2023/01/20

Never Trust a Wizard

The OGL shenanigans Wizards is trying to pull had me in a depression spiral for a bit, since I'd been intending to publish both fiction and game material based on my Pathfinder stuff. Since that's at best very risky, I've been working on a new TTRPG that will try to feel similar to 1e Pathfinder but be distinct enough (you can't copyright a game mechanic anyway) that Wizards can't get their grubby little paws in. (Apparently 2e Pathfinder is legally distinct enough that they only include OGL nods as a courtesy to third-party designers, and 2e is a real familiar game if you know d20.)

Anyway that's why there probably won't be a regular post this month. On the plus side I might be able to make a workable version of Pathfinder's abortive Words of Power system, because I am a maniac. (I'm also going with a True20 style damage-system, instead of hit points, which always bugged me with their abstractitude. Mine gets better every level though, like hit dice.)

2022/11/28

Playing with Fantasy XXXVIII

  • Had been thinking the morlock/gollum people needed to have stone blades attached to cords woven from their own hair, since there's nothing to make weapon hafts out of down there. But then it occurred to me they can use the long limb-bones of their own and other humanoid dead. Still giving them slings made of woven hair though.

    Thinking mine will be blind, like grimlocks in D&D, but I think I'll just give them blindsight within the standard hearing distances. Or even just treat them as sighted except colors and other visual stimuli, and visual illusions, mean nothing to them, and they always fail purely visual Perception checks.

    Thought the whole race would stat as grimlocks from 3.5, with the little ones trading +4 Strength and +2 Dexterity for +2 Strength and +4 Dexterity. But that's kinda OP relative to goblins or ogres, so I might give them a whole different set of ability adjustments—maybe bonuses to Dexterity and Constitution and penalties to Wisdom?
  • I also figured out what the gollums should be: derros. At least in name. But the priests of the other ones, and they just somehow get stunted to halfling size. And give them the spellcasting of alchemists, since goblin priests are inquisitors.
  • I was going to have the orc priests be bards. Then I thought of having them be kami mediums, explicitly made divine casters (with verbal and somatic components instead of emotion and thought) the way onmyoji spiritualists are. But thinking about "make them an only four spell-levels class" made me realize I was overthinking.

    So, their priests are antipaladins now. My orcs and ogres now have troll regeneration, so they don't need healers nearly as much. And their chiefs are barbarians. Hit dice-wise, an orc barbarian is to an antipaladin as a hobgoblin ranger is to an inquisitor. (Also the orc priests' trump, smite good, is worthless against goblin raids.)
  • If your setting needs slang terms (not to say "racial slurs") for elves and goblins, "hob" and "puck" both serve well enough ("hob" is part of hobgoblin because they were traditionally more benevolent than other goblins, and were thus known as "elf-goblins"). I think "puck" is sometimes used that way in at least the English version of the Witcher games. Honestly "troll" and "dwarf" should be viewed as less than complimentary, but I can only get away with that because mine are also ogres and gnomes, respectively—otherwise what would they even be called?
  • Turns out, at some point late in 1e, Pathfinder repurposed the aeons as the lawful neutral planeborne (as they were known in my day), I think with psychopomps taking over as the main true-neutral one. Which clinches which one the law-spiders will be. The fact aeons often have multiple limbs doesn't hurt. Thinking I'll call them "norns", since that means "weaver" and…they're spiders.

    Also decided, though, that I would have an ethically-neutral race of Outer People, to go with good celestials, evil fiends, morally neutral elementals (stats of divs with some different immunities and minus the specifically evil parts), chaotic nagas (=proteans), and lawful norns (=aeons).

    Not sure what to base them on—psychopomps, oni, rakshasas, and asuras all have a case. Or kami, now that nonevil gnomes are dwarves and become inevitables (but "any nonevil") when they die. Also what do they look like? All my others have a look: snakes, spiders, bird wings, bat wings, pterosaur wings. Maybe something with fish? Maybe I make them birds but give them the stats of couatls, which are also treated as an family of creatures in Pathfinder. I had wanted something to base thunderbirds and firebirds on (there are also snowbirds in I think Algonquian mythology).
  • Decided my setting doesn't have the threefold dragon-wyvern-drake division, it just has wyverns that stat as drakes but with venom instead of speed surge. And still have the heads of Bungartius and tiny, Carnotaurus-like forearms that they normally tuck under their feathers.
  • It occurs to me that, given proteans are immune to acid and aeons to cold, and hellfire plus divine smiting-lightning, I might make fiends immune to fire, celestials to electricity, nagas to acid, and norns to cold, and then they all have a second immunity based on the other part of their alignment—evil nagas immune to fire and acid, lawful celestials immune to lightning and cold, etc.

    Of course this screws things up for the elementals, the absurdity of "fire elemental who's immune to cold because he's lawful"; thinking instead they just go with "immune own element, resistant to the two adjacent ones" (not sure about vulnerability to the opposite?). And whatever I decide the ethically neutral guys seem like they should only have the one that goes with their moral alignment (and the true neutral ones be SOL).

    Yeah probably gonna just leave the elemental immunities as they are.
  • Giving real thought to replacing "Inner People" and "Outer People" in my setting with "mortals" and "immortals". "Immortal", countable noun, having a long history in this game and all. Of course, then that makes me wonder if the gods should be called "powers" instead? But I lean to not. Unless maybe the humans call them "gods" and the elves, dwarves, etc., who are their descendants rather than their adopted children, call them "powers".

2022/10/31

Small Life Update

Trying to get back into working on my SF along with my fantasy/TTRPG stuff. It needs significant rewriting.

It's a little hard to get back into working on SF, though, when all your fictional setting's dystopian aspects are now things people are talking about on the news…

2022/10/26

Playing with Fantasy XXXVII

Icosahedral RPG thoughts.
  • Decided to change how my humanoids scale to each other. Now elves are twice the height of dwarf-gnomes and humans are twice the height of halflings—I made human males 6 feet and females 5 feet 6 inches, which is likely how we'd be if we had 0th-level purify food and drink in the hands of everyone's village priest and nobody who grew up in the Depression dragging down the averages. Then the elf males are 6 feet 6 inches and the females 6 feet 3 inches. So we have halflings at 3 feet and 2 feet 9 inches, and dwarves at 3 feet 3 inches and 3 feet 1 inch.

    Also decided to make hobgoblin males the same size as elf males, and goblin ones half that height (so, same height as dwarf-gnomes, but skinnier). But then I increased the height difference between their sexes: female hobgoblins are only as tall as human females, and female goblins as halfling females. Then I decided to make bugbears half again the height of hobgoblins, which had the interesting effect of making almost all of them, including most of the females, Large. (Thinking if random generation makes a female bugbear Medium, you reroll her as a hobgoblin female, including rerolling her height.)

    For orcs and ogres I decided to make the females the height of female dwarf-gnomes, and the males twice their height, or the same height as female elves. Then I made the ogres half again the height of the orcs, like bugbears and hobgoblins—this had the interesting effect of not only making male ogers shorter than bugbear males, but also of making female ogres Medium, in fact notably shorter than male orcs, which I think they stat as.
  • Also decided that the evil human state that makes half-elves, half-orcs, and half-ogres, through magical hybridization, doesn't make female half-ogres. And it only keeps around male ones that are Large, to be super-heavy infantry, and female half-orcs that are Small, to use as sappers. Presumably they can give them alchemical treatments to encourage or discourage growth, and only cull the ones that are complete failures for their engineered purpose despite the alchemical assistance. But also, it's an evil regime, treating slave-soldiers as disposable before they ever see battle is on-brand.
  • Decided how I'm going to have something in my campaign take inspiration from Shadow House: doppelgangers. Each doppelganger is raised as an aristocrat with a stable of humanoids, like the Shadows' "living dolls", that they learn to take the shape of. Maybe the weakest, poorest, or otherwise lowest-status dopplers only have one humanoid to model themselves after, and the higher their status the more humanoid models they get and the faster their shapeshifting abilities improve.

    Thinking humanoids who have some inkling that doppelgangers do this, sometimes rumor the stable of humanoids to be a harem, but (unlike what's described in the Pathfinder Bestiary), I think my doppelgangers are essentially sexless, occasionally taking each other as consorts to bear heirs (mutually, since mine are hermaphroditic) on a purely pragmatic basis. (It is the absolute nadir of worldbuilding for beings that didn't evolve with anything like your mating system to have anything like your sexuality.)
  • Thinking my setting's humans will also have a race that are to them as orcs are to dwarf-gnomes and goblins are to elves: morlocks. And then there be a Gollum-y halfling version. Of course the human equivalent of dark elves and dark dwarves is the evil Atlantean/thalassocratic Valyrian state—and its dark-folk, gillman, and tiefling-dhampir-"genasi" offspring. Not sure if the morlock/gollum guys will be yet further degenerated members of those evil races, or maybe offshoots of the protagonist culture, driven underground and utterly debased—the ancestors of ogres and goblins were dwarves and elves (respectively) who lost a bunch of conflicts to the dark elves and dwarves, and turned to dark gods, outcast members of their respective pantheons, for help. Is there a dark human deity that the morlock/gollums had recourse to? Wouldn't you like to know.

    Don't think I'll actually use the stats of morlocks as presented in the Pathfinder rules; also there is no particular stat-base for a gollum (though you can just apply the "young creature" template to morlocks to get a small one, I suppose). Might look for the common element of goblins and ogres and then do those things to humans to produce the stat-base for the degenerate subterranean version. Also occurs to me that the "ancestor-touched morlock" template makes a good basis for ogres who do not have the penalty to Charisma; that or I might just have ogres and orcs only take a penalty to two of their intellectual ability scores and let them have bard priests (I prefer not giving my "savage humanoid" races full caster priests).
  • However, this still leaves me wondering what the Samuel Langhorn Hell trolls are. Maybe they're the same thing as ogres/orcs, since dwarves are also gnomes? Maybe call the orc-sized ones "drow" (or "trow"?) and the ogre-sized "trolls", since those are the same word?

    But then what to do about the regeneration? Maybe have them have some kind of template that just gets troll rend and regeneration but take away the fire and acid resistance they share with dwarves/gnomes? Or maybe they all lose that resistance, maybe as a result of their god's alienation from the Earth and Fire gods, but in exchange they get the regeneration, and acid and fire defeat it because of the gods.

    Hmm. Does that mean I should give half-orcs half the regen of their ancestors? That could work. Or maybe they don't get the regen but instead have the fire and acid resistance of their dwarf-gnome ancestors. Nah. Let 'em burn.
  • Decided the other continent's main civilization, the hydrocratic Púkel-men, uses druidism as their main priesthood—and also their main source of names. With all the domains and subdomains druids are capable of having (including archetypes), that gives a fair number of first elements; the second element is the things other than domains (companion, familiar, herbalism, etc.) that a druid can use with nature bond.
  • Kinda going back and forth on maybe giving my elves and dwarves light sensitivity, since they have 120-foot darkvision and, I decided, also low-light vision. On the one hand, svirfneblin don't have it, and they're treated as an ordinary PC race in Pathfinder, no level adjustments (though not PFS legal). On the other hand I do think it would make the most sense.

    Hey, dazzled is only a -1 penalty to attacks and visual Perception. I considered maybe having them use eye-veils or tinted lenses or kohl, but what I can find of statting those has worse effects than dazzled does. (I also considered football player-style eyeblack, which from what I can tell would remove the attack-roll penalty but not the Perception one.)
  • Still working on my Draconic. Definitely going to try to get some inspiration from the Banished alphabet (which is probably just Brute, as the "Covenant" alphabet is just Elite). Thinking I'll do like Tolkien's Sarati script and have the vowels be small marks to the right or left, on one side if they're before the consonant and on the other side after.

2022/08/29

Playing with Fantasy XXXVI

Icosahedral RPG thoughts.
  • Decided to consolidate my humans' Fox god and Wildcat god. Fox was less suited to stealth ever since I made him a maned wolf (called a "steppe fox" in the setting) instead, and Wildcat can be goddess of love, poetry, and stealth instead of love, poetry, and fire—He-Bear makes more sense as a smithing god anyway. ("Wildcat" in this context actually means "leopard-sized sabertooth like Megantereon".)
  • Now I'm debating if I should break up my setting's year into 73 five-day weeks (quintans), with each day named for a mammal god, but then what do I do with the leap day, have it be separate or have it create a cycle like our week? Or I could do seven-day weeks by adding in the bird gods, and have roughly the same system as the real world for matching them to the rest of the calendar. (Or I could have them always match up by having the last day or two—52×7 is 364—be out of the reckoning. Oerth only has 364-day years.)

    Also decided my setting has six zodiac signs, which are created by the portion of the sky between the moons, since their trojan orbit means they are always 60° apart, i.e. one-sixth of the sky. The relation of sunrise (which is what zodiacs come from) and the moon is much more complicated, but I don't think it has to be. I named the signs after the six spiritualist spirits (which are also mythic paths), which also means the warlocks can use the evil versions from Horror Adventures.
  • My setting's elves now live 24 times as long as humans (up to 2,640, average of 2,208), and dwarves/gnomes 20 times (up to 2,200, average of 1,840). I decided I was being too diffident about having them live thousands of years; my elves were already living half their current ages, 12 times as long as humans, and I figured why not go whole-hog for both the more "faerie-ish" races?

    I keep toying with having something like the Bleaching, except where that inflicts aging ahead of schedule (Golarion gnomes who avoid the Bleaching still live the ages listed in the Core Rulebook—which are the ones also listed in the 3e Player's Handbook), this would be more like they only age if it affects them. But immortality is a very different thing from great longevity, and a millennium or two is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
  • Good God but numeral systems, in constructed scripts, are hard. Coming up with one for my dwarf-gnomes; wanna use symbols based on hands and feet, since they have base-20 numerals from counting on their feet too, but doing that at all efficiently is hard. Kinda have a handle on it though.

    Still struggling with my Draconic, though I think looking at the Banished script was a move in the right direction. Of course that's meant to be shown on digital displays (one assumes Predator was an inspiration, hardly the first time in Halo history), but you can analogize to claw-carving.
  • Decided to give alchemists 0th-level formulas, which I'm now calling "tinctures". Thinking I'll give them the witch list, but add purify food and drink as well as putrefy (no existing list includes both, that I know of). The way it works fluff-wise is you prep a certain number of minor effects that can be activated using almost anything that's nearby, since alchemist "spells" are really a special version of potion, that they drink. (They need to spend a discovery to let their formulas work for anyone else, which among other things renders "mass" versions of spells useless till you do that.)

    Also considering giving paladins and rangers 0th-level spells. There's a class, mediums, that get 0th-level spells at 1st level despite only getting their first 1st-level spell at 4th level, like those two do. Based on the difference between other spontaneous vs. prepared casters, it seems like they would get one fewer spell per day than a medium has spells known (alchemists get as many as maguses). Thinking the paladins get the 0th-level ones of clerics, and rangers of druids.
  • Giving serious thought to doing the thing where all casters work like arcanists: prepared casters who prep as many spells per day as a spontaneous caster of their type knows, and then treating those prepped spells as if they were the spells known of a spontaneous caster. One thing this would mean is that the paladins and rangers just naturally get the spell allotment of mediums, completely. Another is that maguses work like bards (or, I think, inquisitors?).

    Then it would just make it a flavor-text difference between sorcerer and wizard spellcasting: sorcerers cast from having observed or directly undergone magic, wizards from having studied it. Presumably the way sorcerers prep their spells in the morning is by meditating on these experiences. This also might give a good difference between oracles and clerics: clerics pray for their spells, and oracles receive them as direct infusion of their spells into them.

    I do think alchemists will stay as purely prepared, though, since they have to brew their formulas (now including tinctures) beforehand.
  • Also kinda toying with making divine casters have the hit dice and attack progression of arcane casters, but that one might be ill-advised because I don't have any divine-caster players at the moment.
  • Apparently Wizards' resurrection of Spelljammer is incredibly perfunctory—rumor has it they had a five-member design team and a seven-member marketing team. Allegedly the section on ship-to-ship combat threw out turning and maneuverability rules and weapon arcs; now your ship can automatically attack anything in its range.

    As far as I can tell, the Rule Zero Fallacy ("this rule is not broken because I can houserule a fix", following from Rule Zero of RPGs, "GM has final say") has now become Wizards' official ruling on all possible adjudication questions, including when they actually put out the official treatment ("treatment") for something.

