Quality of art in Adventure Compendium and fall of the empire

I have been a very big fan of dune rpg by Modiphius until recently. I bought a Power and Pawn some time ago and hadn’t had the time to read it yet. When I realized that half of the art used in the book came from other previously published books, I was more than disappointed, but felt almost cheated.

They likely reused art in all the other Dune works before, but I guess I’m starting to get used to always seeing the same ones. Every 3 or 4 pages of Power and Pawn, I was thinking, 'I have seen this image before !

I really don’t want to have the same feelings with Dune products again, so, before purchasing Fall of the Empire and Adventures Compendium, I was wondering if these two books have original art content or if the same technique of lesser quality has also been used for those two book. I buy the books as much to play as to collect, but the abusive reuse of art greatly diminishes the value of the books in my eyes.
My intention was to buy all the Dune RPG products, but if the other books reuse art as much as Power and Pawn, I will have to stop because it removes the uniqueness and originality of each book, making them significantly less appealing

The firsts books from dune RPG was a piece of art in my opinion and power and pawns was very disappointing in that regard. Do the news book have premium art or they are more a half product like the last one ?

Thank you.

Both the Adventure Compendium & Fall of the Imperium have a mixture of new and prior art.
The precise split between them I am not certain as I don’t have a visual mind so I can’t track all the pieces. At a guess I would suspect that the Adventure Compendium reuses more due to it’s nature as half of it is consolidated from prior individual pdf adventures.

Reuse of artwork is fairly normal in product lines however. From a quick glance at what I have out both TORG & L5R reuse art in their books.
Good art costs a lot so the alternative (other than charging more which has it’s own issues) is to ditch a lot of the art or use lower quality. Both of which would also diminish the quality of the final product.

Up to you as to if that is a dealbreaker. Which also depends on how you view the books.
If you are looking at them as pieces of art, then I can see how seeing the same artwork would be disappointing.
If you look at it as the artwork is something to make the book look pretty while you focus on the text, then it isn’t as big an issue.

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@Aralkar I think my observation was that Fall of the Imperium had (apart from the cover and Lady Margot Fenring’s picture) no new art that wasn’t in earlier volumes.

Thank you for the answer. The quality of the dune rpg book are diminishing with each release. Fall of empire will be a pass for me. And i was hesitating to buy adventures compedium because i bought all pdf adventures, but seeing the lack of commitement from modifius to keep a minimal quality, they help me decide to not buying it.

I dont know if they plan to release other dune product, but unless they adresse this, i will probably never buy other product from them. This is the kind of thing that made me stop buying anything from wotc. Rpg book are supose to be art, not a generic product without a soul. For me, a 144 pages harcover rpg book without new art is almost a lack if respect.

It is taking advantage of people who are pationate about a game they love and sold them a lesser quality product.

@Aralkar The adventure compendium has quite a nice section on Arrakeen, along with a map of the city, which is good.

Out of curiosity (and with my accountants hat on as I am working on my companies Year end accounts) are you aware of any RPG companies that have managed to square the circle on this?

Looking at my collection the first few in a series are largely new art, but then the portion of reused art rises

((Side note, I really love the L5R artwork.))

For me, the quality of a role-playing game book depends on a balance of five things: price, the material quality of the book (hardcover, softcover, glue binding, or stitched), artistic beauty (black and white, color, quality and quantity of art), content quality (good ideas, new rules, GM tools), and content quantity (number of pages).

It’s not essential to have all five in equal measure since one element can compensate for another. For example, my copy of “Monsters Know What They’re Doing” by Keith Amman is an ordinary quality hardcover, perhaps even unattractive, with very little art of ordinary quality. However, it costs $25 and has 400 pages of fantastic strategy, making it premium in my eyes.

Jeff Ashworth’s books (Game Masters’ Book of: Non-Player Characters, Random Encounters, etc.) are hardcovers, stitched, with three colors (black, white, blue), ranging from 270 to 300 pages. The interior art is ordinary, but it’s compensated by the size of the book and the amount of information, and they cost $25.

For $55, a book like “Wondrous Expedition” by Loresmyth, hardcover, stitched, has fantastic content, probably the most visually stunning book I’ve seen. With only 150 pages, the artistic beauty more than compensates. I struggle to justify paying $10 more for “Power and Pawns,” at $65, for slightly lesser content and disappointing art reuse. With art reuse, “Power and Pawns” should be $50, not $70.

