Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #7 - City State Entertainment
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Pardon the Delay

Hey there, folks! Welcome to the future! I mean, the past.

Well, this is February’s newsletter, which we had to delay while the team cracked away on the launch of our Alpha testing period. Sorry about that, but it would have been awfully silly to risk delaying Alpha for the newsletter, instead of the other way around! We’ll see what we can do to make sure you still get your full dosage of Unveiled goodness, but for now, here’s a newsletter chock-full of everything you’ve come to expect, with news, updates, anecdotes, information, and even a juicy slice of lore! 

Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Yes, you heard right! The opening of the Camelot Unchained™ Alpha testing period is upon us. Rejoice, ye Alpha testers! Just in case you’ve missed it elsewhere, here is where you can go to download the client, if you’re one of those wonderful people. We will have lots and lots of scheduled Alpha Tests, so when you see a message from us that the servers are open, go forth and test the lethal ability combinations at your command!

We really knuckled down in February, and pushed ourselves to the limit to try and make the estimated Alpha date. It was pretty close, but despite our determination, we didn’t quite make it. However, we’re there now, along with an extra-special addition: C.U.B.E., a standalone building program. It’s all been pretty dang cool, and best of all, you can play with C.U.B.E. any time our patcher is up, which usually means 24x7! As our president and fearless leader has said, why test things like it’s 1999, with only scheduled tests? You can test and play with C.U.B.E. on your schedule, not ours!

Speaking of which, the winter snow finally caught up with us. Beautiful downtown Fairfax has been blessed with a beautiful series of wintry storms. It’s made for a lovely view from our office windows, even if it’s made the roads challenging at times. 

In between working hard at development, we've been doing a few fun February things here at City State Entertainment™. Tyler got us all avocado valentines (because why not?) and you can take a peek at some below. Our love for him is green and not yet ripe! Tyler is awesome. 

We've got two new members joining the honorable team here! One of them is Daniel Beck, or dB, sound engineer extraordinaire! We’re really looking (listening) forward to his sonic creations! The other is a tiny coding genius… Jill, Tim’s wife, had a baby! We’re really excited for her contributions to the studio, though her signature on the contract was a bit messy. Congrats to Tim and family!

With our step forward into the launch of Alpha, and all the roads and many challenges behind us, take a moment to peruse the latest thoughts, updates, and articles from City State Entertainment. Please enjoy this, the seventh issue of Unveiled. 

Dragon Accident Report

A torrential downpour of snow has come to the land, say local citizenry. It’s going to cover us all in the whisper of a white blanket. Claims abound that the mighty storm has downed several of the terrible winged creatures of the skies, but that they disappeared when the crash site was investigated. This leads to some speculation about the nature of the storm itself. Its near-supernatural power suggests something mysterious at work. Could this terrible snowstorm have been caused by the actions of these strange creatures, or perhaps even one enigmatic monster, more powerful that the rest? In any case, take extra care when venturing outdoors! 


Well, it’s been a very exciting month for us. We hired a sound engineer! His name is Daniel Beck, or dB for short, and we’re very excited to have him join the team. Welcome, Daniel! 
Meanwhile, we’ve already made some progress interviewing arty folks for Hug the World. Thank you all so, so much for getting us to this point! 
And of course, we now have “Programmers, where art thou Programmers?”. This is an extremely important goal for us, and for anyone who supports Camelot Unchained. Take a moment and read about it here.


-by Jenesee Grey

Welcome to the section where we talk directly to you, the Community! Here is where I take your thoughts on the forum and attempt to give you more information on some of those unanswered questions!

Q. With the January 30th Afternoon Update, it was stated in point 7 that "Nothing lasts forever", in relation to crafting. What does this mean? Are we going to have to recreate certain pieces of armor? Or can we just repair them? Do they have a timer in which they'll just disappear after a certain amount of time? What's the extent of this rule, is it just limited to player gear, or does it also apply to castle walls, gates, etc? -KrakenMeister 

When we say nothing lasts forever, we mean just that! As you use weapons and armor their durability will wane, based on the frequency and the way you use them. Are you attacking with a weapon that has a high fracture rate, and are you hitting it against heavy metal armor? It will likely wear down faster than if you were using it against a light armor wearer. When that happens, you will want to do some basic repairs on your low level armor/weapon yourself with popcorn crafting. When things need a more practiced touch or you have a special piece, you will want to take it to a dedicated Crafter instead. Eventually, some things break beyond repair, but can still be salvaged into component parts to be reforged with new materials, as a part of something new in the circle of Crafting. *cue Lion King music* You can salvage other items in the building/crafting system as well, so think bigger than just fighting gear. In this way, we keep the economy moving forward and allow for continual interaction between Crafters and Fighters.

Q. Will the fighting system (where you create your own attacks) allow for disastrous results? When working with a more open system, the failures can be very amusing sometimes. -Foggye

One of our Foundational Principles is about this very thing! We do plan to introduce an RNG (random number generator) factor, to introduce both critical successes and critical failures in the game. These special events will be rare, so don’t fret that you will constantly have to worry about a mismanaged spell blowing up every time you inscribe it into your spellbook, or other disasters (and triumphs), unless you court the lady of fate on purpose. ;) As a player, you are in control of this when creating abilities themselves, as you can decide to include a higher volatility attribute. Do that only if you want to embrace that table of possibilities and increase the chances of a success or failure. As MJ has said, “moments of monumental glory discussed as water cooler conversations” make life interesting.

