Monday, January 18, 2010

Holmes Basic And Crappy Dice And Artwork

Lately, I've been sorting through my old Dungeons and Dragons collection.

As some of you are already aware, a garage fire several years ago destroyed most of my old gaming stuff. Fortunately, some of my collection followed me over the years, and thus avoided that garage fire. The surviving bits included my Holmes Basic set, pictured here. As you can see, it includes the old "crappy" dice, along with module B1, In Search of the Unknown.

I was reading one of the more prominent and successful new-school D&D blogs recently. One of the posted criticisms of the "old-school" community's publishing efforts is the penchant for those authors to include new artwork, in the style of the mid- to late-1970's black and white D&D art. That critic felt that it made the newly published old-school materials appear amateurish. As I read through the Holmes Basic rulebook and module B1, I came across several fine examples of that style of artwork.

I must admit that I like that style of artwork. And the reasons I do are similar to the reasons that I like the original rules, warts and all. The black and white artwork, like the written OD&D rules, seemed to allow for more imagination to be used by the reader and viewer. The criticism that the old-style of art-work makes the publications appear amateurish is an understandable one, but which misunderstands what the old-school is all about -- a hobbyist and diffused approach to gaming and publishing, rather than a corporate and monolithic one.

12 comments:

Timeshadows said...

My mind's eye has higher resolution graphics than anything a Mac or PC can come close to rendering, let alone with the speed and fluidity of reality (or, in this case, unreality).
--Likewise, the 'feel' of the early gaming stuff (preferably, by the better artists), is far more important to me than the 'look' of the new, flashy stuff.

AslanC said...

If you look at my blog, you will see I am doing superheroes with art in the Bruce Timm style. That's the neat thing, Bruce Timm's style (Batman Animated, Justice League, etc) was a tribute to the old Fleischer style from the 30's and 40's and considered by many to be childish or amateur today. For me it is evocative of a more imaginative time.

Cheers to the old school art.

ze bulette said...

dude, long live Trampier and Otus.

Daddy Grognard said...

@ze bulette - yeah, and DCS as well. Every time I look at the old stuff like the Treasure Hunters (which utterly sums up Old School for me), Emirikol the Chaotic, Paladin in Hell (and so many more), it touches the heart like none of the new stuff does.

Chris said...

B&W is deemed amateurish and 'low production values' now?

Boy, I'm glad Durer, Dore, Piranesi and Tenniel (and Tramp', and Jim Holloway) never got *that* memo...

Kiltedyaksman said...

I agree. I enjoy the "room for interpretation" in Old School art myself.

The Rusty Battle Axe said...

Holmes is still the "the version" of D&D for me, art, nasty dice and all.

JD Neal said...

I'm not a GAMER as such. I will attest that the ordinary people I started with would never have got into it if not for the simple basic rule books and their escapist fun presentation. They invoked the idea of "Sit down and have fun with your imagination."

Today's games invoke the idea of sitting down and mentally masturbating over numbers. Let's play chess rather than a fantasy game!

The old school movement itself is great. Even if it tends to attract people who basically want to turn old school games into 3.5 or 4.0 with all sorts of bells and whistles. I guess gamers are gamers and some eventually strive to stuff all they can into a game -- and make them all play the same way.

It's still hard for them to compete against the original books I have.

BrianKLujan said...

I am a total freak for the nostalgia of the "old-school" game art. It just seemed so much more accessible with the simplistic artwork. Like anyone could do it and be apart of the game. The new "shiny" artwork seems like it's for elitists or snobbish gamers. Give me some Otus, Dee and Elmore line drawings anyday of the week and twice on Sunday.
BTW...anyone else notice that everything Otus drew was pointy? :)

bliss_infinte said...

The classic B&W artwork always inspired imagination. Just look at the drawings in the B1 module, that's got exploration, danger and excitement all over.

JB said...

The B&W artwork people have been submitting for my book is great...why does anyone need more than that? Glossy color? Who cares!
: )

Mark said...

@JD Neal

I agree. Earlier versions of D&D (2nd edition and earlier) left rules interpretations up to the GM instead of more strictly defining what the players can or cannot do.

I believe there will be a backlash against the 4th edition rules which move D&D firmly into MMO-influenced/miniature wargame territory.

On the other extreme, check out the role playing game Polaris:

http://www.tao-games.com/index.php?page_id=243

Polaris is one of the better systems for interactive storytelling.