Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #11 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

How the seasons turn, bringing new weather and new updates from the hallowed halls of City State Entertainment™! We’ve been very busy this June, and we’ve got lots of stuff to show you all, loyal readers and new readers alike. Along with the shifting seasons, the team has started to move from a laser-like focus just on core engine features to more game-like features, with all sorts of updates and thunderously new things added to the build. 

If you thought that the word “thunderously” was in the previous sentence for a reason, well yes, it’s been very thundery in beautiful downtown Fairfax. The green-on-green trees are loving the dramatic storms, which we’ve been taking as inspiration for our often cloudy and storm-torn world. Not exaggerating on that at all, as you’ll see later on! 

Inside the office, we’ve rearranged our sitting area yet again, to be more conducive to conversations and plans. We’ve put up some lovely whiteboards, ready and waiting for complex math and “building legos with words,” as Bull often refers to programming. Now we can be quite comfortable on couches and beanbags while modeling all that interesting stuff up on the whiteboards. 

Speaking of modeling up interesting stuff, Rob’s been doing all kinds of that, using math to make the physics of falling buildings. You would have laughed to see us all crowding around his screen, eyes wide as the very first steps to these awesome developments appeared. You can check it out and follow us on our progress through various Vines we’ve been posting. The physics of Camelot Unchained™ just gets us super excited! 

We’ve also been spending a lot of time on new hires. Mark will have an update about this in the not-too-distant future!

Like the electric tingle in the air that hints of a coming storm, we’re feeling some more cool stuff in the near future of the game. As a taste of what’s to come, I hope you enjoy this, the eleventh issue of Unveiled.

Dragon Accident Report

Powerful wingbeats were reportedly heard over the city last week, kicking up a terrific wind. Downed trees blocked roads and the rain flew sideways for a while, as each gust tore across town. Citizens claim that a vast creature, larger than they believed could exist, was the cause of these terrible storm effects. The wind from its wings was certainly on an incredible scale, while the storm clouds that the mysterious creature reportedly brought with it dumped a huge amount of rain, and caused flooding in the streets. Fortunately, the creature either grew bored or hungry, and moved on before catastrophic damage could be done. Inquiries into its enigmatic appearance and power are ongoing. 


Wow, so many things to talk about! Where do we even begin? I suppose there’s Rob’s physics updates that we’ve already mentioned: our Internal Testers are playing with the early passes on buildings that can be blown up, destroyed, crumbled, and razed:
Building destruction like that is just unbelievably cool to us. This is just not something you can do in most MMORPGs! 

Massive updates from Andrew on procedural generation of terrain and the terrain editor, now with better grass, better tools, and a whole bunch of unique, powerful options for our designer and art folks to use. Check out Ben’s Dose of Design article further in for more, but here’s Ben fooling around with the editor that Andrew created: 
The addition of procedural terrain generation is a major plus for the design and art team. It is something that we knew we would need for this team to deliver on the world of Camelot Unchained. While we still have more work to do on it, the tools we have today are so much better than we had just last month! 

And then there’s Dave’s clouds and general sky updates, which have come a really long way, and are far far more than simply drawings in the sky. You can read up on that in Dave’s Tech Central piece later in the newsletter, but here’s a peek at what it looks like right now:
Finally, we’re making good progress on our current Realm Honors Stretch Goal, and are looking forward to all kinds of cool and interesting things getting added because of it! As Mark would say, we are “coming along nicely.” 


-by Jenesee Grey

For our new CMSphere, we’re trying something a little different. Here’s an article on the wonderful Community we have, and what’s been going on lately!

Wow, this month has flown by so quickly, and there have been so many exciting developments in the game that are really changing its appearance and cool factor. You might have noticed that I have become addicted to Vine and have been posting a lot of in-game footage, following the example of Andrew, who is quite the video master. Our CSE Vine will be a good aggregate of the things the team is working on, all these collected videos are funneled into one easy-to-find place. There are the beginnings of Archery, new grass and flowers, some terrain editor additions, PHYSICS, CSE office videos, and more! Come take a look at all the awesome changes happening in game now, won’t you?  

The Internal Testers have been seriously motivated to get into the game and contribute. So much so that they held the first ever self-organized test this weekend! There were some good contributions and feedback, and we went through a list of items to be checked over together and made sure recent additions to the build were working well. It was great to see everyone pop in on a weekend to get involved and have some fun. Thanks all for doing that and it is amazing to see everyone’s excitement! We even found a few bugs that should help the programmers! If you are in IT and want to attend the next event, please take a look at the IT forums through our website, where you can see a new player-posted poll on possible days that work for most testers. 

Speaking of great Community efforts, you might have seen a recent update about Ortu, a backer who helped add more functionality to make Ability Builder much more informative. And also this month, we reveal that Backer Agoknee has made a Message Of the Day addition to IT and Alpha chat, which creates a popup when you log in to the game or XMPP chat, that allows CSE to point out areas of focus for testing, or information we want to share! Thanks for the helpful tool, Agoknee

All in all, I am really excited with all the changes that are happening ever more quickly in the game! The team has sure been working hard! Our testers can check out the Field of View enlargement to 180 degrees, so you have the option to really step back and get a full view of the battlefield and world. If you are in Internal Test, you can mess with building destruction, help us get feedback, and enjoy the wonder of physics à la Rob. Alpha testers, look for more exciting updates next month and in our user stories

The monthly Backer Question for the CM thread has now been created in our forum, accessible through our website. Please visit and let us know your question for next month’s edition of Unveiled

To get us started: 
Q: What is your favorite bug this month? 
A: My personal favorite was when the bots encountered an error on death that caused them to restore to full health, become invulnerable and (thankfully) non-aggressive, in a rebellious act of insolence toward Programmer Tim.  

Hot Topics

Healer is the word on the day of the forum lately. How do Crafters help in combat? We are also delving into the idea of dragons! 

Join us on the forums on our website to bring your thoughts and ideas to the discussion table!

Look What You Did

Wow, what an amazing set of entries! Some of you folks really got into it with your short fanfiction for the Mighty Weapon contest, and we had lots of fun reading and laughing over them. They were all wonderful, but we forced ourselves to pick one winner. Our top pick is this engaging bit from Tic: 

The handle had started to dull, and the leather grip replaced many times. The heads corners were certainly worn, and one of the flanges appeared to have a small crack. It was past time for a new mace. This one had proven its mettle time and time again, but the battles had taken their toll. 

