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April 16, 2011, 1:33 am

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Use of Constellations


The skies tell the tale of the living and the dead. The honored and the worshiped. What do the stars tell in your setting?

This is a general idea that I began thinking of that was originally a part of the Hewdamian setting. Nothing here is Hewdamia specific so please continue reading. So please add your own thoughts, and ideas to this scroll to bring out some creative ideas to use this resource.

A little about the use of constellations in a gaming system. I feel it is an overlooked resource to add flavor and many other aspects to a successful game that is screams to be used. I was conflicted whether to turn this in to an article but then I realized that my true intention was to give my example of how the constellations are set up in the setting of Hewdamia. So instead of creating one submission explaining this, I created two. One as an article for everyone to use, and then one explaining and showing how I used it in my setting.

A few things to note about these things that are overlooked. Constellations are not just stars in the sky. They are the story of myth and creation. The harbingers of prophecy. Constellations were used to tell stories about gods and warriors, beats and monsters, and to associate the mortal world with the heavens.

List of Uses for Constellations

  • Prophecy
  • Myths of Creation
  • Omens
  • Quests
  • Local Culture
  • Reason for Harvest
  • Birth Signs
  • Rituals

The most obvious reason to use constellations regularly is the use of them for prophecies. This coincides with the use for quests and omens as well, but I feel the main focus behind them can be used for this reason. Use a players birth or description and tie it in with the rising of a constellation to send them on fun filled adventure that they can blame the gods for.

Myths of Creation
As explained in the history of constellations above, the myth creation has been around since the dawn of understanding of mankind and mortals. This is seen as more of a religious aspect and may not see as much light in a role playing setting unless a member or members of the group are religious or the setting has a high religious flavor.

Very similar to prophecies, omens are used to tell grim tales of the goings on of the world. Tales and signs of ill and good omens can happen all the time under the signs and faces of the constellations. Just because it is an omen does not mean it is initially bad. An omen of the coming of a savior of good will be rejoiced at by the populace of those being ill treated, however it bodes ill for the one the omen speaks of as those in power would not want anyone who would remove them because of a silly omen.

Again very similar to the prophecy and omen section, although changed a little bit to suit individual campaigns instead of a broad stroke of a world. A sage or teller of fortunes could tell of a godly quest that a person of a particular birth and sign must complete. Most is all fanfare to get the players on the track you wish them to be on.

Local Culture
This is more of an isolated incident as each culture would or could have differing views on the constellations in the sky. Which could bode ill for someone who does not know a particular culture regarding the sky and could be put in a bad way for disgracing their beliefs and not knowing it.

Reason for Harvest
As the title says, some cultures use the constellations to determine when and where to plant crops, when to harvest them and what kind to plant determined by the constellations and their position. Pretty simple really, and not used often for role-playing.

Birthing Signs
One thing that is very seldom used and that is the sign that one is born under. Is it seen as good or bad to be born under the sign of the thief? Would nobles hide the fact that their children were born under the Dark Sister or the Hag if it was seen as an ill Omen? Or is it good to be born under the sign of the Warrior or the Moneylender? You see how these all tie together?

One way I needed to add per the intelligence of Ancient Gamer is the use of rituals. In many cults (even in real world), groups, religions, and other fanatical or misguided people they use the stars to guide them in their summoning rituals. These ritual scan be used for good or evil. For the summoning of a spirit, a demon, a powerful being or other not so physical uses. Like a ritual of protection, or of longevity which can only be done when a certain constellation it visible during a certain astrological event.

History of Constellations
Early cultures looked to the heavens and saw their gods looking down on them, and they created the constellations to put a face to their names. As time progressed on, their heroes and enemies began taking form as well and in some cases taking the place of their once deific counterparts. Some tell of individuals while the whole tells a story. It could be the story of life or the story of a king.

Constellations are more than just a navigational tool used by ships to travel the sightless oceans and not get lost. The stories are both true and myth and in some case a way for the less advanced cultures to view themselves to the world around them and their gods. Different cultures have viewed the constellations differently throughout the ages but story after story has been similar in the end.

The constellations can broken down into a few categories; Major Constellations and Minor Constellations, Deities and Heroes, Mortals and Monsters. however you seem to need to use them. Make a category of them to explain the difference. Like major and minor gods, there are more than just one set of stars out in the sky that can be pieced together to form a picture.

For instance; Major Constellations are seen all year and do not set below the horizon. They are always seen at night and can be counted on for reliable navigation while at sea. Minor Constellations are constellations that are seasonal. They seem to only appear during certain times of the year or only during certain celestial anomalies. These constellations are by no means less important, they just do not have the history behind them or seen with such appreciation as their major counterparts.

The same can be done with deities and heroes. Deities are seen all year round. They are the highest and lasting images in the sky that never set and never change, while the heroes come and go with the seasons.

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Comments ( 14 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Ancient Gamer
July 31, 2006, 13:33
Constellations can be used in other ways too. One way I infrequently use constellations is in conjunction with rituals, whether they be good or evil, mundane or epic. A specific constellation could be required for a ritual to work. That ritual could involve summoning a certain entity, divination, opening a portal and so on.

Constellations could also boost or diminish the effect of magic and / or mundane abilities. For instance could fiery spells be particularly effective when the "Sulphur Serpent" constellation is dominant.
July 31, 2006, 14:46
Perfect idea and one I thought of but overlooked when putting up ideas.
Voted Murometz
July 31, 2006, 13:35
A truly intriguing topic!

I use constellations (and other planetary thingies) quite often in my worlds.
July 31, 2006, 14:46
Well it is a scroll... add ideas to it.
Voted MoonHunter
August 1, 2006, 2:29
Constellations are really just the best way to mark time through the year. Once regions are assigned, other astrological elements can be used.

Love the article.
July 18, 2009, 14:02
This article has been featured on, Issue 455. Congratulations to the author - may your submissions be stellar as ever!

See it here.
July 18, 2009, 15:51
Good article. In addition to rituals and effects on spells, constellations are good to use during character creation, especially if a GM has a calendar worked out (especially with holi-days.)
Voted Cheka Man
April 16, 2011, 9:57

Very interesting, I might add constelations to this later.

April 16, 2011, 11:21

Love this article. Well done Mourn. And congrats on the cross-over!

Voted Old Dreamer
April 17, 2011, 11:16

Excellent. Maybe with this well-laid out article I will find the gumption to create my own constellation history. Or maybe this Mathom fella will strike again...

April 17, 2011, 12:02
He often does.
Voted MysticMoon
April 25, 2011, 13:54

An excellent article in combination with Constellation Myth. Makes me wonder if my own world would benefit from this idea.

Voted valadaar
April 29, 2011, 22:07

Excellent.  I believe astrology and all related aspects are a critical part of a world's magical tradition.

Voted Silveressa
July 18, 2011, 16:27

Some nice techniques to add depth to the game without needing a whole bunch of additional rules and complexities. Tying haracters births to an astrological event or sign I particularly like, it lets players add some more depth and customization to their character without a lot of issues for the GM.

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       By: Ria Hawk

Perhaps those that practice elemental magic begin to take on characteristics associated with their chosen element. For instance, an earth elementalist might be prone to agoraphobia, while air and possibly fire elementalists might have problems with claustrophobia. Water elementalists might always seek the path of least resistance. A fire elementalist might have a cat's opinion of water. This could also apply to physical differences. Fire elementalists might have a freakishly high metabolism and a permanently high body temperature. Water elementalists would probably never get dehydrated, but might slow down a lot when it's cold. Etc, etc.

Ideas  ( System ) | March 10, 2003 | View | UpVote 1xp

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