The Cosmos

The Cosmos of Elves & Espers is a distinctly fantastic one, with planetary systems consisting of nested crystal spheres floating like bubbles in the vast ocean of ether.  The Cosmos consists of planes layered in successively higher “vibrational frequencies”: the void, space, the aether, and the astral.

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The Void

The Abyss.  a.k.a. Sub-space or Null-space. At the lowest level, devoid of vibration, devoid of anything save Azathoth, there is the formless Void. Matter, even if it could be projected into sub-space, cannot last long, though some foolhardy civilizations have experimented with ways of sending messages through sub-space.

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Space

The realm of dull matter, possessing neither life nor soul  (in Elves & Espers you can have purely material constructs that imitate life, but without the vital spark of prana energy they are soulless automatons). Space is big and empty.  There is no air or gravity there.  Travel is limited to slower-than-light travel via conventional means such as rockets; there is no FTL method of travel or communication possible within space: you must use the higher vibrational planes.

Structures and ships need not be aerodynamic, but they must be proof against vacuum and radiation.  Artificial gravity is possible, but requires magic or super-science; at this level the crystal spheres that surround the worlds and carry them in their orbits through the ether are invisible and intangible (like everything that exists in the Ethereal Plane).  Similarly, force fields and beam weapons can be constructed, but only by using magic/technology that draws on the higher planes.  Without knowledge of the higher planes, tech is limited to purely physical things like missiles and armor.

Space Travel

Space travel, except for short jaunts to cross a crystal boundary, is usually reserved for those who cannot travel in the higher planes, or for situations where such travel is impractical such as moving a truly massive object. Space travel remains relatively primitive, with top speeds rarely more than about 14% of light speed; civilizations usually abandon improving their space travel technology as soon as they master (or encounter) ethereal travel.

Using the geocentric solar system as an example:

Destination AU from Earth TL 5 TL 6 TL 7 TL 8 TL 9 Light Speed
Moon 0.0026 1.7 days  8.0 hours 2.0 hours 2.0 minutes 9.2 seconds 1.3 seconds
Mercury 0.6 395.2 days 79.1 days 19.8 days 7.7 hours 36.3 minutes 5.1 minutes
Venus 0.7 465.0 days 93.0 days 23.3 days 9.1 hours 42.7 minutes 6.0 minutes
Sun 1.0 645.8 days 129.2 days 32.3 days 12.6 hours 59.3 minutes 8.3 minutes
Mars 1.5 2.7 years 196.4 days 49.1 days 0.8 days 1.5 hours 12.6 minutes
Jupiter 5.2 9.2 years 671.8 days 168.0 days 2.7 days 5.1 hours 43.2 minutes
Saturn 8.6 15.2 years 3.0 years 277.1 days 4.5 days 8.5 hours 1.2 hours
Uranus 19.1 33.9 years 6.8 years 618.2 days 10.0 days 18.9 hours 2.6 hours
Neptune 30.2 53.4 years 10.7 years 2.7 years 15.9 days 1.2 days 4.2 hours
Pluto 39.4 69.8 years 14.0 years 3.5 years 20.7 days 1.6 days 5.5 hours
1 light year 63073.0 111,596.0 years 22,326.1 years 5,581.5 years 90.7 years 7.1 years 1.0 year
Alpha Centauri 4.4 ly 491,040 years 98,208 years 24,552 years 400 years 31.4 years 4.4 years
Speed in days per AU 645.8 129.2 32.3 0.525 0.04118055556 0.005763888889

 

 

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The Aether

A.k.a. Hyperspace, Kirby Space  The medium through which light and gravity propagate. Crystallized aether spheres surround planets and are in turn embedded within larger crystal spheres that define the orbits of the planets.  The spheres rotate at non-uniform rates, giving the illusion to those measuring from a planetary surface that the orbiting planets are tracing out ellipses.  At the outer edge of a planetary system is the largest sphere that defines that system: the firmament.  The spheres of the planetary systems are swept along together in the currents of the aether that form the galaxies.

