2021/07/29

Playing with Fantasy XXVIII

Second post in the month.
  • Hmm. Might just say the bugbears have no "warg" big enough to carry them, and instead, just get pulled around in chariots. Maybe their wives drive them? In Greece and I think India, the warrior would be driven around, seated, while the driver stood. Whichever of you drives, or if you drive with one hand while attacking with the other, you wouldn't want to stand in a chariot, as an 8½ foot person. Large-sized wargs are significantly stronger than horses, even advanced simple-template heavy horses (which is not what would pull most chariots, anyway).

    I decided to construct my "wargs" from the ground up, using the hyena stats as a base, then changing the type to magical beast and applying the advanced simple template. Then for the big one I also apply the giant simple template. For the cats the elves ride I did both the same steps, but to the cheetah—since they're based on Homotherium and it was seriously a "sabertooth cheetah", down to having reduced wrist mobility (cheetahs hold things between their front paws more like a dog does, e.g. with a bone, not like a cat or leopard would).
  • Might even have the dwarves stop riding things, and just either use vehicles, walk, or, in the case of in warfare, take up a position and bombard an enemy with artillery, rather than bothering about cavalry(-analogues). Yeah I kinda like that: between being super technologically advanced, and being dwarves, they have nothing in between "take a train (or other vehicle)" and "walk".

    The only problem, of course, is I really like all my nonhumans having the thing they ride do their agriculture. So maybe, instead, they ride bears? Bears are the largest fossorial (burrowing) animal, after all. There's a good candidate, the cursorial prehistoric bear lineage, the hemicyoninae—which as the name ("half-dogs") suggests, were built like dogs; I had considered them for the ogres but they work better for dwarves. Specifically, Dinocyon, which was just under 8 feet long and weighed about a quarter of a metric ton—easily fudge-able into something that can be ridden.

    Think I'll just have the ogres and orcs run everywhere. They still have dwarf endurance, after all.
  • Incidentally, apparently there is an evolutionary link between burrowing and group living, in mammals, as can be seen from rodents (e.g. prairie dogs—which are actually, basically, chipmunks) and meerkats (a kind of mongoose). So it makes perfect sense that dwarves would be lawful, i.e. group oriented. Also apparently short, powerful limbs is one of the six common traits of fully burrowing-specialized mammals, identified at the turn of the 20th century. Though to be full-fledged burrow-sepcialists, dwarves would need small ears (doable) and to be blind (not so doable, but darkvision makes that one moot).
  • Wrote an adventure where the PCs find portions of journals, to piece together what's been happening. The easy way is just to find sections of the journal, but, who would do that? You don't let your journal of your descent into madness get scattered all around all willy-nilly.

    So instead, they find the journals themselves, but each section is in code, and they have to find the keys to each section's code, scattered around. Still meters out the paces of revelations, but is much more believable from a "why would it be that way, if it weren't in a game?" standpoint.
  • Anyone else see the problem with the fact the Pathfinder kingdom rules have no vacancy penalty for the "heir" role? Because…Stability is a score for kingdoms. Not having an heir has historically been just a little detrimental to stability (and not only in hereditary systems; a clear line of succession is a vital thing in any government).
  • Realized that Druidic is yet another language subsumed into the glossolalia-language spoken by the outsiders and aberrations in my setting, the one I call Primordial (I might change it to Primeval, since Primordial means something else in 5e). The way I think it might work is that mortals, at least, can only understand the Primordial of those whose alignment is within one step of theirs, or whose elemental affinity is not incompatible with theirs. So only fellow treehuggers can understand Druidic.

    Oddly, this basically brings back "alignment languages" from OD&D and 1e AD&D. I mean think about it, nothing else really makes any sense for that; the idea Gygax seemed to be going for was a sort of alignment-specific argot, which makes no sense when you forget your old one upon changing alignment. Much more plausible that you can gabble glossolalia at each other and interpret it. (If I ever publish this stuff formally, people are gonna think I'm a Pentecostal, the way you can tell Tracy Hickman is LDS from countless aspects of Dragonlance.)
  • Someone just revealed the most terrifying thing in the history of humanity: where before, D&D players were trying to recreate fantasy books or movies, and then for a while fantasy video games, now they're trying to recreate Critical Role. Which…aside from sounding like Frankfurt Marxist analysis of tabletop gaming…is basically every problem in tabletop gaming that began after 1984 (there were other problems introduced before that, but 1984 is the year the first Dragonlance modules came out—overall I like what it did to the hobby but every change has a downside).

