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Old 01-06-2010, 02:20 PM   #11
Ogo
 
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

Ok, this is a little bit insane, but I've been thinking about this issue. Bear with me, warning, long post:

I'd take a more realistic, less mythic approach. I'd begin by trying to imagine how the three "original" Yrth races moved from TL0 to TL3.

On earth, the line from the first cities (~3000 BCE) to mature TL3 (~1000 CE) is about four thousand years. On Yrth, because of the difference of the races living there, and the presence of magic, this length could be doubled or tripled easily. Enough, at any rate, that the early days of each population are shrouded in myth, even among the elves, who presumably could have members with living memory stretching back that far. It's possible the elf-dwarf-orc troika was Banestormed in themselves at some point in prehistory [does Banestorm suggest this? I forget!]

Prehistoric Culture

1. Elves, being immortal, have a highly individualist politics. Initially, and for centuries, there were no nations or factions or really ideology of any kind. Every elf is important and sacred. Paradoxically, they are instinctively communitarian; when you live alongside your distant descendants and your distant ancestors, forever, all life is as a myth. Mortality only comes through accident, or treachery, or a bad run-in with the other races, or possibly a virulent disease, so each death is special, tragic and mythic in itself. Each life celebrated forever, each death mourned forever.

The elves perfected, among themselves, magic of all kinds, long before their numbers grew large enough to necessitate cities or other technologies that required a different relationship to the environment. No craftsmanship beyond personal objects, no agriculture beyond personal tending to individual plants and animals.

(It is possible that the elves' advanced magic wouldn't prohibit, but allow or encourage some kind of urban, quasi-high-tech civilization. Who knows!)

2. The orcs' penchant for violence and aggression makes them very familiar with death. Orc life is one of constant movement: high risk, high reward, high fatality, high fertility. An orcish population is very much a "desiring machine," constantly dissatisfied, constantly acquisitive, its own internal violence barely enough to keep their numbers from spilling out in all directions. Orcs had a nomadic-herder existence with constant war for the best grazing grounds (often destroyed for a season in the process). Their only "politics" is pure submission, concepts of ownership or loyalty are fluid: everybody falls to someone eventually. A grand orcish war-leader might found a nation and a "royal" line only to see it completely exctinct and forgotten within a decade. How many orcish Alexanders could there have been, in thousands of years?

3. Prehistoric dwarves--literal "cavemen"-- achieved civilization by going deeper into the cave. Imagine huge muscle-powered feats of mass engineering on the scale of the Sumer or Egypt, only in reverse, underground, and you're getting the idea. Their preference for rocky and forbidding terrain kept them out of touch, for the most part, with elves and orcs. Dwarven life is something of a world unto itself, but their border areas in the foothills often overlapped (or "underlapped") with elven or orcish lands.

Interracial Relations

The uneasy three-way balance of populations yielded more than one kind of truce or alliance over the centuries. Of course, the constant violent expansiveness of the orcs had to be kept in check, usually by dwarven or elven communities acting alone but sometimes in concert. Elven-Dwarven cooperation against Orcs was the most common kind of contact. But the orcs weren't always the odd one out.

The dwarves were the only race with a sense of real progress, of making something in your life that your descendants would take up and improve upon. Dwarven lands were the only ones that really changed. A small settlement in one century could be a thriving mine-city in the next. Orc life is unstable, elven life goes on forever as it always has. The orcs coveted the fruits of dwarven expertise and labor, and the elves often feared, disapproved and resented the mass changes to the natural landscape that the dwarves created. Too much dwarven development too fast could meet stiff resistance -- usually by elves neglecting to prevent (or even subtly encouraging) orcish destruction. Elves and orcs could find themselves in harmony (if not outright cooperation) against dwarven settlements.

On the other hand, the dwarves and orcs share a common mortality. Long-lived dwarves and short-lived orcs are different in degree of course, but completely different in kind from the elves, who are always unfamiliar with death. In rare moments of calm, dwarves and orcs could have co-operative positive-sum trade relationships -- individuals swallowing their natural impulses to benefit their own community in an unknown future. This kind of thing is next to impossible for an elf to understand. Why cut any deals? What future is there to plan for? You will see it yourself, in the same perfection as the present.

The Spread of Learning and Historical Change

This was the general equilibrium that lasted for millenia, finally interrupted by the Banestorm unleashed by the Dark Elves. But the "fault" of the Banestorm, if you trace it to first causes, goes paradoxically to the dwarves.

Dwarves were the only source of technological improvement on ancient Yrth. Engineering and crafts moved steadily from TL0 to 3. Innovations would quickly spread from dwarven community to community via competitive or cooperative means. Their cities became more layered and dense, their methods of underground agriculture more productive, their understanding of the abstract principles underlying metal- and stoneworkmore and more "modern."

Dispersion of new methods and ideas was slow among the elves, due to their immortality and natural-conservative character. An elf might perfect a new craft or art, but would not see the need to "set up shop" making anything for anyone beyond him or herself or the immediate community. Likewise, there was little pressure to teach a one's hard-won mastery to another, as the master's skills would live on indefinitely with him. Younger elves might be prevented from making their own discoveries if too-heavily educated. "School" is a somewhat alien concept to the elves; education happens informally, one-on-one. You can figure out for yourself just as well at age 100 or 1000 what you could at 10.

