Monday, May 25, 2015


Balir is Krîma's ally and companion, at least from a philosophical point of view:  whenever there is war, death follows.  He isn't the father of her offspring Arnmîr and Arkhâna.  Those where born from Krîma's fallen foes.  He stands as their stepfather.  He is neither evil nor good.  Though he does not show it openly, he favors his stepson who deals with death and hunts the undead.  The story below helps illustrate his nature.        

A fearsome spirit existed in ancient times, before the rise of the dwarven gods. It inhabited sacred burial grounds, haunting places of death and desolation. Those who transgressed the clans’ taboos heard whispers of their ancestors beckoning them before the cold hand of death clutched their hearts and led them to their final fates. The shamans knew well of this ancient spirit and, at Khrâlia’s behest, besought it to rise from the stony depths of the moon and take on a sentient form. It would be known as Balir-the-Whispering.

When he ascended and met Khrâlia, he extended pale and skinbound fingers toward her. “Take my hand and gaze upon my soul,” he whispered. And the All-Mother seized his hand to peer into his eyes. There, she watched a myriad spirits rise, fight on, and relinquish their existence, all in mere instants as the dwarves of Kragdûr battled each other. Khrâlia released the god of death and considered his words before answering. “Balir Soul-Master, unveil mortals worthy of divine honor, and lead them safely to those they must serve. Take the unworthy to a place of your making so that they may be punished. Release all the others so they may find their own paths.” Balir bowed to his elder and endeavored to follow his divine mission.

As he led worthy spirits away from the world of the living, one Balir recognized as a demon of ogres stepped in his way. Towering, misshapen, with a gaping maw filled with twisted fangs, and its belly a mass of wriggling maggots, Aroogh stood somewhere between demon king and god. “Relinquish your charge, dwarf, and you shall go free,” it demanded. “Take me instead,” Balir whispered, “so the meek may pass unharmed.” The beast approached and plunged its claws inside Balir’s chest, intent on ripping out his beating heart. Instead, the demon’s hand remained trapped while its own flesh turned as gray as ash and flaked away. While the ogrish beast fought in vain to break free, Balir wrapped bony hands around his foe’s neck. “One does not defeat death so easily, demon” he rasped. As the beast collapsed into a pile of dust blowing away in the ethereal winds, the god of the underworld added, “Balir fetches the worthy, and he does not forsake them to the spawn of demons.”

Click here to find out more about this project: "CC1 "Beyond the Skies."  If you are unfamiliar with the World of Calidar, check these two articles:  "Bye-Bye Princess Ark" and "Bye-Bye Princess Ark. . . Hello Calidar."  Feel free to comment about the material presented above. Since this book is being developed prior to its crowd funding project later this year, your comments may be reflected in the final version.  Also related is Thorfinn Tait's celebrated work.  Click here for a glimpse of his contribution to the project: maps of course!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Arkhâna Emberfury

Here is an entry about the origins of the irascible half-sister of Arnmîr Tinkerbones.  Both are demigods serving their mother, Krîma Ironblaze, and they do not see eye-to-eye. 

Unforgiving is the goddess of war. In her eternal search for challenges in the Ambrosian, Krima Ironblaze defied a god of fire giants, the formidable Arkhroth Bloodboil. After felling his companions, she subdued her mighty foe by brute force and martial means, until he could only submit to her. “Krîma Thayn of Hûrkhana, you have bested me and my companions. I hail your might. Now respect my dignity: slay me at once or set me free, for I shall never serve you.” The goddess of war placed a foot on his chest and her axe under his fiery chin. “If you’ll not serve me, then the spawn of your flesh will.” She callously reached deep into his fiery chest, pulled out a throbbing ember, seed of his divine spirit, and pushed it against her own chest until it sank out of sight. “Thus shall you live on, Arkhroth Fallen-King, and forever remain at my service.” On these words, she wielded her blade one last time and beheaded the giant.

Of this brutal union rose Arkhâna, forcefully-taken spawn of Arkhroth and blood scion of Krîma. The tale was engraved in the Krone Skrinâd, and the demigoddess ascended as the patroness of fire. For a time, she dwelled among mortals to hone her skills and prove her worth. In one her most celebrated feats, she earned the faith of King Khos I, when he ordered the ancient forges to be relit. After centuries of chaos following Kragdûr’s dark ages, horrid monsters had taken over the hallowed caves, and Arkhâna led her champions to defeat them all. Her fury alone was enough to ignite the ancient forges and bring them back to life. As the result, she earned the faith of many a Bhalrûd dwarf, despite her impulsive temperament and fits of rage that have caused countless champions to die at her side.

