Friday, October 19, 2018

Do I *REALLY* want a Timischburg map?

I had always assumed, of course, that I'd eventually draw up a map for my TIMISCHBURG setting.  Why wouldn't I?  That's what you do with settings, and besides, I love drawing maps anyway, for its own sake.  So, why wouldn't I draw one for this setting?

Quick reminder, since I haven't talked about it much in the last few months; what is TIMISCHBURG anyway?  Here's the quick summary:
  1. I'd been playing around with homebrewing the DARKHERITAGE setting for quite some time.  I went through no less than five versions of the setting, each significantly different from the others.  As a setting, it was more swashbuckling dark fantasy with a combination Golden Age of Piracy + The Old West + picaresque Mediterranean skulduggery all rolled up into a setting that had little to do with D&D as most people traditionally thought of it.
  2. Because of this, I'd played around with various rulesets to represent it, gradually migrating further and further afield from D&D exactly.  I started with D&D with an almost completely different selection of classes and a different magic system, and from there went to d20 Past and played around with house-ruled Old School Hack and more, before finally settling on a customized version of m20.
  3. Because I liked m20 so much, I played around with various other iterations of the game, including making a Star Wars version, and eventually coming up with one with which I could run CULT OF UNDEATH, a side project of mine.  CULT OF UNDEATH was more similar in its basic setting assumptions than DARK•HERITAGE was, so the m20 set I made for it was more similar to D&D, obviously.
  4. Kinda on a whim, I thought—hey, what if I expended my CULT OF UNDEATH rules into being a full-fledged alt.D&D that exactly fit my tastes, anyway?  I could probably do that without too much work based on what I already have.  (Famous last words.  Actually, it ended up being kinda sorta true, but of course, I ended up growing the scope somewhat and spending more time and effort on it than I anticipated.)  This became FANTASY HACK, my own "My D&D" ruleset.  Because I was mimicking to a certain extent the structure of the B/X ruleset, I ended up needing to include a small section of setting (like the Grand Duchy of Karameikosin the Expert book) and I took the work I'd done for CULT OF UNDEATH and turned it into the country of TIMISCHBURG and included it as a hex map with a few names and whatnot.
  5. And... of course, I ended up wanting to fill in some of the blank spaces beyond Timischburg per se, and that's how I get TIMISCHBURG the setting, which is bigger than Timischburg the country, although Timischburg the country is smack in the middle of it and is the most developed.  TIMISCHBURG the setting, therefore, ends up being the lightly developed and only somewhat vaguely referred to "default" setting for FANTASY HACK, if that makes sense.
I always assumed that eventually I'd draw a real map for the setting itself beyond the hexmap I have for the country.  Because, that's what you do with settings, right?  But I'm starting to convince myself that I don't even want to and that it'd be better if I didn't.  I've got this vague "bubble map" which doesn't do much other than show the relative size and positions of a few nations that I've name-dropped in so far.  But what if that's the only map I ever actually come up with, unless I need to do a specific regional map like I did for Timischburg itself?

After all, before Tolkien came along, we read fantasy books that didn't have maps all the time, and it didn't hurt us to not have a map, did it?  And unless you're the GM of a setting, how much of a setting map do you really need anyway?  Actually, even if you are the GM, I'd argue that you can certainly do fine without one.  The only thing I'd miss is that I do like maps for their own sake.

Anyway, once again, a quick rundown of what these nations are:
  • Timischburg—the first developed and main part of the setting; everything else is deliberately meant to surround it.    This is a kind of Medieval Transylvania or Wallachia or something like that; a pseudo-Austrian aristocracy over a more Eastern population of peasants, lots of Gothic horror influences.  Because it started as the setting for CULT OF UNDEATH, it bears some resemblances here and there to Paizo's Ustalav.  Certainly in tone, it should be almost the same, although almost every detail will be different.
  • Terassa—immediately to the east and a tiny bit to the south of Timischburg; this is a kind like Medieval Castile, Leon, Asturias, Genoa, etc. including that they may have recently thrown out the Qazmiri in their own version of the Reconquista.  If I actually care to have a place for elfs to live, they're in a forested enclave located here.
  • al Qazmir—an Arabian Nights-like country south of the sea from Terassa and eastern Timischburg; home of the jann as an exotic, aristocratic race.
  • Carlovingia—a pseudo-Frankish empire located to the northeast of Timischburg, and the probable source of the Timischer aristocracy.  Can be seen as either a unified Carolingian Empire, or an early Holy Roman Empire, or even an analog to the Warhammer Empire, if you like.
  • Lexovii—pseudo-Gauls and other Celts, directly north of the Timischburg lands.  This isn't a "country" so much as it is a "nation."  There could be other people who live in their lands—goblins and dwarfs, specifically, although that's more for people who need to have goblins and dwarfs in their D&D settings than for me; I'd just as soon do without.
  • Vossmark—north of the Lexovii are the fake Vikings.
  • Tesculum—west of the Lexovii and the northern parts of Timischburg, and even bordering on Vossmark is the quite large Graeco-Roman styled kingdom, and one where I'd like to see more expansion, actually.
  • Gunaakt—the orc-lands, south of Tesculum and immediately east of the southern part of Timischburg.
  • Baal Hamazi—fractured kingdom east of Gunaakt.
  • Nizrekh—an island kingdom south of Gunaakt; a hybrid of Cryx from Warmachine and an Nehekhara from Warhammer, kinda.  Undead, piracy, monsters, and ancient Egypt.

And the CULT OF UNDEATH tag will give you a lot more information on the country, as well as a sample adventure/campaign set therein.

Or maybe this link would be easier to use.  The content is the same either way.

Friday Art Attack

An unusual alt. Darth Vader design.

Another Sith Lord.

More art of details of the Hoth base assault that weren't ever filmed.

I'm not really a huge fan of chinoiserie, personally.  I kind of like how Lovecraft made chinoiserie ominous.  But still; this is a beautiful piece of black and white art.

Weird and awesome Bronze Age action shot.

Classic Hammer-style Mummy.

Moorcock's foray into Planetary Romance was pretty terrible, but this is a good cover for a reprint of it, at least.  I thought the books themselves were painfully bad.

Charge of the Thoats.

I picked this up on a tumblr blog somewhere. 

More Bronze Age witchcraft.  Nice work.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lining up Anthony and genetics

