Legacy of Darkness (3.5e Campaign Setting)/Geography
Sometime in the mists of time, the world suddenly was divided into thousands of self-contained, magically sustained little worlds. Whole civilizations found themselves separated from one another, entire empires divided from their own people. These worlds became known as "shards".
When the world shattered, it created a light-less, airless void that holds all of its' fragments in a strange orbit around the Center. Unlike space, the Void is not entirely a vacuum. Instead, throughout the vacuum strange currents of viscous golden magic flow, creating a mystical "breeze" which has in recent years been harnessed to propel voidships from shard to shard, in much the same way as wind and waves upon the ocean. These currents bring light from the Center to many of the shards, although more than a few shards remain in darkness. This magic is really quite harmless, although certain creatures are known to dwell within them, preying on voidships and stranded creatures.
|DM's Note: Hazards of the Void
One of the great problems of Velaque travel, starvation isn't much of an issue on Imperial ships, where mages use spells such as create food and water regularly to supply their crew. However, on Mane ships, the problem is much more real. Crews should plan accordingly for food and water when traveling to uninhabited or hostile shards, and generally should bring some method of storage to prevent the stagnation of supplies. More than a few tales are told of Maunu crews who ran out of food mid journey, and how their ships have been found adrift in the dark, full of withered dead.
Disease and illness are some of the biggest causes of death in void travel. Toxic food, failing air and stowaway vermin can decimate an unprepared crew. Airborne diseases are another threat entirely; diseases like mindfire and cackle fever can spread through a ship's atmosphere and go undetected by the time the whole crew's infected.
Despite contradicting Imperial publicity that states otherwise, only a rare few creatures have been found that seem to be able to survive in the void. The most prolific appears to be a strange breed of shark that "swims" within stretches of borea. Void sharks can grow a staggering forty-five feet long, and they sometimes savagely attack intruding ships.
Another subject of Imperial misinformation, the void pirates are said to prey on unprotected ships that leave patrolled Imperial Void. The reality of this is that few pirates maintain the ability to assault or even board a ship mid flight, instead waiting on less populated shards to attack and steal ships from merchants and Imperial military.
Setting Out: The difficulty of setting an accurate course depends on the quality of information you have about where you’re going. The DM makes a Knowledge (The Void) check for you, since you don’t know for certain if you have planned an accurate course. If you don’t have any particular destination in mind, you don’t need to set a course. As long as you keep a record of course changes and distances sailed, you won’t have trouble retracing your steps or setting a new course.
Daily Piloting: Each day of your voyage, you make a piloting check to establish your position and make the routine corrections necessary to hold to your intended course. Failing your piloting check once is not a problem; you simply failed to establish your location for the day, but you can go back to your previous day’s established position and estimate your current position given the course and speed you think you’ve followed since. You do not become lost until you fail your piloting check on three consecutive days.
Becoming Lost: Determining whether you've become lost within the Void is similar to becoming lost on land, with just a few exceptions. First, you check to see if you become lost only once per day during extended voyages. (You might need to check once per hour in confined or confusing areas, such as a series of forked borea). A ship in the void is not lost until you fail your piloting check three days in a row. As on land, a ship lost in the void moves randomly. In order to recognize that you’ve become lost, you are entitled to a Knowledge (the void) check once per day (DC 20, – 1 per day of random travel) to recognize that you are no longer certain of your direction of travel. Setting a new course once you’ve recognized that you have become lost requires a new Knowledge (the void) course-setting check. The DC is determined normally, although you should apply the modifier for guessed at an unknown starting point as appropriate. Generally, a ship has an unknown starting point only if it has been deprived of any method to gauge its direction and distance of travel.
In 1 hour, a ship travels a distance in nautical miles equal to its speed in feet per round divided by 10. For example, a ship sailing at a speed of 30 feet per round is making 3 knots, and covers 3 nautical miles in an hour. In one day of travel, assuming the ship stops for the night to allow it's navigators to rest, a ship travels a number of nautical miles equal to its speed in feet per round. A ship sailing at 30 feet per round covers 30 nautical miles in a day of sailing. Imperial Naval ships are required to bear at two shifts of navigators, meaning that they can travel round-the-clock without interruption. Sailing a full 24 hours doubles the normal distance traveled in a day of sailing, so the ship with a speed of 30 feet per round sails 60 nautical miles over a full day.
Outside of these currents, the Void is indeed a vacuum, which is quite dangerous to unprotected creatures. On the third round of exposure to vacuum, a creature must succeed on a Constitution check (DC 20) each round or suffer from aeroembolism (“the bends”). A creature that fails the save experiences excruciating pain as small air bubbles form in its bloodstream; such a creature is considered stunned and remains so until returned to normal atmospheric pressure. A creature that fails the Constitution check by 5 or more falls unconscious.
The real danger of vacuum comes from suffocation, though holding one’s breath in vacuum damages the lungs. A character who attempts to hold his breath must make a Constitution check (DC 15) every round; the DC increases by 1 each round, and on a successful check the character takes 1 point of Constitution damage (from the pressure on the linings of his lungs). If the check fails, or when the character simply stops holding his breath, he begins to suffocate. In the next round, he falls unconscious with 0 hit points. The following round, he drops to –1 hit points. On the third round, he drops to –10 hit points and dies.
