Project Update: Summer 2022

Hello everyone!

Time for a summer update! Hope you’re all well and enjoying your summer. Here is a GIF of a procedural fountain effect to cool you off in the summer heat:

Cat gives zero f–ks about the wonder that is Imperial plumbing!

—News—

The Demo

As you know, we’re working on an updated demo for testing and promotional purposes. We were originally planning to enter it in an event in late June. However we elected to go for a different venue and now we’re aiming for late September. HOWEVER, the community will be getting builds in late August for testing so stay posted for more info!

Your Steam Account Requires Action

Maybe. As you know we have two Steam pages: One for the main application and one for the prologue. As we move towards the new demo and eventually launch, the prologue page will have outlived its purpose. But the thing is, a lot of you guys have subscribed to, or even wishlisted (!) the prologue!

If this is you, I’d love to see you subscribe to, and wishlist the main application instead.

Some Cool Video Content

I just did a roundtable with a bunch of fellow indie RPG developers! I’m sure you can recognize some faces and names below. We had a great talk about the art and craft of making indie RPGs and I can’t wait to bring you the vid! We’re going to edit it a bit and then I’ll be sure to let you know the moment it goes live.

—Development Update—

Currently development is all about making content, evaluating the workflow and then updating the tools and engine to become faster and safer. This is the only way we can keep the code and data manageable as the project grows.

Props

Props are the most important piece of the puzzle right now. They represent all interactable objects in the world that are not characters or inventory items. A huge priority has been to make the game world a lot more interactive by adding lots of interesting objects for the player to interact with (hidden secrets, loot, workbenches, lore-heavy decorations etc),

Now your character is constantly using their perception skill to try and spot hidden doors etc but also containers that may contain minor loot and fun secrets. I loved how “Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous” had a lot of hidden loot laying around, really incentivising you to put points in the “perception” skill and explore the environs:

Nothing says “hero” like rummaging through random trash!

Doors and chests can now be locked and you have to decide between looking for a key or picking or forcing the lock. Be careful however, props can be trapped:

Thought you’d pilfer a bit, ehh? Have at thee ye blackguard!

All of the above might sound like stuff that has always been in the game though? Yes and no. The change is that this stuff was always possible (more or less) but it needed to be scripted on a case by case basis. Now it’s all been streamlined and standardized so that creating a trapped chest is as easy as two clicks on a dropdown menu.

Editor Updates

On the same note as above, a lot has also happened on the editor side. I’m putting a lot of effort into limiting manual data entry and instead focusing on creating objects for all kinds of data that is then linked together. This makes the data a LOT more error proof and also a lot faster to work with as so much data can now be reused.

A good example of this are “loadOut” and “appearancePack” objects. It used to be that I had to manually enter each item that I wanted to add to a character or a container. This a surprising amount of work if you want to carefully place items by hand as there are thousands and thousands of items in a game like Skald (and a big reason why the old demo had so much randomized container content). Same goes for character appearances: I had to manually pick primary, secondary, hair and skin color as well as hair styles and animations for each character and the work adds up quickly.

Now I instead create loadOuts and appearancePacks which are collections of data that can be referenced by several other types of objects. I can create a “Fighter loadout” and add in, say, a leather armor, a long sword and a shield. I can then assign it to the fighter class meaning that the items will be given to all characters with that class. I can also add that loadout to a container if I want to let players find that collection of items somewhere or even set it as a reward for a quest.

The same goes for appearances! I can assign appearancePacks to characters directly but also add them to objects like factions. That way, each character from the same faction can have the same colored livery etc. The cool part is that appearance packs can also be assigned to props so that props in certain areas can dynamically change color to reflect factions and so forth.

This will go a long way towards letting me customize the look of areas without having to create separate art assets to reflect different color schemes. And again: Doing so, is as easy as selection an appearancePack from a drop-down menu.

I’ve also done a HUGE job of creating meta data for all the game data. This means the editor now knows stuff like allowed ranges for numeric data, what objects can be linked to which, it can add tooltips and even to some auto-completing. This was a pretty huge job (I had to write a separate program to automate a bunch of the coding to get it done) but once again: It will make the game data sooooo much easier to work with and debug.

—In Closing—

There is a lot more that has happened but I’m already running long so I think I’ll round it off there! I’m actually taking more or less a week off starting tomorrow so huzzah I guess. I’m also a little less active on social media in the summer since I try to limit non-essential screen time so expect me to be a bit slower in responding to messages etc.

Have a wonderful summer and try to spend some time outside!


To stay posted, be sure to follow the Skald Twitter and Discord and wishlist on Steam if you haven’t already!

Cheers,

 

AL

 

Project Update June 2022: New Teaser and Stockholm

Hail serfs!

I’m taking a short break from coding to say hi and bring glad tidings! I’ll be back with more development updates soon, but for now, here is some media for you:

We Have a New Teaser!!!!

