Thursday, 2 August 2018

Using Anthropology for World Building

Anthropological theory and ethnographic data are rich and immediate tools which can be used to create the cultures of fantasy settings. The question is not whether they are useful, but the degree of their utility. Using these methods for cultural construction in a fantasy setting does, however, introduce possible inconsistencies in base assumptions that may conflict with the principles on which anthropology is grounded (being that it is based on the real world). Regardless of complications, anthropological theory is a fundamental framework from which we can begin to ask the right questions and develop a methodology.

The theoretical framework that I have found the most useful is structuralism. Structuralism is very good at providing a generalized framework to work from, based on your initial ideas about race and culture. The reason I have found structuralism to be the most useful is that it allows you to generate base assumptions suitable to your fantasy setting and then derive "consequences" and/or implications for those assumptions. Basically this sets up an if x then y proposition that serves a designer well. Overall I found that the structuralist framework provided by various anthropologists fit well together with little conflicts and covered all of the major areas that need to be addressed: society, culture, religion, ritual, etc. Structuralism is not, however, without it's drawbacks. Quite often the level of abstraction that structuralism provides, in order to provide generalized and/or universal theories can lead to frameworks that are too static. In these cases the problem is typically idealism and over generalization without allowances for the inner dynamics of culture and society. In other words, sometimes the theoretical framework can be too broad and too simple. If we stop there we end up with a very two dimensional culture. If we want something richer we need to proceed to delve into the inner dynamics. In these cases inferences based on creativity are needed to allow further theoretical complexity. These inferences sometimes require changing basic assumptions or properties of our race or culture. Keep in mind that in such an exercise we are working backwards. Anthropologists move from culture to ethnography to theory. Certainly there is something lost in the transition. One example is the statement made by Mary Douglas, "... when the social group grips its members in tight communal bonds, the religion is ritualist; when this grip is relaxed, ritualism declines. And with this shift in forms, a shift in doctrines appears."1 While, not irrelevant it is sufficiently vague as to only give us a general idea of how to proceed.

Once a theoretical framework is sufficiently complex, ethnography provides a rich supply with which to base the socio-cultural details. The problem with applying ethnography to the creation of a culture is that, "as is", it usually isn't really relevant, even the parts that you are looking for that seem to fit. On first inspection it seems easy to just take ethnographic data and use it to fill in your framework, however, this is not a trivial task. Ethnographic details within cultures are the results of complex, interacting symbol systems which have a high degree of multivocality. The symbol systems of a culture are usually fairly integrated with one another and as a result you cannot just remove a symbol system out of context and apply it, without changes, into the symbol system you are trying to create. The underlying symbol systems that sustain and/or gave rise to the system in which you are interested are very often not completely compatible with the underlying symbol systems within your fictitious culture. The best way to approach this task is to look across cultures for those with symbols, themes and basic preconditions, such as environment, physiology, subsistence, and kin structure, that parallel your own. If you have built your theoretical framework correctly then adapting cultural details from a real to a fictitious culture becomes much easier. , but you still need to understand the context of the systems from the culture from which you are borrowing in order to make an accurate translation. This can most easily be accomplished by understanding why a particular culture "does what it does." From that you can, with a little creativity, translate between systems.

The main problem with using anthropological techniques to develop fantasy cultures is that in fantasy the basic preconditions of culture, or combinations thereof aren't always mirrored, or may conflict with, those we find in the real world. When I say basic preconditions I am referring to four specific categories: physiology, environment, subsistence and kin structure (which encompasses gender relations, among other things.) From my observations it is from these four areas that we see rich cultures and cultural pattern emerge. The world of fantasy provides a great deal of flexibility in that you can bend the rules precisely because it isn't real (look at puff the magic dragon; physically it would be impossible for his tiny wings to support his huge body in flight). The danger in this is, of course, bending or breaking too many rules. The best "lie" is the one with the most truth, so we want to stay as close to reality as possible to have good, believable fiction. It isn't hard to see how these preconditions might conflict. For example, I think you would be hard pressed to find an anthropologist that has studied people living in a landscape ravaged by magic or magical storms and alterations. Such a large allowance of the fantastic in such a basic and fundamental area such as the environment makes it difficult to bring the weight anthropological tools to bear on it's influences upon the life that exists in said environment. The most we can do in cases such as these is attempt to draw less fantastic parallels and extrapolate the plausible possibilities.

