Some world building questions

9 posts / 0 new
Last post
These are just some questions I have regarding certain changes I'm thinking of making to my new campaign world. I'm trying to figure out what impact (if any) these changes would have on the physics and civilizations of the world.

What if the world were flat? This was once a commonly held belief, but what if it were true. In this case my intention was to sink the world into a sort of basin, where reaching the "edge" of the world would find one confronted by an impossibly tall cliff. Scaling the cliff would result in a shift to the astral sea.

What if the compass had more points? I'm really not even sure how this might work, but I had a brief idea for a six point compass. Though I'm really not sure what purpose it might serve or what kind of impact it would have of world physics.

What if arcane magic flowed from the world's core? A massive orb of residuum sits at the bottom of the "basin" in which the world rests radiating waves of arcane energy up into the world. Residuum ore deposites can be found ONLY and RARELY at the ends of the world or near the core, but owning even a small piece can grant enourmous magical powers.

What if the world's ocean's were acid? Actual acid that eats away at everything but stone, meaning not sandy beanches or wooden docks. Only rocky shores and cliffs...and ofcourse some nasty monsters. The rivers and lakes would still be normal water, but the oceans rather than just being salty, would be acidic.

What if gnomes were tinkers? Instead of sly, magical tricksters, gnomes are industrious workers and tinkers, constantly experimenting with new ways of doing things. They still use magic, but tend to focus more on alchemy and rituals than overt spellwork. They are also native to the material world and second only to humans and halflings in population.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There is a world just around the corner of your mind, where reality is an intruder and dreams come true.

You may escape into it at will. You need no secret password, no magic wand or Aladdin's lamp;

only your own imagination and curiosity about things that never were.

All of these ideas sound totally awesome. You have some great oppurtunities here for some really fanatstic adventures. Scaling the cliffs at the edge of the world. Journeying to the world's core in order to gain immense magicial power, or stop something really nasty from doing the same. The six point compass...well I'm not sure how that would work either. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't compasses function because of the magnetic fields based on a planets poles? Of course, Magic, issue solved.
Acid ocean? I don't even think I need to offer something cool that could be done with that.
My monday night wouldn't be half as cool if DnD didn't exist.
These are just some questions I have regarding certain changes I'm thinking of making to my new campaign world. I'm trying to figure out what impact (if any) these changes would have on the physics and civilizations of the world.

What if the world were flat? This was once a commonly held belief, but what if it were true. In this case my intention was to sink the world into a sort of basin, where reaching the "edge" of the world would find one confronted by an impossibly tall cliff. Scaling the cliff would result in a shift to the astral sea.

There are not many D&D campaigns where the actual shape of the world matters. The campaign series I've been involved in with the largest world scope, was spread across an alternate-earth Eurasia with occasional  short forays into a divine realm... and I couldn't tell you if that world was round or flat.

What if the compass had more points? I'm really not even sure how this might work, but I had a brief idea for a six point compass. Though I'm really not sure what purpose it might serve or what kind of impact it would have of world physics.

At least one cardinal direction and its opposite will be set by natural phenomena. I put it that way because the opposite may be defined solely as being the opposite of the primary. North and South, or Morningward and Eveningward, or Axisward and Rimward, or whatever.  (On Discworld, technically every direction is rimward if you keep going far enough; but there is only one direction from any point that is axisward, and rimward is defined as anti-axisward.)

A second set of cardinal directions may, or may not, also be defined by natural phenomena.

Coming up with a third set defined by natural phenomena of similar importance would, I think, be difficult. But difficult is not impossible.

Working with a spinning world... we have an interesting coincidence here on Earth that celestial north as defined by daily rotation, celestial north as defined by annual revolution, and magnetic north are all fairly close together. What if they weren't? Well, celestial north as defined by annual revolution has severe implications for climate (the further it is from that defined by daily rotation, up to 90 degrees off, the more extreme your seasonal climate changes), but one you've dealt with that it doesn't mean a whole lot for life in general or civilization in particular. Because it takes too long to determine. (Might be different if your year is four days long.)  On the other hand, with Iron Age technology determining celestial north takes some time while determining magnetic north is fast and easy... what if magnetic north were in, say, Dallas TX? How would that have affected the development of navigation in Europe? How about if it were somewhere in Spain?

What if arcane magic flowed from the world's core? A massive orb of residuum sits at the bottom of the "basin" in which the world rests radiating waves of arcane energy up into the world. Residuum ore deposites can be found ONLY and RARELY at the ends of the world or near the core, but owning even a small piece can grant enourmous magical powers.

