Quick Post: Contemplating the Consequences

I’m working on something fun that I’m hoping will end up here in the near future; it has me thinking though, about settings. One of the things that really interests me about creating a fictional setting is trying to follow the ripples of effects caused by the unique characteristics of that setting. When unusual forces or extraordinary abilities are involved, the world can become a very different place, in radical and often unexpected ways.

This is the whole point of Speculative Fiction, but it often applies to the sci-fi and fantasy settings that we use in games. Like, how does the world change when we introduce magic? Or robots and artificial intelligence?

The simple idea of mages and clerics being able to raise the dead, like in D&D, could bring with it a great deal of consequences we don’t normally think of. Is murder a great crime in a setting where death can be trivially overcome? In the D&D Raise Dead spell, you need a diamond worth 50, 000 gold pieces for the spell; the penalty for killing someone could be a very large fine and fair prison sentence, not unlike assault and battery charges. This would also make other particularly heinous crimes clearly more terrible in comparison. In fact, in a place where the dead can be brought back, maybe death would become a popular punishment for high profile criminals; dead folk can’t escape prison (though their experience while dead may invalidate the point of prison).

Or how about being able to speak to the dead? Murder investigations would be much easier, sure, if you could get testimony from the slain. But there’s also the possibility that the testimony would be false. What about the possibility of a conspiracy, where a dead man frames his death on someone innocent? There’s a number of scenarios where it could be plausible.

In one of the settings I’ve created, Aur, the world consists of a number of floating strata surrounding a star-like core; floating islands, where oceans are replaced by sky. This leads to a number of changes. Unlike Earth, where heat comes from the sun causing higher temperatures near the equator, on Aur, heat comes from it’s core, meaning the lower strata are the hottest and the higher strata are cold. Additionally, there’s less standing water on Aur; there’s more clouds, as water and rain fall toward the core and evaporates, going skyward. This does a lot to dictate the type of environments on each strata; the lowest is desert like, where water rarely settles and above that is a tropical strata and after that each strata gets less warm and less precipitation.

Aur also developed a lot of flying creatures and machines. Fishing was not very common, with netting small flying creatures on the coasts taking it’s place. Races had reverence for the core rather than a sun or any stars — with one in fact preferring to build downward off the bottom of the flying islands, facing the core (as upside-down towers). Lighting and day/night cycles were something we never quite hashed out, but I imagine with some 3D modeling and time it could be worked out.

Powerful abilities like magic of any kind, super powers, or super science can have dramatic impacts on the world the reside upon. Even just look at things like how television and computers have changes the world; think about the changes those have made to the world. Changing some fundamental elements of the world — like with Aur — can have dramatic, spiraling consequences.

Think about it  sometime. Many games, and a lot of fiction, fails to account for this sort of stuff, and paying attention to it can give your world a significantly greater sense of realism and offer a number of interesting possibilities for plots and more that might never otherwise have existed.

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