David C. Sutherland III

I was reading the Wikipedia page of David C. Sutherland III and discovered he illustrated the first edition rules of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. (Seen to the left.) Very cool to find a peice of the puzzle that is the history of creative work done for early RPG.

This is one of the books I owned. Long gone. Really wish the original was still around. Ah childhood nostalgia!

RPG, Day 1, Box 9

Friday February 11, 2011

My first day at the Duke Special Collections Library I looked through three boxes. Each one had about four game boxes in them. The first one, Box #9, had three box sets from the RPG Gamma World by TSR Games. The first box I opened was Gamma World 3002 circa 1978 by James M. Ward & Gary Jaquet. This is a early paper based roll playing game set in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war that combines fantasy and science fiction characters.

I totally recognized this game. Not sure if I ever played it but I’m sure I either spent hours looking at it in a game shop or at a friends house. The forward of the rules book acknowledges influences from science fiction books and the Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards [Link to the whole movie on YouTube!]. Its interesting evidence that nothing in the arts is completely new. But a re-imagining of the world around us.

Gamma World Manual inside Cover

The art on the inside cover page of the Gamma World Manual from 1978 is of a guy in a wearing some kind of fatigues crouched down pointing a ray gun at a large humanoid creature with cat/bear ears holding a large club. Its a black and white ink drawing that imitates a wood block cut. The signature is the letter D and T on-top of one another. These initials are similar to the signature of Albrecht Dürer. While this illustration is not nearly the same level of detail as a wood block its very interesting to get a glimpse of this artists inspiration from the signature.

GammaWorld_BasicRulesBooklet_Cover_1983_300px
Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet

The second game box I opened was the Gamma World 7010 Basic Rules Booklet circa 1986 from TSR, Inc.. It has a full color cover with large pseudo three dimensional title letters. Beneath the main title is a sub title that reads, “Science Fantasy Role-Playing Game”. It’s a good reminder of the mash-up of two different creative genres.

The illustration on the cover is of a man who looks like a roman soilder holding a large laser gun riding a white horse. Is he the good guy? The solider is charging two humanoid creatures on the ground who appear to be defending themselves. The creature on the left has pointy ears and is wearing a furry loin cloth. He’s firing a large laser bazooka at the guy on the horse. Fortunately for the rider the bazooka blast misses him. Another fellow leans back holding a shield in one hand and a laser pistol in another. He has on a helmet with silver hoses coming out the back that end at a utility belt. He is also wearing fetching green tights and big boots with fur on top. His skin is like armor. This amazing illustration is by Keith Parkinson. His signature adorns the lower right corner of the work.

When I see this cover I feel a combination of nostalgia and distain. The style is super cheesy yet totally constant with the time and genre of art used for fantasy and science fiction games. I’ve personally enjoyed more dark science fiction art like the kind imagined for Aliens by H.R. Geiger. Somehow its sinisterness makes it more real.

My university professor, Elizabeth King, told us that artist receive inspiration from two creative sources, fantasy and science fiction. Then and now I believe that most of my creativity spawns from Sci-fi. But I read all the J.R.R. Tolkien books in middle and high school & love nature. Did that not stick? I guess when I started making art with computers I became a technology Utopian. I believe that humans can improve themselves with creativity and engineering. Recently that belief has been shaken.

Artists don’t have to be influenced by only fantasy or only science fiction. Issac Newton worked hard to prove that the magic of alchemy can be explained by laws of science. In a way role playing games are creative live action research to prove this very assertion. Here is what the Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet says we need to get started with this research.

Pg. 2-3

Part I: INTRODUCTION

What You Need to Play

In order to play a GAMMA WORLD game, you need the following:
* This Rule Book
* The Adventure Book
* The dice provided in this game
* Pencils and erasers
* Paper and graph paper

For your first adventure, you should play the one enclosed in this game set. It has been designed so that it can be played without a GM. Or it may be used by one player to help him Game Mater a group of other players.

