Here we are, at the kick-off for this column on which, as mentioned before, Entire Party Killed places great emphasis! The goal is to give greater visibility on the web and support all those projects that stand out for their originality and interest. In particular those related to the world of RPG and Dungeons & Dragons.
Since we spent more than 25 years rolling dices and slaying monsters, starting with the Dungeons & Dragons basic set, it is a huge honour speaking with an author that, throughout the years, fed our imagination with world and adventures. As we’ll see, he still does.
It is with a lot of emotion, that we welcome and introduce our first guest: Bruce Heard and his “Calidar – Beyond the Skies”.
As we go to press, we are very happy to announce that this project reached the target funding, with more than two weeks of time left!
First, thanks Bruce for accepting our invitation to present to our followers your project “Calidar – Beyond the Skies“ which, let’s remember it, is your second Kickstarter. A couple of years ago came “Calidar – In Stranger Skies” with its originality and fresh narrative: it was not only much appreciated by your fans but also received several critical acclaim.
Today we present your second Kickstarter that, at about half-way through the total time, you can say it has in fact already reached the minimum objective stated. But first, for those few who do not have the pleasure to know you, probably because too young, allow us a short presentation. Born in France and thanks to your knowledge of the language and passion for the game, you became a collaborator of the TSR for the translations of the game in that country. Soon you moved directly to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
After a few years of hard work you became a member of the group of developers of the game, as a recruiter of freelance writers. In those years you distinguished yourself even for some of the finest adventures written for Dungeons & Dragons Basic, for the series of the “Voyage of the Princess Ark” and the development of what will become one of the most popular and well-known locations of the game Dungeons & Dragons: Mystara! But today we are here to pay homage and to thank you for what has been done in your past but also to celebrate and raise awareness of what is your present, as well as looking, towards the end of the interview, to your future.
Good morning Bruce! A question to put you at ease – wink wink – can you tell us, in short, what is Calidar, the main differences with other settings and what are the strongest points of your project?
As a general rule, Calidar is about sailing in the footsteps of the Voyage of the Princess Ark. The unavailability of the original license is what sparked Calidar’s creation. As the series develop, you should therefore expect a focus on skyship adventures.
Some of the world’s uniqueness involves the ability of mortals to create their own gods. Linked with this are epic heroes who, as long as they qualify as “epic,” do not age, giving them this crucial first step toward attaining demigodhood in the service of a divine liege.
Calidar also features planets with semi-sentient world souls, which are vast pools of magic connected with the spirits of native sapient beings and their gods. Another aspect of “planet” Calidar lies in its Dread Lands. These comprise a global wilderness surrounding a small island of “civilization,” known as the Great Caldera Under the control of Calidar’s world soul, the Dread Lands’ purpose is to keep intruders out, sometimes in the most brutal and gruesome ways.
Finally, in order to travel through space, skyships of this world require seitha, a magical substance that is usually found in the Dread Lands and is connected with the world soul. Three lunar empires compete with their former colonies of the Great Caldera to extract the precious seitha. Relations between them aren’t the friendliest.
We are curious, where is your fascination for flying ships coming from? We remember that you have it since quite some time ago, in the eighties, due to the chronicles of the Princess Ark published in the Dragon magazine.
Bruce: The Princess Ark came from my effort to explore the world of Mystara without relying on the famous D&D Gazetteers. These were wonderful accessories, but with just two a year, it became clear the series would never exceed the confines of the Known World and Alphatia.
I thought the best “vehicle” for this strategy, if you’ll pardon me the pun, was a Star Trek-like exploration vessel (I am a fan of the TV series, of course). This led to the creation of a skyship. What better wizards to build one than the masters of Floating Ar? So, it became an Alphatian ship.
At the time, I was looking at vessels of the Royal Navy’s historical past as inspiration for a name. The Ark Royal came up, which became the Princess Ark. As I explained earlier, Calidar’s objective is to fly high and steady, like its predecessor. Its featured skyship is the Star Phoenix, because it travels through space as well as through the air and it was born from the ashes of the Princess Ark.
You have imposed yourself a “systemless RPG setting”. Firstly, you yourself, so fond of rules, stats and details, how can you resist? Secondly, and more seriously, don’t you think that giving away some free reference statistics for different settings could help the diffusion of Calidar?
Bruce: It is a major pain for me, as I enjoy the early versions of D&D the best. Most gamers in today’s hobby rely on a plethora of different system, and as years go by, some will disappear while others will emerge, not to mention endless revisions and updates. I’m not interested in chasing any of these rules sets and their umpteen iterations, the vast majority of which I know exactly nothing about. I’m not comfortable with licensing either. So, to remain “eternally” compatible with most things, the simplest approach is the best, a systemless approach. This will be more thoroughly presented in CC1 “Beyond the Skies.” A final version will also be available for free as a PDF.
Calidar is primarily a fantasy setting with narratives for color and personality. It does not need game mechanics per se. What it does is merely describe people, monsters, spell effects, magical powers, etc. in a way that enables anyone to translate them into whatever game rules they prefer.
There is a blog (actually two of them so far) and a really snazzy forum. These can (and will) be used to post material for existing game sets. For example, I tend to design many things with either BECMI or AD&D 1st edition in mind, which I post on blogspot. Of course, none of this can be used in a final product, but fans can certainly share on the forum their creations or their interpretations of what they find in the books. I think that’s fair. Leland Schaidle, the site manager for StrangerSkies.com is working on Pathfinder mechanics. To answer your question, certainly providing stats and interpretations for existing game systems on forums and other social media should help Calidar along the way.
The second book of the Calidar series is dedicated to the immortals/gods: is there one that you especially liked to invent or write about? One to which you feel very close to? One you would worship if you were in Calidar?
Bruce: Yes, this would be Aevan Timebringer. He’s a demigod of “civilized” Belledoran fellfolk, but this isn’t why I like him. Aevan represents the passing of time. He is unique in Calidar’s divine cosmogony in that he serves not one divine liege but four. It was by design, which required the agreement of the entire pantheon. The intent was for one season to prevail over the other three, and to help the living to journey from birth to death and back to the world soul for the cycle to begin anew. The two elders of the pantheon believe this gift will enable the Timebringer to rise as their peer without first perishing in the service of a liege, as is normally required. He is the only male in his pantheon, a devoted servant who may one day become its ruler. For now, this demigod favors clockmakers, messengers, sages, scribes, and those who seek balance in all things such as druids and warrior-monks.
And to please the Timebringer, we too decide to follow Balance, and we split the interview with Bruce, in two, almost equal, parts! After the immortals, we will speak of another, very fascinating, metaphysical concept: the “world soul” of Calidar! See you you, dear readers, just in a few days!