Monday, September 8, 2014

Dungeon & Dragons Monster Manual - Aarakocra


Upon opening the 5th Edition Monster Manual the first entry is the feathery Aarakocra... which I just so happened to have redesigned for 5E and illustrated for the MM. Not sure if there is any real benefit to being first in the MM... but it just makes me feel all warm and tingly and gives me a certain amount of monstrous satisfaction. With that all said, let's get to the monster! Here is my redesign and illustration for the 5th Edition D&D Aarakocra...

Aarakocra - Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

As mentioned in the Ankheg post, the artists working on the MM were asked to create an additional series of detail sketches that would be used in the design of the book. Not all of the drawing were used for all the monsters, but they were part of the process. Here are the details sketches that I created for the Aarakocra...

Aarakocra - Detail Sketches
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

The Aarakocra did not get cropped and appears with a couple of its details sketches. Here is a VERY bad photo of the Aarakocra page I managed to take at Gen Con...

HORRIBLE photo of the handy dandy book version of the Aarakocra for all your RPG needs!
I wonder why I did not take a second photo...

With the illustration all done, let's jump back in time further to look at the process of redesigning the Aarakocra. The Aarakocra (R-ah-cock-rah? R-ah-coke-ra?) required a bit more time in the concept phase compared to some of the other monsters of 5E that I worked on. I blame those meddlesome six limbs... or the fact that I had already done a bunch of winged things... or ...ah... I draw bad sometimes. Whatever the case I produced several rounds of concepts as we (production / ADs / and I) zeroed in on the design. Here are the three rounds of concepts thumbnails that I produced for the Aarakocra...
Aarakocra - Thumbnails / Concepts
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Aarakocra - Thumbnails / Concepts (Round 2)
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Aarakocra - Thumbnails / Concepts (Round 3)
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

By the time I went into round three the direction was really mapped out and the notes back from production sent me down the right path to a final design. While there were several aspects of the design to still work out I knew what needed to be done and the third round was approved.

Side note! Sometimes (often) I have to shake off the funky sketches and ideas at the beginning of a project. Gotta get the bad ideas out so that I can make something less bad. These bad warms up usually get delete and are NEVER shown to anyone. Looks like some of my SUPER CRAPPY warm up sketches for the Aarakocra survived... aren't you lucky! Two sketches managed to hide themselves in the layers of my thumbnail file while a third was sliced off at the very tip top edge...

Aarakocra - the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE warm up sketches that no one saw
(...but you just have so you are super special!)
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

Back to the actual process... With the thumbnails pretty much resulting in a completed design it was now time to clean it up on paper and flesh it all out. Here is the final drawing for the Aarakocra redesign...

9 x 12
Pencil on paper
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

This design was approved without comment or revision. It was time to now work up a color version so that anyone working with Aarakocra in the future had an idea of what they should look like...

Aarakocra - Final Concept
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast

With the launch of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons has come new miniatures! While I have not been involved with designing the actual miniatures one of the first minis to be released is an Aarakocra which is obviously based on my design. Super thrilled to have miniatures based on my work and even more thrilled to have them in my hands! Here are some images of the Aarakocra mini...

Aarakocra - Miniature
Icons of the Realms
© 2014 Wizards of the Coast / WizKids

A HUGE THANKS to Jon Schindehette for all the monsters and direction during the design phase of 5th Edition (and for including me in the process to begin with!) and to Daniel Gelon for the art direction on the illustration!

That is all for another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on Wednesday for MORE monsters! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website: