Toonaria: Creating a Universe Part 3

Deep_space_ToonariaWelcome back to another entry in the Creating a Universe series, where I go behind the scenes and discuss what I’ve been creating and why. I believe in developing a battle plan for every dream, working my tail off, and not giving up until I’ve either achieved it, or no longer draw breath. You can’t fail if you never give up, but I also believe in being realistic, doing research, experimenting, and getting additional pro help (Pro editors, artists, designers, etc.)

Ego/arrogance/pride/secrecy/worry/doubt only hurts your dreams, as does living an unbalanced lifestyle (relationships and health are more important than any career.) As for my dreams, I’ve been working on them for a very long time and thought I’d talk about the process a bit, as it relates to my universes, hence this latest series.

In Part 1, I provided some context and talked about a few of the goals I’ve had since the beginning (a thick blend of high fantasy and science fiction, caches of uber-advanced technology, the ability for even an average joe to change things in an extraordinary way, for better or worse, superheroes, flawed gods, the GodStorm, and other fun elements in my campaign settings.)

Wait, campaign settings? By that, I mean Toonaria and the Cosmoverse, which are sprawling, imaginary universes—backdrops for both my fiction and tabletop rpg/board and card games.) For an expanded overview, read Part 1!

In Part 2, I discussed QT Games’ unusual take on magic. Be sure to check that out too, if you haven’t. And I’ll shed even more light on these concepts down the road (and you can pick up a free book on my publishing site for an even juicier bite! There’s also a big excerpt for my anthology: Arcane Synthesis here!) I also have a forum and site for all things Cosmoverse and Toonaria at QT Games. ‘Nuff said, let’s roll . . .

Today, I’m going to spend some time talking more about what I’ve been up to, and why I started creating Toonaria when I had (and still have) such big plans for the Cosmoverse. (The Cosmoverse is also blended-genre, includes some of the same elements as Toonaria, and is even bigger — If you’ve seen the giant star map, then you know the Cosmoverse is really quite vast. I printed only 3 maps and put one up on my wall–it’s a giclée art print, even! It’s quite “purdy”, I think — one day I hope to have a “need” to print many more.)

In addition to being an author and game designer, I’m a commercial artist, and have always brought a notebook or clipboard everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. If I’m not designing a new creature, I’m brainstorming a game mechanic or laying out a new story. Some of my most productive moments have been at red lights or while walking the dog (for that, though, I have to wait till I get home to flesh out my ideas.) Cartooning has been one of my many loves, and I’ve come up with a large number of critters over the years, more than a few of which were cute, like this one you’ve seen before (I didn’t have time to chase down another):

In the late ’70’s, refusing to let my young age stop me, I started making board and card games spotlighting my characters. Inspired by Tom Wham’s comic book-styled backstory for his Awful Green Things From Outerspace board game, I started drawing comic strips to tell the backstories for my own games. Being very young and still very rough around the edges, I didn’t realize just how rough my work was back then.

I submitted one of my games to the same company that published Tom Wham’s games (then TSR, now WotC), but they told me they were only accepting Tom Wham’s games in a cartoony art style. That turned out not to be entirely true, but looking back at my work then, as fond as I still am of many of those early concepts, I’m not surprised. They were turning me down gently. I didn’t let it discourage me, but kept designing, drawing and writing like mad.

My 7th grade English teacher had been pushing me hard to pursue a career in writing after a continuous flow of A+’s, so I switched to writing short stories for my own games. I never stopped doodling, however. When it came to games, Wham and I thought alike for the most part. I’ve always avoided crunchy rules, preferring simpler mechanics and storytelling, and my Epic Destinies Roleplaying Game, a card-based game using my toony critters, is no exception.

Even so, I do like a rich reading and gaming experience, having cut my teeth on Dungeons and Dragons and numerous other roleplaying games. As such, even Epic Destinies and my Toonaria Campaign Setting include some deeper elements, and enough mechanics so you aren’t left scratching your head guessing how to handle things. Epic Destinies is still under heavy construction and I’m revamping and expanding Toonaria.

I’ve matured as an author, artist, game designer and as a person (at least a little, I hope!) And I’ve worked hard to make Toonaria a place that grown ups can enjoy at least as much as younger adventurers. I’m not actually designing Toonaria for kids, but I’ll be keeping it PG enough that it can be enjoyed by young teens and up. Okay, tangent over—back to the “Why am I working on Toonaria?”

Every time I started creating a board or card game I couldn’t help but ask loads of questions about the critters I was populating them with (In my big, Minotaur Madness board game, I included over thirty creatures and several short stories–it was a really big game.) I never cared much abstract games. I wanted stories! I wanted characters, not pawns, and I wanted to know why they were doing what they were doing, how they felt about it, how they got along in between the games, and what their lives were like. So I wrote piles of stories about them all. Minotaur Madness became this huge, intimidating thing, though if you glanced through the rulebook, you’d see over half of it was only stories. Still, it was an expensive game to make, and I had crafted a 3 dimensional game board for it.

