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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


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


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


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


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


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


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.