kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
I noted, about a month ago, that I was working on a pre-history of my fantasy world. I had to stop for a bit while I moved in earnest, and during that time Google Docs apparently changed its file-sharing settings, so you can make docs available to the whole Web. (If GD always had this feature, and I missed it, my apologies.)

Anyway ... here's my latest draft for the "second era," or prehistoric human history. It's not pretty -- I tried to record events as straightforwardly as possible -- but it gives you the basic gist.
kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
Humans have practiced agriculture and lived in towns for about 10,000 years, at least in the Middle East, yet we only have written records for half of that time (since about 3,000 BC). This has long fascinated me. Five millennia of people toiling the fields, worshiping their gods, waging war and telling stories around the campfire, and all of that experience has been lost to us. I suspect their accomplishments could have rivaled, say, that of the Inca, another preliterate Neolithic civilization; we know as little about the Inca's predecessors as we do about the Samarra and the Ubaid, but that doesn't mean they were less impressive than the folks Europeans stumbled upon.

I resolved to give my fantasy world a prehistory, one that players wouldn't know about but which would leave traces in ruins and half-forgotten legends. This is contrary to most fantasy worlds, which have written records that go back eons by Earth standards. (Over 3,000 years separate the two Wars of the Ring, for example. The first War was as a distant to Frodo and the gang as the Trojan War is to us, but they seem intimately familiar with the old events at Mount Doom.) This can be justified by the longevity of fantasy races, but to me that's a reason to keep the immortal races at a distance, and declare that humans, elves, and the rest never hung around long enough to give each other history lessons.

What should a prehistory consist of? In my universe, I used myth-like stories to account for differences between people. So I came up with tales to explain migratory patters, attributing dispersions to dramatic events that sent folks fleeing all over the map. I also had the stories describe the changing relationships between men and the gods, imitating the dynamic you see in Genesis. So humans were often wicked and cruel, sometimes even depraved, while the gods were self-righteous genocidal maniacs, smiting whole cities out of disgust with human misbehavior.

I don't know if it's all a waste of time -- since few players will see this stuff, or care all that much -- but I like the way it adds depth to a fantasy world. I'd be interested to hear other thoughts on this approach.
kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
I'm trying to build a fantasy world with a number of unusual features. One is that it has a theme: mankind's changing relationship with the divine. Another is eclecticism of source material.

One RPG term I always hated was "feel," as in "this setting has an Arthurian feel," "an ancient Chinese feel," "a pirate movie feel." This usually means the setting is a theme park version of the original, with extra magic and monsters to keep the munchkins happy. I want the "feel" of my settings to be far more ambiguous, so my Dominion of the Dead area, for example, seemed a bit Carolingian with Celtic and Byzantine elements mixed in. At the same time, I want to emphasize commonalities in the component cultures, to give a sense of familiarity and organicism to the whole.

I've relied a lot on similarities between Indo-European cultures, particularly Celtic and Indian. Right now, I'm looking into parallels between Hindu asceticism and Northern European myth and magic. I've taken stray references to extreme privation in the latter -- such as Odin's self-sacrifice for the runes, and bards submerging themselves for poetic inspiration -- and expanded upon them.

I'm also looking into parallels between the Celtic geas and the boons of Hindu epics. I understand they worked very differently -- the former being a taboo, the latter a reward for extreme renunciation -- but I'm looking for a way to mesh them well for (essentially) a Western-style fantasy setting. The big question, for me, is a mechanism. How does burying oneself, or hanging oneself from a tree, earn one protection from harm? This time I'll use the term "feel": How can I make it "feel" right for a Western setting?
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I took a break on the ConLang nonsense, and instead ... worked on the maps! (Yes, I could've done something truly useful, but I've got a reputation to uphold as a chronic time-waster. These things are important, you know.)Yes, I'm sure the excitement is overwhelming.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
(Every fantasy world has Amazons, so I guess mine might as well have them, too. I tried to make mine a little different, though, and to present it with as little moral judgment and as little tongue-wagging as possible. Comments are welcome, of course.)

Long, long ago Qumon, the last king of Halas, had two beautiful daughters. It was the custom then, as it is now, for the people of Halas to gather for a feast by the sacred olive trees of Mevas on the autumn equinox. There Qumon invoked the god Orixos and prayed for his people, "May my people always have daughters as beautiful as mine!" His wish was granted, and since then, no woman of Halas has ever given birth to a boy.

Today, the land of Halas is populated entirely by women, a few men who have been invited to the island, and male slaves. The Queen buys these slaves from the kings of neighboring lands in exchange for the famous qiliki, the sacred Harlots of Halas. Typically a single qilika will fetch as many as a hundred common slaves. When a woman takes a slave from the Queen, the woman's name is entered in the lottery the following year. If her name comes up, her youngest daughter is taken from her, to be raised in the Temple of Erila. There, the young girl is taught the strange ways of men, along with powerful magic to please them and to protect herself against their violent ways. When she is fully grown she is sent off to serve as a concubine for a king or powerful nobleman. After two cycles (about 20 years) she is allowed to return to Halas with any children she bore during her service.

Halas is neutral in most of the region's wars, and it has few valuable resources, so it is rarely troubled by its neighbors. Still, raiders sometimes come ashore, hoping to abduct some of the island's fabled beauties. Thus all Halasians are trained in the arts of war; they are not great fighters, but they field so many they can easily overwhelm any small invading force.
kent_allard_jr: (Default)
OK, I worked out a basic vocabulary for four related languages, Proto-Human, Old Jeraldic, Old Malarian and Gehrian. (See this entry for their position on my big, throbbing ConLang trees.) Below, for your sleeping pleasure, are a few terms in these languages; the English translation is given in quotation marks, both in the "Proto-Human" category and in other languages when the meaning has changed.

Feel the power of my ConLang tables, young Skywalker! )

kent_allard_jr: (Default)
I decided to get serious about my fantasy world's language construction. (It's been a good way to distract myself from the election disaster.) My first step was to determine how the planet was settled, with humans starting from a central point and migrating outwards from there. You can see the map of the migrations here (800 KB). (Some of you might remember a similar map from the World of Greyhawk Gazetteer, which fascinated me a a kid.) Then I worked out the language families, based on these migrations and my knowledge of the world:
Giant diagram fun behind the cut tag. )


kent_allard_jr: (Default)

August 2012

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