World Tree review

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World Tree

This is a really daunting game. It’s not that the rules seem complex… the rules look like Ars Magica with a lot of add-ons. It’s the setting. The book is 320 pages, soft-cover, with color cover and b/w interior art. There’s a lot of text… it’s dense. Most pages have no illustrations, just a small bar across the top, separating the chapter description from the text below. So there’s a great deal to absorb. But as I say, describing the rules would be relatively simple. The setting, though, is horrendously detailed, and quite unique. There’s no way I could cover it in full detail.

Here’s the basic cosmology- a long time ago 19 gods (7 creator gods and 12 lesser gods) got together in the void to create a new world for their amusement. They made a giant tree floating in space. The World Tree has a trunk about 200 miles in diameter, and its branches are more than 10,000 miles long. The surface is covered in a bark which other plants (and lesser trees) can live in. The trunk itself is theorized to go on forever… if there are roots somewhere at the bottom, no one but the gods have ever seen them. The civilized races all live in the upper branches. The source of gravity is somewhere below… the sides of the branches and the trunk itself are referred to as the “verticals” because of the dangers involved in navigating them. The sun and moons orbit above the tree, so if you go too many branches down, you won’t get any sunlight anymore. If you climb high enough, you can actually see the seven creator gods, who spend most of their time sitting in the sky looking down on the Tree. Once they finished creating the Tree itself, they populated it with creatures. They put the “Primes” (PC races) in the upper branches. They populated the rest of the tree with “lesser” creatures, including monsters created solely to hamper the Primes and amuse the gods. Each god then took responsibility for one area of the magic that keeps the Tree running. The magic system is broken up into Verbs and Nouns (like Ars Magica), which the caster combines to produce certain effects (ie- the verb “Create” combines with the noun “Fire” to make a “Create Fire” spell like “Fire Dart” or “Light the Stove”). The creator gods run the seven Verbs, and the other gods run the Nouns. Magic is nigh omnipresent in the setting- it’s one of the things that makes it hardest to get a good handle on. For example, no major city actually defends itself with a wall made of regular stone. Instead, they erect magical barriers, like a flock of skeletal birds that instantly shred any intruders. Cities spend enormous amounts of time and money constructing these, and then argue about maintenance costs (and the risk to locals who stumble into it) until some flying horror from the verticals makes it through the barrier… then they argue about who’s going to pay to upgrade the barrier still further.

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