Today I want to take a look at the AEG 7th Sea Player’s Guide. Before I begin I want to put out a disclaimer, if John Wick and Ree Soesbee have ANYTHING to do with a game it is going to be stellar. So, if you translate that it means that 7th Sea is stellar, obviously, but the sad fact is that as cool as pirates are, nobody really likes to play RPGs based around them [or do Legos based on them it seems according to industry sales figures].
Anyway, I got down my [never played] copy of the 7th Sea Player’s Guide this weekend and decided I’d do an art review of it. Little did I know that when I started I’d find such an incredible treasure that I decided it would need multiple blog posts just to capture the beauty I had in hand.
So, today begins Part One of the 7th Sea series, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have this past week.
Our story begins with a beautiful [and framed] cover by William O’Conner. O’Conner pulls off a fantastic swashbuckling perspective piece that immediately captures the feel of the product line. One gains an instant sense of high adventure [and vertigo] that strikes the viewer head on and the color pallet bespeaks the bloody nature of the line and the threat therein.
I was both surprised and yet intrigued by the fact that art direction for this product came from both Jennifer and John Wick, but the more you look it over, the more you can tell what an incredible labor of love it was. They simply spared no expense here, and it shows. Nothing is left out, and they have delivered a product so astounding that I know it had to be both cathartic and crushing to them both. Certainly the product line didn’t survive long, only a handful of years [roughly three, 1999-2002] before D&D 3.0 and the OGL crushed everything in its path in the early 2000s, but still, I would have given much to see this product be a bonanza hit because I think the Wicks deserved that for what they did with this game.
Anyway, back to art. The interiors are shared color and black and white on non-glossy paper, a feel I truly enjoy.
Color work is superb and as an art director myself I’m stunned at the cost it must have taken to wrangle all of it into this one volume. EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY in the game [there are 7] has a full, two-page, color painting featuring three ‘iconic’ style characters done by artist Terese Neilson. They are astounding, a bit on the ‘romance cover’ side, but still paint a picture so deep for the players I can’t imagine not wanting to play everything represented. Neilson’s work is beautiful, and her sense of form really can’t be denied. In fact, I was so taken with the work I had to go look her up and see more of her craft because although I knew ‘of’ her, I didn’t have the full picture. My advice, go to so yourself right now.
There are three artists who work on the interior that truly stand out to me, the first being Raven Mimura who I see at GenCon almost every year. Raven’s talent, even in 1999, was evident and he creates some inspired pieces that help move the volume along in the right direction.
Second comes one of my favorite 1990s artists, Ramon Perez. Perez did many pieces for AEG during this period, the bulk of which I know from L5R, but still, he continues this Whilce Portacio kind of comic vibe that I really, really dig. Some of his pieces are favorites of mine and he’s credited with a number of full page b/w’s that help the book sing.
Lastly, and certainly not ‘lastly’, is art by Cris Dornaus [now Cristina McAlister]. Back in the late 1990s Cris was a mainstay at AEG, going so far as having a small stint as art director. She always signs her work with the distinctive ‘symbol for female’ and I have to say there was no other illustrator, between 1995-2000, that I enjoyed more than Cristina. She has this incredible stylized nose that I just can’t get enough of, and although that might put me in the minority, I don’t really care. She is both regal and comic, character driven and subtle, and I could look at her pen work all day and never get tired of it.
There are also some great black and white spot illustrations are provided by Jim Callahan, Paul Herbert, Thomas Gianni, Scott James, Patrick Kochakji, Michael Phillippi, Tim Peterson, R.E. Snyder that help round out the volume.
In all, the first set of art details cover work and some interior pieces, and I hope you enjoy what you see! Oh, and another thing, if you’re thinking of going back and picking up this game on the cheap, think again, pricing for used copies of pretty much anything range from roughly $40-$150! Yikes! But again, I think that speaks to how outstanding the game is.
Artistic Rating: 5 [out of 5]