A moment of self-promotion

Folks, I’ve been lurking quietly since Brett invited me to join these forums back in April (thanks, Brett) - watching with interest, but not feeling that I had much to contribute just yet. It occurs to me, though, that several people here might be interested in what’s been going on in my writing-and-worldbuilding blog.

I just spent most of June describing a play-through of the Phil Eklund games Bios: Genesis and Bios: Megafauna, and using the results of that to motivate the design of an Earthlike world and its dominant sentient species.

Meanwhile, starting this weekend I’ll be posting a newly revised version of the planetary-design sequence from my book-in-progress, and probably using that material to start building a revised map of the interstellar neighborhood for my original space-opera setting.

This is all happening at wordpress.sharrukinspalace.com, if anyone’s interested.


I find it an interesting coincidence that your alien species has several points of congruity to the race of trolls that I created a few years ago for my fantasy campaign Tapestry. The evolutionary history isn’t anything like (my world is one with seven humanoid races, with varying degrees of interfertility, each specialized for one or two GURPS terrains). But my trolls have social separation between males and females; significant sexual dimorphism; the use of bears as one of the models for the species; females being the main culture bearers and practitioners of magic; and even eidetic memory as a racial trait (coupled with difficulty in learning to read). On the other hand, my trolls are much larger (influenced both by mythic portrayals of larger-than-human races and by bears) and trollwives are fairly solitary, though they maintain bonds with sisters and daughters (whereas trolls tend to form groups of around three who wander around together, hunting and foraging).

Troll (30 points)

Attribute Modifiers: ST +4 [40]; IQ -1 [-20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Will +1 [5]; Per +1 [5]
Advantages: Damage Resistance 2 (Tough Skin, -40%) [6]; Eidetic Memory [5]; Extended Lifespan 1 [2]; Fearlessness 1 [2]; Metabolism Control 2 (Hibernation, -60%) [4]; Protected Vision [5]; Social Regard 1 (Feared) [5]; Temperature Tolerance 2 (colder) [2]
Disadvantages: Berserk (12) [-10]; Callous [-5]; Dyslexic [-10]; Hidebound [-5]
Quirks: Overweight [-1]

Trollwife (60 points)

Attribute Modifiers: ST +4 [40]; IQ +1 [20]
Advantages: Damage Resistance 2 (Tough Skin, -40%) [6]; Eidetic Memory [5]; Extended Lifespan 1 [2]; Fearlessness 1 [2]; Longevity [2]; Metabolism Control 2 (Hibernation, -60%) [4]; Protected Vision [5]; Social Regard 1 (Feared) [5]; Temperature Tolerance 2 (colder) [2]
Disadvantages: Berserk (12) [-10]; Callous [-5]; Dyslexic [-10]; Hidebound [-5]
Quirks: Overweight [-1]; Proud [-1]; Uncongenial [-1]d

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Makes sense. Honestly, your trolls are more bear-like just in their physiology, to say nothing of their psychology. Which is interesting - I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fantasy race design that drew inspiration from bears before, but one would think that a natural thing to try.

The tradeoff of Eidetic Memory for Dyslexic is interesting too. Suggests a rather different brain-map than the human.

Did you post your other templates for Tapestry anywhere? I’d be intrigued to see how the whole set looks.

My very great pleasure.

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I haven’t, but I can do so. I’ll start a thread.

There are really four major ingredients that went into this stew. I started with the idea of fantasy “races” being adapted to different GURPS terrains, as a basis for their being contemporaneous distinct species. I picked a somewhat familiar Western name for each race, and took some features from the associated folklore; for example, trollwives are smart because there are stories about their cunning and use of magic. I worked out body sizes and proportions systematically, using broad size classes (dwarves at SM -2, ghouls and nixies as SM -1, elves, men, and selkies at SM 0, and trolls at SM +1), different degrees of gracility and robustness, and different degrees of sexual dimorphism (in particular, men had greater sexual dimorphism than in the real world, and were sociologically like pastoral nomads, tending to polygyny—“man the mortal, master of horses”). And then I looked for an animal species or two to stir into each race, not as an exact model but enough for flavor, and to produce interesting behavioral differences. I had a very long, useful discussion of “what do they eat?” on the Steve Jackson Games newsgroups to which Agemegos supplied a lot of really useful suggestions.

And after all that was done, I went back and thought through cladistic paths: trolls and dwarves as the oldest and strangest races, going back perhaps to a glacial era; elves and ghouls as K- and r-selected variants on more gracile races adapted to warmer climates; and men, nixies, and selkies as adapted to environments where mobility was at a premium—men to plains, nixies to rivers (I made them the grain-growing, beer-drinking, trade-focused “men” of the setting, kind of a nod to Tolkien’s hobbits, though they’re more like Sméagol’s kin than the Shirefolk), selkies to islands and beaches. I still haven’t decided which order of branching makes most sense for those three. . . .

It’s a bit different from the game rules you were using, in that I wasn’t building a whole different evolutionary tree back to the Cambrian explosion; I was doing a fantasy world, and fantasy worlds tend to have men in them, so the history has to be similar up till the last million years or so. But the kind of questions that the GURPS Uplift and GURPS Space racial design rules ask went into this; in particular, I went through the racial behavioral categories for all of the races.

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It’s a pity that at the time of those discussions I did not know about the evidence that the environment in the Amazon basin might be heavily modified by humans, significant areas consisting of overgrown gardens and vast mixed-species orchards.

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That certainly is relevant, and I’m glad to know about it. But I did have a model for something similar: The account in Diamond’s Collapse of a people (I think they were Pacific Islanders) who had engineered their entire biosphere to be useful to them, by encouraging the growth of particular trees and herbs and the like. They became the foundation for one of the major elven cultures of Tela, though I had mixed in elements from France and Japan.

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