Cameo Creation Tips

From The Orthorbbae Library
Revision as of 13:11, 27 October 2019 by Thrair (talk | contribs) (The first and foremost thing to remember is that cameos are replacing otherwise-nameless background characters.)

Jump to: navigation, search

Cameo characters are a very prominent means of supporting the comic and getting a chance to have your own creation feature in the story. Understandably, most sponsors want their cameos to be good ones. With that said, there are some very important things to keep in mind when creating a cameo of your own. The guidelines below are not hard-and-fast rules, merely general suggestions and advice on how to create a cameo in a way that adds to the story in a positive way. -Thrair

General Tips

The first and foremost thing to remember is that cameos are replacing otherwise-nameless background characters.

You want a cameo to add to the depth of the setting, but you should not be aiming to have them take center stage. The focus of the story will always be on the main cast. Even the most prominent of cameos remain supporting roles. And of those that were prominent, many of them were not expected to have such a key role. It just so happened that they filled a niche in the story for a given chapter.

What you do not want to do is try and sponsor cameos to "fish" for a specific role. We have little idea what will transpire in a given chapter. Trying to land a specific "needed" role will of course fail if that role doesn't happen to exist! Flexibility and being able to fill multiple roles is key.

Consider what cameos others are sponsoring for a given chapter.

For any given chapter, there are a number of story roles that need to be filled. Kern will either find a cameo that fits that role, or place in a character of his own. However, some types of cameo are more popular than others. Namely Sarghress, especially those of Ariel's faction. In a chapter that will feature every clan, Sarghress cameos tend to greatly outnumber the other clans, because they're seen by many as the "good guys" of the setting, and people tend to favour heroic types over more neutral or villainous roles.

On a personal level, this means Sarghress cameos have much more competition with each other for the Sarghress "roles" within the story. As such, each cameo is less likely to get one of those roles, and is more likely to get a generic "background filler" role.

On a less personal level, this means Kern has to draw more pages of Sarghress cameos than others. This means the story focus is forced somewhat more onto the Sarghress than it may otherwise be, as Kern will run out of key story roles for Sarghress characters and have to write/draw additional filler content to make sure each cameo has screentime.

It is healthier for the story and more likely to allow your cameo to get a prominent role if the cameos are more evenly spread over the given clans or factions.

Fact-check a cameo before your submit it to make sure it fits established lore.

As an example, there are no "former tainted" in the story. A character, once tainted, remains tainted until they die. There is no known cure.

As subtler example, there are very few old characters on the surface. The older a fae (elven) character gets, the more mana they need to remain healthy and avoid aging. The surface simply does not have enough ambient mana to sustain truly old fae. As such, fae on the surface are either relatively young, or begin to suffer the effects of mana deprivation. With the speed and severity increasing with the fae's age.

In addition to the information on this wiki, there are many people on the comic's Official Discord Server who will be happy to check a cameo's rough-draft for consistency. If in doubt, ask.

Recurring cameos are generally preferable to new cameos.

Recurring cameos already have appeared in the story. This means both Kern and the reader are somewhat familiar with them, and they have prior interactions in the story that can be developed further. This adds to story cohesion. Do not let this dissuade you from creating a new cameo or persuade you to try and force a cameo to appear in a chapter you don't think suits them.... but, if possible, stick with a cameo you have already begun to develop.

Touching on that last point, develop your cameos if you sponsor them multiple times. Especially if getting additional concept art. This is not to say that you should try to re-imagine your cameo every chapter they appear in, but take prior appearances into account. Did events in prior chapters have an effect on their personality or personal relationships? Have their loyalties shifted?

Character Design Tips

Cameos and their quirks/personality have to be fit into the story somehow. Flexibility is crucial.

If you focus overmuch on narrow personality traits or quirks, Kern is extremely handicapped in writing your cameo. He either has a very limited manner of ways to show those traits, or he has to ignore them altogether if they simply can't be shown on-screen without derailing the plot. As a general rule, try to design your cameo's personalty and quirks in a way that is more general and multifaceted. This allows Kern to display these traits in different ways, depending on the needs of the story.

One of the better examples I can list is Jak'iaah. Note the quirk on her first concept art: "Believe without fault in the Sarghress Hierarchy." That makes it a personality trait with good and bad aspects Kern can use. He can play up the good in that she's extremely dedicated and professional. Or play up the bad in that she's rigid and inflexible. And over the course if the story, Kern has done both. Traits like these with positive and negative aspects create a character with some depth. All in a single quirk.

Contrast this with a quirk like "Master Swordsman". In addition to having a narrow focus and very little depth, it can only be shown in the story if Kern has the character appear in a battle scene. Which makes the quirk one that has no chance to appear at all if it so happens that there isn't such a scene the character can fit in. Additionally, this quirk creates the expectation that the character not only uses their sword, but dominates the fights they are in. Defining a few talents and weaknesses your cameo has is good, but avoid the mistake of trying qualify them explicitly.

And ideally, you'll want quirks that can been drawn or shown while the character does/says other things. My cameo is a heavy drinker, for example. By simply drawing him with some form of alcohol on his person, Kern can display this trait in a more subtle manner without any form of setup or exposition, leaving his screentime available to say or do something more relevant to the plot. In this way, he is more likely to participate in the story in a meaningful way than if Kern had to draw a quick filler panel displaying a much more specific quirk.

When designing a cameo's appearance, remember Kern and Kite must draw it.

You of course want your cameo to have a unique and distinctive appearance. But a character with too complicated or exotic an appearance is creating a lot of extra work for Kite and Kern. Consider this character design from Darksiders. Sure, the character has a lot of detail, but so much so that it is almost noise. And they had to draw something like that every page, they would spend hours on that one character. Inevitably the character would either show up less, or would be simplified. When designing a cameo's physical appearance, less is more. This also helps keep the character's appearance from being too jarring. You want a cameo to be visually distinct, but not at the expense of sticking out like a sore thumb and looking out-of-place in the setting.

