2021/04/15

Playing with Fantasy XXV

More Pathfinder thoughts.
  • Worked out my setting's vampires, mixing and matching aspects of Pathfinder's moroi, nosferatu, jiang shi, vetalas, and psychic vampires. One thing it did was make me realize how much of an advantage the "template" system is, for making things like vampires. You just create a normal character and then apply the template; it was like falling off a log.
  • Decided my setting does not include the Harrow deck, as such, though it probably can use the various associated class-archetypes. Tarot, see, is simply not a mystical thing; it's a version of bridge. You can use that for divination, as you can use lots, animal entrails, the flight of birds, or tea leaves, but there's nothing inherently supernatural about any of those things.

    The version in my setting will still have each card represented as a combination of an ability score and an alignment, but not named like in the Harrow; basically the abilities are the suits and the alignments are the pip-value, from 1 to 9 (with lawful good as highest and chaotic evil as lowest). The game itself, though, is more like some of the games played with hanafuda.

    Soldiers in my setting keep dice and cards among their lucky charms, because getting bored is a jinx, for soldiers: they start wishing something would happen.
  • It kinda weird to anyone else that it took till Pathfinder, three reworks into the d20 Fantasy rules, and indeed six years into its run (June 2015, after the debut of the Core Rulebook in August 2009) with the release of Occult Adventures, for there to be definitive rules for possession, despite there being the concept of "being possessed" within the game back to the beginning? They also released a new spell to govern the process, just called possession, replacig the clunky legacy spell magic jar.
  • Decided how my elves' bows work: they're two long leaves from their sacred tree, with the fascicle sheath (the thing that holds pine needles together) as the riser. You bend them back opposite their usual direction, to string the bow. One thing this means is that the bow can be stored more easily, since when unstrung it's only half as long, a bit shorter than a longsword.

    If it were just a single bow, you can just have a bowcase built into your quiver—a 6 foot bow would be 3 feet folded up, and the average elf in my setting is also 6 feet, and thus has a draw-length (which is roughly the same as the length of an arrow, minus its head) of about 29 inches. But their bows are really two bows, four leaves, one pair half as long, so it might have to be carried slung over the back like a rifle—except they disconnect the fascicle-sheaths of the two bows, and fold them together, so it fits in the bowcase. (Might call it a four-leaf bow, in fact.)

    Incidentally, a "reflex" composite bow turns into a weird hoop about a foot in diameter, when unstrung.
  • In Pathfinder, a Colossal dragon's claws each do 4d6 points of damage, or the same as the damage dealt by a Large boulder falling at least 30 feet.

    A Large object is 8–16 feet in at least one dimension; assuming a roughly spherical boulder, we get a volume of 268 cubic feet, for the 8 foot one. Given the density of feldspar, the most common rock, 2.56 grams per cubic centimeter, that results in a mass of 19,434 kilograms. After a 30-foot fall, that's a kinetic energy of 1,741,468.91 joules—and thanks to the 30 feet thing (joules are newton-meters), we can change that conveniently to a force of 190,449.36 newtons, or 42,814.72 pounds force.

    The dragon's bite does 4d8, which results in an average damage two-sevenths higher than that of the claw (not counting the fact the bite gets half-again the Strength bonus and the claw only gets the full one), for a bite force of 55,047.50 pounds—compared to the T. rex's bite force of 12,000 to 14,000 and the Megalodon's of 24,400 to 41,000.
  • I gotta say, the central conceit of the Pathfinder core setting is kinda neat. Namely, the "Age of Lost Omens" where, after Aroden failed to return to lead humanity to a golden age (having vanished somehow), no more major prophecies have come true in the ensuing 113 years. That's a really cool idea.
  • In my own setting I'm averse to the concept, inherited from Hesiod by way of Augustine, that you can divide history into "Ages"; while the inhabitants of my setting do speak of "ages", they use a Romance-language definition, equivalent to "century" in English (or some other big, regular-sized chunk of time; my elves' "ages" are 1728 years, the dozenal equivalent of a millennium).

    The closest I get is that the various cultures base their dating systems on events like the (main) humans covenanting with the animal-gods or the elves and dwarves coming to the planet from the moons, or (in the case of the thalassocratic Valyrians and hydrocratic Púkel-men) the founding of their empires.

    The two human empires also describe eras in terms of their dynasties, which are numbered, but also often referred to by their capital, among the thalassocratic Valyrians, and ruling clan, among the hydrocratic Púkel-men.
  • I have eight human cultures in my main setting. There's the urban, settled rural, and nomadic branches of the main protagonist culture(-complex), whose languages are based on Adûnaic, and then the nomadic seagoing descendants of the thalassocratic Valyrians, the halflings (a branch of the thalassocratic Valyrians engineered to be small, as a sort of "toy"-breed novelty), and then the successor-states to the thalassocratic Valyria, one aquatic (as gillmen), one subterranean (as dark folk), and one ruled by dhampirs, tieflings, and what D&D proper calls genasi.

    There are actually multiple offshoots of each—nineteen nations of the urban main culture, eleven of the settled rural, and seven of the nomadic, plus four of the halflings. A lot of those have their own dialects (though you also get things like Austria and Bavaria sharing one group of dialects), but for simplicity I treat each major group as only speaking one. I also have a dialect for each of the three successor-states of the thalassocratic Valyrian empire, each of which modifies its grammar in certain ways. It just now occurred to me to have the sea-nomad descendants of the thalassocratic Valyrians have 81 clans or tribes, say one for each Craft, Perform, and Profession subskill listed in the Core Rulebook, like how Romanian Roma (Gypsy) subgroups are named according to their traditional profession.

    I really need to come up with cultures for the other continent. Maybe I'll divide the nomadic "barbarians" into a couple different groups, and perform some sound-changes on their language. Hmm. Maybe also a single big division in the hydrocratic Púkel-men culture, analogous to something like Northern and Southern Chinese? Maybe a tripartite one, there are a lot of those, too.

2021/03/13

A Note About Blogger

Blogger has decided that we should receive no notifications at all of new comments, but have to actually check the comment section. So I have months of comments I've missed.

Sorry about that, I'll be better about checking it regularly in future.

2021/02/23

Playing with Fantasy XXIV

Fantasy RPG thoughts.
  • One of course wants to have, along with the mundane airships detailed in Ultimate Combat, flying ships that are controlled by a chair that eats your day's spells and imparts a fly speed of 150 feet per round times one-third to one-half your spellcaster level. But that would be sadly illegal. Instead, I decided that the elves and the spider people use ornithopters and entomopters, respectively (elves feather theirs with their leaves, spider people make the wing-membranes from silk). And the ships have magic engines, used by spellcasters, but instead of eating your day's spellcasting, they're attuned to like a leyline, as described in Occult Adventures, and they provide the variable bonus to drive checks (Spellcraft or Fly, whichever is higher) instead of caster level.

    The "evil Atlanteans" are the users of the steam airships, which I think are still controlled by the kind of "leyline engine" that controls the ornithopters and entomopters. And then I decided that dwarves, who I was going to also have using ornithopters, instead eschew flying, and instead use subterrenes ("drill tanks", except with tunnel borers rather than drills strictly so-called) or submarines, also powered by "leyline engines"—not sure exactly what they'll look like. Submarines with those engines are also what the snake people will use, instead of flying ships. And then I was wondering what the gnomes should use; I considered some kind of Leonardo-esque "air screw" helicopter, using their sacred fungi to make the "screw", but—read on.

    I think the elf ones will be "crowships" and the spider-people entomopters will be "darnerships" (i.e. they're dragonflies, though I won't actually use the deckplan of the somewhat iconic all-purpose spelljamming ship). I don't know what the dwarf ones will be shaped like (I'm leaning toward the one vehicle being usable as both subterrene and submarine, so maybe something like "snailship"?), but the snake submarines will be "sharkships". But there are no helicopter animals, so I decided actually gnomes should use flying boats (not submarines though) that mimic flying squid (which may actually be able to really fly—albeit not very strongly—by undulating their bodies like dolphins, to "flap"), which I'm going to call "teuthopters".
  • All of which raised a quandary: what is your parachute, on one of those? An actual parachute? A glider of some sort? A set of wings of flying (which really ought to be called a cloak thereof, it's a cape that changes into wings)? A ring of feather falling? (Probably that one.) The spell won't cut it, it generally wears off well before you hit the ground, if you assume a paratrooper-style 2000-foot jump height—even a 20th level caster will still leave you 800 feet in the air when feather fall wears off. (Cruising altitude for an airship, if we take Zeppelins as a model, is only 650 feet, which you still need to be at least 10th level to fall from at 60 feet per round and a 1-round-per-level duration.)
  • Decided that instead of Tainish from Unsounded and Hardic et al. from Earthsea, the languages on the other continent, in my setting, will draw inspiration from Dothraki and what little we see of Ghân-buri-Ghân's language, Drúadanic. Just like how my main continent has the protagonists speak the Tolkien-derived one (Adûnaic) and the vile and hated enemy speaking the Game of Thrones-derived one (no disrespect intended to David Peterson; he didn't create the Valyrians or Dothraki, he just did the best he could to give those caricature-cultures halfway decent conlangs), the Egypt-y ones are the ones who speak the Tolkien-based one. (Yes, both the civilized and the "barbarians" speak languages associated with "barbarians". On the other continent the Adûnaic-based language was originally that of peoples despised by the evil Atlanteans as "barbarians", even though it's based on the language of another setting's Atlantis/Rome-analogue just as Valyrian is.)

