Friday, November 24, 2017

The Languages of Seaward, pt 1: Dwarven

  My oldest son was kind enough to begin writing up the details of the various languages of my AD&D 1e campaign.


The standard dwarven language is assumed to be Dethen as spoken by an educated Granite Dwarf with a neutral accent borne of native dwarven lands. Dialectic variations and some aspects of the ancient Dethek are mentioned separately.

Dethen may be transcribed into English using the following letters and digraphs: A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, Z, Gh, Th, Kh, and Rh.
Each vowel has only a single pronunciation: A as in father, E as in bet, I as in machine, O as in bone, and U as in tune. Diphthongs do not natively occur.
Consonants match up to their normal English versions except as follows. Q and Gh signify unvoiced and voiced uvular stops, respectively, as in the Arabic ‘ayin and Farsi “swallowed G (geyn).” R represents the guttural R, like the second sound in, “croissant,” while Rh stands for a more English-like R; these two sounds standing in contrast is one of the more distinctive feature of the language.
Additionally, Dethen fricatives should be spoken of specifically. The language has three fricatives, V like in van, Th like in thy, and Kh like the modern gamma, the first sound in the name of the gyro sandwich. At the start of a word, these devoice, becoming F like in fan, Th like in thigh, and kh like the sound at the end of loch. These sound different, and the first is transcribed differently for intelligibility, but native speakers consider them the same letter, just like most English speakers spend their entire lives doing with the two forms of Th.
Dwarven syllable structure is highly fixed. All syllables have a core of a consonant and a vowel, as in gu-, to which one can add an ending consonant, as in gut-, and either form of R at the very beginning, as in rhgut-. Additionally, a word may begin with only a vowel, and a syllable may begin with a nasal before the consonant if it is not at the beginning of the word (as in the word, “isambar,” which means, “pearl”); note that these nasals are always assimilated (i.e “-and” is possible, but “amd” is not). Finally, the clusters bz, dz, and gz may occur in the consonant position. Thus, the maximal Dethen syllable is, “rhbzonk.”

Dethen is largely an analytical language, like real-life Mandarin. Words only change form if they are pronouns or if they are verbs conjugating for politeness; otherwise, all meaning is conveyed strictly through additional words and word placement. Sentences follow a strict verb-subject-object order, though prepositions, indirect objects, and so on are flexible in position. Verbs do not explicitly track time, number, or anything else except politeness. Similarly, nouns and adjectives do not track gender, number, or anything else, unless they are pronouns.
Moving on to other details, the language is not pro-drop (meaning that in Dethen, words whose presence can be inferred cannot be ignored, like in English, where, “I am,” cannot be shortened to just, “am”), and is head-initial (the noun comes before its adjectives, like in Spanish), and postpositive (meaning prepositions follow their word, instead of proceeding it). The only article is the definite article, kus, which is not actually mandatory even when the object in question is definite; a noun being unmarked could mean it’s indefinite, or could mean that the speaker is not asserting its definiteness.
A major part of Dethen grammar which flummoxes foreign speakers is the politeness of verbs. Verbs conjugate into 6 levels of etiquette: unmarked (the unmodified verb, used when speaking impersonally to large groups, or when making statements of fact or simple commands to those on intimate terms. Its use elsewhere is considered dismissive), familiar (used normally with those on intimate terms. Too informal elsewhere), colloquitive (used in normal conversation and discussion in formal environments. Odd and stilted if used incorrectly), requesting (used to make polite commands and inferences to one’s superiors. Also used to express general hope and wish, when begging one’s equals, in self-deprecating humor, and in similar contexts. Literally gibberish if used incorrectly), laudative (used to express thanks and praise. Also used to reply to or affirm certain questions, requests, or commands, and is the default level for certain obscure contexts, such as speaking to someone of high religious rank. Improper use is very likely to create a major faux pas), and imperious (used when speaking from a position of official authority, and implies that the speaker bears the full weight of the law behind him. The imperious and requesting levels can be mixed in certain situations that imply familiarity within this context. Improper use is not just pretentious, but actively deluded). These mix with a few basic grammatical words to form a very complex dwarven concept of etiquette, which tends to not be understood by other races, and tends to be the only form of etiquette they ever learn.
Pronouns, similarly, actually decline for person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular, plural, or dual), gender (masculine, feminine, or mixed), and clusivity (if the speaker and one spoken to are in the pronoun together, or not).
Otherwise, Dethen tends to be fairly easy to understand. Except for a family of particles bearing emotional content, the grammar is somewhat simple, and not dissimilar from other languages in the region.