Q. If ability components are trained individually through use before reaching a soft cap, then how one player choosing to use few differents components in order to have a very specialized build/role/style will be rewarded compared to one other player using many of them and be more jack of all trades ? Is there a mechanism that you didn't talk about yet to make this kind of choice matter (see what I did there) or is this a kind of choice that you don't want to support ? -Altheran

I did see what you did there, and you hit on the important point! Choice matters in this and everything else. If you want to use fewer components, but focus on soft-capping those limited components for maximum effectiveness, you can certainly do so. You will likely have fewer overall abilities to choose from, however: after all, there are only so many ways you can combine a smaller number of components! OTOH, If you want to diversify and have a lot of everything with various abilities for specific situations, you can do that too. Neither method will put you at a major disadvantage, depending how you play. It is the difference between a specialty focus and a larger toolset, and depends on which serves you better in the situations you engage in.

Hot Topics

C.U.B.E. discussion, keeps, plots, and building are the watchwords in the forums right now. Take a look, add to the discussion, and share your creations in the forums on our website!

Look What You Did

Hey there! Last time, we asked you to dress up as a Frost Giant, and once again La Pie ‘rose’ to the challenge. Check out his hilarious picture below! Nice scowl, La Pie!
Our next contest is going to be pretty special, and will be aimed at bringing our Alpha Backer creations into the spotlight. We’ll be announcing that contest later on, but for now, here is some inspiration from the early days of building in C.U.B.E.!

Thank You

Many thanks are due to everyone who hung out and supported us when we were streaming our countdown to Alpha. We had a lot of fun with you all!
Many thanks to Curse, who sent us very comfortable T-shirts! You folks are super cool, and now we are cool by association! 
Thanks go out to a Backer (who wishes to remain anonymous) for ordering pizza for us during crunch! Yum!
Thanks to Ludovic and the Knights of the White Wolf for the sugar high and the laughs we got from your gifts! 
A special thank you to our backers to came to PAX East to meetup and spend some time hanging out. Here is Guinness showing off his namesake:
Last but certainly not least, we received girl scout cookies from TheMeph. It feels like summer already!

Dose of Design 

-by Ben Pielstick

Archetypal Archetypes

There have been a lot of questions around our the forums on our website about what makes each class unique, and how we are going to establish a basis for strong Archetypes. Here are a few details to better explain the Archetype, Class, and Path structure, which should help give some of you out there a clearer picture of what you might want to play once you get your hands on the game.

The first decision you are likely to make when it comes to deciding on a role for your character is whether you want to focus on combat or crafting. I wrote briefly in a previous newsletter about many of the things crafters will be able to do in our game, so this time I'm going to focus more on combat. 

Combat characters are broken down into five Archetypes: Warrior, Mage, Healer, Support, and Archer. Each Archetype has its own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations to set it apart and make it unique. While players actually choose specific classes rather than generic Archetypes during character creation, it is useful to look at these abstract Archetype definitions for playstyle, since each Realm will have its own set of unique classes based on these Archetypes.

Warriors are the strongest offensive and defensive Archetype in close combat, and have the most bonuses to melee weapons and armor use. They can last a long time in a fight with their superior damage absorption, or they can put out the highest rate of sustained damage to nearby enemies over long fights with ramping escalation mechanics. Warriors are also good at initiating a fight; forcing opponents to engage in close combat, as well as helping allies disengage from unfavorable confrontations with enemy melee characters. Warriors can also gain access to the best disruption and finishers, which allow them to shut down an enemy's ability to fight back, or  deal decisive killing blows to end fights with maximum lethality. 

In contrast to a Warrior's mastery of sustaining damage over time, Mages command the highest burst damage potential, allowing them to unleash sudden devastation (often without having to stand toe to toe with their opponents). Mages will likely also have the best area-denial abilities, giving them control over the shape of the battlefield and ensuring favorable conditions for their allies. Another part of the strength of Mages is their versatility. Mages have a wide range of utility in terms of disruption, control, debuffs, and misdirection abilities which can help win a fight without the use of raw damage. Though Mages are only moderately gifted in these areas, the breadth of their utility is itself a strength, allowing a wide range of possibilities and opportunities for unique specializations.

Healers are, as their name implies, the Archetype which is responsible for restoring and sustaining the health of themselves and their allies. Healers are also responsible for the treatment of wounds, which are a common type of long-term debuff applied as a result of high amounts of physical damage. While lacking the passive defensive staying power of Warriors, Healers have the potential to be very difficult to kill ,due to their active abilities. These include various forms of healing as well as temporarily boosts to the survivability of themselves and their allies, who would otherwise surely die due to overwhelming incoming damage. While Healers lack direct offensive damage potential compared to the other Archetypes, their unique skills allow them to do lots of unique things: They can deal retaliatory damage, control positive and negative effects by transferring them from one target to another in order to minimize enemy effectiveness, or turn the tables on enemies, by causing their abilities to backfire.

The main talent of a Support character is to make allies better and make enemies worse. They can be the best at applying and removing buffs and debuffs from allies and enemies, misdirection and confusion, and helping allies to disengage and escape from battle. Support classes can also gain access to the best mobility skills in the game, making them hard to lock down. Moving around the battlefield quickly allows them to use their skills on both melee and ranged allies and enemies, even when these targets are spread out. Support characters rely on a high amount of setup; they use their control of buffs and debuffs to deal effective damage, but this comes with a challenge. They can improves their own moderate damage potential substantially, but these abilities tend to have a much greater effect on already-potent damage capabilities of their allies.

Archers come close to the burst damage potential of Mages, and combine that with coming close to the sustained damage potential of Warriors. Since they also have the longest effective combat range of all Archetypes, Archers rely on using their range to maximum effect with the best abilities for harassing and skirmishing with enemies from a distance. Archers are also ideal scouts, using their camouflage and vision to locate enemy forces without being seen. When you put all of that together, Archers are also the strongest Archetype for focusing fire on single targets. The precision of Archers’ skills allows them to readily exploit weaknesses in their target's defenses, so they can effectively finish off targets of opportunity that are weakened and already damaged by allies. While Archers do not have to be helpless when it comes to close combat, their maximum potential is far exceeded by Warriors (who lose out on the ranged effectiveness of Archers).

