Community Atlas: Queen Mica's Scintillant Palace
Once the Faerie City of Embra had been completed for adding to the Clack Valley map in the Community Atlas, there was one further place left there I wanted to add maps for, the fancifully-titled Queen Mica's Scintillant Palace, on its hilltop east of the Faerie Town of Dumbra in the lower Clack Vale, south of the river:
The reason was quite simple, as I'd decided some time ago that a version of The Hive maps, prepared for a mapping contest some years ago, should be converted for use in the Atlas too, once a suitable giant insect nest was located for them. Those maps had been prepared originally as just one small part of a far larger complex of subterranean insect hives, with five vertical levels and four links in more or less cardinal directions to other such hives elsewhere which were not part of that set of maps.
While a number of potential sites had been set-up for giant insect colonies across my Errynor maps during the planning and early random construction phases, it seemed there might be more potential for something unusual in one located in a highly magical region, which the Faerie Land of Errynor Map 40, where the Clack Valley is situated, provided.
Once this particular giant ant nest had been chosen, it was clear the ant queen here would have been affected by the magical nature of the place too, so the colony was going to be thought of as a great castle-palace of magical wonders. At least as far as the queen was concerned. Giving her a more intelligent personality than normal, magically-enhanced, one that made her curious to learn more about the dominant humanoids, their ways and magics, was a natural development. As the ants live on fungi they grow themselves on rotting vegetation, they are not liable to be antipathetic towards other creatures that respect their nest and the region they habitually use for foraging. Thus small bands of humanoids found wandering in that area - about half a mile, 0.8 kilometres, around the nest - would be more likely invited to the place as honoured guests than attacked, providing they respected the queen and her folk.
It would though be immediately obvious to the queen that both ants and their nest in its natural state were not people or places most humanoids would care to visit or interact with. So Faerie magics in the area - the ant nest already being a Faerie Portal site - would give the queen the ability to conceal the reality of both ants and the colony to outsiders. At least those less-attuned to Faerie. Thus in its illusory form, the subterranean colony would become a wonderful, glowing, magical above-ground castle-palace, the Scintillant Palace of Queen Mica, no less:
So the initial Palace map looks like this in its illusory form, which is, as might be anticipated, a little vague on details. Essentially, much of it could look as wonderful as the GM can imagine, because it's impossible to access most of it, as it simply doesn't exist.
The Queen of course gets her own separate portrait map in the Atlas, linked from her torso shot in the middle section of this map:
She has a fondness for the colour blue, and all her people wear it as similar crystalline armour, although even the guards don't carry weapons. Well, they do, but not the kind humanoids would expect of someone in this form. None have any body hair of course. And all her people have a curious facial resemblance to the Queen. She never leaves the Palace, though she can appear anywhere in the foraging area, either as an illusion that can still physically interact with things there in a limited way (Faerie magics allow the twisting of reality, after all), or projected onto one of her folk, using them as a physical avatar. A toggle in the FCW portrait map may help begin revealing the reality here:
The limitations of what's readily available in CA3 meant while a full-blown upright giant ant figure would have been ideal, the head starts to suggest things are ... different here at least. Plus the original CA symbol options have some handy giant ants, which in the background and a little blurred work quite nicely here. The Palace look has been retained intact for all this, because this version of the portrait then becomes a sort-of halfway point in seeing through the illusions. There should be a "Reality" toggle for the Palace's Level 1 FCW map though, which strips away all the illusion:
Still impressive, if perhaps rather less inviting now. The central part of the map repeats the first underground level of the earlier "Hive" maps, as does the cross-sectional diagram, though both have been amended in places to fit the Palace concept as now developed. All the features of this version of Level 1 have their equivalents in the Illusory version, and of course, there are PDF and text file descriptions to assist those wishing to make full use of the setting.
The original "Hive" was constructed randomly using the Carapace Pay-What-You-Want booklet by Goblin's Henchman on the DriveThru RPG download site, something that remained unchanged here, so the earlier Forum notes regarding that still apply. However, the connections to other hives were changed here to become four separate Wings for the Palace, and fresh maps had to be devised for those, though not using the same "Carapace" mechanism. We'll get to discussing what that was subsequently.
The main mapping style is that used for the original "Hive" maps, the CA07 Caves & Caverns one, while of course the ever-superb artwork of Mike Schley made possible the accompanying surface sketch views!