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Offline MoonHunter

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Sky Realms
« on: June 03, 2005, 11:21:32 AM »
This thread has been taken from an rpg.net thread. I thought it was cool, so I imported it here.
http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=191614&page=1&pp=10


First, an overview of the setting, and details on two of the nations of the Sky Realms. Please read them, and let me know what you think! I'm interested in your thoughts, opinions, critiques, ideas, life stories, personal experiences, and everything else. The feeling I'm shooting for is kind of "high fantasy 7th Sea meets D&D at 30,000 feet."

A note: physics here are whatever we want them to be. Don't worry too much about atmospheric pressure or air friction or whatnot.

Quote
"The legends of my grandfather say that in ages past men lived on solid ground; the rock below and the sky above, wholly divided. We did not fly, then, for the soil gave us all we needed and we were content to spend our lives in its vast expanse. I wonder- did some souls even then look to the heavens, watch the soaring spirals of the hawks and see for themselves a place there?

It is difficult, perhaps impossible, for a citizen of the Sky Realms to imagine such a world. Here among the clouds it is rare to find an island that cannot be walked across in a day or two; the very notion of rolling plains and mountain ranges that stretch out for endless leagues beggars belief. Even great W'gasa, largest of the lands we know, seems small compared to the legends that our oldest books hint at.

What could have happened to destroy that world and create this one? What cataclysm of fire or water could have sundered such massive continents and left behind only our own islands, floating forever in the wind and clouds? How did we come to be here among the flying birds and fish, neighbors to dragons and so close to the stars?"
---from Akadia Gray's "History of Earth and Wind"



The Sky Realms float among the endless clouds and wind, islands transplanted from sea to air. No one has ever tried to count them all, but certainly they number in the thousands or even tens of thousands. The smallest islands are little more than rocks, hardly big enough for a man to lie down on. The largest, W'gasa, takes weeks to walk across and is home to a fully developed ecology of plant and animal life.


Only a fraction of these islands are inhabited by people. Many more are home to birds and fish, as well as more exotic creatures like wyverns and harpies. In the distant stretches of sky, far from the settlements of men, the great Dragons still rule the winds with claw and fang. Explorers from the civilized lands have mapped only a relatively small area, and nearly anything could be waiting out beyond the Ocean of Storm...

The islands of the Sky Realms achieve their magnificent defiance of gravity due to the properties of a material called floatstone. This quartz-like mineral can be found in all islands, holding aloft the other materials that surround it. There are seven colors of floatstone matching the seven colors of the spectrum. Red floatstone is the weakest, only able to keep itself aloft. Violet is the strongest- a few pounds of violet floatstone can hold several tons of rock and soil in the sky. There are rumors of other kinds of
floatstone- white and black being the most often spoken of- but no reliable evidence of their existence has been found.

A Note on Directions
Navigators in the Sky Realms use the four cardinal compass directions of North, East, South, and West, based on the sun and prevailing east-to-west wind (there is no magnetic pole to indicate north). In addition, 'cloudward' indicates movement toward the Stratus, and 'skyward' indicates movement away from it. Cardinal and altitudinal directions are often combined, as in "The Shadow Islands are skyward east of W'gasa."

Aerography of the Sky Realms
Travel within the Sky Realms is complicated by the necessity of thinking in three dimensions, taking into account both the horizontal and the vertical. To facilitate this difficult task, a basic knowledge of the aerographic features of the Sky is necessary.

At the lowest altitudes that can be safely reached, one finds the Stratus. This is a thick, endless layer of greyish-white clouds, peppered here and there with flashes of lightning that betray the storms beneath its seemingly placid exterior. The Stratus extends for miles in all directions- no reliable sailor has ever reported a break in its cover. Few airship crews are brave enough to descend into the Stratus, and fewer still have returned from the tempest that blows there. None have ever found the other side of the Stratus and returned with the tale.

To the east lies the Ocean of Storm, an incalculably large section of sky constantly wracked by wind and rain. It is nearly impossible to navigate this treacherous section of sky, so it serves as an effective boundary to exploration in that direction. There are no natural barriers in the other cardinal directions, and exploration is a continuous and popular activity.
A mile or so above the Stratus, one finds the first islands. So near the Stratus, most islands are little more than chunks of rock suspended by small deposits of floatstone. As you climb higher, the islands grow larger and become inhabited by several species of birds and fish. A large section of sky here lies in the shadow of vast W'gasa, where the lack of light and rain have brought about strange and sometimes dangerous animals and lichens.

Approximately 100 miles skyward of the Stratus is W'gasa, the largest island known. It is roughly oblong in shape, about 700 miles across at its longest point. W'gasa is home to many flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the Sky Realms, including many large non-flying predators. W'gasa also has the only jungle environment in the Realms, as well as several large fresh-water lakes and rivers. W'gasa is inhabited by a few primitive tribes of men, and some of its out-lying islands shows signs of previous inhabitants. The Wrecks constantly sail over, around, and under W'gasa, mining the floatstone deposits and 'collecting' ships and materials that fall from above. They tend to avoid the shadow of W'gasa, except for
hunting and harvesting parties.

