Sunday, June 9, 2024

Locus Comics

For the foreseeable future, my webcomics are offline. You can, however, buy print-on-demand copies of everything I've done. They're not organized very well at the moment, but they're all here.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

An Opinion on AI Art

 Of course I have an opinion on this. And, of course, it's just an opinion. If you're interested:

For better or worse, this is the world we live in now: 100 images generated per second by AI. And you can bet that's going to double or quadruple in the next year or two. That's how computers work, after all.

As I've said numerous times over the last couple years: there has never been a better time in history to NOT be an artist. That is: to make a living as an artist.

I know you're talented. I know you're passionate. I know you've got drive and a burning desire to create. But Right Now is not the time, unfortunately.

That's not to say you should stop. I know you can't. Keep making art that you're inspired to make, just consider a different profession for awhile. I'd suggest a trade. The cost of entry is low (and often subsidized) and the starting salary is generous. The world will never not need electricians and plumbers. Give it a try! At least for now.

Because this AI trend isn't going to last forever. People are going to get tired of looking at it. In time, there will be those who find the old, human-made art and say, "why aren't we doing this anymore?" and BAM! You're suddenly an Artisan, not just an artist. You're a fashionable alternative to what will eventually become so over-saturated that it will be free to produce (most of it is already) and utterly valueless.

This happened to me a couple years ago, when the "art" made by tracing over photos in Photoshop or InDesign was all the rage. There was no line weight or soul to that stuff, and I was making good money and repeat business simply because I can ink with a brush. It was a nice to feel you will see at some point down the road when AI over-saturates everything. 

 Familiarity Breeds Contempt, as the old saying goes. That time is coming for AI art, I promise.

Between now and That Moment In Time, do something else. Let the fields lie fallow for a couple seasons. Leave your art online, but poison it for the AI crawlers. Keep it for human eyes only.

Between now and That Moment In Time: Endure. Survive. If you're a professional artist, I know you know how to do that.

This won't last forever. It never does.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

The Two-Dice Dice Bag

 It's human nature to believe that More Is Better, but as you get older you realize that's rarely the case. There's always a Sweet Spot; even Goldilocks knew that.

I know dice-hoarding has become a popular meme on the internet, but there may come a day when you wanna game and don't have the means to take a Crown Royal bag filled to bursting with polyhedrals. Maybe you don't have room in your luggage or something. No worries! You can roll anything and everything in D&D with only two dice: a d20 and a d6. Just like ol' Gary here!

Not just any d20, though; get yourself a 0-9 twice d20 and color-code it: make half the numbers one color and the other half another color.

Pictured below is my 0-9 twice d20 from 1979, color-coded black and red. Next to it is my trusty d6 from the early 80s. These are all I need to play D&D! I call it the Two-Dice Dice Bag. It's very simple, although simulating a d8 and d12 might seem a little odd at first if you're not used to it.

Here's how it works:

D4: Roll the d20 and divide by four:

1-5 = 1
6-10 = 2
11-15 = 3
16-20 = 4
Note that this is very easy to read on a color-coded d20: black 1-5 is 1, black 6-10 is 2, red 1-5 is 3 and red 6-10 is 4. With a little practice you can read these off very quickly.

D6: Roll as normal, obviously.

D8: Roll as for a d4, above. Also roll the d6: if an even number comes up, add 4 to the result.

D10: Roll the d20, ignoring the color-coding.

D12: Roll both dice, read the d6. If the d20 comes up even, add 6. If your d20 is color-coded, pick one color as the "Add 6" color to make reading the result even quicker.

D20: Roll the d20. If the number is black, read as-is. If it's red, add 10. Or whatever you've color-coded your d20 as, obviously.

There you go! Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.


Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg review

Since I got divorced and life changed and kept changing, I've gotten back into RPGs again. That started out with 5e D&D, but running that for close to a year pushed me back to 1e and B/X. If you're familiar with those 3 different versions of the same game, I'm sure you'll understand.

Well, going back to B/X and then 1e pushed me further back in Gaming History. Eventually I ended up falling down an internet rabbit hole and bought a copy of the Secrets of Blackmoor documentary. It's a great movie that I've watched twice already. So when Griffith Morgan advertised that he was reprinting the Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg, I jumped on it, even though it was $100 for the book. That was back in January of this year.

 Despite the worldwide paper shortage and overall nonsense leftover from The Covid Year of 2020, ol'Griff managed to get a second printing done and shipped out. And not just a hardcover, a US-printed hardcover! With 80# paper! And a nifty ribbon bookmark! Oh man, this thing is positively glorious. 

So! Now that I've had a week or so to devour this book, let's get into it. It's gonna be a brief review. I'm gonna gloss over a lot of it, because I don't wanna give too much away. But I do want you to know what's in this book and what's it about. Let's begin! 


