This one took a lot of thought. I can think of some RPGs that I love for their art, as a whole. I can even think of games that I basically bought for the art, but even in those I couldn’t think of any particular pieces that stood out to me. And, even more than the art per se, good design work can really sell me on a game, almost as much as the setting or rules.
Then it hit me: I own exactly one piece of RPG art as art, the one time that I liked art from an RPG so much that I spent money just to acquire a print. (All the others I have are freebies and giveaways.)
I fell in love with SkyRealms of Jorune years (and two editions) before I ever managed to get my hands on a copy, solely because of Miles Teves’ art. I had never before—or since—seen an RPG world brought to such believable life as Jorune. I wanted that game so badly, but couldn’t figure out how to buy it. Plus, there were the budgetary constraints of being a middleschooler. Once I finally had a little more income and started going to conventions, it was quite thoroughly out of print, and I had to make do with the occasional used book I would find.
But I kept hoping, and one day a 3rd edition was announced. If I recall correctly, I bought the print that year at Gen Con, and the 3rd edition actually happened and I bought it the following year at Gen Con.
I love that they look like real people. Particularly the non-humans. I love that the anatomy is correct (or, in the case of the aliens, believable). I love that, despite her neckline, the woman doesn’t feel like she’s just there as a sex object. I love that it’s a scene that tells a story—and that story isn’t “and then we fought!” And I love that the original was done in oils, and absolutely echoes classical art in pose and staging and style. This is, to me, everything that RPG art of an alien world should be.
And it sold me forever on an alien world that, at the time, I knew nothing more of than 3 or 4 pieces of art. Perhaps most importantly, once I finally got the books and read them, I discovered that the art was absolutely representative—the world I saw in those images was the world I discovered reading and playing in that world. Captured in just a few dozen paintings and sketches.
(Disclaimer: Thinking more about it, I can’t remember which print I actually bought—there are two that I have, one I purchased and the other is a freebie ad poster that I chopped the ad copy off of, and neither is currently on display, so I can’t easily check. But both are Miles Teves Jorune prints, both were used for ads in Dragon, and both sucked me in immediately. So everything I said still applies, even if the actual image above is the wrong one.