Friday, November 4, 2011

D&D Art: Examples of Dramatic Irony

I'm looking at examples of dramatic irony in the art of TSR D&D - and you don't need to go very far to find some :)

By dramatic irony I'm referring to examples where the viewer possesses more knowledge than the character(s) depicted in the scene.

This is perhaps the best I can think of 1) because it's Trampier, 2) because the guy off-camera to the right points at the spider and thus "freezes" the exact moment prior to the fighter getting his ass handed to him, thereby heightening the suspense. Given the legion of examples across TSR and Old School D&D these could also classify as comedic irony within the subculture.

I think this is the most iconic example, although there are examples in the AD&D PH, DMG, and MM.

Do you have any favourites?


  1. There is another Trampier drawing... a very small one, in the Player's Handbook on the section about movement or mapping, that has a fighter unrolling string to find his way back through the maze and a laughing troll behind a corner rolling the string back up (a la Theseus & the Minotaur). I suppose the drawing is an illustration of "here is why you draw a map on graph paper!" It's just a tiny little 'spot' illustration, but the warrior is looking over his shoulder even though he clearly can't see the troll yet (perhaps he hears it laughing?) It is as if he is thinking, "Oh, shit! I am hosed!"

  2. The pic of the adventurers reaching for treasue, while a scorpion or worse waits behind the chest, that faces the treasure type table in the MM, and the dwarves and hobbits listening to the magic mouth, while small eyes peer from the darkness, in PHB ... both DAT I think and both somewhat ironic. Those two spring to mind. Also the running adventures of a party in the lower magins along a few page spreads in the DMG ... in the last frame a dwarf is walking through a tunnel toward a hoard of treasure and a big devil is waiting, out of sight. Sutherland?

  3. In Holmes Basic, the Tom Wham illustration of the wizard truckin' through the dungeon like Mr. Natural, with gnolls waiting in ambush just around the corner.

  4. Yes, I've noted those examples as well.

    I think the runner in the DMG is called Zipitone (sp?), I think that provided some inspiration for the art in the DCC RPG.

  5. 'Zipitone' was an adhesive graphic arts film used by illustrators to lay in fields of tone (like dots, lines, etc.) for shadows, etc. I don't think 'Zipitone' is made anymore, but similar products, made by other companies, are still made and used by cartoonists, illustrators, etc. Zipatone was/is a brand name often used to describe the film itself (like 'Kleenex' for paper tissue). They used to sell it in art stores. Things like the 'forest patterns' on the old Judges Guild maps were made with zipatone.
    I miss zipatone. I used to have a couple of precious sheets of it, but lost them several moves ago.