Posts Tagged ‘illustration


One Page Dungeon: Devil Gut Rock

This is cross-posted from my illustration blog last night. I’m sorry if this is bad form, but no one reads my illustration blog anyway and this is a free goodie for you loyal readers. I gotta do something to make up for my lack of talkie-talkie on the mule blog. – das Goat

So, in the interest of triggering more rpg game-playing in my recalcitrant friend, I challenged him to make an entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest this year. Although he is well versed in the nature of dungeon adventuring and RPGs from way back in his youth, he balks at currently playing for various reasons of time commitment and free time. However, he is quite keen on the study of structures and the creation of “game play objects” like miniature painting and particularly making war-game scenery. I knew he would be up for some dungeon design.

So I emailed him the link to the One Page Dungeon contest on a lark, realizing that we had just over a week to go before the submission deadline. But it would be fun to goad him into a competitive effort and the process would be good for my infrequent DMing as well.

After he took the bait and started discussing ideas with me, I started to look through the OPDC webpage in earnest and saw that there were actual prizes awarded and I got even more excited. And then I looked through the winning entries from the previous years and got a bit nervous. There was some good stuff, both from a visual standpoint and play-wise. It would be some stiff competition.

Oh well, I figured. I told him we should blast through the process, try and get them submitted and then take turns playing each other through the dungeons one night. (Maybe shouting over to Mrs. Greengoat about how much fun this was.) That would be the best part and I could use my entry for a future session with the notorious NY Redbox Crew.

So after too much time spent on inking my isometric map and cramming as much text as I could decently fit on a sheet of paper I was finished. I wanted a good playable dungeon and kept my visual extravagances limited for readability and clarity. Or maybe I tell myself that because the map is kinda bare.) It has inspired me to get into more isometric cartography in future endeavors.

Tools used: I inkjet printed an isometric grid straight onto Borden & Riley Paris Paper and penciled in the rooms. I used india ink with brush and pen straight over that and added the keyed numbers digitally. Wrote the text in Open Office and did layout in InDesign with free fonts. I should start using all open source software in the future. Adobe habits are hard to break. I listened to the Melvins.

Use and Enjoy:



Original Adventurer Conqueror King Art for Sale

Ryan Browning has created an Etsy store where he is selling a number of the original pieces of art he created for Adventurer Conqueror King, some earlier work he did for The Secret Fire, and the painting he did to bust out his illustration chops:

Eowyn vs. the Nazgul, Ryan Browning, 2011. Oil paint on archival coldpress illustration board, mounted on foam core. 20 x 26.5 inches

So that James’s Kirbsday doesn’t have a monopoly on Mule posts with awesome art, here are some more of my favorites:

Efreeti Attack, Ryan Browning, 2011. India ink on archival bristol, 11 x 8.5 inches.

The content of this illustration was suggested by one of our Kickstarter backers, and confirms that it is really awesome to have the people who are excited about your game be the ones to imagine what illustrations will convey that excitement.

One of the things I like best about the early D&D illustrations is that the scenes they depict are specifically ones you’d encounter in play. The backer art orders supply this quality in spades – check out the way the fighter is receiving healing during a battle.

Lots of modern illustration seems to me to suffer from the same problem as a game that the DM has planned ahead of time: it reflects only one brain’s vision of what’s going to be cool. Battle scenes done by people who’ve played the game, like those done by people who’ve witnessed battles, are instead full of lots of moments of private drama. These images draw you in because they provide the opportunity to imagine yourself in many different roles, each of which is dealing with a separate challenge.

Note that all this assumes that a) the artist can unite these individual moments into a compelling composition and b) the artist and art director care about these details in the art order and make sure they’re represented in the finished piece. Ryan’s talent is easy to see, but my experience suggests that his assets in category b) are rarer.

Slain Dragon, Ryan Browning, 2011. India ink on archival bristol paper, 11 x 8.5 inches.

Fighter, Ryan Browning, 2011. India ink on archival bristol paper, 5.5 x 4.25 inches.

The backers who contributed the art orders got the first crack at the originals of their work, so some of my favorite illos of Ryan’s are not up on the Etsy site. The ones he did based on the text, rather than from a specific request, show the benefits of a single-author approach. Just as a DM’s plan for a campaign can be a lot simpler and stylistically unified than it will become when players come along wanting to give their characters funny names and options from the Book of Vile Brokenness, the pieces Ryan did as chapter intros and character class exemplars feature the strong, stylized graphic design that reflects his personal vision. The remarkable thing to me is that, like Trampier, he manages to do this without losing realism. The fighter’s gear is recognizably based in the real world, but the angular arrow motif suggests it was worn by a historical dude who had style and knew how to pose. Likewise, the smoke and blood curling away from the dragon head make it simultaneously an exercise in Art Nouveau whiplash lines and a concrete trophy of adventuring.

All proceeds from the Etsy site go directly to Ryan, and will hopefully make his venture into commercial illustration less financially ruinous than the usual professional involvement in RPGs. (As the saying has it, the way to make a small fortune in this industry is to start with a large one.) If I may engage in some more self-interested hucksterism: we are currently proofing the layout pages of the core Adventurer Conqueror King System book, a process much enlivened by the frequent appearances of work by Ryan, Johnathan Bingham, and the Mule’s own Greengoat, as well as Telecanter’s monster silhouettes. The text and tables aren’t as pretty to look at, but they play real good!

ACKS will be available for sale soon, but by pre-ordering it now you can get all the benefits that were otherwise available only to our Kickstarter backers – access to the developer forums and drafts of upcoming projects and a free PDF copy of the first of these, our mass-combat system Domains at War.

Past Adventures of the Mule

December 2021

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