Brom holds a special place in my heart as his work is synonymous with my first encounters with AD&D. While I exclusively read White Dwarf for a period (because it’s content, but more importantly its artwork was better) I later discovered Dragon magazine. This was around the time that TSR published their Dark Sun module for AD&D. I remember being blown away by Brom’s paintings of the arid dunes of Athas and their twisted denizens.
As a fantasy world, Athas is not unique in being a harsh desert (I’m looking at you here, Arrakis). However, the stroke of genius that makes the AD&D environment stand out is its lack of metal. Ore is rare on Athas and as such wood, stone and obsidian are used by the population for all tools and artifacts. Warriors are covered in bone and hide armour and carry sharpened horn weapons. What’s more, the planet’s sky ranges from a visceral red to garish green, giving a weird cast to the barren landscape.
These rather unique facets in themselves would have made for an interesting world. However, when put into the hands of the artist Brom they turned into something quite special. He depicted the gritty, weather-beaten and often in-human inhabitants with enormous flair. Not only does he capture the beauty of the natural textures (often decaying to the point of falling apart), he imbues the bodies of his subjects with the unforgiving nature of the world around them. The characters’ muscles are ‘ripped’, their flesh tanned to a deep orange and they are often covered with scars and tattoos. This is most noticeable on the females, who look rather like body-builders who were lost in the desert.
Below are some of my favorite images which Brom did for the project. I highly recommend you check out his book Darkwerks for more, and the 1991 TSR Dark Sun boxed-set books (which also contain beautiful b/w line drawings by him too).