About this project
The World of Calidar combines two parts: the story of the skyship Star Phoenix and a fantasy campaign setting for use with role-playing games. This new fictional world focuses on air- and space-faring ships. In Stranger Skies is the title for the skyship's first story, which introduces the vessel and her journey in the skies of Calidar. The crew’s mission is one of exploration fraught with mystery and danger. The fantasy setting section gives an overview of the Calidar Universe and its central world, Calidar, with a focus on the Kingdom of Meryath, the future home of the Star Phoenix.
World of Calidar is intended as the first in a series of releases, each describing a new adventure for the Star Phoenix and providing an expansion to the campaign setting. This unusual format is inspired from the stories I wrote for Dragon Magazine, Voyages of the Princess Ark, and of course vastly expanded here. These were very popular in the 80s and 90s while I worked at TSR, and a major selling point for the magazine. Although written with role-playing games in mind, contents are non game-specific, therefore easily adaptable to most RPG systems.
The product includes a 100-pg color book, which provides the skyship's story and the fantasy setting, plus a poster map depicting the Great Caldera, the center of known civilization on Calidar itself. There are several separate versions of the book available: a PDF file, an e-book intended for Amazon Kindle, a softcover book, and a hardcover book. Printed books will be distributed through DriveThruRPG. The poster map is produced and sold separately from the book due to limitations with print-on-demand. Stretch goals may lead to the addition of different poster maps to the project as well as extra written materials and a greater amount of internal art in the book.
Before proceeding further, let's introduce the creative talent behind this project. I’ll be spearheading the effort as the main writer. I am best known as the lead creative for the D&D Mystara campaign world and as its product manager. I wrote several D&D Gazetteers and adventure modules as well as the Voyages of the Princess Ark. Instrumental in capturing the physical appearance of Calidar, Thorfinn Tait, from Akita, Japan, stepped forward months ago to handle the world's cartography. Thorfinn is best known for his work on Mystara maps during the past twenty years. From the onset, he and I worked to fit Calidar’s continents around a globe, ensuring an accurate and very recognizable depiction. Ben Wootten, a concept artist and illustrator from Wellington, New Zealand, will paint the cover art. His portfolio includes design work for the Lord of Rings movies as well as art for Wizards of the Coast and Pathfinder among many others. His incredible appreciation for nature is evident in the creatures he draws, both real and imagined. John Dollar will be producing pencil and ink illustrations. His extensive artistic background includes TSR's Ravenloft, Birthright, and Dark Sun, as well as FASA, White Wolf, and West End. He also worked on Shadowhunters Codex by Simon & Schuster, Earthdawn, Star Wars, Tales of the Emerald Serpent, and Larry Elmore's Sovereign Stone. Last but not least, my good friend from Toronto, Canada, Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms and author of many related novels as well as a Mystara Gazetteer, has also kindly offered his time and talent to design the City of Glorathon, the royal capital of the Kingdom of Meryath.
Most Calidarans came from three lunar empires—the humans from Manaan, the elves from Alorea, and the dwarves as well as their gnomish cousins from Kragdûr. The fellfolk, a race of small but fierce people, are the planet's original inhabitants. Calidar is imbued with a feral magic hostile to the expansion of civilization, a dangerous world only partially settled by the three off-world empires. A central region called the Great Caldera, a three-thousand-mile-large crater partially filled with an inner sea and ringed with towering mountains, serves as the cradle of civilization. There, the empires overcame nature’s ferocity and established sprawling colonies. But over time, they rebelled and, after a long period of conflict known as the Sky Wars, the new realms earned their independence from their lunar masters. A fragile truce now remains between the three empires and their former colonies. Beyond the Great Caldera lies what is known as the Dread Lands.
The truth is that two lunar empires are overpopulated and exceeding their natural resources. The other, more attuned to nature, now stagnates, unwilling to further harm its own world. It was the reason for the rush to establish colonies on Calidar. There was, and still is, another reason. Traveling the immense distances between Calidar and its moons, and reaching other worlds gravitating around the Great Soltan is only possible with a certain type of magic. At the heart of imperial rivalries lies a strange substance called Seitha, which enables skyships to become incorporeal and travel at fantastic speeds. Though it can be found on the moons, the existence of the precious Seitha has been declining there since its discovery. The Dread Lands now remain its principal source and the origin of many conflicts to obtain it.
