D&D Rules for Pregnancy: Why the hate?

Yeah, it’s been awhile since my first post. Right after I finished it, little dude started to get his 12 month molars in and boy are they a doozy. After a number of low sleep nights and then Gen Con, we’re here. Last time we talked about what motivations folks might have for roleplaying pregnancy in RPGs, now I’d like to talk a bit why the thought makes some of us want to run away as fast as possible.


The birth of Saint Edmund, he is being nursed by a midwife w Wellcome V0014976

One of the big reasons, society (at least society in the US), isn’t always great in regards to pregnancy. We have the worst maternal death rate of the “developed world.” We lack all manner of assistance for new parents, including dismal parental leave policies and child care assistance (for instance, I pay more than my rent for day care). We have a weird fetishization of fetuses, to the point where it often feels like the pregnant person is no longer a person but rather just a womb. While it’s changing in some circles, there’s a huge amount of pressure to not talk about pregnancy loss, especially miscarriages or abortions, and many folks who are having infertility issues suffer in silence. We still don’t have great terminology for talking about pregnancy in a world where we acknowledge the existence of people who are trans, non-binary, agender, and the like, not to mention same-sex households. And this is just the beginning of the issues that can come up.

So, when one introduces pregnancy into a D&D game, they are walking into a minefield and not only does the game not offer any tools to help address this issue, the way D&D works can exacerbate issues. Why? Because D&D grew out of war gaming, and both are attempts to simulate/model a world, applying the average to the individual. Thus, what we often get then when folks attempt to bring pregnancy into a D&D game is a bunch of random roll tables (some of which may be based on how actual human pregnancy works on average, but many are instead based on pure fiction, superstition, and the outdated views of human reproduction), stereotypes, and something that acts as salt in the wounds (at best) if not causing hurt and trauma while often not even addressing the motivations of folks at the table who want to have pregnancy in their games.

So, what’s a person to do?

First and foremost, if you know that the topic is likely to come up in the game, talk to your players, preferably individually and in an empathetic manner, about how they feel about it. If your group tends to veer towards riskier topics, perhaps set up a system (such as the X card) where people can say that they are uncomfortable in a manner that feels safe to them and everyone agrees to accept). If you think it might come up in a con(vention) game, use something like the X card from the start. Find out what boundaries folks have, e.g. pregnancy is fine but can we not deal with miscarriage, etc. If these sorts of conversations seem unnecessary to you, consider if you are the right kind of GM for this type of content.

If there’s consent for the topic (enthusiastic consent would be great here), then consider how your and/or the table’s plan for simulating pregnancy might come across to folks. Is one of your players or their significant others someone who has been (or is) pregnant and is tired of everyone analyzing everything they eat to the point where they can’t even get a small coffee without getting epic side eye? (Yes, moderate amounts of caffeine are now considered ok again for many pregnant folks.) Are they or someone they know tired of morning sickness jokes or of how we treat pregnancy as a disability? Have you considered that many pregnant folks are quite active well into their pregnancy and that the guidelines for activity level are tied to how active they were before pregnancy (complications notwithstanding)?

Also, please run what you plan to do past more than you significant other. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve resisted doing anything more than glare when I shared how I felt about something and had to hear about how their significant other was totally ok with what I just objected to so I should be ok with it too. The fact that some are ok with something doesn’t override someone else’s objection, especially when that something is happening to the character of the person objecting.

In addition, remember that the averages of a bunch of discrete measurements (existence of morning sickness, appearance of the linea nigra, etc) taken together is not the same as the average pregnancy and every pregnancy is unique. I think this is probably one of the hardest things for everyone involved in pregnancy (including doctors), because we tend to publicize and judge ourselves and other people’s pregnancies based on averages. The number of questions where someone is obviously stressed because they have not developed a particular symptom of pregnancy or met an average milestone is so heartbreaking. And it’s one of the largest issues I have with attempting to portray pregnancy in D&D because it often can’t help but reinforce it.

