Das Rollenspiel Fünf

RPG thoughts, mostly my Pathfinder setting but also some Horizon Zero Dawn and Elder Scrolls Online stuff.
  • This article seems like a lot of point-missing. The issue with Horizon Zero Dawn's "diversity" isn't that they should be white: it's that they should be a sort of generic light brown. This game is so far in the future that underground bunkers have ten- or twenty-foot stalactites growing from their ceiling, and the main culture live in one valley. Unless they spent most of their history as rabid segregationists, they would be so thoroughly intermixed they wouldn't be recognizable as our "racial" categories.

    So we're clear, stalactites grow one centimeter per century. That's an inch every 250 years. The amount of time required for those stalactites to form is far more time than it took humans to evolve non-black skin-colors in the first place, so it's ludicrous to suppose they'd have retained currently recognizable phenotypes that far in the future.

    Other than that it's an awesome game; much as Red Dead Redemption 2 is sometimes called "Breath of the West", this is "Breath of the Nuclear Semiotics". About the only real complaint is the voice-work, while seldom truly bad, is almost all just passable. But things could be much worse. And, not a complaint, but an observation: why does everyone have nano-bots that take stuff over look like evil Sour Vines? 'Cause the stuff you use to override the mechs here, is basically blue SIVA.
  • It's often said it makes no sense for people in fantasy worlds to still build castles when there are things like dragons and wizards with fireballs, but there are two issues with that. First is, a dragon is not really the kind of thing most people can reliably "field", and wizards may not be either—even in a D&D setting, far more magic-heavy than almost any literary fantasy, there's a relative dearth of spellcasters who can fly into a good position to attack and cast something like fireball. (Not least because that only has a range of 600 to 1400 feet, depending on level. And "magically treated walls" have saves against any magical attack that could affect them.)

    Second is that just because you might have an aerial bombardment, doesn't mean fortified shelters aren't useful. I mean, take something like this, and stick one of these at each corner. Tell me what you get. Those are a German air-raid shelter (called a Hochbunker—"high bunker"—because it's not underground) and a German flak (Flugabwehrkanone, i.e. "anti-air cannon") tower. Besides, as I think I've said before, a D&D setting's level of artillery-equivalent firepower is more Napoleonic Wars than World War, apart from the air that many if not most powers won't really have much access to.

    Maybe for ordinary conflicts they use real-world style fortifications (though probably, again, more 18th- and early-19th-century than medieval), and then when flying wizards or, powers forbid, dragons, get involved, they retreat into a hardened bunker-like keep. (Instead of concrete, maybe they use stone shape—as available as those wizards' fireballs, to divine casters—to mold single large pieces of rock, to make the bunkers.)
  • Got around to doing my Undercommon (reptile- and fish-people, in my setting) writing. It's a nice small script, since they can't make many sounds ("ka nama kaa lajerama"). The aquatic version is more complicated and ornate; I drew inspiration from Dwemeris and Falmeris, in Elder Scrolls (as I've said, Falmer writing totally looks like something the Deep Ones would write in, and not just those Deep Ones). Since the aquatic version replaces all the hissing noises with "glub" sounds, I think their version also modifies its letters, something more like the dakuten (the ”-like diacritic added to a kana to show it's voiced), to actually reflect their pronunciation. Maybe the most ancient form works more like French or Tibetan, with the spelling of the land version but the pronunciation of the sea version?

    Also working on a script for the spider-people, araneas in stats but more like Nerubians from Warcraft, but with psychic magic. I think theirs will look a bit like the version of Forerunner script that started to appear with Halo 4, but maybe more triangular than hexagonal? (Confusingly the Forerunner glyphs that are based on hexagons are called "circular script", while the more runic-like scripts that fit in rectangles are called "hexagonal script".) Might also take some elements from basically a triangular version of the "seal script" form of 'Phags-pa. I considered octagons, but my experience making my dark-dwarven made me reconsider that. (The octagon-based one looked so bad, I've reconsidered the whole thing; dwarves now all use the same script. Though ogres still use a modified version of dwarven writing.)
  • I'm not sure how to feel about Elder Scrolls Online (I got it recently). There's some solid stuff there, to be sure, but the balancing is super off. Maybe Destiny just spoiled me on how approachable an MMO ought to be? I don't know. I do know I hate its crafting-system; far too complicated, and this is me we're talking about. Also all ranged attacks seem to go through solid objects, so cover is meaningless, which is straight-up bullshit.

