In this week's installment of Australian Gods I interview visual artist and game master Scrap Princess (actually this time round we've stretched the category to Australasian Gods as Scrap harks from NZ, as Aussies tend to...whenever we feel like it). Scrap Princess is not the kind of god you'll find sipping tea in Elysium- more the type you find spinning dark, intricate webs in the wastelands of Pandemonium. Scrap Princess is perhaps best known for her artwork Monster Manual Sewn From Pants (a collection of cute and fluffy D&D monsters that is anything but cute and fluffy), but her art includes dark, dystopian drawings as well as highly imaginative gaming ideas.
Scrap Princess is part of a movement sometimes called New Wave OSR (or New Wave Old School Roleplaying) which is a group of loosely affiliated bloggers who share a passion for building original (i.e. non-derivative) fantasy worlds, thinking up new rules systems and generating amusing random generation tables. New Wavers approach roleplaying in the same way D&D founder Gary Gygax and his buddies would have done back in the day when they were inventing Beholders, Xorns and Rust Monsters, before it all became canon. They apply adult intellect and perspectives to the childish pursuit of make-believe- and the results are often complex, dark and darkly humorous. As Scrap put it "find stuff you loved as a kid but turn the volume up on everything". Anyway, enough foreshadowing.
1. Could you describe for us your ongoing project Monster Manual Sewn From Pants? What is the intention behind it?
Well it's not ongoing anymore, except for commissions. The intention was to give myself something to do over winter and make money via the internet. But it turned into me blogging ideas for d&d that I found interesting and hoped other people did and then later inserting myself into other peoples rpg projects as a illustrator.
2. What are your thoughts on Tolkien’s influence and the direction mainstream fantasy has taken (e.g. variations on elves, dragons and goblins in a medieval European setting)?
Basically I think it is terrible, but whatever was the narrow end of wedge was gonna become terrible because , for me , what is terrible is the familiar , and for the people that come after the narrow end is a wellspring of creativity , and they will turn everything into tropes and I guess that is okay.
I read this recently and it changed my mind, I used to be way more reflexively (but quietly, because fuck if the internet needs one more person take up space ranting about things they hate) condemning because my reaction to the generic was despair and a lot of my drive comes from this desire to make new things or make them into something Else.
But the other urge is a thing too:
(the second half starts making the points that made me reflect different on my previous knee jerk reactions)
Also the Father Christmas letters is amazing and I still like the hobbit. a lot happened in the hobbit. And Tom loves Tolkien and it's his inspiration for this kinda stuff so http://middenmurk.blogspot.co.nz/ ...
3. In your blog you've said you employ roleplaying to explore feelings that have no name, especially feelings that “dislocate and wrench”. Does good fantasy always have to take us outside our comfort zones?
I think you might be misquoting me a little, it's more any act of creativity for me has this trend to try and use it articulate nameless things, and that blog post was an attempt to do this.
Does good fantasy always have to take us outside our comfort zones? Hmm dunno I think "good" and "comfort zone" would be need to defined for me to give an Definitely Opinion. For me, I like to be surprised , not necessarily shocked, but surprised and fantasy I enjoy does that.
4. As a GM do you create these feelings of dislocation primarily through world-building or do you manipulate your players in other ways? How would you describe your GM-ing style?
Half Ass Bipolar Cartoon. I just put stuff in the world I think are interesting. Trying to get a particular subtle nuance from people is prob doomed and you risk killing the magic by being so heavy handed. The thing at the table once the game starts is always gonna be its own thing and you got to let it run
5. People who are drawn to fantasy are typically quite imaginative, yet when I read your stuff I realize my own imaginings are pretty tame in comparison. Why do you think imaginative people don’t take it to the next level? Is that the difference between an artist and a non-artist?
I'm gonna keep referring back to the thing Patrick wrote ain't I?
Dunno , it's not a competition ... like what I am going to find interesting is different to what you think is interesting and as long as you having fun does it matter?
I think am way more likely to want to push things further because I am deeply frustrated and unhappy and restless and will tear apart things in front of me like a neurotic parrot. Difference between artist and non-artist? Often it's just merely time spend and the desire/ability to spend that time. Everyone arranges the world in some way to aesthetically please themselves I guess , some people just way more so
6. How does the artistic process work for you? Do ideas/images flood your mind or are they more the product of hard work/rumination?
It's like fishing. Stuff shows up but you gotta be out there with your line in the water.
7. Can you briefly describe the best game session you ever played (as a DM or player)? What made it so good?
Ahhhh ones where players were just looking or interacting with stuff not because it would necessary benefit them but just because they really loved that fucking gremlin voice or wanted to know the history of the cyclops tombs or whatever. That I was pulling out of my ass at the time.
8. What books or movies would you recommend to people who are interested in exploring the raw, tattered edges of fantasy?
Well I will be obvious and say China Mieville's The Scar. Umm also art in variety of media like Zdzisław Beksiński or the Chitin Engine Flowers of Louise Bourgeois. Pulp covers, find stuff you loved as a kid but turn the volume up on everything.
Fucking history man, history is fucking crazy.
All the blogs on my blog roll?
Movies dunno not enough happens in movies.
9. This blog series is called Australian Gods (actually this episode is “Australasian Gods” by virtue of the fact you’re a Kiwi). If you woke up one day and found you could bend reality completely to your will, what would you do?
Prob fuck everything up by trying to limit the power and range of evil in this world
10. This last question is a complete cop-out, but…what question should I have asked you and didn’t? (and could you kindly answer it?)
"Should I buy Velvet Horizon?" Yeah but look at a page first.
Velvet Horizon or "Fire on the Velvet Horizon" to give it its full title is an alternative Bestiary or Monster Manual written by Patrick Stuart (of falsemachine) and illustrated by Scrap Princess (actually Scrap's drawings were the inspiration for the descriptions so her role was central). It's an amazing book. Stuart's creature descriptions are detailed and deep, providing insights into monster psychology and ecological connections that really add to their reality and bring the imagined world to life. The cover and formatting is difficult (I was going to write "impenetrable", but it's not completely so, it just requires some commitment); however, the pay-off is massive. You know how sometimes when you're reading a book and the phone goes or you have to go out to buy chocolate and you stagger out into the world blinking like you've just been asleep or away for 10 years? I got that after reading just one entry- Paladins of the Fall- which is all of 2 pages long. Like I said, it's powerful, transporting stuff. I've scanned the Yamman entry (above) to show you how funny it is in places too. You can buy Fire on the Velvet Horizon here and some other places too I guess ;)