Artwork is an important part of game design.
The flavor of artwork tells me a great deal about the nature of the game; gritty and dark, heroic and superhuman, high fantasy, low fantasy, satirical or serious. Before I read a single rule, the artwork in a game can tell me if I’m interested in the system or not.
I especially love the artwork of early Dungeons & Dragons. From the rough realism of David Trampier to the weird and fantastic images of Erol Otis, the artwork in early D&D did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the game.
One of my favorite bits of old school artwork popped up on the Old School FRP page. This is a Tumblr site dedicated to images that capture the spirit of early edition gaming and is one of several such sites I have on my RSS feed.
This particular posting is a series of margin images done by David Sutherland for the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This sequence, appropriately placed around the tables for random dungeon generation, shows the encounters of five adventurers. It begins with their entrance into the dungeon and ends with them reaching the final treasure horde, and the guardian waiting within.
I love how this sequence tells a story, I love how we can instantly get a sense of who these characters are and what they are facing, and I love how we’re left wondering what their final fate will be.
These four simple illustrations capture the feel of an entire dungeon delve and I cannot tell you how many times I have looked them over and how much inspiration I have drawn from them.
What are some of your favorite illustrations? Have you ever based an entire adventure off of a single picture that captured your imagination? I’d love to hear about your favorite pieces of artwork.
And make sure to check out the Old School FRP Tumblr! You’ll be glad you did.
The only thing missing are the bodies of many hirelings.