Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Emirikol the Neurotic: Through the Ages

Apropos of nothing, I've been perusing the pages of various Tomes of Guidance for Masters of Dungeons, Games, and Other Assorted Things Which Require Mastering.  You can't look at too many of these without noticing some similarities between the various rules, most notable being the presence of Emirikol the Chaotic.

We all know the scene: back in '79, the eponymous, deathray-wielding wizard aligned himself with chaos and blasted his way through the city streets, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.  Fortunately, TSR's best crime-scene illustrator Dave "Tramp" Trampier was on hand to capture the event in ink; the result earned itself a full page in the original DMG.

Fast forward a couple of decades and all of a sudden people are feeling sentimental for a time when the city streets were rife with Chaotic madmen running amok.  Numerous retro-gaming publishers commissioned artists to provide tribute to Emirikol's last ride.  Or was it his first? Third? Does anyone know anything about this guy?*

Since the original there have been no less than four versions published in various fantasy gaming tomes.  While the details vary between iterations, what is constant is chaos surrounding a horseman racing through the city streets, an archway in the background, and various swordwielding do-gooders emerging from public establishments usually located on the right side (stage left) of the street.  Here's a rundown on the sequels, remakes, and knockoffs:

2001 Hackmaster: GameMaster's Guide. p. 153 In this version, Emerikol himself seems to be the victim, harassed as he is by a mob in close pursuit.  He appears to be out of death rays for the day, and indeed, a bystander has beaned him in the head with an apple [EDIT: obviously, it's a rock] while another appears to be dumping their slops on him from a window above. No respect. This mostly decent reinterpretation is somewhat marred by the bizarre method of rendering the swift movement of feet that the illustrator chose to utilize. Several short quick action strokes give the impression of rapid movement but it's as if the lower extremities of the horse and swordsman-exiting-the-tavern are vibrating back and forth, not racing to action.  Not sure what the illustrator was going for but it failed.

2010, C&C: Castle Keepers Guide. p. 97**  Peter Bradley's rendition of the fateful Flight Through the Archway has a gleefully buxom witch in the role of Emerikol, this time racing through the night-shrouded streets and tossing coins--or are they flower petals?--to... no one in particular.  There is a pedestrian lying in the street in the background, but he is clearly better off than the flaming corpse lying in the foreground of the original.  In further departures, the requisite samaritan who sticks his proboscis out the door on the right side of the street is bereft of a blade while the "public establishment" has moved across the street and is now a brothel named the Scarlet Pillow. This one is also unique for being in full color, cuz Bradley don't do black n' white.

2012, DCC RPG. p. 63  Emirikol--here renamed and re-aligned as "Lokerimon the Lawful"--has been forced to reign in his racing steed to avoid trodding on a conjured fiend summoned by the "samaritan" swordsman.  The tavern in this version is called the "Smoking Wyrm" and depicts a dragon who closely resembles Tramp's Wormy character of Dragon Mag fame. If one could view this image without the baggage of the original illustration, one might assume that the samaritan demon summoner is the protagonist of the scene, or perhaps even the demon itself, though the "Lawful" sobriquet doesn't support that.

* Until now I didn't even know how to spell his name; I've been spelling it Emerikol in my head for decades. As I will continue to do for the rest of this post.
** Sadly, a halfhearted inernet search yielded no useful image of this drawing.  Unless you're more ambitious than I--or have the tomes handy--you're stuck with my description. 


Vance A said...

I recall seeing another discussion of the original image some time ago noting that the street view is taken from an actual street in Europe. And that Emirikol is riding toward a dead end....

Timrod said...

He shoulda' sprung for the GPS option on his steed.

Vance A said...

Ah, here it is - I should have used my google-fu: