Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Road Not Taken

I've been wrestling with it for weeks now and it's with some resignation, and a good deal of relief, that I have decided to cancel my website.

As cool as it sounded in the conceptual phases and as much as I liked tinkering with the design of it, ultimately I didn't understand well enough, nor have the patience to keep it going.

I'm quite comfortable enough with Blogger that I will simply remain here to keep things chugging along.

I'm an imaginative man, a learned man, an entertaining man. I am not a patient man. I am not a friend of things technological. I am not one who wants to sacrifice his hobby and muddy the waters of what I enjoy doing by making the fun feel like work.

I have wandered - albeit, not very far - and have returned home. See you around.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Into A New Domain

Well I finally did it. I bought a domain. As of this morning is up and running. It's shiny and new and ragged and terrifying!

Blogger has been good to me these past few years, but with the encouragement of friends I have ventured into the land of an actual My hope is that it will corral my many ideas and imaginings into a few webpages instead of trying to keep three separate blogs going with material.

Please check it out and tell me what you think. I'm very open to advice, criticism, etc. Whether new or a regular follower, I very much appreciate the support and readership this blog has enjoyed.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Maps by Max

I was blown away by the work of fellow guild member Maxime Plasse. He is obviously a very talented individual with a natural eye for map making. He has graciously permitted this handful of images.
**please note that these are copyrighted images and are NOT for use without explicit permission from the artist**

Because Max did me the favor of allowing me to post his work, it seemed only fitting that he get to pick which pics were shared. Enjoy!

Erin the Green Isle

Oraven the Cold Hell
Oraven the Savage Lands
Oraven the Red Moors
Oraven Mirghor
For even more astounding maps, check out Max's album of original artwork and commissions.

What can I say? I was hooked the moment I saw the Erin map of Ireland. If you remember from my earliest posts, Ireland was the outline map I chose for my first conworld, Schiehallion.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Magic Circles

This post from the Land of Nod blog gave me an idea regarding magic circles. In it he states that the elves made the dwarves construct magic circles for them to harness the energies of the world for better/easier manipulation.

This got me to thinking about my own world. I figure that as deep-dwelling masons and metalsmiths, the dwarves would be naturally gifted in earth and fire magics. Where the dwarves are stalwart and compact, elves are lithe and fluid. Thus the feyfolk's natural talents are in water and air.

Therefore I believe that dwarves would construct magic circles, carved in their angular runes - because it's easier to chisel straight lines in stone, than curves. Dwarf runes are harsh, straightforward, and to the point.

The elves would take a "more natural" approach and bend green trees into enchanted groves, letting them intertwine over time. Elven script is looping and flowing like a stream or a breeze - wafting and winding, drawn out and contemplative.

The dwarves are viewed as more manipulative and prone to take immediate (sometimes rash) action; whereas the elves are more delicate and natural and like to consider (sometimes too long) before moving forward. Elves are thinkers, dwarves are thunkers.

That's not to say that dwarves couldn't build you a stone circle with runes to imbue stronger water magic, nor would it be impossible for the elves to plant and grow a stand of trees the enhance fire magics. Both would certainly increase a mere human's abilites to draw magic from the natural world, but each is directly counter intuitive to the elements working in harmony. So if you want hefty and hearty, go with dwarf construction. If you want ethereal and airy, elves are the way to go.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kickstarter 4 - Blade Raiders Novel

Grant Gould's Blade Raiders was among the first Kickstarter projects I ever backed. And given how impressive the RPG rulebook and Enemy Omnibus were, I see no reason that I'd ever not back more of his projects.

That being said, I've thrown money at his latest project for a Blade Raiders: Exodus Novel. I really like his artwork - Wolves of Odin was fantastic! - so yes it super sucks that this project wasn't funded as another stunning graphic novel, but I agree that it's very likely to come across as a better story in novel form. The stretch bonus is that the book will include a few illustrations per more money raised.

Please please please support this project. Grant is a fabulous artist, genuine geek at heart, and from what I can tell one hell of a nice guy.

Join in. Cash in.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Facts of Life

Because it's quite common for fantasy games/stories to be set in a roughly medieval time period, it's best to do some research so your world fits the facts.

The Middle Ages and the Dark Ages are synonymous. The dates for this period are roughly 400-1500, basically from the the fall of Rome to the Renaissance. And that is broken down further into three periods: Early (500-1000), High (1000-1300), and Late (1300-1500).

The "Dark Ages" is a misnomer in that during this time there was actually quite a bit of information exchanged, particularly via trade with foreign countries. 

Education wasn't limited only to cloistered monks. The later Middle Ages (1000-1500) were a time of philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, anatomy, engineering, etc.

Not all knowledge of the Ancient World was lost "in a single day and night of misfortune" like Atlantis. Much learning remained from Rome, Greece, and Arabia. And even more knowledge was introduced through contact with eastern Asia. Silk, spices, gunpowder, and decimals (just to name a few) came to Europe during this time.

Healthcare and sanitation were not as good as they are today (speaking in regards to the sterile and shiny Western world), but it wasn't all filth and squalor either. People took baths, brushed their teeth, and washed their hands after doing their business. The cleanliness of the water being used for these activities is what's really up for debate.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blackrock Castle Observatory

This is Blackrock Castle. Built in Cork, Ireland in the 16th Century to repel pirate attacks. Its stalwart fortifications boast several towers with walls over 2 meters thick to withstand cannon fire.

It now serves as an interactive astronomy center whose purpose is "The Search for Extreme Life in the Universe".

But let's say you want to convert this to a fantasy/game setting....

Perhaps a "mad" wizard is holed up behind the thick walls attempting to contact other worlds. He could be doing so through use of a massive telescope that sits protected within the tallest tower. Or he is gathering cosmic energy from multi-colored crystals set in the top of each tower that harness various powers. Through manipulation and calculation the wizard is channeling these latent energies into the castle courtyard, whereby the stones themselves acts as one large resonator to open portals to other dimensions.

Is this wizard truly a wizard at all, or is he a misunderstood genius hoping to reach other planes of existence? What is he hoping to accomplish in this venture - a heightened awareness for all mankind, or the destruction of the material plane by otherworldly demons?
How do the players hear of this: flashes of colorful lights in the night sky, a low hum that can only be heard by pressing one's ear to the ground, the crackle of electric charges and freak lightning strikes from a cloudless sky?

Once they know of the experiments, do they wish to stop it, or explore the mysteries with the wizard?
Depending on which they choose, do they attempt to help the nearby villagers breech the thick walls, or must they reach the parapets first to repel the attack?
How does one gain entry? Through a hidden underwater passage, a large magical gate with a series of locking runes, or perhaps an invisible force field protects the castle and someone can only pass through unarmed and unarmored, with pure intentions.

Once inside, it could be discovered that an unstable wormhole has already opened. Maybe the wizard meant well, but the trans-dimensional energies that lulled him into completing the ceremony/opening were in fact malevolent and now a demonic god hopes to reach through and obliterate life as we know it. Or instead of something coming through the gateway, our world is in peril of being sucked into the void a bit at a time. If the portal isn't closed, the very fabric of existence could unravel!
Either way, what are the consequences?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Feeling Conflicted

For the past several weeks I've been struggling to get a real story down on paper. A problem I'm having is that I've spent so much time world building that it's hard to focus on characters and their POV. One world is a huge sandbox and another is rife with characters and clashes. But which character(s) and conflicts should I focus on?  

So cruising the interwebs for ideas, suggestions, advice, etc. I came across these. 

Excellent series of articles for injecting conflict into the pulsing veins of your flat-lining story Part 1 - Show Don't Tell. Because after reading The Silmarillion I lean way too heavily towards dry, historical exposition Part 2 - Adverbs. They can be your friends as much as adjectives.
Fantasy Part 3 - Kill Your Darlings. Oh c'mon, that alone makes you want to read on! Part 4 - Stories Need Conflict. This is the one I sought out because I was struggling to struggle.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

World Building School: 22 Great Map Resources and Tutorials

What a great share from the World Building School!

