As I get older, my appreciation for In Search of the Unknown has been growing ever stronger. It was the first module I ever played -- it came packaged with my Holmes Basic set -- and I played the heck out of it with my friends. I've been re-reading it yet again (the second time since September, which shows how highly I regard it) and, in the midst of all the other thoughts and feelings it conjured up, I couldn't help but marvel at its illustrations. They're all by the late Dave Sutherland. I know it's commonplace to consider Sutherland vastly inferior to Dave Trampier and perhaps he is, but, for whatever reason, I find it hard not to like Sutherland's work. It has a clean, unpretentious quality to it that appeals to me. I consider DCS III and Tramp to be the twin esthetic pillars of the Golden Age.
One of the illustrations from module B1 that I just love is this one:
In many ways, it perfectly captures the nuances of old school D&D. Look at the scenery. There are fairy tale leprechauns around, as well as a valiant knight astride his steed as he charges past Cinderella's castle in the distance. Into the midst of this bucolic scene march a bunch of adventurers and their hirelings -- single file, no less! -- carrying bags, backpacks, and even a 10-foot pole. When did you last see a 10-foot pole in a RPG illustration? The magic-user is recognizable by his conical cap, complete with stars and moons, and the elf too has his requisite headgear.
This illustration is pure Sutherland: not high art but fun art and highly evocative of a time when adventurers looked like the excavation team that they were and didn't bat an eye at the lack of gender parity in their merry band. These guys look like characters from my old campaigns and, even now, this is how I envisage a bunch of D&D adventurers. Like Sutherland, they may not be cool, but they get the job done -- the ones who live anyway. We all know the guy up front and the elf are marked for death.