2020/10/31

Playing with Fantasy XX

Tetrahedral FRPG thoughts. One day to get it in this month; also composed and written in one day.
  • Decided that dark elves ride a talking giant hyaenodontid—I'm thinking Simbakubwa—and I think the goblins will ride wolf-, horse-, and elephant-sized versions of the sabertooth oxyaenid Machaeroides (actually I'll probably use the biggest oxyaenid, Sarkastodon, as the model of the horse-sized one, and then change its size accordingly).

    Basically, where elves, dwarves, and gnomes ride actual Carnivora, the goblins and dark elves ride predators that aren't members of the order but filled the same niche earlier. Similarly ogres and orcs ride pigs—I might change it so they actually ride entelodonts or even mesonychids (the latter have paws with hooves on them, rather than actual hooves or actual paws, but are still ungulates, though not actually Cetartiodactyla as the "pig" comparison might suggest).
  • I think I came across the term in the description of a manhua, but clearly the actual term for a D&D/Pathfinder monk is "cultivator". I considered giving the term to maguses, but they don't have everything that goes with it, and monks do.

    The obvious term for a magus is actually "adept", but they stupidly gave that name to the divine-caster NPC class. I'm considering "magister", but that feels really pretentious and has a lot of historical baggage in this hobby.
  • Decided that, rather than supporting most of their huge population by hunting, my nonhumans actually have a farmer, or rather pastoralist, class: the elves' cats and gnomes' hyenas herd hoofed mammals for them. Cursorial pack hunters like Chasmaporthetes and Homotherium have all the instincts required for a herding dog, and intelligence means they don't need a humanoid's oversight. The gnomes' hyenas herd sheep and goats, the elves cats herd deer—including the "stag-moose", Cervalces scotti, and caribou.

    They also professionally hunt longhorn bison on the steppe. The humanoids still raise small animals like poultry, rabbits, and squirrels, and they import vegetables from humans.

    The dwarves' wolverines might, now, be the ones who run their farms, particularly "herding" their cow-sized prairie dogs. I'm not sure because a wolverine doesn't have the instincts of a herding dog, but then again neither do humans. So intelligent wolverines might be able to learn to herd livestock anyway, particularly livestock that doesn't actually have herd behavior, like prairie dogs. Wolverines' ability to dig down into burrows to get at hibernating animals also means they can dig down to get prairie dogs that aren't behaving themselves.
  • I found out that, in the Miocene, there was a barn owl, Tyto gigantea, that was roughly the size of a bald eagle—32 inches tall, compared to the current barn owl's 14, and with a 78-inch wingspan compared to the modern owl's 34. (Why are there so many Texas-style extinct animals, anyway?)

    So that's what my Owl god is now; his followers who have familiars will still have regular barn-owl ones (because the stats of owl familiars specify a Tiny creature not a Small one), but the ones that have animal companions have the big kind (not sure if stats of an eagle or the "giant" template applied to a regular owl; whichever is weaker, presumably).
  • I decided the owl mages wear the same kind of helmet as the knights, with the barn-owl faceplate, but theirs is made of boiled leather instead of metal. There's no rule against mages wearing helmets—there are very few rules concerning helmets at all—and you'd have to be stupid not to.

    The part that hangs down in back of the helmet, over the neck (called the shikoro on a kabuto—apparently in English we call it a "havelock", the main meaning of which is the cloth thing that hangs down off certain regular hats to protect your neck from the sun), is also lamellar, like their armor, made to resemble feathers.

    The mages of humans' other societies will also, I think, wear the boiled-leather helmets, except maybe the Wildcat one will still have the jingasa with ears. Also going to give the nonhumans' mages helmets, the jingasa kind (made of the non-metalized version of their leafs and toadstools), because of their ears.
  • I've discussed how the "my bard seduces it" thing is puerile, non-canonical in the rules, and basically involves the underlying assumptions of the "pickup artist" community. But it's also not how bards work. Someone arguing "let people enjoy things" (a phrase only ever employed to defend the most worthless of undertakings) said "bards acting like bards", and I really wanted to say "you mean shaming people who do not conform to social standards, by recitation of epic poetry recording the deeds of revered figures of the ancient past?"