To answer your question, Nord Games offers books like their “Ultimate Bestiary” and “Treacherous Traps” series for $70, hardcover stitched, ranging from 190 to 260 pages. The beauty of the images is equivalent to Dune RPG, but each book has unique art not repeated elsewhere. And for $80, you can get “Spectacular Settlements” or “Dangerous Destinations,” 450-page books with unique art. But, they are doing kickstarter for every book they release. Maybe that the trick. I have a lot of RPG product, star wars d6, stars d20, merp, rolemaster, dnd 3.5, dnd 5, 7th sea, marvel heroic, starforger, Stars without numbers, and if you ask, NOBODY can beat Nord games product qualité. I mean, 80$ for a 450 page book, stitched, beautiful art, etc AMAZING ! So i found it difficult to paid 10$ less and have a 140 page book with recylced art.

Dune books have very good material quality, and the content is always excellent. But they’re not voluminous; “Great House” is around 120 pages, and “Power and Pawn” has 140. A hardcover RPG book of 120 to 140 pages should be $50. To justify $70, it must have something special. And recycling previously used art doesn’t count in my opinion. If Modiphius wants to sell me books like that again, they must do one of the following: have new and original art OR have 200 pages OR lower the price to $55. Great house was having a lot new flag house that was worth it, but i din’t find that king of quality in power and pawn.

As I said, for $70, Nord Games sells me books with unique art and between 50 and 120 pages more. For me, the first Dune RPG books I bought were premium, very good, and beautiful. But the last one are not. They reduced the page count, reused art, but kept the price the same.

Since the release of Dune RPG, I’ve bought all the existing material without hesitation because I found the books beautiful. But I hadn’t read “Power and Pawns,” and visually, I was very disappointed. So, knowing that “Fall of the Imperium” is mainly recycled art and only has 144 pages doesn’t justify the $70 price tag. The book should be $50 or have 244 pages.

P.S. I am not saying that to be rude, in fact, i just hope they do better next time. I dont care paying even 10$ more, but i want the book to have a unique feeling. Their is something when you first read a new book, the smell of fresh paper, the cover, the discovery of new content. So, each art should be something that kept you in that feeling of discovering new thing. It is a great feeling when your read an entire new rpg book and you you can get a WOW feeling all along. This is the feeling i was having when i first read dune core book, master of dune, and sand and dust and also, when i open my agent of dune box. I was: Wow, those book are insane and i clearly remember thinking that the corebook was a piece of art in inself.

Maybe they’ve always reused art in their other works, but since the books were new, I was perhaps less accustomed to the drawings, and it went unnoticed. But by regularly consulting the books, one becomes more and more accustomed to the images, and it becomes obvious when an image has been seen often. If they continue like this, it will become more and more blatant.

Indeed, here’s a quote from a review of “Power and Pawn” that I found online: “My one complaint would be a notable lack of art in some places, such as the new Spacing Guild NPCs, and some obvious repeated art from previous books.”

So, I’m not the only one who noticed, and more and more people will realize it. That not mean that their product are bad quality, but this is the difference between a good and a amazing book. And right now, they are selling dune rpg book the price of amazing premium book but the art make a good book and nothing more.

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Thank you for the highly interesting and informative post. :pray:

This bit I am curious over.
Looking at the UK store it has it listed at £40 and the US store shows it at $50 (just over so assume it is doing some wierd currency translation).
This would bring it back to within your acceptable range.
I can only look at things from the UK so I am wondering if there is an FX issue that is skewing the cost higher for the US.
Modiphius is a UK company so presumably will do their base costs in GBP.

Sorry, i forgot to mention that all price in my post was in canadian dollar. My bad !

I also understand that prices are often set based on production costs and profit margins.

But Just to illustrate with an example,using £ this time

Dune Corebook, with unique art and 330 pages for £45.00 GBP
Power and Pawns, with reused art, 140 pages for £38.00 GBP

It makes no sense for both books to be in a similar price range when one of them has unique visuals and 190 more pages. The quality-to-price difference between the two is striking and significant. Even is power and pawns where having original art, the difference between the price and the size of the book is already borderline. They cut all original art and 190 pages for £7.

And Great house, new art for banner, 120 pages for £38.00 GBP was also borderline in term of number of page. I realy like to book, but is very thin.

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Just an observation that I would expect Dune books to have a higher price than books which an IP license isn’t being paid for, page for page.

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Ah, that one can be explained at least partially (all those accountancy exams were worth something :rofl:) with fixed and variable costs per item.
Essentially the core book will have had a much larger print run. This allows fixed costs to be defrayed over a larger base. In many products (not just RPG books) fixed costs and overhead allocations are a larger part of the cost than the actual physical product itself.

