Back in August 2014, when Bruce Heard’s first Calidar book, In Stranger Skies, was released, I wrote a review from my insider’s perspective. Please indulge me once again, as I’d like to do the same for the new book, Beyond the Skies.
Even in its early stages, it quickly became clear that Beyond the Skies would be a much larger beast than its predecessor. Bruce started working on it soon after In Stranger Skies was finished, and it went through various drafts before it became the 248 page book it is today.
The heart of the book is its chapters describing Calidar’s gods, split into pantheons based on each nation. There are more than 90 gods detailed in all, which is really quite mind-boggling. The write-up for each god follows a pattern, with a profile giving details of personality traits, dates of origin, places worshipped, etc. This is followed by “mythology”, which usually presents the god in terms of a story its followers often tell, or sometimes just a narrative introduction. Finally there is a description, detailing the god’s appearance, motives, secrets, and relations with other gods.
Without exception, the write-ups are very well thought out, carefully constructed, and a pleasure to read. This is thanks to Bruce’s diligent writing process, with many gods seeing multiple (often extensive) rewrites and revisions over the course of the project. Within each pantheon the gods are all connected, and one of the delights of the book is discovering the connections between the different pantheons.
While the god profiles are undoubtedly the core of the book, in fact these chapters also present a wealth of other background material on each nation — so much so that CC1 Beyond the Skies is just as much a core setting book as CAL1 In Stranger Skies.
Specifically, each nation receives a historical timeline revealing its early history from the point of view of the gods and their faithful. Some of these are even more detailed, such as Belledor’s, which includes the story of the fellfolk migrations from throughout the Great Caldera.
There’s also a temple floor plan, a map showing the geographic distribution of different faiths, and a diagram showing the relationships between the gods in each chapter.
Did I mention that each and every single god has its own divine symbol?
The remainder of the book details demons and divine followers, secret societies of the gods, mortal religious organisations, and even benefits and divine favours granted to faithful followers. Not to mention articles providing a closer look at essential Calidar topics such as the netherworld, seitha, and the Dread Lands.
Beyond the Skies is illustrated with a beautiful cover by Den Beauvais, and internal black and white art by Joe Garcia, Eric Lofgren, and Simon Todd. There are some really nice pieces in there, and I found myself really enjoying the different styles of each artist — particularly since each pantheon was assigned to a different person, so the pantheons all have their own art style.
The focus of the book being what it is, there wasn’t as much call for maps this time round. But I did have fun creating thematic maps for each pantheon.
My main contribution this time round is undoubtedly the layout, which was a long and painstaking process, although of course worth it in the end.
All in all, I can’t recommend CC1 Beyond the Skies enough. Please head over to DriveThruRPG and buy it!