Next on my monster list is not really a monster but instead a revered spirit of the forest that I found very cool. The otso is a bear-spirit guardian of the forests that was worshipped by ancient Finns. The imagery of the otso is of a giant bear with trees growing from its back.
I couldn’t resist making this into a monster.
Normally, the otso is a benevolent spirit, but if the heart of the forest is corrupted (one of the themes hinted at in Bursten Claw-Jaw’s origin story), then they can turn evil and become fell bears bent on destroying man and all they represent.
This corrupted creature is a jaeger, a cruel type of warg intent on punishing the weak and the isolated.
I don’t like the bear design I came up with the otso as much as the one I did for the moroi, as I was trying for a shaggy cave bear look and I’m not sure I did it justice. However, the point of doing these is to make them good enough, not perfect. Maybe someday when I have some downtime, I’ll rework this one.
The game with the boys was delayed another week. With Mother’s Day, me prepping for a business trip for the day job, and other commitments, we just couldn’t fit it in. We’re hoping to get the next session this upcoming weekend.
I was doing some monster research in the short chunks of downtime this week, because that’s what I do, and I was making notes to write out descriptions and some monsters for the game, when I came across a couple of monsters that caught my imagination earlier, but now really forced me to stop what I was doing and flesh them out.
The first was the moroi. Most descriptions of the moroi are that they are Romanian vampires or ghosts with some shared traits with werewolves. However, there is one particular description that really sticks with me: some versions of the moroi are spirits that like to possess the bodies of bears.
I still haven’t tracked down the origin of this, but I just love the thought of some demon spirit inhabiting bear corpses (I took the term “bodies” to mean dead) in order to get whatever vengeance or whatever else they were compelled to finish.
Since the main descriptions of the moroi are vampiric, I decided to have the spirits inhabit bear corpses to sate their need to taste blood.
I’ve tentatively assigned this monster to a type of ghost, the bound ones in my notes, but I may change it over to the thralls known as vessels, or even come up with a fourth ghost type if need be. I think it all depends on how characters would have to deal with the monster. If the purpose is just to destroy the bear corpse or break the link between the corpse and possessing spirit, then it should be a thrall, but if there needs to be a way to release the spirit itself, then I should stick with ghosts.
Definitely something to think about. I don’t have any immediate plans for the moroi in the game, but I do like to have them in the stable, ready to go.
The illustration I put together for the moroi, I didn’t want to go all gory and have bones and rotting flesh falling off, but more of a fresh possession. I’m fairly happy with it, though for some reason it feels like I’m trying to channel my inner Gary Larson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.