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Artists & Artwork

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.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Fantasy, Gaming

 

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The Dungeon Alphabet

This is a “first impression” review of The Dungeon Alphabet, 3rd Printing.

After reading that The Dungeon Alphabet was going into its third printing and reading even more glowing reviews of the book, I finally decided to order my own copy via my Friendly Not-So-Local Game Store and picked it up today.  I have barely had time to read it, but skimming the text and looking at the artwork has already left a profound impression on me.

The Dungeon Alphabet is a collection of classic dungeon tropes coupled with random tables to inspire and energize dungeon designers.  The items described within are given a flair of the fantastic without being over-the-top.  I’ll go into more detail after I’ve had a chance to properly read through the book.  What I want to talk about now is the artwork.

This book is beautiful and is utterly jam-packed with some of the finest old style artwork I’ve seen by artists like Erol Otis, Russ Nicholson, and Jeff Easley.  The only way I could be more happy with this collection of artwork is if David Trampier came out of retirement to contribute.  There is a lot of art in in this book, nearly every page appears to have at least some illustration, and these pieces are evocative and inspiring in their own right.  Just from thumbing through the book I’ve caught myself stopping and thinking, “I can use this!”

I was skeptical about how good this book could be.  I consider myself a creative person and a book of lists seemed unnecessary, but the low price and glowing reviews convinced me to give it a shot.  Now I can say that I’m both glad I did and excited to dig into it.

Do yourself a favor, drop $20 and pick this book up.  It’s worth it for the artwork alone.

The Dungeon Alphabet is produced by Goodman Games. It’s author is Michael Curtis who writes the OSR blog, The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope.

If you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

The Dungeon Alphabet cover

 

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