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Author Topic: The World on the Heels  (Read 5202 times)

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Offline manfred

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The World on the Heels
« on: June 30, 2005, 12:56:12 AM »
(Special thanks to Siren, Echo and Moon.)


Astronomical data:

Planet - ~1.3 Earth mass
 - orbital period ~11 years (circles the primary star)

Primary star: A1 (white), ~twice the solar mass
Secondary star: white dwarf, ~one solar mass
 - orbital period of stars ~50 years

Moons: N/A (no significant moon, possibly tiny ones)


Introduction

 This is the world, where the plants walk.

 The land is poor and lacking water, and can support plants for a short time only, they have to move to find new and better land, with soil not yet exhausted. Life booms in the deep and wast seas. Due to larger gravity (and no moon of sufficient size) are waves smaller, the atmosphere less humid, and there is less rain.

 The most important event for land-based life is the approach of the second sun, time, when the Sea goes mad and lays siege to the Land troubled by earthquakes. The dry air gets warmer and heavy with moisture, and monsoon-like rains shower the Land, eating on the mountains and restoring much of the Lands' fertility. Areas closest to the Sea, most vibrant before, are destroyed.

 And the cycle continues.


Purpose:

Depending on the stage of evolution, may be used as background for a sci-fi/space travelling adventure, involving research/exploration or even settling in. The later epochs could easily contain sentient life forms developed underground. The PCs may be survivors of a crashed spacecraft, or even prisoners from a penal colony ("Any fugitives will be eaten by the Floaters... you can't escape so adapt to our rules... "). Or set out as an unwilling experiment on how could humans survive on this world (remember Earth 2?).
« Last Edit: June 18, 2006, 01:29:32 PM by manfred »
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline manfred

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The History
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2005, 12:57:21 AM »
Epoch 0. - The Coming:

And there was Life. Details unknown. ;)


Epoch 1. - On the rise:

Life starts to shape the whole planet. Oceans teem with various "lower" lifeforms, jellyfish are prominent. The algae and funghi are first to settle on the empty land.


Epoch 2. - Time to move:

Higher plants start to evolve on the ground, they need to move because of the lack of nutrients, though. Their migrations spread the seeds of life further.

The jellies often perished on the coast; yet before decomposing have some learned to produce light gases (mainly hydrogen), and returned half-floating, half-walking to the sea. As more elements were washed into the sea, corals multiplied, and some creatures started to evolve shells.


Epoch 3. - The Earth:

For a long time, roots were spread thin and large on the rocky earth, and were abandoned by their mother plant. But now, they go deeper and survive even their mother's departure. Along with varied small creatures and bacterias they produce soil, and the landscape changes profoundly. Some plants and funghi learn to "pump" water from nearby sources. Great networks of roots arise, bringing water and nutrients to faraway places.

In the seas, fish as we know them are on the rise, jellies become a minority. But above the seas their influence (and size) only grow, they keep floating, holding to the water with their many tentacles, fishing for nutrients and plancton alike. Their long symbiosis with algae strenghtens them with photosynthesis; some turn to the coast or dry land for new "pastures", able to detatch from the ground for long periods if it is too windy.


Epoch 4. - Above and Below:

Above the seas, the gigantic Floaters are somewhat limited, sharks hunting in packs can attack their limbs effectively. But the ground they rule with an iron fist... errrm, tentacle. Keeping an eye (many eyes) on anything differing from plants, they are in effect farmers of the land. The strongly harvested coast has failed to produce amphibians as we know them.

Yet below ground the evolution continues; small worms become bigger worms and burrow their way deeper, along with root-plants and funghi. There are tunnels supplied with air from above, more creatures move in and a new ecosystem emerges...


Epoch 5. - The Eyes in the Deep:

There's a lot going on below ground... massive tunnel networks dug by earthworms, prey and hunters creeping along them, root systems supplying water, but sometimes able to entangle and poison. Old caves are opened and new ones formed, if not destroyed by earthquakes. Many creatures see also into the useful infra-red parts of the spectrum.

In this dangerous place, pack behaviour is not enough to protect weaklings and sources of water. Some of the weaklings become sentient. Between the monsters below, and the all-seeing hungry gods above, the hunters and gatherers try to survive and adapt their world... and may succeed one day.

Above there is little change... but small jumpers emerge, that glide between plants, feeding of their flowers and insects. They shall become birds, if they can evade The Floaters. The rodents are numerous too, staying in their holes.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2006, 10:13:16 AM by manfred »
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Offline manfred

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The Actors
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2005, 12:58:58 AM »
The Walking Flora

 Save for a few lower forms of algae and fungus, that periodically revive and dry up, most plants have learned to relocate themselves in some way. The unmoving flora often produces seeds, able to fly far and stay long dormant. Plants are still plants, ie they use sunlight as a vital part of their metabolism. Typical examples, in order of evolutional appearance:

 - The Eternal Road-runner is very akin to the desert plant known from so many movies. Once free from roots, it slowly travels the world, helped by the winds only. The base of its roots stay, and should some scrub come to the location again, and find good soil and water, it can re-use them. Widespread for some time, several other lifeforms have learned to use the abandoned roots to their advantage. The road runner is the forefather of many other plants.

