The Drow of the Underdark: When TSR uses FASA artists
The Drow… certainly an RPG race with infinite possibility and a wide swing of emotion from gamers. I myself liken my days of the Drow to the release of Unearthed Arcana when Drow first became player characters, and those gamers older than me go back to the D Series of modules where this race is concerned. For most, however, the Drow were defined in the Forgotten Realms with the release of R.A. Salvatore’s famed Drizzt series. Whatever the case, the race is here to stay and has made a lasting impact on D&D over the years.
Today I’m going to take a look at the AD&D 2nd Edition supplement, The Drow of the Underdark by Ed Greenwood. Released in 1991, this product helped capitalize on the rising fame of Drizzt and is a very, very strong supplement if you enjoy the race, either as a player or as an opponent. Smaller and more refined than the Menzoberranzan Boxed Set, I used this book for much of the 1990s until the release of D&D 3.0
The artwork is a mixed bag in this one, the cover being very cool in its spiderweb laced black on black with a small window cover of Drizzt done by artist Jeff Easley. The Easley Drizzt in this image isn’t one of my favorites, and I’m sure Jeff has taken some abuse about it over the years, but nonetheless it originated on the Menzoberranzan box, so it is really a second hand piece.
Inside, TSR contracts out of house to two staff artists at, of all places, FASA, for the black & white illustrations. Why artists Tim Bradstreet and Rick Harris did work on the project is beyond me, but I have to say of all the work Rick ever did, this is my absolute favorite. Now Drow are notoriously hard to do in black & white because they are really a negative, meaning the figure outline turns white while the figure itself is black, so for Rick to grasp this so well astounds me. Harris also did one of my favorite Drow images ever inside, the Drow mother taking a bath while her children play with coins and a dagger on the floor. Just a fantastic view of everyday Drow life.
Bradstreet gets work on the various creatures of the book, but his only fully credited piece is of a Deep Dragon which reflects what we saw in the Monstrous Manual, just without the violet coloring.
There is also an uncredited piece by Gran Galeash that reminds me of a Russ Nicholson, and another full page color painting where I can’t identify the artist, although it is probably another second hand piece as other Easley novel covers also appear within.
In all, the art here is pretty sound, even if the color work is rehashed.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]