Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Undersea Races

The World So Far: The world is flat. On one side of disc is the exhaustively explored and urbanized home of humans, where cities, countries and nations vie for too little land to support their expanding populations. On the other side of the disc is an uncharted and largely oceanic world, dotted by islands and coastlines, full of strange wonder, abundant resources and tropical beauty.

An incoming force of humans, from a number of distinctly 15th century-feeling cultures, have sailed over the edge of their world and come to colonize the world below. Some have come to seek asylum, refuge or more converts to their maligned faith. Some have been exiled over, punished for crimes committed in the world above. Still, others come over to set down stakes in a new world, to exploit the natural resources and expand their conquest.

The new world's inhabitants, however, are four powerful undersea kingdoms, full of dynastic struggle, ancient tradition and military might. With cultures far older and far more intricate than those of the human colonists, the undersea kingdoms are as unprepared for this sudden clash of cultures as the unawares humans are.

One of the themes I'd like to play with, concerning the underside of the world, is that absolutely nothing, biologically, is replicated from the topside of the world. The trees are different, the birds are different, the sea life is different, pretty much everything. This, of course, would include the underside sentient inhabitants, as well, better known as the Kingdoms.

The biggest challenge with making an ultimatum like this is, however, is that, without Earthlike animals to draw from, my supply of quick analogs is virtually nil. Can't simply say they're dolphin or octopus people, dust my hands off and call the whole thing good. Gotta dig a little deeper.

A series I really respect for applying this rule, rather than simply using anthropomorphic animals, is Scott Sigler's GFL series. With the Quyth, the Ki and the Sklorno, you can really tell Sigler put in the time, crafting alien species that would, in this case, be ideal for playing football. There's no easy way to look at any of these races and make an immediate comparison. This is, to perhaps a somewhat less bizarre length, what I'd like to achieve with the People of the Kingdoms.

The first thing I'd like to establish as a primary difference are proportions. With no concept as to what, exactly, their anatomy will consist of, I like the idea they're on a different scale to humans. Rather than going the traditional fantasy route and the making the People smaller, I think I'll go bigger. Much bigger – more in line with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Green Men than anything else. (I keep citing aliens are inspiration). Let's say 10 feet. I think 10 feet, even assuming they can stand, is a good estimate.

Secondly, I always imagined their cities occupying the bottom of the ocean, so I wonder if they don't sport some manner of bioluminescence. They could obviously have lanterns and devices instead of or in addition to their own natural glow, but I kinda like the notion of some appendage, whose function is specifically to provide light. I mean, it's equally conceivable that they don't even require light to see, but assuming I want human adventurers (if this becomes a campaign setting) to visit these underwater cities, the more light the better.

The notion of a bioluminescent skeleton occurs, but I'm kinda stuck on this appendage idea. To borrow from some earthlike creatures in a very general way, I actually think an anglerfish-style angler, which dangles pendant over their heads might be cool. Maybe a little too similar to Avatar's weird sex ponytail.

Wait, instead – how about they have the ability to inspire luminescence in other things, like rocks and plants and even other animals, with a mere touch. That immediately makes several things fall quickly into place; different People might project different colors or patterns of light, like thumbprints, I could see bioluminescent art becoming huge for their culture and architecture and it would potentially give them a commodity that the Colonists would covet. Scientifically, it could be a bacteria that grows on their skin that attaches to foreign objects and glows briefly as it dies or something. The rules of how it works aren't especially important at this stage. What is important is glowing handprints and finger-painting.

Ten foot tall, glowy finger-painters. There's definitely more the plumb here, but perhaps it should be saved for another time? Let's do a Part Two. Lemme percolate on this a while. Any ideas? Feel free to comment.

Next Wednesday on Worldblogger: Undersea Races (Part Deux)!

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