As one progresses higher and higher, one encounters more and more islands, many of them inhabited. Approximately three hundred miles east of W'gasa and 150 miles skyward from the Stratus, in an area usually thick with clouds from the Ocean of Storm, lie the Shadow Islands. More centrally over W'gasa and 50 miles higher are the archipelagoes of the Alliance of Free Isles. At about the same altitude but far to the southwest is the mighty volcano, Gruumsha. 300 miles skyward from the Stratus and to the southeast of W'gasa lie the sorcerous isles of Straval. Their exact locations cannot be mapped, because the magic of their inhabitants moves them from time to time. At the same altitude and centrally over W'gasa, one finds the most cloudward holdings of the growing Erinyan empire, including the recently conquered land Tasaj in the west. The capital of Erinya, Geryon, lies another 50 miles higher and to the south. Erinya's most skyward holdings are a further 50 miles beyond that.

At the same altitude as the upper reaches of Erinya, the long islands of Nusfjurlund can be found far to the northeast. Several large fields of red floatstone deposits are simultaneously a navigational hazard and a rich mining opporunity. Their relative isolation suits the native elven population well, although their raiding longboats are an increasingly common sight in the eastern regions of Erinya.

Finally, a full 100 miles skyward of Erinya's highest holdings and 500 miles above the Stratus, is the holy nation of Novala. Most airships cannot climb to this incredible altitude, making travel impossible without the aid of Novalan starvessels. Novala itself is a middle-sized island located almost directly above the center of W'gasa (just east and north of Erinya's capital Geryon).

While this overview notes the larger and more important nations of the Sky Realms, it is essential to understand that there are scores of other inhabited islands at all altitudes and in all directions that do not owe allegiance to any of those listed above.

Resources
The people of the Sky Realms are adept at taking and using the gifts that the sky provides. Frequent rain clouds drifting from the Ocean of Storm along the prevailing winds provide plenty of drinking water, with rain-catcher barrels a common site in every village and town. Most inhabited isles have layers of soil suitable for growing crops, and the strong sunlight that most areas enjoy makes for healthy crops. The lack of ground space limits harvest sizes, though, so most people supplement their diets with fishing. Ranching is almost unheard of, and horses are very rare- pegasi are much more useful. Metal deposits are very common in islands throughout the Sky Realms, and mining is made easier by the ability to approach deposits from the bottom as well as the top.

The two most valuable commodities are wood and floatstone. Most arable soil is used for farming. Forests are rare and generally razed to make room for crops after their discovery. Only Erinya has dedicated forest-islands to provide wood for their shipyards. W'gasa also has vast quantities of wood in its jungles, but no one has been brave enough yet to go after it.
Floatstone, while extremely common, is tricky to mine effectively. The magical properties of floatstone are all that keeps the islands flying, and removing the floatstone leads to islands sinking or even falling. This poses a great danger to work crew and anyone unfortunate enough to be flying or living below the mining operations. There is also the difficulty in storing and transporting the stronger forms of floatstone. Red floatstone is neutrally buoyant- unhindered, it neither rises nor sinks and is easy to work with. Violet floatstone, on the other hand, literally shoots up into the sky when freed from its surrounding minerals. Mining and storing such a volatile material is difficult, but potentially very lucrative. Floatstone has many uses, particularly in the building of ships and as fuel for airship engines.

On the People of the Realms
The Sky Realms are home to several intelligent peoples, including these:
Humans make up the majority of the Sky Realms' inhabitants. They have a wide variety of cultures and customs, with physical traits that vary from area to area. Most humans feel no special racial bond- instead, they identify along family, clan, and national lines.

Dwarves inhabit the great volcano of Gruumsha, as well as many islands surrounding it. Standing about 4'5, dwarves tend to be a bit stocky and often sport long beards, although they are also often clean-shaven or have had their beards shortened by accidental fires. Dwarves often feel a strong racial and family bond, although they bear no ill-will to other races. The dwarven society in and around Gruumsha is focused heavily on echnological and mechanical innovation and production, as well as trading/selling the results of these labors. Dwarves can also be found living in almost every other nation, often working as mechanics, smiths, or tinkerers.

Elves are not common outside their homeland of Nusfjurlund, but can be seen from time to time in human or dwarven lands. They are tall and strongly built, with large, pointed ears and eyes tilted 30 degrees up from their noses. Elves feel very strong racial and family bonds, and are generally mistrustful or even hostile toward other species. Nusfjurlund society is clannish and features constant feuds. This aggression is also turned toward other races in the form of piracy and raiding parties. Nusfjur pirates are known and feared for their ferocity.

Saurians are a race nearly extinct. These winged, reptilian men stand about 5' tall but weigh only around 80 pounds- their bones are hollow to aid in flight. Saurians arms are, more accurately, wings- with four-fingered hands at the ends. They are incapable of true flight, but are extremely talented gliders and can use thermal winds to gain altitude in favorable conditions. Saurians also have long tails that, while not prehensile, can be used to aid balance. Saurians no longer have a homeland- if they ever did, no memory remains of it. Small communities of Saurians do still exist, but mostly they live among humans and dwarves. They naturally tend to be wanderers and do not feel a strong family bond, although they are often very loyal to
and protective of other Saurians due simply to their rarity. Saurians are highly valued as airship captains, as they have an instinctual understanding of the complexities of three-dimensional maneuvering and combat.
MoonHunter
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"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2005, 11:28:43 AM »
Erinya
Quote
"Mighty Erinya, Jewel of the Skies! Her colors fly on noble ships all throughout the Realms, and her fashions set the tone even in the courts of the Shadow Isles. She is loved and feared in equal measure."
-from Akadia Gray's "History of Earth and Wind"


If any nation can truly be said to be at the heart of the Sky Realms, it is noble Erinya. Located in the upper altitudes skyward of W'gasa, the Erinyan empire is a growing expanse of cities and colonies centered on the isle Geryon. The Empire's cities number in the hundreds and its territory encompasses nearly two thousand islands with countless farms, mines, and shipyards.

