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I want to create a barrier between two continents in order to use the second continent as an expansion that will be later added on to the game. The world has magic and medieval technology with certain steampunk elements. How could I explain the creation of such a wall without saying: "It's there because of reasons."

For more information: I am writing a setting for a VR world where players will be living in a world inhabited by sentient NPC's and at a later point within the campaign I want to introduce a second continent that will work as an expansion while leaving hints of such an expansion coming soon.

There are flying ships that are extremely rare so the barrier will need to prevent sky travel as well as sea travel. Finally I want trade to be possible between continents so if possible I would rather not use a portal that only activates at certain times.

As a final note I would like to repeat that I would prefer to disclude anything that counts as the continents being separated because they are. There are gods in this universe so use of divine intervention is possible however no god is a troll who will create a wall out of boredom so a reason is necessary for them to create such a wall.

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    $\begingroup$ Can the continents be separated by water? Is it ok for the NPCs/Players to know they are in a VR world? $\endgroup$ – Morfium Mar 7 '18 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ Many games do this via making the wall water or mountains. You could also have magical portals open with 2 worlds existing in different dimensions. I feel like this is just a brain storm question and not an attempt to solve an actual problem since there are so many obvious answers that are not excluded. This problem has already been solved again and again as well. Maybe you should at least explain why the usual approaches you are certainly familiar with do not work $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Mar 7 '18 at 8:06
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    $\begingroup$ Ok clarify this: usually there is just no option for the player to go to another realm that will be added later while it isn't explicitly stated that nobody can go there. You want them separated completely during the events of the game with no possible way of travel? How long has this been the case then? Can this barrier influence your continent, e.g. a volcano that makes air travel impossible, or do you want something very localized? What about a plague and visiting is simply prohibited? This is still mainly brain storm. Maybe check out the sandbox in the meta $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Mar 7 '18 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ If there are gods, and they are the world's creators, an "Under Construction" sign could be OK. $\endgroup$ – Pablo Lozano Mar 7 '18 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ as pointed out by several religious manifests, gods are in fact trolls. $\endgroup$ – t.ry Mar 7 '18 at 17:02

20 Answers 20

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As a way to disallow players to reach the non yet implemented there are several ways.

You could look at current games out there. E.g. WoW had that same problem pretty often.

First expansion added another planet via portal.
Some islands that were unimportant before, so they were on no map. (not ideal for a continent ;) )
A kingdom behind a pass that used to be closed by an avalange.

Later new areas were introduced by cataclysmic events changing the world.

You could however add explanations of your own.

  • Fighting deities
    You said gods exist as real entities. Maybe two of them fight in the ocean between. Passing by with a ship is impossible because of the waves. Flying by would work, but is super dangerous. It's fighting deities after all.

  • Unnatural phenomenon
    Whenever you fly/sail towards the other continent a thick mist engulfs you and navigation becomes impossibly hard.
    Depending on your story that would be removable later. Maybe a magical experiment on an island went wrong creating a source for this fog. The players could be tasked with shutting that experiment down as a launch event for the expansion.

  • Natural phenomenon
    Magnetic anomaly combined with often bad weather. navigation heavily relies on compasses because the starrs are often hidden behind clouds, sadly that area has the habit of screwing with compasses. So naviation is dangerous and rarely done.

  • Pirates
    There's a masive increase in pirate activity in the area. Launch event will be to take out their island capital. After that the travel is safe again.

  • Ice age
    The sea between those two areas is frozen over. Harsh cold wind at very high speed is common. Ships can't pass the ice, flying ships freeze over and become uncontrollable.
    I have no idea how feasable this actually is. It could be magically created though...
    When the continent is implemented a passage could be thawed, allowing passage.

  • Godly construction work
    Your deities are currently raising an island between those continents, causing massive storms and tsunamis. Whatever that island is for is up for you to decide. Maybe they wanted a vacation residence.

  • War with that continent
    You are currently at war. No travel back and forth is allowed.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are sailing vehicles that can travel on ice, so would the ice be a barrier to travel? $\endgroup$ – J F Mar 7 '18 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ @JF, sea ice isn't the smooth sheet you're picturing. It's constantly moving around, breaking up and re-forming. This makes it one of the hardest terrains to travel on -- there's a reason why the first confirmed overland trip to the North Pole was in 1968. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 8 '18 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ 'There's a masive increase in pirate activity in the area.' - usually pirates are where loot is i.e. in areas where there is lot of cargo shipped. There is reason why most famous pirate region was roughly intercepting Spanish treasure fleet and why nowadays most notorious region is next to main route from Europe to South and East Asia... $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka Mar 8 '18 at 18:30
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Possibly a high, "unclimbable" mountain range? In RL, the Ural separates Europe from Asia. Constant weather conditions, such as lightning storms or a constant downburst, can prevent air travel. As a bonus, they can explain a sudden change in climate.

