I'll be running a game of The Window with some friends, and this is a setting in its infancy. When I DM, my players usually start in some isolated area and learn as they explore. This runs hand in hand with my setting-developing method, establishing some facts, from grand to trivial, and connecting the dots as time goes on. Obviously, this is small now, but it will grow.
Tier 1 premises:
1. World is Earth-ish, human-wise.
2. Metal naturally occurs in the form of gears.
3. Dust, sand, ash, and fire have special significance.
4. Intelligent life (or ALL life?) is an accident of creation.
5. Grey morality.
a. As of the story's telling, human society is industrial, with imperialism to facilitate it.
b. There's business in gear harvesting. Some deep pits in dirt plains are lined with turning gears as far as light will carry your gaze.
c. Dust and sand are physical manifestations of decay and the passage of time. Fire is the essence of movement and life, but ash, its product, is also a bringer of age. All are both physical and metaphorical. They are magic. (ash debatable)
d. Industrial means of harnessing dust, sand, and fire exist. Organic use of the all four constitutes magic, though fire and ash are discouraged. (tentative)
e. Matter naturally cycles into dust and sand, eventually reforming as matter.
f. Fire, and therefore life, is an accident. Living things have a bit of fire in them. (dependent on c, d and e)
g. Reckless industry and harvesting is bad (twist!), especially of the gears, which may have some effect on the order of the planet. Allowing the course of the natural order will result in all living things returning to dust, never to rise again. Both sides have staunch supporters.
h. This is not necessarily steampunk.
That's all for now. Half the fun's in filling the holes!
This sounds like a fun setting! I like the starting PCs in an out-of-the-way area. That would be a great way to craft the setting to the PCs' development.
I don't know if you want input, but here are some things that might be interesting:
It sounds like your setting is metal-rich, such that even primitive people groups may have tools and weapons of various metals, and maybe rudimentary machinery. There might also be anarchists or entire tribes of Luddites who "Rage Against the Machine," both literally and metaphorically.
The only things I would add to your setting would be Water as a counter to Fire. Maybe when water evaporates, it leaves dust, and metal grinds down into sand (and under a microscope, sand looks like tiny gears). There may be water/dust-based magic, like fire/ash-based.
One aspect that would add to the setting: magnets and magnetism!
(somehow your description makes me think of Full Metal Alchemist)
Hmmmm.... I find this to be a very interesting idea, mostly because there are lots of possiblilities. I think the most interesting thing to me is how the gears got there in the first place. I would be inclined to think that the world was some kind of giant clockwork experiment of the gods (incidentally, how do the gods fit into your setting?) but that's just me. Are you planning on changing any of the rules to fit your setting? In my own personal setting, I kept most of the rules, and only changed a few, since it's easier not to change too many. I think this kind of world could lead to some very interesting though, and I look forward to hearing more!
The world awaited a higher power. It now has obtained it. All hail the rubber ducky!!!!!!
78% of DM's started their first campaign in a tavern. If you're one of the 22% that didn't, copy and paste this into your signature.
Yes, Metal would have been quite available from the start, as well as inspiration for advances in mechanical technology. I'm thinking that the further down one goes, the more sophisticated/robust the gears are, starting with small gears of the same size, then varying sizes, then gears of different sizes welded to the same center, to axles, to bevel gears, and so on. Technology would advance as delving continued, as more were taken from the ground or copies made.
I'm still thinking about "magic". Funny you should mention magnetism, though. Some friends and I once discussed the implications of living on the inside surface of a hollow planet. When we considered if people would be able to see the other side by looking "up", I said no, and thought up some light-emitting, magnetic mass in the center, along with prismatic air that the magnetism would polarize, preventing images of the other side from coming to your eye. It might give rise to some class of "oracles" that would pull meaning from the disjointed images that resulted from windstorms.
Long story short, the process of considering including this silliness and then discarding it for fear of annoying the scientifically-minded (because seriously) actually led me to discard the existence of magnetism at all. But maybe it could be discovered at some deeper level of the earth. Hmm...
@Calliope: Glad you're interested. I figured against the actual existence of gods, or most high-fantasy elements, but there could be the belief in a "Mother Gear" or "Grand Mandala (Grandala, Grandmala, Grandamala, Granola)" or "Grandfather Clockwork" from which all gear movement originates. Support for this idea might be the discovery of indestructible gears whose removal resulted in a halt in movement above it. Or something. I'm really handwaving the creation of Earth, heh. Don't let me discourage you, though. Did anything come to you?
And like I said, I'm running a game of The Window, which is very rules-light in favor of storytelling, so rule change probably won't be a factor. Depending on how this goes, though I might add attributes for affinity with the magical elements or something.
An idea I had while reading this was that, what if there were 'living' things, for a certain sense of the word, that weren't a mistake? A sort of mythical, independent gear-thing that is born from the ground, but aren't actually connected to the larger machine underneath. I imagine them coming in a variety of sizes, generally growing with age as they pick up dust and such and form new components from it, and also following the same general rule as the earth itself, with the machinery getting more complex the closer towards the center it is.
Maybe that's not a good idea, though.
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