Saturday, November 9, 2013

7 Questions with Sorcerer Blob



"Those who have power should restrain themselves from using it."
-Kit Fisto, Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This week, I interviewed Pierce, aka SorcererBlob.  I've enjoyed Pierce's artwork and just sending tweets back and forth discussing things like Star Wars and D&D games.  I wanted to learn more about his gaming experiences as well as how he got into doing so many drawings, so I asked him if he'd like to be interviewed for the blog.  He responded affirmatively, and away we went!  I really enjoyed taking the time to learn more about Pierce, and, as always, I learned that we have quite a few things in common.  Besides also being a Star Wars fan, he has spent a lot of time running a pirate themed campaign, just like some of the adventure that my group continually leads me to creating.  As an artist, he's also a big fan of comic books and the various characters that inhabit those pages.  And, like me, he's found himself immersed in adventure written by Bruce Cordell (he fought undead while I battled sahuagin).

And with that, let's get to the questions!

1. Could you please tell us a little about yourself?  How long have you been into gaming/D&D?  What other things do you enjoy doing?

Hey I’m Pierce and as you probably know, I go by Sorcerer Blob in various online gaming communities. I’m actually something of a newcomer to gaming in general. I was always curious about D&D growing up, but my mom had bought into the “Satanic Panic” of the 80s and early 90s, so it was expressly forbidden. I did however find ways to skirt that by reading the original Dragonlance trilogy and playing computer games like Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate, and Neverwinter Nights, among others.

It wasn’t until 2007 when I started working with some guys who would get together every weekend to play some 3rd Edition D&D. I would listen to their stories and tales and just game-talk in general. I went from lightly teasing them to listening intently. Eventually they invited me to come around for a session and play with them. I was pretty wary. I had only just become open about my lifelong love of comics, so suffice it to say I was pretty shy about the nerd-side of things in my life! Anyways, to make a long story short, I went and gamed with these guys and, while confused and overwhelmed by the rules, I fell in love.

Since that fateful session in 2007 I’ve played a large number of different games and systems and I’ve tried to expand my tastes and skills as both a player and DM as much as possible. For a couple of years I actively posted on my now-defunct blog, Legend4ry D&D (http://legend4rydnd.blogspot.com/). Legend4ry was an attempt to bring an old school sensibility to modern gaming, namely 4th Edition D&D. I had a lot of fun with while it lasted, participating in a number of blog carnivals and doing a number of old school conversions. I may revisit some day and try to bring that feeling to other games as well.

When I’m not gaming or doing gaming-related things, I am an avid reader. I have three over-flowing bookshelves and need at least two more to safely house my personal library. I also draw, occasionally paint, go to my alma mater’s football games, and many other, “normal” social activities. Putting it into words makes me realize that I’m a little boring!



2. What's the history behind all the drawings you do?  Could you expand on this a bit and let the community know where to follow it or view your work?  Also, do you take requests/commissions?

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My dad taught me how to connect basic shapes to create something else at a very early age and it’s something I’ve loved doing since. Growing up, my drawings primarily focused on the comic book and super heroic side of things. I have “created” so many super heroes in my lifetime that I don’t even know where to begin counting.

Since I started fantasy gaming, however, that’s where I’ve been drawing more and more. There is just something about fantasy art work that is more fun and more freeing, at least to me! I’ve also found that depending what I’m reading or watching at the time has its influences as well. Someday I’ll master drawing the cowboy hat, someday!

Right now I post a lot of sketches and rough drawings on Twitter (@Sorcerer_Blob). Primarily the stuff I put up on Twitter is just rough doodles and stuff I do for fun or to get some pen-time in for the day. I also love to post pictures I’ve drawn from gaming up on Twitter, as well. When I’m a bit more serious and in the mood to flesh a piece out, I usually post it on my Tumblr, Art by Blob (http://sorcererblob.tumblr.com/). I’m also slowly working on a long-form web-comic story that doesn’t really adhere to a schedule called Letters from Promethea (http://lettersfrompromethea.tumblr.com/).

As far as commissions go, the idea only was planted in my head fairly recently, so I’m pretty new to the game in that regard. But, if anyone is interested they can contact me on Twitter or via email (sorcererblob at gmail). 



3. What significance does all your artwork have in your game sessions?  Does it make things more immersive?  Would you recommend that every playgroup try to have some sort of art collaboration in order to create a more positive gaming experience?

