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Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

Back in my early adolescence, I was a little bit of a tabletop role-playing game nerd. I know, hard to believe! Obviously, something with a name like Dungeons & Dragons would catch my interest. Sadly, most dragons played an adversarial role, thus eventually leading to my departure from gaming sessions. I never got tired of the art, though.

During slow times in school or between gaming meetups, there were various self-gaming options. One of these was the Fighting Fantasy book series. Imagine a Choose Your Own Adventure book combined with a dice-and-stats RPG, and there you go. One book in particular, City of Thieves, stands out in my mind because of a couple illustrations within.

Bays ball

Here is one of goblin creatures called bays, playing baseball. Oh wait, sorry, "Bay's ball," as the book said. Ha hah, puns. I don't know exactly why I like this picture. Perhaps its the whimsy in it and all the little touches in the background details. I'm sure the prominent placement of clawed toes also has something to do with it. Overall though the melding of the grotesque with caricature tickles my fancy here.

There is also a lot of fine-detail inking work. I have to wonder how much of this is no longer being sought after because of the decline of print media. Black & white reproducibility has not been much of a factor for years now, especially with the ubiquitousness of Internet devices today and inexpensive color printing. Alas, progress moves forward. At least that gives these drawings a definitive flavor.

Lizardine

My reasons for liking this page is much more concrete. It's a Lizardine, which is to say, a dragon—a humanoid one at that. He is a plain shopkeeper in the book. I recall being rather fascinated with him as a character that was represented by just being another inhabitant of the town. For the picture itself, I like the lazy, laid back demeanor, as if he's just idly playing with valuables and trinkets while having a discussion. He also fits into the style of dragon I enjoy, even if more detailed than my usual fare.

A lasting remnant of my education was that if we found an illustrator that we liked, we were heavily encouraged to dig up info and find out more about the person. Turns out these were illustrated by a bloke named Iain McCaig. He went on to work as a concept designer for Lucasfilm, and even has a few instructional DVDs available from the Gnomon Workshop. Nifty stuff. And there's even a newer dragon, too.

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