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

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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Vine Horror

Though named a Vine Horror, this creature is a sentient mass of algae that lumps itself together into a vaguely humanoid form. It has two main abilities: one to is animate vines (or similar plants) that will strange its opponents; the other ability is its extreme malleability. As mentioned, since the creature is made up of algae, it has no bone or bone-like structure. Because of this, a vine horror can effortlessly force its slimy body through a space as small as an inch without.

Many plant creatures are either mindless consumers or sentient protectors of nature. While it can be fiercely territorial over its patch of swamp, it doesn't care about it on any spiritual level. Because its body is so gooey and saturated with water, the Vine Horror doesn't care about fire and is able to protect itself from most weapons.

The Vine Horror is capable of speech, albeit the somewhat esoteric Sylvan, and is capable of reason. Debate is discouraged, however.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


The Uldra are a race of short Fey creatures common in colder climates. Although fierce by necessity in a harsh environment, the Uldra are highly concerned by ecology and the wildlife with whom their share their territory. The other notable trait of the Uldra is their love of decorative hats - with an especially high regard for height and pointiness. Since the Uldra are naturally resistant to the cold, their clothing is primitive (and in Summer is rarely worn at all), but it is rare indeed to see one not wearing a hat.

Hope y'all are having a splendid Christmas this year, gang - Blanca and I have accordingly illustrated choices from the always-chilly Frostburn book. Actually, hearing about the snowstorms in the US I'd imagine quite a lot of people could do with seeing less of Old Man Winter right about now.

 As you might imagine, the above drawing is a result of me being away from my usual art stuff (CS6, wacom tablet) and for once manning up and using real implements. It's a shame I can't colour it here (well I could but it would take too long) but it was fun to make. As a mostly digital artist you forget about how permanent marks can be when you're making a finished piece. I saved my butt in a couple of places with white-out (rescuer of many a drawing).

Anyway, I don't think the feel of it is a million miles from my digital stuff, which is what I was aiming for. Consistency is professional, innit!

Monday, 24 December 2012


Dag nabbit, Phillip Pullman, it's your fault fantasy is required to have at least one armored bear in it now. Well I ain't gonna draw no bears in armor (plenty of those) and they're supposedly good at making armor so... Also more people need to draw bear men the way bears actually look when they stand up: weird and skinny. They're like buff weasels.

Urskans are D&D's required warrior bear-in-armor race. I'm showing them here standing up, which is a pose they're comfortable with, but you'll  be more likely to encounter them on all fours. They have a thumb that's just opposable enough to wield tools, but not opposable enough to make a common habit out of it. In battle, they're more likely to use steel-clawed gauntlets than an actual weapon. Like the Salamanders, Urskans are excellent smiths. But where Salamanders get their skill from mastery of fire, Urskans get it from sheer brute strength, which probably makes them better for making big crude things rather than dainty little things.

Also, they wear half-plate. Seems a little strange since half-plate is described as plates of armor attached to chainmail and leather. Making those little loops for chainmail is delicate, intensive work. Just imagine one of these guys squinting down as they try to bend a tiny ring. You'd think they'd just go for straight-up plate. Maybe it's to avoid breaking the ice sheets they walk on.

Another thing I love about doing stuff for this blog is an excuse to look up trades as well as monsters. Armoring's pretty cool and despite what this image might imply, you don't really need that much heat, just a lot of hammering. You might need some extra heat it you're trying to hammer a one inch thick piece of plate though.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tengu, Human-Headed

Aaaaaand here's the other kind of Tengu you can fight.

Many monsters have stats given for more powerful versions (to scale with the level of your PCs) - most of them are simple HD addition but for some the book gives a distinct second form, sometimes with new abilities. For the Tengu you can either face a CR1 Bird-Headed Tengu or a CR6 Human-Headed Tengu (both variations exist in Japanese folklore). Interestingly, the human-headed variety is much smaller, relying less on strength and more on craftiness and spells.

I love Tengu in mythology (particularly the red-faced interpretation). It's a commonly recurring motif in a lot of Japanese media, not least with KOF's Mr Karate and that one episode of Great Detective Conan where they go the the hot springs, both of which informed my picture. I find the traditional face very pleasing in a sculptural way.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tengu, Crow-Headed

Beware of strange sounds on the misty mountains.

The tengu and the kenku both have the same mythological origin: the karasu tengu, or crow-headed tengu, mountain-dwelling, anthropomorphic bird swordsmen. Kenku is another acceptable term for tengu. It's a well-known creature of Japanse folklore, alongside kitsune, kappa and tanuki. It's said that the tengu would sometimes take on human pupils and teach them their own unorthodox fighting techniques. The tengu from Oriental Adventures is closest to its roots than the kenku, the latter essentiall being avian kobolds.

