RPGaDay Day 6 – Favourite game you NEVER get to play

RPGaDay prompt 6 is “favourite game you NEVER get to play”.

I’m going to pick Bruce Heard’s Calidar here. Yes, Bruce Heard who led the team developing the gazetteers of the Known World  of BECMI D&D world of Mystara and GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri and GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar, and then went on to write the stories of the Princess Ark which explored the wider continent, originally published in Dragon Magazine and then collected as Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark.

As I think I may have mentioned, Mystara is my setting of choice, but sadly it seems Wizards of the Coast aren’t interested in reviving it – it’s not even an approved setting for the DM’s Guild. Bruce approached them about licensing the IP and developing it further, but apparently they weren’t interested. So he has branched out to develop a completely new setting, Calidar.

As I describe in my post when part 3 Alfdain Ascendant went to Kickstarter, this is more than just a single world. It also has multiple moons, one for humans, one for elves, and one for dwarves, plus an artificial rogue planet called Ghüle populated by orcs and other creatures of evil which approaches closely on a schedule of decades, and brings a plague of desperate hungry humanoid invaders bursting forth to capture slaves to feed to their beastly gods.

Most of the worlds are receptacles of a life-force, mana, which ebbs and flows from everything coming to life and dying within the world. The races can call on it with enough belief, which means that gods can be created in a similar way to the gods in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld just by enough people believing in them.

 The world of Calidar is semi-sentient and tries to evict any intruders, but a while ago it became sick and the races began to settle the area known as the Great Caldera; by the time it had recovered they were sufficiently established that they were able to prevent the return of the Dread Lands in their area. This is an area known as the Great Caldera, with ten lands forming a loose alliance against the denizens of the moons – perfectly set up for a series of gazetteers.

The publications so far

The series starts with CAL1 In Stranger Skies, which gives the overall background and introduces the nation of Meryath, land of adventurers.

Meryath is driven by the belief fuelling the life force. This country is led by adventurers, who do not age while enough people tell their stories, so they need to do all they can to keep people telling their stories to remain a hero with the benefits that come from that. Once their renown starts to slip, so does their power – both politically and physically.

CAL1 In Stranger Skies is followed by CAL2 On Wings of Darkness, which looks at the magiocracy of of Caldwen in the north-east of the Great Caldera. This is a land of magic users and captive demons (which must be licenced to contain and limit their powers and options), with guilds and regions striving amongst each other. Glantri plus Alphatia plus demons.

The third publication in the series is CAL3 Calidar Alfdaín Ascendant. This looks at the lands of the elves – both the Confederacy of Alfdain on Calidar, and the ancestral moon Alorea. There are five races of elves the Sherandol, forest elves; the Elëan, flying mountain elves; the Meruín, sea elves; the Tolarin, magic-strong shadow dwellers, and the martial Sòldor.

Special features of Calidar

As well as the belief mechanism, skyships feature heavily in Calidar, as you might imagine from the person who brought the Voyages of the Princess Ark, along with mechanics for travel and battle. There is also the massive void of space between the world and the moons, which needs the special substance seith to cross. This must be mined from the edges of the world where the Great Caldera’s influence has weakened and the anti-viral responses of the world are strong.

All the episodes of Calidar start with a novellette with an episode in the adventures of the Star Phoenix, a skyship exploring the Great Caldera. They all have gorgeous full-colour maps by the amazing Thorfinn Tait, who has provided the seminal Atlas of Mystara, and at least one detailed description of a city as well as the higher-level overview of the society and the areas of the country.

Any mechanics are provided in Bruce’s own Calidar rule-system, summarised in the PWYW Mechanics for the World of Calidar. A lot of ratings are based on percentiles – for example spells have a “potency” expressed in 10% increments – which is pretty much the D&D 9-levels, and armour has a rating from 1 to 100. Damage is grouped under Very Low (e.g. dagger), Low (short sword), Medium (mace), High (2-handed sword), Very High (even more damaging). Instead of alignment, creatures have a philosophy with three axes: Heart – Benevolent to Malevolent, Mind – Rational to Instinctive, and Spirit – Lively to Stern. Each axis has ten adjectives on each side, and the balance between the positive and negative adjectives gives the overall rating on that axis. There are also conversion guides to several systems, mostly old-school style systems, but converting to a specific system should be relatively easy.

What’s so special about Calidar?

I love Bruce’s writing and world-building – I have since the days of Mystara – and I love the concept of the world which puts a mechanic to the effect of belief. The skyships and the travel between the moons makes the place feel massive, and the world of Calidar trying to eject the inhabitants like a body fighting a virus is a great concept – particularly when it’s on the edges, so if you venture outside the safe areas, there may be greater rewards, but there is also clearly greater risk.

Will I ever get to play in it? Who knows, but for now I have lots more tales to tell based in Mystara, and I have only scratched the surface there…

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