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).

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).

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).

Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

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 Ruby, where Earth magic reigns supreme.

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Known for their rolling hills and gorges, Ruby is the heart of Astranar–not quite literally, but it is in the center of the country and shares a border with just about everyone else. Creating it, Ginny was inspired by her childhood home of Upstate New York. The further north you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the district resembles the Catskills (though Ginny will make the argument that they are still hills, just really steep ones. I’m from Oklahoma, I don’t have a horse in this race). Whereas the further south you go, the hills are still there, just less dramatic and more reminiscent of the Finger Lakes region. Those gorges are home to picturesque waterfalls that feed the rivers and lakes, watering the tall trees that cover the hills…at least, those that haven’t been “civilized” yet.

It is a favorite place for farmers and ranchers because of the plentiful graze, even if sometimes the sheep wonder off and have to be chased down. Dairy cows also make an appearance, and some vineyards. With all the plentiful supplies, it’s no wonder that craftspeople enjoy the district as well. The local nobility leaves… some… okay, a lot… to be desired, but we can deal with that right…? Well, hopefully. It’s just one count, how bad can it be? The other local lords are more farmers and landlords than real nobility, so they have the farm sense they were born with….right?! Maybe the fact the fashion has a noted punk/rebel edge isn’t a coincidence after all…

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Alright, I’ll get to what you actually care about. Possibly because of all the ranches, maybe just because they are quirky, but either way, Ruby is the solace for Western riders in Astranar. Barrel racing, pole bending, shalom, and pony games, there is a wide variety to try, though some will be limited to you owning a pony in addition to your default magical horse. (Don’t at me, there’s a quest to earn you the necessary credits, or at least the majority of them if you are picky on color.)

Ruby is home to Chincoteague ponies in all varieties of coats that they come in. Not to worry if you went to another district first so your default horse is geared more towards another style of riding either, because the Chincoteague isn’t alone in Ruby. American Quarter Horses (which you can turn into American Paints with a few extra credits to add markings) and Tennessee Walking horses are also available for purchase, although because they are considered “extra” horses, purchasing of the initial game license doesn’t earn you credits towards them.

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Earth magic resonates with Do on the solfege scale. It is the base, the anchor that holds you safely down. Those who resonate with Earth are down-to-earth personalities that value security and order, and they are very intense about getting it. They are very efficient, and a good person to have in your corner. On the small scale, Earth magic can speed up plant growth and making tilling the fields neatly easier. On the large scale, it can raise or lower the earth itself or effect magnetism. Of course, if you don’t stay in control of it, you could also cause a mudslide, which is not only dangerous, but is going to have a number of people mad at you for property damage.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Ruby, 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 Ruby mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vesper Leilament (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending).

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.)

The Magic of Magical Holidays

The Magic of Magical Holidays

If there is something I love about MMOs, it’s holidays. (Becca can attest to how much I love holidays.) And Mystic Riders is no different. If you follow my twitter @Ginnyzero, you’ll find that I’ve been the last several months tweeting about different holidays. Astranar loves holidays as much as I do and they like to go all out with decorations, activities, and things to eat and things to collect!

There are a lot of holidays that we want to add to Mystic Riders. So many, that it may seem that holidays last all year long. All holiday quests are extras and don’t contribute to the main story line quest. They may reveal character relationships and surprises about important characters in Astranar.

Some holidays will require a little more experience and story progression than others. This is to preserve some of the story’s secrets before they’re revealed in the main story. As the year progresses, the character can jump into the holiday stories at any time as long as they have unlocked the necessary districts.

In Mystic Riders, we’ve decided to do things a little differently. Every holiday has quests, and these quests contribute to their own special holiday experience bar. Doing quests also rewards you with Holiday coupons to turn into holiday NPCs in order to get special clothes and decorations. Get enough holiday experience and there will be big rewards.

What type of holidays should you expect in Astranar?

Christmas is one of Astranar’s favorite holidays. They have lights, huge trees, and big displays. Every district has their own holiday theme and each mentor of the district has been charged with setting things up. They need the player’s help, stat! Santa also needs help. His suit has been destroyed. The Elves are revolting. And he’s lost his naughty and nice list! On top of that, his horse and the reindeer don’t want to get along. His daughter wants to date. There is far too much to do. How the player can fit this around decorating, parties, sleigh rides, and ice skating, she just doesn’t know!

After Christmas is Valentine’s and love is in the air. There are love notes and flowers to deliver. The carriage rides need to be arranged. Everyone has a special someone. But Valentine’s won’t go off as well as it could if Cupid doesn’t stop moping and make up to Psyche. Not that Psyche thinks she deserves him after hurting him so. She’s a bit silly and needs the player’s help to prove her worth.

