Keep on the Boderlands (Jim Roslof Passing)

Graciously borrowed from WOTC’s site.

Jim Roslof, former TSR illustrator and art director, passed away on Saturday, March 19.

As an illustrator in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Roslof had a major influence on the developing visual style of the Dungeons & Dragons game. His cover illustration for adventure B2, The Keep on the Borderlands, is one of the most iconic and widely-recognized D&D images from that period.

As art director, Roslof’s guiding hand was less apparent to players, but his influence was even more profound and far-reaching. It was Roslof who hired and shaped TSR’s famous “pit” of color illustrators: Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, Keith Parkinson, Tim Truman, and Clyde Caldwell. Under Roslof’s direction, their paintings defined Dungeons & Dragons for a generation of players and DMs.

All of us at Wizards of the Coast are saddened by this loss, and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to Laura Roslof and to their children and grandchildren. We invited Jim’s friends and colleagues to share their comments, and include some of them here.

“Jim Roslof was the man among the boys during my time at TSR Hobbies in the early 80s. A solid and reliable artist, mentor, friend, and father.”

“I have never forgotten Jim’s generosity of spirit or his support when morale was low or the winters of discontent grew too cold in Lake Geneva. He was a kind kinsman on our shared journey, and no matter how much time has passed since those days, in my memory those moments live on, unaging. Rest easy, old pal, and walk in light until we meet again.”

“Jim’s work always contained a strong sense of fun and enthusiasm for the game, even when he was conveying danger and dread. When you look at his illustrations, you see that there’s a story going on, and you want to be part of it.”

“Jim didn’t often join in on our foolishness, but he took it all in stride. He was the one who could stay at his drawing table, calmly sketching away, while everyone else was shrieking and racing up and down the hall.”

“There was seldom a week went by that we didn’t learn something from Jim.”

“We asked a lot of Jim, in terms of expertise, talent, and patience. It was a never-ending source of amazement to me that he delivered all three so consistently.”

“He had a real eye for talent. Maybe someone else could have assembled an artistic team with the same amazing energy as that one, but no one else did. Only Jim actually made it happen.”

“You can’t think about that period in D&D’s development, or look at a single one of those products, without seeing Jim’s influence. He raised the artistic bar for the whole industry much higher than anyone really thought it could go at that time. He ‘changed the game’, literally and figuratively.”

R.I.P. James Paul Roslof

You can discuss this on our forum.

In 1979 Roslof had joined Erol Otus, Bill Willingham, Jeff Dee, Paul Reiche and Evan Robinson as a staff artist at TSR, Inc. in Lake Geneva WI. Over the next year, he provided interior art for:

* Lawrence Schick’s White Plume Mountain (1979)
* Gary Gygax’s Slave Pits of the Undercity (1980) and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1980)
* the hardcover rule book Deities & Demigods in which he provided illustrations of the entire Greek pantheon (1980)
* various issues of TSR’s Dragon magazine, commencing with issue #42 (October 1980)

Roslof also provided the cover art for some of AD&D’s greatest adventures:

* Queen of the Demonweb Pits (voted the single greatest adventure of all time, in compilation with the rest of the GDQ series, by Dungeon magazine in 2004)
* Ghost Tower of Inverness (ranked 30th greatest adventure in the same Dungeon article)
* Secret of the Slavers Stockade
* Keep on the Borderlands (ranked 7th greatest adventure in the same Dungeon article)

The last of these is perhaps Jim’s best known work, since the adventure was included in later printings of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set, of which over one million copies were sold.

If you have ever played any of these, come by and feel free to discuss it on our forum.

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