The Dungeons & Dragons art of Laura Roslof
The Dungeon hobby shop in Lake Geneva, WI was a part of TSR and an outlet for selling their gaming supplies. If you were an early gamer, you probably remember reading about it in magazines and seeing their ads. This ad ran in a few issues of Dragon and Polyhedron Magazine.
It’s a great ad. Simple in its construction, yet ripe with drama. Our mighty hero, fully armored and spear braced, faces off against a Kenku (maybe?) I love the momentum of the attack, the fierceness of the creature and the bend of its mighty wings. All are the work of an artist someone who knew how to fire up people’s imagination.
The artist, Laura Roslof, who also did the art on the envelopes and print material that TSR’s Dungeon Hobby Shop used, was probably best known for her infamous contribution to the module, Palace of the Silver Princess.
Palace of the Silver Princess would have two printings, they can be spotted easily because of their different covers. The earlier one is orange, while later printings are in orange. Laura’s art appears in the original orange edition only. Two large illustrations feature prominently, one of the cleric Catharandamus and his minions.
The other is the controversial The Illusion of the Decapus. This illustration with its bound woman being tortured was disturbing and edgy was just too much for the folks at TSR. Of course, it didn’t help that module was released at the height of the Satanic Panic.
Author and Designer Frank Mentzer would later state that the art was pretty tame by the standards of the day, but that the module was actually pulled because of a caricature of TSR upper management that made its way into the adventure courtesy of Erol Otus.
The original module was pulled from shelves and destroyed. To be replaced with a much more generic adventure and both of Roslof’s pieces didn’t make it into the reprint.
After hearing about the Silver Princess story many years ago, I was naturally very interested in the work of Laura Roslof and most have passed over this ad dozens of times before zeroing in on the little LR in the corner.
Laura’s work is peppered throughout the early efforts of TSR. Sometimes in the background, like her credited keyline work in Dwellers of the Forbidden City. Other times it is more obvious.
Once you start looking for them, you will start to notice her initials on a few other pieces that made it to print. For example, here is an illustration of a set of paints and brushes that originally appeared in Polyhedron Issue 5, but would be reused in future issues.
This delightful comic ad from Dragon magazine, issue 49, was also done by Roslof.
I also found this work called Elf vs. Bugbears that was sold online a few years ago. I am not sure if it was ever printed, but it is a great piece.
Not only was Laura an artist, but she was also a gamer and is referenced in a great feature by Jean Wells and Kim Mohan in Dragon magazine, issue 39, Women Want Equality and Why Not. The article is a great snapshot of how women in gaming were treated during this early era. To quote the article:
Laura Roslof said that the men she has been involved in gaming with seem to expect females to wait obediently by the door while they (the males) sort through the treasure. She said that wouldn’t be so bad by itself, but then the men usually refuse to provide females with a fair share of the loot
Post TSR, Laura would continue to make art, even opening her own studio with husband and fellow artist Jim Roslof. They were married until he passed away in 2011.
Laura herself passed away in 2018 at the age of 69.
Yet, even her early work continues to find fans and inspire players. So take a moment to appreciate her above contributions and if you know of ones I have not found, I would love to hear about them.