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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 6

The Gods of Nordheim

Aside from their ancient, native cults, Nordheimers honor Calderan Faiths. Dwarves and elves, who aren’t uncommon in these northern climes, may adopt local beliefs or those of Araldûr or Alfdaín.

Calidar Gods of Nordheim

Origins of Calidar’s Asgardian Pantheon: Nordheimers are descendants of Vikings who erred into Calidar’s universe via the vortex and found a home on Munaan. In this universe, the newcomers’ faiths tapped Calidar’s world soul, creating gods inspired from their previous world’s beliefs. Altered from the original cults, these deities reflect Calidar’s reality and context. Although all of the old mythological figures are known, not all of them actually ascended to godhood in Calidar’s universe. Nordheim’s cults also differ from those of neighboring realms in that their gods are no longer connected with Calidar (see Odin, pg. 65). Just before Munaan’s Varangians fled to the Fringe, a small clan escaped to Calidar in 207 CE, establishing a settlement that would later become Nordheim (see Infighting & Rivalries, pg. 75). Both groups honor the same deities, known as the Asgardians.

Over time, the gods’ link with Teos and Calidar vanished entirely. Those who settled in the Fringe became Wayfarers, a much larger community than Nordheim itself despite being scattered over vast distances. As long as Wayfarers outnumber their Calidaran kinsmen, Asgardians draw their power from the Fringe. This doesn’t affect how Calidaran priors gain their spells. Both Wayfarers and Nordheimers who depart the world of the living still go to the netherworld (click here for the article on Death and the Netherworld). The spirits of deceased Wayfarers eventually return to the Fringe’s world soul, while those of Nordheimers become one with Calidar’s. The netherworld is the universal triage center for spirits of the dead awaiting their final fates. One exception exists, however, concerning the servants of the gods: those remain in Asgard until they are destroyed or banished, in which case they return to the netherworld and, eventually, to their native world souls. Wayfarers refer to the netherworld as Niflheim and to the Fringe as Utgard—the “outer yard”.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

Deviant Art Terzaa
©2014 Art by Terzaa -- please visit http://terzaaa.deviantart.com/

Introductory Game Session

*Special Event*

Bruce Heard will be running a role-playing game session introducing The World of Calidar on Wednesday evening, January 14th 2015, at the Burlington (WI) Public Library, from 06:30pm to 09:00pm.

The next session is scheduled for February 11th.

The game system used will be D&D/BECMI. No prior experience with tabletop gaming is needed (just bring an open mind and a sense of humor). For further information, please contact the library at:


or: http://www.burlingtonlibrary.com/

Calidar Intro Game Event

Monday, December 29, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 5

The Gods of Meryath

Citizens of Meryath venerate Istra’s pantheon as well as Calderan Faiths, including Teos (see Pt. 1 about Calderan Faiths). Followers of the sun god do not condone the other cults but have learned to live with the reality of their "misguided compatriots."  Tribal fellfolk populate mountain and rain-forest sectors, and therefore the prevailing cults there are shamanistic and unrelated to Meryath's native pantheon.  The eastern side of Kamearea Island is predominantly of Soltan's faith, which is relevant to Narwan.

Calidar Gods of Meryath
Miniature Gods: As with many other native human faiths, old gods vanished or went dormant during Munaan’s terrible Nicarean inquisition. Some fared better and benefited from their cults being driven underground. After the colonial wars, ancient faiths were revived in the former colony and new ones came to light, such as Istra’s. Meryath is peculiar in that it nurtures Talikai faiths, yet it also honors monolatrous Teos, who is reviled in Caldwen or seen with suspicion in Nordheim. This stems from Meryath’s close alliance with Ellyrion, an empire believing in the sun god. The idea that Talikai gods could in fact be honored on the same footing with Teos dawned in the minds of the islanders, which influenced their own pantheon. Therein still lies internal dissent: whether to offer Teos the tolerance Nicarea never showed others.

