2021/02/23

Playing with Fantasy XXIV

Fantasy RPG thoughts.
  • One of course wants to have, along with the mundane airships detailed in Ultimate Combat, flying ships that are controlled by a chair that eats your day's spells and imparts a fly speed of 150 feet per round times one-third to one-half your spellcaster level. But that would be sadly illegal. Instead, I decided that the elves and the spider people use ornithopters and entomopters, respectively (elves feather theirs with their leaves, spider people make the wing-membranes from silk). And the ships have magic engines, used by spellcasters, but instead of eating your day's spellcasting, they're attuned to like a leyline, as described in Occult Adventures, and they provide the variable bonus to drive checks (Spellcast or Fly, whichever is higher) instead of caster level.

    The "evil Atlanteans" are the users of the steam airships, which I think are still controlled by the kind of "leyline engine" that controls the ornithopters and entomopters. And then I decided that dwarves, who I was going to also have using ornithopters, instead eschew flying, and instead use subterrenes ("drill tanks", except with tunnel borers rather than drills strictly so-called) or submarines, also powered by "leyline engines"—not sure exactly what they'll look like. Submarines with those engines are also what the snake people will use, instead of flying ships. And then I was wondering what the gnomes should use; I considered some kind of Leonardo-esque "air screw" helicopter, using their sacred fungi to make the "screw", but—read on.

    I think the elf ones will be "crowships" and the spider-people entomopters will be "darnerships" (i.e. they're dragonflies, though I won't actually use the deckplan of the somewhat iconic all-purpose spelljamming ship). I don't know what the dwarf ones will be shaped like (I'm leaning toward the one vehicle being usable as both subterrene and submarine, so maybe something like "snailship"?), but the snake submarines will be "sharkships". But there are no helicopter animals, so I decided actually gnomes should use flying boats (not submarines though) that mimic flying squid (which may actually be able to really fly—albeit not very strongly—by undulating their bodies like dolphins, to "flap"), which I'm going to call "teuthopters".
  • All of which raised a quandary: what is your parachute, on one of those? An actual parachute? A glider of some sort? A set of wings of flying (which really ought to be called a cloak thereof, it's a cape that changes into wings)? A ring of feather falling? (Probably that one.) The spell won't cut it, it generally wears off well before you hit the ground, if you assume a paratrooper-style 2000-foot jump height—even a 20th level caster will still leave you 800 feet in the air when feather fall wears off. (Cruising altitude for an airship, if we take Zeppelins as a model, is only 650 feet, which you still need to be at least 10th level to fall from at 60 feet per round and a 1-round-per-level duration.)
  • Decided that instead of Tainish from Unsounded and Hardic et al. from Earthsea, the languages on the other continent, in my setting, will draw inspiration from Dothraki and what little we see of Ghân-buri-Ghân's language, Drúadanic. Just like how my main continent has the protagonists speak the Tolkien-derived one (Adûnaic) and the vile and hated enemy speaking the Game of Thrones-derived one (no disrespect intended to David Peterson; he didn't create the Valyrians or Dothraki, he just did the best he could to give those caricature-cultures halfway decent conlangs), the Egypt-y ones are the ones who speak the Tolkien-based one. (Yes, both the civilized and the "barbarians" speak languages associated with "barbarians". On the other continent the Adûnaic-based language was originally that of peoples despised by the evil Atlanteans as "barbarians", even though it's based on the language of another setting's Atlantis/Rome-analogue just as Valyrian is.)

