Obelisks of Doom!

Everyone had so much fun with the Doom Gong at Gen Con 50. It signaled the death of hundreds of Dungeon Crawl Classics zero level adventurers in the DCC game room and made quite an impression as we paraded it through the halls of the convention center. Joe Goodman was stoked and he wanted more.  Because the Gong spends most of the convention in the game room, he wanted something big and impressive for the Goodman Games booth in the vendor’s hall.

“Can you make some obelisks?” He wrote me in an email early in the year. “Sure.” I replied. “Obelisks with integrated book shelves and banner poles to hold big DCC flags?” He added. “Sure… probably.” I responded.

I drew a terrible mock up drawing with a shelf of books and a skull nook. Joe gave the thumbs up. So, I immediately did nothing for the next five months. Because that’s how I roll.

But not really. I thought about the project every day and truly lost a good bit of sleep over it. But an unprecedented amount of day job related work and the fact that I no longer had a workshop space, left me struggling to get a foot hold on the project.

Much like the Doom Gong project I waited till it was almost to late and then immersed my self in it. My wife was away at school in Europe again and I was single dad through June, so nothing got done. But when she returned I threw up a portable canopy in the yard and went to work.

The weather was terrible, but not surprising. It was either 95+ degrees or pouring rain. I’m basically immune to that from landscaping, but I am usually not working with products that need to be kept dry or need low humidity to set up properly. We had built my wife an art studio in the back yard the previous winter and she graciously let me take it over for a few weeks, which along with its dehumidifying air conditioner really saved the day.

So, the weekend after the 4th of July, I had three weeks until we’d need to leave for Gen Con. I put on my wizard hat and a selection of my best amulets. It was time to build some obelisks.

There was no live metal band this time to provide a proper doom soundtrack, so I set up some old Dell computer speakers with a subwoofer, plugged in my phone and turned up the Black Sabbath. I drew out a template for the obelisk sides right onto the plywood I was using for a table and started cutting.

There’s about a one-inch gap where the safety shield doesn’t cover the saw blade. I immediately set the circular saw down with that one inch of exposed spinning blade on the cord to the music system. Then after twenty minutes of splicing tiny wires I began again.The angles for the pyramidal caps were really vexing me so I had to make card board models.

I cut the angles on an ancient table saw from the 70’s for legit Dungeon Crawl Classics street cred.

I also made most of the several hundred, well it felt like hundreds but was probably six, trips to Lowe’s in this 70’s van for the same reason.

Work was progressing. There was a large amount of measuring, remeasuring and T-bevel work but I had the basic shapes together.

I had glued all the pieces together and secured the joins with brads from an air gun. Pop. Pop. Pop. So many brads. I was feeling bad for my neighbors.

I ordered some two-part epoxy resin from Amazon to be delivered in two days.

Designing the shelves on the fly took a bit of figuring out. When I put the shelves into the first obelisk, I made the opening square, but I didn’t like the look.

I mocked up some skin with card board and it made up my mind.

I chopped them out and remade them on the same angle as the obelisk sides. Lesson learned the second set went a lot faster.

Once the framing was done for the shelves I had to build a structure to hold the banner poles, which would pass down through the pyramidal caps. It is a 2” PVC tube which was glued into a hole drilled in a 2×4” piece of pine.

I wasn’t sure how heavy the banners would be and I didn’t want them pushing the bottom out of the holder if someone dropped them in too hard. I used screws here instead of brads for the same reason.

I secured the tops and the banner pole holders onto the obelisks. The skeletal forms were looking really arcane at this point. Definitely some wizard artifact vibe happening. I told my neighbors I was building Time Pylons and Etheric Antennas.

I kind of hated to start skinning them with lauan and cover it all up.

But it went quickly, laying the forms wright on the material and tracing the sides and then using the jig saw to cut them out.

I got to use my favorite tool, The Shaver, when the edges didn’t quite line up. A lot more brads were used. Pop. Pop. Pop.

These things needed to be big to even be seen in the tumult of the Gen Con vendors hall. I had planned on making 2 ft. square bases for them from heavy plywood, both to weigh them down and to make them at least a bit impervious to the inevitable stroller and mobility scooter collisions. I made two big heavy plywood cubes with open ends, they weigh about 35 lbs each. All assembled the obelisks with the banner poles are 12 ft. tall.

Next, I glued Styrofoam insulation board over the outside of the obelisks, so I could carve into it and make it look like ancient stone.

Up until this point you could always go back a step if you really messed up. But when you cover it in liquid nails construction adhesive there’s no going back after that, only starting from scratch, if you botch it. I didn’t put any in the shelves themselves for the same reason I didn’t do the bases. I was worried wear and tear from people pulling books in and out wouldn’t take long to damage the foam.

