Swordtember 2022: a Post-Mortem Thread

Brace yourselves, it’s gonna be a long read.

Hello everyone, I am an indie game artist and developer focused on doing 3D lowpoly stuff. I’m not very active on the forum, except when it’s about sharing my 3December entries, but after completing the latest art challenge I decided to write this long article and share my thought process, ideas and workflow for Swordtember. After participating last year, I wanted to go for a second round, but this time, I decided to work on two different prompt lists instead of one.

My tools of choice were my loyal companion Blender, and the Sketchfab viewer. Like last year’s entries, I used a combination of basic materials and gradient textures for my swords.

What is Swordtember?

Swordtember is an annual art challenge that - as the name suggests - is focused on swords and it’s held every September. During the month, artists can draw or model a sword by following a daily prompt, just like Inktober or Sketchfab’s 3December. There isn’t an official prompt list, but different lists proposed by artists on social media platforms. This year, I followed the lists shared by Tim Kaminski (a.k.a. randomspirits) and Suzanne Helmigh.

Why two prompt lists?

There are a few reasons for this choice.

  • Both lists had interesting prompts that were worth exploring for some whacky or funny designs, and I didn’t want to skip between lists.
  • This one is something more personal. Around the second half of spring, I was struck by a serious creative slump, due to some failed art tests that greatly impacted my confidence, with the imposter’s syndrome creeping up. After not doing any relevant art stuff for the rest of summer (which I think is terrible for an artist), I saw Swordtember as a chance to reignite my creative spark. So, taking on two lists as the same time was a way to challenge my creativity, but also a sort of self-punishment for being inactive for so long.

Why using Sketchfab as part of the challenge?

I love Blender and the satisfaction I feel whenever I render things with Eeve or Cycles, but I found out the Sketchfab viewer to be the best match for rendering my entries. It allows viewers to have a full 360° view of my models, the post-processing effects and material setups give a nice visual kick, and the annotation feature allows me to expand the lore and backstory of each sword.

About the names for my swords

A sword’s name has to be relevant with the prompt, and tell a story about the sword itself and its wielders. When I brainstorm names for my swords, I think they should have a good ring in different languages. I usually start from an English name, then I search for the best Italian (my native language) translation for that name, without distorting the English meaning too much.

And this was the end of the introduction. Now, let’s go and explore each entry, and I’ll also post the Italian translation of each name when possible. To avoid confusion, I’ll separate each list.

KAMINSKI’S LIST

Day 1: Gothic
Solemn Spire/ Guglia Solenne
The first entry of this year is based on a gothic cathedral spire, such as the Sagrada Familia, with a series of small cross-shaped gargoyles to increase the ripping power of the blade. Another inspiration for this sword was Helphen’s Steeple, a weapon featured in Elden Ring (for the record, I never played any of From Software’s souls-likes).

Day 2: Skeleton
Spine-Buster/Spacca-dorsi
This was my attempt to make a sword based on a clever pun: it’s a buster sword based on a human spine, and it was conceived to effortlessy cut people in half at the waist, hence the name… Spine-Buster.

Day 3: Potion
Apothecary’s Aide/ Aiuto d’Apotecario
This design is a blend between an apothecary knife and a scalpel: I was thinking about a weapon wielded by a combat medic, ready to perform emergency field surgery and ease the pain of the soldiers with some healing potion vials. The pouch on the back side of the sword can be used to stash more medical equipment.

Day 4: Crystal
Lightheart/ Cuor di Luce
This is a basic design to highlight how helpful the material opacity settings are to obtain a good transparency effect. For the hilt design, the main reference I used was the Ice Brand from Final Fantasy IX.

Day 5: Dragon
Wyrmslayer/ Ammazzawyrm
I based the design of the dragon’s head on several dragon tattoos. At first I planned to rotate the head in the opposite direction, so that the horns could be used as guard to protect the hands, but in the end I settled for this setup. There’s still some risk for the wielders to accidentally stab themselves with the horns, if they’re not careful.

