Monday, May 16, 2016

Skyship Battles

While I designed an adventure for Calidar’s Skies of Fury, I had the opportunity to set up a possible ship-to-ship battle as one of the game’s outcomes. Skies of Fury is a promotional booklet available exclusively to the Kickstarter backers of my present main project, Beyond the Skies. This was the perfect opportunity to put some numbers on paper as regards the two vessels’ performances, and how they might relate to a hex grid.

One challenge is that Calidar is intended to use generic stats which can be fairly easily converted to your chosen RPG. I’m bringing this up because guidelines on such system-neutral game stats are included in Beyond the Skies (due out August 2016), along with extra details about ship stats and their armament. On the other hand, CAL1 In Stranger Skies, the original book in the Calidar series, delves into ship movement in a theoretical manner. This article helps clearing up a few things. Another challenge lies in how the maneuver diagram may be used with a hex grid.

First off: the stats!

Unless indicated otherwise, ratings (such as armor, abilities, defense checks, etc.) are expressed in the rules-neutral guidelines as percentages of customary ranges featured in the chosen game mechanics. For example, a Personality rating of 50 (%) would translate to a Charisma of 9 in a D&D game (50% of 18).

Structural Rating (SR): This number indicates how much damage a skyship can withstand before its enchantments fail catastrophically. At about 70% SR loss, a skyship becomes hard to maneuver and, if not in the Great Vault, starts losing altitude. A ship the size of the Star Phoenix has 120 SR, that is approximately 1 SR per foot of length (rounded up to the next ten). Subtract 20% for a clipper-style vessel (such as Alorean skyships). Add 20% for a skyship designed primarily for war rather than speed (such as Draconic vessels). Double the rating instead for a dwarven ironclad.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Thank you!

A tip o' the hat to you from the kings and queens, the heroes and villains, and all the creepy critters dwelling in The World Of Calidar. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Part Three: Gary Con VIII Video

The last part of what came through the eye of my camera consists of a collection of random video shorts (some are really, really short).  You can play the whole thing end to end and get a better sense of Gary Con's atmosphere, or hunt for specific parts you may be interested in.  Total time 23 minutes. Here is the list of contents and their timing:

  • Start: Frank Mentzer introducing his D&D game (VIP gaming room)
  • 03:08 Jim Ward speaking at his seminar on freelancing (auditorium)
  • 08:11 Luke Gygax running an AD&D game (open gaming area)
  • 09:10 Jeff Easley at the Gary Con HQ desk
  • 10:01 WWI air combat game (miniatures gaming room)
  • 10:58 Wayne "Von Deekin" Targo & Star Wars Armada game (miniatures gaming room)
  • 12:02 Gondor Civil War game (HMGS gaming area)
  • 12:54 Chronologically--Simon Todd, Lloyd Metcalf, Frank Mentzer, Diesel, Darlene, Jeff Butler, Lisa LaForce, Jeff Easley, Lou Zocchi, Tim Kask, and random crowd shots (Exhibitors' Hall)
  • 14:52 Duke Seifried and Peter Adkison (open gaming hallway)
  • 15:48 TSR party on Saturday evening--lots of former TSR folks here (main lobby lounge)
  • 17:34 Steve Pokorny & David Zeb Cook (VIP gaming room)
  • 17:57 Circus Maximus (miniatures gaming room)
  • 18:22 Ernie Gygax introducing his AD&D game (VIP gaming room)
  • 21:03 Merle Rasmussen and his Top Secret game (VIP gaming room)

That's it for now.  See you next year!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Part Two: Gary Con VIII Pictures

Already Day Two.  By the time I even paid attention, Days Three and Four came and went in a blur.  I was having way too much fun to take notice (I didn't *want* to).  Good thing I took pictures.  Dashing down hallways and up the stairs, randomly peeking into VIP game rooms, snapping shots here and there, catching a game whenever I could, hugging old friends, scribbling the occasional autograph, or grabbing some food along the way: all in a day's work.  Sleep would wait another day.  Onward!

