Sierra and Two Foxtrots V

Fantasy and SF thoughts. Mostly the former because it's a broader subject and I've been working on my Pathfinder setting.
  • Decided to go with two-tiered elf and gnome equipment. The ordinary stuff is just equivalent to masterwork steel, wood, or leather, with the Sunder resistance of a curve blade and weapons also having the curve blade's Weapon Finesse eligibility. Maybe they weigh only 75% as much? And then the high-end stuff is mithral or darkleaf cloth (in terms of hardness and hit points), except you can make "wooden" shields, and still with the Sunder resistance and Weapon Finesse eligibility. Dwarf stuff would just be like mithral or three-quarters-weight masterwork steel, respectively—but still made from extremophile coralline algae. (I don't think dwarves will have a darkleaf cloth equivalent.)

    Don't know how to price 'em. Figure that maybe the simplest way to price the "mithral"/"darkleaf cloth" weapons is "base plus alchemical silver (or cold iron, in the dwarf-stuff's case), plus masterwork plus 10 gp per pound of base weight" ("half weight" being the only benefit darkwood offers beyond masterwork, to a weapon). And then have the armor cost what mithral normally does. The steel(-equivalent) should probably be just masterwork? Plus 5 gp per pound since it reduces the weight half as much as darkwood would. We're ignoring the Sunder resistance in pricing, because there's no one weapon that's equivalent to a curve blade that we can say the curve blade is the modified form of.

    I think gnome "mithral" weapons won't overcome damage-reduction, so maybe theirs just cost base plus masterwork plus 10 gp per pound of base weight.
  • I'd had zled spaceship and aircraft autocannons use the metric-patching system, but decided that was still too easily miniaturized; now they only use it for engines and launch-catapults, and use electromagnetically accelerated autocannons (quench guns, I think—a type of Gauss/coilgun). The khângây already use quench vulcans as personal small-arms (not as practical as lasers but the zledo are the soldiers, khângây are artists and artisans and thus more prone to going by the Rule of Cool).

    It occurs to me that the easiest way to do ammo for mass-driver weapons is to use iridium or osmium bullets, with a "driving band" of ferromagnetic material. In the space ones they're spherical, since there's no aerodynamic concerns, and have "driving spots" something like the dimples on a golf ball; the ones for use in atmosphere are shaped as Sears-Haack bodies with the "driving band" around the middle. I think the atmosphere ones have the coil set up to impart spin like a rifle, too.

    Think zled artillery, too, will mostly be mass-driver based—maybe some lasers for ground- and air-applications. Their missiles, I think, only use metric-patching in space; I'm not sure what their ground propulsion is. Probably some superconducting electric ducted fan, but maybe pulse detonation engines. Which work the same as other jet/rocket engines except that those use deflagration, combustion at subsonic velocities, while detonation is combustion at supersonic velocities—basically a conventional-explosives Orion drive. Yes, they're very loud.
  • Zled air-travel, I decided, is accomplished using vacuum-airships for short flights and some sort of electric turbine flight for long flights. A vacuum airship is quite simple: you make the envelop lighter-than-air by pumping the air out. You land by just pumping air back in. It's hard to do without extremely airtight envelopes, of course, but given they're a spacefaring civilization they can store hydrogen, so that's not an issue.

    The other issue is that if a vacuum cell gets a puncture, the whole thing implodes; they get around it by using a compartmentalized structure that avoids chain-reactions, and making the cells out of very durable smart materials. Their airships are also aerodynamic, so they can glide to a landing if they lose the vacuum cells; the outer hull and inner envelope aren't directly in contact.
  • Not going that route myself, but if you wanted to get rid of verbal components for spellcasting—like if you wanted to make it more like the video-games that are the main source of current fantasy preconceptions nowadays (although canonically most of those do have spoken spells, it'd just get annoying to hear over and over)—you could use a modified version of the psychic magic from the Pathfinder Occult Adventures. What I'd do is still have somatic and material components, but replace verbal with thought components for wizards and emotion components for sorcerers. I would leave divine spellcasters with verbal components, though, since they still pray. I think witches, too, since their personal relationship with their shadowy patrons is fundamental to that class's "flavor".

    I also think that, if you're going to work out (e.g. for fluff-text) how incantations work, the arcane casters should use very different types of spells from the divine ones. Weird and abstruse is the way to go for the arcane ones; think of the spells in Bleach, for example (which I think are based on the real chants sometimes used in onmyôdô). Stuff like "Scattered beast bones! Spire, crimson crystal, steel wheels! The wind if it moves, the sky if it stops, the tone of the spear striking fills the lone castle!" Meanwhile the divine casters (and witches) should probably have more Slayers-like incantations, since they're invoking powerful beings like in that setting. The same spell might thus be "O source of all power, O thunder that roams the sky, gathering in my hand, become a power!"

