I’ve been enjoying the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge this month, but I felt unhappy about today’s challenge, which is a ‘dwarf bum’. I know a lot of people who’ve been homeless, including some of my close friends. Someone calls someone a bum when they are being disrespectful. Someone calls themselves a bum when they feel bad about themselves. I felt that the language being used in today’s challenge was disrespectful, and while it is a small and perhaps petty thing to argue about language used, I felt a need to make a cheeky response:
Sunday to Wednesday I was in a class on Indigenous Theologies and Methods, which NAIITS (North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies) was running here through Whitley College. One of the things we spent a lot of time discussing was the differences between how Western Christians have read the Bible and how the Bible might be read from Indigenous cultural perspectives. One particular emphasis that our teacher Terry LeBlanc (a Mi’qmac man from Canada) noted was the tendency for Western Christians to focus on the rupturing of creation in Genesis 3 and overlook the goodness of creation in Genesis 1-2. His suggestion was that rather than Genesis 3 being an ultimate fall from perfection, it is more like a break in relationship between people, God, spirits and fellow creatures.
At the same time I’ve been participating in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge for July. Each day there’s a Dungeons & Dragons creature to draw, and Tuesday’s challenge was a wereshark, which I really enjoyed drawing.
@bodieh, who lives in Western Australia (where the government has encouraged the culling of sharks) is one of the organisers of the challenge, commented on this one. I wondered whether this wereshark might be looking for former Western Australian premier Colin Barnett? I wondered whether we should be paying attention to what sharks may be trying to say to us, rather than culling them? It certainly seems unfair to me that we would venture into their natural environment and then kill them when they attack us.
On Sundays I normally post some illustrations of creatures that can be used in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons. (Because last week was really busy in our household and this week I’ve been doing an intensive class, I haven’t been able to post as often as I have been, but I’m posting some illustrations now.) Folks on Twitter voted for me to draw some kobolds this time, so here are a kobold dragonshield and a kobold inventor:
I drew a winged kobold earlier in the year. Having reflect on them a bit, I’m not convinced that they should be considered lawful evil. In Volo’s Guide to Monsters they’re described as being willing to sacrifice themselves so that other members of their tribe might escape their enemies. It seems like the main reason that they’re considered to be evil-aligned is because they tend to come under the sway of evil dragons and other evil creatures. I’m not saying that they should be considered good-aligned, but I wonder if they should be considered lawful neutral or true neutral?
A couple of other things I’ve been wondering about have been elderly kobolds and the lost kobold god Kurtulmak. Volo’s Guide says that while most kobolds are short-lived, some live up to 120 years old. I wonder what kind of abilities such an elderly kobold would have?
I was also thinking that it would be interesting to run an adventure involving kobolds trying to free Kurtulmak from the maze where he’s imprisoned. Since I’ve been running Planescape adventures recently, I thought it could be interesting to change the Kurtulmak’s story a bit and have him trapped in the Lady of Pain’s maze in the city of Sigil – perhaps due to gnomes’ trcikery.
- ‘Races of Planescape in 5th Edition: Githzerai and Bariaur’ Kor Artificer – the player race options have been adapted from the 2nd Edition Planescape versions
- ‘Spelljammer Spells’ The Dour DM – converts some Spelljammer spells from 2nd Edition to 5th Edition
- ‘Eberron Spells’ @Makaros83 – some 5th Edition spells for the Eberron setting
- ‘Lumeran River Scout’ Kobold Press – a 5th Edition river pirate background for the Midgard setting
- ‘Player Character Conflict’ Marauding Owlbear – explains how conflict between player characters can bring depth to the story, and how players can avoid in-game conflict being taken personally
For players and DMs:
- ‘A Guide to Oozes, Slimes and Jellies’ Power Score – a roundup for ooze content from all editions, including monsters, non-player characters and player character options. I’ve done a drawing of the oozemaster:
- ‘Running City Adventures’ Power Score – I found it challenging a couple of weeks ago running an adventure set in Sigil the City of doors. Sean offers some suggestions here that should help DMs running urban adventures.
