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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.

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.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


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


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


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


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).


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


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 grúa 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.