HPS_Legends_cover_web_850x1200_Jan2018For the 20th episode of our OGP podcast (and if you have no clue what I’m talking about, click on the OGP page for this blog), we talked about art direction and mentioned how we’d provide links to some of our own examples in the show notes. With the show notes primed and ready to send out to Fraser so the show can go live… um, yeah, I totally forgot that I had some rather extensive WIP photos of the work Kieron and I did on the cover for both the High Plains Samurai core rulebook and for Legends (releasing next month). While most of the interior art pieces were hashed out in a couple of face-to-face meetings or phone calls with Kieron (and he certainly provided more than what I asked for in all those cases), the cover art was a different matter. I had something very specific and intentional in mind.

Cover art is about more than a great pic that grabs a potential buyer’s attention. It’s a preview of what you’re offering in the game, a glimpse into the kind of things possible and plausible in the game. Pretty covers without any context into the game’s purpose/function are fine, but they need to somehow reinforce the juicy text inside. For HPS, I needed the cover art to do the following.

  • Show a dangerous, action-packed moment in a possible story where it’s clear only one of the characters is going to make it out of there alive
  • Demonstrate qi powers in action
  • Showcase an extreme situation
  • Highlight the combination of guns and swords
  • Feature a man and a woman in equal balance at this particular moment in the scene where either one could be the villain or the hero

What I wanted was a pair of qi warriors fighting tooth and nail as they fell off a roof in the city of Yung Zhi. I was very specific about its composition, even down to the angle at which we saw them falling, and I’m happy to say Kieron delivered (as he always does). And because the first book in the HPS line is coming out, like, really damn soon, it seemed like a good time to wake up a little early on this chilly Tuesday morning and show you the step-by-step process Kieron and I went through to make this cover happen. And if you haven’t seen the cover for the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game core rulebook yet… then you’re in for a treat.

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Step 1: Kieron’s first rough sketch showing positioning of the characters. Here, the two warriors are quite far apart and highlight was placed on the woman to sell the action.
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Step 2: A second rough sketch with more emphasis on the background (tall buildings in the ragtag section of Yung Zhi known as the Shell). After this, we felt they needed to be closer together to show their physical struggle better.
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Step 3: Now we had a fight that showed them free falling hundreds of feet to the ground and a qi power in use (the bullet phasing through the woman).
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Step 4: From here until Step 6, Kieron and I played with the angle these character were falling at in relation to the cover, as well as positioning them on the page.
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Step 5: Another version where the characters were falling straight down.
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Step 6: To help Kieron with positioning, I send this a titled version of Step 5 with the HPS logo masked in behind them.
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Step 7: Now for some details. Here, you can see the gunslinger has a qi power too as the bullet is wrapped in flames.
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Step 8: The central characters are inked and locked into place.
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Step 9: Kieron starts adding on the background.
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Step 10: The backgrounds are inked as a separate layer so we can move things as desired.
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Step 11: The cover is fully inked and locked. The red checkmark is my 100% thumbs up.
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Step 12: Now in colour! But I felt the colours were too bright for HPS…
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Step 13: …and that’s when Kieron desaturated them and this sucker was done!

Now that the cover art was complete, I played around with some filters, motion blurs, and other effects to make it grittier, a little darker, slap on a logo or two… and voila!

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The cover for the High Plains Samurai Roleplaying Game (as of late January 2018).

For High Plains Samurai: Legends, I simply masked out the qi warriors, stole a little of the Yung Zhi background, and placed them over top the map of the One Land created by Jeff Brown… and voila!

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The cover for High Plains Samurai: Legends.

Two covers worth every penny.

Of course, you can learn more about HPS on the Broken Ruler Games website.

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