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Post Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 3:48 pm 
 

Since there has been a lot of discussion of the art and artists of gaming, I thought I would raise this topic:

    The artwork of D&D (all versions) once had a very distinct flavor, and it was different from the Freudian book covers of Frank Frazetta and similar artists that appeared on books about Conan, and series such as the Gor novels.  (I stared a lot at those covers back in the day!)

   Erol Otis strongly influenced the gaming art genre, but other artists also contributed as time passed and for a number of years they all tended to look very similar...as if a concensus had been reached about how things should basically look.  

    As gaming publications became more professional, a game art style emerged that I would describe as "stylized realism."  The action was generally depicted in a realistic manner that still managed to look imaginary.  It was a distinctly masculine look, although some of the artists were women.  The most recent Roslof drawing, posted to this web site, is a good example of the era's basic style.

   There was also another phase of game art that I date to the Dragonlance modules.  These adventures were illustrated with a much more adult (and yet still juvenile) style and subject matter...sexual traits exagerated and a greater emphasis on attractive people and romantic themes...unrealistic weapons and armor...hot women with chainmail tanktops, swords and bikini bottoms.  Hips, breats and thighs were almost always the dominant features.  Male characters usually resembled Fabio in plate armor...in a distinctly different way than Conan or Elric were depicted.  This became the basic style of game art for some time.  It was certainly the standard for Dragon magazine covers.  

    Outside of D&D there was a style of art that I think of as "cartoon gaming art."  This was the style of games like Paranoia.  The emphasis was on humor and funny-looking people.

    There was also a distinctive British style.  Back in the early days you could almost always tell when an RPG product originated in the United Kingdom.  They would generally be more lurid, violent and just plain strange...at least to American readers...especially the artwork.  The Fiend Folio is one example, but there were others.  With the popularity of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the distinctive British style crept more deeply into American gaming and its influence can especially be seen in the way monsters such as ogres, goblins and orcs are now depicted.  

    Today Japanese cartoons have had an even stronger influence on American youth...but actual examples of Anime art are rare in game publications.  Or are they?  Games from Japan have this look, but I have not seen loads of it in American or British publications.

   Anyway, what are your thoughts?   :?   Do you have the same general impressions?  Am I right on or way off?  How else might you categorize the history of gaming art?

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:07 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:Since there has been a lot of discussion of the art and artists of gaming, I thought I would raise this topic:

  The artwork of D&D (all versions) once had a very distinct flavor, and it was different from the Freudian book covers of Frank Frazetta and similar artists that appeared on books about Conan, and series such as the Gor novels. (I stared a lot at those covers back in the day!)

 Erol Otis strongly influenced the gaming art genre, but other artists also contributed as time passed and for a number of years they all tended to look very similar...as if a concensus had been reached about how things should basically look.

  As gaming publications became more professional, a game art style emerged that I would describe as "stylized realism." The action was generally depicted in a realistic manner that still managed to look imaginary. It was a distinctly masculine look, although some of the artists were women. The most recent Roslof drawing, posted to this web site, is a good example of the era's basic style.

 There was also another phase of game art that I date to the Dragonlance modules. These adventures were illustrated with a much more adult (and yet still juvenile) style and subject matter...sexual traits exagerated and a greater emphasis on attractive people and romantic themes...unrealistic weapons and armor...hot women with chainmail tanktops, swords and bikini bottoms. Hips, breats and thighs were almost always the dominant features. Male characters usually resembled Fabio in plate armor...in a distinctly different way than Conan or Elric were depicted. This became the basic style of game art for some time. It was certainly the standard for Dragon magazine covers.

  Outside of D&D there was a style of art that I think of as "cartoon gaming art." This was the style of games like Paranoia. The emphasis was on humor and funny-looking people.

  There was also a distinctive British style. Back in the early days you could almost always tell when an RPG product originated in the United Kingdom. They would generally be more lurid, violent and just plain strange...at least to American readers...especially the artwork. The Fiend Folio is one example, but there were others. With the popularity of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the distinctive British style crept more deeply into American gaming and its influence can especially be seen in the way monsters such as ogres, goblins and orcs are now depicted.

