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Thread: Flat Earth D&D

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    smile Flat Earth D&D

    It has come to my attention that most people don't think of a Fantasy world the way I do.

    They view it as "pretty much our world, with less technology, and add magic".

    In my mind, that is the wrong place to start. The right place to start is with Mythology as Reality.

    First, the world is Flat. Otherwise you would fall off.

    The edge of the World exists. If you sail too far, you fall off.

    Hell and Heaven are physical places, just like China.

    The Sun is not a ball of burning gas, and the Stars are not Suns that are far off. They are The Sun and The Stars -- their dance directs and predicts the future. Great Sages can predict when the stars align for great events, and every villiage has at least one person who can predict the change of seasons.

    Planets are the moving Stars, who personify even greater forces of Fate than the rest of the Stars.

    Conservation of Matter just isn't a problem. Water falls off the edge of the world, and it doesn't need to be replaced, because the Ocean is Water.

    Wilderness, the Ocean, and places far off are extremely dangerous, mysterious, and full of things mankind was not meant to know, because when you go looking there you tend not to come back.

    Water flows because the Spirits that animate it choose to flow. Water floods because the Spirits that animate it choose to flood.

    Clouds are Mountains in the Sky, and Lightning Bolts are the Arrows of the Gods.

    If you piss off the Fae, your house will be cursed, your child will be taken and a Changeling left in its place, and your livestock will be blighted. Don't piss off the Fae.

    The Woods are a world into themselves. Entering deep into the Woods places you into the Wilderness, where the laws and rules of mankind mean nothing. And the Woods do not like people straying into them.

    Wherever the Wilderness is, mankind's rules do not hold. Uncivilized Mountains, Caverns under the ground, Jungles, the Ocean out of sight of land -- all are the lands of the Wilderness.

    Think not of the Wilderness as a place merely out of touch -- think of it more as a collection of alternate planes of existance that touch ours.

    Civilization is safe from the Mythological because of the many blessings, mollifications, and spells used to ward it off. Failure to Sacrafice brings disaster, for if the walls of appeasement between civilization and the Wild fall, everyone is doomed.

    Spirits are all around us, and if we leave our places, they object. Spirits of the Air drive the wind, Spirits of the Water drive the water, Spirits of the Earth grow our crops, and Spirits of Fire consume entire cities and forests.

    Mankind is helpless before Fate -- Heros are those Fated to be great, or with the will and the strength to battle against Fate in vain.

    That is the World of Fantasy that I default to. Flat Earth D&D.

    A world in which doing anything different than how your father and your father's father and your father's father's father did before is fraught with unknown and deadly dangers -- who knows what spirit you will anger?

    Where magic and the mythological are more powerful than any civilization, and the assumptions of the modern day are not only misplaced but flat out wrong.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    You have an interesting point. However, by mentioning the Law of Conservation of Matter, you have sentenced at least one cat-girl to an early death.

    But you do have a very good point. Well said.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Okay.

    That's quite a long list.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Most of that reminds me a lot of Discworld.

    Fun fact: No one ever actually thought the world was flat. They either didn't think about it (because, honestly, why would you?) or knew that it was round (Ancient Greeks knew... and I'm sure people before that knew, due to the fact that you can't see everything on the planet from the top of tall mountains!)...
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    Man, this is just one of those things you see and realize, "I live in a weird and banal future."

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    The earth isn't flat, silly. The earth is the corpse of a mighty giant slain by an ancient god and we must cleave and till the earth to keep his wounds open so that he never awakens and puts on clothes, crushing us under miles of cotton.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Discworld does take lots of pre-modern ideas and assume they are true. It then makes them funny. :)

    But the idea that the world is a rational place you can figure out is not a simple one. Heck -- the idea that knowledge for knowledge's sake is worth writing down is a pretty damn new idea!

    Going higher lets you see further -- but figuring out that this tells you something about the shape of the world is a step that requires knowledge of geometry. And who has the time or lives to risk climbing mountains to look around?

    Humans deal with the world in two ways -- the first is the puzzle-method of pseudorationality, and the second is the emotive-method of social systems. When you lack the educational tools to be able to grasp the world using puzzle-like thought, all that is left is our amazing abilities to understand and grasp social systems.

