Thursday, March 19, 2009

Judge, Book, Cover

You know, for a game called "Dungeons & Dragons", it's strange to see what illustrations have ended up on the covers of the main rulebook. We've got people riding horses, people climbing on statues, people breaking down doors... it seems like only the various versions of the Basic Set really went for the obvious choice: characters facing off against a dragon in a dungeon.

When the 4th edition of the game was announced, it looked like Wizards of the Coast had finally figured things out. This is one of the first promotional images they released:

Pretty great, right? For the first time, it looks like we have a cover image depicting a full-blown, four-man party of adventurers in a dungeon, locking horns with a dragon. We've lost the piles of treasure, but hey, you can't have it all. I immediately assumed this would be the cover for the new Player's Handbook, or at least a new starter set.

I assumed wrong. The 4th edition PHB ended up showing a pair of characters standing around and striking 1990s-style comic book poses, a motif that has been continued on the new PHB2. No action, no story, just posing.

And the dungeon-dragon picture? What became of it? Well, it ended up being used as the cover of a pack of character sheets. Yeah, those things nobody buys anymore.

Kind of sad, really.


  1. Yeah, this seems so mind-boggling easy I continue to be baffled by the continued failure to get it.

  2. Anyone know who was the artist on that piece?

  3. The green dragon pic is by Wayne Reynolds, same guy who did the covers for the 4th edition core rulebooks (including the Player's Handbook).

  4. I might very well have been persuaded to buy 4e on the basis of a cover like that.

    The 'look at me and how fucking awesome I am!' school of comic-book pose is a big turn off for me in a rule book. I think rule book art should give you a flavour of what the game is about, and the 4e pictures mostly communicate: play 4e and look awesome!

    Shoot, self, foot.

  5. Yeah, the decision to go with characters posing out on the covers is only a marginal improvement over the "book that looks like a book" approach of the 3rd edition era. I think the green dragon picture is much more indicative of how 4th edition plays.

    What WotC ended up going with isn't representative of the playstyle the game encourages at all, and that's coming from somebody who is enjoying 4th edition quite a bit. 4th edition is about kicking monster ass, not standing around trying to look cool.