Playing With Fantasy IX

FRPG thoughts.
  • It was annoying to come up with a list of random adjectives for my setting's humans to name their children prior to their taking adult names, in my D&D/Pathfinder setting. So I made it so instead, they name them after days of their two months—the day of whichever month their post-birth blessing was performed. It just has to be done within one of whichever month of the date of birth, so it doesn't indicate a child's birthday (if they used both days, of course, it would indirectly indicate that...so they don't).

    This is also the type of name used by the beast people ("gnolls", "catfolk", and a more mundane version of minotaur), except they're named in Giantish rather than any of the human languages. It's genuinely difficult to come up with a way to randomly generate a number between 1 and 27 (the number of days in the longer month)—to my knowledge the only combo is 26d2-25, which is unwieldy if you're not using a simulated roller—but 3d10-2 gives 1-28, and you can just make 28 "roll again". 1-16 is easy, it's 3d6-2.

    Late addendum: Realized there's a flaw, namely that you only have 43 names to choose from. So maybe they have two blessings done, one for each moon (there are actually reasons that would matter), and use both names. It just has to be within both months of birth, so the combination doesn't reveal birthdates.
  • On that note, thought I'd also come up with a table for gnomes' nicknames, since like in 3e my setting's gnomes are known throughout their lives by a number of different nicknames based on things they've done. (This becomes confusing for strangers when every gnome has a different name for every social circle, because each gnome has been seen doing different things by each group of acquaintances. I think gnomes get around this by making extensive use of fictive-kinship terms and other honorifics.)

    My gnomes also have surnames incorporating both their parents' names and their home settlement's name. Basically I like gnomes to have long names; it's the one thing about Dragonlance gnomes I actually like (well, the mad-inventor thing becomes tolerable once we're talking spaceships powered by giant hamsters running in wheels). There are cultures where people's full names are very long (the Arab world, for example), and much of Latin America has people known by nicknames to most of their acquaintances.
  • Decided to add a race of coastal nomads who, like the halflings, are descended from the Ancients. They're something like seafaring gypsies, in terms of keeping to themselves and living more in vehicles than in permanent dwellings, but they don't exactly have the more negative aspects associated with gypsy/Romani culture (which negative associations vary in their justness). They do think they're better than the people their ancestors regarded as "barbarians", but that mostly just makes them less likely to assimilate, and maybe be less tractable when haggling over trade-goods with the settled people. Of course, since they don't keep the totem-religion but only the ancestor-worship, with its attendant "amoral familism", they do have a slight tendency to try to rip off outsiders, though. Also at least some of the outsiders are descended from the people who sacked their ancestors' cities.

    The other nations of humans typically view these nomads with the usual distrust that settled people view such peoples with; of course there are also periodically rumors about them being witches, resulting in persecutions, and that sort of thing. (The common people of the Ancients, I decided, weren't actually much given to witchcraft, though their calendar still derives from witch-patrons.) There are also members of the other human nations that are descended from Ancients and have some or all of their phenotype, but they're culturally members of whatever group they live in. Human groups don't just vanish, even if they adopt the culture of another group. The Ancient-descended ones also aren't the only nomads in my setting, there also being a nomadic branch of the main human cultures, something like the Eurasian steppe cultures, or maybe a colder version of Bedouins.
  • Gave the gnomes electricity resistance, to go along with the elves' cold resistance and dwarves' fire resistance. Fungi, the gnomes' associated kingdom of life, apparently gets a big growth-boost when lightning strikes the tree it's on. (Elves are associated with plants, and conifers, at least, are among the most cold-resistant large life-forms on the planet. Dwarves are red algae, because the group contains a lot of extremophiles that like heat.)

    I keep going back and forth on whether the nonhumans should have poisonous blood/bodily fluids. I really like the idea as worldbuilding, but the "Toxic" trait in the Advanced Race Guide isn't what I had in mind; more like the Poison Flesh trait of the ningyo in Bestiary 4. But I can't figure out if that balances like "Toxic"; maybe if I give it the same damage as the "Life-Stealing Venom" variant of the "Toxic" trait? And maybe the same onset time and save-characteristics.

