An ongoing project by Blanca Martinez de Rituerto and Joe Sparrow.

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Lava Ooze


The lava ooze is generally to be found deep in areas with plentiful volcanic ability, as well as any of the warmer outer dimensions. While oozes generally feed on flesh, the lava ooze subsists on minerals, with any minerals with a melting point higher than its body being excreted. Because of this, the lava ooze is relatively non-aggressive. However, they are able to sense especially rich minerals, meaning that those wearing armour or precious stones may find themselves targets. But it's not that big a threat, since you can just amble away from the ooze. They are slow.

Me and Joe went to NYC recently and during our stay there I started doodling some oozes in my sketchbook. I've always found the ooze monster type really difficult to draw. Well, difficult to draw in an interesting way. There's only so many ways you can draw a blob. But I've recently been seeing a lot of really interesting sea slugs and I started using them as inspiration. I know most oozes are supposed to be kinda amorphous, blind, blobbity blobby blobs, but I kinda went for a half barnacle half snail thing here.

We fought a little pack of these guys in our current campaign. We mostly ran away from them. We've been running away from a lot of creatures.

It's honestly kinda fun to flee.

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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Bearded Devil (Barbazu)


Bearded devils, called barbazu in Infernal, are on the lower end of the mid-level hierarchy of Hell. As such, they get to be squad leaders. However, since their squads tend to be made up entirely of lemures, it's more like herding and goading irritable sheep. Their short tempers make them ill-suited for greater command. The barbazu itself is quite dangerous, however. Their primary weapon is a serrated glaive which causes persistent bleeding, requiring especially powerful healing magic or skilled surgery. If somehow deprived of their glaive, the barbazu has a not-so-secret weapon: it's eponymous beard.

The barbazu's beard is covered in disease-bearing toothy tendrils. Despite its wormy appearance, the tendrils are not prehensile. Still, the devil's use of them is suitably horrifying; it gets a good grip on a target with its claws and forces them face-first into its gruesome beard, forcing them to endure hundreds of little scrapes and bites. Should said target survive an encounter with the barbazu, they develop a fever which slowly saps them of their strength. The victim becomes too weak to even breathe and suffocates.

A creature we've encountered in our current campaign, as part of Vecna's troops. I've used on myself in a previous campaign, where a character was eviscerated by its claws (no chance for a beard attack). The glaive is a neat weapon, obviously, but nowhere near as colourful as the claw-beard combo. Even though the potential maximum damage of the glaive and claw-beard attacks are essentially the same, I guess the subsequent bleed damage of the glaive puts it over the top. Still, it's kind of a shame.

Notes on the design here. In the books I have (3.5 and 5th edition), the barbazu's beard is described as being snakey. In most illustrations I've seen, this has been interpreted as thick tendrils with pointy ends, like a barbed snake's tail. I decided to go more for the head end of the snake because it's so much more gruesome to have lots of little mouth nibble-nibble-nibbling at you. They turned out a little wormy though. Originally the design had a big mouth as well, but I took that away too. Now instead of having one big mouth, the barbazu has dozens of itty ones. They came out looking more like earthworms than snakes but shhh.

Maybe I should've forgone the single eye too and made it just a blank face, with the beard having his eyes. Lots of little eyes and teeth. Nibble nibble nibble.

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Illurien


Illurien of the Myriad Glimpses is a mysterious creature living in a secret location in the Outlands known as the Atheneum Nefarious. Little is known about her or where she came from. Some theorize that she was created by the lich god Vecna, but this is unconfirmed. Those who have seen her describe Illurien as a silvery woman dressed in simple robes which seems to be made out of water. Her face is blank save for two penetrating blue eyes. She does not speak, but her voice patters like raindrops inside her head.

She is also one of the most knowledgeable creatures in the multiverse and her secret library is only second in size to Boccob's own. Each drop that makes up her body and floats around her represents a piece of knowledge that she's gathered over an indeterminate amount of years. The fine mist that surrounds her can daze nearby creatures by bombarding them with thousands of factoids at once. She can extend her body in a strike that sucks out the memories and thoughts of an opponent, leaving them a brain dead husk. Illurien's knowledge of combat techniques and psychology make her especially adept at dodging attacks simply by calculating the location of greatest advantage.

Ilurien of the Myriad Glimpses can be summoned to answer questions, but she must be treated with the same level of caution one would treat a demon. She cannot be trusted.

It was very very hard not to design Illurien in such a way to make her look like Blue Diamond from Steven Universe. Robed watery (blue) lady? Come on now. Eventually I came upon a design that made her look a little bit more alien and possibly ghostly, but I'm happy.

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Earth Whisper


The town has an old man with a story. When he was young, he was part of a group of miners going to explore a nearby cave. No bears or wolves entered there; no drow appeared on night-time raids; there wasn't the sound of dwarf, kobold or goblin pickaxes.

