DM of the Rings IX: Too Warm a Welcome

By Bay Posted Sunday Mar 5, 2023

Filed under: DM of the Rings Remaster 16 comments

When you want an image to use for your character portrait, you have two choices:

  1. Spend years mastering the art of sci-fi / fantasy illustration. Perhaps attend art school. Hone your craft until you can fully realize your character on paper just as you imagine them.
  2. Use Google Image Search and swipe something that looks roughly like how you want your character to look.

For whatever reason, most players take the lazy way and opt for #2, despite the fact that there is a 90% chance they are going to look like a brooding androgynous goth / punk elf holding the wrong weapon.

Go figure.

–  Shamus, Monday Sep 25, 2006

That’s funny, I was just thinking the other day how all those AI art programs have taken over D&D character portrait making. I haven’t personally partaken since I have opted for option #1 and spent the last decade and a half I think I just took 4 psychic damage. The idea that I’m old enough to have been doing anything of substance for a decade and a half. That can’t be right. honing a little-used art ability. However, many of the D&D groups I’m in have been overrun by very customized character portraits which suffer from new problems; having the wrong number of fingers and all looking too human. I’m not really here to argue the many ins-and-outs of morality and computer generated art, but I will say the tech is cool, and of all its uses, portraits for D&D tables is likely pretty harmless.

Edit: The words I uttered mere moments ago to my partner: Man, I gotta go check comments. It makes me nervous when I have a post go up AFTER I’ve gone to sleep.

Yup, nailed it. I set up the whole post and managed to forget to actually upload the comic itself. My bad guys, it should be fixed now.

This weeks French comic can be read here.



[1] I think I just took 4 psychic damage. The idea that I’m old enough to have been doing anything of substance for a decade and a half. That can’t be right.

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16 thoughts on “DM of the Rings IX: Too Warm a Welcome

  1. Vernal_ancient says:

    Never bothered with character portraits, personally. Don’t really have the artistic skills for #1, #2 usually doesn’t get close enough for my tastes. Haven’t tried AI art, but i did try Hero Forge; it just felt tedious and boring and I always quit halfway through

    Also, the commentary on this one posted, but the comic didn’t

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I think I just took 4 psychic damage. The idea that I’m old enough to have been doing anything of substance for a decade and a half. That can’t be right.

      You get used to it over time. Tell you what, the psychic damage is a lot worse if you feel like what you’ve been doing for the last decade or so isn’t of substance…

      (Bah, this should have been a seperate comment. Curse You, WordPress)

      1. evileeyore says:

        Seriously, just wait until you tell someone in your group “I’ve been gaming/arting/etc, since before you were born.” That’s when the Old Age Psychic Damage really piles on.

  2. thatSeniorGuy says:

    As Vernal said the comic itself is missing.

    1. MrGuy says:

      I have to say, NONE of the article being on the front page is a refreshingly new problem.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Only the end of the article on the front page, boss!

  3. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Like Vernal I also generally didn’t bother with character art. I have no ability to draw whatsoever and I sometimes don’t even have a perfectly clear visual of my character in my head to be honest. Another player (spontaneously) sketched one of my characters once and it was cool but didn’t look “right”. If I wanted to do a visualisation of a character I’d probably go for something like Hero Forge or some other kind of composite character builder. Toyed a little bit with some AI a while ago when it was way less advanced, it reacted to prompts in a very… approximate way and most things came out as very blurry shadowfigures, neat if I wanted to create dreammonsters, not so neat if I’d want to make an actual character portrait. And thinking of doing it through AI now feels kinda dirty with all the ethical concerns surrounding it…

    (and yeah, the page is missing)

  4. ColeusRattus says:

    Does the comic not show up for anyone else?

  5. MrGuy says:

    There’s a third option, which is to pay someone to do it for you.

    Way back in the day, before Google Image search was much of a thing, I used to play an online text-based game where you could “fight” others characters using what we’re effectively automated dierolls, and a pre-FarmVille style stat training where you got “energy” every few hours. The gameplay was sort of lame, but there was a rich message board community, which was the “real” game.

    There was no character portrait per se, but the de facto was to have a banner forum sig with your name and portrait. If you had one, that’s what your character looked like.

    There were a few people with some graphic skills who’d make banners for pay. Kind of a lucrative business- the going rate was 2 disposable items that you bought with cash and gave in-game energy for a period of time. They went for $5 each and a banner cost 2 of them or more.

    Thinking back, this would have been a great fit for AI art. The lower end banners were not all that customized and were kinda samey. And really nice ones were expensive. There was a clear have/have not divide that people took way too seriously.

    1. Sven says:

      Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. AI image generation seems like a perfect way to get some interesting “original” character portraits without needing any art skills.

      1. smosh says:

        I’ve been going that way, but it’s surprisingly hard to get what you imagine sometimes.

  6. Fiona says:

    I’ve tended to use picrews in the past for character portraits, when I haven’t been able to commission custom art.

  7. Jaloopa says:

    A great benefit of having borderline aphantasia is that I have no concept in my head of what a character I’m building looks like. Once I’ve got their race, background and gear I’ll search for some keywords to get something accurate, choose the first one that doesn’t look awful, and then go back to the character sheet to fill in things like hair colour and distinguishing features. Then in all likelihood I’ll never look at the portrait or the description part of the character sheet again

  8. Madikay says:

    My group actually has another default they use for making character portraits: HeroForge. They go on, make a minifigure that approximates their character, and then send me a screenshot that we use in our virtual tabletops. You can get quite granular with the character creation — especially considering that it’s free (except for a few premium features).

    . . . is it a problem that the first comment I’ve ever submitted on this site looks like an ad? Lol.

  9. Barandir says:

    I’ve been kinda lazy with coming up with a portrait for the few characters I’ve made and played with, just didn’t seem to important to me. The one time I went out of my way to have one, I never really even thought of using AI to generate a portrait and using google right out the gate just didn’t feel right. I cooked up something approximating the idea I had in my head using the character creation for Lord of the Rings Online and went with that. I wasn’t fully happy with it, but figured it works, since it was more for the benefit of the other players and the DM. For another character I tried to dabble with Fallout 4’s character creator, but gave up after a while and ended up picking another close approximation from what D&D Beyond had to offer.

  10. PPX14 says:

    I used the stock one from the D&D website for Monk and I think modelled my character description around that. And then something similar with my next character, google search. I think I play these things as a choose-your-own-adventure game with combat and adventure mechanics, not a roleplay opportunity. It only clicked recently why (video game) RPGs are so named. I wondered what the words role-playing-game had to do with “game with conversation options and upgrades”.

    People actually pick a character idea and then try to pretend that they’re that character?! Instead of just picking something that they like the look of and then doing stuff as they see fit?! No wonder it’s considered a weird hobby! :P

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