Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bluenose -- City of Phantasms

If Errolyn is the City of Courtly Love, then Bluenose is one of phantasms--including perhaps some you might think of.  Anything goes in this part of Alphatia.  The main objective in Arogansa's capital is to welcome and cater to wealthy guests, especially wizards and aristocrats.  Therefore, luxury guest houses, comfortable inns, and private rooms are readily available, some year-round. In the summer, at the height of the season, the few still for up for grabs fetch obscene prices.  

Next come the attractions, and they'd better be decent since they mean to entertain some of the most learned and skillful patrons in Mystara.  Everyone knows that wizards are interested in one single thing: magic.  It's like flies and honey.  Whether attractions involve a walk through a haunted house, a suite of phantasmal dreams, a thrill ride through the sky, escaping a spooky dungeon, a fake magic-user's duel, a magical show in a theater, an enchanted merry-go-round, a tavern where one summons exotic and occult fares, or more sordid services somehow magically enhanced, all strive to attract mighty patrons.  Cheekily hawking prospects from the establishment across the street is common practice.  Some businesses aren't above resorting to charms and other mind-influencing tactics, although these are highly illegal in Arogansa.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Dominion Stats -- Arogansa

Arogansa, for all its uniqueness and prestige in Alphatia, fares no better than its neighbors as regards its general demographics.  It remains sparsely populated and mostly rural.  The highest density population clusters along the southern coast and the Thera River, with an island of Alphatian civilization clinging to Avrads in the far north.

Designer's Note: for those who wonder how population is distributed, I do apply an empirical method, described below.

Suburban Areas: First, the highest density population is marked on the map (referred to as "Suburban," shown in purple on the map below.)  Hexes with urban centers including large and small towns are considered suburban.  They get a purple square.  In other words, plenty of hamlets and farms dot the countryside in the immediate vicinity of towns.  Cities are different in that their suburban population spills over into most adjacent hexes, depending on terrain.  Furthermore, city suburbia spreads out one more hex along roads and rivers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Coats of Arms of Arogansa

This is a quick recap of the coats of arms I devised for the main Arogansian aristocracy.  There is a peculiarity with these shields, in that they display a pattern of symbols on the top area that indicate precisely to what degree of nobility they belong.

The progression is as follows.   

Coventries: a vice-coventrie bears one star (a mullet,) a coventrie bears two, and a high-coventrie, three.  There presently are no vice- or high-coventries in Arogansa.  See Coriomanus & Yalastrian.

Conjuracies: a vice-conjuracy bears two stars and a crescent, a conjuracy bears one star and two crescents, and a high conjuracy
                                   bears three crescents (see on the right.)

Theurgies: a vice-theurgy bears two crescents and an annulet (a ring.)  A theurgy bears one crescent and two annulets  (see Liliendo on the right.)  A high-theurgy bears three annulets.

Thaumaturgies: a vice-thaumaturgy bears two annulets and a quatrefoil (see Llyndemar.)  A thaumaturgy bears
                               an annulet and two quatrefoils.  The high-
                               thaumaturgy bears three quatrefoils.

Sorcelries: a vice-sorcelry bears two quatrefoils and a hawk's bell (see Talismeroth, just below.)  A sorcelry bears a quatrefoil and two hawk's bells.  A high-sorcelry bears three hawk's bells.

Wizardate: a vice-wizardate bears two hawk's bells and a resplendent sun (see Scarabellyn, just below.) A wizardate bears a hawk's bell and
                                  two suns (Festerilandus.)  A
high-wizardate bears, as you expected, three suns (see Cacodemus at the top of the page.)

Archmagencies: the augmentations do not apply to archmagencies.  They are recognizable by the stone coronet above their arms.  There is only one such title in Arogansa--see
                                  Merlioness, just above.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Arogansa -- Updated July 27th

Bluenose Area
Arogansa is first and foremost, at least from the point of view of those who may benefit from it, a realm where one goes for rest and recreation.  It offers in good faith, if the price is right, anything ranging from mindless entertainment to secluded serenity.  Phantasmal fakery defines the most popular and affordable attractions.  Yet, those whose arcane skills and standards of living permit may experience profound and perhaps life-changing events at the more exclusive estates.  Nonetheless, beach-going wizards, their families, their retinues, fun-seeking bachelors, sight-seeing sages, underage warlocks celebrating their season breaks, and overworked enchanters swirl together amid a debauchery of high fashion and utter snobbery. Truly idyllic and enthralling palaces remain within the sphere of the wealthy wizardkind and select ecclesiastics of eminent talent.  For the masses of native workers, alas, it imposes a humble life spent hiding from sight until summoned.  They remain entirely at the service and mercy of the ruling class.  All said, Arogansa embodies all that is fabulous about magocracies, and all that is deeply reviled.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Errolyn -- City of Knightly Romance

