Aegis Region [Hex Map]

I designed this small hex map years ago for Arcanum of the Stars — my altered vision of the Dragonstar universe merged with many aspects of Skyrealms of Jorune, Spelljammer, and Alternity’s Star*Drive.

The title, Aegis Region, refers to the central star system that sits near the edge of the two domains. The system is based on the Star*Drive system of the same name. Other important systems include the following: Amaunator (Forgotten Realms), Kurg’s Star, Sirion (Krynn), Tassa, and The Zefferan Colonies.

Greyhawk’s system is in there somewhere too, but i forget what I named it.

I’ll likely update it in Hexographer at some point.aegis-region

Spearion

Hillock high. I’m looking down at death gathered below. A swarm of angry goblins with bared teeth and blades. The smell of past bloody deeds fills my nostrils. The carrion of their past victims. I am alone with only the Grandfather’s spear and my simple shield to guard my skin. The sun is high and the heat burnt away my armor days ago. So close.

I can see the city in the distance, but it is more of a mirage to the madness that has been trying to conquer my mind. It’s high towers of steam stacks jut up from the ragged coast like a fearsome beast of Rielun’s ancient past. Its massive iron-wrought walls loom in the distance — protecting the steam metropolis’s populace from the wilds of Malecade. Green fields of safe haven, beyond those massive wallmounts, beckon me to run from the hillock.

I cannot.

The swarm encircling the mound would tear me to pieces if I ran. I must make my stand here. The goblins shout in their guttural tongue while banging bronze swords on wooden shields. They are protected more by their smell than their tattered garments. While they are weak when fought alone, they are deadly when gathered together.

I steel myself for the onslaught that is come at any moment. I know that they know my spear is considered a legend and that my history are now tales of victory. I bellow at them, in challenge. My voice rises into the air, primal — half human, half orc. Child of the Grandfather’s People of the wildlands. My blood is strong and filled with the spirits if my ancestors. If I am to die today, I will make it a tale to be told for generations to come.

The goblins finally come at me, hesitantly. They know my legend. They fear my strength. Yet they come with nashing teeth and putrid blades. They swarm at me. First only a dozen. Then two dozen. The hillock becomes a charnel of bodies. the piled dead becomes my shield wall. The goblins come to the last, mad with bloodlust.

Sunset. There are no more standing against me. I am bruised and bloodied. My face is wracked and my body aches. After the last of the horde fell, I stand there unable to move or speak. Hours pass. Fatigue tears me to my knees. I pray to the High Spirit of Honor and to my Grandfather. His spear lies next to me, shining. My legend will grow even if I tell know one what transpired. My ancestors will whisper to the oracles.

I stare out into the wilds of Malecade toward the distant coast where Da’aphet stands in all its glory. I will see it for myself soon enough.

After safety and sleep are found.

EVP presents The Spire!

Endless Vistas Publishing is creating a quarterly 5E and Pathfinder Adventure magazine! Veteran game designer, Darrin Drader, brings you The Spire online magazine.

Issue #1 of The Spire

Issue #1 of The Spire

We are pleased to announce our intent to utilize the Open Gaming License to make The Spire, which we hope will become the premier periodical for adventures for the 5th edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game (a separate version of each issue will be produced to offer support for the Pathfinder RPG). This will be published regularly, in electronic format, and will maintain the highest production standards we can afford. To make this happen, we’re going to need your help, and we’d like you to consider supporting this effort for the following reasons:

  • Get a regular dose of top quality 5th edition and Pathfinder adventures! Currently, there is a relative lack of adventure material for 5E. While previous editions were supported by printed magazines, those days are over, leaving a void that was once filled by those periodicals. Although we cannot resurrect dead magazines, we can offer something new that fills a similar niche. The adventures that will fill the pages of The Spire will form campaigns that will unfold over time, though they will also be designed to stand alone just as well, with little or no modification.
  • At the helm, we have veteran game designer, Darrin Drader, co-author of the Book of Exalted Deeds (for 3.5), Forgotten Realms: Serpent Kingdoms, Forgotten Realms: Mysteries of the Moonsea, D20 Apocalypse, and many, many other titles for numerous RPG publishers. He brings with him fifteen years of professional game design experience, both in the tabletop RPG and MMO industries.
  • The Spire is also produced by Robert Blezard, and Patric L. Rogers, both of whom have produced thousands of pages of high quality RPG material, much of it freely available over the internet.
  • Supporting our Patreon campaign is our way of allowing you to subscribe to The Spire, and you’ll receive it at a significant discount. What’s more is that regardless of when you become a patron, you will instantly be granted access to all issues of the periodical that have already been published.