    Throw out the rational part of your brain for large-scale D&D cosmology, and think in terms of social interaction between mighty forces and the appeasement by mankind. And I believe you'll end up with a far more fantasic fantasy world than you would otherwise. :)

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    ...Scrubbed...
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2007-01-25 at 07:47 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by archaeo View Post
    Man, this is just one of those things you see and realize, "I live in a weird and banal future."

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    [deleted by poster]
    Last edited by Yakk; 2007-01-25 at 06:09 PM.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    There is a fairly strong vibe of 'your ideas for settings suck, look at how awesome mine is. See, I'm doing it right"

    I don't imagine it's intentional, but I felt the same way right off the bat.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    I had a world that was a mobius strip once. The sun sat in the middle of the loop, and a moon spiraled around the loop at a rate of 1 rotation/month.

    The "flip" in the mobius strip rotated around the loop at an alarming rate, making the entire rotation in roughly 10 hours. This resulted in ten hour days and ten hour nights, with no dusk or dawn. The edge was wide enough to live upon, being about a mile wide, but only the poor and impoverished did so since it was a perpetual desert.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Neat Fax. :)

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    First off... anyone with a brain and the ability to do mathematics (i.e. anyone who'd bother thinking about it), or who actually sailed ships, knew the earth was round well before 0 AD. It's not that hard of a calculation. The idea that sailors in the 16th or 17th century were still afraid of falling off the edge of the earth came from a silly children's story...

    The actual calculation is really simple. You look at your shadow over here at midday, and over there (miles away, granted) at midday. All actual astrology books in the Middle Ages acknowledged this, and the only quibbles the clergy (scholars themselves) had were about the religious implications...

    Anyway...

    OP: Sounds like... Glorantha! Actually, most of that sounds precisely like Glorantha.

    Except you got a few details wrong...

    The world isn't flat - it's a cube of earth in an endless sea. Underneath is darkness and hell, above is sky and sun and heaven, and in between the earth and sky is the Middle Air. At the north edge of the earth is the endless glacier; at the south a sea of fire. The sun rises from the gates in the east, and sets at the gates in the west - both guarded by races of immortals.

    Now, this next bit depends on who you ask, but Time started ~1600 years ago, and everything before that (the creation of the world, gods, the Great Darkness, etc.) happened all at once, and in any old order. That's why a god or hero could use item X to defeat opponent A and get item Y, then use item Y to defeat opponent B and get item X. Of course, those Sun-worshipping buggers will give you a genealogy and a chronology going back thousands of years, but they're wrong. So are the atheistic Western sorcerers who have a similar story... (Unless, of course, you are one of either. Then you are right, and everyone else is wrong.)

    If you don't pray to your Storm God, there really will be no wind or rain. If there's a drought, and you pray to your Rain God or even re-enact the story where the dragon is slain and the Rain God released, you'll get rain.

    If you don't make the proper sacrifices before planting, harvesting, or hunting, nothing will come of it. If you don't pray and sacrifice before battle, you'll probably lose.

    If you wander into those gors or that valley, you may never come out. In those primeval woods, the gods still walk sometimes.

    When the enemy sacked our capital, their God-Emperor towered over it, but the "Enfant Terrible" - and eight-year old boy who'd taken oaths to the god of death - wounded him, and was then killed when the Emperor forced him to break a geasa.

    Rivers flow into the ocean because the oceans all rushed in to fill the void formed when the World Mountain exploded. Originally, rivers were flowing away from the ocean, invading the land. (They even crept up to the air, turning it blue before they were repelled by the gods of air.)

    Things fall down because of the god Heavy Earth.

    Trees, rives, big rocks, communities - they all have spirits. The ancestors are worshipped because if they're forgotten, they will be mad.

    Planets and stars are soldiers and captains and heroes of the Sky. That red planet over there is Jagrekriand, who killed the first Storm God. (The Amazons call it Tolat, and it fathers their children on holy nights.)


    That's not even getting into "What is the Hero Plane?" or crazy Lunar philosophy and magic... Glorantha has the plain coolest mythology and metaphysics of any fantasy setting.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Quite a number of RPGs work this way, actually.

