The Southern Sanction

July 13, 2016

(I’m a sucker for completeness)


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


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


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:


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


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.


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


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:



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:


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:


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?


An alternate knotted figure:


Dragon scales are also a logical option:


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


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:



This was actually the first thing I ever did for 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.


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.


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.


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.


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):


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.

The Spinelands

June 16, 2016



Durok founded the dwarven kingdom [of Kalazanbaar] when he killed the Titan Raxis, and split the mountain

Splitting the mountain is such a strong image that has to be the core of the arms. Initially I had the split come to a point at the bottom of the mountain but by widening it you get a greataxe in the negative space (no doubt the axe Durok used to slay Raxis).

The split mountain is in red, the blood of the titan, the sky/axe is in white/silver (yellow/gold would be getting too close to the orcs of Urshok).

We want to differentiate these dwarves from those of Korim. Korim is represented by hammers so using an axe (albeit an abstract one) for Kalabanzaar makes for a neat distinction. And the palette is distinct from Korim itself and its great houses so there’s little chance of confusion.

The Orcs of Urshok


Beastmaster – Kennel master of the dire boars that accompany the Warhounds into battle.

Headtakers – The elite death commandos of the Warfather. Assassins who employ garottes, and literally take the heads of their victims.

Sunbreaker – Amarax the Shaman, who begins his rituals at dusk when the sun falls

I posted a bunch of ideas for the Orcs a couple of weeks ago, this is definitely my favourite direction. It gives them something distinct from anyone else and it has a nice raw edge.

The sunset represents the sun setting on the Orcish empire but it shouldn’t slip calmly into darkness, it should rage against the very sky.

Titan’s Gate


I had a look at the Port when it was unnamed, now it has a name I’ve taken another run at it. The obvious choice for Titan’s Gate would be some sort of colossus (think Rhodes, Braavos) but I wanted to avoid that. The titan was some dread foe, not a mighty protector, instead I like something that shows the port as a gateway to the Northern Sanction (represented here by the three stars).

I also don’t mind this being more elaborate. I like the kingdoms having something simple and easily recognisable but the city can have something more elaborate. It’s also most similar to Haldrim but I don’t mind that either. Blue is the logical choice for a port and Haldrim is the nearest kingdom.



The swamp is ruled by Lizardman tribes. The lizardmen ambush human trader for their metal.
Serve the Queen of Stone, Magora, the medusa.

The Eye of Magora had to be the lizardman emblem. It’s incredibly simple but so striking (and faintly reminiscent of something or other…). Picture our heroes staring down a wall of poisonous eyes as the Lizardman horder bear down on them.

The lizardmen themselves wouldn’t need the colour-differentiated shields to distinguish them – their scales mark their tribe – but this might be what the men of Haldrim use to mark their settlements and movements on maps or similar.



Now, Duke Oranis, The Lord of Autumn, the last surviving member of the White Iris Court is in mourning, his wife and children, slaughtered by the Drow. He is a paladin of the High Elf god Polaris. He refuses to take up the mantle of nobility and the High Elves follow his lead. They call his noble retinue the Court of Fallen Leaves.

Most of the elves follow the lead of their Duke and want to fade away. But some seek revenge against
the Drow! They call themselves the Court of Winter and follow Lady Verit, the Countess of Willow.

We had a sneak peek of these a couple of weeks ago too.

I really liked my ‘top-down’ iris but by using something closer to the traditional fleur-de-lis we can play with orientation.

The White Iris Court is simple: a white iris on a blue field.

The Lord of Autumn switches this to autumnal shades and the lowest petal becomes a single tear to represent his sorrow. The Court of Fallen Leaves inverts the iris and is placed upon a black field in mourning. I thought about the Court also taking the red/yellow of Duke Oranis but this way he stands out more.

Finally we have Lady Verit and the Winter Court. It turns out Willow trees are tricky to represent on a shield! This seemed to be the coolest way, anything else ended up being too oddly proportioned or overly complicated. I also like that if these were in blue or white they could be icicles and she leads the Winter Court.

For the Winter Court I wanted something harking back to the Iris court so we get a blue flower on white rather than a white flower on blue. At first I had four petals which I liked but then I thought that six is more like a snowflake.

The Men of the Scale Hills


[The Scale Hills are] home to the Yuan-ti, who battle the Dragon Men of Zir. They are being driven over the mountains into Cardus. Worship the dead tian Raxis. They were his children

I love the idea that the snakemen’s symbol is just the two fangs. The first scaled example here (I’ve been playing with scales for the Lizardmen, Yuan-Ti, and the Dragonmen) is sort of a cheat in heraldry but I would consider it diapered. Diapering is adding textural interest to a large expanse and this seems appropriate.

I’m not sure what to do with the colour scheme here. I like a poisonous green but I guess Yuan-Ti can come in a variety of colours? And the men of Cardus over the hills have a green field on their arms. Not sure.

The only major faction I’m yet to post anything for are the Dragonmen of Zir, but don’t worry, I have ideas :)

Check out my other work on the Arms of the Spinelands here.