Thread: Fantasy Worlds
View Single Post
Old 04-08-2019, 06:30 PM   #29
patchwork's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2011
Default Re: Fantasy Worlds

I've probably made dozens of throwaway worlds, but the one I've stuck with and kept fiddling with I refer to as Corteagne. I think I first started working on it in 1996 so it can legally drink now.

It started out as an exploration of what a TL3 high mana society would really look like, sticking as precisely to RAW (3e) as I was able. It quickly became an exploration of transhumanism through a magical rather than technological lens. You've just taken control of a new stretch of fertile land and have no one to populate it. Sure, you can wait a couple of peasant generations for population to expand and migrate, incidentally raising people's expectations...or you can just shapeshift that flock of sheep into humans, explain to them that they are your serfs and this is their village. 20 years later, you acquire some new human peasants (from a long line of humans) in need of a home. Do you just break the spell and turn them back into sheep? What about the children who've never been sheep before? Your Knight-Commander keeps giving you magical upgrades...increased strength, talons, scaly dermis, nictitating membranes and dark what point do you stop being a human being? How about mental alterations that increase your memory but (rumor has it) also make you more obedient? If social interaction is fundamental to being human, is a person who can use mind control easily no longer fully human since they engage in no sincere, equitable intimate relationships? How about mind reading? The lower nobility live for about 300 years. The upper nobility live forever, by extracting lifetime from their peasantry. How human are they? And on and on.

The world is divided into sixteen cultures, some of which have organized states and some not so much, of which Corteagne is the one I choose to focus on most. Cultures tend to be defined by their definition of "human", which in turn tends to be dependent on their Great Magical Works. For example, Meru thinks reincarnation should be a thing, when objectively it isn't. So they built their Reincarnation Engine, which gives immortality of a sort to even peasants by causing their souls to be reborn in new bodies, giving each soul more time to engage with and understand the Real. To someone who has Mage Sight, the Engine looks like all the concertina wire in the world having a seizure. One of my favorite scenes was the people of Meru talking up how good reincarnation was and how the didn't travel much because they were terrified of dying beyond the reach of the Engine...and then the first time the PCs watched a person die in Meru, their soul float gently out of their body...and an (invisible to most) barbed, glowing tendril shoot out of nowhere, impale it, yank the impaled soul off and slam it into a new body. The most common sort of Great Work is actually a ban, preventing a sort of magic the local populace considers problematic from working at all, that expands beyond the intended target because magic is funny and interconnected in ways even the best (in game) theorists don't fully understand. In the Integral Forest, necromancy is impossible...but apparently the same work prevents magic items from being a thing at all. The items resume working again when removed from the forest. In the Republic of the Veil, mind control, mind reading and divination are impossible (as all of these would render elections a farce, and the Veilers really like the idea of being an egalitarian democracy)....but it also prevents a lot of weather control magic and lightning bolts. (Veilers are another group that doesn't travel much, being disturbed by the possibility of mind control in other cultures). The Swarm has flying castles. Not for any terribly logical reason, the Swarm just thought flying castles would be cool. Maybe don't attempt to fly a Swarm castle over the Integral Forest, that might be very bad. And so on.

Most of the games I've played with Corteagne have been political, with the PCs being investigators, ambassadors or hatchetmen for a Lesser or Greater House of Corteagne nobility. It gives them a chance to dive into a lot of those weird questions about what is and isn't a person that magic brings. There is nothing that is definitely sapient but definitely not human, unless you count demons from the Gulf of Shadows or a Swarm Ascendant, and the latter is, as with so many other things, debatable.
patchwork is offline   Reply With Quote