Just as Geryon is the physical center of Erinya, so the King of Sun and Sky is its social center. The King rules his empire from Geryon, attended by noble lords and advisors. The King is the single most powerful figure in the Empire, but his might is not absolute. The noble lords and merchant masters of Erinya hold much sway, making the political climate of the capital quite an exciting one.

The majority of Erinya's citizens are simple commoners. Farming is the main occupation, although many are also employed in the busy shipyards that supply the Royal Erinyan Navy. A large number of young men leave home to become sailors or to join one of the many noble skyship legiments- military service is seen as an excellent way to 'get off the farm' and gain in social status. Social mobility in Erinya is limited, but possible- the easiest avenue for advancement is through the Navy.

Almost all the citizens of Erinya are humans. Near Geryon, in the area often called 'the Homeland,' folks tend to be of fair complexion, with dark hair and solid builds. In more recently conquered outlying territory, appearance varies widely- from the dusky features of Tasaji to the pale white skin and hair of eastern Casshern. A small number of dwarves and Saurians make their homes in Erinya, along with an even smaller number of elves. In Geryon, non-human races are considered quite fashionable. Nobles often compete for the attendance of popular Saurians at their parties.

The King maintains the Royal Academy of the Sciences, an organization dedicated to expanding man's understanding of the Sky Realms through exploration and experimentation. The nobles of Erinya are great patrons of the arts, and along with masterpieces of paint and sculpture the artists of the empire produce fine works of music and drama. These works are often sold, traded, or simply displayed outside the Empire- bringing Erinyan culture to other lands is considered the sign of a truly noble soul. Erinyan court fashions, too, are elaborate and beautiful. The silks and velvets favored by wealthy Erinyans set the style for many of the Sky Realms' elite.

While Erinyan art and culture are valued in many places throughout the Sky Realms, the empire's true strength lies in its mighty Navy. Every nobleman is duty-bound to provide the Royal Erinyan Navy with a number of airships and crew commensurate with his or her station. In addition, the King of Sun and Sky owns and maintains his own personal fleet of ships. This vast army and navy is, arguably, the strongest force in the Sky Realms and the King has shown complete willingness to use it. Many of Erinya's colonies were brought into the Empire by force, and even now only the presence of strong Royal Navy garrisons keeps some of the more surly natives under control. This aggressive expansionism has made other nations wary of encroaching Erinyan ships. The Royal Erinyan Navy favors triple-masted wooden airships, built for sailing speed and maneuverability. They carry cannons for offense, and dedicated warships often have a corps of highly trained boarders ready to swing onto and overrun enemy ships. Most Erinyan
sailors are commoners who have joined the Navy for the chance to see the Realms and spend a few years away from the farms. The officer corps is primarily composed of lesser nobility and the occasional highly talented commoner. Erinyan officers tend to be competent, proud, and loyal. The more important vessels also carry High Wizards to aid their crews with magic.

Recently, the Royal Erinyan Navy attacked and conquered the western land of Tasaj. The Tasaji put up a fierce and bitter resistance, but in the end were forced to succumb to Erinya's might. Tasaj is now being colonized and its resources tapped to fuel the empire's love of expansion. The native Tasaji are, for the most part, unhappy about their new rulers and minor rebellions are commonplace. Much of the Navy is tied up here keeping things under control, but it's probably just a matter of time before things settle down and the King of Sun and Sky casts his eye on new territory. Many leaders in the Alliance of Free Isles are worried that they may be next.

Most Erinyans are followers of the Church of Nova, the King of Sun and Sky included. The Church maintains a large presence in the Empire, and the grand Cathedral of The Morning Star in Geryon is the second largest church building in the Sky Realms. While it is not official Church doctrine, many Erinyans believe that the King of Sun and Sky was directly appointed by Nova himself when the Sky Realms were created. This popularity gives the Church of Nova some influence in Erinyan politics, but the priests of Nova are careful not to overstep their bounds.
MoonHunter
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"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2005, 11:32:06 AM »
Straval
Quote
"To speak of Straval is to speak of sorcery. Magic is the unbreakable
thread that holds together the feuding families of these wandering
isles, and Nova help us should their feuding ever cease."
 -from Akadia Gray's "History of Earth and Wind"


Straval is not truly a nation; rather it is a group of families united by a common bond- the power of sorcery. The seven Houses of Straval are composed of descendants of the greatest mage the Sky Realms has ever seen and inheritors of his reality-shaping power. Each House rules over one or more islands and their non-sorcerous inhabitants. These islands are heavily enchanted for defense and even mobility, but the Stravalians' desire to keep careful eyes on each other ensures that no single House ever strays too far from the others.

The Houses of Straval spend most of their time bickering, feuding, and inter-marrying with each other. Constant games of one-upmanship and shifting alliances of incredible complexity are the hallmarks of Stravalian life. The Houses show their power with elaborate parties and fierce martial demonstrations, as well as dazzling displays of magic. While their sorcerous powers make them mighty, this inter-house conflict sharply limits their influence outside of Straval- a fact that the other nations of the Sky Realms are desperately glad for.

