Welcome to Realm Explorers! In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors. Enjoy your travels! And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book.
Author’s name: Tony Breeden
Title of book and/or series:
The series is called Otherworld. Luckbane was published in 2013. The forthcoming sequel is called Soulbright.
Brief summary of the story:
In a dystopian future, online gaming is the ultimate escape, until one corporation offers players a chance to play their favorite sword, steam and sorcery game live and in-person on a terraformed alien world. A ragtag group of Champions has been assembled to stop the dread Firelord, last of the Dark Lords, from obtaining Godspell, an artifact so powerful that it can alter reality itself. Along the way, the players face dragons, steampunk robots, hackers, aliens and whatever perils the Gamelords think will improve their ratings, because Otherworld isn’t just a game; it’s reality TV.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
There are actually three worlds I had to create for the Otherworld series. There’s the dark, dystopian future reality (which I unofficially think of as Realworld) controlled by the Megacorporations, where players immerse themselves in virtual reality games, like Impworld. There’s Impworld, the universe’s most popular sword, steam and sorcery game. And then there’s Otherworld, which is essentially Impworld 2.0 on a terraformed alien world. While I had to create entire histories, creatures and cultures for all three worlds, the majority of the story takes place on Otherworld [aka the continent of Wanjur on planet Tarak].
If we were to visit Otherworld as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
If you don’t do anything else, I recommend that you visit Cabon Gabrielle, City of Shields. Cabon Gabrielle itself offers a wide variety of tourist attractions. Thanks to its Sky Docks and dragonrail system, the Pearl of Olden is only a few days journey from wherever you happen to be. You can visit the Ogreball Stadium, peruse the magical artifacts in Arcanum Alley [if you can find it!], feast with the dwarves in the Mountain Hall tavern, dance with werewolves and vampyres at Club Blood, visit the griffon riders at the Royal Aerie, or take in a dragon’s-eye view of the city and its several story tall flying Shields from the top of Seneschal Tower. And don’t forget to visit the Lonely Ogre Inn while you’re there! More adventures have begun, passed through and ended at the Ogre than any other destination on the planet.
What dangers should we avoid in Otherworld?
What would be the fun in that?
In all seriousness, most of the indigenous life should be avoided at all costs. Fliers are harmless, but there’s no such things as a safe wog. Named after the late Dr. Henry Woggenstein, wogs are largely unclassifiable bug-reptiles [a tentative taxon at best] with too many teeth, eyes, tentacles, claws, pincers, etc. They’re basically everything we feared aliens would be.
One should also avoid Mot Hadrall, period. Only serious gamers brave it. It is not a place for tourists. They don’t call it the Accursed City for nothing; it boasts an 85% kill rate. Most players never even make it to the castle!
It goes without saying that venturing into a Dark Lord’s castle, a dragon’s lair or an orc village will not end well. And don’t antagonize the imps!
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Otherworld?
Earth foods grow to fairy tale proportions in the miraculous soil of Tarak. In fact, all “normal”-sized trees on the terraformed continent of Wanjur are actually pygmy varieties of Earth plants. You can also expect to eat rabdil [elephantine rabbit/armadillo crossbreeds] meat, a standard throughout the universe ever since the gentle giants were created through genetic manipulation. Of course, Otherworld offers a wide variety of foods that are culturally specific to elves, humans, dwarves, et cetera. Just be aware of dishes which may fight back!
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Otherworld?
Otherworld is a sword and sorcery environment with steampunk elements. Weaponry ranges from standard swords, axes, halberds, crossbows and siege engines to pistols, alchemical phials, dragonbreath cannon, walking battle platforms, and more exotic magical weapons, like gauntlets of ogrish strength, firebows and Godspell, a weapon that can alter reality itself.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Otherworld?
To reach Otherworld, one has to board a heilo platform and travel to a distant star system. Don’t worry; you’ll be in cryosleep during the journey and it only takes a month or so. From the Tarak system’s heilo platform, your stasis pod will be transported by solar sailor to Lunabase, orbiting the gameworld planet. Once you awaken and get over your bout of stasis sickness (sorry, it affects all living things), you can shuttle down to the Shakar Landing Field and book passage to the continent of Wanjur, but don’t forget to check out the Otherworld Zoo before you leave! There are a wide variety of ways to travel. Steampunk machines, ships that sail the skies and seas, zeppelins, dragonrails, terrestrial steeds (horses, dragonish warstriders, etc). One can also travel by magical bubble, carpet and dragonfly copter.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in Otherworld that we don’t see on Earth?
Otherworld is filled with all manner of creatures you won’t see anywhere else outside of a movie or virtual video game. Dragons, goblyns, bugbears, minotaurs, elves, dwarves, vampyres, ophidians… the list of fantasy creatures and races goes on and on.
One of the character races unique to the Impworld/Otherworld environs are borogs. In game lore, borogs crash landed on Obsidius [the Impworld planet] during the latter part of the Third Age. Borogs are heavyworlders; being from a planet with greater gravity than the one they’ve crashed upon, they are much stronger and agile than many other races. They are divided into three people groups: Reigans rule by psionic superiority; horned Volktans are the warrior class; and Tagnars make up the slave working class. Some of the Tagnars have rebelled against their masters and found refuge amongst the Free Peoples of Obsidius.