The “Eyes of the Dragon” are upon us as a new Skald teaser drops!

We promoted Skald at the Guerilla Collective stream this week and took the chance to showcase our newest teaser. Check it out above!

I Went to Stockholm!

Raw Fury and I finally found a window to meet up in Stockholm! I spent almost a week with Raw Fury and my team and we had the very best of times.

I got an amazing welcome and the week passed in a flurry of pre-lunch beer, barbeque, amazing Stockholmian restaurants and literally the most fantastic people in the industry!

There is something to be said for having worked remotely on a daily basis with a group of people and then finally being able to be in the same room together. That’s how magic happens.

Beyond meeting my team, through some true calendar-voodoo, legendary Raw Fury founder / CEO, Jonas Antonsson, and I also managed to finally spend some quality time together. We even recorded some of our high-flying musings on RPGs and all things nerdy that we’ll be posting in the months to come. We go deep so be sure to stay posted.

The plan was to take lots of cool pictures but we had such a full program that to my dismay, when I got home, the above images were pretty much all I had. I will say though, they are more or less representative.

And just to be clear: I didn’t just go to Stockholm to bro out. We also had some incredibly cool and exciting business discussions. There is nothing I can talk about yet but let me just reiterate how incredibly excited I am to have signed with such an amazing partner!

Learn how to Pitch a Game

Did I tell you we spoke to Raw Fury scout Johan Toresson? We did and we went deep on how you should go about pitching your game to a publisher. Johan is THE man for finding cool new games so be sure to get his insights!

 

Nerd out on Reddit

This one is very technical, but I had a question about how the “crawling” fog of war system works in Skald.

I wrote up a very high level concept of it and posted it on our Skald sub-reddit. Check it out and keep in mind that the sub-reddit exists and is a very good platform for asking about stuff like this. I do monitor it and I would love to see more activity there.

Have a Spectacular week!

There is so much cool stuff going on I just had to dump some of it out so there you go! There’s lots more coming so just be sure to keep checking out my Twitter and Discord and by the Golden Dead, wishlist on Steam if you haven’t already!

Cheers,

 

AL

Project Update May 2022

Ho there travelers!

Hope spring is finding you all well! We’re having days in a row with no snow up here in northern Norway and that’s something I guess.

The upside is that “inside weather means more work is getting done on “Skald: Against the Black Priory”!

The Teaser and Demo

The teaser is a wrap! You’ll have to wait a bit more for it as we’re saving it for a festival this summer!

The cold, dead stars hate you!

It’s a bit of a challenge to find a format that does justice to the crisp pixel-art of Skald and I think we’re getting very close to cracking the code in this teaser. I can’t wait to show it off and hope you like it. A big thanks to Sarah Gonidec and Roland Smedberg for all their hard work and endless patience!

The new demo will be out in mid June if all goes according to plan! The aim is to polish the game-systems as much as possible so that the demo represents the final game as much as possible in as many areas as possible.

In particular, we’ll be digging deep on combat and the general UI.

I’m going to add more of a button and icon-based UI in the cases where it makes sense – such as in combat.

I’m adding in a lot more animation frames in general. Both for creatures and specific weapon attacks.

There is still some work on the timing aspect as some animations are a bit too fast or “off” but I can see this will go a long way towards making the game look a lot more varied.

Adding more detailed monster models also makes everything look a lot cooler. I really hope we’ll have the multi-tile monsters fully up and working by the time the demo launches as they have quite a battlefield presence.

Also note how the fire above has a new look! All the flames in the game will now be made by procedural effects. This includes props like camp-fires and torches as well as spell effects. Stay posted as we show off some of the flashy and arcane magics that will be at your disposal!

As the demo comes out, just keep in mind that it will be shorter in content then the current demo – at least in the beginning. It’s very important that what we put out is polished and making it short and sweet is the priority to begin with. Stay assured though: We’ll be padding it with more content as we go!

Streams

In case you missed it, Fiona and I recently did a stream with my producer at Raw Fury: Daniel Jonsson. We had a little round-table about what the day-to-day collaboration between developers and publishers looks like and I warmly recommend giving it a watch.

Coming up, on May 12th at 4PM CET at Raw Fury’s Twitch channel, we’re having a talk with Raw Fury’s rock-star scout Johan Toresson!

Raw Fury's Johan Toresson to co-host NG20 - Nordic Game Community

We’ll be talking about how scouts work for publishers and how and why you should pitch to them! This is a must for fellow game developers or anyone who is just interested in how the industry works!

If you love indie-punk, ramen with an attitude and new curse-words, Johan is your man!

EDIT: The video is now up on my Youtube channel so check it out!


Keep following this devlog, my twitter and the Skald Discord to stay posted on our awesome quest to bring you more retro-RPG awesomeness!

Cheers,

 

AL

Skald Project Update March 2022

Hi there!

