Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 5

Ship's Hold

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
58. Portside Landing
Stairs (a) lead right to left up to Area 21 on the Lower Deck. When intruders reach this passageway, a figment (F) flies by, either one encountered earlier or a new one. It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing to Area 67 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

59. Purser’s Office
The parchment-like remains of Tawaret, the venerable old accountant, still sit at her table, flicking back and forth the beads of an abacus and muttering incomprehensibly. A sallow light glows from within her chest and face. Immune to spells and physical attacks, she ignores everything around her. The purser teleports anyone touching her with or without a weapon (no save) to a random chamber on the Black Blood (3d20+1d10-1). Furthermore, all collected treasures of those teleported (including cursed coins from Area 60) appear in a chest, in Area 36. Detail of such retained valuables are recorded on a clay tablet lying on the table, duly inscribed in ancient Tanethian hieroglyphs.

Tawaret the Gibbering Purser (1): no statistics needed; can be turned as a spectre (which teleports Tawaret to a random area aboard the Black Blood, along with table, chair, tablet, and abacus).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 4

Lower Deck (Forward & Starboard)

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
Click here for Part 3

40. Starboard Landing
This passageway leads to three key areas of the Black Blood: the gunnery deck (41), the bridge (50), and the ship’s main temple hall (53). The door to the temple hall is locked and trapped (3d6 fire damage within ten feet of the door; save for half). The stairs (b) lead left to right up to Area 17 in the Bastion, and right to left down to Area 64 in the Ship's Hold.

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
When intruders reach this passageway, a figment flies by (either one encountered earlier or a new one). It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing astarboard toward Area 41 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating. If it survives this encounter, the creature reappears now and then, trying to lure the party away from Area 53. It’ll keep reappearing until destroyed.

The door to Area 30 is concealed behind debris, barred and buttressed on both sides. Shrieking fungus lives in a recess of the debris. It will manifest its concern if anyone disturbs the debris.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

Fungus (1): AC7, HD3, hp 12, MV9’ (3’), AT 1 shriek, Dmg Nil, Save F2, ML 12, Int 0, AL N, XP 35.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Black Blood in the Night, Part 2

1-2. Upper & Main Decks

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
Should heroes board the Black Blood, loud noises will awaken and attract nearby undead. Most of the catapults’ harpoons have been lost in space as the two sides battled each other across the barricades. A few are left, stored underneath the siege engines. The two oversized catapults pointing forward are too heavy to turn around. Projectiles, enchanted to ignite on impact, still lie beneath their bases. The aft/portside camp features the charred remains of zombies and mummy warriors along with discarded weapons, mostly spears, maces, and khopesh swords. Dismembered ghouls litter the opposite side. Two companionways lead down from the upper deck. One door opens on each side of the bastion, on the main deck (port, starboard, aft, and forward). The edge of the bastion’s railing runs 14 feet above the main deck. The main deck’s gunwales are located a few feet higher than the wings’ surface.

If no figment has been spotted yet, one appears on the deck at the spot labeled “F” (the one closest to the players’ party’s boarding). The figment makes a few swooping attacks and, if not killed in the encounter, escapes trough the door to Area 3 (portside) or to Area 17 (starboard). If the party landed on top the bastion, the appearing a figment escapes instead toward companionway (a), down to Area 20 on the lower deck, and waits there. If killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53). Keep track of the number of figments destroyed as there are only 16 serving the eternal thinker. After their master is defeated, ignore all further “F” labels on the map.

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

In the event of a major disturbance on the open decks, both sides will send their minions topside. One faction will defend their part of the deck against intruders, while the other looks on, taunting their rivals and shooting harpoons indiscriminately at everyone on the other side. Unless their leaders are present (the high-prior and the ghoul queen), neither side will attempt to assault the other.

Black Blood in the Night, Part 3

Lower Deck (Aft & Portside)

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
20. Portside Landing
This passageway links to three key areas of the Black Blood: the gunnery deck (21), the bridge (50), and the officers’ quarters astern the vessel. The stairs (a) lead right to left up to Area 3 in the Bastion, and left to right down to Area 58 in the Ship's Hold.

When intruders reach this passageway, a figment flies by (either one encountered earlier or a new one). It performs a few swooping attacks before fleeing toward Area 21 where it will lure intruders into a fight, unless the players’ party kill it first. Whenever killed, the figment reveals a clue about the Black Blood (see random list in Area 53) before disintegrating. If it survives this encounter, the creature reappears now and then, trying to lure the party away from Area 53. It’ll keep reappearing until destroyed.

