Sunday, July 19, 2009

Temple of Thoth

There's a great tutorial over at the Cartographer's Guild on how to make an old-school map in the GIMP, which points to some resources at the Dundjinni forums. Wanting a project to exercise the tutorial, I put together this small Temple of Thoth roughly inspired by ancient Greek temples. Although open to all, the temple of Thoth is not a popular temple, dependent instead on a few donations by wealthy scholars and arcanists who make use of its research facilities. A single low-level adept, and perhaps a young acolyte, tends the grounds.

1. Portico: The building is made of shining white marble on the outside. A wide set of stairs leads up from the streetway to the porch between massive stone pillars and the outer wall of the building. A pair of large bronze-plated doors allows entry to the temple. Usually open, these doors can be shut and locked with a simple (DC 20) lock.

2. Cella: The large main room of the temple has been converted into an enormous library. Bookcases and shelving line the walls floor to ceiling, crammed with papyrii, scrolls, books, maps, statuary, archaeological artifacts, and all manner of objects of antiquarian interest. Some glass skylights in the ceiling allow daylight to trickle into this room, minimizing the need for candles or lanterns.

3. Adyton: An enormous painted bas-relief sculpture of a linen-kilted man with a blue ibis head is carved into the northern wall. This is the cult image of Thoth, a deity of knowledge, magic, writing, and scribes. A secret door well-hidden (DC 20) in the wall leads to area 4.

4. Anchorium: This long narrow room is used for storage and extremely spartan living quarters by a resident priest or anchorite. A locked door (DC 20) leads to the rear porch.

5. Opisthodomos: The rear porch is otherwise identical to area 1. Steps lead down to a simple vegetable and herb garden behind the main temple.

1 square = 5 feet.

This building has far to many columns. Four would be more appropriate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mithlond on $5 a Day: A Brief Phraseblog of Sindarin

Mithlond, the Grey Havens, was most probably the last settlement of grey elves to remain in Middle-Earth in the Fourth Age of Tolkien's legendarium, for Círdan the Shipwright was to remain there until the last ship sailed west. It seems a fitting place to travel with a handy little phraseblog for Sindarin.

This post draws from the Sindarin corpus and Elvish (&c) dialog from the LotR movies, as well as one Sindarin phrasebook or another. There is consequently much neo-Eldarin: "Navaer", for example, appears to be a neologism derived from the attested Quenya "Namárië".

I've tried to include some useful phrases like "Death to the din-horde!", while avoiding lightning-stuck postillions.

Welcome, Well met/ Mae govannen.
Good hunting.Farad vaer.
Thank you.Hannon le.
Well done.Mae carnen.
I am ___ Im ___
Can you speak Elvish?Pelil peded edhellen?
I don’t understand.Ú-chenion
Sit down.Havo dad.
Run swiftly!Noro lim!
Look out! Tiro!
Death to the din-horde!Gurth an Glamhoth!
Vengeance comes.Tôl acharn.
How are you?Manen le?
I’m well.Im maer.
I am not well.Im úvaer.
Heal me.Nesto nin.
Release me.Leithio nin.
Save me.Edraith enni.
Forgive me.Goheno nin.
Sleep well.Losto vae.

If I had to nominate a lorem ipsum text, I'd use the first Sindarin phrase I could pick out from the movie: "Im Arwen. Telin le thaed. Lasto beth nîn, tolo dan nan galad". Or otherwise, the motto of the movie: "I amar prestar aen, han mathon ne nen, han mathon ne chae a han noston ned 'wilith."

Carl F. Hostetter notes in "Elvish as She Is Spoke" that Tolkien wrote in a letter to his son Christopher that “Nobody believes me when I say that my long book is an attempt to create a world in which a form of language agreeable to my personal aesthetic might seem real. But it is true. An enquirer (among many) asked what the L.R. was all about, and whether it was an 'allegory'. And I said it was an effort to create a situation in which a common greeting would be elen sila lumenn' omentielmo, and that the phrase long antedated the book." That phrase is Quenya for "A star shines on the hour of our meeting".

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Generic d20 Calendar

Some well-developed campaign worlds have a calendar. Tolkien also developed alternate calendars for Earth. These are intended to be more evocative than practical, I suspect.

The problem with timekeeping and calendar reform for Earth is that nothing matches up perfectly or in an evenly divisble way. A year is slightly less than 365.25 days, a sidereal day is about four minutes shorter than a solar day, there are 86,400 seconds in a day only on average, and we can't have a simple perpetual calendar because the Abrahamic religions have religious objections to intercalary days.

For more abstract timekeeping purposes in a game, a 364-day Generic Game Year is very similar to an Earth year, and more easily divided. The Generic Game Year has a perpetual calendar in both lunar and solar months.

The Lunar Generic Game Year is divided into 13 lunar months, each with 28 days. Each month is further subdivided into four weeks, each with seven days: Moonday, Fireday, Waterday, Treeday, Goldday, Earthday, and Sunday (as in the Japanese calendar). Moonday is the first night of the full moon, which occurs on the first Moonday, Fireday, and Waterday of the month (consequently, it's easy to tell when the lycanthropes will attack). The lunar date is given by the number of the moon. For example: "the third day of the eight moon of last year". The year begins on a Moonday, the first night of the full moon following the winter solstice.

The Solar Generic Game Year is divided into four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall), each of which is divided into three months: Forewinter, Highwinter, Wintersaft, Forespring, Highspring, Springsaft, Foresummer, Highsummer, Summersaft, Forefall, Highfall, and Fallsaft. Each month has 30 days, except the last month in a season, which has 31 days. This extra day is of special solar significance: Wintersaft 31 is the vernal equinox; Springaft 31 is the summer solstice; Summersaft 31 is the autumnal equinox; and Fallsaft 31 (a Sunday) is the winter solstice and the end of the year. Alternatively, you could view the solar calendar as having twelve 30-day months and four intercalary days, one between each season.

This system, of course, is agnostic about the epoch for counting years, leap days, and eclipses and other astronomical events. It doesn't account for a more unusual planetary system with a double sun, extra moons, &c, but rather represents a regular Earthlike system in a simplified, abstract way.

Note also Paizo's Time on Golarion. Who wouldn't like a 360-day calendar, at least if you could pronounce the names of the months? ;)

Timekeeping in d20

The d20 game has for a long time had a unique system of timekeeping, based on the need to count relatively short but human-scale units of time. This system meshes interestingly with the traditional Chinese system of twelve two-hour watches.

The smallest unit of time is a second. There are 6 seconds in a round, 10 rounds in a minute, 10 minutes in a turn, 12 turns in a watch, and 12 watches in a day. The terminology may vary according to the edition of the game.

In southern temperate latitudes (say, between Boston and Miami), sunrise and sunset varies over the course of the year, by about an hour and a half in the south and about three hours farther north. In Atlanta, Georgia, it's very close to two hours. For gameplay purposes, it'd be a simple abstraction to rule that the sun rises in the fourth watch and sets on the tenth watch. This would be very nearly true in Atlanta if the first watch started at 11:30pm rather than midnight. The timezones make some things simpler, but not necessarily the accurate assessment of true solar noon and solar midnight.

A pendulum with a period of two rounds (which would count one round per swing) would be about 36 meters long; a pendulum with a period of one round (which would count a half-round every swing) would be about 9 meters long.