De romanicorum theoriarum XV

Speculative fiction thoughts, a lot of 'em about Pathfinder.
  • Not only are Mandalorians paper tigers, only alive because the Jedi are too nice to annihilate them, but they're also belligerent nomads who historically made most of their living stealing and slaving, and yet they inexplicably get treated as some kind of noble warrior. They're space Kurds.

    Or space Spartans (except nomadic), who only had a c. 48.5% win-rate, almost exactly 50% win-or-draw, no better than any other Greek city-state, despite their absolutely nightmarish child-soldier childrearing, and had a population something like 80% slaves. (For comparison, Rome was c. 30–40% slave.) Okay that might be slightly unfair to the Mandalorians; you can be adopted into them, you couldn't even rejoin the Spartan citizen class if you, or an ancestor, were ever rejected from it.

    And "this is the Way" is the most irritating meme since "winter is coming". It's a bit less grating in the show proper, though. (But it's too bad The Witcher is now outperforming The Mandalorian. I guess "same premise but with T&A" wins every time. Or that putting something on Disney+ hurts its ratings. Both?)
  • Aside from how Arataka Reigen is proof that a rogue can absolutely be lawful good, we know his specific rogue archetype—clearly he calls his sneak attack "self-defense rush". He's probably in my top five favorite characters in all of fiction.
  • It occurs to me that the elves, dwarves, and gnomes of my setting have yet another advantage over humans: their mounts all have darkvision. You can't use cavalry at night, horses being as diurnal as we are (the tapeta lucida notwithstanding)—and a lot more likely to die if they trip on something in the dark. People who ride magic animals that have the same night-vision as elves and dwarves have no such limitation. The riders of such creatures can also sleep in the saddle much more safely, and the mounts can stand watch and rest at the same time—I crunched it, if they have the same senses as the mundane animals they're based on, their Perception score while asleep is the same as an average, NPC-class human's is, wide awake.

    Somewhat relatedly, rather than breed special chargers from Equus ferus, the rural-settled culture of my humans will, instead, have domesticated Equus giganteus. Seem like a logistical problem, since chargers can't survive on grazing and have to be fed in stalls? (Presumably charger-sized mustangs would starve.) Nope. In an ice age, plains are dominated by C3 grasses like wheat, rice, and rye, rather than C4 grasses like corn, millet, and sorghum. They have much higher protein content—the shift from C3 grasses to C4 ones, when the glaciers melted, is thought to have been a factor in E. giganteus going extinct (though humans probably played a role too). The other human cultures, and people who aren't super-heavy cavalry in that culture, ride regular old Equus ferus, though.

    (And no, it's not weird to domesticate more than one species of horse; the Tibetan wild ass is semi-domesticated, along with the fully domesticated African one, i.e. the donkey.)
  • Speaking of logistics, I mentioned my dwarves doing their farming with piped-in lighting—they also might use something like a Dawnflower's light, obviously minus the Sarenrae branding. But the "high" elves also pose some issues, since they live above the treeline (except where their sacred tree is concerned, because the World Tree doesn't care about elevation), meaning most plants won't grow in their cities. They also have a sharp limit on their arable land, living at mountaintops.

    They're also (the dwarves are too, but their space isn't as constrained since they have whole caverns to raise herds in) mostly carnivorous, though they only raise small things like poultry and squirrels domestically. I think a lot of it can be done with Dawnflower's light hydroponics and druidic magic (e.g. plant growth) increasing agricultural yields, to grow more fodder for the domestic animals that are the main thing they eat. Like the dwarves, their farms are underground.
  • Epithet Erased is freaking amazing, though I do admittedly weight "heroine cuteness" excessively. There isn't a single character in it that I don't like or that the writers mistreat to no purpose, two rarities in animated works. About the worst I can say about it is that while the swearing scene in like the third episode is funny, it does prevent it being recommendable to parents, who are hard-up for things that will entertain their children and aren't terrible. Anyway, the first season's over now and they need you to go subscribe to VRV or donate to the Patreon.
  • As I think I mentioned before, I watched Chivalry of a Failed Knight on Youtube, because I didn't want to spring for Hulu. Well, I got Hulu for Christmas, and was all set to rewatch it on the up-and-up. But then I discover that some slavering beast, forgotten of God and man, wholly foreign to all decent people and right reason, had decided that that series should only stream dubbed. "Well, you can finally get this wine that wasn't sold in your country, but the only supplier pees in every bottle."