    One thing this meant is that I had to slightly rework the script I worked out for them, which was fine actually. Since the Drúadanic-based language has a very limited sound-palette, too limited to let the Dothraki-based one be written conveniently in a script for it, I instead went with the script having been devised by scholars for writing both, like the 'Phags-pa script in Yuan China, though based on older scripts used only for their own (and incorporating, I think, ancient logograms that the older form of their script ultimately descends from but that it's a real pain in the ass to actually work out). I also gave them a numeral system, with different rules from the alphabetic characters, an important thing to do when you make the numerals for a con-script. (Usually. The this-side-of-the-world cultures just use their first nine letters for 1–9 and a space for 0—I think they write numerals inside a circle or something—because originally they used Greek- or Hebrew-style numerals, and then just adapted them to positional use.)
  • I also worked out my giants' numerals and redid my gnomes' system. All four of my nonhuman numeral systems, Dwarven, Elven, Giantish, and Gnomish, were originally based in some way on the body-part they used for counting (Elven and Dwarven dozenal on the individual knuckles of each finger, Giantish octal on the spaces between fingers, Gnomish vigesimal on fingers and toes). Which I highly recommend as a shortcut to making constructed numerals, but it still bugs me that they have characters for "10" (whichever that means in their numerical base), that they don't use now they have zero.

    See, the Elven and Dwarven numerals have a regular pattern for 1–3, 4–6, 7–9, and then write ten and eleven—digits A and B—in a way that clearly indicates the next number should, though representing the numerical base and thus "10", be the digit C. Giants write 1–4 regularly, and 5–7, and then you wish you didn't have to write 8 as "10"; gnomes have a regular way to write 1–5, 6–A, B–F, and G–J, and you wish you could use the obvious symbol for K instead of writing it "10".

    This would bother me less except that my other-side-of-the-world numerals have a pattern for 1–3, 4–6, and 7–9, so there's no leftover regularity that makes "10" feel unnatural. Because where the other races modified a pre-positional numeral system to writing positional numbers, the civilization over there, whose script was purpose-built and semi-artificial, were free to come up with their numerals wholesale. I have worldbuilding reasons for all the other scripts' numerals being irregular, but it still bugs me.
  • So the actual name for "ley lines" as a mystical thing—the concept has more legitimacy as a part of fengshui than as part of Alfred Watkins's pseudoscience—is lóngmài, literally "dragon vein" (the same as the ryūmyaku that Xingese alkahestry is powered by, in Fullmetal Alchemist). I submit that "wyrmlode" is the cool fantasy-sounding English (and from purely English roots) version. ("Lode" is a bit too modern, here, but "wyrmedder"—the second element being the aboriginal English word for "vein", still extant in some dialects—sounds too weird.)

    I decided that in my setting, dragons give their name to the phenomenon because they live primarily by tapping into it, like fleas, and only eat other creatures for nutrients, like butterflies eating mud or tears. Which explains a number of things about dragons, like their obsession with their lairs (maybe heaping up a hoard in a nexus of these energies, is the dragon equivalent of rearing a standing stone there?), and also how you can keep a 24-ton dragon alive on the same diet as something like a 5-ton tyrannosaur.

