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Offline Pariah

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Nameless
« on: October 01, 2011, 01:06:05 PM »
I ran across this (http://www.jessevandijk.net/g_08_76.html) a few years ago, and it's set in the back of my mind ruminating for most of that time, I finally think I have an idea for a setting based on it.  Additional inspirations to possibly include: Thief, MtG: Ravinica, Sharn, Europa nonsense, Dwarven empires both great and small...

The world: Magical post-apocalyptic.
Quote
In the time of the Forebears, a great was was fought, leaving the surface of the world inhospitable.  The Godkin, children of the Forbears, founded the great cities to escape the  blighted surface.

The cities are connected via the Dark Roads, massive tunnels cut into the rock connecting them with each other.  The cities themselves more or less leave each other to their own business, and war, while not unheard of, is rare.  The surface is inhospitable to say the least, extended exposure to the surface will lead to magical mutations, many of which are inimical to life, and the cost of magical healing to get ride of them means that any battle between the city-states needs to be fought in the tunnels, limiting it to a wall of 10-20 men on each side fighting each other with more in the rear.  Not exactly an epic battle.

During the war, there was much dabbling in the use of magic to create different sub-species of man, of which 3 have survived in addition to the base human stock.

Godkin: Elves by any other name...  The ruling class, long lived and given to Fae-like excess.  They rule from the bottom of the cities, given to feuding amongst themselves, dancing, drinking, and generally not really caring about anything other than themselves.

Delvers: A stunted race originally created to dig the cities and tunnels, and now viewed as a sub-human slave race.

Orcs: Surface dwellers, with an inhuman resilience to magic breed into them when they were first created during the Blight War, they are the only ones who can safely live on the surface, combined with a reproductive rate on par with rabbits, there is no shortage of them, or their hatred of the "Underdwellers".  This just about sums up the way that the city dwellers view them: "If they take the ship, they'll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we're very, very lucky, they'll do it in that order."  While, as a whole, they're not quite that bad, quite a few tribes, especially those living closest to the cities more than exemplify this quote.

The surface: Inhospitable doesn't really begin to describe it, even now, millennia after the war.  More than 2/3rds of the surface was turned into desert wastes, and lingering magics still cause mutations in those brave, or foolish, enough to travel to the surface.  Mechanically speaking, every 24 hours spent on the surface brings a ~16% chance of causing a mutation, anything from your skin growing as tough as rock or inhuman strength, to your kidneys shriveling up to the size of raisins.

The cities: Depth almost directly correlates to wealth, with the near eternal twilight of the deepest layers being inhabited by the ruling Godkin, while the Delvers and eternally poor living almost on the surface.

Life in the upper levels, to quote Hobbes, is nasty, brutish, and short.  If the life of nonstop, back-breaking labor on the farms, the orcish raids, the mutations from being regularly exposed to the surface, or the disease doesn't kill you, a knife from a random mugging likely will.  Those few that make it into their 30s are viewed as old timers, and 50 is downright ancient.  On the flip side, being this close to the surface, and interbreeding from Orcish raiders, traders, and the occasional adventurer that ends up taking an Orcish bride has given those on this stratum a resistance to the surface induced mutations: ~8% chance every 48 hours, and they're far more likely to develop a beneficial mutation.  (Note: the smoke from the forges et al further reduces th chance of mutation inside the city to 1 check a week for anyone on this level, and once a fortnight for those born on this layer.)

The next level down is the forges, and other industry.  (Favor later)

Below that is the middle class type stuff, skilled labor, overseers for the level above etc. (Favor later)

They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2011, 01:14:06 PM »
Religion in the cities is worship of the Forbears, more specifically, those great heroes of the Forbears whose names were passed down between generations and elevated to godlike status.  A pantheon composed of a nearly innumerable amount of gods and goddesses, with great variety between cities and many different gods filling nearly similar roles.  Most likely going to try and find a copy of Fox's Book of Martyrs and similar listing of saints/martyrs to use for names and things they govern.

The Orcish religion is more animistic, seeking to appease the spirits of the earth around them, will likely involve lots of sacrifice to prevent the land itself from swallowing them up and eating them, though at the top of the pantheon of earth spirits and what not will be Father Sky, who gave the People lordship over the land as far as the eye could see, casting down fire upon the faithless Underdwellers.
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Strolen

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2011, 01:42:16 PM »
That is awesome!!