2022/07/31

Playing with Fantasy XXXV

More icosahedral fantasy thoughts.
  • Man it's hard to come up with a Dwarven script that looks as good as my Elven script (if I say so myself). Took me forever to figure out what shape I wanted it to be based on (I use a "theme" shape in most of my nonhuman scripts). Was thinking triangles, maybe use some element from the Covenant alphabet from Halo. My Elven draws inspiration from the 3e rework of Espruar and the Eliksni script from Destiny.

    Eventually decided, my Dwarven combines the Covenant script with the "cat-pupil shape" that Rellanic, the 4–5e Elven, uses. See, I realized, dwarves aren't carving their script into rock with a chisel or wood with a knife. They're engraving it in metal with a burin (which burin is a single one of their mushrooms, metallized and with a sharpened tip). And you can get insanely florid with a burin engraving, so I actually have complete freedom in letter forms!
  • My Ogrish (based on Dwarven) retains more elements of the original, Covenant-like triangle script, but is more of a cursive form of it, like the version that you can find in signs and stuff on Sanghelios, in Halo 5.
  • Decided that the best way to do my games at the actual table was to get a cheap (something like $250) flatscreen, hook a laptop to it, and then use a map program like Megasploot's Dungeondraft to make a dungeon map, to scale. You put a cover (we got a special one eventually but the first time we just used carefully arranged overhead-projector transparency films), and just move your miniatures, pawns, etc., around on it. Given the prices of poster printing, it pays for itself by like the sixth map you use it for.

    Of course this would all be somewhat moot (I keep having players have to telecommute, and have someone on my end point their camera at the map and stuff) if virtual tabletop programs like Foundry were easier to use (also apparently there are issues with how you host it?), and if Roll20 was not a terrible, terrible company, from being shockingly petty to critics of their business practices to obnoxious Corporate Woke™ grandstanding on Twitter and elsewhere.
  • I would say my view of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves does not even approach cautious optimism, but I am willing to be impressed. Kinda wish they would actually play things straight for ten seconds, though. Not every movie has to be the thing those "Marvel fans when The Batman doesn't…" memes were talking about. (Also I loathe, abominate, and revile the "fast-talking bard" archetype that shallow 5e fans seem enamored of.)
  • It occurs to me that making my dwarves actually be gnomes, and therefore have roughly the same build as half-elves, will make the dwarf/gnome-based ogres and orcs be much more similar to goblins. Then again I suppose my elves and gnome/dwarves are big and little "fairies", so it kinda makes sense that the monster versions are similar to each other.

    The culture is still very different, with goblins having strong personal loyalties and an obsession with fear and stealth, and ogres being very nearly a war of all against all, with a penchant for frontal attacks (which in no way means they won't stab each other in the back, though). Among other things, goblins get a Dexterity bonus, while ogres get a Strength bonus.
  • Very hard to figure out what to do with my Draconic, since too cuneiform-like will be too much like Dovahzul. Kinda wanna examine the Banished alphabet from Halo Infinite (which is in many ways the worst Halo, not least because the Banished suck as villains—Cortana would have been much better, but 343 has an amazing ability to utterly squander villains, see also the Ur-Didact and Jul 'Mdama). There's also Iokharic from D&D, which as I may have mentioned at some point shares letter-shapes with 3e Espruar.

    Thinking I'll do something like the Naboo futhork from the Star Wars prequels, probably combined with vertically skinny letter-shapes reminiscent of Nüshu, an odd women-only script from part of China. Though with the letters grouped closer together (and words grouped into trios, in formal writing, like the tetrads in Classical Chinese).

    Also reworked my "Sylvan", which in my setting has become the language of the araneas, formians, and thriae—bug people—that serve the law-spider outsiders. The previous script looked much too much like "Daedric" (really Dunmeris, with the other name being just what it was called in the Daggerfall game files). Went with, in contravention of my usual practice, a featural alphabet, since they're the minions of law-spirits; it wound up looking vaguely reminiscent of "Daedric" anyway.
  • Apparently Spelljammer in 5e, rather than bothering with ship's ratings (a table based on the level of a spellcaster sitting in the helm that would determine how fast the ship could move), has the thing go 10 miles per hour per level of the highest unspent spell-slot the spellcaster has. I take a couple issues with this (miles per hour do not tell you tactical speed intuitively—10 mph is a "normal move" of about 45 feet, or a "full-round move" of 90 feet—and I liked the major-minor helm distinction, though I suppose the latter does also affect the largest ship you can move via the helm in question), but it does streamline things. Might use it for my airships, or some of them, since I think Wizards has the basic Spelljammer rules (such as how helms work) as OGL.
  • A search of le blogue suggests I have not mentioned the problems with Stranger Things? Probably the more fundamental but also the simpler is that it allowed the shills at Hasbro to market the game by the most shallow methods imaginable, flooding us with bandwagon-jumping bounders with no respect for the hobby (that invasion really took off with Critical Role but Stranger Things began it).

    More complex, probably less important but more emotionally visceral, is how they have warped a generation's understanding of the names they have the characters drop. Demogorgon has two baboon heads and tentacles for arms (also that thing is a damned gug). A mind flayer…you know what a mind flayer is, and you probably know the thing in Stranger Things is nothing like one. And Vecna is an archlich.

    Of course, D&D itself visited upon us the ludicrous idea that Vecna could lay siege to Sigil. Right, because She Who Flays, who can impose terms on entire pantheons, would need adventurers' help against an attack by one lich-god.

