I love rpgs. I love designing them too. But I hate artwork.
OK, so that’s a little strong. I like artwork in rpg books when it’s done well (Paranoia XP, Pathfinder, CthulhuTech, etc.). And I don’t mind artwork in rpg books that’s not done well (Dogs in the Vinyard, SLA Industries). It’s just that, from a publishing point of view, artwork sucks.
Beyond opportunity costs, writing an rpg is free. Publishing online in PDF format is more or less free, as long as you either have layout skills or have a good friend who’s willing to do it for you. (Hi Allen!) But artwork costs an arm and a leg! I commissioned three pieces from an artist I know. Each piece is 1/2 page B&W. The cost? $200–and that’s cheap! (Hi Tim!) Plus, you have to pay before publication, meaning you have to dip into your own pocket.
To avoid costs that I cannot afford, I’m doing a lot of artwork myself. How? By purchasing royalty free stock photos and artwork, then running them through several Photoshop filters until they have a unique but common look. It won’t win any awards but it will be connected by a common feel and, more importantly, it will be done on the cheap.
Of the stock photo sites, I’m using BigStock. It’s fairly cheap and has an impressive amount of photos. (Just be warned–when you search for a term, they include the same photos over and over again. If your search comes up with 200 pages of images, many will be identical.) iStockphoto is also good but they have lots of expensive photos and it’s hard to find the cheapies.
Hopefully, Triune will sell well enough to invest profits back into artwork for another game, and so on and so on. So much for being a wealthy game designer.