elcome to Dragon's-Eye View! The all-new weekly column devoted to conversations about my favorite subjects: the art, artists, world, and visual creative development of Dungeons & Dragons.
This isn’t meant to be some high-brow, art-speak type of column. No, we’re going to be diving into some of the hot-button issues that surround the art side of D&D. We’ll be pulling aside the curtain to openly discuss topics that you’ve told me matter. I’m not often going to be coming to you with answers, but rather coming to you with conversations and hoping that you find them evocative enough to join in and let me hear your voice.
You might be wondering, “Who is this guy?” Fair enough. I am the Creative Director of Dungeons & Dragons—an honor that I take very seriously. From my earliest introduction to the game in the late 70’s, I was drawn to the art (no pun intended). My high school classmates had no idea what they were putting into motion when they invited me to my very first game of D&D; neither did I. In the past 40 years, I’ve taught tons of folks to play, introduced my own sons and daughters to the game, and had the honor of taking part in the development of the brand over these past 15 years. Nowadays, I am responsible for the visual strategy and creative development for the entire D&D brand—from the tabletop RPG, to comics, video games, lifestyle goods, and so much more.
I have a long history with D&D, but that isn’t the reason I’m writing this column. When I heard that Mike Mearls and Monte Cook were writing articles that helped share the R&D development process and engage the community in creating the next iteration of D&D, I couldn’t help but raise my hand and ask if I might do the same thing on the visual side of things. The powers that be bought off on the idea.
I’m not sure if they knew what they signed up for….
Every year, I get asked numerous questions while wandering the floors of cons and events: Why did you do this? What were you thinking when you decided that? Sometimes you love the decisions we’ve made, sometimes…well, not so much. This time around, as we start the development phase of the next iteration of D&D, I want to get you involved and have the opportunity to hear your voice on a number of subjects.
While I’ve got a few ideas for subjects that I’d like to chat about, I certainly don’t have some crazy agenda for how I expect this conversation to go; that said, I would like to initially focus the discussion around the visual development phase of the next generation of D&D. Some of the ideas I’m kicking around currently are:
Art and artists: How are they important to the game and world?
Art style: How does it make a difference?
Character depictions: Are inclusive and “cool” mutually exclusive?
The D&D logo: What does it mean to you?
These are just a few of the ideas I have on the whiteboard, but I’m also hoping you’ll help provide me with subject matter that is also important to you. How? Simple, by telling me what you think the conversation should be!
My email, Facebook and Twitter accounts have been going off like roman candles ever since the big announcement. Mind you, I’m not complaining. One of the favorite aspects of my position is having the opportunity to talk with folks and hear what they have to say about the creative side of things. The truth about art is this: Good art creates an emotional response. So it’s no surprise when people have an emotional reaction to the art of D&D.
So keep talking to me.
Tell me what is important to you. Let me know what you liked in past editions and also what you didn’t. Remember though, I’m an art guy. Complaining to me about the abandonment of THAC0 isn’t going to get you anywhere. Having a discussion about the comparison of 3rd Edition books stylized as illuminated text or field journals, to 4th Edition as college textbooks will get my attention.
Every article/note/message I find, I’m taking back with me and having additional discussions with my creative team. And guess what, we argue about these issues as well! Probably for much the same reasons—we care.
So make your voice heard. Take for example, this post by Kris Hansen in “An Open Letter to D&D Next’s Art Department”. Kris puts it all out there, and politely smacks me across the face with a gauntlet. Not through flames and venom, but rather through thoughtful writing.
Don’t feel you have to be a fulltime blogger, though. Each column will have questions embedded in them to start a discussion. Toss your answers into the comments field, or ask some questions yourself and expand the conversation. I’ll try and loop around to these conversations in the following columns as much as possible.
So where do we go from here? Good question. Like I said earlier, I’ve got a couple of ideas to discuss, but I’d rather talk about what is important to you. Let me hear from you.
Up next: D&D Art and Artists: How are they important to the game and world of D&D?
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.