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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    A world of wild elements. Storms, floods, lightning, fires, acid rain, tornadoes... even chunks of the land will occasionally uproot themselves and fly into the sky, to crash back down or just continue floating for a time.

    The question is, what would live here? What would ecosystems look like? How would societies develop?

    A little context. This is part of a bigger setting I'm working on, More Than Mortal, which has three planes of existence: Heaven, Earth, and Hell. This is Hell, the Second World, the Plane of Chaos (in contrast to Heaven, the Plane of Order, and Earth, the Plane of Balance, which is for our intents and purposes just the real world). Its inhabitants are "demons", gifted with the ability to spontaneously grow in power as they earn loyalty, as discussed in this thread.

    Spoiler: Elemental Storms
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    First question is how common these elemental disasters should be. I want it to be way less chaotic than D&D's Limbo, because there's no way any life or society could develop there without major magic that just isn't widely available to the demons, much less 'ordinary' plants and animals. I'm thinking a major event somewhere between once every week and once a month, with minor chaos much more common but more of an annoyance than a problem.


    Spoiler: Life forms
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    Next. What could live here? IRL, extremophiles are almost all microbial, and what's more are specialized for a specific environment. That may be more realistic, but it's also not very exciting. In Hell, plants and animals will need to be able to do some combination of a) surviving the elements and b) moving to safety.

    One idea I have is for vines that grow rapidly, producing seeds somewhere between a tumbleweed and a Douglas fir pinecone; the plant is killed by elemental storms, but the seeds are spread by them, and they grow quickly enough for the cycle to begin before the next big storm for at least some of the seeds.

    Another idea is for a large plant (or creature?) capable of simply tanking anything short of an earthmote landing on top of it; probably in symbiotic relationships with smaller animals and plants that take advantage of its shelter in exchange for bringing it sustenance, parasiting it, perhaps conducting repairs, and preying on the other inhabitants. It would need some way of moving out of the way should the geography shift, too.

    Third, there's the Stormlight Archive approach of plants and animals retreating into shells in order to weather the, well, supernatural weather.

    I'm not sure if I want to include actively magical creatures that shapeshift to adapt to the current environment, but that's a possibility, too.


    Spoiler: Sustenance
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    I think I'm going to cheat on this one, and say species native to Hell can draw sustenance from any form of energy, not just chemical or light. It serves as a nice halfway point between the simplicity of Heaven's natives, who just survive by magic and don't need sustenance at all, and Earths, with its purely scientific dependence on complex chemical chemical reactions to fuel life. (In the setting, the worlds were created in the order of Heaven, Earth, Hell, adding new principles and increasing in complexity with each). Perhaps there's specialization, though, with some focusing on, say, fire, and others on electricity, and others on sunlight (does Hell have a traditional Sun?), and others on kinetic energy, etc.. Yes, I think I like that idea.


    Spoiler: Stable zones
    Show
    Most of these are temporary and relatively small, created by portals to Earth and the Shards (tiny little planes that are essentially leftover material from the creation of the universe). Some traits from the other side bleed over into the area surrounding the portal, reducing the chaos but sometimes replacing it with something else. Portals are temporary unless locked in by magic, which segues into:

    Magic can also be used to force stability on a region. This is almost always ritual magic, though conceivably a powerful enough leviathan power (general name for demon powers revolving around summoning elements/controlling the immediate environment) or powerful angel with a relevant power could do the same. Regardless, it's both resource and labor intensive, with rituals requiring regular infusions of soulfire to power them and suppress the natural chaos of the plane.

    There is one city-state in the setting kept stable in a unique way. A titan-class demon so enormous and powerful that, upon being slain (which took 7 months (years?) of near continuous battle), its bones cover enough area and have enough innate magic to keep stable a region large enough for agriculture, enough to feed the city. How big should this be? How many farmers? Could the same thing be done with cemeteries of lesser demons?


    Spoiler: The people
    Show
    How would this impact the development of societies? Agriculture is for the most part impossible, as are permanent settlements without major magic, so presumably most demons would be nomadic. (Though actually, mobile plants means it's possible that they simply herd their farms).

    That means all sorts of technologies are going to be rare and expensive outside of the few stable cities, requiring trade with one of said cities, with Earth (where demons try to keep a very low profile for complicated setting reasons not especially relevant to this thought exercise, so bulk trade is out), or the use of magic to create/replace it. Weapons, armor, printing presses, plumbing, and more recently electricity, computers, electronic communication... what else would make a big impact by its relative scarcity? Demons with powers that could replace these things would also hold relatively high status, presumably. I also haven't decided yet just how progressed ritual magic will be; will it be able to replace technology (it'll certainly still be a lot less efficient outside of stable regions where the same ritual can be reused without doing the whole setup again).

