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Coming in Q1 2020: Gateways to Terror for Call of Cthulhu

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1 hour ago, Travern said:

That may work for players coming out of D&D or Mansions of Madness or for horror fans of Goosebumps rather than HPL.  Otherwise, I find it to be too silly.  The artist Chris Huth is quite capable of producing frightening Lovecraftian illustrations (check out his B&W work for Sentinel Hill Press), so I have to assume the responsibility lies with the art direction.

I mean, folks, seriously. This was perfectly fine when it was "I dislike the art style." But this comment reads to me as incredibly disrespectful to Mike Mason, as a professional.  You aren't line editor for Call of Cthulhu. You aren't the art director. When the chips are down, you aren't the one feeding their family with products. Just out of curiosity, for which products have you been the art director?

You realize that most new Call of Cthulhu players are coming from DND, right? The future success of Call of Cthulhu is not going to be based off of what veterans do and do not purchase. It's going to be based off the strength of recruiting new players. The art makes complete sense, from a marketing standpoint, targeting the likely audience. "But I'M not that audience!" Well, then I guess you aren't that audience. That doesn't make the decision inappropriate.

Edited by klecser

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52 minutes ago, klecser said:

Just out of curiosity, for which products have you been the art director?

I'm only a longtime Chaosium customer, who finds this cover dissuading me from purchasing the book.  Funnily enough, however, way back in sales & marketing for horror publishing, I have had to go toe-to-toe about art direction when it didn't embrace the genre.  Pursuing new customers is a worthy goal, but not at the risk of turning off one's base.

But if we're going to get into the details, Gateways to Terror has a uniformly bright color scheme presumably intended to "pop", with the dominant color of what you could call "Slimer green" contrasting against vivid violet-red of the artefact held by the figure on the left.  This may help it stand out among recent arrivals on the FLGS shelves, but at the cost of clashing with other Chaosium titles.  Lately, Chaosium's CoC titles have employed selectively bolder color design without sacrificing the overall dark tone.  For instance, the new Berlin book's brighter hues are well balanced with its shadows to create the atmosphere of a decadent city of the 20s, and it still fits in with titles in the Secrets of… series.  Breaking up the visual group character of a product line is bad idea, something that a lot of art directors need to be reminded of when they lose themselves in the designs of individual titles.  Looking a cover mock-up in isolation is gravely limited compared with viewing it alongside other books on a shelf to see whether or not the design really works.

Then there's issue of the somewhat cartoonish character design clashing with other Chaosium titles. The fleeing figures are arranged in a dynamic collective pose of "action", which draws the eye but works against setting a tone of fear.  Their individual stances tumble out of the focal point of the cover design, and the portly detective-type mopping his brow is purely comic.  This is reminiscent of Scooby-Doo, not Weird Tales.  Compare this to the very well arranged figures on the Starter Set's cover, which convey fear while still drawing the eye with their poses—that's exactly the way to catch the attention of potentially new CoC buyers when it's placed among intro sets in other genres (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), not by looking more like the competition.

I must say, though, I really like the choice of type and title treatment. It recalls art deco design and plays off the art nouveau style of the traditional CoC logo much better than I would have imagined.  It also looks like it will be legible at a distance, which is of key importance.

I'll sign off with one lesson that took a long time to sink in with me: Lurid horror covers work.  The kind of pre-code EC horror comics or Weird Tales covers pushing at the boundaries of good taste is the secret point of the horror genre.  Yes, they get pushback from store buyers, along with the occasional tongue-clucking from parental groups, but once they're on the shelves, they're like magnets for their audience.  Take a little risk, add a splash of blood.

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9 hours ago, Travern said:

That may work for players coming out of D&D or Mansions of Madness or for horror fans of Goosebumps rather than HPL.  Otherwise, I find it to be too silly.  The artist Chris Huth is quite capable of producing frightening Lovecraftian illustrations (check out his B&W work for Sentinel Hill Press), so I have to assume the responsibility lies with the art direction.

I think the cover is great (and I have a lot to say about art at Chaosium) - at the end of the day remember, this is a cover for a commercial product and we have many different audiences with many different sets of expectations. What doesn't work for one audience can work brilliantly for another. I mean heck, I had one dude on social media complaining about the "low quality art" in the new RuneQuest stuff.

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11 hours ago, klecser said:

You realize that most new Call of Cthulhu players are coming from DND, right? The future success of Call of Cthulhu is not going to be based off of what veterans do and do not purchase. It's going to be based off the strength of recruiting new players. The art makes complete sense, from a marketing standpoint, targeting the likely audience. "But I'M not that audience!" Well, then I guess you aren't that audience. That doesn't make the decision inappropriate.

