Character Spotlight: Bence Mezzohue

Character Spotlight: Bence Mezzohue

Bence (Single)
Artwork courtesy of Ashante Johnson (@earthsong9405)

Name: Bence Mezzohue                                                         Nickname: None
Age:  17                                                                                      Country of Origin: Astranar
Birthday: May 28                                                                      Pet: None

A mysterious boy that you meet in your first week of camp, Bence seems like a pleasant guy with a ready smile who is serious about horses, photography, and not much else. He doesn’t seem to get along too well with the district mentor, but that could just be a clash of personality, since not all of them are easy to be cozy with.  To you, he always seems like a gentleman interested in helping you make the best of your time at Astranar, exploring and finding a sense of freedom and competition.

Effortlessly charming and congenial, Bence is a bit of a flirt, but he treats his friends seriously. Most of his friends are members of the same riding club, but he appears to have a few elsewhere, some from his school, since he attends AEFPS. (Whether or not this includes his cousin Benny, well, that involves finding Benny wherever he is holed up in the mountains to confirm.) He visits people frequently, taking pictures that he develops himself. Bence is also a bit of an explorer, found in some of the wildest parts of Astranar, though what he’s seeking is a bit of a mystery.

An excellent horseman, Bence owns two horses. One is an English Thoroughbred mare named Llamrei that he uses exclusively for dressage and agility events. She is sweet and prim, if snobby. His primary horse is an Astranar Wild stallion named Passelande, who is skilled at cross country and flat-style races. Watch out for him on the turns, because he will bowl you over if you get in his way! Otherwise, he is a stoic but well-trained horse that suits Bence well. Even if it’s rather odd for Bence to own an Astranar Wild Horse, they are rather notorious for preferring girls…

Bence is a member of the expansive Mezzohue family who own a chain of businesses throughout Astranar via his father. His mother attended one of the district camps when she was younger and met his father then, so the rest of his maternal family still lives in India. He gets along well with his younger cousins on that side of the family, particularly one named Mia who he exchanges letters with. He also has a passion for genuine Indian food from his mother, and will instantly pay attention if kulfi is on the line.  While unable to attend the camps himself, that doesn’t stop Bence from visiting them whenever he has a chance.

This summer, Bence can mostly be found hanging out with his friends in the Enchanted Owl Order, who tend to travel among the districts as they find something that interests them. Mostly he seems to be taking pictures of various cultural events or nature. Sometimes, he’ll even help with deciding if someone has the dedication and talent to join his friends’ riding club. He does show an interest in a particular horse who comes in with the spring round up as a possible third horse for his own riding, but they don’t care for him! Perhaps Bence will have better luck with you, that horse’s chosen rider?

Favorite Color: Navy blue
Favorite Horse: English Thoroughbred
Favorite Camp Activity: Photography
Favorite Gemstone: Black opal
Favorite Race: Cross Country

Character Spotlight: Rose Neptuna

Character Spotlight: Rose Neptuna

Rose Neptuna (Single)
Artwork courtesy of Ashante Johnson (@earthsong9405)

Name: Rose Neptuna                                                              Nickname: Rose
Age: Appears 17                                                                       Country of Origin: France
Birthday: Unknown                                                                 Pet: Unknown

Rose Neptuna is the biggest pop star in all of Astranar, and is quickly spreading to the other countries in Argentum too. Originally a rising star in France, she moved to Astranar last year after taking a summer sabbatical in Diamond District, and has been the biggest thing since then. Not only because of her catchy tunes, but also because of her sweet personality. She is a lady of the highest order, though her image seems to also hold a deep sadness, something that is echoed in her lyrics.

In addition to singing, Rose is well-known for playing the violin, even while she’s dancing! She says she looked to Lindsey Stirling as inspiration, and added that she is also classical trained in both violin and ballet. There’s also elements of Indila to her sound, perhaps because Rose is also a deeper toned soprano than most pop stars. She composes her own music, and this makes her widely sought after to work with–she can blend her sound with other music stars, even if they are different styles like country.