As you can see, each of these Archetypes is unique, with specific strengths and weaknesses that determine how it relates to the other Archetypes. The next level of breakdown as far as character role is Class. A Class is a specific thematic implementation of an Archetype, providing access to a unique ability component set from the capabilities the base Archetype allows. At present, we are planning for Camelot Unchained to feature at least one unique Class per Archetype per Realm. This may increase over time, as we want to provide many fun and unique possible classes to choose from, making it easier for our players to find something that fits their desired style. 

I should also note here that none of the first set of classes will be considered 'hybrids,' since each one is derived from only a single Archetype with its own unique role to play. A hybrid in this context would be something like a Healer-Archer or Support-Warrior, which are not currently planned. However, they are systemically supported, so hybrid combinations are a possibility in the future.

As you may have read in Mark's Drengr class concept the capabilities of each Class are further divided into multiple Paths. Each Path has its own specialty, but players can freely choose to mix together the available Path features for their Class, leaving a lot of room for custom builds that do not follow any of the Path guidelines. This is where choices between things like offense and defense or group utility and solo utility take place. That should have a very strong effect on the exact capabilities and specialization of a character! In the coming months, you can expect to hear about more of the upcoming Classes for Camelot Unchained. You can also expect to see components develop for Archetypes, like the ones already available for the Archetypes in the Alpha build. Feel free to stop by the forums on our website and let us know what you're looking for from your favorite Archetype.

Developer Quote

“It's humbling to remember that everything I'm doing is because of gamers who supported us with just a video and a promise. #dontfuckitup" --Andrew Meggs 


-by Scott Trolan

Art Pipeline at City State Entertainment

CSE is an island with several types of inhabitants, with two main camps. On one side of the island lies a band of ragtag, rational-minded computer scientists, crunching mysterious numbers that make everything work. On the other side there lies a colony of artistic folks, a bit dreamy perhaps, but free enough to create terror and beauty in equal measure. Luckily, they all play nice on the island, as they share resources and strive to make a niche PvP MMORPG for awesome Backers. Join us, Scott Trolan (Lead Artist) and James ‘JB’ Brown (Programmer), as we make a joint effort to guide you along our collaborative process in creating game art and technology for Camelot Unchained.

It all starts with an IDEA’r™. That IDEA’r™ is realized into concept art form. Sandra and Michelle spin up rough drafts and thumbnailed concepts for review. During the review process, they present their work to Mark, Tyler, and myself. After discussion and brainstorming, strong concepts are asked for refinement, and/or expansion. 

With final edits made, a concept is chosen to be showcased in a Camelot Unchained Update. From there we guage community feedback, and use that input to either further refine our work, or take the concept into 3d development.

The final concept is redesigned to match to our character creation template for 3d character models. Our concept is then broken down into detailed diagrams, instructions, and reference materials for what we call a Design Pack. We then send the Design Pack off to Mike M., who works off-site. After he receives the pack, we go over checklists and set review stops to ensure we maintain communication and keep the model on target.

The concept is modeled in high resolution in a program called Zbrush. After approval, the model is then imported to 3dsMax to be recreated (retopologized) into a low-resolution game model.

Once in 3dsMax, the model is broken into parts and UV’d to fit within our master character texture maps. Color coded materials are applied to the model geometries for extraction after import into the Unchained Editor. The model is then added (skin weighted) to our master skeleton rig. Problematic areas are addressed and modified to allow for better customization and animated movement.

The model parts and materials are selected and exported as a .FBX file and imported into the Unchained Editor. 

After that, things get sent to the other side of the island, where it goes into a programming pipeline all its own. See the next article for the continuation!

Tech Central

 -by James Brown

JB here. I’m a programmer whose job includes developing tools for getting the wonderful assets built by our art team into the game. One of these tools has been dubbed the Unchained Editor, which is the primary tool used by the art team for this purpose. 

Here’s the part of the editor used for importing art assets, the Database Explorer, which is essentially an interface for our MongoDB database.

Well, then why must we have a Tool at all then, you may ask? This part of the editor does a few things to make our jobs easier, ranging from validation to prevent invalid data in our database to asset parsing and auto-completion to expedite the import process. Without a tool like this importing an FBX file, along with the information required, building a resource out of it into the database would take several hours, rather than several minutes.

The next step in the process to get an asset into the game is the build server. The build server takes the data and assets created by an artist and builds game-friendly binary resources out of them. A single FBX file could range from about 2MB to 50MB. After going through the build process, the assets used by the game for the skeleton, model, and animations are much smaller, ranging from about 50KB to 500KB. Not only are the built resources much smaller, but they are also in a format from which the game can import them in a single read, which makes the loading time on the game client for the resource extremely fast.

Back on topic. Once an artist has imported a new asset, or modified an existing one, the Unchained Editor sends a message to our build server that an asset has changed, and to start it’s build process. The build server then checks the database for any documents that have been flagged for build, then builds assets for them. If anything fails to build, the build console on the editor lets the artist know there was a problem immediately, so they can avoid wasting any time in getting their asset fixed and ready for the game. 

At the completion of the build process, the build server sends out a message to our patch server that resources have changed. At that time, the patch server checks our database for any resources that have an MD5 hash that does not match its own cached version of a file. Any files that have mismatching MD5 hash are sent out to every client patcher, immediately updating the game client.

All in all, the process from a completed art asset into the game only takes several minutes. This is extremely helpful for our development process, allowing the art team to build our world very quickly, and identify any problems with art assets almost immediately.

And there you have it! A pretty thorough glimpse into what goes on in our studio between art and programming. That’s how a game gets made!

State Of The Build

 -by Brian Green

Game programming is fickle. Some days you feel like a deity, creating worlds as your fingertips dance across the keyboard. Other days, you feel mired down, and no matter what you do nothing seems to quite work as you want. True game programmers stick it out even when things don't seem to go their way.

