Elf Ears mkII; LARP worldbuilding

I know, I know, It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been busy. I’ve done some work on my novel, and a lot of work on the history and cultures of my LARP setting. I’ve also added to the lore. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

I’ve been on vacation recently to visit family, and I went to a Renaissance festival in Florida. First time going to one. It was a lot of fun, and I met some like-minded people. I also picked up another set of elf ears, this time the long type- as in, six inches. It’s the little things that make life worth living.

As an apology for my long absence, here’s a player handout I wrote about how worship and magic works in the LARP world.

Worship and Magic in Dariad

Most folk in Dariad worship many gods; only clergy and zealots venerate one above the others. For example, a farmer could mainly revere Erisenna and Cerastia, but also pray to Tieran’i or Aelo to keep damaging storms away, Talaira to keep back disease, etc. Any mortal of any race may worship any deity, though their upbringing and morals/ethics make some matches of faith and person unlikely. The highly unusual ones are usually the result of a person searching for the right path, or one who believes a certain deity influenced an important event in their life. Though most faiths welcome any new believers, some do not (or, if they do, rarely) allow certain races, such as orcs, half-orcs, and dark elves. For the average mortal, religion is the primary worship of one deity above-even if just a little above- all others.

How They Worship

Most people embrace a primary deity, and carry some token of that god. Adventurers usually pray briefly to this deity in the morning (if they aren’t in some emergency), as well as in moments of crisis, such as healing a friend. They may offer longer, private prayers at other times- these are usually requests for protection and guidance, and deities sometimes reply with dreams or (rarely) waking visions. These are generally only a feeling of favor or disapproval.

When arriving in a village or town that has an established shrine to their patron deity, many folk attend a service or give an offering. Customarily, this is a coin offering, or something appropriate to the deity. For Cete, hunted game is a good offering, and for Agaron, spoils of defeated foes are favored gifts. Worshippers without these things typically offer information about their doings to priests, or offer to help around the temple. The services asked from them may be anything from “Help move these chairs” to “Help guard the temple tonight”.

A wanderer who stumbles upon an untended or desecrated shrine to their patron deity is expected to cleanse it and pray there or leave an offering. Those in an area with a temple generally attend services at least once every four days.

Every community has a public shrine to most deities, even if it has no temple; the lack of a particular deity in a settlement doesn’t mean that the deity is not honored in the area.

How Magical is Dariad?

Dariad is very magical, as a lot of magic (such as spells, magic items, and permanent enchantments) is always present, and thusly mages too. Everyone has heard of magic, and most city-folk see use or results of magic every day. Many common folk have seen small spells and tricks, such as in the repertoire of traveling entertainers; however, the average commoner has never had magic cast on them, or handled a magic item. Nor have most ever had anyone cast a spell for them, as magic is generally expensive.

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Words of Magic

So, I was bored recently, and I decided to revamp the spellcasting for my LARP group. Until now, spell incantations had pretty much been a bunch of nonsense words, but I decided to change it so that mages were actually telling the magic what effect they wanted.

Each spell begins with an activation word that determines the range of the spell.

Fireball would be something like, “þú a Solas”

Solas being ‘burn, fire, conflagration’

‘A’ being ‘small’.

So, ‘One target player+’small’+’conflagration’. + strike (nask)

(I call) a small conflagration to strike that target.

Ice blast is ‘þeír a fu lannar’

Fu= shard

Lannar= freeze, ice

‘distant range’+’small’+’shard’+’freeze’

“(I call) a small shard of ice to freeze a distant target”

Admittedly, it isn’t the best language I’ve ever designed, but then it wasn’t intended for casual conversation.

On the other hand, now players who figure out how the language and which words mean what can create their own spells for use in the game!

Writing and Worldbuilding- thoughts on heroes, magic, and fantasy races.

So. I feel like I should give my readers (if there are any of you; I wouldn’t know, nobody ever comments) more than just glimpses of my everyday life.

So here are some writing tips and such-like.

WRITING

Keeping Characters Active

1. Does the hero ever do anything the other characters couldn’t, simply because s/he is the hero?

Or, in other words, do you ever write a scene purely for the hero to do something that they didn’t even need to be there for? Something that gave the hero themselves no character development at all?