For more details about our Milestone Goals for this project, visit EVP’s page on Patreon.
https://www.patreon.com/evp

Welcome to [i]The Spire[/i]!

EVP Team

About Our Team:
Darrin Drader just hit the thirtieth year of gaming milestone, having started playing with the red box back in 1984, quickly to Advanced, and then on to every edition that has been released in between. Back in 2000, he was one of the founding members of Dark Portal Games, one of the first RPG companies to exist primarily in the electronic market. Through the years, he has designed countless rules and adventures, and helped breathe life into several gaming worlds including Oathbound, Reign of Discordia, Nuclear Sunset, and Interface Zero (both the original Savage Worlds Edition and the more recent 2.0). He has also added important pieces of lore to massive settings like The Forgotten Realms and Paizo’s Golarion through his contributions.

Patric L Rogers probably has dice that are older than you. He was first published by Steve Jackson Games in 1986 with Autoduel Quarterly, again in Pyramid, and was integral to the development of material for Dark Portal Games, where he helped produce all manner of crunchy rules bits and setting material. He launched http://www.patric.net in 1997. He is excited about the prospect of moving into this new era of RPG publishing.

Robert Blezard has been a gamer since the late 1980s and is the designer and gamemaster of his own longstanding setting called World of Kulan, which has existed online since the mid 1990s. An active member of the RPG community, Robert has produced gaming material in a freelance capacity for not only Dark Portal Games but also Silverthorne Games and several online fanzines.

Together, our goal is to make the best adventure publication we can. Should this campaign meet its milestone goals, we intend to hire some of the top freelancers in the industry, including members of the famed Werecabbages freelancer’s guild, to design expertly crafted adventures,. We would also like to increase our art budget, and increase the size of our publication, which will allow for more adventures per issue.

Horns of Honor

By Robert Blezard

“Mother,” Sanin sat down next to his Regent Mother on one of the window seats of the Great Bay Window of Palace Hall. “Tell me about the Warrior of Delvir Shrine.”

Lady Jenna Kel, High Lady of Da’aphet, startled at her son’s words, dropping her book on alchemy. She looked into his eager questioning eyes with some reservation about what she should tell him. It had been so long ago.

“What exactly is it that you want to know about it that you can’t learn from your tutors?”

“Books don’t tell you about a person’s soul, mother.” Sanin was only eight years old but he would tower over his mother once he reached adolescence. “What was he like?”

“He was one of the warrior caste and a servant of Da’aphet. What else do you need to know?”

“Mother,” Sanin put his hand on hers. “He saved your life. Are you telling me he didn’t mean anything to you?”

She sighed in resignation. She’d tell him the truth. He deserved that as her son.

“All right,” Lady Kel patted her son’s hand staring out over the great medieval steam metropolis of Da’aphet. “I’ll tell you.”

Sanin watched as his mother placed the alchemy book on the dialer table beside her. She punched the correct sequence for the book and it was magically transported across the city to the Great Library of Da’aphet. She tapped the dialer’s controls again and a new book appeared on the small table.

She picked up her personal journal from years ago, which she had placed in her own private library. The leather still smelled new thanks to the enchantments placed upon the book and her personal library. She undid the three-clip clasp that bound the book together. She opened the book and began to read out loud to her son.

* * *

Jenna Hallin stood on the edge of her father’s combustible carriage, the steam billowing out from underneath the noisy contraption. She wished her father would get rid of the awful thing and travel by simple horse and buggy like her grandparents had.

Yes, steam technology had its uses but this awful thing was ruining her hair and skin. It was also humiliating, the Consort of the High Lord forced to travel in such a common vehicle while her royal friends traveled in real luxury.

But, father insisted saying that combustible carriages would replace the horse and buggy the same way combustible sky skiffs had replaced old steam balloons. She could see the similarities but wouldn’t accept it. When she was High Lady…

”Jenna,” her father climbed up into the carriage on the driver’s side, put his foot on the brake and pulled several of the levers in front of him, which pitched the carriages combustible engine into life. “Please sit down, you’re making a scene!”

“Oh father,” Jenna smoothed out her petticoat sitting ladylike in her seat. The hard silicon wood was horribly uncomfortable. “Don’t be such a old fussy.”

“Now, now child,” Victor Hallin looked at his daughter, his spectacles balanced precariously on his nose. “It is not wise to appear undignified or be such a baby. Remember, I’m still your father, Consort or not!”

Her father lifted his foot of the steamer’s brake and the carriage bucked forward like a wounded beetle walker. The carriage rolled slowly and bumpily over the cobblestone below. Townsfolk cleared the way as the carriage approached and shouted cures as it speed on past leaving the air smelly and hot.

