The Voyager's Workshop is finally open. It has taken a fair bit of travelling to get here. Many years in fact. For you to understand how I got here, it’s important we go back to where I started.
Rather than bore you with a recitation of when I moved and where to, I decided to draw a little map to illustrate the places I grew up and live in, a sort of map of travels. As you can see, this is a fantasy map but it represents real places, some where I have lived at some point in my life, others just for a sense of context. The original hand inked map had the text written in a fantasy alphabet as well which I replaced with their English equivalents for clarity. To keep that part of the story as short as possible, this is how it went: I was born in The Netherlands, grew up in France and Switzerland, where I lived for 17 years, before moving back to Holland and finally crossing the pond to live in beautiful Nova Scotia.
Movies, games & books
Being a kid of the seventies, I discovered video games at their very beginning. Although they did so simply, games quickly relied on storytelling to engage players. Stories appealed to me in many other forms: literature, music and film. In 1984, I was twelve years old. That year I saw The NeverEnding Story, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Last Starfighter, The Karate Kid and more. I love cinema of different genres and periods but the fantasy films of my youth have had a lasting impact on me. Classics like Dark Crystal, Blade Runner, The Thing and Conan the Barbarian fuelled my imagination and my outlet was art. Drawing and design slowly became an obsession but I was also an avid hobbyist. Come to think of it, all kinds of extra curricular activities found their place in my life. I don’t recall whether this was just coincidence or careful parental planning but everything was practiced in healthy doses. This stayed true even when Fighting Fantasy books came along. They were all the rage and it wasn’t long before I made the jump to pen and paper roleplaying games. Looking back, I feel very lucky that my original gaming group was comprised of some of my best friends at the time, one of them being one of my closest friends to this day despite my many relocations and the long distances separating us.
First steps in Aventuria
The Dark Eye gave us our first tabletop adventures. I remember our initial encounter taking place in a decrepit house where we faced kolbolds with hardly any weapons worth taking about. It was low key, but it felt gritty and real. We shared many memorable moments together, and subsequently played different games in varied settings: Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, MERP, Paranoia, Pendragon, Stormbringer, Maléfices, Rêve de Dragon, Ghostbusters and others I forget to mention here. These were, as you might know, the first golden age of tabletop games. With my friends I played D&D, with my family we played board games like Trivial Pursuit, Game of Life, Backgammon or Stratego. I was the better for it on all fronts even though our parents and older siblings could not understand what the big deal was with those weird role playing games!
At 17, I found myself moving back the Netherlands with my parents. There was no Internet back then and international phone calls were way too expensive to even think about finding a way to keep playing with my friends. It was the end of an era. I didn’t manage to find a group to play with and after high school I was off again. My focus turned to art and design and my studies left hardly any time for hobbies. It wasn’t until much later that I returned to tabletop games but in the meantime my thirst for RPGs had been quenched by video games which I found to be the next best thing for a pen and paper role player like myself. From a storytelling point of view it was a good alternative and it is fair to say that many adventure game mechanics have their roots in pen and paper rules. Just the thought of tiny gnomes rolling dice inside a home console or computer is one that always brings a smile to my face.
Somehow, with the exception of some adventure games, the video games I enjoy the most are the ones I can play with others. Playing online can be fun but, in my opinion, nothing beats playing multiplayer games in the same room, looking at the same screen.
I remember playing a golf game that looked something like this with my grandmother in the late 70s. She loved it and already then, multiplayer options were integrated into many games. In fact, most early games were designed to pit two players against one another. Playing with others transforms the game and makes it so much more than just bashing buttons or beating a boss.
Undeniably, social interaction is a defining aspects of tabletop games and certainly the predominant one. Which game you play specifically should could down to what system offers you the most immersive experience and no two gaming groups are the same. I would definitely say that why you play is more important than what you play! This is what keeps me coming back and that is what I look to celebrate with The Voyager’s Workshop.
So there you have it! This little back story is part of what got this website started. There’s more to it, of course, and I plan to cover the other bits in due time, including what started my design career and how comics and sequential art fit in all this.
Old School Tee
Since this first blog post is all about the origins of my passion for games, I wanted to bring your attention to this retro and old-school inspired design that you will find in the Dicing Monsters One Roll at a Time collection. It only exists in one variant for now but they are also other, colourful and modern, Dicing Monsters designs available.
This particular black and white artwork was inspired by a series of old school illustrations I made. They centred around the theme of dungeon crawling – a common practice among tabletop adventurers of fantasy settings – and were drawn in an old school inked style which I am very fond of. It felt like a good place to start as it hints back to the early days of role playing games and my own experiences as a gamer.
Please, have a look around the site, discover all of my launch products and spread the word if you like what you see!