Ranking my top five favourite fantasy role-playing artists of all time is a difficult endeavour. On any given day, any one of the five artists I’ve selected could be my ‘number one’.
Perhaps I should not have bothered with an attempt to ‘rank’ them at all? It certainly would’ve been simpler to declare them all to be my ‘five favourites’.
Nonetheless, given that I’ve started this ‘countdown’, I may as well continue with it. And so I declare my third favourite FRPG artist of all time to be the truly unique Erol Otus.
Here is the cover to the first issue of Dragon that I ever purchased:
Even after thirty years, I still find Otus’s cover to Tom Moldvay’s version of the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set strangely evocative:
Otus’s pictures for the Cthulhu Mythos in the AD&D book Deities and Demigods forever shaped how I view H. P. Lovecraft’s alien, eldritch creations.
Here is Cthulhu himself (looking slightly hung-over, I think):
And a Shoggoth!
Also from Deities and Demigods, from the section on the Michael Moorcock’s world of Melniboné and the Young Kingdoms, is this picture of Elric’s great nemesis, the Pan Tangian sorcerer Theleb K’aarna:
Here is the creepy Mad Hermit from the classic module, “The Keep on the Borderlands” (B2):
(I wonder how many player characters, over the decades, have been ambushed by this unsavoury fellow’s pet cougar?)
No survey of Otus’s work would be complete without a picture of the seductive Queen of the Demonweb Pits, the Drow Goddess Lolth:
Here is one of Otus’s own player characters from the Rogues Gallery:
And finally, here is a very recent tribute to Gary Gygax:
Anyone interested in seeing more of Otus’s work should definitely check out Jeff Rients’ ‘Erol Otus Shrine’!