When it comes to drawing for game sessions, whether as a player or a GM, I am always drawing and sketching. This is especially true when I’m running games.

I think art goes a long way in helping players connect with the game world and make it seem more tangible. I can go on a long exposition describing a structure or a person, for example, but at the end of the day, no matter how thorough I am, there will always be something missing from it. I find good art in gaming really gives a good unified understand of what something is.

I definitely think that art, whether hand-drawn or found on the internet, makes a gaming experience more immersive. Typically I’d suggest finding or drawing pieces of important NPCs and locations. Knowing what the old and haggard tavern keep who has ingratiated himself into your party, for instance, makes him seem more real and can really help tie a player to a location or a player in-game.

For my own personal game sessions I really like to draw everyone’s characters for them. Sometimes my view of their character and their view clash, but that’s part of the fun in seeing how differently a character and their actions are perceived. I also really enjoy drawing out important scenes and locations and have found that providing a physical drawing of in-game puzzles really helps in understanding the magnitude of certain in-game elements. Lastly, I like to keep an active map during play, one that has the most basic of locations on it and is expanded as the game progresses. I’m a huge fan of ancient and historical maps, so often little sketches will pop up on these maps that give them some sense of character.

I guess to summarize, art only makes gaming a better experience for all involved!
 
4. Who has been your favorite character to play in a game and why?

I’ve played a lot of great characters in my relatively short gaming career, but if I had to nail it down to one I would have to go with the one that inspired my gaming handle, Sorcerer Blob.

Sorcerer Blob was the first character I had ever created in a table-top game. I had just got done playing a Barbarian, my first character ever that a coworker of mine had made for me. I enjoyed the Barbarian experience, but was looking to test myself and move into the mystical world of magic. Wizards in 3rd Edition D&D seemed just too complicated for me, so I settled on the Sorcerer.

I liked idea at the time that the Sorcerer, who is supposed to be a charismatic character, of being physically the opposite. A large guy who could charm just about anyone. My DM at the time loved it and thought it to be hilarious, and encouraged me to see it through. I was trying to come up with a name for this strange and contradictory character and fell back on love of comics. Fred “The Blob” Dukes is an evil mutant in the various X-Men series who is as large as his name would imply, and thus Sorcerer Blob was born.
 
The character was a learning experience. I had to learn the new rules-set that was 3rd Edition magic while still learning the basics of the system as well. We played through Expedition to Castle Ravenloft and I quickly learned that being a coward allowed ol’ Blobby to live to the final confrontation with Strahd (who ended up being a total push-over.)

While I’ve played other characters that were fun and memorable, I’ll never forget the Sorcerer Blob and how it was the trial by fire I needed to finally and completely “get” table top gaming.


5. What was the best adventure that you ever personally ran?  What made it so great?

This is a hard question to answer as I’ve ran a lot of stuff, from one-shots to short adventures to full-on campaigns.

I had a lot of fun running a campaign set in 4th Edition’s Nentir Vale that I called “An Undead New World,” riffing off of Aldous Huxley’s famous novel. I had used Keep on the Shadowfell to introduce some gaming neophytes to D&D and immediately got them hooked. They wanted more when the module ended. I had never ran a full campaign before, so it was definitely a learning experience in trying to balance telling a story and giving them options and opportunities to influence the world and events. It was a head-ache, but it was a lot of fun, too. I learned a lot about my play-style as a DM and improved a lot from it, having gained confidence in my abilities and finally learning how to improvise on the fly. Despite it being a pretty cliché “save the world” campaign with lots of moral gray choices, we all had a lot of fun with it.

While the above was a learning experience, I think that the best campaign I’ve ever run is actually one that ended up being abandoned because of scheduling conflicts. It was the campaign immediately after “An Undead New World,” and we all wanted something light and less serious. I cooked up an idea for a pirate-themed campaign and off we went. We had a one-shot to set the tone and then after the players were tasked with creating the world. I had some say in it, too, but overall the islands, gods, and cultures they created were what we focused on. This was my first experience with collaborative world-building and it was largely positive. I drew a lot of art for this campaign and worked on a custom map for the group and it was a lot of fun. We played the campaign episodically with the idea that it would be sort of like Grand Theft Auto meets Firefly. They would travel the Ancient Seas as pirates, looking for work, taking on odd jobs, and trying to prevent a civil war all the while steering clear of the Imperial Trade Navy. It was a blast.

