Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Robert E. Howard Art Chronology On Kickstarter Now!

Today the Robert E. Howard Art Chronology went live on Kickstarter

This is a massive undertaking, written by Michael Tierney and edited by Rusty Burke, that explores all the art used in the many publications that have brought us all the worlds of Robert E. Howard. From pulps, to books, to comics both in the United States and the UK. 

Printed in four oversized volumes (9.5 x 12.25) with dustjackets and slip cases, you'll be able to follow the evolution of the art that brought Howard's works to life! 

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Opposed Roles in Roleplaying Games

I love opposed rolls in roleplaying games. I’ll use OPRO (Opra is taken) as an acronym because I can guarantee you, I will tire of writing ‘opposed roll’ and move on to a different topic. I have never really implemented them in my game. I have played a few games with opposed rolls and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The OPRO brings a degree of involvement, of action, of being a part of the event and not a static observer. This is what I like most about it.

It comes with a handful of problems as well.

My personal feeling is that every action taken in a game that can have a meaningful impact on the game or that events outcome, should be handled by an opposed roll. I think this brings a degree of graphic participation into the game that might otherwise not be there. The easiest example would be in combat. Shouldn’t the person being hit make some type of roll to react or act? Like wise with thieving, spell casting, outpacing a predator. Sometimes it seems as if player’s characters are passive participants in the action, unable to act but just react.

I know this is not always the case and experiences vary.

There are also mechanical issues with opposed rolls. I won’t bore you with the details, but it seems those games that have tried this mechanic are not very popular, well, not as popular The Game. So mechanical issues aside, it seems that there is something more psychological going on. Could it be too much dice rolling (something I find difficult to believe), to much chance, or just too complicated for the purposes the game being played? It’s the latter I believe. It is just a layer of graininess that is unnecessary and thereby lacking that gravitational play.

But what do I know?

I know this, I know that Steve wants me to design a newish game. A game that is more in line with how I envision my campaign setting being played. If I get around to it (and that’s a big if), I will be using an opposed roll system. Yuppers, going to do that without telling Steve. I will name it Blood Cudgel or Cudgel of Blood, maybe Blood Harvest or Harvest of Blood…. Maybe Bloody Harvest of Blood Cudgels. Maybe I will work on the name before I work on the mechanic.   

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Conan, Roleplaying, and Single Shot Single Player Games


I was recently reminded that when I first started gaming, I would often play with just one other person. My brother, Russel, Feon, and others come to mind. We would play when we could and wherever we could. Having read as many of the Conan stories, Tarzan yarns, and comic books such as Savage Sword, Kull, Conan, Red Sonja, and a multitude of others, my little mind was fertile with adventures for single player games of Dungeons and Dragons. This traipse down memory lane was prompted, “The Curse of the Monolith” from Conan of Cimmeria.

Yuppers, reading that book.

I’ve been reading some Robert E. Howard lately as our Robert E. Howard art compendium is being released. The stories in Conan mostly have him acting alone or allying temporarily with one or two people. There are often soldiers in the background, either as enemies or allies. These rarely come into play in the fore of the adventure but serve to disentangle Conan from broader threats. The adventures are short and typically simple and occur in a short timeframe. There is always quick, decisive, action. That basic environment was the basis for almost all my single player adventures.

I even stole ideas whole cloth.

As time passed and my reading expanded to other authors like Michael Moorcock and Karl Edward Wagner, my games shifted in tone and reach. Wagner added an element of darkness to the games and Moorcock added a degree of the mystical or overarching themes. At the same time the number of players in the game increased until it was a crowd. Although the essential elements established earlier remained, I was finding that the ‘party’ was too big and varied for the plot lines derived from earlier pulps.

Six people could not be the hero of the party.

Then I read Lord of the Rings followed by The Sword of Shannara. These helped expand my capacity to play large parties of players and introduce the weird and inexplicable into my games. Essentially, the latter gave me the ability to see larger groups of heroes at play, with each player being a hero in their own way. Then I received the blue basic box for Christmas one year and, that was all she wrote. I knew then how the game was intended to be played.

That did not last long.

I played the way I enjoyed using Conan, Kain, and the Eternal Warrior as inspiration for plots, storylines and especially pace. Still do. The quick pacing and decisive action from Conan, the dastardly setting and amorality from Kane, with the deep plots and themes of Moorcock combine to form the triumvirate of my game’s foundations. I still find it difficult to manage larger parties. Not everyone can be hero.

Some things never change.

Now to change the tire on a car. That will change.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

RPG Characters

 I think this is almost all of my characters, all of the time. They are almost always fighters, almost always attacking crazily, and almost always dying.  But damn if its not fun! ~ Steve Chenault

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Dragon's Crucible


Here lies Magalog, the Sweltering Beast. Before the Light and the coming of the Waters of the World, Magalog sat at the rim of the world beneath molten crags and vomitus eruptions. The beast consumed whatever flesh it could, but no matter how much meat it slug down its gullet, Magalog’s appetite could never be assuaged. It was, is, and forever will be hungry. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Role-Playing Games Anonymous


There should be a secret society for those who play role-playing games. It would need a cool acronym. RPGA is taken and is, honestly, sorta bland. RAGE! That’s a good acronym. Now I just need words to fit the acronym.

Yesterday’s post had me reminiscing about the early days of gaming. For those of you who have come to The Game recently, it may come as some surprise that playing Dungeons and Dragons or any of its derivatives during the 70s, 80s, and 90s was frowned upon. Gaming was reserved for geeks, nerds, losers, and social misfits. At least, that was the common perception. Like most social lumping, it was inaccurate. Though, to be honest, I did meet quite a few basement dwellers during that time.

But they were mostly into comics.

Today there is little negative association with playing The Game or being part of the hobby. Those gamers grew up to become doctors, lawyers, actors, politicians, successful tradespeople, etc. We did not become serial killers (as far as I know). I myself went on to become an archeologist and later, along with my brother, founded the game company Troll Lord Games. There is some lingering derisive negative connotation coming from some people, but nothing like it was during the heyday. Gaming, cosplay, computer gaming, and most related hobbies are somewhat trendy now, even popular.

A secret society seems unnecessary now.

Back in the day a secret society was necessary. There was a lot of negativity surrounding tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG – cool acronym). Ask any of us aged old coots knocking on death’s door and we will all have a story to tell. We kept our playing on the downlow. At least we thought we did. My group was a mixed bag of jocks, honor-role students, and my friend we called “lips” (because his lips were so big). To maintain our ‘social status’ we kept our gaming secret. Our ‘status’ was, in retrospect, non-existent.

But we thought highly of ourselves.

We should have formed a secret society, had secret handshakes, hand signals, and the adornment of those organizations. Like the CIA or NSA we could have exchanged furtive glances, slipped notes to one another, had meet-up points, drop-off locations, safe houses, etc. All those things the secretive and reclusive Knights Templar or Masons have to this very day. We could even have had swords and uniforms and rituals and taken over the world. We could have been HYDRA. Our moment passed though all because we did not have a secret society. It would not have worked though.

We would have been more like a Koalas Club.

RAGE would not have worked. No one was mad or had notions of overthrowing governments or running the world. We were just kids playing games. KPG. That is it. The KPG. Today I am starting the KPG. Don’t tell anyone. If you want to join just let me know.


The first rule of KPG is, you do not talk about KPG….

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Sara Frazetta

Sara Frazetta, part owner and founder of Frazettagirls.com, is a powerful artist in her own right. She does amazing work. We are so very lucky and proud to offer her work in the upcoming Robert E. Howard Art Chronology Kickstarter. This massive work will showcase all the art and its history that has adorned the works of Robert E. Howard in comics, books and pulps. Written by Michael Tierney it will follow in the footsteps of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Chronology released not too long ago.

Sara is offering up a pen and ink of Conan and Belit! Don't miss out. Sign up for the pre-order page today!

Here are some samples of her work: 

Robert E. Howard Father of My Fantasy-Role Playing Game


With the upcoming release of our Robert E Howard (REH) art compendium (available on Kickstarter), I could not help but ruminate upon that Texan’s influence on my early life, one of my abiding hobbies, and a source for, don’t laugh, understanding the world. As the creator of the iconic barbarian Conan, REH’s influences stretch further than just myself and other fans. His impact on popular culture, literature, movies, gaming, role-playing games, and even art can be seen every single day if one cares to look.

This fascination began in what must have been the summer of 1973. Every summer the whole family visited kith and kin in southern Arkansas. Nearby by grandmother’s house was a Piggly Wiggly with a five and dime pharmacy attached. I meandered by one afternoon on my way to get an ice cream cone and there, just beyond the window, was a comic book rack. I stole inside instead of going to get ice cream.

Never having had purchased a comic book, I quickly thumbed through them searching for something appealing. The cover of Conan the Barbarian grabbed me (at 9, how could it not). I went home and read it. Entranced I raced back looking for more Conan comics. None were to be had but on a book stand, just behind the comics was a paperback boasting the title, Conan the Cimmerian. I thumbed through it and one story transfigured me, “Queen of the Black Coast.” I bought the book, raced home, locked myself in a room, and devoured the book overnight. Since that time, I have gone on to read most everything REH ever wrote, collected all comics associated with his name, and have gladly sat through several Conan movies.

