Chicago-based artist Winslow Dumaine (who you might remember from his excellent Dark Souls 3 jailer costume) channels his experiences with pain and suffering into his work, whether it’s photography or a dark stand up comedy album. His latest work is directly inspired by the Souls series, including Dark Souls and Bloodborne: The Tarot Restless, a tarot deck and book set in a strange fantasy universe.
Take a quick look at the art and you’ll see the connections immediately. Emaciated kings and queens, horrifying monsters, and characters with names as evocative as their appearance—each card looks like someone (or thing) that would fit right into a Souls game. It almost as if From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki consulted on the project himself.
But the Souls inspiration isn’t just visual. Dumaine wrote short stories for each of the 78 cards, all set in the same fantasy universe. With nothing but a few paragraphs and card art to go on, Dark Souls lore-sters might enjoy the deck for its storytelling alone, even if they never use it to read into their fortunes.
Here’s the project synopsis from the Kickstarter page:
“The Tarot Restless is a total overhaul of the classic deck of tarot cards. Each of the hand-drawn cards is accompanied by a short story set in a consistent fantasy universe. The artwork is inspired by video games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Hand of Fate, and Silent Hill, authors like H. P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson, and other artists like Wayne Barlowe, Guillermo del Toro, Zdzisław Beksiński, and Francis Bacon. The deck is guided by themes of infertility, betrayal, abuse, manipulation, and revenge, as well as camaraderie, loyalty, and forgiveness.”
I collected a few card images that especially remind me of the Souls games. If you play them a decent amount, you’ll likely spot the similarities too.
Dark Souls is known first for being difficult, but I’d argue its lasting power is in the somber art and the tragic, fragmented history of its world. Empty ruins and the strange monsters that reside in them have plenty to say about our reflexes and timing, but more to say about the vices and desires of mankind, and how our very existence is sort of a guarantee that we’re doomed. It’s not exactly chipper stuff and no surprise Dumaine found them inspiring.
The decks aren’t immediately available though. You’ll have to wait for the Kickstarter campaign to wrap up (or contribute now) to get your own set, though so far the campaign has been very successful, making over five times its $1000 goal with a few weeks remaining.