#RPGaDAY Day 12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?
  • #RPGaDAY Day 12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

    It’s August and that means that the annual #RPGaDAY ‘question a day’ is here to celebrate “everything cool, memorable and amazing about our hobby.” This year we’ve decided to join in the fun and will be canvassing answers from the ENWorld crew, columnists and friends in the industry to bring you some of our answers. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too… So, without further ado, here’s Day 12 of #RPGaDAY 2017!

    #RPGaDAY Question 12: Which RPG has the most inspiring interior art?

    Angus Abranson: There’s a lot of fantastic art in RPGs these days so it’s very hard to choose one (it’d be hard to select my favourite dozen let alone one!!!). I’m going to opt for the fantastic Shadows of Esteren though. I picked up a copy when it first came out in France at a show in Paris and was instantly stuck by the interior artwork and have been so pleased to see the game do so well in its English edition – picking up a fair share of ENnies on its way! One game I’m looking forward to seeing, that hasn’t been released yet, which I think will have fantastic artwork in is the Trudvang Chronicles RPG from RiotMInds, so keep an eye out for that one.

    Christopher Helton: I'm going to go old school and say the Realm of Chaos books for Warhammer. The Lost and Damned and Slaves to Darkness have some of the best art for getting you into the Warhammer setting of any book ever published for it. I wish they would reprint those books. The Warhammer 40K books put out by Fantasy Flight Games really pull you into the setting, too

    Morrus: My choice is an odd one, and I suspect I'll be alone in this, because it's not full-colour gorgeous art. It's the Ship Recognition Manuals from FASA's Star Trek. There was something about thumbing through those pages, and the technical black and white diagrams of the ships which just kinda worked in the context of the book as a sort of "technical manual" that dynamic full-colour art wouldn't have suited. To this day, I still thumb through those books.

    Michael J Tresca: Just about anything Planescape for AD&D!

    Darryl Mott: The art in the original Vampire: The Masquerade books had this unity of style even across various techniques that managed to evoke the feel of the dark urban fantasy world the games worked to build. Many game books in the 80s and 90s would grab whatever art happened to fit the description, but the attention to detail in those early World of Darkness books in making sure that all the different artists' art styles still fed into that same stylistic vision was a huge part of the game's appeal for many.

    Steven S. Long (Hero Games, Last Unicorn Games): Shadowrun. I've always loved the art for this game, especially the first two editions. At its best it's compelling and inspirational, and even at its worst it still conveys the setting's flavor well.

    Dennis Detwiller (Creator of Delta Green, Arc Dream Publishing): The original D&D Basic Red Box. The consistency of the art (by Larry Elmore) and the stories the pieces tell are magnificent. The style, execution and clarity have not been matched yet, in my opinion.

    Bruce Heard (Dungeons & Dragons; Calidar): D&D Gazetteers' Stephen Fabian internal art & Clyde Caldwell cover art.

    Ian Sturrock (RPG writer and game design lecturer?): For me, it’s Symbaroum from Jarnringen. The game is very much a dark fantasy and all of the artwork portrays this well. The style is sketchy with deep colors which gives off a sense of foreboding.

    Stephanie McAlea (Stygian Fox Publishing, The Things We Leave Behind): The One Ring or Call of Cthulhu 7e.

    Ken Spencer (Rocket Age; Why Not Games): I have been most moved to play a game by the art in Star Trek Adventures. Reading the pdf on a tablet feels like, looks like, and if only the panels were hyperlinks, would be like a Next Generation datapad. The rest of the art is top notch and catches the feel of the shows, especially the exploration and discovery aspects.

    Andrew Peregrine (Doctor Who, Victoriana, Cabal): Games are just gorgeous these days, and that’s set the bar outrageously high for production values. Skyrealms of Jorune has always been a favourite of mine for interior art. But I’d really have to pick The One Ring (and not just because I work for Cubicle 7!). Jon Hodgson was simply born to draw for this world quite frankly, and the team he assembled are phenomenal. I love the work in this not just because its good but it is also an object lesson in art direction. You could easily believe it is all one artist, as the mixture of styles and organisation of each piece is seamless. I’ve never really been a Tolkein fan, but on seeing the world through the eyes of this book, I finally got what all the fuss was about.

