Free Shipping on Bulk Ammo -- TargetSportsUSA.Com!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pellatarrum: Navigation

Navigation upon Pellatarrum's surface is both easier and more difficult than in our real world. For example, concepts such as "North" are meaningless when you consider the surface of the world is a disc of infinite radius rotating about a spindle of infinite height. However, given the immensity of the Dayspire, its ability to be seen from any outdoor location makes it a universal (and handy) point of reference.

If you are headed towards the Dayspire, then you are facing the direction known as Dwarfward, for obvious reasons. Much like the North Star in our world, Dwarfward is a naturally occurring compass point. It can even be seen at night, as there is a faint nimbus of Positive Energy illuminating at least one of its edges, much like an aurora. (Interestingly enough, a truly skilled outdoorsman can look at the degree of radiance on either side of the Spire at night and estimate the number of hours until dawn.)

Facing Dwarfward, the direction to your right is known as Deosil, which means "sunwise" in Elven. This is the direction to face to watch the "sunrise" as the Dual Suns emerge from the vertical horizon of the Dayspire. Similarly, on your left is where the suns "set", and while the proper Elven term for this is Tuathal, "fatal," most folk know it as Widdershins, a term coined by a rakish Halfling wind-sailor long ago. Directly behind you is Wayward, which is a corruption of Away-ward, in the sense of "away-from-us-ness", but since this direction leads away from civilized lands and into danger, the definition of "willful deviation from the expected norm" is most apt.

You would think that this system would make navigation throughout Pellatarrum quite easy, but you would be wrong in that assumption. The kink here is that, when it comes to overland travel, only two of these directions  -- Dwarfward and Wayward -- are objective. Both Deosil and Widdershins are subjective points in a rotating system; specifically, they are not straight lines but are curves. Which means you can throw your Cartesian coordinate system out the window, because you can't navigate if your Y-axis is curved.

Well, okay, you could if you had a sextant and knew enough trigonometry to triangulate your position, and then triangulate your destination, and then do some math which I can't even comprehend to find some kind of vector between the two. I doubt that many people in Pellatarrum would have the knowledge of advanced mathematics to pull this off, and those who do are probably wizards, in which case it's just easier to use magic.

So here's what it boils down to: If you are just traipsing around in your local county woods, fine and dandy. But the moment you want to engage in significant overland travel without a clearly-marked road, you need one of three things:
  • a map between point A and point B, which you can use to navigate through terrain association (which is a fancy way of saying "That mountain there looks like this mountain here on the map, so we go this way"). Of course, this technique is very black box -- either you know where you are on the map or you don't, at which case it ceases to be useful;
  • significant experience between points A and B, so you can go "Oh, I remember this boulder, and just a mile past it is a game trail which takes me to a river which leads to etc..";
  • a Ranger or Druid who, due to their mystic connection with the land, can overcome this "navigational Coriolis effect" and actually lead you to where you want to go through dead reckoning and sheer ballsiness.

This last point merits some attention. Certainly, anyone can learn the Survival skill, and use it to follow tracks, hunt game, and survive in the outdoors. This much is unchanged from the rulebook. But the moment the Game Master needs to break out the rules for getting lost (page 424 in the Pathfinder Rulebook), if you are more than 10 miles from civilization and you do not have one of these two classes, you cannot roll to get un-stuck. You are lost and will probably die out there (which is why it's called wayward, after all).

And no, you cannot navigate at night using stars, because there are no stars to use. Between the Elemental Churn and the Seasonal Clock, the sky is an ever-changing mess to the untrained eye. Only Druids and Rangers, in a kind of navigational augury, can spot the few fixed points within the Elemental Planes above and use them to determine location and bearing upon the surface of Pellatarrum.

Don't fall off the map.

6 comments:

  1. Ok, this makes sense. It's going to make mapping the wilderness even more annoying than normal, but most groups could just handwave that if they wanted.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Um, ok, you lost me here. Are you saying that if I stand on a disk and try to walk straight across it, some magic power of disk-i-ness will force me to walk in a curve?

    OK, I will try this again.

    Humans do not naturally walk in straight lines over long distances. We tend to veer in the direction of our handedness, which is why many people who get lost end up traveling in a circle. There are techniques to help prevent this, such as alternating left-right-left-right when going around trees in dense forests, but the fact remains that lacking the enhanced senses and instincts of animals, we rely on tools (maps, compasses, roads) to keep us where we are going.

    Now unless you are marching Dwarfward, you are going to go off course for travels of more than a dozen miles or so without the presence of a ranger or druid. If you are heading Wayward, it's very easy to veer to the left or the right since you don't have eyes in the back of your head to maintain your heading. You have to stop every 20 minutes or so, look back, try to align yourself between the Spire and where you are going (if you're fortunate you have a piece of terrain you can aim for, like a mountain.)

