Monday, November 29, 2010

Shrine of the Barrow Maiden

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blown Away

Every now and then (like about twice a week), I see art that really knocks me off my feet, makes me question my vocation, and sends me off to my sketchpad to re-group. That's where I've been with Zak Smith's artwork ever since I found his online sketchpad. Like this really appeals to me, just as a painting. And this totally blows me away from a D&D gamer point of view.

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Friday, November 26, 2010


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Polymer Woods

This is for Chris Bennet, who long ago requested more dungeons based on classic TSR games. Here's a taste of Gamme World old school for you.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

City of the Ancients

The Ancients were pretty damn clever, they way. Not sure how clever they were. They built a really big city that would take care of every need they could imagine. I guess that was nice. You can still see the city. Most see it from the sea. And it looks mighty grand shining in the sunset. But get up close and it's a different story: great gaping rents, wings and towers taken by rust or decay. There are light still, in some parts. But I guess there aren't as many ancients living in there as there used to be. Wonder what is?

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Red Academy

There's a saying in the City of Forgotten Gods: "If you've got corns, pray to Dispaniel, but if you want someone dead, go to the Red Academy."

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Argument of the Gods

Dungeons don't just happen by accident. OK, some dungeons happen by accident. But some dungeons were brought about by something. Like when the gods start talking. Gods can't just talk, you see. Their words make things happen. When the gods really get arguing, all kinds of things come into the world, like the platypus (or the dreaded razor tooth giant platypus), the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or a plurality of bald Kings of France. Sometimes what comes into being is a dungeon.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Great Dungeon

Life, backups, and dungeon art are nearly back to normalcy around here, which means more microdungeons soon. In the meantime, i direct you to Great Dungeon in the Sky.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Your Red Box has Better art in it than Many Professional Galleries

Something interesting and important is going on right now over at The Mule Abides, where Tavis is talking about D&D and contemporary fine art. Maybe this conversation has been going on around the art/game world for a while, but I’m just becoming aware of it.

Tavis asks, pointedly “what is the alleged difference between commercial art by Dave Trampier, Ian Miller, Gary Gygax, et. al. and gallery artists take serious at all?”

It’s a self-evident to me that the distinction between the kind of art those artists made and contemporary fine art is vanishingly small. Erol Otus could walk into half a dozen Seattle galleries today and get his art hung, no question.

Compare a recent Erol Otus:

Hackmaster Basic cover by Erol Otus

To these gallery-worthy works of art:
Why Do I Do What I Do? by Tara McPherson

Wishes for the Wicked by Scott Campbell

Art by Andrey Mayorov

They’re on a par, at least in enough ways to matter. What’s more interesting to me is how we got to here.

Here’s some art from Magic: The Gathering, circa 1994-ish.
Hymn to Tourach by Scott Kirschner

Mana Vault by Scott Tedin

Necropotence by Scott Tedin

I really dig that Hymn to Tourach (top image). What the hell is going on there? Who is that guy? What's going to happen if he drinks that cup? Don't drink the cup, man! Don't drink it!?

Anyway, this is art that stimulates the imagination. It gives you enough to start you feeling, but then leaves you to complete the journey on its own. It’s interesting, exciting, and evokes a range of emotions including wonder, interest, and enjoyment. By the way, these experiences all work in a direction that’s oblique to the business interests of the company publishing the game. They’re unnecessary.

Here’s some art from Magic: the Gathering circa now:
Auriok Edgewright by Mike Bierek

Auriok Sunchaser by James Ryman

Abuna Acolyte by Kieryluk

It’s generally of a higher technical quality. It’s highly art directed and carefully produced. It’s also utterly soulless. There’s no question posed that can’t be answered by buying a comic or a novel or something. There’s no experience that can’t be harnessed as an engine of the business. It’s unquestionably some of the best game art out there, but “fine” it is not.*

I submit that old-school D&D art and contemporary art that employs gamer sensibilities is looking better and better because commercial art has pulled away from it in an altogether less inspiring direction, leaving the good stuff standing alone.

Yeah, I think that’s one of the most important functions of good art today: to make the distinction between commercial and creative crystal clear. That’s why tattoo art, graffiti, flash mobs, lowbrow, pop culture, outsider art, folk art, and brute art are everywhere these days.

* Hey, business is a great thing! After all, Erol Otus got his start drawing for a business, right? I’m not slamming commercial illustration here. It can be greatly awesome.

Edit: Added picture credits

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Oops a little delay

No dungeon today, as my old laptop crashed, and all my most recent dungeons and scans are stored on it, or else tucked away in a backup file. Doh!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Doomslangers at Allegra Viola Gallery

More Dungeons & Dragons in art! I was just pointed to this page for the Doomslangers exhibition at the Allegra Viola Gallery (showing right now in NYC).

This show is a spectacular grab bag: character illustrations, real-life magic items, conceptual art, humor, and some thoughtful academic pieces as well.

It brings to mind an obvious question: why should we care if some D&D stuff gets shown in an art gallery? Does that bring any benefit to us as gamers?

My take on it is this: as gamer, designers, and players, we're creating every day. That creativity doesn't belong in a bushel basket. It belongs out in the world where people can experience it. I'm not saying we should take our character sheets out of our notebooks and hang them on the wall. What I am saying is that D&D players are everybody: they're artists, parents, students, IT managers, salespeople, and politicians. If playing games enriches their life at all (and I think it's pretty obvious it does), then it's enriching these activities.

So I guess what I'm saying is that good games teach us to create, and there's no reason that creativity should be restricted to the game.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Braid Dungeon

Platformers are most definitely dungeons. Time travelling dungeons are even more awesome than non-time travelling dungeons. Time travelling dungeons with stories rule. Not that I've got anything against an old-fashioned hole in the ground with a dragon, but Braid is a mighty fine dungeon.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Dungeon in Art

Wow, this is way too cool not to instantly post: there's a panel on Dungeons & Dragons in Contemporary Art in New York this Saturday. Seriously, I wish I could fly out just to see it. If you're in the area, go! The lineup is spectacular to say the least.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I debated posting this dungeon, as it's a bit, er... snarky. But that about sums up how I feel about Wow. Yes, an exercise bike hidden behind a shiny facade. Actually, I'll say this. The Dark Elf city is a worthy work of art in its own right.

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Monday, November 1, 2010


It's been hard lately to get my blog posts out. I've stated that this is because I'm busy with work and getting ready for the Year of the Dungeon art show. But the real truth is that I'm playing CivV. Naturally, video games have a way of eating your spare time, and CivV is no exception. This is a worthy addition to the Civ family, Even on a short game, I find the modern age is a lot of clicking, nevertheless, they've cut a lot of the tedium, kept the essenence, and made worthy editions. Also, Siam rules.

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