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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Word Archon

There are many types of magic in the world. Amongst one of the purest forms of magic is truename magic. Everything in the world has a true name, a word that encapsulates the whole of their being. Ordinary arcane magic relies on a combination of spoken word, magic ingredient and/or mystic gesture. With truename magic, one only has to vocalize, using the true words which make up the fabric of the universe. However, the truename magic is very precise, relying heavily on intonation. Pronouncing a word wrong usually means the words fizzle, but certain higher powers of the multiverse have names which are able to twist back and damage those who use them incorrectly.

Word archons are the heavenly beings tasked with holding up the sanctity of truename magic. Flying on wings of paper, these archons strike down those who pervert true names to fulfil evil purposes. They are especially studious archons and will make sure to know the true name of their hated target so that their magic will land more effectively.

Name magic is something I always found quite fascinating. It's a fairly common fantasy trope, with magic generally being treated as using the original words of the universe. Knowing an entity's real name is definitely one that gets used and gets mentioned a lot in occult texts. I think Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series is probably one of the better known examples. Voldemort from Harry Potter kinda has a similar thing going on, but that's less that his name is inherently magic and more that he's put charms on his own name.

I like to call word archons librariangels.

Shamefully channeling Shenanimation's style for this. Look at their stuff, it's neat.

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Luna Moth


There are planes in the universe (Faerie, the Feywild, the First World, Arborea, the Beastlands, whatever you want to call them), where nature is bigger, greater than it is in our lowly Material Plane. Some would even say that in those other planes are home to creatures as they were initially conceived by the gods. It isn't nature there; it's Nature. So while our world has moths, the other planes have Moths.

There we can find the Luna Moth, a horse-sized insect occasionally used by elves and fey creatures as mounts. They need to be trained in combat of course, but only about as much as an ordinary soldier would need to be trained. Luna Moths are intelligent creatures, making them partners as well as mounts. Sadly, they have no mouths with which to speak.

Luna Moths are ideal for scouting missions; they're capable of turning invisible at will and can see invisible other things which are hiding with invisibility spells. Though they can buffet targets with their wings, they're too thin to do much damage, making them poor combatants. The wings can scatter a soporific powder to create an avenue for escape.

Insects are really interesting animals. Did a bit of research into real luna moths. Your classic neutral luna moth is American, but other moon moth species exist in Asia and Africa. They all have big wings (yellow or green) with long tails coming off the lower wings. It's a bit of a sad insect as well, one of those whose adult stage only exists for mating. Luna moths don't have mouths and therefore can't feed, giving it only seven days to find partners before starving to death.

They might be called "luna" or "moon" moths because their eye-spots look a little like waxing moons? Most sources I'm looking at say that they're called that because they're nocturnal, but so are most moths.

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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Astral Construct (Agile Loper)


Psionics users (a.k.a. psychics) use a different type of power from traditional magic. Their powers are based on affecting their surroundings by exerting their mental powers to affect physical objects or other minds surrounding them. Generally, psionicists don't deal with the plethora of other planes that make up the universe. If they do, it'll be the Astral Plane, mind dimensions and dreams, and, on extremely rare instances, siphoning energy from the evil and good, and positive and negative planes.

Your tradional arcane and divine magic user is able to summon allies from other dimensions from other planes, pulling a physical creature out of their home plane onto the Material Plane. Psionicists can't do that.

But some psionicists achieve a close second. They can bring in ectoplasm from the astral plane and condense it to take on a solid, quasi-alive form for a few seconds or minutes. These are called astral constructs.

Some especially talented psionicists are able to make their astral constructs take on forms suited for specific tasks. The agile loper type of astral construct is made for speed and charges. The ectoplasm around the "head" is under great pressure, forming ultra-dense, very hard horns to knock down opponents so the construct can trample them underfoot.

Back to constructs!

This isn't a conscious choice, mind you. When I can't think of a creature I particularly feel like drawing, I use a system to randomly select one out of the monster manuals. I just happens that that same system sometimes gives me similar types several times in a row.

I really want to try out a game with psionics, but I've heard that they're notoriously unbalanced. Maybe if you run a game that only has psionics and no arcane / divine magic? I don't know.


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Monday, 30 January 2017

Allip


Ghosts are created when the person's death happens when there's unfinished business in the world of the living and/or under especially traumatic circumstances. The allip is specifically the ghost of someone who was driven to madness and, eventually, suicide. As a result, the allip is both insane and vengeful, focusing its attention on those it blames for its traumatic death.

