Thursday, November 29, 2018

At this point in the edition...

Someone made an interesting point that I saw briefly on a discussion board that I don't go to anymore.  But let me see if I can more or less recreate it myself.  5e is coming up on 4½ years since its release in the next month or two.  Crazy, huh?  I still haven't even read it (although I've read or at least skimmed some of the campaign/module products, which have typically been quite nice.)  There doesn't seem to be any discussion at all about a 6e, and Mike Mearls has even been known to refer to 5e as "evergreen" on occasion (although I highly doubt that corporate will allow that to be true forever, even if it could be true from a strict product standpoint.)

Anyway, the gist of the point being made was to look at each of the other editions of D&D and see where they were at the same point.  With some help from the Acaeum, I can do that too.
  • Chainmail—not really D&D, but this is proto-D&D, and Gygax and Arneson disagreed (probably for legal reasons, based on the infamous lawsuit) about how much this really is D&D under a prototype name.  First published in summer 1970 as a series of articles in a wargaming magazine, and published in 1971 as a standalone book, Chainmail was still published up through 1979, at least, although by 4½ years after it was published, OD&D was already out and had essentially replaced it in the marketplace.
  • OD&D—technically available Jan 1974, but realistically not until later in the year, 4½ years later, it had been superceded by the Holmes set over a year ago already, AD&D was due very shortly, and even Holmes was to be replaced by Moldvay soon.
  • BD&D—summer '77.  Four and a half years in, the Moldvay replacement was over a year old, and AD&D was overtaking D&D anyway.
  • B/X—1981.  This only lasted two years before BECMI replaced it.  In any case, let me turn to AD&D, because that's really where the action was after B/X anyway.
  • AD&D (1e)—It's not actually clear when this was released; you got the first printing of the first book in late 1977, but you don't get the actual full three-book set until well into 1979.  Either way, 4½ years puts us in mid 1982 or late 1984; so, we're in "peak" 1e at this point.  Unearthed Arcana, often unofficially called 1.5e came out in 1985 and is almost universally seen as 1e "jumping the shark" as the saying goes.
  • 2e—2e started development in 1987, but wasn't released until 1989.  If you consider "1.5e" an actual edition, then it's about 4½ years later that this is released.  To be fair, most players point out the very high degree of compatibility, and suggest that the change from 1e (or 1.5e if you will) is more a question of presentation and tone rather than actual significant changes to the rules themselves.  That came along later with the "Player's Options books, also known unofficially as... 2.5e!  In 1995, so a little longer than 4½ years.
  • 3e—came out in summer 2000; this brought me back to D&D.  Sadly, it didn't last very long before it was superceded by 3.5 in 2003; within the 4½ year window.  While 3.5 is... generally... seen as a truly improved version of 3e, it was also seen as unnecessary, even by the developers, who were pushed to do it by the suits at Hasbro, apparently.  By 4½ years, in, 4e was announced although it didn't come out until... well, wait for it below.
  • 4e—It wasn't until 2008 that this really was released.  Of all of the major editions of D&D, it has probably the shortest life-cycle.  D&D Essentials, widely seen as "4.5e" came out in 2010, and in 2012, 5e was out.  If 5e had been on 4e's schedule, we'd already be seeing 6e books on the shelves now.
  • I should probably point out that Pathfinder, also unofficially known as "3.75e" came out in 2009 and is in beta testing for a major revision change or reworking right now as we speak.
What's the point of all of this?  I guess I'm mostly just pointing out that with the exception of 1e and Pathfinder, 5e is exceeding (so far) expectations of product life.  On the other hand, if you combine 3e and 3.5e, which you could do given the high degree of compatibility between them (and if you combine Pathfinder into that product cycle given it's high degree of backwards compatibility, which is more iffy, but you could make that case) then you could suggest that that's had a much longer lifecycle.

Of course, if you're going to do that, then you can draw a line of broadly compatible products from probably BD&D to the end of 2e too, so it starts to get a bit difficult to make hard, bright lines here.  But, it's probably a good sign for 5e in general that it looks like it's outlasted many editions of the past without anyone suggesting that it be revised again, and is on track to continue without interruption into the foreseeable future.  A good enough sign, that I'm starting to wonder if my general disinterest in the game these last five years or so since it was announced is really warranted.  It's probably good enough that if I had looked at it, my attachment to 3e would have evaporated, even with the fairly massive investment that I've made into the game and supplements and whatnot for it.  I mean, let's be real.  I have spent all that money on 3e, sure.  But I don't do anything with most of those books anymore either.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Another discussion on Bounded Accuracy

