A fun D&D party commission I drew recently! This one was set up kinda like a comic book cover, title and all. A lot of fun characters here, but I think my favorite is the snake riding the Mage Hand!
I’d always shied away from the idea of online D&D. I just wanted to play with my friends, even if we only made it once every couple of months. But when Covid hit and the lockdown started, that was no longer an option. Then it occurred to me that there must be lots of others in the same situation, so it would be a great time to finally try out this online thing. Just a one-shot, you know. I whipped up a Discord server, hit up r/LFG, and in 15 minutes I had a group. However, that one-shot grew, and after a couple of personnel changes for various reasons, we’ve got a fantastic group full of great players (and great people!), and we’re now over 20 sessions deep into the weekly campaign I’ve always wanted to run.
Clockwise from the top, here’s the Cult of the Blue Oyster!
Kalderon “Kal” Enevara, Eladrin Sorcerer! Kal is a gentle soul, on a mission from his God to heal a corrupted forest in the Barony of Sarnoff. He’s new to this world, and enjoys learning about all the various flora, fauna, and customs. He’s even got a jar full of tadpoles he’s meticulously tending to. But he really just wants to get this thing over with and get back to his family in the Feywild. I don’t know if I have the heart to tell him…
Jade Coil, Tabaxi Monk! We don’t know her too well yet, because she’s pretty new. Her player’s previous character, a Warforged Paladin with a dark past, ended up straight up murdering an allied NPC in an emotional dispute, and then the player didn’t really want to play that character anymore. Enter Jade! We know she likes learning about religion and history, and going “bonk bonk” with them paws!
Gwin “Bloody Redd” Garkalan, Dwarf Bard. Perhaps the chaotic beating heart of the group. She disguised herself as a male to learn the manly arts in her highly gender-segregated dwarven society, but she was discovered and cast out. Prone to music puns, now she roams the land, shredding on her axe and inventing heavy metal!
And last but not least, Massimo “Mas” K’Zar, Aarakocra Ranger, and Wolfie! Mas is a young bird boy on a quest to become a great hunter. He tends to kinda hang in the background, only to pop up with a well-timed quip. But when he sees a sweet hat on an enemy cult leader’s head, watch out, because he’s gonna GET that hat. He also feeds Kal’s tadpoles with bugs shaken from his feathers.
#14 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Green Hag!
Hags are cool. Creepy witches in the woods tricking you into deals that backfire spectacularly, and cackling at your ruin. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked witches. I’m looking forward to throwing some of these ladies at my players some time soon, perhaps! They’re supposed to be repulsively ugly, but I think this one came out kinda charming somehow. Oh well!
So when I started this series, I intended to ultimately use these drawings for paper miniatures. However, at this point, I think I’ve abandoned that idea. Drawing paper minis is so restrictive in so many ways, because you have to have the front match up with the back perfectly for when you print and assemble them. You’re pretty much stuck with a straight-on camera angle, and they either have be standing right on the ground with both feet, or you gotta do some janky workarounds. I like to put some hints of environment into these drawings, and trying to do them for minis makes that difficult. So having decided to forgo that plan, I’ve now gone a little overboard and let the hints of environment start to turn into a full background. Well, you gotta have the little witch hut, right? I tried to let it blend into the parchment texture in the background. I don’t know if it works, but hey, you gotta try things.
#13 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Grell!
Lucky number 13, and I couldn’t have rolled a cuddlier little guy. What the hell is this thing? A beaked brain with barbed tentacles? Gross. But also undeniably awesome. Of course it’s from the Underdark!
I’m struck by how many D&D monsters are just a weird combination of different animals and different body parts. Hey, don’t mess with what works, right?
Number 12 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual, the Goblin!
An even dozen, and (finally? Already?) we come to the ubiquitous Goblin. I don’t know why, I love these guys. They’re so standard that everyone knows what a Goblin is supposed to be. They’re perfect low-level generic bad guys that you can always find a reason to put in, and at least in my estimation, they have a hilariously selfish and chaotic culture.
On the other hand, this guy came out looking pretty heroic. Maybe less of a Monster Manual Goblin, and more of a Volo’s Guide. I’d play that Goblin! (In fact I think I’ll put him on the list: Slerk, Goblin Barbarian. Nothing fancy, but I’ll bet he’d be fun.)
I’ve been experimenting with a new coloring style lately, and I think it finally started to click on this piece. More “painted” than the cel-shaded/comic book look I’ve always used. Until now, these experiments have been an uneasy combination of old and new. Here, I feel like it all started to click as a unified whole. I’ve got a new feeling of inspiration here, so I’ll bet the next entry in this series will come soon!
#11 in my quest to draw the entire D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Bronze Dragon Wyrmling!
So this whole pandemic/lockdown kinda threw me off my game for this project. Funny how that works — you’d think with all the extra time at home, you’d get so much done, but in my experience and observation, it’s worked out quite the opposite. (Must be that creeping existential terror!) But anyway, I’m back on the case now!