He had come a long distance to find this man, a blacksmith of no equal in his eyes, and his shop of immense wonders. He let his hand run over the few hammers that were on display, until he finally stopped on a weapon of unbridled beauty. Picking it up, he made some small arcs with it, getting its feel in his hand, checking its weight. 

"Ah yes" as he looked it over. "You will do quite nicely."

Thanks, Tic! Now, for our next contest, we’re heading into July, and here in the states that means Independence Day, a day of grilling and waving our country’s flag. Help us celebrate the independent, Backer-funded nature of Camelot Unchained with a flag of your own! Draw the family crest or heraldry that you would like to see waving over your keep or house in black and white or straightforward colors. If we get an awesome winning entry, Tyler says he might use it and put it in the testing area of the game build! To enter the contest, Backers, post your art in the thread for the contest you'll see pop up in the Fan Art section of the Forums on our website

Thank You

We received some really kind gifts from backers lately for the team as a whole as well as for MJ and Lady J. The first set was an Afghan, book, lotions, and assorted goodies from Edany and guildmates!
Failboat spoiled us yet again with many brownies and absolutely lovely cupcakes, including a special box for Lady J! He is really trying to get us to fit into those 4X-sized shirts, haha… 
Hellraise sent some lovely flowers and a balloon for Lady J, which would brighten anyone’s day. Thank you!
FYI, Lady J is doing well right now and after another small setback it appears that the worst is past for the Jacobs family, and especially for Lady J. :)

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Procedurally Enhanced World Building

As many of you have noticed, Andrew has been sending out waves of micro updates lately, with shiny tidbits of visual goodness in our new world editor. We're just as excited as you are to finally see some of these features start to come together, but the technology we need is only the beginning. I thought it might be a good time to elaborate on what it means for the game, and how we're going about creating the world of Camelot Unchained.

As some of you know, game world spaces in video games are typically created in one of two main ways. Either world space is hand-crafted, with carefully sculpted terrain and every rock and tree carefully placed to create an exact look and feel, or through the magic of technology, world space is procedurally created by a system of easily-adjusted rules that define how to automatically generate terrain and place objects in a way that roughly resembles what a designer would do. These options aren't at all mutually exclusive, and many games that need a large open world take advantage of procedural tools for their natural outdoor environments, and let level designers and environmental artists take over with fine detail tools to add points of interest such as towns and encounter spaces where major events are supposed to take place. While this mixed approach is part of the answer for CU, we also have some unique design considerations which make our solution a little different.

Having spent many many hours in a level editor constructing world spaces for previous games, I can safely say it would just not be possible for us to create the type of world we want starting from a procedural base and using the standard sort of fine-grain tools used in most other games. They typically employ large teams of designers and artists just for the purpose of creating and refining much smaller amounts of world space than we need. Not only are we planning on creating a large open world of territory to conquer, we also need to account for leaving the locations of the points of interest largely up to where players decide to construct them. This means we can't limit our attention to only a few major focus areas, and we need direct design control over the overall shape of the entire world created by a procedural terrain generator. This will allow us to guide the flow of open world RvR, by creating natural barriers and choke points to funnel traffic and create concentration points, open areas large enough to allow building within carefully considered distances from one another, and so on.

So as you can see this is a very tricky problem. How do we use procedural terrain generation to build the large game world we want, while still retaining control of the overall shape of the world to facilitate good RvR gameplay, but without having to resort to time-consuming world building tools that would take too long or require a larger team than we have? The answer Andrew came up with is something I'm going to call a procedurally enhanced world building toolset. The basic idea here is this: Rather than using traditional tools that mostly overwrite the work the procedural system does to allow for manual adjustments, we hang onto the procedural data and use varying levels of influence on it to make fewer, larger scale changes that don't require as much careful small scale work. What this means in our terrain editor is that while it is possible to zoom in and subdivide down to a point where small patches of terrain of varying size can be carefully adjusted, we can then also also zoom out and grab a single handle to adjust an entire mountain range without disturbing its procedural state or the small-scale work done to it. 

This is just one example which is actively being worked on and improving every day right now. Soon we also hope to be able to place entire forests as easily as individual trees, automatically tailor material sets and terrain properties based on biome settings, and much more. Eventually, we’ll complete a set of tools that allow us to build a large impressive world for Camelot Unchained in a way that would normally require time and resources beyond the reach of a small independent studio. 

If you're interested in seeing a first look at what our terrain editor can do, you can check out a short video here: 
Camelot Unchained: Terrain Editor Demo
Also, be sure to follow the CSE Twitter feed for more micro updates. As always for our Backers, feel free to stop by the forums on our website and discuss the progress we're making, and what you'd like to see most in the world of Camelot Unchained.

Developer Quote

“We're heads down trying to deliver the tech for an mmo no one else has done. Just bear with us, it's gonna be worth it.” - Tyler Rockwell, Producer


-by Scott Trolan

Sandra and Michelle have been working on some really interesting concepts for “I’m not gonna say what, yet!” What was really interesting to me were the alterations to those concepts when they enter in and out of the Veil. Look forward to our concept reveals over the next few updates.

Michelle and James K have done a great job designing a new C.U.B.E. page for our website. This page will highlight building features and showcase time-lapse construction videos. Here's a sneak preview of the in-progress mockup page (click it for more): 

Sandra is assisting me in the hundreds of animations needed to facilitate all the weapon types in Ben’s melee combat Design Document. Work is being done on new editor tools right now to create animation states and behaviors - but expect to see our new animations using swords, shields, spears, daggers, bows, and dual wielding combinations in game soon. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the fantastic work Andrew and Dave did on the world terrain and sky, elsewhere in the newsletter. The world of CU is coming together so fast! Just wait until we get our new Art Intern next month - expect the world to really take on some character then!

Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

Tech Central

 -by David Hancock

Over the last few weeks, we have been working towards creating better looking skies to make our world feel more like a place people could live. Often the sky is something that a lot of people don’t really notice in a game, but when it’s missing, or looks terrible, suddenly it becomes an eyesore that takes away from an immersive experience. This particular article is about the how we went about creating the initial cloud system for Camelot Unchained, and covers a number of passes we went through in achieving the clouds we currently have.

About Pass 1: 

So our pass one at clouds didn’t involve any lighting influences from the sun or moon, and was essentially taking a generated noise texture, taking a range out of that noise texture based on how dense we wanted the clouds to be, and then applying an exponential function to the result and using this to determine how the clouds should look and be colored. As can be seen in the image, this results in clouds that look rather flat, without a ton of detail, and clearly aren’t reacting much to the current lighting situation.

About Pass 2:
Pass two on clouds primarily involved changing our cloud density calculations away from exponential to a sigmoid function. There was a number of other small adjustments, this pass was rather quick and mainly focused on taking what we had and making some small changes to go in a better direction visually, including upping the resolution of the noise texture used. 

About Pass 3:

Pass three was probably one of the most significant in terms of visual quality of the clouds, and also involved the largest amount of associated work. We added lighting to the clouds at this point, allowing influences from all of our celestial bodies. We kept our current density functions, but applied some directional ambient lighting, back and front lighting from those celestial bodies that is applied differently for each case, and rim lighting for our celestial objects. While the image above does not show off the front-based lighting, you can see in the clouds how much more variation and detail are visible in the cloud structures, making them less single-toned and creating more visually interesting clouds.

Now it should be noted that these are not how the final clouds will end up in the game. Lots of tweaking still to come. Even just last Friday, after hooking up our system into the editor, I was making further visual adjustments. Our artists will soon get to pine over them, making them look like something that will fit our artistic vision for the project. Also, all the images were taken with a single layer of clouds; the final project will have more than one layer of clouds, likely going for 3-5 with distinct cloud parameters and visuals for each of these layers. What is hard to convey with these images is that the extent at which they can change visually just by adjusting two numbers is very extensive.

And here’s what our current pass on clouds looks like:

Courtesy of David Hancock, Knight of the Order of the World Weavers, under our glorious Lord Protector, serving the creation of the Realm. 

State Of The Build

 -by Brian Green

Sometimes we talk about game programming as if it were a monolithic thing, but the reality is that there are many sub-disciplines within the larger field of game programming. Let me focus on three different examples of game programming from our work this month.

Tim is an exceptional programmer with experience in networking. Some recent changes created "rubber-banding" when players try to move, and Tim has spent a lot of his time chasing down the causes of this problem. Working with Rob, he looked at the network communication and our physics to see where problems could arise. Through hard work and a lot of debugging, Tim was able to fix a lot of performance problems that contributed to this problem. Chasing down bugs like this isn't always the most exciting work, but it's necessary to get the game to the level we need to have the giant fights we've talked about for the finished game.

I'm very experienced at implementing MMO gameplay. My work this month has focused on combat systems, which fits my expertise well. I'm working with Ben to do the first pass of the combat system with multiple body parts. I've gone over the design and worked out tasks for working toward a system where limbs can be damaged. The first step in this process was creating a system of damage types; getting a wound from a sword slash will be different than getting a wound from a fireball's burn. But, this isn't the type of work that makes for amazing screenshots because it happens almost invisibly to the players right now. The first pass wasn't all that exciting: I just have a small piece of data that is translated from the ability to the function that applies damage to the player. We don't even do anything with this information yet! However, it's the first step toward a deeper system of gameplay.

Andrew is a virtuoso at graphics and rendering code, and his recent work has been on terrain editing and generation. Many MMOs have an army of designers who create content, but we're a small team with limited resources. So, we want to make it as easy to generate terrain as we can, and Andrew has been working hard to accomplish this goal. Recently he has been working to place trees and ground cover on the terrain. We previously just had a texture on the terrain to show "grass", but Andrew's new system uses "cards" to show tufts of grass on the ground. It looks really nice and will make for some gorgeous screenshots.

Even though all three areas are very different, all our work relies on the work of everyone else. Everybody's work contributes to the game we are all excited about; Tim's fixed bugs, my gameplay, and Andrew's terrain all contribute to the experience we want our player to have. With our work, we're making the game we all are excited to see.

And, as always, some notes from the patches from this month:
  • Fixed a bunch of performance bugs to reduce rubber banding on the server.
  • Added damage types in anticipation of having wounds from different damage types have different effects and equipment defending against different types of damage.
  • Added trees and ground cover (flowers and grass) to the editable terrain. It makes the world look so much nicer.
  • Added arrow abilities as a first pass for archery! We added a way to toggle the camera into an aiming mode with a reticle. 
  • First pass of new stats. Primary stats will influence derived stats. For example:
    • Agility affects movement speed.
    • Vitality affects maximum health.
    • Endurance affects maximum stamina.
  • Added a pretty new ability builder UI to show the changes new components have on the ability. (Thanks to our backer Ortu for this contribution!)
  • Improved clouds in the sky to use lighting from the sun and the moon.
  • Added a first pass of building stability based on physics. The system now detects unstable structures and can destroy blocks under stress.
  • Added building destruction. Chunks of structures that fall off of structures will fall as independent physics objects.
  • C.U.B.E. screenshots can now be posted to Twitter as well as Facebook. Using this functionality is the only approved way to post screenshots.
  • First pass of cut and paste functionality in C.U.B.E. There are UI elements for these functions with the keyboard shortcuts 'c' key copies and the 'v' key pastes.
  • Blueprints can be saved and loaded on C.U.B.E. 
  • Added Nvidia's Gameworks ambient occlusion, which you can see on Andrew's twitter here

Streamer Spotlight


This month’s spotlight is on Arctix, an awesome Twitch streamer who’s promoted CU on more than one occasion!

Q: How did you get involved in Twitch streaming?

