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Monday, 28 December 2015

Frostwind Virago



This year's Winter-themed creature and the last image of 2015.

The frostwind virago is one of those high-end fey that you really really don't want to run into. She is the anthropomorphic representation of the beauty, danger and caprice of winter. They live in cold mountains, though will travel is the cold weather permits it. Their favourite passtime is enthralling warm-blooded creatures to torture with their frost magic until the unfortunate victim freezes to death. Even those who aren't charmed by the virago's magic or are immune to the ice she summons, she can exert a strange mental torture on them. Those near enough to the virago feel their minds seize up and slow as if that is freezing over.

Ah, the return to the frosty woman. This is a theme I've visited a few times before, namely the snow weird and ice weird. For those images I focused pretty much entirely on snowflakes, frost and ice as my visual themes. And it's still present in the frostwind virago, but this time I permitted myself to look outside that for inspiration. The main inspiration behind this image is actually the snowy owl (Hedgewig, for those of you who remember Harry Potter). I went a little bit off script with the virago too. The description makes a big deal out of her having blue eyes, but she's already so blue and I wanted to give her yellow owl eyes. She also doesn't have horns, but I wanted her to be kind of a companion piece to the verdant prince.

Interesting etymology behind the word "virago". It's one of those words whose name has gotten twisted over time. It used to mean "strong-spirited woman", but now it means "loud-mouthed, stubborn bitch". Kinda like how the word "hussy" used to mean "good housewife who takes care of her man and her kids" became "filthy slut who wrecks marriages for fun". Funny how history finds a way to turn positive words into negative ones, isn't it.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Shadow Giant

The shadow giant is the second most powerful of the true giants (the most powerful being the mountain giant). While these creatures are in possession of the strength common to their kind, the source of their power comes both from the uncanny way they just know how to kill and the close relationship they have with darkness. Shadow giants are assassins, the kind you may send to take out a dragon or demon with a death attack when the crash and bang of ordinary adventurers just won't do. These giants are also masters of shadow, being able to weave them into all sorts of creatures and weapon and dark imitations of incredibly powerful of spells. If a shadow giant can't kill you, it may imprison you in a gem for all eternity.

Honestly, when I read the entry for the shadow giant I found it a bit silly. A giant with a death attack? Seems a bit overkill when a single punch will probably kill smaller creatures. Sneak attack, weakness to light, so on. Let's see what the spell-like abilities are. Deeper darkness and blur are pretty okay, shadow walk fits with the theme. It's got shadow evocation and... shades? Wait, it has shades as an at-will ability? As in able to cast an 8th level or lower conjuration (summoning or creation) spell every turn for free? At will?

So it's that last bit that I think makes the shadow giant hardcore. Granted, shades may not work on those who realize that whatever spell it's copying isn't the actual real spell, but even then it has an 80% success rate.

So if I were a DM using a shadow giant I would just have it copy the trap the soul spell ad nauseum until the whole party is trapped in gems. Then I would make a tasteful necklace out of their trapped souls.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Rhek

The rhek are a race of rhino-men who help maintain order in the plane of the Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia. They're one of the races that make up the Harmonium, a militant sect that enforces lawful goodness through violence. Seems a bit of a contradiction, but that's what paladins do, really. The Harmonium seeks to create a dictatorship of goodness, where those who adhere to their ideals are guaranteed peaceful, prosperous lives. It's supposed to be of those philosophical questions about order and goodness at the cost of freedom. Can we truly call ourselves good if we don't have the option to be evil? At what point does governing and eforcing cross over into tyranny?

Honestly, the idea of the Harmonium (who also served as the police force in the inter-dimensional city of Sigil) is a bit more interesting that the rhek themselves. Though you can see how they would make good enforcers of the law, since they have abilities that let them detect and smite chaotic creatures. They also seem to share one trait with the krogan from the Mass Effect games: redundant organs. This translates into rhek basically continuing to fight until they are stone dead.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Dungeons & Drawings Book 2!

 
 


We made another book!

Back in 2013 we put out the first Dungeons & Drawings book. We’d been selling postcards at expos for a while and decided to experiment with something a bit more ambitious. 40 of our favourite images went into the book, accompanied by simple stats, descriptions, and the folkloric history of the creature and scientific trivia surrounding its possible origins.

Book #1 went down well, so now we’ve decided to continue with the series with a second!

Dungeons & Drawings #2 debuted at Thought Bubble in Leeds this year. Thanks to all the people that bought it, and to those that bought the first one and rushed excitedly for the second one.

And now we have an Etsy store. Both books are available for sale now! Go git ‘em!

(Comes with cat’s sniff of approval.)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Bheur Hag

The bheur hag is a relative of the marzanna, another evil winter witch. At first the bheur seems the less physically imposing of the two, a little old lady leaning on a stick. Then it turns out that she's considerably more dangerous.

