The Art of Roleplaying Games Gallery Show Looking for Submissions

I am co-curating and Green Ronin Publishing is sponsoring an art show at Krab Jab Studio called The Art of Roleplaying Games. The idea is to show off some of the awesome art that has been produced for RPGs in a gallery setting. We hope to display a breadth of material that represents RPGs from the early days to the present and feature art from a wide variety of games.

The show opens on August 11, 2012 and runs through the first week in September. We’re planning a special event the night before the Penny Arcade Expo begins, and we hope we can lure some attendees away from downtown to check out the show and the Georgetown neighborhood where Krab Jab is located.

We already have some art lined up but right now it’s mostly from local Seattle artists and we’d love to have participation from further afield. If you are an artist, collector, or company  that owns original RPG art and you’d like to be part of the show, please contact us at krabjabstudio [at] gmail [dot] com. Let us know what you’d like to show and what game products they appeared in.

Work can be any 2D media, color or grayscale, and must have been created for use in a roleplaying game publication. Krab Jab Studio does have an artist agreement that needs to be signed prior to hanging (it’s very standard legal stuff). Krab Jab Studio takes 20% commission for works sold inhouse or online, but you are not required to have your pieces for sale. We do catalog the show and list it on our website ( By August we should be set to ship art within the US (we currently sell locally).

About Krab Jab Studio

Fully established by 2010, Krab Jab Studio is the workplace of artists Julie Baroh, Milo Duke, Mark Tedin and writer Chris Pramas. With a monthly rotation of guest artists in our gallery, Krab Jab has developed a steady following in the funky, industrial artist’s haven known as Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood.

Krab Jab Studio also facilitates classes and workshops, most of which are developed as further education in the illustrational arts. Mark and Julie run a successful weekly costume drawing group, bringing in costumes and models of all kinds.

The name “Krab Jab” is a combination of initials of founders Julie Baroh and Kyle Abernethy. We found it to sound funny, and it stuck, even after Kyle left in 2011 (he still shows with us each month). Previous Krab Jab artists have included painters Michael Hoppe and Sandra Everingham.

About Green Ronin Publishing

Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle-based company known for its dedication to quality books and games. Founded in 2000, Green Ronin has been at the forefront of roleplaying game development ever since, taking home the coveted ENnie Award for Best Publisher an unprecedented three years running. With great licenses like Dragon Age and A Song of Ice and Fire, groundbreaking games like Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose, and a roster of top flight designers and illustrators, Green Ronin Publishing is a leading light in the hobby game industry.

Personal Note: If you are wondering how I am both president of Green Ronin and a member of Krab Jab, see this older post. Short answer: I’m using Krab Jab as a co-working space.

Game Night

Note: I wrote this as one of our Ronin Round Tables, a feature we do each Friday on I thought I’d post it here for folks who don’t make it over to the company site frequently. Enjoy. 

In 1999 Nicole and I decided to start hosting a game night at our place to play RPGs. While we’ve moved from that apartment, cycled many friends in and out of the group, and changed the night of the week several times, game night has been going on as close to weekly as we can manage for the last 13 years. It’s a key social activity for us and one that we always try to maintain. Even last year, when I spent 10 months in Austin working on the Warhammer 40K MMO, I Skyped in for at least part of the night to keep that connection. Maintaining a game group is not without its challenges though, and we’ve faced many over the years. I know we’re not alone in this either. How many of these sound familiar to you?

Many Players, One GM
For many years, I ran nearly every RPG on game night. In the early years we played a lot of d20 games, as Green Ronin was one of the leading d20 publishers during that era. I had a long running D&D campaign, ran Freeport adventures, and playtested V for Victory, the World War 2 mini game I designed for Polyhedron Magazine. Later I ran a playtest for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 2nd edition, and even a short-lived Lord of the Rings game when it seemed like we might get to design a LotR game for Games Workshop (not getting to design that game still makes me sad). Later there was Dragon Age, of course, but game night is not all about playtesting. I also ran stuff like a Savage Worlds Day After Ragnarok game and a weird mash-up of Feng Shui, Underground, Delta Green, and Deadlands. Once in a while, someone else would volunteer to run and I’d enjoy just playing, but those campaigns never lasted. We’d do 3 or 4 sessions and then I’d be back in the GM’s chair. I do like to GM but a certain point I started to get burned out. We got another GM when Ray Winninger joined the group, but ultimately Ray decided he preferred running longer sessions on weekends than working within the constraints of a week night that includes dinner and socializing (and hey, Ray, you can start those up again any time!).

Differing Tastes
Some groups have one glorious campaign that lasts for a decade or more but in my experience those games are the exception. Most campaigns seem to last six months or less. That is certainly true of our group. We’ve had maybe two that have lasted longer than a year. Naturally then, a common question is, “What are we playing next?” This isn’t always easy to answer. Tastes vary widely among our group and what we ended up playing was often a matter of compromise. In all our years of game night, I’ve never run one of my very favorite games, Pendragon, because I knew we had players who just wouldn’t be into it. That game requires a group of players who really buy into the setting and concepts, and I didn’t want to frustrate myself by trying to force it on them.

Life Intruding
I look back fondly on my teenage years, when I had way more free time for gaming. Everyone in our group (with the exception of my step-daughter Kate) is a grown up and of course we have all sorts of responsibilities. Almost everyone who has ever been in our group works in either the tabletop or video game industries, so there have been many times that we lose people for months of crunch time. Convention season is another difficult time, as many of us travel for weeks in the summer to attend this con or that. Marc “Sparky” Schmalz, GR’s Director of E-Publishing, also went back to school a couple of years back, which sometimes limits his time. Mitch Gitelman, an old friend who joined the group while I was in down south, is one of the guys behind the recent Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter and we’re pretty sure that’s going to keep him busy. So while we try to meet every week, it isn’t always possible. Sometimes it has seemed like the whole thing will unravel, but we’ve always pulled it back.

Changing Faces
The game industry can be volatile so we’ve had to watch many friends move away for new jobs, but we’ve also filled empty spots with friends who have moved to Seattle for a new gig. Sometimes the same person has done both those things. The most famous example is Bruce Harlick of the old Hero Games crew, who moved here to work on the Matrix MMO, was part of group for many years, and then moved back to California for several other video game jobs (ending with his current gig at Zynga). We still call him “Bruce the Traitor” for leaving us but he’s far from the only one. Jim Bishop left to go work at BioWare, Patrick Swift for a job at Upper Deck and now Cryptozoic, Tim Carroll for a job at Apple, Jess Lebow for a job at Ubisoft (and the distance record by moving to China!) and hell even me for a while when I lived in Austin last year. Every time we gain or lose people, the dynamic changes a little bit. This isn’t always bad, but it’s another thing that makes long term campaigns hard. GR’s webmaster Evan Sass gets bonus points for being the one person outside the household who has stayed with us through thick and thin.

Campaign Failure
For many of the reasons outlined above, we’ve found it harder and harder to maintain campaigns. While the group was originally conceived as RPG focused, a few years ago board and card games started to overtake that. Since the group often varied week to week, depending on who was traveling or crunching or what have you, it seemed better to play games we could finish in a night. And as I mentioned, I was also burning out on GMing and I wanted a break as well. So we’ve ended up playing games like Ticket to Ride, Dixit, Thurn and Taxis, Small World, Formula Dé, Dominion, and recently Miskatonic School for Girls (a Kickstarter that Nicole backed).

As you can see, we’ve had our ups and downs. Some nights we don’t even game at all. Nicole Lindroos, in addition to being Green Ronin’s General Manager, is a fabulous chef, so she always cooks and we drink, talk, and catch up. Those nights are fun too and even if we only talk about gaming (which is pretty much inevitable for us), I’d rather get together than miss a game night. It’s gaming that keeps us bonded together, keeps us coming back week after week to socialize, and keeps our friendships strong. Of course, it’s better when we actually play something but now my step-daughter Kate (who is 16) is part of the group and she’s helping to keep us honest. Last week she basically told us that game night without games was bulllshit and she wanted to play a superhero RPG please. I think we raised that girl right!