Along those lines, try to be conscious of how your rules for pregnancy in D&D might reinforce other things that you may not expect. For instance, fifth edition did a great job in making explicit that there are many variations of characters, especially in regards to gender and sexuality. Are your rules heteronormative? How do they handle trans characters? Do you only ever mention intercourse as a means for conception? How do you refer to the pregnant person? The partner? Do your rules potentially force players to out their trans characters?

There’s a lot to unpack here and often not a lot of good examples for discussion because sadly, it’s often at the cutting edge of where we’re trying to go as a society. For instance, I have listened to a fair number of trans people discuss how poor medicine is at properly treating them. Everything from getting misgendered when needing gynecological services to not getting proper medical care due to assumptions, not to mention the issues with attempting to keep up a sex versus a gender classification system, where trans men are told that they have female bodies and vice versa. Many now believe that trans men have male bodies regardless of their plumbing just as trans women have female bodies (not to mention intersex, non-binary, and agender) and any medical attention that should be based on the existence of certain organs should be specific to that organ and not tied up in notions of an artificial sex/gender binary.

If I could do a tl;dr of this article, it would be this. If you want to have pregnancy in your D&D game, then try to be kind and listen to one another.

D&D Rules for Pregnancy: Motivations

I have taken part in conversations regarding pregnancy in D&D for about as long as I have been talking about D&D. My general guideline about it is this, any subject that is incredibly difficult to have a conversation about in real life is likely to be nigh impossible to create rules for within D&D.

At this point, someone is likely to pipe in, "But it's hard to have a discussion about killing goblins in real life but the game handles that just fine," to which I'd reply that 1) clearly you don't have enough fantasy and gaming nerds as friends and 2) if goblins existed in real life such discussions would likely be a lot harder (but not impossible as ongoing bigotry demonstrates).

But I digress.


The birth of Saint Edmund, he is being nursed by a midwife w Wellcome V0014976

A more apt follow up question might be, "If it's so hard, why are you here talking about it?" And in some ways it's a really good point. It is likely that at some point in the following paragraphs I will mess something up. I will offend someone. At the same time, if I were to stay silent, what then will be the result? It's not like my silence will silence others.

Besides, as some of you may know, I've spent the past 18 months or so being pregnant and then taking care of a small human. And all parents have a need to give unsolicited advice to strangers. ;)

I kid.

I spent a lot of the time over the past 18 months thinking about pregnancy and parenthood in games, especially D&D. I planned to write about those thoughts anyway but at some future date when I didn't have to steal 5 minutes at a time to write a thing. But then two things happened. First, I realized that that future date was likely years away and, second, someone posted their homebrew pregnancy rules to a Pathfinder group and I realized I had things to say.

Before anything, I'd like to give a bit of a disclaimer. Any criticism and/or critique I give here is not intended to be a blanket banishment or condemnation of D&D rules regarding pregnancy in general or in specific. Also I will keep my conversation to D&D (including Pathfinder) in contrast to games with more narrative focused rules. I do not intend to suggest that pregnancy in D&D should be forbidden or that people who include it are bad because they include the topic of pregnancy.

With that out of the way. Let's start at the beginning.

Why do some people want pregnancy related rules in D&D?

There are plenty of motivations here.

  • Some folks live in cultures that are family and child focused and they can't imagine a world without pregnancy and children.
    Some can't get pregnant and want the chance to experience something in game that they will never be able to experience in life.
  • Some want to be pregnant at some point in their lives and use games like D&D (a form of play) to process and understand their feelings, fears, etc regarding pregnancy.
  • Some people would like to use the safety of a game to deal experiencing a infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a child.
  • Some people have been pregnant, loved it, and would love to recreate those feelings within a game.
  • Some people think pregnancy should be in the game but it feels less real to them if there aren't mechanics (crunch) that accompanies the story.
  • Some people desire a fuller model of the world so if their game has sex, they feel it should also have pregnancy.
  • Some people can't think of women without thinking of pregnancy and want to bring their real world baggage regarding female sexuality into the game.

Some of these motivations, to me at least, are more positive than others. The first five in particular show compelling positive reasons for including pregnancy in D&D and show that it can be a positive experience. The last three, however, tend to be the more common drivers and why a lot of D&D rules for pregnancy make some people, such as myself, want to run away from any discussion involving the topic.

