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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Elmore's take on the Sutherland Dragon

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This illustration by Larry Elmore is from a fairly obscure product, the manual for the 1982 adaptation of TSR's boardgame DUNGEON! for the Apple II+. It's on the last page, and is the only illustration in the manual other than the cover, which shows a B&W version of the box cover art by Jeff Easley. It may have appeared in another TSR product, but a Google Image search didn't turn anything up.

While much smaller --- perhaps a Sub-adult? --- Easley's dragon clearly shares many details with David Sutherland's Red Dragon on the cover of the Holmes Basic Set (July 1977), particularly the head - triangular, heavy brow, cheek "whiskers". Also note the V-shaped scales down the ventral portion of the neck, the slightly curved spikes down the back, even the shapes of the scales. 

Sutherland drew a similar B&W version of this same Red Dragon for the monster entry in the AD&D Monster Manual (Dec 1977) ---

Which was redone in color by Jim Roslof for the AD&D Monster Cards (1981) ---

A Red Dragon does appear as one of the monsters in Dungeon!, so Elmore may have been using one of these as a guide in order keep the look consistent between TSR products.

If you'd like to see the entire game manual, it can be found here at the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History.

You can also watch a 10-minute play-through of the game here --- Dungeon! for the Apple II

It had graphics like this screenshot, showing a Superhero versus a jolly Purple Worm ---

Update: As pointed out by John L in the comments, here is Bill Willingham's take on a similarly styled dragon, from the Moldvay Basic Set rulebook (1981). 


  1. Interesting. It also reminds me of the first non-cover page of Moldvay's Basic Rulebook which has a party of adventurers fighting a similar-looking dragon (fire-breathing, so presumably red) by Willingham, probably also inspired by Sutherland's original.

    1. Good call, John. I forgot about that one! You are definitely right; it's got the head-shape.

  2. That IS an obscure product...and a pretty cool find.

    I'd submit the last version of the Sutherland dragon was on the "new cover" 1E Monster Manual, circa 1985 (Jeff Easley artist...I think). It's cool that so many different illustrators have provided us with an interpretation of Sutherland's iconic cover creature!

    1. Good call, I always forget about that cover as I never had that version. The head shape is a little harder to see, but it's got those tell tale cheek whiskers. Plus the pose is almost the same as the Willingham and Elmore versions. I'll add a pic above when I get a chance. I'll probably end up making a gallery of these over on the ZA Sites page.

    2. Yeah, you're not the only one who forgets that cover. When I entered the AD&D hobby, the "new covers" were already out and both my PHB and DMG sported them...however, all three (!!) copies of my MM had the original Sutherland cover. I never even realized there was a 2nd MM till decades just wasn't around. I eventually picked up a battered copy (used) around 2009.

  3. Very cool - wish I had a chance to play that game, back in the day!