The first chapter is 15 pages long and is an introduction to the history behind the Tonisborg maps. It includes hi-res scans of the original surviving maps and their descriptive notes, as well as intro text by Greg Svenson, the creator of the dungeon. It's a nice bit of history, especially considering how long ago all of this started. Greg started gaming with Dave Arneson the year I was born, and I'm not a young man anymore. 

These maps (and this dungeon) are unlike anything published by TSR or WotC or Judges Guild or pretty much anyone. There's a way that Arneson and his players put maps together that are pretty unique, and the Tonisborg maps show that. It's a lot of fun to look at and learn about. 


This chapter is 35 pages long, and is absolutely chock-full of great tips for playing and running a game the way they did 50 years ago. It's a deep dive into a mindset that has been (unfortunately) washed over by at least 7 different editions of D&D (not to mention the periodic non-fantasy RPG explosions that have happened during that stretch of time). Rob Kuntz' method of refereeing that he refers to simply as "The Quiet Game" is alone worth the price of the book, as far as I'm concerned. It's fantastic and I love it. 


This chapter is 31 pages long and consists of all 10 levels, redrawn and (mildly) fleshed out. It's pretty much a self-contained module if you choose to run the Tonisborg dungeon for your group. It's very well done: the maps are clear, the descriptions concise, and being able to flip back and forth between the newly-drawn maps and the originals is also very helpful. 

It's an old-school megadungeon. The second ever megadungeon, in fact. Very lethal, but looks like it would be a lot of fun. Haven't run it yet, but when I do, I'll letcha know if it's as fun as it looks.  


As if a whole module isn't enough, here we get a whole ruleset! Well, not a whole ruleset in that it's a stripped-down version of Champions of ZED, but it's more than enough to run a game with. If you don't know, CoZ is a "what-if" set of rules that takes the original D&D rules and imagines what would've happened if Arneson & Gygax would've worked a little closer together and gotten some extra editing and playtesting done before publishing the original D&D rules from 1974. It's a very neat set of rules. Personally, I like them a lot, and the Tonisborg version is also very interesting. If you're a fan of TSR-era D&D, you would like them. Lots of those TSR-era concepts in these rules, but lots of interesting variations, too. The to hit rolls are especially elegant. 

And, as this hearkens back to 1974, there are only 4 races (halfling, dwarf, elf, human) and 3 classes (fighter, cleric, magic-user). The lack of a thief class is addressed in Part 2, and while it seems weird to those of us who are used to the thief being one of the base classes, this omission takes care of all those "why can't I climb or hide in shadows or (insert thief skill here)?" questions that players have been asking since at least the 80s.  


These 10 pages are still part of the rule system, and as with the previous chapter, some of it's very familiar while other parts are a nice surprise. I should note that there are fewer magic items and artifacts here than (say) the 1e DMG, but you can pull pretty much anything out of any D&D book and use it here, with little or no modifications. 

 The treasure types are reduced and simplified, based partly off of Dave Arneson's original treatment, and they're very well-done in my opinion.  


Another 10-page chapter that's a continuation of the rules. This is a stripped-down monster manual, and again: if you wanna use the 1e MM with these rules, they'll fit in pretty much with little to no modification. I, for one, will definitely be adding Monster Manual critters from the 1e book when I finally get this game started up, because there aren't a lot of monsters in this section. There are, however, plenty of monster stats for what you need to run a group through the Tonisborg megadungeon. 

A note: The dragons in this book are based upon the original types, and would be a fun variation if you and your group are used to the typical chromatic/metallic dragons from TSR or WotC editions of the game. 


As with the previous chapter, this is a continuation of the rules and a stripped down version of what you'd be used to if you were running any other edition of D&D previously. I like this chapter because it strips a lot of well-known spells down to their absolute essence, which not only makes them easier to understand, but easier for players to customize if they see fit. Six levels of Cleric and six levels of Magic-User spells listed alphabetically in only five pages! When I say "stripped down" I ain't kidding. 

As with the previous chapter, if you wanna add spells from D&D, you can pretty much do that here with no problem. This gives a Referee a great opportunity to pick and choose which spells he wants in his game, and also gives him the opportunity to make those spells feel special again. It's been my experience that players leaf through the PHB like they're shopping in a spell catalogue and none of those spells really feel special as a result. This approach--a stripped down list of spells with the option to add more piecemeal, later--seems like it would fix that problem. Again: once I actually get a chance to run this ruleset, I'll let you know. 


 There are two appendices here, both of which almost take up a whole page. Appendix A is "Griff's Optional Creature Taxonomy Encounter System", which is a handy wandering monster/dungeon restocking method specifically for the Tonisborg dungeon. Of course, with a little modification, it can be used for anything. 