OK, I guess yesterday's post wasn't quite my last word (for now) on genetics after all.  Sigh.  Here I am again trying to lay out David Anthony's model with some genetics.  Most of this stuff is in 1) his book, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language and 2) the Wikipedia summary of his book, which is where "Revised Kurgan Theory" redirects you.  But I'm interested in seeing how well (if at all) it lays out with genetics.  Granted, we don't have genetic data for a lot of these archaeological material cultures.  But let's see if I can lay this out in a way that's less text dense and makes sense to me personally.
  • Any material cultures that are earlier than 4,000-3,500 BC can't be Proto-Indo-European, or even proto-Proto-I-E, because there wasn't any animal husbandry, which is a necessary component of the Indo-European cultural package.  The two cultures that precede this, and which first start to pick up some animal husbandry late in their development (although they are initially hunter, gatherer and fisher cultures) are Dnieper-Donets I (5,800-5,200 BC) in the West and Samara in the East on the Volga bend area.
  • In the Balkans and Danubian region, the Criş (5,800-5,300 BC) is an EEF culture that first brings cattle to the region.  The Bug-Dniester culture (6,300-5,500 BC), local hunters and foragers and fishers from the eastern Balkans (using the term rather broadly) was heavily influenced by the arrival of the Criş and was the "membrane" through which the Neolithic Revolution came to the steppes, specifically to the Dnieper Rapids area, and the Dnieper-Donets culture.  These steppes are still too early to be called anything like PIE and have it make sense linguistically, although no doubt either the Dnieper-Donets and/or the Samara cultures (at least) spoke languages that later evolved into PIE.
  • Several Balkan EEF and mixed cultures (that are presumably not proto-Proto-Indo-European) cultures; Criş, Vinča, Bug-Dniester, etc. developed into the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (really more of a horizon than a culture per se) (5,200-3,500 BC), which actually spread eastward and represents the greatest expanse of paleo-Balkan Old Europe; it was densely populated and had what were probably the largest cities on Earth at the time; bigger than anything in China, or Egypt, or the Middle East, etc.  Dnieper-Donets I evolved into Dnieper-Donets II (5,200/5,000-4,400/4,200 BC) which was now a cattle herding economy instead of hunting/fishing, and cattle, sheep and goats migrated as far eastward (at least) as Khvalynsk in the Middle Volga region (4,700-3,800 BC), which was the successor to and evolved from of the Samara culture.  At this point, Dnieper-Donets II and Khvalynsk probably correspond to the R1a and R1b populations (respectively) that later emerge in the Corded Ware and Yamnaya horizons, although we don't have enough samples to say that that's true, only that we would expect that.  Somewhere in that steppe spectrum was probably spoken a language that was getting close to a very early Indo-Hittite.
  • Somewhere around 4,200 BC, the horse was domesticated across the steppe, although it didn't appear in large numbers until 3,500 BC.  It's not clear exactly how and by whom this happened.  A lot has been made of the almost certainly non-Indo-European Botai culture from Central Asia and their horse domestication (or husbandry, or whatever exactly they did with horses) but curiously, the Botai seem to have contributed little if any genetic or cultural input into the more westerly steppe cultures, and the horses themselves seem to be the forerunners of the Mongolian wild horses, and contributed no genetic material to today's domestic horses.  Most likely, somebody out in the Khvalysnk culture can be credited with independently getting the ball rolling in domesticating the horse that led to today's modern horse.
  • At some point here, probably under an elite dominance or influence, at least, some Khvalynsk "chiefs" or cult figures, or other high status individuals of some kind turned the Dnieper-Donets II into the Sredny Stog culture on the western steppes (4,400-3,300 BC).  Marija Gimbutas saw the Sredny Stog as the core of early PIE, and based on the very few samples we have genetically, it is probably R1a in terms of Y-DNA and probably the direct ancestor of Corded Ware (as well as an important input into other cultures as well).  Exactly what the relationship between Sredni Stog and Khvalynsk is is still debatable.  Some more genetic testing would be welcome. Personally, I expect that Khvalynsk raiders or an elite warrior caste, or something like that, came to dominate the Dnieper-Donets II peoples and spurred the evolution into Sredni Stog.  Whether they brought an early version of Indo-Hittite with them, or if the Dnieper-Donets people already spoke a different dialect of it themselves is TBD.
  • Somewhere around 4,200-4,100 BC the climate deteriorated, as something not unlike the Little Ice Age struck Europe (previously, the Neolithic climate had been similar to the Medieval Warm Period.)  This made the steppes cooler and drier, and had a major impact on the arability of the farmland of the Old European Cucteni-Trypillian culture.  Settlements were burned, abandoned, fortified, etc. and evidence of migration from Sredni Stog into the Balkans starts around 4,200-4,000 BC with the formation of the Suvorovo-Novodanilovka culture.  Anthony sees this culture as not a mass migration and population replacement, but more of an example of elite dominance.  The S-N culture probably spoke an archaic Indo-European language, or Indo-Hittite language, and the Anatolian languages which later emerge like Hittite, Luwian, Palaic, etc. are assumed to come from this very early separation from the PIE steppe homeland.  I'd really like to see some archaeogenetic data that backs up this connection of Sredni Stog => Suvorovo-Novodanilovka => early Anatolian speakers in Anatolia, because as far as I know, there isn't anything much to speak of yet.
  • The next phase also really needs some genetic confirmation.  According to Anthony, this is where "classic" PIE develops over the course of several broadly related material cultures that were all in contact with each other, but which also retained a fair bit of regional variation (and of course, we know that there was still Y-DNA differentiation here too.)  There is substantial influence and trading (and probably at least some intermarriage and cultural diffusion too) with the Caucasian Maykop culture (3,700-3,000 BC), which was almost certainly not Indo-European, and may have been an early proto-Hurrian/Hattian speaking people.  But they were a major source of metallurgy, and and class differentiation, as well as the source of the kurgan.  They were also a vector for diffusion of some Middle Eastern cultural influence.
    • The Mikhailovka culture (3,600-3,000 BC) was the westernmost of these, and seems to have had substantial cross-pollination with non-Indo-European Trypillian cultures.  Not only do steppe-type potteries appear more frequently to the west, but Balkan/Mediterranean physical types appear more frequently among this culture.  More genetic evidence is desired.  It does maintain cross-steppe contact, however—late in this phase, Repin style pottery from far to the Volga/Don east is found here still.  Kemi-Oba is a Crimean variant of this culture.
    • Post Mariupol Early (3,800-3,300 BC) and late (3,300-2,800 BC) with a closer resemblance to the Suvororo-Novodanilovka peoples on the Dnieper Rapids area.
    • Late, or Phase II Sredny Stog, 4,000-3,500 BC on the Dneiper, Donets and western Don valleys.
    • On the northern Don region, Maykop contacts helped spur the regional Repin variant (3,950-3,300 BC) from a late Khvalynsk variant, although Khvalynsk in its more "pure" form continued on the Volga area until at least 3,800 BC, and probably longer.  At some point, the Afansievo culture splits off from the Repin culture and heads further east to the Altai area (3,700-3,300 BC.)  It's worth noting that the Afanasievo culture has been determined to be indistinguishable from the Yamnaya genetically, although we're getting to Yamnaya in the next bullet point.  Apparently, it made this rather epic journey across the steppes without any genetic admixture to speak of, and presumably took with it the fledgling proto-Tocharian languages, usually seen as the second most conservative and archaic, after Anatolian.
  • Between 3,500-3,000 BC there was further climatic deterioration, and this was especially hard on the eastern (and therefore drier and cooler already) steppes.  Late Repin and Khvalynsk turned into early Yamnaya on the Don and Volga regions, but it is really more of an economic change than a pottery change—a move to full-blown pastoral nomadism, wheeled wagons as houses, and only a few heavily fortified permanent settlements.  Stock raiding, warfare, elite dominance, The Patriarchy™, etc. all presumably evolved at this point as a reaction to the climatic changes, but also created a culture capable of sweeping into new territory, either because it had been depopulated due to climate change, or just because they were better at dominating culturally and providing economically than the EEF type folks that were there before.  The Yamnaya spread quickly across the steppe, from 3,300 BC or so when it was "born" out of Repin and Khvalynsk to 3,100 BC or so when it dominated the entirety of the steppes.  What happened to the peoples already living on the western steppe?  Were they culturally dominated and assimilated from (admittedly, already similar) cultures into the Yamnaya sphere, or displaced?  Anthony believed the former, but the genetics which have come out since then suggest the latter.  In any case, the Yamnaya horizon was long-lived, and lasted until 2,500 BC; a good 6-7 centuries of regional dominance over the classic Pontic-Caspian steppe territory.  What else was going on other than Yamnaya, though?
    • The Usatovo (3,500-2,500 BC) culture appears to be a Trypillian culture that was dominated by steppe elites and semi-transformed into a pseudo-steppe culture between the Dniester and the Vistula.  Anthony makes some vague references to pre-Germanic coming from this milieu, but that doesn't make sense to me.
    • A massive migration event seems to have happened between 3,100 BC and 2,800-2,600 BC or so into the Danube valley and further west.  A number of possibly Indo-Europeanized cultures appear during this period; Baden (3,600-2,800 BC), Globular Amphora (3,400-2,800 BC), Vučedol (3,000-2,200 BC).  Anthony suggests pre-Celtic dialects spread with the Beaker culture (2,800-1,800 BC) which spread from this area into Austria and up to the Rhine and eventually to the British Isles and the Iberian peninsula (its relationship with parallel developments going on on the Atlantic coast are unclear.)  Anthony suggests much later Urnfield and even Iron Age Villanovan cultures as the spread of the Italic languages (assuming that there is in fact a genetic Italic branch to begin with.)  It's worth noting that most accept the Urnfield as pre-Celtic, on its way to becoming the Iron Age Hallstatt culture which was definitely proto-Celtic, and the La Tene which was historically Celtic.  It's also worth noting a few things; this doesn't explain the arrival of Celtic to the British Isles exactly, nor does it account for the possibility of other branches of Indo-European, such as possibly Nordwestblock.
    • Anthony also, of course, credits the Corded Ware (2,900-2,350 BC) with spreading Germanic, Baltic and Slavic (or the languages that would eventually emerge as those, at least) to Northern Europe.  However, he glosses over the connections between the Corded Ware and further eastern cultures, like Sintashta, with its much more clear connection to Indo-Iranian.
  • The Beaker complex (and Urnfield, and other horizons that grew out of it) appear to have been the genesis of much of the R1b in Western Europe.  Most likely much of the western languages came from them; Celtic, Italic, maybe Germanic, to some degree.  The Corded Ware was mostly R1a, and is likely the source of much of that paternal lineage in today's eastern Europe, as well as in the Central Asia and Iranian and Indian regions today.  However, putting specific linguistic identities to many of the early post Corded Ware and later steppe cultures that eventually replaced Yamnaya is a little tricky.  It's in fact quite likely that descendants of Corded Ware cultures, displaced by the spread of Yamnaya earlier, in turn displaced the remnants of late Yamnaya and post-Yamnaya steppe cultures later on when further climate change made the steppes again more difficult to live on, an event which started in 2,500 BC and peaked in 2,000 BC.  Some of the cultures and movements are as follows:
    • Post Yamnaya cultures include Catacomb (2,800-2,200 BC) and Poltavka (2,700-2,100 BC)
    • Post Corded Ware, or eastern Corded Ware variants, perhaps, include Middle Dnieper (3,200-2,300 BC), Fatyanovo-Balanovo (3,200-2,300 BC) and Abashevo (2,500-1,900 BC.)  Anthony proposes that Poltavka and Abashevo peoples moved, following the further drying of the steppes, to where they had access to marshlands to water their cattle, developing fortified strongholds in the southern Urals and becoming the Sintashta culture (2,100-1,800 BC).  Meanwhile, to the immediate west of Sintashta, Catacomb, Poltavka and Potapovka cultures evolved into the Srubna culture (1,900-1,200 BC)
    • The Srubna and Sintashta cultures both seem to have been major vectors of R1a.  Sintashta in particular later became Andronovo, and is seen as a logical precursor to Indo-Iranian, although the same is often true of all of these cultures in general.  It becomes extremely difficult to propose anything that shows archaeologically a split between Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian, to say nothing of the later splits between Baltic and Slavic and Indic and Iranian specifically.  In fact, as Mallory pointed out 35 or so years ago, the fact that Indic and Iranian seem to be right on top of each other at a point in time where they need to be separating is a major unresolved piece of tying linguistics and archaeology together.  By the time Srubna goes away, it is replaced by the historical Scythians, but that doesn't mean that the Srubna are the ancestors of the Scythians.  In fact, it's been proposed that they were proto-Cimmerians, displaced by pressure from Scythians, which lead to their own historical raids on Anatolia.  This would be congruent with Herodotus, and would possibly give them a Thracian rather than Iranian linguistic identity.
So, this model isn't bad for the north and western languages, as well as Anatolian and Tocharian.  It becomes way too handwavey for my taste when it comes to explaining the various Balkan languages, although given that we know little about them, maybe that's the best we can hope for (and by Balkan I mean also Greek, Phrygian, Armenian, Thracian, Dacian, Illyrian, etc. which all presumably migrated into their later attested historical seats in Greece, Anatolia and Armenia from the Balkans; the Thracians (and Dacians?) might actually be a later arriving group from the steppes.  It also handwaves the origins of Indo-Iranians and Balto-Slavic peoples (and Germanic) from the same Corded Ware horizon (combined with post Yamnaya, I presume, although maybe the post-Yamnaya do a better job of describing some of the stuff that we later associate with the Balkans, like Thracian, for instance.)  Major dialectical "families" are only weakly correlated with archaeological complexes; we don't see a specific centum/satem split, for instance, and the explanation for the southern late Indo-European commonalities are kind of handwavey; assumed to possibly be areal features that spread from the Balkans all the way to east of the Caspian.  This (presumably) led to a number of correspondences that Indo-Iranian appears to have with Greek and Armenian, for instance, whereas you'd otherwise expect it to more closely resemble Balto-Slavic (which it also does, in some ways.)

