Kids RPG Journal – #47 Monsters Revived

I have loved monsters since I was a tiny child. Before my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, I would get all of the books I could from the library on monsters and myths. I read Dracula way too early and I still get goosebumps when I think of some of the scenes. Later, the Monster Manuals took so much of my time and I spent many a sleepless night pouring over every detail of each creature.

Yet as I grew older, I found myself less interested in combat stats of the monsters and wanted to know their story. So I dug deep into the original folktales, ghost stories, sagas and myths from where they came. I studied the work of Marie-Louise von Franz and her explorations into the psychology of folktales.

ghoul monster sheet top- profile, instinct, role-playing notes

I picked up DMing again with the release of D&D 5E, but the one thing I was always disappointed in were the monsters. It may just be failings as a DM, but the monsters simply ended up being something to cut down with an axe. I ended up exploring a number of more story-centric RPGs like FATE, Dungeon World, Fiasco, Seven Leagues, etc. but had a hard time getting a group together to play.

ghoul monster sheet bottom - keywords, custom moves, precautions

I doubled down on my research and had ambitions of making something where the folklore and the story of the monsters shined, but could still make something fresh and exciting. I created a monster taxonomy based on psychological traits and impulses and I catalogued all the ways I could find that “heroes” defeated monsters in the tales. I wasn’t sure what format this project was going to take—RPG, field guides, comic, novel—but I have tinkered with it for the last few years.

Working on the Harrowlands game for the boys has really allowed me to clarify what I want to share about monsters and stories in general. This search for a new Monster Manual page started long before the kids RGP journal, but has finally solidified into something I am happy with.

Angry Bees

Ghoul

angry bees monster sheet top - profile, instinct, role-playing notes, keywords

These monster sheets are almost entirely focused on role-playing. It emphasizes the instincts and mannerisms on the top of the sheet, with keywords right in the center to help get focused right away. The bottom has easy to find moves and precautions which further the role-playing aspects. There are a number of ways to deal with each monster that does not have to involve combat. In fact, some of their own moves may pull them out of a fight.

angry bees monster sheet bottom - custom moves, precautions

There is a lot of work to do on the design before I would ever consider putting it out for public use, but the format will work perfectly for my use in-game. I will tinker with them here or there as I build out the content, and the more monsters I add, I’ll inevitably get the bug to make it shiny. But for now, I am really happy with what I have to work with.

Kids RPG Journal – #40 Session 2 Audio

Last weekend, we ran the second session of the Harrowlands game with the kids and everyone had a blast. The party ran into swarms of frenzied bees on the road through Saksaland and had mixed results during the encounter. The audio is below.

Unfortunately, my production on the game has come to a halt, as I’ve been dealing with being sick. It’s not likely to pick up soon as I’m heading out to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con in a few days.

Hopefully, I can find a little down time and get some work in during the convention. The coolest part is the boys will be coming up to meet me on Friday, so I get to show them around all day Saturday.

Flight from the Bumble Bees

Kids RPG Journal – #39 Episode 2 Image

Last Saturday, we ran an hour-long session and completed our first quest, “Flight from the Bumblebees”. It was lots of fun and pretty wild, with lots of flailing of arms and sound-effects. I think there were a lot of learnings I took away from this one, which is pretty cool.

After 30 years of DMing, I am still learning with practically every session.

I have a lot of work to get the audio ready for consumption, as there are a lot of instances of us saying the kids’ names that I want to trim out. I’m also tempted to splice some audio in because there were a number of points where I couldn’t remember basic words like “reigns” and “wick”, so I simply flap my arms and call them “thing”.

Anyways, the audio is coming sometime this week, but I wanted to get a session recap illustration in. This one was a lot of fun and I knew what I wanted to draw right away. Each of the characters had at least one moment where they failed miserably at their task, and these were the moments everyone at the table loved the most.

second session overview initial noodle sketches.

First, I did a couple of really scribbly sketches to see how I wanted to lay it out. I don’t really thumbnail my artwork, instead I like draw noodles all over the page until one of them starts to look like something I think I can be happy with. Here, I didn’t do enough sketches of Thule accidentally throwing the bells out into the field and had to rework it a number of times on the tablet.

second session overview sketch with rough horses

Since I don’t really know what horses look like, I just put blob-like shapes with legs and then googled some illustrated horses while I was doing the “red pencil” sketching. I use the red pencil in Clip Studio just as I use red leaded pencils in my sketchbook: where I try to transition from scribbles to cleaner lines.

second session overview inks

Next comes the inking stage. Once I’m done inking I like to lay down some white flat colors behind the foreground shapes, and use that layer like a mask for coloring the illustration.

second session overview final image.

I am enjoying the refined color palette quite a bit and I don’t feel it’s too restrictive at all. We’ll see what I choose to do when I have something like magical effects, and see if I can be creative with the colors then.

I had a great time drawing Iona, Bursten, and Thule in their finest moments from the weekend. Even an unconscious Plunk, a bag full of bees, and two horse-ish creatures were lots of fun to quickly bust out, before I have to move on to the next upcoming session.

Kids RPG Journal – #27 Item Cards & Lore

I’m heading into the second month of the kids’ RPG journal and kicking it off with a some drawings of items which will play a part in the first mini-adventure and a little bit of the local lore from Saksaland.

items for item cards in first mini-adventure
items for item cards in first mini-adventure

Bits of Lore

Gripa was a giant in the mountains. One morning, she was playing with her golden ball when it rolled down the mountain and into the plains. She searched and searched all night for the ball, but could not find it. Unfortunately for Gripa, she tarried to long and was turned to stone when the sun rose over the horizon in the morning. To this day, her weeping form overlooks the vale.

Hugrun’s Cauldron is a swampy mire in the Harg Mountains. Legend says that the giant was brewing a poisonous elixir to trick the gods, but Odin discovered the trick and Thor crunched him with a hammer blow. The remains of the poison sit in the cauldron, leeching it’s way into the depths of the earth.

Bees are messengers for the gods and other wights as they are always buzzing with gossip and tales, if you know how to listen.

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.