Artwork in RPGS, particularly the ratio of artwork to content, has been a controversial topic for many years. Lately, more and more games and supplemental products are being produced in print and digital formats as full-color, art-heavy affairs that seem to divide the community on their benefit. There’s a huge continuum on the art spectrum from OSR products all the way from free content that’s text only on blogs all the way through to full color print productions that look amazing in print and in digital formats (such as the new Castles & Crusades Player Handbook 6th printing [AL] and Razor Coast [AL]).
On the B/X Blackrazor blog JB has posted about this topic, and the fact there was a certain dissonance in the artwork and content in some older products, and the content not artwork is king. There’s something to be said for this, but at the same time, artwork can enhance the content in a product, and aid in its usability and understanding of it in the case of maps, handouts, and visual descriptions. Often, the choice to use artwork comes down to being able to use something that meets the need of the product, affordability, and whether or not the artwork provides something extra beyond just making space in a wall of text (which isn’t a bad thing). Personally, I think adding artwork that has no relevance to the content is a bad idea because it uses up space that could be better utilized, but it all depends upon the product, and on the creator making the product and comes down to two questions: 1) why am I creating this thing, and 2) who will use this thing?