I Levelled Up!

There are certain recognized milestones for a D&D character’s development – a wizard learns fireball, a fighter gets a second attack, a rogue trains a skill up to +20… when it comes to personal, real life development, the milestones  come with less frequency and are certainly less impressive.
But I’m proud of myself anyway.  My milestone?  I created my first cover.  Here’s the backstory.  I’ve been posting my favourite Dragon magazine covers from different eras, saturating my brain with great art.  One of the reasons I create my own pictures for the monsters I produce on this website is so that I can get back in the swing of drawing regularly again (an activity that I’ve associated with RPGs since I was a kid, but exercise less and less as I get older).  It’s great practice that comes with its own built-in impetus (for a guy like me, that’s the best kind of impetus); I hate monster stat-blocks without an illustration.  Reminiscing over those back issues of Dragon inspired me to begin experimenting with color in my pictures.
Meanwhile, while perusing the RPG Blog alliance, I noticed that Mark at Mithril and Mages was holding a contest to design a cover for his application, Treasure Book on Demand (a very cool program that randomly generates a whole book in pdf form, with treasures for every ‘hoard class’ in the Labyrinth Lord game – that’s the same as ‘treasure type’ in 1e D&D).  He was looking for an A4 sized illustration in colour – just the thing I’d been experimenting with.  I thought to myself, I could do that (in a fit of un-me-ness).  And I did.  Here’s what I made.  And it won!

OK, there were only two people who entered, but Mark was classy enough to give us both first prize.  That was awesome (and greatly appreciated), but the real milestone is that I was able to fill up that page with something, and even though I can already see a lot of things that I would like to change (I admit that time constraints made me rush the images that appear in the mirrors – and it shows), I’m very proud of the finished product.  It was a lot of work, but like any adventurer who manages to make it out of the dungeon bruised, bleeding, but alive; I think I’ve learned a few tricks and expanded my skill-set.
For the basic design of the piece, I wanted a chest full of riches, with a set of mirrors reflecting different sorts of treasures (as a way to show how the Treasure Book can generate infinite combinations).  Then I tried to jam in as much detail as possible, because in any haul, it’s the little things that are always the most exciting.
Seeing as Labyrinth Lord is a retro-clone, I went back to the old school masters for inspiration when gathering reference material (like I needed an excuse).  Some of the tributes are obvious, others a little more obscure (especially the not-exactly D&D ones).  For those who don’t like spoilers, I’m putting the sources of all the picture’s ‘Easter eggs’ in the comment section.
It might not be Dragon material, but it’s my fireball (or at least Melph’s minute meteors).

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4 Responses to I Levelled Up!

  1. This is quite a list, so bear with me. The chest with the rats comes from the Monster and Treasure Assortment collection. Some of the covers in that collection featured a snake wrapped around the treasure – I thought that a snake would look too much like the tentacle I wanted hanging over one of the mirrors, so I switched it with a giant centipede (which, thanks to competing for space with these critters in a basement apartment for a few years, freak the hell out of me).
    The sword in the chest comes from the back of Fiend Folio (I still don’t know why they gave the Githyanki in that picture golden weapons).
    The helmet and sack of copper come from Otus’ illustration for the encumbrance section of Basic D&D. The weapon rack in the mirror is inspired by another Otus drawing from the same book.
    The sigil carved into the face of the idol is from the sanctum sanctorum of the illustrious Doctor Strange. Make fun of me all you want (and my friends do), but I’ll always be a die-hard fan of the Sorcerer Supreme.
    Many of the items in the bookcase in the opposite mirror are taken from the cover of Unearthed Arcana, especially the creature of smoke in the globe.
    The sun-moon carving at the top of the center mirror is pure John Blanche (only sort-of technically a D&D artist, but one whose Fighting Fantasy illustrations had a big impact on me). Finally, the adventurer with the torch reflected in the center is inspired by the classic Trampier full page spread from the AD&D Monster Manual.

  2. Mark says:

    Hehe. Congrats again. I managed to blend your cover into the generation system along with a reference on a new credits page. I still have to get the other prize winner into the generation systems. Thanks again for the effort. If you decide to update/change it, I’ll gladly update my end. :)