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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    The cenote was very deep, but its crystal water was so transparent Mada could watch the pale blue crayfish crawl among the rocks on its bottom. In the dense forest which surrounded the open well wildlife screamed. Evidence of their desperation in dryer times could be seen on the rocks too. Skeletons of many beasts, half hidden by the algae encrusting every surface beneath the still water, could be seen if one knew to look.

    Cenotes were a place of death. And also of life. Mada had become used to dichotomy. To her, life and death were the same. Some day she would become bones, and from her death life would spring. Certainly the clouds of fish which flew through the transparent water gained life by feeding on death. When thirsty deer came to drink and fell into the cenote the fish would gorge. But for now, algae and one another were their food.

    Thinking of food was a mistake. Hunger surged in her. Again. How tempting it was to climb down the wall of the cenote, to drink of its water, to tickle a striped perch from its hiding place in the rocks...

    Mada had not eaten for three days, and drank only at the setting of the sun. She was on a vision quest. She would resist the flatbread and dried fruit she carried in her pack until she was given a sign, a vision. Or so was her plan.

    Many who sought visions were not granted them. They would go for a few days into the forest and return unenlightened. Some lied and claimed visions they had not been granted. True visions seldom promised wealth or successful harvests, or any of the self-serving claims made by many over the years. Mada might go home without a vision, but she would not return with a lie.

    As she sat on the edge of the sinkhole waiting for the sun to set she observed the very regular, steep sided hill behind which the sun was setting. It was only a shadow with the brilliant yellow disk behind it. She noted its symmetry, then something else: it was notched!

    At regular intervals a notch cut into the overgrown slope. She could only see them because sunlight glared through the trees that grew on its slopes. Looking closely, she observed the other side matched, even to the height and spacing of the notches. Not only were the slopes symmetrical, but their imperfections matched. Tomorrow she would look at that hill. As the sun set and shadows grew, moving around might be dangerous, especially since she was weakened by hunger.

    The sun-disk set, and Mada drank her allotment of water. She began prayers which would continue until she fell asleep. In the morning the sun blazed on the hill, hiding the features which had been so plain the night before. Down in the cenote a splash brought her fully awake.

    On the rocks below her a spotted lion patted the water with her paw. Curious, Mada watched this odd behavior, still wrapped in her blanket. Curious fish came to see the lion's paw spat-spat-spat on the water. From the shadows a gar emerged, easily as long as her arm. Its teeth filled a long, broad beak, and thick square scales formed regular diagonal rows along its grey flanks. The huge cat calmly patted the water as the fish rose.

    A sudden grab, claws fully extended, hooked the fish, and water splashed as the lion's head dove in for the kill. The yellow-brown fur of the spotted lion darkened when wet, and what began as a shake of her head to break the fish's spine continued down the length of its body, spraying water in a cloud.

    A small chuckle escaped her, and the cat looked up. Yellow eyes met green, and the cat growled. Mada gazed back. A hungry lion was trouble. A fed lion was less so, dangerous only if she happened to be in the lion's way. With uncanny grace the lion turned and leapt up, from outcrop to crevice to ledge, up the cenote's wall. In a moment it was gone into the forest with the gar still clamped in its powerful jaws.

    Her hunger growled, a sound not unlike that of the lion. For a moment she considered telling everyone about the lion as if it was her vision. In the same moment she was shamed by the thought. She would be granted a vision, or she would not. She was not going home a liar.

    And there ahead of her stood the hill that was too regular in shape. With elaborate care she navigated the strewn boulders choked with roots and vines. Weakened by hunger, a misstep could break a bone. It was in choosing her steps that she saw the patterns carved on the boulders.

    Hints of meaning tugged at her eye before she noticed them, and then she noticed them everywhere. Even stones she thought bare were squared, and when rolling one she noticed the patterns carved into its other face. Discs and squares filled with weird designs spoke to her of secrets long forgotten. An unsolveable mystery lay beneath her feet. Ahead of her the hill beckoned.

    Most of the morning she spent traversing what she now called the village square, convinced it had been so before the forest claimed it. People had carved those stones. A great stone-floored square covered with patterns now jumbled by years of roots, fallen trees, and the shifting of soil between flood and drought.

    Climbing the hill was easy. It was steep, but regular notches allowed easy footing all the way. The sun was straight overhead when she reached the summit. The view took her breath away. Above the tree tops for the first time in her life, she could see the folds of the land reflected in the crowns of the trees, which went on in all directions to the edge of the world. Nearby the crests of other very regular hills lifted their trees higher than the surrounding forest, and off in the distance in six directions similar shapes hinted at other clusters of regular hills many days away.

    She spent the afternoon exploring the summit. A thin layer of soil was trapped by twisted roots, but a pattern beneath them taunted her. Clearing away the leaves and dirt from the flat summit took the rest of the afternoon. When she was done she had cleared a single unbroken square stone that was her height on each side. Its center was a blank circle from which wavy lines radiated in all directions.

    It meant nothing to her until she stopped to watch the lowering sun behind a cloud. Then it was obvious the design was a sun disk, except that the rays of the real sun were straight and not at all the wavy design that surrounded the pattern atop the hill.

    She lay out her blanket on the pattern to watch the sunset. Her thirst and hunger, forgotten in the day's activity, came upon her with a vengeance. In fading twilight she slowly sipped her ration of water then began her prayers.

    She was unsurprised by the tall yellow man who stood on a sun-disk like the one upon which she sat, but this one was a strange stone with a pointed bottom, and it floated, carrying him down the winds, over great fields of yellow flowers with black centers. She noted that the flowers were themselves sun-disks: their faces following the sun as it tracked overhead.

    The hill was no longer covered with trees, the great stone village square was pristine, the cenote was a well in the center of the plaza, surrounded by a low wall and hundreds of the yellow people with golden hair and eyes. Their robes were of a very fine material, and their colors were bright enough to make a rainbow blush. Dozens of smaller hills of bare stone surrounded this, each painted colors no stone could ever be.

    So, too, the patterns: golden sun, green fields filled with peppers and corn and tomatoes. Many of the patterns were stories of long dead kings, or heroes, or great calamities survived. The patterns remembered long after their creators were dead and gone.

