Design Games

Under the Mountain

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):

Design Games

The Crucible

If you don’t know what Collabris is yet you can read this primer and see what I’ve been drawing here. If you have no idea what the hell any of this means, start here.

The Dwarven kingdom of Korim is governed by the Crucible, the voting council that contains the three most powerful houses (thus preventing ties in the legislature). The three most powerful houses are House Aurum, House Argentum, and House Cuprum.

We know a little about these houses:

Great House Aurum, ruled by Thane Ygnal the oldest house and first among equals on the Council. Voted against the alliance with Ardenia.

Great House Cuprum ruled by Thane Gilmarad. Sided with House Argentum in the vote on an alliance with Ardenia.

Great House Argentum ruled by Thane Helmoral, the youngest of the three great houses on the council, brokered the alliance with Ardenia. This peace has brought her house great wealth, and power and this threatens Thane Ygnal and house Aurum.

The obvious go to here for their arms is the metals, House Aurum = Gold, Argentum = Silver, Cuprum = Copper. Gold and silver exist as heraldic metals, strictly speaking copper doesn’t but tawny is a tincture that’s pretty close (also this a fantasy world not a system that started in 12th Century Medieval Europe still described using Norman French, so…).

One problem with the metal approach is this doesn’t extend very well to any potential minor houses, how easy is it going to be to distinguish houses Plumbum, Ferrum, and Stannum? So what else can we use?

These are the most powerful houses so something must have made them powerful.

House Argentum

We know House Argentum’s rise to power has culminated in the alliance so perhaps eloquence is the key to House Argentum’s position. Honey dripped in the right ears, knowing when to bend and when to stand firm.


The knotwork is a mix of gentle curves and hard corners, it also harks back to the knotwork on the arms of Korim and the knotwork itself is a pair of tongs… in silver :D

To those who say I’d pick a pocket: heralds don’t pun; they cant. (I’m a herald now, right?)

Back to the other houses: what made them so powerful? We know Korim is a small kingdom but punches above its weight thanks to their mastery of constructs. Presumably one house is especially adept at golemancy and construct magic, that works – it’s key to their power and success and someone has to be the best.

But such magics require raw materials, and he who controls the spice controls the universe, so lets say the other house owns the richest mines and commands control over the most valuable resources.

House Aurum

I think Aurum make a good fit for the wealthiest house, gold is synonymous with wealth and whether in peace or war their wealth would have long made them powerful. The alliance with Ardenia could also threaten House Aurum’s wealth: new trade with the human kingdom would remove their control over the flow of resources.

(This also makes the siding of House Cuprum with House Argentum logical: trade with Ardenia means they would no longer be beholden to House Aurum to access what they need.)

I like the idea of something simple and bold for House Aurum. They’ve been number one for a long time, they don’t need to try hard, everyone knows who they are.


Gold and black works, they control the wealth within the rock. It’s important we avoid anything that’s too similar to Ardenia’s arms though, a callback to Korim’s arms would be nice too:


House Cuprum

For the masters of constructs there are a few things I like:

  • A hammer. I mentioned that the hammers in the arms of Korim were there to represent both war and craft, it makes sense for House Cuprum to incorporate it somehow
  • A face or mask, something that looks like it could be carved face of a construct
  • Something distinct from the other two

I really like the three hammers making the eyes and the nose (I also love how the handles for the eyes look like tears). I also like the idea of something beardy (this is supposed to be a dwarven face).


The Crucible

(Love the name)

I figured the crucible should have a symbol of his own (I was also thinking about tongs after House Argentum) and like the idea of a red hot crucible containing white hot metal clasped in a pair of tongs:


I can see this worked into the arms and and armour of the elite guard at the Crucible.


So all in all Korim has arms for its nation, its government, and its three most powerful houses.


I genuinely think I might need to take a vacation if I’m going to work up heraldry for everything in this world (heck, it’s not even the world, it’s just one damn part of a world!). Loving every minute of it though.

Design Games

To Arms!


If you’re not interested in the preamble you can skip straight to the arms.

Edit: I’ll post future updates under the Collabris tag so you can check out all posts about the Heraldic Tradition of Collabris here, or you can take a look at V’ael/The Veil, and the (as-yet unnamed) Port.

I’m a nerd for heraldry (I still hope one day, somehow, I’ll become a Pursuivant of Arms) but for now I’m happy enough collecting old books and creating fictional arms).

As part of his D&D webseries for aspiring DMs, ‘Running the Game’ , Matt Colville has run a couple of worldbuilding Twitch streams (which have really been quite fun). Each stream is a good couple of hours but you can read the fruits of collective labour here and this is the world so far:


After last night’s stream I had this world on the brain and started sketching arms for some of the regions/kingdoms. I realised that the arms of the Northern sanction could be divided by a horizontal zigzag (party per fess indented) that would represent the mountainous divide, above the divide would something to represent the three kingdoms and the Southern Sanction would have the same arms but with the mountains to the north and the kingdoms below. This seemed like a fun distraction for my bank holiday so I set to work…

The Sanctions

For each Sanction, the arms show the green fields of their lands next to the snow-capped mountains of the Dwarves (well, formerly of the Dwarves), and a star for each kingdom:


The collected kingdoms of men combine the two arms:


The Southern Sanction

The Southern Sanction is no more, in its place stands the Dead Kingdom:

Once a kingdom of men, formerly the Southern Sanction, destroyed by Kaleth-varr, the druid Archlich who sold her soul to the God of the Death and became a lich to stop the Southern Sanction from cutting back the forest to make their civilization.