Eventually the campaign took a dark turn as one of their contacts accidentally gave them some bad information that led to their deaths. A second crew was raised, but it didn’t quite feel the same or capture the freebooting spirit of the first crew. After some talking, we got together to think of a way that made sense that the first crew was still around. I thought long and hard on it and had a crazy idea, the characters had died fighting an ancient goddess they had accidentally awoken, but instead of killing them, she had pushed them through time to the primeval past of the Ancient Seas. I pitched the idea to the group, they would be forced to travel through time to get back to the present, all the while changing the past and effecting the future. We’d switch off occasionally with the second crew to see what time traveling crew had done. While traveling through the different ages of the world we would be changing mechanics, too, using time travel as an excuse to introduce this group to the various editions of D&D.

It was an ambitious campaign that died down due to busy season for my players as they are all accountants. I’d love to revisit the world and the concept some time, as those sessions were an incredible amount of fun for everyone involved.
 
6. From some of your tweets, I've seen that you're playing a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game.  Can you tell us about your character in that game and why you decided to play them?  Bonus points: tell me who your favorite Star Wars character is and why.

I am loving Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. This is the first Star Wars RPG that I’ve played, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it with my bi-weekly group.

I ended up deciding to play a Droid. I liked the idea of Droids in general and have read some pretty awesome (and crazy) fan theories online about both Artoo and Threepio and their influence on the Star Wars world at large. I also liked that mechanically speaking they could be customized to be whatever you wanted.

I had a crazy idea of an old Clone Wars era Droid that had liberated itself from the shackles of its human oppressors and had done so by building its own chassis. So, Mark-S3 was born, a piece-meal scouting Droid who is trying to start a Droid rights rebellion and has no problem cannibalizing fallen Droids for parts. It recently came out in play that if he can’t get a Droid to see the light, he has no problem “liberating” them by incorporating their memory chips with his own, which is a scary thought and one that my fellow players find hilarious and encourage.

As for the bonus round, my favorite Star Wars character has to be Kit Fisto, a Clone Wars era Jedi. Honestly, I didn’t know much about him as a character before I saw an action figure of him and thought he looked awesome. So I did some reading about him and watched him be amazing in Genndy Tartakovsky’s short-lived Star Wars: Clone Wars series, which is worth watching period.



7. What advice do you have to young artists, or maybe adults who are trying to better their skills?

I know it sounds cliché, but draw. Practice and practice more. Put yourself out there to get critiques, people are going to see things that you don’t catch. The Twitter RPG community is full of great folks who will look over your stuff and comment and critique. Even if you never have aspirations of making a web-comic, a lot of web-comic artists are on Twitter. Follow them, read their stuff, strike up conversations with them. I’ve leaned hard on Wesley from the NamelessPCs webcomic (@NamelessPC) and James Stowe from Sidekick Quests (@JamesStowe) for advice and critiques among others, for example.

I know that there is a common tip for aspiring writers to read and read a lot, especially the stuff that interests you the most. This is also true for drawing. Read a lot of comics, from print to on the web. Look at figure sketches, look at classical art. The more art you take in on a daily and weekly basis the more it will influence the artistic and stylistic decisions that you make. I see a lot of cool comics out there whose style I really connect with. While I’m not going to try and emulate their style whole-cloth, I can learn a lot from them and better hone my own personal style.

And I touched on it above, but really put yourself out there. Push yourself to try things that you are not comfortable with. I recently participated in 24 Hour Comic Day (http://www.24hourcomicsday.com/) and I wasn’t sure I could make it or even have the skill to pull it off. But, I did it. I was way out of my comfort zone and in G+ Hangouts all day with artists that I really admire. I learned a tremendous amount about the limits of my own skills and how and where to push them to improve.

But all of the above doesn’t matter in the long run. The best advice for any aspiring artist out there, including myself, is to never give up. You are going to see people out there who are better than you, but don’t get discouraged. Push yourself harder. When I was a kid my dream job was to illustrate comics for a living. And while that dream will likely never be a reality for me, I will always push myself towards that goal. Even if it doesn’t happen, I will have made art that I’m proud of along the way and made myself better for it. 

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As a side note, I found out that I was able to interview Blob right around the time of his birthday.  This gem of a birthday cake was posted on Twitter, and I just wanted to add it to the blog.  We get to see the Lich King in all his glory!  Happy Birthday Pierce!  @sorcerersbride did a great job!


Be sure to leave any interesting comments below, and be sure to follow Pierce on Twitter @sorcererblob !  Comments can always be directed to me @artificeralf
 

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