The Dawn of the Emperors is actually the end of the line for Gazetteers...
When I first started dating my wife I was nineteen and I seemed to make an immediate impact on her family [yes, in a positive way!] Those early years were fun for sure, proving yourself to a family while they also did their best to prove themselves to you. I well remember my first Christmas as a ‘family guest’ and when asked what I wanted as a gift I told my would-be wife’s family that I want a D&D Gazetteer.
Low and behold at the time I had no idea that by 1991 the TSR Gazetteer series had already been phased out, but that didn’t stop the woman who would become my mother-in-law. She went to a gaming store in Mishawaka Indiana and got the only copy of a Gazetteer they still had in stock, that being Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Boxed Set.
Little did I realize, over the next 24 odd years, my mother-in-law would continue to search out the ENTIRE Gazetteer series which I now proudly own, even if I’ve never had a chance to play them.
Anyway, in honor of her incredible fortitude in continuing the Christmas tradition of getting me Gazetteers, even as I aged from 19 to 42, I’m going to have a look at the art from Dawn of the Emperors today on AotG.
Released in 1989 by TSR, this three book volume boxed set was written by the late Aaron Allston, produced by my friend Bruce Heard, and had cover art by [as all Gazetteers did] Clyde Caldwell.
Now by this point, the very end of the line as the case may be, Caldwell had fully realized his style for the series. This particular cover is a favorite of mine, featuring a collage of great Greco-Roman style that bespeaks the incredible history of Thyatis and Alphatia. We get to see a beautiful woman [a Caldwell staple], a noble roman inspired warrior, a Greek riding a Pegasus and a sorcerous in silks and skins. We also get to see a rather Conan-inspired city as well, with towers just dying to be plundered by a daring thief [that would be my character, if you were wondering].
Caldwell certainly hits all his marks here and I can see nothing to take away from his efforts.
Inside, all three supplement books are fully illustrated by Stephen Fabian. I am intrigued by these because each one is a standardized piece, horizontal in frame, and it almost seems as if the art department said, ‘Stephen, we need thirty, 8”x4”, illustrations that depict something kind of roman’. Whatever the case, there are many of them, as well as several full page illustrations that don’t fit the framing mold and yet add even more wonderful depth to the box.
In all, I’m captivated by what these two masters were able to do, and wished I had more appreciated Fabian’s style when I was younger. Truly, the man has a sublime talent for illustration, and I’d love to have an original b/w of his in my collection.
Artistic Rating: 5 [out of 5]