If the answer is yes, you might want to try writing the scene without the hero. Both the scene and your hero will likely be better off for it.

2. Can you write [pick a character] out of the book?

In other words, how hard would it be for you to write out that person- do they ever actually do anything, or do they stand on the sidelines and watch others act?

If it’s fairly simple to erase the character from the story, then- while this may sound harsh- you might want to do just that.

If you prefer to keep the character, you might consider rewriting other scenes you’ve already written, in order to keep the character doing things.

WORLDBUILDING

Magic Systems

Magic can be a bit of a tricky subject, and there are people who’ve written far better essays on this topic than I could. Brandon Sanderson comes to mind.

However, one thing I can say is that Magic needs to be believable. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s true. That doesn’t mean it has to be believable in our world; just that it needs to follow its’ own laws and have predictable effects.

A given magic system might function off the principles of chaos, but it should comply to its’ internal laws just as well as a system that is based on order. Even if a character can’t predict the effect of a spell by the words or gestures or plants or glyphs or whatever used to cast it, it should at least be possible for them to do so.

Now, you don’t need to write out the rules in your story- in fact, it often works better if you let the reader (and, sometimes, the characters) figure the rules out for themselves. However, if you do write out the rules… keep a few back. That will let you do unexpected things with your magic system when necessary, but things that nonetheless follow the laws. It willmake your magic systems more believable, and a lot more fun to read.

Races/Species/Peoples

Whatever you call them, your world might include a multitude of sentients beyond humans. Whether the setting is sci-fi or fantasy- either way, you want some believability, right?

In fantasy, there are a few ‘stock’ peoples- Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Half-elves, Orks. Some people add subraces (night elves, bright elves, light elves, wood elves, blood elves, etcetera etcetera ad nauseum). And, while there are still a lot of avenues that can be explored with these ‘traditional’ races… I’m going to leave them alone for a bit and dig farther back.

Landvaettir. Ever hear of them? They’re Old Norse nature spirits, protectors of the land. Their territory could range from as small as a certain boulder, to a chunk of the country. Try looking them up- you might get some ideas.

The Faeries? Think of Victorian-era tales, with a dash of older legends. Are your Fae the Elvish type? Perhaps amoral, aloof beings, who have little understanding of mortals? Or perhaps you go the Eastern route, and your Fai are Kitsune, Tengu, and Kappas.

And then, of course, you can make up your own.

Catfolk? Maybe a bit overdone, but there’s potential- it’s all in the depiction. Perhaos their ears are at the sides of the head, instead of the top?

How about a race that seems like humans, but has small antlers, like branches jutting from their foreheads? What might you do with them?

A dark-skinned race with golden eyes and feathers for hair?

A small, gnomelike people… with four arms?

Whatever your races are, be certain to think about their place in the world. They don’t just exist; they have a history, and their interactions, among themselves and other peoples, have shaped the path of their world.

Phew. A little longer than I’d planned… anyway, I hope I gave you some good ideas.

Alternate History

Alternate History has more in common with alternate zoology than just the first half of the name. History is like a living organism; it’s a system, and each change, no matter how small, changes the world around it. Thus, you cannot simply create an idea by saying, “In this world, it’s 2011, but the Roman Empire never fell.” Sure, it’s a good starting point; but you can’t just write a nonfiction story and change governmental titles. If the Roman Empire had not fallen (and you would have to do some research to figure out how its’ fall was prevented), civilization would be utterly different. Religion, technology, architecture, political structure… you have to know how everything fits together in order to create a functioning historical ‘ecology’.
Another example is- say the world really had superheroes (and, by extension, supervillains). Did supers just appear in the modern era- if so, why? If not (as is the case in Marvel and DC)- why is world civilization so similar to our own? Would not superheroes change the world, much as an earlier development of the tank or discovery of DNA would have? In primitive times, Supers would be regarded as deities! So if they are to have been around for a long time, you will have to either remake world civilization to compensate- not an easy task- or figure out how to fit them in without overly disrupting the pattern of world development.
Just a couple of examples, both of which I elaborated too far on. Apologies; enjoy your worldbuilding.