Appendix B is "Highly Recommended Further Resources"--the Appendix N of the Tonisborg book. Five books are listed here, none of which I've read. However, the author list goes from Dave Arneson to Jennell Jacquays and looks like a good little list of stuff to check out. 

That is an overview of the whole book. It's great! Two things that aren't great are: 

1. There's a missing table in the ruleset! There's a reference to the cost of hirelings that says "the table below" lists the pertinent information, but that table didn't make it into the book. If you've got any edition of D&D, however, you can just use the corresponding table from that book, as the money system is the same as what you're used to. 

2. The index isn't that great. It's good for looking up subject matter, but not much help at all for the rules chapters. You'll have to make your own index for that. I've done that; I might throw it up here at some point. 

All in all, I love this book. Can't wait to run the megadungeon using the enclosed rules for a group at some point. Plus, it's a very neat little collection of pre-D&D history, which I love. This book nicely compliments my 1e and B/X collection, as well as my Secrets of Blackmoor DVDs. 

 I recommend it! If he ever does a third printing, jump on it.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Oh man...

I forgot I had this blog site altogether. It's been a little over 9 years since I last posted, and about two lifetimes of stuff has happened since then. I'll be back later on this year, and might even post some new artwork. We'll see.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hello again! It's been over a year since my last post. 2012 was that kind of year for me, and from what I've heard, it was that kind of year for everyone.

Now it's 2013, and I've got a lot of comic stories to get out of my head. First, of course, is Silk & Honey, which is playing right now. Then there's Trinity, a three-way crossover with Barry Linck and James Riot that's been pushed to the back burner more than once. And, of course, Slip, which is the comic about Spook's daughter. First issue's written, but I'm still fiddling with issue 2.

Today's post is about math, or more specifically, numbers. Because numbers define the universe and everything in it. Everything has a numerical value, and most of us have quite a few. From mundane things like age, height and weight to the more fundamental values such as mass, volume and velocity, we are all defined by numbers.

Numbers in themselves are interesting things. Almost magical. Take repeating numbers, for instance.

We only have 10 because of the way we count: the digits 0 through 9. A finite number of digits means a finite number of sequences of these digits. Now, a very large number is just a string of digits, and an infinitely-large string of digits will have places where the numbers repeat.

I can't explain it as well as you can experience it, so let's experience one of the universe's coolest number, pi.

Pi is 3.14159blahblahblahforever. Seriously. The decimal portion of pi goes on into infinity. In this infinite string of numbers, there are digits that repeat themselves. One repeats itself almost right away, but you can find larger strings of numbers. If you click here, you can search pi for a sequence of numbers. Your birthday is in there, as a matter of fact! Seriously. Type it in. Doesn't even matter what format you use.

That site will only show you the first time the sequence appears, but if you download a text document with the first four million digits, you will find your birthday repeated over and over again. I found mine five times in that document.

What's the point of all this? First off, it's to have fun with numbers, but there's also a storytelling angle to this.

Imagine the universe is a wavelength. Imagine all the atoms and all the orbiting (and free) bodies form one big overall wavelength. This could be a wavelength of sound or energy or marshmallows...doesn't matter. It's a pattern of numbers, essentially.

That wavelength/pattern of numbers will inevitably have spots where it repeats itself. Earth and our solar system have their own wavelength (in this theoretical universal model), and somewhere OUT THERE IN SPACE, that wavelength repeats itself: another Earth is out there somewhere. And, seeing as how the universe is infinite, there are an infinite number of Earths out there.

This also applies to the Realms of the Dead in the Locus Universe. If you've seen the map, you will know that the Worlds of the Living and the Realms of the Dead are all joined together in a three-pronged fractal pattern. Each "world" is a dimension, and each of them is habitable to human life. Essentially, they're spots where the "humans can live here" pattern of the Universal Wavelength repeats itself.

Is any of this true? or real? or even provable? Yes and no. There are scientists who are pursuing similar ideas, and they're a lot better at this sort of thing than I am. I'm just taking a behavior which all numbers possess and applying that behavior to an imaginary unit of measure: The Universal Wavelength which exists in the Locus Universe.

In short: Math is fun. Get better at it! You'll be glad you did.

Thanks for reading! I may or may not do more math-related posts. It all depends on time this year. Also: check out the cover to the first issue of Slip!

I should point out that this cover is based on one of my favorite covers to one of my favorite comics: Issue 30 of Whisper:

Whisper was written by Steven Grant, and this cover was done by Steve Epting. If you've never heard of Whisper, check it out! Whisper was a big inspiration for Locus.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Locus Issue 18, Page 12

Dreamhost's SQL servers are down and/or the hackers have finally gotten in.

Whatever the reason, here's the page that is scheduled to be published November 4, 2011: