danconnolly.co.uk

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:

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 Glass City

July 11, 2016

Objectively the best inhabitants of Collabris: The Dragonmen of Zir.

Arabic (Fremen) Dragonborn of the desert. Civilized, not nomadic…Capital city: Ziris, the Glass City, the Shining Star of the Sand. Literally made of stone and glass.

A democracy where only and all wizards can vote, the Grand Vizir is elected by the Council of Seven, the leading wizards from each school of magic.

Geometry and calligraphic knotwork have to be our touchpoints here.

The Glass City

glass-city

This is my indulgence in calligraphic knotwork. It fails the simplicity test but as a symbol of the city I love it (I imagine the central tower is where the Council of Seven meet). It also doesn’t take much to turn this to a turn a cityscape into a dragon:

glass-city-dragon

Zir

I couldn’t decide whether this should be simple or intricate so I’ve ended up with a bunch of ideas. They’re all based around symbols that have a rotational symmetry order of 10 (to represent the 5 chromatic and 5 metallic dragon colours).

The simplest example is a riff on the Seal of Solomon:

seal-of-zir

This also has the neat touch that it’s made of two five-sided figures interwoven: the chromatic and metallic joined in a single nation.

Taking that idea and ramping up the intricacy:

mandala

I quite like this mandala (to be honest I picture all of these getting used in one way or another!), you could emphasise the knotwork, or perhaps groups of dragons pick out one of the figures to highlight?

knotted-mandala

An alternate knotted figure:

knotted-star

Dragon scales are also a logical option:

scales2

Or more rounded scales with explicit motifs for the dragon types:

scales

I’ve largely avoided colour in these designs. I picture the men of Zir using yellow (sand), white (glass) and red (fire) primarily but when you’re using 10 spoked figures the temptation is to try to include all the colours and metals which can end up looking disjointed.

The Council of Seven

Something simpler but following the symmettry and knotwork themes:

council
council2

Zir

This was actually the first thing I ever did for Zir:

zir

If you rotate it 180 you can see it’s a Z, an R, and the tittle from the i with an extra fork added to the Z to as a forked tongue or tail.

I quite like everything here! And I think you could combine pretty much any of them and they’d work together.

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

Mostly Armless

June 27, 2016

My old arm injury flared up again last week. I’m not entirely sure why as I tend to work exclusively left-handed at the office but there you go. Perhaps my right shoulder is writhing in fear, sympathetic to the punishment the Summer holds for its sibling.

So I took a week off drawing anything and tried to avoid using devices outside the office which has helped. I missed the world-building stream last night but I’m planning to listen to it at work today and I should be devising devices once more before the week is out.

If you’ve been keeping track you can read the up-to-date pdf here and view the full map here. Matt is going to continue work on the project and commission some artwork but even without that there’s a great world here that people are already using. Pretty frickin cool.