SV's Notepad

Thoughts on Magic

I have no idea how I want to deal with magic. I've changed my mind a lot. Early on I wanted something sort of primal, elemental, a bit like bending in Avatar, that kind of stuff. Another part of me favours more subtle, spiritual /forces/, like Prince of Persia, Shadow of the Colossus, or (more recently) Journey. Then yet I had talked about a sort of pseudo-scientific thing, like telekinesis and ESP. I've even toyed with not having magic at all.

At various times, all of these and none of these fit the world in my mind. The only solid thought is that I don't want typical RPG magic, slinging fireballs and memorizing Colour Spray and Magic Missile every day and casual wizardry. I want something more low key & mystical, if only to buck the trend.

Someday I'll have to deal with it. For now I'll just keep putting off the decision.

Hawk responds 'n' stuff

//Okay whoa I'm really glad you've posted all this stuff. I'd love to talk to you on chat about magic. I like all your ideas - I feel like we could probably jam it all into TT with different magic systems. It looks like you probably don't want the standard Pathfinder magic system, which is okay, but it just means that we'd probably have to come up with or adapt our own - there's a bunch of stuff in other D20 system games you might like. I'd suggest you check out Blue Rose, because I think it does subtle magic fairly well. The way I see it, though, we should come up with the way we want magic to function story-wise and then come up with a way for it to fit into the game./u

Update as of May 29 2012

I've added a bunch of stuff on the Magic in Madara page and am beginning to coalesce some stuff into a complete magic system. So far there are a couple non-Spiritualist spellcasting classes (Druid and Warlock), which represent different magical paradigms, but I'm trying to keep them fairly rare, using both fluff and game mechanics. If you have any thoughts please let me know. There are some more focused ruminations on my dev journal.

Update 07/12/2012

By this point I feel like I have a fairly concrete idea of magic, in two forms: energy of will, and pure Teller's exaggeration.

As to the latter, this should be guessable from the name, but I haven't emphasized it much: I see campaigns as stories of various sorts, legends passed down through generations, messenger's accounts of current events, family stories (especially in Atorra), history and myth together. Naturally some things get a little blown out of proportion, giving room for wizards and miracles, just as in real life. That's not to say there isn't real magic (and that's not to say there is), but many things can be ascribed to exaggeration.

The former: willpower. If there's any real magic in Teller's Tales, it would be this. Sheer conviction and purpose, belief and imagination. Even many basic scientific events may be ascribed to this, like adrenaline rushes in the heat of battle.

And of course, both together… I imagine stories of undead would be ascribed to sheer will holding old bones together, either will of restless spirits or will of necromancers.

In gameplay terms I think it would be cool to have a lot of emphasis on effects, like temporary stat changes and various buffs. But not at the cost of more standard magic, because that's where the legends come in! I guess it's more of a way of describing what happens than limiting what happens.

So that's what I'm sort of leaning towards. Thoughts?

Howdy cowboy, or, Thoughts on Horses

Note: this is no a concrete, stated fact (yet). That's why it's in my journal. But for the purpose of readability I'm leaving out things like "I'm thinking that…" and "So maybe…" and "…but I dunno".

Warhorses, there are none. Some scouts use horses for speed, but they are very lightly armoured. While horses have been domesticated (see the Teller's Tales 'horse' sketch on the Southern Fiefdom page), they just don't have the strength to bear both a human and armour. The stirrup has also yet to be invented, and saddles themselves are rather basic. The Eastern Empire, the Shari and to some extent the Nuriani have chariots, but it usually takes two or more horses to pull a even a wicker basket with wheels and a lightly-armoured driver/soldier or two, and unless the terrain is flat and uniform, it is difficult to use chariots effectively in battle.

