Here’s a fun D&D party commission I did recently, with a sort of Russian gangster vibe. The client had the idea to do a blue color scheme with pops of red, and I think it came out great!
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 8 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual: The Noble!
What’s that you say? A noble isn’t a monster? Well, you’re right about that — arguably. This is D&D after all, and I’m sure many of the nobles that appear in our games are downright monstrous! (In fact, this guy is roughly based on Lord Urien Dumay, an NPC in my game who’s a real piece of work.) But this isn’t a project about drawing just the monsters from the Monster Manual — this is about drawing every damn thing in the book. So I’ll keep rolling dice for page numbers, and drawing whatever comes up!
Number 6 in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual — the Planetar! These guys are huge angelic warriors with green skin for some reason. Who knows? It’s D&D, and D&D is pretty weird sometimes. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one to draw any time soon, but I’m rolling randomly for them, so you get what you get. I guess it beats drawing all the cool stuff in the beginning, and being stuck with a bunch of weird stuff I’m not that interested in at the end!
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 five in my quest to draw the entire 5th Edition Monster Manual — the Thri-kreen. I don’t even know what to say about this guy. A large majority of D&D monsters are either taken directly from traditional folklore/mythology/horror sources, or are at least inspired by the same. These guys are just crazy desert-dwelling bug people. I believe they come from the Dark Sun setting, which is a sort of gritty fantasy post-apocalypse sort of thing. I actually recently completed a commission of a Dark Sun party that featured one of these guys, so I had already figured out how to draw them, which made this one easier!
I’m starting a series where I roll a random monsters from the D&D Monster Manual to draw, with an eye toward providing printable paper minis once I’ve got a big enough selection. Hopefully I can eventually do the whole thing! Here’s a Hellhound. I haven’t had the pleasure of running one of these guys yet, but my main group just hit level 3, so it might be time to throw a bad doggie at them!
Here’s a fun D&D commission (Well, Pathfinder technically, but same difference!) with a cool adventuring party in Magnimar, the City of Monuments. (My favorite part is the Monkey Goblin hanging from the gate!)
Here’s a real cool commission I had the opportunity to draw — a D&D party facing off against the Big Bad Evil Guy, all of whom are sporting badass alien power suits with internal weapons systems that cast Magic Missile and stuff like that. Not the typical D&D illustration, but very cool nonetheless!