Behind the Curtain

A deep dive into a single alteration session with GM Quilic, who talks with us about Hepit, feature alterations, custom tattoos, and terrible color names.

Here’s the list of outrageous color words we discuss at the end of the episode.

Thanks to Wyrom and Brad/Eugenides for the incredible intro music.


[Music by Wyrom and Brad/Eugenides]

Milax:               Hey, everybody. This is Milax. In today’s episode, we will be doing a deep dive into a single alteration session. Back in April, I sat in and observed a full session with the merchant who specializes in custom tattoos and feature alterations. I wasn’t lucky enough to be spun, but I did get to sit down the next day with that GM to talk in-depth about what that work is like, how to be prepared for it, and how the players who are lucky enough to be spun manage to walk away so happy.

                        Custom features and tattoos do tend to make people really, really happy. If you’ve ever been curious to know how a great alter actually comes about, some expert advice on some of the more niche alteration work out there or what the dialog between players and a GM who really, really loves their work looks like, then this is the episode for you. With that, welcome to the 23rd episode of Town Square Central.

[“8 Bit Win!” Happy Victorious Game Music by HeatleyBros]

Milax:               Joining us on Town Square Central again today is GM Quilic who is back with us to talk about some fun tattoo and feature alter works. Quilic, thank you for joining us on TSC again.

Quilic:               I’m happy to be back.

Milax:               We are going to talk today about one of my favorite merchants in the game, which is Hepit. Hepit, I’ll let you explain the name and its pun-y nature in a second.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               Hepit does specifically tattoos and occasionally feature alter work. We’re going to be talking in particular about one session that you just recently did in — well, I guess we were in Firefly Villa, right? That’s your sort of spot.

Quilic:               Yeah. Yeah, and the Merchant Lounge of Firefly Villa.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Mainly, I mean Hepit does have a wagon, but it’s a little hard to get a wagon through a transporter, so.

Milax:               Yeah. You’ve got to really shrink it down. I want you to talk about how you as the GM got into the tattoo and feature alter biz. Hepit is pretty legendary for the high quality work that she does and that you do with her. I want you to talk about how you got into that and how you got good at it and then, also, how Hepit as a character sort of came to be because she has a pretty interesting roleplay approach that makes it fun for everyone who is there.

Quilic:               Well, you know, thank you for the wildly overblown praise. I appreciate it.

                        I’ll take a half step back. In real life, I’m somewhat of a tattoo aficionado. I don’t have anything wild as far as massive images or anything like that, but I’ve had a few and I really enjoy them. I liked them as an art form, and so my character in Gemstone has a few tattoos that I got from various tattoo merchants.

                        I told you in a previous podcast that I met my wife in-game and my wife has played off and on pretty much for as long as I have. She and I actually went to a tattoo session that was given with our characters and got a pair of the most amazing tattoos I had seen in-game. The merchant just killed it and I was blown away. I was like, that’s really spectacular work and that sort of got me hunting down tattoo artists, in-game.

                        It was like, “Oh, wow.” When I saw how well that came together, I was like, “Well, man, this is awesome,” so I would hunt down tattoo merchants whenever I could. This is all as a player. I managed to connect with probably five or six of the, I guess, more well-known tattoo merchants over the years and got some really, in my mind, impressive pieces on my characters. It was always kind of a — I don’t know if hobby is the right word. I have appreciated them quite a bit from my player days.

                        When I got brought on as a GM, that was one of the things I was very interested in learning how to do. It’s different from a regular alteration as far as getting permissions to do them and things like that. But that was still one of the things I tracked down pretty early on because it was something that I wanted to offer just because I’m a big fan.

                        Like we’ve talked about before, I’m a big fan of trying to bring experiences to players that really made an impact on me as a player. I had that impact of that first tattoo that I got, just being blown away by it. I loved it. I showed it off to everybody. I would interact with it, you know, like showing it off and things like that at every turn.

                        It really made a big impact on me. If I can give that experience to somebody else, then I’m just sort of paying that forward in a certain way. That’s something that I really wanted to be able to do.

Milax:               I will say, to your credit, whether you want to accept it or not, at every single Hepit session that I’ve been to, after spinning is over and whatever, everyone in the room is just sitting there like, “Oh, I’ve got one,” and showing off all the ones that they’ve got to each other as little, like, collector’s items.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               I think that you have succeeded with that to at least some extent.

Quilic:               Well, I’m very glad.

Milax:               Yeah. Anyway, you wanted to help other people experience that sort of rush of excitement about getting that work done.

Quilic:               Sure. Sure. It’s interesting because, when I was going to do my very first tattoo session, there was another GM who was doing tattoos, not super frequently, but a few times a month. I’m sorry, a few times a year; every few months. I very sheepishly approached them and was like, “Hey, could I tag along when you do your next session just to see kind of how it works?” Sort of do a ride-along.

They were very gracious and said, “Absolutely. Not a problem,” and so I did and I sat there. I didn’t say a word. I kind of watched.

                        Then that GM, after that the fact, was like, “What did you think?” and that kind of thing. Then they asked me. Well, you know, started, I guess, pop quizzing me, if you will. Started giving me — “Well, okay, this person asked for this. What would you have done?” What would you have put together for them?

                        I’m just like, “Uh…” because I was still very wet behind the ears. I wanted to impress everybody. From the GM side of things, I didn’t want to step on any toes.

Milax:               Right. You didn’t want to be seen as questioning the choices they had made, right?

Quilic:               Right. It’s like, “Um, well, okay,” and I just extemporaneously was like, “Well, I might have done this.” They were like, “That would’ve been great.”

Milax:               Yeah. [Laughter]

Quilic:               I’m like, oh, okay. So, that would be okay? Then we got into a little bit of a Q&A as to what. There’s an approach you have to take when you’re doing tattoos as far as in your designs and things like that. We kind of did some back and forth. They were really fantastic about it.

                        Then I went to get approval to run my own session. I got it, no problem, largely because of this other GM’s recommendation. They were like, this guy would probably be fine. We can let him go. I needed a merchant. If you’re going to do a merchanting service, you need a separate merchant.

                        I had the image in my head. I knew what I wanted from–stereotype is a bad word–the archetype.

Milax:               Conceptual.

Quilic:               Yeah, sort of. In my mind, Hepit is the very kind of surly sort of quasi goth. She works at a tattoo parlor. She loves the art of it. She just hates dealing with the people.

Milax:               Right. It would be great if she didn’t have to put the tattoos on people.

Quilic:               Right.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               But she loves doing the work and she’s really good at it, but she just has no patience for the person aspect of it. Let me tell you. If she could knock somebody out and put the tattoo on them, she’d be thrilled.

Milax:               [Laughter]

Quilic:               That would be her ideal way of approaching this. I knew that’s sort of what I — was the — and the reason I wanted to do that was because, like I said, as a player, I have frequented all these other tattoo artists and everybody’s tattooist has a certain style, you know, has a different personality, obviously. I didn’t know anybody who had sort of that kind of surly approach. I liked the dichotomy of that. It’s somebody who is going to be doing, hopefully, really beautiful art for somebody and just had no patience for them.

Milax:               Just a huge cold jerk, yeah. [Laughter]

Quilic:               Yes, it’s like, “Just shut up. Don’t talk to me. Try and keep the noise down.” You know. “Just leave me alone and let me do this tattoo for you.”

Milax:               I think I was actually at a session that Hepit did maybe last year some time where she ended it early because I think someone was just being a jerk or I don’t know. But anyway, it was just like, “No, I’m done,” and left. I was like, that’s a great exit right there. That’s an in-character exit that really fits.

Quilic:               Well, I mean Hepit has said from the beginning. She has a few rules. They’re on her placard. She makes a big deal about them. The first one is that this is art. You can’t rush art. She’s not going to rush any customer. It takes as long as it takes.

That was out of character for me because I’d been hunting down tattoo artists. I had gotten some wonderful work that took a long time and it would make me feel awkward. People behind me were kind of sighing or making comments or whatever. I also got a couple of ones that I wasn’t all that thrilled with because I tried to hurry because I felt bad.

                        I wanted to make this rule to where anybody who came to my tattoo — I mean I’m shouting from the rooftops, “This takes as long as it takes! I’m not going to rush anybody.” That’s her rule number one, always. It sort of fits with her personality. This is art.

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               Number two is always, “Look. I’m working with limited time and limited patience. I’m done when I run out of either one.”

Milax:               Yeah, it’s a good line. I like that.

Quilic:               [Laughter] It is only once that I’ve had to invoke the second clause. The reason for the time limits is because I get fried doing those.

Milax:               No, of course.

Quilic:               Pretty easily.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Once I hit about the two-hour mark, hour and a half to two-hour mark, my writing starts to suffer.

Milax:               Yeah, your work diminishes and it’s just not worth you sticking around, right?

Quilic:               Yeah. It’s a fairly intensive — at least the way I do it — a fairly intensive, creative process. I get pretty fried by the end of it.

Milax:               Yeah. Yeah.

Quilic:               That’s the reason for rule number two. [Laughter] Again, it fits with her personality, so I like it.

Milax:               Her name, of course — her name, of course, has a deeply, deeply personal meaning to you.

Quilic:               [Snickering]

Milax:               I haven’t actually released the second part of the names episode in which we will discuss your approach to naming characters but, spoiler alert, it has to do with hepatitis.

Quilic:               You know, it didn’t necessarily start out to be that, but I was thinking of — again, I have this mental image of this employee of a tattoo parlor, like I just sort of outlined, roughly. I’m thinking about just terms related to a tattoo parlor, just completely wild, thrown out there.

Milax:               Yeah. Needle….


Quilic:               Anything we can think of. Exactly.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Most of them, I’m thinking of, like, variations on those terms and just trying to — questing around vaguely in the blackness trying to find some sort of inspiration.

Milax:               You settled on–

Quilic:               Well. [Laughter] I was like, Hepit Titus.

Milax:               Oh, my gosh. [Laughter]

Quilic:               I’m like, that’s terrible. That’s terrible. But–

Milax:               But Hepit.

Quilic:               Hepit isn’t bad.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               And most people, at least that I’ve heard, have not made the connection, so I was like, okay.

Milax:               Until now.

Quilic:               Until now.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Thank you for that.

Milax:               You’re welcome.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               We can’t talk about Hepit without talking about the origin of the name. I love that that’s where that came from so much.

Quilic:               I’m horrible at naming things. It’s my athlete’s foot.

Milax:               Yeah. [Laughter] For everybody who knows who some of Quilic’s other merchants are, you now have to go try to figure out what the secret meaning behind their names is. Again, spoiler alert, it’s usually pretty obvious.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               More on that in a future episode. All right, so Hepit got into the tattoo work and sort of established her identity and approach. Then when did the feature alteration come into that?

Quilic:               Oh, goodness. As far as when, I’m not sure. Probably six, seven months ago, something like that. I do my best to keep an eye out for people asking for things, like on the officials, through Discord, things like that. If I see somebody say, “Hey, it would be really great if we had service X,” well, 90% of the time that’s not something I can personally do anything about, at least not without a whole lot of approvals and really go about it the right way.

