Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ar: Where Griffons Dare

Continued from "A Dream of Djinni."

Mystara Alphatia Ar Griffon Map
Lower Griffon District -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
This grand old district lies at the heart of the kingdom, on the west bank of Crystal Lake.  It was the original seat of Aran monarchy, dating back to the time of the Archmage Ar himself, until this first dynasty ended for lack of an heir.  An unfortunate punitive foray into ogre lands resulted in the sole successor passing away.  The last words of Dalberron the Skald tell the story:

“Out of the mist, one fateful winter dawn, the devourers appeared.  Filled with hatred and feral bloodlust, the deathly tide swarmed the village.  Not a soul among town and gown, neither cattle nor poultry, dog, cat, wall, or barrel were spared.  The demons fled as fast as they’d come, leaving death and desolation in their wake.  Good Prince Teliddes on his heavenly warship raced by the plume of smoke rising high, and bravely gave chase.  Standing at the prow, he motioned the Nashi and the Ostro to join the hunt.

“Together with the Shamal, they tore apart the fleeing mob, piercing ogrish flesh with heavy javelins or riving their bodies asunder with sizzling bolts.  Many a wondrous rod was depleted and replaced as the merciless punishment was wreaked upon the demons.  Despite their losses, there was always one to turn and stare defiantly at the prince while its brood sank deeper into the woods.  The game went on until their leader, a horrid giant covered in blood and dangling upon its misshapen body the severed heads of once-fair maidens, stood its ground and challenged the prince.  It was then, when Aran justice at last was dispensed high from the Shamal’s deck, that the unthinkable happened.  A powerful device, hot with wokani magic, shot a mighty harpoon from the mouth of the demons’ hideout.  It was a trap.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ar: A Dream of Djinni

Continued from "Song of the Cockatrice."

The District of Djinn emerged entirely for one purpose.  A permanent gate to the elemental plane of air had been, somewhat inconsiderately, opened by an Archonian mage.  As a result of this action, inhabitants of that plane strayed into northern fringes of Ar, engendering some disconcerting encounters with human residents.  To solve the problem, the viceroy of Archon at that time offered to create a small island that could be used by both people, Alphatian and elemental denizens of air, as permanent ambassadorial grounds.  Thus was the District of Djinn created.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Djinn Map
Lower & Upper Djinn Districts -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
This new dominion includes a small strip of what used to be a part of Archon along the northern coast, along with the village of Pitch Banks.  In total, less than 10,000 Djinnites now live in the area, including 470  islanders.  The coastal lowland yields enough food for local consumption and actually exports part of it, usually pickled flying fish sticks and dancing giant crab legs, local specialties.  A tiny military force of slightly over 100 holds the village below (20) and the two embassies above (40 each).  To patrol the coast and Upper Djinn’s airspace, the force employs one small skyship, the H.H.M.S. Sky Fennec whose crew includes several individuals from the elemental plane of air.  Although few, these troops are well paid, well trained, and reliable.

At an altitude of 7,400 ft and about ten miles across, Upper Djinn rests beneath a weak force field that traps heat and humidity.  The temperature stays around 80°F (27°C) year round.  The semi-solid, porous dome allows slow-flying skyships through.  Upper Djinn looks like an oasis similar to those lost in the desert of Ylaruam, surrounded by a rocky ridge.  Under an intense, cobalt-hued vault, the land within features white to pale pink sand dunes, with a lake in the middle, ringed with swaying palm trees.  A slight breeze circles counter-clockwise around the island.  Predominantly turquoise, the lake turns entirely translucent depending on where an observer stands, making dhows plying its surface look as if they flew in mid-air.  It rains rarely on the island, and any snowfall outside melts on contact with the dome.  Condensation or infiltration streak down the sides of the force field, dripping past the rocky ridge.  The water then gathers under the desert’s surface to form a spring that feeds the central lake.

Lone towers and Ylari-looking abodes dot Upper Djinn.  They house families of land owners, Alphatians and denizens of the elemental plane of air who contributed to the island’s enchantments.  The Embassy of Ar, which stands on the northeastern shore of the oasis, also harbors an imperial consulate.  An elemental pasha referred to as Siadet Al Safeer (or Syadt Alsfeer), a greater djinni, dwells in the Embassy of Air, on the opposite shore, with a staff of thirty lesser djinn.  Also known as "The Cloud" (or Haroon of his Truename), Al Safeer represents a djinni kingdom lying on the other side of the gate.  The Alphatian embassy is the typical sort of wizardly palace, with slender towers, wide open bays, columns, statues, and enchantments galore.  The pasha’s embassy looks more like an Ylari palace, with onion domes, elaborate latticework engravings, mosaics, atriums, and fountains.  It floats on a small cloud, about 900 ft above the oasis’s shore.  Visitors on flying carpets can be seen frequently entering or leaving.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ar: Song of the Cockatrice

Continued from the previous article.

Cockatrice is a region of Ar notorious for monsters of the same name.  Alphatians were slow to spread into that area, for obvious reasons, but when a vein of Cloudstones was discovered there, the Aran monarchy became determined to put an end to the poultry peril.  An alchemist from the town of Arreghi devised a periapt of supple flesh that could keep cockatrice petrifaction at bay.  The amulet can have any shape, but often comes with a rooster motif and 1d4 charges.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Cockatrice Maps
Lower & Upper Cockatrice -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
Periapt-bearing wizards thus directed the effort to capture the beasts and carefully segregated a select stock.  As it were, cockatrice eggs proved exceedingly profitable, both as exotic delicacies and spell components, since the dreaded ability did not manifest itself until after hatching.  The market for cockatrice feathers, beaks, eyes, and tongues is also quite brisk among wizardkind.  As the land was freed of its monstrous roostery, commoners followed, searching for employment or farmland.  Mining started in earnest, and monoliths began populating the skies.

Cockatrice is a small dominion of less than 40,000 Cockatenes, with relatively low population density.  The only urban area consists of the coastal village of Windborne.  Air traffic from the village involves mostly freighters supplying the floating island.  The upper class and their servants dwell there, no more than 4,500 souls in about 50 large manor houses scattered outside the Roost Palace gambling resort.  Less than 500 warriors guard the upper and lower district, including three skyships, the H.H.M.S. Gregale, Levanter, and Maestro.  Cockatrice is a net exporter of farming goods, mostly through the villages of Wingport, Cowling Green, and Sky Moorings in neighboring districts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ar: Of Kings and Chimeras

Continued from Flight of the Archonians.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Chimera Map
Lower Chimera -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
There was a time when royalty called the town of Ceafem home, but the earlier dynasty met an untimely end for lack of a direct heir.  Several accusations of usurpation flared, but the matter was eventually dropped and faded into historical obscurity.  The throne passed to the present house, and the capital moved to Chimera.

Much like Archon, Chimera had become part of Ar’s growing kingdom with the discovery of a new Cloudstone mine.  Alphatian population had already begun to spread to that region, and the “conquest” of the future Chimera district remained only a matter of negotiation with local land owners resulting in their eventual elevation to the status of Aran Skylords.  Shrewd viceroys (later monarchs) attracted both common population and mages, and the original village that served as the dominion’s center was renamed Skyreach.  With time, the suffix “upon-Land” was added when flying monoliths populating the skies merged to form a larger island, and the capital was moved one last time to the top.  Previous landlords became part-owners of Chimera Prime, with commensurate rights to build their abodes in Skyreach.  Such rights today fetch exorbitant prices.

Chimera is a bit smaller than Archon, but with more than 141,000 people thanks to the sizes of both “Skyreaches”.  The lower town is home to 25,000 residents, while the royal capital houses another 9,000.  Including about 1,400 land and skyborne troops, more than a quarter of all Chimerans live in urban areas.  As a result, Chimera imports food from other districts, driving up the local cost of living.  Two villages, Flutterrow and Skid Commons, exist mostly for the purpose of gathering supplies and shipping them to floating islands.  Most of the air traffic concerns Chimera Prime, with additional routes to Luckhaven, a gambling resort about 30 miles southeast from the capital.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Anniceris, on Alphatia

A major Thank You to Phersv on the Anniceris blog for compiling a review of Alphatia's revision up to this point.  It is of course in French, but nonetheless very much appreciated for the ample feedback it provides.

J'avais déjà dit il y a six mois que Bruce Heard, le principal créateur du monde de Mystara, avait commencé à détailler l'un des Empires de ce monde, l'Alphatie sur son blog. Je reprends à nouveau le descriptif pour m'aider à m'y retrouver dans les différentes sous-parties qu'il a recréées avec un enthousiasme visible et communicatif. (...)

Click here for the remainder of the review

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ar: Flight of the Archonians

Mystara Alphatia Ar Archon Land
Floating District of Archon -- Map Scale: 8 miles per hex

Archon is one of the more important districts in Ar.  It includes the towns of Zephyria, Aeree-upon-Land, Aeree-the-White, and the fortress of Martial Fields.  Slightly less than 100,000 Archonians call this region home.  Under 10% of the population lives in urban settings. Three other villages provide safe landing areas for skyships, barn-like hangars, and loading docks for local farming produce.  Just over a tenth of Archon’s total area levitates above the surface.  Lord Aerithern, Viceroy of Archon, commands about 400 royal troops and 1,200 local military, 400 of which are stationed at Martial Fields with the royal troops.  These soldiers handle local law enforcement and guard the main passage into Frisland.  Cavalry frequently patrols the river.  Crossing is only permitted at Dovefall Bridge.  The viceroy (whose estate lies in Zephyria) also relies on four skyships to patrol the skies:  three vessels equivalent to small sailing ships (His Heavenly Majesty’s Skyships Nimbus, Cirrus, Stratus, and one large skyship, the H.H.M.S. Cumulus).