If you see her in parades and not on floats or around the city, she can sometimes be seen with her horse, a white Percheron stallion named Papillon Blanc. He’s a giant push over, though watch out if you are eating anything sweet by him. He has a reputation for stealing candy apples from those who come up for a photo op. While not the fastest horse, he’s trained in dressage and show jumping and is very careful with his feet, so he’s an excellent mount for the city streets and for a rider who deals with the public like Rose.

Her agent is Yvenne DuNoir, who came with her from France and often is your first point of contact with Rose before an event. A haughty blonde, it’s…hard to miss her. Otherwise, not a lot is known about Rose, such as who her family is, or even what her natural hair color is! She lives in the penthouse suite of the largest hotel in Diamond District, but good luck making it past security to see her there. There are also rumors of her attending AEFPA, but the administration is very hush-hush about it. But all that mystery just adds to her charm. The only one who seems to be upset about her being here is the hip-hop star, Hi-Fidelity.

Her summer tour is an anniversary special for her first year in Astranar! She’s touring all over Astranar, leading up to the big summer blow out with every big musical act in Argentum joining her. There’s also a competition to sing a song with her on stage that has some of the locals eager to impress her. Maybe the player will have to give one or two a helping hand…

Favorite Color: Rose pink
Favorite Horse: Percheron
Favorite Camp Activity: Dancing
Favorite Gemstone: Topaz, pink or blue
Favorite Race: Show Jumping

 

The Mysteries of Diamond District

The Mysteries of Diamond District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing our final district, Diamond, where the mystery of Harmony magic haunts all of Astranar.

(Note: Diamond can only be accessed after you complete one of the other seven districts, and you will need to return to it after each district before you can move on to the next because each district unlocks more story within Diamond.)

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Set on the coastline and towards the middle of Astranar, Diamond shares its borders with Morganite, Citrine, and Ruby. Ginny used different cities and boardwalks to pull together for Diamond from all over Europe. While there are outlying villages and stables, the biggest (and only really big) city in Diamond is the capital, which over time has absorbed a few other larger towns to form six parishes within the city. Don’t think all the green is gone, however. There are plenty of open fields to run through, though the grounds and woods are probably much more manicured than anywhere else, and make sure you don’t stumble on private property! There’s a lot of nobility in the capital for government purposes, so there’s a possibility…

With a beach and boardwalk, the capital is an even mix between casual tourism and the elegant prestige of the nobility and royals, all depending on which district you are in. The capital is also home to both elite riding schools of Astranar: the Royal Riding Academy and Astranar Equestrian Federation Preparatory School. One of the two schools actually uses the Old Palace, the original palace of Astranar for the royal family and other key figures. While both used to be housed together, as the school grew, the royal family moved their seat of government and themselves over to the New Palace, making everyone much more comfortable. The fashion of the capital is a blend of seaside apparel, school clothing (or at least what Morganite hasn’t claimed), and formal wear, but you can find a little bit of everything as many fashion designers have stores, either in the mall or in the base of a famous hotel!

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While there aren’t any specific races in Diamond District, there are horses. High bred and highly trained, these are horses of the nobility and they have the paperwork to prove it. Friesian, Lipizan (or as we know them in America, Lipizzaner), and English Thoroughbred are the three types of horses you can find here. Each of them has a different type (or types!) of race they do well in, so it’s a great place to pick up a spare horse if your stats are off before going into a new district. However, these are all considered extra horses, so you will have to pay out of pocket for them.

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Not a lot is known about Harmony magic. It requires a very special person to use it, and they are very rare. While a Light magic rider is skilled with one element very strongly, a Shadow magic rider is skilled in two side-by-side elements. With Harmony riders? They have skill in many elements. It’s the first sign to look for in a Harmony user, and since they can need training in all the schools, it takes a while for them to be able to access their own spells! Now if only they knew what that one spell was…

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Diamond, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! Unlike the other districts, Diamond is probably not as obvious with its clues. Also unlike the other districts, there are no specific mentors tied to Diamond! Instead, Diamond is a meeting place where you can run into several different mentors all in one place, and each time you finish a new district, there’s more people available in Diamond for you to meet.

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Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sapphire, where Ether magic brings out the power of the celestial in us all.

