Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

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Visit Scenic Petrichor

29 September, 2020

I have been running learn to play D&D sessions monthly, so I thought I should consolidate the information on the usual location to make it easier for the players to reference.

Petrichor

What emerges after the rain?Many odd places exist in the Sea of Stars, one such place was the Wash, a large island that was constantly under pounding rain.  While a few hardy (or unfortunate) souls set up small settlements to sell fresh water to passing ships, expeditions into the exterior never returned or came back with stories of washed out plains and low hills of mud.  Even the expansionist powers gave up on settling the fringe of an island whose only resource was rainwater.

Then, the rain stopped, entirely.  The omnipresent clouds, blew away.  Suddenly, the Wash was just another island.  Cautiously, exploration began, after all the rains could come back at any time.  To their surprise, there were forests, mountains and lush grasslands, rivers and streams, even ruins.  It was as if the real nature of the land had been held ayont, waiting for the rains to stop before they returned.

Now, there is a great rush to claim this new land.  While in the capital, lawyers and surveyors argue over who owns the lands, everyone knows that it will be the facts on the ground that ultimately decide the division of this new realm.

Setting: The Sea of Stars, a new frontier thereof.  Characters who are venturing upon such land for reasons of their own.

  •    Continuity: Episodic with continuity, season arcs.
  •    Rating: PG13, themes of colonialism, slavery and exploitation are likely to appear.
  •    Style: Exploration, politics, community building.
  •    Tone: Serious but not aiming for dark, just thoughtful.

Rules: D&D5, with standard Sea of Stars modifications (see character creation notes here). Read the rest of this entry ?

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Salt and Serpents (A to Z)

22 April, 2020

So much can be made from thisBefore the Sundering, on one corner of the world, there was a civilization of serpent people who followed the goddess Ypisara, goddess of salt, serpents and fishes.  Ypisara gave herself up to the Dragon Empress to save her people and the Empress adopted the serpent folk as her own, placing them and their lands under Imperial protection.

The Ypisaran culture is unusual as it uses salt to make many things that other societies used metal or stone for, reinforcing the structure of that brittle material with secret techniques, alchemy and magic.  The Ypisarian blades and scale armor made of hardened salt are the most well known, most weapon collector have at least one Ypisarian knife or sword in their possession and the weaponsmiths of the serpent people manage a good trade in weapons purely for collectors and tourists.

The houses of the Ypisarians are mostly made of blocks of hardened salt making them glow and glitter in the sunlight, it is a spectacular sight but painful to the eyes of those not adapted to such glare.  Visitor expecting the houses to melt in the rare rains will be disappointed but the brief moment when the sun first strikes the wet surfaces of the houses and bathes them in rainbow light for just a few seconds before the water begins to steam away.

What were once the Temples of Ypisara have been converted into government building or palaces for the Empress and, while worship of Ypisara as a god is banned, worship of her as an ancestor is allowed and her image show up in many household shrines, though less commonly in public ones.

The serpent folk, even before the Sundering, are mostly content to keep to themselves.  Rarely one will enter Imperial service or decide to travel but they are rare in the wider world.

Notes:  Bending back to some themes I had wished to explore further.

Image Kosher Salt, Creator stlbites.com, License CC by-nd 2.0

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Oceans and Oreads (A to Z)

18 April, 2020

The oceans of the islands of the Sea of Stars reacted differently to Sundering:

To sail upon the seasSome (such as where the Gate City of Caracosa is) just poured away, leaving nothing behind nothing but salt encrusted wasteland.

On others, the ocean just pours away, endlessly, impossibly, the level of the island’s ocean never dropping.  It is a magnificent sight, for this brave enough to witness it.

Lastly, on a few, the edge of the ocean just stops at the edge of the island, the waters held back by some invisible force.  Occasionally a fish or other sea creature will wriggle through . . . and plunge to its death.  Some fishermen will use platforms lowered down the edge of the ocean to harvest fish and other things from the depths.

The spirits of the oceans, such as the Neriads, are equally shattered and scattered by this and have never fully recovered from the Sundering and the loss of their patron gods.

