Das Rollenspiel Vier

Fantasy RPG thoughts, mostly relating to my campaign.
  • About the one mechanical difference between my stuff and official Pathfinder, aside from some changes to the races (I made gnomes electricity-resistant, since fungi apparently quite like electric current), is that in my thing, witches detect on the same line as evil clerics for spells like detect evil. (Realized, I don't have any evil gods with clerics, though I do have some neutral gods whose clerics can be evil.)

    In general, in my campaign, a cleric who wants to be the equivalent of an ordinary D&D "evil cleric" won't just switch deities and do an atonement: they'll retrain, using the rules in Ultimate Campaign, into a witch. (I would let them swap their ability scores entirely, since witches are Int-based and clerics Wis-based, treating each difference of ability-scores as if it were an ability-score increase.)

    I had had the snake people and tide things (sahuagin) have evil clerics, but then decided no, they have psychics with the faith discipline.
  • I did also decide the planes are different (think I've said part of this before). I more or less left the Ethereal and Astral alone, but the Outer and Inner aren't there, and you get to the Shadow Plane via the Ethereal. Basically in my setting the Material Plane has layers, with the higher and lower layers being the ones the spirits of the dead, and "outsiders", live on. I think the (incorporeal) undead and fiends inhabit the Shadow Plane? And then if you go (down?) through enough layers you might get to the Negative Energy Plane, where the (un)death-entity resides, plotting to retake the cosmos from life.

    And then the celestials and good dead will be in a plane that's not unlike the First World/Plane of Faerie, minus the psychopathic immortals screwing everything up. The gods of my Pathfinder setting didn't create the worlds, they're just the firstborn thinking beings within it; those of them that decided to learn about and safeguard the cosmos they found themselves in became "gods", while those that decided to subjugate and modify it, and destroy it if they felt like it, became "fiends" and moved to a different set of planar layers. If you go "up" enough layers on that side, you get to the Positive Energy Plane.

    Don't think I have any one thing corresponding to the death-entity, in the Positive plane, but that's thematically interesting: evil is solitary, cold and dead, where good is multiplicitous, complex, and lively. The (un)death that has its ultimate form in the entity that inhabits the Negative Energy Plane has, as its opposite, not an equally singular entity, not even one that can take over other beings as the undeath-power can, but every living thing in the cosmos. Everything it has besides its Negative Energy "throne", the evil has to steal.
  • Put in some work on my Pathfinder setting's writing systems. Decided the giantish would take inspiration from the Aligned continuity version of Cybertronian (which in turn seems to be based on the "ancient Autobot" writing from the first cartoon). At first I was going to just add a feature to each letter, relative to the letter before, and then just go down my list of sounds, so while the letters' shapes were systemized what sounds they are is random—like Ogham. Ogham is that way because it's not purely autochthonous (it's influenced by Roman, Greek, or even runic—it has sounds found in Proto-Germanic but not Primitive Irish, and works similar to cipher runes). So I was thinking Giantish was inspired by written Draconic, but not actually based on the Draconic script. But it was uninspiring; so I redid it, wound up with something much more like Cybertronian proper.

    As for the Draconic writing that was going to inspire giantish writing, it is, like Dovahzul's writing, similar to cuneiform and written with dragons' claws. But Dovahzul breaks a rule of cuneiform by having strokes that are more than 90° off from other strokes—in proper cuneiform there are vertical and horizontal strokes in one direction each, and one or two diagonal strokes whose angles are between the vertical and horizontal direction, plus a mark made with the end of the stylus. (The Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet breaks this rule in one sign by having an upward pointing diagonal stroke.) I keep the rule (but with curves not diagonals), but the vertical strokes go upward, not downward—dragon writing, originally used for territory marking, is designed to be scratched into an object that a dragon is perching on, but read by beings approaching it. It's easier to claw toward yourself than away.
  • Gnomish, meanwhile, took some inspiration from the new version of "Gnommish" that Disney imposed on Artemis Fowl when they bought it. For once they were right; the original version of Gnommish was embarrassing, probably worse than the original version of Espruar(!). Only I didn't like the curved lines; instead, I went with diamond-shapes, twice as tall as they are wide. I also made a dark-dwarf version of my dwarven script, this one based on octagons instead of hexagons. I do not recommend octagons to the conlanger—conscripter?—they're all kinds of hassle that hexagons aren't.
  • I had had my Common Tongue be a simplified form of the language of one of my human cultures, used for trade—and often known as "the trade language" or "trade [culture name]"—but I decided that it's actually derived from two of them. Its vocabulary varies by region; basically it's a dialect continuum that corresponds to one of the main ones at one end, and the other at its other end, but is always more comprehensible to foreigners to a region than the local language's "pure" form would be.

    It gets part of its cross-linguistic usability by taking a lot of terms from the language of the evil-Atlantean culture, much like how you can probably understand a Wikipedia article on something in chemistry, in almost any Western European language you know just a little of, since all their chemistry terms are from the same Greco-Roman sources ours are. (Evil-Atlantean had a lot of influence on their languages even though they hated that civilization, like how there are a bunch of Turkish-derived terms in Russian.)

    I also decided that the Common Tongue is often known as Plain Speech, which, aside from "common" and "plain" being rough synonyms, "plain" is also the translation of the name of a dialect continuum whose usability is increased by retaining elements of an older source.
  • Someone arguing against the idea of alignments in D&D said that the "tells the DM what kind of game you want" function is better served by asking the players specifically what kind of game they want. Fine, true…but what about each and every NPC? Sure you should have these things worked out for the major ones, but every single monster? Seeing hobgoblins are lawful evil or orcs are chaotic evil tells the DM at a glance that hobgoblins will fight to the last man, but orcs will cut and run, ever man for himself, the second a battle starts going against them.

    In my thing the exception to orcs' chaotic evil behavior is orcs defending their homes, because being able to defend a territory and a harem is what makes an orc chief a chief, and every subordinate orc, the sons of a chief, would be protecting his mother (or at least fighting to guard her retreat) even if he has designs on his father's position. Also you need to be around to take advantage of your leader's falling in battle, though the guy most associated with that is neutral evil, not chaotic. No good usurping the leadership of your tribe if your whole tribe gets killed, after all.
  • I'd really like to use the Words of Power system from Ultimate Magic, and I may actually make a script at some point with one logogram for each of the Words. But I sure as hell can't use it at the tabletop, because it's crazy complicated and basically just gives a "fluff" improvement. You know me; the only person who loves fluff more than me is Nakano Kuroto. But even I balk at trying to use the Words of Power system in an actual game—and my players would flat-out rebel, and I wouldn't blame them.
  • Decided that humans make some equipment (rather than all their equipment) out of the bones of certain animal-intelligence magical beasts, like hydras, and the bone has the qualities of noqual. (Also decided gnomish fungus equipment has the quality of singing steel, which is basically mithral except for its speeding up bardic performance; and elven leaves are basically mithral with the quality of wyroot.) Also decided the dwarf equipment, made of a coralline alga, has the qualities of fire-forged steel for weapons and frost-forged steel for armor, rather than those of mithral, since "lighter" isn't really that important to dwarves. (Elves can also "wake up" their leaves to give them the quality of alchemical silver, while dwarves can do the same with their alga to give it the quality of cold iron.)

    I also think I'm shifting to the "innate bonuses" system, where all magic items in certain slots (belts, necklaces, cloaks, headbands) give the bonuses associated with belts of giant strength, incredible dexterity, or mighty constitution, amulets of natural armor, cloaks of resistance, and headbands of vast intelligence, inspired wisdom, or alluring charisma (also headbands of mental prowess and belts of physical perfection). I mostly did this so elves can have cloaks of elvenkind without penalizing their saves and dwarves can have belts of dwarvenkind beneficial bandoliers without sacrificing ability boosts, but I also thought of a cool flavor-y thing with humans: amulets of their gods, based on the talismans in Occult Adventures, that basically every human of a PC class will wear.


