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120 votes

What could prevent players from leaving an island?

Sea monster. https://www.belloflostsouls.net/2019/05/dd-monster-spotlight-dragon-turtles.html D&D has so many great sea monsters and it is hard to get them any use if you stick to dungeons. I ...
Willk's user avatar
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65 votes
Accepted

Why would a compass not work in my world?

Large magnetic ore deposits everywhere, altering the reading of the magnetic North on a compass. They have noticed that a magnetized needle aligns along a preferential direction, but that direction ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
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58 votes
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How long can it really take to calculate a hyperspace jump?

An arbitrary example of a calculation with suitable complexity, that matches the complexity of a hyperdrive jump, which cannot be pre-calculated but which can be calculated and shared to multiple ...
PcMan's user avatar
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49 votes
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Rural broomstick navigation on a moonless night

The human eye is remarkably sensitive. As one who has worked in photographic darkrooms for many years, as well as doing dark-site hobby astronomy, I have experience with this. First, when fully dark ...
Zeiss Ikon's user avatar
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48 votes

What could prevent players from leaving an island?

Have you seen Cast Away? When the main character attempts his first escape from the island on a self built raft, he fails because outside of the lagoon the ocean is fierce and smashes the poorly ...
L.Dutch's user avatar
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45 votes

In a world without stars, how would travelers navigate at night?

Well... I guess they would have to go by the other planets then, the Gegenschein could also help: Gegenschein (German: [ˈɡeːɡənʃaɪn]; lit. "countershine") is a faintly bright spot in the night sky ...
Sascha's user avatar
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44 votes
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In a world without stars, how would travelers navigate at night?

First off, this question reminds me of the Doctor Who episode The Pandorica Opens, in which the TARDIS exploding destroys all the stars. To get on with the main question, there are four ways that ...
In Hoc Signo's user avatar
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44 votes

How could a spaceship, because of mechanical issues, crash-land on a planet they weren't intending on travelling to?

Failed slingshot maneuver Space vehicles even now frequently use a gravity assist technique to gain velocity toward their target. The Galileo probe used 5 such maneuvers (2 around Earth) to get to ...
Spencer's user avatar
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43 votes

Without modern electronics, how could you determine your longitude, latitude, and altitude while lost deep underground?

Altitude (or depth) can be measured with a barometer. Latitude is doable, but tricky. Two methods come to mind, but they require staying on one spot for rather a long time to make accurate ...
Logan R. Kearsley's user avatar
43 votes

What would make sailing difficult?

Sailing is risky and requires lots of knowledge Just take a page from history. During the age of sail, specially during its first decades, explorers such as Columbus, Cabral, Magellan etc. had a hell ...
The Square-Cube Law's user avatar
42 votes

Designing "age of sail" ships that require no wind

You can use muscle power and go very fast. But not human muscles. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/whales/killer-whale.html Anyone who has visited Sea World will have been impressed that ...
Willk's user avatar
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42 votes
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What are the ley lines this nomadic people uses to follow the same path year after year?

What about Lodestone paths? Some birds can handle long range migrations through being able to 'detect' magnetic fields; I don't know the specific mechanics of how they do that, but let's assume that ...
Tim B   II's user avatar
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41 votes

In a world without stars, how would travelers navigate at night?

Polynesian navigation No explanation could be better than real history. Do what the Polynesian sailors used to do. Apart from relying on the sun they were able to read the sea itself to know their ...
V.Aggarwal's user avatar
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40 votes

Can a low-tech sailing ship tell how deep the water is?

The easiest one would be to start talking to the dolphins and other marine mammals who already have an in-depth (pun intended) knowledge of sea bed topography. Or would that not suit your porpoise?
David Hambling's user avatar
38 votes
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Can a low-tech sailing ship tell how deep the water is?

You're right, dropping a weighted rope is indeed a possibility - as you might already know from historical records - but it can actually operate in deeper water than you might imagine. Shallow water ...
HDE 226868's user avatar
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37 votes
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How would purely underground settlements find and trade with each other?

It seems odd that an organization would set up multiple 1000 bed bunkers and not provide some method for them to contact each other. So any search for other bunkers should start by a thorough review ...
Henry Taylor's user avatar
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37 votes

How long can it really take to calculate a hyperspace jump?

Simulation of the galaxy. When you're doing FTL jump, thanks to the lightspeed lag, you are always operating on the information about your target system that's outdated from years to decades and ...
Darth Biomech's user avatar
34 votes
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Why does my character have such a good sense of direction?

The Same Way Sea Turtles Do Your character has an innate feel for the planet's magnetism called magnetoreception just like many real world animals do. But, instead of using the world's magnetism like ...
Nosajimiki's user avatar
  • 97.7k
33 votes

Why would a compass not work in my world?

Perhaps too easy, but what if your planet simply has no magnetic field, or at least a field too weak to be useful for navigation? Venus has almost no magnetic field, but is otherwise similar enough to ...
James_pic's user avatar
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32 votes
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Designing "age of sail" ships that require no wind

Better oars, or paddle wheels propelled by "oarsmen". Without steam, the only power sources available to you on the open water are muscle, wind, and magic. And you've ruled out wind and magic, so... ...
Logan R. Kearsley's user avatar
32 votes
Accepted

How can I locate myself in a random point of space?

Pulsars Expressed in popular science terms: pulsars are our natural galactic GPS system. Pulsars are how the Voyager records leave a map back to the Solar system for anyone that finds them. The ...
MichaelK's user avatar
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31 votes

Equivalent of cardinal directions on a tidally-locked planet?

There is a natural coordinate system The north and south poles have their normal definitions. Tidally locked means that the period of rotation is equal to the period of revolution, nothing more. The ...
AlexP's user avatar
  • 92.2k
30 votes

Why does my character have such a good sense of direction?

This is a bit of a cop-out answer... I'm one of those people who tend to know which way they're pointing - but it's not perfect. If walking through a cave tour, I can properly identify "North&...
JBH's user avatar
  • 127k
27 votes

Without modern electronics, how could you determine your longitude, latitude, and altitude while lost deep underground?

People on the surface or at established underground settlements could set up "thumpers" which are massive weights that are raised and then dropped great heights according to a predetermined time ...
Dragongeek's user avatar
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26 votes

What are the ley lines this nomadic people uses to follow the same path year after year?

It's the migratory birds. The native birds use a stinging agent to digest almost any food available on your world. And by using terrestic navigation and magnetic fields to find their path, millions ...
Thorsten S.'s user avatar
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26 votes
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Does this explanation of "one way" world traversing make sense?

I think that two simple rules could provide a mechanism for this: Rule 1: You are a part of the world you originate from, and you can always let yourself be pulled back there. Rule 2: Earth is '...
Arkenstein XII's user avatar
24 votes

Equivalent of cardinal directions on a tidally-locked planet?

There are fixed poles on your planet: noon and midnight. Where the sun is directly overhead, that's the noon pole. The exactly opposite location is the midnight pole. The equator is the dividing ...
Mary's user avatar
  • 29.1k
23 votes

How could a spaceship, because of mechanical issues, crash-land on a planet they weren't intending on travelling to?

This is less about the mechanical problems that cause the crash, and more about why there was a convenient planet there to crash into, but... They navigate by "star-hopping" To avoid exactly the ...
Tim Pederick's user avatar
  • 1,304
23 votes

How far would we have to travel to make all of our familiar constellations unrecognisable?

Last summer, for another answer on Worldbuilding, I wrote a script in an attempt to show how the positions of stars in the sky would change from the perspective of an observer outside the Solar System,...
HDE 226868's user avatar
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