It's not about who you target. It's that there is a mismatch between marketing and the actual content. I really like this art. I also like the A Cold Fire Within art. But that is a Pulp Cthulhu product, and this is (probably) not.

People might buy this expecting something completely different. Something lighter, pulpy or scooby-dooy. New players (coming from D&D) are more in danger here as they don't know what to look for, but we do. Maybe these are lighter pulpy adventures, who knows. Then there is no problem. What is really important that the art should be in line with the content.

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6 hours ago, Jeff said:

I think the cover is great (and I have a lot to say about art at Chaosium) - at the end of the day remember, this is a cover for a commercial product and we have many different audiences with many different sets of expectations. What doesn't work for one audience can work brilliantly for another. I mean heck, I had one dude on social media complaining about the "low quality art" in the new RuneQuest stuff.

I remain confident that Jeff and Mike understand how to craft products that appeal to the BREADTH of their market. And that is really the key word. Markets are broader than most people think. Jeff's anecdote illustrates not only how extremely individualized some gamers are in their art preferences, but it also shows the sense of entitlement gamers have over products. It is one of the least appealing aspects of the hobby. "My preference is the RIGHT preference, and if only these foolish designers would do what I say, they'd be more successful!" The disrespect for professionalism in our society is palpable.

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4 hours ago, stadi said:

It's not about who you target. It's that there is a mismatch between marketing and the actual content. I really like this art. I also like the A Cold Fire Within art. But that is a Pulp Cthulhu product, and this is (probably) not.

This cover would be absolutely fine for a Pulp Cthulhu product.  I liked the cover art to A Cold Fire Within well enough with regard to how it distinguished itself from the regular CoC product line, and similarly, the recent "Weird West" titles need a slightly different aesthetic approach.  But if Gateways to Terror doesn't take a lighter approach to its Mythos adventures, then this cover is a poor fit.

And to reiterate, I really like Chris Huth's art overall.  You can see his work across multiple genres on his website, chrishuth.com, particularly his work on CoC 7th ed. and Night's Black Agents.

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One thing I would like to add: Chaosium is doing a fantastic job in addressing  representation, not just in terms of content  (eg the changes to the new MON edition), but also the cover art. Great stuff.

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I don't care about representation. I care about horror rpg covers looking horrific. I have seen thousands of horror movies, I have collected them since I was 12 (47 now), I have read tons of horror novels and horror comics. Horror is my favourite genre. And I do know that good horrific covers sell both horror movies, novels and metal albums. Why do you think Iron Maiden's Eddie has become such an icon in metal? Look at the early covers. Now, the artist Derek Riggs was sort of canned when his Eddie art became more and more cartoony, just before Fear of the Dark, which I think is an interesting parallell to Chaosiums cover art. I want horror art to be creepy/mysterious/bloody/disgusting/scary again. One can at least try. Chaosium might dismiss old horror farts like me and try to cater to a younger, broader audience/a D&D crowd like some have stated. Ok, I sort of get that (but I got hooked on Maiden back in 1983 at 11 because of the Piece of Mind-cover, but what do they know about marketing?). But why jolly green colours and tentacles? Tentacles aren't scary unless you are treading open water IRL. You have a plethora of Mythos-creatures that look scarier than that. Because this is what you unintentionally get with jolly green and tentacles. Look at it and tremble:

TYV12526lg.jpg

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But ... it’s trying to seduce and corrupt the kids.  Weasel its way onto the pillows of innocents, and then ... (shudder)!  😳

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The cover is fine, I don't see why it's becoming a big deal. Interestingly enough, however, I went back to check the previous CoC product covers and the number of covers featuring investigators (or any other kind of "normal character type") is incredibly low -- most covers only feature places, unspeakable monsters, or, at best, some humanoid monster. I wonder if that's what looks off to some people.

The Dreamland art detail is totally awesome, thanks for sharing!

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On 7/26/2019 at 12:06 AM, midwinter said:

Because this is what you unintentionally get with jolly green and tentacles. Look at it and tremble:

TYV12526lg.jpg

Given some recent events the chibi cthulhu might come back around to being a more potent symbol of horror than Eddie... 

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On 7/26/2019 at 5:06 AM, midwinter said:

I don't care about representation. I care about horror rpg covers looking horrific.

You know that they need not be mutually exclusive, right...?

Edited by Addison
The use of ellipsis was deemed appropriate.

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9 hours ago, Addison said:

You know that they need not be mutually exclusive, right...?

Well, it all depends on the art I guess. The art could also just be a case of tokenism.