A twisting hill land of grasses and sand that is close enough to the Highwind Desert to affect the local climate, Sapphire is on the northeast side of the country up against the foot of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Emerald, and Amethyst districts. Southern Spain was the inspiration for this district of Astranar (which makes sense considering the location of the equator for both countries). With tall, gleaming white buildings set in mazes among hills and winding dirt roads, Sapphire seems a lot more sparse than it is, with a rich history and ancient runes that hint at the past for Astranar. Of course, if you can find them is the trick there, since some of those ruins are quite out of the way.

Granada

The nobility find Sapphire a welcome change of pace, and so there’s a heavy collection of them around. Some are lords, there’s a count and a local knight… Why so many flock can also be nailed down to the “exiled” prince, Sebastian, who makes his home at his family’s estate in Sapphire. Why he was removed from the line of succession is a mystery that the royal family has kept private… Some of the lords may also be by because Sapphire has a large bull fighting arena. (For those of you who have read Emerald‘s entry, you can imagine how big of a problem that can be!) Fashion in Sapphire is just a bit kooky–steampunk is the name of a game, perhaps as a nod towards formality for the gentry?

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With all the grassland hills and valleys, horses that do well on the straight and on dusty terrain are best suited to Sapphire. Good thing they have the breed books for Arabians and Barbs! In addition, they have the Hackney Horse for those who might be more inclined to their high speed trotting and delicate lines. The racing specialty around these parts is the straightforward flat race, though of course nothing is ever that simple, right?

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Ether magic resonates with So on the solfege scale. Ether is magic of the spirit, and in many ways is closer to “traditional” forms of magic. Those of the Ether don’t really take the beaten path, as they serve as bridges between Earth, the heavens, the spirit, and the body, though they value safety with their independence. They are deep thinkers who you can often find holed up in a lab of some sort. On the small scale, Ether magic can tolerate dualities, like hot and cold, have higher endurance of thirst, fatigue, or hunger, or converse/interact with spirits or ghosts. On the large scale, it is the power of alchemy, changing one element for another among other things, and space magic. Be careful not to form a baby star in your backyard!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sapphire, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sapphire mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Minna Opuswright (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Veronica Highflute (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Emerald (no wizards or tin men here, though lions, hmmm), where Air magic inspires action.

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The closest thing to a tropical jungle that Astranar has, with lush greenery and a mangrove forest, Emerald is on the northeast side of the country up against the low point of the Whistlebacks and the coast, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Sapphire, and Citrine districts. Ginny looked to the interior of Puerto Rico for how the district shaped up. The forests are one aspect, covering hills and low mountains, parting to show some bits of green land and lakes. There are also underground caves of beautiful stone. Emerald is home to the Astranar Zoo, which was recently purchased by a well-intentioned conservationist, and is home to several crazy species.

The mountains and forest are dense enough to prevent an invasion, so there are no knights in Emerald, but there are a handful of nobility, with a count helping organize the four local lords, who do a fast pace in trade of the tropical crops that can only be found in Emerald. This is slightly problematic because there is a strong eco-savvy movement in Emerald that detests “stealing from nature.” They set the tone for the fashion, which is fairly bohemian in style as they work to inspire lack of waste.

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Sometimes to get where you are going among the dense trees and water, you need to be in the saddle a long time. And with space at a premium, smaller arenas are for the best. As a result, the district specialty is dressage, and the local horses are a mix. For those who favor tradition, you have the Andalusian and Persano. However, if you would prefer something a little different, there is a South American horse who is actually an ambler rather than the usual trotting style: the Paso Fino.

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Air magic resonates with Fa on the solfege scale. A bridge between fire and water, air is the path to goals, though it may jump around from time to time. Air magicians are intellectuals who seek wisdom…they just may be all over the place trying to find it. They are good at helping ease conflict between friends by talking it out. On the small scale, Air magic can summon a fresh breeze or help you see or hear something from far away. On the large scale, it can be a summon special types of wind, changing it from direction to properties, and manipulate the weather. Of course, if you bring a cyclone down on everyone’s head’s, you’ll have a lot to answer for!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Emerald, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Emerald mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Elena Treeharmony (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Skip Over to Citrine District

Skip Over to Citrine District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Citrine (the gemstone, not citrus fruits), where Fire magic sparks the imaginations.

