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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:

Avengers

August 14, 2016

avengers

Far from an original idea (I don’t even need to google it to know that there will be a hundred takes on superhero coats of arms) but it was fun to think how I might represent each hero without just resorting to their logo/uniform on a shield.

Banner is a personal fave. The two halves of his shield for the two halves of his personality. The left side has a snake wrapped around a staff, a nod to his title (I know he’s a physicist rather than an MD but we do see him treating the sick), by cropping the head/tail of the snake also represents a gamma wave.

banner

The snake wrapped around the branch also led to the crest: a dragon chasing a dove. In medieval bestiaries, doves would fly to the Peridexion tree to escape the dragon (the devil) and the tree would keep them safe. On the shield the serpent is climbing the tree, it simultaneously represents the good Banner could do as a doctor and the worst that he lets in to the world.

Natasha’s crest is fun too. All the guys have such martial crests but she’s a spy, hers should be more subtle.

natasha

The wheel has eight spokes (legs) and looks like a spider sat on a web, it also spins thread like a spider, or spins a yarn like a spy. And if fairy tales have taught us anything it’s that a spinning wheel can be pretty deadly: Natasha isn’t the girl pricking her finger on the spindle, she’s the point of the needle.

A bit of fun for a Sunday morning.

Cap

July 17, 2016

cap

Cap for funsies. Mostly playing with outlines on my charges, adding helms and mantles, and crests. Thinking of working this up into a set.

The Southern Sanction

July 13, 2016

(I’m a sucker for completeness)

southern-kingdoms

We don’t know much about the old Kingdoms of the Southern Sanction. We know the names of their capitals (Saldon, Holgast, Tirrell) but the names of the kingdoms themselves are lost… (or not on the map at least!)

We know that the lich performed the rite of desecration to halt the destruction of the forest so we could try to symbolise how the landscape changed as the kingdoms of men spread.

(And we can always just do something cool for no good reason because why the hell not.)

The First Kingdom

saldon

Starting in the East we have our first kingdom. This one is closest to Titan’s Gate, on the fringes of the forest. I imagine this kingdom would have had the best chance of clearing the most land before the kingdoms fell, it’s also served by three rivers.

The gold and green check represents the verdant pastures (green) and abundant crops (gold). It’s also distinct from the other kingdoms so far, we haven’t use chequy anywhere else.

The Second Kingdom

holgast

Next up we have the kingdom to the South. My initial idea for one of the kingdoms was inspired by something I saw in York Minster a couple of weeks ago:

skirlaw

I loved the idea of arrows or daggers intertwined with tree trunks. It could represent conflict with the forest itself as the people of the kingdom carved out their domain, or their prowess as hunters.

Or maybe there’s an old folk tale of the first king of these lands who blooded three arrows and fired each to mark the bounds of his kingdom, the land feared his reach would be too far and give him dominion over the whole world so a great forest sprung up and trapped his arrows and that’s where the forest first came from.

But, ultimately I decided this was too fiddly a device for one of the main kingdoms. I liked the idea of including a weapon (as none of the human kingdoms do yet) so I figured three swords worked. As the southern kingdom’s capital is near(ish) to the coast the blue field works, and with the marsh to the North and the goliath to the East I figure they would have had plenty of groups to fight.

The Third Kingdom

tirrell

Finally we have the kingdom to the North. These guys are closest to the lich’s island, I reckon they would have had to carve their lands from the thickest, darkest forest. My first thought was an axe but we’ve already got blades for the kingdom to the south and axes evoke some of our dwarven kingdoms so my next thought was fire.

We haven’t used rayonny anywhere else and they’re the only human kingdom using red so they’re still distinct. I went for the flames moving across rather than burning up or down to give them feel that they are crawling across the shield much as the flames of men would’ve burned across the land.

southern-kingdoms

The Whispered Song

July 2, 2016

Ruled by Queen Aeleth, Ardenia is famous for its bardic college: the College of the Whispered Song (aka The Whisper) led by Master Troubadour Cristoph. Ardenia’s bards travel the kingdoms from the high city of [I dunno what] all the way to Titan’s Gate, collecting and spreading news!

Suspected by the other nations, but never proven, Queen Aeleth uses her bardic college as a spy network keeping the larger, more prosperous kingdoms of Haldrim and Cardus at bay.

whispered-song

A starling seems a good fit.

  • A flock of starlings is a murmuration and the collected bards are knows as The Whisper; murmur/whisper works for me.
  • Even the most commonplace are decked out in a shining coat of stars (which seems to befit a bard), and some can be pretty stunning.
  • They’re effective mimics, and the Bards of The Whisper will repeat many a carefully crafted lie or overheard secret
  • Starling means little star and as a Kingdom of the Northern Sanction Ardenia is represented by a star; while it may not be as strong a kingdom as the others netwrok of its little stars keep the larger star aloft

I also took inspiration from a personal favourite heraldic bird: the martlet. A martlet is a swift or swallow depicted without feet, often (but not always) used to represent to represent fourth sons. There’s a poetic explanation that as the fourth son they won’t inherit land or title nor will they join the priesthood so instead are sent out as landless wanderers to make their own fortunes. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know but I like the idea that it symbolises the Bards of the Whispered Song as ever-moving.

In slightly sad related news, while I was working on this my cats found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest :( He didn’t seem hurt, but no idea where the nest is so I’m hoping ma and pa pigeon manage to find baby bird in my garden.

Under the Mountain

July 2, 2016

Time to talk about some very naughty dwarfses.

Ull’vol

The upper, civilized, kingdom of the Duergar. The lower kingdom Ull’vok fell years ago and the Duergar there went mad and became the Derro.

A theocracy ruled by the Hierophant Xadraxim who speaks for the Duergar Creator Diety Molak, the God of Nightmares

Duergar are often cast as slavers and my initial idea was to try something with a whip (think cat rather than Indy) as their symbol and see if the negative space of the fan of tails could represent the peaks rising up above their empire.

duergar-sketches

Ultimately I felt these ended up too fiddly, the fan either looked too much like a radiant sun (something the gray dwarves are not so keen on) or it was too complex, not strong enough. I still like the idea of a whip, I might return to it as a symbol of their god of nightmares.

My next thought was something using chains or manacles but I want House Argentum to have the fancy knotwork.

Instead I decided to pare it right down, keep it simple, strong and recognisable: bars.

ull-voll

I like the right hand option as a symbol of the Hierophant.

As a motif there’s a lot you can do with it to still leave it recognisable if you wanted to look at variations for houses/orders/castes within Ull’vol. They could be distinctive to all (like the top row), or perhaps only really distinguishable to those in Ull’vol society (lower row):

ull-vol-houses