Fred Bednarski

Graphic Design student, all design enthusiast.

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Tools of the Trade of a Tabletop Dungeon Delver

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I have decided to illustrate one of my hobbies - pen and paper RPGs. Sadly, outside of the funky polyherdral dice, there aren't many interesting shapes in the items used to play. It all consists of pencils, paper and books. This is why I have decided to add a dragon miniature. Some people use them in their games. I don't, but I needed something to to make the design more interesting and a bit more iconic. After some sketching, I settled on the design on the right.

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The dice, were a problem. Drawing those complex 3d objects quickly by hand (to make them look hand drawn) ended up making some strange and unrecognizable shapes. I have decided to trace the dice of an actual photo in illustrator, but fumble the lines a bit with the pen tool to give them more of a hand made quality. 

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They turned out pretty good, recognizable, but not strictly geometrical. Transfering them from Illustrator to Photoshop as anything else than smart objects was a bit of a chore. Nevertheless, the dice set is ready. Now to "roll" them on my postcard until it looks good....

To make the piece more iconic and recognazable, I have opted to illustrate a Dungeons&Dragons setup. I haven't played D&D in ages, opting for some more narrative system,s but D&D is still the game that comes to peoples' minds when they hear the term "tabletop RPG". Also, D&D 3rd edition has great iconic book covers (especially the monster manual). Unfortunately, the character sheet for 3rd edition looks like a spreadsheet, so the character sheet in my piece will be based on a much simpler design from 70s and 80s D&D.

After placing the dice in and blocking in shapes in color I got to this:

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At least for time being, I used two colors. The one I am sure I want to keep is the red, taken from D&D logo (it is also one of my favorite shades of red). The yellow is sampled from a yellowed book page. I might ot might not discard it, depending how the ink lines will work, but I like the idea of it being taken from an actual book page...

...now, for the inking part!

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I had gone a little overboard with quantity here, because messing with ink was just too much fun. I also wanted to experiment as it was my defacto introduction to ink and dip pens. I have started wanting to put outlines on the object, but their detail and scale made them look very cartoony. This is where I started playing with textures, and some of my favourites were the ones that I just gone with it and didn't worry where they will fit in the piece. The last big texture on the right, done by using the paper towel that I was using for removing excess ink from pens, made for a great leather book texture...

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...and this is where I got to after those ink. The "sketchy" feel works well with the pen part of "pen & paper RPG," as does the graph paper (it is used to lay out dungeons). I am keeping the yellow and allowing myself to use PS blending modes to have more variety in color. I can see the finish line, just few more ink details. One for the character sheet and one for the book...

...oh man the book. It gave me so much trouble. The problem with my design is that it had a lot of small elemets that are somewhat detailed (dice and especially the dragon). Trying to balance it, and to make the simple red rectangle a bit more interesting I added the ornaments for the book: the lock, the label, the corners and a bevel. Well, this looked shit when I started applying textures. So I removed most of it and concentrated on the eye (after all it was the trademark of the D&D monster manual). At that point, I still wanted the eye to be set in that circle socket. Yet, nothing looked good with it. It was too geometric and just too cartoony. I was stumped for couple days. Fortunatelly, I stumbled upon Lord of the Rings cover that kinda gave me an idea...

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So here is the "finished" piece. I am not yet 100% happy with the book, but I might come back to it if I find a better solution for the eye. 

Untl then, I welcome any and all feedback!

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