One illustration can't show the full scope of the bheur hag's dangerousness. For one, they can fly and are content to pelt their enemies from above with snow and ice. One of the spells she can cast whenever she pleases is Snilloc's snowball swarm (it's pretty much what you think it is). Her staff is the focus of her magical power, but she's not helpless without it, just magically weakened. If the hag decides that she must enter physical combat, she makes herself double in size. And when she defeats a victim, the bheur strips the flesh away from the bones so quickly that any unlucky observers and literally stuck blind with horror.

And I do mean literally. It's a Will save where if you fail you're either permanently blind or go insane for 2d6 days on a 75-25 chance ratio. Don't look at her when she's eating, is what I'm saying.

The bheur hag is another creature I've come across in some of my reading. In Otta Swire's Skye, the Island and its Legends she appears as the winter goddess/spirit Cailleach Bheur, partially responsible for the creation of the Cuillin Hills. She appears in some other Scottish and Irish folklore, but the Skye one's the only one I've read in a book. Like the aforementioned marzanna, she also has a little bit of a ritual attached to her. But instead of being destroyed in effigy, whoever is last to bring in the harvest has to house a Cailleach effigy for a year.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween! Brain in a Jar


The brain in a jar is considered an undead creature. I guess the process that involves yanking a brain out of someone's noggin and sticking it in a goopy container will kill the brain at some point. Temporarily at least. The brain is a good deal more potent in the jar than in the head, since the alchemical whatsits gives it some psychic juju to mess around with. It can communicate telepathically, implant suggestions, squeeze minds and float itself and its container around. It isn't that happy about its situation though, and anybody who tries to read the brain's mind will share its madness (Wisdom drain, yo).

Honestly, I find the fact that it has a fly speed a little disappointing. I really dig the idea of this seemingly inanimate object hidden somewhere in the room that's dealing damage. Or what if you have a whole room filled with these fellas, all dealing 2d10 damage in one go. I think that sounds neat.

This seems like a considerably less powerful version of the elder brain and the demilich, to make things accessible to low-level characters.

My favourite "brain in a jar" story is a certain Lovecraft tale. Roald Dahl also wrote a short story ("William and Mary") with an extracted sentient brain that was also quite unpleasant.

Happy Halloween, peeps.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Homonculus

Homonculi are the messengers and spies of those who wish to remain unnoticed (or at least inconspicuous). Made by wizards either for their own purposes or else to be sold to others, the tiny artificial creatures can be made from any number of materials as required, and can vary wildly in their appearance depending on the task they have been built for. One thing, however, that unites construction of all homonculi is that they require a generous portion of the creator's blood.

"Homonculus" is a pretty broad term in pop culture, commonly used to mean a sort of golem or constructed servant but with plenty of flavourful variations. One particularly wacky take that comes to mind is in Full Metal Alchemist, where homonculi are near-immortal, super-powerful (but otherwise human-passing) created beings that fill out a good portion of the main cast. The D&D version is closer to the real-life history of the term (which is a pretty fascinating wikipedia read) and I think I prefer it.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Bisan


The bisan is a jungle dryad, specifically the dryad of camphor trees. But this chick's more dangerous than your run of the mill dryad. While other tree nymphs with wrap you up with roots, charm you into pretty please don't cut down my tree, and then stab you some, the bisan will wake up the trees around her to beat you up. Then she'll turn into a wasp and sting the holy bazoozoos out of you. That's what you get.

The bisan, like the bajang, is a Malaysian spirit. Walter William Skeat talks about it briefly in Malay Magic (I should really buy that book), where you get like maybe two pages of info. Plenty of elbow room for Wizards to transform a cicada spirit that's maybe female into a sexy lady who is also a wasp. Honestly, if I lived in a jungle where you got super loud cicadas with wingspans of up to 20cm I would totally say that's a spirit and make it some offerings so it doesn't attack me.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Basilisk

The Basilisk is a large, serpentine lizard most famous for its petrifying gaze, which it uses to hunt. Dwelling in warm deserts, it preys on small mammals, birds and reptiles, which it turns to stone before eating, digesting the petrified meat with a softening agent in its stomach. In addition to being an aid in hunting, turning its food to stone has the added benefit of staving off desert scavengers - basilisk lairs are commonly filled with what appear to be statues, in reality functioning as something larders, "preserving" the petrified meat for the basilisk to return to.

Despite their fearsome ability and carniverous nature, basilisks are sluggish and cautious, generally preferring smaller, easier quarry over humans. If an adventurer finds herself in a basilisk den, a reliable option is simply to run,  as despite its many legs, basilisks are actually quite slow on their feet and will usually give up after a short chase.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Flagella, Orcish Thug (Half-Orc Ranger)


Flagella is an orc ne'er do well, criminal, hired muscle, etc to be my next character in the campaign Joe is running. I struggled for a bit with coming up with a character. I originally wanted to do an undine fighter, basing her a bit off Morphling from DOTA 2, but it was eventually decided to stick to a more ordinary race. Technically I'm using the half-orc race, but for flavour purposes she's to be treated as a full-blooded orc that for some reason doesn't squint really hard in sunlight.

Also she's Tortella's mother. And should she die in this campaign, well then a Flagella in an alternate timeline goes on to join the circus as a lion tamer.

