With one week to go until release, the last blog is here for The Carpathians: Castle Fier, the first supplement for The Silver Bayonet! Read on to hear from illustrators Brainbug Design about the process of bringing one of the book's new enemies to life...
My name is Jay, one of the co-founders of Brainbug Design! We’re a concept art, illustration and visual development studio that launched in 2018. Since then, we’ve had the privilege of being involved with some incredible projects including The Silver Bayonet. We mostly provide work to the video game industry, but not exclusively – at our core we’re a team of compulsive world builders with a passion for compelling design, which is something that is transferable to many different industries including board games and tabletop.
We had a fantastic time delving into this unique world created by Joseph A. McCullough on the first book and we’re overjoyed to continue this collaboration with Osprey, who have entrusted us again with being exclusively responsible for the art of The Silver Bayonet.
When unpacking the brief for this expansion, it was very exciting to see this story spread east in The Carpathians: Castle Fier. It opens the game up to some big players of the Napoleonic era as well as some much-loved Slavic tales and folklore. For that reason, Muma Pădurii was one of my first picks to work on – any excuse for me to draw a babushka-esque character (especially a creepy one) is good enough for me.
In Romanian folklore, Muma Pădurii is a protector of the forest and the animals that dwell within it, using her terrifying visage to scare off intruders.
"Classic hag/witch-type – old, ugly, hunched, dressed in simple peasant clothes.
Not necessarily evil – a protector of the forest, so surrounded by a few animals would be good –
a fox, crow, owl, maybe a deer, etc."
REFERENCE IMAGES & ORIGINAL ART BRIEF
When thinking about the character, a few references came to mind. Haggis, the “old witch in the woods” from the movie Pumpkinhead (1988), the depiction of witches in Häxan (1922) which visually isn’t too far removed from the monochromatic style of The Silver Bayonet, and a documentary called The Babushkas Of Chernobyl (2015) which showcases some pretty hardy women. This laid a groundwork to build upon, but we always try to work in some narrative flourishes or interesting character traits that serve the wider worlds we’re designing for at Brainbug. We wanted to honour the origins and history of a famous legend like this whilst trying to deliver a Muma Pădurii that is distinct and fresh.
When developing the sketches for Muma Pădurii, I wanted them all to be set at night, or at least in the dark recesses of the forest. It’s a nocturnal place; the shadows are where the forest comes alive and the deeper you go and the darker it gets, the more life and bugs and secrets you uncover. I thought it would be a great feature for Muma Pădurii to have reflective retinas so she can fulfil her strange duties in the dark. I liked the idea of showing her as someone that maintains a balance within the forest, and I chose to show that through the dance of predator and prey in the animals that surround her.
Sketch 1 shows Muma Pădurii as more of an entity channelling the essence of the forest, the transition between her and the forest floor is blurred with roots blending with her legs.
Sketch 2 is more shamanistic, leaning into the “mother” aspect of the character. For this one I wanted to play into the idea that maybe there’s nothing supernatural about her at all, that she’s just an intimidating woman that has an unsettlingly deep connection with nature.
For Sketch 3, I wanted a closer look at her face. In this one she felt more like a ranger out in the rain patrolling the forest at night; she’s caught you in a place you weren’t supposed to be and is now casting you out with a sinister grimace. It’s hard to show this in a still image but I liked the idea that this was what you saw in a flash of lightning whilst confronted by her in the dark – for a brief second you get a look at her true self, wild and imposing, teeming with creepy crawlies!
When we got the feedback in it was great to see the enthusiasm for the third option. It was my personal favourite of the three sketches too, so I was pleased with the choice. Looking at the final delivered image now I like how she compliments the other mythical beings in the book - she brings a unique energy of her own against the other ghouls!
LEFT: THE FINAL MUMA PĂDURII ART
RIGHT: NORTH STAR MILITARY FIGURES' OFFICIAL FOREST WITCH FIGURE
The Silver Bayonet is a dream project for us in many ways. It’s been great to get lost again in its gothic world of mythical creatures, anti-heroes, and occult horrors set against the backdrop of a world torn apart by the Napoleonic Wars. Who knows where the adventure will take us next?
The Silver Bayonet: The Carpathians: Castle Fier is out a week today, Thursday 25th May!
We hope you enjoyed this blog series diving behind the scenes of its design -
now we can't wait to see all your creations and stories…
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