Hawk's Notepad

In which I argue with myself over the Mesian diet

It says in peter's race notes that they're intensely agricultural. What sorts of crops do they grow? They're rather equatorial/temperate, so I imagine grapes and olives and other Mediterranean-style fare.

Question: do they eat meat? I feel like vegetarianism would fit but the vegetarian elves are kind of a standard fantasy trope. The obvious option would be to subvert that and make them total carnivores, but alternatively we could reconstruct it and say their stomachs don't digest animal products well (maybe that's why they're so skinny). On the third hand, their nation has a fair amount of coastline, so maybe they're into fish?

Peter replies- I think we could just avert it and give them a balanced medieval diet. Or possibly instead of vegetarianism, they have a religious belief against eating some particular animal/animals, or find Aurochs holy or something.

Hawk replies - Fair enough - I'm probably going to play up the fish bit. What do you think about my thoughts re: climate and crops?//

Note sure about climate yet; crops will be fictional but I'm not sure what they'll be like. Also fish is great for the coastal areas but without refrigeration only salted fish would probably be imported inland.

Western Empire ruminations

Skyrim has kind of eaten my brain, but it's inspired me to start thinking world building again. I've been thinking about the Western Empire some and I have some pretty vague ideas. Right now they kinda feel like a cross between the early Holy Roman Empire and the British Empire except with Arabic/Indian influences and a dash of Athens thrown in for good measure. I realize that's a lot of influences…

There are already pretty strong Arabic/Indian influences in the eastern continent, especially the druidi, anmari and atorrani, and the Eastern Empire was noticably Byzantine-inspired.

In regards to the western continent I used certain greek elements for the Ashaamba, so that's definitely something to continue. I have an unfinished page with another western race that has similar wrap-and-pin clothing, and some anglo-germanic influence, and Art Deco. Both also have some african influence as well.

And the more influence, the better; pulling from several disparate sources is what makes the difference between, e.g., "fantasy vikings" and "nords" (and speaking of Skyrim, the nordic-egyptian harmonising going on in ancient nord tombs is bizarrely in tune with the Anmari…) - Pete

Hawk replies - agreed entirely my good man. I haven't even started thinking visually at all - I'm still on culture and politics. Meanwhile I've added some stuff to the Mesiani and am turning my gaze towards Atorra as well.

Thoughts on elves and nature

In a lot of fantasy fiction and games, elves tend to have close cultural and/or mystical ties to nature. Since Teller's Tales has three elven subraces, I imagine they all have very different outlooks on the natural world.

I believe it was suggested earlier that the Cerzi have some kind of shamanic or animist religious belief system, if so, I imagine they probably revere animals or nature spirits as part of this. I assume they eat meat, since it's fairly difficult to get sufficient nutrition as nomadic hunter-gatherers without hunting, but I imagine they have some ritual of thanking or paying respect to the animals that they kill.

Since the Atorra are so heavily focused on civilization, I imagine they regard nature differently. They probably have very carefully cared-for gardens and probably write poetry about them or something. I can totally see an Atorran noble beheading some poor serf who interrupted his contemplation of a particularly delicate flower arrangement. For agriculture, I imagine their farms are very heavily cultivated. They probably have advanced irrigation systems, and they might have rice paddy-like farms or something along the lines of Aztec floating gardens or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, especially if we still want them to have a mesopotamian vibe. The baha'i terraces are cool too.

The Mesiani are probably way into astronomy (think Inca style) 'cause their principal deities are moon and sun gods.

in reply:

Agreed thoroughly on the Anmari. Perfekt. But I was picturing something more pragmatic for the Cerzi. I guess I don't remember discussing shamism or animism for them, although that doesn't mean I didn't.

(apologies in advance for rambling)

The most defining measure of the Cerzi is, I think, that they're relatively heterogeneous- as a group they're rather loosely defined and held together more by their differences from Anmar and Mesia than by their own similarities.

