Rifts Inspirational Art I

I did not buy into Rifts when it first came out. I was mostly into Gurps at the time. However, when my wife first left me I found myself hanging out at the game shop (the sadly gone Dragon’s Lair in Hartford, Connecticut). I kept looking through their huge selection of used gaming books. One night I started looking through Rifts books and three images captured my imagination. Rifts is the first game I bought because the art struck me. Even now it remains one of the few games where that is true. Off-hand I cannot think of another.


The least among the three is this image of a mystic druid (from Rifts England) clearly not in her native environment. Yes, she looks very 80s fantasy but in a way I found appealing even in the late 90s. She could easily be the sister of Morgaine given the cover of my original paperback of Gate of Iverl.

What is also interesting is that game with giant robots, floating barges, and laser guns also had room from someone from an 80s fantasy movie. It was the first hint that Rifts Earth wasn’t the typical post-apocalyptic setting.



Next up is the picture in my mind when I mentioned snow and forests in yesterday’s post. It is a DeeBee and a CyberKnight although it could easily be any fantasy setting instead of Rifts. The DeeBee could be used as an orc.

Again, this is how Rifts got into my head. At this point I was thinking less of giant mecha games and more of something that could support crossing C. J. Cherryh’s Morgaine stories with something like Appleseed for a really wild ride.


It was this last image, though, that sealed the deal. A group of explores with high-tech gear but still using torch in wilderness so barren it was like being back in Wyoming watching a ley line burn in the night. This was something new for me. I hadn’t even had images like this in my mind playing D&D in Greyhawk in the 80s.

I bought a used core book, a used Rifts England due to the mystic druid caption, and because the beginning of the England book mentioned it Wormwood. I’d later realize the last two weren’t related closed just from here to there in a travel journal. I haven’t really looked at Wormwood much since but still, 15 years later, these three images define what I think about when I first think Rifts. Wyoming is a place, based on the brief entries, to make this images what I see during my game.

Inspirational Art: Luis Royo

This painting is by Luis Royo and was used as the cover for A Yoke of Magic by Robert Vardeman (which I’m currently reading).

A few quick descriptions from the novel of the riders and their mounts:

The three riders reined in and held their snorting mounts just beyond the ring of pale light cast by Lejena’s campfire. Their horses pawed the earth, searing the ground wherever they touched; their hooves were afire.

As she neared, the foremost of the demon riders grasped a longsword forged from crystalline flame. It blazed brilliantly as it slid form a dark scabbard, tiny tongues of fire leaping and dancing along its entire length.

In the light of those hell-fired swords, Davin saw the heavy cowls pulled forward about their heads. No matter which way they turned, their faces – if they had any – remained cloaked in shadow. But the hands gripping those flaming blades were skeletal!

Between the images and the description all I can think is light-sabre wielding Nazg├╗l.

Random Campaign Idea in Pictures

So, lately I’ve been listening to this:

Which lead to me reading, for the first time, this:

While thinking about running:

Yet at the same time I’d like to run:

Where this:

Has always been associated with:

And I’m really excited to get this soon:

Now, post holocaust after the Martians is nothing new. The Aftermath rules suggest it and a later return of the Martians was the ruin for one of their playtest games (even including the human hunters of men the artillery man envisions). Still, the idea of a devastating Martian war where humanity, but not civilization, is saved by monsters and magicians could be fun.

Base on The World After and this, among others, it’s clear I’ve internalized the D&D is the apocalypse trope. It’s also clear that I prefer it not be nuclear war and have a strong bent on the Devil did it (the multiple images above, for those who don’t recognize them, are from Prince of Darkness).

Inspirational Art: Hot Elf Chicks

For those getting the joke, yeah I’m late. I took a couple of weeks break from the D&D blogs. But, I figured I could still present various pictures of the Hot Elf Chick of all Hot Elf Chicks of The World After, Lilith, Mother of Elves.

For those of you going, “Hey, I goggled ‘hot elf chicks’ looking for some inspirational material and I’m getting stuff about some lame D&D world using artsy pictures, WTF?” let me explain.

This blog is connected to a large community of DIY oriented players of D&D and other roleplaying games. We are using a common bait and switch tactic: seeding terms we know people are searching to get people to visit our blogs who usually wouldn’t. We figure some of you either played games like D&D in the past but drifted away or might enjoy playing them with us

First up we have John Collier’s Lilith, which graced the post linked above. It is my favorite Lilith (obviously I would think) and one I consider highly erotic. You might not consider it “hot” in the primitive boner creating sense that seems to be the limit of 21st century male thinking on the Internet but I encourage you to move beyond that and imagine the sensual and sexual avenues this woman would open to you.