Luck Day is all about Rainbows and parades. Too bad the rainbows aren’t as vibrant as usual. What possibly could be wrong? Headmistress Thyme has a suspicion. It may or may not involve alicorns. Luck Day also celebrates the Deer Princess who came to Astranar to marry their prince long ago. Of course, no one told her there was a wedding in the offing! There’s a merry chase before the parade can begin.

The next huge festival is the Spring Festival to celebrate all the blooms in Astranar or at least eight of them. Each district is ready to outdo the other with huge flower displays and spring time decorations. It’d be nice though if the Easter Bunny hadn’t gone missing! Mother Goose won’t stop speaking in rhyming riddles. And Little Jack Horner is causing more trouble than he’s helping. His sister Jill is enthused with kittens who have mittens who keep chasing after mice. And Queen Katherine wants your help throwing a gender reveal party, but she won’t tell you who for! Is she having a baby?

Then is the Midsummer Festival and the wall between the regular world and the Mirror World is thin. It’s a time of portents and in the heavily agricultural Astranar, the Nokk, a water sprite that can turn into a kelpie, comes to make mischief. But somehow between the feasting and the bonfires, more than one maiden has fallen in love with him. Could there be a happy ending?

The next huge festival is Harvest and Halloween. Every district is celebrating the Harvest Bounty. The player needs Pumpkin Spice Magic to decorate the district! They need to go to Pumpkin Spice Mountain to learn how to make it. There’s going to be a barn raising and old fashioned ho down too. Plus, it wouldn’t be fall without hay rides! Things are going well until the Pumpkin Queen turns up with her Squash Ladies and other minions. She’s looking for Jack the Pumpkin King and it will be mischief until he’s found or at least caught. He’s having too much fun riding around with his Turnip Footmen holding his head up high in the air. Will things ever settle down with all these magical beings?

There are a couple other holidays that depend on the game’s opening schedule. Patriotism day will celebrate the founding of Astranar and be the birthday of the game. There’s to be a huge carnival and fireworks. As usual, there has to be a parade! Perhaps there will be cake?

Lastly, there’s Fashion Week. The Stylist Secret Service is ready to induct you into their ranks as a very junior member to make sure everything goes off without a hitch! The different designers of Astranar have all submitted fashion lines that have to be previewed, photographed and of course, styled! There are so many things that can go wrong with all the huge personalities in the fashion world.

This is just a short overview of the ideas we have for extra holiday fun in Astranar to make the magic last a bit longer and the world feel more real. Don’t mind the fairies!

 

You are the Hero

You are the Hero

In Mystic Riders, your player character is the hero of the story. It’s your journey and you are the star. The story pillar for the game is “growing up.” And we want you to feel like you’re in charge of the story and what you do matters. We want you to be the star. So, we’ve come up with some game mechanics and story elements in order to customize your journey.

Character creation in Mystic Riders is more than about customizing your avatar and your magical color changing horse. It’s about choosing the best starting magic for your character. The quiz will help decide what district, your first racing skill type, what type of magic your character has, and other cool things like if you live in a dorm room, a tiny cabin, or in a tree house while at camp. (You can choose if this carries over to your farm and stable or not.)

There are seven different magic types in Astranar (and the elusive eighth type, Harmony) and each district specializes in a different magic. Each district is a different chapter in the story that can be played in any order depending on what type of magic you want to learn next. Because story wise, your character is the next wielder of Harmony magic, the first in centuries.

Helping you on your journey are the mentors of each district. Your mentors are only a year or so older than your character, and can only wield one type of magic. They came to Argentum the year before and earned their spots in the Royal Riding Academy. If you get into a great deal of trouble, they can help you out. Maybe. If you get into too deep of trouble, you’d need someone with a great deal of magic experience, like Headmistress Thyme to get you out of a jam.

There are choices to be made all through the game.

After customizing your character and choosing a district with it’s racing skill tracks, there are other skills to be learned such as crafting and arts. Learning different skills in the game like hiking or gardening will help in your journey to discover Astranar’s secrets. And being able to make clothes and equipment not only will allow you to outfit yourself in better gear, but earn some extra coins along the way. The more skilled you are, the better things you can make and the harder obstacles you can take on.

When you level up your character and your horse, we want you to have the ability to customize your stats to what you feel is important. There is going to be a certain amount of strategy in choosing where to put your stats to be the most effective depending on where you are in the game. Not every horse is going to be the fastest horse or the most agile or most disciplined. Different horses are good at different things.

Answering questions is going to affect how your story proceeds and how characters in the game perceive you as a person. You want to put your best foot forward. How much effort you put into completing your goals in the game is going to reflect on the skills and abilities that you have and how good you are at them.

There are factions to choose. Do you want to control the power of nature, create illusion, and read minds? Or do you want to explore the natures of rot and decay and the nightmares of others? It’s up to you. Each of these factions will alter your story. And give you access to different areas, equipment, and gear. Depending on if you choose to be in the Light or Shadow Faction, there are specific pets and horses you can get that are exclusive to those factions.

