Art in Game Manuals

edited August 2013 in Story Games
Generally speaking, how important is art in a game to you?

Do you feel that the art in a manual can overshadow the tone of the text?
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Comments

  • Art is really important to me, as is layout design (especially if there is no art). By important I don't mean that it necessarily has to be there - I would prefer no art to art that clashes with the text or that is very amateur and doesn't suit the game. I enjoy art when it's used to break up and compliment the text and helps me understand the feel or setting of a game.
  • I agree; there's something quite offputting when the art feels amateurish. Traveller suffered from this, as did Icons; the art was at a highschool sketchbook level, and it really didn't sell the game at all.

    For all its flaws, Wizards has really been good at leveraging folks like Wayne Reynolds, because they sell the style of game with their art.
  • I'd much rather see no art (or Victorian clip-art or something) than poorly-done art. I've bought a couple of indie games in the past year where the art quality gives me trepidation although the game itself is great.
  • edited August 2013
    Please delete all art from all RPG books forever. What you lose (customers, money, the occasional clarity that a diagram or drawing might bring) will pale in comparison to what you will gain (PURITY OF ESSENCE, being told you are right on the Internet by JDCorley.)

    With the exception of minis and maps, we are in a textual/verbal hobby. This is radio drama, not a stage play.
  • edited August 2013
    Or, just because the visual lacking from the game, or is only there trough the body language of the participants, the art becomes a very important reference point for the story. The only way to communicate that aspect of the game.

    This pictures was worth a lot more then a thousand words for explaining of what stories you was going to tell and what sort of characters you going to play in Vampire the Masquerade, and the relationship among the player characters.

    image
  • Art direction is game design.

    Art gives an at-a-glance notice of the feel of the game and what is expected to happen during the game.

    Game text is essentially just procedures and maybe math depending on the game.

    If someone has to do any reading to figure out what the game is when they've already got the book in their hands, that book has already failed.
  • I don't like art in games I read, but I like to put it in my own games, because it's fun. In the grand scheme of things, though, I don't much care about the art. I'll read the book once and then the game exists in play and the book is dead anyway.
  • edited August 2013
    I love good art, but RPGs don't usually have the budget for it, save maybe the core books of the biggest sellers. I much prefer having no art to amateurish art.

  • edited August 2013
    Generally speaking, how important is art in a game to you?

    Top of the list, as a game tool, I love collages of pictures, say of the environment, places, npc's even dramatic scenes.
    Pre-generated modules should be full of pictures, even a downloaded app of the game world would be cool. Iike the theme of Myst maybe?

    Do you feel that the art in a manual can overshadow the tone of the text?

    Yes totally, when it comes to just finding what you want like some rule, a diagram will do.
    But that's my own preferred layout. If I were to lay out a game?
    Three books or parts to a book, Story book, Rules book and Adventure book.

    Mixing the lot together for me gets frustrating. Designing the manual for use in play is the secret.
  • Art is usually not important, it's essentially in the same role as advertisements are in certain other media - just superficial suggestive glimpses at tone and such. (This is also the best motivation to illustrate: sucker in liminally literate people who otherwise might ignore your product.) To actually play, you'll need to reconstruct your own internal model of the game anyway, and get inspired yourself, so the art doesn't actually do anything for you that can't be done more effectively by separate resources. (That is: if you need to get inspired, check out the bibliography of the game and read something appropriate, or whatever.) It's even more redundant than illustrations in a novel, as at least in a novel the illustrations operate on the same aesthetic and practical level with the text (they imbue an artistic impression upon the reader, which is what the text is doing as well), while in a roleplaying game the art is just something you look at in the midst of reading an operational guide to doing something else later. Illustrating a rpg is like putting pictures of famous mathematicians in a math text book: study hard, and you too can sport a cool beard like one of these guys!