A: I’ve been actively part of the streaming community since Justin.tv’s inception. I was very active back when YouTube was very young, posting videos about gaming, reviews, my ideas and feedback on various things gaming related. When JTV came out, I would stream my reviews and often wanted to set up a 24h stream to show games and my immediate reaction. I felt that by watching someone who has a passion for games actually play a game in real time you can see that we all share the same frustrations and joys of games. Once Twitch launched I became very active more so as a community member then a streamer. I would participate in various Streams, and assist with Moderation and Stream Building. My passion from my first attempts at streaming carried over to help others who shared the same vision grow their channels. After years of doing so and recently at PAX South, my fellow Twitch broadcasters all suggested that I take up streaming and put the ideas and strategies that I’ve developed to help myself grow as a broadcaster. It wasn’t until January that I emphatically laid out a business plan for developing my own stream as a brand. 

Q: What started your love of old school classic games, and does this factor into why you want to play this type of game?

A: For its time, DAoC was a masterpiece, even with its flaws. The options the game’s design gave players in terms of 8v8, Borderland Defense, Relic Raids, Role-Playing, etc, have still gone unmatched after 14 years. Some have come close, but never have replicated what that game brought to us. Even when you were offline, you could see weekly statistics via the herald. Things such as what guilds were the most active, relic statuses, keep status, etc. It gave not just guilds, but individual players goals to beat and see in almost real time. I mean literally, you would sit there and plan with hundreds of people strategies, timing for attacks, ways to sneak or “juke” the enemy realm. Assign elite 8v8 teams to assist with relic carries, and so on. This complexity for a PvP game is what most of us who backed CU have been thriving for. CU has the potential to not only recreate these experiences, but expand on them, and essentially modernize these concepts—AND introduce them to a whole new breed of MMO players. 

Q: You’re a PVP/FFAPVP Player. Do you think that experience will help you in Camelot Unchained?

A: I absolutely believe it plays an integral part in CU. I started out in Dark Age on a little known server called Andred, which had a very unique ruleset. Basically, anything outside of your group/guild was red. This made leveling a challenge! Let me preface this by saying because of the ruleset and restriction waivers, you had the ability to make the PERFECT group. Meaning mixing Tri-Realm groups. I THRIVE for 8v8 combat like back in the day, and the best way to do that was to literally make the perfect group. You could only do this by being on a server, where the restrictions were lifted—thus allowing you to make groups that mixed classes across different realms. There were no other realm invaders. The “invaders” were opposing guilds as everyone was pretty much in the same mega zones. On Andred/Modred you could teleport to any faction’s capitol cities, zones, and frontier fronts. The big battle ground wasn’t looked at as regional, but much more personal. Each Keep and Tower was owned / claimed by a guild. So when it came to RVR Defense, it was on a much more personal level as you were defending it against opposing guilds. I think the spirit of that will be in CU, and I think my experience will help me greatly. 

Q: Why did you become a Backer? 

A: I became a Backer because I believe in the concept that CSE is pushing forward with CU. I feel like for all the years of enjoyment I got out of Mark’s previous projects, the least that I could do was put a large chunk of my money towards seeing the next project come to fruition. Not only because I believe in the game, but also as a thank you for the years I still cherish and to the future years I will spend playing CU. One thing that we’ve never seen is an Unchained Mark Jacobs, and we’re getting that opportunity through CSE and CU.

Q: You have been really kind to us. Why are you so enthused about the team? 

A: Since the Kickstarter, meeting everyone through the internet and learning more or less the mindset of everyone on the team, I’m even more confident in the project’s future. Let me put this in a way that the rest of the gamers would totally understand: There isn’t a person that works at CSE that I wouldn’t expect to see in a LAN Party environment, and that’s a good thing! Everyone is so personable and has a drive amidst the competition to make this the dream we’ve all been waiting for. I will continue to support CSE, the team involved, and CU moving forward. You can absolutely guarantee that I’ll be actively streaming the game once it’s released and showing the world what this awesome team is capable of the best way I know how.

Q: What are your future plans for streaming?

A: I typically stream weekdays from 11:00 AM CST until about 8:00 PM CST. I’m a variety streamer now, which means I play just about anything. After all the years being exposed in streaming culture, I want to bring about an entertaining and honest broadcast. Even though I’ve been around for a while, my stream is fresh, and I’m okay with that. I’ve enjoyed working with developers in the past, and it really does help bring proper exposure for a game, especially when you believe in the developer. I’d prefer that with time and proper design, the stream will develop into a flourishing cast that other gamers will enjoy…because when it comes down to it, I’m a gamer before a streamer.

Twitch: twitch.tv/arctix
Twitter: twitter.com/arctixtv
YouTube: arctix

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

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

The Becoming - Luchorpán (Leprechauns) 

The craggy-faced little man blew puffs of smoke into the heavy-scented air of the forest. His dark eyes slid around the dimly-lit clearing, taking in the eager faces all around. The young folk appeared to be attentive to their elder, and he almost nodded approvingly. But then he grew suspicious. They were too well-behaved, too eager for the story. 

The old Luchorpán watched them cannily. Something was definitely off. Though the children appeared to be staring at him wide-eyed, he could hear giggling, rattling, and even the occasional suppressed shriek. From experience, he could guess the rest: Under a barely-maintained illusion of stillness, the young Luchorpán were jumping up and dashing back and forth to play tricks. Stealing things, mussing hair, spitballing, jolting each other with sparks, and generally having a laugh.

The old Luchorpán coughed, annoyed, and tapped out the dead ash in his pipe against the stone he sat upon. It was time to make some clever guesses. “You there, young Lurigadawne, put down those swords and wands this instant! And Cluri, stop pickpocketing those other fellows and join us now! Gather round, young tricksters, it’s time you heard the story.”  

The illusion rippled and disappeared, revealing the disorganized group staring at him open-mouthed. The old Luchorpán could hardly contain a chuckle of his own. 

The tops of the trees rustled in the wind and seemed to lean forward in anticipation as the elder took another long pull on his pipe, waiting for the young folk to settle down. He glared at them for quiet. 

Some of the youngsters listened, but a few still shimmered blue in his sight. It seemed the children who had gotten pranked were turning to their revenge now. He gave them his best disapproving glare. However, a shock of fear went through the old mans’ chest as he saw the eldest child draw a knife from his pocket and brandish it with a foul expression. 