Of course, working with a great team helps a lot. If you get stuck with something, asking others can help. Maybe a programmer wrote the system and can do in a few hours what you feared would take you days of work. Others can point out problems with your code, preventing mistakes before they get committed and help you learn and grow.

As you probably saw from the days leading up to Alpha, some days things didn't quite work right. But the people at CSE are a great crew, and help was offered all around. It's safe to say a lot of learning has happened. In the end, we were successful, conquering the bugs through hard work as a team. Now we have the Alpha version of the game available!

I mentioned last month that ability crafting has been the focus of about half the team. This is one of the first really big systems we've built on top of the foundation established for the game. The team put in a number of late nights trying to finish the system and fix bugs introduced. After all our hard work, I think you'll find an amazing system full of potential. Let me give a special shout-out to our ITers, who have gave us great feedback on what worked and what did not work as we updated the test server.

The other big addition is the building system that we talked about in a recent update. We're excited about the beginnings of the system that will allow players to build structures to defend their territory. We've even created the standalone C.U.B.E. project to let people build buildings, or whatever else they like. Even with just a few block types available, we've seen some amazing things built.

A special programming team cheer to Tim and his wife, who have shipped Offspring 2.0. Warm wishes to the entire family!

And now, a selection of patch notes from the past month:

* Server names in the patcher now list required access level.
* A bigger map! The map size has increased considerably. This has helped us test physics on larger maps.
* Changed the control game to add more control points for the larger map.
* You can now spawn at any control point that you control that is not under attack. You also have a spawn point that you can always spawn at.
* Reduced projectile lifetimes. This means no more super long range projectiles following you everywhere, especially not on a huge map!
* Implemented some basic emotes. They only show up on your local client for now, but they show off some new animations. These work in C.U.B.E. as well!
* Ability crafting! Every player starts off with some components and some basic abilities created. It's the humble beginnings of what should be an amazingly deep system.

And let's hear it for Alpha! Now we start on the next leg of our voyage.

See you later!

Backer Spotlight


This month’s Backer Spotlight is on Tarsir, the dedicated person who has consistently updated the “Dev Tracker” thread on our forums! 

What is your experience with MMO’s?

DAoC was my first mmorpg, which I started playing as a teenager. After DAoC, I played WoW for a couple years, then stopped playing MMORPGs entirely. Since then I've played occasional cRPGs, but currently spend more time following CU than I do actually playing anything.
What motivated you to support Camelot Unchained?

I backed CU on the second day, but I was actually pretty skeptical. DAoC was a seminal game for me; but I had no idea who Mark Jacobs was, the horror-fantasy thing wasn't really my cup of tea, and the game itself seemed impossibly ambitious.

But I liked the idea of being involved in a game from the very beginning. So I watched the videos, and Mark seemed like such a nice guy, I was convinced. Not that the game would be any good—I recall thinking it would collapse under the weight of its own ambition—but that it would be a fun ride while it lasted.
What are your thoughts on this now?

If anything, I think the game is more ambitious now than I did during the Kickstarter, given what's been revealed since then. On the other hand, I'm also more familiar with MJ and the rest of the CSE team, so I no longer have doubts about the project collapsing :)

It's definitely been a fun ride so far, and I think it will only get better as a recognizable game emerges from the foundation CSE has been building so far.

You spend a great deal of time doing the Dev Tracker. What other things are you writing? 

In addition to maintaining the Dev Trackers, I wrote fan fiction for each of the writing contests and one standalone piece. Otherwise I post very rarely—relative to my overall post count anyway—because I feel some strange obligation not to blacken the Dev Tracker's good reputation by flaming some guy I disagree with, or otherwise misbehaving.

What are you looking forward to playing in Camelot Unchained? 

I'm definitely going to play Arthurian—to the extent that I'd get one of those realm-locked builder tiers if I weren't already a founder. At first I thought I'd play an Archer, but now I'm leaning towards playing a Crafter.

What motivated you to take on this project?

It started with a desire to keep up-to-date on Camelot Unchained, but in a phenomenon that should be familiar to many MMORPG players, it wasn't enough to be up-to-date on most Camelot Unchained news. I wanted to know all of it, which obviously required reading every dev comment. So I followed Hellraise's Dev Tracker thread, and installed Znwo's Dev Tracker extension. Eventually it occurred to me that the best way to ensure I saw every dev comment was to be one of Dev Tracker maintainers, so one day I just started posting.

You seem like a research and information oriented person, are you looking forward to the player UI and websites that are sure to spawn? I bet you make character spreadsheets don't you… :)

I do enjoy a good spreadsheet, but I've actually never had much luck planning out characters on spreadsheets. In previous RPGs I've played, ready-made analysis was always easier to find than raw data.

For example, when I was researching a cRPG I played last year, the skill trees for various classes were only available as screen shots taken from the game engine (this was the first month or so after the game's release). This meant that the easiest way to find out what skills different classes had was to read-up on what builds people were using. But once you've read up on the half-dozen best builds available for a class, there's no point in doing your own analysis.
It will be really exciting to see how much Race and Class data CSE makes available for character planning, and also how much in-game data is available externally through the web API.

Thank you to Tarsir for all his hard work and helpful attitude! 

What do you think? Join us on the forums on our website to talk more!

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

Behold the rewrite of a Becoming™ story. It came originally from Mark’s own deft hands, and now that our Loremaster Max has gone to work on it, we’d like to present it to you anew!

The Becoming™ - Cait Sith

“Younglings, gather round, for I shall relate another tale of our people and of clan Kellas.” The grey-furred Cait Sith stretched and shook her tail, then settled back into her comfortable armchair. The fuzzy youngsters paid little attention, more interested in their games. 