The appearance of the substance in Calidar’s soil is predicated upon the health of that world and its moons. It is believed that all magic comes from the beating heart of Calidar, tying together not only Seitha but the souls of the dead and the very lifeforce of all that dwells on its surface, in the skies, and beyond—be it flora, fauna, or sentient kind. It is strong enough to enable gods to spring from the inhabitants’ spiritual beliefs. Indeed, Calidar is unique in that the divine did not create this universe and its people. It is quite the opposite. On each world gods, demi-gods, epic heroes, and demons compete to retain the favors of mortals who created them, and to sway the minds of others for the sake of eternal hegemony. . . or oblivion.
Airships of Calidar are as varied as its people, whether spacefaring or not. Let’s start from the ground up, with the dwarves of Kragdûr. These fellows aren’t wizards, yet they build flying ships. Theirs are brutes of steel, fire, and brimstone. In keeping with their own love of things from the ground, dwarves fly powerful dreadnoughts whose hulls and superstructures are made of forged iron, steel, brass, and copper held together with rivets. Cannons are their weapons of choice. They use coal and special minerals found on their moon, providing lift and thrust enough to propel their massive beasts. Kragdûr dwarves favor a harsh warrior-like culture.
Elven designs depart radically from the dwarven paradigm. Alorean vessels look more like sail ships from the Golden Age of Clippers. These are wind-powered, quad-masted, wooden vessels built for speed. Their style and workmanship remain unmistakably elven, with a heavy emphasis on organic rather than functional. Up close, their artful designs are reminiscent of twisting roots and leaf patterns. Unlike vessels of other races, Alorean liners house extensive hydroponic facilities within their hulls. Alive, self-healing, and able to grow parts like davits, boarding planks, hammocks, and tether-roots, they also feature deck weaponry in the form of native Alorean plants living in symbiosis with the ships. These elves behave more like artful intellectuals.
Human-built skyships of Manaan are far more varied than elven or dwarven designs. They stand anywhere between the two extremes of demi-human ships, blending metal and wood in various proportions. Manaani commanders generally favor maneuverability over speed or strength, which implies a preference for galley designs. Style-wise, they depend on the region of origin, somewhat like real-world 16th-century galleasses and 17th-century galleons that can be fitted with auxiliary oars. This implies an inverted tri-mast design (two sets of upper masts angled in a V-shape and one set of vertical masts underneath the hull) to allow clearance for the banks of oars. They usually rely on combinations of magic and mechanical devices as main deck weapons. The Manaani are highly religious people, for better or for worse.
And what of native Calidar vessels, you might wonder? These ships are even more unpredictable as they mix and match designs from either of the three moons, making foreign observers cringe at certain very, very odd concepts. This habit goes back to the time when colonies broke away from their outer world overseers, and had to use whatever they could seize in combat or recover from wrecks. Anything goes, merrily blending dirigibles, wind sails, steam-powered paddle-wheels, mixed-dwarven and -elven medieval wood-and-steel bio-mechanics, ethereal ley line nets, four-winged flying beasts, and so on. There’s more. . . how about the scaly, acid-spewing, glistening vessels of the evil Draconic Knights? Giant flying junks and armored turtle-ships claim the skies in faraway Lao-Kwei. At last, let’s not forget the space Vikings with double- or triple-deck longships feared by all, including the mysterious starfolk.
It is the tale of the skyship’s arrival in this strange new world. Though the crew cannot recall the preceding days, they do seem to know each other and their functions aboard. The rest remains a disturbingly frustrating blank. It soon becomes clear that something or someone tampered with their memories for a purpose the crew will have to discover. Overcoming personal doubts and suspicions, these heroes of fortune must work together to survive, unveil the truth about their presence in a foreign world and, one day perhaps, find a way back home. Until then, the heroes must explore a world brimming with magic and mystery. On Calidar, eternal glory is the ultimate achievement, leading those who prevail to tangle with webs of intrigue spun around them by empires and deities.
