Ice is a setting that has been accumulating dust for a couple of decades. I have added to and taken away over the years, but the foundation is still there. This is a dump of what I currently have.
One Year Around Ice
It is a pretty nice day. 65 degrees, clear and sunny. The sun is just a bit aspin in the sky. Off to spin, however, about 100 miles away, The Cold is waiting. Black and gray ominous clouds stretching to impossible heights and just visible all along the spin horizon.
In stark contrast, the aspin horizon is nothing but a wavy blur. Some 100 miles aspin is a literal hell. The heat is so intense that all moisture in the ground is evaporated to a depth of over 30 yards. Nothing lives on or near the surface. The sheets of heat coming from the scorching ground can be seen even this far away.
And looking toward TopSide or BottomSide is about the same. You get the feeling like your in this immense corridor with no beginning or end. There is, of course, a beginning and end; TopSide and BottomSide; the two lulls among the storms that encase Ice. Even these do not completely escape the chaos that reigns here.
As we move spin, closing with the great ice storm, the temperature holds for a while, but the moisture content rises sharply. First, you are traveling through low thick vegetation, into a sparse forest, and then without warning into an ephemeral rain forest. This very temporary wonder quickly, within tens of miles, turns into a swamp seething with life. Soon, the temperature starts dropping. Rapidly.
To travel into the storm would be insanity, but doing so one would experience first the constant drizzling rain that created this gradually freezing swamp. In the course of a few miles, the rain becomes torrential and rapidly turns into hail, sleet, and snow all coming down at the same time. The liquids here solidify fast and build upon themselves to create hills, and then mountains of ice. The extreme winds created by the rapid temperature changes form the ice into jagged and incomprehensible formations and cliffs.
The great winter storm is probably 100 miles wide. after this, the wind dies to nothing. The quiet and calm are unsettling. The air is thin as most of the gases of any worth have started to solidify. Carbon dioxide and nitrogen might be found in liquid form. We settle in for the long winter.
For some 6000 hours the quiet gets quieter, the cold gets colder, but the darkness here is not absolute. The sky is crystal clear and the stars stand out like gems, their true colors showing as there is no light and very little atmosphere to pollute their purity. Nothing is animated on this, the dark side of Ice. If it’s alive, its buried deep in the ice, or more probably, buried deep in the soil beneath the ice, hibernating. Nothing, not even the Spine protrudes through as the ice can get thousands of feet thick in places. The landscape is very surreal, the clarity of the rough stark surroundings, lit only by distant stars in the heavens.
Slowly, a glow develops all along the spin horizon, at first barely perceptible. As the ice starts melting some 100 miles to spin, gases escape and revitalize the atmosphere. Chemicals trapped in the ice as well as water is evaporated into the atmosphere carrying the life-giving nutrients and beginnings. From this distance one sees the most beautiful sunrise imaginable; the colors span the spectrum well into both the infrared and ultraviolet. As we traverse the last 50 miles to the great awakening there are bursts of color mixing and moving in the air like sheets of rainbows. The magnificent show is then suddenly swallowed as a fog develops and envelopes that is so thick you can not see hour hand in front of your face.
The awakening begins slowly and is usually heard before seen. The occasional trickling of water and tiny cracklings that progress to thunderous booms as the ice melts and buckles under its own weight. Huge crevices form and sheets the size of mountains sheer off and fall. Soon one is in a literal ocean, huge icebergs floating and melting.
Land starts to appear above the water. Cracked and abused spires of stone are the first to jut above the waves now forming. The waves, however, are due to the massive winds whipping along the surface of the water. Between absorption of the water in the ground and the rapidly rising temperature, the water recedes to eventually expose pieces of land — islands in this chaos. The temperature is still very cold, but life starts to come to the land.
Slowly at first, plants sprout, insects appear, small animals come out of the soil. There is that certain temperature, that when reached, the environment explodes with life. An impossible variety of plants and animals spring forward as if from nowhere. The frenzy is fantastic as everything competes for each other as a food source or potential mate. For they know instinctively that they must hurry, as the burning is approaching.
The Burning. Where the sun shines too long, too intensely, and too directly. Where the surface is sanitized of all life. Where life stops for the short sleep. Normally the chemical content of the upper atmosphere is adequate for protecting what little struggling life on Ice there is. However, when the sun becomes incident upon the planet, the area directly beneath is literally scorched clean. Whatever life is to survive this literal hell must be quite adaptive, or very deep in the soil.
