Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Calidaran Halloween

As I suspected, the bloglist did not update to show my latest post.  If you see this one, be afraid--be very afraid-- for it's Halloween after all.  Also, click on this link to access my big announcement regarding the World of Calidar project.

And Happy Halloween to you all!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Bye-Bye Princess Ark. . . Hello Calidar!

Dear Readers,

Now that the project is well under way, I believe time has come to say more about the World of Calidar and who is part of the creative team.

As I'd pointed out earlier, this fantasy setting is entirely new and does not rely on any specific game system.  Calidar emphasizes skyship adventures.  The final product is intended to include a gazetteer and a poster map.  Written materials should amount to at least 80,000 words, of which 60% will be a story unveiling the adventures of the Star Phoenix and her crew under Captain Isledemer d'Alberran's command.  The latter are inspired from the Princess Ark episodes published in Dragon Magazine twenty years ago.  Though the ship, her crew, and their strange new world are different from those of the original series, the analogy remains intact in style and spirit.  The campaign set (color) will be available both as an e-product and in print.  Because of print-on-demand limitations, the poster map will be offered separately and in print only.

Calidar Stranger Skies Bruce Heard

A Few Words About Calidar

The vast majority of its population came from three lunar empires—the humans from Manaan, the elves from Alorea, and the dwarves as well as their gnomish cousins from Kragdûr. The fellfolk, a race of small but fierce people, are the planet's original inhabitants. Calidar is imbued with a feral magic hostile to the expansion of civilization, a dangerous world only partially settled by the three outer world empires.  A central region called the Great Caldera, a three-thousand-mile-large crater partially filled with an inner sea and ringed with towering mountains, serves as the cradle of civilization. There, the empires overcame nature’s ferocity and established sprawling colonies. But over time, they rebelled and, after a long period of conflict known as the Sky Wars, the new realms earned their independence from the overlords. A fragile truce now remains between the three empires and their former colonies.  Beyond the Great Caldera lies what is known as the Dread Lands.

The truth is that two lunar empires are overpopulated and exceeding their natural resources. The other, more attuned to nature, now stagnates, unwilling to further harm its own world. It was the reason for the rush to establish colonies on Calidar. There was, and still is, another reason. Traveling the immense distances between Calidar and its moons, and reaching other worlds gravitating around the Great Soltan is only possible with a certain type of magic. At the heart of imperial rivalries lies a strange substance called Seitha, which enables skyships to become incorporeal and travel at fantastic speeds. Though it can be found on the moons, the existence of the precious Seitha has been declining there since its discovery. The Dread Lands now remain its principal source and the origin of many conflicts to obtain it.

The appearance of the substance in Calidar’s soil is predicated upon the health of that world and its moons. It is believed that all magic comes from the beating heart of Calidar, tying together not only Seitha but the souls of the dead and the very lifeforce of all that dwells on its surface, in the skies, and beyondbe it flora, fauna, or sentient kind. It is strong enough to enable gods to spring from the inhabitants’ spiritual beliefs. Indeed, Calidar is unique in that the divine did not create this universe and its people. It is quite the opposite. To each world its own gods, demi-gods, epic heroes, and demons competing to retain the favors of mortals who created them, and to sway the minds of others for the sake of eternal hegemony. . . or oblivion.

A Glimpse at the Skyships

Airships of Calidar are as varied as its people, whether spacefaring or not. Let’s start from the ground up: with the dwarves of Kragdûr. These fellows aren’t wizards, yet they build flying ships. Theirs are brutes of steel, fire, and brimstone. In keeping with their own love of things from the ground, dwarves fly powerful dreadnoughts whose hulls and superstructures are made of forged iron, steel, brass, and copper held together with rivets.  Cannons are their weapons of choice. They use coal and special minerals found on their moon, providing lift and thrust enough to propel their massive beasts. Kragdûr dwarves favor a harsh warrior-like culture.

Elven designs depart radically from the dwarven paradigm. Alorean vessels look more like sail ships from the Golden Age of Clippers. These are wind-powered, quad-masted, wooden vessels built for speed. Their style and workmanship remain unmistakably elven, with a heavy emphasis on organic rather than functional. Up close, their artful designs are reminiscent of twisting roots and leaf patterns. Unlike vessels of other races, Alorean liners house extensive hydroponic facilities within their hulls. Alive, self-healing, and able to grow parts like davits, boarding planks, hammocks, and tether-roots, they also feature deck weaponry in the form of native Alorean plants living in symbiosis with the ships. These elves behave more like artful intellectuals.