A fundamental problem lies with the gods of Meryath and their followers’ demographics. Due to the small size of the islands, there are fewer followers available to the Talikai deities compared with other pantheons, let alone with Teos himself. This has led him to call the leading gods of Meryath and Phrydias the “Miniature Gods and their Trinket Courts,” offending many in the process. In Meryath, Istra benefits from demigods who have spread out in the Great Caldera (and elsewhere) in search of followers they can’t muster in Meryath. Istra, Kahula, Koanui, and Ululani have managed a place among the Calderan Faiths, opening growth opportunities elsewhere. For the others, Meryath’s geopolitical location between Ellyrion and Narwan constitutes a monumental risk of native cults being overwhelmed by the major faiths in Teos/Soltan. Though Meryath is indeed a tough nut to crack, its divine patrons need to work hard to prevent their own doom.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

©2013-2014 DragonosX  Please visit http://dragonosx.deviantart.com/

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 4

The Gods of Caldwen

Though the magiocracy is a secular nation, its people still bear strong feelings about their spiritual faiths. In their view, magic is divine, or rather, the divine grew from magic. During the age of colonialism (CAL1, pg.78), many of the ancient Gandarian gods, who had become dormant (or near so) on Munaan, were revived in Caldwen. The old forbidden Maghia sect believed that magic was a separate entity from the sun (Teos), the fiery god being a reflection of a greater power, which infuriated the Nicarean potentates preaching exactly the opposite. Caldweners typically honor their native pantheon or the Calderan Faiths, with the exception of Teos (as far as they know). Though not against the law, public worship of Teos remains unpopular in Caldwen and may result in hostility. Miyuki Island, off the eastern coast, almost exclusively features outer-world Kumoshiman faiths, which will be detailed at a later time. The divine domain of Caldwen’s pantheon is known as the Thousand Towers of Sadarya, a vast desert of burning sands and jagged mountains, with immense volcanoes spewing raw mana into the skies and down their flanks. Its ruler, Naghilis, owns the greatest tower at the center of this pocket plane, surrounded in the distance by those of her lesser peers and their hallowed servants.

Calidar Gods of Caldwen
(Prince of Wands)
(The Unborn)
Dagleeth [1]
(The Librarian)
(The Gray Flame)
Hallowed Scroll]
(The Deep One)
(The Mad)
(Lord of Flies)
Of Munaani Gods & Armageddon: Major gods of the humans largely originate from Munaan. Most have in common their loathing of the Nicarean potentates who favor their own faith at the expense of all the others. Though foreign creeds are unwelcome in Ellyrion and Narwan, followers of Teos/Soltan in the Great Caldera don’t actively seek to persecute those with different beliefs, compared with the Nicarean clergy more prone to burning anyone at the stake on mere suspicion. Nowhere is this issue more acute than among gods of Caldwen, Meryath, and Phrydias whose faiths have been so brutally repressed on Munaan. Old Gandarian gods revived during Caldwen’s creation on Calidar seek revenge against Nicarea or support all out rebellion on Munaan, something that Teos tries to prevent. From the former colonies’ points of view, all-out war against Nicarea is no more a desirable option than a direct conflict between Teos and the other human gods. This would tear apart the Great Caldera itself, to Nicarea’s entire benefit. Among certain divine circles, a deep-rooted belief prevails that a much more sinister war is already upon them, in the form of alien deities of Ghüle awaiting for such chaos to inflict other invasions upon the Soltan Ephemeris. They suspect these monstrous outer-planar beings do not merely seek to capture mortal slaves, but plain and simply to devour the gods of Calidar at the end. These beastly gods wait in the shadows for times when chaos reigns and worlds are at their weakest, sensing death, destruction, and sorrow like a predator does blood and a wounded, thrashing prey. Thus do Calidar's gods worry. Thus do they fear. Is Ghüle an odious lure beckoning gods to intervene, only to unveil something far more terrifying than orcs? Or is it the herald of an unfathomably evil pantheon hungering for universal Armageddon?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 3

The Gods of Belledor

Gods of the gnomes and of the fellfolk are listed together because their primary followers essentially occupy the same land. Though theirs are separate pantheons, gnomes and fellfolk know and occasionally share each other’s faiths as they seem to complement each other. 

Gnomes favor deities based on personalities and archetypes found in their culture. Though they don’t agree with each other, these gods will join against a common enemy. Fellfolk adopted more abstract faiths rooted in earlier tribal shamanism connoting the passage of time (birth, the four seasons, and death), and personified them. Gnomes and fellfolk born and raised outside Belledor typically honor local or common Calderan Faiths. The fellfolk pantheon’s divine domain is called the Morever Meadows, a vast expanse of rolling hills and fields with never-ending rivers and a great lake at its center, beneath which stands Celendine’s palace. Yarima’s Ring of Bones lies deeper yet. Four high mountain ridges extend outward, like spokes of a wheel. Gods of the gnomes and the fellfolk want nothing to do with any reunification plans or desires for wars with the old empires which gods of other pantheons may contemplate. Thaleera is particularly worried about reprisals against gnomes of Kragdûr and Alorea.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 2

Gods of the Dwarves

Calidar Dawrven Gods
Unlike the elves, dwarven deities do not bear racial distinctions. Nonetheless, preferences exist among the clans. There are two broad camps among the gods, one aligned with Khrâlia, the pantheon's ruler, the other with Krîma Ironblaze, her direct rival in Holmring. Many of these gods originate from Kragdûr. Outside Araldûr, dwarven expatriates honor either the Holmring or the Calderan faiths. Dwarves born outside Araldûr honor either the Calderan or the local pantheon. Gods of Holmring remain aloof and suspicious of elven and Belledoran deities.

