Some intriguing ideas, Iain! I think in a fantasy world the differences between systems of measurement would be even more exaggerated. For instance, a hobbit mile would be less than a human mile which would be less than a giants' mile. Also, some creatures, like trolls, have difficulty counting because they're so thick, so their system of measurement might be less easy to follow...
Hathalfar holds the writhing troll down with his gloved fist and sword. The beast squirms at the touch of metal. "How far is Kolm?" he demands for the third time. "I said! A long way away," replies the troll.
Despite their inability to quantify distance, trolls are nevertheless very good at judging it. Their small minds cannot cope with the metaphor of describing lengths with numbers. They simply have a good intuitive grasp.
# "Near" corresponds to ~ 20m
# "Not far" corresponds to ~ 1km
# "A fair way" corresponds to ~ 5km
# "Quite far" corresponds to ~ 10km
# "A good walk" corresponds to ~ 30km
# "A long way away" corresponds to ~ 100km
# "As far as the eye can see" varies with visibility
So a city that's about 150km away would be described as being "A long way away and then a good walk after that" which isn't too useful till you know how trolls think about distance... Go to Comment
I've often thought of using an Ice Age as an excuse for a sci-fi "exploring the universe" scenario: looking for a new place to base humanity, but never actually got around to implementing it Go to Comment
Well I'm still trying to work out the exact details of the religion, and haven't yet come up with a sufficiently impressive story behind it (I think the starting point for a believably realistic religion is a good story). Basically the blue monks are an order of ex-hermits who came out of the Carycian Mountains around the year 87 and who became evangelists. Their religion eventually became the main faith of the Erezi region and Calanz. Go to Comment
Just an interesting point: recent discoveries hint that Arcturus (the star) may be a newcomer to our galaxy. It belongs to a group of stars with a strange chemical makeup ( containing fewer heavy elements like iron) and different orbital velocity around the galactic centre (New Scientist, 10 Jan 2004). Scientists think they could be the remnants of a galaxy which collided with the Milky Way a long time ago.
Now surely this could be the source of a mythology: an ancient civilisation would see the cataclysm when the galaxies collided, and the new stars which were left in its wake might be seen as new Gods who had taken over as a result of this cosmic war, especially since Arcturus is one of the brightest stars we know of.
Just an idea.
Some possible gods:
Lacrimus, son of a Titan who was slain, now enslaved by the gods he weeps with shame and his tears wet the Earth as rain.
Jaina, goddess of the picked fruit.
Marcus, god of money and coins.
Asclepius' flies are similar in size to the ordinary housefly, but they are white, with crimson eyes (ugly little creatures). Unlike most flies, however, they are not diseased, in fact their remarkable immune system contains agents which tackle even human illnesses. This is the source of their white colouring also. The standard technique for capturing them, to use their juices, is to tempt one onto the palm of one's hand and then to quickly wring your palms, then rub the mush onto the afflicted area. This is not for the squeamish, but has definite healing possibilities.
Swordbiters are parasites. They are long, thin and silver, and digest metal, somewhat like rust monsters, but smaller and more insidious. They resemble stick insects, but when they cling to metal they are very well camouflaged, and one can be biting your sword for a week before you notice it. They cannot be removed by hand, as they are very strong, but if the blade is inserted into fire they will leap off to escape the flames. Sometimes, old treasure hoards are infested with them, and the first glimpse you get of the "glittering" weapons is a pile of rusted swords encrusted with these thin silvery insects.
An insignficant little species, the candlebug (or waxmoth) is a persistent bane for mages and merchants alike. Each the size of a small digit, these little scarabs thrive on wax and burrow up inside candles, ruining them. Sometimes a late-night worker will hear a crack and a sizzle as his candle expires, only to find the half-burned remains of a waxmoth squirming around on his desk. This is very annoying in worlds where candles are expensive... Go to Comment
Incidentally, another similar (and older) manuscript on which Serafini's was based was the yet-untranslated medieval 'Voynich' manuscript, which is available in scanned form from the Yale Rare Books Library.