                        Somebody was talking about how they can never get a feature alteration. Well, as part of my clearance for doing tattoos, I’m also cleared to do feature alterations. They’re sort of part and parcel as far as that goes.

                        I’m like, well, I can offer feature alterations. I’ll combine that with Hepit. Hepit is already, if you will, body modification.

Milax:               Right. They’re like birds of a feather, right? Yeah.

Quilic:               Yeah. I’m like, well, I can offer that. Sure. So, I added it to the services list and it’s been fairly popular.

Milax:               In the most recent session that we were just talking about that I sat in on, is the ratio like most people went tattoos, most people went feature alterations? How does that roughly work out?

Quilic:               It varies from session-to-session. This session, there were more feature alterations than there were tattoos this time around.

Milax:               Okay. Interesting. I actually got a feature alter during the merchant palooza. I’m super happy with it. It was great. Loved it. It’s the first one that I’ve ever done and I was furious when I was waiting in line with all the other people hoping to get spun trying to read the feature alteration policy to find out, like–

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               [Laughter] –how it works exactly and what I can do.

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               It’s really complicated. Before we get into specifics here, give us a quick overview of what the tattoo alter guidelines and feature alter guidelines are. Then also talk with us about your personal preferences for how to do that work and what you’re looking for.

Quilic:               Okay. First and foremost, thank you very much for being one of the few people who actually does the research ahead of time about what’s allowed.

Milax:               Well, I don’t know if I would call it research. I would say, like, frantically skimming over it trying not to look like an idiot.

Quilic:               You know, and again–

Milax:               We’ll call it research.

Quilic:               Thank you for at least doing that.

Milax:               That’s a kind of research. That’s a kind of research. Yeah.

Quilic:               [Laughter] Sure. For those who don’t know, the alter verb in-game is literally chock full of all kinds of dos and don’ts and how to approach these various things. Specifically, talking about feature alterations, there are 11 articles about it describing what’s appropriate, what’s not, and things like that. That’s a really great place to start.

                        Sort of delving a little bit into what you were talking about for my personal preferences, it’s funny, in a way, because I’m sort of a polar opposite when it comes to tattoos versus feature alterations. For tattoos, I love it when somebody comes up and goes, “I’ve got this very vague idea. Do the best you can with it.” I love that.

                        For feature alterations, I wish people would go, “Look. I read the article. I understand that this is the rule. This is what I’m asking for. I think it’s within the rules. Can you please backcheck me and then see if we can make it work?” Thank you. It’s almost literally the polar opposite. I tell people all the time and it’s actually on Hepit’s sign that getting a feature alteration is basically an exercise in saying no for 15 minutes until we find a place that actually falls within guidelines.

Milax:               You prefer the sort of open-ended approach to someone saying, “Hey, I really want to get this nature-themed tattoo about leaves,” and then sort of working through that because there is so much space that you can work with. Whereas the feature alterations are more restrictive.

Quilic:               Absolutely. This is purely conjecture on my part. I think part of the issue is that when you go to get your dagger altered, you want it to look unique. You want it to look special. That’s really easy to do with an item because the world is your oyster. You can do whatever you want, obviously within guidelines. But it’s very easy to come up with something unique and special. Similarly, with tattoos, you can come up with a completely unique tattoo without too much trouble.

                        Features, it’s really hard. There’s only so much you can do. The guidelines are fairly restrictive, like you said, and they’re all right there under the alter verb. It’s hard to be truly unique and I think that’s the biggest thing that people want. You don’t want to be walking around with the same dagger as somebody else and, if you’re getting feature alterations, you’d really kind of prefer not to walk around with the same eyes as somebody else.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               If it’s going to be something special.

Milax:               You can’t get a third eye added when you’re doing a feature alter.

Quilic:               You can’t get a third eye added, unfortunately.

Milax:               Dang it.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               Yeah. [Laughter] And no cat eyes.

Quilic:               And no cat eyes.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               You know that’s an extremely common request is cat or cat-like.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               You can always tell the people who have read the guidelines but are trying to find a way around it.

Milax:               Right. They’ll use vague synonyms. Yeah.

Quilic:               Yeah. Yeah, and it’s like, “No. No, that’s–“

Milax:               Yeah. A for effort, though.

Quilic:               Exactly. You know. More power to you. But it all kind of comes back under Hepit’s rule one. It takes as long as it takes.

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               I want you guys to be happy with this work more than anything. Obviously, like a GALD session, I want you to be happy with what you get. You’re getting my best effort. But for these, I realize that you can still carve off a tattoo and get a new one if you don’t like it and that kind of thing. I kind of view them as a little more permanent and a little more personal and I really want this to be something that you enjoy.

Milax:               Well, you’re trying to recreate that experience that you had, right, with your wife. Yeah.

Quilic:               Exactly. Exactly.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               If I have to take 15 minutes telling somebody, “No, you can’t have feline eyes either,” then as long as they’re happy at the end of the day, then so be it.

Milax:               Yeah. Well, and I will say, I talked to several people while I was sitting in this room watching all the work unfold for others. I talked to a bunch of people and said, “Hey, I’m going to be doing this episode. Would you be willing to talk about the work that you’re getting done?” Most people said yes.

                        A number of them said that they came with one idea in mind and had to be talked away from that feature alteration idea because it wasn’t allowed under policy. They all said that they got there in a way that they were really happy with, so kudos to you for being patient with them.

Quilic:               Well, that’s good. I’m not trying to shut anybody down. Some people — if somebody comes to me with something that’s totally outlandish, I try and find a piece of it that might work. It’s like, “Okay, look. You know 90% of that can’t happen and here’s why.”