    Of course a lot of the time those might be shortened to, say, "Hadô 63: Raikôhô!" or "Dig Volt!" (Or "What I seek is thunder: Izuchi!")
  • Apparently opioids don't work on reptiles. Or not the same; they have an effect, but instead of sedating them and numbing them, opioids make reptiles agitated and cause them to increase their body-temperatures (I think by the same means certain lizards and snakes do it, during the mating/brooding season). Presumably related to us and diapsids using some different nerve-channels (see also capsaicin).

    This is (of course) an issue for vets who have to treat injured reptiles; it's also potentially of use to SF writers. Or fantasy, which has been rife with reptile-people back at least to the Kull stories and Pellucidar (I consider Hollow Earth—also Sword and Planet—to be fantasy). The cultural associations of opium—opium dens, the Opium Wars, etc.—work pretty well with something like the Serpent People, for example.
  • Revised my dragons slightly: their necks and tails have featherlike-scales that spread out in flight to form a wing that almost makes them kite-shaped. (They might have a "mane" running almost their whole length when on the ground, in other words—maybe they have a double fan of the scales on the middle of their back, to act like vertical stabilizers.) They also undulate, vertically, through the sky, like the motion an otter makes when swimming, in order to "flap" with their entire length. Part of this was inspired by the Revered Dragons in Skyrim, whose necks and tails are lined with "fins" that would drastically increase their lifting area.
  • Thought I might go with 5e's darkvision, and give it to all my nonhuman races except the animal hybrids (cat-, hyena-, and yak-people), which I think have 3e low-light vision. Where 3e/Pathfinder darkvision is basically immune to darkness, 5e treats poor light as normal light and total darkness as dim light. (For those playing along at home, dim light means that creatures have concealment, imposing a 20% miss-chance on attacks against them, and can use the Stealth skill to, as 'twas known in the Before Time, "hide in shadows".) Low-light vision is kinda meh, but 3e darkvision seems slightly OP. 5e's seems to be a good compromise.

    Relatedly (in my day your eyes glowed red when you used the equivalent of darkvision), I mentioned before how glowing eyes would probably make your vision blurry (the night-vision of animals with tapeta lucida is blurry). I proposed a mere ring around the iris, for glowing robot eyes. Maybe for humanoid eyes you only need to have the pupil black? Most glowing eyes (e.g. Warcraft elves) are a solid color, with no pupils (probably the pupils glow as an inappropriate analogy with the tapetum lucidum), but that has got to be artistic license. Something more like the Awoken, in Destiny, who have glowing irises but black pupils, is more plausible.
  • I like to think about the basic day-to-day technology of my future society. For example, they affix things to other things using "seta-tape"—"setae" being the bristles on the underside of a gecko's feet that let it walk on walls. Basically it's an adhesive that leaves no gunk. A tokay gecko's feet can support 2.05 kilos of weight, something like 40 times its body-mass; presumably if you have to attach something bigger than that, you just use more tape. And, again, no gunk—you just move the taped object in a certain way relative to the surface it's stuck to, and it comes off, like a gecko taking a step.


Playing with Fantasy VI

Fantasy game thoughts, mostly (as I've been working on my setting a lot lately) of the icosahedral variety.
  • Was working on writing-systems for my D&D/Pathfinder setting. Realized, a good "hook" for things like that, is to use a shape in most of your characters. I use circles and parts thereof, in various sizes, in my elvish one; rectangles in my dwarvish one; and am probably going to go with triangles in the gnomish one I'm still working on. I also have a dark-elf version of elvish that uses triangles instead of circles (yes "pointier is shorthand for evil"—maybe "bouba and kiki" works for elves too). Based my elvish and dwarvish scripts' numbers on the fact they use base-12 and count on their knuckles; will incorporate the fact gnomes use base-20 into theirs, but I haven't worked out, yet, how I'll convey that they're counting on their toes, too. (Just now decided giants will use a square-y script, with a different basis than dwarvish, and have base-8 numbers, from counting on the gaps between fingers.)

