Thursday, February 7, 2019

Fifth Hill Cantons Book is Underfoot, Come Be Patronizing

Marlinko hillscape by Luka Rejec

The cat's out of the bag in an interview today about the fifth Hill Cantons book, a yet unnamed project that covers the small settlement-wilderness-dungeon classic set up of tiny and weirder Revoca Canton. I'm 26 pages in, but boy howdy is my writing slow and creaky af.

Readers of this blog will also have noted the sheer, sad neglect of this space for going on three years. Between workaholic political day jobbery, dading (these aren't words), and hobby publishing it just squeezes your time/energy too hard. Unfortunately it has also squeezed the vital pipeline and ferment that comes from throwing out mad shit on the wall and having you fine folks riff and mutilate it in real time here.

But hey I'm at a crossroads after moving to Austin and other massive life changes when it comes to continuing writing and designing things ludic and fantastical.

Which gets me to the pitch, I just launched a Hill Cantons Patreon. 

This Patreon is pretty damn simple in concept:

  • I will produce a “chapter” (roughly 5-18 pages) of new adventure locales, pointcrawls, weirdo NPCs, bizarre items, my usual shit in other words.
  • Each chapter will mostly build toward a final published book or game, in this case Revoca Project X and will likely be released every 2-5 weeks.
  • I will add goals as we go along to produce not just my own written content but also supporting illustrations, cartography, etc from some of our other starving artists in the milieu.
And guess what? You don't get dinged monthly if I don't make deadline. Your support only comes in when I finish a section—and like the Slumbering Ursine Dunes kickstarter I plan on doing right by those who do support this along the way and on the backend. And looky here Luka Rejec has already generously made this eye-poppingly lovely banner of Marlinko for the project above (you should also support his Patreonas he is trying to make a go of things too). 

It's a virtuous cycle upwards if you like the work I have done so far on this. Please click here to patronize.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The World of the Hill Cantons Revisited

It's probably a testimony to how insanely busy and distracted I was over the last year with campaigns in the so-called real world, but I have been discovering and rediscovering all kinds of sadly neglected Hill Cantons material as I methodically work backwards through Google Plus archiving well over 1,000 related posts. 

One great little gem is the following map drawn by one of my fecund of creative partners, Luka Rejec (go support his Patreon and keep this talented guy fed and clothed.) Drawn from my own crappy players map of six years ago (which you can see in this revised post below). It's a rather nice view of the southwestern quad of Zem, the Hill Cantons campaign world. It provides a nice context to the four books of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes series which all take place in an inch wide area right in the middle. 
click ye here.
What the Hell is This Special Snowflake?
This Slavic acid fantasy snowflake is the world of Zem. The Hill Cantons is a region proper (a loose collection of poorly-run borderlands cantons ostensibly ruled by the Overking), the name of the ten-year campaign--and of course now a four-part published series to be ignored and smiled at indulgently like an eccentric uncle.

Zem is a world divided into four near-symmetrical parts, double bisected by the World Canal, domed by the heavenly firmament, and riding on the shell of the World Turtle that swims in a spiraling loop through the cosmic void. It is believed to have its reflection in an mirroring Anti-Reality.

Old wives also foolishly believe it to be a spherically-shaped, concentric “shellword” , a world inside of an Overworld and containing another Underworld. And that the heavenly firmament is but the illuminated rock underside of that upper layer of the world which itself elliptically orbits an outer sun, one of countless billions.

But that's crazy talk.
You can click on me. 
Where did Zem Come From?
Some believe that a dreaming Overgod in floated from Demonspace to this dimension and created it in his self-loathing/loving image. Others believe that the world is but a psychic projection of another, a shadowy cave of folk-spirits and broken platonic ideals.

What Kind of Cracked God Would Want to Live Here?
For a world dominated by a monotheistic religion (the Sun Lord and Solarity) that denies even the existence of other divine forces, Zem is crawling wall to wall with countless cohorts of failed godsgodlingslocal godsbeast godshero cults, and atrophied gods.

