Observatories, City Builder, and Kalder

William T. Thrasher

As other contributors have remarked, the City Builder: Platinum Edition kickstarter is well underway, and just last week the first of my two stretch goals, an entry on observatories, was unlocked. In the course of gathering research on ancient-, medieval-, and renaissance-era astronomy for my contribution to the sourcebook, inspiration stuck. In the spirit of City Builder, I took what I’ve learned and applied it to my own campaign, creating Heaven’s Needle, an ancient observatory and highly contested locale for the risen land of Kalder.

Located in the norther edge of the Halite Flats, Heaven’s Needle is the most striking example of pre-cataclysm elven engineering currently known to exist on East Kalder. By all accounts carved from the living rock of a single geological promontory, the Needle rises some 333 feet from the surface of the Flats, its sides in turn corroded by centuries beneath the surface of the sea and built up by coral growths and patches of fossilized sediment. Those rare few who survive the perilous ascent up the time- and tide-worn steps that spiral to the Needle’s top report a phenomenal discovery. Atop the Needle rests an almost perfectly preserved observatory build by the primordial elves of East Kalder.

Tough the massive astronomical instruments, armillary spheres, and sidereal measuring devices show signs on wear and their articulated joints stiff with disuse, they are largely free of corrosion and are by far the best examples of intact elven engineering outside of the private collection held by the imperial family of Dufay. Were it not for the observatory’s inaccessible location and the impressive size of the artifacts Heaven’s Needle would have been looted by treasure seekers shortly after its discovery.

Heaven’s Needle has become a pilgrimage site for free elves of both a scholarly and spiritual bent, and the mummified remains of those who seek the observatory for its scientific and cultural value are an increasingly common site within the Flats, as are the remains of opportunists looking to strip the bodies for valuables. Bits of coral-encrusted stone supposedly chipped from the base of the Needle are fast becoming a valued commodity among the free elves of Undal and the bound elves of Dufey.

Both the Axial Tabernacle and the Cynosure have taken a keen interest in Heaven’s Needle as both sects of Edarh worship have long practiced astronomy as both a science and a sacrament in their attempts to better understand and chronicle the turning of The Wheel. Both sects have declared their intentions to seize and restore Heaven’s Needle to its former glory, though so far neither has been able to mount a truly successful expedition. As the astronomers of the primordial elven empire of East Kalder possessed an understanding of the heavens unmatched in modern times, whichever sect assumes control of the site will far surpass the other in its understanding of astronomy and astrology.