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pond823 in axe_initiative

"I don't know much about art, but I know what I like"

I spent some time today talking with Dave Allsop, our art director, about art, art costs, art scheduling and quality and it's got me thinking about whys of roleplaying game art.

Our current strategy is to have high quality art throughout all publications, full colour front covers and greyscale interiors. I get nervous sometimes with this decision, seeing people stating they are surprised the publication X used only black and white interiors in this day and age. However after looking at a few recent full colour publications it seems the case that only the very wealthiest and best selling publishers use great colour work inside throughout.

Adventure modules are for a publisher a little like the maps I used to pour hours into, colouring and drawing individual flag stones on, only for none of the players to see them. As DMs should see the adventures before anyone else, it is them that the interior art should be aimed firmly at. The cover, seen by all, entices them in with a good quality image suggesting some emotional key, as robin_d_laws rightly calls them, to kick start their imagination and convincing them to buy the product (or demand their DM runs it, if a player). The interior art though is far more integral to the adventure itself. While DMs should never, at least in a normal game, see the NPCs as 'their NPCs' they do need to empathize and get in the mind set of the opponents they lay out before the players. This allows them to roleplay the creatures far better as well as giving them a better idea of their suite of abilities and how they might go about using them. A good image always helps covey this, but a bad image does a great deal of damage towards this end. A goblin shaman can be a figure of amusement, being a hallucinating gibbering opponent who is as dangerous to his own tribe as the players or he could be a terrifyingly death cult midget who attacks with stealth and intelligence. Either way a badly draw, luridly coloured stick man destroys either imagery, consigning the shaman to being just another gobbo.

I don't want Raiders Guild DMs to fall out of love with their tools. Colour interior art adds cost to publications in three ways, art budget, printing budget and more difficult to quantify, time. I'd rather we had great pictures that convey opponents and situations that the DM can colour with their words than have them present lifeless stats that haven't invigorated them. Of coarse if we become one of the very wealthiest and best selling publishers, I'll have budget to colour them in for them too.

Next up, I need to think about players guides. Players often want more immediate gratification.
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I think if you're really concerned about particular pieces (maps in particular, since they're your strongest product component) having color versions available to the DMs -- consider making color versions of the maps downloadable online. Folks will still need the book in order to play, so the map alone doesn't eliminate the need for someone to buy the book, and it can act as a sort of advertising -- hey, this map looks cool, what book is it from?

The other idea here would be to make the *player* version of the map available for download in color. DMs could point their players at the download in advance of showing up for that night's adventure -- they'd like that. But the book contains the real map with all of the "twists" reflected on it. That's less critical as a color thing, whereas putting a color map in front of the *players* would probably play off the right emotional keys.
Well maps are a different story, at least for Raiders Guild. I'm looking at using the insides of the colour cover for colour maps, which will be done using Simons CC3 and available online as well so that people can print out battle maps if they want. Also player maps will feature heavily, they will often be the goal of the first part of any adventure.
To be honest, I've found the full colour internal snazziness of certain RPGs/supplements to be rather distracting - you end up looking at all the pretty pictures rather than the rules (not that I'm talking about 40k codices here, at all, oh no). ;)

I much prefered the detailed 'know thy enemy' style maps and creature diagrams in the old WFRP and CoC books - they were evocative, detailed and useful to the GM (a diagram of a warg is far better for working out how to describe one than an impressionistic movement blur with lots of teeth).

Oh, and coincidentally, I'm experimenting with woodcutty style mono artwork at the mo, so if you happened to bung any ideas in my direction, they could get included in my experimentations... ;)
Send me examples!

Yes the pictures and art in WH40K can make the codex coffee table books, if you live a nerdhold ;)
Mailed you! :)
Raiders Guild

October 2008

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