Those of you who have taken a look at the credits page of our latest adventure Axes of Evil, might have noticed a familiar name among the list of artists: Charles Darwin.
That’s right, the Charles Darwin, best known for his work Origin of the Species.
It was a major coup to land Mr. Darwin as an artist. Fortunately for us Darwin has long expressed an interest in making the transition from groundbreaking naturalist to obscure RPG illustrator. The hardest part was actually communicating with Mr. Darwin, who has in fact been dead for 129 years. So we burned a little incense and…
Okay, truth time. Charles Darwin did not create a new illustration specifically for our book. He actually drew it for his book Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication. And the many years since his death was actually the selling point, since it means that his work has fallen into the public domain.
When I started Sneak Attack Press, I decided that, if nothing else, I did not want to lose money. So we have relied on public domain artwork (which anybody is free to use) for most of our books to date. This has a pretty major advantage: great artwork for free. But it also comes with a pretty severe drawback: I can only use artwork that somebody else already drew… usually 70+ years ago.
This drawback limits the kind of artwork I’m able to find. Some subjects are easy: animals, medieval weapons, scenery. Some are more difficult, such as golems constructed or equal parts bunnies and evil. I try to not to let this limit the subject or our adventures, though I have occasionally made minor tweaks. For example, in The Golden Banner, I originally describe the prominent NPC, Grufus Tinker, as a bald man. While looking for art, however, I decided to recast him as Captain Nemo (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) as illustrated by Alphonse de Neuville and Edouard Riou. I then went back to the adventure and changed the descriptive text to give him a full head of hair.
As Sneak Attack Press continues to grow, it looks more and more likely that we will soon have at least some art drawn specifically for our books. Indeed Hunting Deathcloud features a map commissioned specifically for the adventure.
Though the artists we hire probably won’t be as famous as Charles Darwin.