2022/06/21

Playing with Fantasy XXXIV

Fantasy thoughts.
  • Wrath of the Righteous is better gameplay-wise than Kingmaker, but not as fun. You get mounts, new races like dhampirs, and new classes like bloodrager and oracle, but several of your companions are scumbags, and/or almost impossible not to have die, and the whole last part of the midgame takes place in the Abyss, which is about as pleasant as it sounds.

    Also Nenio's companion questline is a pain in the ass (fortunately in between you do get some very funny interactions with her). On the other hand (I guess we have four), Arueshelae is the best romance in either game (both the other girls are psychopaths, and there are serious issues with all the female romance options in either game, besides Aru—the only other one as good as Aru is Tristian, and I don't play female characters).
  • Decided my dwarven gods will be combined with my gnomish gods, which gives them nice long names as gnomes are wont to have. Or, mostly; I might have to rework a few in order to combine them. See, two of the dwarf gods are a married couple, two of the gnome gods are twins. Have to pick one or the other, it's not "that" kind of pantheon.
  • Hmm. If Gigantopithecus (male) is 551 pounds and 9 feet 11 inches, to a male orangutan's 191 pounds and 4 feet 6 inches, then it follows that a human-based giant (male 152 pounds and 5 feet 8 inches, female 119 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches) would be 12 feet 6 inches tall for a male and 11 feet 7 inches for the female.

    Just taking the ratio of human weight to orangutan weight seems to make a creature much too light, although Gigantopithecus is a lot lighter for its weight than an orangutan. 438 pounds for a 12 foot 6 inch male and 343 pounds for an 11 foot 7 inch female comes to BMIs of 13.7 and 12.5. But then again, Gigantopithecus has a BMI of 27.4 to an orangutan's 46.

    What this presumably means is I can easily have a Large-sized ogre without having to worry much about the square-cube law, and then I can have Large fire giants (giant gnome-dwarves) and Huge frost and hill giants (giant elves and humans), by using pneumatic muscle.
  • I really need to rework my giantish, though I think I'll keep the Zentraedi-based phonology and just improve the grammar. (Before it had isolating grammar, which is generally what I do when I'm feeling lazy.) Given Zentraedi proper seems to work like English (e.g. masa, "lord", is before names, while genitives come after what they modify as seen in emyulata mbwagh "alien emulator"), I might have Giantish work like Japanese. Which means I can form a lot of polite forms and stuff by compounding base roots with auxiliaries, e.g. the -imasu ending was originally a verb meaning "humbly travel to/from a place (and then do something)".

    Might also enhance my Draconic with plural marking like that in Dovahzul, but different. Namely, I might have it preface a pluralized noun with a vowel and geminate the first consonant, where Dovahzul pluralizes with geminated final consonant followed by e (e.g. the plural of mey "fool" is meyye). Might have the vowel in the plural prefix be an echo vowel of the stem one, though, or maybe one for some vowels and a different one for others, i.e. (a limited form of) vowel harmony. Might actually have pluralization optional and have it be applicable to proper nouns, where it actually means "and company", the way the (very optional) plural marker in Japanese does.
  • My Austronesian-alignment ("symmetrical voice", though I would've called it "voice-split ergativity") Dwarven-Gnomish has a radically simplified version of that alignment. The direct case is the agent of intransitive verbs, the patient of passive-voice verbs, and the agent and patient of active-voice verbs (distinguished by word-order), with the indirect/oblique case as the agent of passive-voice verbs. (An old name for ergative alignment was "passive", and it really does help to think of a sentence as being in passive when composing it in an ergative language, like my Elven.)

    I think I'll do like many Polynesian languages and use active (accusative) voice for verbs of "perception, emotion, and communication", and then passive (ergative) voice for most other transitive verbs. The indirect case will also, I think, function as object-of-preposition (if you think of the ergative as "by [agent]" that's easy to keep consistent). I don't think I'll have ergative/passive voice imply definiteness, and accusative/active imply indefiniteness, like in Tagalog, though. Nor specificity like is a feature of some Polynesian languages, though that would—all proper nouns are specific by default—let me inflect proper nouns differently from common, like I wanna try in a conlang.
  • It also occurs to me I can use the intransitive voice with two direct-case nouns, to mean a causative—as in English, when if you use an intransitive verb like "run" ("we ran him out of town") or "rain" ("they rained artillery fire on the town") it actually means "caused to run" or "caused to rain".
  • Also thinking my Dwarven will use Hawaiian kinship (you may have noticed they're a bit Polynesian-y—I think I said, eons ago, that "dwarves as Polynesian, with mountains as islands" was a cool idea). What Hawaiian kinship means is that all relatives of your generation are siblings, all one generation older are parents, all one younger are children, etc.

    But, specifically (but apparently like many Polynesian languages), dwarven kinship marks relative age of same-generation relatives (all of whom are siblings). I.e. your cousin any number of times removed is your "brother" or "sister", but it specifies whether they are older "brother" or "sister", or younger.

    Another thing using Hawaiian kinship would mean is that instead of calling the friends of parents "uncle" or "aunt", you probably call them "mother" or "father". And, it occurs to me, where elves call the other gods of their divine parents' generation "aunt" and "uncle", except the goblins and dark elves who worship them call them "father" and "mother", the dwarves/gnomes would call them "father" and "mother", so the ogres/orcs and dark dwarves that replaced their divine parents use the same name for their respective deities as other dwarves.
  • Since I consolidated dwarves and gnomes, I think I can just have them become inevitables (with looser alignment requirements) when they die, and then reassign the kami somewhere else. Maybe to giants.

