Playing with Fantasy VII

Fantasy RPG thoughts.
  • I'd gotten rid of trolls in my campaign, but then I got to thinking, maybe make 'em like a yeti-sasquatch-abominable snowman thing? Could just call 'em "abominations". "Snow abomination" = frost troll, maybe. Apparently the main Nepali name, himamaanav, just means "snow man" (they may well call the child's ice-sculpture something else, like "snow Bodhidharma"); one of the Tibetan names, meaning "wild man", is "mi-go". How exactly Lovecraft managed to equate the two is a question for the ages.

    I never much cared for the troll social behavior as presented starting I think in 3rd Edition (at least I don't remember any mention of troll matriarchs back in 2nd). Think mine'll be more like certain reptiles, which lay their eggs and then their young are on their own. Nobody ever said trolls don't lay eggs, and none of the rest of their behavior seems to go with K-selection. How do trolls without "adult supervision" not overrun an ecosystem? Young ones can get eaten by big predators—stomach acid stops their regeneration.
  • It occurs to me that having a glowing iris but a dark pupil, combined with sclera having the same appearance as the iris—the norm for non-human animals—would give you the "whole eye glows" glowing eyes seen in Warcraft. Especially if you also have it so the pupil completely seals shut and the iris and sclera are the receptor for whatever energy darkvision perceives? Maybe darkvision is something like a parietal eye or the heat-sensing "pits" in a pit-viper or a vampire bat, but built into the outer surface of the eye rather than a separate organ. And sensing some weird magical energy (or maybe radar, which is honestly the thing most like how darkvision behaves, but if you can see your surroundings by passive radar on a planet's surface, you live in a very odd environment).

    My fiends also all have three eyes, and the third is the one that gives them see-in-darkness and an at-will deathwatch ability. I was also toying with doing something weird with dragon eyes. One that was basically automatic was comparable visual acuity to a bird of prey (de rigueur for a flying predator—and presumably pretty easy to accomplish when your eyeball is the size of a shot-put ball), but then I thought maybe two pupils so they can do parallax-based depth perception from a single eye? But then, even better, was monocular depth-perception via "corneal accommodation", like a chameleon. After all, sub in the breath-weapon for the chameleon tongue and you've got a dragon. Presumably they don't put the eye on a turret the way chameleons do (since their head is a lot more mobile than a chameleon's).
  • Decided to use a river otter, specifically the giant river otter, as the model for dragon anatomy. A 120-foot dragon is about 15.24 times the dimensions of the otter; an otter that size would weigh just under 125 short tons. Using the density of a (very light) bird as against a mammal (602 kilos per cubic meter vs. 1,080, i.e. 55.7% the density), that results in a body-weight of a mere 69.6 tons. I'm too tired to compute the flight mechanics; realistically you'd probably have to model it as a non-biological ornithopter anyway. A cheetah-like sprint before takeoff can still probably meet the case with some fudging.

    One thing that occurred to me is, if you've got wings on your back, you have a second pair of shoulder-blades. And probably a second clavicle, too. If a dragon moves through the air like a cross between the swimming motions of a penguin and an otter—weren't those in Avatar: The Last Airbender?—it's going to need a lot more range of motion than the "swinging forward and back" motions found in the animals that lack clavicles, like certain carnivorans (I think mainly cursorial ones like canids and some hyenas?). Actually it'd probably be more like a wishbone ("furcula" is the formal term), since it's for flapping.

    I don't know why I had been thinking a dragon with two wings as well as hind- and forefeet would require a keelbone on its back; all it would need is a second collarbone (or rather a wishbone), lower down than tetrapods have them. Maybe the forelegs attach like normal quadruped limbs, while the wings attach like bird-wings (or human arms) do. Then partway down the ribcage changes to become like that of a bird, with a "keelbone" from part of the sternum (still think dragon sternums are built more like vertebrae, with long crests except on the bottom instead of the top, than like a normal sternum). Is the wishbone stuck in the middle of the ribcage? Or does it loop around it? Huh.
  • I mentioned that elves' composite bows, in my setting, are actually cable-backed bows (except to strengthen good materials further, not make weak materials serviceable). I decided, since I'd wanted elves' bows to be compound but it didn't really fit with them (maybe gnomes or dwarves but elves don't have pulleys on the ends of their bows, it's just not in the picture), that elves use a double bow or father-and-son bow, also known—in our world, obviously, not theirs—as the Penobscot or Wabenaki bow.