“I’m sorry father,” Jenna bit her lip flapping at the steam billowing around her face. “It’s just, I hate this whole arrangement.”

“You weren’t complaining last summer when Lord Kel asked you to marry him. In fact, you were absolutely giddy. What’s changed?”

“Oh, lots of things,” Jenna didn’t like Lord Kel the way she used to. “Like this war he started with the southern colonies.”

“You can’t blame him for that. They gave us no choice in the matter. Aligning with those Sermath’kah devils from the Seas of Pillars.”

“Oh please,” Jenna sighed in disbelief. “There’s no proof of that.”

“Open your eyes child, the southerners use dark magic on the battlefield and drink the blood of the dead. Surely you’ve heard the stories from the front.”

“I’ve heard a lot of Lord Kel’s propaganda. And that’s all.” Jenna crossed her arms in defiance staring away from her father, watching the buildings fade by as her father sped up the carriage.

Victor sighed shaking his head. He let it go. She’d learn the truth once they reached Delvir Shrine. The steamer lurched through the North Gate of Leahan towards the Coast of Chuol. From there she would witness the southern battlefields through the Shrine’s seeing mirror. She would not doubt the Shrine’s magic.

The carriage rolled more easily over the packed earth of the road then it had over the cobblestone streets of Leahan.

Ahead a column of soldiers marched along the road. The sun shining off the reinforced steel armor and shields of the soldiers. Victor moved the carriage over to the other side of the road passing the main part of the column. Jenna watched the soldiers with both respect and loathing. She didn’t like war and didn’t see the need for men to throw away their lives over land and Kel’s politics.

They neared the front of the column and Jenna gasped at the sight she’d only ever heard of. A large man wearing the garb of a Steam Knight sat proudly on a cyborg-horse. His armor covered him completely, steam billowing from the combustion power pack on his back. A steam powered warrior’s gauntlet held the cyborg-horse’s reins while a similarly designed power sword hung at his hip.

“Hello there sir knight,” her father brought the carriage up next to the man’s mount. “Can you tell me how far it is to Delvir Shrine.”

The knight tapped his armor’s control mechanism and the top layer of his armor magically rippled back into the extra-dimensional space that was part of every set of steam armor. The billow of steam that the suit’s command had issued blocked Jenna’s view of the knight for a moment.

“It is several miles still,” the steam began to dissipate. “Do you and the lady require an escort to the shrine, dear sir.”

The steam lifted and Jenna held her breath. He was breathtaking. Wide shoulders, dark red hair and a dazzling smile.

“That’s very kind of you, Sir-“ Jenna’s father paused not knowing the man’s name.

“Treblet, Sir Winston Treblet as your service, my good man.” He nodded in Jenna’s direction with a smile. “And who might be escorting today?”

“I am Victor Hallin and this is my daughter, Lady Jenna Hallin.” Jenna’s father made the introduction as if addressing the High Lord himself.

“The Consort of the High Lord,” Sir Treblet bowed his head in reverence. “I am honored to meet my future High Lady.”

“Thank you, Sir Treblet.” Jenna noticed something walking on the other side of the knight’s mount, it’s head and body covered. “What is that?”

“Oh this… this is Uhtmar, my pet.” Sir Treblet pulled on the creature’s chain and it growled under it’s covering. “I assure you, he is quite under my control.”

“I have no doubt,” Jenna licked her lips at the knight’s calm exterior and self-assurance. “Where are you from?”

“I come from the southern lands,” Sir Treblet noticed Victor’s shocked expression. “I found myself on the wrong side of the war near the beginning and pledged my power sword to Da’aphet.”

“A southerner fighting against the colonies, that’s unheard of.” Jenna’s father was suspicious.

“So I’ve heard.” Sir Treblet’s voice seemed far away, almost forlorn. “War is a heavy deed that separates friends, even relatives. My brother fights for the south.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jenna wished she could reach out to him more but her station wouldn’t allow it. She was the Consort, after all.

“It is alright,” Sir Treblet perked at her concern. “He will see the light one day, I’m sure of it.”

“Well, you can always hope.” Jenna’a father brought the carriage to a halt, as the road divided. “I didn’t realize that this road spilt here. Do you know the way, Sir Treblet?”

“Yes, the Shrine is to the west. I will lead the way. Come Uhtmar!” The knight’s beast growled walking hunched over next to its master.

Jenna paid the beast no mind, her eyes fixed upon the Steam Knight, as he lead his cyborg-mount onto the west road. Yes, steam technology had its benefits.