Their relative spirits of the mountains, the Oreads, have fared much better as they were more aligned to particular places.  Even if a mountain range was divined among multiples islands, very few of the actual mountains were lost.  Though they too lost their divine patrons, most have avoided the eyes of the dragons and have found ways to work with the peoples of their lands, accepting token worship and actual sacrifices in exchange for aiding the communities.  A few have gone so far as to establish hidden and illegal cults around themselves or lead secret societies dedicated to try to restore the gods.

Notes: Two very separate ideas but I was able to find some connective tissue between them.

Photo (sv) Övning i rodd i en av m/s GOLDEN OCEANs livbåtar på Haifas redd 1952 (sv) Sjöhistoriska museet. Public Domain Mark.

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Hollows and Hellions (A to Z)

9 April, 2020

Sometimes things just need a name change to fit into a world better.  For the Sea of Stars, that is the renaming of Golems to Hollows and Tieflings to Hellions.

A larger than usual wooden hollowHollows, the art of creating the illusion of life from inanimate objects is one that exists in the Sea of Stars, such creatures are usually called Hollows as they lack souls and often any sort of intelligence simply being bound to perform repetitive tasks.  (One can make an argument that an animated being with sentience but not souls are not actually Hollow, but that is the realm of philosophy.)

The dwarves in particular delight in the construction of complex hollows of metal, sometimes animated with clockwork and magic, other times purely with magic, and animated stone statues using bound elementals or powerful enchantments.  The elves have a tradition of filling the ranks of their armies with hollow soldiers made of carved wood or animated plants, the elves always having been loath to risk their lives in the “push of pikes” and even more so since the Sundering.  Human wizards and craftspeople have worked to build all sorts of hollows but flesh and clay are among their more common materials. The Sen’tek seek to use complex clockwork and spring, supplemented with a minimum of magic, to make tools to aid them in their never ending war to overthrow Dragonkind.

Necrourgists seek to improve their legions of the dead though the creation of hollows of flesh and bone, less prone to the whims of the evil spirits attracted to most animation of the dead but far more complex to create and bring to “life”.  Priests and Priestess seek ways to animate their temple’s guards, but as this often involved binding spirits into them, they are not truly hollow.

Hellions, are those whose lineage has, at some point, had the blood of beings from what are called “the lower realms”.  Unpredictably, such a heritage expresses itself through odd eyes, strange skin, even horns, a tails or odd appendages (claws, cloven hooves for feet, usw).  Ties to such physical expression are various magical power than are rarely as well controlled as the possessor of such would wish.

Notes: The word Golem has a very particular cultural source, so a word more unique to the Sea of Stars is good.  While Tiefling is a pure D&Dism and really should not be used outside of those worlds and I have never much cared for it in any case while Hellion has a nice history of use.  So, rename things to suit your world, it will take some time for people to adjust but it is worth it, as least, I think it is.

Photo Green Man Sculpture, Creator Nicholas Smale, License CC by 2.0

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Effigies and Entombment (A to Z)

6 April, 2020

Abandoned?There are many tombs and effigies of the dead around the Sea of Stars though not many left untouched that predate the Sundering.  Depending on the dragonic overlords who took control of a territory on how their treated the ruins of the past world, some dismantled them for decorative building materials, other looted them for valuables and left smoking ruins behind, a vanishingly small number, hid them against future times of need.

The dragons themselves, in general, like effigies and statues and monuments to . . . themselves.  Other people can have them too, as long as they are on a smaller scale.  But dragons are not much for tombs, dragons know that -for them- death is final, they will only exist as memories, no reincarnation, no heaven, no hell, just nothing. They want monument that they can enjoy while they are still alive, obvious symbol of their power and wealth, as well as the skill and dedication of their subjects.

Simply put, most dragon do not make plans for what happens to them after death seeking to avoid such thoughts all together.  Equally, the family of dragons are not overly sentimental and are happy to convert their dead into valuable dragon bone, hide and other parts.  When there are draconic tombs, they are usually constructed by the followers of a dragon, and traditionally laced with traps, guardians and defensive magics.  Other dragons are loath to raid such tombs, they make them feel the icy claw of mortality too keenly, nor do they encourage others to do so.  In almost all cases, when a new Draconic House has taken control of territory containing a draconic tomb, they have continue to finance its guardians and maintain its outer defense.

Notes: Something to use as inspiration and a plot seed.

