Thursday, December 21, 2023

Vastarian: The Cults of Vastarian

Vastarian is an open invitational where we are encouraging people to create Imperial Cults that are at war with each other on the cathedral world (Vastarian). While we have shown two cults on the planet (the Church of the Red Athenæum and a faction of Spyreheads), we wanted to do more to give people ideas to create their own Vastarian cults. After some deliberation, we came to the conclusion that some Vastarian artwork would be an ideal way to get peoples’ imaginations flowing. Having worked with Martin McCoy on multiple volumes of 28 magazine, we knew he would excel at creating some concept art for Vastarian. We commissioned him to create a piece of artwork that displayed a host of different cults, to emphasize how eccentric and divergent they can be from one another. Ultimately, Martin created two amazing companion pieces. At the time of writing, you can still get prints of each piece of artwork on his Etsy page!

We asked Martin to say a few words about the creation of the pieces:

“These two paintings happened in the way I like all of my work ideally to come together: I had an outline in my head of a few elements I needed to include, spyreheads, Church of the Red Athenaeum, my own cult of head worshipers, and then a lot of freedom to figure out the rest while working on the page. I knew I wanted to have them walking toward the viewer in a foggy processional with enough banners and heads in the background to suggest a much larger parade behind them. So in pencil, I drew up a group of fantastical freaks without letting myself build too much rational or head cannon yet. My goal here was to invite the viewer to invent their own explanations for these particular devotees and then hopefully feel inspired to start populating the incense fogged background with their own imagination. After applying some yellow and pink washes for color, I started blocking in shapes in black and white gouache and soft body acrylic. Gouache is particularly forgiving to work with; a lot like watercolor, it can be reactivated and moved after its applied and can go on pretty thin without looking crummy. That forgivingness in the medium really let me take my time and figure out these characters as I was going. I didn’t really have anything in mind for the female figure in “Cults I” until I was laying down some black and started seeing a sort of shiny leather vestment. However, I decided I needed to break that up with something interesting, so it wasn't entirely black shininess, so I started trying out some shards of bone tied to her. After about 30 minutes of painting her, I had an idea in my head who she was, how she worships, and I enjoyed the process a lot more, and she fit into the flow and rhythm of the piece better than if I went into it with a rigid idea of 4 characters and costumes I had to render.

Ultimately I want viewers to be asking as many questions as I’m answering with my designs. The best part of the Vastarian invitational, to me, is the invitation to make our own distortions of the Imperial cult, and too much clarity and explanation on my part would only foul that up. I had to keep in mind that the goal of these two paintings wasn’t to showcase my own storytelling, but to create a springboard for players to showcase their own.”

We hope you like the pieces of art Martin created as much as we do and that they push you to create your own Vastarian cult! If you do, know that we plan to be at Under the Dice Fest and Adepticon in the first quarter of 2024, and would love to play a game with you!

Again, you can get a print of these Vastarian pieces or of other artwork Martin created on his Etsy page!

- Eric Wier


  1. These are great - very evocative of the ideas and background you have put together so far...and inspirational too!