The 1980 release of the colorized cover edition of T1 The Village of Hommlet is certainly a foundation of the RPG industry and an iconic piece for almost any role-player brought into the game from the late 1970s all the way up to 1990.
Truly, it is an incredible piece of work, penned by Gary Gygax and established as ‘the’ introductory module for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons system. Now certainly, B2 Keep on the Borderlands and X1 Isle of Dread might be more popular because they were included in the Basic and Expert boxed sets respectively, but again, that means they are part of the Basic D&D setting, not Advanced D&D like Hommlet.
Hommlet, therefore, IS the introduction of Advanced into the game by Gygax and should rightly take its place of prominence even compared to those two bestselling greats.
Written as the first part of a ‘first of 2 modules’ set, the later to be T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil [which would never exist in true module form but later be captured in the ‘super-module’ T1-4] it takes you into the wilds to a village much in need of the help of a low level group of adventures. The preview is described as follows:
The Village of Hommlet has grown up around a crossroads in a woodland. Once far from any important activity, it became embroiled in the struggle between gods and demons when the Temple of Elemental Evil arose but a few leagues away. Luckily for its inhabitants, the Temple and its evil hordes were destroyed a decade ago, but Hommlet still suffers from incursions of bandits and strange monsters…
Are you as ready for adventure as I am after reading that?
Unfortunately, the module is something I’ve only run through once in my life, but I intend to remedy that fact in the upcoming year.
As for the artwork, the cover is done by artist Jeff Dee and I’ve always thought of it as a classic for the genre. He brings his intrinsic comic style to the images, and his use of bone structure and movement in the zombie attack were something that brings the whole piece to life. Framing is also a key, the effect almost computer driven and appealing to all of us who would begin our journey into such games with Wizardry or Bard’s Tale just a few years later. The color choices are also key with his yellows reflective between boots and zombies and as well as the red that connects loin cloth on the right of the image to massive Halfling cloak on the left.
Dee also does an interesting back cover as well, his androgynous narrative in full bloom with the wizard and cleric pictured there, and his rendering of the wizard’s blond beard was always something that both drew me in and made me question the talent level as well. To this day, I’m still not sure if it is perfect or simply odd, but nonetheless the image is stunning.
Now what many of you might not know, probably because most of it is simply non-character driven filler, is that all interior black and white images are done by the great RPG artist white whale that is Dave Trampier. Still, Tramp’s work here isn’t legendary or noteworthy, although the interior cover shot does hold a bit of his AD&D DM Screen vibe to it.
In all, I love T1 for its purpose, simplicity, and artwork.
Artistic Rating: 4 [out of 5]