    The land shook, stones tumbled, people scattered in fear. A great black cloud grew overhead, and mounted higher, thicker, until night ruled. The yellow people died in great numbers, as did their crops. Grey rain fell, hot and dry, to bury the dead, to conceal the colors. When the black cloud faded and the sun returned the color was gone. Grass grew, devouring the grey. From the grass trees sprang and grew, churning the stones and bones which littered the broken plaza. The many houses of the yellow folk were consumed by the forest, but their great temples the trees could only conceal.

    She watched the plaza collapse, opening the cenote she had found the previous day. From it the spotted lion leapt, and it came toward her.

    "Why have you come to this place of death?" the lion asked.

    "I sought a vision," answered Mada.

    "And what would your vision show you? Wealth? Power? Magic?"

    "I accept the vision granted to me. Who am I to tell the gods what they should show me?"

    "Surely you sought a vision for a purpose," asked the lion. "Else why seek one?"

    "I had thought only that I might learn something useful to my people."

    "There is much to learn in this forgotten place. Long ago a people now long gone worshipped me from this place. What they knew remains here to be discovered by those who wish to learn. A lifetime and more would not be enough to relearn what was forgotten."

    "Are you telling me I should do this?"

    "You asked for the vision. What you do with the vision is up to you."

    As the spotted lion spoke it transformed into a sun-disk and rose into the sky. Mada could still see its spots in the glare of the sun, and woke with the rising sun in her eyes. Her hands shook as she unwrapped her breakfast, but as hungry as she was it required great effort to chew and swallow.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2018-09-17 at 10:25 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #122
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    The other WIP setting of mine, that's going to get some renewed attention soon.

    Brian 333, as always, great short fiction piece.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  3. - Top - End - #123
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    So, back at this.

    Getting into the basics of how magic in this setting.

    Small magic isn't that uncommon -- it can blur with preternatural skill at reading the world, knowing the season and the weather, how to find your way or find things in the wild; skill in crafting well-made things; knowing the whims and moods of spirits.

    But all magic runs on the same energy that's at the "core" of all living things, and blatant magic cast without an external source will quickly drain the caster dry. The energy of creation, of light, of life, needs to be channeled into the mortal world to work magic, and the only People who could reliably do that are gone, wiped out by the death throes of their gods (the downside and risk of being directly connected to the same "wellspring" of energy as the gods... if they pull hard enough and fast enough on it, it gets drained out of you, too).

    Which means magic beyond the little things involves interacting with a spirit of some kind, as they're able to channel that energy into the mortal world for the caster. Different spirits are better at channeling the energy into different kinds of magic. It's a bit like "pact magic" but the actual ways of interacting with the nature spirits and divine intermediaries and so forth are almost as varied as the spirits themselves. Ancient family secrets and inherited arrangements, offerings at shrines, bargains struck for blood or sacrifices or esoteric services, mutual oaths... or even binding spirits in objects or places or servitude, with or without they're willingness.

    Technically anyone can make such arrangements, but there are multiple layers of skill and knowledge involved, from "sensing" the spirits, to understanding what they want, to the bargaining or bullying or binding, to actually having the talent and expertise to shape energy to they desired effect.

    Certain Peoples have special talents inherited through both secret teachings and the long history in their blood. The Moon People have old deep relationships with the spirits of the wild and places, and those among them who are blessed with wayfinding can guide their caravans and warbands along the hidden byways between worlds, along roads long decayed or never built in the mortal realm, covering many leagues in a single night. The Storm People read the stars and winds and waves with remarkable accuracy. Others have a close connection with the fertile earth and the crops they grow in it. And so on.

    There are two exceptions to the need for spirits. A person might be those rarest of individuals able to channel the needed energy directly, through a quirk of birth, or through peerless will and comprehension. Or, a person might be one of those sadly less rare individuals willing to sacrifice others for the needed energy... which surges desperately at the moment of death in those still healthy and hale (leading to some false beliefs about purity and virginity).

    Then there are the Twilight People, who cannot use the spirits or the bright energy at all, but who possess their own magic... artifice and alchemy and shadow, calling on the infinite primordial khaos that is their own lifeblood.

    Big magic -- throwing around raging fire or beams of searing light, hurling boulders out of the way like pebbles, calling on the dead, flight, opening gates to other worlds, etc -- is rare and terrible and awesome (old meaning) to the average person... and usually dangerous to someone. Calling on such power rashly, or hastily, or unskillfully, is a recipe for disaster.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  4. - Top - End - #124
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Anyway, this magic is part of why I think any sort of game for this setting would need to be heavily customized.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    His name was unpronounceable to humans. Not that he cared. To him they were The Enemy. He was unaware that they called him Leviathan, or that they thought he and his hundred peers were one being. The only thing he knew about humans was that they hunted his kind.

    Well, not his kind, exactly. Adult males like him hunted humans, when they came piled onto their floating things which were blown about by the wind, and then hunted the pods of females and young, or perhaps even a bachelor pod of immature males. But they fled from him. When he found such a vessel with the blood of his kind spilling into the sea he attacked. The few who survived his rage faced the sharks which came in answer to the blood they had spilled. And if one or two survived even this to tell others of their kind of him, so much the better. At least those who came next would know the penalty for murder.

    Leviathan was a hunter in the deep. He lived in the world of light and in the world of dark. His eyes were all but useless, except at the surface where he could see for some distance under the water, and in the world of breath where the humans lived. While the females would dive deep to the great abyssal plain where they hunted squid, he and the hundred others like him around the world hunted the deeps, where the water changed, became saltier, became colder, and where the great kraken lived. The timeless battles fought between Leviathan and Kraken would never be known to those who were not of the one hundred.

    Eventually he would lose such a battle and become food for the kraken who defeated him. Until then he feasted. As he slowly rose from the deeps he heard the call of distress. Humans!

    He pumped his tail flukes in a rush to the surface, and when he arrived he broached, almost half his body followed his massive head all the way to the vestigial dorsal fin. He blew hot, spent breath and inhaled cold, clean breath. An hour away humans were slaughtering a female nursery pod. His hunt began.

