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Monday, 25 July 2011

Wee Jas, Goddess of Death and Magic

Wee Jas, the Witch Goddess, occupies a unique position in the magical pantheon of deities and demigods. She dwells in blood, death and magic, but is not inherently evil. Her followers and clerics, most of them necromancers and powerful wizards, are some of the most dangerous men (and women) alive (and dead). She is distinguished from other gods of death such as Nerull (Foe of all Good and Enemy of Life) by the fact that she venerates death as an inevitability, rather than something to be cheated or dealt out wantonly. The dead are taught to be respected and remembered, that the living may be treated the same way in turn when their time comes. Her alignment is Lawful Neutral, and her favoured weapon is the dagger.

To commemorate this blog's continual maintanance for ONE WHOLE YEAR (!), this weeks' "creatures" (can we call them that?) are actually Gods from the main D&D pantheon. Blanca and I have illustrated gods that are on pretty differing ends of the spectrum so it's interesting to see how they've turned out.

This depiction of Wee Jas is a little unusual if you've ever seen any literature on her, which mostly describes her as a beautiful, red-headed woman with skull-themed jewelery. I'm not a fan of depicting gods as visually identical to humans, though, they need to be a little more abstract or symbolic to pack more of a punch. This actually affects pretty much all of the gods as listed in the Deities & Demigods book - most of them are illustrated in the same manner you'd draw an ordinary PC; you might not even get that they were deities if you weren't told so. In contrast, there's this one little icon of Wee Jas in the Player's Handbook that I really like - it has the look of a skull, but it also has these weird flame/tendril/ribbon things that seem to grow out of it, getting this combination of magic-plus-death that for me sums up the goddess. I based my design on that, trying to depict the Ruby Sorceress in a flayed, corpse-like body, roiling in gory magic, deep in her home dimension of Acheron.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Pelor, The Shining One

Pelor is a top god of the Greyhawk pantheon. His followers are many; he is creator of all things good, god of healing, and he who feels the sun rise. He lives in a golden citadel in Elysium. The fortress is surrounded by beautiful fields, farms and orchards, and is inhabited by various war-like angels and peaceful saints.

It's a rare thing for a religion not to have the Sun as one of their main gods. Even the most primitive civilizations could tell that life is sustained by that big ball of fire in the sky (except for the Greeks it seems, who made their main god king of thunderstorms).

I'm similar to Joe's frame of mind in that I don't think divine beings should always be shown as human. Deities and Demigods kinda disappoints me from an artistic point of view, since the gods just don't look that interesting. Pelor's some old guy in golden robes, Kord's a buff barbarian, Olidammara's a bard, etc... They don't look very divine.

I was always quite fond of old myths, where the reason the gods looked the way they do to us it because their true divine form is so dazzling that it can kill you. The Zeus and Semele is the most famous example. I'm pretty certain I came across a Hindu myth with a similar thing, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Bible had a couple of instances too. Well, I think the whole dazzling true form deal is pretty apt for a the god of that thing that you should never look directly into.


Sunday, 17 July 2011


When you reach the tower where the princess is held captive, you find a withered woman dressed in silks, gems and a delicately coiffed wig. Lipstick would do little to emphasize something that's long since shrunken back so close to the skull. And what would eyeliner do to eyes already so shadowed within such dark eyesockets? You'd be horrified, but your mission was to rescue the princess of Nocturnus, city of the undead.

Necropolitans were a new player race introduced in the horror-themed Libris Mortis. The idea with them is that you asked already-existing necropolitans for permission to join their numbers. If they accepted you, you go through a long and painful process where life energy is drained through your body and is replaced with negative energy. Unlike, say, a lich, another intelligent undead whose own willing transformation from living to dead involves concentrated evil, necropolitans aren't necessarily members of the dark side.

The book kinda implies that they're just really reserved, serious scholars who'd prefer to be left alone by anyone who thinks the undead are shambling abominations.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Terror Bird

Terror Birds are apex predators. They're tall, flightless animals with long, strong necks and large, hard beaks that can cut through flesh. Their small, atrophied wings bear two small useless claws. They run as fast as horses and hunt with the cunning of wolves.

For a creature with such a dramatic name, Terror Birds are actually pretty benign. In fact, this creature and its name, is an actual prehistoric creature that lived in the Miocene period (23 to 5 million years ago). Their scientific name is Phorusrhacidae and are thought to be the ancestors of Seriemas birds, something a little smaller and less lethal.

If you think these guys are goofy, just put a little though into it. These are extremely fast creatures, up to 3 metres tall (10 feet). The smallest of the species was about 1 metre (a little over 3 feet). They're basically like ostriches. You know how scary ostriches can be? Well, imagine if they actually wanted to eat you.

A nice monster if you want to use it in a prehistoric campaign setting.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


The saying goes: "If you want someone dead, you hire a killer... if you want someone dead, you hire a Gloom".

Monstrous assassins of the highest caliber, Glooms silently do the bidding of whomever happens to command them. Never armed with more than a cruel dagger, these faceless creatures demonstrate cold-blooded murder with such a clarity of form that it could be called artful. Nothing is known of a Gloom's expected payment (they certainly have no use for gold, or trinkets, or power) but once the transaction is carried out the demise of the victim is certain.

Again, the more observant of our viewers will have noticed my conspicuous abscence from these pages for the last few weeks (to which a number of contributants could be named) but rest assured, I'll be trying my hardest again. This one was obviously a little rushed, but hopefully I'll be able to make more time in the future.

Glooms are from the Epic Level Handbook, which at first seems a little weird given that they don't have much in the way of lore or other bells and whistles - they're literally just an incredibly scary CR 25 creature armed with a knife and some rudimentary (for ELH monsters) special abilites. But (as with a lot of my favourites) it's their simplicity that makes them interesting. Where do they come from? Why do they do what they do? I imagine them as this forbidden "last resort" for when royals or high-level spellcasters who absolutely, positively, have to have someone dead. Like, the kind of deal you wouldn't want to admit to.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


The Wendigo is a malevolent spirit of the cold wastes, driven by purely by hunger. It has no feet, and leaves no tracks on the ground. Sometimes its body turns misty and can't be seen but out of the corner of your eye. You're more likely to hear him that see him, his gibbering laughter sweeping across the empty landscape like with.

So the winner of last week's poll was Middle Eastern / Indian monsters and North American monsters, with an equal amount of votes. I decided to pick North American monsters, since they're under-represented in modern fantasy culture outside the odd shaman, thunderbird and, of course, Wendigo.

Fun fact! Apparently the word Wendigo comes from the proto-Algonquian "wintekowa", possibly meaning "owl". At least according to the internet. Maybe they were freaked out by the hooting of owls at night? Anyway, that's why I decided to give the Wendigo a more rounded head instead of something wolfy or deer-like, like a lot of modern fantasy does.

I decided to play on the description in the D&D books that says they have a Corner of the Eye ability. Whenever a wendigo Wind Walks, they can never been looked at directly, always seeming to appear just out of your field of vision. This was pretty tricky, and I decided to try to employ the Hidden Face illusion trick. I'm not sure how well it worked though, so you guys'll have to tell me.

Man, I'm late this week.

Did a little bit more work with the tags this past week. Monsters are now also orginized by alignment (chaotic, lawful, evil, good, neutral) and whether they're template creatures.