Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Art Of Peril

 Continuing from the prior post...

As several astute commenters deduced, this discussion on art in D&D was "goosed" into action by Delta's blog post on "old school" art from Monday. Delta's main point was that:
" of the biggest sensibility differences between old-school D&D art and and newer-school art is the amount of violence depicted against ostensibly player-character-types..."
I have some quibbles with Delta's conclusion ("flipping through the earliest 1st Edition materials, you're going to get the idea that in D&D, player-character life is cheap") but not with his declarative that the images presented are going to create particular ideas in the minds of the reader. Again, returning to my prior post, our imagination constructs ideas and images from memories, and memories at their base are generated from external (sensory) stimuli.

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy game that absolutely requires imagination (in all participants) to play effectively. I would go so far as to say imagination is probably the defining characteristic of role-playing games, as opposed to computer (video) games, board games, or card games, ALL of which are playable without imaginative input from the participants involved. As such the importance of exercising one's imagination (both through use and through assimilation of pertinent memories for use) cannot be understated. The ability to play the game is limited by one's imagination (or lack thereof), and as we wish to pay attention to how that imagination is cultivated, we should take a hard look at the purpose and objective of the game.

Dungeons & Dragons is a game of facing peril and overcoming its challenges.

This is clearly evident from the rules of the game. No, D&D is not a game about "telling stories;" as I have written (often) before, there are MANY role-playing games that are designed to create/tell stories (in many genres!) and that serve that purpose better than D&D. Folks using D&D as a vehicle to tell stories are pretty lazy (or else suckers for the marketing). Systems are not included to be ignored; dice are not rolled because players "like rolling dice." The fantasy world of role-playing IS designed to amuse, entertain, fascinate, astound, and escape reality. Yes, absolutely. But the game is designed with the mechanics it's given in order to face peril and overcome challenge. This is the reason for combat rules. And armor class. And hit points. And saving throws. Etc.

SO...given the above raison d'etre of D&D, let's take a look at the artwork that is Oh So Necessary for implanting those building blocks of imagination (integral to the game) and the job they do at conveying the perilous nature of the game.

I spent roughly three hours this morning combing through the core books (PHB, DMG, and MM) of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions of D&D making notes on the artwork and just how much "peril" was communicated. Things I looked for were instances of evident fear (either on terrified faces or actual flight), instances of helplessness or restraint/capture, killing blows (i.e. an attack from which the individual was most definitely NOT going to walk away from without clerical assistance), "zaps" (from traps or magical monster attacks that may or or may not be lethal), and the presence of Already Dead Bodies. At first, I attempted to do a simple count for each book, giving more weight to some illustration over other (half a point for a scared face, two points for a killing blow that shows entrails/viscera, etc.), but the results were somewhat confused and, for my purposes, not nearly descriptive enough. So I went back through all the illos (again) and simply made tallies for each particular instance of each category for each book.

For an illo to be counted, the recipient of the "peril" had to be a PC type (the dragon on p.21 of the 1E DMG doesn't count, for example, as all the creatures being killed are kobolds). Overwhelming odds (the purple worm on p.166 of the 1E DMG) or potential surprise (p.91 of the MM, p.99 of the DMG3) were NOT counted for purposes of "peril" as such illustrations could simple be viewed as "precursors to heroism," or some such. Neither were the cover illustrations of ANY edition counted in any way (as covers are prone to change, even within editions)...only interior artwork was reviewed. Artwork taken from earlier products (2E illos include a LOT of previously published artwork from 1st edition) still count towards peril, as the illos were used in the core books and thus help teach the game to prospective players.

Here then are the results, as I calculated them:

1st Edition (AD&D)
Fear: 18
Held/Helpless: 12
Kill Shot: 8
Dead Body: 6
Zapped!: 7
Total: 51

Fear: 4
Held/Helpless: 1
Kill Shot: 2
Dead Body: 4*
Zapped!: 1
Total: 12

DND3 (3rd Edition)
Fear: 6
Held/Helpless: 10
Kill Shot: 1
Dead Body: 2*
Zapped!: 3
Total: 23

*Dead bodies! Okay...let's talk about these for a moment. Three of these four instances in 2E feature "bodies in repose" that may or may not simply be sleeping, they looked so peaceful (and no evidence of violence...see p.125 of the PHB2 and p.24 of the DMG2). The final one seems obvious; equally obvious, however, is the party's intention to raise their companion (p.116, DMG2). The "dead bodies" in 3E are even more "iffy" in nature: the caption on p.153 of the PHB3 tells me the individual is dead, but he looks more like someone having his leg regenerated. The other image (from the MM3) appears to be a mermaid helping a drowned man (p.135)...hardly "peril."

Oh, and speaking of iffy...the thing that's really absent from 3E, compared to the first two editions is any sensations of fear...hell, there's hardly any trepidation illustrated. The six instances of "fear" counted for DND3 all come from the MM3. Four counts come from the illustration of the tarrasque (where four small figures are seen running from one of the most tremendous threats of the D&D universe, p.174). Yes, I count each character as one "instance"...more fear, more death makes more impression from a single illo. The other two instances of fear in the MM3 are also instances of small figures running from gigantic foes: the remorhaz (p.155) and the red dragon (p.67). There are plenty of other illos where small figures stand toe-to-toe with impunity against huge and colossal monsters.
And that's what really causes me to shake my head in looking at these late editions. Just what do the art directors think D&D is about? What are they conveying to the reader? Because, I'll tell you that any adventurer who thinks he's going to stare down a purple worm in ANY edition is probably asking to be eaten. 

The illustrations of post-1st AD&D simply fail in communicating the perils inherent in the game. Keep in mind that 1E has plenty of illustrations that do NOT contain peril: images showing heroic confrontation, or fantasy and wonder abound in the pages of the PHB and DMG (whose share of "peril images" I count as 9 and 12, respectively). Yet, 1E still manages to communicate the danger of the game world to the reader. Not (as Delta concluded) that "life is cheap," but that fear and death are a part of the game.  This is preparation for the imagination. 

Failing to prepare the mind with art showing only heroic confrontation, victorious parties, and happy tavern scenes (a lot of these in 2E for some reason...) is going to lead to false expectations and, I can only imagine, DM fudging and protectionism to stave off player disappointment. At least in 2nd edition, which is close enough to 1E that players should be gaffled just as readily for stupid shit as in the original Advanced game.  In 3E, I suppose disappointed expectations can be avoided with careful use of that edition's complex challenge system and obsessive attention to optimal "character builds."

Anyway... some folks asked me about B/X and how its art helps illustrate the perils of that particular edition. By my method of calculation there are only two instances of character peril illustrated in the contents (both in the Basic book; both of the "zapped!" variety). My own B/X Companion (which was illustrated to my specifications and in like vein to the original books) contains only two instances of peril, one each of the "kill shot" and "dead body" variety (actually, just a severed arm being gnawed by a Baba Yaga-like hag). That ain't much peril. However, Moldvay's basic book supplements this by providing detailed play examples (in both the Encounter/Combat section and the Dungeon Mastering section) featuring player character death. Gygax does likewise in the 1st edition DMG (p.71 and then p.97-100...the latter describes a particularly gruesome PC demise). While such textual examples are helpful in making explicit the perilous nature of the D&D game, I don't think there's any debating the old saw "a picture is worth a thousand words." More images of peril would go a loooong way.

Fortunately, we also have adventure modules to help us out:


By the way, I also calc'd out the first edition Fiend Folio art because I consider it part of my personal "core" AD&D volumes, even if the numbers weren't added above. Here's how that most grim and perilous tome stats out in terms of communicating "peril" through its artwork:

Fiend Folio (1E)
Fear: 12
Held/Helpless: 22
Kill Shot: 8
Dead Body: 2
Zapped!: 2
Total: 46

I think the fact that the total instances of character peril in the FF alone is more than the combined core books of 2E and 3E says quite a bit about the game's art direction post-1988.

[I don't own copies of 4E or 5E so I can't comment on those particular volumes. However, as game play for those two editions are fairly distinct from earlier editions...even 3E...perhaps those editions' artwork conveys exactly what they're supposed to communicate]

Comments, as always, are welcome.
: )


  1. I look at that purple worm art and I don't see a staredown, I see an "Oh, $%!*" moment.

    1. I'll have to disagree with you there. Nothing about the warrior's stance conveys anything but calm, cool reflection/appraisal of the gigantic beast that has JUST NOW burst from the ground (see the rocks erupting into the air!). He's not even ducking/covering his head, there's no hint of trembling, the grip on his weapons still firm but relaxed.

      I see neither shock, nor awe in this illustration. I find it "par for the course" with MM3 illos (many pix of individuals casually hanging out with dragons).

