Artwork has been an integral part of D&D ever since its inception, helping to draw in multiple generations of curious gamers. While I missed the first three editions (3.5 was at its peak when I started gaming) I’ve watched the art shift through 3.5th, 4th and into its current 5th incarnation. The story of D&D can be told through its artwork, which is exactly what Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History sets out to do.
Drawing upon the treasure trove of material available in the Wizards of the Coast archives the authors have created a comprehensive history of the game, told through imagery and accompanied by commentary from the designers and illustrators that helped redefine the game over and over again. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the book as a Christmas gift and I think my review can be summed up in a single word: gorgeous.
While each chapter spans a distinct era additional features peppered across the book connect the past to the present. Evilution pages take classic monsters and chronicles their progression from the original edition through to their current manifestations, while Deadliest Dungeons dives into some of the iconic dungeons from over the years. The book is peppered with pages such as these and their addition adds a depth that goes beyond a simple chronological history of the game.
I could go on at length about how much I love this book, but I’d rather let this small selection of photos talk for themselves. Having never been a big history buff I’ve gained a lot of insight about the early years of D&D, but ultimately, as a coffee table book it lives and dies by the quality of the artwork. In that category, it’s a Natural 20 and I cannot recommend it enough to anybody invested in the hobby. It’s a book that I suspect is going to be a prominent part of my collection and one that I will go back to time after time, whether it be for inspiration or just to unwind in the evening.
All reviews are rated out of 10, with Natural 20s reserved for products that go above and beyond my expectations. Unless otherwise stated all review products have been purchased through normal retail channels.
I’m a sucker for inspirational artwork, so much so I did an entire series of posts showcasing images that had jumped out at me and provided immediate ideas for characters or campaigns. Throughout my life science fiction has always been the one genre that has consistently drawn me in so this article on The Verge instantly caught my attention. It highlights the artwork of Maciej Rebisz from Poland, a concept artist with a particular focus on space and the exploration of the solar system. It’s a stunning alternative history in images, building on the visual concepts of the Apollo program and using them as a base to say “what if we had pushed that little bit further…”
You can find more of his art at: http://spacethatneverwas.tumblr.com/ and https://www.artstation.com/mac
All artwork is copyright Maciej Rebisz, I’ve posted it just to showcase it and will happily take it down if requested.
12th) Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?
Like the cover art question difficult to answer, when it comes to art I tend to appreciate its inclusion as a whole but rarely pick it out individually. Tales from the Loop gets an honourable mention once again but I think I’ll actually go with Legend of the Five Rings. The books are, in general, gorgeous and really give a feel for the setting as a whole. I’d actually say that I think they may be up amongst the best looking RPG books I’ve had the chance to own. One of the most striking aspects is the consistency of the artwork. All high quality and in styles that mesh well with one another. Unfortunately with the transition to kickstarter I’ve come across too many games where the artwork is a mix of styles that don’t mesh or are completely different from one another due to the need to spread the load around multiple artists. It’s an unfortunately reality of being a small publisher but does (to me) stand out more than I’d have expected it would.
Stylised posters always seem to get my GM imagination going, when they’re well done they serve the same function as a good book cover – to set a scene that you want to know more about. Some of the best, in my opinion, are those that recreate early sci-fi books focused on exploration and the colonisation of the solar system. They provide not only a sense of hope for the future but also one of exploration, perfect for any light hearted sci-fi games. The ‘Visions of the Future‘ set from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provide a perfect example of this and after only a few minutes I already have a half dozen ideas bouncing around my head for the next time I run a game.
Sometimes I just come across a set of work that jumps out at me as inspiration for a game or a campaign (and gave rise to the inspirational artwork series). The surreal gifs created by artist Kevin Weir are a prime example of this. Working primarily from archival Library of Congress photos he’s turned them into something otherworldly by animating them, often just in subtle ways. Perhaps my favourite of them is the one below just because ideas immediately jump out at me for a War of the Worlds or post World War 1 (or 2) game battling Cthulhu-esk eldritch horrors beyond mortal comprehension.
You can find more of his work on his tumblr, Flux Machine
A couple of new pieces of inspirational artwork that I stumbled upon while working on ideas for the Legend of the Five Rings campaign I’m currently running. Both are by Sam Filstrup and you can find more of his work over at samfilstrup.daportfolio.com
WARNING: Spoiler for the Dresden Files novel Changes below the cut
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