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Offline Pariah

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They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2011, 03:31:37 PM »
Things to think about (Magic is an answer of last resort):
Agriculture - How do they support a city this size?
Water - Diverted major rivers to provide water/power? Underground rivers/Aqueducts?
Waste - Loads of people produce lots of "waste" (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_does_an_average_person_poop); living in a giant silo would mean that the thing should fill up with waste in a relatively short amount of time, how do they deal with this?
Wood - It's harder to get a hold of in this type of setting, what do they use instead?
Side note: NO HORSES (the world as a whole might have them, but they just won't work in a city like this, besides, you can't really trust something the size of a small car that has a brain...)
Rodentia - How are they dealt with? (to include those winged rodents people have taken to calling pigeons)
Racism - It;s a world where half the 'races' were created by a third which is the übermensch of a fourth, do I really need to say more?
Nobles - They live for a couple centuries at least, baring such things as assassination.  There's lots of time to produce heirs there, most of whom will be left with nothing more than a stipend when their sire dies, if they're lucky, warfare between city-states is rare due to the fact that you can't exactly march armies over hundreds of miles of radioactive wasteland, and you can only spend so much time in debauchery before you get bored...  Intrafamily warfare? Subterfuge? Leaving the city as to make a fortune raiding the old kingdoms looking for sick lewt/ancient knowledge?  What do they do?
Rites of the dead - land is at a premium, so burial is not really a logical option (the irony here, can't bury the dead in an underground city... :/) Options: Cremation, Soylent Green, the world spins in circles and the bodies disappear (I'm looking at you The Hobbit the Movie)
Intercity trade/relations - how much do they like/dislike eachother? Do foreign dignitaries from city X get treated with respect in city Y or are they kept under constant guard to protect them from xenophobic locals?


And more links:
http://www.zompist.com/jacobs.html
http://www.gameskb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/games-dnd/9649/underground-Dwarven-city-design
and where limyaael moved after leaving LJ: http://limyaael.insanejournal.com/

What I really want to find is someone that did some sort of logical analysis of how the dwarves/drow/whatever underground race your fantasy setting has, survive...

Books to look into:
The weavers of samamyr - chris wooding
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline EchoMirage

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2011, 02:40:34 AM »
Include some challenges only nobles can/may face, and some jobs only they can perform.
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Offline valadaar

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2011, 08:41:38 AM »


Waste - Loads of people produce lots of "waste" ...
Wood - It's harder to get a hold of in this type of setting, what do they use instead?
...
At least as fuel, waste can be dried and used.  Not sure how well human waste works for this purpose, since we don't eat as much fibre as traditional fuel-poop animals :)

Food will be a challenge, but if there are cities you need food and lots of it.

However, real-world biology does not provide the calories needed to support massive human(ish) populations.  You will need an unusual source.

1.  Chemosynthetic plants:

At depths far greater then even the godkin live, are caverns filled with dangerous sulfide gasses. Edible mushrooms or even more exotic plants, as well as some creatures live here, powered by this chemical 'sunlight'.  Delvers fitted with primitive breathing devices hunt and labour in these caverns, bringing back the fungi to the surface.  This food is what feeds the bulk of the population, but it is terrible tasting and the godkin do not eat it.

Some of the plants may have thick, fibrous stems that can be used as a wood substitute.


2. Cannibalism - sort of

The godkin feed upon another servitor race (I have used this idea with my Rephatians) as well as plants collected (at great risk) from the surface.  This may be a way to deal with the burial question as well..

3. Devices of the Ancients

At the core of each city is a remnant device, powered either by a fading nuclear powerplant, or perhaps geothermal power.  This machine manufactures foodstuffs and its inner workings are guarded by another modified race. 







   
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Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2011, 05:45:25 PM »
Food, staring me in the face...
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SpaceStation
algaeculture for most people...  It's fantasy, and the inverse of clarke's law can be used...

and Shmoos (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmoo) post with an actually, quasilogical ecology to follow...

AND
Jayne: Mm. They call it mudder's milk. All the protein, vitamins and carbs of your grandma's best turkey dinner, plus fifteen percent alcohol.
Wash: It's horrific.
Simon: Worked for the Egyptians.

----

Magosynthesis

From a thread on a different site about underdark ecology
Quote
Oooh, I know!

Cave urchins. Like sea urchins, but in caves.