2021/07/14

Playing with Fantasy XXVII

Fantasy game thoughts. Try to get two this month so I average out to one a month.
  • Think I'll just have my dark elves ride the same cats as the other elves, instead of Simbakubwa-based crocottae. And I think I'll go back to goblins riding a Carnivoran, too, instead of hyaenodonts, but instead of the amphicyonids they were riding before, I think they'll ride percrocutids, like Dinocrocuta (or rather like Percrocuta, but then also scaled up so hobgoblins and bugbears can ride them). Might give the voice-mimicry ability of crocottae to the things the goblins ride, since wargs ("worgs") are described as mimicking voices, in several D&D/Pathfinder sources. (Presumably the crocotta of legend, based on the striped hyena, was said to mimic voice because of the laughing.)

    Not sure I'll keep the orcs riding pigs (or entelodonts or mesonychids). I do like the idea, because Twilight Princess, but riding an artiodactyl when everyone else rides carnivorans makes them the odd one out. Maybe I'll have the orcs ride hemicyonid bears, since the dwarves ride giant wolverines and they're both caniforms. The dark dwarves (which are not duergar) do not ride the wolverines; they ride giant spiders. Elves' cats are chaotic neutral and thus more likely to just go with whatever, while dwarves' wolverines are lawful neutral, i.e. sticklers. Maybe just have the ogres walk everywhere, with their dwarf endurance? Yeah that could work.

    Not sure what my evil gnomes ride. Maybe edgelord versions of the other gnomes' hyenas? They're true neutral, so they could go along with their two-legged friends just like the panthers.
  • If we base the beastie the goblins ride on Percrocuta—5 feet long, 3 feet at the shoulder, 205 pounds—and use the height ratios of the three goblin races (rounding up or down as needed), we get a hobgoblin mount that's 8 feet long, 5 feet at the shoulder, and (taking the cube of the dimensional difference) weighs 900 pounds. But applying the bugbear one gives us a mount that's only 11 feet 6 inches long, 7 feet at the shoulder, and weighs 2,555 pounds—which is only a Large creature. However, because it's freaking enormous, you could apply the Advanced template, like you do to make a warhorse out of a regular horse. (This means bugbears, themselves Large, have to burn a feat to get Undersized Mount, but it's worth it.)
  • My dark elves no longer practice blood-sacrifice of speaking creatures ("human sacrifice" with a slightly broader target category). Decided it was a bit too witchy; in the real world there are plenty of human-sacrificing cultures that do not go all the way into witchery (the Nahuatl city-states that semi-forced Cortes into conflict with Tenochtitlan practiced human sacrifice too, just on a much smaller scale and without cannibalism), but in fantasy it's better to keep the themes distinct.

    Basically the dark elves now keep to the level of evil found in ancient civilizations like Rome and Sparta, with pragmatic murders like eugenic infanticide and constant honor-killing, but with a taboo on human sacrifice. Of course, part of their pragmatic murder is massacring communities that manage to fight back against their slave-raids, to cow others; they also perform experiments on intelligent beings. (Other than goblins or other elves, whom they always kill rather than capturing.)
  • A recent Wizards of the Coast customer survey had, to ensure that they actually surveyed customers (imagine preferring that!), a very basic rules question ("What is advantage?"). And a bunch of Twitterati went ballistic at the "gatekeeping", because even knowing the basic rules is an imposition, I guess. Remember, this is after they simplified the d20 rules because Mike Mearls thinks women are stupid, but apparently DnD now attracts people, gender unspecified, who are actually even stupider than Mearls assumed, and think that that's a problem for everyone else.
  • Holy mackerel but the cavalier Order of the Blossom is OP. You get a sneak attack while being a heavily armored cavalier with a martial class attack bonus, which not only means your sneak attack is more likely to hit, but also that your sneak attack can be stacked with Vital Strike at 6th level—you don't have to wait till an odd level because cavaliers get a bonus feat at 6th.

    And then, because that wasn't horrifying enough, you also get a bonus to Bluff checks equal to half your cavalier level. You use Bluff (which is modified by Charisma, which many cavalier abilities run off of) to feint. Which denies enemies their Dex bonus against you till your next action. "Enemy denied Dex bonus" is all that is required to sneak attack.

    Rogues can often sneak attack every round or every other round, but they generally need an ally to be helping them flank, and are a "glass cannon" if they get into an even fight. Order of the Blossom members can likely sneak attack every other round solo, and have d10 hit dice and heavy armor.
  • So I decided that my elves' inquisitors are mostly living grimoire archetype from Horror Adventures, mostly because Int instead of Wis is an advantage for them.

    But that archetype uses a holy text. I had originally conceived my religions as not having those much—they're not as common in real-world religions as a Protestant culture would understandably assume, let alone as important—and they'd have to be somewhat different for a people whose gods are their actual still-living ancestors. But living grimoires beat people with steel bibles, like Alice in Shadow Hearts. So.

    I eventually decided that, rather than a revelation like Judeo-Christian scripture or a combination mystical vision and philosophical tract, like Buddhist and Gnostic scripture, it'll be in the format of memoir (equivalent of a real-world mythology, but the mythic creature is right there reminiscing about stuff), and one of those books of advice, like the Handbook that Dhuoda of Septimania wrote for her son William (equivalent of the moral precepts a real-world holy book would set forth).
  • Decided the hydrocratic Púkel-men, who looked like Australian Aborigines with brown hair and eyes and medium-brown skin, will instead have blond hair and green eyes, because brown eyes and hair is basically actual Aborigines. Also the Dothraki-esque speaker barbarians from that same continent, I decided, are Dravidian-looking but with red hair and blue eyes.
  • Kinda cheesed Kingmaker makes you pretty much have to be lawful good, if you're not going to lose Kesten or Jhod during the Season of Bloom. The reason being that I really want to be a blight druid, and get to use the bleed power of the Death domain (not normally available to non-evil clerics or inquisitors).

    I really hope they make that a viable choice in Wrath of the Righteous. That and the elf-witch better be romanceable, and to dudes. There was no romanceable full elf last time, and it was a travesty. (It's also a travesty that there was no romanceable halfling or gnome—the big people were still romanceable for halfling or gnome PCs.)

2021/05/23

Playing with Fantasy XXVI

Icosahedral FRPG thoughts.
  • It turns out it's not too far-fetched for my darkvision to be passive radar, because echidnas have electrolocation in air, though we're not sure how sensitive it is. It's at least a fig-leaf to hide passive radar using background radio-noise, with cells in the surface of eyeballs as antennas and a detection range of only 60 to 120 feet.
  • My setting calls its artificial hybrids, which includes the half-elves and half-orcs and also the nagaji, catfolk, and gnolls, "flaskborn". I also decided that the first batch (the animal hybrids) were made by a witch who bestowed them on her country's government during a big civil war. Which civil war she may or may not have had a hand in starting.

    Of course, eventually, after her animal-hybrid troops won the war, she used her influence, and the government's trust in her, as an opening to assassinate their ruler and seize power for herself. She was the founder of the thalassocratic Valyrians being a witch-empire (before that they were just a typical ancient empire, so still pretty evil).

    Her apprentice eventually assassinated her and seized power for himself. Occupational hazard of being a witch-lord, just ask Darth Plagueis (and his apprentice…Sidious).
  • Wyverns having pangolin tail scales but modified to deliver venom is actually unnecessarily bizarre, given that there is such a thing as a lionfish. They have venomous spines, containing multiple grooves and venom-producing tissues. Wyverns can just have tails tipped with those, but modified scales (like those on a horntoad but arranged like on a lionfish), not fin-rays.
  • Decided that rather than dominate person, vampires in my setting have the abilities of siren songs: captivate, fascinate, obsession, and slumber. Since this is a bit weaker than dominate person, it becomes a gaze attack that affects anyone within a 30-foot cone in front of the vampire’s facing.

    Think it lasts as long as dominate person does, namely one day per level but with an extra saving throw each day that the caster doesn't spend at least one round concentrating to maintain the effect. The subject also gets another save if someone casts protection from evil (all vampires being evil, and all).
  • There are no rules for how often vampires have to feed, in Pathfinder. Decided that in my setting, they have to feed as often as living people have to eat.

    But instead of taking nonlethal damage directly, when they don't feed, they take that damage to their maximum hit points (with hit points above that level becoming, effectively, temporary hit points with an unspecified time limit), reducing for example how much they can be healed by negative energy.

    They have to feed to remove the cap—think feeding still gives them temporary hit points, but also raises the cap by the same amount, until it equals their real maximum hit points.
  • Watching—then reading—Shadow House, one of about fifteen worth-a-second-look anime this season (usually there are like two) makes me think I should maybe bring fey back into my Pathfinder setting. Maybe as something like emotional/psychic effluvia produced by the elves, dwarves, and gnomes.