    RPG publishers of course get wrapped up in art and book design, as that's their hobby, just like playing games is the hobby of roleplaying gamers. They are happy when the book itself becomes an object of art, reflecting the nature of the game that comes to existence by following the instructions in the book. I allow them this pleasure, even if I don't find it important for the craft.
  • I work in graphic arts and have done a little illustration and comic work, so I find illustrations to be very useful in conveying the "look and feel" of a game. Humans don't just communicate with words. Good layout, design, and diagrams can help people understand or internalise game mechanics and concepts, especially if they process information visually. I also find second-rate art to be a bit of a turn-off; I find that when I read games, they create a structure and a "flavour" in my mind. Bad art can make the games taste less appealing.

    I'm working on a new game at the moment, and I'm just starting to work on the layout and think about the overall look and feel. I'm very excited to be able to illustrate a diverse range of characters that will hopefully inspire people to come up with cool character and story ideas.
  • edited August 2013
    Because out hobby is a verbal one, art is pretty useless. Good layout and use of artwork can bring a nice feel to the game, but it's kind of worthless if no instructions are given in how to convey that feeling. Art is the wrapper. It may make things look nice but it's what's inside that matters.

    Captions should be used a whole lot more in roleplaying games; to verbalize the images; to show how to describe an environment or create a certain situation.
  • I like art in game books a lot, for all of the reasons already mentioned. I think art is underused.

    In answer to the second question, I've skipped buying games when I felt that the art associated with them was too much of a clash with the game itself.
  • I used to really, really care about the art that games have. I don't know when exactly it happened, but at some point I acctually stopped caring if art was good, and really just started caring if it was present and relevant. Present is optional for me, but if present, relevant isn't.

    I realized this while flipping through Nobilis 3e. I know the whole debacle about the trace-art and replacing that all was pretty last minute, but the big thing I noticed was that I hadn't been caring about whether there was a debacle or not, because while years ago I might have bitched to myself about the art, I just... wasn't. It's all relevant enough, and I enjoy it for what it is, not what it isn't.
  • A lot of people are using "good art" in their opinions, which is certainly valid, but it is not really descriptive. Art by its nature is subjective. Personally, I am turned off when art gets too ideal. You see this a lot in female characters in fantasy art (who are stronger than average, but have proportions that lead one to believe that the figure drawn will snap in half because of how heavy the upper portions are and how thin the abdomen gets). It is in my opinion, unrealistic for the character that is trying to be portrayed, and therefore bad art. The majority of people out there disagree with me, though.
    The Simpsons' or South Park's art styles, as an example, are also examples of what I consider bad art because they don't even look human at times, but it is a very defined and established art style that is absolutely professional quality.

    In short, my question then becomes, what is bad art?
  • I used to really, really care about the art that games have. I don't know when exactly it happened, but at some point I acctually stopped caring if art was good, and really just started caring if it was present and relevant. Present is optional for me, but if present, relevant isn't.
    That's a good way of looking at it.

    I think I look at art in game books mostly as a layout element. The last RPG I read, Double Cross, is something like 4-500 pages long, of which maybe only fifty have any art on them at all. As a result, the thing is just phenomenally dense and frankly a little off-putting to dig into at length (one reason why I had to take a break from writing it up, a break which has lasted about a month, oops).

    Art is also very practically useful for visually clarifying the intended tone or style of the game, especially if the text is wishy-washy about it (of course, the obvious rebuttal is "tighten up your prose instead of using art to communicate in lieu of words"). Love it or hate it, the copious and gonzo art in Tenra Bansho is a super-effective summary of the four-hundred-odd page rulebook in terms of telling people what kind of characters they play in that game. The slice-of-life vignettes in Golden Sky Stories are also pretty good.

    Of course, ill-chosen art can worsen already unclear texts; one example that's stuck with me for years is Hunter: the Reckoning. Some portions of the book emphasize that PCs aren't supposed to be Buffy or Rambo, but working stiffs and homemakers flung into a strange and terrifying shadow war... so of course, all the art is of super-ripped dudes with assault rifles and slinky femme fatales licking blood off sharpened stakes!
  • Here is my argument. Take with a grain of salt, as I'm an artist who works in this industry.

    At best, art in RPGs uplifts the product. At its best, it gives a sense of place and time and hints at cool plots and adventures. It can spark ideas in both players and Gms alike. It can sell product. Do not discount the impulse buy. It can help marketing. It can convey certain types of information in seconds. Example, in this fantasy world, elves are 8 feet tall. Picture of elf standing next to human and dwarf gets this across in a mere second instead of reading it buried in a paragraph about the anatomy of elves.

    But that is "good" art. The kind of art I aspire to.

    At worst, at the very worse... art teaches you how to play the game. I'm so glad that the OP used "Manual" in his opening title. Because that are exactly what RPG books are. Manuals. And we humans learn better, faster with pictures in our manuals. Even better, even quicker, when the pictures are in color. Madison Avenue has known this theory since 1920s...this is not news to folks who make a living with visuals.

    Example. Illo of Orc overloaded with gear on page 149. He has 15 weapons, two knapsacks, a collapsible tent, two bedrolls and worg with a wrapped up broken leg hoisted up on one shoulder. Now, this picture is next to the section on encumbrance. Guess what you look for when looking up encumbrance rules? Yup, that pic. Even if the art isn't particularly well done, it serves the purpose of breaking up huge walls of text....which allows our brains to chew and digest that information better. Remember, RPGS are not novels or biographies (although, sections might be). There are not narratives to anchor the information. They are text books and manuals. There is boatloads of information to digest. Breaking up that information is really, really useful.

    So. Is art absolutely necessary? No. Does art make YOUR RPG more accessible? You betchya!

    'nuff said.
  • edited August 2013
    One useful purpose of art is simply being a permanent bookmark. I can flip through an old familiar book and find relevant passages by the nearest picture, long after the Chapters and Headings are forgotten. (Edit: I see Storn made this point while I was typing).

    Consistent art is a plus to me, as is relevance . I think Paranoia would have suffered for lack of the little cartoons of Trouble Shooters. First addition Talislanta had two primary styles: the inked art and the pencil sketches; both highly detailed and presenting a clear vision of Talislanta. One last example: Jorune. The pastel art raised the bar of game art and was very evocative of the old/new dichotomy of the setting.
  • edited August 2013
    Rather than just say, "Yes" to the first question in this poll, I'll try to drop some science:
    Art in game books is very useful, regardless of subjective assessment of its professional appearance:
    * Presents rules concisely (i.e., charts, graphs, game component layouts).
    * Provides tools for play (e.g., setup worksheets, character sheets, condition markers).
    * Conveys tone and, to an extent, play techniques.
    * Mitigates reading fatigue caused by 'wall of grey text'.
    * Obviates need for multi-column layout in book formats wider than digest.
    * Speeds up page scanning to find reference material.
    * Often improves product placement on retail shelves (retailers want their shelves to attract customers, not look like law libraries; only high-quality art helps this, though, so I kind of contradict my "regardless" above).

    Now, an exercise for the reader:
    Ask yourself honestly: Do the "Big Boys" use art because they can afford it, or was the investment in art over decades what made them "Big Boys"?
    Further questioning: Could Happy Birthday Robot or Dread: TFBOP have existed--let alone succeeded--without their art? Would they really be the same game?

    Hypothesis:
    I think games that actually work without art do so either because they're toolkits and the players provide setting (e.g., Fiasco, Universalis) or they're extremely simple games set in well-understood (or already wildly popular) settings.


    As for the second question, I don't see why not (viz the above Hunter: TR example). And that's a far less subjective thing to determine, in extreme cases. But tone often isn't conveyed in text (err, well, RULES text) at all, especially (as above) in toolkit or simple games.

    And on the flip side, textual tone can detract from games as well. I'm kind of thinking of In A Wicked Age, here: It was HARD to ferret out procedures and pacing and scope from his highly conversational writing style and the book's minimal organization. Vincent likes "the conversation," but sometimes an enumerated list of steps goes a LONG way to conveying 'the right way to play'.

    Hope this helps!
    David
  • If all you've got is amateurish art for your book, don't use it. Amateurish art even makes settings and systems feel amateurish, no matter how much the author worked on those.

