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  • Help: Underworld Geography

    Hi to all!
    Uderworld geography it's confuses me a bit. I got the feeling that the underworld it's depicted like a vast ocean dotted by islands, and yet to travel it you can use carriages, trains and cars... I feel I'm missing something. Can you tell me how I must visualize the world of the dead?

    PS: Argos is a mandatory discipline to travel trought the Tempest?

    PPS: How someone can acces to Stygia from shadowland?
    Last edited by Ipergigio; 02-26-2016, 08:19 PM.

  • #2
    The islands are pretty big, and the "ocean" is kind like "badlands" in a lot of places.

    Argos is NOT mandatory, but it IS highly recommended.

    Stygia is reached from the Shadowlands via Nihils.


    I'm a professor! Why is no one listening to me?!

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    • #3
      So it's called "sea" but in some places it's like solid ground, and maybe this it exist only temporarily before to get swallowed by the "sea" again?

      Stygia is reached from the Shadowlands via Nihils
      So from Stygia's prospective, travelers literally falls from the sky?

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      • #4
        Stygia is usually reached through Byways, particularly the River of Death, though a lot of the others are the roads and railroads built by the Empire. Travelers aren't falling from the sky (or at least most of them aren't, and they probably would pop up from the Tempest like buoys, and I guess, use their wings to fly to the Stygian docks), they are coming into great rail stations on trains like the Midnight Express with passengers and freight disembarking into stations destroyed in the WWII bombing from places like London and Dresden. Or they are drawing up and tying off on the massive docks using a variety of Relic rivercraft (from reed boats to reclaimed sunken steamboats) and tying up at the massive docks. .

        The train tracks go through all the Necropoli, but take the passengers to a vaguely defined "elsewhere" that is something like the "soft places" in older maps.... the places where the cartographers would just draw vague lines or write "Here There Be Dragons". Or maybe it's more like the sorta dream where you doze off between stops and don't know where you are or how you got there. Two trains could take versions of the same route and end up at Stygia (Denver to Topeka to Kansas City to St. Louis to Memphis to New Orleans to Stygia or Austin to Oklahoma City to Kansas City to Chicago to Milwaukee to Stygia). Stygia isn't north or south or west, it's at "the end of the line". Likewise, the River of Death is every river and the Tempest off it's shores is every sea, it's just how you get there. The Stygia is the metropolis at the mouth of that river on the shores of that sea, which is just to the left of everywhere and on the edge of nowhere. It's New York if Manhattan was on an island that didn't extend into the rest of Long Island). It's London if the Thames split and went around it. It's Paris i if the Isle de la Cite was much much larger. It's Tyre and it's Alexandria. It's all of them and none of them.

        And beyond Stygia is the Sea which is also the storm-above-the-sky and is also the airy liquid roiling chaos of an underworld that lurks just under the far too thin skin of the Shadowlands. Across and in it, off the edges of any attempt at maps are the Far Shores and the other Dark Kingdoms. Which, incidentally, you could also just walk to by crossing the appropriate distances in the Shadowlands, mimicking the routes from place to place in the Skinlands.

        Oh and under Stygia is the Labyrinth, which is also at the bottom of the Sea and at the center of the Maelstrom of the sky and various other places as well....

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Ipergigio View Post
          Hi to all!
          Uderworld geography it's confuses me a bit. I got the feeling that the underworld it's depicted like a vast ocean dotted by islands, and yet to travel it you can use carriages, trains and cars... I feel I'm missing something. Can you tell me how I must visualize the world of the dead?

          PS: Argos is a mandatory discipline to travel trought the Tempest?

          PPS: How someone can acces to Stygia from shadowland?
          Ajax's description is pretty good - but the Underworld is confusing. Like an M.C. Escher drawing, its non-Euclidean - "up" and "down", "left" and "right", "distance" . . . . none of that means much in the Underworld. But wraiths (and players) have to have some way of discussing where things are.

          In the Shadowlands (which directly correspond to the world of the living), things are pretty stable and "conventional". It may not look the same, but a map of the living world works pretty well in the Shadowlands. Its in the "lower" levels that things get messy.

          People tend to visualize the Sunless Sea/Tempest/Dark Kingdom level as islands in a storm-tossed sea because that's the living world analogy that works the best. Its not a good model, but you work with what you have. Stygia and the other Dark Kingdoms are built on the various "islands" - places that have been stable and unchanging for millennia. And the wraiths that live there have worked hard to keep them that way, ringing them with massive walls of melted down souls to help insulate them from the rest of the layer.

          The Sunless "Sea" often looks like an ocean . . . but it can be a sea of water or blood, sand or corpses . . . The point is that it is not particularly habitable, and it changes. In theory, wraiths can sail across it to visit the other Dark Kingdoms - but that takes a very hardy expedition. One minute, it might be sunny. The next, you could be caught in a massive storm raining down skulls . . . or old toys, or acid and razors . . . There's a reason wraiths live in the Dark Kingdoms, despite the massive overcrowding.

