Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Archport -- City of Eternal Twilight

Mapped at Two Miles per Hex
Twilight reigns in Archport.  Sailing up Darkwaters Deep in broad daylight, one should notice an immense dome masking the thirty square-mile city within which sunrays fade, as if one gazed through tinted spectacles.  Stranger yet at night, an eerie glow prevails all about the city despite the absence of moonlight.  Ships sailing in and out bear navigation lamps, their red and green halos reflecting faintly upon the water.

The name, “Darkwaters Deep,” describes the part closest to Archport more than the entire bay.  The rule of night and day prevails beyond Archport’s immaterial twilight cloak.  Fort some navigators, the oddity of it all, or the crew’s ill-informed superstition prove too much, and they make for the more expensive and crowded ports of Ascopal and Charmydon across the bay. These harbors cannot truly compete with Eadrin’s capital city.  Local topography does not permit further expansion.  There, only the fees grow, as visiting ships continually compete for docking space.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dominion Stats -- Eadrin

An updated, more appropriate design for Eadrin
At first sight, the most striking feature of Eadrin is the sheer size of Archport, its capital.  With 190,000 inhabitants, it accounts for nearly 20% of the realm's population.  Much of local economics are based on maritime trade funneling through Archport and up the Thera River.  As a result of the generally denser population in this relatively small realm, Eadrin actually stands as a net importer of food and timber.  The agricultural deficit remains minor compared to Vertiloch, and timber is needed to supplement wood harvested locally for ship-building in Archport.  Although busy, this port isn't as popular and crowded as Aasla's.  Foreign crews often see Archport's permanent twilight conditions as odd and unnatural.  Yet, for those sailing from Bellissaria, Archport's facilities are the best choice when shipping merchandise to the imperial capital.

Statistically, Eadrin's wilderness only claims 56% of the realm's lands, compared to neighboring Arogansa's 70%.  As a result of its higher degree of urbanization, Eadrin actually enjoys more revenues than its larger neighbor; about 334,000 vs. 287,000 gp/month, even though Eadrin has less population than its neighbor.  Since Randel isn't a most trustworthy neighbor, Eadrin retains a sizable defense force.  Shadow Lords and their mysterious constructs also provide significant deterrents to invasions.  The latter are curious beasties built by their masters to form part of the realm's army.  More about them and their connection with the Gray Circle will be covered in the upcoming post on Archport.  Naturally, since militaristic Randel hasn't been detailed to date, there can be no comparisons of relative army sizes--yet.  Meanwhile, Arogansa and Eadrin aren't likely to clash anytime soon.  Arogansa is more interested in running its flourishing tourism industry and safeguarding its borders, which suits Eadrin just fine.  On the other hand, both view Randel with suspicion.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part V of Five

Sunday already? Bummer.  After checking out, Janet and I paid a last visit to the dealers' room. The balloon dragon was finally complete. Somehow, it looked a little sad.  It was to be the prize for the winner of a certain contest, who would then slay the puffed up thing with a mighty sword. The dragon would go with many a hearty pop when its time would come. We'd be well underway by then.

The crowd was already building up twenty minutes before the dealers' room opening. Gen Con staffers did their best to make room for exhibitors trying to get in. Costumed visitors were having fun as usual, getting their last bit of attention from bleary-eyed gamers. The ubiquitous CCG fans found some space here and there to run a last-minute round or two.

Once again, the gates were flung open, and the crowd rushed in. We followed. First stop was Inkwell Ideas' booth (Hexographer, Coat of Arms, and loads of other stuff.) Said hi to Joe Wetzel and his staff. By the time I came around to snapping a picture, two had already wandered away.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part IV

Meanwhile in the dealers' room
I'd dug my heels into the floor as hard as I could to slow the passing of time. Saturday already, and I felt I hadn't scratched the surface. This morning, I was to participate to a seminar on adding color to game worlds through creative writing. That was even worse. If felt like good old times all over again, and that seminar ended in a blink of an eye.