    A lot of dragons' adaptations (notably not their breath weapon) are, thus, intended for fighting other dragons away from the territory where they get their geomantic topomantic energies. (I kinda want to call the "wyrmlode" nexuses "alkahest fields", using the Fullmetal Alchemist translation of dan 丹 to render dantian 丹田—I guess I could also say "cinnabar fields"—which usually refers to yogas chakras, the equivalent of such a nexus in the body's qi, rather than that of a landscape, but is also used for the fengshui equivalent. "As above, so below", as the guy Ed and Al's dad is named after would say.)
  • I had had the "ley line guardian" witch-archetype known, in-universe, as "rhumbline" witches, since the main witches of my setting are the thalassocratic Valyrian/evil Atlantean maritime empire. But I guess it actually makes more sense to just have them be called "wyrmlode" witches. Maybe they practice sorcerer-like (but Intelligence- rather than Charisma-based) spellcasting through watching and copying dragons, which is where my sorcerer "bloodlines" come from (hence I call them "lineages" instead).
  • I found a random wordlist generator, an online thing called Awkwords. I had used this old freeware app called Langmaker (no relation I know of with the defunct wiki), but that only works on Windows XP and earlier (it might still work on 7?) I used it to make my Elven, Dwarven, and "formerly Tainish now Drúadan Egyptian" sign-languages. But I was feeling out-of-sorts, having already made all the languages for my setting ("Alexander wept, for he had no more worlds to conquer"); that was a part of why I redid both the languages on the other continent (though I had been dissatisfied with them for a while.

    I also decided to work out a language for the arthropod-people made by the spider-outsiders, like the one used by the snake-, lizard-, and fish-people the snake-outsiders made; I had had them using a weird pronunciation of my Sylvan (in my setting, a language used in common by talking beasts), but now they have their own. Unfortunately it's not directly mappable onto Undercommon from the standard list in the Linguistics skill like that is. (But hey there are a bunch of slots freed up by my combining all the outsider and elemental languages, plus Aklo, into "Primordial".)

    Hmm. Maybe have the talking beasts use a mispronounced version of their humanoid riders' languages? That would be more thematically appropriate, since the talking beasts are all the children of the older "litters" of the nonhumans' gods, and thus regard their humanoid counterparts as their spiritual aunts and uncles. Then I can give Sylvan to the bugs. Yeah might go with that, though it'll be a lot of work.
  • Partly out of the desire to play with the new toy, I also decided that I might do my Primordial language as an actual language after all; just babbling glossolalia and using asemic writing as the script is cool and thematically appropriate and not at all fulfilling to me as a conlanger. And the artist must ultimately please himself.

    So I generated a very short wordlist, made only of semantic primes (then I added semantic molecules, because having to refer to everything by primes would be a pain in the ass); I still have read magic convert magical writings composed in Primordial into something readable, but by changing the writing—which is pure ideograms, not logograms—into the natural semantic metalanguage of your own lexicon.

    I might actually generate a full-sized lexicon for it. Or maybe I'll go straight back to the glossolalia and asemic script, and put the time and work I might have put into developing Primordial into a "real" language (but one that's thematically not as consistent or as interesting from a worldbuilding standpoint) into developing my bug-Sylvan and "talking animal" dialects of my humanoid languages.

2021/01/24

Playing with Fantasy XXIII

  • I had had the gnomes making mead and the dwarves making kumis, but there were a number of problems. First, of course, the dwarves doing it was predicated on wolverine milk being as high in lactose as mink milk is, but—aside from how the dwarves' giant wolverines are speaking creatures, and buying some lady's breast milk is kinda weird (though paid wetnurses are a thing in many cultures)—minks are tiny and have an insanely fast metabolism. Bear-sized wolverines probably would not need all that lactose; bear milk has incredibly low lactose, like 0.5%. (Horse milk is 6%.)

    Second is that it's probably hard to be a nomadic beekeeper, and most gnome agriculture is done by (the hyenas who accompany) gnome caravans. Whereas dwarves are settled people, and thus they (and their wolverines) can do beekeeping fairly easily. (I don't know if wolverines are immune to beestings, but honey badgers and skunks are.) Plus the gnomes have their big caravan wagons (think Mongol yurt wagons) drawn by muskoxen, which are also the main livestock gnomes eat and milk. Muskox milk can, depending on feed, go as high as 5% lactose, which is probably enough to make kumis from.
  • I know I said monks are nearly useless; honestly I'm starting to feel that way about rangers, too. I mean maybe if your GM goes out of their way to provide a lot of favored-enemy and tracking gameplay, and you could probably do something with animal companions (the other version of hunter's bond is useful but kinda lackluster). I suppose it's more "might be a lot of fun to play, if your GM is on the ball and makes the campaign rewarding" than "actually useless". Maybe I'm just petulant about them needing your GM to be on the ball to be a rewarding play experience.
  • Did some research on how you heat an inn. One way is to have the chimneys of the common room (which is where most people sleep) and kitchen, if it has a separate one, open onto rooms on the second floor, and heat them that way. Another is to have braziers with hot embers from the kitchen and common-room fires in the private rooms, and heat them like that. If you're going to have rooms away from the common room or kitchen with fireplaces, your inn is going to have more chimneys; most likely you'd still have the fireplaces in adjoining corners so four rooms can share one chimney.

