Artistic Inspiration: Virgil Finlay

Being one of the favorite artists of James M. of Grognardia means you’re probably a good artistic inspiration for old school gamers. Add in the use of a relatively rare and interesting artistic technique and being one of the last of the old school illustrators and you probably have reached “significant”.

Virgil Finlay is an odd choice for my series of inspirations. He is later than most artists I would feature and while he has some elements of movements that tend to speak to me (Pre-Raphaelite, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau) he generally does not fit. What draws me to him is his female forms (true of two of the three above, all but Symbolism) and some horrific elements (which touches on Symbolism). That said, his style is one of the archetypical one for the pulp era science fiction magazines.

First up is a picture titled Conquest of the Moon Pool which I am sure is related to the Merritt story, although Finlay was five when it was first published. Finlay did work for Merritt at The American Weekly.

Our second picture is more a direct inspiration to gaming. Get out your copy of Spelljammer and compare that image to the skeleton ship here. Which, to your mind, is more of a pulp fantasy magical flying ship. In fact, I’d love to see various people write up Finlay’s ship as a treasure or even a monster.

Recommending Products in Products

How do you view products that recommend other products inside them. Not full page ads but items like “a good system for generating unique demons can be found in Scribe of Orcus #2”. Does it make it seem like you’ve been sold a broken or incomplete product? Does it matter if the products are produced by someone other than the producer of the book you’re reading?

The reason I ask is I’m taking a first pass at some sections of A Demon Haunted world and I’m inclined to recommend items I use in developing the playtest scenarios (and if I get players the campaign).

A Demon Haunted World: The Problem of Gunpowder

In trying to have magical adventures in the modern day one must find a way to explain why heroes don’t use guns. After all, if facing a demon would you rather have a sword or an AK-47? Some games handle this by making magical creatures have what amounts to tank armor for skin. An interesting, if not completely convincing idea outside of certain settings.

Of course, the easiest method is to claim magical creatures are invulnerable to modern weapons. To my mind, and many others, that is a cop out.

That said, if I want A Demon Haunted World to be modern sword and sorcery adventures I need a way to limit guns, flamethrowers, and artillery, among other things. To do this I’m going to look at modern weaponry a little differently. What if the wasn’t from the bullet or the flame but from the source: a strange mixture that propels the sling stone instead of a sling or a strange mixture that burns instead of lamp oil?

Well, in the S&S world, especially in the context of Old School fantasy gaming we have a word for strange mixtures that can harm you: potions. We also have a way to escape harm from potions: saving throws. Why not allow creatures of myth and magic (including my Blooded race of humans) a saving throw against potions when attacked with modern (gunpowder and later) weapons, flame, and explosives. A successful save resists the potions effects and converts the damage into the equivalent muscle powered weapon: sling stones, natural fire, and so on. Or perhaps a save allows no damage. Tougher (more magical) creatures might get a plus on this save to reflect their distance from the modern world.

Artistic Inspiration: Frank R. Paul

Amazing Stories: Master Mind of Mars And we have another Barsoom illustration, this one from the Amazing Stories run of Master Mind of Mars by Frank R. Paul. Paul was Amazing’s house illustrator from 1926 to 1929 and did a variety of other magazines as well. His most influential work was illustrating the Buck Rogers comic strip from its beginning in 1929. The visual vocabulary he started would be imitated in the Flash Gordon strip and serials as well as the Buck Rogers serial. He arguably defined what a spaceship would look like until the Enterprise’s silhouette appeared with Star Trek (which was revolutionary in and of itself).