The Prince of Shadows is part thief, part trickster, and part assassin. To some he is a hero; to others a villain. He has squandered the riches of the dwarves, murdered the hopes of a dragon, and plundered the dreams of a god. His exploits have changed the world, but none can tell you his ultimate goals or motives. –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
The Prince of Shadows, our final icon. Who doesn’t love an international man of mystery? I do, and I certainly love how Lee Moyer painted this piece. I’m hesitant to post my pencils, because it makes me look like a slacker, but there’s a lot to be said for the less-is-more philosophy when it comes to evocative illustration. As I see it, RPG art is meant to stimulate the imaginations of those playing the game, and shadows can be useful in that endeavor. Speaking of RPG art, I’m delighted to announce that select pieces of interior art from 13th Age will be included in a show at Krab Jab Studio in Seattle. I plan to attend the reception on August 30th as it coincides with the weekend of PAX, but the show goes up August 11th. Here are the details. And here’s the promotional flyer:
Here are my comparatively uneventful pencils for the Prince of Shadows. (I’m glad Lee used his imagination!)
Here are some early thumbnails before we decided the Prince should go play outside.
And now a little teaser of things to come! Amidst this sea of thumbnails for the interior art of 13th Age (reduced to maddeningly illegible sizes) you’ll find the thumbnail for an illustration that relates to the Prince of Shadows. Check back for more excitement in the coming weeks as we rev up for the official release of 13th Age.
“The Elf Queen rules the Court of Stars, the one place where wood elves, dark elves, and high elves come together as peers and allies instead of as rivals or enemies. Honed by centuries of experience, the Queen’s innate magic at least equals the Archmage’s spells.”–From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
I am left with the final two Icons for my behind-the-illustration posts, and evidently I’ve been reluctant to finish them off (astute readers may have noticed that postings were delayed for two weeks). But there are so many 13th Age illustrations yet to be revealed that I need not hesitate. The show is just beginning, in fact!
The Elf Queen is Lee Moyer’s favorite icon, and I think that passion is easily recognized in his digital painting. She’s a wonder to behold, and if Lee hadn’t already claimed her she would probably be my favorite illustration — but I’m going to be a tease and say that next week’s icon is my favorite.
The Elf Queen was another icon that took some “ratcheting up” on my end. The progression of thumbnail to final pencils ends up looking like a narrative of the elf queen from adolescence to queen. Lee and I had a chuckle over the thumbnail of the “schoolgirl” elf queen that I knew wasn’t going to work, but submitted because she was just so darn cute! Take a look at the thumbnail and try to tell me she’s not about to burst into song. She’s the Snow White of elfdom in that stage, but as you can see her true form is much closer to The Queen, minus several degrees of vanity, one would hope.
[ Ed: Steven Sander's has produced this distinctive image for Will Hindmarch's GUMSHOE game Razed.]
My approach to detailing the alien threats and adversaries of Razed was inspired by Ken Hite’s multifaceted approach to the Mythos in Trail of Cthulhu. Each style of enemy is not a single vision of alien menace but a category of force containing a variety of different interpretations of a core idea. Some of those categories are broader than others.
On the page, each enemy force exists as evocative words and myriad options. In the art for Razed, I wanted to put the central ideas behind each force into the hands of a few artists and let them do concept art that built on and expanded those ideas visually, adding dimension to them and increasing the number of options available for Razed GMs and players to use when rendering these monsters in their minds. Part of Razed involves investigating the source and cause of the apocalypse so that you can survive—or fight it.
If we had one single truth to what this or that enemy force wanted or was like inside its armor, you could just read the book and have those answers spoiled for you. Instead, I wanted each instance, each campaign of the game to involve different answers to core questions, so that players knew sort of where they were headed but not what awaited them when they got there.
It’s like how, in some fantasy campaigns, you know there might be orcs and dragons and trolls, but you don’t know quite what they’re like in this campaign. Razed facilitates that by offering immediate and tangible solutions that GMs can use directly, sow as rumors, or use as inspiration for their campaign’s and mystery’s own truths.