Black Blood Calidar Adventure
The entrance to area 53 is barred on both sides, buttressed, and concealed behind a large pile of debris. Undead rats hiding within the rubble will attack if anyone tampers with their lair. A thin wire tied to the rubble connects with a small bell in Area 23. A thief may be able to see and disconnect the wire. If the debris is disturbed, zombies in Area 23 will be alerted and come to investigate 1d4+1 rounds later. The companionway (a) leads up to the main deck (3) and to the ship’s hold (58).

Figment (1): AC1, HD1*, hp 8, MV150’ (50’) flying, THAC0 19, AT 1 touch, Dmg special, Save C6, ML n/a, Int n/a, AL C, XP13. Notes: damage depends on the victim’s Alignment (Chaotic d6, Neutral d8, Lawful d10); immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks; fears sunlight; Turned as spectre.

Lesser Mummy Rats (4): AC4, HD1+1*, hp 5, MV90’ (30’), THAC0 18, AT 1 bite, Dmg d4 + rotting disease, Save F1, ML 8, Int 3, AL C, XP 200. Notes: no fear effect; immune to sleep, hold, poison, and mind-affecting attacks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Black Blood in the Night

This adventure was written as a Calidar game event for VCon 2014.  It is intended to be played with old style D&D game rules and Level 5 heroes.  The original players managed to dispatch about a quarter of this adventure in four hours of game play without losing any of their heroes--but just barely.  They also succeeded in killing one of the game's "bosses" without external help.  Part 1, shown here, provides the adventure's introduction.  I'll post the remainder of the Black Blood's decks over the next few weeks, along with detailed maps.  You might want to play the score from the movie "The Mummy" as background music when players begin exploring the derelict vessel described in this adventure.

Premise:  The Seitha Constabulary of Meryath hires you, adventurers and heroes in the making, to survey the debris field left in the wake of the Battle of Four Banners, the famous clash of Kragean 1512 which involved the Star Phoenix. You are to recover corpses of fallen warriors frozen in space, for proper burial in Meryath, and any seitha abandoned in the shipwrecks. The mission pays an advance of 250 gp before the journey, plus 100 gp per identifiable corpse and 500 gp per measure of seitha retrieved. Smugglers may be present in the debris field, most likely looking for seitha as well. Another bounty of 1,000 gp will be paid per ship towed back to Glorathon (the party is thereafter entitled to sell or retain any seized vessels after taxes and registrations fees have been covered, along with an oath to serve the Queen’s Air Fleet whenever summoned). Foreign vessels may also be present and hostile. Engage only if attacked.

Chief Constable Crayne: He will accompany the adventurers to observe and advise. All due moneys will be paid only if Crayne returns safe and sound with the adventurers at the end of the mission. If the players’ party does not own a ship, one will be provided with Crayne as mission commander. Unless persuaded otherwise (a double-share of the rewards), he and the remainder of the crew will remain aboard the ship and communicate with the boarding party using a set of magical scrolls. Crayne will intervene personally if the party is at risk of failing their mission.

Crayne: Focused on advancing his career, he suggests others take big risks, takes credit for their achievements, and will ultimately sacrifice them to save his own life. Statistics: F8, AC-2, hp 45, MV 90’(30’), THAC0 15, AT 1 sword, Dmg d8+4, Save F8, ML8+3, AL N; St17, In11, Wi13, Dx15, Co14, Ch12. Magical Items: +1 plate armor, +2 sword of seitha detection (30’ radius), potion of haste, and ring of protection from evil.

Nakhem’s Mission: This strange skyship was built long ago by a lost civilization on Calidar. It was salvaged while drifting near Nahkem, a dwarf world hidden in the Fringe, a vast asteroid belt. Inexplicably, no crew was found aboard, though signs of a struggle were evident. Nahkem is home to ancient Tanethians who fled Munaan’s Nicarean Inquisition in some century past. They sought a faraway place to freely honor their ancient gods. Though their chief deity is still Calidar’s Arun-Te, native gods of Nahkem make up the remainder of Taneth's pantheon.  The minds of the those who colonized this new world during the next several centuries created them.

A Tanethian crew took over the Black Blood, repaired the damage, altered its layout to fit their culture, and left on a mission to explore the Fringe. Divination magic enabled them to understand the nature of its enchantment. In view of the ship’s limited supply of seitha (unavailable in the Fringe), Captain Sitiah headed to Calidar to replenish its stores. Though some of the crew were lost in the Dread Lands, the Black Blood surveyed the world for some time, occasionally trading with natives.