Read all about it in the Hill Cantons Cosmology if you aren't asleep yet. Or see here for the Cosmological Appendix N


Just What Exactly is Up with the Weird?
The Weird is a marble-cake band of mythic wilderness/underworld and magitech other dimensions bleeding over and living in a constantly changing/moving (dialectical) tension with human civilization. It is a shifting zone of Other Reality. It's where the feral things are.

But I said it way better and with more detail hereOne of the in-game models of this is the Chaos Index campaign idea

Civilization?
Human civilization is smaller, more thinly-rooted and more inwardly-focused than our world. There's a small-scale survey of the campaign spots in Hill Cantons Compendium II , but here's the big picture rundown:

The Overkingdom of Nemec, Nurian, Heimeti, and Pahr Lands, a “bright colors” psychic projection of late 16th century Western and Southern Slavic (the Pahr) and German (the Nemec) countries. The coreland Overkingdom has three large semi-autonomous borderlands regions: the Hill Cantons, the Translittoral Canton of Hoimatbuch and the Marches of Nur (famous for its War Bears and kuduks).

Marlinko Canton. Well you can read your eyes off about Marlinko city proper here and the greater Marlinko Canton here. The central original hub of the campaign. 

Revoca Canton.  A tiny, remote canton even odder than fever-dreaming Marlinko, the fourth campaign hub--and my next book! Read a tour of it here

Kezmarok on the Rock and Over The Water, a former empire now clinging to life in a half-ruined metropolis after 500 years by the Turko-Fae. Run by the Decade King, a monarch that until late was deposed and blinded each decade. Quite a bit written about this glorious dump herehere, and here.

Himyar, the 19th century Orientalist/pre-Muslim Arabic-ish “Scarlet Sultanate” of the south (with a splash of Clark Ashton Smith necromancy). 

Hy-Brasos, barely-settled Magyar-esque horse nomads cum feudalists with war wagons. Pity the poor dirt-gnomes, glammer-slyphs and talking dogs enslaved by them. 

The Kozak hordes, Old Pahr horse nomads. The western horde being led by Hetboy Pavol.

Oiorpatathat distant and exotic isle near the resting point of the Sun Lord's daily ride, are a fine, strong-boned, if verbally assertive race of Amazons noted for their love of high-crested, baroque helmets, polished armor, and knitting circles.  

Races and Places Weird
Hyperboreans. A long-fallen, world-spanning super-human civilization that possessed great lost sorcerous techologies (read Kirbyesque space gods/science fantasy). Shit went south a millennia ago and their Necromancer-King successor-states left great undercities and ruins on their way out.

Anticantonal Eld. Lords of one of the Cold Hell (a rigid, hierarchical anti-reality). You know, these assholes.

Turko-Fae. Grey-skinned and inscrutable, these strange turbaned warlords have laid seige lines outside Kezmarok for five centuries. They wipe clean (literally) any bit of civilization they wrestle control over.

Grugach. Crazed homicidal and anarchic they pore forth from the so-called "Summer Country" in elk-riding hordes to lay waste to...well anything.

Vlko. A lost (but found by the players) Old Pahr kingdom.

The Feral Shore. A former Kezmaroki borderlands completely wiped clean 500 years ago by the Turko Fey. Now thick with Old Pahr mythic wilderness and the center stage for the current campaign.

So Wait, Aren't We Still Talking About an Elfgame Here?
Yes, yes we are. While I will admit to slipping semi-embarrassingly into long daydreams during the real world grind, there is no childhood hand-carving figurines, collection of awkward short stories for my made-up world. The HC is a creation that has no independent force driving it other than the anarchic and organic process of layer being laid down on lair from the repeated bruising contact with the play table over seven years of running it.

It's a campaign world that has an arc divided up my discernible “phases”. Starting as a West Marches, radically plotless and exploration style campaign, it morphed into a broad-bases sandbox with layers of accreting layers of mystery. (That devolution plotted here)

Still the game, D&D and its microexploration focus, drives the setting. And all roads lead to the dungeon.