Playing with Fantasy V

Fantasy game thoughts.
  • Got Tales of Vesperia for my 360; I was going into fantasy-game withdrawal (normally a Zelda being recently out would be a more than sufficient fix, but...yeah). The only real question (other than what kind of idiot Empire doesn't understand that granting guild-charters gives it a hell of a lot more power with the guilds than making guild-members forfeit their citizenship), is when, exactly, did we all decide it was wrong to act in dubbing anime and games?

    See, the thing is...I don't know if you've noticed this, but Japanese voice-acting is not exactly staid or understated. They can convey an entire rant's worth of emotion in a single word. Japanese actors scream like berserkers, speechify like skalds, and laugh like maniacs, and they do it all con mucho gusto. Meanwhile the English dub? The first thing my brother and I did was laugh for thirty seconds straight at the flat way Flynn's VA says the phrase "oh no" in the opening cutscene.

    Oh well, at least they did a better job than the English dub of Breath of the Wild. Admittedly, so did Hal P. Warren when he dubbed "Manos": The Hands of Fate...
  • Read through the Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide; decided to stop worrying about the game-balance based "this trait replaces that trait" business and just give all my races the abilities I want. None of them results in a race requiring more "points" than sulis (half-janni). And not just the non-human ones; I also gave humans the "reflexive improvisation" trait that half-elves can take in one of the PF Campaign Setting books (it's apparently OGL, since it appears on the PFSRD wiki), plus the "eye for talent" option (without replacing any other traits) from the Advanced Race Guide itself. If humans are good at anything, it's half-assing things we don't really understand, and training animals.

    I no longer need to sacrifice elves being immune to sleep-spells for them to have the elemental resistance I'd given them, but Pathfinder elves don't do the "four hours of trance" (which we grognards still occasionally call "reverie"). Decided that, basically, elves are wired something like birds; they can sleep with only half their brain at once, which protects them from magic sleep by the other half of the brain immediately waking them up. (This also means that elves could be on lookout while resting, since birds do it.) Maybe they still only need four hours of their version of sleep, but per half of their brain? (They wouldn't need to lack a corpus callosum, like birds, because there are a bunch of aquatic mammals that do it too—though they do have a partly reduced corpus callosum.)

    Gave dwarves 120-foot darkvision, because my dwarves are almost as subterranean as the duergar are. They also have an energy resistance and the cave-dweller trait. My gnomes have, in addition to their illusion affinity, the "dreamspeaker" trait; they're born of mushrooms growing at the foot of the World Tree, after all. I gave my halflings a couple traits to reflect their history as modified human slaves. I'm also adding traits to the major humanoids, who are primarily NPC races; my orcs get a lot of the optional traits both of orcs and of half-orcs, and my goblins get some of their options, too (goblins and hobgoblins also get some from each other's lists, since I made them less different). I mostly got rid of the racial weapon-categories.
  • Has anyone noticed that there almost isn't any such thing as science fiction, in video games? Mass Effect is Dragon Age in space—not only do the asari look like human females and actively pursue romance with other species, but they can also breed with them. Why? Well because there are half-elves and half-orcs in the Standard Fantasy Setting.

    Or take Destiny. Destiny is Warhammer 40,000 minus the "evil vs. evil" aspect, and focused on individuals and small teams rather than entire units. The Hive are basically a cross between Necrons and Khorne worshipers (or, even more, if the Undead of Nehekhara were also Khorne worshipers), the Cabal are the Tau, the Fallen are space-Skavens (are there Skavens in 40K?), and the Vex are robot Lizardmen in space. (So I guess Destiny is actually more "Warhammer Fantasy Battle in Space" than Warhammer 40K is...)

    Would it kill you people to just set your fantasy games in a fantasy setting, rather than decking them out in science-fiction accoutrements they have no right to?
  • Decided to scale the Homotherium-based creatures up, as much as the "Colonial Spanish Horse" is from its ancestor the tarpan—700-800 pounds, compared to 550—and I get a beastie 15 hands to 15 hands 2 (inches) tall and weighing 1,120 to 1,280 pounds (i.e. 15h1 tall and 1,200 on average). The rationale would be that, as intelligent beings, they would be able to get bigger than wild creatures, since they can gather food more successfully (as domestic animals with reliable fodder get bigger than wild ones). (Incidentally, why did we call the Homotherinae "scimitar-toothed", when the correct term was obviously "pruner-toothed"?)

    That allows me, in turn, to go back to the 6'3" (male) elves, which I liked; an elf that tall on a 15h1 cat is like an average Mongolian man on a 13h2 horse, and 13 hands on the dot is the average for Mongolian horses. This makes the female elf 6'1"; males would weigh 135 pounds and females 118, if we're keeping the same approximate height-weight ratio as in the Pathfinder core rules. Think I'll have my dark elves (which aren't drow) keep the default Pathfinder elf heights.