Note: The demigoddess later attempted to sway the fire giants.  To gain their sympathies, she took upon herself to challenge their rivals, cloud giants of Ambrosia. She sees them as scions of the water element. The fact her half-brother, whom she loathes, is the scion of a fallen cloud giant also gives her the smoldering pleasure of vexing him. Arkhâna often takes her favored spirit servants with her when she seeks battle, earning her mother’s pride, as the demigoddess is a worthy warrior in her own right. She thirsts for blood that could never douse the flames consuming her inner self.

Click here to find out more about this project: "CC1 "Beyond the Skies."  If you are unfamiliar with the World of Calidar, check these two articles:  "Bye-Bye Princess Ark" and "Bye-Bye Princess Ark. . . Hello Calidar."  Feel free to comment about the material presented above. Since this book is being developed prior to its crowd funding project later this year, your comments may be reflected in the final version.  Also related is Thorfinn Tait's celebrated work.  Click here for a glimpse of his contribution to the project: maps of course!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Arnmîr Tinkerbones

Arngoth-the-White—such was the name of Krîma’s victim, a god of cloud giants whom she’d slain like many before him. From Arngoth’s union with the goddess of war forcibly imposed upon him, rose the youngest of Holmring’s demigods. Searching his souls and his past, he departed soon after his ascension, on a quest to find his father’s remains. Over time, he snatched the disembodied skull and scattered bones from the gnarled hands of fiends who would deny him, and returned them to his peers in the Ambrosian clouds. “August lords of mountain and sky, here do I bring the remains of my father, and lay them at your feet so that he may receive a rightful burial. Here do I come in peace to humbly ask that I may honor him and pay my respect to his kin. I, Arnmîr, son of she who felled your master, am of your blood and seek no quarrel.”

Suspicious and bitter at first, many of the giants relented, giving in to their wisdom. The demigod’s gesture was enough for them to set aside on this occasion their hatred of dwarvenkind and accept Arnmîr’s offering. He labored with them to erect a great mausoleum in the clouds, following advice from his stepfather, Balir-the-Whispering, who spoke softly in his ear of tomb-building and proper rituals. When the task was done, the cloud giants praised the demigod’s hard work, and Arnmîr departed, his conscience clear and his heart appeased.

During his journey in the world of the mortals, more than once did he encounter towns and villages whose people bemoaned the presence of a haunted battlefield in a mountain pass or in a mighty cavern housing crucial crossroads of nearby dominions. Forbidden cities and forsaken fortresses long bequeathed to bitter shadows abound in Kragdûr’s deep. Arnmîr found his calling in ancient, angst-imbued, and accursed places. There, he defied unholy pawns of undead lords and retrieved myriads of bones left far too long without burial. The most horrid of beasts often guarded these places of sorrow, acting on behalf of dark powers that thrived on hate harvested from friends and foes who could not depart. Arnmîr vowed to dispel the evils of old wars, and gather the bones of the dead, so their spirits could find restful peace at last. And always, the demigod’s stepfather guided him to do his bidding.

Yet, the son of Krîma never forgot the living. In the wake of a battle, the most perceptive of dwarves could catch a glimpse of him in the dimness of twilight, tending to those who could still be saved and blessing others soon to pass. Priors devoted to his quest endeavored to cleanse the land from the scars of conflict. Many among the Khôr-Halad honored this treatment of their wounded and their dead. If not undying faith, they offered respect and gratitude. More than one champion, sickened by the senseless waste of wars not won, took on the blue robe and crook of Arnmîr’s followers.

Click here to find out more about this project: "CC1 "Beyond the Skies."  If you are unfamiliar with the World of Calidar, check these two articles:  "Bye-Bye Princess Ark" and "Bye-Bye Princess Ark. . . Hello Calidar."  Feel free to comment about the material presented above. Since this book is being developed prior to its crowd funding project later this year, your comments may be reflected in the final version.  Also related is Thorfinn Tait's celebrated work.  Click here for a glimpse of his contribution to the project: maps of course!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Godly Philosophies (updated 5/14)

I've been revamping the philosophies of #Calidar's gods (their alignments, if I dare use D&D game terminology). For legal reasons, for the sake of creativity, and since Calidar isn't intended to rely on any specific game mechanics currently available on the hobby RPG market, I'm staying away from the old system to express a character or a god's ethos. Here's what I am considering. Let me know what you think.

