Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back Issues #1 - The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas ...

This is a ... "reprint" of an article I wrote a few years back. A little update, but essentially untouched. Welcome to Throwback Thursday, there with be 23 of these as I rework and "reprint" the original version of Inspiration Strikes!

Issue #1: The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas ...

... or is it? Folks that played D&D back in the 90's and folks who still play now may have a passing or intimate familiarity with the Dark Sun campaign setting. I played some in high school with that system where THAC0 ruled and I could never figure out if I was rolling high, low, or why -10 armor was better than +10. *shrug* This isn't about D&D, heck, it's not even about Dark Sun, but that dying world featured, as the title suggested, a sun that wasn't bright and, well ... sunny, but instead dark.

The sun in games and fiction is, probably 99% of the time, yellow, orange, or orange-red. There have been the occasional science fiction stories where in the far flung future the sun has shrunken into a white dwarf or ballooned into red giant, but even that's fairly rare in my experience. Why do you suppose that is? I'll grant that in proper real life stars don't really come in colors like these:


Image source: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap061222.html

Which is a damn shame, but fine, I didn't set up the natural law, I guess I'll just live with it. Unless I am GMing a game. In which case why not have a literal black sun? Or a deep verdant green sun that rises over the drab brown landscape of a world, taunting it with the promise of verdant life, but bestowing nothing of the sort? What's wrong with a deep azure? Occasionally you do see red suns, but they are still a bit orange, seldom truly crimson. To say nothing of purple.

Fictional worlds often have multiple moons, a feature which usually enhances the oddness of their own night sky. Multiple suns isn't nearly as common. Tatooine, in that franchise about two plucky droids who saw the rise of an evil emperor and worked behind the scenes to bring about his downfall, had at least two suns. One appears to be a hotter star, nearly white, while the other looked red, but that may have been due to atmospheric dust during sunset, much like our own sun can.

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SW_binary_sunset.png
The dynamics of such systems would be complicated of course, including times of intense brightness and partial light, but there's little argument that looking up and seeing two or three suns, maybe of different colors, would certainly tell the players (or readers or viewers) that they aren't on Earth anymore.

Maybe next time I run a fantasy world game, or simply design a fantasy world for the fun of it, I'll put up three suns, in red, blue, and yellow. Most of the time the suns will be in the sky together, their colored light providing a combined white that illuminates the landscape, but what happens when one of those suns is eclipsed? Or when one sets early or late? Could the combined power of the blue and yellow suns green light increase and improve the naturalistic magic of druids and shamans? Does the light of a the lone red sun ravage the world with fire elementals unleashed without the guidance of a warlock? Does the once a century Day of Purple have some effect on the regency of the character's nation?

It's something to think about at least.