Okay, here’s an overview of navigating around in Outworld, summed up in two words:
Oh, you want more detail than just a sarcastic remark? Fine, I’ll do my best, but I warn you that Outworld has a tendency to . . . shift. Although the immediate geography (aka the location of your neighbor Dan’s barn, or the outhouse) tends to remain the same, the background is much more variable. I once spent two weeks hiking towards an especially tall range of mountains, only to find that, by the time I reached the foothills, they had become a small inland sea. Be ready for disappointment and abrupt course changed.
Descartes, one of the most brilliant and well-known philosophers of Outworld, once tried to track these shifts, by planting long lines of coded stakes in hopes of tracking their movement. As he was creating his ninth set of replacement stakes, he realized that the landscape was staying the same, and only his measuring tools were vanishing. This experiment eventually became a footnote in his larger announcement: “The gods of Outworld are total dicks.”
Now, to make matters worse: the biomes of Outworld tend to be fairly patchwork and haphazardly scattered, due to these shifts. This means that a tropical rainforest can abruptly become a desert with no explanation.
There is one useful fact for measuring biome shifts, however. Over time, the borders between these shifted areas become less and less distinguishable, and the physical climate equalizes. Deserts in warm, humid areas are reclaimed by foliage, mountaintop lakes freeze or drain away, and lush forests that have the misfortune of appearing in cold and inhospitable climates are rapidly reduced to dead skeletons, crumbling trees with twisted, leafless branches.
On a larger scale, just how large is Outworld? Nobody has quite ascertained this fact, and the answer will likely remain undiscovered. Some measures of curvature suggest that the world is spherical, although guesses at diameter have varied from less than 10,000 miles to greater than 50,000 miles. The High Priest of the Light, Sanctis, claims that the gods informed him that Outworld is an island, adrift in an endless sea. “It is no one size – it grows,” he informed his gospel. While this theory is hotly contested, it does also lend some explanation to the constantly shifting biomes. However, it is unclear where this land is being added, as travel times between the larger cities remains fairly constant.
A whole new set of splits, shifts, and general chaos was opened up by the Ascension, but I’ll get to that in a later chapter.
Finally, a few words on demographics. The population of Outworld is constantly in flux, but the majority of sapiens tend to be humanoids of various forms. There are also smaller but significant populations of androids, sentient animal races, and other consciousnesses that don’t fit into other categories.
Most of the stable inhabitants of Outworld reside in small, self-sufficient towns. Most towns are rural communities, relying on some combination of farming and/or trade. Peddlers travel between towns, carrying goods and news of the larger world. Most peddlers tend to have prescribed routes, often passed down through generations, in an attempt to avoid the many dangers that lurk off the beaten path.
Several larger cities do exist, producing intricate goods, serving as bases for manufacturing. Governments exist, usually dictatorships, but they have little power. Most of their limited military forces are required to defend against the onslaught of monsters. Few leaders bother to waste time with dreams of conquest.