I played around with a few ideas for what that means for the arms of the Southern Sanction. I liked the idea that the lower half would just be completely black, but I also liked the idea that the men of the Northern Sanction wouldn’t necessarily consider the Dead Kingdom and the Southern Sanction to be the same thing (if the Dead Kingdom could be destroyed somehow then the Southern Sanction could, perhaps, be reclaimed).

In the end I plumped for a ceremonial set of arms to represent the Southern Sanction and arms to represent the Dead Kingdom (I’d envisage the latter to be a set of arms used by the Northern Sanction to denote/mark the Dead Kingdom rather than anything borne by the undead themselves).


The stars of the Southern Sanction are inverted as well as darkened. Strictly speaking this breaks the rule of tincture (a colour on a colour) but as this marks something horrific/abhorrent breaking the rules made some sort of sense.

The Northern Sanction

The Northern Sanction is split into three kingdoms: Haldrim, Ardenia, and Cardus. They’ve been fleshed out to varying degrees in the streams and there’s a strong chance that as they’re fleshed out further what I’ve come up with here will come to make absolutely no sense at all! But anyway.

Haldrim sits closest to the pass through the Broken Spine mountains and as a consequence closest to the Tower that the Northern Sanction maintains to protect its route to the port south of the mountains.

Even though the tower itself is some days travel south I figured it would be a pretty big deal to the city of Haldrim. And as stars have already been established as the marker for each kingdom they would be the kingdom above the tower:


Cardus sits to the East, nestling against the foothills of the Broken Spine. While they have the largest standing army they are beset by Yuan-Ti (snake-men) who are pushed westward over the Scale Hills by the Dragonmen of Zir (aside: I cannot wait to design something for the Dragonmen of Zir).

I felt they should have a strong, martial symbol as they’re constantly under attack and eagles hunt snakes so the idea of an eagle claw descending upon the mountains from above seemed pretty cool. The field acts as a pretty strong callback to the arms of the Sanction too:


Finally, Ardenia is to the North, close to the Dwarven kingdom of Korim. I thought maybe their arms should include a nod to the Dwarves as they have a strong alliance, looking at it again I don’t know if impaling their arms with the dwarven symbol is a bit too much. It shows the two kingdoms side by side but I’m not sure it says a lot about Ardenia as a kingdom of men. I’ll let it brew:


The Kingdoms of Men


The Dwarves of Korim

The dwarven kingdom to the north. They are masters of construct magics, and though a small kingdom, defends their lands with the constructs they build. Their constructs are both large and powerful, and small and delicate

I initially played around with an anvil but in the end I settled for hammers, they were more easily identifiable at a smaller size (for the arms of Ardenia), and can represent both a weapon of war and a tool of craft.

For the full arms of Korim I combined them with a fret to show that balance of power and delicate intricacy, I also opted for a different shield shape to further distinguish it from the Kingdoms of Men:


The Ban Tuur

The Ban Tuur are humans but not one of the civilized human kingdoms.

Animists who see gods in everything, the greatest of which is the Volcano Tuur, Tuur is the Father of Fire.


It’s Tuur himself. I like this one a lot, it’s simple but striking, it would work daubed on a banner or shield, plus it’s the only human kingdom to use red. I love the bale eye vibe too.


Nara’shul is home to the Nara:

…the griffon-riding Goliaths living in cities carved into the rock. Skilled masons and stonecutters. Their capital city of Ketra lies below the highest peak of the mountains, Kuraya. At the top of which lives U’shaka, the God of the Goliaths, believed to be a Prince of the Air Elementals and his servants, the Nine Winds, the Dukes of Sharash

While the Ban Tuur I instantly knew what I wanted to do. The Nara on the other hand…

It might just be because they’re called Nara but my first thought was a something like a Japanese Mon with the nine winds swirling around (or the eight winds swirling with the ninth at the centre).


I quite like these, I can see Goliath tattoos/body paint using these patterns and they’d work in pretty much any colour combination you like. They’re certainly very Japanese which isn’t a bad thing but I wanted to try to some other avenues. My next thought was to represent the winds with feathers rather than abstract shapes, which would also tie back to the griffons:


These seemed to flowery/intricate so I decided to move back towards something geometric. I thought something representing Kuraya, the highest peak, with the nine winds could work:


I quite like this, but then I also remembered that Matt had described their cities as carved into the rock, like the cliff dwellings in the Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, so I tried a geometric take on it too:


I like it because it makes the mountain look like it’s been cut by man (well, goliath, you know what I mean), but it also makes everything smaller and a bit fiddlier so I’m still not too sure about this one.

Still to come…

The Wood Elves of the Veil and the Dragonmen of Zir are up next, plus the fallen Dwarven empire of Kalazanbar and the High Elves of Tal-Onarafel. I might look at some of the savage races too, we’ll have to see what comes out of the next stream…

If you like anything you see here feel free to use it, and whether you like it or no, let me know what you think! @dan_connolly