Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Caldwen's Wizard Towers

Having completed all the details of Caldwen's climate zones, I followed up with brainstorming about what should go on the magiocracy's map. This process helps me coalesce/solidify in my mind key creative concepts behind designing a Gazetteer. I started out with the map Thorfinn Tait generated for his Patreon, and doodled (literally) stuff all over it. Thorfinn then sent me the map's source file, with all its layers and a correct 10 mile scale hex grid, so I could switch off material I needed to change or remove. This really kicked the process into a higher gear. Working from a finished piece of art (the topographical rendering) is hugely helpful, both for practical and visual reasons. A map that looks almost like its finished version this early in the process is a luxury. Naturally, all of this will be turned over to Thorfinn when CAL2's production stage begins, so he can generate the clean, definitive version.

Among the topics on which I focused were mechanics determining how Caldwen aristocracy is granted titular domains (see CAL1 "In Stranger Skies, page 72). This led me to review and flesh out the way the magiocracy is governed, how the colleges (schools of magic) are set up, and how inheritance laws work. This created a system that is reminiscent of GAZ3 (Mystara's Glantri), with individual estates routinely bestowed to qualifying wizards, reflecting their standings in their spellcasting speciality. There's much more to this than I should expose here, but you get the idea.

This affects directly what goes on the map. I can already see a referee's version showing all the details while a players' map would display much less (especially about the actual locations of private wizard estates which aren't common knowledge to folks living in the country, let alone visiting foreigners).

Wizard towers can come in many forms. The simplest and most common is the free standing structure. It can be a traditional tower or some other elegant manor house with the sort of enchantments one ought to expect from the abode of a spellcasting aristocrat. As it were, contrary to landless sorcerers who typically work for a salary, aristocrats receive a pension from their affiliated colleges along in addition to their titular estates. One concern is moving from a private domain to another, as wizards ascend their colleges' academic ladders or (gasp!) begin the process anew in another college, and so on. Do be aware that academic achievement in Caldwen opens doors to political power.

Another common dwelling is the one buried beneath a wilderness, like a dungeon, or carved directly out of a mountain's face. Fortunately, there are plenty of deserted mountain regions in Caldwen. One might be wise not to wander there aimlessly. Wizardly aristocrats crave privacy, either because they loathe being disturbed or because rivalries among Caldwen's mightiest can be downright deadly. Making one's home hard to find and harder yet to approach is the norm. The terrain and harsh alpine climate keep virtually all commoners away. This also explain why there are so few roads and trails in the country. They connect towns, since commoners have no other option but walking or riding. The proper spellcasting sort flies, teleports, or uses some other sort of transportation. To them, roads are meaningless. No self-respecting mage would ever permit any sort of visible path to his or her domain.

Following the same thought, another sort of tower is the one entirely submerged near Caldwen's coastline. Some are intended to stand at the bottom of the sea, while others may emerge to allow visitors in or out. Private domains typically include surrounding lands, up to 15 miles radius (this may seem familiar to Mystaran oldguard). These estates include a magical dome. Their occupants otherwise rely on magic and submersibles to dwell beneath the waves and interact with wandering wildlife.
Some wizards truly dislike the aquatic environment and its inherent dangers. They feel much more at home in levitating towers. They still can exploit the land directly beneath their abodes, but it certainly makes it harder for mudane visitors to come knocking at the door. Granted, there are random flying monsters, but wizards always have ways of keeping those bay (or using them as a source of valuable components). On the other hand, weather at altitude ranges from fierce to downright deadly

Yet another style of tower can phase in and out of the prime plane entirely. However convenient, there are dangers involved with this too, as outer planar beings can be much more perilous to deal with than Caldwen's common fare. Where these towers shift to is another matter. Some may drop into the netherworld. Others may shift to other places, such as the Dread Lands, any of Calidar's three moons, Kumoshima, Lao-Kwei, Felis Minor, Canis Major, or even (gasp of horror!) Draconia. At this point, anything goes.

The thing about these towers is that they all have an intrinsic ranking. It may have to do with how close to a college's power center they stand, or whether they benefit from some special feature: a source of magical mana,  a haunting, a serving demon permanently bound to the domain, serfs 
(alive or undead) working nearby land, etc. As you may already have guessed, demons are big thing in Caldwen. However sinister the idea, remember that etymologically, the term referred to spiritual guardians and arcane servants who weren't necessarily evil. So, serving imps, devilish familiars, folks with demon ancestry, patron demons associated with towns and villages are all to be expected, along with everything a wizard might want to know about these fearsome critters and how to deal with them.

If you can think of other ideas on how to show wizard towers on a map (did I forget some other type of estate?) do fee free to pitch in! Thanks.