It’s time for another devlog update for “Skald: Against the Black Priory”!
These are busy and very exciting days. A lot of very important development is being done on the game and tools and we’re having a lot of very interesting talks regarding the long term perspective of the Skald brand both internally and with external partners. I can’t really say much yet but hopefully it will be worth the wait.

In terms of the game itself, the current priority has been on tool-development (the level editor), preparing content for the upcoming teaser and working on the redux version of the prologue (to be released this summer).

New Media Content

We’ve also been looking into more ways of communicating with the community and I’ve made a vlog update as well as a stream with Fiona Martin of Raw Fury. I’m still finding my footing on the technical side and I’ll be working on improving audio so sorry if the quality is a bit low for these two.

We’ll be doing more video content as we go and streams in particular are something we’ll be digging deeper on as they are easy to make and provide a way for you to communicate with us directly.

For upcoming streams we’ll be talking to some of the awesome people at my publisher, Raw Fury, to learn more about what they do and how the collaboration between developers and publishers look. I can guarantee you it’ll be worthwhile if you’re interested in the indiegame industry.

If you have suggestions for topics for either the stream or the video-blog, be sure to leave them in the Youtube comments of the vids above. I read everything.

 

Community Created Content

If you’ve been following my social media or the Discord, you know that I’ve become enamored with my new level editor (I talked about it in my first devlog of 2022).

The short of it, is that it’s turning out better than I hoped and I’m now super pumped to be able to offer it to the community so you can make content for Skald yourself.

And let me be clear here: The editor I’ll be releasing will be the exact same tools I’ve been using myself to make this game. You’ll be able to create (or edit) any asset in the game from maps to objects (items, characters and props), factions, quests, difficulty settings and on and on. EVERY aspect of the game.

A test I did with the Ultima 5 tileset. This took about 2 minutes to make, from importing the art asset to making the map.

Personally I think the true power of this isn’t creating more Skald content; it’s making your own awesome fan-projects. Ultima 5.5 fan-project anyone?

A Editor Road-Map

Our tentative plan for the editor, is to get it out there soon (meaning before the main game launches). I also don’t want the commitment of having to maintain another piece of commercial software so likely what we’ll do is release is as a free beta for the community to play around with.

Ideally this will allow for a community to grow up around it that could sustain itself while I’ll provide tech support, beginning tutorials and take feedback for updates.

Needs more trolls!

It certainly wouldn’t hurt if, by the launch of the main game, we could point to a vital modding community that already had a stack of awesome fan-made content ready for consumption.

Getting Yourself Involved

If you’re intersted in this aspect of the project, I’d love to hear from you! I’m setting up a discord sub-channel (FAN CONTENT on our Discord) for this discussion and I’d love for you to head on over and offer me your feedback on the following:

  1. What are some case studies of INDIE games that have strong modding and fan-content communities? WHat are they doing right?
  2. If a community springs up, where should it live? What platform works best for both providing a way to offer tech-support, asset sharing, project collaboration and perhaps even hosting of projects?
  3. How can I support the community whilst still making is as independent and standalone as possible?
  4. What are some cool projects you’d like to do? Share them in the #my_dream_projects channel!

See you there!


I hope to hear from as many of you as possible. Till then, have a fantastic weekend!

Keep following this devlog, my twitter and the Skald Discord to stay posted on our awesome quest to bring you more retro-RPG awesomeness!

 

Cheers,

 

AL

SKALD Stands with Ukraine

I try to keep my game and community a safe-space and politics free. Sometimes however, evil finds you no matter what.

Putin has ordered his forces to commence a war of aggression and full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This hits close to home for the Skald community:

Skald composer and vital community member Surt_R is Ukrainian and lives in a Ukrainian city currently under attack by Russian forces. I spoke to him this morning. Surt_R is a positive guy but needless to say the situation is chaotic and it’s hard to know how the next days will play out.

Surt_R has been with me since the start. He’s an amazing creative and a fantastic guy so I’m asking you all, as the head of our community: come together and support Surt_R.

Supporting Surt_R

Thankfully, supporting him is easy. Surt_R has a large Steam cataloge of his wonderfully quirky games and amazing music!




Disclaimer: Surt_R also made the Skald Demo soundtrack which is available for sale on Steam. Though it is on sale at the Skald site, Surt_R receives 100% of the revenue for that product.

Again: I’m NOT receiving any money for this soundtrack – it ALL GOES TO SURT_R!

I’ll try to  stay in touch with him and if there is anything the Skald community can do for him, we’ll do it!

Supporting Ukraine

I’m going to keep this short and refer you to this excellent article.

Ukrainian Flag with their national symbol (Tryzub) : r/vexillology

Stand with Ukraine. Stand against tyrants.

 

Anders Lauridsen

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!

Wait, what? Is it February already? All I can say is time flies when you’re having fun. This update is a bit overdue but as always, if I’m a bit tardy in posting on the devlog it’s because I’m making our dream game.

