Sunday, April 27, 2014

This Week's Webcomic

Here is this week's page... in all its black and white and red glory.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Phil File Card

I'm trying to get some more file cards done (in addition to the 10+ other small projects I have going at once...) and got Phil's done tonight...

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Termite Mound and Geomorphs

For a few months, I've been wanting to create geomorphs for the inside of the Termite Mound. I've set the last few episodes of the webcomic therein, and plan to include some game stats for the mound and its inhabitants in the upcoming MTDAA Adventure Journal (trying REALLY hard to have that done by next weekend, so it's out before the end of the month). I didn't want to use standard geomorphs (square grids) for this, since I want the whole mound to be somewhat alien and menacing. The place defies straight lines and clean corners, so I needed a morph template that would push me away from that. I found two types of designs in my Google hopping: hex morphs and triangular morphs. The hex morph would break the corners somewhat, but you could still plug square rooms into the middle of the space. However, the triangles defied efforts to square them up nicely, which was what I wanted.

The first set of morphs ended up quite nifty. They do not look at all like my traditional dungeon mapping, and they feel like the mound as I've been visually developing it in the webcomic. Win-win in my book!

Blue Dungeon Tiles

+Kevin Chenevert has a Kickstarter going for Blue Dungeon Tiles, and it looks like a great product. Kevin is a fantastic guy (he's given some incredible help with my own KS), and I'm happy to see how much success he's had so far with this project. You only have 39 hours to get in on this, and I can't see any way you regret getting involved and getting some tiles. If you do tabletop gaming at all, this is going to be a great resource for you.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Latest Webcomic: Fall of Valhalla Chapter 3, Page 9

Whew... it's been a tough couple of days, but it's Easter, the weather was beautiful, we got to spend time with family, and a new webcomic is up. It can't be all bad, right?

If you like this comic and want to see me make more of them, you can always sign on to support my Patreon Campaign!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Shakespeare Deathmatch: A Post-Mortem

Well, the last post-mortem I did on the MTDAA Kickstarter was my most read post of all time, so we'll see how my full disclosure on all things Shakespeare Deathmatch goes...

Here's the breakdown (remember that my starting balance was after fees for Amazon Payments and Kickstarter):

Starting Balance
Proof Copies

Card Printing/Shipping
Printing Re-do
Shipping Rewards #1
Shipping Rewards #2
Shipping International
- 158.30

- Well, this got ugly! I ended up losing 27.77 on this project (actually a little more, since I don't include some supplies like envelopes and tape that I purchased and kept the extras of for other things...). The cards were more expensive than I expected (since I printed cards at 6"x6" and didn't get the bulk discount I expected), and International shipping (10 packages at an average of 15.80 a package when I charged only $5 or $10 extra depending on what was ordered). I also short ordered cards on the first go-round for some odd reason  (I did the math three times on three different occasions before ordering cards, and still was a dozen decks short when I was packaging, so had to re-order). Basically I took a hit in two places to keep the quality of the project up: the character cards and the t-shirts. I could have cut my t-shirt costs in half and received lower-quality shirts (wasn't willing to do that), and I could have created simpler character cards that were part of the deck and saved quite a bit (also wasn't willing to do that). If I had it to do over again, I would skimp on the character cards, since these were a huge cost (more than half of the cost of the cards - layering these as standard playing-card size cards would have cut about $200 off the card printing) and I'd get rid of t-shirts altogether as a backer reward. These were a big $ sink in this project. It was fun to do the project, and I hope people are enjoying it, but I sure didn't make anything on it! I was putting together the Saga of the Splintered Realm KS as this was winding down, and I applied some of the lessons here so that I wouldn't repeat mistakes in that KS.

And by the way - in case you're wondering (because I would be at this point if I was you...) I did not use any money from the Saga of the Splintered Realm KS to pay for the overage on this one - that's all out of pocket. I actually don't get the funds from that one for two more weeks, so there's no financial overlap between the two projects.

I hope based on this that you can see I want to feel like my customers get their money's worth, and maybe you'll consider backing my Patreon Campaign to shift my Army Ants webcomic into high gear...

Webcomic Design: Layout Considerations

I was strongly influenced by the Carl Barks approach to laying out a page for Uncle Scrooge (which I'm sure has been used by many other artists, but which I first learned of through the good duck man) of laying out each page as half-page sections. You consider each page as two units, with an even break exactly halfway down the page.

For the last few months, that has been my approach to the webcomic. Since I have envisioned this as appearing predominantly on a computer screen, this has made sense, seeing as the page appeared pretty clean in a standard browser. In the long term, this translated well to the printed page, since it allowed me to place two webcomic releases on a single page when I ultimately put this into a collection later on.

However, recent attempts to increase my reach into other formats (facebook, flickr, direct posting to the blog) have not translated as well. I struggled with how to re-format, and I was thinking about how the 'standard' four-panel daily strip format is ideal: you can easily re-format the image by taking the last two panels and layering them beneath the first two to square it off, or you can leave it with a longer panoramic view. However, the weakness of this approach is the way it limits your storytelling in terms of layout and design. You cannot really use the page itself to help tell the story.

I think I've arrived at something of a compromise. Starting in a few weeks, I'm going to tinker with a hybrid of this, where the layout is (effectively) a square, with an upper and lower tier. Each tier is a complete design unit (it can be a single panoramic frame, a pair of frames, a series of 4-5 narrow frames, whatever) and this stacks on top of another tier. In this way, each webcomic represents 2/3 of a printed page (whereas my current format represents 1/2 of a printed page). Every other webcomic would be spliced over two printed pages at the back end, but it will be easy to make that transition down the line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ultimate Bundle Now Live

The Splintered Realms Ultimate Bundle is now up for sale on RPGNow. This collects almost everything that I've published in the last decade in one massive bundle for under $15... Army Ants, Mythweaver, Resolute, Wrestling Battle Bugs, Guardians of Metro City, Knights of the Falling Stars... it's all here. It took me over a decade to create it all, and it will probably take you that long to digest it all!

Of course, if you sign on as a supporter of the Patreon Campaign at the $5 monthly level or higher, I will send you a link to a free download of this collection. If you are a current supporter, your e-mail link will be forthcoming for the download of this bundled collection.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fall of Valhalla 3.8

Michael T. Desing's Army Ants - Fall of Valhalla 3.8
Fall of Valhalla 3.8

Cleaning up the blog

I've been cleaning up and re-organizing the blog a little bit. On the left pane, you can see a list of links - I've added the Patreon Campaign (which I hope you support), links to the webcomic on the two portals it currently appears, and two new links.

- I set up a CafePress page in case you wanted to pick up some bling with the awesome Jeff Dee MTDAA cover art on it.
- I put a link to vote for the MTDAA webcomic on the topwebcomics page. While cracking the top ten is going to be a challenge, we can probably propel the MTDAA webcomic into the top 100 with a little diligence. You can vote once a day (per machine) and it takes about 3 seconds. If you would send a few votes my way, I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Army Ants Patreon Campaign Launches

For several months, I've been considering launching a Patreon Campaign to support the Michael T. Desing's Army Ants webcomic. I delayed because I didn't want to run overlapping fundraising campaigns. I even considered delaying the launch of this campaign further, seeing as I just finished the KS campaign for Saga of the Splintered Realm last night. However, I decided to go ahead and launch for a few reasons:

1. These are different projects, with different bases of followers. Many of the followers/backers of Saga of the Splintered Realm and my fantasy RPG work do not overlap with followers of the Army Ants work.

2. I've continued to produce the Army Ants webcomic, and I want to be able to reach a larger audience, and to be able to justify spending more time on it. As it is, I have a full-time job, a part-time job writing test questions for a test-development company, and often take on roles chaperoning and serving in other capacities in my school. I want to be able to look at my calendar every month and carve out more time for Army Ants. If this means giving up an extra-curricular activity or chaperoning a few less dances and concerts, I'm all for it!

3. I need to stop feeling like I should not ask people to support my work. When a creator releases a new work, they ask their followers to help support it. I should be no different.

Signing up to support the campaign is easy, and it will cost you only a dollar or two a month (if that's all you can afford to give). The Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter gave me the opportunity to increase how plugged in I am to the larger online community. Now, I want to carve out a niche for myself online, and make MTDAA into the greatest comic it can be.

I hope that you'll help me to do it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thank You!

Thank you so much to the 99 backers who have signed on for Saga of the Splintered Realm! You have helped to raise $3438 to put together an awesome boxed set, and I'm well on my way to getting this done and into your hands. I know that RPGs are a luxury and not a need, and that many of you already have enough gaming material to keep you going forever. I am very grateful to each one of you who showed support for this project, and who pitched in towards it. Because we hit this point, the project will involve:

- Three books of at least 100 pages each (my target right now is 112 for each book).
- $700 for an art budget to hire some fantastic artists to illustrate the books. This means at least 14 illustrations by great artists in the OSR community, and at least another 20 pieces that I complete. You will own the full rights to publish and use all of this art when the books are released.
- The books go up as 'Pay What You Want' digital downloads, so you will always be able to get e-books into the hands of other players so the buy in to get up to speed with the game is nil.
- A double-sided map with the Splintered Realm on one side, and the city of Nethil Bay on the other.

