Breed Spotlight: Vanners, also called Tinkers

Breed Spotlight: Vanners, also called Tinkers

Vanners/Tinkers

A relatively new horse on the scene, at least in terms of formal paperwork, the Vanner, also called a Tinker, is commonly referred to a cob rather than a draft. However the breed association in Astranar has requirements that make it similar to a light draft. It is one of the options for the player to purchase a draft horse, though it isn’t available in the same district that supplies that quest.

From about the 1850’s in the British Isles, traveling families used a trademark horse for pulling their carts that were also their homes. The color and characteristics of the breed were further refined after the second World War. It is a heavily-muscled horse with a medium, strong neck, and a “sweet,” refined head. There are strict rules for the proportions of the horse’s frame, legs, and build that can vary a little between association, but usually fall within a set range. Feathering is usually abundant, but not necessarily required. They are also judged by their gaits and strides, including a flowing, effortless appearance to them. Larger horses within the breed are considered something of a status symbol, as after a while smaller horses were bred into the bloodlines to bring their size down without losing the strength.

Tinker 1

Tinkers are known for being sweet, kind horses that are intelligent and eager to work with their riders and drivers. Because the breed book was primarily spread through oral communication for many years, tracking lineages before the founding of associations can get a little tricky. The general consensus is that the foundation horses were the Old Coal Horse and Sonny Mays’ Horse. Tinkers came over to America in the 1990’s, which is about when various associations came into being wanting to promote the breed and give it formal credence. They are still used for draft purposes, but they are also accepted as dressage and show jumping horses due to their intelligence, strength, and dexterity.

Tinker 2

Breed Characteristics:
Vanners come in all solid colors, with white markings and particularly white paints are highly sought after. Some, however, can be harder to get since the greying gene is prevalent in the breed. The feathers match the hair underneath in the same way hooves do–so if there is light or red hair, it’s white, but if it’s black, it’s dark. Feathers aren’t usually a requirement in the breed, but almost all of Astranar’s have them.

Starting Stats: *
Speed:                    2                                              Discipline:       4
Endurance:         3                                               Agility:             3
Strength:             5

* Note, these numbers aren’t set in stone. They are Becca’s way of trying to reduce her knowledge/research of breeds and their particular skills and traits into numbers so when animators and programmers have to look at these horses, they can go, “Oh, this horse can’t turn worth beans but this one can on a dime, noted!”

Breed Spotlight: Black Forest Horse

Breed Spotlight: Black Forest Horse

Black Forest Horse

An endangered horse breed dating back to the 15th century, the Black Forest horse is good for forestry, agriculture, and in more recent times, for harness and riding work. However, agriculture and war-efforts is part of what threatens its numbers. It is one of the options for the player to purchase a draft horse, though it isn’t available in the same district that supplies that quest.

The first breed book for the Black Forest Horse can be found in an abbey, and breeding primarily stuck to the northern part of the region, with heavy ties to monasteries. The first association cropped up in 1896, but it was 1875 where the standards of the breed began to be defined, and it moved from a heavy draft horse to what is referred to as a light-to-medium draft. It is a well-muscled horse with a short neck, and an equally short head. Unlike most people’s picturing of draft horses, there is no feathering around their broad hooves.

Black Forest 2

The breed was merged with another in 1935, though the association had to be restarted following World War II. However, with the mechanization of agriculture and transport, like many other working breeds, the Black Forest Horses’ numbers began to rapidly decline as demand for them lessened. In 2017, 88 stallions and 1077 mares were all that remained registered. Never one to risk losing a horse breed, Astranar quickly swept in and gained just enough horses to begin their own breeding program in the Sphalerite District, where a light draft has plenty of work to do.

Black Forest 1

Breed Characteristics:
Only sorrels are accepted for Black Forest horses, ranging from a normal sorrel to the famous “dark fox” coloring with a nearly black coat and white mane and tail. Because they are so exceptionally rare as a breed, they can be a little more expensive.

Starting Stats: *
Speed:                    2                                              Discipline:       4
Endurance:         3                                               Agility:             3
Strength:             4

* Note, these numbers aren’t set in stone. They are Becca’s way of trying to reduce her knowledge/research of breeds and their particular skills and traits into numbers so when animators and programmers have to look at these horses, they can go, “Oh, this horse can’t turn worth beans but this one can on a dime, noted!”

Breed Spotlight: American Cream Draft

Breed Spotlight: American Cream Draft

American Cream Draft

The only American draft breed still in existence, the American Cream Draft came to Astranar as part of a breeding program to help increase its numbers and chances to continue survival. It is one of the options for the player to purchase a draft horse, though it isn’t available in the same district that supplies that quest.

Primarily descended from a mare named Old Granny who consistently threw foals who looked like her that 98% of the breed can trace their lineage back to, the American Cream Draft is famous for their coats, named “champagne gold” or “gold champagne” depending on who you talk to, passed on by the champagne gene in sorrel or chestnut horses. Refined heads that are flat, rather than concave or convex, wide chests, and strong, well-proportioned builds are other hallmarks. They are regarded as sure-footed horses that are eager to please, making them excellent horses for first-time draft owners.

