Only 3 cards into set one of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Cards and we already hit our first “friendly monster.” The Centaur is a classic creature of mythology and a staple of many outdoor forest campaigns.
This art is boldly signed by the great artist, Jeff Dee. Dee was one of the early and youngest artists at TSR. His creative fingerprints are on some of its best early creations. In addition to source books, the modules he worked on like Vault of the Drow and Tomb of Horror (among others) are in the DNA of everything that would follow in Dungeons & Dragons. He is also the co-creator of the superhero system, Villains and Vigilantes.
The art style in this card is wonderful. The centaur is powerfully built and Dee does a great job of merging human and horse. From the musculature amalgam of human and equine, to the human hair flowing down into a mane, to the artfully place club, it is perfect.
When comparing this art to the illustration in the Monster Manual, something new occurred to me. How different would early Dungeons & Dragons have been, if the Monster Manual had full color illustration like in these Monster Cards? The illustrations are nice, but not as evocative as what we see on the Monster Cards. The Centaur that would follow in the 2nd Edition Monster Manual was in full color, but lacks the character of the 1st Edition Monster Card Centaur or Jeff Sutherland’s Centaur on the cover of the early AD&D Monster Manual.
Stats from the Monster Card and original Monster Manual match up well. The description is pretty much the same, but the card, as usual is more about encounters. So it stresses where and how many you might encounter. Focusing mostly on small bands of male Centaurs.
The Centaur is an iconic Dungeons & Dragons Monster and Jeff Dee really does a great job capturing the strength and other-worldliness in his illustration. Powerful as a horse, with the adaptability and cunning of a human, the Centaur makes for a great enemy or ally.