Thursday, April 4, 2013

Palimpsest Plains

Here's an idea for a campaign setting.  Thousands of years ago everything was green and shire-like.  People were happy as hobbits.  Then a wizard discovered a way to teleport from one place to another by switching the land you are standing on with that of your destination. 

It was soon discovered that this was very useful for transporting troops.  The chunks or land that were cored and swapped became larger and were swapped from farther away.  Soon these wars spread to other planes and the cores of landscape that overlayed one another became more and more foreign.

Traveling across the plains you might encounter a circle of sand dunes, a perfectly circular salt lake, or geysers of molten steel.  These might be spread about like pock marks or each, nestled within another like rings on a target, or just overlapping like a surreal Venn diagram.

Centuries pass.  Humans have grown accustomed to living in this patchwork world-- fishing the circle lakes, casting the molten steel.  Others have become Restorationists, they long for the great olden days of green beauty (that they never personally saw) and have begun the means to magically return the land to the way it was.  But the people living in these pockets of strange land call them home now and will fight to the death to keep their land from being destroyed or moved. 

Complicate this with the fact that there are Purists within patches that want their swath of land rid of unsightly pockets of other geography.  So, the people of the circular sands would love to be rid of the patch of coral-like pink rock that juts from their sandy land to the edge of space.  But the humans that live there will fight to the death to protect their Reefhome.  But the Reefhomers might ally with the Sand dwellers against the Restorationists.

Of course the shapes don't have to be perfect circles they could be weird jagged shapes or even geometric shapes tied to particular mages.  So the triangular patches were all teleports by the dreaded Angus the ugly.

This would do away with any need to make geography on the hexmap make natural sense.  It would give you a good reason to come up with the weirdest other-planar landscapes you could and it would have built in reasons for wars all over the map.

Thanks to Mr. Richard for the idea spur.


  1. That explains the geography of the board game Titan ...

  2. Oh, man. I wish my homebrew pocket dimension setting hadn't been closed off from the rest of reality two campaigns ago; this would be perfect for the as-yet unexplored continent. Maybe I should goad the party into opening the borders again.

  3. @Roger: Hey, yeah, that's like extreme edition where each hex is a different geography. There would probably be competing sects of Originalists.

    @tabletopandstiches: sounds cool. Maybe some mage with the land-swap-teleport spell will visit near where they're at bringing some of the pocket dimension with him.

  4. This is delightful... and spooky. I was just working on a hex-swap spell inspired by the recent Hexenbracken and Kraal experiments, where you can juggle the terrain and hex descriptions either to transport you across the map or to bring trouble to you (and of course the bad guys have the same ability). I predict a kind of stealth warfare emerging - if the enemy knows where you are they can destroy your formations and throw you into trouble, so the trick is to keep moving and quiet until you're ready to switch them into a trap.

    Terrain chess.

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  6. This is vaguely like the excuse for kitchen sink inclusiveness I'm using in my own setting: During the cataclysmic war so much WMD-level summoning magic going down (Shub, Azathoth, Nidhug, Chronos etc.), that a bunch of worlds got superposed. And when the waveform collapsed it left behind a patchwork of mismatched world-fragments. A couple hundred years later a nice little points of light setting is starting to pick itself up from the ashes.

    I'd been thinking mainly in broad swaths of terrain though. You make an interesting case for how messy or PC-involvement-provoking the changes could be on a local scale.

  7. Maybe there are wizards who still do this stuff occasionally. For example, if a wizard is angry at someone, he could drop a patch of lava or a mountain on their village. Or as a boon, he could give someone good farmland or a vein of precious ore.

  8. That's a cool re-purposing of the spell. And it would be a little tricky because to drop lava on them means you might end up on a grassy little island surrounded by lava yourself. Or, at the least, you might have to cast the spell twice to get somewhere safer.