The grey one looked annoyed. “There will be plenty of time to play furball afterwards, when the sun sets warm and red. Today’s tale tells how we became Changed, aided by the Great Storms, and how we came to this Realm. We no longer submit to the will of the Furless Ones, but find perfection in our new form. As future leaders of our clan, always keep in mind the saying that those who do not know the past will never understand the future. So sit patiently and learn from this story!” This last she directed at a couple of younglings who had begun grabbing and kicking at one another in a playful fight. 

She leaned back and began:

“When the Veilstorms first lashed this world, our ancestors were barely as large as newlings, and they walked upon four paws in the manner of prey. Some of us lived in the wild; others dwelt amongst the Furless, assisting them, comforting them, and eating from their hands.”

Once more, the aged Cait Sith’s eyes opened wide, letting her stern glare bore into her frozen audience. “Younglings, it is for this reason that we will never take food from another’s hand, even if offered in friendship. Doing so implies subservience.”

In our oldest memories, so far back that even our perfect recollections are faded, we remember those terrible days, when hunters made their living by selling pelts to unscrupulous merchants among the Furless. Lacking sleek and beautiful fur themselves, rich folk would make our skins into liners for winter cloaks and finery, parading themselves about in their stolen beauty. 

In those days, there was a Furless woman who claimed to love cats more than anything in the world. She kept many of our ancestors as pets, and as we didn’t know any better then, we ate of her food. She lived in a house on the edge of the wilderness, with a small farm and a barn. Other than her “pets,” her only companion was her husband. He was a gruff man, who hunted other creatures for a living. 

However, one harsh winter, when the bite of the cold was like fangs in the heart, she passed away of a Furless sickness. Her husband the hunter buried her in the yard, muttering to himself as our ancestors watched sadly, wondering who would feed them. They had almost forgotten how to take care of themselves. 

In those days, there were many dark rumors and stories about our kind, misunderstood superstitions that our kind stole the souls of the dead, or played vile tricks. Perhaps that is why the hunter went mad. Luring our ancestors with bits of meat, he gathered us all in the barn, and gently closed cages on us. He closed the latch with his Furless fingers, then stood back and laughed harshly. 

“I am Palug the hunter of hunters. No more will you steal souls or take food from us. I will wipe your kind from the world!” 

He began to kill only for sport, caring only for the pleasure of killing. He never ate out of hunger, and he never killed to help another; it was only the pure rush of bloodlust he felt every time he took a life, beating back the mad sorrow of his wife’s death which tore at his mind. Soon our blood, skins, and meat were not enough to sate his hunger for us, and he wore our bones like trophies. 

Palug wasn’t satisfied with merely killing us, however. He took to keeping us alive, in cages, and feeding us scraps and morsels to keep us alive for his tortures. He wanted to destroy us; he wanted to take our noblest aspect, that of survivors, and turn it into a mockery of horrible proportions. This was how he thought he would protect the soul of his wife from our imagined powers. He loved seeing our kind in dire straits, and our mewling raised the roof of his barn like the wailing of dead spirits. 

One of the poor creatures imprisoned by him was a wildcat called Moireach. She was a noble soul, born to be a wildcat queen of the wilds, but captured and put through horrible tortures by the hunter of hunters. There were any number of other cats, but he took special care to torture her, for he hated that she was a mother, heavy with newlings. He devised unmentionable horrors with starvation, needles, and a heated skinning knife. To truly degrade her, Palug plucked her whiskers and cut off the tufts on her ears. 

Perhaps because of these terrible things, only one of her litter survived, a female with pure white fur. She was sleek and beautiful like her mother, but Moireach had little milk to feed her kitten, and the little thing cried her pain out in the night as she suffered hunger pangs. 

Incensed at the noise, one morning Palug took up a bag and went to gather up any kittens he could find, to drown them in the river. It was as if he didn’t even notice the horror of it, as he delighted in their pain and fear. He didn’t think to look at the sky, where dark clouds had gathered and swirled overhead, gathering speed. The wind howled at him like a lost thing as he walked from his house to his barn, holding the bag in cold fingers. His other hand rested on the polished wood pommel of his great skinning knife, which was long and wicked, ready to slice you open with the look of it. 

The Veilstorm overhead flashed and rumbled with terrible power. As a heavy rain began to pelt down, he picked up speed on his path to the barn. The air seemed to condense around his clearing, and his prisoners in the barn’s cages yowled and screamed as they felt the terrifying power of the Veilstorm bearing down on them. 

Palug ran faster, and drew his skinning knife. In the sick and superstitious logic of his brain, he decided that his prisoners had called the storm upon him. He would have to slay them all. 

Palug appeared in the doorway, a hulking form with a long blade. He had dropped the bag somewhere along the way. His breath steamed into the cold, rainy night as he stepped inside.
The first cage he came to held a sickly creature that he had been starving for months. It died quietly under his knife. The other cats yowled into the dark as the storm flashed its lightning outside, and shuddering magic shook the building. 

The second cage held a younger, strong creature, whose once-beautiful ears he had sliced away. It fought and hissed its rage at him, but Palug was strong and wore thick gloves. The poor thing died screaming. 

The storm reached new heights of crashing and thundering outside. Palug looked around in the dim light and laughed. The hunger of hunters rarely spoke, yet now he did, and his words were barely audible above the storm, even by those who still had their shapely ears. “You will die bad deaths. You dumb animals think you are so noble and so graceful. I will show you the color of your meat, and the storm will grant me my heart’s wish.” He laughed as he pulled away the skin of the caged creature he had killed and placed it on his head. “Now who’s next? Perhaps the new mother?” Shaking with powerful emotions, he lunged for Moireach’s cage. 

At that moment, the storm broke open the barn like an egg. Bits of the roof flew through the wet air as the walls cracked and splintered. 

