De fabularum mirabilium III

Fantasy thoughts, only a few of them related to the icosahedral amusements, and most of those indirectly.
  • Came up with a Common Tongue for my D&D/Pathfinder setting. After fooling around with something inspired by Proto-Indo-European, decided to go with something inspired by Númenorean, but with an agreement system vaguely similar to Bantu or Nahuatl. My Elvish and Dwarvish languages, like most Elvish and Dwarvish languages, are also influenced by Tolkien's, but my Elvish has elements of Basque and Tibetan and my Dwarvish has elements of Polynesian (like having volitional and non-volitional genitives—tell me that doesn't seem like something dwarves would do) and Japanese. Both are also really "verb-heavy", where the base-form of almost every part of speech is a verb.

    Based my fiendish language a bit on Black Speech, but, like my Elvish and Dwarvish, made very verb-heavy. (Had briefly fooled around with basing it on R'lyehian, but only I could pronounce the result, and it was a chore even for me. My fiendish does separate stems from inflections with apostrophes, though, because of R'lyehian. Yes it's a cheap way to make a word look outlandish; sometimes you're just in the mood for cup ramen, though.) Inspired by the fact parts of Black Speech are pidgin Valarin (e.g. nazg "ring" is from naškad), my celestials actually speak the same language, but with a different set of roots (basically everything in fiendish is a pejorative and everything in celestial is an honorific term), some sound-changes, and the apostrophes deleted or turned into H or a doubled consonant. Elementals speak the same language too, but with a more normal mix of pejoratives, honorifics, and neutral terms. (I'm guessing the fiends also talk the celestial register to their superiors.)

    Based my "evil Atlantean" human language on Valyrian from Game of Thrones, since Martin is basically Earth-3's Tolkien (he's certainly not "America's Tolkien", unless Girls' Generation is the Korean Bolshoi; that laurel is probably for the brows of Howard or Leiber). But since I have nothing but respect for David Peterson, who created Valyrian for the show (because Martin is not a linguist), I also took inspiration for my Gnomish language from his Shiväisith, the Dark Elf language he created for Thor: The Dark World. Only, because I wanted a highly polysynthetic Gnomish (inspired by Dragonlance gnomes' interminable names), I made it verb-heavy again, and had every verb inflect for (up to) its subject, its object, its instrumental, and its benefactive. (Nouns, thus, only inflect—apart from the inflections of the verb forming their stem—for two cases, namely genitive and oblique, everything else being word-order and agreement with the sentence's main verb.)
  • Other than that, made a Giantish language inspired by Zentraedi (the Robotech RPG version not the impossible-to-pronounce Studio Nue version), a Draconic language inspired by Dovahzul (as iconically the speech of dragons as Quenya is the speech of elves), and a scaly-creatures-other-than-dragons language, influenced by the Parseltongue language they created for the Harry Potter movies. (Yeah, they actually made one, for the, like, twelve words of Parseltongue spoken in eight films. At least they used it at all; Hack Snyder cut the one scene where Russell Crowe's Jor-El speaks in the Kryptonian conlang, in Man of Steel.)

    The scaly-creatures language, I decided, is my setting's equivalent of Undercommon, spoken by kobolds and troglodytes (actually the same race, like goblins and hobgoblins), lizardfolk, serpentfolk, skum, and sahuagin; the last two replace the fricatives that are the language's only consonants, with liquids and liquid-stop combos. (I.e., "glub" noises.) I think it'll originally have been the speech of the nagas—who, as aberrations, also speak Fiendish, but they made a bunch of servants and gave them a language that suited their mouths. Of course, the skum (and sahuagin, and maybe the kobolds and troglodytes) were made by the aboleths, but maybe they had help from the naga on making intelligent reptilians.

    Did my damnedest to make sure "ka nama kaa lajerama" is not pronounceable to the scaly-kind language's speakers.
  • Turns out the numbered ages found in fantasy might come from Augustine, who divided history into six or maybe seven ages: antediluvian, Abraham to David, David to the Babylonian captivity, Babylonian captivity to Christ, and the current age until the end of the world. The seventh would be after the Second Coming. Interestingly, and to my knowledge wholly independently, some Nahuatl Christians, going off some of what the Guadalupana said, characterize Christ as the ruler of a sixth of the "suns" that divide up Nahuatl cosmology—one that exists after the end, and thus outside, of the cycle of the previous five.
  • I'm always a little amused by the people who say you can't have temperate forests, deserts, and frozen terrain as close together as fantasy portrays them. I mean, sure, in a quasi-European setting maybe not—though it's something like 100 kilometers from the Bardenas Reales desert to the Navarran Pyrenees, so only if we assume quasi-European means northern Europe.