I would say that magic would tend to be more powerful closer to the core. In fact there might be an area at the core where magic is so powerful and easy that the average chipmunk can work a random high-level spell simply by breathing. This obviously would be a very dangerous zone, and an area around it would be nearly as dangerous because you'd never know what might come out of that zone. (Piers Anthony's Xanth has magic power radiating from a core, and there's a Zone of Madness for pretty much this reason.)

What if the world's ocean's were acid? Actual acid that eats away at everything but stone, meaning not sandy beanches or wooden docks. Only rocky shores and cliffs...and ofcourse some nasty monsters. The rivers and lakes would still be normal water, but the oceans rather than just being salty, would be acidic.

Well, sand is just a huge number of very very small rocks. Are there acid-resistant materials available suitable for making lines/nets and fishhooks (and are the fish edible)? How about boats? Without boats you probably won't have many docks in the ocean (definitely won't if there aren't edible fish in the ocean), and you certainly won't have seaports. Your major cities will tend to be at places where rivers meet or where there is easy land transportation between two rivers that do not meet.

Did the world develop this way through natural processes, or was it created this way? If it developed this way naturally, what sort of material dissolves in water to make acid and is that common? Is the acid as essential to life in that world as salt is in ours?

What if gnomes were tinkers? Instead of sly, magical tricksters, gnomes are industrious workers and tinkers, constantly experimenting with new ways of doing things. They still use magic, but tend to focus more on alchemy and rituals than overt spellwork. They are also native to the material world and second only to humans and halflings in population.

On that one, you get something resembling 4E Eberron. In fact, gnomes are the dominant race in the nation of Zilargo, and gnome-developed semi-magical technology is common on the entire continent. There's even a railroad network (with trains powered by bound elementals) spanning several large nations, and regularly scheduled commercial airline service (with airships also powered by bound elementals).

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
The number of points on the compass is connected to the shape of the world. On Earth, we have North and South, which correspond (roughly) to the axis of rotation and the orientation of the magnetic field. Does your flat world rotate? Does it have a magnetic field? It could, but if you've got a massive magical core at the center, it might make more sense to say it's got a magical field, and that people can use a magical compass-like device that points toward that core. In that case, four basic directions would still make sense. But your "latitude" lines, instead of curving from north pole to south pole, would be straight radial lines going out from the center. And your "longitude" lines would actually be concentric circles.


Edit: I'm not sure under what circumstances more than four cardinal directions would make sense. No matter what shape the surface has, it should be possible to identify points using two coordinates.
Edit: I'm not sure under what circumstances more than four cardinal directions would make sense. No matter what shape the surface has, it should be possible to identify points using two coordinates.


Perhaps their flat world is hexagonal.

Although if the creatures are basically humanoid, they'd probably still go with four cardinal directions. WE have forward, backward, left, and right. Maybe if WE were hexagonal - forward, backward, left-forward, left-backward, right-forward, right-backward - then we might have six cardinal directions. 
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
For describing which way to go, that makes sense. I guess I'm thinking more in terms of map coordinates.
It all sounds good. I like all the ideas

If you examine why we have certain numbers of things in our culture (7 days per week, 360 degrees in a circle, 12 months, 4 seasons, 5 elements in eastern culture compared to 4 in western) they tend to be rather arbitrary.

Personally I think East/West directions came about from observing the rising and setting sun. If on your world you had two major celestial bodies that rose and set in different areas on the horizon, they could be used as cardinal points, eg. "Head towards the red setting sun, not the blue setting sun."

Acidic oceans are possible, but the question of how acidic is important. Are you imagining people dying from chemical burns if they are immersed in the ocean? It would certainly mean that people didn't cross the oceans much (unless they can build stone or glass boats).
What if the world were flat? This was once a commonly held belief, but what if it were true. In this case my intention was to sink the world into a sort of basin, where reaching the "edge" of the world would find one confronted by an impossibly tall cliff. Scaling the cliff would result in a shift to the astral sea.



Neat. The implications it could have on lighting and weather would be a bit odd. Maybe instead of deep in a basin, it floats upon the astral sea, and anything not from the flat world is from a different plane. Maybe the flat world is growing, and the astral sea is getting smaller. The same could be true, or even opposite, for the other side of the world. What if the other side of the flat world is shrinking as the elemental chaos grows larger?

