After the success of last year’s loot, it was time for me to start thinking about what I could give away this year to my authors, patrons, and other supporters. Last year I had the custom coconut tokens that I could make for free at the internship company I was working. I did not have the luxury of free material this time however. But on the other side of things, Patreon really took off in the early months of 2019, so I had a bit more funds to work with this year than I did last year.
Since the funds were still nowhere near the level at which I can commission art and print a lot of playmats, I had to think smaller. But luckily, card games like this have many components that can be customized, like the tokens I gave last year. I have pondered going for dice this year, with custom surfaces filled with LOTR LCG references (1 being the One Ring, 2 being the Trees, 7 being the Palantiri, 9 being the Nazgul, etc). However, with my tokens from last year, and the custom tokens from the Con of the Rings event, getting more tokens might have meant that they would just disappear in a dice bag. Going down the list I made from a poll I did earlier this year, I found a piece of loot that I could design myself and have created for cheap. It is small enough to be sent over the mail and to bring to the US.
Yes, I know, not an entirely unique idea here, but I really like having iron-on patches for my shirts, and since the Con of the Rings event features customizable t-shirts, I could get away with making patches for those shirts! They are also small and light enough to bring, and could be made customizable to fit different themes. For those not attending, the patches could also fit through the mailbox, which saved me on shipping.
One of the things I wanted, was to have several series of patches that could be collected. I settled on 7 patches, each with a unique design depicting where the different Palantiri could be found. This did also mean that the price would be higher, as I couldn’t just buy one series in bulk. I caused myself a lot more work than I could have, but am very pleased with the results. The designs have gone through several iterations, and several drawings can be found in my notebooks. Here is a general description of the patches.
It’s patches! You know how these work. These patches come with an adhesive layer that can stick to your LOTR gaming shirt (like the Con of the Rings shirts) by using a hot iron. All patches are the same size, at 5.3 centimeters wide (~2 inches) and 8 centimeters long (~3 inches). Since I didn’t want them to be squares or circles, I opted for a banner design. This simply meant that the bottom is missing a triangle of material. This gives it the illusion of being longer, which is perfect for banners like this. The design also means that you can put them on a stick and use them as miniature banners if you want. The patches are thick enough to give a solid feel, but they can still be bent by hand. The quality isn’t perfect, but a thicker edge will make sure that the patches won’t raffle with extended use.
For those that don’t want to use them as patches, you can also use them as dividers in your deckboxes. But the main purpose is to iron them on your shirt, jacket, bag, or even on your deckboxes with double-sided tape. I ordered 7 series of 45 patches each. This was cheaper than buying fewer and allows me to hand out patches to most people who have helped the blog lately. The 7 series also makes a full set of 7 more rare, and you can mix and match as you go. It also means that most people will have to make a choice for what patch they want.
I wanted to make several designs for these patches, one for each of the Palantiri. There are some similarities in the designs to link them to each other, but the main piece is different for each patch design. The designs were first created in google drawings, to make sure that everything was centered correctly. The finer details were done in MS Paint (can you hear the screams of artists around the globe?). While this is certainly not a design program you want to use when making art, for such simplistic designs Paint worked very well. The creation of the structures took the longest, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The text was done with the Ringbearer font you can find online. For the Elostirion patch, a Tengwar font was used.
One of the spoilers I dropped, WAIT MOM, was actually an acronym for the locations depicted in these patches, being W(eathertop), A(nnuminas), I(sengard), T(ower-hills), M(inas Anor), O(sgiliath), M(inas Ithil). 10 points and a sticker to those who figured that out.