Philosophy:PH” refers to an individual’s general ethos and personality. Traits are organized in three broad categories corresponding to the Heart, the Mind, and the Spirit. Each features two opposing trends (with a middle-ground third if neither of the first two are appropriate). Up to ten personality traits describe each trend (some or all of them may apply). For example, Heart features either benevolent or malevolent trends (and a “dispassionate” one if a god is neither of the previous two). The general idea is that the prevailing three trends are the ones with the most traits aptly describing personality. As an option, one could simply list the number of appropriate traits after the prevailing trends (or itemize them in parentheses) as a way to express how intense these trends are. Using the elven deity Delathien’s philosophy to illustrate the matter, his philosophy could be summarized in this manner:

Heart: dispassionate (–)
Mind: instinctive (7)
Spirit: lively (6).

Trends and traits are described below.

  • Benevolent: Friendly, altruistic, humble, merciful, considerate, generous, truthful, trusting, tolerant, magnanimous
  • (Dispassionate)
  • Malevolent: Wicked, selfish, insensitive, vengeful, deceitful, unscrupulous, mistrustful, jealous, manipulative, spiteful

  • Rational: Analytical, calculating, patient, deliberate, cautious, stubborn, methodical, conventional, principled, obedient
  • (Practical)
  • Instinctive: Impulsive, hasty, emotional, unpredictable, bold, creative, curious, adventurous, cunning, unruly

  • Lively: Mirthful or sarcastic, cheeky, flamboyant, passionate, outspoken, hedonistic, shameless, feisty, indomitable, eccentric
  • (Even-Tempered)
  • Stern: Ascetic, aloof, brooding, formal, dreamy, haughty, enigmatic, reserved, self-conscious, dour

If any of the opposing trends are selected, they prevail regardless of circumstances.  For example, if benevolent or malevolent, a god always acts accordingly.  However, if a deity is dispassionate, practical, or even-tempered, this could mean two things, one or both of which may be true:

1. Individual personality traits in either of the opposing trends are weak or marginally relevant (therefore the god is neither fish nor fowl).
2. The deity leans toward one or the other opposing trend at different times, depending on circumstances, such as when besotted, jubilant, angered, fearful, saddened, under pressure, etc.

Other traits can be substituted to those suggested above, as long as not more than ten traits per trend are selected (for example: austere, arrogant, boorish, vain, crafty, forgetful, greedy, romantic/sentimental, etc.)


Monday, May 4, 2015

Krîma Ironblaze

Gods of Calidar
Next in the mythologies of Calidar's dwarven gods, Krîma Ironblaze stands as the pantheon's second most powerful deity. Callous and boorish, the goddess of war is Khrâlia's chief rival in Holmring. Here's is a preview of her story, which takes place in the Ambrosian, a universe in which dwell only gods and their servants.

Krîma Ironblaze rose from the blood of dwarves on the battlefields. The minds of those who wished for victory gave her a body and a face. Those who summoned her in the name of Khrâlia gave her a divine spirit. Warriors were prompt to adopt her as their spiritual patron, one who never gives up in the face of adversity. When Krîma ascended, Khrâlia was there to welcome her. “Together, let us claim the hearts and souls of all dwarves so that they may take their place among the great races of this universe,” declared the All-Mother. The warrior goddess’s quarrelsome nature made it difficult for her to bow to her elder. “Your trade is hearts and souls. Mine is war and glory. Do as you wish, Khrâlia Mountain Queen, but I shall lead those who choose to follow me along my own path. We shall see who comes up the better.”

