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- Geography Of A Sundered World
Posted by : Joshua Sorenson June 10, 2013
When Antioch pitched his Sundered World campaign to me, the genesis of the idea was to take the cosmology detailed in the lore of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition's implied setting and remove the cosmic membrane that keeps the planes separate, creating a blasted spacescape wherein players could explore dead stars full of incomprehensible horrors, navigate chaotic elemental storms, and fight unhinged angels aimlessly wandering their dead gods ruined domain.
Since then, he and I have been pitching, reversing, bolstering and molding ideas back and forth which have sprouted into a lot of the lore that has been posted on this blog space, and you readers have offered some invaluable insights on.
One of the particular areas of detail that Antioch and I are trying to hammer out, along with our friend and resident cartographer Victor, and hopefully the people who read and comment on this blog, is the makeup of the Sundered World's “landscape” for lack of a better term.
Previous to the mysterious cataclysm that tore open the veil between realms, the Sundered World was made up of five(ish) distinct planes, each with it's own character and inhabitants:
The celestial heavens of Empyrean, and the infernal hells of Apollyon were a vast expanse of stars and free floating domains where devils and gods dwelt, along with their angelic servitors and the souls of the devout. The astral plane was a magnificient realm of opulent ivory palaces floating upon magical golden nimbi, and stygian black iron citadels wreathed in blue hellfire.
The Maelstrom was a roiling mass of elements, constantly colliding and reforming into new matter. It was believed that from this storm of constant destruction and reformation the rest of the universe was thrust into being. This is where elementals lived and thrived. At it's very heart, the eye of the elemental storm, is a vast, unfathomably deep well of utter darkness called the abyss. This is where demons made their home, frequently making incursions into the space beyond.
Faerie was a wild and verdant mirror realm to the Prime Material plane, where magic courses through the roots of the great godtrees and the loamy soil like blood through a man's veins. Before the Sundering, mortalkind who found themselves in the fey realm either by wandering through faerie rings or through design, often became transfixed with the beauty of the faerie landscape and found themselves wandering and wondering endlessly, until they lay down and die of old age many decades later. The fey creatures who made this realm their home, are often so intuned with the freely flowing mystical forces of Faerie that they possess innate magical gifts. Creatures like Elves, gnomes, dryads, unicorns, etc.
The Prime Material plane was the native home of humankind, and the world most like our own. It is the nexus point where all other realms meet, each touching the plane in some way. This was also the center and the strongest point of the Axis Mundi, which is what connected the planes to one another, but also kept them separate. This made the Prime a place of strategic significance to imperialistically driven races from the other planes. In fact, many of the races who made their home on the Prime Material plane were actually refugees from other planes who grew acclimated to the realm over the course of generations.
And then there are the things from Beyond. Maddeningly strange and incomprehensible things native to somewhere beyond the planes. Alien horrors that view all life in the known universe with mocking contempt and disdain. Abominations that feed on fear and insanity just as they consume flesh and bone.
Though the details may have long faded from memory of even the oldest beings, there is a reason that Celestials and Primordial eventually stopped warring with eachother. There is a reason that scores upon scores of angels and devils entered aberrant stars to fight side by side. There is a reason that the instinct of demons is to flee away from the Abyss.
This was the makeup of the multiverse before the Sundering. Now, the celestial heavens are a vast sea of stars wherein pockets of space that used to belong to other planes now float like islands in a sidereal ocean.
So what then would this blasted starscape actually look like if you were to map it? Well - we don't know exactly. Antioch and I both have different ideas which we'll detail here and hopefully get some of our readers to weigh in, as your input has proven to be a valuable asset to us in the creative process.
Antioch envisions the geography of the Sundered World as a vast expanse of space in layers with free-floating motes of lands from other planes suspended therein. The uppermost layer is comprised of starry space, while the bottommost layer is a roiling cauldron of wild elemental energies descending into the great Abyss. Picture if you will, the universe as a tea kettle sitting on a gas burner.
His take springs from the idea that players will be faced with potential perils on all sides, with the Abyss at one end, and the boundless mysteries of deep space beyond.
The picture I have of the Sundered World in my headspace is a similarly immeasurable span of starry space that is bisected with a great diagonal gash of wild elemental energies, as though space had been slashed with a great sword, and is bleeding fire and ice and living earth.
My idea is that domains would be situated on one side of this scar or the other, and that travel between them is a perilous prospect...sort of like mariners traversing the worst stormy sea you can imagine and oh yeah there's demons.
So there you have the basic mental maps of our grandiose cosmic ruin. We'd love to hear what you guys and gals and arthropods think.