Each patch has a purple band across the top of the patch with the name of the blog across it in Ringbearer font. This was the cleanest I could integrate the name on the patch, but I feel it really works! Another similarity is the Seeing-Stone itself in the art. It is always centered, and will link the location of the stone with the stone itself. There have also been a few variations made, with the Osgiliath Stone being slightly larger than the others, as it was significantly larger than the others in the lore. The shape of the patches is also the same across them all, except for the Elostirion design. This is to reflect that men controlled the other 6, while the Noldor were given control over the stone in the Tower-Hills. The design has an extra notch in the bottom of the patch, which makes it still reflect a banner. For more info on the design of each patch, I will go into more detail now.
Like many locations holding a Palantir, the location has been ruined or corrupted by the time the movies bring us past these locations. In the case of Amon Sul, only the Weathertop remained as a ruin in the time of the War of the Ring, after Angmar destroyed the settlement during the fall of Arnor. Yet this location served a special purpose in those days. Amon Sul was the middle of the kingdom and at the point where the sub-kingdoms of Arthedain, Rhudaur, and Cardolan met. This is what I wanted to represent in the patch, with a symmetrical split with the Palantir in the middle. This design was already thought up early, but I went a bit extreme with the map mechanic. I started adding in roads, rivers, and key locations in an early draft. The design was far too detailed for such a patch, so I had to dumb it down a little.
I went for a single icon in each section to represent the sub-kingdom. Cardolan was the easiest one. The only thing that it is really known for (besides being an empty field with a road running through it) are the Barrow-Downs. So I made a semi-detailed image of some hills with standing stones and added it to the green section of Cardolan at the bottom of the patch. the icon was placed a bit further to the left, giving me enough space to add the stone’s name in that section as well. Arthedain is depicted with a crown, as the descendants of the Arnorian kings still resided there in Fornost. I adopted the same design as used in the Annúminas patch, as it should be the same crown anyways. The right section of the patch represents the hills and forests of Rhudaur. With this region being less Dunedain than the other 2, I didn’t want to add a Numenorian relic in the patch (nor could I think of one, except the Iârion pendant). Instead, I added a forest there. This is a relic from the earlier map idea I had, but Rhudaur literally means East-Forest, so it seemed fitting enough.
This was the first patch I ordered, but it wasn’t the first one designed. I really struggled with finding a good design for Annúminas, as we don’t really see it a lot in the history of Middle Earth. There weren’t really many landmarks besides a tower looking over Lake Evendim. The city was abandoned in the middle of the Third Age, and not much is known about the ruins that remain. The movies and the game don’t cover Annuminas often either, except for a POD scenario, which might as well have been set in Tharbad, Fornost, Dale, or any other city. There weren’t many landmarks to use, so I had to think about something else.
As Annúminas was originally the capital of Arnor, I could do something with that. But after some searching online, I came to a banner design by ren on Pinterest. This banner is really simple but has some of the biggest artifacts of the Northern Kingdom. The crown of the north is there, as well as the scepter of Annúminas and the Ring of Barahir. All of these were kept at Imladris when Arnor fell, but they were some of the biggest symbols for Arnor, and Annúminas in particular. The Seven Stars was also a nice way to fill out the patch. However, I was missing the Palantir of Annuminas in this design. Luckily, the design left enough space in the middle of the ring to add my Palantir. After the inclusion of the Annuminas title in Ringbearer font below the design I missed one of the stars. But I would argue that the star on the crown also counts towards the stars, so there are still 7 in the design! The design was finished quickly as I didn’t have to create the entire thing. Because of this, I could quickly order the patch as a trial patch. The results were good enough for me to continue the other designs and order those after I had received these. However, I messed up my order and got a different type of patch for my other 6 series. This means that the Annuminas patch will have a woven fibre texture, while the others are printed onto the patch itself.
After Osgiliath, this was the next design I had a concrete idea on how to design this patch. This patch is the odd one out, as the design and the text inside the patch don’t match the others. I did this because of the Elven influence on the stone, which sets it apart from the others. It also was the only Stone that was not in the communication circuit that the others had, peering only West towards the end of the world and Valinor. These factors caused me to change the design for this patch.
