My own Secret of the Slavers Stockade

AD&D Modules Bill Willingham Erol Otus Jeff Dee Jim Roslof TSR

If you are an old school gamer, then you probably have a vague memory of the first D&D product you ever saw. For me, those visions of the past cycle around three distinct images, none of which I’m exactly sure were really ‘the first’. One, of course, is Elmore’s cover of the Red Box, viewed in the Sears Christmas Catalogue. Two, would be Jim Holloway’s cover for Dragon Magazine #88 owned by a fellow student in my 7th Grade art class who sat across from me. Third, would have been Jim Roslof’s cover for A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade that sat on a metal rack beneath the desk of someone in front of me in 7th Grade home room.

In all, I love all those covers for what they represent, my awakening into the genre of fantasy art and also my indoctrination into Dungeons & Dragons.

Today, I’m going to talk a bit about the art of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, which I am incredibly fond of. Not necessarily because it is wonderfully rendered, certainly Roslof did better work through his tenure at TSR, but because of the feeling the cover evokes.

Roslof’s vision of the slavers stockade, the infiltrating adventures, and the searching whip master and violet gollum-like creature, are truly wonderful. That we also get to see an elven fighter in plate male instead of forest greens, that we see a female fighter leading the party, and that there is a wonderful paladin in scale mail are just added bonuses to the whole affair.

I remember when I first saw it being so incredibly intrigued by the story involved, and that yellow-eyed ‘hound’ creature, that I would have done just about anything to find out what lay inside those pages. There was also something about it that made me think of Marc Singer’s Beastmaster, although unbeknownst to me the image was painted two years before Beastmaster was released in theaters. Still, the look of it, the feel of the stockade and the brown tones drew me to that movie’s final raid and I therefore loved it even more.

The back cover is done by Erol Otus, and although a nice representation of Otus’s craft, it is not one of his better works in my mind. His colors are too washed out in the light flash, and while technically sound, it drains the picture of impact rather than increasing the depth.

Inside, Jeff Dee and Bill Willingham share the pages, although in reality the content art is very, very thin. There are only 4 module illustrations for content, Dee’s interior cover, and then a section of art for a small bestiary at the back [which probably took the bulk of the budget].

Dee does some of his best work here, and his interior cover is incredibly powerful. He also has some small illustrations on one of the interior maps which I really enjoy and wish they were larger and scattered through the pre-rolled character section.

Willingham contributes a single illustration, but it has one of his classic round-lipped women in studded leather which immediately steals my heart.

In all, A2 is lovely, but I wish that there would have been more art because the artists were all at their primes here and it seems a bit of a missed opportunity.

Artistic Rating: 4.5 [out of 5]

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  • Scott on

    Chris: Excellent! Wasn’t that MM just fantastic with both the above and below ground view? And how can you no love Keep on the Borderlands? And yes, A1 has killed it’s fair share of adventures!

  • Chris on

    My first sighting was the cover of the 1st Edition Monster Manual, when my cousin brought it over on Christmas Day. I was fascinated. The first module I ever played was The Keep on the Borderlands. My first character (a ranger named, originally enough, “Arathorn”) was killed by aspis in A1, those bastards….

  • Scott on

    You are OLD Todd! ;)

  • Todd Lockwood on

    Oh, for me it was the little white box of pamphlets. :o)

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