The allip can't communicate verbally, but babbles a constant stream of nonsense noise that attracts the attention of anybody that hears it. This ghost is completely incorporeal, but those who have been "touched" by the insubtantial shade report a cold shrivelling in their brains, similar to the feeling that mediums have reported when attempting psychic communication with it. If the allip has focused its attention on you, it's impossible to escape without divine aid.

Allips can be confused with banshees, a similar wailing, vengeful spirit. However, allips have no discernable gender and their voice is nowhere near as deadly.

Moving on from constructs (for now)! Allips are a monster that gets complained about on occasion because its abilities are what is called "save or die". Essentially, creatures have attacks or abilities which are normally countered by your own defenses. An orc with a club will have to bypass your armour in order to deal damage, a dragon's fire breath will have to bypass your Reflex (itself your natural dexterity plus any bonuses you have). But an allip's Madness ability has no save against it, and its incoporeal touch only has to phase though armour. While they deal no physical damage, the allip's attacks deal ability damage, your stats instead of your HP. As a low-level monster, you're probably not going to have access to the means needed for healing your stats. Meaning that in 4 hits an allip can essentially render your character unplayable by reducing it's Wisdom stat to 0, driving it insane.

If you see an allip, run.

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Iron Colossus

The forbidden palace-city of the Dread King Irek is an alluring quarry for treasure-hunters. Abruptly and mysteriously abandoned by both its master and its thousands of apparent denizens for hundreds of years, its halls remain a trove of wealth, technology and magical artifacts that few thieves could resist. As many have discovered, however, the city is not unattended.

It is assumed that the six building-sized iron golems, known affectionately as the Daughters of Irek, act as caretakers of the Dread King's earthly remnants in his absence. Nobody can be sure, of course, for they do not speak. The slow, relentless beat of their unimaginably heavy paces can be heard for miles around as they patrol the great streets, tricking some into thinking that they are docile, or even mindless. Despite appearing to lack any great sensory faculties, however, the moment any intruder crosses the threshold of the great city, the Daughters wordlessly break from their patrol and converge on the offending creature. Seeming to simply "sense" its presence, they continue to pursue it until they have the opportunity to destroy it, which they do invariably and without hesitation. Only once the intruder has been slain do they ponderously return once more to their mysterious pattern.

Happy 2017! Insert my usual platitudes about not posting enough here, etc etc. Here's an Iron Colossus! Predictably, all the Colossi listed in the Epic Level Handbook are of the colossal size category which is essentially the largest meaningful size category that is statted within the D&D system (everything larger is simply lumped under "colossal plus"), so they are some truly big boys. I probably should have put some stuff in there to show scale (a la my oversized Cadaver Collector from a couple of years ago) but honestly I just kind of went in guns blazing on this one and didn't think about it too much. I guess the stomps kind of suggest a very large size? I don't know. It's always a struggle for me to work out the amount of detail/effort/attention to put into large drawings (which I know sounds weirdly lazy - of course I should put effort into everything I do), but I find it very easy to overthink things, so sometimes I have to try and work against that and just do something that's a bit more relaxed. I'm mostly saying this to justify to myself why this drawing looks a bit crude compared to the Cadaver Collector despite that drawing being two years old. But it's ok.

One of the reasons I was trying to stay quite relaxed about this drawing was because I made a time-lapse video of me making it! This is something I've wanted to do for quite a while (people often ask me about my process and I'm wayy too shy an artist to livestream myself drawing or whatever so this seemed like the next best thing). I usually do a few more design ideas at the beginning and there are usually a lot of false starts - sometimes i'll literally get halfway through cleaning up an illustration and then abruptly decide I hate it and start again - with this one I tried to just start drawing and keep going until I got done. I'll definitely try and do this again in future - if only because I really enjoyed picking the music (which, if you're interested, is from Undertale).


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Sunday, 8 January 2017

Ice Golem


The ice golem! Terrifying frozen construct of the cold wastes, servant of sorcerers of frost! These towering guardians wander the snowy surroundings of their masters' domains and can swiftly glide across or climb any icy surface. The power to animate this creature is held in the runes that have been carved into its body. For offensive capabilities, the golem is capable of shooting great shards of ice from its body, tearing surrounding intruders to shreds. Yowza!

Of course the ice golem can also be created by the wishes of children. Not quite as powerful or big as something made by a wizard or druid, and prone to free will, but still pretty impressive.

A somewhat belated Christmas / New Year's image for the blog. But it's still winter and the twelve days of Christmas are barely over so... eh?

