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D&D 5E Meet Ravenloft's Harkon Lucas and Rudolph Van Richten

WotC has shared some artwork from Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, featuring the titular vampire hunter himself, and the darklord of Kartakass, Harkon Lucas.

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"Rudolph Van Richten prepares for his next expedition, watched over by the spirit of his son, Erasmus."

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"A born liar and shape-shifter, Harkon Lukas orchestrates elaborate manipulations.
He's rarely seen without his signature wide-brimmed hat; wolf's tooth necklace; and violin, which he calls Bleeding Heart."
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Faolyn

Hero
Per my OP it was the laziness and inconsistency of D&D's art direction I was noting.

The players can be informed by the art in the books. And it doesn't take an expert in clothing styles of a given era do do this.

Just someone (who is ostensibly in charge of commissioning the art for the game) willing to exert a little effort.

Evidently this would be a bad thing.
No, it's not a bad thing. It's a pointless thing.

D&D is not the real world. It doesn't follow real-world history or social or religious mores, and thus doesn't need to follow real-world fashions. If your D&D setting takes place in Europe of 1450 c.e., then yes, you'll want the clothing choices to reflect 15th century Europe. But I'd wager that the vast majority of gamers don't play D&D in Europe of 1450 c.e.--or 1120 c.e., or 750 c.e., or anything like that. They play in the Realms, 1495 DR, or in Ravenloft, 748 BC, or in Eberron, 998 YK, or use their homebrew world's calendar.

The problem is, you want a specific aesthetic that D&D doesn't use, and in reality, has never used. D&D may have been influenced by Tolkien, a bit, but also by Conan and lots of other sources, each of which had their own aesthetic.

The vibes I'm getting seem to be: "Yes, it is too much to ask that D&D set a consistent look for each setting it has." and "How dare you question D&D's utter lack of art direction."
Because every place in the real world had consistent fashions throughout history?

Again, Different settings - different looks.

But even Ravenloft can't stay consistent.

Dark ages, middle ages, late-medieval, renaissance, 18th century... Pick one. or pick your in-between era.
Have you ever read anything Ravenloft? Each domain is a different aesthetic. Why on earth would people from not!Nazi Germany Falkovnia dress like people from not!Puritan-Ireland Tepest or not!Mad Scientist Swizzerland Lamordia or actual!Italy Odiare?

But at least be consistent within a given setting. WHFRP is a great example of this.
Is that Warhammer you're talking about? Because the art here is as big a histori-fantastical hodgepodge as any D&D book. It's just that they're made by people using the same art style.

I must be the only one on this thread that thinks a consistency in art direction adds to the immersion and feel of setting material.
No, but you might be the only one who who thinks "everyone should be wearing period clothing from the right time and location" is what "consistency in art direction" actually means.

That picture of the cartoony marching modrons from the MM is inconsistent with the rest of the monster art in that book, and as adorable as it is, maybe shouldn't have been included.

Having people wearing different clothing because they're from a fantasy world, and from different locations or cultures in that fantasy world, is not inconsistent art direction.

The fact that you don't like the clothing people in D&D art wear doesn't mean it's bad. It means it's not to your taste.
 

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Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Is that Warhammer you're talking about? Because the art here is as big a histori-fantastical hodgepodge as any D&D book. It's just that they're made by people using the same art style.

That link you used went to an art page that I don't believe has Old World Fantasy art, just Age of Sigmar (which is kind of built on the idea of an amalgamation of various fantasy influences).

That said, Old World Warhammer Fantasy was definitely not consistent either. Here's a piece from the recent WHFRP;

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Faolyn

Hero
That link you used went to an art page that I don't believe has Old World Fantasy art, just Age of Sigmar (which is kind of built on the idea of an amalgamation of various fantasy influences).
Yeah, I don't know enough about the WHFRP to know what their settings are like. I looked up just art for it and it was all over the place. That page just seemed handy for having a bunch of art in one place.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Am I the only one who don't see anything "gothic" or "horror" or "dark" in the art of new Ravenloft book? It is too colorful, too bright for my taste. The whole aesthetics could be in Forgotten Realms or in Eberron...
Yeah the books bright colours dont really invoke much of the established imagery of bleak dreary buildings and dark passages that we’ve come to associate with Gothic Horror AND furthermore the Blurb for Gothic Horror doesnt really capture the meaning or themes evident in the literature, which makes me wonder if the authors didnt actually know what to do with “Gothic themes” in D&D.

That said though this is a cover given to Castle of Otranto (which many consider the first Gothic Story) and its notably more colourful than I’d expect ...