* * *

Jenna’s hair bun was a disaster by the time they reached the coast. She removed the pins holding it in place letting her auburn hair drift in the breeze. Her father had been appalled by her brazen display, at least that’s what he said.

“You must keep up appearances child. After all-“

“Yes, I know!” Jenna lost her temper. “I am the Consort of the high Lord! That’s all you and I ever talk about anymore, I’m sick of it!”

Jenna eyes swelled up with tears and she bound off the carriage, running towards the coast. Victor sighed bringing the combustible carriage to a stop.

“Is something the matter,” Sir Treblet brought his half-mechanical steed up next to the combustible. “Why is she so distraught?”

“It’s the same old thing, really. She doesn’t want to marry Lord Kel anymore because of the war and the man’s politics and beliefs.”

“I see.” Sir Treblet watched as the young miss ran across the grass of the cliff side. “Well, we certainly can’t have her running off alone can we. I will see to her with your permission, dear sir.”

“Granted,” Victor sat back in the carriage, frustrated. “I can’t control her anymore.”

“Come Uhtmar!” The knight’s set his horse in gallop to catch up with Jenna. The beast ran along side using its legs and arms to help propel it.

Sir Treblet understood why she would balk at an arranged marriage. The custom was centuries old. However, Lord Kel was an important man. His will alone drove the soldiers of the north to fight against terrible odds and the evil flooding the south from the Sea of Pillars.

“Dear lady,” He brought his mount to a halt several yards away from Jenna. “You should not be wandering out this region alone. These are dangerous times.”

The beast, Uhtmar, stayed next to the knight’s mount.

She was walking with her hands over face. She had obviously been crying. He felt bad for her. She didn’t love the High Lord at all and would be alone in his company.

“How can I do this?” She turned towards him her face red from tears and sorrow. “How can I marry someone I barely know.”

“It is your duty, dear lady.” Sir Treblet shook his head with a sigh. “You cannot back out now. Not with the ceremony less than two months away.”

“Sir Treblet, Winston, do you find me beautiful?”

“Of course, what a silly question. You are the most beautiful woman in the land. Otherwise the High Lord would not have chose you.”

“I didn’t ask what the Lord Kel thought, I asked you what you thought.” Jenna rolled her eyes at the density of men.

“Yes, but it isn’t proper to speak of such things.”

“Why not,” Jenna ran up next to him holding her petticoat up high enough so that it didn’t pick up grass and dirt inside. “Who says what is proper for the Da’aphet’s next High Lady?”

“The Code and the High Lord, dear lady,” Sir Treblet was nervous with her so close.

She was such a small petite thing with eyes as blue as Lake Autumnweed in his homeland. He liked her, he’d felt it the moment he’d met her. But his honor as a Steam Knight held his tongue and his desire.

“Oh fudge,” Jenna turned and stalked off towards the carriage. “The one man I met who I really want won’t take me because of his honor and damn Code!”

“Consort, you must not speak of such things,” Sir Treblet reached out grabbing a hold of her arms shaking her. “You belong to the High Lord and no one else!”

“Let go of me,” Jenna was trapped in his grip. “You’re hurting me.”

Uhtmar growled taking two steps towards them. The beast’s chains rattled in defiance of its cruel master.

“Do you have something to say, Uhtmar? Or do I need to punish you again for your disobedience!” The handsome young man became horrid to her as she realized what lay beneath the cloth covering the beast, no the beast-man.

“No, master,” Uhtmar’s voice entered Jenna’s ears and she saw the knight for what he was.

“You bastard,” Jenna tried to pull away from him looking back towards her father. “You have a slave! That’s barbarous! How can you chain up a sentient thing?”

Sir Treblet let her go and she fell to the ground. He stood over her anger seething in his eyes. He looked at Uhtmar and began laughing.

“What’s so funny?” Jenna was sick. How could she have liked this man?

“Uhtmar isn’t one of the Ethma’rieluna, child. He’s a minotaur. He was born my slave he will die my slave. It is his life.”

“That is no life!” She felt like she was going to vomit. “I will tell the High Lord and you will be hung for your crime!”

“The High Lord knighted me himself, with my slave at my side.” Sir Treblet laughed cruelly. “He wouldn’t dare think of freeing Uhtmar. Otherwise, he’d lose one of his best knights. There are other wars to fight on Rielun. I don’t have to stay here.”

“You haven’t any loyalty at all.”

“Ah not true, Consort.” He shook his finger at her. “I am loyal to Lord Kel and all the money that he pays me to fight against my kin. War may be a nasty business, but it pays handsomely.”

“Your nothing but a mercenary in a fancy suit of armor.” Jenna spat at him.

He wiped his chin raising his hand to hit her. Then they heard it. A clarion calls from across the road. Sir Treblet spun to see nearly a dozen Sermath’kah riders pouring out of the tall grass. Goblins and orcs every one of them.

“At last, something to kill.” Sir Treblet mounted his horse riding off towards the enemy. He left Jenna to fend for herself dragging Uhtmar with him.

Jenna watched in horror as the Sermath’kah overran her father’s carriage, knocking him to the ground.

“Father,” Jenna screamed running towards him.

An orc devil rider swung his mace, shattering the man’s skull before he could find his feet. Jenna slid to halt watching as her father died in front of her eyes.

The column of soldiers that had been traveling with them turned to face the devil riders of the Sea of Pillars. Steamlock pistols flared and swords flashed as the soldiers met the Sermath’kah head on. Soon Sir Treblet was among in the front his steam powered sword slicing through flesh and blood like a hot knife through a soft biscuit. His gauntlet flashed powerful elemental magic burning the riders and their steeds into charred bits that waft across the road. Jenna became sick retching as the smell of death. She backed away from the grisly scene, unable to believe her eyes.

Then they came. Hundreds of southern soldiers and Sermath’kah through a magic portal overrunning the small force of northern troops. They fought bravely they died horribly as steam-powered cannons ripped through their armor and flesh.

Sir Treblet sounded the retreat riding back towards Jenna scooping her up without protest. She couldn’t move. Uhtmar ran beside his master as they ran the gauntlet of enemy troops along the edge of the sea cliff.

“Uhtmar, nothing must get through. Do you understand?” The knight sheathed his sword, pulled his pistol from his boot and shot two charging riders.

“I understand, master.” The minotaur slave threw off his cloth coverings, pulling a great axe from a sling on his back. “Come to me dark ones and I shall show you true darkness!”

The minotaur’s horns rose three feet over his cow-like head, his limbs covered in dark black fur. He wore nothing except his harness, as his hide was as hard as any leather armor. He roared in defiance at the oncoming horde rushing to meet them.

The Sermath’kah kept coming but the human soldiers bolted in fear.

“Aren’t you going to help him?” Jenna worried the beast-man would die against so many.

“It matters not,” Sir Treblet tapped his cyborg-horse’s control keys and the half-robotic beast speed into a blinding gallop. “He is a warrior slave, this is his duty.”

Sir Treblet fired again into an orc devil’s torso.

“He’ll die!”

“Maybe.” Sir Treblet looked back towards his minotaur slave. “But I can always get another warrior slave.”

The knight fired again and again hitting enemy soldiers with deadly precision

“I hate you,” Jenna balled her fists punching at her vile protector.

The Steam Knight laughed, while somewhere in the distance a minotaur slave roared in pain.

* * *

They rode all night to the Shrine, in order to warn the cities of the north. At least that was Sir Treblet’s goal. Jenna just wanted to get to the Shrine and get away from the knight. She thought of Uhtmar lying dead somewhere or worse.

The Shrine was more like a steam technology way station, standing on the top of a small hill near the coast. It had a combustible engine at its heart, nearly six feet in diameter. The magical energy it produced would seal the damage done to Sir Treblet’s steam armor as well as heal his body.

It could do nothing for Jenna’s heavy soul.

“Father,” Jenna crumbled at the edge of the Shrine’s entryway.

“Oh stop that,” Sir Treblet rolled his eyes at her weeping. “At least he didn’t suffer.”

“You bastard,” Jenna buried her head in her arms. “How can you be so damn unfeeling.”

“Well,” Sir Treblet looked at her wondering why she worried about the dead. It didn’t make any sense. But then he was from the south and northerners were different, strange people. “To my people, death is like having a slave for the first time. It can be painful and messy sometimes but one gets used to it eventually.”

“Uh,” Jenna turned away from him. “You are so sick.”

“Do not judge what you do not understand, child. Having slaves has been a tradition in my homeland for generations.”

“It’s wrong,” Jenna wasn’t even going to try and reason with him.

“In your mind because that’s all you know,” Sir Treblet walked deeper into the Shrine looking for its seeing mirror. “Now keep an eye out, child. They still might be out there.”

Jenna wanted to pummel the man. He was so conceited, so sure of himself. Jenna remembered that it was his self-confidence that had made him seem attractive in the first place. She’d have to remember to look deeper the next time. Look for the clues that all ‘noble’ men hide behind.

But she hated most was that he was right. At least, about their present situation. If she didn’t keep watch the enemy would catch them unaware. She stood up looking across the Plains of Shulman. She saw only the tall grass and endless sky, which was falling to twilight.

