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Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

Today I want to answer a question sent in by a reader. Is the lack of art in Dancing Lights Press books a disadvantage?

“I wrote a few small books in a fantasy world, and like yours, they have little to no graphic art to accompany it to reduce the cost of production. How do you go about to mitigate, if not outright nullify, that disadvantage?”

Barriers to Entry

First, stop calling it a disadvantage. It isn’t. As you stated in your question, it reduces the cost of production. This allows creators with limited resources to overcome that barrier to entry. It also reduces the price point for cash-strapped players. In spite of everything else going on, 2020 is going to be the best year so far for Dancing Lights Press. A lot of that is because people who can’t afford to back a $50+ fully-illustrated hardcover on Kickstarter right now can afford something like the DoubleZero Core Book, a complete system priced at $4.99 for the PDF.

Know Your Audience

Second, you need to understand who you’re creating for. There are people that collect, and people that create. I’m not saying there’s no overlap, but collectors want pretty books to put on their shelves. They like a lot of art, full-color interiors, all of the glitzy production value. Those aren’t our customers. Creators just want the information they can use to build characters, worlds, and adventures. They want to make their own stuff, rather than lean on pre-generated material.

Be Useful

Third, and this builds on both of the above points, there’s the matter of utility. How much art is actually useful, let alone essential, to a roleplaying manual? Maps can helpful, as are illustrations of unusual monsters, unique weapons, and strange magic items. Beyond that, though, how does the fully-painted picture of a woman casting a spell on page XX help me to run my campaign? In what way does the 364th illustration of a guy drawing a sword help me to create a better player character? How does line drawing of a tavern keeper improve the mechanics?  I’d rather have a book filled with material I can use.

Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

The only place where having a lack of art is a disadvantage is when facing certain expectations within the hobby. There is a perception that because things have always been done a certain way, that’s the correct and only way to do them. It’s fine if your personal preference is to have a pretty book with a lot of art. To say that no one will buy your stuff if it doesn’t have art in it is demonstrably false. Dancing Lights Press have over 150 best selling titles on DriveTHruRPG, the majority of which have no art. I’m in my fifth year of doing this for a living full time. I’m creating the things I want to create, the way that I want to create them. I don’t feel that I’m at any disadvantage whatsover.


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.