A Parallel World

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noisms has an interesting post about a map created to scale of 1 mile = 1 mile. As suggested in his post, these map fragments could be a type of parallel world perfect for gaming. For me, it is a starting point to create unique gates, a new class of magic items, and a seed for "big bads" of all difficulties.

Here's the quote from Borges' One Exactitude in Science:

. . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Looking at any piece of the map (if you can unfold it) will help you navigate in the real world some of the time. The larger the piece, the more likely a PC will be able to use it to navigate. Let's say that if you take your piece of the map to the area it represents that a gate will open to a parallel world. Once characters travel through the gate, the map will change to represent the details of their new world. (This gives them a way back.) The downside is that the characters appear a random distance away from the place where they need to travel to reactivate the gate.

If the characters have an item from a parallel world, that item can help them travel to that world through one of these gates. It will require some divination magic to determine the path. I would set it as a second level spell (OSR/Swords & Wizardry) so that lower level characters will either be able to learn the spell fairly early in their careers or that it would be straightforward enough to hire the spell to be cast.

I have never liked Teleport spells, but in this world, higher level spells could teleport the caster from one point on the map to another. Again, this would work only when the caster is somewhere within the area represents by the map itself. To teleport any great distance would require a map larger than a horse-drawn carriage.

Doing some thumbnail calculations, a map made out of standard American 20 lb paper that displayed a square mile would weight about 3400 tons. Again, the material for the map would have to be much much lighter. In a way, this makes the back of map pieces valuable for anything requiring a lot of writing space. Imagine a spell book that is pages of magical formulas on one side of the paper, and a series of maps on the other side. In other words, take a spell book, and turn it over. Read from back to front to see a series of interconnected maps of a single room. (Each page is a little less than a square foot. A 100 page spell book would be about the same as a ten feet by eight feet room.)

Going back to the teleportation powers of the maps, let's say that a high spell level (4th or 5th) would allow the caster to teleport to the locale shown on the map. The caster would arrive anywhere within the area shown by the map. The risk in using the spell would be a chance that the caster arrives in a parallel world instead of his/her intended destination. Going back to the spell book made of paper from the great map, a wizard with his spell book could always manage to attempt to teleport to safety.

So let's set some definitions. The paper for the Relics of Geography looks like 20 lb modern paper but is exactly 1000 times lighter. One a small scale, that makes the 100 pages of a spell book weight 1/4 ounce. (The 3 lb weight listed in the d20 src must be the weight of the cover.) On a larger scale, a map showing a square mile weighs about 3.5 tons. This would require a team of three to six horses to pull. Folding the square map 17 times, should make it fit in a space that is roughly 20 feet by 10 feet, so it's a large carriage. Yes, it has to be many many times stronger than paper. It can still be stronger than anything, but easily cut.

I mentioned big bads earlier. These map fragments work to take things out of this world and to bring them in. Parallel worlds do not require any similarity at all to the standard campaign world. Considering the size of the entire map, pieces of the map are common enough that creatures of all kinds can travel around the multiverse looking for worlds that can be easily controlled and/or exploited. Since a spell is required to make use of the map fragments, the bad guys would most likely be intelligent.

Hopefully, more on this in another post. This was just too interesting to pass up. Thanks noisms! (Yes, visit his site. Always fun.)

Tight-Knit Worldbuilding or How I Let Go and Learned to Enjoy the Hexcrawl

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Last post, I created a pantheon, but it is pretty bare-bones. To make this an interesting region on a map, here are more fluff and crunch details. This is a long post. The OSR version of all this comes in a near-future post.

Water and Animal Domains

With the water domain so strong, let's assume the people that worship these gods live on the coast and have strong ties to the sea. Since the deities are so similar and the animal domain is also prominent, I'll assign totems by alignment: Dolphin (CG), Shark (CE), Octopus (LE), Walrus (LG). The totem is part holy symbol, part animistic religion. More on that later in the post.

Male and Female Were They Made

Since there are two gods for each alignment, I will make them brother and sister. Why would there be male and female aspects of the same alignment? Why are all the domains so tightly bound together? Let's say that at first, there was only one True Neutral god of the Sea. After creating the water and all the creatures that live there, his final act of creation was to split into eight weaker, but divine pieces. These pieces are what comprise our pantheon.