- Captain d'Alberran: A swashbuckling wizard, his challenge is to come to grips with the mysterious power that erased all memory of his past and brought him to this strange new world. He sees this as a personal challenge and intends on addressing the issue head on, no matter what the cost. He senses that he and his crew were led into Calidar for some specific reason, and behaves accordingly, as someone who refuses to be manipulated. Like Captain Ahab, he fears neither cosmic beast nor god and dares to challenge their will.
- First Mate Ennia Daggart: She could be described as an Afro-Celtic warrior, with a few tattoos reminiscent of ancient Celts or Maori on her forehead and temples. This tough character actually runs most of the activities on the ship. There's some rivalry here with the captain. To begin with, the crew knows that they came from different realities (though none can remember which), and that they were gathered on the Star Phoenix for some mysterious purpose. This leads several crew members to question authority aboard. With a skipper (and a First Mate) who do not tolerate insubordination, you get the picture.
- Master Arabesque Starward: As the elven navigator/cartographer/priestess/surgeon aboard, she's a most valuable character on the Star Phoenix. She and the captain discovered mutual feelings for each other, but question whether these are genuine or "implanted" by whatever power that brought them together into this mysterious universe. The captain fights pretty hard to ignore his own feelings for Arabesque, because of his function aboard. He fears they would jeopardize his ability to command. Arabesque, grappling with her sudden inability to communicate with her spiritual patron, also has her own internal conflict.
Captain-at-Arms, Wu Yuntai:
He's a Chinese-style elven warrior who commands the ship's marines.
Yuntai is very loyal to his captain, though he does not remember why.
Although not yet apparent, he may develop feelings for the First Mate.
Early on, he's nearly killed in combat and makes it a personal quest to
best he who almost defeated him--the commander of the Draconic Knights,
Captain d'Alberran's nemesis.
Other characters include Purser Waessail Barrooney (actually a roguish fellfolk and somewhat of a coward), Rivven Cripplegate (a red-head bosun with a short fuse), Master-Artificer Ebben Philoneas Rugwittle (a spell-casting gnome in charge of the ship's magical engineering), Master-of-Engines Hoyk Pebbleborn (a blunderbuss-toting dwarven artillerist who has every intention of acquiring dwarven cannons for the Star Phoenix), Bugles “Ol’ Babblejack” Belzer (the helmsman, a salty old seadog), and--last but not least--Gumboyle Moffeecot, the fellfolk cook (part head-hunter and voodoo priestess, with a wooden leg, a killer frying pan, a homunculus familiar, and a crush on the Captain-at-Arms).
Add-ons are offered only at First Mate pledge level and above. The value of add-ons can be manually added to your pledges.
- $75—Add-on #1: Your character name included as cameo appearance in the story (20 slots only, awarded on a first-come/first-served basis)
- $75—Add-on #2: Name a skyship in the story or in the world supplement (20 slots only, awarded on a first-come/first-served basis)
- $8.50—Add-on #3: Additional copy/copies of the Poster Map. Limit: up to 3 additional maps. Please consult the mailing schedule listed at the end of the main project's description, which details additional postage fees outside the USA & Canada.
- $22/$36—Add-on #4: Extra book copies. Backers at First Mate level or higher can order extra softcover books for $22 each. Backers at Captain level or higher can order extra hardcovers for $36 each. All additional postage fees for mailing outside the US apply for each add-on copy. Please consult the mailing schedule listed at the end of the main project's description, which details additional postage fees outside the USA.
Your Character Name: One of the characters appearing in the story bears the name of your RPG character; a short description will be needed; suggested names are subject to publisher's approval; backers warrant that suggested names do not violate existing copyrights; backers agree that suggested names become publisher's property upon approval. There are no more than twenty slots for this add on, allocated on a first-come/first-served basis.
Name a Skyship: You get to name a skyship appearing either in the story or in the world supplement (at the publisher's discretion); suggested names are subject to publisher's approval; backers warrant that suggested names do not violate existing copyrights; backers agree that suggested names become publisher's property upon approval. There are no more than twenty slots for this add on, allocated on a first-come/first-served basis.
Additional Poster Maps: You can order additional copies of the poster map, at $8.50 each. Shipping in the US and Canada is included with your original pledge for up to three additional poster maps.
$8,100: Internal Art Upgrade ----------------- UNLOCKED!
