Double Proficiency

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The Zweihänder RPG is finally here. After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign (fully funded within 6 hours! Guess people really did miss Warhammer Fantasy RPG) and slightly delayed dispatch (a year or so – but for a good reason), the parcel was delivered and unceremoniously opened by a committee.

PDF, which was provided to the Kickstarter backers some time ago, looked promising – astonishingly detailed, with a clean, easily understood mechanic, and good artwork. Not Degenesis level, but pleasantly befitting the stylistic choices of the grim and perilous RPG. In print, I must admit, it looks even better.

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Last week I happened to review for you Jared Blando’s book on hand-drawing fantasy maps. This time we’ll go further – just in case you feel more confident in digital drawing or are just looking for some generators. Read More

If by off chance you’ve missed the online phenomenon that is Critical Role, please look here to start your journey with the adventuring party of Vox Machina. Highly recommended.

Anyway.

As much as I love Critical Role, I was always missing some kind of visual enhancement. True, Matthew Mercer’s descriptions of the world are impeccable, imaginative and incredible, but my brain is extremely visually-oriented. (Thank Critters for fanart!)

First issue of Critical Role comic book, Vox Machina: Origins is just a godsend. Written by Matt Colville and Matt Mercer (well, mostly the former), and brilliantly illustrated by Olivia Samson, it’s not only a great addition to the universe – it actually makes an amazing standalone project. Tested on a innocent bystander who’d never seen the show.

First issue covers a beginning of a quest undertaken by Vex’ahlia and her twin brother Vax’ildan, two half-elves trying to survive on the unfriendly streets and swamps of Stilben. A curse has befallen the poor folk of the shanty town, affecting mostly their newborns. Vex and Vax more or less enthusiastically are looking into possible causes, going from heart-wrenching story on one page of the story, through bitter cynicism on the second, familial bickering on the third, and full-on adrenaline-punched action on another. And yet, it’s still consistent and engaging.

Twins are intelligent, likable and beliveable, to the point of the brain auto-dubbing the dialogue with the proper voices. Conversations are sparkling. It’s actually quite interesting to see the quasi-starting point for the character development. Vax is hopeful, empathetic, considerate and not afraid of looking ridiculous in front of his sister. Vex is bitter, mixing self-confidence with inferiority complex, prone to violence, and (of course) better looking than her twin. Keyleth is as good, pure and innocent as it’s virtually possible. (Which makes me want to rewatch the episodes with Keyleth/Raishan confrontations.)

Art is beautiful, colour palette (courtesy of Chris Northop) is amazing (nothing says murky swamp more than these shades of cyan and malachite), cover art (by Deborah Hauber) should be printed in a large scale as posters. At least I know I’d love to have art like that on my wall, not just my phone wallpaper.

Admittedly, I expected more of this comic – that is, more than 27 pages. (And more than just one shot of Percy.) I’m not used to reading comic books in issues, I’m more of a collected (and collectors’) edition type of a person. Which doesn’t change a fact that there was no way I could wait until next Spring to get my fix of Vox Machina backstory. And after this issue, I only expect the next ones to get better.

You’re just starting a new campaign. Your last party got killed and disbanded, you managed to find a new Game Master, or maybe you’re just bored of role-playing the tank. Time for a change!

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Sure you want to draw a map for your campaign. Or your universe. I won’t be surprised if creating a map is where you actually want to start creating your world. Thankfully, there’s a book for that.

71im2hw7QNLWell, theoretically there’s also an app for that (kind of), but first, let me tell you about this amazing book I’ve got. It’s called How to Draw Fantasy Art & RPG Maps by Jared Blando (published in 2015 by Impact Books), and its contents are pretty much what the cover says. As the publisher was so nice as to supply us with trailer for the book, take a look:

Inside this 128-page book you’ll find tips and tricks that will help you with hand-drawing your map – even if you’ve never tried it before. The entry level for this tutorial is fairly low; the whole process is split into small, easy to understand parts. The most complicated things – like border ornamentation, compasses, and heraldry are discussed in highly-detailed step-by-step tutorial. And after spending some time with the book, following the instructions, you’ll actually winish with a good map drawn all by yourself! It could, for example look like this:

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I know the Internet is overflowing with free and paid tutorials for mapmaking; but there is a reason to give this book a chance. If not for the sake of having a book about fantasy cartography, then for the sake of having  a complete, well-written, aesthetically-pleasing manual covering all of the important topics in the field. Just look at the table of contents:

  • Building Your World
  • Mountains, Forests, Rivers and Water
  • Town and City Icons
  • Typography
  • Landmarks
  • Iconography
  • Heraldry and Shields
  • Political Boundaries
  • Backgrounds
  • Painting Techniques
  • Putting It All Together

It’s the only complete manual for hand-drawn cartography, fantasy or not, that doesn’t give you this kind of meme-worthy instruction:

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But what if I don’t want to draw my map with crayons?

So, you’re looking for an app. Sure, there are some.We’ll get to it next week, shall we?

So, as the Warlord Games announced today the release of The Battle for Xilos, I can finally share with you what I was working on for the last couple of months. And boy, what fun it was!

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Beyond the Gates of Antares or with wargaming in general. I happen to work as a graphic designer for Warlord Games, one of the biggest companies in historical and science-fiction wargaming. The miniatures range from Ancient Greece, through Thirty Years War, Napoleonic Wars, and World War II – up to s-f world of Antares. You’ll find it all here: http://www.warlordgames.com.

And now the new stuff: in June Warlord Games releases The Battle for Xilos, a campaign supplement about the discovery, exploration and conquest of Xilos, the mysterious planet that defies all former knowledge of all factions. I had a pleasure of creating the layout for the book, editing it, proofreading, and even creating maps, planet views, and other illustrations. You cannot probably fathom how proud I am seeing it finally out for publishing.

As it’s still at printers I cannot tell you much except of informing you of it being an absolutely cool thing; you may as well check it out and then join me (and lots of other people) at the gaming table.