The header for Equisite Biome: a game of speculative biology. A Monochromatic image montage of coral-like strucures, grasses and two overlayed creatures, one mimicking the one behind it through camoflage.

I had the pleasure of illustrating Caro Asercion's new speculative biology game, Exquisite Biome. As a creature design nerd, and someone who previously made a very short-lived, high effort speculative biology nature documentary podcast, I was super jazzed to get to channel some of that creative energy into this. As a fan of Caro's design (and layout) work, broadly, I think you'll find a lot to love in this.

I'll be posting the creature illustrations I did for this book over the coming week, and maybe talking a bit about my thought process for designing the creatures featured in here.

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The Cover Art for Exquisite Biome. The tagline reads "A game of speculative biology by Caro Asercion with art by Si Sweetman". Centered in the image is a predatory creature with prominent mandibles and extensive display flaps of skin, split down the middle. Mirrored as though it is the other half of the predator's face is a small amphibian creature, belly up. It's body and patterning suggest that it is mimicking the face of the predator.
Two symmetrical fictional animals. One is the head of a predator with prominent cheek crests and bared teeth, the other is the full body of a small gliding frog-like creature. The small glider has evolved its shape and pattern to mimic the aggressive display of the predator pictured above it.

With all of Exquisite Biome we wanted to not just show animals, but the points of interest. What would the nature doc on this animal show? Mating rituals, survival strategies etc.

We wanted it to feel like field notes & scientific illustrations.

For this set that appears on the cover I wanted to look at mimicry in prey animals, as a defensive strategy. I imagined a small gilder evolved to mimic an aggressive predatory display when seen from the underside. Such that when moving quickly, it might deter ambush predators.

A creature balances on a long piece of grass in a meadow. The grass is bent over with the creature's weight and seed pods curl over at the top of the grass. The creature has long, katydid-like jumping legs, and a massive horizontal horn-like appendage that acts as a balance beam. It's prehensile tail wraps around the stalk of the grass to keep it on. In the background another of the same creatures is doing the same.

I wanted something where the weight of this creature (esp from it jumping to the top of the grass to reach seedpods for food) would be counterbalanced. Here I imagine a complex series of balancing strategies these creatures might employ to forage.

A pair of hippo-like ungulates lie in muddy grass. The have prominent tusks on their lower mandible and stumpy, knobbly antlers. Their ears and neck are covered in thick fur. The front creature's mouth is open in a massive yawn. The creature behind it sleeps contentedly. In the lower left of the image, an inset displays orthographic views of this creature's skull.

In temperate wetlands, chunky ungulates take an unconcerned nap.

If you aren't aware yet that I am a huge fan of Brynn Metheney's creatures, the way she is able to give personality and weight to her designs is something I was thinking about all through this project. One thing that nature documentaries often don't really cover because it doesn't create a great narrative or exciting footage, is animals at rest. I wanted to make sure we got some of that as well.

Wanting to run ICON rpg vs. wanting to set up a VTT for ICON rpg.

With the push towards more and more Virtual Tabletop options, I want to put it out there that we have not really reckoned with the difference in GM experience in virtual tabletop yet. While the digital nature of VTT would make finding assets easier (how many artists have posted battlemaps for free use?), the technical work of loading it all in and ticking all the boxes to make sure things move smoothly during the session is something I think needs more discussion

I mean, it's huge. I played an earlier version, and it was fun. I think the lore is neat and from what I can gather from people who have read it, it has some interesting ideas about combat v. violence, and people v. monsters. It also is one fitd game stapled to a tactics game.

On the other hand, will I even play this game? Should I read 426 pages to decide if I want to even play more of this game?

maybe... if I break it up into small chunks. 1-54, 55-67, 68-88, 89-203, 204-252, 253-279, and 80-396 (in even smaller chunks)