The new year has been a torrent of making cool plans, have Covid wreck it all and instead write awesome code!

Our big carrot of Q1 2022 was that Raw Fury and I were going to GDC in San Francisco to promote Skald. We always knew it was a risky prospect and as Omicron ramped up over Christmas we reconsidered and canceled the trip. And let me tell you: I’m almost glad we did!

It’s given me time to dig deep on a few areas that I always wanted to improve in the game. I’ll try to summarize some of the latest developments:

The GUI System

I’ve rewritten the GUI system. Yes, pretty much all of it. It was pretty much one of the last components of the game where I used Unity’s built in system but it was a bit of a mess. I’m sure someone who’s better at Unity could pull it off, but I really just want Unity to compile my game and leave me alone beyond that.

Thankfully, the Skald engine is really good at drawing pixels on screen with perfect precision and so I was able to use my engine to do stuff like draw fonts, UI-elements and handle transitions and mouse interactions.

One of the first big advantages is that I can now have the game scale perfectly to the screen so it gets pixel perfect resolution.

If you zoomed in on the game in full-screen mode, it used looked like the left image. Now everything scales perfectly and it all looks like the right image. Crisp enough to make your eyes bleed.

For a pixel-purist like me, another advantage of the new system is that we can swap Unity’s vectorized fonts for home-made “real” pixel fonts.

I also added the ability to insert big illuminated first letters at the start of the script. I need to polish the graphic design a little bit but all in all I think it’s going to look amazing.

But there’s more: The new system allows for highlighting of keywords in the text that you can mouse over to get helpful info. Naturally this will also be possible on menus like the character sheets where you can mouse over attributes to get a description or on the map where mousing over objects will allow you to get info in pop-up boxes.

Finally, note how the menu above slides on and off the screen for a bit of a smoother transition.

With all the UI stuff, the technical stuff is now done but there’s still work to be done to really take advantage of its full potential. Stay posted for more updates!

The Animation System

The moment I signed with Raw Fury, one of the first features I knew I wanted to expand upon a bit was the animation system.

Building an animation system that cycles through frames of animation is easy enough. The trouble is scaling it. There are basically three types of models in Skald:

  • Simple Models: These are models like the rats in the demo. They have few animation frames and very few customization options. This works because for the most part, you won’t see them doing anything outside of combat so all you need is a few idle frames and some combat frames.
  • Custom Models: These models have more complex animations so we can have it perform more complex actions. A great example of that is the big monster below. These are very cool and expressive but costly to make since each frame needs to be hand drawn. The upside is that there isn’t a ton of them in the game.
  • Humanoid models: This is the tricky part and where the Skald engine shines. The humanoid models in Skald are “paper-dolls”. That means you can swap costumes, items, skin-color, hair etc and have it show up on the model. They also need dozens of animation frames (and perhaps hundreds by the end). This means hundreds of thousands of different frames to account for all possible permutations of costumes and animations.

Fear not! The Skald engine solves this by doing humanoid animation in a semi-procedural way. Basically each  model consists of a dozen components drawn using a kind of animation skeleton. Legs, torsos, arms, heads, hair, items etc are drawn in relation to each other and colored according to specifications.  This means that for each new behavior we want to animate, we’ll only ever have to add a very few frames.

As an example, look at the image above again. The character falling to his knees is not a unique animation. Any of the characters on-screen would perform the same animation if given the command.

The awesome part is that adding that particular animation strip to ALL HUMANOID MODELS in the game took only about 20 minutes.

Anyways, you’ll be seeing a lot more of this system as we go. Here is an example of me experimenting with adding some animation frames to the player’s attack animation:

Trust me; the system works – it’s just that I’m not a very good animator 🙂

The Level Editor

This one is the Golden Goose for me. My level editor has been a pretty big bottleneck so far. I just couldn’t get it right and I lacked a clear vision for what a great tool would even look like for Skald. Then I saw the amazing “Tiled” editor and I was saved.

“Tiled” had a simple suit of features that were all I had ever asked for and I knew I needed something like that for Skald. I had two options:

1) adopt “Tiled” (it’s free) and use it for Skald or 2) try to write my own version of it? Well, I just told you I rewrote my whole GUI system to get nicer fonts so I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear I made my own in-house version of Tiled.

This may seem excessive, but a good level editor is critical and this way I get one that is seamlessly integrated with my other tools. I also don’t have to depend on external software. Most importantly though: All the Skald tools will now be collected in a single application so the Skald community can eventually get to mod and create their own application using the exact same tools I used to make this game.

I still have some development to do on the editor before it’s fully functional but as soon as it is, I’ll be doing some streaming of me making levels in style!

Next Steps

So in broad terms, the next big step is doing a major overhaul of the demo to be released in spring / summer. This is primarily to show off and test the new features and it’s also a hugely important tool to get Skald on the radar of press and content creators.