Areas of Concern

In addition to the names and favored weapons, I'm going to add areas of concerns. This is mostly to match the format of the Egyptian pantheon on the Pathfinder SRD, but it can be a lot of fun for background. I didn't want to overload the pantheon with a bunch of new features, so this is a way to accentuate the Strength and Wisdom domains without adding more crunch. Here's our pantheon again:

DEITY AL AREAS OF CONCERN NON-ALIGNMENT DOMAINS FAVORED WEAPON
Samoora N Oceans, Sea Creatures, Wisdom Animal, Creation, Knowledge, Strength, Water trident
Camalanth LG Habitat, Fishing, Walrus Animal, Knowledge spear
Clawata LG Tides, Currents, Walrus Strength, Water dagger
Broadhead CG Exploration, Ships, Creatures Lost at Sea, Dolphin Knowledge, Water Kusarigama
Galelile CG Giant Sea Creatures, Social Graces, Dolphin Animal, Strength quaterstaff
Villefred CE Sea Shanties, Predators, Poison, Shark Animal, Knowledge short sword
Helica CE Speed, Strength, Brutality, Shark Strength, Water maul
L'Sak LE Obscurement, Deception, Octopus Knowledge, Water spear
Nagelot LE Aquatic Birds, Thievery, Blackmail, Octopus Animal, Strength net

A Dead God and Subdomains

Since the creator god, Samoora, is gone, we'll call this the Samoora Pantheon. One way to make the gods more distinct is to use subdomains. Since the Samoora Pantheon is tied closely with the sea, the default Water domain for these gods is really the Ocean subdomain. Just as a bit of flavor, I'll call the traditional Water domain the Current (as in a cold water current) domain.

Defining Totems

Even with subdomains, I want to make the animal totems mean something more. Let's make something like subdomains based on the totem. For ease of reference, I'll call them Totem Subdomains.

Each totem represents one alignment. For example, Clerics of Camalanth and Clawata may take the Walrus Totem Subdomain since both gods are Lawful Good.

Since every god in the Samoora Pantheon covers either the Animal or Water domain, these totem domains are used with those domains instead of Law, Chaos, Good, or Evil. No god has both Animal and Water, so it shouldn't create an issue.

Keith gave a bit of advice to make the totem more meaningful, so all Totem subdomains also gain the following ability.

Spirit Animal (Su): You can take the shape of your totem animal once/day at 4th level, +1/day per two levels after that until 18th level, then at will. Each use is good for one hour per level or until canceled. At higher levels they can take on more varied forms (initially small and medium animals, then smaller and larger, plants, elementals, and so on, at different levels). At 12th level, you may take the shape of your totem's avatar, a half-human/half-animal form.

There are four Totem Subdomains; Walrus, Dolphin, Shark, and Octopus. Here are the stats for each one.

Walrus  Subdomain

Associated Domains: Animal, Water

Granted Powers: As followers of the Walrus Totem, you seek to promote the welfare of your seafaring community.

Inspiring Word (Su): As a standard action, you can speak an inspiring word to a creature within 30 feet. That creature receives a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saving throws for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 your cleric level (minimum 1). You can use this power a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.

Cold Resistance (Ex): At 6th level, you gain resist cold 10. This resistance increases to 20 at 12th level. At 20th level, you gain immunity to cold.

Replacement Domain Spells: 1st—remove fear, 3rd—protection from energy(cold only), 7th—repulsion

Dolphin  Subdomain

Associated Domains: Animal, Water

Granted Powers: As followers of the Dolphin Totem, you value the common good and strong family bonds through play. You seek to find what is lost to help others.

Bit of Luck (Su): You can touch a willing creature as a standard action, giving it a bit of luck. For the next round, any time the target rolls a d20, he may roll twice and take the more favorable result. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.

Echolocation (Ex): At 6th level, you gain the power to use once a day. Echolocation functions the same as the Locate Object spell except that this power is foiled by polymorph any object and silence. It is not foiled by nondetection.

Replacement Domain Spells: 1st—Air Bubble, 3rd—Ocean's Blessing (+10 Swim checks), 6th—mislead

Shark  Subdomain

Associated Domains: Animal, Water

Granted Powers: As followers of the Shark Totem, you are ruthless and efficient in all you do.

Bleed Touch (Su): As a melee touch attack, you can cause a living creature to take 1d6 points of damage per round. This effect persists for a number of rounds equal to 1/2 your cleric level (minimum 1) or until stopped with a DC 15 Heal check or any spell or effect that heals damage. You can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Wisdom modifier.

Gale Aura (Su): At 6th level, as a standard action, you can create a 30-foot aura of gale-like winds that slows the progress of enemies. Creatures in the aura cannot take a 5-foot step. Enemies in the aura treat each square that brings them closer to you as difficult terrain. They can move normally in any other direction. You can use this ability for a number of rounds per day equal to your cleric level. The rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Replacement Domain Spells: 1st—cause fear, 3rd—rage, 6th—harm

Octopus  Subdomain

Associated Domains: Animal, Water

Granted Powers: As followers of the Octopus Totem, you are cold, calculating, and always in control. This means you know when to press an advantage and when to regroup for a more opportune time.