I give them a direct link. Here’s the policy that says why that won’t work, but this little piece of it, I get that it’s not the whole thing but maybe we can do something with this. They’re normally pretty receptive to that. In the past, that’s been a good approach.

I do want people to go away happy. I’ve had a few instances where, after working with somebody back and forth for a little while, I’ve had them sort of metaphorically throw up their hands and say, “Never mind. I’ll just pass,” or they’ll just leave or whatever. That stinks.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               I don’t want that experience for them or me. I’d much rather everybody come out of this happy.

Milax:               Yeah. Well, we’re going to try and talk through a few of these stories that I managed to get from people so that I can sort of share what the player told me their part of the experience was and then what you can tell me sort of what it was like on the other side of the curtain as Oz.

Quilic:               Sure.

Milax:               The first person to get spun was Tabooboo [phonetic, 00:21:27] and her player told me that she came with a very — she wanted to create this Denar character that she was trying to make look like a Denar character. She was trying to get her eyes to be made alluring or captivating, is what she told me.

Quilic:               [Laughter] Yep.

Milax:               I know — I don’t even know the policy and I know you can’t do that.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               She said that when she was talking with Hepit that Hepit was very, very patient and that she knew that there was a big policy problem but that Hepit kept explaining it and giving ideas and explaining what she wasn’t getting and really took her time to explain until she did understand why what she was asking for was a problem. Then, in the end, didn’t even get her eyes done at all. Ended up going with getting her lips done instead.

Quilic:               True.

Milax:               That’s what I know about that experience. What can you color in there?

Quilic:               Well, she was absolutely right. She was asking for something that was far too subjective. Subjective is when you’re doing these types of alterations or tattoos, subjective is something you’ve got to be really careful with because alluring to a half krolvin, probably not.

Milax:               Yeah. [Laughter]

Quilic:               You know?

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               It’s like, I can’t give you alluring eyes because what if you’re missing one of them?

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               That’s a thing.

Milax:               An alluring eye.

Quilic:               Right. All this is outlined in the guidelines. In this instance, like she said, she ended up getting her lips done, which is another fairly common approach. It was good, I think, from her point of view that she had an overall look she was going for. She didn’t come in just dead set on; I need my eyes to look like this image I have in my head.

                        She was like, “No, this is the overall look that I’m trying to craft for this character.” When she realized that what she really wanted for her eyes wasn’t within policy, wasn’t something we could do, we had something we could pivot to that still made her happy.

Milax:               Yeah. Well, and I think that it’s tough, I imagine, to get this thing that you have a clear vision for and to be told, “No, you can’t do that,” and to still come away happy, that can be tough to do.

Quilic:               Absolutely, but that’s, again–

Milax:               That’s the job.

Quilic:               I do my best to try and make that happen.

Milax:               Yeah. One of the other people that I talked to was Blacksail who is really leaning into his character’s name here. He wants to try to go for the Captain Salazar look from Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s the sort of undead watery ghost guy that has black cracks on his face. Anyway, he told me he was going for perpetual floating hair or black cracks on his face.

He expressed doubt to me. This is before he did his session. He was waiting. He was not sure whether or not he would be able to make it happen.

Then he told me afterward. He was like, “As expected, it was a no-go,” so he ended up settling on a hairstyle that made it look like it was floating around his face. He sent it to me, and it reads as, “He has collar length lank, basalt sheened hair, and a chaotic tussle around his face.”

Quilic:               He came to me and he sent me this picture, the same picture he sent you, I’m sure. He’s like, “I’m really trying to get this look.” I’m looking at it going, [laughter] “Dude. I can’t crack your face open. That’s not going to happen.”

                        Kind of like I was talking about before. I took this overall thing. I was like, “Well, okay, a lot of that is just outside policy. I can’t do it. But maybe we can find a way to make this portion of it work.” The description that you just read off is where we ended up and he seemed very pleased with it, but that’s just me trying to find a way.

                        I’m looking at this image going, “Could I possibly craft in some way to get close?” You know I did the best I could. [Laughter]

Milax:               Well, I think that if you read that, I think you did a good job because I think if you read that, it just reads as like messy hair, right?

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               But if you read it with that image in mind, it also fits that image.

Quilic:               Absolutely.

Milax:               Without saying that it’s floating, you know.

Quilic:               Absolutely. That’s part of — no alteration, no single alteration you get, be it a tattoo or a feature or an item, should really craft the whole vibe of your character. It’s a piece of the puzzle. You know what I mean? This hopefully, is a complementary piece that will work as he further develops the look of his character.

Milax:               Yeah. I also asked him to sort of characterize the back and forth. He also described Hepit as very polite and patient. He said that he gave some really far-out ideas and that you reeled him back in.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               It’s sort of what he expects from merchants that there are rules. He’s asking for this thing that he has a clear vision for. He just sort of appreciates people working with him to get him to the place that he was. He did say the experience was very good and I love the design that she came up with.

Quilic:               Excellent.

Milax:               Another person who I spoke with, and I hope this name right, Pietra, and Pietra said that she’s gotten a ton of tattoos from Hepit and that she just sort of trusts the approach and the work. She said that — I asked her before session and she said, “This time I’m just going to give her an idea and let her go with it. All of my other ones have been all my words, so we’ll see what happens.”

                        She said that she whispered, “What I’d like is a kind of soft watercolor tattoo of seaweed. It’s circling my hips and maybe trailing down my thigh. Greenish-blue, something like that. Artistic license if you don’t mind.”