The area in which structuralism is absolutely indispensable is in describing and providing causal relationships between society, culture and the environment. You can do this by moving through the four categories mentioned above in the following order: environment, physiology, subsistence and kin structure (including gender relations.) The natural consequences from one create the basis for the next, and so on. It has been my observation that these naturally flow together, building upon one another. First start with the environment, design it, and then build the next precondition (physiology) based on conditions determined in the environment phase. You may have to do some research to determine how your environmental conditions impact human or animal physiology. Continue this through the last precondition. Each phase proceeds from the previous phase wherein you iterate over its design, test your design against real world examples, adjust as necessary, repeat, until that phase is complete. From these four basic preconditions arises the basis for other systems of society: social structure, religion, ritual, economics and trade, cultural themes, classifications or systems (e.g. Food categories, Leech), history, myths, creation mythology, and more. Once you have a sufficient amount of material for the first four preconditions the rest will, more or less, suggest themselves. The frustrating thing that a designer will notice is that for every question you answer, you seem to end up with a lot more. The amount of work and detail grows on an exponential scale. This is an unavoidable consequence of modelling a realistic cultural system, you also end up modelling the complexity as well. At a certain point, however, you must make a decision of exactly how detailed you wish to get. For your purposes you may be able to gloss over small details, or just provide one or two examples for each (like myths, legends, or heroes). It is important to note that the realism that this approach offers depends on the details. Without the details you end up with an idealized or generalized culture that will not bring your world to life for your readers.

Anthropology and ethnography are invaluable tools for creating cultures in the process of world building, however, there are considerations that an author has to make while bring to bear the weight of these tools on his creativity. Such considerations can leave a writer or researcher walking a fine line between too much fantasy and too much realism. In either respect there is a great deal of work involved in this non-trivial exercise.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

To be... Lycadican or not to be Lycadican.... that is the question

Comments from previous playtesters (and my brother) got me thinking recently about the name Lycadican. The recent direction I've been going is is quite different from that of the original Lycadican FRPG (version 5) which was very AD&D Second Edition with modifications to rules for things like attacks striking body areas, greater emphasis on proficiencies, a radically expanded magic system and of course a different game world with different races and character classes.

The current version that I've been working on is very very different. The game world has changed significantly. The geography has changed, the races themselves have changed or been massively expanded upon and the game mechanics themselves have changed in order to take into account new concepts. The magic system remains largely the same, however, but the largest change is probably in the theme. It's much more focused on the supernatural, concepts of Good vs Evil, Corruptibility vs Integrity and Secret Combinations vs Openness & Transparency (which has largely been abandoned by all as they hunker down behind their walls of false security and safety while they rot from within.) Also, I'm working to bring a more Carribean influence where the races will largely be split between European-flavored and Carribean flavoured.

All of that taken together has made me think hard about 'forking' this game off into something new. In preparation for that, I have obtained the domain name ( was taken) and have a draft of the document where the name Lycadican has been changed to Kabal.  I've also applied filters to the current art that I'm using as placeholders to keep with this theme and will be reworking the Asura race into something else.

More to come in the future.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Great map making tutorial

I never did finish my own set of tutorials, but it looks like someone has taking a similar approach. Checkout this site for a great tutorial on creating your own fantasy world

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Direction of the fantasy setting

Lately I've been debating with myself over the direction of this fantasy setting. Right now it's pretty broad, covering cultures such as a dark afro-caribbean to those with analogies to brutal-Norse/Scandinavian. These are all bound together by fairly dark overtones which are to me reflective of the global rise of extremism combined with the seeming corresponding increase in narcissism; at least within North America.
As my writing continues, this will continue to manifest as the introduction of Cult, Secret-Societies, Pagan Religions and different flavors of character Archetypes.
The questions I'd like help answering before I go too far are:
1) Is it too broad?
2) Is it too disparate?
2) Is it too dark?
What do you think? What would you like to see?

Friday, 16 October 2015

HELP!: To Roll or not To Roll.... that is the question

As I continue my revision of Lycadican and it's rules I'm always on the look out for an opportunity to improve things; right now I stand at a cross roads. I've been thinking of the proficiency system, how to determine the success or failure of a task and I need YOUR HELP to decide which way to go!

