worldbuilding

Plot Devices: Jump

The better faster than light travel works, the less you can do with it in fiction. Want to rescue a spaceship falling into a star or a planet’s atmosphere? If you’ve got amazing FTL that can pop you over, then pop you and the other ship right back over, there’s no tension. If your FTL has perfect accuracy over incredible distances, just strap it to some missiles, win every battle before it begins. If it can take you anywhere in the universe without fail, what are the chances of getting stranded in deep space?

Methods of travel shape the story around them. This isn’t particularly revelatory. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, Snakes on A Plane, and countless other works of fiction all trap characters in a small enclosed traveling vehicle to help establish suspension of disbelief for fantastic plots (a variant of the locked room mystery). Many other stories force characters to race against the clock, making the method of transportation absolutely central to the story. Countless other examples present themselves. Faster than light travel, though, is particularly interesting. It’s quite simple to make it resemble any other type of transportation already existing in stories. Timothy Zahn’s Night Train to Rigel series even manages to replicate trains in space. FTL is also just much cooler than other forms of transit.

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Campaign Setting Supplemental Details: Tibera and Itasoa

I decided to do some updates to my two D&D campaign settings- because why not. I’m also working on a couple others in the back of my head that I might write up for the hell of it. Maybe I should join the self-publishing craze just to publish a book of my campaign setting ideas through Amazon. I’m normally not particularly interested in self-publishing, and have no intention of trying to get any of my fiction published this way, but this would just be a fun little project.

For those of you who haven’t read anything about Tibera or Itasoa yet, you’ll want to read the original posts first.

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D&D Campaign Setting: Tibera

Tibera is the setting I created for the physical 5th Edition D&D campaign I’m running. Here’s the campaign setting for my online campaign, Itasoa, which I posted last week, which is a bit less of a traditional fantasy world.

Tibera is a stolen world. Five centuries ago, seven gods, tired of sharing their worlds with others, conspired to fashion their own world. They severed parts of other worlds, reforging and reassembling them into a world all their own at the farther ends of the multiverse, hiding it from any other gods. The souls of Tiberan dead are treated as currency by the gods.

The clouds of Tibera are like no others in the multiverse- each of them reflects the assorted afterlives ruled by the seven gods. If you look up on a cloudy day, you might see sculpted on the bottom of the clouds any of the assorted hells, heavens, or other afterlives of the Seven, with buildings, landscapes, and souls of the dead hanging above you.

~OTFMNII001F

Hey, shitty hand drawn map! Ceylas Region.

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D&D Campaign Setting: Itasoa

So I’m running a couple of 5th Edition D&D campaigns right now, one in my apartment, one over Roll20.net. (I highly recommend Roll20 to anyone who want to play D&D online, by the way.) This is the world I created for the online campaign, Itasoa. It is, to say the least, very nautical-themed. I originally dreamed it up for other purposes, but converted it to a D&D campaign setting, which necessitated converting the cosmology into a more D&D compatible universe (hence the references to the Feywild, the Shadowfell, etc.), and replacing some of the non-human sentient species I had with D&D species.

Itasoa is an ancient rogue world, spinning alone and adrift in the depths of space. Light and heat come from hundreds of tiny suns closely orbiting the world, and night is almost unknown, except rarely at the poles and in the depths the sea, and occasionally during powerful storms. The surface is almost entirely submerged by a single globe-spanning ocean. The majority of habitable surface on the planet is on the backs of the Godshells, enormous crustaceans miles across that never submerge, with island ecosystems forming on their back as they stride slowly through the oceans.
Geography:
Itasoa is almost entirely covered in an enormous ocean. There are only two continents- one a little ways down from the equator, and a larger one in the northern polar regions. The larger continent, Hurdun, in the north is ice and snow bound, and about the size of Great Britain. The smaller desert continent, Trine, about half the size of Hurdun, is only lightly populated, thanks to the strange, unearthly ruins filling the hot, arid interior, and the mysterious rocklike beings roaming them. There are also a moderate number of volcanic islands scattered throughout the ocean, though they’re created via the lifecycle of the Godshells, rather than tectonic activity, which is relatively sparse and slow on Itasoa. Water-breather civilization is frequently built up the side of the islands, with air-breathers atop it.
There are also massive kelp mats stretching for miles upon miles- these are largely inhabited by amphibious races, and the occasional barbarian tribe. They are prone to breaking up in godwaves and mightier storms.
Some sections of the ocean floor are riddled with mighty, immense rifts filled with horrifying, incomprehensible beasts.
The higher seafloor between rifts is still immensely deep and pitch dark, and is home to monsters, civilizations of insane, blind, voracious creatures, and the remnants of uncounted ships and rotting Godshell corpses.
There are a few Sargassos in Itasoa- current-less areas with little wind, and infrequent visits from Godshells. Getting stranded in one is not recommended.

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Single Biome Worlds in fiction

Desert planets in scifi wouldn’t actually be inhabitable*- there’s not enough plants to produce the necessary oxygen without other climates and ecosystems on the planet. Then there are a host of other problems as well- giant sandstorms being just one of them. Tatooine, Vulcan, so on and so forth- they absolutely fill science fiction, and show up semi-regularly in fantasy.

The problem isn’t just restricted to desert planets, either- forest planets would suffer gargantuan firestorms caused by higher oxygen levels, ocean planets would have giant storms and unstoppable rogue waves of enormous size, city planets… well, city planets have a LOT of problems. There is, of course, one series that is the most serious offender- Star Wars. Tatooine (desert), Kashykk (forest of giant trees), Hoth (ice), Endor (jungle), Coruscant (city), Alderaan (floating rubble), and so on.

While it presents some advantages- namely making each world more easily memorable, the primary apparent rationale is one of laziness. Not everyone can go to the effort of worldbuilding that Frank Herbert or J. R. R. Tolkien went through, or even to the lesser, but still damn impressive efforts of Brandon Sanderson or Dan Simmons, but even a basic, two or three page document on the ecosystem of the world you’re using can be incredibly useful in fleshing out a world.

*The big exception, of course, is Arrakis, from Frank Herbert’s Dune, but that is because Herbert went to the actual effort to create a functional ecology and climate for the world, including carbon dioxide reclamation and a hydrologic cycle (or lack thereof). It’s actually quite impressive- he spent years on it, putting in levels of work comparable to Tolkien’s on Middle Earth- it’s one of the many reasons they’re compared so often.