    It's basically a recurve bow with a second, smaller bow (usually a flatbow not a recurve one) attached to the front and facing the other way. The string passes through the ends of the larger bow and attaches to the ends of the smaller one. I don't really understand the mechanism but I've seen people compare it to a compound bow, though more because of its "smooth" draw than that you can necessarily hold it at full draw quite so easily. Think maybe just give it 10 feet of range on the composite longbow, like the composite longbow has on the regular one.

    Apparently there's also a thing called a "string silencer" for bows, basically a pom-pom/tassle type of thing, or an actual ball of fur, woven into bowstrings. It silences the shot (important especially for deerhunting, in the real world) by absorbing the residual kinetic energy of the release, and basically dividing it up into the various parts of the pom-pom/hairs of the fur-scrap. Some of them are X-shaped or little hooks, instead, but it's all roughly the same idea.
  • Know a word I hate? "Folk." I particularly loathe how it's used in d20-family RPGs. "Lizardfolk", "merfolk", "serpentfolk"—I keep wanting to say "You don't have to talk in that stupid voice to me, I'm not a tourist." The word's just so forcedly Ye Olde. A much better word? "People". I come from a place where "people" is an actual term used in these ritual-myth types of contexts ("Holy People," "People of Darkness," "Antelope People," etc.)—and it doesn't require adopting some rural British accent to pronounce the word like you're serious.

    Another good word is "thing"; I don't know where people got the idea that that word is somehow a sign of bad writing. I especially don't know why the d20 RPG-writers don't understand how inherently evocative it is, given "crypt thing" (and, with Pathfinder's questionable inclusion of Cthulhu Mythos stuff, "elder thing"). I decided to call my lizard-people "scaled things", at least most of the time—maybe "lizard people" ("scaled people"?) to their faces? My troglodytes and kobolds (two branches of the same race) are collectively "cave things"; my sahuagin are "tide things".
  • Not directly RPG-relevant but certainly can come up in them, people always complain about peasant heroes being able to hold their own in combat. Now, while there are things they certainly shouldn't know right off (how to use a shield most effectively, how to move in armor), how to swing something shaped roughly like an agricultural tool isn't one of them. Also, they would probably be familiar with whatever's used for hunting in their society. Bans on hunting actually only appeared in Western Europe in the mid- to late 1400s (they wouldn't have been an issue in the putative life of any of the several people who went to make up the legend of Robin Hood). Even then they were mostly limited to "King's Land"; before that anyone could hunt anywhere they weren't trespassing just by being present. Remember, the Confederacy didn't have to train its sharpshooters: they were a bunch of backwoods boys who'd grown up shooting squirrels for the family stew-pot—Union soldiers are markedly easier targets. No reason your peasant hero shouldn't know his way around the shortbow.
  • Decided to slightly retool my nonhuman names, mostly so I could make a table that produces a large number of them (because the humans' being named from the calendar results in 465 possible names, 36-37 "day signs" plus the 1-10 single-word number-names times 10 "year-tithes"). It just took a slight modification of elves' and dwarves' two-part names, but I'd had gnomes be named single adjectives: which would mean having to come up with over 300 individual adjectives. Decided instead to give 'em "action plus adverb" two-part names. The rest of their naming still works similarly.

    Decided that elves don't exactly have clans, as such, but just give the name of the ancestral grove or tree of their parent of the same sex. (How come "boys are in father's line, girls are in mother's" isn't more common? I can't even find one example of a society that uses it.) All the ancestral trees and groves on the planet originally grew on the Silver Moon; the trees came with them when they left. Of course, most of the time an elf just gives their two- or three-part name, personal name, the name derived from both parents, and the name derived from the spouse's if married (actually I think that last one is a middle name). I'll eventually come up with tables for the grove names, and gnome epithets and dwarf clans.

    Eventually I'll come up with tables for the NPC races, too. Dark elves and goblin("oid")s use modified elf names, ogres/orcs and dark dwarves use modified dwarf names, and kobolds/troglodytes and spriggans use modified gnome names (except the kobold/troglodyte ones are in Undercommon). That still leaves giant names, though, which I also have used by hyena-, cat-, and yak-people.
  • Somewhat relatedly (and relevant to fantasy games because they're if anything more beholden to Tolkien than fantasy literature is), I think I've mentioned that at least part of Black Speech, in Tolkien, is pidgin Valarin (nazg "ring" appears to be from nashkad, for instance). The interesting thing about that, I think, is that by all indications what Sauron did to create it was make it less harsh-sounding—remember, the thing the angels always open with, in the Bible, is "be not afraid". The Eldar found it physically unpleasant to speak Valarin (hence why the Valar mostly use Quenya with them); it's possible other beings, not being as robust as the Eldar, might even find it physically dangerous—"our ejective consonants cause tissue trauma," say.