In total, the seven Houses of Straval directly control about 10 large and 35 medium-sized islands, as well as innumerable smaller ones. Each island is heavily enchanted to allow it to move through the skies, guided by a sorceror of the controlling House. Most are also warded for defense from attack, increased crop yields, growth of needed resources, or other purposes. The population of Straval is almost entirely human.
The Houses also maintains War Islands, enchanted to fly swiftly and hurl gouts of flame, bolts of lightning, or other such eldritch blasts. While the constant in-fighting of the seven Houses rarely leads to open combat, the Stravalians are quick to avenge insults or punish any outside encroachment on their territory. It's also fairly common for the Houses to arrange martial tournaments, pitting their magical skills and strength-at-arms against each other for prestige or to settle disputes.

Each House is free to govern its own isles as it sees fit, although one theme is constant- those gifted with sorcery rule, and those without are ruled. In fact, most House sorcerors consider themselves to be of a quasi-divine race related to but distinct from humanity. They call themselves the 'Chiarito,' and deride the non-sorcerous as 'pianura.' Treatment of the pianura varies considerably. The autocratic House of Roccia uses sorcery to control their serfs like puppets, forcing them to lead lives of endless work and pointless fighting for their lords' amusement. The House of Sammona inspires a desperate love from their subjects, who gladly serve their seemingly divine masters. By contrast, the House of Guistizia treats its peasants fairly and uses its magic to ease their lives. The Houses of Straval worship the memory of their common ancestor, the great sorceror Straval. They believe it was he who created the Sky Realms as a haven for his children and followers from the worthless world below. In turn, the pianura are expected to revere both Straval and his descendants, their current masters. In some areas of Straval, though, the Novan faith has taken hold among the populace. All of the Houses have banned this practice, but most don't work very hard to enforce the ban- after all, why should they care what the pianura do? Some brave or foolish Novan priests live incognito in Straval, quietly converting the sorceror's thralls to their own faith. Belief in their inherent distinction from and superiority to the pianura of the Sky Realms, coupled with their preoccupation with internal feuds, keeps most Stravalians disinterested in lands distant from their own.

However, it is not unknown for scions of the seven Houses to leave their homes and travel the Realms for their own purposes, from seeking knowledge to slaying dragons. Most travel in the luxury their magic and status affords them, using travelling islands or specially constructed airships.

A recent fad amongst the sorcerors of Straval is called 'Imiti.' This is the duplication of non-magical skills such as painting, stonemasonry, or fencing through purely sorcerous means. Sorcerors study and practice with gifted pianura artisans to perfect their talents, using no tools but their own magic. An Imiti fencer, for example, might control his blade with telekinesis to engage in duels without ever actually touching the hilt of his sword. Imiti
stonemasons build elaborate structures without aid of plaster or pitch. While such displays are well within the power of many sorcerors, the art of Imiti lies in creating a synthesis of magical and mundane skill without breaking the rules of the craft- so that an Imiti swordmaster would not perform maneuvers impossible for a mundane swordsman, despite his ability to do so.
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2005, 11:35:30 AM »
Floatstone seems to have a simple anti-gravity effect. So it could be used to keep airships floating, but how then do the ships control their altitude?

There are many different kinds of airships in Airship Adventures. The Erinyans use what are, basically, flying clipper ships held aloft by a powdered form of floatstone worked into their wooden hulls and using wind for propulsion. They control their altitude by changing the position of their sails to catch the wind at angles.

Other kinds of vessels have other forms of altitude control. Gruumshan Ironclads, for example, are held aloft by floatstone-burning engines, and can easily gain or lose height by adjusting the heat. Nusfjur longships are controlled via magic runes.

Your description suggests that the islands don't move laterally, at least not with respect to each other. Why not? Wouldn't the winds push them around?

This is one area where the physics get a bit wonky. Islands don't move laterally because floatstone renders them buoyant, but not weightless- like a heavy cruise ship at sea, minus the waves and current.

Or, chalk it up to Necessity of the Setting.


Why can't ships reach Novala? Does the lifting power of floatstone change as you get higher?

Yes, exactly. The effects are only noticeable at the extreme limits of altitude- around Novala, and possibly below the Stratus. You can only reach Novala using the rare and hard to control violet floatstone, or with a special material called Starmetal (talk about that more in the section on Novala).

Do the Sky Realms have seasons? Do they all have them at more or less the same time?

Seasonal effects are pretty miniminal- slight changes in temperature and rain, but nothing significant. Most people don't even worry about them.

It's mysterious that one island has jungle and others don't. Why is it warmer and rainier there?

It's warmer due to the lower altitude (Novala is fairly cool), and there's more water because W'gasa a) catches run off from everything above it and b) gets rain clouds that blow up off the Stratus.

Most streams and rivers on the Sky Realms would run to the edge and then down, streaming off into the winds, with a thin sheet of water running along the underside to the lowest point, and then running off there. The undersides of the Realms must be curious places, always shaded and wet. Could be all kinds of wierd things growing there, slimes and algaes, fungi, and creatures that feed on them, spending their lives upside-down.

I like the cut of your jib, sir.