Tried out Manga Studio / Clip Studio Paint for this drawing. Normally I use Photoshop, but there was a deal to get Manga Studio for crazy cheapsies, so I got it. Currently suffering from shortcut muscle memory, so I ended up selecting the wrong brush / pen a lot while drawing this. I've not used it enough to decide whether I like it better than Photoshop or not yet.

Also looked up a bunch of images of fighting injuries for Flagella because I wanted her to look like she gets into fights ofter. One thing learned in never punch a person in the mouth because that's a fast way to get an infection.

Flagella was also really fun to draw because muscles. I usually draw my characters "naked" so make it easier to figure out how the clothes, and end up doing a lot of quite nice muscle and anatomy that doesn't get seen in the end. Also there's a disappointing amount of sexy orc ladies out there, by which I mean there's way too many. Orcs are supposed to be horrible big muscly things, like shaved green gorillas, but the females are always just vaguely buff (if that) green ladies with maybe tusks and a battleaxe. No. Orc ladies should be as horrible to look at as orc fellas. You don't have enough sexy ladies in fantasy that you can't let any of them be musclebound juggernauts? And real musclebound juggernauts, not She-Hulk. The closest thing to an appropriate female orc I've seen is in the lineup of races in 3.5 D&D. Now that's an orc-y lady.

Now with art process!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Minotaur

Minotaurs are brutish anthropobovine creatures who normally live in small tribal settlements on fertile grassland. They are nomadic and naturally violent, although they lack the technological advancement to be a real threat to any but those who wander foolishly into their territory.

Minotaurs are famously popular as guards, henchmen and general muscle for the discerning Evil Guy on a budget. They are easily found, easily dominated or merely impressed by magic, and serve as a cheap but impressive display of power capable of intimidating most people you are likely to want to intimidate. Look past the quick temper and weakness for brightly-coloured fabrics and you have yourself a reliable minion.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Hippocampus


Hippocampi (or sea-horses) are among the favourite mounts and beasts of burden of underwater races. Aquatic gods are especially likely to have hippocampi drawing their chariots.

There's not much else to them, honestly. They're swimming horses, slightly smarter than the average horse. But you've got your fish-horse now.

Researching this was fairly interesting. Turns out hippocampi are generally associated with Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Maybe because Zeus was feeling especially jerky he decided to make Poseidon god of horses as well, and as the saying goes: you can bring a horse to water, but it will probably drown because it's a land animal. Well Poseidon gets around this because he's a god and if he's god of horses he'll just god them into being able to be underwater when it suits him.

Hippocampus is also the scientific genus name for actual real-world seahorses, those adorable but utterly helpless little fishies. They have really neat skeletons, real-world seahorses. It's basically a scaffold.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Hydra

Hydra are great amphibious beasts, instantly recognisable by their many (at least 5) toothed heads. Where in other species polycephalous offspring are usually aberrant and more often than not die young, Hydras seem to have evolved to make excellent use of their many heads, with none of the usual drawbacks of weakened physiognomy.

Hydra heads are nimble and strong, and even one by itself can do significant damage with its jaws. Some of the larger varieties, sporting upwards of ten heads, can easily face down a group of seasoned adventurers by itself. Even more terrifying is the matter of truly killing or even subduing one of these monsters - Hydra possess remarkably fast healing, making attacking the body fairly futile. Their long, slender necks might seem an excellent target, and in truth a Hydra can be slain by severing each one in turn - but the Hydra's fast healing extends to these wounds too, and a severed stump will regrow two new heads in 1d4 rounds unless cauterised with fire or acid. Fighting a Hydra effectively requires much planning and teamwork - but at least you end up with a good selection of trophies!

Another "classic" creature down! I had fun drawing this guy. As I was checking out the stats for Hydra in 3.5 they actually seem like kind of a good option for newer adventurers who want to fight something big - even the five-headed variant is in the Huge size category, making for an impressive fight, but the challenge rating isn't too high and besides the nasty bite attacks (5 x 1d10+3 damage potentially, ouch) they're not too scary, stat-wise. Provided you know about the whole "head regeneration" thing, anyway!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Ice Troll


While still reasonably scary opponents, ice trolls are acutally the weakest of the trolls. And perhaps because they are the weakest of the trolls, they're also among the more naturally intelligent and inclined to manufacture weapons. Ice trolls are especially good at hunting down smaller white dragons and rhemorazes, tanning their hides and making armour. So while they're still a mean bunch, there's a chance that the dipomatically gifted could strike a trade agreement with them. It's always useful to have armour that's both protective against weapons and the freezing wrath of the environment.

Not that ice trolls lack the natural grossness and brutality of their more dim-witted bretheren. As well as using their claws and teeth, the ice trolls also spirts. Sure it's half frozen saliva that can give you a mild case of the frostbite, but mostly it's just gross.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Jackalwere


It's important to realize that despite first glances, the Jackalwere is not, in fact related to the Werewolf, or any other lycanthrope, despite its ability to shift from beast to man to beast. In fact, it's true form is that of a jackal, not a man.