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Jaeger

That someone better.
D&D setting takes place in Europe of 1450 c.e., then yes, you'll want the clothing choices to reflect 15th century Europe. But I'd wager that the vast majority of gamers don't play D&D in Europe of 1450 c.e.--or 1120 c.e., or 750 c.e., or anything like that. They play in the Realms, 1495 DR, or in Ravenloft, 748 BC, or in Eberron, 998 YK, or use their homebrew world's calendar.

The problem is, you want a specific aesthetic that D&D doesn't use, and in reality, has never used. D&D may have been influenced by Tolkien, a bit, but also by Conan and lots of other sources, each of which had their own aesthetic.

RE Howards Conan stories also drew from a lot of sources from different historical eras.

Yet in the film adaptations the costume director distills things down so that the movie has a consistent unique look.

No reason D&D art direction cannot do the same.

The Game of Thrones tv series is also an excellent example of what I'm advocating.

The GoT series drew from several sources for its unique fantasy look.

There is no reason D&D's art direction can't do the same for: The Realms 1495 DR, or Ravenloft 748 BC, or in Eberron 998 YK.


... Why on earth would people from not!Nazi Germany Falkovnia dress like people from not!Puritan-Ireland Tepest or not!Mad Scientist Swizzerland Lamordia or actual!Italy Odiare?
They wouldn't, but D&D art direction doesn't distinguish consistently even between those.


Is that Warhammer you're talking about? Because the art here is as big a histori-fantastical hodgepodge as any D&D book. It's just that they're made by people using the same art style.
Please.

You knew exactly what warhammer I was referring to when I typed WHFRP. The fact that you knew enough of the abbreviation that you pulled warhammer from it gave you away.

You can have historical anachronisms in your setting. Never said you couldn't.

Many settings like WHFRP have them. Yet, WHFRP's art direction is very consistent in the way it portrays its setting.

D&D is not consistent in this regard with its settings.


No, but you might be the only one who who thinks "everyone should be wearing period clothing from the right time and location" is what "consistency in art direction" actually means.
Re-read what I wrote.

From the very post you replied to: "Dark ages, middle ages, late-medieval, renaissance, 18th century... Pick one. Or pick your in-between era."

Sorry, not explicitly tied to a given era. My argument is about lack of consistency.


Having people wearing different clothing because they're from a fantasy world, and from different locations or cultures in that fantasy world, is not inconsistent art direction.
D&D's art direction is only consistent insomuch as it is not consistent in any of those areas.


The fact that you don't like the clothing people in D&D art wear doesn't mean it's bad. It means it's not to your taste.
My personal preferences in clothing style are just that.

They do not change the fact that D&D's art direction is not consistent at all.

.
 
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This makes me remember a thing about the old far west movies. We can't notice the difference of the Western wear when a movie is from 1950's or from 1990's. The real cowboys were used to wear...bowler hats! But you don't see this in the movies.

D&D is based in lots of works from Western speculative fiction, and the goal never was to show historical ages. Even today historical movies wouldn't wear clothings like the real from that age because today the audence would think they are ridiculous.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, I don't know enough about the WHFRP to know what their settings are like. I looked up just art for it and it was all over the place. That page just seemed handy for having a bunch of art in one place.
There’s a big difference between Warhammer art by games workshop for dozens of different ranges vs Cubicle 7’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Which is produced under a license. I’ve always love C7’s art since AIME but with they’ve outdone themselves.

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It’s does a very good job of evoking the weirdness and comedy of the Old World.

That said WFRP has a very specific style... unlike Ravenloft which is many things. So I can forgive Ravenloft many different styles.

I do think people are getting their knickers in a twist before seeing stuff on the actual page in context. Many of the criticized pictures are not even full images they’re just snapshots. Let’s judge it when we see it on the page.
 
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Hussar

Legend
@Jaeger, as someone who bangs this drum about the depictions of ships in D&D, I feel your pain. It's jarring when you see something that is really, really anachronistic in the game and no one else seems to notice it at all. ((No, an 18th century English Ship of the Line is not really plausible in a D&D level technology. And, FFS, at least don't draw the bloody gunports on the thing))
 


opacitizen

Explorer
Intriguing.

Now meet Harkon Lukas (with a "k", not a "c", so no, he's not related to George), the Meistersinger from the original Realm of Terror boxed set — as illustrated by the brilliant Stephen Fabian, whose artwork defined the look and feel of the Ravenloft of the old days.

(Note also that "meistersinger" is a German word and tradition. As per Wikipedia:

A Meistersinger (German for "master singer") was a member of a German guild for lyric poetry, composition and unaccompanied art song of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Meistersingers were made extra famous by Wagner's opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.)

