Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Worldbuilder's Guide to Aret and Ara-Part One

I've been vacillating a lot about how to post this, as it was never intended for 'mixed' audiences, so some of the language might be beyond the ken of other gamers, especially younger gamers. In the end I ended up just going with posting this as-is. I will post it FIRST as a three-part thing here, then make it available for download.
This is very much a collaborative work, so if you feel I've left something you were involved with out, please email me at once. :)
Names of other games and campaign settings are used under terms of fair use. In the "catalog" this is supplement AA1, so if those codes mean anything to you...


                Welcome world builders and DM’s! This supplement may or may not be for you. It won’t provide a heck of a lot of information about running a campaign on Aret or Ara, but it will provide all sorts of stuff you might need to know if you want to work out a game mechanic or if a player asks you an obscure question. We’ve used Aret and Ara in Science Fiction game systems as well as High Fantasy, as well as a personal Shadow in Amber Diceless, so many of the questions this answers are from those points of view.
This guide is divided into three sections: The Physics of Aret and Ara, the Planar Location of Aret and Ara, and the Historian’s Guide to Aret and Ara. Of these three, the Physics part will answer most questions players might throw at a DM, and the Planar Location will answer questions about how magic works, how characters from other settings get there, etc. The final section should not be considered canonical or particularly important. It answers questions that most players will take in stride without asking, such as ‘why do these people speak English,’ and ‘what is up with technology?’ This final section was fairly important for the use of the place as a personal Shadow, however.
A World builder or DM should seriously consider how much of this stuff to reveal to players. For example, a character shouldn’t know how gravity varies on Aret compared to Earth, in fact, the idea should seem nonsensical to them. You’ll notice, for example, that gods are rarely, if ever, mentioned in this supplement, but are an important part of Aretor culture. This sort of behind the scenes stuff really isn’t important for most applications on the world.
If you intend to populate a ‘blank’ space on Aret or Ara, however, this information might be pretty darn important, so I’ve kept it short and sweet to that end. Good luck!

Part One:  The Physics of Aret and Ara

Depending on the setting you’re using Aret and Ara in, the ‘reality’ of these physics is going to need to be tweaked up or down. Numbers are rounded or simplified to make any math you have to do even easier. Some of the numbers just won’t work in our world, and if the idea of the difference being ‘magic,’ bothers you, you can assume the unexplored core of the planet contains some heavy elements ours does not, or that the sun is younger, or even that the planets exist in this perilous arrangement for a brief flicker of geological time, which happens to be the time in which players play.

The Solar System:

Aret and Ara are locked in the same orbital plane of a small yellow star (which we’ll call the sun), the smaller planet (Ara), is in the L5 Point, essentially, 30 degrees behind the larger planet. In other words, if you were looking at the face of a clock, and the sun was at the center of the clock, Ara would be two hours behind Aret, all the time, the whole time the clock was turning.
 The diagram to the left (not remotely to scale) shows how a person living on Aret might perceive the relative positions of the planets and the sun. Most people on Aret think of the big shiny thing that moves in the sky like a sun as a second, smaller sun. The large amount of clouds, water and snow on both planets tends to reflect so much light that they just appear as bright shiny bluish balls of light, smaller than a moon, but much larger than a planet. This phenomenon is brightest approaching and for a while after sunset on Aret. This is why it is also called “the Evening Star.” Since Ara reflects both the larger planet and the sun, it doesn’t appear to wax and wane from the point of view of the people on Aret. Aret, on the other hand, is nearly the same size as the sun in Ara’s skies, and definitely seems less than circular as it moves through the day.
The two planets are the only planet-sized bodies in the first third of their solar system. There is a large yellow-colored gas giant (Called Kiel) about 450,000,000 miles from the sun, and a number of irregular objects and asteroids between that and the inner, inhabited planets. The outer third of the solar system is a maze of smashed objects and planetoids. Spelljamming vessels travelling the area generally see it as a minefield of collision dangers.
The Crystal Sphere containing this star and its solar system is notable for being relatively small in size. Aret and Ara are in a galaxy that is sparse, and in a universe that is sparse as well. The night sky is not lit up with stars as ours is, but contains about 1/3 that number. It is a place where strong cosmic forces result in a great deal of destruction, where the peaceful cosmic order of things is disrupted by a lack of stability at the planar level.
Gravity on Aret is just slightly more than Earth normal. For calculating rate of falling, people are encouraged to use 10 meters per second per second as the acceleration due to gravity, but no one on the planet would be able to tell the difference. Ara’s gravity is exactly the same, and this is because the planet does not exist in its form naturally, having been placed there and maintained in its location by magic. Any experienced Spelljamming or space traveling character would recognize this anomaly at once.

Chaotic, Dangerous and Unnatural

As a DM, the three words that should come to mind when describing Aretspace to outsiders are Chaotic, Dangerous, and Unnatural. It is important that characters playing on a higher level realize they are constantly risking upsetting a balance that could bring the whole thing down around their heads at any time.
This is one reason why characters imported into this campaign setting from elsewhere are given an experience or magic item boost. It suffers from level inflation, with many of your townspeople (who would be 0th level elsewhere) being as high as 5th level, and many of your town guards being over 10th level. Except for pockets of stability (usually held in place by high level characters,) the people on the frontiers are facing a huge number of monsters, wizards who’ve lost their minds and more. This makes for many ruins (and places to dungeon crawl) and a hardscrabble place to grow up.

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