14
\$\begingroup\$

How large are the Shards of the Overlight campaign setting?

enter image description here

The Seven Shards, giant floating continents that are arranged in orbiting layers, are central to Overlight. They are described as being very large masses of land, and it is explained that their scale should not be under-estimated.

It's easy to forget that, when we're talking about the shards, we're talking about continents. The scale is vast. There are often unfathomable distances between them.

However, other aspects about them suggest that they are still far smaller than the continents of our own planet - perhaps more like small-to-mid-sized countries. Haark, for instance, is described as being completely filled with a single large city, to the extent that every square inch is an urban metropolis. Even if I stretch my suspension of disbelief to its fullest to imagine the most fantastically-huge city I can in a setting of this sort, it would still be orders of magnitude smaller than taking up, say, the entirety of North America.

What kind of actual scale is intended here? Some of the art in the book (such as the one above) suggests that the shards are small enough that you can see details, such as individual tall buildings or waterfalls, when viewing the overall continent, though that might not be a literal interpretation. Are there any clear clues regarding this size and scale?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ This shouldn't need to be said, but please only answer this if you have actually opened an Overlight rulebook or done some thorough research into the setting. This question is not an invitation for inexpert guesswork. You should be able to cite the game text to back up your answers. If you are not sure what the answer is, leave it for someone who does. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '18 at 9:49
1
+50
\$\begingroup\$

I couldn't find much more than the official overlight Kickstarter preview pdf.

The Preview is silent on absolute sizes

The best extrapolations from the preview PDF are the absolute minimum sizes for two shards based on their short characteristic. These range from "40 km Diameter/280 square miles" over "4400 square miles at absolute minimum" to "around 200,000 square miles as minimum". These sizes would dictate the size of Haark, as Haark has to be the largest.

If the description of "continents floating" is read as "tectonic plate", then it would be safe to take an absolute minimum of 250,000 square miles for the size of Veile. Remember though, that the average minor tectonic plate is between one and two magnitudes larger.

The lower bounds of proper continents start between Greenland and Australia. A ballpark number of 2.5 to 25 million square miles would allow offering the vast expanses demanded by some shards, but it collides with the description of Haark as one monolithic city.

Explanation

Nova: Rocky towers and crumbling mesas dot a horizon of sandblasted expanses, shimmering and brilliant white in the neverending light. p11

a Horizon of sandblasted expanses means, that a typical person standing at some sort of "average level" can't see the edge of the floating shard. Assuming that the curvature of a shard is somewhat in the area of the earth, then this gives us a lower limit for Nova, but no upper limit - 4.7 km radius minimum if the average level is "sea level" and a ballpark of 19.6 km if he stands on a 30 meter tall rocky pillar. But that is just a rough minimum, that doesn't help a lot, as this minimum 20 km radius circle would only cover an area as big as the area inside the Capital Beltway in Washington DC (~280 square miles) and then you'd have to stand exactly in the middle to get this one described view.

Zenith: Towering mountain ranges

This is all we learn about the landscape. The best we can say is expansive.

Quill: The jungles and torrential rivers of the floating islands of Quill [...] Once they were emperors of their domain, with sprawling cities of spires [...] Teryxians cling to the remnants of a ruined civilization while they try to avoid becoming prey to the appetites of the junglep11

The plural indicates that Quill is rather expansive with large distances between the cities, but no clear indication about how large these cities are or how distant. It doesn't solve our problems though.

Banyan: Each tribe upon this forested shard is inextricably linked to their unique Hearthwood Tree, [...]. These monumental wooden behemoths [...]p11-12

Sadly, monumental wooden behemoth is not defined, but considering the average distance between large trees - for example in redwood forests or in the rainforest - this implies a rather large landmass.

Haark: A single magnificent city, covering almost the entirety of the largest of the shards. p12

This is the best information we get about the size: this is the largest shard and it is one city. A few comparisons about the size of metropolitan areas I found: The Île de France, which is pretty much the Paris Metropolitan area, has 4,640 square miles and a population of 12 million people. The New York Metropolitan area is 8,683 square miles and packs 17.8 million, Tokyo does 33.2 Million on a 6,993 square miles area.