Though it may come to you as a relief that the Jackalwere's bite will not infect you with an uncontrollable hunger for human flesh, you still shouldn't underestimate this beast. Though relatively weak compared to other dog-beasts, it's still strong enough to kill, and a Jackalwere will make sure to get it right the first time. This creature possesses a hypnotic gaze which puts its victim into a brief slumber. But not so brief that the Jackalwere will not kill you where you lie and eat you.

Jackalweres in human form are somewhat difficult to identify, but they tend to appear as scrawny, craven humans. Which make up a good amount of the population of human cities.

This one was a toughy to design. Mostly because it was difficult to illustrate that it's the jackal that's transforming, not the person. I guess it's a good way to fake out your players with a fake werewolf, or maybe you can use its stats for some kind of variant kitsune. Because, honestly, the word jackalwere sounds a bit silly.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Criosphinx


Criosphinxes are the ram-headed lesser cousins of the legendary Androsphinx and Gynosphinx. They share neither the magical abilities nor the inhuman intelligence that these beasts are known for, instead relying on brute force to get the job done. They exhibit an almost draconic attraction to treasure, and seek to hoard it wherever they can - including relieving adventurers of their valuables by force.

Had you heard of the Criosphinx?! I hadn't! According to Blanca's research, statues of these guys line the way to the temple at Karnak. I think the design here is loosely based on the Sanctuary Keeper boss from FFX, which I got stuck on as a child. This isn't a particular mark of difficulty, however, as I didn't quite get the concept of grinding in an RPG so I got stuck on literally every boss of FFX. Feh.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Muckdweller


Muckdwellers are a race of very small reptilian humanoids. Though of intelligence comparable to the average human, their comparatively stumpy and clumsy forelimbs mean that they're unable to wield weapons or indeed construct anything more than simple, crude items which will inevitably come apart. Because of this, muckdwellers live on the outskirts of larger, more complex reptilian societies, such as lizardfolk and kuo toa. They essentially become glorified waste disposers and pest controllers.

Because of a their small size (the largest ones are seldom longer than 2 feet), they are not a great physical threat to the most basic commoner. Indeed, the occasional missing small farm-beast or shiny object is the greatest harm that the ordinary muckdweller can do to a person without resorting to swarm tactics.

Not much more to say about this creature, really. It's fairly basic, essentially a very weak Tiny sized lizardfolk. But the description of them said they looked a bit like Gila monsters, which led me to discover that they have bumpy skulls. Neato.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Gelatinous Cube (& Happy 300th Post!)


Gelatinous cubes are a subset of oozes which share the remarkable tendency to settle comfortably into a cuboid shape at rest. While this might seem a uselessly bizarre trait, wizarding opinion speculates that the creatures may have thus evolved to comfortably exist in the man-made structures of abandoned underground structures such as crypts and dungeons. Here they simply "occupy" a cube of space, stretching wall to wall and waiting, spider-like, for prey to stumble upon them, whereupon they absorb and devour it.

Of course, the particular danger inherent in gelatinous cubes is their near-transparency when not feeding. For new adventurers, a seemingly vacant corridor can quickly go from being a symbol of brief merciful respite ("oh, thank goodness there are no hobgoblins here!") to one of  flesh-eating protoplasmic death ("it's eating our cleric!!!! And then it's going to eat me!!!! OH MY GOOOOOOD" etc etc).


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So, happy 300th post, everyone! We decided to go for something classically D&D-ish with this one, and as we're always pretty short on Oozes (an amorphous blob of goo is actually pretty hard to make into an interesting drawing, huh) I thought I'd go for one of the more famously silly variations on the creature type. Gelatinous cubes have become pretty iconic among the fanbase (usually depicted with the traditional skull or somesuch floating within), confirming their awkward charm. I don't know the true origin of the creature but part of me suspects that the thing was an inspired by-product of trying to codify an ooze within a system with a grid-based ruleset. They make undeniably great corridor-filling deathtraps, but consider hanging one silently from a ceiling, then dropping it on your unsuspecting party!

Also featured in this particular image is a hapless Razor Boar, which some among you may remember as Blanca's very first image for the blog way back in 2010. Drawing this I actually felt pretty sorry for the little fella. Getting eaten by an ooze is probably not a good way to go, as evinced by the 1988 remake of the classic horror/sci-fi B-movie The Blob (warning, very gory!) and, to a more comical extent, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (superbly reviewed here by the guys over at Redlettermedia).

Anyway, thanks to everyone who continues to follow us, we appreciate it. We're nearing completion on the second book now, it should be out in the later half of this year, so keep your eyes peeled for more news on that. Obviously thanks to Blanca, too - I feel a bit of a sham filling in for our 300th post when it's mostly Blanca's efforts that have kept the blog going over the years. Here's to 300 more!

- Joe

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Bajang

The Bajang is an evil forest spirit which looks like a tiny person. Then they turn into a jungle kitty. Then they poison you. Bad juju.

