Tag Archives: Athron

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Announcement: Upcoming Blog Tour for The Children of Lubrochius

Goddess Fish Promotions is organizing a Virtual Book Tour for The Children of Lubrochius by Matthew D. Ryan (me), a Fantasy book available now. The tour will run June 9 – 27, 2014. The tour will consist of guest posts, promotional blurbs, interviews, and perhaps the occasional review. Throughout the tour, The Children of Lubrochiuswill be available for 50% off at Smashwords for those who use the appropriate coupon. I will be awarding a $20 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a $10 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn host.

The list of tour sites is currently under development. We will keep you informed as we get more information. Remember to check out Goddess Fish Promotions; it wouldn’t have been possible without them!

June 9: Andi’s Book Reviews
June 10: Rogue’s Angels
June 11: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
June 12: Books and Other Spells
June 13: 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, and Sissy, Too!
June 16: MAD Hoydenish
June 17: Our Wolves Den
June 18: Lockdown – A Bunch of Brilliant Projects
June 19:
June 20:
June 23: Angels with Attitude Book Reviews
June 24:
June 25:
June 26: Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
June 27: Mismatched Bookends

World-Building Athron: Spellcraft Skills

The spell system developed for my gaming system for the world of Athron is unique and complex. Early generations of system, in fact, proved to be too complex and the system had to be simplified. The final result is a list of skills accessible by any character: Magical lore, Any Spellcraft, Any Rune Lore, Any Alchemy, Energy, Scroll Lore, Command Item, Item Lore, Minor Magical Lore, Minor Spellcraft. These skills provide the backbone of the magic system as player characters understand it. As far as casting spells are concerned, the most important skills are Spellcraft, Rune Lore, Alchemy, and Energy. These are not singular skills, however; there are different spellcraft disciplines, and rune lore disciplines. For example, one discipline is fire. So, wizardly characters have the option of purchasing any of the following skills: flamecraft, fire rune lore, and fire alchemy. Originally, the energy used to activate these skills was divided by discipline as well. That is, there were separate skills like fire energy, and water energy. Unfortunately, this proved to be too complicated for the purposes of a game and involved far too much note-keeping. So it was simplified to a single energy skill. That cleared up a lot of note-keeping problems and headaches.

 

I used to have a list of spell disciplines or types somewhere. I probably still do, but I’m just too lazy to find it. Anyway, going from memory: there were the four basic elemental disciplines (fire, earth, water, and air) and a random assortment of others (wood, blood, flesh, bone, soul (conjuration), seer (divination), hell (demonology), death (necromancy)). In the gaming system, I was able to develop the elemental disciplines for the game. I have separate lists of spells, potions, and runes for each of those four spell disciplines. The other eight, however, were never fully developed. I can use the elemental disciplines as a template for the others in the future and get a general sense of what each spell discipline is like, but I don’t have hard-fast details. Fortunately, I don’t need quite so many details for work in a novel that I do in a game. My needs can be satisfied with a few quick notes. So, the spell system in my novels has an open-ended twelve disciplines or so, while the gaming system has a mere four. For the gaming system, the idea was always to expand it some at a later date.

 

Next week we will begin examining the fire discipline.

World-building Athron: The Magic System: Some Basics

In the gaming system I used in Athron while world-building, I spent a considerable amount of time on the magic system. The nuts and bolts are formed by the spellcraft, rune lore, and alchemy skills augmented with the energy skills. But there is more. Not much more, but a few additional skills I feel are worth mentioning. Specifically, scholars in my system have access to a Scroll Lore skill, Command Item skill, and Item Lore skill.

 

Scroll Lore allows wizards to create their own scrolls. Basically, the wizard inscribes a spell from a specific spellcraft on a piece of parchment or vellum or what-have-you. Thereafter, the wizard may use the scroll in lieu of casting an actual spell. The advantage comes in the form of an energy savings. A scroll only requires the expenditure of as few as one energy point when it is used. Casting a spell with spellcraft requires far many more. The initial construction of the scroll, of course, requires the same amount of energy as casting the spell, but then the wizard may rest as many days as he likes and restore his energy levels. Such will give him more access to more spells when in the depths of a dungeon with a bevy of scrolls at hand.

