More Space Cowboys

a digital painting of a space cowboy

Cowboy chased by gunships

I’m carrying on with the space cowboy works based on old classic images painted by Wyeth. In this image I’ve made the cowboy’s chaps into bulky spacesuit legs and replaced the chasing bandits with gunships, but it is still very close to the original illustration. The most obvious difference is that the normal Earth horse has been replaced with some kind of equine lizard creature.

cowboy painting

Original by Wyeth

I’ll create stats for the lizard mount, gunships and all the other stuff shown in the images, ready for inclusion in the game, when it eventually comes out. The latest game available from Starbright is Present Day Cthulhu, which just got a five star rating at RPGDriveThru.

Cthulhu and zombies

cthulhu game cover


There are two horror games in the Starbright range, one dealing with the Cthulhu Mythos and the other focusing exclusively on a zombie apocalypse, but I started thinking about the possibility of combining the two, and I decided they would be an exceedingly good fit. The discounted bundle for the two games can be purchased at RPGDrivethru. Just click this link to visit the RPG store.

There is even an Old One called Glaaki who creates zombies.  In the original stories these zombies are afraid of light and can only be created by Glaaki in person, but with a few tweaks they could be the very thing to start off the zombie apocalypse.

A slightly reimagined Glaaki and his swarm of zombies would be as follows.

Glaaki, Lord of Dead Dreams, is an avatar of Shub-Niggurath, like the dark God of the Woods. It can be summoned, but it will not survive for more than a few hours unless a lake has been specially prepared for it by members of the zombie plague it has unleashed. Any lake can become a home to Glaaki and the creature can move to any other lake, anywhere else in the universe, that has been similarly contaminated. A contaminated lake has trace elements of chemicals unknown to human science, which of course make all the fish die.

Glaaki has the shape of an enormous slug covered with metallic spines that, despite their appearance, are actually organic growths. Glaaki creates the ‘patient 0’ zombies by ramming these spines into their flesh. These victims rapidly zombify and begin to spread the zombie plague by the usual means of biting and scratching. Glaaki can also extrude tentacles with eyes at the tips, allowing it to peer from underneath the water.

Glaaki quickly turns local life forms into zombies, which spend most of their time wandering and subsisting. When the zombies discover an uncontaminated lake they swarm there until they reach 1d100+20 in number, before walking into the water and dissolving. The uncanny chemicals that transform the lake are produced within the zombie bodies. The zombies completely dissolve during this process, finally released from their undead existence.

A Cthulhu/Zombie game featuring Glaaki and his zombie plague can be set before, during or after the onset of the apocalypse. Get the Cthulhu + Zombies bundle.

Illustrations for Galactic West

a cowboy in rebreather mask on an alien moon

They Call Me the Space Cowboy

The next game in development at Starbright, now that Present Day Cthulhu has been released, is a game about space cowboys. Its working title is Galactic West, and it’ll be about an area of space with a lot of planets that have high plains and horse-like steeds. All the planets will also have cattle-like animals to herd onto the spaceships that’ll take them off to New Chicago for slaughter.

I was toying with the idea of a straight Wild West game, but I just couldn’t do it. I love science fiction just too darned much not to throw in a few aliens and spaceships to sweeten the mix.

Things are in the early stages, but one of the first decisions has been that the art should be sci-fi but, at the same time, look as ‘Wild West’ as possible. This sent me off looking for classic paintings of life in the old west, and that’s how I came across N. C. Wyeth.  I’m toying with the idea of each image in the game being an hommage to a Wyeth original, but with a sci-fi twist. Here for example is the original by Wyeth that I used as reference for the WIP painting above . You can see that the painting has the same colour palette, composition, and the cowboy has the same stance.

a cowboy on a rock in the mountains

The Original

N.C. Wyeth, was an American artist and illustrator. He did over 3,000 paintings and illustrated 112 books. In 1904 he was hired to illustrate a Western story. Wyeth went out West to acquire first-hand experience in Colorado, where he worked as a cowboy alongside the professional “punchers”, moving cattle and doing ranch chores. He visited the Navajo in Arizona and gained an understanding of Native American culture. When his money was stolen, he worked as a mail carrier, riding between the Two Grey Hills trading post and Fort Defiance, to earn enough to get back home. He wrote, “The life is wonderful, strange—the fascination of it clutches me like some unseen animal.”


