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Author Topic: Aeronauts of Laphir  (Read 378 times)
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« on: July 01, 2017, 02:12:29 PM »


Aeronauts of Laphir

Laphir, Jewel of the Desert

Airships glide elegantly over the hedge of slender towers and domed rooftops of the bustling Oasis City of Laphir, closing in to moor at one of it's many port spires or heading away to embark on a long flight to some faraway land. They proudly display the stylized emblems of various Aeronaut Guilds, both familiar and foreign, or the gryphon-adorned standards of the city's airfleet. On a lofty hill in the center of Laphir rise the magnificent palaces of powerful magnates and the gilded temples of the Thousand Gods, surrounded by a spectacle of marble fountains, hanging gardens and pleasure pavilions. Like a giant ring, a great hive of houses and workshops pans out around the central hill, it's network of cobbled streets a crowded labyrinth where guildsmen and militia in flamboyant uniforms mingle with merchants and artisans. Beyond the urban sprawl extends a lush plain of irrigated wineyards, orchards and plantations, carefully tended by organized teams of cultivators. This breadbasket gradually gives way for pastures, which in turn fade into the desert that surrounds Laphir. The entire city is criscrossed by canals and aqueducts conveying water drawn from the oasis lakes.



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This is, for lack of a better term, a "Napoleonic anachronism fantasy" setting focused on airships, guilds and exploration adventure. Despite the presense of steam engines and guns it is not steampunk, or any other kind of punk for that matter. There is much inspiration drawn from Frank Herbert's Dune. The protagonists are aeronauts -- guild based airship-flying adventurers -- who operate out of the city of Laphir, their home port. Gallantry and camaraderie should spirit the heroes on, even when they find themselves in dire straits.


In a World of Airships

The world is a vast desert -- a trackless wasteland of fine sand as far as the eye can see, blasted by the scorching rays of the sun, lashed by frequent sandstorms and howling winds. Traveling across this endless sea of dunes is arduous and wrought with perils. The lack of roads or permanent landmarks and the constantly shifting landscape make navigation difficult. Sources of food and water are extremely scarce, while travelers are ever at danger of being attacked by gigantic sandworms that silently tunnel their way beneath the surface.

Scattered across the barren expanse are isolated bastions of civilization: the verdant Oasis Cities. Fed by large fonts of freshwater springing from unknown depths underground, these sprawling metropoleis are veritable paradises amidst arid desolation. The Oasis Cities teem with vibrant life, culture and commerce. They are cradles of arts and education, but also of intrigue and decadence. Each city being far removed from it's nearest neighbours makes it a natural center of political power. The world's harsh climate and geography makes permanent conquest of territory difficult, so ambitious Oasis Cities instead compete for hegemony by coercing weaker cities into inequal "alliances" and by extracting tribute.

With travel overland being as challenging as it is, mankind has reached up to the skies in search of better transportation. Wonders of engineering and alchemy known as airships sail across the firmament, lifted by buoyant gas siphoned from natural vents deep in the desert, powered by steam engines heated with burning rocks called Dragonstones. Every Oasis City maintains an aerial navy as the backbone of it's military, and wealthy citizens intending to travel abroad bid exorbitant sums for a passage aboard a merchant airship to avoid the risks with a landbound caravan. Most airships are dirigibles with deflatable sacks for easier construction and maintenance; powerful airfleets have larger rigid-hulled vessels as their vaunted flagships.

Due to the steep cost of maintaining an airship, privately owned vessels are the property of organizations called Aeronaut Guilds. These guilds are comprised of merchants, entrepreneurs, mercenaries, explorers and adventurers. The guilds have a lengthy history, originating shortly after the invention of the first airships. They are thoroughly integrated into the societies of the Oasis Cities and are well organized, with distinguishing emblems and uniforms. They haul lucrative cargo across aerial trade routes, explore uncharted areas, search for valuable resources such as gas vents and Dragonstones in the desert, sign contracts to battle air pirates and foreign privateers, and engage in other worthwhile activities. Fame and fortune may befall a daring crew of aeronauts, though both are ephemeral and easily lost.