    One thing this meant is that I had to slightly rework the script I worked out for them, which was fine actually. Since the Drúadanic-based language has a very limited sound-palette, too limited to let the Dothraki-based one be written conveniently in a script for it, I instead went with the script having been devised by scholars for writing both, like the 'Phags-pa script in Yuan China, though based on older scripts used only for their own (and incorporating, I think, ancient logograms that the older form of their script ultimately descends from but that it's a real pain in the ass to actually work out). I also gave them a numeral system, with different rules from the alphabetic characters, an important thing to do when you make the numerals for a con-script. (Usually. The this-side-of-the-world cultures just use their first nine letters for 1–9 and a space for 0—I think they write numerals inside a circle or something—because originally they used Greek- or Hebrew-style numerals, and then just adapted them to positional use.)
  • I also worked out my giants' numerals and redid my gnomes' system. All four of my nonhuman numeral systems, Dwarven, Elven, Giantish, and Gnomish, were originally based in some way on the body-part they used for counting (Elven and Dwarven dozenal on the individual knuckles of each finger, Giantish octal on the spaces between fingers, Gnomish vigesimal on fingers and toes). Which I highly recommend as a shortcut to making constructed numerals, but it still bugs me that they have characters for "10" (whichever that means in their numerical base), that they don't use now they have zero.

    See, the Elven and Dwarven numerals have a regular pattern for 1–3, 4–6, 7–9, and then write ten and eleven—digits A and B—in a way that clearly indicates the next number should, though representing the numerical base and thus "10", be the digit C. Giants write 1–4 regularly, and 5–7, and then you wish you didn't have to write 8 as "10"; gnomes have a regular way to write 1–5, 6–A, B–F, and G–J, and you wish you could use the obvious symbol for K instead of writing it "10".

    This would bother me less except that my other-side-of-the-world numerals have a pattern for 1–3, 4–6, and 7–9, so there's no leftover regularity that makes "10" feel unnatural. Because where the other races modified a pre-positional numeral system to writing positional numbers, the civilization over there, whose script was purpose-built and semi-artificial, were free to come up with their numerals wholesale. I have worldbuilding reasons for all the other scripts' numerals being irregular, but it still bugs me.
  • So the actual name for "ley lines" as a mystical thing—the concept has more legitimacy as a part of fengshui than as part of Alfred Watkins's pseudoscience—is lóngmài, literally "dragon vein" (the same as the ryūmyaku that Xingese alkahestry is powered by, in Fullmetal Alchemist). I submit that "wyrmlode" is the cool fantasy-sounding English (and from purely English roots) version. ("Lode" is a bit too modern, here, but "wyrmedder"—the second element being the aboriginal English word for "vein", still extant in some dialects—sounds too weird.)

    I decided that in my setting, dragons give their name to the phenomenon because they live primarily by tapping into it, like fleas, and only eat other creatures for nutrients, like butterflies eating mud or tears. Which explains a number of things about dragons, like their obsession with their lairs (maybe heaping up a hoard in a nexus of these energies, is the dragon equivalent of rearing a standing stone there?), and also how you can keep a 24-ton dragon alive on the same diet as something like a 5-ton tyrannosaur.

    A lot of dragons' adaptations (notably not their breath weapon) are, thus, intended for fighting other dragons away from the territory where they get their geomantic topomantic energies. (I kinda want to call the "wyrmlode" nexuses "alkahest fields", using the Fullmetal Alchemist translation of dan 丹 to render dantian 丹田—I guess I could also say "cinnabar fields"—which usually refers to yogas chakras, the equivalent of such a nexus in the body's qi, rather than that of a landscape, but is also used for the fengshui equivalent. "As above, so below", as the guy Ed and Al's dad is named after would say.)
  • I had had the "ley line guardian" witch-archetype known, in-universe, as "rhumbline" witches, since the main witches of my setting are the thalassocratic Valyrian/evil Atlantean maritime empire. But I guess it actually makes more sense to just have them be called "wyrmlode" witches. Maybe they practice sorcerer-like (but Intelligence- rather than Charisma-based) spellcasting through watching and copying dragons, which is where my sorcerer "bloodlines" come from (hence I call them "lineages" instead).
  • I found a random wordlist generator, an online thing called Awkwords. I had used this old freeware app called Langmaker (no relation I know of with the defunct wiki), but that only works on Windows XP and earlier (it might still work on 7?) I used it to make my Elven, Dwarven, and "formerly Tainish now Drúadan Egyptian" sign-languages. But I was feeling out-of-sorts, having already made all the languages for my setting ("Alexander wept, for he had no more worlds to conquer"); that was a part of why I redid both the languages on the other continent (though I had been dissatisfied with them for a while.

