2020/11/19

Playing with Fantasy XXI

RPG thoughts.
  • Think I might just have announcing the name of the spell be how I portray the spellcasting in my Pathfinder-setting fiction. It's got a lot of precedent, if you happened to read the old D&D comics. Think I'll translate the spell's names into the characters' languages (I think the people who speak Common might use the evil-Atlantean language in their spellcasting, though).
  • Decided to redo my Giantish writing. Before I had done an octagon-based script influenced by David Peterson's Irathient script from Defiance, but not an abugida. But Peterson often seems more concerned with scholarly plausibility than production design; a lot of his Defiance scripts just look like some obscure South Asian script you might read on the side of a product from the international-food aisle. There's a delicate balance between too outlandish and too mundane, in SF scripts, and they lean too hard toward the latter side of it.

    Instead I think I'll make up a basic "shapes more or less like the alphabet" script, and then stylize it. Specifically, I'm going to do to it what the Matoran alphabet from Bionicle does to the Roman alphabet, but with octagons. Thinking I'll have the smaller circles be rhombuses. Might also use rhombuses in the corners of the letters for something—maybe you put them in the corners between letters to show word-breaks, and can put things inside them for punctuation. (It's really hard to come up with punctuation for constructed scripts.)
  • I was really struggling with how to do an uncial version of my main continent's human script, but between Cyrillic, Byzantine, Insular, and Continental (half-)uncials, and the Gothic, Coptic, and maybe even Glagolitic scripts, I think I've got a handle on what to do with the letters. Blackletter is giving me a headache, though; think I might have to look at Hebrew as well as the various Latin versions (there are also, nowadays, Cyrillic blackletters; I don't know of any Greek ones, presumably because Greek has about a quarter as many readers as Hangul and thus less market for fonts).

    I'm kinda torn what to do with the "remnant of the evil Atlantean culture" version of the script. Kinda want to do some kind of cursive, like what was eventually the writing system of the Mesopotamian empires (because Aramaic became their administrative language); pre-Chrisitan Mesopotamia was a screwed-up culture. A cursive version of Aramaic is also the basis of the Arabic script that was in turn adapted to write the languages of two of the evilest empires ever, namely the Ottomans and Mughals.
  • It's really hard to write up journals for the PCs to find while exploring a place, revealing other characters' slow descent into madness. Think something along the lines of a Resident Evil game. It's too bad, too, because I really like it as a plot device, but it's taking a long time writing this adventure I'm working on.
  • Kinda torn on whether my ogres ride something like Daeodon or something like Pachyaena. The former has the advantage of being genuinely pig-like (though more directly related to hippos and whales), while the latter has the advantage of being similar to the carnivores ridden by the other nonhumans, though with hoofed toes instead of claws. (Incidentally, big difference between the things formerly included in the creodonts, and Carnivora, is that Carnivora have claws specialized as weapons, while those of oxyaenids and hyaenodonts are just generic claws, like a rat or a hedgehog has—part of why they often have oversized heads and mouths compared to comparable-sized Carnivora.)

    I was leaning toward Daeodon because most mesonychids (like Pachyaena) have flat feet and aren't very fast (the giant oxyaenids I'm considering for goblin mounts are modified in that regard), but then I discovered Pachyaena actually had leg-morphology adapted for running, albeit for endurance not speed. So now I'm really torn. The image of orc/ogre things riding boars is more iconic, for me personally especially because of Twilight Princess, but I can go either way. Then again I can't really find a legendary parallel for what a mesonychid even is, while "whitefang swine" for Daeodon can be a reference to Ysgithyrwyn Pennbeidd, AKA "White Tusk, Chief of Boars".
  • Maybe "disciple" would be an okay term for the class currently known as "magus"? "Adept" actually has the disadvantage of usually meaning "skilled within a specific field", which a magus is not: they're not as skilled as dedicated arcane or martial classes are, they're just better at arcane than martial are and better at martial than arcane are. (Actually their only advantage over arcane classes like alchemist and summoner is their full set of weapon proficiencies, and eventually-full set of armor ones. Well that and they get spells like vampiric touch and can send them through weapons.)

    Maybe something like "erudite", which can of course theoretically be a noun ("an erudite"), but that's hampered by being a "faction" in the Divergent series (those are castes, not factions, since they are supposed to cooperate and factions normally oppose each other, but YA writers are not known for their…erudition). "Proficient" occurred to me but that'd be confusing given the other use of the term in tabletop games—also it's wanton thesaurus abuse (granting Devil's Catechisms have a proper use), but that didn't stop "adept" (ignoring its long pedigree in fantasy) and "expert".
  • My bugbears and hobgoblins (the latter are usually lawful evil, while the former are mainly neutral evil and also have an even chance to be either lawful or chaotic) combine the tyrant archetype from Ultimate Intrigue with the bugbear's fearmonger archetype from the Monster Codex, since the two archetypes modify different things. My goblin god is lawful evil.
  • Worked out the other human script, from the other continent. It looks kinda like an Indic script, with the letters not actually connected by a line at the top, but all the letters still having a line at the top. The vowels are the exception, because they are themselves lines, and stick up above the top line, as well as down below it; everything important about them is below the line of the rest of the text. Presumably they evolved from some kind of diacritic—maybe it used to be an abugida but isn't any more, like 'Phags-pa kind of was.

2020/10/31

Playing with Fantasy XX

Tetrahedral FRPG thoughts. One day to get it in this month; also composed and written in one day.
  • Decided that dark elves ride a talking giant hyaenodontid—I'm thinking Simbakubwa—and I think the goblins will ride wolf-, horse-, and elephant-sized versions of the sabertooth oxyaenid Machaeroides (actually I'll probably use the biggest oxyaenid, Sarkastodon, as the model of the horse-sized one, and then change its size accordingly).

    Basically, where elves, dwarves, and gnomes ride actual Carnivora, the goblins and dark elves ride predators that aren't members of the order but filled the same niche earlier. Similarly ogres and orcs ride pigs—I might change it so they actually ride entelodonts or even mesonychids (the latter have paws with hooves on them, rather than actual hooves or actual paws, but are still ungulates, though not actually Cetartiodactyla as the "pig" comparison might suggest).
  • I think I came across the term in the description of a manhua, but clearly the actual term for a D&D/Pathfinder monk is "cultivator". I considered giving the term to maguses, but they don't have everything that goes with it, and monks do.

    The obvious term for a magus is actually "adept", but they stupidly gave that name to the divine-caster NPC class. I'm considering "magister", but that feels really pretentious and has a lot of historical baggage in this hobby.
  • Decided that, rather than supporting most of their huge population by hunting, my nonhumans actually have a farmer, or rather pastoralist, class: the elves' cats and gnomes' hyenas herd hoofed mammals for them. Cursorial pack hunters like Chasmaporthetes and Homotherium have all the instincts required for a herding dog, and intelligence means they don't need a humanoid's oversight. The gnomes' hyenas herd sheep and goats, the elves cats herd deer—including the "stag-moose", Cervalces scotti, and caribou.

    They also professionally hunt longhorn bison on the steppe. The humanoids still raise small animals like poultry, rabbits, and squirrels, and they import vegetables from humans.

    The dwarves' wolverines might, now, be the ones who run their farms, particularly "herding" their cow-sized prairie dogs. I'm not sure because a wolverine doesn't have the instincts of a herding dog, but then again neither do humans. So intelligent wolverines might be able to learn to herd livestock anyway, particularly livestock that doesn't actually have herd behavior, like prairie dogs. Wolverines' ability to dig down into burrows to get at hibernating animals also means they can dig down to get prairie dogs that aren't behaving themselves.
  • I found out that, in the Miocene, there was a barn owl, Tyto gigantea, that was roughly the size of a bald eagle—32 inches tall, compared to the current barn owl's 14, and with a 78-inch wingspan compared to the modern owl's 34. (Why are there so many Texas-style extinct animals, anyway?)

    So that's what my Owl god is now; his followers who have familiars will still have regular barn-owl ones (because the stats of owl familiars specify a Tiny creature not a Small one), but the ones that have animal companions have the big kind (not sure if stats of an eagle or the "giant" template applied to a regular owl; whichever is weaker, presumably).
  • I decided the owl mages wear the same kind of helmet as the knights, with the barn-owl faceplate, but theirs is made of boiled leather instead of metal. There's no rule against mages wearing helmets—there are very few rules concerning helmets at all—and you'd have to be stupid not to.

    The part that hangs down in back of the helmet, over the neck (called the shikoro on a kabuto—apparently in English we call it a "havelock", the main meaning of which is the cloth thing that hangs down off certain regular hats to protect your neck from the sun), is also lamellar, like their armor, made to resemble feathers.

    The mages of humans' other societies will also, I think, wear the boiled-leather helmets, except maybe the Wildcat one will still have the jingasa with ears. Also going to give the nonhumans' mages helmets, the jingasa kind (made of the non-metalized version of their leafs and toadstools), because of their ears.
  • I've discussed how the "my bard seduces it" thing is puerile, non-canonical in the rules, and basically involves the underlying assumptions of the "pickup artist" community. But it's also not how bards work. Someone arguing "let people enjoy things" (a phrase only ever employed to defend the most worthless of undertakings) said "bards acting like bards", and I really wanted to say "you mean shaming people who do not conform to social standards, by recitation of epic poetry recording the deeds of revered figures of the ancient past?"