On a similar theme, Realworld Earth has also seen the creation and rebellion of Homo adaptis, or mutants. Pantropic mutants come in several forms, depending upon where they were meant to serve. Fur-covered mutants work in arctic regions, gilled mutants farm the oceans, etc. They were created to mine near-airless Martian mines, fight our wars and basically do anything else Homo sapiens considered too low or dangerous. The War of Martian Independence and the subsequent Mutant Wars have allowed mutants to gain recognition of their basic human rights, but racial tensions are still high.
On realworld Tarak, one might encounter a strange, towering plant called the drubulb. Drubulbs are the home of the enigmatic dru, an insectoid hive that may or may not be sapient. When the continent of Wanjur was terraformed for gameplay, not even pocket nukes could remove the dru or their drubulbs, so the Gamelords have simply posted warning signs around them.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Otherworld? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used
The gameworld is filled with supernatural creatures, such as ghosts, wraiths, vampyres and werewolves. Some creatures are inherently magical; for example, dark-skinned, golden-eyed shadus elves can blend into shadows, glow in the dark and walk on any surface [even upside-down] at a thought. Some imps are nearly magic incarnate.
By the rules of the game, the phases of the two moons determine the level of power a spellcaster has at his disposal. Thrice annually, both Sylvanus and Ikon the Magebane wax full and a magic-user’s potential is at its peak. Unfortunately, their power drops to its lowest ebb roughly two weeks prior and following this “doubling,” making them vulnerable during this time. Spellcasters keep track of their power levels via a magical tattoo on their forearm. The sigil resembles a stylized hourglass, where the current stage of each moon was represented in its own hemisphere. In order to gain this tattoo, one takes the quidnunc, a gauntlet of challenges administered by representatives of the Magus Council to determine the spellcasters worthiness for the art. The Magus Council has governed the lawful use of magic ever since its formation during the Second Age. Those who pass are legally sanctioned to learn and practice magic. Those who fail are denied all but the meanest of spells on pain of death.
To refuse the quidnunc is to place a deathmark on one’s own head. The Magus Council keeps careful track those with budding magical abilities and sends its dread Inquisitors to hunt down renegades who chose to practice magic unmarked. Once cornered, they are given the choice to submit to the quidnunc or be executed. Inquisitors also bring magus to justice for crimes involving magic (which sometimes brings them into jurisdictional conflicts with local authorities, especially those who do not recognize the Magus Council’s authority) and those practicing the Forbidden Arts. Inquisitors are especially zealous these days, ever since a small army of largely unmarked wizards and witches had experimented with powerful, but unpredictable wyld magicks, resulting in the cataclysmic Magewar.
Non-magus can use magical artifacts. In general, all you have to do is figure out how to turn them on and then point them in the right direction.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Otherworld? If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.
The magic of Otherworld is made possible by nanites, while its creatures are largely made possible by biological robots called simulacrums, or sims. Some players opt not to play live, instead piloting avatars [basically remote-controlled sims] via nodal implants from Lunabase. The game also features a variety of steampunk technology, fueled by either soulstones, technofairies, or plain old-fashioned lowtech. To give an example, when visiting the City of Shields, one can see giant walking battlestations called Sentinels patrolling its walls, zeppelins harbored in its Sky Docks and dwarven gyrocopters buzzing through its skies.
Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Otherworld.
The most popular games within the most popular game in the universe are gladiator-type games and ogreball.
Ogreball was invented by ogres trying to train their cubs in the art of semi-organized team combat. The original version involved real weapons and a casualty rate. Several types of balls are used. Metal studded, leather clad balls are primarily used for making points. There are also a few metal or stone balls of larger size, used mostly as wicked, bone-breaking dodgeballs. Lastly, there is a large, ogre-sized wicker ball, inside of which is placed an unlucky prisoner (human, goblin, pig, etc.). Ogres were also known to use bombs and severed heads in gameplay. The rules of the ogrish game are uncertain. There are no goal posts; however, there is a large earthwork in the center. The floor of the playing pit is graded away from the earthworks, so that the balls will roll into ditches at either end of the pit. There, other ogre players collect the balls and launch them from oversized slingshots or, in the case of the wicker cage, a catapult. The object of the ogrish version is two-fold: beat the other team senseless until only your team is alive and/or conscious and beat the snot out of the wicker ball. It is pretty much a huge, rule-less battle with players using clubs to bash the balls at each other or to simply bash each other senseless, while mega-slingshot operators pummel everyone indiscriminately.