Another discussion on one of my favorite topics; or rather, one of my favorite ideas from 5e.  Not that I spent a lot of time investigating exactly how it was implemented, but the concept is, I think, the first time that the the developers tried specifically to excise one of the main problems that I've always had with D&D of literally every edition ever.  Although to be fair, it only got worse as editions went up up through 4e.  For 3e and even moreso for 4e, the designers recognized the problem but rather than try to eliminate it, they embraced it and designed around it, deciding for reasons of "sacred cowedness" or something that it just wouldn't be D&D without it.  That lead to the debacle that is higher level 3e and 4e play.  There's a reason why hardly anyone plays at that level, and why for the most part it's seen as fundamentally broken, or at least highly undesirable.  Arguably in the case of 4e it's not broken so much as it's just stupid.

E6 was the solution to fix it in 3e, but that wasn't nearly as elegant a solution as the bounded accuracy model of 5e, because it essentially made large swaths of the Monster Manual unusable.  Even a continuously improving E6 character who's been around for a long time kind of tapers off and tops out at an effective CR of about 10 or so.  So, the really high CR monsters, like say a CR 20 balor or old red dragon are just not really usable at all, because an effective character level 10 party can't expect to ever really defeat them.

Which maybe isn't terrible, because it encourages players to do something to deal with them other than just charge in to standard combat.  But at the same time, it's not really the intention of anyone to design monsters that aren't really going to be usable to most players, so E6 had a rather steep cost, I think, associated with it.

With 5e, a system designed around the idea of bounded accuracy from the very beginning, on the other hand, we get a system that just works a lot better.  Sadly, however, it means that you need to start over.  So, let's have a quick discussion about it, and then let's have a quick discussion about how well Fantasy Hack and my other m20 offerings meet the design requirements that 5e spelled out.  I'm using the text here to define bounded accuracy.  If you follow that link, be sure and expand the box to see the original developer's text (from an article on Wizards' website that now is unavailable.)

And because I'm using that link, let me address some of the text there first; specifically the "What Bounded Accuracy Is Not bullet points.
BA has nothing to do with checks of any sort. The limits imposed upon ability modifiers thanks to BA alters the standard DC range, but this is an unintended side-effect.
Uh... no, that's not true.  Did the guy writing this not even read the text right above this point from the developer's own pen?  It may be a side effect, but it's not unintended.  This is a key component of bounded accuracy, and was discussed at length in the developer's notes.  Any system which doesn't address skills, saves, and other checks in addition to attack rolls is not a full bounded accuracy system.
BA has nothing to do with saves of any sort. Because saves are just a keyworded check variant in 5e, they are affected in exactly the same way.
No.  See my comments directly above.
BA has nothing to do with damage. It incidentally has implications for how damage winds up being delivered, because the same modifiers apply, and because it alters the hit frequency for attacks.
Again, it's not incidental.  It's integral.  Granted, the impact is less dramatic than it is for attack and AC comparisons.
BA is not about reducing the power of character level. Level is still king. It does increase how long a lower-level character or lower-CR monster will last against a character of a given level.
Yes, I suppose, but that's relative.  Level is "still king" in a relative sense, but character power by level is lower than it was in, say, 3e at the same level.  However, since the world doesn't "level up with you" as it rather dubiously does in 3e and even more overtly in 4e, that doesn't matter, because the whole concept of how powerful leveling is supposed to be and what kinds of threats you are expected to deal with and how is rejiggered in a bounded accuracy system.  Depending on how charitably you want to treat this statement, it's pedantically correct, but context makes it actually incorrect from the point of view of a player, or the whole thing is irrelevant.  In other words, in a strictly traditional sense, you can still face the same gamut of threats at the same levels in 5e under a bounded accuracy paradigm as you could during a non-bounded accuracy paradigm, but you also moved completely out of being threatened by things that were threatening to you at lower levels without bounded accuracy, which fundamentally changed the genre of the game from one of fantasy adventurers to one of fantasy superheroes.  Bounded accuracy, among other things, maintains the genre through the entire spectrum of levels.
BA is not about increasing the difficulty of lower CR enemies. Rather, it allows lower CR enemies to still produce some degree of actual threat- no matter how little- against a PC of any level, and the same for a PC against a high CR monster.
This is mostly true.  But it's not just enemies and CRs, it's also checks and DCs.
BA is not intended to alter the overall difficulty or risk of the game. Ultimately, how difficult the game is depends entirely on what the DM decides to throw at the players. BA just makes that job a lot easier, by giving them a wider range of options for how to achieve a given threat level.
Yes, and that's a great thing.  But after describing the things that the writer of the wiki entry (often incorrectly) believes that bounded accuracy is not, as well as a historical digression to discuss the nature of the problem that bounded accuracy is getting rid of, he lists four things that it is, and I think this is spot on.  So, let's discuss how bounded accuracy works in 5e and compare it to the situation in Fantasy Hack to see how well I meet the expectations of bounded accuracy.  If I'm a little off, will I want to make minor modifications to Fantasy Hack and it's derivatives?  Possibly.  Let me "talk" through this as I make this post.
First, they deserted the magic item economy. This was an effect generated by developers assuming players would have magic items providing a minimum bonus at given levels and preemptively building those bonuses into monster ACs to compete. It made magic items worthless, because players could only use them for a short time before being forced to upgrade, and also made magic items mandatory because you couldn't function without them. It forced DMs to plant a regular progression of magic gear as rewards during play, regardless how shoehorned-in it became. The magic item economy was the main driving force behind the treadmill. Instead, monsters would be built on the assumption that players do not have any magic items.
I disliked the magic item economy for aesthetic reasons that have little to do with the mechanical implications, but the fact that the magic item economy fundamentally forced us into the so-called "treadmill" means that it absolutely had to go.  Keep in mind that in Fantasy Hack, as in older versions of D&D, there is no CR, so I'm not trying to calibrate level vs CR the way 3e, 4e and 5e have done.

