Navigation in Chaldea

On Earth when we think about navigating oceans back, say, in the 1600’s we think about compasses that point to magnetic north, studying the stars, using sextants to calculate latitudes, measuring angles for sailing across a good map, and calculating speeds and distance using math.

In Chaldea, navigating oceans is far more mystical.

First, Chaldeans believe that land masses float in the ocean and therefore drift around and change locations. Ergo, Chaldeans don’t have maps of the world. They have maps of islands and continents but they don’t draw maps on where these are in relationship to each other.

Astrology is extremely important to Chaldeans. The constellations that stars form are much sharper and easier to spot in the heavens than on Earth. You really can’t miss them. And the movement of constellations is much less predictable. Prominent are the signs of the zodiac and they do follow each other in prominence in the proper order: Capricorn then Aquarius then Pisces and so on. But their precise movements and interactions with each other vary. You might see Leo sit on the horizon for weeks and then suddenly pounce across the sky and tussle with Scorpio. Virgo is shy and is rarely seen outside her month of ascendency.

Ocean navigators use a collection of fables, folk lore, creatures, and mystical implements to chart their course. For example, “a male bullfrog always knows the direction home to mother.” “Never follow the tail of Socrpio, it always leads to death.” “The sword of Orion always points to the Imperial Capitol.” “If you spray mysticator (sold by gypsies) at a sail and then the wind picks up shortly thereafter it will take you to your heart’s desire.

Navigation is linked particularly closely to astrology. Yes, captains follow the stars like on Earth, but in a mystical way not a scientific way. Advancement in navigation means learning more and more crazy fables, acquiring more bazaar instruments, and being wary of bad ethers.

Navigators maps don’t look like something written on an XY coordinate system with sizes and distances to scale. Rather, they show discordan land masses with strange symbols, astrological references, old sailor’s tales, advice on what to do for good luck, offerings to throw in the sea in various places, and so on.

To really drive home the point, once you leave sight of land there simply is no way to “scientifically” know which way is north. No compass, no north star, etc.

If you end up at the wrong spot you don’t think “I made an error in my math calculations” you think “What spirit did I piss off?” or “Yakav must have put the bullfrogs in the wrong cages!” or “strange ethers influenced the divine winds”.

On small to medium-sized ships the navigator is probably also the captain. A very important ship might have a full time navigator. The navigator’s cabin contains an eclectic mix of of odd mystical instruments, bazaar creatures in cages, undecipherable notes written not just in Kordavan but with astrological symbols and mystical nautical notations. Like the strange, exotic lair of some crazy old wizard.

Mechanically, Navigation is a skill test like any other. Navigation and Astrology are closely related fields. If you have both skills you can always fork one to the other.

Navigation in Chaldea

Chaldea PeterAdkison