Dispersion of ideas among orcs was relatively fast and even, but originating ideas virtually non-existent. Orcs are cognitively limited, not very imaginative or ingenious. But they understand effectiveness well enough, and their harsh Darwinian internal politics heavily favors those with an advantage: "steal a fish and you eat today, steal a fishing pole and you can steal all the fish you want." Over the centuries, orc societies moved, inexorably, from TL 0 to 2/3, through techniques, skills, and objects gleaned from dwarven cultures here and there.

The mortal dwarves had no sense of what they had unleashed, but the elves, with longer memories, certainly did. What had been roving packs armed with stone tools "only yesterday" were now coming with shields and iron axes and other weapons. The orcs' lethality had increased. The amount of land they could effectively control and despoil had grown. The number of elves that might fall in an orcish incursion was increasing, and the amount of elven effort it took to repel them was increasing as well.

This gave rise to the first division in elven culture: between those who thought something had to be done, and those who thought that life would or should continue as it is. The "returner" or "defender" position, which favored much more purposeful efforts from elves to eliminate orcs as a safety measure, and to return the world to its earlier "natural" state, eventually lost the argument. "Mainstream" or "status quo" elves considered the acceleration of the orcish threat to be part of a larger natural pattern. Either it would be unwise to "correct" it, or the effort would be too dangerous, or simply that each elf had the responsibility to deal with the threats in his own area, rather than engaging in grand plans against outsiders as a whole.

Some Defenders even advocated sharp aggression against the dwarves directly, an idea that was far over the line even for elves that took the orcish threat seriously.

The historical irony is that the Defenders/Dark Elves were basically right: orcs armed with the benefits of other peoples' ideas are more dangerous. Some Defender groups made some spectacular assaults on orc populations, but they of course failed in their grand goal of a world without them. Returner ideas never went away, but grew more apocalyptic and paranoid and virulent as the number of true believers dwindled. These became the Dark Elves, who worked on any number of grand designs to harness Death in order to preserve Life, and thus begins the [canonical] story of the Banestorm.

[please note I haven't checked this against Banestorm for inconsistencies with the canonical text!]
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Old 01-06-2010, 03:36 PM   #12
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

I like this Banstorm 'pre-history'. If I ever actually played in the Yrth setting, I'd use this myself.
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Old 01-06-2010, 03:39 PM   #13
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

My own theory is that the elves were an aggressive, militaristic mageocracy, with powerful weapons and dread secrets. They went too far, broke down into a civil war, a Weapon was set off, and the Great Desert was created. The survivors deliberately turned their back on the old culture, rejecting ambition, militarism, even cities and fortifications. The current elves don't even remember why.

Interestingly, orcs and elves can both crossbreed with humans - possibly with each others? - I theorise that orcs are actually degraded elves, magically genetically engineered as soldiers in their internecine wars, to breed fast, be strong and tough and take orders readily. They escaped in the war and went savage.

Dwarves - possibly the enemy in the original war? Possibly the first interplanar immigrants? Possible always a separate community, who didn't have much to do with elves anyway.

The Ring Islands are interesting as well. It's strongly implied that the crater impacts that created them actually brought mana into the world in the first place. So did pre-Impact elves not have Magery? Were elves actually created, in some way, by the Impact?
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:10 PM   #14
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

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Originally Posted by davidtmoore View Post
Dwarves - possibly the enemy in the original war? Possibly the first interplanar immigrants? Possible always a separate community, who didn't have much to do with elves anyway.
Dwarves are relatively well designed for hard physical labour. If the orcs were bred to be disposable soldiers then it would make sense that dwarves were made for mining.
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:35 PM   #15
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

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Originally Posted by davidtmoore View Post
the elves [...] broke down into a civil war, a Weapon was set off, and the Great Desert was created. The survivors deliberately turned their back on the old culture, rejecting ambition, militarism, even cities and fortifications. The current elves don't even remember why.
Canonically, the Great Desert was created by a "magical wildfire" when the great Bane spell backfired.
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Old 01-06-2010, 05:43 PM   #16
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

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Originally Posted by Kenneth Latrans View Post
SPECULATION
Based on my understanding of Earth history.

Originally (some 1,000,000 years before the Banestorm), there were humans on Yrth. They were beautiful, strong, unaging; their women (but not their men) had strong, full beards. They stood about 8 feet tall (4' wide shoulders) and had ST 18, DX 12, IQ 12, and HT 12.

Then they rebelled against their Creator, choosing to worship instead their fellow creations that they were intended to be masters of. As punishment, they were given unto Entropy, and different populations started devolving into other races.

Those in the forests kept their height, beauty, agelessness, and a limited form of the control of the universe they originally had. However, their strength dwindled, their bodies withered. Their women lost their beards. They are the elves.

Those in the mountains kept their strength, to a limited degree. Also their width and weight. However, their height dropped considerably, as did their lifespans. Their women kept their beards, but there men stared growing them, too. Sometimes the limited control of creation, found universally in elves, is found in them(sometimes limited to Earth, Fire, or Enchantment). These are the dwarves.

