Illustrating Ravenloft is very exciting for me. I’ve been a fan of the setting since the Black Box, and ran a long Masque campaign during my AD&D 2e days (in fact, it was my last 2e game ever). Whenever I’m approached by Arthaus to illustrate a new Ravenloft book, I go through a lengthy research to get the elements just right, keeping in mind the setting’s characteristic mood. Below are a few analysis of the illustrations I did for the Masque of the Red Death hardcover. The images can be seen at http://www.enworld.org/Pozas/rlmotrd.htm.
Overall: Back in the days I ran a MotRD campaign, I acquaired a huge hardcover book titled “150 Years of Photojournalism: Vol. 1”, which covered mid- to late 1800s and early 1900s. This book was invaluable for this assignment.
Agent of Evil: The map of Africa on the upper left corner of the image is an actual map of Africa during the 1800s (Google is an amazing thing). The schematics in the center are for the Great Pyramid of Giza. I did it myself, based on a History book focused on Ancient Egypt. The map on the upper right corner is an enlarged detail of the Africa map, showing Egypt. Since the crystal ball shows adventurers arriving at the Pyramids of Giza, you can conclude that the Agent of Evil has some obsessive interest in the Great Pyramid (or what lies within...)
Brute: Not much to say here, except for the clothing and shoes, which follow the way suits and shoes were made at the end of the 19th century. The style is the usual for a working man with little wealth.
Foreigner: Same as the Brute, but in his case the suit is more refined.
Haunt Beast: Not much to say. It’s a glowing tiger.
Hollow: The costume is an amalgam of several costumes for the Venice Carnival (famous for its masquerades).
Conceptually, the hardest image of the bunch. How do you illustrate an
invisible, intangible being? I found the Guy de Maupassant story at
[Editor's note: Claudio's link no longer works, but the story is now available
and gave it a quick read. The scene I eventually depicted is based upon the very descriotion Maupassant gives of the horla’s only sighting in the story.
Imhotep: How exciting to actually portray the most powerful entity of the setting (the Red Death, not Imhotep)! The center structure is an actual architectural design used by the ancient egyptians, called “spirit door”. These “doors” (which were usually a few inches deep) were supposed to serve as a passageway for the deceased’s spirit, taking it to the afterlife. Standing before it is Imhotep. This depiction is based on small statues of Imhotep, from later periods when he was revered as a god himself. The statues framing the spirit door are based on actual statues of Djoser, while the hierogliphic representation of Djoser’s name is etched high above the door.
Jack the Ripper: The entire imagery was inpsired by the movie “From Hell”. Wether you like the movie or not, its setting and costume designs were flawless. The Red Death’s shadow replaces Jack’s on a nearby wall.
Lost Boy: This elderly newsboy is an almost exact duplicate of the newsboy on the cover of “150 Years of Photojournalism: Vol. 1”, apart from his aged looks and the news he’s carrying (the model was carrying the news of Titanic’s sinking). The news of a ship called “Persefone” crashing into port is a nod to the “Demeter” from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Mexico City: The sillouetted volcano is Popocatepetl, the actual volcano that rises on the outskirts of Mexico City. The tenements to the left are based on a picture of a street in Peru, since I couldn’t find any such image from Mexico. The ghostly step pyramid is based on a temple that still exists in Mexico today. The ghostly aztec is based on aztec paintings.
Minion Alert: The spellcaster here is based on a picture of a NBA coach yelling at his team. The suit comes from a picture of a young Winston Churchill. The clothing of the would-be assassin comes from a picture of arab merchants from the 1890s, while the dagger comes from a book on Arms and Armor.
Shadow Hunter: I was careful to make the muscles correctly, as this indian is wearing very little.
Skulker: This is a mix of the Martses kin from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear” and Gollum, from Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” movies.
As you can see, a lot of thought goes into each Ravenloft image I make (and all others, frankly). But I hope it’s all worth it.