Welterfindung Drei

  • I had thought I'd need to specify something else, rather than gold, for the black-market medium of exchange, in my setting. Gold is 47.74 times as abundant in the Solar System at large (I like that number), as it is in the Earth's crust, .148 parts per million to .0031; assuming all other things being equal, that drops its value down from $45,644.41 per kilo ($1,419.69 per troy ounce) to $956.10—$29.73 per troy ounce, gold's price somewhere between 1933 and 1934. But reading stuff about post-Civil War bimetallism leads me to think the really old numbers aren't adjusted for inflation? If not, we're actually talking $585.78 per troy ounce or $18,838.33 per kilogram, its value in April of 2006. So maybe never mind?
  • This was brought to my attention by the blithering idiocy of Malthusian ignoramuses and their apocryphal population apocalypses, and their incredible rudeness to people who have more than two children, but the fact a "replacement" fertility-rate is 2.1 children per woman, means that every tenth woman needs to have three kids. Every woman who only has one child, however, means every fifth woman needs to have three, or every tenth one to have four; every woman who has no children means that three women in ten have to have three, or every fifth to have three and every other one of those, to have four, or every tenth to have five. So you can see the utter imbecility of freaking out every time someone has more than two kids: you need them to have that many, especially with your modern-Western welfare state (which needs the tax-rolls to stay large to remain funded), even if infrastructure and innovation was not very largely a function of population.

    When a significant proportion of your society's females choose not to have children, whether by becoming nuns or choosing to have marriages or other sexual relationships that are childless, your society needs a certain portion of its people to have large families. If you can't understand that, congratulations, you know less about how these things work than Robert Heinlein and Josef Stalin, i.e. less than a braindead ideologue and a shortsightedly amoral monster. (Stalin, like Bismarck but unlike Hitler, kept the fourth crack propaganda commandment, and never got high on his own supply. Though the Nazis did understand that aspect of these matters; it was things like "strategy is about more than taking important cities" that they didn't understand. Stalin's famine was almost certainly at least as much a deliberate pacification-measure—same as the Irish potato one—as it was incompetent policy; he wasn't Mao.)

    Speaking of famines, Churchill's half-Holocaust in Bengal was explicitly based on Malthusian malarkey. He actually said, while refusing no-strings-attached, free-of-charge food aid, that the Bengalis had brought it on themselves by "breeding like rabbits".
  • Decided to move the main city and cosmodrome (with space elevator) on Mars, in my book. I had had it at Tuscaloosa Crater, right at 0° latitude, and name it Nergal City (Nergal being the Sumerian god they associated with Mars). But decided, no, it'll be at Endeavour Crater, and be named Opportunity City. Because Oppy rocked. Endeavour Crater is still within the 10° of the equator required for you to put a space-elevator there, being at 2°16′48″ S, 5°13′48″ W. You can make the crater into a sweet lake to put seaplane entry vehicles on.

    At first I was worried I wouldn't get to use the Mars variant of the Groucho joke ("because in Alabama the Tuscaloosa"), but then I discovered I had not actually written that joke in the dialogue—I come up with a lot of ideas for material that I then forget to actually use. Maybe I'll have them make a joke about not using Tuscaloosa Crater because of something to do with that. Like, say, that they couldn't keep the crews organized ("task are looser").
  • Relevant to worldbuilding, sort of, but a thing I was thinking about: I read this thing by a deaf special-ed teacher complaining that their hearing coworkers would straight-up refuse to sign during off-hours, because they didn't want to have to "think about communication". Dick move, but it occurred to me that rustic villagers, who supposedly hate and fear anyone different from them, would never do that. Most modern sign language developed from "village sign", a recognized classification in the linguistics of sign languages, e.g. ASL is specifically from villages in New England. Villagers may think in terms of "us" vs. "them", but if you're a deaf villager, guess what? You're "us", not "them".
  • You often see idiot libertarian SF fans who think believe, in real life or in worldbuilding, that legalizing prostitution makes human-trafficking go away. It doesn't. Germany and Netherlands are neck and neck for highest rate of human-trafficking in Europe, not only despite both having legalized prostitution but after they legalized prostitution.

