Third edition / 3.5e's art was interesting, but as a whole it actively turned me off.
Oh god. That armorer. Nevermind. No matter how much gold you loot, the armor will never improve. Are there people out there who actually find the above representation more attractive than, say this?
Well. Lets look at Pathfinder.
Well. It's certainly interesting to look at. Let's pick some pieces out.
Better, in terms of "what is armor" - she scores far higher than most of the 3.5 people - but I think I'm realizing what's happening here.
These are all extremely cool images. Hyper-stylized, angular, visually intricate, it's a kind of interesting post-anime sort of style. They are instantly identifiable with the pathfinder brand.
And all at once I realized, that's exactly what bothers me.
A while back, I made a post sharing some AD&D cards that I picked up ages ago. The more that I look at the artwork, the more I find contemporary fantasy art wanting. And I finally know why.
Yeah. A lot of AD&D era art was ..bad. I won't deny that. But even the art that wasn't great had a certain charm to it that goes beyond nostalgia.
With each edition of D&D there seems to be a strong push to define a visual style for the game, in the same way you hire concept artists to establish the visuals for a video game. Games like Pathfinder have been extremely successful in creating a visual brand. I can look at a piece of art and know automatically that it's Pathfinder related. This seems to be the growing trend. The problem with this is that role-playing games aren't video games. It's not a visual medium. We aren't interacting with the world through its stylized artwork. Instead, we're tasked with imagining ourselves as though we were there.
In its attempts towards near photo-realism, early fantasy art is an invitation to imagine yourself there. To pretend that the world is real and breathing around you. It's asking you to picture the scene unfolding around you. Much of it seems to be built around building complete scenes, where the camera is literally you taking it all in, staring at the members of your party. The best example I could ever offer of this was in the Den of Thieves book.
The costumes? Fairly terrible. But it invites you to be there, to take part in the awe and wonder of it. It's an emotion that I find sorely missing in much of modern fantasy art. Pathfinder art is visually interesting, and would make for great concept art for a video game... but that's not what I'm looking for in my role-playing. By rendering the world as a comic book, or a stylized video game, I feel one step more removed from the subject matter. It feels less real and that much harder to identify with. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I have an extremely hard time looking at any of the above and going "yeah, that's me."
This has been a bit of a ramble, and I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with me entirely, but I'm at least glad to have worked this out for myself. If nothing else, it will come in handy when I have to start purchasing art for Band of Bastards later.
Until next time,