'Redsky' Is 'Star Wars' Meets 'Earthsea'
Tyler: Hello everybody! Tyler and Alex here. We’re the original two founders of what's become Solar Studios. We'd like to talk briefly about how we came up with The Redsky Cycle universe, and answer a few questions about the world. We want to share how our original vision for Redsky formed, and where it’s going.
Alex: Hi everyone! Solar Studios might be a small group, but we’ve got big ambitions! Read on, and by the end, I hope that you’ll find something in our world just for you.
Tyler: Alex and I first met in 2016, the summer before we were college roommates. Alex came to me about a large game project he’d been working on for years. So large, in fact, that it would need a lore-rich universe of its own. Sign me up, right? As a creative writing student with a strong interest in everything from Warhammer Fantasy to the Pulp sci-fi magazines of the last century, this was a great chance to combine ideas I already had for my own stories into a bigger project.
Alex: We’ll talk about my project’s development at some point in the future. For now, let’s talk about the wider origins of Redsky.
Tyler: I think you can tell by clicking around our website that we have a deep love for all things pop-culture. Alex’s pitch was basically: “Gamba, what if we made something that people would love just as much as what we loved growing up?” You mean something as enjoyable as The Witcher? Star Wars? I’ve dived down fandom Wikis and TV Tropes since middle school. I’ve sailed with Ged to banish my shadow. Alex has fought the sandworms of Arrakis. It’s our thing. Now, I could help start a new community with fans of all the great settings that have come before us. Challenge accepted.
Geralt of Rivia. Source: Matt DeMino Illustration.
Alex: The original placeholder setting was a mix of sci-fi and speculative fiction. It involved a huge terrestrial planet where multiple low-tech species fought over thousands of years while a super advanced race of observers watched from orbit and manipulated things for their enjoyment. Think Hunger Games but with entire civilizations competing for survival. Or, imagine if the Cromulons from Rick and Morty spectated a giant game of Civilization V featuring the races of Mass Effect. For all its promise, the idea at this stage was just a prototype. I was just playing with ways the world could be in order to meet a number of requirements. The world had to have certain structural features for the setting of Redsky to work. With those in mind, Tyler got free rein to change just about anything about the original idea.
Tyler: It was a great prompt!
Alex: See if you can tell which ideas from the original prototype survived the transformation into Redsky.
Tyler: Between 2016-2018, I changed the conditions to be more Science-Fantasy / even more Speculative Fiction, playing up how this could be a blend of features and conventions. It may be one of the most distinct bits about our setting. Picture a spaceship the size of a continent. Imagine it charting a slow course through space over countless thousands of years. A hard rule here is you can’t go anywhere near the speed of light. So, the humans in charge are spending eons seeding life on a few habitable worlds in what seems to be an empty galaxy. Otherwise, their technology is so advanced it might as well be magic, to paraphrase Clark’s Third Law.
Alex: And the humans in charge -- the Overseers -- well, they’re not just freezing embryos, or filling the worlds they find with ordinary humans. At center stage for Redsky is its diverse cast of sentient species. The idea was to have the appearance of aliens without the independence or technology of aliens. So in the original prototype, the cast began as a fairly strange set of animals, which were then genetically engineered for human-level intelligence. This idea morphed in the transition to Redsky.
Tyler: I wanted the peoples of Redsky to have human origins. They’re still genetically modified, but their humanity comes first, then the avian or fungal DNA. That still means there's a huge range in what the species can look like and do.
Alex: So the Overseers are flying through space, seeding otherwise lifeless planets with not-aliens. But with multiple different sentients to choose from, how do the Overseers decide which species to give the next planet to? And what do the Overseers do with the couple thousand years between planets? Well, you let the sentients develop their own Iron Age cultures and fight each other in a continent-sized hull for centuries, of course!
Tyler: I figured cycles of hundreds of years instead of thousands would be more manageable. We could get to tell histories grand enough for there to be full societies, and big stakes with consequences. Vivid enough for monsters and epic battles and quests, like every good fantasy setting is. Adventure friendly. It’s all the texture of orcs and dwarves with our own takes on the tropes.
Alex: So, the ship’s Overseers have an artificial world in the hull of the ship lit by a false sun. There are mountains, deserts, oceans, forests -- you name it. Over the course of centuries, the various sentient species created by the Overseers go from the Stone Age to sprawling cities of thousands. Each culture aligns with one or multiple of Redsky’s Elements -- but that’s a topic for another post.
Tyler: And this is all as the Overseers watch, collecting data from their labs as this fantasy-like world goes on with castles, armies, kings, and generals. The advanced technology they’ve intentionally left inside the hull is called Eldertech. It replaces the magical items you’d find in a pure fantasy world like Middle-Earth. You still get to throw fireballs, but the fireball gauntlets you’re wearing are powered by technology, not mana. When they’re not researching, the Overseer crew is in cryo-sleep, desperately trying to outrun time on a journey that’s been going on so long, they’ve forgotten about their origins on Earth. It’s basically Game of Thrones to the species in the hull, and the villains from the Marvel Extended Universe in terms of the bigger power levels behind the scenes.