Gunpowder is unknown in this world, but rifled airguns have become common tools of war. Being based on pressurized air, these weapons are quieter than muskets and do not produce any smoke when shot. They have completely outphased bows and crossbows. Despite their accuracy and power, engagements still regularly progress to melee range, and thus most warriors carry a short sabre or a dagger as a backup weapon. Armor is rarely worn by anyone other than commanding officers, as it is too expensive to mass produce at bulletproof quality.

Aerial engagements between airships involve a great deal of maneuvering, taking advantage of wind conditions, and precision shots with aircannons. It is difficult to shoot down an airship because holes in the gas sack only result in very slow leakage, easily allowing the ship to remain airborne for many hours. Due to the expense of their construction, captured airships are extremely valuable booty and a strong incentive to avoid destructive battle tactics. Most air battles do end with the losing side managing a successful retreat.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 02:07:02 PM by Ghostman » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2017, 03:31:47 PM »

Please tell me this is going to be a PbP game wub
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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2017, 10:04:28 AM »

So cool man. Would love to see this developed into a forum game as well. I kind of ran out of steam with my own project. Best of luck! I really dig your rationales for your worldbuilding decisions.

 On aerial combat:
  What about incendiary weapons designed to burn up an airships balloons? Or some sort of weapon designed to disrupt the ballast of the ship? (Like hurling a heavy weight onto the bow or stern in order to force a drop in altitude?)
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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2017, 12:20:09 PM »

LoA

Please tell me this is going to be a PbP game wub
I just got started with this, so I don't have any plans yet.

Mason

So cool man. Would love to see this developed into a forum game as well. I kind of ran out of steam with my own project. Best of luck! I really dig your rationales for your worldbuilding decisions.
Thanks! smile Don't hesitate to reboot your own project if you ever feel like it. There's room for everyone's settings here.

Mason

On aerial combat:
  What about incendiary weapons designed to burn up an airships balloons? Or some sort of weapon designed to disrupt the ballast of the ship? (Like hurling a heavy weight onto the bow or stern in order to force a drop in altitude?)
There are no powerful explosives to use, and the airships aren't hydrogen based. A hurled weight would have to be massive to cause more than temporary swinging. And besides, it's way more interesting to involve characters in shootouts and close quarters boarding battles.
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2017, 12:26:16 PM »

Of Gas and Rocks

There are two important resources that can't be procured without venturing out into the desert, away from the safety and comforts of the Oasis Cities. Dragonstones and subterranean gas are necessary for airships to fly, and both are always in demand. Stones appear seemingly randomly, often revealed after a sandstorm. Nobody knows how they are formed. They need to be collected before sand buries them again, which can happen very quickly. Gas pours out of temporary vents that live for limited time, typically only a span of days or weeks. They can be located by watching for visible gas eruptions, and have to be exploited before they die out.

Dragonstones are an alchemical fuel used for steam power and for heating up forges and metalworks. They replace coal and wood, which are scarce in the desert world. They are round, melon-sized orange or pink rocks found in the desert. These crude rocks are collected and alchemically transformed to become flammable. A refined Dragonstone ignites as easily as a dry log of wood would, and it burns with subtle fire -- a hot, pure flame that emits neither smoke nor soot, resulting in minimal pollution. The stone isn't consumed by the fire but it slowly loses it's power, eventually "drying" up and turning to a dull gray color, after which it will burn no more. While crude Dragonstones are rare and difficult to find, a single refined stone is enough to power the steam engine of a small dirigible for an entire year.

Subterranean gas is barely visible, light gray in color and odorless. It is much lighter than air and enables relatively small airships to lift heavy cargo. Unlike hydrogen it isn't prone to explode when exposed to fire, making it safe to handle. Gas is collected by siphoning it into large balloons that are weighed down with sand and towed to the city, where their contents are pumped into permanent storage tanks. Balloon convoys heading to the city are slow moving and easy to spot, which makes them favoured targets of air pirates.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2017, 02:07:26 PM by Ghostman » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2017, 12:50:17 PM »

This looks really original!

Here's a bevy of questions for you.

Is this a human-only setting, at least for the Oasis Cities?

Does this world have oceans?

"Dragonstones" implies there are dragons. Are there dragons? Maybe they fill an equivalent ecological niche to Worms in the Dune series?

