Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Voidjammer: Crystal Sphere Layout

Stop The Slaughter by Rodney Matthews
In all space-going stories, whether they be books, comics, movies, TV shows, cartoons or RPGs, there is a tendency to just stick planets, monsters and civilizations wherever the writer or storyteller wants them. While this might not seem like a big deal, it can easily rob the story of vital tools for later development. While I am not a stickler for scientific accuracy in a setting (allowing for The Rule of Cool), I do like some consistency within an imagined setting.
Sure the players, readers and watchers may never catch the big picture, but these small touches can (if done right) lead to a setting that more-or-less writes itself. And once a setting makes its own suggestions, the role of the Gamemaster, Writer and Artist gets a great deal more interesting.
So for creating a Crystal Sphere, I suggest the following basic formula. It is not super-specific, but suggests a basic framework with some measure of internal logic (albeit a logic with Magic and Elves in it).

Each Crystal Sphere is its own mini-universe, with its own unique properties, cultures and species. The Crystal Spheres most likely to have life and/or other places of interest are Geocentric Spheres and Heliocentric Spheres. As follows:
Geocentric Spheres: A Geocentric Sphere is one in which the primary life-giving planet of a Crystal Sphere is at the absolute center of the system. All other planets and suns orbit around this central planet. The Sun(s) of a Geocentric Sphere are generally small, being on-average the size of our moon. Because of this, Geocentric Spheres have only three Orbital Zones (see below), a Warm Orbital Zone a Cool Orbital Zone and an Outer Orbital Zone.
Heliocentric Spheres: A Heliocentric Sphere is more like our understanding of a Solar System. A Sun is at the core of the Sphere, with all other Celestial Bodies orbiting it. Such Spheres are typically larger and more diverse in environments than Geocentric Spheres, though this is not always the case. Heliocentric Spheres have four distinct orbital zones (see below), a Hot Orbital Zone, a Warm Orbital Zone a Cool Orbital Zone and an Outer Orbital Zone.

Orbital Zones are broad categories of regions within a Crystal Sphere. They designate the relative "temperature" of a region as well as its likelihood to have certain types of Celestial Bodies. The Zones are as follows:

Hot Orbital Zone
This is the zone that lies closest to the Sun(s), and as its name implies, it is a region of great heat. Voidships entering this zone will get hotter the closer they get to the Sun(s), with the atmosphere in the ship rising significantly (see the DRY HEAT Wilderness Condition on page 12 of the Blood and Treasure GMG). Foolish Helmsman who fly too close to a Sun may cause fire damage to a ship (TMs prerogative).
Celestial Bodies in Hot Orbital Zones are generally lifeless, rocky worlds, that are often extremely hot, with volcanoes and poisoned atmospheres being common. On the outer edges of Hot Orbital Zones, Liveworlds and Jungle Planets can sometimes be found. Such Celestial Bodies host their own fearsome life-forms and possess steamy, hot atmospheres.
Life within Hot Orbital Zones (where it exists at all) either lives underground or is of the toughest and heat/fire-resistant sort. Outsiders, Earth and Fire-Elementals and other strange and enigmatic beings sometimes dwell here.

Warm Orbital Zone
The Warm Orbital Zone of a Crystal Sphere is at the perfect distance from the Spheres Sun(s) for water to remain liquid. This allows the widest and most diverse ecologies to develop. Wildspace life is also abundant, and can make Voidship travel interesting. Temperature-wise, ships travelling in the Warm Orbital Zone of a Sphere will experience a more-or-less temperate climate (no modifiers).
Celestial Bodies within the Warm Temperate Zone are the most likely to support life that is associated with most game worlds. This does not mean that all planets in a Warm Orbital Zone are friendly to humans, elves, dwarves and the like. Many have thin or poisonous atmospheres or other dangers. So explorers beware!
If there is life in the sphere, it will be the most diverse in this zone. Humanoids, mammals, reptiles, insects and the whole gamut of life-forms found in numerous campaign settings are possible.
The border between the Warm and Cool Orbital Zones are likely to have a large number of Asteroids.

Cool Orbital Zone
The Cool Orbital Zone of a Crystal Sphere is far enough away from the spheres Sun(s) that it appears as nothing brighter than a bright star in the sky. This zone is dark, cold and inhospitable to all but the most extreme beings.
Voidjammers travelling through the Cool Orbital Zone must contend with plunging temperatures (see the COLD Wilderness Condition on page 12 of the Blood and Treasure GMG), as those on deck can quickly freeze. A good lookout is needed, but with the dim light conditions, visibility is brought down to 1/2 normal. Magical assistance is suggested.
Celestial Bodies in this zone are generally Asteroids, but Gas Giants (Air and Water Bodies) are fairly common. Large Gas Giants usually have a large number of moons that are often worlds in their own right. Cold lifeless planets are the norm here, but a number of life-giving planetoids can be found.
Life in this dim region is predominated by the kinds of life that can be found in the Underdark. With Oozes, Slimes and Fungi, with Aberrations and other weird creatures being common. Space-going creatures of strange nature and alien mind dwell in this dark region, as do many spirits and undead beings.
Gas Giants here are often host to powerful elementals who may or may not be friendly to visitors. Despite being Air and Water bodies, Gas Giants are often places of all gasses and liquids, not all of which are safe to breath, drink or touch, so adventurers should be careful.

Outer Orbital Zone
This region lies just before the shell of the Crystal Sphere, and is so far out that the Spheres sun is indistinguishable from a star. It is a cold, pitiful place that is dotted with frozen chunks of ice as big as moons and icy particles that act as a kind of space fog. Comets have their beginning here, and a number of strange sights and stranger beings can be encountered here.
Along with the cold, Voidjammers must be concerned with ice forming on the ship as it passes through ice particle fields. A good lookout is needed, but with the dim light conditions, visibility is brought down to 1/3  normal. Magical assistance is suggested.
Only the coldest and most desolate worlds can be found in this zone, with most being barren worlds of rock and ice. Many such worlds are host to the more loathsome sorts of beings such as undead, icy infernal outsiders and aberrations.

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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan