mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Dungeon LV-426. (23)

Distant Worlds by James L. Sutter, et al.

Spelljammer, shantak,
or astral projection; crossing
The Dark Tapestry.

I am always find parallels to be really interesting; that is, my position in Science-Fiction & Fantasy history & literature, & the position of...well, modern Science-Fiction & Fantasy. We've all fed from the same canon, the same fringes, we've skimmed the best, reading like great baleen whales, filtering bits & pieces & recombining them into new ideas. What ends up happening is a web of overlapping montages & influences, & I just find that whole tapestry fascinating. For instance, a lot of the broad strokes in my Oubliette setting share a lot of the same foundations as Pathfinder's greater cosmology. Or whatever you call cosmology when you mean the physical cosmos & not the spiritual one...though, as a side note, I will say that such a distinction isn't necessary for Oubliette, which is one of the perks of being alchemypunk. Listen-- planetary romance, pulp science-fantasy, wizards & warp drives? That is the sort of stuff that will get me to interrupt the series I'm reading, that is the genre it takes to shuffle my priorities. The extent of the convergent evolution was first notable when I read Children of the Void, a Pathfinder adventure I picked up completely for the brief gloss of the solar system. A lot of it is sort of obvious-- a red planet of deserts evoking Barsoom, a green planet of lush jungle life-- but there are other things that are less obvious. Things that make sense when you start adding givens & axioms, though-- like the tidally locked planet with deserts on one side & ice on the other, or the retrograde planet that must be evil. Things don't stop there though; the heavy Hyperion influences of the asteroid belt? Hey, now we are definitely getting weird, since I thought Dan Simmons & I shared a lot of influences, & now he is an influence on me & on other settings? Recursive loops are great.

Pathfinder is your traditional sword & sorcery campaign setting. (Oops, accidentally wrote "sword & sworcery.) Events take place in a fairly high magic quasi-feudal setting, with the fact that it all happens on a planet called Golarion not really needing to be mentioned. That being said, there are hints at the greater solar scope of the universe; some underlying entire city-states like Numeria others following the tradition of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks in having lost cities as fallen starships. Distant Worlds approaches things with a very Golarioncentric viewpoint, as you might expect. It starts with the Sun, which has a surprising amount of high level adventure opportunities, if you are immune to fire & positive energy. Nuclear oceans filled with cetacean-like fire elementals, creepy planet-sized sun spots, yeah, I could see running an adventure or two here for epic Characters. Aballon is the next world out, a machine world of Von Neumann machines running on solar power. I'm particular charmed by the xenoecology of the ice wells that form in craters deep enough & at the right latitude to cast shadows over their bottom. Castrovel is the Venus analog, the green world, with sultry psychic riding slithering lizards. Also, elves? I don't feel like those two things really fully integrated. Then rather than dwell on Golarion, we get the Moon, with its...poisonous jungle succubi? Neat. Akiton is the red planet, the "Mars," & it comes complete with four armed giants, & a note about the prevalence of'll note the presence of a gunslinger on a red planet in my previous campaign; see what I mean about convergence? I like the Contemplatives, but I think they'd be better with a dash more zepplin, a bit more floating sack of jelly.

After that we move out of the "classic zone" of pulp fantasy. Verces has the best name of the planets, & is their tidally locked world, with the bulk of the action taking place along the meridian, the terminator. It is the most science-fiction, the most cyberpunk, the most space opera. I highly recommend the "science-fiction as a place" ideology; using genres as locations is a favorite trick of mine. The Diaspora is the previously mentioned Hyperion zone, an asteroid belt with zero-g adapted "angels" on repulsor wings. Yep, I've got those! & then Eox, the other great name, is also one of the most vibrant concepts; the post-apocalyptic lich-world. There is a picture here by Raven Mimura of an undead wizard reading spellbooks on a computer screen while dressed in a spacesuit...which is basically my favorite thing? Triaxus is a planet that combines...well, two unlikely things! A Song of Ice & Fire, as the planet has an irregular orbit causing age-long winters...& The Dragonriders of Pern? Actually, that is pretty brilliant. Then we get to the gas giants of the solar system-- Liavara & Bretheda. Both have masses of jellyfish-like blimp-creatures, space whales, that sort of thing, but with a neat collectivist twist. The moons are where the action is; they seem to me to be a bit like Arthur C. Clarke short stories, come to life; most notably a 2061 Europa. The Hallasian's sprint towards ascension to godhead reads like a Culture novel, as a species moving towards Sublimation without bothering with being Involved, but maybe that is just me. Am I crazy or are the Oma an homage to the Ohmu of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind? Apostae is the obligatory world-ship, the abandoned planet-sized spacecraft populated only by unique mutants. Aucturn is the last world, taking its inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons starpact warlocks, Ego the Living Planet & H.P. Lovecraft, in equal parts.
Tags: books, dnd, haiku, paizo, pathfinder, rpgs

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