Monday, January 27, 2014

Preview: The Soltan Ephemeris

The World of Calidar as presented in the first book, "In Stranger Skies", depicts a star system somewhat similar to our Solar System. The sun is called Soltan. The heroes' planet is Calidar, which possesses three moons, two orbiting on the same path (Alorea and Kragdûr), on opposite sides of Calidar, and the third further out (Manaan).

Two other planets exist nearby—Draconia, closest to Soltan, and a red world, Lao Kwei. The latter has a moon called Kumoshima. Based on their names, I’m sure you can figure out the general nature of these settings. Beyond Lao Kwei lies the Fringe, a ring shaped collection of dwarf planets and asteroids. It is a cosmic frontier with all sorts of hidden worlds gravitating alone or in clusters. An extra planet, Ghüle, also orbits through the Soltan Ephemeris. My previous post describes this most peculiar world.

Having listed these asters, the issue of travel time quickly comes up in a world where space-faring skyships are the norm. I’ll skip the "how" because this is a chapter of its own which will be featured in the upcoming book. This preview provides a few other things, such as the illustrations above and below and a calculator to plot the positions of planets based on a calendar date. I decided to tackle this topic since the Star Phoenix’s story lists dated log entries, which means I can’t just "fudge" travel times.

The diagram above shows the approximate orbits of planets. The diagram on the left shows the relative sizes of the worlds.  The hex grid helps estimate travel times. Using the various magical techniques available in that universe, the fastest travel speed between planets amounts to five days per hex. From a mother world to a nearby moon takes approximately 15 hours, or in the case of Manaan 20 hours.

Several points are marked on the first diagram, as follows:
A: Ghüle has now thawed enough for orcs to be able to reach the surface of their world. No raiding happens as of yet.
B: Ghülean orcs may begin raiding if Lao Kwei is in range
C: Ghülean orcs may begin raiding if Calidar is in range
D: Window of opportunity to raid Calidar ends
E: Window of opportunity to raid Lao Kwei ends, however the Fringe is now within raiding range
F: Window of opportunity to raid the Fringe ends
G: Ghüle has frozen over and will remain locked beneath ice for the remainder of its orbit
Because of the difference in orbital speeds, Ghüle’s raiding season on Lao Kwei can only last at most 24 days. Raiding season for Calidar can last, however, as much as 45 days!

The trick is that planets move while skyships travel. Likewise, the actual position of a world on its orbit path at a given date makes a huge difference. I posted a calculator to help figure out where planets are.  It is located at the end of this article because of formatting issues I've been unable to solve.  All you need to do is enter an actual date. The calculator is set up with the 3rd of Loreath 1512 (the fall equinox in Calidar’s northern hemisphere) as its default "start date." Entering a different date will show where the planets move to. Positions are expressed in hours and minutes, as if Soltan were the center of a clock, twelve o’clock being "north" on the diagram, six o’clock "south." This provides a quick and simple way to locate the planets and measure the distances between them.

The Great Caldera’s monthly calendar counts 52 weeks, 7 days each, and 360 days per year. Fall: Loreath to Manaea, Winter: Vortas to Seithean, Spring: Aereath to Calidere, Summer: Chelonea to Drachean. The first day of the year is Solteane 1st. This calendar is in use mostly within the realms of the Great Caldera. The three lunar empires and the other worlds each use their own.

Year 1/Day 1 on Calidar marks the ascension of the Sun God as the one and only deity honored in Nicarea, one of the early realms on Manaan. This deity, known as Teos in the Great Caldera, makes the object of a major faith in Ellyrium, Osriel, Caldwen, and Meryath. The capital of Ellyrium, Teosopolis, is named after their patron god. Teos is also honored as Al-Malik Al-Soltan in Narwan. Ellyrium and Narwan are monotheistic cultures, while all the others in the Great Caldera are polytheistic.

Months and their Original Meanings

Month Connotation Origin Abbrv. Phonetic
Solteane Fire Soltan (Sol.) Sol-TAY-an
Drachean Dragon Draconia (Dra.) DRAYK-ee’an
Loreath Lore Alorea (Lor.) LOR-ee’ath
Kragean Earth Kragdûr (Kra.) Cray-JEE-an
Manaea Mankind Manaan (Man.) m’-NAY-ah
Vortas Homecoming Vortex (Vor.) VOR-tass
Deirdea Sorrow/Death Dread Lands (Dei.) Deer-DAY-ah
Seithean Magic Seitha (Sei.) SAY-thee’an
Aereath Sky/Air The Fringe (Aer.) AIR-ee’ath
Nubeian Cloud Kumoshima (Nub.) n’-BAY-an
Calidere Water/Life Calidar (Cal.) CAL-a’deer
Chelonea Turtle Lao-Kwei (Che.) Che-LON-ee’ah

Ghüle, as described in the previous post, is unique in that it vanishes and reappears from its orbit randomly, a convenient feature allowing game masters to determine if and when this world enters the Soltan Ephemeris (and whether it will be in range to raid anything). Once in range, Ghülean orcs take less than two hours to fly through their wormholes and reach their targets (half a hex on the diagram).

Based on the planets’ orbital speeds, Calidar’s "raiding season" could last as long as 45 days because it moves at nearly the same speed as Ghüle in this region. These 45 days could fall anywhere between early Manaea and early Deirdea (late fall/early winter). The raiding season on Lao Kwei lasts only 24 days mostly because of the greater difference between the two worlds’ orbital speeds; on the other hand, the odds Ghüle coming within invasion range of Lao Kwei are generally much higher.

Vital Statistics*

  • Alorea/Kragdûr: (Calidaran moons) 28 day orbital period; Size: 1,720km/1,070miles radius; Rotation: 24 hours/day.
  • Calidar: 360 day orbital period; Size: 6,875km/4,300miles radius; Rotation: 24 hours/day (Earth-like)
  • Canis Major: (Dwarf planet in the Fringe) 645 day orbital period; Size: 490 km/300miles radius; Rotation: 9 hours/day. Worlds in the Fringe all vary as regards their sizes, orbits, and rotations.
  • Draconia: 220 day orbital period; Size: 5,740km/3,580miles outer radius; 3,450km/2,150miles inner radius; Rotation: none (tidally-locked hollow-world; outside surface is uninhabitable)
  • Ghüle: (dungeon-world) 1,800 day orbital period; Size: 5,160km/3,200miles radius; Rotation: 48 hours/day
  • Kumoshima: (Lao Kweian moon) orbital period 26 Lao Kweian days; Size 860km/535miles radius; Rotation: 26 hours
  • Lao Kwei: 500 day orbital period; Size: 3,450km/2,150miles radius; Rotation: 26 hours/day.
  • Manaan: (Calidaran moon) 42 day orbital period; Size: 2,300km/1,430miles radius; Rotation: 24 hours/day
(*) Days and hours are expressed in Calidaran terms, except where noted

"Spatial" thanks for Thorfinn Tait without whose participation this article would not have been anywhere near as good!  Cartography by Thorfinn Tait.

This calculator is available thanks to the efforts of Random Wizard and Thorfinn Tait. Twelve o'clock is listed instead as 00:00.  Hopefully, this will be fixed in the coming days.

Draconia's Position
Calidar's Position
Lao-Kwei's Position
Canis Major's (The Fringe) Position
Ghüle's Position