Minotaur Madness was under review at TSR for a year and a half. They were interested enough to work with me to develop 3 iterations of the game, each simpler, slicker and cheaper to make than the last. Unfortunately, they were struggling financially and the company nearly collapsed, and so ultimately they couldn’t afford to publish it. Just as well, as I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a designer since then (you never stop growing if you never stop), and now I can have more creative control over Toonaria, my fiction and my games.

I am finally in a position to start publishing at a higher level of quality, especially with the help of Kickstarter and you. Okay, I would love to be able to say some of my games have already been published, but I believe I’m heading in the right direction (it’s just taking longer than I’d like.)

High quality is one thing I’ve always been committed to. I’m not interested in publishing Toonaria or anything else unless it rocks. That means I work hard to get things right, always use pro editors, and when my own work falls short artistically or otherwise, I find another pro to assist. I’m not above teaming up, and have done so before on my Cosmothea Roleplaying Game. I don’t rush things (my upcoming novel, The Shadow Reaper, went through around 12 drafts and two pro editors, costing me a pretty penny, but I couldn’t be happier with the results, so it was all worth it, exhausting as it was.)

As for why I’m pursuing Toonaria when I had already started developing my gritty Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, well, I didn’t set out to make another universe. Toonaria came together on its own, showing me it was needed, because I couldn’t stop drawing and writing about it! I made prototypes for over two dozen games, each with their own creatures. Toonaria filled a different niche, one that inspired laughter, hope and courage, touching on different and sometimes important concepts in ways I could never address in my more serious Cosmoverse.

Toonaria embraces a more innocent image of yesteryear, and avoids the sleazy trappings present in modern TV, cable shows and music, without pretending that such things don’t exist. It offers a breath of fresh air for those tired of reality TV, sexually-saturated media, tired tropes and intolerance, and handles interesting topics in fun ways. Oh, and it’s silly at times. It just is. At other times, it’s thought-provoking, despite appearances. It does deal with some deep topics in subtle ways. And the games are flexible enough to enable players to focus on the sort of tone and experience they’re shooting for. Those are all things that I’m betting a good number of you feel we could use more of! Toonaria and Epic Destinies (not to mention my board and card games) aren’t kiddie games with elementary school stories (nor are my Toonarian stories)—they just don’t pander to the darker, sleazier side of modern culture.

So, Toonaria is my outlet for telling different kinds of stories, stories that may not be “cool” in the way that some think of as cool, but have a special significance and charm all of their own. They’re cool in a different way. If I do my job right, many of you will fall in love with Toonaria as my friends, family and I have over the decades. I’m tired of creating and not publishing, so now I’m doing both. If you help spread the word and back my projects on Kickstarter (or just buy them), that will help me create even more, which means we all win!

I’m working on several very cool projects currently for both Toonaria and the Cosmoverse. Both The Shadow Reaper (A story I get giddy just thinking about), and Sea of Worms will be out before too long, and I’m working very hard on other projects as well.  More good stuff’s coming! That’s all for today, my friends. Don’t be silent, let me know your thoughts, and let’s chat!

Till next week (when I write a shorter post!), remember that every day’s a gift, and every dream worth dreaming is one worth planning for—and working hard at. If you don’t have a dream, I encourage you to think up a good one, or stand with another and share theirs. Cheers!


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Toonaria: Creating a Universe Part 2


In the beginning, Oaa created a great many things . . . one of them was magic, and Toonaria has never been the same since. As promised, today I’ll be talking a little about the unusual magic system found in both my Toonaria and Cosmoverse universes. If you are just jumping on board (welcome!) feel free to read Part 1 first. It isn’t necessary to enjoying this post, but I’m sure you’d get a kick out of it, (and our Mysteries of Toonaria series a few posts down, for that matter.)

Okay, I’m just going to dive right in, focusing on Toonarian magic for now, and give a brief rundown. Magic works largely the same in both of my universes.

Absolutely no one who knows a thing about magic in Toonaria uses scrolls or spell books. They’re much too frail. Wands? What are those?

Before you drag me off to be stoned, bare with me, read further, and check out my earlier posts about magic. Doing so, you’ll likely surprise yourself and fall in love with the magical Toonarian and Cosmoverse tools of the trade. For the record, while I started writing about Toonaria and the Cosmoverse long, long before Harry Potter became a thing, I have nothing against wands and spell books. But with my universes, I was shooting for upping the cool factor. I wanted to see if it was possible to come up with exciting options that were off the beaten path. I couldn’t be happier with the results!

