Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ambur: The Counties of Skyreach & Starfyre


Not to be confused with the Capital City of Ar, this northern county lies within the Kingdom of Ambur’s borders. Hotheads have gotten into violent arguments about the name’s “intellectual property,” each side claiming moral ascendancy over the label. In truth, it’s neither here nor there, as both in their own ways do reach for the sky.

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Hex Map
County of Skyreach -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
The seat of the county lies in the provincial town of Star Fall (8,000 inhabitant plus 1,500 military). It earned its name from a small meteroid that once crashed in the vicinity. Wizards moved into the area shortly afterward, hunting for bits and pieces of the monolith. Local population grew thereafter, with peasants and workers seeking good fortune. In Ambur, wherever there are wizards, there is work and money to be earned.

It turned out that fragments from the outer space bolide bore special properties that, when combined with the manufacture of optical lenses, lead to a new branch of stargazing technology. A local school was founded, accredited by the renowned Lady Alathazam, which promptly acquired the technique and offered it to its students. It became known as the School of Transposition.

Transposition: These astronomers are the ultimate world explorers. Their technique involves the ability to project a sentient image, known as a holomorph , to a place observed through a telescope. In effect, the astronomer, otherwise known as a transposer, enters into a trance in order to send his/her consciousness to specific coordinates. The projection appears in every way like a real person, with the difference that it requires neither air nor sustenance to survive. Holomorphs are technically immune to natural elements.

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Heraldry
This process ends whenever the transposer wishes, up to its maximum duration. It may otherwise end prematurely if someone or something pulls the astronomer from his/her trance, or if the holomorph faces a situation which the astronomer might instinctively believe to be deadly, such as a volcano exploding nearby or the stab of an alien blade through the heart. Wisdom checks with various penalties determine whether a projection ends prematurely. If so, the transposer sustains potentially lethal shock damage amounting to 1 point times the extent of the Wisdom Check’s failure. An astronomer can only attempt one such visitation per day.

This technique does not overcome time lag due to cosmic distances (see Astromancy). When attempting a projection millions or billions of miles away, the transposer’s trance must include a period anywhere from a few minutes to 5 hours in order to sync with the target because light can take this long to reach Mystara. Time lag and the enchantment’s own limitations do not permit projecting beyond Mystara’s solar system. Projecting on the shortest scale may require positioning a telescope on a skyship flying at high altitude or on a celestial body outside Mystara’s skyshield. Distance and expertise also determine the extent of a holomorph’s capabilities, as shown below:


Experience Levels

Scale (Miles)

1-3

4-6

7-10

11-15

16-20

21+

1-10,000
I
II
III
IV
V
VI
Up to 250,000
I
II
III
IV
V
Up to 50 Million
I
II
III
IV

Up to 1 Billion

I

II

III

Up to 5 Billion
I
II

Class I Capability: the projection has a 30% chance of failing (without damage). The transposer can only sustain the projection 1d4+2 rounds, after which the visitation ends. At this level, the holomorph can only see its surrounding (it cannot physically touch anything although it seems bound by local laws of gravity).

Class II Capability: odds of failure are 25%, and duration increases to 2d6+2 rounds. The holomorph gains the ability to hear, smell, and taste (provided an atmosphere is available).

Class III Capability: odds of failure are 20%, and duration lasts 1d4+2 Turns. The holomorph gains the ability to touch, manipulate objects, and speak, just as if the transposer were actually present.

Class IV Capability: odds of failure are 15%, and duration lasts 2d6+2 Turns. The holomorph gains the ability to cast spells levels 1-3 and maintain an ESP effect, as the magic-user spell.

Class V Capability: odds of failure are 10%, and duration increases to 1d4+2 Hours. The holomorph gains the ability to cast spells levels 4-6, and communicate as if using the speak with plants or speak with monsters clerical spell.

Class VI Capability: odds of failure are 5%, and duration increases to 2d6+2 Hours. The holomorph gains the ability to cast spells levels 7-9 and disregard local gravity laws.

Other Concerns: While in a trance, an astronomer remains unaware of what happens within the telescope’s vicinity. Only physical contact or damage will interrupt this trance. More than once have facetious students at Star Fall’s
School of Transposers pulled pranks on their unsuspecting comrades, such as painting mustaches on their faces or pinning “kick-me” notes on their backs. A non-initiate looking through a transposer’s unsecured telescope would incur double the chances of failure; class capability would be based on half the viewer’s actual experience level (rounded up). Duration would also drop to half the normal timeframe (rounded up). Any shock damage due to premature termination would also double. Just as with astromancers, transposers also experience unexplained visions during their long hours spent stargazing.

This dominion centers around the Town of Astra (3,500 inhabitants plus 300 troops), a place about as remote and provincial as one would expect it to be. Coastal grasslands are renowned for their herds of shaggy aurochs, raised for meat, fat, sinew, and wool. Seasonal fairs take place on the main town square, when livestock is sold at the market, including bovines, ovines from farther inland, and pigs. Low cliffs facing the shoreline prevent the development of sea ports, except for the Fort Zenith area. The next closest mooring in Ambur can be found at Grand Conjunction, in the neighboring County of Skyglint.

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Hex Map
County of Starfyre -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
As the county took its current form, there was a desire to name it Skyreach, a label taken a few years earlier by its southern neighbor. Naturally, the House of Astra accused the inconsiderate peer from “stealing” the idea. A few hotheads entertained savage duels to prove each other wrong, mostly young aristocrats with little or nothing better to do with their time. The current name was eventually chosen after observing a shooting star. As a sign of good luck, the House of Astra promptly registered Starfyre as the official county name with the College of Arms at the capital. Naturally, neighbors to the east complained bitterly about the fact, since they too had wanted that name, arguing the celestial event lasted longer in their sky. The issue became who actually reported it first at Starpoint’s Royal Astronomy Repository. The dispute was settled with the help of Greenspur advocates, notwithstanding a handful of firebrands who still beg to differ. From a foreigner’s point of view, there is nothing stellar or fiery about Starfyre, as predominant weather is overcast, foggy, and quite soggy as well.

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Heraldry
Luxoflexion: Aside from oversized hairy bovines and obnoxious hotheads, Starfyre’s claim to glory derives from its School of Arcane Luxoflexion , a learning center teaching the mechanics of light-bending. As with other such schools, its techniques draw from fundamental approaches devised by Lady Alathazam. The concept is that light forming an object’s aura can be deflected, thus enabling circumvision. To put it simply, these curious wizards build telescopes that look around corners. Leaving behind sophomoric circumvision pleasantries in vogue among junior year students, such as “On a clear day, I can see. . .” (etc.), luxoflexists also developed related effects like reconstituting scattered light into a coherent beam, thereby defeating fog and cloud cover. Beside astronomy, luxoflexion finds many other uses, especially among adventurers, explorers, spies, and the military.

A number of standard dweomer-bearing telescopes are available for a price. Ranges denote up to what distance light deflection remains effective. As far as magnification is concerned, range also indicates the distance at which someone’s facial features can be easily recognized, especially with Luxoflex-Plus and more expensive models. Normal mechanical magnification otherwise applies beyond stated ranges, along with all optional enhancements. For example, the Luxoflex-Stargazer model enhanced with the sidereal positioning option can still locate celestial bodies well past its stated range.

Device
Specifications
Cost* (gp)
Luxoflex-Mini
Range: 300’ with one angle up to 90° in any direction. Enc. 100cn. Length: up to 12” (collapsible). Leather pouch included.
1,000
Luxoflex-Plus
Range: 3,000’ with up to 270°-worth of angles. Enc. 600cn with tripod. Length: up to 24” (non-collapsible). Waterproof, reinforced leather backpack incl. (garnet, buff, brown, or black). Discounted levitation enchantment on the backpack available for 1,800 gp.
5,000
Luxoflex-Max
Range: 48 miles (77 Km) with deflection capability sufficient to match planetary curvature. Enc. 8,000 cn with mount and counterweights. Length: 6’ (non-collapsible). Navalized casing and deck-mounting available on request. Discounted wizard lock enchantment available for 1,800 gp.
10,000
Luxoflex-Stargazer
Range: 250,000 miles (155.000 Km) with deflection capability matching planetary curvature and all-weather imagery. Weight: 8 tons with mount and counterweights. Length: 15’. Vanity finish and custom enchantment available on request, up to sixth level dweomercraft.
60,000 (+) with installation
Options
All Weather Imagery
Enables viewer to negate natural mist, fog, smoke, cloud cover, light diffusion, and atmospheric refraction
100 + 20% of model price
Range-Finder
Indicates in up to 20 different standards the range to the observed subject
50 + 10% of model price
Infravision
Outlines temperature variances within the field of vision
100 + 20% of model price
Starlight Enhancement
Amplifies residual light in dark environments
100 + 20% of model price
Detect Invisible
Outlines the presence of materials unnaturally concealed or lingering in the Ethereal Plane
1,000 + 50% of model price
Sidereal Positioning
Displays coordinates and size of a celestial body, in compliance with Royal Observatory Repository standards.
6,000 each.
(Luxoflex-Max and Stargazer models only)
Memorize & Replay
Records three-dimensional images and reproduces them on command as holographic projections; requires sidereal positioning

