Tuesday, February 22, 2011
AD&D - that Look!
For the most part, I can let the pictures here do the talking. Out of all the editions or variations of the game, AD&D seems, in my opinion at least, to have the most iconic art and feel of them all. When I think of D&D in terms of visuals, nothing comes to mind as quickly as the art of these books and modules, as well as the layout, font, and other elements. As much as an artist like Alan Lee can be said to have captured the essence of the Lord of the Rings, so too did Trampier, Sutherland, and Otus capture the essence of D&D. Environments are dark and forbidding. The characters depicted are thin, dirty, and leering, a far cry from the more commercial "heroic" depictions of later editions. No giant swords and spiky armor here, the weapons depicted are realistic, and all the more dangerous looking for it. Dragons are snaky and clever-looking, a far cry from the winged brontosauruses of later editions.
I may be making a completely wrong assumption here, but the art of 1E feels like it was created by artists who actually played the game and presented those experiences and atmosphere in paint and pencil, as opposed to artists who received strict "art direction" motivated by marketing and commercialized ideas of what fantasy is supposedly all about. Every so often, new product comes out that deliberately emulates that original style of art and layout, and there will inevitably be a few voices criticizing them as derivative and unoriginal. But to me, this is what "D&D looks like". I don't want my D&D to look like Warhammer, or Cyberpunk, or the Belgariad, or so on. My D&D is gritty, dark, greedy, weird, and scabrous. The oldest 1E pieces present that in artistic form better than anything else. Matter of fact, I think that very first image up there, the Trampier piece with the treasure chest, pretty much sums everything up nicely.