Here’s an overview of Toonarian and Cosmoverse magic:

Magic is very dangerous, but also terribly useful. Most creatures can’t tolerate more than a little magic flowing through their veins. Storing large amounts of magic internally can make you sick, or worse. As such, most rely on a magical device called a power template (also known as an arcane apparatus) to store the bulk of one’s magic. Beats dying of the Withering any day. Mages also use racassas to aim their magic (among other things). Such devices can look like anything from a bladeless sword hilt to a gun, and oftentimes mages will mount a weapon or power cube (f’lantii) onto their racassa to unlock additional cool features.

Templates are also used to store arcane notes, runes and spells, which can be used to shape spells. During a battle, it’s possible for a template to become damaged, lowering its efficiency, cutting off access to spells, enhanced features and more.

Financing a template’s construction is no small matter. Usually, only children from wealthy families manage to avoid sizable bank loans or lengthy indentured servitude to cover such costs.

Thanks to the Onji Mojo dueling system that I’m hoping to also release as a standalone card game one of these days, it’s possible to protect one’s template from arcane hacking and direct damage and still engage in a high octane magical duel without ever casting a single spell. Instead, shapers can manifest traps, special guardians and champions to protect them from harm.

The mysterious GodStorm, which has most folks (and gods, too) on the edge of their seats, made casting spells even more dangerous, especially misfires. When things go wrong, they can go way wrong, sometimes in amusing ways, but other times in downright deadly ways.

There is no limit to the amount of magic an arcane shaper can cast, though they have a “safety threshold” and a maximum number of potent spells that are possible without upping the danger even further. All day long a shaper’s template absorbs magic. The problem is trying to expend too much magic within a short period of time. Doing so can result in an arcane accident, template damage, etc. The trick is to know just how far you can push your luck and resist the temptation to go overboard and get yourself in over your head.

Most spells range in power from Power Order (PO) 1 through 10. There are also ancient spells which pop up every now and then. These start at PO 10 and get quite powerful, though few beyond the gods can master them.

There are also Epic spells, miracles and enchantments, which are rare and slightly more powerful than normal spells. Epic spells range in power from PO 1-15. They offer more potent, fun effects, even at PO 1. For Example, with the epic miracle, Awaken, even a Sleeper (Read “Dead” for people living outside Toonaria) can be awakened at PO 1. They don’t stay awake long from such a weak miracle, but Awaken has its uses, and when a holy adept learns how to cast higher order versions of it, such miracles (and epic spells) can be very handy.

Magic is only useful for spellcasting, miracles and enchantments when it is in its quintessence form. Power users store another, weaker form, within their bodies called “maki”, which they use to control their template and perform minor magical tricks (also called maki.) Quintessance is the refined form of maki, which itself is a little more refined than pure magic (quari.) Quari is found in a huge abundance throughout most of the realms. Some creatures breath quari and exhale quintessance. Maki is the result of an expended spell or other magical effect breaking down after the effect has worn off. It, too, is found in abundance.

When quintessence is exposed to significant amounts of certain mundane metals and chemicals, Entropy forms. Volatile, Entropy has been known to disrupt the flow of magic, causing accidents and misfires. It can also be harmful to creatures exposed to it—especially magic wielders. As such, most mages don’t wear armor, and those that do, only wear special metals.

Shapers with advanced training can crack into their spell templates and swap out key components to improve spell efficiency and expand their spells’ options. It isn’t uncommon to see a mage rush over after an illegal street duel and attempt to hack into a fallen mage’s template in hopes of salvaging something. One has to be careful fooling around with another’s template, as such devices can be rigged to discourage tampering.

This last one is super secret, so don’t share it with anyone, okay? Promise? Great! Here goes . . . Toonarian magic doesn’t really require lil components like the wing of a bat, snot from an ogre, blood of a virgin or anything else like that. We’re not talking witchcraft real, or imagined. We’re talking Toonarian magic, and it only needs a physical component in certain cases (as when you want to imbue a ring with power – you gotta have a ring, of course!) Further, shapers don’t need to gesticulate wildly or most of the other antics you see in movies and fantasy books to look cool.

Toonarian magic needs a sharp, clear mind, concentration, and certain runes to be present, as well as the shaper to use her mind to “shape” a spell. That’s it. All that other mumbo jumbo, when it’s done at all, is merely to baffle and impress onlookers and keep magic even more mysterious than it already is! Call it job security, if you will.

Actually, there is a lot about magic that we just don’t know, and even without all the gimmicks I mentioned above, learning magic is just not easy (though some artists are able to do it without the geometry and other trappings–intuitively, and with paint or markers, no less!

You can read even more about magic in my novels (read a free excerpt!) If you join my newsletter, you can even get a free book to boot! In it there is a conceptual adept who can indeed use his creativity instead of brains to manifest spells. Read The Train Less Traveled!) Hopefully before long you’ll be able to read about magic in my games, too, and actually try it out in-game.

