Art of the Genre

Ah Spelljammer, or as my old DM Mark used to call it ‘Sefron in Space’ after my character who left the forgotten realms for a time to travel around the spheres. Whatever it is called in your own mind, Spelljammer always has carried a special place in my heart for what it was, what it could have been, and what it is today.

During those days in my middle college years, I didn’t have much money, and so Mark had ended up buying the Spelljammer Boxed Set, and his little brother Curt chipped in for the accessory Rock of Bral. We played it during spring break [as all gamers should instead of running to Florida, Texas, or wherever drunk kids go these days], and I can well remember seeing Rock of Bral for the first time, taking out the map and laying it at his dining room table, and just having to travel there.

It seemed so foreign and yet so familiar, kind of like TSR had taken all the cities I loved from fiction, Lankhmar, Sanctuary, and even their own Waterdeep, and put them all together on an asteroid drifting through Wildspace.

In truth, I only got to visit it once during those days, and then fleetingly again in the early 2000s when I converted pieces of it to 3rd Edition for a campaign that got all kinds of crazy. Still, I remember it fondly to this day, and am glad that I was able to add it to my collection as the years went by and money came and went.

Bral was written by L. Richard Baker III in 1992, and is a fine addition to the overall Spelljammer setting. The cover art was done by Erik Olson, and I love the way it turned out, but I’m not as impressed with the interior black and white work. Completely illustrated by David O. Miller, this freelance work looks kind of like early Baxa, and yet by this point Baxa was well entrenched doing Dark*Sun, so perhaps Miller was trying to emulate that style. It does an adequate job, but nothing truly sings to me save for one piece that is more about cool nostalgia than great art. In this particular image, shown in this post, a viewer can see what is perhaps a Yazirian from Star Frontiers at a bazaar on Bral, and that is completely awesome!

Anyway, all told, Bral is a better supplement for words than for art, but if I had any true knock on it, it would be that it should have been a boxed set campaign setting and had the art budget to match.  Instead, it gets module art [and for 1992 that is rough stuff at TSR], and the content is just too excellent to be stuck with a smaller supplement.

Artistic Rating: 3 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — October 08, 2014


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