ART LYON: design, editing, writing, illustration, digital coloring, and other arcane secrets.

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RPG Blog Carnival, March 2017:

THINGS IN THE DARK

 

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This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Things in the Dark”. Much like MoebiusAdventures, the host of this month’s theme, I’m going to focus my post on a creature – actually, a race* of creatures.

This was really my first thought as I read the theme description for this month’s Carnival, because I’ve been working on a race of literally dark beings for a Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition game I’m currently running. So, I’d like to thank MoebiusAdventure for showing that was an acceptable approach; otherwise, I might have thought it was too far afield.

So, ever since the I first saw the entry for “Shade” in TSR’s Monster Manual II for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons edition waaaaaay back in 1983, I’ve been kind of fascinated with them, and really it was this image that captured my young imagination:

D&DShade


SpooOOOooky, huh?

Basically, by the book, Shades are a not-quite-a-race of beings that other races can be transformed into under the right – or wrong, depending on how you look at it – circumstances. But for me, my first impression from that image was of Shades as a race unto themselves, with a powerful connection to some primordial essence of darkness or shadow. Young me thought that was pretty cool.

So, yeah – that stuck in my head…for about 30 years!

I started actually developed my version of them for a 13th Age game I ran a few years ago. Races are really easy to write up in 13th Age, so I was able to create a basic representation of my idea. In the fantasy cosmology of that homebrew setting, they were one of the very first races, one that existed even before light illuminated the world.

But for the game I am currently running we’re using the Celtic mythos and cosmology as a basis for the setting, and so I fit the origin of the Shade into that. In a common Celtic creation myth the mother and father of the gods, Danu and Donn, are formed out of a cosmic chaos, love each other, and become inseparable. They have children who eventually become some of the bigger names of Celtic mythology – but these children cannot truly grow without first escaping the womb-like embrace of their parents. They do so by running Donn through with a sword and sundering him into bits that form the Earth.

In that womb-like darkness I saw a perfect place for the origin of the Shade. In this version, there was disagreement among these First Children about how to break out or whether to do it at all, at the risk of killing one of their parents. Among the dissenters was Scaedh (skage). Scaedh saw value in the dark, and sought to further explore its reaches untainted by the light of what would come should one or both of their parents be destroyed. In the end, Donn was slain and the world was made. Scaedh fled to the darkest reaches of this new world, high and low, and from Scaedh sprang a race of shadow-people.

Culled from various versions of the Shades for various editions of D&D, here’s my write-up as it stands now, for the purposes of our current game. There are a lot of darkness-related abilities I could give them, but I’m trying to strike a balance of benefits and restrictions that matches the overall power-level of the core races in the D&D 5E Players Handbook. This is my first try at this, so it could easily have many issues. I haven’t introduced Shades as a racial option for characters yet, and since I’m basing a lot of the setting on choices the players make I don’t have any solid ideas regarding Shade culture and history.


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Shade

Shades are descended from Scaedh, one of the First Children – the original offspring of Donn and Danu.  Scaedh preferred the original darkness of the inseparable Donn and Danu to the harsh light of the world that was made when Scaedh’s siblings slew Donn to gain their freedom from that dark womb-like existence.

Shades are human in size and shape, but their skin and features are all a barely-reflective black. Even the clothing they wear and items they carry take on a similar shadowy appearance. The longer an item has been in close contact with a Shade’s body, the longer it will take to regain its normal appearance when removed from their presence.

A Shade’s body is made partly from the essence of shadow and darkness. They weigh less than what a normal creature their size might weigh and produce less body heat. They require little food or drink, and in fact have little sense of taste or smell with which to enjoy such things.

Shade Names

Shades use names common to wherever they are living at the time. They also have a Shade name which is a treasured and closely-guarded secret. Shade outcasts are formally stripped of their Shade name and all Shades are thenceforth forbidden to use it in any way.
Female Shade Names often end with -el, -em, -en, -eth, and -ith,: Gilel, Kivem, Velen, Seseth, Nilith.
Male Shade Names tend to end in -ef, -ek, -en, -eng, -ev, and -ik: Vekef, Velek, Ekden, Geneng, Grenev, Villik.

