Ravenloft Gazetteer IV
After I was approached to write the Sithicus section, I asked Voronica Whitney-Robinson to work on the chapter with me. We split the section in half. I covered:
The best part of working on the Sithicus section was setting the tone for the domain post-Spectre and, as with the material I wrote on the Wanderers for Heroes of Light, moving the plot of the domain forward, toward the conflict that would form the heart of the third Sithicus novel, should I write it. I worked with Jackie Cassada and Nicky Rea on developing Inza as a unique darklord, and they helped enhance her powers quite a bit (see JWM's comment after*). Some of the cooler shadow-linked powers are ones they prompted.
I understand from the RL message board that Soth is not called "the Cursed Knight" in the history section of the Gaz—he should have been called that, as he was in the previously published Heroes of Light. (The earlier term "blackguard" that was applied to him in some of the 3e material is not appropriate at all—that's far too mild a term for the monster Soth was.) Since I have not seen the published book, I don't know what else was changed in editing or development.
On the WotC board, Mr Lowder summarized Inza's curse : it is founded upon the notion that evil people do not do evil for its own sake. If they are not just mad, evil people act in ways that harm or destroy others out of a belief that can be summed up as: "You would do the same to me, given the chance." Inza pimped over her mom and her tribe based upon that notion. The trouble is, even a single selfless person, a single act not founded somehow upon self-interest, casts doubt--shadows, as it were--upon her basic belief that everyone is really selfish. Her curse is to be hyper-aware of good and kind acts in her realm.
The domain as a whole was designed to be sort of a reverse image of what Sithicus was under Soth. The Dark Powers taunted Soth with imperfect memories; he had to fight to be true to himself and his past. The last thing anyone can do in Sithicus now is escape themselves or forget their guilt.
John W Mangrum:
Who wrote each section ? I wrote Borca, Anthony Pryor wrote Invidia (is it Anthony? I really hope I'm not getting his name wrong, because I was quite impressed by his work), Andrew Wyatt wrote Verbrek, Ryan Naylor wrote Valachan, and Sithicus was co-written by James Lowder and Voronica Whitney-Robinson. Andrew Wyatt wrote the Foreword.
Vor Ziyden and Ilvin were left out for space reasons.
As a note, it was actually me who made those suggestions for Inza. Nicky & Jackie just passed along my work after I requested that her creator approve them.
Borca moved here (see JWM's comments in Gaz III), and I did my usual shadow developer work on the whole book.
Most of the adventure hook sidebars were cut from Borca in Gaz IV. In some cases, the "setup" for these hooks remains subtly hidden in the text, but the "punchlines" have all been excised. The developers said they might release this material as a web extra around the time the book was published. They were as follows:
...as long as I have my files open, the first half of the Borca opening quote in Gaz IV was cut too. Here's that complete quote:
I wrote this Dread Possibility for Hroth (Sithicus, Gaz IV). It was cut (for space, I assume):
Dread Possibility: Remembrance of the Wyrm
Not all Sithicans have forgotten the god-wyrms of their blasted shrines. Thaumiol (male elf Sor5/Dragon Disciple7, LE) an outcast from the arcane caste, pieced together the ancient legends and became a devoted disciple of the Many-Headed Devourer, seeking to draw her attention back to Sithicus and reap the power she bestowed. So intense was his fervor that his body slowly began to change, taking on aspects of a green dragon. The deformities forced Thaumiol to retreat to the marshland south of Hroth, where he eventually discovered what he considers a literal godsend: The preserved corpse of a massive, five-headed lernaean cryohydra, sunken in a bog. Thaumiol believes this body to be an emissary of the Many-Headed Devourer, and now seeks the means to animate it as his servant. That done, he intends to hunt down the rangers who protect Hroth, then teach its faithless citizens what comes to those who forget their gods.
Before I begin this, I would just like to point out that I know how the bracer saved Our Hero and you don’t. So there. And, given the Great Falling Out between the Kargatane and ArtHaus, and the fact the gazetteers seem to have slipped off the production schedule for the moment, that state may persist for some time. I will say we were going to tell you in the Blaustein gazetteer though. If enough people start calling the narrator (who is a pleasure to write for. I particularly like how she hates everything about the countries she travels through, except the indigenous alcohols) Our Hero, I may tell you anyway.
Originally, Our Hero came too lying in a puddle in the forest somewhere. It involved a fairly cool meeting with a fey. Then someone pointed out that that wasn’t how things would happen—she’d have to wake up somewhere safe, not just dumped beside the road—so I had to change it. I wrote both introductions with no idea how the Verbrek gazetteer was going to finish by the way, which is one of the problems of co-authoring things. The benefit is that other people always have better ideas than you do.
To get back to the point, the Valachan gaz was the thing I originally, desperately wanted to do. There were two reasons. As I said for VRA, nothing interesting had ever happened there, so it was virgin territory for me to make unique (although it may have moved from being too like Barovia to being too like Tepest). The second is that, in the summer of 2001, I went to Peru and Ecuador on holiday (which are both great countries). In the monastery of San Francisco (I think), I saw the most haunting Christ-figure I have ever seen. He looked rather like my description of the Dead God, and I found the image so compelling I decided to write the gazetteer just so I could use that image. I also wanted to use Australian Aboriginal legends somewhere, but most of those never eventuated. The Gasttre in Helbenik is based on a succubus-type legend from Darwin though, and the descriptions of Vaasi colonialism are Australian (but standard for any colonial nation).
Once again, my linguistic skills went unused. I had dog-Norwegian names for all of the forests, roads and rivers in Valachan, but for some reason the text converted them all back to English but left them in Valachani on the map. Weird. The lilies of eternal slumber were also originally roses (like Necropolitan amaranth), but this time I changed them to lillies. Roses are overused anyway.
The fact that ruler never change has always bothered me, so I made Urik fake his own death and gave him an explanation for his inability to age (fey blood). I also made him smarter, so now he’s got a bigger network of charmed slaves than Dominic d’Honaire, has created funeral rites specifically to heal nosferatu and ensured the Valachani can never rebel against him again. It was while writing his description that I noticed my predilection for tyrants and sadists; both he and Lady Adeline are both, and the text implies most of the Black Leopards are too. I was a little upset when Adeline’s description didn’t make it into the book. She’s a good NPC and a much more useful villain than von Kharkov in my opinion. I do disagree with all those people who think von Kharkov should be erased from history though; the reason Adeline works well is because she’s not a darklord. I just noticed we didn’t get stats for the leader of the Black Leopards either in the wereleopard description. He was a fighter who had become smitten with von Kharkov due to a magical curse and slept curled up on his coffin in panther form. So Hazlik is still it I’m afraid.
Please send your articles to firstname.lastname@example.org