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Old 05-07-2012, 02:59 PM   #21
vierasmarius
 
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

To bring this back to the OP, the initial question is about a nonmagical TL3 society with very little metal. Is this even feasible? If magic were available, then Essential Stone / Wood might stand in for Iron and Bronze. But lacking that, just how far can technology develop without metal tools?

Of course, the immediate example that springs to mind is the Aztecs and other tribes of pre-colonial South America, who lagged far behind in metallurgy yet still achieved impressive engineering feats. They might be considered to display TLs ranging from 1 to 3, though I suspect much of the claims of how advanced they were are exaggerations based on colonial guilt. Anyways, if there were a TL3 stone-based society I suspect it would look something like that.
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Old 05-07-2012, 03:14 PM   #22
Sindri
 
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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Originally Posted by vierasmarius View Post
To bring this back to the OP, the initial question is about a nonmagical TL3 society with very little metal. Is this even feasible? If magic were available, then Essential Stone / Wood might stand in for Iron and Bronze. But lacking that, just how far can technology develop without metal tools?

Of course, the immediate example that springs to mind is the Aztecs and other tribes of pre-colonial South America, who lagged far behind in metallurgy yet still achieved impressive engineering feats. They might be considered to display TLs ranging from 1 to 3, though I suspect much of the claims of how advanced they were are exaggerations based on colonial guilt. Anyways, if there were a TL3 stone-based society I suspect it would look something like that.
The original poster said "Mostly, I'm looking for the worldline to be forced to adopt materials like stone and obsidian for warfare, and perhaps bronze and brass for things like coinage or maybe general use materials"

Instead of buffing other materials I'd suggest nerfing metal. Spells like steelwraith combined with bronze but not steel allow for all the technological progress that metal allows while keeping it out of the battlefield. The end result is a TL 3 society with lagging warfare and a focus on using substitutes for iron wherever possible because bronze is expensive. And you keep the relative weakness of non metal weapons instead of having what is fundamentally metal for most purposes that just looks like rock.
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Old 05-07-2012, 06:54 PM   #23
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

Some good feedback, I admit. I've read though the bulk of it, and so far my initial concept is changing slightly. I'm not keen on magic, because the concept of the worldline is one that's supposed to be mundane. I have a few other worldlines that are far alternates that have oddness to them. No magic in them yet, but I've got one where psionic powers are ubiquitous, and more then a few that have variant and split tech levels.

Still, it would be nice to have metal play some part in the civilization without it becoming ubiquitous? I think I'm going to drop the idea of brass and bronze as two prevailing metal alloys. Mostly I was trying to keep them in to ave coinage and unusual decoration. But after reading through the thread it's clear that I don't really need them to achieve coinage and decoration. Metal isn't needed at all for that sort of thing, so it makes it easy to let go of.

The whole idea of magic being used to shore up civilization I don't like, but it did spurn a slightly new direction. What if metal was so rare that it achieved a status akin to say magic? And I don't mean literally. I'm looking to make civilization roll ahead based on stone, bone and obsidian. While metal is nearly unheard of because:

Quantities of it are just plain inaccessible or their just isn't enough on the planet to be of use for large scale production of items. Either one works for me, and I'm okay with stretching things a bit and ignoring the problem with water formation due to a lack of iron ore. As another poster said.. most players aren't going to care about the minutia.

What I do think would be interesting is to elevate the odd chunk of metal to a sort of wondrous item status in this world. The nobleman's son that sports a bronze dagger. If it's old, it's been in his family for generations, passed down as a kind of holy family relic. If it's new. Where the hell did he get it? A rival ruler has heard tales of it, and has hired the PC's to find out.

A far off dignitary arrives in the court of the ruler that is a patron to the PC's. around his neck on a leather cord he sports a finger bone chunk of meteoric iron. He claims it's been in his family since he can remember, and was how he got his position as an adviser. Is he telling the truth? If he's not.. is their more? The king wants to know. Again. Does it hold some supernatural power? Is it cursed? Who knows? Do they deny the king or do they risk life and limb to dabble in what to the PC's must seem like mystic/cursed matters.

I'm willing to keep metal in the game as long as it's relegated to something the GM might use as a sort of adventure springboard. That way you have an element of societal oddity, but without flat out having supernatural elements.


Alternatively, could the rarity of metal cause such a commotion when even a little bit of it is found, that it literally destabilizes cultures? Or brings unusually brutal wars? With that level of brutality, and still so little metal that it's only usable as curiosities, could we have the civilizations on this worldline that flatly view metal either with superstitious awe at best, and dread at worst. I suppose if that was the case you'd not see kings or the like wanting to sport something made of metal. I'm really not sure. Humans will sometimes do remarkably stupid things just to be the first or just to be the only one to do it, you know?

If that's the case, it'd be neat to see artists on this worldline writing tragedy style plays revolving around a figures downfall when they encounter metal, or their downfall as they chase after it.

Anyone have any thoughts of these two directions for this worldline?
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:22 PM   #24
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

Getting rid of metals as common decorations and currency makes things make a lot more sense.

Note that with metal rarity like this I can't see people being very good at working metal. In fact metalworkers probably don't exist as an independent profession. This might lead the society to using what metals it has as religious items rather than badly made weapons made out of superior materials. Priests might pass on the secrets of metalworking.