Option 1: The historical method:

  1. Add you Skill Level + the roll of the dice and take the result
  2. If the result is greater than a target number determined by the difficulty of the task (target numbers are about equal to 3 times the DL) you succeed. 
  3. If it's less you fail, but you can expend some Attribute points or Experience points to overcome this by bringing the total of Skill Level + Roll >= target number.
Option 2: A potentially newer method (with no dice rolling required):
  1. If your Skill level is greater than the difficulty level the task automatically succeeds.
  2. If the difficulty level of the task is greater than the skill level than you could spend attribute points so that your Skill Level + Points spent >= the Difficulty Level. You can only spend a maximum number of points equal to the level of the skill.
What do you think? Please leave comments below!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Mechanics, Mechanics, Mechanics

A group in Australia have been the first to give the new version of the game a kick at the can and the feedback has been slowly tricking in. Here are some of the comments I got back:

  1. The premise seems to be too dark. 
  2. It does not appear to be a game for beginners, but instead a master class game for mature players.
  3. There was some comparison to the feeling evoked by Robert E. Howard's or L. Carter's original Conan short stories.
  4. d10 based system seemed to them to limit the range of possibilities too much, they requested a change to a d20 base.
  5. In discussing character advancement there was concern that first level characters may be too strong and there was no way to advance Health Points, etc.
  6. There were concerns around depleting Attribute Pools and that this could disincentivize players from taking risks.
As a result I've done the following:
  1. I'm thinking about easing up on the mood.
  2. I'm looking to reduce the instances of modifiers where possible
  3. I've moved from a d10 only to a d10 and d20
  4. I've changed the way attributes work. Instead of being a static value rolled once and never changing, now, characters generate attributes initially that would result in values < 10. Attributes can increase through the spending of experience points, just like any other skill. Health Points and Defence Ratings increase as Attributes increase (and of course, attribute points increase as well.)
  5. There will be potions, spells and rest that can regenerate the points from an Attribute Pool.
The follow on to this is that in the end you may have characters that end up with the maximum attribute values (although I've made it quite expensive for Attributes to increase. The cost is exponential.) I may have characters also roll for their maximum attribute scores when they generate a character, but we'll see. 

I'm interested in hearing from the other designers the feedback they've received for their games and the modifications they've made as they went.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Theory of Magic, Pt 3

Planes of Existence

A Plane is a large manifested reality. For the sake of instruction it is necessary to define two terms. The first, “Reality-Plane” refers to a Plane of existence with emphasis on the fact that it is a Reality. The second term, “Planar-Reality" refers to the environment created by a Reality-Plane. This environment includes physical laws and other foundations of existence.

It is helpful to think of a Reality-Plane as a container for a Planar-Reality. A Reality-Plane gives rise to a Planar-Reality by creating the physical laws and materials that make existence possible, such as: matter, energy, gravity, electro-magnetism, force, acceleration, mass, inertia, and so on. This means that a change in the Essence that affects the Reality-Plane will directly affect the Planar-Reality. The objects contained in a Planar-Reality are manifestations of the essence.

Planes classification

The difference between Planes depends upon their stability and their types of Planar-Realities. Many times Reality-Planes can intersect and give rise to other Reality-Planes with higher degrees of Strong Order. Some Planes can exist only as unions or intersections between different planes within a Nexus.

Physical plane

This is the kind of world and universe we know of as material. Physical planes are shaped and governed by the physical laws of the reality plane in which they reside. A Physical Plane has the greatest level of Order and stability but is a Reality that emerges only by an intersection of Ethereal and Spiritual Planes.

Ethereal plane

The Ethereal Plane arises from a combination of two or more Spiritual Planes with an increased amount of Mana and a higher order that emerges as a result. On the Ethereal Plane a type of Spiritual Matter emerges that envelops spiritual entities and Psyches, clothing them in Spiritual forms. It is here that the Soul manifests and can access Mana in preparation to being manifested in a corporeal form on a Physical Plane.

Spiritual plane

The Spiritual Plane is not manifested with materially as is the Physical and Ethereal Planes. Within the Spiritual Plane there is no true matter, only Psyche (the intelligent consciousness of an entity,) perceptions and emotions. It is in such a Plane that the identity, consciousness and personality of a Psyche can have a sensible manifestation. The lack of true matter means that an experience on a Spiritual Plane is shaped almost exclusively by the beliefs and perceptions of the consciousness’s of those residing on the Plane. Depending on the personality of each being, the Planar-Reality can be quite different. In fact, it is shaped dynamically by the intelligences that inhabit it.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Theory of Magic, Pt2

Reality Manifestation

When a Strong Order arises a Reality may be born. Realities are the most important manifestations because they are the vessels for all other higher order manifestations. Realities provide the structures and laws that allow the existence, growth and change of all other things. Without a reality there can be no existence as we know it.