Krîma Ironblaze and Brâlkha Shadowfist are secretly plotting for a war between Araldûr and Kragdûr, something that Khrâlia has been suspecting. Due to the overpopulation on Kragdûr, Khrâlia’s faith has ceased growing on the dwarven moon. On the other hand, her influence in peaceful Araldûr keeps spreading steadily. More than ever, the Kragdûras contemplate war as the way to address their problems, which favors Krîma. The war goddess sees a reunification between the old empire and its former colony as a way to supplant her rival. Brâlkha, who is in on her ally’s feelings, rubs her hands for the damage and fear a war will provoke (see below).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gods of the Great Caldera Pt. 1

A Primer to the Calderan Pantheons

Calidar Gods
Calidar In Stranger Skies is a broad introduction to this universe, covering many subjects but just enough to give the reader a sense of what this world is about. Less than ten gods are described, essentially due to lack of space, despite the book’s 130 pages. Eventually, players will need more to chose from. Therein lies an opportunity to provide a lot more meat to this topic. It is a major subject which can’t be fully developed here, but enough material can be made available at least tentatively to make things going. Before I start enumerating deities, here are a few notes to set things up.

In the Great Caldera: Colonial residents originally honored the traditional god(s) from their native moons (overtly or covertly in some cases). As a consequence of the wars of independence, dormant deities were revived and beliefs developed into overlapping pantheons. Though most cultures have their own specific pantheons, some of their gods are commonly worshipped elsewhere as well. These are listed under their local pantheon and under “Calderan faiths”. The so-called Calderan pantheon is unique in that Soltan, as its Honorary Conciliator, declines to collect power from its members. Rather, it is an informal forum. In short, two groups of deities are generally available in each realm—the local pantheon and the Calderan faiths. How the divine world works in Calidar is explained in the book, pg 61-62.  If you haven't yet read the recent two blog posts about death and netherworld, now is a good time to do so.

In Ellyrion, Narwan, and Osriel: These regions differ from the guidelines described above. The first two realms are monotheistic cultures. In Ellyrion, the state religion is Teos (Soltan), although small temples dedicated to other religions are permitted for visitors. High-placed members of the sun god’s clergy have a presence in Ellyrion’s governance, while members of other faiths do not. The imperial province of Antiatis is in fact a theocracy. In Narwan, practicing faiths other than Arun al Malik al Soltan are forbidden outright; visitors must keep their faiths to themselves. Osriel, due to its cultural pluralism, uses mostly Calderan faiths.

Charts A & B: A tentative listing of gods appears below in two charts summarizing primary interests and regional/cultural strongholds. By “tentative” I mean updates and additions are likely to take place between now and when the final material is released. Your feedback and questions will affect this material. Debates are welcome at this stage, here, on the Piazza, on G+ or on Facebook. Today’s blog post includes the two charts and a summary describing the gods of the elves. The others will follow on a regular basis until all the listed gods have been covered—so keep your eyes open. I haven’t included special powers for followers and priors (yet). These will need a separate and more in-depth treatment. I may replace what is in the book with something more substantial, at least as an alternate approach.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Critical Hit!

Calidar EnWorld.org 100% Rating
  Soon after I woke up and while I was having my morning coffee, I discovered a kind e-mail from a friend who brought to my attention #Calidar's rating on EnWorld.org 

Thanks to all of you who jumped in and put in their two-cents' worth!  That this happened largely on Thanksgiving is amusing.  The image's comment says this:

Fun with stats: Calidar, In Stranger Skies is ranked #1 out of 17 products with 10 or more reviews, placing it in the 100% percentile. It is rated 20.8 points higher than the overall average product rating of 79.2%. With 10 reviews, this is the #15 most reviewed product.

Rated by 10 readers at 100% who deem this a CRITICAL HIT. This should be part of your collection. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Marches of Khorvador

Calidar Caldwen
This region of Nygardae is located at the southern end of Caldwen’s Arm of the Magus, along the administrative border with Incubael.  It is part of the College of Necromancy. Khorvador is a key military district whose fortress at Belael serves as command center for this area. Civilian population is fairly low, except alongside Lake Shroudmist’s northern shore and on the island a few miles south. The master of this domain resides at Belael’s citadel. The Lich Lord Azradin ruled this mountain area of the magiocracy in the 1300s.

