What RPG Cover Best Captures the Spirit of the Game?

During the month of August, I’m participating in RPG a Day 2017. Each day I’ll answer a question, or my interpretation of a question, about tabletop roleplaying games. For those who have wanted your beloved UncleBear to get back into RPG blogging, this is the closest you’re going to get.

What RPG Cover Best Captures the Spirit of the Game?

Colonial Gothic 3rd Edition. The cover is a painting by Francis Blackwell Mayer, a 19th-century American artist. It features a uniformed drummer in the center of the image, with a man in more civilian clothes at his side playing the fife, and a line of soldiers coming up behind him. You instantly know that this game is about the American Revolution. Although there are horror and supernatural elements to the setting (hence the “gothic” part of the title), I’ve felt that the vibe of the game is very hopeful and optimistic. Imagine, a horror game where you don’t necessarily go irretrievably insane or die an unimaginably gruesome death! Plus (spoiler) we know that America wins the war and lasts until at least the early part of the 21st century. That’s why this is a game about the secret history of the colonial era.

I Have Odd Opinions Regarding RPG Art

My opinions of roleplaying game art are well-documented. In short: I’m not a child, I don’t need a picture book. I need resources to help me play a game and tell a story. Useful art is fine, but too many publishers seem bent on producing coffee table art books where the illustrations offer no value other than to look pretty and pad the page count. Most of what’s on the inside of Colonial Gothic matters, and it does a good job of providing the feel of the setting without cramping my creativity or boxing my imagination into a corner by concretely codifying what the non-historical elements look like.

Why This Cover Grabs Me

Mayer was born in 1827 and died in 1899. While he’s not contemporary to the setting, he’s also not a present-day artist. Yet his style can be found on any number of roleplaying game covers today. The color choices, the brush strokes, the lighting, are not that different any number of modern artists working in the industry. I actually had to look Mayer up, because while it feels like a vintage piece, it could also have been something commissioned to feel more period. Miraculously, if suits not only the setting but the medium. For something not created specifically for a roleplaying game, it feels like a great piece of RPG art. And remember, as a general rule I don’t like RPG art.

Check Out Colonial Gothic

This is probably my favorite game that I’ve never played or run. Early American history is my jam, especially the 17th and 18th century period prior to and including the Revolution. Colonial Gothic goes a great job of distilling things down to the playable bits, the information that is most likely to be used or referenced at the tabletop. The system is elegant and flexible. If you’re familiar with my own game designs you know I’m all about degrees of success and failure, which are a highlight of the 12° system. It’s a well-supported line a well so if you do get into it, you’ve got a ton of material to read and play. Check it out.

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