    Decided to add osyluths and some other fiend as political officers of fiendish factions, and then shadow demons and belier devils, as another group of fiends, that possess people. Also have nabasu and vrolikai doing what they do.

    Still gotta figure out what to do overall with rakshasas, oni, sahkils, psychopomps, archons, asuras, aeons, qlippoths, and maybe couatls. One of them is becoming the spidery law-spirits, but which, I don't know yet.

2022/04/27

Playing with Fantasy XXXIII

Icosahedral fantastication thoughts.
  • Thinking I'll give dwarves back the Hardy racial trait, since several feat lines require it.
  • I had lost vowel-length in Dwarven, owing to the desire to keep it orthographically simple, which is why I did away with plural forms, but I can actually use acute accents. See, I had had my old one, with long vowels, mark them with circumflexes, but now, with umlauts added, I can't do that—umlauts don't combine elegantly with circumflexes. (And Ŷ is weirdsville, even if I weren't exclusively using Y for consonants, and good luck putting a circumflex on Ø.) But I can do Ű and Ő, because they exist in Hungarian (and are frankly the most elegant method of writing those two sounds as long).

    Currently /y/ and /ø/, written ü and ö respectively, represent the common gender, of my Dwarven, because they're at the point of articulation of masculine /i/ and /e/ (written i and e, respectively) but are rounded like feminine /o/ and /u/ (written o and u). (The close vowels are animate, while the close-mid ones are personal.) Then I have neuter be with /a/, written a. I figure lengthening those will do just fine for plural (before I'd had long vowels in verb stems represent imperfect/frequentative and short represent perfect/momentaneous, but I decided not to bother with aspect in Dwarven).

    Also decided to go with not really either of my dwarven or gnomish script, but rework to make a new script. Still mostly hexagon based.
  • Apparently in Tagalog, at least, there is a distinction between the indirect and oblique cases (whoever named them should be slapped), with the indirect being the ergative in patient-focus verbs and the accusative in agent-focus ones, and the oblique being the dative and locative. In some other languages, though, the indirect and oblique are one case and the direct is another (I think they usually have genitives, too). Which is how my Dwarven does it. (I also call my voices active, middle, and passive, when really they should be agent-focus, intransitive, and patient-focus.)
  • I think, using a version of arcanist casting, you can have prepared casters prep a spell for each spell-per-day slot, but then have flexibility about how many of each they use (i.e. they prep one spell for each slot, but can spend any of their slots to cast any of the spells they've prepared, like super versatile spontaneous casters). Arcanists proper can only prepare as many spells in a day as sorcerers of their level would know, which among other things means they only get spells when their character level is twice the spell's level, as opposed to prepared casters' twice the level minus one. You can still have prepared casters do clerics' or druids' spontaneous casting, by the expedient of not having to prep cure wounds or summon nature's ally spells beforehand.

    Similarly specialist wizards have to use two of their flexible slots to cast spells from their opposition school, and spells can be prepped as being a slot higher, or metamagic can be applied on the fly as a full-round action like for sorcerers. Hmm, maybe let sorcerers apply metamagic on the fly by burning higher-level slots? That might be a bit broken though.

    I do kinda feel like just giving spontaneous casters the undercasting of psychic magic (which is also not used by PCs in my setting, just like hybrid classes) is probably not enough to make up the difference, but then again, wizards don't get special powers at 3rd, 9th, 15th, and 20th level, they only get them at 1st and 8th; clerics don't get nearly as many benefits from their domains as oracles get from their mysteries (and even their curses). Plus sorcerers get extra class skills and, while they get one fewer bonus feat than wizards, they get a lot more leeway in what it is, assuming they pick their bloodline appropriately. Oracles are honestly probably OP as it is but maybe give sorcerers the bloodline mutations at the appropriate level without their having to give up powers and bonus feats?
  • Decided to change my dwarf/gnome ethnicities so the ones that live underground have lavender or pink hair, and the ones on the surface have violet or crimson hair, and both have violet or crimson eyes. Then I think the subterranean ones will have yellow skin, and the surface ones orange, from carotenoid pigments in place of melanin (subterranean dwarves need it less).

    My orcs and ogres, meanwhile, are green, due to having a blue pigment along with a yellow one (several blue pigments are used in UV-blocking by some fungi and red algae, though in the latter they more commonly appear purple). They have bright red hair and eyes, which presumably comes from betalain (the pigment that gives the red coloring to beets and fly agaric).
  • Also changing my giants so the ones based on elves and humans are Huge, and the ones based on dwarf-gnomes are Large, thus making each two size-categories larger than its base race. The frost and wood giants based on elves can use some stats from taiga and maybe jungle giants, while the hill giants and cyclopes based on humans will use taiga giants and great cyclopes (but with the mental and magical characteristics of the smaller giants).
  • The gillmen and dark folk now have native-outsider ruling classes, like the other surviving thalassocratic Valyrians with their tieflings and elementals (and dhampirs, but that's not outsiders). Gillmen have (primarily evil) tritons, who in my setting are a mingling of mortal essence with that of aquatic fiends; and dark folk have fetchlings.

    Also the gillmen and tritons have 40 mm eyeballs, like a harbor seal (minus the blubber, a harbor seal is about the same size as a human). But where (I decided) elves have wider faces, to accommodate having bigger eyeballs (which makes them look younger, long skulls being a gerontomorphy), the aquatic mutant humans just have bulging eyes.
  • My dwarves will actually use both hammers and axes; I think I'll have it so they're proficient with battleaxes and warhammers, treat dwarven waraxes and sphinx hammers as martial weapons, and also live in a society with the "commonplace guns" level of availability. (Maybe they'll also be proficient in pistols, even if their class doesn't have martial proficiency?)
  • Maybe have halflings get a +2 to Wisdom, not Charisma? Or actually stat them as Small humans, with +2 Dex, -2 Str, and then +2 to any one ability score. Yeah that could work—you could waste your variable score on giving yourself no Strength penalty, for example.

