Update on The Mutant Epoch Expansion Rules
Feb 7th 2024 Kamloops, British Columbia
I’m writing this as I recover from one of the worse colds I’ve had since last year at this time. I spent seven days sick as a dog and moping about. My wife had it too, but worse, I think. It was bad timing because I had the week off from freelancing work and so planned to draw my face off on Expansion Rules (XR) Interior art. Still, whenever my body would allow for it, I dragged myself into the studio and penciled or inked at half speed. With a hot drink, my old cat, a podcast, and an electric heater nearby, I did manage to complete 65 images.
Although I’m not fully recovered yet, I still expect to spend most of the day in the studio inking for this book — currently rendering the individual new variants of bestial humans you’ll be able to play — then onto the already penciled digital beings art.
Here are just a few of the sketch books I’ve filled with ink art for the interior of the Expansion Rules. For those of you who’ve been following along, you know I’ve been drawing this stuff for years. This mutant monstrosity will probably have the most art of any game book in human history at 1224 interior images.
While there are still some big half and full page images to do for the XR Book, nearly everything that remains is small stuff that shows implants relics, plantoid species, robots, drones, gear and table illustrations. 80% of the art yet to do are tiny images, almost thumbnails in size and measuring no larger than 2 x 2 inches. For an example of what you probably already own, flip to page109 or189 of the TME hub rules to see what I’m talking about here. By the way, the hub rules has over 500 images, with most of them being tiny, too.
I’ve filled sketchbooks of art for this book already, and have another one or two to start in March, I’d love to get this art out of this studio… and spread across the world in the hands of fans of The Mutant Epoch. The current plan to handle that is a series of giveaway draws, as well as making nearly all the art available for sale at insanely reasonable prices to Society of Excavator Members. Remind me of this after the book comes out.
So what’s the hold up?
Well, I mention a few things in the optional reading details below, but it’s actually progressing at an excellent pace, considering the size of this mad project. I’ve not wavered in my passion for this project, never thought of giving up and getting a job flipping burgers or as a Walmart greeter, never wasted a free hour or was lost on what to do next. I’ve got to-do lists of stuff to work on for this tome, and if my hand aches from inking I can just switch to keyboard work, Photoshop, pencil, or other chores. I’ve got work that I can only do when fresh and with no eye issues, and then I have work that I do when I’m worn out, ache, or have only one eye to work with and bed is calling me. I work on this book daily, and have been doing so all of 2023.
This old tax course binder is shown with a copy of the Crossroads Region Gazetteer for scale, which was our previous largest book at 448 pages. The Expansion rules book comes in at 530 pages once the index and back matter are inserted; 82 pages longer. Of course, these are single sided photocopies shown here, and a book will have half the paper thickness because pages are printed on both sides of the sheet.
PC Type Based Character Sheets
The New character sheets will be included in the new book but also available for free download from the book’s page and elsewhere. In the weeks after the release for the Expansion Rules, and as part of the promotions phase, I will make all these characters available as pre-gens, examples and npcs.
In short, The Expansion Rules Book is coming together nicely, but it is far, far larger than I ever imagined.
I guess my biggest problem is that as far as my own creations go, even those involving a lot of input from other writers like the Expansion Rules book, is that I have an overdeveloped sense of optimism. I believe things are easier to pull off than they are, that things will just work out, that time, money, physical injuries, and the other ongoing blessings and tribulations of living a modern life will all cooperate with my creative goals. With this in mind, I won’t make any more predictions of when the book will be released until it’s done and all the aspects described further along in the is post are accomplished. It’s going to be a few more months yet for sure, even if I could do this one project 12 hours a day every day... a pace I often work at, but much of that is spent on freelance art as my ‘day job’.
Keep in mind that the TME Expansion Rules book is actually written, and the layout is complete. Art, some late testing and a few edits, pdf internal linking, and other technical things are still to go. 90% of what needs to be done is just the remaining interior art, which is a knowable factor and a comfortable place to be in a vast, multi-year project.
And so as I push the release date along ahead of me like a plow truck drives snow in a blizzard, or I cease mentioning a date altogether to avoid further disappointing the Epochian community or failing to meet my own expectations, I can give you all the details. Details that I have never had before these last few weeks…
Here are the numbers
Total pages 530 pages
Total interior illustrations: 1224
Interior illustrations already completed and inserted into layout 396
Post layout illustrations yet to do: 828
And, as of Feb 7 2024…
Remaining new illustrations currently penciled: 105
Remaining illustrations inked as of this afternoon: 75
Remaining illustrations to pencil and later ink: 723 images to go*.
*How fast can I draw 723 spot illustrations? Hmmm, this keeps me up at night. Let’s think. As these are quite small and I am serving as the art director and artist, I can do these quickly, especially if I limit any background details and don’t go insane with details. So if I can do 10 a day, that’s 72.3 days work, or say two and half months.
If I only do 5 a day, then 5 months work. What about more? What about 15 drawn and inked images per day? Why, that’s only 48.2 days or nearly 2 months of work. Maybe if I post my daily illo counts here, with quick iPhone shots, and get some feedback, encouragement or communal shame, it might propel me. Thoughts?
That ends the Summery point of this transmission. You can return to your bunkers.
Now, for you Epochians who want to know what’s still be done, here is the list from my journal
The Expansion Rules chores:
• Complete the digital cover
• Create a back cover image and paint that
• Write the introduction
• Create the Table of Contents
• Create the back index
• Proof the last section of the book and insert edits
• Pencil, ink and scan 824 inks (now only 723 images to go)
• Insert complete inks
• Create PDF version of the book
• Go through and link all page references, including a table of contents and index if possible.