    2. Really interesting post!

      However, two counter-points to consider:

      + Did you count the total # of illustrations per book? The *percentage* of all illustrations that reveal peril is possibly more important than the absolute number of perilous illustrations per book.

      + Like BubbaDave above, I must respectfully and totally disagree with your visual read of that Purple Worm confrontation. Neither the warrior's shield nor sword are positioned in a tactically defensive or threatening position. Moreover, if my eyes are reading the intended perspective accurately, the human's posture is leaning back almost to a point that compromises his balance as he looks up in awe/shock/disbelief at the monster (obviously, the emotion is more subjective than the posture). To me, this picture immediately reads "competent, experienced swordsman, who just let down his guard completely as he's confronted by a horror beyond his experience."

    3. @ Grundo:

      I did NOT count the entire number of illustrations to determine the percentage that define peril...though I originally considered doing so.

      After some thought on the subject, I decided that the % of "peril" illustrations wasn't really important. ALL the artwork is adding to the "memory blocks" that will be used in the imagination process. My mind will file away images as I see them (subconsciously or not) and all have the potential to be used as fodder. Does my mental storage space of "fantasy" associated with "D&D" contain images of "peril?" That's really the only question, NOT "how many compared to other [associated] images."

      In the end, I felt the total number of "peril" images...and their quality or type...was the more important data point to track.

  2. Did you calculate the numbers by book? Such as just the PHB.

    Also to be fair the Monster Manual for 2e mostly shows monster portraits not action scenes so its bringing down the average.

    1. Yes, broke it down by book (but didn't break it down in the post.

      Total illos of "peril" in PHBs:
      1st: 9
      2E: 3 (including "dead bodies" noted above)
      3E: 2 (including "dead body" note)

      Total illos of "peril" in DMGs:
      1st: 12
      2E: 9 (including 2 "dead bodies")
      3E: 9

      Not much difference in NUMBER between editions (at least in the DMG), but certainly a difference in the TYPE of peril. The 3E DMG has 9 illos (same as 2E), but 6 are PCs of the held/restrained variety, and 3 are just "zaps" (failed saving throws, traps). NONE are of the kill shot, dead body, or (God forbid!) "fear" variety...3E player characters being fearless champions of right, etc. The 2E DMG at least has page 92.

      But that's all "DMG stuff." What do the PHB's show? What are they teaching PLAYERS about the perils of D&D? Not much in 2E and 3E. The 1st edition PHB shows a dead character right off the bat (in the section on Constitution).

      Your point regarding MMs is well taken, but cut out all MMs and the ration is still about 2-to-1 between 1E and 2E/3E. Also, I probably should have noted that the 1st edition MM (with its 30! illustrations of fear and death) was released before either the PHB or DMG and many folks put it into effect immediately. I myself had a MM that I used with B/X long before I had copies of either the DMG or PHB (imagine my players shock at encountering a THAT's a post for another time!).

    2. Thanks. Agree the PHB should show players what to expect. That is part of why I was asking but my GF was getting mad I was typing a dinner.

      Sounds like 2e and 3e have a disconnect between player facing and DM facing art.

      I got into the hobby with B/X then moved to 1e. But I can imagine that starting with MM would shape a person differently.

      I like this series of posts

  3. FWIW, I just flipped through the 4e D&D Essentials players' handbooks (Heroes of Fallen Lands/Forgotten Kingdoms). Can't really speak for the main/non-Essentials 4e player-facing stuff. The two Essentials players' books (when they aren't just showing lone hero portraits) tend to portray combats where the heroes appear to be up against rough odds, but the heroes look pretty comfortable facing them! Interestingly, the second volume has a couple of illustrations that make it look like the heroes have bitten off a bit more than they can chew and are already starting to lose ... but the book also features a couple pictures of PCs applying killing strokes to enemies.

    Since 4e's combat aims at a balanced tactical wargame experience, arguably such illustrations accurately support player expectations for that edition, though this seems to support your overall point.

    1. 4E is a different game, in many ways. I wouldn't expect PCs to show much emotion one way or another...though they should probably show some EFFORT in their struggle against adversaries.
      ; )

  4. Is the shift in tone for the art a result of the move towards balanced challenges? In ODD and 1E the idea was that PCs determined the level of challenge by how deep they went or how far from civilization they went. Balance was a function of assumed risk and knowing when to turn tail and run was part of the game.

    Later the game changed to one where the level of challenge was determined by the DM, seeking to provide an optimal level of challenge the whole time. That was about the time it became a game of combat as sport vs. combat as war.