Errolyn & Vicinity
If there is such a place that honors the quaint ways of knighthood in Alphatia, Errolyn clinches the title.  With the name itself harking back to a beloved thespian notorious for his swashbuckling style and debonaire swagger, one may think all Errols behave in such a way.  Most do.  It would be bad enough if wizards and all others clearly not of the knightly sort wouldn't also adopt the same mannerisms.  There isn't a street, alley, or city square where a dashing suitor doesn't attempt to woo a love interest peering down from a balcony or from behind her bedchamber's window.  All too often, string instruments screech painfully, would-be manly voices falter, and tossed roses miss their marks, landing on a nearby donkey's head or in a pile of manure.  Nonetheless, suitors of all ilk do put their hearts into courtship.  There are many who are blessed with the gift of charm and heroics, and they make it all better, somehow.  Flair and daring can earn you quite a lot in Errolyn.  It is nothing of substance, yet it seems to be all that matters.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Alphatian Coats of Arms -- Part II (Updated July 19th)

It took me a while to find a piece of art I liked to represent Ambur.  I placed the "Eye" of Ambur at the center, which refers to the Great Observatory.  Thanks to Andrew's help, I was able to add some white around the eye's pupil, using Gimp. Arogansa, on the other hand, was a cake walk. The dolphin connects with Arogansa's capital, Bluenose, a place with great beaches and lots of dolphins.  I could not resist!

Naturally, places like Bettellyn cause a slight problem since I haven't redesigned them and no information was presented in Dawn of the Emperors. I have a general clue what to do with Bettellyn, based on the small part I worked on while dressing up the map for neighboring Theranderol, last week.  I'll let you guess.  Of course, Blackheart came together quite nicely.  Wizard towers in a forest, a black heart, and sort of a hazard pattern to warn off trespassers: no peddlers allowed.

Eadrin is another unknown here.  It's a neat pattern that reminds me of the arms of Pole (from the old Kingmaker game.)  Either I'll come up with something related to these arms when I get around to fleshing out Eadrin, or I'll redesign a new coat of arms.  Of course, the old favorite, Floating Ar, features a straightforward and conventional design with, as can be expected, skyships and a flying beast.

Frisland sent me scratching my head for ideas.  I thought of some ghastly monsters or carnivorous plants.  What I found on the internet was hilarious and, after wiping off a few tears of laughter, I followed a more subtle approach.  Yum!  Tiny clovers, and lots of them.  What could possibly happen?   Greenspur was another one that came right through.  Green + Spur (of course) and a lozenge pattern just 'cause I like it!  So there.  Designer's prerogative!

Which bring us to Limn.  I'd introduced a very discreet connection to dragons and lindwurms.  Since I didn't expect to find heraldic versions of D&D trolls (carrot-noses and all) I went for the true and tried beast, a wyvern if I recall correctly.  If anyone finds orcs, ogres, trolls, and other such game classics done somewhere in heraldic fashion, please let me know!  Randel was another illustrious stranger, with no entry in Dawn of the Emperors.  So, I went with elegant and very classic.

Another very obvious design, for Stonewall, actually incorporates three castles superimposed.  Looks like a wall.  Good enough, says I.  Onward. The next one was an experiment I saved because it looked truly bizarre.  Perhaps we'll find a spot for a culture focused on mechanical devices.  Feel free to suggest.  Naturally, there should be coats of arms for cities and aristocratic clans, such as the House of Thera detailed in the previous post, major guilds, the Great Council of Wizards, etc.

Moving right along, here's Stoutfellow: a great mountain whose heart a foreigner does not enter, and whose slopes are guarded by cold, dwarven steel.  If not particularly artistic, it remains not nonetheless eloquent.  Another scheme which, alas, fails from a visual standpoint, speaks clearly of Haven's nature: six forms or beauty in a lake, and at their center, the art of war.  A rainbow runs across, above the mark of fashion.  It was the last winner at the Aasla Festival.  Thankfully, the design may change at a later festival.

We'll conclude the collection of coats of arms with two great sylvan realms.  On the left, Foresthome suggests a population of centaurs dwelling in the great woods of mainland Alphatia.  On the right, the elves' colors feature a horn to hunt, to rally for war, or perhaps to call upon the unicorns and all other woodland beings living in the legendary and mysterious Shiye-Lawr.

Wait, wait!  There's more.  There we have it--the Crimson Guard, the skyship force supposedly guarding Sundsvall, or was it Ampulia?  Either way, it wouldn't take them long to cover the distance between the two.  I thought of using a darker tone of red but it invariably looked more brown than crimson.  Next comes the Great Countil, or the Council of Thousand Wizards.  The vair pattern denotes the councilors' aristocratic status.  The ravens refer to magical constructs once used as heralds to bring news of council resolutions.  Many people quip that they represent the nobles tweeting and chirping all day, leaving behind nothing but bird droppings.

Of course, the list wouldn't be complete without the Imperial Guard--battlements gules and sable, and swords to defend them.  Pretty straightforward.  One that is far less so is the Department of Smoke and Mirrors, the folks responsible for maintaining the masquerade in Ampulia and of protecting the capital's secrecy.  Naturally, very few people have actually seen this coat of arms.  I'll let you judge if it is appropriate enough. 

I almost forgot our friends from way up north, the Island of Qeodhar.  I originally wanted a polar bear, but could not find a decent piece of line art.  If I did (I may eventually), I'd probably reverse the black and white pattern, and place the bear's white face within the black section in the middle.  I threw in Imperial Rangers, by popular demand of a loyal and devoted supporter!  Leaves represent heraldic holly scattered by the wind, the azure band a river through a forest (the Greenlake or Elfripple Rivers), and the critter in the middle. . . well, I'm sure you'll come up with something.

As promised earlier, here is Aquas.  This was a fun design to put together.  It was a bit tricky but I like the result, and it's fitting for an underwater realm.  The only trouble is the black area within the tail's coil, which I could not eliminate.  If anyone has any ideas about this, please let me know.  Tylion's coat of arms was another experiment. Since the application does not support borders, I managed a slight trick to get around the limitation.  The design for His Imperial Highness (since he's no longer a "Majesty," having abdicated in favor of Eriadna) displays the House of Thera's colors along with ermine to connect him with his imperial stature.  

Now I give you the colors for the Yannivey Islands.  Simple and striking.  This one took all of three minutes to compose.  Most of the time needed to design these coats of arms comes from experimenting and thinking up new approaches.  The one that took the most time (drafting rather than thinking) was Frisland's for obvious reasons.  On the right stands Torenal's coat of arms, a pretty little thing that gets around the application's limitations with borders.  Where there's a will there's a shield!  I think I've pretty much covered mainland Alphatia.  Let me know if I've forgotten anything.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Famous Arms of Alphatia

The House of Thera originates from the Kingdom of Theranderol, at least as far as its Mystaran ancestry is concerned.  In fact, like many ancient Alphatian dynasties, it can trace its roots to families who came from another world, hence the six estoiles upon a nightly sky.  Eriadna, as Empress of Alphatia, bears the purpure chief and crown as her personal arms.  Her immediate offsprings' coat of arms are similar save for the bendlet gules and differentiating label.

It is  easy to understand the design of Vertiloch's arms--the vertical green stripe stands for "vert" while the golden key implies a "lock."  Ermine augmentations remind that the District of Vertiloch belongs to the throne of Alphatia.  The popular arms of Theranderol display first and foremost the wizards' sun in its plenitude over and above the spurs of gallant knights.  The field of azure represents the sky while the green is for the land below.  Queen Eldrethila would always fight under her own banner if present on a battlefield.  A military commander of Theranderol's army would otherwise use his own arms or those of Theranderol, perhaps both for good measure.

From the Author: This treatment is my first attempt at designing shields electronically, and using the Gimp application (with varying success I might add.)  It is one step closer to being able to emulate the sort of detail regularly featured in Voyages of the Princess Ark.  Please feel free to comment on the shields' design and make suggestions.  The app I use is another Inkwell Ideas design called Coat of Arms.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dominion Stats -- Theranderol

Theranderol is just about as "white-bread" as an Alphatian realm can be.  It boasts lots of land, more than half of which is wilderness: a nice, gentle sort of wilderness where even monsters seem polite and quite well-fed.  At least it's what Errolyn's upper crust believe.  The land indeed looks idyllic and tidy, with its large plateaux of swaying grasslands, welcoming light forests dotting the countryside, and an abundance of rivers of all sizes and small lakes.  On the other gauntlet, cohorts of paladins at the service of the realm never run short of work.  The peaceful wilderness is charming, at least the pacified parts where smoldering carcasses of what ought not live there (from a paladin's point of view) rest in piles away from sight.  Paladins working with wizards can do wonders.  It's just that Theranderol is so darned big.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Theranderol

