Friday, February 4, 2011

Islands in the Sky: Verisimilitude

Okay, so this whole "Islands in the Sky" campaign setting confounds my sense of verisimilitude, purely on account of resource logistics and management. The very nature of these earthmotes is to isolate; each Island is its own little world, connected only by the arrival and departure of airships. 

A number of questions quickly arise. First is a question of consumption that I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to: how much land is needed for a thousand people to survive off? As in, how much food must they grow? What other resources do they require? With such a limited amount of land available, is it possible for people to thrive in any way? Or does society fall into a survival of the toughest type of existence, due to the scarcity of resources? Seafood would obviously be pretty important, as would having airships to get down to the ocean in order to fish. 

What about communication? At what point do magical means of communication in a fantasy setting become farcical? Obviously, it would be silly to have cell phone or star trek type communicators. But what about something like a weekly newsletter that gets dropped off in town squares? That would be more appropriate to the fantasy feel while still allowing for plenty of communication between islands, although the islands are still dependent on airships with this idea. 

So, if our little societies get most of their food from the sea (and some that they shoot out of the sky), and most of their communication comes from delivered newsletters, this leaves one most important, supreme resource: the airship. 

So let's put some Gnolls on some airships! Pirate Gnolls! Ahoy matey! 


  1. I think there are a lot of ways to manage this. Considering you already have a flying city built on earth motes, you probably don't need to worry too much about the whole trying to be real kind of thing. Maybe the soil on these earth motes is incredibly good at pumping out massive crops which can provide food quickly for large groups of people. Maybe the fact that they are flying provides better sun cover which makes them grow faster.

    As far as communication goes, can you say Owls? Maybe its a bit cliche to steal from Harry Potter, but having Owls delivering those News Letters you spoke of seems like an interesting idea to me. There are also lots of magical eqivalents of cell-phones and such which go pretty far back. Maybe you use scrying pools as a means of private conversation between two seperated places. Also, don't forget the power of teleportion rings. You might let the more powerful individuals on these islands move freely between them by using personal use teleporation rings inside their estates/castles. Think of it like having Transporters in Star Trek. Those also provide for a great story element and allow you to speed up traveling for Players when you want them to get somewhere remote, very quickly, without breaking the tension of a particular encounter.

  2. Thanks Shinobi! Some good ideas there. I'm not so sure about using owls to deliver the newsletters; it is a little too Harry Potter for me. I'm thinking of giving each of the races their own peculiar way of communicating. Dragonborn use drakes, elves have magic scrying pools and rings and such, halflings might use pigeons, and so on.

    I do like the massive crops idea. I can't wait to plunk down a three foot long ear of corn in front of my players!

  3. Flying creatures could also include insects; the idea of giant bee riders and raids on hives for magical honey may spawn all kinds of adventures.

    With the earthmote islands, people may make use of the underside. Some kind of shade-loving creeper may provide food (e.g. creeping fig).

    Communication by race is nice; there may be town criers, heralds even postmen. Pratchett's Going Postal may provide some inspiration.