Richt’s Ramblings #1: The One Where We Get the Artists Started

Vampire: The Masquerade

Originally posted by Rich at the V20 Blog

So, while I’m also involved with Justin, Eddy and Shane in the creative direction of the book (being Creative Director and all), my primary role on this project is as Art Director; like I was on so many Vampire books through the years. It’s pretty cool just to AD again, nevermind to do it on a project that lets me reach out to all my old artist friends. And because this is such a loving look back, I’m trying to recapture the same intentions I had when I AD’d VtM2nd. When you see things below like insisting on a very strict size for the art, that’s a call back to my thinking then: that very tightly restrained sizes, and very limited text wrapping, created a more refined graphic experience. And that elegance reflected the facade of civility in the Kindred experience. This might seem like overthinking, but every little visual decision adds up and registers in the readers’ minds, contributing to that subjective feeling of coolness.

So below you will find the General Notes I’m including with the contracts and any specific art notes the artists might need. You’ll note that I encourage them to come and check out our open development process and talk to the fans. That’s you folks, so please…be kind. Artists are strange, twisted creatures who exist in a world where their frightened, tattered egos are exposed by every piece of art they make- harsh words (and bright lights) bring on their fight/flight reflexes. Remember this when you feel the need to remind them about a piece from eighteen years ago that you hated with a burning hot passion of a thousand suns. Be kind.

I’ll be tweeting with news of more artists that we have onboard, but right now we have Tim Bradstreet, Guy Davis, Ken Meyer, Jr., Christopher Shy, Larry MacDougall, Jesper Myrfors, Vince Locke, Sam Araya, Michael Gaydos and Joshua Gabriel Timbrook on the Clan Spread figures. I hope in this space to be showing step by step how we go back and forth on ideas, sketches, and finishes and also how the graphic elements and book design comes together.

Thanks-

–richt

 

General Art Notes for Vampire the Masquerade 20thAnniversary Edition

First off: why are we doing this anyway? What’s the intention behind making this book?

 

More than anything, the idea behind this is to create a version of VtM that is a present to WW’s long-time fans. Something that brings back those great game sessions they played, those cool characters they developed, and how they felt reading through whichever version of VtM first got them hooked. The rules guys are busy working up a polished version of the old system, but our job is to create visuals that evoke the same dark beauty that you all brought forth years ago and that the fans love and imagine when they think of VtM art.

 

This doesn’t mean I want you all to go back to where you were stylistically 20 years ago- no, please bring all that accumulated talent and skill to these pieces and deliver the cool VtM vampire world that still resonates with the fans 20 years later. And as much as this is a present to the fans, it’s also a really cool chance for all of us to get together again- we’re “getting the band back together”- and I encourage you all to check out and even post on the many sites that our fans are posting on. Our main site is www.vampirethemasquerade.com, the email list to the development team but not the fans is vampire20@white-wolf.com , you can follow on Twitter with the hash tag #v20, or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/vtm20. The development team is trying to make our process as open as possible and we’re on these places all the time- in fact, I’d like to post sketches and art direction comments back and forth openly (so let me know if you’d rather I didn’t do so for you personally) to really let the fans see this mysterious process that yields these amazing pieces of art that so define the World of Darkness.

 

So, to the nitty-gritty: pretty much all of you are doing full-color, half-page pieces. FYI for color choices: I’m expecting that the page color will be in the cream (warm) or grey (cool) to white zone, with maybe a bit of browner parchment in there. We’re looking at elegant rather than old, torn and musty. Sizes would be:

  • Vertical half-page: 3.25” wide x 9” tall
  • Horizontal half-page: 6.75” wide x 4.5” tall
  • 400dpi CMYK tiff for final, 72 or 100dpi RGB jpegs Ok for sketches
    • Remember when we used faxes for sketches and actually talked on the phone? Wow.

We’re going to avoid text-wraps for these and keep to those sizes and crop what doesn’t fit, so be aware.

I don’t have problems with re-imagining old pieces using color and your upgraded skills/style, but please don’t just color the old piece.

 

Below you will find a bunch of mood setting text for a general feel to get you back into the VtM mood, and I’ll provide individual text snippets for those of you who asked for them. Questions or just general chatting, we can talk publically on our sites and tweets, or direct to me at richt@white-wolf.com or richt@ccpgames.com .

 

Everyone has had the sense at least once in her life that things aren’t right with the world, that not everything is as it seems. We sometimes feel that sinister truths hide behind a facade of normality, veiled partially by the rational, orderly natural laws taught to us by science. We’re told that medieval beliefs in monsters and magic were merely primitive superstitions. We’re too wise for that sort of foolishness these days, or so we assure ourselves. But at night, when the shadows grow long and the wind whistles through the trees, we shudder and remember old truths, the truths of our ancestors, who were right to fear the dark.

Under the surface of the world and in its shadows, a fearsome secret society exists, where creatures stalk mortal prey and engage one another in elaborate games of political, social, and supernatural power. These are the Kindred — vampires — and their deathless schemes form the steps of an immortal Masquerade, a veritable dance of the Damned. Few mortals suspect this horrible truth: They are food for beings who walk among them and look just like them.

Eminent Kindred enforce strict rules of behavior among their kind to keep their existence hidden from mortal eyes. They call these elaborate customs the Traditions. These rules are the closest thing to ironclad, universal law that the Kindred recognize, and all know and fear the punishments meted out to those who break its laws, from social censure for minor breaches to the irrevocable Blood Hunt for the worst crimes. The most significant of these Traditions is that of the Masquerade, which mandates that vampires hide their existence from a mortal world that has the numbers to come together and destroy them once and for all.