Money off Starbright merch, and free shipping.

Society 6 shop screengrab of storefront

The Starbright Society 6 Shop

For a limited period we are running special offers on the merch available from the Starbright store over at Society 6. If you like the art used in the Starbright range of role-playing games, why not get a t-shirt with your favourite illustration emblazoned across the front, or even a clock. For a short time with money off and free shipping.

Just click the link to see the merch.

The offer is FREE Shipping with a whopping $5 Off Each Item, and the promotion is only available through the link in this post.

Promotion expires April 13, 2014 at Midnight Pacific Time. *Offer excludes Framed Art Prints, Stretched Canvases and Throw Pillows with insert.

Cthulhu for Illustration Friday

Cthulhu Survives Through the Centuries.

It’s a long time since I’ve done a piece of work for Illustration Friday, but I’m a big fan of the site. As an artist, the site is a great way to spur you on to making new art. The piece I’m uploading to the site is the image I used for the latest Starbright role-playing game, Present Day Cthulhu, which is a modern  Cthulhu setting based on Fate Core game mechanics.

Present Day Cthulhu

cthulhu game cover

Woken Up and Not a Morning Person

Since the most ancient times of the role-playing game hobby, Cthulhu has had an important place. Most people within the hobby, along with fans of vintage horror, know what, or who, Cthulhu is. Cthulhu is a malevolent entity hibernating within an underwater city in the South Pacific called R’lyeh. The imprisoned Cthulhu is the source of constant anxiety for mankind at a subconscious level, and also the subject of worship by a number of human religions. He is just one of a bunch of powerful alien beings causing mayhem on Earth. Messing with DNA, creating monsters and stamping about bringing ‘doom’ to various cities.

Like many other creators of role-playing games I found the call to create my own RPG take on the Cthulhu Mythos too difficult to resist. The game is based on Fate Core mechanics and I have tried to stick as closely as I could to the ideas in the original stories.

These stories are not pulp fiction with two-fisted meatheads wining out in the end. In the Cthulhu stories, the monsters usually win. The stories are very dated and peculiar, but are worth reading for their unique take on the universe, and our likely relationship to alien creatures. Cthulhu Chick has put together an ePub version of all the stories in the Cthulhu Mythos written by H P Lovecraft. Other writers contributed too, even R E Howard, the creator of Conan, but the vision of H P Lovecraft is considered definitive. The stories are public domain and the download is free, yay. (One word of warning, Lovecraft was appallingly racist and sexist, even by the standards of the time. This makes the stories a difficult read for me, having to mentally edit out all the nasty stuff about ‘degenerate races’ etc).

Since Lovecraft first created his malevolent creatures, later authors bolted on some ‘good guy’ gods to the Mythos, which I don’t think are a good fit. The game I’ve created Present Day Cthulhu (available here) has removed all that, and the fate awaiting the players is grim indeed.

Spaceships with Sails and Broadsides for Pirates

render of a pirate spaceship with sails

The Very First Render

I’m writing a role-playing game that will be centred around piracy at the rim of Tarazet space. (Tarazet is a city state that is building an empire, part of the setting for the Extreme Future game.)  I wanted to make the spaceships in the game a bit ‘piraty’, and that means rigging and broadsides, and as I researched each, I discovered that there are actually very good reasons for spaceships to have both.

More finished version spaceship reder

Now With Jolly Roger

Spaceships need giant radiation surfaces to get rid of all the heat they generate and these could easily, at least in my mind, take the form of giant golden sails.

Ship-of-the-line size spaceships would also need large guns, and they probably wouldn’t be mounted in turrets like a real world battleship, because turning the turret would produce an equal and opposite reaction that knocked the spaceship off course.  Most actions would also probably take place at long range, where it makes as much sense to turn the whole spaceship, rather than rotate a turret.

So, from scientific(ish) thinking, we get spaceships with rigging and sails, that also have broadsides of guns. A spinal mount for a really big gun would probably make just as much sense, if not more, but it doesn’t look as cool, so we are going with the idea of a broadside.

