Hey there and welcome to the first TTRPG Community interview! These are low key, prewritten interviews which are available to fill out on this page. If you are a part of the TTRPG space in almost any way at all, there should be something for you!
Today, we’re hearing from Penflower of Penflower Ink, a TTRPG artist and designer.
Please introduce yourself and the content you create!
Hello, I’m Penflower (or Tom Fummo) of Penflower Ink. I’m a full-time freelance artist and TTRPG designer. I do character art, commissions, publish RPG resources and art assets, and designed the Four Points RPG System. So far I’ve published 7 games based on the system and have started work on an 8th. I am also getting back into webcomics. I keep myself busy! My pronouns are he, they and sometimes she.
How did you get started in the art/design world? What motivated you to begin doing this for TTRPGs?
I’ve been drawing and making art for as long as I can remember, but I started doing it professionally in 2018. My first experiences with RPGs were the Fighting Fantasy books, followed by the big dragon game. I first started out doing RPG character portrait commissions and themed character sheets for fifth edition. Like a lot of people in this sphere, I eventually got dissatisfied by what D&D had to offer and started publishing homebrew content, then eventually my own game system. The indie TTRPG scene is incredible vibrant, varied, and filled with so many imaginative, skilled and supportive creators, and it’s honestly a blast to be a part of it.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
All sorts of places, really, but mostly cartoons, comics and the work of other artists (some of whom I am fortunate enough to call friends). I have a particular soft spot for really out-of-the-box character ideas and designs, and experimenting with colours and shading techniques.
What was the first TTRPG related piece you ever made? Are you still proud of it?
Officially, I think it would have been the 5E compatible printable booklet character sheet, which is still up on my store. I am still proud of it, but honestly more so of the various system agnostic resources I have made. Unofficially, it would be the various pieces of character art I did for my own RPG characters. I am also still proud of them, but I am also aware that my drawing style and skills have (thankfully) improved since then!
What’s your favourite thing about being an artist, mapmaker or designer within the TTRPG space?
I feel like this space, in particular the indie TTRPG space offers tremendous scope for creative experimentation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still happy to draw the odd dwarf cleric or high elf ranger, but if my skills as an artist have improved at all over the past five or six years, I can’t help but attribute it to trying out different styles and themes, inspired by the amazing variety of indie games out there. In the last three years alone, I have started using brush pens, more methods of digital and traditional shading, and explored genres I had previously never gotten into before, like cyberpunk and solarpunk.
AI generated art has made a huge impact on the community. As succinctly as possible, can you sum up your opinion of it?
The technology behind these tools is interesting and could have been useful had it not been entirely based on art theft. As it stands, these image generators (“AI” is little more than a marketing term, just it was for “hoverboards”) are deeply unethical and based on the contradictory assumption that art is both worth having but not worth actually making or enjoying. I was so disappointed to see many indie TTRPG creators use images generated by these machines that I decided to host the currently ongoing TTRPG Art Asset Jam on itch.io, which is meant to incentivize using open license, credited art made by actual human artists, supporting both artists and TTRPG designers on a small/no budget.
Do you play TTRPGs as well as create for them? What system is your favourite?
Since leaving the big dragon game behind I have mostly been playing (and working on) my own system. I have played and enjoyed the Cypher System, and I have an ever growing list of indie published systems and games that I want to try out though.
Are you a part of the LGBTQIA2S+, BIPOC, AAPI, Disabled or any other marginalised community?
I recently (last November) realised I am genderfluid, but I am still in the process of figuring out what that means for me.
What’s the next project people will see from you?
I’m working on a science fiction TTRPG based on Four Points, that will have options for both GM-less and GM play. It will involve running a space station, translating alien texts, and I’ve designed 20 alien species for it, with 20 more to go! It’s been really exciting to work on so far. I have also started making a webcomic that I will start publishing once I have completed the first chapter.
Shout out a fellow creator! Who in the TTRPG community inspires you? Why do you admire them/their work? Please provide a link to their website/social media.
There’s a few! Please check out the amazing work by Warren Kennedy (_anchorsarecool), Calvin Lin (calvinloveinternet), Ymia (https://linktr.ee/ymia), and Vierdz (vierdz). They are all incredibly skilled and make art that constantly inspires me.
Do you offer commissions? How can interested folks find out more information about this?
I do! You can find all the info and contact details here: https://www.penflower-ink.com/commissions-1
What’s your favourite book, TV show, or film?
Too many to list, but I really enjoy the Discworld books, Star Trek (Enterprise, Prodigy and Deep Space Nine), Lord of the Rings, Craig of the Creek and am currently getting into Farscape.
Which subject do you wish you knew more about?
Definitely computers and coding. I would love to be able to design a simple video game one day.
Where should folks go to find out more about you, and/or check out your work?
I recently left social media for my mental health and general better quality of life. My twitter, tumblr and Instagram are dormant but still up for archiving purposes (penflowerink). You can also find me on YouTube where I have published some actual play sessions and time lapse art process videos. The best way to keep seeing my work is by subscribing to my free newsletter The Penflower Post: penflowerink.substack.com
Disclaimer: The information and answers contained in the interview posted above represents the views and opinions of the interviewee only and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of myself (gothHoblin). The appearance of an interview on this website does not constitute an endorsement of the interviewee or their statements.