More importantly, it's nearly impossible to design rules that meet all of these motivations and it's the last three that make it particularly hard to do so. For example, in order to have pregnancy mechanics, there often has to be an oversimplification of pregnancy. In movies and literature in the US, for instance, we often "show" early pregnancy by portraying a woman throwing up right after waking, commonly known as "morning sickness."

This oversimplification, however, is a common issue because while nausea is a common sign of pregnancy, it is not universal and for many pregnant people, it comes at a different time of the day. Most pregnancy mechanics that can fit on one piece of paper are likely to insufficiently recreate the experience for people who love being pregnant and want their characters to have the same experience. They are also unlikely to help a person prepare for pregnancy or to help them really understand what it is like to be pregnant. They might work ok for someone who can't be pregnant and wants to experience something like it in a game since it might feel "right" to them if most of their experience of pregnant people has come through fiction. For those that come from more family focused cultures, whether or not the mechanics feel "right" comes down to what the pregnant people in their life have experienced.

Now that we have a bit of understanding of the motivations, next time I'd like to explore prioritizing them, especially when it comes to conflicts between them. In the meantime, here's something real about pregnancy.

Pregnancy Fact:

A common test, at least in the US, for newborns is called the Apgar score. The test is done to measure the physical condition of a newborn child based on 5 criteria: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. It is also named after the person who developed it, Dr. Virginia Apgar, an anesthesiologist. More info on the Apgar score

Visit to Capital City

Last week we were in Washington D.C. for our first vacation as a family. One of the things that struck me about the city is just how many groups have offices of various types within the city. Obviously the various lawmakers, government officials, and their staff need to have face time within the city, but I did not realize the diversity and extent of such offices until I visited.

Embassies

Let's start with a rather obvious one. Our hotel was in an area known as Embassy Row. It was interesting seeing all the various embassies, especially comparing their relative sizes. A fair number had sculptures outside, sometimes commemorating famous immigrants or just celebrating their culture.

The presence (or not) of an embassy can suggest a fair bit of how relations are between the powers. What is the size of the embassy? Is the building old or new? Do they house all of their staff (possibly due to safety) or do they allow their staff to live, work, and play among the capital's residents? May diplomats and other foreign staff bring their children?

Labor and Trade Unions


Another common occupant type I saw were unions. Laws often have various effects on labor and trade, both planned and unplanned. Groups often form to protect and advocate for their interests and just as with foreign powers, it helps to have your own space to do so. Not only does the space give your group a place to meet and work, it could also house permanent staff and/or provide temporary housing to visitors who are members of your union. The building itself can also be a form of advertisement for the group. Which unions have permanent space in the city? Did they decorate their facade? If so, how?

Social and Civic Groups

I found it rather interesting that the Daughters of the American Revolution has a large building facing The Ellipse. On each street I visited, it seemed like I found yet another social or civic group. One whose building caught my eye is called "Defenders of Wildlife."

What social and/or civic groups might have representation? What do their buildings look like?

Statues, Memorials, and Monuments

Everywhere we walked we came across another statue, memorial, and/or monument. Many were either former civil government officials or military leaders. Some were relatively small; a stone bench with some nice plants and a small plaque. Other times they were large, such as the Jefferson memorial. What statues, memorials, and/or monuments might exist? Who built them? What people and/or events do they commemorate? How do other groups feel about them? Are there groups that consistently aren't the subject of such commemoration?

Museums

Washington, D.C. is home to an abundance of museums. Part of this is due to the natural accumulation of governments of artifacts (think the Tower of London), but a large part is due to a conscious decision to build important collections and make them available to everyone (Smithsonian museums are free for instance). Museums can hold all sorts of items and which subjects are catered to as well as their proximity to common traffic tells us a fair bit about parts of that culture. Which collections exist? Whose life is enshrined in the exhibits? Which communities are often left out?

There's more that I experienced on my vacation than I can do justice in this blog post. But inspiration for your setting can come from anywhere, including something as simple as your family vacation.