“Stop,” cried the elder. Anger flashed in the old Luchorpán’s face as he leaned forward on the rock, struggling to get the knife-wielder’s attention.“So, it’s a bit of a fight you'll be wantin' to remind ya of yer place then? Have ye forgotten all my lessons? Is that the way of it?” He stared until the boy lowered the knife and sat down with a crimson face. “You should not be so angry at a little trick like that,” he added, sitting up straight. “The way yeh handle yerself, especially when mischief is afoot, says everything about who y’ are. Don’t let yer anger overwhelm ye, or ye’ll be fightin’ family in a moment.”

The boy sat down, chastised. As soon as his teacher turned away, however, the youngster stuck out his tongue and made an insolent gesture. He kept his fist closed around the knife handle. 

“Then ‘tis a fight you’ll be havin'!” The elder reached behind him and pulled out a staff, scarred by long use. 

The juvenile Luchorpán glanced at each other in alarm. The youngest among them stood and raised his hand for attention. He puffed himself up to his full two-and-a-half-foot height and proclaimed in his high voice, “I call upon you, my fellow Luchorpán! We have all suffered many hard knocks from our teacher. Let this be a day of reckoning! Let this be a day of vengeance! Let this be the day we got a bit of our own back! We’re ready for you, old one. We know all of your tricks. Today, we repay you in full!”  

Rather than let their companion get his revenge alone, the youngsters rose from their seats and smiled darkly as they counted their numbers, six in all. That should be more than enough to overcome the white-haired Luchorpán. They too drew their weapons, a wide array of gnarled staves, curved wands, and leaf-shaped practice swords. 

In return, the elder smiled deeply. “Tis true we have fought many a fine duel. Yet I have one old trick, a very old trick indeed, which I have saved for this very day.” 

At that, the confidence of the youngest ones wavered a little, but not that of the eldest boy, who had followed suit and sheathed his knife only to draw a padded club. “Words don’t scare us! You heard what Cluri said. We’re more than prepared for whatever deviltry you've cooked up!” 

“Are ye now?” replied the elder with a nasty twinkle in his eye. “Then prepare yerselves. I’m going to give you a demonstration of real Luchorpán magic. Ehindbay Ouya!” he bellowed, and then nodded almost imperceptibly. The young folk tensed, then looked at one another in confusion. It was a strange language to them, one they had never heard. Was it a new spell? Looking at the elder, they saw no sign of him summoning magic. 

“Is this a trick, old one?” said the oldest boy scornfully, calling up as much bravado as he could muster, “or have you lost your powers along with your wits?” 

The elder sat down again and grinned. “I am not that old yet. If you were my age, you would know that I just told you to look behind you.” 

With bushy eyebrows raised quizzically, the six youngsters turned around to see six older boys creeping up behind them with heavy sticks raised. The rebellious youngsters gaped in astonishment as six staves came crashing down. THWACK!

The young challengers sat down hard, feeling bumps rise on their chastised heads. The elder smiled as he lit a new bowl, puffing clouds of smoke. “Young ones, magic is not the only way to trick someone. Now, who wishes to start the recitation?” 

Smiling weakly as he stood once again, Cluri began to speak in a singsong voice.
Long before the Second Breaking of the world, there once lived a pair of children in a house on a hill, a brother and sister named Gadai and Angha. Their parents had died or disappeared long ago. Gadai was sibling and parent to his much younger sister, though he would often disappear for hours during the day while she played in the weedy garden. This was because Gadai would go into the town at the bottom of the hill and steal what they needed. He was slippery, quick, and his child’s fingers were clever enough to pluck a purse as soft as a breeze. He was very good, perhaps already one of the greatest thieves of his time. 

Everyone in town knew his profession, but they never caught him. Besides, it was clear that Gadai followed a strict moral code. First, he only stole from the wealthier folk in town (or the occasional well-heeled visitor), who could well afford the loss. Second, he restrained himself, and took no more than what he and his sister needed to survive. Finally, Angha insisted that they always share with others truly in need, and Gadai was happy to oblige. The other orphan children in the town were never turned away when they climbed the hill and asked for bread. Gadai soon felt like a parent to all of them, and Angha somehow always knew what was most needed to help. 

They townsfolk at the bottom of the hill even put up with his occasional pranks and tricks. They laughed when they discovered that their laundry had been switched with the neighbor’s, or jokes had been painted on the side of the well. The townsfolk let him carve out a living, and he and Angha were happy. 

The years passed and the children grew. Gadai became a man, growing tall and straight, with long limbs. Angha said she was glad of that, so he could hug her tightly when she needed to draw on his strength to supplement her own. Angha was on the cusp of adulthood herself when the signs of the first Veilstorm came. Everyone in the village felt the pressure in the air, the thrumming of the storm gathering its power to strike their area. She and Gadai watched at the window, wide-eyed at the flashing lightning and the pelting rain. The wind tore at the earth in gusts and the thunder seemed loud enough to crack stone. Buildings in the village below shook to pieces, and the storm battered, changed, or killed many of the newly defenseless folk. 

When the sun rose next day, its warm light shone on a scene of chaos, as a great deal of damage had been done. Folk mourned their friends, families, and everything that had made their village beautiful, as they tried to pick up the pieces. Up on the hill, Gadai and Angha’s house still stood, untouched. Not a single tile in their roof had come loose. They had been very lucky, and the pair invited several desperate folk to live in their house while the rest of the town was rebuilt. 

That same year, another storm loomed over the town. Certain that the house had been spared by previous storms only for a more terrible retribution now, the superstitious folk staying with Gadai and Angha fled into the twilight. Once again, the winds of magic tore furiously at the town and its terrified people; and once again, the house on the hill was untouched. 

Wonder turned into suspicion and jealousy in the following year, when more storms came and went without damaging Gadai and Angha’s home. Gadai let up on his thievery and pranks, but it didn’t make any difference. Many of the townsfolk stopped speaking to him and Angha. Gadai threw himself into helping the dispossessed, the starving, and especially the children in need.

One day, a powerful wind picked up. Scuds of clouds ran across the sky, fleeing the terrible wrath of a storm. The sky groaned as though in pain; this was no average Veilstorm. A Malevolence gathered power. 

Instead of preparing for the oncoming storm, many of the homeless townsfolk had gathered in one of the few pubs left standing, swilling ale and trading survival stories. As the pressure in the air grew to an unbearable level, the Malevolence rolled in overhead. 

