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Dungeons & Dragons
Spelljammer artworks I'm working on, and explanations if yer interested :)
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I'm creating a scene of the docks on the asteroid city of Bral.
To do this I have to use a lot of 3D models, couldn't do this without a 64 bit system, eek! 64 bit systems are relatively recent (as of this article 23-09-2008), standard PCs are only 32 bit, this limits them to 2 GIGS of RAM (or 3gigs with some tricks). However 64 bit systems can have crazy amounts, but, at the moment for ordianry folk the limits 8 GIGS, nto very useful for games, but for specialist programs, it frikkin' rocks! Massive improvement on how much stuff you cna throw into your renders before running out of memory.

  • I know roughly the angle and view I wish, looking down a row of ships docked at the harbour. I duplicate a lot of the same pier sections to layout the shape.
  • Next I import a lot of various 3D items I have that would be suitable for background objects: barrels, amphorae, crates etc.
  • Then I bring in the ships. I figure having a Hammership's "eye" protruding over the dock will look cool.
  • I add items to the ships to make them seem "used": catapults, ballistae, anchor.
  • I use my "dirt mapping" trick to make the pier more varied, rather than 1 repeating texture that would look fake: the dirt effect breaks it up -important tip!
  • I add background items for space: a planet (an Alpha plane actually), and 2 spheres to create a nebulae. The bright colour offsets the scene well.
  • I try different lighting styles to see what's nice. Although this is space, I use a "Spectral atmosphere" in Vue, though tweaked to keep sky black etc, this makes objects look far more realistic than a simple space background amtosphere (which is basiclaly no atmosphere!). In REAL space, light is very harsh and odd, but this is on an asteroid city and well, it's fantasy and art! It doens't have to be text-book real! ;) I put in a lot of invisible lights, to spread light around, as well as 3 fill lights (which I didn't find gave me what I wanted, later on at the end I've kept one fill light set very faint to "pait in" any areas which are too dark).
  • I begin twekaing materials. This is a long frustrating process, ick. Basically, the surfaces of objects are made from images, these images take up computer memory, and eventually start to take up a huge amount of RAM.That's why I need a 64 bit system! So I go through everything and fidn any images in a material that are too large (over 1000 to 1500 pixels size isall you really need, except for pin-up very close items or some big objects for specific purposes). I also tweak materials to make them better. "Poser" materials always suck when imported, and take work to improve.
  • Some more material tweaks, making nebulae more "see through" for example,and the carrots in the crate less red.
  • I make the pillars more suitable for a fantasy scene: Imake them look as if they are dissolving into nothing with magicial runes and bands on them! I do this using specially made greyscale (black & white) images which drive Transparency and Luminous channels, so they chop off the pilings that hold the pier up, where I tell it to using the greyscale images and also make parts glow..
  • One of the important and again, tedious material tweaks, is to get rid of exxcess numbers of materials! Each material takes up memory. Fewer materials the better, but...for realism, you want lots of materials! However, items in the background require less detail, so a simple brass material, with a dirt map for fractal variations so it's not uniform, will do for all such items. By doing this I cut material numbers a LOT, I had previously done this on many of the items before starting the scene, so it went from about 600 materials down to about 300. If i hadn't trimmed down the materials on the original objects before hand, it would be well over 1,000 materials used for this scene!
  • I add my first characters: a drow warlock and a pair of rats! Well, rats are inherent todocks, aren't they? ;)
  • Optimizing Poser characters is vital, otherwise they will take up ridiculous amounts of memory and look terrible, I explain all about that in one of my tutorials. Note: when doing characters with fine hair, you will have to use finer render settings in Vue. I rendered this out fine, it was taking too long though and I stopped the render, it gave me the info I needed to know, that to have the drow look good, I need to render out at high quality and he looks fine.
  • Here you can see the many small lights turned back on again, it gives a much nicer lighting rig! In Vue, it's important for realism to edit each light and give it 85% shadows and 1degree to 5degree lighting depending on how soft you wish it to be, candle light maybe 5 to 15 degrees forexample, and sunlight 1 ot 5. Also, real light is rarely White, these and the Sun are slightly yellow. Note the fill light I use in this scene is actually grey, that's how Vue assigns "power" to the light.
  • I add many more characters. Ye gods, this is a sh*t lot of work!! I had to go through all of them, and check every texture in each material was around 1000-1500 pixels approx or less...and then find those that weren't and resize them.....gah!!!! *shivers* :p
  • This is almost exactly the same scene as the one above, except I added a giff character (big hippopotamus folk), and did a "Radiosity Render". Radiosity is a very fine render technique, it bounces light off things (well the CPU does), and it colours that light by what it hits, and also means light bounces into nooks and crannies in a pic. Gives a FAR better image, but...takes a lot more time, the large original pic (1680x1050) took 9 hours t render, versus less than an hour for the others, usually. ANother reason for it being slow was i cranked the render setting up to "Superior" as I wanted oto see how big an improvement that would make...VERY susbstanital improvement indeed.
  • More to come as I go along :) Not finished yet!

These images were inspired by the gorgeous Spelljammer Setting for AD&D.
Dungeons & Dragons®, Spelljammer are registered trademarks
owned by Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc
Original ship designs by Jim Holloway and Diesel

I use Vue Infinite for rendering, Rhino3d for model building,
Poser for people, Paint Shop Pro for texturing/post work.
In older work I used Bryce..
3D model for yours renders can be found on this page

Quicktime can be found on if you need it to view panoramas.
DIVX video codec can be found at
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All original art, writing on this site, copyright of Steven James, "Silverblade the Enchanter" ©2012