Friday, January 11, 2008

campaign visuals

I used to take it as a given that you had to accept the rulebook's art direction and descriptions as what your campaign looked like. 3e's dungeonpunkery helped me shake that assumption, but getting into OD&D really trashed it. I just can't work with these guys:

Okay, maybe I could work with beardy elves, but as the Goblin Defense Fund points out, everyone wore a beard back in those days. I think Barbarians were the only dudes who went about clean-shaven. But what is the deal with that orc? He looks like a mangy, scar-faced mutant. I suppose he would work well in a post-apocalyptic game, with orcs and elves and whatnot all as after-the-bomb mutants.

More importantly, for OD&D there is no art for a lot of the monsters in the core rules. What the heck does an ogre or goblin look like? With a handful of poor art and nothing for a lot of monsters, I decided just to start with a clean slate. Sure, it would be easier to just use the later D&D versions of these monsters, but the whole point of the Cinder campaign is to do my own thing, basically acting as if I had OD&D as a kid and needed to do everything from scratch. Here's what I'm working with right now:


This particular Green Goblin is from a great little article here.

Yes, all the goblins tend to dress like that. This lass is back from a long night at the moonbeam farm.


Hobgoblins are basically Star Trek Andorians with polearms. Because Andorians are cool, that's why. It was some loopy medieval-type scholar who decided that the goblin and hobgoblin species were related. That's how the two races got their Common Tongue names. Like most loopy medieval-type scholars, the dude had no idea what he was talking about. But the names stuck. Goblins are actually related to orcs (see below) and dopplegangers (Skrulls).


There's a throwaway line in the original Chainmail fantasy section about how orcs are "basically overgrown goblins". I took that idea and ran with it. Orcs are the result of alchemically and magically induced gigantism. The Sauron type in the campaign bioengineered orcs as a warrior race, starting with standard goblins. The number of orcs has grown to the point where the setting Big Bad no longer has control over all of them, but they still stick to the aggressive behaviors they were bred to produce. The orcish word for "peace" literally translates as "rest between battles".

That's Hector the Halfling from the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, the only halfling to appear in the series as far as I can tell. What can I say, other than I just like the look? It's different from the standard look for the race, but not too radical a departure. And if you played D&D as a kid but hadn't read any Tolkien, you might not have much else to work with. (Though the 'tiny elves' version in Moldvay Basic is a pretty cool halfling.)

There's at least two cultural groups of halfings in the Cinder campaign. The standard pastoral halflings dress like ol' Hector up there. The others are wandering merchant types who dress like jawas (big ups to S. John Ross for smooshing hobbits and jawa into one 'hobling' race in Encounter Critical). Since the end of the Age of Robodroids, those halflings use gypsy wagons on elephants for transport.

If anyone finds this interesting, maybe I'll talk a little bit more about this stuff tomorrow. I'm kicking around two different takes on elves and maybe some reader feedback would help me sort it out.