CrazyIvan777
 member, 300 posts
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 16:54
World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
So, I'm building a fantasy world in which illusion is a dominant magic, and the idea of permanency on a map is laughable; the terrain shifts and moves, especially in the dark of night.
Obviously, in such a place, maps are useless. What was just on the other side of the river yesterday is miles away today. The only 'constant' in the place is that the big volcanic mountain is in the middle, and that while terrain -shifts-, it doesn't -alter-: There's not suddenly going to be a 'new' forest, but the forest in the south might shift to the north.
So, since maps are useless... how does one travel even semi-reliably? How does one trade with another village? Should there be ways to 'nail down' a terrain with ritual? Should there be some other way to discern where places are?
(I'm considering that the shifting perhaps happens very infrequently... but the time between the shifts has started to get shorter, a sure sign of an upcoming calamity!)

Any brainstorming on this is welcome!
Sir Swindle
 member, 242 posts
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 17:26
World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
THe way you describe maps aren't useless you are just constantly lost and the maps are puzzle pieces.

If the forest that was in the north is not in the south is is much more important for me to know where the boarder of where I am is and how to identify WHAT other places are, not where they are.

So to answer the big question the answer is lighthouses.

Cities would have a big tall structure that you could see from any adjacent piece of terrain. maybe even across two.

Villages would shoot up a flaming arrow or something at dawn so that weary travellers could make it there.

Nomads would map the movements of the pieces to try and reach their next spot without travelling across too many inhospitable ones. Why cross the desert when i could wait for two oasis to be next to each other.

Some of that depends on how far the puzzle pieces travel and weather or not their routes are predictable. If any 100 square mile section of planet earth could be next to me tomorrow then I could simply not go anywhere on anything less than a spur of the moment. But if I know that Chicago comes by every fortnight or when the stars align properly then it's easy enough to plan a trip.

Speaking of I like the idea of being able to divine what plot will show up soon by the stars.
Jarodemo
 member, 865 posts
 My hovercraft
 is full of eels
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 17:39
World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
In reply to Sir Swindle (msg # 2):

Agree. The map basically becomes a giant jigsaw puzzle that gets rebuild in a new configuration every day. The question is, is the rebuild random or following some strange pattern that may or may not be apparent to those studying it.

The lighthouses is a good idea, a big tower with a beacon on top.

Each inhabited zone would need to be reasonably self-sufficient, as trade would be sporadic. Prices may therefore be volatile, so an enterprising merchant could make a killing!
Sir Swindle
 member, 243 posts
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 17:43
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Jarodemo:
Each inhabited zone would need to be reasonably self-sufficient, as trade would be sporadic. Prices may therefore be volatile, so an enterprising merchant could make a killing!


Reminds me a bit of Autochthonia in that way where when two of the nations from the Octet come close enough they extend trains and such to one another to trade for a few years before they separate again.
CrazyIvan777
 member, 301 posts
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 18:50
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Aaaaaaah! These ideas are fantastic! Thank you for everything so far!
Sir Swindle
 member, 244 posts
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 21:50
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Depending on how you handle them Rivers either become really strange, impossibly devastating, or even more valuable than they are now.

Worst case scenario it reestablishes itself from the head waters every shift. So low laying areas are straight destroyed if they become attached to the head waters of a river. or an outlet form a lake.

Best case the river is completely stable, or are a set of pieces that change order only. Making it a huge relatively stable region.
Alyse
 member, 699 posts
 Pretty, witty, and gay
 [married since 2011!]
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 22:19
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Observation balloons. Airships.
Korentin_Black
 member, 562 posts
 I remember when all
 this was just fields...
Thu 10 Sep 2020
at 23:33
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed

 Old fashioned maps weren't always pictures as seen from above, many were itineraries of the route to be taken with interesting landmarks and stops marked out along the way - rivers, forests, cities etc.

 If terrain shifts and moves, but some things are more or less static then a route could easily be a list of elements that must be sought and passed in turn, which means that a 'map' could just be a short series of things to pass to get to where you're going - opening the door to all sorts of fascinatingly non-Euclidean travel as you double back on yourself to fulfil the requirements of the journey.
Eur512
 member, 821 posts
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 00:01
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
There is a lot to unpack and a lot of possibility here.

If the shifting is regular, or semi random traders will work into their plans.  Why travel far to a certain lucrative market or resource when you know it will come to you?  Likewise, military plans will be made around the shifts.  The time right before a major shift would be used by thieves, who would use it to make a getaway.


Perhaps certain people can predict shifts in advance with either magical divination or advanced mathematics (more or less the same thing, as I see it).  These "Geomancers" could be important people.  Fun when they contradict each other.

Perhaps it is not random, but the pattern is so complex only a few can figure it out.  They would be in a position of great advantage.

Maps could be like Rubik's cubes, devices in which you slide around pieces.  Clever map solvers might figure out patterns and relationships.  "When the Smerly river is running north, Flamingo Beach is always west of Burley Oaks.  That means Fleagleton MUST be that way!"

Or perhaps people can't figure it out at all, but something else can.

"Our supplies are running out.  Our only chance is to the trust that pigeon."

