Art of the Genre: Top 10 ‘Orange Spine’ AD&D Hardcovers by Jeff Easley

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Did The Wilderness Survival Guide make the list?

Did The Wilderness Survival Guide make the list?

Now you might be thinking, ‘Top 10, really? How many did he do?

Well, the answer to that is 12. And, considering how iconic each one is, how much they meant to D&D players in the 1980s, and how many folks still use these books 30 years later, it is little wonder that this was a much harder list to trim down than one might think. But, I’m going to give it a shot nonetheless!

So I essentially started with the concept that I’d fold in overall book importance to game play, but then decided against it, instead relying on nostalgia for the cover alone. This would be tempered by the fact that the three most beloved and used books in the AD&D series are the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monster Manual, which were all re-released with different covers in the late 1970s, so a lot of players prefer those versions to the more uniform Easley editions produced in the 80s.

Still, TSR sold a boat load of these books during the initial days of the 80s, so I know Easley’s covers did introduce a good deal of players to the hobby (and likely more in the 2nd Edition cover he also did). My first DMG and PHB were Easley covers, so he was my ‘gateway drug’ so to speak and all his ‘orange spine’ hardcovers still sit proudly behind my desk for easy access since I use them almost daily.

I hope those reading this will remember these books as fondly as I do, and perhaps, want to see another one produced to make it thirteen ‘orange spines’ in total, but I’ll talk about that later. Until then, enjoy this beautiful fantasy art Top 10.

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Art of the Genre: Gunsmith Light Novel Now on Kickstarter

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

2 CompAotG News!

Art of the Genre lead author Scott Taylor has just created his first science fiction novel to be released on the Kickstarter platform. This is the 8th novel either written or edited by Taylor on the crowdfunding site, and the first since Airship of Fools in August 2014.

Taylor explains,

The concept for the novel was born from the Massively Multi-Player Online games that bloomed into popularity at the turn of the millennia, and expanded upon by works like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and Riki Kawahara’s Sword Art Online. I blend elements of modern day pop culture with aspects of William Gibson’s Neuromancer in the otherworldly setting of ASH. Here, unique player personalities must face the challenges of depression, the concept of second lives conflicting with lives in the real world, and the pressures of an extended ‘deep dive.’

The Gunsmith: Tales of a Time in ASH campaign ends on June 8th, and can be supported on Kickstarter here.


Art of the Genre: 24 Hours Remain on The Hidden Valoria Campaign

Thursday, March 24th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

bannerArt of the Genre continues to roll out Kickstarter after Kickstarter in their Folio series, this time teaming up with terrain production juggernaut Dwarven Forge to create The Hidden Valoria Campaign.  Dwarven Forge architect Stefan Pokorny opens the doors to his personal gaming world of Mythras so that AotG‘s own wordsmith Scott Taylor can have a run at the world capital of Valoria.  Stefan has always been a big fan of old fantasy pulp fiction, and along with Scott, the two have worked hard to produce a feel within Valoria of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar, Howard’s Conan, and even some of the mosaic aspects of Asprin’s Sanctuary in Thieves’ World.

Utilizing Dwarven Forge terrain sets, Taylor takes the Folio from a pure tabletop RPG to a miniatures compatible 3D play system.  Dungeons come alive with rubbish-strewn cellars, undead-inhabited crypts, monster-infested wizard towers, and even a gang-run ‘Brawl Club’ (First rule of Brawl Club, don’t talk about Brawl Club).

Boasting old school TSR-like removable module covers, two interior booklets (Gazetteer & Adventure), as well as 2D & 3D mapping, Folio #8 continues in the AotG tradition of gaming in both 1st Edition AD&D as well as the new 5th Edition D&D mechanic.  Currently the project has achieved 6 Stretch Goals that help flesh out the Valorian neighborhood of The Patina Court, with a 7th & 8th Stretch Goal of a mini-adventure and full print production of Folio #9 still within reach.  You can find the campaign and all the details of it here.

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Art of the Genre: Kickstarter Landscape Early 2016

Sunday, March 6th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

cancelledYou know, as much as I write about Kickstarter, there just always seems to be more to say. Just this week I was reading a blog post by Danny Capaccio entitled ‘The Myth of Kickstarter’ which certainly got my juices flowing to write more on the subject. You see, Danny was writing about his… I’ll use the word ‘concern,’ that Kickstarter isn’t what it’s billed to be. Danny had a Kickstarter campaign that was going to fail (and now has), and although he did manage nearly $10,000 in contributions for his game ‘#Storytags’, it didn’t really sniff the $17,000 he required for the campaign to fund.