 - The Slow Walker is heavier, and much slower. It can move, pumping its intern fluids ("pumping" aided by the sun's warmth) from one part into another. While indeed slower, it is actually the first plant that can be said to _search_ for better soil, as it chooses its direction. It has primitive senses, but no intelligence to speak of. If it is getting too dry, it first reverts to the road-runner stage, and dies later.

 - The Wanderer is much better at walking, and does it almost all the time. Still stoppping to root during nights, it has the habit of taking fine soil with itself, and processing it while on the road. The carrying branches start to resemble legs, and were it not for the smaller branches and leaves, it could resemble a big spider or insect (with an irregular number of legs of course). Wanderers seem to have some memory of the path they use, but it is probably based on the planet's magnetic field, so many go astray when the magnetic field goes wild. The Wanderers, grew spikes equipped with strong toxins to stay safe from the Floaters. (Note: The long-term consequence may be a turn towards a more carnivorous mode of survival...)


Fauna outside of the seas

Whatever wants to survive above, needs to equipped for the Floaters. Some stay small, the rodents and insects darting or creeping between plants and holes. Some mask to look like plants, or mask themselves with plants, even growing them on their back. Still others use toxins to taste bad to the Floaters. Whatever, too obvious movement is not to their advantage.


The Floaters - "Jellies"

Simply put, REALLY big sacks of methan and other light gases, floating above the lands and eating whatever the Gods don't feel a liking to. ;)

Actually, the jellies are solar feeders, with algea impregnating their sacks... supplementing their food with other things. But even with the support of photosynthesis, they are quite hungry. A good sized one can be 500 meters across, with long tentacles groping on the ground, designed to blot out the sky and make people stop with gaping mouths (in doing so, likely sealing their fate).

The gigantic "jellies" are not intelligent, not even truly sentient, they don't need it. With powerful senses and simple instincts they can handle most threats easily, and for some time should be unquestioned masters of the air (note that "some time" may take millennia). With sight ranging not only into the infrared parts of the spectrum, and a sense for the planets magnetic field (for orientation but also against storms) they are THE beast of this world. Imagine gigantic satellites floating and scanning and eating whatever seems suspicious... while not intelligent, they may have a vast memory of the things they have seen and tasted.

Option: It is not one gigantic organism, but actually thousands of colony creatures like real world jellies. So even shooting them down wouldn't help much... all you do is spread spores around in the gigantic explosion, and make thousands more, plus all the eco havok the various pieces will generate on the ground.


Theory: One thing that Floaters would not like are storms (strong winds in general, but storms especially). If they secrete the right substances, they could influence they way water vapours condense into rain-drops, prolonging the period of rains (but weaken them), or hinder rain altogether and make the water condense as moisture. Both cases could have a positive impact on the ground flora.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2006, 03:13:14 PM by manfred »
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline manfred

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The Thinkers
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2005, 12:59:50 AM »
"The sentient race"

Given their food source, they are mostly gatherers (collecting various small critters, funghi, fruits, etc). They live in family units loosely bound into tribes, needing to stay close because of defense/warning and of the other important source - water. Cooperation means also a bite of the bigger prey.

Their circulation system is mixed - not really warm-blooded, and not cold-blooded either. Makes short runs on the Outside, and even short swims in the water sources (for fishing) easier.

Note: any changes due to their partial infra-sight?


Civilisation/Technology (Stone Age to SomeMetal Age)

Stone Age would be more aptly named Wood Age.

There is no fire, thus no iron or bronze, but they could use copper and tin (easy to shape cold). The temperatures below are quite comfortable, so there is no real need for fire (would be also diffilcut with that smoke, etc.). For living, they try to create/move into larger caverns, the walls covered with funghi and roots to make them stronger; roots and other plants being also a weak source of light.

There is no wood, that is no wood for boards and similar stuff. There are but roots, many roots, some hard and woody, some thin and wiry. From these can be "built", or more precisely wowen their houses and walls... elastic, but workable. Skins of the rare larger prey can be used for comfort (a symbol of wealth), but most often serve as bottles

Of course, for their caverns they need to work with roots... planting them in the right way, weaving, in effect creating an organic architecture, living houses, that bring fresh air and a limited amount of water. But that in turn draws the water-seekers, that have to be driven off, etc, etc, etc.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2006, 03:17:48 PM by manfred »
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Offline manfred

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Senses and related skills
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2005, 02:42:14 AM »
Senses

Below, in the cramped half-dark spaces, the importance of other senses beside sight rises: most predators hunt by the smell, and sound is also a clear indicator of movement. Running away is problematic in tunnels (and there are too many blind ones anyway).

