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THE MASTER

Every once in a terribly long while, we are given a glimpse of true mastery. No fast thing is this, either, or fleeting moment. True mastery is a thing long-earned, a journey we embark on, a lifetime of prolific effort enjoyed, evolving, and ever-present. As you can see, I reserve this word, master, for the very few. One such master is right here, in our time, the incomparable Wayne Reynolds.


Before I reveal the true focus of this article, a retrospective might help the uninitiated to see why I am so beside myself at this newest release. Reynolds has been at the heart of our hobby for over 25 years as a preeminent titan of fantasy illustration. There is no conception of modern role playing without his imagery coming to mind.


From a cover I didn't like at first (way back in 2007, The Black Fortress/Death Master), to his bombastic and badass work in Slaine, Reynolds caught my eye immediately. His style was so striking, so new, so kickass, I was knocked a bit out of my socks. His iconic work in 4th ed. D&D and Pathfinder was era-defining, but I was a tough sell. "I'm more of a Richard Whitters guy... this stuff is so over the top!"


But Reynolds' brilliance was barely getting started. As the 2010's unfolded, he blasted out cover after cover, box-wraps, and interior art. His prolific work ethic was surpassed only by his boundless creativity... a way of imagining heroes that finally lived up to players' imaginations and more. He SAW US and nailed it, even blowing our minds with other work on Warhammer 40k, Pendragon, and Rolemaster. (For a comprehensive review of his work, get yourself a copy of Visions of War asap).


Just a TINY sample of Wayne Reynolds' masterful depictions of fantasy.

Our imaginations will never be the same.


Fast forward to today for what I feel is his most masterful work to date. A book that stands as the most useful, the most inspiring, the most-table ready, the most juices-pumping of anything I have seen in the past 5 years. I cannot overstate how potent this little book is for the true player... how it penetrates all the noise to remind us why we play, and how we can't wait to get back to the table.


This is, of course, his humbly titled masterpiece: RPG SAINTS SKETCHBOOK. I am only posting the arlin cover here for respect of the work within. You'll have to buy a copy for that.



The book itself, arriving in a dust jacket, is a compact and flawless joy to handle.

I keep my RPG shelf terribly slim... this will never leave my side.


The book is simply a set of portraits. Though Reynolds describes these as 'saints,' I guarantee that every player out there will treasure this little book. The illustrations are not only a supreme masterclass of drawing skill, but a work of humanist genius. There is soul here. Our characters are more than swords and armor, spells and stories... they are people, just like us... flawed, diverse, textured, ever-changing. Somehow, Reynolds captures all this and more in these portraits.


The reason I so admire this work of RPG art is not just that it will blow players' minds, inspire GMs' imaginations, or provide potent visual anchoring to absolutely any fantasy game. It isn't because of its clean, perfect book craft. It is because it shows that transcendent quality that our hobby can achieve at its highest, purist form: that these are human stories, filled with love and tragedy, complex and meaningful... and no matter how far flung the tales may become, no matter how terrible the monsters, we see ourselves as we dream we can be... we see our friendships in their supreme, epic form, and for even just a moment, we feel the heroism, the grief, the pride, and the peril that our characters feel.


In short, we feel free.


-B


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monomakes
monomakes
Mar 25

His work is lovely. Long live art created based upon the human experience!

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