Top Five Reasons I Won’t Support Your Kickstarter

5. Your promises are vague and so is the delivery date of the project.
4. You spend 30 days on all social media talking about nothing but your Kickstarter. I didn’t back it the first 500 times I heard about it, but number 501 is sure to do the trick!
3. The leader of your team is an ethically-challenged piece of work who has already publicly disgraced himself.
2. Your “funny” game is about rape.
1. You are a millionaire and you Kickstart something you could easily afford. Asking people poorer than you to fund your project is so 1%.

The Man in the Ushanka

I started this story when I was in Austin and finally finished it over the weekend. Really, it’s the start of something longer but as I may or may not pursue that, I decided to just post it here and see what people thought. I’ll explain what I was trying to do in a later post but better if you don’t read that first.

The Man in the Ushanka

It was cold.

She tried to think of warm places. Summer in Catalonia, the streets of Barcelona baking in the noontime sun. The trip to Greece with her father when she was only 13. Walking through the Grand Socco in Tangier, sweating under her djellaba as she tried to shake the fascist agents tailing her.

Thinking about the Franquist swine got her blood up and that helped. Reflecting on her comrades and what they had lost let her focus, let her remember why she had traveled so far from her homeland.

A year ago they had lost the war. Franco and his fascists had conquered Spain. She had fled, like hundreds of thousands of others. Many had ended up in refugee camps in France or other nations, but not her. The war was over but she still had a purpose. She had wept bitter tears for her dead friends and then set about her task. Now she was here and it was cold.

Harbin. Far in the north of China, a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Her skills, her instincts, and her will had brought her here, to this city, to this street, to this building. Ten minutes ago a man wearing a thick, fur ushanka had entered the building. No one else had followed and the street was empty. No one else was foolish enough to be out after dark.

She padded up to the door and paused to listen. Nothing. It appeared unlocked, so she eased it open slowly and slipped inside. The entry room was dark and empty. She heard voices beyond.

The speakers seemed fully engaged so she gave herself a few minutes to warm up. Then she pulled off her gloves and reached under her coat to find her chosen instrument: a Mauser machine pistol. She did not bother to attach the broomhandle-shaped shoulder stock. That was used to steady your aim for distance shooting but tonight was all about getting up close.

She moved forward quietly and scanned the next room. It too was dark and empty but a door across the way was open and light shined up from the basement. She made her way there and padded down the stairs. Now she could hear the speakers quite clearly: two men, both Russian.

“…you see, comrade, this is why you must return to Mother Russia. We need men of science like you to build our great Soviet state.” The speaker had his back to her but she recognized his voice. She was sure she would never forget it, in fact. Her grip on the Mauser tightened.

“I have given you my answer a dozen times,” the other man said, his voice agitated. “I came to Harbin to get away from Stalin and his cronies. I don’t care about politics. I just want to be left alone to continue my work.”

“And as I’ve told you as many times, comrade, your work is why you are needed in Moscow. You won’t be punished for your flight. You can have a comfortable life, an intellectual life…if you come voluntarily.”

She was down the stairs before the man could give his answer.

“No one here is going to Moscow,” she said calmly in Russian, leveling the Mauser at the man in the ushanka. “You least of all.”

“Dr. Karpenko,” chided the man as he turned around. “You didn’t tell me you had found love in Harbin.”

His smile froze on his face when he saw the Mauser. “Your devotion is touching, my dear, but you better put the gun down before you make me angry.”

“I don’t know this woman,” said Dr. Karpenko, backing away.

The man in the ushanka looked from the gun to her face. Their eyes locked. “If you knew who I was, woman, you would run screaming into the night. Get out now.”

“I know exactly who you are,” she said, and the man laughed. She continued, “You are Georgy Rakov, a Major of State Security of the NKVD. You learned your trade in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow. There you tortured and executed many innocent comrades during the purges. From 1937 to 1939 you were stationed in Spain, ostensibly to fight fascism. Your real mission was to set up secret prisons near Madrid, where you could bring a little bit of Lubyanka to the Spanish Republic.”