    King Arthur Pendragon takes as a basic postulate that the world works pretty much like it seems to in the Arthurian literature of Mallory - the Fae are real, the king really has a divine right, and the Saxons are complete bastards who all need to die.

    Fvlminata* assumes that the world as the Romans believed it to be was true reality. You can communicate with shades of the dead, Etruscan diviners really could tell you your fortune, and Rome really was the light of the world.

    I could go on and on; Qin: Warring States, Septentrionalis, Testament, Ars Magica, even Dogs In The Vineyard to some degree. Historical roleplaying games are especially good at this.

    *Edit: Fvlminata is a @$!! brilliant game, by the way. If you ever get the chance, play it.
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    I think part of it is most fantasy is not the same as mythology (except those attempting to directly emulate some aspect of mythology). Modern Fantasy literature is not in the same genre as mythology, although it's undeniably the 'child' of mythology.

    Myths tend to attempt to interpret the world, to give some explanation for things that people can't understand or random acts beyond their control. Thus it tends to have a whole lot to do with meta-physics / geography (the mountains are made from this... the sun comes up because...). That's the purpose of mythology, to provide this groundwork.

    Fantasy doesn't attempt to do that, that's not the point. Fantasy is an attempt to tell a story where the setting and 'rules' is drastically different than the one we're familiar with. In a lot of ways the same as sci-fi, it just draws upon different tools to do this.

    However, fantasy rarely paints the world in the same way as mythology, because that's not the point. In fantasy you aren't out to tell the reader why there are clouds, or where lightning comes from, or why water flows towards the sea. The point is the story and the setting. Of course the two can blend quite often, but to be fantastic does not require you to be mythological.
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    Dogs in the Vineyard is an awesome game as well. Play it if you get the chance, it is amazing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow of the Sun View Post
    Dogs in the Vineyard is an awesome game as well. Play it if you get the chance, it is amazing.

    I'll second that.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    This thread reminds me of a fairly recent episode of the campaign I'm running. The PCs witnessed three clerics plunging their hands into pots of boiling water because the three had had a disagreement and they wanted their deity to settle it by using His power to save whoever he agreed with from harm.

    The PCs all responded with a boorishly modern view of the event, calling the clerics idiots, accusing the one that won of using trickery to win, etc.

    What they didn't realize is that there was no trickery and the clerics were NOT idiots. Their deity really was watching and he really did use his powers to prevent the one he agreed with from coming to harm. Because in D&D deities actually do have power and influence over the world, unlike in real life, heh. The way I view things, a paladin might stand by and watch a follower of her god get burned by the stake for being suspected of a crime, because the paladin KNOWS that her just god will protect that follower if said follower prays to her patron and truly is innocent.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow of the Sun View Post
    Dogs in the Vineyard is an awesome game as well. Play it if you get the chance, it is amazing.
    Sure, but for a really different perspective try: DAWG: The RPG.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Meh.

    Some people like Spelljammer.
    Including me... I actually made a world startlingly like spelljammer (well, without the ships, but still with many of the other concepts) long before I found out about the actual spelljammer setting.

    A vaguely "realistic" planet-style setting is actually pretty sweet.

    Then again, you also get neogi, so eh.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EvilRoeSlade View Post
    This thread reminds me of a fairly recent episode of the campaign I'm running. The PCs witnessed three clerics plunging their hands into pots of boiling water because the three had had a disagreement and they wanted their deity to settle it by using His power to save whoever he agreed with from harm.

    The PCs all responded with a boorishly modern view of the event, calling the clerics idiots, accusing the one that won of using trickery to win, etc.

    What they didn't realize is that there was no trickery and the clerics were NOT idiots. Their deity really was watching and he really did use his powers to prevent the one he agreed with from coming to harm. Because in D&D deities actually do have power and influence over the world, unlike in real life, heh. The way I view things, a paladin might stand by and watch a follower of her god get burned by the stake for being suspected of a crime, because the paladin KNOWS that her just god will protect that follower if said follower prays to her patron and truly is innocent.
    Why didn't any other deities interfere to mislead the clerics? The trouble is, although the gods are fairly active, so are their opponents. Otherwise, Pelor would simply smite all undead in the Prime Material Plane.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Yes unfortunately highly active gods go against the standards of D+D, the gods act by giving mortals (clerics, paladins, etc) the ability to act for them.