    I also decided to work out a language for the arthropod-people made by the spider-outsiders, like the one used by the snake-, lizard-, and fish-people the snake-outsiders made; I had had them using a weird pronunciation of my Sylvan (in my setting, a language used in common by talking beasts), but now they have their own. Unfortunately it's not directly mappable onto Undercommon from the standard list in the Linguistics skill like that is. (But hey there are a bunch of slots freed up by my combining all the outsider and elemental languages, plus Aklo, into "Primordial".)

    Hmm. Maybe have the talking beasts use a mispronounced version of their humanoid riders' languages? That would be more thematically appropriate, since the talking beasts are all the children of the older "litters" of the nonhumans' gods, and thus regard their humanoid counterparts as their spiritual aunts and uncles. Then I can give Sylvan to the bugs. Yeah might go with that, though it'll be a lot of work.
  • Partly out of the desire to play with the new toy, I also decided that I might do my Primordial language as an actual language after all; just babbling glossolalia and using asemic writing as the script is cool and thematically appropriate and not at all fulfilling to me as a conlanger. And the artist must ultimately please himself.

    So I generated a very short wordlist, made only of semantic primes (then I added semantic molecules, because having to refer to everything by primes would be a pain in the ass); I still have read magic convert magical writings composed in Primordial into something readable, but by changing the writing—which is pure ideograms, not logograms—into the natural semantic metalanguage of your own lexicon.

    I might actually generate a full-sized lexicon for it. Or maybe I'll go straight back to the glossolalia and asemic script, and put the time and work I might have put into developing Primordial into a "real" language (but one that's thematically not as consistent or as interesting from a worldbuilding standpoint) into developing my bug-Sylvan and "talking animal" dialects of my humanoid languages.

2021/01/24

Playing with Fantasy XXIII

  • I had had the gnomes making mead and the dwarves making kumis, but there were a number of problems. First, of course, the dwarves doing it was predicated on wolverine milk being as high in lactose as mink milk is, but—aside from how the dwarves' giant wolverines are speaking creatures, and buying some lady's breast milk is kinda weird (though paid wetnurses are a thing in many cultures)—minks are tiny and have an insanely fast metabolism. Bear-sized wolverines probably would not need all that lactose; bear milk has incredibly low lactose, like 0.5%. (Horse milk is 6%.)

    Second is that it's probably hard to be a nomadic beekeeper, and most gnome agriculture is done by (the hyenas who accompany) gnome caravans. Whereas dwarves are settled people, and thus they (and their wolverines) can do beekeeping fairly easily. (I don't know if wolverines are immune to beestings, but honey badgers and skunks are.) Plus the gnomes have their big caravan wagons (think Mongol yurt wagons) drawn by muskoxen, which are also the main livestock gnomes eat and milk. Muskox milk can, depending on feed, go as high as 5% lactose, which is probably enough to make kumis from.
  • I know I said monks are nearly useless; honestly I'm starting to feel that way about rangers, too. I mean maybe if your GM goes out of their way to provide a lot of favored-enemy and tracking gameplay, and you could probably do something with animal companions (the other version of hunter's bond is useful but kinda lackluster). I suppose it's more "might be a lot of fun to play, if your GM is on the ball and makes the campaign rewarding" than "actually useless". Maybe I'm just petulant about them needing your GM to be on the ball to be a rewarding play experience.
  • Did some research on how you heat an inn. One way is to have the chimneys of the common room (which is where most people sleep) and kitchen, if it has a separate one, open onto rooms on the second floor, and heat them that way. Another is to have braziers with hot embers from the kitchen and common-room fires in the private rooms, and heat them like that. If you're going to have rooms away from the common room or kitchen with fireplaces, your inn is going to have more chimneys; most likely you'd still have the fireplaces in adjoining corners so four rooms can share one chimney.

