Geography (Orizon Supplement)
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|Floating Islands, Sebastian Wagner, Source|
Giant islands of floating dirt and stone support people above a hostile ground of disasters, wild magic, monsters, and marauders. The people in the skies above live on these skylands, traveling between them on magnificent airships that ride the wind like ships ride the oceans waves. They make do as best as they are able, they clear out farmland and construct their cities well above the dangers of the ground below. Beneath these aerial civilizations the world is wild. On the ground the rule of law of these established civilizations in the sky breaks down somewhat, operating almost as a wild west, with holdouts of law and order and dangerous wild territories outside the somewhat rough and tumble cities and settlements. The cities in the sky keep themselves safe by staying in the sky, the cities on the ground rely on strong walls. Beyond these civilizations in the sky and on the ground, the peoples of Orizon have made places for themselves in the underground and beneath the waves.
Dragons soar across the skies, terrorizing sailors on airships. Kings and emperors command powerful armies. Wizards study the nature of magic and weave powerful spells. Clerics and priests offer prayer and service to gods and are tempted by fiends. There are many different peoples across the world of Orizon, all trying to make their way through this world and its broken horizon.
The primary landmasses of Orizon are the five continents, Aemali, Estir, Internai, Ozrum, and Urur. Between these continents are vast and deep oceans with scattered islands amid the seas, each of them acting as their own small enclaves of unique cultures. Back in ancient times, before the world shattering cataclysm known as the breaking, these continents were the seats of powerful empires. Each of these great empires had built up astounding cultures and magnificent technologies. They merged an understanding of magic and the sciences to develop almost impossibly powerful tools. Sadly, these cultures were caught in rivalry and conflict, going to war with each other, turning their technological marvels against each other. The war spread conflict and curses across the world, causing immense damage and finally culminated in the breaking. The remnants of this old world are home to magnificent constructs of building and engineering, though they are unfortunately plagued by cursed and broken “survivors” and powerful monsters that were drawn to these seats of ancient power.
Following the breaking, what remained was a fragmented mess, broken socially and geographically. Strong men and women were taken away to fight in a subsequent godswar to protect what little remained, further dismantling what remained and ruining any hope of recovery.
New nations have risen and fallen in the time that has passed since this breaking but they are, at best, dim reflections of what once was. Empires and kingdoms sit above the fractured remnants of these great societies and avoid the lethal dangers of their few crumbling cities.
The most visible and “famous” feature of the world of Orizon are the skylands that are seated in the sky. Above the ground is a broken horizon of dirt and stone gathered together to form “skylands,” islands in the sky. These skylands, by virtue of their position in the sky secure against the risks below, have become the seats of modern civilization. The skylands are enchanted by their very nature, pure magic is woven into the soil itself. Not only does this keep the land elevated, it offers some protection against wild magic eruptions and spreads its enchantment on some of the things growing upon them. Crops have some degree of floating and lift and seeds can spread far by the wind. The trees that grow on the skylands are infused with this magic and become floatwood, an essential material for the construction of airships.
The world of Orizon suffers from infrequent but terrible eruptions of wild magic. These are a side effect from the massive release of raw energy during the breaking. This cracked the structure that governed the flow of energy and the consequences of this have persisted for years on. This wild magic typically releases itself as natural disasters or storms and can spread out as blasts of random magical effects. These magics can cause mundane troubles and magical curses that can bane or bless whoever encounters them. They’ve been known to warp creatures trapped within them, to summon or banish, or to bestow amazing power upon the hapless and lucky. Thankfully, these storms are not as common as they once were. The breaks are gradually being patched where they can, and compensated for where they cannot. But these energies are still present and still occasionally overflowing into the world as eruptions of wild magic. They do still happen and occasionally hit unfortunate souls caught within them. There are entire orders of people dedicated specifically to healing the damage caused by wild magic storms.
Aemali is a humid territory, its southern region is occupied by a rainforest, its mountains are tall and cold but most of the territory on the continent is grassland, with cold tundras to the far north.
- Creator's note: this continent began with its basis as "Asia"
Estir is a large continent, stretching nearly from the north pole to the equator. It has a diverse range of environments, with mostly temperate regions, cold tundras on a nearby large island to the far north and a lush rainforest near the equator.
- Creator's note: this continent began with its basis as "Europe"
Internai is a diverse continent, with lush and fertile terrain. It falls south from the equator. The equator is mostly a temperate region, but the far southern regions are cold, especially the southern island.
- Creator's note: this continent began with its basis as "the Americas"
Ozrum is mostly characterized by warm weather, with a mix of deserts, jungles, and forests, and huge stretches of plains that stretch across the continent. The absolute southern region of Ozrum is temperate, but most of the continent is warm and hot.
- Creator's note: this continent began with its basis as "Africa"
Urur is one of the smaller continents, dominated by the massive, vast desert just above the equator. Its northernmost regions are temperate but most of the continent is characterized by hot, dry, weather.
- Creator's note: this continent began with its basis as "the Middle East"
The ground, despite the cultural dominance of the skylands, remains a power in the world. The majority of Orizon’s people live there, and without the people on the ground, the cities in the sky would not have the resources necessary to survive. The vast expanse of the territories on the ground are dangerous wilderness with scattered settlements and farmlands spread between them. The ground is verdant and abundant, the overflow of energy providing at least that much benefit. There are monsters and raiders outside of the civilized regions, always pushing back against any settlements that people have built and making it difficult to travel far beyond secured regions.
The ground of Orizon is lush and bountiful. Grasses grow thick and groves of ancient trees stand inside deep forests. Huge beasts roam the grasslands, stalked by vicious predators. Farmlands grow thick and produce bountiful crops and can make a good livelihood for anyone that goes to ground to make a life for themselves. Hunters and rangers roam the ground, hunting for meats and furs to be sold to the people of the skyland. Miners dig up stones and minerals for construction and loggers travel through the ancient forests, collecting choice timber. Anyone willing to put up the work and strong enough to handle themselves could look forward to making a good living for themselves.
Despite this, the ground is dangerous. The farther one travels from settled regions, the more deadly the threats seem to become. There are raiders and monsters, and the odd storms of wild magic that threaten the people on the ground. The majority of territory on the ground is unsettled, most people prefer to keep close to the strong walls of cities and the strong arms of militias. People on the skylands looking down would see farmland and ranches gradually spreading out from the boundaries of the cities, then a land overtaken by forests and untrammeled wilderness.
One of the main responsibilities of an established airship navy is patrolling above these cities and along the ground’s trade routes to defend travel along the ground.
Still, the dangers are not to be underestimated. There are powerful monsters that hunt the bountiful fields and may find civilized humanoids to be an easy treat. There are marauding gangs of monsters that strike out at civilizations, looting their homes and enslaving anyone they capture. Sometimes these gangs band together and form powerful war bands, causing untold destruction and terror. The rise of a war-band can threaten entire nations.
Still, the ground does have hope. People make their way to the ground to establish themselves. The cities in the sky, while they are the homes of many, are very small and there is little resource wealth that can be developed on them. Settlers on the ground establish farms, mines, quarries, and ranches, and make hunting and gathering expeditions through the varied terrains of the ground. They collect goods and ship them up to the sky, where they can be sold at markets, or processed into finer things. Nevertheless, the ground is still dangerous and most settlements are established nearby fortified and walled cities that act both as a local garrison and safehouse.
These cities are strongly defended and rely on a strong leadership, but beyond managing disasters, most governors operate a loose system of governance. For the most part, people are able to live as they please, so long as they don’t overtly flaunt the law. This loose government and regulation attracts all types of people, from simple farmers looking to operate in peace, to people that have committed some mistakes and that are looking to make a fresh start. Some of the people they attract are convicts trying to run but still want to have some connection with the world, others are just looking for some adventure and excitement.
Wood elves make up some territory on the ground, and they, humans, and the dwarves make up a great portion of the civilized settlements.
The territories on the ground are also called home by various nomadic groups. These peoples try to maintain their safety by staying on the move and not presenting themselves as targets. These nomadic groups travel between their favored destinations, often between more settled cities, trading collected goods and information or offering information on potential dangers that they’ve met along the way.