Despite great victories and ghastly massacres perpetrated in her name, Krîma fell short of her elder’s accomplishments. The All-Mother tallied yet more followers among mortals who sang her praise. In a huff, the war goddess set off into the Ambrosian to vent her frustration. There she encountered a towering god of frost giants with a cohort of his kin behind him. Though Krîma stood well over 20’ tall, a giant herself by mortal standards, her challenger stretched ten times as high. A crisp and crackling-cold haze formed a halo around his rime-covered body. “Step aside, little one. Make way for Graltur Icecrown,” he thundered. Krîma, hands on her hips, shot back, “You aren’t tall enough for that, King of Glaciers.” The giant laughed, picked her up, and brought her to his enormous mouth. In a foul mood, Krîma bit off a chunk of the giant’s hand that held her. He laughed again. “It takes more than a nibble to defeat the Mighty Graltur.” On these words, he swallowed the goddess whole. Her hands free, Krîma summoned her axe, Hûrkhana. As she descended through a monstrous gullet of roiling frost, she sliced all around until the giant’s throat was thoroughly severed and his head rolled off. In a frenzy of rage, the Axe Mistress slew the rest of Graltur’s people, save for a few who fled into the Ambrosian twilight.

When Ironblaze’s rage was quenched at last, the All-Mother appeared. “The rest of their people will bear eternal hatred for all of us,” she observed. Krîma shrugged. “What, you’d rather make love to them perhaps?” Khrâlia smiled back at the retort. “I might.” The war goddess bared her teeth in an angry jeer, raised her axe, and callously chopped off the giant’s mid-section before kicking it toward the All-Mother. “Help yourself then,” Krîma responded with a sinister grin. Khrâlia dubiously eyed the frosty remains for an instant. “Perhaps you should keep it as a reminder that war does not solve everything.” Defiant, Ironblaze strutted away in search of the escaped giants. As a parting shot, she spat over her shoulder, “That remains to be proven.”

Click here to find out more about this project: "CC1 "Beyond the Skies."  If you are unfamiliar with the World of Calidar, check these two articles:  "Bye-Bye Princess Ark" and "Bye-Bye Princess Ark. . . Hello Calidar."  Feel free to comment about the material presented above. Since this book is being developed prior to its crowd funding project later this year, your comments may be reflected in the final version.  Also related is Thorfinn Tait's celebrated work.  Click here for a glimpse of his contribution to the project: maps of course!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mythologies: Khrâlia

Gods of Calidar
It's been a while since I last posted game material on this blog.  I've been busy writing CC1 Beyond the Skies.  Just to keep you on your toes, here's a snippet from the section describing Khrâlia All-Mother-Mountain, the chief deity of Calidar's dwarven pantheon.  For the next several weeks, I'll be posting mythologies of the dwarven gods, such as they stand, for your entertainment!

There was a time when the faint voices of shamans echoed through the fey dimness of the world soul. At first, there was a mere ripple at the surface of the great lake of magic. More voices rose and the call became more insistent. In the past, rituals of the clans had appealed for a hunt’s good fortune, or for health to a stricken folk. Never had a call been so imperious and so uniform, as all the shamans requested the same thing. “Arise, Great Spirit. Stand before Your humble servants so they may gaze upon Your eyes and hear Your voice. Mighty Queen of All Mountains, stand and claim Your realm!”

The calls, repeated a thousand times by a thousand shamans each one of a thousand days, reached deep beneath the surface of the great lake of magic. Tendrils of hallowed hope stretched into the arcane abyss, stirring eddies of power never before awakened. A tendril recoiled when a seed was sensed. It glowed, and it grew, and it rose until breaking past the surface like a hazy morning sun. The shamans’ clamor hailed the new dawn. The halo of primal magic split and formed two eyes. Veins of throbbing gold spread from them and outlined the shape of a head and a body hovering above the arcane lake. Divine flesh filled the gaps, adding bone and traits of life. The new consciousness took notice of the shamans and their summons. “Hear me now, my loyal servants. Go forth through the mountains of Kragdûr, its valleys, and its caves. Bring word of my coming to those who despair. Stop only when your bodies grows bereft of vigor. Fear not your death, for you will stand forever at the side of Khrâlia.”

The shamans cast off their ancient trappings and took on the roles of priors, harbingers of a new cult. A thousand of them traveled the moon and its depths, and after them so did their scions, and their scions’ scions. As she ascended to the firmament, Khrâlia shed part of her magic and bestowed it upon her servants. Soon, a multitude of voices reached her, fearful yet filled with hope. As time passed, her elder servants joined their goddess and helped with the hearing of prayers as the faithful fought in her name. They fetched the spirits of the valiant ones fallen in battle so that they could stand in the defense of the All-Mother.

