Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ar: In Search of the Sphinx

Continued from “Ar: Where Pegasus Roams”

This district of Ar occupies a very small corner of the kingdom, yet it has a unique and macabre function among nobility, warranting its existence as a separate entity. Well before Alphatians reached this region of Mystara, a war took place there, leaving behind countless burial mounds and, to this day, the errant souls of twisted beings. A clan of sphinxes came to the site in search of kin who’d died in the conflict, seeking to allow them proper funeral. Powerful in the arts of magic and clerical might, these creatures confronted throngs of lost souls, some in distress, many consumed with bitterness and anger at those still enjoying the fruits of life. To reach their fallen kin, sphinxes developed skills needed to put undead masses to peaceful rest. Since then, all but the swamps of the Fris River’s delta have been cleared of hauntings, at least most of them. Many of the sphinxes remained thereafter to keep watch on their burial grounds, thereby claiming this land as theirs. In their own language, they euphemistically named it: Erset La Tari,” or Land of No Return.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Sphinx Hex Map
Lower Sphinx District -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
It was at about that time that Alphatians arrived in the region. With human population expanding, frictions between native sphinxes and settlers grew, in particular when burial grounds were at risk. Unlike many examples elsewhere in the world, a clash did not follow. Concerned with the notorious power of Alphatians, sphinx leaders accepted an offer to prevent conflict. The agreement enabled sphinxes to retain their hallowed lands and protect the dead as they had been doing for so long, all under the protection of the Kingdom of Ar and with formal recognition of their special status from the empire. Ar would also graciously provide food and supplies needed to support the sphinx community. In exchange, Alphatian ambassadors convinced sphinxes to extend their protection and guidance to deceased Aran highborn for agreeable fees, providing the leonine caretakers with a steady and significant income.

Three stretches of hallowed lands were thus sent aloft, which became Ar’s necropolis. Lowlands were revitalized and farmers moved in safely. Part of the local agriculture now serves to feed the sphinxes, most of whom reside above. Others continue to live freely in the deepest forests. The swamps remain off limits, still dangerous to the living. The village of Airy Diggs was founded as the district’s main skyport from which supplies are transported. Sailway Tower stands above a small seaport where occasional foreign traders may pick up or offload merchandise. The tower was erected with the additional duty to keep watch on the swamps and steer nearby vessels away from them. It isn’t rare when undead reefers ignite phantom fires to trick ships navigating at night, running them aground in the muddy quagmire. Tales of horror abound in the "Erset Lalartu ma Lalassu," otherwise known as the Land of Phantom and Spectre.

Friday, March 22, 2013

No Pegasus?

Oddly, my latest article didn't show on Blogspot's blog list sidebar, preventing many viewers who aren't on G+ or Facebook from being notified.  It's the second time this happens.  

Anyone having the same problem lately?

This post is a test to see if the issue persists. (As it were, this post did appear in the blog list... go figure.)

Ar: Where Pegasus Roams

Continued from “Ar: Into the Manticore’s Lair”

Pegasus is an unusual district of Ar. It became a center of philosophy regarding the universe and immortals not long after Alphatians settled the region. Pegasi frequently visited the woods that once covered the entire area, especially near certain ponds and streams which, after observation, proved magical. The latter radiated dweomers beyond common Aran enchantments, and did not flow from natural underground sources. The notion that immortals had created them became widely accepted, especially since monsters that otherwise populated the region never approached them. Word spread that this water had healing and soul-enhancing properties. As settlers took over the lowlands, many began abusing or capturing pegasi for profit, or fought for access to magical water. Some bottled the liquid and promptly set up shop, while shady individuals sold common water at outrageous prices to unsuspecting victims. This deplorable state of affairs ended when a floating island was sent aloft, taking with it all of the enchanted sources. The undesirables were evicted, and the lowland was revitalized to make up for large sections of soil taken from its surface. Since then, the floating island became a natural preserve for pegasi, and a carefully managed area dotted with shrines dedicated to immortals of Ar.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Pegasus Hex Map
Lower Pegasus District -- Scale: 1 Hex = 8 Miles

Today, the lowland harbors about 40,000 people, or 97% of the district’s entire population. This quiet dominion features one village, Cloudport, and two towers on the border with the Stone Ridge Crags. Plains have largely been turned into farmland since the “reseeding” that followed the floating island’s departure.


Hills cover its entire surface, with a large mountain near its center. The original magical sources were incorporated to the new topography to enable as much privacy for visiting pegasi as possible. Access is restricted and requires approval of one of the clerical orders overseeing the island. Orders present on Pegasus Prime include Palartarkan, Ixion, Alphatia, Razud, Pharamond. . . and Nyx. In total, 1,147 people reside permanently on Upper Pegasus, most of them in the “lighthouse.” The latter is a fortress carved directly into the mountain. It harbors temples, quarters for visitors, military barracks, the viceroy’s palace, a skyport, and a large navigational beacon on the mountain’s peak. Although visitors can gain access to the lighthouse without too much clerical red tape, visits to the rest of the island are strictly controlled and require an escort.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Not Ar: Gary Con V

Gary Con
This time around, I didn't drive to the convention with the windows down and my coat on the back seat.  Snow lingered on the ground and a brooding sky cast grayish hues upon the countryside.  It was so much warmer and cozier at the resort outside Lake Geneva.  Arriving just before 8:00 am, I hurried downstairs, picked up my badge, and charged into the gaming hall in the back.  