    Charlie Etheridge-Nunn (RPG Reviewer; Who Dares Rolls): Dead of Night Second Edition has some fantastic art, which was even given away as postcards at conventions. First edition’s art was cute but pretty rough. Still, I enjoyed the hell out of the games I played and ran. DoN Second Edition was not playing around. From the evocative cover (especially as the game I played once and ran a bunch of times was a werewolf-based one). The game was fairly simple, so as well as the system, there were essays on horror and tons of plot hooks. The main interior art panels were fictional horror film posters, each one nicely evocative and with plot seeds within the book. As I said, there were postcards handed out at conventions. It must have been Dragonmeet where I picked up my copy from the author, Andrew Kenrick, who’d GM’d for me a few times there. I thought the postcards were just tangentally-related fluff, but ended up using them in some of the games I ran.

    Mike Lafferty (BAMF Podcast; Fainting Goat Games): I don’t play Pathfinder – but the art in those books is simply amazing.

    Simon Brake (Stygian Fox): My first encounter with the Cthulhu Mythos was with the 3rd edition of the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Amongst the artwork inside were some full page full colour plates (most of the pictures were black and white) – in particular the picture of a ghoul, by Les Edwards, was something to rival what Lovecraft’s character Pickman must’ve been painting. Those pictures were the first indication that this was a game of truly terrifying horror. Cthulhu art nowadays is pretty much common place but, at the time, it really grabbed my attention. If I were to pick a modern day game I’d have to say I love the photo manipulated art from the latest edition of Unknown Armies. It helps set the game is a version of our real world, and stands out amongst the illustrative nature of the art in many contemporary horror games.

    Marc Langworthy (Modiphius; Red Scar): Again, this is a difficult choice. I’ll stick with Symbaroum though.

    Darren Pearce (EN Publishing; Savage Mojo): This is a grand question, one that’s got a lot of answers. I’d have to say The One Ring, because that art nails Middle Earth and it’s also inspiring. 7th Sea 2 comes in next, because that book has inspiring and diverse art.

    Federico Sohns (Nibiru RPG): The Swedes are usually pumping out great stuff with regards to art; look at games like Symbaroum and Tales from the Loop—these are people that really got how important art is to evoke a game's setting! With that said, I do have certain favourites, particularly the work of Michael Koch in the New World of Darkness line. I've got to say, then, that sourcebooks like Night Horrors: The Wicked Dead & Night Horrors: Immortal Sinners have the best art I've seen (in my opinion).

    Uli Lindner (Space: 1889; Clockwork Publishing): I really love the interior artwork from Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars line. Truly wonderful artwork (and layout)!

    Originally created by Dave Chapman (Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space; Conspiracy X) #RPGaDAY os now being caretakered by the crew over at RPGBrigade. We hope you’ll join in, in the comments section, and share your thoughts with us too!
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. TrippyHippy's Avatar
      TrippyHippy -
      The actual text was very plain, but the colour plates that were inserted into the Stormbringer game (the GW one) inspired me to this day. When Vampire: The Masquerade originally came out there was nothing quite like it on the shelves at all.

      Oh, yes and the clean white layout with interior art in Kult 2nd edition was....disturbing. Nobilis 2nd edition sort of did a similar design with an enormous square book, but I always felt they kinda lifted the broader design and themes from the Kult 2nd edition.

      I'd make a special mention of the completely hand written and drawn interior of HoL: Human Occupied Landfill and Andy Hopp's Low Life.