To that end, we’re also going to redo the Steam pages, the website and make a new trailer.

We will be doing more Beta testing before then as well but I’m waiting till things are a bit more stable so I don’t get swamped in reports of issues that are already known. Testers are a limited resource and we need to save it until it really counts.


That’s what I had time for today! I hope it was somewhat informative. To stay posted, follow us on Twitter and join our Discord!

Cheers,

AL

Meet our new Publishing Partner!

Snowflakes turn to steam as they land on the scarred flesh. The blood of the slain drips from their rough beard. They howl as they raise their broken blade to the moons.   

Noble savage indeed – Thank the Golden they are on our side.


It’s official! Swedish publisher RAW FURY and I have formed an adventuring party and our quest journal is now crystal clear: 

“Quest Begun: Make ‘Skald: Against the Black Priory’ amazing!”

Raw Fury is a level 12, chaotic good barbarian: Illiterate yet strong as a bull, their heart burns white-hot with passion for awesome games. Founded in 2015, they’re based in Stockholm and on a quest to serve as a publisher for “boutique and indie games”. A strong emphasis on ethics, transparency and partnership-based developer relations is their guiding star.

 

Raw Fury has published more than 25 titles to date with plenty more coming up. Check out their other games here!

Meet the “Fists of Fury”

Part of Raw Fury’s secret sauce is that they are a “hands-on” publisher and offer a whole suite of incredibly useful services to projects they sign. This means Skald has it’s very own dedicated team of talented and passionate RPG-fans all working with me to make Skald the CRPG of our dreams! Everyone, say “hi” to the “Fists of Fury” (yes that’s their actual team-name and not something I just made up):

Daniel Jonsson (@wdjonsson) is a reasonably boring Game Producer at Raw Fury. He holds Mutant Chronicles as the best RPG of all times, and he still reminisces about the Paul Bonner artworks. Outside of work he is a recreational chess player (1600+ ELO on chess.com), recreational runner and recreational procrastinator. 

Jacob Kroon is a reasonably creative Sales and Analytics person at Raw Fury. He has a lifelong love story with RPG’s, claiming Realms, Suikoden and Baldur’s Gate among his favorites. The gentleman is partial to the wizard class and is also rumored to be playing the mythical saxophone and pickling a decent cucumber.    

Susie McBeth is one part mage and all parts brand manager. When not diving deep into fantasy and sci-fi books, she enjoys living out the life of a decadent Toreador in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines and going deep in RPGs like Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. She also drinks way too much tea and has a soft spot for killing zombies. 

Rasmus Liljenberg is a fairly strict Quality Producer at Raw Fury. Testing, coordinating and gathering data. He uses all the tools to make sure the developer’s vision of the game is not lost during production. When not analyzing games he also plays them for fun. Although he doesn’t have a specific favorite RPG, you can see him playing anything from tabletop DnD to Morrowind and The Witcher series. It has been rumored that you might find him hunched over midi keyboards making weird music, blips n blops and orchestral pieces. 


The team can now be found lurking in the Skald Discord as well. Look for the “Raw Fury” tag and be sure to make them feel welcome. 

All in all I couldn’t be happier about how things are turning out for me and our game. 2022 will surely be the Year of the Skald and I can’t wait till we kick off the new year!

Keep following this devlog, my twitter and the Skald Discord to stay posted on our awesome quest to bring you more retro-RPG awesomeness! 

 

Cheers,

 


AL

The Silver-Dancer (Part 3)

Greetings all!

One week till we’re dropping the curtain on who our newest, amazing party-member is! I’m psyched to be able to talk  openly about it and show off some of the fantastic stuff we’re working on! Believe me when I say, 2022 will be the year of Skald!

Just make sure you watch this blog and my Twitter account on December 15th!

But before then, and by popular demand, here is the epic conclusion to the three-piece Skald short-story “The Silve Dancer”!

If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend you read Part 1  and Part 2 before you dig into the conclusion of the HISTORIAN’s ill-fated dealings with the Court of Auspice.

Enjoy!


The Silver-Dancer

Part 3

In the darkness of the resonance-chamber a change had come over the group of blind wretches that sat by the sarcophagus as soon as the magos had gone under. Their moaning had ceased and they were now whispering instead. At first, it sounded like nonsense to the HISTORIAN, but the strange whispers would occasionally converge and overlap on certain words: 

I see it… Shimmering… Looming ing ing…

The wretches had once been men and women with an aptitude for auspices and, though their minds were gone, no doubt a certain sensitivity persisted: Now they were channeling their master’s voice.  

“Hard hard hard to see, see… Dangerous to get closer oser oser…

You’ll get me what I came for, soothsayer!” the HISTORIAN boomed as he mounted the first step leading up the dais. The wretches moaned as they covered their ears.