That’s all for this week, friends. Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you! Cheers!


Posted in Art, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, fantasy, Fiction, Game Design, games, novel, publishing, QT Games, Role-playing, Roleplaying, RPG, Sci-fi, science fiction, superheroes, Toonaria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toonaria: Creating a Universe Part 1


Creating a universe is a herculean task from any vantage point. I’m sure creating a real one is a real doozy, but I’m just talking fiction, of course. For well over three decades, I’ve devoted huge amounts of time to creating not one, but two: Toonaria and the Cosmoverse.

My quest was made a tad easier by sharing some concepts between them, despite their significant differences. This wasn’t laziness–I had some concepts overlap so I could explore how they are affected by their environment and opportunities. (Certain gods can be found in both, for example, but they are Not the same.) In other ways, the universes are significantly different and the tone is very different as well.

Universes being rather large constructs, we’re talking lifelong projects, here. I thought I’d take a lil break from the Mysteries of Toonaria series and spend some time talking about what sorts of considerations go into designing a universe.

First a bit of backstory: To date, I’ve designed over two dozen games (most still languishing in boxes) and have written three novels set in the Cosmoverse (one that is sitting on a shelf waiting for a good number of rewrites). I’ve also written a portion of three other novels, and wrote a huge pile of short stories set in both Toonaria and the Cosmoverse. I’ll publish as many of the best ones as I can while I can in the days ahead.

Wait a minute. You have published something, haven’t you?

Yes, finally. I got tired of seeing some of my games and stories sitting in boxes or popping up in other people’s works, so in 2015, I published my first book, Arcane Synthesis, via QT Games LLC. I have two more books due out by early 2018 (one is completely done, except book formatting, the other: The Sea of Worms, I’ll have done later this year, if all goes well.)

Actually, I’ve written a ton of contemporary plays and skits over the years as well, a large number of which I’ve produced and even acted in, both in the US and abroad. None of them were set in these universes.

Both Toonaria and the Cosmoverse are near and dear to my heart. Most of my board games are set in Toonaria, and in my spare time, I’m revamping one (Freeze Or Burn) that I created a very long time ago, along with a new card-based roleplaying game (Epic Destinies.)

As for Toonaria and the Cosmoverse, they have also been the backdrop for most of my stories and games. Chances are, countless stories could still be told in these universes long after I’m six feet under. That’s not a boast–I know I’m not perfect or the hottest author out there, but I’ve always taken my time to build into my universes plenty of mystery, and more than a little backstory, exotic creatures and fantastic places.

Of course, I haven’t been designing in a vacuum. I read books, play games and watch movies like everyone else. I’ve let many things inspire me over the years, and of course I also innovate, brainstorming new concepts and new spins on old concepts. If I find something I love and it seems appropriate to do so, the concept eventually makes its way into one of my universes, and sometimes both. I don’t just kitchen sink the universes tossing in anything that I feel like on a whim, though. I consider carefully how something might affect the rest of the universe(s) as well as the existing tone, backstory, etc. I make it feel like it belongs, or I leave it out.

As I love flexing my creativity, I can’t resist changing things, so sometimes when I have included a cool concept I ran across somewhere, I reenvision it, making it my own– changing numerous aspects. Everything from visual to psychological and origin story is subject to considerable changes. For example, I have a species of godzilla-like creatures living underwater, but they are quite different (and much smaller) than the famous one. I also have a Kong-like gorilla, but his backstory and abilities couldn’t be further from anything you’ve ever heard of. Creating is fun stuff! As I said, it’s hard work, too, but I don’t regret a moment I’ve spent designing universes.

With both Toonaria and the Cosmoverse, one of my goals was to build in ways in which the average Joe could accomplish anything. So, both universes include fantastic technology, magic and even superheroes. Some might call my work Science Fantasy genre, but I call it blended-genre. I’ve given my reasons for this before, so I won’t elaborate here, as this is already getting longish.) Just this one decision alone, blew the doors off of what was possible.

I wanted caches of exotic technology that few could understand, but anyone could accidentally activate, causing all manner of chaos and interesting stories, so I created the ancient Architects. These god-like AI have their own agendas and travel the universes leaving behind machines and objects of power for reasons of their own. They aren’t doing it randomly –these aren’t merely plot devices–they have a reason for every object they’ve placed, but the mysteries behind them are not usually obvious.

I devoted a blog post to the GodStorm recently. It is a magical phenomenon that moves around unpredictably between dimensions and universes changing everything it touches. I GM’d a long-running adventure of the gods on the QT Games forums (and WotC forums before that) a few years back that was just starting to get into the GodStorm. It ended before it’s time (I stopped it so I could devote more time to writing and designing). Had it continued, it would have revealed the origin of the GodStorm.