    Art in general may improve reader's experience but only with readers who like the graphic style used or have no preconceptions of how the game's genre should look like. On top of that, the art has to actually convey emotions, behaviors and a lot of the setting and character's color, otherwise, you're wasting space on your book and money on an artist that can't actually help you sell your book.

    Take this for example, though I dunno how many of you remember this: on D&D's Monster Manual for 3.5, the image of the Red Dragon entry in the book had (as all dragon entries) a human or other figure on the side for size comparision. I remember the one of the Red Dragon in particular because the figure was comically running away from it. Not even the Tarrasque had that, and it certainly added a lot to the monster's concept. Well, art is like that, perhaps you missed it, perhaps nobody else liked it, but for me that piece was special.

  • Ask yourself honestly: Do the "Big Boys" use art because they can afford it, or was the investment in art over decades what made them "Big Boys"?

    Hypothesis:
    I think games that actually work without art do so either because they're toolkits and the players provide setting (e.g., Fiasco, Universalis) or they're extremely simple games set in well-understood (or already wildly popular) settings.
    I'm inclined to agree. Not everyone has creativity or imagination in equal measure; art can be extremely useful for conveying an impression of setting, and I'm inclined to believe that it's a big part of appealing to a wider audience.

    For some games, the art is indelibly linked to the world in my mind - Jorune (which was already mentioned) and Polaris spring to mind in particular. In Jorune's case, the art completely overshadowed the text, and that was a good thing!

    I suspect art is important, too, for games with an element of gear fetishism (guns, mecha, or cute furry animals). Like, I'm trying to imagine the Robotech RPG without art. D&D's endless monster manuals are a form of this - a dose of concept art adds variety to the conveyor belt of extra-planar aberrations.

    Games about relationships need less art, I suspect.

    I'll jump on the bandwagon - the fastest way to have art overshadow a product is for it to be amateurish. Better an expert scribble than a polished turd.

    Art is the first impression. If you're primarily a writer, I think you're right to be leery of it.
  • I like art when it does this well:
    I suspect art is important, too, for games with an element of gear fetishism (guns, mecha, or cute furry animals). Like, I'm trying to imagine the Robotech RPG without art. D&D's endless monster manuals are a form of this - a dose of concept art adds variety to the conveyor belt of extra-planar aberrations.
    This kind of thing is generally pretty useful. If you can show me what your monster or your spaceship or your non-Euclidean Terror-Hive looks like, that helps a lot, because I haven't seen those things and would like to be able to describe/show them to people at the table. But if you're just going to show me something we've all seen a thousand times before (an attractive woman, a Honda Accord, a generically moody cityscape), you're wasting my time.

    In fact, that's a good rule of thumb for art directors everywhere: anything that we've all seen a thousand times before and can find a thousand more examples of elsewhere is a poor choice for what to illustrate. If you're going to spend money on art, spend it on something we haven't seen before.

    ...otherwise, all I end up using art for is as a quick way of telling where I am when I'm flipping through the book looking for the text I'm interested in reading. ("Okay, skill descriptions are a little ways past the hairy guy in the tank top, if I see the generically moody cityscape I've gone too far.") I don't get a lot of genuine inspiration out of it, at least not in a meaningful, holy-crap-this-is-totally-going-in-our-game way.

  • In fact, that's a good rule of thumb for art directors everywhere: anything that we've all seen a thousand times before and can find a thousand more examples of elsewhere is a poor choice for what to illustrate. If you're going to spend money on art, spend it on something we haven't seen before.

    ...otherwise, all I end up using art for is as a quick way of telling where I am when I'm flipping through the book looking for the text I'm interested in reading. ("Okay, skill descriptions are a little ways past the hairy guy in the tank top, if I see the generically moody cityscape I've gone too far.") I don't get a lot of genuine inspiration out of it, at least not in a meaningful, holy-crap-this-is-totally-going-in-our-game way.
    +1

    Don't draw it if you can use words to describe it better.

  • Don't draw it if you can use words to describe it better.
    I think that's all a bunch of nonsense, WM.

    I mean, yes, I saw you put in there better, but even the original concept of Accounting for Tastes post is off. By their suggestion, there should never be a need for illustrations or pictures in any historical game ever.