Of course, some of this stuff will likely never be resolved, because we're unlikely to find texts in some of the languages that we don't know enough about to resolve their relationships, like various Italic languages, Thracian, Dacian, Illyrian, etc.  Holy smokes if we could, though, right?  On the other hand, further archaeological and especially archaeogenetic surveys can possibly tell us quite a bit more still

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Last word on PIE genetics (for now)

Of course, by the time I start to figure something out, it's often old news to the real specialists in their field.  But, I can take some comfort in thinking that I largely started figuring this out a bit on my own after reading Carlos Quiles pioneering work and Davidski's take-down of his hypothesis.  That's something, right?

This brief discussion has a few highlights:
  • R1a-M417 found in a Sredi Stog II individual, originally excavated by Dmitri Telegin in the 70s.
  • Reiterates again the big difference between eastern and western steppe y-DNA, with regards to the R1a and R1b lineages that later appear in the Corded Ware and Yamnaya cultures respectively.  It is unlikely that PIE originated over the entire steppe area, or even that the entire steppe area was really all that homogeneous ethnically (and therefore, presumably linguistically) anyway.
  • Proposes that actually the R1a guys are the more likely PIE originators rather than the R1b from the east that come from Khvalyinsk => Repin => Yamnaya, since the east lacked the cultural elements necessary to form the farming vocabulary of PIE
  • Before everyone got all crazy with genetics, Sredni Stog was already proposed on an archaeological basis as the likely origin of Corded Ware.  After flirting faddishly with Yamnaya, it now looks like we might be back to the archaeological solution after all.
  • More Sredni Stog and especially Maykop samples are needed.
  • In general, sample size (and therefore assumptions of sample representativeness) are a bit of a problem with some of the sweeping generalizations and conclusions drawn from genetic evidence so far, and conclusions could get turned on their ear with just a few more samples.
Anyway, the formation of Indo-European, even within the steppe milieu, is actually and obviously much more complicated that it's sometimes been proposed.  Marija Gimbutas, J. P. Mallory and Dave Anthony have all advanced the state of knowledge of the question, but all had to work without some of the data that is available now.  On the other hand, people today are often a little too anxious to run off with some sexy new piece of data and the tail ends up wagging the dog.  This is still a collaborative and multidisciplinarian question; archaeology, linguistics and archaeogenetics all have their place in telling the story of the origin and spread of the Indo-European languages and cultural package, and the story without one of those disciplines is probably wrong, or at least incomplete.