    If you're the kind of person who plays D&D, you probably know that the Old Norse word for "bard" is "skald". Well that word? Yeah, it has an English equivalent. "Scold". Because one of the major things they did, was uphold taboo by shaming those who broke it (see also Hopi clowns who mimic those exhibiting "un-Hopi" behavior). They're associated, for example, with accusations of ergi ("unmanliness"), which was so severe a social offense that killing the accuser on the spot was considered acceptable.

    Kingmaker, of all things, got this one right, with your bard's storyline involving shaming Irovetti for being an inveterate skirt-and-codpiece-chaser who gained power through subterfuge.
  • I know that my setting doesn't have owlbears, them being a really dumb monster (one of the several based on those cheap Chinese toys that were mostly knocked off from Ultraman that your mom would buy in a big plastic bag at the supermarket). I considered having my griffins be owls crossed with some big felid—possibly the Ngandong tiger, an extinct subspecies of tiger from Indonesia that was roughly the same size as Smilodon populator—because it makes sense with the nocturnal habits of the cat half. The bird part wouldn't be the barn owl kind of owl (though the giant owls are), but the Eurasian eagle-owl or the great horned owl. But then I thought nah, there's no real purpose to the griffin within the setting and the weird hybridization ("its front feet are the bird's legs") makes my head hurt. If you want a flying magical-beast steed, there's drakes.
  • My dragons, as I've said, have the head of Dunkleosteus, to save on the weight and gestation-time of teeth, and have Archaeopteryx wings with hands on them, but also have two fingers fused like a modern bird, inside their wing. Did some thinking about my wyverns and drakes, to make them align with that. For one thing, they have forelimbs, just tiny ones like Carnotaurus, which you can't usually see through their feathers. And they have heads like other armored jawed fish (which is fish that are armored and have jaws, not fish whose jaws are armored).

    Wyverns have the head of Bungartius. I considered giving them a stinger like a stingray's (those are the only vertebrates with stingers in their tails, if you wondered). But then I decided no, it'll be sharp-edged modified integument, like the weaponized tail-scales of a pangolin, modified to channel venom like the heel spurs of a platypus (this presumably means the venom is produced in a modified preen-gland—maybe all dragons have theirs at the end of their tail instead of at the base like birds).

    Thinking drakes will have a tetrahedral head, like Groenlandaspis.
  • Someone made a point about how dragons are always depicted with eyes on the sides of their head, and that's a prey-animal trait. And what, they said, can hunt dragons? I get around it by each of their eyes being like a chameleon's. And on that actual post, people pointed out that their eyes, like many bird and reptile eyes, only seem to be on the sides of their head; seen front on you can see they actually have binocular overlap.

    But there's a more basic point: some organisms have defenses not from predators, but primarily from conspecific competitors. And dragons are often depicted as hyper-territorial, egomaniacal bullies. What can hunt a dragon? A bigger dragon. Or, not hunt, but attack for daring to be within the radius the bigger dragon likes to fly from its own lair. (And possibly then get eaten, depending how you portray your dragons.)

2020/10/19

De romanicorum theoriarum XVIII

Spec fic thoughts.
  • Discovered, the frog ankles zledo have are actually also similar to the ones on a tarsier. Which…makes sense, tarsiers also being arboreal obligate hypercarnivores. Still it feels weird to find out evolution had the same idea for a cool alien you did (tell me a tarsier is not an alien, I dare you).
  • Realized I was doing the elves' chief gods, in my setting, backwards. I had had them as the god of the branches and goddess of the roots, of the World Tree. But the elves, flowers of the World Tree, grow from the branches, so it makes more sense to have her as branch and him as root, when she's the elves' mother-goddess.

    One thing this might mean is elf females can have their branching tattoos on their foreheads instead of under their cheeks, for her branches instead of his roots. Before they both had the root ones and it felt weird for the guys, but I also felt weird with the guys having them on their foreheads. I for some reason feel it's okay for gals to have them on their foreheads (I think I just thought the guys would look cool with them on their cheeks).

    Ooh I might make it so married ones tattoo a copy of their spouse's tattoo, on whichever part of the face they don't have their own tattoo…
  • Realized this coming up with the binary my snake-people use, but certainly useful for other contexts: binary can call numbers pair, quartet, octet, hexadectet, and duotrigestet (2, 4, 8, 16, 32), and then you go up to hexadectet duotrigestet (512).

    But since "duotrigestet duotrigestet" (thousand thousand, but actually myriad myriad since 32 is 25) is stupid, then you go quadrate duotrigestet (1,024), from an old word for "squared". Then you have cubic duotrigestet (32,768), biquadrate ("square squared") duotrigestet (1,048,576), sursolid duotrigestet (33,554,432), bicubic duotrigestet (1,073,741,824), and second sursolid duotrigestet (34,359,738,368). Since 34 billion doesn't come up too often in fantasy I only need to take it that far.

    Similarly my gnomes' vigesimal can go "score twentyscore" for 8000, but then 160,000 is quadrate twentyscore, 64,000,000 is cubic twentyscore, 25,600,000,000 is biquadrate twentyscore, etc. I don't really need anything beyond that, since numbers above 25 billion don't come up much in fantasy.
  • Going to change references to handhelds in my SF to "device". Because "handheld" is already starting to sound like saying "motoring" instead of "driving". And "smartphone" is dumb because they're already more computer than phone, and that trend is only going to continue—already referred to the phone as a part of the handheld, e.g. "his handheld's phone rang". (Come to think of it that should probably be "his handheld's phone notification sounded".)
  • Kept trying to figure out how, exactly, zled lasers interact with their ring-grip—like does the ring just seamlessly grade into the "barrel", or does the cylinder stick out behind the ring? But then I decided, no, the ring is in the middle, behind the "barrel", like the ring-grip on the sword is, and it widens out from the lens to the same width as the ring. It looks a bit, in other words, like a symmetrical version of the top half of the Waking Vigil hand cannon in Destiny 2: Forsaken, with the grip around where the cylinder is.

    Of course, this raise the question of how the break-top reloading works. What I think I'll do is have the symmetry break down there, and have a hinge at the bottom that it breaks on, to insert new spring cartridges. Not sure how much of it will move when the thing breaks. Maybe change it to swing-out like most modern revolver cylinders? I think break-top is cooler, but I always sacrifice the Rule of Cool to plausibility and good design.
  • Having a ring-shaped grip with the barrel centered also lets me have really bananas firearms for them, back when. Namely, the magazine loads into the ring-grip from the side, and is ring-shaped, with the cartridges perpendicular to it, similar to the pan magazine used in the Lewis gun, but with the cartridges facing out not in.

    One thing that would mean is that it's relatively simple to belt-feed almost any weapon, though your belts aren't going to be very efficient (dedicated belt-fed weapons would just have it load through like ours do).

    Also presumably means the difference between a revolver and a semi-auto was more academic, like clip vs. magazine to many of us. Had thought the semi-auto might also have the advantage revolvers do, that if a round won't fire you just advance to the next one. But I don't think the semi-auto fires directly from the magazine, you chamber each round separately.
  • Still torn over the humans who have evil clerics, and whether to have them be witches in all but class. On the one hand a bunch of others call them witches; on the other all the other evil deities are very explicitly opposed to witchcraft. I had had the dark elves and dwarves have witches before I shifted it to evil druids and clerics (respectively). Could do something like the dark elves in Warhammer Fantasy, who hate Chaos worshipers but also summon daemons a lot.

    Another thing I decided is that rather than worshiping a pseudo-divine undead sage, the dark dwarves worship an outcast god. I had had the younger generation of dwarf gods (their parent gods are Earth and Fire) be different ways of working minerals with heat, namely Forge and Kiln. So I thought it might be neat to have the outcast one be their sibling Crematorium, who was tricked and seduced by the undeath-power. I have a bunch of benevolent death gods (technically the parent gods of most of my pantheons are also death gods), but I can have bad ones too.
  • I mentioned wanting a "two-handed martial but one-handed exotic, 1d10 damage" hammer, for dwarves. Might have it weigh a whole ten pounds, which seems heavy but the waraxe is eight and the bastard sword is six, and they don't depend largely on their weight to do their job. Not sure what to call it; "war maul" comes to mind, though. Oh, ooh, or battlehammer, like Drizzt Do'Urden's friend.

2020/08/31

De romanicorum theoriarum XVII

This is post 640, 2⁷ × 5. Spec fic thoughts. Mostly fantasy.
  • Decided that zled numerals are not acrophonic: they're like the Cistercian cipher. Only instead of numbers 1–9999, they only use the two different positions to encode 1–99—a two sided symbol instead of four—because their superbase is hundreds instead of thousands or myriads. Basically the first side is the tens place and the second is the ones, with a bare base-stroke as zero. Might still have the base forms of the numbers within that be acrophonic, like a modified E for egeik "one", and so on.
  • I think I'm gonna just have elf and gnome weapons have the +2 to CMD vs. sunder attempts of an elven curveblade; making any weapon made of them eligible for Weapon Finesse was super OP (though the elven branched spear is identical to a regular spear but eligible for it). I briefly considered giving the elves their weapon set from Pathfinder core rules, maybe with the "Aldori" dueling sword as the weapon between the thornblade and the curveblade, but nah.