I did a bunch of research on this particular creature because stuff in Oriental Adventures tends to be inspired from actual creatures. I actually prefer that creature a bit more to the statted one. Doing the research was actually a bit tricky because a good amount of it seemed to directly reference D&D or were very short/misinformed, but I eventually found some stuff in Malay Magic by Richard Skeat and some other sources. So get ready for a history lesson y'all.

Bajangs are one of several Malaysian ghouls related to miscarriages and stillbirths. Bajangs are evil spirits found in dead male babies, usually risen by wizards and enslaved as familiar spirits. They are used to cause disease (epilepsy, hallucinations, etc) and are usually seen in the form of a polecat (called a musang). Now this last bit is where a good amount of misinformation starts, since a lot of my other sources seem to think polecat = regular wild cat of some sort when they're a bit closer to weasels. So while Malaysia does have a bunch of wild felines, the legend of the Bajang may have referred to a civet, called musang in South East Asian languages. But civets are weird big leopard-weasel things, so I can see why it's just easier to simplify it to jungle cat for Western audiences.

So I can see why there was a lot of shifting around with the folklore when it came to writing a D&D entry. When you're playing D&D you don't especially want to think about dead babies that want to eat other babies (and fetuses). But I don't see why they have to be classified as fey creatures rather than undead or outsiders. In my research I found maybe two references to them being jungle spirits (and even then those might just be Bajangs who were able to escape their masters). The Dryad-like tie to a tree is also something I wasn't able to confirm, though this may be a spin-off from Bajangs being trapped by their masters in bamboo tubes or chests.

Just make it an outsider that looks a bit like a baby. And that's also a were-civet. There you go.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Victor Anselm, Human Wizard Assassin

Victor Anselm is my current player character from our evil pathfinder campaign that my friend is running. Blanca's character Renata is in the same campaign - it's based around an assassin's guild (of which we're members) situated in the seedy streets of a (largely corrupt) city. Blanca's comparison to games like Dishonored is pretty accurate - we play assassins tasked with offing whichever individuals the guild is currently being paid to off. We've had around six or seven sessions now, and it's been quite fun! Each session takes the form of a self-contained "hit" and they've all been pretty varied in terms of structure and method.

It's a moderately high-level campaign for us - at this point Victor is a 6th-level Wizard with three levels in the Assassin prestige class (which is pretty much the same as its equivalent in 3.5). He's pretty fun - all his spells are themed around blood and vampirism, although he's not actually a vampire. He's more just supposed to be this person who seeks knowledge and power, both at the expense of his own health and of the people around him. He's supposed to have a bit of a Hannibal vibe, where he appears quite friendly but you always have this slight sense that he's orchestrating some elaborate death for you!

The campaign has been pretty wacky. After our (failed) first hit, we learned that banking your whole mission on a single d20 roll - whilst potentially very cool - can go pretty horribly wrong. As a result we've settled into a bit of a rhythm of coming up with methods that trade stealth for reliability. One memorable example was handing a letter covered in around 5 instances of Explosive Runes to a lady at a ball. Immediately afterwards we all run away, Wile-E.-Coyote-style, crouching behind a table and plugging our ears as the letter explodes, dealing something like 30d6 points of force damage to everyone within a 10-foot radius. There is a line where "assassination" crosses over into "terrorist act" and I think we are currently dancing an awful, awful dance along that line.

It's fun though! There's definitely a part of me that misses playing a Good Guy in an Epic Fantasy Story but I think messing around with what works within the context of tabletop RPGs is always worthwhile.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Harginn (Fire Grue)

So while Fire Elementals are already a pretty dangerous and unpredictable bunch, as pure elementals, their attitude towards others is generally fairly neutral. Sure, they'll feel the compulsion to burn things, but it's not because they're especially mean or whatever.

Harginns are especially mean or whatever. They like burning living things. It's fun, you know.

Grues are elementals born out of sections of their Planes which have been touched by evil magic. Because of this, they're especially nasty, territorial, sadistic, though fortunately they're on the weaker side of the spectrum. However, grues are especially sought after by wizards because the combination of elemental and evil magic crystallizes as a small magical object in the core of each elemental, which remains even after the grue is slain. This object can then be studied to gain new spell knowledge.

So as far as I know, grues originate from Zork, a 70s text-based videogame. I played it once. It's quite difficult. Grues are creatures that lived in the darkness and it was inadvisable to wander out there. It is pitch black. You may be eaten by a grue. There was no physical description attached to the grue, since no one has ever survived an encounter. But I always pictured them looking like cranes (grue sounds like grĂșa which is Spanish for crane, both the bird and the machine), which isn't very scary. Somehow it made it more intimidating, the idea of this gangly beaky thing being able to devour you though.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Treant


Treants are large plant-creatures that grow and shepherd plants and trees of the more mundane varieties. Tree-like themselves in appearance, they are often easily mistakable for the foliage they ward.

The treant combines the stoic toughness of ancient plant-life with the monstrous strength of large animals, resulting in a curious hybrid of tree and beast. Although typically slow and ponderous, if a treant's herd is threatened they are easily angered - and an angered treant is truly a sight to behold.

