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.