The Witch in the Tree

Where to start? How about with a story, then? Very well, children. Sit close and listen all…


Back in the early 80’s, a Dragon Magazine arrived while I was home sick from school. It was bought upstairs to me, and I took one look at the cover. Some 16 years later, I recall holding that cover before me for a half hour or more in wide-eyed wonder as my imagination of a fantasy land suddenly seemed to come to life before me. Something about the look on her face, the unseen setting sun, the mountains below, gave me a feeling like I was looking at her there, live, in that fantasy world which was REAL.


Not only did it help that it was fall at the time, and that D&D was (and still is) my hobby of choice. I couldn’t tell you an article in that issue. I got more inspiration for detail and wonder in that one painting  than any written article could have produced. It awakened in me a desire to travel to that fantasy world, and to bring the players along for a ride.

I find that the fantasy artists today are a creed unto themselves. Certain styles, like Matt Wilson, Sam Wood and Todd Lockwood capture the realm of Fantasy for us and inspire us. As humans, we are visual creatures, and the old adage a picture is worth a thousand words is so true.  I use pictures in describing my NPC’s, locations, and monsters. And why not? “Don’t Tell—Show” is advice that appears in Skip Williams’ High Level Campaigns book, and I find that seeing an image along with spurring dialog can help bring the game to life.


But seriously, this particular page is not about roleplaying as much as it is art. Larry Elmore’s to be precise. For reasons that only a hundred thousand others can share, his works have been the ideal visual attached to the Dungeons & Dragons game for me.


His paintings bring back the very best of times for me. They are the visuals of my childhood, the images of my GENCON game fair trips, and my inspiration for countless nights. Larrys’ “Two for the Road” vampire painting and the infamous “Cities of Mystery” paintings both have become adventures at the table on nights when things were slow.


Now since 1994, my wife Dawn and I have been collecting Elmore paintings from our yearly GENCON trips. We start with just those that have the effect I describe above, and more will follow. Right now our living room holds an “Elmore Wall” of our first three, framed, and to this day I still find myself stopping and staring at the witch in the tree, and wishing I was there to turn to the right and see that setting sun...

Larry Elmore

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Art & Fantasy Roleplaying