The contents of this game set include the following:
* The rule Book with attached appendices
* The introductory Adventure Book
* The Game Master’s Screen with all the most important tables
* The Reference Book with important tables and appendices, as well as a campaign setting for use in creating your own adventures
* The Player’s Screen with tables
* The large four-color map of a ruined city, the countryside, and a map of America.
* Sets of six and 10-sided dice

GammaWorld_RuleBook_7010_Cover_300px
Gamma World Rule Book

The final game in box #9 was Gamma World Rule Book circa 1983. Its book cover has a similar design to the Basic Rules Booklet. The main title was 3D but didn’t have the extruded Y axis. A border of similar color and luminance goes around the top, right, and left sides. Inside the border is a illustration of a futuristic knight in high tech armor holding a large bazooka sized gun. He rides upon a giant cat like steed with two rows of very sharp teeth and claws. A armor of similar style covers the mounts head, feet, back, and tail. This giant cat appears to be a cyborg of some kind with hoses connected to its head that has a helmet that covers its eyes and doesn’t appear to come off. Both of these figures stand atop a very big rock. In the background is a big sky and the snow covered mountains of a very large mountain range.

GammaWorld_BRB_InsideCover_art_1983_300px
Gamma World Basic Rules Booklet Inside Cover Art

The inside cover of the Gamma World Rule Book has a blue spot color illustration that appears to be a offset print. A guy with long dark hair wearing a cape with no shirt and tight pants rocks boots with a scalloped material on top. A futuristic rifle is slung across his chest and pokes out from behind his back. The dude sits atop a very large dog in a mid or far eastern style saddle. The choice, by the artist, not to illustrate a western saddle gives it a other worldly look in context with the other items. The rabid looking steed bares his teeth and lets his tongue hang out till it almost touches the ground. A spiked collar and a muzzle complete the giant dogs attire.

Next post in this series is about the RPG I found in Box #19.

Note: This work is pretend scholarly research and inspired by morbid curiosity. I intend to respect the intellectual property of all companies and persons. If you object to your images being on this page please contact me and I’ll take them down asap.

Researching the Murray RPG Collection at Duke University

Advanced Dungeon & Dragons Players Handbook, by Gary Gygax, Copyright TSR Games

Introduction

This morning I began looking at a bunch of paper based role playing games. I suppose you could call what I’m doing feral research. Investigating a topic or group of topics with some intensity without belonging to academia. Thank you Stan Goff for introducing me to the phrase ‘Feral Scholar’ and for being a intellectual role model. Thank you Duke University for having the vision and resources to house this important work of the Twentieth Century.

The RPG are part of the Edwin and Terry Murray Collection of Pop Culture at Duke University. I learned about the Murray collection from a friend a few months ago. She mentioned that there were a ton of RPG in the collection just sitting in boxes. Seems they’re not known and little is being done much with them. The comic book part of the Murray Collection has been cataloged and there is a list online.

I eventually got in contact via email with someone at the Rare Book, Manuscripts, and Special Collections Library. He sent me a spreadsheet of a preliminary list of the RPG collection. It had over three hundred entries! Later I met with him and a grad student in person. They informed me that they’re working on the cataloging and that it should be done soon. I discovered that the collection had more than RPG boxes but other books, modules, and figurines. They brought out some amazing examples of 1970’s Dungeon & Dragons box sets.

This experience was really surprising to me. When I saw the art on the boxes and small staple bound manuals I felt a tingling sensation all over my body. It was a feeling similar to being in the presence of great art that I had admired for years only in magazines. Or possibly meeting a hero in person for the first time. Lost memories of my teenage years came flooding back. I knew I had seen some of this art and logos before. It was a very powerful experience for me that I don’t quite understand yet.

Many of the D&D books I’ve owned were lost at some point. I got bored with them and put them on my book shelf in my room at my parents house. Years latter when I went back to gather comic books and other memorabilia the D&D books were gone. I suspect my religious mother trashed them upon finding the graven image on the AD&D Players Handbook. 🙂

Before I requested to look at more of this collection I decided to focus on the visual art of the games. I’m not a Dungeon or Game Master. It’s been decades since I actually played a role playing game. (That is going to change…) But I do have some experience with the arts.

Next post in this series is about the RPG I found in Box #9.

Note: This work is pretend scholarly research and inspired by morbid curiosity. I intend to respect the intellectual property of all companies and persons. If you object to your images being on this page please contact me and I’ll take them down asap.

Update The book cover above was, according to Wikipedia, illustrated by David A. Trampier.