Show your face! Free character portrait generators for all your RPG needs

Inspirations

We all know that roleplaying games are a theatre of the mind, but there’s nothing as fun as actually seeing your PC. It helps you to get in character, it helps your party members with visualisation, it makes it easier for your fans/friends to do fanart.

However, for those of us who aren’t artist, it’s either to commission some proper character portraits, do a lousy sketch ourself, or delve into the wide and deep ocean of internet resources. A side note: if you’re going to use somebody else’s art because it fits, be prepared to tell people who the artist is. You’re using their work, so let’s have the basic honesty to credit them when possible (e.g. when someone asks).

If you’re not willing to dig deep for appropriate artwork, or just want something that fits perfectly (more or less), there’s a massive amount of portrait generators out there that can help you in your RPG needs. Almost every RPG/MMO computer game (and Sims series, of course) also has a built-in generator which you use for this purpose (just take a screencap!), but I’m going to show you the free-to-use that you can use without installing anything on your computer.

To make it easier to show differences in the generators, I’m going to create portraits of two characters from a D&D 5E campaign played not so long ago: Enid, half-elven bard/warlock (think trickery with a bit of fae vibe thrown into the mix), and Kronis, human paladin of Kord (straight outta Skyrim).

Hero Forge

Although ultimately a website that lets you create and commission the miniatures (definitely a cool thing to have, but a bit expensive, especially if you’re not earning in USD), you can also export the images to use as character portraits.

HeroForgeScreenshot (11).png

HeroForgeScreenshot (10).png

Pros:

  • a lot of styles and customisation options, including sci-fi
  • non-human races, a choice of horns, wings and tails
  • optional familiars, mounts and basing
  • you can get a mini that looks just like your character portrait

Cons:

  • lack of colour
  • you’ll really want to get that mini, no matter the cost
  • miniature/comic-booky style might not be a thing for you

 

Mega Fantasy Avatar

If you’re more into drawn, comic book style, this generator might be more for you. It creates 2D images of your characters, just busts with hands attached, but they give you more complicated facial expressions. It often falls short when you’re interested in masculine PCs, as evidently shown below.

mega-fantasy-avatar Enid.png.jpg

mega-fantasy-avatar Kronis.png

Pros:

  • great choice if you’re going for cute, good-looking female/feminine characters
  • options for colouring every piece of the garment
  • different backgrounds to choose from
  • sheer amount of jewellery and hairdos makes my heart sing

Cons:

  • no matter what you do with the male characters, they’re going to look like dressed-up babies.
  • won’t be easy to create non-human races
  • just fantasy, and with a slight manga vibe – not for everybody

 

RPG Heroine Generator

One of my favourites, but it might be due to fact that I grew up watching Sailor Moon, and that I always roleplay female characters. If I ever wanted something masculine, this might not be the best choice (you know, “heroine”). As in: there’s only one body type, and it’s a generic, skinny doll with big breasts.

Enid.jpg

Pros:

  • lot of colouring options & garments
  • useful for making cute characters, but only with human proportions
  • I quite like the style

Cons:

  • no masculine characters
  • just one silhouette, no poses or body types
  • just fantasy and magical girls

 

HeroMachine

Several options here: basic or advanced, or even a downloadable offline version (paid). Basic version covers mostly superhero-style images, the advanced allows for more variations. The images shown below have been made with the basic variant.

Enid

Kronis

Pros:

  • simple & advanced options, depending on your needs
  • many features in different style
  • colouring options for every piece of the design
  • in advanced version there’s a lot of options for body types, disabilities, skin tones etc.

Cons:

  • needs Flash, so doesn’t work on iOS, or on computers that don’t like viruses and malware on them
  • interface is stuck in 90s, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change
  • If you’re almost done with the character, and decide to go back to poses – pick ‘keep items’ on the pop-up or you’re lose all of your progress. Guess who did not know that
  • Overall quality of the images is not amazing

 

How to Draw Fantasy & RPG Maps part 1

Reviews, Worldbuilding

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:

map3_1440x900

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:

6a00d83451b31569e2019aff29b7cd970c-450wi

 

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?