Why did I make it? I wanted something that even the gods were afraid of. I wanted an anomaly that could change life wherever it went, and came up with ideas on how it worked and why.  I’ve hinted here and there on such matters, and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It can be used for so many things by Game Masters as well as by authors (yep, I’m hoping to continue having other authors write in my universes in the future, as I don’t have time to write everything.) The GodStorm has appeared in many stories (both my own, and those I’ve commissioned from other authors.) It also appears in my upcoming novel: The Shadow Reaper.

Next week, I’ll talk about magic and how I turned the concept of spellcasting on its head to provide a unique and exciting experience for both readers and gamers. Do you have a Toonarian topic you’d like me to write about– an aspect of Toonaria you would like me to reveal? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Cheers!

Posted in Arcane Synthesis, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmoverse, Epic Destinies, fantasy, Fiction, Game Design, novel, Play-by-Post, publishing, QT Games, Role-playing, Roleplaying, RPG, Sci-fi, science fiction, superheroes, Toonaria | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mysteries of Toonaria: Part 4

clone-gate-QT-Games-sketchWelcome to another mystery. Today I’ll be talking a bit about the clone gates! If you haven’t read the other segments in this mystery series, feel free to scroll down and read those first. You won’t be sorry, and I’ll wait right here for you.

Done? Great. For those of you who have just started reading our fiction and/or blog, welcome aboard! I’ve been writing stories and games about two universes since the late seventies: Toonaria and the Cosmoverse. They are also campaign settings, which means they are backdrops for not just my novels, but roleplaying games and even board and card games as well. Further, those universes have several things in common, and are linked in many ways, but are quite different from each other.

Toonaria and the Cosmoverse also share a great many gates linking countless realms, some made of uber advanced technology, usually by the enigmatic Architects, while others were made of magic or a blend of the two.

Okay, you’re all caught up, at least enough to talk about the clone gates. Let’s forge ahead!

The clone gates are a series of magical gates linking the Cosmoverse to Toonaria. While one may stumble through a rift in reality and move from one to the other, the most common and fantastic way is to use the clone gates. Traveling through rifts is often more dangerous than one might imagine, so the clone gates are the preferred method (at least they would be if travelers knew better.)

Over the eons, several significant individuals (and even a few gods) have stumbled upon one clone gate or another, and perhaps thinking the gates mere mundane, or even teleportation or dimensional gates, passed through to explore the other side. None are ever prepared for what they find there.

The passage always leaves a being feeling a tad weak and dizzy, and it isn’t uncommon for those with a weak constitution to pass out. Aside from that, the gates seem to work like any other. But these powerful gates secretly make a clone of every single entity that passes through them, and stores the being within in a phased state, until the visitor attempts to leave. In fact, a sliver of the original’s soul is left behind in the clone.

When the original leaves through the gate to return to their own universe, the clone is awakened and stumbles out on the visited universe’s side, and then passes out. Upon waking up, the clone most assuredly assumes that something went wrong, but no matter how many times it attempts to go “home”, the gate always deposits it in the same universe, not the original’s universe.

Inevitably, such individuals eventually give up and create a new life for themselves in the new universe, unaware that the original is back home. The two are completely unaware of each other’s existence, but sometimes while dreaming, memories will slip between them, because of the single, splintered soul they share. Dreams being odd, generally unbelievable things, few give credence to such events.

A few travelers have made multiple trips through the gates, telling of epic journeys, exotic creatures and fantastic locations. One told a wild tale of running into their clone and eventually merging with it, only to run into another clone with new memories on a future trip. Yet another traveler kept meeting people who said they knew her, but she never found her clone, though she found evidence of her passing.

Some were surprised to find their clone was unlike them. Of course, as in our own universe, we are all slowly becoming unlike the person we once were, as we experience love, hardships, make choices and change, for better or worse.

Well, that’s all for today, folks. Want to read more from this series? Have a Toonarian topic you’d like me to explore? Let me know. Thanks, and have a great week, all!

Posted in author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmoverse, fantasy, Fiction, Game Design, games, novel, QT Games, Role-playing, Roleplaying, RPG, Sci-fi, science fiction, Toonaria | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mysteries of Toonaria: Part 3

skies-above-ToonariaWelcome to another exciting adventure in Toonaria! Where the moon never rises and the sun never sets. Today’s mystery is the sky arks, enormous floating structures that hang above a seemingly endless sea. Home to countless strange and wonderful monsters, sprawling communities, incredible technology, amazing magic, fallen gods and more, the sky arks are the centerpiece of Toonaria.

