Back to home : Back to RPG Files : Back to Ghostwalk

Ghostwalk Art Commentary

If you've read other stuff on my site you can tell I'm very attached to the Ghostwalk book and glad it finally came out. I think the book has some really good art in it (and it's all available in an art gallery on the WotC site) and there are a couple of quirky bits to the art, too.
While I don't consider myself a conventional artist (you can see an example of my "fabulous" artwork here), I'm entitled to express my opinions about it. So, in a moment of hubris, here are comments about some of the art pieces in Ghostwalk. If I don't have a comment it just means that I don't have a strong opinion either way or nothing interesting to say about the intent of the piece; for the most part I am quite satisfied by the book's art. Oh, and at WotC at least, "illo" is the shorthand term for "illustration," which is a term I use often on this page.

FYI, I'm commenting on them in the order they're listed in WotC's Ghostwalk art gallery, but I'm listing page numbers too for those who want to flip through the book. You all have a copy of the book, don't you? :)

    Cover: Of course Brom is going to do a great cover, and this one looks spooky. There's only one thing I wish could have been on the cover, and that was something in the concepting stage: we were going to have a ghost PC confronting a necromancer (possibly a yuan-ti) with his zombie buddies, and one of the zombies was going to recognizeably be the reanimated body of the ghost....
    Artaaglith (page 158): Puddnhead usually does a good job of making really cool illos, and this is no exception. The only wierdness is that he's holding a triple-flail when the monster description says he normally carries a battle axe; I know this monster was added late in the design process and I can't find the art order for it, so the goof is probably my fault for not getting the proper description in on time. Still, a cool illo. WotC link
    Bonesinger (page 159): I think this one is pretty cool, and catches the feel of the "can be funny like a bard but still creepy like an undead." Willow thought up the basic concept of this monster, by the way (an undead musician whose power comes from wind blowing across the grooves and channels in his bones). WotC link
    Ectoplasmic Vermin (page 161): I love it. It shows the variety of shapes and colors of the ghost bugs, shows they're transparent, and implies they don't like the light by having them clawling out of a dark rock fissure. Well done! WotC link
    Ghost (page 163): Thank you, Wayne Reynolds, for being awesome yet again. This one's subtle enough to make you have to really look at it to see what's up. At first you think he's just pale, then you think maybe he's something like a ghoul, and then you notice the transparency of his hands and how you can see the back side of his belt. I especially like the look on his face, his chest wound, and that he has real leather straps holding his beard braids in place. That's why my "brother" is so cool. :) WotC link
    Ghosteater (page 165): I had imagined this looking more like the MM illo of the Monster Manual, but Baxa has his own strange style which I grew to like with the Dark Sun and Spelljammer stuff he did. If anything, his illo helps show how really weird this monster is. WotC link
    Dread Ram (page 160): Another cool illo by my "brother." Wayne captures the creepy, old, decaying, supernatural nature of this monster wonderfully.< WotC link
    Necroplasm (page 169): I like the critter on the left more than the one on the right. I guess an undead creature that spawns others of its kind by barfing ectoplasm on its dead enemies isn't going to look to pretty when it does so. :) In any case, based on the illo I don't think you'd let one of these things touch you if you had the choice, which is kinda the idea. WotC link
    Bone Collector (page 22): She looks pretty cool. I'm not sure what's up with kissing the severed rotting arm, but these people (bone collectors, not artists) are pretty touched in the head so I wouldn't put it past them. The death motif on her clothing isn't over the top, which is good. WotC link
    Undead Martyr (page 172): What a great illo! The vampire woman is suitably sexy in a vampiric way, and the martyr is strange-looking and obviously has some sort of symbiotic connection to its partner. I'll have to ask WotC who painted this and pass them my complements. WotC link
