(I posted this just before Blogger went down the other day and it vanished into the ether, so now I post it again).
A friend sent me this link to a hidden page at Wizards that was part of a contest of some kind (I don’t know) where they had a picture by Wayne Reynolds of a few adventures throwing down with the gorpy, loveable beholder (see Wayne Reynolds image at right).
The link: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dnd/behold
The page includes 10 different artist’s interpretations of the scene. From the page: The original image is a Wayne Reynolds piece. Jon Schindehette used it as a model, sending it out to wide array of artists and asking for their interpretation of the image using their own specific art styles. The results that came back were impressive, to say the least—and a fascinating look at how D&D art can be expressed in a variety of ways.
I’m sure I’ll come off as a malcontent (after all, Wizards didn’t ask ME to participate), but to my jaded eye, all of the artists chosen seem to share a pretty similar sensibility and there isn’t much of an old school vibe to any of the pictures… where the fuck is the Erol Otus version?
HEY WIZARDS, OTUS IS STILL ALIVE AND WORKING SO WHY DON’T YOU HIRE HIM SOMETIME?
I am considering doing my own version after this month is over and I am somewhat caught up on my own work (so maybe mid June at earliest). I’d like to toss out the suggestion that other members of the OSR with an artistic bent try their hand at the picture… anyone care to take me up on that?
Yesterday’s post by James over at Grognardia on art in game materials got me thinking about the relationship of art to RPG gaming materials. James begins by stating that he does not like some of the ‘art heavy’ trends he sees in many of the RPG books being produced today… and I have to confess that I wonder if I know what books he is looking at — the last “Art Heavy” rpg book I bought was a copy of the 3.5e players guide several years ago So I perhaps am not buying enough (or the right books) to see what James is talking about. Given thr profusion of full color illustrations that intrude on the text, colored backgrounds and neat-o graphic borders and what-not, I think the 3.5e PHB might fit James’ definition of “art heavy” (and I think it is “overdone”) but the 3.5e PHB was also annoying to me in that WOTC re-used most of the art from the 3e version. My other recent purchases included a copy of Lesserton & Mor from Faster Monkey Games, which I thought was a little too light on the interior illustrations (although I love Peter Mullen’s work on the cover)) .
James writes: …what are your feelings about the increase in the illustrations per page we see in a lot of contemporary gamebooks? Do you like it? Do you view it as essential? And, most importantly from my perspective, has this increase affected your feelings about games and game products that don’t include as much artwork as you might see in, say, a WotC or Paizo offering?
I have mixed feelings on these questions. On the one hand, I draw pictures and hope to earn coin by drawing them, so self interest makes me want to say, “More illustrations, especially by me, please!” On the other hand, I’m getting more and more turned off by the slickness and ‘total marketing package’ represented by books like the WOTC 3.5e books (which , although they are out of print, are pretty much my most “modern” RPG purchase ). Everything from the ‘iconic characters’ like Redgar the Fighter and Lidda the Halfling to the faux parchment backgrounds, spiky armor, piercings and corsets, etc., just reminds me how fucking old and out of touch I am. And, try as I might, I just can’t do the kind of art that Wizards and the other big players seem to be buying. So maybe there are some sour grapes on my part because I am a talentless hack compared to Todd Lockwood and I don’t own a graphic tablet or a copy of Painter software and wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did.
The work being produced by members of the OSR (like the Peter Mullen cover mentioned above, Tony Dowler’s “Year of the Dungeon” blog, work by Three Headed Trolls and other stuff) never fails to bring a smile to my face. And I get a lot out of looking at pictures and ephemera snatched up from the archives of humanity and ‘repurposed’ by Trey over at his blog, “From the Sorcerer’s Skull.”
I don’t know if I think the OSR is going to diverge from ‘mainstream’ RPGs like the current edition of D&D and become a kind of ‘alternative’ aesthetic counterpoint like the weird and perverse underground comics once provided for the more wholesome mainstream comics from Marvel, Dell, Gold Key and DC. But I think that would be a viable alternative vision of what these publications can be for individual members of the OSR to pursue if they choose.
(The picture above right is “Unicorn Dreams” by Pietro Ramirez)
This is an art book of art by artists of the OSR… and I have a few bits in it. As noted in the Lulu ad copy:
This full color book is filled fantasy and swords & sorcery illustrations by artists of the D&D “Old School Renaissance.” These artists have created the visual imagery of recent publications focusing on playing D&D by its early rules, including works by publishers Pacesetter Games, Mythmere Games, the First Edition Society, Frog God Games, Usherwood Adventures, and many others!