 

Command Item is a skill that allows a wizard (or anyone else with the skill) to summon up and control the magical abilities of an enchanted item. If your sword bursts into flames upon command, it requires an effort of will to activate that function. There is not a guaranteed success to such an activity. No, it is based on a character’s or creature’s Command Item skill or its equivalent. Increasing the skill increases the chance of success.

 

Item Lore is a skill that allows a wizard (or anyone else with such a skill) to study a magic item that he or she has found over the course of adventuring or in the course of a novel. It requires a certain period of time to examine and study the item in question. If the character does this successfully, he or she will unlock the mysteries of the item and learn all its special abilities and powers.

 

The final skill in the system is a skill called Magical Lore. This does not translate well into a novel; it is more specifically a gaming skill. Basically, it increases the modifiers bestowed on other skills. For example, a high Magical Lore skill will increase the effectiveness of a character’s Rune Lore or Scroll Lore or what-have-you.

 

Lastly, the system allows for minor access to the spellcrafts through two additional minor skills. With these skills, the character can gain limited spell abilities. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for a warrior character to gain access to a limited form of flamecraft, or some other spellcraft. Theoretically, a warrior could have normal access to flamecraft, but it is prohibitively expensive in terms of experience and skill slots, so it is almost unheard of. These minor skills are a little easier for non-scholar classes to use than full-fledged full access major skills.

World-building Athron: The Magic System: Some Basics

The magic system of Athron, developed when world-building Athron, is based on the gaming system I was working on for a time. As a result, it is a rich system that perhaps is too complicated for world-building a novel. So be it. I will still present what I can here.

 

First, like many gaming systems, there are two different types of magic: scholarly (as in wizards and mages, etc….) and priestly (as in priests and clerics). Technically, I suppose the priest system isn’t magical; it is more prayer-based, but in terms of game mechanics they are quite similar. Anyway, I will start with the scholarly magic.

 

There are three major skills that scholars can enhance that relate directly to magic use: crafts, rune lore, and alchemy. Crafts refer to spells that are incantations consisting of a series of hand gestures and spoken words that harness magical energy. Rune lore is the study of runes: arcane symbols that are inscribed upon inanimate objects that provide magical enhancements. Alchemy is the study of potions and their making: a wizard with this skill can combine a variety of ingredients to fabricate different types of potions each with a different type of effect. Each of these major skills (crafts, rune lore, and alchemy) exists as a subset of a spell type like fire, earth, water, or wind. That is, there are flamecraft spells, fire runes, and fire-based alchemy. Similarly so for earth and the others. All three of these skills are fueled by energy. If a wizard casts a flamecraft spell, he uses so much energy. If he makes a fire-based potion or inscribes a fire rune, he uses so much energy. A wizard can increase his skill in energy to increase his potential power. A powerful wizard will have great amounts of spell energy at his disposal allowing him to produce incredible works of magic from his pick of magical skills.

 

Each of the spell skills bestows certain benefits as the skill in question increases. For example, increasing skill in a spellcraft will permit the spell-caster to learn new spells. Increasing skill in rune lore will similarly allow the spell-caster to learn new runes. And again for alchemy. Likewise, failure rates—something which rarely comes up in a novel, but may prove more important in an RPG—are decreased as the skill level increases. Going from this it is clear that a well-rounded wizard will have a formidable array of abilities to bring to bear against a problem; perhaps she has a spell to resolve an issue, or a rune she can inscribe, or maybe a potion to imbibe. Her options are many, and that makes a wizard a potent force in both the novel and the game.

World-building Athron: The Physical World: The Moons

One of the entertaining aspects of world-building is developing the physical characteristics of the setting. Usually this involves drawing a map—which is fun in its own right—and deciding about what kind of “natural wonders” might be needed in your world. For instance, in Athron there is a series of chasms on one part of the map that are inhabited by certain nasties. It is a vast, extensive network of chasms that warrant special attention. They stick out (although I have not mentioned them yet in my books—it hasn’t come up yet). Similar wonders can be found in other books like Piers Anthony’s Xanth series which had the Gap Chasm, among other things. Or the multiple moons of Krynn and, if I recall correctly, Pern.