    Eidolon (page 16): I think this is by Vinod Rams, and I like it. Not cartoony, subtle (he looks solid against the sky background by is obviously transparent when in front of the tree stump. WotC link
    Spectral Steed (page 170): Man, Wayne did a great job in this book. I guess he likes to illustrate creepy stuff (I remember something about that and dwarves in a conversation I had with him a long while back). Creepy dead guy on an incorporeal horse ... cool. :) WotC link
    Spirit Tree (page 171): A nice elfy illo. I specifically asked for faces to be hidden in the tree bark, and there are enough that it takes me a while to spot them all. WotC link
    Eidoloncer (page 18): Another one by Vinod Rams, and in the same style. As with the eidolon, I like it. WotC link
    Garothos (page 185): A pretty cool illo, considering there isn't a lot of detail on it. He shows motion, the fiendish horse looks spooky, and his mirrored helmet is suitably mysterious. WotC link
    Skeleton Theater (page 192): I think this illo complements Monte's description of this room in the text, reinforcing the weird and spooky nature of the place. WotC link
    Nssai's Cave (page 203): Two awesome-looking cobra-headed winged things. Why am I not surprised that this is Wayne Reynolds? WotC link
    Venomblack (page 208): A very dynamic illo with a lot of energy. Nice. WotC link
    Aluvan's Symbol (page 80): Here's where I don't mind Dennis Cramer's work (for the most part I find it too much like 1980's comic books), as these symbols are supposed to look like a typical holy symbol of the faith looks like as manufactured by people in the world. I could easily see a cleric of Aluvan carrying something that looks like this. WotC link
    Chaniud's Symbol (page 80): Works for me. I like the piece of scroll beneath the symbol, that's a nice touch. WotC link
    Dracanish's Symbol (page 80): The only problem I have with this illo is that it doesn't depict what I meant the illo to look like--literally a man with metallic bronze skin (I wanted him to look like a profile of a head on a coin). However, the art order just says "a man with bronze skin" so obviously I left it vague. The illo could easily represent a god who is known for eating the dead (he looks creepy enough), it's just not what I wanted (and my vague art order didn't help). WotC link
    Durann's Symbol (page 82): This is a case where the illo is right but it's placed on the page wrong. The text description says it's a shining horizontal hammer and the hammer is vertical in the picture. However, if you look at the illo you see there are loops at the "top" and "bottom" of the symbol, so it's meant to hang on a chain and it would lie horizontal when it did so. I like the depiction of the symbol, I think it's very appropriate for the deity in question and meets dwarven sensibilities -- simple, yet artistic. WotC link
    Eanius's Symbol (page 82): Cool. Good job, Dennis. WotC link
    Galaedros's Symbol (page 83): Simple, and sad. I could see this symbol scratched on a rock or an old tree stump with just a few lines. Very appropriate. WotC link
    Khostren's Symbol (page 84): I like this for the same reason I like his other symbols; it's simple yet effective. And it shows how gross and creepy flies are without using a lot of detail. WotC link
    Nessek's Symbol (page 84): A crown of flame, simple and elegant. WotC link
    Orcus's Symbol (page 85): I think this skull-mace looks pretty bad ass! WotC link
    Phaant's Symbol (page 86): When I thought up this symbol I meant three simple diamonds, but Dennis made them actual faceted diamonds. Unexpected, but I'm pleased by it. And it's still a simple symbol (or can be reduced to a simple symbol) that some peasant could scratch out in a hurry to ward off bad luck. WotC link
    Soggelos's Symbol (page 87): I really like how this turned out. The octopus looks cool, and it's reminiscent of the eight-pointed star of Chaos, and since Soggelos is a chaotic deity it's a neat echo. WotC link
    Cleric of Orcus (page 85): You gotta admit, this cleric looks tough. Here's an illo where the artist made a real effort to convey the necessary feeling. She looks mean and has the appropriate holy symbol. WotC link
    Manifest (page 95): That big tower in the background is the Grand Portal. Impressive, yes? Nice work with the two ghosts milling about with the living. Wayne Reynolds again. WotC link
