Saturday, March 19, 2011

Farewell to Jim Roslov

Grognardia has reported that former TSR artist Jim Roslov has died at the age of 65. Not all that old considering he was born the same year as my father.

While the news is certainly sad...especially for his loved ones, I'm certain...Mr. Roslov has left an indelible print on the hearts and minds of those who grew up playing (and who continue to play) these old games. For me at least, he remains my favorite "old school" artist (all apologies to Erol Otus and Larry Elmore). I've blogged before of my appreciation for Roslov's artwork. While the cover to the updated D1-D2 is probably my single favorite piece, it is his spare treatment of low level combat on the cover of B2: The Keep on the Borderlands that stands out most in my mind...not just in remembering Roslov's work, but in remembering B/X D&D or any of my childhood gaming.

How often did I stare at that cover as a kid, just taking it in. Much of it is reminiscent of a Japanese woodcut (the cherry tree, the landscape, the samurai-like armor of the hobgoblins)...and like an old woodcut, I always felt something tranquil about illustration, despite its subject. Even though I found it puzzling that there was no apparent "keep" in the image, despite the title of the module.

Ah, with Gygax, Arneson, and Moldvay, Roslov's death marks the passing of yet another "great" from the formative years of the role-playing hobby's history. I know his family and friends will miss him more than I (who have never known him) ever could. But I can't help but be glad that he shared his art and creativity with us during his life. He provided a great deal of inspiration to many young minds, including my own.

Rest in peace, Mr. Roslov. Thank you.


  1. Hobgoblins? I've always assumed those were pigfaced orcs on the cover of B2.

    Roslof was a great artist. I particularly enjoyed his work in Deities & Demigods, like the glorious full-page depiction of Thor killing the world serpent (p. 122), and the evocative illustration of the Wild Hunt (p. 31).

    Even better are his renderings of the Finnish and Greek gods. Since Finnish mythology was totally new to me when I picked up the book as a kid, Roslof established my first mental image of that pantheon, which endures to this day. Greek gods, on the other hand, were old hat, but Roslof's sketches challenged me to view them in a different light. To me, the Greek gods had always been sterile beauties--like Classical statues, or department store mannequins--but Roslof imbued them with a rugged humanity and quirky character that rings truer to me than the more traditional idealized depictions of earlier artists (ancient, Renaissance or Romantic), for the Greek gods exceed mortals in all things, including folly and dysfunction.

    Just as Roslof exceeded your average staff artist in skill, imagination, and creativity. Rest in peace, Jim.

  2. Totally agree with you on the old DDG/LL artwork...the depictions of the gods in that volume (ESPECIALLY Roslov's work) made it a favorite of mine, even though I never played a cleric in any of the campaigns of my youth. It was still plenty inspiring stuff, and the gods had serious impacts in all our games because of it.
    : )