22 Great Map Resources and Tutorials

I've tinkered with Photoshop a bit to generate maps, but I may just give up and spend the $11 (or so) on the generator.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Think of the Little Things...and 15,000 hits!

Sporkchop wrote this great blog entry and it got me thinking of all the little things that really give a world flavor.

What is considered "worth it" when it comes to trading, purchasing, adventuring? Think of the Silk Road and spice trade that united East and West. Or even the tin mined from British shores that allowed the Ancient Greeks to craft their bronze weaponry. With such real world references in mind, what can you include in your conworld that give it more real flavor?

A while ago I referenced slavery as being a not-so-palatable inclusion in worldbuilding. I'm not advocating the notion of slavery in the least. I find it absolutely abhorrent. But that does not blind me to the fact that it has been common practice in nearly every human society throughout the ages.

So just what makes your world economy run? Is it the trade of precious metals, jewels, spices, etc? Are people trafficked for whatever foul purpose? You must remember that very arbitrary things are assigned value. Think of paper currency - it's all over the world in "civilized" society. But the notes themselves mean nothing. And how quickly do we realize that in the aftermath of natural disasters and government shutdowns?

P.S. Mini woot to myself for passing 15,000 views sometime very recently! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dragon Scales

The wife and I were watching a History Channel program about gods and monsters and various myths. It's more or less understood that (sadly) there is no evidence that dragons ever existed, but the notion of them likely comes from ancient peoples seeing partial dinosaur skeletons and making up the rest.

It got me to thinking 'wings and tails have some of the smallest; therefore, hardest to find preserved bones'. So how do we know for certain that dragons weren't some breed of flying dinosaur? We know that there were all shapes and sizes of dinosaurs, we know some pteradons had wingspans of up to 65 feet, and we know that many of the great lizards had bird-like anatomy.We like to think we know lots of stuff...until new evidence is found to change or utterly refute what we held so dear.

All this made me wonder just how big a dragon could get and still get off the ground. So I did me some Googling and Wiki-ing about dinosaurs and wingspans and what have you. This is what I came up with:

In one of many worlds that I have built I had an idea that jungle tribes of gnomes/halflings used to worship and ride dragons. However, as mounts the dragons could only get so large before the tiny riders could no longer control them. Below are the notes I dug out on the matter.

Category Age in years Size
Wyrmling 0-5 Tiny
Very Young 6-15 Small
Youngling 16-25 Medium
Juvenile 26-50 Medium
Young Adult 51-100 Large
Adult 100-200 Large
Mature Adult 200-400 Huge
Old 400-600 Huge
Very Old 600-800 Huge
Ancient 800-1000 Huge
Wyrm  1000-1200 Gargantuan
Great Wyrm 1200-1500 Gargantuan
Colossal Wyrm 1500+ Colossal

Since Halflings never break 4 feet tall they are perpetually considered Small. This means that they cannot ride anything bigger than a Large dragon, also meaning that dragons only bear riders until age 200. After this it is both difficult to accept “agedness” since a normal dragon life is only about one quarter over and to go into retirement from the Halfling family that a dragon has served with for 3-4 generations. Flying with a rider is considered only a station for youthful dragons.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Stone Lake

Via Facebook I found this article

What a fantastically creepy idea for a fantasy hexcrawl! There is a simply a gray hex (or several hexes) known as Stone Lake and marked with a skull. Players don't know much about the location, only ghost stories and wild tales from locals who warn that this place should be avoided at all costs. You could easily toss in the surrounding habitat as home to Medusas, basilisks, cockatrices. What is the plural of cockatrice?

Is this place cursed by dark magic? Or is it completely natural?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

LOTR Fan Videos and the New HeroPress

I happened upon another gem via the Land of Nod blog. I find such good stuff with his links!

Presenting the new HeroPress.

It was through the older version that I was granted the viewing pleasure of these LOTR fan videos.

They're award winning videos for a reason. The scenery and costumes more than make up for the make up.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cityograher Mapping Software

It is from the previously posted map tutorial KS project that I found another that (thankfully) reached its goal in June 2012. Cityographer mapping software.

This can also be found at and

Simple and compatible whether you're a Mac man or a PCer, like myself. The video makes it appear ridiculously easy to create highly detailed, editable cities and towns, right down to the name of the blacksmith and what items he has for sale.

He makes mention at 9:52 in the video of a medieval demographic calculator. These are the two that I always use Medieval Demographics Calculator and Medieval Demographics Made Easy.

At sale prices of around $26 each - because Hexographer and Dungeonographer are also available - and add ons for about $20, it all adds up to a well-spent $50.

Once I've saved my pennies and gone through the couch cushions a few times I'll purchase the pack myself and begin sharing/posting the maps I've created. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Map Tutorials - Kickstarter 3

It should come as no surprised that I'm a map geek. I love them and the worlds they depict, whether real or imaginary, but the latter usually gets much more of my attention. I will spends hours, days, even months pouring over a fantasy world map imagining and concocting everything from weather patterns to monsters and multitudes of inhabitants.

Alas it has been a very long time since I picked up a pencil to sketch...well, anything. Characters come naturally once I have worked out the crunchy bits of who they are and who they may become. But what I long to be able to do is make a really good looking fantasy map. The daunting doubt that confronts me is 'where to begin?' Well, thankfully guys like Michael Tumey have provided an answer.

25 Quick and Dirty Map Tutorials Guide Book Kickstarter

At the time of this post, the project has been over-funded (if there is such a thing) at $23,000+ of a mere $3,750 goal. Way to go backers! I would have thrown in with the rest of them, but I budget myself to <$40 per month and I'd already spent August's monies before I found this.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

RPG Blog Carnival - September Challenge

Sept 2013 RPG Blog Carnival Challenge - Location-Location-Location

This already has my head spinning with ideas. Stay tuned for much much more to come. I greatly look forward to another month's challenge after the wrap up of my May to Z posts.

But in case you're on imagination overload (as tends to happen when someone drops such an inspiration bomb), check out these links to give some definition to your surroundings. Some of these are new to me a la, but D&D Doodles has been a faithful standby whenever I need a settlement to wander through. 

The Bridge District

Fallcrest, Winterhaven & more

Val Nevan

City of Galastan

Monday, August 26, 2013

DemonWars: Reformation - Kickstarter 2

I've been a fan of R.A. Salvatore for years now. His Crimson Shadow Trilogy is among my top favorites of fantasy I've read to date. I ate up 15 books of his Drizzt series., of which I "loaned" (wordnerd speak for 'I'll probably never get that book back') my copy of the Crystal Shard to a friend whose young son was craving an introduction to fantasy novels.

With that said, I could not turn my back on him when he asked us to back him and his son(s) in their revival of his earlier DemonWars tabletop RPG

Thus I have given to DemonWars: Reformation Kickstarter.

At the time of this post there are still 3 days to contribute. Yes, I know it's 143% funded, but still....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fantasy Bar Fight

This here is a great idea from the Land of Nod blog.

Fantasy Bar Fight table

And what's a bar fight table without chairs, flagons, and mugs with which to bash opponents?

Thus, since you checked your weapons at the door, you must improvise with what's close at hand to make sure you come out on top. So here's a quick addition I whipped up:

glass bottle/ceramic mug - does +1 damage, but breaks after one hit
metal tankard - does +1 damage and can be used 3 times before discarding
brass knuckles (which you conveniently forgot you had in your glove) - does +2 damage, but other players will spot the unfair advantage after 2 turns and gang up on you, or the barkeep will thump you unconscious with a blackjack/sap for "cheating" in a fair fight
table - does +2 damage if a person is knocked/thrown/body-slammed through one
chair/stool - does +3 damage, or knocks an opponent unconscious instantly if you roll a natural high

If you're still standing around when the town guard arrives, roll a d6 (for luck) to see what your punishment is.
1 - you are fined heavily and run out of town, meaning you cannot resupply or scout for jobs
2 - you have to pay for *damages and spend 1d6 nights in jail
3 - you have to pay for damages and spend the evening in jail
4 - you only have to pay for damages
5 - you only have to pay 50% of damages
6 - you're strongly advised to clear out and the authorities will be keeping a keen eye on you, meaning you cannot commit any other crimes, intimidation, or general rambunctiousness while in town or else spend 1d6 nights in jail

*DM's discretion for how to calculate damages - the bar keep nickel and dimes the cost of every broken table, chair, mug, etc. (assuming you have an equipment list that prices these items), or it's a flat fine for each player of 1d4x10 gold.

