Tuesday, August 25, 2020

40 Minute Settings- Nalispar & The King's Island

On this episode of 40 minute settings, I used less randomization and more brainstorming. Because this is technically two settings instead of one, I allowed myself about 10 minutes of brainstorming time to come up with some basic concepts. You can find the completed bullet points at the bottom of the document, as to avoid spoilers.

I really enjoyed writing this one, possibly more then Etthurhia, because the idea was more fully formed in my mind and represents a type of fantasy I don't see as much in tabletop games that is nonetheless very famous and popular. I had to intentionally stop myself from thinking more about the setting before I started writing about it; since the whole point is to write it up in 40 minutes! Anyways, hope you enjoy this bit of fluffy worldbuilding.

The King's Island
On a small rainy island in the center of the known world is the heart of the greatest empire in the entire world. The King's Empire stretches from sea to land to mountain in all directions from this shining jewel of the world; King's Island. It is the heart of industry and technology, as well as the culture of the world. This island is rich; spices and goods from the colonies, the slaves and servants, and the technological innovation has made the King's Island the place to be.

But while adults work and serve in his Majesty's factories or under the banners of the great lion; the children sit in leaky boarding houses and dream.

Among the kids, the dark-skinned servants from the far off colonies, and the occultists come whispers of another place entirely. They call it Nalispar, a land of dreams. It is said that only those with imagination can enter it, and only when one is asleep. Strangely, the realm is not just a dream, as it is shared by all those who dream it.

The King's Island itself is a twisting maze of cobblestone streets, factories, smoke stacks, pinned in by expensive apartments and houses with lawns so small as to barely sit in. It has expansive docks, as the King's Empire mostly grew itself out of naval might, and the huge cannon ships dominate the skyline to the stroller along the boardwalk. The smoke of the city isn't exactly the cleanest, which is why residents often try to take vacations off on the far off tropical colonies, or up in the mountains in “rival” nations so small and insignificant to not even need naming here.

There is also a sense of mystery. While much of the world is being taken down and codified by the various scientists, borders on the map are being filled in, and newly discovered truths of the world such as Phrenology are taking away the commonly thought truths of the old realms. Nowadays, nobody believes in the magical and supernatural, and the old fairies of the druid's woad are thought to have either never existed, or perhaps just a long extinct animal with a few unusual traits. But even in this society on the up and up with science and learning; shadowy occultism exists in all levels of the society. From the shadiest back alley streets selling potions and palm-readings, to the highest secretive opium dens for the rich concerning themselves with psychic mediumship. There is still a sense that there is a secret lore out there. To the most attuned, they may have heard one shadowy name.

Class division is obvious, from the clothes that are worn to the streets one may walk along. Dapper individuals with waistcoats and ladies with long dresses stick to the clean sidewalks while busy errand boys and servants muck the street and hurry back and forth to deliver one of a million unfinished gadgets to the patent offices before they close for the day- even those of low social class can find themselves launched to the heights of wealth and nobility for the right invention. Policemen stand against stone pillars of old buildings and keep a lookout for urchins running between the legs of the adults; unsupervised and unwanted.

There are an unfortunate many orphans in the King's Island. The urban poor, dead soldiers, bankrupted business men, and many others chewed up by the teeth of this great and rapidly changing society leave behind their young. Boarding schools and orphanages are stocked up with a great many kids, who are often left to their own devices once the nannies and nursemaids retire for the night. Around these circles of beds and drawing books; tales emerge of another place.

For those who go to sleep with the heart to find it, and those who know its name, they may travel there. If you have never heard the name of Nalispar, it is said they cannot go there. Adults of the King's land probably haven't heard of the name, and the servants who speak of it from the far off colonies hush the children and try to silence them, as their cultures have more knowledge of it then even the greatest imperial scientists would dare know. If you do not wish to travel to Nalispar in your sleep, you also cannot go there, fear blocks the way. But to those board, cast aside, or simply adventurous young children, it offers a taste of freedom and escape from the foggy gray streets of King's Island.

