The Fate of Astralis

During the drive home today, I was brainstorming about ideas of future epic level things that could happen in a long term Astralis campaign.

What could be a huge event in an Astralis: Empire of Stars game? What could completely change the court of the Star-Pharaoh?

We Have Met the Enemy, and They Are Us

Astralis finds worlds in the Prime Material plane. Such worlds might be nearly anything. Including, a mirror of themselves. What if Astralis encountered another astral ship empire? What if that empire took notice, and waged a war of economic attrition and conquest over the colonies of Astralis?

A powerful empire, deriving from a world with a similar history, would be a potent enemy of the Star-Pharaoh’s far flung nation. The opportunities for battles on a thousand worlds would be near endless.

A Secret Grave

Astralis stumbles across the hidden world where Vecna’s Eye and Hand currently rest. Perhaps the lich has already consumed the soul of a new host, and is in control. Perhaps a wizard of Astralis becomes his new host. The arch-lich sees the throne of the Star-Pharaoh as an easy opportunity to become an Emperor again.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the material worlds, Kas senses that Vecna is on the move again. His demonic and undead spies bring him word of astral ships bearing the sign of the eye.

War With Gith

There are others who already sail ships through the astral plane. The githyanki and their lich queen launch raids into other worlds from their city resting upon the bones of a dead god. It is but a matter of time before the vessels of the Star-Pharaoh clash with those of the githyanki queen. And where the githyanki roam, the githzerai are sure to interfere.

A Plague of Tarrasques

There might be but one tarrasque. But many worlds have legends of one. Some take this to mean that there are more than one. What if the gods merely raise the singular beast whenever it falls? What if when it disappears to go into its long sleep, it is really being sent to another world instead? What if the Star-Pharaoh’s empire yet again angered the gods, and they set the tarrasque upon all of the worlds of the empire, one after another?

Could your adventurers defeat the tarrasque? If they proved that they could, might they be sent by astral vessel to every world where the beast appeared?

One Gate Too Many

The world of the Star-Pharaoh keeps building gates to other realms, extending teleporter pads to other places, sending astral ships to other places.

Someday, they push things too far. The pigeons come home to roost. Enemies burst through the myriad of planar gates, transforming regions of the homeworld into new landscapes. Teleporter pads flood the imperial lands with powerful strike teams who take up residence. Fleets of astral ships descend upon the failing center, intent upon seizing the treasures gathered from a thousand worlds.

The sages of Astralis do their best to shut it down. They crash the gates that they can close. The disrupt the teleporters they can stop. They destroy the astral vessels in their docks. War rages across the homeworld.

The flames consume the great libraries. The battles unleash terrible weapons upon the world. The warring factions  retreat when they can, but many are stranded. They divide the world between them. For the first time in thousands of years, the homeworld is a shattered realm with a thousand petty kings and queens. The civilization of the Star-Pharaohs descends into darkness.

Centuries go by. The worst disasters have stabilized. The world has come to grips with its new reality. Occasionally another planar gate or teleporter bursts through, or an astral vessel makes landfall, but there are ancient defenses in place that blunt such events. The inhabitants of a fallen world pick the bones of their ancestral lands, and live amongst its ruins.

Astralis – The Pitch

Astralis

Long ago, on a world with one single great continent, an empire finally united the world. Not the “known world” as savants sometimes later recall of other civilizations. The whole world.

Sailing the seas of the world, the restless empire found but a scattering of islands, here and there, which were easily devoured. The pharaoh feared that with no foreign enemies remaining, he might not keep his internal foes at bay.

He called together his viziers, demanding a plan for the future. One by one they proposed plans that disappointed his ambitions. Until, one evening, a brilliant vizier pointed him to the stars. “There, pharaoh, lie your new conquests.”

Though the vizier gained the pharaoh’s favor, years passed before his vision was made real. A ship which would sail into the astral plane, piercing the dimensions to land upon the worlds encircling other stars.

That was more than a thousand years ago. Now the empire sends ships to thousands of worlds, to explore, to conquer, to return with tribute. But even as they settle the universe, the universe sets its eye upon them. More than once an offworld warlord has seized the astral fleet and taken the homeworld for their own.

Astralis is enduring, though. The barbarian at the gate is easily absorbed into a world of imperial luxury. What will you do? Rise to power or cast down the palaces of the corrupt?

Space Opera D&D without spaceships

Astralis is meant to be a setting for Dungeons and Dragons that creates a space opera type feel, without spaceships. By using astral ships, that sail through the astral plane and appear on other worlds by way of astral color pools, you get a multiworld setting without the automatic air-superiority that spaceships typically assume.

Astralis – The Home World

The Home World

Long ago, on a world with one single great continent, an empire finally united the world. Not the “known world” as savants sometimes later recall of other civilizations. The whole world.

(Think Pangaea, if humans had dominated it and it had not split apart.)

Thousands of years of history here… (but really a current interesting state should probably be introduced first)

Nine bows

At one point the ruler of Y offworld nation seized the astral fleet, and set off into the astral realm to reach Geba. He conquered the homeworld and installed his own capital near the heavily damaged previous capital.

Various events

In the year XX, the pharaoh died and insisted that things be brought to him in the afterlife. Astral vessels entered the outer planes to bring him his earthly desires. Heaven was offended, and great devastation was wrought upon the world. Perhaps the tarrasque appeared and rampaged.

The Modern Pharaoh

Nowadays, the pharaoh is largely symbolic. The pharaonic family continues ever onward, generation after generation, dynasty after dynasty, but the real power lies in a bicameral “senate” (hopefully some other name?). Now and then a charismatic pharaoh may wield greater influence, but the senate is quick to push back.

The Senate

Laws and administration of the government are really the province of the senate. This body consists of two “houses” – the House of Governors and the House of Viziers.

The House of Governors varies in membership numbers, and is comprised of the governors, or their duly appointed representatives, of those offworld nations powerful enough to warrant representation. Such a governor may be the native ruler of an offworld nation, or a military or political figure deployed by Seba.

The House of Viziers numbers 42, which is based on the religious numerology of the divine judge Duat. Officially, they are appointed by the pharaoh, but in reality the pharaoh rubber-stamps the powerful politicians who dominate homeworld governance. A senate-vizier must be a citizen of the homeworld, though in rare cases such citizens have originated from elsewhere.

Mirabilis

The capital of Astralis. This city was built by the conqueror XX near the ruins of the original capital XX.

More Divided Than Ever?

I keep hearing about how we are more divided than ever. Unless somebody can present some serious studies to prove this, I am not buying it. I don’t think most people are any more divided than they were before. As a child, I remember folks using the n-word at school. Gay insults were common enough that child-me thought they were normal. As a young adult, I remember being physically threatened by a coworker for protesting the Iraq War. Years later, I remember arguing about a coworker calling Muslims “rag-heads” after the 9/11 attack. Raging debates on conservative vs liberal, copyright vs piracy, religion vs equal rights, gun control, welfare, healthcare, etc. For as long as I can remember, people have fought about politics and human behavior.

You shouldn’t rely on my experiences. You can look at plenty of old footage of terrible things that were done to civil rights protesters. You can look at records of nasty American political campaigns as early as Jefferson vs Adams. You can look at the partisan divide where Newt Gingrich was cheating on his wife while hypocritically spending millions of tax dollars pursuing Bill Clinton for doing the same. There was, of course, the Civil War. Slavery vs abolitionists. The Trail of Tears. Prohibition, Japanese internment, McCarthyism, Nixon’s impeachment, the Vietnam war, the Drug War, etc.

What I think seems “different” to people is that it felt like we were making progress. We were at least moving forward towards equality and justice. Civil rights were still growing. Even if you might feel that Obama fell short of your dreams, his election was a leap born of a thousand other steps. Even conservative judges like Kennedy were budging on gay rights.

And then the Republicans put Trump in place, and the same partisan votes that have been around forever elected him. I don’t think most people are any more divided than they were. I think old-fashioned partisan crap meant that Republicans largely blindly voted for a really bad guy to be President. And they have been gerrymandering the system for their side for so long that (like Bush) their guy won, despite losing the popular election by 3 million or so votes.

And now he is in power, and putting other bad people in power throughout the government. And the alt-right, which has always been there under one name or another, feels empowered. And if the majority of folks, who are still the same partisan people they have always been, don’t wake up, and see what they have done… then the extremists might just carry the day.

I have read before that supposedly the American Revolution was 1/3rd pro-Revolution, 1/3rd pro-England, and 1/3rd staying “neutral” while it happened. I have seen similar claims for Germany, before the Nazis ascended. If those are accurate then maybe we remain equally divided even in bad times – not more divided.

You can look at Trump’s support numbers and see that faction is in place as usual. Assuming you are not a pro-Trump supporter, then where are you? Pro-resistance, or staying neutral?

MADD moment

It seems to me that we may be headed towards a MADD moment in regards to gun violence. Mothers Against Drunk Driving was founded in 1980 by a mother angry that her daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Over its 37 year history, the group is said to have reduced drunk driving by half.