Day 6: Emotion
Passion’s Cry/ Grido di Passione
For this entry, I thought about a heavy sword fit for a berserker, that would be driven by his passion for battle, rather than by rage or other negative emotions. The heart crest is based on this logo design.

Day 7: Cephalopod
Depths Hunter/ Caccia-abissi
The hilt’s design is based on an octopus, while the blade is based on Carlos Ruiz’s squid cutlass. Several people commented positively on this design, seeing it as a good weapon for Sea of Thieves.

Day 8: Gaudy
Extravagant Épée/ Spada Stravagante
I interpreted “gaudy” as something very flashy and ridiculous-looking, which is all about distracting the opponent from the hidden firing mechanism connected to the sword’s pistol grip. For this detail, I got the idea from the Shepherd’s fencing sword in The King’s Man.

It’s essentially the most expensive gunblade you’ll ever see.

Day 9: Mortuary
Steelwail/ Lamento d’Acciaio
For this prompt, I didn’t want to portray something strictly related to mortuaries and coroners. So, I did some research and found out there’s actually a variation of the basket-hilted sword known as the "mortuary sword", because of the death mask of a deceased king placed on the hilt.

Rather than using a king’s death mask, I opted to make a “death mask of anguish”, based on Death’s face mask from Darksiders 2. The inscription on the sword is a twisted version of Wilfred Owen’s war poem Dulce et Decorum est, and it’s more appropriate for an invading army of fanatical shock troops.

Day 10: Royal
Highcrown/ Gran Corona
This sword is based on the Super Crown Sword wielded by the OhRanger Robo/Zeo Megazord in Choriki Sentai Ohranger/Power Rangers Zeo.

Day 11: Mythological
Aradina
For this prompt, I wanted to represent an Italian myth, rather than portray more traditional mythological figures such a Medusa, a recurring theme in most of the entries I saw. There are not many mythological figures in Italian, other than the Roman gods (which are actually the Greek gods), but then I found out about the story of Aradia, a pagan goddess and patron of witches, who is part of the lore of the Italian region of Tuscany.

The sword’s blade is based on a sickle, used by witches to gather herbs and ingredients for their concoctions. The handle is based on a witch’s broom, and the guard is decorated with a ribbon and mistletoe leaves, which is seen as a medicinal plant in many pagan cultures.

Day 12: Void
Sundering/ Scissione
A common design I’ve noticed in Void-themed swords is a black hole that connects the blade with the hilt. Since I already did a black hole-based sword for the other list (day 8), this time I wanted to do something different, and went for a sword made from “void given form”.

Day 13: Birthday
Baked Bliss/ Delizia Sfornata
Another fun design, it’s a fencing sword based on a chocolate cake with whipped cream toppings and some strawberries to give a bit of color. The candle is the blade, and the grip is formed by a cookie stick.

Day 14: Cosmic
Starburst/ Astronova
The idea for this entry is a stargate-themed sword, that would project a blade of pure star energy. The hilt’s design is based on the Asgardian arch seen in Thor: Love and Thunder.

Day 15: Paranormal
Eldritch Edge/ Lamarcana
Initially I planned to make a ghost blade, as ghosts are the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about paranormal stuff. Then, I thought about Hellboy and the creatures he deals with, and I connected the prompt to the myth of Cthulhu, which delves heavily in paranormal stuff.

The hilt is based on a traditional Cthulhu’s head, with two of the tentacles forming the grip. The upper tentacles crawling on the blade give some asymmetry to the overall look.

Day 16: Rot
Magnificence/ Magnificenza
An elegant sword that didn’t survive the test of time. In this case, the “rot” is about the rotting metal on the blade and the hilt.

Day 17: Topiary
Bushwhacker/ Battisiepi
This was a curious challenge, as it’s tricky to properly render a lowpoly topiary bush without textured planes for clusters of leaves. The narrative is about a sword made of a highly poisonous plant, which can secrete a deadly sap from its leaves, enough to kill someone on contact.

Day 18: Geometric
Absolute Array/ Vettore Assoluto
I kind of improvised for this entry. I didn’t went for a fun design featuring rulers and set squares, and focused on a very sharp sci-fi look, with just a circular shape that connects the grip to the guard.