The aether is not uniform: it has eddies, currents, and even storms. It’s also not completely homogeneous, but is composed of the elemental quintessences. It is composed of all the elemental quintessences: anapnon (air), phlogiston (fire), geon (earth), and neron (water).  Anapnon is the dominant element. The elemental quintessences are the embodiment of the metaphysical properties of the element, rather than instances of them; that is, phlogiston isn’t fire, it’s that property which allows material to burn; anapnon is the property that allows living creatures to breath air, and so on. Thus because of the presence of anapnon, living beings of all kinds can breath in the aether, even if in space they would require radically different atmospheres (such as ammonia instead of oxygen).  Likewise, because of the geon that permeates all solid objects, any solid objects that have been rendered ethereal have their own gravity and any smaller body can treat a nearby larger body as if it possessed 1 G of gravity (for conscious beings, this is voluntary, and they can choose which nearby larger object to orient towards or even ignore the tug of gravity, for inanimate objects the nearest and largest dominate, in that order).

Most planetary systems are geocentric: there is a particular planet that is the center of the collection of spheres that make up the system.  Some are heliocentric (the center-most object happens to be the sun); in rarer cases there is no central object, or the central object is not an ordinary celestial object like a planet or sun but something unusual like a gigantic egg or a machine.  The laws of reality within a planetary system can differ from one to another, though they generally are similar enough that visitors to the system can survive and not just become a smear of not-atoms drifting through not-space, though their technology or magic may not work, or work differently.  In essence the GM should make it so that adventuring in “foreign” systems is perfectly feasible but may contain interesting surprises.

There are life forms and even entire civilizations are native to the ethereal plane.  Some are adapted to live in close proximity to gross matter (essentially denizens of a planet that happen to spend all or most of their time ethereal), others live far from planets, or even outside the firmament altogether, in the space between the stars.

The crystal spheres are solid to ethereal objects, but there are always openings.  All spheres are open at their poles.  In addition orbital spheres (the spheres that planetary spheres are embedded in) have openings around those planetary spheres allowing them to rotate freely: the openings are tiny compared to planets, but quite sufficient even for fleets of ships.

Spheres surrounding planets themselves are open at the poles, but there is an “axle” connecting the poles that transfixes the planet and causes it to rotate.  These axles are multiple (usually 3) helices of crystal aether that connect the opposite poles.   Ships can enter and exit a sphere through the poles by flying down the axles if by no other means; this can be dangerous because of the swirling vortexes of aether wind that naturally  occur there. It is common for advanced aether-travelling civilizations to have space ports at the poles, or even ethereal spaceports built on the axles themselves.

Ships that are properly equipped can also get past the spheres by dropping into regular Space, or if they have the capability ascend to the Astral plane and transverse the sphere that way.  Note that physically ascending to the Astral in close proximity to a large amount of gross matter (such as from within a planetary sphere, particularly if the planet has an atmosphere) is extremely dangerous to any but a trained adept; it is not for nothing that most travelers from planets send merely their astral form (soul) and do not attempt to transcend bodily.

If the sphere is surrounding a planet the planet is affixed to the helices and rotates with the sphere.  In Space, the boundaries of the sphere coincide with the boundaries of the atmosphere if any.  The spheres are extremely tough, but not unbreakable: any cataclysm that destroys the planet will probably destroy its sphere and the shards of the sphere will drift through the aether.

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Ethereal Attuner

Matter can be projected into the aether by means of magic or super-science; high speed travel is made possible by making entire ships ethereal.  Typically such devices resemble multi-dimensional tuning forks and their vibrations adjust the vibrations of objects within their influence to match the higher or lower frequencies of the different planes. Since the aether has “wind resistance”, ships that are build to travel the aether are generally streamlined and aerodynamic: lift isn’t necessary except near planets but control surfaces allow for better steering.

Ethereal Travel

In Ethereal travel what matters is not the spacial distance but the number of spheres that must be traversed and the relative positions of the planets. Each successive sphere encloses a volume of ether at a different vibrational frequency (higher/faster as you go farther out). Simply travelling from an arbitrary position on one sphere to the corresponding position on the next sphere out takes 3 days.  To go from planet to planet, though, requires catching up or moving back to its position within its orbit.  Ships travelling in the aether are either moving with the current (Spinwards), in which case it takes and average of 5 days to move from one planet to the next, or against the current (Anti-Spinwards) in which case it takes 10 days.  If the GM hasn’t determined it, roll 1d24 and assume that results are days travel spinward.  For positions greater than 16, it’s actually faster to travel anti-spinward. Calculate the amount of travel to reach the anti-spinward positions by subtracting from 24 and multiplying by 2. Reaching the pole of the planet’s orbital sphere from the planet or vice-versa takes approximately 6 days, while pole-to-next-pole outward or inward is always 3 days. Circumnavigating the sphere in the spin-ward direction takes about 24 days.