With that in mind I could see many approaches from different groups or individuals, for example:

1. 'Apologetic', as you say- a spiritual connexion between hunter and hunted. Sort of First Nation inspired?
2. 'Practical'- "Animals are food. Food is for eating. I need to eat. Problem?"
3. 'Part of the food chain'- Eat or be eaten.
4. 'Scavenger'- "Thou shalt not kill, but neither shalt thou waste fallen meat." Roadkill might be anachronistic (has anyone ever had a cart going fast enough to hit a deer? I guess it's not impossible), but other accidental deaths can happen.
5. 'Skyrim'- oh look a deer I will kill it for its loot

-pete

in reply to pete's in reply

Hey, I resent that! I never killed deer for their loot in Skyrim!

…though to be fair that's mostly because they ran too fast. Anyway, I thought I remembered you saying something about animism with regards to the Cerzi, but that could be my brain making things up. Regardless, I think we're basically on the same page.

Also, I like the idea of a cart going fast enough to kill an animal, but keep in mind that animals die for lots of reasons, including sickness, old age, and other predators. Though it's important to note that humans (not sure about elves) really don't have the immune system or digestive tract to be effective scavengers, and even animals that do (i.e. wild dogs) pick up more diseases than non-scavengers.

replyception

ehhh: http://www.petersenshunting.com/2011/11/02/why-everyone-should-eat-road-kill/ //
I'm not an expert but aside from diseased flesh (which should leave visible symptoms on the corpse) or rotting carrion (similarly visible) shouldn't cooked meat be cooked meat?
On that note, I have eaten roadkill venison. Quite tasty, although this example was a bit gristly. //

ps: I like the astronomy angle for Mesia although it doesn't help their diet :L

More thoughts re: traits and backgrounds:

I'm seriously considering trying to implement this system of culture-specific bonuses (or something like it) that basically separates background traits from other traits, making the trait system more about what makes a hero unique than what they know because of culture and genetics. It might take some work to implement though. Meh whatever.

I like it. We should implement. Godspeed!

Other thoughts:

Someone needs to write some quick-ass fluff for some of the cultures that have close to none, just so their wiki pages aren't just an image and no text. It doesn't even have to be good.

Hurr I'll try to get to that yeah.

Also, I've made the Druid class exclusive to the Druidi or someone trained by them (represented by a feat) in order to make them rarer in the world (as it's hard (maybe impossible (yaaaaay nested perentheses)) for a non-Druidi begin the game as a druid). However, I'm considering allowing Cerzi to start out as druids as well. Also, should the Beast Totem feat have prerequisites? What should they be?

If anyone has thoughts on any of those questions, please let me know.

I like Cerzi having connexions to the Druidi as a culture. As a class, too. But being able to turn into an animal is something I'd rather limit more. Maybe it's only a higher level class ability? Also in terms of fluff I don't see a lot of non-druidi learning a class like that from the druidi. At the very least there should be a significant prerequisite.

Thoughts towards a philosophy on magic (new)

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
~ Sir Arthur C. Clarke

"Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from SCIENCE!"
~ Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius

I've been working on the magic section a lot recently, writing fluff and adding more classes, and I've started to arrive at some goals for a cohesive magic system in Teller's Tales.

  • Goal 1: Goldilocks' porridge

The amount of magic in a world is hard to get right. Too much magic, and things get boring - we don't want this to be like D&D 3.5, which is often referred to as "D&D Wizard Edition", a game where the spellcasting classes quickly outpace all other characters and can eventually accomplish everything. This is important from a story perspective as well as from a game design one: magic is very, very good at removing plot by making things too easy. With that said, we want there to be magic in Teller's Tales (or, at least, I do), and we definitely want the players to have access to it. Being a wizard is fun!

  • Goal 2: Classes should all play differently.

One thing I think is really important in role-playing games with class-based systems is that different character classes feel different to play, especially when they have radically different power sources. This is, in my opinion, one thing D&D 4th Edition really got wrong - all the classes gain powers basically the same way, and they all have about an equal amount of powers of equal ability. I want it to feel different to play a magic user than to play a warrior - you should have different goals and use your powers differently, both in combat and in exploration. I also want different spellcasting classes to play differently, representing divergent magical traditions or techniques.

I think we're definitely on the same page for magic at this point, at least in terms of mechanics. Keep up the good work~

More mesiani bits (pet race much?)