Treants are fun as a concept because of the fact that they mix traits from two of the most fundamentally differing lineages of life imaginable. It's fun to think about how the world would look if human, or even animal, intelligence had been achieved by some other branch of evolution.

Tree-men classically play off the idea that forests can be some pretty eerie places, especially given the odd shapes that you find trees contorting into (see Mandragora plants for some good examples). I based the swole body of this guy off the famous baobab trees of vaious places in Africa, although the body has all these little rooty growths coming off of it that are supposed to look like those little shoots potatoes grow. I also decided to go with making it overall less human-shaped and more like a big scuttling spider-thing. Blanca reckons it's a bit far from the traditional tolkienesque treant but I'm quite fond of it!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Brixashulty

Brixashulty are a specific breed of large goats kept by halflings for their milk, wool and to be used as riding beasts. They also make excellent guard animals, as they're incredibly distrustful of strangers, are armored by thick fur and have powerful butting attacks.

The Brixashulty is a completely non-magical animal. It's essentially just a goat with a weird name, an alternate mount for Small PCs who don't want to have a riding dog or pony. I haven't found any stats in the official books for goat or sheep (though there are goat-based monsters), so you could probably use this for a vaguely ornery but ordinary goat.

Sheep/goat mounts are pretty common in fantasy tropes for the smaller races, dwarves, halflings and the like. It's the basic mount for dwarves in World of Warcraft and the Kithkin ride them in Magic: The Gathering (technically they're springjacks, some kind of goat-bunny hybrid stats plz). It makes sense, with goats being associated with pastoral or rugged environments, which the smaller races are associated with. Of course, nobody rides goats for real, though there are the occasional novelties for children and apparently they make decent pack animals.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Manticore


Manticores are large, roughly leonine beasts that can be found in the hotter lands of the material plane. Possessing intelligence near that of an average human, they are far more cunning and cruel than other carnivorous animals. sThey spend most days hunting for food, which they relish in both killing and eating with the aid of their claws, toothed maw and barbed tail.

Also capable of human speech, manticores are sometimes mistaken for the usually better-natured sphinxes (with their human-featured heads and cat-bodies) - an error which is swiftly regretted.

Another monster with its roots in classical mythology, the manticore was one of my favourites as a child. It's typically depicted with a scorpion's sting in its tail (a trope I chose to sidestep just for the sake of trying something different) and as a long-time fan of bugs and insects I always sorta liked that little concession to monstrousness in an otherwise pretty mundane animal.

I know the head I have it is pretty weird, but I quite like how videogamey it looks. In hindsight I think I was channeling the bull charger from Okami.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lamia


The Lamia are a race of vaguely leonine centaurs which inhabit deserts. They are also fond of human flesh. The human half of the Lamia are exceptionally attractive. Well, possibly. Lamia are illusionists and charmers, capable of taking on human guise. Their touch also has a stupefying effect, making the effects of their spells all that more effective.

The illustration of the Lamia in the Monster Manual always kinda bothered me because everybody knows Lamia are snake-women duh Wizards. Well turns out the duh may be a bit on me. Doing a bit of research of the monster actually revelead a few things. For starters, there are numerous interpretations of what the Lamia looked like, among which is a woman who is a snake from the waist down. But it seems like the D&D Lamia was inspired by the Lamia from Topsell's The History of Four-Footed Beasts, a 17th century book, though that illustration may have been inspired by an even earlier one. Helps make it a bit different from Medusa and Naga.

The Greek myth of the Lamia is actually a somewhat interesting and confused one. The bare bones is Lamia is a Lybian princess who has the misfortune of catching Zeus' eye. She gives birth to babies, Hera kills her babies (and makes Lamia eat them), and Lamia is driven mad by grief and rage. She feels compelled to steal children and devour them. At some point she turns into a monster, the physical appearance of which is left vague. Also she can't close her eyes, but is able to remove them from her head. From that point on she tends to get mythologically confused with drakainae (female dragons), and empusa and lamaie (succubi and vampires). The Greek gods were jerks.

So the Lamia is one of many monsters seen worldwide throughout folklore: that of a woman who loses/kills/eats her children and goes to do the same to other children. La Llorona seems like the most modern version of that archetype, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were urban legends that followed a similar narrative pattern.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Cockatrice


The Cockatrice, despite being on the small side and having little physical strength, can be a dangerous creature to contend with for even seasoned adventurers. Around the size of a small pony, it can attack with its claws and beak with some ferocity if angered. More problematic by far, though, is its magical gaze, which can instantly turn the recipient to stone.

The Cockatrice would doubtless be a less famed creature if not for this ability. Its body, an absurd amalgam of drake and cockerel, poses little threat to a well-armoured combatant, and its intelligence is animalian. But the Cockatrice is relatively common, and can be found in small flocks in many parts of the material plane, and where they do congregate near human habitation, they can pose something of a serious problem.