He describes going in with a dozen other young men, seeing the green and blue copper veins in the walls, the faint light of quartz reflecting lantern light. He describes a feeling that overcame him , the rushing ice-water and sinking guts of fear. All of them starting running, not to the mouth of the cave, but deeper, deeper into the darkness. He doesn't know how it happened, but they got separated. It must have been the panic that disoriented him, that made him forget where cavern openings were, what made him miss the pits that seemed to suddenly appear beneath his feet.

He remembers hearing voices in the dark, the voices of his friends shouting on the other side of walls, angry, afraid. He heard whispers in his ears that tell him it's their fault he was trapped here, that they're getting rid of him.

He doesn't know how he escaped. But don't go in the old cave, the cave with no animal prints, the cave that houses no bats. There's something evil in that cave and it can't be seen.

--

The earth whisper in an earth elemental that uses mind-altering effects to drive people into caverns, which it reshapes using the stone shape spell, trapping intruders in tiny pockets until they either starve, suffocate or kill themselves. If more than one person is there, after trapping them it gives them a sudden rush of gold lust which makes them fight each other over whatever meager riches the other holds. The earth whisper is incorporeal (though not invisible) and hides inside the stone walls of its cave while it drives others mad.

This kind of monster has really great potential for a more psychological campaign, I think.

It has a really great concept, but boy is it difficult to come up with a visual design for. It's an incorporeal earth elemental sooooo... a ghostly lump of dirt? Ghost are easy to draw since it's easy to identify a translucent human, skeleton, animal, whatever. But here you have to communicate that it's this weird type of creature and also by the way you can't touch it.

I'm fairly pleased with the result which I think does the whole intangible thing okay. I wanted to make an earth elemental that looked different from my earlier attempt. Though I kinda pat myself on the back for making it not a lump of grey-brown stuff and basing it on malachite, I find that it looks a bit more watery than earthy (the foam-like dust mane doesn't help either). With this one I took inspiration for pyrite and bismuth minerals. Not terribly spooky, but I like colours.

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

Barghest



The barghest is the particular flavour of hellhound that stalks the ashen slops of the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna. The barghest is especially ugly, looking like a bulky mangy wolf with goblinoid facial features. This beast is capable of shifting between a fully lupine and fully goblinoid form, but primarily stays in its hybrid body.

What makes the barghest a challenging opponent is its stealth capabilities. While it can't fly, it can surpass obstacles by levitating. It naturally leaves no marks of its passage and high-level spells are needed to detect nearby individuals. Larger barghests can also render themselves and members of their pack invisible. A barghest grows by consuming the corpses of humanoid victims, eating flesh and bone so nothing is left. The scant availability of puny mortals in their volcanic dimension means that any unfortunate interloper will find themselves greedily sought after.

The Barghest is one of the many names that the ghostly black dogs of British Isles. This particular name originating from Yorkshire. Other national variants include the yeth hound (Devon and Cornwall), Gwyllgi (Wales), Moddey Dhoo (Isle of Man), Grim (Lanchashire) and just so many spelling variations of Black Shuck. Black Shuck may be the most famous of these names, but I can't be sure. All of them are large ghostly dogs, black-furred with glowing red eyes, and death omens. The Hound of the Baskervilles was inspired by these legends. The name "barghest" is the one I was most familiar with because it was in a book of mythical creatures I had as a kid. I can't remember the title though. I had a lot of these books.

I'm not sure where the whole shapeshifting into a goblin thing exactly comes from; I've only found once instance of a legend that claims that black hounds can shapeshift. My closest guess is that somebody read the term goblin-dog ("goblin" meaning "monster" rather than your contemporary fantasy Tolkein goblin) and went with that.

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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Shunned

You generally don't want to tick off a god. And of all the gods, Lolth the Demon Queen of Spiders, goddess of the drow, is most obvious when displaying her displeasure. Any drow who fail to live up to the harsh standards of their cruel society are at the very real risk of being transformed into spidery monstrosities.

The form of the Shunned is reserved exclusively for female drow. They are transformed into bulging malformed heads covered in twitching, spider-filled tumours, scuttling on insectile legs. The Shunned are forced to disgorge swarms of spiders as the population builds up inside their throats. All creatures cursed by Lolth are pathetic, but the Shunned endure the most mental suffering.

Despite their new form, madness and subsequent exile from drow population centres, the Shunned continue to crave the forgiveness of their goddess. The lair of a Shunned is generally located as close to their former homes as possible, and is decorated with pieces of discarded furniture and clothing as they try to hold on to a semblance of their lost lives.

This is totally not the head monster from The Thing you guys. This one spits spiders. Totally different, yo.

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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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