Though undead wizards are permitted to dwell openly in Nygardae, the rule is that they or their servants may not prey upon the living or permit actions leading to the living being harmed.  In fact, both undead and necromancers occupy positions of power there.  Though intimidating, the local elite isn’t necessarily evil.  Their primary purpose is the study of death and how it relates to magic, a key subject connected with the nature of Calidar’s world soul.  Landed nobility, such as Azradin’s House of Naggal, answer to the Head Councilor of the College of Necromancy as regards local laws and taxes.  They also must fully comply with resolutions adopted by Arcanial’s Upper Chamber of Wizards and Lower Chamber of Sorcerers.  Common residents have become accustomed to the sinister nature of this province, often demonstrating a certain morbidly smug attitude about it to outside visitors.  It has become part of the local culture.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Death and the Netherworld Part II

The demon’s eyes reduced to narrow slits as it gazed at Azradin. It reached for a maggot emerging from the lich’s chest and sensed the squirming pest with its forked tongue before popping it into its mouth. A muffled squeal and crunching sounds followed as Daal sucked out its juices and spat out its remains.

“Bitter is the taste of the fallen,” commented the demon with an odd snakelike sneer. “Soon you too will bow to the Mighty Ashgaddon. A pact I bring on His behalf. If you agree to its terms, Khorvador will be yours to rule again. Honor the Lord of the Shades and fetch all those he demands. It is the price to leave Karkerath and regain your former glory.”

Azradin grimaced at the offer. He loathed any scheme forcing him to accept Ashgaddon as his divine liege once again. His demands were many and dear to all who followed Him. “For how long does the pact remain in force?”

“Ten times the length of your stay on the tree of sorrow. The more you wait, the longer the service.”

“And if I refuse or fail?”

Daal growled with satisfaction. “You will be mine to consume.”

Navigational Hazards: The netherworld exerts a certain force intended to prevent spirits from wandering into other planes of existence. For the living traveling within, this has potentially severe consequences. The first is the gradual weakening of the bond between body and spirit. Even within the limits of a skyship’s magical protection, this weakening parallels a desire to remain in what increasingly feels as a soothing, restful environment. From a game mechanics’ point of view, one might base a travelers’ ability to resist limbo’s fatal attraction upon personal wisdom and vitality (experience level), where both ratings are converted to 1-20 ranges and added together. The result indicates the amount of time (equivalent to Calidaran days) before spirits start departing their bodies. Each day spent thereafter in limbo requires an ability check (constitution or equivalent) to survive. The classes’ prime requisite ability scores also temporarily drop –1 for each successful ability check. The growing desire to linger among the dead remains more relevant to roleplaying as best fits one’s gaming style.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Death and the Netherworld

The thorns of iron cut deep into his skin, yet they drew no blood. It had been a very long time since Azradin could bleed at all, a time well before he met his own demise. His lifeless eyes gazed upon the burning wasteland around him, as he hung crucified on the tree of sorrow. Karkerath’s dreaded larvae dug into his parchment-like skin, but he’d almost become accustomed to their endless and insidious pain. Worse was the hunger for life searing through his unholy innards. It might have been twelve decades or so since his imprisonment in Ashgaddon’s hell. He’d lost count. Though reduced to the form of a helpless spirit, he retained at least his past appearance, he, the once-lord of Khorvador. As time passed, his own corrupted life force drained away slowly, feeding the odious larvae as they reproduced inside his desiccated flesh. Such was his punishment for betraying Ashgaddon.

This article further develops concepts of world souls, divine powers, and how they relate to the netherworld and the undead. To better understand Calidar’s universe, it is important to keep in mind the presence of a world soul at the heart of each planet, a vast pool of magic capable of affecting local laws of physics. Here, magic should be understood as life force—the two are one and the same. Worlds live on as long as their arcane reserves remain healthy and, with them, bestow life upon all dwelling on their surfaces, whether mortal or godly. As a result of this, a direct relation exists between world, people, their deities, and whatever magic they are empowered to cast.

The netherworld is the place where spirits of the dead linger while awaiting their final fates. A select few go serve their divine masters. The others are otherwise reabsorbed by the world souls from which they were issued, following an arcane cycle that could last a few days to several centuries. Thereafter, past identities and life stories are preserved in the Ætherian Scrolls, magical records of all spirits since the birth of Soltan’s Ephemeris, which certain wizards may access. For more about the above, consult CAL1 Calidar In Stranger Skies, pages 60-61.