This is the first dragon of any kind that I’ve drawn for this project, but certainly not the last. I’m playing with some new coloring techniques — more of a painted style of rendering, rather than the “airbrush cuts” comic book style I’ve typically used. We’ll see how it goes!
Number 10 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Doppelganger!
Doppelganger is kind of a weird one, because the whole point is that it’s a monster that takes on the appearance of other people. Its true form is apparently a kind of nondescript, slightly melty purple dude. Different art depics it in different ways — the 5th Edition Monster Manual has it as a very humanoid figure. Other sou rces depict it in a stranger way, often with big “grey alien” eyes, or with an overgrown, misshapen shoulder girdle, and spikes growing out all over.
Number 9 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual — the Fire Giant! I got a nasty flu last week (and hiccups for almost a week besides) so it’s been a while since I’ve released one of these, but I’m back at it! Can’t stop this train! I’ve actually been sitting on the sketch for this one for months, and it kinda got lost on my tablet. Finally got around to finishing it up. I struggled a little with the armor design — the Fire Giants in the book, and most of the ones you can find on the internet all have that dark, monochrome armor, and I felt like it was a tough to make it look good. To that end, I added a little bit of red cloth, which helped. I guess I don’t have a lot else to say about fire giants. Never used one in game — still far too early in my DM career to be using such high CR creatures. But like I’ve mentioned before, I plan to format all of these as paper minis eventually, and I would like to use it one of these days!
Number 7 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Mummy!
I’ve been trying to get through at least one of these a week, but I had an extremely busy week on a personal level, not to mention the fact that for some reason I struggled with this guy. I guess I had trouble finding a way to do the wraps that I was happy with — and with a mummy, if you don’t have the wraps, you don’t have anything! But then I remembered that one of the points of this project was to not be too precious with it — with over 200 creatures in the Monster Manual, I just can’t afford to! So I knocked it out and moved on. But ultimately, by the time I got the color on there, I think it came out alright!
Here’s another recent D&D commission. This party is hanging out in a tavern in the Dark Sun setting — a classic D&D setting (as-yet unreleased for 5e) of a blasted world ruled over by warring sorcerer kings. I think seeing D&D ads featuring Brom’s Dark Sun artwork in comic books in the early 90s is probably one of my strongest old D&D memories. Very cool stuff, if a bit on the S&M side?
Number four in my quest to draw the whole 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Banshee! According to D&D lore, a Banshee is the spirit of a female elf who, in life, used her beauty for evil ends, and in death is cursed to roam the place of her demise, weeping and wailing, reliving every moments of her life with perfect recall. In the Irish mythology that the Banshee derives from, she’s called a “fairy woman”, and the possible reasons for her curse are more diverse.
Third in my series of creatures from the D&D 5th Edition Monster Manual, we have the Griffon! It’s interesting how many monsters are just mashups of different animals! I guess that is pretty monstrous. I used to be terrible at drawing animals, but somewhere along the line, I guess I got to be pretty alright. A couple years back I illustrated a children’s book about an island full of tiny people who ride seagulls, so I really had to dig into how to draw birds, which came in handy here!
Hoo boy, this one was a challenge! A lot of characters, a lot of character details, a lot of “business”, like the water genasi warlock pilfering a magical D30 from the dragonborn paladin’s pouch. Just a lot of stuff to fit into in the image. Very challenging, but worth it, because I think it came out very nicely, and the clients were very pleased. Most of the D&D party commissions I do are either an action scene of some kind, or a “group photo” where everyone just poses and looks cool. And those are great! But it was a nice change of pace to depict a quiet moment of travel, so often glossed over in our games as well as in our art!
Here’s a really fun D&D commission I did a couple months back. The commissioner’s group was putting their regular game on hold for a Halloween session where their characters would encounter a fantasy version of a stereotypical Italian restaurant — a CANNIBAL Italian restaurant, run by the evil Tony Linguine and his staff of drunken goblins — and the PCs are on the menu (literally)!
Thanks for looking, and if you want to see more, you can check out my website at http://www.brandonpalas.com!
Here’s a recent commission — a poster for a D&D campaign called Children of the Blood Star. The heroes (the titular children, I assume) stand in front of the campaign’s main city, a flurry of red lanterns rising into the air, with the evil Zolph looming in the background above them. His broken skull contains The Void. The titular Blood Star can be seen over his shoulder.
I love doing these poster-style commissions! I’m not exactly a graphic designer, but these heavy metal-ish hand-drawn titles are a blast.
Here’s a cool Curse of Strahd commission I recently had the chance to do. It was commissioned to commemorate the end of the campaign, and immortalizes the triumphs and epic fails of the party, such as taking over a town, punching your way out of a shambling mound, accidentally burning down a windmill with a bunch of kids inside, accidentally drowning a bunch of ravens who were actually people, accidentally blowing up a wagon, and taking advice from a talking sword. And of course, Strahd himself looms over the whole thing.
Artistically, it was a big challenge to fit this many characters, with this many bits of “business”, onto the page in some kind of coherent composition, all while giving each character the “screen time” they deserve. I think it ultimately came out very nicely, but it took a lot of messing around to get it there!