A modification of my own would be to roll 1d10x2 for the number of occupants in the establishment. Minus 1d4 for noncombatant bar staff. Roll another d4 for NPCs that just back against a wall and stay out of it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Game Music Library

I don't belong to Wordpress, which I'm sure some would find near blasphemous, and what the less dramatic would simply dub "limiting myself."  Both are probably correct. It is such limitation that keeps me from commenting on others' blogs. And I do like to comment because we bloggers thrive on feedback.

But I ramble. My point is that I came across this little beauty through RPGBA (at right) and figured that sharing on my rarely used Facebook wasn't enough. I wanted to link to it here as well.

Game Music Library. It's quite the suggested playlist of tracks to punch up a gaming experience.

I usually write and worldbuild to music. Mostly I use Grooveshark if I want a particular artist or song, but if just want something backgroundy along the lines of such-and-such genre, I'll turn on Pandora.

But the author of this playlist is right about the music needing to fit the moment/scene. There have been lots of times that I'll be writing sometime sad and tragic to a woeful Irish ballad...and then it jumps to lively fiddle and flute and suddenly I want to forget my trouble and kick up my heels in a field of heather.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Generation One: Children of Mars - Kickstarter 1

I've backed a few Kickstarters in my day. I'd love to back more money for more projects, I simply can't afford to. Maybe someday...

It's not for completely selfless reasons, although I have given $5 here or there and not asked for any rewards. Mostly I do it because I like to promote and support art, and hopefully generate some good KS karma for when some friends and I upload our own project in search of backers.

It is with this want to contribute toward future contribution that I present this

Generation One: Children of Mars Kickstarter

From here on I will make it a point to post any backings.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

By the Gods

Let us consider how in the real world there are various names and faiths in "modern" monotheism alone. Biblical culture can't agree on what to call God or which version of [basically] the same tale is "the truth."
If we wind the clock back to pre-Roman polytheistic cultures from the cold north, to the rainy isles, to the balmy ocean, all had a smattering of gods over varied realms/domains.
Then the Romans adopted Greek gods and changed their names. Then they took them to the 'barbaric' world where they intertwined with Norse and Celtic deities. And then when Christianity was introduced to the heathen pagans, myths were adopted and adapted that further jumbled everything up to and including modern holidays and names of the days of the week.

Now keep in mind, that's just among real world humans whose only concrete, scientific separation is geography. Religious wars are some of the bloodiest, darkest moments in human history. It's not like they're elves and dwarves and goblins arguing theology over a cup o' tea.

So when crafting your own gods and religions for stories and games, where should you begin?
Some might say "at the beginning". Seems logical enough. But that's a big bite to try to take on a whim. How did this all start? When? How long before the present? How is it that the creation myth is known and passed on?

Another issue is that you're trying to compartmentalize...well EVERYTHING! That's, like, a lot. Maybe you don't work in such a linear pattern. If your noggin is anything like mine, it spits out what it wants, when it wants. I can't say "ok brain, gimme a Genesis." I've had more mythos and parts of godly personalities spring to mind at random than I could effectively summarize for blogging purposes. Go with your gut. Relax. Don't try to push it just to make something. That's a sure fire way to get a doosie of an imagination hemorrhoid. Ew.

Maybe these will ease your discomfort and help get the juices flowing in an organized and easily digestible manner:

Sarah Snyder's tips on creating pantheons and religions

Michael James Liljenberg's Genesis How To

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Face is the Place

This post was inspired by this post on The Bookshelf Muse

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to do this when I did my character building post back in January.

One of the things that drives me nuts when reading is to not be able to picture the characters.What I do to resolve this is Google the character's name and see which actors/actresses other people have suggested. Once I have that person's face in mind it makes reading much easier and more enjoyable. 

When reading fantasy series (which are known for being long and crowded) like Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, or Lord of the Rings, you really need to be able to distinguish the characters from each other. I think this is why the LOTR movies are such favorites of mine - top quality actors who totally look the part. Can you imagine how much different it would have been if Stuart Townsend was Aragorn instead of Viggo Mortensen? I could see him (Stuart) more as an elf.

To give a visual example of what I mean; one day I was dorking around with heromachine and created an old ranger.

He looked so familiar and I couldn't place why.....

Apparently I had Jeff Bridges in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

NPC Personality and Physical Traits

Here's some awesomes I came across over on Hack & Slash.

NPC physical and personality traits.

I already ordered my copy and received notice that it shipped Monday. I expect it any day now. 

Just to give an idea of some combinations you can come up with (and I swear I plan for the alliteration of these)

Stuttering Sell Out - the party meets a stammering stranger who has just betrayed a neighboring country. Perhaps he's an awkward homeless child who witnessed something he shouldn't have and now the party must protect him until he can spit out the secret to the right people.

Frustrated Fence - a vendor of stolen goods has recently been stolen from. He hires the party to track down the thieves, but refuses to give them many details about the missing item. Maybe another circle of thieves is behind, or it could be that the rightful owner simply reclaimed what is theirs.

Handsome Hypochondriac - the group meets a wo/man who is very easy on the eyes, but they are sure they are just as diseasey. The twist could be that they are actually afflicted because a jealous, ugly witch has cursed them with failing health. You must find the spellcaster and reverse it.

Vexed Veteran - a one-eyed ex-military man who lusts for a life of adventure. But because he's lost an eye and he's old, no one wants to hire him out of the hum-drum of his daily life. He figures he can't reverse his aging - or can he?- but he can at least get his eyeball back. He offers to pay the adventurers to take him with them to either find a fountain of youth he heard about while soldiering, or to track down the villain that took out his eye and now keeps it preserved in a glass jar. The object could be hidden away, or in plain sight, but always on the bad guy's person.

Repetitive Rain Man Rembrandt Riddles - an artistic autistic knows a valuable secret and the party has to some how coax it out of him. He will repeat a certain phrase or seemingly nonsensical clues over and over. He also paints the hints into amazingly beautiful artwork. A fun way to play this would be that the artist is very lucid while painting, but is so focused on the piece that it's hard to get him to talk at all. He paints the answers to questions as symbols in the artwork. Pick a Rembrandt painting, or paintings, and write the story around clues/focal points of the piece or series. Or the first letters of the phrase he keeps repeating are an acronym that is the answer, or the keyword that unlocks him to tell the complete secret.

Bad Blooded Brit - a man has had his human blood drained and replaced with some kind of alien fluid. There are multiple side effects including impaired thoughts, hallucinations of being chased by monsters, and violent outbursts. The most noticeable features are sallow skin, haunted eyes, and rotting teeth. By the end of the adventure he is near death and vomiting a black, tarry substance. The party can drive the man away fearing he's possessed. They can help him find a magical cure. Or they can simply do the humane thing and kill him, but can they live with that? Should they keep him alive under quarantine for study in case whatever it is might be catching?

Ferret and Fidget - a junkie with a monkey on his back and a pet ferret. This potion/weed addict is going through serious withdrawals and becoming more and more desperate to slake his habit. He swears to the party that he knows of treasure and will greatly reward them if they will help him find a fix. But perhaps your group has already been tasked with eliminating the foul smugglers that have strung out and poisoned whole villages. They must use this illin' villain to get close to his dealer and eliminate him. When the junkie realizes they are not interested in helping him, in fact they want to stop his supply permanently, he flees and attempts to sabotage their efforts. The true victim in all this is the poor ferret. He's having a hard time too.