  6. - Top - End - #126
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    I need a name.

    For a thing nameless.

    It is the self-aware and infinite dark... the timeless void that came before there was time... the cold dark formless nothing/everything... Khaos. "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

    Dark, Void, even Nameless, I think those are all taken.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I need a name.

    For a thing nameless.

    It is the self-aware and infinite dark... the timeless void that came before there was time... the cold dark formless nothing/everything... Khaos. "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

    Dark, Void, even Nameless, I think those are all taken.
    Yliaster
    Apeiron
    Arche

  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post

    Thanks -- those look promising.

    Your contributions to some recent threads, with in-depth analysis of religious and cultural elements, have been very illuminating. If you ever get a chance, I'd appreciate it greatly if you took a look at the "cosmology" of the other setting I'm working on, and posted your thoughts.

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...3#post21132313
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...8#post21176188
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...4#post21705704
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...1#post22324061

    If you do want to comment but need me to post a consolidated writeup as a new post in that thread, I've got a file where a lot of that info has been consolidated.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  9. - Top - End - #129
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Thanks -- those look promising.

    Your contributions to some recent threads, with in-depth analysis of religious and cultural elements, have been very illuminating. If you ever get a chance, I'd appreciate it greatly if you took a look at the "cosmology" of the other setting I'm working on, and posted your thoughts.

    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...3#post21132313
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...8#post21176188
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...4#post21705704
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...1#post22324061

    If you do want to comment but need me to post a consolidated writeup as a new post in that thread, I've got a file where a lot of that info has been consolidated.
    Noted, and I've started reading the linked material.

  10. - Top - End - #130
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    Noted, and I've started reading the linked material.
    Thanks. Much appreciated.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  11. - Top - End - #131
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Spoiler
    Show
    So, back at this.

    Getting into the basics of how magic in this setting.

    Small magic isn't that uncommon -- it can blur with preternatural skill at reading the world, knowing the season and the weather, how to find your way or find things in the wild; skill in crafting well-made things; knowing the whims and moods of spirits.

    But all magic runs on the same energy that's at the "core" of all living things, and blatant magic cast without an external source will quickly drain the caster dry. The energy of creation, of light, of life, needs to be channeled into the mortal world to work magic, and the only People who could reliably do that are gone, wiped out by the death throes of their gods (the downside and risk of being directly connected to the same "wellspring" of energy as the gods... if they pull hard enough and fast enough on it, it gets drained out of you, too).

    Which means magic beyond the little things involves interacting with a spirit of some kind, as they're able to channel that energy into the mortal world for the caster. Different spirits are better at channeling the energy into different kinds of magic. It's a bit like "pact magic" but the actual ways of interacting with the nature spirits and divine intermediaries and so forth are almost as varied as the spirits themselves. Ancient family secrets and inherited arrangements, offerings at shrines, bargains struck for blood or sacrifices or esoteric services, mutual oaths... or even binding spirits in objects or places or servitude, with or without they're willingness.

    Technically anyone can make such arrangements, but there are multiple layers of skill and knowledge involved, from "sensing" the spirits, to understanding what they want, to the bargaining or bullying or binding, to actually having the talent and expertise to shape energy to they desired effect.

    Certain Peoples have special talents inherited through both secret teachings and the long history in their blood. The Moon People have old deep relationships with the spirits of the wild and places, and those among them who are blessed with wayfinding can guide their caravans and warbands along the hidden byways between worlds, along roads long decayed or never built in the mortal realm, covering many leagues in a single night. The Storm People read the stars and winds and waves with remarkable accuracy. Others have a close connection with the fertile earth and the crops they grow in it. And so on.

    There are two exceptions to the need for spirits. A person might be those rarest of individuals able to channel the needed energy directly, through a quirk of birth, or through peerless will and comprehension. Or, a person might be one of those sadly less rare individuals willing to sacrifice others for the needed energy... which surges desperately at the moment of death in those still healthy and hale (leading to some false beliefs about purity and virginity).

    Then there are the Twilight People, who cannot use the spirits or the bright energy at all, but who possess their own magic... artifice and alchemy and shadow, calling on the infinite primordial khaos that is their own lifeblood.

    Big magic -- throwing around raging fire or beams of searing light, hurling boulders out of the way like pebbles, calling on the dead, flight, opening gates to other worlds, etc -- is rare and terrible and awesome (old meaning) to the average person... and usually dangerous to someone. Calling on such power rashly, or hastily, or unskillfully, is a recipe for disaster.

    In talking about this setting, I keep stumbling over what exactly to call the inherent light/creative/life energy that is the spark/soul at the heart of every living thing, and the power underlying magic, and the energy that a bound or bargained or familiar spirit channels into the magic of a mortal caster -- the "bright energy" as I sometimes called it in various posts.

    Some terms that at first seem appropriate, actually evoke the wrong atmospheric or aesthetic undertones, upon further thought. For example, "Luminiferous Aether" sounds cool as hell, but evokes a far more "steampunky" vibe than I'm going for.


    Any thoughts?
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  12. - Top - End - #132
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I need a name.

    For a thing nameless.

    It is the self-aware and infinite dark... the timeless void that came before there was time... the cold dark formless nothing/everything... Khaos. "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."

    Dark, Void, even Nameless, I think those are all taken.
    Well people did give names to such ideas before but also similar concepts

    Erebus
    Shu
    Nu
    Tohu wa-bohu
    Sunyata

    as for the "Bright energy" aspect

    in order to match your feel what feel are you aiming for?
    otherwise mana
    or quintessence
    or any number fo translation for soul or magic (just plop a list of words into google translate and keep switching languages until you get a word that resonates)
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-04-12 at 03:38 PM.

  13. - Top - End - #133
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Well people did give names to such ideas before but also similar concepts

    Erebus
    Shu
    Nu
    Tohu wa-bohu
    Sunyata
    Thank you.

    The closest I've found conceptually is the old old meaning of "Khaos", but that has all sorts of "chaos" implications now tacked on that I don't want. The more personified deities probably don't fit conceptually, the thing I'm trying to name is more primordial.