    So the question is what came first - art led to changes or changes led to art?

    1. @ Jojo:

      I do NOT think the shift in tone is due to a move towards "balanced challenges."

      Between 1E and 2E there was a definite shift in thinking regarding "what the game is about" (more about telling stories of fantasy heroism) and the art is reflective of THAT. But the rules did not change in ways that accommodated that shift in thinking (they are still, largely, the 1E rules better organized) and so "patches" begin showing up in adventures: railroad plots, script immunity, challenges far below PC capabilities, etc. To be fair, this starts during the era of 1E (with Dragonlance), but the artwork of the 1E core books reflect the earlier mindset that the rules are designed to facilitate.

      3E is a different story. WotC was the maker of MtG, a card game that became uber-popular (in part) due to its artwork, and I find many of the illos in 3E to be reflective of MtG art sensibilities, which (by the year 2000) tended to feature heroic and fearless (or, at least, stoic) characters and humanoids fighting fantasy monsters. This sensibility is then pressed into a "D&D mold" per the designers directions...but, no, I do not think it is a reflection of the game design changes.

      In looking at this NOW, I THINK that there wasn't a lot of thought into how the artwork was reflective of the game as played. The designers wanted cool fantasy art ("give me a picture of a wizard fighting a dragon for this page"). Look at the OD&D books...nothing in the LBBs "illustrates the perils of the game." But many (most?) of the artists that illustrated the 1E books were individuals who had PLAYED the game...some for years...and knew what it was all about. Consciously or not, they had an idea about how to draw the stuff (and I think also that's the reason one sees so many "in-joke" or snarky illustrations in the 1E books).

  5. I just looked through the 5E PHB. There are maybe 6 pictures that fit your criteria above. MAYBE. And all but one (a zap) are in the three pages near the end illustrating various conditions.

    Fear: there's an illo of the condition, but there's not real fear on the face of the PC, more like surprise IMO, although she is dropping her sword and shield as something big approaches.
    Helpless: Three conditions show helpless characters (paralyzed, grappled, and restrained).
    Killing Blow: not a one
    Zap: one, but it's questionable whether the character zapping or being zapped is supposed to be the PC. (page 205)
    Dead Bodies: sort of one, a petrified PC in the conditions section.

    I was going to go through the 5E MM as well (don't have the DMG for 5E in hard copy) but I think that's enough.

    1. Yeah. I'd guess not.

      I'm not sure how much peril 5E is supposed to have in it. And before folks take that as "needless snark," I mean that statement in a serious fashion: I've heard from some that 5E PCS die just as easily (or at least are downed) as any other edition characters, given the right (wrong) circumstances. I've also heard that this is sometimes an issue, because the players are expecting to be LESS vulnerable.

      I tried to get my hands on a copy of the 5E books yesterday in order to page through them myself, but the store near me was sold out of the core books. I might try the comic shop down the street today and take a gander.

  6. The art in the 5e core books is not really indicative of a central vision because WotC changed art directors midway through. The results are, one guy ordered the art, and another person, having no idea what the first guy had in mind, had to place the art.

    That said, the story of 5e's PHB art is, "Look at all these cool people you can be!" It's extremely "inclusive" along multiple vectors; not only do we see lots of "non-Western" examples of gear and skin-tone, but there's art that's more "elven princess" and less "heroic adventure."

    There are also a lot of pics of adventurers adventuring: Cruise-era Mission Impossible break-ins, groups camping for the night, fighting back-to-back against a swarm of goblins, etc.

    What's really interesting is how vague the art is. Who are the characters attacking the fire giant on the cover? There's a drow poisoning a dagger before stabbing it into someone's back; is the drow a PC? An NPC about to stab a PC? And it's easy to think the rogue on page 94 is a man.

    1. The directive for inclusivity, I think, is to be expected. The RPG hobby is far more diverse than it was in the mid-70s (duh), and the AWARENESS of that diversity is greater. In my most recent "art direction," I asked my artist for more individuals of color and both genders.

      I like ambiguous illustrations (as far as wondering "is this a PC? or an NPC?") because it prevents the viewer from pigeon-holing themselves one way or another. The illustration on p.27 of the 1E PHB, for instance: is the PC the one holding the knife? Or the guy being mugged? Or neither (both are NPCs one is observing on the street)? Or both (PvP action!)?