Those in the plains lost everything...besides the memory of their original purpose: to dominate the whole of the created universe! Unfortunately, this, too, became warped over time, and they have mistaken dominance with destruction. Some of these share the talent of the elves, but use it to the wrong purpose of destruction. Orcs, these be.

When they made the Banestorm, their Creator sent them messengers to bring them the good news, and to remind them of what they're there for. The Christian humans.
Very interesting! God= the Eternal, then?
The 'ancestral humans' element would also help explain how humans can mate with elves or orcs and produce viable hybrid offspring.
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Old 01-07-2010, 04:38 AM   #17
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

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Originally Posted by capnq View Post
Canonically, the Great Desert was created by a "magical wildfire" when the great Bane spell backfired.
True. Curious, because canonically, the elves had also abandoned all those cities under the Great Desert some years before the Banestorm. So two totally distinct disaster hit the same area...
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Old 01-07-2010, 06:53 AM   #18
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

It seems as though Elves and Orcs are more closely related than one might guess. As has been mentioned several times already, both can breed with humans. All three races (humans, orcs, and elves) can all breed with Medusa as well. It's also interesting to note that the Orc lifestyle is in some ways very similar to that of Elves; Orcs typically don't settle down into towns and villages, and they more-or-less live off the land. The idea that two very similar races could evolve at the same time isn't a far fetched idea; here on Earth it is said that our ancestors co-existed with Neaderthals.

It also seems reasonable to suspect that dwarves were somehow involved with some of the orc attacks which took place prior to the Banestorm. Officially it is said that orcs used 'stolen' dwarven weapons, but it seems strange that a race which is supposed to be so chaotic would produce a group which decides to outfit itself completely with dwarven equipment and use said equipment with the amount of proficiency they are attributed with having.

The three worlds which are specifically mentioned to have contributed to the races of Yrth are Gabrook, Loren'dil, and Olokun. From details given in the Banestorm book there are a few things that are known about each world.

Gabrook is a much warmer world than Yrth. It is apparently covered with large areas of open plains and savannahs. It seems reasonable to assume there are areas of large deserts as well considering the religious beliefs of the reptile men and the fact that they seem to be relatively comfortable in the deserts of Yrth.

I imagine Gabrook as being similar to what you'd get if you smashed Africa together with some of the dry regions of the Western United States (particularly places like The Grand Canyon) and Australia; then sprinkled in a few very small dashes of Central America. The chaotic style of wizardry brought to Yrth by goblins might suggest a world where Wild Mana is common; some areas of Twisted Mana might exist as well. Lastly, the existance of such a strong belief in a dualistic religion would lend itself well to some sort of dual physical or astrological feature of the world such as twin moons or stars.

Loren'dil sounds like it is a somewhat young world in that battles between gods over how to rule that world took place fairly recently. In my imagination, I see Loren'dil as some sort of fairie tale world, but with an underlying dark side. A good movie analogy for me would be the movie Legend. Halflings are the 'humans' of that world, but they are not dominant; plenty of remnants from a past age still lurk in the vast wild forests of the world. I imagine nature as being somewhat exaggerated on Loren'dil with vast forests of huge trees; wild life such as the deer and stag being ideal versions of the same types of animals here on earth, and clear waters in which all manner of fish swim.

Olokun sounds like it would largely be a water world from the information given. I imagine it being a somewhat harsh world with the 'gods' of the shark men actually being some sort of huge terrible sea creatures. The merfolk disdain for religion and joy at being away from what were called gods on their world seems to indicate that they were sometimes beset by these 'gods' and had some sort of real physical contact with them which was usually negative.
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Old 01-07-2010, 08:06 AM   #19
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Default Re: [Banestorm] Yrth before the storm speculations

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Olokun sounds like it would largely be a water world from the information given. I imagine it being a somewhat harsh world with the 'gods' of the shark men actually being some sort of huge terrible sea creatures. The merfolk disdain for religion and joy at being away from what were called gods on their world seems to indicate that they were sometimes beset by these 'gods' and had some sort of real physical contact with them which was usually negative.
There is no "word of god" on this, and if there was, it would be Jonathan's and not mine - but when you've got a world with pointy-toothed fish-men whose gods are strange and terrible, most gamers are going to jump to a conclusion involving a certain neurasthenic pulp-era horror writer. Which, if you choose to go with it, does indeed imply "gods" who are large physical sea-dwelling entities.
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Old 01-12-2010, 06:00 AM   #20
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There is no "word of god" on this, and if there was, it would be Jonathan's and not mine - but when you've got a world with pointy-toothed fish-men whose gods are strange and terrible, most gamers are going to jump to a conclusion involving a certain neurasthenic pulp-era horror writer. Which, if you choose to go with it, does indeed imply "gods" who are large physical sea-dwelling entities.
While I do think it would be somewhat natural for a lot of gamers to associated pointy toothed-fish men with strange and terrible 'gods' with a specific writer, I was actually basing some of my opinion on a Kull story written by R. Howard.
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