In the hot white light that bathed the barn, Palug saw strange changes coming over the creatures he had tortured. They were growing, their eyes gleaming with pain and frustrated rage. Their skins stretched to keep up with their expanding bodies, and the cages around them buckled and bent under their weight. The hunter of hunters reached out with his hungry blade. 

Desperate, her arms reached through the cage, straining. There was something wrong with her paw, Palug suddenly realized. It was twisted somehow. In truth, she had gained the claw of clutching, called an opposable thumb by the Furless. Moireach took hold of the latch and opened it. 

With a shriek of frenzied strength, Moireach pushed open the rusty cage door. For just a moment, she stood there as the storm continued to change her, the cold rain soaking her fur as her bones cracked and popped. She stood tall before Palug, her arms around the child that he had been so eager to kill. Then, weak and limping, she fled the building through a hole in the wall. Before the shocked Palug could react, the others tore open their cages and fled also, screaming into the storming night. 

Palug just stood there, too stunned to give chase. The storm’s magic had taken hold of him also. The blood on his hands crackled with it, and the killer fell to his knees, shuddering in pain as it began to change him. He was becoming one of the Suffering, which the Furless call Abominations. 

Moireach ran on two legs for the first time, carrying her kitten in her arms. Not knowing what else to do, the others followed her, yowling and hissing as the storm continued to shape their bodies. They were awakening to new things, beyond the world of sights, smells, and simple thoughts, but in this cacophony of storms and wind they didn’t understand it yet. 

Faced with death, they did what any rational being would; they fled, running as far as they could, as fast as they could, until they could run no more. They ran through the storm that seemed unending, avoiding any sign of other Furless habitation. Only more death could lurk there. Eventually, they left all habitable lands behind, forging a path deep into the Stormlands. 

Many of those first of us died on the pilgrimage. They had no names, and barely had the chance to know or understand their beautiful new forms; yet they could die nobly, and did. We still hold the Midnight Lament on the anniversary of the day we could run no more. To this day and until the end of all seasons, we will honor those that died on that journey. 

Lost in the harsh Stormlands, we were alone at last, in a land we could not recognize by sight or smell. 

There, in the wastelands where none dared to follow, we continued to change. Moireach and the other survivors hunted for food, or scratched a living from the earth. They were hungry, and their hunger drove them to become greater, sleeker, more swift and terrible hunters. Within a few seasons, we became the most feared predators of the Stormlands. 

Moireach took charge of our clan and our race. She used her cleverness, not just her claws, to lead us down a new path over the coming turnings.

Within but a few seasons we became the most feared predator in these lands. Some of us formed new clans, though clan Kellas was and always will be the greatest and purest of them. We, the Cait Sith, hunted and killed what we needed for food and put the Suffering out of their misery. We never hunted for sport, for that was the way of the Furless that imprisoned us, and we abhor it. 

Life was hard for a while. The storms ravaged the land, and food was very difficult to come by. To protect ourselves, we tunneled into the earth, making burrows that could shelter us from the wrath of the Veil. Over the many seasons, through guile and cleverness, we learned much about the Furless and their magic and technology. Our society evolved and soon we were strong again. 

Moireach was a great lady, and in her time in the Stormlands she was gifted with prophecy. Our leader told us of a dream she once had before the coming of the storms, of a Furless who was lost in the world. In that dream she saw him as both a victim and a leader, both weak and strong. She knew that his life was going to be in our paws. During the dream there was a great storm and as his life hung in the balance, she woke up. She told us to wait for that day, and so we did. Patiently, quietly, we watched the Furless, waiting for that sign. 

As the fury of the storms abated, our kind began to return to what remained of the world. Unfortunately, we began to encroach upon the territory of our former subjugators. Seeing the changes wrought upon us by the storms only reinforced their fear and hatred of us. In a few brief encounters, we quickly fell to them as we lacked their armor, weapons, and strange magic. 

Even worse, we had wandered into the territory of a great beast, a monster who had come from the twisted heart of a Furless, changed by the Veilstorms into a mockery of us. It was like a giant cat, big as a barn, but with too many legs and too few claws, which were themselves like curved swords. The five eyes of the beast were scattered around its furry and scaly body, and as it hunted it whimpered with the pain of its twisted and stretched joints. There was certain familiarity to the beast, perhaps in its smell or its furious gaze. The hunter of hunters had become the Cath Palug, a monstrous cat of horrible size and twisted strength, a terror of the Stormlands. Even after he had become one of the Suffering, this foul-hearted creature continued to plague our people. 

And so it came to pass that many seasons later that Moireach’s daughter, the youngling she had carried from death, came into her full prime as a hunter. She struck out further and further, and became a very promising young warrior of Clan Kellas. 

One day, she came to the edge of a very dangerous area, hunting quickly and quietly. She intended to catch the creatures we call the Suffering. It was a noble hunt, but in her eagerness, this young one had not properly scouted the area. A simple hunt became an ambush. 

From a grove of trees nearby, a screeching growl was followed by a great crash as a gigantic rush of fur and claws burst from the foliage. The beast’s claws tore up the earth as it ran, throwing clods of grass and dirt into the air as it rushed to pounce upon her. 

Gifted with the amazing reflexes and nose for danger that our kind possess, she had her clawsword out of its sheath before the Cath Palug had covered half the distance. The spines of her weapon glinted in the sunlight. All of the youngling’s muscles tensed, and she prepared for her end. 

With incredible grace, she leapt out of the way of the monster’s initial pounce, and struck one of the thing’s crooked legs as it passed. The razor points of the clawsword drew blood, which burst hot and red from the Suffering, and steamed into the air. 

The thing let loose another growling shriek of pain and insane rage, turning to swipe at her with a row of mangled claws. Fast as the youngling was, she wasn’t quite fast enough. The terrible claws raked her side as she whirled away, and she felt her heart’s blood run into her fur. Undeterred, the youngling snarled and danced closer, looking for a chance to cut at the soft underbelly of the beast. 

