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D&D 5E Art in 5e...?


First Post
So the question is, what direction should art and the general look of 5e take? I realize that art is very subjective and what one person is looking for in art may not necessarily be what another person is looking for. Still, I am curious what the ENWorlders here are looking for when it comes to art in the next edition.

For me, the quintessential D&D art is something like Larry Elmore's style (although not necessarily the cheesecake 'chain mail bikini' costumes that were prevalent in some of the art of the era). The picture that exemplifies the D&D experience for me is : DRAGON_S.jpg

The painting that appears in the second edition PHB shows a fairly "realistic" style and invokes the scene of an adventuring party after a fierce battle. I remember flipping through the PHB back in the day and seeing the image and thinking about what the party had just been through in their fight with the dragon.

On the other hand, art that I don't care too much for is this image from the 3e PHD:

The art is fairly well done, but it seems way too "dungeon-punk" for my liking. I know that D&D has never been a realistic simulation of the middle ages, but with the spikes, the leather, the tattoos, and the redundant buckles, it looks like Hennet is trying a little too hard to look bad@$$. The image seems more like something that you would find in a 90s 'anti-hero' comic book than a fantasy rpg. Moreover, there's no background in the image to give a sense of story. The image just consists of Hennet trying to do a 'cool' pose.

Anyway, I know art is subjective, so I'm interested in what types of styles that you want to see in D&D 5e.

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Hobbit on Quest
Personally, I can understand why an art designer may want something of a unified look and style to the game's rulebook, but I think I prefer a variety of styles and looks to the art of the main rulebooks for an RPG that is intended to have a broad appeal. Catch a little bit of everyone's fancy, so to speak, open up the imagined uses the game could be put to. At the very least, if a unified style is deemed necessary, the content should go as wide as possible to serve that same purpose. Dungeon adventuring, wilderness adventure, planar adventuring, hanging out in the bar, trying to pilfer the merchant's purse, interacting at court, dealing with traps, dealing with monsters, and dealing with humorous situations.

For the most part, I'm not too bothered - I'm sure whatever they come up with will be fine.

The one thing I don't want to see is a repeat of the 3e or 4e styles (or, for that matter, 1st Ed, 2nd Ed, or any other edition). Give us something new!

Although... actually, there is one other thing I would prefer not to see: too much of modern fantasy art is, IMO, too "clean". That is, the characters have these weapons and armour that are cool, and epic, and whatever other adjective you choose... but which have pretty clearly never been used. One thing I really like about the Star Wars original trilogy (also the LotR films, and Firefly, and the BSG remake) was the "used universe" aesthetic - things were old, and dirty, and beat-up. I want characters who have been through a few adventures, using equipment that has been through a few adventures!


First Post
i just really hope to see lots of art depicting actual adventures. i'm another one of the people who's come to despise the hero-portrait most dnd art pieces copy and paste.

give me pictures of a party lost out in the jungle, getting pelted by stones thrown by the monkey men in the trees. the art should really convey the best elements of the game, and the best way to do that is to illustrate the types of stories and situations that stick in a gaming group's heads.


Steeliest of the dragons
I don't hold too much against the art...anymore. The art of the red box BECM and the modules of 1e's era are my bread and butter. They inspired...well, just so much of what was the "D&D experience" for me in my formative RPGer years.

I'll echo what was said by @billd91 . It is understandable for an art director to say they want a unified look...perhaps moreso in this edition than any other as they've made it crystalline clear that "D&D the Brand" (rpg, computer games, phone aps, phone games, cartoon [gods willing!], movies, toys, etc. etc. etc.) outweighs "D&D the table top RPG."

I understand it. That said, I think the diversity of styles in the older edition books was MUCH more representative of what D&D was supposed to be...that is, whatever fantasy world/style you want it to be. I was always partial to Elmore's work above and beyond all of the others. Jeff Dee takes a lot of flack for his "comic book/cartoon" style, but to me, this was preCISEly how I wanted to envision my characters! Willingham, of course, was a genius. Roslof and Holloway...these were the masters of my imagination at 10-15 y.o.

Easley's brushy-wispy look and way too huge dragons never suited me well. But his halfling/elf pic in the Basic red box player's book was essential. Truman was a master of inks and brushed ink. Parkinson's harsh brushstrokes and thick layered paint weren't my bag either, but there are some of his images (mostly from Dragonlance, iirc) were fantastically evocative. And, while I was never on the shrooms/acid/LSD that obviously inspired much of Otis' work, it cannot be denied that his "trippy/drippy" style/images were both inspiring and apropos for the time.