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Continuing the hill country with a few plains mixed in instead of forests and gorges, Citrine is on the southeast side of the country with coastline, and sharing a border with the Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire districts. The point of inspiration from Ginny was Scotland. Not just the moors, but also the lochs and woods rather than full forests. While water isn’t as plentiful here as it was in Ruby, there are a few stand-alone lakes and streams. The grasslands of the moors seem to stretch on and on at times, with hidden hills creating surprises around corners. There is some hard pebble type beach shores, but a good portion of the coastline is also jagged rocks and steep cliffs.

With the sweeping plains of grass, most of the “farming” that happens is that of animal husbandry, though some grow grains or nightshade variants like potatoes and eggplant. A wildcat sanctuary is kept among the hills, where a wide variety of big and small species of wild cats have a safe place to live and education on conservation can occur. They even have a traveling group that rarely has orphaned kittens they could use some help raising. The coast is home to plenty of fisherman who scour the sea for bountiful seafood, while the vineyard does its best to compete with the other districts.

The local nobility is small, with their presence not being felt much. A count, a baron, and a few lords and a knight, they could use a reminder on how to socialize with each other and with the populace. Perhaps because of having lots of space, perhaps because Citrine is so close to Diamond District, but no matter the reason, Citrine has plenty of flourishing dance studios and other types of training that performers dream of. It fits with the creativity and passion that is used to combat the sameness of the view and weather. The fashion reflects this, with some hip-hop inspired styling that somehow manages to make it work with the gothic aesthetic.

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Sweep hills of grass are great for not only cattle, but horses. Specifically flat-style racing, which is all about speed and endurance. The horses that are collected here reflect the more tumbling sides of speed. The Brumby, the Camargue horse, and the New Forest pony all make their homes here (or rather, their breeders do), and they are sure-footed to help if you need a new horse for speeding through the flats. Please note, the expectation is that the game will provide you funds for two extra horses in addition to your initial horse, one of which includes a pony. This is not the district that supplies you the credits for purchasing one.

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Fire magic resonates with Mi on the solfege scale. It’s all about the creative energy and passion for life. Fire-inclined people are energetic, brave, and vivacious, with personality just oozing out of them. They can’t help but show their creative personalities, being very assertive and strong in themselves. On the small scale, Fire magic can light a candle or a campfire, making a matchbox or tinder a theoretical exercise. On the large scale, it can be a purifying force, as well as provide inspiration depending on the spell. The downside is that an irresponsible or out of control spell can lead to a raging forest or grassland fire faster than you can sneeze.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Citrine, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Citrine mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vivienne Streetbeats (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

 

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sphalerite (yes, that’s an actual gemstone), where Water magic is the all-the-rage.

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With gentle hills, some low-level mountains, and deep forests, Sphalerite is on the northwest side of the country, sharing a border with the country of Nospos, and the Morganite, Amethyst, and Ruby districts. The inspiration for this district was the Black Forest of Germany and the surrounding countryside, with a little of the Bavarian Forest. The further north-northwest you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the terrain is mountainous like the bits of the Alps that Germany lays claim to. Whereas the further south you go, the countryside is more like hills covered with thick trees, from evergreen pines to oaks and elms. It is also home to the highest number of castles, though many are no longer home to the nobility.

In addition to the plethora of castles, Sphalerite has a deer sanctuary, home to several species of deer from both Astranar and other countries. It serves as an education platform on environmental stability and invasive species. (Because red deer and sika deer have taken over every area they are in, and let’s not mention Yellowstone Park in America before the wolves were reintroduced…) Because of the plentiful forests, many craftspeople come to take part in the forestry industry that the local lords are very careful not to take too much of the trees at any one time. Speaking of nobility, the local higher ranked baron and duke are a bit…stuck in the past. Unfortunately, they are being dragged into the future kicking and screaming. The fashion of the district reflects its ties to the past, with a retro flare from the 1950’s.

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Once again, I’ll get to what you actually want to know about. With the flourishing forestry industry, the extra horses available in Sphalerite are heavier, with strength for pulling, though these breeds are also featured in show jumping, the district specialty. If you are coming in from a different racing district and would rather buy a new horse than try and adjust any of your current horses to show jumping, American Cream Draft, the Black Forest Horse, and Vanner horse breeders sell some of their stock to players. While you will get credits for a draft horse through the course of the game, Sphalerite is not the district with that quest. Once you have one in your stable, however, special quests unlock.