    (Though really the ningyo themselves ought to have a very slight chance of the consumption of their flesh bestowing immortality. Or at least extreme longevity.) I think the merpeople in my setting (you know how I feel about "merfolk"), if I do decide to have them, will be more like the Japanese kind, or like purely aquatic sirens.
  • My brother and I were watching Record of Lodoss War, since it's on Crunchyroll at the moment, and he pointed out that the reason that it's not a violation of the Geneva Convention, unlike most more recent fantasy anime, is it's not based on video games, it's based on tabletop RPGs (indeed it began as a write-up of a D&D game). Admittedly Chaika the Coffin Princess and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash could go either way, but definitely feel more like a tabletop RPG—though Grimgar (maybe Chaika off in the background?) does have an Adventurer's Guild, that cancer upon fantasy that originates in video games.
  • A thought occurred to me: maybe giant insects, at least the cow- and dog-sized ones you're mainly dealing with in D&D—maybe up to elephant size?—have their hearts modified into something like a diaphragm, that can draw in air through their spiracles, allowing them to breathe actively. Maybe they also have an ability to actually circulate their respiratory fluid, as I think molluscs can (I think molluscs just can't get big on land—though the biggest snails are roughly the same size as Goliath beetles—because they don't mineralize their chitinous exoskeleton). Presumably, like molluscs and arachnids, giant insects have pale blue blood with hemocyanin in it, rather than just clear hemolymph.

    And then maybe their exoskeletons are made thicker and more bone-like, with much thicker limbs than the original version—think coconut crabs, not spiders. Their muscles would become something more powerful, like vertebrate muscle tissue (if you were the size of an ant, you'd be about 35 times as strong as an ant is).

    Now, the big issue is flying; I can't think of a way that a giant bee or moth could fly, realistically, if it's not magic. Maybe the air-sacs, found in most flying insects, get modified to hold some kind of gas, say ammonia—which is lighter than air. Woodlice (pillbugs) excrete ammonia as their urine-analogue, directly venting it into the air; maybe flying giant insects have their air-sacs modified into something similar to whatever serves woodlice as the equivalent of a urinary bladder. I expect they also need a bigger wing, of course, but I wouldn't bother to crunch all the numbers; you just need a 'figleaf' so the animal is vaguely plausible, it doesn't have to be 100% hard science fiction.
  • On that note the "vermin" creature type probably shouldn't exist, they should just be animals. We're discovering every day that arthropods and molluscs are no different from vertebrates, albeit not usually the cream of the crop of vertebrates. At the very least the vermin type ought to have an Int score of 1, rather than "—"; more likely vermin ought to be a subtype of animal.

    Maybe the "animals" and mind-affecting powers don't work on vermin—having them do so, while justifiable, would change game-balance—because they're designed with vertebrates (and intelligent beings, since aberrations are not vertebrates) in mind, not because vermin are mindless. Because they aren't, at least no more than the dumber lizards are.
  • Decided that what powers magic in my setting is a spiritual "tension" between two things. For wizards, magi, and alchemists, it's the tension of the mind being made to conform itself to external reality; for sorcerers, bards, and summoners, of the emotions conforming to an experience. For divine casters, it's conforming oneself to one's deity's code of conduct. And for witches, it's violating taboo, and using the resistance of the cosmos to having its nature twisted like that. This has no real mechanical effect, but has "fluff" significance, also important if you're a narrativist-simulationist, as I am (I'll probably come up with a way for at least the witch version to have game importance, like the three moons of Krynn).
  • I kinda like the wound points and vigor points option in Ultimate Combat, or Starfinder's hit points, stamina points, and resolve points, but really, neither is that much of a mechanical difference from the default hit-point system. All three are based on the way fiction portrays it, people being able to get by with superficial wounds until someone hits something vital. (Also vigor points and especially resolve points probably ought to be increased by your Wisdom bonus.)

    Not a fan of the wound-thresholds introduced in Pathfinder Unchained, where being down to 75% your max hit points makes you "grazed" and imposes a -1 penalty to attacks, saves, skill checks, ability checks, AC, and (for some reason) caster level; 50% makes you "wounded" and imposes a -2 penalty, and 25% makes you "critical" and imposes a -3 penalty. I suppose maybe for a horror game that would make sense, but otherwise we don't really do this "the rich get richer" thing, not since 3rd Edition.

    Ideally, someone would come up with a d20 version of the World of Darkness wound-category system. (World of Darkness was kinda the opposite of contemporary D&D, having a great system but a really dumb setting. With 3rd Edition D&D fixing everything about D&D except hit-points—which were never a deal-breaker—and New World of Darkness making the settings, if possible, even dumber, that contest is now as over as Nintendo vs. Sega.)
  • People say that feats like Eschew Materials are useless, because D&D ignores components. That's not actually true. What D&D ignores is components under most circumstances, unless they cost real money, but when your enemy takes your clothes (including your component pouch), your ability to cast without components is suddenly going to become important. Ditto Silent Casting and enemies gagging you.