Rakov took a step back. She tensed, thinking he might be trying to make a break towards an unknown exit, but now that she could see the basement she knew she had him cornered. The room was full of machinery, and strange machinery at that. She saw whirling gyroscopes, sparking antennae, and countless moving cogs. The work of Dr. Karpenko, she presumed, but what its purpose was she could not say.

“You seem to have me at a disadvantage, madam,” said Major Rakov. “You know so much about me and I so little about you. Who sent you? The Whites? The Japanese or their Manchurian puppets? Franco?”

She shook her head slowly. “You really don’t remember, do you? I suppose when you’ve tortured so many, the faces all blend together.” She removed her hat and tossed it to the floor. “I am Sara Nikas Ramon. Do you recognize me now? No? Perhaps you remember me better by my code name: Nike.”

Rakov’s eyes went wide. “You! You’re supposed to be dead. I ordered your execution myself!”

“So you did,” she replied coolly. “I’d tell you how I escaped but I want you to go to your grave wondering how I survived, and how I tracked you down.”

Dr. Karpenko suddenly piped up. Sara had been so focused on Major Rakov that she had forgotten the exiled scientist was there. “I am no friend of the Soviets, but please do not shoot him down here. This machinery is very delicate and I will not see my life’s work ruined.”

“Rakov seems to value your work,” she said. “That alone inclines me to destroy it, but I will not. I have but one purpose here.”

“She thinks she is going to kill me, doctor,” said Major Rakov with a laugh. “Well, Nike, here I am. Shoot me, if you have the guts.” He thrust out his chest, daring her to fire. “Can you do it? Can you murder a man in cold blood?” He was using the voice she knew so well. The hard voice of command. The one that both guards and prisoners feared.

She eased off on the Mauser and sighed. “I cannot kill a man in cold blood.” Rakov’s face lit up in triumph. “But you are not a man,” she said, snapping the machine pistol up and firing a burst straight into Rakov’s chest.

He staggered back and crashed into a wall. He doubled over, coughing and wheezing. Then he righted himself and suddenly there was a pistol in his hand. His mouth and chin were wet with blood, but still he smiled as he brought his pistol up.

“This is for my comrades,” said Sara icily, and she squeezed the trigger again. More bullets tore into Rakov and he fell heavily to the ground. To her amazement, his pistol slowly rose again but hand was shaky and it was pointing in the wrong direction.

Sara shook her head, muttering, “Can’t you even die without Stalin’s permission?” She walked across the basement to finish the job and that’s when the pistol went off. She realized that he hadn’t been aiming at her at all, but at Karpenko’s strange machinery. Three shots rang out in the basement and then Rakov’s arm fell to the floor.

It was enough. The machinery began to smoke and electricity arced off the antennae. “You fools!” cried the doctor. “You fools!”

Sara turned to dash towards the stairs but it was too late. The machinery exploded with a roar, throwing her forward. It seemed like she flew through the air for a long time. She knew she would crash into the stairs or the wall and probably break her neck. Instead she had the sensation of falling from a great distance. She was sure her eyes were open but she saw nothing but white. Then she felt a chill shock and all the breath was knocked from her lungs.

She didn’t know how long she laid in the cold. Was she dying? Was she dead already? Finally, the aches in her bones convinced her she was still alive and she struggled to her feet. She had fallen, Sara realized, into a snow drift, but how could that be? She had been inside a house.

It was snowing and she was chilled to the bone. Sara cursed herself for taking off her hat in Karpenko’s basement. What little body warmth she had was being sucked away quickly. She put her gloves back on and began to move. If she stayed still, she was going to freeze to death.

After a few minutes of trudging she came upon an arm sticking out of a snow drift. She grabbed the hand and pulled. The body would not budge so she used both hands and put her back into it. Suddenly it came free from the ice but now she was off balance. She lost her footing and fell to the ground, the body falling on top of her with a thud. She found herself staring into the frozen face of Major Rakov. Fear clutched her gut but it passed quickly. Rakov was dead, his lifeless eyes gazing into nothingness.

Sara got up and dusted the snow off her coat. It was then she noticed Rakov’s ushanka in the snow drift his corpse had so recently occupied. She smiled and picked it up. In weather like this, a good ushanka could save your life.