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LIFT OFF: Kiana Kremer and the power of gaming

We'd like to welcome you to a new series here on Black Hole Comics and Entertainment!

LIFT OFF will be a monthly series where we focus on up and-coming artists. Whether their specialty is in comics, gaming, concept art, video games, it doesn’t matter. This series, like everything we do at Black Hole, is about uplifting people and their voice. It's about giving you a one-of-a-kind piece of art from the artist, as well as insight into their process and influences as a creator. We'll also let you know where you can find their work so that you can support them in the future.

Today, we are proud to have Kiana Kremer as our first feature artist for this series. If you recognize her art, it’s because she illustrated the cover to one of our first short stories, THE YAKSHA, a short story about a monster hunter. Fantasy has influenced Kiana’s work for some time now. It all started with playing games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. In these popular roleplaying games, you can be whoever you want to be, explore new worlds, and go on unforgettable adventures. Their deep lore and expansive terrains make for amazing moments that you can’t really predict. It’s the reason they continue to gain popularity across all demographics.

The Yaksha cover by Kiana Kremer. Available to read free

On a deeper level though, these games can teach us about ourselves and the world around us. Kiana credits them with helping her express and explore her gender, sexuality, and identity. They’ve made her a happier and more confident person.

The piece below is representative of Kiana’s fondness of those moments of fun and self-exploration. Moments she’ll never forget, moments that she captured beautifully for this series. A giant red beast takes center stage, inspired by the Glazebru from Pathfinder. Deep reds and browns showcase its ferocity. All the while, a cast of four diverse characters converge to do battle. Each hoists a different weapon and vibrant clothes, adding a richness and diversity to the piece. It captures the true essence of D&D: the idea that you can truly be anyone you want to be while playing. Overlooking it all, a group of friends. Enjoying the moment, the memories. Community is a common theme amongst D&D players. This piece is a great representation of how imagination can take a life of its own, becoming a living, breathing thing.

But enough of us talking about it. Enjoy “At The Table” and Kiana’s own words of the role the game has played in her life.

At The Table

I started playing DND in high school before I realized I was gay. My first ever character was an elf warlock who made a deal with her patron in an attempt to get revenge for her murdered girlfriend. Dark, but having DND to channel my feelings about and play with a queer identity helped me eventually realize who I am; and my first DND romance was with my best friend’s wizard. Not a year and a half later, we were dating, and we still are to this day!

Besides being a place where I can play with and process serious things, like my thoughts about politics, philosophy, death, and identity, it’s also just a space where I can hang out with my friends and have a good time. Some of my best memories are with my friends at the table. More often than not, eating grocery store cookies and turkey nacho dip.

The moment covered in this piece is based off an encounter my players had earlier this year. They had chased down a serial killer known as the Mar Dorum Ripper and confronted him in the street. He attacked and unfortunately took down one of their allies, and just as things were looking the most desperate, the cleric put her hands together and prayed to her demon god for help. She rolled high, and I decided, to be fair, I’d roll on a table of summonable creatures, and whatever it landed on would appear to help her. What it landed on was the Glazebru. A demon which, at that time, was extremely high in CR for their level. I’ll never forget the look of joy and shock on that player's face when a 15-foot-tall, horse-skull demon pulled itself from the ground to help her fight. It turned the tide of combat... if only for a round or two.

Another one of my favorite stories was during a really climactic battle in the first campaign I ever ran. One of my players finally confronted her brother, all while a revolution against the monarchy that controlled her country and most of her life raged around her, with people fighting against guards to make it to the throne room. They were both pixie-type fairy gnomes with wings. She and her brother began to duel, until, near the end, she rolled a nat 1 to try and decapitate him. She failed, of course, and he tried to swing at her and do the same. He also ended up rolling a nat 1, leaving them both with their weapons scattered to the ground, defenseless.

Being right next to each other in initiative, I knew this was going to be close. She rolled a natural 20 for her next attack- a blow that would certainly kill him. She grabbed her weapon and lunged for him. My player leapt up in joy and began to scream, but I had a dice to roll. A special parry ability that would help negate the attack. As my girlfriend applauded her, I rolled.... A natural 20. I looked up at my player in disbelief, and immediately she ran over to look at my dice. She couldn’t believe it.

I ended up striking a deal with my player- She could kill her brother, straight through the heart... but he would cut up her only intact wing, leaving her incapable of flight. My player tried to argue with me, but we both knew what was going to happen. In the end, he died, and she couldn't fly anymore. It was really dramatic, and something I think about a lot. The look of pure horror and then immediate joy, and then horror again, is something I’ll never forget.

My first character, that elf warlock, was kind of an idiot. She didn’t have very high wisdom, and I was at the table more to have a good time and make my friends laugh than anything. One day, we were on a boat traveling across an ocean to a small island. I wanted to talk to the captain to try and find out if he knew any information on the place we were going to. I tried for the cabin part of the deck, but the door was closed. There weren’t any crew on deck, and I started to get suspicious.

So I broke through the window... at which point the captain appeared from below deck, where I hadn’t looked. He opened the door, which wasn’t locked. I then took a nap to recover my spell slots, at which point everyone asked me what I was even going to do with the captain...I had completely forgotten my question. Everyone laughed at me, and all I could do was bury my face in my hands and go, “Yeah. I deserve this.”

Kiana is on Twitter @LK_Darkthare make sure to follow to keep up with her adventures and support her art. She’s also a part of Everyone Dice, a group of players who stream their D&D campaign. You can find them on Twitter as well @EveryoneDice

We'd like to once again thank Kiana for making this beautiful piece and giving us a look inside her world. Make sure to follow her on social media and commission her for work in the future. Next month, we'll focus on another artist whose talent knows no limits!


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