Thanks to a recent post over on Dungeonskull Mountain, I have been introduced to an "old-school" product I'd somehow missed before now: The Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album. (Don't get me started on that title.) I was fairly certain until reading said post that between my physical and electronic libraries, I had every early TSR D&D product ever published. Turns out, the Coloring Album had somehow eluded my notice.
Thankfully, this has been rectified. I'm not only thankful because of what this means for the completeness of my collection, however. It turns out this product is, IMHO, one of the coolest things TSR ever produced for D&D. (Hey, it was even cool enough to inspire a 3E-era knock-off.)
The book was published in '79, which means it predates my entry into this hobby by two years. But it's chock full of illustrations that could very well have been inspired by the exploits of the parties of adventurers my nephew and I marched into dungeon after dungeon back in the day. Flipping through this beauty is like skipping down memory lane - carrying a torch in one hand and a sword +2 in the other, of course.
I'm not here to review the book, to extol its virtues, or to indulge in any sort of critical analysis of it or its ultimate meaning in today's gaming industry. The real reason for the post is to point out the thing that struck me the most about it: its back cover. Or, more precisely, the depiction thereupon of what the book's creators (presumably) considered to be an average adventuring party:
Talk about a difference. The gulf between today's average depiction of adventurers and those of yesteryear is immense. No small, elite unit of buff, quasi-super-heroic types in this depiction - just a large troupe (small army?) of grim, determined (perhaps even cutthroat) meatbags, equipped to the gills for a good dungeon delve; some of whom* look as likely to kill their "friends" and take their stuff as they are to do so to the denizens of the dungeon. And I'm guessing that only the foremost four or five characters are meant to be PC's. The rest - the faceless horde in the back - are most likely the party's retainers, hirelings, and henchmen.
Yep, this is what I think of when I think "party of adventurers."
*Check out the guy behind the wizard - a shifty, untrustworthy type. (You can tell because he's looking sideways.)
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