I'm developing a fantasy setting where people can go to other planes (universes) that are not made of mostly empty space, like our universe is. Instead, you have universes made mostly (but not entirely) of earth, water, or gas. (Gravity works differently on these planes, so you don't have all this matter collapsing in on itself. They're also not as big as our universe, though they're suspected to be larger than our solar system, at the very least.) In order to facilitate navigation in settings without stars or easily visible landmarks, I've decided that there's some kind of magical field that is detectable with a special compass. This magical field, when measured correctly, indicates a center point to the plane, four horizontal points (north-south-east-west) and two vertical points (up-down.)
But this is where I'm running into a problem: I need a simple, easy-to-understand naming convention for the up-to-down directions on this three-dimensional compass system. If a character says, "We need to go north," the reader automatically understands what he means. However, if the character is indicating a direction that is also on the Z axis, using terms that sound like "at 45 degrees" might be confusing and, more importantly, disorienting. I need my characters to be able to indicate they want to go not only north, but north and up or down. I believe I may have a naming convention figured out, one which I think might sound natural for my characters to speak, but while it makes sense to me, I need feedback from other people to make sure that it works.
So, here's how the system works. The center of the compass is the origin point (O) on the Cartesian coordinate system. (Remember, the magical field indicates a central point.) On the X,Y axes, the cardinal directions are the same as a conventional compass rose. (North: 0° = 360°, East: 90°, South: 180°, West: 270°) The Z axis has two points of simply called "Up" (0° = 360°) and "Down" (180°.) When characters describe specific degrees on the Z axis, they don't use terms like "north" or "south." Instead, 45° is "Upward" while 135° is "Downward." Thus, going north on a 45° angle is going "Upward North" while going north and down at a 135° angle is "Downward North." The same applies to all the other cardinal and intercardinal points on the compass, i.e. "Upward South," "Downward East," "Upward Northwest," "Downward Southeast," etc.
As for the points of 22.5° and 67.5° on a vertical compass, the equivalents of North-Northeast and East-Northeast on a horizontal compass rose, the terms "High" and "Low" are used. So, going north at a 22.5° is going "High Upward North." Going north at a 67.5° angle is going "Low Upward North." The same applies to the points of 112.5° and 157.5° from "Up" on the Z axis, which would be the equivalents of East-Southeast and South-Southeast on a horizontal compass rose. Thus, going North on a 112.5° angle is "High Downward North" and going North on a 157.4° angle is "Low Downward North."
Does this system make sense or is it too confusing to understand?
All right, so, after going over everyone’s feedback and giving things some thought, I’ve settled on a few ideas I have for how this compass system works, but I want to make sure that they’re sound before I commit to them. There’s no point in developing the terminology for this compass system if it wouldn't actually enable navigation within a sphere, is there?.
Before I get to my related questions, I need to give some specifics about how these planes, the magical field, and other things work. I will put the most important information in bold and give short descriptions of stuff if that's all the information you want, but I'll include more details in case you need them.
I’m calling this magical field that reacts with the magical compasses the “Cosmic Compass,” because calling in the “cosmic field,” like “magnetic field,” just didn’t sound right to me.
The Cosmic Compass
The Cosmic Compass is a magical field which affects certain materials in a similar manner to a magnetic field. This is how magical compasses can use it to determine one’s orientation on the planes in question. However, there is only one Cosmic Compass. Each plane does not have its own separate magical field. The magical field overlaps all of the planes where it is detectable. Thus, you only need one kind of magical compass to navigate on these different planes. The Cosmic Compass is not present on all planes, however, just a particular set of them. It is not present on the primary plane where my stories will be taking place.
The Wayfinder’s Compass
The name for the type of magical compass I’d like my characters to use would be a “Wayfinder’s Compass.” Usually, a Wayfinder’s Compass can function as a normal compass outside of these different planes. I’m thinking they also have other magical functions, like detecting the presence of any portals in your vicinity, functioning like a magical Geiger counter to alert people of the presence of dangerous magical energies or substances, and maybe even storing maps that can be projected like holograms. The point is that a Wayfinder’s Compass has applications on all sorts of planes, not just the ones we’re focusing on in this discussion.
What Are These Planes?
Short Answer: They’re called the Transitory Planes and they’re used to take shortcuts between different planets on the Celestial Plane, which is basically like our universe.
