Welcome back readers. In our last episode, we created a map for the brand new world we’re creating (you can read all about that here), but now we need to start adding some more details. For a start, this world needs a name – I can’t keep referring to it as “the world” – and we could also do with embedding it a little more in the 41st Millennium. So that’s what we’re going to do with this blog post today.
What Sort Of World…
As we’re placing this world into the galaxy of the 41st Millennium, we need a reason for it to be there, and an idea of what function it serves. I decided when I was creating the map that I want this to be an Imperial world as that will allow me to more easily interact with friendly and unfriendly forces in the setting, and humans are quite helpful to have when it comes to naming things and explaining history. True, I could have made it a human world beyond the Imperium’s control but one would have a great sense then that it would not have much of a future, even if it did have a well written past. No, we’re going Imperial.
So, we know that the Emperor’s standard flies here, but what sort of world should it be? The Imperium is full of planets that serve a distinct function, and of course every planet must pay the Imperial tithe in some way (or have a reason for exemption). There are crowded Hive Worlds, smoke-filled Forge Worlds, Agri-Worlds that feed the Imperium… but let’s take a look at that map again:
It’s too green to be a Forge or Hive world (though I’m sure such a thing as a verdant Forge World could exist but I’m not going to stress myself with those justifications) so instead, I need something wild. Yep, this is going to be a Death World.
Death Worlds offer several advantages for me here, not least of which is the bestiaries and horticultural entries that I can include later on. I always think of Catachan when it comes to Death Worlds and they’re got some lovely monsters to work with (like the Catachan Devil pictured below). What’s more, it means the 10 established cities can be the only real population hubs on the world, leaving the deserts, forests, tundras, seas and savannahs to the beasts who live there (along with perhaps a few more nomadic peoples who still dwell in these places). And like Catachan, I can fulfil this world’s obligations to the Imperium by providing a regiment to the Astra Militarum (and I dare say a few additional resources once i’ve worked those out). I’ve got plenty of ideas for this too, but I’ll go over that in a future post.
I really like the idea of the cities being large hives with space ports and all the mod-cons of any Imperial city, but they’d be very much walled in. Enormous fortresses with high and well defended walls to keep the beasts out of the population centres, but I also want to find ways to have the population interact with the wild areas too, but we’ll get to that later too.
I also want the similarities to Catachan to end there. It’s very easy to clone a world and re-skin it, but we want to create our own planet here with its own flora, fauna, fiction, functions and… fings? I knew I’d overstretch myself there. But I think we’ve borrowed a little bit to create a solid base there. Now, it really is time that this place got its own name…
Welcome to… Orthrus
Naming things is… tricky. There are a thousand sources of inspiration, but it’s getting them to marry up, and using the conventions you have to create a distinct language that’s the tricky part. Mythology is a great place to start but again, there’s no point in using Aztec mythology for the name of a river and Egyptian mythology for the name of a town because it just won’t sound right all together. “There stands the mighty city of Bastet next to the banks of the mighty Quetzalcoatl river” – see what I mean? I think the trick is to pick one area, and use it sparingly. Lean on it more for inspiration rather than taking names straight from it. That being said (yes, I’m going to break that rule straight away)…
I arrived at the name Orthrus because I probably know Greek mythology better than any other kind (studying Classics for few years will do that to you) and because I wanted to address another issue that I had made for myself. You see, I think my world looks rather… pleasant. It looks like a nice place to visit with stunning scenery and vistas worthy of a postcard from the map I drew, and yet I’m trying to sell it as a Death World full of monsters. So I needed a name that would fit in with this. Orthrus was the brother of Cerberus – the famous multi-headed dog who guards the gates to the Underworld. Orthrus is far less famous, and is widely regarded as having just two heads, and he didn’t have the best of times either, given that he got killed by Heracles during the hero’s 12 Labours. Is Heracles the mighty Imperium that reclaimed this world after Old Night? Or is Heracles the forces of Chaos or Xenos armies that threaten the world still? And then I imagined this:
“They say our world was named after an ancient beast on Terra. A canid with two heads and I believe this to be most fitting and in accordance with our scripture. For those whose star-borne ships find our world see a glittering and verdant jewel among the heavens that is loyal to our most divine Emperor like a faithful, old hunting hound. But should they set foot on our planet, they will find that both the people and the animals that live here, have the ferocity and jaws of a wolf, its mind set on slaughter.”
-Uralia of Imoth, Scribe Primus of Orthrus
What do you think? Not bad, eh? A little early flavour to work with there. And oddly, the name Orthrus fits in with another method I found for creating names that’s a little more abstract. I was searching for ideas on naming things and one commenter on a forum (which I now can’t find to give credit to – sorry about that) suggested taking a list of your friends names and simply removing the first and last letters to create some interesting place or character names. I gave it a go and immediately found that longer names are more useful for this – sorry, Dan, but I can’t have a city called “A”. But I grabbed some random ones from my facebook friends list and here’s what I came up with for my major rivers and cities:
Rivers: Enr, Ichae, Onatha, Obbi, Amue, Ele, Ennife and Hri
Cities: Imo, Ichela, Ober, Imoth, Ame, Atherin, Aur, Iann, Rai and He
Now, the keen-eyed amongst you may notice that the vast majority of those names now begin with vowels. One could see this as a problem, but I say, when life gives you lemons, construct a fictitious reason to justify why you have so many lemons. It fits in with the name of the planet fine (stroke of luck there) and furthermore, it does give a helpful uniformity to things. It’s at this point when a wonderful chain reaction of thoughts came along that really set the tone for the make up of our planet. I was sat in a pub doodling all of this down and this is the train of thought I had…
All proper nouns should begin with a vowel unless a place/person is considered rebellious
This is because of a strong written tradition that has mutated over time in isolation
There are lots of rules for stories and writings – scribes are very high in society
Memorised recitation punished – stories should always be read from scrolls/books
Because of this, lots of Orthrusians joined the great crusade as remembrancers
Libraries are where the seats of government are held
Overly complicated legal and political systems
All of that came out of my brain in about 3 minutes (I just spent more than 10 minutes deciphering my excited scribblings from that time) and it already gives me something in the bank to work with in terms of the characteristics of society on the planet including language, politics, tradition, superstition and more. But we’re not quite there yet, and we will be looking more at how society functions on Orthrus in a future post.
All that leaves us with are our three rebellious names, but happily, on our map there is the northern continent with two cities and one major river, so we’ll make that the rebellious place here and work out a little more as to why that is the way it is in a future post. Oh, and before I forget, we also have two moons orbiting Orthrus – Eurytio and Eryon, both of which are riffs on the characters from mythology who Heracles killed alongside Orthrus.
Now that we have all of these names, I’ve added them to our map (I used a D10 to work out the name of our planetary capital – Atherin) and I can start thinking more about this place with a sense of how it sounds in my head. Just giving these names, and using that little bit of cultural reference is already picking at my imagination and giving me ideas which is great.
That’s it for this week. Next time round, I fancy taking a look at the beasts who make this planet a death world, but we’ll see – it may be I do one of the other posts instead (depends if I decide to start drawing the monsters or not). Until then, happy hobbying! Onwards.