Art of the Genre

What can I say about the 2nd Edition DMG that isn’t great… well, probably that I think the artwork selection is subpar.  I guess that question wasn’t so hard after all J

This book, however, is perhaps the single most important text in my gaming library for the simple fact that it was what I used to hone and perfect my skills as a Dungeon Master.  Sure, I owned a copy of the AD&D 1E Dungeon Master’s Guide, but that book was like an unintelligible codex when I first started playing D&D, and since I’d begun with Basic and the Red Box, my fundamental years were not even with Advanced D&D, so that made the book even more foreign and confusing.

Still, as I grew into my late teens, my mind was finally ready to unlock the secrets of the DMG, and thankfully TSR came out with 2nd Edition which made it all the easier for me to do so. 

Released in June 1989, the 2nd Edition DMG bears an absolutely gorgeous cover by artist Jeff Easley.  To me, this cover, just like D&D itself, is an evolutionary process on the part of the artist as instead of a static character driven and highly detailed piece of art, we are instead given a swirling palette of incredibly vibrant color and movement that stretches both the imagination and realms of what is possible with artwork in the genre.

To me, although perhaps not my favorite Easley piece for simple nostalgia's sake, this is the finest piece of artwork that Jeff produced in his days at TSR.  I’m still rather dismayed that upon the re-release of this book a few months ago that this image wasn’t used, although with the border cropping involved, it wouldn’t have been done justice anyway.

Whatever the case, this cover is really the only truly A+ rating the book’s artwork gets from me.

Art directed by Peggy Cooper, I’m still stumped by the use of blue & white artwork instead of the standard black & white [which does find its way in there with a re-purposed piece by Easley from the Red Box and a few other things], and although I ‘get’ that some of the pieces are supposed to reflect a kind of medieval woodblock artwork, they just fall flat to me as pale attempts at a lost art.

Still, the interior work is trying to be better than it is, and there are several [five] full page color plates, but only two of them don’t come off as silly [those being the evil sorceress by Clyde Caldwell and the roman mercenaries by Dave Dorman].  Otherwise, I think the work of John & Laura Lakey and Douglas Chaffee just falls somewhere between trying to be too real and failing to deliver.

As stated above, the woodblock homage images carry throughout the text, and they do create a bit of uniformity, but then are derailed with the full page color plates and oddly dispersed black & white images.   

In all, although I love what the book had to say, I’m unimpressed by how it showed the new face of D&D to me.

Artistic Rating: 3 [out of 5]

Written by Scott Taylor — July 10, 2013

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