What you have here an artist’s vision of the alien force called the Crusaders, as brought to scary, wonderful life by Steven Sanders. What is this thing? Is it biomechanoid or somehow undead? Does it want to kill us or convert us? Is this particular model here to communicate, study, or destroy? Do you hear the buzz and the tiny pops as its hover drive carries it through the smoke and humidity in the air or does it blink in and out of sight as it glides silently through the ruins of your hometown? Whose blood is that on its sturdy shell?
With Sanders’ artwork in my mind, I go back to the text for the Crusaders to add in options and dimensions for them that didn’t occur to me in prose alone. The text influences the art influences the text… and it all leads back to you, the players, who take our concepts and render them in your minds’ eyes through play.
“The Great Gold Wyrm is the world’s protector and the inspiration for holy orders of paladins and independent heroes. Although the Gold Wyrm’s physical form seals the gap that prevents the Abyss from erupting into the world, its dreams and the agents it employs still move through the world, helping those who will fight and even die for what’s right.” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description
The Great Gold Wyrm brought to life by Lee Moyer’s mastery of digital painting. This was another one that floored me when I first saw it. You’ll notice that the painting really goes beyond my pencil drawing (below). It’s not just thousands of scales for vanity’s sake, though. I’m sure in the modern world of dragons there are those who have their scales multiplied to fulfill some concept of beauty, but the reason the Gold Wyrm has this many scales is simply because he’s a dragon of gigantic proportions. A little gnome could probably strap a saddle on one of those scales for riding…or rather he could try.
*Here’s a bonus sketch for everyone who has been tolerating my corny commentary in these posts. Thank you for not breathing fire on me:P
“The Crusader is the armored fist of the Dark Gods. So long as followers of the gods of light stay the hell out of his way, the Crusader turns his wrath against the demons that would destroy the world his own gods want to rule. Follow the Crusader if you must win at any cost.” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
The Crusader digitally painted by Lee Moyer. I’m going to let the images do the talking this week because Lee and I are busting our humps* to finish the interior art for 13th Age, now available for Pre-Order.
*Oh, you didn’t know I have a hunchback? It’s common among illustrators. And that structure behind the Crusader…that’s my studio.
My pencil drawing:
My thumbnail sketch:
“The Three were among the first dragons to walk the world. The Red is a living engine of destruction. The Blue is a sorceress, perhaps even the original mother of all sorcery. The Black is queen of shadows and assassins. Unlike the Great Gold Wyrm, who must fight alone, the Three have learned to join forces.” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
Behold The Three digitally painted by Lee Moyer. Not only are these mamas ancient, they are also enormous. Look for the Where’s Waldo Priests for a sense of…”scale” (sorry). This behind-the-illustration post gives you a much closer view of those guys, but they are ultimately inconsequential in comparison to the awesome majesty of The Three!
My pencil drawing (after receiving Lee’s request for plenty of “crunchy pencil detail.”) You’ll notice that my choice of color for the dragons was different than the final. Decisions, decisions – all part of the process!
And here’s the promised closeup of our dark priests, Larry, Curly and Moe:
As an extra bonus here’s an early thumbnail where I happened to accidentally not draw most of the dragons’ anatomy. Hmm…you’d think I was hesitant to draw thousands of scales or something. I haven’t confirmed this with Lee, but looking at this image and the final, it’s my guess that he may have appropriated this version of the Blue sorceress dragon in the final. Ah, Process, you are the Black dragon cloaked in vague shadows until you strike as quickly and decisively as a deadly assassin!
“The Diabolist controls fiends and tampers with forces even the Archmage avoids. She likes her victims screaming and her chaos pure while claiming that the demons she summons would otherwise overwhelm the Great Gold Wyrm who seals the Abyss. There are two differences between her and her demons: First, she likes keeping destruction personal rather than universal. Second, she’s capable of kindness, so long as it comes as a great surprise.” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
Lee Moyer’s deliciously diabolical digital painting of The Diabolist (in a sense 3D;)
My pencil drawing:
Early thumbnails included demons in the shadows of the Diabolist before we decided on a graphic background suitable for a most notorious Icon.
“The Emperor rules the world’s greatest human kingdom, known as the Dragon Empire for the mounts of its mightiest warriors. All the signs suggest that the age is turning, but will the Empire fall or shift to a new balance?” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
The final illustration of the Emperor digitally painted by Lee Moyer:
My pencil drawing:
An earlier sketch that had the key ingredients, but didn’t have the necessary amount of refinement that the Emperor demands:
Earlier thumbnails included the Emperor with a tamed dragon. Think Ernst Stavro Blofeld (of James Bond fame) and his cat. That approach was too ripe for parody. We’re not going for Dr. Evil here. Whether the Emperor is a corrupt ruler or not has yet to be determined.
