Welcome to my World, Episode 1 - Ilsanya
I originally wrote this in the middle of 2020, I recorded and shared it with just a few people and didn't really pick it up to share wider. I'm sharing it here for posterity. I might do more with it. I call it a podcast in the recording but I don't currently support it as a true podcast anywhere.
Welcome to my world.
I'm Trick Jarrett and this is a... podcast? Yeah, I'll call it a podcast. It's a simple thing, I'm going to tell you about my fantasy world, Ilsanya. Can you read about it? No. I'm not publishing anything, this is the world I've made for my home D&D game. And since I am mentioning D&D, now is a good time for me to make you aware that I work for Wizard of the Coast, the company which makes Dungeons & Dragons. I'm not selling you anything, this world is 100% homebrew and not coming to any D&D product in the future.
Now, with my disclosure out of the way...
World building has been a longtime hobby of mine. I think of it like model building, sitting down and just doing world building is relaxing to me. Now, I don't do it non-stop, I have plenty of other equally nerdy hobbies which distract me, but world building is one I come back to over and over.
So, let's talk about Ilsanya. Ilsanya is a high fantasy world. I'm really proud of it and I expect to keep building and defining this world for years to come. It's got a lot of unique features that I really enjoy. Of these, the most identifiable and possibly unique thing about my world is the "Infinite Court" - think of it as the afterlife for most souls.
To explain the Infinite Court I actually want to tell you what inspired this entire world. It was inspired by an episode of Broken Mirror, the one titled San Junipero. It's from the third season and it actually won a number of awards. The premise is that there is a digital afterlife, you get uploaded into this cloud computer and live out your afterlife in San Junipero. More recently, the Amazon show Upload touches on some of these ideas.
I looked at this concept and asked myself, what would San Junipero be in a D&D world? I loved this concept from the episode and wanted to explore it. As I thought about it, there were a number of interesting ideas and byproducts of this idea.
Well the afterlife in D&D is a very flimsy construction, with enough gold and a high enough cleric almost anyone can be brought back from the dead. So Ilsanya needed a bit more strict of a structure.
So the initial structure was simple, "When you die, your soul arrives in the Infinite Court." And when I initially imagined it, it was much closer to a Fey court idea. I was imagining the gods of the world offloading the boring and annoying parts of running a world and letting the dead souls oversee these functions. As I built out the concept, this idea fell apart and evolved.
As I explored the idea I realized the metaphysics and the rules that defined the Infinite Court were paramount to figure out and codify.
These are the rules I have settled on:
First, Ilsanya and the Infinite Court are locked off from the multiverse, there is no travel off the planes except as defined in the rules.
Second, time between Ilsanya and the Infinite Court is concurrent.
Third, not every soul from Ilsanya makes it to the Infinite Court. I figure I'll go over ancestries and races in Ilsanya in another episode (if there are more) but the shorthand is, beastfolk (such as dragonborn, tortles, tabaxi, etc.), genasi, faeries, and classic D&D "monsters" when they die their souls don't arrive in the Infinite Court. The whys will be explained in the ancestry / race episode.
Fourth, traveling between Ilsanya and the Infinite Court, operates under the following rules:
- Dying humanoids, after 6.17 days, the soul departs the body and travels to the infinite court
- Offerings made by the living are transported to the Infinite Court via the Vast Collective (Vast Collective is the name for the living organization counterpart to Ilsanya)
- There is a single physical link between the two worlds, hidden deep and away from the daily life
- Gods are able to traverse freely to and from the court, though they rarely do. Ruh and Wakolt are able to bring living beings with them.
- The souls of the dead cannot leave the Infinite Court except through a single exception: The god Ruh can restore a soul to life after they expired. Ruh is able to create a body for the soul if needed.
Now, there is also communication between Ilsanya and the Infinite Court. So the living are able to speak with their ancestors, and this has a large impact on the knowledge of the world. Imagine a world where the greatest minds of history remain accessible, and depending on their work, they remain hard at work even in death.
This communication though also follows a set of rules.