Now, also keep in mind that this doesn't mean that there may not be threats out there that require magic items to deal with.  But having a panoply of magic items just to do the day to day is strictly forbidden as a concept.  Fantasy Hack already does this; in fact, I only added magic items in as an afterthought in Appendix I anyway.
Second, they sat down and decided that the total flat bonus a player could receive on a check could not exceed the value of one whole die. (Anything more than that, and you just have an eternal arbitrary arms race of increasing values; the "treadmill" of the past editions) In other words, +20 is the theoretical desired limit of all combined bonuses to an attack roll. There is some debate, but it appears as though, by core rules only, the highest check result possible is 47, a bonus of +27, and it requires a lot of fiddly build options which the developers probably hadn't anticipated, plus a good circumstantial situation, and is not applicable to attack rolls. In other words: they did a good job of staying in that limit. Generally, nobody will ever be able to roll higher than 31 for an attack, check, or save.
I didn't specifically plan for this, and I only achieve it, I believe, because I halved the number of levels.  Let's see for the sake of argument, how high my bonuses for To Hit can get with a character in Fantasy Hack?

If I create an orc fighter with maximum STR, he'll have +6 for his ability score, but an additional +3 can be added as he goes through the level progression to make for a total of +9 (!).  He also gets +1 as a Fighter bonus, which increases to +3.  He gets up to +10 as a bonus for his level at the top of the progression.  And if you customized the Fighter class to give you the Outdoorsman's weapon bonus, but applied to whatever weapon you use, you'd have an additional +1.  And let's say, just for the sake of argument, that he's also got a +3 weapon, which is the maximum bonus allowed by the magic item rules.

That gives him a to hit bonus that is higher than 20; 26 to be specific.  Now, granted, that's a character designed around one thing: getting the maximum to hit bonus.  It also requires a +3 magic item, and there's no guarantee that such a thing even exists in the Timischburg or DH5 settings anyway.

I think I squeak in under the definition, although not entirely by design.  I'm actually a little bit surprised how high you can get that bonus if you really trick your character out to get it, but then again, even if you don't, your 10th level human fighter is going to be; what, probably only about +5 less than that, especially if magic items aren't readily available.  Just about any fighter-style class will be.  And even non-fighter style classes will be probably over +10 at 10th level, unless they have a really weak STR score.
Third, they divided how that maximum bonus would be proportioned between standardized sources. In general, these sources are the only sources of bonuses to an attack, check, or save. The sources are: ability score modifier, (maximum of +5, attainable even from first level) proficiency bonus, (minimum of +2, maximum of +6, grows slowly with level) and magic gear bonus, (max of +3, but it's unlikely you'll ever even see +1). This gives, under optimal conditions, without feature intervention, a maximum roll result of 34 with magic.
Yeah, I blow that away, I'm afraid.  Theoretically there could be conditions that give situational bonuses already on top of my 10th level orc fighter, but ignoring those, I've got a maximum roll of 46 based on my calculations above, and heck; the average roll is still 37 at 10th level with that build.  If I'd use the optional wose race, I've be even a point higher.

