Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ABILITY SCORES: Intelligence

I've been thinking about what to do with Intelligence -- what should it modify? INT is the hallmark of Arcane characters in my hack. So it should tie into magic somehow.

Here's my brainstorm list:

LANGUAGES 4 +/- INT (Problem: An average Joe speaks four languages. Unless you make them spend an extra slot for literacy, and now we're getting complicated)
LANGUAGES 1 +/- INT (Problem: What happens when someone has a -1 MOD? I assume they are illiterate...)
NON WEAPON PROFS 4 +/- INT (Problem: Now we need a NWP system; also, it assumes that smart people are good at a wider breadth of skills than non-smart people)
POWER WORDS 1 +/- INT (I really like this idea; like Henchmen, Power Words are a bit of Arcane dabbling that you either are interested in, or you're not, so 1 +/- MOD makes a lot of sense)
LIBERAL ARTS 1 to 4 +/- INT (Allow someone to select liberal arts subjects that they have mastered, base number drives average level of education in the setting)

Here's my current idea: Combine Languages with Power Words. There are seven tongues, each of which is associated with one of the Words of Power. Each of the languages may have several dialects (for example, "Terram" is spoken differently by Dwarves, Goblins, and Gnomes, but they all understand each other well enough).

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Stoneborn (Dwarves, Goblins)
- Primordial Element: Earth (Gnomes)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Western Wildlands (Pseudo-Americas)
- Institutions: Merchants and Commerce
- Opposed: By Air

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Merfolk (Mermaids, Nymphs, Sahauguin)
- Primordial Element: Water (Undines)
- Peoples: Of the Frozen North (pseudo-Europe or Scandinavia)
- Institutions: Monastic Orders
- Opposed: By Fire

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Unbound (Titans, many giants/ogres, many dragons, and their ilk)
- Primordial Element: Fire (Salamanders)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Burning South (pseudo-Africa and/or South America and/or Arabia)
- Institutions: Mages; creative and willful artists or inventors or innovators
- Opposed: By Water

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of the Fey (Elves, Fairies, etc)
- Primordial Element: Air (Sylphs)
- Peoples: Peoples of the Far East (pseudo-Asia/Oceania)
- Institutions: Secular Politics
- Opposed: By Earth

- Mythical Creatures: Dryads, Treeants
- Primordial Element: Life & Plants
- Peoples: Common Lingua Franca of the Civilized and Central Regions
- Institutions: Agriculture and Daily Life
- Opposed: By Nothing; the Base Vulgar and High Words are both linguistically similar to the Old Tongue, however

- Mythical Creatures: Tongue of Darkness (Undead, Demons, Devils, Orcs)
- Primordial Element: Animals, passions
- Peoples: Outsiders to civil society, such as thieves, criminals, barbaric savages
- Institutions: Chaotic Churches of Darkness, Some Thieve's Guilds, Assassin's Guilds
- Opposed: By Aether

- Mythical Creatures: Language of Aether (Angels)
- Primordial Element: Reason & Divinity
- Peoples: Sages, intellectuals, clergy
- Institutions: Lawful Churches of Light, Universities
- Opposed: By Entropy

So, now, a Magic-User who specializes in aggressive fire magic will be able to speak with the orcs, hobgoblins, members of the Southern Jungle Tribes, and such. A hedge wizard who uses a lot of Air-based illusions will communicate easily with the Fey. A Swashbuckler who knows the language of Terra will be able to work closely with Dwarves. A Swashbuckler who knows Barbarus might be in good with the local thieve's guild.

Power Words could give a +1 to your dice pool for saving throws against effects related to (or opposed to) the element; so, even non-arcane casters get a benefit from being brainy. Are you from the Frozen North? Learn Water, so that you can get a +1DP vs. Cold (and maybe +1 vs. Fire, too). Are you an adherent of the Church of Light? Learn Aether so that you can get +1 DP vs. Entropic Undead or Demons. Plus, you can interact effectively with more monsters and denizens of the world.

Here's another neat tie in to the Great Chain of Being:
Four classical elemental tongues = Minerals (they are the building blocks of everything; the elements exist, and nothing more)
The Old Tongue = Tongue of Life (plants)
The Entropic Tongue = Tongue of Appetites (animals)
The Tongue of Aether = Tongue of Reason (man & divinity)

This implies several nice linguistic cosmologies, but there are many ways that one could interpret the true relationship of all these elements and how they came to be. In other words, it is ambiguous, and deliberately so. Ambiguity allows for conflict.

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