As the temperature begins to drop and the ground cools, we once again see life spring back to the surface. The resurgence, as in the Awakening, is slow to begin. The land, parched and arid slowly collects moisture. With this drop in temperature in this dry environment comes intense lightning storms. Cacti and arid climate insects are followed by small reptiles. As storms develop and the soil is moistened we start seeing great savannas form. Herd beasts are seen here, constantly migrating to stay ahead of the burning but behind the great winter, which lies ahead to spin.
We have come full circle. Welcome to Ice.
Ice, oft times referred to as “Hell,” is a very rough place to exist. What you have is a planet that was originally about 90 percent covered in water, slow the daily rotation to about 9700 hours per revolution, and you have Ice. Taking after it’s namesake, Ice is about 80 percent covered in ice at any one time.
All life on Ice is either mobile or can somehow withstand the rigors of extreme cold and extreme heat. This mobility may be generation based as in some plant life forms. These types of mobile plants only live during one non-Burning/non-Cold phase, but seeds produced by these plants are carried by wind, animals, water, etc. and the seeds themselves can withstand the rigors of the planet.
Some of the mobility is from migration. If one stays ahead of the rotation of the planet one can stay out of The Burning and The Cold. Some obvious migratory life is animals and both predator and prey alike have migrating species. There is also a form of migrating plant life. A “walking forest” form of plant life that may be found near one or both of the poles. The walk is slow and unnoticeable normally unless you take some form of measurements or stand for a while among the plants themselves. This flora is found near the poles only since it is unable to travel fast enough to stay ahead of The Storms as one approaches the equatorial region.
A great herd beast that roams the strip and pole areas. Used for both meat resource and as beasts of burden. I mean really big — 2x an elephant. Several nomadic clans raise and herd these beasts exclusively.
Ecology relies heavily on a plant life similar to plankton that inhabits the upper 10 feet or so of the coldest ice. These things provide the most basic function of putting nitrogen into the water and subsequently the ground. Any swamp areas will be extremely nitrogen rich and very active bacteriological and viral. Many diseases, but also much “ephemeral” life that only exists then. Some of this life will provide vital and/or valuable commodities.
There is The Spine of the Dragon mountain range, and it is BIG. Most of the rest of the planet looks a lot like the grand canyon due to the weather extremes and erosion.
The cold to hot transition will encompass high moisture disasters — hurricanes, flooding, mud/rock slides, torrential rains. The hot to cold transition will encompass dry disasters — massive lightning storms, sand storms, earthquakes/movements (originate in the hell region).
Metal is a very valuable commodity. Not so much because it is rare, but rather because of the inability to set up permanent mining camps.
If we say the planet rotates about the X plane, and we have a Y plane that bisects the planet and is perpendicular to the X and perpendicular to the sun, then the Z plane is perpendicular to both X and Y, and is parallel to the sun. With this in mind, this is how the planet rotates and time in the civilized areas:
- One year is equal to one complete revolution of the planet, or the X plane. This is divided up into 360 increments which are known as days.
- Each year is divided into Thirds (120 days).
- Each Third is divided into 4 months.
- Each month is divided into 30 days.
- A day, or one 360th of a revolution, is 27 standard hours long.
Each year the planet experiences a rotation on the Y plane of one 360th of a revolution. Completing a full revolution on the Y plane is a legacy (360 years).
Each legacy the planet experiences a rotation on the Z plane of 1/360th of a revolution. Completing a full revolution on the Z plane is an epoch (360 legacies).
Therefore, as the planet is doing its thing, though the same general area of geography will come about again in a year along the equatorial regions, the poles experience simply a rotation. But that rotation is slowly moving as the legacies pass, and even more so as the epochs pass. The BottomSide Inn was the first establishment to “mark passage,” (see below) and is just now, after a legacy, beginning to see the fruits of that endeavor.
Both BottomSide and TopSide (the “poles”) experience a form of night/day cycle, except in a year-long time span. One part of each is in constant daylight while the other part is in constant night, and these shift as the planet rotates over the course of a year.
Though slavery is not legal here, indentured servitude for debts owed is allowed, usually by written contract.
The government is composed of a Senate with representatives from each of the major Guilds and the president of BottomSide. The president is voted into office by the Senate. Each president is in office for six years at which time there is another election. The president has absolute authority of whom gets what government appointed position with the exception of the senators themselves. The only issues to be brought up at Senate meetings are those concerning BottomSide as a whole. If the president taking office leaves a hole somewhere else in the Senate then that hole must be filled by the appropriate faction as soon as possible.
The individual factions (races and guilds) select their senators and determine the senator’s length of office as they choose.
Voting in the Senate works as follows:
Whatever the issue is, all of the possible results of the vote are listed on the ballot.