The most mysterious, yet important part of the Void, the brilliant mass of glowing energy known as the Coruscal provides the light, and energy necessary for life to flourish throughout the shards. Almost resembling a giant golden nebula of swirling energy, the Center has a vaguely spherical shape, although it constantly shifts and swirls, making a definite design impossible to discern.
For many scholars and astrologers, the Coruscal has become a hotly debated subject. It's composition seems to be the same as the numerous borea that flow to and from it, throughout the Void, however, ships that have gotten within about eighty miles of it have experienced bizarre situations. The I.V.N Isrid reported eight missing crew members, and terrible hallucinations. A small ore-bearing galleon from Argonis Lycar disappeared, but was found-crewless and battered within the second tier of the Aswen, two days later. Numerous other accounts, most famously those of Sir Tylen Argonith report strange diaphanous beings swimming in the energy, hundreds, if not thousands of feet long.
Throughout the Void, rivulets of the same coursing energy from the Coruscal wander far and wide. Borea provided a much needed source of light to many shards. The borea react much the same around the shards, providing warmth, although at a much lesser rate than the Coruscal. Where those inner shards such as Palantium, Helsinsid and Argonis Lycar are so hot that their desert is perpetual (about 86 °f during days), shards warmed by the borea are about three degrees colder per thousand miles from the Coruscal. Certain shards, of course, aren't able to receive light from either the Coruscal or it's borea, resulting in extremely cold climates. Borea fluctuate in their power, mimicking seasons on most shards that rely on them.
Certain borea are known as tidal borea: these exist only during a certain time of the year for a brief (or sometimes extended) period of time before dissipating. While dissappated, shards that rely on it may become extremely cold and dark.
To separate the two different shards: Coruscal-warmed and borea-warmed, the Licil Karcere classifies those shards that have little potential to receive energy from the Coruscal as part of the "Outer Ring", while those that receive the majority from it are of the "Inner Ring".
While no one can yet explain why, the world shattering created hundreds of miles wide spheres, called "shards".
Most shards still retain the same ecosystem that existed before the Shattering, although millenia of isolation has caused many organisms to evolve very strangely. Many races have changed greatly from others of their kind, adapting perfectly to their own little worlds.
The shards are divided into four categories based on their position around the Center: inner shards, outer shards, deep void shards and transitory shards.
Inner shards occupy the area closest to the Coruscal, with the closest known being Argonis Lycar. Most of the Inner shards are controlled by the Empire, however a small few retain their own governments.
Due to the constant light from the Center that most of these shards receive, the Inner shards possess the highest concentration of life, with only a rare few lifeless, usually due to extraneous circumstances. Inner shards tend to be very hot, often as deserts when one ventures nearer the Coruscal.
The Outer shards number in the hundreds, if not potentially thousands. Most have yet to be explored, while many are difficiult to due to extreme environments. The borea provide most of the light and warmth out here, breeding societies that worship the waxing and waning of them. Many shards receive no light at all, which often means that these shards are devoid of life entirely.
Other organizations are more prevalent in the outer shards, especially the Confederation and the numerous fleets of pirates that stalk the Void.
Deep Void Shards
Past even the wild outer shards, dozens of shards exist in the area known as the Deep Void, a section of near total darkness breached only seldom by distant light.
|DM's Note: Traveling The Shards
While they do resemble minute planets, it should be noted that entering a shard from the void is relatively simple, and entering the atmosphere causes no ill effects (Of course, you still have to contend with the sudden introduction of gravity, or appearing in the midst of a storm.) Many shards suffer from poor, contaminated or even no air. In the case of poor air, the creature breathing it in is treated as slowly suffocating, taking 1d6 points of nonlethal damage every fifteen minutes. Ael'Therax, Dryx'a and Dai'rone are three shards that suffer from poor air.
Contaminated air is a much more varied hazard. Contaminants might be mold, pollen, dust, smoke, or even some form of magic. Each of these hazards should be taken on a case by case basis for determining effects.
Especially on desert and ocean shards, starvation and thirst are huge threats to the unprepared. Often local plants and animals are toxic, as a defense against intruders, so spells like detect poison can be truly invaluable.
The shards have been separated for so long, that many creatures, including parasites and bacteria, have evolved to become dramatically stronger. With no exposure to many of these, those adventuring to other shards often find themselves more susceptible to them. The DM may choose to impose a -4 penalty on saves against diseases and poisons found on other shards.
The new Imperial presence on so many shards has a significant impact on local races. Many races met them with curiosity at first, and then either awe or angry later on. Many tribal civilizations have been destroyed by these sudden incursions, or altered irreparably.
A rarity in the Inner ring, shards devoid of life are very common in the Outer ring and Deep Void. Mostly these shards are barren due to a lack of air or light, and the Empire has seen fit to ignore most of these shards. Some of the features of barren shards may include forests of long dead trees, stagnant oceans or blazingly hot deserts. Different types of undead are commonly found on these shards, as they can endure most conditions there.
Life is sparse in the dark, barren shards, made even rarer by the strange proliferation of planar bleed-through and breaches. The most common are often outer planes such as the Nine Hells or The Abyss.
No governments are known to control any deep void shards, although the Empire has a small outpost on Descada, accessible only two weeks out of the year through a tidal borea known as Thuerxune's Tongue.
A select few shards move slowly from one section to another sections, these shards are known are transitory shards.
The most famous transitory shard to date is known as Uvifluen, which moves from the inner shards in the summer through the outer ring into the outer shards in the winter, in a magnificent cascade of fierce thunderstorms.