    Might make dwarves only automatically proficient with warhammer and earthbreaker, not picks—kinda want a 1d10 hammer (name to be determined) that can be one-handed with Exotic Weapon Proficiency, and is a martial weapon for dwarves, though. Maybe only the black dwarves (who make their stuff from giant-spider chitin with the same stats as mithral) will use picks, made from the limbs of giant arthropods, like a Falmer war axe in Skyrim.
  • Come to think of it humans' weapons and armor made from magical-beast bone would actually do better with the qualities of spiresteel, rather than noqual. Might also change it so elven weapons just always have the benefit of alchemical silver (but without reducing the damage, so they cost as much as mithral, or half as much in the case of the half-mithral stuff), rather than also having the "life point" function of wyroot, and dwarf stuff always has the benefit of cold iron in addition to always being brutally weighted. Think gnome armor will still have the singing steel property, though, but not their weapons.
  • Decided my elves' armor is lamellar over-sleeves that combine cannons and vambraces, and lamellar chaps that combine cuisses and greaves (I guess the latter would be lamellar chausses, and the former manicas?). Apparently nobody ever really wore the waist-apron thing (see, e.g., Alphonse Elric), but my elves do, because it's stylin'. Even if no real society ever did a thing doesn't mean a fictional one can't, unless someone gives you a damn good reason why not.

    My humans instead wear the more common pauldrons, and tassets, like samurai or Mongol armor. Maybe also with plate vambraces and greaves? I think that still counts as just lamellar for game-mechanical purposes, same as how full plate doesn't worry about having mail on the joints. (Chinese armor went the interesting direction of having a sort of lamellar skirt, divided from the waist like a tailcoat—their armor was basically a duster made of lamellae.)
  • Apparently at least one kind of flying squid (they're squid that jump out of the water and float on gliding membranes, like flying fish) undulates its body, a bit like a dolphin, in order to prolong its flight. Which may mean that they are the only non-insect invertebrate capable of powered flight. If that doesn't fill your head with xeniobiology possibilities, I dunno what to tell ya.
  • Think I might have kytons, but obsessed with fear not pain, as what my goblins become when they die (maybe retire barghests, or have them automatically be reborn as the bigger kinds of kyton?). And then maybe ogres become oni? Or rakshasas. Not sure what kobolds will become. Daemons? Didn't use them or demons yet (let's not discuss how incredibly lazy it was—of Gygax not Paizo—to have daemon and demon as two different things).

    Not sure what to do with the evil subraces of humanoid that weren't transformed (kobolds aren't transformed gnomes but occupy the same role relative to them). Maybe sahkils, demodands, demons, or whichever of oni or rakshasa I didn't use for ogres. Thinking asuras for dead evil giants, maybe aeons for the non-evil ones? Vedic and Gnostic are very distantly related, I think you can make that work if you force it a bit. Also could use psychopomps for something.

    Dead evil mortals who are not worshipers of evil deities (I might actually change those deities to neutral but with the Evil domain because they're really not nice?) just become undead.
  • Keep seeing people saying that resurrection spells are commonplace in D&D. Um…what? Even just raise dead, which is only available in towns of at least 2,000 people and only works for nine days after death (depending who you get to cast it), costs 5,450 gp minimum; you can get an extra day at the price of another 50 gp, up to 20 days after death for 6,000 gp, but you can only get the higher level casters in bigger communities. Resurrection doesn't have the time-limit issues, really, but it can only be cast in cities of at least 10,000 people, and costs at least 10,910 gp, up to 11,400. (True resurrection is not typically for sale except by special arrangement, since even the biggest cities only go to 8th-level spells.)

    Raise dead, thus, costs at least as much as 109 head of cattle, or between 228 and 2,726 weeks (i.e. 4 years 5 months to 52 years 5½ months) of work if you make your living at a Craft or Profession skill (given how many gold pieces per week you can make at those). Resurrection costs, minimum, as much as 218 cattle (plus five chickens), or between 456 and 5,456 weeks (8 years 10 months to 104 years 11 months) of work. Resurrection costs as much as a war-galley, longship, or sailing ship—plus payment for all of the 100 soldiers they can carry, for 15 days. So unless you are as important as the loss of an entire ship at sea would be, you ain't getting brought back.
  • Apparently people think you would just lob rocks at the Earth, in asteroid mining? And that that would be a reason not to do it, due to the obvious issues with significantly increasing the number of impacts the planet experiences. But why, though? You just take 'em to the top of space elevators and then send the minerals down. Do people think a space elevator is only one way? How would that work?

2020/07/31

Playing with Fantasy XIX

Fantasy game thoughts—this is the only thing I'm really thinking about right now. One day to get it in this month!
  • My setting's elf population of c. 262 million cannot be entirely supported by forest deer, since (averaging 3.25 elves supported by deer per square mile of forest) the 22,780,027 square miles of a preindustrial forest can only support about 74 million elves, or can only cover about 28% of the diet of all of 'em. Presumably you make up the other 72% of their diet with fully domesticated poultry, rodents like squirrels and marmots (maybe guinea pigs?), and rabbits or hares.

    Think my elves also buy some grains and legumes, and dairy products, from human farmers; I decided that my elves and dwarves, though ancestrally generalist hypercarnivores like wolves (diet more than 70% meat)—hypercarnivory still being the diet pursued by goblins and ogres—are, now they're civilized, mesocarnivores (diet 50–70% meat) like foxes or coyotes (or gnomes, who were always mesocarnivorous). So they only need to get 22–42% of their diet from meat other than deer. Maybe their talking Homotherium sometimes work as "buffalo hunters" on the plains, going after longhorn bison? Can feed a lot of elves with those, and it's sustainable if you don't slaughter whole herds.

    Similarly the dwarves presumably make a significant portion of their calorie-intake from the giant prairie-dogs they raise herds of; they probably sell a good chunk of their meat and dairy-products to elves, too (and elves sell them venison).
  • What are Japanese game-makers smoking, making slimes a basic enemy in games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy? (If you wondered why "flan" was a monster name in the latter…) Like…we can't chalk this up to something like "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is more popular than Dungeons & Dragons in Poland", because the popular game was D&D in Japan.

    D&D slimes are an abomination. They do things like dissolve your flesh and armor or paralyze you; when green slime was a monster instead of just an environmental hazard, it was a hell of one, killing you and turning you into green slime in 1–4 rounds, with no revival possible short of wish (and this was a 2 HD monster, meaning you might meet them as early as 1st level). Good grief, Gygax, who hurt you?
  • Thinking I'll have the formerly-protean "nagas" be the chaotic planeborne (as 'twas known in my time), and—somewhat less obvious fit—formerly-qlippoth spider spirits be the lawful ones. (The Weaver in Werewolf: The Apocalypse, anyone?) This lets me have to do less rebranding in my setting for things like the protean sorcerer bloodline or the Protean subdomain of the Chaos domain (not that I call sorcerer bloodlines "bloodlines"; I call them "lineages" since they represent observing and copying the powers of other beings, including wizards in the case of the Arcane one).

    I was thinking this would let me have two subdomains for each of the alignment domains (Law and Chaos each having my "Elemental"(which can't be based on Protean any more, of course—thinking Demon would actually work, with slight rebranding) plus Protean or Qlippoth-but-Lawful (which I think I'll actually use Archon for), whatever I decide to name them. But then I realized I actually have three for Good, "Celestial" (Redemption, maybe?), plus Protean and Qlippoth-but-Lawful. (Yeah my lawful and chaotic planeborne can be good or evil too, just like my celestials and fiends can be lawful or chaotic.)

    I can't have Agathion, Archon, or Azata be the Good subdomain, because I decided to earmark those for the human, dwarven, and elven gods, instead, like the race-specific domains in the 3e Forgotten Realms setting. And then give gnomes Aeon.
  • Related to law and chaos (now I want one of those D&D based gag-comics to have someone reading a book called Law and Chaos in the Bedroom), given that good is white magic and evil is black magic, does that mean law is blue magic and chaos is red magic?

    Or is the unfortunate parallel with Final Fantasy just best left avoided? (The only one of their magics that makes sense, by the way, is white; "black" magic, being elemental, ought to be green, and what's blue about copying enemies' powers, or red about being a gish?)
  • "Gish", by the bye, is hilarious to me. It's the githyanki word for "skilled", and refers to multiclass fighter-mages, who are a distinct social class in githyanki society; gamers have expanded it to refer to any part-martial part-caster class (though I question its use for paladins, rangers, and even bloodragers). I wonder if that's why maguses in Pathfinder were called that? The Persian word that gives you Latin magus and Greek magos probably comes from the same Indo-European root as "might", and implies "one who is skilled or learned", hence its use for priests. (English also once used "mighty" more broadly, to include all forms of ability—see e.g. Chesterton's use of "a mighty clerk" for "a very learned man" in The Ballad of the White Horse.)
  • Did some meta-gaming. Darkleaf-cloth "leather" lamellar armor lets someone wear light armor with no check penalty for not being proficient with it, but the only people who don't have Light Armor Proficiency are arcane casters who can run afoul of the spell-failure chance. (Psychic casters, I guess, but let's be real, nobody uses most of those.)