There are 5 members of the Senate desiring to be voted into the position of president. The names of the five senators will appear on the ballot.
All members of the Senate may now vote. Voting is as follows: each senator for, against, or neutral for each of the candidates. If there are 12 senators in the Senate then each is expected to forward a vote for EACH of the candidates. Afterward, all votes are tallied as follows: each “for” vote is +1, each “against” vote is -1, and each “neutral” vote is 0. Each candidate has their 12 votes summed and the candidate with the highest count is the winner of the election. If there is a tie then the current president remains in office for another year until the next voting session.
The issue is whether or not to add another Jamming ship to the BottomSide navy. The ballot would have the normal three selections for the issue: a “for”, an “against”, and a “neutral”.
All members of the Senate would vote. Each “for” would count as +1, each “against” would count as -1, and each “neutral” would count as 0. The numbers would be tallied and the issue passed or failed in accordance with the result.
There is one voting session each year in which several months are scheduled for debate on all issues coming up for a vote and then the actual voting takes place. The Senate is expected to be in “chambers” for anywhere from one to four months.
It should be noted that failure to select a choice on the ballot results in a “neutral” vote entered for the senator.
There has been a revolt against the government in the far past on BottomSide that was really bloody.
The BottomSide Inn
The BottomSide Inn (TBI) was one of the first establishments to “mark passage” by laying down a stone marker every time the inn was moved. This, along with buying the next piece of land to move to along with never selling the property one moved from, allows TBI to reclaim old sites as the markers appear again. Most can not afford this as land is very expensive. Most individuals rent land, and the rental fee is directly proportional to the proximity to the center of the pole.
Now the first marker after a legacy is appearing on the edge of the livable area at BottomSide. The act of marking passage is just beginning to have an impact as the rest of the city — also needing to shift over the years — must “flow” around the marker as TBI owns the land the marker represents. Some of the more influential families, generations since the first marker was established, are beginning to grumble as this practice will impede their personal plans for their businesses and homes.
TBI is truly The BottomSide Inn at the present time in that the pole has ancient magic (long forgotten?) that hold up some large land masses above the general populace. Hundreds of feet above the landscape, these land masses are where the rich and shameless run the pole’s government from, and are also homes to the rich and shameless families (especially guild heads). These masses apparently move about on their own and maintain themselves above the pole region, compensating for the different rotational dynamics of the planet. TBI is currently under one of these land masses.
Another of these land masses has a waterfall that continuously falls to the planet proper. Good water. However, depending upon the condition and type of ground it lands on (as the floating landmass moves around) there may be anything from a stream to rich farmlands to a swamp or quagmire at the bottom of the falls.
In general, the Navigators Guild handles the transport of trade goods, VIPs, and messages/communications between the two poles. This is accomplished with a fleet of flying vessels. The Guild also has shipyard construction and repair facilities, a mercenary group, and some local establishments at BottomSide for providing local transportation. The Guild is based at BottomSide, with a very small branch office at TopSide.
The Navigators Guild is very powerful and is self-sufficient enough to look after there own interests as well as expand their interests. The guild maintains their own mercenary corp which includes spies, and some say assassins.
The actual navigators’ group within the Guild is very influential and provide personnel and charts necessary to navigate and man the helm of guild ships. This group is always sending someone out with ships, even non-guild ships, for the sole purpose of a star and geographic chart verification and update.
There are generally three groups of navigators: members of the Guild, independents (also referred to as “renegades”), and pirates.
There are many “independents,” though the guild frowns on this and covertly attempts to put successful independents out of business, legally or not. Some Guild members look upon independents the same as pirates. Independents are normally land navigators, as the purchase of an airship is costly, and the construction of an airship is near impossible with the Navigators Guild hold on the required resources.
Navigation for guild members is almost exclusively by the stars as they are the most stable year-round landmarks for getting one’s bearings. On occasion, a feature of the planet is used such as the Great Rift or The Dragons Spine.
There is a Captains sub-group within the Navigators Guild composed of captains and prospective captains. These are the ones that control the Guilds policies and actions. This is an elitist group and requirements for entrance are anything but fair. Performance is not as important as who you have influence over and who has influence over you. Due to this, as can be expected, there is no small rivalry between the navigators in general and the Captains.
The Captains attempt to meet quarterly to discuss the current state of affairs of the Guild. The subjects that almost always come up at these meetings are pirates and other hazards, new routes, political situations within the poles that may have an effect on Guild operation, combat tactics, and new or improved weapons. The bottom line of all meetings is just that, the bottom line.
