[HR:A Baleful Sky] Stars, Planets, and Monsters

There is no succor for the eyes of Man in the baleful sky.

I decided what I’ve been missing all these years is bringing my long-term love of astronomy into my campaign world as cosmology.

First off, something that’s been sitting unposted for a while and I just need to hit “publish” on, the Barghest, resourced from the original Dragon #26, so it’s a bit less plain than the OGL version.


We’ll hope I got the D@W stats right, I picked something way too complicated for early attempts.



I’m shooting for Swords & Sorcery & Planets, blended with “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. It’s a bit of a stretch for me, as a child my Space and Castle LEGO never met. But, I finally read Vance last summer and a whole lot of stuff clicked at once.

Next up will be what’s on the Moon.

I’m waffling between a helio or geocentric model; either way, Earth will be closest to the Sun, and the mythology will be that as all stars are gods (of a sort), the Earth (according to humans) is the most favored of the planets by virtue of it’s position. And everything would be so much better off if the wizards would stop listening to the other stars and summoning stuff.

And then the peasant’s view of that is distilled down into what becomes fairy tales. Is the spooky fey forest of the elves that way because elven magicks transport you to some Faerie land? Sure, but those “magicks” are just where the terraforming stopped when they escaped their own planet.

I’ll figure out more player-side mechanics sort stuff when I can see ACKS Heroic Fantasy, but for now it will be planets and their native intelligences and other lifeforms. I’m gonna try and do a little SRD-rehab on some of the corner-case monsters and see about making them more interesting as well.

First, Lune, the moon.


Awesome stuff. I’ve long known that I’m going to have something similar (aerospace pirates, basically) living on one of the two moons of my Crimson Sun world… plus there’s going to be a Green Planet somewhere nearby, covered with jungle and inhabited by giant insects and lizards.

I love the reference to the ninth ray, too.

Next, Alfim, the emerald world.


sigh There’s nothing like a boss switch at work to cut down on one’s lunchtime production of non-work material. I’d have expected to be done with the entire system by now.




Racial Build:

So flavorful! Awesome.

Cool! Funny that - in my campaign, I also chose the stars to be evil, and twisting mortal magics.

From your descriptions, I’d say some astronomy might also enter the picture. Would those born under the influence of Alfim (I’m assuming the planets count as ‘stars’ in the ancient greek ‘wanderer’ sense?) be somewhat like those fey creatures?


That’s an interesting question.

In reality, our ancient cultures saw a sky (that we’ll never see again) full of stars and found pictures in them - they placed in the sky their gods, heroes, animals. In most places the changing night sky began to determine important agricultural dates. That relation to time easily led to associating the time of one’s birth with ascendant celestial objects.

That’s what happened here.

Imagine, instead, a magical world, where our Babylonian, Grecian, or Mayan sages knew for a fact that stars expresses some sentience we only barely understand; that a multitude of very real monsters came travelling from those stars. Their own Sun, an expression of Law and Good, but only by virtue of it’s ownership of our planet - each other star’s Law inimical to our survival.

On top of that, their cultures are ascendant only by long, bloody struggle, against millennia of crushing oppression from alien invaders; first in the form of the Snakemen, second in form of the First Men and Half-Elven Princes, the last’s yoke only thrown of by virtue of them become bored with rulership.

That is what the stars and planets bring them - horrors, oppression, knowledge that only leads to ruin. They learn to harness the force of Law from the Sun in defense of civilization, against those who learn darker secrets from further stars.

Would people in that world look up at a clear night sky with a sense of wonder or dread? Would they connect their heroes to those dreadful lights? Would horoscopes from those stars be anything but a curse, or merely some silly game to scare children, like a Ouija board?

A sad world, under that baleful sky, that cannot look up and hope.

In our world, the scariest thing in the skies were the things that merely changed - comets, let’s say, whose appearance was often twisted to facilitate terrestrial plans. Or variable stars, like Algol (The Demon Star, Arabic name, just an eclipsing binary star system). In this modern age if we suddenly had proof that alien life not only existed but could contact and occasionally visit us, the near-space of Earth would be weaponized in the blink of an eye.

So - TL;DR - astrology. Probably, in certain forms. But I’d bet it’d be an underground sort of thing; a practice of cults and dark magics; an astrological arithmetic meant less to predict first loves and more to facilitate communing with minds beyond.

Good point, eloquently made!

As you describe it, I have to agree. I couldn’t see people willingly associating with stars or astrology as we do in our age. However, if your planets are like ours in that they grow closer and further apart, and if the act of Transition has anything to do with the actual distance between planets, I would imagine that there would be people who watch the movement of the stars very, very closely.

Perhaps ‘Astrologers’ would be advisors, warning the lands of the Sun that Rhun is in ascendance, and general anger and bloodhed is likely to happen. Perhaps the drawing closer of that terrible planet would make the grip of the aliens stronger for a while, would poison the hearts of normally law abiding men and women.

Now wether that was actually true or not would depend on your campaign, obviously. Perhaps Astrologers are deluded pawns at best.

And gods, yes. If I lived under the beleful sky, and saw an eclipsing star, or a supernova burn even during the day, I’d lock my door and hide nder the table. Because nothing good could come from that! :slight_smile: