“Down in the Dungeon”

I loved this article about an old book based on a role-playing game from the late 70’s called Dungeons and Dragons.. The book is an illustrated book called “Down in the Dungeon” by Squadron/Signal Publications:

Read the article

Love it just as much today as I did 30 years ago when I bought it! It is filled with color illustrations about an adventure into a place called Zarakan’s Dungeon.

And I agree 100% with the article. It basically says that the artwork in Dungeons and Dragons from the late 70’s and early 80’s is superior and more imaginative than later artwork. After 1990, I noticed the artwork went down hill fast. The newest D&D covers looked polished and slick. I went to a hobby store recently and most of the artwork the new kids are painting and drawing today is devoid of any imagination…..nearly all of it! I spent an hour looking over Marvel Comics and several role playing systems and I never once saw anything really different. All the characters are either dark muscular mega-death warriors with super powers, spikes, and rune-covered swords or tall muscular she-male Barbies wearing red speedos and leather cups casting bolts of pink lightning. All the comic super hero’s now look alike……they all have tiny heads, big muscles, and skin tight outfits and walk around hitting each other and saying the dummest things. All the females in these illustrations are tiny wasted 17 year old waifs with huge silicone boobs and lots of bling, waiting for some man to rescue them. I don’t get it? What’s happened to our culture……its like we went back 50 years? Where are the shriveled goblins picking up electrum pieces or the tiny little dark elves hiding behind stalagmites that filled the role-playing manuals? Where are the adventures and simple dungeons? Even Thor now is this popular high school football star decked out in the latest “glamdoll” fashions of our age. Seems like artists are more interested in showcasing powerful God-like supermen than subtle dark glimpses of our ancient cultural mythologies.

It makes me sad…..I wonder what we lost after Tolkien in the 60’s and D&D after 1985? I think you described it perfectly…..corporations and slick artistry took over and with it the talent and imagination. Today it seems like video art and CGI doesnt have the imaginative qualities old role playing board games had. It is tied to a culture today thats all about killing, power, wealth, conformity, and war, and less about adventure, exploration, rugged individualism, artistry, craft, and the joy of imagination.

I cherish this old book….it will be my son’s book now. And it reminds me of whats missing from all works of imagination in today’s gaming youth culture. But I think its time we bring back the simplicity, freedom of expression, and imaginative essence of the game again, as its clearly been lost.

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  1. Fred Haskell says:

    I’ve read a couple reviews of this old book which I have but they’ll miss the main point. Virtually every picture in here showcases a miniature that was available from Superior a couple from Ral Partha, I think. I think that was the main purpose of publication was to round up all their figure releases and showcase them in a dungeon setting. I own the armored Orc with the white hand shield. I think I also have the semi nude serving girl from the bar. Just the same everything you say about it is correct. I even mapped out a flat map and filled it with all the baddies from the book. So they aren’t merely images from the time they’re images of figures that were actually licensed by those famous artists.

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