    I do like that the First Aldmeri Dominion is one of the good-guy factions; it was also fun to go to Morrowind (on Mages' Guild business) and meet Almalexia. It was funny 'cause I was saying, semi-in-character, that I'm not all that in awe of a mortal who stole a shard of divine power, and then I go into her audience-chamber and she's floating in the air. All right, all right, point made—still never gonna be an et'Ada, though.

    They could've put in more work making Valenwood stand apart, though then again I haven't been to Falinesti yet. (It moves. It's a walking city built in a giant tree.) High Rock was, well, High Rock; and Hammerfell was fine except there weren't nearly enough wayshrines and I had to backtrack a lot when I got killed by possessed Imperial soldiers.
  • I will admit that part of what makes ESO's crafting so obnoxious, the rune system used in enchanting, does involve something interesting: the runes seem to be a syllabary where the vowel and consonant (most of them are CV syllables) are expressed in two separate strokes, consistent across different combinations, to make one character.

    I don't know what the canonical status of this system is, relative to the franchise as a whole. Everything else we've seen suggests that Ysgramor derived the runes used for Nedic languages (the branch of the Ehlnofex language-group that includes all human languages except maybe Yokudan/Redguard and Akaviri) from some branch of Elven runes, probably Falmeris.

    Which probably means most human languages of Tamriel are written in script that looks no more different from any Mer script than Ayleidoon is from Dwemeris or either is from Falmeris.
  • People are bad about coming up with numerals for their conlangs (or addressing how their conlangs express numbers at all). I've done it for my Elven and Dwarven, and recently Gnomish; both my Elven and Dwarven use symbols derived from which knuckle of which finger you have your thumb on, because their numbers are dozenal. My Gnomish, on the other hand, has numeral symbols derived from counting on both hands and both feet, or the fronts and backs of hands, since they're vigesimal. My dragons, meanwhile, use senary (base-6), since their wings have three fingers each. I briefly considered having dragons use base-10, counting the same as elves and dwarves but with five joints per finger (the numbers of bones in bird toes is super variable)—that's how the spider-people get base-10, counting on the joints of their pedipalp-hands' two fingers, with their thumb.

    See, there are 27 letters in my Draconic script, and I thought maybe they'd do something like Greek or Hebrew numerals, and have the first third of the alphabet be 1-9, the next third 10-90 by tens, and the last third (Hebrew and Greek have to pad out their letter roster to reach 27) being 100-900 by hundreds. But dragons are the one race in a D&D setting who absolutely need to deal in numbers over a few thousand, since they use giant piles of metal coins as nesting material and obsessively count every single tarnished, half-defaced penny in their hoards. So they use positional notation (and may well have introduced it to other races, since elves and even dwarves probably dealt in vast fortunes much later than dragons did). Dragons are probably born knowing levels of arithmetic nobody else has to bother with, levels we pass off to computers, in the real world.

    "Entire species of Fenton Crackshells" seems like a fun characterization of dragons, to me.
  • So instead, my Draconic language uses senary, but their writing uses something like the Cistercian numerical cipher, to have each digit represent a number up to 1295 (one shy of the fourth power of six). It's just a diagonal stroke and up to five little "dots", like the first five cuneiform numerals. And then the dots are either lined up to top or bottom and centered right or left, or centered top or bottom and lined up right or left, similar to the cipher but simpler (I only need to worry about five, not nine).

    And then, my dragons do positional numerals based on those. Like one digit is 1–1295, and then a second digit represents the fourth through sixth power of six, allowing two digit numbers to represent any number between 1 and 10,077,695. Then the third digit would represent the ninth through twelfth power, so you can get all the way to 2,176,782,335 before you have to add in a fourth digit. Four-digit numbers go all the way to 470,184,984,575—a number even dragons don't need that often. This essentially means conceptualizing numbers in base-6 but writing them in base-1296, much as the human version of the cipher could be used for base-10,000 positional notation, if you felt like it.