The inner art of the patch depicts the three towers of the Tower Hills that look over the sea. As this patch had an Elven theme, I made it night time and dotted the sky with stars, which is the favourite light of the Elves. The patch also looks out over the West towards to the sea, like the stone itself. The three towers had to be made as simple as possible, as details are hard to translate to a patch. The towers each have a hill to stand on, for which half-circles were the best bet. The white text in the bottom spells Elostirion (translated directly from Latin script), meaning Tower-hills, which is the hilly area between Mithlond and the Shire where the Stone still rests at the time of the War of the Ring.
Coming up with a design for Isengard was easy. I wanted the tower of Orthanc to be in the center of the patch. The tower is entirely black, as it was made from a weird, nearly unbreakable black stone. The rest of the patch has some features of the surrounding areas. The mountain on the left of the patch is the last peak of the Misty Mountains, Methedras. It was here that we tried to capture Mugash during To Catch an Orc. The forest on the right of the patch is obviously meant to be Fangorn. I went with a simple design for the forest to make it not look like a big green blob on the patch. The bottom of the patch is mostly empty with Isengard written there. I included the river Isen and had it run down across the bottom of the patch. I had to curl it around the text a little, but with the river being an important part of the location (Isen-gard, would otherwise just be Gard), I couldn’t leave it out
As far as time period, I opted to go with a pre-Saruman of Many Colors design. I could have gone for a corrupted Isengard design, with felled trees and orc pits. And while that would have been cooler, it was only like that for a short amount of time, while the green Isengard lasted for the majority of the Third Age. Perhaps in the future I can go for such a design as alt art patches!
The two cities that held the Palantiri of the Moon and Sun were pretty tough to make. I wanted to display the design of both cities, but that is rather difficult to do in the resolution of a patch, as well as create the design in MS Paint. But I went ahead and did it anyway. The first design was far too detailed for Minas Anor, so I removed all buildings in the middle rings of the city. I did want to represent the 7 levels of the city, but had to keep the city small enough to make the White Mountains in the background seem large. I went with the movie’s interpretation of Minas Tirith, which means a white wall (which should be black). I also added a row of mountains behind Mindolluin to represent the White Mountains range. To the left of the mountains I added a patch of water, representing the Belegaer which is a bit further away on normal maps, but screw accuracy. I wanted to throw in details for Dol Amroth to the left, and Rohan to the right, but eventually scrapped those ideas. Rohan wasn’t around during the time that the city was called Minas Anor (as Rohan was created during the time of the Stewards, after the last king vanished in Minas Ithil), and while Dol Amroth did exist, it would break the symmetry a little. Initial plans for the patch also included a line of beackons on the mountains, but again, I had to keep things a little bit lore-accurate. The only inconsistancy I can think of right now is the Tower of Ecthellion, which is a lot newer than the rest of the city. But since the stone was kept in that tower, I had it remain in the patch.
A final touch that I did include in the patch was a sun motive in the Palantir itself. Since Minas Anor was sun-themed, it is a bright day on the patch, with sunbeams raining down from the Palantir. This mirrors the cresent moon in the Ithil patch, where it is night.
The Tower of the Moon held its Palantir for a long time, until it was captured by Sauron and was brought back to Barad-Dur. Before the capture of the city, it was called Minas Ithil and lay in the Ephel Duath (Mountains of Shadow). Being the Tower of the Moon, I went with a night theme again, like with the Elostirion one. I made a cresent moon inside of the Palantir to drive the moon theme home a little more. The dark mood of this patch also reflects the eventual downfall of the city to the darkness, hence why the ground is also black. The Mountains of Shadow stretch across the middle of the patch and contrast sharply with the white walls and towers of the city. I based my design on the design from the movies and several artworks I found online. I could not improve the detail of the city too much, else details would have been lost on the patch.