All her senses sharpened to a fine point and aimed at the monster that came for her throat. The youngling was barely aware of a shout from the same grove of trees nearby, where the creature had emerged. The noise was made by a Furless, a male. He was armed with a bright blade, and ran straight towards her like a hunter himself. 

The terrible beast turned to look with its mismatched eyes, one slavering fang hanging out of its uneven mouth. The youngling warrior took advantage of its distraction to turn and face this new threat. Though she was surprised to find a Furless who would stoop so low as to help the Cath Palug, she would certainly fight to the last. She swung her clawsword in a mighty blow, trying to catch the Furless and tear him apart. 

However, the Furless let out a shout of surprise, and seemed shocked that she menaced him. He ducked under her swing, rolled, and leaped up with the same momentum to slice at the confounded Cath Palug. The Suffering creature roared, and in a blur of motion mauled the Furless, who could only only do so much to defend himself from the heavy blows. He refused to retreat, however, and somehow weathered hits that should have flattened him. 

The Cait Sith youngling shook her head in consternation at his foolishness. Directly engaging the Cath Palug would certainly get him killed. Just as his head was about to be ripped from his body, she leapt back into the fray, beating the Suffering back with fierce blows. 

Sweating, the Furless male acknowledged that she had nobly saved his life with a simple nod. Working with her instead of against her, he circled around to the opposite side of the beast, trading blow for blow. Although the creature was mighty indeed, the pair of them were great warriors, and eventually wore it down. The Cath Palug was reduced to a shaking hill of fur and rage, hissing and spitting at the fighters that had finally defeated it. 

Our youngling looked at the panting Furless, ready for anything. To her surprise, he stepped back and gestured with his bloody blade, offering her dominance, and the honor of the killing blow. Our youngling did not hesitate to put the age-old enemy of her people out of its misery. 

The pair of them sat wearily down on the grass to clean their wounds. The Furless didn’t have the decency to offer to clean her wounds, as custom dictates. Our youngling eyed him carefully, and took in his scent. It was at odds with his baffling behavior. Through the heady smell of blood, she felt his scent spoke to her of honesty and kindness, yet mixed with a hard quality, as though he could draw on deep strength from within. He was certainly ignorant and rude, however, for he interrupted her careful cleaning with talk. 

“I am Arthur, and I greet you. I have come to this land to hunt Abominations. Most of them aren’t quite as fearsome as that thing was.” He smiled, but showed his teeth, which was odd. “I also wished to see for myself if the rumors of cat people in this part of the Stormlands were true.”

At that, the Cait Sith youngling’s mouth opened in shock. Yes, he had called us ‘cat people,’ that most vile phrase that makes us out to be no more than a strange breed of Furless, insulting both our ancestors and ourselves. It was all she could do to resist ending his life then and there, as the foolish one sat grinning in what he clearly thought was a friendly manner. 

Trying to smile back as indulgently as she could, the youngling slowly stood, holding a rock behind her. She struck him quickly gently on the forehead, knocking the Furless clean out. Then, with great care, she tied him to his mount, which she found wandering in the woods. Leaving the unconscious Furless a deep scratch as a reminder of his visit, she sent him off back in the direction she sensed he had come, back to his more peaceful, habitable lands. 

She watched the horse go, then returned home. The youngling shared the story with the rest of the clan, and much respect was shown to her. 

Many turnings passed. 

One day, our seers sensed that a terrible Malevolence was heading our way. As Clan Kellas has done for many a season, we moved our clan into the subterranean shelters we built long ago. We sent out scouts to survey the land, looking for any newlings that might have gotten mislaid. 

One of our scouts was the youngling, who was then earning her stripes. Who should she happen to find riding through the wilderness alone, but a Furless? 

He had aged somewhat, in that particular way the way the Furless do. But we forget nothing. The youngling recognized Arthur. She asked why he was foolish enough to be outside and so far away from home during such a storm. “He has about as much sense as he has fur and claws!” she thought to herself. 

The Furless called Arthur was embarrassed, but explained that in his lands, the seers, which he called Stormwardens, had detected an incoming Malevolence that was heading straight for our home and he came to warn us and offer us shelter with his people. Warn us? As if we, who had survived the most terrible storms, couldn’t feel it in our fur when a storm approached. The youngling couldn’t decide whether to be insulted, laugh, growl, or just shake her head in dismay.

Eventually, she offered him the protection of our lair, for the storm was coming on quickly. He accepted her offer with hesitation, but became the first Furless to willingly (albeit not fearlessly) enter our shelter. 

The other Cait Sith sniffed at him with wonder and anger, for our encounters with other Furless had not been friendly, and he did not do any of the greetings that are proper in another’s territory. He was very lucky to be brought in by the well-respected youngling, or he would have been gutted before he could blink. 
There was a silence in the dark lair as the Malevolence raged above. A few newlings choked down their fears in soft whimpers. 

In the darkness, the Furless that our youngling had saved began to speak. It was as if he knew the right moment, the perfect moment to speak. There, with the terrible forces of destruction outside, he began to tell his own story, but not one remembered. It was a story of the future. The Furless called Arthur told us of his vision for the future of his race, and for a place he called a Realm. He told us of his litter-mates, which he called Sword Brothers, and how they shared their rule, passing power from one to the other. He told us how he wanted to bring all of the survivors of the Piercing together as equals, and build a new society from the rubble of the old world. 

Surprisingly, his mildly insulting vision--after all, we are not mere equals with the Furless--stirred some of our hearts. We saw in Arthur a Furless male who was not just interested in showing off his strength, but who wanted to truly lead his people. 

As the storm reached its zenith, the female youngling’s fur stood on end, and she began to shake. Perhaps sparked by Arthur’s words, she was having a powerful vision. Like her birth mother, she had the capacity for clairvoyance, but this was her first time. She refused to say what she saw, but ran out of the room and down a tunnel. 

