The Chain of Minauros

February 15, 2018

Thanks to a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign (I mean, I guess it’s going ok), Matt Colville will be streaming his next D&D campaign. I’m especially excited because the campaign his players have chosen is the Black Company campaign:

A mercenary company, the Chain falls on hard times and regroups in Capital, the greatest city in this, or any age. There the small band must lick its wounds, recruit new members, and plot its
revenge… Read more.

One of the features of this is that each player will hold a rank/title in the Company, one of which is Standard Bearer. I, of course, then had to think about what this standard might be…

So what does the name mean? Well, Minauros is a layer of the Nine Hells, and home to Jangling Hiter:

Suspended above the fetid bogs of Minauros, it is a literal city of chain, with everything from the buildings to the ground itself made of chains or chain mesh of various sizes…there is no finer chain anywhere in the multiverse than that from Jangling Hiter.

So as well as sounding super fucking cool, the Chain of Minauros are named for a chain that cannot be broken: they will honour their contract, they will hold their nerve. In word and in resolve they are unbreakable. Which is what you want from a mercenary company! (Damn, he’s good at writing this stuff.)

One train of thought I like that is that whatever the banner might be the standard is also hung with actual chains. Maybe when you enlist you’re given a single link of a chain, when you die that link is added to the chain on the standard so the standard bearer is literally carrying the history of the company.

Or, maybe the standard is hung with chains and the link you’re given when you join is from one of these chains. When the company is small the banner hangs heavy with chain, but if you can see the standard you know you face the company at full strength. That seems cool to me. But anyway, let’s play with some chains.

I think black and white makes sense, their contracts are written in black and white, they honour things to the letter. It’s no nonsense. (I guess they could write their contracts in blood? White on black is just so stark and powerful though.)

I think some of the horizontal chains look a bit weak. But! I also think that they make the most sense, imagine a wall of shields all side by side, forming a single, unbreakable chain. This even fits with the ability the Sergeant gets. So we need to make that cooler.

What else do I like? The bottom right with the surrounding chain could work, it could be a bordure with the insignia of their employer in the centre.

The chain on a bend sinister is fun too, the sinister could be a nod to the hellish origins of their name. Or maybe when they fight for ‘good’ it’s a bend proper and when they fight for the less good it’s sinister. Probably impractical, unless they have an ‘are we the baddies?’ checkbox on their contracts or something.

Let’s play with that horizontal chain and employer arms:

I think the horizontal chain is much stronger as a chief. We’ve also got the arms of Haldrim to stand in as the employer of our company but I’m less enamoured of this. It looks a bit jumbled. And I think I’m set on white on black.

If you went with the chief you could use different chain patterns to denote rank or distinguish troop type:


It’s neat enough but how can we take it further. How about some more intricate chainwork:

I really like the fine rings, they reinforce the idea of standing strong together, you can picture the row of shields bearing this chain. I think this might be pick of the lot. We’ll see how I feel in the morning.

The centre one is riffing on the idea of the link to the hells what with the sharp, angular chains, and an impossible/unbreakable link at the centre. But I like it less.

The last one is what I’d choose if the direction was to go functional, mundane.

As they’re a mercenary company including weaponry makes sense. There are a few directions I thought of on this tack:

The first is that the Chain is  stronger than any blade. I tried to do something with a hammer striking the chain and shattering but it was a bit too busy, the broken blade is ok but I’m not sure how well it conveys the concept.

The next is intended to show that the swords are bound/chained in your service. It also has a Damocles motif which I think works: when they take a contract there’s a burden of responsibility, and possibly, death hanging over each member of the company.

The last one is somewhere between the two ideas. The sword can’t break free from the chains but equally the chains are bound to it. Not sure about that. I prefer things to be less busy.

The final direction I thought of was having the chain bind a creature, the difficulty here was that the company could end up in service to… anything! If you bind a dragon or demon in your arms (not in the romantic sense) would it be awkward if you ended up in service to them? Not sure. I drew a shackle anyway:

Schools of Magic

January 13, 2018

Over on Matt Colville’s subreddit, The3rdCraigRobinson was after pendants for the eight schools of magic in D&D:

What I’d like to do is have the officially sanctioned Wizards of the Ordo Magica wear pendants identifying the school they belong to. Badge of office. Casting Focus. And most importantly, they will serve as “Papers” to keep from getting bodied by over-zealous Witch Hunters they encounter. And one “Initiative/Novice” Pendant low level Wizards use before they choose a School. Like a large obsidian ring with 8 smaller rings of various color metals. Kind of like a miniature version of Maester Chains in Westeros.

Oh, and in case anyone else can name the 13 Dwarves of Thorin’s Company but can never recall the 8 Schools of Magic, here’s a brief refresher:
Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation

While I’d like the symbology to be recognizable and evocative (heh!) of each School, I do want to avoid cliches.

So I took a stab at them. If they’re going to be pendants, rings, seals and so forth they need to be something easily wrought, cast, cut, or carved. Simple is always better, and we want to avoid cliches of fire for evocation, skull for necromancy etc. Here’s what I came up with:

XP Academy (updated)

July 27, 2017

I’m doodling heraldry again…

(Also it’s for D&D again.)

Board with Life‘s Adventures in the New World campaign is coming to a close and the next campaign is XP Academy. A Harry Potter-esque school for heroes.

Of course, I couldn’t resist thinking about school arms, crest, and motto.

Update: I’ve put together a cleaner version (not including the supporters yet):

And the original sketch:

The arms were obvious. Four quarters (like our four Hogwarts houses) but for the four core classes: Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, and Rogue. Sword, wand, hand and daggers to represent each.

For the motto I wanted something a bit clever. After dancing around a riff on hic sunt dracones for a while (and a brief dalliance with an XP/expecto patronum something or other) I got it: Solve for XP.

It riffs on ‘solve for x’ as a common maths question, has a sense of school patriotism (‘solve puzzles and challenges for XP Academy’), and literally describes what the characters will do. (Then Google translated into Latin cos, you know.)

For our crest we have a Dragon emerging from a Dungeon (for hopefully obvious reasons).

And for our supporters we have a Beaver and an Owl. The Owl represents knowledge, learning, wisdom. The Beaver represents hard-work, and reflects the story from medieval bestiaries where beavers would bite off their own testes to escape hunters (heroes: know when to run!). It was also an excuse to draw a heraldic beaver. They’re pretty weird.

Who knows if this is anywhere near what Donald had in mind! Luckily I won’t have to wait long to find out.

In the meantime I’ll maybe work this up from idle doodle to something a bit cleaner (that mantling needs work for sure). Update: I did!

Community Manholes

April 27, 2017

These are delightful.

After World War II, city planners in Japan proposed the idea of allowing each local municipality to design their own manhole cover as part of an effort to raise awareness for costly sewage projects. Designs would reflect local industry, culture, and history. The result was a huge success, and now over 19,000 manhole cover designs can be found embedded across 95% of all municipalities in Japan.

#大坂 #マンホールカバー #マンホール #manhole #japanesemanhole #manholecover #japanesemanholecover

A post shared by ラット・スパーブ (@rudsooparb) on

Kamaishi tiger #Kamaishi #Japan #tiger #TORA #manholecover #japanesemanhole #manholeart #iwate

A post shared by Charlotte Wright (@charb4days) on

This video takes you on a tour of the factory where the community-driven designs are manufactured:

(via Colossal)

Soviet Logos

April 14, 2017

Soviet Logos is an Instagram feed of previously unpublished trademarks from the USSR.


November 6, 2016

I’m doing #swordvember this year (I was doing #mapvember too but I think maps should be like a once a week thing for me rather than a once a day – I get too bogged down overthinking them).

No problems overthinking swords though! Check out some of these dumb swords:


The last one is a sneak peek of tomorrow’s (the hilt of many blades).

Even though many (all?) of these are patently stupid I’m tempted to actually write up rules for them and render them all in a consistent style. Maybe stick it on DMs Guild for a buck or something!