New company Valar Project, Inc. has announced the Book of Erotic Fantasy, an Open Gaming License RPG, for release in October. It will be a 192-page, full-color hardcover at $34.95. The book will have 70-80 photo images, which is a slightly higher ratio of art to text than the typical Wizards of the Coast release (17-18% art vs. the WotC percentage of around 15%). The illustrations will all be photos using live models, which will then be manipulated digitally to create images of elves, fairies, nymphs, and other fantasy characters. Gwen Kestrel, who's been an RPG editor for Wizards of the Coast, and another writer who wants to be anonymous will write the Book of Erotic Fantasy. The photos will be by fetish fashion photographer Doug Safford.
Valar Project, Inc. is owned by Anthony Valterra, who just left Wizards of the Coast after a three-year stint in several D&D roles and will serve as business manager; Susan Geluardi, who's the art and creative director; and a third, anonymous, principal who will focus on production issues.
We asked Valterra what rating the content would earn if it were a movie. He told us that the illustrations would get an R rating, while the text might get an NC-17 rating. He pointed out, however, that a lot of the text is game material, which by its nature is quite dry. The 'flavor text,' little stories and vignettes to illustrate the rule structure, will include more eroticism and that's the text that might justify an NC-17 rating.
Valterra said that Valar is in the process of negotiating distribution for the book, which he wants to be sold to hobby, game, and comic stores, and to bookstores. Valar will not be selling directly to retailers, and Valterra said that because of the size of the company, he hoped to be able to find a company that 'could take care of all the things that I need to do.' Two channels where Valterra expects a warmer reception for the Book of Erotic Fantasy are bookstores and comic stores. He said that book buyers 'didn't even blink' when WotC's Book of Vile Darkness (see 'Controversy Erupts over Mature D&D Content') was released, and comic retailers have long experience in dealing with publications that feature more adult content. According to Valterra, WotC is planning a D&D push into comic stores with D&D 3.5 (see 'Wizards of the Coast Goes Beyond Third Edition'), and Valar hopes to follow that push, reasoning that with the experience of selling 'mature' product, comic stores will provide a receptive environment for the Book of Erotic Fantasy.
A 32-page magazine format preview will be sold to consumers at GenCon in Indianapolis in July at a $9.95 retail price, and distributed free to retailers shortly thereafter. Valterra said that Valar was doing the preview because of Wizards of the Coast's experience with Book of Vile Darkness. 'People's imagination of the 'horror' did not match up to what we were doing,' he said. 'Unfortunately, because they couldn't see it, retailers were very hesitant.' Concerned that retailers will be even more hesitant in ordering The Book of Erotic Fantasy, because they will be worried that it might be '...so horrible that my eyeballs will fall out when I look at it,' or '...like Hustler, only worse,' Valar wants to publish the preview to show that the book will be '...somewhere between an R-rated movie and Playboy magazine.'
Valterra said he had been very encouraged by the initial Internet response to the book. 'There's as much traffic or more than there was on the Book of Vile Darkness, and it's more favorable than Book of Vile Darkness,' he said. 'I'm aware that's not really a fair comparison, but I'm very heartened by that.' Some non-gamers are expressing an intent to purchase the book because of the images, and because 'it will be an interesting book to have' he said. Valar recently launched its Website, www.Valarproject.com.
We asked Valterra why he thought nobody had ever done an erotic RPG product before. 'It's about ten years late,' he said, but noted that the Open Gaming License means that 'somebody can do that now and take that risk and know that some audience is going to be there. Beyond that it just took someone that was willing to take their money and invest it, and that would be me -- I'm risking a lot. I believe the gaming community can handle this product, and will enjoy this product.'
Asked whether Valar planned additional releases, Valterra said, 'We certainly hope to. We need to see what we can do with this and what our margins can be.'