      Knowing about the change in art directors is really I REALLY want to take a look at the 5E books (again, that is...I've read them before, but I wasn't worried about artwork before).

  7. There's also a very strong equipment fetish in the 5e PHB. Tons of cool things your character could use, wear, or carry. ;)

    1. "Equipment fetish" has been a thing since at least the late 80s...worked well for Cyberpunk and Shadowrun and has been a "thing" with D&D since 3E.

  8. Cool and thoughtful post. A sound analysis. I agree with your conclusions that WOTC and the art of MtG will have driven a lot of the art - simply through professionalising and corporatising the production and editing of the game's rulebooks. It's possible that far fewer artist had played the game in advance of their commissions.

    Another factor might be that the 1e artists lived in a world that had greater levels of peril. WW2 and Korea was in the experience of their fathers and Vietnam and the draft in their own or their brothers. This plus the societal upheavals of the civil rights movement and the Cold War all sit as background hum when you are sat with your sketchbook trying to come up with an illustration for a fantasy game about treasure hunting.

  9. I was just looking at the 5th edition PHB and DM guide. There are quite a few images that show PC's struggling or unsure of themselves in a situation. Even the cover of the PHB features two PC's who don't look confident in their facing of a fire giant. Their facial expressions a mixture of alarm and fight. While the DM guide also features a cover where it seems the lich is raising a dead PC to its purposes. The DM book tends to highlight players reacting to the unknown. Many shots of them traversing obstacles in mundane fashion like a rock cliff. Or dwarfed by the scale of ruins or the world around them. Sticking their hand into a very imposing trap. I agree that failure is shown less in these illustrations. I feel there is a strong hint that danger is lurking around them and it can happen to them. But, there is also a lot of portrait style images in the PHB that mostly deal with what things look like in D&D. I personally feel the great crime from early game art and new is that fact that the look and feel of the illustrations and things represented in the world became so standardized. It is very on brand and IP now. Where in the early days you would see a few different ideas of what a orc or hobgoblin might look like ... not so much anymore. And when it comes to Fiend Folio ... it is so so British gaming. It may be more fair to compare it to Warhammer Fantasy 1e rather than other AD&D books. Half the appeal of it early on was that it wasn't like the other AD&D books.

    1. @ Faux:

      I made way down to my favorite shop today and spent a good long time paging through the 5E PHB and DMG. Both registered a fat 0 as far as my “peril” criteria goes.

      D&D is not about finding the courage to brave ominous surroundings.

    2. I don't think you get to define that for everyone who plays the game. I will say the newer editions hint more at danger in their art instead of depicting it. The art attempts to evokes danger and mystery. And I think they do work at times. Out of curiosity I did a scan of my Moldvay Basic book. It being the oldest book I had around still besides Fiend Folio. Not counting the threat of a spider bite I found its depiction of adventures on par with 5e. The front piece and title page are actually a lot more heroic than I remembered. There may even be a bit of homage to its cover in the 5e PHB. I wish I had the BECMI version but I recall it being just more professional art house style. TSR got on the make it kid/teen/adult friendly pretty early. And quite a few of their early artists were coming from comic book backgrounds. So heroic was the selling point and the draw for many. I came into the hobby when both this box set and BECMI's basic set were both in the same store side by side. And I remember playing Stormbringer for our teenage edgy fantasy fix where life and limb were threatened at every turn and the illustrations tended to be adult targeted. But, I am pretty sure that PG grade art led to the success of things like Vampire and so forth in the 90's. And TSR trying to make Planescape and their Alternity line more adult looking. WotC continues that tradition. Since inclusion also includes comfort level with owning the actual object. In middle school I remember having the early CoC hardback and doing my best to always avoid a particular illustration in it. Or trying to flip pass certain pages while reading the AD&D pages as a teen in public and wanting to avoid any embarrassment from onlookers spying something out of context. Considering their success with sales. I doubt that will change anymore than metal being dangerous again.

    3. I should add I don't think the books need to reflect any particular tone. Since that is going to come from the media that influences the group of players. Listening to a group of tweens and teens play D&D is some weird mix of horror, fantasy, and video games. And the adult games I have ran over the last 11 years have been pulpy low magic, body horror, heroic save the world, and high magic. Everyone is bringing their own idea and seldom are the game books more than a vehicle for them. So modern gamebooks being a little less explicit isn't changing the tone of the game. People have been setting their own tone for decades.

    4. @ Faux:

      Hm. So much to address.