There is an area on the planet known as The Great Salt Desert. It is a great salt flat, very rich in salt, very poor in life. When it comes around there is a big to-do to go out and collect the salt as an exportable commodity. The further the rotation gets from the salt flat (the flat is unavailable to the general populace), the higher the price for salt. At one point in recorded history, the Salt Desert caused TopSide to migrate to the opposite pole or become a nomadic culture wandering the Strip as the Salt Desert rotated directly through the habitable area of the pole.
TopSide is just now recovering, and the recovery is accompanied by the boon of having the desert close to the previously devastated pole. The reborn pole is charging an arm and leg for salt when rotation precludes collecting, especially since they have cached warehouses full of the salt.
When the desert moved out of the influence of the pole, a few nomadic tribes, past migrants from TopSide, and native BottomSiders migrated back into this pole. This resulted in there being are three-way tensions between those whose families originated at TopSide and became nomadic, those that originated at TopSide and migrated to BottomSide, and those that came from BottomSide. The friction comes from the BottomSide culture imposing on TopSide and the general feeling that BottomSiders — whether native or migrant TopSider — shouldn’t have any claim to TopSide.
The rotational dynamics of the planet would suggest that BottomSide should have also been affected by the Salt Desert at one time in the past. Indeed it was, however, BottomSide had just established the Navigators Guild and had developed a flying craft. A large portion of the population was transported beyond the desert into the Strip and supported there. Also, the large floating land masses existed then and provided a seat of operations to hold together the peoples of BottomSide.
The reestablishment of a presence at TopSide has resulted in a government of a different flavor. The government is currently a charismatic dictatorship, and all lands of the pole are owned by the government and loaned to “nobles” of the land to do with as they see fit. Somewhat akin to a feudal system. Slavery is legal.
The Dragon’s Spine Mountains
The Salt Desert is against the base of the Dragon’s Spine mountains. This mountain range separating the desert from the pole is not exceptionally tall and not exceptionally big, but very steep and impossibly rough. Other than a few passes, known only to a few nomadic independent navigators, the only way across the Spine is by air.
This is where the part of the Navigators Guild based in TopSide currently makes a substantial part of its income. Otherwise, one must find the right nomadic land navigator or plan your passage in order to bypass the Spine.
There have been several legacies where the poles were divided geographically as the Spine traveled through the pole.
The Strip is the common term used for the habitable corridor that runs between the poles. Divided into two as Hell is approached, the Strip necessarily is constantly changing as the planet rotates through the year.
There are nomadic societies consisting of many clans in the strip area - some are radically different. All very mobile and tough/hardy. Most originate from TopSide and the time the salt flat drove life out of the pole.
Nomadic navigators of the strip provide guide services to caravans from one pole to the other. This is a poor substitution for the Navigators Guild, takes a very long time to travel pole to pole, but MUCH cheaper.
These land-bound independent navigators use a stone (or metal if the navigator has wealth) sphere with the features of the planet carved/etched into the surface. The sphere is kept in a leather pouch specially designed such that the strip is represented by the pouch opening after it has been cinched tight around the sphere. The pouch is adjusted almost daily to account for planet rotational dynamics.
Much more information may be found on the sphere other than geography — mystical/religious/important places, political details, and resource quantities/qualities are often included. There is a language that has been developed and occasionally shared among the nomadic independent navigators that are used on the surface of the spheres to record data that may be pertinent to an area. These maps are continuously updated as changes in geographic and political situations change on Ice. An old and well-maintained sphere is near priceless.
Each sphere is about 4-6 inches in diameter. The spheres are passed down from master to apprentice along with the skills to interpret and maintain the spheres. Each navigator has developed his own unique language with about an 80 percent commonality between navigators due to the trading of recording technologies.
The poles have their own stones (metal) platters with statistics and details that are too numerous to record on a sphere representing the planet. These platters represent only the pole and surrounding area.
Need something to entice individuals to go to the fringe of hell.
A beast that hibernates during the long winter and goes deep in the ground during hell. Vicious, it ravenously eats any plant and animal life it can in preparation for breeding and the next sleep. (Use crested Jabberwocky from Traveller supplement as an example?) Breeds during the time before hell, egg gestates internally during hell, an egg is laid in time before long winter. Though there is only one egg laid and survival rate of egg/young is small, the beast itself is generally long lived - on the order of a legacy.
Ephemeral forests, glades, plains, and swamps. In ephemeral areas, the magic levels are usually quite high. This implies that the plants in those areas, at least some species, are magic sensitive and convert some of that power into personal energy. Many herbs and such used in various alchemical and magical experiments can be found in these places. This, in turn, begets unusual animals as well.
Magic flows like water (though with different properties) from source to sink around the entire planet. Many cultures and species might develop from this.