Danny’s theory iss that successful Kickstarter companies now dominate the platform and drown out smaller companies and individuals who really need it. Sorry Danny, you are a few years late on this one as I tilted at the windmill with The Pillaging of Kickstarter here on Black Gate in early 2012, four years ago! Granted, Danny extends my rant with the caveat that once a company has success they should get out and run a business like normal, not Kickstart all their future projects.

The primary difference between Danny and I is that I’ve had fourteen successfully run and fulfilled Kickstarter campaigns since 2012, and had two before I even wrote my infamous ‘Pillaging’ article, while Danny’s only attempt has now failed. Still, I’m sure he’s getting the same ‘sour grapes’ jibes I did back in 2012, but nonetheless, I’m no longer convinced that my 2012 argument is sound, while Danny’s 2016 version is closer to the truth, and yet still is a ‘miss’ on the target.

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Art of the Genre: AotG releases The Folio: The Roslof Keep Campaign

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Today marks several large releases for Art of the Genre. The small press has recently restocked its The Folio: Roslof Keep Campaign books and now has them all available at their online store both individually, and in a package containing all 6 issues from 2015.

In a homage to TSR‘s Dungeon Magazine, The Folio combines incredible masterwork covers (featuring the likes of Jeff Dee, Jeff Laubenstein, Daniel Horne, Jim Holloway, Todd Lockwood, and David Martin thus far) that can be fully removed like the classic TSR modules of the 1970s & 1980s, along with detailed 3D maps, ‘Blue’ OSR maps, a fully formed campaign Gazetteer booklet and Dungeon booklet. Named for former TSR artist and art director Jim Roslof contribution to the cover of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, this first campaign set takes characters from 1st thru 12th level in both 1E AD&D and 5E mechanics. If you’ve ever enjoyed campaigns the likes of Against the Giants, Bloodstone, or The Temple of Elemental Evil, then this is for you!

This series has been run exclusively on Kickstarter to this point so it is with great excitement that AotG now has the ability to offer these to all those who missed it. Copies can be purchased as a single unit or issue by issue, and remember all are in shrink wrap to keep them in mint condition. Interior adventures include: ROS1 Beneath Roslof Keep, ROS2 Tremors in the Machine, ROS3 Curse of the Violet Corruption, ROS4 Glade of the Burning Dead, ROS5 Deep Dive into Flooded Halls, and ROS6 Realms of Madness and Despair. The AotG website also includes digital bonus supplements for the campaign to help flesh out world and parties as they explore Mithelvarn’s Labyrinth and match wits against the Infernal Machine that drives it.

Coupled with the announcement of this release, AotG has also provided an incredible preview of two module trilogies for 2016 that can be pre-ordered with a Folio Subscription. Press releases for these promise the following.

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Art of the Genre: Kickstarter, Why I Hate Stretch Goals and You Should Too

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

11708033_10154052455508976_1237746949710068474_oOver the past three years I’ve written a lot about Kickstarter. In fact, I went back and looked at the Art of the Genre archives and found a rather impressive eight articles dedicated to the subject:

The Art of Kickstarter,
The Art of Kickstarter #2
The Pillaging Of Kickstarter
Why and How I Build a Kickstarter
The Pillaging of Kickstarter #2
Front Loading a Kickstarter
The Joy and Pain of Kickstarter (and how backed projects still fail)
Kickstater, It Really Shouldn’t Be About the Stuff We All Get

In those you can find all kinds of advice, statistics, opinions, and introspection, (or as my non-fans like to say, my sour grapes). But if I’ve learned anything over the course of my time on the platform, it is that it is constantly changing.

Sure, there are some static rules, but even those have some latitude if a developer happens to get lucky. And let me tell you, there is a lot of luck involved out there, as well as blind devotion.

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Art of the Genre: Bill Willingham Loved the Ladies, Even if TSR Wouldn’t Always Let Him Show Them…

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Check out the lady below Elric in this Willingham done for White Plume Mountain.  Bet you didn't realize it was cropped, did you?

Check out the lady below Elric in this Willingham done for White Plume Mountain. Bet you didn’t realize it was cropped, did you?

Former TSR Artist and now comic writer sensation [Fables] Bill Willingham wanted to be Frank Frazetta, or so I surmise. I’ve always been a fan of his work, dating back to those early days in the RPG field when he was a member of ‘The First Four’ at TSR.

Along with Jim Roslof, Jeff Dee, and Erol Otus, Bill managed to produce some absolutely lovely interior illustrations and acrylic covers for the first sets of D&D modules, once the business took off and TSR could afford color. His tenure there, which ended with a blow up concerning the termination of artists that removed both he and Dee from the company, ended up being the best thing for him as he went on to relative fame and fortune in comics, a place that his talent certainly spawned from.