D&D is only strengthened, as a TTRPG AND a Brand, by having various visions portray (generally) the same things.

So, in answer to the question, "What do I want to see in 5e's D&D art?" All of the below. Not the same people, per se, obviously. But the diversity.

0_aleena2.jpg0_baltronsbeacon.jpg0_DMC2-The-Ghost-Tower-of-Inverness-Crop.jpg0_DMS2-White-Plume-Mountain-Crop.jpg0_Dragons of Hope - Keith Parkinson.jpg0_elfshaman.JPG0e_elf2.jpg0_garl-1.jpg0e_elfMelf.jpg0e_halflings.jpgDrow00.jpgillusionist_by_jeffdee-d58q2vk.jpg

{EDIT} AND, just to add, the more black and white/line art/inks images (obviously would be for the interior moreso than covers and such), the better. Leaves the imagination open to interpreting things as you want them. [/EDIT]

[EDIT 2] AND the more "action shots" the better. Even if it's just like the Elmore (elf/halfling/dwarf) or Dee (human talking to halflings) images insinuating something is "going on/happening" in them. The stand alone "hero of a thousand buckles" of more recent editions do nothing for me.[/EDIT 2]
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the Jester

I'll tell you what I really, really don't want: gigantic, impossible-to-wield weapons. Covers that all look like mud and are hard to tell apart at a glance. An all-white cast to pcs in D&D. A bunch of "just standing around" pics.

Give us more battle scenes, scenes of pcs exploring, stuff that integrates the art into the background! The "we just killed a baby dragon!" party scene is great. Emirikol the Chaotic is great. A Paladin in Hell is great. The scene of a party looking out into the dark of the Shadowfell is great. The pic of the party fighting off canoloths is great.

Mialee standing against a blank background? Meh. Random dude posing with a sword? Meh. A monster with nothing against which I can gauge its size in the picture? Meh.


First Post
In defense of 3e, not all the art is as aesthetically inappropriate as that Hennet pic. There are good pieces and bad pieces. However, to me, both 4e, and to a somewhat lesser extent PF, both have taken turns for the worse in their art.

I agree with a lot of the points above; oversized weapons bad, realism good. I also just think that the art ought to connect better to the text that it's next to, in terms of tone and content.


Chaotic Looseleaf
I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Komarck covers, Lockwood line art, and Elmore color plates.

...I'm fine if Hennet stays home; he's always been a fashion travesty.


Like I have said before, I like my RPG products to have art but I am not all that picky about the art itself.

Art is just way down the priority list for me.

I hope they stay away from the cartoony or manga-ish style that so many games feature these days. That was the first negative thing (of many) that I spotted when the old World of Darkness was abandoned and the nWoD came out.


First Post
pickin_grinnin said:
I hope they stay away from the cartoony or manga-ish style that so many games feature these days. That was the first negative thing (of many) that I spotted when the old World of Darkness was abandoned and the nWoD came out.

Admittedly, that is one thing that I never liked about Pathfinder. The art in all the books is very much 'comic book' style with everything really over the top. I guess some people like it, but I never cared for it.


I am not a fan of static pictures of stiffly arranged figures. I really did not like the cover of the 4th ed players handbook for that reason. I really like art that portrays action, echoes the past of D&D but has some of the more modern gaming sensibilities. To this end I really like this picture



Steeliest of the dragons
I really like art that portrays action, echoes the past of D&D but has some of the more modern gaming sensibilities. To this end I really like this picture

:View attachment 61587
I'm not sure what this means...What are the "more modern gaming sensibilities" in this image that you like...and think are "modern gaming sensibilities"?

I'm convinced that if that art had been on the cover of the 4e Player's Handbook, the game would have sold better.

I don't know...the "unicorn green dragon/what IS that tumor on it's snout?!" doesn't seem like quite the BEST cover image. But, perhaps, reasonably better than what was used.


First Post
I joined the site just to respond to this forum. I personally love Jeff Easley's old school style. Over the top and heroic, yet still grounded in the Clark Ashton Smith-style pulp fiction that D&D is based on. I'd like to see more of that type of look in 5th edition, though I doubt they'll do that. Also, I'm a huge fan of Tony DiTerlizzi from the Planescape days. More of that weirdness would always be welcome.
Great red dragon.jpg


I'm not sure what this means...What are the "more modern gaming sensibilities" in this image that you like...and think are "modern gaming sensibilities"?.

Good point. The picture doesnt have really have what I was thinking of with respect to more modern gaming stuff like non- Tolkein races, obvious magical effects, oversized weapons, armour etc. It is really just a more recent reiteration of the picture on the classic Moldvay basic set.