D&D and Bullet Journal Mashup

Over the past year, I've been watching a lot of art videos on YouTube. Originally I started with videos about art journaling but over time the algorithms started adding in bullet journalling as well. At first I wasn't sure that the videos were for me but as I saw more examples of what people were doing with them, I got hooked and decided to give it a try this year.

Here's the description of what bullet journaling is from the website, BulletJournal.com:

The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.

One of the keys is to number each of your pages and to leave a few pages at the start of the journal to use as a table of contents. What you decide to put on each page is up to you. Also key is that you never go too far in advance. This allows you to experiment with new ways of recording and presenting information as well as figuring out what your style is.

At first, I did some really basic page setups, drawing boxes for the three types of daily items: tasks, events, and notes. For example, here's a Sunday from January.

Attempt at BuJo Dungeon

Drawing these boxes reminded me of creating dungeon maps, so the next week, I decided to draw a dungeon instead.

First, I decided the path through the "rooms," the various sections on the page that I will later do my planning within. All of the lines are done with Pigma Micron pens in black ink and various nib widths.

Next I went through and added the typical journal information, in this case the days and dates of the week. I also started some of the decoration, such as creating the chessboard pattern room. The days of the week were written with a Pigma Micron pen and the dates, headers, and coloring were done with Faber Castell Pitt Artist brush pens.

Finally, I decided to add some stamping to the page. I used Tombow markers to "ink" the stamps and then applied them to the page. Most of the stamps were from the Lawn Fawn Critters Ever After set (affiliate link).

BuJo Resort Town

The next week I decided to go with a town map instead of a dungeon. I wanted to do a resort town with a large hotel with attendant stables and carriage house. First, I drew in the corners of the planning boxes and penciled in the town map.

Next I went through and started inking the buildings and environment. For this I used Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens, trying to keep to colors that would be easy to write over without interfering with readability.

Finally, I colored in with colored pencil the areas that I had inked with the Fineliner pens. I also used stamps inked with my Tombow markers to add some additional features and added dates and headers with Pitt artist brush pens.

BuJo Cliffside Town

This week, I went with a town map again, but this time I decided to explore a cliffside town. Again I only drew the corners of my planning areas. I had an idea of a society where people built octagonal houses. When their children were old enough to start a family, they built off of one of the walls of their home, so that the homes were interconnected. My inspiration for this was spending last week with my parents with my little one. While I worked during the day in the garage, they took care of little dude in their home, which gave me the idea of what if we could live in separate but connected homes that made this sort of community care easier.

I didn't have as much time to spend on this map as I had my previous ones, so it's a bit simpler. All of the map inking is done with the Fineliner pens and instead of coloring in areas, I drew lines to delineate areas such as woods, water, and beach.

So why do this? I've found that as I spent more time designing my bullet journal pages, I've been more likely to use it to plan and record information. Also, this is a good way to get in map design practice. Finally, much like coloring, I find it relaxing and a nice creative outlet while not requiring a ton of time, important when I'm taking care of a seven-month old in addition to working full time.

While I've concentrated on my weekly/daily spread, there are many other ways that a bullet journal could be useful for someone who likes to play tabletop roleplaying games. I could just as easily use a page or two to create random tables or plan my next campaign. Having the table of contents at the front makes it easier to not lose that information.

What happens when you engage - Epilogue

I debated intensely whether or not to write this but I think it's important to point out the full ramifications of what happens when people, especially those from marginalized groups, speak up.

For those of you who don't know, I spent pretty much all of 2016 out of gaming due to my pregnancy and then being one of two primary caregivers of a little person. In 2015, I had a few things going on when combined with the stress of what happened in 2014 meant it made more sense for me to take a step back from writing about gaming and doing other fun things, like coloring or reading. Most if not all of it still had a tabletop RPG angle to it and I continued on with the Tome Show although at a reduced frequency in 2016 because, well, pregnancy and then caring for a little one.

However, now that the little one is nearing 6 months, I'd like to get back into writing about games and maybe even designing again. I decide to poke my head out a bit and what do I find but this.

