Saturday, December 22, 2018

They Live in the Sky

Open in the image on another tab & enlarge for the full res. view
While the art is being generated for "On Wings of Darkness" and the core book undergoes text editing, I am finishing floor plan details. When the Kickstarter came up, last October, I'd left the sideview for the City of Arcanial's upper district in line art stage, without its color or texture. I finally completed this part yesterday. The wizards' capital city is a flying structure made of three levitating districts, one on top of the other and rotating in opposite directions. The ruling class along with the rich and famous live in the upper district (shown above). The upper middle class resides in the middle district, and the more modest lower middle class hails from the lower district (all things being relative, since Arcanial is an expensive place to live, compared with most other towns). The lower class and those people on a waiting list to obtain living quarters aloft reside in the far less attractive Port Arcana, which lies on the ground surface, directly below Arcanial. A view of the skyport located on the ground close to the river harbor appears in my previous blog article.

The upper district is tall enough for the main structure to house 14 floors, plus free-standing buildings on the terraces. The lord high's palace is the cylindrical bit at the center, surmounted by a lighthouse. The bottom features a huge illusion of a sun (or a moon, depending on the time of the day.) Colossal chains anchor the upper district's various sections in place.  The view above is a cross section, except for the palace, which I've not cut through. Internal ceilings are 9-10' high for most places. A short entry about each floor in the palace (matching the story at the beginning of the book), a general "street" diagram of the levels inside the surrounding sections, and the location of important features listed in the book give an idea of how the district is put together. Specific layout details are left to the referee (like any other fantasy city). Even more details on encounters, personalities, monsters, and specific locations follow in the book about the other two districts: plenty to start writing adventures!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Skyport Security in a Fantasy World

Arcanial Skyport (click on image/open in another tab for larger view)
It took me long enough, but I did include a top view of Arcanial's skyport as part of the series of maps describing the magiocracy's capital city (On Wings of Darkness--available summer 2019). Essentially, it possesses two large "terminals" with multiple docking slots for skyships. In the view above, one very large vessel overshadows warehouses well below its hull. You might recognize the skyships from previous blog articles. The skyport lies next to the river's northern embankment, some distance below the flying city.

The terminals are huge towers with wooden "skybridges" that can pivot alongside docking vessels. They rely on wheels and rails located inside the towers to keep them level, and load-bearing beams enchanted with reverse gravity spells to balance the devices. Skybridges are positioned high enough to leave sufficient clearance for masts beneath the skyships' hulls, and at different heights so pivoting docks do not interfere with adjacent ones. Docking presented a challenge since many of Calidar's skyships have outrigger masts angled above or below deck level. 

The towers' top levels house cranes handling the heaviest merchandise. The centers of the towers include a shaft with a hoist load down reaching to the ground level (or below if need be). Anything these mechanical devices and an army of fellfolk dockhands employed by the skysport cannot handle requires levitation spells, a common form of magic in a setting where many things dwell above ground.  

Hoist Load (left) & Mouse Wheel Crane (right)

A swarm of flying barges headed to/from the city flying above pick up merchandise and passengers. Large vessels do not dock directly at the flying city for security reasons and because mooring facilities there aren't convenient enough. Any number of skyships otherwise remain tethered at air anchors, all around the flying city, well above the skyport. Much of the merchandise otherwise transits through warehouses surrounding the skyport.

One might wonder what sort of security a facility of this nature demands. Air travel in Calidar's universe isn't comparable to modern day, real world commercial aviation. There's nothing like mass passenger transportation. Paying passengers are an exception more than a rule. Much of the traffic concerns valuable freight, especially in the case of Caldwen. For the sake of the ruling class's privacy, local control, and prevailing paranoia, few roads exist across the magiocracy. Transportation relies mostly on rivers and airways. Both are needed to feed the capital city. Wizards and the upper class in general own private skyships which they use for leisure, relying otherwise on spells and teleporters to travel. On the other end of the spectrum, the hoi polloi rarely venture far away from their birthplaces. 

Nonetheless, some seal-bearing documentation is often required when stepping aboard or disembarking a skyship in a major city. City guards and the port authority are generally in charge of security. City guards use their own flying barges to board and inspect approaching vessels before authorizing them to come any closer. Dockworkers act as eyes and ears for the captain of the port. Much of their focus remains on preventing merchandise theft and smuggling. Overseeing sorcerer's are responsible for collecting docking fees and the use of aerial mooring space near the capital city. Fees are paid to the port authority. Sorcerers also intervene when dockhands report something suspicious (for which the latter earn monetary rewards). Very much in the style of Caldwen, bound demons can be summoned to handle challenges to law enforcement. The port authority resorts to geas to help alleviate the problem of bribery among spellcasting inspectors and unscrupulous dockworkers, a daunting task considering the number of people involved. In a city where most things are expensive, theft and bribery aren't uncommon, not to mention potential sabotage risks from the Fifth Column, a secret society of activists demanding the return of Caldwen as a colony of the Nicarean Empire

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Guild of Dracologists

This article is the third in the guild series. Click here to catch the first one, along with a word explaining how Caldwen's guilds are set up in general, and what academic diplomas are about.


Dragons both fascinate and terrify. These ancient beasts attract insatiable curiosity from spellcasters wishing to unveil their secrets and own their powers. For some, there is the visceral desire to master such magnificent creatures, to learn from them, or perhaps to protect them. The trouble is that dragons are largely seen as evil monsters in Calidar’s universe. Most are. Rumors of a war between dragons seemed to imply evil ones killed their better kind, or perhaps merely drove them away. This field of study is a riven one, with as many quarrelsome cabals as the colors of dragons. They all teach the same tools of the trade, but with different intents. As a business, dracologists dispense care and knowledge of dragons, advising the military or the wiser mages, or ridding lands plagued by such creatures.

Belledor & Phrydias: This guild aims its sympathies at hypothetical benevolent dragons. It seeks to prove their existence, to facilitate their return to this world, and to banish or fell evil ones if they do not yield to the common good. The guild in Seahollow focuses on gold dragons and seeks to clarify false assumptions about them. Surrounded with mystery, this guild is more powerful than it appears. Information has filtered in from Lao-Kwei during the past century about such wondrous beings. The guild recently set up a legation on that faraway world. A third branch in Phrydias investigates new theories about metallic dragons other than gold. Exceedingly cautious about recruits, these cabals publicize neither their findings nor their members’ identities. A number of Meryath spellcasters have joined this guild.

Caldwen & Nordheim: These dracologists abhor the arrogance and foolishness of slaying dragons. Regardless of ethos, they will protect them in any way they can. Their goals are to respect dragons, gain their trust, learn their secrets, and endeavor to cohabitate for the sake of peace. They keep quiet about their tacit willingness to serve dragons whom they see as the greater race. A main outfit, in Meggidon, focuses on black dragons. Another, in faraway Nordhavn, protects whites. Relatively obscure, other such cabals scattered in the Great Caldera, focus on various other breeds.

Ellyrion & Alfdaín: Ever the military types, Ellyrian dracologists dream of commanding dragons for the sake of power. They see them as invaluable airborne cavalry. All dragons must be subdued or slain, and their eggs seized so hatchlings may be raised to serve the empire. An establishment, in Drakotiris, concerns blue dragons. A rival outfit, in Lathias, specializes in green dragons. There is nothing secret about these cabals as both actively recruit spellcasters. Demeanor is mostly martial. Primary strategic aims are to deny outer world powers access to Dread Lands’ seitha deposits.

Meryath & Osriel: These cabals ostensibly support dragon-slaying expeditions to earn plunder, clues, spell components, precious new magic, and personal glory. The official narrative in Meryath is revenge for the death of Meríon the Great. Its true goal is to acquire knowledge and money to bolster Meryath’s war effort against the Draconic Knights. A major establishment in Meryathon focuses on red dragons. This guild is the best known on Calidar. Its policy is to shamelessly advertise/exaggerate its successes and to create popular heroes in order to attract new members. Guild fees on captured hoards are hefty. “Anything goes” with this rough and tumble bunch. Another guild in Lorical, Osriel, concerns merchant princes, profit, and the sale of components.    (. . .)

The chapter goes on to describe three inner cabals. The Cabal of the Blood accommodates magic-users with Spellcraft Licenses in Invocation and Divination, teaching intuition and empathy between certain dragons and their cabal advocates. The Ritual of the Blood, if it succeeds, gives advocates useful skills to interact with their chosen dragon breeds. The next step, in the Cabal of the Fierce, enables qualified advocates to learn the ropes as thaumaturgists. If the Ritual of Invocation succeeds, it unlocks innate dragon-like powers. Some of you may recall a similar treatment in GAZ3 Principalities of Glantri, and you won't be disappointed. The last cycle, in the Cabal of the Wyrm, "surviving" members learn to master the Ritual of Dedication. If it succeeds, they must select one of several paths defining the nature of their relations with a specific dragon of great power: minion, protector, godfather of the present clutch, or slayer for the sake of Eternal Glory. Each of these cabals presents many dangers in one's quest for perfection, and failure results in dire consequences. Powers are nice, but getting them isn't easy or for the faint hearted. All cabals in Caldwen are similar in this respect.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Guild of Demonologists

This article is the second in the guild series. Click here to catch the first one, along with a word explaining how Caldwen's guilds are set up in general, and what academic diplomas are about.


A frightening field of study outlawed in most places, this craft is tolerated in Caldwen because of local culture and faith in deities with demonic ancestry. This stance is rooted in the knowledge that the darkest of evils can be redeemed. Demonology does not limit itself to such values, however: it is also about knowledge and power. Cautious about whom they allow in, demonologists do not reveal much of their craft outside their cabals, as peers, if they found out, would seek to eliminate transgressors. Though Caldwen’s qualified demonologists are talented, others in the craft hide in Ellyrion, where the clergy harbors a most visceral hatred and fear of them. The Daimonikon League is the sworn enemy of the craft inside and out of Ellyrion (see CC1 Beyond the Skies, pg. 230). Caldweners outside the guild rely on magical coercion or violence to subjugate demons. The ways of demonologists are more subtle and far reaching. Main Guild House: Bisilthur. (...)

The chapter goes on to describe three inner cabals. The Cabal of the Calling accommodates magic-users with Spellcraft Licenses in Illusion and Necromancy. It teaches how to identify specific demons and establish consensual bonds. Its members are called theurgists. The Ritual of Calling eventually establishes a permanent bond between a theurgist and a demon soul mate. The Cabal of the Flesh accommodates qualified theurgists with Bachelor's degrees. It teaches how to engender demonic creatures permanently bound to their creators through a Ritual of Sacrifice. Members are called progenitors. The Cabal of the Spirit accommodates accomplished progenitors with at least Master’s degrees. It is a fellowship of scholars seeking the secrets of True Names. There is no formal instruction related to this craft. Success is measured in the ability to affect archfiends without relying on pacts. Its members are called demonologists. They must choose one of three paths to complete their final quests: The Path of the Master, the Path of the Reformer, or the Path of the Servant, which determine the nature of the relationships between archfiends and demonologists. Each of these inner cabals provide special powers which come in exchange for personal sacrifices.

If the above piqued your interest, you can still get in on the project, have your name listed in the Gazetteer's honor roll, and receive a copy. The related Kickstarter's rewards are still available to anyone who missed last October's crowdfunding; this offer ends after December 31 2018. The core reward's fulfillment is expected in July 2019. Click on the banner above to check what the original Kickstarter offered, and get in touch with the author for further instructions if this is for you. Thanks!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

I Have a Beef with Marcus

Just 'cuz I have a beef with Marcus Cinema, I'm posting this here too.

"I had the opportunity to watch a movie with a friend a few days ago, at Marcus Cinema in Waukesha, WI. We got there and were told the showing had been cancelled 5mn earlier to make room for a private viewing of some other movie for the benefit of the local press. I wasn't amused. So, we had to settle for another showing, not in the large Ultra Screen auditorium but in a much smaller one, an hour later. 

"First off, I was really disappointed about my friend not being able to experience the large auditorium with big leather reclining seats. He was traveling from Europe and hadn't tried something like this as of yet. Gee thanks.

"Second, we ended up in a smaller venue, whose seats were supposed to be the comfortable, reclining sort. Unlike those in the Ultra Screen room, I found them awfully uncomfortable. Maybe it's just me, but the seating results in a cupped position, which is okay for about 20mn, after which I need to sit up and straighten my back. The trouble is that in the upright position, the top of the seat pushes back against the back of the head to the point of giving a headache. So I spent the duration of the movie, leaning to the side, resting on an elbow, trying to find a comfortable seating posture. Terrible. Won't go there again. 

"Finally, the usual modern-day movie theater issues got in the way. I paid a premium to watch a movie, for which I had to endure about 20mn of incessant TV ads beforehand. Unlike my TV at home, there's no mute button to muzzle the LOUD, inane, and invasive promotions. Add the nearby spectator digging into a cellophane bag for candies, happily and brainlessly crinkling in the dark during much of the movie (etc.)

"I've come to the realization that I'm much happier watching movies at home. It's cheaper and more convenient. Cancelling a showing at the last minute just broke the camel's back as far as I'm concerned."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Guild of Alchemists

While work on the new Gazetteer progresses, I'd like to take the opportunity to post a series of previews on Caldwen's cabals.
The grand magiocracy does not have a single general-purpose “guild of sorcerers.” Instead, there are so-called “cabalist guilds,” private associations concerning specific types of wizardry. The magiocracy's legislative branch, the Upper Chamber of the Magi, provided the official charters defining the cabals’ spheres of interest and giving them legal power to regulate their craft.
Six well-known cabals exist in Caldwen, each one focusing on two spellcasting philosophies nearly exclusively and on the special powers of their craft. Similar guilds in different realms, if any, are most likely connected with Caldwen’s. Spellcasters holding Masters* or PHDs in philosophies other than those associated with cabalists lack the necessary train of thought to embrace guild craft. On the other hand, cabalists can only progress past Bachelor degrees within the two philosophies of their craft. Ironically, archmages are unable by definition to become cabalists, as Grand Wizardry demands mastery in all spellcasting disciplines.

(*) Caldwen's mages earn "official" diplomas from the various schools of magic, including such things as Spellcract Licenses, Bachelors in the Arts, Masters in the Arts, and Doctorates in Philosophy. These diplomas are relevant to social status and legal rights in the magiocracy. They also reflect one's degree of competency in the arts.

Cabal of Alchemy
This guild is the most common and most recognized on Calidar. Few towns lack at least one accredited apothecary. Cabalists have no specific ambitions other than perfecting their craft and attaining the skills needed to create a philosopher’s stone. It is believed that such objects hold the secrets of the universe and the keys to godhood. Curiously, the craft involves two opposing spellcasting philosophies (Alteration & Enchantment), which some have argued is the key to its special powers. Main Guild House: Azazul. (...)

This section of the Gazetteer continues on to describe three related cabals: Apothecaries, Alchemists, and Philosophers, which members can join as they learn their craft and perfect their skills. This includes qualifying tests, ordeals, personal sacrifices, special powers, and tools of the trade. To master the last cabal, a philosopher must engender three wondrous objects known as the Raven, the Swan, and the Phoenix, reaching the final goal of the quest: the Magnum Opus, otherwise known as the Philosopher's Stone.

If the above piqued your interest, you can still get in on the project, have your name listed in the Gazetteer's honor roll, and receive a copy. The related Kickstarter's rewards are still available to anyone who missed last October's crowdfunding; this offer ends after December 31 2018. The core reward's fulfillment is expected in July 2019. Click on the banner above to check what the original Kickstarter offered, and get in touch with the author for further instructions if this is for you. Thanks!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Missed Your Chance?

Missed your chance to get in on the fun? No problem: PM me to make a private pledge, upgrade your contribution, or grab those few more add-ons you overlooked or could not afford at the time. Though the Kickstarter is now over, there still is a window of opportunity to get exactly what you wanted. You can reach me on Facebook, G+, MeWe, and Kickstarter. Click here to see what the original project offered.


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Masters & Commanders Pt. II

Captain-at-Arms Wu Yuntai: AC 1 (unarmored), Lvl 8 elf (in other D&D versions a Fighter/Magic-user Lvl 8/8), hp 36, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 sword +1 (right hand, expert proficiency), Dmg 2d8 sword, Size M—Str 16, Dex 14 (Agt 14/Dex 10), Con 15, Int 16, Wis 13, Cha 12, ML 11, Saves as fighter, NP 4*, AL Neutral (“Lawful Neutral” in other game versions). Faith: none established. Credentials: none. Apparent Age: mid 30s. Ancestry: elven; unknown origins. (*) NP: see note on Notoriety Points in the previous article.

         Magic-User Spellcasting—L1 x3, L2 x3, L3 x2, L4 x2.
         General Skills—Set #1 Army Commander (no penalty) incl. Bravery (Wis), Horse Riding (Dex), Intimidation (Int), Knowledge of Palace Intrigue (Int), Leadership (Cha), and Military Tactics (Wis); Individual Skills incl. Alertness (Dex), Knowledge of Falconry (Wis), and Quick Draw (Dex).
         Weapon Proficiencies—basic proficiency with dagger, longbow, and staff; expert proficiency with sword. Commander’s Rating—(14) Good (see Skyship Saving Throws).

Spellbook: L1—Analyze, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Light*, Magic Missile, Protection from Evil, Read Magic
         L2—Detect Evil, Detect Invisible, Levitate, Locate Object, Phantasmal Force
         L3—Dispel Magic, Fireball, Protection from Normal Missiles
         L4—Remove Curse*

Equipment: Breastplate of defense AC4, sword +1/+3 vs. dragon kin, ring of protection +2 (holding his hair), rod of bolts (1 charge), potion of healing.

Rod of Bolts: This weapon is a standard piece of equipment for marines aboard the Star Phoenix. The ship’s artificer is responsible for recharging these items after they are used. Each can release one half-strength lightning bolt (thus, 3d6 damage per bolt) per encounter. Although rarely true, as many as 20 marines (also referred to as “airvaliants” in Meryath) make up the ship’s full complement, plus their commander. A squad of a dozen is more common, often split between the ship’s fore and aft sections. A full concentrated broadside can be devastating, however, marines are trained to avoid aiming at the same point—rather, their bolts typically fan out in order to stop an enemy crew from boarding. Once the rods are discharged, marines revert to normal swordfight. The rods almost never receive more than a charge each to limit damage should one fall into the wrong hands. Marines are personally responsible for their rods, and are instructed to destroy them if at risk of being seized by an enemy.

Airvaliants (11-19): AC 6 (leather), Lvl 2 fighters, hp 10-12, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 sword or bolt, Dmg 1d8 sword or 3d6 bolt, Size M, ML 10. Weapon Proficiencies: sword, dagger, pike, light crossbow.

Sergeant-at-Arms (1): AC 3 (chain mail), Lvl 3 fighter, hp 20, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 sword +1 or bolt, Dmg 1d12 sword or 3d6 bolt, Size M—Str 16, Dex 13 (Agt 13/Dex 9), Con 13, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 12, ML 9, AL Neutral (or “Lawful Neutral” in other game versions). Faith: Istra*. Credentials: none. Apparent Age: early 40s. Ancestry: Human; Meryath. Weapon Proficiencies: basic proficiency with dagger, pike, and light crossbow; “skilled” proficiency with sword. (*) +1 to hit vs. Draconic knights.

Master Artificer Ebben Rugwittle: AC 5 (unarmored), Lvl 9 magic-user, hp 23, MV 90’ (30’), AT 1 dagger +1 (right hand, expert proficiency), Dmg 2d4 dagger, Size S—Str 11, Dex 17 (Agt 14/Dex 15), Con 12, Int 17, Wis 10, Cha 13, ML 10, Saves as magic-user, NP 2*, AL Neutral (“Chaotic Neutral” in other game versions). Faith: none established. Credentials: none. Apparent Age: late 40s. Ancestry: gnomish; unknown origins. (*) NP: see note on Notoriety Points in the previous article.

         Magic-User Spellcasting—L1 x3, L2 x3, L3 x3, L4 x2, L5 x1.
         General Skills—Set #1 Skyship Engineer (no penalty) incl. Knowledge of Machinery (Int), Knowledge of Physics (Int), Skyship Engineering (Int), Ship Building (Int); Individual Skills incl. Craft (Weaver, Int.), Craft (Seamster, Int), Profession (Ship Chandler, Int).
         Weapon Proficienciesbasic proficiency with sling; “expert” proficiency with dagger. Commander’s Rating—(13) Good (see Skyship Saving Throws).

Spellbook: L1—Analyze, Floating Disc, Hold Portal, Structural Appraisal, Detect Magic, Light*, Magic Missile, Protection from Rot, Protection from Rust, Read Magic, Restore Charges
         L2—Azimuthal Lock, Detect Evil, Detect Invisible, Knock, Levitate, Locate Object, Mirror Image, Restore Wood, Wizard Lock
         L3—Artificer’s Blinding Flare, Artificer’s Mending Brace, Create Air, Dispel Magic, Fireball, Lightning Bolt, Invisibility 10’ Radius, Smother Conflagration, Unyielding Cord
         L4—Clothform, Dimension Door, Ice Storm/Wall of Ice, Remove Curse
         L5—Spectral Sail, Dissolve, Woodform

Equipment: dagger +1/+3 vs. incorporeal beings, shoe buckles of defense AC6, ring of catnapping (20mn of sleep count as a full hour of rest).

Restore Charges
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
Effect: Refills depleting magical items.

         This handy spell enables the artificer to restore spent charges to certain magical items, such as wands, staves, rods, and others previously devised to require charges. The artificer must memorize the original enchantment’s spell. The restoration then duplicates the memorized spell’s effect, restoring charges to one item or distributing them to a group of identical items in close contact. The number of duplicated charges is equal to the artificer’s experience level divided by the memorized spell level (round up). When done, both the source and restoration spells are used up.
         Ship Artificer Rugwittle restores charges to the marines’ rods of bolts, revitalizing 3 items per spell (up to 9 per day conceivably, more if the DM allows trading a higher level spell for a lower level one). To remain “legit” with established rules on enchanting magical items, the cost of recharges still remains in force. This includes spell components or, in Rugwittle’s case, Oil of Seith, which can be substituted for normal ingredients in the Calidar universe (see CC1 “Beyond the Skies” for details on Seitha, page 205). This oil takes up less space than common spell components, a desirable quality within a skyship’s limited confines. Coincidentally, the cost of Seitha is exactly the same as what established game rules suggest (see Rules Cyclopedia, page 252).

Azimuthal Lock
Range: Touch
Duration: Permanent
Effect: Restricts an object’s movement.

         This spell is part of the enchantment process of a sailing skyship’s hull. It helps restrict its movement to its hull’s centerline, without which the skyship would otherwise drift with the wind. The movement restriction isn’t absolute, attesting to the fact that sailing skyships do drift to some degree, depending on the strength of cross winds, much like a seagoing vessel.
         The spell can be cast on any single object with the same effect. The artificer determines exactly along what axis the recipient should move. For example, if cast on a sword, it could to made to move freely in a direction aligned with its blade. Physical strength would otherwise have to be applied to alter its direction (which would be the function of the helm on a skyship). Any single point of Strength can either rotate an Azimuthal Lock +/– 10˚ or push the recipient sideways by a foot, per hour. So, 10 characters with an 18 Strength would need six minutes to rotate it 180˚ or push it 18’ sideways (+/–5˚ per combat round or 6 inches sideways). Perfectly ridiculous but it’s fantasy so get used to it.
         The spell can affect a single object fitting within a foot-large sphere per experience level of the artificer. Multiple spells are needed to affect a larger object, like a skyship. Two Azimuthal Locks can be cast on a same item at different angles, essentially locking it in place until dispelled

Monday, October 15, 2018

Masters & Commanders Pt. I

In the first of the articles intended to convert Star Phoenix crew members to D&D BECMI, I had detailed Captain Isledemer d’Alberran. Here’s the shyship’s first mate, Enna Daggart. She was first described in CAL1 “In Stranger Skies,” page 110, for Pathfinder. If you haven’t read the first article, click here for details, and familiarize yourself with Calidar’s peculiarities. Reminder: weapon damage listed here reflects the Weapons Mastery Table (Rules Cyclopedia, pg. 78-79).

"Black Lily" (Credit Unknown)
First Mate Enna Daggart: AC 4 (unarmored), Lvl 9 swashbuckler, hp 50, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 cutlass +1 (right hand, master skill), Dmg 3d6+3 cutlass, Size M—Str 14, Dex 15 (Agt 15/Dex 12), Con 15, Int 15, Wis 14, Cha 14, ML 10, Saves as fighter, NP 3*, AL Neutral (or “Lawful Neutral” in other game versions). Faith: none established. Credentials: none. Apparent Age: 30s. Ancestry: human; unknown origins. (*) NP: see note on Notoriety Points below.

         General Skills—Set #1 Airship Commander (no penalty) incl. Aerial Navigation (Int), Leadership (Cha), Piloting (Dex), Deck Weapons (Int), Skyship Tactics (Wis), and Weather Sense (Wis); Set #2 Swashbuckler (–2 penalty) incl. Acrobatics (Agt), Alertness (Agt), Bravery (Wis), and Quick Draw; Individual Skills incl. Bargaining (Cha), and Horse Riding (Agt).
         Weapon Proficiencies—basic proficiency with daggers, light crossbows, and ballistae; master proficiency with cutlass. Commander’s Rating—(16) Expert (see Skyship Saving Throws).

Equipment: Cutlass +1/+3 vs. sea & sky pirates, bracers of armor +3, earring of airmanship (+2 bonus to basic sailor skill checks), two-way scroll of communication (connected with Capt. d’Alberran’s), potion of healing.

Ship Master Arabesque Starward: AC 2 (armored), Lvl 9 cleric, hp 35, MV 120’ (40’), AT 1 barbed spear +2 (right hand, “skilled” mastery), Dmg 1d6+3* spear (20/40/60), Size M—Str 12, Dex 16 (Agt 13/Dex 16), Con 11, Int 14, Wis 17, Cha 16, ML 10, NP 3*, Saves as cleric, AL Lawful (or “Lawful Good” in other game versions). Faith: Istra (Meryath). Credentials: none. Apparent Age: 30s. Ancestry: elven; unknown origins. (*) NP: see note on Notoriety Points below. (**) The spear’s barbs do an extra point of damage.

         Clerical Spellcasting—L1 x3, L2 x3, L3 x3, L4 x2.
         General SkillsHealer Set (no penalty) incl. Alchemy (Int), Herbalist (Int), Healing (Int), Knowledge of Poisons (Int); Navigator Set (no penalty) incl. Aerial Navigation (Int), Leadership (Cha), Mapping/Cartography (Int), Weather Sense (Wis); Chaplain Set (–2 penalty) incl. Ceremony (Wis—Istra), Persuasion (Cha), Singing (Cha), Storytelling (Cha). 
         Weapon Proficienciesbasic proficiency with sword, longbow, dagger; “skilled” proficiency with barbed spear. Commander’s Rating—(15) Good (see Skyship Saving Throws).

Clerical Details: 
         Cult Symbolred hibiscus on a hand-size silver disc, usually worn as a medallion. 
         Hated Foes—Draconic knights, Queen Sayble of Draconia
         Cult Benefits: +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage against hated foes; Sacred Animal—Kiwi or giant kiwi.

Equipment: Barbed spear +2, chain mail +2, bezoar stone (+2 bonus to Alchemy skill checks when making poison antidote), potion of healing.

Faiths in Calidar: Particular attention was paid to the costs and benefits of divine faith. CC1 “Beyond the Skies” brings to life scores of gods, organized pantheons, their historical timelines, and ancient legends. It details how this affects cult followers and their clerics. A key feature is the Divine Favor, a single-use magical feat granted to the faithful proving worthy of their deities’ trust. Displeasing a godly patron may also result in a Divine Wound. CC1 spells out much about the interactions among deities and between rival pantheons, defining motivations and politics among clerics, temples, and orders of knights—and therefore, how to role play characters, from unrepentant heathens to fanatical zealots. Arabesque’s Hated Foes are just an example. Though Calidar features gods, they are in many ways similar to the D&D Game’s immortals.

NP—Notoriety Points: They are a feature of the World of Calidar (CAL1 “In Stranger Skies,” page 86). The concept of Eternal Glory revolves around the general idea that one isn’t truly dead until forgotten by all, meaning that heroes never die while tales of their deeds are told in homes, taverns, theaters, or books. In other words, one might be thought to be immortal when achieving legendary status. The magic of Calidar springs from its World Soul. If an idea is strong enough, this World Soul can bring into existence such things as gods or the most horrid of creatures—all it takes is the beliefs of many. Legends can be most powerful on Calidar. One manifestation of this concerns heroes who, after reaching a certain Notoriety, become epic heroes or fabled scoundrels, and cease to age. If they progress even further, they may indeed attain demigodhood (or become demons). This philosophy is strongest in Meryath, an extravagant kingdom where the cult of heroes permeates much of its local culture, economy, laws, and politics. Indeed in the eyes of many an adventurer in Meryath, joining the Star Phoenix’s crew offers the prospect of quick Notoriety despite a life fraught with perils and probable death.

As regards Calidar's present Kickstarter, the announcement was made official about the next project to produce kits translating the series system-agnostic stats into the D&D Game's Fifth Edition (subject to copyright and OGL limitations.) Along the same line, additional kits may follow to accommodate earlier versions of the game, by way of existing OSR systems. These will be free PDF releases and/or low-cost POD booklets.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Special Combat Magic Pt. II

This article continues from Pt. I, addressing holy symbols and magical wands as personally attuned devices.

Clerical Symbols: If the symbol is a weapon (a bow, a sword, a spear, a hammer, a staff, etc.), then use the weapon guidelines in the previous article (click here). If the symbol is something else, the following guidelines apply instead. Immortal patrons or their more powerful servants typically provide these personal devices to worthy clerics. They enable their owners to focus the power of their faiths and engender a numinous manifestation in one of three ways.
         1. Tower of Faith: The device is brandished toward one attacker. From this point forward, its owner's armor class and saving throws receive a bonus equal to the symbol’s magical rating against attacks from the targeted foe. Though it requires a combat action to invoke, this protection remains in power until the owner dismisses it, the foe is felled, or the encounter ends.
         2. Lordly Supremacy: As above, the symbol must be brandished before the owner’s foes, which requires one combat action. Supremacy is comparable to turning undead, except it may be used against living foes with alignments directly opposite the owner’s, or against sworn-enemies of the owner’s faith. In the case of BECMI (which has only 3 alignments), use only against enemies of the faith or at the DM’s discretion. Foes are turned as undead with the same or higher number of HD. Add the symbol’s magical bonus to the turning score and to the number of HD turned. A “D” result destroys undead only; other foes drop to their knees and prostrate themselves in awe/fear before the cleric (player characters and monstrous beings are stunned instead). Unless some mechanics are in place to convert groveling foes, treat as a Charm spell. Supremacy can only be attempted once per encounter.
         3. Mystical Shield: This action is similar to deflecting a spell with a weapon (click here for the earlier article). As with previous options, the holy symbol must be held up ostensibly toward the spellcaster for the deflection to take place

Top Illustration: Pathfinder - Kyra v Undead by FilKearney
Digital Art / Drawings & Paintings / Fantasy©2014-2018 FilKearney.

Wands and Rods: Rods are much more uncommon than wands in this context, though they work like wands. Staves are considered weapons and should be treated as such. The personal device of a magic-user, such as the one Captain Isledemer d’Alberran carries, bears three main functions.
         1. Spell Enhancing: Though magic-users in the world of Calidar can weave magic without relying on enchanted items, they can use personal wands to improve one aspect of spell-casting. Aspects include range, area of effect, duration, and damage. At the player’s discretion (subject to the DM’s agreement), one aspect can be improved +5% for each “plus” of the personal wand’s enchantment (thus +5% to +20% for wands +1 to +4). As regards BECMI game mechanics, the established rule that no spell can inflict more than 20 dice of damage (a maximum of 20x6=120 points) should remain in force (see Rules Cyclopedia, page 32). An alternative aspect can also lower a target’s saving throw by the wand’s number of “plusses.”
         2. Deflection: A personal wand may deflect direct attacks like weapons do (see previous article for details). Used in this manner, the owner is considered having “Basic” combat skill; Expertise, Mastery, and Grand Mastery combat skills only apply to wands when deflecting spells (as opposed to melee and other ranged attacks).
         3. Wizardly Dueling: Personal wands (and the more common dueling wands found in schools of magic) can be used within the context of non-lethal dueling, calling forth a combination of their owners’ moves and short range, instantaneous telekinetic effects. Maximum range is 30’ between the two contestants. A personal device does not use magical charges during wizardly duels. Each round, contestants secretly pick one of six moves and reveal their choices simultaneously.
        Cross reference these choices on the Wizardly Dueling chart below to determine which move succeeds. For example: “Dodge” vs. “Lunge” results in the “Dodge’s” success, the “Lunge” being entirely foiled. Moves are simultaneous, unless an “Initiative” result comes up; roll for initiative—the faster moves then succeeds (reroll ties). Both moves fail with a “Nil.” outcome. Colors are only for cosmetic effect (red is a defensive move, green is an attack). “NPC” moves are numbered to allow for random DM rolls.

