Illustrating The Shipwreck Arcana was an interesting challenge. The deck that you play with is meant to be an actual tarot deck from a fictional setting. But what characters would be depicted in this deck-within-a-game?
In our world's tarot decks, the cards feature a number of romance-era figures and concepts, with one of the most well-known illustrated versions dating back to 1910. The setting is somewhat abstract and non-specific, with a sort of Shakespearean feel.
In The Shipwreck Arcana, we decided that the deck was illustrated to depict similarly abstract characters and ideas, all set within a vaguely sinister world on the brink of collapse. Is the deck mirroring the setting that it's supposed to exist in? Or is it meant as an escapist depiction of an altogether different place, much like real tarot decks feel to us? We assume it's a bit of both -- hence the introduction to the game:
Regardless, the deck needed to have an internal consistency imparted by its fictional creator. To begin, Kevin made a giant spreadsheet and began cross-referencing the cards so that each would feature subtle nods to 3 others. This was meant to form a tapestry of internal world-building that the player (fictional or real) could uncover as they interacted with the deck.
Many of these references were dropped in the final art to reduce visual noise, emphasize other elements, or serve the overall composition. Still, a large number remain. This animation shows which cards still feature a graphical call-out to each other (the gold lines) and which were intended to, but ultimately didn't (the silver lines):
Note that most gold lines indicate a one-way link. For example, The Rider and The Key are linked in gold, despite The Rider not actually appearing on The Key's art.
You can browse through the card art in the gallery below. How many connections can you spot?