- ‘Magic Item Special features for Planescape Campaigns’ Tribality – tables with random features associated with the different factions and planes of the Planescape setting
- ‘Alternate Fey Courts’ Tribality – provides some options other than the Seelie and Unseelie courts
- ‘Black Annis’ Gorgon Breath Games – illustration and monster stats for the mother of hags
- ‘IT Wizardry’ Gnome Stew – some ideas about how a magical Interweb could be used in your game
- ‘Don’t Let Your D&D Players Do This!!’ Don’t Stop Thinking – looks at some ways that players can ruin the game for others, and how to respond
- ‘Instant NPCs for Fifth Edition D&D’ Sly Flourish – inspired by the simplicity of the Cipher system, this article looks at how you can simplify non-player characters so that they require less preparation
- ‘More Mechanics to Steal to Make Your D&D Game Better’ Geek & Sundry – some ideas from 13th Age, Fate Core and Shadow of the Demon Lord that could be used in D&D
- ‘Tick Tock: The Weird Clock Speed of D&D’ The Angrey GM – explains how some games get bogged down with unnecessary decision-making
- ‘Pokemon Gen 1 Starters’ WhiteMageTeam – D&D 5e monster stats for Pokémon
For anyone wanting to reflect more deeply on RPGs:
- ‘Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women’ Kotaku – looks at the contributions of women who were involved in shaping Dungeons & Dragons early on
- ‘Learn the Fascinating Theory Behind Roleplaying Games’ Geek & Sundry – explains three ways of classifying RPGs, which may help you clarify the kind of game you want to run or play
Content I’ve published this week:
- ‘D&D & Dinosaurs’ – a short reflection about a Planescape adventure I ran based on Jurassic Park
- ‘Owlbear Illustrations and Alternative Origins’ – I drew some owlbears, @sethnidilaw and his daughter wrote up stats for my majestic owlbear, and I listed some alternate origin possibilities for owlbears
On Sundays I’ve generally been posting some of my illustrations, which can be used for miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. This week @sethnidilaw mentioned on Twitter that he and his kids like seeing my drawings each week. So I asked if his kids would like to choose some monsters that I could present as options for this week. Folks ended up voting for owlbears, so here are a couple of owlbear drawings:
As you can see, one of them isn’t like a standard owlbear – it has fully-formed wings. I’ve been thinking about how to alter the stats for a regular owlbear, to make it a majestic, flying owlbear. I think I’d give it a flying speed of 60 feet, less hit points (to reflect a lighter creature, with a flying ability), as well as decreating strength and increasing dexterity. This is @sethnidilaw and his daughter’s take on the magestic owlbear:
While I was drawing these I was thinking about the origins of owlbears. It seems like most editions of Dungeons & Dragons suggest that owlbears were probably created by a wizard. But what other possibilities are there? (Some of these are a bit odd. But may I remind you that we’re talking about owlbears?)
- Mutation caused by a magical accident – owlbears could conceivably have been created by wild magic, or by fallout from a magical, industrial disaster (a fantasy equivalent of a nuclear meltdown)
- Missing evolutionary link – if you’re up for something absurd or surreal in your setting, you could suggest that owlbears are the common evolutionary ancestor of both owls and bears
- Polymorph chaos – sometimes, when an owl and a bear really love each other… Okay that’s a silly idea. But if you wanted to go with it, you could say that an owlbear is a bear who had a ancestor who was an owl polymorphed as a bear. (Similar to how tieflings, aasimar and genasi’s odd appearances reflect their planar heritage.)
- Planar influence – in issue #12 of Dragon+, Adam Lee described a pocket dimension inhabited mainly by cats. What if there were also similar dimensions for bears or owls? Maybe an owl who had grown up in a bear dimension, or a bear who had grown up in an owl dimension would become something like an owlbear?
- Fey origin – the 5th edition Monster Manual suggests that owlbears may have come from the Feywild, where it’s said that they’ve always existed
Here’s a backstory for owlbears that @sethnidilaw and his daughter wrote:
When the Elven civilzation decided to leave and go to the Prime Material Plane some of them took young Owlbeas with them, intended to be used as they were in the Feywild, as guardians of their realm.
But the travel between planes had unforseeable affects on the beast and so the Owlbears that arrived were not like the ones that left the Feywild.
Over the course of a few generations, magically triggered mutations turned the once docile creatures into the fierce predators they are known as now.
The Majestic Owlbears are a bit of a different story.
Until some time ago they were only a myth, told by adventurers who passed through the Broken Spine Mountains.
But recently repots have been uncovered in the great library of Avon in Ashbrooke, adding fact to fiction.
Those documents show that since Owlbears have the ancestry of both their namesakes, their appearances can be dominated by either one of those.
In case of the Majestic Owlbear the owls are the dominant part.
The most prominent features are their wings and general size. Compared to regular Owlbears the known Majestic Owlbear specimens are about one and a half times to twice their size and can weigh up to five times as much.
Like their smaller, earthbound relatives they are ferociously territorial and only share to mate and raise offspring until they’re old enough to hunt. But their hunting grounds are much larger in comparison, since they dominate the highest peaks of the Broken Spine Mountains where prey is scarse.
In addition the Majestic Owlbears are solely nocturnal and build their eyries on the topmost peaks which adds to them being spotted so rarely.
But elven rangers from Amrenrion have secretly been following them and documenting their development.
Given the dangerous environment and the Majestic Owlbears not being the only predators in that region, most didn’t make it back and so reports have been slow and irregularly coming back to the elven stronghold.
Over two hundrer yeas passed after the fall of Amrenrioni before the first pieces of literature were salvaged and it took another half millenium until the first reports of Majestic Owlbears had found their new home at Ashbrooke.
