Rulebooks' Illustrations: Intended to interpret rule texts? How authoritative?


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


Hello everybody!

I am relatively new to PF2e and currently exploring the vast material. In this regard, I was wondering about rulebooks' illustrations. I like many of them, yet I am unsure of the relation between illustrations and texts.

More specifically:
* Are the illustrations in the rule books (partially available via AoN, too, AFAIK) intended to interpret the rule texts?
* How authoritative are they? Are they supposed to actually represent characters, scenes, spells etc. in accordance with the rules as intended by Paizo?

Learning more about this would probably help our group to understand the sources better. Maybe even resolve some situations where we apparently do not understand texts sufficiently enough, yet.

If this relation has already been officially clarified and explained elsewhere, I kindly ask for a reference.

Dark Archive

I cannot think of a single instance of any illustration actually informing on or resolving any aspect of the rules text. Literally none.

I wouldn't even think to look at an art piece for anything like that! In general, I don't think it would even be a good idea.

Is there a specific question you had in mind or a sub-set of rules you need help with?


calnivo wrote:
* Are the illustrations in the rule books (partially available via AoN, too, AFAIK) intended to interpret the rule texts?

No.

calnivo wrote:
* How authoritative are they? Are they supposed to actually represent characters, scenes, spells etc. in accordance with the rules as intended by Paizo?

Some archetype illustration represents some aspects of it. During 1st print of CRB in druid archetype there's an elf with metal armor. After 2nd print when druid's anathema to metal armor was added to archetype the Paizo changed the elf armor color and textures to looks like a leather armor. Yet it cannot be used as a rule basis it's just an illustration.


Old_Man_Robot wrote:
I cannot think of a single instance of any illustration actually informing on or resolving any aspect of the rules text. Literally none.

I kind of can: these shining rune circles around spellcasters' hands are canon and do appear every time someone casts a spell. These represent 'obvious visual manifestations of the gathering magic' from the rules.

Ah, also they are needed to recognize spells. And even spellcasters' signatures, as written in the LO: Travel Guide.
Of course, GMs and players probably could change this imaging, but something clearly visible should still exist if playing by the rules.
But yes, this is the only thing I suppose :)


calnivo wrote:
If this relation has already been officially clarified and explained elsewhere, I kindly ask for a reference.

The best rules reference that I could give would be The First Rule.

I can't see how requiring the game to be run so strictly that even the artwork is considered official and mandatory would cause the game to be more fun.

Paizo Employee Design Manager

10 people marked this as a favorite.

Most of the time, the rules inform the art, not the other way around. With a few key exceptions (iconics, cover illustrations) the art normally isn't even ordered until the rules text has been written, and is ordered with the intent of reflecting the imagery described in the rules. Art in Pathfinder products is typically illustrative, not prescriptive.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

The illustrations in the rulebooks are mostly for entertainment. Text alone would be dull.

Sometimes they illustrate a topic being discussed. For example, in the Equipment chapter on page 273 we see a picture of the fighter Valeros on page 273 and of the cleric Kyra on page 276. They are wearing or holding standard equipment for the class. This is to help the player visualize how their own character would wear their equipment. By the way, Valeros has his sword on his back. In real life, no-one used a back scabbard because drawing a sword from the back would be very awkward. But it is common in fantasy games, because it lets a character carry a really big sword. That illustrates that the rule of cool is in effect: don't worry about the practicality if the result is cool.

Likewise, page 285 in the Weapons section has pictures of a gnome hooked hammer, a greataxe, a horsechopper, and a light mace. Those weapons are mentioned on that page, and the gnome hooked hammer and the horsechooper are fictional, so some people may wonder exactly what they look like.

Page 306 has an illustration of cleric Kyra, bard Lem, and wizard Ezren in their daily preparations. The page is not talking about daily preparations; instead, a section titled "Reading Spells" tells the player how to decipher spell descriptions. Thus, that illustration is for entertainment. I guess they put it on that page because Ezren is reading his spellbook.

Further along on page 319 we have an illustration of the rogue Merisiel and an angel avatar facing a Grim Reaper specter. This is in the middle of the description of the Avatar spell that would let a cleric like Merisiel's friend Kyra transform into an angel avatar. Though it illustrates the spell, adding Merisiel and the Grim Reaper made it a glimpse of a story rather than only a illustration of a spell.

The same characters, known as the iconic characters, are repeated frequently in the illustrations. The Paizo Blog often tells stories about them, https://paizo.com/community/blog/tags/iconics.


Old_Man_Robot wrote:

I cannot think of a single instance of any illustration actually informing on or resolving any aspect of the rules text. Literally none.

I wouldn't even think to look at an art piece for anything like that! In general, I don't think it would even be a good idea.

Is there a specific question you had in mind or a sub-set of rules you need help with?

Actually, thinking of examples:

- In a positive sense: I think the artwork definitely shaped our group's understanding of what the rule texts meant with the spells' "Visual manifestations". That's one example where we believe :-) that the illustration indeed helped.
- More broader: Getting a basic understanding how certain spells look like, or could (somehow?) look like ...

(Not in a sense that I want it to be written in stone that the images are or should be the only valid depiction(?) of the rules. As said we are still wondering if they are meant to depict even one, possible version of the intended rules.)

- Apart from that there are indeed cases, were texts seem pretty vague IMHO: For instance, a sigil symbolizing a summoner's connection to their eidolon described as "glowing with light". (Are the depictions of Ija from SoM, e.g. pages 32 or 50, meant to show how to imagine this glow?)

Just as examples. Maybe I'll search for or - if I won't find answers - open more specialised threads for the cases where I wonder how a specific image relates to specific rule text.

However, if there are some general infos / comments on the relation, I'll ofc be happy to have them here.

EDIT / Update: While I paused or (slowly ;-)) typed, your answers of the last 30 minutes got in between. (Skimming over them I even notice an additional note of the manifestations.) Thanks to all the Ninja-speed Users, already! I'll read all of your answers and comments and get back when I can.


calnivo wrote:
(Not in a sense that I want it to be written in stone that the images are or should be the only valid depiction(?) of the rules. As said we are still wondering if they are meant to depict even one, possible version of the intended rules.)

Please pay special attention to the post by Michael Sayre, just two posts above yours. <--- Click this link to go right to it.

Notice that he has a small golem to the left of his name. That means he's a member of Paizo staff.

Notice that he has the title "Design Manager" to the right of his name. That means he's a manager, a person who is in charge of decision making about Paizo products. In other words, you've gotten an answer from one of the creators of Pathfinder.

To repeat his point

Michael Sayre wrote:
Most of the time, the rules inform the art, not the other way around. With a few key exceptions (iconics, cover illustrations) the art normally isn't even ordered until the rules text has been written, and is ordered with the intent of reflecting the imagery described in the rules. Art in Pathfinder products is typically illustrative, not prescriptive.

He says that the art is not 'prescriptive'. It is meant to illustrate the rules, not define them.


Wow, this is amazing. Really, I kind of typed somewhat absent-minded in my thread and got a bunch of replies in the meantime including one from a Paizo staff member. That's a great community!

Now I'll really read everything in detail and see what I can make of it (and maybe get back for further inquiry.)

Thx to all so far!

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Second Edition / General Discussion / Rulebooks' Illustrations: Intended to interpret rule texts? How authoritative? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.