The various monstrous races make up a major power down on the ground. Orcs, goblinoids, and even weak giants were once enslaved by the ancients, and now they strike out under the banners of loose organizations and occupy simple villages or fortifications. These fortifications usually originate around abandoned forts left behind by humanoid nations that then sprawl outwards. They cut down swathes of trees and mine deep to fuel their raids. These monstrous peoples do trade, but most of their fine goods are looted from others, so they have a difficult time finding places to trade reliably and without being attacked. These monstrous groups strike out at civilized outposts, taking loot and slaves back to their villages or fortifications. On rare and disastrous occasions, a strong leader can arise from within the ranks of the monsters and lash the armies together.
Other non-human races make distinct use of the territories on the ground. Fey occupy groves and beautiful spaces, and tsukaiusagi live in concealed hermitages. The tall fortified edges of dwarf cities rise out of the mountains and higher up those hills, and goliaths wander between the peaks.
During the breaking, the landscapes of the world were thrust upwards into the sky and beset by earthquakes. What landscapes were left underground were radically altered. The landscapes that lifted the islands into the sky created huge caverns and expansive corridors as the same enchantments that developed the skyland were halted at the crust of the ground. There are massive cathedral-sized caverns and expansive corridors scattered between the thick dirt and stone and tight crevasses. Some have expanded and tamed these caverns, expanding out their own underground cities.
Some peoples were left trapped underground after the breaking. Some were travelers and researchers, others had already been living underground, but all were suddenly trapped and left to their own devices, desperate to find ways to survive in their new lives trapped underground. They needed to find new food, new creatures to domesticate and hunt and ways to see in a world without sunlight.
The dwarves in the underground took themselves down a few separate paths. The majority of them kept their cities closer to the surface. They build up impressive fortifications at the entrances to their cities, marking the entrance to traders from the skies and other underground cities. Behind and beneath these fortifications are massive cities carved into the stone. The natural caverns are used as communal spaces like parks and markets. Simple dwarven homes vary, they are carved out of the stone and generally large enough to fit an extended family. These cities are all connected to their mines. The mines dig out the mineral and metals nearby and build up forges between the mines and the city. Once the dwarves tap out their mine shafts, some of them are expanded and refined into roadways. Other dwarves dug deeper into the dirt, refusing all connection to the surface and called themselves the “duergar.” These people are iron hard and have decided to subsist entirely on what they can produce themselves. They refuse visitors and are aggressive towards outsiders.
Some groups of elves were trapped underground. They were deprived of sunlight and of their foods, they began interbreeding and exploring new magical and alchemical means to survive in their new circumstances. These elven peoples became the new dark elf, or “drow,” race. They first set out to establish their territories in the underground, building kingdoms and empires ruled by powerful matriarchs who command influence and power and constantly feud between each other for more. The drow have also made efforts to reconnect the surface, they have developed tunnels connected to the surface. Some of these tunnels are obvious, others are cleverly hidden and used to conduct raids on cities in the grounds or using blimps to strike at the skylands. The drow make use of the massive caverns of the underground for their civilizations. Building up within the caverns and using the natural spaces as much as possible and using natural resources they can develop in the underground. The drow cultivate bioluminescent growths and creatures to give light to their caverns and harvest fungus and cave creatures for food. The drow cities also employ a great deal of magic to supplement these resources. Drow cities are a diverse mix of peoples, drawn to the wealth and relative peace of the drow cities and the accepting attitudes of the drow. But above this mix of common folk are the ruling drow matriarchs and their families who use citizens as pawns in their political games.
Past the cities of the drow and the dwarves, deeper into the underground much of the underground is unexplored and dangerous. There are people who exploit the tunnels for travel and other people who hope to find treasures of the old world lost underground. There are other civilizations, fire giants dig down to find molten vents for their craft. There are empty tunnels and caverns of senseless hunting monsters. Resources are limited in the underground and there is a great deal of conflict between the various cultures of the underground for those limited resources.