A wave of emotion washed over the crowd like a flood. The storm seemed to encourage their dark tempers, aiding the ale in their blood and bringing the mob to a fever pitch of anger. They spilled into the street, voices raised in a clamor for justice. Who started it no one ever knew, but many of them took up the cry that thieves had stolen their luck, blackguards in league with dark forces above. Former victims of Gadai’s tricks blamed their misfortunes on him, and shouted that the man in the house on the hill should suffer as they had all suffered. In their storm-fogged minds they clung to the vague notion that inflicting pain on Gadai would ease their own. 

Wrapping sticks in alcohol-soaked rags for makeshift torches, the mob set off through the pre-storm quiet, calling hoarsely through the town for others to join them. Waving broken glasses and flaming shards of wood, many caught the scent of blood in the air and joined them. They were taken with a mad panic, thinking this was the last act before the storm ended everything. From a distance, their angry procession formed a stream of fire that quickly spread up the path toward Gadai and Angha’s humble home, one of the last houses still standing in the township. Among the mob were many of those who had received help from the siblings on the hill; in their anger and their fear, all kindness was forgotten. 

It was unmistakably time to leave. Gadai grabbed Angha’s arm, and she grabbed the basket from the pantry and her walking stick. They fled out the back door as the angry mob stormed the front door. The mob’s blood was up, hearkening back to the way their ancestors had once stormed the castles of their oppressors. 

The little house on the hill was far from a grand castle. Within moments, the mob had busted through one of the walls and flames began licking along the edges of the roof. Angha looked back as she hustled ahead of Gadai, and he saw the flickering reflections in her eyes. They could hear the townsfolk’s rage, cursing and clamoring with one voice that Gadai and Angha give up the secret of their safety. The house was clearly empty, but it made no difference. The pair knew no secrets; they had simply been lucky. 

Desperate, Gadai and Angha ran through the gathering rain, stumbling through the mud and wet grass, seeking shelter from the implacable storm. The hills rose up before them, but Angha guided her brother to a cave where she had stored herbs to dry. They both knew the shelter would do little against the Veilstorm, but at least it was warmer and out of the rain. 

Inside the shallow cave, they dropped their burdens and sat on the cold stone, watching the rain increase in violence outside. The storm growled with thunder, though no lightning had yet struck nearby. Gadai seethed in turn, scowling out the open cave mouth. “What was the point of it all, Angha? I feel like a fool for helping them. What thanks is this? Why did we ever go hungry just to feed them? I will return their cruelty tenfold.” For emphasis, he spat into the rain. 

Angha smiled sadly at him. “It is only fear and weakness, Gadai. You have done many foolish things, no doubt; but helping others in need was not one of them. Calm yourself. If you waste time seeking revenge, it will only stop us from finding a new home.” 

Gadai could not help smiling back, though it was a strained smile. “You shield your heart from the anger that overtakes me. I’d be lost without the kindness you were named for; and so would they.”

As the storm raged outside, its fearful roar made it clear that this was no ordinary Veilstorm. It was a Malevolence, terrifying to behold in its power and intensity. Stones cracked and split outside the cave as lightning poured down out of the sky like a waterfall of white fire. The pressure of the air, heavy with furious magic, increased in force even as the temperature dropped. Cold winds descended on the town, leveling the buildings and the trees, and everything else for miles around, including the former home of Gadai and his sister. 

The Malevolence howled louder, roiling the heavens with terrible power, as if delighting in the pitiful cries of the creatures below. Its freezing fury whipped across the landscape, tearing at the earth. Thrumming power filled the cave where Gadai and Angha now huddled close together.  

A pricking, scraping sensation crept over Gadai’s skin, and he felt Angha’s body stiffen in fear next to him. There was a presence in the wind-blasted cave, a feeling of change and shaping. Chaotic forces of wind and magic tore at their bodies, and Angha cried out in pain, “Gadai, something’s happening to me!” 

He threw his arms around his sister and hugged her close to his chest, hoping to somehow shield her body with his own. Eavesdropping during his exploits, Gadai had heard of storms that turned folk into monsters. He knew it was The Change, but had no power to stop it. “Hold on to me!” he cried, desperate. “No, no, no! Take me instead!”

Angha’s body began to shake with the beginnings of The Change. Distantly, screams and howls from the top of the hill told Gadai that others were suffering the same fate. But only one person truly mattered to him.  

Gadai hugged his sister tightly, but she only shook with greater violence. She screamed when she realized what was happening, and the storm roared its thunder in return, slamming the countryside with sound. 

Angha’s flesh rippled as the horrible magic pulsed through her body. Her back arched in pain, and her scream cut off as the first wave of change overtook Gadai’s little sister. He held on tight even as her fingers were stretched into claws that raked at his arms, drawing blood. Her teeth became long and sharp as she reflexively bit into his shoulder. Gadai refused to let go even as her legs grew horns and scales, twisting to kick at him as a tail curled around his neck.

He told her he loved her even as the Abomination that had been Angha ripped him off of itself and snarled. It rolled on the ground as tentacles burst from its flesh and waved stingers in the air while the storm thundered triumphantly above. It sounded to Gadai like booming laughter, mocking their helplessness in the face of the horror. 

The creature stared up at him from the floor of the cave. Gadai prayed to God, the storm itself, and to the old gods of his people, to anyone that would listen, to stop The Change. For a moment longer, the thing still had Angha’s eyes, weeping as she looked up from the sandy floor of the cave; then as the pressure swelled, the eyes began to change as well, swelling and shifting to an evil yellow. Gadai gritted his teeth against the tears that pressed against his eyes, and dropped to his knees. He cradled the Abomination’s misshapen, bulbous head the way he had cradled Angha’s perfect one when she was a baby. The writhing creature that had been his sister hissed and growled. Gadai knew he couldn’t hesitate a moment longer, for the Abomination would swiftly grow in power and size. Hands shaking, Gadai drew his knife from the sheath on his leg.

Tenderly, gingerly, he cut the creature’s throat. It wasn’t his sister any more; the storm had killed her. As blood gushed to meet the puddles forming on the cave floor, a voice whispered, “I will always love you.” They must have been his own words. 