    That's just silly.

  • My opinion:

    Visual art in a game is design first, and not generally reference. It's evocative. It's emotionally resonant. It's visual and communicates things elegantly that aren't well-communicated in prose. And it's very necessary in a strongly-designed game.

    This isn't to say that there's a threshold that you need to meet, that you have to stuff enough art into your game. Dogs in the Vineyard does an exemplary job of using art. There's not a lot of it, but that's because the entire visual design is supposed to evoke an era that didn't see a lot of art in its printing. The scant few bits of art that you do see are immensely helpful for the setting, and incredibly colorful.

    Art is design. Like any other part of visual design, use it properly.

    (See also the immense appreciation one can have for Tenra Bansho Zero, 13th Age, and L5R 4th Edition, which I think are the three prettiest books I own, in terms of art.)
  • edited August 2013
    By their suggestion, there should never be a need for illustrations or pictures in any historical game ever.

    That's just silly.
    "There should never be a need" is far stronger than what I said, which is that it's a poor choice. Which it is. If it's the only choice for some reason, well, whatever -- but at that point, for me those illustrations/pictures are just there to break up the text and give me a quick way of flipping through the book. They won't be particularly informative, evocative, inspiring, or any of the other things people say good gaming art does for them.

    And besides, if someone can't find something unique to show about an actual period in human history that would surprise and interest the reader, then maybe that's something they need to seriously think about.

  • In the case of a historical setting, what counts as inspiring and surprising, and not just dull and expected?

    ( I don't expect you personally, AFT, to have full answers for that).
  • If is a moment of history I haven't lived and it's easier for you to show me how it was instead of describing it to me, by all means, put art in it. If there's no art that could help and all you want to convey is "we're cavemen" don't draw me a man in a cave. Of course, if you want it to have more color than that, there are better descriptions and even better ways to show it with art. But you better don't use amateurish anime-like drawings or your book won't apeal to me at all.
  • edited August 2013
    Art certainly has a bigger role in physical RP books, because of the "flip through". The cover art and art inside can sell me on a concept quickly and efficiently. If you flip through the Lamentations of the Flame Princess book or the Pathfinder books, you get a good idea of the tone and scope of the game before you've read word one. If the tone and theme of the images appeal to you, you might be inclined to pick it up to see what it's all about. it encourages an impulse buy because the art packages the themes of the whole universe and delivers it in a single, easily consumable burst of visual information. On the flip side, something like Traveller, with no cover art and... poorly drawn art within did nothing to pique my interest; it took the recommendations and subsequent research to get me to pick it up, certainly not an impulse buy.
  • Art certainly has a bigger role in physical RP books, because of the "flip through". The cover art and art inside can sell me on a concept quickly and efficiently. If you flip through the Lamentations of the Flame Princess book or the Pathfinder books, you get a good idea of the tone and scope of the game before you've read word one. If the tone and theme of the images appeal to you, you might be inclined to pick it up to see what it's all about. it encourages an impulse buy because the art packages the themes of the whole universe and delivers it in a single, easily consumable burst of visual information. On the flip side, something like Traveller, with no cover art and... poorly drawn art within did nothing to pique my interest; it took the recommendations and subsequent research to get me to pick it up, certainly not an impulse buy.
    To add to this: a good art piece can convey in five seconds what would take at least a minute or two to read and absorb and digest (if not longer). It's much better for delivering an impression of the fiction associated with the game.
  • But then to get that feeling in the game you'll have to rely on words anyway. Couldn't it be a downside when a game uses art to communicate feel and tone, giving you a great view in your head but no tools to get that to the table? A game which communicates feel and tone using words will straight up give you the sort of things you should say when you're playing.

