This time, I thought I’d post on a topic I’ve been kind of neglecting – the default setting, Aperion.
Also, please take some time to gawk at the second-coolest piece of artwork Sheldon has done for me to date, on which I promptly bestowed the tongue-in-cheek title “Another Day at the Office”. (He liked it and I think that’s now the “official” name.) It ties into today’s topic, kind of – notice that in the background you can actually see the point where the Mobius strip that is Aperion crosses over itself. (Also, this battle is clearly taking place VERY high in the air.)
For my own part, today I’m posting two, slightly overlapping, pieces of writing regarding the setting.
The first is most of a messageboard post from nearly two years ago, which deserves a wider audience. While the original got less response than I was hoping, all of it was highly positive. Note that back then, a lot of things were still up in the air that have since been firmly decided – the names “Aperion” and “Fantasy Infinity” among them.
Further down, I’ll post the first 1200-odd words of the current draft of chapter 7 of the core rulebook, The World of Aperion. Mostly it details the physical world; even today I’m still fleshing out the politics, and frankly I don’t want the rulebooks to contain huge amounts of detail on that because I trust individual GMs to come up with stuff that, at least for their respective groups, works better than any “canned” background from me ever would.
The Default Setting
First posted at RPGGeek in August 2013; editorial notes newly added
I think I am going to go with the name Fantasy Infinity. I’m only about 90% happy with that but trade dress and a logo will be needed in time to launch a Kickstarter in November (yeah, that didn’t happen; I’m still probably a year from being Kickstarter-ready – JH), so there’s only so long I can wait. Thinking about a logo for that name got me thinking about the infinity sign and other things that it might resemble – specifically the Mobius strip.
What would a world shaped like one of those be like?
First of all, the art possibilities are pretty awesome, what with being able to look up into the sky and see bits of planet above you. I’ve got a bit of a concept for the box cover based on that.
It also means different bits of the planet relate to each other physically in unusual ways. You can, with some difficulty, get to the other side of the strip from the edges – in most places, it involves rappelling downward for miles (and dealing with gravity flipping on you halfway down), but it’s possible. If there are airships – and this was inspired by the Final Fantasy series so of course there are airships – they can not only follow the land, but in some places, can go up as well to reach entirely different areas of the strip. This is how most commerce happens between the biggest city and the independent city-states near where the “driftwood” needed for the airships grows. (The latter are the “Seven Cities,” which are along with the driftwood forest itself, the region where the initial adventures will take place – JH.)
The “driftwood” trees float lazily in the air by their own power. Mostly they stay tethered to the ground by their roots, but every so often one floats away and wanders through the sky until, deprived of the nutrients it needs, it loses its power and you get this tree falling from the sky into some farmer’s field. This property is exploited to make airships, though those have the same problem with running out of juice and dropping to earth. Usually they have the decency to do it gradually rather than just crashing. Usually. But this does mean you have to keep replacing bits of them just to maintain a fleet of a constant size, let alone expand. Thus, massive industrial scale cutting of the driftwood forest, widespread desertification, and a perceived need on the part of those independent city-states to expand their reach and ability to extract resources. If a leader strong enough to stop them squabbling amongst themselves appeared, these guys could be trouble.
It’s not like the main city above their heads (since named Avenel – JH) is going to stop them. Ostensibly led by a hereditary emperor who fancies himself a benevolent dictator but is neither, real power lies in the hands of whoever has the money or muscle to exercise it and anarchy is just barely kept in check by an unspoken mutual desire to maintain a veneer of civilization. It’s a good place for adventurers to find adventures and and an equally good place for them to be running the hell away from. It’s openly corrupt and decadent and just waiting for a horde of near-barbarians and a fleet of airships to show up and conquer it just as soon as the GM decides that would make a good background for whatever adventures he or she would be running anyway.
Terrain on opposite sides of the strip tends to be opposites (if there’s a mountain chain in one place, there might be a big crater on the reverse side), though not always – some features, like the main ocean, extend over the edge of the planet and onto the other side. A more or less stable blob of water has formed just off the edge of the Mobius strip in that particular spot, which it’s possible to sail a ship over. This has resulted in an uneasy friendship between cultures roughly analogous to Japan and Norway from opposite sides of the strip.
Chapter 7: The World of Aperion
Approximately the first two pages’ worth of the current draft of the Core Rulebook, with some revision and expansion specifically for this post
The physical world: Aperion is neither round nor flat. Shaped like a Mobius strip, it’s traditionally depicted from a perspective such that it looks like an infinity sign.
What the gods had in mind when they made it that way – if indeed they had anything to do with it, for according to the latest theories, all known gods are younger than Aperion itself – remains a mystery. The debate has produced so much more heat than light that the world’s inhabitants have mostly given up on the idea that the topic can be raised in polite company.
The strip is about 800 miles wide and 7500 miles long – though if you picked a place at random and started walking along the strip, you’d have to go 15000 miles before returning to your starting point, since you’d have to traverse both sides. The strip is about 30 miles thick on the average – the exact thickness varies with local surface conditions. Because of the strip’s shape, you can often see other regions of the world in the sky above. At the point where the world, viewed as an infinity sign, crosses over itself, the region overhead might be as little as 1000 miles away.