“If you don’t, by the Golden Dead, I’ll drown you myself!” 

…drown you myself!” rang out around the magos. The words sounded as if carried by water. He hesitated a moment but there was no way around it. He needed to finish what he had started or he would never be free of his tormentor. With the ease and grace of a sparrow, he weaved through the groping tendrils of sickly light as he scanned for a color-pool: The tell-tale discoloration where the silver-scape and flesh-world almost touched. Like peeking through a lense of smoky glass, the flesh-world could be viewed through a color pool by someone with the proper training. The members of the Court of Auspice had perfected this art millennia ago. 

There! He spotted the color-pool close to the luminous center of the glow. But there had been something else as well hadn’t there? The shadow in the corner of his eye? No. He had to focus. Even for him this would be a difficult projection, for the Reticular turbulence was rising and he still wanted to avoid touching the actual glow itself. 

It took much more effort than he had anticipated but he made it. Here, so close to the source of the glow, it’s presence was palpable! Like a flesh-body orbiting a great sun. Whatever was causing this in the flesh-world had a power like nothing he had experienced before. 

Commencing inspection!” 

Even though it was modulated through the wretch-chorus, the voice sounded strained and oddly mechanical.

Islands, islands… Mountainous. Raging seas… The Outer Isles, isles, isles!” 

The HISTORIAN’s breath quickened. The decrepit old fools had their use after all!

Think I see the source ource ource…

A moment passed as the wretch-choirs babbling rose excitedly without offering any coherent words. Then: 

There is a structure ucture ucture! Black. Imperial make. First age I think ink ink.

The babbling intensified.

Wait… ait ait! I’m not alone lone lone!

The last words came through with a sense of urgency. Then a loud bang as the great doors to the resonance chamber were flung open! The HISTORIAN whirled to face who he immediately recognized as the High Master of the Court of Auspice. 

The ancient magos had long lost any natural use of his limbs and his shrivelled corpse of a body was suspended in a fluid-filled container that glowed internally with a sickly light. A dozen servants trailed behind, dragging grotesque cords and tubing that hung after the container like spilled viscera. Two rows of six silver-armored knights flanked the procession with their great two-handed swords. Magi-killers. The HISTORIAN shifted his stance imperceptibly and stilled his breath as the eyes of the ancient husk fixed on him through the glass container.

The tramp of the knight’s heavy boots died down, and an eerie silence filled the chamber. Even the wretch-choir produced only the faintest whimpering. The HISTORIAN moved backwards up the stairs of the dais another step. Under normal circumstances, the Master of Auspice would be mad to attempt to lay hands on him. Then again, he had come of his own free will to the heart of the spider’s web.

Without warning, the voice of the High Master boomed through the chamber. Though the blood-red eyes bored into the HISTORIAN, no movement of the corpse-like figure indicated that the voice was produced by any normal vocal organ. Instead it sounded metallic and hard and seemed to come from all around at once:“You have no right! The magi of this Court are mine and mine alone to command!”  

The HISTORIAN smiled wryly:

“That may be, but you on the other hand is for the Princeps’ to command. Are you not?”

INSOLENT!” the voice boomed again. “The Court of Shadow may hold itself above the other courts but you would be wise to know your place nonetheless! We see you. For all your subterfuge, we have always seen you. The Helix projects? The polar expeditions? The black camps?” 

The last words dripped like poison. The HISTORIAN had underestimated the Court of Auspice. They knew more than they should. More than even their scrying should allow. How? Sprawling analysis-webs spread out before the HISTORIAN’s inner eye as the full ramifications began to reveal themselves.

The Master of Auspice delighted in the fact that he had managed to shake the envoy of the Shadow Court. They had overstepped and now he would pay the price. A metallic laugh filled the room and almost drowned out the rising screams of the wretch-choir!

Abruptly, one of the knights took a half step backwards as he raised his greatsword. The HISTORIAN was ready and drew in reticular energy so fast it felt like he was going to red-out. Luminous particles materialized around him and currents arced from his fingertips as he rose ever so slightly into the air. The other knights fanned out in front of their Master and somewhere inside a helmet, a man cried in terror. A reflection on the face of the glass coffin was all the warning the HISTORIAN needed.

He spun, mid air, as he drew in more energy still. Behind him, on the dais, the fluid in the sarcophagus churned and spilled as something massive shifted. Rending space itself, something was forcing itself into being. As a great horrible mass of half-flesh rose, a myriad of eyes formed and died in an instance. All were grotesque simulacra of the eyes of the man that had gone into that sarcophagus mere minutes before. With an otherworldly cry, the massive abomination launched off the dais in a mass of churning tentacles and fangs. Men screamed and the Master of Auspices’ eyes widened in terror. Where the HISTORIAN had stood mere moments before, nothing remained but a haze of glowing particles.

The doors of the resonance-chamber slammed shut with a loud bang leaving those inside to their horrific fate.

