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 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.      


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.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Calidar Moving Ahead

Calidar John Dollar
Concept work from John Dollar
It's been almost a year since my most-viewed-ever blog post "Bye-Bye Princess Ark" went online.  Since then, a lot has been accomplished.  The Kickstarter succeeded, and the Calidar project is now nearly complete.  I had started with the idea of adopting much of the feel and general themes from Mystara and, more specifically, the Voyages of Princess Ark published in Dragon Magazine back in the 80s and 90s.  I think I have accomplished this goal, without running roughshod over WotC's IPs . . . and then some.  It's very hard to tackle something as deeply ingrained and as much beloved as Mystara, which has benefited over the years from a wide array of published material and fan work.  Where did I start, you might wonder.  Many supporters of the popular game world may look at Calidar with a certain amount of doubt, if not indifference.  However, this new fantasy setting has now developed into something that clearly goes beyond what Mystara accomplished, at least regarding the initial themes and the general scope of the first book, "In Stranger Skies."  The present work certainly exceeds the boundaries reached by the Princess Ark.

So where are we at, as of today?

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Gary Con VI
Janet and I had the pleasure of attending this yearly event these past few days. Gary Con is special to me because, of course, it connects directly with Gary Gygax and it is just outside Lake Geneva, but also because many of my friends and colleagues are present as well.  Though it is growing every year, this event has retained a certain friendliness and personality that much larger venues can no longer hope to offer. Where else would you be able to encounter this many former TSR folk without actually trying? The cocktail party Saturday night was a success and new familiar faces were there as well. The high point for me was spending some good time with an old friend whom I hadn't seen for thirty years: Merle Rasmussen, the designer of the original Top Secret game. Merle left TSR in 1984, about a year after I started there. Although he enjoyed a long and fruitful career in his native Iowa (and still does), he connected recently with Jayson Elliott at (new) TSR/Gygax Magazine and Luke Gygax. I was also very pleased to chat with Betty Elmore whom I hadn't seen for almost as long. Many other friendly faces haunted the halls of Geneva Ridge that cold, crisp evening. Sorry I didn't get everybody.  All good times must come to an end, so I'll post my pictures here for your enjoyment . . . and get back to work on my current project.

Gary Con
Dungeoncrawl meets SF

Friday, March 7, 2014

March Update

Ahoy!  Backers of the Star Phoenix!

As of early March, the Calidar project is proceeding apace.

Since last February, the first 63 pages have already gone through the editing process with Karen S. Conlin. This includes the main story, "In Stranger Skies," the overview of Calidar's universe (the planets, the moons, the races, and the gods), and the world of Calidar (the continents, the world soul, the Dread Lands, the Great Caldera, an overview of the realms, and a detailed historical timeline).

Meanwhile, writing continued for the Kingdom of Meryath gazetteer: its history, geography, economy, diplomacy, armies, internal politics, the culture of heroes, calendar, holidays, the NPC section (Heroes of the Star Phoenix and Heroes of Meryath), and the Guilds and Brotherhoods section.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

System-Neutral Character Rankings

Intended to be adaptable to leading fantasy role-playing games, Calidar does not feature a specific set of mechanics. Storytelling, flavor, and background information are the main goals. Guidelines presented here should nonetheless help referees make decisions on how best to render heroes and monsters in their game systems. Though a rating system is provided below, the intended game system’s mechanics should take precedence. Game masters should use their best judgement as regards style vs. accuracy.

This preview is posted here ostensibly to garner important feedback as to what you feel is missing, impractical, or unclear from a gaming standpoint. As promised in Calidar’s Kickstarter, a section in the final product will provide actual stats and mechanics for Pathfinder to better translate NPCs, monsters, equipment, and spells.

Ranks and Toughness: There are four general career paths in the World of Calidar which are independent from races—warriors (W), priors (P), mages (M), and rogues (R). Though uncommon, heroes with multiple professions are allowable. How far heroes progress along their career paths is measured in Ranks ranging from 1 to 100—one being a novice and 100 the highest that can be achieved. For example: for a Rank 50 hero of Calidar (Rk50) in a game where 30 is considered the top end, 15 would be the resulting career experience. Monsters unique to Calidar are treated in the same manner. Profession and rank abbreviations can be combined; for example W10 designates a rank 10 warrior.

Creatures and objects (such as ships and structures) have an innate capacity to sustain damage, which is labeled here as Toughness (Tn). Since they are often connected with heroes’ or monsters’ Ranks, Tn scores only address any randomness involved in the intended game’s mechanics. For example: Tn50 refers to an average score.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Aaron Allston

I'm very sad to learn about Aaron Allton's passing, yesterday, February 27th.  Aaron was a long-time and trusted contributor to the Mystara product line as well as the author of many other works.  I'd like to take a moment to salute his achievements.

Game Titles

Hero Games
     Blood and Dr. McQuark, The
     Champions (5th Edition)