It’s great to be playing with Blender again, and making spaceships. Even if they look a little different to some of the more traditional ones I have created before. Such as the Ironclad.

Blender for Space Maps

I create the space maps for my sci-fi role-playing games using Blender, the awesome, and FREE, 3D suite. It’s just so great for giving a map the 3D feeling of deep space. The maps for my previous sci-fi game Extreme Future powered by Fate were created with Blender (most of them), and the maps for my upcoming space pirate game are all being created with Blender too.

I was wondering how to draw the curved borders you find around galactic empires, and found that the best way was to draw them with Bezier curves. I hadn’t used curves much in Blender before, although I’m an expert curve drawer in Inkscape, (equally awesome, equally FREE) so it was time to watch a tutorial.

screenshot blender curves

The Cool Blender Logo, But With Curves!

I found this one very helpful – Blender Curve Tutorial – and because the guy was so slow and methodical in his tutorial, I found I could skip through and pick out just the bits I needed.

space map

The Very Edge of Human Space

Here is how my map looked before the curves, and of course it’s impossible to see just how extensive the Engarian Star Empire is, that’ll never do.

later version of map

More curvy

In the later version of the map, it’s much easier to see what’s going on. You can fly around in space with a much better idea of whose back yard you’ve landed up in. Thanks to Blender.

Behind the Scenes

How It Looks in Blender

Cyber Multiverse

cover of cyberpunk multiverse RPG

Cool RPG Cover

The new game has been released. It is a cyberpunk game, so expect street samurai, net runners, government psionic experimental guinea pigs, walker tanks, bikes, rain, sprawl, and all that other cyberpunk goodness.

The original Fate Core version of these rules is, of course, still available, but this version is different. Where Fate uses descriptive phrases to describe the elements of the game, such as characters, weapons and vehicles, Multiverse Adventures uses a system with a bit more crunch. There are more numbers, but not too many to keep track of.

It’s intended to be on the realistic side of cinematic and fun, and the setting is inspired by all the cyberpunk greats. There are echoes of the cyberpunk future imagined in classic cyberpunk manga, along with the future inspired by the works of William Gibson, and without him, the whole cyberpunk thing might never have happened to the extent that it did, and in quite the way it did.

Check out Cyber Multiverse the RPG  at RPGDriveThru.

net runner having a problem

I Gotta Switch to Ubuntu

I’m quite proud of the net running rules, which involve characters, not just the runners, creating avatars as detailed as any character or vehicle, to do battle with adversaries in the web. It’s unrealistic, 80s thinking, perfect for cyberpunk, that makes net running more of an adventure to be shared, and less of a show-stopping, solitary, chore.

cyberpunk character jumping roof to roof

I’ll Take the Short Cut


Cyber Fate first for new system

cover of Cyber Fate Core role-playinv game

Way back in October of last year I released Cyber Fate (powered by Fate core). I love Fate, and I’ll keep releasing games based on the elegant system the talented people behind Fate have created. But sometimes I like a system with lots of numbers and crunch too (Well, not lots exactly but a little bit more than Fate) . So I’ve decided in future to release my games in two ‘flavours’. The wonderful Fate version, but also a second (more numbers and rankings based version). I’m calling the second version Multiverse Adventures.

And now I thought Cyber Fate would be the perfect candidate to be made available in both flavours. The porting of the game over from Fate Core mechanics to the mechanics of Multiverse Adventures is nearing completion and the game should be ready for release really soon.

I’m excited about that, but I haven’t been as pleased with the Twenty Fourteen theme I was trying out on this blog. It just had too many bells and whistles for me. it was fun getting the image gallery working, but in the end it was just a barrier to people seeing the posts and reading the actual blog.

I’ve reverted the blog back to the theme I was using before, but of course I’ve lost all my settings and I’ll have to potter about over the next few days getting everything set up again, just the way I like it. The chances are that the new version of Cyber will be ready before the blog is. The old version of Cyber, powered by Fate Core isn’t going anywhere, of course. It’s right there on RPGDriveThru, where it’ll stay.