A Reality is formed when multiple Streams of Essence converge and intersect at a point known as a Nexus. When a Reality is first formed it must attain stability. Nothing we know of can force a Nexus to become stable. It either remains or, in an instant, dissipates, descending back into chaos. Nexus are continually born and die, but every so often, one remains. Some survive for a day, some a year, some a millennium, other have persisted for eons or longer; eventually they will all perish.

Once a Reality becomes stable it is very difficult to effect permanent change in it without an equally permanent intervention in the Streams that give rise to the Reality. One way to think of a Reality is as an island of stability in an ocean of chaos.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Theory of Magic, pt1

Mana and the Essence

Magic is the substance of all things, of all life and of all manifestations. Magic, also called Mana or “the Essence,” (as in the essence of all creation) is the primal energy of the universe; the stuff from which the universe itself sprung. Many believe that Mana is a part of the original Creator or is itself the Creator. It is true that in our lands there have been a great number of god-like creatures and supernatural beings. In the heavens many say that there are a great number of Gods; but none of them created the Essence. The great truth as taught by the ancient arch mage KuKulcan is that Magic existed before all. This truth was the reason the ancient sorcerers rebelled against him. Devout to their gods they considered it a great heresy. Thankfully this heresy has freed us to pursue magic in its pure form, according to our own desires.

The apprentice may ask, “What does Mana look like?” The Essence itself cannot be seen, instead it can only be imagined by as an infinite sea with countless waves and ripples moving across its surface. All things are made from the Essence and it continues to move through all things.
The true nature of Mana or the Essence is a pure and infinite chaos of potentialities in an eternal state of flux. It surrounds us, permeates us, it is us. Two of the great mysteries are that from this chaos there arises order and that by magnifying this chaos greater order arises. As order is produced the Essence manifests itself by creating a reality or something within an existing reality.

The Essence can exist in an infinite number of states from pure chaos to strict order. Pure chaos is really an ocean of potentialities that always produces some small amounts of order. We call these the Weak Orders. The Weak Orders continually form and dissipate back into the seas of chaos in an instant; only when they become stronger, Strong Orders, do they remain as manifestations as realities or manifestations within the realities that we inhabit.

In between the pure Chaos and Weak Orders are phenomenon known as the Streams of Essence. These Streams are the currents in the Essence that move around and through us. They are organized, but not strongly enough to produce true order; hovering at the edge of manifestation. These streams of essence can create specific manifestations. Only the manifestations of the Essence can be observed because all of the observers are themselves manifestations. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Theory of Magic Revision

Moving on from revising the mechanics around Magic to the Theory of Magic. Is it too much to have delve into the details of how magic works and why?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Magic Rules Revision

Quick update... just about finished updating the rules for Magic. With Attribute Pools and the switch to d20 for Feat rolls it just got a whole lot simpler.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Attribute Pools

Recently I've started the move towards streamlining modifiers. The previous versions of Lycadican were very much reminiscent of AD&D 2nd Edition. Moving forward I'm incorporating more modern trends in gaming and one of the things I've done is to remove many modifiers by introducing Attribute Pools. With the attributes themselves I've merged a couple and dropped a couple. The remaining Attributes that do have modifiers are based on the value of the attribute itself and apply once, at character creation time. Modifiers that use to be based on attributes, such as a bonus to skill rolls for a high intelligence have been removed.

Each Attribute now has a pool (equal to the value of the Attribute.) Points in the pool can be used to reduce the difficulty of actions or to increase the chances of success by providing bonuses to rolls. This reflects effort being used to ensure success. I've also gotten rid of my version of 'Saving Throws' and made them attribute checks against the current value of the attribute pool. So if you've really exerted yourself that day, and you need a resistance roll versus poison it will be more challenging than if you had just taken it easy.

Here is an example. A character with a Constitution Attribute value of 9 would have 9 points in the Pool. If during play on one particular day that player used 3 points form the Constitution Pool to lower the difficulty level of a Feat (which would have had to be Constitution related) then his Constitution Pool is sitting at 6. Suppose this character unwittingly drinks some poison and needs to make a Constitution Check to avoid becoming paralyzed. Normally he would have had to roll under a 9, but now he has to roll under at 6.