The High-Prior Mummy: Alas, the new owners did not realize that a curse rested in the ship’s altar. It corrupted those who used seitha to enter the netherworld. The high-prior of the ship’s temple, Sekhem-Isfet, fell victim to the curse and became a powerful mummy. After subverting the crew, he abandoned his faith in Arun-Te and served instead Anhuru, the dark jackal-headed god of death. The nefarious prior sailed the Black Blood to the site of the Battle of Four Banners, in search of seitha and corpses to raise as new servants. He knew the living would come to this place of sorrow. After he reached his destination, Sekhem-Isfet cast a spell to conceal his vessel’s presence, and awaited those whose life force he coveted.

The Queen of Ghouls: But more odious things came to pass that shouldn’t have. One of Sekhem-Isfet’s slave ghouls accidentally broke a vial while searching a wreck and spilled seitha on its hand. It was the Black Blood’s former captain, Sitiah. Unable to resist its attraction, Sitiah licked the haunted oil glistening on her clawed fingers. It immediately broke Sekhem-Isfet’s hold on her. Suddenly free, she wrenched several other vials from nearby ghouls and gorged herself with their horrid contents. The oil transformed her, conferred her greater power, and caused monstrous boils to erupt on her unholy flesh. The tumors burst and fell off, quickly growing into ghouls possessed with the dark souls of seitha. Sitiah flung her new minions against those of her former liege, and a conflict emerged between mummy high-prior and ghoul queen, evenly matched in ability and wickedness.

A Twist to the Plot: As it were, the high-prior had feelings for Captain Sitiah, but she spurned his attentions and he grew bitter. Sekhem-Isfet suspected that the ship’s captain-at-arms, a war hero named Adjeb, entertained a secret relationship with Sitiah. In a fit of curse-induced rage, he murdered Sitiah and Adjeb. But it only served to fill him with sorrow. In a bid to revive her, the high-prior betrayed Arun-Te and sold his soul to Anhuru, leading him to become a mummy. But his new powers only enabled him to bring back his beloved as a ghoul. Mad with grief, he later revived Adjeb, in the form of a slave mummy which he now delights in tormenting. Despite their undeath, the queen of ghouls and her mummy paramour still burn with the desire to be reunited.

The Eternal Thinker: In the months following the onset of the conflict, a stalemate occurred after which both sides barricaded their part of the Black Blood, barring and buttressing hatches, back-filling passageways with debris, and boarding up windows. While both sides became dormant, a few minions still follow the dark wishes of their masters. They awaken for a time and visit nearby wrecks, hunting for precious seitha and the living foolishly straying in their path. During this time, another being came upon the Black Blood, an ancient entity seeking the meaning of pain and war. Attracted to the battle site, it also sensed the undead’s hatred. In search of its callous knowledge, the one some call an eternal thinker took over the ship’s seitha chamber (53), forbidding its departure into the netherworld. Its power is such that no other undead can enter its domain. From there, the eternal thinker sends out ghostly figments of its unquenchable evil mind, to fan the flames of wrath, to observe the conflict, and to unveil what it came to learn.

The Present Situation: When the heroes come, Sitiah holds the bridge. She retains all seitha her minions unveil out of fear one of them might consume a dose and become a rival. The eternal thinker has the natural ability to cause the Black Blood to sink into the netherworld (temporarily) if another ship attacks and threatens to destroy it. Sekhem-Isfet holds the steering chamber, preventing the ship from maneuvering at all. Neither the high-prior nor the ghoul queen are aware of the secret passages’ existence into the main hold (67) and between Areas 39 and 44.

Secrets of the Black Blood: A vampire society built the Black Blood eons ago. For centuries, their dark ways commanded the fear and hatred of native tribes upon whom they preyed. When the Dread Lands reasserted themselves in their region, the tribes roused the great spirits and assaulted the vampire kingdom. The undead leaders and their blood-consuming followers were mostly destroyed, and the realm’s ruins forever engulfed amid the Dread Lands’ feral thickets. To this day, they remain a sinister and haunted site. A few escaped the onslaught, such as the Black Blood’s crew and passengers. But they too in time fell victim to the curse laid upon their ship by a tribal shaman. It corrupted their minds, and madness descended among them. One by one, the netherworld claimed those whose minds grew most demented, until none left were left. The vessel emerged into the Fringe one last time, adrift.