The HISTORIAN panted as he wiped the blood from his nose. Though the cost had been great, the shadow-shift had saved his life. It had borne him no longer than just outside the doors of the chamber, but that was all he needed. In a final effort that nearly caused him to collapse, he had welded the doors together with his bare hands. He did not know how long it would hold, but he could not linger: He was already nearly spent and the hour was much, much later than he had hoped.


That’s all for now – see you on the 15th!

For everything else, follow us on Twitter and join our Discord!

Stay warm!

Cheers,

AL

The Silver-Dancer (Part 2)

Greetings all!

While we pass the time until we reveal the indentity of our newest party-member, it’s time for the next installment of our three-part Skald short-story: “The Silver-Dancer”.

If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend you read Part 1 before you leave the flesh-world behind and delve into the abyss of the silver-scape.

While you guys dig into the “Skaldiverse”, I’m hard at work doing some cool stuff with the skald animation system. I need the system to be a bit more flexible so I can more easily add more costumes and customization options to human models as well as richer animations (for combat etc). The trick here is doing a bit of skeletal animation – only with tiny little sprites. Rest assured: You’ll be seeing plenty of it soon.

Have a great day and enjoy the story!


The Silver-Dancer

Part 2

Every step was painful for the Magos. The dais might as well have been a mountain. “Curse this stranger. ‘Historian’ he calls himself!” but the magos saw through him. His very presence in the resonance-chamber was sacrilege. But there were some Courts that could not be ignored. “Mine is the will of the Princeps” he had said. Arrogant fool. These rituals were as old as the Empire itself. Perhaps… perhaps even older. 

The magos lowered his aching body into the thick, oily fluid of the sarcophagus. It was lukewarm and thick as it greedily accepted his broken frame. Letting himself sink in, the magos tried to relax and give himself over to the embrace but something was wrong. There was a taint in his mind. Something he had not felt for a very long time: Fear. The High Master would have heard by now and no doubt they were on their way to stop this transgression. He would have to bide for time!

He had known why the HISTORIAN had come the moment he had seen him. He had prayed to be wrong but that was folly: Magi of Auspice were never wrong. The HISTORIAN had, of course, come for the glow

The pulsating, alien shimmer in the Reticulum had caught his attention a few weeks ago. At first it was naught but the faintest hint of color that he could only just make out in the corner of his mind’s eye when he “danced”. Since then, it had grown significantly. Now it loomed in the silver-scape, sickly and eldritch. Yet he had not reported it. Truth be told, he was terrified of it.   

His mind left the buoyant pile of flesh suspended in the sarcophagus. First came the sharp drop as his flesh-mind mistook the weightlessness of the state-shift for a fall. Then, the feeling of wind on his face and the elation of rising up through the air. The magos opened his mind’s eye and gazed out over the silvered landscape of the roiling Reticulum. The dance had begun.  

The silver-scape was in turmoil. Impossible geometric shapes rose and collapsed in on themselves like titanic ramparts in tones of burnished steel and mercury. Had it always been like this? No. When he took his oath and joined the Court of Auspice in his youth, it had been much different. Though nearly 200 years had passed, he could still clearly recall his first silver-dance. The Reticulum had been as still as the surface of an unfathomable mountain lake. Not any more. Now it was more like a raging sea and it took greater and greater effort to navigate its churning eddies.

Setting his mind at the grim task ahead, he reluctantly began to scan the glimmering horizon. By the Golden Dead how it had grown! Though it was far away, he could clearly see the sickly glow spreading its tendrils into the silver clouds. It reminded him of glimmering ink dropped in water. 

He instinctively knew that the flesh-world direction was north-easterly and far out. Perhaps over the sea? The Outer Isles maybe. Though the Reticulum was treacherous as of late, his mind was a fortress and he took pride in his skill in traversing it. He easily projected closer to his target, and crossing the distance took no more than mere flesh-world moments. 

The cancerous light loomed over him now and he held an orbit just out of reach of its tendrils. For that is what they were to him. The luminous wisps shifted in a manner that gave them the uncanny appearance of being animated by some intellect, and there was something else… For a moment, he thought he had seen a shadow flutter by at the edge of his vision. His mastery of the silver-scape was absolute and he knew that there was nothing in here that could harm his fortified mind. But then again, the glow was like nothing he had seen before.

He offered a silent prayer that the High Master would burst through the doors of the resonance chamber any moment and put an end to this outrage. For the first time in many years, he longed to return to his flesh-body.

To be continued…

[Edit: Part 3 is now up – Check it out!]


That’s all for now. Check in next week for part three.

For everything else, follow us on Twitter and join our Discord!

Stay warm!

Cheers,

AL

The Silver-Dancer (Part 1)

Greetings RPG-fans! Winter is here and where I live, we’ve seen the sun for the last time in two months. As the wind begins to howl and wolves stalk at the edge of the campfire’s light, nothing warms my bones like a good story.

