KING BEOWULF – the cover

Art is really important to us at Handiwork Games. Most of us “on the team” are actually primarily visual artists although we wear many hats and do a lot of other jobs too!

When it came to the cover of the upcoming KING BEOWULF we wanted something that “felt” part of a series of images. It doesn’t need to be too “on the nose” in that regard. We don’t want to be repetitive or confusing. But it needs to feel like part of a series of books.

Here’s the two hardcover books we have out just now: BEOWULF Age of Heroes, and The Trials of the Twin Seas:

So these are quite greenish in colour, and between them they contain some important stuff from the Age of Heroes:

  • The Hero
  • The Monster
  • The Meadhall
  • The Ship
  • The Voyage

For KING BEOWULF I (it’s me, Jon! Managing Director/co-creator of BEOWULF Age of Heroes and cover artist) knew I wanted something that continues this thematic stuff, but also bursts out into a new place, which is precisely what the book itself does. (Or will do, should we be lucky to fund on Kickstarter!)

And so this is where we ended up. Let’s talk about it!

The first thing that strikes me is that it’s very orange in comparison to the other covers. That’s giving us that immediate break from the tradition of green, cool-colour covers. We also have the main character coming right out at us.

The hall which appears on all the other covers is burning. The character has stepped through the jaws of some giant beast, while dead bodies litter the ground, and it seems they seem to have work still to do, although these achievements are, dare we say “behind them”?

This is all strongly in line with the theme of the book. You’re stepping up from being a Hero to becoming a Ruler. You have more on your mind than just battling monsters, and the stakes are much higher. It’s not your own body you’re gambling against monsters. It’s everything. It’s your whole kingdom and all the people who live there and trust you to rule well.

With any cover design work I try to be mindful that we’re not necessarily translating exactly what’s in the book. This can be a bone of contention when you’re not the co-author/artist. In my experience authors quite rightly want a lot of accuracy in what is being depicted on the cover of what they regard as “their” book (a phrase I don’t like hearing around RPG production – these books are always a massive team effort, and morally belong to no one person!).

Covers are more of a bridge into the ideas of the book, rather than literal depiction of those actual ideas themselves, and it’s an important aspect to consider.

In this instance there’s some stuff that perhaps isn’t entirely accurate to the themes of KING BEOWULF. It’s unlikely your Ruler will fight a massive, Kingdom-threatening beast themselves. Unless, like Beowulf in the poem, it’s a poetic, doom-laden ending to their story. The book has a lot of advice on the differences between “Hero adventures” and “Kingdom adventures” and adjusting to that different scale of play. But the cover isn’t quite “there”. It’s trying to reel us in ahead of that knowledge.

There’s lots more to say about this cover, and I’ll share the sketches and some progress shots of the painting in a future post. For now you can sign up to be notified of the campaign launch right here.

And remember to grab the free preview here.

About BEOWULF Age of Heroes

One of the oldest recorded stories in Western Europe, Beowulf  is the original tale of hero vs. monster – and now a dramatic, 5e setting. BEOWULF Age of Heroes has been crafted for one player and one GM.

Discover a fierce setting of wild seas and savage monsters, of meadhalls and of heirloom swords that bear legendary names. Gain Followers, take Inspiration from unique Portents, and use our specially crafted tokens to guide your voyage along the Whale Road.


In this upcoming supplement for BEOWULF Age of Heroes you’ll ascend the benches to the treasure seat and become a Ruler, with a kingdom of your own. You decisions will shape the prosperity of your people, the relationships with your kingdom’s neighbours, and decide whether you thrive or starve. Trade, raid, explore and expand your holdings!