Another days begins.  Behold dawn from one of the rooms at the Grand Geneva.  It's cold out, well below freezing, and wolves howl in the distance (they missed the convention), but this won't stop hours of hot and furious gaming just a few steps away. Thanks to Wendy Swanson Lord for this image.
Someone caught me in flagrante delicto while I plotted my fiendish move. I didn't "have a bad feeling about this," but the other side sure should've...  I ran Admiral Akbar, and my grinning partner on the right had Leia.  We'd just blown up an imperial corvette and were looking forward to cornering the now-unescorted imperial star destroyer foolishly bearing on us.  Leia was aboard the torpedo attack ship, playing very, very aggressively.  Akbar on the fleet's capital ship, ordered broadside after broadside, while shouting "It's a trap!" (Always wanted to say this...)  The alliance thus hammered their imperial foe, skillfully dodging a Gladiator attack vessel which never got a shot off on our ships.  Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker ambushed and killed Darth Vader and, with the rest of the X-Wings squadron, annihilated the imperial fleet's entire complement of tie-fighters.  A great victory for the alliance!
This is an earlier game.  I was on the imperial side... again.  This time we ran two Gladiator attack vessels and an imperial raider against a Corellian corvette and Mon-Calamari cruiser.  Hmmm... in retrospect this was rather bold of us.
Here's the imperial fleet's initial line up.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Part One: Gary Con VIII Pictures

At last, the convention is underway.  I was going to write an introduction, but then my day went from 6:00am to 11:30pm.  So, here we are, Monday morning already, with a bunch of pictures to format and little time to do so.  I'm glancing with despair at even more from Days Two-to-Four that will need some attention as well.  I'll try to comment as I paste these images into the blog (reformatting them is about as exciting as root canal, but hey, at least they'll all be here for years to come.)  Hope some of the enjoyment I experienced will transpire through what you can see, and that I can share the fun with you.  If not, well then, start planning now to come next year!

Early morning and the registration line is growing.  Good thing that more than half of the attendees were pre-registered!
Breakfast in a blur...
The first game is already over--Wings of Glory. About two fun-filled hours of WWI aerial combat, trying to guess the other guy's moves and ending up in the silliest situations. Wayne "Von Deekin" Targo, the referee, modified the standard rules (for the best) to make the game more detailed, colorful, and exciting. It's still pretty simple. I've been a fan since the first day I tried this. When Gary Con IX comes around, I expect to see full tables. I'll be attending (even though I'm generally not registered for events). It's not Mystara or Calidar, but it flies, therefore... If you're local, be sure to join the Southern Lakes Area Gamers (aka SLAG) for more of this. We meet every 3rd Sundays of the month, at the Pizza Ranch in Elkhorn, WI, for all-day gaming.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Day -1: GaryCon VIII Pictures

Alright, enough with the snow.  The storm tapered off yesterday, at around 2 or 3 pm.  The sun made its reappearance a bit later, and in all its glory at dawn today.  It was a cold and crisp morning.  The thermometer on my deck read 7F (-14C).  It's back up to near-thawing levels by now (enough to work out a sweat if you go for a walk).  The snow is blindingly bright, and the sights around the Grand Geneva breath-taking.  If you're in the Milwaukee or Chicago vicinity and hadn't planned on coming over, treat yourself to a day-trip to Gary Con.  Discover a beautiful resort, hobby games galore, good food, and a scintillating winter wonderland all around nearby Lake Geneva.  How could anyone miss this?  Visitors from as far away as Europe, Hawaii, and Australia made it this year, along with people from all across continental US and Canada.  If you're local, there's really no excuse for missing this yearly event. Here are a few more pictures of the day before Gary Con.  Some of the photos are too large to fit properly here (click on a picture to view a larger image).

"Gary Con"
Grand Geneva
Step in and sit by the fireplace in the lobby.
Grand Geneva
Still a bit nippy for basking under the sun, but the indoor pool is pretty snazzy.
"Gary Con"
Somebody's been busy
"Gary Con"
A few more banners
Gary Con
It must have been these guys.
Gary Con
Or the Convention Meister.
Gary Con
Time to fold piles of T-shirts.
Grand Geneva
One of several VIP rooms
Gary Con
One of the game rooms on the lower level
Grand Geneva
Remember the empty hallway yesterday?  ...not anymore!
Grand Geneva
The dealers room in the making
Grand Geneva
The auditorium.  I plan on running a visual presentation for Calidar in 2017, complete with art, maps, & Q&A
Grand Geneva
One of the gaming rooms upstairs
Grand Geneva
One of several seminar rooms, upstairs
A LEGO diorama displaying Grand Geneva grounds
This picture is from Alex Kammer.  Couldn't resist adding it here.
Grand Geneva
Here a picture from John Reyst.  Nice digs!
Grand Geneva
In my view the best gaming room, upstairs.  Check out the view from the window (see next image)
Grand Geneva, Gary Con, Lake Geneva WI
The best view from the Grand Geneva.  Sorry for the imperfect picture.  That's it for today...