    Kind of thinking my fiendish writing should be reminiscent of the symbols from Dead Space, and Hive runes from Destiny, but the thing there is that I also have my celestials and elementals use the same language. Maybe something like the elf/dark-elf versions of elvish? (Goblins, being mutant elves, also use a degenerate form of elvish—I think with the circle or triangle replaced by "slash marks" in some way?; ogres and orcs likewise use degenerate dwarvish, since they're mutant dwarves.) I also think my "undercommon", which in my setting is primarily the language of subterranean reptiles like kobolds and serpent people—and has a dialect spoken by aquatic things like sahuagin—will look a bit like Dwemeris, from Elder Scrolls, except the aquatic version will look more like Falmeris. (Seriously look at it, Falmer writing looks like the Deep Ones use it to write their prayers. And not the "Deep Ones" who blinded and enslaved the Falmer.)
  • Putting bugbears back in my setting, as something like "noble" goblins (which would make goblins "common" and hobgoblins "elite"). Or come to think of it a four-way division, with barghests as the top. "Low, middle, high, great," like the field-officer ranks of the People's Liberation Army? (Okay that's actually "small, middle, high, great.") "Lesser, common, high, great?" Then again barghests aren't mundane goblins; maybe something more like "lesser, common, high or great, holy." ("Minor, major, ultra, zealot"?)

    Thought I might have the bugbears go back to being chaotic evil, and the goblins neutral evil; the drow had a strict religious code and yet were chaotic evil, after all (at least in 1st and 2nd Edition, 3rd and 5th made them neutral evil possibly because their strict code seemed un-chaotic—but Pathfinder put them back as chaotic). Went only partway in that direction, though; the hobgoblins and barghests are lawful evil, the goblins neutral evil with lawful tendencies, and the bugbears straight neutral evil. Basically as the elite of goblins the bugbears just form smaller groups and tend to be more self-indulgent—a strict code for hunting your human sacrifices doesn't really require you be lawful across the board, after all.

    Interestingly, if I make bugbears as much bigger than my goblins as the ones in the Pathfinder core rules are bigger than their goblins, the males wind up being Large—over eight feet tall. (The females are still Medium, because my setting's goblins have feline-like sexual dimorphism.) Decided both sexes of bugbear go on the ritual hunts; the females have goblin and hobgoblin servants, or their husband's goblin and hobgoblin junior wives, do what female goblins and hobgoblins do, for their families. I'll still stat 'em by class-levels, though—females as ninjas and males as rangers; don't wanna waste that Large-creature Strength bonus.
  • Also gave my bugbears and hobgoblins Intimidating Prowess as a bonus feat, and all three a +2 to Intimidate checks (which I'm taking away from the half-orcs). Plus gave the goblin races bonuses to saves against fear effects. Basically my goblins are obsessed with fear, it's the cornerstone of their culture; where other "savage humanoids" might use torture, goblins use terror. To elicit a scream by any other means is, in their view, a sign of weakness.
  • I've mentioned that elves' equipment is like mithral and darkleaf cloth, but only costs as much as the cloth, because they have the hardness of wood. Decided that instead, the stuff that would be made of mithral, is made of the leaves of the elves' sacred trees, and the stuff that would be made of darkleaf cloth is made of the trees' bark. The leaves have metal in them (so elf druids can't wear it), giving them the hardness and hit points of steel; the bark doesn't (druids wear light or heavy bark, i.e. "leather" and "hide" armor), but it has the hardness and hit points of wood rather than just leather.

    While they're both weaker than mithral or darkleaf, they cost the same (respectively); the difference is made up by the fact they all give the same resistance to Sunder attempts granted by elven curveblades (which don't exist), and, in the case of weapons, also allow Weapon Finesse to be used with weapons that aren't light. I think that, like mithral, weapons made from it also count as alchemical silver automatically—I'd had that be an option that costs extra. Indeed given that all a mithral weapon is is a half-weight masterwork silvered weapon that's slightly more durable (whereas the armor has a lot of advantages), I'll just have the weapons cost twice what an alchemical silver weapon would, plus masterwork cost.

    Guess the gnome stuff, made from the chitin of their mushrooms, is going to be the same (lower hardness and hit points, sunder resistance and Weapon Finesse eligibility), with the "mithral"-equivalent being mineralized chitin (with metal, though, instead of calcium).
  • Was unclear what I should do with dwarf stone items, besides having them count as cold iron (but easier to enchant). 3.5e/Pathfinder adamantine is insanely OP, so I clearly couldn't do that. Then I realized I could just make them be like straight-up mithral as written, higher hardness and hit points included, and with the effect of cold iron instead of silver (and the weapons only costing as much as masterwork plus double cold iron). That's convenient; the original mithril in Tolkien was actually associated with dwarves, after all, not elves. I'd also decided that the dwarf stuff is actually made of a highly mineralized algae, something like one of the "coralline" algaes, but looking more like ordinary translucent stone; the dwarves grow it in volcanic pools and treat it with some elaborate cocktail of metallic salts to produce a metallic "shell".
  • My setting now has two other surviving cities of the Ancients, and they're my setting's equivalent of dark folk and gillmen. The king of each of the three city-states regards himself as the true heir of their empire, and they're as likely to fight with each other as with the other humans or non-human races. The other two didn't exactly hybridize with anything (huh, maybe the gill-men technically hybridized with skum or sahuagin?), and consider it creepy how the one that did has "polluted" its people's blood, but they're all run by basically "mad scientist" spell-casters.

