Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do You Really Get What You Pay For?

Within two days of Wizards announcing Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition I noticed in my Facebook feed a post by ArtOrder linking to An Open Letter to D&D Next’s Art Department. Kristoffer's letter reminded me of a complaint that I'll get to in a moment which I think extends his point in a slightly different direction.

I bought a lot of roleplaying game books over the years that I never intended to play and never used any of the game mechanics. In each case I bought those books because I liked the art and the ideas the art inspired in me for characters or monsters. Not once was I swayed in favor of buying a roleplaying game because it included free nudity.

Nymph, MM v.3.5, pg 198
Dungeons & Dragons: 3rd Edition was an inspired reboot of a classic game but it wasn't perfect. The cheesy blonde nymph on page 143 of the Monster Manual (Core Rulebook III) wasn't much of a fey nor "nature's embodiment of physical beauty".

The v.3.5 update of the Monster Manual clearly tried to make up for the failure of the previous attempt. Elmore's blonde bimbo was replaced by a naked, but more fey appearing, porn star complete with areolae, tracts of land, and more.

As a father of four children, all of whom should play D&D like my wife and myself, I can say that I don't want this kind of art in my roleplaying games.

Kids play Dungeons & Dragons. I started playing when I was ten years old (yes, I know that was a long time ago). D&D is an all ages game and the art in the only mainstream tabletop roleplaying game does not need to provide titillation.

As a business, I don't think the nymph in v.3.5 of the Monster Manual sold extra copies of the game but I can feel very confident that there are parents who will skip buying books that cross the line. While I have not made an exhaustive analysis of 4th edition art, in this regard I believe that 4th edition has actually gotten slightly better than v.3.5.

The art in my Dungeons & Dragons books is important to me and important to why I enjoy the game. If done inappropriately that art can get in the way of fun and ultimately send me elsewhere to spend my money.



  1. Good art is a huge plus and I agree that I, too, have purchased books not for play but simply to support the excellent art. Unlike you, I was not so much a fan of 4th edition and felt that many of the fixes were too much too far and without enough of a nod to keeping those elements most enjoyed by 3.5 players (tossing the baby with the bathwater as it were.) But, I very much enjoyed the 4th edition art and wish the game gave me more of a reason to invest in all of the books instead of just the few with particularly impressive design.

  2. Kids watch R rated movies too. That doesn't mean that they should all be toned down to their level.

    If your kids watch tv after 7pm (central time is best time) they see much worse than depicted in any of the D&D books I've ever owned, from Basic until 3.5.

    I'm sorry you don't find the picture of the nymph appropriate, but it's in fact, dressed far more demurely than they are depicted throughout mythology (they tend to run bare arsed). I would rather have the artists do what they do without artificial constraints.