Sky arks are made up of seven layers of floating island chains held aloft by mysterious obelisks, aethyrstone and the will of the gods. The primary sky ark that we’ll be focusing on includes the following seven layers from top to bottom: Xanadu, Elementara, Arcasia, Colossea, Storm Garden, Everdark and Zothmaru. The PC core species start on either Arcasia, home of the gubblings, or Colossea, realm of the titans. We’ll explore these layers more and more in the days ahead, both here and in fiction, setting books and games, if all goes well.

The sky ark is lit by its own artificial sun, which rises from the GodStorm-infused Storm Garden and travels through the center of the island chains past Xanadu into the Cosmos above the sky ark. The two lowest layers of the ark never see the sun nor moon, though some say they once did. There is a great body of water in the center of Storm Garden.

No one has ever reached the bottom of that sea, but some theorize that in the distant past, the sun and moon passed through it to the layers below. How this is possible is but one of many Toonarian mysteries. Will the truth ever be discovered? Who knows?

It is generally believed that the sun rises into the heavens, loses its energy and falls back to Storm Garden as the moon, where it recharges in the GodStorm-charged sea to rise again the next day as the sun.

Those who dwell above Storm Garden enjoy beautiful, bright, cloud-laden skies and breathtaking views. We’ll talk more about the sun and moon in another post, but I will say that this magical realm is not scorched by the sun, nor badly disrupted by the moon, for they are far different than such celestial bodies in the real world.

As for the floating islands themselves, only the smaller ones have much to fear regarding falling out of the sky, barring world-shattering calamities, of course. Over mining a small island’s aethyrstone could cause it to sink in the sky and eventually plummet, but fortunately most of the islands are not held aloft by aethyrstone alone.

Throughout all of the sky realm, air is in abundance and properly suited to the species who dwell within it, therefore as long as one doesn’t travel into the far away Mysterium, high above into the Cosmos or down below the endless sea into the Void, breathing isn’t generally an issue.

Each island chain layer’s obelisks provide a rectangular prism of stable gravity pulling everything straight down. Ships and dirigibles can travel freely between layers. Some ships are capable of reaching the enigmatic Cosmos, others are not. As soon as one goes beyond the gravity planes of a sky ark, the risk of falling is zero, because they enter zero gravity. Floating about without proper mobility, a person could get stuck and eventually enter the Great Sleep for lack of food and water if not rescued by a passing ship. And few ships go beyond their sky ark’s gravity planes.

There are three sky arks linked together thematically, technologically and magically into a triskele structure floating above the sea. (A triskele is that shape you see representing the dot on the “i” in the Toonarian logo. The symbol has appeared in many ancient cultures. We’ll get more into the triskelion structure of the sky arks down the road.)

Technologically advanced cultures living in Toonaria have identified three triskeles, each with a seemingly unapproachable floating structure in its exact center. In addition to the sky arks, there are also other floating islands and exotic structures that appear to be independent, some fixed, others adrift in the endless sky.

Toonaria will never focus deeply on the science behind how everything works, though I always look first for scientific explanations before striking off on my own. Typically, the more you try to explain something fantastic scientifically, the more likely someone smarter than you will find a way to poke holes in it. For example, some of the greatest minds on the planet stand on opposite sides of the fence regarding major topics like global warming, future technologies, economy, and politics.

Those who insist that everything must be deeply entrenched in science probably aren’t that interested in floating islands, magic, adorable monsters, titans too big to support their own weight, or other fantastic things that can be found in epic settings anyway. I don’t fault them, but I won’t limit my creativity to that which is currently believed to be true or possible scientifically by earthlings. Instead, Toonaria will bask in its fun and fantastic elements, and leave it at that. If you are okay with our approach, then jump on and I promise you will have a lovely ride through Toonaria for many years to come!

That’s all for today. I hope you are enjoying our “mystery” series. We’ll be covering a lot more ground on various Toonarian topics in the days ahead, as well as delving deeper into Epic Destinies, the roleplaying game designed to enable players to go off on epic adventures in Toonaria. As always, I’d love to hear from you. Till next week—cheers!


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Mysteries of Toonaria: Part 2


Toonaria is home to countless magical creatures—some created by powerful beings, while others became magical due to the GodStorm (today’s mystery!) No one knows where the GodStorm came from, or why it sometimes strikes the same areas multiple times and skips over others completely. On occasion it almost seems sentient. Most of the time, it appears to act completely random. Worst of all, it’s spreading like wildfire across the realms, affecting both magic and technology in unusual ways.

Both Toonaria and the Cosmoverse are host to this epic, extremely dangerous and completely unpredictable phenomenon. Whether it started in the Cosmoverse and passed through a rift into Toonaria or started in Toonaria, is anyone’s guess.

Below, I’ll provide some fun examples of what it’s like and what it’s capable of. The excerpts were all taken from our Cosmoverse Campaign Setting fiction, but it’s the same GodStorm raging across Toonaria (I’ll give some Toonarian examples down the road – that work hasn’t been professionally edited—yet, unlike my Cosmoverse fiction.)