There exist some relatives of the horse, as well:

The Zebra is fast, and stronger than a horse. In the Eastern Empire and some of the more easterly Southern Fiefdoms, they are used to pull war-chariots, as a single Zebra can pull a wicker or even wooden chariot of two medium troops. However, they have a much nastier disposition, and are very difficult to tame enough to pull a chariot, let alone to be ridden. This ferocity does add an extra element of fear and danger to the chariots- but for the charioteers as much as those they may attempt to run down. All recorded attempts of riding zebras have ended in injury or death.

Donkeys are sturdier, but short and slow. Inefficient for war, they are used as pack animals and farm creatures, and pull carts on a yoke of two or more.

Mules are hybrids of a donkey and a horse, bred with the intention of combining a donkey's strength with a horse's speed. It didn't really work. But they are a little taller and a little faster and make better pack and farm animals than donkeys. They can also pull carts at a greater speed in a yoke of two or greater. They can be quite stubborn, though, and the breeding is inexact. They are uncommon in the Southern Fiefdoms.

Most carts are pulled by a leather or meat aurochs, or two on a yoke for the larger trade caravans.

End of line. Thoughts?
EDIT: I should add that this would make the Iron Heroes background trait about horse raiders obsolete.

I guess this means there's basically no cavalry at al (besides the chariots)? That definitely changes the shape of combat away from the medieval norm. Not sure if want ('cause it would be hard to figure out). On the other hand FUCK YEAH WAR ZEBRA SO COOOOOOL

Yeah, there are chariots (of debatable usefulness) and very light scouts that can't really fight (maybe with bow), but otherwise no real cavalry. Riding horses (and stirrups!) are often taken for granted in fantasy, and one thing I love about making Teller's Tales is taking away things that are taken for granted. Shield and spear combat worked well for most civilisations- the war-horse is comparatively modern.

Consider my complaints withdrawn then.

Hawk adds: more thoughts as of August 9th:
Wouldn't it be sweet if there were other rideable animals in TT? They could be ones that can't be effectively ridden in battle, too. Maybe some kind of giant flightless bird (like a moa type thing or some kind of evil mutant ostrich or something) or something like that. It could spook really easily and not make a good battle mount, but could be ridden by travelers in the deserts of the western continent or something. Also, the dwarves should totally ride giant pillbugs. Maybe the pillbugs have rhick carapaces that act as natural armor, and the dwarves are the only nation that has semi-effective cavalry. But they could be slower than horses and could be deployed differently than real-worl warhorse cavalryke a tank or something. Just some scattered random thoughts.

I think that kind of defeats the purpose. Also its pretty common in fantasy and SF. I would rather have riding and especially cavalry of any type be severely limited at this moment, if existent at all.

Fair enough. I still support something involving dwarves and bugs, though - I thought we had kind of agreed on that earlier. I was just kind of going through a WAR OSTRICH FUCK YEAH phase on the other bit.

Bugs can pull carts! Carts made of dead bug shells! Bugs pulling bugs! Bugception!


I like that basically all of dwarf technology is insect based.


Elven Lifespan

Hawk, you've convinced me to keep a comparatively longer lifespan. I think we can still play around with the idea, though.

What if they:

  • Lived longer, but aged at the same rate, or only slightly slower, so in their older years they'd get really gnarly and wrinkled up
  • Lived at what we modern earthen humans consider a normal life span (~80-100 years) while the other races of teller's tales live up to maybe 60 at the oldest, on average (which isn't unusual for an ancient/medieval civilisation)
  • Lived indefinitely, and keep getting bigger, to a point that they physically cannot hold up their own bodies and they collapse, or their spines break under their own weight, like a sort of fucked up humanoid lobster


Hawk responds - Aug 23 2012:
I like bullet point #2 the best (as I was thinking humans in TT didn't live all that long due to poor medicine and stuff (of course, this fluctuates based on location & culture & technology (yay nested perentheses!))). Bullet points #1 and #3 give me hilarious mental images, but I feel like neither really fits with elven fluff as I understand it at this point. Maybe one of those could be used for the dwarves or orcs though. I like the idea that maybe dwarven society is ruled by these like ancient dwarves who are kind of like huge brain monsters who can't move under their own power and live in the deepest caves or something of that nature. Run on sentences wheee!

