Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blueprint for a Lich

Recently James at the Underdark Gazette posted about Ed Greenwood's great articles on adventuring in Hell.  I love that illustration that begins that first article, but I never read them.  Because of that picture and the Paladin in Hell illustration in the PHB I had a craving for some adventure down below, so I had an arrangement with my DM not to read about Hell and learn all its secrets.

But it was just something James mentioned that sparked this post.  Speculating on why these great articles weren't included in the Best of the Dragon compilations:
"I can only suppose that the TSR policy of appeasing the Satanic Panic crowd, kept them from including the articles in one of their Best of compilations."
It's a good theory considering the times, but my mind immediately jumped to my favorite magazine Dragon ever put out: Best of Dragon Vol. II.  That was chock full of awesome possibilities as well as lots for evangelists to abhor.  There was the Antipaladin for one, the section on poisons, and actually an article on the politics of Hell by Alexander von Thorn.

But what I want to focus on was related to another thing I always wanted to achieve in D&D, and like venturing into Hell, never managed to do-- becoming a lich.

To cut to the chase, there was a little comic that ran under several articles depicting a mage in the process of becoming a lich.  It was drawn by Timothy Truman.  And the beauty of the design was the layout that had it running under relevant articles.  Two pages into an article about vampires, the strip starts with a mage entering the lair of a vampire (pg 57).  Then two pages later, under a different article about vampires we see the mage defeating the vampire.  Two pages later, under a page about lycanthropy, we see our hero killing two werewolves.  And finally, two pages later we're at the article on becoming a lich called Blueprint for a lich and our hero nestles into a coffin of his own.

I thought about presenting the comics here for you, but the beauty of it was how they went so perfectly with the reprinted articles.  Putting them in sequence won't recreate what I experienced first seeing them.  All I can recommend is that if you see it, snap it up.

I don't know who made the design decision to run the strip under the articles the way they did, but I'm thankful to whoever it was.  The credits at the front of the magazine list:

Edited by Kim Mohan

Design by Bryce Knorr

Production by Marilyn Mays & Gali Sanchez

It seems a shame, after all, to talk about this without you seeing any of it so here is the first section as a teaser:


  1. Liches are super cool. I have a character who will be trying to become one over the summer.

  2. Very cool. So the panels were created for the "Best of" edition and not taken from another source? I dig that.

  3. If I ever see this book I will check it out.

  4. I have always LOVED that series of illustration in the Best of Dragon. I wasn't ever sure who the artist was. Funny as I used to love reading Grimjack as a kid. Thanks for the link to his web site. Now time to get reaquainted with some old friends ;).

  5. Egads! I'd forgotten about this artwork! Bad DM! I went through three copies of that "Best of", using its articles for game material.

    I will have to obtain a fourth now...

  6. Truman's contribution to D&D is often over-shadowed by all those other guys, but that one set of linked panels at the bottom of the Lich article remains one of the best graphical treatments of D&D stuff ever done. It's absolutely great. Liches are fun to include in the game before they become the abominable mega-villain--their quest to get the pieces, parts, etc. needed is a major adventure-hook in itelf. PC mercenaries who finally figure out what their employer is up to can sometimes get a rude shock and need to start making really serious choices right away...if it isn't too late already...

    Grimjack still kicks majoe butt.

  7. Yeah considering that one of the GrimJack writers used to run an UnderMountain campaign! Truman is a very nice guy & GrimJack has always been a favorite of mine. These articles are a major cornerstone about how I approach undead in my games. Very cool of you to remind me. There was always something evocative, gritty, & powerful about Tim Truman for me with Gamma World, D&D, & others. I'll leave Ed Greenwood for the high fantasy but Truman for the urban settings.

  8. Timothy Truman also contributed artwork for some of the "Special" D&D characters linked to the toy line in the 1980's. That was my first awareness of Truman as an artist. Then, when I started getting into things like "First" comics, etc, that's when I saw Truman shine.

    @NetherWerks: Completely agree about Grimjack!

  9. @Pierce: good luck. . . I mean, no, turn from the dark path :)

    @Spawn: yep, cool, huh?

    @everyone, it's cool to think when I was enjoying this back in the day, so were you.