I will be using this blog primarily, and the KS page for big announcements, to keep you posted on goings-on with the game. Please feel free to keep sending feedback and ideas my way. The first step will be to lock down the core rules (and we're a large part of the way there), and then to complete the Vault of the Goblin and Campaign setting books.

I have said it many times, but I truly love being part of such a supportive, positive and kind community of people.

It's the Final Countdown

Thirteen hours remain in the Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter. So, if you've been on the fence about backing this project, please allow me to push you off... WITH MY FIST!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saga of the Splintered Realm KS Down to 3 days

The KS for Saga of the Splintered Realm winds up Saturday night, and I'm hoping that we at least hit the next stretch goal, if not a bit more...

The preview of the rules was released last weekend, and as of today, 176 people have downloaded the Playtest rules version 1.0... Thanks to +Aaron Day I have (again) reversed course on race and class combinations.

One of the things I am pretty sure of is that the core rules are going to revert to race and class combined (which I am going to re-name as 'archetypes') and the existing rules for a single XP chart and race/class combinations is going to be an appendix. In the appendix, I am pretty sure that humans are going to get a +1 die shift to the HD die type (a human fighter rolls 1d10 for hp instead of 1d8 of the other races) to offset the other racial abilities.

The core rules will include the general archetypes from B/X - the human cleric, human fighter, human magic user and human thief as well as the dwarf myrmidon, elf champion and stoutling explorer. Each will have to have its own XP table in order to balance the different ability progressions.

Also, I've clarified the language in the post regarding art commissions... the license for the game and all non-OGL material will be with be a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Archiving the Webcomic on Taptastic

Thanks to a suggestion by +Babylon Sticks the Army Ants webcomic is now also posted on tapastic. Maybe posting it in other places will help to generate some more interest and traffic for the strip. It's hard to say for sure, and it's hard to say if the current publication model is the best way to go... I'm still investigating all of my options for hosting the series, and ways to make sure it's reaching as many readers as possible.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Webcomic Valhalla 307 Final Draft

Based on community feedback (because you all are AWESOME), I adjusted the second and fourth panels. I re-drew panel two entirely, and then excised the dialogue from panel 4. It is much tighter now, and I'm happier with the drawing in panel 2. Thanks for sharing in the process with me!

Illustration Spec Sheet Ready to Go

I have an illustration information sheet ready to go for those who want to sign up to take part. Here is what appears on the sheet... I will update this as people sign on for the project. Right now, only one slot is officially gone. Please let me know what images you are interested in working on. I will post updates when slots are taken...

Illustrations for Saga of the Splintered Realm (updated 4/6/14)

Art Should: (these are not absolutes, and there is room for flexibility)
·         Be completed in black and white line art.
·         Endeavor to evoke the style of Mike Mignola (stark contrast, simple angular linework)
·         Be completed on 6”x9” Bristol Board (original art is part of the backer reward package for some backers).
·         May or may not be signed, as you prefer.

Payment Terms:
·         $45 per illustration, +$5 to ship the illustration to me. (digital-only pieces will be paid $45)
·         Payment will be issued when art is completed, but before you ship it. (you will confirm by sending a low-resolution image to
·         Payment will be issued via PayPal (my PayPal address is

·         You (and I) give up all rights to the art. All art is going to be released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. The art may appear and re-appear in multiple sources (some for pay). I will not re-sell your art (outside of the original publication in the game book), but it may end up for sale in another publisher’s product. I may use it again on my blog or in advertising for the game. I will always credit you.
·         I will ask that anyone who re-uses your art credits you for it.

·         Art needs to be complete and in my possession by October 31, 2014.

Illustration Needs
Book 1 Title Page
I’d love to evoke “Willingham’s Dragon” (Page B1): a dragon fighting a party of adventurers - this may be difficult to pack into a 6”x9” frame.

Classic Cleric
The base picture for a cleric @ class description. Does not have to be human, but should evoke “that’s what a cleric looks like.”

Classic Fighter
The base picture for a fighter @ class description. Does not have to be human, but should evoke “that’s what a fighter looks like.”

Classic Magic User
The base picture for a magic user @ class description. Does not have to be human, but should evoke “that’s what a mage looks like.”

Classic Thief
The base picture for a thief @ class description. Does not have to be human, but should evoke “that’s what a thief looks like.”

Race Image
A picture of a dwarf, elf and stoutling hanging out. They can be doing anything (posing for the camera… in a bit of an argument… I’m thinking of the classic alignment pic from B/X where the lawful fighter is literally shaking down the chaotic thief while the neutral character looks on).

