Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Known Worlds.

The last few days have been busy and hectic. Besides running my hinterlands game on saturday, I've mostly been working on refurbishing the house. While my landlord is chucking some good money my way, it's difficult to explain to him that yes, we do need to take out the entire wall because it's molded all the way through. The house is over 90 years old and still has the original wall paper in places and the bathroom was in desperate need of a fan. Next step: redo all of the kitchen countertops. That's be an interesting experience with 8 of us in the house needing to make dinner. I guess everyone will be eating out for the next couple of days.

When I haven't been wood- and tile-working, I've begun brainstorming a new setting. For now I'm just calling it The Known Worlds. Yes, I'm in desperate need of a better working title. It's definitely like nothing I've seen before on the blogosphere (I could be wrong though), so if you're looking for inspiration on your next weird fantasy or science fantasy setting, you've come to the right place.

The meet of campaign came from the e-mail exchange I had with Nate last week concerning deities. In a sentence, one could describe the known world as what happens when you take the disparity between Law and Chaos a little too far. Here's a brief description of the setting:

The Known Worlds

There are four Known Worlds: the World of Law, the World of Chaos, the World of Men, and the Underworld. In common speak, the World of Men in known as simply the World; the World of Chaos is often referred to the Delusion or the Nightmare; and more often than the World of Law is called the Machine or the Forge. All three worlds are collectively refereed to as the Worlds Above while the Underworld is sometimes called the World Below.

The World of Law, the World of Chaos, and the World of Men all share the same basic geography, as if each was laid over or superimposed up one another. If there is a hill in the World, that same hill will appear in the Machine and the Delusion. Likewise, where there is a city in the World, there is likely to be a castle or obelisk in the Machine and a hollow mushroom or hallucinogenic village in the Delusion.

In fact all, it can easily be said that the Worlds Above do share the same geography. It really is the exact same hill in the Nightmare, the Forge, and the World; the land itself is entirely separate from the contents of the Worlds Above. It is said that the Delusion, the Machine, and the World and merely separated by the Veil, a thin, supernatural barrier.

The Veil makes travel between the Worlds Above difficult. Only in places where the Veil is exceptionally thin or unstable can creatures move between them without assistance and even then, it is virtually impossible to travel from the Machine or the Nightmare and vice versa. It isn’t uncommon for creatures to accidently stumble into the Forge or the Nightmare with no prior warning—but they sure know it what they arrive.

The safest and more reliable way to move from one world to another is through a portal. A sprawling system of secret portals are scattered throughout the Known World. Many portals require the use of magic spells to activate and others require a keystone or password. No two portals are the same and no two portals lead to the same place. Unlike geography, where there is a portal in the Forge, there may not necessarily be one in the World or the Delusion. It is even said that some of these portals lead to completely alien realms outside of the Known World—although no one really knows for sure.

Below the Nightmare, the Forge, and the World, resides the Underworld. The Underworld is not the land of the dead, but a system of tunnels and caverns—more ancient than the first mine in the Machine and more dangerous and feared than the Nightmare. Few venture into the Underworld and even fewer crawl back out alive. What secrets the underworld may hold await the greedy or desperate hands of unfortunate dungeoneers. The easiest way to enter the Underground is through the ancient portals scattered throughout the Known Worlds, but some caves and tunnels can also lead unsuspecting adventurers into the Underworld.

The Nightmare, The Delusion

Governed by crazed and obsessive emotion, the World of Chaos is filled with hallucination, madness, terror, nostalgia, love, melancholy, innocence, and pure and uncorrupted joy. The Delusion is enough to drive any lucid mind into a spiral of unparalleled insanity.

Sprawling fields of mountainous mushrooms litter the landscape like forests. Swamps and marshes fill the air with hallucinogenic gasses and house some of the strangest and most bizarre creatures imaginable (although that could always be use fumes talking). Leathery skinned amphibians, monstrous insects, furious and sentient trees, all walk the hazy or luminous landscape of the Delusion.

Residing within the Nightmare is a being known only as the Opiate who is said to be as old as the Nightmare itself. Little is know about this mysterious figure except his existence, for he is so entirely insane that it is now impossible for him to expel coherent speech. Many believe that he is the living heart of the Delusion and the cause of its madness. Other says that the Opiate was merely the Nightmare’s first victim.

The Machine, The Forge

Where the Delusion is toppling over with crazed or obsessive emotion, in the Machine there is none. The Forge is heartless, mechanical, and unyielding. There is no art or love, only industry and progress.

Thick smog pollutes the air of the Forge. Only inside smooth metal structures can one truly breathe freely, and even then the air is sterile and void. Citizens of the machine, if they are not mechanical themselves where only armor for clothing and are in a constant state of productivity. No wildlife inhabits the barren wastelands of the Machine; it is world of men and metal and machines.

Heartless as the Machine itself, the Forge is rule by a mechanical man known only as the Overseer. He is the judge, jury, and supreme authority of the realm. Nothing gets done without his stamp of approval and nothing he commands remains incomplete for long. Without the Overseer the Machine would jitter and jam; he is the force that keeps the forge relentlessly active.


  1. I like a lot of your ideas, and I'm interested to see where you take it. Your idea of portals between the various worlds sounds similar to what I have in my game. I have a write-up of them on my blog.

  2. In fact, your blog is exactly where I got the idea for portals--but I didn't realize it until now. Funny how often that happens.