    That paladin should have damn well interceded because that's the job his god has given him, support justice and fight evil.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Well, first you detect evil, then you smite. :)

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Unless you're in the Sapphire Guard, apparently. :)

    Interesting ideas..I'll have to think about them.
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Actually, my homebrew world is centered around a flat world, although the time zone in the current campaign is a... little bit more advanced

    They figured that since you never run out of the water that falls off the edge of the world there must be a constant amount... well, when it falls off obviously things start falling upwards, through a series of chutes until it drops right back down to the center of the world. That's why it runs outwards anyway, right?

    And that "test by deity" thing is also quite common in this world... although generally not really seen by the deities since I at least try to make it unique in it's gritty tone (which is offset completely by the often anime-esque style, which I guess is what makes my players like it XD). Obviously trial by combat is the best way to do things, the gods of law would make the person in the right win!

    Now, mabey they will work on trial by coin toss next...
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    I think the medieval world was very different from the fantasy world. (The medieval world was also very different from what you described, but lets skip that part)
    I think magic makes the fantasy very much like our world, because of divinations people could find out the true way the world is. Because the gods really exist, there is no need to fear whether you are worshiping the real thing, you know which gods are real and which aren't.
    I think Eberron described pretty realistically the implications magic has on society (except for the small small cities, that's so weird...)
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Careful with quantifiers like 'never' and 'always,' Yuki...In the ancient world, people did indeed believe the world was flat. From the babylonians, the greeks, the hindus, the chinese... pretty much every culture had some rediculous notion of the shape of the earth.. (My favorite is the one where we lived on the back of a giant turtle. Go sky turtle!)The common misconception about the whole affair is where modern folks believe people in the middle ages thought that it was flat. The greeks had long since proved the earth was spherical -Pythagoras used the fact that the moon had a curved shadow and extrapolated to the earth, sailors argued by the fact that the mountains lifted up from the sea as one approached land, proving they were hiding behind the curve, a simple straight level held against the horizon of the ocean will also show the curve. Eratosthenes took it a step further and used the shadows in Athens and Alexandria at summer solstice to even roughly estimate the circumference (he came pretty close). The big deal about Columbus wasn't that he was the only one who thought the earth was round, it was that he was the only one crazy enough to actually believe he could successfully sail ALL the way around it without dying. His calculations were way off, and had he not bumped into the Americas, he and his crew would have died horribly.

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Yakk, I really like it. I know everyone have "always known" that the world isn't flat, but who cares? This is all about legends anyway and if the notion that "in the medieval times, everyone thought the world was flat" isn't a legend then I don't know what is.

    Also, that's a commendable effort to intrudoce true animism, with spirits and stuff. I wonder how to best implement it, rules-wise?
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by dead_but_dreaming View Post
    Also, that's a commendable effort to intrudoce true animism, with spirits and stuff. I wonder how to best implement it, rules-wise?
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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    Sure -- but I'm trying to adventure in the Mythological Myth-world of the Dark Ages, not the actual Myth-world of the Dark ages. Mmm, postmodernism.

    I don't want people to just think the world is like that -- I want the fantasy world to be like that. It has some rather neat properties. Like building explicit maps of the Wilderness becomes less important (because you are wandering off into a Realm where the rules are different), where if a player gathers saltpeter charcoal and sulfer, mixes them, and sets them on fire he is more likely to summon a hungry fire elemental than make gunpowder (and qualify for a level in an Alchemist or Summoner PcR!).

    The mechanics of animism are simple. Roll reaction rolls between the characters and the spirits. Sacrafice a goat? Well, that's a bonus to your reaction roll. Fail to sacrafice? Spirits get pissy. Don't leave milk out? Tut-tut...

    The rest is more of a cosmology thing. Your rivers can run uphill, your wildernesses are in alternate Realms. The first time a player ties to fly more than 30' up, have an invisible stalker swipe at them (get back on the ground you slug!).

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    Default Re: Flat Earth D&D

    The problem is that there are so many myths, and a lot of them interact oddly or contradict each other.

    If there was something like what you're saying, I'm quite sure I'd either stick to one or have different regions of the world, each with their own self-consistent way of doing things.
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