Monday, March 26, 2018

COSMIC SEAS 5E: Basic Setting

Art by Mike Searls
The darkness of the night sky, dotted with uncountable stars: for many cultures the stars are arranged in mysterious symbols representing gods and heroes, but to the most learned of sages and wizards, it is known that each star is another world or distant ball of pure elemental fire like the familiar sun. Some have not been content to merely gaze at the sky and chart the movements of the stars. They have built magic vessels, enchanted ships to escape the gravity of their worlds and see what lies beyond. These explorers have taken to the void between worlds; to learn, to make their fortune, to conquer, and in time some even built massive empires.
Each star in the galaxy hosts a collection of worlds in orbit around them. Many are dominated by large amounts of particular elements: gas giants, watery blue worlds, icy moons, sandy desert worlds, and even planets of fire and magma. Others host more diverse climates. Many are inhabited, home to some combination of humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and monsters like dragons. The galaxy is heavily populated, with many worlds and moons that are able to support life, although many host extreme conditions and support only limited diversity of that life.
The solar systems that make up the galaxy are many, but space in incredibly large. Even with the aid of magic ships, the time it takes to travel between worlds numbers in days or weeks, and the distance between stars is insurmountable. That is what makes the CRYSTAL GATES so amazing. These massive crystal structures link solar systems and are large enough to pilot a dozen crafts through at once. The Celestial Church teaches they were built by the gods themselves when the galaxy was young and freshly created: gifts to their mortal children when they were capable of finding them. Each gate is a constantly open two-way door between two neighboring star systems. Most solar systems host several gates linking them to their neighbors, but even in the busiest of systems new gates are sometimes found. Most gates are located on the outer edge of the solar system out beyond the orbit of the planets, somewhat aligned between their host star their destination star. Some are found elsewhere, having been placed there or moved by powerful forces. Some rare gates seem to link far more distant systems, forming a kind of hub for travel from one edge of the galaxy to the other.
The ships that ply the space lanes traverse these gates to travel throughout known space. Those willing to take a journey of a several years could travel from one end of the galaxy to the other, although few people travel so far from home, and fewer still know the location of enough crystal gates to make it possible.
Because the gates are so hard to locate in the darkness of space and are often located a week or more of travel out past the last planet of a system, many gates along key space lanes possess lighthouses and small port cities just past the portal on either side, especially in the more densely traveled and populated inner core of the galaxy. On the outer edges of the galactic empire, few ships travel, and “groundlings” that live on the worlds are nearly all unfamiliar with space travel. Here gate locations are more difficult to come by.
RACES OF THE GALAXY There are many inhabited worlds within the galaxy, but the races of each of them are often more alike than dissimilar. Biologically, dwarves are dwarves no matter what world they come from. Moreover, they often speak the same language, if with variation on accent, and worship the same or eerily similar gods. The Celestial Church teaches this is because all the worlds were made by the same gods, and seeded with life according to their divine plans.
These matching races and languages has often made cooperation between races from different planets or star systems easier to form. The elves from a forest moon are often able to find common ground with the island dwelling elves of a largely water world. Still, conflicts between and within races are not unheard of, especially among human kingdoms.
Each race tends to have a similar style of craft that they use for their travels along the space lanes. The size and exact style of each craft can vary widely, but few people could mistake a dwarven carved stone ship for an elvish grown treeship. Humans tend to convert sea faring vessels to space travel, and use magic sails to travel both. Elven tree sheeps are grown not built. Dwarven furnace ships are carved of stone and powered by enchanted furnaces and coal. Dragonborn ships are built to slightly resemble dragon silhouettes and are powered through magical “spelljamming” thrones that drain arcane power from their sorcerer users as fuel. Perhaps the most odd of starships are the tinker gnome contraptions, semi-mechanical crafts whose aether screws are powered by everything from steam-engines to giant space hamsters in massive wheels. Not all crafts are said to be powered in such benign ways. Drow spider-ships are rumored to be powered by draining the life from captives trapped within magical webbing inside their hulls, and tiefling were said to have crafted ships powered by bound infernals or human souls.
Note: This material was originally penned by Brian Danford in his Cosmonomicon posts. I will be adding to the setting after re-posting this material. I want to make sure this material doesn't disappear.
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