Mage-Something demo game
George Strayton was the moderator. George is a screenwriter for Universal Studios and a really nice fellow. I was floored when he told me he was and still is a fan of Mystara. How cool is that? During this event, one of the panelists whose name I shall not divulge demonstrated strong opinions about what in writing was “right” or “wrong.” Shades of gray? Nah. Who needs 'em? The dissent was about whether to include narratives in game material, which was promptly referred as fluff vs. crunch. I didn't like that. I qualified it as color vs. dullness. And since this seminar was about adding color, you get the picture.  The other guy thought that such color was utterly wrong and superfluous in game design. He favored cramming more rules material in that space.

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part III

The Black Knight
The next morning, I headed back to the gaming area (I don't just play D&D.) It was for something that I always liked: stuff with wings, preferably in flying condition. Scenario: Operation Türkenkreuz, designed for Wings of Glory. We were in 1917, when two Gotha bombers returned from a raid on London. Their mission was to exit the opposite end of the table to safety. Allied fighters were to shoot them down. German fighters were to deny the Allies. I'd shown up slightly after everyone else, so I ended up flying the lowly Albatross in the Kaiser's flock, while my teammates enjoyed Dr.III triplanes and, oh joy, a Fokker D.VII. On the other side wer high-speed SPADs and nimble little Sopwith Camels.

The two Gothas
Of course, I had the most advanced position—that is, closest to the two oncoming bombers and the sputtering pack of Allies bearing down upon them. Not to be discouraged one bit, I declared: “Ach! Dere ist nothing ein German officer cannot do! Vee vill show them, von't vee!” It was a delicate maneuver. I had to estimate where the bombers would be and plot my next three moves ahead of time, nearly head on. There was no telling whether the two SPADs approaching the bombers' sterns would pursue their quarries or bank to meet me. Turn too late, and I'd have to play catch-up. Turn too early, and I'd make a fine target for the incoming bandits.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part II

At last!  Gen Con is about to start.
The next morning Janet and I charged out of the room, down to the mezzanine level, and across the gallery arching across Maryland Street to the convention center. Past the registration lines, a very busy hallway led to the main area before the dealers' room. There still was some time before the grand opening, and the crowd was growing fast. Janet headed upstairs to her seminar. I made a bee line for the gaming area with a pervading sense of awe at the sheer size of the place. 

The morning trolls were there to greet us.
A few snaps later, I returned to the main hall. Cutting through the crowd, I made my way to the escalator and stopped upstairs for a better view. The place was packed, from wall to wall to wall. Since the time had come for the Gates of Wonder to be flung open, I made the mistake of stepping onto the downward-escalator. I soon found myself hopelessly sandwiched between the packed crowd below and the folks still coming down the escalator. It looked pretty grim when people ahead of us fell while the living clump of compressed bodies spilled forth. Visions of trampled gamers and a certain writer crossed my mind. Fortunately, we were able to inch along and condense the rest of the crowd even more. And the doors opened.

Earlier Thursday morning
Brandishing my camera, like a warrior his mighty battleaxe, I was swept inside with the gleeful torrent of chaos. A gigantic parallel world of glittering booths, huge banners, and garish trappings revealed itself. Under a black ceiling studded with brilliant stars, the latest game releases, heaps of steampunk costumes, helmets, hats, feathers, see-through garb, fake swords, books, mounds of dice, miniature hordes of all sorts, jewelry, t-shirts, leather goods, towers of boxed sets, seas of collectible cards, giant props, and fake castles welcomed all to this place of blissful perdition. One could spend much of the convention just playing every game demonstration available there. It was endless and horridly wonderful all at once.

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part I

The towering Ogre-Mage at the gate stared down at me, its cyan blue skin shimmering and curly fangs snapping viciously. It raised a heavy polearm, its chromed-coated blade flashing in sunset's reds and purples, as the beast inspected my badge. This was the mental image I had ahead of Gen Con.