(*) Royal Tax of 10% applies to undiscounted sales price, in exchange for domestic registration. One-time Export Duties of 20% also apply if the device is taken past Amburian borders, in exchange for a certificate of receipt and imperial registration. It is against Imperial Law to sell Amburian telescopes to non-Mainland-Alphatians; proof of citizenship and imperial registration are mandatory. It is against the Queen's Law to take locally made artifacts bearing enchantments above sixth level dweomercraft past Amburian borders. Penalties for non-compliance or forgery include a fine up to twice the value of the item, plus incarceration up to 1 day per 10 gp value of the item, plus hanging by the thumbs, flogging, and hard labor in the salt mines for recidivism or counterfeiting official documents. Overuse of these items may result in unexplained sensations including visual and auditory stimuli, dizziness, anxiety, mental fixation, incontinence, confusion, and other secondary effects. Please consult a healer if pregnant, subject to episodes of narcolepsy, or suffering from insomnia.

Telescopes in excess of 2,000 gp of undiscounted value are fitted with tracking devices indicating their locations, places of manufacture, and basic registration information. A special department at the Royal Astronomers’ Repository , which works in close association with Her Watchful Majesty’s Revenue Service, can trace these devices or submit them to remote testing. Undercover officers occasionally purchase telescopes for the sole purpose of verifying whether tracking devices are present and functioning in compliance with the Queen’s Law. Unresponsive telescopes will be confiscated without compensation, and their owners summoned before Amburian justice.


Lady Nebulastra, Luxoflexist Cum Laude

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Heraldry
The younger daughter of Count Nebulastram III of Starfyre, somewhat of a spoiled and rambunctious offspring, graduated with honors several years ago from Astra’s School of Arcane Luxoflexion. Snubbing the dilettante life at her father’s court, she formed her own company, named Luxoflex Anonymous Dweomercraft. This corporation produces the items listed in the previous section. Unfortunately, the endeavor has yet to return enough profit to sustain Nebulastra’s extravagant lifestyle. Following a quarrel with her imperious, irascible forebear, and the subsequent end of further parental funding, the young woman quietly indulged in the illicit commerce of unregistered devices. Those in the know pay a great deal of gold for untraceable materials, including unidentified clients as far away as Archport and Sundsvall. While they studied at the School of Arcane Luxoflexion, she and Lord Quazareth, a nephew of Queen Elshethara, engaged in a secret and enduring liaison. The nephew, himself a beneficiary and accomplice of her law-breaking activities, later became a prominent custodian at the Royal Astronomer’s Repository. Relying on the quiet protection of her higher-placed connections, Nebulastra enjoys a very comfortable lifestyle and is gaining notoriety as a patron of the arts and a collector of ancient crystals.

Appearance & Personality: Charming, witty, adventurous, passionate, spoiled, and rebellious, Lady Nebulastra is a woman of medium height and in her late twenties. Her ability to focus intently as well as her abilities designing optical items of luxoflexion made her a constant subject of whispers while she was in school. She has thick reddish-honey colored hair braided back from her teardrop-shaped face. Expressing curiosity, one or the other of her rusty eyebrows often tents above her amber-flecked brown eyes. Her voice is a melodious medium soprano. Lady Nebulastra often wears a dark blue leather case set with silver stars hooked on her belt. Dull silvery slices of metallic meteorite dangle from her earlobes. She enjoys entertaining high-ranking guests with lavish dinner parties, and always manages to do a little business before and after. Secretive about her clientele, she keeps them and their purchases in her prodigious memory. Despite her flirtatious appearance, her heart belongs to Quazareth.

Lady Nebulastra: M16, AC6 (or better), hp30, MV 120’(40’), AT dagger or one spell, Dmg 1d4+2 or by spell, Save M16(+2), ML7, AL N; St11, In17, Wi11, Dx16, Co 12, Ch15. Magical Items: medallion of ESP 90’, hat of disguise, dagger +2, backward lorgnette, and robe of starlight.

Backward Lorgnette: These collapsible enchanted ocularia are mounted on a carved white mother-of-pearl stem. The coverings of the opticals themselves are also elaborate mother-of-pearl. Once a day, they confer the ability to make objects or creatures observed through the lenses appear far smaller than reality, as if looking through binoculars the wrong way. Victims must save vs. spell or shrink to one tenth their normal size, for 2d4+1 rounds. Although their Strength ability and weapon damage are reduced in the same proportion, the victims’ weight, AC, and other abilities are otherwise unaffected. Area of effect is a cone 60’ long and 30’ wide.

Robe of Starlight: This midnight blue, starry garment requires a combined intelligence of 25 to trigger its effect. On command, its silver star pattern animates and produces a light-bending displacer effect. It increases the owner’s AC one point per round. For example, after five combat rounds, the owner’s AC drop from AC6 to AC1. While under a displacer effect, the owner receives a +2 bonus to saving throws. The effect ends when the owner’s AC reaches –10 or at the owner’s command, and requires 1 Turn to reset. The robe can also generate a blinding flash effect once a day, similar to a light spell, within a 30’ radius.

