Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons: Art Eras

With the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, we come to the point of what I hope to be a new "look" to the game.  To me, Dungeons and Dragons' editions are represented by the artwork that was presented to me when I learned the system.  For me personally, there was the nebulous time where I had 3 different versions of the rules to cypher through.  It was when I inherited my cousin's extra book set.  In it were modules from 1st Edition, the rulebooks of 2nd Edition, and then I had my own set of "Basic Dungeons and Dragons".  The common thread to all of those was oil paintings.  In my opinion, the highest era of artistry in D&D was the 80's when the Dragonlance crew was making amazing artwork for the entire line.  Here are some examples:

The dragons in these paintings seemed real, and to this day, when I play, this is what I imagine in my head.  A sort of realistic style to a fantastic genre.  Look at the character designs.  They are rooted in what people would actually wear.  There is some historical accuracy to the pieces of armor, the clothing being worn.  Things seem to make sense(except for female armor, but at least its not metal bikinis).

When 3rd came out, I loved the artwork.  As you can see in the examples below, the team went a little bit JRPG/Comic style.  Characters wore stylish armors with buckles, straps and bags everywhere.  The weapons were very much not rooted in reality, being overly large and bombastic.  It was a huge change from what 2E was presented in the Revised edition(black books), which was encyclopedic and not very exciting.

With 3rd being as popular as it was, they continued with this art style.  We have had 15 years of this art dominating the industry now.  With 4th Edition, the art style did not get changed all that much.  With Pathfinder trying to tell everyone that they were where the 3rd Edition fans should be going, they used the 3rd art style.  In my opinion, much of what Pathfinder has put out has finally rivaled the Dragonlance stuff.

But that's 15 years of the same style, through technically 4 editions of the game(3rd, 3.5, 4th and Pathfinder).  While great, I think a change in art style really shows a fresh new start, something 5th Edition D&D desperately needs.  Here's some of the cover art.

Its got a solidness to it that reminds me of the oil paintings from the 80's, yet the character designs are still the exciting super hero kind of look to them.  There have been some scans of the inside artworks of these books, which I will not repost here, but the artwork inside is just as "solid" as the covers.  Textures, metals, stone, all look like they would feel instead of having a colored style to them like the previous.  I have to say, I approve of this.  It really is sort of blending the old with the new, which is the theme for this edition.

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