We have our raw materials all sorted, so now we start with one end of the map (I’m going with the sun) and fill in everything that’s easy and obvious. Once the obvious stuff is filled in, we can see how much we have room for left over to try and save stuff from the chopping block.
We’re going to start with the sun. And the sun is the elemental chaos. Or maybe it’s not so chaotic anymore. What’s important is that the gods use this place as a reserve of raw materials with which to create the universe (or maybe one god – I’m actually importing this idea from another setting I made with one of my brothers, where it was just the one god who did the creation, but for the sake of syncretism I’m assuming no master creator deities and instead more of an Order of the Stick approach, where lots of different pantheons had to work together to make worlds). It is surrounded by a blindingly bright wall of pure radiant energy, not fire, and past that barrier are the standard earth, fire, air, and water planes as depicted by the 5e DMG (which is only a minor update on how they were depicted in most earlier editions).
Above the sun is the city of Sigil. It’s a torus, but the city is on the inside of the torus, so when you look up from Sigil, you see more Sigil above you. The exterior of Sigil is far too hot to sustain life, constantly bombarded by the heat and pure energy of that radiant shield encircling the elemental planes. It is, however, full of astral docks. The sun, you see, is goddamn enormous, which means that if you’re at the top of it, you are actually quite high above the orbital plane. From that perch, it is easy to see the rest of the solar system (if you have good telescopes – Sigil does) and plot a course to any orbit. Sometimes it’s easy to go from one planet straight to another because they happen to be at a similar point in their orbits, but other times the two are on opposite sides of the sun – and that means regardless of where your journey starts or ends, half the time it’s somewhere between a slight detour to right along the way to stop at Sigil.
Underneath Sigil is the spire that leads up to it. It is not infinitely tall – we’re going to make a lot of things previously called “infinite” merely “unimaginably large” – but it does reach from the center of the sun up to far above its surface where Sigil lies. In the center of that spire is a space elevator leading from Sigil down to the Outlands, which you might more properly call the Inlands, since they are the center of everything. The center of the elemental chaos, connected by teleportation gate to each of the outer planes, and directly below Sigil, the trade center of the solar system.
Next up, Mercury. As mentioned earlier, there is a bizarre paucity of volcano planets for us to use for not!Mercury. Mercury could also be used as a desert planet, but we’ve already got one of those in Mars, whose dusty red landscape is better known to the public than any other planet but Earth’s. Having a pale blue dot that’s all temperate and normal with a desert planet just beyond is the bare minimum for allowing people to import knowledge of our solar system to understand the super-setting faster (and I really don’t want to demand people learn a whole new solar system from scratch – if I can keep the number of sizable moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn the same, I’d like to, even though most people don’t have the first idea how many large-ish moons Saturn has).
Complicating matters, the one volcanic world we do have is Phyrexia, which needs to be in close proximity to its targets of invasion in Mirrodin and Dominaria, which means it needs to be a moon orbiting a gas giant so that those two planes are also moons, thus explaining why Phyrexians have targeted those two. If Phyrexia is Mercury while Mirrodin and Dominaria are orbiting Saturn, it’s super weird that Phyrexia skipped over the entire inner solar system on their way to invade not one, but two worlds. It works much better if they’re all in the same planetary neighborhood.
I’ll get to the outer planes from planescape later on, but suffice to say that I wanted them all in one place and have what I think is a pretty cool idea for them, so I don’t want to use Mercury as the Lower Planes planet with Baator and the Abyss and so on (although it’s not a completely unworkable idea – if you consider the sun’s gravity well to be the “bottom” of the solar system, Mercury is the lowest reach of the system except for the sun itself, though this is complicated somewhat with this “sun is an elemental supply depot” concept). As a side note, I also don’t want to combine Phyrexia with Baator over on Io. There’s definitely some overlap between the two, with Phyrexia even being referred to as “the Nine Hells,” but scratch the surface and Phyrexia’s got a lot of differences. They could definitely be stitched together if we didn’t have enough real estate for both of them, but again: Bizarre lack of volcano worlds leaves almost nothing to put in the Mercury slot.
I’d like to give each of the four inner planets a noticeably different climate, though – no doubling up on desert worlds, especially since Amunkhet and Dark Sun are the only desert settings to go around and neither comes close to filling up Mars by themselves. so I’m leaving Mercury blank for now. It’s a problem I’ll have to come back to and solve in the second pass. It may end up being an uninhabitable wasteland or the blasted remains of a setting I dislike. Fans of whatever setting ends up melted probably won’t approve, but if I end up going that route it’ll be using a setting I had no room for anyway, so they weren’t going to be happy to begin with.
Next, Venus. There are two routes to go with this one: Venus as tropical world on the basis that it’s closer to the sun than Earth but further than Mercury and also is colored green in the sky, and Venus as smoggy world on the basis that it’s a burning toxic hellscape in real life because the actual solar system is just no fun. We’re going with smoggy world, because giving Venus three settings is a good use of real estate, and we only have two mutually exclusive options for a tropical world: Ixalan and (sort of) Zendikar, which are separate Magic: the Gathering planes and therefore should be located on separate worlds if possible, since it’s explicitly only possible to reach one from the other with magic superpowers. Using just one (underdeveloped!) MtG world is a waste of Venus, which is nearly as big as Earth and can perfectly well host multiple different small-ish settings. Eberron, Kaladesh, the Iron Kingdoms, and DragonMech are located on Venus, which we’re calling “Eberron” as a world name. DragonMech is puny, having significant landmarks so few in number that they come across as barely the size of France, and Kaladesh is barely more than a city-state, with its major landmarks being limited to the city of Ghirapur and a handful of villages located in the prerequisite mountains, plains, swamps, forests, and islands nearby. The Iron Kingdoms can fit into a single continent, and while Eberron nominally has several continents, it doesn’t really need them to be Asia-size continents – Australia size is more than enough for many of them.
Continue reading “D&D Solar System Syncretism II: Inner Planets”