Sunday, April 3, 2011

Forgotten Elmore


I've been thinking again, as I do every few months, about Western RPGs, and so I've been perusing my collection of Boot Hill stuff, among others. That's when I came across the 1983 module Burned Bush Wells, written by Jeff Grubb, and entirely illustrated by Larry Elmore. I'd completely forgotten about its existence, let alone its artwork, so I was surprised when I read it.

The module itself is no great shakes but I found myself appreciating the illustrations far more than I would have imagined I might. I've previously remarked that I think Elmore's style works far better for science fiction than it does for fantasy. Having now seen his Western art again, I may need to revise my estimation of his artistic range. Mind you, I've long felt Elmore's color landscapes were among his finest works, so perhaps it's no surprise that he's so well suited to Western scenes, which, to my mind anyway, depend heavily on a sense of place for their effectiveness.

Just an idle thought on a Sunday evening. I'll likely have more to say about Western RPGs in the days to come.

10 comments:

  1. Two things Boothill is a very nice system that needs to get more credit then simply being D&D's red headed step child. Elmore's work is very evocative & captures the sense of adventure. The module is ok for what it is. The art though that's another story & seems to almost evoke a sense of Zane Grey.

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  2. This is what I love about this blog, Jim. There's always something rare, nostalgic, intriguing, and enjoyable. Keep it up!

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  3. Man, those are phenomenal, especially that second one. It looks a lot like the old interior art from western pulps.

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  4. One of the things I like most about the second piece is the way one of the horses' noses is breaking the frame. I'm not sure why I like that. Maybe because it helps create an illusion of depth. Maybe because it suggests the action could spill out into the real world...

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  5. Being a huge Boot Hill fan (well, the "Cow Puncher" edition anyway), I own all five of the old BH modules, and the cover art of Burned Bush Wells (BH4) is probably my favorite. However, BH5 and BH3 have some great art (I really dig the interior of Ballots & Bullets), as well.
    : )

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  6. "No great shakes?"

    BBW is one of my favorite modules for any roleplaying game, and far and away my favorite for BH. It still has a strong influence I on how I run roleplaying games, as does Mad Mesa.

    What I like about the adventure, which is the iconic conflict between townsfolk and a wealthy businessman very similar to Open Range, is that it's presented through the random encounter table as a series of sequential 'special encounters.' What's great about BBW is that it's one of the few adventures out there in which the adventurers are perfectly free to ignore those encounters and the adventure spells out the consequences for doing so, both for subsequent encounters and for the adventurers themselves.

    The adventurers are free to side with a faction, or to ignore the conflict between Lyle Underhay and the citizens of Burned Bush Wells altogather, and the adventure is written with that in mind.

    I think it's a very good example of how a status quo, 'sandbox' setting can be run while including npc conflicts and schemes which may have bearing on the adventurers.

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  7. I love Elmore's landscape art; I think it works well for a certain sort of fantasy too; Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.

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  9. That painting of the man confronting the wolves is probably the single best thing I've seen from Elmore. I agree with James that Elmore does good landscapes, and they are especially good when they are wintry.

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  10. It's really funny that you should bring this up, because Jeff Grubb mentioned Burned Bush Wells on his blog as well. He's doing the A to Z challenge, and for B covers Boot Hill, pointing out that Burned Bush Wells was his first gig at TSR. Serendipity, i suppose.

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