Later on, the continent can be unlocked by a previously blocked passage. For example, some party could have control over a tunnel and it takes a while to get them to let the player pass.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! I've upvoted this as it's a simple, natural solution that seems to fulfil all the requirements in the question. Hope you stick around! $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Mar 7 '18 at 10:10
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! Good answer. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Mar 7 '18 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ Or it can be unlocked by improved air-travel techniques - resistance to weather? higher flights to go above the weather?. Steampunk airship version 2.0... now TRULY intra-continental! ... or is it their competition... the Boring Company.. $\endgroup$ – WernerCD Mar 7 '18 at 16:48
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It can be a technological barrier, i.e. one doesn't cross an ocean until he has ships capable of doing it.

Look at ships developed in Mediterranean region: as long as the only navigation was close to the coast with wind blowing from behind the ocean was off limits.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 - came here to say this. Just because you can sail in coastal waters, doesn't mean your ships can withstand a cross-oceanic voyage. Navigation gets much harder once you're away from the shelter of the coast, and boats travel a lot slower than land-transport. What about fuel, provisions etc? You say airships exist too - these would be subject to pressures too - over land you can set down every now and then, refuel, reprovision and fix things. Over ocean, not so much. Remember you don't' have to make it impossible, just really really hard to do an ocean voyage. $\endgroup$ – Miller86 Mar 7 '18 at 10:34
  • $\begingroup$ Also came to suggest something along these lines. Since the game is full of magic and fantasy, my first thought was the player would likely experience a fantasy stylized way of travelling to the new continent. The question felt less like "Why is there a new continent" and more like "What change happened to get us to this new continent" and the improvement of airship technology sounds like a great transition. This allows you to handwave some specific details on these new engines, whilst still hinting at the work going towards this during the base game. $\endgroup$ – Gorp Mar 7 '18 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ OP said he wants trade, but this can be overcome by having it initiated by the other continent, which does possess the right technology but is reluctant to share until a certain time... which "coincidentally" is right when the expansion is released $\endgroup$ – Kamil Drakari Mar 7 '18 at 14:49
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Make travel possible only for people with valid visa.

And never introduce the visa as an item until the expansion.

Look at this this way. I live in Poland and I know USA exist. Hell, I even buy stuff from them via magic portal called "Amazon". I, literally, write to co-workers in USA right now. But to go there personally I would need to get either a visa (which need prepayment, personal travel to embassy and approval) or win a green card.

I can buy a ticket and go there, even land on American soil. But I would never leave airport gates.

So just make and embassy, give ability to buy ticket but never give ability to leave "travel target location". And with the expansion introduce ability to get that visa.

OR with an expansion remove the visa requirement to travel. Just like in real life the requirement is removed if the rejected applications percent is lover than X.

So you don't have to block sea or air travel at all. You just block player from leaving certain locations that would lead to explore the new continent.

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    $\begingroup$ I can buy a ticket and go there, even land on American soil. But I would never leave airport gates. => actually, in the absence of Visa, the airline is likely NOT to allow you to even board the plane (they pay penalties if they fly you to the US without having exercised due diligence). $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Mar 7 '18 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @MatthieuM. If I would fly from Poland. If I would book flight from Germany for example I would be stopped in USA. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 7 '18 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Are you speaking from experience? I worked on the systems most European airlines use to determine which document is necessary to travel based on Boarding Airport/Landing Airport/Nationality, and from what I remember Nationality generally takes precedence over Boarding Airport, so that in most cases just being Polish would mean a Visa is required. The only exception I remember off the top of my head would be an agreement for free travel between two specific countries, but even in the Schengen area there are still passport controls when flying. $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Mar 7 '18 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ My girlfriend flied to LA last year. Warsaw - Frankfurt - LA. She didn't showed visa boarding Lufthansa, boarding first flight she only showed generic ID. But she may had a KTN number printed on all her passes. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Mar 7 '18 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Did she maybe provide her passport/visa details online? You can often fill them in when reserving the ticket or later using the online checking site/application. Or maybe Lufthansa assumed she had an ESTA? Seems weird to me but... :p $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Mar 7 '18 at 19:00
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A relatively large, dense forest might do the trick.

Consider the amazonian rainforest:

It is indeed very big.

