Saturday, October 15, 2011

One Man's Nostalgia

By now, I'm pretty sure everyone in the old school community is very much aware of Goodman Games's upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, which is currently in open playtest and is on schedule for a February 2012 release. I haven't paying as close attention to the playtest as I'd intended to, in part because I've got my own projects to work on. But another part of my inattention is that, while there's a lot I do like about the DCC RPG, there's also a lot I don't and, perhaps more importantly, I'm not really in the market for another fantasy roleplaying game right now. So, I keep half an eye on DCC RPG's development, checking in every now and again to see how things are unfolding.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the game line's development are the upcoming adventure modules to support it. Take a look at the covers of a couple of them:
Those are both really awesome, right? They scream pulp fantasy in a way that adventure module covers haven't since I first entered the hobby. That they're reminiscent of the covers of both Weird Tales magazines and 1970s paperback novels, without being apes of either, is also a point in their favor. For me, they hit that sweet spot between nostalgic evocation and unique vision.

On the other hand, this does nothing for me. Indeed, it almost looks like a parody cover.
It looks like a crossover between Luke Cage, Hero for Hire and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser -- and while that's probably awesome in some people's eyes, I find it silly. Of course, even sillier in my opinion is another DCC adventure module:
Now, winged apes are cool and, of course, Michael Curtis is even cooler, but basing an adventure off Tramp's iconic DMG illustration? That's not so cool. I find myself uncomfortably reminded of some of those HackMaster adventures of old, the ones that turned me off them to such a degree that I never bothered to give the game a fair shake. That's what Emirikol Was Framed! does for to me: it turns me off DCC RPG and it's not even out yet.

I'm just one guy, of course. I'm sure many other old schoolers looked at those second two covers and pumped their fists in enthusiasm. They looked at them and found them as delightfully evocative as I found the first two. Nostalgia, just like esthetics, is a funny thing; one man's "delightfully evocative" is another man's "Hell, no!" I bring this up not as a criticism of DCC RPG at all. Despite my own qualms, I'm actually glad that Goodman Games has decided to forge ahead with a game that looks like it's the product of a clear and idiosyncratic vision of fantasy. It's hard not to applaud that, even when it's not wholly something I would have done -- but then, that's part of the point.

29 comments:

  1. If it helps, I believe it mentions somewhere on the Goodman Games forum that the last two pictures you featured are mockups.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The first two are awesome, the second is so-so, and the fourth makes me sad.

    If Emerikol isn't guilty, then he's not as badass as I'd thought.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I like the first one and I adore the second one. The third one could have worked if done differently, but has strayed -- perhaps not accidentally -- into parody. The last one is a bit weird, as the generic henchmonster is given more emphasis than the chap on the horse, and the right side of the image seems heavier than the left.

    But that second cover is wonderful. I love it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Il'm ok with "Blades Against Death" as I think the idea of a black Fafherd is pretty bad ass, but "Emirikol Was Framed! " , yeah it's lame, the same way Hackmaster would goof on a classic model--Ya, just can't mess with Tramp's work!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the idea of a black Fafherd is pretty bad ass

    I think the idea could be pretty bad ass, but, at least as shown here, it looks comical. The '70s 'fro and bell bottom pants make him look like an extra from an episode of Starsky & Hutch rather than a character from a pulp fantasy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The first two are marvelous, but "Blades against death" reminds me of a bad Blaxploitation film from the 70s -- all that's missing is Pam Grier. The Emirikol one doesn't bother me; it strikes me as being in the comic book tradition of a what-if or alternate-history telling. And I do find the idea of telling the story behind one of the iconic illustrations from the early days of the hobby intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. But that's what I like about the pic; that he DOSE look like some mofo from the 70's who entered a world of sword & sorcery that only the great P-funk Mothership in the sky would know why. I'm soo going to create this character as an NPC.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The first two have rich, vibrant colors. The second two seem washed-out and, frankly, unfinished.

    ReplyDelete
  9. As much as I like the idea of a Black S&S hero, I have known Imaro and this man is no Imaro. It's pretty Shaft-erric as drawn.

    I'm glad you point out, in the positive, that DCC rpg is going full-steam ahead with a distinctive vision. The writing, inside at least in the beta version I read, certainly matches the aesthetic love-it or hate-it boldness. Remember what a little mini-snit it's explicit anti-hero character stances brought up?

    Bully for them for pushing something that takes risks--even if we don't all agree with it's turns.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "The '70s 'fro and bell bottom pants make him look like an extra from an episode of Starsky & Hutch rather than a character from a pulp fantasy."
    Thanks for the laugh on a slow Saturday evening, and your reactions to DCC varied attempts to channel the OSR mojo.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Would there be anything inherently goofier about a cast-member from "Super Fly" being pulled into a S&S Fantasy world than, say an apparently immortal Civil War-era individual?