So for example: (All costs for illustration only, inflation over the 2 year period ignored and believe me that has been horrendous in my industry)

Core Book
330 pages at £150/page to writer = £49,500
165 pieces of art at £250/each = £41,250
Printing costs £30/book

If you print 10,000 copies that comes to £390,750 or £39.08/book

Power & Pawns
140 pages at £150/page to writer = £21,000
0 pieces of art at £250/each = £0 (Realistically there was new art, but for illustrative :wink: purposes lets strip it out)
Printing costs £20/book (Not quite half the cost)

If you print 1,000 copies that comes to £41,000 or £41.00/book

All this is before the Modiphius overhead (Accounts, rents, salaries, etc)
So while the physical book seems to have a lot less, each book is having to carry a heavier burden. It isn’t a linear relationship between page count and cost.
Now I am not sure about the numbers printed, but I am certain that the core book will probably have had a print run significantly higher than the 5th sourcebook 2 years later.

How some companies like Nord Games square this circle I am not sure. Looking at their kickstarters they seem to have a heavy emphasis on VTT elements which have a variable cost of essentially £0, but can still defray the fixed costs. An area that Modiphius doesn’t really seem to focus on all that well.

I am enjoying this thread. It is nice to have a civil conversation online. :grinning:

It’s true that licensed intellectual properties (IPs) often come with higher costs, especially when paying for visuals from Denis Villeneuve and Warner Bros. As I mentioned, Nord Games sells books for $70 CAD with 260 pages, while “Master of Dune” and “Sand and Dust” have around 150 pages. However, I consider the quality equal because anything related to Dune has a particular artistic value that we take into account.

Between paying $50 for a good, interestingly invented universe and paying $70 for a downright mythical universe that has haunted your thoughts since you were young, I choose the $70 option.

It’s a privilege to have the chance to game in such a rich, shared universe. That’s why I don’t criticize “Master of Dune” and “Sand and Dust,” despite their approximately 150 pages. “Great House” is somewhat thin with 120 pages, but I didn’t criticize it either because of the new mechanics and the art of the house banners, which were highly sought after.

But I found “Power and Pawns” to be below the other books in terms of quality. And honestly, I’m not sure if the story “Fall of the Imperium” would fit into my group, but I would have bought the book just for the pleasure of having the collection and for the beauty of the books. However, with the amount of recycled art I saw in the video of the “Fall of Empire” book, it’s not worth it because everything visually inside is either already seen or almost seen.

Thank you for the clarifications.

I wasn’t asking for the expansions to be as extensive as the core rulebook; it’s normal for expansions to be more expensive per page. But it should remain within reasonable limits in my opinion. Lately, the RPG books I’ve bought, around 140 pages, have been around $55 CAD and had unique and original art. The Dune books are the most expensive I’ve bought of this size.

I’m not sure how Nord Games manages to achieve such quality and thickness of a book at that price. That’s why I don’t expect other companies to offer the same thing because they’re hard to beat at that level. However, Kobold Press also includes a lot of original art in their books, and for $80, you get “Tome of the Beast” with 434 pages.

On the other hand, the original art in the Dune RPG is really good. The feeling is very well-captured, and that could be a disadvantage because they can’t just ask anyone to create images since they can’t change the style. The books from Nord Games and Kobold Press are somewhat standalone, and they can afford to change artists between each book or have slightly different chapters. I’m not sure, maybe they had the rights to imitate Warner’s style for certain works, and a new license is needed for others. Everyone understands that a new book requires a new cover, but this also applies to part of the interior. When you read a new RPG book for $70 CAD, you should have at least 5 or 6 artistic “wow” moments while reading. There should be moments that make you want to immediately apply the rules or the story from the page when you see the illustrations.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I reread a passage from an RPG book and see an image that I’ve seen often, sometimes the emotion I felt when reading the book for the first time comes back to me. My nostalgia for certain RPG books comes with the images. You see the image from a book or a chapter, and it sometimes takes you back to the emotion of that time; it can take us back very far when it’s games we discovered long ago. All the emotion we have from our RPGs comes from the visual aspect of the game. Unfortunately, when we see an image that we’ve already seen in another book, instead of triggering that emotional sensation, it gives us the impression that the image is in the wrong place, and instead of making us nostalgic, it pulls us out of our bubble and makes us think of the other book. I imagine as creators, that’s not the feeling we want to give our readers. Without being 100% original, all RPG books should have some striking illustrations that leave a mark on us.