I think I may have been too generous in allowing bonuses to stack without really seeing how far they could be pushed to potentially break the bounded accuracy paradigm.  Which, granted, I didn't specifically attempt to create a bounded accuracy system by the strict definitions of the 5e design team, but I did want to do so at a looser high level approach.
Fourth, they made sure that PC ACs could not exceed 21, and monster ACs do not exceed 31. (See how that 31 lines up perfectly with the maximum possible roll result without magic? Notice that the maximum PC AC is 10 less than the maximum monster AC, a full half-die lower.)
If I wanted to maximize AC, with the races I currently have, I could get a maximum ability bonus to AC from DEX of +8 (I could increase that maybe a point or two with a custom race). +5 for level bonus, +6 from armor, an additional +3 for magic armor, and +2 for a shield.  Total AC would be 10 +8+5+6+3+2, or 33.  That might have another point or two of wiggle room, but again—that's higher than I really envisioned.

I think that my problem was that even with only 10 levels instead of 20, I didn't really give a lot of thought to the concept of playing all the way to 10th level.

Sigh.  I'll probably have to do some work to keep those bonuses a bit flatter.  The highest AC any of my monsters has, Cthulhu, is only 35, and the players can theoretically hit that range if they really trick out their character specifically to do so.  My top ranges, compared to my most powerful monsters, are too high.  And too many foes would literally be unable to ever hit the characters at all.

I had thought that I had higher armor values impose a penalty on how much DEX bonus you could apply, but I guess I decided that that was too fiddly to work with and did away with it.  But even then, it gets out of control.  I actually think a big part of my problem is that ability scores can get too high.  I should probably put caps on those too.
Notice that most of this doesn't actually put limits on players. It actually puts limits on the developers when designing content the players can use. The standardization of player attack bonuses allows them to anticipate the bonus range any character can put out at a given level, regardless of class. This allows them to design monsters which have ACs which alter the probability of a hit based on PC level. Rather than probability being rapidly pushed to 0% or 100%, the monster becomes viable for use against a much wider range of PCs. By having limits to player AC that are not tied to level, they can change the hit rate for monsters by adjusting only their attack bonuses. Because the two things are no longer tied together, it is now possible to have monsters that always hit and always get hit, always hit but rarely get hit, rarely hit but always get hit, or rarely hit or get hit, as well as anything within those four extremes. Finally, the whole point of all of this was to make lesser enemies still useful in larger numbers at higher levels, and powerful enemies still survivable at lower levels. (Survivable is not the same as defeat-able. TPKs still happen.) That means you no longer need to have special tier-balanced versions of each monsters, or special minion monsters, you can just use a higher CR monster to present extra challenges, or throw a whole bunch of lower CR monsters to make up a total CR equal to one big monster.
This is what I need to actually spend a little bit of time on proper math to get accomplished for my m20 games.

The simplest way to address the higher To Hit and AC class scores are to do the following two things:
  • Cap ability score bonuses.  You can only ever get a maximum of +4 plus your racial bonus to your ability score, which you can get at 1st level.  Either eliminate the ability score increases as you level up, or say that if you're already at your max ability score in one ability, you have to apply it to another.  If you somehow have maxed ability scores in all abilities, you are not only one lucky bastard with your ability score rolls, but you lose your ability to increase them when you level up.  It's hardly like you need it.
  • For your AC, you can take either your DEX bonus or your Armor and shield bonuses, but not both.  Wearing armor makes you unable to dodge blows as effectively, and the whole point of armor anyway is to block blows that you can't get out of the way of.  This isn't simulationist realistic, but it does reduce the maximum AC that a player character can get, if tricked out, by about 8 (technically a little bit more if you consider the possibility of magical armor.)  That's still a little bit higher than the 5e bounded accuracy ideal, but it's now within a couple points of that ideal, and I did so with an elegant solution.
If I felt like more was still needed, I could halve the rates at which skill and To hit bonuses apply to characters; instead of adding your level, you add half your level rounded down.  I probably won't do this, but that would be the next step.  AC progression is already halved, but I'd make it apply only ever third level instead of every other level, and it would also reduce the maximum by a few more points.  It's not perfect; low level opponents like a goblin or human commoner still can't hit PCs past a certain level because they can't get an attack roll higher than a 21 or 20 respectively, but that only becomes an issue at very high levels (in the m20 scheme of things, where 10 is the cap.)  Any solution that addresses that needs to do so in a way that's elegant enough to not be fiddly and annoying; it may not be worth addressing at that point.  Either that or eliminate the 10 baseline, or change it to a lower number.  I'll have to think on how feasible that option may or may not be.