“The Priestess hears all the Gods of Light and speaks for those who please her. She is part oracle, part mystic, and part metaphysical engineer, since she created the Cathedral, an ever-expanding temple with rooms or entire wings for each of the faiths she favors.” –From the 13th Age icon teaser description.
Lee Moyer really made this piece his own with the digital paints. I sometimes have a guess about how the light and color will work when I turn the pencils over to him, but this was one of the cases where the final result was a total surprise. I just gazed in awe for a few minutes when he sent it to me. We had discussed the architectural design of Hugh Ferriss as an influence for the Priestess’ cathedral, so evidently I was expecting the background to be mostly monochromatic. I have come to understand that the tastes of the Priestess are much more diverse and spectacular.
Below an extremely crude thumbnail. (I’m lucky that Lee and Rob can look at something like this and determine whether it’s a direction I should pursue, or not.)
We had an amazing family vacation for two weeks just as I was turning over the 2nd playtest draft of 13th Age. We spent two weeks in Turkey, starting with four days in the carved rock of Cappadocia, where I typed the new echo spell notes for the wizard listening to the night call of the muezzin bouncing off a fortress rock named the Castle of Uchisar. Then we drove south and west along the coast, hiking in ruins and swimming in the Mediterranean before catching aflight to Istanbul for a final four days of museums and bazaars.
In Kalkan, we stayed in a sweet hotel that we thought was named the Harpy Hotel. But half its logos and signs said the Happy Hotel. Which was it? Well it started as the Harpy Hotel. As witnessed by the Harpy Stele at the nearby ruins of Xanthos, the local harpies were conceived as benevolent spirits, winged women who took the souls of dead children to heaven. Huh. Dead children, well, I guess that’s the human condition. Heaven is good, at least.
But every week a hotel guest mentioned that as far as they knew, harpies were monsters. Eventually the hotel acknowledged its PR error. The owner’s name includes a Turkish word for happy, so the new name is a double-entendre that most guests won’t realize.
As we were checking out I decided to take one last look at email since it seemed likely we wouldn’t have access that night. I had a surprise present, the first 13th Age monster tile I’d seen from the Diabolist, sent over by Lee Moyer who’d finished the tile from Aaron McConnell’s rough pencils. And yeah, the moment we were checking out from the Happy/Harpy Hotel, Lee sent over the harpy.
I had my laptop in hand as we checked out and showed the art to the concierge, saying “You know all those people who turned the harpy into a monster and made you change the name of your hotel? I make games. I’m part of your problem.”
For those of you reading this entry for information on 13th Age instead of keeping up with my synchronicity highway vacations, here’s the scoop on our monster tiles. Preparing the art order, I mulled over the fact that our monster selection for the 13th Age book deliberately sticks close to d20 norms. Therefore most of our monsters have been extremely well-illustrated multiple times. And recently. What were we going to add? Did our audience really need another monster-format illustration of a gnoll? An otyugh, even? There had to be a more interesting approach. So I turned to the strengths of our setting: what if the monsters could be represented by control glyphs created by the Archmage? That way the monster illustrations would be different and say something useful about the world. Maybe I’d put together a card game using the glyphs. Maybe the game would correspond to a game played by wizards.
I talked the idea over with Lee Moyer. Mr. Value-Added, I call him. Once Lee began experimenting with the glyphs, he suggested that we rank the monsters with icons they might be associated with instead of giving the Archmage all the credit. Of course! Each monster or monster type appears on a form of tile, stone, gem or plaque associated with one of the icons. The Diabolist’s tiles are all shaped like the harpy tile, a shape you’ll recognize from the icon’s illustration. On the Diabolist’s other tiles, instead of a harpy you’ll get a hezrou or dretch or balor. But the Elf Queen’s tiles look nothing like the Diabolist’s tiles, ditto for the High Druid and each of the other icons associated with a few of the monsters.
Lee nailed this project. We’ll share more monster tiles soon!