This is only in the early stages. I've wanted to design an online browser game for some time, but I've only given vague thought as to the setting. This is an attempt to hammer it out a little more.
Atmos (working title) is a World in the Sky
setting. I’m developing this mainly as a video game setting, but I want to leave the option of other media open. Themes are survival in a hostile environment, the ephemerality of life, and really cool visuals. It’s a Lighter and Softer
interpretation of an idea I had of a fantasy world on a gas giant. I don't think this is going to be a gas giant, but I haven't decided what it is.
Magic in the sense of spells and enchantments does not exist. However, many things that we would consider magical are natural to the world.. Atmos operates under a set of natural laws that are different than the laws our universe operates under, but it is objective and consistent. If any native civilization ever developed empiricism, they would be able to observe and understand these laws.
The sapient inhabitants of the world (hereafter referred to as ‘humans’) live in a spacious habitable layer of the atmosphere. In general the weather is colder in the upper part of the habitable layer, and warm and wet in the lower part, but some horizontal variation exists. Humans cannot survive above or below this layer. (I haven’t decided why not.)
The weather tends to be severe. In order to survive, humans have had to become ‘’’very’’’ good at predicting and adapting to the devastating wind and lightning storms that blow through inhabited areas. The weather is no small-talk on Atmos.
- This bizarre creature is the main factor in humanity’s ability to survive on this hostile world. It is a filter feeder capable of growing to massive sizes.. From beneath, it is almost indistinguishable from a cloud.
This creature begins life as a fragment or bud of an older sponge. For awhile, it will blow freely through the atmosphere, but at some point it will settle into a specific position. Once this happens, it is VERY hard to move. Only the most terrible cyclones and hurricanes can budge it. (Possible handwave: the sponge exists in a fifth dimension in addition to the usual four, and attaches itself to a surface outside of spacetime.)
There are multiple species of sky sponge, but a common variant tends to grow in a bowl shaped structure. In the opening, soil and rock tends to accumulate (from where I haven’t decided. Mineral rain?), creating a surface suitable for habitation by humans and other terrestrial life forms. The largest sky sponges are big enough to accommodate rivers, lakes, mountain ranges, and plenty of human civilization.. This kind of structure will hereafter be referred to as a ‘skyland’.
Terrestrial life forms
A number of plants and animals similar to those on Earth’s continents live on skylands. Many of them have undergone skyland dwarfism.
One particular plant of note produces an exceptional oil for burning, the importance of which will be discussed later.
This plant is an air-plant that stands at roughly the same height as a human, with some variation. It consists of a long air root, a few broad leaves at the top, and one or more flowers. When unbloomed, the flower buds are filled with a lighter than air gas that gives the plant lift as it blows around atmos. The plant is highly sensitive, and responds to various disturbances by altering the pressure level of its buds to escape danger.
Humans often capture these plants for personal use. Once they get to a certain size, they can support a human clinging to the air root. With the right training, the human can use the plant’s defense mechanisms to gain some control over its flight path.
This is only practical for very short trips with no cargo, but it’s usually the first form of flight a child learns. It can also used to escape a burning airship.
A number of birds exist, adapted for the long flights between skylands. Other air plants sometimes float through the ether, and there are a few large animals that survive through lighter-than-air swim bladders.
Human society is still in a fairly primitive state, roughly pre-Classical, with some local variation. A few technologies are most advanced, such as rocketry (see below).
Almost all transport between skylands is through airship. These are fairly simple crafts, consisting of a hot air balloon made of waxed cloth or hide supporting a gondola made of woven reeds, or bound logs. They are propelled forward by crude steam jets, usually made of pottery. Humans burn the oil of a special plant to provide lift to the balloon and power the steam jets.
The earliest combat airships simply rammed their opponents. They often had a spike at the fore to puncture the balloons of their enemies. While this is still a viable tactic, most modern airships of war utilize rocket weapons of various sorts. (Think Singijeons
When besieging a skyland, airship pilots might drop clay jars full of flaming oil to destroy ground based defenses.
Generally, each skyland is an independent city-state. The government type varies, with monarchies and tribal councils being the most common forms.
Because the living space on Atmos seems almost unlimited at this point in history, empires define themselves less in terms of territory, and more in terms of their control over scarce resources. Mineral resources, for instance, are pretty rare, and the armadas have filled the skies with rocket fire over the best mines.
Although there may be some exceptions on some skylands, generally the closest thing to religion on Atmos is a kind of animism. People fear and revere the spirits of the natural forces that control their lives, the wind, the rain, and fire. These spirits are not gods so much as anthropomorphic personifications, but some cultures do attempt to appease them with sacrifices.
Sacrifices are thrown off the skyland, where it is believed they will fall to the hallowed Underworld. Generally, the one edge of the skyland will be designated the ‘clean place’, for sacrifices and the bodies of the deceased to be dropped, and people will use the other edges to dump garbage.
No one’s ever flown to the Underworld and lived to tell about it, but it weighs heavily on the mind of any human who’s ever taken to the air, which is most of them. It’s considered the final destination of all life, and possibly its origin as well. Many human cultures describe life as a journey. On Atmos, it’s more common to describe it as a freefall.
edited 6th Sep '12 7:34:33 PM by Topazan