      Anyone can play D&D anyway they want at their own table. Regardless of whether or not *I* say "you're doing it wrong" there's nothing to stop someone from playing the game however they like, changing the rules however they like, adopting whatever style or tone they like. Let's just agree to call all that stuff "a given." Indeed: people have been doing their own thing for decades and will (presumably) continue to do so, regardless of what I think and (certainly) regardless of what I write on a blog that's read by...what? Maybe a few hundred people? Surely not enough to have much impact. Not nearly as much as new people coming to the game via Critical Role and saying, "Ah-ha! THAT's what the game is supposed to look like!"

      SO...taking all THAT as a given:

      You seem to have missed my point (or, at least, gotten hung up on something that isn't my point). But blame me for that, because I am lamentably long-winded and prone to tangential meanderings. Let me see if I can sum up:

      1) D&D requires imagination to play.
      2) Imagination is built in the mind based on memory WHICH AT ITS BASE is founded in external (sensory) input.
      3) For a fantasy game (i.e. a game not based in reality) artwork provides a vital source of that foundational sensory input.
      4) D&D, following its own rules, has a way in which it tends to unfold (on this point you can quibble with my declaration that it's about "facing peril" and "overcoming challenges." However, I don't think the game system supports much in the way of other types of play - like story-telling - and personally feel that there are many other RPGs that support styles of play OTHER THAN facing peril and overcoming challenges, so why the hell are you playing D&D if you want something different?).
      5) As a fantasy game, limited by imagination, it is useful (if not imperative) that the artwork providing that seminal sensory input portrays images of game play which, as I see it, includes FACING PERIL and OVERCOMING CHALLENGES.
      6) Editions after 1E tend to fail in this regard.

      [also, please note that I addressed B/X above. The only illustrations of peril at all I take to be the tarantula pic and the gaseous form on p.B48, both of the "zapped" variety. And if you don't think being "gassed" isn't a form of peril, you've never seen a high level fighter poof into smoke while her gear was being eaten by a black pudding. I have. It was rough]

    5. (cont.)

      YES, absolutely, everyone is bringing an idea of fantasy to the table these days. Everyone's seen films like LotR or Harry Potter or those godawful remakes of Clash of the Titans. Having fantasy images in your mind certainly helps with the "imagination" part of the equation; knowing what a "medusa" is or a wraith, for example. But while those provide mental associations with fantasy concepts, they don't provide associations with the concepts of the GAME...and the game is one of peril. Where people get killed. Or captured/de=protagonized. Or face creatures that are too tough to fight and that should rightly be viewed with terror. Illustrations that implant THOSE images would be least in a game where such occurrences represent the general game play.

      I've played a lot of 1E Stormbringer...I'm a big Elric fan. The artwork in St. Andre's game is very illustrative of the Moorcock books. The game play is very much in line with the way the novels play out (i.e. very deadly and everyone has a short lifespan). My experience? People who come to the game with a knowledge of the Elric novels love it; people who haven't read Moorcock kind of hate it. The artwork only emphasizes the concepts already placed in the brain by the fiction. The (textual) examples in the rules ALSO emphasize the game play and genre.

      D&D is not Moorcock (though it is heavily influenced by his works). Nor is it Lovecraft, nor even Howard (whose fiction focuses on single protagonists unlike D&D's cooperative nature). In my opinion, it NEEDS artwork that communicates its differences to the players. Because if it relies on players to bring SOLELY their own images/ideas/concepts of fantasy to the table, they're likely to be disappointed.

      As quickly as, "Well Gandalf uses a sword, and he's a wizard! As does Elric. And Harry Potter. And..." Etc.

      Hopefully that makes sense.

  10. Yeah; there aren’t a lot of the situations you describe presented in the 4e PHB. The first illustration is of an adventuring party about to enter some ruins—no apparent peril. In the DMG, however, is an illustration of the inside of the ruins, with a pack of goblins hiding in the darkness, ready to ambush the party.

    There is a new picture at the start of each chapter, showing some sort of battle. Usually, the party is surrounded by orcs, or goblins, or skeletons, and they may be in trouble, but they don’t look fearful, just angry, or determined. The chapter on skills has an illustration of a party caught in a trapped corridor, with spouts of flame and small darts shooting at them. One character is kneeling beside a panel, working to disable the traps; he is sweating, which may be from the heat, or from nervousness, or both. The chapter on rituals is the only one showing someone dead (with a gaping hole in his chest) while another party member is clearly afraid.