The accursed ship’s primary power, devised at the time it was built, is to drain magic from any vessel coming in contact with its hull, such as one attempting a boarding maneuver. Drained magic was meant to repair any physical damage to the Black Blood and feed its vampire owners. Today, drained power enables Sekhem-Isfet to animate and control new undead slaves. The high-prior may also sacrifice part of it to the jackal-headed god. Drained power is otherwise stored and can be directed from the bridge as a tractor beam pulling in nearby ships. A vessel coming in contact with the Black Blood is unable to shove off, however hard its crew may try. Gradually, its enchantment is drained, negating any magical lift or propulsion, artificial gravity, and life support. The full process takes minutes for a skiff to a few hours for a man-o-war. A dwarven dreadnought would be affected with respect to any of its enchantments, such as force stones or any of its gnomish dweomers. Power can only be regained if the Black Blood is destroyed. Individual launches on the vampire ship do not possess this draining ability. The Black Blood was built mostly of hardened iron wood, which is difficult (and noisy) to chop through or to set ablaze. Its enchantment is such that striking bulkheads or decking in order to break through will result in damage reflected back to the perpetrators (no save).

The First Move: When the heroes enter the debris field and begin their mission, they should encounter at some point a party of Sekhem-Isfet’s zombies searching for seitha, possibly aboard a smuggler’s ship recently captured. After a short fight, some of the undead escape aboard their launch and retreat to the Black Blood, possibly with plundered seitha. Fresh corpses piled in the launch allude to their macabre harvest. If the heroes fail to pursue, Chief Constable Crayne will advise they do in order to retrieve any pillaged seitha.
Map Key
Calidar Black Blood Pt 1.
As you gain on the fleeing skiff through the battlefield debris, you see what looks like an unwrecked vessel, although not one that you ever saw. With a main deck oval in shape and a bastion standing amidships, the strange craft possesses two large wings stretched across skeletal frameworks. The wings’ fabric extends past the ship’s stern to the tip of a long tail. Two large ears lie at the fore, bracketing a pair of oversized war engines. Two catapult platforms extend astern, port and starboard. Four anchors secure the ship to a clump of large wrecks floating beneath its hull.

As you look closer, you fail to notice any other crew on deck. Unguarded weaponry on each sides point toward each other, across piles of debris erected in the manner of barricades. Several bodies lie motionless on either sides. Some damage is apparent to the wings’ fabric, but after a moment it occurs to you that canvas it is not, but rather translucent skin sewn together. Scorch marks mar the deck and the bastion’s bulkheads.

The fleeing skiff lands on the main deck, aft of the midship bastion. Its occupants quickly unload their macabre trove and begin transporting them inside the bastion, through a nearby entrance.

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Calidar Softcover Approved

After many troubles related entirely to internal issues at DTRPG and Lightning Source (the printer), the softcover version of Calidar's book finally earned its approval.  I received a clean proof yesterday, Sept. 30th, and straight away ordered copies for the backers who wanted them.  It'll take a few weeks for everyone to receive their packages. General sales on DTRPG will be available later today (I'll amend the related page on this blog this morning). Here are a few pictures.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Calidar General Sales Are On!

Calidar General Sales
At long last Calidar's hardcover book, its PDF files, and the poster maps are now available for general sales. If you missed the original Kickstarter, now is the time to jump in! 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Calidar Sales Kickoff

Calidar DTRPG ebay
Many among you who missed Calidar's original Kickstarter event, along with backers who picked an entry-level tier, have been asking: "when and where will I be able to get all that good stuff?"

Fret not!  This day is fast coming.  

I placed the answer to your question in a separate page to be easier to locate later on.  Sorry for the redirect.  Click here for the right location, or at the top of the blog page on the tab labeled:

Where Can I Get Calidar?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sending Kickstarter Rewards

You know what they say about the best laid plans.  So far, the book's softcover version still lies with the printer, waiting to be cleared.  It's now been ten days, a longer period than the hardcover book demanded, which is basically identical save for its cover format.  I sent a query to DTRPG and am waiting for an answer on the reason for this unexplained delay.  At this point, it seems unfair to hold up the entire fulfillment as a consequence, especially considering nearly three quarters of Calidar's backers are either at the Admiral or Captain tiers, which both call for hardcover books.  I hope you will agree with me that fulfillment should begin now.