Since I didn’t have 15 hours a side to wait for adhesive to dry I popped some brads in the foam to hold it too.

Baba Yaga, my familiar black cat, stopped by to make sure everything was progressing as planned.

She told me I was most assuredly doing it wrong.

I sealed a few of the seams with body putty, but it always cups the foam a bit, so I quit using it and went over it all again with an, acetone based, wood putty. I was about half way done at this point, but I only had a week left. The epoxy resin still hadn’t shown up.

I hassled Doug Kovacs and Harley Stroh to help me come up with ideas for sigils, runes or other iconography to carve into the sides of the obelisks. They were both in Gen Con crunch time on their own contributions, but they did take the time to help me out and lend their ideas to the project. I based most of the imagery on things I saw or thought I saw in the big “The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying” painting Doug had finished for the 2018 DCC Gen Con Tournament. I had been using a high-resolution copy of it as the desktop on my computer, so it was never far from my mind.

I drew the images onto the foam and free hand cut them out with a razor knife. There’s the Septus Ocularus of Sezrekan, Malkous the Seven Horned Cat of Sezrekan, The Death Mask of Sezrekan, and a Seven-Pointed Star of Sezrekan.

The obelisks sigils are mirror images of each other. I carved some random cracks into the panels and did some weathering on the edges to make them look ancient and time worn. Then sanded it all again.

I’m not sure I got the star right, because these sigils leak eldritch energies and soon the studio was infested with a mischievous purple haired gnome.

Later a version of myself from the future appeared, so I put him to work helping me shuttle the obelisks in and out of the studio and sanding the seven-pointed stars of Sezrekan.

It was time for epoxy. But the epoxy I ordered hadn’t shown up yet and the delivery company had no idea where it was. So, I had to go to a local marine supply house and buy sail boat epoxy.

The resin step is the worst. Coating everything in chemically reacting epoxy resin without messing it up is always a challenge. You must mix it just right, so it sets up fast, but not too fast. If you mess it up it may never set up and then it’ll just be sticky trash and you’ll have to start from scratch.

I mixed up one of the pots wrong and it turned in to a smoking and hissing block of crackling plastic in less than a minute. I only messed up one pot though.

When the resin is dry you sand it, forever and then do it again, as many times as time allows.

I think we did three coats, but I wish it had been seven. I put extra thick applications on the corners and around the edges of the shelves to help protect them. It rained the entire week.

I tried to match the paint on the Doom Gong from pictures. I mixed it up from the same paint I used on the year before.

But I wouldn’t know if I got it right until they we in the same room together on the last day of Gen Con. I base coated it with a hand mixed dark grey made with Killz shellac-based paint to help it stick to the epoxy and add some more strength.

When that was dry I did two other applications of incrementally lighter gray to give the faux appearance of eldritch stone, the sort of material ole Sezrekan would have had his sorcerous minions quarry from the roots of forbidden mountains to construct his phlogiston agitators.

I set them up to admire my handy work and make sure the fit was good. Then I clear coated them with six cans worth of matte varnish.

Luckily it had stopped raining and was back to being 98 degrees. The obelisks got so hot in the sun I could barely pick them up to move them.

It was down to the wire and I was really strung out. I had put in about 100 hours of labor in three weeks and continued to do my day job too. Although I did hire some guys to cover me the last few days. I got all the parts wrapped up in an elaborate array of moving blankets and we loaded them into a Uhaul along with my wife and daughter and off we drove 630 miles to Gen Con 2018!

The next morning, we got them set up at the Goodman booth, put the banners on top and filled them up with books.

They had looked so massive in my backyard, but they fit right into the background chaos of the Goodman booth with its visual feast of excellent art and to Gen Con at large.

On Sunday we paraded the Doom Gong from the DCC room to the dealer hall scattering convention goers every time Tim Deschene strikes the gong. We set it up on a table in between the obelisks. It looked impressive. Joe Goodman is slowly building a life size DCC playset. The winners of the tournament got to sound the gong one final time in victory and another Gen Con was in the books.

Later that night at dinner with the crew, there was talk of what’s next. Ziggurats, sacrificial pits, braziers, sarcophagus, thrones on dais, trans dimensional portals, hexagrammic demon traps, a real dinosaur, are all things that were tossed around by the wild minded writers of your favorite modules. What’s going to appear at Gen Con 2019? It is hard to say this early on. But keep your toes crossed and your third eye on the blood of the scrying pool and perhaps the shape of the future will be revealed to you.

 

 

 

 

INFERNO ROAD – Game zine for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics and other OSR games.

I just made a big new print run of Inferno Road. The zany, ziney, rock out with your cock out, road war in hell where Mad Max meets Hieronymus Bosch in a head on Dungeon Crawl Classics Style collision! Your Grandma wants this for Christmas! Each copy comes with a fold out 11×17 spinner image. (Little spinny bit not included.) Easy to use with any OSR style games.