    I suppose Arcane Armor Training, but Light Armor Proficiency is its prerequisite and that defeats the purpose. On the other hand darkleaf-cloth "hide" armor can be worn even by those without medium armor proficiency, which is much more people, but then you run afoul of medium armor reducing their speed. (I assume not reducing the speed and the arcane-spell fail chance not going below 5% was to keep it cheaper than mithral?)

    Moot in my setting, of course, where the elf leaves and gnome mushrooms give the same benefit as mithral to both metallic and nonmetallic armor (but also cost the same for all of them). There's also a half-version, for lower-level play, that weighs only three-quarters as much instead of half; it reduces armor check penalty and increases max Dex by only 1, and reduces arcane spell failure by only 5%. (There was a thing in 3e's Arms and Equipment Guide that did that, but I think it increased max Dex by 2. Mine follows the "always round down" rule.)
  • Relatedly, think I might make my dwarves' coraline-algae armor act like it's double-plated, and maybe their bludgeoning weapons have the effect of being brutally weighted? And then dwarven weapon familiarity makes them act like ordinary weapons of that type for dwarves? And only dwarves be able to wear heavy armors of their manufacture without the Armor Adept feat? Huh yeah I like that. Might take a bit of finagling to make it work, of course.
  • Decided on some slang for my setting: the Owl society are known as "heart-faces", because of their barn-owl helmets and masks, and the Kingfisher society "beak-faces", given their plague-doctor masks. Think the two Bears, the two Tigers, and the Wolf will be called "roar-faces", because their helmets are sculpted so they're looking out of the roaring mouth of their animal. And then the Wildcat and Fox societies will be "ear-hats", because they wear kasa-like leather helmets, with ears on them.

    Coins are called "Zs" ("I blew ten gold Zs on that, it better work"), because the letter Z in my main human alphabet is a triangle, and so are the coins—"yen", "yuan", and "won" all mean "circle", and those aren't slang. (They might even be called "Zs" on the other side of the planet, since the people who came up with the alphabet in question were seafarers and had several wars with the other civilization. Come to think of it I really ought to work out the other people's script.)

2020/06/25

Playing with Fantasy XVIII

Yet more fantasy RPG thoughts. One is about a White Wolf urban fantasy game, or specifically an upcoming CRPG based on one.
  • Decided that my wood elves, specifically their druids, act as agricultural providers for the city 'high' elves. Apparently deer can have a population density of 30 or even 35 per square mile and not overpopulate their environment; reindeer farmers apparently have an "equilibrium" slaughter-rate of 55 percent (deer get to reproductive age a lot faster than cattle, I think is why, plus they usually have two offspring at once—since the rate for cattle is only a bit over 9 percent). That comes to 16½ to 19¼ deer slaughtered per square mile. And the "ideal" meat yield of a deer (which elves are presumably capable of usually achieving) is 83 pounds of meat, which brings the total to 1,369½ to 1,597¾ pounds of meat per square mile.

    Meat is about as good a source of calories as grain, and a human being (or an elf) requires 37½ pounds of grain (or meat) per month. That comes to 36.52 to 42.61 person-months per square mile—or in other words, 3 to 3½ elves supported for a year per square mile of forest. That means a Pathfinder small city of 5,000 to 10,000 elves can be supported by a forest of 1,429 to 3,334 square miles, and a large city of 10,000 to 25,000 elves can be supported by 2,858 to 8,334 square miles of forest. For some perspective, the Coconino National Forest is 2,900 square miles; the largest taiga in Russia is 4,633,226 square miles. And that's if the city lives solely on the deer the wood elves provide; they would also import other foods, and also raise their own, like poultry.

    All my nonhumans are actually generalist carnivores, like wolves, so they can also live on high-protein vegetable foods like nuts and legumes, and on dairy products (I think my elves buy a lot of cheese from humans).
  • If you look at it just right, Pathfinder includes rules for falling from grace and becoming something one would have once loathed with all one's being, à la Arthas or Anakin. You just retrain as the new "evil" class, using the retraining rules found in Ultimate Campaign. (It has specific rules for an Arthas or Anakin-type character ceasing to be a paladin and becoming an antipaladin, but what about a good adept who becomes an evil witch, say, after watching their tribe slaughtered by orcs?)
  • Worked out my nonhumans' skin colorings. Elves do indeed have bluish skin, sometimes turned greenish by yellow carotenoid pigment, except the dark elves instead have bluish skin sometimes turned purplish by red anthocyanins (they're generally not any darker-colored than other elves, it's not a physical descriptor). Goblins also have blue-gray faces, becoming bluer the higher caste they are till bugbears have fully bright blue faces (like golden snub-nosed monkeys getting bluer skin the higher-ranked they are—basically the better-fed they are the better their complexion is). Dark elven hair has red anthocyanin pigment, blue- and green-haired elves have blue anthocyanin (with the green hair also having yellow carotenoid), and goblins have brazen yellow hair with just the carotenoid, and green fur all over most of their bodies with both blue anthocyanin and the carotenoid. Normal elves' orange or yellow eyes are carotenoid, while dark elves' blue-white eyes are just very light blue anthocyanin, and goblins' bright crimson eyes are orange carotenoids combined with red anthocyanin.

    Dwarves have red or black phycoerythrin in their hair, except white dwarves, and ogres, who have phycocyanin as well as yellow phycoerythrin; all have yellow-brown phycoerythrin in their skins, giving them a "yellow ochre" skin-tone. All dwarves and ogres have the same color eyes as hair (meaning white dwarves only have pupils). Gnomes have melanin in their skin, making them walnut- to chestnut colored, but in their lavender or pink hair they have purple to magenta betacyanins. Gnomes with lavender hair have violet eyes, while gnomes with pink hair have blue eyes. Had been going to say gnomes and elves have sclera the same color as their irises because, with their +2 to Perception, they can keep track of each other's gaze without needing obvious "whites of their eyes", and then maybe dwarves' +2 to Wisdom, an effective +1 to Perception, was sufficient. But then I realized you probably can't see "whites of their eyes" in darkvision anyway, so the issue of being able to see where each other was looking never actually comes up for people who have it.
  • There's this elaborate article about how to do an Avatar: The Last Airbender-based campaign in D&D 5e. Meanwhile, in Pathfinder… And yes, that is clearly what they're going for; the illustration for the blood kineticist in Occult Adventures is even dressed like an Eskimo, albeit her anorak isn't dyed blue (must be a mollusc dye, since there presumably aren't many dye plants at the poles). What you do to make kineticists correspond directly to Avatar is restrict everyone to only one element, when they would normally be allowed to take extra ones at higher levels, and don't allow most composite effects, but you stick electric in fire instead of air and make it and metal more level-restricted (and don't have aether).
  • Decided that apprentice sorcerers (and leyline guardian witches), "know" three zeroth-level spells, rather than being able to prepare two like wizard ones. (I should've specified they can prepare two per day, and cast them an infinite number of times per day, like all primary casters, rather than saying they can "cast" two per day—though there are two a day that they can cast.) Other witch apprentices, of course, should use the same rules as wizards, since witch spellcasting tracks with that of wizards.

    So presumably, too, apprentice maguses work like apprentice wizards, and apprentice bards like apprentice sorcerers, since at first level those classes work pretty much like the equivalent primary casters. And novice clerics and druids would also work like wizard apprentices, and oracles like sorcerers.

    Inquisitors work like bards (or sorcerers), as do summoners (which I don't think I'll ever use, since they're a huge hassle). I don't know exactly how to have apprentice alchemists work; maybe they can use Alchemy and Brew Potion but not bombs or extracts. And then maybe they can make a sort of "practice" mutagen that only gives half the AC and ability-score bonuses—but maybe full penalties? Seems thematically appropriate anyway. Remember that apprentices should normally be NPCs not players, so "would anyone want to play that?" is less of a factor.
  • I keep going back and forth on whether my goblin subgroups (goblin, hobgoblin, bugbear) are different ethnicities of one species, or are just castes within one ethnicity. Like, maybe if you feed a goblin enough it becomes a hobgoblin, and a really well-fed hobgoblin can become a bugbear. I suppose I can split the difference, since I'd already had all three be goblin-sized at birth (this allows male hobgoblins and bugbears to have goblin wives without risking their health). Being raised in a family of hobgoblins or bugbears, with their access to food, will always make a child grow up to be that size, while a grown goblin or hobgoblin is usually locked into the size of their race, and wouldn't get as big as a bugbear even if they were to get as much food as one (since male bugbears do have hobgoblin and even goblin wives, who don't become as big as them); and a hobgoblin or bugbear who falls on hard times certainly won't shrink…but might starve.
  • I got Ultimate Intrigue for my birthday, and…damn. This is how you make a d20 game something other than a hack-and-slash fest; the verbal duels and research rules make it almost the "home game" version of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Miles Edgeworth: Ace Investigations, respectively (I don't know about your players but mine would almost certainly say "objection!" and "hold it!" constantly while doing verbal duels). I had thought the only major things it had to offer were the vigilante base class and some new archetypes, but it actually has a lot of at least potentially useful stuff.