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Pre-" Pre-GaryCon VIII Pictures

I decided to take a moment to drive over to the Grand Geneva, where Gary Con VIII will be taking place.  Since the building is a long and twisty one, I assumed that all activities would take place mostly near one end or the other.  A strategic decision was needed as to where to park my car, considering how busy the resort is supposed to be this weekend.  If I have time tomorrow, I might take another swing at it, just for the fun of it.  Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what the place is like.  So far, this looks pretty good.
Welcome to Wisconsin's fine weather.  Don't forget your snowshoes.
We do have a summer.  At some point. . . honest.
Get in already and sit by the fireplace.
Sorry, no pool today.  Try again tomorrow.
Should I peek and take a picture?  ...nah.  I'll leave them be.
One of the hallways to the various torture chambers.  There are more of these hallways to get lost in.
One of the future torture chambers, I'm guessing.
Done for today.  All aboard the Lake Geneva trolley for a downtown ride.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Through the Kaleidoscope

Yesterday, I posted a collection of divine symbols for the dwarves of Araldûr.  Looks like some of you appreciated this image.  Just for laughs, I ran it through a kaleidoscope.  See below a gallery of shots from what came out of the magical artifact.  Click on an image for a sharper view.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dwarven Symbols of Calidar

I've been busy reworking symbols for the gods of Calidar.  Here are those from the dwarven pantheon.  Hope you have fun checking the detail.  Click on this illustration and select "view image" separately.

Calidar Gods "Beyond the Skies"

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beyond the Skies Kickstarter News

Since my previous post on this topic. . .

So You've Missed the Kickstarter:  Some of you were interested in catching up with this book's crowdfunding event, which ended January 7th.  If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact me privately at Bruce Heard [at] Stranger Skies [dot] com.  Let me know what you want or if you would like to include add-ons listed on the Kickstarter page.  I'll let you know what the next few steps are when you get back in touch with me.  Some of you may remember this process (it is the same one I used after CAL1 "In Stranger Skies" in 2014).

Uncollected Pledges:  Some of our backers' pledges are still pending.  Kickstarter staff will keep addressing wayward/delayed transactions for the next couple of weeks.  After this, these pledges will be cancelled.  There are enough of these so far to cause the fourth stretch goal to be cancelled, if they remain unresolved.  It would be unfortunate for everyone.  So please, if you have been notified that your pledge could not be collected, do work with Kickstarter to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

Surveys Are Out:  I just e-mailed the Kickstarter surveys to all backers.  Please fill those out when you have a minute so we can figure out who gets what add-ons, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, and so on.  As soon as the surveys have been returned and Kickstarter's collection process has been completed, I can generate art orders and contracts for the book's cover and internal illustrations.  The sooner the better.

Free Character Sketches from Joe Garcia:  Backers at Admiral pledge level, you do qualify for a free character sketch by illustrator Joe Garcia.  Questionnaires have been sent out via Kickstarter to help you describe your characters.  Please check your Kickstarter accounts for messages as soon as possible.  These sketches will be drafted on a first come-first served basis.  Some of you have already delivered your descriptions -- thank you!  Ideally, Joe should be working on these sketches BEFORE he receives his work order for the book's illustrations.  Commissioned work will take precedence over complimentary sketches.     

Thank you all for your cooperation and your patience.   

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Kickstarter: DONE! Now What?

There still is quite a lot of work to be dispatched.  Before I go into this, I wanted to first thank everyone for their kind support, whether it came in the form of pledges or efforts to invite friends and people who may be interested in the Calidar series.  Since a post-KS option will soon become available, please do keep up with this effort.  There's still room for more fans to see their names in the project's Honor Roll (more about this in a moment).  Kudos to you all, as "Beyond the Skies" would not be the same without your support.

A Few Facts.  Here are some interesting figures about the crowdfunding campaign.  The average pledge came up to about $64 dollars, including add-ons.      

Our backers' bids seem pretty evenly spread out.  If you look at the next chart, you'll see that 42% of backers picked Captain or Admiral tiers.  This shows the impact of having so many add-ons to offer.  Many backers saw this and increased their pledges to cash in of these offers.  Thank you!
What does this amount to?  For one, we have good amount of internal art gracing this book's pages.  We did not hit the "dream goal" of one illustration for each god, but that's still a lot of art to commission.  As the result of this, the book's page count is (so far) going to come close to 248 (the minimum was 220, remember?)  In addition to internal illustrations, don't forget a lot of maps rendered by Thorfinn Tait, color floor plans, pantheon diagrams, and various divine symbols to make a good use of the book's full color printing.