What if the compass had more points? I'm really not even sure how this might work, but I had a brief idea for a six point compass. Though I'm really not sure what purpose it might serve or what kind of impact it would have of world physics.



Up and down seem to work. Pieces of the world may float, making entire continents or even smaller islands roam the air. Some may be proportioned up higher or lower than others. Upward/Downward North could be its own directions for such a world.

What if arcane magic flowed from the world's core? A massive orb of residuum sits at the bottom of the "basin" in which the world rests radiating waves of arcane energy up into the world. Residuum ore deposites can be found ONLY and RARELY at the ends of the world or near the core, but owning even a small piece can grant enourmous magical powers.



The implications of this can spawn entire campaign concepts. If arcane magic is a finite element like minerals of our world would be, what does this mean for Arcane casters? Are they less mystic and more mechanical? Do they rely less on scripture and formula than algorithm and blue prints? It also leads one to question the nature of Arcane magic at a base value. Is it a privilege, that only those who are able to afford paying for the raw materials to practice it can use, or is it something that steals magic from the world similar to the Dark Sun campaign setting?

This also brings to life questions of the relationship between magics. Is primal magic tied more closer to arcane magic, since arcane magic is a physical product of the natural world? If arcane casters are more like scientists than scholars, would primal casters fill that void, using texts and thaumaturgy instead of spirits and communion, perhaps even both? what of divine magic? How do the gods view the use of arcane magic? If there is a god of arcane magic, what are his teachings in regard to the arcane minerals?

What if the world's ocean's were acid? Actual acid that eats away at everything but stone, meaning not sandy beanches or wooden docks. Only rocky shores and cliffs...and ofcourse some nasty monsters. The rivers and lakes would still be normal water, but the oceans rather than just being salty, would be acidic.



With the nature of arcane magic as you've expressed desire for earlier, this wouldn't be too difficult to picture. In fact, acid may only make up a portion of the water. Other oceans could be raging fires, icy tundras or barren wastelands. Some may even be a sort of liquid metal substance, plagued by constant lightning storms due to its conductivity. The world is already shaping up to be a strange and fantastic place compared to most of the common world settings, so anything's possible. Traveling these oceans, and even finding the means to safely, could be adventures in and of themselves.

What if gnomes were tinkers? Instead of sly, magical tricksters, gnomes are industrious workers and tinkers, constantly experimenting with new ways of doing things. They still use magic, but tend to focus more on alchemy and rituals than overt spellwork. They are also native to the material world and second only to humans and halflings in population.



So, the classic interpretation of gnomes then? Sure, why not. Fits well with the idea of arcane magic being a natural resource than mystic mumbo jumbo.

Hope this helps. Happy Gaming
These are just some questions I have regarding certain changes I'm thinking of making to my new campaign world. I'm trying to figure out what impact (if any) these changes would have on the physics and civilizations of the world.

What if the compass had more points? I'm really not even sure how this might work, but I had a brief idea for a six point compass. Though I'm really not sure what purpose it might serve or what kind of impact it would have of world physics.

What if arcane magic flowed from the world's core? A massive orb of residuum sits at the bottom of the "basin" in which the world rests radiating waves of arcane energy up into the world. Residuum ore deposites can be found ONLY and RARELY at the ends of the world or near the core, but owning even a small piece can grant enourmous magical powers.



Only going to address these two right now.
Having the Flat world or one inside a Basin/cliff walls could be very cool.  The 6 point compass, I'd think, would work as a XYZ axis for 3-dimensional navigating.  That there are floating islands/continents in this world that you need to know whether to go Skyward/Groundward along with our cardinal directions.

As for Arcana magic flowing from the world's core-  Brandon Sanderson has a series called Mistborn, where magic is ceated by 'burning' metals inside a person.  Different metals make for different powers.  More importantly, the most powerful metal is one in very short supply.  Whoever controls that metal has untold riches.  But since it's a finite resource, you can't just use it up all willy-nilly. 
In a way, you could edit this concept. Arcane classes are so incredibly rare and the only way you can be one is to have access to the Residuum, which makes you very powerful, but potentially very wanted.  Part of the campaign could be about that character needing to obtain more Residuum in order to keep the Arcane powers, as his/her supply is running out.  It'd require a significant buy-in from the Player, and may need separate, but comparable character builds to play.   Such as having the non-magical character a Fighter or Warlord, and when you have access to Residuum, then the character is a Swordmage or Wizard or Bard.

Good luck, you've got some very creative ideas, I hope you can flesh one or more out for your game!