Tales from the Sketchbook: Natesa

A picture paints a thousand words; a picture with context can say a lot about a game; but explanations of the random sketches of an artist-gamer can say the most of all. In this series, I look at the just-had-to-draw-them images distilled from my games: what they are, what they mean, why they demanded drawing, and what techniques and in-jokes went into them.

This picture goes with a character I’d been conceptualizing since slightly before I introduced my first major antagonist—which goes a long way towards explaining why she made her first appearance, hung out for a little while, and then vanished into Plotspace. When she finally came back four years later, with only one of the characters who’d originally met her still active, I figured she deserved a picture.

This is Natesa. She’s very old, very powerful, and (being a thought exercise from my very first time running, before I knew better) mostly metaphysically impossible. With a set of characteristics like that, I really couldn’t make her anything but a very distant supporting character for most of the plot, now, could I? She returned to the plot because of a nearly successful attempt on the life of one of the characters closest to her, ready to shake the system into submission until it did something about that.

That’s where the getup comes in—Natesa’s norm is considerably more practical clothing than this. But when the object of the game is getting people to cooperate using seniority in an organization you technically split off from a long time ago, appearances matter. So I found myself trying to come up with a culturally viable equivalent of a really good power suit, and what resulted was this outfit. High-quality materials, subtle astrological connotations, and a clearly supernatural element (I described the cloak as actually appearing to be a piece of the night sky): a good combination for getting the younger members to answer questions first and ask them later. (Amusingly, the pose never actually happened; while she is epically suited to perching far above and making comments from there, she ended up walking in on a group conversation instead.)

Speaking of the cloak, it resulted in one of my biggest artistic experiments. Mixed-media pastel and colored pencil in the overall picture was no big deal—if I hadn’t done it this time, I would have implemented it some other time. But I wanted to set the cloak apart; hence doing it in solid ink, in contrast with everything else in the picture. Then there were the stars. I could have left that part uncolored and inked around them. I could probably have carefully pastel’d them in. I could definitely have acquired some acrylic paint and dabbed them in later.

But what did I end up using? White-out. Good old bog-standard correction fluid, carefully applied with the tip of a push-pin. (The original plan had been to use a paper clip, but I hadn’t realized that the tip wouldn’t be fine enough.) Other pictures have other distinctions, but this one beats all my other work hands down for “most uses of office-type materials to purposes for which they were not designed”.


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