of his family. Salvation came years later in the form of a liberation force from the Western Empire. Those slaves that managed to survive the years of torment were freed and the Red Blade was vanquished. With nothing left for him to go back to, Pike wandered aimlessly with his friend Rodius in the hopes of finding a new life.

Their travels brought them as far south as the Timaro Kingdom. There they found fame and fortune on the wrong side of the law. Life on the road had transformed them into thieves and hustlers, skills perfectly suited for the criminal underworld. By the age of 18 Pike and Rodius’ guild ruled Timaro from the shadows having put down all other major criminal organizations in the city in less than two years. Many bloody guild wars were fought but the Shadow Dancers walked away with an iron fist grasp on all illegal activity that transpired in the region. Life finally had purpose and they were on top of the world. That is until fate intervened in his life once again.

A man with and outstanding gambling debt requested audience with the guild leaders. Such a privilege was rarely ever granted but was approved regardless. To Pike’s surprise his was a face from his past; an old merchant that frequently traded with this village. He shared with him unbelievable news. He told of how his mother and sisters survived the massacre and that he had seen them as recently as the past year. Overwhelmed with emotion he absolved the man of his debt and relinquished control of the cartel to his long time friend. He set forth back to the Western Empire on a journey that would change the face of Vale forever.

It’s Worth Noting:

  • The character Pike spanned through a complete campaign that lasted about a year and respawned later in a game I ran several years ago.
  • He was totally a randomly generated character to begin with. I had modified a character generator derived from a Japanese RPG called Mekton that my friend had. That generator has been the basis for whipping up characters in almost every game I’ve run since then. It’s easy enough to customize to suit whichever system. Currently I modified it to work for the Dragon Age RPG. If you’re feeling really geeky (or just plain curious) give it a try. I even left some virtual dice on the Net for you. 😉
  • I tend to use the name Pike (or variations of it)  in video games and MMORGs as well. For example I’ve played under the name Lord Pike the Undying in World 9 of  Tribal Wars for years now. Course some of my tribe mates will dispute that since I’ve pretty much gone AWOL since coming up north. ;p
  • I’ve recently started adapting the first campaign Pike was involved into written work. Nothing serious though. Just a recounting of what went down told from the perspective of someone who knew him in the game. You have to understand that this game was run back in the olden days of ’90 – ’92 when computers where barely starting to break into households. All my documentation was handwritten in a notebook and about couple dozen pieces of paper.  Much of what I’m writing comes from memory and those few notes that I kept at the time. I’m trying to retell the story before feeble mind loses it forever. If you’re ever bored and want to kill some time reading pseudo-fan fiction just ask for a copy.
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Do you think there’s really any treasure here?


So here I am yet again, sitting at my computer locked in an eternal battle between utter exhaustion and overactive brain activity. My body is telling me to go to sleep but the 8am-sky-at-3am is telling my mind we have to be up for some odd reason. So what does one do when they can’t put two thoughts together for more than five minutes?

Start blogging of course.

I didn’t want to write anything earlier. I was perfectly content with penning my late night business correspondences but that became incredibly tedious. Like a true professional I got distracted and somehow I found myself organizing some directories on one of my work drives. Since getting my rig back into working shape I hadn’t really organized any of my files and folders so of course it was prudent to start doing this at 2 in the morning. I didn’t have any specific goal in mind but I sifted through the clutter anyway. I was taken aback at how old some of the files on this computer were. It was at that point I unearthed a treasure trove of old artwork I had completely forgotten about. I sat there for a half hour reminiscing and revelling in how good (and bad) some of it was.

Since starting my whole crusade to get back to drawing I thought it would be fun to treat my faithful to a humorous and eye-opening trip back into my artistic past…

We travel back first to 1998. This was probably my most active time ever as an artist. It was a banner year for me because not only was it did I meet my beloved wife, but it was my first love affair with Adobe Photoshop. A good friend of mine introduced me to Photoshop 3. He was impressed with what I was doing with just pencil and ink and assured me that this program would revolutionize my entire concept of artwork.

No words have ever been truer.

I had zero knowledge about how to use the program nor did I even have a graphics tablet. That didn’t stop me from grabbing the mouse as soon as it was installed and drawing this little guy. You can see my utterly stylistic use of that rather funky bubble filter. I really don’t know what was on my mind at the time. Okay that’s not true. Obviously I had eggheads, christmas and cigarettes on the brain. I had some sick fascination with those bug-eyed aliens for some reason. It’s a good thing I don’t obsess about stuff like that anymore…

I’ve always loved this picture though. It’s significance is monumental to me. It’ll always remind me of the first time I played around with the program I now use practically every single day for the past decade.