Photo Ancient Petra, Creator D-Stanley, used under License CC by 2.0.

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Oceans in the Sea of Stars (A to Z, O)

17 April, 2019

When the land sundered following the Gods War, the world was torn apart but not only throw the land but through the oceans as well.  This, being a disaster of equal part magic and mysticism, did not just cause the oceans to all drain away into nothingness . . . though some did (such as the ocean that once existed around where the Gate City of Carcosa now is).

Only a small number of the oceans flowed away, their waters and inhabitants lost forever among the stars.  Most of them just . . . stayed there, as if something held the waters back in a huge wall.  Fish and other creatures can be seen swimming near to the water’s edge, but most know to keep from getting too close because whatever keeps the waters in does not prevent other things from moving in (or out) of the water.  A few specialized fishers use small skyships or lowered platforms to harvest rare fish and other delicacies from the water walls but such is risky work.

A very small number of oceans just pour away into the space between the stars, impossibly never emptying, the sea water just pouring away but somehow eternally refilling.  Needless to say, such places are incredibly dangerous both to ships on the surface and creatures under the sea.

Notes: Image “Osaka Aquarium” by kevin dooley is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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Did the Gods build the Sea of Stars?

18 January, 2019

The proginators fallYes . . . and no.  The world that would become the Sea of Stars was, probably, built by the gods, after some fashion.  The legends have been mostly lost, well, not so much lost as deliberately destroyed and suppressed by the dragons.  Some of the stories told are:

  • There was a progenitor race to the gods, titans or such, that created the world or became the world when they were slain by the gods (or both).  The gods took over the rulership of the world from their progenitors until they, in turn, were supplanted by the dragons.  Does this mean that the dragons are destined to be supplanted in turn?  Obviously preaching such an idea will attract . . . unwelcome attention from the draconic authorities.
  • The gods created the world as a place for their worshipers to live, for without worshipers what is the point of being a god?  The world, by this reading, was a giant farm for the cultivation of worshipers.  Some philosophers thus argue that the dragons are better, at at least more honest, in their rule than they gods for at least they make their demands and desires obvious.
  • The world is composed of the body of some vast, once living being that those that would become the gods slew and consumed the vital parts gaining the power that would propel them to godhood.  The Sundering is the result of the dragons seeking the last edible pieces of that being to gain additional power, as dragons are always hungry for power.
  • The world was the shell of the cosmic dragon, bound by the gods, the shell cracked releasing the true power of the cosmic dragon to its descendants allowing the dragons to defeat the gods.  The fact that the sundering happened after the defeat of the gods does not stop this theory from existing.  After all, who really knows what happened (and in what sequence) all those years ago?

The dragons may know the truth of the matter but they are reluctant to talk of the times when the gods ruled, out of embarrassment or fear that speaking of the gods may give them a doorway to return or some other reason, who can say?  (Though accusing dragons of cowardice is not recommended.)

So the origins of the Sea of Stars remains shrouded in mystery but one can always seek answers to mysteries . . . but you will have to seek them in places from from the gaze of the draconic rulers.

Notes: This is my post in support of this month’s RPG Blog Carnival Divine Worldbuilding hosted by In My Campaign.

Image: The Æsir fight against the Vanir during the Æsir-Vanir War by Karl Ehrenberg found on Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain.

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Heavens, routes to the (A to Z Challenge, H)

9 April, 2016

Not here but thereThe Heavens were the home of many of the gods before the dragon declared their war, during the war, they became a battleground and then, in the aftermath, tombs.  But not all of the servants and soldiers of the gods were slain, there was no need and that attack was so sudden and overwhelming that many were not able to mobilize rapidly enough to intervene.  To prevent them from causing trouble, the links between the Heavens and the world was severed by the Empress but not completely . . .

While most of the portals between the world and the Heaven were deliberately destroyed, some were spared for artistic (or other) reasons and some survived as they were not recognized as pathways.  Thus a variety of hidden gates, stairways and more unusual routes remained, most of them lost or unrecognized.  The majority of the suviving portals are Moongates that require the light of the proper phase of the moon to open, though the right magic can trick them into opening as well.