Image source: vintagerpg over at tumblr (removed the link because the preview was massive)

tumblr_oy9334LPbM1wo6q1so3_1280.jpg
 

Estlor

Explorer
I find it refreshing that this thread turned into an argument over clothing in fantasy RPGs and not an angry tirade over the lazy race-swap they did on Harkon himself. At least with the gender-swapped Darklords they appear to have massaged their backstory enough to make them unique takes on the trope. Since they went through the trouble there, if they were looking to add a Darklord of color, I would have preferred they went a bit farther to make an actual, new character to replace Harkon. Oh well.

That said, his new race plus his attire plus him being a "loup garou" and not a wolfwere is giving me strong Creole vibes for this domain.
 

I am going to tell you a secret: If a jedi is blinded by the rage and she kills a dark lord by the hate, and not only by legitime self-defense, then the jedi will fall in the dark side of the Force and possesed by the spectre of the dark lord (and the dread domain will be rebooted, altering everybody's memories, even by the own new dark lord).

screen-shot-2019-08-26-at-9-39-46-am-1566826837.png
 



l5r_fields_of_victory_cover.png

Also to support the point that artistic consistency in fantasy is a useful tool for immersion, just consider the fantasy RPG Legend of the Five Rings.

I just received the last book of the 5th Edition L5R (not D&D) from Fantasy Flight Games. Notice the cover features a female military commander in samurai aesthetic styled armour. She is not dressed like a musketeer nor an American Revolutionary War soldier.

Contrast the above consistent aesthetic for the fantasy Rokugan with the lack of internal art consistency among and within current D&D sourcebooks. D&D is suffering from a lazy lack of artistic research by both hired artists and art directors.
 



jgsugden

Legend
Am I the only one who don't see anything "gothic" or "horror" or "dark" in the art of new Ravenloft book? It is too colorful, too bright for my taste. The whole aesthetics could be in Forgotten Realms or in Eberron...
Gothic and horror do not require everything to be murky, dark and drab. Dementlieu is intentionally bright and festive, but sinister and evil to the core, for example. You're walking into a party, bright and festive, where a whim can end a life in a moment.

Gothic horror conveys dread, fear and - most likely - an unhappy end. If your heroes win in Ravenloft, it is not really Gothic Horror. If they survive and escape, but bear the scars of their passage, it is more in line with the concept of Gothic Horror.

The drab brown backgrounds behind Van Richten convey sadness and futility. The smile on his dead son is also haunting in multiple ways if you play it right.

Harkon is a wolf in sheep's clothing. You're likely to meet him as a bard and like him ... trust him ... until he turns on you. Why portray him as grim dark when that isn't supposed to be your first impression?
 

Jaeger

That someone better.
This makes me remember a thing about the old far west movies. We can't notice the difference of the Western wear when a movie is from 1950's or from 1990's. The real cowboys were used to wear...bowler hats! But you don't see this in the movies.

D&D is based in lots of works from Western speculative fiction, and the goal never was to show historical ages. Even today historical movies wouldn't wear clothings like the real from that age because today the audence would think they are ridiculous.
I disagree.

There is a marked difference in style an quality of costume between She Wore a Yellow Ribbon for 1949, and Dances with Wolves in 1990.

As for bowler hats, you must not remember Young Guns from 1988.

And that's just from the top of my head.

D&D doesn't need to show any specific historical age. Just pick an aesthetic that works for the genre like the Game of thrones tv series and be consistent in its portrayal. Why would that be so hard for each D&D setting?


@Jaeger, as someone who bangs this drum about the depictions of ships in D&D, I feel your pain. It's jarring when you see something that is really, really anachronistic in the game and no one else seems to notice it at all. ((No, an 18th century English Ship of the Line is not really plausible in a D&D level technology. And, FFS, at least don't draw the bloody gunports on the thing))
The occasional anachronism is not inherently a bad thing. Lots of settings have them, WHFRP is one. (Still agree about the ships though...)

But at least WHFRP is consistent in how it depicts them in its unique art and style!

Lo5R is another great example - it is a far east pastiche in many respects. Yet it takes those influences and has a unique yet consistent art design for the game.

I just fail to see the reason that the most profitable RPG in the hobby cannot manage to do this.


I find it refreshing that this thread turned into an argument over clothing in fantasy RPGs and not an angry tirade over the lazy race-swap they did on Harkon himself.
LOL! Your right!

I'm not touching that talking point with a ten foot pole!

If people think we're getting all hot and bothered over D&D's lack of art direction...
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Contrast the above consistent aesthetic for the fantasy Rokugan with the lack of internal art consistency among and within current D&D sourcebooks. D&D is suffering from a lazy lack of artistic research by both hired artists and art directors.

This is nonsense... comparing Legend of the Five Rings (which I'm not dissing, it's great) which has a very carefully curated niche of Japanese/Chinese fantasy to D&D (which is much broader than even European fantasy) and chalking it down to laziness... a disingenuous argument in many respects.
 

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