Tunnels & Trolls & me…

Posted: December 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

Fellowship Pic rules
For my entire career as an artist and creator, I have been connected to Tunnels & Trolls in one way or another.  I remember collating T&T box sets and spiral binding solos when I first started working for Flying Buffalo back in 1980.  By 1981, I was pasting up and doing touch-up art on solitaire adventures like DeathTrap Equalizer and Naked Doom. And I did a lot of work on Sorcerer’s Apprentice Magazine. But I was not a game designer or the art director back then. Certainly my brush with T&T is nothing like Ken St Andre’s or Liz Danforth’s. They define T&T visually and in the rules themselves. (They ARE T&T.)  Bear Peters was there at the very beginning with Ken, and Rick Loomis brought the game into the industry, selling it to stores and distributors. (and to overseas publishers.)  Back then I did logos, paste-up, some maps, an illo or two and occasionally threw in an idea they liked. (Mike Stackpole was a major source of ideas and writing back then – it should be noted.)


Time passed, and T&T was kept alive by the fans, while Ken and Rick both continued to write and support the game over the years. It was never huge, but it was always there with a devoted following. Over that time, I did mainstream advertising design, art directed magazines and continued doing Grimtooth books. But even with all that going on I put together three T&T solos for Flying Buffalo (#22 – 24). In 2005 I redid the look of the 5.5th ed. T&T rulebook cover and put in a few corrections and some ads.

3 steve solos1

Three solos I did the interior illustrations and layout for in the early 1990s.

Then one day (about 2011) the stars aligned and Rick, Liz, Ken Bear and I ended up at TrollCon, talking about the idea of putting out a new edition of T&T. My main contribution then was the name – Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, the idea being that this wasn’t an entirely new version of the game so many loved, but a deluxe version with all the bells and whistles. Having the five of us all together working on T&T was a bit like getting a classic rock band back together (like Fleetwood Mac) to try to recapture the magic of their group efforts. And our reunion worked wonderfully. The great reaction to dT&T worldwide is testament to that.

T&T Rules Steve

Right now as we speak, New T&T adventures are being published in Japan, France and in the US. Two companies are currently translating T&T into Spanish and Portuguese.  In the US, we have just announced the 1st new GM adventure in over 20 years. AND MetaArcade is announcing its latest release in the world-wide phenomenon that is the Tunnels & Trolls Adventures App.

MetaArcade Header 12-2017

Over the last five years I have blogged and posted about dT&T and its advances, new products and tried to let the fans know what we were all up to. I got to scan, digitally paint and restore of lot of the original T&T solos for MetaArcade, so I was involved with them from the very beginning. Last week it became my great honor to be asked by MetaArcade to create blogs and promote the T&T App for them. I think I’m lucky in that I have a great historical perspective on where T&T has been, and I’ll be able to draw upon those earlier experiences to to better tout T&T today – in whatever version or even language it might take.

I hope I’ll be able to be an ambassador to new and old fans alike and help spread the word about the game, its community and its potential. I also want to be able to help anyone who has questions or suggestions about the App, so they can better enjoy it.  If you haven’t tried the T&T Adventures App, you should. Even if you’ve never played a role-playing game in your life, you’ll find it fun.  You get to be the main character in the story and you decide what happens as you read it.  If you can read and you have a smartphone, you can play it.

So if you want to check the T&T App out, just go to MetaArcades main page.
You can find my next T&T Adventures Blog Here.
My regular dT&T Blog is here. That covers the whole T&T spectrum.
OK that’s about it for now – hope you enjoyed my journey down memory lane. Let me know what your T&T memories are. Where and when did you first hear about T&T?  What was it that made you a fan? Let’s hear your story. And look for me at Gencon and maybe even Origins next year…

GenCon 2017


CoG Forgot Audio Cov

The official cover image for the audio book.

Usually the projects I work on show my efforts very clearly.  They are books or games that I did illustrations, maps, graphics or even the layout of.  So seeing evidence that I was involved is fairly easy to spot most times. You can see my illos and maps right there on the page. Some books I have also written things for, and you’ll see my name in the credits. But today I’m very proud of a project where my contributions are somewhat invisible. Today is the day that the novel City of the Gods: Forgotten is now available as an audio book on Audible.com Here’s the link:

I suppose its time to confess that I co-wrote this novel (with Debora Kerr/Wynn Mercere) under the my pen name M.Scott Verne. This is the first time I’ve actually ever posted that fact online, although lots of people who have bought the book at conventions have discovered that I am one and the same.  I’m telling you now, so you’ll understand WHY I am so excited about this audio book.