    Why does legalizing prostitution not reduce trafficking, but appear to increase it? Legalization increases demand (a lot more people "demand" something if they won't go to prison for getting it), and it also lets traffickers operate more openly. Which is harder to cover up, a whole brothel, or the fact the workers in the brothel aren't there willingly?

    On sexual matters, libertarians are naive hippies who think people are basically good, just like socialists.
  • Was reading a review of the game Stellaris, and the thing it says about "sectors"—"Paradox figured the name 'sector' sounds spacey enough, and they're right. The Such-and-such Sector. It has a nice ring to it. You can imagine a starship captain telling his navigator to go there."—reminded me that I hate that kind of thing. What the hell is a sector and why would that be a meaningful unit of a space-government? Most of a "sector" is going to be empty space, for one. More importantly, the idea of an entire, meaningful subdivision of interstellar territory dedicated to the kinds of things sub-planetary governments get from particular regions ("Ukraine grows most of the USSR's grain"; "the US gets most of its copper from the Four Corners") is ludicrous. It's goofy and bizarre for one star system, let alone an entire chunk of interstellar space containing multiple star systems.

    You'd much more likely divide an interstellar government into individual star-systems, and then administer each planet within the system (you'd also have regions of the planets administered by descending levels of government, down to at least the level of a single county or municipality). Whether you'd admin the system itself separately from the planets, or have whoever governs the most significant planet also govern the system as a whole, is up to you, depending partly on how important planets are to your setting's space-colonization methods. You might then have certain star-systems combined under some higher-level administrator, but they wouldn't be anything as regular-sounding as a "sector". A "region", maybe, but it wouldn't exist as the kind of economic unit a region of a continent does, unless one is the only place where a resource is produced. But that's still not the whole region.

    It also occurs to me you could do something interesting with people or activities taking place in interstellar space, something like (the fictional version of) international waters, and then some—though the energy costs of actually living there are pretty steep if you don't periodically raid or trade with the people who live closer to the starlight.
  • A bunch of people claim that robots-being-oppressed stories make no sense, because people treat Roombas like pets, but here's the thing: people also treat pets like pets. But consider how they treat other people. Pets don't make the kinds of demands on you that actual people do—or that strong AIs would. Roombas do not "need to be taught their place" because they can't get "uppity" in the first place. Strong AIs could and would. We commodify other people all the time, treat them like appliances or industrial products; people who are actually industrial products would get it even worse.
  • It is often remarked—I might've done it here at some point—that it's dumb how Star Trek describes all wars on one planet or within a species as "civil wars", even when the planets don't have world governments. But…is it? A civil war isn't just a war within one state; the US Civil War in fact was not one, but only a secession attempt. No; a civil war requires something else: war over control of the central government.

    So possibly, what Star Trek calls "civil wars" are wars where people are fighting not over the usual things nations fight over, but specifically over control of the central government…of the planet. Or, to establish a central government over the planet—wars of world conquest. Maybe each of the "civil wars" the Enterprise gets involved in (because the Prime Directive is a quantum event) is fomented by that planet's equivalent of Khan.
  • I noticed this watching Krypton, which is mostly pretty cool (Superman theme for the win), but: make sure, in your setting, that your characters' social mores reflect their society's values. E.g. in some of the second-season flashbacks about Seg-El and Lyta Zod, it's implied that there is some concern over her being unfaithful to her eugenically arranged marriage, if she hooks up with him. But…why would there be? Kryptonians are clearly a super-decadent semi-transhuman society with a more or less perpetual sexual free-for-all—and they aren't fertile. They breed by test-tube.

    Adultery taboos are so strong largely because uncertainty as to parentage screws up successions; since your heirs are only going to be artificially produced in the first place, thus there are no succession concerns, you wouldn't care who your spouse goes to bed with. (That was part of why homosexuality was valued in Greece and China—though their misogyny was a bigger concern—and the main reason it was, among the Maya. Homosexual relationships let the adolescent sons of the aristocracy fool around with the help, without siring bastards who might complicate their alliance-marriages.)