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Water magic resonates with Re on the solfege scale. If Earth is the base, than Water is the flow that pushes and pulls you where you need to go in its own time. Those who are in touch with Water are also in touch with their dreams and their feelings, sometimes coming off as a little moody, but a devoted friend regardless. They don’t see problems, due to them having no concept of boundaries, and can go anywhere in anyway to meet their goals. On the small scale, Water magic can summon water, or raise or lower the water level of a pond or stream. On the large scale, it is cleansing and healing magic, with regeneration possible, as well as a bit of scrying through the reflective surfaces of still pools. If you don’t keep a handle on it, however, it can cause avalanches, floods, and overall bad weather news that will ruin that picnic plan with your riding club!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sphalerite, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sphalerite mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Kitty Sweetsong (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

So, Boarding Schools Are a Thing Here…

So, Boarding Schools Are a Thing Here…

(In our defense, boarding schools is at least one of my favorite tropes, I am endlessly amused by them if they are done right.)

One of the goals of the core game from the player standpoint is getting a scholarship to attend the Royal Riding Academy of Astranar. It is considered one of the most elite riding schools in the world, and for good reason! Besides giving its students a quality education, it always turns out quality riders. (And you know, witches technically, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) So what’s up with this world-famous school?

Besides the collection of winners from the different districts and from the group competition at the end of the summer who win scholarships, other students are also able to attend, provided they can pass the entrance exam. Besides high-level academics, equestrian skills, and active recreational activities, the board also looks for what many think is an X factor for who will be allowed entry into the school. While you don’t have to have all three of the other requirements, you definitely have to have the mysterious factor that they look for. Some of the girls from camp make it in anyway, despite not winning the scholarship, and some locals also attend. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge of people, but that’s part of what makes the environment so much fun.

And for another thing, well, it takes place in a palace. Literally. The Old Palace, as it’s called, makes up a large portion of the campus, with sections being converted to classrooms, practice rooms, lounges, and dorms rather than the spaces they were previously, and the grounds being converted in some cases to courses and the stables deeply expanded. But some passages remain nearly inaccessible…except if the right person goes looking. Dating back to the same time period as medieval Europe, the palace was closed for a few decades after the new palace completed construction, which has not helped stop the rumors of ghosts at all.

(Don’t tell those stories to Lottie, though. She’ll go running to Ves, and that’s not someone you want on your tail.)

There is a uniform that you’ll see some of the characters modeling as we start to gather artwork, but the school does allow some personalization in the forms of accessories and hairstyles. Where the school gets a little quirky is for riding competitions–it’s easy to spot who the scholarship students and who are the normal students, because they get given specific colors to wear. Rather than the small clubs of friends you experience in the summer, the school has “official” clubs that are mandatory participation in at least one because they signify your equestrian training. They have dressage, show jumping, cross country, racing, endurance, agility, and all-around, with one member each being representation on the council that serves as the leadership for the competitions. At the end of last spring semester, Jim Westhorn and Lottie Mistwaltz were made President and Vice President, respectively, so you may see them away from their districts and around the school grounds trying to work out what they want to do this upcoming school year!

Your mentors from the light side and the shadow side of the divide both attend the Royal Academy, and are happy to show you around when the new school year starts. Some other noted teachers include Mademoiselle Whistlesteel, the Russian ballet teacher who has a private dance studio in the city as well, Adelaide Gemstring, the French violinist who teaches all the music classes, and several industry specialist from the fashion world tend to poke their noses into the classes.