I thought it might be of interest in my blog to post about what it was like to work on putting together this project.  This might help some of you who want to have your book released as a audio down the road. Or at least give you an interesting story of how it all came together.

One important thing you must have to make something like this work, is a burning desire to make it become real. It has to be almost as much mental effort as writing the novel was in the first place.  Another (in my case) is having a writing partner who trusts you enough and knows when to help with advice, LOTS of audio proofing help and encouragement during times of doubt, (I had various doubts as we proceeded on this quest, but Debora was always there to help keep me going forward.)

But in truth the MOST IMPORTANT thing is having a great voice actor who is willing to trudge through the novel and read it chapter by chapter. (Numerous times in some cases) We were extremely lucky to have Christopher Thomson as our book reader.  How we found him is an interesting story in itself.  I am big Doctor Who fan and before I ever seriously thought about producing an audio book, I would go to his YouTube page and listen to his 2nd Doctor impersonations (which are truly amazing.)  He also did lots of other impersonations as well and when the idea of doing an audiobook fully emerged from my crazed mind, I started daydreaming about how Christopher might read the book.  After showing Debora his YouTube page, she concurred and I approached Christopher about the idea. This is where the “luck” part comes in, because although Christopher had done numerous audio plays and voice overs for animations, he hadn’t actually done an audiobook yet. He really wanted to break into that field, so he was keen to take it on as a way to add an audiobook to his long list of credits.  And so we worked out a payment plan and he begun. Debora and I listened to his impersonations and tried to match some of them with characters in the book, then we started to look for other “well known” voices that would help give Christopher some guidance as to what some of the other characters might sound like.  He then took those suggestions and came up with many more voices as well. He did a spectacular job putting together his “cast” of over 50 different voices for characters that appear in the book. It was amazing to hear it all come to audio reality!

And so after a year and half of hard work on the part of professional voice actor Christopher Thomson, and jumping through lots of hoops, our audio book is now on Audible. If you are a fan of the City of the Gods, now you can hear the first novel come to life in an totally new way. If you have not yet read our novel, now you can experience it in this amazing rendition where all the characters and gods have unique voices and sound effects. Be among the first to actually HEAR the City of the Gods and go on a mystical and mysterious journey.  We hope you will enjoy it, and in turn tell your friends you know someone who made an audio book and that they should give it a listen.

If you want hear a  sample of the book that includes a video with art created by me, you can see that here.

Grimtoothmania at GenCon!

Posted: July 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

Before Grimtooth’s Ultimate collection came out in 2015, I hadn’t done a new Grimtooth book since 1996. That’s a pretty big gap, although I hadn’t entirely left Grimtooth’s employ either.  In 2005, I redid the cover to Traps Too and drew an 8 page comic to go in that tome. But that was about it. Definitely a dry spell in the Grimtooth saga. However that all changed with the Kickstarter for Grimtooth’s Ultimate Collection that Goodman Games did.

Now, Grimtooth (and my services) have become in high demand. This year, I’m actually working on four different Grimtooth books for two different publishers. One book, Trapsylvania – I’ve already blogged about previously. The other three books I had to keep a secret until now.

Grimtooth’s Tomb of the Warhammer: Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games had a crazy idea at the beginning of June and wondered it there was any chance that I could put together a short GM adventure that tied into the Trapsylvania book, but contained some all-new material. So I came up with Grimtooth’s Tomb of the Warhammer, which is a quest for the warhammer that belonged to Grimtooth’s father, Grimfang. I came up with the idea and wrote some of it, but then I manged to get Ken St. Andre to write up the actual tomb and he did a great job with it! Below is the wraparound cover I created for the book. I also drew several maps and illustrations for it as well. This should be out at GenCon, and I’ll be around to sign it


Grimtina’s Guard: As part of the Tunnels & Trolls Phone App project, the fellowship and MetaArcade decided to do a brand new solo adventure to giveaway at Gencon. And if you want to find out all about the T&T app – visit the MetaArcade site!  Ken St Andre came up with the suggestion to  do a Grimtooth related solo as a way to reach out to role-playing gamers who might not have tried T&T, but had heard of Grimtooth. So once he wrote it, I did the cover, interior art and the layout for that book. (Liz Danforth has one or two illos in here as well.) Below is the cover…

GrimSolo Cov colr v2 smlr

Grimtooth Dungeon of Doom: This book was originally published by Flying Buffalo in 1992 and was written by Bear Peters. While working on the ultimate collection, I scanned in all the pages from this book, enhanced the art in various ways and even added a couple of new illustrations. Plus I updated and enhanced the cover as well (see below). We decided that since Bear was going to be at Gencon, now would be a great time to get this reprinted, so right now its at the printer and hopefully we’ll get it back in time for GenCon.