Howard was part of a whole clutch of authors in the 1920s and 1930s who wrote pulp fiction for a variety of publications. Along with others, REH created and then cemented a specific type of pulp in the American literary landscape – sword and sorcery. The popularity of Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, and others paved the way for other writers to set pen to paper and produce a staggering amount of sword and sorcery stories over the decades following REH’s death.

 With the popularity of Conan came a whole host of authors producing or mimicking the same type of stories. The popularity of these stories laid the foundations for other types of literature to include Tolkien. Tolkien's popularity would unlikely to have exploded during the 1960s were it not for the groundwork done by REH and other writers of that genre.

 For the year after buying that first comic, I collected and bought everything Conan related that I could find; t-shirts, other comics, posters, books, and anything else in the offing. The summer after that purchase, Steve and I were gifted those ubiquitous little brown boxes containing the first role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. At first the boxes did not garner much attention. There were no stories and the art was not near as cool as that in the comics or that graced the cover of the books, and most especially, the Savage Sword of Conan. By the end of the summer, that changed.

At some point, while perusing those little brown books, the game started to make sense. In a rush, I grabbed my brother and started a game. Not really knowing the rules, I drove on and tried to replicate a Conan adventure. My brother Steve was having none of that. His favored books were by Edgar Rice Burroughs with Tarzan being by far his favorite character. Looking back on those early games, the clash of ideas was interesting to say the least. They were also enervating.

Steve and I both started playing ‘The Game’ and never looked back. To say that the Conan stories and Howard influenced the manner in which I play, design, and write Castles and Crusades material would be an understatement. The clash of the civilized and the uncivilized is almost always the underpinning of all my setting material with the uncivilized often being the more noble, good, and powerful. 

I owe a thank you to Robert E. Howard for creating Conan and opening up the window to a world I may otherwise have never seen. Perhaps we all do. Even if you have not read nor even like his works, he did plow that field and fertilized it. Others planted that field and all about us are the products of their furtive imaginations. Through role-playing we are all planting in that field and glorious are the sights I behold.

Monday, July 12, 2021

An Art History of the Works of Robert E. Howard

Troll Lord Games and our parent company Chenault and Gray Publishing are proud to plunge into the world pop culture art history once again. Two years ago we released the multi volume, full color, Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 Year Art Chronology, now we plunge into the many worlds of Robert E. Howard,  and explore their depictions in comics, novels and pulps.

Robert E. Howard, REH for short, is best known for creating Conan the Barbarian who originally appeared in the 1930's pulp, Weird Tales, and has since gone on to appear in novels, cartoons, comic books, movies, a short lived tv show and now, rumor has it, has joined the Avengers. But REH created far more than just Conan. Kull the Conqueror, Soloman Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Cormac, as well as non fantasy work: westerns, boxing and detective stories. His short career was filled to the brim and depicted by countless artists. 

We are producing the FOUR volume Robert E. Howard Art Chronology, an illustrative history of all Howard’s' publications in the United States. Written and compiled by Michael Tierney, the narrative gives the history of Howard's work and the often legendary artists who visualized it, and includes such giants as Frank Frazetta and Michael Whelan, featuring untold stories, art that hasn't been seen since its release, and pieces that were buried in the vaults from the beginning of his publishing history to the present day.

Check out the ERB set on youtube:

This project is as much a narrative history of REH's publications as it is a visual history. Michael Tierney, the author, has combed the archives and gathered together a vast treasure trove of art from hundreds of artists from multiple eras, from pulp covers, to interior art, from novels that range on both sides of the Atlantic to the vast array of comic books that sported REH's amazing creations. He's taken these and woven them into a discussion that explores the many facets of the various industries and Howard's place within them.

Officially licensed and sanctioned by Robert E. Howard Properties LLC, Inc., this nearly 1,200 page examination of the vast publishing illustrative history of Robert E. Howard is divided into four parts and each grouped chronologically. You can click on this link to view a sample of the Edgar Rice Burroughs set. (NOTE: the resolution on the samples is reduced to make for faster downloads). It will appear as a full color, hardcover book series and in digital format for PDF readers.

  • Volume 1: The Pulps The Dawn of the Age of Science Fiction
  • Volume 2: The Books Literature With Sharp Cutting Edges
  • Volume 3: Comics The Universal Language Part 1
  • Volume 4: Comics The Universal Language Part 2

Be the first to support this project on Kickstarter, sign up today!

Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...