Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk boxed set and the transition art involved
By 1989 the art department of TSR was in flux. It had shrunk and morphed into a much smaller version of itself from a decade earlier. Elmore and Parkinson were gone, Caldwell was on his way out, and only Easley remained of the core oil masters.
In this period, TSR began the extensive use of freelance talent to help fill out supplements, but the effect on the game also helped fracture the cohesive nature of the common narrative. Sure, Easley was still doing the lion’s share of core covers, but other than that we were seeing a randomization of talent and content in each product produced.
Enter Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk boxed set. Written by Carl Sargent and Rik Rose, this supplement is filled with two solid gaming books and an absolute boatload of maps by Diesel [who at this point in his career had cast aside all other names]
I can’t speak heavily as to the content, because although I’ve owned this for years I’ve never played it, but the most interesting thing to me about the mechanics is the star badge on the cover proclaiming it ‘Compatible with the AD&D and the AD&D 2nd Edition Game Systems’.
Here again, we are reminded of a shift in the market as AD&D competes with its more updated younger sibling, and yet there is still a common enough thread that the two can work together, something we didn’t see with the advent of 3rd or 4th Edition D&D and thus the infamous ‘Edition Wars’ began in earnest. [Side note, if 2nd Edition is a younger sibling, then 3rd and 4th Editions must be the children of a wild father seeking his youth in his 2nd and 3rd marriages, right?]
Whatever the case, the artwork on this is an oddity. The boxed set cover is done by Erik Olsen, who has an interesting style and something I do enjoy, although he is mainly a one shot divergence so in the annals of D&D it is almost a throw away. Olsen also pulls out another oddity by completely changing his style for the cover to the secondary ‘Folk, Feuds, and Factions’ booklet inside as we are suddenly shown a very Indian inspired oil versus the European cover acrylic.
Strange art direction if you ask me.
Inside, the era of Valerie Valusek has begun in earnest at TSR. Now I don’t know much about Valerie, but as I write this I’m making a note to discover more. Still, Valarie did a good deal of black and white illustration for D&D over the course of about four years in the transition period between the 1980s and 1990s.
I do enjoy Valerie’s work, although it never jumped off the page to me. In most cases, it kind of reminds me of the 1970s Marvel comic period in which all artists mimicked each other into a uniform and uninspiring norm. Valerie renders well, but it is so ‘standard’ and without unique quirks that I find it easily forgettable.
So, in the end, what do I think of Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk? Not much, although again I can’t speak to the content on any meaningful level.
Artistic Rating: 2.5 [out of 5]