Depictions of Tabletop Role-Playing
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This geeklist collects images showing players engaged in pen&paper role-playing.

Most rulebooks contain a section explaining What is a roleplaying game?. But while this may be difficult and at the same time nauseatingly overdone already, there are relatively few attempts to depict role-playing. That's why I've started this list.

There are thousands of photos available, of course. I'm less interested in these. Instead, I'm looking for drawings etc. Please include as much information as possible: artist, source, date, title (if the picture has one), hyperlink...

What I find interesting, among other things, is to see how the artists try to make clear that we're seeing people engaged in an RPG, what is considered typical, how players are portrayed (age, gender, racial background), etc.
My first impression is that (apart from photographs) most depictions are humorous: cartoons, comics, surprisingly often inverted: fantasy creatures playing humans.

Symbolic stuff on the table: dice, GM screen, sheets of paper. Sometimes: rulebook, miniatures and a playing board.
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26. RPG: Star Frontiers [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:527]
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Advert for Star Frontiers from the inside back cover of Dragon #73, May 1983. By Jeff Easley.
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27. RPG Item: Unorthodox Modern Cheerleaders [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Thanks to downeymb, who identified this for me:

From the webcomic The Wotch: Cheer by Tselsebar:

Apr 14, 2007


Dec 29, 2007
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28. RPG: Generic / Universal [Average Rating:7.25 Unranked]
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Totally different approach, yet still showing the GM and players.
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29. RPG Item: The 1920s Investigator's Companion [Average Rating:7.50 Overall Rank:230]
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Part of 'The Bold Investigators' cartoon featured as the inside back page of Worlds of Cthulhu (Issue 4) by Francois Launet.
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From The Unspeakable Vault of Doom. I've included those strips that are part of a series, so not all of these necessarily show actual tabletop play.

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/20/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/27/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/62/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/93/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/100/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/101/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/102/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/103/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/209/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/386/

http://www.goominet.com/unspeakable-vault/vault/436/
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Cthulhu Cheats:
http://chainsawsuit.com/2010/05/12/cthulhu-cheats/

Quote:
next time you invite cthulhu over for a little 4e make sure you check out what he's working with over there

none of his dice remotely meet the standards for what you and i would call closed solids, let alone a good old d20

he rolls in here with stats you've never even heard of. since when do you rank atrocity up there with dexterity and wisdom, what class even uses that

what a doucher, he's barred from my games ever since he imprisoned me on the plateau of leng for telling him he already used his daily
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32. RPG Item: Dungeon Masters Guide (AD&D 1e) [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:26]
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A classic from 1979. From page 111 of the DMG, another inversion of characters playing 'real-life' RPGs, by Will McLean
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33. Video Game: Unepic [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3434]
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This seems to be a jump&run videogame, but the adventure is framed by an RPG group: one guy takes a break to pee and suddenly finds himself in a medieval fantasy castle.
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34. RPG Item: Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game [Average Rating:7.93 Overall Rank:71]
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2012, by one of the many artists who contributed to the EotE beginner game. The character pregens and map included in the beginner box, as well as the custom dice, can be seen on the table.

Based on this picture, where they play some other game:
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35. Video Game: Bigfoot: Chasing Shadows [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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These images are from a webcomic called the Abominable Charles Christopher by by Karl Kerschl.







Facepalm, indeed!
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36. Board Game Artist: Rolland Barthélémy
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picture (c) 1993 by the publisher MultiSim, might be from one of their games.

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37. RPG: Strip D&D [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Kris Wilson, Cyanide & Happiness #3278, August 26, 2013:

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38. RPG: Roleplaying is Magic [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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With special thanks to Tracy, who posted about this on Google+
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from the MLP comic #11 by Katie Cook/ Andy Price (2013)
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39. Setting: My Little Pony
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Ponies play RPGs by CB-Dragoness (deviantART)
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40. Board Game Artist: Rob Gonsalves
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Source: http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/File:MPost212-5cdff3cc.jpg
Actually, it's not a depiction of roleplaying. But yeah, it is kinda like that.

The picture is by Rob Gonsalves, a magic realism artist, and is called "The Woods Within":

Source: http://worthstar.com/rob-gonsalves-illusion-artwork/rob-gons...

