Monday, March 28, 2011


This post isn't going to be a slam against the "dungeonpunk" style of the third edition books, although I must say I'm not a fan of it. It's just that something occurred to me, based on the realization that dungeonpunk effectively mimics a real-word fashion.

Here's the question: the 3e generation was handed a particular vision of the fantasy world based on a fashion that had occurred and largely retreated into obscurity before the publication of the game. What I started wondering is whether there's a correlation between the age of the artist (or creative director when there's a unified "look") and the aesthetic of a different generation.

In other words, guessing at a particular average age of a D&D player, the mainstream punk era probably took place sometime maybe 20 years before the player picks up a D&D book in 2000. That's just shy of one average generation. Not quite their parents.

Maybe it's the younger uncles and aunts, maybe it's what shocked their parents, maybe it's completely unrelated, maybe it's related to the age of the creative directors and not the audience. Still, it's an interesting question.

The new age aesthetic of the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance clearly didn't reach as far back for the aesthetics, in terms of generations, as 3e did. And I'm not sure you can really identify a unified aesthetic for AD&D, but there's a 70s vibe to some of it, at least (Otus and some Trampier), which would tag a generation that's the new players' older siblings, not a generational gap at all.

In other words, I can't spot any direct correlation, but it did strike me that in no case did the aesthetic of the fantasy world reach back to the age of one's parents. It always seems to be drawing NOT on what's going on right at the moment (4e is not "grunge D&D"), but not TOO far into the past. It's based on something that happened in between your generation and your parents'.

Just an offhand thought, signifying nothing and not even full of sound and fury, but I thought I'd mention it.


  1. You know, to some extent I think the 2e and late 1e illustrations are influenced by Maxfield Parrish.

  2. Interesting point. Also consider the fact that the late 90s, where Dungeonpunk got its start, was the high water mark of the big "punk revival" explosion (Rancid, Green Day, No Doubt, etc.). So the artists who were envisioning dungeonpunk could well have been feeling the influence of then-current trends as well.

    Which brings up an interesting point about how the music and culture that may have influenced dungeonpunk have passed, but the style remains.

  3. "It's based on something that happened in between your generation and your parents'."

    So, something your older cousins were into that you thought was so cool but couldn't be part of?

  4. Dungeon-punk began in the early to mid 80's in Britain. The work of maestro Trevor Hammond appeared in White Dwarf without fail, every single month, although arguably John Blanche first truly crystalised the genre with his classic 1986 painting Amazona Gothique, and who as art director for Games Workshop continues to push a certain gothic, punk aesthetic into gaming (new dark eldar for example) to this very day.

  5. I'm not sure I'd equate the particular drawings you posted as being punk, although they are certainly Gothic. I don't mind Gothic - in fact I often really like it if it eschews the ridiculously outsized weapons - it's mohawks and buckles that really annoy me.

  6. Btw, I added your blog to my blog list, Zhu - great stuff, even if you post fairly infrequently - it's worth the wait.

  7. Cheers Matt. Added likewise. I'll just go and throw on some Christian Death, Siouxsie and the Banshees and maybe a little Bauhaus and Alien Sex Fiend and try to get that gothic / punk thing sorted out!

  8. Eh, it's not a matter of sorting out - I don't know a damn thing about what those labels mean to anyone but me. :)