Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How Important is Artwork?

While I am working on my next project, a short adventure, I am wondering how important art is to those of you out in gaming land. I know it is important to the more professional companies, but what about the little guy starting out. Since my war chest is nearly empty (because I am addicted to RPGNow, love that site) I don't have the money to buy original drawings. Sure I could fish around on the net and find common domain medieval woodcuttings that we have all seen a hundred times, but is it that important that I fill space with reruns. To me it's like watching the same episode of Frazier for the umpteenth time. I appreciate the woodcuttings and the episode where Frazier and Niles attempt to write a book, but my time and your time could definitely be used better.

This is not a shot at art not being important. Rob is currently working on his Scourge of the Demon Wolf Adventure and he contracted a couple of local guys to his art. They've done an incredible job. Their visuals have really enhanced the adventure. Rob earned enough from his Majestic Wilderlands sales to contract them. In the Majestic Wilderlands Supplement Rob used the medieval woodcuttings, Renaissance paintings and some of his homemade sketches. I think artwork was needed for his book because of the length and that is was jam packed with information. But for the short adventure I am developing I don't think it's needed.

I considered my hand at a few of my own sketches, but here is why I won't. I've never bought a product because of the art, but I have not bought a product because of the art. In other words I don't want it to look cheap and amateurish. I'd rather have a clean look. Another reason I prefer this is it is more printer friendly. Printing out pictures you have seen a ton of times and probably has nothing to do with the adventure is a waste of money.

But...here I am blogging away to ask a question as I often do. To me it makes complete sense to approach the creation of my adventure this way, but as being one of the lousiest business men in the world I do like to hear opinions of others. In cases like this I am well aware I am too focused and close to see other possibilities so I ask to those out there that are in the business or interested in buying one of my adventures how important is the artwork?


  1. I normally like to see some artwork, but I agree with you that no art is better than bad art. Unless you can find someone to donate some art for you on spec, I'd go without.

  2. Like you, I've never bought an RPG book for the art, but I have avoided buying an RPG book because of the art.

  3. Bother, I wasn't finished!

    I would suggest that you skip the art if you can't do it right. I'd rather have a no art book than one with bad art.

  4. The art would matter far less to me than the adventure itself. If you wanted to do any art, and were on a budget, I would focus primarily on a cover illustration (because that's what'll catch folks' eyes) and a well drawn map. Most of the adventure/dungeon maps can be made yourself on GIMP or whatever, but paying $40 or whatever for a really good map from the Cartographer's Guild guys is probably worth it for the area map (if relevant to your adventure).

  5. I don't necessarily need art, but do expect a professional look for anything with a price of more than a couple of dollars.

  6. I like the artwork to be clearly illustrative of the material in an adventure but am quite happy to see mood building pieces in non-adventure material.

    A bad cover isn't likely to stop me if I can browse the insides of a book (even a couple pdf pages). If I can't however, it'll make me wonder about the rest of the quality of the book.

    It(art) doesn't have to be great, it has to clearly do it's job.

  7. You can find art for cheaper than you'd think. That said, art is pretty much my biggest expense for my products. But I love art and so for me just causing a beautiful thing to have been created is worth the expense.

    Try breaking up the layout with sidebars and tables and whatnot. That's what I do when I don't have enough art to go around. If it still looks too dense, throw in a lot of room maps and that sort of thing. They don't take much artistic talent but they take up space and aren't text.

  8. I don't think art is important at all. If you have a good, clean format to your work, then there shouldn't be any art necessary at all, nor will any be missed.

    Like you mentioned, art doesn't sell products, but terrible art will stop it being sold. This is the reason I can't even consider buying much from the 4th edition D&D line- the art is, almost across the board, revoltingly bad, soulless, and cliche.

  9. I appreciate art on RPGs, from small adventures to full campaign settings.

    However, I don't purchase a RPG book considering it an artbook. Art should help the reader to understand or familiarize with the context, or, on the other hand, be simple and non-intrusive to fill "blank space" when needed.

  10. You also don't necessarily have to have "new" art. You can contact artists with some basic descriptions of what you want, and they may have something they have done in the past that you can use.
    It makes everyone happy: you, because the art is cheaper than paying for new work; and the artist, since they can get paid for work that has already been done.

  11. It doesn't have to be the best art in the world, but you really really need something to break up huge chunks of text! I mean, opening up a spread and seeing just a solid wall of text is just intimidating!

  12. Great feedback. As for maps I have Rob Conley doing those so I have one of the top cartographers lending me a hand.

    I like Hannah's idea of breaking it up maybe with smaller maps.

    Drance,this will be a short adventure. I am going to do a series of one shots, some will be connected and the others will be stand alones. And I think the layout I'll be using will be easy on the eye, but I agree with you, walls of text are ugly to look at.

    I plan on doing another blog and update the progress and explain what I am working on. Again, thanks to everyone's output. I always learn a ton when I ask questions on here.