Long Answer: The worlds my characters inhabit are planets that exist in solar systems. Each solar system is in a separate galaxy. These galaxies are part of the same cluster found on what I am now calling the Celestial Plane. (I previously called it the Cosmic Plane in a few of my earlier responses.) However, this is just one cluster of galaxies on the Celestial Plane. There are probably about a trillion galaxies total. Because my characters don’t have spaceships, let alone spaceships with FTL capabilities, they can only travel to other planets by going through the Transitory Planes.
How Many Transitory Planes Are There?
Short Answer: The are eight, but the five I have developed so far are:
- The Plane of Earth
- The Plane of Water
- The Plane of Air
- The Plane of Fire
- The Plane of Mirrors
Long Answer: There are a total of eight Transitory Planes, four that are elemental themed and four that are non-elemental theme. I’ve only come up with one of the non-elemental themed planes, the Plane of Mirrors. My thinking is that, in keeping with the theme of compasses, the four elemental planes are like the cardinal points of a compass while the four non-elemental planes are like the intercardinal points of a compass. That doesn’t mean that these planes are arranged in such a formation, however. It’s more like they all occupy the same space but, being separate universes, don’t actually interact with each other. This is how the Cosmic Compass is able to overlap all of them. It’s like a bubble around all eight Transitory Planes.
How Big Are These Planes?
Short Answer: 20 billion km in diameter.
How I came to that size: I wanted them to be at least the same size as our solar system. However, there’s more than one way to decide where we put the edge of our solar system. One possible boundary is the orbit of Neptune, the other is the heliopause. The former is a radius of around 30 AU while the latter is around 90 AU. Or, to put those into really, really big numbers, the former is 4,487,936,120.73 km while the latter is 13,463,808,362.19 km. And that’s the radius. We have to double those for the possible diameters of the solar system. Those are mind-boggling numbers.
So, I decided to simplify things a bit.
Since 1 AU = 149,597,870.691 km, I rounded up to 150 million km. Now, since our choices of AU were 30 and 90, I went halfway between those and chose 60 as my multiplier for my new AU. 150 million times 60 = 9 billion. From there, I decided to round up to an even 10 billion km for the radius, meaning each Transitory Plane has a diameter of 20 billion kilometers.
Why my characters aren’t usually traveling all that far: The planets my characters are traveling between on the Celestial Plane are in different galaxies, but those galaxies are part of the same cluster. Furthermore, while this cluster of galaxies probably isn’t at the center of the Celestial Plane, the portals connecting those galaxies to the Transitory Planes are mostly (but not exclusively) found within the central region of those planes. These areas are called the Core Region, which surrounds the Core of each Transitory Plane. I’ll describe the scale of the Core Regions next because it does relate to the Cosmic Compass and I want to make sure that the Wayfinder’s Compasses would actually work effectively within this area.
The Core Regions of the Transitory Planes
Okay, so the portals connecting these galaxies to each other are found within the Core Region, but there is a pattern to the way the portals are arranged. The home worlds of the nine original races are each in their own galaxy, with eight of those galaxies forming a ring around one center galaxy. That is, the nine galaxies form a horizontal disk in their arrangement. If viewed from above, this disk would look a lot like a compass rose, with one galaxy in the middle, four galaxies located at the cardinal points of the compass, and four galaxies located at the intercardinal points.
How does this relate to the Core Regions of the Transitory Planes and the Cosmic Compass?
Short Answer: Because the directions on the Cosmic Compass are always the same, so if you want to go to the north galaxy, you travel to the northern part of the Core Regions on the Transitory Planes.
Long Answer: In terms of their placement on the Transitory Planes, the portals that connect to planets in those galaxies are located in the same general areas of the Core Region as the point of the compass the galaxy occupies on the Celestial Plane. That is, the “north” galaxy has most of its portals opening in the north area of the Core Regions, the “south” galaxy has most of its portals opening in the south area of the Core Regions, and the center galaxy has most of its portals opening in the area immediately surrounding the Core of each Transitory Plane. This is why I want people to be able to use magical compasses to navigate the Transitory Planes.
Exceptions to the portal placement rule: There are some portals that don’t follow the pattern, of course. That is, some portals to the north, south, east, west, etc., galaxies are found in the region surrounding the Core of a given Transitory Plane. Likewise, some portals from the nine galaxies open into very remote parts of the Transitory Planes. They may connect to regions that are millions or even a billion kilometers from the Core Region. The reverse is occasionally the case as well, with a portal to a galaxy on the fringes of the Celestial Plane connecting to the Core Region.
