The Worst RPG Covers of All Time

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Faylar

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From the same artist?

tsrdoomodin.jpg



Personally I think everything before 1990 should get a free pass.
That bowstring....
 

Nobby-W

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Endless Flight

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I would be embarrassed to have those covers on my products.
 

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The only thing I can say is they did have to try and stand out in the product glut that was the D20 explosion of the early 2000's.
 

sureshot

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I remember one reviewer in my neck of the woods who Avalance Press was not happy with as he rightfully pointed out in one of his review "Avalance Press always showing more flesh" or something similar when it came to their D20 line. Note I am no prude any means yet even I found the covers excessive given that children would be buying the products. And yes sex sells yet also has some taste when advertising with it.
 

Gabriel

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I don't think in this case it did. I remember these languishing in dollar bins for years.

Maybe if they'd come out before AOL...

Well, they certainly worked to draw attention to the products. We're still talking about them almost two decades later.

I don't think "languishing in dollar bins for years" really says much of anything about products during the d20 glut. There was tons of d20 stuff that languished for years, the overwhelming majority of which no one remembers because they didn't even have racy covers to distinguish them.
 

finarvyn

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I would be embarrassed to have those covers on my products.
I think there are two types of bad covers:
(1) Bad art
(2) Tacky or inappropriate art

For me, bad art is just something where the artist has low talent (or something I think I could have thrown together). Tacky art could be really well done, but not so appropriate for a particular project. A lot of Frazetta art is awesome but I wouldn't want it on the cover of a project because of the bare breasts or whatever, so I might classify it as "tacky" even though Frazetta is one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time.

Some of these covers aren't poorly done, but aren't appropriate for my kids to look at if I leave a gaming book around the house. Some of the covers are just bad. :grin:
 

TristramEvans

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Well, they certainly worked to draw attention to the products. We're still talking about them almost two decades later.


lol, I'm not sure this is a "any press is good press" situation.

Is the company, Avalanche , still around?
 

Nobby-W

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I think there are two types of bad covers:
(1) Bad art
(2) Tacky or inappropriate art

For me, bad art is just something where the artist has low talent (or something I think I could have thrown together). Tacky art could be really well done, but not so appropriate for a particular project. A lot of Frazetta art is awesome but I wouldn't want it on the cover of a project because of the bare breasts or whatever, so I might classify it as "tacky" even though Frazetta is one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time.

Some of these covers aren't poorly done, but aren't appropriate for my kids to look at if I leave a gaming book around the house. Some of the covers are just bad. :grin:
Frazetta was one of the pioneers of cheesecake in fantasy art - the other one that comes to mind is Boris Vallejo. I wouldn't claim to be a rabid fan of either, but they sort of defined a genre. However, I do find blatant cheesecake a bit jarring on RPG covers; some of the examples above seem like they were just done to attract the attention of horny 14 year olds.
 

Gabriel

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lol, I'm not sure this is a "any press is good press" situation.

Is the company, Avalanche , still around?

Good question. After a quick google search, the answer seems to be Yes.

They have a currently updated website and focus on historical boardgames. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any photoshopped 90s porn.
 

TristramEvans

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from all accounts (meaning RPGnet at the time), the content inside was pretty straightforward (even possibly decent) and the cheesecake was relegated to the covers. Can't help but wonder if that was reversed (cheesecake just on the nside) how much better they may have fared.
 

Baulderstone

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from all accounts (meaning RPGnet at the time), the content inside was pretty straightforward (even possibly decent) and the cheesecake was relegated to the covers. Can't help but wonder if that was reversed (cheesecake just on the nside) how much better they may have fared.
The cheesecake thing was so weird as Avalanche was known at the time for its well-received historical wargames, and its D20 line was geared toward playing historical settings. The Avalanche name should have given them an edge in selling their books to people wanting historical settings, but those same people recoiled from those covers.

In any case, I don't remember them being particularly great anyway, and 3E was never going to be a good fit for that kind of historical gaming without a lot of revision. These books were basically module-sized, which combined with massive 3E stat blocks meant that there wasn't much content in them.
I don't think "languishing in dollar bins for years" really says much of anything about products during the d20 glut. There was tons of d20 stuff that languished for years, the overwhelming majority of which no one remembers because they didn't even have racy covers to distinguish them.
That's a fair point, but I seem to recall they got in the game very early. The covers certainly did help them linger in our memory, but it was also still a novelty to see third-party D&D books at all when these started coming out.
 