I would suggest however, that you have some metals such as tin, which have limited practical use (not that they don't have practical uses but they aren't terribly better at them then many other materials.) be more common and thus be used for decoration and to help keep metalworking as a more relevant part of the culture. Instead of unusual trinkets metals copper or iron are seen as integral parts of the culture. For instance you could have sumptuary laws or even more having some of a metal could define your class.

The metal of kings is steel
The metal of warriors is bronze
The metal of priests is brass
The metal of artisans is tin
The metal of farmers is zinc
The metal of merchants is nickel

Downfall would happen because of attempted coups with the excuse of the legitimacy of the metal.

Last edited by Sindri; 05-07-2012 at 07:26 PM.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:32 PM   #25
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
Note that with metal rarity like this I can't see people being very good at working metal. In fact metalworkers probably don't exist as an independent profession. This might lead the society to using what metals it has as religious items rather than badly made weapons made out of superior materials. Priests might pass on the secrets of metalworking.
I had a similar thought. Weapons made of metal would be fashioned after stone ones. For example, rather than an iron sword, you'd see a Macuahuitl with iron teeth. Metal spear heads would be affixed like stone ones (splitting the wood, slotting the head in and wrapping with cord or sinew) rather than making a metal "sleave" that fits over the haft. Making the metal blades themselves would be another problem entirely... the few high-quality ones would be weapons of legend.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:35 PM   #26
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

The thing is, you don't actually have to have a real metals shortage to fail to invent weaponized metal working. The inhabitants of the Americas are proof enough of that.
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Old 05-07-2012, 07:50 PM   #27
Sindri
 
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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Originally Posted by vierasmarius View Post
I had a similar thought. Weapons made of metal would be fashioned after stone ones. For example, rather than an iron sword, you'd see a Macuahuitl with iron teeth. Metal spear heads would be affixed like stone ones (splitting the wood, slotting the head in and wrapping with cord or sinew) rather than making a metal "sleave" that fits over the haft. Making the metal blades themselves would be another problem entirely... the few high-quality ones would be weapons of legend.
Plus a Maquahuitl style weapons save metal. I suppose if they obsessively reforged their weapons then you could get some professionals and a bit of quality improvement.

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The thing is, you don't actually have to have a real metals shortage to fail to invent weaponized metal working. The inhabitants of the Americas are proof enough of that.
Most of the inhabitants of the Americas. And the original poster wants a TL3 society with TL0 weapons not a couple parts of TL3 on an otherwise lower TL society which makes it harder to have them just not develop metal weapons.

Last edited by Sindri; 05-07-2012 at 09:08 PM.
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Old 05-07-2012, 09:28 PM   #28
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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Originally Posted by vierasmarius View Post
I had a similar thought. Weapons made of metal would be fashioned after stone ones. For example, rather than an iron sword, you'd see a Macuahuitl with iron teeth. Metal spear heads would be affixed like stone ones (splitting the wood, slotting the head in and wrapping with cord or sinew) rather than making a metal "sleave" that fits over the haft. Making the metal blades themselves would be another problem entirely... the few high-quality ones would be weapons of legend.
In regards to their technology in metalworking and the like. Yes. I agree. Currently their society is supposed to be TL 3. But I specifically noted that their TL in metalworking was TL 1. But this was during the time that I was still toying with the idea of them making some use of at least bronze, so I wanted them to know how to make the alloy, really. But now .. I think it's probably be better to have that set to TL 0 in metalworking. Thoughts? Make sense? The rare metal that might be around might only be able to be worked by rare people.. most folks will have never even encountered the stuff, let along interacted with it.
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Old 05-08-2012, 12:00 AM   #29
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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That idea has come up in Tekumel discussions. The amount of iron in blood would require a lot of people to make a sword and seems like a lot of work for a sorcerer king. Still it is a cool idea.
Jack Vance explored that idea in The Blue World. The society he describes there is extremely metal-poor.

Two other books are set on a different metal-poor world: Big Planet and Showboat World. Quite apart from providing potential inspiration, they're all three very entertaining reads.


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Old 05-08-2012, 10:25 AM   #30
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Default Re: Questions about Alternate Worldline Design.

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the original poster wants a TL3 society with TL0 weapons .
There's no particularly logical way for him to achieve this.

Even just to match the stoneworking abilities of mid-TL1 you need metal tools to cut the stone. Metal tools to work farms. Even metal tools to work wood efficiently.

No metal, no magic, no exotic biotech or other special item equals earrly TL1.

An old (and perhaps _very_ old) TL1 civilization might have a number of TL3 (or higher) developments such as mathematics and animal breeding but they would not be able to match TL3 technology and economics.

You could give your TL3/0 Knights wooden lances and wooden shields and even big fast horses but handcarving wooden stirrups and cutting and sewing saddle leather with stone and bone tools would be heartbreakingly dificult.

It would be _possible_, I do want to emphasize that you _could_ do it without metal tools. I want to cut off a long argument I can see brewing that it is is _possible_. However it wouldn't be either efficient or economically viable.

Some people might say that labor would be cheap. Sort of, individual humans might not be highly valued, but without the metal plows and scythes and so on the food to feed the labor wouldn't be cheap.
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