In Sailing the Starlit Sea, the Seren System is presented as the default setting. Its main purpose is to give GMs a jumping off point for their space fantasy campaigns while also providing inspiration for their own designs. The star system also acts as a baseline, an example of what an “average” solar neighborhood might look like. This brief overview is but a glimpse of the full details that will appear in the book
Sailing the Starlit Sea presents the universe in a fashion mostly consistent with our modern understanding of the cosmos. Nonetheless, slavish devotion to a purely scientific point of view eliminates some great opportunities for adventure. Sailing the Starlit Sea takes a more “pulp-inspired” approach when it comes to the planets and celestial bodies of the Seren System. This is considered the standard assumption in the section of the book that addresses planet and star system design.
However, one of the key parts of Sailing the Starlit Sea will be the Campaign Overlays. These will provide advice on how to alter the standard assumptions to your tastes. Campaign Overlays will address everything from methods of interstellar travel to adjusting the physical laws of the universe. So if Platonic inspired crystalline spheres are your preference, Sailing the Starlit Sea will provide a way to accommodate that choice while still preserving the rules and setting presented in the book.
The Seren System
Named for its yellow sun, the Seren System consists of five intact planets and numerous celestial bodies of varying shapes, sizes, and composition. All of these orbit around the singular star in a fashion similar to thousands of other star systems throughout the known universe. While the Seren System is an “average” example of the diversity found on the Material Plane, its large population groups have made it an important location for commerce and adventure.
Seren is a mixture of super-heated gases that provide light and warmth to the planets of the system. However, divination spells and tentative explorations have revealed that a gate to the Positive Energy Plane lies at the center of the star. It is this feature, as much as the heat and light, that allows for the abundant life found on the planets that orbit the sun.
According to local religious belief, Seren is both the god of light and the physical embodiment of the sun. As a god, Seren can exist in multiple forms at once, but natives of the system understand that the god is always with them in the blazing star that illuminates their worlds.
As might be expected of the planet closest to the sun, Khazal'darak is incredibly hot. But only part of the oppressive heat comes from Seren. Khazal'darak suffers from extensive geological disturbances that create impressive volcanoes and rambling rivers of molten rock. Outside of these bubbling cauldrons of lava are stretches of ashen desert. Since the grey ash of these wastelands is so fine, the slightest wind turns these already inhospitable areas into domains of choking death.
Despite these dangers, Khazal'darak is inhabited by a number of lifeforms. The thick clouds of smoke and ash that hang in the upper atmosphere actually help block the worst of the sun's effects, providing just enough protection to allow for the continued existence of many living things. The only natives of the planet are the creatures of fire that dominate the volcanic mountains and blasted magma plains. Colonists, some of whom arrived many thousands of years ago, live within the ashen deserts. Most of the population live in cities that dot the grey dunes, though a few choose the nomadic life and wander across the deserts in caravans of substantial size. Khazal'darak is home to various species, some of which are new examples of existing races, and further details will be provided in Sailing the Starlit Sea.
Khazal'darak is also often associated with Vulor, God of Murder, Genocide, and Unjust War. As such, it is sometimes called Vulor's Eye, the Baleful One, or the Unwelcome Omen.
Second planet from the sun, Eorthe is a blue and green sphere of magnificent diversity. It fills the role of the standard fantasy campaign setting, though such a moniker does not quite do the world justice. Most Clockwork Gnome Publishing products utilize Eorthe as a default setting and it provides many of the features expected from a fantasy world.
Knowledge of space travel on Eorthe is jealously guarded by a few far-reaching nations and powerful organizations. While tensions run high and philosophies differ, the groups can all agree on one point: access to the technology necessary for space travel should be tightly controlled. From the Gnomish Guild-States to the ancient green dragon called Nyntess the Emerald Paragon, each of these parties will be thoroughly examined in Sailing the Starlit Sea.
Rain, constant mist, and a humid atmosphere dominate the third planet in the Seren System. Sophias, named for the Goddess of Wisdom and Abundant Knowledge, is completely covered in forests. It is a verdant paradise that ranges from tropical jungles toward the equator to colder pine forests near the poles. Unlike the forests of Eorthe, however, Sophisian trees are massive, with some growing as large as small mountains. The roots of these trees are interconnected, forming a network that stretches beneath the entire planet.
The thicker atmosphere of Sophias means the planet is slightly warmer than might be anticipated. This has led to smaller ice caps and generally higher average temperatures across all climatic bands. Most bodies of water are small, no larger than a major sea might be on Eorthe. That said, much of the land is marsh and a vast quantity of water is locked away in massive aquifers beneath the planet's surface.
Creatures on Sophias are defined by where they dwell. Many cultures live in the trees, constructing homes along the branches or carving habitations from the gargantuan trunks. These arboreal communities consist mostly of elves (who bear no kinship with the elves of Eorthe), various ape and monkey-like humanoids, and birdfolk of different kinds. They share the treetops with a number of animals and magical beasts. In the thick, often disease-ridden, swamps reside tribes of lizardfolk and boggards. These small communities compete with other creatures well-adapted to the boggy environment.
Due to its association with the Goddess of Wisdom, Sophias is sometimes called the Bastion of Wonder and the Green Traveler.
The largest of the planets is Ad'an, a swirling mass of purple and blue clouds. According to reports there is no solid land to be found, though extreme pressure towards the core of the world has meant few have explored those shrouded depths. What lies beneath is still a mystery. High velocity winds define the environment of Ad'an, whipping the thick gases into spiraling storms or along air currents that encircle the globe. The storms are of the greatest concern, as they have been known to last for centuries before dying out. Buffeting blasts of air can inflict serious damage and arcs of electricity are a common sight in a tempest. These static discharges can easily bring down a small starship, casting the crippled vessel into the crushing deep.
Creatures of air that do not require solid land to rest can be found throughout Ad'an. The rich resources of the planet have also led some to construct satellites designed to resist the pull of the raging wind. These floating communities are usually maintained by alchemical guilds interested in collecting and refining the various gases that move through the atmosphere. Most of these constructs tend to rest within the broad band of breathable atmosphere on Ad'an and require few special considerations outside of their magical anchorage.
Ad'an shares its name with the God of Magic. Because of this relationship, the planet is often called the Eye of Magic or the Arcane Star.
Lurking at the far end of the star system is the lonely world of Umbrae. This is the smallest of the planets and the coldest. Seren is but a distant point of light from Umbrae and almost none of the sun's warmth reaches the frigid sphere. Umbrae is composed entirely of a clear, crystalline substance that catches ambient light and scatters it about the planet. The first captains to reach Umbrae described it as a diamond, glittering coldly on the edge of a maddening abyss. Subsequent expeditions have reported similar impressions and few choose to linger in this desolate place. Parts of Umbrae exist in near total darkness, cloaked in a shadow that is far from natural.
There is life on Umbrae, though little is known of what dwells there. The planet is honeycombed with passages and caverns, all of them perfectly cut from the crystal with a jeweler's precision. Reports speak of creatures well adapted to the shadowy conditions, some lacking eyes and others with vision that can perceive a wide sampling of the light spectrum. A few visitors have encountered a small dark creeper city just below the surface of Umbrae. However, a zealous devotion to the sanity destroying residents of the Ebon Void have insured few willingly seek out this community.
Umbrae bears a close affiliation with Brannyth, the Judge of the Dead. In some planetary charts the planet is named the Dark Wanderer, the Cold Star, and the Glass Traveler.
Next time: The Shattered Wanderer, the Moons, and Other Celestial Bodies.