    The social conflict rules seem to (I haven't actually learned them yet and I might be wrong) allow you to do intrigues and social-based campaigns almost as well as a White Wolf game would (or, as a White Wolf game is supposed to, given that White Wolf games very often devolved into "I use my three dots in Shitblowupification" or "I go Crinos and bite his head off"). And expanded rules for chases (where you can also make slow, careful tracking-down fun to run, not just an actual physical pursuit of a quarry you can actually see), and a system for establishing nemeses for the PCs, are two ideas whose time had come a long time ago.

    The intrigue rules and heist rules also let you do things the d20 system has historically handled fairly fumblingly. Have I mentioned how impressive I find Pathfinder as a ruleset? Because it's amazing.
  • Speaking of White Wolf, planning to get Werewolf: The Apocalypse—Earthblood, so my XBone has something to do before Halo Infinite comes out for its successor (Earthblood seems to be due out in July). It looks pretty cool; I am of course girding my loins for having to wade through eco-radical ranting that might be too heavyhanded for Captain Planet. I.e., yes, I am familiar with Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Still kinda wish it didn't lock you into playing one character—the Vampire: The Masquerade video games let you pick your clan and I think even faction, though there's only the one protagonist faction in Werewolf—because while the Fianna are among the less obnoxious tribes, I'd much rather be a Shadow Lord ("werewolf Starscream"). I'd also like to pick my breed and auspice, because Metis are cool (the fact their name is…"problematic"…to one side) and I like Theurges.

2020/05/18

Playing with Fantasy XVII

More fantasy RPG thoughts. Many about my setting's languages.
  • I'm kinda an idiot, apparently. I had been thinking that I had to combine, like, Medium animated objects with the system for making intelligent magic items, for the magic android-type dealies I wanted in my setting. But…like…wyrwoods? They're magic androids. They rebelled against their creators when they were made to fight each other.

    Obviously I'm gonna modify some things, like their being able to make more of themselves, and their having rebelled against their creators. Mine are also Medium, not Small, since they're designed to resemble normal humans if you don't examine them closely, unlike wyrwoods.
  • In the Holy Roman Empire, a full-time combatant was someone who owned four or five carucates of land, each consisting of eight bovates, defined as the land one man behind one ox could till in a ploughing season. That's 32–40 people and oxen worth of tillage per year. There's a hell of a lot more complexity involved (if you only owned one carucate, you and two other guys combined to send one of you to war in the name of all three of you, presumably on a part-time basis), but "forty peasants for every full-time combatant" seems like a good ballpark figure. Now, urbanization rates vary; in 1300 Italy was 15 percent urban, while France seems to have been more like 5 percent. That means that in an Italy-like society (like the urban branch of my main culture), a Pathfinder "metropolis" of more than 25,000 represents a total population of at least 166,666, while in a France-like one (like the settled rural branch), it represents a total population of 500,000.

    Combining the two concepts, and treating the three smallest Pathfinder settlement-sizes (thorpe, 20 or fewer; hamlet, 21–60; and village, 61–200) as not being urban but as being rural settlements, we can get thorpes not having any full-time combatants; only the largest hamlets having exactly one; and villages having between one and five. Because all their population can be treated as being "peasants" for this (abstract) calculation. Then, though, you have to go with two systems depending on urbanization-rate. (This is going to make it look like the rural society would have vastly more forces at its disposal, but what it actually means is that a rural society will have fewer settlements than an urban society with the same total population. Also a comparatively smaller city does represent greater total wealth, in a rural-centered society, since they have a higher threshold before they come together into a city like that.)

    For the urban culture, a small town (201–2,000 people) represents 1,340–13,333 peasants, while for the rural one, it represents 4,020–40,000. That means the urban people can have 33–333 full-time combatants for every small town, while the rural can have 100–1,000. A large town (2,001–5,000) represents 13,340–33,333 peasants, therefore 333–833 full-time combatants for the urban society, and 40,020–100,000 and 1,000–2,500 combatants for the rural. A small city (5,001–10,000) represents 33,040–66,666 peasants and 833–1,666 combatants for the urban society, and 100,020–200,000 peasants and 2,500–5,000 combatants for the rural. A large city (10,001–25,000) represents 66,673–166,666 peasants and 1,666–4,166 combatants for the urban society, and 200,020–500,000 peasants and 5,000–12,500 combatants for the rural. And a metropolis (25,001 or more) represents at least 166,673 peasants and more than 4,166 combatants for the urban society, and at least 500,020 peasants and more than 12,500 combatants for the rural.
  • Been working on Babel texts for my D&D conlangs. Decided the Draconic one is number invariable (because just ganking the pluralization from Dovahzul crosses the line into actual plagiarism), and uses two genitives, one of them inalienable. The inalienable applies, though, not only to things like relatives and body-parts, but to every single thing in a dragon's hoard: so if you steal from one, it's like you're mutilating them (also if they give you something, it's like giving you a lock of their hair, which is typically inalienably possessed but not inalienable in actual fact).

    Applied the Great Vowel Shift to my Goblinese, to get rid of the long vowels of Elven (at least the ones that still inflect pronouns and verbs, not the ones in the noun stems—those just turned short), and gave it an approximant R vs. the trilled R that Elven uses (allophonically a flap, because sometimes you can't be bothered to trill). Went with only using the plural markers (which had been long vowels) on Goblinese verbs, and so needed something to mark the words for number: went with determiners (think, like, articles, but they don't mark definiteness) derived from pronouns, preceding the nouns. Was going to have the determiners inflect for case too, but there's really no point. Also realized I needed demonstratives in my Elven, but they don't produce the determiners in Goblinese, the regular pronouns do.

    I had always wanted to have a conlang that inflected only its noun-determiners for case, the way German does with its articles (okay German also inflects nouns themselves for the genitive), and got a chance with my Common, to make it clearly simpler than the human languages it descends from. Also decided the steppe culture would have phonological differences other than only having a, i, and u vowels (it turns e and o in its relatives into i and u, respectively, and lengthens pre-existing i and u). Namely, r is a trill instead of a tap, and the labiodental fricatives (f and v) are realized as labials (φ and β).
  • Had my Halfling language reinterpret all the short vowels of the 'Thalassocratic Valyrian' language as preceding geminated consonanats, adding vowels after final consonants, in order to let them get rid of vowel-length. This made it sound a lot like Italian.

    Also all the descendants of the ancient form of that language merged at least two of its genders. The one spoken by the people that stayed as a witch-empire merged all the inanimates into the air gender (which had gone for abstracts and flying animates as well as gases), and reconceptualized the fire gender as simply the animate (changing how flying animates inflect).

    The halflings and sea-nomads kept the air and fire (though they also put the flying animates in fire), and then combined the water and earth into a mud gender, with the halflings using the earth inflections and the nomads using the water ones. ("Mud" gender reminds me of the mud-clans that some Native American groups have, arising from the blending of earth and water moieties.)
  • My Gnomish was giving me a lot of headache; it turns out in practice to be a lot less polysynthetic than I'd described it as being. One thing I did was give it four voices in its verb prefixes, one for each case it inflects verbs for (nominative, accusative, benefactive, instrumental)—active for nominative, passive for accusative, applicative for benefactive, and causative for instrumental. Which…was a real headache, 0/10 would not recommend. Still it worked out to sounding cool.
  • Another thing I realized, doing the Babels, is I need my Dwarven to be able to end words on vowels, because the unmarked nominative case of the pronouns ends in a vowel. So now the word divider is a diamond basically made of one-third of the hexagon the consonants are. You can still fit vowels in its corners, like you can around the hexagon consonants.

    Was going to have my Ogrish break up Dwarven's long vowels with a glottal stop (something like the ğ in Turkish, with the diphthongs and long vowels in pre-republican loanwords), but decided instead that it does the main thing long vowels do in Dwarven, mark imperfects, by the adverb "still"; the other thing long vowels do, mark pronouns as plural, is achieved by reduplications (nouns pluralize with "many"). It also replaces the past tense with "before" and the future with "after". Think I'll just have the interrogative mood be done by tone, the way it is in most Western European languages, and then the subjunctive (which is mostly a hortative or imperative) with "better", or something?

    Ogrish replaces case with word-order for the nominative and accusative, and the dative is kinda redundant with prepositions. The volitional genitive is now prefixing the noun with "take" and the nonvolitional with "receive". Also think they don't inflect verbs for personal, only animate and inanimate (they also don't distinguish people from animals in the kitchen).
  • You know, realistically, wargs and other magical carnivores would be terribly OP against ordinary horses. You can probably get warhorses to stand their ground against them—ordinary horses, not even warhorses, stood their ground in tiger-hunts, after all—but you're not going to want to get into a cavalry press with them, since they can bite your horse's throat out. At the very least horse-armor is not optional if you're at all likely to fight such beasties. Plus they can give signals that carry for miles, howling (or roaring, in the case of things like the panthers my elves ride).

    One thing that would be an advantage for horses is that carnivorans probably don't have quite as easy a time as heavy cavalry, since there's nothing in their makeup analogous to a herd-animal's stampeding instinct. Of course they're intelligent so you can train them to do it anyway—probably with training more reminiscent of training human infantry phalanxes—but it's still probably not how they'd naturally do it. (The elves and gnomes of my setting, and goblins, are culturally more inclined to be like light cavalry anyway.)