    Which goes back to what Rickard said: If you do use images, make sure to explain them with words. If you read the book and somewhere it says "grotesque and twisted spikes protruding from the floor like the skeleton fingers of a dead giant", you can get all sorts of inspiration from that and if you think back to it when playing, you could use words like "grotesque" and metaphors like "skeleton fingers", which might not come to you naturally. If you have a beautiful and evocative image conveying the idea, you might think "That is so cool!", but once you're in game you're left with your own words to describe it anyway and you say something like "There are these spiky things sticking up from the floor". But you can also do both. Have an image and caption it with a description. That'll tell people "When you imagine THIS you should say something like THAT".
  • I think art (more specifically, overall visual style) in a game book is critically important, and I think very few people do it well. Polaris, for example, has excellent style. Dread comes reallyreally close, but doesn't quite get there (the internal art should've been weirder or more thematic/consistent). LotFP products are almost always outstanding, and DCC RPG completely nails it. So does Apoc World for that matter. Games that are stylized visually very well convey the atmosphere the game is supposed to create in a way that that a bland reading of the mechanics. Some of this comes from the words (compare Apoc World to Dungeon World and imagine how you'd play each) but much of it's from the visuals--I know inherently that DCC RPG is going to be this big, gritty thing, I know that LotFP stuff is going to be reaaaaaaly lethal to careless players, and if I had never heard the phrase grimdark before, I would completely understand it after even glancing at an interior illustration from a Games Workshop product.

    I'm currently contracting for art for a game and it's easily the biggest cost--in fact there's a chance that the artist will make far more off the project than I ever do. but great art combined with great design and great in-universe writing is the best thing a game or sourcebook can offer the players (and GM, if there is one).
  • But then to get that feeling in the game you'll have to rely on words anyway. Couldn't it be a downside when a game uses art to communicate feel and tone, giving you a great view in your head but no tools to get that to the table? A game which communicates feel and tone using words will straight up give you the sort of things you should say when you're playing.

    Which goes back to what Rickard said: If you do use images, make sure to explain them with words. If you read the book and somewhere it says "grotesque and twisted spikes protruding from the floor like the skeleton fingers of a dead giant", you can get all sorts of inspiration from that and if you think back to it when playing, you could use words like "grotesque" and metaphors like "skeleton fingers", which might not come to you naturally. If you have a beautiful and evocative image conveying the idea, you might think "That is so cool!", but once you're in game you're left with your own words to describe it anyway and you say something like "There are these spiky things sticking up from the floor". But you can also do both. Have an image and caption it with a description. That'll tell people "When you imagine THIS you should say something like THAT".
    Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

    Good art is always better than purple prose. Art shouldn't repeat the text, nor vice versa; they should supplement one another, although also saying consistent. Good art tells something that the text can't.
  • Exactly, that's what I meant. Though I admit that also, you don't have to write it if a cool art conveys better the idea, and if you can make both complete each other, is even better.
  • edited August 2013
    Good art is always better than purple prose. Art shouldn't repeat the text, nor vice versa; they should supplement one another, although also saying consistent. Good art tells something that the text can't.
    In other mediums, yes. Not in roleplaying games that are almost purely verbal.

  • In other mediums, yes. Not in roleplaying games that are almost purely verbal.
    Sure, but the art in the book helps build a picture in the readers head, which they carry with them when they play
  • edited August 2013
    Good art is always better than purple prose. Art shouldn't repeat the text, nor vice versa; they should supplement one another, although also saying consistent. Good art tells something that the text can't.
    In other mediums, yes. Not in roleplaying games that are almost purely verbal.
    That's a self-reinforcing cycle though, no?

    There's also the whole thing that we're all forced to learn to speak and read/write, but few ever pursue any familiarity with creating visual art, even at a very basic level.

    On some level this seems to create the idea that art in rpgs is either for consumption by the imbeciles or a creation skill unreachably elite.

  • edited August 2013

    In other mediums, yes. Not in roleplaying games that are almost purely verbal.
    Sure, but the art in the book helps build a picture in the readers head, which they carry with them when they play
    I think Simon already addressed that when he said "Couldn't it be a downside when a game uses art to communicate feel and tone, giving you a great view in your head but no tools to get that to the table?".
  • edited August 2013
    RPGs aren't purely verbal by any stretch, though. Not only do they have roots in social presence, but they use the imagination, which is the visualization of things not present. Visual art is a way to immediately and easily communicate imagination anchors to someone, to make the conceptual concrete.

