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Month Index: October, 1994

From:     "Richard J. Pugh" <rjp3@???????.edu>
Date:     Sat, 22 Oct 1994 12:01:52 -0400
Subject:  Re: Travel times and groundlings with spelljammer ships
This message was sent to the old list, SPJ-L.  I'm forwarding it here.

-RJP, List admin.


Hi there,

I want to tell you a story that a prof. of astronomy told me once during class
(I studied astronomy) and it's not about lightyears and 3D-maps, but it is
about travel times. This is what Vincent Icke told us:

an archeologist starts digging around down in good old Mesopotamia, and he
finds a clay table used by merchants of that time, saying
"the travel time from city A to city B is 5 days" (I don't know any
Mesopotamian city names). He manages to find out where city B is (he was
in A) and starts digging there. Lucky man, he finds another clay table:
"the time needed to get from B to C equals 4 days". The man locates the
remains of city C and starts digging once more. And, as you can guess, he
finds another clay table: "from C to A is 8 days".

Now this man starts thinking, doing some solid Pythagoras and goniometry, and
he says, this can't be, from C to A should be shorter (assume the cities are
in some reasonable triangle, to tell the tale you would actually need some
fancy picture that I might have drawn in ASCII but forgot...). However,
while traveling back from C to A the archeologist discovers that there are
massive mountains between C and A, and so the clay table was right: from C to
A was indeed 8 days.

Now what can we 'learn' from this: although the travel times from one place
to another can be fully explained by 3D trigonometry, the Mesopotamian people
were perfectly happy just knowing the travel times from X to Y. Therefore,
when spelljamming from one sphere to another, it's not important what their
exact 3D coordinates are (especially not since one can hardly navigate in the
Flow anyway). All you need is a nice tabel with X-to-Y-distances.
(O.K., for those wondering why the h... this stupid story went into our
precious study time: when considering space being nicely bend and all that
general relativity stuff, it appears that normal trigonometry becomes quite
useless. The best way of describing space is then just giving tables of
distances from one point to another. And this shocking news is the main
result of Einstein's theory of general relativity...)

However, in my opinion spelljamming space is best described by some matrix

          A       B       C
A         0     40+2D4   30+D2
B      40+2D4     0      20+2D2
C       20+D3    NA        0

where the die rolls represent the shifting of the crystal spheres over time,
and the assymetry is a result of the direction of the Flow. Of course, this is
just an example where the numbers might represent days or so. Personally, I
think that any player could be satisfied with this matrix, especially if you
explained that there is just no way of knowing exact 3D locations of spheres.

On to something else: the use of spelljamming vessels by groundling kingdoms.
In one of my campaigns we have Nilespace, a sphere reigned by Egyptian
mythology. There is a Nile where most planets are, and it is surrounded by
Desert Sargasso. In the Nile there is a lot of spelljamming; actually there
is no such thing there as a groundling world. Our characters however are in
an isolated 'oase' in the Desert Sargasso; this place can hardly be reached
by spelljammers. Here we do have a groundling campaign, but it is clear
that spelljamming technology is mostly unavailable here (in fact, there are
three spelljamming vessels that have all been wrecked and are only know by
local mythology, but have not yet been found, plus one that is in use by
our party). Recently, a gnomish ship (aaahhhh...) reached the oase for the
first time in several ages, using a giant space hamster (helms don't work in
the Sargasso). Furthermore, we have some great Egyptian things like a sun
going down into a planet, crossing the Night Nile (the underworld) and
each kingdom has its own moon (like it has its own crown , for those who know
about Egyptian mythology). Anyway, the massage is that Sargasso makes a fine
way of separating groundling campaigns from spelljamming ones.

This is all the divine Thot had to say...
serving him as best as he can, Qrefcit, priest of Thot

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Month Index: October, 1994

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