There's still a lot of questions to be answered about the relationship between the R1a and R1b lineages on the steppe, because they still cluster and don't mingle very much (although, again—more samples could change this apparent picture.)  This is especially true for periods of proposed Indo-European unity.  Heck, even now, there's a pretty decent split between Western and Eastern Europe, although it should be noted that populations of both are Indo-European speakers.  So, what model gives them both Indo-European languages without there being much mingling between the two y-DNA lineages, anyway?  Don't know.  R1a does seem to be associated more with the satem languages, but of course, the split between R1a and R1b is way too old to be linguistically useful in that sense.  But there were at least two populations of Indo-European language speakers, with different paternal lineages in the early days of Indo-European post-unity, and there is a correlation with satem and centum languages between these two lineages.  Maybe one group is a substrate or adstrate and picked up the language without much in the way of demic diffusion.  But that was the basis for Quiles' Uralic substrate hypothesis, which probably doesn't work, because there are better candidates for the source of Uralic languages from both a linguistic and archaeological and genetic standpoint.  But, he may well have been right about one thing; there were two distinct "globs" of steppe populations, and they still remained viscous and clumpy rather than mingling together to come out the other end as a clear hybrid.  A dominant superstrate of one portion of the population over the other is the go-to solution (and even before genetics entered the picture, late Khvalynsk culturally dominant elements over Sredni Stog II and Dereivka was already being proposed.)  But we don't have enough genetic samples to test this hypothesis yet, and even if we did, it's often hard to try and suss out the relative cultural importance of the individual who was buried who we're taking DNA from.

Any solution that handwaves the distinction between these two paternal lineages as insignificant or unimportant is not convincing. The Yamnaya and Corded Ware had significantly different DNA. More work needs to be done to explain the mystery still implicit in what we know so far.

Based just on those maps, I'd almost suggest that the R1b element might be associated with CHG expansions into the steppe.  Maybe.  I think that's still an open question about the origin of the PIE and pre-PIE population of the steppes; what relationship did the CHG (Maykop, presumably) peoples have with the Dnieper-Donets and Samara and early steppe populations as they eventually evolved into more recognizably Indo-European cultural packages with Sredni Stog, Khvalynsk, Dereivka, and finally Yamnaya, anyway?  Foreign elite dominant superstrate, maybe?

The Wisent

Not exactly new, although it is to me.  What a fascinating discovery from the field of animal archaeogenetics!  The wisent, or European Bison, is not actually a "natural" species, or rather, it's probably naturally occurring but not what we'd normally consider to be a species; it's a hybrid between two extinct animals, the aurochs and the steppe bison.  The latter went extinct, presumably during the Pleistocene extinction event, while the former lasted until the Middle Ages, and is the ancestor of modern taurine domesticated cattle.

That does raise an interesting question; does the wisent actually belong in a rewilding type project?  Or would a rewilder be better off trying to back breed an aurochs like phenotype (like Heck cattle) and then maybe start trying to back breed (or clone) extinct bison types?  There are three extinct bison that I know of; priscus, latifrons and antiquus.  While I'd most like to see latifrons, mostly just because it's so freakin' huge and impressive looking, I have to admit that antiquus would probably be the more "useful" of the bunch, as well as the most recoverable.  And in a pinch, it could "stand in" for priscus in a rewilded Eurasia anyway.

UPDATE: There's also occidentalis, although that seems to have been a small population and a genetic dead end. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Hiking 2019

I don't talk all that much about hiking anymore.  Part of that is because I have a blog specifically dedicated to hiking ( but even there I haven't talked about it much lately either.  For a number of reasons, my yearly hiking trips have been a bit scarce the last two years; 2017 I actually went to the West Elks about a year ago, near Gunnison Colorado.  Late September, actually.  Fall color hadn't quite peaked, but I had beautiful weather rather than being cold and wet, as I could have been.  All in all, I can hardly complain at all about that hike, except that it was a bit drier than I expected, and as is sometimes my wont, I bit off more than I was really in the mood to chew on because hiking all day and seeing new things all the time sounds great when I'm in the planning stage, but less so when I'm actually there.  2018 was a bust year for hiking, because we went to Hawaii and I went rafting on the New River Gorge with a bunch of teenagers and stuff.  Not that I don't like doing that, because I did, but those two trips alone consumed three weeks of vacation, and when some family commitments and other things got mixed in, that left me without a spare week to go out west and hike.  This has actually been harder for me than I thought.  I recently ditched Facebook (although i haven't canceled my account like I probably should; I just got rid of the app on my phone and haven't logged on from a PC in weeks) and my blogging and online activity in general has slowed, oh, for years, really.  But being completely unplugged for a while is wonderful.

For that matter, I don't really like people in person all that much sometimes either.  Although I've taught myself, mostly, to be outgoing and social, I do so because it's a learned skill, not because it comes naturally to me.  And, frankly, I don't always like it very much.  I find I usually do better by myself.  It's one of the things that I like most about hiking; the solitude and the quiet, quite honestly.  But I also love the outdoors, especially the Western outdoors.  Although I usually tell people, only partially joking, that I'm a native Texan; the son of the exact same type of stock that settled Texas in the first place, but I'm probably also formed somewhat by events of the last few generations.  When my family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was still at a time when people gathered physically, so my great-grandfather actually picked up from his home in the backwoods of the American South and moved to the frontier (although it was very rapidly becoming not much like a frontier anymore by that time.)  Southerners, especially the descendants of the backwoods Southerners (as opposed to the plantation Southerners) are my people, and I feel most at home culturally with them, but the West and Southwest is my true home, even though I find many of the people there, especially in the Utah centered "Mormon West" to be little more than Yankees in a better setting.  They have all of the foibles associated with the Yankees of more traditional Yankee territory in New England—nannying busybodies and community-scale totalitarians, too focused on "right-thinking" policing and virtue-signaling and with only a dim understanding of the concept of individual sovereignty.  Luckily, the more rural folks have an environment that mitigates this to a great extent, but in the urban and suburban communities... ugh.  My son and his wife, who is also a solid, multi-generational Texan herself, and so he gets her and vice versa much better than someone from another cultural tradition ever would, have lived in a college town in the West for a couple of years now, and they're still shocked sometimes by the busybodyish nature of life there, and their earlier enchantment with many aspects of the community has faded somewhat due to the incompatible cultural personality of the locals.  Sigh.

So, I find that the West and Southwest feels like home to me.  Wandering around the small towns, hiking, camping, sightseeing, I feel like I've been a stranger my whole life to everywhere else I've been, in some ways.  Until I start interacting beyond a certain threshold with the people.  There, I feel like the smaller town in Texas I grew up with and similar places in backwoods Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, etc.—y'know, the places my actual ancestors come from—I feel at home with those people, if not necessarily in love with the place.  And even that is, of course, under siege, because so many people live in those states now, especially in the larger cities, who have no cultural or genetic connection to the place, so they don't behave like the true locals.  They're colonizers and strangers, even if they've been there for decades.

Of course, where I live now, I'm surrounded by Yankee scenery and actual Yankees all the time, so it's lose/lose in some ways except when I'm talking to my better friends, many of whom, if they aren't the descendants of Appalachian Borderers themselves like me, are at least iconoclast in their personality type.  But there is no ideal place for me to live; I can either pick the people I get along with the best and hope that that doesn't change, or I can pick the scenery and environment that I prefer and take second-best rural Westerners as neighbors rather than Southerners.

Here's a couple of pictures from my last hike in the West Elks.

Here's a few pictures I took while spending the day at Palo Duro Canyon.  Maybe parts of West Texas would be ideal for me, or at least they would have been a generation or two ago before they got swarmed by migrants and colonizers from south of the border.

And the trip I took with my 17 year old three years ago.  When he was still actually not quite 14, and therefore not invited to participate in High Adventure, even though he was between his 8th grade and freshmen years.  At first that kinda ticked me off, but I got over it, in part because it gave me the excuse to take him with me on a solo trip anyway.

Of course, when I started typing this, I wasn't intending to ramble on about why I don't like people, what people specifically I don't like, and how I get away from them so I can come back ready to deal with them again for another several months, or whatever.  I was going to talk about what I hope to do in 2019 and maybe 2020.

I do have a few family commitments that will require some vacation time; a cruise to the Virgin Islands and elsewhere in the Caribbean, I think, is on the itinerary for around Spring Break time (or maybe it's a little later, early in the summer.  I can't remember.)  There will be requests on my time for High Adventure, since I'm in the Stake YM's presidency, although the nature of how we're doing it this year means that I might not be required to go, unless my own son goes.  (My youngest is a Type I diabetic, and although he's gotten pretty good at managing his blood sugar on his own now, my wife still can't handle the thought of him going on a trip like that without my direct supervision.  And he probably does still need it.  He's barely 15, after all.)  But it's not clear (yet) that we'll do that or won't.  This may be influenced also by the fact that a good friend of mine has been trying to reserve some time to go backpacking at Isle Royale with me, and my wife is even interested in going(!) and we've nailed down this summer as the time when this will finally happen.

All in all, that books at least ¾ of my vacation for the year, so my intention is to reserve the rest of it for a hiking trip.  But what to do?  And when?  Summers are always kind of tough because there's so many other things going on, but of course, it's the best time (only time, you could say, if you extend summer into at latest early October) to see the mountains.  But I also love the desert, which gives me the spring and fall, and maybe even the winter to some degree, depending on which desert I'm willing to go visit.  Fall also looks possibly rough; my oldest son still at home will have just graduated high school, will turn 18, and will leave on his mission service for the Church.  My wife will no doubt feel sad and lonely about him going.  Although I did take a backpacking trip shortly after my oldest son left for this same service in 2014, in retrospect, maybe it wasn't the best time to go.

I think my options boil down to maybe three possibilities:
  1. I could go for my birthday in January or early February to West Texas and see either Guadalupe National Park or Big Bend National Park a lot better than I did in the past.  I could use my folks' house in Lubbock as a kind of base from which to strike out, although I don't really need a base, and Lubbock is hardly close to Big Bend, and not really all that close to the Guadalupe Mountains either (7 hours vs 6 hours driving.)  I also have a brother who lives in Phoenix; if I flew to Phoenix and got him or his wife to drop me off at Saguaro National Park or the Supes or something, I could make a trip out of that too.
  2. I need to check on the timing of our cruise, but no matter what it is, I can probably work out some kind of Colorado Plateau trip in the spring and/or early summer.  The Needles district of Canyonlands National park beckons, for instance, or a more thorough exploration of Arches (although ugh, the people.)  Capital Reef National Park is a quiet one, although a bit farther, and a bit closer and many hours less driving gets me Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.  Of course, there's also plenty of opportunities on BLM land or elsewhere in the same general vicinity of southern Utah and/or western Colorado from as far north as Dinosaur National Monument, to well into New Mexico and Arizona.  And as a potential spoiler, it would be fun (and closer) to do something very different from either, and explore the Black Hills, Badlands or Theodore Roosevelt National Parks too during this same time frame (April/May, probably.)
  3. August could potentially be viable too, which gives me all of the Rockies options.  There are so many; I'm not sure which ones I'd favor at this point.  Leading contenders at this point in time include a return to different areas of the Uintas, the West Elks of Colorado, the Sneffels area, and the Wind Rivers

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday Art Attack

There's always time for the classics.

Boba Fett as a Spartan.  I like it.

Let's clear up some of the concept art for Star Wars that I have; alternate takes on the attack on Hoth Base.

Apparently there was an idea that a bunch of wampas would get involved somehow.  Probably a good thing that that didn't actually happen, especially with the special effects technology of the late 70s, but it's still a fun illustration.

The Danji were a race sympathetic to the Rebellion that either got cut from an earlier draft of the script, or were inserted as a what if after the fact.  There's a bunch of concept art around them, though.

More Danji on parade.

A cool spaceship that we never actually saw.  Too bad; it looks awesome.  Kind of like a WW2 ship in space.

More of the Wampa attack at Hoth base.

Another random space ship that wasn't actually sued for anything, but which looks pretty cool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Cheddar Man

There's a lot of deliberate misinformation promulgated by the media about Cheddar Man, much of it meant to weaken the claims of Britons to their own land and their own heritage, and promote the nihilistic mulit-culti death of Western Civilization.  Razib Khan, who himself has no British ancestry to speak of is a pretty good objective scientist, and his points above can be summarized in a few dot points:
  • We don't know how dark he is.  Portraying Cheddar Man as if he were as dark as a sub-Saharan African is kind of ridiculous.  Most likely, he was the same "darkness" as your typical WHG population, which may well have been as dark as a blue-eyed Papuan, but which much more likely was more like the darkness of a modern Turk or Arab or Bedouin.  Especially considering that the WHG supposedly migrated out of the Middle East into Europe following the LGM.  But, we really don't know, because these prehistoric populations don't really resemble any modern populations anymore.  But maybe a stockier blue-eyed, darker skinned Afghan or Tajik or something like that would come relatively close in some ways, although only by coincidence.
  • It's a bit of a moot point, as the WHG genetics was almost completely overwhelmed and contributed surprisingly little to the Neolithic population of Britain, which would have been EEF and "Sardinian-like."
  • Which in turn matters surprisingly little, because the Neolithic population was almost completely replaced (90%) by a Bell Beaker invasion in the Chalcolithic/EBA.  It's entirely possible that Cheddar Man has no living descendants at all, and if he does, his genetics is so muted by subsequent waves of migration of peoples who are vastly genetically different, that his "contribution" to the Britons today is negligible. (If you're thinking that the English have too high of a percentage of EEF DNA to have that make sense, keep in mind that the Bell Beaker folks already picked up plenty of EEF DNA as they crossed the European Continent before they jumped across the Channel.  Much of the EEF DNA in the modern English and Scottish, etc. isn't going to be "native" British EEF, but continental EEF that arrived with the Bell Beakers.)
Some of the depictions of Cheddar Man from the past.

University of Manchester sculpt of Cheddar Man.

The Channel 4 propaganda Cheddar Man.  Usually it's shown without good lighting, which makes the sculpt look even darker.

Another depiction of Cheddar Man, who probably looks a little too modern European.

And now, Loschbour Man, a different WHG specimen, but part of the same genetic population as Cheddar Man.

The classic reconstruction of the WHG phenotype.

The average admixture levels of modern populations of various countries today; blue is WHG, red is EEF and green is Yamnaya (which is about half EHG and half CHG admixture itself.  And EHG is an admixture of Ancient North Eurasions, ANE, and something that's not too dissimilar to WHG itself.  It's turtles all the way down)

I'd be really curious if there's an easy way to come up with your individual breakdown if you are the descendant of a European, like I am.  I'm personally about 1/8 Portuguese, which is probably the same as Spanish (regular or north?  Dunno; my specific ancestors are from Madeira), and the other 7/8s is probably a good 50/50 split between English and Scottish with thinner strands of Irish (probably just like Scottish) and Prussian.  Curious that there's no Germany on the chart below.  Just guessing, based on that, I'd say my own ancestry is WHG in the low teens, EEF in the mid 40s and Yamnaya in the mid 40s.  Although phenolotypally, I appear to be a relatively normal Anglo-American.  My dad has a much stronger resemblance to the Portuguese side, but then again, he has twice the Portuguese ancestry I do too.  My mom is very stereotypically New England Anglo-American transplanted in the mid 1800s to the West.  It's curious, in some ways, that given that half of my ancestry is New England Puritan, originally arrived at Massachusetts in the late 1600s, that I don't think of that side as formative to my personality, behavior, or identity at all; I consider myself an Anglo-Scottish Borderer type guy by both personality, appearance, and culture, although that's at best only 3/8s of my actual genetics.

I sure wish there were a modern population that had as high a percentage of Yamnaya (or better yet, EHG) and WHG as the Sardinians do EEF.  Then we might have a pretty good idea of what exactly they looked like.

Then again, maybe we wouldn't, because it doesn't account for other changes that aren't just a factor of hybridization of genes between populations.  What exactly has caused, for instance, the high incidence of pale skin and blondness in northern populations?  Some of it is from founder populations, but looking at, for example, the Estonians.  They are about as Nordic a population phenotypically as you get, and yet they have a high percentage of WHG (darker skinned and haired) and Yamnaya, which may not have been all that blond and light-skinned themselves.   At least the CHG element of the Yamnaya population wouldn't have been, which may have made up a significant chunk their social elite at at least one point, if the genetic analysis of a handful of their burials is any guide to the population overall.  Which, maybe it is or isn't.  And for that matter, there's no reason to believe that the ANEs were blond or pale skinned necessarily either, although maybe they did already trend towards the latter, at least.

It seems likely that sexual selection favored the continuation of the diversity of skin, hair and eye colors once they appeared, but where in the world did they come from in the first place?  It seems difficult to point to a founder population that already had those features and spread them in successor populations, so it must have been something else.

Classes & Archetypes III: Advanced Players Guide part 2

  • Archer: The archer is dedicated to the careful mastery of the bow, perfecting his skills with years of practice honed day after day on ranges and hunting for game, or else on the battlefield, raining destruction down on the enemy lines. — A classic archetype, of course.  Robin Hood.  How can you call yourself a serious fantasy game without enabling this archetype in some way or another?
  • Crossbowman: The crossbowman has perfected the deadly use of the crossbow, a simple but cruelly efficient weapon, as a craftsman mastering a lethal tool. — Of course, this just seems the same archetype with a slightly different weapon.  Is that really necessary?
  • Free Hand Fighter: The free hand fighter specializes in the delicate art of handling a single weapon in one hand while using his free hand to balance, block, tip, and distract his opponents. While not a brawler, his open hand is as much a weapon as a bow or blade. His fighting school benefits only apply when he is using a one-handed weapon and carrying nothing in his other hand. — I dunno.  This seems like overkill to me.  Then again, if you watch the absolutely excellent 70s The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, you'll see that swashbucklers actually fought like this an awful lot.  Those movies were rather well known for their accurate (ish) fight scenes.
  • Mobile Fighter: Where some fighters focus on strength and raw power, the mobile fighter relies on swiftness and mobility, gliding across the battlefield like a steel whirlwind and leaving destruction in his wake. — Given the abstract nature of combat in D&D, this maybe is a bit much.  It's of course even more abstract in m20, so this becomes a tactical variation that has no meaning in any of my games.
  • Phalanx Soldier: The phalanx soldier specializes in defensive tactics, using his shield to guard himself and his allies and forming a shield wall like an unbreakable anvil against which his enemies break. — While this is, of course, an actual archetype from the ancient (not Medieval) world, it's a little hard to see how that makes it at all useful to your typical adventuring party.  Since you're unlikely to roleplay a soldier in an army surrounded by your brothers-in-arms, I just don't see the point.
  • Polearm Master: The polearm master is schooled in the ancient wisdom that enemies are best faced at the end of long striking pole, lashing like a serpent before clumsy swords and axes can even be brought to bear. — Swords and axes aren't clumsy.  But there are plenty of HEMAs that will tell you that this wisdom is, in fact, true.  Polearms are superior to shorter weapons for the most part.  It's curious that the Migration period Germanic warrior would fight with ranged weapons first (thrown francisca and then angon) then fight with his spear or angon, and only rarely actually used a sword.  A sword was more of a status symbol than a day to day weapon.
  • Roughrider: Roughriders study and practice the fine points of mounted combat, drilling endlessly with warbeasts—from noble thoroughbreds to trained monsters—to form a perfect synergy between rider and steed. — A combination of a knight and a cowboy archetype in one package.  Not a bad idea.
  • Savage Warrior: Warriors' might is not measured only by their skill with steel, but also by their ability to inflict death with fang and claw, horn and hoof, and every exotic appendage the natural and unnatural world has to offer. — There already is a barbarian class.
  • Shielded Fighter: A shielded fighter focuses on both offense and defense, blending weapon and shield in perfect balance to impede his enemies while delivering deadly blows, and even turning the shield itself into a formidable weapon. These fighting school benefits apply when wielding a weapon and a shield simultaneously. — In other words... a fighter.  Y'know, in the actual middle ages, this was just what everyone did.
  • Two-Handed Fighter: Some fighters focus their efforts on finding the biggest, heaviest, most imposing weapon they can find and training to manage and harness the weight of their massive weapons for maximum impact. These fighting school benefits only apply when using two-handed weapons. — OK.  If all of these fighter archetypes are defined merely by what weapon they use, this list is going to start getting old.
  • Two Weapon Warrior: Trained under great masters who preached the simple truth that two are better than one when it comes to weapons, the two-weapon warrior is a terror when his hands are full. From paired daggers to exotic double weapons, all combinations come equally alive in his skilled hands. — Darth Maul.  Or The Three Musketeers mentioned above, quite often.
  • Weapon Master: Devoted to the perfection of a single weapon, the weapon master's meditations upon his favored weapon border on the obsessive, but none can deny his consummate skill. The weapon master must select a single type of weapon (such as longsword or shortbow). All of his abilities apply to that weapon type. — My m20 rules actually accommodate this concept very well, believe it or not.
Monk — I have very little use for this class/archetype in the first place.  I rarely see them played, and I don't know what David Carradine wandering through a pseudo-Medieval Europe like that old 80s show Kung Fu has to do with anything I'd really want to see in my D&D or D&D-ish games anyway.  But, no doubt the monk has its fans.  Because I'm not one, I probably won't have much to say on most of this subset in the list.
  • Drunken Master: Most monks lead lives of moderation and quiet contemplation. But the drunken master finds perfection through excess. Powered by strong wine, he uses his intoxication to reach a state where his ki is more potent, if somewhat fleeting. — Well, if you haven't seen the really famous Jackie Chan movie on which this is based, you really should.  It's pretty amazing.  Don't watch the first one, though, watch Drunken Master II, or under it's US release title, The Legend of the Drunken Master. 
  • Hungry Ghost Monk: The hungry ghost monk looks to spirits that prey upon the living as models of perfection. He sees the life energy of the universe as a resource to be manipulated, even stealing it from other creatures. It is through this constant influx of energy that the hungry ghost monk reaches his ultimate goal: power—personal, pure, and simple. — A vampire monk based on a Chinese folk story.  Sigh.
  • Ki Mystic: The ki mystic believes that violence is sometimes necessary, but knowing and understanding is the true root of perfection. Through meditation and spiritual visions, a ki mystic can see beyond the veil of reality to the underlying truth of all existence. — I have no idea what all that bafflegarble is actually supposed to mean.
  • Monk of the Empty Hand: The monk of the empty hand eschews normal weapons in favor of whatever is lying around—rocks, chair legs, flagons of ale, even a simple quill pen all become deadly weapons in the hands of such a monk. A monk of the empty hand draws on his own ki to infuse his improvised weapons with power, and can transform a broken bottle into a magical weapon. — If he's constantly picking stuff up and fighting with it, it's hardly "empty hand" is it?  Kinda reminds me of that guy "Mad Dog" in Ong Bak.
  • Monk of the Four Winds: The monk of the four winds is connected to the natural world in a way few other creatures—even other monks—can hope to match. He can call upon the elements and the spirits of the world in times of need, and as he nears his goal of perfection, he gains the ability to slow down time and even defeat death itself. — OK...
  • Monk of the Healing Hand: Monks of the healing hand seek perfection through helping others. By focusing their meditations on the flow of life within themselves and all creation they gain an understanding of how to share their ki with others, healing wounds and even bringing the dead back to life. For such a monk, sacrificing himself to save another is the surest way to achieve transcendence. — Yeah, but what exactly is the point in a game that already has clerics?