    Wyst's Symbol (page 88): The only thing I don't like about this symbol is that the bootprint looks too modern--medieval boots wouldn't have those cleats and such, it would just be a smooth bootprint. Ah, well. WotC link
    Cleric of Aluvan (page 80): I like this guy. Simple, to the point, has the right color scheme. WotC link
    Cleric of Dracanish (page 81): Like the Aluvanite cleric, this guy is a great depiction of a cleric of the Dracanite faith. WotC link
    Uhanam's Symbol (page 88): I can see the faithful of Uhanam spending a little more time on their holy symbol (she's a goddess of skill, after all) so I can accept that this symbol is a little more complex than the others. So, I like it. WotC link
    Gathering of Thanatos (page 108): Looks very much like an evil gothic church. Makes we want to built it out of Hirst Arts stuff. Wayne again. WotC link
    Ghostwalk (page 111): This illo is actually of the Veil of Souls. I think this is the first building I've ever seen Baxa do. I like how it turned out. WotC link
    Monsters (page 120): This is actually of a cleric of Orcus and a couple of yuan-ti. Dennis Cramer, so I'm just so-so on it. Though I like the stitched-up cheeks of the guy on the right so he looks a little more human when he talks. WotC link
    Eater of the Dead (page 76): A very Baxariffic illo of a bunch of people fighting in the city. I think it shows the chaos well, and the inclusion of the ghost is, of course, appropriate. WotC link
    Chapter (page 7 and so on): This is meant to show the Veil of Souls, with its two Deathwarden dwarves guarding it. I think it makes a nice frontspiece for the chapter and reinforces the mood of the book every time. WotC link
    Magic Swan (page 96): This is not an illo I requested (I think some pieces were added after I left WotC because my art order was for the original, shorter length of the book). Rather than showing your typical bustling adventurer's tavern (which this place is), it shows the sign, and leaves the interior appearance up to the DM. I like it. WotC link
    The Leafy Branch (page 96): Another "new" illo not on my art order. Like the Magic Swan, it just shows the sign and lets the DM show what's inside. WotC link
    Forestview (page 100): Another "new" illo. It depicts the Blueleaf, a tavern in town that sees a lot of rangers, arboreal guardians, and foresty types. Definitely looks friendly. WotC link
    Piran Sedestadel (page 104): Another great illo ... the staff looks cool, the assembled mages look cool (and different from each other, which is nice). Awww, yeah, it's Wayne again. WotC link
    Spider Lair (page 196): OK, so here's a Dennis Cramer pose illo that I actually like. I especially like that the ettercap is wearing his studded leather armor and you can see his holy symbol. WotC link
    Baavaang (page 219): All the key elements are here: female minotaur (and she is female, subtly), cool axe, breastplate armor. Yay! WotC link
    Lubanac (page 221): This illo shows that Lubanac is a thinner-than-normal minotaur with a greataxe, wand case, and the wight he just summoned. By the way, this minotaur was designed to be the evil counterpart to Bruce Cordell's necromancer minotaur in Monte's Ptolus game, Canabulum. WotC link
    Saag Paneer (page 215): I'm not sure what's up with this creature's, uh, "brassiere," but at least you can tell there's something wrong with her eyes. Also note the yellow snake on her left that's not actually part of her hair. WotC link
    Crawler Lead (page 213): Though I'm not a big fan of Dennis Cramer's work, I guess I like his rendition of buglike things, as I like this carrion crawler illo. Or maybe I'm growing as a person. WotC link
    Ranger (page 137): This actually depicts a typical soldier from Bazareene, though it's not really accurate at that, since a Bazareene warrior is supposed to have a small shield and either a short sword or hand axe. Ah, well, at least the armor and physical characteristics are right. WotC link
    Barbarian (page 136): This is one of the Varlin barbarians (guys from a mountainous region of Bazareene). I think Baxa made him look pretty badass, which is good. Studded leather--check. Axe--check. Long hair cut in strange ways--check. WotC link
    Salkiria Being (page 140): This is supposed to show the typical warrior of Salkiria, but it doesn't have a lot of the elements needed to do that: studded leather armor, light crossbow, can't see his hair, etc. Ah, well. WotC link