With her celestial cohorts now swelling, Khrâlia led her faithful to a hidden chasm in the Ambrosian. “Here will be the first gate to the Hallowed Domain, and Holmring shall be its name. And there shall be four more of my peers, each with a regal gate befitting their statuses. Children of Stone and Mountain, send news of my words to the faithful. Let them herald the birth of new gods.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Frank's Party

I'd found out about Frank Mentzer's pre-Gary Con parties last year, and I'd promised myself to pay a visit this time around.  I managed to do precisely this, thinking I would post this short article before the one on Gary Con VII.  It then occurred to me that I had failed to ask for Frank's permission to publicly post pictures about his home and private life.  I did obtain his blessing a few days later, but that led me to talk about Gary Con first (see the previous article).  No problem, I thought.  I'll just post Frank's right afterward.  But you know what they say about best-laid plans.  

Inside the treasure chest I hauled back from the convention lurked an evil bug.  The nasty hairy thing was nestled there, in a shadowy corner, awaiting an instant of inattention, a second of weakness that created a tiny chink in my +5 plate armor of non-stick-annointed mythril.  It shouldn't have mattered.  With a constitution somewhere between that of a dwarf and an ox, I'd always swept aside all such concerns in the past.  Alas, I failed my save.  Or was it that I just rolled a 1?  Out of commission for several days, the old hero thus lay on his back, hacking most painfully and cursing most colorfully in tongues before sinking into feverish and ever-so-fitful naps.  So there.  Frank's pre-Gary Con party ended up as a postscriptum.  All told, this in no way diminishes its value as I attempt to give an account of the gathering in an appropriately rightful style.

Frank had made great efforts to communicate what he needed to share with attendees, down to the very last detail and then some. The phone number to the fire department, the local NSA branch office, and the outer-space undercover alien hideout were all duly identified.  The width and depth of the tire-tracks on Frank's lawn and the density/moisture of the underlying soil came into the equation, and it was wisely ascertained that climate change forbade anyone parking there.  Good thing, that.  I can attest to the trouble of stopping one's chariot of fire on a muddy, blood-soaked battlefield, and finding it later, resting a few inches lower and frozen in place.  Yes, this is Wisconsin spring weather.  (What?  Am I still suffering some pangs of fever, you wonder?  Nay, says I, as I reach for the amulet of aspirin and gulp down my N'th cup of tea.  It is a murky thing, a true witch's brew so dark I can never gaze upon the mug's bottom.  Something vile and glistening lurks beneath the surface, coating the otherwise white porcelain.  It matters not.  I quaff the medicine and the swirling liquid, and head into the kitchen for more. . .)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gary Con 2015

Now this was a fine vintage!

Although I attended in a most relaxed fashion, I spent more time at the convention than I ever did.  Then again, it was the first year that I hosted events.  I showed up Thursday and played a. . . game.  Imagine that!  (I forgot the title of course).  Sitting in the open gaming area, facing toward the lake  in back of the resort, I enjoyed the mist-shrouded landscape as much as the game itself.  We all finished within one victory point of each other.  I was brave enough then to drive away for lunch, leaving my parking spot open some someone else (yes, good parking space comes at a premium at Geneva Ridge).  The resort isn't really designed for a convention, but it's part of its charm.  I headed over to the Delavan inlet, and grabbed a giant calzone at Jojo's.  No way I could eat all of that, so half ended up in the styrofoam doggie box.  It was cold enough outside I didn't worry about the food going bad.  Miraculously, I found another parking spot when I returned.

After a quick chat with Dale Leonard, I received a much desired pass for a VIP parking slot in front of the entrance.  That was a nice touch.  While taking many pictures, I bumped into many old friends.  Time for my seminar came around very quickly.  With convention success come greater challenges: due to lack of space, seminars had been relegated to. . . the bar.  Ouch.  Between 6 and 8 pm, it was pretty noisy there.  And, I managed to misplace my reading glasses.  Great.  Without them, there was no way I could decipher my notes.  A fellow attendee kindly loaned me his.  That made for a rather bumpy seminar.  I'm told seminars will be handled at another location next year, but the exact place remains up in the air, since that's still being negotiated.  I believe seminars will end up in downtown Lake Geneva.  There already is a shuttle service to The Cove, where many participants have their rooms, since not everyone can stay at the Geneva Ridge resort (it is hopelessly full!)  It would make sense therefore that seminars be held nearby, Lake Geneva being a conveniently small town.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I just ran across a post showing a preview of the upcoming SF movie “The Leviathan.” The art is striking in its own right, but for me it really hits home since this parallels one of my original concepts for the World of Calidar. Click here for the original article about this movie, so you’ll know what I’m talking about. I couldn't help make the analogy with a Ghülean grön. Picture Calidaran wind-driven skyships instead of anti-grav gunboats. Replace energy blasters with wizard spells. Imagine tattered, orcish standards fitted on the leviathan, along with defensive turrets for war-machines, and a few metal plates bolted on the beast's skin. Now multiply the leviathan times the number of Ghülean hordes flying through the clouds.