Thoughts on Tech Levels


Armour of the eastern continent is tube and yoke, like many real world examples of many time periods. Greek and japanese examples layed out
Padded/Quilted cloth is the cheapest and simplest. Leather and studded/plated leather and coat of plates (cloth or leather with metal sewn in) are very common as well. Further up is scale and lamellar in metal, leather, terracotta, bone/ivory, and even cement (mostly atorra) and wood (cerzi, druidi?). The heaviest armours are shaped metal pieces mounted on or edged and tied with cloth, with front, back and two side sections, and the shoulder yoke. More flexible but less durable versions use smaller bands of metal tied to each other on the vertical and horizontal.

The western continent uses more of a breasplate style, with various shapes of front and back piece wrapping partially around the side and tying at side and shoulder. It's less flexible but perhaps more comfortable (conforms more to shape) and maybe better protection.

Both continents have shoulder, upper arm, forearm, back of hand, waist, upper leg, and ankle plates in various styles but similar functionality.

Fitted plate is more advanced than the current time period. I'm thinking chainmail is just starting to spread, from either the western continent or the eastern empire. Or maybe it hasn't really been worked out yet. There are probably ring-coats (like, rings sewn to a leather cuirass) somewhere in either case.

Yes please - this is beyond notepad quality IMHO, just go ahead and make an armour page. Oh yeah: remember, the dorfs use bugplate of some kind (I'm thinking like Morrowind's chitin armor but with more insect faces in it.

Right. I suspect fitted armour will largely come from the dorves. And maybe to the eastern continent through the eastern empire. Probably depending more heavily on feel gives them an advantage on how things fit together over people who just see the shapes with their eyes. Although I had been picturing dwarven construction as fairly crude.

I like to think the bugplate is pretty crude, too - it's not like Morrowind's Bonemold, which is "composed of bones which are artificially shaped and assembled before being fixed with resin glues". IMO it's more like just some carapaces with the legs ripped off and sewn together. They make it like that because they're not super great at delicate crafts. However, it's very light and strong for it's weight. Almost like our version of mithril :P

I love that our version of mithril is made out of bugs

Das Boot, or, My Thoughts on Watercraft

It's already written or implied in the backstory that boats are fairly poor, and only recently graduated to fairly poor from absolute shite. I would say that sometime within the recent past, the keel was developed or discovered, and that the previous technology was simple coracles. Rowboats are still a bit unreliable. Maybe some culture should have canoes though. Maybe on the western continent.
Ships are pretty basic still too. They're able to cross to the western continent now, with some degree of reliability, but it's recommended you hug the coast as much as possible, and only sail when the sea is calm.

eastern empire may have slightly better tech, hence their ability to colonise the north. They're fairly different culturally from the more elven influenced lands so they probably have a different style of craft in general.

I'd say in general mixed oar and basic sail. Maybe framed sail (like junks) and/or square. Limited mast and rigging.

one thing that I've noticed about a lot of fantasy is that they often have pirate era style ships in surplus. The earliest you get is cogs, or longboats if it's a bit northern. I think people take reliable sea travel somewhat for granted… and as I've said before, one thing I love about making Teller's Tales is taking away things that are taken for granted.

