Monday, June 22, 2009

Elven Role-Models (One More Rant)

Out of both the Modvay and Cook rule sets, out of all the BECMI rule books, and out of all the pages of Rules Cyclopedia, there is exactly one decent picture that represents (for me) the Elf's the elf in the center of the Willingham illustration on page B1 of the Moldvay Basic Set.

Yep...that's her. That's it. Nada mas worth mentioning out of 11 rule books and one rules compilation. Pretty crappy, if you ask me.

See, the thing is with these RPG things is that the game world is all imaginary.  There's no board to the game, there are no illustrated cards, there's certainly no animated computer images.  Everything is in your mind.

And because everything comes from one's imagination, the artwork and illustrations in the game books are immensely important.  They are what inspire and fire the imagination.

I am sure that one of the reasons D20 and later editions of D&D have sold as well as they have, despite being such shoddy products play-wise, is the beautiful illustrations in the game books.  3rd edition was great...hell, the half-elf bard was cool enough to make me want to revisit the bard class, 2nd fiddle character though it was. The 4th edition has art that's even better.  The slick production values allow the artists' visions to jump off the page and into the minds of players and DMs alike.

So why O why isn't there more than one decent picture of an Elf in the whole of the "Basic D&D" line?

C'mon...sell me on playing one of these chumps!  What's the matter?  Is it that the illustrators couldn't think of how to make the Elf lord...well, "lordly?"  Certainly they couldn't in the MCI rule sets...and they couldn't do it in the Rules Cyclopedia either.  Where's the Elf in full plate with a two-handed sword?  Nope...they're all scantily clad and wielding bows.

The image I've posted is the only one that does justice to the elf class.  Here we see an obviously low level elf, only fitting as the illustration is the title page for the Basic set.  She's probably wearing the best armor she can afford...chain mail, perhaps magical.  She's armed with both a shield and a sword; no bow in sight. 

Even if she hasn't already used her handful of spells for the day, she knows better than to try them against a red dragon...sleep and magic missile will do little, and shield won't protect her any better than her armor and saving throw versus dragon breath. Quite possibly she is the leader of the party, seeing as how she is in the forefront of the engagement.  She is not hanging in the back casting spells or shooting arrows, but rather taking the brunt of the dragon's fire while the rest of the party supports her

Yes, her goose is probably cooked...but at least she'll go down swinging.

Similar to the halfling illustrations in the Cook Expert set, this Elf looks both courageous and determined. She's not backing down, she's not running for cover, she's not holding back.  The dragon is unfortunately awake, not surprised, and has rolled a nasty Reaction roll.  The whole party's quite possibly dead (their magic-user's got nothing better in the tank then throwing fireball at a red dragon?).  But the Elf is going to uphold her honor.  Of the bunch, she's probably the first one that'll deserve to be raised by the local healers.  

I'd like to see more of her type in the game world.

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