Thursday, January 30, 2014

Every Picture Tells A Story

I think everyone would agree that evocative artwork is really helpful in setting the tone and conveying the feel of an rpg world and from the internet I know that a lot of people collect inspirational images in building a new setting, like I do.

It strikes me that given how much the images matter in conveying the setting, that picking new images could be used to give a setting a whole new vibe. A setting makeover, if you will.

Consider the following images:

Both of them are meant to illustrate the same literary work (Edgar Rice Burroughs's Gods of Mars), and they even include identifiable elements, but they have a very different feel. The first, by Manolo Prieto, is a bit phantasmagorical, perhaps even whimiscal. It suggests a Barsoom more akin to fairy tales or the works of Lord Dunsany, maybe. The second, by Michael Whelan, seems much more a place of serious, more sci-fi-ish adventure. I think both GMs and player's would approach a Mars illustrated in the first way somewhat different from the second.

Here's another example. Different versions of the dwarves from The Hobbit:

The first illustration is from a Russian edition of the book. These dwarves look like they've might sing "heigh ho" and hang out with Snow White. The later ones would be more at home in improbable  action sequences.

So next time you think your bored with your setting, maybe your just bored with how your conceiving your setting. New visuals maybe just help.


Chris C. said...

Very true. It is remarkable how much different art can evoke a different tone.

Which, now that I think about it, resolves a few questions. There have been cases where I've been put off by a set of rules because of the artwork. And I blamed myself for being superficial.

But it may be that the art was evoking a tone that a given set of rules was meant to have, and it may actually be the tone or flavor that didn't appeal as much as the art itself.

Tim Shorts said...

Great point Trey. I guess I've seen this more with different editions of books. Editions of games. Like the PHB and DMG when they came out had dark, mysterious covers. The 2nd editions had bright colors, those god awful orange spines and full of in your face images. They lacked the mystery that I first edition books had for covers.

Mattias Darrow said...

Indeed. I might suggest as a source for weird and inspiring images.

I also try and make a few of my own, as I find it really helps to get the imagination moving in new ways. I humbly submit:

bliss_infinte said...

Great post. I often wonder how much our own visual imagination has been influenced by other people's intrpretations of other people's work. Whether it's movies, paintings, comics or illustrations, I think we're always pulling from those sources subconsciously. I often wonder what it would be like to read some of these fantasy stories for the first time without any other visual influence. What would we imagine on our own if we read these stories.

Trey said...

@Chris - Good point. It may be hard to tell where the feeling arises some times.
@Tim - I'm with you there.
@Mattias - Ian Miller is indeed a good one. Nice work there, yourself!
@Bliss - That's something I've pondered before myself. Dune is one where the film (nor the miniseries) for that matter) particularly match Herbert's descriptions, but loom so large in my mind's eye it's a bit hard to picture some things otherwise.