    But then I recall that for most purposes, my elves fill the slot of big fey (fae), and my gnomes the slot of small ones. They're not exactly as bad as some of the fey in a standard setting, like mites or boogiemen, but they definitely fill the "may not really give a shit what happens to other beings" thing, at least when young and irresponsible (they consider "lead travelers to get lost in the woods" to be their equivalent of "killed someone in a duel over winks at a barmaid" that human young people get up to).

    Might have some particular fey creatures that aren't redundant with elves and gnomes, though—possibly including mites or boogiemen. (Redcaps, though, are the gnome version of dark elves—makes more sense to use them than spriggans, whose gigantifying is a headache.)
  • I actually have a perfectly sound reason for my elves and dwarves to have darkvision and cold or fire resistance. They're from the moons. Meaning their environment spends half of every month in darkness, and has permanently frozen poles and baking tropics. See, moons have no seasons. Their climates are extreme in a way that people from a planet can't imagine; only the fact that most moons are vacuum makes this non-obvious—Titan has barely any seasons, beyond slightly clearer skies around the equinoxes and hydrocarbon rain in the northern hemisphere winter. Though I don't know how much warmer it is at its equator than at its poles. That could just be Saturn's location, though.

    I have no idea how I justify gnomes having darkvision, or really, electricity resistance (other than that they're fungus-themed and fungi really like electricity). But then, dwarves are subterranean, so their fire resistance and darkvision might actually have more to do with that than with their climate. Certainly they all have the same skin color, while elves have several, including multiple pigments—high elves and what goblins used to be have blue (structural coloring only), wood have green (with yellow carotenoids) and dark elves have purple (red anthocyanins), and gnomes, who use melanin (in their skin but not their hair), have roughly the same range as humans, mostly the browner end.
  • I realized I left out antipaladins, in my setting's population estimates. I also decided that my nonhumans do have commoners, among their NPC-classs children, but with an archetype called "apprentice" that can cast one fewer 0th-level spell per day (and knows one fewer) than the 1st-level caster of its class. (Don't think I'll have apprentice alchemists, since they don't have 0th-level spells extracts.)

    One thing this means is that the population numbers are bigger. Another is that I need to figure out what percent of the human population are the Thalassocratic Valyrians' surviving city-states (they have three)—certainly most of the witches and antipaladins are, but would it make sense to have a high proportion of the population be clergy? I suppose it might in a theocracy, though—40% of Saudi subjects, for example, consider themselves Wahhabis (though what percent of that is imams is a different question).

2021/04/15

Playing with Fantasy XXV

More Pathfinder thoughts.
  • Worked out my setting's vampires, mixing and matching aspects of Pathfinder's moroi, nosferatu, jiang shi, vetalas, and psychic vampires. One thing it did was make me realize how much of an advantage the "template" system is, for making things like vampires. You just create a normal character and then apply the template; it was like falling off a log.
  • Decided my setting does not include the Harrow deck, as such, though it probably can use the various associated class-archetypes. Tarot, see, is simply not a mystical thing; it's a version of bridge. You can use that for divination, as you can use lots, animal entrails, the flight of birds, or tea leaves, but there's nothing inherently supernatural about any of those things.

    The version in my setting will still have each card represented as a combination of an ability score and an alignment, but not named like in the Harrow; basically the abilities are the suits and the alignments are the pip-value, from 1 to 9 (with lawful good as highest and chaotic evil as lowest). The game itself, though, is more like some of the games played with hanafuda.

    Soldiers in my setting keep dice and cards among their lucky charms, because getting bored is a jinx, for soldiers: they start wishing something would happen.
  • It kinda weird to anyone else that it took till Pathfinder, three reworks into the d20 Fantasy rules, and indeed six years into its run (June 2015, after the debut of the Core Rulebook in August 2009) with the release of Occult Adventures, for there to be definitive rules for possession, despite there being the concept of "being possessed" within the game back to the beginning? They also released a new spell to govern the process, just called possession, replacig the clunky legacy spell magic jar.
  • Decided how my elves' bows work: they're two long leaves from their sacred tree, with the fascicle sheath (the thing that holds pine needles together) as the riser. You bend them back opposite their usual direction, to string the bow. One thing this means is that the bow can be stored more easily, since when unstrung it's only half as long, a bit shorter than a longsword.