At the height of the old world, aberrations were hunted nearly to extermination. Beholders, Aboleths, and Illithids were powerful, but unable to stand against the might of the ancient world. The survivors fled underground, entrenching themselves and biding their time, waiting for the chance for revenge and to claim the world the ancients destroyed.
The Oceans and Seas
A sizable portion of the world of Orizon are its oceans. With the continents and islands rising up from underneath the waves. There are deep trenches, rolling waves and all of it is in a vast expanse of blue waters. There are tremendous creatures that roam through the waters and shoals of fish. There are deep waters and crushing pressure. Sitting suspended within the oceans are hovering islands like what is drifting in the skies. These underwater skylands serve as peaceful locations above the deep water and homes for numerous fish and other creatures.
Travel across the seas is a difficult prospect. Winds and storms are more common along the sea than they are on the land, and they are more powerful. Because of this, travel across the seas is considered impossible for airships. Travel across the seas are handled by traditional sailing ships, which are also able to carry larger amounts of cargo and people. Established sailing routes between the continents are valuable resources for travelers and traders. Merfolk swim along these trade routes acting as lifeguards and scouts. Some less savory groups of merfolk swim underneath these routes, looting sunken ships.
Most people choose not to brave the oceans, staying on their homelands instead. However, intercontinental travel is managed by dedicated groups of brave traders, so people are aware of the existence of other continents and have a general idea of how other peoples live. Though this impression may be cartoonishly inaccurate or mythologized. Works made in far off lands with their unique artistic sensibilities can command greater prices than what the object might otherwise be valued at.
The merfolk are the dominant peoples of the oceans. They’ve built castles out of coral and the fallen timber of sunken sailing ships. The merfolk have even domesticated some underwater species, creatures like seals and dolphins are treated like dogs or beasts of burden. The most powerful of the merfolk societies have even managed to tame dragon turtles. They tame these creatures as mobile platforms, seating citadels on their shells. Gigantic sea turtles and sea horses also serve as mounts and beasts of burden. Merfolk are also talented fishermen and take a great deal of effort to maintain husbandry of herds of fish. The large fish the merfolk hunt in the open ocean are traded with sailors or collected for their own feasts.
Merfolk serve as traders and also maintain a strong position with other civilizations by serving as guards and escorts for trading ships. Merfolk erectus, the merfolk of the shallows with legs instead of tails, stand on the edges of both underwater and land-based societies. They trade the bounties of the sea and the recovered treasures collected by the other merfolk for processed and forged goods from the other civilizations.
The deep waters are dark and dangerous. There are terrifying things living deep enough that not even light can reach. The powerful krakens slumber deep below, there are aboleths that muse on their ancient memories and ruminate on schemes to seize power and control. Occasionally the krakens rise up through the oceans to spread destruction or the aboleths swim into underground tunnels to begin to influence new peoples and spread their control.
The Skies and Skylands
The skies of Orizon feature scattered across them islands floating along the sky. These have allowed people to make their way up to the skies, first climbing vines or building ladders, and then later developing airships. Their distance from the ground has enabled people to find some security from the monsters and other dangers of the ground. They’ve also found that the skylands are less likely to encounter wild magic storms than the ground. Settlements, towns and cities, have been built on top of the skylands and airships can be seen drifting across the atmosphere. The enchanted timber that grows on top of the skylands are used in the construction of the skylands and other materials built up on the skylands. These airships and islands are occasionally lost behind clouds and fog, nearly blinding people with the sudden expanse of thick mist.
Sky sailors have to keep track of elevation in addition to longitude and latitude. They use meters that track their ship’s elevation and have taken to given names to the various elevations off from ground level that they have loosely named after the clouds along these elevations. The heights below one and a half kilometers are called the stratus, the heights between there and 2,700 meters are called the Nimbus, between there and all the way up to six kilometers is called the Altus, above there is called the Cirrus. The elevation above the cirrus, where the atmosphere begins to disappear and life becomes impossible, this region of the sky is known by a few simple names, “the rooftop” or “the black,” among others.
Because the atmosphere begins to thin more and more above five kilometers, most races have a difficult time living at all comfortably at that elevation. Because of this, there are very few cities established anywhere above the lower or mid Altus.