Bulbous Boar or Nosy Newt - rumors have spread of a man with an unusually large nose who mysterious emerged from the wilds/woods/swamp and has been warning townsfolk to avoid the maniacal sorcerer that has taken up residence in a tower nearby. As if his rantings weren't unnerving enough, livestock has been disappearing, strangers have been seen wandering about, and the tortured cries of animals and screams of men have been drifting on the night winds. This evil wizard, known as Dauktor Morose, has somehow been morphing animals into humans. Some victims think they are suffering from amnesia since they can recall nothing previous to their awaking as humans. Others only look human, but have no powers of speech and dreadful, primitive behavior. The particular man named either Borus or Noot, knows full well what has happened to him, but wants to remain a human for as long as possible. Once the party deduces his true form they can either adopt this would-be follower, or return him to the tower for retransmogrification. Obviously he objects to this later option. He can both hinder and help the group with his bumbling and natural talents. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Illusion of Reality

I recently found a broken link in my favorites and wanted to make sure I update the past post....but then I couldn't find it. Maybe I haven't shared this yet.

Terragen Gallery

There used to be a gallery 1 and 2, but they've since deleted the first and expanded the second. 
They make for spectacular wallpapers! It would be even better if I could figure out how to run it as a slide show.

This is another bit of software I would love to learn, but seeing as how Campaign Cartographer gave me no end of fits, and I'm still struggling with Adobe CS4, I don't think I'll be churning out anything breathtaking anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

If Ever I Make It This Far

I haven't really been watching my numbers since I hit 10,000 hits - the glow of that alone still hasn't worn off - but I owe another big 'THANK YOU' to any and all readers because I just noticed that between May 29th and July 2nd I racked up another 2,000 views! Among those was likely my author buddy Jason King, who has been very supportive of me [seriously] picking up the pen again. That means a lot, very much a lot :) And it got me to thinking...

I love the thought of one day publishing - although that would take a lot more focus, craft, and patience than I'm currently putting forth. I love Viggo Mortensen as an actor especially because his works are so varied and he seems like a genuine, amazing man.

So if ever I get to the point of having something ready/worthy to submit to a publisher, this would be my end all, beat all


I have ideas for stories all the time. Most are fantasy, some are historical fiction/alternate history, and a rare few are science fiction. Since I never know which in particular to chase, I typically end up scribbling pages and pages of notes - maybe a smattering of worldbuilding - and then it's onto the next.

There are a few I could see actually turning into something full length (most of the others might get relegated to short stories). In order they would be:
1) one of three, or perhaps, all three fantasy worlds I've spent years filling in
2) my pseudo-mythology/science fiction hodge-podge
3) my Civil War period fictional western epic (this would be several individual, shorter books)

Oddly fitting is that one of the fantasy settings is "founded" by a boy named Perceval (named for his perseverance). The tale/world takes a lot of queues from known archetypes, myths/tales, and tropes. It's some parts Middle Earth, some parts Atlantis, and lots of parts Arthurian England. I still need to do a lot of research on many topics - and I'm sure actually visiting the United Kingdom and surrounding areas wouldn't hurt.

I know all of the fault is my own. I know I need to focus, bite down, and pound the keys. I know it will never go anywhere, or "make it", if I don't make it. I knows I always speak in maybes, somedays, and perhapses. I know, I know, I know. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Afar Into the Land of...

I have posted about The Land of Nod blog before....and I'm doing it again.  I like the way he's got it set up to suggest other posts at the end of each one. I get lost in his blog all the time. These are a few more that provide great information/inspiration.

Guides Through the Wilderness - What a great roster of guides - even the not so nice ones. A pretend barbarian, a succubus, a pretentious escaped slave and many more.  

Overcomplicating Coins - even if you don't use it for exactly what's suggested, it's still useful and inspiring info to have.

Ten Uncommon Coins  - another brilliant bunch of suggestions. I especially like the soultaker coin.

Dungeon Mapping with Excel and Paint - A ingeniously simple way to make your own dungeon maps using nothing more than Excel and Paint.

Random Crappy Jobs - I don't know about the rest of you, but when I play Skyrim I find simple joy in chopping firewood, hunting, and playing mailman/messenger for folks. Why shouldn't tabletoppers have equally mundane opportunities?

Random Randomness - random: class, armor, weapons, and skills. What more could you want when letting the dice decide?

He always has some great ideas up his sleeve. Definitely go check him out!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


This Worldbuilding by Map post is from the worldbuilding genius that is

Be sure to check the tutorials page. Some of you may know this, and some of this you may not know - you only think you do. Trust me, I've been a worldbuilder for several years now. I have taken university courses simply because I knew that they would teach me better worldbuilding bits and goodies. And I learn something from Jonathan every time I check his site!

Fair warning: You will get lost in the Maps section. There, my conscience is clear.

And perhaps the best part....these FREE maps! (make sure you read the Creative Commons link)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

D&D Past and Present

Sporkchop shared this video on his blog yesterday. I don't have nearly the readership he does, but I want to do my part to share and share alike. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wo(den) Unto Them Who Miss This

Very fitting for a Wednesday post and bonus geek points if you know why.

Nerd out Tolkien-Viking style!

God of Wednesday

And because I got another promo email from them FREE shipping from Banners on the Cheap. I spend my money on toys, or do I order a hexmap? I hate making such grown up decisions.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pokies and Wullies...With a Bonus Dwarf Murder Mystery

Goats (males) are known as pokies, sheep (females) are simply wullies.
They come in various colors: black, spotted, brown, and white.

White pokies/wullies are usually found only in the snowy mountains where their hide acts as a natural camouflage. In the spring and/or lower altitudes, the white mountain pokie’s coat turns an ashy gray to better hide it against the rocks. An extremely rare mountain pokie is the Great Black Pokie, with long horns and a thick black coat. Black pokies and wullies are much more common in the domesticated, flatlands breeds, but to have one be completely black (not a mix of color or spots) is almost unheard of.

 For some unknown reason, pokies climb trees – at least shepherds have never been able to figure it out. This odd behavior has never been observed as it occurs. Shepherds simply wake to find that a pokie has climbed a tree. This has led to the belief that pokies can fly - there are even fairy tells of chariots being carried aloft by flying black pokies. In all actuality, it’s a defense mechanism. The male pokie does this so he can literally watch over his flock and genetically speaking, even if the rest of the flock is devoured by a predator, the male’s genes survive to potentially gather another flock and reproduce.

Shaggy ones with long horns are called Great Pokies. They are rare because they were hunted nearly to extinction, by the dwarves, for drinking horns and/or helmet ornamentation. Their long coats also make excellent robes. A black great pokie is 1 in over 2,000. This exceedingly rare specimen has only ever been seen on an exceptional handful of lucky occasions. Dwarves believe it’s a sign of good fortune to come. But if one goes hunting for a great black pokie and either doesn’t find one, or worse, finds one but cannot kill it, these are bad omens of a life of toil, pursuit, and missed opportunity. 

King Ovid Cleft-Foot – so named because once in a drunken, capering reverie he dropped his war axe, splitting his right foot several inches above his toes. He was lucky enough not to lose the foot entirely, but the wound never knitted back together because he wouldn’t stay off it like his physician told him to. He forever walked with a limp. To this day there is a dwarf admonishment to “never dance drunk and barefoot with a battleaxe”.

A pair of dwarf brothers (Hairn and Gote) are in competition for the throne/pokie crown of their father. He challenges them each to find and kill a great black pokie for their coronation feast. Doing so will result in them becoming king. Gote is the eldest and feels that he shouldn’t have to earn the crown; it should be his by right. But the king knows that Hairn would likely make a better ruler because, being the younger, he always understood that people aren’t going to just give you respect, you must work to earn it.

They leave the unterholm by different doors, but end up fairly close to each other in their hunts. Hairn amazingly spots one and fires at it…but misses. The pokie fleas (unbeknownst to Hairn) toward his brother, Gote. Hairn is much disturbed by the omen that he had the crown within his grasp and it slipped away due to his haste. He pursues the pokie. Against all odds he finds it again in the driving snow. This time he steadies himself, takes a deep breath, and fires into the wind. He fells the great black pokie. 

The only reason he was able to hit it is because the pokie’s attention was diverted. Upwind of it was Gote readying his kill shot as well. Because Gote was firing with the wind, and Hairn was on the leeward side of the hill, Gote’s arrow passes over where the pokie was standing. Had it not fallen to Hairn’s shot, Gote may have hit it. As it was, Hairn killed the pokie, and Gote’s arrow struck Hairn in the chest. All Gote sees in his excitement is that the prey fell. He rushes to claim it and finds his brother’s arrow buried in its lungs. Hairn lays gasping and bleeding in the blizzard. Gote has a choice: he can leave the trophy, knowing full well he did not kill it, and try to save his brother (the rightful king) by getting him back to the unterholm. Or he can pull his brother’s arrow from the pokie and replace it with his own. He chooses option B. Hairn cries out in pain and rage as his brother betrays him, pulling the shaft from the black coat. Gote approaches, silences Hairn by stabbing him in the throat with his own arrow. As Hairn dies gurgling, Gote plunges his arrow into the pokie. He then shoulders his brother’s still warm corpse and dumps him in a deep, narrow ravine – ne’er to be found. Then he obscures the tracks of the bloody scene and returns home with his ill-gotten prize. 

No one ever knows what became of Hairn the Lost. Some think he never came back because he couldn’t stand to live under his dark brother (they whisper Hairn’s the lucky/smart one to have left). Others think he left to found a new unterholm where he could be king. 

Gote the Black – named for his rare black robe, is a horrible ruler and a drunkard. He is brooding and sullen and constantly tries to drink away his brother’s murder. His hands were cleaned at the coronation after he skinned the pokie and ate its heart in front of witnesses, but he can never get the blood off his conscience. In drunken fits of rage he’s heard screaming “I’m king! My brother missed his chance! I’m king!”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gnays, Kneddies, and Heejaws - Gnomish Beasts of Burden

Gnays, Kneddies, and Heejaws are rather smallish ponies/burros/equines.

Rather than sleep standing up like ordinary horses, kneddies will kneel down to sleep, tucking their short legs underneath themselves like cats or camels. Curling up this way into very small lumps means that they will usually go unnoticed by any predators - which is just about everything. Gnomes don't often eat their domesticated equines, but a hungry human has no qualms about spitting one over a fire. Mmmm...kneddy chops. 

They are not suited for riding with a traditional saddle, but instead are arranged into teams for pulling small carts. 

A mare will bear not more than 4 tiny offspring. Ordinarily it is no more than 2, with an odd third runt sometimes slipping in. The chances of a mare carrying and birthing more than 3 [live] offspring is exceedingly  rare. There are hostlers tales of a good breeding mare birthing 2 litters of 4 each before she finally died, but they’re typically dismissed as horse-tales -- they are so called because a horse’s tail only goes up so much naturally before it produces sh*t.

It’s a brutal practice in butchery, but any runts are usually killed shortly after birth because they’re too sickly or would cause competition for feed. To be called “worthless as a kneddy runt" is an incredible insult that will likely result in bloodshed. 

Gnomes are the only humanoid beings small enough to ride such miniscule creatures, and even then, they do so bareback to cut down on the weight of saddle and tack. A single kneddy can only carry 75 lbs reliably. Anything more than that and they will simply tire out or refuse to move at all.

Compared to a regular donkey, the kneddy is quite small. Even a “large” one is not quite shoulder height to a human youth.

If bearing a light single-rider cart, one will suffice, but they can pull no more than the weight of the rider and their possessions. They are not “pack mules” capable of hauling great loads. If the rider/cargo’s weight exceeds 200 lbs combined, it is too heavy to pull (on wheels). If the kneddy is a “companion” animal that carries the weight of supplies on its back, anything greater than 100 lbs is considered too heavy and will risk the animal’s health. For travelers that don’t care much for the animal, they will load it heavy, walk it to death, and then consume the meat. 

The hide of a kneddy is considered unfit for anything more than light gloves. It is not thick enough to warrant foot wear and it is certainly lacking in the durability of any kind of armor. Its hide would need to be at least 4-5 x as thick to be of any use for protection.Gnome maidens will often wear kneddy hide aprons because they are inexpensive to replace should something tear or stain them. 

A team of 2 may pull upwards of 200 lbs (including the cargo and weight of the cart itself). Ordinarily one does not ride with a team of only 2 unless the rider is the only thing being pulled. When hauling goods, the master attaches a set of long reins that pass over or around the cart laden with supplies. The animals cannot exceed the walking pace of a human, so they just trundle along saving the master’s back from toting the weight of a heavy pack. Some gnomes have even devised light canopy carts. The design has wheels a bit taller than the driver and an angled canvas canopy that extends over the driver. They are devised as such so the driver is sheltered from the weather, and in the off chance that the team spooks and runs, the gnome master simply falls flat and the high wheeled cart passes harmlessly o’er top of them.

4 can comfortably pull a rider and cart loaded with up to 300 lbs for medium duration/distance. If one falls victim to injury or predation (completely lacking any natural defense) the rider must either walk beside the vehicle or drop 50 lbs of gear.

 A team of 10 can haul/drag the same amount as a regular horse. To carry 2 riders is considered a reckless strain on the creatures. As such, sometimes only 1 person (up to a normal human) will ride while any companions walk beside the lead kneddies to keep them moving. A responsible gnome child might be put in charge of driving the wagon, while their parent(s) lead the team. 

A heavily laden gnomish wagon would need a team of at least a dozen. They can be arranged in 2 rows of 6, 4 rows of three, or 3 rows of 4. Most common is 3 across (known as a gnomerow). The downsides to traveling this way is that A) it looks a bit ridiculous, B) the harnesses are prone to tangle if the entire team fails to work together, C) because gnomes and gnomerows generally lack adequate defense, they make easy targets for predators (both humanoid and otherwise). 

Kneddies also have a natural fear of water as they are profoundly weak swimmers. Any water more than about knee-deep on a human is cause for panic/hesitation/refusal for a team of these wee creatures.
The advantage of keeping/raising kneddies is that they are small and docile and can be very easily sheltered in stables that resemble shelves upon shelves of the wee things. They are exceeding gentle, almost like a favorite pet, and even the odd unfriendly one cannot deal much physical damage (not more than a human biting a gnome). They don’t eat much, and they can eat darn near anything, up to and including stinging, sour swamp grasses. This iron stomach also allows them to drink even murky, fetid bog water. This is about the only thing nature has given to help these tiny animals survive in an otherwise harsh world. The drawback to these walking garbage guts is that they are prone to noisome flatulence and thereby they usually stink of whatever they’ve been eating.

Friday, May 31, 2013

May to Z: Y & Z

It's coming down to the wire. In the final hour of my self-imposed May to Z challenge I give you the last 2 letters.

Y had a lot more interesting names than I figured to find. I'll give you 4 of the 10 or so I drafted.

First up is Yldrum, derived from the Turkish word for "lightning". He is a devout worshiper of Thronndur, meaning he hardly ever leaves his forge and is happiest when the sparks fly from his hammer strikes. Some even believe he is a direct descendant of the forge god because he is one of the greatest living smithies in all dwarvendom. Since the collapse, aka the formation of the Quondam Kingdom, that buried all of the adamantite artisans, Yldrum could very well be the last in a great line of anvil pounders.

He is the father of Torr and grandfather of Torsun, whom the town of Torston is named after. It is so called because a large, unusual pillar of stone juts up from the nearby mountainside. For reasons unknown to man and dwarf alike, this natural obelisk is rich in iron, but not in a pure enough vein as to justify demolishing it for its ore. Yldrum called it Torr's Stone because on the night of his son's birth, just as the bawling babe was born into the world a tremendous crack of thunder peeled across the heavens and a blindingly bright bolt of lighting split the night, striking the pillar. Yldrum took this to be a blessing from Thronndur for the decades Yldrum had spent at his forge in worship. When a human village cropped up at the base of the mountain and trade began with the dwarf clan, the growing town came to be known as Torston.