15$ shipped to USA! Message me for International rates.

Send money via paypal to:

hamheadskeletondog@hotmail.com

Make sure to include shipping address.

Thanks!

Building the Doom Gong Arch!

Last February Joseph Goodman asked me if I could build a holder for a gong. He wanted a gong to hit every time a PC died in the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG tournament at Gen Con 50. I had fabricated the hardware for the large three sided banners which hang over the DCC booth the previous year and I guess that made Joseph think I’d be up to the task. What he didn’t know was that I worked in an amusement park art, sculpture, and sign shop as the assistant park artist for five years as a teenager. So I said yes and got to work.

IMG_20170706_144521385

First, we needed to find a gong. Gong’s are expensive. I showed Joe a few gongs I had found online and he did his own research and three months later a huge 28″ brass gong arrived on my front porch.

IMG_20170707_092103017

That was a lot of time gone by with no work on this project. I was itching to get it done, but my wife went to school in Europe for month and I was a single parent for all of June and again nothing was done.

Welcome to July and I really needed to start work on this thing. I knew what I was going to do though, I was confident in my skills. My wife returned and I said hello, goodbye, and disappeared into the studio.

IMG_20170706_144454925

First, I drew out a design diagram with measurements. I wanted it to be big. Taller than myself. I wanted it to be imposing and grim. But I had to get it to Indy. So it couldn’t be house sized like I wanted.

IMG_20170707_094109028

IMG_20170707_095823117 IMG_20170707_105809857

I found some old theatre panels in the shed with crazy New Orleans Jazz Turkeys painted on them and decided to save some time and money by cannibalizing them. I sawed them up. Added a few more supports and braces and set it up to look at it. I drilled holes for the connecting hardware, carriage bolts, washers and wingnuts. I put in some hooks and hung the gong from it as a test.

IMG_20170708_115552796

After that I cut foam panels and glued them over it so I could later carve the stone effects into it.

IMG_20170709_094347793

IMG_20170710_115009550

My family was super generous through all this giving me the time and space I needed to hustle this project. They brought me food and made supply runs for me. My daughter even helped carve the foam.

IMG_20170710_130128911I changed the design at this point. I decided it needed to broadcast the name of the game. It’s Gen Con, it is a big gaming convention, but it is also the industries largest trade show. This thing had to announce why it was there. I cut out some letters for the pediment.

IMG_20170709_120021557I mocked up a skull. It was 100+ degrees in the shop and I wasn’t thinking straight. I mocked up a demon skull. It had more in common with the Danzig logo than the iconic DCC demon skull. I showed it to Joe and he suggested I talk to Doug Kovacs, the designer of the iconic skull, about it.

Doug’s advice was if I was going to do my own thing, make it truly original and if I was going to copy his skull do it right. Don’t do a bad imitation of his work. He hates that and rightly so.

IMG_20170710_093105035So I started to add a bunch of features to this generic demon skull I had going to push it away from the DCC skull. But more horns and googly eyes didn’t help and I knew I had made a mistake. I dumped it and went for the iconic DCC skull, which was the only real answer all along.

IMG_20170713_083404240 IMG_20170713_085624204 IMG_20170713_093839481 IMG_20170713_114734448 IMG_20170713_123340381 IMG_20170713_204747556 IMG_20170714_091540033

IMG_20170710_094405819

IMG_20170710_142257045

IMG_20170710_115009550 IMG_20170710_114950954Meanwhile I had glued the skulls on the pillars and built assembled the blood bowls. I bought a salad bowl at target and cut it in half. Cut the heads off the bolts and glued them into the backs of the bowls. They needed to be removable so I could lay it flat for shipping.

IMG_20170713_081440694

IMG_20170713_115823943Also the skulls and letters had to be flush with the face trim for the same reason. Anything sticking out would probably get damaged in shipping. At this point in production I was expecting to mail it to the Con.

As an aside… There is a doom band by the name of Book of Wyrms, that practices there, and our paths crossed as I was working late nights. When I was carving this demon skull it was 100+ degrees in the shop at night. Sweat was dripping off the foam in rivulets as I carved it and a live doom band was playing accompaniment. When I realized what was happening, it was real moment of truth about what success in life really is. I was getting paid to carve demon skulls while a live doom band played beside me. I had won.

I should probably thank Book of Wyrms that the skull turned out so well. Thanks ya’ll!

I finished up the work on the skull and letters and glued them on. I sanded everything a few times. I patched the seams with automotive body putty and sanded that a few times between layers.

IMG_20170714_122229020 IMG_20170714_162457505Then I painted it black. I really liked it black.