Weather was gorgeous, and the roads were clear. Janet and I made it through Chicago, barreled through the pigtail-shaped exchange near Gary, and zoomed down I-65 straight to Indy. Hurray! This time we experienced none of the road work agony and other travel hags of the previous years. Despite the long lines of trucks notoriously populating this part of the interstate, we reached downtown Indy in less than four hours. We left the ogre running far behind us, somewhere in a haze of road dust, crushed bugs, tire particles spewed into air, and car exhaust.

We'd secured a room at the Marriott, just across the street from the convention center. Oh, bliss! We'd suffer none of last year's driving miles out of town every day. An empty spot waited for us right by the entrance of the underground parking lot and the elevator to the hotel's lobby. We got there early enough on Wednesday to avoid waiting at the check-in desk--not even a wee glitch with the reservation to besmirch our initial experience.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Alphatian Province of Eadrin -- Updated August 27th

Closeup of the Archport Area in Eadrin.  Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
Welcome to Eadrin, a realm yearning to compete with Arogansa’s flashy demeanor and yet shining by the eerie darkness of its unusual masters. Many an observer has wondered about this modest kingdom tucked at the corner of Arogansa, Theranderol, and war-like Randel. It basks behind the Thera and Randel Rivers, seemingly undefended and supremely confident.

Eadriners strive to present the image of a friendly nation to attract the wealthy visitors gracing the beaches of Arogansa. They succeed, to some degree, but Eadrin is no Arogansa. Its beaches are nice and peaceful, but Eadrin’s tradition and experience in the business remains no match. The greatest benefit for visiting the Corner Kingdom is its lower prices and more discreet environment. This is true of the shores of Eadrin, along the Sea of Alphas and its rivers. Its hinterland is another matter entirely.

What seems to intimidate both visitors and common Eadriners themselves are the leaders of the nation, including Queen Eadra XIII, dubbed the Queen of Dusk. Eadra is a gorgeous elven lady, were it not for her stone-gray skin and opalescent eyes, like those of her ancestors. In much earlier times, when the Eadriner dynasty was still young, its kin had hailed from the Shye-Lawr, fair-skinned and silver-haired. They’d explored the region and discovered a strange lake, which they quickly named The Well of Shadows, for dark beasts emerged from its depths during moonless nights. Cracks in the surrounding hills led to twisted passages converging toward a chasm far beneath the lake. There, a realm of shadows grew progressively more impenetrable, rebellious to the most powerful enchantments to shed light and enable normal vision. A mysterious new magic imbued the abyssal rocks themselves. It challenged the curiosity of visitors, elven or human, to proceed deeper. Over the centuries a few went on, blindly seeking to unveil the mysteries beyond. Rare were those among them who ever returned. Of these, all displayed various symptoms of dementia, mild for the more fortunate, or ravingly insane.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eagret -- City of Kingly Lawyers

Area rendered at 2 Miles per Hex.  Arraigns is a suburb or Eagret.
Village icons represent hamlets of 200 or less inhabitants.

Great walls and towers protect the bulk of Greenspur's capital city, featuring three main gates.  Several suburban areas lie outside, including the larger district of Arraigns.  Eagret houses a hundred thousand inhabitants within about 20 square miles, and owns a major port facility.  A massive chain protecting the port's entrance may be raised to block its access.  The First Trial River flows in through massive pillars of an opening beneath a powerful bastion.  Two stone bridges span the river before its waters reach the port area. Buildings include tightly packed multi-level tenements and other residences.  The west bank is considered somewhat of a lower class quarter, which includes much of the port, granaries, warehouses, manufactures, and military barracks.  The king's palace, municipal buildings, and the majority of the upper class occupy the east bank area.  As can be expected, there are many different courthouses besides the well-known Royal Courthouse, one of the largest structures in the city.  Other courthouses are known as "Private Courts of Law," which are legal and legitimate.  They are most often adjoining or part of private palaces.  They specialize in specific areas of the law.  Fierce rivalries exist between private courts of law with overlapping interests.