What if you missed the Kickstarter?  No problem.  A post-Kickstarter page will become available very soon on  Here are tentative details.  This page will offer most of the pledge levels and add-ons for a while longer.  Add-ons such as CAL1 Stranger Skies (printed versions and PDF) and poster maps will be switched off from the post-KS page at the end of January (they are still available through normal channels on and DTRPG).  The post-KS page itself will be shut down at the end of February.  Here is the original list of add-ons.

Please note that free character sketches from Joe Garcia (offered at Admiral pledge level) will not be honored via the post-KS page.  The Battlebards offer still stands, although registration to obtain the sound samples and access to the Calidar soundboard ends on March 31st.  Registration will begin as soon as the list of qualified backers can be compiled.  Find out more about this here. 

Starting in March, visitors who missed the post-KS offers can preorder "Beyond the Skies" possibly at a discount.  Kickstarter fulfillment takes place first as soon as the book becomes ready for print.  Pre-orders will follow shortly afterward.    General sales via DTRPG or start last, after I've restocked, so this could happen 1-3 weeks after pre-orders are sent out, somewhere around August 2016.  Links to download some of the PDF files may be e-mailed from DTRPG fairly soon since these are ready to go (CAL1 "In Stranger Skies" and CST1 "Under the Great Vault").  Do check your spam box as those messages tend to end up there.

There will be timely updates here and on the KS Updates page for all this, so keep your ears to the ground.  If you need to contact me, please go the Kickstarter page and send me a private mail from there (click on my picture and the "Contact Me" button).  A survey will soon allow KS backers to update their mailing addresses and clarify their orders.  That's about all can think of bringing up at this time.  Do ask questions if you feel I missed something.  Til then:  Happy 2016!  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Last Day for the Kickstarter!

#Calidar "Beyond the Skies" is fast approaching its next stretch goal and reaching the end of its crowdfunding campaign. Thank you everyone for your generous support!

Visitors who haven't yet jumped in: will you put some of yourself into this fabulous book and join the effort to commission more internal art? "Beyond the Skies" has already grown from 220 to 244 pages for everyone's enjoyment... will today add more?


Here's a fun preview of The World of Calidar's "Beyond the Skies," an EnWorld exclusive unveiling the flying seminary of an eagle-knights' order. This shows how a book about deities brings to life details on the realms of the Great Caldera, just like a gazetteer. That's something you can use as an adventure on Calidar or on any other game world...

Once Upon a Time in Ar, Part Five

“He be an Aran wizard, fer sure.” The voice sounded muffled at first, and thick like a peasant’s. A dull ache throbbed in Dardaniel’s cranium while his senses slowly returned. He tried opening his mouth and felt the painful grip of an iron muzzle holding shut his jaws. Someone had gone a long way to ensure he could not speak. Lying face down against a filthy stone floor, his hands bound behind his back, he twisted his neck to see around him. He lay at the bottom of a pit, under a feeble light filtering in through iron bars at the top.

“Bah,” spat a darker voice. “He’s more trouble than he’s worth. Wouldn’t be the first time that the hag of Wyvern County sends her slayers into Foresthome to snatch a hostage. And you can be sure they’ll kill every one of us. Better we do in this aristocratic wretch now. The world is better off without his kind.”

“Aye, but we needs gold,” answered the first voice. “I showed his ring to ole’ Philomar. It be from no local Wyvernian house he said, but one from Archon, an’ a rich one too. The old goat probably don’t know he be here, so I be thinkin’ her slayer will stay put, an’ then we can collec’ a fat ransom.”

However careful his movement, Dardaniel could not prevent his iron mask from rubbing against the rough stone floor. Fifteen feet above him, the conversation ended, and the silhouette of a head appeared above the iron bars. “Heh, he be awake now. Ye stay nice an’ quiet, wizard, if ye know what’s best fer ye,” the guard said in a gravelly voice, before vanishing. The sound of footsteps and a heavy door slamming shut informed him that perhaps he was now alone.

Dardaniel sat up as best he could. He had no idea how long he’d been in this oubliette, or where in the blazes this prison lay. Hours went by, perhaps days. His rusty manacles were murder on his wrists. Someone showed up and tossed scraps from a meal that landed in a murky puddle. Torn by the pangs of hunger, Dardaniel crawled to the sordid pile and attempted to gnaw at the pungent remains. His muzzle made the affair nearly impossible, and he only managed to slurp in some of the puddle while the guard snickered above.

His face smudged with greasy muck, the wizard gave up on the odious endeavor and lay on his side. A fat rat trotted out of the dark, sniffed at the helpless intruder, and decided the leftovers were easier pickings. . . for now. Time went by until a breath of air disturbed his dreams of freedom. Keeko had landed on the floor next to his face, and was peering at him with its two big round eyes, while ethereal wings on its back faded from sight. The prosapian examined the iron mask for an instant, climbed on its side, and tugged on a latch pin with its two small hands. Its effort paid off when the metallic piece fell out and rang on the stone floor. The muzzle clicked open and Dardaniel shook it off with relief. He could utter little more than a pitiful gurgle, so dry his mouth had become.

