Thursday, April 7, 2011

Little Details

When I was scanning the image used in my "F is for Firearms" post, I noticed some details in a piece of artwork from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks that I hadn't before. Drawn by Jeff Dee, it depicts an intellect devourer stalking a group of adventurers as they explore the alien spacecraft from the module.

Go ahead and enlarge the picture. With luck, you'll be able to notice something I hadn't previously. Look at the head and sword hand of the fighter in the rear of the party. Is it just me or has Dee depicted that the intellect devourer using psionic domination to control the fighter, who's preparing to attack his comrades from the rear? If so, that's a subtle little detail of the sort I really enjoy finding in gaming artwork. If not, what is it that I'm seeing?

20 comments:

  1. I agree that your assessment is correct. It looks like the Intellect Devourer is doing just that. That's pretty cool

    Jeff Dee was one of my favorite artists in the early days.

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  2. It's just the second guy's torch.

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  3. It's just the second guy's torch.

    The stuff by the fighter's sword hand? Yeah, that probably is just the torch. But what about the stuff around the fighter's head?

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  4. It's a feather of some sort, attached to the fighter's helm.

    But the mind control theory is much better, so I suggest we all go with that.

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  5. To elaborate, the fighter in front is looking to the left. He has a large feather or ruff attached to the top of his helm, which is curling down past the bottom of the helm, before curling back up.

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  6. Yes that is what I interpret as well. Jeff is my favorite artist of the early days and this is a good example of why. First, the perspective is from below, at the level of the intellect devourer. Second, the party seems to be wary and ready for anything, with weapons at hand. However, it appears they are about to encounter disaster, and when you look at the drawing, it is hard not to imagine the next few moments unfolding. This is what made these old modules so good. The artists were very good at detailing non-epic moments that make up the memorable events of the game. Personally, I think S4 was the pinnacle of module art.

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  7. I don't see it, but I like the idea, so... It works for me. :)

    One thing I did notice, however, are the bare legs of the female fighter: she'd better be good with her shield.

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  8. Kelvin,

    I think your interpretation is (sadly) correct, now that you've pointed it out to me. I even have evidence, as I'll post shortly.

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  9. James, as I said above, the mind control hypothesis is much more interesting, so I move we accept that as the official answer!

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  10. I want to know why on earth the magic user is leading the party. Shouldn't the primary spell-caster be in the middle of the party to be better protected? And yes, it is quite clear something is slipping under the back of his helmet, something unnatural-like.

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  11. "I want to know why on earth the magic user is leading the party."

    Nobody likes him?

    Reminds me of a quote from a game session back in college: "HEY! INVISIBLE MAGE!! SEE ANYTHING!!!"

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  12. Ah, "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks", forever part of D&Ders of a certain age range, just baked right into the DNA. Is there anything like this from the later eras? I can't think of anything except maybe in a few years "Rise of the Runelords".

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  13. Alas. Feathers and a torch...and if I remember correctly, Intellect Devourers in 1E do not have psychic domination. Can someone check the MM? I am at work and cannot pull out my books.

    The MU is in front because he has the security card to open doors/pass the security bots since the fighters were too dumb to figure out there use.

    My question is why are they using torches in the first place? Characters of this level should be using Continual Light. Or is that meta-gaming?

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  14. cibet, I wouldn't be surprised if Age of Worms or Shackled City fill that niche in years to come.

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  15. Rats, even as a kid I had always thought the intellect devourer was psychically controlling the fighter... just as James M suggested.

    Kelvingreen's sharp eye killed my fantasy!

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  16. I'm actually running this module right now using the original 1E rules and I ended up completely skipping over the intellect devourer encounter simply because none of the party members have psionics. I read the description in the Monster Manual of its psionic powers, and every one of them is only useful against creatures that also have psionics. I read and re-read the psionic combat rules and eventually want onto the Knights & Knaves message boards and asked, "What am I missing?" and the response was basically - if no one in the adventuring party has psionics, then you should skip the encounter because the Intellect Devourer is not an effective combatant once you eliminate its possibility of attacking psionically. Weird.

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  17. I'm surprised there was never a sequel to this module. Then again, I don't think I would want to see it done if you didn't have Otus and Dee doing the art. Just great stuff...

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  18. Kelvingreen's sharp eye killed my fantasy!

    There'll be no fantasy on my watch! Move along!

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  19. I think I know why the fighter is in the 'rear' of the party. Look who he's walking 'behind.'

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  20. I made the same mistake once when looking at the picture, wondering "What on Earth is that *effect* around the fighter's helmet!?". I guess that is a common mistake.

    As for the mage in front, my theory is that the party got ambushed from the back so many times the mage voted to move up front! Oops, there it goes again..! ;)

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