    Also decided their artificial hybrids include half-ogres, though they only make males—at the size of my female ogres, averaged with the height of a human female, you get a Medium creature, while averaging the male ogre with a human male makes a Large one, so all a female half-ogre would be is a large half-orc. My half-elves, half-orcs, and half-ogres use half the ability adjustments of elves, orcs, or ogres, and then have +1 to one score of their choice—i.e., the average of the ability-adjustments of humans, elves, orcs, and ogres. (There's nothing in the Advanced Race Guide for +1 ability adjustments, but these are NPC races in my setting.)
  • Was looking for stuff about worldbuilding for RPGs. A lot of them seem to think you should have a creation-myth, but I don't really feel a need. Maybe it's just that I've studied enough mythologies to know that actually having a creation-myth is the exception, not the rule. (Seriously most Native Americans haven't got one, the Emergence Narrative you find in the Arido- and Mesoamerican "cultural complexes" is quasi-cosmogonic but not quite the same thing; and e.g. Celtic mythology doesn't even really have that, at least in the parts of it that have survived to us.)

    I do have some cosmogonic stuff—there was a Titanomachy between what are now fiends and celestials, over whether the mortal races would be, basically, livestock or pets—but honestly, mythology and religion have relatively little to do with each other.

    Many of the most important gods in real polytheist religions have strangely little mythic role. I can't think of anything Inari does in Japanese mythology, for example, and Hecate, though important as the guardian of children (as the goddess of the night and its terrors), doesn't show up in any Greek myths that I know of. (Okay so that's kinda cheating, Greek myths as we know them have about as much to do with actual Greek religion as an anime like Kannagi does with actual Shinto.) Does any era of Vedic religion really have a creation myth? I can't think of one.
  • I had at first thought that I'd do what The Alexandrian recommends, and use their alternate rules for raise dead-type effects (he removed them, so death would still be permanent and dramatic; a few other things were changed, to make the game a bit less lethal since that "safety net" was removed). But then I read the actual Pathfinder rules; its version of the assassin prestige class has abilities (true death and angel of death) that make it harder to bring the victims back from the dead. Besides, only a tiny number of people will actually have access to 9th-level clerics or 10th-level oracles (for raise dead) within nine or ten days, let alone 13th/14th for resurrection or 17th/18th for true resurrection (which admittedly don't have a time-limit). Remember, only 5% of the population are "adventurer" material, and, assuming an even distribution of ability scores, only one in 120 has the Wisdom required to be a cleric—one in 360 if we assume even odds of becoming a druid or monk instead. (Oracles are even worse, with inquisitor, paladin, cavalier, bard, summoner, and sorcerer also available to people with that Charisma score. Wow, went a little too far the other way RE: Charisma once having been the universal dump-stat, huh?)

    A couple of people who also dislike the raise dead spells claim they would make wars last forever; but that's actually untrue, since most feudal wars actually don't end in the death of either of the factions' leaders. Most end in surrenders and the exile or house-arrest of the losers. You might actually have the threat of an enemy being raised or resurrected as an ensurer of good behavior, at least for people who can't spring for a 4th- or 10th-level assassin's services (and the people who can, are people whose enemies are disproportionately likely to know high-level clerics or oracles): "I'll go into exile and let you run the kingdom, but anything happens to me and my allies will raise or resurrect me, and then I'm coming for you." Maybe a "church" with a standing threat to raise or resurrect any rival you murder (ascertained by speak with dead spells) would act as a fantasy Peace of God to ensure a setting's elite behave themselves. (Of course there would be ways around that but it'd still make it much more difficult to just casually murder a rival—that sort of thing reduces unwanted behavior, it doesn't completely eliminate it.)
  • Hmm. That actually has interesting worldbuilding implications. Presumably there'd be a taboo on cremation much like the one that exists in Judaism and many Christian communities; probably instead they cast sanctify corpse on the dead to keep them from being reanimated as undead (maybe they do burn them if they're killed by undead?). Maybe truly hated individuals, like heresiarchs, witches, and traitors, are burned after death and the ashes disposed of, like in Hellenistic Egyptian lynchings (which may actually involve a real-world version of all this, given Egyptian afterlife beliefs emphasize an intact corpse). Of course doing it to an ordinary political rival would be seen as beyond the pale, at least in places less insanely violent than Hellenistic Alexandria—as it was in the Middle Ages.