    Here's why: when you read a description, your brain has to look at the meanings of all of the words, figure out what they mean, and then figure out what the author was trying to describe when they used those words. Even then, that will still produce a massive divergence from what the author was picturing. And that's a lot of brainpower.

    You look at art, you see something, you know exactly what the author had in mind, so long as the artist did a good job. It's immediate, it doesn't require you to stop and think about what a thing looks like, it lets you get an initial impression and then drill down deeper into the description of the thing. If I want to convey a Blargus, or the Empire of Thorn, or Feyrie Magick, it's immensely helpful if I have a visual thing to give the reader, so that they can start building their own mental image of the thing. Then I use descriptions to explain the important details about the thing.

    Are we to presume that Tolkien was woefully lacking in authorial skill due to the fact that Alan Lee produced beautiful illustrations for his books?
  • RPGs aren't purely verbal by any stretch, though. Not only do they have roots in social presence, but they use the imagination, which is the visualization of things not present. Visual art is a way to immediately and easily communicate imagination anchors to someone, to make the conceptual concrete.

    /.../

    it's immensely helpful if I have a visual thing to give the reader, so that they can start building their own mental image of the thing.
    Is it that bad if the reader interpret a monster description to form a image of it's own? What I'm talking about is what roleplaying game books are about: to describe [to the GM] how to describe what it says to others [the players]. An image in a book doesn't help with that ... unless you pull out the book and show it the players.

    Images are good for heaps of other ways, as mentioned by others above, but it doesn't help IMHO the reader in how to describe what it shows to the players.
  • In books about writing there aren't pictures of people sitting at laptops in Starbucks.

    In books about radio dramas there aren't pictures of people standing at microphones on every page.

    It's just ludicrous and insane that books about playing RPGs have tons of art in it and it's useless, a huge waste of money and space, and nobody should like it, ever.

    But, whatever, that train's left the station so long ago that it has now collapsed into a pile of rust at its destination, the best of all possible worlds, where there is art literally on every single page of every single RPG, forever.

    Just let me throw my rocks in peace, all right? The target's invulnerable: all RPGs will have insane amounts of art in them for the next thousand years. Just let me say I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this situation and wish it were not so.
  • I've gotta add some data to the discussion, from my personal experience. Perhaps someone here may back me up with actual studies on psychology that demonstrate what I'm talking about here.

    Well, I'm a comic artist; a long time ago I worked on a short comic in collaboration with a writer. At some point I asked him to roughly sketch or give me an idea to determine camera angle for certain panel, and he couldn't. It wasn't because a lack of artistic skills, but because this guy could only think in words, and was at a loss when it came to visualize things.

    I also write comics myself, but I realize I'd never be able to do full-written novels of good quality, mainly because most of my vocabulary for telling stories is visual. I know which face gestures should mix with which character posture to clearly give the idea of an specific attitude, but I'd have to consult a ton of words in dictionaries to know how to describe the same scene in a written description.

    A few friends of mine who also work in comics can't even grasp writing a script, and end up drawing thumbnails straight from the images they have in their mind.

    So the thing is, the same as they are different tastes in graphic styles and writing styles, in mixed media there will be different tastes in the amount of art needed for a game. What can we agree here I think, is that:

    -Amateurish art will make your whole game feel amateurish.
    -Don't repeat in simple words whatever any art you have is already showing; add meaning and depth to the drawing, add all the color that isn't already there, tell me whatever the image isn't telling me.
    -If you can give me a drawing I can show my players to convey a feeling or express a concept more quickly, please do.
    -And yes, as a GM I'll not always be able to show a picture of whatever I'm describing, so if you can give me the verbal tools to comunicate that, you're welcome.
  • Okay, I'm just gonna ask: Folks, those of you who think art doesn't have much use or is even negative in RPGs, do any of you work at all with drawing/painting/doodling/photographs/photo-manipulation/whatever ?

    WarriorMonk is a cartoonist, I'm a doodler, I don't know what everyone else is who likes art.

