Monday, September 7, 2009

Best Art of the OSR?

I'll be updating/putting together a new version of my old Artwork post, hopefully before the end of the month. That will cover the artists of the first couple generations of gaming...

But what about this generation?

Which pieces of art appearing in D&D(ish) releases since 2006 (when the clones started to appear... OK, you can pick Castles & Crusades or Hackmaster stuff prior to 06 if you must) are particularly impressive?

To be specific, I'm not asking you to name artists that appeal to you in general. I'm asking you to name specific pieces of art that stand out, and why you think they are remarkable.

So what are they?


  1. Limiting myself to stuff that's blatantly OSR, I'll start with the cover to Carcosa: simple, striking, and immediately recognizeable for what it is.

    Next (and not in any particular order here), the Silver Knight on page 7 of Fight On! #4. It's striking, oozes cool, and puts ideas into the heads of players and GMs. In that same issue, the desert travelers on page 76 again put ideas into a DM's head (though the reproduction quality in the magazine is fairly poor).

    I'll also point to the stylized efreeti on page 34. Lovely artistic expression of the idea.

    In Fight On! #3, page 16, the back-to-back adventurers just feel like swashbuckling adventure to me. I love how much is conveyed with simple lines in that one. I also love the Spawning Grounds of the Crab-men map, which is both functional and fun to look at. The froggy guy on page 54 is fun too. I can't tell if I should run away or offer to let him join the party.

    In Fight On! #2, we have the wonderful, but slightly out-of-place winged girl on page 13. She really stands out in that crowd.

    Labyrinth Lord has some great art in it, like the characterful piece at the bottom of page 17 and the very atmospheric ambush-about-to-happen on page 43. The warrior clambering over a jumble of suspiciously dice-like rocks on page 127 also deserves mention

    Assuming the griffon on page 79 did come from somewhere else, my favorite bit of OSR art is the excellent magic-user casting a spell on page 103. That comes very close to summing up so much of what I enjoy about the game.

    Coming in a very, very close second (meaning ask me again in a week and they'll have switched places) is the White cover to Swords & Wizardry, for very similar reasons.

    Unfortunately, I've not sampled broadly of the OSR, so I can hardly call this a scientific sampling. These are just my favorites of what I've happened to stumble across so far.

    - Brian

  2. Three pieces by Pete Mullen I'm especially fond of:

  3. Mullen cover for Swords & Wizardry. It depicts a scene straight of dungeon exploration adventure. Use of color is excellent, the green glow really adds to feel of the situation.

  4. 1. My single favorite is Laura Jalo's drawing of the High Priest's Temple on p. 17 of Death Frost Doom. It is haunting and exquisite.

    2. My second favorite is Laura Jalo's cover art for Death Frost Doom. It is moody and evocative, serving the module very well indeed.

    3. My third favorite is Aino Purhonen's cube-monster with six mouthed tentacles in the Random Esoteric Creature Generator. Now THAT's my kind of monster!

  5. Trollsmyth, I drew that desert raiders picture, so thanks for the kind words. I made it a bit too dark for Lulu's printing, but there's a colour version here. The piece on p17 of Labyrinth Lord first appeared in the much-maligned Dragonlance: The Fifth Age, from the section on Afflicted Kender, as I recall; I've often wondered how it got into LL.

    Now I've talked about myself, I suppose I should make some suggestions of my own. I'll have a think.

  6. I didn't draw the Dragonlance/LL thing, by the way, as I sort of gave the impression I did!

  7. @kelvinggreen

    That was a stock art offering by Paul Daly through Ronin Arts if I recall correctly.

  8. If I had to choose something specifically from 2006 onwards, and directly related to a retroclone, I would have to say the S&W cover. I always prefer my D&D art to beg the question: and then what happened? For me, that piece captures it perfectly. Everyone in the picture is in action. What happens when the hobbit grabs the jewel? Does the skeleton come to life?

    If I was able to cast my net more widely, to consider any recent rules-light fantasy system, I would go for the cover of Dungeoneer: Tomb of the Lich Lord, published in 2003. Again, what happens to the Paladin? Does the magic lamp save him from the attacking undead?

  9. I'll agree with some of the previous posters and say that Pete Mullen's covers for S&W (both core and white box versions) are brilliant. I also love Mullen's covers for the S&W Monster Book and the first issue of Knockspell. His picture on the back cover for OSRIC is also great. In short, Mullen rocks!