There are a few plants that have adapted to existing in the skies. The trees in the sky, the floatwood, are the most famous example because of their use in the construction of airships. But some plants have begun to produce floating fruits that can drift or produce interesting effects on the people who eat them. Others have lightweight seeds that can drift along the winds to reach the next skyland. Some sea creatures have been altered by the energies of the breaking and the intervention of some of the ancient gods, to be able to fly. Windfish and zephyr sharks float on bladders of lighter than air gases or glide on broad fins. Sky whales keep themselves suspended on blubber that is very useful in the construction of small airships and alchemical experimentation. Birds also fly through the air and they are significantly quicker and more maneuverable than these modified sea creatures.
Some groups of people have almost exclusively made their homes in the skies. Aarakocra are flying peoples that embrace these “calm skies” and make their roosts on the skylands. The Kor leap and swing between the skies and use grappling hooks to keep themselves secure.
|Image from Skyland western animation|
The skylands are the dominant feature, not only of the sky but of the entire plane. They are floating landmasses, breaking a clear view of the horizon as far as the eye can see. The skylands hang seemingly unsupported above the ground, suspended by enchantments that have been woven into every stone and speck of dirt. The size, shape, and the altitude of these floating landmasses vary wildly between these landmasses. Some are barely more than pebbles and others are large enough to fit entire cities and farmlands. Some hang barely a foot off the ground, others are over a mile up into the sky.
Researchers have taken a great deal of effort to understand the nature of the skylands. As best they been able to understand, the skylands have a “core” that sustains the rest and locks it in position. The islands can be moved, but it takes at least twice as much force as the island weighs to move it even an inch. So very small skylands are somewhat mobile, but the large skylands are practically immobile.
The large skylands are rare, but they are the more visible landmarks. The large skylands are the centers of society, they support towns, villages, farms, ranches, and groves of trees cultivated to provide floatwood. The largest skylands support entire cities, with docks to accommodate the airships that travel there.
The skylands are covered in plant life that grows wherever it can find soil to take root, with regular rain providing more than enough water for any skyland’s aquifer or their plants. The spots that have enough sunlight to support this plant growth are covered in greenery, the undersides of the islands are covered in roots, vines and fungi. Other, more exotic, plants grow out from the soil of skylands. Balloon like flowers that drift away as their stems gradually become severed. Some plants have broad leaves that act as natural sails. Others cling to the skylands and stretch out feet away from the sides of the islands and grip through numerous vines.
The most valuable plant life of the skylands are the trees that grow on them. The trees of the skylands inherit some of the magic of the soil they grow on and become floatwood, enchanted timber that can somehow ignore the effects of gravity. The presence of floatwood is what has enable airships to become as ubiquitous as they are in the skies of Orizon and this lumber is crucial for their construction.
When islands float close enough together, greenery will stretch between them forming something like nets and lattices turning the sky reefs into “green-reefs” that act like coral reefs. These provide homes for numerous small creatures like birds, insects, and windfish and their predators, like cats, hawks, house griffons and zephyr sharks.
Many smaller skylands have their own unique ecosystems. Sometimes this consists of little more than whatever creatures were standing on those landmasses before they were launched into the air. Some of these islands are populated by creatures that had flown up to occupy the islands. Flying creatures tend to dominate unoccupied skylands, creatures like griffons, harpies, and rocs. These unoccupied skylands are more wild spaces. Some are intentionally left wild and unoccupied to cultivate groves of floatwood or wild populations of flying species that can be caught and trained. Others are simply so far distant that that keeps them undisturbed.
The greatest virtue of these skylands to the people occupying them is their distance from the ground. The not entirely undeserved impression of the ground is that it is dangerous, too dangerous for civilized folks. Keeping themselves far away from the dangers and recklessness of the ground is considered a blessing for the people of the sky and most of the dangers of the ground have a difficult time making it all the way up to any skylands. To escape these dangers people fled to the skies ages ago and, for the most part, remained there. Keeping themselves comfortable in the sky.