    Was not able to find out this kind of thing about caravanserais, because all the search results were for resort ones that have central heating now. Someone said people stayed warm by sleeping with their animals, but I don't actually think that shows up in any of the historical accounts of caravanserai, and I can't imagine high-class travelers doing that. My guess would actually be the "brazier in each room" method; thinking mine might also have the "shared chimney fireplaces" thing (maybe every two rooms not every four, given most caravanserai floorplans).
  • Apparently part of why D&D 5e is so simplified (not to say "dumbed down") is because one of the chief designers, Mike Mearls, says women can't understand complex rules and lore. He phrased it as complex rules and lore being used to "gatekeep" women from the hobby, but the implication is the same, the "soft bigotry of low expectations". Besides, dude, I know several women who learned on 2nd Edition, and 3e/3.5e isn't within a parsec of that complex (not to say "obtuse").
  • So the dying and coming back mechanic in Elder Scrolls Online is cancer. Especially since the "Vestige" is semi-undead, meaning that there is no reason they can't be as easily rezzed as Guardians. But I was thinking about how you'd handle players dying if you actually cared, when the player characters aren't immortal undead. You can't very well make resurrection that cheap and easy.

    But then it occurred to me, MonHan. When you die in Monster Hunter, those little cat guys rush in, put you on a cart, and drag you off to where you are presumably resuscitated. So in an MMO, you could just have something that teleports you to some central location (like the Hunter's Guild), and they patch you up and then return you to the fight. And their doing that is the respawn timer.
  • Not in my campaign, where hybrid "races" are all "ampule babies", but in a more standard one, you might rule that elves and gnomes can have children (I'd say Medium sized, though much smaller than an elf—not being Small means they can still carry more than a gnome—with +2 Dex, -2 Str, and maybe player's choice of +2 to Charisma or Intelligence), and maybe humans and halflings (something like Medium but not very big, with -2 Str, +2 Dex, and player's choice of +2 to one other ability). Not sure about any other combinations, though.
  • I apparently haven't talked about it here, but I worked out what kind of bow-draw my various societies use. The thalassocratic Valyrian/evil Atlantis culture uses the Mediterranean draw or the three-under draw (associated respectively with the Turks—the ancient Mediterranean used the pinch draw—and the English, can't imagine why an evil empire would have similarities to them), the steppe nomads on the main continent and the settled empire on the other continent use the Japanese draw, and the settled people on the main continent use the Mongolian draw. The nomadic "barbarian" culture on the other continent uses the pinch draw, because their bows are a hunting-tool not a weapon (they prefer javelins and axes for war). Elves use the Hungarian draw.

    The Mediterranean draw is where you draw the bowstring with your index, middle, and ring fingers, with the arrow between index and middle. Three-under is the same except all three fingers are under the arrow. The Japanese draw is where you draw the bowstring with your thumb, and your drawing hand's palm is parallel with the bow; the Mongolian draw is where you draw the string with your thumb and your drawing hand's palm is parallel with the ground. The pinch draw is where you don't draw the bowstring, you draw the arrow, and requires enormous strength to do with a war-bow (which can be more than twice as strong as hunting bows). And the Hungarian draw is like the Mediterranean draw except you only use the index and middle finger, not the ring one.
  • Also worked out the benefit to using a parent-child bow: It functions as a composite bow but the minimum Strength to use it without penalty is treated as lower, I'll say by 2 points. Or maybe your Strength is treated as 2 higher, including for the sake of getting the damage bonus? But that second thing looks kinda broken. "You don't need the same Strength to use it but you need that Strength to get the bonus" seems fairer.
  • Was reading a thing about how the Mongols' mainly eating preserved food while on the move allowed them to move very stealthily, because they didn't make campfires. Which it occurs to me is part of why you would not want to mess with my elves: both they and their mounts have darkvision and cold resistance. Their mounts can also keep them coordinated within about 5 miles, via roaring, which can include words because they can talk (they do it in code so even someone who speaks Sylvan won't be able to eavesdrop). The same goes for my goblins, except their mounts howl.