That forest spans across multiple countries. Its total area is about 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 square miles). For comparison, Skyrim is around 37.1 km2 (14.3 square miles). In our real world, the whole of Europe together is around 10,180,000 km2 (3,930,000 square miles) - should you uproot and replant every tree from the rainforest into Europe, you could cover more than half of it with tropical trees.

The Amazon river goes through most of that forest, from west to east, and is about 6,992.6 km (4,345 miles) long. Someone riding a horse through more convenient terrain would take around 140 days to cross a path that long (considering a horse that will walk 50 km/day).

Should they try to cross the same distance on a fast flying ship, their problem becomes fuel and resupplying. You will only be able to safely land once you've gone at least the whole length of the forest.

So there you have it - plant a forest in your world's border. When the time comes for an expansion, you can just place a road that cuts through the forest, some elven cities (or something equivalent) along the way with proper landing places, river ports etc., or a combination of those.

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    $\begingroup$ I had to upvote, simply because this feature could add quite a bit to the storyline. Even if a road, or some passage, was not made through the forest to add the expansion... the character would have to be leveled up in skill to be able to navigate his/her way through it. Example, low level characters would die at an attempt to navigate/survive a place such as the amazon. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Mar 7 '18 at 13:07
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The continents can be separated by one or more of the following barriers:

1. The Everstorm

A grand, unending storm of epic proportions guaranteed to sink any ship or wreck any flying vessel. Based on the Everstorm from The Legend of Korra and the Everstorm from Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, this barrier lasts until some quest is completed by the heroes.

2. The Great Devourer

A gargantuan and monstrous being lurks in the depths between the continents, preying on any vessels foolish enough to try their luck on or over the seas. Based on Jormungandr the World Serpent from Norse mythology (said to guard the boundaries of the world), this monster can only be slain when the gods do battle at the end of the old world or by a hero wielding the hammer of thunder.

3. The Far Shore

The continents are separated by a vast distance, beyond the means for any ship or flying vessel to cross without running out of supplies. Based on the real world distance between Europe and America before the days of Columbus, this distance is overcome by the creation of new technology blessed by the gods (a cornucopia, refrigeration, better preservatives, spatial chests, etc).

4. The Endless Maze

A mysterious confusion assails any who traverse the seas beyond a certain point, and only the fortunate survive to return to their ports of origin. Based on real world lack of proper navigation skills (the later development of longitude, for example), this mental assault can only be relieved by the gods themselves.

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Scientific progress.

A very steam-punk approach is a mad scientist discovery suddenly enabling a mode of travel which was previously impossible.

For example, imagine that there are very strong shifting magnetic currents between the two continents. It's rumored that wild adventurers managed to cross the ocean on boats or dirigibles, but for a handful who did most just got lost and either landed back on the original continent (but far away) or were never heard of again. As you can imagine, no reasonable captain is willing to attempt it.

But suddenly, a mad scientist comes up with a new invention: a gyroscope!

Exit the compass! Exit magnetic dependence!

The ever-shifting magnetic currents go from impassable death-trap to tourists' attraction.

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Andre Norton's Three Against the Witch World has an example of a magical barrier: a mountain range that the inhabitants are magically conditioned to ignore. The heroes can't even see when they're crossing it and have to go by other senses. When they get through, the spell is broken, allowing free travel from that moment on.

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A central oceanic ridge

Running down the middle of the real world Atlantic ocean is a massive ridge of mountains. This feature didn't stop anyone crossing the Atlantic because despite being huge, the mountains are nevertheless mostly still far below the surface.

But it wouldn't take a huge leap of imagination to think what would happen if they were a bit taller.

One can imagine a chain of rocky, uninhabitable, barren islands, interspersed with treacherous seas with hidden reefs and rocks that make crossing the ridge by ship incredibly difficult and dangerous.

In addition, adding this feature to the planet would have had an impact on the trade winds and ocean currents that were vitally important in making the trans-Atlantic crossing feasible for old sail ships. The disruption to the trade winds could also cause problems even for your flying ships

For a bonus, add a magnetic anomaly to the ridge, such that compasses are not accurate while navigating the area. That will really stop them.

End result, a natural barrier between continents.

That said, the ocean itself is a pretty good barrier on its own for most purposes. We get complacent in today's world of safe, convenient and quick jet travel, but the Atlantic is wide enough that it was a problem for slower moving aircraft for which the journey could take days (the first successful crossing took 23 days, and only one of the several aircraft attempting it actually made it across) let alone 17th century ships which would have been at sea for weeks at a time; long enough to make it important to have sufficient supplies and have a good idea in advance of how much you'll need.

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If the continents are sufficiently far apart, there need really be no "wall" at all. Technology has simply not advanced to the point that sea or air travel between is viable - navigation tools don't exist to prevent getting lost, ships aren't large enough to carry enough provisions to make the trip, what have you.

Add into that some jet stream-like weather patterns that tend to turn smaller ships back against a strong wind current, with only a few relatively calm areas where passage could be safe and viable.

Once tools for navigation exist that allow ships to leave the shoreline safely, and once those safe passages are found and documented, safe passage from continent A and B can become commonplace.

Interestingly enough, the latest in the Japanese Kamen Rider shows, Kamen Rider Build, is touching on this very subject. A mysterious Martian artifact called Pandora's Box is activated, and suddenly massive walls crop up, splitting Japan into three regions. Getting across what becomes know as "Skywall" is sufficiently difficult that the three sectors quickly form separate governments and attempt to become self-sufficient. One of the countries, by virtue of where the walls cropped up, has a larger amount of the farming land, but less industry, and so on.

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Monsterland

I think the King Kong movies did this best. Especially the 2005 version - the island was a near impassable jungle swarming with vicious monsters of all shapes and sizes. Youtube has lots of fun clips from this film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTWYQhTT388

spiderpit from King Kong http://martingrams.blogspot.com/2015/10/king-kong-famous-spider-pit-sequence.html

So too your barrier. This would be a steep walled canyon the size of the Grand Canyon, chock full of swamps and monsters. Monsters are largely confined to the bottom though some crawly ones might emerge at the rim now and again, fleeing from larger horrors still below. For your airships there would be territorial pterosaurs or dragons which sally upwards to defend their territory.

In a game, monsters are more fun that "you just can't go". Go ahead and try to go, battling legions of monsters large and small every step of the way.

Trade is possible with the far continent via a laborious and months-long "silk road" type path - merchants travel far up and around Monsterland via the polar ocean.

When your new land opens up for the expansion you can have some event which neutralizes the monsters. Maybe a lava flow fills a part of the canyon, creating a natural bridge. Maybe the canyon floods allowing it to be traversed by boat.

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Volcanoes

Volcanoes even today prevent air travel in a large region near where they are active. This should be even worse for early planes as they required clear weather to fly properly, or at least radar.

They also make mountains seemingly out of nowhere. These are called Volcanic Mountains, while not the largest will slow down early travel across the land.

Volcanoes can be clustered, on earth they are typically at sea in the Ring of Fire but I would suggest this could also take place over land and in a smaller area.

The location would be very active geologically but would create a physical barrier to other parts of the world preventing flight and foot travel.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus, a ring of volcanos around the continent could cause it to become a long-term area of low pressure, which could in turn be hand-waved into causing a humongous and persistent cyclone to form around the continent to block sea travel. (The continent itself sitting safely in the eye of the storm) $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Mar 8 '18 at 10:09
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One completely different alternative (if it fits your storyline and game rules) is to make the continent accessible but worthless.

That is, players can (perhaps with some difficulty) enter the area. They might get a warning "You are now entering barren uncharted territory". They cannot, however, interact with any features there. No mining, no settlements, no NPC:s or buildings present.

Your future expansion might be explained (in-game) by some event that triggered colonization into this new continent.

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I'm not sure this is what the OP want, but I'm going to take something from the Old Kingdom/Abhorsen book series by Farth Nyx.

The settings of the books are two countries separated by a giant wall. One side has post WW2 to modern tech, the other is more of a typical heroic fantasy setting (minus the non-human races).

The Wall was created by godlike beings who also created life and molded the original magic into a more structured magic system.

While the exact reasons for the Wall's creation are unknown, it is imbued with the essence of two of the beings and keeps magic contained to the northern half, though it does affect a small area directly south of it. It may be necessary to the maintaining of the structured magic system, though this is just speculation.

In the settings, travel is possible, though magic breaks down any anything that is not natural or at least crafted by hand (dirigibles, cars, rifles, pens, paper... they start to break as you approach the Wall, effectively keeping the north part in a medieval state).

With a few tweaks, you'd have a divine, indestructible wall too smooth to climb over that also disables any technology that could be used to fly over. Its purpose? Perhaps separating two halves from an ancient Evil that would destroy all life if allowed to reform or maintain the magic system created by the Divines. It will also serve to explain differences in magic or technology between both continents.

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Maybe the other continent has a blockade or something in between, which would sink any ship or blow any aircraft out of the sky. Maybe the first mission will be to obtain the broadcast codes necessary for the blockade to let you pass.

