The Eye of the Needle

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Prologue:

The bulk of this post was written over two years ago. I felt the need to finish it as I still want to run a campaign in a place that has some of the ideas of Spelljammer, like flying ships and travel to other planets. I gave it the code name of Tiezerakan, but when I finish it, the name will be much easier to pronounce.

Anyway, here is a post dedicated to the May Blog Carnival.

Original Inspirational Notes for the Setting:

  • Imagine two worlds connected by a 30 mile diameter tunnel.
  • Specially crafted ships shorten the journey between worlds to three days but, the middle 1000 miles takes about 24 hours through a much more narrow corridor.
  • Trading companies vie for power on both worlds,
  • Illuminated glyphs provide the only light on the journey,
  • A dozen religions war over the claim of the tunnel’s creator,
  • Flying ships,
  • A Cannular demiplanet,
  • Lost artifacts, thieves and the Order of the Acicular Monks

Introducing the Needle

The Eye of the Needle is a location that goes back to a feature of Tiezerakan. In the Tiezerakan world,  every planet has a twin that is located on the opposite side of the Central Fire. (The Central Fire functions much like the Sun in our solar system.)

Specifically, a corridor exists that connects Tol and Lot, the two primary homeworlds of humankind. The corridor is called The Needle. While interplanetary travel exists, travel through The Needle requires only half the time of a more conventional route.

Physical Description:

The Tunnel exists on each world as a circle that reaches 30 miles in diameter. Long, narrow docks and landing areas radiate from the rim of the circle for miles in every direction. Huge cargo ships pour out of the circle regularly at all times of the day and night. Flitting across the tunnel’s maw are many smaller courier ships along with a few passenger ships. Despite all the traffic, accidents are extremely rare, a fact that marvels a first-time visitor.

Inside the tunnel is dark except for illuminated glyphs that run the entire length. The smallest symbols are about two miles high and wide, though most are estimated to be tens of thousands of miles long. Tunnelrats, as travelers in the Tunnel are called, use the various glyphs to map constellations that provide approximate distance traveled and a rough sense of time.

The Eye of the Needle is located in the middle of tunnel. It is believed to be exactly halfway between the planets of Tol and Lot. The size of the Eye is unknown, but it is visible for almost an entire 24 hour day while ships are traveling past it.

The Eye is considered a hindrance at best and a terror at worst. The size of the Eye requires ships that travel the tunnel to slow down considerably. The distance from the surface of the Eye to the edge of the Needle is a little less than seven miles. Ship attacks are common at the Eye. It is believed that several groups of organized bandits use the Eye as a base from which to launch attacks.

Traveling the Needle:

Travel through the Needle is done by specially designed craft of all sizes. The largest, are the cargo ships informally known as whales. These ships can reach almost 100 feet wide and often exceed 400 feet in length. Unlike most ether or water-based craft, no sails are required. Any decks are constructed only for the purposes of fighting pirates.

The smallest ships are personal ships for various priests that live on either side of the Needle. Each ship is unique, but often feature an observation deck for studying the symbols that adorn the tunnel walls. It is believed that these tiny vessels, often only eight feet wide, do not need to reduce their speed to navigate the Eye. (No one can confirm this.)

Societal Effect of the Needle:

Many faiths have temples built on the perimeter of the Needles’ openings on both planets. Dozens of deities (and a few titans) take credit for the creation of the Needle. Ships full of religious pilgrims regularly land on the surface of the tunnel seeking knowledge, enlightenment, or power to perform various rituals. It is common to encounter proselytizers offering true wisdom and the keys of wisdom through secret knowledge.

The gods and titans are not the only planar beings to take an active role in life around the Needle. Various demons and devils also hold sway over large chunks of land and a large number of citizens. Each faction is in search of powerful magicks or artifacts believed to be located within the Needle itself. Rumors of carriages that can ride the Needle’s walls fuel many quests into the tunnel to explore its surface.

As a result of the religious influence, any management of the docks along the Needles’ openings is ineffective. Disputes between officials often involve nothing more than differing opinions of the interpretation of a specific symbol seen in the Needle. Bribes are fact of doing business. Trading companies pressure independent merchants into membership. Much of the violence on the docks results from attacks from one trading company against another.

Every conceivable good and service is available in shops surrounding the docks. Given enough time, any item can be purchased. Any service can be performed. Any item can be manufactured. If it exists, someone in this vast expanse either has it or knows how to get it quickly.

Playing the Needle:

Playing the Needle (or possibly threading the Needle) can revolve around many things, depending on what players want to experience with their characters.

The most straightforward way of playing this setting is having the characters be a crew on a merchant ship. They met as a result of being recruited as sailors on a merchant ship through the needle. The characters do not necessarily need to have lived anywhere near the Needle to be recruited. Regardless of their homeland, they meet on the deck of a ship ready to begin the voyage at dawn the next day.

Why be a pawn in a game of kings? Have the characters play owners of a trading company. Anyone having a priest character serves as a liason from one of the hundreds of temples that dot the rim of the eye. All of the characters have pooled their meager resources into purchasing a small ship and hiring themselves as the crew. They could end up stranded on the eye itself, decide to take the analogue of the Northwest Passage and fly around both planets, find an artifact or just about anything else you can dream up.

Why be make an honest living? Be pirates!

Solo characters could be a priest seeking knowledge about the glyphs or a monk learning to walk on the surface of the tunnel itself. Have the magic-user explore a curious item brought back from the sister planet.

Get strange – have the characters meet themselves on the other planet.

Epilogue:

Taking a quick break from Lorica to revisit an old post is fun. I hope to have another post like this for that setting later this month. Enjoy!