From behind the veil of the Masquerade, Kindred work to manipulate mortals and their institutions, playing at a bloody game the rules of which are as ancient as the Kindred race itself. Vampires treat the living as pawns, wielding control over mortal society through their personal power over key individuals. They drag some of these into thrall as ghouls, blood-addicted servitors whose only desire is to serve their masters’ whim. Almost nothing of consequence happens in mortal society without the Kindred somehow manipulating events. So it has been throughout history. So it will ever be. So it is tonight.

Such intrigue is never easy, though. To complicate matters for the Kindred, some of their own refuse to submit to these ancient customs. The Sabbat, a bloody cult of ravening vampires almost wholly given to their unnatural hungers once prowls the darkness, threatening the Masquerade and jeopardizing the already fragile nature of trust among the Damned. The anarchs, those who politically oppose the traditional order of Kindred rule, challenge even the mightiest of princes. Anyone might be Sabbat, anarch, or even a lone autarkis, from the lowliest fledgling to the most renowned elder.

Vampires and their minions aren’t the only monsters lurking in the World of Darkness. Werewolves savage the forest wilderness and the edges of urban landscapes, eldritch mages call down power from on high, spirits and ghosts haunt abandoned places, and still more forlorn and dangerous creatures hide in the shadows, mysteries even to the Kindred.

Mood: Gothic-Punk

Vampire: The Masquerade is steeped in a modern gothic sensibility and imagery. It’s a punk-infused clash of the ancient and the new, of the eternal and the ultramodern, of decay and renewal, of corruption and purity, of the undying and the ever-changing. It is a game of sensuality in all the meanings of the word, thrilling the senses — lush visuals, ominous sounds, the allure and abandon of the erotic. The passionate drama of the Kindred’s world is embodied most powerfully in the Kiss, the moment when a vampire’s fangs sink into a mortal’s throat, releasing a mystical, invigorating river of blood, and the Embrace, the transition from mortal into Kindred.

Players experience the mood through the stories told in the World of Darkness. They foment opportunistic schemes, betray debased elder Kindred, participate in barbaric acts, touch inchoate madness, and witness innocence defiled. It’s a florid place, characterized by ancient evils lurking within family bloodlines, crumbling estates dilapidated by neglect and abuse, the continuing power of the dead over the living, and doomed and tragic love affairs stretching beyond the grave. The World of Darkness is a place of looming horror and gut-wrenching terror. Monsters really do exist, and they are driven by hungers that flesh alone won’t satisfy. Sometimes, they must also destroy minds and souls in their undying bloodlust.

The way people present themselves to the world is one of the visual hallmarks of modern gothic mentality. Designers blend motifs from the Victorian era with leather and PVC. Delicate lace complements corsets and cufflinks. The urban decay of modern gothic style manifests in industrial and punk fashions like black t-shirts, torn jeans, combat boots, and biker jackets. The whole look is accentuated with body piercings, tattoos, and stark makeup.

Neo-Medieval: Atmosphere

The Kindred thrive in sprawling cities, close to their mortal prey. As territorial predators, they rarely leave the city they claim as their domain. Vampires spend their nights increasing their knowledge of and control over their city environment, not only the physical environs but also the socio-political hierarchy of the Kindred Princes and their courts.

Since time out of mind, Kindred social structure has resembled a feudal aristocracy. On top, sovereign over all the Damned in the city, is the Prince. She is elected and advised — and often rivaled by — the Primogen, a council of elders consisting of the most prominent vampires in the city. Kindred occupy a host of other traditional roles and archaic ranks, such as the brood enforcers known as Sheriffs, the Hounds who hunt down rogues at the Sheriff’s command, the Harpies who sway the trends of the social set, and the officers of the myriad factions and cults who strive to achieve their shadowy agendas throughout the city. While some Kindred chafe at the strictures and antiquated nature of this hierarchy, most buy into it. Especially once they win some position of power in its network, the Kindred often find it far better to wield such eminence themselves than to struggle against it on principle.

Visual elements reinforce this neo-medieval social structure. Architecture in the World of Darkness often incorporates modernized medieval motifs, such as stylized gargoyles and aesthetic decay. Romanticized representations of ancient ruin abound, from rusted wrought-iron gates to a collapsed wall surrounding a cemetery to the moss that grows unchecked over a run-down mansion. Sites of grandeur and opulence exist as well, contrasting the decline of much of the world with the privilege of the few. Examples include a soaring cathedral, the pillars of a government building, and the extravagant driveway of a posh hotel. Most city neighborhoods display a spectrum of visual influences, with gleaming new office buildings across the street from ancient stone-and-mortar storefronts. A forgotten cellar might house the corpses of a serial killer’s victims, or it might be the location of an amazingly popular underground party where the cause célèbre is the overthrow of an undead tyrant.

Mortals may not know that vampires and other horrors exist, but they do subtly sense that the superstitious mindset of their medieval ancestors was somehow correct, and this intuition sometimes makes its way into art and architecture.

Visual Elements

Our world but darker

Long shadows cast by flickering lights

Spectral images and things half-seen out of the corner of your eye

Encroaching darkness held at bay by sputtering candles

A heavy, orange moon hanging low in the sky behind gray clouds

Creeping fog; mist seeping up from the sewers

A rust-colored stain that can’t be cleaned

Church spires soaring toward the distant heavens

People’s faces look alien; they avert their eyes as you pass them on the street

Razor blades and discarded crack baggies in the gutter