For covering up smell, there are herbal extracts and salves, using them is strongly advised, but they may not help at close range. Shedding blood is to be avoided; most predators react strongly on its presence.

Too loud sound, even if not getting very far, is dangerous, and can scare the prey away. A good hunter is silent.


Root Reading (skill)

The detailed knowledge of a very important part of the underground. Examining their structure, colour, smell and other aspects, the reader can determine how far water could be, how deep one is, what other fauna and flora is around, what creatures have passed by recently (goes well with Tracking) and what dangers can be expected, as well as the time of day.


Air Reading (skill)

Training the sense of smell, and recognizing the many smells that are important - not only of beasts, but also water and plants; even poisonous gases that sometimes show up. Further, with face and enough skin uncovered, one can with some concentration sense the currents of air, how the air moves or not. Blocked or blind tunnels can be discovered, but also other changes that may be hard to interpret (GM tool for anouncing monsters, somebody passing nearby, or messing with player's/PC's heads). Air currents and smells are generally stronger when closer to surface.


Sound Reading (skill)

Marginally important, helps to recognize the natural and unnatural sounds around. It may be useful in detecting approaching earthquakes and cave-ins. But often it is just too late.

Note: different plants produce different sounds when tread on (or manipulated) - there's bound to be some that produce a louder or more unusual sound that others. Planting them in sensitive places is a start for a defense perimeter of any permanent settlement. Those would be other skills, this skill is for the guardians/scouts that have to be aware of anything dangerous approaching.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2006, 03:18:46 PM by manfred »
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Offline manfred

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Got one idea and see how it spread...
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2005, 02:42:10 AM »
Leatherworking (skill) (chrome) (funerary customs)

Why, if there is so little leather available?

Below, it is no use to dig a grave - a body will be soon found and consumed by the roots, or something else. Therefore, the remains are cut into tiny pieces and buried, serving as fertilizer, helping the plants that feed the tribe to grow. Bones are to many tribes sacred; they are often carried and stored for a time, at least for the period of mourning. (Various beliefs and magics are attached to this custom.) Many tribes use bones as another material for tools.

The skin however, is carefuly removed and processed into leather. It is usually the closest family or best friend that gets the largest part to create a bottle. Other friends and relatives (or the rest of the tribe) recieve other parts of the skin and work it into straps and decorations. These personal reminders are finely decorated and kept in great care. (Items made of enemies' or animal skins are mostly left without any symbols, besides the personal mark.)

Thus, leatherworking.

---

As a side note, growing food on the remains of the dead is not exactly a good idea... sooner or later, infectious diseases will thrive among the consumers of the food. And that is a fine reason why they should leave their former home, and find another one... making them semi-nomadic, which is suitable for roleplaying purposes.

---

Rootworking (skill)

With little leather, there is still the need for armour - in fact, a need for clothes. So why not use the ever-present roots? The thin roots can be woven together, processed into clothes, bags and other useful oddities. Combined with thicker roots, it offers a light armor, offering some meagre protection.

The skill can be used for tapping major roots for water, and for processing them in many other ways - some are edible, for instance. Also, it is the knowledge of moving and adapting the root networks of a place for any purpose - harvesting, living in (yes, homes can be built of them), defense and warning; the equivalent of gardening.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2006, 03:19:56 PM by manfred »
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Offline manfred

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More on underground Fauna and Flora
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2005, 07:26:11 AM »
(still worked at, now it is more of a shopping list)

Underground Fauna and Flora (parts interesting to local inhabitants)

(Prey)

mutlik - a small, flying insectoid, feeds on juices of plant, can also bite.
mutlok - similar, a gnat variant, as it concentrates more on the fauna. Both are considered annoying but edible.

botlos - a small brown worm burrowing in the thin layer of earth, up to a few inches long, delicious

tubok - a brown bug with a sharp taste, when dried and ground it is used as spice. For its small size and relative rarity it can be used for trading among the tribes.

...