I sat with Bill at a seaside café back on 2009 when ComicCon was still a monster, but not the headache it is today and we discussed his work in the field. Nothing too in-depth, and sadly he was unable to add his art to my Art Evolution project because it had been too many years since he’d done that kind of work. Still, he looked over all the other artists who had donated work and was most pleasantly surprised to see his old friend Jeff Dee in there. Obviously Dee was ‘the kid’ during his time in the burgeoning TSR ‘pit’, and at 19 there was no doubt that was the case, but Bill seemed to have a twinkle in his eye for Dee’s version of Lyssa in the project, and I was at least happy to somehow connect the two again, if even for a just a nostalgic moment.

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Art of the Genre: The Art of Sad Puppies

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

What is the Wizard's First Rule?

What is the Wizard’s First Rule?

Before I get into this, I want to first make it clear the John O’Neill goaded me into writing today. When I mentioned that I found myself siding with Larry Correia, and God forbid Vox Day, on the hot topic of the week [Hugo vs Puppies, which we recently summarized here], John baited me with this gem:

And I’m fascinated to hear that you take the Puppies side in this…. hard as I try, I’m not able to warp my head into their liberals-have-stolen-the-Hugos-year-after-year-with-their-lies-and-secrets way of thinking. I’ve been trying to find someone to do a Puppy-friendly take to counter my posts… you interested?

I told him, and I quote:

LOL, I’ve no real depth to anything I would write, just a gut feeling, and in the end I’d probably alienate the bulk of any fellow BG bloggers I’ve come to know over the years. Now obviously that doesn’t mean anything to me as my fans are gamers who don’t give a rat’s ass about the Hugo, but still, it could get very ugly, very fast.

And it’s true, I write Art of the Genre, not Words of the Genre, so I’ve really no dog in this fight, but as someone who is on the outside, and enjoys breaking down numbers, my opinion did provide some puppy love. So I started thinking a bit more on my view.

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Art of the Genre: The Top 10 Campaign Adventure Module Series of All Time

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Did Bloodstone make the list?

Did Bloodstone make the list?

I’m not really sure when I played my first adventure module, although I think it was at my first D&D Club meeting in 8th Grade. My only clear memory of actual adventure, while I sat in that library on Wednesday evenings after school, was trying, and failing, to enter the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief. So, I assume that G1,2,3 [well, at least G1] was my first ever module, and I think that is interesting because it means my induction into gaming came from the adventures that define what campaign modules should be.

Having recently begun my own quest to create a campaign series of modules, I’ve decided to put my epic game of Risk with Ryan Harvey on hold, tell Kandi to hold all my calls, and pray that Goth Chick doesn’t show up unexpectedly wearing a corset and stockings that would most assuredly derail my Black Gate L.A. productivity for the day.

Why would I do this? Well, to create another Top 10 list of course! This time around, I’m not looking at the best modules of all time, but instead looking at the best/greatest campaign series of modules of all time. Yes, so without running my deadline further into the red, let me get started.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that this is my list, and therefore shouldn’t be judged as some kind of ‘true’ entity. My views are certainly colored by the experiences I’ve had with most of what you see below, and at one time in my life I’ve owned them all.

As for Bloodstone, I’ve played it as recently as 2007, but that said, I can neither confirm of deny the fact that it did or did not make the list. I do, however, hope you enjoy what I’ve created below and that it does bring back a few good memories to you all!

So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Art of the Genre: The Art of the Iconic Character

Monday, March 9th, 2015 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Predating Paizo by a decade and a half...

Predating Paizo by a decade and a half…

By Webster’s definition, Iconic means ‘of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an icon’, which in essence reminds me of looking for the Wizard’s 1E D&D Protection from Evil spell only to be told to ‘see Cleric spell of the same name’, unless, of course, you know the word Icon means ‘a person who is very successful and admired’.

Now, having established the meaning, I intend to look at the evolution of ‘Iconic Characters’ [thus Iconic Character Classes] in the RPG setting.

It can be universally accepted that Paizo coined the phrase ‘Iconics’ with the release of its Pathfinder Adventure Paths [and their beta versions from Paizo’s Dungeon Magazine], but that is simple semantics.  In reality, the first true ‘Iconics’ were from the Wizard of the Coast release of D&D 3rd Edition, namely Krusk, Jozan Vadania, Tordek, etc.

These characters were really the first to take players through the game by repeating their exploits in both artwork and description.  Created by artists Todd Lockwood and Sam Wood, players from a whole new D20 generation were introduced to this new system and cut their teeth with the WotC Iconics.

However, I would contend that perhaps the definition of Iconic doesn’t have to depend on players of RPGs actually knowing the character’s name, but rather recognizing their image.  If that is the case, then the role of character class Iconics goes back much further.

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