Today’s non-player character is Plunk, the characters’ escort to Kraghall Academy.
And the final player character illustration, is my wife’s character, the Seether hight Iona Selby. The design process was a little more involved when the client is not a six-year-old, for there was a lot more back and forth. Still, I’m pretty happy with how it came out.
I’m still a little up in the air about the ink-brush line work compared to the wash coloration. I’ve actually been playing with replacing the blacks with more washes. I did test some of the icons with washed versions, and they looked really nice, but I need to be aware of how much time the artwork is taking. I’m hoping to do the first adventure early in February, preferably the first weekend, which means I need to stay focused on production, and not on non-essential tweaks.
Depending on how much gameplay I get in the first session, I may have time to clean up things for future sessions.
What I find odd about the first monsters I’m developing for the kids, is that they are not directly pulled from folktales and myths. I have a bunch of notes and sketches of more “traditional” monsters that I’ve collected and obsessed over the last couple of decades, and yet the first thing I do is start creating something new.
Not really sure what that means, but I think it will be fun to see play out. Now I have a number of partially formed plans that do involve real traditional monsters to let the kids run into later, but for now, I think I’m just focused on the particular situations and the types of quests I think would be fun and exciting.
With that, here are the first two monster illustrations:
The Grave Grim who haunts musty old tombs.
The Iron-toothed Grubkins, sentient plant imps that enjoy pilfering things from hunters and gatherers.
Later on, I will write out the full monster sheets for each of these with various stats, instincts, precautions, etc.
The first major location we are going to visit in our adventure is Yrla Stead, a small cluster of farms bordering the wild forests. We will have at least a couple of adventure sessions here, so I am working on the maps and location cards.
The first card I’m working on is the Dolmen. There is an ancient burial near one of the farms, it’s history long forgotten. It may hold a number of secrets to inquisitive kids.
I probably don’t need to draw each of these sub-locations, but I really prefer to draw backgrounds and props as opposed to people, so the location cards may be just as much for me as for the kids. Additionally, I feel like I am more creative on my descriptions when I have some illustrations to play off of.
Finally, the paintings make for great entries into the Adventure Journals.
We’ll see just how many of these I can get in, before we really need to start in on the game play.
NPCs (Non-Player Characters) are the lifeblood of role-playing games. They make up all the people and monsters not controlled by the players, which means the DM (Dungeon Master – i.e. me) has to give all of them interesting personalities and motivations. If find they are even more vital to the game experience than any cool plot ideas and wild locations you can come up with for the players. If the people in the world are boring, the game will be boring.
I find it easier for me to get into a character if I do a quick sketch of them, so I try to have a large number of NPCs ready to go with illustrations and notes how to play them, any voices and mannerisms, motivations, and a couple of quick thoughts on how they view others around them and if there are any good clues they can give out.
Today’s NPC illustration is the húskona (woman landowner), “Momma” Yrla, who the players will meet in their first adventure.
I added a process shot of the color palette I use for all of my digital artwork in Clip Studio, which is based off of the various watercolors I keep in my little travel kit. Each color is blended with all of the others so I can blend pretty easily. The Drippy Deek brush has a pretty low chroma, which allows me to layer on the color until I have the intensity I like.
In a later post, I’ll flesh out some of Momma Yrla’s personality and history and put it in context for the game. I think I should also do a post on my traditional watercolors and how I have them aligned with my digital ones.
I spent the weekend with the boys and had to switch gears from the Lore and Notes cards to work on something that they could watch me work on, so instead of spoilery adventure bits, I decided to color their character portraits: Thule Bonecrusher and Bursten Claw-jaw
Once again, I used Clip Studio Paint for my artwork. I wanted a pretty loose watercolor style, so I did not do any sort of color flats, but instead filled things in by hand, not worrying too much about the getting the color consistently up against the line art.
I used the Drippy Deek brush from the Frenden brush pack, which has a great watery texture and a cool edge to the stroke that has extra pigment, or whatever the digital equivalent is. I typical do 2 to 3 passes to get the effect I want. I work on multiple layers so I can be overlap the linework and then go back with the transparency brush with a sharper Frenden brush to erase any errant edges.
And here are the boys’ characters:
Thule Bonecrusher, the Thunder Priest class raised by barbarians in the frozen Northlands.
Bursten Claw-jaw, the Wolf Feral who discovered a mystical wolf pelt in the Dark Woods and has been imbued with the spirit of a wolf ever since.
The boys are excited to play the game now and really want to get going right away. I’d hoped to do more during the holiday break, but I spent most of my time with them and I find I work so much better when I have more alone time… even if the majority of that is doing the day job.
I’m nearly done with the design of the character sheets and have the layouts pinned down, however, I’ve been putting off going through each of the class-specific moves to pair down the text and clean up any mechanics aren’t cutting it. It feels like it’s going to be a lot more work than I think it actually will be, but I’m dragging my feet anyway.
Another reason I don’t have the character sheets completed yet is that I am so ready to jump into some adventure design and get started on the actual content of the first adventure and how to make it kid-friendly within the time that I have.
As a brief change of scenery, I started drawing out some of the lore cards, I will be handing out during game-play. I want to have a bunch of interesting handouts for the games, as they definitely make things more exciting for younger players. The lore cards will be designed to go into the boys’ adventure journals, two to a side on the 5.5×8.5 pages.
To make them kid-friendly, I’ve done a simple illustration with very little text, more to jog the memory than to give a complete summary of who, what, when, where, and how the PCs got the information. It also makes them a little more flexible, and I can put specific ones in play whenever it feels appropriate, not necessarily in some heavily-scripted manner.