I'm not sure how to handle the Mesiani being 'slightly matriarchal'. I'm thinking about making the mesiani priesthood be female only, but I'm not sure how I feel about that. Maybe priesthood is considered a feminine role, but entrance isn't barred to men. That way you get a good healthy sprinkling of effeminite elf-boy priests thrown in for grins. Maybe there's some kind of ritual crossdressing/genderbending?

I like your ideas for the priesthood. I was also thinking that property would pass matrilinearly, but in that case it's less about women in power and more that it's easier to verify a mother than a father. Maybe something like viking society where women are the head of the house and have a lot of power and rights there, but don't really have anything that extends beyond domestic life. Things to pull ideas from: 1 2 3

More replies: The Mosuo are kinda close to what I had in mind, though I figured that the Mesiani practice marriage - I had them pegged as too conservative to be all free-love-y. I was thinking in Mesiani society, fidelity & marriage are important, but the women actively court the men, who play a more passive role. I imagine the church is probably 60-80% female, due mainly to selection biases, and priestly costume/ornamentation is the same for both genders. It's hard to tell that you're talking to a male Mesiani priest until he opens his mouth (or has a beard). The Atorrans probably think this is kind of weird.

Agreed on all counts.

I imagine the standard Mesiani sword (as mentioned in my recent additions to the page) as being a thin, curved scimitar/talwar-type sword, shorter than western cavalry sabres, but still long enough that in D&D it'd probably be considered a longsword. Atorran scimitars, in contrast, are longer and straighter - more katanalike. Also common are long knives, which I imagine being something like the knives Legolas wields in the Lord of the Rings movies. Any thoughts?

Peeersonally I would go more in the direction of ancient chinese and korean swords. I'm not sure about curved swords being the standard either. I'd leave that more to specialty swords like the D&D "falchion" or "scimitar". Longswords would be more like this; various jian. That's jut my thoughts.

Reply to weapon bits: I was thinking the Mesiani swords were similar to curved middle-eastern type weapons and that the Atorran swords were more like the straight Asian type. Oh man that Han jian is awesome, but to me it looks more like an Atorran weapon, 'specially the geometric detailing. I really dig the long handle, too, just looks awesomely badass for some reason. I imagine the swords of both nations are fairly similar - maybe the Mesiani designs were influenced by the Atorran? The Atorran use swords plenty, but if I recall correctly, naginata-type glaives are also very common in Atorra.

These are what I picture for the Mesiani: 1 2 3 4 5 Also, I may not have made this clear before, but Mesia and Atorra come from the same older elven culture.

Thoughts on Delvian religion/culture

I imagine the Delvians as polytheistic, with each god having their own cult, kind of like the Greco-Roman mysteries. Participation in the cult is restricted to initiates, and maybe as you advance through the cult hierarchy, more secrets are revealed to you. Perhaps if you join one cult, access to the others is barred, so you can only be initiated in one mystery at a time, although I don't think that the cults are competitive or rivals. Each one has its own internal hierarchy and power structure.

Gods I've thought of so far:

Aron Velethi, the Progenitor: the Delvian creator god, sculptor of the universe and divine father/mother to the other deities. Appears in both male and female form. Maybe all the cults revere him, or maybe she has her own cult - not sure.

Ranek Nithar, the Stonehewer: God of rock and stone, maybe associated with craftsmen?

Shar i-Nel, Queen of Insects: a nature deity, the chitinous goddess of fauna.

Korah Valam, the Fungal Prince: a nature deity, prince of death and rebirth, and patron of farmers and alchemists.

Abal Bhelet, the Magma Mother: A goddess of the deeps, associated with the forge and precious metals.

Zahal Ulub, the Forsaken One: god of Hidden Fun Stuff, also called the Bound God. His cult is prohibited.

Of course, if you wanna change any of this, let me know. Just blocking out some ideas.

I think the names sound too much like Mesianic and Atorric. >.>
Love the gods though. I think we should have separate gods for rock as a substance and hewing stone, a sort of balance of status-quo and change. Does that make sense? Kind of like the Druidic twin gods, or Yoros and Yonos for the Anmari.
The fungal prince and queen of insects for plants and animals are my favourite. :3