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BRUCE HEARD (OD&D Product Line Manager. Compiled from the MMB through Sep 3, 2006)
(Comment): First of all, I thought it was a great read! I loved returning to the Princess Ark and reading about Haldemar's continuing adventures. As mentioned elsewhere, I thought this instalment was one of Bruce's best so far
Thanks Dude! Sorry for the delay in getting back up here. I'm glad to see you had as much fun as I did writing it. :smile:
Q: Lord Nibboray: Cool name, and an interesting character. He hasn't been mentioned anywhere previously has he? I would love to hear more about him.
A: Yup, new guy. I wanted to flesh out the council a bit more, so having Mr Bad-Boy-Council-Head-Honcho for starters seemed almost a must. This one can be developed as a recurring bad guy, and a growing nuisance for Eriadna. He's no doubt the first in line among the opposition to the present imperial dynasty.
Q: Potion of Aranea Ichor: I wasn't aware that Aranea had trouble distinguishing between personalities when shape changing. Was that mentioned in the Herath article? Been a while since I read it. The potion having this effect was quite an interesting touch in any case.
A: IIRC that's the way I had designed them originally. An aranea is supposed to "become" the person into whom it shape shifts. As a result, its previous personality tends to get a bit fuzzy in its mind, especially while in a form that is alien to its natural state. The reason for this is to make it much harder to detect. Originally, araneas created specific alter egos to
dwell among other races without raising suspicion. They don't normally do what doppelgangers do -- imitate an actual person. This is where the potion deviates from the natural Herathian ability. It's been tinkered with by someone capable of getting components like aranean ichor, doppelganger spine, smoke, mirrors, and garlic (for flavour).
Q: Queen Eriadna: Now this was a surprise. It seems like Bruce is hinting at some parts of WotI that we haven't known about so far at the end there. What exactly is Eriadna's plan? What does it have to do with Alphatia's fate in the Hollow World? Could it hail a return of Alphatia at a later point? This could also explain why magically aged Alphatians died during WotI while they shouldn't normally have. The fact that Ar survived WotI was also hinted at, which is interesting.
A: Well, there's a part I haven't explained as clearly as I wanted -- Eriadna plans to prevent Alphatia's relocation to the Hollow World (thus the anti-magic conspiracy). That's the specific part she tries to fight against. Whether magic ceases to function in the empire for some time (as a result of her spell or the artifact's catastrophe) remains irrelevant in the long term. Sure, it'll hurt for a while, but Alphatia can recover. Eriadna's next goal is to devise solutions to the permanent magical drain. She does want that artifact obliterated and will stop at nothing to achieve this goal. Will she succeed? That's up to you. Her enchantment could also fail entirely. It could instead throw a major monkey wrench in the way the artifact "malfunctions" and provoke other unexpected effects. And if you want to twist the story further, she might indeed endeavour to remove Alphatia from the surface as a means to protect it from the artifact's devastation -- however this seems like jumping into the wolf's mouth. Besides, many Immortals would probably support this latest development upon discovering Eriadna's plan. So, this is wide open. I clearly did not what to rewrite what was what already published.
Q: Lupin Bloodhounds: I loved those guys! Have the Lupins of Alphatia been mentioned previously? I like the idea of having them as a sort of secret police.
A: Nope, new bad doggies working the bad boys at the Council. They're great at sniffing out conspiracies and they make very, very loyal companions for paranoid wizards. Besides they come in six-packs -- you know, the entire allotment of a standard Black Heart maturation vat. All six are identical and empathically linked together.
All in all, a great instalment that left me craving for more. Thanks Bruce!
You're welcome! It would be fun to launch a new series of a more "generic" nature since the old system and game world are out of print. The idea would remain the same, along with the original storyline. Hey, who knows?