(Predators)

frils - small, cute lizards, that live and hunt in groups (inspiration: Jurassic Park) can be dangerous to small and lone creatures, particularly children
 - young are males, can grow to females (slightly bigger, lays eggs) when having enough food
 - known to make "frrril" sounds if caressed or feeding, lone specimens can be kept as pets for a short time, but need to be watched
 - saying: "A fril never comes alone" (as trouble)

kedho - a massive lizard-like creature, has a slightly variable anatomy (can vary its size according to the tunnel it is in), minor masking abilities
 - it is slow, waits on its prey
 - it can be scared away by heavy stomping by a large group; it usually avoids people
 - the meat is not edible, but has many bones... a hard to get resource though

flok - spider-like, uses roots as the base of his web, uses poison
 - spins also long thin vibes to detect intruders in its domain, hence "canny as a flok" - knowing well its surroundings

glemdann - a half-animal, half-plant - the usual great bag filled with acids and paralyzing toxins plus teeth
 - can produce many different smells and scents to lure prey
 - usually "services" several close tunnels at once

...
« Last Edit: June 18, 2006, 01:50:08 PM by manfred »
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Offline manfred

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A legend and much more.
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2006, 03:14:54 PM »
The Blaze of Roots

The Blaze of Roots is a legend shared by most of the tribes living Below. It says, that long ago, there was a tribe wishing to bring everything around them under their heel. Powerful hunters, they defeated all tribes living around, and hunted every single creature that could escape or not. But that was not enough to their pride, in the end, they turned against the very thing which brings life to the world, they turned against the Roots, using an evil spirit called Fire. They wished to see what they will get for burning the Roots, and they recieved Death. For in that moment, Roots were consumed by Fire, which grew from a small spirit into a demon, many times larger than any hunter, feeding on Roots and getting bigger, choking all creatures with its tails of smoke that spread around.

The Fire was never defeated. It only grew smaller, lacking its food as it consumed almost everything in its frenzy, it withdrew into the depths where it awaits a chance to go out again, to finish what it has started. Never trust Fire, it can pretend to be little and nice, but will grow into a monster and kill you. Do not allow Fire around you, your fate will be sealed, and that of your children, and of Roots that feed you.

Fire is not away. It still tries to return. When that happens, beware...

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

For the record: the regular approach of the second sun is accompanied by a dramatic change in the weather, and many earthquakes. Under ground, a higher tectonic activity means a higher level of methane, with oxygen creating a dangerous mix. Although the roots are partially adapted, they are still of of plant-matter, inclined to burn. And fire and smoke are always bad news in tunnels, as if earthquakes were not enough. Seeing from the legend above (which has many variants), the event is vividly remembered by the people, though most may not live long enough to see it; those that live may not survive it either.

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

Time

The period between two catastrophic approaches is the Great Cycle, a major unit of time which the primitives have problems tracking, mainly used for legends. 50 years are much more than the average life expectancy.

A smaller, more approachable unit is the Lesser Cycle, based on the orbiting period of the planet around the main sun - about 11 years. It brings with itself periodic weather changes - from dry times to wet times and back (much larger impact on the surface of the planet, of course). These seasons determine the age, and those that know the seasons well are venerable in age as in wisdom.

Finally, there is the Day. This unit is equally important Below as Above.


Daily measurement

Principle: water is transported from the colder place to the warmer one, nutrients the other way around.

So during the day, when it is warm, the plants Above are supported with water from Below, and send nutrients for exchange. Later on, the flow is reversed. Root activity (luminescence, bloom, pumping of internal fluids) rises from the morning towards the noon when recieving the nutrients and still having enough water, then it slowly recedes to a low during the night. Noon is the best time for tapping the roots, and most creatures feed right then.

A tribe will do wisely to tap the roots at noon, but hunt before, when creatures are hungry and exhausted or sleeping. A daily cycle is therefore moved towards the 'morning' above, standing up very soon, the 'noon' becoming the evening and dinner time. (Of course, those above terms mean little down there, and are redefined to fit the needs of people Below.)

The time of a day can be easily recognized by appearance and the texture/feel of roots. Use the skills of Root Reading and Root Cultivation for that.

Important note: however, the deeper one goes, the more becomes root time divorced from surface time. Also, it is harder to read. Old people say that even time starts to loose itself if it goes too deep. Logically, most but the bravest feel uncomfortably really deep.
Do not correct me, I know I am wrong.

Offline manfred

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Roots, the takers and givers
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2006, 03:29:55 PM »
The dynamics of the vast root ecosystem are... well, diffilcut. A network that spans most of the planet has many strange mechanisms, and many irregularities.

It happens, that a part of the network is cut off from the rest, be it physically, or simply the trade with nutrients and water brings suddenly little profit. If the conditions in place are not suficient, the roots begin to wither and die out. The fine webbing holding on to the roof and walls begins to weaken, soft parts begin to harden, developing tiny hooks and sharp thorns. In a final move, the internal fluids turn strongly acidic (actual composition varies - may easily contain poisons as neurotoxins).

Should an unwary creature blunder into such a patch, it will be held. The only escape is to carefully untangle, harsh movement will draw on and eventually bring the whole webbing upon the victim, stinging it with torns, and leaking, even spraying poison from roots that are torn. These final efforts will consume much of the internal fluids, and as singular cells will shrink from a lack of water, the whole web becomes a tightening, deadly net. Eventually, the area will be replenished by a new corpse.


While rare, it is a danger every hunter should know. One of the many reasons one should never travel alone.
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