So, we’ve had a lot of great feedback from you folks- I really love it when you all start describing what you’re seeing in your mind’s eyes. Ethan and I took the original write-ups, and with very few notes back and forth, came up with these revised descriptions based on the ideas generated by these discussions. Ethan has been nice enough to include the why’s of our thinking here, so, I hope, folks can see that we considered all of your ideas before coming to these descripts. Sometimes we changed the pieces big time, others we’re very close to the originals. Thanks again for lending us your ideas and enthusiasm. We’ll be back after the new year with more blogs as W20 really starts to get rolling. (I understand the the writing assignments are being handed out this week).
Black Furies: Mari Cabrah is our centerpiece; she’s fairly recognizable in Homid, Glabro or Crinos, so any of those would work well. A violent piece; Mari’s a fighter. Probably have her taking apart a Black Spiral Dancer, and another one bleeding out on the rocks. Set it outside, in the Mediterranean – rocky slopes, the sea in the distance maybe. In the foreground the head of a Gorgonlike statue lies among the rocks, with snaky hair and a foul expression – a nod to the female figures of vengeance from myth.
Ethan’s comments: Mari is one of the two signature characters that became signature characters not by design, but by just being so distinct and awesome that she caught our imaginations. Josh Timbrook said Albrecht killed her in the “Flipbook of Doom,” but Bill and Rob Hatch vetoed that, feeling the setting benefitted more by having Mari in it. I agree with them. Distinctive in Homid as well in Crinos, no question in my head that she belongs in this piece. We shifted to something more generally Mediterranean for the scene, to imply the tribal origins without being too stereotypical – I’d almost have gone for something Scythian if I thought it wasn’t too obscure.
Knocking apart a slave ring was an interesting suggestion, but I felt it would make for a messy composition – you need at least one Fury, plus enemies, plus victims, plus enough of an environment to tell you where they are – and that’s a lot of distractions leading away from the Fury who needs to be the clear star. It’s the sort of illustration that would make a good fullpage for a Tribebook, but I felt we needed more focus for a tribal fullpage.
Bone Gnawers: The setting will really sell this one: someplace run-down and hellish, a Rust Belt abandoned construction site or junkyard or junk-strewn underpass. The kind of urban wasteland that the Bone Gnawers populate. We see one to three Bone Gnawers (artist’s choice), maybe in a mix of Hispo, Crinos or Homid, clambering over the junk or abandoned vehicles or whatever, like they’re stealthily creeping up on someone. They’re the stealthy boogeymen of the bad part of town, and they’re about to tear someone apart. Avoid making them look like luckless and homeless: they’re street survivors, hunters, with improvised weapons that have been turned into fetishes, and strong enough to uproot a parking meter and murder you with it.
Ethan’s comments: This one seemed to not inspire much controversy. Either we didn’t have a lot of Bone Gnawer fans commenting or the Bone Gnawer fans were relatively content. I’ve always been really fond of the Tribe of Rat, and I wanted to catch the idea that the “lowest of the low” isn’t outside the Garou ecosystem: it’s an entire rung of the ecosystem they have to themselves. Lowest does not mean weakest or most cowardly. The back alley, the sewer, the abandoned block – those are their domain.
Children of Gaia: A more peaceful shot for this one. I kind of like the idea of a Child of Gaia (in Homid or Lupus form) crouched over a small luminous seedling that’s growing up in a blasted piece of ground. Around it is carnage, though: dead Pentex soldiers or fomori or something, and the blood pools and runs around, with the seedling on kind of a dry, pure island. The Child of Gaia doesn’t look happy about what she’s done, but she’s done it all the same: we see her as someone that believes in nurturing and someday healing the world, but who has to kill in order to protect.
Ethan’s comments: This page furthered some discussion, but ultimately it was a motif I chose for a couple of reasons. The seedling, more than a human or packmate, represents Gaia – focusing on protecting humanity over the entirety of the planet feels a bit more like the humanism of Mage than the fight for balance of Werewolf. “Your Mother is dying – when will you Rage?” I think the juxtaposition of compassion and the painful necessity of doing what werewolves were created to do, being the Fangs of Gaia, speaks to the heart of the tribe.
Fianna: Three Fianna in full Crinos form, howling to the moon in triumph. Outdoors, could be a hilltop in Europe or Appalachia. At least one of the Fianna wears heavy Celtic jewelry and has a long gae bolg of a spear; another should have some more modern accessories (a web-belt or other bits of camping/survival gear), and the third shaggy with little decoration (a lupus, maybe). They surround a standing stone that’s carved with Garou glyphs (most notably the Fianna glyph), and several severed fomor heads are piled around its base. The werewolves are bloodied but exultant: their howl is a song of glory and passion.