  Today Japanese cartoons have had an even stronger influence on American youth...but actual examples of Anime art are rare in game publications. Or are they? Games from Japan have this look, but I have not seen loads of it in American or British publications.

 Anyway, what are your thoughts?  :?  Do you have the same general impressions? Am I right on or way off? How else might you categorize the history of gaming art?

Mark  8)


Wow, Mark, with the receipt of the Roslof artwork I purchased, I have been showing it to visitors and thinking along the exact same lines.  While showing the drawing to my brother, I flipped through a pile of modules on my desk to show him other Roslof works like the cover to C2, A2, and other cover artists of the period such as Otus, Dee and others.  When you have a huge pile of say 50 modules from the years 1980-1990, you can pick out the exact era just by looking at the cover art.  There is a definite demarcation line drawn from say 1983/1984 or thereabouts, from the highly stylized almost cartoony DSL, Tramp, Holloway, Willingham, Dee, Otus, Roslof et al styles to the Caldwell, Elmore, Parkinson, Brom, Fields hyper exaggerated style with overly muscled heroes, large breasted women in chainmail bikinis, highly detailed and exaggerated backgrounds and weapons and armor, etc.  I do believe you are correct that this dates to the release of Dragonlance modules in 1984.  
 I guess then 3rd edition ushered in a distinct style in about 1999/2000.  I can see manga (Japanese) influences ina lot of the recent 3.0 and 3.50 stuff.  While still using the hyper realistic bronzed hero style, I think a lot of the Japanese sentiments slip through in the final look, at least IMO, with an overly exaggerated style.  If you look at the line of initial 3.0 gaming modules that came out in the early century (Forge of Fury, Standing Stone, etc) there also seems to be a recent trend towards the hyper realistic with more accurate looking characters (i.e. not all the chicks are swimsuit models, not all the guys are wearing loincloths with swords twice as long as their bodies).  I confess to also liking this style quite a bit, although for nostalgia's sake alone the early cartoony style is perhaps my all time favorite.  Interesting points you brought up.

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Post Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:41 pm 
 

At some point the TSR art director wanted a standardized look for the game art. I've seen some Elmore templates for Dragons and other races up for sale on Ebay. WOTC does the same thing. I think the TSR artwork was exceptional through the years.

  

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Post Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 5:45 pm 
 

I have a copy of Stormbringer 4th edition that has an Anime Elric in it.

   He looks a lot different than the Matthews or Whelan Elric.  Actually, I kind of like him.  Elric seems to work very well as an Anime character.  Still, the piece stands out in a book that is distinctly non-Anime.

   I have always like Erol Otus.  His bizarre and elongated characters look like D&D to me.  It reminds me of the old days of high school when I did not know what armor really looked like.  Otus is one of the best things about the Arduin books.

   My basic gamer bias is that "professional" is not necessarily the same thing as "better."  I think that fan art is ultimately more interesting than professional art because it always strikes me as having come from the heart.  A bias, as I said.

   Most of the player-character depictions in the 3.0 and 3.5 books look distinctly "feminist" to me.  I mean that there is an attempt to depict more realistic female (yet still attractive) characters while at the same time many of the male characters look quite effeminate...and the muscular guys look somewhat embarrassed to be so buff.  ("Uh, sorry about this.  I didn't mean to be so gender-specific.")

   This coincides with the bad PC decision to (rather self-consciously) intermix "he" and "she" pronouns in the text.  It often makes the rules hard to read because by standard convention "he" can mean anyone while "she" means a specific person.  (As Winston Churchill once said when his diction was corrected in public, "The male form embraces the female."   :lol: )

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Sun Jan 01, 2006 6:45 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:
 This coincides with the bad PC decision to (rather self-consciously) intermix "he" and "she" pronouns in the text. It often makes the rules hard to read because by standard convention "he" can mean anyone while "she" means a specific person. (As Winston Churchill once said when his diction was corrected in public, "The male form embraces the female."  :lol: )

Mark  8)



That's not just the dumbest decision WOTC ever made...it's in the top five of bad decisions EVER made in the last 30 years by any company producing an RPG.  I mean, it's always a good idea to make the game more PC for that gigantic female majority of gamers who probably garner a whopping 3 percent of the D&D market.  It's as if the NFL decided in order to appeal to the very, very tiny female segment of the audience that next year EVERY announcing duo will include one woman to balance out the gender bias.  I honestly have a difficult time thinking of a more idiotic marketing move in the history of RPGS.