The common cave urchin is about a foot in diameter, but most of that are it's vicious, protective spikes. Nevertheless, it is almost entirely harmless to the prepared traveler. Like many underdark organisms, it is blind, but has instead developed extremely well developed scent, enabling it to smell predators from hundreds of feet away. It has no limbs, but moves very slowly, about an inch every minute, by using tube feet. It mostly eats fungi and bacterial growths by walking over them and scraping them off the rocks.


And a few more, different site, same topic
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What would be served in a bar? Almost anything - nothing will go to waste. Bugs, rats (rat-on-a-stick anyone?), worms, mushrooms, nearly anything. It may not be recognizable, but then cooking (making inedible things edible) is likely a refined skill under these circumstances. Rothe steaks would be rare and expensive, (nothing on a rothe would be wasted either - expect rothe brain pudding, rothe eyeball soup etc.) food actually sourced from the surface a very rare delicacy.


Quote
Vela tells me (and if she suspects I might not believe her, she'll find a way to hurt me) this:

"What do we eat? Same as you here. Anything slow or stupid enough to catch. And if it might be diseased, feed it to something _more_ stupid, and then eat that."

She tells me there's a process using snail acids that makes spider silk al dente.

Scene:

Waitress leaves kitchen, yelling back to someone inside, "No, you need chicken eggs for that." Then she walks to a nearby table, sets down a plate, and says to the customer, "Enjoy your omelet, sir."


(I'm now having my ear twisted. Sorry, my stupid round half-deaf ear. I need to correct the spider silk thing. It's that the spiders are FED the acid snails.)


On the blandness of a diet composed entirely around giant insects and fungi

Quote
That's to say nothing of the spice trade, which must be absolutely cutthroat.


Quote
You have no idea. Underdark spice caravans are insanely well-armed. For every wagon of actual goods, there's two steel-plated siege wagons, repleate with murder holes, armored cowlings over the wheels, barding for the rothes, and often a siege ballista mounted on a turret. Underdark spice caravan guards are a desperate lot, from every race under the sun and under the stone. Rookie guards do not earn a name until they have survived their first battle, then they get named after whatever it was they killed during that battle. It's a quiet, polite fiction shared among the sapient races of the Underdark that caravan guards aren't members of any nation and are outlanders with no past. This is because caravans are lightly-manned siege armies, and caravan guards are a tight-knit bunch.

Trust me, if you want to steal something from the surface, go for cloth or chickens or apples or anything but spices. Spice-piracy isn't romantic, it's a mental illness.


Quote
In the depths of the Underdark, a certain species of lizard is very common. It is timid, tiny, harmless and fears light, so it's seldom noticed by adventurers. The lizard has evolved the unique ability to absorb magical energy and use it to catalyse the synthesis of sugars within "magoplasts" in its cells. This "arcanosynthesis" process is the lizard's main source of energy, powered by the background radiation of magic present in the Underdark.

The lizard was studied extensively by the sage Arrhenius, who named it in honour of his former teacher and master. "Maxwell's Demon", as it has become known, is thought to be one of the bases for all food chains in the Underdark. It's also widely eaten and enjoyed by the many races that live there; dwarves have been known to carry bag of the dried lizards to eat like crisps


On to another site

Quote
Economy-wise, mineral wealth would be less valuable than it is on the surface, while such mundane goods as cloth, rope, leather, wood, paper, beer, spices, and any other product based on plant growth would be in great demand (leather isn't itself plant-based, but you need pastures for cattle).

...

To steal an idea from Morrowind, Underdarkers might cultivate giant ants (who would have their own surface access) and harvest their eggs and larvae for food. Some ants collect a sugary liquid that could be used as honey, or brewed into liquor.

...

Cities would throw nothing away. Waste (i.e., sewer waste) would be collected and used as fertalizer.


(underdark geography as opposed to ecology)
http://www.myth-weavers.com/showthread.php?t=28096
http://www.realmshelps.net/faerun/underdark/chap7under.shtml
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 04:39:01 PM by Pariah »
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2011, 04:55:32 PM »
On the Ecology of an Underground City Located Amidst Endless Wastes of Deadly Magical Radiation

The basis of the entire ecology are ancient artifacts called the sunstones, made by the Forebears to produce the life giving rays of the pre-apocalypse sun.  They are not entirely without drawbacks, as prolonged contact to their rays tends to turn ones skin a dark brown color, and to one unused to them, exposed skin can be left quite burned.  Numerous experiments into alternate light sources without these defects have been unsuccessful, however the vitamancers of the Citadel haven't given up hope of creating an improved version of these without the defects.