Nicolo (of The Yaqqothl Grimoire) is putting out a fanzine for Old School Games and I will be doing some illos! Tentative title is “Pages from the Yaqqothl Grimoire.” Look for it in April/May.
From his message to me describing the blasphemous book:
The zine will include:
– three new classes (barbarian, goblin and ghoul) and a revised thief
– rules for laser weapons in A/OD&D
– some new spells
– and a complete, tiny, lovecraftian sandbox, featuring Tower of the Re-Animator (a full adventure), a really weird jungle and an Innsmouth like village (complete flashed out)
I’m not certain how to pronounce “Yaqqothl,” so I am going with “Yah-kaw-thil” till I find out otherwise.
(I did not draw this cool illo; it’s from Nicolo’s blog header and I really like it. Look at that spooky evil fat bastard!)
First, nods to Al over at ‘Beyond the Black Gate’ for his brilliant Aulde Schoole Gamer’s Zodiac. I’ve just discovered that I am a displacer beast… which explains a lot.
I’m glad to see that my earlier thread on “We don’t explore characters, we explore dungeons,” struck a chord with some, but, again, I am not the originator of that phrase. Someone who calls himself ‘Evreaux’ (sp?) originally posted that over at Dragonsfoot (and I’m not certain if I got the quote 100% right or the original context right — but that isn’t bothering me since I am interested in the way the conversation has developed regardless of the author’s original intent). If the original author wants to contact me and set me straight on how I mangled or misrepresented his ideas I am ready to apologize and issue a full retraction.
On a related note, recently there was this post on a similar subject over at DF (it’s not a very good one so I wouldn’t bother). But as I have continued to read some other people’s response to Evreaux’s (sp?) neat aphorism, I’ve been thinking more on it. My basic premise is that when a half-a-dozen people sit around a table and pretend to be ‘Grizzo the Fighter’ or ‘Pablum the Elf,’ I’m less interested in seeing them reach inside of some ‘character concept’ in order to figure out what to do in a given situation and instead have the players decide for themselves what they might want to do in that situation. One of the great things about ‘rpgs’ is that they can offer a pretty complete range of choices without consequences. If I and my fellow players decide to save the village (or rob and murder the villagers!), at the end of the day no real harm is done, but we can have fun exploring the actions and just ‘seeing what happens.’ One of the phrases I hate hearing around a game table is, “My character wouldn’t do that.” Instead of hearing my fellow players tell me what their pre-determined character concept would make them do, I’d like to see more emphasis on players deciding what they (the players) want to do.
Finally, if you want to send me hatemail, go ahead. But if you want to make it seem like the hatemail is coming from multiple people (rather than just you), using multiple email accounts is probably not enough. Using the same basic syntax and flawed spelling in messages from “different people” makes you look like a pathetic douche with an axe to grind (hint: “patriot” has only one ‘a’ in it). It is also probably best that you not send it all from the same IP address.
I’m still trying different things. The picture at right represents a bit of a departure for me. We see a woman all dressed up for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars pulling out a ray gun to shoot a flying worm with a minimalist landscape.
Its got some possibilities but I need to push it further.
Recently, Ckutalik over at the Hill Cantons posted that he was putting together a book and was thinking about art direction. He posted a few very interesting samples of work he liked (Chinese wood cuts of (what I assume are) historical scenes and a lithograph from a Russian book illustrator) along with a request for suggestions.
As an artist who has had work published in the OSR, I find myself interested in different possible aesthetics and how the ‘Old School Rennaisance’ (or, as I prefer to call it, the ‘Old School Revolt!’) might distinguish itself from the competition. I find myself inspired and encouraged by the likes of Peter Mullen, Aeron Alfrey, Sean Aaberg and Skinner — as well as the fairly predictable praise (for OSR tastes, anyway) of Erol Otus and Trampier and other classic TSR artists. There are lots of people whose work I have been admiring and see ing around, like J Bingham, Jason Braun & ATOM Taylor & Glad Thomas, Aos and RavenConspiracy. And there are lots more, although I can’t think of all of them right now. Please list your favorites in comments.
I’d like to see more artists offering an alternative to the more (to my jaded eye) prosaic visual fantasy fare that has come to typify much of the industry. I feel my own work is too derivative of that which came from the classic era of TSR — in addition to pursuing my other art interests at this time (like the mosaics), I’m interested in shaking up my own ideas of what art for the OSR might look like. But it is harder than I expected, and, with my current time crunch, finding time to do new work is hard.
The picture at right is a ‘work in progress’ shot of a painting of the Piasa bird. It’s early yet, but I haven’t really felt like I’ve ‘hit something new’ here yet. I like the face but the feet look weird.