Another dwarf of significance (because when are the stout, bearded folk ever insignificant?) is Yorgun of the northeastern clans. The name is Norse for George and means "earth worker." It is he who first introduced the iron plow to the humans of Highvale, who otherwise would have had a very hard time of growing enough crops to keep the kingdom fed. It is through his expertise of tilling the alpine soil that the kingdom knew the first great growth of population since the fall of the Atilaen sea culture. Some say that without Yorgun's magnificent invention, humanity would not have had the numbers needed to survive the subsequent fall of Highvale.

The last of the Ys are Yngvor and Yngvul, two battle-hardened dwarf brothers who take their names from the Norse god Freyr and a combination of "warrior" and "battle". These burly brothers are rarely separated and have a running competition for who can crush more enemy skulls or cleave foul spines. They fight best when back to back and outnumbered by almost uncountable odds. They have been surrounded by foes so many times that they have actually lost count. Yngvor claims to hold the high score of 4,382, while Yngvul argues that he is the current champion with 4,401.5 (the half point coming from a shattered shield). There has never been a set goal defined to actually judge which of the brothers is the final record holder. Other clan mates are growing weary of the boasting and bickering and think the final count should be the first to 5,000. However there are others in the unterholm that egg them on with the challenge of seeing if they can best 10,000 foes before they retire. What they have failed to establish is whether that is 10,000 combined or individually.

To bring the challenge to a close I leave you with the letter Z.

When I was digging for Y names, I came across Ylana, a Greek derivative possibly meaning "torch" or "the moon". And I also found that Yll is Albanian for "star". I decided to combine the two into Zyllana, the goddess of the night. While her realm is the darkness of the heavens, it is she who lit the night with the moon and stars. The desert-dwelling Grimalkin (a bipedal cat people) believe that the moon waxes and wanes because it is Zyllana's lantern that disappears and reappears as she travels the sky. They named her wandering "zudiya", meaning forever or endlessly repeating patterns. I made up this word from multiple parts, loosely borrowing from Lithuanian zydras meaning "blue", Zapotec zyanya meaning "forever", and Croatian zejah meaning "star". It is from zudiya that the Grimalkin develop their zodiac of rhythmic star patterns, the repetition of waves meeting the blowing dunes, and the ever intangible horizon of where the ocean never quite meets the sky.

They have also named the seasonal wind zfar - taken from Greek zephyr, meaning "west wind." Zfar is not just a general word for "wind", but rather very specific to the wet winds that blow in from the sea during the annual rainy season. Zfar in and of itself more appropriately means "a coming storm, building on the westward horizon." This refers to any eastbound troubles, be they rainstorms or some other foreboding.

And there you have it! May to Z challenge complete! 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May to Z: W & X

W for wow! People must really like the 100 mark, or the letter V, because that one post generated almost twice as many hits as I've been getting. Thanks folks! That right there is what we bloggers call "incentive".

For W, I was originally going to post a name/character I just thought up because I liked the sound - Wymar the White. He was going to be a wandering, white wizard. But gosh, doesn't that sound a little familiar?

Then as I was cruising I just happened across Wynmar, which is Welsh for "white" and "great". I think that's a fitting name for Saia Kalan'gwyn's father, the elven king. I'm trying to decide how he'd look. Maybe long white hair, like really long, perhaps to just above his knees. He could have decorative braids and bits of limbs and leaves woven into it. I think a leafy crown might be a nice touch.

Or do I make him balding with about shoulder length hair and a waist long decorative beard? I was pondering the idea that his "greatness" doesn't come from the length/amount of his white hair, but his knowledge. He doesn't have a large cranium physically, but over the extended years of his life he's become very wise.

Other W names I batted around are a foreign warlords, perhaps the very same that Padraig palavered with. They are all Germanic names: Walthrud meaning "foreign strength" and Waldric meaning "foreign power" are the sons of Waldhur meaning "ruler of the army". Waldhur never crosses the sea with Padraig, but sends his prince, knowing that he can trust in the loyalty of his sons to report true on their return. The story could go that one of them, perhaps Walthrud, decides to stay and learn more of the new land while his brother returns home with Padraig. Or Waldric could grow jealous of his older brother and he decides to tell King Waldhur that his son was killed by the outlanders and volunteers to lead an army across the sea to conquer these new, rich lands. Dunno...I'll have to think on that.

X, I always expected to be a bit tricky. But I actually found a name I quite like to fill that place.

Xiomara, the feminine Portuguese form of Guiomar or Germanic Wigmar, meaning "famous in war"

She was an incredibly fierce elf maiden would took up a blade in battle - something that had never before been done - instead of remaining relegated to healing the wounded. There are now whole troops of Amazonian elf women who fight just as hard, if not harder than the males, to prove their worth in defending their homes. They never seek conflict outside the boundaries of the forest, but are certain death to any enemy encountered within the woods. These deadly bands are known as Xylians, from Greek xylon meaning "of the forest". 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May to Z: V - 100th Post

Coming to you bright and early from the Nerdatorium, I am pleased to present myyyyyyyy 100th post! And purely by happenstance, today's letter is V for Victoreus.

Victoreus, bearer of Dawnseeker the kingsword, and Savior of the Light.

He throws Dawnseeker into Lake Solara so no evil hand will ever touch it.

As Perceval drawing the adamantite sword from the shipwreck was the foretelling of the future of humanity, so is the sinking of it.
The faint glittering in the mud is symbolic - Perceval literally draws the salvation of humanity from the mud of the sunken past and turbulent flood waters. It is the new beginning and symbol - second only to the newly adopted rising sun - that people rally behind and embrace as the new hope for the future.

Victoreus is just a young, yet very brave, squire that crawls from beneath a pile of bodies on the torn battlefield - literally youth and hope arising from mass death and carnage. He sees Dawnseeker illuminated in a solitary ray of light, driven into the Blackburn Field.

When he returns to Highvale the temple is under attack. While an evil necromancer is focused on having his undead army of fallen soldiers attack and desecrate the temple, Victoreus is able to sneak up and drive Dawnseeker through his back and out his chest. All the zombie soldiers pause, look up to the sky, and fall. This act redeems/frees their souls into the light. The necromancer turns and falls to his knees in front of Victoreus - all he can see is the silhouette of an armored youth with a raised and bloody sword. Victoreus screams "for the blood of Highvale!" and beheads the foul priest of death. Victoreus, exhausted, falls to his knees and rests his head against the hilt, as if he's praying to the sword. An orc cheiftan, seeing a weak and vulnerable foe, advances and demands the shiny sword. Victoreus looks up at the reaching evil and in a last act of defiance and courage he heaves the sword end over end into Lake Solara. As the sword sinks, the orc drives a spear through Victoreus' lungs and heart.

Dawnseeker sinks point down in the bottom of the lake. Lucas emerges from the temple just as the full sun crests the mountains. The light is refracted through the water and the timeless sword is visible from the surface, pointing downward. He takes it as a sign to lead the people back down from the mountains to start over. Another significant new beginning for the sons of men is that, in their grief for their fallen kingdom and families, Fhionna Fireheart and Lucas New Dawn find love in each others' arms. They have a son, Arthur. It is he, The Descended King that settles the rest of the flatlands where humanity now resides. To this very day, Dawnseeker remains visible at sunrise, although it remains forever out of reach.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May to Z: U

Uldoric - inherited power or powerful heritage (Germanic)

Grandson of the great barbarian chief Ulfhert, meaning "wolf heart." He was so named because he wrestled the alpha male of a winterwolf pack into submission. Once he'd established his dominance over the pack, he was allowed to set up his village and longhouse in the wolf territory. For 3 generations now his descendants and tribe have dwelt amidst the pines of the Winterwood in the sheltered valley between the Snow and Frost rivers. 