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Chain Golem


Chain golems are one of those golems found almost exclusively in Hell under the command of kytons -- devils which already have a morbid fascination with hooks and chains. If one is ever seen on the Martial Plane, it means that someone somewhere is about to have a very very bad day. The primary weapon of the chain golem is, of course, the chains, which come with all sorts of pointy things attached. When threatened, the chains whirl around it, creating an almost a protective wall where any incoming object or person will likely get sliced to pieces. Though neutral like all other golems, they are inherently servants of kytons and if its kyton master dies, it comes under the command of the nearest kyton or other kyton its previous master mentioned.

I should probably draw a kyton.

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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sister Nina, Haunted Nun


Sister Nina leads primarily a solitary life at a church. Ever since she was young, she's been a spiritual nexus, something that the spirits of the dead are attracted to. Sister Nina can't see them, but she can hear them, and it's worse when she sleeps. Sometimes she hears the voices of angels or demons, but mostly it's the unhappy dead. Living on hallowed ground helps, but not by that much. To counter the effects of her curse, Sister Nina was taught two of the Seven Bells of Pharasma: the Bell of Disruption and the Bell of Compulsion, to dismiss and control spirits. Her skills have caught the eye of The Order of the Broken Bell (coincidence?), an organization that deals in putting down hauntings, curses and monster infestations, who use her on a freelance basis. Sister Nina is a meek soul and is generally no good in the situations that require force of personality or combat, but that's what Katya, Bogdan and Dr Henkelberger are good for.

Nina's the character I'm playing in Ben's latest campaign. It takes place in the same world as the campaign where I played Renata in. That particular campaign was played using the Pathfinder system, but for this campaign we're experimenting with Fate, which is a good deal more streamlined. I'm always interested in trying new systems, though I always found it a bit odd looking through the Fate book because where are the pages and pages of lists I need those lists. It's a system where your character is defined by a group of simple sentences which are quite open to interpretation. I like it in some ways, how much faster and looser it is than the other RPGs I've made and how it doesn't punish failure -- and that failure can be a reward sometimes. The looseness can be problematic sometimes though, since in more rule-heavy systems it's easier to look up what you can and can't do.

Nina ended up being a little like the kid from The Sixth Sense if he could use the bells from Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. If we'd been playing Pathfinder she probably would've been an Oracle, or maybe a Spiritualist from the Occult Adventures rulebook.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Wereshark


The curse of the wereshark is most often seen in coastal or island nations. The shark form of this curse means that the afflicted has so keep close eye on the lunar cycle, since transforming away from water leaves the shark in a helpless, painful situation. In water, of course, the wereshark is deadlyand difficult to outswim.

Like the werecrocodile, this is another creature that makes you scoff because it seems like a silly idea. But like the werecrocodile, it has a basis in myth and man's fear of his area's apex predators. The Hawaiian legend of Nanaue tells of a man born to Kalei and Kamohoalii, human woman and shark king. Before Nanaue was born, the shark god told the Kalei to never let the child eat meat. But as a coming of age rite, the men of Kalei's village took him away and gave him meat, not knowing what his mother knew. That sparked a hunger for human flesh in Nanaue and at night he would turn into a shark and hunt for human victims. Nanaue was forced to flee and make a new home several times, but the local villagers would always chase away the vicious man-eating shark.

Also Nanaue had a big ol' shark mouth on his back even when in human form.

Sorry about the several months of silence between posts! I just got really burnt out on work and hadn't been happy with my attempts to design interesting new D&D creatures. I hope this wereshark is a sign of inspiration returning.


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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Orglash



Most elementals come from other planes, the Plane of Air, Earth, etc. Even your typical ice elemental hails from the borders between the Plane of Air and Plane of Water. However, the orglash is not an extraplanar being, but an elemental which has naturally evolved on the Material Plane. While this may seem like not that big a deal, keep in mind that one of the most straight-forward ways to rid yourself of an elemental is to banish it to its home plane. This won't work with orglashes.

The orglash is a very territorial cold-based elemental found in the mountains and forests of Rashemen. They mostly attack outsiders, which is good for a nation which frequently suffers invasions from jerk wizards on one side (the Red Wizards of Thay) and barbarians on the other. Bad if you want to trade or are a travelling adventurers. Maybe stick to the slightly warmer roads where the orglashes don't lurk.

We're gonna be at TCAF next week. Yay! If any of you out there are Canadians or Americans whats lives close to the border, come on up and buy our stuff. We've got the Dungeons & Drawings books and new postcards. Joe also has his non-Dungeons & Drawings related but still really good comics, including The Hunter, published by Nobrow. Neato!