    Deosil and Widdershins are even harder because they are subjective. Let's say for the sake of argument that you can march a perfectly straight line due Deosil with the Spire on your left. Eventually you will no longer be marching due Deosil, even if your route never deviates, because Deosil itself is a curved direction Marching perfectly Deosil, or perfectly Widdershins, is to march in a circle, because these directions curve around the Spire.

    So you won't specifically be walking in a curve, but your sense of direction will insist that no, Deosil is this way, and it will throw you off course, much the same way that the Coriolis effect will case a moving object in a rotational environment to deflect.


    Actually, now that I think on it, they must be so blessed; without such help, birds would never be able to return to their nests nor bees to their hives

    I would flip the semantics of your argument; it's not so much that animals have magical powers, but that rangers and druids have learned the instinctual abilities of animals.

    Ok, seriously, if the point isn't to make wilderness exploration insanely hazardous (to the point that nobody is going to even try it unless they can move radially directly away from the Dayspire), what is the point?

    The point isn't "If you go out there you will die," although that's never stopped PC groups before (I'm thinking specifically of the Shadowlands in Legend of the 5 Rings, which are described as literally being Hell On Earth, and yet PCs adventure there at least once); the point is "If you go out there, you will not come back."

    It's terra incognito, the Bermuda triangle. You will find adventure and riches and glory and death (not necessarily your own) out there, but once you leave the safety of civilization, finding your way back home is a crapshoot. There is no running back to safety. You are lost, and you either step up to adventure or you die.

    If you can't find a reason to go out into the unknown, you aren't a PC. Stay home on the farm.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As an example, let's say you are facing Deosil, with Dwarfward on your left. Now try to go straight. If you do not have a map or known landmarks, it is impossible, because you will always curve to the left, since Deosil always curves around the Spire.

    Um, ok, you lost me here. Are you saying that if I stand on a disk and try to walk straight across it, some magic power of disk-i-ness will force me to walk in a curve? (I'm assuming here that the spin of the disk has no effect on locomotion the same way the spin of the Earth doesn't.)

    PCs, on the other hand, stumble around until the come across some sort of side quest or hidden dungeon or other form of adventure.

    ::puts on his official Old School Renaissance Curmudgeon cap::

    Wimp! ;)

    Ok, seriously, if the point isn't to make wilderness exploration insanely hazardous (to the point that nobody is going to even try it unless they can move radially directly away from the Dayspire), what is the point? You've only just discouraged the PCs from striking out into the unknown. Of course, there's no reason to ever go out there because there's nothing out there; unintelligent animals will all die because they can't navigate back to "known" water, nor can claim territories or the like (unless blessed by the same sort of magical navigational aids as druids and rangers).

    Actually, now that I think on it, they must be so blessed; without such help, birds would never be able to return to their nests nor bees to their hives. :/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ok, but just because the surface of the world is a disk doesn't mean you can't impose a grid on it.

    True, but what good does a grid do you if you can't follow it?

    As an example, let's say you are facing Deosil, with Dwarfward on your left. Now try to go straight. If you do not have a map or known landmarks, it is impossible, because you will always curve to the left, since Deosil always curves around the Spire. It's basically navigation through polar coordinates, which is a discipline 99% of Pellatarrans do not possess.

    If you have a good eye, it's not hard to make a decent map. But without a map, walking in any direction that is not Dwarfward is erratic at best, and given the sheer size of Pellatarrum, simply walking Dwarfward is not a guarantee you will reach civilization before you die of exposure.

    So I have to wonder, are you planning for lots of TPKs when the party's druid or ranger dies due to hungry owlbear attack in the middle of the night?

    Sigh. No. Not at all.

    That is what happens to NPC parties. PCs, on the other hand, stumble around until the come across some sort of side quest or hidden dungeon or other form of adventure. Unless for whatever reason the GM wants a TPK, to teach them a lesson or to be a jerk.

    I have to ask, why is it every time I introduce a rule like this, the immediate reaction is to accuse me of being an asshole GM who only wants to kill the entire party?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ok, but just because the surface of the world is a disk doesn't mean you can't impose a grid on it. If an area is mapped, it might be known very well, and even if you get off-course a bit, you should still be able to reorient when you find the next landmark, and the distances between many different features and locations should be well known.

    Granted, that's not much help once you wander off the map. Without accurate clocks, yeah, I think folks would be screwed, other than perhaps just moving straight Dwarfward in the hopes of reaching civilization before their supplies run out. So I have to wonder, are you planning for lots of TPKs when the party's druid or ranger dies due to hungry owlbear attack in the middle of the night?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would flip the semantics of your argument; it's not so much that animals have magical powers, but that rangers and druids have learned the instinctual abilities of animals.

    I like this so much that it's a dandy way to quantify things: If you do not have the Animal Empathy ability (as all Druids and Rangers do at 1st level) then you can't use the Survival skill for land navigation.

    ReplyDelete

The Fine Print


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License


Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.