 

In my world, I, too, have multiple moons. Two, in fact: Silgaren and Neerie. Silgaren is the larger of the two. It is white, or silver, depending upon how the light strikes it, and it is fairly similar to our own moon here on Earth both in size and general features. Neerie, though, is another story. It is a smaller moon, about half the size of the other, and is a brilliant golden in color. It also has, what appears to be, a cracked surface, not unlike the aforementioned chasms above, but larger and more extensive across a clearly visible section of its surface. It is a great topic of debate on Athron for two reasons: 1) the cracks on Neerie’s surface are an enigma. No one can figure out where they came from or what they mean. And since space travel is not in the near future, the cracks are destined to remain an enigma. 2) The color of the moon is the color of gold. Many a sage has speculated that that means the entire moon is composed of gold. In some records it is referred to as “Neerie: The Torment of the Gods.” It is believed that the gods placed a golden moon above the mortal world to torment the greedy with their thoughts of avarice in the night.

 

A final thought regarding moons. For a while, I was a bit confused by the phases of the moon. But I think I’ve got it figured out now. For a while, I was thinking that the phases of the moon might be dependent upon the size of the moon and its distance from its respective planet. But that’s not the case; it’s just dependent upon the angle between the locations of the moon, the sun, and the planet. If the angle is zero, the moon will be either full, new, or eclipsed (I think). The important thing to remember is that all moons, unless self-luminous, will follow the same phases as ours. New. Waxing. Full. Waning. New. Etc… I had to think about that (I haven’t studied astronomy in quite some time). Unless, of course, you throw in another star. In that case, I have no clue.

 

Also, the periods of the moons need not be the same. In fact, it’s probably better that they not be. I’m not sure (like I said, my astronomy is very rusty) but an identical period might (and I mean might) imply an identical orbital distance. In other words, an inevitable collision. Of course, in a world where magic is involved, that can be fixed.

World-building Athron: Timekeeping: Hours of the Day

Again, continuing the theme of time-keeping in world-building for a fantasy world, I will now turn to the hours that make up a single day. For the record, in the world of Athron I keep this aspect completely parallel to our own system. Basically, every day in Athron consists of twenty-four hours numbered in two sequences from one to twelve. There is a corresponding midnight, and a corresponding noon. So, it’s basically pretty easy to keep track of.

 

Again, since I am using the system we use in our own world, I probably should have some kind of justification for it. Unfortunately, I don’t, other than happenstance and I admit that that is a weakness in my world-building scenario. Basically, Athron is a world of roughly the same size as Earth, spinning at pretty much the same rate as Earth, and revolving around its sun at only a slightly speedier rate. In a way, the clock-system is dependent upon a natural feature: the rate of spin of the planet. However, just because the day is the same length of time, that doesn’t mean the inhabitants of this alternate world would divide the day into units of time equal to our own. Keeping with the simplicity-in-math model, it would probably make more sense to divide the Athronian day into either two ten unit periods, or even just one ten unit period. Indeed, with the precedent set by the structure of the calendar, we would probably expect the people of Athron to do precisely that. Dealing with intervals of ten units is much easier than dealing with intervals of twelve. The unfortunate reality, though, is that it would cause headaches for the reader. If we use a ten-unit system and it is now one o’clock in Athron, then we can ask: What is the equivalent time on Earth? Answer: one-twelve. It’s not too complicated in terms of math, but one shouldn’t make demands of readers involving ratio mathematics (at least, I don’t think so). Keep it as simple as possible, especially when you are juggling large numbers of things (and twenty four separate hours is a large number). So, as a result of such concerns I’m keeping Athron on a twenty-four hour per day system. Again, this isn’t something mandatory in world-building (if there is such a thing), but it is worth reflecting on and making a well-reasoned choice.

 

Oh, there is one other possibility you can use. You can “assume” the novel you are writing is a “translation” from a corresponding novel on the alternate world. In such a case, there is no need to concern yourself with distinct hours of the day, or even days of the week or months. This is because you have conveniently translated the alien time labels to our Earthly ones for easier comprehension. But, to that I say, what is the fun in that?

