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D&D General On different tones and aesthetics in D&D

MGibster

Legend
Most of the art has been just fine throughout the various editions. The art from 3rd edition didn't turn me off but it didn't exactly fill me with a sense of wonder either. The iconic wizard for 3rd edition was just ugly.

Iconic Wizard.JPG

Our iconic Rogue is wearing something that looks more comfortable in a modern or science fiction setting than a faux medieval setting.
Lidda.JPG
 

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I would add that the art in 4e, while consistent, didn't appeal to me. It seemed like every time I looked at the art, every character, no matter class, had something magical. Even a fighter just swooping in was surrounded by an aura of magic.

Don't get me wrong, it was great art and well done. But I wish the magic had been toned down a little.

Here are some examples:
Dwarf Bard 3.jpg
Elf Bard 35.jpg
Half-Orc Bard 3.jpg
 

Lakesidefantasy

Adventurer
When I started playing in the 80s I was very anti-Tolkein. My homebrew fantasy world didn't even have demihumans. I had elves and gnomes, but they would fit more comfortably in Santa Claus' workshop than in a tree city (they were so obsessed with shoes). Today I find myself defending the Tolkein aesthetic, even though I'd kill to find people who would like to play in a Howard-based setting.

But our hobby is like a snowball. Once something gets added it tends to stick, creating an ever growing mass of races, classes, subclasses, magic items, etc. etc. And, it will continue.

I have hope that the future of the game will give us the tools to modularize the aesthetics. Instead of pleasing everyone all the time, say something like, "Class options for Barovia are limited to Human and Elf."*

*This is a hypothetical, you don't need to argue with it.
 

Scribe

Hero
Do you have a preferred D&D aesthetic and game tone? If so, what is it? If not, do you mix and match in one game (ie one PC looks like She-Ra and another looks like Raistlin Majere) or does each campaign have its own aesthetic for you? Do you like the general tone of the official 5E aesthetic? Are there any 3rd parties or fans that have a strong visual identity you love?
Game tone, in a single line, 'A Player vs Evil vs World experience in a black-grey morality, where nature doesn't want them there'.

I can absolutely see the appeal in much of the modern presentation of the game with a more anime (I know its not anime get get on me folks) or cartoon like style. Essentially the Critical Roll intro.

What I like more however, is the subdued art style. A darker, more classical (imo) tone with a palette that matches it. I want the characters, and world, to be massive, but the palette to be more..simple? I dont know, I'm not trained in art to be able to communicate it well. :)

I like it when the world, the climate, nature take a very front and center role in how the setting functions, and that it is communicated in the art. Huge landscapes, gorgeous ocean and mountain vista's, lush forests, arid deserts, and dank swamps. The world itself should be a character in the setting.

I want there to be a very real distinction between the supposed civilized world, and the wild one, where the people do not attempt to tame nature, because when they try, its either through their own corruption, or eventually they are broken by nature itself, or those who would protect it.
 

Game tone, in a single line, 'A Player vs Evil vs World experience in a black-grey morality, where nature doesn't want them there'.

I can absolutely see the appeal in much of the modern presentation of the game with a more anime (I know its not anime get get on me folks) or cartoon like style. Essentially the Critical Roll intro.

What I like more however, is the subdued art style. A darker, more classical (imo) tone with a palette that matches it. I want the characters, and world, to be massive, but the palette to be more..simple? I dont know, I'm not trained in art to be able to communicate it well. :)

I like it when the world, the climate, nature take a very front and center role in how the setting functions, and that it is communicated in the art. Huge landscapes, gorgeous ocean and mountain vista's, lush forests, arid deserts, and dank swamps. The world itself should be a character in the setting.

I want there to be a very real distinction between the supposed civilized world, and the wild one, where the people do not attempt to tame nature, because when they try, its either through their own corruption, or eventually they are broken by nature itself, or those who would protect it.
Incidentally, the setting-as-character thing is seen as a defining trait of the Western (ie cowboys) genre.

The genre also went through a massive and interesting shift between the 70's and 90's when it was realized that Native Americans are people, too. since that broke the old mythic structure. The classic Western was very black-and-white in its morality and had a distinct mythic structure: man (always male) goes out into the Wilds, and seeks to tame the Wilds. The wilds can be nature itself, or the rude copies of civilization that have been built out there. He does tame it a bit, making way for purer civilization, but is changed in the process to something not fully civilized himself.