I'd say the compass has probably not been figured out either, so it's easy to get lost at sea. For all of these reasons, most sea traffic is only between continents, or between continents and islands. A lot of islands are probably fairly cut off, depending on how far from shore they are.

special mentions:

the vaewlrii are pretty good boaters- good enough to go whaling and brave the northern seas. Not good enough to make it to the main continents, generally, but probably more for navigational reasons than technological. I'd say they probably have wide and relatively flat but still noticeably keeled ships, like longships and other scandinavian craft but of different design and construction. square sail and oar, probably.

the delvians have wide, flat crafts with tacked on keels. generally squarish or round, built of cured mushroom and chitin. they are not totally uncomfortable on the water, as there are many underground lakes and rivers, but the sea is a different beast and being under the sky is discomfort enough, so they don't venture onto the ocean often. When they do, it's usually to transport goods, in big barges. For comfort's sake, the boats are roofed, and the crew operates from inside with oars. If they have sails, they're operated with pulley from inside whenever possible. It's said they have mages to navigate and calm the waters, and they do seem to find their way more easily than many. They may have secretly just invented the compass though.

This is really good. Exactly what I want to see. For some reason, I imagine the Atorran navy as being vaguely Greek, with galleys and ramming and maybe some kind of Greek fire analogue. Other thing: since the Väwlrii have better boats than everyone else and seem like a vaguely warlike people (based on my reading of the culture page which has them attacking a Delvian fishing fleet), I figure they probably indulge in a good bit of raiding (which well befits both their Viking and Polynesian influences), maybe sailing as far south as Anmar, the Eastern Empire, and maybe even the northern bits of Mesia.

I thought galleys were pretty good boats, but I dunno. Micah said he'd put up his thoughts on boats so I'll wait for that. But I like the idea. Even if they limit their raids to the Eastern Empire Colonies that would be a pretty swell deal.

Micah's Reply

Well these are my thoughts in no particular order

1. They would be heavily based on polynesian catamarans, perhaps with ancient trireme influences, oars, armor, probably underwater rams.
2. The sails would be made from bamboo, or a similar substance as I don't believe they have developed sufficient proficiency with fabrics to make sails.
3. The largest ships, the whalers would double as troop transports for raiding parties
4. These ships would have three masts and be atleast a hundred feet long.
5. The bow would have a wooden boat house of sorts, both to keep the crew from getting wet and to house the weapons
6. the men would be forced to sleep on deck
7. the larger boats would carry a smaller craft in the rear. It'd be a high sided narrow boat designed to stay afloat with a lot of weight in it.

Pete's reply to Micah's reply

Yes! <3
So perfect. Excellent stuff.
1. Awesome! I think you could definitely pull in trireme influence for oars at least. But I would confine rams to being unusual and risky items used by unusual and risky individuals. You wouldn't get much use out of them anyway, everyone else's boats are pretty shitty.
2. <3! Nothing else to say. Just <3!
3. Excellent, yes!
4. You mean the whalers I assume.
5. The bow? Not the stern? It seems like it would obstruct the view.
6. It's good for them. Builds character. Puts hair on their chests.
7. Nicely detailed!

One more question: what's the rudder like?

Thoughts on Druidi architecture

A lot of the architecture in Prince of Persia is more technologically advanced than I would give the Druidi, but there are key elements in it that make it such a strong inspiration:

  • Lush integration with vegetation. This is super important for the Druidi; their spiritual connection with nature is both necessary for their "druidic" tag but also important to their backstory as a comparison to the rising elven societies which began to rival the Druidi's mystical prowess with technological agriculture.
  • For related reasons, as well as practical purposes of localized supply, abundance of wood as either a main building component or structural support.
  • Organic and natural shapes; flowing, gentle curves. Especially shapes reflecting nature, for the same reasons mentioned above. Emphasized even more so once within Madara, as leaf shapes may be closer to such arches than on our simple Earth… how cool would a tree with leaves the shape of islamic arches be?
  • Technologically I think the true arch will actually be present in Druidi engineering, providing Druidi buildings with the ability to tower over early Elven dwellings, and eventually to be toppled by those elves who lived in their shadow. As Elven dominance was established, the technology was lost, and corbeled arches being used instead. At some point (probably within the era that most of my campaigns will be set) Atorran engineers reverse engineered the arch from Druidi ruins, and began implementing it in Atorran architecture. From there, it spread to Mesia and the Southern Fiefdoms.