Day 19: Moss
Nature’s Law/ Legge della Natura
A stone sword covered with moss. This was inspired by the Magic instant spell Naturalize.

Day 20: Shattered
Jigsaw/ Sega-Mosaico
Another sword created starting from the name. The narrative for this entry is a fractured sawblade that can reform itself, no matter how many time it’s destroyed or broken, an insidious power that allows each fragment to strike the target from any direction. The look of the blade is based on Mjolnir’s fractured form, as seen in the Thor comics and Love and Thunder. The leather strap on the pommel is a subtle callback to Mjolnir.

Day 21: Musical
Trouncing Trumpet/ Tromba Travolgente
It’s another silly design, this time based on a scimitar. The music lines form the blade, coming out from the trumpet guard. The idea is that the wielder, the member of a group of assassins disguised as a jazz troupe, can use the buttons on the grip to tune his attack, unleashing sound-powered slashes.

Day 22: Nordic
Raven’s Talon/ Artiglio del Corvo
A sword based on Norse mythology, with the guard depicting Huginn and Muginn, Odin’s ravens and watchers. To model the ravens, I used the album cover from Norwegian black metal band Immortal’s All Shall Fall as a reference. The blade is based on the Nordic Sword from Skyrim’s DLC Dragonborn.

Day 23: Iconic
Conquering Champion/ Campione Conquistatore
This was one of the most difficult prompts to convey. I didn’t want to make any fanarts, and this is tough because there are so many iconic swords in pop culture. More brainstorm ensued, and I realized that, as a wrestling fan, there are many iconic moments and designs that I could pour in this entry.

The hilt is based on the classic WCW World Heavyweight Title, also known as the Big Gold Belt, which fits the prompt’s theme. For the blade, my main reference was Jecht’ sword from Final Fantasy X. In-game, Jecht is remembered as a legendary champion, and I think this connection fits the sword’s design.

Day 24: Morbid
Creepy Coffin/ Bara dei Brividi
For this entry, I made another silly design, based on a damaged coffin with huge nails. The guard is based on a funeral censer, while the grip is based on a casket handle.

Day 25: Noodle
Menkiri
This sword was a good chance to play around with paths and make some smooth ramen noodles around the blade, which is based on a traditional ramen knife. The guard is obviously based on a ramen bowl, while the grip is formed by a rolling pin, a common cooking tool for flattening dough. The name of the sword, Menkiri, means “noodle cutter” in Japanese.

Day 26: Monster
Munching Mangler/ Sgranocchiatore
One of my favourite designs for this year, it’s a mimic sword. While it’s dormant, it looks like a precious wand, but it springs up with its fangs open and its sharp tongue as soon as a careless adventurer gets too close.

Fun fact: I didn’t think of an Italian name for this sword, so in the end I used the translation provided by Twitter. “Sgranocchiatore” literally means “muncher”, which I think works well, considering the teeth I gave to this bad boy.

Day 27: Volcanic
Magmarauder/ Magmassacro
A design based on different concepts for a volcanic sword. Once more, Sketchfab’s 3D settings helped me giving more personality to a sword I initially considered a bit dull.

The sword’s initial name was “Magma Marauder”, but it didn’t sound very smooth, so I merged both words for a better result.

Day 28: Fuzzy
Echidna
This prompt had the same problem as Topiary, this time with clusters of fur or quills instead of leaves. In the end, I opted for another sawblade with the edge covered in quills, which greatly increase the sword’s shredding damage. A fur patch protects the wielder’s hand from the spikes on the guard.

Day 29: Monochromatic
Derezzer/ Dissolutrice
The main inspiration for this entry was the color palette for the classic Game Boy. It’s a voxel-looking sword, designed to hit rather than stab or slash, as it takes just a scratch to de-rez the target in a burst of three-dimensional pixels. The overall look is a pixelated sword.