Okay, since you asked so nicely, here’s a quick Toonarian example before launching into the Cosmoverse ones . . .

In Toonaria, there is a region called Gubland that was hit by the GodStorm. Over night, several sections of Gubland were morphed into candy, including a river and forest (the river was turned into liquid white chocolate and the forest, into candy cane trees with gumdrop flowers —just two bizarre, but tasty examples. More serious consequences have occurred in Toonaria as well. Here’s some more from around the Cosmoverse . . .

Arcane Synthesis

The GodStorm took nearly everyone by surprise, sweeping away both gods and entire dimensions in its wake, and absorbing their energy. The storm has raged for over four hundred years, sometimes slipping between dimensions and then resurfacing without notice. Rather than diminishing over time, the storm continues to spread, changing and tainting everything it touches.

In many cases, the GodStorm’s passing resulted in merely bizarre, yet relatively harmless effects, but in others the damage has been great. At times the GodStorm leaves behind an abscess that warps a region into a nightmarish version of itself, fracturing galactic kingdoms and cutting off worlds, leaving them to fend for themselves against the coming darkness.

— excerpted from Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology

Eight stories about the vast Cosmoverse were included in Arcane Synthesis. The GodStorm was mentioned several times because of the impact it has had on life everywhere. While the Cosmoverse, like Toonaria, is connected by series of gates (both technological gates and magical ones), enabling information to spread quickly, the GodStorm is called other names in certain realms. For example . . .

Her previous studies as an artificer held few answers for what she had become in the wake of the Cascadence, or the GodStorm as most called it.

Temporal travel, unlike spatial distance, could be manipulated and slowed as desired, now that she’d mastered her augmented abilities after scores of uncontrolled jaunts. She needed corroboration with others on her multiplying theorems, but that seemed unlikely, as her rebirth had been anomalous. The Cascadence had transformed her into an augment—a freak of nature, granting her the power to bend time, though the process was more art than science.

— excerpted from Steven E. Schend’s Emeraldeaths (Arcane Synthesis)

As you can see from these two examples, the GodStorm is a powerful, uncontrollable force that changes everything it touches. It affects things in different ways, transforming animals, geography, and even magic itself, which thanks to the GodStorm, is even more dangerous than ever to spellcasters.

Some teleport and dimensional gates were changed forever, becoming tainted, and tainting those who use them. More than one gate in Toonaria has become tainted and transforms those who pass through it into zombies of a most unusual kind. Most gates, fortunately, work entirely, as intended. The Cosmoverse has their own problem with tainted gates, all thanks to the GodStorm.

The only constant regarding the GodStorm is that it’s always unpredicable. It is a magical phenomenon, one that even the gods are not immune to, as evidenced from the above excerpt. In fact, it seems attracted to powerful beings and great magic, and it has indeed taken the lives of gods, who become one with it, their consciousnesses being carried along everywhere it goes, which explains why sometimes victims claim to have heard a voice in the wind.

Some have suggested that  when the GodStorm has changed things in a way that resembles something that a particular god might do—a sliver of divine consciousness might have managed to bubble to the surface briefly and manipulated the storm for its own purposes (hence the storm’s name.) But because of the diverse effects of the storm, it’s clear that if that does happen, it is indeed for only a brief period.

Much of the time, the effects are temporary, as long as the storm abated quickly. Such flash storms appearing suddenly and then vanishing are often relatively harmless, at least for most who are exposed to them, but such events are still odd and memorable, as in these scenes from my upcoming novel, The Shadow Reaper:

Tangible aberrations were not uncommon during GodStorm manifestations. One ship might report the sudden appearance of flowers or butterflies on board, another, feathers or even snowfall. The Dauntilus had been filled with motes of light that danced and changed colors as they drifted about the ship for hours. The motes were all gone now, but more than a few of them had exploded into harmless, but annoying clouds of confetti.

Another . . .

Overnight, the orc’s eyebrow hairs had grown down past his chin, his nose and ear hairs farther still. Through a curtain of wavy black locks, he stared at himself in the mirror, shaking his head in disgust. “Dreadlocks are one thing, but this? I look like a girl—a human girl with this head of hair!” he said through gritted teeth. “How is this even possible?” He shuddered when he thought back over the past forty-eight hours. “The GodStorm . . . it did this to me,” he whispered, as if to speak of it louder might summon the magical anomaly. He recalled the stories he’d been told in his youth of Deamond, Ariam, Lorel, Vomix and other gods who were swept up in the storm, lost forever, their spirits becoming one with the storm. He shuddered again.

And another  . . .

The magic-spawned GodStorm first appeared in the Audrysi system more than two centuries ago. Since then, it had resurfaced numerous times across the Pantara Galaxy. Hundreds of ships and humanus space mechs had been disabled by the arcane storm. Dozens had gone missing and some of them had still not been found.

