I first started playing RPGs in the late 1970’s. You know, that time of early computer graphics. Even after all these years, I still find science fiction art from that time much more inspirational than the septic, functional style seem so much today. While the modern artwork is often more grounded in reality, I prefer the fantastical whimsy of the past as my RPG inspiration.
Take for instance the feature image above by by David Metzer which was used as a cover for Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air. From a modern perspective, I think many people would call this art fantasy, not science fiction. From rocket-ship airships to weirdly swept wing craft there is so much unreal here.
Which is exactly why it works for me.
As a long-time Classic Traveller RPG player and a more recent apostle of the Cepheus Engine System, I instantly things that make me look to create a backstory to explain what is happening here. What sort of planet supports this kind of transportation? What Tech Level is shown? What is the political situation? Are the player characters on the rocket-blimps or the sweeping fighters? Why are they there?
Or this scene, a six-panel gatefold cover of Space Hymns by Ramases (1971) created by Roger Dean:
Looks like a cathedral tower that is actually a rocket ship. Again my mind races with questions; how did a cathedral come to be built around a starship? How long has it been there? Who has been keeping this secret? What happened that they need to leave now? Are the PCs aboard the ship or are they now chasing it across the cosmos?
Sorry, much of the modern sci-fi “art” just doesn’t do the same for me. How about you?
Feature image courtesy @70sscifiart