256 Art in Role-Playing Games

Episode 256

Thoughts on the show?

What is your favorite rpg artist?
What is your favorite piece of rpg art?

Favorite piece of art… how can you guys forget the D&D 2e invisible stalker. Go look, I’ll wait…

Now that that’s out of the way, I don’t know that I can think of one single artist that stood out, but a lot of the AD&D at shaped my early gaming. Just setting the mood of dark and dangerous. I already enjoyed the HackMaster 4e class splat books which set side-by-side make one continuous scene and their hacklopedias, where vol 1 is a full party fighting monster early in the alphabet, characters continuously dying through the alphabet, and ending with the hireling running from a zombified party.


No need to look that one up. It’s simply a perfect entry in the Monster Manual. (And it’s still the best MM they have ever put to print.)

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Thanks to this episode, I want to spend some quality time with my copy of Art & Arcana.

It’s not a gamebook, but one artbook I actually used at the table was Star Wars Propaganda. It’s a book filled with political posters from “in universe,” across multiple eras.


Honestly, artwork isn’t that big a deal for me. I don’t mind occasional chapter break artwork or useful art (race and class depictions, etc.), but I don’t like it taking over the book to the point that it interferes with reading the rules. I’ve never bought a book because it had nice art.

I think art is important to convey the feeling the authors want for the book. It doesn’t need to be overdone, though.

One artist I enjoy: Ed Beard Jr. - http://www.edbeardjr.com/

I’d like to start a thread branch about ART in OUR games. Specifically, what really gets me excited is when I see art from my players (direct or otherwise) infused into our game, table, or even culture.

Brett mentioned artwork on his wall of the death of a PC in Avalon (share that in this thread, @Fafhrd?) In this case what matters most is not who created it, but its impact on the observers.

Here’s some examples of custom art from my players/game…


And even fan art plays a role:

Anyway - I’d love to see art from other peoples campaigns/groups…

So much feels.


Holy smokes! That is great stuff.

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Wow, that’s some impressive custom art!

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Do maps count as art? I like to think so.

Some of my favorite maps are Doug Kovacs’ DCC maps, Cecil Howe’s maps for Shadow of the Demon Lord (as well as his awesome hand drawn stencils for Hex Kit), and Glynn Seal’s maps for The Midderlands.

Aside from that, art definitely helps convey the vibe of a game or setting, as well as simply making the books more fun to read. I really enjoy the art in many OSR campaigns, such as Hot Springs Island.


My friend Jeremy is doing the art for the module that we’re working on. He can do photo realistic stuff, but this is his typical style. I like it when he does creepy stuff like this. https://www.instagram.com/p/B1ro0Danc4F/?igshid=1hzg5gz9b4elv

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Liked here, Liked There.

By far my favorite RPG artist is Larry Elmore. Have an original line art drawing as well as prints galore. Dragonlance was very formative for me growing up and Larry made that vision and world real. Having met him several times and visited his studio with my son, Drake, I can say that he is a gentlemen and a true mench. Thanks for the memories, Larry, and keep on painting!

My favorite piece of art in an ROG is the Death of Sturm. Wow, the emotions captured in that piece … move me. Even all these years later.

“For a moment the sun-drenched sky was empty, then the dragon burst up over the edge of the wall, its horrifying scream splitting Sturm’s eardrums, filling his head with pain. The breath from its gaping mouth gagged him. He staggered dizzily but managed to keep his feet as he slashed out with his sword. The ancient blade struck the dragon’s left nostril. Black blood spurted into the air. The dragon roared in fury.
But the blow was costly. Sturm had no time to recover.
The Dragon highlord raised his spear, its tip flaming in the sun. Leaning down, he thrust it deep, piercing armor, flesh, and bone.
Sturm’s sun shattered.”


its funny when we went from AD&D to Shadowrun 2e, we played it in the same way, no retreats, no backup plan and the recon/scouting became the main assault.

but the art may have been part of the problem since much of it was done by Elmore :stuck_out_tongue:

Don’t get me wrong, Elmore’s art is great.

If I had to pin down a favourite book for art it would be Vampire the Masquerade 2e, every piece of art fit with the game fluff and layout. Freekin work of art.

I think the book with the best art from back in the day was the fiend folio. Yes it had some horrible pieces ( lava children!!!) but the art for the githyanki, crypt thing,dark creepers, the action pieces with the githyanki and githzerai- the Grell attack! The Kenku art made me a fan of those creatures and the fight with the revenant- best undead fight scene I can think of. My guess is most of the above are Russ Nichols.
Great topic this week!

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I love Easley and Elmore’s art both for the art and the nostalgia!

I love Doug Kovacs’ art for DCC, particularly his colour pieces where there’s a strong colour theme - the Purple Planet cover/Judges screen for example.

I think a consistent art style to suit a game is important. I love William Mcausland’s art in the Whitebox Medieval Adventurers game (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/190631/White-Box--Fantastic-Medieval-Adventure-Game) He’s the only artist in the book and the layout/artwork really helps make the game in my opinion.


I will echo what many of you have said about Larry Elmore and Keith Parkinson. Their art definitely got me hooked back when I was just discovering RPG’s.

My favorite artist working in RPG’s today would have to be Dennis Detwiller. His work in the Delta Green books sets the perfect tone of dread and paranoia that I try to convey to my players. He’s also the sole artist in the Delta Green rulebooks which gives them a real consistent, cohesive style.


Maps should defintely count digitalhobbit!
The original castle ravenloft 3d map - and the maps from DL1 with the sunken city were both very inspiring.

I remember that Ravenloft map specifically leading to me describing Strahd taunting and attacking the PC’s with spells from the upper ramparts while they were in a courtyard - without that 3d view & mindset I would never have had an encounter span multiple levels of a site.

Very cool stuff.



Sadly, the art can make or break an RPG, regardless of the rules content. Certain flavours of Traveller (the original Little Black Books and Mongoose 1st ed notably) are rather austere, keeping their followings still somewhat niche. Even questionable art can cloud a good game - Mongoose 2nd ed has great overall art… and then their weapon art slaps you in the face, along with a good half of the vehicle art. First impressions are important in marketing.

As for favourite old school art, always loved anything Willingham and Dee did for fantasy; Deitrick, Chung, Caswell are my go-to for sci-fi art. Particular appreciation to William H. Keith Jr, who defined the look of Traveller when art started creeping into books - his designs are still used in all modern incarnations of the game. Finally, tip of the hat to various modern 3D designers, bringing a crisp new look to the old designs, particularly (but not limited to) Ted Lindsey, Jesse DeGraff, Ian Stead, Bradley Warnes, and Michael Johnson.

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As a former art student I have a lot of opinions on this topic. I’m a big fan of old school black and white rpg art. I would say Erol Otus is probably my favorite of the old school stuff especially the Cthulhu stuff. One other part of art I think is important in rpgs is Design. I’m always very focused on typography choices and layout in books.

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