DungDoom Frnt-Spne Back-Cov flat

So there you have it – with all that going on at once, it feels like we are in the throes of Grimtoothmania!  What do you think and which Grimtooth book are you looking forward to getting the most?

In the last couple of years, I experimented with creating book trailers and Kickstarter trailers, like the one for Deluxe Tunnel & Trolls and for the 2nd City of the Gods book. Not wanting to lose those skills, I’ve been working on videos that are samples of the upcoming City of the Gods audio book.

I posted one Audio book sample a few months back and now I have completed a new one that gives you a real feel for what a typical chapter is like. To make it more interesting, I have reverse-storyboarded this scene,  by creating images that go with the text. Because City of the Gods is illustrated, I have made, found and amassed a huge archive of images that I can draw upon in order to create these storyboard frames. The art is not meant to be a perfect representation; (I could have spent years putting such a thing together.)  In this case the art is just meant to augment the text as you listen. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen and watch it. Whether you’ve read the read the book or not, I think you’ll find the scene engaging. Lots of action and some insight into the main character of the story, D’Molay.

Here’s a couple of images from the video too. I’ve created these by digitally adjusting, merging and enhancing classic paintings and engravings (mostly from the 19th century) along with a bit of my own art.

Audio2 008

Audio2 044

We are working now to finish the third book in the series as work continues on the audio book for the first novel. Let me know what you think of the samples in the comments section or email me at sscrompton@cox.net

Traps books covs1blog

Traps Ultimate Collection: Softcover and Hardcover editions. The largest collection of my art in one book, ranging from 1980 to 2015.

Many years ago, I was a 17 year old kid, who worked in the Flying Buffalo Game store as a clerk, but I wanted to be an artist. I was given the chance to prove my mettle by Rick Loomis and Liz Danforth.  Rick had hired me knowing my artistic dreams, and Liz saw a spark of potential there.  When things where slow at the store, she had me start working on diagrams of these traps.  My art was pretty rough, and I had only an inkling of what I needed to know to be even a half-descent artist. Below is a sample of the kind of weird collage art I was doing in 1977-79. Liz saw these scribbles and thought she’d give me a shot. This is the first time I have ever shown one of these, so don’t laugh too hard…

Steve art1978

Color Cartoon Collage: 1978: I did a lot of these and just drew whatever struck my fancy. Even now, I still love to draw cartoon parodies, superheros, demons and intricate textures.

When I started on Traps I’m not even sure the book was going to be called Grimtooth’s Traps. The dark humor developed was greatly enhanced by the new editor they hired, Paul O’Connor, who was about the same age as I was.  We had a great time working together on that book and the whole staff at Flying Buffalo would suggest ideas for traps as the book got further along.  I think about 12 traps in that first book are by me.  Drawing these things for 8 hours a day would inspire my own ideas.  I even dreamed about traps at night.

The Traps books were one of Buffalo’s best sellers and I worked on all 7 of the books. First, just doing  interior art, then also paste-up, layout, the covers and then writing bits for them as well.  I learned a lot about book production during that time, what would and wouldn’t print, bleeds, print margins, color overlays marking text, typesetting and much more.  (This was all before desktop publishing)

So for me the Traps books represent a lot more than just a funny book for GMs. Besides the technical aspects of making the art and the book, I learned important lessons about teamwork, humility and empathy for others.  Some of those lessons I had to learn the hard way. Back then, I was a headstrong teenager who often said things without thinking. Most importantly I learned about friendship.  Long term friendship, the type that ebbs and flows over the years, but its always there.  I have that for Liz and Rick, Ken and Paul and many other people that worked at Buffalo.  I never realized how important that bond was. But if you lose a friend or two to the reaper, you feel it, and then you know its important to keep those connections to your shared past.

Flash forward 30 odd years:  Goodman Games owner Joseph Goodman was a big fan of the Traps books when he was a teen and his company specializes in “Old School Gaming” books, both reprints and new material.  He approached Rick during the dT&T Rulebook Kickstarter and asked if he could do a collection of the Traps books. The Kickstarter for it went beyond any of our dreams and was at the time the highest earning one Goodman had done.

For me, working with Joseph gave me the same feeling I had working on the first two Traps books.  It was exciting and we were bouncing ideas off each other on how to make the book better and funnier.  I can’t explain what looking at the finished book is like.  It’s an amazing thing to think that 30 years of your art is all there is this massive 600 page tome. I never would have believed that all these books would be collected together or even that people still remembered them after all this time. Hard to believe I drew all that stuff, but there it is in black and white.