How much more would a Dune RPG book cost if we added 50% original art? Perhaps I would be the only one willing to pay a little more for a more beautiful book.

Certainly, COVID and Brexit have had a significant impact on what’s happening in the UK.

Would it be worth doing Kickstarters for the next books, does it help control costs? If you pitch a book idea without having written it and without having all the images done, you have an idea of how much you need to reach your goals, and you make the book just when you reach your objectives?

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This may well be one of the key differences in how we are viewing things.
I do not have a visual imagination. I can describe an image, but I cannot see it in my mind. I think in text if that makes sense. If I consider it I may recognise the art from another book, but at first glance I won’t make that connection in the same way you are describing.

So to me the bulk of the value in an RPG book or supplement is in the words, the art is pretty but not a major element. It is something to break up the flow of text.
I suspect this leads me to put a lower value on the art when considering a purchase.

When it comes to pitching that level of art in the market place you have the balancing act. You think Great Game made it (just), while Power & Pawns failed. No doubt this thread is useful feedback to Modiphius, though I would love to see their sales figures for the various lines.
Also as an accountant we sometimes have too much power when influencing decisions. A budget will have been set for each supplement based on projected sales & price point. Everything has to then fit within that budget. In a long running line like Dune, art is probably one of the easier parts to trim as it is largely a sunk cost.

Modiphius does Kickstarters for some of their lines. They recently launched Cohors Cthulhu using this method. It only seems to be for the first in a series however, I suspect it is as much a marketing tool as a sales channel.
As they have a regular distribution network they tend to use it for the bulk of the their products, certainly for the supplements.

I understand your reasoning, which makes a lot of sense. As I said, for me, it’s a balance between 5 criteria. Unique art is not my only criterion, and I love some works that are visually poor or without images.

“Monster know what they’re doing” is a 450-page book that does not have an RPG book format but rather a novel format. The paper is not glossy, the cover attached to the book is awful, but it comes with a loose leaf with an image on it that I had to laminate myself like a school child’s book. But the book contains logical strategies for all monsters of DND 5e. Each monster has 3 or 4 pages explaining how the monster acts in every possible situation, it’s genius. It’s information the author put on his blog, it took him years to compile all of this.

I’m not saying “Power and Pawn” is a bad book, because it’s not. It remains a high-quality book; the content is good, and if I give the book to someone who has never seen a Dune book, they will find it stunning visually.

We have to give a prize to a book, the two finalists are “Power and Pawn” and “Wondrous Expeditions: Forest”. Dune is $70 and the other is $55. Both have 140 pages, the quality of the content is the same, two very good works. But Dune recycled half of its art and the other has art that is 100% unique to the book. I think it would be totally unfair to say that the two books have exactly the same quality. However, if both had unique art, I’m not necessarily saying that the cheaper one would win because maybe one of the publishers lowered its price to promote its brand and product and is not making money right now, while the other, more established one, is making its product profitable.

So, I own several premium books, which I consider extraordinary, and most of the Dune RPG material I have is included. But I can’t put two books that have roughly the same price, the same physical and content quality, but one with 100% original art and one with several recycled art on the same level; it would be unfair to the book that put in more effort. That’s why I say “Power and Pawn” cannot be seen as being on the same level as other Dune books. It’s not a bad product; “Power” is a good RPG book but it lacks some elements to be amazing.

As for “Fall of the Imperium,” it will depend on the quality of the adventure. Despite a book with 90% recycled art, the content of the book can save it all. If someone tells me it’s one of the best-written RPG adventures they’ve ever read, the quality of the content will compensate for the recycled art. But if “Fall of the Imperium” is a good adventure and nothing more, it will have to be placed in the category of good books and not exceptional ones

This detail will make a difference if I buy a physical book or the PDF. I like to buy premium books to have quality. If the work has good content but only recycled art, I might buy the PDF but not the physical book. For me to buy a hardcover for $70, I have to think, “Wow, what a work.” Otherwise, the PDF will do the job.

In my case, I could say that Modiphius is a victim of its own success because I compare them to themselves with the first Dune product they made, and let’s be clear, the first Dune books were astonishing products. Maybe that’s why I’m surprised by the last few books because the first ones were more amazing to my eyes. Perhaps they simply have no other choice financially and i’m asking to much, like i said, i woluld paid 10$ more per book to have m,ore original art. But maybe it is just me.