    Was not able to find out this kind of thing about caravanserais, because all the search results were for resort ones that have central heating now. Someone said people stayed warm by sleeping with their animals, but I don't actually think that shows up in any of the historical accounts of caravanserai, and I can't imagine high-class travelers doing that. My guess would actually be the "brazier in each room" method; thinking mine might also have the "shared chimney fireplaces" thing (maybe every two rooms not every four, given most caravanserai floorplans).
  • Apparently part of why D&D 5e is so simplified (not to say "dumbed down") is because one of the chief designers, Mike Mearls, says women can't understand complex rules and lore. He phrased it as complex rules and lore being used to "gatekeep" women from the hobby, but the implication is the same, the "soft bigotry of low expectations". Besides, dude, I know several women who learned on 2nd Edition, and 3e/3.5e isn't within a parsec of that complex (not to say "obtuse").
  • So the dying and coming back mechanic in Elder Scrolls Online is cancer. Especially since the "Vestige" is semi-undead, meaning that there is no reason they can't be as easily rezzed as Guardians. But I was thinking about how you'd handle players dying if you actually cared, when the player characters aren't immortal undead. You can't very well make resurrection that cheap and easy.

    But then it occurred to me, MonHan. When you die in Monster Hunter, those little cat guys rush in, put you on a cart, and drag you off to where you are presumably resuscitated. So in an MMO, you could just have something that teleports you to some central location (like the Hunter's Guild), and they patch you up and then return you to the fight. And their doing that is the respawn timer.
  • Not in my campaign, where hybrid "races" are all "ampule babies", but in a more standard one, you might rule that elves and gnomes can have children (I'd say Medium sized, though much smaller than an elf—not being Small means they can still carry more than a gnome—with +2 Dex, -2 Str, and maybe player's choice of +2 to Charisma or Intelligence), and maybe humans and halflings (something like Medium but not very big, with -2 Str, +2 Dex, and player's choice of +2 to one other ability). Not sure about any other combinations, though.
  • I apparently haven't talked about it here, but I worked out what kind of bow-draw my various societies use. The thalassocratic Valyrian/evil Atlantis culture uses the Mediterranean draw or the three-under draw (associated respectively with the Turks—the ancient Mediterranean used the pinch draw—and the English, can't imagine why an evil empire would have similarities to them), the steppe nomads on the main continent and the settled empire on the other continent use the Japanese draw, and the settled people on the main continent use the Mongolian draw. The nomadic "barbarian" culture on the other continent uses the pinch draw, because their bows are a hunting-tool not a weapon (they prefer javelins and axes for war). Elves use the Hungarian draw.

    The Mediterranean draw is where you draw the bowstring with your index, middle, and ring fingers, with the arrow between index and middle. Three-under is the same except all three fingers are under the arrow. The Japanese draw is where you draw the bowstring with your thumb, and your drawing hand's palm is parallel with the bow; the Mongolian draw is where you draw the string with your thumb and your drawing hand's palm is parallel with the ground. The pinch draw is where you don't draw the bowstring, you draw the arrow, and requires enormous strength to do with a war-bow (which can be more than twice as strong as hunting bows). And the Hungarian draw is like the Mediterranean draw except you only use the index and middle finger, not the ring one.
  • Also worked out the benefit to using a parent-child bow: It functions as a composite bow but the minimum Strength to use it without penalty is treated as lower, I'll say by 2 points. Or maybe your Strength is treated as 2 higher, including for the sake of getting the damage bonus? But that second thing looks kinda broken. "You don't need the same Strength to use it but you need that Strength to get the bonus" seems fairer.
  • Was reading a thing about how the Mongols' mainly eating preserved food while on the move allowed them to move very stealthily, because they didn't make campfires. Which it occurs to me is part of why you would not want to mess with my elves: both they and their mounts have darkvision and cold resistance. Their mounts can also keep them coordinated within about 5 miles, via roaring, which can include words because they can talk (they do it in code so even someone who speaks Sylvan won't be able to eavesdrop). The same goes for my goblins, except their mounts howl.

    Not quite as good but my dwarves and ogres (which includes orcs) can do something similar, taking the same precautions against cold that the Mongols had to, but able to move through the hottest parts of the day without stopping, and still able to attack at night with no trouble. They also aren't slowed down by anything they're carrying (my ogres have the same "slow and steady" movement as dwarves), even though they're slightly slower than other humanoids. They do both have the disadvantage that their mounts can't roar or howl, though.