Dragon+ #36 included a major new collaborative series bringing together the talents of artist Max Dunbar and writer/editor Adam Lee. The pair fused so perfectly together we’re pretty sure they’re super saiyans, with the words informing the images and the images informing the words.
When we first chatted about the characters they might create for that issue of Dragon+, their selection included a master potion maker, a specialist dwarf bounty hunter, and a vampire shadow monk. Grabitha Grindleclaw (a hag riding a cauldron) and Hieronymus Black (a member of The Fathomless) debuted in our previous issue, but the undead shadow monk was replaced by monster hunter for hire Yahira Silverblade. Not because the shadow monk wasn’t interesting enough. Quite the opposite—it was so good that it spawned a whole scenario of its own, with some additional characters thrown in for good measure.
“Max drew this awesome vampire monk, and once I saw her, she brought this whole story with her. We started chatting about how she could be one of a larger order of monks all dedicated to a purpose which required they become immortal. Thus, their grand master, a vampire, turned them all into vampires so that they could continue their ‘great work’ indefinitely as undead,” Adam remembers.
“This started us thinking about a common motif that runs through their order. We felt that it would be best to hold the vampire monk back so that Max could work on these characters together and include that cool symbolism in their design. We could then create a package that includes the other monks, the history of the monastery, and the story of their purpose.”
As the character of Zashtii was fleshed out, so was the Monastery of Shadows. She was one in a lineage of undead guardians who took the path to undeath willingly to serve the monastery for eternity. The question was, what prompted that choice? Was Zashtii waiting for something to happen or was she waiting to prevent something from happening, choosing to become undead to complete this task because it was so important?
“This caused a split in her story,” Adam reveals. “In one version, she was a baddie waiting to bring about something awful. And in the other version, she was a goodie who underwent undeath to make sure that this horrible event didn’t happen again. The next question was, what was so awful?”
Max answered that question by suggesting a nightwalker as a central character in the story of the undead shadow monks. Such a powerful creature would create a high-level threat in any world. At Dragon+ HQ, he’s become known as “Big M”.
“Not only would Malthraxis be super awesome to draw, he seemed like a big enough bad guy to cause the shadow monastery and its undead order to be created. I started to think about how this whole thing started, and thus was born this latest group of NPCs and the adventure hook we’re calling Feast of the Nightwalker,” Adam says.
Check out Adam and Max’s first collaboration for Dragon+, which includes bounty hunter Hieronymus Black, monster hunter Yahira Silverblade, and potion specialist Grabitha Grindleclaw.