First, they can only contact someone they know, or have a deep knowledge of. It isn't enough to think, "I want to talk to John Smith" - The Infinite Court has 120,000 John Smiths. But if someone can say, "I want to talk to John Smith, my father." The blood bond provides a very clear contact. Blood bond isn't necessary, but it is the easiest route to find your contact.
This connection is facilitated by magic. There's no fantasy switchboard of operators connecting these calls. And so, like any automated system, it either works great for you or is infuriating to navigate. Herein lies the importance of the Vast Collective, something I touched on briefly before.
The Vast Collective is the finger quotes "church" for the Infinite Court. I will go deep into it in another episode, but you should think of the Vast Collective as the Catholic Church crossed with Ma Bell at the height of its monopoly days. There is no alternative, and there never will be. If you want to contact your dead relatives, either you develop the magic needed to do so, or you make use of the Vast Collective's services to facilitate it.
I know I went off on a deep dive tangent, but we're talking about the rules that govern communication between Ilsanya and the Infinite Court.
Second, the connection is inherently magical. Items, magic, or events which interfere with magic disrupt this connection.
Third, neither the living nor the dead must "accept the call" - they have the mental option to refuse calls.
Fourth, these calls are mental, there is no talking out loud. And it only transmits as words. Think of it as speech to text in your mind. Nuances and emotion are not transmitted.
Aside from the things mentioned before, such as travel from Ilsanya to the Infinite Court, or the communication between them, is the only magic between the planes. No other magic exists or transmits between the planes.
Okay, I went way deep on the Infinite Court. But as you can see, it's a very important feature of my world.
The next feature of my world I want to highlight is what I refer to as the three realms of Ilsanya. In this case it refers to Septun, Ulrada, and Gralit.
Septun refers to the realm of the floating islands. And, I know, floating islands are cliche. In Ilsanya though, they aren't just small floating islands, in fact there are three massive islands the size of countries or continents in the sky. They fly over the world, casting dark shadow underneath them.
When they are overhead, the light is usually just dim dusk-like and not completely dark due to the unique positioning of the two suns in the sky. Zara is the larger of the two suns, and the one predominantly affected by the presence of the floating islands. Obor is the smaller of the two suns, and it tends to hang low to the horizon at the far north, thus much of its light can still reach the land when a floating island is overhead.
Along with these three major floating islands, there are a number of smaller islands, from a few hundred feet up to several miles in size. These islands all move and float and travel around Ilsanya's sky.
Ulrada is the term for the "main world" - it has a number of continents spread across the globe. There is not much to say about this one, without diving into the politics and stuff.
Gralit is most comparable to the Forgotten Realms' Underdark. It is a realm of subterranean caves. Unlike the Underdark, it cannot be mapped. Gralit is constantly moving, massive caves and cave networks shifting and moving on tectonic-esque plates, moving on a permafrost layer and constantly changing.
It is a hugely deadly and dangerous realm, with few people making their home there, and leaving it largely to the unknown monsters. It holds secrets forgotten with time, lost and never to be seen again.
Imagine traveling into Gralit, determined to search for great treasure. But not having any way of knowing how you'll get back out as the realm continues to move and shift. The ultimate adventure, if you succeed you'll be one of the greatest explorers in the history of Ilsanya.
The third of the major things for me to discuss are the repercussions of the first two items. Access to most of the history of the world changes things. You're no longer solely relying on written historical documents, you can contact the soul in the Infinite Court and ask them what they saw, or meant in their writings.
Additionally I see this living history as means for moving past some of the heavier tropes in fantasy around racism and nationalism. Yes, nations or kingdoms still exist, but their role in the world is stepped back. Also, for D&D, I think it provides a good solid basis for why the "Common' language exists.
Next is the need for supplies for the Infinite Court, the Vast Collective is also responsible for providing supplies to the Court. Sending writing supplies and other magical supplies, etc. They don't need food or drink, but without the supplies from Ilsanya to the IC, the realm is a vast empty wasteland.
Or the floating islands and the need for airships or other means of travel to facilitate travel in the world. I mean, who doesn't love flying airships?
I think that's a good place to stop with the introduction to Ilsanya, hopefully you enjoyed this look into my world, Ilsanya. Next time, I'll be discussing the gods of Ilsanya, what they represent, and the creation story of the world.
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