UPDATE: I have actually gone ahead and made both of those changes to the files, although not to the web versions of the rules.  They can be seen below, as Google docs:
UPDATE AGAIN: I've rethought the AC problem.  Rather than making you pick Armor Bonus or DEX bonus, how about we just get rid of the level based AC progression altogether?  Although I actually like the level-based AC progression in many ways, it was specifically implemented in the d20 games from which I borrowed it as an alternative solution to the magic item economy to keep your AC progressing as it needs to.  Therefore, my solution is becoming a new problem in the absence of the problem that it was originally designed to solve.  How ridiculous is it that I've still got it in there?  Sigh.  Now I've got to modify the documents again.  I also stuck a max DEX bonus on when wearing armor, which is a relatively simple solution, and already familiar from most D&D games anyway.

And eventually update the web pages and the blog post pages that have the rules on them too.  Work, work, work.  Maybe, to be honest with you, I should just get rid of the blog post and web page versions of the rules entirely and just refer to the PDF as the correct version of the rules that should be referenced.

Anyway, with these changes, my orc fighter would have a max To Hit of 23, but realistically 20 or 21 because I'm not in the habit of giving out +3 swords.  My super hard to hit halfling (or anyone else, for that matter) can't seem to get his AC over 19 without magical armor no matter what he does.

I think that solves my bounded accuracy problems.

For that matter, although I didn't discuss it, it keeps my skill and save checks down too; with a max bonus of +4 plus racial bonus (effective max +3) and level check, it never gets above 17 without some kind of magical or circumstantial bonus either.  This means that no matter your experience level, a 15 DC is difficult for novices but not experts, and a 30 DC is always fairly difficult for even the most advanced expert known to mankind; a 35 DC is an effective cap on difficulty for most intents and purposes.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Cheddar Man hoax

Y'know, I always was kind of skeptical, but I kept an open mind about the notion that the WHG population could probably have been darker than the population of much of the (native) Europeans today, at least.  Although it did seem odd that right around the Baltic Sea, where people are literally the whitest in the world, is where the WHG ancestry quotient is highest.

Looks like the whole thing was a fraud anyway:

Paul Nehlen is also apparently on the "far right" and the "alt right".  Who knew?  Certainly not him.

But he's 100% correct.  "The whole Cheddar Man hoax was about one thing and one thing only, a 'scientific' justification for the morality behind the mass dispossession of whites.  It’s the 'see bigot, Albion was always home to blacks, now sit down and be replaced, because science'.  I refuse to play along with this game."

La Braña man and a few others suggest that the WHG was darker than the EHG population, or that of most of Europe today, but they certainly weren't going to be black.  That's a ridiculous assertion, and rightly called out as a hoax.

UPDATE:  Not that it's exactly right, but it's curious, isn't it, how ideas come back around after decades of languishing in obscurity and even contempt?  Robert E. Howard's Picts are not really very dissimilar in most respects to the WHG population

The Legacy of the Editions

Well, I'm still not talking yet about what I said I was going to talk about this week, but I'll get to that in the next few days.  Rather; I want to talk about what are the specific legacies of each edition of D&D.  Or rather; what are the legacies that I'm using.  I don't actually play D&D per se anymore (not saying that I wouldn't, but rather that I don't and don't have any specific plans to either..)  But anyone who plays any role-playing game at all owes something to the legacy of D&D, and in my case, where I'm utilizing a system that is specifically derivative of a specific version of D&D in specific ways and with specific elements; well—I owe something to pretty much all versions of D&D, even the ones that I haven't read, don't own and haven't ever played, like 4e and 5e.

For purposes of this exercise, I'm going to limit myself to the Xe convention; i.e., I'll refer specifically to 0e, 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e and 5e.  This leaves out the B/X to BECMI to RC progression entirely, which in all fairness is probably the "true" descendant of 0e rather than AD&D (otherwise known as 1e and 2e.)  When the Advanced was dropped from the title, 3e was specifically a development of AD&D though, not the RC, and the number highlighted that fact.

Anyway, on with the show.