As you progress in the game, you’ll be given an opportunity to take the first steps in a profession. Do you want to be a jockey? Entertain the masses like Rose Neptuna? Or even explore the far reaches of Astranar searching out secrets? Professions will give you special quests, extra items, and access to special areas.

Most importantly to us is that the story is about your character as the heroine who is there to train and learn the secrets of Astranar and Argentum in order to make the Light and Shadow Magic of the world harmonize again.

Making Unconventional Fantasy Sound Less Redundant…

Making Unconventional Fantasy Sound Less Redundant…

Some of the pillars of Mystic Riders are obvious in what they mean. Some of them… Not so much. So while we won’t be delving into every single one and what they mean, we will flesh them out if there are any lingering questions. For example, Ginny was curious about my pillar, which was Unconventional Fantasy. (Which I find ironic because I think it was her who started it, but I digress.) So today, we’re going to talk about some of the fantasy elements of Astranar more in-depth, and why they would be considered unconventional versus other elements.

The first thing that pops into my mind is our magic itself. Now, having schools of magic isn’t original–it’s downright any tabletop RP. Having those schools break down by element also isn’t original, that’s Pokémon level shenanigans, even within another game system. Dungeons and Dragons does this, and it even reflects our shadow system of magic which is more concept rather than elemental based.  But where things start to go differently is how our colors correlate to the elements. When we decided to use music as a core influence for the game, we had to figure out how to sort the magic in the very early stages of development, and Ginny has the crazy idea to use solfege–Do, Re, Mi, Fa, and so on. She has charts and medieval texts that not only assigned solfege colors, but it also assigned them elements! It was perfect, it was destiny, it was…

…Not widely accepted when I mentioned it to a couple of my friends. You see, solfege isn’t based the same as our modern, color coding tropes. Water isn’t blue, for example, it’s orange. Fire is represented by yellow, not red which is actually represented by earth. (You know, I’m from Oklahoma, red and earth being related makes perfect sense to me, but I digress into bad puns.) One guy told us he didn’t understand why we were doing it that way, and shouldn’t we just do the standard arrangement? That worried me. I immediately put on the brakes and put on my Capricorn hat to fret about the details. Were we going too far? Would people get it, even if we explained? Should we go with the safer concept and just fudge solfege so that it would match convention?

Ginny and I were in opposite camps on this discussion to start with. I had on my writer-hat, don’t ostracize and confuse your readers. If that means playing to tropes that means playing to tropes, because if your book is too confusing and has negative reviews, it’s going to not have great sell numbers. Games are made or broken by their sell numbers. Ginny had her designer hat on. There, innovation is the name of the game, and doing something within lines while coloring outside of them at the same time is totally acceptable. But that’s why, even though we share a brain, we have to stay communicating with each other so we can reach mutual decisions. Usually one of us is less invested in the other, but talking about it at least makes us think of all the possible outcomes and scenarios, so we can possibly edit the idea or grow it into something even better.

In the end, Ginny and I decided that we were going to stick by our medieval nerd research. The only fudging we had to do was play around with indigo/violet and turn one of those into pink for the sake of one of our mentors, but even that was pretty minor. Why? Because why be like every other game? There’s a point towards the familiar, I’ll give you that, but if you are just like every other game, then what is the point of playing? I would be endlessly amused by players forgetting Water is Orange and accidentally casting Space magic. It’ll cause some hysterical moments. And if you do what everyone else does, those moments are lost. There isn’t anything new and players can just rely on their lizard brains to get through the game.

Sometimes we do go down the road of the expected. We have unicorns, and we have pegasi. But sometimes we go astonishingly literal (there’s a story about me going on a D&D rant and Ginny just running with part of it to create a creature for the game), and that in itself is unconventional because we take it farther than most people do. By pushing some of the boundaries and boxes that people have put around fantasy, we are reminding them about the fun that was had back before we had rules. While our market isn’t nearly as tapped as it could be, they are playing other demo’s sandboxes as it were, and so we want to engage them in new and interesting ways, as well as meeting what all that they want in a game.

I will put a rope around the outside of the box though to sort of corral things, keeping them within limits. There has to be a reason for what is and isn’t included in the game, otherwise it’s a waste of the programmers’ time and it’s a waste of the player’s to have to find it or go around it. So as cute as candy dragons might be, there isn’t really a reason to include them. (I say that, watch Ginny find a way to include them in a holiday somewhere.) It’ll also keep our magic from taking things (sometimes literally) off the rails, since spells and magical animals are tied so deeply to the story in Mystic Riders. Just this week, we finished hashing out how much of each school there is going to be. What were the decisions? That’s another blog post. See you next week!

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…