Press [Chaosium] Lords of the Middle Sea Update: talking to art director Leslee Beldotti

Michael O'Brien


Lords of the Middle Sea: The Roleplaying Game is in development. Based on Lynn Willis's 1978 futuristic proto-Steampunk board game, set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of a flooded North America, the tabletop RPG utilizes a streamlined version of the Basic Roleplaying system.

Voyagers, we apologise the lack of recent updates – the Lords of the Middle Sea team was diverted for a while onto the new Basic Roleplaying, but now editorial work continues on all fronts. Some of the most exciting stuff happening is in the art being developed. Without further ado, here's a short interview with the Lords of the Middle Sea art director, Leslee Beldotti:


Q: How did you come to be art directing for Lords of the Middle Sea?

As with most of my life, the simple answer is: In the most unlikely manner possible! I met Jason Durall (creative lead for the project) a few years ago through a D&D tabletop game session here in Berlin, Germany. After some discussion, we were surprised to discover that not only had we both previously lived in Austin, TX at the same time, but we had also both worked in the video game industry — in office buildings next to each other! This serendipity led to me doing some editing work for other Chaosium projects, which eventually segued into me becoming the art director for LotMS.

Q: What interests you about the setting?

The premise of this game's setting is an altered North America after a climate change-induced ice age. It involves the various ways in which humans survive (or don't!) after such a cataclysmic event, and how new societies might form. As a former archaeologist and anthropologist, I am deeply fascinated by these themes.

Q: What are your favourite parts of the setting?

My favourite part of this reimagined world is the novel idea of airship travel being the predominant mode of transportation. In real life I've flown a helicopter and jumped out of an airplane. How can I possibly resist a game in which I can pilot my own airship?

Q: How do you approach writing a brief and assigning it?

The first thing I consider when reading through a manuscript and developing an art concept is: How can this illustration serve the reader? Pretty pictures are always nice, but it's important to me that each illustration gives the reader more information about the game's setting, or provides inspiration for character and adventure creation. Once I have a basic concept in mind, I head to the Google machine to find photos to use as a digital "mood board". Since I have a background in video game quality assurance, I try to write the art brief as if it's a bug report, with a step-by-step guide for how to create the illustration. Of course, some artists require more (or less) direction than others, so I try to tailor the art brief to the individual artist's needs, once I am familiar with their workflow.

Q: Have you got some art to show us?

Here's a piece by the always-amazing Ossi Hiekkala, picturing Esmerelda (one of the pre-gen characters) enjoying a piece of Old World culture.

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