Forums: Helping Hand > Canonicity of Images/Maps

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Galeb duhr 2e A
Galeb duhr 3e
Galeb duhr 5e
Races of faerun - Aarakocra - Raven Mimura - 131
Monster Manual 5e - Aarakocra - Christopher burdett - p12
Genasi - MoF

Related to Forum:Fan Art, another issue with images is when so-called official images are blatantly incorrect. Should we even display such images? How should we handle them?

It has been suggested, for example (Talk:Rhyester), that we ban the use of images in The Grand History of the Realms, since most, if not all, of them are lazily taken from other sourcebooks that have no relation whatsoever to the material in TGHotR.

Other examples:

  • Galeb duhr were specifically said to have no arms. Then some artist didn't read the descriptions carefully and drew one with arms. After that, other artists followed suit. Do they have arms or don't they? I'd argue that canonically, they do not have arms, since that is what the text says clearly.
  • Veserab are supposed to have legs, according to the descriptions, but the artist who drew one apparently ignored this.
  • Another issue with arms. Aarakocra don't have them. This was well-established lore. 5e artists missed this detail. I should note that the text of 5e never says they have arms either. It is simply the artist who has not paid attention here.
  • In some cases, the bad artwork leads to a change of lore. This happened with genasi. Artists ignored/misunderstood the lore, which said that they looked mostly human, except for one or two subtle indications of their heritage and drew them very alien to humans, with just about every possible sign of heritage all at once and long elf-like ears. One artist drew strange, colored tattoo lines on their bodies, and by 4e, this became a part of the lore. Now all genasi had szuldar on their bodies.

There are many more examples.

I have tried to note such errors in the articles that use these images, but maybe we should not use them at all?

Official maps have some of the same issues. The text will put something on one side of a river; the map will put it on the other. Map scales don't make any realistic sense. Mountains and rivers vanish and then reappear. Etc., etc.

What do you think?

~ Lhynard (talk) 15:16, March 2, 2018 (UTC)

I think we should maintain the policy that I believe we have been following for quite some time: document the complete Realms in all its beauty, ugliness, and inconsistency, and let the reader decide what they want to use and what to discard. If an image doesn't match the text description, then make a note in the article or caption and on the File: page for the image. If a book reuses artwork, that fact should be in the review of the book on its page. We could take this one step further and add an "Errata" section to our standard sections where we document these problems when we find them. I believe this is the only way to treat the subject in the manner of an encyclopedia. We should be documenting the discrepancies and not making judgment calls on what to include/exclude. You said it yourself, lore can be retconned based on artwork that became popular, so what do you want to do? Remove all genasi artwork except the one or two that "got it right"? What's right in this case? I don't want to try to answer that question. It's better for the historical record to call attention to the inconsistencies and let posterity (collectively and individually) decide.
Moviesign (talk) 15:58, March 2, 2018 (UTC)

Inconsistent artwork is like inconsistent lore: just an expected part of the job. I agree with Moviesign on that, we document the whole Realms, even the inconsistencies, and artwork should be included in that. Even the weird things like Drizzt being an old pale-skinned guy with a plate on his head. :) Right or wrong, nconsistent artwork is made in good faith and is an honest and official attempt to depict the subject.

It's not unlike depictions of animals in historical times, like how lions got progressive weirder the further one got from Africa, as artists worked off written and second- or third-hand descriptions. We say "Some sages reported X, others Y", so we can say "Some artists depicted X, others Y" in the same way. Ultimately, everything is just "artist's impression".

This is kind of how I handled Ilbratha. Only the original artwork put the bloodstones on the hilt/helve as written, while every image since put them on the blade/fuller. The pommel changes, the crossguard changes, and Baldur's Gate did something completely different. Why does it keep changing? Maybe because no-one's seen it in centuries or a thousand years and Realms artists only have written and second-hand descriptions to work off. Or because swords get damaged and parts can be replaced. I described some images as sketches and adopted the fuller placement of the bloodstones as a retconned description. (I should probably revise this again.)

(The genasi issue takes me back to a mediating a difficult player who argued intensely that planetouched should have one or two small features, no more, no less, and wanted other players to change their descriptions accordingly. :\ That was in defiance of all artwork, published NPCs, player's ownership of their characters, and the basic pointlessness of the issue. Needless to say, it was not going to happen.)

I don't feel the same about reused incorrect artwork, however. That only tangentially represents the subject, but is often wildly incorrect or inappropriate, and is not a good faith, honest effort. The Grand History of the Realms is a notable offender, but isn't the only one, with Cormyr (sourcebook) in 2nd-edition being chock-full of images taken from other books and several 4th-edition books reusing art from 3e monsters for different creatures. It happens under each publisher and in each edition.

For some examples, I'm stumped as to whether File:Ylraphon.jpg actually shows Ylraphon, after finding it in a Spellbound adventure for somewhere in Aglarond (where isn't clear) and in other sources. File:Ulgarth 2.jpg shows either barbarians and knights of Ulgarth or, I dunno, some lord's militia in Cormyr. From tGHotR, Pil'it'ith is passed off as Sseth, the tsunami that destroyed Jhaamdath is actually the ectoplasmic bubble of the Astral Sculptor's Academy in Complete Psionic, and, most egregiously, "Kisonraathiisar's slow demise" (page 49) shows a warforged being magically repaired for a topaz dragon being magically destroyed.

Even where a repeated image is feasible, it mas multiple possibilities that will be confusing. Others are just plain wrong, showing the wrong gods from the wrong setting. The images are fine when cited and used in their original context, where it can be identified, but later reuses are very ambiguous.
— BadCatMan (talk) 09:24, March 3, 2018 (UTC)

I suppose that even in a fantasy setting, a lot of people may not have seen a specific creature, and it could be said that the drawing was made by someone "in universe"... I've got a headache.
Gringo300 (talk) 22:55, March 5, 2018 (UTC)
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