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Plague They or a diety walled themselves in because while they are carriers of this plague, it does not affect them. They've lived with it for generations. But not so for your heros. They will get sick and die if they visit there before they receive a blessing from a diety, or a filtration system from a vendor/scientist. Trade occurs at pre-established dead drops and communication is rare, but more frequent near the boarder as some are slowly building tolerances due to their trade interactions. They still get sick, but do not die. The value of the goods traded makes the 3 week recovery time and medicine worth it. Perhaps this is a method of shift work.

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You could have a big volcano or multiple volcanoes on that continent that tend to erupt frequently. The land could be filled with volcanic gases, which are quite toxic, and these gases could be "trapped" on this continent because of particular meteorological conditions : for example, if it's cold and not windy, the gases would form a "fog" that would not dissipate. It would only dissipate on the littorals because of the winds.

If the landscape is very mountainous with a lot of valleys, it's even more plausible as gases would be trapped in "terrain bowls". Maybe these valleys could be connected directly to the volcano(es)'s magma chamber, ensuring a constant flow of toxic gases without the need of eruption.

In addition, you could "unlock" the continent easily by just making the volcano(es) inactive, or changing the weather (warmer and windier).

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Superstition, then colonization

Let's say that the continents are far apart and that the ocean between them is constantly stormy. Not impossible to traverse, yet difficult and risky.

Only a handful of expeditions over the centuries have dared to try to explore the ocean, but none have ever returned, for one reason or another. This has led to a reputation and superstition of the ocean being cursed, the ship falling off the edge of the world, the ocean god striking down anyone who dares to enter his domain, and so on. These widespread stories, combined with the well-known, obvious dangers that the storms present, have contributed to the lack of interest or courage one would need to launch that many expeditions.

Shortly before the game's story begins, a particularly reckless adventurer actually did manage to not only cross the ocean, but also return alive. Rumors have slowly begun spreading, but haven't become common knowledge yet. This lack of knowledge, combined with the more well-known stories about the horrors that await, means that nobody you come across is willing, or daring, to help you sail or fly that way. It is however only a matter of time before the news spread and expeditions will become more commonplace.

This can be tied into the story and various NPC conversations over the course of the game. Some NPCs, especially in port towns, may tell the player about the various stories they've heard about the ocean. Likewise, the player may occasionally come across sailors telling (heavily exaggerated) rumors about a new world being discovered. Some other sailors dismiss it out of hand since the ocean is "obviously" impossible to traverse. All this acts as foreshadowing of the continent later being available.

The expansion unlocks a new storyline where a rich merchant, having heard the news, sees the opportunities for trade and colonization that a new world poses and launches several expeditions with the intent to explore and settle on the new continent. The merchant offers huge rewards, making people more willing to take the risk. The player joins one of these crews and makes it across the ocean. After creating an initial settlement and doing some preliminary exploration, one of the ships, with the player aboard, sail back to report. From this point on, ships start to frequently travel back and forth between the continents, allowing the player to fast-travel between them.

So, why is it suddenly possible to travel between the continents? Well, while the storm does pose some danger, it's actually more of a red herring. When exploring the new continent, the player may encounter an old, ruined settlement near a ship wreck, indicating that a prior expedition did indeed make it to the continent, yet were unable to return. Various other reasons, such as dangerous beasts living in some coastal areas, prior expeditions not wanting to leave, hostile indigenous people and similar can also serve as explicit or implied explanations about what happened to some of the other expeditions. Perhaps there is even an island where you find a skeleton and an old log book that explains how a crew preferred mutiny over chancing the storm again and stranded their captain there. There may even have been an instance or two of a ship actually sinking in the storm, simply through bad luck.

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You could have a massive sea monster which reaches up tentacles and crushes boats into dust. There could be such strong evidence of this, and rumours of the beast reaching as high up as the heavens to grab even the smallest of birds.
As there are so few flying ships, perhaps a few of the airmen secretly knowing how to get past the beast would be a nice reveal, and explain how goods have been sneaking through!

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You could get inspiration from the world of Glorantha (a decades-in-the-making world that used to be the world set for the RuneQuest RPG, and is once again that RPG's setting in the very latest edition).

More specifically, from Zzabur closing of the seas: "... the First Wizard Zzabur is the master of the Brithini sorcerer-caste. His magic spells destroyed entire countries, closed off all the seas, and twice changed the nature of the world."

Glorantha is a really fascinating world, both epic and very detailed and varied. A lot, if not everything, takes inspiration from myths; not in the details, but in the "approach", i.e. the event that occured are not taken from myth, but the "style" of events and the style of powers present on the world are similar of a mythic nature.

The Guide to Glorantha is a huge two-volume description of Glorantha, and would be a fascinating read for any world-builders. The closing of the sea is just a tiny subset of the epic events that occurs regularly on this world, or rather occured in the early ages.

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