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ZEITGEIST what's on the other side of Ziggurats?


There's 7-or-more planetary-linked Ziggurats scattered across the face of Lanjyr, and between the party and key NPCs like Rackus and Kasavarina, most of them get visited in the course of the game.

What's on "the other side" of them? I'm enamored with Jiese, because it's the reason why Zeitgeist is a steampunk setting, the only planet that really survives The Grand Design, and because I fancy myself doing a John Carter of Mars -esque sidequest. If the party trooped on up to Crisillyir, and managed to step on through, what would be immediately on the other side? A corresponding Ziggurat? Or just an empty portal in the sky?

This is particularly interesting for the Ziggurat of Av, as this structure would be reflected in The Dreaming & Bleak Gate. Could the fey/undead use the Ziggurat on their side to come to earth? Basically, pull off a reverse-Rackus?

(Also, what is the setting-appropriate term for (what other game lines would call) the prime material plane? I know the fey call it "The Waking", but what would the undead of the Bleak Gate call it? Or the Barsoomians salamanders on Jiese call it?)

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First, how dare you remind me that I forgot to name the planet?

Second, the canon answer to 'what is on the other side' is uninteresting until the Ob fiddle with things in adventure 9. This can be explained by the timeline below. But after that, the PCs could go yeah. By that point, the portal links got scrambled, and the ziggurat in Crisillyir points somewhere else. As mentioned in adventure 10, the ziggurat in Risur's Antwalk Thicket starts to point to Jiese.

(The scrambling wasn't part of the plan, but I think Thurston wanted to use salamanders in adventure 10, so we sort of B.S'ed an excuse for that ziggurat to be in Risur.)

Ancient History
1. A world gets created in a sort of planar nursery, and it's highly malleable with easy connection to other planes. Maybe a god creates it. Maybe it's spontaneously generated. I know the answer but I won't say in case I decide to change it. Over centuries different beings gradually stumble across it from other worlds, and eventually word makes its way to several powerful extraplanar entities that there is a lush world that is undefended. Three extraplanar forces create portal from some of their interdimensional beachheads to vie for control of the planet (which really ought to have a name).

2. The Ancient orcs have some big damn heroes who fight these beings. They collect a lot of gold trophies from the legions of Egal the Shimmering, who are sailing through Mavisha. They come to understand the flow of energy between worlds from the Gidim. There are also other nasties, like a bunch of demons coming through Nem, but they're not narratively that prominent.

3. The orc druid Toteth devises a ritual to seal the world off from a specific plane (and another secret ritual). The big damn heroes go fight the forces at the portals of three different planes (Apet, Mavisha, and Nem). They perform the ritual, which blocks the portal (though technically it's still there), and then they get a bunch of stone age mofos to build ziggurats full of traps to protect the portals.

3a. They also inexplicably build ziggurats around sealed portals to five other planes (Jiese, Avilona, Av, Urim, and Reida).

4. The devils, demons, and gidim shrug, find other beachhead planes, and then from those planes they open new portals to this (frikkin' unnamed) planet. They laugh at the dumb orcs, whom they assume did not understand they could do this.

5. Toteth performs his big secret ritual, which uses the power of those ziggurats and of a big multi-ringed ritual circle in the middle of orc territory, and links this world to the eight planes the orcs had previously sealed off. The specific planes the orcs had chosen provide some useful perks. Apet moves the whole system somewhere else, and Urim (combined with the tons of gold the orcs had collected) suppressed new portals in from outside the system, though short-term summoning still worked. Nem destroyed anyone who somehow managed to bypass the seal. Reida pre-ordained that the seal would open again in, um, let's say 2012 years, to ensure that the world wouldn't be locked in stagnation in case people changed their mind.

There were unforeseen consequences, though. Mavisha (which makes islands mysterious) cracked the region around the ritual into an archipelago. Av created a whole pair of crazy parallel planes.

(Avilona and Jiese were actually pretty mellow. There were civilizations there that the orcs were friendly with.)

6. Amidst the immense disruption of their civilization caused by the whole continent cracking, the orcs decided it was safe to open up the sealed portals in the ziggurats. The rest of the multiverse was sealed off, but they had great aspirations of having a multiplanetary society.

7. But the Gidim had figured out the orc's scheme. They had hidden an invasion force on Apet, and when the portal opened, they began to pour through that ziggurat, confident that they'd be able to secure the whole system before reconnecting to the homeworld. The orcs contacted Toteth, architect of the Axis Seal ritual, and he did a quick and dirty change to the ritual. Basically he intensified the power of Apet and Urim, and prevented portals between worlds even in the same system.

This manifested by sort of creating a pocket plane on the other side of each of the sealed portals. So at the point of the AP, if you go to any ziggurat and open the portal, you only get a few hundred feet worth of that plane, rather than the whole place.

8. Over time, the civilizations in Jiese and Avilona shifted and collapsed, and we never really get a glimpse of them.


All that said, if you want the PCs to be able to go to Jiese before adventure 9, maybe the seal is failing due to Ob tinkering, or as a consequence of what Sijhen did at the end of adventure 3. If so, here's a brief write-up of Jiese from the upcoming setting book. The context is that it's what is known about the planetary system 20 years after the Great Eclipse.

Also, right now I'm just using The Waking, but there's still time for another name if you think of one. I briefly considered Jaamuran (Jiese, Avilona, Av, Mavisha, Urim, Reida, Apet, Nem), which is amusingly close to the name of a continent from Magic: the Gathering. But nah, nothing really has struck me.


  • Jiese, the Fires of Industry.pdf
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Frikkin saved. Although I prefer to maintain that the name of the plane is Shembul, as it is made either from the body or the dreams (sources differ) of Thuuga-el-Shembul, the worldshaper worm...


First, how dare you remind me that I forgot to name the planet?

Our favorite Wash moment... #firefly | Firefly serenity, You funny, Firefly


Thanks for that. There's still some gaps in that story that bug me though.

(I'll start using Jaamuran as the name for the solar system, but I don't think that works for the planet. So, earth for now.)

The one that's bugged me the longest: the necessity-or-not of a sun. In the earth's early going, there was no sun. Toteth said he observed other systems, got inspired (vol 3, pg 39), and created Vona based on those observations. (Really: why isn't Toteth worshipped a god? He is the sungiver, for crying out loud!) Anyway. So in your chronology above, during steps 1-4, the earth would look at lot like Draenor (the land "beyond the dark portal" in the Warcraft universe). Then during step 5, the biggest change isn't that Mavisha breaks up the Yerasol continent, but that the sun comes out! That would dramatically change the world's ecosystem (down with the giant mushrooms, up with the trees!). Who knows?, if draenor-earth had polar icecaps, and the sun melted them, that could explain the sudden sea-level rise.

But wait, when the party rejoins reality at the beginning of adv13, the world is dying from a lack of sun. Is it really "dying", or is it just finding a new equilibrium and reverting to back to its "looking like Draenor" days? (Setting aside the fact that the Gyre will crush the earth before the ecological shift can finish.) But wait again! If the party chooses the "rejection" ending (as RW's homegroup did) .... how does that not result in icyends?

In my head-canon, the planar-nursery you refer to in step 1 is a nebula, and this gives off a warm, life-giving glow. It's not as bright or hot as a sun, and it surrounds the earth (i.e. no real difference between day and night, per Toteth's "monsters" comment (vol 3, pg 39)). It also kinda conceals the earth, as a nebula is effectively in space-fog. That's why earth's not swarmed instantly by a million different raiders, but it takes a bit of time for the Golden Legion, Gidim, etc., to find it. But the space-fog (nebula) doesn't actually keep anyone out ... it's concealment, not cover, ya know? So once earth gets kicked out of the nebula, it needs something like a sun to survive, or else it will freeze, a la adv13. And to tie it all together: what's happening in the "rejection" ending, is the planet is going home: returning to the nebula. In that scenario, the text merely says "a purple glow like a dawn rises" (vol 3, pg 233) but never actually finishes the thought.


So, as I move slightly closer to the OP topic, I want to ask something about the planar realignment caused by The Grand Design. Is there a Watsonian explanation for why the Av-Ziggurat linked up with Jiese? (You gave the Doylist one above.) Because in the Jaamuran system, Av was in the "moon slot", and fulfilling the role of "life" planet. In the Grand Design, Mojang is in the moon slot (vol 3, pg 225), filling the "life" role. So the Av-Ziggurat should corresponding point there. Jiese was left as the "fire" planet in both old and new configurations.
The only other reconfiguration mentioned in the text hold together: in the Jaamuran system, the Apet-Ziggurat was linked up with Apet, which was in the "space" slot. Whereas in the Grand Design, "space" is filled primarily with Fourmyle (with Baden riding shotgun) (vol 3, pg 225 again). And now the Apet-Ziggurat is linked with Baden (vol 3, pg 39). So that lines up.
So the Jiese-Ziggurat in Crisillyir should stay linked to Jiese, as it's literally the only that that didn't change between the Jaamuran and Grand Design configurations.

On that topic: the Ziggurats seem to somewhat impact the environment around them. Mavisha is in water, Avinola is in air, and Jiese is in a desert. Given that your new setting book takes place 20 years in the future, would the Antwalk Thicket have started to turn desert-y, or at least become a lot lot hotter? (Due to the power of Jiese leaking out, as opposed to Av, which made sense for a "thicket".)


OK, actually back to the OP: my question was "what is immediately on the other side of the Ziggurat portal?" Clearly, it's not another Ziggurat, as earth-dwelling orcs built those. But if you were a native of, say, Jiese, and you looked at the "spot" that was linked, what would you see in that spot? A flickering portal in the sky? Or did the Salamanders build their own Ziggurat-analogue, to protect against invaders from earth?

And special-case for Av: if the players were in the Dreaming, and went over to the Antwalk Thicket, and to the place of the Av-Ziggurat, what would they see? And could the fey "get through" from their side? (I'm thinking of a spurned lover of Rackus or somesuch.) The barrier between Av and earth is quite a bit more porous than the other planar boundaries afterall.

And this post has become overlong. sigh

Andrew Moreton

I am very tempted that before the Axis Island ritual the world was flat, and a purely mythological world with none of this pretence of a real sun, planets , moons etc (If you are familiar with it Glorantha would be a nice model) and the threats came via planar gates not travelling across the world. When the ancients completed their ritual they wrenched the nameless world from it's mythical existance and exposed it to a new reality with real gravity , a sun and other worlds in it's system and at the same time wrenched it out of the classic D+D cosmology with only weak links remaining. Which explains the general lack of extraplanar beings except those trapped there at the time of the ritual. This is why the lack of a sun is a problem now but not before the ritual, now it is the world without name's nature to have a sun, before it was not, perhaps if People has spent more time studying the ritual and gone back to first principles they could have changed the nature of the world system and perhaps created Mobius worlds, or Kepler Rossettes or gone back to a flat Lozenge world with or without turtles.
In the D+D Cosmology I would place the world which shall not be named (yet) and all the planes/planets it is linked to inside one alternate Prime material plane , one which is generally seperated from the standard cosmos with a few worlds within it having those links portals to Hell and the Heavens etc which is where the Legion launches it's attacks from. Within this world the properties of each world system is set by it's nature and the worlds within it so there are as Bhior reveals worlds carried on the back of turtles (and optional elephants). The Gyre would be a feature of this plane a natural or unnatural cleaner which removes broken or dead worlds and systems and recycles them back as primal energy , matter and souls to be the building material of new worlds.

Edit- Toteth could be the Sun God of the Clergy , or a Sun God worshipped by the tribes of Ber before the coming of the Dragon Tyrants , who could make a return in the new world, or perhaps lands beyond the edge of the maps feature Orcish Stepped Pyramid building Sun worshiping Oztec's who ritually sacrifice foreigners to the Sun


... Reida pre-ordained that the seal would open again in, um, let's say 2012 years, to ensure that the world wouldn't be locked in stagnation in case people changed their mind. ...
Huh. I always figured the fact the Reida had a definitive end date was a function of "This is the best Plane of Time we have access to that isn't swarming with hostiles. It'll have to do."
... Av created a whole pair of crazy parallel planes. ...
I always had a headcanon that Av was actually specifically chosen for its Reflection aspect. Any incursion that somehow made it past all the other defenses (Apet's distance, Urim's blocking, Nem's death ray, etc.) would likely bounce off of Av and be sent back towards wherever it came from (probably giving Nem another chance to kill it as well).