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Creatures at Gen Con 2012
Dragon's-Eye View
By Jon Schindehette

I t was great fun to see that almost half of the attendees at the Gen Con 2012 “Future Look of D&D Art” panel read and participated in the conversations around the Dragon’s-Eye View column. Thanks for attending, thanks for your feedback, and thanks for the discussion during the panel. It was one of my favorite panels at the con! (Part 1 and Part 2 of the seminar are available on the D&D YouTube channel.)

For those folks who attended the panel, I’ll try not to bore you, but there were some important issues that came up that I’d like to talk about. Okay, there were a ton of important issues that were discussed during the panel, but I’m going to address only a couple here today.

One person asked me how I would know that I had “hit the look of a monster, race, item, and so on?” That was a great question, and one that I would like to take on in this column for a moment. It is relevant to both the discussion we had at the panel, but probably even more so for this article and the conversations that take place regarding it.

“Capturing the Ethos”

As part of the world-building exercise, I’m trying to capture the spirit of D&D, and all the people, critters, and places that live in the Forgotten Realms. I don’t expect to hit every single nuance that each person believes should be captured in a particular image. Let’s be honest: that would be impossible. If you take a few minutes and read some of the comments following my articles, you’ll notice that even the very small sample of D&D players that participate in the comments section of the articles can’t agree on the details and nuances of the critters. Given that, how are we going to have a single vision that makes millions of folks completely happy?

Instead of trying to get everyone to agree on the little stuff, I’m trying to find that space where the ethos of a creature is captured. When I first showed the orcs (without telling anyone what they were looking at), I had a number of folks tell me that they loved the “new orc” and a number of folks that told me they didn’t love the “new orc.” The fact that around 99 percent of the folks identified the critter as being an orc, without being told, tells me that I’m on the right track as far as hitting the proper ethos of the critter.

Now, are the details spot on? That’s a whole different discussion. But if I can give you an image and you can tell me it looks like creature X, then I feel that I’ve gotten about 80 percent there. So I’m going to change the way that I’ve been showing art and talking about the creatures depicted. Rather than rehash the text from the Wandering Monster articles that James Wyatt writes and show the development of the creature and the current state of the art, I’m going to mix things up a bit. Moving forward, I’ll be tossing out a piece of art, and I’ll ask you a number of questions about the art. If you choose to play along, you’ll get to answer those questions and provide me with some feedback so that I can get a better understanding of the ethos that I’m capturing. How’s that different from what I’ve been doing?

  1. I won’t be identifying the creature depicted.

  2. I won’t necessarily be showing you a final concept. In fact, I might be purposefully showing you something that I feel is broken to see if you give me feedback that confirms what I’m thinking . . . or tells me that I need to get my D&D radar tweaked.

  3. I’m not going to be looking for nitpicking comments like “the hands are too large” or “the skin color could be slightly more green.” I’m going to be looking for comments like “Hey, that looks like an orc ’cause he’s big, mean, monstrous, but still humanoid.”

So keeping this in mind, here’s a new piece of concept art to look over. It’s not too hard to guess that he’s a humanoid type critter, but that’s all the guidance you are going to get.

This Week's Polls

 Is this creature a/an:  
Bugbear
Cave troll
Grimlock
Hill giant
Hobgoblin
Ogre
Orc

 Is this creature strong?  
Yes, but in an NFL linebacker kind of way.
About average.
My kid sister could kick its butt.

 Is it smart?  
It could tutor Einstein.
It probably has average intelligence.
It’d be considered bright only if it was holding a torch.

 Is it fast?  
It is speedy like a gazelle.
It’s about average.
Those legs were made for standing, not running.

For extra credit: In the comment section below, tell me all about the creature depicted.

Jon Schindehette
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.
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