Next up is Dante Gabriel Rossetti who had a habit of painting the same woman from the same model (yet who looked nothing like the model). His Lilith is colder and more reserved than Collier’s Lilith. Given in The World After elves are the children of primal chaos the abandon and destructive sensuality of Collier is a much better match than the ice queen of Rossetti.

Next we have some more modern Lilith images. The first incorporates direct dragonic features into Lilith herself while the second maintains the serpent entwining nature we see in Collier.

Finally, we’ll finish with Vallejo’s Lilith.

One thing this post has got me wondering, I choose Lilith as the Mother of Elves for the World After without considering the strong draconic/serpent imagery. That said, the Marvel Weird World materials which inspired the elves without memory show one elf born fully adult from an egg in the skeleton of a dead serpent. Perhaps there is a strong connection there.

Finally, some links to learn more about the OSR:

THE Place to go to learn about the history and ethos of early D&D is Grognardia.

If you lost those old D&D books there are a variety of clones: Basic Fantasy Roleplaying, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and OSRIC.

My favorite producer of new material is Lamentations of the Flame Princes who also produce their own D&D clone which is my rule set of choice.

Finally, if you want hot chicks and D&D how can you beat Playing D&D with Porn Stars.

If that’s got you interested, check the blog roll and the Old School RPG Magazine and Fanzine page for more.

Inspiration Art: A Link

Today I’m mostly posting a link for inspirational art because work has been busy. However, the art in question does have me thinking about OSR and what my old school gaming memories are. I’d like to say it will inspire a post but we know how good I am with follow-through.

Wanted, Classic 70s Sci-Fi Posters

However, I am going to post one of his images:

This image, more than any other on the page, screams out what science fiction and fantasy were about for me at the time I discovered D&D. They weren’t really separate and were mixed up with Yes and similar album covers, the kind of shows discussed at Space: 1970 (which is what pointed me to the poster site). It’s the same frision I still get from Palladium Books stuff and listening to Nightwish. It’s something I often try to capture. In fact The World After has huge dollops of it and part of the problems that campaign world has is trying to synthesize that with more serious elements.

Monday Pointers: The I hate V-day Edition

D4:Sure, they had Chariots but did they have magic items
Over at Grognardia James M. makes an interesting, but justifiable, addition to his Pulp Fantasy Library: Chariots of the Gods. For those of you who aren’t survivors of the 70s this is the iconic “space aliens built the pyramids” book. It’s not the most interesting (I reserve that for The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago) but it is the iconic tome. If you want some science fantasy weirdness or an alternate conspiracy for your Mulder and Scully to run into it’s a great choice.

D6:Herb’s Horrendous Hiccups
Want a free copy of the next edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG? Well, come up with a prizing winning level one magic user spell. Even if you don’t come up with the winning entry you’ll have helped create a great resource of first level spells available under the OGL.

D8:My Memory, it is strange
Of course, the first ancient aliens appearance in the OSR to my memory was the heavy influence of Richard S. Shaver’s tales of underground mind controlling dero had on Scott’s World of Thool. Although the brilliant and very odd Thool is gone for a large part you can still find Shaver’s works online.

It’s been a short list today, but I’ve been busy. For those wondering where this weekend’s posts went, I screwed up and posted notes for upcoming entries, but starting this week Inspirational Art will start alternating with Inspired Creations which will draw on prior iterations of Inspirational Art for actual things I’m trying to use in game.

Speaking of in game, I’m looking to start an alternate Sunday evenings campaign set in The World After. Long term I’d like to start a third campaign as well for the alternate days featuring the latest ideas for A Demon Haunted World.

Finally, I hope to get a summary of the first four sessions of Crusade Beyond the Door up this week, hopefully followed by tomorrow’s fifth session.

Inspirational Art: The Magic Circle by Waterhouse

This is John Williams’ second appearance in Inspirational Art. Given my love of Pre-Raphealite painting and background in the SCA this shouldn’t be a surprise.

The Magic Cirlce is a particularly interesting painting for RPG inspiration. Well into the 80s our image of what the middle ages, and thus much of fantasy, drew heavily on Pre-Raphaelite imagery. This particular painting, given the simplicity of the subject, emphasizes several of them. He gown, a simple form with a pale but not pastel color, mid-forearmed sleeves, wide facing on the collar and cuffs, is a classic fantasy image. The multiple winds of the belt with the dangling front is classic although Waterhouse paints more of a sash here (perhaps an influence from India parsed through the Victorian eye). The cauldron directly on the fire is another image well known.

While all are good for a GM’s use in describing an NPC I’d like to draw particular attention to her implement. The rod, which she appears to be using to inscribe a circle, is neither the staff or dagger, the traditional magic implements in fantasy literature. While D&D has many rods I rarely see them used and almost never see the rod as a standard magician implement in adventures or books. The inclusion of the cauldron inside the circle is also unique compared to more modern fantasy art, writing, and games.