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Sorry to derail, but can you give me an example, hypothetical or otherwise?

Just so I understand exactly what you mean.

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35 minutes ago, Addison said:

Sorry to derail, but can you give me an example, hypothetical or otherwise?

Just so I understand exactly what you mean.

I'm sure you understand what I mean, really. Illustrations that has an air of representation, but where the characters have different genders, skin colour, etc, just for the sake of avoiding complaints about the products and their artwork not being inclusive enough. Or just for the sake of being inclusive regardless of historical context. The representation in itself might come off as being this way, like for instance if a modern era CoC scenario takes place before 2016 and has an illustration that depicts a female US infantry soldier. Or if a scenario takes place in the early 1900s Sweden, in Arvidsjaur way up north, and one of the local NPCs is portrayed as being black/Hispanic/Asian?.

Edited by midwinter

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I think you may have added a few unnecessary words. 

Perhaps it's not: 'for the sake of avoiding complaints about the products and their artwork not being inclusive enough'.

Perhaps it's simply: 'for the sake of being inclusive'.

Obviously I can't speak directly for Chaosium, or others, so it's just an educated guess.

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1 hour ago, midwinter said:

Or if a scenario takes place in the early 1900s Sweden, in Arvidsjaur way up north, and one of the local NPCs is portrayed as being black/Hispanic/Asian?.

Such an NPC could be inspired by:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-27/first-black-settler-in-iceland-hans-jonathan-slave-saga/11228536

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26 minutes ago, MOB said:

It's a fascinating life story, but in Arvidsjaur in the early 1900s? Nope, not a chance. And any writer/artist creating a black character in that setting is just doing it for the sake of being inclusive, with no regards to real history. It's like putting a norwegian viking in the 9th century kingdom of Silla (in Korea). Cool, perhaps, but believable? Nope.

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2 hours ago, midwinter said:

It's a fascinating life story, but in Arvidsjaur in the early 1900s? Nope, not a chance. And any writer/artist creating a black character in that setting is just doing it for the sake of being inclusive, with no regards to real history. It's like putting a norwegian viking in the 9th century kingdom of Silla (in Korea). Cool, perhaps, but believable? Nope.

I think you're dramatically underestimating how much people in 1900 got around in search of a buck. Try reading the Fifth Thule Expedition bit about black Inuit. 

Edited by umlauthuth

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34 minutes ago, umlauthuth said:

I think you're dramatically underestimating how much people in 1900 got around in search of a buck. Try reading the Fifth Thule Expedition bit about black Inuit. 

I don't understand what the Fifth Thule Expedition has to do with Arvidsjaur in Norrbotten, Sweden? And if you don't find black people living in Arvidsjaur in the early 1900s odd, I guess you have to trust me. I'm Swedish after all. I'm not ready to go digging for old census records for you just yet. And as for black Inuit, do you mean Knud Rasmussens team met African-looking ones? You'll have to give me some kind of reference here then. I know how Inuit look like and I have seen pictures online from Rasmussens expedition. I haven't seen any black Inuit though.

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1 hour ago, midwinter said:

You'll have to give me some kind of reference here then.

Rasmussen's narrative of the Fifth Thule Expedition, pg 46-48 of the 27 edition. As the passage indicates, by 1900 even otherwise "remote" areas of the world had been integrated into the global economy, and with that integration comes the movement of labour.

EDIT: I do think that's kind of a distraction from the point, too, since even a scenario set in Arvidsjaur will, unless it's a one-shot, be written with the presumption that it's about 3-6 Americans coming there.

Edited by umlauthuth
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1 hour ago, umlauthuth said:

Rasmussen's narrative of the Fifth Thule Expedition, pg 46-48 of the 27 edition. As the passage indicates, by 1900 even otherwise "remote" areas of the world had been integrated into the global economy, and with that integration comes the movement of labour.

EDIT: I do think that's kind of a distraction from the point, too, since even a scenario set in Arvidsjaur will, unless it's a one-shot, be written with the presumption that it's about 3-6 Americans coming there.

Thanks for the reference. I saved the book. So it was a black cook on a whaler that had a child (a girl) with an Inuit woman. I was as surprised as Rasmussen was. I had my own little theory concerning the arctic explorer Matthew Henson but I was wrong.

But when it comes to Arvidsjaur there is actually a Swedish translation of CoC in the works, so maybe it wouldn't be a scenario with Americans in it. But there must have been a few Americans travelling to northern Sweden by the 1920s. There were 7007 people living in Arvidsjaur socken (parish) in 1920. 833 of them were Sami. Zero Finns though which surprised me. The parish covers an area about 6 111,56 km2.

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