Thursday, February 5, 2015

Band of Bastards: Working Cover

Something I've been working on lately, and I'm exceptionally excited about - I managed to throw together the cover layout for the Band of Bastards book. Well. Sort of.

This is an experimental cover that I'll show on it's own merits before I bother explaining it. Just for a moment click it, enlarge it, and take it in. Bask in it. Bask.

This is an experimental cover. I think it was Luke Crane that really advised for an indie-dev to sit down and really invest in some nice cover art, more than anything else, because you're going to use that cover art for publicity and marketing again and again and again. In theory, the investment should pay off in spades. It is, after all, the face of your game.

The thing for me though is that I've never much cared for the art on the cover of a book. At best, I nod and go "oh, neat." and move on. At best, it helps me identify the specific genre (Oh, she's wearing a bronze breastplate, this must be a set in antiquity), but I'm far more likely to totally ignore it, or be actively turned off by it.

Conventional wisdom demands one place a certain kind of artwork on their cover. Usually this is either a collection of the characters on the front, hoping to speak to "this is what you can be," or some kind of scene on the front depicting the nature of the game - for fantasy games, this is usually someone fighting some kind of monster.

I think the problem for me has always been that when it comes down to it, I have no investment in what's happening on the cover. This is not my character, that's not my story. Since the overwhelming majority of my campaigns are home-brewed, I'm generally not even looking to the cover for atmosphere.

The above cover was my thought on "what if we tried something different?" I intentionally gave it that "old book" look, and I think the details came out very well. The leather texture, the binding, the faux gold leaf. It would in fact make for one sexy glossy hardback, and look gorgeous on a shelf. I even love the fact that it doesn't immediately look like another fantasy RPG book - but it does look intriguing.

On the other hand, this could all be one man's eccentricity again. By publishing time, you might have exactly what you expect in an RPG book - some dashing scene of blood and swordsmanship.

For now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy it.



  1. Two of the best cover designs in the history of roleplaying, those for the original edition of Traveller and for Vampire: The Masquerade, were fairly abstract and yet among the most compelling. The original cover design of The Palladium Roleplaying Game similarly downplayed the graphic elements. My favorite cover that is not Traveller's, that for Lands of Adventure, takes an elegiac approach. Which is to say, I like this idea very much, and am not sure how it could be improved by a generic picture of people fighting, whether it is against each other or monsters.

    1. I'm glad you think so. I think it would make for a gorgeous hardcover to have on your shelf. It just doesn't immediately look like a role-playing book. Then again, we're not exactly aiming for a traditional style of game either, so maybe that helps more than hinders.