Veile: The idyllic hills and estates of Veile overlook placid lagoons and inland seas.p12

Inland sea implies that is is clearly not a lake. When is a sea a sea? on Earth, the 5 smallest seas are:

  • the minuscule Sea of Marmara with 4,400 square miles
  • the Sea of Cortez with 62,000 square miles
  • Persian Gulf with 97,000 square miles
  • Baltic Sea with 146,000 square miles
  • Yellow Sea with 150,000 square miles

That gives us a minimum estimate of some 6,000 to 200,000 square miles, but no upper limit.

Pyre: Often bathed in darkness, the tundras and steppes of Pyre are lit by the glow of the shard’s volcanic mountain ranges, which frequently result in rivers of magma coursing through the landscape. p12

Again, no indication but that there is enough space to feature two vastly different biomes, which speaks of quite an expanse, but we can't put numbers on it.

Further Research

As I was spurred, I grabbed the chapter 6 preview, and could squeeze out a few more information. For example, the day-night-cycle holds this info:

the slow movements of continent-sized floating bodiesp5

Well, this isn't much, but what is the smallest continent - or, as we speak about floating landmasses that carry water, what is the smallest tectonic plate?

The ring of fire is a tectonic zone around the Pacific, and it contains a Microplate called Juan de Fuca Plate. This one is responsible for a lot of earthquakes between Canada and California. It's "just" 250,000 square miles large, fitting the upper-minimum bounds we found in Veile by taking the smallest seas. The next ones are just a random pick from the list but should illustrate about what counts as a proper tectonic plate.

The South Hebrides Plate as well as the Burma Plate come up to about 1,100,000 square miles and are the smallest, the Cocos Plate is 2,900,000 square miles, the Caribbean Plate comes up to 3,300,000 square miles, the Arabian Plate is 5,000,000 square miles, and the biggest minor plate is the Somali Plate with 16,700,000 square miles.

If we read it more literally, then the smallest continent is Australia, 2,900,000 square miles and about as large as the Cocos Plates. Greenland also is in that ballpark with 2,100,000 square miles.

This gives us a somewhat different ballpark of the size that should/could be aimed for: 1 to 2 magnitudes more than from the descriptions minimum sizes might be intended, maybe even more.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ These are interesting measurements! Although we largely only have a lower bound and no upper one, this definitely looks more in the realm of a mid-sized country than a continent, as I was thinking. 200,000 square miles is within the same ballpark as Spain, France, Japan, or the USA state of Texas. \$\endgroup\$ – Southpaw Hare Nov 7 '18 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SouthpawHare I took your clue and looked up more... continental drift is scary... \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Nov 8 '18 at 8:01
-3
\$\begingroup\$

Short answer,No there are not clear rules about the size. Or about 420,000 mi²

From personal experience ; its best to make things the size you need them to be for your table and your games. If you make things too big it would be hard to keep the interesting points dense enough to keep the pacing right. And while you game could be based around exploring and surviving in the empty wilderness you still only need so much empty space.

From the Overlight rulebook...

In practice, what this means is that the Gamemaster has the narrative flexibility to tell the sort of stories that she wants to tell. Is the story best suited if it’s dark for “weeks” on end? Then so be it

Its not that I believe that this is unanswerable. I believe it depends on what you need the shard to do but...

So far it seems that there is nothing in the rules that strictly defines how big any shard it.

Zenith

From the Text on Zenith...

Towering mountain ranges are home to the snow-covered temples of the Monks of the Zenith Orders. The Monks are humans, having long ago emigrated from Haark to find meaning among the ice and wind. The men and women of the Orders live alongside the Hamanu, a massive-bodied ape-like people capable of scaling sheer mountain cliffs with their grasping hands and feet. The Hamanu and the Monks have developed a peculiar spirit bond and, once paired, individuals are rarely separated.

I get a very Himalayan vibe from the setting what with the monks and the monkeys so why not say that share is about the size of the Himalayan range? Lets say Zenith is roughly the size of the Himalayas so a quick googling gets me, 420,500 mi². That's not to say the mountains are as high as the Himalayas but could provide a solid reference for a continent sized mountain range.

Nova

Going by the one image of the shards provided, roughly 2/3 the size of our reference mountain range which would make the area 237,330 mi² or the size of the Syrian Desert in the Middle east. Or the Patagonian Desert in South America.

Quill

About the same size as our reference ~420,000 mi². Which would be a jungle the size of mainland Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand).

Banyan

Again, an apparent similar area ~420,000 mi². Which would be like the size of the temperate forest of the Pacific North West. These approximations are getting increasingly dubious.

