Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Big Picture 2: What Is Going On Here?

So. I've written here about mechanics, alluded to a whole bunch of disconnected race and location information, and shown off some concept art of wildly disparate technologies, races, and locations. You might be asking yourself "What the hell are they doing?!" I'm going to try and answer that basic question. (An excellent question, by the way.)

The Idea of the Game
The hope with Ireta is to create a cinematic, fun, unrestricted steampunk/fantasy setting. We've chosen a system that lets players get creative with their characters, and tends to lead to exciting, character driven stories. There are some great steampunky rpgs out there, such as Eberron and Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies, but none of them quite hit the right note for us. We made our own to fill the gap.

Laws of Reality

The world of Ireta is our attempt to create a world that incorporates some of the most fun ideas of steampunk and an interpretation of magic into a semi-scientific setting. We're trying to ensure that everything in this world, including magic, at least makes a kind of scientific sense, even if it follows some non-traditional laws of physics. For now take my word on it, I'll be discussing the details of magic in Big Picture 4: "Magics!".

For contrast, I'd hold up the familiar worlds of Eberron and Shadowrun. While these worlds include a system for magic, they do so according to a more classical "hermetic" system, in which complex systems of words, shapes, and gestures bring forth magical energies. This type of magic is fun and dramatic, but it doesn't seem to follow any sort of logical reason. Why would finger gestures affect reality? Who's looking at them? Why would physics respond to words?

The answer to a lot of these questions tends to be "who knows?" or "the god/gods", which brings us to another point: our world has no dieties. (or at least not any that choose to intervene with reality). Some locals might argue the point (vehemently) but the fact remains that there is no definitive proof of any force aside from physics acting upon the world. The power of prayer and belief can produce some surprising results for some people, but it flows from their greater resolve and confidence rather than from any sort of outside influence. We'll be discussing the mechanics of Faith in "Big Picture 5: What the FATE?"

Ireta is a moon around a gas giant. It is slightly larger than the Earth, and rotates freely on its axis. It is about as far from the sun as Earth, with similar climatology. The planet is cloaked in a layer of dense fog that rises to about 1500 feet above sea level. (This mist caused by an air-water magical reaction, that'll be discussed in the "Magics!" edition.) This gas is breathable and harmless, though it is uncomfortably humid for most humans, who tend to prefer highlands and mountains above the fogline.

Many airships exploit this fog layer, using trapped "clear air" to float on the denser mist.

Now that we have the basic laws of reality out of the way, we can get down to the interesting part: People. I'll be talking more about the specific groupings of people more in my next installment, "Big Picture 3: People and Places" but they definitely need discussing in any world overview.

People in Ireta are of only one species. There are no dwarves or elves, nor any other known sentient lifeforms. (though there are some remarkably intelligent ones) Like most other vertebrates on Ireta humans in fact have 6 limbs, though two are vestigial and hidden in the ribcage. Very rare "throwback" mutations will have visible or functional middle-arms, but these are an exception. There are of course many racial variations based on their history and environments. The desert-dwelling Obu have developed dark skin, pronounced brows, and thin frames that conserve food energy. The lowland and forest-dwelling Hrafn tribes are pale and large framed, taking advantage of the plentiful food available below the fogline.

While there are clear archetypes of each race, in reality individuals are hard to define into discrete groups. Interbreeding occurs along borders, races invade and mingle, divide and hybridize. Nations might include many races or just one, conflicts may span racial barriers or divide along them. Conflict, government structure, and environment do as much to define the culture of a nation as their race.

Politics and conflict in our world are messy. Civil wars and ongoing conflicts within nations are common, as are conflicts between nations. Revolutions happen more often than one would hope. Nations are absorbed, divided, destroyed, rebuilt, and relocated. Cultural grudges, biases, stereotypes, and ignorance can clash with disastrous results, though they can create something beautiful when they are combined peacefully. (I think this warrants another Big Picture: "War, What is is good for?")

I think I will call it quits there for tonight. Next up, The Big Picture 3: People and Places, the races and nations of Ireta.

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