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               Which I appreciate because that is exactly the approach that I take to alter work where I just say to someone, like, “Hey, here’s an idea. Are you cool?” I feel bad asking for it, but I’m like, “Are you cool with just making this good?”

Quilic:               See, and different merchants handle that very differently. I love that. It’s like, “You know what? Great. I can take that and run with it.”

                        The way I do tattoos, and I don’t know if this is a unique approach or not for other tattooists in the game. But when somebody says to me, you know, that little snippet that she gave you, that’s what she whispered to me, I get a mental snapshot. I can see that, and to include details that she didn’t give me. I just get–

                        It’s like, okay. This is what pops into mind. Then I just describe that as best I can. It’s very visual. It’s a very visual process for me, for all that it’s a text game. She whispered that to me, gave me that rough outline, and I went, “Oh, well, okay. I know what that looks like.” Then it’s just a matter of crafting it in such a way that it looks impressive.

                        Again, there are different people looking for different things. I will say, as much as I enjoy that approach and I’ve had some people really, really, really enjoy what came out of it, I’ve had a few where I’m completely missed.

Milax:               Right. Right.

Quilic:               I went for a completely different vibe than they did because it’s all just, again, I get this snapshot of an image that pops into my head. I’ll flesh it out a little bit or things like that, but I’ve had ones that were completely monochrome and they didn’t ask for that but that’s just what I saw in my head when they were like, “Hey, I want this.” I’d be like, “Oh, that would look really great as sort of this sort of very stylistic, monochrome, heavy blacks and grays.” I’d put it all together and I’m looking at it going, “That looks really great.” I show it to them and they’re like, “No!” [Laughter]

Milax:               [Laughter] Yeah. You completely missed the market here.

Quilic:               It’s like, “Oh, okay. Well, do you want to give me a little more information?” Again, it always goes back to rule one. I’m willing to work with you until we get it right.

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               Go back to the drawing board. But in this case, she ended up pretty happy with it, from what I heard.

Milax:               Yeah, well, so she ended up with some inked diaphanous seaweed in delicate pastel tones and the show, which I just think is lovely and I’m going to read it, is the hazy lines of this masterwork — also, hat tip to you — hat tip to you for describing your own work as a masterwork.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               The hazy lines of this masterwork are clearly intentional and appear to have been achieved through minute stippling and light watercolor tones. The overall image is one of a length of diaphanous seaweed, which trails across each hip bone in a gentle wave, wrapping around itself in a haphazard knot and then trailing down the outside of one thigh. The palette used leans heavily into gentle blue and greens, intermingled with pale yellows and pink streaks to give the image startling depth.

                        Which is just a beautiful, beautiful image and you should feel proud of it.

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               She wrote after sharing that with me, “This is far beyond what I dreamed of. I’m not going to design my tattoos anymore. Just ask her to do it.”

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               It’s pretty high praise, you know?

Quilic:               I agree.

Milax:               You should feel good about that.

Quilic:               That’s what I’m going for.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Like we talked about, that’s my desired result.

Milax:               Yeah, I’m also going for high praise, so people should give me more of that more often.

Quilic:               Well, sure.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               One just sort of note since we’re talking about that. I’m looking at it here. I pulled it up as we’re talking about it. If you read through it, it’s all about subjectivity, right? There are terms in here that sort of taken individually, I say, “Which trails across each hip bone in a gentle wave.”

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Well, maybe a gentle wave looks different to you than it does to me.

Milax:               Well, and even clearly intentional, right? Who is to say that this is–

Quilic:               Right.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Right, so there is still some subjectivity to this, but there is a line. You know what I mean? If most people can look at this image and see the hazy lines, you can look at it and go, “Well, clearly that’s intentional.”

Milax:               Right. Right.

Quilic:               It’s not — somebody didn’t just mess up and do that. But the way I state it, the terms that I use to state it are more subjective than necessarily I needed to.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Like I just said, the hazy lines. You look at that on a tattoo and go, well, clearly that was intentional. But for me to say it that way, it sort of straddles the line a little bit.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Which is why I like it when people just sort of let me have free rein. They describe, “This is roughly what I’m going for,” because there is a little bit of toeing the line that goes into it.

Milax:               Yeah. Another person that I spoke with was Sola who told me that her character’s personal symbol is the scorpion and wanted to get a full arm scorpion tattoo, which is badass and awesome.

Quilic:               If I can pause you right here.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Just as an anecdote, that is a very common request. People want a sleeve.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               People want to get a tattoo sleeve and, in a lot of cases, that’s hard to do. That’s hard to manage with the actual system of tattooing. It’s a hard thing to accomplish.

                        For people who are considering bringing somebody out to, like, Hepit or anybody else to get a sleeve, be aware that you’re going to have to be a little flexible in order for us to get you something close. I think we did okay with this one, as we’ll talk about.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               But that’s a common request and it’s hard to manage. You have to get creative with it.

Milax:               She said that she asked for — her initial ask was for an inked black scorpion extending from the pincers at her shoulder to the stinger at her hand. She knew that that might not be possible and that the final design was an inked massive scorpion completely obscuring the skin on her arm.

                        She gave me the show, which I’ll share. She said that she loved it and that the initial design was red and orange and she said that she’d rather it be black because that’s her character’s color and that you then adjusted the colors. This is sort of what she came up with. After we share this, you can tell us sort of how you went from her original ask to what you came up with.

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               The show that we got here is, “This work of art,” again, hat tip for you, sir.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               This work of art is startling in both its realism and scale.