  • Monk of the Lotus: Monks are warriors who hone their bodies into deadly weapons, but some monks eschew violence in favor of a more peaceful philosophy. While a monk of the lotus realizes that combat cannot always be avoided—and is more than capable in a fight—he understands that all creatures are connected, and to harm another is to harm the self. Instead, he strives to find peaceful resolutions to conflicts, and in doing so, hopes to achieve inner peace. — That sounds really, really boring to play.  Plus, kind of a pussy.
  • Monk of the Sacred Mountain: The monk of the sacred mountain finds strength and power in the earth beneath his feet. Rather than spinning though the battlefield with the fluid motion of the river, he roots himself to the ground, as immovable and unshakable as the stones of the mountain. — Sounds like a minor tactical variation that I don't see the point of.
  • Weapon Adept: While all monks train in both unarmed combat and with weapons, the weapon adept seeks to become one with his weapons, transforming them into perfect extensions of his own body. Through such training, a weapon adept seeks to attain perfection by becoming a living weapon himself. — Oh, so to be good in a combat, he wants to learn to use weapons well!  Well, that's certainly innovative.
  • Zen Archer: Some monks seek to become one with another weapon entirely—the bow. The zen archer takes a weapon most other monks eschew and seeks perfection in the pull of a taut bowstring, the flex of a bow's limbs, and the flight of an arrow fired true. — Sounds already like the very first item from today, except with some weird Jedi BS thrown in for good measure.
  • Divine Defender: Some paladins see themselves as the last line of defense between the teeming hordes of evil and the innocent folk trying to make a living in a harsh, unforgiving world. These defenders spend their lives protecting others and taking on foes that the common man should not even know exist. To aid them in their holy mission, they have special powers to protect themselves and those around them. — Kinda sounds like... the paladin.  
  • Hospitaler: Paladins are known for their charity and for tending to the sick. The hospitaler takes to this calling above all others, spending much of her time healing the poor, and giving aid and succor to those in need. — It's one thing if you want to (more or less) use the name of an actual knightly order, but you should at least understand that order, I think.  Anyway, again—while this may well be a laudable character that if the game were real life we'd be glad to know, it hardly seems like the kind of heroic archetype that, y'know, enables the game exactly.
  • Sacred Servant: Paladins as a general rule, venerate the gods of good and purity, but some take this a step further, dedicating themselves to a specific deity and furthering the cause of the faith. These sacred servants are rewarded for their devotion with additional spells and powerful allies. A sacred servant must select one deity to worship. This deity's alignment must be lawful good, lawful neutral, or neutral good. — This is meaningless without the religious assumptions that D&D kinda sorta brings with it.
  • Shining Knight: While paladins often are seen mounted atop a loyal steed, the shining knight is the true symbol of mounted bravery. They are never far from their steeds and are always clad in brightly polished armor. — Paladins are already known for their steed, and how polished their armor is hardly seems like an archetypal detail to me.
  • Undead Scourge: Undead are an abomination in the eyes of the just and righteous. It is no surprise then that there are some paladins that dedicate themselves to wiping these unholy terrors from the world. — There are a lot of these kinds of classes in the game, but without knowing ahead of time that undead are going to be your major mission in the game, then it kinda seems like why would you ever want to use this class for anything?
  • Warrior of the Holy Light: Some paladins use their gifts to focus on the holy light that shines within their souls. With the gifts of purity and redemption, these paladins spend much of their lives helping others find the true path. Unleashing this power takes patience and comes at a steep price. — Huh?
  • Antipaladin (Alternate Class): Although it is a rare occurrence, paladins do sometimes stray from the path of righteousness. Most of these wayward holy warriors seek out redemption and forgiveness for their misdeeds, regaining their powers through piety, charity, and powerful magic. Yet there are others, the dark and disturbed few, who turn actively to evil, courting the dark powers they once railed against in order to take vengeance on their former brothers. It's said that those who climb the farthest have the farthest to fall, and antipaladins are living proof of this fact, their pride and hatred blinding them to the glory of their forsaken patrons.  Antipaladins become the antithesis of their former selves. They make pacts with fiends, take the lives of the innocent, and put nothing ahead of their personal power and wealth. Champions of evil, they often lead armies of evil creatures and work with other villains to bring ruin to the holy and tyranny to the weak. Not surprisingly, paladins stop at nothing to put an end to such nefarious antiheroes. — Yeah, OK.  I'm not exactly a neophyte to D&D, so I've been familiar with the anti-paladin for quite a while.  Heck, back in the mid 80s or so, I even had an anti-paladin Ral Partha miniature.  Actually, that's probably still kicking around in my basement somewhere, come to think of it.
Ranger — Given that this is my absolute favorite of the normal archetypes that they've made a class out of, I probably have plenty to say about the subheadings below.  Some I'll like, some I'll hate, and some I'll be meh about, but all of them have to be addressed because I'm such a huge fan of the hunter archetype, and have been ever since watching Errol Flynn as Robin Hood and reading about Aragorn.  Of course, because I like the archetype so much, I've often been dissatisfied with the implementation of it, because I have very specific "requirements" of what I want it to look like myself, so my relationship with class itself (and various alternative versions of it that I've seen) is kinda love/hate sometimes.
  • Beast Master: Some rangers, particularly those in primitive lands or who were raised by animals, have unusually strong bonds with animals. Unique among rangers, they can bond with multiple animals of any kind, creating a menagerie of wild yet loyal creatures, like a strange family. — I have to think that there's a kind of 80s barbarian movie vibe to this (not just because they used the same title) but I like the idea anyway.
  • Guide: Many rangers are loners, but some choose to use their familiarity with the land to guide others safely through the wilderness. The guide forgoes a favored enemy to focus on the task or foe at hand, and can pass his knowledge and luck on to his charges. — I always thought the favored enemy was kind of a silly mechanic anyway.
  • Horse Lord: Rangers of the plains use horses or other riding beasts to hunt their lands, forging a near-mystical relationship with their mounts. Horse lords are unparalleled mounted combatants, the envy of even the most dedicated cavalier. Though called “horse lords” as a generic term, these rangers are not restricted to horses for their animal companions—any creature the ranger can ride is included in these abilities. — From the Huns, Scythians, Mongols, Comanche and the Rohirrim and even the American cowboy, this is one of those iconic archetypes out there, and absolutely has to be enabled, I think.  On the other hand—especially in a dungeon environment like D&D often has, I have to wonder sometimes what the point is.
  • Infiltrator: Some rangers study their favored enemies and learn their ways, applying this knowledge to their own abilities and using their foes' strengths against them. Infiltrators are willing to walk a mile in an enemy's shoes so as to learn everything there is to know about their foes in order to more effectively hunt and kill them. — In part because I dislike the favored enemy ability, then I guess I have less use for this particular bullet point.
  • Shapeshifter: Most rangers venture into the wilderness, but there are some who let the wilderness seep into them. Whether by curse, disease, ancient rite, a slight lycanthropic influence in the blood, or the corrupting influence of chaos, these rangers embrace the wild to transform themselves into something untamed and feral. Shapeshifters are often held in awe, but are even more often feared. — There are a lot of subtle variations on this theme that we've already seen.  This one has a bit more of a Beorn-like vibe going on.
  • Skirmisher: Many rangers rely on spells, but there are some who eschew aid from divine powers for their own reasons. Skirmishers rely on their wits, their wisdom, and sometimes even instinct to aid in their quests. — I consider this almost mandatory for any ranger I play, but I take it merely as a mechanical template that replaces spells with some other abilities.  I'd then go ahead and look for an additional archetype, maybe.
  • Spirit Ranger: Some rangers nurture a connection with the spirits that reside in all things. By communing with these spirits, the spirit ranger can gain glimpses of things to come. — I'm not 100% sure what this means, exactly.
  • Urban Ranger: For the urban ranger, the streets and sewers of the city are just as dangerous as the barren wastelands or the deep forests. — This is still just a weird concept.
Rogue — the rogue is my second favorite archetype, and I think the class itself does a decent job of emulating it, for the most part.  This is the true "urban ranger" and given that I see most of my settings as a combination of dangerous yet beautiful safari-type wilderness dotted with wretched hives of scum and villainy, it's perhaps not surprising that the ranger and the rogue are usually my favorite classes to play when playing D&D itself.  In fact, I've often multiclassed between them, sometimes.