Hey! Joe here, haven't posted in a while (maybe a year now?) but I'm making a concerted effort to get back into the swing of things. Honestly I've started and left unfinished about four drawings for the blog since my last post, but for some reason I developed a really sheer artistic block about D'n'D and couldn't finish anything at all. It sucked! Obviously Blanca's incredible for keeping everything going for so long, with my various hiatuses I think the blog's success definitely owes more to her ability and resilience than anything. So thankyou Blanca! yaaaay

but yeah, hope you like my Cockatrice. Chickens are great fun to find reference images of, particularly the big fluffy fat-looking ones. For pop-culture depictions of Cockatrices the ones in FFXII are some of my favourites!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Phase Wasp

Though with a name similar to the Phase Spider, the Phase Wasp is called as such not because it can travel between dimensions, but because it can attack between dimensions. Your ordinary Phase Wasp is a creature of the Material Plane, a magical insect about a foot long (yikes), but without the venom that ordinary wasps have. Instead, their stinger shoots bolts of force, as per the magic missile spell, which allows it to hit creatures whose bodies are in the planes which are overlaid over the material. The wasp also has the natural ability to see invisible creatures which, again, helps it defend itself against etheral creatures.

The source of the Phase Wasps' magical powers are not explained, but I have my own theories. Like ordinary wasps, these dudes make their nests out of chewed wood pulp and paper. They have a special fondness for making them out of the papers of spell books, which makes a Phase Wasp infestation especially bothersome for mages.

So my theory is that Phase Wasps at some point in the past were ordinary wasps just looking for materials for their nests. A couple of conveniently available magical libraries you have a new breed of giant magical super-wasps. Thanks a lot, wizards.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spirit of Air

The Spirit of Air inhabit windy cliffs, barren mountain tops and stormy forests. Though their name would imply otherwise, the Spirits of Air aren't heavenly creature, but the earthly servants of the divinities who have power over the winds and tempests. The Spirits are aware of their position in this hierarchy and their simian influence means that they're not above trickery over lowly mortals. The Spirits are easily offended, which is a bad thing when they have the ability to turn themselves into whirlwinds. Just be humble when you spot them and maybe you'll be okay.

 This is one of those creatures that I always skipped over when leafing through the books to find something to draw. Mostly because it's a stupid yellow monkey with stupid bat wings. But the dice demanded I draw this guy so I did.

And so it turns out Spirits of the Air are actually quite cool. Their spells leave something to be desired but they're suggestions rather than something written in stone. Their spell-like abilities are better (call lightging all day, erry day), and their ability to transform from weird bat-monkey into a tornardo is pretty dang cool.

Also these are Large creatures (10ft wingspan), which I didn't feel the illustration in the book communicated very well, especially when you think of winged monkey you think of those dudes from The Wizard of Oz. I think I did okay making this guy look bit, even if he's turned out a bit draconic. Also had a struggle a bit to not make him look like Momo from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Hammer Archon


I suppose agents of heavenly interventions technically aren't supposed to have preferences over who they ally themselves with (other than the ally also being good). But dwarves and gnomes and such just have a greater appreciation for the Hammer Archon's physical makeup and direct approach to problem-solving.

The Hammer Archon is essentially what you get when you get yourself an Earth Elemental and give it a sense of righteous purpose. And a hammer (non-negotiable, comes with the job). As you can tell from those images, I like me some banded gemstones, the Archon being inspired by purple agate. Malachite is still the prettiest stone, yo.

Have been finding it a little difficult lately to pick a creature from the books lately. The Ghosteater was selected by Joe, who got rid of all mentions of the name and the illustration. That makes us rely only on the description of the creature without being influenced by other artwork. But I can't make him do that every week, so this creature was randomly selected using the dice-roller at Rolz. Most other rollers are a bit limited, sticking to the more common dice types (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d100, so on), but Rolz lets you input d-whatever, which is plenty useful. First a d77 for a random books, then another d-whatever depending on how many creatures the book has.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Ghosteater


The Ghosteater is a fairly benign creature, an incorporeal who feeds on other incorporeals. It's kind of obvious.

In the City of Manifest, they can be a bit of a problem.

In the Ghostwalk campaign there's a special city and surrounding area where life and death have a grey area in between, the City of Manifest and the Spirit Wood, which lie over the Veil of Souls (a weak point in the barrier between Life and Death). Due to interplanar shenanigans, loss of a body doesn't mean your soul has to cross over right away. In fact, anyone who dies in this area can choose to either move on or stay in the Material Plane as a ghost, though they will eventually find themselves drawn to the Other Side.

What I'm saying is that Manifest has a lot of ghosts living and working and generally being functional members of society. Having a Ghosteater running around is like having a tiger running around in a regular city of people made of tasty meat.

The Ghosteater is only ever aggressive to ghosts and ignores corporeal creatures. It has growths on its back, something like sacks or boils, that can exude tentacles to grab ghosts. This is very mentally draining for the ghost and when incapacitated, the ghost is aborbed into the growth, where it's digested. Maybe you can call this digestions a True Death, since when the soul is gone there's just no more existence.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Phiuhl


Not a true elemental, but what happens when one is killed and has its soul warped. The Phiuhl is a column of hot toxic vapours, often found the Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, the volcanic plane of evil and home of yugoloths.