Content: I could also really understand how even women on this side of the insanity spectrum from Tracey Hurley would still find some of this material offensive. Not that I think "offensive" is a valid reason for "should not exist". Just, I could get people thinking some of the material here is really stupid, be it or practical or personal reasons.

Which is a pity, because the parts that aren't just smut for its own sake are usually pretty creative.

Not only is the quoted part in the review of a product I had nothing to do with and had not said anything about (I didn't even know of its existence), he used it to publicize his post in a number of gaming groups on social media, at least on G+. He falsely attributes opinions to me and then uses those false attributions to make the claim that I'm on the other "side of the insanity spectrum," whatever that's supposed to mean. At this point it's no longer about my opinions, but about me.

And all of this happened about a year and a half after my last "What happens when you engage post." And with the exception of my recent post highlighting someone I think draws pretty awesome maps, over a year since my last blog post. I also haven't been on G+ or Twitter much given everything going on.

I bring this up because many people said if I just ignored him, that it would stop. They said that it wasn't abuse because he was just responding to my current posts and it being the internet, what did I expect? But he has continued well past then. At what point will we see him for who he truly is? I get that he could just be baiting me into another fight that does nothing but feed his ego, but I think it's also important to point out that regardless of his motivations, this abuse is happening. And I'm far from the only one he targets.

This isn't someone trying to refute my ideas. This is someone who is convinced that I am "[a] person trying to put extreme ideological demands on this hobby.” More specifically, he believes I serve some sort of threat to the existence of OSR. Even though I have highlighted and will continue to highlight OSR blogs and products that I personally find useful or interesting. Even though the community appears to be thriving. Even though I talk up some OSR community members in my gaming friend groups. All the things he falsely claims that I am doing, he actually does.

I'm heartened to see people stand up to him, especially people who are no fans of what I write. If you want to disagree with me, that's great. But this abuse needs to stop.

Blogs I Love: Dyson’s Dodecahedron


I've been admiring Dyson Logos' maps for quite some time now. When I eventually get back to creating and publishing my own adventures, my dream is to have some of his maps accompany my work. In case you haven't seen them yet, here are examples:

The Three Tombs of Acker cartography by Dyson LogosThe Three Tombs of Acker cartography by Dyson Logos
Clayfield Village Cartography by Dyson LogosClayfield Village Cartography by Dyson Logos

Ink sketches and drawings of all sorts are among my favorite types of art but are among the type that I personally am not particularly good at. And I love a good map.

Fortunately, Dyson's site is full of them, over 460 of them actually. He has them organized on his blog in a variety of categories including by location type, adventure type, and drawing style. While the vast majority of them are for personal use only, he has put approximately 96 of them under a no-cost, royalty-free Creative Commons Attributions license that includes commercial use.

He is also quite active on social media including Facebook, G+, and Twitter. I've been lurking around on his posts for a while because he's just so willing to provide important information and tips not only on drawing maps but also getting them printed. For instance, his hints about using engineering prints from places like Staples has been filed away for my own art projects as well.

If you want to support Dyson Logos creating even more maps, check out his Patreon. He also has published a few books. They are available as pdfs from RPG Now and hard copy via Lulu. Finally, if like me you dream of commissioning a map from him, his commission rates are available here. No guarantees that he'll have time to work on them.

P.S. If you haven't seen it yet, some of Dyson's work was used in the Dungeons & Dragons Monsters and Heroes of the Realms Coloring Book (Amazon Affiliate Link).

Art Supply Roundup: Sargent Art Gel Pens

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to find Artist & Craftsman Supply in Central Square, Cambridge, MA. I had been looking for some colorless blending pencils from Prismacolor one day and we decided to give them a shot. I'm so glad we did. Not only do they carry art supplies for all sorts of "serious" arts and crafts endeavors (they carry professional materials for everything from oil painting to bookmaking/binding, but they make an effort to include neat student level products as well, include at least three different sets of gel pens from Sargent Art.

The three sets are fluorescent, glitter, and metallic. Each set comes with 10 different pens and is packaged in a reusable pouch with snap. Before I go to far into my experiences with coloring with them, I wanted to give you an example of the different colors available and how they did on various paper. First up is a smooth white cardstock.