    If it were just a single bow, you can just have a bowcase built into your quiver—a 6 foot bow would be 3 feet folded up, and the average elf in my setting is also 6 feet, and thus has a draw-length (which is roughly the same as the length of an arrow, minus its head) of about 29 inches. But their bows are really two bows, four leaves, one pair half as long, so it might have to be carried slung over the back like a rifle—except they disconnect the fascicle-sheaths of the two bows, and fold them together, so it fits in the bowcase. (Might call it a four-leaf bow, in fact.)

    Incidentally, a "reflex" composite bow turns into a weird hoop about a foot in diameter, when unstrung.
  • In Pathfinder, a Colossal dragon's claws each do 4d6 points of damage, or the same as the damage dealt by a Large boulder falling at least 30 feet.

    A Large object is 8–16 feet in at least one dimension; assuming a roughly spherical boulder, we get a volume of 268 cubic feet, for the 8 foot one. Given the density of feldspar, the most common rock, 2.56 grams per cubic centimeter, that results in a mass of 19,434 kilograms. After a 30-foot fall, that's a kinetic energy of 1,741,468.91 joules—and thanks to the 30 feet thing (joules are newton-meters), we can change that conveniently to a force of 190,449.36 newtons, or 42,814.72 pounds force.

    The dragon's bite does 4d8, which results in an average damage two-sevenths higher than that of the claw (not counting the fact the bite gets half-again the Strength bonus and the claw only gets the full one), for a bite force of 55,047.50 pounds—compared to the T. rex's bite force of 12,000 to 14,000 and the Megalodon's of 24,400 to 41,000.
  • I gotta say, the central conceit of the Pathfinder core setting is kinda neat. Namely, the "Age of Lost Omens" where, after Aroden failed to return to lead humanity to a golden age (having vanished somehow), no more major prophecies have come true in the ensuing 113 years. That's a really cool idea.
  • In my own setting I'm averse to the concept, inherited from Hesiod by way of Augustine, that you can divide history into "Ages"; while the inhabitants of my setting do speak of "ages", they use a Romance-language definition, equivalent to "century" in English (or some other big, regular-sized chunk of time; my elves' "ages" are 1728 years, the dozenal equivalent of a millennium).

    The closest I get is that the various cultures base their dating systems on events like the (main) humans covenanting with the animal-gods or the elves and dwarves coming to the planet from the moons, or (in the case of the thalassocratic Valyrians and hydrocratic Púkel-men) the founding of their empires.

    The two human empires also describe eras in terms of their dynasties, which are numbered, but also often referred to by their capital, among the thalassocratic Valyrians, and ruling clan, among the hydrocratic Púkel-men.
  • I have eight human cultures in my main setting. There's the urban, settled rural, and nomadic branches of the main protagonist culture(-complex), whose languages are based on Adûnaic, and then the nomadic seagoing descendants of the thalassocratic Valyrians, the halflings (a branch of the thalassocratic Valyrians engineered to be small, as a sort of "toy"-breed novelty), and then the successor-states to the thalassocratic Valyria, one aquatic (as gillmen), one subterranean (as dark folk), and one ruled by dhampirs, tieflings, and what D&D proper calls genasi.

    There are actually multiple offshoots of each—nineteen nations of the urban main culture, eleven of the settled rural, and seven of the nomadic, plus four of the halflings. A lot of those have their own dialects (though you also get things like Austria and Bavaria sharing one group of dialects), but for simplicity I treat each major group as only speaking one. I also have a dialect for each of the three successor-states of the thalassocratic Valyrian empire, each of which modifies its grammar in certain ways. It just now occurred to me to have the sea-nomad descendants of the thalassocratic Valyrians have 81 clans or tribes, say one for each Craft, Perform, and Profession subskill listed in the Core Rulebook, like how Romanian Roma (Gypsy) subgroups are named according to their traditional profession.

    I really need to come up with cultures for the other continent. Maybe I'll divide the nomadic "barbarians" into a couple different groups, and perform some sound-changes on their language. Hmm. Maybe also a single big division in the hydrocratic Púkel-men culture, analogous to something like Northern and Southern Chinese? Maybe a tripartite one, there are a lot of those, too.

2021/03/13

A Note About Blogger

Blogger has decided that we should receive no notifications at all of new comments, but have to actually check the comment section. So I have months of comments I've missed.

Sorry about that, I'll be better about checking it regularly in future.

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 (Spellcraft 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.)