One of the most powerful and iconic pieces of artwork from Cursed City is this image of the city watch on patrol. As soon as I saw it knew this game was for me.
We’re used to seeing battle scenes in which the undead rampage against hapless mortals, or two armies are pitted against one another in desperate and pitiless combat. This however is something more subtle, and more sinister. This is life under vampiric rule. The undead have conquered the city and there’s not a lot poor mortals can do about it. Skeletons walk the street brazenly in broad daylight – and there’s something particularly spooky about that I always think. No tricks of the light to confuse the eye, no uncertainty about just what might be lurking in the shadows, no all-to-human fear of the dark to add a spice of dread to something which – once the sun is up – will prove to be quite mundane. Nor is there any hope that if one were to survive the night – barricading oneself inside one of those crumbling buildings, dousing the lights and waiting out the darkness with one’s heart hammering in one’s chest – that daybreak will make the bad things go away. The sun is well up, but the dead still walk.
What about the child? Somehow the threat to them feels more inevitable than immediate. Yes, they might well be cut down any moment – and clearly civilians have been killed here, we can see at least two corpses in the background. My interpretation however is that the skeletons will pass on by, that the child will live – at least for now – scavenging through the rubble for sustenance, their playthings skulls and bones – if they play at all. In the faces of the adults all around them they will see only constant fear. It will be a life, to use a topical phrase, in constant lockdown; a life with little room for love or joy – and someday the dead will come for them.
Probably as a result of the impact this image had on me I’ve been particularly drawn to the skeletons from Cursed City and so even though I’m not yet ready to focus all my attention on the game I couldn’t resist painting a few of them. Here we have the first recruits to the Ulfenwatch; law enforcement Cursed City style.
The 2021 graduating class of the Ulfenkarn Law Academy pose for a group photo.
…and with daylight fading Watch Captain Halgrim gathers his troops for another patrol.
Seeing all the skeletons makes everything feel a bit grim and hopeless doesn’t it? What we need around here is a hero…