City Settings – The Alexandria of the Astral Plane

Alexander the Great did not die in 323 BCE. Conquering lands and people no longer provided him with the challenge he desired so he set his mind to two new targets – conquering death and conquering ignorance. His new quest took him to the Astral Plane.

Six Cities in 2018

The fourth in a series of posts exploring cities as the focal point for RPG world building. This post explores a city were ideas go to die.

The Astral Plane isn’t an actual place. It a transition that you pass through when moving between spaces and dimensions. Normally you transit too fast to notice it for more than a short thought. Even if you did pay attention to it, you’d find an empty plane devoid of anything other than the occasional piece of furniture. Lingering out here is unsettling to all but the most strong willed. Alexander the Great’s will was so strong that he was able to shape a huge lake and raise an island in the middle of that lake. Reminiscent of the Macedon of his childhood, on the island he founded the thirteenth Alexandria.

The island is a mix of flat planes and steep cliffs with very limited access to the lake. A third of the island is covered in buildings that are built in a greek style. The buildings are made of large stone slabs with internal gardens and cobbled streets. At the centre of the city and at its highest point is the acropolis. Where there would normally be a temple complex sits a great library carved into the rock. Instead of a fort is a great lighthouse that shines out into the mist of the distant astral plane.

In accordance with Alexander’s wishes, the city gathers to itself knowledge that has been surpassed, ideas that will not come to fruition and impractical concepts. In pursuit of the conquest of ignorance, Alexander wanted to make sure that no idea would ever be truly lost, lest it later inspire some new thought and to recognize the wisdom of the original thinkers. Books seemingly appear in the library out of thin air, keeping the librarians very busy with the filing. The library extends downwards into the island, with the stacks full of books, journals and even stone tablets in the lower levels.

It is not just knowledge itself that the city attracts. Thinkers, tinkerers, philosophers and natural scientists find themselves here. They talk of the image of the lighthouse as if it were an recurring dream that drew them to this place. The the city presents them with a community where an enquiring mind will be uninterrupted by external pressures.

Time doesn’t pass normally in the astral plane. In fact, it doesn’t seem to move at all. No sun moves across the sky to mark the passage of a day and there’s no night to observe the stars for the movement of the planet. With no dawn or dusk, there is only the general background light of an overcast day. Once you live there, food, romance and your past life diminish in importance compared to your work.

That work is science and contemplation. The population engages in rigorous debate and continuous experimentation. Walking the streets you could find ancient greeks trying to shoot tortoises, a giant lab dedicated to the endless halving a of a plank of wood or an escaped perpetual motion machine. You will find researchers investigating the four humours, alchemy, the luminous ether and the healing power of crystals.

With the city so full of opinionated people, there is very little functional government. There is notionally a forum in which the city could decide to take action should there be a majority in favour but this has yet to occur. The city has a tyrant, who was appointed by Alexander to oversee the city but very few of the citizens are inclined to follow their commands. With no economy or foreign relations to manage, the forum and the tyrant mostly concern themselves with arguments about the role and methodology of government and what technique should be tried next week.

Plot hooks

  • An old piece of ancient knowledge needs to be rediscovered but first must found from the depth of the library.
  • An important scientist has gone to Alexandria. Recover them before they spend the night and thus join the city
  • Your modern experiments require more than primitive metals and alchemical glassware. The older citizens will be difficult to persuade for modernisation.

Image Credit – White Light House Under White Sky by Adrianna Calvo – CC0