0e: Other than the fact that the whole concept of the roleplaying game starts here (if you discount "proto-D&D" stuff like some of the Chainmail stuff Gygax and Arneson were working on before D&D itself was written) the specific legacy of 0e, or OD&D as it's sometimes abbreviated, is the much looser, rules-lite, GM ruling-heavy playstyle where anything could go and the GM figure out how to make stuff happen rather than some designer.  There was much less content, and a very different approach to the game, the rules, and the playstyle here than what subsequently evolved to become commonplace.  Arguably, the B/X game continued this playstyle. but in reality, it didn't take too long before D&D started to resemble AD&D more than OD&D in terms of how the game was designed and presented.  There's a reason that the OSR movement tends to focus especially on 0e and B/X-like products as the rules base, because other iterations of the rules didn't cater to this playstyle very well, which was officially "lost" (although no doubt at many tables it was still done a lot.)

This is the big contribution of 0e to me; the idea of the very slim collection of rules, a focus on tools that enable GM rulings more than exhaustive and comprehensive rules for every situation and slight change in flavor, etc.  And this is what I mean when I say frequently that I'm not old-school, but I am old-fashioned.  I don't like the specific rules from this era, but I do greatly prefer the playstyle inherent here.  Although the motto of 3e was "Tools, not rules" in reality, 3e was full of rules, whereas it was the 0e style that gave you tools.

1e: I actually have a harder time with finding the "legacy" of this rule-system as it applies to me, as I've largely rejected the paradigm of AD&D entirely.  That said, most of the really iconic content (besides some B/X stuff here and there) that we think of as D&D pertains to this version of the rules, where it first appeared and was developed.  Of course, I've largely rejected that too, and play a game that while derivative of D&D isn't really meant to emulate what playing D&D specifically is like in any significant way.

But while I don't really like 1e very much and can't point to a specific thing that I'd call it's legacy in my play, at he same time, the intangible legacy is probably hard to overstate.  The extent to which 1e is the expectation of what fantasy roleplaying looks like, and even the fantasy genre in general, is tremendous.  Iconic adventures from 1e define D&D and fantasy overall in many ways.  And even loads of basic concepts about PCs and DMing started here.

2e: 2e didn't change all that much about the rules, and most of what it did change wasn't necessarily seen as an improvement, per se.  But the big story for 2e is really campaign settings much more so than rules.  Now, granted, I don't use prefab campaign settings, really ever (although I'm occasionally tempted by them) but seeing them has been hugely inspirational to me, and I not only model my own settings on stuff that I see there that I like, but I borrow tons of elements from them as well.

I also like seeing stuff that is somewhat off-beat and esoteric, because it showcases exactly how far from the "baseline" that D&D can wander and yet still be very recognizably D&D.  And when I want something that feels like D&D but off-kilter, modeling specifically on Dark Sun, Ravenloft or Planescape as a start is often my go-to model.

3e: 3e is the system that brought me back to D&D after many years as a wandering prodigal son.  It's also the system that chased me back away from it in the end, though.  But what it did was manifold: consistent, coherent rules, great settings, the OGL and all of the innovative craziness that that inspired, and ultimately, set the stage for the OSR and m20, the derivative system that I use today.

If it weren't for 3e, I wouldn't have probably come back to even quasi-traditional fantasy; I might still be wandering, if I was RPGing at all, in the worlds of modern urban fantasy or horror, or something.  Or maybe I'd have become a GURPS guy.  Or who knows.  It wouldn't be where I am now, that's for sure.

Obviously my rules are derivative of 3e (or maybe d20, to be more specific.)  Intangible influences beyond that come from many d20 sources; Eberron, Iron Kingdoms, Freeport, and more.  Without d20 I wouldn't have a Sanity system in my game.  I wouldn't have Action points.  Neither are unique to d20, but that was the vector by which they came to me.

4e: It's curious that I've never owned 4e, never played 4e, and never even read 4e (although I did read a few sourcebooks for the fluff here and there) and while the game was not at all the kind of game that I would have wanted, it did give me a few great legacies.  Some of them I was independently heading towards, but for most, I either borrowed the concept directly from descriptions of the mechanic I heard from others who played 4e, or some other such vector.  Here I'm talking specifically about the concept of the minion; a capable combat opponent who nevertheless comes in large numbers and goes down with one hit, no matter what the damage, and the healing surge.  The former is just fun, and while I'd arbitrarily cut back on hit points for monsters where it felt like combats were tedious grinds, I hadn't made the intuitive leap all the way towards minions.  The latter, on the other hand, is super important to me, because I don't have D&D style clerical healing, so I need some kind of alternative to keep the game from being too punitive to actually model swashbuckling action.