    Or is it simply the artwork that puts you off?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Would there be anything inherently goofier about a cast-member from "Super Fly" being pulled into a S&S Fantasy world than, say an apparently immortal Civil War-era individual?

    If the dude with the Afro really is someone from the '70s transported to a fantasy world, I think I'd be a lot more forgiving, since the "man out of time" is a staple of pulp fantasy. So perhaps my negative judgment is unfair and, if so, I'll happily withdraw it. But I suspect that he's just meant to be fighter and his dress and hairstyle are intended as explicit callbacks to the '70s, thereby implying that this is really old school.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Actually I liked the cover for Emirikal Was Framed. I found it a nice and respectful homage to the original art (after all, it derives almost it's entire effect from knowledge of the original piece), and well in tune to the sensibilities of D&D and players (not to mention most artists).

    Art, like rules, should never be held as sacred purely in and of itself.

    [Although I have my doubts that any adventure based purely on a visual pun would really stand up to close scrutiny.]

    ReplyDelete
  14. For what it's worth, "Emirikol" is not a parody and was written with an intense love for not only the image that inspired it (I have the original framed and hanging over my work desk), but for pulp sword & sorcery as well. My intent was to create an adventure were Conan or Gray Mouser and Fafrhd would be at home in--and I think I was quite successful in that. Of course, not everyone will agree.

    I knew I was going to catch flak when I accepted the task of writing this one, but I hope once people get a look at the actual adventure they'll see that this is a case where one should not judge a book solely on its cover. Let me leave it at that for now, as I dislike commenting on projects I've done for other people without their permission. Next year, you can come back and berate me if you still feel it necessary after you've had a chance to read beyond the cover and title.

    ReplyDelete
  15. And by original I mean "an orignal page cut from an old DMG" not Trampier's original work. How cool would that be?

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think they look like coloring book covers. I'm not saying that's a bad thing.
    Probably designed that way to help them "pop" and draw attention sitting among other books.
    I'm just geussing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. @ Michael - next time I find an old, beat up DMG I know what I'll do with it! :)

    Personally, I'm fine with the Emirikol thing. The Black Fafhrd needs a little re-tooling, but I like the idea. The first two covers are my favorites, though.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The second character in "Blades Against Death" is a halfling, so could this also be a shout out to Boinger and Zereth (the "dark" elf)? As for the bell bottoms, I seem to remember a lot of Jeff Dee artwork that was in this vein.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  20. The black guy could be someone who was sent back to Conan's time when Conan went into the modern world in the Marvel What If that you reviewed.

    ReplyDelete
  21. First two are good, second two are poor.

    Can't say I have any interest in the DCC RPG; Goodman games material is too spotty to inspire me with the confidence I'd need to invest in a new system.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I agree with James (and what appears to be the consensus) on all points.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Some people are taking the Emirikol homage way too seriously. My only problem would be that it's a bit overused like the reimaginations of the idol cover. There was already a good Emirikol remake in the beta book, where he faces Lokerimon the lawful.
    So far I like most of their covers (although Blades Against Death does seem to be a bit weak compared to the others). My favourite would be "Beyond the Black Gate". What I really like about it is that the frost giant on the cover doesn't looks like a big blue viking, but more like some oriental demon. Oh, and the sorcerer has horns on his cap. Sorcerers with horns are cool, period. The second would be The 13th Skull with it's pterodactyle raiding wraith and damsel in distress.

    But let's step a bit forward, and forget about the covers. What do you think about the titles and the descriptions of the adventures?

    ReplyDelete
  24. But let's step a bit forward, and forget about the covers. What do you think about the titles and the descriptions of the adventures?

    Is this new People of the Pit any relation to this other one? They seem to have different creator credits.

    ReplyDelete
  25. As for the bell bottoms, I seem to remember a lot of Jeff Dee artwork that was in this vein.

    Yes, he did and I hated those, too, but then I'm actually not a huge fan of a lot of Dee's TSR artwork. It looks too superheroic and contemporary for a fantasy RPG. I think it's awesome in V&V and other places, but not so much in D&D (generally speaking).

    ReplyDelete
  26. Those old Hackmaster covers rocked. And the modules themselves were often amazingly well done, rich and full of detail.

    I am really enjoying GG's art direction with their upcoming game. I particularly like the lively colour and energy in the images for these modules. They are just so much more enticing than most gaming art these days, which tends to be dour and muted. This stuff says "FUN!".

    ReplyDelete
  27. I hope Michael researched TSR's "A Paladin in Hell" by Monte Cook when writing his adventure. It contains a section called The Fortress of Emirikol, which has a very superficial, but heavy with implications, description of Emirikol and portions of his lair.

    ReplyDelete
  28. "all that's missing is Pam Grier"

    We all miss Pam Grier. What day couldn't be brightened up by a little dash of Foxy Brown?

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love these! Makes me tempted to buy them.
    I do agree the first two covers were good. The third suffers from pose and lighting and the fourth from bad placement.


    Still, ultra "Pulp":-)

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.