World-building Athron: Timekeeping: Weeks

 

Continuing on the theme of time management in world-building a fantasy world, I’ll turn now to the week. In our world (in the West), we have fifty-two weeks in a year, each lasting seven days but it strains the laws of credibility to use a corresponding seven day week consisting of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for your fantasy world. Don’t get me wrong, you can do it, nothing is preventing you, but it will be a little weird if you do, unless you come up with some plausible explanation as to why it is so. As far as my world of Athron is concerned, I use a six day week, and again I use mnemonic devices:

 

 

 

Days of the Week

 

Monday – Muenday

 

Tuesday – Tuenday

 

Wednesday – Werensday

 

Thursday – Threnday

 

Friday – Forday

 

Saturday – Satrisday

 

 

 

The observant reader will notice two things. First, I’m only using six days in my weeks. I dropped Sunday, or its equivalent. Second, since, I’m only dealing with six items, I can limit the mnemonic device to the first letter or two. This is a little riskier than how I dealt with months because there isn’t a perfect correspondence between our real world weeks and Athron’s. Individuals might get confused reading my novels believing that time does not “add up” properly if they are not aware of the six-day vs. seven-day distinction. However, there are some interesting consequences. Since there are six days in every week and thirty days in every month, there are exactly five weeks in every month. No more, no less, and no remainder. Similarly, since there are three hundred and sixty days in every year, there are exactly sixty weeks in every year. No more, no less, and no remainder. As a result of this, the days of the week do not cycle through each month or each year as they do in our world. If Muenday is the 1st of Januillon (which it is), it is also the 1st of Febrillon, the 1st of Marill, etc…. In other words, every month begins on a Muenday. Similarly, the same can be said for every year. The 1st of Januillon or any other month is a Muenday every year. Likewise, the 3rd of any month in any year is a Werensday. Perhaps this seems too convenient or contrived, but realize the calendar is a human contrivance. All that is required is that the length of the year be of a particular easily divided number, something which happenstance can provide. In this case, the year consists of three hundred and sixty days. And so, the calendar is simply the civilization’s response to that easily divided number.

 

World-building Athron: Timekeeping: Months

There’s a lot of stuff that comes into play in world building that can be changed or tweaked that one tends to take for granted as far as our own world is concerned. One of the most prominent of these is time and how it is measured. I remember many years ago, the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo, Aragorn, and the other hobbits are at Weathertop, they find a rock with markings on it that indicate that Gandalf was there on October 3rd (if I recall correctly). That always struck me as being really out of place. There are advantages to using our own month system in your fantasy world—it makes following time and place quite easy—but it lacks that mystical, magical zing we expect from our fantasy novels. The same can be said for weeks, hours of the day, or what have you. My favorite method for dealing with this issue is that devised by (I believe) Tad Williams in his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Basically, he uses a system of mnemonics. You use a system of parallel months to our own, all of which share the first three letters of their names with the corresponding months in our calendar or something similar. So, November becomes Novander, December becomes Decander, etc… I use a similar system in the world of Athron. Here is the list of twelve months and their corresponding names in our world:

Months of the Year
January – Januillon
February – Febrillon
March – Marill
April – Aprillon
May – Maistra
June – Junyer
July – Julyar
August – Augrillon
September – Septendra
October – Octanya
November – Novenya
December – Decendra

It’s not a perfect match, though. There are some subtle differences. In Athron, every month is thirty days long. This gives you a 360 day year which is close but not equal to our 365 ¼. I figure it is close enough to give the reader an intuitive grasp of the time of year an event happens in, yet different enough to make it feel alien. As a consequence, readers should be able to easily grasp the time of year a referenced event occurs in. Augrillon 12th? Okay, that’s roughly equivalent to August 12th. That means its late summer in the northern hemisphere, winter in the south, etc… This is, of course, assuming I’m using the same seasons as ours (which I do: summer, autumn, winter, and spring). Some authors devise their own seasons (the one that comes to mind is Brandon Sanderson in his Stormlight Archive series). If you take that route, that introduces a whole new host of issues. You won’t need mnemonics for your months, because they won’t ‘map’ to appropriate times of year anyway. In fact, you might find yourself doing away with months entirely. Regardless, the reader will have a difficult time following your new seasons unless you take appropriate measures to deal with them. Naming the seasons after something indicative of their nature (i.e. using another form of mnemonics like in Sanderson’s case, he named a rainy season ‘The Weeping’) is one avenue you can take.