Since the library at Ashbrooke is a place seldomely visited it took even longer until word had reached Port Aven and the other cities.
During February I participated in the #DungeonDrawingDudes challenge. For each day of the month there was a prompt for a D&D themed drawing. I’ve found it to be a big challenge. I’ve been stretched by it. I’ve enjoyed seeing what everyone’s contributed. I thought I’d post a few things I’ve learned and one thing that I would change.
I’ve learned to turn stuff around quick
Earlier in the year I had already set myself a challenge to draw something to each week to use in my own D&D campaigns. The daily challenges really intensified that challenge and meant that I really needed to get into a rhythm of producing daily. I subscribe to the idea that if you want to get creative work done you just need to get into the momentum of producing, even if what you’re producing isn’t the best. The discipline of finishing something sub-par can help you follow through into something decent.
I’ve learned how to draw figures better
In response to someone else’s contribution on Instagram one day I mentioned that I hate hands because I don’t know how to draw them well. In response I was told that I should channel my hatred of hands into learning to do them. I’ve often said that I’m not good at drawing figures acurately, that I’m not good at getting proportions right or drawing arms that look like they would work properly. I’ve hidden behind the fact that my signature style is pretty abstract. The idea that I should put energy into learning these things properly really inspired me. What I ended up doing to improve was downloading a couple of apps that allow you to manipulate anatomical models, and I used this to help me draw more realistic figures for a number of my contributions. (I still did plenty in my regular style.)
I’ve learned to look at earlier editions for ideas
I’ve played a little bit of 3rd Edition, Pathfinder and Labyrinth Lord, but most of my experience with D&D is of 5th Edition, and I doubt I’ll ever go back to early versions of D&D. However, there is so much creative contentavailable in the earlier editions which could be adapted for 5th Edition. I appreciated having the challenge of drawing an arachnomancer from 3rd Edition, and think it’d be intersting to adapt to 5th Edition. I’m also keen to have a look through other content from earlier editions for ideas.
I’ve learned to be creative and not just do stuff like it is in the Monster Manual
I noticed that some some of the challenges got a bit dull. I got up to the drider challenge and was thoroughly uninspired until I came up with the idea of giving the drider many eyes, making it’s elven fact look more mad and spiderlike.
What I’d change: the name
The one thing I’d change about this challenge is the name. I know what some people use ‘dude’ as a nongendered term, but a lot of people do see ‘dude’ as a masculine noun. I think that if a clearly non-gendered name was used, like #DungeonDrawingDorks, we’d see a more diverse range of contributors.
If you’d like to use my illustrations in your game, the files are here. (Please don’t publish them elsewhere without my permission though.)
If you’d like to republish any of the illustrations, or if you’d like to commission some illustrations for your own game, shoot me an email.
The challenge continues in March:
I’m taking a break from blogging for the rest of this week, but I thought I’d still post my final week’s worth of contributions for the #DungeonDrawingDorks / #DungeonDrawingDudes February challenge:
22. Undead bard
24. Gnome tinkerer
25. Drow arachnomancer
28. Aspect of Hextor
Each Sunday I’m publishing a monster illustration I’ve made for use in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.
This week I’ve drawn a black dragon. (I used this to represent a black dragon wyrmling – a very young dragon – in our game yesterday.)
The breath of a black dragon is burning acid. Black dragons also enjoy witnessing the corrossion of civilisations. They collect precious artifacts from fallen societies.
In the current political situation in Australia, as the government seems to be falling apart day by day. It can be tempting for those of us who oppose the current government to gloat about the government’s problems. It might be sobering to consider what will be left of our society once the corrosion is complete?
vHere are my second week’s worth of drawings for the #DungeonDrawingDudes / #DungeonDrawingDorks challenge. The best place to look at what everyone is contributing is on Instagram.
15. Kobold Warlock
17. Bandit Captain
19. Human Pirate
20. Gibbering Mouther
I’m open to commissions if you’d like me to draw monsters or adventurers for your game. Send me a private message or email me – email@example.com
Each Sunday I’m publishing a monster illustration I’ve made for use in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder.
This week I’ve drawn a lizardfolk:
Lizardfolk are cold-blooded – meaning they’re reptilian creatures, but also that they’re unemotional and ruthless. They’ve developed that way in order to survive in the harsh swamp environment. Lizardfolk who associate with other humanoids can pick up expression of emotions but it doesn’t mean they’re experiencing emotions themselves.
Lizardfolk remind me of the popular conspiracy theory that says Earth is being rules by extraterrestrial ‘lizard people’ or ‘reptilians’. I think it taps into the suspicion that our leaders don’t actually empathise with ordinary people and don’t have our best interests at heart.
I wonder if we could all benefit from considering whether we empathise with others?
If you’d like to commission illustrations for your own game, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org