Day 30: Guardian
Stronghold/ Roccaforte
For the final entry in Kaminski’s list, I went for a heavy sword that would be wielded by a staunch defender. The reference for this sword are:

  • The Vanguard shield from Dota 2, used for the shield-shaped guard
  • The Deadly Tower Blade from Adventure Quest Worlds, used for the blade
  • the coat of arms of House Hightower from House of the Dragon, used for the tower crest

HELMIGH’S LIST

Day 1: Spirit of Vengeance
Penance Caller/ Invoca-penitenze
When I think about “spirit of vengeance”, the first connection is of course Ghost Rider. For this entry, I made a sword fit for a Ghost Rider, with a chain of Hellfire dangling from the guard, and spikes around the grip. The blade is based on a preliminary concept from Darksiders 2.

Day 2: Stained Glass
Remembrance/ Memoria
Stained glass windows are commonly found in churches and depicts historical events or passages from the Bible. I wanted to make a sword that would carry the story of a fictional nation, and the annotations are a nice way to explore that story through the ages.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to add more chapter to the sword. I’ll come up with new events in the future!

Day 3: Iced Coffee
Luxurious Latte/ Latte di Lusso
One of the things about my swords is that I always try to make them functional, no matter how weird or silly the prompt may seem. This design is based on a Starbucks coffee cup, with a very long and pointed straw.

Day 4: Souls
Infinity Pillar/ Pilastro dell’Infinito
This sword is clearly based on the Infinity Gauntlet from Marvel Comics. The annotations gave me the chance to give more context and lore to the sword, creating a brief story for each of the soul gems within the blade. For the gems, I used the original color scheme of the comics, as it’s been changed in 2017 to reflect the color scheme depicted in the MCU.

Day 5: Blood
Sanguine Saber/ Sciabola Sanguigna
A sword made of crystalized blood, as I wanted to mimic the effect of Skarlet’s blood magik from Mortal Kombat. The design is heavily based on the Blood Sword from Final Fantasy IX.

Day 6: Prehistoric
Savage Skinner/ Conciatore Selvaggio
The trickiest part of this entry was the blade, because I wanted to make a lowpoly version of a flint stone blade. While searching for reference, I found this awesome serrated flint knife, with the right jagged look I needed for the blade.

Day 7: Galaxy
Supreme Syzygy/ Sizigia Suprema
Overall, this was a simple design, and I was trying to set a callback to one of my best entries from last years, Day 27: Cosmic.

In astrology, a syzygy is the alignment of three or more stars or planets.

Day 8: Void
Vacuous Vortex/ Vortice Vacuo
As you’re going to notice, these two lists share a couple of identical prompts, with Void being the first. Fort the first “void” of this year, I went with the flow and made a black hole-themed sword, with energy blades spinning around it. The narrative is that the black hole isn’t strong enough to suck the wielder in, but it can still absorb the ashes of those disintegrated by the blades.

Day 9: Aztec Gods
Coatlicue’s Cullblade/ Cacciasangue di Coatlicue
This weapon is based on a macuahuitl, a traditional club-like Aztec sword. As the all-mother of the Aztec gods, Coatlicue is a more benevolent deity, but I imagined a scenario in which even the mother Earth of the Aztec civilizations is angered, and commands her followers to take arms and fight for their homelands against the invaders.

Day 10: Roman Gods
Jupiter’s Justice/ Giustizia di Giove
Like the previous entry, this sword is based on a traditional weapon, and in this case it’s a gladius, a common Roman sword. Jupiter is the Roman name of Zeus, the ruler of the Greek gods. The sword’s hilt and guard are based on a Ionic capital, and the symbol on the medallion is the Roman symbol for Jupiter.

Day 11: Egyptian Gods
Osiris’s Omen/ Presagio di Osiride
This entry follows the trend of the previous two prompts of being based on a traditional weapon, and this time it’s a khopesh, a sickle-shaped sword. The grip is based on common depictions of Osiris carrying a golden rod with blue decorations. The blade features the Eye of Ra.

Day 12: Ocean
Water Victoress/ Vincitrice d’Acque
Now, here’s an interesting story about this entry.