IMG_20170715_124411250I had hoped sealing it with paint would allow me to use polyester resin to coat the outside and make it really durable. But, either I used too cheap paint or the actual heat of the resin setting melted the foam. I had to go back and patch the damaged bit with more body putty. I switched to a two part epoxy. I applied a coat and found the humidity and infernal heat of Richmond in the summer wasn’t helping the epoxy do it’s thing very well. I applied several coats and did a lot of sanding and worrying in between. It did look really gruesome when it was gloss black. The kinda of thing a soon to be dead party of adventurers would discover on a forbidden death moon.

IMG_20170715_195158583 IMG_20170715_195718137 IMG_20170716_125157353 IMG_20170716_134613265 IMG_20170716_134621075_TOPI still had no idea how I was going to get this crazy thing to Indianapolis.

IMG_20170719_144612513But I had to paint it, so I knocked back the gloss with a coat of shellac based KILLZ paint. I started mixing my own paint at this point using the KILLZ and craft paint and sign paint. I got the grey for the stone and made a big batch of the gold for the letters and skull.

IMG_20170720_145759785 IMG_20170721_075853824 IMG_20170721_084727089 IMG_20170724_121759426

IMG_20170725_130156052Doug had sent me the color cover for the DCC annual and I saw the skulls gem is red, which I didn’t know previously. I wanted it red and shiny. I wanted to put a light in it. I wanted to put lights in the eye sockets. I told myself to stop escalating the project and just finish what I was doing instead of making it more difficult.

IMG_20170724_142011194 IMG_20170724_160259200

After much deliberation I set to applying the faux finish on the stone work, and then painted on the blood. I painted the gem red and added in shadows for depth. I went back in and black lined the skull and letters to make the details pop. I mixed some dark gold and laid in shadows on the column skulls.

IMG_20170724_165250638

It was at about this point I knew deep down in my heart that if I shipped this with UPS or Fed Ex they would destroy it. 100% guaranteed. Unless I built a shipping crate and then the transport cost would be that  of a small used car. I called my friend Scott Jenkins. I knew he was going to Gen Con. Luckily he was driving, alone, and in a big ass SUV. He’s a hero. He stopped by and we measured and made sure this beast would fit. Salvation was at hand.

IMG_20170725_130331710 IMG_20170725_130318087 IMG_20170725_130206559 IMG_20170725_163147980

I added false bottoms to the bowls sealed them with epoxy and KILLZ and painted them up. All the blood got a layer of gloss varnish to make it look wet and fresh as did the forehead gem to make it shine.

IMG_20170725_152749553

I bought bigger hooks and spray painted them gold and drilled new pilot holes.

I was at the finish line with about 10 days to spare. I painted the back black again along with the feet and sealed the whole thing with several cans of matte varnish spray.

I left the beast lay in the shop for a week to air out and dry as much as possible. The humidity was wreaking havoc with my dry times and epoxy curing… so I wanted to make sure it was good and finished before I tried to pack it.

IMG_20170813_132932369

I bought a huge box of bubble wrap to pack it up in but I was really worried it would stick to the thing and when I unpacked it the paint would come off with the wrap or it would leave little bubble dots all over the facade. I bought a bunch of moving blankets, wrapped them up in them and secured it all with packing tape.

We put them in Jenkins car. Jenkins drove away and I got on a plane to Gen Con 50.

Both the Gong Arch and I arrived safely. We got it all set up Thursday morning and the rest

is gaming history.

IMG_20170817_075113129 IMG_20170818_120312247 IMG_20170820_141047849 IMG_20170820_155308633

Big thanks to Doug Kovacs, Steve Bean and Natalie Hershberger who helped me move and assemble this thing, Tim Deschene, Micheal Curtis and Ian Walker and the rest of our procession for helping me parade the Gong around Gen Con. Thanks to my wife and daughter for their help and support, my folks and to everyone who took the time to appreciate it and tell me they enjoyed it and yet another big thank you to Scott Jenkins for getting it there intact.

I dedicated this build to the man who mentored me in the skills I needed to successfully accomplish it.

In memory of Matt Rusnak 1925-2010 WWII veteran, traditional hand letterer, artist, painter, sculptor, and all around genius. We miss you Matt.

Never not WIZARD TIME! [Oops…SOLD OUT]

The people asked for more “It’s Wizard Time!” Stickers and I obliged.

IMG_20160121_132538

That’s right, fancy vinyl stickers. Black and White, 4.25 x 2.75 inches. Supposedly able to withstand several years of exterior application. I’ve had one on my van for two years and it’s just fine.

$1.50 for 1 (price includes shipping)

$3.50 for 3 (price includes shipping)

$5.00 for 5 (price includes shipping)

USA only. If you are in another country, send me a message and we’ll work something out.

Send paypal cash to:

Hamheadskeletondog@hotmail.com

Don’t forget to add your mailing address!

Thanks!

FormerlyIanShirt5 copy