    In particular, the difficulty of storing information with books and such has led to a more or less species-wide abhorrence for the destruction of knowledge; burning a library, for instance, is regarded as a very serious war crime, a fact that Heaven has both exploited and fallen victim to many a time in their perpetual war.

    Demons also experience spontaneous power growth upon earning loyalty, as I discussed somewhat in this thread. This creates a big incentive for conquest; conquer the neighboring tribe successfully and you (as the leader) potentially double your power. There's also an expectation that after gaining power in this way ("Annealing"), you have a responsibility to those who gave you loyalty; this is more of an ideal than anything codified, but disregard it too flagrantly and you could find yourself despised, and thus an easy mark for rivals. Demons are also inherently biased towards chaotic ideals - individualism, thinking for oneself, and hatred of tyranny - and combined with their individual survivability they'll often just up and leave if they don't like their environment, disagree with their leader, or even for no reason at all. I imagine that these factors would combine to create a flux of rival tribes, endlessly competing, conquering, mixing, and disbanding. The cities, being a large incentive not to leave and lose access to all the resources scarce outside of them, would be a bit more stable, and I imagine almost feudal, but still in competition with nearby tribes and other city-states. But presumably that wouldn't be the case all over the plane(t); what other societal structures might arise from these pressures and traits?


    So yeah, those are my thoughts for now. What do you guys think? Especially, what cool ideas do you have for additions (monsters, plants, animals, adventure hooks/locations, societies, etc., basically anything)? It's a big plane, and I need lots of stuff to put in it.
    Last edited by PoeticallyPsyco; 2021-04-23 at 12:14 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Metastachydium's Avatar

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    [spoiler=Life forms]Next. What could live here? IRL, extremophiles are almost all microbial, and what's more are specialized for a specific environment. That may be more realistic, but it's also not very exciting. In Hell, plants and animals will need to be able to do some combination of a) surviving the elements and b) moving to safety.

    One idea I have is for vines that grow rapidly, producing seeds somewhere between a tumbleweed and a Douglas fir pinecone; the plant is killed by elemental storms, but the seeds are spread by them, and they grow quickly enough for the cycle to begin before the next big storm for at least some of the seeds.

    Another idea is for a large plant (or creature?) capable of simply tanking anything short of an earthmote landing on top of it; probably in symbiotic relationships with smaller animals and plants that take advantage of its shelter in exchange for bringing it sustenance, parasiting it, perhaps conducting repairs, and preying on the other inhabitants. It would need some way of moving out of the way should the geography shift, too.

    Third, there's the Stormlight Archive approach of plants and animals retreating into shells in order to weather the, well, supernatural weather.

    I'm not sure if I want to include actively magical creatures that shapeshift to adapt to the current environment, but that's a possibility, too.
    I suspect that you could use a set of creatures that are incredibly hard to destroy at least in part due to their actively benefeting from being, say, torn to pieces. You could use oversized amoeba-like creatures (cf. oozes) that reproduce exclusively through splitting; worms both halves of which can regenerate into separate, full worms when bisected; fungi that can grow and prosper if enough of their networks of mycelia remain intact and use nigh-indestructable spores; and of course, most fittingly for a place that is supposed to be hell, Japanese knotweed.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    I suspect that you could use a set of creatures that are incredibly hard to destroy at least in part due to their actively benefeting from being, say, torn to pieces. You could use oversized amoeba-like creatures (cf. oozes) that reproduce exclusively through splitting; worms both halves of which can regenerate into separate, full worms when bisected; fungi that can grow and prosper if enough of their networks of mycelia remain intact and use nigh-indestructable spores; and of course, most fittingly for a place that is supposed to be hell, Japanese knotweed.
    Hmm, good ideas. And it definitely looks like knotweed could be a successful invasive species in the plane, though not so much as on Earth. In fact, it might be deliberately cultivated as a food source in some places in Hell...
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    So I take it you want the demon's environment to be one that encourages a nasty society?

