Lovecraftesque part one (episode 62)

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We continue our run of the new second edition of the classic indie horror game, Lovecraftesque.

Jonathan sets out on a relaxing fishing trip to the nearby abandoned lighthouse, ably assisted by Davey, the local guide. But his restorative excursion quickly takes an unpleasant turn as the two men uncover something deeply disturbing in the old building.

If you are interested in Lovecraftesque you can find the first edition of the game here: https://blackarmada.com/product/lovecraftesque/

If you would like to be notified when the second edition crowdfunds, you can join the Black Armada mailing list here: https://blackarmada.com/black-armada-mailling-list/

Our players are:

  • Joshua Fox https://twitter.com/armadajosh
  • Becky Annison https://twitter.com/BeckyAnnison
  • Eadwin Tomlinson
  • Nick Bate https://twitter.com/ickbat
  • Sue Elliott https://twitter.com/SuefaceTM

Black Armada create and publish TTRPGs here: https://blackarmada.com/

Nick creates and publishes TTRPGs as Ickbat here: https://ickbat.itch.io/

The music is Orange Button by Esther Garcia.

Lovecraftesque session zero (episode 61)

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We start our run of the new second edition of the classic indie horror game, Lovecraftesque.

This is the game setup, where we decide on our setting, the English seaside town on Whitby; our main character, the disgraced dilettante Jonathan Cochrane; and create the locations and NPCs that will feature in our story.

If you are interested in Lovecraftesque you can find the first edition of the game here: https://blackarmada.com/product/lovecraftesque/

If you would like to be notified when the second edition crowdfunds, you can join the Black Armada mailing list here: https://blackarmada.com/black-armada-mailling-list/

Our players are:

Black Armada create and publish TTRPGs here: https://blackarmada.com/

Nick creates and publishes TTRPGs as Ickbat here: https://ickbat.itch.io/

The music is Orange Button by Esther Garcia.

Exciting news for Black Armada games

Hello folks!

We are excited to let you know that I (Josh) have handed in my notice at my day job and from April will be working on Black Armada full time.

This will mean an increase in what we can do across the whole spectrum of our business, from big projects like Lovecraftesque second edition, through the smaller games and designer diaries we produce through this Patreon, to our blog and podcast. It promises to be a new beginning for Black Armada and I’m really looking forward to getting started on it.

I hope and expect that this will mean the Patreon moving to a more regular flow of content. We’ve been forced to slow the games we release here to a trickle lately, but once I’ve got the bit between my teeth you should start to see us returning to the monthly release pattern that we had before the pandemic.¬†Watch this space!

I cannot wait to get started.

Yours excitedly,

Josh

Lies, damned lies and TTRPG art – our experience with a dishonest “artist”

We have been working on the second edition of our storytelling horror card game, Lovecraftesque, for quite a while and have begun to reach out to artists to illustrate the game. During this process we had a bad experience with an “artist” who we think was trying to scam us out of money, or who at the very least was dishonest, and we wanted to share what we’d learned as a warning to others.

We solicited artists for the game through a google form that we circulated on social media, requesting details, availability and a portfolio. Our intention was to review the portfolios submitted, alongside other artists we were potentially interested in working with, and then draw up a shortlist to ask for quotes from. This is a new idea for us – we usually identify artists we like and approach them directly, but we wanted to cast our net a bit wider this time, avoid just going to the usual suspects, and potentially open up the field to lesser known artists. Little did we realise that we were inviting in someone with less positive motives.

We got a good response and we shortlisted five artists whose work we liked. We reached out to them by email with a detailed specification, asking for a quote, and having got these, we narrowed the field to two artists whose work we liked. One was an artist we had used before and whose work and professionalism we were confident of. The other was someone we had not worked with before, who had an eclectic portfolio of gorgeous images, albeit submitted as a Google drive folder of images, which was a little unusual. It was this second person who very nearly tricked us into hiring them on false premises.

Having narrowed the field, we arranged a meeting with each artist and talked through the project a bit more, clarifying details and trying to ensure we got the most accurate estimate of both the cost and the time to do the work. Our new artist, who said they were based in Texas, turned up a little late for the call and when they arrived they did not turn their video camera on. We thought nothing of it at the time. We talked through the project and they offered refined quotes with a discount based on the volume of work we were suggesting, but saying they would give a final “package” price once we confirmed exactly what we were hiring them to do. They asked for a 50% deposit on each piece before starting work, something we’ve done before with other artists. At this point no alarm bells rang.

It was only later when we sent them the final details of what we wanted that they came back with a different price from what they’d discussed with us – a higher price, even though the specification hadn’t changed. They also asked for 50% of the total package as an up-front payment, which was a big change and would mean giving them a lot of money without any work having been done. They’d also given a New York address which, having said they were in Texas, seemed at the very least a little strange.

Something felt wrong and, acting on instinct, I Googled their name. I’d done this before of course, but hadn’t really worried when I didn’t find any information about them. Looking back this should have been a warning sign. I still felt a nagging concern and so I went back to their portfolio and downloaded the images, before performing a reverse Google image search on them. And that is when I realised that we were being lied to.

The reverse image search revealed that most of the images were lightly edited copies of images in the online portfolios of several different artists, none of whom shared the name of the “artist” that we’d come so close to hiring. I put “artist” in quote marks there since, at this point, it has to be doubtful whether the person we had spoken to was an artist at all. Perhaps unsurprisingly they were quite prepared to continue lying once confronted, claiming they shared the portfolio with other friends of theirs, and continuing to state that they are a “legit artist” even when I informed them I had contacted the artists whose work they had used and none of them had heard of them.

