Ryan Browning has created an Etsy store where he is selling a number of the original pieces of art he created for Adventurer Conqueror King, some earlier work he did for The Secret Fire, and the painting he did to bust out his illustration chops:
So that James’s Kirbsday doesn’t have a monopoly on Mule posts with awesome art, here are some more of my favorites:
The content of this illustration was suggested by one of our Kickstarter backers, and confirms that it is really awesome to have the people who are excited about your game be the ones to imagine what illustrations will convey that excitement.
One of the things I like best about the early D&D illustrations is that the scenes they depict are specifically ones you’d encounter in play. The backer art orders supply this quality in spades – check out the way the fighter is receiving healing during a battle.
Lots of modern illustration seems to me to suffer from the same problem as a game that the DM has planned ahead of time: it reflects only one brain’s vision of what’s going to be cool. Battle scenes done by people who’ve played the game, like those done by people who’ve witnessed battles, are instead full of lots of moments of private drama. These images draw you in because they provide the opportunity to imagine yourself in many different roles, each of which is dealing with a separate challenge.
Note that all this assumes that a) the artist can unite these individual moments into a compelling composition and b) the artist and art director care about these details in the art order and make sure they’re represented in the finished piece. Ryan’s talent is easy to see, but my experience suggests that his assets in category b) are rarer.
The backers who contributed the art orders got the first crack at the originals of their work, so some of my favorite illos of Ryan’s are not up on the Etsy site. The ones he did based on the text, rather than from a specific request, show the benefits of a single-author approach. Just as a DM’s plan for a campaign can be a lot simpler and stylistically unified than it will become when players come along wanting to give their characters funny names and options from the Book of Vile Brokenness, the pieces Ryan did as chapter intros and character class exemplars feature the strong, stylized graphic design that reflects his personal vision. The remarkable thing to me is that, like Trampier, he manages to do this without losing realism. The fighter’s gear is recognizably based in the real world, but the angular arrow motif suggests it was worn by a historical dude who had style and knew how to pose. Likewise, the smoke and blood curling away from the dragon head make it simultaneously an exercise in Art Nouveau whiplash lines and a concrete trophy of adventuring.
All proceeds from the Etsy site go directly to Ryan, and will hopefully make his venture into commercial illustration less financially ruinous than the usual professional involvement in RPGs. (As the saying has it, the way to make a small fortune in this industry is to start with a large one.) If I may engage in some more self-interested hucksterism: we are currently proofing the layout pages of the core Adventurer Conqueror King System book, a process much enlivened by the frequent appearances of work by Ryan, Johnathan Bingham, and the Mule’s own Greengoat, as well as Telecanter’s monster silhouettes. The text and tables aren’t as pretty to look at, but they play real good!
ACKS will be available for sale soon, but by pre-ordering it now you can get all the benefits that were otherwise available only to our Kickstarter backers – access to the developer forums and drafts of upcoming projects and a free PDF copy of the first of these, our mass-combat system Domains at War.