          However, there are stable paths through the Sunless Sea: to the Shadowlands, to the other Dark Kingdoms, even to the dreaded Labyrinth or the legendary Far Shores. Some look like railroad lines, others like cobblestone roads, and many like rivers - these places are known as "Byways" and if you have the right (thematically appropriate) gear, you can "safely" (at least by Underworld standards) travel on them.

          But none of this can be plotted on a map. Byways (and nihils) are like warp zones in a video game - you enter at Point A, and you come out at Point B, regardless of how much distance "should" separate the two. Wraiths learn to accept it, and move on, and let the handful of wraith physicists and topologists argue over why (and how) such places actually work.

          For that matter, you can't really map the Underworld. A Dark Kingdom? Sure - but that's stable. The Underworld as a whole is constantly shifting, and travelling there is largely a matter of focused intent (and more than a little luck), not reading directions or reading a compass. That's a major reason why practitioners of Argos are so valued.


          Edit: Oh, one note - when it comes to describing travel between layers, wraiths use an elevator model. The Skinlands (the living world) is considered the "top", and the Labyrinth the "bottom". If a wraith is heading from Stygia to the Shadowlands, they're headed "up". If he decides to visit the Labyrinth (for some reason), he's going "down". Its sort of the way werewolves talk about "stepping sideways" when they visit the Umbra - it may not be literally true, but it helps frame things in a way a (formerly) human mind can understand.
          Last edited by One Vorlon; 02-28-2016, 11:27 AM.

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          • #6
            Here's something I wrote a while ago in another thread that might help:
            Originally posted by nothing View Post
            You're right, Crowley - it's layered. The Skinlands and the Shadowlands inhabit almost the same "space" - layered over each other. Byways connect the Shadowlands to Stygia. Stygia and the other Dark Kingdoms (and Far Shores) sit upon an ocean. That ocean is the Tempest. Below that is the Labyrinth, and below that is Oblivion.

            Imagine you're in a city - any city, your city. Then you die. Now you're in the Shadowlands - a dark, gloomy reflection of your city. From there you take a highway out of town, a highway you've never seen before, even though you've lived in the city your entire life. This highway takes you to strange and confusing places, all kinds of weirdness, until you arrive at Stygia. You've just traveled a byway (and made it safely - lucky you!). From there you take a ship made from the fingernails of hanged men, and sail across the ocean. But you're hit by a sudden storm of kitchen utensils, tears of widows, and cat skulls! Your ship capsizes and you tumble into the ocean! Rather than drown, you pass through a summer's day as a little girl buries her beloved dog, which morphs into the scene of a boy packing a teddy bear into a bag as he runs away from home. Then, cold, sharp, and inky black fingers grab you and pull you further down - the memories fade and the edges of your vision constrict. Around you a frenzied, cackling monsters. You're in the Labyrinth, the Spectres have you. They haul you through twisting, dark chambers, corridors that weep blood and refuse to even admit the laws of physics exist. Finally, everything goes cold - no, not cold. Numb. You can't feel anything. And you can't bring yourself to care that you can't, because in front of you is not blackness - no, blackness would mean that there's something there. In front of you is nothing, the absence of anything. You brain breaks, and you giggle to yourself. Ultrablack, you think. The color you see right before you're unmade. And faintly, you can sense something coming out of that hole, a single desire. Hunger. Unending, all-consuming hunger.

            And then the mortwrights throw you in.

            That's Oblivion.

            Cheers!
            The safest and most common means of moving through the Tempest, from the Shadowlands to Styiga and elsewhere, are Byways - "rivers" and "roads" of relative stability and security. Ferrymen patrol along Byways as part of their Oaths, rescuing lost travelers and driving off Spectres. Argos isn't necessary to travel, but it makes it easier (and safer). And Nihils don't just open in the sky and dump people out (not unless you want them to) - the Harbinger can choose where to open them, both ingress and egress.

            Cheers!


            If you don't use an Oxford comma, I feel bad for you, son,
            'Cuz I got ninety-nine problems, but clarity ain't one.

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            • #7
              Until Wraith 20 comes out, your go-to friend is The Sea of Shadows.
              http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/...Path=1_43&it=1
              It's a fantastic book and puts a lot of things in perspective.


              Miley Cyrus is obviously a Nephandi and a Cultists love-child. *Shudders*

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              • #8
                I think I'm getting thr idea, but I'm still a little confused. Let's say I'm a wraith in New York necropolis, and I need to travel to Stygia with my relic car, how I can reach it?

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                • #9
                  Put it on a Relic ferry and sail to Stygia. (And good car ferry disasters in NYC history? If so, that very ship might be the one making the trip there and back.) Probably not cheap. I'm sure there is a ticket office on the Shadowlands remnant of demolished pier.

                  Put it on a train and both you (in the passenger cars) and your vehicle (in a freight car) ride the rails to Sygia. Sounds expensive. Just go to Union Station and make your reservations.

