Despite the fact that Dungeons & Dragons (and other role-playing games) take place in the “theater of our minds” free fantasy art can be a wonderful asset when it comes to adding a little extra spice to your tabletop gaming experience. Whether it’s maps, monsters, magic items, or character portraits a small amount of graphical representation can go a long way to enriching your game. Listed below are many options you can use and the best thing is they are all free to download (LEGALLY free).
1. 10 Generic Fantasy Items. Originally appearing in The Realm of Legends (a card game which we’ve had a hard time finding) this free download from DriveThru RPG contains 10 generic fantasy items. The author/publisher/artist, 1manstudio.de, includes a license which is more favorable than most we’ve seen. You can use the images freely in personal items and the terms for using the images for commercial use are simple and straight-forward as well. Some of the items contained in this download have sparked some inspiration for some new magic items to use in our own campaign. You may find them useful as well. The art is simple but elegant. The 10 items include a sword, a mace, a lance, a ring, a pendant, a shield, a horn, a wardrum, and two different war banners.
2. Scarlet Heroes Art Pack. This is the same art from the successful Kickstarter in 2014. Much of the art contained in this pack has an old school AD&D vibe and there are even some dungeons and maps contained within. It also has a fair amount of Asian-inspired artwork and some horror-themed pieces. In fact, some of them felt a bit Lovecraftian. According to the license every bit of the art is in the public domain. However, you should credit the artists as a courtesy. Small favor for such free use! The contributing artists include Luigi Castellani, Nate Furman, Earl Geier, Rick Hershey, David L. Johnson, Eric Lofgren, Dyson Logos, Ian MacLean, Joyce Maureira, and Miguel Santos. You can also download the entire Scarlet Heroes RPG by Sine Nomine Publishing.
3. DMs Guild Fiend Art. The down side of this art pack, and others released by Dungon Masters Guild, is that none of it is from the Fifth Edition Monster Manual. Nevertheless, this is professional-grade artwork and you can use it in DMs Guild publications. Even if you were planning to use some custom art in your material this fiend makes for really slick looking placeholders. They also offer Beasts, Celestials, Constructs, Demons, Elementals, Fey, Giants, Humanoids, Maps, Monstrosities, Ooze, Plants, and Undead. Again, these are all professional quality. Some packs have more unique pieces of art than others. Some will leave you wishing they’d included more.
4. 108 Terrible Character Portraits. The final Free Fantasy Art pack is 108 Terrible CHaracter Portraits. Of course, the title of this one is tongue-in-cheek. All the portraits are black and white. They are reminiscent of comics art without coloring. We enjoyed browsing them and they are mostly system agnostic so it wouldn’t matter if you’re playing some version of D&D, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, DC Heroes, or pretty much any RPG.
Of course the possibilities for Free Fantasy Art are limitless if you look in the right places. You tend to sacrifice either quality or specificity by going with free stock art. If you’re looking to take it to the next level with something really sharp or if you have a burning desire for something unique you should seek out an artist whose work you admire and you should be prepared to pay. Artists work hard. They deserve compensation. If you’re on a budget you look at places like fiverr.com where you can get something basic but good for an inexpensive price. You can also find artists on Facebook, Instagram, and DeviantArt.com.
Again, be mindful that these artists are worth being paid. How much they are worth is between you and the artist. Using the art for personal use is fine. But if you’re planning on commercial use then you can check out the packs we’ve listed. Be advised, every pack has its own license agreement. We encourage you to check it before making any assumptions.