Monday, 27 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Moradin, the Soul Forger

Dwarven legend reveres Moradin not only as a ruler, but as a creator. Tales tell that he fashioned the first Dwarves from jewels and precious metals, explaining both the Dwarven passion for minerals and their propensity for forging.

So God Month is officially over now! I'm sure you're pleased to note that we were mostly on-schedule for the whole thing (unlike last year's Dragon Month which, uh, dragged on a bit) which hopefully bodes well for the future. I'm going to be returning as a regular contributor to the blog again, anyway. I've really enjoyed doing these illustrations for the last few weeks!

Picking a religion is a fun part of character creation for me, and Blanca always spends a long time designing pantheons of gods whenever she's writing a campaign setting. Deities - particularly of the polytheistic, Romanesque, soap-opera superheroes variety (where they're all trying to murder each other or having babies with mortals) reflect interestingly on the humans who invent or revere them. I think both of us have tried to illustrate our picks in a way that maybe gives you an idea of how that god might be represented by its worshippers, which I think is an important thing to consider when planning a campaign or playing the role of a character.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Ehlonna of the Forests

Ehlonna is one of D&D's many nature gods, representing peace, fertility and goodness in nature. She rivals Obad-Hai (representing primal energy and balance in nature) and fights against Kannan (representing brutality and destruction in nature). Of all the nature deities, she's the one most sympathetic to those seeking to farm and hunt in it, though she always works to prevent the wild from being completely tamed. Ehlonna isn't an elven goddess, but she's very often worshipped by them and has allies among the pantheon of elven gods. She rules over the good animals, fey and plants of the forest, and her most faithful servants and heralds are unicorns.

This image marks the end of God Month. I was originally going to put Elhonna first, but I decided to put her last to end God Month with a colorful, trippy bang. Obvious Arcimboldo influences in this image, though not as clever and refined as he is. Originally she was just going to be a unicorn-headed figure with a cloak of leaves and flowers and a rose halo, but a lot of my original plans had animal heads (still there with Azul) and the halo thing felt like I was just repearing Pelor.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Vecna, Master of Secrets

Whether they originate in good intentions or ill, ours is a world riddled with secrets. Great or small, of tawdry inconsequence or unspeakable importance, secrets are and have always been a source of power for those wise enough to see them; this is the chief tenet of Vecna-worship. In reality an insanely old and unfathomly powerful lich, Vecna is a terrifying entity, bent on the simple, terrible goal of destroying all other gods in order to rule the universe.

Vecna is my favourite villain deity. As described in the lore (and also in the stats - should you care to peruse them in Deities and Demigods), he's not actually as powerful as some of the more fundamental deities like Pelor and Nerull, as essentially he's just an uppity lich. But there's something about his insidious Neutral Evil alignment and wily obsession with secrets that makes me think that while he may at times seem like a small, angry dog yipping at the heels of the big gods, he probably does have a legitimate plan of action to succeed in his objective of serial deicide. What form will it take? Well, he's certainly not telling you anytime soon.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

GOD MONTH: The Raven Queen

The Raven Queen is the goddess of Death and Fate, and rules over Winter. Unlike a good amount of gods, she started out mortal and gained her deific powers through cunning and deals. She was originally a consort to Nerull, an evil death god, who she eventually destroyed, claiming his powers for herself. She doesn't rule over the dead, but only governs the act of dying. She gained power over Fate and Winter as rewards for aiding other gods in fighting deities who went rogue. She's cold and distant, having few friend or enemies. Her only enemy is Orcus, a demon lord of the undead, who wants to claim her powers for himself. The Raven Queen's original name and identity are lost in the sea of time.

Normally we stick to 3.5 here, since that's the edition we count as "ours", but I was already aware of the Raven Queen and when picking out gods for this month I got a really cool idea for her. It was eventually developed into this. She seems to be the 4th edition replacement for Wee Jas as the impartial but scary death goddess.

I like non-evil death gods. It's really easy in death-fearing, Judeo-Christian world to assign death gods to a Satan-like role. But it's more intersting when they're not evil; they're there as guardians, because death is inevitable and someone needs to make sure its administered with balance and fairness. Take the joyful Death of the Endless, or Hades of Greek mythology. Hades seem to get screwed over in modern adaptations, often being put in a scheming, evil, demonic role (see Disney's Hercules or the 2010 Clash of the Titans). In the myths I've read, he was always a scary dude, but one of the nicer, calmer gods of the pantheon (relatively, of course).

Sunday, 12 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Gruumsh, the One-Eyed God

Gruumsh, battle-father, man-killer, orc-blesser. He will see no weakness, only survival. He will see no surrender, only conquest. One-eyed, always-watching. 

Long have the orcs given him war-praise, and long has he blessed us with bounty upon bounty of blood, like rivers, thick with bodies. 

Spear-stabber, elf-breaker; he wars with elf-god Corellon Larethian, coward-lord, who stole his eye for fear of his strength! For this crime all elves will suffer.