Interesting to think what might maintain a volcano in a floating island. Maybe it is something that needs to be fed or appeased and/or worshiped? Or maybe it is something that is slowly fading? The dwarves might know (or think they know...), and this could be a major theme in their culture.

The dwarves do know, and they're not telling. While Grumshaan society is very open to people all races, there are some areas that only dwarves can get into. This may or may not turn into a campaign focus- the explanation for the Gruumshan volcano is pretty major, but can be safely ignored and just attributed to Magic Hand-wave Physics.

After all, nobody remembers a time when there wasn't a free-floating volcano, so moslty no one thinks to ask.

What does the Erinyan navy do to reduce the danger of losing sailors overboard?

Like the British navy on which it is based- not very much. Sailors aren't meant to go overboard, frankly. The Erinyans have developed crude parachutes, but nobody wears them unless they're intentionally abandoning ship. Erinyan High Wizards produce what sailors call "Birdy-bones." They're necklaces with small pieces of strong floatstone, and a magical seal neutralizing the buoyancy of the material. If a sailor finds himself falling, he rips off the seal and the floatstone greatly slows his descent, giving his mates a chance to pick him up. These charms are pretty pricey, though, and most sailors don't have them.
MoonHunter
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2005, 11:35:51 AM »
re altitude control in Erinyan ships. I guessed you might say wind use. It sounds like they might climb or dive notably slower than 'ships with magical or more controlled means. Could be a serious problem in combat.

also, regarding careless Erinyan sailors -- the comparison with the old pre-modern navies is not too apt. The sailors of the North Atlantic may not have cared much about swimming but that was because the water was so cold. Mariners in warmer climes were often good swimmers. I would think boarders and officers at least would have some protection from falling. In a boarding action at sea, if you went overboard you had a good chance of grabbing something in the water, debris, or one of the ships. Between the sky realms, it's just a long long plummet to doom. If they don't have protection, they must be pretty tough about the risk of certain death from fall. Hmm, and what about "capsizing"? In a strong wind, what keeps an airship from tumbling?

big islands are going to experience a lot of push from wind, and it might be relatively constant for days. I don't think you can fake the physics here. Better just wave hands.

These are not the physics you are looking for.


As you noted, wood is going to be really valuable. The lack of seasons helps, you'll have constant growing seasons on all but the coldest or driest islands. Wood might be too valuable for much construction or fuel. Instead you might have more building in stone, bundled reeds and thatch, sun-dried brick, wattle and daub (woven sticks plastered with mud) etc.

Hmm, lacking abundant wood for fuel, you may want to give the sky realms a substitute. If not, metalwork would be more expensive, also pottery, tile, brick, glass, smoked meat, etc.

Good point, that. Hmm... how about common deposits of coal in the sky islands? No, I've got it! A common type of bird is covered in greasy, highly-flammable and long burning feathers. Folks catch them for meat and fuel... combined with small amounts of wood and coal, there's enough fire material to go around.

Inhabited parts of islands won't just have rain barrels, they'll have undergound cisterns for long-term water storage, lots of fish ponds, and all the local streams will be carefully dammed, channeled, and controlled to keep them from draining off the island too soon. There might not be any ground water to speak of in these islands (it all trickles out the edges), so no wells. A week or two of no rain could be devastating without lots of storage. Hmm, that also suggests the water that does drain off the inhabited islands will have been, ah, thoroughly used. More yumminess for the disgusting growths on the downside, and astute airship masters will approach islands from the side or above...

Now *that's* a thought that hadn't occured to me. Yech.

One commodity that is often traded is water- communities with an excess of rainfaill send barrels of fresh water to drier islands in exchange for floatstone or other materials. There're also a few islands with large natural springs from unknown sources...

Which makes me think that there might be strongly held customs about who does what above whom. It might be very bad manners (or worse) to cruise your 'ship over inhabited places town, outside a designated flight path. Oh, and of course, to be caught *below* a battle, even if you were a non-combatant, would be disastrous, as debris, projectiles, and casualties came plummeting down, smashing your rigging and sails, or worse.

Yes indeed. The nations in the lower altitudes have learned to make use of the debris that falls down occasionally. Taking a ship battle into the space above inhabited islands is a great way to get local militia ships after you, PDQ.


one more ecology idea: an aerial foodweb. Small floating organisms that live on sunlight and the rain and drizzlings from islands, and are fed on by larger creatures purely of the air, that float or fly and have no contact with solid land. They might be floaters like jellyfish, or flying filter-feeders like aerial manta rays, or great flocks of the aerial equivalent of sardines. Or maybe they jet through the air like squid.

Ok, enough ecology, here are some adventure ideas:

--plumbing the depths of the Stratus. Perhaps a research exploration, perhaps chasing a semi-mythical "Big Rock", a small skyrealm so dense and rich in metals that it barely emerges from the Stratus...

--a new Sky Realm drifts (!) into civilized parts, with an unprecedented large population of Saurians aboard. Who are they? What do they want? Many powers might court them.

--The Erinyan Navy probably maintains small fast ships for scouting, courier service, and patrol. The PC's could be the crew of one such, sponsored by a noble and so loyal both to their patron and the Navy.

--Zeppelins! Gotta have zeppelins. or blimps, or lighter than air craft of one kind or another. Maybe they are the big slow cargo carriers of the Realms. But hmm, how to drive them through the sky? Sails are no good, the gasbag is too big. Magic? How about harnessed flying creatures? Oh, and it's not safe having one big bag, you might instead have a whole bunch of balloons attached in an array over a command platform, where the crew live and control the beasts. The cargo is below (where units of it can be cut loose if necessary...).
MoonHunter
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"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
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Sky Realms
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2005, 11:43:06 AM »
The Alliance of Free Isles
Quote
“The Alliance exists as testament to the power of one man's vision, and to the hopes of many others. No one knows how long the fire started by Admiral Leo will burn, but there is no doubt about the intensity of the flames.�
-from Akadia Grey's “History of Earth and Wind�


There are hundreds of inhabited islands in the stretch of sky between 'gasa and the Erinyan Empire. Some are large enough only for a few homesteads nd a patch of cropland, others hold entire cities with full ports and even shipyards. These islands are home to a wide variety of people, from fishermen to farmers, pirates and explorers, hedge-wizards and wandering saurian sailors. For centuries these islands have existed independently, engaging in peaceful trade and, often, conflict. Large threats, like the arrival of a dragon or a particularly bad pirate fleet, saw the islands banding together long enough to end the problem before turning back to their own devices.

Then, Erinya's King of Sun and Sky began his sweeping campaigns for an Empire. The independent isles cloudward of Erinya found themselves pressured to join the Empire, and the few who resisted were taken by force. The fleets of the Royal Erinyan Navy flew further and further cloudward, claiming more of the skies for their lord. It seemed that no one could resist their power, until the emergence of Admiral Leo.

Leo hails from the island Nest, near the center of the Palom Archipelago. Son of the legendary shipwright Cid Eaglesmith, Leo's charisma and tactical genius united most of the remaining independent islands into a cohesive force. Armed with his father's finest ship designs and Grumshaan cannons, Admiral Leo engaged the numerically superior Erinyan Navy and fought them to a standstill. Although unable to liberate the islands Erinya had already claimed, Leo's fierce defense and impassioned pleas for peace convinced the King of Sun and Sky to turn his attentions elsewhere. The independent islands, under the leadership of Leo, swore aids of mutual defense and formed the Alliance of Free Isles. Although each island is still free to govern itself and maintain its own military, the terms of their compact require them not to wage war upon each other and to offer aid in the event of outside aggression.

Since winning peace with the Erinyans almost ten years ago, relations between the member-states of the Alliance have cooled slightly. While no open conflict exists, representatives of the nations who suffered the greatest damages in the war have begun to hint that they should be compensated for their sacrifices. Some islands have accused others of harboring pirate gangs. Fortunately, the universal popularity of Admiral Leo keeps everyone friendly. As de facto spokesman for the Alliance, Leo works hard to see that his creation matures and stabilizes.

Most islands in the Alliance are moderately well-off, with good levels of rainfall and many natural resources. Food production is high enough to allow significant exports, and several forested isles provide lumber for Eaglesmith Engineering's shipyards. Eaglesmith Engineering is perhaps the Alliance's greatest resource- headed by the legendary ship designer Cid Eaglesmith, 'EE' produces some of the best airships in the Sky Realms. Most of their craft are wooden, using floatstone-burning engines and propellors for lift and thrust. Zeppellin craft are also popular designs.

There are several major islands in the Alliance. Some of the most important are:

-Nest, home of Admiral Leo and Eaglesmith Engineering. While neither the largest nor the richest island, it is considered by most to be the heart of the Alliance. EE's main shipyards and design facilities are here.

-Giant's Fountain, a small island in the cloudward reaches of Alliance skies. Its name comes from the large natural spring in the center of the island, which constantly shoots a stream of icy cold fresh water about 50 feet in the air, catching it again in a large natural basin. No one is quite certain where this water comes from, and few question the blessing.

-Medise, a large island skyward of Nest. Medise is located near a large field of floatstone, and mining is a large portion of their economy. They were hit hard by the war with Erinya and are more bitter about it than most of the Alliance. In the last few years, they have made considerable progress in rebuilding their militia.

-Scholar's Retreat, a mid-sized island home to a small group of Erinyan High Wizards who defected during the war. They have established a school teaching their traditions to talented locals, much to the consternation of the Order of High Wizardry back in Erinya. This is the only centralized source of magicians in the Alliance.

Most of the population of the Alliance of Free Isles is human, although there are significant numbers of dwarves working for Eaglesmith ngineering. One island, Hundul, has a rare community of elves outside of Nusfjurlund. Quite a few saurians also make their nests in Alliance skies, although their tendency to roam makes it difficult to determine their numbers. There are persistent rumors that a dragon lives somewhere in Alliance skies, but this has never been confirmed.

The Church of Nova has a large following in the Alliance, and maintains several churches on the large islands. The elves of Hundul maintain the Old Ways.
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Shadow Islands
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2005, 04:49:22 PM »
The Shadow Islands

“Black clouds blowing in from the Ocean Storm give these islands their name, but it applies equally to the haunted eyes of their inhabitants.�
-from Akadia Grey's “History of Earth and Wind�

To the skyward-east of vast W'gasa, near the edge of the tempestuous Ocean of Storm, lies an archipelago of large, fog-shrouded islands. The near-constant stream of thick black storm clouds from the Ocean keep the islands dark and wet, and one can always hear the distant howling of the Ocean's winds. It is a strange and fearsome land, home to strange and fearsome creatures.