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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Angel, Planetar


Planetar are but one facet of the many-sided jewel that is the angelic hierarchy. As a manifestation of goodness and law, angelic beings function as wardens against the spread of evil and chaos throughout the planes, and Planetar serve as elite soldiers in that battle.

While angels are without exception good-natured and compassionate beings, Planetar see it as their primary purpose to destroy evil wherever they find it - often with a violent fervour that other good beings find shocking. It is worth remembering, however, that as interplanar beings, Planetar have seen and experienced much that mere mortals never have or will. It is not inconceivable, therefore, that they are acquainted with far more powerful and malicious beings than will ever trouble the material plane, and that while their dogmatic attitude may seem unreasonable to us, their presence in the multiverse guards against many far greater evils.

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Considering how much of a stereotype they are, I'm weirdly fond of both angels and their demonic counterparts in fantasy. These days it's rather common to put the whole "both bad but for different reasons" spin on it, where neither the angelic nor demonic powers are shown to be fully in the right, and some shade-of-grey via media is (perhaps somewhat patronisingly) offered as the "correct" choice.

While the allegory serves to demonstrate that dogmatic adherence to a way of being can be toxic - for example, the angels and devils in the Sandman series, or in Spawn, or even Bayonetta* (angels are beaurocratic pedants, devils debauched sadists) - it's fun to look at how and why each "side" justifies their actions. I quite like it when, as in settings like the Warhammer 40K universe, the "good guys" (the human Emperor and his minions) are capable of some truly horrible stuff - but the threat of Chaos is so much worse that you can kind of see how they justify it to themselves.

In D&D this kind of relates to the alignment system, too. Angels are Good, devils & demons are Evil. A lot of debate comes up around what is even meant by either descriptor; for what it's worth, I'm most comfortable completely separating Good and Evil as D&D concepts from good and evil as ethical ideas. Good, in the context of alignments, I take to simply mean "selfless". They do stuff for others more than for themselves. Evil means "selfish". Under this definition, a Lawful Good character can still be unpleasant, can still be horribly violent, can still be an utterly horrible addition to a party. Granted, in many instances this won't be the case, but I think the possibility for a nasty Good-aligned character (and, by extension, a nice Evil-aligned character) makes for interesting characterisation.

When I was colouring this I realised it reminded me a bit of Undyne from Undertale, which I was prepared to chalk up to unconscious plagiarism but then I checked and the first sketch of it was from March 2015 - before the game released!! In related news: this one took me a long while to get comfortable with. I gave up on it for a while, then happened upon the sketch again recently and decided to try finishing it. I think it's ok, although I still don't feel like I've quite zeroed in on the correct amount of detail for these things.

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*NB: I have been playing a lot of Bayonetta recently and I'm super fond of its concept art can you tell????

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Ki-Rin


Should you see a ki-rin in your vicinity know that somebody is about to have either a very good or very bad day. It is an agent of truth and order and spies into the minds of those around them to find evil thoughts. To those it finds worthy, it gifts clothing and items, or otherwise appears as an omen of good fortune. The ki-rin is a horse-like creatures that, despite their massive size, have such a light footsteps that they won't bend a blade of grass beneath their hooves.

Doing research on this was interesting. I'd been aware of the kirin/qilin creature for a while, and was well aware of how weird it is that it's called "the unicorn of the east" when most depictions of this dude show him with two. It's more common in Japan to see a kirin with one horn, but most other Asian cultures with a version of this creature go for the two-horn thing. Like a deer. Or a giraffe. Which is actually what the creature is based on, actually. Some Chinese bigwig centuries ago got a giraffe as a gift and was all like, this means I'm super important, and lots of weird iterations later we get the horse-deer-dragon-cloud thing that the qilin appears as. "Kirin" is actually the Japanese word for giraffe, kinda how "baku" is the word for tapir.

Ki-rin's horn is inspired by this funky little mutant deer skull thing. Oh nature, you goof up sometimes.

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Correction: While giraffes and kirin/qilin are closely associated, the mythological creature is likely not based on the other. The earliest mention of a qilin is in 5th century BC China, while a real giraffe was brought to China in the 15th century (i.e. about 2000 years later) by the explorer Zheng He. While it’s possible that the original qilin was based on an ancient giraffe sighting by some other explorer or visitor to China, there is no actual record of this being the case. The Yellow Emperor (from the 2500s BC) supposedly had some qilins, but since he’s more of a King Arthur type legendary figure, we should take that with a grain of salt.
Special thanks to @unikirin for spotting my mistake.