Human-built skyships of Manaan are far more varied than elven or dwarven designs. They stand anywhere between the two extremes of demi-human ships, blending metal and wood in various proportions. Manaani commanders generally favor maneuverability over speed or strength, which implies a preference for galley designs. Style-wise, they depend on the region of origin, somewhat like real-world 16th Century galleasses and 17th Century galleons that can be fitted with auxiliary oars. This implies an inverted tri-mast design (two sets of upper masts angled in a V-shape and one set of vertical masts underneath the hull) to allow clearance for the banks of oars. They usually rely on combinations of magic and mechanical devices as main deck weapons. The Manaani are highly religious people, for better or for worse.

And what of native Calidar vessels, you might wonder?  These ships are even more unpredictable as they mix and match designs from either of the three moons, making foreign observers cringe at certain very, very odd concepts. This habit goes back to the time when colonies broke away from their outer world overseers, and had to use whatever they could seize in combat or recover from wrecks. Anything goes, merrily blending dirigibles, wind sails, steam-powered paddle-wheels, mixed-dwarven and -elven medieval wood-and-steel bio-mechanics, ethereal ley line nets, four-winged flying beasts, and so on.
There’s more. . . how about the scaly, acid-spewing, glistening vessels of the evil Draconnic Knights? Giant flying junks and armored turtle-ships claim the skies in faraway Lao-Kwei. At last, let’s not forget the space Vikings with double- or triple-deck longships feared by all, including the mysterious starfolk.

The Master Puppeteers

Before proceeding further, I would be remiss not to introduce the talent behind this project. I’ll skip the writing part since you all know where it comes from. Instrumental in capturing the physical appearance of Calidar, Thorfinn Tait, from Akita, Japan, stepped forward months ago to handle the world's cartography.  Thorfinn is best known for his work on Mystara maps during the past twenty years.  From the onset, he and I worked to fit Calidar’s continents around a globe, ensuring an accurate and very recognizable depiction. Ben Wootten, a concept artist and illustrator from Wellington, New Zealand, will paint the cover art.  His portfolio includes design work for the Lord of Rings movies as well as art for Wizards of the Coast and Pathfinder among many others. His incredible appreciation for nature is evident in the creatures he draws, both real and imagined.  [EDIT -- 12/03/2013]  John Dollar  will be producing pencil and ink illustrations. His extensive artistic background includes TSR's Ravenloft, Birthright, and Dark Sun, as well as FASA, White Wolf, and West End. He also worked on Shadowhunters Codex by Simon & Schuster, Earthdawn, Star Wars, Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and Larry Elmore's Sovereign Stone.  Last but not least, my good friend from Toronto, Canada, Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms and author of many related novels as well as a Mystara Gazetteer, has also kindly offered his time and talent to write additional material.

What Next?

With great talent comes great. . . never mind. Putting a product out on the market demands proper funding. As a result, a Kickstarter campaign is necessary to cover production costs. I am therefore asking all of you how excited you are about the World of Calidar. I posted a tentative outline for the campaign’s pledge levels below. From the surveys listed near the top of this page, select the pledge level and add-ons you feel comfortable backing. This is for information only. The first survey concerns pledge levels. The next one deals specifically with multiple-choice add-ons.

Edit Dec 06 2013: the survey is now closed.  Thank you all for your participation.  Results indicate enough backers for at least basic funding, provided everyone shows up.  Onward!

The Kickstarter campaign is likely to last thirty days from early- or mid-December into January 2014. Your comments are welcome, either on this thread or to privately. Be fair, be honest, and above all, be realistic. Because this is my first Kickstarter, this survey helps me get a better idea of how many of you feel strongly enough about this project to back it personally. Your responses will drive budgeting and whether the project will succeed at all.

Ideally, the ultimate target is a product the caliber of a D&D Gazetteer—I’m sure most of you know what I mean. If pledges go beyond basic funding, then additional text, maps, and art should be forthcoming. Multiple projects in a single year also become possible with stretch goals. Bear in mind that the World of Calidar is a series of products, not just one single release. That’s all up to you.

