PDA

View Full Version : [World] Planet Shapes



Fax Celestis
2006-08-02, 05:01 PM
Most gaming worlds I've seen are spherical. That is to say, the planet that is Eberron is a sphere, Faerun is a sphere, etc.

But D&D is a world of magic, and worlds of magic don't always follow the same rules. (Exhibit A: Falling)

So: a few ideas for different planet types, completely disregarding physics and other such scientific nonsense.
[hr]
Alternative 1: The Flat World
For most of our world's history, the world has been seen as a flat thing. Why not monopolize on this and make your gaming world of choice flat?

You could even make the opposite side of the flat plane world have a different set of continents, oceans, creatures, etc. Or you could make it uninhabitable, which--while easy--is not very interesting.

But what about the sun? Well, there's two or three main options: the first option is to have the sun rotate the flat world (or have the flat world orbit the sun). The second is to do something a bit stranger: put a hole in the center of the flat world and have the sun move up and down through the hole. Third option could be to combine the two: the hole in the middle instead is a passthrough for a moon instead of the sun.
[hr]
Alternative Two: The Mobius Strip
A world as a mobius strip is an interesting idea, similar to Niven's Ringworld. However, instead of having one side presented to the sun constantly, you instead make it so that the "flip" in the mobius strip rotates the ring at a rate of once every twenty four hours.

This would mean you'd have high noon for twelve hours a day, and midnight for twelve hours a day. Maybe a little less, depending on how quickly the flip travels.

This would certainly lead to interesting dynamics, politically, socially, and even in the lifestyles (and kinds) of monsters.
[hr]
Alternative 3: The Nonrotating Sphere
I don't know the word for this, but our moon exhibits it daily: it is in perfect orbit, so that we see the same side of it at all times, regardless of our position on the globe.

What if the planet did this with the sun, so that one side faced the sun at all times? This could certainly lead to some interesting dynamics in the way of "lightsiders" and "darksiders". A lot of the planet would be desert, and another would be constantly dark.

Of everything I've presented so far, I think that placing an Eberron style campaign in a world like this would be interesting. Or perhaps even Dark Sun.
[hr]
Alternative 4: The Elliptical Orbit
What if the planet the game is set on is on an uneven orbit, perhaps even drastically? That'd mean that for two three-month periods out of the year, it gets unspeakably unbearably desertlike hot, while for another two three-month periods out of the year, it'd be damn cold.

Sandstorm and Frostburn would be necessary for a campaign involving this, but it'd at least a little flavor to the otherwise same-old-same-old.
[hr]
In any case, what do you guys think?

Beelzebub1111
2006-08-02, 05:21 PM
I like number 2 and number 3. But 3 the best, that's just me though.

Jarl
2006-08-02, 06:20 PM
Flat world, huh? It would never work.

-... unless it traveled through space on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stood on the back of a giant turtle... *sued*

Fax Celestis
2006-08-02, 06:22 PM
Flat world, huh? It would never work.

-... unless it traveled through space on the backs of four elephants, which in turn stood on the back of a giant turtle... *sued*
Avoid the lawsuit by having the world on the back of sixteen turtles on the backs of four elephants, all of which stand on a very angry platypus.

Jarl
2006-08-02, 06:28 PM
I was kiddin. It's about the oldest world myth there is (a fact stated several times in the books themselves), it's hardly copyrighted.

-A ring world would be good... Oooh, Hollow planet. Better: Hollow planet with civilization on the inside.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-02, 06:32 PM
Oooh, Hollow planet. Better: Hollow planet with civilization on the inside.
That is also nifty.

In fact, it could be Faerun on the outside of the hollow planet, and the Underdark on the inside.

Hm.

Beelzebub1111
2006-08-02, 06:38 PM
Oooh, Hollow planet. Better: Hollow planet with civilization on the inside.
Terranigma! (first half of the game anyways)
I'm still a big fan of the nonrotating sphere idea

The Vorpal Tribble
2006-08-02, 08:12 PM
Totally crazy idea I just had... a structure of linked dyson spheres.