      Nowadays there are lots of flashy, full colour books though. The new Call of Cthulhu books are hard to beat though. I'd note how many of these arty books are dark fantasy or horror genres.
    1. Venley's Avatar
      Venley -
      L5R 4th ed. The advantage of having so much card art to choose from. Very evocative.
    1. BiblioTek's Avatar
      BiblioTek -
      AD&D2e's Al Qadim Arabian Adventures sourcebooks had the most amazing art - they were so evocative of the "cinematic" Arabia that the writers were going for. I never had to struggle to imagine the places my characters would go or how they looked. Even the chapter intro sidebar pictures were elegantly detailed - there's a picture of a halfling barber tending to an ogre customer's feet, and even though you might not notice it at first, you realize that the halfling is wearing a clip on his nose!
    1. Madmaxneo -
      I agree with Angus Abranson on The Shadows of Esteren. The art design in these books is simply amazing. The artists they have on hand are excellent artists as proven by the 2016 Golden Ennie for their cartography. In fact I'd say the entire system is well crafted and in itself an art form.

      A secondary mention is Dreamchaser. The art in this book is very colorful and extremely well done. This book will be my pick for the best new rpg of the next year (it came out to late to be considered for this years entry).
    1. Brodie's Avatar
      Brodie -
      ‘Most inspiring interior art’? In terms of inspiring for the game? I’d say Shadow of the Demon Lord (surprise!) and Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition.
    1. Arilyn's Avatar
      Arilyn -
      I'm going with Mouseguard. You can't beat having the creator of the series doing the art for the rpg. Also love art from The One Ring. And of course, Legend of the Five Rings, 4th ed. is gorgeous, as Brodie mentioned.
    1. Lord Mhoram's Avatar
      Lord Mhoram -
      Pathfinder is one. Starfinder - where they don't have a generic "Fantasy" background to fall one- has great art showing the world and what it is.
      I didn't like Planescape as a setting at all, but the art really did a great job of letting you know what it was all about.
      Spelljammer is another one where the art really let you know what was going on.
    1. Yaztromo's Avatar
      Yaztromo -
      I understand very much Bruce Heard's point as Mystara Gazetteers inspired me for years, but I think that Numenera is now clearly the best under this point of view.
    1. Evenglare's Avatar
      Evenglare -
      Eoris and Numenera easily... Legend of the 5 Rings 4th edition also...
    1. Twiggly the Gnome's Avatar
      Twiggly the Gnome -
      Name: bbade91bc5d4d8eb024dec3e466ffe31b1face4da49d50658e  20147e8f5c5d1b.jpeg ► Views: 229 ► Size: 101.9 KB

      The art for the Underground rpg perfectly evoked the games razor edge balance of the grim-dark and the absurd.
    1. fantasmamore's Avatar
      fantasmamore -
      I love the One Ring, not only for it's illustrations but for the overall feeling - its' books seam like artifacts but in the same time they are so easy to read, a difficult combination. I also like the 5e books (seams strange that no one mentioned them) but only the interior pages - for some reason I'm not thrilled about the covers.
      But none of them goes even close to the old modules with the b/w illustrations and the effect they had on my imagination. Maybe because at the time the fantasy genre was not so saturated (there were no computer games that I knew of and I can remember only Conan and Slaine as comic books with that type of illustrations - in my country at least), or just because this is where I first saw many of the iconic monsters - I love the b/w feeling!
      Then again, at the time I was thirsty for fantasy art -I spent hours looking at the artwork and daydreaming how the story would unfold the next second - today I'm bombarded with the works of incredibly talented illustrators from all over the world, my standards are different, and not many pieces manage to stand out...
      P.S. Thank you so much Larry Elmore
    1. rknop's Avatar
      rknop -
      I agree that the Starfinder art is very evocative.

      I also like the Planescape call out above. Di Terlizzi's style fit very well with the feel of the Planescape setting, and helped give the setting its own distinctive flavor.
    1. Jhaelen -
      The FFG Star Wars (core rules) books are full of great art. Definitely sweetens the deal and made me feel less bad about basically buying the same book three times.
    Comments Leave Comment