    Not quite as good but my dwarves and ogres (which includes orcs) can do something similar, taking the same precautions against cold that the Mongols had to, but able to move through the hottest parts of the day without stopping, and still able to attack at night with no trouble. They also aren't slowed down by anything they're carrying (my ogres have the same "slow and steady" movement as dwarves), even though they're slightly slower than other humanoids. They do both have the disadvantage that their mounts can't roar or howl, though.

2020/12/12

Playing with Fantasy XXII

I actually wanted this to be a general spec fic post, but as it turns out I only wanted to talk about FRPGs some more.
  • Turns out it was actually fairly easy to do my blackletter and uncial scripts, I just needed to actually write with a pen in a notebook rather than trying to create directly from Inkscape. I even made capitals and small letters for the blackletter (I don't think they use the two quite the same way we use our two cases). For the cursive version, used by the remnant of the "evil Atlantean" culture, I decided to connect the letters at the bottom, rather than at the top like in most European cursives.

    Was kinda at a loss as to what to do for the human script from the other continent, the Tainish-inspired language. Briefly toyed with basing the shapes on the simplest hanzi radicals. But it looked too much like actual Chinese characters. Instead, I went with a more Indic-inspired script, with a line at the top like Tibetan (not like Devanagari because they don't connect), but with several of the characters distinct from anything Indic. (And not an abugida. Have I mentioned that I do not like those?)
  • I discover the people who did the Dothraki script for Game of Thrones apparently did a script for Valyrian, too, but I don't think they worked it out in time for it to appear in the show, at least not before they had done a bunch of stuff in Roman script and it would be weird to change halfway through—but if Game of Thrones ever gets a Special Edition they should totally change it, the way later versions of Star Wars changed Roman letters to Aurebesh.
  • Have done some work on my setting's sign languages. Among other things, I decided to ignore iconicity—the quality in sign languages of a sign suggesting what it's the sign of. E.g., ASL for "baby" is rocking an imaginary one. Whereas the ASL for "name" is tapping the index and middle finger of one hand against the index and middle fingers of the other, which has nothing to do with names.

    Iconicity is very common (something like 60% of ASL signs are iconic) in real-world sign languages, because they mostly come from deaf people (or occasionally travelers, e.g. "Plains Indian Sign") communicating with people who don't speak them. But my setting's sign languages come from elven hunters not wanting to spook game, dwarven smiths needing to communicate despite the noise of work, and humans from the other continent needing to communicate while silent rituals were taking place, without disrupting them. I.e., they were mainly used with other people who spoke them. And for comparison, only 1.15% of Japanese words connect their sound to what they are (onomatopoeia, the buba-kiki effect, etc.), and Japanese has an unusually high percent of words formed that way.

    That's the worldbuilding justification for my sign languages ignoring iconicity. The meta reason, of course, is it's easier to randomly generate your sign words if you don't bother about iconicity. Instead, I just have a small number of handshapes, orientations, and locations, plus internal motions, randomly combined, that mean lexemes, then "path" motion marks things like agent, patient, and verb aspect. My elven and dwarven signs are all one-handed, the former from being done while holding onto weapons or treebranches, the latter from being done while holding a tool in the other hand. I still need to do a bit more work on the human sign language, though.
  • I like how Pathfinder gives you a lot of granularity in what mix of primary caster (like wizards, sorcerers, clerics, and oracles), secondary caster (like maguses, warpriests, and inquisitors), or tertiary casters (like bloodragers and paladins) you want. They even have a prepared, Intelligence tertiary arcane caster, a fighter archetype called "child of Acavna and Amaznen", that can prepare and cast 0th-level spells, from 2nd level, and then at 5th (presumably 4th if they rate a bonus spell, though the text is unclear) gets the spells per day of a ranger, but from the bloodrager spell list. So if you want a more martial arcane-caster class than a magus, and prefer Intelligence prepared casting to Charisma spontaneous, and/or don't want to bother with the hybrid bloodrager class, that's your guy.