    For that you'd want a world where resources vary with time or disappear suddenly. You do not want a world where the environment kills a bunch of people directly. The first one produces situations where there are more people than resources, the second one situations where there are more resources than people.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    So I take it you want the demon's environment to be one that encourages a nasty society?
    Eh, kind of? I've already got solid explanations for why demons are perceived as evil on Earth despite being no more inherently evil than angels or humans - the differing way angels and demons collect souls (a vital long-term resource in a setting that runs on reincarnation) leads to demons securing souls in ways that range from "easily presented as evil by angels" to "no, that's genuinely evil no matter how you look at it". And I've already decided how they grow in power: "annealing" is a spontaneous semi-controlled upgrade/mutation that occurs whenever a demon earns someone's loyalty/support, and the size of the boost is highly dependent on both how many people lend their support at once and how deeply they mean it.

    I'm mostly interested in how demons' magical quirks, predisposition towards chaos, and their highly chaotic environment would end up shaping their societies. If those pressures would likely create violent and "nasty" societies, then I can roll with that. Likewise if the most likely societies to shape up would be peaceful and enlightened. Or anything else. I just want to see people's thoughts on the matter.

    For that you'd want a world where resources vary with time or disappear suddenly. You do not want a world where the environment kills a bunch of people directly. The first one produces situations where there are more people than resources, the second one situations where there are more resources than people.
    Interesting! That makes sense. The way I see it, resources would be plentiful in stable zones, where you can easily build, collect, and store, but scarce outside of them (largely due to an increased amount of effort spent simply staying safe), and stable zones are prone to changing locations on a whim.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    Eh, kind of?
    You can definitely have a world that encourage people to be "Eh, kind of?" nasty. Your description actually fits that very well.

    Demon societies would vary in their behavior based on their circumstances.

    If they suddenly lose all their resources, it would make sense to expend half their population trying to take somebody else's. We'll call this a "dry tree" society. Other demons will understand that a former dry tree society won't continue to act like one and that most societies will become hyper aggressive in a dry tree. Humans will (typically) not understand this and believe that demon's savagery is random or as a long con after gaining trust.

    If they suddenly gain resources, they become a "green tree" society. They don't need to keep all they have to survive or even grow, so they're mostly worried about creating stability. They might help out a dry tree society in exchange for loyalty or other considerations.

    A society that who's needs and resources match is called a "balanced tree" society. A prudent balanced tree society is constantly preparing for the possibility of becoming a dry tree society. They will try to acquire power, strength, and extra resources, but they will do so much more cautiously and subtly than a dry tree society. They may be less cautious when dealing with humans, as it's not like the humans are going to send an army over.

    If you want the demons to be nice, there could be a insurance system where you're paid when you suddenly lose resources, and you pay when you suddenly get them. (and pay a small amount when holding steady.) This would be a peaceful world, but would involve a lot of moving around and changing vocations.
    Last edited by Quizatzhaderac; 2021-04-20 at 10:13 AM.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Worldbuilding a Plane of Chaos

    Quote Originally Posted by Quizatzhaderac View Post
    They may be less cautious when dealing with humans, as it's not like the humans are going to send an army over.
    Heh, funny you should mention that.

    Spoiler: Setting history not especially relevant to current thread
    Show
    Relatively early in the history of the setting, Earth was regarded as little more than a buffet of resources and a very convenient staging ground for battles between Heaven and Hell, positioned between the two as it is (and of course, many of those conflicts were ignited due to competition over Earth's resources).

    And then the Sins were born. No one is quite sure why these humans were so unusual, but after the dust settled the prevailing theory was that they were changed by excessive exposure to magic during the reincarnation process. Regardless, the Sins, as they came to be known, were seven humans that grew stronger every time they came in contact with magic, both gaining new minor powers and increasing in overall power (e.g. a Sin that spent time around an angel with fire powers would see all their powers grow slightly in power, and might also pick up a new power like minor fire resistance or the ability to set a flammable item on fire with a touch). This allowed them to grow in power at a frankly ridiculous rate compared to angels or demons, if they were consistently interacting with large quantities of magic... for instance, because they were fighting in battles against armies of angels and demons and squaring off against their champions.

    To make a long story short, the Sins rallied armies of humans (and later some angels and demons) behind them, winning battle after battle and growing stronger with each one. They grew so powerful that for the second time in history, Heaven and Hell were forced to unite to deal with a common threat, and one by one the Sins were isolated and sealed away. (More or less. With her peerless stealth powers, Sloth was never caught, but has been in hiding since. Pride died of his wounds soon after being sealed, and thousands of years later, has finally been reincarnated. And Gluttony has figured out how to slip his bonds, and has been quietly rebuilding his power for the last few hundred years; now he's almost ready to enact his vengeance upon Heaven and Hell, and this time he's not going to settle for mere conquest...)

    Ever since, Heaven and Hell have kept their operations on Earth as covert and minimalist as possible, for fear of triggering the birth of new Sins.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

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