    If you're the kind of person who plays D&D, you probably know that the Old Norse word for "bard" is "skald". Well that word? Yeah, it has an English equivalent. "Scold". Because one of the major things they did, was uphold taboo by shaming those who broke it (see also Hopi clowns who mimic those exhibiting "un-Hopi" behavior). They're associated, for example, with accusations of ergi ("unmanliness"), which was so severe a social offense that killing the accuser on the spot was considered acceptable.

    Kingmaker, of all things, got this one right, with your bard's storyline involving shaming Irovetti for being an inveterate skirt-and-codpiece-chaser who gained power through subterfuge.
  • I know that my setting doesn't have owlbears, them being a really dumb monster (one of the several based on those cheap Chinese toys that were mostly knocked off from Ultraman that your mom would buy in a big plastic bag at the supermarket). I considered having my griffins be owls crossed with some big felid—possibly the Ngandong tiger, an extinct subspecies of tiger from Indonesia that was roughly the same size as Smilodon populator—because it makes sense with the nocturnal habits of the cat half. The bird part wouldn't be the barn owl kind of owl (though the giant owls are), but the Eurasian eagle-owl or the great horned owl. But then I thought nah, there's no real purpose to the griffin within the setting and the weird hybridization ("its front feet are the bird's legs") makes my head hurt. If you want a flying magical-beast steed, there's drakes.
  • My dragons, as I've said, have the head of Dunkleosteus, to save on the weight and gestation-time of teeth, and have Archaeopteryx wings with hands on them, but also have two fingers fused like a modern bird, inside their wing. Did some thinking about my wyverns and drakes, to make them align with that. For one thing, they have forelimbs, just tiny ones like Carnotaurus, which you can't usually see through their feathers. And they have heads like other armored jawed fish (which is fish that are armored and have jaws, not fish whose jaws are armored).

    Wyverns have the head of Bungartius. I considered giving them a stinger like a stingray's (those are the only vertebrates with stingers in their tails, if you wondered). But then I decided no, it'll be sharp-edged modified integument, like the weaponized tail-scales of a pangolin, modified to channel venom like the heel spurs of a platypus (this presumably means the venom is produced in a modified preen-gland—maybe all dragons have theirs at the end of their tail instead of at the base like birds).

    Thinking drakes will have a tetrahedral head, like Groenlandaspis.
  • Someone made a point about how dragons are always depicted with eyes on the sides of their head, and that's a prey-animal trait. And what, they said, can hunt dragons? I get around it by each of their eyes being like a chameleon's. And on that actual post, people pointed out that their eyes, like many bird and reptile eyes, only seem to be on the sides of their head; seen front on you can see they actually have binocular overlap.

    But there's a more basic point: some organisms have defenses not from predators, but primarily from conspecific competitors. And dragons are often depicted as hyper-territorial, egomaniacal bullies. What can hunt a dragon? A bigger dragon. Or, not hunt, but attack for daring to be within the radius the bigger dragon likes to fly from its own lair. (And possibly then get eaten, depending how you portray your dragons.)

2020/10/19

De romanicorum theoriarum XVIII

Spec fic thoughts.
  • Discovered, the frog ankles zledo have are actually also similar to the ones on a tarsier. Which…makes sense, tarsiers also being arboreal obligate hypercarnivores. Still it feels weird to find out evolution had the same idea for a cool alien you did (tell me a tarsier is not an alien, I dare you).
  • Realized I was doing the elves' chief gods, in my setting, backwards. I had had them as the god of the branches and goddess of the roots, of the World Tree. But the elves, flowers of the World Tree, grow from the branches, so it makes more sense to have her as branch and him as root, when she's the elves' mother-goddess.

    One thing this might mean is elf females can have their branching tattoos on their foreheads instead of under their cheeks, for her branches instead of his roots. Before they both had the root ones and it felt weird for the guys, but I also felt weird with the guys having them on their foreheads. I for some reason feel it's okay for gals to have them on their foreheads (I think I just thought the guys would look cool with them on their cheeks).

    Ooh I might make it so married ones tattoo a copy of their spouse's tattoo, on whichever part of the face they don't have their own tattoo…
  • Realized this coming up with the binary my snake-people use, but certainly useful for other contexts: binary can call numbers pair, quartet, octet, hexadectet, and duotrigestet (2, 4, 8, 16, 32), and then you go up to hexadectet duotrigestet (512).

