Concept to Cover – Iron Kingdooms: Borderlands & Beyond

by Mike Vaillancourt

Greetings, Privateers! In this week’s Insider, I’ll discuss the illustration process for the Borderlands & Beyond book for the upcoming IKRPG release!

After he completed the GM screen, Carlos Cabrera seemed like the obvious choice to take on all of the covers in this next series of releases. With that certainty in mind, I sent the briefs for all three covers to him, and he immediately got started with thumbnail sketches. The description for this particular piece of art was as follows:

This image depicts a party of mixed character types in a backdrop of the Iosan forest. Behind them, misty trees are overgrowing the pale ruins of Iosan architecture, including a damaged (possibly defaced) statue of the goddess Scyrah. The characters are:

  • Male Iosan ghost sniper. This character has been living outside Ios and among the Iron Kingdoms for some time. I’d like it if he had some traditionally “human” clothes, like a greatcoat. He carries a scoped Iosan rifle (see Ghost Sniper mini)
  • Female Rhulic warcaster. If you recall the Rhulic warcaster we did for NQ #49, I’d really just like to see her return. She can have a Grundback Gunner at her side.
  • Female Gobber gunfighter/rogue. We don’t have many full shots of female gobbers. I think it would be nice to see one here, a leather-armored gun-rogue type.
  • Male Trollkin warder. This one is a pretty traditional figure, but I’d like to give him some interesting character, like a Jarl Skuld-style eyepatch.
  • Badass female human spellcaster. Riff on the idea of a traditional spellcaster with an IK edge. So, maybe she’s something akin to the Steelhead arcanist, where there are touches to her costume that reflect the robes of a wizard, but she looks ready to kick some ass as well. For a fun extra touch, give her the symbol of the Fraternal Order of Wizardry. Riding boots, gloves with hard metal knuckle plates, tough, and able to throw fireballs at you.

The characters are facing an offscreen threat that is just moving into view. Possibly the outstretched arms of a pair of Riven, to get some interesting glowy effects.

The mood should be misty, mysterious, a shot of the characters about to throw down with a monster in the woods.

With that description in hand, Carlos provided the following sketches.

The second sketch was approved to move forward, and Carlos got down to business. He needed very little feedback, so from this point on, the cover progressed to a final in the following approval stages.

The rough background art

The line art for the characters

Close to final image with the core characters and background finished

The completed piece

In the final iteration, the foreground eldritch hands were removed to keep the frame open and have the characters be the central focus. With that, we had a final illustration for the book! I think that Carlos did a fantastic job, and I hope you all dig it!

The other covers you’ll be seeing soon in the upcoming Kickstarter are for the Survival Guide and the Ios-centric adventure, Shadow of the Seeker, both of which I’m equally excited to show to you as well. I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the curtain into how this cover illustration came to life, and I can’t wait for you all to experience the new RPG content that you can use to further explore the setting in the post-Oblivion world of the Iron Kingdoms!

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