So here's the plan.  
  • Today or Tomorrow: I'll ship the packages to those Admiral backers who did not order a softcover book.  Four will be withheld until the softcover books come in.  Delivery should take in most cases a week to ten days. [Update: 9/9/2014 10:03 am, first batch of Admiral tier packages dropped off at post office.]
  • This week: I'll process hardcover book rewards on DTRPG so shipping can begin.  In general for the USA, figure ten days or more for the books to be printed and shipped (remember, these are printed on demand).  Those intended for overseas addresses will ship directly from the UK.  Delivery could take from a few more days in western Europe to at least three weeks everywhere else. [Update: 09/12/2014, most of the hardcover books for foreign backers have been ordered via DTRPG.  General order processing, printing, & handling will likely take about a week.  For delivery to Western Europe, figure another 5-10 days.  For delivery everywhere else overseas, figure another 3-7 weeks.  For Brazil, I'll have to send those via USPS from Burlington WI.  Hardcover books will be likely processed on 09/13/2014.  09/13/2014, hardcover books ordered for Canada; unfortunately, due to Canada's crazy customs regulations, printing & shipping will be from the UK; delivery is now 3-7 weeks, and I'm shaking my head in utter frustration.  Also on 09/13/2014, hardcover books ordered for the USA; delivery time is 2-4 weeks incl. printing & handling.]      
  • Later this week: I'll drop off at the local post office the six bins of padded mailers with the poster maps.  For delivery in continental USA, figure about a week or less, and anywhere from a week to ten days everywhere else (depending on where you reside, international mail can take longer). [Update: 9/10/2014 08:41 am, poster maps mailed to foreign addresses. 09/11/2014 08:47 am, poster maps mailed to US addresses with est. delivery mostly on 09/15. Watch your mail!  Some have already been delivered as of 09/12/2014.]
  • Over the weekend: (or earlier) I'll process online PDF files for all backers.  These will come in the form of a DTRPG coupon emailed to your accounts.  You can redeem these coupons at DTRPG.com in order to obtain your copies of the PDF files. [Update: 09/14/2014, all coupons  for the full PDF version of "In Stranger Skies" have been e-mailed from DTRPG.  Watch your spam boxes!  09/14/15, two coupons were mailed, one Sunday and the other today, Sept. 15th.  The first coupon turned out to be for a bundled download of three PDFs, which does work.  The one sent today was redundant and does not work anyway.  Sorry for the confusion.  Airman-level backers have not yet received their coupons.  They will as soon as the above issue is resolved with DTRPG's tech staff.]
If the softcover book is approved today, I still have to order a proof copy from DTRPG to verify that it is printed correctly.  This can take ten days or more before I receive it.  If no corrections are needed, I can then process through DTRPG the remainder of the rewards.  Timing is the same as described in the bullet points above.  If corrections are necessary (let's hope not), this could add another two weeks or more to the process.  Alas, those softcover books intended for the four Admiral backers who requested them still need to be sent to me (after the proof copy's final approval) so I can package them with the rest of their rewards.
[Update: 09/13/2014, unfortunately, a correction was required for the softcover book. DTRPG remains entirely at fault for failing to update their web site which showed obsolete printing options. Consequently, our cover spine isn't of the right size.  The corrected files have been uploaded this morning.  The new expected timetable is: printer's approval next week; receipt of the printer's proof late the following week (at the earliest); possibly passing orders for the softcover books immediately afterward *if* the proof is correct.]

The situation isn't ideal, but at least things are finally moving.  Keep your eyes open for e-mails and packages.  [Update: 09/13/2014, Some have already begun to arrive.]  Thanks again for your support and for making this project possible.

Update: 09/17/2014, I received notification from the printer that hardcover books have shipped from both UK and US plants.  For most of you, this means it'll be a few more days before your receive your books.  For destinations in Asia/Pacific, figure about 10 days.  Woot!

Update: 09/17/2014 at 02:00pm, DTRPG coupons to download Calidar's Airman Edition and Under the Great Vault PDFs have been sent to Kickstarter backers at the Airman tier.  By now all backers should have received links to download their PDFs.  Please contact DTRPG's customer service (or me, privately) if you're still experiencing difficulties obtaining your PDFs

Update: 09/26/2014, the softcover version of the book has finally received approval from the printer.  I've ordered the proof.

Update: 10/01/2014, Received the softcover proof from the printer.  Looks good (see today's blog post).  I immediately ordered the books still due to the remaining Kickstarter backers.  Delivery should take place within 1-3 weeks for the USA and Western Europe, 3-7 weeks everywhere else.  Some of the books ordered earlier and poster maps are still reaching their destinations as of Sept. 30th.

Update: 10/06/2014, the softcover books have shipped to both US and foreign addresses. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Printer's Proof Received

Calidar takes another step forward.

The printer delivered the book's proof copy yesterday.  The UPS fellow left the box outside, at my door, and drove away without ringing my bell.  Since it was a stormy day, this could have been bad.  But I was expecting his visit, so I rushed downstairs and grabbed it.  Before going further, I'll post a few pictures of the book for a sneak preview of the real thing.

World of Calidar book
World of Calidar

Monday, August 18, 2014

Off to the Printer

At long last, Calidar's book has been submitted to the printer.  We're now awaiting to clear premedia (format approvals).  We'll get an answer in the coming days.  DTRPG's staff isn't returning from Gen Con until Tuesday 19th, so this might have an impact on timing.  Next stop: either more alterations to the file or I'll order a pre-press version of the hardback to be mailed to me for final approval.  I'll post a few pictures.  Here's a montage of what the internals look like for your enjoyment.

As soon as the hardbound book is approved, the soft cover version will follow, along with the various PDF documents intended for digital releases only, which include the book's main PDF, the Airman's version with just the Star Phoenix's story, and the release titled "Under the Great Vault" which is the compilation of the kickstarter short stories.  We're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

There were delays during the original layout process which swallowed yet another week's worth of time.  Thankfully, Thorfinn stepped up to the bat and scored another home run, addressing successfully a number of unresolved issues. He smacked that ball over the fence and out of the park.  I'd like to take the opportunity to thank him for his stalwart support of the project.  His contribution has been above and beyond the call of duty.

Hail to this Hero!

And don't miss his new page, on Google + or on Facebook.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thorfinn's Calidar Presentation

I think I would be remiss if I failed to post this here as well, since it has begun popping up in various places already this morning.  Thorfinn's awesome presentation works as well as a charming introduction to the World of Calidar as it does showcasing his skills has a professional cartographer.  I'm certain at this point, Thorfinn is available for freelance work.  I couldn't recommend anyone else's talents more to any publisher.  I'll let you enjoy the tour and the lilt of his lovely accent.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Rat Hunter (Part Three)

In the portside hallway, a long row of airmen tugged on a thick line that had just been repaired, working its heavy braids into a large coil.  Under the watchful gaze of the Governor of Ropes, the crew sang a chantey as they yanked rhythmically—a most bizarre scene in truth, as the awry magic that had corrupted their speech contrived to interpret both tune and lyrics into something utterly foreign.  The airmen’s subtitles read:

“What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
“What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
“What shall we do with a drunken sailor,
“Early in the morning?”

Even stranger was a small white ball bouncing above the subtitles’ syllables, marking the tune’s beat.  Kai shook his head in disbelief and went on his business.  Once again lost in his thoughts, he walked past a rocket cart and managed to stumble on one of its handles lying on the deck.  A Senior Battery Marshal who stood nearby as orderlies applied yet another layer of wax to the weapon mocked the young man.

“Hey, hwacha step!”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Rat Hunter (Part Two)

Calidar Bruce Heard Skyship
The midship deckmaster was a colossus with a topknot and a wicked-looking scar that had slashed his left eye, cliff-like cheek, and the side of his mouth.  In a voice like a bullhorn, he bellowed a most peculiar order.  His team and the nearby Marshal of the Masts stared back at him with confused expressions.  The deckmaster had spoken in some foreign language, odd singing words punctuated with patently unpronounceable consonants that sounded singularly un-Lao-Kweian and entirely out of place on the Tian Feng.  Never had Kai heard such words, neither from blood warriors of the Khargatai Steppes, nor the shadow slavers of Toruk Aram, or even the dust pirates of Wa.  An instant later, a string of familiar white characters flashed in mid-air before the deckmaster.  These were logograms commonly used in mandarin correspondence which, luckily, Kai could read.  The mysterious magical words perhaps paraphrased the deckmaster’s order: “Secure that loose line at once, you lazy maggots!”  They vanished when the marshal responded.  Strange words erupted from his mouth as well, resulting in an utterly baffled look on his face.  A new string of familiar characters glowed before him, reading: “Hey!  What’s wrong with you?”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Rat Hunter

There is so much to tell about the next skyship I decided to put much of it in the form of a short story.  Even then, to do justice to the subject matter, at least one more blog post will be needed.  You will soon find out why.  So, without further delay, I present you the mighty:

Calidar Tian Feng Skyship

The Rat-Hunter
Kai Chang raised his lantern as he examined the cadaver sprawled on the hold’s dark and grimy deck. Perplexed, he rubbed the scraggly fuzz on his youthful chin.  The victim was the Second Eunuch, an officer attached to the Imperial Envoy’s retinue.  It was odd enough to find such a select individual in the Tian Feng’s cavernous hold.  It was even more extraordinary that the man’s jugular had been ripped open and his eyes gnawed out, leaving two gaping holes in his bloody face.  From the dried crimson puddle on the deck, Kai quietly concluded the eunuch had probably died during the previous night.  Why had he come for here, of all places aboard an imperial treasure ship, and who or what had killed him?  How was obvious enough.

“Well, you’re the rat-hunter-specialist,” nagged Kai’s commander in a nasal voice. “Tell us what happened.”