Once you’re beyond the outermost sphere of the system (the firmament) travel takes a steady 1 week per light year.  At this point most ships translate to a higher plane to use Astral travel.

Actually crossing from inside to outside of the crystal sphere takes about an hour at one of the openings or a whole day via translation into Space and back (since you have to cross the entire thickness of the sphere while remaining in Space).  Local conditions and ability of the crew may affect the travel time (See Crawl #11 “Life Aboard”).

Destination Spheres from Center Spinwards AntiSpinwards
Moon 0.2 1 day 1
Mercury 1 7 days 14 days
Venus 2 14 days 28 days
Sun 3 21 days 42 days
Mars 4 28 days 56 days
Jupiter 5 35 days 70 days
Saturn 6 42 days 84 days
Uranus 7 49 days 98 days
Neptune 8 56 days 112 days
Pluto 9 63 days 126 days
1 light year 1 7 days 14 days
Alpha Centauri 4.4 31 days N/A

 

 

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The Astral Plane

A.k.a. Ditko Space. The realm of prana, light, energy, and mind.  Finite minds find it hard to perceive the astral realm clearly; its features are translated into simpler forms that are easier to comprehend.  Prolonged exposure can cause weaker minds to go mad, and ships are usually designed to shield passengers and crew from directly gazing upon the ever-shifting forms outside.

Astral Travel

There are two modes of astral travel: psychic travel and physical travel. Psychic travel works as in the Basic Psionics Handbook. Physical travel involves translating characters’ physical bodies into the Astral Plane (which almost always involves using a ship to shield them and particularly their minds from the rigors of astral travel).

Travelling physically into the Astral Plane generally requires a ship equipped with an Astral Engine; navigating through the Astral Plane to arrive close to your destination, and how much subjective and objective time that takes requires casting the Navigate Astral spell.  Physical exposure to the astral Plane results in Astral Fatigue.   It is difficult to physically enter the Astral Plane from within the sphere of the firmament: -1 d per sphere inward on the Astral Navigation check.

 

Navigate Astral
Level:  1 Range:  0              Duration: Varies               Casting time: 1 round or longer           Save: None
General: This spell allows the caster to trace a pathway from the current location in the Astral Plane to the desired destination.  Actually getting to that destination in the time and with the accuracy indicated requires a ship and a moderately competent crew.  See e.g. Crawl 11: Life Aboard for an example of handling crew efficiency and “wind speed” (apply % to one day’s travel out of the typical 7).

In most cases concentration aids this spell immensely: if cast in a single round the maximum spell check roll is capped at 12.  Every additional round increases the cap by 1, without changing the actual roll (you still need to roll well and/or Spellburn for higher results).

Travel to the caster’s home (birth) system uses a d24; to a system the caster has spent at least a year in (expert) or with the aid of a first-generation navigator’s crystal (psychic copy of the navigator’s mind) a d20; systems the caster has made the journey under the tutelage of an expert navigator or with a 2nd generation crystal d16; with the aid of an expert navigator’s notes and charts or 3rd+ generation crystal or navigated to before d14; been to as a passenger d12; studied from sources not including expert navigators notes d10; unexplored a d8.