Entire worlds are kidnapped and surrounded by metal with strong bonds keeping each dyson sphere connected. The structure is then brought near a nebula to be heated and the energy used to light the enteriors for 12 hours and then off again.

Can just imagine a concept based on this. 'The Prison Worlds' or some such. Or maybe it is guarded worlds to breed slaves which are 'retrieved' every now and again.

No sun, just gradual lighting so that the worlds inside are always alight at the same time. Maybe the metal has an anti-planeshifting quality to it so those inside are utterly kept off from the rest of civilizations. Deities could not reach their people easily, and no one would know of any other existence.

DMgrinder
2006-08-03, 01:58 AM
A sun? Bah! Who needs one? I like the idea of a giant (read as several miles tall) carrying a torch that heats/illuminates the world as he strides across it. And yes, he squishes stuff sometimes :(.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-03, 02:03 AM
A sun? Bah! Who needs one? I like the idea of a giant (read as several miles tall) carrying a torch that heats/illuminates the world as he strides across it. And yes, he squishes stuff sometimes :(.
That'd be cool, actually.

Peregrine
2006-08-03, 03:11 AM
I was thinking about the Möbius strip idea. I didn't like the way it went on and on in one direction, but had edges you could fall off along the way. Then I started digging through my topology knowledge for shapes that did the funky Möbius thing in all directions. It took me a few moments, but...

A Klein bottle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klein_bottle) world, anyone?

Tallis
2006-08-03, 03:12 AM
Sun is easy for a flat world, stick to what ancient people thought. Apollo carries it across the sky in his chariot every day. At night it's kept in the mountains, or it travels through the underworld.

Dan_Hemmens
2006-08-03, 03:43 AM
Because I'm a pedant: ancient people did *not* think the earth was flat. Anybody who has seen the horizon know that it's round, unless they really believe that the world ends approximately twenty one miles from wherever they happen to be standing.

I'm not a fan of non-standard world shapes: I don't see how it will make the blindest bit of difference to any of the inhabitants. It strikes me as a rather pointless gimmick.

About the only exception I can think of is what you might call a "mythic shaped world", where North, South, East, and West are more symbolic directions than anything else: like the Elemental Poles in Exalted.

Premier
2006-08-03, 09:19 AM
Science nitpicks:


Alternative 3: The Nonrotating Sphere
I don't know the word for this, but our moon exhibits it daily: it is in perfect orbit, so that we see the same side of it at all times, regardless of our position on the globe.

What if the planet did this with the sun, so that one side faced the sun at all times? This could certainly lead to some interesting dynamics in the way of "lightsiders" and "darksiders". A lot of the planet would be desert, and another would be constantly dark.

Of everything I've presented so far, I think that placing an Eberron style campaign in a world like this would be interesting. Or perhaps even Dark Sun.

The Moon DOES rotate around its own axis. However, it's tidally locked - meaning the time of one rotation is identical to the time of one orbit -, and that's why it always shows the same face. If it REALLY didn't rotate, then you WOULD see every side of it, only it would "seemingly turn" in the opposite direction.

As for a planet being tidally locked with its sun, in real life it would be almost positively uninhabitable. The sunny side wouldn't be simply "desert; it would be "desert where the air and ground temperature is constantly above 100 °C, so water boils away instantly", and the dark side wouldn't be "cold"; it would be "below minus 100°C", and it wouldn't have ANY water or ice, because all of it has already frozen just past the borderline betwee the two halves". And to boot, the entire planet would be engulfed in a huge, constant tornado.

Alternative 4: The Elliptical Orbit
What if the planet the game is set on is on an uneven orbit, perhaps even drastically? That'd mean that for two three-month periods out of the year, it gets unspeakably unbearably desertlike hot, while for another two three-month periods out of the year, it'd be damn cold.[/quote]

No, it wouldn't. Temperature does NOT primarily depend on the planet's distance from the Sun. In fact, IIRC, Earth is actually CLOSER to the Sun during our (North Hemisphere) winter than in the summer. What DOES determine temperature is the angle at which sunlight falls onto the surface, and the number of daylight hours.

