D&D Next Concept Art

Apart from some awesome illustrations to blow our minds thinking about giants and illithids, these images may be a coming of age of the roleplaying imagery. They are not just another set of busty female paladins, and that is something.

D&D Next playtest keeps moving forward, and a new set of rules was recently released. Combat damage is still an issue for some character classes, but the rules in general are a good update within the boundaries of the D&D legacy.

Conceptopolis is a company of illustrators who work for the entertainment industry. They obviously do what they are commissioned to do, and in this case Wizards of the Coast has asked them for some concept art, different from the usual. In their deviantart gallery you can see all the images, but I want to comment two of them.

Northern barbarian
Turami bard

It seems Wizards of the Cost is making an effort to introduce ethnic diversity in their worlds, and this is a difficult task. Most of the role players want to have impressive characters, epic adventurers who match the ideal concept of the class. I know there are exceptions, but we usually play characters of our own race, better handsome than ugly. And players were usually males, so females adventurers usually had exagerated breasts and thin waists. I guess they were just focusing on their target.

However, the teenagers who played in the 80s and 90s have grown up, and they are looking for something different. More women have also come to the game, and we want them to keep coming, not scare them with sexual harassment.

So I believe the Turami bard is a step in the good direction, and the Northern barbarian is also slightly more human than usual. I still think the drums are too big and the robes too thin for a bard planning to fight with a sword, but lets be optimistic.

I encourage you to check the northern female barbarian, and the diferences between lightfoot halflings and strongheart halflings. The female halflings and dwarves are also a nice improvement over previous versions.

I always thought the new rules and systems increasing in popularity these last years are the result of role players getting past the 30s. Adult players demand different sets of rules, and it seems to me that settings and imagery are also changing.

Is it a matter of age? Just modern thinking? Or are you totally sceptic about this illustrations?

(you can read some insightful comments in Spanish in the blog La Marca del Este)


3 thoughts on “D&D Next Concept Art”

  1. I had not thought of age as the main reason to look for non-stereotypical characters, but you are probably right. It seems I refuse to acknowledge the fact that I am aging.

    One of our friends commented a few weeks ago that role playing teenagers are literally “sacks of hormones” and he made a good a point. However, I think it is also related to their inability to sketch good stories/scripts (or to appreciate them) and the inexperience to try to draw the personality of a character who is far from what they know. Actually at that age we might have not been totally sure of what we were or would become, so maybe some of us unconsciously used our characters as a therapeutic way to define role models by role playing, who knows.

    Personally, once I decided that I was much more interested in stories and creating characters rather than throwing die or learning the rules, their tricks and their gaps, I directly turned towards the role approach. A character that I am not close to and that is not perfect is much more worth exploring. Well, that is a lie. It is difficult to get rid of yourself, even when you are trying to. However, you can first experiment with aspects which you might feel far from, even though they are probably too stereotypical. These can be either good – even if you would never acknowledge you do not possess them: dexterity, braveness, intelligence, beauty… or bad: meanness, dumbness, limp… Secondly, more neutral or subtle aspects – also more or less alien to you – can be developed in your character: envy, lack of self-confidence, sensitivity, irrational and hidden hate towards something,… Finally, something that you are, you might not be very happy about, but you are able to twist in a way that makes it far from what you are. In any case, anything that is not obvious and it is discovered by playing the character instead of reading the paper.

    The most intriguing point is to reach is the moment when you have to acknowledge that your character develops beyond your own limits as a player and convince your GM about it: I found myself pleading my GM with something like: “Well, I cannot think on something witty enough to say in this situation which may make this NPC / PNJ turn on our side, but my character has intelligence 17 and charisma 15, so for sure he/she knows what to say”. Masters tend to appreciate this approach and at least you will bargain a dice roll with very favorable modifiers.

    Back to your post: the images… well… yes, a good step forward, but there is still a long way to go. The bard looks OK. However, his robe will make difficult for him to get involved in any kind of fight unless it has some “Angelina Jolie style” cut in the side. Try running with that, man. He needs to hold his dress… The female characters are still too pretty, too busty, too young… I would like to see images of people who could be my neighbours. The barbarian looks better. In this direction, the cultural issues play a much more relevant role: most role players are western and look firstly to their medieval history and the literature developed from it. We also turn towards familiar climates and races to develop these characters and appearance. Even if we are not western/white… we are “Earthlings” and associate races, objects, climates, weapons in different categories according to our world history of cultures. We play what we know and it is difficult to get rid of that because what we know about other cultures – far away and not so far away – remains in the stereotype.

    Challenging this approach can be very dangerous or out of hand. Why the rest of D&D races need to have two sexes like humans? Why female halflings are not bigger and stronger than male? Why cannot elves be hermaphrodites? (Actually many of current players would be extremely comfortable with that idea) Why dwarfs who have lived underground for hundreds of generations have developed an extremely good sense of sight instead of a partial or complete atrophy (like moles)? That would be more logical. The problem is that we, human players, would find extremely difficult to play those characters and imagine the life, society, buildings, cities… For god sake, the dungeons conceived as long corridors connecting halls (always very high ceiling, by the way) are completely irrational if we consider construction and digging techniques. It is as stupid as the long corridors which WO Ripley had to run around in Alien’s space craft.

    We play with the expectations and the imagery that someone else (literature mainly) has created for us because we lack the knowledge to define the ultimate consequences of that imagery. It is a similar relationship between science and science fiction. Science fiction many times draws an unrealistic image of the future, but they define the real objectives and create human expectations at the same time.

    1. Thanks for the long comment! 😀

      It is true that imagining something completely alien to ourselves is quite difficult, and that would justify the western look of the characters. On the other hand, big boobs and huge swords are a common language for the world teenagers, from Japan to Spain 😀 .

      So what would I like to see in the next concept art? Somthing like a persian thief or an african wizard.

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