When all the life had left her body, he laid her head down, arranging her clawed and tentacled limbs in an unnatural posture of rest. Mad with pain and loss, Gadai walked out into the storm, screaming into the sky as he choked on the cold rain. “Change me! Change me too, damn you! I dare you! I defy you, Malevolence! Or if you will not...I call upon the all the Powers to grant me my revenge!”

After what seemed like hours, the lightning ceased and the rumbling of thunder began to die away as the Malevolence dissipated.  When the Malevolence ended, he was still Gadai. However, as he dried his eyes and looked to the horizon, he felt slightly different. In what way, he could not have said. 

Time passed. The darkness gathered in Gadai’s mind, a miasma of rage and hurt. He was unable to think clearly. His sister was gone, taken by the storm and put to rest by his own hand; and without her, he was lost. He could not hurt the storm, and so he blamed the folk he had once helped, who had turned on him and burnt his house in their fear and confusion. The darkness filled him, and the only way he could make an aperture, an opening for himself to exist in the thick swamp of revenge that infested his mind like an endless swarm of gnats, was to seek vengeance. He could not see the storm’s face, he could only desire to see their faces, distraught and destroyed, as they had done to him. He never considered that the storm might have changed Angha no matter what the townsfolk had done. 

Gadai tried to satisfy his need for revenge. He stole from the townsfolk as never before, not for anyone’s benefit, even his own. He took everything they had, from the rich and the poor alike, as punishment for their cruelty and ingratitude. Instead of sharing his loot, he hid the great fortune away in the earth, in a cave far from the one he and Angha had shared. He could never go back there. 

The more Gadai stole, the more the Veilstorm’s influence on his body grew, but slowly enough that he didn’t notice at first. His countenance began to reflect his nature; the thief’s face twisted into a sinister mask of hatred and cruelty. He started to shrink in stature as his rage and need for revenge warped his mind. It became even easier to sneak his way into homes through small openings, and his footstep became light as a feather. Gadai’s eyes began to change as well, reflecting the color of valuable metals nearby, which he could track by scent like a hound following a trail. His skills at opening locks and evading traps the townsfolk set for him increased, as he paid little attention to anything else. 

Gadai’s pranks were no longer intended to amuse. The surviving townsfolk found their door hinges removed, their well filled with foul water, and their wagon wheels loosened. None of these satisfied Gadai, and his mood grew ever darker. 

The seasons turned, but Gadai paid them little mind, focused only on his insatiable hunger to take more and more. One winter’s evening, he entered the home of a wealthy merchant. Quietly, he crept from room to room, pocketing anything of value. He lifted a painting, the silver, and a few tapestries, piling it all by the window. 

Eventually, he made his way to a small bedroom on the second floor, where the wealthy merchant’s youngest daughter slept. Gadai paused for a moment, hand above her tiny wooden jewelry box. The girl looked just like Angha. 

He leaned closer. No, not just like her. It was no more than a passing resemblance. Gadai felt pain welling up inside him, threatening to overwhelm. He pushed the feeling aside and continued relieving the teenage girl of her jewelry collection. 
The hiss of rain began outside. Thunder rumbled, and the flash of twisting lightning signalled the start of a sudden Veilstorm. The house he was in seemed almost at the epicenter of the tumult. Wind and magic tore and the roof and made the walls creak. Gadai figured it was time to leave and made for the nearest window. 

He flung it open, and rain blew back in his face. The girl sat up in bed, awakened by the wet and the noise. She screamed wildly when she saw Gadai’s twisted little figure, his legs bent in preparation to leap out of her room. 

Her desperate scream of fear, just like his sister’s on their last night together, pierced Gadai’s heart like an arrow. He hesitated for just a moment, staring aghast back at the girl in her nightgown. 

That was long enough for something to answer her scream for help. Her father, mid-transformation into an Abomination, rushed into the room, letting loose a gurgling roar. Tentacles tipped with claws trailed behind him, twitching as they felt for prey. The thing made straight for the bed, where his daughter sat screaming. 

Gadai reacted without thinking. He leaped into the path of death, knowing he could only offer a moment’s protection against this enraged monstrosity. He had no mighty weapon he could use to fight off an Abomination filled with rage. He was no warrior. The Abomination was a creature of the storm, which was already reaching the peak of its power outside. He kneeled on the bed, holding the girl tightly while she tried to push him away. Gadai refused to let go even as the Abomination attacked him savagely, raking his body and reopening long-healed scars. Blood spattered the room along with the rain blown in through the window. 

As he felt his strength wane and the life leave his body, Gadai heard the crash and boom outside as the storm reached its zenith. Splinters of wood fell into the room as the roof began to come loose. Gadai’s last thoughts were of the long-abandoned cave where he had slain the thing that killed Angha. He wished he and the girl could be back there, where his life of vengeance had begun. 

The Abomination slammed its claws down in a final killing stroke. However, its claws found only air and the featherbed. The creature howled with inhuman frustration. 

When Gadai awoke, he found himself back in that never-forgotten cave, where the horror had happened. It was warmed by a gentle fire. Sitting up painfully, he discovered that his clothes had been cleaned and his wounds carefully dressed with torn strips of cloth. Blinking, Gadai rubbed thick sand from his eyes. He felt like he’d been asleep for days. The thief’s gaze landed on a young girl sitting by the fire, feeding it with sticks. 

For a moment, he felt utterly confused. Everything had been a nightmare, and he was still with his sister. Elation briefly filled his heart. But before he could choke out her name, the girl came into focus and he knew that this wasn’t his sister. Angha was still dead. 

The girl glanced up and smiled. She stood and came over to him, and Gadai realized that she was not as young as he had first thought. The young woman was merely small of stature, just as he had become these last few years. 

“Thank you,” She said quietly. “Thanks for saving my life, little thief. I am called Aingeal. What is your name?”

Gadai merely shook his head. He could not speak to her. She was kind, but he believed she had no right to be. For him, all the kindness in the world had died along with Angha. 

Aingeal put out a hand and gently shook his shoulder, breaking into his self-absorbed thoughts. “Do you understand me? You’re a hero, little man.” 

He cleared his throat. “I-I am called Gadai.” 