I noticed that it said Xerdon was betrayed by his superiors in the navy, which I can't recall offhand if it was mentioned in his original write-up in the Princess Ark articles/CoM. If so, that's an interesting titbit of information. I also liked how he had his sword and wand out- that would be a cool fighting style.
Yes, this was part of the original description (see CoM for that). This is a guy who's had upper level contacts in the Council and obviously as of now, with Eriadna herself. He's a pawn who could at some point regain some or all of his past glory as a general, a bit like Gladiator's Maximus. Not as likeable though... And he hasn't been poisoned by anyone's insidious dagger. Yet.
Here is another thought: Eriadna's spell fails, but not completely. Alphatia is transported into the Hollow World, but the Enchantment acts as some sort of Reality Anchor (my term) to the Outer World, making it possible to bring Alphatia back to the surface in spite of the Spell of Preservation and the Anti Magic of Mystara's Core. Ideally Master Terari should play a role in the final stage of brining Alphatia back, since that could be the next step on his path to Immortality.
As a magical hiccup, Alphatia could also end up becoming a Brigadoon of sorts, travelling between the Hollow World and the surface, based upon planetary configuration! It would therefore be present in both worlds, on an alternating schedule.
Q: Oh yeah, what did you think of the way the article was presented? Did you like the look, the artwork, the editing etc? Did you have any influence on any of that?
A: I liked the style of the art, although I'm not sure if my guidelines were followed or precise enough for the artist to be able to render the characters as they normally appear. There was no communication at that level.
Q: And another question: How did this article come to be? Did Paizo contact you for the anniversary issue or did you contact them? Was the article based on things you had laying around from the old series or mostly on new ideas? (Okay that was more than one question).
A: I was contacted directly. I was given a set number of words which dictated pretty much what I could do. For example, I decided against adding a Gazetteer-style map so common to Princess Ark adventures, simply because it would have taken more space and required quite a bit more text to flesh out. I didn't know if Paizo would have wanted to spend the resources needed to complete such a map in the correct style considering that all the icon artwork for the hexes is now long gone. These maps were all done using acetate layers and lick & stick symbols -- literally. These maps took a lot of time to do right. Ditto game stats, NPCs, and other background game material for the article for space consideration. I focused on the adventure because this was the centre piece. Later on, I received a request to add generic background info for readers who are unfamiliar with the series. This came in addition to my original space allotment. So I consider myself fortunate to have had more space in the magazine for the Princess Ark and for the opportunity to add another adventure. Thank you Paizo! This is entirely new material by the way. It made more sense to me to stick with the old timeline to retain as much of the series original flavour as possible.
Anyway... I read the new article, and I thought it was excellent. Well done, Bruce! I wholeheartedly concur with Håvard that this is probably your best Princess Ark article yet. And I also agree with comments elsewhere that your writing seems to have gotten (even) better since your last official printed stuff.
Thank you so much for all of your praise. I'm not sure though if it is my writing style improving or your eagerness to read a new adventure! The worst of food tastes divinely to the one who starves! Upon reading the printed version of my article, I winced at a few things I would have written differently (my mistakes -- not the editor's). Due to lack of space and the log-book writing style of the series, I had to hold off on a lot of sensory information that would have made the narrative more vibrant (noises, smells, tastes, visual details, physical textures, impressions, feelings, etc). In retrospect it's always easy to pick things apart. Most of all, I had a lot of fun getting back into a writing mode for the adventure. It's been some 13 years since the last episode -- I had to do a lot of digging and re-reading to get back up to speed on all my stuff! Believe it or not!
Cheers to all!
Put simply: among all the great things you did for Mystara, the Princess Ark was the most exciting, and it was also a great advert for the whole setting. The work you did to expand the Known World in that article was nothing short of genius. Thank you for once again giving us a taste of this, 13 years after the adventure ended.