    Huh actually come to think of it my dwarves are more likely to do, like, heavy mounted infantry, riding their giant wolverines up to an enemy, dismounting, and then rider and mount fighting independently—and then maybe re-mounting and rushing off to other engagements as they defeat enemies. (That or the dwarves work more like Early Modern cuirassiers or dragoons, since dwarves have firearms.) Though the ogres and their giant boars would make good super heavy cavalry (porkery?), that being a very instinctive way of fighting for swine anyway.
  • I like the idea of the bulette (which is pronounced "bulèt" not "bulé", since it ends in E), as a "land shark" and a thing you can use kinda like a sandworm, but I don't much care for its design. I much prefer making it more specifically shark-like, but having it breathe air and "swim" through sand and dirt.

    Now, of course, it can only swim through loose sand, but given that the deepest "dune sea" in the current world is 140 feet deep, and some in the Mesozoic were hundreds of meters, it's not entirely unworkable. A cubic meter of sand only masses 63% more than the equivalent volume of water, which is quite doable if the cartilage is replaced or reinforced with something stronger (hey my giant bugs are more mineralized than real ones, and cartilage and chitin are very similar). Maybe also reinforce the skin-denticles, which already act as an exoskeleton in the water.

    And it gets its water from prey, giving it an obvious incentive to be far more aggressive than real sharks. Mine are the result of magical experiments to make a dangerous harbor-guardian (important, when you're a maritime witch-empire and your setting includes sahuagin), modified to remove the weaknesses of normal sharks, and the sahuagin's power to control them.

2020/04/06

Playing with Fantasy XVI

Fantasy-game thoughts, icosahedral.
  • In a discussion of dissociated mechanics, someone said that barbarians only having a given number of rage-uses per day, is partly dissociated, because while they could be building stamina, it's weird that it only affects their rage. But only part of their rage duration or uses is their stamina: the part that comes from their Constitution modifier. The part that increases level by level? That's them getting better at controlling their rage, and thus being able to do it for longer without getting tired, even though everything else about their bodies' stamina is the same (at least until they start increasing their Constitution with magic items and every-fourth-level ability increases).
  • Decided, along with overhauling my calendar, that the humans are going back to using dates as their given names, too: specifically the date of their adulthood ceremony. Then the date of their own or parents' wedding as their surname, and the date of their accession to a noble title or full initiation to one of the beast-god societies, if applicable, as a middle name. Also decided the names will start with the day-signs instead of the month names, giving the humans thirty-one (or thirty, depending on the month) ways to start their names, rather than only twelve.

    Then it occurred to me they could use the subdomains' names as alternate day-signs, resulting in ninety-two possible beginnings for human names. (Ninety-two, rather than ninety three, because Good, Law, and Chaos don't have two subdomains. Since I don't, exactly, have things like inevitables or azatas, in my campaign, I just have "Celestial" as the subdomain for Good and "Elemental" as one for Law and Chaos, along with Celestial, since there are lawful and chaotic celestials as well as elementals—which in my campaign are based on divs.)

    Also decided that the witch-clerics of the modern humans' evil state will use Evil (subdomain Fiend) and Death (subdomains Murder and Undead) in their names, in place of Good and Repose—but only secretly (all the people initiated to their evil mysteries make sure to schedule their weddings and their children's adulthood ceremonies on days with the Good or Repose day-sign). I'm not sure how the Celestial, Elemental, and Fiend subdomains will work in terms of spells and domain powers; I'm leaning toward the Agathion subdomain for Celestial, Devil for Fiend, and then probably the Protean one (with a different name and changed flavor-text, since it's also going for Law) for Elemental?
  • For human names before their adulthood ceremony, decided to use the 1-point evolutions available to summoners' eidolons (eidola?), and the different appearances that spirit-animals (shaman familiars) have (as the sign of their special ability). Those being two things you can, by taking the Evolved Familiar or Spirit's Gift feats, give your familiar: human religion before the beast-gods having been run by adepts, who have familiars, which they can modify by those feats. This actually goes even for the evil Atlantean/seagoing Valyrians, whose pre-witchery religion was the same as other humans.
  • If you, like me, were wondering how to stat apprentice wizards who aren't quite first level, I think the "instructor" archetype, which has apprentices instead of a familiar, has the solution. You stat them as 1st-level characters with "NPC class" ability scores (presumably d6 hit dice) and the Magical Aptitude feat (+2 to Use Magic Device and Spellcraft). Maybe treat them as an archetype of commoner?

    Personally I'd also give them the ability to cast two 0th-level spells per day. A 1st-level wizard only gets one 1st-level spell, after all (minus bonus spells), and three 0th-level, so someone less wizard-y than them should get zero 1st-level and one less 0th-level, but still really ought to be able to cast some spells. (Plus the 0th-level spells have always had an implication of "these are things you use to practice magic".)

    When they finish their apprenticeship (in the instructor's case, when their master reaches 3rd level or any other level above that), they become 1st-level wizards, with "PC class" ability scores.
  • I love how people still pretend "linear warriors, quadratic wizards" is valid. It really never was, at least till very high levels (15+), if the DM was not an idiot who allowed the 15-minute adventuring day, but in Pathfinder? Pathfinder introduced the Vital Strike feat-line, which can let martial classes do multiple damage-dice once a round, without even needing a rogue's special sneak-attack circumstances (and once "flanked by allies" became a sneak-attack condition—which is entirely realistic—it stopped really being very hard for them to do that, either). Pretty sure I'm gonna swing my sword more than the six or seven times you can cast fireball or ice storm in a day, no matter what your level is. And martial classes get bigger hit dice and better armor for much cheaper (go look up stoneskin's material component—and mage armor is the equivalent of a chain shirt, albeit one that imposes no ACP).
  • These articles are really useful for city-design, for RPGs or regular fantasy-writing, or any other kind of worldbuilding. A city built before modern transport is typically a "market center" (which also has the majority of the residential buildings), inside a zone dedicated to horticulture—orchards and flower-gardens—and the raising of dairy animals and trough-fed livestock like pigs.

    Out from the horticulture zone you have woodland that's used for, among other things, gathering firewood. Then is the agricultural zone (as the caption on one of the pictures says, that actually goes in concentric rings from intensive agriculture to various kinds of crop rotation), and then the pasturage, which likewise transitions (partly depending on the particular husbandry approaches of the cultures involved) from settled ranching to transhumance. The horticulture ring and the intensive agriculture ring are partly made possible by the fertilizer produced in the city, by people and domestic animals (yes the ranch and transhumance animals also produce fertilizer but it's a lot harder to collect).

    One thing about all this, is it suddenly makes it a lot less odd that people despise thieves, in fantasy settings: with orchards and woodland right there, you need a damn good excuse to be stealing to get by, rather than just taking day-labor in the orchards or cutting firewood (or wood to be turned into charcoal) to sell back in the city. The "sick relative who needs constant care and can't be left for a whole day while picking fruit or gathering firewood" is useful there, though you do then have to figure out what they're going to do if that thief then goes adventuring. Killing 'em off is the obvious solution, but by the same token tends to be seen as a bit lazy.
  • Possibly the coffee cultivar you would grow, though not in the highlands that coffee tends to favor, during an Ice Age, is Mozambique coffee, Coffea racemosa. It apparently has a much higher cold-tolerance than C. arabica or C. canephora ("robusta"). Unfortunately it has half the caffeine of C. arabica, but the hybrid of the two apparently has the same cold-tolerance as C. racemosaC. canephora has twice the caffeine of C. arabica, also, so you could probably get a hybrid with the caffeine levels you expect that's still cold-resistant.
  • In general I try to restrict my Pathfinder setting to the archetypes found in the main expansions, the ones under the "RPG" heading over at Archives of Nethys. There are a couple exceptions, notably eldritch archer maguses, which are from Heroes of the Streets, because an archer magus only makes sense, and primalist wizards from Inner Sea Magic. Wild mages were one of my favorite things in 2nd Edition, and 5e's making them a sorcerer archetype is a genuinely clownish misinterpretation—sorcerers don't have the theoretical grounding required to be wild mages, whose original fluff was full of references to quantum mechanics. (Just in general it's ludicrous that 5e gave the sorcerers most of the metamagic, when that was actually the wizards' wheelhouse.)

    Archetypes I particularly like often involve spellcasting from a different ability-score, like the feyspeaker druid that casts from Charisma (probably the form my setting's gnome druids take, minus the fey-based fluff), or the empyreal and sage sorcerers, who are "wildblooded" versions of, respectively, the celestial bloodline that casts from Wisdom (and are, thus, the most common dwarf sorcerers) and the arcane bloodline that casts from Intelligence (making them the main elf sorcerers). My elves also have living grimoire inquisitors who guard their wizard-towers; I can see a lot of NPC potential in the chronicler of worlds bard, even if it does leave a lot of "Astinus of Palanthas" taste in your mouth. I really wish there were a Charisma-based witch other than the seducer archetype, though.
  • I don't have the hybrid classes (slayer, shaman, etc.) from the Advanced Class Guide; I think they're too much trouble. But I think the deliverer ("divine assassin", "god's blade") archetype of slayers can be fairly easily adapted to be a ninja archetype, instead—its special abilities replace slayer talents, which are basically the same thing as ninja tricks, so the balancing shouldn't be too different. (I think it would balance out as about the same, ninjas using rogue attack-bonuses and hit dice instead of ranger ones, but having a faster sneak-attack progression than slayers.)

