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Sunday, 18 June 2017

Azer

It's unclear whether the dwarves of the Material Plane and azers of the Elemental Plane of Fire are related. Both have a similar physical appearance and mode of thinking; both are short and stocky, bearded, diligent, regimented and master craftsmen. Was there a common ancestor? A dwarf that wandered into the fiery dimension, or an azer that cooled off here? Did the same gods create both? Or is it just happenstance?

The azers are one of the most prominent races on the Plane of Fire, a distinction they share with efreet and salamanders. However, of these three races, the azer are the weakest and their lives are a constant struggle to avoid becoming slaves to the efreet.

The concept of Elemental Planes is always a little bit difficult to wrap my head around. Like, shouldn't the Elemental Plane of Fire be exclusively fire? Should the Water one be just Water, Earth solid Earth? Isn't magma just liquid earth? Isn't smoke and ash hot air and dirt flecks? These dimensions always have a sky and ground and so on.

It's overthinking it, I know. It's magic and fantasy and stop dragging in real world logic into this, everybody knows Fire, Earth, Air and Water aren't real scientific elements anyway jeez. I guess these planes are just supposed to be most the -iness of the element than the element in its purest form. A mirror to our world, only the mirror's set on fire. Maybe there's a core of pure flames, but the rest of it's more of a Plane of Fieriness, fiery landscape, fiery creatures, fiery personalities, what Fire represents rather than just was Fire is.

Welp, worked that out for myself while writing. Good talk, guys, the next round of molten sulfur is on me.

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Monday, 29 May 2017

Merfolk



Of the sentient races that occupy the ocean, the merfolk are the most numerous, or at least visible. Merfolk are as fascinated with humans as humans are with them, most likely due to a physical resemblance combined with the allure of foreign lower body. However, any closer relationship between them is stymied by environmental requirements, though there are many stories of individuals using magical means to overcome that hurdle. Normally a marine race, freshwater variants have been sighted living in especially large lakes.

But the mischievous and playful nature of the merfolk doesn't mean that they're entirely harmless. Humans who abuse their waters or aren't careful with their nets will find their boats more likely to sink, or suffer greater punishment as the merfolk appeal to their own watery gods.

Yay, I got this done just in time for the end of Mermay!

There's a lot of legends about mermaids, but not so many that I've found about mermen. You get plenty of romances between fishy ladies and human men, but not so much the other way around. The British Isles have a whole buncha merfolk stories that mention the male half of the race, but while the females are pretty, the males tend to be less attractive (a design trend that continues to exist to this day). Think of it as the difference between the Zoras and River Zoras in the Zelda games.

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Fitz-Auk, Abaddon Escapee (tiefling ranger / horizon walker)


Once upon a time, there was a not terribly attractive human ranger named Fitz-Auk, who was part of a small group of infiltrators for the Molthune army. Shenanigans ensued during a mission, which ended up with almost everyone in the group either dead or sent off to other planes of existence. Fitz-Auk, being in possession of terrible luck, ended up in Abbadon, arguably one of the worst places in existence. A magic book he stole from his mission's target protected him in the three months he spent there, but couldn't wholly prevent him from being corrupted by the plane's malevolent influence.

Our friend Jonathan Harris made a comic, Adventures in the Fangwood, which is really good. You should buy it. It's pretty much the last session we did with our characters and details exactly what happened to them. It's very funny and well done and details the exact reaction I got when I rolled three natural 1s in a row (a 1/8000 chance!).

Fitz-Auk is a character I really wanted to bring back. Joe's Fangwood campaign was the first part in the trilogy of adventures, and since the final installment was going to take place on the non-material planes, I figured that'd be the perfect time to bring him back.

As a ranger, he had Morse as a raven animal companion (actually an eagle that we fluffed as a really buff raven), which he lost when he gave him to another PC, who took it with him when he got teleported to Heaven (read the comic, explanations are given). Since he's spent to much time in Abbadon, I imagined he'd been mutated into a more monstrous race. I spent a little while trying to choose between tiefling for hellishness or a tengu because I wanted him to look kinda birdy. I went for tiefling in the end because it fit better and had more stuff I wanted. Now Fitz-Auk is down from his human 7 Charisma to a delightful 4 Charisma! Yay!

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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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