Prior to my transition over to digital artwork, I used to work exclusively with markers, pencil and ink. One of the last things I did, fully inked on paper, was this little work titled Misguided Youth. I made a digital re-imagining of this (that I’ll show another time) a few years ago but it never really captured the feel of this picture.

It fascinates me that I drew this. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything (because believe me if I could do that I wouldn’t leave the house ever) but I just really admire the amount of time and effort I used to put into my artwork. I probably spent days working on this one. Sure it has its obvious technical flaws but it just boggles my mind how dedicated I was to the craft.

I think of how I work now and everything is rushed. I draw knowing it’ll go into Photoshop at some point and I can “touch it up”. Back then I didn’t know about digital illustration. I had to bang it out in one shot and try to make as few mistakes as possible. I wish I had that patience still. I guess I’ve just grown complacent and lazy thanks to the power of Ctrl+Z.

One day I’ll regain that level of commitment… but it’s gonna take a pretty big power outage for that to happen.

Go back a little further to 1997 and I was still toiling away with pencils and ink. I was never quite an art pencil type of guy. I had shelled out $125 (which was a lot at the time) for a Rapidograph graphic pen set that had 8 precision sizes and wasn’t about to waste anymore more money on pencils. I figured if I couldn’t sketch with a good ole’ No.2 then I shouldn’t be drawing at all.

Anyway I came across this piece and it shocked me. I studied it for a while and was in awe of how detailed it was. I can even dare say it’s far better than anything I do now. Some disagree but it motivates me nonetheless to get back on point.

I had totally forgotten about this character. Her name was Celeste and she was my vision of a lost Jedi knight. She wasn’t for a game or anything. I just liked Star Wars and was pissed that there weren’t any hot female Jedis so I made one. Although Leia had minor force powers she was in no way a Jedi. I wanted to see a kick ass, lightsaber wielding broad so thanks to having an incredible amount of time on my hands and a vivid imagination I created her.

I loved drawing women. What dude wouldn’t? You ladies out there really don’t realize what remarkable pieces of art you are. No matter what shape or complexion the female form inspired me to draw literally hundreds of pieces of artwork.

Unfortunately for me I have no idea where the paper sketch of it is. The scanned copy is all that I have to remember how good I used to be without technology.

The greatest treasure though came in the form of this little sketch that dates all the way back to 1982. I had no idea I was drawing at that young age. A pretty toxic romp through the teenage years robbed me of a lot of childhood memories so this gem is priceless.

Apparently I was only 7 when I decided to bust out the drawing skills. If I remember anything I know I was all about GI Joe. I had dozens of the toys and would be latched to the television when the cartoon came on. My favorite character was always Stormshadow. If you don’t know your GI Joe, let me tell you that he put the cool in being a ninja. He wore white when every other ninja wore black and his whup ass switch was stuck in the ON position. He was awesome before I ever ascended to those heights so obviously I had to represent by making a rendition of him.

I’m impressed with his arsenal. My Stormshadow is packing tons of weapons on him. I’m not quite certain how effective some of them are. That arm knife looks kinda like a syringe but who cares? It can still take an eye out. He’s even got child-sized nunchucks in case he has to beat down some kids. Most of all you can’t beat the scowl on his face. He’s downright menacing. If you saw that coming you’d be frozen in fear.

I honestly thought I didn’t really start getting into drawing until I was about 10. Finding this has shed some light on a childhood I struggle to remember constantly.

I hope you enjoyed my little trek through Memory Lane. Not many artists are willing to show off their humble beginnings. I’m a firm believer in remembering what got you to where you are today. These, and so many other pictures, help me recall the days when I had absolute passion for the craft.

One day I hope to get that fire back.


Freshly Sketched: The Vampiric Elven Blood Mage & Self-Mutilated Dwarven Berserker

Vampiric Elven Blood Mage

“Are you afraid of dragons? “
~Valerian: Dragonslayer (1981)

I’m debuting a new category yet again today and decided to pair it up with my recently inaugurated Art? section. I decided to ease into this new and harsh realm slowly like an old man into a warm bath. The Geek Zone is all about celebrating geekiness and geekdom. This category’s subject matter will vary from time to time and is reserved for common knowledge geekiness within said topic range. If you are unfamiliar with a particular topic you have two choices: start doing some homework or avoid it all costs. I spend far too much time educating the masses in all my other posts to do that here. This is a place where geeks can roam free and mingle amongst the herd. If you are faint of heart in the face of supreme nerdiness or easily flustered by knowledge and references that are beyond your scope, the Geek Zone is not for you.

