Sunday, July 21, 2024

Creating A Drinkable Artifact: The Sankheg’s Hide Creative Team On Capturing The Taste Of Exandria

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Earlier this year, Matthew Lillard’s premium whiskey brand collaborated with Critical Role to create a new bourbon: Sandkheg’s Hide. With it came Quest End’s trademark approach to storytelling and collectability, but this time creating something that would live in and expand on Critical Role’s original setting of Exandria. To do so, they recruited Jasmine Bhullar (aka ThatBronzeGirl), cartographer Deven Rue, and artist Tyler Walpole to help craft the tale. We got a chance to chat with this creative team to see what all went into creating “a taste of Exandria.”

I’m curious how you thought about Sandkheg’s Hide from the jump, when you got approached to be involved, or how the creative process started with this new concept.

Jasmine Bhullar: For me, I was excited because I’d seen Kate Welch and her wonderful partner work with Quest’s End on the Paladin collab. I love the idea of collabs that people can enjoy that aren’t just going to sit on your shelf, but something that you can actually interact with in a meaningful way.

I remember the collector’s edition for Yakuza Song of Life came with two whiskey glasses and whiskey stones. And every time I open my cupboard and I see them there, I get to use them, I get excited. It’s actually my favorite collector’s edition I’ve ever owned of any video game. Because of that aspect of it, the idea of creating something that would live on someone’s shelf and they’d actually be able to interact with it regularly, at least for a little while until it’s gone, I love the idea of being part of that.

Deven Rue: The same with me as well. I love bringing anything from a world that I’m a fan of into real life and interacting with it in a not just looking at it on my wall kind of way. I mean, okay, I play with my Frumpkin and everything. He’s there every Thursday when I watch because I need my support Frumpkin. But I like interacting with it. I think it’s really neat.

Tyler Walpole: My favorite part of this, other than getting to collaborate with these amazingly talented people was just getting to do some world-building and fleshing out a little region of Exandria and some cultures and characters that reside there.

What were you as a creator going for when you were creating Sandkheg’s Hide, fleshing out this part of Exandria, getting to work with the world that has been developed by Critical Role?

TW: It was a lot of back and forth with Jasmine and Deven. It was a really unique storytelling and world-building experience. There was a lot of everybody putting a little bit of spice in the soup until we came up with something that, it really sings. I was absolutely blown away with Jasmine’s writing. We had a number of emotional points that we had discussed and a number of world-building points. And she hit them, every single one, I think. She’s a powerhouse.

JB: You know how they have that joke that anytime you set a story in the Middle East or in South America, they put that red tint on it or that orange tint on it? I think my goal was to remove the orange tint, and we do have a story set in a part of the world that would be difficult to survive in. But rather than exotifying those people, I wanted to show what’s great about living in that type of a place, how it informs culture and how it informs your outlook on stuff.

And while even given the option to leave a place called Hellcatch Valley, why people potentially might not. What about it feels like home? And yeah, it was to really make people think about, “Oh, I’d like to visit one day.” Somebody else might think it’s called Hellcatch Valley, but I think I’d still like to visit there for a while. Maybe not in the summer.

Like Death Valley. It’s okay to visit, but not when it’s really hot.

JB: Well, and I’ve always felt that way because my family, we went on a road trip to the Death Valley when I was very young and I thought it was beautiful. I thought it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in my life. It was a road trip to the Grand Canyon. Classic family stuff, but I think about that all the time.

Deven, I’m curious what your approach is when it comes to developing a map for something like this. I wasn’t sure how much you had to work with when it comes to the layout of things. I’m wondering what your process was for that part, for the cartography.

DR: It’s always important for me to make sure that I have the voice of the writer. I always want to make something that definitely sounds like if they made maps, this is what it would look like kind of thing. Or also of the character if it’s a character that creates it. The character that did this was a rather creative individual who… I wanted something that was a little, it obviously looked like it was drawn and that there was evenings spent. But they’re also very intelligent and a bit of almost like a scientist kind of thing so I wanted them to be a little bit more precise.

And just to, so you don’t have any moments where it doesn’t feel like it’s not drawn by this character and not of Jasmine’s voice as a writer, while keeping it very well incorporated into Exandria. Again, I definitely think of maps as storytelling and it’s just a great visual aid to help people get from point A to point B in a fun way.

TW: I had a unique opportunity with this project too. I actually got to draw sketches as a character. Because it’s the conceit of the project is that it’s a sketchbook. I got to think about, well, what would this guy be drawing? Jasmine did an amazing job of bringing the characters to life. That was really fun for me and a unique opportunity. That’s not something I get to do very often.

Keep an eye on the Quest’s End Whiskey website for updates on new releases and updates on Sandkheg’s Hide!

Images via Quest’s End Whiskey

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