— excerpted from The Shadow Reaper

As for The Shadow Reaper, in that blended-genre (fantasy/sci-fi/horror) novel some of the GodStorm’s effects are not only far more serious than confetti, they are permanent, and even scary. But you’ll have to wait a few months to read that book to find out. Fun, scary, cool stuff, I promise! It has also been edited to death (In addition to the 14 drafts I went through—more than any other story I’ve ever written, and I think you’re gonna love it!)

I think you’ll be pretty fond of Toonaria, too, when I start publishing that line of books and games. Anyway, that’s all for today. I’m sure you’ll hear more about the GodStorm and Toonaria before long (If you can’t wait for more on the GodStorm, start with Arcane Synthesis!)

Comments? Questions? I’m all ears. Till next week, remember that every day’s a gift! Have an awesome weekend, friends—cheers!

Bob Whitely
QT Games

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Mysteries of Toonaria: Part 1


Welcome to Toonaria! Wait, what’s Toonaria, again?

Toonaria is a realm of epic magic, advanced technology, superheroes, skyships, fallen gods, secret agendas, secret societies, adorable, but dangerous monsters, towering kaiju, sky pirates, and much, much more.

Wait . . . that sounds like a lot of different genres! Yep, but when done right, genres go together like peanut butter and chocolate, or bacon and eggs! I don’t just stick characters into one genre and have them stumble upon other distant lands where the genres are different (although that can happen, too.) I don’t just toss the concepts into a blender. I’ve spent many years blending them together carefully and with much thought to get them just right (and still do–I’m constantly fleshing out and expanding the universe.) I don’t take myself too seriously, but I take my blended-genre seriously, and will do my best to continue to serve up memorable entertainment.

Toonaria is a blended-genre Campaign Setting, but it’s also more than that. Wait, what’s a campaign setting? Ah, yes, a campaign setting is a world or often a whole universe (in Toonarias case, it’s a whole universe) that is used as the backdrop for tabletop roleplaying games and fiction. Many companies, including QT Games, produces fiction based on characters and events in a campaign setting. So far we’ve produced 2 books that take place in Toonaria, and I’m deep into writing the 3rd. We have others planned, in addition to setting/art books that explore the setting. Toonaria goes further in that it’s also the backdrop to most of my board and card game designs.

Okay, let’s talk about one of the mysteries of Toonaria . . .

Pink Syndrome
A huge section of the floating islands are caught up in something called Pink Syndrome or PS for short. It is a magical (GodStorm-spawned) medical condition in which the affected are prevented from seeing all of the horrors that are sometimes part of life.

After a battle, you might see a fallen warrior, bloody and showing a rib poking out of his chest–dead as a door nail. To those suffering from PS (well, they aren’t actually “suffering”) they see a sleeping warrior who has leaked out a bunch of that mysterious pink stuff. Yes, pink. They never see red, kind of like how some foreign films use another color for blood to avoid a higher rating.) Such observers wouldn’t even consider the warrior dead, but sleeping. They call death the “Great Sleep”. Those who enter the Great Sleep are often celebrated, but there is some sadness, too, as the person will be missed.

Most folks fully believe Sleepers will rise again–and they have on occasion, actually. Way more often than you might think, though not always in ways you might expect. Yes, there’s resurrection and even cloning in certain regions, but there’s a lot of other interesting and mysterious things going on in Toonaria.

If you were playing Epic Destinies and your character entered the Great Sleep, it’s up to the Game Master how permanent that is, but there are a number of ways of coming back from it (some more dangerous than others.) But that’s another mystery . . .

Pink Syndrome does not usually reach those who live underground, or far away from the more densely populated islands. It dulls pain somewhat and keeps one calm and collected, even under difficult circumstances. It messes with vision and causing victims to see things as less severe than they actually are. This can lead to problems, such as not seeking medical attention when one needs it, though there are many places and ways to receive healing when one feels “weak” or “tired” from too much pink loss.

Pain helps us in many ways. It’s like a warning beacon to problems and helps the body compensate (such as heightening our senses and adrenaline during combat, or reminding us to never ever touch the hot stove again.) But pain also makes it hard to focus and is very distracting, so there are advantages and disadvantages to it. If one leaves a major population area for long, the effects of PS start to wear off.

Some creatures have the ability to inflict PS as well (usually it’s a side effect of something it does, not an attack form or talent), and this is usually how people in remote areas catch it. Whatever the case, it makes things pretty interesting and even those who have been healed from it, sometimes find themselves once more under its effects. Such is life in Toonaria. There are far worse and more dangerous mysteries, so no one’s complaining!

Next week, I’ll talk a little about the GodStorm I mentioned above. As always, I covet your questions and comments! Have an amazing week, friends!

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