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Carrying on from my last post, I wonder if the covers suggested a certain contempt for the RPG scene. I can remember from my childhood the real grognards (not the ironic misuse of the word for people that played D&D) with their Napoleonic minis who looked down on RPGs as foolish kids' stuff that was ruining the scene. Given Avalanche's background, it is possible that the covers were an attempt to provide what they thought RPG players would like.

If that's the case, I think it is a strategy that might have worked back in the '80s when the demographics of D&D leaned much more heavily toward teenagers and the world was more porn-starved.
 

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Carrying on from my last post, I wonder if the covers suggested a certain contempt for the RPG scene. I can remember from my childhood the real grognards (not the ironic misuse of the word for people that played D&D) with their Napoleonic minis who looked down on RPGs as foolish kids' stuff that was ruining the scene. Given Avalanche's background, it is possible that the covers were an attempt to provide what they thought RPG players would like.

If that's the case, I think it is a strategy that might have worked back in the '80s when the demographics of D&D leaned much more heavily toward teenagers and the world was more porn-starved.
It was the time of goaste.cx
 

Nobby-W

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from all accounts (meaning RPGnet at the time), the content inside was pretty straightforward (even possibly decent) and the cheesecake was relegated to the covers. Can't help but wonder if that was reversed (cheesecake just on the nside) how much better they may have fared.
Not much use - the pages would have gotten stuck together.
 

BedrockBrendan

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Carrying on from my last post, I wonder if the covers suggested a certain contempt for the RPG scene. I can remember from my childhood the real grognards (not the ironic misuse of the word for people that played D&D) with their Napoleonic minis who looked down on RPGs as foolish kids' stuff that was ruining the scene. Given Avalanche's background, it is possible that the covers were an attempt to provide what they thought RPG players would like.

If that's the case, I think it is a strategy that might have worked back in the '80s when the demographics of D&D leaned much more heavily toward teenagers and the world was more porn-starved.

I think it was because it was the early 2000s and they were coming at it from two angles: tongue in cheek AND titillation. But maybe more than that: attention. Those books got attention, whether it was positive, negative, or just amusement. It was the d20 boom, all the books on the shelf looked and felt the same. These books stuck out (which is all a supplement X for d20 needs to get a sale). I had about three of them. Been ages since I read them. To me they almost seemed like collectibles because even for the time they were outrageous. But I think most people bought them out of amusement and the conversation element of the cover. Also, if you needed a book on Vikings or Desert campaigns, they were not bad in a pinch
 

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I think it was because it was the early 2000s and they were coming at it from two angles: tongue in cheek AND titillation. But maybe more than that: attention. Those books got attention, whether it was positive, negative, or just amusement. It was the d20 boom, all the books on the shelf looked and felt the same. These books stuck out (which is all a supplement X for d20 needs to get a sale). I had about three of them. Been ages since I read them. To me they almost seemed like collectibles because even for the time they were outrageous. But I think most people bought them out of amusement and the conversation element of the cover. Also, if you needed a book on Vikings or Desert campaigns, they were not bad in a pinch
That's the thing the did cover areas not commonly covered, they were not terribly expensive as I recall and they appealed to the while D20 concept of "this system can do anything!"
 

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They really want you to know that it's compliant with the OGL...
 

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I wouldn’t give those a second look after laughing at them. Not to mention what would my wife think after I laid those out on the coffee table to read later...
 

TristramEvans

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What actually was the content of that book? Was it like just a catalogue of Slaanesh-esque sexy monsters like Succubi, or were there actual attempts at rules for "Adult Situations"?
 

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I saw it at GenCon the year it came out. As I recall it had rules for bondage and love potions and the like. No clue if it was well done. My group is non existent on the romance aspect of roleplayers so it wasn't much use to me.
 

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Good question. After a quick google search, the answer seems to be Yes.

They have a currently updated website and focus on historical boardgames. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any photoshopped 90s porn.

Avalanche's website has a section Valhalla of Games which lists their out-of-print titles. It's fairly serious about their board wargames, but at the very bottom of the page lists the D20 modules a good deal more briefly, with small images of the covers. It does note artist and models for some of them. If the site is to be trusted, some of them were Origins finalists for artwork.

The best bit from the descriptions comes from the writeup of Greenland Saga:
It also had an adventure where our heroes try to find why the dysfunctional, inbred, jealous and petty inhabitants of the frozen wasteland keep disappearing. In other words, it was an allegory for the wargame industry.
 

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So I took a look at my Avalanche Press books. It's interesting to see they started with no cheesecake in Last Days of Constantinople. The second book is Ragnarok! Tales of the Norse Gods has a cheesecake but within realm. I'm guessing they saw the sales jump and committed to it.
 
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