Zalrid the Mad's tome full of illustrations of the patterns of light he saw when he closed his eyes. He hoped to develop a system of divination from the study of these patterns, but went mad after illustrating plate #927. They are quite psychedelic patterns and most people suspect he was a little bit unstable beforehand. Go to Comment
A half-empty book (most pages only have a few words written on them). You write on a page the sentence you want to be translated and close the book. When you reopen it, the ink has copied onto the opposite leaf and the words have been translated. Useful, but alas the translation is unreliable, so "Phurmuz ak-itasa, kusalakor nam-un kot" ("I'm taking a bath, removing the grime of the day" in Modern Heric) might become "Submersion at me is being, of today emanating slurry". About half the book has already been used, mostly student looking up rude words. Go to Comment
Foremost poet of the past 500 years, Roshellion (pronounced "rose-hell-eeon") is known for masterpieces such as "Carelie et Adanare", "Sojhuanika" and "The Lectern". But equally fascinating are his notebooks, filled with half-written sentences and thoughts, images and metaphors that came to his mind to be jotted down, never to be used again. And yet among them are strands of coherence, arcs of concept which led him on a journey through many beautiful images before he left the arc without reason and moved on. Collected and edited by Hejintson, they form Roshellion's Book of Images. Go to Comment
A real-world example: Mediaeval Books of Hours. The Visconti Hours, the Duc de Berry's Hours, etc. These were beautifully illustrated tomes produced by mediaeval artists to list all the stages (hours) in the monastic prayer cycle. A similar idea could be used to provide a novel presentation of a gameworld's calendar.
ankeras (-an) - vb. clamber
dumanu (-un) - n. path or track
ferajas (-an) - n. to savage or attack
gutramor (-ir) - n. corpse
jukob (-ib) - n. merchant caravan
lalikiror (-ir) - n. thyme
malanor (-ir) - n. mountain
nayas (-an) - n. merchant
onurob (ib) - n. herb
osakas (-an) - vb. to obtain
ruyun (rayun) - vb. to have
saskyas (-an) -vb. to attempt
sanas (sarran) - vb. to be
usameras (-an) - vb. to gather Go to Comment
Following a suggestion of Moonhunter I have begun to designate multiple names those things with which the rangers are more likely to have contact...
nologsor (ir) - n. aurora
brisas (-an) - n. sun
mun (-uan) - n. evening
asen (asin) - n. morning
stankas (-an) - n. V-shaped valley
umillor (-ir) - n. fertile lake basin
kugidor (-ir) - n. large enclosed lake
gmab (-ob) - n. sheer rockface
kandor (-ir) - n. climbable but tricky rockface
sulondor (-ir) - n. crag
kundas (-an) - n. precipitous track up a rockface
ankeras (-an) - n. a difficult climb
ufas (-an) - n. exposed tarn
renakas (-an) - n. sheltered tarn
daa - n. the prevailing wind
There are twelve points of the compass which pretty much any ranger will know. Each ranger also has his own individual set of ideas for navigation. For instance rangers in the high passes are much more likely to use the names of constellations to define directions than those who live in the misty valleys and cannot see the stars.
The following directions are those commonly used by the mid-mountain rangers, and makes references to peaks which can be seen from there. Obviously the direction "towards Muradin" is no use to someone standing on top of Muradin.
Kis - along the spine of the mountain range (the line 6 - 12 in the diagram)
Daa - in the direction of the prevailing wind (10 in the diagram)
Kis-ki - along the spine but in a northwards direction (12 in diagram)
Kis-ko - along the spine but in a southwards direction (6)
(Kis-ji - from the northern spine)
(Kis-jo - from the southern spine)
Daa-ren - in the opposite direction to the prevailing wind (4)
Senash-ki - in the direction of the Shenael forest (2)
Muradin-ki - towards the peak Muradin (11 although can be 10 or 12 depending on where in the mountains you are)
Golgin-ki - towards the peak Golgin (5)
Fenrin-ki - towards the peak Fenrin (7)
(There are many more directions based on the locations of peaks)
Jukob-ki - in the direction the merchants' caravans take (9)
Asur-ki - in the direction of the river Asur (8)
Nologsorki - towards the direction of the aurorae (1)
Teguru - on the scree-side (3) (this side of the mountains tends to be more weathered and hence have more scree)
Brismu - (lit. sun in the evening) in the direction of the setting sun (3)
Brisasen - (lit. sun in the morning) in the direction of the rising sun (9) Go to Comment
Superb but perhaps worryingly topical. You should be careful about using this in case of upsetting people affected by recent bombings, but it would make for a very hard-hitting and disturbing campaign.
The combination of arson and extreme teetotality could work well if they chose to set fire to a large brewery.
Perhaps an even cooler form of crystal would be a four-dimensional one. "How to incorporate this into a 3-d gameworld?" you ask. Simple: all that we mortals can see is a three-dimensional projection of the gem, which may alter subtly as it rotates in four dimensions. This could give these gems a hard-to-hold, ephemeral quality: it would be possible if you gripped them wrongly that they would just fire off into the fourth dimension.
The reason I thought of this was your enumeration of the Platonic solids: in four dimensions there is an extra regular polytope which has no analogue in any other dimension (in 5+ dimensions there are only three Platonic "solids"). Somehow the mysteries of four dimensions seem suited to the properties of a magic-focussing device.
A civilization which constructs of irregular shapes constructed of a light metal, heaped together so that they stand on each other; these structures rattle and bend in the wind or at a push, but ultimately hang together except under heavy force (such as cannonballs, falling stones, floods)