For good measure, I took my original description from CAL1 and posted it here.

These creatures are native of Ghüle, the orcs’ alien world. They are colossal, grossly fat, mangy worms partially covered with gray fur except where orcs have bolted armor plates onto them. Orcish standards and the bones of defeated monsters sometimes adorn the beasts. Like those on humpback anglerfish, appendages with glowing lures extend from the top of the gröns’ monstrous heads. Two huge, greenish eyes complete the picture. Gröns vary from the size of small galleys to something large enough to swallow several thousand orcs and their war machines.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Genesis of the Briarwoods

Calidar CC1 Alorea
Things have been pretty quiet, blogwise.  I've been busy fleshing out the gods of the Great Caldera for the next book, CC1 "Beyond the Skies," which will eventually lead to a Kickstarter to secure decent artwork.  Until this happy time, here's a small bit, featuring the general history behind the gods of the elves and the relation between their mortal followers and the gnomes of Alorea.  I'll let you discover what happened.

Ascent of the Elven Gods

2100 BCE. There lies a dark place in time upon which no mortal is able to gaze.  It was the Age of Alorean Gnomes, when the small folk prevailed on their moon, and their magic was powerful.  Elves lived among them, primitive nomads and hunter-gatherer clans.  With an arrogance only equaled by their curiosity, the gnomes came to see them as their servants who would undertake work on their behalf, yet be pleasing to their eyes.  At first, gnomes subjugated the elves, bound them to cater to their every wishes, and all was fine for the longest of times.

800 BCE. Reflecting their hubris as centuries went by, the lords of the land assembled armies of elves clad in iron and armed with sword and magic.  A time a great sorrow followed, when conceit and greed led the masters along the path to war.  The elves fought and died.  The elves suffered and despaired.  The masters did not care.  They only demanded more.  Those who could, fled the armies and the horror of breeding camps built by the gnomes.  They hid below ground, in places deep enough even their masters could not find them.  There, in the dark and silent solitude of their rocky abyss, they dwelled, yearning for the time they would return and again feel upon their faces the warm embrace of the sun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

About Old Times and New

GAZ3 Glantri Interview
The web site Isola Illyon recently published an interview about my early years at TSR and how they compare with being an indie publisher today.  I posted the first paragraph here.  Click the link at the end of this post to follow the remainder of the article.

Tell us your story: how did you become lead designer and product manager for BECMI and Mystara products, and what did you do after TSR’s bankruptcy?

After working as a French translator for Basic and Expert modules, I moved on to administrate freelance acquisitions for the Games Division. This entailed selecting and hiring outside writers to design products that couldn’t be handled in-house. Basic/Expert wasn’t popular among TSR’s designers, at least not initially. In-house staff were more interested in working on AD&D projects at the time because that’s where public attention was. Therefore, leftover assignments became my responsibility. Political turmoil soon resulted in the departures of Gary Gygax and Frank Mentzer from TSR. The last remaining person directly involved with BECMI was me. It wasn’t long before I became the product’s “manager by default.” Since I did well in this function, the position became official over time.  (. . .)

Click here to read the entire article.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Of Podcasts and Obscure Knowledge

The folks at GeekLine 415 kindly invited me to join them on a podcast last night, February 10th.  Many thanks to Chad and his crew for this and the fun hour on the phone with them. I can imagine what joy it is to be gaming with such a happy bunch.  They reminded me of my D&D group back in France, in the early 80s.  What a flashback! The topics covered the years leading up to my move to TSR and my time there, fun bits about Mystara and the Gazetteers, and the connection with Calidar. All of this was sprinkled with jokes about obscure or underused  monsters as an ongoing theme.  What fun!  I listened to the interview a second time, this morning, and attempted to identify the various subjects.  I'll add a few comments below.