Alternate Zoology

What he has done with both AFTER MAN and THE NEW DINOSAURS is so exciting that I feel it deserves a special name of its own: Alternative Zoology. -Desmond Morris, in the introduction to Dougal Dixon’s ‘The New Dinosaurs’

Alternate Zoology is a rather difficult subject to work with. It starts by saying, “How would this creature be different if it filled this niche, as well as or instead of its’ own?”

But the person working on something like this, especially if this zoology is for some alien planet, must be careful that their creatures make sense. On another planet, one must answer the questions, what does this creature eat? What eats it?

For example, look at the world of Pandora, from Avatar. The creatures of the world were designed by a team of biologists and zoologists, to fit into the ecosystem and atmospheric conditions of the world, such as lower gravity, which enables large creatures with six legs- a feature that no vertebrate on Earth has ever had.

Another example of successful Alternate Zoology is that done by Dougal Dixon, who, in two different books, predicted changes in animals if humans disappeared, and changes in dinosaurs if they had not gone extinct. The first can be found here: http://www.sivatherium.narod.ru/library/Dixon/main_en.htm

The second, here: http://www.sivatherium.narod.ru/library/Dixon_2/00_en.htm#fore

These two books are some of the best AZ I have ever seen. Take a look.

 

Useful things adventurers forget

I was thinking about the more realistic side of adventuring, whether in fantasy or otherwise, and came up with this:

A List of Items that Adventurers Need but Oft Forget, in no particular order.

 

1. Wax plugs, to protect against harpies, sirens, and your companion’s snoring.

2. Small rocks, to cause distractions.

3. A deck of cards, because some unscrupulous gamblers mark their decks. You may wish to follow suit. Pun intended.

4. Map/scroll case- many an adventurer has lost his way when his map fell apart.

5. Comb and hair pins: useful when you have long hair. Also, many hair pins can function as lockpicks in a pinch.

6. Sewing needle and thread- those sword cuts in your cloak won’t heal like you do. Also useful for stitching large wounds when you’re out of healing.

7. Bowl and utensils- eating with your hands isn’t all it’s romanticized to be. Besides, ever try eating stew with your fingers?

8. Soap. Seriously. Monsters tend to have good senses of smell, and you don’t want the dragon to scent you before you even start.

9. Two sets of clothes, for similar reasons to the above.

10. Writing kit. This way, you can sketch a map of a dungeon or a picture of a puzzle for further reference.

11. Crowbar. Club, Door-opener… the fighter’s lockpick.

 

If you have any more, feel free to comment.

Ocean World

Well, for my sci-fi novel (I still haven’t come up with a name), I’ve designed an ocean planet inhabited by a humanoid species, with a vaguely Stone-Age culture (after all, it’s hard to forge bronze underwater.) Here’s some of the information.

A’~’tli’ Se (say: ai-(trill rising low to high)-(sharp click with tongue against roof of mouth) Say)
:ocean planet
A tropical ocean planet, orbiting two suns, covered entirely in water that is hundreds of kilometers deep, with some large floating algae mats. The atmosphere has a very high concentration of water vapor, making the surface of the ocean not a very sharp contrast- the water just gets thinner. You can swim up to 500 feet above the ocean’s surface.
At the very bottom of the ocean, pressures are so great that the water is compressed into ice, despite actually being above freezing.
Nearly everything has bioluminescence, so most of the ocean is basically in eternal twilight.
‘People’: humanoids, about 7’3″ tall, that can live over 630 years. They have extra long, webbed fingers and toes; a ridge along the spine that is believed to be a vestigial dorsal fin; long, pointed ears, the better to hear underwater; greyish-green skin that is pale on their bellies and necks, and has a reddish tint on the rest of them; and extra-large blue, green, or purple eyes with a nictating membrane, or third eyelid, that protects it. Their sharp-toothed mouths are curved slightly up at the corners. The only hair on their bodies is in their eyebrows and eyelashes; that on their scalp is really external gill filaments that extract oxygen from the water, and are thus kept fairly long. They have phosphorescent patterns on their skin based on tribe. They have a rapid healing mechanism not fully understood.

example names (translated to Standard):
Male: Phainon, Phosphoros, Stilbon, Theras, Sora, Andrius, Icaros
Female: Selene, Arilonia, Cania, Caste, Sakita, Liana, Andria