Related to that, Kern has to keep track of a lot of characters and cameos. This is a large part of why Kern tries to insist on having concept art for a cameo, as it helps him immensely to have something to refer back to any time he has to draw the cameo. This is especially true given the difficulty of remembering every single detail of every cameo's appearance, as well as the fact that Kern does sometimes have to adjust a character's attire for the story. A cameo whose concept was drawn in their normal clothes, for example, is likely to to need to be drawn wearing some form of standard armor if they participate in a battle. Good examples are Chigusa and Adira, the Chapter 54 concept art of both the former and the latter were drawn in casual clothing. However, as they took part in battle during that chapter, their on-screen costumes were adjusted to include armor.

If there are one or two specific parts of their design you really want to make sure Kern draws, explicitly mention those and make sure he knows they're important. As always, less is more regarding that. From personal experience, my cameo has a neck-badge bearing the mark of the Imperial Guard. The rest of his appearance I have a general design for that Kern follows, but he varies the exact details. That is the one part of his costume that I have made explicit I want to show up. And Kern has been very accommodating of that, barring the occasional art goof.

Brainstorming Advice


While Kern will not typically request or accept any in-depth details of a cameo's backstory as part of a cameo call, as they would necessitate on-screen exposition to display (not to mention take extra time and effort to read and memorize), they are an excellent tool to brainstorm and refine a cameo basic concept. You can really get a lot of mileage in the creation process by writing a small overview of their background. It can help other people chip in with ideas for quirks or personality traits, and often refine a concept by starting to link traits together in a way that forms a cohesive personality.

As an example, when initially designing my cameo, I had meant to make him a retired Imperial Guard and bartender, hence the focus on alcohol. I kept the alcohol focus and removed the bartender aspect, which left that trait a little isolated. When thinking on why he would be such a heavy drinker, being a veteran of the Nidraa'chal war seemed a natural fit. Which led to the development of a more serious and embittered personality, making the drinking less of a random quirk, and a trait highlighting the character's bitter and depressed nature. Traits which have developed further into the completely jaded individual now appearing.

I wouldn't go so far as to create more than a paragraph or two of backstory, but having a little bit of character history in mind can really spark ideas, especially for linking cameos together via shared past or familial ties. As an added bonus, while the wiki will not include cameo backstories in-depth (instead detailing canon on-screen appearances), the wiki team is quite willing to note minor aspects of their past on their wiki pages at their sponsors' request. Such as Nehleanee and Ischa being half-sisters through their father.

Basic Cameo Template

Now, with all of that out of the way, here is a generic cameo template for sponsors to use when submitting their cameos' details to Kern. Kern may use a different template in a given chapter's cameo call. In that case, that template takes precedence over this generic one.

  • Name:

Their full name. The common format is Given Name > Family/Subhouse Name (If any) > Clan Name. For example Sang Niz'zre Sarghress. Vel/Val are prefixes indicating noble status within one of the Great Clans. Many with commoner backgrounds simply use the clan name rather than list their family name. On the other end of the spectrum, the Sharen have only one existing non-Vel/Val subhouse, and otherwise they have no house name.

  • Race:

Most of the underworld are Drowolath (Dark Elf anscetors) or Drowussu (Light Elf ancestors). See Races for more information and options.

  • Eye Color:

Red is tainted, and tainted means red (Ash'waren's left eye is the SOLITARY exception in the entire setting). Most other colors are fair game. Those with Sullisin'rune ancestry sometimes have mismatched eye colours.

  • Hair Colour:

Most drow are born with white hair as of events of the main story. Many choose to dye it unless they're very poor.

  • Age:

Kern typically limits this to no more than ~200 years, but has allowed occasional exceptions for solid concepts. For reference, Zala'ess and Quain are in their 400s during the story, commoners rarely live to be 100, and 33 (Ariel's Age as of Chapter 52) is considered a young adult.

  • Clan/Faction:

These are not always the same, as recent chapters show the decay of the clan system.

  • Profession:

Are they a smith, a cook, etc? Even if they are a soldier-type, what is their role? Scout, Supply Officer, Beastmaster, etc?

  • Martial ability:

Kern limits this to one primary weapon or martial art.

  • Mana affinity:

Again, Kern generally limits this to one mana specialty, typically an affinity. Empathy is rarely accepted these days owing to it's in-story rarity, while Sealing is often allowed as a secondary skill. High sorcery is so rare that it's pretty much barred.

  • Physical Appearance:

General traits. Tall/short, lean/muscular, buxom/petite, etc.

  • Equipment:

Keep it simple and generalized. A general type of gear, one or two specific items at most.

  • Appearance Reference:

If you have an art reference, such as a prior concept art.

  • Personality traits:

A few general traits. Such as stubborn, patient, easygoing, depressed, optimistic, etc. This is the core of your cameo, and the most vital. Keep it relatively short. Less is more, and flexibility is king.

  • Favourite sayings:

One or two short phrases. This is not likely to be shown in the story, it just gives Kern a small tidbit to base how your character talks.

  • Favourite activity:

As above.

  • Favourite expression:

The facial expression you want them drawn with, often the one they default to. Such as a broad smile, permanent scowl, etc.

  • Quirks:

A few traits of character that are more specific than general personality, but avoid making it too narrow and hard to portray.

  • One Sentence:

Summarize your character in a single sentence. This lets Kern know what you view to be the most important to the overall character.

  • Paired with:

If they have a mate. Kern often draws mated pairs together. Such as Nergui and Wa'sila.