Another Gygax original, Gruumsh is one of a couple of common orc deities put forward in the PHB.

I love orcs. So simple-minded, so vicious, so oddly noble. An uncaring and vicious society, sure, but it's worked out fine for them, often making them the most numerous race in many fantasy settings. Reading about orc lifestyle it was fun to think of what kind of iconography would actually be used in orc deity worship to inspire faith and reverence. I went for a simple, angular design with lots of angry colours, but there's a bit of a stained-glass feeling in there too.

Gruumsh actually lives on Acheron, a hellish dimension whose upper levels actually consist of countless giant metal cube-planets all waging war with each other. I thought about trying to incorporate this into the design but after Boccob I didn't want to make you all think I'm some kind of geometric one-trick pony.

GOD MONTH: Azul, Lord of Rain

Azul rules over rain in the desert. He's a favourite deity of travellers not out of any true love or reverence, but out of necessity. This is a fickle god, happy to withhold his bounty until he's given a blood sacrifice (by drowning), and cause terrible droughts when offended. His temples are built on springs and oases, which are ferociously guarded by his priests.

This god exists outside the usual D&D patheon, belonging instead of the group of optional gods used in the Sandstorm setting. Even though I haven't illustrated any creatures from Sandstorm for this blog, it's probably my favourite setting; I really love deserts. There's just something about long stretches of arid, lifeless, deadly nothing with small settlements trying to survive that I find incredibly interesting.

And out of all the gods listed for Sandstorm, I think Azul is the most fascinating. I like the idea of a god whose domains include Water and Plant, and who farmers and travellers rely so heavily on, should be such a petty, selfish god who demands the life of something (usually an animal, but will take a sentient creature) in exchange for his life-sustaining services. Using ironic sacrifice. I'm not sure whether he has a rivalry with Solanil and Tem-Et-Tu (goddesses of oases and rivers, respectively), or whether they're also afraid of offending him because if he stops raining, their own domains would dry up.

It's always something I like in mythology. A god that's worshipping it isn't so much as admiring it as much as it is begging it not to hurt you.

Monday, 6 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Boccob, the Uncaring

Perhaps, long ago, when the archmage Boccob was still a man, there still existed some corner of his heart which was not dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and the harnessing of the endless primal energies of magic. Perhaps he knew uncertainty, as men know. Perhaps he knew fear. Perhaps love.

Now, Boccob is beyond all these. No man can say how he ascended to divinity; many foolish wizards have attempted to follow in his footsteps, but none have succeeded. Alone in his endless Library of Lore, he ponders in infinite silence the mysteries of magic and of the multiverse. He answers no prayers, he does not engage in petty squabbles, as the other gods do. And yet, his followers - wizards, and students of the arcane arts - revere him with utmost respect as a paragon of knowledge, an example of greatness to be aspired to.

Hello again! It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm back to join in the fun on god month, to celebrate the 2nd year anniversary (wow!) of Dungeons and Drawings. So you'll be getting double the usual amount of uploads for the next few weeks. Lucky you guys!

Pretty much from the get-go with D&D, Boccob was my favourite deity. Something about this person who'd become utterly unhinged from the human element of the world really got me thinking - I initially imagined him as little more than a chaotic mass of letter-forms or shapes. I was a tiny bit disappointed by the "official" look - a slightly generic-looking white-haired old wizard - but Boccob was an invention of Gygax himself so I thought I'd try to involve some of it in my version. I tried to get a sense of this old guy whose body is frail and decaying but whose abstract, conceptual mind is breaking free. The shapes are mostly based on the Platonic Solids, the most basic and perfect 3-dimensional forms (not to mention the shapes which are used for most modern dice!).

Sunday, 5 August 2012

GOD MONTH: Fharlanghn, the Dweller on the Horizon

Fharlanghn rules over roads, freedom and those who travel the world. He offers safety, luck and favourable weather to those who pray to him. He's brother to Celestian, the Far Wanderer, who rules over stars, space and those who travel beyond the world. Fharlanghn is one of the few gods (maybe the only one) who mostly lives in the Prime Material Plane. While most other gods make their home in other dimensions, Fharlanghn, by virtue of being the god of travel, has no home. Not sure why he prefers the non-spiritual world over other dimensions. He sometimes goes across other dimensions, but very rarely, and he almost never sets foot on the Elemental Plane of Air or any of the outmost dimensions, which would fall more under his brother's domain.

As a travelling god, he has no temples; only small shrines near roads. His mortal servants follow his example and never stay in the same place for long. Since he has no set home, his dead worshipper's souls don't go away. Instead, they stay on their home plane, and continue to aid travellers. Many people worship him, especially adventurers or any others who make their living from travelling.

I went for a primitive look for Fharlanghn, the god with possibly the most annoying name to spell and pronounce. Even though he isn't a major god, it feels like he would be very ancient, and would be worshipped before settled civilization became a thing.