Alex: And the Overseers are villains to me, personally. What do you think happens to the species in the hull when the ship reaches its destination? Or when a civilization inside becomes too advanced? The “Red Sky” is the apocalyptic end of history for the passengers. Which is not to say that life in the hull was all peace and prosperity beforehand. The Overseers gradually mess with the world in the decades leading up to the Red Sky, watching how the species compete as resources become scarce, wars flare up, and entire civilizations abandon their ancestral homes to find safety elsewhere. The sky literally turns blood red as the hull’s ‘sun’ rapidly intensifies. Monsters from the far frontier begin to creep ever farther inland. Finally, Overseer forces descend into the hull and purge the populations inside to make room for the next cycle. Hundreds to thousands of years of civilization collapse in a brief chorus of violence. An ascending spiral of artificial-natural disasters like floods, fires, and plagues end life in the hull. Rinse and repeat.
Tyler: For all the passengers, it’s like, can you still live a meaningful life if you’re ignorant of the true nature of your world? What about when you find out that truth? Are the Overseers justified in wiping out these cultures to make room for new ones? They’re letting generations of people live out full lives when they otherwise would never have been born, after all. Their goal is settling a new planet where the passengers’ descendants will have true freedom one day. They never go back to the planets they seed with new species, too. And if the world ship is as ancient as it’s implied in-universe, just how many cycles have already happened, anyway?
Alex: For the record, the long “journey” of life in the hull is just as important as the “destination” of the Red Sky. More so, depending on how you look at it. The team here at Solar Studios has created six unique species for the flagship hull cycle the locals call Dema. There are 21 major settlements in Dema -- each with its own unique culture -- that we’ve poured hundreds of hours into creating. To name a few, we’ve got Wakewalker sea monster hunters that use Eldertech diving suits to blow up krakens from the inside. Desert Featherfolk treasure hunters explore ruins of past cycles like they’re in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A centuries-old human empire that kills and enslaves tens of thousands in the pursuit of justice, divinity, purity, and equality. The team is big on history, anthropology, and philosophy. It’s probably going to show.
Tyler: And that’s not counting all the unique locales we’ve made that change throughout the four Eras of Dema’s history. Each time period is as distinct as the Old Republic vs. The Empire in Star Wars, or the different Eras of The Elder Scrolls. Maybe not as fleshed out as those worlds yet, given their head starts, but who knows how much we’ll be able to expand.
Alex: There’s so many unnamed places, people, and things left to create later on and with the community’s help. We made sure that you guys have a lot of Dema lore and plenty of room to work with for your own tabletop RPG campaigns, short stories, or anything else.
Tyler: We’d love to see you take the ball and run as far as you can with it. It could be a campaign around a young Archivist cutting through the jungles of Panacea with her childhood friends, or a short work about a secret officer of the Krypteia hunting one of the dozens of named characters across the Daylands to reclaim a sacred relic he lost. A war between species. New Eldertech. New species and cycles?
Alex: One step at a time, my friend. Hopefully soon, we’ll get around to making a Wiki for The Redsky Cycle. There’s a lot to work on with such a small team. In the meantime, the best place to binge Redsky lore is the Redsky 5E Conversion Book, set to go live on Kickstarter this winter, to be released later in 2021.
Tyler: That’s what we’ve got on deck so far, and more of our best effort is definitely still to come. So Alex, what do you want this all to end up being, if everything we could hope for goes right?
Alex: I want to help make a universe people will remember, like Avatar: The Last Airbender, or Mass Effect.
Tyler: Or Dragon Age. “Swooping is bad!”
Alex: Eventually, we hope to expand our team and resources to make expansions to our 5e rulebook, and to release other games in the Redsky universe. A CCG, an action RPG, or maybe even a roguelike. We could even branch into short videos and multimedia work with the right help. In the short term, the team is working hard to bring our Redsky 5e Conversion to fruition.
Tyler: On top of writing the flavor text in the 5e book, I also want to finish writing the Redsky novel series. I’m one book down out of three so far, and it still feels like there’s so much more to the world of Dema than what Jayne’s adventures can cover. We're still working out exactly how to do it, but I want a kind of early-access version of the novel to be available to people who support the 5e book's launch. Any way to get more people interacting with the lore is fine with me. Those shared connections bring people together.
Alex: Someday, I want the team to have a panel at a convention with everyone where I can shout, “He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!” at Tyler, and the audience full of people from our forums and meetups all get the reference.
Tyler: I want the direct-to-DVD film adaption of the book to be directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Jayne is pronounced “Jawn” and the Wakewalkers are red.
Tyler: We can dream. And, we can hope we’ve gained your attention. One thing I bet the creators and the new community forming all have in common is vivid imaginations. If you haven’t been completely thrown off by all the references by this point, you’ll like what this could add to the canon of pop-culture. Different members of the team will talk about all sorts of Redsky stuff here, so check back in regularly, subscribe to our email list, and like us on Facebook and Twitter for updates. See ya!