Monday, March 21, 2011

An Iconic Cover

Of all the pieces that Jim Roslof created over the course of his career, I'd wager the one most gamers of a certain vintage will remember is this one from the cover of The Keep on the Borderlands. Of course, a lot of us probably didn't realize who the artist was; I know I didn't. But for those of us entered the hobby during the Holmes and Moldvay eras, this image was among a handful indelibly burned into our memories and forever linked with the words "Dungeons & Dragons." This fact alone is enough to place Roslof in the pantheon of the hobby's great illustrators, though, as I'll show in subsequent posts this week, he was responsible for a great many other defining images of the Golden Age of TSR.

13 comments:

  1. I still remember getting B2 in the Moldavay Basic set back when I was about 11. It has always been a major influence on how I mentally visualize the game and does a phenomenal job of capturing the feel of Gary's adventure.

    Requiescat in pace.

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  2. In homage of this great artist, this pic will adorn my laptop for the rest of the month.

    I hope he knew just how much he contributed to a whole generation, as well as, a part of the whole D&D experience .

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  3. It was the first module that my friends and I ventured in(some 30 years-ish ago). As long as the new and old players keep playing B2, his work will live forever. Thanks for the memories Jim.

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  4. This cover illustration was my first clue that I was going to need AT LEAST three fighters in the party if I was ever going to survive the module.

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  5. 'But for those of us entered the hobby during the Holmes and Moldvay eras, this image was among a handful indelibly burned into our memories and forever linked with the words "Dungeons & Dragons."'

    That's so true, B2 was my first module. My older brother and I tried to get our father to play. He loved it- his response to every encounter was "I'll tickle it!".

    We didn't invite him back. On reflection: we probably should have made him DM ;)

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  6. Great art from the late, great Mr. Roslof. I think 'Descent' Earth was my favorite, but 'Keep' was great (both for action and color).

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  7. You said it best. I can remember being age 10 looking at this picture holding my copy of Moldvay's D&D, buying it after Cub Scouts.

    These were the images which helped me discover D&D.

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  8. This image is like an old familiar friend. It may not be one of his greatest illustrations (some might argue that he has better pieces), but this one apparently made an impact. For me personally, it ranks 'up there' with Trampier's demon idol cover (and probably for the same reasons). When I see this image, my very first thoughts are about the countless hours of fun I had playing this module when I was 12 or so... and the imaginations it inspired. I believe a different cover would have given me a different experience.

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  9. Yeah, B2's the first adventure I ever played, too. What's striking now looking at this piece is the mix of styles at play - that archer is almost of the Dee/Willingham line school, while the tree beside them could be snipped from a Van Gogh painting. Great stuff.

    I hope you do a post on Queen of the Demonweb Pits!

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  10. Reading Saladin's comment jogged a thought about how it's disappointing that more people haven't said "why" they like this piece other than they have fond memories for the module itself.

    I love Roslof's color palette choices here. You rarely see trees blossoming in fantasy art (is it a plum or cherry tree), let alone having it dominant the illustration. Same goes for the vivid colors of the hills in the background.

    One thing I always loved about Roslof's work (on display here) was his attention to the details on armor and clothing. I dig the runic looking work on the archer's arm brace and the Gilgamesh looking outfit of the Dwarf(?).

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  11. B2 is my point of origin as well and I studied this cover repeatedly in those early days. The character gear is interestingly different in this one and the hobgoblins (I thought they were orcs for such a long time) with the blue noses are an interesting early take on things too.

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  12. And here I am, getting ready to use this in my home campaign, where 6 of the 7 players are relatively new, and have not played in this. This includes, I might add, my 10 year old son and 13 year old daughter. Yay for passing on the game!

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  13. I never realized that this piece of art was from Roslof - wow

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