Archive for the ‘Jon Hodgson’ Category

Changes at Serpent King Games

DragonwarriorscoreYou may have heard a rumour of changes coming at Serpent King Games. The rumour is true. Jon Hodgson here to fill you in.

The short version is that I’m departing Serpent King Games.

The long version begins with some history: When we formed the company 3 years ago I had reached a point in my freelance art career where I realised I wanted a change. So I put a bunch of irons in a bunch fires, worked hard at each of them, and waited to see what would happen. As it turned out working with Cubicle 7 as their art director, and more recently deputy CEO, has burned significantly hotter than any of the others.

The downside to this is that I just haven’t had the appropriate time to give to Serpent King Games. This has never sat easily with me. I love Dragon Warriors, getting to work on the Magnum Opus edition was huge for me. Sadly when there were new SKG Dragon Warriors books for me to apply my illustration skills to, my time was all spoken for.

My departure has been a long time coming, and I’ve worked hard on some different strategies to try and stay an active contributor of the game, but there comes a time to admit I can only work 12 hours a day. Rather than hold up already delayed projects I feel it’s more appropriate to step aside, help the guys find some new art talent with a bit more time to spend, and wish them all the best.

The last thing I’m working on is all the art for imminently forthcoming The Knight’s Tale, and handing over all my art direction notes for The Player’s Book to the new Serpent King art worker. I’m leaving behind permission to use all my artwork, which was my major investment in Serpent King Games, since the copyright to that art is owned by me, rather than a part of Dragon Warriors.

It can’t be overstated that my departure is entirely amicable, and I wish Ian, Gar, Kieran and the artist slated to take Dragon Warriors forward all the best. Each of them has invested significant time and resources in keeping Dragon Warriors available, and not one of them has taken a penny in return. A true labour of love.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing what new material this new era brings for Serpent King Games.

Arting by blog post

Here at the SKG blog we shouldn’t bore you by only trying to sell you our gamebooks, marvellous as they are. We can bore you by talking waffle too.

So I just starting the very first 3 pieces of work for the forthcoming players book for Dragon Warriors, which is auspicious.  I don’t really know why it’s auspicious, but it feels that way: Just run with me here a while ok?

And whilst painting I usually spend a great deal of time surfing the net.  The way I work is quite intense – 3 minutes of laying down tone and form very quickly, then a minute or two of being distracted by the web, which sits just behind my work on the computer, and then back to the fast painting.  Now this might sound like slacking, or a lack of concentration, and I would utterly forgive you for that judgement. But it’s how I’ve worked the last ten years or so and so far it seems to be going fairly well.   As a youth using traditional media I used to sit with my acrylics and a hair dryer for those paints renowned for their fast drying times didn’t dry fast enough for me.  That’s the general background of how quickly I like to paint.  Anyway whilst on one of those brief surfing breaks I stumbled across a blog post by our wonderful benefactor and DW creator Dave Morris, which linked to something I wrote a few months back about my early experiences with Dragon Warriors.  It seemed Dave approved, which is always nice to hear.
Rereading my earlier posting struck a chord for me.  Something very important about working on something you love is that you are still in awe of it, almost frightened of it.  That’s part of what makes the love significant.  So I’m painting some of the new professions we will see in the players book, along with some of the new life path type template thingamajigs which will be in there.  These are of course optional bolt ons to the core rules, but they are additions and changes to something we love.  We don’t do this stuff lightly.  And that’s good.

A lot of thought, frequently in the form of worry goes into depicting these characters.  It is very rare for me to restart commercial pieces of artwork. Time and tide is always against the freelance artist, and every moment spent wondering, pausing, thinking or worse doubting comes directly from your pay cheque.  So frequently its a case of doing the best you can within tight constraints.  And hey I could write another lengthy ramble on how that can actually get the best out of you, but I’ll bore you all with that another time.

When you own (part of) the company you don’t have those worries to the same degree.  Of course there are time constraints, but they are different to those imposed by a lot of freelance work.  I can stop and redo these if I want or need to.  So I spend a lot of time thinking about whether these fellows are “Legend” enough.  Are these generic fantasy fellers, or are they specifically Legend people?  What do Legend people look like?  And there’s the rub – I get, in part, to make that up.  And along with the rub comes that very healthy fear and respect for the subject matter.

There’s probably a point in there about love and affection that one could ferret out if one was so inclined.  There’s fear in there somewhere, and that not all fear is negative.  And we often fear things we love and love things we fear.  But hey, this is a post about making goblin drawins for a role playing game, not a self help book.
So anyway, buy our books, and if you have a few spare moments, what do people look like in your Legend?  You can interpret that as broadly as you like.  Perhaps I’ll steal your ideas.

The clock ticks…

It’s a little before midnight, here at Serpent King Games HQ. Not that there is a Serpent King Games HQ; it’s the 21st century, and we’re distributed, not like groceries, like algorithms running in parallel on several computers. So, at Gar’s home in Ireland, and Jon’s in Scotland, and mine in Wales, the three of us have glasses raised, ready to toast ourselves at midnight. For once this isn’t some kind of witches’ sabbat (though there *are* three of us — hmm); no, we officially take over the Dragon Warriors licence at midnight! Today, whisky, tomorrow, the world! Or the Lands of Legend, at least.

Who’s laughing now?

Hello one and all. Jon Hodgson here.  I’ll be your art director for this crazy flight to Ellesland.

Funnily enough, my roleplaying games “career” such as it was as a teenager runs the other way to Ian’s, who graduated from D&D to DW.  I went the other way.  My very first proper roleplaying game after Fighting Fantasy books which I adored and positively devoured, was Dragon Warriors.  Like so many I bought the books from the school book club thinking they were Fighting Fantasy style choose your path adventure books. Smart move, Corgi.

I would have been about 12, an age when boys often turn to roleplaying games to escape the fact they are diminutive nerds with no hope of excelling at anything remotely physical in the real world.  Thus it was that my first DW character, Ellidyr the elf knight, sprang to life, name stolen from the pages of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. Which was a pretty good place to find a DW character, even if in these modern times actually playing an elf PC is “doin it rong”.

I can clearly recall a feeling that Dragon Warriors was probably a bit too dark for us as kids.  Which of course made it all the more exciting.  The bit of back cover blurb about hobgoblins screaming across desolate moors still gives me a shiver. As does the recollection of getting our miniatures and dice stamped on as we played at lunch break.  I bet those bullies are running multinational conglomerates whilst I sit here blogging from the helm of a small press rpg company. Who’s laughing now, eh?

So anyway, my imaginative wellspring has always been full of things such as Prydain, The Mabinogion, Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, The Illiad, Robin of Sherwood and the like.  A very British (ok, the classics aren’t British and yet in another sense they are) very low key sense of mythic fantasy, which my adult work has never really escaped.   Little wonder then that I had such a marvelous time when things came full circle, as they so often do if the myths are to be believed, and was offered the chance to help with making art for Dragon Warriors under the auspices of the mighty Magnum Opus Press.  The challenge was a weighty one, with a great personal investment in getting it right: For Legend, for the overseeing eyes of Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson, for James Wallis and most importantly for the 12 year old Jon having badwrongfun playing that elf knight.

Painting the covers was relatively stress free – the original covers were never quite right for Legend, although clearly they were right for the paperback gaming market of the 80s.  When it came to the internal art I almost passed on the opportunity. Walking in the shadow of greats and personal favourites such as Leo Hartas and Russ Nicholson was not something to be taken lightly, and replacing such well loved art was never going to be an easy task, nor win over everyone.  The presentation, tone and artwork of the original game is tightly bound up in it’s appeal for many of the fans, and indeed to me.  But I decided if I wasn’t going to do it I’d have to spend a lifetime moaning about whoever did.

Getting started was difficult. I wanted to reference the style and feel of the originals, and to carry on something they began. But time and styles have moved on since those heady days.  I’m not a pen and ink artist, and it would be foolish to try and become one overnight.  So I just resolved to make my Dragon Warriors.  You can’t please all the people all the time, and whilst you can’t be completely unmindful of the audience, the bit of the audience that I wanted to please was in me too.  If I liked the feel and tone, then hopefully other DW fans would too.  It’s always a gamble making something anew, and making something genuinely from the heart.

So far no one has thrown a bottle of piss at me in the street, for which I am most relieved.  And on the up side Dave Morris is on record as saying: “Jon Hodgson, for me and Oliver, the DW artist”, which practically caused me to pass out.

And hey, don’t tell anyone ok, but I might have been speaking to some artists which might have been mentioned above, about making a slight return. We shall see if we can make it happen.

So I guess this post is about cycles and circles and how we come back to the start of things. And so I would just like to take this opportunity to apologise to Neal, a member of my original DW group, who’s character was left to die in the pool in the ruined villa in Gallows Wood in 1986 or thereabouts, for the heinous crime of saying “I follow the rest of the party” a bit too much.  Sorry Neal.  12 year olds are horrid.  Dragon Warriors is good though, innit?

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