Tengu are nimble fighters, relying more on speed than strength. The setting may be Japan-inspired, but just because you teach samurai that doesn't mean you have to be obsessed with honor. Tengu use a combination of ambush techniques, illusions, intimidation and the buffeting of their wings to keep their opponent off balance. Despite this, they're not opposed to a good old fashioned duel.

I love doing creatures inspire by non-Western mythology because it really gives you an excuse to look up some new things. Japanese ukiyo-e and prints are absolutely beautiful and the fairy tales and folklore is really sweet. I've been on a pretty big fairy tale and folklore binge lately. This image of the tengu is partially inspired by this one, a painting by Katsushika Hokusai.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Salamanders are serpentine creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Like a lot of fiery creatures, they're the sort of monster that you don't want to touch unless you've got your fire resistance spells up. Or like blisters. They can also transfer heat through their weapons so there's that too.

They're not especially strong creatures, though they're quite intelligent and difficult to damage unless you've got some magic weapons (which you should probably have if you were doing the planar travel shenanigans). They make pretty good guardians if you need your temple guarded by something that can probably subsit on coal and wood. They also have a tendency to get summoned by people who want them some finely crafted metalworks, since these guys are also very skilled blacksmiths.

There are different levels of salamander too. You've got your average salamander, which is pretty dangerous. There's also smaller guys called flamebrothers, which tend to get pushed around by their larger bretheren. Then you have salamander nobles, which can get pretty big, are master smiths and have all sorts of nasty fire-based spells that include summoning Huge fire elementals.

Bring some oven gloves and some cold spells is what I'm saying.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Shrieking Terror

Shrieking Terrors are bizarre hybrids between the many-headed Hydra and the bat-like Vargouille. Their simple, starfish-shaped bodies support a head at the end of each arm with only a pair of leathery wings to hoist the creature aloft for movement. The heads themselves posses many of the same capabilities as an ordinary Vargouille, including a poisonous bite attack and the horrible "Vargouille's Kiss" - a perversely tender gesture by which the Shrieking Terror marks its victim with a curse that causes them to rapidly undergo a monstrous transformation into a Vargouille themselves!

Foes of the Shrieking Terror attack it with caution - its body restores itself quickly in the manner of a hydra, and each head, if severed, will quickly regrow twofold.

Apologies to those who aren't as keen on the more graphic style - it's a little quicker for me to work in and I wanted to catch up so Blanca and I are in sync again (Blanca's currently technically a week ahead!).  I've been reading a book I was bought recently containing Miyazaki's watercolour sketches for Nausicaä (both the movie and the comic), and I guess this is inspired by the tapestries at the start of the movie, the ones depicting the war and the God Warrior in this nice primitive style. I actually quite like the picture of the Shrieking Terror in the MM3, so check it out!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rot Reaver

Rot Reavers are brawny, hunched, simian creatures, their green skin calloused with years of caked-on gore. They subsist by consuming the flesh of others - but unlike most normal carnivores they savour the taste of the rancid, festering meat of the undead.

Brandishing a pair of magical cleavers (around which their enormous twin tongues wrap, to further relish the flavour of the blood), they swing like demonic butchers, hungrily and recklessly. Recipents of a Rot Reaver's attack beware: the wound will magically fester, and should its victim die the body will be brought back into unlife under the Rot Reaver's control, to either serve or feed it!

I love how wonderfully horrible the Rot Reaver is. I'm a firm believer that there's a certain point at which excessive violence and gore reaches a sort of critical mass and crosses over from "juvenile obsession" into an outright art form. That point, as we all know, is Peter Jackson's Braindead.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Though classified as a demon, the Retriever only fits that category loosely, in that its a thing created by demons for the purpose of hunting down and bringing back certain targets that the boss demon doesn't feel like chasing. This may be other demons, troublesome mortals or those who are trying to skip out of their end of the Faustian pact.

Retriever demon also comes with eyebeams which can be set to heat, electricity, frost or petrify. Available now for the tender heart of a newborn babe.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


The longstanding traditional enemy of all undead are the clerics and priests of good-aligned deities. Clerics of gods such as Pelor and Heironeous are blessed with the ability to cast heal spells - which, being comprised of positive energy, actually deal damage when cast against undead. In addition, they can channel a wave of positive energy to "turn" nearby undead in an attempt to destroy them utterly. These abilities make clerics an excellent addition to any band of adventurers, not least when the quest at hand will involve numerous necromantic encounters.

A Quell is physically a very weak undead creature, just CR3. Barely corporeal, its matter flows around it like cloth, surrounded by a swarm of  floating runes of blasphemy and breaking. What marks it out is its loathing for deities and their followers - a loathing that manifests in an ability to completely cut off divine spellcasters from using divine magics against it. By itself, a Quell poses little threat; added to a group of sturdier undead it can effectively shut down a party's main means of survival for long enough for its brethren to do the necessary damage. For this reason, Quells are eagerly sought out by necromancers seeking to bolster their forces.