Being a gaseous cloud, the Phiuhl is without true shape, though some who look into it claim to see faces of misery and sadism. The touch of this creature will leave burns, but this is among the weakest of its abilities. What's worse is to be trapped within the gas of the Phiuhl. As said before, it is extremly toxic, so the Phiuhl merely needs to casually hover around its victim for it to die within minutes.

I know that this creature's probably supposed to be some sort of physical embodiment of volcanic gases, but its description of being green and purple throws me off. Combine that with it gives off poisonous heat, I can only come up with one conclusion.

The Phiuhl is the radiation elemental.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Renata Dramatata, Human Sorceress


The current campaign we're playing is an evil campaign. Though we've played campaigns where some of the players have had evil-aligned characters, the goals were always your fairly usual save the world heroic business. This is the first campaign we've played where we're terrible characters doing terrible thing.

The campaign is that we're initiates into an assassins' guild. It's meant to be a mission-based episodic thing rather than an outright full-blown story (for now? Maybe the DMs have something planned for later). There's definitely some Assassin's Creed and Dishonored vibe to it, especially the latter, since it takes place more in a Renaissance-y setting rather than an outright Medieval one. Our missions are supposed to have an investigative, social and stealthy element to it as we scope out our targets rather than just charging in and killing. Which is fairly unusual for a fairly hack and slashy game.

Needless to say, we goofed up pretty bad on our first mission (we were trying to kill a mob moss). Not enough reconnaissance coupled with bad rolls (several 1s came up when making especially important sneak attacks and subsequent attempts to escape). Let's hope the next one goes better.

Renata is an actress fallen on hard times. Maybe back in the day in some other city she was well-known, but her haughty attitude and desire to live the high life have left her a bit desperate for cash.   Renata is designed to be an infiltrator rather than an outright killer (she's not going to get her hands and clothes bloody, ew), though still with a sociopathic bent. If assassins are going to kill someone, she may as well get in on the action. Sophisticated dinners and fancy clothes aren't just gonna buy themselves.

I also wanted to make a vaguely bardy character without actually making a bard. I wanted to focus on magically influencing others through enchantments and fooling others with illusions. I ended up going for the Rakshasa bloodline for Sorcerer, for bonuses to Bluff and bonus mind-reading.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Shaedling

Shaedlings are to pixies what drow are to elves. When back when those elves who would become drow split away to follow Lolth the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, so did some pixies, and they too got "blessings" for their loyalty. Fey being closer to the primality of nature, Lolth's gifts are closer to her spidery nature.

A shaedling is much larger than a pixie, who never break the three-foot mark, and are almost as tall as humans when standing straight. Their stomachs are grotesquely distended and filled with silk made of shadow-stuff, called shadow gossamer. The gossamer are is drawn and quickly woven into a small object, normally a weapon or armour, which is of extreme lightness and masterful craftwork. These objects are inherently linked to the shaedling, and will dissolve after a few seconds upon being relinquished.

This was interesting to draw, though I found it a bit difficult to pose the shaedling in a way that was dynamic. It still isn't dynamic, but I like it more now than I did when I first started sketching it. I don't much care for drawing wings, despite how many of the things I've done have them (it is a standard fantasy trait). I did enjoy trying to figure out a way to draw the patterns on a dragonfly wing in a way that wouldn't overcomplicate the image.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Leskylor


Leskylor are among the natural fauna of the Blessed Fields of Elysium, making their homes in the caves nestled in wind-shorn peaks. Leskylor are prone to a particular type of mutation, that of multiple heads. Up to three-headed Leskylor have been spotted by dimensional travellers in Elysium. Which of course makes them all the more dangerous, as even a one-headed Leskylor is able to breathe out cones of bitter cold. These blue winged tigers are as independent as their ordinary mortal cousins, but vastly more intelligent and a useful ally against the forces of evil. They have a number of heavenly abilities which let them unearth any hidden evil-doers and move them to (temporary) repentance.

If I'm honest, I just wanted to draw a fat tiger, really.

Also, we've (finally) purchased a copy of the 5th Edition D&D Player's Handbook, and while it's really simplified down, it does still seem appealing to me. Especially the artwork. The art's crazy gorgeous in this book. A big reason why I didn't get into 4e D&D is just the artwork in the Player's Handbook was not really my cup of tea. Maybe it improved in future books, but I wouldn't know. Let me tell you though, if they release the Dark Sun setting for 5e, I will definitely definitely be running some of that.

We play mostly Pathfinder in our group, though I do want to branch out into other systems. We've already experimented with the Savage Worlds' Deadlands: Reloaded setting (mixed results, but I really like the setting), and the next time I get to DM, I'm running a Call of Cthulhu game. Although it just illustrates my luck that I go out an purchase the 6th Edition Call of Cthulhu handbook when 7th Edition is about to come out and is apparently the one that's making the most changes to the actual rules of the game. Have also been eyeing with some interest Legend of the Five Rings, Numenera, The Strange and Nobilis. Must hold off though, as I have limited time to play and also limited shelves to put books on. And pdfs are nowhere as nice as material books.

Anyway as I was saying, 5e Dark Sun plz.