    If you want a more arcane arcane-caster class than the magus, but still one that's more martial than the default wizard, there's the "sword binder" wizard archetype, which is basically a wizard but can use their bonded sword (personally I would let them bond to and use any one-handed weapon) at range, like the universalist's "hand of the apprentice" ability, but delivering touch spells through the weapon like a magus, including at range if they use the hand of the apprentice. And can eventually make their weapon fly around, and clairvoyantly spy on the area around it. (If you like spontaneous Charisma casting instead of prepared Intelligence casting, there's also the "eldritch scrapper" sorcerer archetype, which has some features of the brawler hybrid class.)

    I might let rangers have the option of 0th-level druid spells, on the same basis as the fighter above, instead of one of their combat-style feats? Can't really let paladins do the same, except maybe if they delay getting divine health till 7th level? I'd take "0th-level spells, usable at-will an infinite number of times a day" to lose one bonus feat or hold off total disease immunity for four levels.
  • Decided that I'm going to base the lawful planeborne in my setting on (heavily modified) aeons, not qlippoth, mostly because the aeons are more thematically similar; a lot of them do have four arms, which I can hang "is now a spider spirit" off of, at least as easily as turning all the qlippoth into spiders. Also think I'm going to have ethically-neutral "planeborne", probably based on psychopomps, as well as the morally-neutral elementals (which use modified div stats).

    Also decided that dead giants will definitely become titans, dead goblins become kytons (but focused on fear instead of pain), and probably that dead dark dwarves become daemons and dead dark elves become asuras (all modded somewhat). Not sure if dead ogres become rakshasas or oni; leaning to the former. Also added demodands and nabasu and vrolikai demons to the otherwise devil-based fiends, along with succubi (which include incubi, here).
  • As I've almost certainly said before, dead (good) humans, including halflings, become agathions, elves become azatas, gnomes become kami, and dwarves become inevitables, all modified in various ways to reflect the different cosmology. The never-mortal (I call them "firstborn" or "first generation") "planeborne", other than the ones I just mentioned, are evil fiends, based mainly on devils (but with all three ethical alignments), good celestials based on angels, morally neutral elementals based on divs (with all three ethical alignments), and chaotic (with all three moral alignments) nagas, based on proteans.
  • I've been calling my setting "Thrice Two Worlds", because there are six planets or moons that intelligent beings originally came from, though they've since all converged on the main planet due to fiend invasions of their homeworlds. (Reminiscent, perhaps, of every continent other than Tamriel, on Nirn, except Summerset, eventually disgorging its Ehlnofey population onto the Tamriel mainland, but I don't have any conscious influence from that.) I believe there is an in-universe reason Faerûn is called "the Forgotten Realms" (all those lost civilizations, I think?).

    "Thrice two", of course, is just a cool way to say "six", but I think I might have the in-universe backstory of the name be that the snake people actually call it the Quartet-Two Worlds (110II), but people of other species, not being familiar with binary numbers, took the first word for "times three" rather than "four". Maybe go with "Half-dozen Worlds", named by the elves or dwarves? You do say "half a hundred" in decimal, maybe the dozenal-users start those idioms one order of magnitude lower (I bet there are plenty of decimal languages with the concept "half of a set of ten").
  • Kinda unsure what to do with the Dark Tapestry oracle mystery or the Void cleric domain (except I know I'm leaving the latter off my humans' calendar—I might not keep it off my list of dwarf clans, though). I just don't subscribe to the Lovecraftian, post-Victorian petulance of "the sidereal universe is insanity-inducing and scary, mostly because it doesn't cater to our Early Modern humanist narcissism". As I've mentioned before, actually, one of the things about Relativity, general covariance, is the literal opposite of what Lovecraft tried to make Relativity mean.

    Unless maybe the scarier effects of Dark Tapestry-mystery, Void-domain, and Dark Tapestry- and Isolation-subdomain spells and granted powers are just that mortal ego does not like being confronted with the infinite? And maybe the Dark Tapestry subdomain's summoning-augmentation power, It Came From Beyond, instead of making the summoned creature "deformed or hideous" (an example of the incipient eugenicist subtext infesting cosmic horror), just reinforces its body with invisible force, i.e. "non-Euclidean geometry".

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.