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JDR Magazine #53: “You are in an Inn…” Episode 1


The Context

🐲 A famous French roleplaying game magazine commissioned several illustrations from me. Through several episodes, they were representing the adventures and setbacks of a group of adventurous characters (typically Dungeons & Dragons) unable to escape the inn of their first adventure.

Art Direction, Style and Synergy of the Commission

The tone of the article was resolutely comical and satirical, as were the situations represented. However, the illustrations also had to have a certain realistic density so that readers/roleplayers could identify with them, through memories of game experiences shared by all roleplayers.

I therefore chose to make a synthesis of styles oscillating between a form of cartoon, semi-realism and caricature in order to be able to induce certain allusions specific to the storytelling of tabletop roleplaying games, such as certain “memes”, “tropes” or “easter eggs” throughout the episodes that I had to illustrate.

A non-roleplayer could therefore completely understand the illustrated situation, but, in addition, a roleplayer would perceive “added value” thanks to all the details and “private jokes” perceived with a second reading.

Technique

The technique chosen is that of the pencil to adhere to a relaxed and immediate style, specific to press drawings. Also it symbolically embodies the pencil used by all roleplayers during their roleplaying sessions.

Character Design and Narrative Design

The adventure involved a Barbarian, a Wizard, a Priest and a Thief. From the first episode, I had the idea of portraying the four adventurers in the guise of four renowned Heroic-Fantasy writers, each of whom remaining a famous reference among all roleplayers:

Clive Staples Lewis as The Priest

Clive Staples Lewis, the author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, has frequently questioned religious faith and has instilled numerous references to Christianity in his works. This made him a wise choice for the Priest. But to keep the light and caricatured spirit of the article, I modified the Christian cross of his prayer rosary into a mathematical “plus” sign of arithmetic, and I added the symbols “minus”, “multiply” and “divide”.

Robert Ervin Howard as The Barbarian

The Barbarian had to be represented by the author who most represented this archetype in Pop Culture: Robert Ervin Howard, the author of the famous “Conan the Barbarian”. Especially since his physical appearance as a boxer made him suitable for this role. Arguing to be an outrageous stereotype of the Barbarian, this character constantly carries a whole eccentric arsenal of weapons on his person in order to demonstrate his aggressive, bellicose and not very subtle nature.

This also allowed me to change the weapons from one illustration to another, to create visual interest from one illustration to the other; and also to make other references to pop culture or Heroic-Fantasy classics through famous weapons such as Starwars’ lightsabers, the Singing Sword of Irish legends or even a giant pocketknife!

Howard Phillips Lovecraft as The Wizard

The mysterious and enigmatic Howard Phillips Lovecraft created a colossal work by inventing the cosmogony of the “Call of Cthulhu” myth. I portrayed him as a Wizard, or more precisely, a Necromancer; his work having always been perceived as very dark, fatalistic and peppered with references to death.

I wanted to give him almost vampiric features, in line with his role ; he always carries the “Necronomicon” like a spellbook and his familiar perched on his shoulder is a small “Cthulhu”, constantly squealing the famous “Ftaghn” from the the injunction of “Call of Cthulhu”.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien as The Thief

Finally, the Thief took on the features of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Rings” saga, in reference to the “Hobbits” of his works who, most of the time, correspond to the archetype of the Thief. I wanted a “rebel” character, completely at odds with the academic personality of the author towards the end of his life. I therefore represented him young and with a mustache, as he appeared during his engagement during World War I, which profoundly influenced his work. He wears “The One Ring” as an earring and several thieves’ tools at his belt, along with several purses containing anachronistic currencies.

The Illustration

In this episode, these adventurers are faced with a forced chore of washing dishes. I symbolized their confusion and summarized the story arc of the episode by an object called “Bucket of Plonge” which is a “Franglais” barbarism that could be translated into English slang as “Bucket for Washing Dishes”.

To symbolize the anxiety of the situation, I gave this object an aura of danger by representing the sponge in the bucket having multiple predatory mouths and a creature is hidden in the broom brush.

Cover of JDR Magazine #53 in which the illustration appears (click to expand)

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One response to “JDR Magazine #53: “You are in an Inn…” Episode 1”

  1. Helene Lavoix Avatar

    Splendid as always! And also this showcase the very broad scope of your design skills!


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