Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ring of Five Questions: Rob Lazzaretti

Yes my friends, it's time for a new installment of the Ring of Five Questions! Last time we got to know more about long-time Greyhawk advocate Scott Casper and before that we got some insight into the ascending freelance career of Greg Vaughan. This week is a special treat however, as I delve into the artistic side of D&D and bring to the ring, one of the gaming industry's best and most prolific cartographers, Rob Lazzaretti! A fellow Illinoisan, Rob first broke into the field at Game Designers Worskshop where his maps for games such as Dangerous Journeys, Traveller and Twilight 2000 earned him a job offer from TSR. At TSR, Rob's cartographic talent was seen all over, but most importantly his maps helped define the outerplanar feel of the Planescape setting. From there, Rob stayed on as Art Director of Cartography when Wizards of the Coast bought out TSR, lending his mapping skill to games like Alternity, Dark Matter and other 3rd Edition D&D products.

Eventually Rob had to take his career freelance, and he hasn't slowed down ever since. He has seen plenty of work for other game companies like Green Ronin and especially Paizo where his maps can be found not only in countless issues of Dungeon Magazine (remember the four-part Greyhawk map in issues #118-121?), but also more recently for the hugely successful Pathfinder setting. Now that his biography is out of the way let's see how Lazz' fares in the Ring...

Q1. I'm sure you know each and every hex on the Darlene map. What part of the World of Greyhawk is your favorite?

Rob: I remember tacking the original World of Greyhawk map up on my wood paneled wall near my drawing table when i was a just a teenager.  I used to spend time admiring all of the areas and imagining the vistas as they would seem in real life.  I always loved The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and the other "U" series modules.  I had a small D&D group of friends back then, and we played through most of the original modules.  I always have admired the old school hex maps for their beauty and definitive simplicity.  

Q2. Everyone gets asked this next one. If you could be any one Greyhawk deity which would it be?

Rob: Heironeous.

Q3. Of all the maps you've worked on over the years, do you have a few that you consider your best? (Greyhawk or not)

Rob: I have drawn, so many maps in my career that it would be difficult for me to pick a favorite one.  I tend to think more in what years i worked on maps and what company they were drawn for.   I enjoyed working on maps for Dangerous Journeys at GDW, and creating the maps for Planescape at TSR.  Alternity and Dark Matter were fun to work on as well during the TSR/WOTC era.  I enjoyed working on the World of Greyhawk maps with Erik Mona.  I continue to enjoy drawing maps every day of my life.

Q4. Greyhawk cartography is currently a hot topic in the online community. What tips or tools could you reccomend for an aspiring fantasy map-maker?

Rob: Draw everyday, no matter what always sketch out ideas that are running around in your head.  I don't think there is a right or wrong way to go about creating something from your own imagination, as long as you enjoy the process. 

Q5. Last one. I'm sure you're familiar with the Oerth world map published in 1996's Dragon Annual #1. This map continues to spark discussion and debate online. What is your professional opinion on this map's content and composition?

Rob: I do recall watching Skip Williams and Dave Sutherland working on this map, it was an odd time for TSR, well I should write a whole book about what it was like to work there and the various people I worked with over the years, it would be a fun read for many i would think.  All I could think at the time was that it would be viewed as controversial. All of the maps back then were hand drawn and hand colored, in this maps' case Dr. Martins dyes were used.  From what I remember Dave was told to keep the land detail minimal so he added a few monsters and  a ship in the ocean to keep it looking interesting.  There was always good discussion over projects between us "the cartographers" and the "writers".  I think when it comes to designing a world you need to always start at the macro level and then go micro.  I am sure that people will discuss this map for a long time though.

Bonus information: Rob Lazzaretti has his own cartography site where among other things, you can apparently purchase a one sheet poster of his Dungeon Magazine, World of Greyhawk map. The interesting thing is these maps can be purchased with or without a hex grid, however both versions come without any text or labels(probably copyright reasons). Despite that, a blank map of the Flanaess can still have useful applications for any campaign. If anyone buys one of these let me know how it turns out.

Update 4/30/2021: Removed broken links to Rob's site. I'm sure his stuff is online somewhere, but the map you'll have to find elsewhere...


Rory Klein said...

That was another fine interview Mort. Nice find on the maps, but also a bit disappointing that there are no PDF versions. I would find those far more useful. Do you think you could find out if there were PDF versions available. I would be very keen on purchasing both versions in PDF format.

Mike Bridges said...

Thanks Rory!
I'll see what I can do, but I think there is an email on his site for such questions.

Dark Lord Galen said...

Awesome interview Mort! that has always been one of my favorite maps, and very interesting that even then he knew that the world map would be viewed in such a way...." All I could think at the time was that it would be viewed as controversial."

Scott said...

I want Rob to write that book now.

Argon said...


I always enjoyed Rob's work glad to see him in the ring.



Anonymous said...

Man! Yet another great interview, Mort! This is one of the best! I have loved Lazzaretti's work for years! It was interesting, though, because I didn't know he went back that far with TSR! His bio was actually half of the most interesting stuff. :)
I remember with special fondness his maps of Sterich for the Istivin: City of Shadows campaign arc in Dungeon #117-119.

And, of course, his World of Greyhawk map put him in company with Darlene. Magnificant.

I'd love to get one of his maps, and put it under an overlay that has all of the cities and whatnot. Curious, though, that they're only 20"x30".
I wish I knew more about the medium and method in which he works his cartographic magic.

Mike Bridges said...

Galen: Yeah, as I was researching back I hoped that Rob was the one assigned to draw that Oerth map but it was Sutherland.

Scott: I'd read that too!

Icarus: Looking at his work through the years I think he has been hand-drawing them and photoshoping the color instead of using some complicated cartography program.

Havard: said...

My favorite part of Greyhawk! :)

Mike Bridges said...

Havard: This is known! But what do you suppose is at the spot labelled "5"? ;)

Havard: said...

Mortellan: Hmmm...I just realized that this "5" label does not appear in Dungeon #115 or Dungeon #126. Where is this map from?

Mike Bridges said...

Oh Havard! It's the location of the "Ring of Five Questions". Some say the Egg of Coot started it and others beleive the Ring of Five Questions originated from the City of the Gods. But the smart sages know that I doctored that "5" on there!

Havard: said...

Haha, very clever! :)

Victor Von Dave said...

That's a nice interview, Lazzaretti is one of the greats. He has the unique combination of being extremely prolific and incredibly talented.