Shadows of Esteren is a tabletop fantasy RPG with some of the most gorgeous art and design we've ever seen. The upcoming Occultism book lets characters gain esoteric knowledge, but life is Esteren is plenty dangerous even when you know the unknowable.

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Billed as, "somewhere between Ravenloft, Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu," Shadows of Esteren caught my attention last year with its pervasive sense of gothic gloom and haunting mystery. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but the game emphasizes investigation and a fantasy take on survival horror that sounds pretty compelling.

Their latest release is a sourcebook (which the French publishers call "thema") that adds occult knowledge and abilities to the player characters' options. The Kickstarter has already been a smashing success, although it ends in a few hours. They've hit all kinds of cool stretch goals, like an Esteren bestiary, an album of thematic music, and an actual copy of an in-game occult book called The Black Moon Handbook, which contains information the GM can use to create adventures, or it can be given to the players as a very elaborate prop that gives them inside mystical knowledge.

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I asked the designers about the Shadows of Esteren's theme and art direction. They responded: "This particular atmosphere is drawn from several sources of inspiration: the harshness and romanticism of Mel Gibson's Braveheart; the universes of Tim Burton, particularly the one of Sleepy Hollow; Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke; as well as Berserk, the manga by Kentaro Miura. Our main inspiration is classic art : german romanticism, symbolism, art nouveau. Some of our picture are direct tribute to classic paintings."

All of the art featured here is by an artist who goes by Gawain. Art aficionados may recognize one piece in particular as a tribute to the famous French painting La Liberté guidant le peuple by Eugène Delacroix.

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