Sure, you COULD have a body on an extremely elliptical orbit, but than some other problems would crop up, such as the length of the year (too long of a cold/hot period, not just a few months).

pincushionman
2006-08-03, 12:03 PM
Temp certainly does depend on distance from the sun. It's just that Earth's orbit isn't eccentric enough for it to make any real difference. The seasons are driven by axial tilt not because the distance doesn't make a difference, but because the axial tilt contribution dominates. If the eccentricity is increased enough, seasons would become driven by distance. And all the seasons would be different lengths (really short summer, slightly longer spring and autumn, really long winter). You could even have an eccentricity and axial tilt in which the effects would mostly cancel out in, say, the northern hemisphere, but the extreme seasons really suck in the south.

Look at Pluto - it has a relatively high eccentricity, and at perihelion, it's close enough to the sun for its surface ice to sublime to gas, wheras other parts of its year, it isnt. That's why New Horizons was launched when it was -- if it wasn't, it wouldn't intercept Pluto within that window of opportunity.

As for the other shapes, it's an interesting excersise, but since most of them self-intersect, they're of limited value as a real world. Unless you're running your campaign in four dimensions plus time, which makes most people's heads hurt.

There are some other interesting planetary configurations, though:

Moon. World is a moon of a larger planet. Likely to be tidally-locked like our own moon, so one side would see the planet, while the other side never would. If you're close enough that the "day" is a reasonable length, you're cool. You could also do several moons with life, making it an extended version of...

Double planet. Two planets, two independent races, cultures, etc. Kinda cool concept, esp. with people always trying to get to the other world, since they've always known it's there. Possibly also tidally-locked, so the close sides always see each other, while the other sides don't.

No axial tilt. No seasons, good possibility of a large uninhabitable equatorial region. Life develops independently in each temperate zone until technology or magic develops to protect people crossing from north to south and back.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-03, 12:06 PM
Science nitpicks:

I DID say "regardless of actual science". ;)

But thank you.

Just brainstorming.

Peregrine
2006-08-03, 12:39 PM
As for the other shapes, it's an interesting excersise, but since most of them self-intersect, they're of limited value as a real world. Unless you're running your campaign in four dimensions plus time, which makes most people's heads hurt.
Nonsense. Just don't show them a map of the whole world. :P Of course, that raises the question of why you'd choose an odd configuration anyway... well, show them a map of the world, but never get into how it works. Just take it for granted that they can go from region X across region Y to region Z, even though if it were a 3D embedding, region F would intersect region Y.

My head hurts...

Beelzebub1111
2006-08-03, 01:16 PM
Science nitpicks:


The Moon DOES rotate around its own axis. However, it's tidally locked - meaning the time of one rotation is identical to the time of one orbit -, and that's why it always shows the same face. If it REALLY didn't rotate, then you WOULD see every side of it, only it would "seemingly turn" in the opposite direction.

As for a planet being tidally locked with its sun, in real life it would be almost positively uninhabitable. The sunny side wouldn't be simply "desert; it would be "desert where the air and ground temperature is constantly above 100 °C, so water boils away instantly", and the dark side wouldn't be "cold"; it would be "below minus 100°C", and it wouldn't have ANY water or ice, because all of it has already frozen just past the borderline betwee the two halves". And to boot, the entire planet would be engulfed in a huge, constant tornado.


But what if the planet was far enough away from the sun so that it worked, or the sun produced just enough heat for it to work.

Gorbash Kazdar
2006-08-03, 01:43 PM
VT's idea about stolen worlds & dyson spheres actually comes up in The Ring of Charon and The Shattered Sphere by Roger MacBride Allen (though a more hard scifi manner). Also, Mystara, aka the Known World (an older D&D/AD&D setting), was a hollow world, with the interior serving as sort of a cultural museum for defunct civilizations that used to exist on the outer surface.

The double planet idea sort of occurs in Vision of Escaflowne, but even more so in The Ragged Astronauts by Bob Shaw.

