WOTC Publishes “New” Endless Quest Books and I’m Disappointed

Wizards of the Coast is publishing new Endless Quest books. But if the cover artwork is any indication, they may be just as uninspiring, sterile and boring as everything else they have published in the past few years.

I absolutely LOVED the originals. I would read them over and over and just adore the cover art as a kid. But I’m totally disappointed by the horribly lame art on these new ones. It’s the recycled trash art that WOTC is putting on all it’s licensed material. The originals had some of the best TSR art of the day. I know that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I have absolutely no interest in buying these whatsoever. Allow me to go into some more detail.

Of course, these books have not been released yet. So we only have the covers to go on. But it was the covers of the originals that were simply iconic.

First, lets see the new line up:

4 books. Backgrounds are simply the basic colors of yellow, red, blue, and green along with a single character. If you’ve followed D&D 5e and the licensed products, you’ve seen all these characters before many times. None of them have a name (as far as I know) and are some of the worst art in the entire lineup. Don’t believe me?

Here are the originals from the PHB:

Actually, in the original form, I actually like one of these. I always liked this version of the halfling (not the retarded one on page 26 in the Halfling section). But it starts to get old when you see it over and over; look at the 404 page for DND Beyond. It was cute the first time I saw it because this halfling chick is cute and this is a good piece of art that makes you fill in a story in your head (I firmly believe she’s distracting the bartender to get his purse!).

Now, lets look at other licensed products. First, D&D Dice Masters Battle for Faerûn

Yep. Right there on the box, you already see the Dwarven Cleric. Here is one of their banners:

Do you think they use any of this art on the cards? Yep, at least I could find 3 out of the 4 (not a lot online since it’s a crappy game; I’ll have to check my cards to see if I have the elven wizard girl)

How about the Dungeonology Coloring Book? I thought some of these might be there, but I reviewed my video and didn’t see any. I’ll have to re-check the Dungeonology book itself when I get off work. I don’t see them in Rock Paper Wizard either; so at least there’s a limit to reusing the same art. I’ll also have to go back through the Dragon+ issues.

Now, art is subjective. I know that. But I believe “a picture says a thousand words” and I believe that showing some of the original Endless Quest book covers will speak volumes more than this amateur story teller could ever tell:

   
   
   
   

Now, those are some badass book covers! They just make you want to open it up and start reading. There are ~50 books originally published in this series.

I have to be a little fair, some of this TSR art was recycled as well. Here is the  the artwork from Knight of Illusion also seen in Pool of Radiance. But, I’m sorry, this is such an awesome piece that I simply give it a pass.

   
 

For further comparison, now look at the original art from Larry Elmore on a few of these, and compare to the original art used for the “new ones”. I’m no art scholar (again, all subjective…), but THIS is REAL fantasy art!

   
 

These were excellent examples of fantasy art and had a “pulpy” feel (though I didn’t know at the time what pulp was!). But there is so much more to say beyond just the general aesthetics of these pieces and the unnecessary recycling. There is also a whole virtue signaling component as well. But others are much better at explaining these things than I am. After awhile it becomes more and more obvious to me. I think it’s been 5 years now since D&D 5e release; at first I was a little wowed with 5e and I just gave the boring artwork a pass, but now it is hitting me across the head like a two handed Warhammer.

Disclaimer: Of course, all art used here is for demonstration and reporting purposes and entirely belongs to Wizards of the Coast and/or their respective artists (such as Larry Elmore who is a God amongst fantasy artists and the nicest guy you could meet in the GenCon artist gallery).

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Maze Map

Maze Map

While I’m learning to draw maps; it’s probably obligatory to at least craft one maze. There is a lot going here in this one. There are two entrances/exits. An arcane circle. A small pool of water, certainly with something deadly beneath the water… Piles of rubble which may, or may not have anything to be found buried beneath. A couple secret doors, a puzzle, and an altar (or sarcophagus, or whatever else you want it to be).

Above is the DM version of the map.

Here is a “player” map if you were using online and revealing a fog of war.

Maze Map Player Version

And then a basic version without the secret door markings.

Maze Map Basic Version

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Basim Temple

Map Basim Temple

Also called “The Temple of Pedestals”, Basim Temple is set into the end of a box canyon far from any civilization. Few sages remember to whom the temple was dedicated and rumors persist that a secret order of priests continue to maintain the temple.

 

Included in this temple are pedestals of various sizes. My personal idea is to create a puzzle involving these; note that there are 8 small ones in the entrance as well as 8 medium ones within the temple proper. Then, the one large one for …. Treasure? or DOOM!

In the northwest corner is an underground lake leading to…

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Prisons Below

Prisons Below

A good Dungeon Master should always have a spare prison they can can pull out for when the PC’s get into trouble (which never happens, right?)

  • The north section of this map includes ten 10’x10′ cells along with multiple areas for guards to hang out and keep watch.
  • The southern section is a large room for what else? Torture and interrogation of course!
  • Connecting both arms is a defensible choke point with a large circular staircase to freedom.

