Working as art director on the Deep Magic project is a blast! In particular, working with cover artist Marcel Mercado was a creative delight, and I am THRILLED with what he came up with.
Initially, my direction to Marcel for the cover basically focused on Midgard magic (blood magic, rune magic, shadow magic, and geomancy). I also stressed that I wanted a bright, colorful cover image that is lively, dynamic, and full of action. I noted that a cool-looking menhir (standing stone) with runes carved was an important part of the image. Ley lines were another element we needed, which I suggested might be represented as glowing lines on the ground, radiating out from the base of the menhir. Of course, being a book all about magic, we needed a spellcaster, so I asked for a wizard of some sort (one of the Midgard iconics would be a nice touch), casting a spell, with lots of fiery, glowing magical runes in the air around him.
I was blown away by the rough we received (seen above).
All four had a nice sense of action and movement, and they really captured the feel we were going for.
I like rough #1 best of all, in particular the menhir and the ley lines, although I liked aspects of the other three as well. So I worked with Marcel to incorporate the best parts of all four roughs into a single, awesome cover image. You can see where we are with that in the second image sneak peek I’m posting here.
After I had the final, high resolution image in hand, I worked on the actual cover.
In Thunder Forged: Iron Kingdoms Chronicles (The Fall of Llael, Book One)
300 pages, Pyr Publishing
In Thunder Forged is part of the Iron Kingdoms Chronicles, which are stories based on the Warmachine steam-powered fantasy wargame. I have never played Warmachine (sorry, Pedro), so I was not completely familiar with the factions involved in this military fantasy thriller that does double duty as a Cold-War style cloak-and-dagger spy novel.
If you are not familiar with Warmachine, here is the deal: This wargame is filled with steam-powered warmachines (called warjacks), magic, guns, and knights, to name a few elements. Heck, you’ll even see gunmages. Normally I would question how and even why someone would novelize a tactical wargame—but then I read this book. Sure Warhammer did it, but Warmachine? I just didn’t see it coming, but I’m glad that it did.
I have very fond memories of, as a teenager, sitting with my friends and poring over spell descriptions. Something about the mystery, wonder, and power of magic in RPGs has just always given me goose bumps—and, I admit, made me a little trigger-happy when it comes to offensive spells.
So when Wolfgang casually asked me late last year whether I was interested in editing and developing a book of magic, I happily replied, “That’s right in my wheelhouse!”
Little did I know how absolutely engrossing, exciting, and just plain fun this project would be.
In the five months since work has begun on Deep Magic in earnest, I’ve coordinated with Wolfgang and Ben to compile existing Kobold Press material, convert at least one set of spells to Pathfinder RPG, organize the book’s contents, wrangle deadlines, and edit and develop a host of all-new material.
Unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of time as the DM. Plenty of stories involved an evil priest or foul wizard, or even the clever ogre mage preparing some terrible ritual spell which would unleash a demon or open a portal into the outer planes. My villains were never big on sustainable dark empires, what can I say?
I tinkered with spellpoints, gobbled up articles in Dragon magazine on magical colleges or spell design. But nothing talked about those classic scenes my players (fortunately) never got tired of foiling—the enigmatic, big ceremonial magic with the potential for horrible consequences if the heroes interrupted the casting. For me, though, the frustrating part remained the fact that, while I had mechanics for the efficacy of polearms against chainmail versus leather armor versus plate mail, I was left to my own devices about what magic could do.
Things simply worked the way they did because villains needed to do what villains do, and adventurers needed to stop them. That’s the plan—the way of the story. We drew the Great and Powerful Curtain across the details, because, well, weren’t the characters going to succeed? And heck, if they didn’t, then they’d face the demon along with the other baddies. Why did the diabolist need those villagers? Why did the ritual need to be here, in the caldera? We may have written reasons, but they were based on whims, more ornamental than anything.
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.”
― William Shakespeare, Henry V
Fantasy novels love a good cavalry charge, or a hero who fights alongside a wolf, or a potent mage who spies from the eyes of a soaring bird. In Pathfinder, the only class feature that trumps the animal companion or familiar is spellcasting. Having another creature in a player’s control enhances tactical options and widens that character’s arrays of abilities.
A war-trained horse alone can greatly enhance character movement, carrying capacity, attack options, and defenses. A horse can be a better companion than some fighters since it begins with three attacks, scent, an outstanding carrying capacity, and an excellent move speed.
This may come as no surprise to Kobold Press regulars, but I must confess: I’m a bit addicted to monsters. As a player, I gravitate toward options that give me a familiar, animal companion, or mount since I find the game is missing something for me without that option. I feel that I’m in good company since eight of the eleven base classes either outright gives an animal companion, mount, or familiar, or have options that allow you to take one. So, join me after the jump as we discuss the best options available for animal companions, familiars, and mounts, and keep your eyes peeled for more topics around our fanged and clawed allies, including some alternate rules.