The moment you find yourself in Nalispar, you will see color. The sky is a bright pink at dawn, shifts from yellows to blues to emerald greens in mid day, and finally falls on a curtain of dark blue and purple at night. The land is tropical, with the hooting and hollering of a thousand tropical birds, a million plants and their beautiful and delicious fruits. The monkeys paint images of themselves and their diminutive visitors on the tree trunks using pastel colored dyes they made from sticking their thumbs in flowers, a pastime that many of the young visitors will also try and tire of in their first few visits to the magical land of Nalispar.

When a child first dreams of the dream world, they find themselves in the center of a clearing with bright red lines painted onto the ground, each spiking off from the center as a giant pinwheel and pointing in a direction. They have begun at the center, which is adorned only by a small floating staircase with four steps ascending towards the sky, and nothing beyond. This place is where all children appear on their first visit. Those kids who sleep together in great communal dormitories or in their bedrooms will find themselves often appearing together in short time in Nalispar. The unfortunate lonely children may simply have to pick a direction and stick with it. These lines lead to the different lands of Nalispar, inhabited by its tribes.

In Nalispar, there are only children. No adults are supposed to be here. Every kid appears in their pajamas and sleepware. There are adults here but they aren't humans. At least, they aren't agents of their own wills. The children may be afraid of them at first, but there is no need to fear. All of them are jovial, simple. All of them are an unusual color, reds or blues, and adorned in tribal wear and feathers and flowers in their hair. They are very simple people, and are easily impressed and awed by the children telling them of the scientific world. The child who demonstrates a clever magic trick or invention of a simple tool can wow these simpletons; but their responses are canned, forced. It feels very much like these puppets are playing at being savages, a useful prop for the children of conquerors, who don't quite understand but still feel the vague sense of superiority they're supposed to have for a culture more primitive then their own. They are like actors, filling kids with a sense of adventure.

Of course- these adults have a sign. Their foreheads all have a raised white circle, a bump, which designates themselves as people of Nalispar. Not from the real world, none of them can ever be in King's Island nor ever will be.

The land of Nalispar itself is filled with tropical forests, an Arabian desert dotted with tombs built into geometric shapes, tropical beaches, a comfortably chilly autumn world with talking badgers and rabbits stuffing their finds into trees for a winter that never seems to come. The land itself is conductive to adventure; there always seems to be something new to find, a new beast to befriend, or a new treasure to find. The tribes who walk the land seem like keepers of the place, but have no trouble feeding and clothing the children who lose their way or take a tumble; its not like they need to eat here. But for many orphaned children, an imaginary warmed meal of corn and beans from a maternal figure is far better then anything they would get in the real world.

Every child that enters Nalispar has something special about them. It seems to be determined on their first trip, or unique to each child. Every kid can hold out their hands and be given something from the land. Usually, its a very old tree nearby the central dais that gives the gift to the child, but sometimes it is a tribesman, or other times it is even another child who knows the secret. Basically, they are given a small item. This is a special artifact, unique to that child, which has powers all its own. Brave young boys may be given a wooden stick which, when struck to the ground, can create a terrifying sound of thunder, or be tucked between the legs and flown like a witch's broomstick. Nice young girls are given magic thimbles, which let them make (sweet tasting) medicine from filling the thimble with water, weave warm, dry blankets from snow, or held out like armor against a thorn bush and breaking the thorns to make it safe to pass. Clever youths may be given pictureboks, which can record things they've seen in Nalispar with wonderful color illustrations that can be brought out again just by pointing at the picture. Those youths who boast their noble blood find themselves with a little tin knight who will grow to full size and valiantly quest for anything or anyone their heart desires. Regardless of the gift, they are all very powerful.

However, Nalispar is not always a land purely for the good hearted and innocent. Sometimes, children who are growing older envy Nalispar over the real world. They may seek to find a way to stay there forever, even as their body grows bigger and more frightening then what is intended for the residents of this place. Sometimes, adults who take special drugs or learn meditations in shadowy King Island parlors can slip into this realm. Armed with all the strength and cruelty of an adult; these men and women appear in Nalispar without the white raised circle on their head; only for a frightened explorer to see at the last moment in quite a panic.

Even stranger, these “magical” curiosities can sometimes, very rarely, be brought to King's Island. Children may wake up in their bed chamber with their magic thimble or broomstick or toy in hand. The next time they sleep with the item, they can bring it back to Nalispar. But if it is taken from them, they find themselves nearly unable to sleep at all, as if the item belongs to their dreaming self. Those children with their items taken will always grow into baggy-eyed, insomniac, dark adults who seek nothing more then to return to Nalispar to recapture the magic of their youth.

Original Brainstorming Session Bulletpoints
  • Nalispar is like the Lovecraft Dream Lands
  • This magical fantasy world is like Narnia; visited by kids from the “real” world, which is inspired by nostalgic Victorian London society
  • Very Peter Pan and Merry Poppins esque
  • Maybe some voodoo shenanigans, like Nalispar didn't exist until the colonies were set up in some not!Carribean?
  • Kids die or go missing because Nalispar isn't all fun and games
  • Kids have special powers in Nalispar
  • Nalispar is accessed through dreams, and only those with “imagination” can access it
  • Maybe adults lose imagination (not just figuratively as in real life, but literally) as they grow older, but crazy people or drugged up people on fine colonial opium can access the realm
  • Nalispar is a shadowy rumor that the kids don't take to adults about, but servants from the not!Colonies know about it and don't want them talking about it maybe?
  • King's Island is meant to be rainy old London and the heart of a great empire, hence the name
  • Currently ruled by a powerful King conquering places all over the world
  • Kids can be rich, poor, orphaned, abused, whatever; as long as they've heard of Nalispar they can access it
  • Maybe kids that come from shittier homes are more powerful in Nalispar, providing a tempting offer for them to leave the real world forever (?)
  • Maybe Nalispar is like a forbidden realm or maybe even a predator that spreads by getting kids to dream about it and then consuming them(?)
  • Nalispar is divided up into zones or worlds like a theme park maybe, split down equatorial lines(?) or branching from a central “zone”
  • One land is themed off ancient temples and cultures like mesoamerican Indiana Jones type stuff, another could be pirates on the high seas, something North American-y for Peter Pan vibes?
  • Grim or dark worlds probably wouldn't exist in the dream space, but danger from adventure certainly would
  • No human NPCs- everyone in Nalispar is a talking animal or object. Adults are evil in this world, or intruders on the fun family adventurers.
  • Maybe the “fake” adults in this world are all marked by a symbol, these are fantasy people not from the real world. Could be thoughtforms made from dreams or like literal actors in a play
  • Maybe Nalispar has only a fake exterior to draw kids in deeper, if you want to make it more grimdark, Like the trees are only painted on one side, temples unfinished except the parts you're supposed to explore, etc. Gives it a fake artificial quality?
  • King's Island is filled with foggy rivers and chimney sweeps; lots of class inequality and other very real concerns that children don't understand much
  • King's Island might have a black market for things brought back from Nalispar; maybe kids can bring back an item or items from Nalispar on rare occasion; perhaps these artifacts have magical powers or can act as a power source in a sort of Victorian occult steampunky sense?

1 comment:

  1. Personally, I find setting information presented in paragraph form to be impossible to absorb, whereas the list of bullet points is extremely readable and interesting. I'm not sure if other people feel the same way, but I think it would be awesome if you presented more setting ideas as loose lists of bullet points and didn't worry about turning them into concrete paragraphs. Anyway, you're awesome and I appreciate all of your hard work and creativity!