Thule and Anti-Thule: two civilizations at war

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LoZompatore
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Thule and Anti-Thule: two civilizations at war

Post by LoZompatore » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:34 pm

Here are some suggestions of mine about two high-magic civilizations hidden on the polar icecaps, plus a few weird ideas about a permanent conflict between such cultures high above Thalassa's atmosphere. Enjoy! [:)]

The magical field from outer space:

Thalassa's magnetic field does also carry "magical particles" trapped from the void outside the atmosphere. While the origin of such magic is unclear at best the overall effect of this particles being captured by the magnetic field is that the northern and southern Pole of Thalassa are constantly hit by a shower of magic from outer space.

This extra magical field is most intense at the magnetic Poles - which do not coincide with the geographic Poles - and then slowly fades moving closer to the Equator. A sudden drop of this magic field happens some 3400 km away from the magnetic Poles; in a short distance the shower of magical particles from space become too sparse and all the extra magical power it grants do no longer work.

The extra magic contribution imbues the polar environments and its inhabitants with great powers (especially during auroras) and two high-magic civilizations developed in these regions. Both cultures enjoy a lavish lifestyle - they tamed the harsh, inhospitable environments of the polar wastes and turned them into true Eden gardens - but its inhabitants are unable to leave the polar regions if they still want to enjoy the benefits of the magical field from space.

Thule and Anti-Thule:

The civilization centered on the South (magnetic) Pole is the oldest: it was formed some 18000 years ago by scattered groups of planar refugees who appeared in nearby areas and then moved closer to the core of the magic shower as soon as they realized its powers. The northern polar civilization is some millennia younger: it is believed it started developing about 13000 years ago; it was likely founded by Birhamian exploring parties stranded in the cold wastes, which lost contact with the metropolitan territories and created the "Thulean-like" civilization.
For simplicity let's provisionally call "Thule" and "Anti-Thule" the civilizations on the North and South (magnetic) Pole respectively.

Both cultures revere a deity of the magical field which is identified with polar auroras. She grants the extra magical power to their followers but she also pretends human sacrifices in the form of heroic death against enemies (see below).

Overpopulation issues:

The magical adaptation of the environment worked so well for both civilizations that their lands are since long overpopulated: both lands are now inhabited with about 100 million people each, the land is unable to sustain anymore, and magic lore is exploited to the outmost to feed all of them.
Moreover both cultures are not able to expand their sphere of influence outside the limit where the extra magic drops: most of the methods they used to achieve their wealthy lifestyle simply do not work outside this boundary.

Both civilizations tried to solve the overpopulation issue in many ways: the most obvious were stopping immigration from nearby lands and limiting the birth of new citizens.

External immigration was progressively limited (until it ceased) by magically hiding both civilizations as a whole and surrounding them with hostile people and natural barriers. Extraplanar refugees appearing in the polar regions are randomly and magically diverted just outside the frozen area, while suitably fit "kill zones" are maintained all around the borders of Thule and Anti-Thule. Such kill zones 100 miles deep frozen wastelands battered by magically summoned icy winds and populated with dangerous monsters. Most explorers would turn back or die attempting the crossing. Survivors would not find any shelter nor welcome from the high-magic civilizations: the luckiest will be unknowingly guided to warmer lands by some (hidden or invisible) merciful member of the magical cultures (usually before they could have nothing more but a glimpse of the wonderful landscape in front of them). The others will be slaughtered by a well armed patrol of guardians sent to dispose of them. Any hostile army trying to cross a kill zone is invariably destroyed by what seems a combination of blizzards, avalanches, sudden crevasses and hungry polar beasts.
As a further ring of protection it is also believed that Anti-Thule is actually sustaining the sub polar neanderthal tribes in order to repel any intruder willing to enter their icecap. Thule is likely exploiting the aggressive, seafaring Mongol-like culture of the north with the same purposes.

Birth control was necessary as thanks to magic aids infant mortality is almost nonexistent and nominal lifespan in Thule and Anti-Thule is very long. For example humans could live around 350 years keeping their fertility until about 300 years old. Moreover, most citizens are powerful and highly civilized people who would not accept being deprived of such a fundamental experience like growing children. Compromise laws were passed forcing citizens to give birth to as much as a single child every two "standard" generations (for humans it meant a single child every 50 years per person), which is not enough to avoid overpopulation on the long term.

The permanent war:

It was calculated by local demographists of both countries that, in order to keep the population stable, about 15% of the population must be replaced every 50 years. As mass migration to nearby savage "un-magical" lands proved impossible, the two civilizations thought that a good solution to their problems was to wage a total war against each other in the attempt to conquer the opponent's territories, as they are the only true place where their kind of culture could expand. Moreover, war casualties would greatly help in keeping the population stable.

Both factions built magical ships able to follow the strongest magnetic streamlines high above Thalassa's atmosphere - up to the ring surrounding the planet and beyond. Such natural streamlines are imbued with magical particles (they are the equivalent of Earth's Van Allen Belts) and they allow the ships to reach the opposite Pole by flying over Thalassa.

As illusions and other magical tricks are easily dispelled by the would-be settlers - which use about the same magic as the natives - the only way to repel the intruders is open war. An intermittent conflict - mostly unknown to other Thalassa’s races - started over 9000 years ago; as of today it is still fought high above in the sky, as both factions patrol the sky and intercept each other's invading task forces. The losers of these high-magic sky battles often appear as meteor showers to the inhabitants of the surface.

The war soon evolved in a stalemate as both cultures are equal in power and unable to conquer each other (a conquest would likely be followed by the extermination of the loser, in order to make room for the settlers of the winning side): while the authorities are well aware of this fact the war is never truly stopped as it represents a most sought way to decrease the "excess" population. A whole epic was built over the millennia promoting victory over the enemy and a glorious death in the skies.
It is estimated that each civilization suffer as much as 800 casualties every day during the raids above Thalassa's skies. Only about 10% of the population of both lands actually manages to die of old age.

Thalassa’s Van Allen Belts:

Such belts are similar to Earth's one, they are huge orbital regions filled with a collection of energetic particles captured by Thalassa's magnetic field, which the main difference that magical particles floating in the outer space are also trapped there. Thalassa's belts are divided in three zones: there is a strongly magic inner belt - stretching between 80km and 11700km altitude - then a gap devoid of magic between 15500km and 23300km and then a weakly magic outer belt between 23300km and 77000km.

As Thalassa's ring is located between 2850km and 5100km altitude, it is entirely inside the inner belt.

Here is a scheme of the whole belt system:

Image

Thulean and Anti-Thulean magical ships (called "streamships" - they could be similar to the "vimana" of the Sanskrit epic) usually travel inside the inner belt, where there is an abundance of magical particles. There is a constant struggle for possession of the ring and its moonlets as they represent valuable outposts against the enemy. The outer belt can be reached by the streamships only from the Poles (the non magic gap cannot be crossed by the magical vessels) and is rarely used.

The constant struggle in the inner belt is a great hindrance to any other spacefaring vessel crossing the area, as Thuleans and Anti-Thuleans do not hesitate to destroy the newcomers, believing them to be allies of their enemies or new competitors for the resources of the magical field. Most high-tech cultures on Thalassa (such as the Skywood elves) are trapped on the surface of the planet: sometimes a daring vessel manage to escape the warring forces of the magical belt, but keeping constant contact with any colony or culture outside of Thalassa proved impossible, so far.

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Re: Thule and Anti-Thule: two civilizations at war

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:30 am

I've given this a quick read through. I want to comment more, but need a little more time to digest everything. First off I like it. I don't know if you're a Star Trek fan, but the overall feel of it really reminds me of the episode called "A Taste of Armageddon" where two equally matched planets wage an electronic war. Casualties are assessed and those deemed to have been killed in an attack are sent off to disintegration chambers.

I'm not sure if I'd go that drastic a route. I think it's probably likely that the two cultures actually believe that they can win the war, which means exterminating their opponent and taking all of their lands -and the war is not just a "ploy" to reduce their own populations. At least that's what the majority of their people should believe. A few high ups might actually believe that the war is only a means for population control, and therefore actually winning would eventually destroy their society.

I also think that some of these sky machines would end up crashing across the planet on occasion. Most of the time they might break up before they hit the earth, but sometimes they could yield salvageable materials. What happens in that case? Local nations would certainly fight for such prizes. The two polar cultures would probably try to prevent that from happening to the best of their abilities.

Those are just a few thoughts for now. Hopefully more later.
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LoZompatore
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Re: Thule and Anti-Thule: two civilizations at war

Post by LoZompatore » Mon Jan 24, 2011 8:22 pm

I don't know if you're a Star Trek fan, but the overall feel of it really reminds me of the episode called "A Taste of Armageddon" where two equally matched planets wage an electronic war. Casualties are assessed and those deemed to have been killed in an attack are sent off to disintegration chambers.
I'm not extremely competent about the Star Trek franchise but I remember I saw many years ago the nice episode you cited :) . Actually in my description of the Thulean - Antithulean war I was more inspired by the indian epic Mahabharata (well, at least by the fictional archeology built around this work in recent times ;) ).
I'm not sure if I'd go that drastic a route. I think it's probably likely that the two cultures actually believe that they can win the war, which means exterminating their opponent and taking all of their lands -and the war is not just a "ploy" to reduce their own populations. At least that's what the majority of their people should believe. A few high ups might actually believe that the war is only a means for population control, and therefore actually winning would eventually destroy their society.
I think you have a major point here: an endless and unwinnable war would be so frustrating for common population that they would stop their leaders to send them to die to the frontline, heroic epic or not. So let's say that the war is actually winnable by one side, and that major gains or losses of territories could be possible by both parties. Maybe there are patches of conquered territories and enemy bridgeheads in both lands; such enclaves could require decades in order to be reconquered.
I'm also wondering if one of the two sides actually managed to utterly wipe out the enemy in the past. The winners could have colonized the opposite icecap only to see it overpopulated in a few generations, then the conquered territory would have declared independance from the metropolitan land and another long war would have started over again. Such an approach could explain the cultual similarities between the two polar civilizations, such as the fact that they revere the same deity.
I also think that some of these sky machines would end up crashing across the planet on occasion. Most of the time they might break up before they hit the earth, but sometimes they could yield salvageable materials. What happens in that case? Local nations would certainly fight for such prizes. The two polar cultures would probably try to prevent that from happening to the best of their abilities.
Well, the machines themselves could fly only in the extra magic streamlines and close to the poles, so in principle they could be used only if a creative party manages to bring the vehicle back there. Maybe the machine still contains evidences about the polar civilizations, or if some survivors are still inside the vehicle. I agree that both civilizations would prevent such retrievals by other Thalassan people (including the enemy). Maybe a self-destruction device triggered by the lack of the extra magical field is included in any flying machine of both polar cultures.
Maybe a few daring crew members of a machine managed to disable the self-destruction device and to land more or less safely somewhere in Thalassa, and then you have an adventure plot ready for your PCs ;)
Last edited by LoZompatore on Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thule and Anti-Thule: two civilizations at war

Post by Chimpman » Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:05 pm

LoZompatore wrote:Well, the machines themselves could fly only in the extra magic streamlines and close to the poles, so in principle they could be used only if a creative party manages to bring the vehicle back there. Maybe the machine still contains evidences about the polar civilizations, or if some survivors are still inside the vehicle. I agree that both civilizations would prevent such retrievals by other Thalassan people (including the enemy). Maybe a self-destruction device triggered by the lack of the extra magical field is included in any flying machine of both polar cultures.
Maybe a few daring crew members of a machine managed to disable the self-destruction device and to land more or less safely somewhere in Thalassa, and then you have an adventure plot ready for your PCs ;)
I was thinking more along the lines of other technologies/magics being extracted from the machines rather then the vessels themselves being made operable again - I agree they shouldn't operate outside of one of the belts. However, at the very least, the non-polar nations could get some idea that there is something else out there. Very Roswell man... very Roswell. :cool:

On the flip side, I suppose since the vessels don't work outside the belts, it would be very difficult for the polar nations to mount a retrieval effort, since they would be confined to using conventional means to do so.
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