The astronomical setting of the real world has a large impact on the environment and cultures of our world, and likewise the astronomical setting of a fantasy world should have a large impact on the environment and cultures of that world. While some campaigns go to an effort to determine a few astronomical details for the campaign world -- often to come up with a unique calendar such as the calendar of Greyhawk, or some information on the moons, as in Glorantha -- I think that much more can be done to add to the detail of FRPG campaigns with fairly little effort by developing a detailed astronomy.
Most people lack the astronomical knowledge to develop this sort of background for their campaign world, and it would be very difficult and time-consuming to set out to learn everything needed to do so. As I have been interested in astronomy since childhood, studied the subject in college, maintain an interest in celestial mechanics and ephemeris calculations as well as numerical simulation, and since I have played RPGs since junior high school, I think have a very good background to write a guide to creating the astronomy for a game setting.
While a thorough coverage of all aspects of astronomy as it relates to creating a convincing, realistic setting would require a lengthy book, I plan to begin with a Quick Start guide which will be a cookbook guide to creating an astronomy fairly similar to that of our Earth. Little astronomical knowledge will be assumed. The topics I think are most critical will be covered first. My plan is to post detailed instructions that won't require a great deal of astronomical knowledge or understanding, with some optional topics for those who are interested. I'll post the draft as I write it on the blog and gather feedback, and eventually will post PDF documents after revisions are made. I am also investigating writing software to assist in the creation of astronomical settings. Ideally, there will be simple web based CGI software for ease of use as well as source code for those inclined to read and modify code for their own use. Anyone interested in contributing to such software is encouraged to contact me and let me know.
The topics I plan to cover in the Quick Start are listed here:
- Rotation of the Earth and motion of Earth around the Sun
- Motion of the Moon (or Moons) around the Earth
- Rough sketch of the Ecliptic
- Detailed Diagram of the Ecliptic
- All Sky Star Map
- Inner Planets
- Outer Planets
- Calculating the Positions of Astronomical Objects