Shade Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age. Shades mature very slowly compared to humans, reaching maturity by 100 years of age, and can live as long as 1000 years or more.
Alignment. Although leaning toward chaotic alignments, Shades find distinctions between good and evil and law and chaos rather small-minded.
Size. Shades are generally between 5′ 6” and 6′ 1 “. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 35 feet, 45 feet when in shadows or darkness.
Shadowsight. You can see normally in dim light and even total darkness, both magical and non-magical.
Light Aversion: You have disadvantage on any Concentration checks when you are in brightly-lit environments. You are not able to cast spells with the ‘fire’ or ‘light’ descriptors.
Darkling Form. You have resistance to poison and cold, but vulnerability to radiant damage. You only need  4 hours of sleep per day, but you cannot regain hit dice or hit points in brightly-lit environments.
Shadow Step. When you are in shadow or darkness, as a bonus action you can teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space that you can see that is also in shadow or darkness. You then have advantage on the first melee attack you make that turn.
Whispers in the Dark. As an action when in shadow or darkness, you can whisper a message to a single creature within 120 feet who is also in shadow or darkness. The target hears the message and can reply in a whisper, that only you can hear. The whisper can pass through solid objects if you are familiar with the target and know it is beyond the object(s). This ability is subject to magical silence spells and their effects.
The Stuff of Shadows. You have advantage in stealth checks made to hide in shadows.
Proficiencies: Arcana, Intimidate, Stealth
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Shadic, Common, Undercommon, and Primordial.
Shades are classified as the humanoid creature type.

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That’s it! Like I said, this is my first try at this, so please comment below with any thoughts or suggestions.

*For those unfamiliar with the usage, the term “race” in fantasy roleplaying games is used to distinguish elves from humans, hobbits from dwarves, etc., rather than in the modern, very unscientific usage which seeks to distinguish one ancestry of homo sapiens from another.

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RPG Blog Carnival, February 2016:
HOW DO YOU INSPIRE YOUR PLAYERS?

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This is either my first RPG Blog Carnival post or my first in a very long time. I’m just going to answer the questions posed in the February, 2016 monthly topic intro post.

What do you do to get players excited and eager to play each session?

On a session-by-session basis, I don’t, and that’s something I should look into. I guess I’m assuming too much, that if they turn up then they must be interested and motivated to continue playing. That’s a reasonable assumption, but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

How have you gotten players keen to dive into that new campaign you just spent weeks preparing?

I just pitch a few ideas and run with whatever garners the most interest. Increasingly, I involve the player’s more in setting creation.

Once in a while, I’ll find something like this D-Day paratrooper jump scene from Band of Brothers, which I showed my players before the first session of a short-run Godlike game I ran, or the opening theme sequence from the 2001 Justice League animated series, which I showed before running a four-color Mutants & Masterminds game.

What approaches do you take to keep players’ faces out of their cells phones and focused on your game?

I’m constantly on the lookout for waning interest or lack of focus in my players and in myself. I try to never stay on any one action or decision for long, whether it be mine or something in the player’s hands.

What do you do to inspire your players?

In the big scheme of things, I only run settings or genres that have cache with my group. On a smaller scale, I try to feed them what they want in the moment, altering my short-term plans at the drop of a hat.

Do you make handouts, use technology, suggest books to read, GM a certain way, use player surveys?

I’ve rarely had a group that would read anything unless forced to.

I’ve been looking at infinitely-scalable map-making using something like Mischief, as a gaming resource that could be built up over time and fun to interact with and contribute to.

I’ve also been building boards on Pinterest lately, but haven’t actually run the games yet that would use them. Those boards consist of images of races and species, creatures, character ideas, and locations. I would make the races or species stuff available to the players, and share the rest as the players encounter those people and places.

MULTIVERSAL OVERDRIVE! – Justice League United #0

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I’ve started a new review column called MULTIVERSAL OVERDRIVE! over at  the DC Entertainment fan-site DC Universe.

You should go read it! All the time!

I started with a review of DC’s Justice League United #0, which I mostly liked. Check it out!

