Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Old RPG character drawings:
Playing Roleplaying games between the ages of 12 and 20-something helped me hone my storytelling skills, see how good (as well as bad) character interaction works, and how to think on your feet when a story goes in a direction differently than you planned. One of my favorite parts of roleplaying though was the excuse to draw the character portrait (sometimes drawing all the other player's characters as well). Today I'm going to show some old character portraits I uncovered in a folder in my file drawers. Please excuse that some of them are very old and embarrassing.

I'll start with some of the earliest characters I still have drawings of (as opposed to the 50-60 that all were scrapped in a move or two). I was 16, heavily influenced by the Image founders and trying my best to ape their style without knowing anything about drawing anatomy. James Bristol is a character that came about because of a car accident. Jesse Glenn (real life Kenzie) and I got into a car accident that day where I totaled my Dad's car. (the other driver, who was in the wrong, drove off) The accident happened on the corner of Bristol and Fern in Flint, MI. Jess & I each took the street names for our character's surnames (his was Chloe Fern). James was a character who could get up and walk away from any accident, his body was still wounded, but he didn't seem to feel it or have it affect his motor skills.

Next in line for my obviously-emulate/copying-an-Image artist is this portrait of Calvin Cooper influenced by J. Scott Cambell's work. For this session, I was told to come up with a character with no super powers and that through the course of the adventure they would be revealed to me (much like in comics the character is suddenly aware of abilities they did not have previously) Calvin, or Cal for short, worked at a fast food joint and was shy around girls...I may have some up with other personality traits for him, but I don't recall them now. His super power was that if he was cut, he only needed to squeeze the wound together for it to start healing. In the adventure this was put to the text on a lager scale when his fingers were severed from his hand and he needed only to push them back in place for full functionality (note red rings on his hand added to the drawing after that event happened in the game)

In college some friends and I dusted off some of our old RPG rule books and decided to play Robotech. Cartoon Network was re-running the cartoon series at the time, so it was easy for us to get back into the genre and excitement of being Veritech pilots. In this instance I have portraits for both my character Kiley Webb and my friend Seyth's character Kamal Duce. Here the emulation of style was more intentional. I wasn't drawing this way as a habit, but just for the purpose of making the characters look like they fit in the Robotech world. With the above examples, I wanted to draw like those guys all the time and was trying to train myself to.

Our group did play a lot of super hero games (Heroes Unlimited, GURPS Supers), futuristic games (Shadowrun, Star Wars, & Rifts) and the TMNT RPG, we tended to fall back on fantasy adventure games like D&D (though I know we played a few other systems and even made up a few ourselves.) I tended to play elven thiefs and my stock character was Lucas Taver. Lucas looked an awful lot like me, but with pointed ears, more dextarity and a big floppy blue hat (which is a rather consicuous wardrobe item for a thief). This watercolor of Lucas was from college, but was probably the third or fourth time I had re-created the character having lost character sheets or switching Game Masters.

I came up with a backstory for their being a wing of the Thief's guild that was all kin to the Taver clan, and from that point on I tried to make characters that were Tavers (even if they were not thieves). Abram Taver was one of my favorite characters I ever rolled up, but I never really got a chance to play him. The character creation came from the D&D supplement book for elves where various 'kits' were made to have special multi-class characters. He was a fighter/thief/mage and was essentially like D&D Indiana Jones, but with just enough magic to light his way, detect spells, and ward off curses. He would collect artifacts and relics for them to go into a vaulted collection of the elves for safe keeping. Like J.K. Rowling's goblin's ideas about goblin made items, Abram felt that either a treasure was wrought by elven hand and therefore belonged back with the elves, or it was a wonderful item dwarves or humans managed to craft well themselves, but were too simple-minded to appreciate and care for. I couldn't pinpoint when I drew this, but I'd say it's from 1998-ish and a drawing I still really like.

Other Taver-kin were H.S. Berkley (a recreation of the stats/kit for Abram), Frederik Taver (who I remember very little about) and Avril Taver. These were all drawn at dinners either on the placemats, butcher paper, tablecloth, or in a food-stained sketchbook I'd carry around. Avril was both an RPG character and a comic story character. I was participating a group comic-making activity on a message board when I created Avril. The project was to do a D&D adventure type comic where each participant has a character of their own but writes & draws the whole story for 2-4 pages before handing it off to the next person.

The comic never got to page 1. As a warm-up for it though, each artist was asked to draw a 3-4 page story with just their own character as an intro. I set up a 4 page comic where Lucas confronts Avril about the tenuous connection to the Taver-clan Thieves Guild now that Avril has abandoned it abd become a ranger of the land. Avril's fancy armor is a point of contention and has Lucas believing Avril stole from his own kin of thieves. I finished all 4 pages, but they were mainly compositied and colored sketches, and I don't have any of the files anymore. The sketches remain, and I was able to recreate the look of those pages here. The black areas were all open in the sketches and filled digitally in the coloring process. The backgrounds were minimal (mostly non-existant) and filled in with arts & crafts era woodblock cuts of trees.

Fan Art:
Dylan Maddox sent in this 3-D rendering of his Mouse Guard RPG character. And with this post being all about the love of drawing your RPG charaters, Dylan's fan art is the perfect piece to showcase this week.

2012 Appearances:
San Diego Comic Con: July 11-15
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept 8-9
New York Comic Con: Oct 11-14
Detroit Fanfare: Oct 26-28
Thought Bubble: Nov 17-18

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