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Map: Tower of the Black Sun

Tower of the Black Sun Map

First version of a map for an adventure I’m working on. I don’t want to give away too much, so just a simple map this time. Key points include multiple small rooms behind secret doors, stairs to upper and lower levels, and an astronomically aligned summoning circle.

 

 

Dungeon Crawl Classics #83: The Chained Coffin – Color Cover box set

Map & Plot Idea: Fortress Under the Sun

Under the Sun MapSuper busy night at work, but I found some downtime to unwind and draw another map. Listening to some music and a weird thing a patient told me gave me an idea..

In the immortal words of Ozzy Osbourne:

Well I don’t want no preacher
Telling me about the god in the sky
No I don’t want no one to tell me
Where I’m gonna go when I die

Sitting at the bar of yet another overpriced roadside inn. At least this one has a gorgeous innkeeper’s daughter serving large mugs of spiced ale along with a nice smile. A gruff old dwarf pulls a chair from the table next to the adventurers, and without asking for permission, he sits it right next to the party and begins to to tell them:

“I’m goin’ ta die tomorrow, so I may as well tell someone, and it may as fucking well be you all.”

He pulls out a large map and unrolls it onto the table, pushing your mugs to the side to make room.

He points to a long range of mountains and says, “Right there. You get up this ravine here, and head north, you’ll practically walk right in to the entrance of the Dwarven fortress, Solitude.”

“Our king betrayed us. Cursed all of us. All for the love of a girl. You probably can’no’longer save our king, but kill the witch. Kill ‘er dead. Then sack the place if you wish, but free his lustful soul and avenge us.”

  1. The Dwarven king is Boot Flagonslayer who broke faith with his God (insert name a of Dwarven God from your setting here) in order to gain favor with a girl whom he fell in love with. Then the new queen banished the entire dwarven clan.
  2. The girl, is actually a succubus. Ya, you probably saw that one coming….
  3. The name of the succubus is Amai’ha
  4. When the clan was banished, a curse was placed on each member. The curse kills each dwarf on their next birthday. The gates to the dwarven fortress are permanently sealed until the curse is fulfilled upon every dwarf affected. The dwarf who has approached the group is celebrating his birthday a day early, drinking his sorrows away at the inn. Of course, he is also the last dwarf alive from his clan.
  5. The map above, is for the second floor of this underground fortress.

  1. Feasthall. 1a is a royal sitting area; essentially the feast hall doubles as a dwarven court as well. Secret doors allow escape in a pinch.
  2. Treasure rooms
  3. Armories
  4. War rooms and administrative office areas
  5. Stone bridge across a large crevasse
  6. Wide staircases allow easier transportation of armaments from the workshops below to the armory here. Likewise, large staircases allow transportation to the upper levels where the market district is located.

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Map & Plot Idea: Tomb of the Sun

Tomb of the Sun Map

The following is a small plot idea I created to go with this map. I’ve been doing a bit of research on Archaeoastronomy (specifically, I’m a huge buff!) and have been jotting down some ideas for maps, encounters and even entire adventures based around areas, puzzles, and beings centered around cycles of celestial bodies.

Here you go… My first hand drawn map! (and… my first handcrafted scenario now I think about it… even if only a part of one)

Set within a hill 10 miles outside of town, whoever (or whatever) created the Tomb of the Sun, that knowledge is now lost to history. Nevertheless, a local circle of druids gather at this site every year on the Summer Solstice. However, the druids were never seen returning from last year’s ceremony.

And the Summer Solstice is tomorrow.

Inspiration for this simple tomb was taken from the real world site, Newgrange. The entrance is on the southeast corner of an artificial hill.

Newgrange

On the day of the Summer Solstice, light from the sun enters and streams all the way to the back of this cross shaped structure. This does not happen any other day of the year. Also, the shape of this tomb matches a constellation in the sky (Cygnus), as it would be positioned on the ground.

Some ideas for this encounter:

  • The adventurers come across a disheveled old sage with opaque, cloudy eyes. Although he is clearly blind, he seems to have no problems interacting with the world. He tells the adventurers of a  legend concerning the return of an ancient demon “when the stars and sun align with the tomb”.
  • The druid circle is actually more of an evil cult. One obsessed with a belief that the world was created by the sun and that the circle of life must be completed by the earth returning to the sun.
  • Currently, an evil druid is completing a year long ritual that began with the sacrifice of the other 12 druids within his circle this time last year. He believes that when he completes the final step, a ritual suicide at noon on the Summer Solstice, that he summons the elder God, Sol’gadon.
  • The belief of these druids is that when Sol’gadon is called, that he will resurrect them all as immortal beings on earth with the power to “return the earth to the sun”. Of course they’re wrong in this belief; if summoned, Sol’gadon ‘resurrects’ them, but as slaves under his control.
  • Sol’gadon‘s domain is one of the stars (of the same name) in the constellation for which the Tomb of the Sun matches
  • There is an altar at the rear of the tomb crafted entirely out of one enormous block of stone that shines as bright as a small star when light from the sun hits it. Various glyphs decorate this alter in the shape of the sun (which, of course is, itself a star)

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