The colors here are all vibrant and the pens wrote fairly well. I did have some issues with the fluorescent gel pens which I think will be easier to see on the other papers, but I still liked them overall.

Here's the same pens, in the same order, on a piece of green cardstock.

Again, I think the ink went on pretty well on the smooth paper. Obviously, the green shades are a bit harder to see. For the fluorescents, some of the colors aren't quite as vibrant and seem a bit duller. Also, I feel like the glitter pens fared much better than the metallics.

Finally, here's the same pens on a piece of black construction paper.

The construction paper definitely presented some challenges with getting the gel to come out smoothly. However, while some of the fluorescents had issues, especially the yellow and orange ones, overall I thought they held up pretty decently. Unlike the green cardstock, the glitter pens didn't do as well as the metallic gel pens. Mainly the glitter pens on this paper look like I put glitter on the page, with the exception of the more silver colored one.

A few other things to know about the pens. As you may be able to see in some of the images, the ink can pool sometimes, especially at the start and end of the lines. Also, the line isn't always consistent. Finally, these inks can take awhile to dry and are easy to smudge if you're not careful (left-handed people in particular might want to take note of this).

I forget exactly how much I paid for them, but I believe it was under $6 for each set. When I consider that I pay nearly a third to half that for one metallic silver Uniball pen, I think they are worth the price. I love using them as accents on my coloring.

Here's an example where I used my Crayola Super Tips markers to color a flower in yellow and then went over it with the orange and yellow glitter pens.

I used the metallic gel pens to color in the crowns on this page.

The important part here, in my opinion is to just have fun and don't feel that just because it's in the kids' area that you can't have fun with it and create cool stuff.

Using "Professionalism" As A Sword

A few months ago at work, some people suggested a book to me called, "Death By Meeting:A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business." One of the biggest complaints people have with meeting is that often can seem like they are getting in the way of work. Thus, the common "solution" is just to not have meetings. Everyone wins, right?

The book posits a different theory. The problem with meetings often has less to do with the concept of meetings. We will spend hours doing other, meeting-like things, such as watching movies. Instead, the problem is often how we apply the tool. One of the differences pointed out is that unlike other meeting-like activities, what meetings often are missing is tension, and dare I say it, conflict.

Business culture, at least in the US, is often characterized by not rocking the boat. People often are worried that disagreeing, keeping people honest, and the like will hurt their careers rather than help them. And there is a fair bit of evidence, in my opinion, to support those fears. However, I think there are two important points to keep in mind here. 1) While widespread, at least in the US, is this actually common human behavior or common to the founding classes of the business world and 2) Does this culture promote what we want or does it hinder it?

On the first point, this culture of going along and not rocking the boat reminds me a lot of descriptions of stereotypical WASP family holidays. Everyone is mad at each other but no one actually talks about it because that's just unseemly. As a result, family feuds and dramas often go on for years, sometimes without the offending party ever knowing what they did or even that they did anything.

Not only does this lead to misunderstandings and what seem to be unexpected outbursts, but it hinders innovation. If we can never point out the negative, we can never improve, iterate, grow. Additionally, what I've found is that this outlook allows for pointing out positives that are actually negative statements about something else. "Oh, you dress so much nicer than your sister does!" "Oh, I love how you use color images rather than those other people who just include black & white sketches."

So, why am I bringing this up? Because it's the issue I continue to have with OneBookShelf/DriveThruRPG's handling of the recent controversy. A recent post by their RPG Publisher Relations Representative, Meredith Gerber, has the following:

The feedback we have received from both customers and publishers has been appreciated and has helped us shape our new policy. We want to thank you for the time and energy you have taken to reach out to us. Those that have spoken with us in the past know we are always happy to talk to customers, publishers, and partners to have a professional dialogue about concerns.

When having discussions about these types of situations, it’s always important to remember that being professional and kind in feedback will create better dialogue. It’s very difficult to continue a conversation and figure out the message when hateful words are said out of anger and spite. If you do not agree with someone, take a moment to step back and breathe before stating your opinion. There is also nothing wrong with walking away from a conversation if it's going around in circles with no conclusion in sight.