    Sura-Khiri Being (page 143): This typical warrior of Sura-Khiri is more on the scouty side than the warrior side, but that's OK because I mentioned both types in the art order. I like that he looks serious and worried, and yet still has some of that elven snootiness. WotC link
    Xaphan Being (page 155): I'm sure Baxa got a lot of practice painting distinct undead when he worked on the Dark Sun setting, so this typical Xaphan soldier was probably pretty easy for him. He caught all of the necessary elements, so there ya go. WotC link
    Tereppek Being (page 148): This Tereppekian warrior is not wearing the government-issued scale mail, nor is he carrying a scimitar, which probably means he's going to get killed in the next big battle. Fortunately, Tereppek rarely has to use its military, so he might live a long time. WotC link
    Thurkasia Being (page 151): A typical Thurka warrior. Note the big, stocky horse, the lack of military saddle (no fore- or aft-peak, which makes it harder to mount or dismount quickly, and his breastplate armor that seems to hang on him (their country invented a style that is faster to don or remove). The only thing you can't see is his greatsword, probably because it hangs on the left side of his horse. WotC link
    Faces of Death (page 11): Another good illo by Vinod Rams showing the four different classifications of ghosts (based on how traumatic their deaths were). A nice, clear progression, and I like how he made each sample ghost a different kind of person (old man, thief, warrior, and something else). WotC link
    Oopsy! (page 14): This illo represents a possession attempt. The victim looks suitable horrified or afraid and the ghost looks suitably determined. WotC link
    Rarrgh Not Like Ghosties. Where'd Ghosty Go? Grrarrrgh! There Ghosty Be! (page 30): Um, I'd just like to say that I didn't come up with the captions for the illos that are on the web page. This illo was called "Corrupting Touch" in my art order. Some person on the web team has a goofy sense of humor.... WotC link
    Enervating Touch: Gotcha Where I Wantcha! (page 31): Though I didn't come up with the "subtitle" for this illo on the WotC site, it accurately reflects a dwarf using the Enervating Touch feat on a wizard. I dig the black energy crawling out of the wizard's body. WotC link
    Kihu-Sherem Guardian (page 36): This is actually a combination of two illos I requested, one for the Kihu-Sherem monk males and one for the Sherem-Lar sorcerer females. I think I would have liked it if their eyes were even more vividly green (as green as the eyes of Fremen in Dune are blue), but I like the costuming, appearance of the two, and their posture toward each other. WotC link
    How to Hit a Ghost (page 41): This shows the effect of a brilliant energy weapon on a ghost -- it works just fine. WotC link
    Unmovable Object (page 61): Another Vinod Rams pic. I like how most of the light comes from below the paladin, it's a nice effect. WotC link
    Sura-Khiri Landmark (page 144): This is actually a scene from the yuan-ti demiplane of Coil. I always considered yuan-ti to have a more Central American than Asian feel to them, so that's why the step pyramid is there. Note the snakes in the foreground actually growing out of the ground. WotC link
    Figurines of Wondrous Power (page 71): I like how these turned out, particularly the buggy-eyed octopus figurine. WotC link
    Necklace of Skulljewels (page 72): These are certainly very vivid, and you don't normally see skulls in these colors (they're gems), which is cool, and I like how it turned out. WotC link
    General of Undeath (page 53): Another cool illo by Wayne. I especially like the triumphant evil cleric in the background. One of the common problems with artists is that they don't like to do illos with a lot of figures in it ... it takes more time and is more complex. In the art order I even suggested putting the undead in the background so you could abstract them and make the work easier, and instead Wayne details five undead in the foreground, clearly defines a couple dozen more in the midfield, and still picks out the cleric in good detail in the background. Awesome. WotC link
    Incorporeal Disharmonics (page 55): Another Wayne piece. I love how the bard looks like he's totally rockin' out with his harp. Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Opening for Metallica, it's Incorporeal Disharmonics! WotC link
    Undead Torch (page 60): Vinod strikes again. This would be a freaky-looking undead all by itself, the magical cold flame just adds to the effect. WotC link