Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Beenix: A Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster

Digital artwork of a half bee, half phoenix fantasy creature perched in a cherry tree. The Beenix is about a foot and a half tall, with a bee's thorax and six chitinous legs. It has six bee wings. A feathery tail sprouts from its behind and its head has a beak. The beenix is eating a cherry and tilting its head at the viewer. It has feathers on its antennae. This is one half of a collaboration with Adam Ma.

The Creation of a Free Home-Brew Dungeons and Dragons Monster
When I first approached Adam Ma about designing mechanics for the Beenix Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) monster, I had artwork and a jumbled text document full of features that blended phoenixes and bees. It was ‘lore’ in the worst sense — me blathering about exploding bee trees and cherry honey, having all of one or two experiences as a DnD player and understanding that ‘numbers good’. Overall I did not have a concept of how the Beenix would fit into a tabletop rpg campaign. I passed a link to Adam and was unsure if I should take him up on his offer of collaboration since the beenix was such a mess! I’d honestly been intending to partake of his professional Dungeon Master (DM) services. The moment Adam heard that it was a homebrew monster design to be released freely to the masses, like Oprah would, he grabbed all my Beenix fragments and ran off with them.

When Adam returned, he had a gorgeous pdf containing everything a DM needs to incorporate the Beenix into a DnD campaign. My intent was a creature that is suitable for low-level adventurers to encounter, but could scale up to a mid-level encounter. Not necessarily a hostile entity, but alien and requiring some patience when encountered. Adam translated my ideas into DnD concepts such as ‘swarming’ for multiple monsters. He gave the Beenix better DnD-specific context by ascribing them to an existing setting: the Faewilds. Adam also pushed the concept of the Beenix queen into not just an entity, but as a whole setting unto herself.

Digital black and white artwork of a giant, twisting tree, most like an oak in shape. It towers over mountains, the ruins of a village, and a pair of tiny horses.
Guess what? Beenixes turn into GIANT! TREES!

Adam ran the design through some balancing checks and now here it is, a free, cute, weird addition to any Faewild adventure that could use a little more glitter. I highly recommend developing adventures with Adam Ma. I had so much fun and I’m grateful he took my concept and ran this hard with it!

Click here to download the Beenix PDF

The PDF contains stats, lore, and artwork for the Beenix, and is licensed for non-profit DnD campaigns under CC-BY-NC 3.0.

Comics Tip

How to Digitally Color Diaphanous Insect Wings
Whether it’s a bee or a dragonfly, or a house fly, insect wings can be tricky to figure out because they are shiny, delicate, and transparent, all at the same time. To begin, we should look at a reference photo, courtesy of Pixabay.

Photo of a bee with the wings displayed clearly.

What we learn from this photo is that an insect wing has opaque parts with shiny transparent stuff in between those parts. How do we mimic this in a digital drawing? We’ll use masking and some hand-painting to nail the delicate insect wing look.

Digital artwork of the beenix wing with a 50% dark brown opacity fillThe opaque veins of the wing are filled with 100% opacity dark brown. A bee’s wing has an underlying dark sheen on the transparent cells. I’ve chosen to fill the cells with a dark brown set to 50% Multiply. This is still too dark and opaque, but it’s a good starting point.

Digital artwork of the semi-opaque dark brown layer with masking to provide an insect wing texture.
I set up a masking layer on the membrane which I’ve filled. A quick swipe with a soft brush set to black on the masking layer makes this look more like the light is passing through the wing in a more interesting way. I use a hard brush to define some sharp mid-tone highlights in the end of the wing.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with a 100% white layer fill.
I set up another layer on top of my brown layer, this time filled with 100% opacity white on normal. It will look like the white has obliterated the underlying brown layer, but that layer is intact underneath.

Digital artwork of the bee's wing with the layer masking on top of the white layer, with various parts of the white masked to provide a texture that looks a lot like an insect wing.
A masking layer and some swipes with a 100% opacity black soft brush, then a 50% gray soft brush first soften the look into a gradient…and then I can pick out brighter mid-tone highlights with a sharp brush. For a final touch, I speckle the edge of the wing with sharp 100% pure white highlights, but only on the wing I really want to shine and shimmer.

Digital art of the beenix perched in the tree. It's lines only and ready to color!

Want to customize your Beenix? Here’s a CC-BY-NC 3.0 coloring page that is free to use for personal, non-profit DnD campaigns, as well as just relaxing with a half-bee, half-phoenix monstrosity.

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Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

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Biscuit Mountain

Biscuit Mountain

Digital comic depicting a bicycle outing by H. and their spouse, Devin. The top graphic is an embellished ‘Biscuit Mountain’ in an arc over a man climbing a mountain of American (not British) biscuits. Panel 1 depicts H. and Devin riding their bikes under an overpass on a road lush with trees and roadside buildings. Devin: I’m not going to get the Biscuit Mountain again. Panel 2 depicts H. and Devin taking off their helmets. Devin: It is an unreasonable amount of biscuits. Panel three has H. and Devin in a restaurant. H.: What’ll you get instead? Devin: Eh… Panel 4 shows the menu. The first entry is one biscuit on a plate, labeled ‘A reasonable amount of biscuits.’ The second entry is a pile of biscuits. It’s labeled ‘Biscuit mountain.’ Panel 5 has the waiter attempting to take Devin’s order. Waiter: Hi! Can I take your ord— Devin (interrupting): Biscuit Mountain!

This is a personal diary comic about one of many bike rides to this awesome breakfast place. Every time we go to this restaurant, my partner Devin claims he will not order the Biscuit Mountain. Every time we go, Devin orders the Biscuit Mountain. The denial is part of the ritual at this point.

Most diary comics are a lot simpler than this, and possibly funnier. I wanted the reader to feel like they were on a crisp spring bike ride under an overpass with me. So, I went for that feeling. This took a lot longer than drawing talking heads but I enjoyed the environmental practice and composition challenges of rendering people inside of a restaurant.

For reference, I ducked into Google Maps and took a screenshot of the street we bike up. For privacy purposes I will not be sharing the actual screenshot. I also did not trace it or use a ‘correct’ perspective grid. This was eyeballed for my own practice.

Comics Tip

Quick and Easy Perspective Grids in Photoshop
I didn’t use ‘true’ perspective grids in this comic, but here’s how to make them quickly in Photoshop if you’re doing environment studies.

 

First, establish a horizon line in your drawing.

Next, go to the ‘Shape’ tool and pick ‘Polygon Tool’ from the options.

Set up your polygon to have these values.

When you create your polygon with the Polygon Tool, it’s going to look like a big hairy star. I’m deliberately choosing not to acknowledge any double entendre, here.

Put the polygon’s center on the horizon line and make it bigger. Instant 1-pt perspective!


For a 2-pt perspective grid, try sliding the first star off the canvas. Add a second star off the other side of the canvas, also on the same horizon line. We keep the vanishing points off to the sides of the composition to avoid a ‘warped’ look to the resulting composition.


To convert your 2-pt perspective into 3-pt perspective, add a third star and drag it off the top or bottom of your canvas.

Have fun drawing goofy buildings!

Care to read more?

Converting a Webcomic into a Graphic Novel Pitch

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Retrofitting Dinosaurs for the Future of HumankindRAWR! Dinosaur Friends started out as a webcomic concept, one that I wasn't initially intending to pitch as a proper graphic novel. The first iteration was a slapdash, punk homage to the natural history museums I loved...

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Want to chat about this?