Those who stumble upon the vast reaches of my nerdiness beware, it is a path not easily tread upon. I’m not a total meanie. I’ll point you in the right direction sometimes but for the most part you have to figure the particulars out yourself. If you’re truly interested you’ll find out more. If not, then no loss either way. I’ve combined this with some Freshly Sketched artwork so that even if you don’t know what’s being mentioned you can look at the (un)pretty pictures. It’s my way of getting back at the world for making me a Professional Dumbass. At least you were warned, right? Those prolific in the Geek Topic of the Day should have no trouble following along.

Today’s Topic – Dragon Age Role Playing Game

Source: Wikipedia

Suzanne and I have cracked out on this series to the point of actually purchasing the RPG. I love the stories and culture of the game. Draws a lot of comparisons to real life but with a dark and sometimes humorous twist. After reading through the Players Guide (because Suzanne has forbidden me to read the GM Guide because she wants to run her first campaign) I got hit with massive inspiration to draw some characters. I’ve probably run through Dragon Age: Origins a dozen times and Dragon Age 2 about 4 or 5 times now but the books actually shed more light on the world of Dragon Age than anything else and opened up the floodgates. It took me back to the good ole’ highschool days when some buddies and I would commandeer a spot in the local pizza shop for hours gaming.

The geek runs strong in my family. My father had it. I have it. My friends have it… and my wife has it.

Anyway the first vision to pop into my head was Marilyn Manson. I know… not the first thought any sane person should have pop into their head but who ever said I’m sane? Just awesome. Manson is iconic in the RPG scene. Back when I was playing Vampire: The Masquerade I had him pegged as a Malkavian hands down. I dig the show he makes of himself. He’s an incredible concept – art & character wise – so whenever a twisted drawing comes to mind, he’s usually at the forefront of my mind as a template. In the Dragon Age world blood mages are about as twisted and malicious as you get.  So I decided to marry the ideas of a vampires, blood mages, and Marilyn Manson into this…

Vampiric Elven Blood mage

My second concept came in the form of a dwarf. Everyone always falls in loves with writing about and drawing elves and humans but dwarves are always the odd man out cuz they’re short, angry and hairy. I decided to present a battle dwarf in a whole new light. Berserkers thrive on pain and violence. What better way to feed off pain than to have it self-inflicted constantly? So I decided to create a female dwarf built like the WWE’s Beth Phoenix but wrap her arms and legs in barbed wire. Nothing like having that persistent searing pain of razor-sharp wires to stir up some real emotions, eh?

Self-Mutilated Dwarven Berserker


In the beginning, it is always dark…


Picture it…

Several socially dead, introverted, painfully single, male geek-o-phile teens gathered around a table a dimly lit basement. Posters of scantily clad movie and game vixens adorn the walls. The air is thick with the smell of Mountain Dew and Cheetos. The Highlander plays on a old Zenith 27 inch TV with no sound is coming from it. The images dance across the screen to the tune of Master of Puppets playing in the background. Amidst all of this the tension is high.  Some of the teens are clad in paraphernalia ranging from gauntlets to weathered helmets. A mint condition Scottish claymore hangs on the wall behind the most elaborately costumed nerd draped in a dark cloak. They stare at him with a stoic intensity hanging on his every word. The table is littered with documents. Important documents. In an instant, the Head Geek barks out a command and one of his subordinates quickly responds. The sound of rattling interrupts the heated exchange as the Lesser Geek casts his dice along the table…

My apologies to whoever this is... you just fit the stereotype to a T.

Fail.

Welcome to the perceived world of RPGs (Role Playing Games). Before Xbox. Before Playstation. Before Sega. In the days of Collecovision and Atari gaming often referred to those ridiculed few who enjoyed playing role playing games – not video games. Dungeons & Dragons, Shadowrun, Vampire: The Mascarade, Palladium Megaverse… these are just some of the thousands of role playing game systems out there that people have enjoyed for decades.  Ever since the first Game master cracked open a book and ran his or her first campaign gaming has been the butt of endless jokes, non stop criticism and a source of contention to the masses. Why is that? Fear of the unknown is the basis for prejudice and that seems to be the case with gaming. Gaming has had such a stigma cast on it that I doubt anyone can ever truly and proudly admit that they like RPGs.  I figure I’ll do my part for those repressed masses who game in clandestine locations and have long suffered because they can’t come out of the Dungeon.

Let’s start off first with understanding what a Role Playing Game is exactly. Wikipedia defines it as the following:

A role-playing game (RPG) is a broad family of games in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making or character development. Actions taken within the game succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.

