Random Thoughts: Basic Set Covers, When Women Had Faces, and Why the Old Movies are Better
April 8, 2015
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Okay, let’s have this out now. Point one: Moldvay Basic was intentionally designed to appeal to both teenage girls and teenage boys. The idea of the box cover is to provide a way for everyone to imagine themselves in the context of the scene. This is reiterated in the illustrations inside of the two real life people that play the cover characters. In contrast… the newer D&D Starter Set crops out the female player character on the cover.
But maybe you don’t care about inclusivity. Fine. Otus’s sorceress is hot. Jones’s sorceress looks like she’s wearing a bathrobe. Otus’s sorceress is showing a little leg. Jones’s sorceress has no legs at all! Otus’s sorceress still needs to use mundane equipment like torches. And there’s also something unsettling about her. She is the proverbial “Strange Kind of Woman” or “Witchy Woman” from songs. Jones does not even show her face.
Which sorceress would you rather see cosplayed? Otus’s. Which sorceress would you rather have backing you up in a fight? Otus’s. Which sorceress would you rather read a novella about? Otus’s.
Erol Otus’s work is iconic not merely due to nostalgia. It is fundamentally superior.
(Image via Grand DM. Thanks, man!)
Women have faces in my D&D games. And legs. Jones’s piece is like those cheap roadside Haitian paintings where the guy depicts everyone with their hands in their pockets because it’s easier that way. Is there a piece of Medieval Catholic or even Egyptian artwork that fails to show a person’s face like that? Iconographically speaking, that is a complete failure.
Alien, Star Wars, classic Trek, Mad Max… do you want to know why these films are objectively better than their modern CGI-laden counterparts? Because their budget and special effects technology required them to limit epic action sequences to sort of a garnish rather than having them be the main focus. What do the old movies fill all their time with given their complete lack of fancy computer graphics? Characters. Personae. Relationships. Chemistry. Tone. Suspense. Current blockbuster movies are in such a rush to get to the next plot point that they simply don’t make time to explore those things as much. The old movies practically had no choice but to emphasize them and attempt to get them right.
The chemistry and rapport between Han, Luke, and Leia is what carried Star Wars more than anything else. For instance: I don’t know, whaddya think? You think a princess and a guy like me…. After action, action, action, action… there’s this pause… and it’s filled with something undeniably human. It’s cinema and not a conglomerate of video game cut scenes. Directors routinely produce bigger better versions of Deathstar trench sequences and Spock’s sacrificial moment… but they do not seem to grasp what it was that made the film connect in such a way as to give those moments a real emotional payoff.