Haark

Obviously, in terms of biome a 420,000 mi² City does not exist for reference on earth. But I guess you could try to imagine a city the size of the area near and around Boston, New York, Phili, Baltimore, to DC maybe as far south as Richmond along the East Coast and as far inland as Albany, Scranton, Harrisburg.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ On what basis are you making these estimates? What indication do we have that Zenith is roughly the size of the Himalayas? Can you cite the part of the Overlight text you're referencing there? On what basis are you judging the other shards against it in proportion? (Are you just using the picture? Do we have any indication from the game text it's actually to scale or reliable enough to do that?) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '18 at 9:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah. Just using the picture because thats the info given. Choose the Himalayas cause they are a very large mountain range and represent the biome that I think Overlight was going for (The Monks). Again using the picture its apparent they are roughly the same size. Given how awful the base info is, making these large creative leaps seems warranted. In truth the best answer is "As big as you need them to be, its just a game" but I'm sure that answer would not have gone over well either. This question likely doesn't have an answer but lets keep voting down people that try... \$\endgroup\$ – BaronBart Nov 6 '18 at 13:10
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't know an answer or don't think there is one, leave it for someone who does know the answer. No answer at all is preferable to an inexpert answer: rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/q/5530/1204 \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '18 at 13:24
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ if there is not enough information, an answer like "It is not defined in the sources XYZ" is prefered. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Nov 6 '18 at 15:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, "it's not defined" is a valid answer. To make an answer like that well founded, one could demonstrate it's not defined by reasoning where it would be defined in the game text if it was defined at all, then explaining it's in none of those places and that we have no further hints. Then describing some possibilities is a fine follow-up. If we're relying entirely on the illustration though, it'd be a good idea to first give us a reason to believe it's to scale—it could just be a picture to get the general idea across artistically that isn't supposed to be a to scale representation at all. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '18 at 15:54
-5
\$\begingroup\$

Reality check

If we make Haark the size of Australia (Approx. 3.3m square miles) and give a decently high population density 500 people per square mile (approx. density of all of the UK). You would have a population of 1.65b people. This is a bit over 1/3 of the population of Asia (4.5b approx.). China has 1.4B approx. at 3.7m sq. miles for comparison. If the amount of people living on shard is high enough it would be possible to have a city that covers the entirety of it as the people would need that space.

Urban Sprawl

Urban sprawl is the expansion of human population into low-density communities. This would be your suburban neighborhoods. If we consider these part of the metropolis the reality of squeezing every inch of land into the definition of city is a lot closer.

Building Limits

If we stick with medieval buildings, we would have significantly shorter buildings. This would lower our population density maximum and would contribute to the urban sprawl.

Yes

Having a continent sized city is plausible given enough population density. However, I don't know what the true scale of what size they think the shards should be. The only clear clues that I think we have at the moment are those pictures. I would assume from them that having a metropolis of the size pictured there wouldn't have much issue from a believability standpoint.

I don't think this really answer the question - it only says that the specific Haark example might be plausible at real-world scale (which I also don't think I agree with).

The two main issues presented are: Haark for instance, doesn't seem plausible at continent scale (argued above) AND What is the actual scale which I said based on the images seem quite compact in comparison to a continent. Thus, I argue that Haark at real-world continent sizes works and that the intent of the text seems to state real world size while the art shows it much smaller.

Bonus Fact: Population density of some countries reaches higher than 20,000 per square mile and I compared at 500.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this really answer the question - it only says that the specific Haark example might be plausible at real-world scale (which I also don't think I agree with). \$\endgroup\$ – Southpaw Hare Oct 31 '18 at 19:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ On what basis would we make Haark the size of Australia? You don't seem to point to any in-text basis for why we would make this assumption, or for the population density figures. These decisions seem arbitrary and made without any reference at all to the game text, meaning there's no guarantee there's any truth to them for the game world. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 6 '18 at 9:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I made these assumptions based on developer saying that these are continent sized. But apparently a good attempt at comparing sizes with no direct developer input is going to be blasphemy around here. \$\endgroup\$ – IT Alex Nov 6 '18 at 13:31
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ITAlex Or maybe the post contains statements that this site generally expects to be supported by citations, or at least really convincing explanations for why citations aren’t needed, for the post to be given a non-negative Score. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '18 at 15:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.