2020/03/14

Sierra Foxtrot 17

SF thoughts.
  • Apparently the specific energy of carbon nanotube springs is actually 7.2 megajoules per kilogram, not 0.3. Which probably doesn't mean that of boron nitride nanotube springs is 72 megajoules, not 3, since boron nitride nanotubes are more massive than carbon ones, averaging 2 grams per cubic centimeter rather than 1.35. But since I think a spring's energy is linear with respect to the mass, we can conclude that the difference of their densities (1.35/2=.675), times the difference of their stiffness (tenfold) produces the difference of their specific energy, 6.75. Which still means that the BNNT spring has a specific energy of 48.6 megajoules per kilogram, compared to gasoline's 46.4. (Though I think I, or my source, transposed some digits, because gasoline's energy density is 34.2 gigajoules per cubic meter, not 32.4. Which still means BNNT springs are competitive with gasoline.)

    What that means is that the zled equivalent of a UH-60 Black Hawk, using electric motors instead of internal-combustion ones, with the equivalent of 2766 kilos of jet fuel (specific energy 43 megajoules per kilogram, energy density 35 gigajoules per cubic meter) taken up by BNNT springs, has a range of 11,296 kilometers, compared to the Black Hawk's 2,221—first because its two 1410-kilowatt internal combustion motors become two 402.857-kilowatt electric ones (electric aircraft motors being 3.5 times as efficient), and second (less importantly) because BNNT springs require 11.5% less fuel mass. And if zledo had something like the JetPack Aviation JB-10 jetpack, which they wouldn't because jetpacks are deathtraps irrespective of what powers them, they'd be able to get a hair under four times (395.58%) its eight-minute flight time, over half an hour, from the same mass of power-supply.

    Electric cars (or tanks) are slightly less impressive; electric car engines are only twice as efficient as internal-combustion, instead of three and a half times like electric aircraft, and gasoline is only 4.5% less efficient (as a function of mass) than BNNT springs rather than 11.5% (diesel is 6.6% less). But that still lets a HMMWV with an equivalent mass of spring to its gas supply have 2.13 times the range of diesel or 2.09 times the range of gasoline, and lets an M1 have those range-improvements over gasoline or diesel, or 2.26 times its range on jet fuel. All of which is just assuming the vehicles are made of the same aerospace or automotive alloys as now, which they aren't; the frames are made of far lighter microlattice and the armor (on the tank) is replaced with far lighter metallic foam.
  • For humans, lithium-air batteries—specific energy 40.1 megajoules per kilogram, energy density 37.8 gigajoules per cubic meter—are slightly inferior to fossil fuels, but the superiority of electric motors makes up the difference. A Black Hawk with electric motors powered by lithium-air batteries the same size as its fuel capacity has a range of 7,249 kilometers, and a JB-10 (which, again, they'd never use, because deathtrap), it'd get 3.26 times the range of the jet-fuel powered one. A lithium-air powered HMMWV gets 1.759 times the range of a diesel one, 1.728 times a gasoline one; a lithium-air powered M1 Abrams has those improvements to its range over the gas and diesel ones, and 1.865 times the range of one powered by jet fuel.
  • I think the main artificial birth-control of the humans in my setting involves interfering at either the primary or secondary phase of ovarian folliculogenesis, probably with medical nanobots, but also artificially stimulating the hormone glands (with other medical nanobots) so that the fluctuation that's normally associated with ovulation can still happen. It's not perfect, of course, but it's less disruptive than modern hormone-based contraception. Presumably the nanobots use metadata from each other to ensure a normal hormonal cycle.

    Another thing they do, while interfering in the development of ovarian follicles, is perform gene-therapy to ensure that the DNA-repair genes involved in homologous recombinational repair don't get depleted, so that people who, with 24th-century medicine, are quite able to have children up into their eighties (the average age of menopause in my setting is 82, because human lifespan is 130 years) are actually able to do it. (Or at least, that's what they do for the well-informed and wealthy; it's sorta darkly ironic to suggest medical professionals would do that for ordinary people.)

    Actually come to think of it the main side-effects might be from that gene-therapy, what with gene-therapy being accomplished by infecting the patient with a modified retrovirus. Fortunately ovarian aging isn't something that has to be counteracted with every dose of the treatment; it's probably a "once or twice a year" kind of thing. Actually yeah, I can work with that; there's another gene-therapy in my plot, maybe I'll have the character say she's not used to gene-therapy side effects, since she isn't rich enough for the ovarian anti-aging treatments.
  • Lot of possibilities for aliens in the fact puffins have photoluminscent beaks and some chameleons and frogs have glowing bones.
  • It's fascinating how post-Abrams Trek doesn't so much hate science, as deny that there is such a thing. Now, it's nonsense when fans (entirely justifiably complaining about how bad Picard and Discovery are) say that the older shows were semi-plausible. They were nonsense; anyone with a high-school level understanding of science should know they're nonsense. But this new crap makes them look absolutely diamond-hard. Star Trek always had a tendency to conflate science and technology with magic, but at least it was internally consistent magic, like in a serious fantasy story for adults; post-Abrams Trek, on the other hand, is treating it like magic in a children's fantasy, like early Harry Potter.
  • It seems there is an Earthly parallel to the khângây concept of ever-increasing circles of solidarity, multiple degrees of kin then compatriots than foreign allies. Anyway the term for it is asabiyya, the Arab group solidarity concept, but without the "amoral familism" that plagues Arab culture.

    Where the Arab saying is "I against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin; I, my brother, and my cousin against the stranger", the khângây would instead say "I help myself; I help my brother; my brother and I help my cousin; my brother, my cousin and I help our compatriot; my kin, my compatriot, and I help our ally; my kin, my compatriot, my ally, and I help the stranger". Rather than only ceasing to fight who's nearest when someone further off comes along, it's who takes priority in terms of aid.

    As the khângây develop into a "world government" system, they add a layer for "the whole species", and then, after first contact, "sapient life"—though their first contact was with the thoikh, so they probably actually waited till first contact with zledo, who turned out not to be dangerous and crazy.
  • Searching the blog thinks I haven't mentioned it, but birds don't have blood-types. Nope. They can receive blood from exactly any bird, and the only issue is that you have to do the transfusions more often the less related the birds are—you can even do different species, genera, and so on, probably even unto paleognaths and neognaths (at which point you're probably going to have to transfuse really often, though). Decided the same goes for zledo, so character profiles will all list "N/A" for blood type.

    Incidentally a lot of nonhuman mammals appear to lack either universal-recipient or universal-donor blood-types, with only dogs having both (DEA 1.1 positive and negative, respectively). (Well and chimps, but they have mostly the same blood-groups as us.) Cats don't have a universal donor; horses don't have a universal recipient. Rabbits, not in that article, don't have a universal recipient either. (Rabbit blood-types, by the way, are A, B, O, S—or rather Š/Ш, they were first described in the Eastern Bloc—and L.)
  • Another difference between birds and mammals is they don't get respiratory viruses, apart from bird flu, very much; most of what looks like a cold, in birds, is bacterial infections. The issue there is that they don't go away on their own, but need antibiotics. (They can also reinfect with the same illness, unlike with a cold virus. Find a good bird vet, if you have pet birds, clearly.)

    Zledo, I decided, do get illnesses comparable to colds, caused by a virus(-analogue) rather than a microbe (or maybe even by a prion), but with flu-like symptoms, because their pneumatized body cavity means that sinus congestion results not only in headaches but in aches throughout the whole body. (Something similar seems to happen in birds with aspergillosis, a fungal infection. Find a bird vet!)
  • Discovered this researching my Pathfinder setting's dragons, but turns out, birds don't have beaks to save weight. Nope. They have beaks to save time, specifically while in the egg. Teeth take a while to form—dinosaurs spent three to six months in the egg, compared to most birds' one-and-a-half to four weeks—whereas the keratin sheath on a beak is much faster. (Though beaks are also lighter—mercifully I don't have to recalculate my dragons' mass—but that doesn't explain why ground-bound dinosaurs sometimes developed them.)

2020/02/18

Playing with Fantasy XV

Thoughts about fantasy games. Actually I think all of them are Pathfinder.
  • Decided my elves don't quite grow up as quick as humans. Almost, but not quite: now their twenty-five is our fifteen. I arrived at this because the half-elf's fifteen, in the d20 core rules, is twenty; if you assume half-elves' life-cycle is an average of the elf and human ones, twenty times two is forty, and forty minus fifteen is twenty-five. Think I'll have the gnomes do twenty and dwarves do fifteen. Elven middle-age still comes at 420, because their total lifespan is twelve times ours.
  • It occurred to me, speaking of elven biology, that their low Constitution score can simply be a matter of having more fast-twitch than slow-twitch muscles. That's what makes chimps and Neanderthals so much stronger than we are, but at the price of endurance. That lets an elf much thinner than a human have the same strength (a chimp has between one and a half and two times the strength of a human the same mass), and also explains why they're comparatively more delicate. This makes much more sense for elves than the bird-musculature I'd posited before, since among other things that would cause issues for the pneumatically-muscled giant races, two of which are scaled-up elves.