Independently, I was also going for a clean-up and simplification of the increasingly esoteric and Byzantine and unwieldy D&D standard cosmology, even when playing D&D, so although I was gratified to see 4e do the same, I didn't need 4e for that to make its way into my games.  If I ever run real D&D again, of any edition (which includes Pathfinder, for the record) I'd almost certainly houserule the alignment system to work like it does in 4e as well, assuming that I even keep alignment at all.  That's another one where I was already independently going even further than 4e did anyway.

5e: Here I'd already been gone again from the D&D fold for so long that I don't even know much about how 5e works, except that it's supposed to be like 3e but without the arcane complexity that made 3e burn out so many players and DMs.  That said, there is at least one concept that I'm aware of from the rules design that I've also made an element of my game, although probably not as well as it was done in 5e, honestly, and that's "bounded accuracy."  I don't know why they call the concept "bounded accuracy" but it basically refers to the idea that the genre doesn't change as you level up.  You don't go from playing the fantasy version of Call of Cthulhu to the fantasy version of Justice League with the same character just because you added 15 levels. Goblins are scary at 1st level (well, at least several of them together can be) but after a few levels, they're about is inconvenient as mosquitos.  With bounded accuracy that doesn't happen; you level up without getting so powerful that your character's relationship with the setting fundamentally changes.

This is usually a feature of games that don't feature traditional levels, but I've decided to go with keeping levels with a truncated number of them, and that bounded accuracy's greatest nemesis is hit point escalation, so I've dramatically curbed that as well.  Bounded accuracy refers specifically to having bounded bonuses on to hit, though—but the concepts are really kind of the same if you zoom up a bit.

And beyond?: I try to keep my toe in the water a bit with what's going on in D&D, although I admit to not doing it very well or very thoroughly.  But the lesson here is that a great idea is a great idea, and it doesn't matter where it comes from.  I don't even consider my game a D&D game, even though it's obviously specifically derivative (rules-wise, I mean) from a specific iteration of the game.  If it wasn't for the OGL, though, my game would never have existed at all.  Neither would other movements, like the OSR, for instance.  That was still a gutsy move, and I applaud Ryan Dancey and the rest of the crew who took it.

And I might yet attempt to rework some aspects of my m20 game to more explicitly take advantage of the concept of bounded accuracy.  If I do, I still probably won't do it necessarily by referring to 5e directly, though.  I'll probably mine stuff like this:

Belated Friday Art Attack

Some Out of the Abyss sketches of Demogorgon, show-casing his visual evolution for 5th edition.

A National Geographic bit of art of Giganotosaurus, back when he was still a really new, interesting find.

I love barbarian artwork!

Fantasy cheesecake.

More barbarian art; fighting giant crabs or something.

Orc shaman doing human sacrifice.

Some old-school monster art.

More barbarians.  This time by the ultimate grand master.

Curiously, another piece by another artist who shows a very similar theme.

It's interesting how some of the early art from the Heavy Metal period (which includes early D&D, I might add) that there's an interesting almost superhero or comic book vibe to the look and feel of the characters.

Of course; airships have to occasionally be highlighted here...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dark•Heritage 2.0

As one may imagine, my week is about to get interestingly different than most weeks; I'll be celebrating a slightly extra lengthy Thanksgiving holiday starting... later today, actually, is when it will start.  While one would think that the extra free time would make it easier for me to make blog updates, I don't actually know that just because I'm spending no time at work over a 5-day weekend means that I'll actually have extra free time, or that if I do, I won't have other alternatives to fill it with besides blog updates.  So, it's likely that this will be my last post until Monday sometime.  So, I'd better make it count for something other than marking time.

First off, I've adapted the changes that I've been talking about, and which have been surging, evolving, and percolating for a number of months into Dark•Heritage 2.0.  This is the official update to the ruleset for Dark•Heritage, and it much more closely matches the format that I'd developed for Fantasy Hack after finishing Dark•Heritage version 1.

If you've already got the first Dark•Heritage, or Fantasy Hack either one, you'll find a very strong sense of deja vu.  Which is OK.  Although I've spent a lot of time on these rules and whatnot, I don't honestly see Dark•Heritage as primarily a setting for roleplaying, although obviously it could be, since I have a roleplaying game of my own design (well, kitbashed, at least) to go with it.  No, rather I see it as the setting for fantasy stories that I just haven't told yet.  Which I've been meaning to get around to telling for a long time now. 


When I come back, I'll maybe talk briefly about some movies I've seen over the break, hiking plans, and plans for the further developments of Western Hack, Swashbuckling Hack, and DH5.