Linda Cerruti is an Italian athlete, whose specialty is artistic swimming. She competed at the 2022 European Aquatics Championships held in Rome this August, where she won a grand total of 8 medals (2 bronze and 6 silvers). To celebrate her achievement, she shared a photo of herself doing the vertical split (a typical artistic swimming trick), with the medals hanging from the legs. She received lots of cheering from her fans, but soon she was swarmed by sexist comments and insults from creeps and some Karens and Susans.

I based this sword on Cerruti’s pose as a homage to her achievement, adding the eight medals for an immediate comparison. She is a swimmer, and because of her results, I chose an apt name based on the prompt. The blade is based on a cutlass, which also fit with the prompt. The Italian flag wrapped around the grip is the final touch.

This is the second sword I modeled after an athlete. The first one was last year’s Day 13: Delicate, inspired by Bebe Vio.

Day 13: Gelatinous
Shiftedge/ Morfolama
This sword was a chance to play around with Blender’s Metaball mesh tool, to simulate the liquid-like substance of the creature bursting out of the container. Once again, the Opacity settings did the trick quite well.

Day 14: Love
Cupid’s Carver/ Intaglia-cuori
For this entry, the main inspiration was Needle, Arya’s sword from Game of Thrones. This is an elegant fencing weapons, meant for quick lunges and stabs, rather than for cutting.

Day 15: Hate
Scorn/ Disprezzo
This is a cursed sword, modeled as a single mesh. It’s another Love and Thunder reference, and this time I used the Necrosword as base for the design and feel of this entry.

Day 16: Water & Plants
Tropical Tide/ Marea Tropicale
This entry can feel kind of incomplete, due to the lack of water. My reasoning about this prompt was that palms are a plant commonly associated with islands and beaches, the “middle ground” between land and water, and so a palm-based sword would be the best choice to convey the prompt.

The leaves form the blade and the guard, while the grip is based on a palm trunk.

Day 17: Fire & Stone
Brimstone Brazier/ Zolfobrace
At first, I wanted to model a volcanic sword, as “fire and stone” can remind me of lava and volcanoes, but then I found this 2021 design from artist Marina Lunina, and it gave me the idea to work on a fire blade conjured from a magical brazier. A combination of gradients and emission gives the fire a satisfying visual effect.

Day 18: Rot
Flesh-Ripper/ Squarta-carni
This is the second repeated prompt of this year’s Swordtember. While for the first I played around the idea of “rotting metal”, this time I went for the more obvious “rotting flesh”, and made a sword based on a dead animal’s carcass, with splintered bones (most likely ribs) protuding from the flesh.

Day 19: Demon
Hell’s Harvest/ Raccolto Infernale
A heavy, brutish sword made for chopping and hacking mortals with ease, since demons are naturally born with inhuman strenght. This design is based on Demonic weapons from Darksiders and Darksiders 2.

Day 20: Angel
Heaven’s Hymn/ Inno Celeste
I consider this design both satisfying and disappointing. It’s satisfying because I wanted to give a featherly feel to the blade and the overall design, and at first it was kind of difficult to model a proper lowpoly feather. It’s disappointing because I wanted to make a sword based on a seraph angel, but I couldn’t distribute the wings around the blade without making the sword too impractical.

Day 21: Thunderstorm
Storm’s Call/ Richiamo della Tempesta
A thunder cloud that projects blue lightnings. with golden engravings to conduct electricity and give more power to th blade. I based the design of the hilt on this concept by artist Benjamin Billy.

Day 22: Early Science
Pioneer/ Pioniere
Initial brainstorming for this prompt led me to steampunk and Industrial Revolution technology, which I thought it wasn’t “early” enough. I did some more research, this time focusing on antique science, and learned about the armillary sphere, invented between the 4th and 3rd century BC and used in astronomy. An armillary-based sword really fits this prompt, and I consider this one of my favourite entries.

Day 23: Reptilian
Silver Viper/ Viperargentea
Rather than model a sword based on a reptile, this time I went straight for a “snake sword”, a whip-like sword inspired by Ivy’s weapons in Soul Calibur 2. I wanted to give a scaly feeling to the grip, much like a snake’s skin.