Do these differences represent her specialization or a quirk of personality? Does she wear a sash belt instead of a leather for a reason? What is she brewing that requires it to be protected from the outer world during its enchantment? Why does she use a rod and is it metal, wood, or some other material? What is the decoration on her skirt?

Finally, this image is used at Wikiquotes to illustrate a quote from Good Omens:

Precisely because she was a witch, and therefore sensible, she put little faith in protective amulets and spells; she saved it all for a foot-long bread knife which she kept in her belt.

I see inspiration for an encounter, an interesting NPC, or even an order of magic. Regardless of which you choose, Waterhouse has provided some excellent inspiration.

Inspirational Art: The Mechanical Turk

One of the most interesting but least used (in my experience at least) types of monsters is the automaton. Mechanical constructs have a long real world history and, if not quite as magical as their creators would have liked the certainly captured the public’s imagination.

Among the most famous automatons is the Mechanical Turk. Build by Wolfgang von Kempelen to entertain the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. It would defeat a variety of opponents including Napoleon and Benjamin Franklin. It was only after 50 years that it was show to be a fraud in 1820. The elaborate desk that held its table had a concealed human operator within. It was captivating enough that it would continue to be shown up until its accidental destruction by fire in 1854. It’s owner at that time was Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell. Among Dr. Mitchell’s other claims to fame he was Edgar Allen Poe’s personal physician.

It was succeeded at least two more machines, Ajeeb and Mephisto. The later was remote controlled instead of having an operator. A true automaton capable of playing chess on its own would not appear until 1912 with El Ajedrecista. Even then, it was limited to three piece end game of its own king and rook against a human king.

The Turk, or, better yet, a truly self-actuated version powered by magic, would be a great addition to a campaign. A court magician could have created one for his king’s entertainment. From there plots from the Turk as evil adviser, rival of its creator, or test of potential advisers or employees only scratch the surface. I can see two uses of the Turk in a dungeon. He could be an encounter of his own, perhaps a trap of some kind or a way to gain information. He could also constitute an item of treasure. I find this later idea deliciously old school in the ingenuity players would need to see it as treasure, retrieve it, and find a way to make us of it in the outside world as well the interested parties the later would create. These traits are increased if your campaign eschews the traditional medieval setting for something slightly more modern as LotFP is moving towards (perhaps it could be the key focus of high level players’ inn) or my own World After.

Inspirational Art: A Random Snippet from Wikipedia

Okay, so I’m getting far afield from art, but the name has been around for the Wednesday inspirations post and we’ll keep it.

It has been said that had Byron lived and gone on to defeat the Ottomans, he might have been declared King of Greece. However, this is unlikely. Unlikely, perhaps, but a great jumping off point for a campaign in the 1830s in Eastern Europe, which was recently noted is a good, untapped time (and would match LotFP well).

Artistic Inspiration: Nemo/The Cave

In searching for an inspiration to post about today I was amazed I haven’t posted this music video yet.

In the player handout first campaign in the World After I said:

A random selection of inspirations for the game: The novels Black Easter and The Day After Judgement> by James Blish (a few years ago available as The Devil’s Day in a single volume). The Nightwish album Once and the Within Temptation album Mother Earth. Memories of many Tunnels and Trolls sessions in the early 80s. Three on-going urban fantasy book series one of which is Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty novels and the others would be telling. Ken Hite’s GURPS Cabal and many columns from Supressed Transmission. The movies Heavy Metal and The Warriors of the Apocalypse (oh, and a tiny touch of Night of the Comet…well, not really but if you’re renting bad movies to get ready for the game it’s a classic). The various Horseclans books. The full range of D&D (not AD&D, which 3rd and 4th edition continue without the A), Judges Guild, Arduin Grimoire, and modern simulacrum games designed to fit the 80s vibe. Dragonfoot.org, The World of Thool (and it’s predecessor Wilderlands of OD&D), Grognardia, Lair of the Flame Princes, Monsters & Manuals, Philotomy’s OD&D Musings, The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, and RPG.net.

While some of those have fallen by the side others have remained constant. The Blish books have clearly remained as does one of the urban fantasy series, The Dresden Files. Ken Hite’s work is seminal in making my interests gel and are included. Most of the others have not.

However, this video is very specifically what I was referring to about Nightwish. This isn’t the official video but includes scenes from the movie The Cave. I’ve never seen the movie but the video influenced my initial ideas for a mega-dungeon. I later abandoned them but they have come back full bore for Santuario Nero. The idea of a hidden complex with monsters sealed over by an abandoned monastery fits the World After very well.