This message was last edited by the user at 00:02, Fri 11 Sept.

BFink
 member, 68 posts
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 08:55
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Birds. Very extensive network of ornithologists, who take care of birds in each particular area, while people the birds as a means of finding particular place. Because, you know, birds always get back to their nests. (Ok, they don't, but it's a fantasy world, isn't it?)

You want to travel to the Silver Mountain? Find a bird who was raised there and follow it.

You want to get back to the Magpie village? Get yourself a bird.

You want to prevent people from finding your secret area? Get yourself a few falcons and send them to kill other flying creatures.
Jarodemo
 member, 867 posts
 My hovercraft
 is full of eels
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 09:40
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
In reply to Sir Swindle (msg # 6):

Love it! The mountain steam suddenly becomes the Amazon overnight, flooding the region and wiping out all settlements in minutes!
Karack
 member, 165 posts
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 17:05
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
illusion magic is dominant. so, perhaps guides are created that are immune to illusion (automatons linked to particular destination, undead immune to mind affecting, etc). if the changing landscape has something to do with illusion, flying in the air will not necessarily help by itself.

landscape is shifting, but not created spontaneously. this suggests a distance limitation. otherwise, any particular landscape could "spontaneously generate" by arriving from somewhere else on the planet. just a thought.

if the volcano in the center is stationary, are the people stationary as well? meaning, will a traveler's distance and direction to the volcano remain constant?

if so, maps would be created based on distance to the volcano. this also suggests a person has some effect on their immediate surroundings which would explain how settlements could exist in the first place. if not, settlements and cities are non-existent. distances between people, buildings, etc would be just as fluid as landscape. there would need to be some means of keeping things together. maybe if things are connected, they stay together? a group traveling together could tie off to each other with a rope.

i'm reminded of a chaotic plane in DND. everything is chaotic: landscape, air, everything. a group of monks created a monastery that is stable by imposing their sense of order on their immediate surroundings and creating a pocket of stability, if you will. perhaps this is how cities are created. by working the land and building the city, people have created an area of stability. this of course would lead to the long term goal of building up society to the point that cities will span miles and miles in every direction.

it also opens the door for a very interesting and possibly creepy adventure of finding an abandoned city. the stability has started to erode because the people are gone. figure out why it's a ghost town while also dealing with the blossoming fluidity.
Sir Swindle
 member, 245 posts
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 17:56
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
Not sure how the volcano CAN remain 'stationary'. Stationary relative to what? What is to say my village isn't stationary and everything is moving around it? The volcano was in the east yesterday and the west today. How can you say it didn't move.

Which I guess brings me back to astrology. Because the reasonable answer is relative to the sky. At minimum you could find your position relative to the center based on the stars assuming even mediocre star charts and some recognizable constellations.

THe problem is you don't know where anywhere else is without them communicating their position to you.
Karack
 member, 166 posts
Fri 11 Sep 2020
at 18:57
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
i agree. i guess an underlying thought i had but was unable to communicate is that more information about the world is needed. did one of the gods say the volcano is stationary? is the volcano home to said god? or maybe it's the original settlement, and those living there did something that caused the volcano to rise and the rest of the land to shift around it. if nothing exists to dictate the volcano is stationary, then sir swindle is right. we're dealing with relative motion and no one would be able to tell the volcano is actually stationary, unless the people do not shift around at all. if the people never shift, they would always see the volcano in the same place compared with where they are at the moment. if the people shift in relation to the volcano, then no one would ever be able to tell the volcano is stationary without some higher power telling them so.

of course, using astronomy would only be helpful if we come back to the distance limitation. if literally everything shifts around the volcano, maybe the stars shift as well. who knows? or maybe there are no stars, just an empty black that goes on forever. maybe the whole "world" is in an underground cavern of epic proportions. there is no sun, just light from the volcano and lava. if the shifting happens at regular intervals, that could explain day and night as something shifts to block enough of the light. maybe a hole constantly shifts in the ceiling letting light from the surface in to act as the sun. no rain, that's actually just cracks opening in the ceiling and letting ground water fall in. said cracks would shift away at some point bringing the rain to an end.
Cubist
 member, 89 posts
Sun 13 Sep 2020
at 13:03
Re: World building with shifting terrain: Advice needed
If maps are, indeed, useless, maybe there's a special class of people—call them "Navigators"—who have the Gift (divine? psionic? drug-induced?) of knowing the best route from where they are to where they want to go. It's not clear to me what sort of geopolitical structures can exist in a world where geography is blatantly impermanent, but it seems likely that these Navigators would be highly sought-after. If you go this route, you'll want to flesh out the concept.

How common are Navigators? A dime a dozen, one out of every thousand people, 1 in a million, some other frequency?

Are Navigators' Gifts self-powered, or do they require some external source?

If "some external source", how common/accessible is this source? Can Navigators be prevented from accessing this source, and if so, how difficult is it to do that?

Does a Navigator's Gift have any flaws or weaknesses—is it always 100% accurate & reliable, or are there factors which can interfere with the Gift?

Etc, etc.

This message was last edited by the user at 14:49, Sun 13 Sept.