Day 24: Bird
Hasting Hawk/ Falco Rapido
Just like the Cupid’s Carver, this sword was based on Needle, and it’s meant to be a small sword that focuses on speed and very fast attacks, hence why the guard is modeled after a fictional hawk’s head.

Day 25: Dog
Companion/ Compagno
While searching for initial suggestions for the various prompts, I found this very cute image of a shibainu drawing a katana, and this is the reason why I didn’t model any katana-based weapons until this specific entry.

Day 26: LGBTQ+
Rainbow Rapier/ Stoccobaleno
It’s another fencing sword design. Unicorns are a recurring in LGBTQ culture, so I wanted to make a sword based on a unicorn. The horn forms the blade, while the LGBTQ rainbow arches through a cloud, forming the hilt. As a final touch, I added a heart-shaped pommel.

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Very cool! Thanks for sharing all those notes and the links to all your models. Really nice work! Daily challenges definitely aren’t for the faint of heart. :blue_heart:

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[Continuing the thread in this reply, because I went well over 32.000 characters. Oh my!]

Day 27: Grave
Epitaph/ Epitaffio
This is one of the prompts I wanted to work on since the list was shared, as I really wanted to explore the idea of a grave-based sword! The overall design is inspired by Jules Verne’s tomb, while the grip is based on a celtic cross, a common design for gravestones. I also added a cross-shaped spear on the tip of the sword.

Day 28: Ancient Fragments
Ruinous Relic/ Reliquia della Rovina
This design is based on the Shards, a recurring enemy from Fable 2 that resemble an ancient artifact. Technologically advanced ancient civilizations are a recurring fantasy trope, and this gives me the chance to explore some weird, unrealistic sword ideas.

Day 29: Talking
Depressing Debater/ Disquisitore Deprimente
For this entry, I didn’t want to make a talking sword just by putting a mouth or a face on the hilt, as I thought it was the easy way out. Then, the right spark of inspiration was this line from the Epic Rap Battle between Stan Lee and Jim Henson:

'Cause I can sense your tension once the verbal fencing starts commencing,
There is no defense against the dents Jim Henson is dispensing

This gave me the idea to model a dueling talking sword, that would also show some impressive speech skills. The reference I used were:

Initially, I wanted to make an estoc with the mouth on the guard and the blade sticking out, playing around the idea of a “sharp tongue”, but ultimately I thought it wouldn’t give enough personality to the blade. The end result is a blade designed to resemble a stereotypical, monocle-wearing English gentleman with a refined vocabulary.

Day 30: Snackies
Pretzel Piercer/ Pungi-Pretzel
Fun fact: at first, I couldn’t decide whether this prompt was talking about cat food or classic snacks, so in the end I settled for the latter. It’s a pretzel fencing sword, with a chocolate layer that covers the blade and also works as binder, attaching the guard to the pommel and the blade. By far, it’s the heaviest entry in terms of polygons, due to the star-shaped cookie crumbles.

Final considerations

Will I make another 60 swords next year? Definitely not, it was quite time-consuming.
Was it fun? Hell yes, it was.

Overall, I realized that there’s still much room for improvement. If it wasn’t for the time constraints of making two swords per day, I could definitely expand the design and lore for each entry. The challenge was also a chance to discover new artists and their amazing sword ideas, which is a good inspiration for making even better sword for the next edition.

This concludes this lenghty post-mortem. I hope you’ll find this read interesting, and that it will inspire you into making more amazing 3D art scenes.

My links:
Twitter
ArtStation
Sketchfab
Twitch (I covered the workflow for some on my entries on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

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Thank you, Abby!

60 Swords? You maniac :sweat_smile:

Such a great volume of work you got through in such a short time - impressive stuff, and great to read about your thought process and what you learned from the whole experience :+1:

Great job!

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You are motivated! I like your design and how creative you are, making all those swords in such short period of time. Huge respect!

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Thank you!

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