Quilic:               I’m going to pause you here and I’m going to take–

Milax:               [Laughter]

Quilic:               I’m going to take minor issue with your needling me over this work of art. For a lot of these, you’ll notice in a lot of these the name of it starts out with “an inked.” That’s intentional because that gives people that noun.

                        For instance, in this case, the noun is scorpion. When she goes to show it to somebody, she says, “Show Milax my scorpion.” That’s so much cooler than, “Show Milax my tattoo.”

Milax:               My tattoo. Yeah.

Quilic:               If you’ve got three or four tattoos, it’s like, “Show Milax my third tattoo.”

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Or whatever. It’s very important that in the show and in the short description it’s clear that this is a tattoo.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               I have to have something right off the bat saying, “Look, this is not real,” because the rest of it, as you’ll see when we read through it–

Milax:               Right. It looks like an actual scorpion.

Quilic:               Right, so I’ve got to get that disclaimer out there.

Milax:               Well, also, I’ve just kind of assumed. I didn’t even think about that. I’ve just assumed that you always did that to make it clear that it’s a high-quality tattoo right off the bat, right?

Quilic:               Well, there’s that aspect of it, too.

Milax:               Yeah. Yeah.

Quilic:               I mean that’s — you know.

Milax:               You want to look at your tattoo and think, like, this is a good tattoo.

Quilic:               Exactly.

Milax:               Anyway, anyway, we’ve got this work of art is startling both in its realism and scale. Crafted of a clever blend of black and silver hues, the glossy carapace of this magnificent creature is on full display. The wickedly sharp stinger is curled into an aggressive arc at the back of the hand while, at the other end, symmetrical razer edged pincers lie on either side of the shoulder. Throughout the segmented natural armor of the monstrosity is highlighted by delicate use of shadowy grays and reds creating surprising depth.

                        You can talk about this in a second. She said, “It’s my second session with Hepit and I found her, or rather her GM, is very interested in making sure the player is satisfied with what they get. The GM is an excellent writer and highly creative. It’s no surprise why Hepit is so sought after.”

Quilic:               That’s–

Milax:               I know the praise makes you uncomfortable but tell us how you went from her original ask to where she got.

Quilic:               Okay, so this is another instance of where I get an image just right of the bat. She asked for a scorpion sleeve, essentially, is what she was after. It’s like, well, okay, right off the bat, I can’t do that. From a mechanical standpoint, I can’t really do that.

                        Then it becomes, okay, well, what can I do? We can put a tattoo on her arm. There are locations. You can find them on the wiki that you can get a tattoo on. Those work mechanically so that, if you put on something with long sleeves, it’s covered. It actually covers up the tattoo. People with big tattoos on their backs, a lot of times they don’t get seen. That’s more realistic.

                        It has to go, generically, on the arm. When you look at somebody in this instance, she has an inked massive scorpion completely obscuring the skin. Whatever that phrase is or description is, it’s going to be appended by “on her arm.” I’m playing with that a little bit here. I’m leaning into that a little bit.

                        The actual description, when you look at her, reads, “An inked massive scorpion completely obscuring the skin on her arm.” Now, that’s cheating a little bit because that’s what the system provides, so I’m able to. That’s one of the ways I can sort of generate a sleeve without actually being able to do it.

Milax:               Yeah, it’s clever.

Quilic:               It’s experience. I saw some — full disclosure. I saw somebody else do it and I was like–

Milax:               Well, hey–

Quilic:               –that’s really smart.

Milax:               That’s how most learning happens, right?

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Initially, I went with red and yellows because, in my brain, the image that popped up with the scorpion. The stereotypical scorpion, in my head at least, is something out of the original Dragon Warrior game for NES. It’s this big red thing….


Milax:               Wow. That’s a throwback right there, but yes.

Quilic:               Well, yes. That’s sort of the image that first popped into my head. That’s what a scorpion looks like, especially if you’re going to do a big one. I know scorpions are pretty tiny. She wants one that covers her whole arm. That’s going to be a mighty big scorpion.

                        Well, you want it to be realistic. If this is something that is important to her character, or I should say I’ll even take it out of just her character. Generally speaking, unless somebody gives me an indication otherwise, and I’ve done quite a few joke tattoos where the person was very clearly looking for something silly, but by and large people would prefer their tattoo to be realistic. It’s more of a work of art, so I tend to err on the side of that.

                        It’s like, I just start describing it. In this case, I went from one end to the other, starting with what’s most likely or what’s likely the most visible. In my mind, I’m like, okay, if she’s showing this to somebody, or I should say if somebody notices it on her, the first thing you’re probably going to notice is the hand, especially because we’re talking about a fairly large image that’s going up the entire arm and it might not be super clear as to exactly what it is because if you can envision a scorpion laid out across an arm, a lot of it is just going to be sort of segmented carapaces. It might not be super clear exactly what you’re looking at, but the tail is going to be very distinctive, so that’s where I started.

                        It’s like, okay, we’re starting with the stinger. From there, your eye would naturally trail up to follow. But from the stinger, you’re going to kind of know what you’re talking about and what you’re looking at, so I don’t have to be super descriptive working your way up the arm. I can actually then describe the segmented armor and the carapace and things like that moving up because you kind of already have an idea of what you’re seeing all the way up.

Then just thinking about it logistically, it’s like, okay, this scorpion is outlaid across the outside of her arm, clearly, because if the stinger is on the back of the hand, we’re talking about going up the outside of the arm and up to the shoulder. Well, just picturing a scorpion in that position, well, where do the pincers go? Well, the pincers kind of flare out to the side, so naturally they’d be sort of framing the shoulder. All I’m doing is describing what I’m seeing. [Laughter] Basically.