    I'll look into the others, probably should avoid getting too deep into discussing them here.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    as for the "Bright energy" aspect

    in order to match your feel what feel are you aiming for?
    otherwise mana
    or quintessence
    or any number of translation for soul or magic (just plop a list of words into google translate and keep switching languages until you get a word that resonates)
    It's the same wellspring of energy that the solar creator deities (mentioned upthread) and their successor deities come from, generate, tap into, and metaphorically "swim in", so the name(s) should carry connotations of light, suns, solar, brightness, life, truth, warmth, creation, etc.

    I've tried the Google translate thing, it's one of my go-to moves, but so far nothing clicking.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  14. - Top - End - #134
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    In talking about this setting, I keep stumbling over what exactly to call the inherent light/creative/life energy that is the spark/soul at the heart of every living thing, and the power underlying magic, and the energy that a bound or bargained or familiar spirit channels into the magic of a mortal caster -- the "bright energy" as I sometimes called it in various posts.

    Some terms that at first seem appropriate, actually evoke the wrong atmospheric or aesthetic undertones, upon further thought. For example, "Luminiferous Aether" sounds cool as hell, but evokes a far more "steampunky" vibe than I'm going for.


    Any thoughts?
    What the vibe you're going for?

    I mean, most folks got an elan vitalconcept and have language to try and explain what makes life different from not-life. Devil's in the details.

    Do you want a term that's reflective of a standardized natural philosophy that's distributed across cultures and sounds sort of academic, ranging from "subtle body" to "etheric aura" to "hylozoic nisus"? An almost-poetic description like the alchemists used to use? Are you specifically trying to scrape the bar code off of qi and/or mana, so you want a made up word that a fantasy culture equivalent?

    Generally I try describe the qualities--not necessarily how it works, but what impressions it conveys--and then started hunting for words that get across the meaning. If I'm feeling persnickety, I'll construct words by toying with prefixes, suffixes, and portmanteau.

    What qualities are attributed to this vital energy? How do people visualize it, or describe its behavior as it rests and moves? Do it have a color, or a spectrum of colors? Other sensory impressions? Did one dude write a document and everyone else picked up on their language, so all the terminology hinges on that person's perspective and descriptive lexicon?

    Traditional "vital force" understandings tend to rely on the language of air, breathing, and breath as themes (present in prana, qi, nefesh, pneuma, mana). Holy energy is often described as water-like...being poured from above or pooling (charism and barakah). Modern occultism tends to describe such things in terms of energy fields--magnetism, electricity. Supernatural accumulations of vital force has consistently been presented as an aura or radiance (the tapas-heat that surround an ascetic, the nimbus or halo of a holy man, the good or bad "feeling" emitted by a mystic)

    With the mention of sacrifice and wellsprings and magic being tied to light and blood, you're conceptually in the same territory as the Mesoamerican idea of tona...literally "heart" in translation, but metaphorically used to describe the driving force of all things, from suns to biological organisms. I'd go look at language around blood and the heart, and the symbolic language of hearts in places like, say, Egypt (ib), and root around for a word to borrow or build off of.

    Building an explanation for natural undeath versus induced undead--and the sheer variety of undead--I played for awhile with the idea of subtle bodies and souls that have parts equivalent to anatomy. Never really actualized into anything except a cool explanation for certain kinds of magic, but it gave me a big vocabulary for this kind of stuff.

    The whole spirit-mortal magic system strikes me as suggestive of a biosphere, with different configurations of taking power being different ecological interactions: benevolent one like mutualism, symbiosis, or cooperation, but antagonist interactions like parasitism and predation. That basic life-energy is the equivalent of calories flowing through life web.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2019-04-12 at 04:30 PM.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Also if you are looking for a NAME it is more a question of who are your target audience and what kind of reaction are you looking for from them?

    Do you want it to reflect a real world idea in order to communicate some of the meaning you want and then tweak it? Or do you want your own idea from scratch and for them to refer to that (in which case I'd recommend a new word or phrase with no Earth language meaning-like you would a place name)

    Do you want it to seem exotic or familiar?
    Will this be a more visual (say in a book) or spoken (say a TTRPG) thing?

    Is the history of the word important to how you want the players to relate to the idea?


    Also could different groups have rather different names for it, and in so doing say more about themselves than their subject.....
    And if you need that old high language drop things like unvoiced uvular fricatives and other bizarre sounds learned from linguistics ... wiki language etc...also explaining why the hell nobody speaks old solar much these days.
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-04-12 at 05:33 PM.

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    Lots to think about... awesome.


    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    What the vibe you're going for?

    I mean, most folks got an elan vital concept and have language to try and explain what makes life different from not-life. Devil's in the details.

    Do you want a term that's reflective of a standardized natural philosophy that's distributed across cultures and sounds sort of academic, ranging from "subtle body" to "etheric aura" to "hylozoic nisus"? An almost-poetic description like the alchemists used to use? Are you specifically trying to scrape the bar code off of qi and/or mana, so you want a made up word that a fantasy culture equivalent?

    Generally I try describe the qualities--not necessarily how it works, but what impressions it conveys--and then started hunting for words that get across the meaning. If I'm feeling persnickety, I'll construct words by toying with prefixes, suffixes, and portmanteau.

    What qualities are attributed to this vital energy? How do people visualize it, or describe its behavior as it rests and moves? Do it have a color, or a spectrum of colors? Other sensory impressions? Did one dude write a document and everyone else picked up on their language, so all the terminology hinges on that person's perspective and descriptive lexicon?

    Traditional "vital force" understandings tend to rely on the language of air, breathing, and breath as themes (present in prana, qi, nefesh, pneuma, mana). Holy energy is often described as water-like...being poured from above or pooling (charism and barakah). Modern occultism tends to describe such things in terms of energy fields--magnetism, electricity. Supernatural accumulations of vital force has consistently been presented as an aura or radiance (the tapas-heat that surround an ascetic, the nimbus or halo of a holy man, the good or bad "feeling" emitted by a mystic)

    With the mention of sacrifice and wellsprings and magic being tied to light and blood, you're conceptually in the same territory as the Mesoamerican idea of tona...literally "heart" in translation, but metaphorically used to describe the driving force of all things, from suns to biological organisms. I'd go look at language around blood and the heart, and the symbolic language of hearts in places like, say, Egypt (ib), and root around for a word to borrow or build off of.

