Rodorsceaft: Pillar of Heaven
Level of Technology
This article addresses the state of technology in modern times (i.e. the timeframe of a “current” campaign setting, ca. GY 2450) in various regions of the world, as well as provide a picture of overall technological advancement.
The entirety of the Branchlands is metal-poor; while there are some mineral deposits in the mighty plates of earth upon which most of civilization resides, they are nowhere near as common as they are in the Lowlands. The scarcity of metal has resulted in the enhanced development of wood and stone technologies amongst the Branchland peoples, and for the sophistication and longevity of human cultures, their rate of metallurgical advancement lags behind that of the “real world.”
The Terrestrium is another story. There, metal is as abundant as “normal;” the Lowlands, however, suffer from a lack of cultural advancement. Lacking the competition against the Raptorans and the intellectual and technological enlightenment that the Solarian reign brought, the most advanced groundling kingdoms remain iron-age at best.
Solarian Remnant and Mysidium
Despite the relative paucity of iron and other metals, metallurgy in the former Solarian Empire has been developed more thoroughly than in any other human culture in the world. Overall, the level of technology is that of the early High Middle Ages: chainmail, mounted knights and crossbows are about the pinnacle of common technology, while the rank and file use spears, shortbows, and leather and hide, or finely-made stone and bone axes. An interesting side effect of the dearth of metal is the refinement of obsidian technology; it is common for Solarian- and Mysidian-made weapons to be crafted from obsidian rather than steel or stone. As far as siege technology goes, the Mysidians were just beginning to experiment with counterweight trebuchets before the schisming of the kingdoms; advances have stalled since then.
The lack of an official written component for Solarian and the high illiteracy rate has not prompted the development of the printing press. Any written materials are still hand-copied and illuminated, if not duplicated by magic. Travel along the trade routes of the plateaus is handled by caravan, and cavalry wears chain with a breastplate on leather-barded chocobos.
In the Solarian Remnant, construction techniques have stagnated since the Solarian Era, meaning that most structures are built out of carefully-worked stone, with aqueducts carrying water for irrigation. By contrast, in the Mysidian Kingdoms, the conquest and eventual assimilation of the Ur-Skeks has led to a much more advanced architectural technology. Mysidian structures are built of wood and mortared stone, with tiled roofs and up to four floors. Ur-Skek techniques emphasize craftsmanship, so very few nails are used in favor of fitted timbers, biscuit joints and post-and-peg construction.
The Mechanists make their home in the Underhome, a dark, cold place where metals are abundant. As a result, the Mechanists are the most technologically-advanced society in the world. Their skill at working metal is peerless, catapulting their technology far beyond that of the human kingdoms.
The dwarves have long-since developed full plate harnesses, and improved upon them. For the right price (very high), articulated armor can be purchased from the artisans. For themselves, the dwarves keep the legendary mountain plate, armor so thick and heavy as to be near-impervious. Dwarves never craft mountain plate for outsiders. Dwarves have also invented precision manufacturing and the assembly-line process, allowing them to create, among other things, high-quality clockwork and firearms.
Perhaps the peak of dwarvish engineering are the airships, huge clockwork monstrosities powered by extremely high-tension springs, capable of taking flight with cargo. Airship travel is the fastest and safest way of moving amongst the plateaus, and the dwarves have a total monopoly on its use. This, along with the fact that the Mechanists control the world’s only known supply of mithral, has made them extraordinarily wealthy.
The elves eschew metal technology almost completely. Elvish warriors wear leather and wield bows, relying more on stealth and speed than the heaviness of their armor for their defense. The elves were the first to develop the longbow and composite bows; this technology has since disseminated to the rest of the world.
Elvish architecture is as harmonious with the environment as possible, often grown in situ rather than manufactured. Elvish tree villages blend in with the surrounding forest almost perfectly, their huts no more than large galls and their skyways branches grown woven together naturally.
Elves are natural masters at agriculture. Elvish crops grow faster, larger and more flavorful than anywhere else in the world. There is a small but thriving trade in transporting elvish crops, magically stabilized, to the homes and palaces of the powerful elsewhere in the world. For similar reasons, elvish herbs (and narcotics) are also much more potent than the norm, and are equally sought-after.
The gnomish culture accomplishes everything technological through magic. Their city is magically built and suspended. Their houses, clothes and meals are cleaned and prepared magically. Their transportation runs on magical engines. Where other cultures have developed technologically, the gnomes accomplish literally everything through the use of magic.
And make no mistake, they are accomplished. In some ways, the sophistication of gnomish life is equivalent to modern (i.e. 21st-century) technology. The gnomes have a citywide information network, global communication devices, popular entertainment produced for dissemination through these media, as well as magical means of manufacturing, preparing and preserving every need they could want. Teleportation remains expensive, but the gnomish artificers are adept at crafting self-powered constructs that are far more capable of both crossing the wilds and defending themselves than any human caravan.
The gnomes have little need to develop weapons or armor. Magical protection is practically standard issue to anyone who intends to go into harm’s way, and even the mightiest siege engine pales in comparison to the destructive power that some gnome warmages have packed into their tiny frames.