An alternate with the flat world isn't that it's just floating in space. The world in Exalted is flat, and as one approaches the elemental poles (other than Earth, which is at the center), the normal topography changes - South eventually becomes endless smoke and fire, North ice, East is an forest without seeming top or bottom, and West is an ocean where the sky and sea eventually become indistinguishable. And somewhere beyond that is apparently a realm of raging chaos.

I like playing with world shape ideas, as long as it's actually used to differentiate the setting. It's quite easy to just say "my world is flat," but if you don't do anything with it...

I'm currently playing around with a world idea where a previously spherical world has been shattered into bits of varying sizes. Magic (or psionics) keeps the bits from spiraling off into nowhere, but they're still kind of floating, disconnected from each other. Some are small enought to be moved by relatively simple magic, some float off randomly on there own, most (particularly the big continent-sized pieces) are stationary. Combines some aspects of a flat world with a strange sort of "archipelago" campaign.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-03, 01:47 PM
I'm currently playing around with a world idea where a previously spherical world has been shattered into bits of varying sizes. *Magic (or psionics) keeps the bits from spiraling off into nowhere, but they're still kind of floating, disconnected from each other. *Some are small enought to be moved by relatively simple magic, some float off randomly on there own, most (particularly the big continent-sized pieces) are stationary. *Combines some aspects of a flat world with a strange sort of "archipelago" campaign.
That's pretty nifty.

You could make it so that the different "islands" (if you will) have different magical attunements, so that wizard magic works better one one, while sorceror magic is better on another. Perhaps even one that's psionically focused, and another that doesn't deal well at all with magic.

Interesting.

Cybren
2006-08-03, 01:51 PM
No torus love?
You guys stink. most console RPGs are on a torus!

Peregrine
2006-08-03, 02:07 PM
most console RPGs are on a torus!
Well, true, that. I thought briefly of tori, but didn't immediately feel any torus love, no. But now that I think about it more... ooh, and you could have the 'sun' be a ring of fire that goes from inside the torus, down, stretches out to be larger than the torus, moves up, narrows again, and returns to the centre...

(And a torus is intriguingly easy to map, because it can be unrolled to a flat surface...)

jdrich
2006-08-03, 07:40 PM
Can just imagine a concept based on this. 'The Prison Worlds' or some such. Or maybe it is guarded worlds to breed slaves which are 'retrieved' every now and again.

I did this once. It was very enjoyable, had a very distinct Halo/Planescape feel to it:

An ancient race of titans are working to create a weapon that will be able to destroy any plane by causing the elemental balance of the plane to shift against itself, essentially tearing the plane apart. In order to do so, they need to collect a 'shard' (A piece of land about the size of Rhode Island) from each planet in the galaxy (starscape).

They almost complete the project, but are destroyed by an Astral Leviathan. Afterwards there is this gigantic three-quarter sphere left floating adrift in the Astral Plane orbiting a planar nexus, with portions of almost every different plane in existence circumscribing the sphere, connected by crystalline stairways and kept in balance by a powerful dweomer.

Eventually, the devils from the Abyssal shard discover the purpose of the 'weapon' and intend to use it against the demons in the Blood War, but the PCs discovered the true intent of the weapon as well - to destroy the entire multiverse, all at once.

Best game I've ever DMed. It had everything - ascension to godhood, time travel, planar destruction, a temporal paradox.

And for the life of me, I can't remember what it was called.

jdrich
2006-08-03, 07:41 PM
No torus love?

I had a flat earth/torus type of world, where the end of one plane signified the beginning of another. Sort of like tectonic plates on one gigantic planet.

Ashes
2006-08-03, 10:03 PM
Well, the ring world idea with the civilization on the inside isn't actually a "new" idea. Just think of Sigil (Planescape).

It is placed inside of a ring which is at the one end of the endlessly long column that is The Spire (A thing I still have issues with, The Spire. An infinetely long column with two distinguishable ends ???)

Gorbash Kazdar
2006-08-03, 10:48 PM
That's pretty nifty.

You could make it so that the different "islands" (if you will) have different magical attunements, so that wizard magic works better one one, while sorceror magic is better on another. Perhaps even one that's psionically focused, and another that doesn't deal well at all with magic.

