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Pendragon Design Journal #13: Outstanding Art

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 8th Oct 2022

By David Larkins, Pendragon line editor.

A new edition of the Pendragon RPG is coming! The intention of this series of design journals by Pendragon line editor David Larkins is to trace the path of development, starting in the early 1980s and culminating with the forthcoming new edition of the Pendragon RPG, which will be first to be wholly published by Chaosium in a quarter-century.

The last two instalments of these design journals have been about Writing the Pendragon Starter Set. But, before we press ahead on that front, I want to take a moment to instead highlight some of the outstanding art you’ll find in this set.

Art is always a vital component of any role-playing game’s presentation. It is a portal into an imaginary world which helps the text on the page come alive. It establishes tone and atmosphere at a glance, and beckons the reader to explore more. It conjures imaginary vistas and speaks of adventures yet to come. With Pendragon, we particularly wanted to communicate the game’s medieval-fantastic atmosphere, as well as evoke the centuries-long tradition of Arthurian art—from illuminated manuscripts to the Pre-Raphaelites and Symbolists to realist book illustrations of today.

Without further ado, I have pulled a half-dozen selections, presented in no particular order, for your delectation.

First up we have Mark Smylie’s bird’s-eye panorama of the estate of one Sir Ector, located on the shores of bucolic Lake Bala high in the Cambrian mountains. It is here that a young lad by the name of Arthur is raised and squired, ignorant of the great destiny that awaits him.

Next, a portrait of Arthur, now the so-called Boy King, on the occasion of his nuptials to the beautiful Lady Guenever. Eleonor Piteira evokes the symbolic significance of the union, as the young couple marry not for political gain, but for love.

Fans of RuneQuest will no doubt recognize the distinctive style of Andrey Fetisov, who here gives us a peek into the lives of the common folk with his interpretation of a manuscript illustration from the 14th-century Holkham Bible.

I’ve been a personal fan of the work of Eric Hotz for years now, and I’m thrilled to have his distinctive woodcut-style illustrations gracing the pages of the Starter Set. Here, he nicely sums up the hierarchy of the feudal system.

Art and layout go hand in hand, as we can see here in this image of one side of the character folios that come in the box. This is Sir Clarion, one of eight pre-generated knights for you to choose from, brilliantly illustrated by Mathilde Marlot and Laurent Miny.

Speaking of layout, I would like to end this set of previews with an acknowledgement of the brilliant work of Simeon Cogswell, Kalin Kadiev and Ash Stellmach, who all contributed wonderful works of medieval marginalia to surprise and delight the reader. Kalin even created an entire anthropomorphic alphabet!

You can see more of Simeon’s gorgeous layout work, along with yet more inspirational art, in the pages of our Quick Start preview, The Adventure of the Sword Tournament.