The cool big guy with the beard, the dragon bandana, and piles of tiny toys was Wayne Targo.  He ran Wings of War, a WWI air combat game.  I am a sucker for this stuff and spent the first two hours recklessly barreling through the sky with my Sopwith Camel, hunting for pesky Fokker Dr.Is.  One soon popped up in my sights, heading straight for me, and we both filled the air with lead.  I ducked behind my engine as projectiles whizzed and smacked all around me.  An instant later, the Fokker zoomed past while I dove into a nearby furball.  Amid sheer madness, I pulled an Immelman and found my nemesis once more, also full of holes. There we were, like knights at a joust, boldly challenging each other in a second head-on attack. My Vickers raging, his twin-Spandaus spitting back at me, the suicidal one-on-one unraveled.  Got him!  Down went the triplane. Snoopy scored again!  But no!  My engine had caught fire.  Wayne chuckled, gleefully taking notes.

Never mind the impending doom.  I yanked the stick to port, stepped on the left rudder pedal, and clenched my teeth, banking into the fray once more.  I zoomed this way and that, shooting bursts at everything with a black cross.  Missed, missed, and  missed again.  Jammed!  Rats. . . Smoke filled my cockpit and left a trail in my wake.  The engine complained and sputtered.  Its wings and tail shot full of holes and torn up, the Sopwith shuddered.  I had 2 points left out of my original 15.  It looked pretty grim when Wayne said, "By the way, your fire dies out!" Lucky me,  I made it, and with the only kill for the day.  The squadron broke off and finally hurtled away into the sunset.  My mechanic will have my hide when he sees what I've done to his baby.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ar: His Heavenly Majesty's Boltmen

Updated from the original version in Champions of Mystara

Chief Boltman
Armor Class
Hit Dice
MU1 or E1
MU3+ or E3+
120' (40')
120' (40’)
No. of Attacks
1 wand
    1 wand     or spell
      8d6 or       by spell
No. Appearing
1 squad (1d6+6)
Save as
MU1 or E1
Per class level
XP Value

The Imperial Alphatian navy and fighting skyships of Ar commonly use troops armed with wands of lightning bolts. Reliance on boltmen elsewhere in Alphatia varies with individual kingdoms. Differences may exist between imperial and provincial boltmen, depending on local culture and traditions. These experienced troops are well trained in the arts of aiming and discharging such weapons, and they understand limitations and risks involved with such magic. They neither use it inconsiderately nor without orders.

The wands typically contain six charges each and can be recharged, normally by a navy magist after a battle. If a warship hasn't engaged in battle for several days, it is likely that the boltmen's wands are fully recharged as per navy regulations.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Skyfleet Heraldry
Boltmen are usually 1st-level magic-users or elves. In the Imperial Skyfleet each wears knee-high hoots, white knickerbockers, a laced shirt, a blue padded jacket with epaulets, and a black velvet cloak. In Ar’s skyfleet jackets are red, and rods are slowly replacing wands. Rods are harder to conceal, come with a leather lanyard to secure them around their boltmen’s wrists, and can be used as clubs when depleted. Boltmen wear leather headgear and carry equipment on their belts in leather cases. Their equipment normally includes a wand (or a rod), one or two daggers, a score of darts, food, and other minor field equipment (rope, hooks, spade, bandages, waterskin, torches, etc.). Aran skyship crews all wear magical rings of air pressure. This equipment, not always available on other Alphatian skyships, enables them to operate at high altitude.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Ar: Into the Manticore's Lair

Continued from “Ar: High Dive of the Hippogriff”

A unique district, Manticore owns no surface land—its floating island levitates entirely above the Sea of Zebulon, off the coast of Djinn. Just as unusual, its inhabitants aren’t remotely Alphatian. Well before the establishment of this curious dominion, three Ethengarian wizards, known as hakomons, approached the King of Ar, some time after the monarchy relocated to Skyreach. The encounter took place at a time when manticores terrorized the northern lands. In exchange for their services and fealty to the monarchy, these hakomons were charged with the difficult task of rounding up the beasts. Following their success, they became accepted in Aran high society, to a point. These enterprising mages became exceeding skillful tradesmen, using their exotic origins to initiate trade outside the traditional Alphatian spheres of interest, and acquiring goods desired by the local wizards. In time, they purchased a stockpile of Cloudstones and negotiated the creation the Island of Boreas, at the northern fringes of Ar. There, they built their capital city, and moved their captive manticores to networks of caves and dungeons opening on the island’s underside.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Manticore Hex Map
Sea of Zebulon/Lower Manticore -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
In the decades that followed, descendants of the hakomons’ servants began populating Boreas. Other fellow Ethengarians trickled in, usually from visiting tradeships. They helped settle this strange new land and give it a thoroughly foreign look. Manticenes, as they became known, have discarded their Ethengarian preference for felt yurts and nomadic lifestyle in favor of more refined Ochalean manners and architecture, which now prevail in the town. Although accepted as vassals of the Skyreach monarchy, citizens of Boreas do at times run into an invisible wall of unfortunate prejudice when dealing with high born Alphatians. A sort of distant politeness prevails in their relationship, which is perfectly fine since it works both ways. Manticenes neither care for nor concern themselves with what stiff-necked Alphatians think of them. They remain wholly content with their miniature realm, out there above the sea, of which they are rightfully quite proud.