Calidar Bruce Heard Skyship
Master Peng stood behind Kai, his arms crossed, haughty and disdainful.  His stance was worthy of an admiral, though the Onboard Sanitary Adjutant merely ranked as a junior officer among many others.  Kai, as the pettiest of petty officers, owed him respect and total obedience nonetheless.  The young specialist knew Master Peng was tense from the slightly trembling mustaches drooping down the sides of his mouth.  Or perhaps it was anger.  The presence of senior officers gathered around the scene did nothing to reassure either Kai or his mighty commander.  A few other Bailiffs of the Skies held poles with lanterns which cast ivory halos on the piles of rice and noodle sacks towering nearly all the way up into the dimness overhead.  These police-soldiers didn’t seem any more at ease than Master Peng, their hands resting nervously on the pommels of their swords while pairs of tiny beady eyes glowed in the shadows.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On a Sail and a Prayer (Part Two)

As I pointed out earlier, there are many more skyship designs than the six presented in the previous article. Today I’d like to focus on a Calidaran concept—at least its “alpha” version.  A “beta” will be needed eventually, and you’ll discover why in a moment.  This skyship is not intended to appear in the upcoming book release.

Calidar Bruce Heard Skyship

I present you the Spirit of Osriel. It is the result of an association between a human trader of Lorical and a dwarven engineer who’d emigrated to the merchant republic a few decades ago. Her Grace Felìcita Calitani, a prominent figure at the capital city, sought a vessel relying on winds as its main propulsion, but with a secondary device ensuring safe travel during adverse conditions.  Thus was born the Spirit of Osriel, a steam-powered paddle wheel boat fitted with masts and an enchanted hull to make it airworthy.  Its design flaws soon came to light, the first being the amount of space the dwarven-built engines required, along with their blackstone stores and water tanks.  Freight capacity was therefore reduced accordingly.  Regular supplies of blackstone proved expensive and unpredictable.  With few sails, it couldn’t go as fast as dedicated sailing skyships.  Yet the idea remained attractive.  None of Felìcita’s competitors owned such a vessel, and the ability to reach a destination slowly but safely despite the Great Caldera’s fitful weather became an advantage to her and clients wishing to hire the vessel.  Sails luffing amid the clouds, masts creaking and groaning, funnels spouting sooty billows, and engines thumping faithfully below deck, the Spirit of Osriel specialized in carrying passengers as well as small but precious cargo.

Monday, June 30, 2014

On a Sail and a Prayer

One of Calidar’s objectives is to depict a world whose skies are ruled by flying ships, and whose people yearn to conquer their corner of space.  Naturally, I won’t get into too much detail before the book’s release, but I can give a glimpse of skyship design and styling.

Calidar Bruce Heard Ben Wootten Star Phoenix
Inspired from Earth’s Age of Sail, most human and elven airborne vessels are powered by atmospheric or ethereal wind, at least as regards short distances and battles.  The dwarves of Kragdûr rely instead on pressurized, steam-powered vessels.  On Calidar, the main races live in close proximity to each other.  Some of their skyships combine different technologies relying on wind, magic, and mechanical power.  When space travel is involved, each culture exploits a different technique to overcome the vast distances between their worlds.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Behind the Maps (Part 3)

I’m pleased to announce that Meryath’s poster map is ready to go to the printer.  This one’s story is as long as the Great Caldera’s (see my previous blog articles).  The two were developed concurrently, as soon as we had a viable coastal outline.  Some of Meryath’s geographical details carried over to the Great Caldera map, while some of latter’s graphic styling, especially the labels’ fonts and color scheme, found its way into Meryath’s poster map after Thorfinn and I settled final cosmetic details.

Calidar Thorfinn Tait Bruce Heard
At a glance, Meryath’s poster map relates directly to Mystara’s Gazetteer maps, although hex symbols were altered to avoid copyright issues.  Our favorite Master Cartographer designed new topographical symbols (hills, mountains, forests, etc) and selected their colors.  I drew the tower, village, and various town symbols, besides generating basic map details.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Thorfinn!

Thorfinn Tait Mystara Calidar Cartographer

May fate shower upon you, O Master Cartographer, felicity, good fortune, and endless maps of fantasy!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Behind the Maps (Part 2)