This is also echoed in various posts by other OBS staff about "call out culture" and "outrage," etc.

Here's my problem, I think they are honestly confusing tension and conflict with unprofessionalism. They are applying one type of culture and saying that this is some objective standard for how to act, ignoring that other people may have different standards. They are also misrepresenting some of the feedback they received, grouping questions about why it was even allowed on their stores what would be truly unprofessional, such as making fun of someone's looks.

I'd have no problem with them saying, "If you would like to discuss this with us, here are our boundaries." Instead, they are using claims of "unprofessionalism" as not only a silencing tactic but as a way to say that their critics are objectively bad. Additionally, I understand wanting to defend themselves in these situations, especially given how uncomfortable they can be. However, many of their barbed words towards the people who brought up the issue to begin with seem to violate their own arguments. And it's particularly frustrating because the initial comments made by people who work at OBS was that we should just ignore the content.

When a company is as big as OBS is within a small market such as ours, I think it's important to speak up and point out this still. I understand it's not always a comfortable process and I am against those who say truly horrible stuff, but I can't stand by and let them use their arbitrary standards of "professionalism" as a sword against others.

Quick Tip: Blending Color Pencils with Baby Oil

Now that I have card stock, I can try out a few things I've been wanting to do. The one I happened to pick up is called Accent Opaque Digital by International Paper. It's 8 1/2" by 11", smooth, 65 lb, and white. I paid $11.99 for 250 sheets. For the experiment, I printed out one of the images from the history of Paris book I detailed in this post.

Clothing during the reign of King Louis XIII

So first, the tools. In addition to my Crayola color pencils, I used baby oil, a palette (it has handy reservoirs for holding the oil), and tortillions.

Tortillions are pointed stubs made out of rolled paper often used for blending with graphite pencils. The way this works is that you color an area you like with the color pencil. Once you have the color the way you like it, you dip the tip of the tortillion into the well of baby oil and then go over your color pencil with it. It should smooth out the color a bit and help blend colors that are adjacent. Here are some before and after examples.


Things to know:

  • The oil didn't go through this cardstock but you should always check yours on a spare piece before using.
  • It's important that you have the color where you like it *before* using the baby oil. You won't be able to go back over it later to add more color.
  • Some people have used cotton swabs instead of tortillions and liked the results better. I didn't try them here, but they seem to be great for larger areas.
  • The tortillions can hold on to the color a bit. You can clean it off (and resharpen it) on a bit of sandpaper. You could also get several and reserve one for each color family.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a few videos I found useful.

Eventually I'd like to use Gamsol, which seems to work a bit better from the videos and allows you to go back over it with color (which baby oil does not). But it's also flammable and the fumes are toxic so I'm going to hold off for now until my technique overall is better. But, if you are interested, here's a great intro video on using it.

Quick Tip: Labels for Unlabeled Markers

Recently I bought the 80 marker set of Crayola Super Tips Markers. I had the 20 marker set already but I was feeling limited by the choices and thought I'd get the 80 marker set. There are a few things I wish I had known before I had done so. First, as with the 20 piece set, the markers are labeled with colors. Also, the 80 marker set comes in a big box, so even if I could start to memorize what the colors were like on actual paper, there's no way I could keep track of which marker was which.

To help with this problem, I went to an office supply store today and got some half-inch diameter circular labels. Half-inch happened to be what the store had in white, but feel free to change the diameter to fit your tastes.

I went through and colored each circle with the current marker and then put the circle on the barrel of the marker. I put it near the end, below the area where the cap would cover and above where my hand was likely to rest.

I did them in batches and I think the whole endeavor took me less than 30 minutes.

Now they aren't going to be perfect, in part because markers can act differently depending on the paper and also because part of how various colors appear to us depends on what is next to them. But it should help depart a quick understanding of intensity, tone, etc.

Suggestion for further improvement: Number the labels before you stick them on. You can then create your own color wheels and charts and know you are referencing the correct marker in your set.

Send feedback using the contact form or through twitter, @sarahdarkmagic.

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