    Interestingly Neanderthal muscle could also give you D&D setting warrior-women. Maybe some populations of anatomically-modern humans, in a D&D world, have a version of Neanderthal-style musculature and a lack of role-specialization, but directed to allowing the females to exert the same force as men, over a limited time. Certainly in a world with several times as many potential threats to a family as exist in the real world, the ability of females to exert the same power as males would boost survival rates. One of my favorite things about Golarion is the main barbarians, the Kellids, like Amiri's people, are less based on any real-world culture than they are, basically, Hollywood cavemen with steel.
  • I wonder if anyone's done a playtest where undead damage-reduction doesn't apply on critical hits? In Pathfinder they made undead no longer immune to critical hits, since crits are iconic to both vampire and zombie fiction, but what if they made it so that, like in most fictional portrayals of zombies and vampires, the only hits they're not going to be mostly able to shrug off—damage reduction—are the ones that hit a vital? It probably makes overcoming the DR too onerous; maybe you could have it be an alternative for weapon-types that don't work on them? Skeletons take bludgeoning and zombies slashing, so maybe if you crit with the wrong kind of weapon you get to ignore DR—like you successfully chop through a skeleton's bone or stab a zombie's brain? Might houserule that.

    In my setting I make it explicit that skeletons are held together by invisible actuators made of the same kind of "force" as magic missiles, and since that can't be sliced through with a blade, their DR is only defeated by bludgeoning weapons (which just smash the bones themselves). Likewise since zombies' tissues are often in no condition to move them or hold them up, their muscle is supplemented or replaced by the force-actuators; I even have both kinds of undead get supplemental eyes, the iconic pinpoints of evil light, since zombies' eyes may be compromised and a skeletons' are always gone. Since they're moved by something other than muscle, they move more like puppets than the "shambling wounded living person" gait zombies are usually portrayed with.
  • Also have it so mindless undead are actually, y' know, mindless. In most fantasy video games, if you shoot one skeleton in a group, the others are aggroed. But "one of us was killed, there's an enemy here" is actually more complex than a mindless being should be able to do. So if you kill a skeleton without being directly perceptible to its fellows, like say with blunt arrows, the rest should not be aggroed. You should be able to use that to your advantage, like by aggroing the members of a horde of skeletons one at a time. (I'd also say that broadhead arrows—which to my knowledge are not statted in Pathfinder—should do slashing damage, with the default piercing-damage arrow being a bodkin-pointed one. So the adventurer expecting the possibility of the undead should carry three quivers: blunts for skeletons, broadheads for zombies, and bodkins for living targets.)
  • It bugs me more than it should that Pathfinder treats helmets as optional. Literally every other piece of armor was more so. Not sure what the mechanical effect would be; off the top of my head, treat the AC as 1 worse (like with "hastily donned" armor) solely for the purpose of confirming critical hits, if you don't wear one? Seems not too burdensome.

    My humans and elves wear lamellar armor, metallic or otherwise, including at least part of their helmets. Elves' helmets are something like jingasa made from their leaves (since they want to keep their hearing unobstructed). Human ones have a mostly-solid one, often sculpted to resemble the head of their initiation-society's animal god—the wolf, bear, and tiger ones sculpted so their face comes out the animal's open mouth, whereas the owl one has a visor like a barn-owl face—with lamellar aventails. The kingfishers (they have magi and clerics as well as mages) will have a different-shaped visor from owls, possibly with the same function as a plague-doctor mask since she's the god of medicine? Not sure what to do with the foxes (or wildcat bards); on the one hand the kind of leather you make armor from seems like it can be sculpted fairly easily, so they can probably just have a leather-lamellar version of the other societies' helmets, but on the other hand rangers, rogues, and bards like to be able to hear. Maybe jingasa like the elves wear, but with cat (or fox) ears on top?

    Gnomes and dwarves wear plate or "leather"/"hide" armor of more conventional type, made of coralline algae or mushrooms. Obviously gnomish helmets will, like elven ones, be like jingasa, but made from a single mushroom cap rather than interlaced leaves. Dwarves, I think, have something more like Roman helmets, but with face-masks like on samurai helmets or certain Slavic ones.
  • It's only on my latest playthrough of Kingmaker that I discovered lesser restoration actually does serve a purpose (it doesn't undo most ability damage, which is "permanent" and thus requires restoration proper). Namely, it undoes fatigue. That becomes really important when you're, say, being plagued by nightmares from an undead dude who wants you to kill the bandit chief who murdered him; it also could be important much later, when there's a trap that exhausts your party. On a prior playthrough I had to backtrack quite a bit after that trap, because I didn't know I could cure their exhaustion. Read those spell descriptions, kids!
  • The average percentage of a bird's body mass that's bone seems to be about 12.05%. Avian bone has a density of about 2.15 grams per cubic centimeter (compared to human bone's density of 1.16 grams per cubic centimeter); if we replace it with that aerogel-density aerospace metamaterial I talked about for my spaceships, 0.16 grams per cubic centimeter—7.44% as much mass—we get an 11.15% reduction to the total body mass. That gets the weight of the biggest dragons down from 28.74 tons to 25.53 tons, only 1.2 tons more than Palaeoloxodon namadicus. Feathers are about 6% of the weight of a bird; replacing the β-keratins, density 0.89 grams per cubic centimeter, with the same microlattice metamaterial as in the bones—17.98% as much mass—results in a further 4.92% reduction in weight, which brings the weight down to 24.27 tons, pretty much exactly the same weight as P. namadicus. And it's just cool to have dragons' feather-scale things made of the same stuff as their bones (and vice-versa); their placoderm "tooth-beak" structures are also made of the same stuff.

    Never did crunch the numbers for the weight savings of not having teeth. Probably not much; say they weigh 24 tons even. Then, assuming unchanging proportions, the Gargantuan one, 60 feet long, weighs 3 tons; the Huge one, 30 feet long, weighs 750 pounds; the Large one, 15 feet, weighs 93 pounds 12 ounces; the Medium one, 7 feet 6 inches, weighs 11 pounds 11.5 ounces; the Small one, 3 feet 9 inches, weighs 1 pound 7.4 ounces; and the Tiny one, 1 foot 10.5 inches, weighs 2.9 ounces. That might seem insane, but we are talking about a creature that weighs 44.92% less than a bird of the same dimensions would, and its body's a lot longer and thinner than a bird's (unless you're going to count Coelophysis as a bird, which I do taxonomically, but not conversationally). You're basically talking a weight one size-category less than you'd think, with the one that's the same size-category as a horse weighing only what a large dog does. That's not too far outside the realm of possibility; a garter-snake the same length as the Tiny dragon weighs 5 ounces, not all that much more.
  • Decided that the calendar of the twelve creature-types other than fey is inelegant. Going, instead, with the nine psychic disciplines from Occult Adventures, plus the two from Ultimate Wilderness, and then the "formless adept" archetype from Occult Adventures (whose "formless body" class feature replaces the psychic disciplines). The calendar had always, remember, come from the snake people (though the PC-race humanoids get it from gnomes, since humans sprang up much later and the others aren't from the same planet), so basing it on psychic disciplines makes sense. The only thing that this makes particularly difficult is the calendar is a part of human surnames, so I'll have to change the first half of some characters' names.

    Also reworking the "Tainish Egyptians" on the other continent slightly. Their calendar will just number the months, the way modern East Asian versions of the Gregorian do; since all other humanoids got the calendar from the gnomes, it isn't unreasonable for some versions of it to work the way East Asian adoptions of the Western calendar do. I also think I'm not going to have them worship their ascended sages, though I don't know what, exactly, they will worship. Maybe somehow the animal-god pantheon, through a completely independent covenant from the one on the other continent? I shied away from that since their quasi-Egyptianness made animal-gods seem a bit too unimaginative, but it works better with other themes of the setting.

    Also think I'll have the "Tainish Egyptian" continent be enemies with the araneas rather than the snake people, since the "Thalassocratic Valyrians" were the ones who fought with snake people. It isn't too inconvenient, since both use psychic magic in my setting.
  • Realized I was wrong: the nonhuman PC-races do have NPC-class members. They're children. Rather than making up 95% of the population like humanity's first-level commoners, their children will be in all five NPC classes (maybe only four, without commoners?), but only at first level, and will make up 40% the population, as children do in a society with the equivalent of modern medicine but without our sexual mores—like the society that had the Baby Boom. Children also make up a bit over 40% of the 95% of humans that are first-level commoners (more than 40% because they're 40% of the entire human population, which also includes other NPC classes and the PC ones), but that's implicitly included in the existent numbers.

    And now I realize I'll have to also add in the goblin races' children (who are only adepts, experts, and warriors, no commoners or aristocrats), and ogres'/orcs' children. In the case of hobgoblins and bugbears things work like with the PC-race humanoids, since those two are only in PC classes as adults; the goblins work like humans, with their 1st-level children already incorporated as a part of their 1st-level NPC-class population (except they're not commoners). Likewise, the ogres have first-, second-, and third-level NPC-class members as their children, but orcs incorporate their children into their 1st-level population. Same goes for troglodytes and kobolds.

    It was pretty easy to do this for giants. And I also need to stat up my beast-people, cat, hyena, and yak, but this time around I'll remember that children are a part of the population numbers.