The first two I have posted here are the Snarl Wort and Gourd Gone Bad. Snarl Wort is a made up herb for a mini-quest and may have some place in the main quest too. Gourds Gone Bad goes into the Slavic folklore of vampiric pumpkins and melons coming to life when they are left on the vine too long. I don’t go into a lot of detail, but the second will play a significant role in the first main adventure.
Similarly, I’ll be putting together notes cards which will have more specific things from the game which will serve more as clues on how to find creative methods to get things done.
I’m not 100% sold on the template yet, but they’ll definitely do for the first game or so.
It’s important to me to make sure that every option the boys have in the game is really easy to use and identify. For that purpose, I have created an icon for each and every move they will have for the start or play. In Dungeon World, and other Powered by the Apocalypse games, moves are basically the actions a character can take. There are class-specific moves and basic moves. I made a special icon for each one to make sure that the player’s options are clear.
I was a little daunted by the task at first, simply because there were so many, but once I got into the groove, it turned out to be not that painful. The first step was to sketch out a basic idea on paper to figure out how I’d represent the move.
The next step was to figure out how to turn my crappy sketch into an effective icon. By icon, I mean a stylized graphical representation, more shape than line-art, not necessarily a true icon meant to be immediately understood by the viewer at any scale. This took a little bit longer, but I didn’t make many significant changes from my initial sketches, so that was also fairly painless. I got about half of them done while the kids were visiting the library, and the rest over a couple of nights after they were in bed.
Finally, I took a picture of my sketchbook with the iPad camera and opened it in Clip Studio Paint. I used my fairly rough drawings as a guide for the digital inking. I use the Hairpin Sable brush from Frenden as my primary ink brush. This step was the quickest stage and I was able to get almost all of them done within a day, between times hanging with the boys.
I’m pretty happy with how they turned out and feel like I can work on getting the final versions of the starting moves going now. The next step is to clean up the wording of each move and then I’ll put them on the character sheets.
Today, I am going to take brief detour from the active kids RPG project to go over the digital tools I am using to create everything. I wanted to do this now, as I’m starting in on Affinity Publisher for the first time to make the character sheet, and there’s a slight learning curve I’m going through to develop a process.
The following programs are all great, and I enthusiastically endorse them. Each has significantly improved my workflow and creative processes, or will in the near future.
Writing – Scrivener
I switched over to Scrivener as my default writing and note-taking application a couple of years back and it is phenomenal. It allows you the ultimate flexibility in organizing your documents and document snippets all in a single project. I have a general Daily Writing project for each year, but I’ve also used it for technical specs, comic scripting, website content, adventure design, monster/folklore notes, and book scripts.
Illustration – Clip Studio Paint
For digital illustration, I use Clip Studio Paint almost exclusively. I started out doing digital art with Illustrator and then later with Photoshop and used those exclusively for many years, but I have slowly been moving away from the Adobe products where I can. Clip Studio is a dream to draw in and feels the most intuitive out of all the software programs that I have tried, particularly using the Frenden brushes available for it (http://store.frenden.com/). It is the program that closest resembles my traditional workflow. I love having the ability to seamlessly go from red pencil sketches, to inking, to coloring all together, and then on top of it having robust vector, comic panels, text and word balloons. It really is a complete package.
The only thing I find lacking are the export options. If it had the ability to export vector layers to SVG, it would cover practically all of my digital art needs.
Yet what truly makes Clip Studio mind-blowing is that the iPad version of the application is identical to the desktop, so I can do 99% of my work anywhere and sync with Dropbox to have the fully compatible file on my desktop. Well worth the price of the subscription. The only issues I have with the app for iPad are all based on iOS issues and the hoops one has to go through to access files and assets with various applications.
Digital Art Assets – Affinity Designer & Affinity Photo
While I don’t draw with the affinity applications, I do appreciate them for their completeness and flexibility. I have completely dropped Illustrator and Photoshop in favor of Affinity as I can do everything I ever did on those programs without maxing out my CPU, paying subscriptions, random crashes, and all the other headaches that came with Adobe.
Any vector work I need to do is in Designer. I’ve gotten quite comfortable with creating with the pen tool and that tends to be the majority of my work there, unless I have some typography I need to create outlines with. For Photo, I use it mainly to crop images and create digital assets.
I don’t use most of the features available in Affinity on a regular basis, but they are great to have around when I do and the price for the level of polish and quality is unbeatable.
While I do have both applications for the iPad, I tend to do all my work in them on the desktop, so I can’t really speak to those versions.
Document Layout – Affinity Publisher
This is the program I’ve been waiting for for two plus years, but the beta for Affinity Publisher is finally out! InDesign was the last holdout of the Adobe products, and after a couple of hours with Publisher, I can say that I will be 100% done with Adobe for my personal projects (I still use the programs for the day-job). As much as I love with InDesign, so far Publisher has either matched or exceeded it in every aspect of laying out my character sheets. The text is very quick and intuitive to fine-tune, I haven’t had any trouble placing and altering images, and my test exports seem to work very well.
I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with the beta and when the real release comes out. I’m sure I’ll be putting a bunch of things here as I start building the adventure and various handouts, monster sheets, etc. I’ll document the process as I learn.
At a later date, I’ll talk about the hardware I use for various related projects and how those affect my workflow. Today I’m going to continue to lay out the character sheets for the boys and see how far I get with them.
On Christmas morning, the boys opened up a couple of packages relating to the upcoming kid-friendly RPG we’ll start playing next month. I finished the inks of their character sketches late Christmas Eve and put them in their new adventure journals that will document all of the cool stuff they do and learn in the game.
They also received their first sets of gaming dice. One from me, and Christmas themed ones in their stockings from Santa. It’s good that they got two sets, as the majority of roles in Dungeon World are 2d6, so they will now be all set once we get going.
They were thrilled with everything and are eager to color in the characters and start drawing maps.