Saturday, 27 June 2020

Alternate Planets

Reading about Chalcidius's commentaries on Plato, I learnt that about a number of alternate names for the planets of the Ptolemaic universe.

These appear to have been names for Mercury through Saturn, either from the (lesser) gods of Pagan antiquity or from attributes of those gods. You will have to find them in the original text - translations seem to render them as Mars, Jupiter &c.

Mercury - Stilbon
Venus - Hesperus
Mars - Pryois
Jupiter - Phaethon
Saturn - Phaenon

This set me thinking. Often, when sketching out the bounds of a world for the tabletop, a creator will gravitate to one very like ours - if tweaked a bit. This might be out of an interest in a given period ("I'm very interested in Tang Dynasty China/Colonial Mozambique/High Medieval Poland/Arthurian legend/Byzantine theology/Incan agriculture,") or just a path of least resistance ("They're basically Vikings, O.K.?").

Starting with something familiar needn't be bad. Not being on a planet with two suns and five moons helps prevent questions about day-night cycles. But still, is somebody going to ask about them? And is that thing called immersion going to be broken if you say "Mars is bright tonight" or "Not-Jupiter is in the fifth house"?

Maybe. So, one might use the names above. As far as I'm concerned, Terrae Vertebrae now does.

But in order to make this into a slightly weightier post....

Each planet of antiquity had it's attendant planetary metal. Recalling my last post and the Latin names of the metals there, one might combine these with one of the various Latin words for star (a planet being, after all, a wandering star).

Thus, Pseudo-Venus might become Cupraster. Mars might be Ferrostella. Jupiter, perhaps, as Stannosidus (or even Stannium Sidius).

There are other possibilities - the Babylonians were astronomers too, and perhaps your players are less familiar with the names of their gods. Likewise the Chinese - but names like Chen-xing might sound a little too specific in terms of phonemes.

I am tempted to suggest the use of C.S. Lewis's Cosmic Trilogy, and the names of the Solar System's planets from that. But doing so would perhaps raise even more questions that just saying Jupiter.

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