Yesterday I posted a Jeff Dee illo Rorschach Test.
I received a lot of responses - probably more comments than any other post I've made has received so far. Pretty much everyone sees it as shaking down a thief who stole from the party.
I always saw this picture, poised right by the discussions of dividing up treasure and experience and whatnot, as two veteran adventurers shaking down a third "fellow" adventurer. Maybe as a pair of 2nd or 3rd level guys adding the loot the 1st level guy thought he'd earned. That other guy, the witness? He's suddenly realized he's next. There are two thieves in this one, and man, neither of them are the guy who is upside down.
Look at that guy with the rope. Does he look shocked, nay, horrified at the stuff the shaken down guy was hiding? Nope. He's got a grin a mile wide. That big guy shaking down the other delver? Does he look shocked? Nope, he's just concentrating on shaking the money down into one big pile so it doesn't roll off somewhere and need to be gathered up.
I figured, this illo was a picture of how one might divide up treasure. Hey, I was nine, and it's right there next to and under the text on Dividing Treasure and Computing Experience. To me, it seemed connected to the text as much as that illustration near Alignment in the Basic Set was connected to the text.
It was only years later I looked at it again with fresh eyes and thought, gee, maybe it's a thief being forced to cough up what he took unfairly. But that guy with the rope . . . he's got a nice sword and nice armor, and he seems a bit too happy with the whole thing. Maybe he's done this before - a serial join-and-extort adventurer. Best way to divide up loot is to divide it up as little as possible . . .
Anyway, that's my take on a classic picture.