Wizardly Dueling

PC >
      1.  Dodge
      2.  Feint
      3.  Parry
      4.  Flick
      5.  Lunge
      6.  Swish

Combat Results: Successful moves result in three possible effects: Prestige, Advantage, and Damage. In a dueling contest, the first opponent to reach +7 Prestige wins the match. Advantage can be a bonus (+) or a penalty (–) to initiative during the next round, if any, or some other outcome at the DM’s discretion. Damage: It is non-lethal and applies to the contestant failing a move; 1 hit equals 1/10 the winner’s total hit points rounded up (the "winner" being the author of a successful move). The first contestant to reach or exceed his/her original total is stunned, and therefore eliminated. Treat a personal wand’s magical “plusses” as damage bonuses (actual hit points—not the number of “hits.”)
         Certain moves require a specific follow-up maneuver. The move following a “Feint” must be an attack. The move following a “Lunge” must be a defense. An incorrect move following a “Feint” or a “Lunge” results in this move failing altogether (essentially a fumble). Called the Scorpion, a “Feint-Lunge-Parry” sequence is deemed a “master stroke” that will earn a +1 Prestige bonus if completed successfully. Called a Pixie Kiss, “Swish-Dodge-Flick” is another.

Combat Results

Effect when Successful
Defeats swishes and lunges.
Prestige: –1 for dodge, –2 to opponent
Advantage: None
Damage: None
Foils lunges and dodges.
Prestige: +1 for feint, –1 to opponent
Advantage: +2 bonus to initiative on next round
Damage: 1 hit on opponent
Deflects feints and lunges.
Prestige: –1 to opponent
Advantage: +1 bonus to initiative on next round
Damage: None
Small attack with good chances of success.
Prestige: None
Advantage: None
Damage: 1 hit on opponent
A risky but powerful attack to disarm.
Prestige: +2 for lunge
Advantage: Opponent must dodge on the next round to recover the dislodged wand.
Damage: 3 hits on opponent
An attack knocking an opponent off balance.
Prestige: +1 for swish
Advantage: –2 to opponent’s initiative on next round
Damage: 2 hits on opponent
Both maneuvers cancel each other.
Prestige: –1 for both
Advantage: None
Damage: None

Special Competition Rules: Among other rules that a DM could invent, it is generally accepted among Caldwen wizards that one must use all six moves before repeating one, or incur a –1 Prestige penalty. Another house rule among gentlefolk adds another penalty for using the same move twice in a row. Mandatory moves and attempts to complete master strokes imply that contestants might incur penalties either deliberately or unavoidably. Using ESP effects on a contestant is grounds for disqualification.

Dueling Expertise: Wizardly dueling can be considered a “General Skill” (see Rules Cyclopedia, page 81). Any magic-user with a personal wand is deemed to possess at least “Basic” dueling skills. These aptitudes can be improved to “Skilled, Expert, Master,” and “Grand Master.”
  • Skilled: A wand owner who won at least 5 duels, or the holder of a Spellcraft License*. A skilled duelist wins tied initiative rolls (void if opponent is also skilled).
  • Expert: A wand owner with twice as many victories as defeats, or a Bachelor* alumnus. An expert wins all initiative rolls (void if opponent is also an expert).
  • Master: A wand owner with three times as many victories as defeats, or a Master* alumnus. A master can combine two moves each round (unopposed attacks automatically succeed).
  • Grand Master: A wand owner with four times as many victories as defeats, or a PHD* alumnus. A grand master always knows whether the opponent’s next move is an attack or a defense (void if opponent is also a grand master).
(*) Diplomas obtained from accredited schools of magic such as those in the Magiocracy of Caldwen.

Beyond Dueling: Taken out of their dueling context, the three attack moves can be used at any time as harmless effects available to wand owners up to a 30’ range, such as: “Flick,” which produces a flick of the fingers against a target; “Lunge” is equivalent to a poke in the nose, and “Swish” is a slap in the face, none of which inflict actual damage.

This concludes the articles on personal devices. Do playtest the dueling mechanics if you have an opportunity and send feedback on what 
works or doesn’t. Thanks!