The civilized game utilizes an official court of play. The stadium is set up to resemble an ogreball pit with seats lining the tops of the perimeter of a rectangular field. Goal nets are placed at two opposite corners. A low net similar to a tennis court net halves the field, emulating the ogrish earthwork barrier. A pass exists on either side of the net. A semi-circle is marked off around the net in which only the goalie can occupy. He cannot leave this area. All players are protected with leather armor. The goalie bears a shield and his choice of either an ogreball club or racket. The guard players stay on their side of the net and are armed with ogreball clubs. Skirmishers can go anywhere on the field, except the goal zone. Skirmishers are armed with rackets. Unlike the ogrish version, players are not permitted to bludgeon each other. There are only two types of ball in play: medium sized leather-bound rubber balls and large leather-bound rubber balls. The field includes anywhere from 20 to 30 of the smaller balls, divided evenly along the sides of the net at the start of play and 2 to 4 of the larger balls, placed in the passes in even numbers. Smaller balls are worth 2 points apiece per goal. Large balls are worth five points. Play continues until the last ball has been caught in the nets, thus ending a set. A game consists of 1 to 4 sets, agreed upon beforehand. Balls which overshoot the net are tossed back into play. A standard game includes twenty 2-point balls and two 5-point balls at the start of a set. A championship game consists of thirty smaller balls and four larger balls and a large wicker cage ball [unoccupied] worth 20 points. No bombs or severed heads are utilized in the civilized version.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in Otherworld as on earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
The days of the week are the same as they are on Earth. Tarak has two moons. The aptly-named Feast of Two Moons occurs when both moons are full, every 4 months.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Otherworld? Please describe what it involves.
Realworld religions find their place in the game alongside fantasy dragon cults and such. Islam, Chrisianity, Judaism and Buddhism are still very much alive. Protestants and Catholics have, for the most part, unified. The Church utilizes shepherds, bishops and paladins. The Church is headed by a ruling Council.
One particular cult of note in Otherworld is Corpus Dracon, which loosely translates as the Boy of the Dragon. Each cell is led by a Locutor Draconis, or Dragon-speaker, who tells his followers the will of the coming Dragon Kings. Corpus Dracon has no tome; its ultimate authority lies with the Locutor’s word [locally] and the Grey Prophet [ultimately]. Their aim is to usher in the Age of Dragons, ruled by the Dragon Kings. It matters not one whit to these cultists that dragons are savage destructive creatures who haven’t the slightest bit of interest in governance. The Grey Prophet is a magus who conjures illusions to back up his various prophecies; his true identity is unknown.
What is the political or government structure in Otherworld? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
The realworld is controlled by the Megacorporations. Only Israel and Switzerland have retained their national identities. AmeriCo controls Earth’s Western hemisphere, and thus is generally referred to as the West. EuroCorp controls Europe and northern Asia. The Islamic Confederacy ruled Afrika, the Middle East, and India. Imperial AsiaCorp, termed the East by most, owned Australia and the remainder of Asia. Each controls various interests in Antarctica and on the lunar colonies, both points of constant friction. Each blames the other for the fact that the Mars Colonies have successfully declared their independence. Everyone works for the Megacorporations or one of their various sub-companies. GameComm is a company of AmeriCo. It uses the West’s heilo wave technology to make travel to and from Tarak a possibility. The West benefits by mining Tarak’s levitanium [the element that makes hovertech possible, once only found on Mars or random asteroids] and by receiving a share of Tarak’s supercrops. GameComm uses indentured Colonists to harvest its crops and work its mines. There is growing concern that GameComm will request recognition of its separate Megacorporational status due to its Tarak holdings and due to the fact that GameComm also owns Earth Robitics Limited, the largest producer of robots in the universe. The current Vice President of Tarak Operations, and the face of GameComm for all intents and purposes, is Kenneth Gabriel. He is pompous, self-assured and ruthless in his pursuit of ratings. He lords over Tarak from his hoverthrone in Lunabase’s Command Center.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Otherworld?
Cultural practices vary according to the character races and kingdoms of the game. You’re going to need a handbook or a guide if you don’t want to end up tossed into a dungeon somewhere. Good luck.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
In general, history inspires and informs my locations, cultures, etc. Some of the battle scenes, creatures and artifacts were inspired by watching my own kids play. For example, when I attacked my youngest son with a plush spiked club [you have got to get one of these if you have boys!], he defended himself with a plush alligator. Thus Grundy the Ogre’s live alligator “club” was born. ;]
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
Luckbane doesn’t really touch on any hot-button issues, though it mentions a few I’ll likely explore later, like what it means to be human and how genetic manipulation, robot sapience, etc., might affect our views of human rights, how we practice religion, etc.
|Author Tony Breeden Under Attack
I’m from West Virginia, home of the Mothman, the Flatwoods Monster and Gray Barker, who likely invented the Men in Black. I’ve been an avid sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk/monster/comic book fan all my life and I have a wonderful wife and four adventurous boys who share my geek fandom. I credit my late aunt Sharon for giving me the writing bug; she helped me make my very first book about dinosaurs, loving illustrated in crayon. I basically write the movies in my head.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?
You can purchase Luckbaneand all of my other books in both paperback and Kindle formats at
Where can readers connect with you online?
I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Otherworld. Questions about the world or the book? Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!
Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.
Please join us again next Monday for a trip to the fantasy world of Fiori in Realm Explorers Part VIII!