In addition, I'm considering requiring abilities and powers to have a cost in Attribute Points. The only challenge here is that because I have no level system (beyond individual skills, abilities and powers) if I do this there may need to be some mechanism to increase the maximum value of an Attribute Pool as characters become more powerful.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Narrating Magic

I like magic, almost any time I've played an RPG I've been some kind of magic user. It's unsurprising then that Lycadican has a very rich magic system. In fact, there is an entire philosophical framework behind how magic works, but the Cole's Notes version is basically that there is an energy field that permeates all things and represents all potentialities simultaneously (like a quantum particle.) Specifically this is all of the potentialities of things which already exist within the current environment. Something that is completely from out of left field or doesn't exist at all, while a possibility, would be be extremely unlikely to manifest and therefore much more difficult to accomplish. In my mind I see the mage reaching into a flow of those potentialities and using his skill and talent to select the version of reality that is most likely and closest to what he wants and increase its potential until it manifests.

Well, last night that got me thinking. If magic represents this slight warping of the potential possibilities of this reality how would it actually manifest? How would you are a GM/DM/RM describe spell effects to the players?

For one, the spell effects should almost never originate with the caster. They should originate in the environment around the caster. So, if we take for example the very venerable 'lightning bold' spell, instead of this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and make the arcane gestures; Bolts of lightning emanate from your hands and fly towards the gibbering goblins electrocuting them and singing their green skin"

you'd have this scene:

"You mutter the incantation and your mind pierces through the fabric of reality calling forth the energies of nature. You feel united with all things and pour your energies in calling down the energies you feel gathering in the storm clouds above you. When you open your eyes your notice your hair standing on end, you can feel the air charging with ever greater amounts of static electricity. Then you loose your focus on the charging goblins and bolts of lightning burst as if rent from the air itself to electrocute them, leaving their green skin singed and smoking."

It's not that the lightning couldn't originate from the Wizards hands, but that's far less likely and as a result would be far more difficult to accomplish, requiring a much more powerful character.

How'd that work for a fireball? Well, instead of a ball of fire that emanates from the caster and flies towards his enemies you could instead have a nearby tree spontaneously combust, bursting and hurling fire and shards of wood at the enemy with great force. Or, perhaps as in the previous example the tree was hit with lightning, igniting in flames with explosive force and injuring the enemy.

What if there isn't a tree nearby you ask? Well, then you move to something that is less probably, spontaneous combustion, or a small meteor fragment, or perhaps the sword or arrow of a fellow adventurer bursts into flame somewhat explosively as it hits your target. Perhaps the sword or the arrow are redirected to your target instead of its originally intended target...

There are a lot of possibilities for a creative referee, and it goes well with the current magic system which, as it happens, contains no pre-generated or pre-defined spells. Only a framework to quickly create magical effects during play.

Sunday, 15 March 2015


Just dropping in with a quick note. An RPG group in Australia is currently play testing Lycadican and has made a number of suggestions. As a result, I'm busy with cleanups, clarifications, simplifications and some reorganizing.

Thanks Solo, Adam and the rest of the itinerant adventurers of  'Da good game night ya!' Have fun with the Asura ;)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Arakasha Society, Culture and Ritual, pt1

Society, Culture and Ritual

“Abaskara, know that all of you are one body.  You are one body among yourselves and you are one body with the clan.  Does it surprise you to know that you are one body with all Arakasha?  Why then do the Clans contest with one another?  To make the body stronger, weakness must be cast off and discarded.  This is the way of the Velo, the lore that shapes.”
The Black Velo Codex

Strangely the Arakashas are the only people in Khardan who are asexual; they are neither male nor female. Every Arakasha carries within itself the capability to propagate its kind.  According to tradition, when an Arakasha decides it is time, it chooses a future mentor and care-giver called a Sar. During the birth cycle it is the sar’s duty to defend and aid the gestating Arakasha or bateh (the Arakasha word for parent). When a sar is chosen and accepts this future responsibility the bateh will commence to gestate young in its belly for a period of eleven months. When the child is ready to be born, the Arakasha will be gripped with racking pain within its swollen abdomen. The sar then initiates the ritual known as Sarakis. During sarakis the sar slices open the bateh’s midsection lengthwise with its own styts, freeing the newborn. In the last stage of the ceremony the sar then opens one of his own veins and the child’s first meal is blood. This blood confers upon the child some of the characteristics of the sar. For a few months the child's only sustenance is the blood of the sar and other clan members. This nourishment helps the child grow and take on additional characteristics that differentiate it from its bateh. Once it matures it may consume meats and vegetables.

The position of Sar does not end with sarakis. A sar will also act as a lifelong mentor and teacher once the child approaches maturity. The tradition of choosing a sar is sacred and comes from the teachings of Velo. On occasion this tradition has been broken when an Arakasha is an outcast or circumstances dictate otherwise. Whatever the reasons the breaking of this tradition brings permanent dishonor on both parent and child. In some instances the child is killed, if not it will die shortly after from a lack of blood. No clan member will be the first to feed a new born unless they have been named Sar, it is taboo. Interestingly Arakasha prophecies and legends predict a great hero who will be born without a sar and grow to adulthood with a complete knowledge of the Velo without ever partaking of the blood of another Arakasha. He will live by fate alone as the returning Sar a’Naskara and lead their nation to dominion over Khardan.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 7

Last time we created some Cloud layers with random noise and patterns. This time we will use these patterns to create texture and terrain features. As with the previous post, we are just going to mostly duplicate the steps in Arsheeh's Eriond Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur that was found at the cartographers guild. (Credits for this goes to him.) Note that as we progress, it's a good idea to make backup copies of layers before you change them. This way you have something to go back to if you make a mistake.

Isolating the Land

The next step is to mask out the Land Clouds with our Land Mask channel. This will restrict the clouds layer to only the areas of your map which are land. The rest of the areas will become transparent. Create a new black layer (set the fill type to Foreground Color and make sure your foreground color is set to Black) named “Land” and move it to just below the Land Clouds layer. This Land layer is really just a flat black background under your Land. Next, un-hide the Land Clouds layer and then right click on it to add your Land Mask.

Layer > New Layer > Black (Name “Land”)
Layer (Land) > Lower Layer (to just below “Land Clouds” layer)
Layer (Land Clouds)> Unhide
Right Click on Land Clouds layer > Add Layer Mask > Channel (Land Mask)
Land Clouds Layer

Now your land should be isolated. However, the Land Clouds patters have far too much contrast. Let’s go ahead and change that but before we do, make a backup copy of your layer by duplicating it and then hiding the duplicate. Make sure that the Land Clouds layer is active by clicking on it (and not the layer mask to the right of it,) then go to Colors and select Brightness-Contrast. Set the Contrast to -25. If you find that your map is too dark, you can adjust the brightness slightly as well (maybe to +10.)

Colors > Brightness-Contrast > Contrast -25

The result should look like the map at the right "Land Clouds Layer."

Monday, 23 February 2015

Redesigning the Setting: Drawing the Satellite View Map, 6

Creating the Land Height Map 

Creating the height map is probably the most important step for creating the map. This is what will give depth and height to your map and make the different geographical features identifiable. We are going to ultimately create 2 height maps, one for the land and one for the sea. This post concentrates on the Sea. By and large we are just going to duplicate the steps in Arsheeh's Eriond Tutorial for GIMP and Wilbur that was found at the cartographers guild. (Credits for this goes to him.)

Generating Clouds & Random Shapes

Create a new white layer above your outline and name it “Clouds 1”.
Layers > New Layer > White (Name "Clouds 1")

On that layer render a set of Difference Clouds. Set the Detail to 15 and (assuming a 3400x1700px size) the X and Y Size to 16.
Filter > Render > Clouds > Difference Clouds > Detail 15 ; Size 16
Create a new layer above Clouds 1 and repeat this step, only this time use a different seed for the Clouds. Name the new layer “Clouds 2”. Set the layer mode of Clouds 2 to Difference.
Layer > New Layer > White (Name Clouds 2) > Layer Mode (Difference)
Filter > Render > Clouds > Difference Clouds > Detail 15 ; Size 16

Right Click on Clouds 2 layer and select New From Visible and name the new layer "Difference 1"
Right Click on Clouds 2 > New From Visible (Name Difference 1)

Repeat this process. Create a “Clouds 3” and a “Clouds 4” layer (above the Difference Clouds 1 layer). Set the opacity of Clouds 4 to Difference and then create a New from Visible layer named “Difference Clouds 2”.
Repeat the preceding steps to make Difference 2

Next move the Difference 1 layer up in the dialogue to just below Difference 2.
Layer (Difference 1) > Raise layer (to just below Difference 2)

Land Clouds

Now set the layer opacity of the Difference 2 layer to Difference and then create a New from Visible layer right above it named “Land Clouds”. As the name implies, this layer will serve as the base clouds layer for our map. The picture captioned 'Land Clouds' should give you an example of what this looks like so far.