I wanted to keep the rest of the patch simple, with nothing below the city other than its name. I had some initial ideas to add the river and the White Bridge to the design, but from a front facing aspect, it didn’t really look good enough to include on the patch. It would have also gotten in the way of the name.
When thinking about patches, the Osgiliath design was the first one I had a general idea of. I wanted a top side view of the city, with both sides on opposite banks of the Anduin. This fills the majority of the patch. Both sides of the city are placed in a band of green, but have a light grey filling, to make the difference between the city and the outlying fields. The blue band in the middle is obviously the river Anduin, which runs through the city down to the sea. The two parts of the city are joined by a single bridge that spans the river. While there were more than one bridge, I felt that including more would harm the design. Plus, at the end of the Third Age, only one bridge was left. The Palantir of Osgiliath is slightly larger on the patch than the other stones on the other patches. This is because the Osgiliath Stone was larger in diameter than the others. Where the smaller ones could be held by hand, it took several people to even turn this stone. The stone is positioned in the blue band of the river. This was the original position of the stone, in a building in the middle of the river. However, after it’s destruction, the Palantir was dropped into the river and LOSSt there.
The rest of the patch tries to bring home the city feel of the two half circles I have placed on the river banks. I used black lines to represent streets in the city. These were placed at random, and had to be redesigned a few times to find a proper balance between resolution and realism. I went into a bit too much detail in initial designs, which was difficult to translate to a patch. I also added an outer wall to both sides of the city, which is the same, slightly darker grey colour as the bridge.
One of the earlier ideas was to make a sticker sheet with LOTR LCG references and memes. But that idea got scrapped when I thought about how the shipping would have to be done, and that stickers would be far to cheap for such an amazing community. But the idea did stick in my head (one might say, it stuck like a sticker…). When I was busy creating the patches in may/june, it suddenly dawned on me that I could still make stickers as an extra piece of loot. While this wasn’t made from any money received by Patreon, the stickers were cheap enough to make for myself.
As for a design, I wanted the stickers to have some sort of function. I settled on adding in a QR code that would bring you to the site whenever you scanned the code with your phone. This makes it easier to get to the site without having to type in the entire URL (auto-correct helps, but still). The stickers were pretty easy to make, but I didn’t make the entire design myself. I used the regular Palantir art from the game as a base, and pasted the QR code over it. Add in some text, et voila: a working sticker that brings you to the site. I ordered 150 of these to be handed out with the swag and at Con of the Rings. They are 5 centimeters (~2 inches) in diameter, making them large enough to be scanned from a distance. They can be stuck to the back of laptops, on deckboxes, on binders, on your forehead, etc. I hope everyone who got one will find a good use for it
For next year, I have no real plans for what to give away. If the pledges remain stable as they are right now, I will have enough money to start experimenting with some other swag ideas that were lost during the concept design phase. Depending on where I end up working, I can also make custom things there with the materials at hand. Maybe more stickers will also be released, and I will take suggestions on what you’d like to have for your collection. I can also create more patches if those are really in demand, including some alt art patches for the eventual location of the Palantiri. A Barad-Dûr patch for the Minas Ithil stone would be cool, as well as a corrupted Isengard. I can also picture the Annuminas and Amon Sul stones under the ice at Forochel, and ruin Osgiliath with the stone submerged in the Anduin. It would be cool to repeat this, but I’ll have to see if there is an interest in those types of patches, or if people want something else. I will have a team in the new Discord server who will be pitching ideas for loot with me, allowing me to get some more inspiration on what to make next.
If you are reading this soon after the article went live, and are at Con of the Rings, try to find me. I will probably have some extra patches for you to give out for reading this entire article! I might not have all of the patches anymore, but will hopefully still have at least a sticker to give you as well. Those not attending, you will see yours in the mail soon enough. Those that did not get them this year, consider being on time next year by pledging to our Patreon here. I will also have some patches left for other events, such as Lure of Middle Earth or Con of the Rings 2020.