If you make it to the Academy though, don’t think you won’t have rivals outside the school. There’s a second boarding school, and their requirements are much more simple. They seek to excel at competition–test scores, media industries, but especially horsemanship. Sponsored by the Astranar Equestrian Federation, AEFPS (Astranar Equestrian Federation Preparatory School) is a school meant for those who want to succeed. The follow the rules to a t, just to prove that when they win, it’s because they are the best. (Now if only they would stop driving their horses into the ground to do it…)

Much like the Royal Academy, they have a uniform that is much more universally applied. To them, it doesn’t matter if you are there on scholarship or not. You are there to compete, not to work together as a team. Because of their federation ties, there is no magic in the curriculum here, so they don’t know what you are talking about in that regard (even if some of the members do have magic, they just have their heads too deep in the sand to see it). For them, it is all about placing at competition, and in fact they’ll even sabotage each other if it helps them. As a result, how well the school actually does in competition versus what they brag… Well, we’ll let you be the judge.

Some notables who attend AEFPS? Well, Rose Neptuna can sometimes be seen walking around the Diamond district in their uniform, but actually confirming her attendance is nearly impossible, the same for her best friend, Loki Tenderlily. We can confirm that Hi-Fidelity is a recent graduate, and there are conversations about perhaps world violinist Renart Mistwaltz will come to teach a special class. And you may have interest in knowing that the secret leader of the shadow rider mentors also attends…

Funny story, we were trying to decide if AEFPS was an all-girl school, and then realized two characters needed separated or there would be a dead body, so there are boys in both schools! We have a small collection of boys, but they make there presence known. Sometimes, loudly… Hopefully you’ll enjoy getting to poke around the schools and meeting the different people. (We promise not to make you attend any classes, lol.)

Diamond Media, Darlings

Diamond Media, Darlings

Those of you who follow us on Twitter or listen in on Ginny or I tweeting about the game have probably heard about Astranar’s pop icon and international star, Rose Neptuna. Did you know that Astranar has a recently flourishing music and media industry? No? Well buckle in folks, because today we’re doing a (pseudo) tour of the Diamond Media Complex.

Think of the media complex as a bit like the lots of Hollywood Studios and the music studios of LA thrust together. While Astranar has several outdoor theaters and stages for performances, the media complex is where movies are shot on sound stages, music albums are recorded, TV programs have their interviews, and much more. A sprawl of buildings, studios, and a limited number of outdoor sets and storage sheds, it still manages to blend in with the Capital’s architecture style (lest they wear out their welcome!). While the public is kept out by a guard and gate, you almost have to know where you are looking to know what you are looking at.

The complex is a bit of a catch-all for everyone who is anyone in the media business. There are some noted folks who you are going to have contact with:

  • Your mentors, of course! Both the mentors for the Light Riders and the Shadow Riders have formed girl groups: Doe Re Mi and HOOT, respectively. In addition to that, the Citrine Light mentor, Viva, has a special interest in dancing, and the Shadow mentor Var has an interest in acting and modeling.
  • The SSS, or the Style Secret Service, these are your dressers, hair stylists, wardrobe assistants, and fashion designers. With something as important as costumes and appearances on the line, you know they make their appearances! Most big names have at least one attached to them, though some seem to have difficulty keeping them. While Fashion Week is their Christmas, the media complex is home to most of them and their bread and butter for their daily lives. There’s a bit of an internal conflict though–Rose Neptuna brought French agents with her when she moved, and the local agents aren’t sure how they feel about that.
  • Agents and managers are the white blood cells of any media industry. They keep the schedules between different projects, different stars, and all the legal paperwork coordinated so jobs can function! Rather than having a separate firm, the agents and managers are actually worked into the structure of the complex. Less issues with paperwork and agency rivalries, but sometimes that makes it hard to get the agent you want! Some noted agents include Yvenne DuNoir, Anna Highflute, and Jillian Pearlchord. They manage some of the top industry professionals…or a few summer girl groups that the mentors are involved with.
  • The talent! Besides Rose Neptuna, there are other celebrities in Astranar to meet. Hip-hop artist and fashion designer, Hi-Felicity, the boy band the Heartbreakers, and even some talent comes in from outside of the country. In the acting world, you have Jameela and Harumi Softreed as the top actresses in the country, and you can’t forget the models, where Harumi has to compete with her twin sister, Miyuki, and there are always shenanigans where Sydney Azureballet goes. Besides just meeting these actors, actresses, dancers, and singers, we do offer a chance for the player to experience being a minor talent themselves and all the hardwork and practice that goes into it. (But more on our professions ideas in another blog post.)