 

 

Coloring Presentation at 12-Hour Comic Book Day

On July 27th, 2013, the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington, Indiana (where I live and breath) held it’s 6th annual 12-Hour Comic Book Day. Each year, young women and men between the ages of 10 and 20 write and illustrate comics of their own creation within a time limit of twelve consecutive hours.  MCPL’s Children’s and Teen Services teamed with our local comic book store,  Vintage Phoenix Comics, and provided art supplies, food, and surprises – like me! Prizes were awarded for every three hours of comics-making. Participants can work individually or collaboratively. Many of the resultant comics can be seen at the event’s Flickr site, here.  My kids and I are in photos 2-6!  My son created “Evil Limbs” and “Punch Me“, and my daughter whipped up “Aliens Attack!” and “Party Pooper”.

Those two pictures of me are from the presentation I did for the kids about comic book coloring.  I don’t know why I never contacted anyone about the event in previous years, but this year I did – albeit with little time to spare.  I figured most kids would know about the Justice League or at least some of that teams members, so I opened up the full, working file for Justice League #20 (written by Geoff Johns and published by DC Comics) pages 4&5 and got to work.  Those 2 pages are a 2-page spread of the JL battling some toothy, ravenous, mindless minions, but it had a lot of special effects and I thought it would be a good, big, simple way to show the layers of work involved in coloring a modern, mainstream super-hero comic book. I talked through each layer of art, from the initial black-and-white line art to the last streaks of rain. The kids were adorably and goofy and awkward and smart. They had good questions, and a couple of them hung around after my presentation to ask even more smart questions.

There are articles about the event here and here and here. Thanks to Chris Hosler of MCPL’s Adult and Teen Services for being friendly, helpful, and in charge!

Here are the images I used in the presentation. Click on the first one and then just click through the slideshow!

THE SHADE #12

THE SHADE #12, by James Robinson, Gene Ha, me!, and Todd Klein. Edited by Wil Moss. Published by DC Comics, release date September 12th, 2012.

Gene Ha and I seem to be on a roll. I can’t express how much I appreciate the advantage of working with Gene. Let’s put aside for the moment the advantages of working with a friend and highly-talented penciller/inker. To get the level of detail and realism we all know and love him for, lately Gene’s been getting gigs that consist of one or maybe two issues. Perhaps out of a lack of confidence, I tend to approach each new project (be it a single issue or series or graphic novel) as if I’ve never colored a comic before. These two forces combine when I work with Gene, such that I can really just rethink how I do things on nearly every project Gene and I do together, and I’ve been doing this more and more lately. It can be maddening and time-consuming, but liberating as well. Re-inventing my approach requires experimentation, and that takes time, but the results seem to be making people happy and it pays some of the bills and I can usually look at the final, printed product and be happy with much of it, so yay, us!

So, since this issue is nearly all flashbacks to 1838, Gene wanted a moody paper texture worked into the art. We had done something similar on an early, unpublished cover for Project Superman, but this was the first time I had incorporated a paper texture into my coloring on a whole issue. I took advantage of this texture to help make characters and items stand out on the page or in a panel, by lessening the texture in those areas. This has the effect of making the black line art and the colors themselves stand out more than then other areas with more texture over them, and voila: a hopefully subtle 3-D effect.

Gene also said he wanted subdued colors, and referenced our muted palette on TOP 10: THE FORTY-NINERS as an example. If I had a time-machine, I would go back and make my work on TOP 10 about 10 times better, but this was my chance to give that look another whack. The colors here are generally more saturated and more focused on the mood of a scene than most of what I did on THE FORTY-NINERS. My initial instincts as a colorist back then were to go for bright, bold colors, but for most of what I was doing at the start of my career I had to tone that way down. In the last couple-few years I’ve had to train myself to punch things up. Working on Justice league #7 and Action Comics #3 and #9 really helped with that.

I think I could have done more with the shadow-spirits in the climax, maybe by adding some highlights or “reverse shadows” to make them seem more three-dimensional. I’m fascinated by how many different ways there are to give a two-dimensional image a sense of real depth, so I’m always looking for new ways to do that.

James Robinson talks about his work on The Shade and has very nice things to say about the work Gene and I did in an interview over at Comic Book Resources.

Doug Zawisza gave the whole thing a bunch of stars in his review at CBR.

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ceci says

did I just say that? (adventures in stream-of-consciousness writing)

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