Whether you are angry about gun deaths or not, it is clear that a lot of people are. Students are protesting, from rallying in front of NRA offices to lying on the ground outside the White House. Mothers are organizing, including those who put together the Women’s March. Teachers are organizing. Walkouts and marches are being planned. This may be a tipping point. Whether you think they are effective or not, laws may change.

If you are strongly pro-gun, and see that a MADD moment is in the making, you might consider what changes you are actually okay seeing enacted. Some politicians are going to propose distracting band-aids that do nothing. Others are going to propose strict controls that you won’t like. Even the founder of MADD left the organization, saying that it had become neo-prohibitionist when she meant it to deal with drunk driving rather than alcohol.

People are mad. They are pushing for change. Children are tired of being targeted. The new generation may push even harder than ever before. You can push back, like you always have. Or maybe, you can think about what changes you think might actually help prevent gun violence without taking away whatever gun rights you think you should have. Instead of mocking “common sense” ideas, perhaps propose ideas that you are willing to see implemented. This may be a MADD moment for gun violence. Don’t underestimate the power of angry moms or marching students.

 

gubble

“Gubble

Ability to pass things info between dream states or wakefulness”

On February 16, 2014, I tapped this weird note into my Notes app on my iPhone. It was some nonsense I had been musing as I lay half asleep.

Curious, I Googled “gubble” and discovered it was an old video game which I did not (consciously at least) remember at all. I couldn’t find any other real meaning for the word. On the other hand, ubble-gubble is claimed as a synonym for gibberish. Another related word is gabble.

Well, I guess I failed to gubble the meaning of what I was dreaming into my waking world, eh?

The default character idea for Oneira is a person who has physically passed into the dream world. As such, the passing of things/info into wakefulness could mean two entirely different things.

First, there is just the idea that they still sleep, and dream, even though they reside in the dream world. Like any normal person, much of that information is simply forgotten. Thus, the ability to pass knowledge from your dreaming self to your waking self would be just as useful to them as any of us.

However, in the process of dreaming, these individuals may move around the real in which they live. This may give them insight into the world in which they live in ways entirely unrestricted by space or conscious logic. If they can keep some of that upon awakening, then it might be applicable while awake. Honed to a razor skill, maybe the Oneira could even intentionally scout out areas of dream, and spy on enemies, or even target them with dream-fashioned changes.

Alternately, the Oneira might be interested in passing information to the real world. If you could interact with a terrestrial dreamer, and ensure they remember at least some part of the experience, then you can implant dream knowledge into the real world. For some Oneira, this might be the fulfillment of the simple desire to let their loved ones know where they have gone. Others have more sinister ideas, such as creating feedback loops, wherein their dream domains are strengthened by the minds of terrestrial dreamers.

The ultimate goal of some Oneira might be to transport objects or themselves from the dream world back to the terrestrial one. In the default setting, this is assumed to be something which no one knows how to do. If they knew this trick in the past, then the knowledge is lost. If anyone does know how to do it, they aren’t sharing. As creator of your flavor of the game, do what you will, but realize that the ability to go back to the real world changes everything. The Oneira are less tragic, and the real world of your stories is less believable. As far as we know, humans don’t really transport their bodies to and from other dimensions. Being able to escape to your home on Earth seems more like an end goal for most character.

Nonetheless, don’t be shy if that’s the game you want to run. Perhaps there is an entire cadre of trained agents who move back and forth at will. Maybe they can’t do it so easily, and they depend upon the vast resources of some shadowy agency whose electric matrices flicker the lights with every dimensional jump.

Hoodbanks

I had a dream about this, in real life, in 2014. ( I know the time frame because of an iPhone note I made at that time.) This is a game world translation of that.

Hoodbanks is a hotel, which only exists within other hotels. One might go to a Hilton or Marriott or other upper end hotel, and find a small reception desk, somewhat apart from the host hotel’s reception area, which is poorly lit, and possibly only lets one reception employee work at a time. The Hoodbanks reception area has a single row line of velvet rope, in a deep burgundy.

As far as the hotel within another hotel, I believe that I heard a story about the Four Seasons working in such a manner, so I should research that if this is something I expand.

In Oneira, the hotel takes on other aspects beyond what a real world hotel within a hotel could do. The rooms, although contained on only one or two floors of the host hotel, are impossibly luxurious. In my dream, I knocked on the room door and when it was opened there was a ballroom party inside of what was apparently a suite. Zsa Zsa Gabor, or possibly her sister Eva misidentified, was dancing with a dapper gentleman, looking as young and beautiful as her black and white photos.

The reception desk seemingly closes at some hours, though. When I came to it, it was mostly dark, and the burgundy theater ropes were there, and a single bronze colored sign said “HOODBANKS” with no other explanation. Because I was unable to check in, I was not allowed into the party whose wonders I saw through the briefly opened doors.

In a nod to logical security, I would imagine that you cannot even get to a Hoodbanks floor without a keycard. I don’t remember doing anything special to get there in my dream, but perhaps I had to sneak up a staircase or follow a snazzy couple too closely into a limited elevator.

If the Hoodbanks hotel has dream qualities, it begs the question of why? Is it run by a dreamer? Is it run by dream entities? Is it controlled by a family? If so, then presumably that family is the Hoodbanks. They might show up to various hotel locations on occasion, but their enterprise is presumably too big for them to monitor at all times. Some of them might even enjoy some sort of dreamworld celebrity a la Paris Hilton and her father’s hotels.

It seems useful to let the dynastic family option be the default, because it gives flavor to a dreamer family.

What are the goals of such a family? Surely to preserve their connections to celebrity. Their wealth must be considerable, but some other industries must outclass them. Also, celebrity can be fleeting.

I could always make the founder of the chain be Kurt Hoodbanks, as a reference to Conrad Hilton. Perhaps Athena Hoodbanks rather than Paris? Nicole or Victory Hoodbanks as her sister?

As with most of the dreamer families, they would look for other dreamers as marrying material. This is still the best way to keep your bloodline’s power.

New Years Writing

Okay, so I have failed to keep this up in multiple years in the past, but I think it is time to try again.

Time to try, once again, to do a daily minimum word count of typing up my creative ideas.

I am hoping that I can focus a lot of this word count on my Oneira dream world game setting.

500 words per day seems like the stereotype goal that I should aim to achieve.

I am thinking that Google docs would be a good place to type it up, so I can update it from wherever. However, I feel like I should also download copies to my local desktop computer.

Things I might want to start with….

Dream harvesting, as Joe and I discussed.

FBI program, as reimagined to not be a physical transference. Instead, I could see it as highly trained individuals using sensory deprivation chambers to give them a stronger dreamer connection. Perhaps this strong dream connection lets them fake the whole “we are really coming here physically” angle. They don’t actually do so, but their impact is suitably hardcore enough that physically-there dreamers believe it.

It would be awesome if there were good terms for:

Physically-there dreamers

Earthbound-dreamers

Dream beings

I should do a real writeup of the naturally repairing aspect, which lets GMs allow stupid destructions to go by without consequence when desired. The net weight of the normal dreamers and their view of the scene keeps repairing it.

I feel like I am enabling some new-year expansions for Asaco, at least. I promised her a digital piano for Christmas, and gave her a symbolic ornament to represent this. On 12/31, we went to a local music store to see the pianos in person. We have already been researching them in person, and are still doing so post-visit to the music store. I hope she gets good use out of it.

I am still wondering whether I should spend some time writing up ideas for using different game systems to make the Oneira world. For example, Mage: The Ascension could be used to represent the dream powers, with a reskin of what magic really is. Instead of it being “reality warping” it can be “dream warping” since the world they players join is the place where dreams occur.

On Repeat

One of the things that I sometimes think about is the effect of really negative things on the internet. Unlike things said aloud, in the offline world, such things are not said just once, and then left to human memory to blur or lose. They are repeated every time somebody encounters them online. Over, and over. And over.

People say the internet never forgets. I don’t think that is a 100% valid experience. A file or data entry might become obscured by time, and uncollected by backups and scrapes, eventually disappear from view at least, whether it still lies in computer memory somewhere or not.

Nevertheless, there can be a strongly enhanced degree of persistence. And worse, a massively enhanced degree of repetition. If you insult somebody, your insult is repeated every time it is reread, forever.

Unless it is removed. As noted, “removed” might not be absolute. However, the internet is full of things. The fewer places a negative post appears, the more obscure it is, the fewer times it is likely to be encountered. If it is removed quickly enough, perhaps no audience will ever actually experience it. Even if it remains in a database, a moderator may never read it.

Okay, but history is important, too. We learn from history. At least we should learn from history. Is a personal attack on the internet a good piece of history? Is it beneficial to keep broadcasting over and over, forever?

Do you really want somebody to remain exactly the person they were when they posted that terrible thing 10 years ago? Or do you hope that they will change for the better?

Even if they do change for the better, what about that post, made before the change? How many more times should it attack somebody with the frozen in time stance from when it was written?