Most larger skylands are occupied. They serve as the seats of cities and towns. Some are large cities, supporting thousands of people, others are smaller towns, barely more than a few buildings and a handful of farmers. Some smaller skylands house little more than a single building and act as the homes of a single noble family, or serve other purposes for large buildings, barracks or dock houses for sailors or homes of universities. Others are military outposts or watchtowers. Any occupied skylands have docks built onto them to allow for traders to use them as destinations for trade or travel. Skylands that have been occupied by towns or cities serve as hubs for trade, their docks are home to great numbers of ships that travel between the skylands. If settled skylands are positioned close enough together the people there build means of travel between the nearby skylands like bridges or gondolas. Every skyland supports docks of some size or another and have a system of ropes to allow people to rappel down the sides of the skyland. Others have dug down into the skyland, opening up caverns that allow people to dock their airships along the lower portions of the skylands.
Small skylands depend on the trade routes that have been established between the larger islands. These big cities and their markets, and the merchants who occupy them, send out ships to travel these trade routes. They stop at smaller islands to load and unload cargo and passengers. People on smaller islands without access to airships depend on these trade routes for any contact with the outside world. These trade ships also travel to the settlements on the ground, keeping those regions connected to the broad world.
Most skylands don’t have much in the way of defensive walls, except outside of exceptionally important places like a palace or a wizard’s tower. Fences may be built to keep animals penned up, but walls don’t help much when attackers can simply fly over them. The greater focus is on watchtowers and shelters, accompanied by air navies and sky knights. But these measures are not always successful and there is the occasional eerie sight of an abandoned settlement sitting on top of a skyland. A dragon might covet a skyland as their new territory or a group of raiders from the ground may use a hot air balloon to reach up into the sky. Some skylands were caught in the unfortunate cross-hairs of a war between governments. In other cases they were the victims of less conscious decisions, a roc may have decided it wanted a new nest, harpies and other flying beats enjoy taking a new place for themselves. Some may have been little more than the victims of the wild magic that plagues the rest of the world.
Sailing the Skies
Aerial maps for sailors usually come in sets that display the features at different altitudes for the same region. These maps have many notations made along the paper, marking down things that the map cannot easily display. The cockpit and helm of any airship contains numerous monitors that help monitor position, from altitude to magnetic direction, wind-speed and several other factors. Some pilots supplement their income by keeping close note of the meters and selling the logs they take to cartographer guilds and other travelers.
The most important consideration of sailing in an airship is that travel is three dimensional. Obstacles can be flown over or under and skyland settlements are located at various altitudes. Because rapid shifts in altitude can cause health problems, responsible pilots change altitude slowly, and continuously check their maps so they can anticipate upcoming altitude changes.
Airship travel has numerous dangers, reefs of floating boulders may make regions impassable. Smaller, boulder sized, skylands are able to drift, and these can crash into unwary ships. Monsters can move into skylands, griffons, dragons and harpies may harass trade routes and nearby skylands.
The make up of the aerial landscape is prone to change, dangers can migrate or be introduced, populations can be eradicated and new settlements established. Cartographer guilds often partner with adventuring and trade guilds for transport and information to keep their maps up to date. The best of them release a new set of maps annually.
Ruins of the Old World
|Ruined City from Afar, Silberius, Source|
These ruins are the most visceral reminder of what has passed and the destruction that the breaking wrought. These mouldering ruins are occupied by deadly monsters and mysterious and powerful treasures. The greatest of the magical items and the most powerful artifacts came from the ruins of the old world, and no one has been able to match the wonders that those who came before them have accomplished.
But the ruins are dangerous. Wild magic storms are much more common and the suffused, powerful, mad, “survivors” of the breaking wander the ruins, violently lashing out against intruders. Other powerful monsters are drawn to the ruins, attracted to the allure of powerful magic.
Despite the dangers, the allure of the treasures contained within bring adventurers and other treasure hunters that chase rumor and greed into the abandoned cities. But few survive these expeditions and fewer manage to claim any treasures from the ruins, monsters chase them down and blast them to oblivion, wild magic may catch them off guard, and the very nature of these places can warp their minds, twisting their perspective and driving them mad if they spend too much time within these ruins.