Although not a hospitable area, the Shadow Islands are home to a large population of humans. Each of the ten largest islands is governed by a Duke, who in turn appoints Barons, Counts, and Sheriffs. Each island maintains a strong militia to both control and protect the peasants. The strongest Duke receives tribute from the lessers. Currently, Duke Auron of Fatali Island is the dominant lord, and he shows no sign of being replaced any time soon. While he goes to great lengths to appear refined, 'the Duke of Knives' has mercilessly destroyed all who have challenged his authority. The system, while brutal, is efficient and serves to keep at bay the strange creatures of the Shadow Islands.

It is unknown exactly why the Shadow Islands are home to so many terrible beasts. Perhaps it is a side-effect of the near-constant darkness, or the legacy of a long-dead sorceror. It could be an ancient curse from Nova, or the proximity to the Ocean of Storm. Whatever the reason, the human inhabitants of the Shadow Islands are outnumbered by the monstrous. Nests of wyverns are common, as are floating packs of the poisonous needleworms. The caverns beneath many of the islands are infested with carnivorous rocktopuses, some of which grow tentacles longer than 15 feet. These everyday horrors are eclipsed by the unique monstrosities that seem to blow in on the wind every few decades, often destroying entire cities before being stopped. The last such beast, called the Red Wing, resembled a twisted crimson gargoyle. Its piercing cries called up forgotten terrors in all who heard it, paralyzing even the stoutest defenders while the Red Wing mauled and consumed. It was finally stopped by Duke Auron, in a terrific wyvern-back battle that cemented his place as lord of the Shadow Islands.

The people of the Shadow Islands have, in some ways, learned to make use of the creatures they share their islands with. Many farmers use tamed stormwolves to harvest fungi and crops, and the wyvern-riding knights of the Shadow Islands are famous throughout the Sky Realms. Airships are fairly uncommon in the Shadow Islands; the nobles generally travel in flying coaches pulled by wyverns or, rarely, griffins.

The Shadow Islands are large and rocky, with heavy rainfall. The lack of abundant topsoil and sunlight make traditional agriculture difficult, but there are many edible fungi and several species of fish and bird. Wood is very rare and used almost exclusively for arrows and the furniture of noblemen. Some mining takes place, mostly for precious metals and gems. Floatstone is not particularly abundant.

The inhabitants of the Shadow Islands are a sturdy lot, as their situation demands. The peasants work hard and keep their heads down; the nobles split their time between engaging in musty court refinements and keeping the beasts in check. The militias are constantly active, routing out monster nests and patrolling the skies. Not many foreign merchants visit the area, but the few brave enough for the trek are rewarded with gold, silver, jewels, and rare blood-mushroom wine in exchange for luxury items from other parts of the Realms.

Most people in the Shadow Islands are very pale humans, with dark hair and eyes that seem strangely large to outsiders. They have very acute night-vision, but are generally unused to bright lights and are often uncomfortable in direct sunlight. They tend to be short and stocky, and the men rarely wear facial hair. There is a small community of saurians in the Shadow Islands that work as wyvern-trainers, a job they excel at.

The Church of Nova is the most popular religion in the Shadow Islands, although it has been in decline since the rise of Duke Auron two decades ago. The Duke of Knives dislikes the Church and goes out of his way to antagonize the priests, although he has stopped short of outlawing the Church. Most of the nobles of the Shadow Islands fear the Duke far more than they love Nova, and without their support the local churches are finding life difficult.
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Offline Anteaus

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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2007, 01:15:15 PM »
I love it, just love it.  I don't have anything to add right now, but I am going to try here in a bit (if you don't mind). 

How Steampunkish are you going with this?  Railroads would not have develiped much at all because the islands are for the most part too small, and nomal ships would also suffer the same fate, however would there be room for smaller steam/mech carriges?  Or walkers of some nature? Since the islands do not move on their own (for the most part) would a group of closly placed islands link themselves together using bridges or ropes as an anchor to guide ferries across? Would some even make a railroad of sorts between the islands with the suports made of floatstone?  What about island right above one another? Would it have ropes running up and down like a space elevator?  Would the poeple all live on one of them and the crops and what-have-you all be on the other?

The different kinds of airships would be a vast number of many types, with wood being scarce, as well as the floatstone, would people make woven or thatch ships? Stone and metal would seem to need too rare of floatstone to work for the cheaper types, but what of other matterials? Leather or cloth heavily laquered to make it strong and hard, williow-like branches woven and daubed with mud or clay, and what of other plant matterials? How about other ways of making flying ships?  Some of the guilds that build ships and/or mine floatstone would not like someone coming up with another way of making it work... fire/air elementals, zepplins/hot air ballons (although because of the speed they might not be a threat) heavier then air aircraft, magic runes/spells, and even teleportation (spells or gates).  What about the size of the airrships, would some make flighing fortresses, but ones that could only go so high?
« Last Edit: January 24, 2007, 01:50:32 PM by Anteaus »
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." --John Lehman (1942 - ), Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987

Offline Anteaus

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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2007, 08:00:23 PM »
Floatstone:

How does it work?  Does it repel gravity? Or does it make whatever is touching it weightless?  Does it always point up? Or can it be spun around so long as its "center of gravity" is in the same place? If it can be spun, what keeps the islands from flipping over?  Since it is like quartz, if you put alot of it together does it become more solid? Moving less and less, up or down and side to side, until you get to a point where it doesn't move at all (the amounts needed to hold up an island)?  Inversly the less of it there is the easier it is to move around, until you can get islands with violet floatstone that have been known to move (although so rare that it has never been confirmed).  This would also limit the size of the airship so that while you could use violet to hold up a moving fortress, it would cost a huge amount.  Does it move like it is in a fluid? IE like a barrel in the sea, you can pull it down with weight, and move it around, but it can only go so high before it all equals out.  And does it move in eddes and tides? Could you get on a current of somekind and be pushed or pulled along?  Would there be areas of calm, or of different preasure where the floatstone would sink, or rise, or just not work?  Would areas of dead magic cause it to stop working too?