The Oasis Cities give off a very Western European vibe. Is that more of less uniform throughout the Oasis Cities? Going with the Dune comparison again, are there desert-dwelling peoples equivalent to the Fremen?
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« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2017, 01:06:43 PM »

For the moment I'll just chime in that I like this and I am hoping for more.  yum
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« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2017, 02:50:13 PM »

Steerpike

Is this a human-only setting, at least for the Oasis Cities?
I haven't decided yet, though I'm not likely to include any usual RPG races.

Steerpike

Does this world have oceans?
No. I do realize that this causes some awkwardness with terminology ('airships' when there aren't any regular ships, etc) but I think it's alright to just handwave that as a translational quirk.

Steerpike

"Dragonstones" implies there are dragons. Are there dragons? Maybe they fill an equivalent ecological niche to Worms in the Dune series?
They may just be mythical creatures, or perhaps real but long extinct. A few might even still be around but haven't been seen by anyone in living memory. In any case they probably won't resemble typical dragons.

The setting already includes gigantic sandworms.

Steerpike

The Oasis Cities give off a very Western European vibe. Is that more of less uniform throughout the Oasis Cities? Going with the Dune comparison again, are there desert-dwelling peoples equivalent to the Fremen?
What is giving you this impression, other than maybe the picture of a French hussar I included for a visual example of a uniform? There should be variation to the cities, but they are all similar in being fairly isolated and densely populated city-states that rely on careful water engineering and bureaucracy to feed their citizens. The guild institution is also ubiquitous, if simply to give characters a convenient association and role (as aeronauts) that is recognized in any exotic town they end up visiting.

There may be some weird desert dwellers, but not large populations of them and definitely not airship builders.
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« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2017, 03:07:27 PM »

I enjoyed reading and I, too, am hoping for more.

Ghostman, On Gas and Rocks

Dragonstones and subterranean gas are necessary for airships to fly, and both are always in demand. Stones appear seemingly randomly, often revealed after a sandstorm. Nobody knows how they are formed. They need to be collected before sand buries them again, which can happen very quickly.

Can we assume that landing an airship is a rather easy operation, then?
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« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2017, 03:44:33 PM »

Magnus Pym

Can we assume that landing an airship is a rather easy operation, then?
They don't land so much as reduce altitude to the point that they can throw an anchor to the ground and use rope ladders and basket lifts to access the surface. Only the smaller dirigibles can do this easily, but larger ships are usually accompanied by one or more smaller craft that can be used as landing boats.
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« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2017, 04:00:31 PM »

Can you tell us more about the way pirates operate? More specifically, how is it that pirating is even viable? What I understood is that the wilds is a harsh place, naturally unfit for human life, and the Oasis Cities have their own arms, as do guilds and wealthy individuals. Wouldn't they have ''banded together'' to rid the air-routes of pirate activity? Or perhaps it's that it's not a viable activity, but they spring up from time to time, only to be squashed quickly?
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2017, 10:50:03 AM »

Most cities harbor pirates, knowingly or otherwise. Or put in other words: pirates come from unscrupulous Aeronaut Guilds that have some of their armed airships fly bannerless, hit easy-looking targets, hide their loot in some secret place (generally on mountains where they can find it again) and come collect it later with other ships.

Then there's also privateers, which is pretty much the same thing except officially sanctioned as long as they only go after targets from different cities.
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2017, 12:58:59 PM »

Would they primarily fly small crafts? Or even the big ones except they hide their flag?
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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2017, 01:57:30 PM »

Definitely small airships. Bigger ones are too expensive to risk and too rare and distinctive to make reliably unrecognizable. Few guilds possess rigid hulled giants anyway; those are primarily found in the cities' airfleets.
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« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2017, 12:31:55 AM »

Ghostman

What is giving you this impression, other than maybe the picture of a French hussar I included for a visual example of a uniform?

Definitely the illustration, but also just because I tend to associate dirigibles with 19th/20th century Europe, and the sort of spirit of swashbuckling derring-do, especially combined with resource-motivated exploration, feels very "colonial Europe." That said, I'm glad that this is just a surface impression and that there'll be plenty of cultural diversity.
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