Ethan’s comments: I was reminded that the Fianna should howl, and I slapped myself for forgetting that. We should absolutely have a fullpage where werewolves howl to the moon, and while the Red Talons would also work (as the most wolfish of werewolves), the Fianna are locked in. The fairy ring is also just the right amount of hint to the tribe’s old ties – while we have lots of European fans who hate the idea of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People with werewolves”, this is the kind of hint that can be read as benevolent or potentially sinister, depending on just how “good” you prefer your Good Folk to be.
Get of Fenris: A violent piece. A Get in Crinos form, some bits of Viking-esque trappings, soaked in blood and with several open wounds, in the middle of battle against Black Spiral Dancers wearing bits and pieces of modern trappings (like a commando unit, think Dog Soldiers, gone horribly twisted). A second Get, sorely wounded, crouches defiant behind the first, ready to fight on to the end; alternately, if you prefer the look of this, the other Get may already be dead, klaive laid across his or her chest by the furious packmate who now tears the enemy apart for retribution. At least two enemies in human form (Dancers, or maybe fomori?) wearing paramilitary gear are torn to bits on the ground: the Get have made a good accounting for themselves.
Ethan’s comments: Some of my metalhead friends would never forgive me if I didn’t show the Get of Fenris at the very least in a page about fighting. While I understand the appeal of showing them doing something nonviolent to break the stereotype, to some extent it’s like having Evan as the signature Wendigo: the Get have only one fullpage, and they’re the most warrior of warrior tribes. The fallen ally proved the stronger idea, I note – it shows us the tribe’s depth of feeling for one another. They’re willing to die to the last in Ragnarok, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about losing their brothers and sisters.
Glass Walkers: A Glass Walker in Glabro, wearing a hoodie but with wolf-eyes gleaming out from under it and those taloned Glabro hands. Pretty good casual street clothes: a nice vest over the hoodie, good slacks, sort of like someone that’s going to an interesting outdoor concert. She’s confronting a small group of werewolf hunters – humans, in army surplus gear, with guns – in a lonely train terminal (maybe a little art deco) at night. The big plate glass windows behind her are exploding into shards, flying around her and at them, as she gestures: she’s using the supernatural Gift of Elemental Favor to command the element of glass and attack them.
Ethan’s comments: The original plan was… okay, but not inspired. We got a lot of great feedback on how to fix it – problem was it wasn’t exactly all of a piece. Suggestions ranged from “cyberimplants” to “not too much tech,” from “cubicle farm” to “outdoors,” from “hacker with a room full of flatscreens” to “urban predator.” As you can see, there was no real consensus for me to work with. Ultimately the recommendation that really sang to me was showing the moon, reinforcing the connection to Gaia even in the cities. The Glass Walker, not seated or standing, but in motion. It took a while to get the right expression for this, so here’s the next pass.
Red Talons: Lupus or Hispo form, several of them. Hunting through the woods. They’re showing that kind of wide-eyed excitement and snarling jaws you see on those photos of wolves fighting, just this side of crazy but clearly healthy animals. One of the trees (or boulders!) nearby has the claw marks of the Red Talons tribal glyph. At least one has jaws smeared with blood.
Ethan’s comments: Not a lot of controversy here; notably one suggestion was to stress that the tribe is dying and sick, but this is a tribal fullpage. You don’t want to turn people off of any tribe with their fullpage art – there are reasons aplenty for some people to say “wow, I would never play a Talon” in the text, so that’s covered. It’s worth noting, I guess, that one of the things I love about Red Talons art is that it’s always so very lupus: you know they’ll have the most art in the wild, stressing that desire to cast off everything human that lurks at the heart of the werewolf myth.
Shadow Lords: Margrave Konietzko should be the head of this piece. Homid form, sword-klaive in hand; he’s out on the balcony of an old Eastern European castle, manor or other structure. A thunderstorm rolls in the sky, and the lightning half-lights the Margrave and half-throws him into shadow. He’s giving an order to some other Shadow Lords who are visible only as silhouettes, great thick-necked werewolves that are about to go out and rend the hell out of their enemies. The piece emphasizes their subtlety and cunning; this is a tribe that will hit you hard when you’re not looking. Lightning and shadow – the Shadow Lords are so well suited to art with strong chiaroscuro.
Ethan’s comments: The Margrave has rightfully earned a place as one of the greats. Created to give Albrecht a more sane and dangerous rival, he jumped in with a strong visual image, established himself as a rival with a point, and earned immortality with his speech from Apocalypse. I can’t think of a more Shadow Lordish Shadow Lord.
The “add thunder” feedback was precisely what was needed. Didn’t have much arguments here.