Milax:               Yeah, well, it’s working. I think that Sola’s sort of parting note that she wrote to me, I think, is something that I really agree with and I think that part of the reason that I like talking with you in particular about alteration of any kind is that I think that this is sort of at the heart of your approach. She wrote, “There is something special about getting an alter designed by a merchant. It’s a little bit like getting a gift.”

                        I think that that is a good way of thinking about it. Now, I think that all of my favorite work that I have gotten done has been me going to someone who is willing to play the game and has the patience, the energy, and the creative juice left to play the game.

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               Like, hey, I’d like to do something like this. Here’s what I’ve come up with. Please, though, put your own twist on it and do what you think makes sense.

                        Every single time, what they have come up with is better than what I was workshopping for weeks and weeks and weeks and trying to get perfect.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               I think that sometimes just getting a fresh perspective and a fresh expert perspective really can elevate things.

Quilic:               Well, the word you used there, “expert,” that’s debatable.

Milax:               Well, expert by virtue of practice at least, right?

Quilic:               Yes, that’s the thing.

Milax:               You’ve had–

Quilic:               It’s like if you come to me and say, “I want a cobalt blue long sword,” and I’m like, “I have done 12 of those already.”

Milax:               Right.

Quilic:               That’s not nearly as cool as you think. But I did one for somebody two years ago where they used this other word for it and what if I put that in there and see how that looks? It’s not a new word. I didn’t invent it. I’m not introducing it to Gemstone for the first time ever. It’s just something that I’ve seen that you would have never seen because the person doesn’t play anymore or anything like that or whatever. I’d be like, what if I can put this in there? That’s going to make it special for you.

That’s a lot of what I do. I take bits and pieces that I’ve seen or done for other people and I’m like, “Oh, this would go good here.” I’m just sort of building my toolbox to be able to assemble things like that.

Milax:               Yeah. Well, and I don’t think that that diminishes the work in any way. That’s just what it is. That’s what any creative work or any accomplishment at all is.

                        There’s that saying, and I don’t know who said it, but if I have accomplished anything it’s because I stood on the shoulders of giants. Right?

Quilic:               Sure.

Milax:               That anything that anybody does, and I think in particular creative work and that’s what this is, what you’re doing, what anybody who is doing alterations is doing. You’re of course going to be building on your past experiences and things you’ve read and things you’ve seen and old NES games that you’ve played.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               All of those things. You know like the GM who trained you or whatever.

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               All of those things come into play when you’re doing work because how could they not.

Quilic:               Absolutely. But that’s what I mean by — that’s why, in my personal opinion, I think it’s good to sort of hand it to a GM and go, “Look, I’d kind of like this long sword to be blue.”

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               “Can you take it from there?” because they’ve got a much wider — and I’ve seen it go badly the other way, too, where a player will hand me something. We’re getting off into regular alterations a little bit.

Well, no, I’ve had people come to me and say, I’ve got my tattoo already written. I know exactly what I want and here it is.” They send me this wall of text. I don’t mean that as a pejorative.

Milax:               Yeah, they got it all worked out.

Quilic:               They’ve clearly put a lot of effort into this. They clearly spent a lot of time on Google looking up random synonyms for things, trying to find a way to make it really special. I go through it and it’s like, “I’m really sorry but a lot of this can’t work.”

                        I’m very patient with them and I explain this is why and this is why and this is why. But in those cases, I’m like, if you would have just come to me with, you know, “I want a cat on my arm,” then I probably could have come up with something that would have made you happier.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               But you know I’m happy to do it either way. I really am. At the end of the day, I just want somebody to be happy. If they come to me with their design and I can do it with very minor tweaks or do it even just verbatim for whatever reason and they’re just as happy, fine. Fine by me. But that’s not always the case.

Milax:               I want to show you something that Nomit (phonetic, 00:45:00) shared with me the other day. It’s a list of unusual color words.

Quilic:               Okay.

Milax:               I don’t think that the vast majority of these should ever be used–

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               –in tattoo design. We actually should probably share these as, like, if you’re thinking of using these words in your alter, don’t.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               My favorite on this list is smaragdine.

Quilic:               Smaragdine.

Milax:               Smaragdine, which apparently means–

Quilic:               Yeah.

Milax:               –emerald green.

Quilic:               Sure, it does.

Milax:               Smaragdine.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               I want to get a smaragdine longsword soon.

Quilic:               Yeah. See, or zinnober. Zinnober is good too. I like that.

Milax:               They have violet on here. Violet is not a crazy color name.

Quilic:               No. No. Yeah, so if you came to me and said, “I want a smaragdine,” I would Google it. Frequently, when I’m doing any kind of work, I’ve got a window open for Google because I need it.

                        A mildly interesting anecdote, especially when doing this kind of thing, I’m colorblind.

Milax:               Oh, I didn’t– Really?!

Quilic:               Not completely, but blues and greens are completely a wash to me.

Milax:               I never would have guessed….

Quilic:               I can’t tell blues and greens.

Milax:               Wow.

Quilic:               It’s kind of ironic to me that I can do these colorful tattoos. It’s just a word exercise, kind of, at that point for me, if I’m doing anything blue or green, because it all looks the same on my end.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               That’s part of the reason why I have to Google.

Milax:               Huh.

Quilic:               People give me these color names and I’m like, I don’t know what that is.

Milax:               I’ve never seen it!

Quilic:               [Laughter] Sort of. I would Google it and I’d go, okay. Google says that’s of or relating to emeralds or having the color of emeralds. I’d go, well, you know, we kind of already have something like that.

Milax:               Yeah, right. We don’t need to go that far.

