Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Introducing Pellatarrum

The thing that gets me about D&D campaign settings in general is how slavishly people adhere to certain aspects of science while willfully ignoring others. I mean, consider for a moment the ramifications of the square-cube law:

If an animal were scaled up by a considerable amount, its muscular strength would be severely reduced since the cross section of its muscles would increase by the square of the scaling factor while their mass would increase by the cube of the scaling factor. As a result of this, cardiovascular functions would be severely limited. In the case of flying animals, their wing loading would be increased if they were scaled up, and they would therefore have to fly faster to gain the same amount of lift. This would be difficult considering that muscular strength was reduced. This also helps explain how a bumblebee can have a large body relative to its wings, which would not be possible for a larger flying animal. Air resistance per unit mass is also higher for smaller animals, which is why a small animal like an ant cannot die by falling from any height. Because of this, the giant insects, spiders, and other animals seen in horror movies are unrealistic, as their sheer size would force them to collapse.
So not only would dragons be physically incapable of flight, they'd asphyxiate if they grew larger than elephant size. Likewise giants larger than Ogres. And let's not even mention all the ways that a fireball spell violates the Laws of Thermodynamics...

And yet, people are happy to ignore these transgressions against reality, because they are genre conventions. Without magic and giants and strange flying things, fantasy wouldn't be very fantastic. I call this the "Because fantasy, that's why!" rule.

But at the same time, other bits of science filter in and no one seems to notice how out of place they are. Example:
  • Anything involving genetics, whether it's about the implausibility of crossbreeding or that perennial favorite, "Do female dwarves have beards?" (Answer: it depends on if they're openly lesbian or not.)
  • That other perennial favorite, Does gunpowder work?
  • Arguments involving geology, climate, biodiversity, or basically anything else that happens when someone who knows too much science notices something the Dungeon Master did "wrong" with her map and decides to argue with her about the "realism" of the setting and no, this is just an off-the-cuff example, I'm not citing personal experience, not at all...

So, with all this mind, I created a campaign world called Pellatarrum. Its official motto is "Because Fantasy, That's Why."

Its unofficial motto is "Fuck science. Fuck it up the ass."

Pellatarrum is a place unlike any other. It is fantastic, both in spectacle and in impossibility, and yet it makes sense within its own mythic framework.

It is a world without a sun, yet has a day/night cycle. It is a place where fire and rocks routinely fall from the sky. It is infinite, yet bounded by the finite.

It will break your brain and leave you wanting more. It has been more than four years in the making.

Welcome to my world.


DemonicBunny said...

Now if you define a fireball as a self-contained field of ionized plasma it's suddenly all cool physics again (although we really call that phenomenon "ball lightning" though fireball would be a sufficiently accurate description).

...but don't mind me. Considering that I'm currently writing on a RPG project involving Technomages I'm not in the right frame of mind for blatant "fuck science" (more like soft-screw it)

Nathan said...

I would like to know more. Please tell us more. MORE. MOAR NAO

Kenneth Raymond said...

As a long-time fan of Planescape, where the design philosophy was something along the lines of, "Because it's cooler that way, that's why," let me say that I love you and would like to know everything about your setting.

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