As Aran districts go, Archon is fairly large.  Griffon, to the southeast, is the oldest and the one that originated the kingdom’s foundation.  The latter’s Cloudstone mine attracted air-mages to the area.  The discovery of a second deposit prompted the kingdom’s expansion to include today’s Archon territories.  Archon’s Cloudstone deposit is nearly depleted today (AC 1000) and only provides small amounts from very deep beneath the surface.  Huge quantities were extracted in much earlier times, forcing mages to shore up endless galleries and nearly bottomless chasms.  Thousands of spells creating stonewalls and stoneshapes produced colossal pillars and arches in the natural rock that would make a dwarven engineer proud.  Yet, this vast underground expanse now remains empty and dark, save for monstrous denizens who’ve made it their home.  Small flying vessels occasionally patrol the greatest mining canyons, concerned about recent sightings of ogres there, possibly from the crags (see Marches of Ogresfell and
Grünfold for details).

Heraldry Mystara Alphatia Floating Ar
Mining outposts linger to extract remaining Cloudstones.  Skyships transport the minerals directly to the surface.  A great stone dome with metallic gates protects the main vertical shaft, to prevent rain or distracted people from falling in.  Secondary galleries, large enough for ten mammoths abreast, spread from the main shaft at various levels.  Stone towers lock the entrances to galleries reaching the surface.  Smaller ventilation shafts still furnish breathable air to this artificially-manufactured underworld.  More than seven billion cubic feet of Cloudstones were extracted to create Archon Prime alone.  This feat was accomplished with the help of mining constructs, enchanted beasts toiling incessantly to remove the minerals.  Eerie witnesses of bygone times, most of them now sit silently in dark passages, abandoned, their command words forever filed off their metallic skins.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nearly One Year

Already January...

I ran across L. G. Keltner's blog celebrating her 1 year anniversary this morning.  This sounds very familiar, as mine is coming around fast to its own birthday.  There certainly was a lot of attraction and uncertainty in the back of my mind about writing my own blog, having never done any such thing before.  I had no idea how to manage this, and to make matters worse, I had been out of the loop of the very topic about which I planned to write--for at least 10 years.  Looks like many of you are now enjoying the journey, as I am.  I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for joining me here, and wish good luck to L. G. Keltner for her own endeavor.

Her Blogfest is here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Alphatian Province of Ar

Mystara Alphatia Ar Hex Map
Kingdom of Ar -- Map Scale : 8 Miles per Hex

Although Floating Ar is the name most commonly used when outsiders refer to this famous realm, it isn’t what locals call their nation.  For most of the latter, there is nothing floating or uplifting about their livelihoods.  They are the legions of laborers and farmers living on the ground.  Levitating islands in Ar’s sky are the domain of the wealthy and the aristocrats who own just about everything down below, including throngs of servants.  Floating Ar is merely the most notorious and yet smallest part of the kingdom.  Ar was the name of a wizard specializing in air-related magic.  Aside from his expertise with all things celestial, Ar unlocked the secret of the Cloudstones which enabled the enchanting of great flying monoliths and the creation of Floating Ar.

The Kingdom of Ar includes 16 districts with jurisdictions both in the skies and on the land.  King Quissling appoints a viceroy (either male or female) to administrate each district, along with a military captain.  Viceroys focus on running the affairs on the Land of Ar, maintaining security, collecting taxes, developing cities and farming.  Although they have authority over their corresponding districts in Floating Ar, the latter remain largely autonomous due to the presence of aristocratic domains, mostly those of wizards who resent being disturbed.  There is little for a viceroy to administrate in the skies, since no farming takes place there, and islands are generally the private properties of families who contributed to their creation.  Nobles employ their own household guards and flying ships.  Where Floating Ar is concerned, viceroys and their captains usually limit themselves to organizing military matters when needed, such as levying feudal troops and mustering skyships, or collecting taxes.

First and foremost, the Land of Ar is home to a huge farming community.  The majority are serfs whose role is to grow food.  Land-dwelling bourgeoisie, skyborne aristocracy, viceroys, and the king own patchworks of small farming plots, which account for much of the surface.  A few free farmers hold the deeds to their own lands, while a much greater number simply rent farms and fields from their owners.  Ar is a northern kingdom with harsh weather and a relatively short growing season.  Without the use of enchantments, the kingdom would never be able to support its population of nearly one million people.  Magic is generally dispensed at a fairly low cost to ensure the success of crops despite difficult conditions.  A Guild of Peasant-Wizards in Skyreach-upon-Land ensures the availability of such magic throughout the kingdom, assigning their alumni to specific territories.  Peasant-wizards are benevolent magic-users who seek to improve the condition of the poor.  Their arcane talents also make it possible to preserve excess production, which is sold to foreign seaborne merchants.  Most of this traffic takes place through the ports of Arreghi, Ceafem, Reer, and Ailpon on Crystal Lake.  So far, ports on the northern coast remain woefully underdeveloped and iced up during winter months.  Goods destined for local consumption are carted to the closest town or village, all of which feature airfields where skyships pick up supplies and ferry them to Floating Ar.  Fishing is also plentiful on the kingdom’s shores, with some whaling along the northern coast.