Thursday, April 3, 2014

Old School Illustrations: Advanced Melee

The passing of David Trampier has me reminiscing about some of my favorite old school illustrators and games. 

Advanced Melee, the volume from which the above and following illustrations are ripped, was part of Metagaming's "THE FANTASY TRIP", a stripped down role-playing game.  The Fantasy Trip was one of our go-to games in the early 1980's, as it could be easily carried about and played during a lunch hour of after school. 

The Advanced Melee rulebook included only a handful of illustrations, all in black and white, drawn exclusively by Robert Phillips.  His Advanced Melee illustrations had a strong sword & sorcery flavour, in contrast to the later, second generation, colorized heroic fantasy artwork that would be introduced to role-playing games by such artists as Elmore, Parkinson, Easley and Caldwell.
The earlier RPG artists were perhaps not as technically proficient as the RPG artists that followed, but what they lacked in finesse they make up in raw motion and emotion.

Everything was less heroically styled in The Fantasy Trip artwork.  Take for example the above encounter between a warrior and a Dragon.  The Dragon looks to be an overgrown crocodile with wings.  Dragons have since morphed into creatures several stories high, and larger than jumbo jets.  But even at the scale used in the Fantasy Trip, the Dragon looks formidable, although more likely overthrown.
The humans were similarly scaled back, sporting plausible facsimiles of real-world armor and wielding sensibly-sized weapons.  Perhaps a typical gamer's power-fantasies were less urgent back in the day!


faoladh said...

Yeah, I've been saying for years now that I miss that more toned-down, "sword & sorcery" style of fantastic art. People like Sutherland also did the same sort of thing in gaming, but it was also really common in the pulps.

Sean Robson said...

I've always loved the artwork from TFT. I always found it to be incredibly evocative; it fueled my imagination and really helped me to envision my world and bring my TFT games to life.

The cover illustration of Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, and In the Labyrinth rate right up there with the AD&D Player's Handbook as best RPG covers of all time.