De fabularum mirabilium V

Fantasy thoughts. Mostly RPG but I also talk about a book I didn't finish.
  • I was trying to come up with terms for the human-hybrid races that don't involve made-up words, most of which ("tiefling") were concocted so TSR/WOTC could copyright the words, in the 1990s. Most of the time this is easy—tiefling becomes "deepspawn" (since my setting is not Faerûn), or maybe, less literally, "netherborn" or something; dhampir (though a real thing in folklore) is something to do with "teeth" and "thirst"—but "suli" was giving me some trouble.

    However, on a hunch, I looked up the Arabic for "halfbreed", which led me to the Arabic for "pedigree", which is "sulâla"; presumably "suli" is a garbled version of something related to that. "Element breed"? I might actually go with the four Pathfinder genasi-analogues (look berk the planetouched are the planetouched) rather than suli. That becomes quite easy: "flamebreed", "wavebreed", "windbreed", and "stonebreed".
  • As I've mentioned, I based my common tongue partly on Numenorean and Westron. Now, the difficulty is that Tolkien didn't really get around to addressing the verbs (I think every conlanger knows exactly what that's like). I was worried as to how I would express the imperative and the passive, but, fortunately, those are the two parts of their verb he did get around to! The passive is expressed by placing the accusative before the verb, and the imperative is expressed by not giving the verb a subject.

    Now, Tolkien didn't use a pseudo-Mesoamerican syntax like I'm using, but his principle is even easier in mine. Prefixing the verb with the accusative, "him-killed" (instead of "they-killed-him"), means "he was killed," or "man him-killed" means "the man was killed"; suffixing the verb with its accusative without a nominative ("kill-her" means, well, "kill her"; "kill-her girl" means "kill the girl") makes the imperative quite obvious. (Now I need to figure out how to have tenses work…)
  • Got a few chapters into the first book of the Watergivers series by Glenda Larke. It isn't bad, but it's not really good either; the very best thing I can say for it is it handles sexual exploitation as sensitively as I've ever seen done. The worldbuilding is a mess, and I can't shake the feeling it was intended as some kind of global-warming allegory, never mind that dryness is more usually the product of cooling, not warming. (Overall; there were droughts in the New World during the Medieval Warm Period.) Particularly the bugs they all ride, and use for projectile weapons; they seem like unmotivated weirdness for its own sake—also living things will never be as good of a weapon as something that doesn't need to eat…or drink, more to the point in a setting like this. What, did you just really like Morrowind, with all the giant bugs?

    And I frankly don't give a damn about most of the characters. You could do something interesting with a girl brought up to be an o-iran who doesn't want to (and yes, o-iran is the word; the exact recapitulation of the ukiyo almost has footnotes), but Larke largely didn't. Likewise the hillbilly kid who's got the powers of a stormlord is extraordinarily unappealing and pointless, and his dialect can't decide whether it wants to be Southern US or Northern UK. And the middle-aged bureaucrat who disappoints his father…is a middle-aged bureaucrat who disappoints his father, what could possess you to give us that as a protagonist? You need to give me something cool, and these people are very much not. (I'm trying to come up with something else about the book to mention, but seriously, nothing about this world or characters sticks in my mind.)
  • I had been thinking of having my Dwarven script be partly based on Mongolian square script, but with hexagons instead of squares; I felt weird about using a real-world script when my Elven script is mostly purely original, but then I discovered the Tau writing in Warhammer 40K. That's just an alphabetization of the same basic concept as square script. My version actually works out a bit different.