Uldoric must take a wife before he can claim leadership because the tribe's way is that you must have strong sons to pass your things to, including title and throne and hunting lodge. Once a chieftain is named, he must have a son within 7 years or abdicate.

Thus it is that fathers want to marry their fertile daughters to a would-be chief so their family gains favor and status with the new lord.

To secure one's place at the head of the longhouse and be worthy of a wife, all the men must wrestle as Ulfhert did. Only when one is killed or submits is the match over. Howls of fury, screams of pain, and the snapping of bones are all common sounds in one of these no holds barred bouts. The spectators are everyone in the tribe, from the youngest children to their wedded and bedded mothers. Even the best of boyhood friends and battle brothers have nearly killed each other as they circled and clashed in the firelight. Young boys brawl and tussle routinely from the time their out of swaddling skins in preparation for the day they may challenge or be challenged. 

Uldoric had an older brother, Ulaf (ancestor's descendant), that was killed in a scrap with Jorulf (ice wolf). The death was not intentional, but simply bad luck from a clash of skulls. Jorulf and Ulaf both dove in a low lunge to topple the other man. When they came together, the top of Jorulf's head crunched with Ulaf's temple, killing him stone dead on the spot. Jorulf was unconscious for several days. When he woke he was torn between winning the challenge and killing a lifelong friend.

Jorulf reluctantly accepted the mantle of chieftan, but he has yet to marry. Now his younger sister, Eisulf (also ice wolf) has become a woman and drawn the attention of Uldoric. Uldoric means to secure his position, a wife, and avenge his brother by besting Jorulf who is larger, stronger, and a handful of years older. Jorulf does not want to fight him, but a challenge cannot be dismissed without at least an attempt to defend one's place and honor.

Because his son has so far refused to marry and be a worthy headman, Jaulf (snow wolf) backs Uldoric's challenge of his son. Jaulf wants his family to be notable and honored, even if that means his son loses the seat to a challenger and suitor of Eisulf. Jorulf's mother, Isuldr (ice battle), is a fierce barbarian woman and not so easily swayed. She feels her son should be giving his time of mourning as is custom for fallen friends and warriors.

Uldoric barks his challenge from the center of the hall. Jorulf climbs down from his dais in answer. 

The fires are roaring, the crowd is clamoring for blood, the men have stripped to their breechclothes, their muscles glisten with oil and sweat. They bare their teeth, raise their mighty fists and begin to circle. One shall be king, the other will fall like an avalanche. The fight commences.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May to Z: T & T

Sometimes I love it when I forget that I've already drafted something. This first T post is one I wrote about a week ago a whim. Then as I was writing up Nenaea's post the other day, this second one just came to me. T for 2 and 2 for T.

T #1
Thronndur the Deformed, or more affectionately, Thronndur of the Underforge.

The Forge God, from the word "thrawn" meaning twisted or misshapen.

Tolkien's Dwarves were known by many names:

In the Grey-elvish or Sindarin the Dwarves were called Naugrim ("Stunted People"), Gonnhirrim ("Stone-lords"), and Dornhoth ("Thrawn Folk"), and also Hadhodrim. In Quenya they were the Casári. The Dwarves called themselves Khazâd in their own language, Khuzdul.

Thronndur is like the Hephaestus and Thor of my world. He is born of incest between his godly parents and is malformed as a result. He has a twisted leg and turned in foot making him limp constantly. He has a severe humpback that makes it impossible to raise his left arm higher than his shoulder. He is incredibly near-sighted and cannot see in darkness as the rest of dwarves can. He can only see in strong, direct light. 

Because he is so atrocious to look upon, he is hidden away deep in the center of the earth. This pathetic god actually prefers it this way because, to him, all his infirmities go away when he's at work. He can see and feel the warmth on his face, like an artificial sun. His right arm is incredibly strong, because it has full range of motion to wield his hammer. His left arm is perfectly suited to draw iron from the fire and place it on the anvil. Because he loves smithcraft so much, he is constantly at his forge, hammering away. It is the only thing in his otherwise wretched world that makes him smile. This pleasure at the forge, despite everything else, is his gift to the dwarves. His blows echo up the mineshafts as thunder and sparks light the sky as lightning. Rare earthquakes are merely chuckled at by the stalwart dwarves because it is just Thronndur momentarily away from his forge and bumping into things in the dark. 

In the unterholms, deep within the mountains, earthquakes from the coast are felt infrequently, but thunderstorms crashing against the peaks are a constant reminder to the dwarves to be mindful of their forge fires and happy for their skills. To make up in fine smithcraft what they lack in stature is a fine gift indeed.
T #2 is for Thiamu, derived from Tiamat

Thiamu is the sea serpent that coils protectively around the world. He is the elder brother of Nenaea the earth goddess. When she caught the eye of Roa, which is quite a compliment in and of itself, he first had to humble himself to asking her guardian brother for permission to court her. Nenaea was first quite terrified to leave the tangible land and journey into the fiery and boundless skies of Roa. But her brother Thiamu swore to her that he would always be there to catch her if she should fall.

Thiamu was furious when Roa impregnated his sister with the dragon children, yet did not take her for his wife. The seas raged and thrashed for 1,000 years while Nenaea incubated the children in her breast. When they hatched and bore their father's gift of flight, Roa wanted them to join him in the sky. Mighty Thiamu disobeyed the will of the Eternal One and forbade the dragons from ever flying so high as to lose sight of their mother earth. Hence dragons have always been "children of the in-between". They are earth and sky, mortal yet very long lived, fierce and calm, wise and aggressive.

Thiamu also swore that never again would Roa touch his little sister. To this day, ages since Thiamu's oath, the sun never touches land. You could chase the sun all your life and never see where it touches the ground. Always you will come to the shore where the water keeps sun and earth separate.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May to Z: S

There were so many possible names to choose from for the letter S. Multiple cultures have great names with strong, profound meanings that begin with S. It was incredibly hard to settle on just one. So I went with one that I normally don't gravitate towards - Finnish.

S is for Saia (pronounced sigh-ah or say-uh, depending on your preference). It is a derivative of Sarah, Saija, and Sari - all of which mean "lady or princess". To this I am adding the second name of Kalan'gwyn, a combination of Old English and Welsh, meaning "beautiful flower" and "white, fair, blessed."

When King Perceval is leading his people inland/upriver from the coast, he enters the dense forest of Greenwood - I know, not a greatly original name, but it's my homage to Ed Greenwood. It is among the fringes and glades that Perceval sees a gorgeous elf maiden dancing with white flowers in her shining hair. Her gown shimmers and floats as she twirls and weaves about the trees. Awestruck he stops and gazes in wonder at the most beautiful creature he has ever beheld.

After a moment that seems to draw out for years, Perceval notices that he has forgotten even to breathe. As he draws a gasping breath, the maiden's keen ears catch the sound and she whips about, stunned at the presence of this intruder. She is so shocked by the sight of this scout that is like no other elf archer she's ever seen, she too can only stare in wonder. Their eyes meet only briefly before she turns and flees deep into the woods.

Walking as if in a dream, Perceval returns to his camp where he finds the vision exceedingly hard to describe to his people. They had thought that the forest was only home to monsters and boogeymen. They have a difficult time believing that Perceval alone has seen this angelic being, who is like them, yet so unlike them. They decide that they must investigate further.

Meanwhile, Saia Kalan'gwyn has run to the heart of the forest where she struggles to tell her own frightful encounter. Whereas Perceval tells that she is surely and literally the most breathtaking creature in existence, the princess describes him to her court as thick, brutish, and ungainly. Many elves are fearful of these trespassers and what it means to the sanctity of their woodlands. Some want to gaze upon them from a safe and concealed distance, some want to ignore them and hope they bypass the forest, and others want to forcefully drive them away - shedding blood if necessary to protect their home.

It is this confusion and misconception of differences that leads to the War of the Woods - a bloody entanglement of humans and elves that sets the tone of the two cultures' relations for generations to come. It is only through the curiosity and wise counsel of an already aged elf, Elmeryn, that the war is stopped. Perceval and Elmeryn strike and accord that is named after his meeting with the elf princess - the first time the two races ever laid eyes on one another - the Whiteflower Treaty.