In order to understand gaming you have to understand that there are two forms distinct forms. You have the Classic RPGs (often called pen-and-paper RPGs) that involve (you guessed it) pen, paper, character sheets, and dice. The often gather in a comfortable, preferably indoor, setting with and basically get involved in an interactive verbal story.

Image courtesy of http://www.ifgs.org

The other form of gaming is called Live Action Role Playing (or LARPs as they like to be referred to as). Here people often dress up elaborately and perform their actions physically. Although both use a similar base format in having an arranger (or Game master) who serves as pseudo-referee that conveys the storyline, setting and progression as well as establish the rules these two forms of gaming are often dumped together in the same category to the chagrin of both parties.

I too suffer from the prejudice of not knowing what LARPs truly are. I’ve never participated in one and the only exposure I’ve had to them comes in the form of the movie Role Models (which paints a not to flattering but seriously hilarious portrait of the LARP world). I solemnly admit to poking fun at them behind closed doors. Again that stems from not knowing. Many LARPers take their gaming seriously and to piss on their Cheerios just because I am uninformed makes me no better than the people who bash Classic gamers. So, my apologies to thee, O’ LARPers of the world. Please enlighten me so that I can see the whole picture.

The best way to dissuade the stigma of gaming is to play Mythcrusher. I’d use the other myth title but I fear being sued for making reference to it without their permission.

  • Classic Role Playing Gamers and LARPers are the same damn thing.
    False. Don’t let either side hear you say that either. Gamers rarely get up in arms about criticism but mixing the two up is liable to get your stabbed in the throat. Both are very proud of their respective ways of gaming and while there are crossovers the general relation is in name only. To each his own, as it is said.
  • Gamers are all male teenage douchebags with no lives and no girlfriends.
    False. You’d be surprised at how many over-18 active gamers there are out there. In fact there are probably more young adult and middle aged gamers than teenage ones at this point in time. Mainly that’s because all the formerly teenage ones in the 80’s and 90’s are all old now. Once a gamer always a gamer. RPGs are all about creativity and it’s a perfect outlet for those who simply like to write. Women comprise a huge portion of the gaming community. In fact, female game masters tend to have the most elaborate and detailed campaigns ever. Don’t fool yourself. Hot chicks do game. It’s true.
  • Gamers dress up and take that shit too seriously.
    True. To an extent. LARPers dress up. Classic gamers don’t. Both do however take their crafts seriously when playing. It’s like any video gamer out there now. Try to interrupt a person playing his or her Modern Warfare 2 or Halo and see how serious they take it. As mentioned earlier gaming involves a lot of creative input from all parties involved therefore people tend to feel a bit of ownership with regards to the story itself. It’s like owning stock in something. As with anything in life there are those who do go to the extreme but those are few and far between.
  • Gaming is too expensive and complicated to get into.
    False. This needs a bit of clarification though. Role playing isn’t hard. It just takes getting used to. It’s no different than playing a role in a movie. You pretend to think like someone else. Equipment is another story. Gear can get to be expensive for LARPers from what I hear. Depending on how intricate or detailed you want to dress it can run you a pretty penny.
    For classic gaming, as a player, your tools are inexpensive. Typically all you need are your own dice. The system you’re playing determines what dice you’ll need but generally speaking they’re cheap to purchase. As a game master though, it can get to be quite expensive. Game systems often have Source books and Compendiums that are often needed in order to run a detailed campaign. These books can run anywhere between $20 USD and $60 USD each.  Only the truly dedicated (and financially comfortable) are able to load up in that department. In any case though the books (especially the source ones) are very entertaining reading material on their own. If you’re into the whole True Blood vampire craze try reading some White Wolf RPG books. They’re highly entertaining and insightful. If you’re into that Vampire Diaries or Twilight crap, leave my blog now and never return.

Despite the reputation gaming has received over the years the majority of the criticism stems from people who have never gamed a day in their lives. They’re often narrow-minded individuals with little imagination who get off on building themselves up by putting others down. Gaming inspires creativity. It promotes imagination.  It’s for writers who want to express themselves and regular people who just want to get away from the ills of the world – even if just for a few hours. It makes me laugh when they lament how socially challenged gamers are when in fact gaming promotes social interaction more than anything else. It was the original social network. If more young people got into gaming we wouldn’t have the grammatically devoid cesspool of a “writing community” known as Twitter.

Let them call you nerds and geeks.  Let the naysayers spread nasty stereotypes and pontificate how you have no lives. I always say, if it’s not true then why get offended? If gaming makes you happy, then game on my brothers and sisters. Unite with other games under a common banner as you have for decades now. Continue to do what you do.

My name is Ian… and I am a Classic Gamer! Hallelujah!