    That's roughly what the Small version of a tiefling is, after all—just the size adjustments added onto the normal tiefling (if your tiefling subcategory includes a Dex bonus or a Str bonus, a Small version might be more than a little OP, frankly, since you're either as strong as a human at Small size or else you get +4 Dex).

2022/03/23

Come On, Shorty

Decided to consolidate dwarves and gnomes into one race, in my setting. They're redundant with each other; Paracelsus, who came up with gnomes as his earth "elementals", also called them pygmaeus—what that means to a Swiss German is left as an exercise for the student. Also as is pointed out in the TV Tropes article OurGnomesAreWeirder, the gnome in D&D is the dwarf from European folklore, the dwarf is the dwarf from Tolkien (usually via Warhammer, I would add). This also gives me a roughly human-sized "fairy" humanoid and a small one, like humans and halflings, without trying to wedge in the "human sized but weirdly proportioned" fifth wheel.

Decided to give them dwarf magic resistance (6 + HD), energy resistance 5 to both fire and acid, 120 ft. darkvision, and stonecunning, and the spell-like abilities I'd previously given dwarves, but also gnomes' ability score adjustments, obsessive trait, and keen senses. They have dwarves' weapon familiarity (hammers not axes, handguns, firearms are martial weapons), but use both the gnomes' mushrooms (particularly for armor) and the dwarves volcanic-pool algae (particularly for weapons). The rationale of that is that, while elves' gods are both the one tree, the dwarves' gods are fire and earth, two things that are more separate. Also dwarves make more stuff (although I guess this kinda makes the dwarves a lichen, a super rare rhodophyte-basidiomycete one). Maybe the dwarves can also make their algae weapons into the copper that harms neutral-aligned outsiders.

Decided they use largely dwarven language, which has the interesting effect of making all four of my protagonist cultures (elves, dwarves, inland Númenor, hydrocratic Púkel-men), except for halflings (who are an offshoot of the thalassocratic Valyrians), use a language inspired by Tolkien. I decided to take out plural forms and aspect distinctions in the verbal stems that both nouns and inflected verbs derive from, and just have three main verb paradigms: active/agent focus, passive/patient focus, middle/intransitive (in Austronesian alignment the important question is which noun that relates to the verb is in the direct case and which in the oblique one, and intransitive verbs only have a direct-case noun). Still haven't figured out which of their alphabets they'll use, Dwarven or Gnomish.

The gnomes were from the planet, but the dwarves that I consolidated gnomes into (and vice-versa) still come from one of the moons, which means I might have humanity have just grown up naturally, on the planet, unobserved by the more advanced lunar races because you can't see cavemen from orbit.

Not sure what to do about their coloration. Probably yellow structural coloring, in their skin, with phycoerythrin turning them various shades of orange, red, or pink. I thought I might have to give up on white dwarves and purple-haired gnomes but there are rhodophyte algae in basically every shade of red and magenta, up to dark lavender-violet with no red at all.

I struggled with what to do with orcs and ogres, if they should all be much bigger than their dwarf ancestors, but I hit on this: female orcs are gnome-sized (male and female gnomes are the same size), then male orcs are as much bigger than them as male mandrills are compared to females. Then female ogres are the same size as male orcs, and male ogres are mandrill male-to-female larger than them. This gives me Small orc females (whose stats become +2 to Strength and Dexterity and -2 to all mental stats), Medium male orcs and female ogres (which latter have the stats of orcs), and Large male ogres.

2022/02/25

Playing with Fantasy XXXII

Thoughts concerning icosahedral amusements.
  • I realized how to represent the effect of wearing a helmet, thanks to the Hard-Headed feat line. Namely, if you don't wear one, you (Hard-Headed) have a -2 to saves against being staggered or stunned, and (Dented Helm and Cloven Helm) have a -2 to your AC against critical hit confirmation rolls. Now, I think, you can still keep those feats around—having them means you just get a bonus over and above just having a helmet.
  • One theory about the question mark is that it's originally a cursive (lowercase) Q over an O, from quaestio (question). I don't know how sound that theory is in the real world (the Wikipedia article on "question mark" doesn't mention it), but I decided that my main human script's question mark, exclamation mark, and period would derive from the first and last letters of the words for "question", "exclamation", and "statement" (more or less).

    Decided the other human language that uses a form of the same script does something similar but with just the first letter, with like a dot over and above it, or a line through it, or something. And then the last human script, on the other continent, uses a trio of dots pointing up, for questions, and one pointing down for statements (it doesn't have an exclamation mark, because most scripts don't—maybe they eventually borrow one from the other scripts, the way Arabic and the East Asian scripts borrowed the question and exclamation marks from Roman).

    Not sure what to do with Elven, Dwarven, or Gnomish. Elven and Gnomish usually use verb-infixes to mark interrogatives, but there are also pitch questions—like how in Japanese you normally have the -ka ending on an interrogative-mood verb, but you can also just say "[Word]?" Considering having my Elven derive its question mark from the infix (or rather, two question marks from its two infixes, one used for polar questions and the other for nonpolar).
  • Was thinking my Dwarven might have articles, and definiteness obligatorily marked on all common nouns—maybe the definite divided into proximal and distal demonstratives. I considered it so there could be something (definiteness) that verbal adjectives could agree with their "head" on in the unmarked nominative, but it also let me give Dwarven a feature of Chukchi, namely inflecting proper nouns differently from common ones. Which is a trait I had been meaning to use in a conlang.

