Friday, June 26, 2015

Disembodied: For the character who won't call it quits

This character template is designed to reflect the way spirits are handled in most comic books, movies, and fiction, as opposed to the standard OGL d20 and OGL Modern games. It will be further fleshed out with a couple feats and a talent tree in a future post.
   (For the record, the primary characters being modeled here are DC Comics' Deadman and Holyoke/Gerona's Duke of Darkness.)
   It, and related material, is fully compatible with the superpower rules and alternate magic systems presented in NUELOW Games books like Madden's Boys, Mystery Woman of the Jungle, and The Curse of Egypt.
   All text is this post is released under the Open Game License and may be reproduced in accordance with it. Copyright 2015 Steve Miller.

Click here for more art by Rhaokja
Death isn't the end for this character's fight. Whether through divine or demonic intervention, or pure stubborness, the character's bodiless spirit remains in the world, continuing to pursue the goals it had in life.
   To acquire this template, the character must die--drop below -10 hp, or whatever threshold for character death is used in the campaign in question. The character is then modified as follows:
   Size and Type: Size technically remains the same as base creature, but there is nothing present but formless, substanceless spiritual energy. Creature type changes to Spirit. The character is neither undead nor living, but exists in an in-between state.
   Hit Dice: As base creature. (Hit points are generally meaningless for the Disembodied, but there are certain talents they can gain where they matter, so they should still be kept track of as the character gains levels.)
   Speed: As base creature.
   Armor Class/Defense Rating: As base creature, but the character is impervious to harm from all sources and weapons, save those coming from gods or certain rare and powerful artifacts.
   Attack/Full Attack Bonus: As base creature.
   Special Attacks: Disembodied characters can perform the following attacks with a full round action.
        Possess (Su): Take control of a living body. The Disembodied must make a successful touch attack. The targeted host receives a Will save vs. the Disembodied character's Wisdom attribute + 5. If the Disembodied successfully takes over the target, he or she now has full control of his or her body. The target's Strength, Constitution scores are unchanged, but the Intelligence and Wisdom scores are those of the Disembodied, as are all class- and level-dependent abilities. The Dexterity score becomes half of the combined Dexterity score of the target and the Disembodied's Dexterity score in life. The Charisma scores becomes half of the combined Charisma score of the target and the Disembodied. None of the target's class abilities, skills, feats, or knowledge is available to the Disembodied. 
   Only one Disembodied can possess a living being at a time. If a second Disembodied attempts to possess someone that is already "host" to a disembodied, it will seem as if an invisible wall is keeping the second Disembodied from entering the target.
   If the possessed body takes damage, the Disembodied must roll a Will save (DC15+damage suffered) or be ejected. If a host dies while the Disembodied is possessing him or her, the Disembodied must roll a Will save (DC30) or suffer the fate of death (permanent this time) as well.
   The Disembodied can end a possession at will, with a standard action.
   A character that is "host" to a Disembodied has no recollection of events while possessed.
   Special Qualities: Disembodied characters have the following special qualities
        Formless (Su): The Disembodied exist as pure psychic/spiritual energy. They may appear to     themselves as they did in life, but they have no actual form or substance. No barriers in the physical world can prevent entry, except those specifically prepared with magical rituals that ward off spirits.
        Invisible (Su): The character cannot be seen by any means, except by creatures who can see spirits, such as gods and cats.
        Damage Reduction (Su): All damage suffered by a Disembodied is reduced to 0, except for very specific and powerful artifacts, or spells and weapons wielded by gods.
   Abilities: The Disembodied has no Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution scores. However, there are some situations where the physical attributes that the Disembodied had in life can matter--such as the Dexterity score when possessing one of the living--so the old character sheet should still be retained. 
   Skills: All skills are retained and may be improved according to class and level advancement.
   Feats and Talent Trees: All feats and talents are retained. This template gives access to the Disembodied Spirit talent tree and feat.
   Terrain: Any, usually same as base creature.
   Organization/Allegience: Solitary/Same as base creature
   Challenge Rating: Same as base creature +2
   Advancement: By character class.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Final Countdown! (Is the world gonna end THIS time?!)

I saw a headline today that read "Scientists Say Mass-Extinction Event Has Begun,"

Well, between that, global warming, super-viruses, and the ever-expanding clown-show that makes up those running for President of the United States of America, maybe history is finally coming to close. It seems like the perfect time to dust off this song--"The Final Countdown."

(This is a really interesting cover by Van Canto. Far more interesting than original tune... and just the sort of thing to listen to while staring down the end of the world.)