Interesting.
I hadn't thought about the magic aspect, but I did like that it allowed me to play fast a loose with geography and particularly with cultures. For example, if I start the game on a larger shard based of the usual psuedo-medieval D&D type setting, it makes it much easier to explain the presence of a character that otherwise wouldn't fit into the cultural area - that is to say, I could fit a ninja in by having a shard from the pseudo-Oriental area of the pre-shattering world float over into close proximity with the primary shard.

Plus, with shards of all different sizes, and with a ready explanation for screwy climates and geographies, I can play around a lot with very exotic places for the PCs to visit without dealing with planar travel or the like. Also allows me to introduce enemies that would otherwise overrun large areas by simply confining them to a particular, isolated shard. Like a shard infested with zombies and other undead.

One thing I was already playing around with was shards at different altitudes. I decided that the core of the world is still spherical and at the center - but it's a giant ball of roiling molten rock and metal. The smithing race(s) (which may or may not includes dwarves, I haven't decided) could have small shards down there as really impressive foundries. I also can picture the Underdark races putting shards underneath other ones, as well as having really neat floating castles and the like on the undersides of shards.

I also think PCs would get a real kick out of eventually getting themselves a keep that doubles as transportation.

I just need to figure out the details of how the world was shattered and how the surviving shards are kept intact (clearly magic - or psionics - but I need the specifics). My current thought is that some evil power tried to destroy the world, but a cabal of powerful mages and/or clerics and/or psionicists managed to partially thwart the attempt. The lingering effects of that keep most of the shards in working order, and magics can be worked upon them now to move them around and the like (the big shards just need so much magic that basically no one can manage it).

I also need to decide how long the world has been like this. My current thought is that only some of the oldest elves remember the time before the shattering, which makes it quite a while ago for humans, halflings, orcs and the like (many generations, at least), but "when me grandpappy was young" for gnomes and dwarves.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-03, 10:59 PM
I just need to figure out the details of how the world was shattered and how the surviving shards are kept intact (clearly magic - or psionics - but I need the specifics). *My current thought is that some evil power tried to destroy the world, but a cabal of powerful mages and/or clerics and/or psionicists managed to partially thwart the attempt. *The lingering effects of that keep most of the shards in working order, and magics can be worked upon them now to move them around and the like (the big shards just need so much magic that basically *no one can manage it).
Chaotic Good Druid cleansing the world of evil by destroying all the evil on it in one fell swoop. The ultimate in zealotry.

He and his druid and sorceror followers concoct [plan A], which involves purging the world of all bad things with [fire/ice/death] by using some gigantic [Epic Spell/Ritual/artifact]. [Group of heroes/monastery of TN clerics/what have you] discovers the plot when one of the less zealous members chickens out and comes running to them with the problem. [Group B] determines to stop [Group A] with [Plan B] that makes assumptions about [Plan A] that are patently incorrect.

[Plan B] goes without hitch, disrupting but not counterspelling [Plan A], which misfires and instead of killing the evil in the world, destroys the world itself, shattering it into many pieces. [Group B] realizes their mistake and sacrifices themselves rescuing the shattered shards of the world by [offering themselves to their god/using an artifact/using more epic spells]. However, both groups died in the process, so no one really knows the "why" of anything, just that it happened.

There. Instant plot.

illathid
2006-08-04, 01:51 AM
With the shattered world idea, there should be some sort of bridge system that allows earth bound charecters to travel between the different shards of the world.

Like some of the continent pieces have bridge stones that create a bridge to the closest bridge at the time. Im kinda thinking like the rainbow bridge in Occarina of Time.

Well thats my 2 cents.

Jarl
2006-08-04, 03:17 AM
I started writing a story once where the moon collided with the Earth and humans traveled the universe in the remnants. It was cool.

-I like the Torus, though, and the Hollow Earth. Planes are fine too... or you could go the Tolkien route: Planes for the first part of history, then wrapped up into a ball suddenly for the rest.