    Building an explanation for natural undeath versus induced undead--and the sheer variety of undead--I played for awhile with the idea of subtle bodies and souls that have parts equivalent to anatomy. Never really actualized into anything except a cool explanation for certain kinds of magic, but it gave me a big vocabulary for this kind of stuff.

    The whole spirit-mortal magic system strikes me as suggestive of a biosphere, with different configurations of taking power being different ecological interactions: benevolent one like mutualism, symbiosis, or cooperation, but antagonist interactions like parasitism and predation. That basic life-energy is the equivalent of calories flowing through life web.
    It's like all those things you list, in a way. To those who can feel it, it's like flowing radiant light, not quite liquid and not quite gas and not quite nothing; if concentrated enough it's practically humming with creative and generative potential. In its base state, to most people who can feel it, it's comforting and warm, almost to the point of being dangerously inviting. Once they start to channel it for a certain purpose it starts to take on the "feel" of that purpose, which can vary from person to person some too. Working magic against a target starts with a "leader", like that little tendril of charge that precedes a lighting strike. Casters have to be able to sense or see the the energy, the leaders, the weaving of the potential into tangible effect, to be able to work it, and directly defend against it (those who can't sense at all just have their innate passive defenses, such as contradicting beliefs and feelings or raw stubbornness when targeted by a mental effect).

    If it helps, I wrote these notes in the thread on "magic theory" in the RP subforum (probably repeating myself from upthread here, at this point):

    Spoiler
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    * The energy of life is the energy of magic is the energy of "conceptual, metaphoric light", originating with the old "solar" creator deities who were unmade long ago at the end of the last Age, at the fall of the Bright Empire.
    * The now-gone Sun People were dearest to the two original solar deities, had direct access to the wellspring of "light", could work great wonders, and were the rulers of the old Bright Empire. It is said that they died to the last when the solar deities desperate attempt to avoid destruction drained the "wellspring" (for lack of a better term) and in turn the Sun People who were directly connected to it, leaving them all lifeless husks.
    * A few, few present-day people can, through some combination of "recessive genes" (or rather the spiritual equivalent thereof), uncovering lost secrets, and intensive study and training and meditation, gain some measure of direct access to the "wellspring of light", enabling anything from superior physical abilities to "mentalism" to "astral" projection to whatever.
    * Most people cannot directly access the vast wellspring of this energy, they only have access to what's in their own self, meaning that anything beyond the most subtle of workings quickly turns into "casting from hit points" (or in HERO parlance, running out of END, casting from STUN, then casting from BODY).
    * Group workings can pool the energy, taking a little from each participant -- mass ceremonies and rituals can add up to impressive amounts.
    * Sacrifice can tap the entirety of the victim's energy, at the cost of their mortal life and weakening of their spark/soul right at the moment it's trying to move on, resulting in trapped, lost, or enslaved souls, hauntings, etc. Bad stuff.
    * Spirits can tap directly into the vast wellspring of this energy to some degree, and there are ways to bind, bargain, or make pacts with spirits to channel the energy for the caster... how a caster does this will reveal both the sort of magic they'll work and their own true personality. A cruel and domineering magus will have spirits bound in servitude, for example, thoughtlessly pulling more energy than the spirit can channel and leaving it weak and hurt.
    * Some Peoples (a "People" can roughly be understood as a human subspecies that carries both bloodline and spiritual ties) have ancient affinities that make specific magics easier. The Moon People have those who are born able to walk the "byways between", guiding their troupes and caravans and warbands along the ghosts of ancient roads to cut days off travel time, visit hidden meeting places and shrines, etc. The Storm People are close to the spirits of the wind and sea, and the most gifted navigate the vast oceans almost by instinct and feel. And so on for other Peoples. Because these bloodlines can be intermingled with those of the Earth People (ie, "plain old humans"), those sorts of talents will rarely and randomly "pop up" for someone who didn't even know who their great-great-etc ancestor was.


    * the Twilight People... have no bright spark, but rather a dark mote of the primeval infinite timeless void that came before the light, before anything. Their "magic" is all alchemy and artifice and shadow. Their rely on seemingly wondrous materials and devices... strange potions... automatons and even self-aware constructs inhabited by shadow spirits. Depending on the strength of that dark mote, their minds and souls can be dangerous to touch, and a few are powerful enough to create ersatz copies of the magic of the other Peoples. (Not actually a subspecies of human, just human looking... mostly.)

    * Some monsters... things of the night... haunting shadows... mockeries of life... or lurking creatures so of-the-darkness that sunlight drives the shadow out and leaves only a husk of stone or pile of dust... even the dragons of old myth... are said to be descended from the void itself.


    A character in the rough-rough draft of the fiction this is for, who can sense all the different "magic" forces at play in that world, experiences it like this when standing outside a temple of the new sun god, one of the heirs of the solar creator deities: "The Sun Godís bright magic was tangible here, pushing like a steady wind against her own shadowy power." To her, it's not inviting at all.

    And her people (Twilight People) are the ones who'd use a non-poetic, academic, very detached term -- if something with the same vibe as "luminiferous aether", fits anywhere, it's with them. Or something like a compound word meaning "quasi-fluid generative radiance". They're an anachronistically empirical people.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    Also if you are looking for a NAME it is more a question of who are your target audience and what kind of reaction are you looking for from them?

    Do you want it to reflect a real world idea in order to communicate some of the meaning you want and then tweak it? Or do you want your own idea from scratch and for them to refer to that (in which case I'd recommend a new word or phrase with no Earth language meaning-like you would a place name)

    Do you want it to seem exotic or familiar?
    Will this be a more visual (say in a book) or spoken (say a TTRPG) thing?

    Is the history of the word important to how you want the players to relate to the idea?


    Also could different groups have rather different names for it, and in so doing say more about themselves than their subject.....