Click Here to hear the recording.

04:12 My turn comes up for my choice of monster.  I pick the thoul and give some background about when it came about in the D&D game.  Who did design the thoul anyway?

07:48 Here I explain that I'd started out as a diehard 1st Edition AD&D gamer, until I was hired by TSR and had to master the Basic D&D game line.  It was a bit of shock and a disappointment, but in hindsight I have no regrets!  It sounds like I am a 1st Edtn. player currently, though I am certainly more so than any of the later versions, I'm even more of a BECMI fan, which I didn't make clear in the podcast.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ides of March. . . almost!

Gary Con VII Calidar Bruce Heard

Two events will focus on Calidar during the popular game convention, Gary Con VII, coming up in March 2015.  A third event follows, unveiling what lies behind creating a universe like Calidar.

The World of Calidar Seminar: Bruce Heard presents his new game world, Calidar "In Stranger Skies", in a two-part seminar. The first section includes a live reading to set the event's tone. An introduction to the World of Calidar follows, defining its heroes, main features, and uniqueness. Though it isn't designed for a specific rules system, Calidar is a fantasy setting for use with leading role playing games. It is the direct heir to the popular "Voyages of the Princess Ark" stories published in Dragon Magazine in the 80s and 90s, focusing on skyships, world-traveling, and space-borne adventures. Previews will be included about the current project's direction and contents. Questions are welcome from the audience, including those from present Calidar users.  Saturday 10am (2 hours).
Calidar Adventure:  "Eyes in the Dark" is a D&D adventure for characters level 4 to 5. Rules in use are the D&D Expert Set (Blue Box) or the Rules Cyclopedia hard cover. Pregenerated characters are provided. Set in the World of Calidar (see related seminar, Saturday), this OSR-style adventure starts in the rainforest of Meryath.  Friday 10am (5 hours).

You are senior students at Glorathon's Dragon Slayers Guild, sent to investigate a suspicious event in the tribal lands, as part of your mid-term tests. Rumor has it that a dragonship, vessel of the hated Draconic knights, landed in the foothills of the Matai-Nui. You are to unveil why they came and, if possible, to thwart any of their schemes. At the very least, return to the guild with vital information if you cannot defeat the enemy.

Dark is the jungle. Darker yet is the dungeon.

World Building Seminar: Bruce Heard, best known for his mastery of world building learned from developing TSR's popular Mystara campaign setting, presents a seminar detailing the steps taken to create a new universe, such as Calidar and other universes. This seminar is intended for game referees challenged with the daunting task of creating exciting yet credible fictional worlds, as well as professional game designers and fantasy fiction writers in general. Related questions are welcome.  Thursday 6pm (2 hours).

Gary Con is a convention honoring the memory of Gary Gygax in what he would appreciate the most: having fun and good humor.  Gary Con focuses on hobby gaming, including boardgames, roleplaying games, tabletop miniatures games, and seminars related to game play, game design, industry trends, etc.  The convention runs from Thursday morning, March 25 to Sunday 6pm, March 29 at the Geneva Ridge Resort, W4240 State Road 50, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin 53147 (Phone: (262) 249-3800).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

If at first you don't succeed

Calidar Flying Circus
I was getting all cozy this morning, writing about Calidar's Amazing Flying Circus.  Here I am thinking about the look and feel of a magical circus populated with freaks and a menagerie of monsters, with weird stuff here and there.  I imagine a swirl of smells, noises, color, and movement all about, getting deeply immersed in the writing. . .

Boing!  "You Got Mail!"  (Cripes!  What?)  "Bruce, I lost your earlier e-mail. Can you resend those ads for Calidar?"

Groan.  Yeah, okay.  It's urgent.  Let's get this out of the way.

...back to writing.  I need an artifact hidden under the center ring.  That's it, and nobody owns that business, they're all owned by the circus enchantment. And...

Janet runs down the stairs.  "Back in an hour.  Gotta go take care of the dogs."

Hmm?  What?  Oh yeah, dem dang dawgs... Sure.  Drive safely.  Now, what was that about the circus magical thing? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

CC1 Calidar "Beyond the Skies"

So, what am I up to these days?