Fizban
2006-08-04, 04:32 AM
Gorbash Kazdar, that is the most awesome setting I've ever heard of. It helps that I've been playing a video game, Baten Kaitos, which is similar. In Baten Kaitos the story is: a long time ago some evil gods showed up, bunch of good guys killed them, and then somehow raised 5 continents into floating islands. You've got airships everywhere, one continent that got half-dimension warped and includes a town made of candy and a pickturebook town (sounds silly, but in the game it was pretty cool). Also, apparently the people evolved wings, except for the imperials who use mechanical wings and are, of course, bent on world conquest. Anyway, awesome game, and your setting reminded me of it.
Curses, now I wanna play in your game......

Stareyes
2006-08-04, 01:52 PM
One thing I always liked about a Dyson Sphere/Ringworld is that there's an amazing amount of space -- one of the oceans on Ringworld has maps of a dozen planets as 'islands' in the ocean.

Speaking of, Larry Niven did another 'gee whiz, neat world' book: The Integral Trees. It takes place in a binary star system -- a neutron star and a normal sun. There's a gas giant orbitiing the neutron star that is slowly shedding its atmosphere, producing a ring of breathable air and water in its orbit. Life managed to evolve there -- including the giant integral trees in the title, that are so large, tides at the ends fake gravity. A few of the trees (and floating jungles of plants) were colonized by the remains of a human crew.

Also, if you want more scientific worlds, What if the Moon Didn't Exist? is a good book that has a few neat ideas -- like what the climate would really do if the Earth was like Uranus and spun on its side, rather than mostly up-and-down compared to its orbit. It's not as bizzare as floating planar plates, but it might be interesting for interjecting a note of surreality to a low-magic game.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-04, 02:10 PM
Also, if you want more scientific worlds, What if the Moon Didn't Exist? is a good book that has a few neat ideas -- like what the climate would really do if the Earth was like Uranus and spun on its side, rather than mostly up-and-down compared to its orbit. *It's not as bizzare as floating planar plates, but it might be interesting for interjecting a note of surreality to a low-magic game. *
Sweet, thanks.

4Dsheep
2006-08-04, 02:58 PM
I just need to figure out the details of how the world was shattered and how the surviving shards are kept intact (clearly magic - or psionics - but I need the specifics). *My current thought is that some evil power tried to destroy the world, but a cabal of powerful mages and/or clerics and/or psionicists managed to partially thwart the attempt. *The lingering effects of that keep most of the shards in working order, and magics can be worked upon them now to move them around and the like (the big shards just need so much magic that basically *no one can manage it).
Maybe some evil power (or simple a powerful power with a lot of time on its hands) tried to tear the world completely asunder, but various powerful orders, councils, covens etc. managed to keep chunks of the world intanct, resulting in some large 'pieces' and a whole lot of smaller ones, which causes the pieces to be 'aligned' to the magic of the wizards, clerics, psions, druids etc. that held them together, tying into the idea of Fax_Celestis. So there are city realms, forest realms, uh, psion realms I guess, realms owned by powerful liches, realms aligned to gods that 'intervened' (best money making scheme ever), even 'underground' realms, dwarven mines and pieces of the Underdark, and so on. Some people blame it on gods, some on druids, some on elementals, some on dwarves, because nobody really knows who caused it, they only knew it happened, and news would go around rather slow if the world is in pieces. Maybe it was all a giant conspiracy of airship manifacturers!

And yeah, donut worlds ARE cool.

Matthew
2006-08-04, 10:55 PM
Weren't variant world shapes first explored in the old Spelljammer Setting? A lot of what is being discussed here distinctly reminds me of the concepts proposed in that campaign setting.

Fax Celestis
2006-08-04, 10:58 PM
Weren't variant world shapes first explored in the old Spelljammer Setting? A lot of what is being discussed here distinctly reminds me of the concepts proposed in that campaign setting.
Couldn't tell you. Never played Spelljammer.

Matthew
2006-08-04, 11:05 PM
Having consulted my Spell Jammer Boxed Set, I can confirm that they were. Oh Spell Jammer, how I both love and loathe thee...