Monday, February 23, 2015

Neanderthals in Dark•Heritage

I've done it. I'm trashing the race selection a bit in DARK•HERITAGE and replacing changelings and Neanderthals both with a totally different mechanic.  Both are no considered to be merely cultural differences of the same race.  And both use a slightly modified version of an m20 Orc mechanic that I found and adapted.  I feel that both of the mechanics that I did have didn't really focus enough on the core concept of the race, which now focused through the lens of this Neanderthal Predation Theory as described by Danny Vendramini.  I'm not very interested in his take on the evolutionary psychology aspect of the theory (plus, I find the r/K-selection applied to human evolutionary psychology much more convincing.  I don't necessarily believe Vendramini's theory at all, although I do find it attractive from an aesthetic perspective as applied to fantasy.)  Let me summarize the salient points:

  • Our view of Neanderthals--both from behavior and from appearance, is colored by a strong anthropomorphized lens.  In reality, the Neanderthals were a different species of humanoid, and our attempts to render them as human is flawed from the get-go.
  • In terms of appearance, we have generally done a poor job of rendering the skeleton as if it were any other prehistoric animal, and instead used criminal forensics techniques that are suited to reconstructing humans, not humanoids.  To whit:
    • Neanderthals eye sockets are much larger than humans, meaning that we've made their eyes all wrong in reconstructions.  This also suggests that Neanderthals might have been much more nocturnal in their habits, and could see better in the dark.
    • Neanderthals eye sockets are in a much higher position on the head than in humans.  And their skulls, in profile, have a much more "great ape" like profile than human-like profile.  They look like big-brained chimpanzees.  All of these features combined mean that Neanderthals almost certainly wouldn't have looked very human-like.
    • There's no reason to believe that Neanderthals would have lost their body hair.  No other primate, except humans, have ever done so.  Since Neanderthals lived in the same environment as woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos, cave bears, etc. they almost certainly had thick fur of their own.
  • Although Neanderthals don't have out-sized canines, like most other primates, due to environmental necessity, they were almost certainly nearly obligate carnivores rather than omnivores or gatherers.
  • Although shorter, in general, than humans, they have a much more robust skeleto-muscular system, and were almost certainly significantly stronger.
  • Neanderthal cannibalism is well (although newly) documented.  Their inclination to predate on humans, then, seems easy enough to accept, albeit somewhat speculative.
  • The notion that Neanderthal/human interbreeding is the result of sexual predation is also speculative, but not hard to believe.
I've decided that the Neanderthals of the Cavusto Steppes and the wildlings of the Shifting forest and other temperate forests of the north are merely cultural expressions of the same race, in the same way that kurushi and terrasans are.  Why not?  They're both expressions of the same general idea; savage, dangerous, wild men who are in a sense subhuman.  Having the wildlings be watered down werewolves or the Neanderthals being guerilla fighters can all be done as cultural.

I'm going to say that due to generations of wife-stealing from human populations in the forests up north, that genetically the Neanderthals of the north are less ape-like and more human-like in their appearance, although they maintain a purer cultural approximation to the Neanderthal ancestral position.

Also; Neanderthal is a name that is rooted in the real world, being named, of course, for the actual Neanderthal, or Neander Valley, Neander being a Grecized version of the German name Neumann.  Neanderthal literally means Neumann's Valley, and of course, makes no sense as a label in DARK•HERITAGE itself.  Names used to describe them in setting include woses (especially wood-woses in the north, where they are boreal in habitat most often), sasquatches, wildlings, and man-apes.

The revised rules in m20 (which means that I'll need to update the document again, sigh) are as follows:

  • Neanderthals, regardless of place of origin, gain a +4 to their STR stat and -2 to their MND stat.  They also gain as well as a +1 to their Survival skill, and -1 to their Communication skill.

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