And, since the world is coming to and end (for SURE this time... none of this Mayan Calendar bullcrap like back in 2012... after all, we've all heard that THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED in regards to global warming... and now the Pope himself has added Climate Change to line-up of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse; the quartet is now officially a quintet!), it's now the perfect time to get the Complete Final Battles Bundle! This collection of epic battle scenarios will let you and your friends go out gaming (and laughing and rollplaying). Get these 12 classic ROLF! products from RPGNow or DriveThruRPG before it's too late!

Display cover image for The Complete Final Battles for ROLF!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Evolution of a Cover

It's not often that I talk about what goes into making NUELOW Games releases, because I think, by and large, no one really cares how and what we do. But I'm going to make an exception with the cover for Modern Basics: Jungle Action, our most recent release.

After reviewing the Xela paintings we have yet to use on a cover, we decided we wanted something that had a man and a woman jungle character, fighting equally. We turned to several Maurice Whitman drawings--many which originally appeared no the covers of Fiction House's Jungle Comics or Kaanga. We narrowed it down to two possibilities, and with some back and forth, we settled on one where Kaanga and Ann were fighting panthers with equal ferocity. Hundal also thought the colors said "jungle" more than the other top pick we were looking at.

(That's actually funny in a way, because we're both color blind, me moreso than her, but it is sometimes quite literally the blind leading the blind.)

With the cover image chosen, I went to work cleaning it up, and otherwise getting it into the shape you see posted above. I then added the title and logo. This was easier than in some of the cases, because the original source was in good shape.

Although the cover was complete, I still had a soft spot for the one we rejected. I thought it was more colorful (said the color blind guy) and that it might still be the better choice. So I posted a cropped version of it to a Facebook group and solicited opinions... not so much because I wanted to overrule Hundal. but because I wanted to check my taste in art. Here's that cropped image. (It's cropped the way it is because I never finished cleaning up the bottom of the picture, not wanting to waste the time once we'd settled firmly on one. We're probably going to do another jungle-themed clip-art pack, so I'll include the finished image there.)

The general opinion of the Facebook denizens was that Hundal was right... the image we'd gone with was the better one. (Cartoonist Stan! was the odd-man out, as he felt the "rejected" one was more dynamic and modern.) But one commentator asked a question I didn't initially understand: "why no POC on either?"

As far as I knew, POC meant Point of Contact or Person On-Call. It also means Person/People of Color, and once that was explained to me, I understood the question.

The answer, first and foremost, is that Maurice Whitman drew those pictures in the mid-1940s and there simply weren't any People of Color who were jungle heroes. Even Voodah, who started out black, was turned white within the space of three issues... and he was never portrayed as such on any of the covers of Crown Comics where he appeared. Another Matt Baker jungle character, Alani the South Sea Girl, was more okay, I suppose, because she was an exotic islander of oriental mystery and all that.

But, and perhaps more to the point, there were no People of Color on either cover image, because it's just not something Hundal or I think much about. Even when we do take measures that reflect "diversity" in what we produce and publish, it's not something we dwell on... as illustrated by the fact that we never bothered to promote ourselves as "gay friendly" (even though ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game has had gay characters built into it since long before it was the hip thing to do) and we didn't even notice that our comic book line is heavy on female characters until I sat down to analyze what we might do when we ran out of worthwhile comics to repackage. We produce, design, and write things that we find entertaining and amusing, and we hope that others share our taste. We create from the heart, not to meet a quota system or some other standard that others have deemed it sensible to live up to.

Now I was thinking about it, however. And other artists chimed in, mostly making comments from a design perspective rather than racial equality or social justice or some-such. They were all making good points. The image would be stronger with a Person of Color on it. So... to the Photoshop Cave I went to experiment. And here's the result, next to a repeat of the image from above.

As I'm sure you can see, making the female character dark-skinned adds depth to the image. It also causes the eye to focus more and move from left to right, basically following the the action of the picture. Making this modification was also easier and quicker than I had thought it would be. Just because Whitman's drawing was originally colored as having two white people in it back in the 1940s, doesn't mean it had to stay that way.

So, by revising the cover based on comments from the public, we ended up with a much stronger picture. We might even end up looking good in the eyes of someone who comes along counting how many People of Color we have on our covers. (Although by making that comment, I probably just blew any chance of that.)

More importantly, perhaps, is the ease with which I was able to make the adjustment to the picture. I will have to do the same to the cover for Real American No. 1, since Bronze Terror and Lily weren't supposed to be yellow. (Remember what I said about the blind leading the blind? Welll...)