Present art budget allows for about a dozen black-and-white illustrations in the book, in addition to maps and other diagrams. This extension allows a substantial increase in the amount of internal art and/or the upgrade of some b/w pieces to color.
$10,000: Map Upgrade -------------------------- UNLOCKED!
Present cartography budget allows for one poster map (the Great Caldera). This extension adds an extra poster depicting the Kingdom of Meryath, with a standard hexgrid format. If available, this extra poster map can be selected as an add-on with your original pledge at First Mate level and above.
$12,000: Campaign Setting Upgrade ---- UNLOCKED! + Pathfinder Guidelines
At present, the project allows for approx. 100 pages in the book. With this extension, page count increases to approx. 125. Additional text will detail in more depth the Kingdom of Meryath, as well as provide a set of guidelines to help adapt the Calidar setting to Pathfinder game mechanics. Details are still being worked out, but Thomas Reid, former TSR designer and editor, will be the author of the guidelines.
$15,500: Skyship Profiles ------------------- UNLOCKED!
Five full-page color ship profiles by Ben Wootten will be included in the book, with performance statistics and text descriptions. They will include the Star Phoenix, Eternal Glory, Wind Thorn, Scion of Kragdûr, and Queen’s Fury.
$18,000: Skyship Deck Plans ------------- UNLOCKED!
At this level, a blend of 2D and 3D black-and-white deck plans are a possibility. This is a tentative stretch goal as details are still being worked out. At the very least three skyships will receive the treatment, including, of course, the Star Phoenix. These will be part of the book along with the color plates. Announcements will be forthcoming with relevant backing. Many thanks to all of you for making this project a reality!
International Shipping Schedule: Your pledges include the cost of shipping within the USA. Postage outside the USA is major concern since a large proportion of Bruce Heard’s fans reside overseas. It would be easy but unfair to add a single additional postage fee to everyone, causing many to pay more than they should. Mailing books separately from poster maps also has an impact on shipping. As a result, a more detailed mailing schedule is posted here for each pledge level. Please add the postage fees listed below to your pledges. Asia/Pacific includes Australia and New Zealand. Puerto Rico is counted as US domestic mail.
****Master Pledge Level****
- Canada -- add $3.00
- UK -- add $2.00
- Europe (excluding UK) -- add $4.00
- Asia/Pacific, Central America/Caribbean Islands -- add $8.00
- Anywhere else: please contact B. Heard for details.
****First Mate Pledge Level****
- Canada -- add $4.00
- UK -- add $5.00
- Europe (excluding UK) -- add $7.00
- Asia/Pacific, Central America/Caribbean Islands -- add $11.00
- Anywhere else: please contact B. Heard for details.
****Captain Pledge Level****
- Canada -- add $5.00
- UK -- add $6.00
- Europe (excluding UK) -- add $9.00
- Asia/Pacific, Central America/Caribbean Islands -- add $13.00
- Anywhere else: please contact B. Heard for details.
****Admiral Pledge Level****
No additional postage needed (incl. for add-on poster maps). Thank you! The Calidar team is grateful for your support.
****Add-On Poster Maps****
- USA & Canada -- no additional postage needed
- Anywhere else -- add $1.00 per add-on poster map
Risks and challenges
Design and Editing:
Much of the story (In Stranger Skies) is already written. Concept work for the campaign setting has also been completed. My writing experience should be self-evident. Two editors are presently available. Our team feels confident in its ability to deliver a good product from both design and writing standpoints.
Art, Maps, and Layout:
Artists and a professional layout designer have already been selected. Because there are multiple contributors, delays are always possible, but the risk should be manageable. Everyone involved has a good professional track record and is more than competent in their fields.
Printing and Shipping:
This concerns essentially the production of printed books. They are to be distributed and sold subsequently through DriveThruRPG, which is a print-on-demand operation. Therefore printing issues can be easily addressed before and during production. Books are shipped directly to the customer by DriveThruRPG. Beyond the scope of the Kickstarter campaign, poster maps will be sold directly through Amazon.com. Both companies offer reliable services.
Just like all of you, we are fans of the product we are designing and we stand behind it. We are just as excited and eager as you are to see it succeed.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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