    Oh well. It's still got Weakest Undefeated Bahamut—subbed not dubbed—which, while fundamentally just a standard magic-school harem series, is extremely solid in terms of setting and characters. And pacing—nary an episode happens where you don't think "oh wow the end credits should be by any time now"…and then the eyecatch comes, because that was just the midpoint. Besides, standard magic-school harems are a breath of the sea air off the Grey Havens compared to isekai.
  • Turns out it's actually really simple for my nonhuman races to use their talking critters as mounts or companions. For ordinary purposes, of course, they just ride them; the talking critters don't usually fight beside them, but, for instance, watch the humans' horses while the humanoids are all down in a dungeon. But for purposes of class features like paladin or cavalier mounts or ranger or druid companions, they have to wait a bit and spend a feat to get Monstrous Mount. Since none of the mounts are quite as OP as griffons, they don't have that kind of prerequisite; the ones that paladins ride may have an unusual alignment relative to the rest of their races, of course, but there isn't an alignment requirement for the rider like on a worg.

    Of course in practice this might mean nonhumans are likely to choose the other option that doesn't involve a mount or companion—the other version of paladin's divine bond or ranger's hunter's bond (honestly does anyone actually still take paladin mount in Pathfinder, now they have the other option?). I also think druids will still much more likely take actual animals as their animal companions—elf and gnome druids are also more likely to take plant or fungus companions anyway (and either might just take a domain, instead). For cavaliers, I think the nonhumans are more likely in the first place to take archetypes that replace the mount class feature with something else, like green knight, esquire, or musketeer. "Animal trainer" is kinda humans' "hat", after all.

    Still gotta work out what the prerequisites for having these guys as mounts are, and what Monstrous Mount Mastery lets you do with them. But it speaks to the elegance of Pathfinder that there was already a rule in place for what I wanted to do.
  • Decided that I'm not going to use the aboleths as the illithid stand-in of my setting; that's the role they play in Golarion, after all. Instead, thought I'd just have the kraken do it. It makes perfect sense for evil quasi-squid to be the origin of a bunch of fish-races like skum and sahuagin, after all, and be the things the gillmen ("gill people"—"gill man" being, by the way, what The Creature from the Black Lagoon is known as, to the cognoscenti). Might restat them as aberrations (just involves shifting around some hit-dice, saves, and so forth).

    Perhaps relatedly, since my outsiders and aberrations are ultimately the same thing, thought I'd have my elemental spirits—I might have to retool some things from core Pathfinder to get enough of them—also follow the "winged humanoid" theme the celestials and fiends do. Only, bird and bat wings are already taken. So how about pterosaur wings? Works well with a sort of more "primal" theme elementals generally have (presumably the fiends have bat wings because mammals' attempt at flight is an abrogation of the natural order that succeeds only through sheer perversity).

    It's odd that there isn't really a hierarchy of elementals like there are for fiends, celestials, proteans, inevitables, and aeons. (Which I'll insist on calling "planeborne", berk.)
  • I know I've mentioned that the "can't stop the signal" tagline for Serenity is dumb. As I said at the time, actually you can stop signals, it's called jamming, and since they released that "signal" while a space battle was happening overhead, it would very likely have been choked off from the get-go. (You mainly use jamming in space battles because missiles are the chief weapon.)

    But the stupidity of this is perhaps illustrated by something else. Now, we all expect something like Halo to know you'd jam enemy communications as a prelude to attack. That's Halo, like the definition of military science fiction. But do you know who else know that comm-jamming is inextricable from an attack, in technological war? The Star Wars prequel trilogy, that's who. In both Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, people—the Naboo in the first one, the Separatists in the second—know they're about to be attacked because someone is jamming them. When Star Wars—all of whose militaries would be deeply outclassed by a few lances of Grunts with no Elite leadership above Minor (since Grunts, unlike clones, battle-droids, or stormtroopers, are acquainted with grenades)—understands science fictional warfare better than you, it's flat-out shameful.

    Everything wrong with the Star Wars sequels, incidentally (at least that isn't Rian "Taken King" Johnson's detribution), is partly Joss Whedon's fault. Aside from how he helped make the MCU's early installments successful, helping Disney to Take Star Wars, the deeply unfitting snark that disfigures dialogue in The Force Awakens really became a thing in pop culture because of his influence.