Archives of Nethys

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Infinite Worlds / Airborne

Airborne Worlds

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 48
An entire biome of airborne civilizations is unlike the worlds many terrestrial creatures are used to. Some are gas giants with no terrestrial surfaces, consisting only of various gases. Even in the absence of ground, these planets’ inner atmospheric layers are usually impossible to access since pressure and temperature increase closer to the core. Further into a gas giant, where the gases become more liquid-like, native species swim instead of fly. In these worlds, weather patterns replace terrestrial geographic features for navigation. Some gas giant species are adept hunters, though others derive nutrition in unusual ways by humanoid standards, such as absorbing nutrients through physical contact with other organisms. An environment lacking ground provides less encouragement to build permanent settlements, and many gas giant species are nomadic, floating through the atmosphere unaided or in vehicles, although “rest stop” structures are often built by species who require them. Outside immigration is limited without artificial assistance, as non-native species lack the capabilities to survive in such an environment. Inhabitants of gas giants can be very insular as a result—or, conversely, extremely curious about other worlds, especially if their world hasn’t seen much outside exploration. Sometimes, permanent platform stations and bubble cities are built within a gas giant’s atmosphere to accommodate other species, providing excellent jumping-off points for those not native to these environments.
Some airborne biomes might have land, but that land is uninhabitable or dangerous—perhaps due to low-hanging smog, dangerous predators, or geological instability—that prompts the world’s prior ground-based inhabitants to move into the air. If these species don’t have natural flight, they likely rely on magic or technology to keep their settlements aloft. These civilizations face greater challenges with supplies than species of gas giants adapted to such environments, and engineering reliable sources of food and water is often paramount. Even large floating cities with terraformed farms might encourage citizens to avoid overpopulation since they can’t easily expand their territory. Some groups expand up rather than out, creating multitiered structures that ascend further into the sky.