Detect Deflected Light: Lady Nebulastra created this first level spell to sense whether deflected light is enabling someone to watch her from a distance. Area of Effect: self. Duration: 1 Turn.

Captain Maelzeram, Royal Reeve

Mystara Alphatia Ambur Heraldry
The Queen’s Revenue Service: Universally despised in Ambur (yet highly praised among royal circles), this military organization enforces regulations pertaining to the Ministry of Revenues, such as tax collection. Although headquartered in Starpoint, the service maintains county offices with local jurisdiction. Their officers, along with requisitioned troops, collect common yearly poll tax and oversee the collection of tolls and duties. Their work involves setting school and student taxes, as well as verifying tracking devices on sensitive equipment built in Ambur. The Queen’s Law enables them the right to inspect any dwelling, question occupants, examine accounting records, perform arrests, and seize assets as needed. The Royal Corps of Magistrates has power to dismiss cases brought to their attention.

The head of the Starfyre Bureau in Astra, Captain Maelzeram suspects Lady Nebulastra of breaking the Queen’s Law. In his view, her lifestyle seems out of scale with reported sales taxes. Her falling out with His Grace Nebulastram, which has become the subject of gossip at the count’s court, and her direct connection with a sensitive business remain the basis for his concerns. A previous inquiry led to a meeting with the queen’s nephew Quazareth while on a visit in Astra. Before the end of the day, Maelzeram received an order from the Ministry of Revenues
to drop the case at once. His attempt to unveil the source of the order met with an icy rebuke from his superior in Starpoint. Maelzeram is certain the count must have heard of his investigation, yet it failed to provoke a reaction, which he finds eminently suspicious.

Frustrated by the lack of support from headquarters, yet hardly intimidated, the captain quietly continues the investigation on his own, seeking any information allowing him to build a steel-clad case against the young business owner. Speculating that the Queen was never informed of Nebulastra’s alleged tax evasion, he plans on making the case public and sparking a scandal; this will either make or break his career. His staff at the Starfyre Bureau all suspect what he’s after, but out of loyalty to their captain and irritation at the brazen, defiant antics of the upper class, they have chosen to remain quiet. Maelzeram is likely to investigate any known client of Nebulastra or any unidentified individual visiting her business.

Appearance & Personality: Idealistic, tall, and unflinching, Captain Maelzeram is a successful military commander in his mid-to-late thirties. Part bean-counter and scent hound, he keeps his nose to the ground in search of those who flout the law, as demanded by the oath of loyalty to his queen. Elshethara requires obedience from her subjects, and those who disobey pay a heavy price. Maelzeram has a thick neck with a square face topped by dark brown hair brushed severely back. His eyes change from mild light brown to intense green with a ring of darkness when he’s intrigued by something or someone. A long straight nose like a blade divides his face. His thin hips pull to one side when he’s thinking. Captain Maelzeram’s willingness to put his career on the line to unveil Lady Nebulastra’s clandestine dealings is typical of his personality. When addressing suspects, he has the habit of feigning to depart before stopping for just one more question. He returns again and again with yet one or two more queries, showing up at the most inopportune time for a suspect, like an irritating pest. Maelzeram deliberately exploits this guerilla tactic to keep his foes off balance at all time.

Capt. Maelzeram: E9, AC1, hp32, MV 120’(40’), AT sword or one spell, Dmg 1d8+4 or by spell, Save E9, ML10, AL L; St17, In16, Wi13, Dx14, Co 12, Ch15. Magical Items: wand of tracing, Luxoflex-Plus with all-weather imagery and clairaudience, ring of invisibility, scroll of communication, chainmail armor +2, sword +2.

Wand of Tracing: This enchanted device is a standard piece of equipment for royal reeves. It enables the owner to “question” tracing devices imbedded in Amburian telescopes valued at more than 2,000 gp. A targeted telescope must be within 300’ and within eyesight. The answer appears on the wand’s handle, identifying the object’s registration information and manufacturer. If a telescope fails to respond to a wand’s inquest, it is likely fraudulent. The wand, however, does not distinguish forged responses (some counterfeit tracing devices are sophisticated enough to yield misleading information). Double-checking the Telescope Registry in Starpoint should help unveil forged information. Conversely, the wand may locate a telescope whose registration information is spoken out loud; if the telescope lies within range, the wand guides the owner’s hand, pointing in the telescope’s direction and vibrating at an increasingly higher pitch when approaching.

A more powerful device at the Royal Astronomers’ Repository can function as a wand of tracing, although its range blankets the entire Alphatian mainland. Pertinent information appears in a crystal ball since the artifact is too bulky to be moved.

To be Continued. . .

Thanks to Janet Deaver-Pack for character appearances and her editorial contributions.