Restructuring My Blog

Those of you who follow me regularly may have noticed that I haven’t been posting at my regular rate lately. Normally, I post twice a week, once on Monday and once on Thursday. However, for the past month or so, I’ve only posted on Mondays and let Thursday go to the wayside. This was largely because of burnout. I just couldn’t muster the strength to post as much as I should have these last few weeks. But fear not! I am returning to the Monday and Thursday schedule. However, I’m restructuring the general schedule of the blog.

 

Previously, I was publishing whatever I felt like at whatever time I felt like. Now, I’m going to give the blog a bit more structure. A Toast to Dragons is a fantasy blog dedicated to primarily fantasy literature. With that in mind, I will post reviews, be they of books, movies, or short stories, on Mondays of every week. For Thursdays, I’m going to do a little experiment. As a fantasy writer and RPG gamer—player and GM—I’m interested in world building. Over the past few years, I have developed a gaming system and a gaming world to go with it. This is also the world where most of my stories are set. So, for the foreseeable future, I’m going to begin uploading details and specifications of the world I have developed and am developing. It will be intended to be used as an instructive example for the art of world-building. In the drop-down menu above, I’m going to collect every blog I write on the topic in a single page (or group of pages) of links for easy access.

 

The world in question is, of course, the world of Athron, home to the city of Drisdak and the vampire Lucian val Drasmyr. In terms of flora and fauna it is a world much like our own. However, there are a plethora of profound differences, not least of which is the presence of magic and formidable monsters of myth and legend. So, enter this world at your own risk with sword at your side and shield at hand. And prepare to be tested! Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

 

For the record, all material on this blog is copyrighted. I don’t mind if you use it for entertainment purposes. That is, if you want to run a D&D campaign in Athron, I won’t be offended; just don’t slap a price tag on it and start selling it as your own work. In other words, commercial use of the material on this blog by third parties is strictly prohibited.

Insights into Athron: The Magic System (part III)

Continuing the theme of the magic system in Athron, I’d like to discuss some of the more miscellaneous spellcrafts. Specifically, I’d like to look at soulcraft, seercraft, deathcraft, and hellcraft as these, with the original four elemental spellcrafts, make up the most common spells used throughout Athron (well, woodcraft is pretty common, too, but I’m going to limit myself to just four spellcrafts today).

 

Soulcraft is primarily the art of conjuring, be it spirits or other otherworldly beings. To a certain extent it crosses over with other spellcrafts. For example, a master at spellcraft might be able to summon a demon (like in hellcraft) or a being of elemental fire (like in flamecraft) or a variety of other such entities. Its uses, except in rare cases (like when dealing with demons) are usually benign. Seercraft is another name for divination magic which, simply put, is: getting information. This can be done by casting stones, scrying through a bowl of water, or what-have-you. Like soulcraft, there is a bit of crossover with the elemental magics. Each elemental form of magic has its own limited form of augury that can be used in a pinch, but to get a thorough reading of some sort requires seercraft. Deathcraft is another name for necromancy. The field originally started as a derivative form of both soulcraft and seercraft. The first necromancers simply wanted to explore the art of obtaining information from the dead. But it soon evolved into a darker thing. Reanimating dead became the central goal of study, and from there all manner of undead were born: skeletons, ghosts, and vampires—you name it; they can all trace their origins back to deathcraft. Hellcraft is another name for demonology. It started as a derivative of soulcraft and flamecraft. The original practitioners had a bent towards evil, so, the focus was on demons and how best to harness their power. But demons are not long to be controlled; what was meant to ensnare the powers of Hell, soon came to ensnare those who sought to use it. Evil has a way of twisting back to harm its practitioner, and hellcraft is no exception. There are actually three different aspects to hellcraft for those who are foolish enough to study it: demonic conjuration, working with elemental fire, and a potpourri of other special effects including minor illusions and similar such things.

 

Well, that’s all I have to say about the magic system of Athron—at least, for now.