                  Get in the car and drive out along a Byway to Stygia. If such a thing exists. Stygia has invested heavily into railroads, so they may not have expended the extra effort to build a road alongside it. But the railroads followedolder roads, so there MIGHT be such a path. Whether or not it's car-friendly is another matter. This one takes some mental gymnastics as you have to take a road out of NYC in such a way that it ends up going to Stygia instead of where it should go, but it's largely a matter of intent, probably. It might be easier somewhere other than a city at the mouth of a river. It you could drive out of town, downstream along a river, it would probably be easier to envision things in the right way.

                  Either be a Harbinger or hire a Harbinger of sufficient power to Argos the car through the Tempest to Stygia.

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                  • #10
                    Ajax covers most of the possibilities, but a nihil (rip in the fabric of the Underworld) would be an option, too. They function like warp points - go in one place, instantly come out the other. Find a stable one, large enough for the car to drive through, and you'd instantly be in Stygia. Assuming the other side is Stygia, of course, and not just some random spot in the Tempest.

                    However you get there, remember to bring bribe money. While relic cars aren't unheard of, one that doesn't burn through your Pathos would be in high demand, and might be confiscated by the Legionnaires on the other side. For purely "investigative purposes", of course


                    Edit: Just to clarify - neither Stygia, nor any of the other Dark Kingdoms, has any sort of "real world" counterpart. It was built purely in the Underworld, and thus exists solely on another plane of existence. It has no Skinlands/Shadowlands "sister city", and can't be reached without leaving that plane of reality.

                    Edit Two: If it helps, you can think of the Shadowlands as the Underworld equivalent to the Near Umbra, and Stygia/Tempest/Sunless Sea as the Deep Umbra
                    Last edited by One Vorlon; 03-20-2016, 10:25 PM.

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                    • #11
                      I find it helps to think of the Underworld as where memories go to die. The Shadowlands are the realms of fresh, clear, contextual memories; remembrances of things that still exist and memories that link together to form a clear picture of life. The family home with its streets of elm trees, years of homecooked foods, the musty smell of grandparents and the chirping of cicadas, that's a Shadowlands memory. Everything is still tied together in way that makes sense.

                      Of course memories fade and dreams fall apart and some things never had enough meaning to connect to anything else. These things fall from the forefront of your mind, and drift in your memory slowly settling down and fading. Unless you have a fever dream. Then your memories and associations come boiling up, leaping from thought to thought. A bucket of fish on a hot day. An argument you've long since forgotten the reason for. The smell of a wood box from a house you can't recall. A rain of shattered glass. The absolute knowledge that something is coming for you. That is the Tempest.

                      Some strong memories remain. Thoughts of safety, like old churches and storm cellars, rise up to provide brief sanctuary. Thoughts of long journeys, roads, and river barges carve clear paths in the storm. These are the islands and the byways.

                      And in the midst of that storm lies the biggest fever dream of all. A massive city cobbled together out of the fragments of dead empires, ruled by the masked faces of forgotten kings, and populated by strange creatures with faded memories of being human. A monolithic kingdom that never did and never could exist that stands in denial of all lesser dreams. That is Stygia.

                      And beneath all that, settled at the bottom in a congealed mass, are the rest of the memories. The long forgotten ones you just can't hold onto and the suppressed ones you wish you couldn't. It is a maze of contortions to flee from recollection. It is a hallway of doors to lock the nightmares away. It is the thick wall of denial to bury the pain until it can finally, blissfully sink into Oblivion's maw. That is the Labyrinth.


                      Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ramnesis View Post
                        . . . in the midst of that storm lies the biggest fever dream of all. A massive city cobbled together out of the fragments of dead empires, ruled by the masked faces of forgotten kings, and populated by strange creatures with faded memories of being human. A monolithic kingdom that never did and never could exist that stands in denial of all lesser dreams. That is Stygia. . .
                        Wow . . . that might be the most striking description of Stygia I've ever read, Ramnesis. Evocative yet succinct, instantly conveying such a memorable image.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by One Vorlon View Post
                          Wow . . . that might be the most striking description of Stygia I've ever read, Ramnesis. Evocative yet succinct, instantly conveying such a memorable image.
                          Glad I could help.


                          Mage: The Ice-ension: An Epic Game of Reality on the Rink

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                          • #14
                            Very poetic. Bravo!

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                            • #15
                              As well as nihils, the other form of entering and exiting the Tempest worth mentioning are Necropolis Ports:

                              One of the few creations of the Underworld that still work as they were intended to do, Necropolis ports provide openings into the Shadowlands.
                              They are situated along byways and channels and appear as oval mirrors hanging in midair above the path.
                              All Necropolis ports are heavily guarded by Hierarchy troops, Renegade cadres or Heretic bands (depending on where they lead and which group is dominant in the area).
                              This prevents Spectres and other foul denizens of the Tempest from pouring forth into the Shadowlands.
                              When utilising a Necropolis port, movement from the Tempest into the Necropolis which the port serves is far easier (granting one automatic success on a wraith's Argos roll to go there).
                              Unlike the nihils, the ports can be closed and sealed at need, preventing Wraiths, Spectres and the Maelstrom from using them.


                              Miley Cyrus is obviously a Nephandi and a Cultists love-child. *Shudders*

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