    It also occurred to me, there's no real need to reinvent the wheel: my talking beasts can just speak Sylvan. I don't much use the fey, etc., creatures that primarily use it, but it's also used by plant creatures, after all. (The relative lack of fey in my setting makes druids' "Resist Nature's Lure" ability less useful, but on the other hand the bonuses in question also apply to spells like entangle.)
  • Not restricted to fantasy games, but endemic to fantasy in general, how is it possible that people still think "peaceful orcs, evil imperialist elves" is a new and exciting idea? I mean, this is far from the only stultifyingly shopworn cliché being talked up as if it's the most astounding innovation ("this damsel rescues herself"; "the handsome prince is actually stupid and/or evil"), but, I mean, seriously? Skyrim sold 20 million copies, people; elven imperialists figure rather prominently in it. (Admittedly their orcs are still warlike, but in a "Noble Savage" sort of way—which I only forgive in Warcraft, because they justify it with worldbuilding.) And the odds are pretty good that your version is not as well thought-out as the Thalmor.
  • It occurs to me that my elves making everything from leaves (and bark), and my gnomes making everything from mushrooms, is, quite inadvertently, a callback to the tiny little fairies with the flower-petal clothes. Except not tiny and "twee".

    I decided that both their stuff and the gnomes' mushroom-chitin stuff is actually as much of an improvement as mithral and "darkleaf cloth", from the Pathfinder Ultimate Equipment; it only increases costs as much as darkleaf cloth, rather than as much as mithral, because it's only got the hardness of wood. (It is, therefore, inferior to darkleaf cloth as-written, which has the hardness of steel for some reason, but items made from it have the same sunder resistance and eligibility for Weapon Finesse as elven curveblades—which no longer exist.)

    For weapons, though, since they're only half-as-heavy masterwork, I'll have them cost as much as wooden versions of metal items, as described in the Forgotten Realms Unapproachable East book: +400 gp for weapons doing 1d6 damage or less, +800 for weapons doing more damage. Hell, for metal weapons they're also inferior in terms of hardness, but the sunder-resistance and Weapon Finesse probably make up the difference.
  • How come karma-systems basically don't exist any more? I mean, sure, Mass Effect still presumably has its idiotic version of one, and in Elder Scrolls games you can make people like you by doing them favors and acquire a criminal record by committing crimes, but, like, remember Escape Velocity? About the only people you couldn't in some way build a relationship with, in the original, was the alien (because they were the "wholly inscrutable" type of alien); and in EV Override the only aliens you couldn't build one with were the Voinians (because they're basically Scarrans).

    I also think games could stand to adjust more of the experience for what race you choose to play as; that'd enhance replayability, which might keep more people coming back for DLC too. Not that Dragon Age giving each race a different opening mission is preferable, but that's more Dragon Age being "decolonization as understood by an emotionally disabled eighth-grader" than a problem with the concept in itself. In WoW, after all, each race has a different "starting experience", and it's not painfully earnest agitprop from a middle-school creative-writing club.
  • I mentioned a few years ago that my setting's half-elves and half-orcs are made in experiments, the equivalent of test-tube babies. I decided that making such hybrids is a major feature of the surviving city of the fallen human civilization; they make the half-elves and half-orcs as servants (agents and cannon-fodder, respectively), but also traffic with darksome creatures to make dhampirs and tieflings, who actually outrank humans in their city-state's hierarchy. (There are also "savage humanoid" slaves, like orcs and goblins, at the very bottom.)

    The dhampirs are the city-state's royalty, though I'm torn as to whether they should be its actual leaders, or if the actual undead (or maybe a cosmic force of undeath, something like the Black in Green Lantern) should be the power behind its throne. Certainly the undead have a lot of power and influence in the city. Either way I'm going for something like a late Númenorean vibe—they're ruled by the undead because they fear death. Most of the undead encountered elsewhere in my setting are members of the same civilization.
  • Again more fantasy in general than fantasy games only, but certainly germane to them, I did a bit of digging on my own, and, apparently, the claim that medieval Europe was more racially diverse than often presented...has no actual basis whatsoever. We don't and can't know, because they didn't and couldn't keep any such records, since they didn't have the concept of race as we understand it. It's made up—or a misinterpretation of something else. Namely, medieval literature was pretty racially diverse; there were four Saracen Knights of the Round Table, for instance, as well as the half-Moorish half-brother of Percival, Feirefiz, who gains Percival's ability to see the Holy Grail as soon as he converts to Christianity. (Irritatingly, one writer on the subject seemed to think that knights recognizing someone of noble birth, despite his impoverished circumstances, by his refined features, was racism. Poppycock; as well say the Princess and the Pea is about the superior sensory acuity of the Herrenvolk. It's caste, not race, they're talking about.)