She shivered at the thought of having to spend the night in this man’s company.

“Ah, here we are. The mirror at last.” Sir Treblet wiped the dust collecting on the seeing mirror. Of course, there wasn’t any real glass in the mirror. Just the magically mesh that would allow him to see all the way to Da’aphet and warn Lord Kel of the invasion.

He would do his duty, as he was paid to do.

He switched on the control rods, keying in the coordinates for the capital city and the mirror flashed an awful scene around Palace Hall. The city was under siege.

“Damn it,” Sir Treblet pounded his fist against the mirror, destroying it. “It looks like I’m not going to get paid!”

“What are you talking about?” Jenna looked at the ruined mirror. “What did you do?”

“Da’aphet is about to fall and I am without an employer.” He looked at her his loyalty to the High Lord gone with his paycheck. “Of course, I still have you.”

“Oh no,” Jenna had never been more frightened in her life. “You wouldn’t dare?”

“Try me,” The Steam Knight stepped toward her, an evil grin revealing his soul. He’d take this wench then sell her in the south. “I’m going to enjoy this.”

He grabbed her hair with his free hand laughing like a madman. She struggled in vain to free herself. Then the bellow sounded from behind them.

“Ah,” Sir Treblet turned to greet his warrior slave. “I see you’ve survived again, beast. But please be silent why I enjoy myself. If you’re a good cow, I’ll let you have her when I’m done.”

“I don’t think so,” Uhtmar stood with his axe in hand ready to for anything. “Now, let her go!”

“You stupid beast,” Sir Treblet drew his power sword encasing himself in his full armor. “I am a Steam Knight, not some pathetic goblin or orc devil. I’ll gut you on the first pass, slave!”

“You can try,” Uhtmar raised himself up standing nearly eight feet. “I will not cower before a man as pathetic as you anymore! If I die, I will die free! And I will take you with me!”

Uhtmar roared charging his former master.

Sir Treblet raised his powered gauntlet and sent fire and lightning coursing through the minotaur’s body before the beast-man could finish his charge. Uhtmar howled in pain, the elemental energy knocking him back and down the hill.

Sir Treblet laughed stalking down the hill to finish the minotaur off. He’s taken only three steps before the steamlock pistol went off behind him. The knight stopped laughing turning to see Jenna holding his boot pistol in her hands.

He died. No one would cry for him. The steam-propelled bullet had gone right through his skull.

Uhtmar laid unmoving on the ground. Jenna rushed to him to see whether he was still alive. His breathing was slow but steady. He’d live with rest.

A clarion call echoed across the Plains of Shulman. Jenna looked up to see hundreds of soldiers and Sermath’kah charging towards the hill. They had been alerted by the noise coming from the Shrine.

“There’s so many of them,” Jenna looked at the pistol in her hand and then the dead knight behind her. “This is rotten timing.”

“Indeed,” Uhtmar stood up his fur still smoking. “I’ll need that.”

Uhtmar held out his hand waiting for Jenna to hand him the steamlock.

“I want to help,” Jenna barely came up to his hip.

“No little miss,” Uhtmar shook his great head. “I cannot fight and worry about you at the same time.”

“There’s too many of them,” Jenna couldn’t believe how worried she was about him. “You’ll die.”

“I’ve already been dead once today,” the great minotaur took a hold of the steamlock, which she surrendered reluctantly. “What is one more time.”

“But…”

“No buts little one,” he pushed her up towards the Shrine. “Now I need you to stay inside the Shrine and lock the door. They won’t be able to break down the door if they get past me. You’ll be safe in there.”

Jenna didn’t like the idea but the alternative wasn’t much better either. She stepped around the dead Steam Knight then stopped an idea forming in her mind.

“Steam armor is magical,” she slipped out of his grasp. “It fits itself around the wearer. Like a second skin. You would stand a batter chance against them with it.”

“B-but I am only a slave,” Uhtmar watched as she tried to get the armor off the dead knight. “I am not worthy enough.”

“Saying that makes you more worthy of the honor than he ever was.” Jenna struggled in vain to get the armor off. “Now, do you know how to get this off him or not?”

Uhtmar turned to see the enemy nearing the base of the hill.

“Yes,” he bent down and keyed in the sequence his dead master had taught him to help take off the armor. The armor hissed and squealed as it retracted fully into its extra-dimensional pocket plane.

Jenna was shocked to see that it was no larger than her feather pillow at home and nearly as light.

“Now put it on,” Jenna gave the magical armor to Uhtmar.

He hesitated.

“What’s wrong,” Jenna was beginning to become annoyed.