Modern Basics: Jungle Action is available at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

On June 11, 1936, short-story author and poet Robert E. Howard took a gun from the glove box of his car and shot himself to death. His suicide came as he was reaching new creative heights, and his career was shifting in a more literary-oriented direction. We'll never know what great stories and characters evaporated at that tragic moment. Roy Thomas and Sandy Plunkett dramatized the tragedy in this illustrated story.

NUELOW Games is currently engaged in an effort to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by offering all of the Robert E. Howard-related products in a single discounted package--that also includes a great Howard-inspired RPG from Bedrock Games--and donating all of its proceeds. Click here to check out the bundle, or read on for more information.

A page from Shadows of Dream, featuring poetry by Robert E. Howard.
It's one of 25 different books in the Suicide Prevention Fundraiser bundle.

If you've been paying even the slightest bit of attention to NUELOW Games in recent years, you've noticed that the works of Robert E. Howard have been an important part of many of our releases. Steve Miller loves Howard mostly for his action/adventure and horror fiction, and L.L. Hundal loves Howard primarily for his comedy stories. Both think his non-fantasy work is his best work.

But the vast majority of readers only know him for being the creator of Conan, and many never move beyond those stories--if they even get that far, given all the comic books and movies and pastiches by other authors that are most likely encountered first. To share our love for Howard's other writings--writings he himself stated he wanted to be remembered for rather than Conan or even Kull and Kane--we produced a number of anthologies collecting his non-fantasy short stories. Given that NUELOW Games is, well, a game publisher, we've also released a number of ROLF! battle scenarios making use of characters that Howard created (even Conan)--battle scenarios that are compatible with "The Violent Worlds of Robert E. Howard," a complete RPG which was included in the Fists of Foolishness short story collection.

Every year, we've one a special sales event to mark the anniversary of the tragic end to Howard's life, hoping to attract more attention to the fantastic stories he left us. This year, we have gone a step further.

The 24 Howard-related books and game products featured in this large bundle are the majority of the Howard-related releases we've produced over the few years. They can be had for just $20-- a savings of over 50 percent off the cost of purchasing them individually. You can get dozens of great short stories and more battle scenarios than you can shake a bucket of dice at for every little money. What makes this deal even more attractive is that NUELOW Games (in conjunction with partner Bedrock Games) will donate all of its proceeds [$13.50 after distributors and contributors have gotten their cut] to the American Suicide Prevention Foundation.

The Suicide Prevention Fundraiser bundle will be available until the end of June, and NUELOW will makes its donation to the AFSP by the middle of July. Click here to see what is in the bundle, or to get your copy right now. Be a small part in helping modern-day Robert E. Howards get the support and help they need before it's too late.

* The complete Sertorius rolelaying game
* Stories and novellas Howard wrote that he would have been preferred to be remembered for, collection in Oriental Stories, Oriental Stories Vol. 2, and Oriental Stories Vol 3: A Texan in Afghanistan. These books feature some of his best writing.
* Samplings of Howard's "Southern Gothic" horror/action tales in Shadows of Texas and Names in the Black Book.
* The complete collection of Howard's comedic tales of boxer Steve Costigan in Fists of Foolishness and Shanghaied Mitts.
* The complete collection of Howard's comedic western tales featuring dimwitted mountain man Breckinridge Elkins in Bath-time on Bear Creek, The Misadventures of Breckinridge Elkins, and Breckinridge Elkins Rides Again.
* A sampling of Howard's poetry in Shadows of Dreams.
* NUELOW Games designer favorite ROLF! battle scenarios based on Howard's writings, such as ROLF!: The Hopping Vampires of Yao Ping, ROLF!: The Tornado vs. Steve Costigan, and ROLF!: The Sheik.

And ten more short story collections and game products that celebrate the creations of Robert E. Howard--all at a steep discount, and all currently on sale to support a great cause.

Get your copy of the Suicide Prevention Fundraiser from NUELOW Games from DriveThruFiction, DriveThruRPG, or RPGNow.

Monday, June 1, 2015

We went rummaging through the art archive again...

... and the result is another batch of artwork that's being made available for you to use in any project you can conceive of, personal or  commercial.

Art by Ross Andru (included, logo-free, in collection)
NUELOW Stock Art Collection #7: The Deadlier of the Species contains illustrations from the pens of Art Saaf (of Judy of the Jungle and Princess Pantha), Matt Baker (of Voodah and News Hounds), Ross Andru (long-time Spider-Man and Wonder Woman artist), Alex Schomburg (who Stan Lee described as "the Norman Rockwell of comic books"), and others. Five of the illustrations are included in both black-and-white and color versions.

Click here to see previews of the set, or to get your copy. Start illustrating your website or books with drawings from some of the greatest talents to ever contribute to American comic books!