Picturing the dungeon – Other publishers revive keyed illustrations

In my last post, I discussed my love of keyed illustrations in adventures, and how, after dabbling with the feature, TSR abandoned it.

Despite TSR’s lack of interest in the keyed illustrations, they haven’t died. Other creators clearly love them as much as I do.

In the third edition era, both Goodman Games and Kenzer & Company championed keyed illustrations. Just about all of the Dungeon Crawl Classics feature them. Kenzer even coined a marketing term for them. Their adventures tout the ImageQUEST Adventure Illustrator. “Because a picture is worth 1,000 words. ImageQUEST is the picture book that gamers love. Now DMs can not only read the boxed text, they can actually show it to the players.”

Monte Cook must appreciate keyed illustrations. His adventure The Banewarrens includes them, as does his adventure The Harrowing from Dungeon issue 84.

Dungeon issue 77 includes a White Plume Mountain spin off called Ex Karaptis Cum Amore, which features keyed illustrations.

None of the early classic adventures featured pictures of non-player characters, but adventures do benefit from portraits of supporting characters. For years, Dungeon magazine routinely showed pictures of the prominent NPCs. (Too bad they buried them in the text.) I like attaching pictures of NPCs to my DM screen. The pictures provide a far more memorable impression than a mere description, and pictures give role playing encounters a visible focus. I’m not great with voices, so if I can point to a picture as an NPC speaks, the NPC makes a more distinct impact. This enables the players to better follow an exchange between to NPCs.

Most of the guys who ran Dungeon then work at Paizo now, and they still recognize the value of NPC portraits. Paizo publishes decks of Face Cards that feature character portraits suitable for the characters in your game. The playing-card format strikes me as perfect for sharing NPC portraits as the players encounter the characters. Paizo even releases decks of NPC portraits to accompany their adventure paths. Brilliant.

Have I missed any published adventures that feature keyed illustrations?

Next: My tips for using maps and dungeon tiles

This entry was posted in Role-playing game history and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Picturing the dungeon – Other publishers revive keyed illustrations

  1. Pingback: Multiple attacks, ability checks, and keyed illustrations revisited | DMDavid

Leave a Reply