Manifestation: The pathway the travelers must follow appears in the Astral Plane. Roll 1d6: 1 ) a road of unusual color or composition 2) a series of spheres connected by rods 3) a line of floating islands or platforms 4) a gigantic web with certain strands glowing jale or ulfire 5) a series of gigantic mouths or eyes that must be passed through 6) other
Corruption: Roll 1d6: 1) casters eyes permanently glow jale or ulfire 2) caster becomes attuned to destination +1 to casting roll for this destination but increase misfire range by one if attempting any trip that isn’t either to or from your home system. If this is rolled again that first attuned destination gets an additional +1, and all trips that aren’t to or from the home system increase their misfire range by an additional one. 3)  Unstuck in time: every ordinary failure of this spell causes the caster to become 1d4 years older or younger (50-50 each time)  4) Unstuck in time: every ordinary failure of this spell causes the caster to become 1d10 years older or younger (50-50 each time) 5) caster’s eyes become views into the Astral; anybody gazing into the casters eyes must save vs. Will (DC 10) or gain one level of Astral Fatigue 6) minor
Misfire: Roll 1d4: 1) will arrive at the wrong system (Judge chooses, but because the Astral plane is one of concept it should “rhyme” with the target system somehow) 2) will arrive at the right system, but at a random time (Judge chooses) 3) forget important facts about the system: -1d in trying to get there in the future 4) Dangerous Journey: roll for encounters twice per day’s travel; on last day guaranteed encounter if no encounters so far.
1 Lost, failure, and worse! Roll 1d6 modified by Luck: (0 or less) corruption + misfire + patron taint, (1-2) corruption, (3) patron taint (or corruption if no patron), (4+) misfire.
2-11 Lost, and failure.
12-13 Will arrive at the target system after 1 week, just outside the firmament sphere (roll 1d24 for what “o’clock”) along the circle seen from above and 1d24 for where seen from the side.
14-17 Will arrive at the target system after 1 week, in a random position (roll 1d24 for the “o’clock”) within the sphere of the caster’s choice in the same plane as the orbit of the planet.
18-19 Will arrive at the target planet after 1 week in the same relative position, 1d5 hours ethereal travel away.
20-23 Will arrive at the target planet, at whatever position in orbit desired or arrive 1d5 hours away but having shaved 1d7 days off the travel time (subjective time in Astral is still 1 week, but objective time may be as soon as the same instant you left).
24-27 Will arrive at the target planet, at whatever position on the planet desired, or in exact position in orbit such as at the polar opening or directly above a particular latitude and longitude with up to 1d7 days less travel time or in exact position in orbit having shaved 1d7 days off of subjective time (rolling fewer encounters, suffering less Astral fatigue).
28-29 Will arrive anywhere on the target planet, or in exact position in orbit such as at the polar opening or directly above a particular latitude and longitude with up to 2d7 days off travel time: if the result is negative you have traveled back in time or up to 1d7 days off both objective and subjective time or up to 2d7 days off subjective time (min 0, rolling fewer encounters, suffering less Astral fatigue). Target planet now counts as an additional “home planet.”
30-31 Will arrive anywhere on the target plane (not planet: you can actually change your preferred destination if you get this result), instantaneously, or anywhere on the target planet at any point in its history. Arrival point now counts as an additional “home planet” and time is an additional “home time”
32+ Will arrive anywhere on the target plane (not planet: you can actually change your preferred destination if you get this result), instantaneously, at any point in its history. Target planet now counts as an additional “home planet” and time is an additional “home time”

Astral Fatigue

For non-psychics, every week as a passenger, day as a crew-member, or watch you take as a Navigator (including being a secondary navigator learning a route) requires you roll  a Will save vs. DC 10 or gain 1 level of Astral Fatigue.  Astral Fatigue has the following effects based on level, cumulative:

  1. Time Ghosts.  You see occasional visions of older and younger yous moving about the ship; they are unable to see or interact with you.
  2. Figures constantly at the edge of perception.  -1d on init.
  3. Uneasy sleep.  No longer regain Spellburn or Stamina with a night’s sleep.
  4. Insomnia. No longer regain spells, Luck, or heal naturally.
  5. Temporal fugue.  When you try an action that requires a roll, roll a d3 in addition, on a 3 you bifurcate and there are two of you acting independently for 1d3 rounds (this may be an advantage, or it may not.  E.g. if there is only room for one more in the lifeboat…).  At the end of the period, flip a coin to see which one remains.
  6. Voices in your head.  Gain a random minor madness.
  7. Catalepsy.
  8. Death.

Astral Fatigue levels can only be reduced by leaving the Astral Plane; for each day in a lower plane a DC 10 Luck check reduces the level of Astral Fatigue by one.  Natives to the Astral Plane never suffer Astral Fatigue.

Convoys

Astral Travel is dangerous, so ships often travel in convoys. To make sure they all follow the same route one Navigator must be chosen as the lead Navigator before the spell is cast: it is the lead Navigator’s spell check that determines the parameters of the route.  The other Navigators must cast Navigate Astral, but as long as they roll a success (12+) they will follow the lead Navigator’s ship with the same result as the lead.  Ships must be in sight of each other in order to follow the leader in this fashion, and all the Navigators must know the destination intended, though they need not know the route.  Hostile ships may likewise follow the leader into the Astral, but only as long as they too know the chosen destination. If they get it wrong, treat it as if they rolled a 1 on their spell check.

Still To Come

This has gotten really long, so I’ll add Astral Encounters and Interrupted Journeys for another time.

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