Thanks again, Thorf. The adventure does not need "an end". This is bit like the Star Trek of heroic fantasy. It keeps going on for a long, long time. For the die-hards, the entire crew could turn undead and haunt the skies of Mystara, in the style of the classical Flying Dutchman. As long as there is a Princess Ark, someone will fly her. Perhaps the crew cannot be released until the enchantment is broken -- in other words, once they are all dead, they return to the ship as undead creatures.
Bruce, it's true that we are (were?) starved for new articles. But remember also that a lot of us have grown up since we last read your series, and I hope we have also become a little more discerning. I was 15 when I read Episode 35, and 27 when I read 36; to be honest I would have expected it to be a disappointment due to self-overhyping and rose-tinted spectacles. But it turned out to exceed all my expectations.
OK, I'll concede that one gracefully!
By the way, in case you didn't get my cryptic post above, the gist is that I have remade all the original Mystara hex symbols, as well as a large proportion of the original maps. I agree that it takes a long time to make a good map, but thanks to the programs available nowadays the tools are available to us.
Cool! I would like to get a copy of these symbols. Of course I'm not sure if I'll be able to use them. My command of Photoshop (?) is at best limited. I have a copy but found it user-unfriendly. For a good laugh: I completed a board game prototype a few years back and got so frustrated with Photoshop I ended up moving everything to... MS Paint! The boardgame looked good but the files would be worthless to a publisher.
Haldemar = He could be either Kirk or Picard, really.
Leo = Seems much more Scotty than Geordi
Talasar = Here's a tough one, IIRC, he's the First Officer, but he seems more like Bones than Spock or Riker.
Xerdon = Riker? Chekhov? Worf?
Ashari = Wesley Crusher?
I wasn't quite so literal about the above. I alluded to the general concept of a ship and its crew having regular adventures in uncharted lands. Obviously the PA crew has no direct relation to Star Trek.
I loved the new instalment Bruce! What can we do to convince Paizo to make this something that is a more frequent series than 1 instalment per 13 years?
I'll talk to Erik Mona. Can't promise anything -- this is a very long shot.
Maybe I can. I draw my maps by using a combination of Hexmapper (for the basic hexes layout) and MS Paint (for the details, such as roads, rivers, coastlines, and names).
I do not use really good Thorf's hexes (the list I use is available here: http://it.geocities.com/lutetius/Mappe/Hexes.zip ;just substitute with this folder the "Hexes" folder of the Hexmapper), but I think it should be quite easy to convert them in .bmp files (that can be accepted as new terrain hexes by the Hexmapper). (etc...)
Thanks for all the info on mapping. This is all very interesting. I wish I'd had all that stuff available to me when I wrote the original episodes of the Princess Ark. I used to draw these maps directly on paper, with a separate layer for text. Somewhere in the process, I made copies of these maps and started taping them together into an ever-expanding patchwork. It looked pretty silly and cumbersome.
I must admit I enjoyed the exercise of converting bits of these featureless continental maps into small-scale hex maps for the adventures -- all the while wondering what manner of creatures might be living there. Usually, the first version of the map ended up being scrapped as a result of putting together the adventure. I remember my wife walking away, shaking her head and rolling her eyes when I told her I had to redraft the map... oh, somewhere around 3:30 am on deadline day. She just could not understand that part.
Q: Bruce, I admire your work with Mystara, especially the Savage Coast, where you created an entire sub-setting to go along with the Known World. I like how it had its own themes (e.g. the Red Curse and swashbuckling) but was neatly woven into the wider Mystara continuity. I also like how you stuck to the Known World model with tiny countries based on a kaleidoscope of real world cultures. Did you ever entertain thoughts about making another sub-setting on Mystara?
A: Not within the scope of the Princess Ark. By the time the PA series ended, the Mystara line had gone over to a different design group focused on the AD&D game. The passion just wasn't there. It pretty much ended any long term planning for this product line. By then TSR's finances also were at their worst which didn't help. If the PA series had continued, either Northwestern Davania would have become the next area of focus, or inland areas north of the Savage Coast.