Quilic:               No. Emerald green is a thing. It’s used fairly regularly. I get that it’s maybe a little common, so let’s find another way to tweak it to make it unique for you. I’d see if I can massage them out of using that word. [Laughter]

Milax:               Another good one here is fuliginous.

Quilic:               I saw fuliginous.

Milax:               Fuliginous. Oh, here’s another good one. Albugineous. The next time that I win a tattoo design from Hepit–

Quilic:               Yeah?

Milax:               I’m going to give you this list and I’m going to say, you need to use as many words from here as possible.

Quilic:               Excellent. You’re going to end up with a puce–


Quilic:               –teal–

Milax:               Violet tattoo.

Quilic:               Wallflower tattoo.

Milax:               Wallflower is good too. Anyway, I really love that list. I thought you’d appreciate that.

Quilic:               That’s pretty good.

Milax:               Is there anything else that you want to cover in terms of tattoo and feature alteration work?

Quilic:               I would say, generally speaking, for me, because like we’ve talked about, I really want to give people the best sort of result/experience that I can. I think that that’s so much easier to do with tattoos. My personal preference, I prefer doing tattoos over feature alterations. I’m happy to offer feature alterations because that’s something that people clearly enjoy.

                        With regards to Hepit, though, I’m probably going to, in subsequent months, have a few sessions that are only going to be tattoos just because I kind of miss doing them at the volume that I was doing them before. I’ll be very clear about it. People won’t be able to misunderstand or, you know, I’ll be clear….


Milax:               It’ll be hard for them to misunderstand.

Quilic:               Well, yes. Keep an eye out for that if you’re looking to come out for a tattoo. I would say, keep an open mind. Really, that’s kind of the end of it. When you come to me with a design, be aware that I might have to manipulate it or I might have some ideas that might be able to get you maybe closer than you thought your design would get.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               Just keep an open mind about it.

Milax:               I will say, too, and I know that — yeah, you feel however you want to, but every single person that I talk to shared with me that they appreciated you meeting them halfway or, I guess, every person that I talked to, appreciated that you were patient. You were explaining to them things that they weren’t getting or why they couldn’t do this thing that they were set on. Everybody came away happy, even the people that didn’t get what they came in thinking that they were going to. I think that that is a testament to your approach.

Quilic:               Awesome.

Milax:               I feel like is a really great one, so you should feel good about the work that you do. I think that you are creating that same experience that you had years ago with your wife for other people, which is what you set out to do. Cheers to that.

Quilic:               Excellent. Like I said, that’s the goal.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               I will say, just as a little aside, I thoroughly enjoy being able to be very patient with people and very polite and things like that through whispers with Hepit while, on the outside, I’m scowling at them and telling them to not whine so much and things like that. I enjoy the dichotomy of that on an ongoing basis.

Milax:               My favorite thing to do with Hepit while she’s intently working is to find ways to mildly annoy her.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               And get like death stares or threats. That’s my favorite thing to do. I try not to do it too much. I try to only do it enough that it’s not going to actually distract and just mildly annoy. I hope that I’m able to accomplish mild annoyance.

Quilic:               You do it very well

Milax:               Thank you.

Quilic:               Almost like you were born to it.

Milax:               Yeah, I think that I found my skill set and I’m really leaning into it.

Quilic:               One of my favorite moments is invariably through — invariably over the course of a session, some bubbly character will hug Hepit.

Milax:               Ooh.

Quilic:               That always creates a moment. Now, I could easily set her demeanor to cold, which would prevent that, but it’s always a fun little moment to have her sort of like freeze in place.

Milax:               Yeah. [Laughter]

Quilic:               Back up a few steps and be like, “You stay over there.”

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               I’m staying over here. We’re not — we don’t need to bring any more contact into this.

Milax:               Yeah. The needle will do the touching.

Quilic:               Exactly.

Milax:               Yeah.

Quilic:               That works out well for everybody.

Milax:               Yeah.


Milax:               All right, so note to self for future reference. Find some excuse for physical contact with Hepit.

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               And then watch the fireworks.


Milax:               Um, yeah. Well, Quilic, thanks, as always, for taking the time to explain this part of your work. It’s awesome. I really love it. All these other players really love it. I hope that I can be lucky enough to get a Hepit Spin Win soon, as I’m sure many other people do.

Quilic:               Excellent. Thank you for having me. It’s always a good time. Yeah, hopefully, the needle spins your way.

[“8 Bit Onward!” Upbeat Adventure Game Music by HeatleyBros]

Milax:               Many thanks to Quilic for coming on the show today. Also, a special shout out to [names spelled phonetically, 00:51:42] Arianiss, Asben, Ephrup, Lucktar, Licel, Chris, Warclaidh, Helman, Darren, Heather Anne, Lexbubba, The TownCrier, Drea, Zorus, Altheren, Conrash, and Seomanthe for being patrons of the show.

                        If you enjoy Town Square Central and want to support it, you should consider becoming a patron on Patreon. You can do it for as little as a buck or as much as you want. There’s a link to the Patreon page in today’s episode notes.

                        That’s everything I have for today. Keep an eye out for Hepit and make sure to pester Quilic with questions about the origins of his other merchant character’s names. Let’s just say that naming things is not one of his many gifts but his names still make for really great stories.

                        As always, you can reach me via email at Thanks for listening and catch you next time on Town Square Central.

[“8 Bit Onward!” Upbeat Adventure Game Music by HeatleyBros]

Milax:               In terms of that one, it’s like, “You’re my favorite by a lot!”

Quilic:               [Laughter]

Milax:               I was like, that’s got to be true from the, like–

[Music continues]

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