Back in the 80’s, we had a DM that was exceptionally creative and artistically gifted. Sadly, he was also deviously malevolent. But that is a story for another post. One of the marvelous things he did for us was to create character portraits.

When we created a new character (which was fairly often in his world), he would have us reach into a hat and select a portrait (based on race).

These were small (1½” x 2″) hand-drawn, doodles. It may not sound like much, but we all felt a rush of excitement every time we drew out a portrait from the hat. I realize that today people can do a quick search and find all sorts of art on the internet that they can steal for a character portrait. But back then, we had no internet, nor any other ready source for images. Aside from that, what was a “simple sketch” for him was well beyond any of our artistic skills. Even today, it is quite common to see a character sheet with a spot for a character portrait that is, more often than not, left empty.

Let me tell you that a simple thing like an image can add a lot of fun and depth to your character. I often wished that I had that sort of ability, so that I could create portraits for my players.

Call For Artists

This is a wonderful opportunity for an artist to create an inexpensive game accessory. A PDF with a dozen portraits of each of the main races (or a series of PDFs, one with 20 male dwarves, another with 20 female elves, etc.) would be something that I think would sell very well.

They need not be detailed, or colored, or even shaded. A simple 5-minute sketch by someone with some artistic talent is far more than the average person could create and is so much better than a blank spot on a character sheet where a portrait is supposed to be.

If someone runs with this idea, and makes money at it, I wouldn’t mind a free PDF for the idea. : )

Either way, I hope someone does this. It is something that our group really enjoyed. I’d love to see other groups enjoy it as well.

Edit: One thing I failed to mention. Portraits without any armor or weapons would be particularly useful for something like this. That way, all dwarf images (for example) would be useful for all dwarf characters, regardless of class.

Examples

Sadly, Jim always had us leave our characters at his house, so I don’t have any samples of the portraits he created for us. I do, however, have some images that a friend did. These are actually more detailed than need be. Jim’s were slightly more than a doodle. Although, with his skill, a doodle was pretty cool. These also are WAY bigger than necessary. I decided to leave these the size they are so that they can be appreciated. But the images the scans were made of were actually about 1″ x 2″ in size.