Silent Striders: The Strider should be in Crinos form; the Anubis-looking werewolf is just so distinct. Bits of Egyptian jewelry are of course appropriate. This piece should emphasize speed, grace, agility – the Strider is leaping at full tilt on a vampire. (Naturally it would take place at night; moon in the sky!) This is taking place in a barren stretch of desert: not Egypt, literally, but you can pick from Middle East, American Southwest or Australian outback. The vampire is holding some sort of mystical artifact, a statuette probably, that indicates it was stolen from Garou or their Kin – something ancient and Assyrian or Persian for Middle East, something Native American if the Southwest, something Australian aboriginal (from the lost tribe of the Bunyip!) if Australia. We could even throw in an owl (I love barn owls, but you can choose) in an upper corner – it might look at first like the owl is trying to escape the fray, but then when you realize that Owl is the Strider totem, perhaps that’s how the Strider found the vampire…
Ethan’s comments: This also seemed to be one of the more popular concepts. Mostly we added more detail. The desert scene at night is something I expect Ron to do well; he loves landscapes, and this is a striking one.
Silver Fangs: A duel, a struggle for power. Lord Albrecht (not King Albrecht, mind; he should look as he did as of 2nd edition or his Rage card) in a duel against another white-haired Silver Fang; Albrecht is in Glabro form, and defending himself without actively trying to kill his opponent (yet). However, his opponent, in Crinos, is mad-eyed and clearly not extending the same courtesy. The setting is outdoors, probably on a high mountaintop with a falcon circling overhead and the moon in the sky. There may be some other Silver Fangs on the lower slopes watching the duel, but they’re not critical; include them if the composition is right.
Ethan’s comments: Remember when I said Mari was one of the two signature characters not by design but by awesome? Albrecht’s the other. He is archetypal of the player character sort of Silver Fang, the redeemer (I’ve heard many grand stories of players’ Silver Fangs rising to power and renewal). But it was a good suggestion to have a duel, and that gives us a chance to showcase the other kind of Silver Fang, the Storyteller character rival and madman, the King Lear that players so desperately want to avoid becoming. It also shows us that the internal conflicts among the Garou Nation are present even at the very top.
Stargazers: Someone in Glabro form, trying to control their Rage through doing martial arts katas or something similar. The werewolf’s face is contorted with anger but they’re pushing it back with discipline. A temple courtyard or Zen garden might make a good background with the kind of circular patterns that imply motion and cycles; stars overhead. Perhaps there are old claw marks and cracks on the pillars: this place has been defended before in the past, and it will be defended again.
Ethan’s comments: The Stargazers have always been tricky – they represent, essentially, the desire to not really be a werewolf so much, yet people play Stargazers because they want to play werewolves. (Werewolves with high Willpower, I suspect.) There wasn’t much dissent on the idea I’d proposed, so it stays fairly intact – the appeal of the Stargazers is that they can achieve their goals, and the interesting thing about them is that it isn’t easy.
Uktena: An Uktena in mid-ritual, binding a snarling Bane into a ritual painting on a rock. The Bane is being sucked in, turned into an elaborate drawing. It’s fighting as best it can, but so is she: it’s a battle of wills that she’s winning. Surrounding the Uktena as she performs this rite is a ghostly form of another spirit, an antlered serpent (a small avatar of Uktena itself). The werewolf is in Homid or Glabro; her trappings should tend toward a mix of modern and Hopi, Pueblo or Navajo, one of the Southwestern nations.
Ethan’s comments: Another one that seemed to hit the mark first try, though I was rightfully called out on being a little generic about the American Indian identity. So we’re going to the deserts to contrast with the Wendigo. The mythological Uktena is technically a Cherokee critter, but with the Croatan also East Coast, that must have been a pretty crowded region… so we’ll target the other portion of traditional Uktena stomping grounds. for Another excellent point to add more character would be to invoke the Bane Tenders – which makes the ritual far more interesting now that it’s an outright struggle.
Wendigo: A hulking Wendigo in Crinos form, stalking through a winter landscape (Canadian or Pacific Northwest-looking forest). There’s blood on the snow, and the Wendigo has the severed head of an enemy (human-looking with sharp teeth, as if a lightly mutated fomor or a Dancer with odd dentition in Homid) in its hand: his muzzle is also blood-stained, maybe we even see a carcass behind him with a bite taken out of its torso. Amerind trappings, of course. The violence has just happened, but the Wendigo has yet to calm down and revert to human form. The Wendigo stares out at the viewer, the bloodlust still evident in his or her eyes.
Ethan’s comments: The most comments we got from this were of my own thinking: “not Evan, please.” I agree; Evan’s a good character, but he’s not good at being an iconic Wendigo. He contradicts the point of the tribe, like an old money Bone Gnawer. Naturally, I wanted snow and the hint of cannibalism in this piece — those are the motifs that tie the classic wendigo myth to the werewolf dynamic, and I have always found it works great.
No Fourteenth Piece?: No fourteenth piece.
Ethan’s comments: Thirteen fullpages is plenty; we don’t want to burn Ron out! So we’re sticking to the Garou Nation – these are the archetypes that make Werewolf: The Apocalypse great. I don’t mean to imply that the Black Spiral Dancers aren’t a tribe, or that the Bunyip or Croatan weren’t – but none of them are currently in the Garou Nation. You’ll get some pretty iconic art for those other guys anyway, never fear.