#RPGaDay 2017: Day 12

Today’s question for #RPGaDay is about interior art in an RPG product, and asks about its capacity to inspire. I come from a time when fonts were tiny, page counts were low, and art was sparse. Sometimes, turning a page and encountering a black and white image nestled in among the tight columns of text could have a huge impact and inspire a lot of mental activity.

Way back then, as now, my default mode for running a game was to prepare my own material. In my early days it was because that was the rules suggested and there were no other options. No game stores were near, and the book stores would not carry any D&D products until I had been gaming for years. Even if I had wanted to use modules I would not have been able to. Now, of course, I have had the opportunity to explore the hobby from a lot of different angles and simply prefer to prepare my own material. However, some packaged adventure scenarios turned out to be sources of inspiration which have lasted me for decades, and this #RPGaDay prompt is a good place to talk about the first of them.

If memory serves correctly, the first of very few AD&D modules that I was able to own was ‘A2 – Secrets of the Slavers’ Stockade’ by Harold Johnson and Tom Moldvay. Opening the cover, the reader is greeted with an image of Icar filling half the page. I stopped playing D&D as my sole game in 1988, and I stopped playing it completely not long after, but I have never forgotten that image, or the lessons about roleplaying games that it taught me. It made the strongest, and first impression, but other images worked their way into my gaming DNA, too.

In those days, though, I would pore over that module page by page – not only to keep it familiar so that I could run it at the drop of a hat, but because there were things in it which inspired me. Things like the NPC, Icar, the blind and tactically-interesting fighter. Eventually, the text became a blur and all I was looking at were the few pieces of art. The most memorable of these, and a high percentage of the total art in the piece, were Icar’s huge image on the inside cover, a majestic view down a staircase at a group of adventurers which revealed the immensity of the underground space they were exploring (between entries 12a and 12b), and the illustration of Markessa and her goblin guards leaping to the attack. I know that the image of Icar is the work of Jeff Dee, and the module cites Erol Otus, Jim Roslof, and Bill Wellingham as the interior artists. If I remember correctly, the cover art was by the very  influential Mr. Otus. I am not sure which of the other artists were responsible for the small number of interior illustrations. If anyone reading this knows, I would like to learn.

One thing that I find interesting is that looking back on the module now, the image that strikes me most has changed. Where as a teenager I could imagine endlessly off of the one image of Icar, now as a teenager with significantly more mileage, I find the look down the staircase to be a greater source of inspiration. I guess time does change us after all.

Each of these images taught me something, and inspired me to do more with my preparation and description. Today, I am going to share the details in the accompanying video – I lack the time to type it.

When I first put this question down, I was expecting that I would answer something along the lines of the FFG Star Wars or Warhammer Fantasy books, or perhaps the amazing art in Aces&Eights, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that those images serve me more as reinforcement of a the ideas of the game, rather than inspiring me to do something with those ideas. It is a slender distinction, but it was noticeable nonetheless. The more I thought about it, the more Icar and the Stockade in which I found him demanded an audience.

Here then is my answer, much to my own surprise. So far in my 30+ years of gaming, the most inspiring images for me looking back over those years, were small, black & white, and in the venerable tournament module, A2, which I ran only once, but read at least a thousand times.

How about you?

Question 13: Describe a game experience that changed how you play?



2 Responses to “#RPGaDay 2017: Day 12”
  1. Richard Own Woolsconcroft says:

    You’ve pretty much spoke it as it was. Can’t do anything more than nod and agree as I ponder the past…

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