The fact is that we were extremely close to giving this person money to produce art for Lovecraftesque. If they had played their game a little bit better, and not attempted to change the price and terms they offered us, we would have handed over hundreds of dollars to them. I think it likely that they would have simply taken that money and disappeared. At the very least we’d have been unlikely to get art that was up to the standard we wanted. Of course, if we hadn’t got suspicious it’s possible we could have ended up giving them even more money.

Two images of an angel-like creature, appearing as a dark-skinned woman with two pairs of feathered wings, and wearing white and gold clothing and a gold headdress. 

They look essentially identical except that the one on the left has been colorised with a purple filter, mirrored, and its aspect ratio slightly altered.
One of the images submitted in the “artist’s” portfolio (left) and an original illustration by Kang Sojin, used with permission (right). Find Kang Sojin’s work here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/L9oK5

It was a surprise to me that anyone would bother to target a small creator like us in this way. Obviously we’re aware of internet scammers, you couldn’t move for Nigerian bankers looking to give their money away in the 1990s, but the idea that someone would fill out a Google form for a tabletop game art project with the aim of tricking them out of money never occurred to us.

My lessons from this experience are:

  • Google your artist. You want to know you’re not hiring someone disreputable, and if they have no internet footprint at all then that should at least prompt you to investigate further.
  • Consider asking around – has anyone worked with this artist before? Of course with this you should be careful that you aren’t discriminating against newcomers.
  • Reverse Google image search their portfolio images, and make sure the names match.
  • As with all scammy stuff, trust your instincts – if something feels wrong, pause and look again. Don’t hire someone that’s setting off your inner alarm bell.

Similar considerations apply to hiring freelancers of all kinds, I fear. If you don’t know them or have good references, you need to do your homework.

Two near-identical images, each showing what appears to be a boat atop a pile of moss-covered stones, in the shadow of which is another ship, and the whole of which is surrounded by azure water. Rocky crags loom in the background.

The left-hand image has a brighter, more saturated palette and is mirrored compared to the one on the right.
Another of the images submitted in the “artist’s” portfolio (left) and an original illustration by Andrew Porter, used with permission (right). Find Andrew Porter’s work here: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/w88qg

In the age of AI, this is going to get harder. Some of the art of our “artist” did not show up on reverse image search, and looking at the images that it did throw up made us suspect that these might have been AI-produced. Of course you might ask why that’s a problem, if you liked the art? Personally I find AI art to be ethically dubious, as it essentially remixes the work of other artists without credit or permission. But even if you’re comfortable with it, you probably wouldn’t want to pay the same price to such a person as you would for an original illustration by a skilled artist. You might also think that there was a risk that a person who had simply produced their portfolio using AI might be doing as we suspect our “artist” was, and luring you into giving them money for nothing.

Luckily, we did spot the fake artist’s lies, and we’re now working with an excellent artist to make Lovecraftesque as beautiful and haunting as it deserves to be. But we will certainly be a bit more wary of unknown applicants, and check their credentials carefully as standard in future.

January game – Desperate Measures (for Last Fleet)

Desperate measures was our January Patreon release. It will appear on our itch store soon.

Hey folks

Last year was a funny old year. This patreon has been a bit quiet as we struggle through the late stage of the pandemic. But as we move into 2023, we have big plans afoot for Black Armada and we’re really looking forward to sharing them with you very soon.

In the meantime, I am delighted to share with you a new mini-supplement for Last Fleet. Desperate Measures combines a quick-play scenario that I’ve written with convention play in mind – but which would be suitable for any situation where you want to jump into a tense situation and tell a complete story in one session. It comes with a pack of planets, ships and other bits that you can drop into your campaign.

Hope you enjoy them!

Josh

The Great British Snake Off Pt 2 CORRECTED VERSION (Episode 60)

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***CORRECTED VERSION OF EPISODE 60 – due to an editing error we originally posted a version which was mostly the same as episode 59.***

Our final episode before Christmas.

It’s The Great British Snake Off! The reptile kingdom’s premier baking contest. Our three contestants will duke it out to see who is the best at baking – or, if they can’t be the best, then who is the sneakiest.

In this session the bakers make a birthday cake for Greg’s birthday, and produce a school dinner for some hungry pupils. What could possibly go wrong? We are about to find out.

You can find The Great British Snake Off here: https://blackarmada.itch.io/the-great-british-snake-off

Our players are:

  • Joshua Fox (GM) https://twitter.com/armadajosh
  • Becky Annison as Penelope Pit Viper. https://twitter.com/BeckyAnnison
  • Elizabeth Lovegrove as Hercule the Slow Worm. https://twitter.com/ejlovegrove
  • Sue Elliott as Steven Tightly, the boa constrictor. https://twitter.com/SuefaceTM

Black Armada create and publish TTRPGs here: https://blackarmada.com/

The music is Orange Button by Esther Garcia.

The Great British Snake Off (Episode 59)

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One last short game before we break for Christmas. It’s The Great British Snake Off! The reptile kingdom’s premier baking contest. Our three contestants will duke it out to see who is the best at baking – or, if they can’t be the best, then who is the sneakiest.

In this session we create our characters and the judges, and we find out who has what it takes to win the technical bake.

You can find The Great British Snake Off here: https://blackarmada.itch.io/the-great-british-snake-off

Our players are:

  • Joshua Fox (GM) https://twitter.com/armadajosh
  • Becky Annison https://twitter.com/BeckyAnnison
  • Elizabeth Lovegrove https://twitter.com/ejlovegrove
  • Sue Elliott https://twitter.com/SuefaceTM

Black Armada create and publish TTRPGs here: https://blackarmada.com/

Nick creates and publishes TTRPGs as Ickbat here: https://ickbat.itch.io/

The music is Orange Button by Esther Garcia.