While modern Westerns are characterized by moral ambiguity and confusion and questions about the costs and value of "civilization". The Wilds no longer include the NA - they are now other people sharing the space with a different perspective. But the Wilds remain, an ally and enemy and ever-present reminder of how tiny your place in the universe really is.

(And nothing makes you feel so small as the desert sky on a clear night...)

DnD is good for both kinds of Westerns, incidentally.
 

Scribe

Hero
Incidentally, the setting-as-character thing is seen as a defining trait of the Western (ie cowboys) genre.

The genre also went through a massive and interesting shift between the 70's and 90's when it was realized that Native Americans are people, too. since that broke the old mythic structure. The classic Western was very black-and-white in its morality and had a distinct mythic structure: man (always male) goes out into the Wilds, and seeks to tame the Wilds. The wilds can be nature itself, or the rude copies of civilization that have been built out there. He does tame it a bit, making way for purer civilization, but is changed in the process to something not fully civilized himself.

While modern Westerns are characterized by moral ambiguity and confusion and questions about the costs and value of "civilization". The Wilds no longer include the NA - they are now other people sharing the space with a different perspective. But the Wilds remain, an ally and enemy and ever-present reminder of how tiny your place in the universe really is.

(And nothing makes you feel so small as the desert sky on a clear night...)

DnD is good for both kinds of Westerns, incidentally.
Absolutely.

For me, the 'good guy' winning, means its the Wilds, that comes out on top.

The key is this part to me.

But the Wilds remain, an ally and enemy and ever-present reminder of how tiny your place in the universe really is.

EDIT: For a good example of some current D&D art, there is some in Rime of the Frostmaiden that evokes the kind of feel I'm looking for.
EDIT x 2: Hopefully these are not massive.


1614298176906.png
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Generally don't like cartoon type art. 5E core is fine for me along with 2E type.

Kopold Press Midgard I also like.

Don't like dungeonpunk and WAR type art bleah.
 

I think a lot of what a person considers "in the pale" and "beyond the pale" regarding fantasy can be tied to early influences that one gravitated toward. For example, the works of Beatrix Potter...

View attachment 133253
... were very influential in the life of a young C.S. Lewis, and became the framework for his earliest imaginative works.

View attachment 133254

As Lewis's fantasy literature resources expanded, so did the shape that his fictive worlds. But there remained an impression left by his imagination's first love.

View attachment 133255

I think this is true of most people. I'm not really as wedded to the Tolkienesque tropes in D&D as a lot of people are, because I had been creating my worlds of imagination and even playing D&D, well before I had ever heard of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings.
This is a good point.

I wonder if my tastes are so different compared to most of the other posters here not just because I'm a lot younger but because my formative fantasy/speculative fiction influences were Dragon Ball, Doraemon, Hong Kong TVB serials, and Bionicle.
 

Gorg

Explorer
My preferred era of D&D art is definetly 2E: Easley, Parkinson, Elmore, Caldwell.

What I don't like: dungeonpunk (3E, Lockwood et.al.) and "newish" fanart with cute "monstergirls" , furries, and modern clothing (as opposed to pseudohistoric)
By that I mean characters in leather pants, laced "pirate-shirts" and wide-brimmed "musketeer-hats".

I know, I know, I'm decidedly old-school, but I rather see art that depicts a sense of realism (non-spiky armour, no humongous swords etc)
Pretty much this. "Classic Fantasy" I call it. Enough of the fantastic to make it spark the imagination, and enough of the real to make it semi-believeable.

I did like the more comic line drawings of B/X and 1st ed, too- but my game esthetic was ^^

3rd ed art was decidedly NOT to my taste- so I ignored it, and simply imagined it as I always did. Some was better than others, of course. I did not like the anime inspired stuff, or the weird spiky hair. Where's Waldo? glasses, or dungeonpunk armor and equipment. FRCS was pretty good for the most part, though.

5th ed art is a huge breath of fresh air to me! Some of the paintings are so evocative, I feel like I could step right into them- and definitely want to! All 3 core books are full of it!!! Some monster depictions are better than others, but things like the Mind Flayer; Nightmare, and Pixie are right on target!! Heck- that pixie almost looks real! Like she's looking at me, and still trying to make up her mind whether to trust me or not, lol.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
Most of the art has been just fine throughout the various editions. The art from 3rd edition didn't turn me off but it didn't exactly fill me with a sense of wonder either. The iconic wizard for 3rd edition was just ugly.

View attachment 133343
Our iconic Rogue is wearing something that looks more comfortable in a modern or science fiction setting than a faux medieval setting.
View attachment 133348

3E overall was in the weak side for art.
 

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