    However instead I decided to bite the bullet and have my Dwarven use Austronesian alignment, and thus I now use the old accusative for the direct case and the old dative for the indirect (the genitives, volitional and nonvolitional, remain the same). So now there's case agreement on the "nominative", because the direct case is marked. Thinking only the oblique case will mark on proper nouns, though, which still lets me inflect them differently (and you mark adjectives for them with the direct suffix).

    I also decided to give my Dwarven seven genders: masculine, feminine, common, neuter, and then divide each of the ones other than neuter into animate and personal. Unfortunately I can't think of a way to name the genders "Doc, Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy", but that would of course be the ideal if you had seven genders in Dwarven.
  • Crunched the numbers: if elves have eyeballs the same size as humans (they probably have bigger ones), 24 millimeters in diameter, they have a surface area of 1839.84 square millimeters. Taking just the outer half of that, you get 919.92 square millimeters. Now, rod cells can pack at densities up to 150,000 per square millimeter, which means the front half of the eye can fit 137,988,000 of them. Rod cells are also 100 microns long.

    So if an elf has the entire outer surface of their eyeball (or a nictitating membrane that closes over the eye) covered in special rod-cells, that form a fractal antenna for passive radar, they effectively have a length of 13.8 kilometers. Which, given an "electrically small" antenna is the wavelength over 2π, means they can receive wavelengths up to 86.708 kilometers. That's low in the VLF radio band, 3457.5 Hz, which is used in geoscience and so could form the basis of passive-radar darkvision.

    Hmm. If we gave elves eyes only slightly larger, say 35 millimeters like a tiger's, 35 millimeters in diameter, you get a surface area of 3848.45 square millimeters, half of which is 1924.225, and thus can pack 288,633,750 of them onto the surface, for an effective length of the fractal antenna of 28.9 kilometers, and a possible wavelength as high as 181.6 kilometers, a frequency of 1650.8 Hz—pretty much dead-center of the ultra low frequency band.
  • Bows, I decided, should not be divided into "long" or "short", nor "composite" and "non-composite", but into "hunting" (stats of regular shortbow) and "war" (stats of composite longbow, including the minimum strength requirement). Because warbows had draw weights upwards of 100 pounds; 200 pounds was not unknown, and some required assistance to string them. In terms of how it's used, though not how it's made and stored, an English longbow has much more in common with a Mongol bow than either does with pretty much any hunting bow (and you honestly can't pick between a well-made example of either type for power).

    And then we could give specifically composite versions of bows the "horse bow" advantage, when being used mounted. Namely, no attack penalty when used on a mount making a double-move, only -4 when mount runs, rather than -4 and -8; the Mounted Archery feat would then reduce the penalty from a running mount even further, to -2, which is normally the benefit of Improved Mounted Archery, which feat would presumably remove the penalty entirely. (You think, of course, of mounted archery as a military technique, but lots of animals are best hunted while mounted, too—buffalo, for example.) Maybe have composite versions cost 50% more.

    No idea what the hell I'll have elves' "Wabenaki" double bows do. Maybe just make them regular bows but made of two leaves ("elven twoleaf bow"?) and therefore collapsible by folding the leaves together, allowing it to count as "easily concealed" for purposes of Sleight of Hand? Maybe with a dagger's +2 bonus for the shortbow/hunting version? Yeah I think I'll go with that. They're already basically made of darkwood, so they weigh half as much and count as masterwork.
  • Yeah I'm just gonna have special-material stuff that equates to mithral, add to the price of weapons the way darkwood does, masterwork plus an amount per-pound. Given mithral has 50% higher hardness than steel, the metallic version will come to masterwork +15 gp per pound. Maybe, since my mithral-equivalent is also applicable to things that could be made of darkleaf cloth, which is twice as good as wood, masterwork +20 gp per pound? (Darkleaf cloth is mostly used to substitute for armor materials, and my armors cost, instead, what mithral does, because it gives all of mithral's benefits even to nonmetallic armor.)
  • Discovered a very weird fish, the bichir (the ch is like sh), from Africa, that has lungs and can live on land for extended periods of time. Sound normal? It's not a lungfish. It's not even a lobe-finned fish. It's an extremely basal ray-finned fish, and may be the closest fish still extant to the common ancestor of all bony fish. It has really weird, simple lungs, and a unique method for filling them with air (along with "buccal pumping" i.e. gulping with the mouth), namely it exhales by pulling the scales on its chest inward to exhale, and creating negative pressure when that's released, pulling in more air. They're the only vertebrate with lungs but no trachea.

    Anyway I think I'll base my sahuagin on them, which is cooler because ray-finned fish are more "normal fish", and also makes sense with the association with nagas since one group of bichirs are called "snakefish", guess why. The only question is whether to have them have serpentine lower torsos, like Warcraft nagas, since bichirs generally only have particularly developed pectoral fins. (I'm inclining to no, though.) I briefly considered maybe having them also be the serpentfolk, but I'm leaning toward no, since my nagas (which are actually proteans, stat-wise) are snake-y almost by definition. Maybe they also appear as eels, morays (which aren't really eels), caecilians, and other serpentine critters.
  • Semi-relatedly I think my gillmen will breathe through their ears, underwater, since the gill arches became part of the ears (among other things) in tetrapods, and the ear also connects to the respiratory system by the Eustachian tube. Of course they also have increased sensitivity to vibrations when underwater, to make up for the fact their ears are doing something else.