So what all does the Diamond Media Complex put out? Astranar Fashion Week is one of their big productions, but summer in Astranar promises some huge blockbusters, from continuations of popular franchises to new premises, and that’s before you get to the TV shows. All these side stories are horse centric (and honestly are movies/TV shows that Ginny and I would go to see, not gonna lie). We took our inspiration for these Easter-Egg type media from some of our own favorite movies and books. It can be a little odd (like the one that is basically the premise of The Black Stallion…but in space), or it can be something more familiar that will bring to mind Horseland or the Saddle Club. In addition to all this, there is going to be an all-out summer smash concert before school starts again, bringing together talent from all over Argentum to participate.

We didn’t necessarily have to build a media complex into the game. But by doing so, it helps us centralize a lot of odds-and-ends that the player may need, both for professions and for story advancement within the capital. It also gave opportunities for the players to just have fun, including with their friends.

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Hidden beyond the next tree. Over secret paths only a few can see. Through the arches of branches and flowers. There is a world of magic and wonder. Teal skies. Vivid greenery. Unique flowers. Maroon earth. Only on the continent of Argentum, in Astranar, can people cross over and discover the enchantments and peoples of the Mirror World.

A simple name, perhaps, while others over the world may have slipped through cracks, they called it different things. Underhill. Wonderland. The Never Ending Wood. Ever After. In Astranar, the natives know that names have power and the true name of the World is best left to those that live in it. They simply call it the Mirror World for it mirrors our own.

When Astranar is in the heart of summer, the Mirror World is in the deepest folds of winter. And while in Astranar, it takes a powerful spell caster to work anything beyond basic spells, in the Mirror World, magic is as easy as breathing—for better or worse!

If one could see both the Mirror World and the mundane world at the same time, one would be able to see the towns co-existing in the same places! The people going on about their lives doing everyday things. For the people of the Mirror World have the same wants and needs as the people in the mundane world no matter how different their appearance.

And oh how different they are! Those that live close to humans can be breathe taking and magical. Fairies in their tiny snow globe sized bubbles. Elementals that take on the shape of humans or giant birds. Griffons that share a passing resemblance to eagles. Deer with colorful coats and exotic antlers like flowering branches and crystal. And many different types of sheep.

Then there are the magical beings that only choose to share the shape of humans. Though their skin is anything but human looking as if someone took liquid metals, and glowing paints to create abstract and fantastical designs. Some may have wings to mock the humans and their tales of fairies (or is it mockery?). Take care of those that live in the ponds.

Those that live deep in the Mirror World have names and faces we are familiar with; Santa Claus, Cupid, The Pumpkin King/Jack Frost, Mother Goose, and the Green Man. They come closer to the mundane world around the solstices and holidays when the veil between us is thinner. The ways to their towns and castles are only available for a short time each year as they are celebrated (or appeased.) Perhaps, if you help them enough they will open special places, special towns for the player to visit them all year round.

Then there are the horses! Horses in the Mirror World are the horses of every rider’s fantasy. The most prolific and easiest to find, because often they find you, are the magical color changing horses. Reminding outsiders of a Fjord horse, in the mundane world they come in all shades of dun and have bi-colored manes. In the Mirror World, their coats and manes become an array of bright, muted, or pastel colors. And in the Mirror World, they can talk to you. (This may or may not be welcome depending on their personality.)

One can make friend with unicorns, tame the wild pegasus, help the rainbow alicorns, and even discover beautiful nymph horses that take after plants and trees. They can take you to places no normal horse can reach (much to your main horse’s displeasure.)

A word of warning, as with the magic of Astranar, in the Mirror World there are places of Light and places of Shadow. Woe betide those who are of opposite sides stumbling into places they shouldn’t be. Those of the light, beware the arches of dead branches covered in moss. And those of the shadow, beware the arches of living branches covered in ivy. If caught inside, you’ll have to flee to avoid capture or bargain for your freedom. Some can be convinced to let you go if you make them something nice or if you entertain them. (Though this brings to mind playing with your food…)

Explore carefully.

But in order to explore, you’re going to need a winter coat. Don’t think you can pass a raincoat off as winter coat. Your horse is too smart for that to work…