Kids RPG Journal – #25 Places

Over the weekend, I completed a couple more location drawings and wanted to put them up here.

House of Arg, the mad baker next to the Pumpkin Snarl on Momma Yrla's stead

First, is the house of Arg, the mad baker, who lives within Momma Yrla’s stead. I’ll go a little bit more into him when I do the character illustration. His house/bakery is right next to a massive Pumpkin Snarl.

Viking-style beehives made from hollowed tree stumps.

Second, is some Viking-style beehives set in old, hollowed tree stumps. Bees are going to play an important part in the opening scene for the adventure.

Kids RPG Journal – #24 Catch Up

Process on the game has slowed down a bit as I’ve been playing catch-up at the day job from the holiday weekend. Oddly enough, the weekends are the hardest time for me to get personal work done.

I think it’s due to two reasons: First, I’m around the kids more and spend a lot of my time and energy. Entertaining 6-year-olds is a lot more labor intensive than web development. When I do have a break, I’m either doing chores, or I’m trying to recuperate. Even when they are playing on their own, I sometimes have trouble with focus because of the ambient noise.

Second, there’s no real structure with the weekends. We’re often going somewhere or doing activities that we can’t get in during the week, so I cannot get into a routine as easily.

That said, I made a couple of place drawings this week and worked on adjusting the players’ custom moves.

Yrlashof, jutland-style longhouse of Momma Yrla

Yrlashof, the first real location the players will visit. The long house of Momma Yrla. I based the design of the farm off of Jutland Viking structures, with a little fantasy embellishment.

Viking-style haystacks on Yrlashof

Viking-style haystacks. A sub-location (or zone, to steal from FATE) on the farm. It’s interesting to look into how different certain elements look from what I see in my life. I could get lost in researching how medieval and ancient peoples worked and lived.

Kids RPG Journal – #23 Map Making

Today, I explore the process for making maps for the kids lands in the game. 

First, I started through a bunch of my resources on Scandinavian history and legends, including a bunch of books by old historians and story scholars, like A Description of the Northern Peoples by Olaus Magnus, Danish Histories by Saxo Grammaticus, Germania by Tacitus, and Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm. I copied names and brief notes about major land features and countries.

I want to keep some real-world locales in the setting, but don’t want to be a slave to actual physical geography. I more want to honor the stories and legends of places, versus historical accuracy.

Midgard post-it notes

Step two, I wrote out some of the names on post-it notes to get a general placement for all of the countries and land masses. Then I took a picture and drew a map over the image. 

Midgard Map first paint

Here is a first pass at a Midgard map. I’ve already chosen to add/change/remove some place names since making this, but it got enough of the world in my head that I figured I could move on to where the adventures will begin, Saksaland.

In the first adventures, the players will be traveling North in Saksaland to get to their future school, the Kraghall Academy. Think of it like any of the various ways Harry Potter had to take to get to Hogwarts. I already had some local flavor in place for the adventure and now needed a map.

Saksaland map sketch

I did a number of sketches on paper until I liked the layout and had everything I wanted to include. Once I had a final sketch, I took a photo and set it as a background in Clip Studio Paint.

Beech tree process shot in Clip Studio Paint

I started with the trees first, as I knew they’d be the most time consuming. Saksaland has three major forest types: spruce, beech, and birch. I made 3 or 4 individual trees of each the beech and birch and then copy and pasted them in varied clusters to give them a random appearance.

Saksaland map detail: trees

After lots of copying, I had the forests in place.

The spruce trees were all drawn individually, but I may go back and make some spruce tree materials for future use.

The rest of the map was done in the same ink and dirty wash as the rest of the art for the game.

I am adhering to one of the major tenants of Dungeon World: draw maps, leave blanks. It’ll be fun to see if we can go back to any of these things later on in the campaign.

Kids RPG Journal – #21 PC: Iona Selby

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.

player character illustration - Iona Selby, a seether who has more in common with things buried within the earth than she does with people.

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.

Kids RPG Journal – #20 The Bestiary

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 Grave Grim who haunts musty old tombs.

The Iron-toothed Grubkins, sentient plant imps that enjoy pilfering things from hunters and gatherers.

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.

Kids RPG Journal – #19 Locations: The Dolmen

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.

Dolmen location near the farmsteads

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.

Kids RPG Journal – #18 First NPC

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.

Momma Yrla, landowner and farmer.

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.

Momma Yrla process shot with color palette in Clip Studio Paint

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.

Kids RPG Journal – #17 Character Portrait Colors

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.

Bursten Claw-jaw color detail in Clip Studio Paint

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.

Clip Studio Paint transparancy brush

And here are the boys’ characters:

Thule Bonecrusher, the Thunder Priest class raised by barbarians in the frozen Northlands.

Thule Bonecrusher character portrait colors

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.

Bursten Claw-jaw character portrait colors

Kids RPG Journal – #16 Lore Cards

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.

Snarl Wort Lore Card for Kids RPG - Snarl Wort is a rare herb with a sweet, spicy flavor. It is used for potions and cooking, and can be quite dangerous to harvest.

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.

Vampire Pumpkin Lore Card for Kids RPG - In the eastern lands, it is said that pumpkins left on the vine after the Butcher's moon may turn vampiric and most evil.

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.