Arthur followed her, worried about what he had just witnessed. Soon, others of our clan followed as well. When they reached her, she was deep in the throes of second sight. First visions are sometimes turbulent, and she lashed out with tooth and claw, wounding Arthur. Yet he would not strike back. 

When she came out of it, she refused to share what she had seen, pretending she was only distressed that she had harmed Arthur. She did not tell him what she had seen of the future; she did not understand the fierce pain it brought her, or how her perfect memory of the vision brought her greater turmoil. She did not tell him of the splitting of the litter-mates that was to come, nor of the Betrayal that would nearly destroy all he built. Though her memory of the vision was perfect in every detail, she pretended to have forgotten it. 

When the time came for Arthur to return to his fortress, the white-furred youngling let him leave without saying farewell. This was because she was making preparations. She received approval from her mother, Moireach herself, and from other elders. The white-furred youngling set out no more than a day behind Arthur, tracking him with consummate skill. 

There was a meeting of some sort being held in the fortress of Arthur. Many Furless were gathering, wearing fine clothes and jewelry. The white-furred youngling hid and watched the strange ceremonies of the Furless begin. Then she caught the whiff of an oddly familiar scent and turned to look. To her utter shock, one pudgy man came bounding along wearing a heavy coat, made with furs. From the scent of them, they were the heavily-treated skins of her ancestors, old but still recognizable. Enraged, she started forward out of her hiding place, claws unsheathed. 

However, she was immediately surrounded by armed guards, who eyed her coldly. The fur-wearing Furless man wrapped himself tightly in his coat and stumbled back, muttering. 

For a moment, there was silence. One of the guards motioned toward the door to the main hall of the fortress. Rather than harm these Furless, who might be dear to Arthur, she allowed them to bring her inside. 

Arthur was seated upon a chair, wearing an odd hat. While others bowed before him, she simply purred, but kept her mouth closed to avoid displaying her teeth. Arthur, much to his credit, accurately interpreted the gesture and nodded in return, waving his guards away. 

His voice was gentle and friendly, but confused. “Why are you here, friend? What brings you to my court?”

The white-furred youngling stared at him. “That night in our lair, below the storm’s fury, I saw a glimpse of the future. Of your future,” she added, as several other important-looking Furless filed into the hall behind her. The fat one with the skin cloak came in glaring, and her tail began to lash in annoyance.

Arthur never took his eyes off of her, but leaned forward in his chair. “What did you see?”

The youngling fearlessly turned to face him once more, holding herself still, though something about his gaze pulled at her and made her want to run forward. “That, I cannot tell you. But I know this; you will need the aid of our clan, clan Kellas. At my urging, Moireach my mother has called on us all to come to your lands and help you with the great troubles that are coming.” 

There was a tumult in the hall, with many voices raised in shock and disapproval. “These creatures are dangerous, and do not belong in the Realm!” They cried, drowning out the few words of approval or appreciation for an alliance with the Cait Sith. 

The fat man stepped forward with a furious look, his voice booming across the hall. “As a seller of fine furs, I fear these cat people will prove quite a problem. I will not stand for it!”

Arthur silenced his people with a stern glance and a gesture. He stood from his chair and walked over to the youngling and bowed most graciously, expressing his gratitude properly for once. “Your people are most welcome. I thank you and I accept your aid, believing that whatever troubles may come, I will weather them with your help. I have seen for myself what fierce fighters you can be.” 

In return, the Cait Sith nodded her pure white head. “Then I shall return to my people, and tell Moireach my mother of your acceptance.” With a swish of her tail, she turned to go. 

But she was blocked. Spurred by some foolish self-righteousness, the fur merchant stepped in front of her. “What insolence! This is ridiculous!” Then, as he noticed no guards rushing to his side this time, he quailed a bit and looked from side to side. 

The youngling stepped closer, dancing lightly on her feet. “No, this is ridiculous.” With a deft flick of her claw, she severed the strip of leather that bound his cloak across his shoulders. She plucked the cloak away from him, then leaned in and smiled. With teeth. 

A wet stain appeared on the Furless merchant’s pants, spreading rapidly down his legs and dribbling onto the floor. He reeked of fear as he stumbled out of her way. 

As the youngling walked out the door, Arthur called to her and said, “Wait. Before you go, my lady, may I know your name?” 

Ignoring the insult of being called a lady (which the youngling knew was unintended), she looked back to Arthur and said “You do not have the patience nor the vocal capacity to properly speak my full name. Some of your kind have called me Gwenhwyfar; you may call me Gwen.” 

With a shake of her tail, the pure white youngling walked out the door. 

The aged Cait Sith leaned back and stretched. The sun was low and warm; an excellent sunset for a nap. “And now, my younglings, you may go play more furball.”

Studio Cosplay

-by Andrew Meggs

We just can’t let you go without talking about this. Something pretty cool is happening in our area!  

Several of us here at CSE are involved in cosplay, and we believe that making the world a better and more colorful place starts in our own backyard. Studio Cosplay is a non-profit here in the DC area that's creating the first makerspace centered on cosplay. They plan to equip the workshop with everything cosplayers need for sewing, fabrication, painting, 3D printing, and will even have a space for photography. But beyond just the tools, this is a community-focused organization. The goal is also to offer hands-on workshops, host community meetups, and provide sponsored memberships for disadvantaged youth.

To fund the workshop the team launched a Kickstarter campaign that ends this Sunday 3/15/15 at 3:30PM EDT.  When this makerspace is successful they hope to start workshops in other cities. To support them and for more information check out their Kickstarter page and webpage.

Here’s a few of us at CSE, doing it sorta-adequately:

And here are our friends from Studio Cosplay showing us how it’s done:
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