• Repair firstname.lastname@example.org email with gmail accounts [Completed Feb 3rd]
• Rebuild and Recover Outland Arts Insider Newsletter Mailing list
• Create Red-Ripper email joiner’s freebie PDF mutant beastie!
• Setup email@example.com mailing list with mailerlite
Other Factors Involved in Completing The Expansion Rules
The cover art is 90% done and just waiting for me to have a high energy, non-sore eye day to work I on the computer. Sure wish I had done this one in acrylics, but need each figure separated to later convert into playable, pre-gen characters and use their art for various marketing options, including banner ads. I’ll be doing all future book covers by hand using traditional media — mostly acrylic — on illustration board. I’ll chat about my cover painting process and reasons for not going digital in an upcoming post (hint: Full retinal detachment in my right eye has made doing digital art difficult and after two hours of the process painful).
Ongoing Play testing
Besides my play testing, Danny Seedhouse has volunteers running the rules right now, too, and I’m getting precious feedback on that. There are a few other people that will also give it a look through before I push ‘publish’, although until the PDF linking and page number referencing are done, such a file would be difficult to navigate and really appreciate.
As many of you who follow me on Instagram, X, MeWe, Facebook, the TME forum or the TME blog probably realize, I’ve been almost absent on all those platforms for a few months now. I do try and check in every day, but either ‘post and ghost’ or just move on quickly to turn my attention to the drawing, inking and editing as soon as possible. Normally I’d spend a minimum of an hour a day on social media, both posting and replying… or mindlessly scrolling. Add that up over a week, a month or year and its a huge amount of time.
Normally it’s time well spent, and I love my interactions and much of what I see out there, but right now the one thing the Epochian community wants from me more than anything is the Expansion Rules… not art from books from previous years. Soon, however, I’ll have a ton of all new art to post, among other stuff, and have the XR book to promote, and the time to relax a bit and properly join in.
Hell, I might even up my game and do some long overdue YouTube videos, a live twitch stream ‘Drink and Draw’ among other things. In short, once the Expansion rules are published, and with a mailing list and newsletter reactivated, you’ll probably tire of my online presence!
While I did over a hundred drawings for this book in January, and plenty of other book related tasks, January was mostly devoted to survival by meeting some very important client deadlines for Goodman Games, and promptly getting sick a few days after turning everything in.
February so far has been taken up by the flu, some inking, but mostly by counter-creative, non-game related problems and financial setbacks involving government and insurance company regulations, changes, crushing fees, and long hours on the phone. I will spare you the details, as these matters are ongoing, but they are eating up my hours and creativity, distracting me from focused work time and keeping me up at night with worry.
I know I’m not alone in this, in this challenging time, and that many of you are feeling the crush of inflation and a recession that everybody feels but few speak of. A grocery shop to Costco that used to cost $400 is now $600 for almost the same cart of stuff, for example. Because things are tight, I’ve had to take on more client work than normal to keep bills paid, and keep Prince John’s and his tax collectors at bay. Our fridge dying didn’t help matters around here and being without it for 3 weeks while we wait for parts has been an added challenge for us all.
As this book project nears its conclusion in the coming months, I half expect things to get harder, with more roadblocks, unforeseen and unrelated interruptions, and other issues to rush in from the sidelines to tackle us. My optimism remains strong, holding the actual printed binder of the completed layout has made this book real, and the excitement to finally share it widely is rocket fuel.
I can tell a project is nearly done because my mind leaps ahead to the next thing. The biggest thing, which is on my mind as a fall asleep and the first creative thing I obsess over when I wake up is the Mutant Epoch novel series. That’s going to be 80% of what I do the day after the Expansion Rules are out the door. Besides the fiction, there are other things as far as TME go that I am focused on. Here are a few I can share:
The Third Party TME license
Want to create and sell your own supplements and books for The Mutant Epoch RPG? Soon you can. So long as your supplement, adventure, gazetteer or whatever requires the use of the TME Hub Rules, and we approve of the sample-pre-release copy you send us, and adhere to our upcoming, very open minded third party publishers license, you can post, promote and sell your own content for The Mutant Epoch RPG. Outland Arts will even help promote your creations, so start crafting your own ruin crawls, critters, relics and whatnots, now.
Oh, but please, no Ai art. I’d rather see a creator’s own stick man drawings or beginner’s art than Ai stuff. Perhaps we could set up a directory of TME artists that you could enlist from within the community, or heck, I could even be drafted to do a little something for you or set up a stock art section only for proven TME 3rd party publishers, or recruited for silver, whiskey, relics, or other trades. We’ll make it work, and then promote the hell outa your publication.
Although I haven’t posted the poll yet — between either publishing ‘Nuke Tower’ or a book that combines all the One Day digs (plus a few all new ones) — but from what I’ve heard so far is that people want the 5th rank adventure ‘Nuke Tower’ next. This adventure is already written, and it’s a biggie, too, at 200+ pages with several parts, lots of NPCs and high stakes. It just needs art, a cover and the rough maps converted to finished maps.
Well, that’s it for this massive update. Going to go ink some muties now.
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PS. Did you know I sell original art? I've got a huge gallery of work for various publishers, but mostly Goodman Games. Even if you're not a collector, you can still see what I've been up to and what I do for my day job: https://www.outlandarts.com/mcauslandart4sale.htm