As far as I can discern, there are two reasons for art in an RPG book:
1. Demonstrative: Art saves a lot of text that describes a person / object / monster when you can just show it. This becomes an aid to imagination, as well as saving time at the table. The classic example here is the Bestiary, where you can point at the monster and say 'it looks like this!'
2. Aesthetic: This is a piece of art that exists only for the 'wow' factor, which works to sell you on why you should buy the book on the initial flip-through. You see the art and say, 'hot damn! I want my roleplaying games to look like that!' They serve a secondary purpose of breaking up large blocks of text, which can see dry and boring without some visual stimuli. This stuff is neat, but ultimately useless. Most book covers serve this function, and another example would be the iconics.
I believe that demostrative art can often fulfill the aesthetic role, and would personally rather see illustrations that serve both purposes. While, say, the cover to Faiths of Corruption is sinister, it simply fills space. If, on the other hand, it depicted a sinister ritual of Zon-Kuthon, I can work that into my game. The players burst into the horrible temple and they see this ritual in particular.
I would like to see that each piece is evaluated on the basis of, "What information does this illustration convey? What utility will it have at the table?" If there isn't an answer beyond, "this is frickin' sweet!", I'd rather see it cut.
Mind you, I still want art that is frickin' sweet, but it should have a demonstrative purpose, such as:
* Clothing style of the region, race, religion, etc.
* Conveys the architectural style of a city, state, or building.
* Displays a specific object, monster, or spell effect.
In regards to magic objects in specific, the object itself should, in my opinion, be displayed. The image may be less dynamic than seeing Merisiel employing it, but the utility of the image is drastically improved.
Thanks again for seeking our feedback, Wes!
Gruumash . wrote:
As a libertarian at heart, when I secede from the Union I am taking New England with me. ;) Hope you are okay with that.
I'm sorry, but since the highest concentrations of Democrats are found in the most prosperous parts of the country (New England and the Pacific coast), we're holding on to what's ours. You're welcome to Wyoming, though! ;)
Gruumash . wrote:
Gruumash, I appreciate the sentiment towards reconciliation, I really do. However, when I hear statements that the extreme left hold any meaningful sway in the political dialogue today, I am flabbergasted. I can only attribute this viewpoint as a distortion by the American media, as it does not correlate with the facts.
I know several people on the far left in America today. They are almost universally Anarcho-Syndicalists. If that term is unfamiliar, don't worry, it's because these ideas are not being disseminated into the mediasphere except by a handful of academics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. They have no political representation as they comprise a very tiny segment of the population.
Moving in the center-left, we do have democratic socialist groups like SPUSA. SPUSA currently has 1,000 members and is struggling to meet their Spring funding goal of $500. They hold no political offices anywhere in the country. Hedging closer to the center of the political spectrum is the Green Party, which has 300,000 members (slightly less than one percent of the population) and holds no offices higher than mayor.
Compare this to the rest of the first world. The Labour Party in the UK holds 258 seats in the House of Commons (out of 650). In Canada, the New Democratic Party holds 103 seats in the House (out of 308). Finally, in France the Socialist Party holds 186 seats in the National Assembly (out of 577) and 111 seats in the Senate (out of 343). All of these are center-left parties, falling somewhere between SPUSA and the Green Party.
The Democratic Party in the United States today is, at its most radical, a centrist party as far as the rest of the world's concerned. So please, do not tell me that leftist extremists are corrupting the political dialogue in our country today. That is simply impossible, because there is no American left worth speaking about.
This echoes to several other discussions on these boards about moral ambiguity on these boards, and so I'll first say that each GM and group of players must decide for themselves the level of ambiguity that creeps into their own games. However, there are certainly hints that seem to suggest that not every cleric or inquisitor is a kind-hearted soul and that an undercurrent of cultural bias exists in the faith itself.
Here's where I'm seeing this:
From Gods and Magic, p. 20,
"Followers of Iomedae have a strong sense of justice and fairness and an even stronger dedication to swordcraft, statesmanship, and bringing civilization to "savage" people." (emphasis mine)
Note that while justice and fairness are important to Iomedae, they are of secondary importance to the promotion of Chelish cultural values over those that are deemed unfit.
From The Sixfold Trial, p. 68,
"News of stake-burnings and pillaging by soldiers and mercenaries in Iomedae’s name has troubled church elders, and they are considering authorizing a small branch of the church to investigate these stories and rein in activities that exceed the goddess’s teachings; unfortunately, such a job would be unpopular and the elders would have a difficult time finding enough priests willing to conduct investigations of their own brethren. In the meantime, priests try to lead by example and curb any egregious behavior by other crusaders." (again, emphasis mine)
As a reader, this is highly evocative of the famed Blue Code of Silence, where police officers are pressured not to report the wrongdoings of their fellows. While the majority of police officers would likely be considered LG, they are under tremendous pressure to show solidarity in public, and therefore turn a blind eye to abuses.
From the Campaign Setting, p. 98,
"The clergy of Iomedae led the way, stepping from the shadows of their bewildered masters in the faltering church of Aroden. Nobles in Cheliax, Isger, and Andoran, fearing growing domestic discontent fueled by dispossessed nobles and idle mercenaries roaming their countrysides, joined with the Iomedaean church to sponsor the first Mendevian Crusade in 4622."
This particular passage can be read in one of two ways. First, that the clergy of Iomedae chose to seize the opportunity to suppress the evils of the Worldwound and domestic discontent, easing the panic and chaos caused by Aroden's death.