    I also decided that dwarf clan names are "geologic feature" plus an adjective. Although in Dwarven, things like "lava tube" and "karst cave" are single words, because they have a very extensive vocabulary for talking about minerals. (This is accomplished mainly by exploiting my languages' verb-heaviness, and the fact I generated three roots for every entry in my dictionary.)
  • Between the ogres in Pathfinder's default setting being the hillbillies from The Hills Have Eyes crossed with the ones from Deliverance, and the kytons being the cenobites from the Hellraiser franchise, I think we can conclude they were heavily influenced by the offerings available at video stores in the late 2000s. Their DarkerAndEdgier impulses, particularly on display in the early days of the Pathfinder line: reminiscent of college freshmen out from under their parents' roof for the first time, the "parents" here being Hasbro/WOTC and their restrictive corporate policies. (Also, um, does…does Clive Barker know "cenobite" just means "monks who live in groups, as opposed to hermits"?)
  • It's always presented, in the Dragonlance-tier of fantasy, as being racist that elves disapprove the begetting of half-elves. But…you don't think it would strike us as odd, people pursuing relationships with someone who lives in dog-years? (In canon D&D, elves live just under seven years to a human's one. And that's unusually short-lived elves; the Warcraft ones, for example, live for thousands of years without a Nordrassil making them immortal.) For elves, a "lifelong" relationship with a human is at best only a major fling, no bigger a commitment than getting a cat; of course they would frown on that!

    Keep wanting to just kibosh my elves' mortality, and maybe my dwarves' and gnomes, too. My setting doesn't have fey, after all, and there really isn't any game-balance concern involved—gathlain and ghorans don't have lifespans listed, after all. Maybe have them reincarnate with parts of their memories intact when they're about to hit one of their higher age-categories, like ghorans do every couple decades? On balance my current "elves live just under twelve times longer than humans, gnomes nine times, dwarves six times" is probably plenty; there's no real need to make 'em live much longer.

    (In my setting there are no interracial interspecies relationships, with the half-elves and half-orcs, etc., being the alchemical equivalent of test-tube babies—"ampule babies"?)
  • Was worried about the cats elves ride being marked like snow-leopards, when they're more grassland creatures (they're based on Homotherium), but the tigrina cat and at least one subspecies of Pampas cat (possibly a closely related separate species), the Pantanal cat, are found in grasslands as well as forests, and have markings reminiscent of a snow leopard. (And panthers ridden by elves are going to spend a lot of time in forests no matter what they're based on.)

    Also decided that the elves in my setting have hair-colors derived from plants: "wood" elves have hair the green of yew needles, while "high" elves have hair the color of blue spruce, and both have crimson or yellow eyes, like the cones of their respective trees (though the crimson cones are male and the yellow ones female, on a spruce, while the reverse is true of yews). The "dark" elves meanwhile have hair the dark red of Parasitaxus leaves, and eyes the white or blue-white of its cones. Goblins have mustard-yellow hair, like Ephedra leaves (vestigial little scales on the stalks)—and are covered in fur the same neon green as Ephedra skin, and have eyes the same bright yellow or scarlet as its cones.

    Decided to do the dwarves the same (my gnomes were always colored like fungi), with the red dwarves' hair colored like typical red algae, the black dwarves like "black beard" algae (both types of which are genera within Rhodophyta), and orcs-and-ogres like all those "red" algae that are green. I was worried I couldn't do white dwarves, but somehow "staghorn algae" can be pale gray. Think I'll have them have the same color eyes as hair.
  • I really like the idea of darkvision as passive radar. Apparently the field strength of naturally occurring radio noise, which is a frequency of 50-60 Hz, is 150 to 600 femtoteslas, comparable to the magnetic field of an animal's nervous system, which we know biological systems can detect. So, perhaps using a special kind of photoreceptor (radioreceptor?) cell as an antenna? I had thought you would need to pack the whole outer surface of the eyeball with special rod-cell antenna, arranged fractally, because the wavelength is hundreds of kilometers, but apparently small antennas that can be connected to a computer's sound-card are sufficient, so presumably the retina itself can just be packed with a third kind of cell, along with the rods and cones, and form a fractal antenna there? You don't even need to come up with a different thing for aquatic races, super low-frequency radio isn't blocked by water.