    And if you need that old high language drop things like unvoiced uvular fricatives and other bizarre sounds learned from linguistics ... wiki language etc...also explaining why the hell nobody speaks old solar much these days.
    Not sure why I hadn't mentioned it before, but true "old solar" is an "ur speech", the language of creation, as much directly between the souls of two beings as verbal -- any being able to speak it will be understood by any being able to hear it, even if they cannot speak it themselves. In the fiction this is for, eventually the existence of the Star People (the last remaining enclave of Sun People) is discovered, and it's a plot point that one of the protagonists is a Zath (Twilight) and to her it sounds like meaningless babble whenever the Star People and the "enlightened" characters are speaking that language, because there's nothing in her for the "spiritual" part of the words to connect to and convey the meaning (same character mentioned earlier in this post).

    Target audience is readers, in this case, of the two settings I'm doing work on here, this is the fiction-centric one.

    I plan to have different cultures have different words for it -- the Sun People might have used a word that meant something like "radiant truth" -- but for these discussions I need a better way to put it in writing than repeatedly describing it in detail.

    What I want is a term that makes it clear, without having to spell it out each time or use a bunch of words with / between them each time, that this is the stuff of souls and magic and life and "metaphysical Light".

    What I don't want to do, even for that word to use as the default, is use something that's already been done to death in fiction and gaming... so avoiding words like qi/ki/chi, or mana, or quintessence.


    (Stopping here for now, it's late and I am getting too tired to do coherent.)
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    then why not make up a word, give it a decent definition once and then if you do need more clarity have various characters use lots of different words to describe or reference to it? Soul light, Aether-glow, various characters experience of dealing with it and letting the overall mass of those comments really define the idea to your readers?

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    What I don't want to do, even for that word to use as the default, is use something that's already been done to death in fiction and gaming... so avoiding words like qi/ki/chi, or mana, or quintessence.
    I'm going to double down on something I mentioned but didn't explain:

    In philosophy there's a thing called hylozoism. It proposes that everything is a little bit alive (has a tiny bit of spirit, or life essence, but not a mind).

    Within the Stoic version of this thinking, the word nisus (striving) is used to describe the innate animating quality in all things. It would make a good academic-sounding term, and since magic is will-work, the literal translation fits well with the esoteric re-purposing: striving to live (stolen by sacrifice), striving to collaborate (achieved through ritual magic), striving to create and achieve.

    It's also a tidy word to use as a suffix. For example ibnisus sounds straightforward but is no longer quite so obviously Greek. It' also a term that could be modified by an adjective--"phosphoring nisus" or "ashen light nisus" (in keeping with the light theme) to describe particular phases or feelings people experience as they interact with magic or cast.

    The problem with constructed argot is that you have to explain the meaning at some point, so if there's a vast body of precise terms...somebody got to do the exposition step by step. Taking a central term and adding modifiers that evoke sensory qualities understandable by a reader grants versimilitude without going haywire with fine distinctions.

    Cultural terminology explaining the same phenomenon would tie into central metaphors embedded in experience and the world around them. For example, light and comfort evoke hearth fire, or lightning bugs. Channeling magic from a leader is like starting a fire with a bow and a coal, or navigating by starlight. Harm effects are described in terms of heat and burns, even if the effect is non-physical. That sort of thing.
    Last edited by Yanagi; 2019-04-13 at 01:55 AM.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Yanagi View Post
    I'm going to double down on something I mentioned but didn't explain:

    In philosophy there's a thing called hylozoism. It proposes that everything is a little bit alive (has a tiny bit of spirit, or life essence, but not a mind).

    Within the Stoic version of this thinking, the word nisus (striving) is used to describe the innate animating quality in all things. It would make a good academic-sounding term, and since magic is will-work, the literal translation fits well with the esoteric re-purposing: striving to live (stolen by sacrifice), striving to collaborate (achieved through ritual magic), striving to create and achieve.

    It's also a tidy word to use as a suffix. For example ibnisus sounds straightforward but is no longer quite so obviously Greek. It' also a term that could be modified by an adjective--"phosphoring nisus" or "ashen light nisus" (in keeping with the light theme) to describe particular phases or feelings people experience as they interact with magic or cast.

    The problem with constructed argot is that you have to explain the meaning at some point, so if there's a vast body of precise terms...somebody got to do the exposition step by step. Taking a central term and adding modifiers that evoke sensory qualities understandable by a reader grants versimilitude without going haywire with fine distinctions.

    Cultural terminology explaining the same phenomenon would tie into central metaphors embedded in experience and the world around them. For example, light and comfort evoke hearth fire, or lightning bugs. Channeling magic from a leader is like starting a fire with a bow and a coal, or navigating by starlight. Harm effects are described in terms of heat and burns, even if the effect is non-physical. That sort of thing.
    I'll have to poke at that word nisus for a few days and see what clicks. And I want to at least give some thought to the concept of energy flowing throw a "life web" and where that would take some of the metaphysical details of the setting.

    There's a place and culture for which tona might be almost too on the nose.


    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    then why not make up a word, give it a decent definition once and then if you do need more clarity have various characters use lots of different words to describe or reference to it? Soul light, Aether-glow, various characters experience of dealing with it and letting the overall mass of those comments really define the idea to your readers?
    Well, part of what I'm trying to do is make up a word, but start with something at least somewhat evocative of the general idea, so that the reader isn't starting from zero.

    Normally I don't struggle with new terms the way I'm am here, but in both cases they're kinda gestalt concepts that don't line up with single words well in any language I'm finding (or only line up so dead-on with a particular word that has had other meanings glommed onto it).

    "Life/light/soul/magic/divine energy".

    "Void/dark/cold/infinity/eternal everynothing/primordial khaos".
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-04-15 at 11:40 PM.
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Well, part of what I'm trying to do is make up a word, but start with something at least somewhat evocative of the general idea, so that the reader isn't starting from zero.

    Normally I don't struggle with new terms the way I'm am here, but in both cases they're kinda gestalt concepts that don't line up with single words well in any language I'm finding (or only line up so dead-on with a particular word that has had other meanings glommed onto it).

    "Life/light/soul/magic/divine energy".