Mapped with Hexographer
Theranderol is a land of small secluded lakes and windswept plateaux.  Some say that each is unique and veils a secret of its own.  Although predominantly wizards, Theran aristocrats who inherited the realm from its founders fancy the romantic manner of knights and gallantry.  Although they retained the original names of the largest and oldest towns, they renamed all others and most geographical features to better reflect their colorful inspirations and remind visitors of ancient heraldry.  Although unable to equal the feats of true knights, Theran wizards adapted heraldry and enhanced it with magic to embody the skills of their families.  One is never too sure what forces or creatures wizards might summon from their banners, or enable household knights to do the same from their shields.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Hidden City of Sundsvall

Everybody knows it's located on that magnificent road dubbed Garterfall.  One might wonder whose garter it refers to, were it not for the old tradition of imperial newlyweds riding in the ceremonial coach toward The Capital, fast and with curtains down.  One can imagine what happens inside.  The Imperial Wedding Ceremony takes place at the Great Temple of Valerias in Consecration, about a hundred miles away.  The scene of the imperial retinue and its military escort following the ceremonial coach at top speed sometimes leads to unpredictable and occasionally comical results.  In some instances, a magical garter will fly out from behind the curtains and bring great joy and prestige to the one standing among the throngs of beholders who might catch it.  Other clothing elements have been known to fall out as well, but these are promptly confiscated by the guards.  As practical and expeditious as it may seem, teleporting remains most definitely out of the question.  It would be an insult to ancient protocol and the masses of people crowding the roadsides since the previous day.  Imperial life revolves around old traditions, from quaint and charming to utterly outlandish and annoying.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dominion Stats -- Vertiloch

Vertiloch remains definitely unique in Alphatia at least from the standpoint of its economy.  Nearly half of the Vertilians are urban dwellers.  Naturally, this implies food is being imported to support urban centers, especially the capital with its half-million civilian residents, and the military.  The price of bread is, as one should expect, very high, perhaps the highest in the empire, setting off inflation in the region.  This drives much of the merchant traffic from Aasla and Archport.  It does help, however, that Vertilians do not pay taxes.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

International Blog Exposure -- Updated Aug 18th

After more than 18,000 views since I launched this site in late February this year, here are the locations of its most frequent viewers.

United States       10,134
United Kingdom      1,271
France                      966
Italy                          963
Canada                     752
Brazil                        470
Japan                       461
Australia                   297
Germany                  203
Finland                     175

Blogspot doesn't list numbers beyond the top ten.  On the other hand, I know from personal observation that there are viewers in many other places.

USA/Canada: all accounted for!  The source is divided evenly between Google+ and Facebook.

Europe: All of Western Europe, except Ireland.  Oddly, I haven't seen a viewer from Ireland yet.  Many of of the Balkan nations have not show up as far as I know (I only have viewers in Greece and Romania who regularly show up.)  For Central and Eastern Europe, I didn't see viewers from Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, or Moldova.  I think Russia, Norway, and Spain are hot on Finland's heels.  :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Imperial District of Vertiloch -- Updated July 9th

In Vertiloch, one honors the Ruling Family and the Glory of the Empire. It is a land whose borders were designed centuries ago, two vertical lines swiftly drawn on a parchment.  It was the will of the empire to set what lay in between as territories attached to the throne of Alphatia.  They cannot be divided, given away, or inherited by a family.  They aren't the best of lands, but they are centrally located.  Flat, pock-marked with slow-draining lakes, they are home to the confluence of the Greenlake and Greenwall Rivers, augmented by the turbid eddies of the Elfripple.  

To the north lie Imperial Lands officially reserved for emperors to do as they see fit, to carve out domains for new vassals, to hunt, or simply to preserve a vast wilderness at the heart of the empire.  Stories abound on what really lies there.  Some say the land is closed to outsiders for a great danger lurks within, one that defies even the authority of Mighty Alphatia.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The City of Aasla -- Beating Heart of Haven

The Grand Aaslasian & Bath House
One of the best known cities of Alphatia remains Aasla whose sea port is dubbed the greatest of all Mystara.  Everyone on the wizard continent has heard of the Tower of Mylertendal, a ten-story-tall monument, sixty feet across, and covered with 36,000 tiny alcoves displaying a fantastic collection of statuettes.  But there's much more to the fabled city, from its private palaces brimming with magic and treasures to darker alleys of the old town.  It all looks so very welcoming and harmonious, yet no one can tell what will round the next corner, a phantasmal-artist, an art-smuggler, a purveyor of silk and lace, a wizard-taylor, an unforgettable diva, her retinue of guards and giddy sycophants, or the suave thug who will fleece you in such an elegant manner you'll wonder whether it was a blessing.  It all looks fantastic and utterly welcoming, good and bad.