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Post Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 12:40 am 
 

What frightens me more is the idea that they might have thought of it as "the proper thing to do."   8O


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Post Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 8:27 pm 
 

Badmike wrote:That's not just the dumbest decision WOTC ever made...it's in the top five of bad decisions EVER made in the last 30 years by any company producing an RPG.


I first saw it in White Wolf books.  They were heavy into using the femine in their books, and that was WELL before 3e.


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Post Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 8:51 pm 
 

MrFilthyIke wrote:
Badmike wrote:That's not just the dumbest decision WOTC ever made...it's in the top five of bad decisions EVER made in the last 30 years by any company producing an RPG.


I first saw it in White Wolf books. They were heavy into using the femine in their books, and that was WELL before 3e.


I don't blame WW as much...you could say it was a bit of a marketing decision on their part, as their female audience is actually quite large.  It might even be up to as much as 50%.  I'd say at least half the people I ran into in the day who played Vampire, Werewolf, etc were goth chicks. However, in the case of D&D, there is no excuse.  I don't even know where I read this, but about 10 years ago I saw a breakdown of who plays D&D by age, gender, education, etc.  I seem to remember the female was represented by a whopping 5 %.  It's always nice to skew your entire product to the minority 5% that is buying it.  Dumb.

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Post Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:14 pm 
 

I have to agree with the general idea of this thread.

1e had varied artists with varied styles, but they all seemed to capture 1e very well. I identify the game through that artwork...Otus, Sutherland, Truman, Willingham, etc.

Then came DragonLance...a crappy product wrapped in over the top artwork. I have said before how everyone in DL looks like hippies on steroids. I hate it.

The artwork and graphic style in the 2e core books sucks, too.

From what I have seen of 3e, I'll have to say I like some of it. But still it does not seem to be what I relate to.

Some would say I have no taste or do not have an eye for "art." Oh well.


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Post Posted: Mon Jan 02, 2006 11:13 pm 
 

Thanks for the interesting topic and your thoughts.  8)
I find the styles from grouping to grouping to be easy to spot as well. It has just as much to do with three things that I can think of...

1. This was pretty much the first attempt to illustrate fantasy gaming. Everything else at the time was 'one shot' deals for a cover of a novel and that was it.
Frank Frazetta is not fair to compare with. Even comparing him to other fantasy book cover artists is not really worthy. The guy is/was and will always be the master of fantasy.

2. Every stable of artists employed at TSR was relatively new to the fantasy illustration market when hired. I think this gave the new guys a chance to do something quite a bit different from anything else available at the time.

3. A stable of artists meant the group worked in close proximity to one another. I think the styles tend to blend a bit while working on similar projects within the same department.

Here is my chronology.....

OD&D: Pretty much looked like the game designers were struggling to put some of their thoughts into images. I find this stylization to be distinctively charming from that standpoint alone.

Early 1e: Heavily influenced by Sutherland, Tramp, and Erol. With DCS spanning from the OD&D days. This had to have been a fantastic time to be in the art department.

Later 1e: Very stylized attempt at realism. Not as adept at it as Vallejo, Frazetta, and Hildebrandts but definitely distictive effort. Mark makes a great point about the boobs and studs.

2e: New Dark hyper-realized imagery. Plenty of bad filler at this time as well within the books including the recycling of 1e artworks.

Dragon Mag (early): Very cool blend of one shot wonders and fantasy masters who did not illustrate anything else TSR. Also adorned with the regular stable of TSR artists. Some of this stuff is my very favorite stuff from TSR

Later Dragon/Dungeon: Mostly poorer quality blend of newer artists. A lot of neat stuff and a lot of forgettable stuff.


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Post Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 12:44 am 
 

I had forgotten the 2nd Edition AD&D artwork!

    My first impression of it was that TSR had made a conscious decision to portray older people in their arwork.  It was like they decided that their average gamer was older so the people should look older.