This is another reason I need to know if the Cosmic Compass is feasible. I may have a story or two where my characters go through an Earth Portal expecting to find themselves in the Core Region of the Plane of Earth only to check their magical compasses and realize they are five billion kilometers away from the Core. (And then they’ll probably run into something of the Lovecraftian variety, because why limit the shock and horror of the moment to a mere measure of distance?)
How Big Are the Core Regions?
Short Answer: 200,000 km in diameter.
How I came to this size: I didn’t think the Core Regions should be quite as large as the sun, since the sun has a diameter of about 1.39 million kilometers. That is much too large for people to traverse, by aircraft, boat, and especially by mount or by foot. So, I scaled things down so that 1) the Core Regions could hypothetically be traversed from one side to the other by foot, within around a decade.
Though it’s not entirely realistic, I set the amount of distance my hypothetical traveler could walk at 50 km a day. A bit high, I know, but multiplying 50 by the number of days in a year seemed more “tidy.” (And, no, before any of you ask, I’m NOT factoring in leap years.) The result for 1 year was 18,250, which I discovered was 5,494 km more than the equatorial diameter of the earth. Multiplying my result by 10 years, I got 182,500 km, or 39,516 km more than the equatorial diameter of Jupiter. I then subtracted 182,500 from 200,000, just to see how close the result was to 18,250. It was 17,500, which means it was only 750 km less than another year’s worth of travel for my hypothetical traveler.
Well, one more year of walking isn’t so bad to hit the 200,000 km mark, is it? So, I just rounded up to 200,000.
How Big Are the Cores of the Transitory Planes?
Short Answer: 2 km in diameter.
How I came to this size: With the diameter of the Transitory Planes being 20 billion km and the Core Regions being 200,000 km in diameter, I determined the Core Regions’ diameters are 0.001% of the diameters of the Transitory Planes. So, I checked to see what 0.001% of 200,000 was and got 2. (If I got that wrong, please correct me. I’m always second-guessing myself when it comes to math.)
To further facilitate the characters being able to determine their position in terms of distance from the Core without them needing to stop and do some calculations, I've decided to add another aspect to the Cosmic Compass - the Cosmic Pulse.
What Is the Cosmic Pulse?
Description: The Cores of the Transitory Planes emit a magical frequency which changes in oscillation depending on where you are on the Transitory Planes. The closer you are to the Core, the faster the Cosmic Pulse, the further away you are, the slower it is. This means the Cosmic Pulse would enable characters to gauge their exact distance from the Core of each Transitory Plane.
Frequency Range of the Cosmic Pulse: The Cosmic Pulse is 1 Hz at the edges of the Transitory Planes and increases by 1 Hz every kilometer. Thus, the range is 1 Hz to 10 GHz.
Story Purpose of the Cosmic Pulse: In addition to helping characters determine their location in the Core Regions, it will also show them when they have gone through a portal to a remote part of the Transitory Planes. The further away they are, the more likely they are to run into something of the Lovecraftian variety, so finding out they're 5 billion km from the Core will be a very, very frightening thing.
How Is the Cosmic Pulse Measured?
Currently, I’m thinking that the Cosmic Pulse only affects one type of material. Whatever this material is, it resonates at the same frequency as the Cosmic Pulse. Thus, if installed into a magical compass, it can give a reading that indicates how far the user is from the Core of a Transitory Plane. The question is, what material would work best? I want this material to be utterly mundane on the Celestial Plane and only be of use to anyone on a Transitory Plane for measuring the Cosmic Pulse. I’m thinking a crystal of some kind would be good for a fantasy setting, but I’m not sure if a regular crystal material can oscillate at 10 Ghz without having issues.
Regardless, I’m going to probably use the Cosmic Pulse in other ways, such as it affects the biological clocks of certain creatures so the Transitory Planes have an artificial day/night cycle.
So, here are the updated questions regarding the Cosmic Compass:
1. How accurate would the magical compasses be at determining not only direction but also location on the Transitory Plane, particularly within the Core Regions?
2. Is the Cosmic Pulse necessary for determining one's distance from the Cores of the Transitory Planes or can it be done solely with the directions of the six points of the Cosmic Compass and a bit (or a lot) of math?
3. Would a regular crystal material be able to oscillate at frequencies between 1 Hz and 10 GHz without complications or would a different material be necessary? If so, what kind of material?