    But I'm from Arizona; the largest contiguous stand of ponderosa pines in the world, temperate forest, is maybe an hour's drive (a day on horseback, though getting down would take longer without the highway cut into the rock) from the deserts below the Mogollon Rim. The record low in my hometown is -30° Fahrenheit (-34.4° Celsius); the record high in my mother's is 117° Fahrenheit (47.2° Celsius). Every climatic condition except true tropics is found in Arizona; we even have arctic conditions (minus the six-month daytimes) atop a couple of the mountains.

    Those deserts in Spain, by the way, are the reason the US southwest has common-law principles governing its water-rights.
  • People who don't like "simple" good vs. evil stories in fantasy, are mostly complaining about something that doesn't exist. Tolkien, for example, isn't "good vs. evil" in any simplistic sense. Maybe it looks that way if you ignore that the Rohirrim hunt the Púkel-men and quite possibly Dunlendings for sport; or if you don't know why, exactly, there are any Eldar in Middle-Earth in the first place. It's actually just "vs. evil", hampered at every turn by the fact most of them aren't actually "good".

    And other than Orcs and Trolls (which are bioroids engineered for psychopathy), plenty of Sauron's minions are not actually evil. E.g. the Haradrim: why do you believe the men of Gondor are right about them being "ever ready to [Sauron's] will"? Tolkien was a German in the British Army in the Great War (a fact that refutes just about everything idiots say about his work); he knew quite well that people who are in the right on the war itself might have quite a few unfair perceptions of their enemy.

    Sword and sorcery is even more "vs. evil", good optional. Conan is a thug with a couple rules and Fafhrd and the Mouser don't even have all that many of those. But the things they fight, regularly golf with Cthulhu.
  • I had thought that isekai was bad because it's used so much in bad light novels, and light novels are usually bad. But then I discovered that no, isekai is just bad, period, with a few individual exceptions. I discovered this from reading the first of Andre Norton's Witch World novels—or the first half of it, and then I had to stop because I didn't give a damn. Norton isn't a bad writer in herself but I can't get into those books.

    And I think I know what it is: you waste a whole chapter on establishing a person as an inhabitant of our world, and then you send them to another world and have to establish that. Rather than wasting all that time on the person who's going to another world, use the time establishing an inhabitant of the world, and establishing the world through them and their place in it. Why bother with them being from our world? They can still need all the exposition the audience requires them to get; just make them be from somewhere Podunk-y, like the Shire.

    Which is not to say that there is no difference between the Witch World books and In Another World With My Smartphone—only one of them is actually a tie-in to advertise euthanasia, after all.
  • I decided to make my male ogres just be ogres, again, instead of hill giants, like how my male hobgoblins are no longer bugbears. Decided to reflect the increased dimorphism of my "savage humanoid" races by putting males and females in different classes: male goblins, ogres, and orcs are warriors, female goblins are experts, female ogres and orcs are commoners, male hobgoblins are rangers (as I've mentioned before), and female hobgoblins are alchemists. (I guess this converts ogres to an "advances only by class-levels" race.)

    One thing this means is female orcs actually have Intelligence 11, since the stat-block you use for commoners gives them Int 13 and orcs are at -2 to Int (and Wis, and Cha). Maybe only female orcs speak Common as well as "Orcish" (Ogrish, in my setting), since the males have Int 7? I use the ability adjustments from D&D 3.5 for ogres, since I'm giving them class-based rather than monster ability scores; female ogres have Int 10 and Str 20, while the males have Int 5 and Str 24 (I assume that the "ability-score boost every four levels" applies to monsters too).

    I think male goblins and hobgoblins sometimes engage in peaceable trade with other races, since their wives, being experts and alchemists, produce things like weapons and armor (and potions, in the hobgoblins' case). Basically like the goblins in Warcraft except the males are the merchants and the females are the mad scientists, rather than all being both.
  • Guess this means I should do the same with kobolds and troglodytes; kobolds are already statted as warriors, but I'll probably change that to experts, with the troglodytes being the warrior ones. At least in my setting, they don't have much sexual dimorphism, being gregarious intelligent reptiles and, therefore, monogamous (K-selected non-mammals are more frequently monogamous because, lacking the ability to feed their young from the mother's metabolism, paternal care is more important).

    Ditto for the lizardfolk, except make them all warriors, other than the lizard scions, which I'll probably give levels in fighter (which makes them a mite tougher, whereas statting as warriors made the average ogre a bit weaker). Might re-stat the serpentfolk as adepts or maybe witches, which would make them a bit weaker (as monstrous humanoids they have d10 hit dice), but drastically increase their magic. Obviously the degenerates wouldn't change. I don't think my setting has boggards, and not just because that's properly a synonym of "bugbear". If it did I'd stat them as warriors.

    It occurs to me that it probably sucks to be a reptilian humanoid in an Ice Age setting, but the reptiles did survive the last glacial period. Presumably they only live in the warm(ish) lowlands; a reptile actually has several advantages in a steppe environment, since they're adapted to dry conditions.