Layer (Difference 2) > Layer Mode (Difference)

Layer (Difference 2) > New from visible (Name Land Clouds)

Next we are going to generate cloud patterns to be used for mountains. To do so, follow the instructions given below. This should give you a set of clouds similar to that of the picture captioned 'Mountain Clouds'
Mountain Clouds
Layer (Land Clouds) > Hide Layer

Layer (Difference Clouds 2) > Layer Mode (Addition)

Right Click on Difference Clouds 2 > New From Visible (Name Mt. Clouds)

Colors > Invert. Set Layer opacity to 90%

Now that we have our cloud patterns we will isolate the Land Clouds with the map outline channel; but we'll deal with that in a future post.

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Arakasha, Part 3


Modern Arakasha keep no written records but they do have some ancient written lore from a time when Arakasha civilization was at its peak. These writings can only be read by sacred lore keepers, the Manikix, appointed keepers of the Velo. The records are called Nabask and they speak of the Velo. According to legend, Velo was brought to them by one known only as “Sar a’Naskara,” the one who had no Sar (guardian or protector.) Being that no Arakasha could survive without a Sar he is something of a mythical figure. The Nabask details that Sar a’Naskara gave the Arakasha their way of life. He built their civilization and introduced reading, writing, mathematics, magic and other mystical practices. Some of these practices were rejected, some were learned but soon forgotten. Sar a’Naskara became disillusioned and realizing what the Arakasha were becoming he withheld the fullness of Velo from them until they will be ready to receive it. He then disappeared but is today revered as a messianic figure. Nabask is full of his teachings and the statutes that Arakashas base their lives upon. Manikix believe that the people in their present state cannot receive the fullness of Velo, but when Sar a’Naskara returns to fulfill the Velo they will be restored to their former glory.

Velo is the term used to describe and encompass every aspect of Arakashan life. All are parts and segments of the greater Velo. Loosely translated Velo can be thought of as meaning “The Way.” It can mean The Way of Combat (Wazkinasha) which includes all form of combat, particularly ritual Styt combat; The way of Blood Sharing (Chykaar) which also includes all rituals sacred to the Arakasha and The Way of Relations (Sarakarzu) which includes all social and political relationships

The Arakasha culture is structured and based heavily upon battle and blood. The field of combat, whether for personal or familial obligations is where the destiny of the Arakasha is ultimatelydecided. Within a clan there is a strict hierarchical ranking based upon battle prowess and adherence to the etiquette of Velo. To violate the way is considered an ultimate disgrace and often merits death without honor.

Arakasha religion, also called Velo, centers largely upon the worship of ancient heroes as war gods and awaiting the return of Sar a’Naskara. Their worship includes recalling and reenactment of their hero’s victories and deaths. Most Arakasha clans claim lineage from one or more war heroes.
The Velo also sets the philosophical framework for the Arakasha world. The Arakasha understand that they reside in a cruel and unforgiving climate. They call this aspect of their lives the Trial, and it is only by passing through the Trial can an Arakasha attain glory and be reunited with his ancestors. To pass through the trial successfully Arakasha must practice the Velo.

Ultimately Velo encompasses their entire existence and contains ancient lore that an Arakasha learns in stages as it moves through the hierarchy of the Clan. The first lore is that of the Dunes. Young Arakasha's learn about the Dunes and how to survive in its harsh environment. The second lore is that of the Styt, Wazkinasha, or combat, and etiquette of honor.  The third lore is the lore of their people, their past and their origins.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Arakasha, part 2

The Dek Var

The Dek Var

Dek Var Sand Storm
The black sand of the Dek Var takes a variety of shapes. Unlike other deserts where rolling hills of sand crest and fall the mounds of the Dek Var vary greatly. Some are huge aberrant monstrosities, angular where they should be smooth or coiled like a snake; some no more than small mounds. The erratic weather has made many in unfamiliar shapes and the blistering sun has fused many together into hardened mountains with razor sharp crests.