Those of you who follow the devlog know I enjoy writing short fiction for the Skald universe. It’s a great way for me to flex some creative muscles and it also helps me take a break from coding and just immerse myself in world-building.

I consider my writing Skald canon BUT with the caveat that the canon is still flexible since we’re still early in the process. However, though details may change, more importantly I hope the stories manage to convey the feel and mood of the setting.

“The Silver-Dancer” will be dropping in three parts over the next three weeks so stay posted! Dig in, and if you like it, be sure to check out the “Skald: Against the Black Priory” prologue on Steam!

 


The Silver-Dancer

Part 1

Ozone. Metal. Incense – The air was heavy with it. 

With the unassuming gait that only much training can confer on those who are nothing but unassuming, the HISTORIAN crossed the threshold into the half-darkness of the strange chamber. The walls had an odd metallic sheen and rose to a domed roof somewhere high in the darkness above. There were odd curves where the floor gave way to walls and the rounded angles of the corners gave the chamber an odd, dizzying quality. It was difficult to guess at it’s true size: It felt cramped yet massive at the same time. 

In the center of the chamber stood a raised dais and atop it, a massive, lidless sarcophagus. The HISTORIAN squinted in the half-darkness as he examined it: Tens of thousands of minute runes decorated its surface. Each carved with such precision that he doubted it was work of human hands. He shuddered internally. 

The HISTORIAN

At the base of the dais stood his host: A frail-looking hunched figure clad in rich silken robes. The HISTORIAN detested the Court of Auspices. A magus of Auspice would always provide an answer, he mused, even when it had to be ‘conjured’ into existence. A detestable praxis. 

They were decadent mystics. At best. 

That was not to say they were without their use. One simply needed to sift through the pomp and ritual and he did need the intelligence. It was, in fact, vital. Not to mention, he was also curious: Very few were allowed to observe the Magi of Auspice perform their rituals. He had been required to remind the magus of his office and even then, the wretch had been reluctant. But who was he to deny him? Who was anyone to deny him? 

A gong rang in the darkness.

Mute, white-clad servants filed past the HISTORIAN carrying flasks and amphorae. Ascending to the sarcophagus, one of them began stirring its oily content as the others gently emptied their vessels. Scented fumes of strange and exotic concoctions filled the chamber and the HISTORIAN suppressed an urge to cover his nose with his robe. Or was it perhaps against the obvious mysticism of the ritual?

Suddenly, and as one, the servants ceased their milling alchemical rite and withdrew from the edge of the fluid-filled sarcophagus. The ancient magus began his slow ascent up the dais on trembling legs. As he stood before the sarcophagus, he stopped and let the silk robes fall from his body. A silent servant was there to catch the garment whilst another placed an eyeless mask of black satin on the magus’ forehead. It all looked like some well-choreographed dance. 

The HISTORIAN winced imperceptibly: The naked form of the man that stood before the sarcophagus was broken in a way he had rarely, if ever, seen before. It shook him.   

All magi paid a terrible price for their power and though they took great care to hide the ways in which it marred them, it could not be stopped. How long, he wondered, would he be able to stave off its corruption?

Two more servants silently came to the aid of the broken man, gaze averted, as he mounted the rim of the sarcophagus and then slowly lay down in the thick, viscous fluid. For the second time, the gong sounded. The HISTORIAN started ever so slightly and for a man who had spent so much of his life trying to perfect the art of appearing unfathomable this was no small feat. Slipping into a very light combat-meditation, he perceived a very slight raising of his heart-beat and an unmistakable rush of blood in his ears. Why? Was there danger? And why did it feel like the magos was stalling for time?

Corrupted Mystics

The heavy doors swung silently open and a new group of servants filed into the room: Six men and women, dressed in dark, ragged robes with shaved skulls and disturbing all-white eyes. Their faces were dull and their gait shuffling. Yet there was something about them: The markings! These were magi! Or rather, the HISTORIAN realized, these HAD been magi. There were rumors. Rumors that not all candidates who joined the Court of Auspice survived their initiation with their minds intact. 

The grim troupe shuffled blindly up the stairs, groping before themselves until they found the sarcophagus. Moaning wordlessly, they turned around and sank heavily to the floor until all six were seated on the cold stone dais, backs facing the metallic sarcophagus. Their heads tilted back towards the rune-covered surface and thus they sat absolutely motionless. 

The HISTORIAN stood transfixed as all was utter silence in the darkened chamber. When the gong sounded for the third time, he instinctively began the internal chanting that induced the deeper combat meditation. The “dance” was about to begin and he had asked much of the old magos. Perhaps too much? 

To be continued…

[Edit: Part 2 is now up – Check it out!]


That’s all for now. Check in next week for part two.

For everything else, follow us on Twitter and join our Discord!

Stay warm!

Cheers,

AL