    "Void/dark/cold/infinity/eternal everynothing/primordial khaos".
    Well the problem here is that once you get beyond English, Greek, and Latin (for word parts), and a smattering of French and German that English absorbed most of your readers will be starting at nothing anyway. You can pull up something appropriate in Sanskrit and tweak it but to your audience it is just something that sounds/looks like it is from South Asia. The meaning will already be whatever you say it is. And while sounding "exotic" will probably help really it may as well be made up.

    So the person getting the benefit here is YOU because you will understand that context from which you draw it. And that is important but doesn't worth putting yourself through this.

    Then again plug stuff into Sindarin, Klingon, or other conlangs (which I'm sure can be found online) for things that don't sound familiar.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Related to the Twilight People subtopic for this setting...

    I know the general concept has come up off and on with other threads, but specific to this, I've been musing over it again lately (and because I need something more chill to discuss than other ongoing topics).


    First, What unique or interesting cultural elements would you expect from a people who were ageless (not immortal), and had a very low natural birth rate?

    * An individual could have the body and appearance of a 20-year-old, and the experience of hundreds of years.

    * Most of them are effectively "only children" because the gap between children is almost always so long, and if they're from a small enough population area they might not even be around any children their own age most of the time.

    * Lack of room for achievement or advancement can be a problem, because those who came before don't "make way for the young".

    * As an aside, they're also anachronistic in the sense for a fantasy setting, far more empirical to the point of it being somewhat inherent


    Second, any thoughts on how humans and human cultures, of roughly a late-medieval / very-early-modern best, might view such a species? It doesn't need to be universal, it can be conflicting between cultures and individuals.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-05-17 at 03:44 PM.
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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Read through this thread again -- http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...Strange-Places -- and it got me thinking. But, I didn't want to derail that thread with a bunch of worldbuilding or writing theory when it's supposed to be an ideas brainstorming thread.


    When a place or species or culture is supposed to be strange in the context of the broader fictional world its part of, strange to the rest of the people who inhabit that world, but that strangeness from their perspective is at least in some ways due to something that would be familiar to us... how the heck do you portray that place or species or culture as "strange"?

    I suppose some strange elements can be dialed all the way up to "plaid". A culture with a low birth rate and cheap easy effective birth control doesn't seem that alien to the modern player or reader, no matter how fantastic or odd it seems to the late-medieval cultures its in contact with. BUT, a culture with "alchemical wombs" in which children are brought to term, largely replacing "natural birth", is strange to the rest of the fictional world AND to the player/reader.

    Or some elements that are strange to the rest of the fictional world but would be "normal" to us are the things that modern players/readers can identify with, in contrast to elements that are strange to both the rest of the fictional world AND the player/reader. The culture with the low birth rate etc is something that the modern player/reader gets, but that same culture could also has some other element that seems bizarre to "us".
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

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    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    My first thought would be to have the reader experience the "strange" culture through a "normal for this world" POV character.

    And if anything highlight the strangeness of the "normals" . . . Perhaps by using a memberof the "strange" culture for contrast.

    Also could use odd language....like not having words for brother or sister because they experience them differently...an elder sibling and a great-grand-uncle may share more a role in their life and have a similar name. So my "elder-respected-clanmate-son-of-my-father-and-mother"might be the closest their language has to "sibling" and they may use that translation/transliteration in chatting with outsiders.

    Or for example - urban planning. If they are not used to it an outsider my see large sections of town as single sites because to them they can not understand planning on that scale

    And never explain it in a manner that a modern/westener would understand....show the results and let outsiders puzzle at it....sometimes being fantastically wrong
    Last edited by sktarq; 2019-07-02 at 10:54 PM.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    I suppose some strange elements can be dialed all the way up to "plaid". A culture with a low birth rate and cheap easy effective birth control doesn't seem that alien to the modern player or reader, no matter how fantastic or odd it seems to the late-medieval cultures its in contact with. BUT, a culture with "alchemical wombs" in which children are brought to term, largely replacing "natural birth", is strange to the rest of the fictional world AND to the player/reader.

    Or some elements that are strange to the rest of the fictional world but would be "normal" to us are the things that modern players/readers can identify with, in contrast to elements that are strange to both the rest of the fictional world AND the player/reader. The culture with the low birth rate etc is something that the modern player/reader gets, but that same culture could also has some other element that seems bizarre to "us".
    Use a POV character to introduce the concept that doesn't understand it and quite possibly misrepresents the concept at least from a background rationale.

    For example look at the trinkets in the 5e PHB. One is a 9 volt battery, another is a tin sheriff's star. But the description doesn't call them as such, instead it describes them in such a way that somebody who doesn't know what they are would describe them.

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    Tani was exploring. Not too far from the wagons: she knew Mother's warning was not simply meant to frighten her into obedience.

    The Twilight Road was a dangerous place. Things lived there, and some of them were hunters.

    But Tani could not resist the lure of the Twilight Forest with its ancient bone-colored trees with their silver leaves and its mushroom covered glades.

    They almost never stopped on the Road, but Father wanted to go to a place which was farther away than oxen could walk in a single night. If they left the Road here, when they returned they would be farther away than when their journey began. The Road was straight, but the World Of Sunlight wasn't.

    She almost missed it. The first tendrils of toa reaching out to her. She countered them with i-toa. In her mind she visualized them as the roots of a plant growing toward her, with many potential paths that could tap into her amahn, her animating force, the force that empowered her Gift. If one of the roots struck it would thicken as it sucked away her amahn, and other rootlets would either join it or wither as the successful ones strengthened.

    Tani was apprehensive, but not yet afraid. Mother had taught her the use of toa and i-toa, and they practiced often.

    As she defended herself from the shadowy tendrils she searched for their source. Her own silver tendrils hunted the questing tips of dark tendrils, and where they met they canceled one another. But to end the threat she had to attack.

    Then her mind perceived it: a thing of shapeless shadow hiding beneath a mushroom.

    She focussed her toa: Fear, Flee, Fear!

    The tendrils of her attack struck quickly and many touched the beast. The dark tendrils burrowed in, merged, swelled, pulsed with toa.

    The creature fled.

    Tani felt drained as she released the controls of her toa and i-toa. She turned back to the caravan.

    Mother was awake when she returned, but said nothing as Tani crawled into her bunk.