Dealing with Alfdaín presented the challenge of generating Elvish names without sounding too much like a Tolkien-wannabe.  The names used here blend Nordic-sounding syllables, old English/Germanic, and Breton Celtic. I reverted to plain modern English for geographical features, like bays, forests, and mountains.  I may yet invent a new language, as I already did for the dwarves.  Instilling some rhyme and reason to all these fancy words may be just the thing I’ll do when the time comes to focus on Alfdaín (or Alorea).  This parenthetical reference does bring up another issue.  While rereading the manuscript, I noticed a curious discrepancy.  All accents in Alfdaín names rise toward the right. However, there is the Alorean society called Tòrr-Gàrraidh whose accents rise toward the left.  If you’re tending toward OCD, the compulsion is to fix the disturbing detail, immediately nudging all accents to lean the same way.  But no-no-no: any OCD predisposition on my side rests backwards and upside-down (especially on even-numbered days).  I decided that Alorean accents should aim one way and Alfdaín’s the other, if you get my penchant.  The logic behind the offending accents is a form of subtle intellectual mutiny only making sense among elves (and French readers).  Elven grammarians on either side will never agree on which is the right way and, if given the opportunity, will probably come to bold words (no doubt appropriately accented) and italic blows over their diverging linguistic standards.  The dwarves quietly snicker at the oh-so pedantic conflict.  Their accents look like miniature mountains (sans serif), making everyone there ever so smug about their stonelike cultural rectitude.

Calidar Bruce Heard Thorfinn Tait

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Behind the Maps

Putting together the main poster map for the World of Calidar has been a major project. On the one hand there was a long learning curve for Thorfinn Tait, the project’s Master Cartographer, to handle the array of software generating the map’s terrain detail, color, and texture. On the other hand, work quality had to be high because this map is the one from which most others will derive. The structure of the Calidar series calls for each book focusing on a particular area of the world, like the original Princess Ark episodes in Dragon Magazine twenty years ago. The starting point is the Great Caldera, Calidar’s “Known World.” It features ten realms, although some of them include vassal powers that could be treated separately. The main source map must therefore be detailed, exciting, and as perfectly rendered as possible for close-up work. Here are a few sample images that will give you an idea of what went into this map.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Voices of Calidar

I'm about to begin work on map labels for the Great Caldera poster map. The map itself is practically complete, thanks to Thorfinn Tait's tenacious efforts. Coming up with hundreds of unique, cool-sounding, and evocative map labels is usually a thankless, fastidious, if not mind-numbing process. I probably will generate many of the tags myself, but I thought I'd extend an invitation to anyone willing to pitch in. If you're interested, pick one of the realms, as defined below, and organize labels as shown at the end of this message. You can post them as comments here or on the original discussion thread (for the sake of feedback and such). Please don't kill yourself with hundreds of names. Keep your list to a manageable length. There is no guarantee I'll use all your suggestions (or use them without modification), but they will certainly help. I included a few below to give you some ideas of where I'm going with the various nations, etymologically or as far as their approximate ethnic consonances are concerned.

Meryath: all done! (But you already knew that, didn't you?) These are mostly Polynesian in style with Greco-Byzantine influences. :mrgreen:

Ellyrium: pseudo-Greek-Byzantine, with some Romanian influence (more or less in Karameikos style if you will) -- Teosopolis, Teosion, Hadradas, Hurion, Lamazu, Rasku, Arathon, Taitu, Lammathu, Mormion, Bellerion, Antas, Nervion, Gynaion, Arthenion, Trithon, Locathas, Minothas, Aranion, Basilion, Elyrikos, Antiatis, Temenopolis, Thrakesian, Helioklios, Erebos, etc. Many of these came from Meryath's early map and got moved since then to Ellyrium proper. So I do have a head start here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Of Glantri and Time-Travel

GAZ3 Glantri French Translation
I got a tap on the shoulder yesterday about GAZ3 Principalities of Glantri getting translated into French.  Thanks to the good work of the fans at Donjon du Dragon, the D&D Game fan site east of the Channel, and in particular of the mysterious translator by the name of Squilnozor.  Thank you!  I rushed to peek at the result—a most impressive PDF at first glance, free for registered members.  Nearly thirty years ago, the French market was blessed with official hardcopy translations of the Basic and Expert sets, IIRC, and the first two Gazetteers—barely enough to whet a gamer’s appetite.  Since then, the fans have taken over, filling the gaping void left by TSR.  Seems strangely familiar, doesn’t it?

You might wonder why I post this here, given that the majority of this blog’s readers are English speakers who already have access to the original print or to the PDF recently released by WotC on DTRPG.  It’s a source of nostalgia for me to find both the American and French versions on an equal footing, sort of, at least as far as PDF files are concerned.

I wrote GAZ3 on a freelance basis while employed at TSR.  This meant feverishly designing and giggling maniacally in my office at home, late into the night.  Details of how I generated this much material in a few short months, besides being married and having a full-time job, faded amid the fog of decades past.  I do remember being awfully busy.  All things considered, I also recall some pointed comments from my ex about not paying quite as much attention to her as she felt I should.  In retrospect, she was probably justified.  This in part explains why I didn’t go into turbo mode and write a whole lot more Gazetteers.