Wednesday, May 5, 2010

From Around the Watchfires: Heavenly Bodies

Since the campaign world is a work in progress, I tend to avoid thinking about aspects of it until they become important. Take geography, for instance. Currently, I don’t even have so much as an inkling of what’s to be found past the edges of my rough map. I’ve composed thumbnail descriptions of the three closest nations, which has given the players some ideas as to where their characters originally hail from, but that it. There is, however, one big exception to my seat-of-the-pants world building: the skies above. As events would have it, I’ve had to give some thought to the night sky—more than I imagined I’d have to at this early stage of the game.

It started simply enough. In my initial notes for the campaign, I decided I wanted to employ a fantasy cliché that I’ve never personally used before: multiple moons. In this case, two of them. If there’s one thing that fantasy artwork from the 60s and 70s taught me, it’s that multiple moons are shorthand for bizarre alien worlds. With this in mind, I made a quick note about them. One is a big, bright moon, similar to our own Luna. The second, however, is a smaller and more battered body, cracked by some ancient catastrophe and trailing large chunks in its wake. That moon has a pallid, even putrid appearance, earning it the nickname of the Rotted Moon.

Although it looks different from the mental picture I have of the secondary moon, I used the broken moon from Thundarr the Barbarian as my quick “elevator pitch” sketch when trying to explain how the night sky appears. Just recently though, I discovered this promo image for the video game, Shattered Horizon, and it look much more like the picture I have in my head than Thundarr’s broken moon.

I was content to leave it at that, but then one of my player’s decided that his cleric worshipped the god, Uun (a name of his own creation). I let him run with the idea, leaving it up to him to decide what Uun was like, deity-wise. He decided that Uun (the Unknowable, as we dubbed him because we knew nothing about the god during the first game session) was a moon good and the guardian of cats. That’s all I needed to hear before I decided that the big moon’s name was Uun and the smaller moon was called the Rotting Moon. Done and done—or so I thought.

Then something started to cook on my creative stove top and I knew that I’d have to learn more about the Rotting Moon. For starters, a name was required, and, because of what was percolating in my mental pots, I decided that Nihil was best for my purposes. Since then, there’s been much more added to Nihil, but I can’t talk about that material just yet. It’ll have to wait until after I see what the characters end up doing in the next few game sessions.

But the stellar fun didn’t end there. I found myself in need of a suitable “red planet” to serve as an origin point/launch pad for another idea I’ve been noodling with. I also recently re-watched the first season of Rome and recalled Titus Pullo’s and Lucius Vorenus’ discussion about stars. Thus, Raka Ma’ad, the War Star, came into being. This “star” is one which sages believe may actually be a wayward moon, one that lies “hundreds of miles” up in the sky. If crimson Raka Ma’ad comes into play, the campaign will have taken a very interesting turn.

As a last point of note, it should be mentioned that the general populace believes that Hell, in its many guises, does not lie beneath one’s feet, but in the sky above. That dismal realm of devils and unknown gods lies in the night sky, in a territory just beyond the stars. This is a concept that I borrowed from my previous campaign world, solely on the strength of having a “cold hell beyond space” where things like this can come from.


Juampa said...

I've been also toying with the multiple moons idea for a while now, and decided to have two moons: A "normal" moon like our own world's moon ("Luna"), and a smaller, magical one ("Zapphyros", from which the campaign takes its name).

So far, I've only associated Zapphyros with arcane magic and the deity Corellon. I'm still trying to link its effects to an elegant mechanic that does not over/underpower arcanists.

I have to thank you for your post, since it made me think about the possibility of travelling to the moons. Is there a climate up there? And if so, what is it like? Does something/someone live up there?

Food for thought...

Pallando said...

Very very cool post.
The distant red moon reminds me of an old issue of Dragon that featured a one of a kind Ruby Dragon who dwelt in a floating castle high up in orbit which was often mistaken for a red star.
Great world you are creating and best of luck with the next Stonehell.

LordVreeg said...

I have 2 moons and 2 suns. And the small sun is red (red Gerin, it is called).

I love this post. It gets into what I consider real setting-building, creating a consistent enough and 'real' enough feel to allow some immersion. Kudos.