Tuesday, July 4, 2023

More Fear and Death

Last month, I shared some illustrations from the AD&D Monster Manual to draw attention to how many of them depicted scenes in which a monster menaced, injured, or even killed an adventurer. There were so many illustrations of this sort that I couldn't include them all – and that's a shame. With that in mind, here are a few more of my favorites.

I wanted to start with this page of the MM, since three out of the four monster illustrations on it show off their dangers. I've always been particularly fond of the gas spore piece, though the giant gar is far more terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying fish, how about this giant pike? Did Gary Gygax like to fish?  I can't help but wonder if his experiences with carnivorous fish might have influenced his decision to include them in the Monster Manual.
Treants are not monsters that, in my experience, get much respect. Part of it, I imagine, is that they're Chaotic Good in alignment and few players ever worry about running afoul of them. Still, as this illustration shows, they're not to be trifled with (having upwards of 12 Hit Dice will do that).
Here's a jackalwere (presumably) killing an adventurer. This piece is one of the most immediately gruesome in the whole book.
Here's another favorite. I absolutely love Tom Wham's take on the illithid using his mind blast to attack a trio of rather hapless adventurers. I also dig the funky, abstract art he's got on the wall of his lair, with what appears to be an incense brazier alight beneath it. Who knew mind flayers were so chic?
I'll conclude this post with another piece that's long fascinated me: Dave Trampier's depiction of a bugbear giving a fighter a whack in the face with a mace or some similar bludgeoning weapon. That's going to leave a mark!


  1. Are you keeping fear and death in mind for your illustrations for sha-Arthan? I have viewed most of the monster drawings that you have released but they have never taken advantage of the fear and death style.

    1. It's funny you should mention that, since I just recently received an illustration for Secrets of sha-Arthan that is more in this style. I plan to include more as I commission additional pieces.

  2. I imagine that guy intended to use that dagger to carve something inane ("M. A. + K. B. = true luv 4-ever", or somesuch) in that "tree", only to discover that...

    It's not a tree!

  3. Nostalgia aside, I think the dynamism, movement, story telling, and danger of these classic pieces beats out most more-recent Monster Manual art.

  4. I make it 38 of this type of illustration in the Monster Manual. In contrast it's interesting to note that the 5E MM only has seven, and almost all of these are incidental illustrations (such as the Beholder on the cover, or the Frog in the intro). The monsters are mostly only shown as posing!

  5. Tramp's Bugbear is one of my favorite pieces in the MM. A shambling, lanky, hairy giant goblin. All future versions depict them as powerlifters with a Wolverine haircut/beard, which I find silly. Then again, we are playing D&D here ;)

    As for Gary, I do believe he fished as a kid, and certainly large pike and muskellenge would be commonplace in the lakes/rivers.

  6. I'm quite fond of the treeman from -- I think -- the D&D3.5 monster book, with the adventurer getting something of a surprise. It feels like a modern(ish) homage to these perilous illustrations.

  7. It's probably not worth starting any "edition wars" over this, but it would be cool to - in a factual way - compare how heroes are depicted in 3.x forward with these old illustrations. I believe (and I could be wrong, but my gut says it's true) that the balance tips in favor of the PCs in the art. Of course the monster manuals very quickly went to scientific catalog style monster pics (no PCs), but I guess I'm thinking overall trilogy (PHB, DMG, MM).