For more of the fantastic art by Rob Gonsalves, visit:
http://www.paragonfineart.com/artists/rob-gonsalves.html
http://worthstar.com/rob-gonsalves-illusion-artwork/
http://www.moillusions.com/2006/05/rob-gonsalves-magic-reali...
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41. RPG: Lamentations of the Flame Princess [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:98]
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Satine Phoenix's cover art for the LotFP Note Pad, which was available as an add-on on the recent Indiegogo campaign for a new LotFP referee book (and will probably be available elsewhere later):

Source:
http://lotfp.blogspot.de/2013/10/lotfp-ref-book-crowdfunding...
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lotfp-hardcover-referee-bo...
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42. Board Game Artist: Nils Hamm
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Nils Hamm, 1997, for Das E.R.S.T.E.:

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43. RPG Designer: Linda Budinger
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Illustration to a text by Linda Budinger - the artist might be Stephan Dierlamm. Published in the German RPG and Fantasy Fanzine "Der Menhir" (compare the RPG published by the same people: Der Menhir), issue 6, page 60:

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44. RPG Designer: Marko Laine
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Illustration for Myrskyn sankarit - Suurkuninkaan miekka (2013)
Source links:
http://anubish.deviantart.com/art/Roleplaying-392132703
http://mlaineart.blogspot.de/2013/08/roleplaying.html

(found by Stelio - thanks!)

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45. RPG Item: Deviant Database [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
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Guillaume Bonnet: The Big Adventure (ca. 2013)
Source: http://zazb.deviantart.com/art/The-Big-Adventure-200969352

Thanks, Stelio - another great find!

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Not a depiction of Role-Playing, but worthwhile to mention here, I hope:

Adalbert von Rößler, ca. 1875 or 1884 (?): Offiziere beim Kriegsspiel (wood engraving after a drawing)


One of the important historical predecessors of modern tabletop role-playing is the Prussian Kriegsspiel, invented 1811/1812 by Baron Reiswitz (also: Reisswitz) and substantially developed by his son, Georg Heinrich Rudolf Johann Baron von Reiswitz. It soon spread among army officers and was expanded and republished several times during the 19th century. Probably because of a dishonor (which also led to his suicide), Reiswitz was hardly ever mentioned as the original designer.

This image was found by Porlock of the Bitzkrieg blog, but I used the image version of the online catalog selling a copy of the wood engraving, since it shows the image title.
According to this link, the image was published in "Allgemeine Illustrierte Zeichnung (sic! read "Zeitung"), Nr. 34, ca. 1875" - no page given, and despite the volume number, the year doesn't seem to be certain. There's a nice crop with higher resolution, showing the "GM" or umpire.

Edit: The journal's full title seems to be: Über Land und Meer: allgemeine [or: deutsche] illustrierte [or: illustrirte] Zeitung. Published in Stuttgart by Hallberger (later by Dt. Verl.-Anst.), 1.1858/59 - 61.1918/19 = Bd. 1-122; Jg. 62.1919/20 - 65.1922/23. I haven't found a digitized copy of vol. 34 yet. https://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/metaopac/search?View=defaul... or https://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/metaopac/singleHit.do?metho...
See also: http://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Ueber_Land_und_Meer


You might say Reiswitz and the Prussian Kriegsspiel are grandfathers of Gygax/Arneson's roleplaying game innovation. The image above probably conveys a bit of the long, slow evolution that led to D&D.

I know only of one other depiction of 19th Kriegsspiel gaming (source):


But there are nice images of the original table designed for the king:


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47. RPG Item: Legendary Duck Tower and Other Tales [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:6838]
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Brian Gordon, Roleplaying Then & Now (November 18, 2013) - FowlLanguageComics.com

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48. RPG Item: Everything Goes [Average Rating:6.00 Unranked]
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Simon Goeneutte-Lefevre (weasel) & Alexis Moroz (Norad): Everything Is Possible (four page comic, also in French: Tout est possible, first published in 2012)

This short comic is interesting because it shows roleplaying without floorplan and minis, and without character sheets and dice (third page, third and fourth panels). Looking at the usual depictions, this is highly remarkable.

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49. RPG Item: Short Order Heroes [Average Rating:8.44 Unranked]
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The "geeky" card (third from the left in the top row) shows somebody with a pen, a character sheet, and different shapes of dice. The person is wearing what looks like a costume (for LARP?) and holds a smartphone-like device, for extra geekiness I guess.

Published 2013, artist is either Eleanor Ferron or Tyson Smith (answered below - thanks, Jesse!).

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50. RPG Item: The Supercrew [Average Rating:8.94 Overall Rank:2389]
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The Supercrew rules are in comicbook form. (It's great!)

As written, Supercrew sessions are intended to begin and end as a game within a game. The PCs are playing a RPG when breaking news prompts them to slip away from the GM to go fight crime.
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