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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.

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.