Airships:

If the floatstone does not flip over, then would people build the airships more like a tower and less like a boat (put all the weight on one or more points, instead of the hull spacing the weight all over).  Or would they grind it up and add it to the paint or pitch-like tar that is smeared all over the hull.  Or both?  Would they use the floatstone to suport the airship from below (like an upside down pryamid or a bridge) or would they hang below it like it was a ballon? What about the floatstone engines? What are those like?
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." --John Lehman (1942 - ), Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987

Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2007, 12:21:19 AM »
I like to think of this world as an Anime. Don't look too carefully at the details and it works. This world has a lot of problems that way. Visually stunning. Concept is Interesting. Reality check.. Bounces!

How Steampunkish are you going with this?    I am thinking more attitude than technology, though it might have that type of tech available to it.  And just because they may not make real railways, they might still have the ability to do so (and might have them as a train trolley in a town).  That will let us have some cool thing hiding there.

Linked islands are possible, but normally I would put them too far away for bridges. People would be swept away in the wind.

There would be multiple kinds of airships, a couple for each kind of culture. Wood is not that scarce, as there are many many islands out there.  Bamboo would be nice substitute. 

I am thinking about changing the LiftStone to a mineral. Dispersed into island's stone, they support the island. The material could even found in veins, allowing for other things.. like sprinkling it into fine metal threads and shooting those threads through sails for thrust.

I think the material will work by catching astreal flows. In unrefined or focused forms.. it just holds itself stationary in the astreal space. Once worked or held in veins it catch flows and provide motion.

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Offline Anteaus

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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2007, 01:19:13 AM »
Ahhh, see I do tend to take things and try to make them into a "real" world, I don't know every much about Anime or how that feels, so I swing more toward a D&D realism type.  I am not thinking too steampuck, infact only gnomes and maybe dwarves would have steam power or gunpowder, human would just be able to use some clockwork and magic type of things a world more like ebberon from D&D then a steampunk world... (bouncing reality checks and me don't get along...[sort of, I do like magic...you know what I mean]...so if I use it, might if I ajust it alittle?)

Making the LiftStone is a very interesting idea.  If unrefined it just stayis in place that would take care of alot, but once it was refined and could catch the flow and motion of astreal space, then how much would it be influinced by forces on this plane? Would you be able to push it with real wind? Could the flow of the astreal space work just like currents in the ocean, riding them would give greater speed while working against them would great hinder you? And all of this in 3D!! The vessel might be pushed up by the flow in astreal space, and the pilot have to ajust the sails to fix it.  If some of the flows where constant and maped, but the wind might not be helpful, could you lower sails and just let the ship ride through? Or would it bob too much like a cork one the ocean waves?

And what kind of a creatures might live off of it, hanging from the underside of the islands?  These intrest me a great deal! A massive collection of things from an underdark kind of place, but each so far from eash other that they might have completly changed from their bothers on a neighboring island.  WOuld some be able to use the LiftStone to fly like an Airship? Or would it be posible that some use it to phase into astreal space?  And what might live in there? Creature that could feel or maybe feed off of the LiftStone from their side? Stories of islands that fall into the Stratus and the occasonal airship that does. Could people use it in the same way?
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." --John Lehman (1942 - ), Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987

Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2007, 10:03:34 AM »
D&D realism an Oxymoron if I have heard one.
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Re: Sky Realms
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2007, 10:10:20 AM »
Making the LiftStone is a very interesting idea.  If unrefined it just stayis in place that would take care of alot, but once it was refined and could catch the flow and motion of astreal space, then how much would it be influinced by forces on this plane?

Figure that wind follows "flows of air magical currents". Thus refined liftstone (need a new name), would follow the prevailing wind currents. I am sure you could refine it to follow other elements, but those might not be as useful.. as there would be just astreal energy pushing against the sail, rather than astreal energies and real wind.

"If some of the flows where constant and maped", just like they are on real world sailing charts.


And what kind of a creatures might live off of it, hanging from the underside of the islands? 

Creepy, crawly, dangerous.  I am thinking spider things. I am thinking slime monsters. I am thinking giant sloth like critters. Bats and other fliers might anchor there as well.  Some of these critters might float to other islands on strong winds or chunks of liftstone that has broken off.

Creatures that could slide into the astreal would make the world too dangerous. I think it is something to be avoided.

You have to remember, real wings work, so flying does not require lift stone... it is just easier.  Ligher than air crafts are possible and even probable. However, they will not have the speed and manuverability of a liftstone craft.   


 And what might live in there? Creature that could feel or maybe feed off of the LiftStone from their side? Stories of islands that fall into the Stratus and the occasonal airship that does. Could people use it in the same way?

I now dub "Ninth Metal" as a substitute for Liftstone.
MoonHunter
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