The Sea of Black Stars – A Setting Design Compulsion

Setting design isn’t always something I enjoy. The abstraction of a setting-less game (not the same as a generic game) doesn’t bother me and can be exciting when I think of the possibilities. But I have always been fond of procedural tables ever since I got my hands on the Spelljammer box set and started rolling up my own worlds.

In several designs and games over the past few years I’ve been playing around with a place called The Sea of Black Stars. This place is a luminous void speckled with dark points. It is a color inverted outer space which borrows a little from Spelljammer, but has moved on to become something distinctive and potentially stranger.

This place is defined not by stories, gazetteer entries, or even voluminous notes.  It is a network of random tables, describing cosmic environments which can be encountered, the spiritual alignments of the soul, the varieties of world trees spanning the uncounted worlds branching from the Sea, and so on. All these pieces together describe a world in potential, a place that exists freshly for each prospective game or story.

I will be using these tables to craft an ongoing campaign of weirdness and adventure. I plan to create situations and environs from these tables to use in writing stories, for practice if nothing else. I am considering trying to find a system that fits with this strange place and making a proper game out of it. But right now I just want to keep building, keep discovering what the next table or the next entry will be. And invariably more entries mean more tables and the entire list become more complex and nuanced.

Perhaps there isn’t a proper end, but I expect to at least reach the point where I only need to tweak and adjust. Then the world logic of the Sea of Black Stars will be where I can look at it. And for the moment, that seems a worthy end.

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