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).