Weapons Flavor Piece
A collection of dangerous-looking weapons (again, I love the B/X picture on B12).

Sample Spell
Three of these. I’d prefer the weird over the purely offensive. An arcane sorcery/weird magic vibe would be ideal.

As above.

As above.

Combat and Exploration
Two of these. Characters involved in the activities they would pursue while adventuring or engaged in combat with fantastic creatures.
Kevin Chenevert - “Tully the Stoutling Wins Initiative”

As above.

Monster Manual
A Dragon

A Hydra

A Minotaur

Undead Creature or Creatures

A pile of treasure.

A magical device or item (or collection of these) – whatever feels cool.

A weird and fantastic landscape, environment, or cityscape.

As above.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tully the Stoutling Wins Initiative

+Kevin Chenevert has sent some concept art for a piece he'll be doing for Saga of the Splintered Realm. I'm used to going solo on everything I do, and to have a group of people coming alongside and sharing in the process is incredible. Check out his work, "Tully the Stoutling Wins Initiative":

Playtest Edition Now Live

The playtest edition of Saga of the Splintered Realm Core Rules, weighing in at 59 pages, is now available as a free download on RPGNow. I hope that this gives you a better idea about the direction the game is headed in. This is an open playtest, and I look forward to your feedback on the direction of the game.

Art Update

I've been in discussion with several people about coming on board the Saga of the Splintered Realm Kickstarter, and I am very confident that the game is going to look incredible. The OSR artist community is overflowing with talented people who want to be part of a project like this, and I'm INCREDIBLY grateful to the backers who have supported the project and made this possible.

Remember that 20% of the project goes back into art, and into the hands of the artists in the OSR community. Remember also that you will then OWN all of that art, and you'll be able to do with it whatever you want, wherever you want. So, when you back at just $10, you get a digital download of THREE books, and you get a download of high resolution scans of dozens of great images that you will be able to use anywhere and everywhere you want!

The bigger the project grows, the better this will get. As of today, I'm able to commission about 20 pieces, and I'll be creating another 20+ myself. I truly believe you are getting a lot for your money on this project.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ants Webcomic Process Step Two

Here is step two, wherein I've plugged in my lettering. You can see that in the lower left panel (panel 3) I had originally broken Troy's dialogue over two balloons, but when I was writing it in I expanded what Captain Irons had to say, so I had to compress Troy's response to one balloon.

My original idea was that the final panel would be a silent image. As I post this, I'm still not sure going with the 'for the mound' bubble was necessary. This may be the dynamic of publishing a longer story vs. publishing in serialized form for the webcomic creeping in... I would probably leave that image blank if this was going to be only in a larger book, but since it's going to see life on the webcomic exclusively for the next year or so, and I cannot be sure how recently someone read several pages back when they established their mission objective, I feel like a reminder is in order.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ants Webcomic Process Step One

I've been meaning for some time to do a step-by-step walk through of putting together a page from my webcomic. I usually don't have the patience to stop and scan a page while working on it- I just keep plugging away. However, I got started on next week's page a whole 5 days early (yeah, I'm impressed too) and thought I'd try to at least give you some idea of the process and what it looks like. I might be patient enough to post another one of these before the page goes live next week...

Step one is pencils. I usually do a thumbnail of the page before pulling out the Bristol Board, but this time I already had two of the four images in my head (the first and last frames). I needed a talking heads shot to progress the story, and I wanted the moment with the pistol in here as well. I thought at first that handing off the pistol could wait until next page, but found a way to fit it here as well.

I start by squaring off my borders, creating a space 7 1/2" tall and 10" wide to work on. I then rough in my panel borders based on the images that are going in. For this page, I drew panel four first, then panel one, followed by two and finally three. As a process, I'm trying to think of blacks first, and where I'm going to lay down heavy black areas. Since it's a night scene, the upper parts of the panels will be all black, with the negative space in the lower portions of panels.

As I'm drawing, I'm working through variations on the dialogue that I'll write. I don't have a written version of this, although I have been working through various sequences of this story for some time. This particular exchange has been in my head for about a month, so by the time I start lettering, I'm pretty confident I will have the right dialogue pop into place. My pencils are very loose, and I draw with a 2H pencil (because I have such a heavy hand). My high school art teacher tried to break me of drawing so heavily, but I could never back off. I started using a harder lead so I wasn't leaving so much graphite on the page. When I draw with a standard pencil my pages end up very dirty and messy. The harder pencil keeps the images pretty clean in general. Next step is lettering...