Cream 1

The Great Depression in America and the industrialization of farming threatened this breed’s survival, however numerous breeding programs have worked to keep the breed alive and are working to increase the numbers Astranar, always one to jump at the chance for breed conservation, eagerly volunteered to help programs with building up bloodlines. With their strong and hardy natures, they also listen to directions well, letting them do well at show jumping and also helping with the forestry in Sphalerite District.

Cream 3

Cream 2

Breed Characteristics:
American Cream Drafts come in limited colors by nature of the breed. They only come in light, medium, and dark champagne, though the occasional rare sorrel (red with blonde mane and tail) may appear. Unlike with other breeds, paints aren’t likely to occur, but other markings are still welcome.

Starting Stats: *
Speed:                    2                                              Discipline:       4
Endurance:         4                                               Agility:             2
Strength:             5

* Note, these numbers aren’t set in stone. They are Becca’s way of trying to reduce her knowledge/research of breeds and their particular skills and traits into numbers so when animators and programmers have to look at these horses, they can go, “Oh, this horse can’t turn worth beans but this one can on a dime, noted!”

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.

empireskirt

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.

vannertinker

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).

Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

So one of the big things that both Ginny and I want to feature in our world is nature for the sake of nature. Almost always, flowers or birds or really any other type of animal is included in a game only if it is tied to a quest. Sometimes they might appear in a cutscene (despite not being in the area normally), but for the most part, aside from pets and mounts, it’s pretty much trees, grass, bushes, and dirt. When we were building Astranar, we came up with other plants and animals besides the horses and pets to see as you are riding around. So when you are riding through a forest path, you’ll see a bird flutter off or see a undergrowth of flowers where logically they would be, rather than just waiting for a quest.

When it comes to the variety, though, and to somethings that were created specifically for this country, we wanted to tie them to at least a little bit of a side quest. This way the programmers would get to do something with all of this flora and fauna that was being created, and the player could actually interact with some of it. While pets are great, and we obviously love our mounts, there’s more to the world and the player should get to experience it. As well as learn how things we take for granted either need to change, or are different than media portrays them as.

One of the characters that we hope to introduce you to is the source of the rose species of Astranar, from a creative stand point, because she named all of her horses after the breeds! (Trust me, there was a lot of digging around to figure out how to name her horses and thus the roses.) There’s one of every general color, plus an extra species of white, and they are highly prized in any Astranar noble’s garden. While most roses aren’t hardy enough to survive in the wild, thanks to Astranar’s weather patterns, some vines can escape the towns to try and grow on their own.

Speaking of vines, Astranar vineyards and their rivalry are near-legendary, at least among locals. Each district has their own specialty, and they are the pride of the district. Each year, a bottle of the year’s harvest is given to the royal family to go sit and age in their wine cellar, and then the rest is opened up to the locals…and the collectors. (I’m not saying certain vintages are rare and fought over between one particular baroness and three-quarters of the nobility and upper merchant class types… but yes, yes I am saying it.) They also get downright competitive about whose is really better. Sometimes it’s easier to just nod and walk away…

Farms will have all sorts of livestock, from cows and goats and sheep…to alpacas and black chickens. (We’re weird, you’ll get used to it.) And it isn’t just the mentors and the players that have such variety! Who do you think they bought their animals from? The local farmers and ranchers have a wide variety of animals to pick from for your own farm, and sometimes need help with managing their stocks and crops. They can give you helpful recipes or even teach you about rare plants or animals that are attracted to them.

But outside of livestock, what other animals are you going to see? Much like in other parts of the world, there are wild cats and wolves that are endangered, and so there are education programs about them. You’ll also hearing some crazy fishing stories around the docks, encounter several types of birds and owls among the trees, and all sorts of creatures. (Though watch out for swans, they are protective and mean as much as they are pretty.) There are deer and big cat sanctuaries in Citrine and Sphalerite, respectively, to offer some specialty homes to a wide variety of species.

There are two animal homes however that are a bit more controversial, so they tend to have quests tied to them as the player explores the areas involved. Sapphire district has a bull fighting arena that is considered traditional, and getting them to consider closing it is going to probably cause a minor war with the older generation. Right now, the younger ones are hoping they can quietly let it die in a decade or two, but some are a lot more impatient and want to carry something out now. Navigating around that landmine may take some serious work for the player…unless they decide to get involved anyway, which could be a new mess.

The second home, you  have less of a choice. The mentor of Emerald (again, who I hope to introduce you as we get further along and have artwork) has gotten a bee in her bonnet over the zoo. It is home to several animals, from the old falconry birds and peacocks that the royal family donated to wild animals that were considered endangered, like the river otters…that are nothing like the cute little ones you probably think of. These are giant river otters from Emerald, and they are huge, fierce…and desperately craving watermelon, despite hating the taste. The conditions of the zoo don’t meet her standards at all, and she wants it burned to the ground. But there’s a new director of the zoo who wants to turn the whole thing into a conservation program, he just needs time. Sounds like they need a mediator, and fast!

Okay, anyone who follows the twitter for this game concept (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you, you are missing out!), you know that this is a total bait and switch. So I promise next week I will talk about the Diamond Media Complex and their stars, including a very special rose.