Obscuring Ink (Su): This power functions as the Obscuring Mist spell except that it also functions underwater. Any objects that come in contact with the ink are stained for one minute per round of effect. The duration of this affect is 3 + Wisdom bonus rounds. The rounds do not need to be consecutive.

Whispering Evil (Su): At 8th level, as a standard action, you can whisper a hypnotizing litany of empty promises. Each enemy within a 30-foot emanation that can hear you must succeed on a Will saving throw or become fascinated for as long as you continue the litany. You can use this power a number of rounds per day equal to your cleric level, but these rounds do not need to be consecutive. This is a mind-affecting effect

Replacement Domain Spells: 1st—disguise self, 3rd—nondetection, 6th—hold monster or modify memory

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

With our deities defined, we can now look out for other events to shape the pantheon and the implied community that reveres these gods. Since the Walrus totem focuses on protection from cold, we can place an ancient White Dragon named Vinakrah to the north as a constant threat. To make it interesting, the Cult of the Vinakrah is a unifying threat for the followers of these gods. Specifically, when Priests of the White Dragon menace the community, these gods can work together to overcome a common enemy.

One Enemy Is Not Enough

Some time ago, I wrote about a golem-making group of crabmen called the Portán. In real crabs, molting occurs twice a year for a total of three weeks. The molting times would see a dramatic increase in the number of the crabmen golems and no doubt fuel the discussion about a final solution for these menaces.

At low and medium levels, these guys could keep any group busy, especially in raid on the Portán nests. When a party arrives, though, they soon discover the secrets of the Portán and pray to return to the safety of their own civilization. The crabmen also present a number of good adventure hooks, including quests for alien technology and/or an alien metal.

The best way to put it is that Vinakrah is an obvious, ever-present threat. The Portán and the shadowy Hlong Khagee are a secret danger that will likely arise only if the crabmen are provoked.

A New Race

This is also a good entry point for a race of land-adventuring dolphins defined here not that long ago. They are setup for Swords & Wizardry in my post, so here are a few notes to serve as guidelines:

Ability Score Racial Traits: +2 CON, +2 DEX, -2 CHA
Size: Medium
Type: Animal with Water subtype
Base Speed: 20, but speed is not affected by armor or encumbrance.

It would be easy to imagine the Howerters (dolphin race) as emissaries of the Gods. In that way, you could present them as paladins of the two Dolphin Totem gods. As originally planned, they would make excellent Rogues and if you use psionics,  Psychic Knives.

With the Portán running around, it's good to know that there is a group of creatures putting technology to good use.

One last bit of world building fluff to make the setting interesting:

There is a commonly proscribed tonic in the Samoora region made up of cinnamon and vinegar. It is believed to be an effective bracer against the cold air blowing off the water and a curative for minor ills. All taverns in the area feature a mulled dry wine  with a strong flavor of cinnamon. A yearly festival prominently featuring the Dolphin totem culminates in a grand contest of the best mulled wine. Outsiders and visitors are usually identified quickly by the local tavern-goers by their preference for ale, beer, or mead.

This entire post is declared Open Game Content under the OGL. Section 15 listed below:

System Reference Document. Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook. Copyright 2009, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Jason Bulmahn, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.
Polyhedral Pantheons. Copyright 2014, Echelon Game Design; Author: Keith Davies.
Echelon Reference Series: Clerics (3pp+PRD). Copyright 2014, Echelon Game Design; Author: Keith Davies.
The Book of Divine Magic. Copyright 2009, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming; Authors Connie J. Thomson and Robert W. Thomson, with Katheryn Bauer and Sean O’Connor.
The Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting Copyright 2008, Paizo Publishing; Author: Stan!, Keith Baker, Wolfgang Baur, Clinton J. Boomer, Jason Bulmahn, Joshua J. Frost, Ed Greenwood, Stephen S. Greer, Jeff Grubb, James Jacobs, Michael Kortes, Tito Leati, Mike McArtor, Rob McCreary, Erik Mona, Jason Eric Nelson, Jeff Quick, Sean K Reynolds, David Schwartz, Leandra Christine Schneider, F. Wesley Schneider, Amber E. Scott, Owen K.C. Stephens, Todd Stewart, James L. Sutter, Greg A. Vaughan, Jeremy Walker, JD Wiker.