    But since "duotrigestet duotrigestet" (thousand thousand, but actually myriad myriad since 32 is 25) is stupid, then you go quadrate duotrigestet (1,024), from an old word for "squared". Then you have cubic duotrigestet (32,768), biquadrate ("square squared") duotrigestet (1,048,576), sursolid duotrigestet (33,554,432), bicubic duotrigestet (1,073,741,824), and second sursolid duotrigestet (34,359,738,368). Since 34 billion doesn't come up too often in fantasy I only need to take it that far.

    Similarly my gnomes' vigesimal can go "score twentyscore" for 8000, but then 160,000 is quadrate twentyscore, 64,000,000 is cubic twentyscore, 25,600,000,000 is biquadrate twentyscore, etc. I don't really need anything beyond that, since numbers above 25 billion don't come up much in fantasy.
  • Going to change references to handhelds in my SF to "device". Because "handheld" is already starting to sound like saying "motoring" instead of "driving". And "smartphone" is dumb because they're already more computer than phone, and that trend is only going to continue—already referred to the phone as a part of the handheld, e.g. "his handheld's phone rang". (Come to think of it that should probably be "his handheld's phone notification sounded".)
  • Kept trying to figure out how, exactly, zled lasers interact with their ring-grip—like does the ring just seamlessly grade into the "barrel", or does the cylinder stick out behind the ring? But then I decided, no, the ring is in the middle, behind the "barrel", like the ring-grip on the sword is, and it widens out from the lens to the same width as the ring. It looks a bit, in other words, like a symmetrical version of the top half of the Waking Vigil hand cannon in Destiny 2: Forsaken, with the grip around where the cylinder is.

    Of course, this raise the question of how the break-top reloading works. What I think I'll do is have the symmetry break down there, and have a hinge at the bottom that it breaks on, to insert new spring cartridges. Not sure how much of it will move when the thing breaks. Maybe change it to swing-out like most modern revolver cylinders? I think break-top is cooler, but I always sacrifice the Rule of Cool to plausibility and good design.
  • Having a ring-shaped grip with the barrel centered also lets me have really bananas firearms for them, back when. Namely, the magazine loads into the ring-grip from the side, and is ring-shaped, with the cartridges perpendicular to it, similar to the pan magazine used in the Lewis gun, but with the cartridges facing out not in.

    One thing that would mean is that it's relatively simple to belt-feed almost any weapon, though your belts aren't going to be very efficient (dedicated belt-fed weapons would just have it load through like ours do).

    Also presumably means the difference between a revolver and a semi-auto was more academic, like clip vs. magazine to many of us. Had thought the semi-auto might also have the advantage revolvers do, that if a round won't fire you just advance to the next one. But I don't think the semi-auto fires directly from the magazine, you chamber each round separately.
  • Still torn over the humans who have evil clerics, and whether to have them be witches in all but class. On the one hand a bunch of others call them witches; on the other all the other evil deities are very explicitly opposed to witchcraft. I had had the dark elves and dwarves have witches before I shifted it to evil druids and clerics (respectively). Could do something like the dark elves in Warhammer Fantasy, who hate Chaos worshipers but also summon daemons a lot.

    Another thing I decided is that rather than worshiping a pseudo-divine undead sage, the dark dwarves worship an outcast god. I had had the younger generation of dwarf gods (their parent gods are Earth and Fire) be different ways of working minerals with heat, namely Forge and Kiln. So I thought it might be neat to have the outcast one be their sibling Crematorium, who was tricked and seduced by the undeath-power. I have a bunch of benevolent death gods (technically the parent gods of most of my pantheons are also death gods), but I can have bad ones too.
  • I mentioned wanting a "two-handed martial but one-handed exotic, 1d10 damage" hammer, for dwarves. Might have it weigh a whole ten pounds, which seems heavy but the waraxe is eight and the bastard sword is six, and they don't depend largely on their weight to do their job. Not sure what to call it; "war maul" comes to mind, though. Oh, ooh, or battlehammer, like Drizzt Do'Urden's friend.