  • Acrobat: Agility and daring are both excellent rogue traits, and their confluence can create spectacular feats of acrobatics. Whether they are daring thieves, infiltrating assassins, or intrepid spies, proper training in acrobatics is a valuable boon for rogues. — Ah, yes.  The gymnast!  McKayle Maroney is not impressed.
  • Burglar: Adept at infiltration, trap removal, and lock picking, burglars prey on the homes of the wealthy and forgotten tombs alike. Such riches are guarded with vicious traps and hazards, but the devious mind of the burglar allows her to find such dangers and avoid them. — While I think that this is certainly appropriate for D&D specifically, this one also is a nice archetype for other types of games too.  Jimmy the Hand type guy.
  • Cutpurse: Everyone who lives in the city understands that a wealthy man stays wealthy by guarding his purse while wandering the streets and markets. Cutpurses are often trained by guilds to collect the guild's tax from local businesses on a daily basis, whether through intimidation or pickpocketing. Some find themselves taking up the mantle of adventurer, and their talents are generally appreciated in this role, but the cutpurse is still the first person her companions look to when an item goes missing. — While this is a very clear fantasy city archetype, I wonder how you can expand that into something usable by a player character.
  • Investigator: Not all rogues work against the law. Investigators use their skills to serve the law, often in the employ of nobles or in the pursuit of noble causes. In some cities cabals of investigators work for rulers or bureaucracies, but often an investigator is a free agent who pursues whatever mysteries come across her path. Of course, not all investigators serve the law. Crime lords and guildmasters often have squads of investigators serving their own nefarious purposes.  — Another great archetype (which we've explored already in other form) that probably isn't necessarily a great fit to the rogue class.  What does the backstab (or sneak attack, as it is now) ability have to do with being Sherlock Holmes?
  • Poisoner: Some consider poisoning an evil act. The poisoner knows poison is just a tool toward an end, and is no different than any other weapon. Some poisoners see themselves as great equalizers, as they are able to craft weapons that the weakest of creatures can wield to devastating effect, but most have no lofty delusions about their work. — This is probably a minor archetype mechanically that offers little difference to the class other than a swamp of an ability or two.  Not a bad idea, but probably too specialized for play.
  • Rake: The rake is a rogue who is open about her skills and talents, often to the point of being boastful. Usually she has the protection of an important figure who finds her services useful, but sometimes her bravado is enough to keep enemies away. She is often used as a face for the group for diplomacy, gathering information, negotiations, or to gain the most lucrative contracts and quests from local authorities. — "She".  Sigh.  Face from the A-Team certainly shows that this idea works in the ensemble team kind of format that D&D tends to make use of.
  • Scout: Not all rogues live in the city. Scouts frequently roam the wilderness, often banding together as bandits, but sometimes serving as guides, as trailblazers, or as companions to a ranger or barbarian warrior. More comfortable with sneaking and hiding outdoors, the scout is still effective in the city and the dungeon. — Using the rogue class to become a ranger analog.  
  • Sniper: Some say that the sniper is the worst kind of assassin: a killer who waits silently in the shadows and then strikes from a distance without remorse. Snipers, of course, understand that such protestations about “cowardice” and “honor” regarding their profession are in fact merely the bleatings of sheep fearing the slaughter and pay them no heed. Most snipers take pride in their formidable abilities, which allow them to take life quickly, quietly, and efficiently, then disappear into their surroundings without a trace. — Everyone knows what this means, I think.
  • Spy: The best spies are like chameleons, but not only can they change their appearances to fit the situation, they can also change their personalities, allegiances, and even loves if that's what it takes to achieve their clandestine goals. Spies are the ultimate manipulators, and even those who commission their services sometimes find that they've merely served the spies' own interests. — Another great archetype, but one that is probably going to get little play in the group setting that D&D favors.  If you ever do an unusual 1-on-1 type game, you could really make some hay with this archetype, though.  Or if you're not playing and you're writing fiction, of course.
  • Swashbuckler: A paragon of mobile swordplay, the swashbuckler is a rogue who focuses almost exclusively on honing her skill at arms and perfecting daring acrobatic moves and elaborate flourishes that border on performance. — Of course, there is a swashbuckler class already, so using the rogue class to try and get there is probably overkill.  There's a lot of overlap in the Pathfinder archetype system, which I suppose gives you lots of wiggle room in terms of how to come up with your character.
  • Thug: Some criminals steal with finesse, their victims only discovering the crime when the rogue is long gone and the coin already spent. A thug, on the other hand, cares nothing for finesse. Through both threat and violence, the thug gets what she wants by the promise of force, and has no problem making good on that promise as needed. — Given that the rogue isn't much of a combat specialist or a bruiser, I'd be surprised to find that this archetype works well to actually match the archetype.
  • Trapsmith: Some rogues are not content with just disabling traps—they love to build them, finding a captivating beauty in the turning of gears and the slither of ropes over pulleys. The trapsmith may have started out putting together traps in order to better understand how to disable them, but for most, it's long since gone beyond that—they now relish the challenge of creating the perfect combat machine. — I'm not a fan of traps in the game.  A few are... ok.  Specializing in them is absurd.
Sorcerer — I don't have much interest in the specifics of the sorcerer class, and the bloodlines "archetypes" aren't archetypal, there's just interesting tactical variations that have little bearing on my game.  I'll probably present these mostly without comment.
  • Aquatic: Your family traces its heritage back to the ocean depths, whether scions of undersea empires left in the wake of nomadic sea-tribes, or the spawn of creeping ichthyic infiltrators into remote seaside villages. The song of the sea hums in your blood, calling the waves and all those within to your command. — Love the subtle reference to Lovecraft.
  • Boreal: Descended from inhabitants of the lands of ice and snow, you count among your ancestors giant-kin, troll-born, and frost-rimed spirits. Their savage and raw energies flow down through generations to infuse you to the marrow with the chill of the polar wind, crackling auroras, and the long winter's night.
  • Deep Earth: The echoing cave-songs and the rumble and creak of primal spirits deep below the ground thrum in your soul and in all your family line. You are likely slow, steady, and stable in your thinking, little prone to wandering and preferring to instead find depth in contemplation.
  • Dreamspun: Your family is a long line of dreamers, who dream not as ordinary mortals do but rather as those who reach through and touch the supernal realm of dreams and the farthest shores of night. Whether it is a gift or curse is not always clear, but your visions of the past and future call you ineluctably to a life of adventure. — Another subtle Lovecraft reference...
  • Protean: You have in your veins the ever-changing wildness of primal chaos, the raw essence of unbound creation. Your mind and spirit burst with the constant inspiration of consummate freedom, though you have difficulty following through on a task when another, new and exciting, catches your interest.
  • Serpentine: Your bloodline carries the lingering stain of ancient serpent races that ruled when the world was young; your forebears were likely favored slaves anointed by their reptilian masters and gifted with their cold cunning and subtle manipulation. While deception and a mesmeric charm are your birthright, you may struggle for truth in spite of your heritage.
  • Shadow: Spirits from the shadow plane dally at times in the world of light, and such as these lay with your ancestors once upon a time, imparting the mystery of shadow-stuff into your lineage. You are often sullen and withdrawn, preferring to skulk at the fringes of social circles and keep to yourself, cultivating an air of mystery and majesty that is all your own.
  • Starsoul: You come from a line of stargazers and explorers who delved deeply into the darkness beyond the stars. In touching the void, the void touched them, and your mind, spirit, and body yearn to span the gulf between worlds.
  • Stormborn: You trace your heritage to fierce and proud spirits of storm and sky, and living lightning sings in your veins.
  • Verdant: Your progenitors infused themselves with raw plant life, binding it into their own tissue and passing it down to their literal seed, giving you innate communion with nature.