When Jeff Dee ruled the gaming world...
I’m not sure how many words have been written concerning artist Jeff Dee and his influence on the early days of D&D, but I know it is a lot. Heck, I’ve written two articles myself on the subject and both did very well among my OSR gaming audience. Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t always a good thing to talk even more about his art.
Today I’m looking at just his black & white illustrations from TSR, and feeling that once again this ‘Young Turk’ had something to prove when he finally got the call from the burgeoning TSR. I mean, Dee is certainly the oldest true gamer among the artists ever employed by the company, and certainly the only one who still games regularly today, even if it isn’t with D&D. His passions always seemed to come from super heroes, which his art reflects, but for fantasy purposes he has a devoted place in his heart to Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, which again speaks to his age in the industry.
He’s also a devotee to Kickstarter, his 19 successful campaigns something I strive to rival someday here at Art of the Genre. Several of those campaigns revisited his classic D&D artwork and were so well received that the new set of original art went almost exclusively into the D&D art collection of the world’s largest collector in Hong Kong.
When I started my Folio series I was lucky enough to have an original Dee cover on hand that will go into the first series, the Roslof Keep Campaign, but I certainly wasn’t the first OSR game designer to contact Dee about revisiting his old work. Joseph Goodman of Dungeon Crawl Classics fame beat me by a good five years, and helped launch his DCC brand in 3rd Edition D&D with Dee covers for some of his early work. Goodman also happened to discover the Dee inspired art of Michael Wilson who graced two of his covers for DCC and has become my go-to artist for The Folio because I love how his work reflects Dee’s early 80s style.
Whatever the case concerning this artist and his life in the field, there is no doubt just how much he means to the industry as a whole. I hope you enjoy these blasts from the past, and thanks again for taking the time to read AotG!
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