“I’m not a Steam Knight,” Uhtmar turned over the armor, which looked like a big nap sack. “I don’t know how to work this.”

“Oh come on, you’ve seen him use it all the time. I’m sure you’ll be a natural. Believe in yourself.”

“I have been raised to be nothing more than a slave.” Uhtmar put the armor on and powered up the suit. “But you, you I believe in. Stand back!”

Uhtmar punched in the last command and the suit exploded to envelop him in metal and steam. It bound to his soul. Shimmering gold and red in the setting sun of the World of Rielun. He roared and the armor responded, molding to his head and jaw. Instead of a steam-powered sword, a great steam chain-axe formed in his right hand. Instead of a powered gauntlet, a steam cannon formed around his left. The armor shuddered as it wrapped around his torso and his legs. A great metal helm molded itself to his horns, shining in the fading twilight like a beacon across the hill.

He roared again and the enemy soldiers shuddered in fear. Their commanders kept them moving forward, the fear of their masters greater than the minotaur in front of them.

“Go into the Shrine, little one.” He spoke with confidence but not like Sir Treblet had. “I will handle this.”

“Be careful,” Jenna knew she’d be no help to him outside the Shrine. He’d simply worry too much about her and not the enemy in front of him.

She ran into the Shrine keying in the locking sequence, which the wall displayed next to the pad. The door hissed shut and the steam engine came to life providing a magical boon that would secure the Shrine against physical or magical harm. The power of the Shrine emanated out across the hill finding Uhtmar’s power source, adding to it. Soon the armor shone of its own accord and magical energy filled the weapons to capacity.

Uhtmar had never felt the touch of a God before but somehow he knew that Jaua Ae-rielun, the Heart of the World, was with him. They would not take the Shrine. He believed in himself for Jenna.

He stepped out on the edge of the hilltop and roared again in defiance of those that would destroy the land and harm the innocent.

“I am Uhtmar Umal-Arak, son of Retinsal of Biacc! Here me dark warriors, I have been a slave, I have been a coward, but today I am reborn! Today I am Uhtmar of Da’aphet, Steam Knight, Warrior of Delvir Shrine, protector of the Royal Throne, champion of Lady Jenna Hallin, my High Lady, my heart, my friend! None of you shall pass on this day, I swear it to the Heart of the World.”

Uhtmar roared charging down the hill towards the approaching horde. Jenna had never prayed to Heart of the World before but on that night she prayed for her friend.

* * *

“Uhtmar charged into the darkness, fighting dozens of southern soldiers and the Sermath’kah all through the night. He did not rest, he did not sleep and he did not eat. He fought and fought and just when I thought he’d been killed he’d come out of the darkness again to defend the Shrine and my life. Some believe he died dozens of times that night but that the Heart of the World brought him back time and time again until the dawn rose and none were left standing but he.”

“Mother, I’ve heard a different legend that it was your love and friendship that kept him alive.” Sanin smiled at his mother.

“Well, one shouldn’t believe false legends, my son. I am only the High Lady and the Heart of the World is a God. What makes more sense?”

“True but it’s a better story.” Sanin watched as his mother turned red as the sun was setting outside the great Bay Window of Palace Hall.

“Anyway, Uhtmar brought me to Da’aphet and was pivotal in freeing the city from the clutches of the Sermath’kah. He founded a new order of Steam Knights that didn’t exclude any race, regardless of their original homeland. He stood by the side of the Throne for years protecting your father and I.”

“But what happened to him? His Horned helm hangs in the Halls of Honor but it doesn’t say how he died?”

The High Lady closed her journal staring out into the twilight, wondering what to tell him.

“I-I don’t know what happened to him. One day he simply vanished and his helm appeared in the Hall of Honor.”

“So he could still be alive. I’d like to meet him.”

“I’d like you to meet him too, my son. I’d like that very much. But I don’t think it’s possible. No, the Warrior of Delvir Shrine is gone. Most believe he is with the Heart of the World now, a part of him. Others believe he left for the stars to take the his teachings to others of his kind across the ethereal sky.”

“What do you believe, mother?”

“I-I believe he is still here. That his body has died but that his spirit lives on protecting those in need. Watching over us, defending us w-with his Horns of Honor.” Lady Jenna Kel, High Lady of Da’aphet sighed trying not to cry. He wouldn’t want that. He’d want his little miss to be strong.

Sanin watched his mother holding her hand as the sun set. His eager mind had another question though.

“Mother, can you tell me how he single handedly defended the walls of Da’aphet during the Fifth War?”

“I think that a story for another time, my son.” Lady Kel laughed holding her son close to her, tears running down her face. “Another time.”