CAL2?  Nope, not yet.  An adventure module?  Not quite yet either.  There’s been a lot of thinking about what is needed most at this point.  Several ideas came and went before I settled on the current project.  I’m therefore pleased to announce the next title in the series, which branches out from the CAL1 gazetteer:

CC1 Calidar Beyond the Skies
I’ve let out the news that I was working on the gods of the Great Caldera, and have posted seven big blog articles as previews.  While the book gets fleshed out, this material will, of course, undergo further development and receive additional “meat.”  Certain details will also change to stay consistent with new ideas and directions.  In fact, a lot of extra content is forthcoming on this topic alone.  Other related concepts have emerged as well, making the whole genre of “spiritual patrons” and special powers a lot more substantial and broad-reaching.  This will affect how player characters are developed, and also provide additional dynamics to Calidar’s universe.

So, what does CC1 “Beyond the Skies” offer?  Here’s a general overview:

Monday, January 19, 2015

When Old is New

Calidar Game Demo Burlington Public Library“Lair of the Vipermen” was a fun idea for a game demonstration at the Burlington Public Library introducing the World of Calidar.  The adventure, which borrowed mechanics from the D&D game’s old Basic/Expert version, took place on January 15th.  The “dungeon” was fully written in advance, with an eye toward possibly publishing it as a standalone title later.  I’d made myself a promise to keep things short and sweet.  I succeeded, kind of.  The adventure still features three levels and some outdoor adventuring in the foothills of Meryath’s Matai Nui range.  Long story short: a second session will be needed to complete the party’s foray, and perhaps a third to complete the whole adventure.

Calidar Game Demo at Burlington Public Library
A few days before the event, I went digging into my trove of old D&D figurines.  I found my old box (nay: ancient, I should say) from Grenadier Models: “Wizards Room” Ref. #2009.  Its pieces had already been assembled in a diorama, which now sits in a larger box.  In the Grenadier’s box, instead, I’d stored original gaming pieces from my (AD&D 1st ed) campaign of 1982, thirty-year-old figurines with which I’d started my gaming hobby.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 7

The Gods of Phrydias

Culturally and racially, Phrydians are a blend of ethnic Bongorese from Munaan and of Calderan half-elves.  The elven heritage strongly influenced the local language, which is now a distant dialect of ancient Bongorese.  From a spiritual point of view, the old Munaani gods prevailed, although their names now sound elvish.  Of the half-elves’ Ellyrian ancestry only remains a certain pragmatism, a sense of order, and a taste for the military.  Racially, Phrydians are predominantly dark-skinned half-elves or humans.  Phrydians honor the ancient gods of the Swamp Kings or those of the Calderan Faiths.  Although the cult of Teos isn’t forbidden, it isn’t a part of the local pantheon and it remains somewhat uncommon on Phrydias (most likely honored by half-elves of Ellyrian ancestry).  The local beliefs suffer the same troubles as those in Meryath: they’ve been ruthlessly suppressed on Munaan, leaving their gods with small pools of followers on Calidar.  Painfully aware of the fragility of their cults, gods of Phrydias seek to expand primarily into Osriel and Alfdaín, although some efforts are also made for toe-holds in Belledor’s Seahollow area and in Nordheim’s Kaldmyr region.  Oloroth, the head of the pantheon, via his clergy, has been sponsoring missions into the Dread Lands to find suitable settlement sites.

Calidar Gods of Phrydias

Phrydias (½E)
Chaos, mischief
Death, underworld, desert
Earth, mountains, volcanoes
Forest, hunters
Justice, revenge
Healing, poison
Messenger, scribe
Mirth, trickery
Seas, fishermen
Sky, air, winds
Thunder, lightning
Time, wisdom
War, conquerors
Water, fertility
Bongorese deities are peculiar in that they have two appearances, one essentially human with or without elven features, and the other that of a spirit patron.  Occasionally, the latter may adopt anthropomorphic alter-egos, such as the lion-headed god of war, Meoguín.  Though these are deities of Munaan’s Swamp Kingdoms, they personify savanna denizens because open wilderness surrounded the old realms, and many of the gods were thought to reside there.  The Phrydian pantheon’s divine domain, the Heavenly Valley, also called Orun Ijoba, indeed resembles an immense savanna within a ring of volcanoes and cloud-reaching mountains, and beyond them, the forever-desert.  At the center lies a lake large enough to be a sea, bordered with areas of forested swamp and with large meandering rivers born from the mountains’ mists.  Oloroth’s magical palace travels the skies, perched on a gold and silver cloud.