Saturday, 21 November 2009

A New Direction and a New World: Jharat part 1

Ok, I admit my grand theories about RPGs, settings, the universe and everything are running dry, or at least not so easy to think up and produce. Taking a broad view of gaming is good in short bursts, but it gets boring after a while.
Therefore I've decided to take this blog in a new direction and use it to put out stuff about a world that I've worked on for a bit - Jharat, the Fallen World.
If you have been following my blog, you will remember from the third post I have created a number of worlds for D&D, and Jharat has been one of the more successful (or at least persistent) ones where I have actually built up a bit of info about it.

An overview of Jharat
Jharat is a huge world, about 3 times the size of Earth. It is covered by one massive continent that spans the entire equator, and two huge oceans, one in the northern hemisphere and the other to the south of the equatorial continent.

Until very recently, Jharat was dominated by the Eternian Empire, which had reigned over the whole world without too much disturbance or trouble for over 4,000 years. The magenta (pink) areas of the map are built-up and heavily civilised areas of intensive farming, towns and cities. Huge populations were supported thanks to magical improvements to agriculture.

Hive Cities
As populations grew, huge cities were built that towered both upwards and delved downwards as well as outwards. These cities became less like normal human settlements and more like titanic termite mounds, where buildings melded into each other above the covered streets and citizens could go for weeks or even years without seeing the sky. Such hive cities reached high into the sky, sometimes up to half a mile into the atmosphere.
Elemental Windows were vital for keeping the hive cities going: these are controllable portals to the elemental planes situated deep in the heart of hive cities. Air windows provided fresh air and ventilation. Water windows provided fresh water for both drinking and washing, Fire windows provided more than just heat for living - with wood being at a premium and coal not really used, the Fire windows were used for cooking food, smelting ore, firing pottery and other such tasks. Earth windows provided building materials and, on occasions, valuable ore that could be smelted into metal. Finally there were Entropy windows which did not produce anything but devoured and disintegrated anything that touched them - dangerous, but ideal for waste disposal.

The Summoning
Nobody is sure why the disaster known as the summoning happened 20 years ago: surviving sages have suggested that it was an attempt by evil deities to destroy humanity, while others say it was not good versus evil but law versus chaos - the forces of chaos saw that the Eternian Empire had made Law too dominant, and sought to redress the balance in a terrible way.
Whatever the causes, the actual events are known: monsters started appearing, especially out of the elemental windows. The Eternian army was not capable of dealing with such a large number and wide range of foes, especially appearing as they did, all over the Eternian Empire.
The collapse was rapid, and the slaughter was horrific. Within weeks, most of the hive cities had been lost. Within months the Empire had ceased to function. Within a year humanity's continued existence was in doubt.

The Situation Today
Humans and demihumans still hold on in pockets, but the grand civilisation of Eternia that had dominated before has now completely disintegrated. The population has fallen from what was 10 billion people to now just 500 million survivors, all of whom now live outside the hive cities, preferably at a safe distance. Politics is now generally replaced with survival tactics. There are still many monsters roaming the lands, and the hive cities are filled with fiendish beasts as well as the bodies (and maybe souls) of those unfortunates trapped inside during the Summoning. But there is hope. Heroes have arisen to champion civilised folk, to defeat the marauding monsters and reclaim the towns and cities. And even if the heroes are not so noble as to champion a righteous cause, there is a lot of treasure, both monetary and magical, in those ruined cities. Someone who could defeat dangerous monsters and defend communities could well become a ruler in these troubled and volatile times.

Designer's Notes
Jharat is ridiculously over-ambitious, and that's one of the reasons I love it. The planet is huge, the cities are bigger (and certainly taller) than New York, and the scale of the disaster is something few campaigns can compare with. No DM in his right mind would try to detail it in any depth. Which is why I'm going to have a go at it. 
Jharat is a setting where anything goes. The world is big enough to accommodate pretty well anything you like, including other campaign settings. With a bit of editing, you could probably have the Flanaess (the World of Greyhawk) sticking out of the northern coast and Ansalon (Dragonlance) floating in the southern ocean. 
More pertinently, because I have never taken it too seriously, I have been willing to include ideas here that I would consider a bit too strange or left-field for some worlds where I thought I had a chance of getting published. With 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D this was both taking things from other D&D worlds and also converting stuff from other game systems and fantasy settings. New stuff from Dragon Magazine and D&D supplements could also be put into Jharat without worry. 
With 3rd Edition, Jharat became the place where all D20 and OGL stuff could be used, no questions asked, and ideas from all sorts of D&D sources were still welcome. Converting stuff from other game systems was not exactly stopped, but there was so much stuff that didn't need converting suddenly appearing, it seemed a bit silly to put in more effort than seemed necessary. 

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