Despite his weakness, the wizard sat up as Keeko observed the manacles’ sturdy rivets. It then approached the pile of refuse, seized a rancid piece of fat, and proceeded to rub it against Dardaniel’s wrists. Clever little beastie, the wizard thought, increasingly hopeful. He joined his fingers as tightly as he could and pulled hard. The pain was excruciating. He thought for a moment he’d broken a few bones when his knuckles finally slipped free of his iron bonds. It helped that he was slim of build.

“Thank you my little friend,” he whispered in a hoarse voice, looking up at the top of the pit. Keeko deployed his wings and flew up to the grate, grabbed a metal bar, and crawled out. Dizzy with fatigue and lack of food, Dardaniel checked his pockets. Alas, someone had emptied them already. He then thought of uncast spells still lingering in his mind, and realized he’d have to take a chance. “Look out,” he cautioned Keeko before he uttered his magic. A loud knock flung the grate open, after which the prosapian reappeared at the pit’s edge, a quizzical expression on its furry face.

“I know, I know,” admitted Dardaniel at the unspoken question. “I didn’t memorize the fly spell. Hate the very thing, I do.” Annoyed, the wizard wondered how he’d climb out of the oubliette. The stonework was rough enough, but he lacked the skill that could help him up the somewhat wet incline, as the pit’s bottom was wider than its opening. Slight grunts sounded until Keeko dropped a rope inside. Despite his weakness, the wizard climbed out and sat on the edge to catch his breath and look around.

A small brazier glowed in a corner, revealing a torture chamber, with racks of wicked tools and a number of doors on all sides. The ceiling above the pit held a pulley and a rope with one end secured to the edge of a heavy wooden table fitted with manacles. None of the wizard’s equipment lay in sight. Annoyed, Dardaniel stood and picked up a nearby lantern, which he managed to light up with a hot poker. He then investigated doors featuring small barred openings. Each revealed an empty cell with shackles, save for one that held a sorry-looking fellow. He raised his head when called out, and despite the prisoner’s hirsute and haggard appearance, Dardaniel recognized someone he’d once known in Sundsvall.

“By the Wands! Aren’t you Syphonean, her Imperial Majesty’s head-butler? What on the Immortals’ green Mystara are you doing here?”

The old man shrugged. “Heh, not as much as I’d wish.”

Assaulting and incarcerating a high-born palace courtier such as himself was bad enough, Dardaniel thought, but a figure from the imperial circles? Outrage suddenly gave him renewed vigor. “I’ll be right back,” he said. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Syphonean raised his shackles, resigned to his fate.

After grabbing a set of hefty pliers from a tool rack, Dardaniel returned, cast off the bar holding the door, sheared the shackles’ chains, and helped the old man out.

“Come, let us find a way out of this hideous place,” Dardaniel said. Keeko landed on his shoulder, earning a feeble smile from the wobbly butler while they approached the last door. “Couldn’t you have used your magic to escape these ruffians, I wonder?”

“They caught me after I’d barely escaped from my tower. I’d spent much of my magic in the process and lost my spellbook. I’d thought the depths of Foresthome provided a good hiding place. I was wrong.”

Puzzled, Dardaniel stopped and gazed at the old man. “Escaped from your own tower? From whom?”

Syphonean seemed to bear a sudden burden. “It is a long story. Perhaps it is best you do not associate with me, for I have become a pariah in the empire, and a target of the highest authority in the whole of Alphatia.”

“Who? Zandor?” Dardaniel pressed on, stunned and increasingly dismayed.

“Yes, the emperor himself. I am a marked man, doomed to face oblivion, the memory of my forebears forever erased from imperial records.”

“Oh, that wretch! I despised that slithering viper the moment I laid eyes upon him. That treacherous scamp. What a villainous scoundrel he is. If his mother were around. . .”

“Alas, she isn’t,” said the old man. “He made sure of it, and I was there to witness it.”

Dardaniel opened his mouth, but remained speechless while myriad questions jostled in his mind. It was a crushing revelation. At once, the wizard understood why Zandor wanted Syphonean dead, along with anyone associated with him, abductors and rescuers alike. Murder among Alphatians was still a capital crime, no matter who committed it, and Zandor wanted all evidence obliterated.

To be continued. . .

Click on the Short Stories label below to display all the short stories.