The above pronunciation is the standard accent of Iron Dwarves and educated Granite Dwarves. Provincial or colloquial speech amongst Granite Dwarves has a few variations. For example, fricatives often also devoice at the end of a word, and some bumpkin-sounding groups pronounce them voicelessly in all contexts. It is also very common to assimilate r to rh before labials and dentals and rh to r before uvulars; not doing so is one of the biggest markers of an upperclass accent. Many Granite Dwarves have also imported a letter y from human loan words.
Conversely, some Mithril Dwarves voice the fricatives even word-initially, but this is an improper hypercorrection. The other common indicator of the Mithril Dwarf accent is the retention of Ws; the letter W existed in archaic dialects, but vanished some time ago. Its use is retained by some upper crust speakers, thus lengthening some words. In a similar vein, the ancient language had a uvular fricative and a uvular nasal in addition to the uvular stops. These are still spelled, but are now pronounced as Ns, Vs, or khs, depending on the context. Some snooty aristocrats and scholars continue to pronounce them correctly, however.
The biggest divide between dialects of Dethen, however, arises from vocabulary, not pronunciation. While the three major divisions are mutually intelligible, they have some differences that can lead to confusion and loss of meaning. For example, most speakers decline the second person pronoun from the stem *rom-, but many Mithril Dwarves use the older *rhuq-, instead. Another, more humorous instance is the use of the word gzumi, meaning iron or metalwork. In colloquial Granite Dwarf usage, this word is obsolete, and the word gzurhkan is used instead. However, gzurhkan originally referred to pig iron or shoddy metalwork, a usage it still sees amongst Iron Dwarves, and in Mithril Dwarf circles, it has become a profanity used to insult poor worksmanship, thus leading to embarrassment when Mithril and Granite Dwarves mix.

Ancient Forms
In addition to W and the uvular nasal and fricative as listed above, Dethek had an ejective (emphatic or “spat” form) consonant at each point of articulation, p’, t’, k’, and q’. These fell completely out of the language centuries ago, and are unpronounceable to all but the most learned of scholars and clerics.
Much more severely impact understandability, however, is the radically different verb and pronoun structure of the ancient language. Originally, the dwarven languages had no declining or conjugating parts. Dethek used a family of dozens of particles marking formality, station of speaker, station of listener, social context, and sentence content that, over the millennia, collapsed into the modern politeness and pronoun system. Thus, formality in Dethek is even harder to understand, and some ancient texts remain obscure to even the most knowledgeable of scholars.

Five Sample Words
In addition to the words here and there above, here are 5 more words to give readers an idea of the sound of the language:
Karadig: the name of the ancient dwarven pagan religion. A Mithril Dwarf would say it, “Kawaradig.”
Nobze: spear.
Rhnogadiz: first person dual inclusive feminine pronoun; literally, “us two women.”
Lomvano: a verb meaning, “nurture/heal/respect.”

  Khut: an interjection, meaning something along the lines of, “hark/attention/look out!”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Work in Progress: Palladium Fantasy andThe Core Lands

  Hi, everyone! Sorry for the light posting, but I was very sick for almost a month.
  While I am still working on my Traveller stuff while sick I spent some of my time on classic stuff.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Second Generation

Inspired by a now-I-can't-find-it G+ thing.
  Like the header says, I've been playing D&D and other TRPGs for 40 years and going. RPGs are my hobby of choice. My first planned date with my now-wife was a D6 Star Wars session (which I must write up some day). The default present my friends get me is a bundle consisting of a college-ruled notebook, a book of graph paper, and a pack of mechanical pencils.
  My wife has been playing with me since we met, obviously. Once we began having kids we all knew it was just a matter of time. Our oldest (Jack) was inventing D&D monsters when he was 4 (and the lemon devil is feared in my campaigns to this day!). Jack was reading the AD&D PHB by 6 and asking to play soon after, but his 3 younger brothers interrupted a lot, so he and I played a lot of Starfleet Battles, instead.
  Finally, it happened. Nick, the then-youngest, turned 6 and had a ton of patience. I had been working on an AD&D 2e S&P campaign (my wife's favorite RPG is 2e with all the Skills and Powers books!). The wife and kids all made characters, and we started a dedicated campaign from 1st level.
  The climax, although not end, for that first party is here.
  In the 9 years since we have played a ton of RPGs ranging from the Battletech RPG to HERO 6e to a series of playtest sessions for Rolemaster Unified. Three of my four oldest have DM'ed at least a bit and a common lament from Nick is that we need to become independently wealthy so we have the time to play 8 hours a day 4 to 5 days a week. The oldest is running his own group with friends at a FLGS and the kids even run their own games (usually 4e or 5e) among themselves.

  One thing that I have noticed is - while I know a fair amount of fellow gamers with kids who play, mine seem older. Jack is almost 21, for example.
  So here are some of my observations about my own older second generation players

They Have No Idea How Good They Are
  Outwitting traps, puzzles, etc. in games? Modules made by others? Sometimes they don't notice that there is a trick because it is so intuitive to them. My favorite was from the Hidden Shrine
  I run a 'classic' module every Halloween weekend. Usually heavily modified.
  I was running the 'inverted' version where they start outside. They get to the top.
  They see the altar to the bat god. The conversation went something like:
  Jack: "Mayincatec altar; bat god. We obviously need to spill blood to open a secret door."
  Sam: "Into the bat mouth. Probably has to be fresh, too."
  Nick: "I bet it bites down."
  Alex: "Obviously it won't let go; use the Bag of Beans."
  Jack: "Certainly."
  [end SPOILERS]
  Here's the thing; I've never used vaguely Aztec stuff before, I think I've hit the party with 4 traps ever, and none of them had read the thing!
  They do this sorta' thing all the damn time, too.
  Now I just assume I have to make everything 25% more deadly and that 2 or 3 of my 3 twists won't work.

Time Sucks Don't Work
  I gave up on giving them timed  quests and then trying to distract them. Oh, I'll give a time limit, but I just know that no amount of 'there might be gold if you pause' works.

They're Opinionated
  This may be genetic.
  Nick? He's an AD&D, no Unearthed Arcana, 3d6 in order and suck it up, kinda' guy. There is no other "real" Dungeons & Dragons. He hates that I use my house rules in my 38 year old campaign and mentions it a lot.
  That's just an example.
  Thing is? Its wonderful. They can logically defend their opinions and aren't unwilling to try new or other things. Their strong opinions lead to, oh, Nick's many great new magic items, or Jack's wildly original campaign settings or Alex's stellar roleplaying at the table, or Sam's keen insight into design.

They Love RPGs
  They love that I have for this crazy pastime? They caught it. It is something we share and that binds our family together.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Classic Traveller: More for the Clash of Stars Campaign - Mercenary Cruiser and Mercenary Company

  I never really liked the mercenary cruiser from Classic Traveller. Once I was in the army, I liked it less. So I took the opportunity to make my version of a mercenary unit and cruiser for my new Traveller campaign!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Superhero Book is Coming: A Sneak Peek

  The Fun Lads and I have been working on a new superhero book for months. Here is a sneak peek at one of the characters.

His Story- Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard Hazzard (or  just 'Beau') was born in rural Alabama near Bakerhill the oldest of five children born to Jeb Stuart 'Stu' Hazzard and Roberta Leeanne 'Bobbi Lee' (Macon) Hazzard. His father worked his own farm and pulled second shifts at a chicken processing plant to pay off the mortgage while his mother played organ in church and organized free meals for new mothers, the sick, and the needy throughout the county.
  He worked on the farm from as soon as he could walk and developed a knack for repairing machinery with 'make do' parts and tools. He was fiercely protective of his younger siblings and was soon known as a good fighter and for his strength.
  He did well in school and would have had better than decent grades if he hadn't preferred hunting, fishing, and working on cars to homework.
  At about age 16 he realized that puberty was a bit different for him. By 17 he knew he was superhuman and soon learned how tough and strong he was, as well as his ability to fly. He reined it in for years until, just after graduating high school a fire at the state fair threatened scores of people. He seized a 1,000 water tank and doused the flames with it while flying, an act captured on dozens of cameras.
  A bystander referred to him as 'that freebird lookin' good ole boy' and the name stuck.

What he looks like- In some ways he is so nondescript as to defy description. He is a man in his early 20's with brown hair, brown eyes, a muscular build without looking like a bodybuilder, and a perpetual smile. He never wears a mask, but is almost never recognized.
  The closest thing he has to a 'costume' is what he typically wears when expecting trouble: steel-toed work boots, jeans, a t-shirt with an American flag, and a confederate battle flag bandanna over his hair.

What he can do- He is one of the strongest and toughest superhumans in the world, maybe the strongest and toughest. He is immune to almost all diseases, all known toxins, and radiation. He can fly at speeds up to mach 12. His senses are only as good as a normal man, but he is a skilled observer with a lifetime of hunting experience.
  He is an excellent mechanic and craftsman, a decent tracker, and has a lot of experience with people. He is a skilled fighter with a lot of experience before he gained powers.
  A life-long hunter, he is a savvy opponent who will take his time to study a foe, search for traps, recon all possible exits, etc. He is much more stealthy than most assume and is quite capable of sneaking up to within arm's reach of even an alert foe.

What he's like- He was raised to be a Southern gentleman, and it shows. He is unfailingly polite,  uses 'sir' and 'ma'am' as appropriate, will never swear in public or in front of women or children, and will never lie. He will never cheat, steal, or rob anyone. He has a strong sense of honor and will keep his word. He will also defend his honor and one of the worst mistakes you can make is to lie to, cheat, rob, or betray him.
  He judges others by their words and deeds, not on appearance education, or wealth. That being said, he is wary of Northerners and urbanites.
  He loves helping people for its own sake and will never seek out attention, the press, or accolades. He is very selfless and giving of his time and attention, especially to children.
  He is aware that others sometimes mistake his dress and drawl for ignorance or stupidity and will play that to his own advantage.

Classic Traveller: Ships for the Clash of Stars Campaign

  As I wrote just today I am gearing up for a CT campaign focused in a TL 9 interstellar nation. Here are a few of the homebrew ships.

Classic Traveller Campaign the Clash of Stars: Setting Details

  Hi, everyone! Posting has been light due to a new contract keeping me at work long hours, but gaming has been going on in the background.
  I have mentioned the general setting before.
  I have mentioned a few more details and even a starmap before [althought the final map will differ].
  Let's get down to some nuts and bolts!