Gravity works in the way you’d intuitively expect from the viewpoint of Aperion’s inhabitants, yet one that is very strange if you think about it in terms of modern science. Gravity always pulls toward the middle of the strip’s thickness; you can stand on the strip at any point and not fall off.
Over larger scales, gravity works pretty much like it does in our reality. For example, less massive bodies tend to orbit around more massive ones as they do in real-life solar systems, even if some of the individual bodies in those systems make no scientific sense.
In addition to revolving around Apollo, its pale greenish sun, and rotating about its long axis to create a day-night cycle (both days and years are about the same length as ours), the whole strip slides slowly, a bit like like a conveyer belt, taking a little over five years to do one complete “conveyance” as this movement is called. When a region is being conveyed around the curves on either end, it tends to experience unsettled weather and the occasional earthquake – some of which release creatures onto the surface that everyone there had either forgotten about, or would have liked to.
Since this happens every 15 months or so, most civilized regions have learned some best practices for dealing with it, so it’s rarely a game-changer (though there’s always the threat that it could be), but it’s still a strange and dangerous time.
These upheavals are much worse if you’re on the inside of the strip than the outside, and sometimes called the “time of two nights” because of what it does to the day-night cycle, or “when up is down” because it kinda is.
Below the world: Aperion is shot through with both natural cave systems, and passages and chambers that were clearly made by intelligent hands. Most of the artificial ones – as well as the strange ruins that dot parts of the surface – are attributed to a race called the Rilmani, many-armed, mostly-humanoid creatures that died out long ago – at least as a civilization. (Rumours of individual Rilmani survivors are sometimes heard, but mostly from crazy, unreliable folk such as adventurers.) Not much is known about the Rilmani, but they’re supposed to have been very powerful.
Many underground passages are flooded or filled with toxic fumes, but enough are clear and breathable that, in more than one area, you can walk into a cave on one side of the strip and emerge (after a very dangerous, weeks-long journey) on the opposite side. Gravity flips on you halfway through, but that’s hardly the worst or strangest thing you’ll have to deal with on the way. There are said to be entire kingdoms under there that rarely see the light of the sun, as well as gates to numerous other worlds and all manner of dangerous creatures.
Above the world: On the whole, Aperion handles the physical stresses conveyance puts on it remarkably well, but bits of the planet do go flying off from time to time. As a result, numerous “islands” float in mid-air above or off to the sides of the main strip. These quickly find a stable orbit, which in most cases leaves them in a constant position relative to the surface of Aperion. If they get enough rain, or happen to contain gates to some watery plane, these can even feature spectacular waterfalls (for some reason these “islands” are particularly prone to the appearance of planar gates, and the strange phenomena that occur near these). These sometimes become attractions people come a long way to see, journeying by airship or hiring powerful wizards to teleport them. Of course, on those islands that feature gates, it’s always possible something much more dangerous – or at least, something much more interesting – than mere water will wander through.
(Sidebar: On net, Aperion isn’t actually losing mass, at least not much, thanks to all the gates. Volcanoes alone – which, as everyone knows, are just another kind of gate to other planes – add almost as much rock to Aperion as is lost by islands flying off.)
Beyond the world: The area around Aperion also includes what Aperion’s inhabitants regard as two moons, Drakhen and The Eye of Agni. Technically, Aperion is (along with Drakhen) the Eye of Agni’s moon, the Eye being the most massive of the three. There are also thousands of smaller bodies, which sages divide into two categories – islands, which more or less remain in the same position relative to one of the three main bodies, and asteroids, which don’t. The entire works – Aperion, Drakhen, the Eye, and nearly all the islands and asteroids – share a single breathable atmosphere. All three large bodies are habitable (and inhabited), as are many of the islands and a few of the asteroids.
The Eye of Agni is so-called because, from Aperion, it looks like a large eye with a fiery pupil, and even appears to slowly “blink” depending where the two bodies are in their respective orbits. From up close, the reason becomes apparent. The Eye is bowl-shaped, roughly a hollow hemisphere, albeit very rough at the edges, and has an extremely large red “island” floating at what would be the Eye’s exact center were it a full sphere. From Aperion, you’re either looking at the concave side (with this island forming a “pupil” in the middle) or the edge, depending where the two bodies are in their complex mutual orbit. This was once a round but hollow world, but a catastrophic meteor collision changed that about a thousand years ago (this event is also responsible for the existence of most of the asteroids). Before this catastrophe, what is now the Eye, rather than Aperion, housed the main civilizations of this region of space, but those who weren’t killed outright by the collision were reduced to barbarism, a blow from which the world now known as the Eye has yet to fully recover.
As for Drakhen, it looks round and mostly brown, with green patches, from Aperion, but actually consists mostly of the roots of a single huge plant, which would be a gigantic tree if it wasn’t all twisted into itself from its own gravity. Many plants and creatures live among, and sometimes inside, the massive and elaborate network of twisting roots; at the core lies a huge sphere of water, so if you go far enough into the root systems, all of a sudden you find yourself on what is effectively an ocean world.
Though the journey is long and dangerous, exceptionally powerful airships can and occasionally do reach the two “moons”.