Art of the Genre

Al-Qadim… Arabian Adventures.  The name alone makes any gamer have to take notice and I have to admit that I’m even more moved by the tag line from the back cover which reads:

Magic carpets, ghoulish vixens, genies rising from the sand in a whirlwind of smoke and fire – such wonders, spun into tales by fabled Scheherazade, enchanted a king for a thousand and one nights.

When looking over this magnificent softcover campaign setting from 1992, two things keep coming to my mind.  The first is that Howard Andrew Jones, author of the middle-eastern setting fantasy novels Bones of the Old Ones and Desert of Souls, told me that he used this book to help him write those works, which is pretty high praise for a gaming supplement.

The second thing that stands out is that I’ve never actually played Al-Qadim.  In fact, although I own nearly a dozen of its sourcebooks, I’ve never even read one of them, let alone the core book.  That changed last night when this book was randomly chosen for me to become part of my ongoing series on RPG art. 

I actually took the book down to peruse it for fine art, and I wasn’t disappointed.  In fact, I was blown away by what I found beneath the cover, and it inspired me to do some reading on the inside as well.  The consensus; Al-Qadim is truly awesome!  I mean it, the next campaign I run will be Al-Qadim inspired, and I intend to use as much of the source material as possible.

Written by gaming alum Jeff Grubb, with additional writing and development by Andria Hayday, the contents sing of everything one could want from the tales of Sinbad, Ali Baba, and even true middle-eastern legends like Saladin.

But no matter what my gaming inspired desires are, I have to get back to the subject at hand and do some art review.

Covered by the final remaining ‘Master of Oil’ from the old TSR ‘pit’ guard, Jeff Easley, this work is an incredible piece of fantasy art.  In fact, I would give almost anything to see it magically placed on one of the AD&D ‘yellow spine’ core books from the 1980s [ala Oriental Adventures] because it would fit in perfectly with those old books.  In this piece, Jeff once again states to all art enthusiasts that the TSR art department might have changed, but he still can carry the weight.

Inside, the art is no less inspiring.  Artists Richard Bober, Fred Fields, Hanry Mayo, Bryn Barnard, and Carol Hoyer provide half a dozen color plates that whisk the viewer away into the shining sands of the setting, and a plethora of hard-lined and well-rendered black and white illustrations fill the book by artist Karl Waller.

I have to say that Wallers work doesn’t get enough credit, perhaps because Al-Qadim doesn’t have the support of other campaign settings of the time period like Dark Sun or Planescape.  Still, he should be held in high regard for the skill in which he created the perfect feel for the game.

Having said that, I can find no true fault with this book, and so I have to highly recommend it to anyone looking for inspiring art as well as a great place to take their players.

Artistic Rating: 4 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — May 23, 2013

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