   However, my strongest impression of 2nd Edition is of the goddamned SILLY HAT FESTIVAL in the core rulebooks.   :x

   Beginning with knight on the cover who was wearing silly wings, the the idea seemed to be that imagination=silly hats.  As one turns the pages one finds ever more nutty helmet designs.

   Ladies and gentlemen!  Who can wear the most ridiculous hat?

   My favorite was the dwarven fighter who was essentially wearing an inverted bar stool on his head.

   I still wonder if the artists of the period had ever seen real armor.  Certainly, they considered horns or wings or a combination of horns, wings and (possibly) snow globes to be essential to fantasy character helmets.

   Go back and look and you will surely see what I mean.  I remember one dude whose hat of ludicrous evil included horns sticking out from a skull...complete with glowing eyes.  I think I considered him the champion.

    The same silly characteristics can be seen in the BIZARRE POSTURE of 3rd Edition characters.   Probably the best example is the half-orc barbarian, whose spine appears to curve backward in order to permit him to walk about like a crab.

Mark   :lol:


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Post Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 12:55 am 
 

As a part of this thread, I thought I would add that I think the artwork of the various Monster Manual publications to be the strongest and most valuable artwork in D&D.

   I am not talking about the breasts-with-no-nipples of the 1st Edition Monster Manual.  (Although those were very interesting.)

   I am talking about the very strong artwork depicting the forgotten central players in D&D...the monsters.  Throughout the game's history, easily the most interesting publications to read have been the monster descriptions.  

    Even the Fiend Folio had a few decent pictures in among the useless and repetive 1 or 2 hit dice dark-hide-choke-monsters...the warrior slashing at lizardmen with his great sword is a candidate for best AD&D picture.

    The monster depictions are probably the strongest artwork in 3rd Edition...even if they are very professional.

    (And, as a side note, the winner for Best Unintentionally Funny TSR product has to be the 3rd Edition Fiend Folio.  It is full of bizarre and overly powerful creatures with names apparently created at random using scrabble tiles....Fblarzm or Fumblathuthe or Baxazatsu or some similar things.)   :lol:

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Post Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2006 1:00 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:I had forgotten the 2nd Edition AD&D artwork!

  My first impression of it was that TSR had made a conscious decision to portray older people in their arwork. It was like they decided that their average gamer was older so the people should look older.

 However, my strongest impression of 2nd Edition is of the goddamned SILLY HAT FESTIVAL in the core rulebooks.  :x

 Beginning with knight on the cover who was wearing silly wings, the the idea seemed to be that imagination=silly hats. As one turns the pages one finds ever more nutty helmet designs.

 Ladies and gentlemen! Who can wear the most ridiculous hat?

 My favorite was the dwarven fighter who was essentially wearing an inverted bar stool on his head.

 I still wonder if the artists of the period had ever seen real armor. Certainly, they considered horns or wings or a combination of horns, wings and (possibly) snow globes to be essential to fantasy character helmets.

 Go back and look and you will surely see what I mean. I remember one dude whose hat of ludicrous evil included horns sticking out from a skull...complete with glowing eyes. I think I considered him the champion.

  The same silly characteristics can be seen in the BIZARRE POSTURE of 3rd Edition characters.  Probably the best example is the half-orc barbarian, whose spine appears to curve backward in order to permit him to walk about like a crab.

Mark  :lol:


I haven't laughed so hard in weeks...bravo!!!

But cmon Mark, man...have you checked out some of the lids Otus stuck on his heroes? Some of those helmets had everything including a kitchen sink on them!!!!
 And speaking of older people, maybe that was the influence of one Fred Fields, who I've heard from more than one source used his girlfriends for his subjects...and most were, to put it politely, "ladies of a certain age".  Check out the cover of Spellbound, the Simbul looks like my grandma.  Check out some of his other covers and especially some of his book covers.  One Elaine Cunningham was heard to bitch loud and long on her old AOL website about the cover of her drow series that portrayed the heroine as one of the ugliest, worst dressed and hair styled by an ex-navy man drow chicks EVER. Artist is one Fred Fields who rumor has it (via Elaine) that he used his fiancee as the model, and he didn't let us say "touch up"her looks at all.  Funny.

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Post Posted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 1:31 am 
 

I wondered about the Drow women.   :lol:


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