His name made her laugh. “Ha! I thought it was you. Tis a good name for you.” She let go of his shoulder and stood, brushing sand from her torn shift before adding, “You may keep the necklace that is in your pocket. It is my bond that we shall marry one day.” 

Gadai’s malformed eyes narrowed as he scoffed at her. “What are you talking about? Why would we marry? We’ve only known each other for...we met when I was robbing your house!” 

“My father could afford the loss, he…” for a moment Aingeal stood silently, staring into the fire. “He had become a monster all on his own, before the storm changed him.” Then she looked at Gadai and laughed again, her green eyes flashing with a hidden spark of magic. “Believe me, love. One day, we shall marry.” 

“Ridiculous. You’ve gone mad. I have no use for love. I will marry no one.” Gadai struggled to stand, tearing the bandages across his back with a sharp pain. 

Before he could rise, Aingeal put her hands on his head and pushed him back down. She kissed the top of his hairy head lightly and patted him. “Rest now. You’re going to have to take me back to my village soon.”

He sat back, breathing painfully, and looked up into her face. Again, he thought he saw the shimmer of magic in her eyes, or perhaps it was his own tears of pain. “What makes you so sure I will do any of these things?”

Aingeal shook her head as she turned back to the fire, which was burning low. “Men are always the last to know.” 

When Gadai’s wounds had healed enough to let him walk, he walked with her back to her village. One of the village elders took Aingeal in, for her family and indeed her whole house was gone, taken by the storms. Then the thief turned to leave, figuring he had repaid her for bandaging him. He fully expected to hear her cry out after him, to object to their parting; but all Aingeal did was wave and call, “Farewell for now, my beautiful betrothed!” 

The gathered village folk stared in complete shock. Gadai’s body was twisted and repulsive to look upon, as ugly outside as he had become within. 

Gadai found himself unable to stray too far from Aingeal’s village. Time and again, he would try to leave, to seek further revenge on the rest of the world, but he found himself instead climbing hills and trees that overlooked the town and watching her from afar. Aingeal spent little time in mourning and rarely rested, always first in line to help those in need within the village. She was full of kindness, well-loved by the village elders that provided her with a simple home, and she was almost always happy. 

At night, clinging to the shadows thrown by the village torches, Gadai would sometimes creep into the settlement and leave food, cloth, and other essentials at Aingeal’s window. Though he meant to leave the goods for her alone, she only ever used them to help others. Gadai couldn’t help hoping she guessed who left the things for her. 

In this way he watched her from afar. He secretly laughed at the suitors who came and went disappointed from Aingeal. She was good-natured and beautiful, but her magic-glittered eyes often looked to the sky and stars, and seemed always to be waiting for something. 

Until one day a wealthy young man came into her life. They met at a spring celebration in the central square of the village, and danced together. The man swept her off her feet, and her face glowed with laughter as he courted her. Each passing day, Gadai’s heart broke a little more. He realized how strange, how twisted he had become, hiding his hopes even from himself. He had let himself secretly believe in whatever was left of his heart that her prediction would come true. When he could stand it no more, he went back to the old cave once again to curse humanity. 

He lay down to sleep that night dreaming of his revenge on Aingeal for breaking her promise to him. But when he awoke, Gadai looked around the long-abandoned cave where he had convalesced and found he couldn’t summon the passion that had fueled him. His revenge, his need to exact personal justice, felt as hollow and empty as the cave where Angha had died. 

Gadai walked outside and looked up at the hill where he and his sister used to live so happily. The wreckage of the old house was almost completely gone, blown away or buried, or perhaps looted to repair other buildings in the town that lay just beyond the hill. Back then, he had followed a code. Back then, he had people to care for with his skill. Gadai remembered the young man he used to be and swore to become him once more. 

The thief set out to use his powers for a purpose outside of himself and his rage. He thought he might help the poor and the sick, those in need of a little extra wealth. However, he added to himself with an impish grin that felt unfamiliar on his twisted features, a good prank now and then might do some good too.

He left the cave behind with all its terrible memories, never to return. 

Gadai went from town to town, looking for things that needed doing by someone with his talents. Everywhere in the region that folk were trying to rebuild after the storms, they would find a part of their work done in the night. Everywhere that folk were in dire need, they found food and clean water waiting for them at the door. And everywhere that powerful people were taking advantage of the storms’ destruction to satisfy their greed for wealth or power, they found their riches suddenly diminished. Stories spread throughout the region about a kindly, impish rogue known only as the Thief. 

As his journey crisscrossed the land, one evening Gadai found himself tired and nearing sleep under a tree on a hill that overlooked a familiar village. He settled down in the long grass with his back against the trunk, a peaceful smile on his face. He was thinking of his next adventure. 

A pleasant scent pulled him from his slumber the next morning. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Gadai looked up in consternation to find Aingeal standing over him. She carried a large knapsack and blanket over her shoulder, and a basket in her other hand from which the wonderful smells wafted. She looked happy, but slightly annoyed. “I thought you would be here yesterday, Gadai. I had all my things packed up and ready to go. Oh well, so dinner is breakfast.” And she dropped the basket in the grass beside him. 

Gadai tried to stammer a greeting, but before he could croak out a single syllable Aingeal dropped her pack as well, leaning over to kiss him. “I keep my promises, always and forever. ” she added sweetly. 

On that day, Gadai’s twice-broken heart mended. It was not long before Aingeal’s promise of marriage was kept, and they traveled together ever afterward. Some of Gadai’s powers vanished over time, but Aingeal only seemed to grow in power and abilities, though not in stature. Like spring wildflowers, tales sprang up all over the land of The Adventures of Gadai and Aingeal. 

“That was well spoken, Cluri,” said the elder. “Most of ye should leave me now an’ go practice yer skills. All except for you lot, with the lumps on yer heads. We shall work on something else. And I promise ye, it will hurt just enough to remind ye of yer folly.” Smirking as he hefted his staff, he added, “Like me wife, I always keep me promises.” 

Bonus Image!

We can’t let you go without showing off the new and improving landscapes that can be made more and more easily as our terrain editing and art assets improve. Using just one tree, one grass card, and one flower model, we've already got a lovely meadow!
Enjoy this lovely Independence Duck from Sandra:
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