Name Reward
Airman PDF of the Calidar Story + Access to the cliffhanger episode
Bosun As Airman + PDF of the World Supplement
Master As Bosun + Softbound booklet + Your name in the Honor Roll
First Mate As Master + Poster Map
Captain As First Mate with booklet upgraded to Hard Cover premium color format
Admiral As Captain + autograph + Name an Island + Cloth Map + Bookmark
Innkeeper Advertizing included in the e-product (PDF of the Story & World Supplement provided; Businesses only, two slots)
Outfitter Advertizing included in both printed and e-products (Softbound booklet provided; Businesses only, one slot)
Add-Ons (at First Mate Level and above)
Add-on #1 Your character name included as cameo appearance in the story (20 slots only)
Add-on #2 Name a skyship in the story or world supplement (20 slots only)
Add-on #3 Free download of Hexographer Pro presently valued at $31.95
Add-on #4 Additional copy/copies of the Poster Map

The Calidar Story: "In Stranger Skies" is the first part of the booklet—the story of how the Star Phoenix and her crew enter the Calidar universe.

Cliffhanger Episode: while the Kickstarter takes place, I’ll be posting short stories on this blog and elsewhere to promote the project. The last one of these episodes should appear directly on the Kickstarter backers' page.

World Supplement: this is the second part of the booklet, which describes the setting, much like a game supplement would, with historical facts, geography, realms, unique features of the universe, major characters, the main faiths, plot devices, monsters, etc.

Softbound/Hardbound Booklet: there will be two versions of the booklet—softbound and hard cover. Both are color, but the hardbound has much better paper and printing which is especially relevant to the quality of internal color maps. So far, the plan is to offer these booklets either via DriveTru RPG or CreateSpace (to be determined).

Honor Roll: the list of backers at Master level and above appears inside the booklet.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Schedule at Lucca Games

If you plan on connecting with me at the convention, here is my daily schedule. The convention is located in the beautiful old town of Lucca in Italy.  The high points of my participation include the opening of the TSR Showcase, a world-building seminar, and two game sessions I'll be DMing.  The adventure is designed for Expert-Level D&D and involves (you guessed it) skyships.  It starts off in the Kingdom of Ar and, if the players can solve the first part of the adventure fast enough, to a Principality of Glantri (I'm not saying which).  I believe there is more than can be played in three hours, so it'll be more about how far players get than whether the final goal is actually reached.  For those of you who will not have the opportunity to participate, fret not, for I shall post the adventure, complete with maps and pre-generated characters, right here on this blog, after I return.  The seminar also includes a Q&A session during which, if the opportunity presents itself, I'll gleefully talk about the new project, the World of Calidar.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Call of Cthulhu adaptation to Mystara

Outer Beings adaptation to Mystara
In retrospect, I'm very pleased with how the Frisland articles turned out.  Geoff Gander was a key contributor, the original designer for the Outer Beings developed years ago as an adaptation of the Cthulhu mythos for the D&D game.  He will be picking up where I stopped on his blog starting November 1st this year.  As a final note on this--I noticed that once again Blogspot failed to update the bloglist, so this last chapter may go unnoticed by many in the blogosphere.  I am therefore posting another link here for those of you who may have missed the release.  With some luck, the blog list will update this time.  Pretty please. . .

Click Here: The County of Orzafeth

Frisland: The County of Orzafeth

Continued from "Frisland: County of Hosseta"

Bone-eaters, jack-o-lanterns, scarecrows, mandragora. . . Orzafeth is a land of many mysteries and dangers. There, risen from ancient times, two sinister willpowers fight to revive their realms. Though supremely deadly, neither are what they seem to be.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Hex Map
County of Orzafeth -- Map Scale: 8 Miles Per Hex
History: The County of Orzafeth once was a kingdom allied with the Ogam. The original monarchy had accepted mountain tribes and their shamans in its realm in a bid to improve land fertility. It succeeded, but it also led the population to become followers of the Outer Beings. Emanations of chaos engulfed the old kingdom and spilled over into the neighboring realms, prompting them to go on a crusade. Horrors summoned by the shamans defeated the crusaders, which compelled Emperor Alphas III to intervene. The Outer Being worshipers were defeated at great cost. Besieged in their capital city, the last Orzafethians self-destructed during a lurid ritual, their souls departing to feed their outer world patrons. Since then, the capital city’s twisted ruins have remained cursed and prone to permanent emanations of chaos. The old monarchy having vanished during the self-immolation, Sundsvall appointed a family to administrate the new county, now a dominion of the Kingdom of Greater Frisland. Save for the mountains themselves, Orzafeth is the next most dangerous place in the realm, with unexplained phenomena, poisonous flora cropping up unexpectedly, and bestial incursions spawning from unseen gates. Despite a high military presence and repressive laws, Orzafeth remains a treacherous place to live.