    (You can use the Cistercian cipher to write any number from 1 to 99,999,999—1 short of a myriad-squared—as a two-digit number. You'd have to have zero, though—maybe as a bare vertical line—and you'd probably modify the shapes of some of the symbols so, for instance, it's not ambiguous whether the "floating" short stroke is to the right of one line or to the left of the next line. I'd connect them via the existing diagonal line since the "diagonal, short vertical" combination isn't used.)
  • Given the scaled-people serve giant cave catfish (the aboleths), who have two big tentacle-barbels, and nagas, who might count on the two forks of their tongues (you tell me what snakes with human faces count on), decided that they use a Greek or Hebrew type of numeral system, but binary.

    E.g. A (if that were their first letter, which it's not) is 1, B is 2, 3 is written BA, C is 4, 5 is written CA, 6 is written CB, 7 is CBA, and D is 8. Then E would be 16, F 32, and so on; their script only has 13 letters, which lets them write up to 4,096 with one letter. Verbally I think that means they express a number like 666 (written JHEDB if they used our alphabet) as "five hundred twelve, one hundred twenty-eight, sixteen, eight, two". Except of course that "five hundred twelve" and "one hundred twenty-eight" are one word each, the way "billion" is. (Or maybe not? Maybe go four, eight, hextet for 16, two hextets for 32, four hextets for 64, eight hextets for 128, and then 256 is a square hextet? I like that one; then 512 is two square hextets, 1024 is four square hextets, 2048 is eight square hextets, and 4096 is a cubed hextet, analogous to a billion except with the fourth power as superbase instead of the third.)

    I basically just don't want to have to figure out how many fingers fish-people have, and all the races in question (except kobolds and troglodytes, which escaped) were slaves to things without hands. Your boss understanding your numbers is more important than you understanding them.
  • Also did my human script's numerals; 1 to 5 are basically like 1, 2, and 3 in ours, cursive tally marks, but instead of linking strokes they just have extra strokes count as talles—2 looks like a backwards 7, 3 looks like Z, 4 looks like a backwards 3, and 5 looks like a stacked-up Z crammed into the height of one character. Then for 6 to 9 I reverse 1 to 4 (the single stroke for 1 is at the angle of the 2's down-stroke), because when you're counting on fingers your second hand is reversed from your first one. 0 is an hourglass-shape representing two fists. Almost all my writing-systems, except Draconic and Undercommon in fact, have a symbol for "10" in whatever base (ten, onedozen, onescore, etc.)—being older than the use of zero. (In the human script it's a reversed 5 sign, as 9 is a reversed 4 sign.)

    I think I might also have a Greek- or Hebrew-style use of my human alphabet, which has 27 signs in one version and 26 in another, once I figure out what that extra character is doing (it might be a vowel lengthener?). Both Greek and Hebrew have to use extra forms of their letters when being used as numerals (the word-final forms, mainly) since neither alphabet has 27 letters; Cyrillic and Glagolitic only use part of their alphabets, since the basic Cyrillic has between 33 and 44 depending how old of a version you use, and Glagolitic has 47. Armenian has exactly 36 letters (till two extras were added for transcribing foreign words), so they could do up to thousands the alphabetic way. Ethiopian oddly has 26 letters but only goes to tens when using them as numerals; then it does something weird for hundreds.

    Think my Giantish numerals will be acrophonic, since I haven't done that one yet. Giantish uses octal numbers rather than decimal, counting on the space between fingers—a tiny number of New World languages do it that way.
  • An idea I had in my setting is that the undead are not, exactly, reanimated corpses, so much as they're puppets made from corpses but controlled by invisible tendrils of malice. Otherwise, how do skeletons move? Or zombies, really, since their muscle is usually rotted too—just one of several reasons the "zombie apocalypse" is stupid if it's not magic. (Maybe in zombies' case the malice-tendril "actuators" are supplementary to whatever muscle they retain, which explains why they have a higher Strength score than skeletons do.)

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