The Riddle of Steel: Sculpting the Blacksmiths

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The Blacksmiths were a really interesting guild, visually. As well as being unique in their in-game structure and hierarchy, they also represent a diverse collection of ethnic types and ages gathered under their banner. This meant that, to ensure they felt like a coherent team, we needed to find some visual cues that would be uniquely ‘Blacksmith’.

This led to some discussion and experimentation to develop their look. The thematic elements we settled on would feature a lot of chains and heavy plating (obviously) and also a ‘hammered metal’ effect to give a textural feature not seen in any other guild. As well as being really nice to paint, this finish reflects the idea that the ‘Smiths believe in the purity of their craft and don’t have any truck with the ‘fancy finish’ other guilds pay them to do- they are all about hard forged metal and solid, dependable equipment as well as items that have been used for years, gathering their own histories.

Let’s pump the bellows and fan the flames, and see what secrets the forge fires reveal about each player!

Furnace

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Furnace was the first model designed for the Blacksmiths, early enough in their design that I assumed that he was the captain! His was the model that set several the elements we would purse. Firstly, he is a massive, solid looking guy who looks like the product of a lifetime of beating hot metal into submission. He has the solid, beaten metal armour and heavy leather kit that is typical of a hot forge, and scars from the hot sparks and flames. I really felt it important that his pose have an almost casual feel to it; here is a man who can heft a molten vat of metal and half a dozen searing blades without any noticeable strain. As a result, Furnace is unconcerned about what other players might do to him- he just needs them to get close enough to swing at!

Cinder

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Cinder was intended to be a direct juxtaposition to the massive Master Smith, a theme common to all of the Blacksmiths. Where Furnace is stoic and grim, Cinder shows a clear joy in her face as she wields her crossbow. She wears less heavy plated armour and relies on chainmail instead. As a Guild, they are still the most obviously armoured team (even Mason armour looks more stylistic than functional) but it was important that Cinder and other ‘faster’ players felt like they could move freely. I wanted this model to feel confident in her abilities, maybe a little cocksure but still controlled. I particularly like her Guild mini shield strapped to her waist, like a symbolic Master’s shield that she is seeking to earn.

Anvil

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Anvil was so much fun to design! His art was magnificent and Mat knew he wanted a character with a lot more movement that the stoic Furnace. The trick here was to ensure his armour and shield felt heavy enough to represent his armour in game terms, whilst keeping the open feel of the art. I spent a lot of time on the shield- it is a chance to show some history and narrative in the damage and repair it has taken over the years. Anvil’s face and beard were great fun to do. As a lifelong fan of fantasy dwarves, this was as close as we get in Guild Ball to a classic ‘dwarven’ looking face and I was determined to enjoy putting as much craggy character into there as I could! You’ll notice that his ‘belly guard’ uses the same style of strapping that Cinder uses on her mini shield, whilst also having a similar bracket to Furnace’s armour. All of the Masters wear the same design of armoured boot as well. This is a guild dedicated to its craft and sharing its best design ideas within its walls, so repeating design touches like these made that idea come alive in the models.

Sledge

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Like Cinder, Sledge stands in contrast to his Master, enclosed and drawn in where Anvil is expansive and broad, Also, while Anvil is lightly armoured above the waist and more heavily below, Sledge wears the bulk of his armour around the neck and shoulders. I liked the motion that the lower area of Sledge’s kit felt less armoured and more like the heavy forge kit he wears to work off the pitch. It is as if he has built half a suit of armour and is working on the rest in preparation for eventually becoming a Master himself. And, again to contrast with his craggy mentor, Sledge is clearly a younger and more fresh-faced person. He feels like he is further along his path than Cinder, but still has a way to go. Even his hammer is a less developed version of Anvil’s massive weapon, suggesting that he is following in Anvil’s footsteps.

Ferrite

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Our final Master from the initial Blacksmiths line-up is Ferrite. She continues the theme of contrasting her opposite, Iron, like the other Masters and Apprentices. Ferrite is as lithe and slender as Iron is massive and bulky. She is all about speed and movement in her design, and her armour is also some of the most elegant and intricate in the guild. In fact, Ferrite’s weapons feel more like engineer technology. This reflects the new ideas that the younger Masters are bringing into the tradition-bound Blacksmiths. Despite this more radical quality, Ferrite is nonetheless firmly connected to Guild tradition, wearing the same beaten metal armour that defines the look of the line-up and also using chains within her armour design.

Iron

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Iron was a simple enough concept- just keep adding armour until he looks like he can barely move! Despite being ‘just a guy in armour’ there were several elements I felt were important to this model. Firstly, Iron is the most brutal looking model in this line-up. His armour is both heavy and crude. He has layered plate upon plate and then added spikes to the result. But his attention to the knowledge of the Blacksmiths is still evident- his upper chest plate is held in place with the same ‘through and under’ strapping seen on Anvil and Cinder, whilst the heavy leather under jerkin is the same in design as Sledge. It is clear that there is a heavy brute under all that armour, but he is still a skilled artisan who is learning his craft. I do wonder about his head in that bashed up helmet, however…