So what’s next?  Well now we’ve started on a new book.  This one will really show many of the places that Grimtooth has mentioned over the years in his books.  I’m pretty much writing most of this and Goodman will add the stats to make it work with their DCC system.  But its still going to feel very much like a Traps book and Grimtooth (and Grimtina) will be narrating it.  I hope to find a way to involve everyone in it to some degree.  Ken St Andre is already writing a section for it.  I’ll see who else I can lasso in.  Below is the cover and if you look in the background, you’ll see I’ve created an intricate collage – this time a digital one. (some things never change.)

Grimtooth Trapsylvania Cov sml

Coming Soon: A brand new Traps book from Goodman Games that really shows you Grimtooths realm.

We are going to so this as a Kickstarter through Goodman Games.  Various infamous places references in the Traps book (and all in Grimtooth’s Realm will be mapped and detailed.  Below is a section of one of the maps, so we can see  at least a hint of what these places will look like.  Each will be fully described so you can run it as its own adventure or as a larger part of a Grimtooth campaign. Expect to see mas of Grimtooth’s Airship, Warthog’s School for wayward Trolls, the Death Maze, Grimtooth’s underground complex and much, much more…

A cropped section of the map to Grimtina's Petting Zoo, located  in the back of Grimtooth's Castle.

A cropped section of the map to Grimtina’s Petting Zoo, located in the back of Grimtooth’s Castle.

Well that’s it for this blog.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about Traps or what you think of my old and new art. Take care of yourselves and try to enjoy whatever you do…


As some of you know, I’m one of the Co-Creators of the CITY OF THE GODS. Now that dT&T is done, I’ve gotten back to working on that project again. About a year or so ago, a fan created a sample book reading for me from the first novel, so I finally created a full-color illustrated video to go with the book reading. Its only about 3 minutes long, but I think it makes for an interesting multi-media experiment. Would love to know what you all think.

I delved into creating videos a couple of years ago for book trailers for the first two City of the gods books and for the Deluxe T&T Kickstarter.  I’ve really spent the last two years working on Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls and the Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection.  Right after that, I plunged into the 50th Anniversary Nuclear War Game.  So its nice to go back to working on my own projects after so long a pause.

I’m using a program called Power Director and its not too bad.  The instruction book is sort of weird.  They tell you the features, but don’t really tell you how to use them, so I have to guess for the most part.  Still it gets the job done anyway.

Catching Up 2015

Posted: August 24, 2015 in Uncategorized
A selection of my projects for 2015 (so far)

                                                     A selection of my projects for 2015 (so far)

Hi all!  As you can see it been quite a while since my last post.  Much like one of my partners on the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Project, I have been putting off blogging so that I could concentrate on getting that project and the Traps collection finished.

The good news is that BOTH of those are now done and my schedule has opened up a little bit.  I can finally do things like get back to working on the City of the Gods, some comic projects and organizing my art and writings.

With Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls I did the layout, drew the maps, scanned and inked many of Liz Danforth’s pieces as well as many of my own illustrations.  I was also the Project manager and it was my job to keep everyone motivated and on deadline so that the book was completed in as timely a manner as possible.  dT&T took over two years, but it ended up being a beautiful 386 page book, so when you see it, you’ll understand WHY it took so long.  I also created numerous other books and items for the games that were part of the kickstarter.  One of my favorites if the GM screen which incorporates the art of close to a dozen different cover artists of classic T&T solos.

The GM Screen - my digital collage using classic solo covers.

                              The GM Screen – my digital collage using classic solo covers.

Since last time I  also did several projects for Goodman Games including the Ultimate Traps Collections, Grimtooth’s Museum of Death, A Judges Guild Collection, Tales of Shudder Mountain and The 998th Conclave of Wizards.  Several of these are DCC Modules.  I hope to do more for them in the future.

In the Comic Dept I came out with Strange Bedfellows #5, which came out rather nicely.  It included a cover by Randy Vogel and a 3 new Demi /Vampirooni stories, in one of them they are teamed-up.

Fogel’s Underground Price Guide came out earlier this year and I did a lot of the ads and article layout for that, including a 2 page Vampirooni/Dan Fogel comic with Randy Vogel.  Many of the comics I have done over the last 20 years are also listed there, so I am a part of Underground comix history.

Nuclear War New cover art by Steven S Crompton

Nuclear War New cover art by Steven S  Crompton

Currently I’m working on the 50th Anniversary Nuclear War Card Game and I just got the cover done on that, so here it is. I have about 17 cards to create as well as some new population cards.  So I remain busy.

I’ll try to post more frequently – sorry about the long delays between posts!