Tall, lonely shards of glistening obsidian grasp up for the heavens erratically among the lows and valleys between the sands. The Arak's call them 
Kunonistok, scarring them to sharpen their Styts and leaving them appearing like twisted devils.   

To the east and to the west are the open seas, to the north the foot hills of the northern mountains. Within it's canyons are strewn the skeletal remains of cities from a forgotten age. One populous, these desert mountains are home only to numerous wild beasts. The climate there is cooler as the altitude increases, but it is still relatively hot and dry. Small lakes can be found at the highest altitudes where glaciers once sat eons ago. Just beyond the northern reaches of the Dek Var, as if to mock the Arak's is the Kom; a vast lake. While inaccessible to the Arak's its tributaries flow through the Dek Var supplying water to hidden canyons and underground rivers guarded jealously by many Arak tribes. 
The few oases’ found throughout the desert are fought over by nomadic tribes. 

To the south of the Dek Var lies the vast expanse of the Jah-Re-Bah desert. Jah-Re-Bah is inhabited by nomads and traders who occasionally attempt to cross the Dek Var seeking trade in other lands. They rarely survive and so most are forced to trade by sea.


Vegetation is rare in the Dek Var but there are some hostile desert plants used for food and folk medicine. Seasonal rainstorms bring the Dek Var to life as if in an instant. Plants and flowers spring up from desolate landscapes and the Dek Var is transformed into a place of alien beauty. 

Despite its appearance, some animal life thrives here. Fierce creatures and reptilian beasts inhabit this vast and perilous desert, particularly in the northern and coastal areas, but the creatures that are most valuable are the Moroskaa; called the Black Camel by the Jah-Re-Bahn's.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Introduction to the Arak's

The Arakasha, by Ricardo Bare
May the trial of the Dunes sharpen you
May the Way of Velo guide you
May the entrails of your enemies adorn your styts

          Arakasha Benediction

Greylynn's Bane, Abberant, Unholy, Scourge of Navaaris are all terms used to describe the Arakasha. Their homeland is known to them as the Dek Var, but outsiders call it the Black Sea or the Blight; a blistering hot desert of biting sands as vicious and black as the Arak's souls. This is an infernal land, with a severe climate and treacherous landscape that rejects anything weak, fragile or benign. Even the most innocent looking plant or animal is equipped with some deadly mechanism to ensure its survival; the Arak's fit right in.

Legend has it that ancient Sol’ Väsen Kings imprisoned them in this land, bathed it in the heat of the sun and placed sentinels round about it to keep imprisoned. It was the folly of men that released the Arakasha's from their prison and armed them with knowledge, cunning and magic; weapons that they turned on their captors. Almost to their utter ruin. 

Whether the legends are true, no one knows, but many point to the decaying statues that are found on the desert borders as proof. 

Arakasha's are Mör’ Väsen Barbarians, standing an imposing seven feet tall when fully grown. The black sands of their homeland grow so hot that the bare flesh of a human would begin to cook but the hide of the Arakasha is highly resistant to the extremes of heat. Their dense skin, which shields them against the sweltering sun is naturally black but vicious sandstorms tear away at all of the unprotected areas of their skin exposing a dark crimson layer. 

The abberant appearance of the Arakasha is due to their adaptation to sharp sands, strong winds and furious storms which are so common in the Dek Var; their eyes have two lids, their noses are broad and flat with nostrils on the underside and they have membranes which cover the inner recesses of their ears. For balance while running into the wind they have short heavy tails and their feed are broad and flat.

Long ago, before the domestication of the Moroskaa, the most reliable and still fastest method of travelling the black sands was to run them, and Arakashas are capable of amazing feats as runners. They can travel long distances through the desert quickly with little food or water, which they can go without for long periods of time. 

Perhaps their most recognizable feature, and a locus of their culture, are their "Styts." Within a year of being born all Arak's begin to grow an excess of dense ivory protrusions from the sides of their forearms and elbows, penetrating through the skin in large lumps and knobs. This growth can become quite heavy and irregular, however, the Arakasha shave the ivory into keen spikes, ridges, and blades by using different grades of obsidian rocks and sand. These Styts are incredibly hard and their honed edges make dreadful side arms which the Arakasha employ with lethal skill. 

To be continued.....