Malecade

Malecade. My first D&D land. Long before Rielun was called Time of Ages, it was called the Islands of Malecade. It was the first world that I created and Malecade was the first continent I created. It began with the northern peninsula and the hero Spearion and his allies. The Bay of Lions was the primary starting point for myself.

The original hex maps are lost, but I recreated the world with Campaign Cartographer from memory. It was a hard process, and the image below is somewhat different than what i showed my friends back in the day. In truth, the image below is considerably better than what I originally created. The Isles of the South and the name “Gulf of Steam” came about directly from a piece of fiction that wrote about a minotaur steam knight. (Hmm, I’ll have to post that here next.)

Once I decided to make Rielun a steampunk D&D/d20 world, there was no turning back. However, I haven’t done much development of the world beyond remapping it out in CC2 Pro and updating some of the old PCs and NPCs for D&D 3rd Edition. There is a lot I already know about Malecade, but there is just as much that I haven’t designed yet. The steampunk influences on this continent aren’t as strong as elsewhere on the world. Malecade is more savage.

In the center of the continent is a region known as the Wildlands. I came up with that name long before I’d ever heard of the Wilderlands campaign setting by Judges Guild, so the name isn’t an homage. The Wildlands is a highly magical region where technology rarely, if ever, works. Nature is powerful there and those that don’t respect it will soon find themselves being eaten by dinosaurs or worse. The foliage in the Wildlands has a consciousness all its own, and those who would try to tame the region tend to get the blood sucked from their bodies by carnivorous plants.

The continent of Malecade

The continent of Malecade

Mecha in Time of Ages

This image by deviantART artist Ignacio Bazán Lazcano would be how I would depict the steam mechs of the core worlds of SJGW’s Steampunk Spelljammer universe.

The steam mechs of the core are a little more mech and a little less magic. Such mechs are well taken care of by their handlers, although ages of warfare makes most steam mechs look less shiny. There is a darkness to how steam mechs are viewed in the core worlds. The constructs are seen as dangerous, dirty, and frightening even though they are required for the security of the Empire of Monarchs.

Steam mechs in the far reaches of the Aether (like those seen in Rielunspace) wouldn’t be as advanced as those near the core worlds. Such mechs are more magical than mechanic, and they are built for their aesthetics, especially by the Elven Flotillas. (imagine a Elven Warbird spelljammer morphed into a mech and you envision what I see in my own mind.) The steam mechs of Rielunspace are considered primitive by core world mecha designers but the effectiveness of the magics they wield cannot be understated.

“Red steam” copyright © Ignacio Bazán Lazcano.

The First Hero

Before there was anything else for Rielun, there was the half-orc known only as “Spears.” Before I ran my first AD&D 2E campaign set on Rielun (then known as the Islands of Malecade), I created a hero who was raised by pygmy-like demihumans who lived in harmony with the wilds of nature on the continent of Malecade. His home and heart was two-fold. He became an adopted son of a village called “Gremlin” while keeping in touch with his primitive youth. His constant companion in his early years was a giant cat that was more like a gigantic house cat than a wild cat. (His nameless cat was tragically killed by evil humanoids.)

Later in his life, he would become fast friends with a group of characters that I now refer to as the Lions of Malecade — Knak Rynne (name was a homage to my favorite Dragonlance author), Marty Lionmountain, Nona Heartwood, and Simon Mardin (and Simon’s twin brother who turned to evil before being killed by the others). These characters were never a group of PCs being played by my friends at the time. Instead, they were all constructs of my own imagination. In the current era, they are known as the Heroes of the Past and are remembered with reverence by current adventures. Whether or not they were truly worthy of such praise is up for debate.

“Spears” is now known as The Spearion in the annals of history. His last name was never known, although Rielunian historians often doubt he ever had a last name. His adopted parents were most likely tigés (also known as the tligen) or trooda and a statue of his visage stands in his adopted town, now called Gremlin Home, which still exists in the forested hills of the region known as The Lions’ Gap. He is looked upon as a savior of the town and a icon for all civilized half-orcs to strive to emulate. In truth, he was far from civilized. In current D&D 3E terms, his final stats would be as follows: NG male half-orc, Animal Lord 11/Adept 9. Yes, his soul was good, but his heart was savage.

He was the first hero of the world I created and one of the first characters I ever created. I still remember him fondly and I was lucky enough to get a sketch done of him by an online artist whose name escapes me at the moment. (Once I re-remember the artist’s name, I’ll add it to the caption on the image below.)

* An alternate d20 system class from Legends & Lairs: Sorcery & Steam, which was published by Fantasy Flight Games.

"Spears," The Spearion

“Spears,” The Spearion