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    Post Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Came across this, and it's really got my mind going again on this topic.

    This is right in line with the sort of history and cultural intermingling I had in mind for the Storm People's complex path from the fall of the Solar Empire to the present day in the setting.

    Majapahit pt 1
    Majapahit pt 2
    Majapahit pt 3
    Majapahit pt 4
    Majapahit pt 5
    Errata (might even watch this first)

    There is some mention of religion, so please be careful if you do discuss the videos here.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-11-03 at 06:00 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Many citizens and subjects of the Rasenna Republic, a majority of whom adhere to the tenants of the solar cult, will repeat a variety of myths regarding the ancient "shadow people" (Twilight People) if asked... but always in a hushed voice, and not before making warding signs.


    • That far inside the borders of their realm, they keep a vast workforce of human slaves to man their farms and keep their forges churning out works of strange science -- while the "shadow people" grow rich and powerful.
    • That any slave who dares rebel is alchemically sealed in a mechanical suit of armor where his tormented soul powers the foul machine in battle.
    • That the shadow people cannot bear children, and instead alchemically fashion new members of their race in vats of human blood and strange concoctions.
    • That they are actually undead. Or that they aren't alive at all, just void spirits taking a mockery of human form.
    • That they sustain their immortality on human blood, or human souls.
    • That they are the "juvenile" form of dragons.
    • That they are able to take on human guises, and move among the good people, and do their evil work.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    One thing I may suggest is rumours of some of their alchemical works that are equally scary but also deeply desirable. The something to evoke them as both scary/dangerous.etc but also desirable trade partners and sources of desire in general.
    a very hate-able group is not potent as evoking emotion as one that has has a bit of desire mixed in.

    so things like like

    That a regular human can become a shadow person by a special age defying mix of potions and baths but it takes 200 years which hides them those who might remember them as humans...but strips their souls during it.

    That by bringing three slaves to particular place in their lands (only accessible from a secret port that changes with the telling) you can have any disease or ailment cured, however one slave has their life force ripped out and used to power the healing which will forever stain the soul of the "patient" and the other two slaves are taken by the shadow people for their own dark purposes.

    That those who have agreed to act as spies for the Shadow people in normal society have access to mind controlling drugs (scopalamine or the like) and thus have great success in romance, business, and politics.

    That they trade for strong plant matters, essential oils, and powders that they claim to need for their alchemical industry is well known but what they truly desire is the essence of life itself, for it is denied to them by the Solar Gods...so they steal it from corpses and slaves turning fresh hearts/livers/brains into a powder/oil/ointment that gives them drug like highs. If you give them enough raw material for this they will shower you with riches or even some of the drug itself which allows those with a soul to commune with the divine.

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    Default Re: Cultures -- Multiple Pan-Asian sources in a WELL DONE "mashup"

    Quote Originally Posted by sktarq View Post
    One thing I may suggest is rumours of some of their alchemical works that are equally scary but also deeply desirable. The something to evoke them as both scary/dangerous.etc but also desirable trade partners and sources of desire in general.
    a very hate-able group is not potent as evoking emotion as one that has has a bit of desire mixed in.

    so things like like

    That a regular human can become a shadow person by a special age defying mix of potions and baths but it takes 200 years which hides them those who might remember them as humans...but strips their souls during it.

    That by bringing three slaves to particular place in their lands (only accessible from a secret port that changes with the telling) you can have any disease or ailment cured, however one slave has their life force ripped out and used to power the healing which will forever stain the soul of the "patient" and the other two slaves are taken by the shadow people for their own dark purposes.

    That those who have agreed to act as spies for the Shadow people in normal society have access to mind controlling drugs (scopalamine or the like) and thus have great success in romance, business, and politics.

    That they trade for strong plant matters, essential oils, and powders that they claim to need for their alchemical industry is well known but what they truly desire is the essence of life itself, for it is denied to them by the Solar Gods...so they steal it from corpses and slaves turning fresh hearts/livers/brains into a powder/oil/ointment that gives them drug like highs. If you give them enough raw material for this they will shower you with riches or even some of the drug itself which allows those with a soul to commune with the divine.
    I like that idea of weaving temptation in with the fear.

    Spoiler: (Each of the rumors I listed is a grain of truth wrapped in a wad of nonsense.)
    Show

    • There are no human slaves, or slaves trapped in armor -- hard manual labor and grunt infantry functions are largely done by automatons containing non-sentient motes of shadow. On the rare occasion that one of these automatons becomes sentient, it is always given its freedom and citizenship. The Twilight People do not engage in slavery, at least not within the borders of their own realm.
    • They do possess the secret of alchemical wombs, but this not a matter of "cooking up" children, but one of medical necessity. Childbirth is even harder on Twilight mothers than humans. No human blood necessary.
    • "They're undead" or "they're not alive" stuff is just based on folk retellings of the absolutist stance that what defines "being alive" is the presence of the "light"
    • The only thing they have in common with dragons is their origin in the "shadow"
    • There are agents of the Twilight People moving secretly in the world, but there's no shapeshifting magic involved, just a lot of skill and guilde, and their major purpose isn't to corrupt anyone, it's to maintain their technological advantage through the suppression of certain discoveries.



    There are some things that are in demand that might seem a bit mundane at first. They make durable, cheap glass containers with good seals... the seals are the really special part. While the modern reader might get the reference, it's not known to those in the setting why the Twilight People's merchants will buy in bulk the thick sap of a certain tree that only grows in far away tropical regions.

    Some of their agents would, if they thought it necessary, subvert a foreign citizen via the provision of alchemical concoctions, so there might be a grain of truth in that. Some of their agents are "not nice".

    There's also "vass", a bittersweet, earthy spice liquor that is popular with the Twilight People. The spice component of the flavor is vaguely like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc. Served over ice, or warm and frothed. Has a very subtle and mild stimulating/comforting effect for them. (Fills the "coffee" niche.) For humans, it's a powerful and potentially lethal hallucinogen. So of course, that means there are fringe ecstatic cults that seek it out for vision rituals. Because humans. (See, real world nutmug.) Because of its origin and its potential danger, it's illegal in many places.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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