The other, more cynical, viewpoint was to say that the followers of Iomedae used this as a blatant grab for power amidst the chaos and conspired with the governments of Cheliax, Isger, and Andoran to rid themselves of undesirables by sending them on a holy war. It's undeniable that the Church of Iomedae would see themselves as doing good in either circumstance, but in the second instance there is a darker element there, as well.
Also from the Campaign Setting, p. 98,
"The uneasiness is worst in the border town of Kenabres, where the aging prophet Hulmun leads a zealous pogrom against demon worshipers, and his passion for inquisition remains undimmed by the passing years. In truth, much of the Third Crusade seemed nearly as concerned with purifying the citizenry and the hinterlands of Mendev as with matters on the front lines. As far back as the First Crusade, many immigrating crusaders suspected the native Iobarian culture and its druidic faith of being demon-tainted. Hundreds of indigenous Mendevians and pilgrims have burned at the stake in Kenabres alone since these trials began. Crusader leaders in the past turned a blind eye to this cruelty, preferring to focus on military matters, but the Order of Heralds instituted with the Fourth Crusade has made considerable strides in curbing the inquisition. Even in Kenabres, the ardor of the inquisition has dimmed somewhat, and many hope it is utterly extinguished with the death of the aged prelate—but quietly here and there throughout Mendev the screaming flames still echo the passion of her most fervent zealots."
A few key points to consider here. First, much of the depredations of the Third Crusade were inspired by manipulation by demons, and many of the participating Iomedeans were tricked into acts of cruelty.
However, the prophet Hulmun is not considered to be a "false prophet", indicating that he continues to receive divine powers from Iomedae. Nor does the text refer here to depredations by marauders, but instead by zealots, who may very well have been clergy.
On top of this, despite reforms, we have another indication of the "Blue Code" with the leaders of the crusade being aware of these practices but turning a blind eye to them for years before stepping in.
Finally, we see another indication of a sort of cultural supremacy promoted in Iomedae's faith (or at least her faithful) with the suspicions cast at the druids of Ioberia from the earliest days of the Crusades.
From the Campaign Setting, p. 99,
"Foreigners engaged in the holy wars against the blight of the Worldwound now outnumber the native people of Mendev, who have been pushed aside and treated as an underclass by the nation’s new inhabitants... Still, [the Queen and her councilors] hear the cries of persecuted native Mendevians at the hands of inquisitors and thuggish “low templars” alike."
Although the chapter makes it clear that the pious are now a minority as compared to the mercenaries and thugs, I have to wonder if this underclass status stems from roots planted within the religion itself, and can't help but note that the inquisitors and "low templars" are considered separate threats to the people of Mendev. After all, if a religion recognizes certain cultures as "savage" and attempts to promote hegemony, they have already dehumanized those "savages". It is a slippery slope from that point, I think, between LG and LN, which is still within the bounds of Iomedae's religion. I also note that the druids of Estrovian Forest were so angered by the First Crusade that they laid the "curse of the winterthorn" on those who would dispossess them, and this was well before the "low templars" were running the show.
Again, I want to emphasize that this is just a matter of personal taste. My interpretations here are based on my preference for games that allow for a level of corruption and uncertainty in even the G faiths. I am not proposing that Iomedae is, in fact, a villain or that her church is comprised of nothing more than rogues posing as heroes. Instead, I would posit that there are corrupt individuals in the church, that decisions are made by good people for the sake of political convenience, that motives are not always entirely pure, and that one of the core tenants of Iomedae's faith has historically been used to justify cultural imperialism.
James, I've no questions for you today, but I thought I'd share some suggestions from a fellow Call of Cthulhu enthusiast:
Minor spoilers for Masks of Nyarlathotep and Secrets of Kenya:
I see that you're about to start Masks and I wanted to say congrats! It's a great campaign, although you should familiarize yourself with all the chapters before getting started. Your players will likely jump around quite a bit, so be prepared to roll with them rushing back and forth between cities and continents. There's a lot of great support material out there for this much-loved campaign, so here's a quick list of additional books to waste your money on:
First, there's a Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion monograph in the works from the fine folks over at yog-sothoth.com which should prove to be stunning, as it's got some of the finest minds in CoC working on it, and has been a labor of love over several years. Second, there's a long list of "Secrets of" and "Guides to" books that detail almost every city for Masks, although they're variable in quality. I especially enjoyed Secrets of Kenya, which has a truly epic ghoul scenario that I've been dying to run. Third, there's also been a number of articles written about the modern after-effects of Masks by Dan Harms and David Conyers in The Black Seal #2 & #3 and Worlds of Cthulhu #4. The Black Seal just became available again as a PDF at DrivethruRPG and Worlds of Cthulhu can still be picked up at Amazon. These are a great read, so I wouldn't pass them up. Also, if you didn't follow Worlds of Cthulhu, Dan Harms did an excellent series of articles detailing Averoigne for Dark Ages Cthulhu, which should be of interest to a Clark Ashton Smith fan such as yourself.
Also, I don't know if you're a fan of employing music in your games, but Pelgrane Press has put out a fine Trail of Cthulhu soundtrack which is worth an investment. I also think Demdike Stare's great at evoking the chilling ambiance necessary for a CoC game, so give them a listen.
I hope all of this helps. Enjoy your game, and let us know how it turns out!