Elmeryn re-enters the story later, becoming the mage and advisor (an obvious Merlin reference) to Perceval's grandson and heir, Arthur. When the humans abandon Highvale and descend back into the flatlands, it is Elmeryn that steps up in their defense to keep the elves from wiping them out, being that the terms of the treaty were that no human would ever set foot in the forest uninvited.

Elmeryn takes Arthur to the same glade where his grandfather first glimpsed Saia Kalan'gwyn. The clearing, ringed with young saplings when Perceval saw it, is now surrounded by the thick trunks of trees nearly 100 years old. Though it has been almost a century since Perceval's sighting, Princess Whiteflower is still amazingly youthful, looking to still be years shy of 30. When Arthur sees the legendary elf beauty, he is overcome and falls to his knees. He remains bowed with his eyes down, believing he cannot possibly be worthy to look upon elven royalty. She smiles at Elmeryn and gently raises Arthur's head with her fingers beneath his chin. She bows in return and lightly kisses him on the forehead. She then takes him by the shoulders and helps him to his feet. Looking directly into his eyes she says "Rise you up. This is a new beginning for both our people." She embraces Elmeryn warmly and whispers in his ear "Your path is to see him along his." He takes both her hands and kisses each in obedience to the future queen. At the edge of the trees, Saia Kalan'gwyn waves them farewell.

Arthur is the second and last mortal to ever lay eyes on her.

It's thought that without Elmeryn's wise counsel over many decades, humanity would not have survived at the level that it did.

His advice to Perceval and later his heir is to find what matters and hold it well. Whether it is love, good earth, your sword, gold and riches, or knowledge; find what means most to you and let it guide you. You must remain true to it to remain true to yourself.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May to Z: R

Roa - taken from Ra.

The Draken god of the Sky, the Sun, Fire, and serpents. Roa is so enormous that he takes up the whole of the heavens. The sun is merely one, burning eye of the great snake. Everything in creation falls under his gaze, but so very little on the earth is worthy of his consideration.

Draken strive to be noticed by the endless serpent. Their lives must be very laudable indeed to garnish even a fleeting glance from the Eternal One.

Humans lost contact with the Draken of the tropics for many many years following the rising of the sea that drown and devastated most of the Atilaen culture. By the time these two cultures met again, the humans had turned from worship of the sea to worship of the sun. Thus there was little dispute between the races on the concept of a sun god; however, they differed in their interpretation of this deity.

To the Draken, Roa is usually depicted only as a reptilian golden eye, ringed in red flames/scales, implying that he is a great red dragon. The humans, of course, see their sun god (Aelos) not as a serpent at all, but a man. To them he is a bald man with a beard of fire and an ageless face. The sun is always shown shining from his forehead, symbolizing the light of knowledge.

The Draken believe that Roa, the Eternal One, the Sky Serpent, is the father of all dragons via Nenaea the Earth Mother. It was Roa that gave dragons their wisdom, the gift of flight, and the ability to breath fire. They are not legless, like Eastern dragons, but have 4 legs that tuck beneath them in flight. There are also 2 legged wyverns, but these are far less common and seen more like reptilian vultures/raptors - nowhere near as noble as their quadruped cousins. The bipedal and wingless Draken race believe themselves - all reptiles for that matter - to be direct, yet distant descendants of Roa.

Whether one is a scholar or pit fighter, on down to the lowliest of lizards crawling the jungle, is dependent on how much knowledge and divine wisdom you are willing to accept from the sun god. If you show no interest in learning and live your life without looking up and beyond, then you are further removed from receiving Roa's grace and teachings. Some Draken believe Roa did not take Nenaea as a wife and accept their dragon children fully because in his infinite wisdom, Roa knew that the world needed dragons more. Others feel that there is some inherent unworthiness in the mixed dragon blood of their godly parentage and they must seek to overcome it through devout and righteous endeavors. "May Roa's light shine on you." is a common blessing among the Draken. This gracious prayer, willing wisdom and protection, is not just a casual saying - it is truly hopeful that one will be blessed and watched over by the Eternal One.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May to Z: P & Q

Mind your Ps & Qs. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Interesting factoid: there are many suppositions about where this phrase came from. The one I think most plausible is that typesetters using old printing presses had to be very mindful of how they arranged the letters for print, since p and q are mirror images of each other.

Now that's out of the way, on to the P & Q......Hey! That would make a great name for a tavern! It could be short for Pints and Quarts, or it could be the initials of the owners.

Padraig, the Irish form of Patrick, dates even further back to a Latin derivation from Patricius, meaning "nobleman." Made famous by Saint Patrick who Christianized Ireland.

It would not be hard to weave the story of Saint Patrick's enslavement, mission, and canonization into a fantasy tale.

I believe I'll use it as an introduction for the lands to the west of the main world map. See it here.

Padraig is a fairly well known nobleman of Roseby. He is an explorer and intellectual that spends much of his fortune on educational pursuits. He is approached to fund a wild and risky sea voyage to see if there is anything to the west. The ship meets with misfortune and storms and other perils a la Odysseus - many stories of their own could spin off this.

Padraig is taken captive in the new lands, but his obvious stature as an educated and important (aka wealthy) man saves his life. He is taken into the court of a foreign ruler where he spends years learning and teaching and laying diplomatic foundations. He returns to Roseby decades later and brings envoys with him. This is what re-introduces sea worship. But when has a difference of religious opinion not caused wars and problems?

Padraig realizes that his house has fallen during the years and years he was away. He himself has nearly been forgotten, as most assumed he was lost at sea many years ago. He is so disheartened by the fact that much of his previous work and teachings have been dismissed, and crestfallen at what his return with new knowledge has done to his homeland and people, that he leaves again forever. He becomes an adopted pilgrim of the lands in the west.

************** that's a tricky one, as I expected it would be when I began this May to Z challenge. There aren't many names that start with Q. My wife triumphantly threw out the name Quendar (she even did these odd, tiny gladiatorial fists with it.) How adorably supportive : ) Yet, to me, Quendar sounds like an elf barbarian...and I just can't get my head around there being elf barbarians.

So it left me pondering: Quentin - derived from Queen Town, Quinn - from the Irish Conn, meaning "chief", Quintus - Latin for fifth/five, and Quinlan, coming from the Gaelic word for "slender".
Quinlan it is then. It fits nicely into my world. There is well-watered farming area called Longley or Longleigh - meaning "long field". The river that flows through the region is simply known as the Long River. I could easily surmise that the founder of this bountiful land was named Quinlan DeLong, son of a tall wandering ranger with the oh so original moniker, Long Walker. Quilan was the fifth son of this very slender and lithe family. It was he that first charted the miles and miles of the twisting, Long River.

And, as a bonus, it just so happens that immediately west of the Longley area is the collapsed tunnels and ruins of a once great dwarven unterholm. It was in fact the unterholm. The single greatest and richest kingdom in all dwarvendom. It was here that King Dain Richheart ruled over the entire Southern Sea, made powerful by his hold's rich veins of adamantite - the adamantium/mithril of my world. This exceedingly valuable metal was only found in the southwestern tip of the continent. I say "was" because there has not been an active adamantite mine in 1,000 years. Not since the Great Fall, a cataclysmic collapse that buried the entire kingdom and a resulting tsunami that scoured the once rich lumberyards of the ship-building Atilaens. It was this "crumbling downfall of the earth" that nearly wiped out the human race and buried a good portion of the dwarf race. This area is now known as the Quondam Kingdom - Latin for "former". The aforementioned Ironheart descendants of King Richheart only survived because many had already moved northward into the Richmont unterholm, where gold and silver are said to run like water. Had Oro and Oda not begun the tradition of seizing marriage profits, the Ironheart clan as we know it today likely would not exist at all. It is only through the surviving tales of distant relations that there has remained knowledge of the once great king and kingdom. Many adventures are now ready to take place in the ruins of the richest kingdom that once was.