Equally, there are ways to bring those servants of the heavens into the world, by variants of the summons more commonly used to bring diabolic beings from the dark hells.  Many summoners consider the so-called angels more tractable servants, less likely to betray the summoner, but they are bound by other rules that make them less suitable for other tasks, they are terribly prone to issue warnings before attacking and show mercy, for example.

Occasionally -every century or so- someone, usually a dragon, will decide that making a raid on the heavens is a brilliant idea and will launch an expedition to do so.  Most never return but those that do return are blooded and reduced in numbers, bearing back fantastic treasures and tales of horrific battles.

Notes: What better high level adventure than trying to plunder the vaults of heaven?

Snow angel photo by Saskia Heijltjes and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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Fae in the Sea of Stars (A to Z Challenge, F)

7 April, 2016

From here to thereThe fae otherworld was once tightly woven into the structure of the world with portals crossing between the two realms and the Courts of the Seasons playing its political games here and there.  But then came the Sundering, tearing the world apart and away, the majority of the portals between the two were torn apart, some changed into new and different paths, and only a few maintained their previous link.

The Courts of the Seasons were still reeling from this disaster when the new draconic lords started destroying or warding the most obvious of the surviving passageways.  Spurred into action, the Courts, fully cooperating with each other for the first time in the long memories of the fae, began to conceal the existing pathways and restore those of the damaged one they could before they were sealed off from the mortal world.  Their efforts were successful but at a cost, not only were many of the best portals destroyed but no small number of skilled fae perished either in magical accidents or at the hands of the dragons.

The first century of dragon rule would be a difficult one for the fae, cut off from most of the mortal realm and its resources they learned how dependent they had become on materials and magic harvested from the mortal realm and they had to find substitutes or do without, not an easy thing for the fae.  But they managed, though a handful kinlines vanished unable to survive the changed world, and planned to rebuild their pathways to the mortal realm.

It was a slow and cautious process, taking several centuries, but aided by the goblins, the warped fae who had been trapped in the mortal realm, secret pathways were reestablished and the fae again gained limited -but reliable- access to the mortal world.  The fae remain exceedingly cautious and try to avoid being spotted by the dragons or their agents, conveniently most of the people the fae interact with feel the same way.

The fae presence in the Sea of Stars is there, but always around corners or over the next hill.  Finding the fae is the first challenge, dealing with them is the second for they are suspicious at best when dealing with outsiders.  That being said, the fae do have unusual items and magics that can be found in no other place.

Recently, some of the fae -especially those from the Court of Winter- have been reaching out to the Sen’tek as both share a common foe, what will become of such remains to be seen.

Notes: A little more on the other realms of the Sea of Stars setting.

Photo by Ruth Hartnup and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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Castles in the Sea of Stars (A to Z Challenge, C)

3 April, 2016

Invaders keep outCastles and other fortifications are common to the point of near omnipresence in the Sea of Stars, while of limited use against dragons (but what is?) they still preform a vital role in warfare acting as administrative centers, training grounds, storage depots and, of course, military strong points.

The more advanced the construction of a castle, the greater use of magic in those defenses: walls are warded, built of multiple materials and reinforced by spells or enchantments.  If aerial attacks are expected, one or two tall towers are often constructed near the center of the castle mounting ballista and magical weaponry or, rarely, a small floating island fragment may be moored above the castle to provide the same sort of air defense platform.  Such defense usually deter those with flying cavalry (griffin or pegasus mounted cavalry for example) as they are far too valuable and expensive to replace to risk against such defenses.  Skyships may be used against fortification but they too are expensive and commanders are loath to risk them unless their safety can be guaranteed as for them to be effective with bombardments they must move slowly over the target and not too high up, making them vulnerable to attack from defenders on the ground.

Useful for shooting down flying creatures.Equally, underground (but still warded) storehouses are often constructed to defeat aerial observation as well as to protect against the occasional aerial or magical attack as well as to store the most valuable of items when they can be effectively defended.  When abandoned, they can become populated by rouge wizards, bandits or worse.

Notes: Not sure which key I hit that published an empty frame of this article yesterday, but my apologies all the same.

Abandoned casters provide a reliable place for adventures to take place and can provide an excuse for classic dungeon styled adventuring in the Sea of Stars.

Castle photo by Donna and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license, ballista photo by David Jackmanson and used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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