    I am starting to get the impression that the break-point of pro/con artwork is falling along lines that have to do with whether you work with some sort of visual art or not yourself.
  • Okay, I'm just gonna ask: Folks, those of you who think art doesn't have much use or is even negative in RPGs, do any of you work at all with drawing/painting/doodling/photographs/photo-manipulation/whatever ?
    I've got a degree in engineering and design, though I work more with engineering than design nowadays. I've been drawing since I was a kid, I do photomanipulations and lately some digital painting. I illustrate all my games myself (because it's fun, not because it adds much to the game).
  • The possibly related thing I get annoyed at sometimes is the modern story gamer's tendency to describe things as a movie or TV show. It's all visual and images and even camera angles (even when not playing PTA). Now, movies and TV shows do visuals very well, of course, but it translates badly into words. When you imagine things in images and use words to describe them, you lose the advantages of the visual medium without gaining the advantages of the verbal. I wonder if all the visual art in game books exacerbate this problem. A good description should not just describe how something looks, but how it sounds, smells, tastes and feels. It should use metaphors and similes. It should describe the emotional qualities of the experience of the characters in the fiction. We already tend to think in images because we consume more movies and TV shows than we do books, and when the game communicates the setting to us in images, it only serves to further tilt the balance.
  • Okay, I'm just gonna ask: Folks, those of you who think art doesn't have much use or is even negative in RPGs, do any of you work at all with drawing/painting/doodling/photographs/photo-manipulation/whatever ?
    I've got a degree in engineering and design, though I work more with engineering than design nowadays. I've been drawing since I was a kid, I do photomanipulations and lately some digital painting. I illustrate all my games myself (because it's fun, not because it adds much to the game).
    Can you think of a way those images could be more useful during play?

    It seems like there is some agreement that they can, at least occasionally, be inspirational (usually more so for the GM, since they'll interact with the books more often than the character players).

    I guess the other question I'd have is, if we are gaining inspiration from films and TV, why the lack of using visual art in games in favor of verbal only play?

    I mean, to me the obvious answers are
    1) We aren't used to doing so, because we've developed this verbal only approach to table top RPGs and
    2) We think of using visual stuff as a pain in the ass ( which forms part of a cycle of reinforcement with #1)
  • Okay, I'm just gonna ask: Folks, those of you who think art doesn't have much use or is even negative in RPGs, do any of you work at all with drawing/painting/doodling/photographs/photo-manipulation/whatever ?
    I'm a graphic designer (typography, books, homepages) and do some photo manipulation from time to time. Have studied 3D modeling, animation and made short movies at the university.
  • This discussion has given me an interesting idea, but the application would be time consuming and expensive to do. A lot of people are very opinionated about games needing or not needing images to sell/play. I have seen them without images, and they have been playable (fun in some cases and bad in others depending on the game and who is playing). I have never seen or heard of a RPG manual with only pictures, though.

    Does anyone feel they can write a manual to a RPG without using any text? Images only? Of course it would only count if you could accurately communicate the rules to the players.
  • I've been wanting to use images more as a support for scene framing. I've already used monster's images instead of explaining the players what they are seeing. If you get used to phrase the rest of your description to fill everything that the image doesn't say (like sounds, smells and emotional charge in the place, it certainly adds a lot to the game since you're saving time and speeding the action.

    Steve, about your idea, I see it barely possible. Most of the game is about verbal negotiation, which requires ritual phrases. You can make infographies to explain game procedures and silent comics for explaining what's happening in the fiction, but to explain how players negotiate the fiction you'd need to give them the verbal tools. Even if you wanted to turn Techniques into gestures (which is actually possible providing all players learn them) you'd still need to explain what these gestures symbolize and when they should be used.

    So yes, it's kinda possible, though it would actually take a shorter time to explain it with text, that's all.
  • Okay, I'm just gonna ask: Folks, those of you who think art doesn't have much use or is even negative in RPGs, do any of you work at all with drawing/painting/doodling/photographs/photo-manipulation/whatever ?
    I'm a graphic designer of sorts, mostly as part of a general publishing skill package. Professionally serious, although I perhaps do more work on the writing side than visuals.
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