Staples

"Sludge" - An adapted form of a common algae found on the waters of the pre-apocalyptic world, this cyan algae was altered by the Forebears to provide a richer caloric content and more nutrients.  Grown in vast vats carved into the outer walls of the cities and provided with natural fertilizer in the form of the "night soil" of the residents of the cities, this is the main foodstuff of most of the residents of the cities.  Unfortunately the taste is best described as rot mixed with death, it's possible to cover this, but the spices one needs to do this puts it out of the range of all but the richest denizens.

Sludge Beer - Because humans will turn anything with sugars into alcohol, the yeasts used to make this are extremely hardy, capable of producing alcohol contents in excess of 15%, used primarily to help cover the taste of the sludge.

Recip - Reclaimed Citizen Product

The Muyr - Another 'adapted' species, though this one bears little resemblance to whatever it was based off of originally.  (Modern scholars generally agree that this was a foodstuff the Forebears had access to before their war, and had been modifying it for lifetimes at least.)  Best described as a giant, fleshy, mammalian caterpillar, it is essentially the only source of milk (Its milk is used to make a high quality distilled beverage called Araka, found primarily in the middle levels)before their war, and had been modifying it for lifetimes at least.)  Best described as a giant, fleshy, mammalian caterpillar, it is essentially the only source of milk (Its milk is used to make a high quality distilled beverage called Araka, found available to the city.  Muyr are also slaughter for their milk, with the skin being used for leather.

Of course, these are just the basic staples, and in deeper levels other foodstuffs are grown; though the specifics of just what is grown varies by city.  Indigo, for instance, is famed for her dyes and wines.  These cash crops are generally grown by slaves that will live their entire lives on the plantation, and under heavy guard.  This is, of course, to protect the freemen from the temptation of illegally acquiring portions of these. (Which is not to say that they don't find their way onto the black market.  When a thief could retire comfortably half a dozen levels down off of one heist, it goes without saying that numerous attempts are made a year, and every once in a while one even succeeds.)
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2011, 12:23:01 PM »
Include some challenges only nobles can/may face, and some jobs only they can perform.

The Third Child (or, How to Deal with Overpopulation)


It's not just a problem for the upper levels, though truthfully in the uppers, the problem often deals with itself through such means as starvation and disease.  The Godkin, with lifespans measured in centuries as opposed to decades (and capable of producing children through much of that time) regularly have to deal with the third, fourth, and twenty-second child that happen to spring out of their loins.  Laws passed in the times of the Forebears, when the problem first came to light, limit the passing of property to one heir.  This leaves many of the children without any means of supporting themselves, except by the generosity of their siblings.

Of course, many of the elder children will kill each other off vying for the inheritance, even if it's just a measly apartment in the 22nd level and a share in a spice farm, which helps with the problem.  The other children, of course, are generally left to fend for themselves.  Many join one of the Orders or the Lucimancers Guild, others will try and make their way with less than legal means, and most of them will face the executioner's sword or be exiled, but the best paying method (though by no means the safest) is to join one of the adventurer Houses.

The Houses play a very important role in society, because, despite the Forebears best efforts, the Cities are not entirely self sufficient.  At least, not if you wish to live in style for the rest of your life.  Such things as wyvern-skin boots and dragon horn cups can't be made with just the resources available in the Cities, and a little sweat and the blood of a couple score Uppers is a small price to pay for them.  Of course, the survival rate for surface expeditions is terrible, but those that manage to come back from a few expeditions are often set for life.

The Deep Folk
For the wage of sin is death...

Exile, a fate worse than death.  Your name is striken from the Ledgers, you're branded, and with just the clothes on your back, 3 days rations, and a knife you're turned out into the tunnels to die.

A week doesn't go by without some poor soul being condemned to exile, and in times of unrest scores will be sentenced to this by the day.  Most of them die alone in the eternal darkness of the tunnels.  But Namir, the Unspoken, goddess of the Unending Dark, is a welcoming Lord, and some are able to find her deathly embrace.  Communities of the Deep Folk have formed since the founding of the Cities, hunting the deep tunnels of the Underdark. (yes, the name carries a lot of baggage and I need a new one, but, truthfully, the idea itself fits with the setting)  The children of unspeakable rituals, the tales say they can see in the dark and walk through the stone itself.
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station

Offline Pariah

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Re: Nameless
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2011, 07:48:09 AM »
Expand later: citystones and the shards of the fallen city
They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers... They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues.  China Mieville - Perdido Street Station