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Art and Gaming

One of the things I enjoy most about seeing an article or book in print is seeing how the artists have interpreted the text. So, I was by turns delighted and disappointed by the art in Dungeon 129, which contains "A Gathering of Winds", an installment of the Age of Worms adventure path. The adventure paths are linked adventures that take a plot from 1st level characters to epic heroes. The previous path, called The Shackled City, was successful enough to be reprinted as a deluxe hardcover (Paizo) with lots of extra goodies.

My installment was written to a Paizo outline: the kidnapped wizard hook, the attack by the black dragon, to be followed by a Mud-Sorceror's-Tomb-style 1E dungeon crawl. No problem: that's the premise of many a fine adventure. I chose my monsters, designed my traps, and generally wrote a challenging adventure in the old style. If the playtest reports (posted to the Paizo messageboards by ASEO) are any indication, it's plenty lethal.

Right, back to the art. The puking dragon on the cover doesn't really work for me. The style is sort of a poor man's Elmore, the palette is slanted toward muddy greens and yellows, and the composition reminds me too much of the Basic D&D red box. Yes, there's a half-naked priestess, but the whole thing seems disjointed. There's just no way to make a vomiting dragon … scary. And dragons should be terrifying. They should be gigantic freakin' dinosaurs with flamethrowers. I know art doesn't always work out as expected, but this piece kind of smacks of "slap a dragon on the cover for sales." Bummer.

And yes, I know black dragons are *supposed* to spit acid. In my mind's eye, though, an acid-spitter would look different. The effect would be more like the concentrated acids I used to work with in fume hoods in chemistry labs: a fuming clear liquid that dissolves flesh. This ain't that.

But there's good news. The full-page lead-off illustration for the adventure is a GREAT painting. It's dark and the composition is strong and mysterious. It's got everything that the cover doesn't: a sense of story, a really neat magical effect in the flying knives, and characters that don't look like they stepped out of the D&D movie sequel. The interior painting invites you to imagine fantasy beyond the clichés. I'd say it would make a better cover, but most likely, it lacks space for the type treatment and logo at the top.

I'm sensing an icon in its future, though.



( 9 sutras — Your wisdom )
Nov. 2nd, 2005 12:17 am (UTC)
i may be misinterpreting here, but
i think there's a place for a puking dragon icon too. in fact, i'll use it if you don't. it's a symbol of rejection/disapproval if ever i saw one.
Nov. 2nd, 2005 12:52 am (UTC)
Re: i may be misinterpreting here, but
Genius! It is a wonderful rejection icon. Hmmmmm.
Nov. 2nd, 2005 01:20 am (UTC)
I think the dragon looks cool enough; it's just that the acid is kinda neutered. it's the color of pea soup, which is never scary, and it's just kinda bouncing off of dude's shield.

There's nothing wrong with that picture that a little seared flesh couldn't solve. How about a steaming, denuded skeleton lying face-down in the puddle? It would be, like "warm pea soup shower my ASS! that crap melted that dude's flesh off!"
Nov. 2nd, 2005 01:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, acid should be flesh-searingly nasty, and this isn't. I remember two older covers that kind of did it right. Issue 43 had a dead-on, brain-meltingly good dragon:

Issue 34 did the scary skeleton really well.

Nov. 2nd, 2005 01:46 am (UTC)
I liked the looks of the woman charging the dragon. Course, her outfit's about as practical as vomit breath dragons. I can see a tiny, animated gif of a puking dragon though. That would be fun.

(Now I need to go open Dungeon if there's a Wolf Baur adventure. I saw it in the mail pile, but I haven't had a ton of free time.)
Nov. 2nd, 2005 06:54 am (UTC)
I've always wondered: what tools do you use to make an animated GIF?
Nov. 2nd, 2005 05:57 pm (UTC)
I don't know. Doesn't it sound like a candidate for a Spelljammer monster? A gif?

I saw the original cover last night. After looking at it, I wonder if he had the whole thing done, then added in the acid blast. The head's in the wrong pose. It's quite decent but for the barf. ;)
Nov. 2nd, 2005 04:15 am (UTC)
Heh... one of the things about them black dragons is it's tough to make their breath weapons look cool. Green is the official WotC color, but damn if that doesn't make it tough to make the dragon look like it's not puking. Of course... not many other colors work much better... Red looks like blood, blue looks like water, yellow looks like... well, you get the idea.

And there was indeed a fair amount of "slap a dragon on the cover to increase sales," but you should also know that "slap Wolf's name on the cover" also increases sales, so that's kinda cool, right? :-)

Yeah... probably should'a shown that poor paladin getting melted by the acid. He gets beat up pretty much in every illo we do anyway.
Nov. 2nd, 2005 06:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, the black dragon needs a makeover. I admit, I do like the issues with dragons on the cover, but I think I'm getting "dragon jaded." I've just seen a lot of them, and Elmore dragons and Lockwood dragons set a pretty high bar.

And I gotta say: Awwww, that poor paladin. Maybe he should get to strike a pose over a fallen foe sometime, just for a change of pace. Nah. :)

Yes, having my name on a cover violator was pretty cool. Makes me want to run out and query a 1st or 2nd level adventure, even though those are a real bitch to design in any sort of interesting way.
( 9 sutras — Your wisdom )

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