Monday, November 19, 2018

On the loss of our distant cousins

I've linked to this article before, but I'll do so again.  I quite like it, even where I can spot some gaffes about its history: the Achaeans did not overthrow the Myceneans; the Achaeans were the Myceneans (the Mycenean nation was known, for instance, to the Hittites as Ahhiyawa).  Also, the Dorian invasion did not prompt the settlement of Ionia by Greeks, because numerous Mycenean Greek settlements in what was later called Ionia were already present before the Bronze Age Collapse.  And referring to either the Greeks or the Romans as Northern European or Nordics can only mean "of a similar physical phenotype to what is today only native to Northern Europe" rather than that they were literally from northern Europe. This gets to its most ridiculous when Sims says that Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder of the Roman Republic is "recognizably Germanic" as were his eyes, which makes no literal sense whatsoever.  There were no recognizably Germanic Italians until after the various tribes of Goths, Lombards and other Germanic tribes conquered the Italian peninsula, settled it, and adopted the recognizably Italic language of the natives rather than continuing to speak their recognizably Germanic language. The Greeks and Romans were the descendants of the Kurgan cultures which developed on the Pontic-Caspian steppes, after making their way through (or possibly around) the Black Sea and the Balkans (and to the Italian peninsula in the case of the Romans.)  The Germanic and Celtic people are as well, but where the Greeks and Romans ended up with admixture with Mediterranean southern European populations that were not Indo-European, the Celts and Germanic peoples had admixture with peoples already in the north of Europe, although obviously they were of a different physical type and lower population density, so the result is not the same.  Neither group exactly resembles the original Yamnaya phenotypes, because there is no such thing as a pure Yamnaya population left today.

But those mistakes notwithstanding, the article gathers a rather remarkable collection of quotes from the ancients about their actual physical type, and it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom of the Greeks and Romans having been the same phenotypically as are today's Greeks or Italians.  And that is possibly its real value rather than the somewhat sloppy claims of origin which it contains.

Well, that and the conclusion, part of which I'll quote in a moment.  First, keep in mind that there are two models of the bringing of a new culture and language to an area that was formerly of another.  North America, Australia and New Zealand represent one.  Taiwan is another example of this same model.  In the former three, Anglo-British colonizers came in sufficient numbers that they maintained their cultural, linguistic and genetic heritage; the contribution of American Indians to the genetic picture of America is on average about 1.3% per person at most.  We're more Neanderthal genetically than we are Indian.  In Taiwan, the aboriginal peoples known to early Portuguese and Dutch sailors and colonists are only about 2% of the population today, which is overwhelming Han Chinese, and which has arrived in just the last few hundred years.  There are other examples through history, but in general, this model seems to be less common than the other, in which those bringing a new culture, language and genetic phenotype come in relatively small numbers and superimpose themselves over another population.  While they may change the language and many aspects of the culture when they do so, they clearly are not, as in the former example, a transplanted example of their mother culture evolving separately; they are a hybrid of some kind at best.  An example of this would be Algeria.  Despite the fact that French is its official language, nobody seriously thinks that the Algerians are the same as the French.  Even Emmanuel Micron doesn't believe that, although he may profess that he does at times.

This seems to have been the tragedy of the original Greek and Roman ruling classes; they were simply outnumbered by the native pre-Greek and pre-Romans.  While they certainly imposed their language and much of their culture over the area, there was considerable cultural backwash as well, and even more genetic backwash to the point where nobody who is a native of Greece is likely to resemble the Greek heroes of legend anymore like Menelaus or Achilles.  If someone does from Italy, it's almost certainly the indicator of much more recent and intrusive Germanic Lombard phenotypes rather than ancient Roman ones.  I find myself fascinated with the idea of the "lost" phenotypes of the Greeks, the Romans, the Thracians, etc. mentioned in this article.

And if this was a dramatic loss among the Greeks and Romans, it's even more dramatic further east.  The Indo-Iranians were also described as blond or red-haired with blue, green and gray eyes and white skin.  If anything, they may have been even moreso than the ancestors of the Greeks or Romans, because while they are largely made of up derived cultures that developed in situ from Yamnaya roots, their early admixture was not by passing through a membrane of EEF Balkan farmers but rather by expansion north into the forest steppe Baltic zone where their admixture was with even more Nordic phenotypes than the Yamnaya were originally.  These admixtured cultures, such as Abashevo or Fatyanovo cultures blended with later Bronze Age cultures such as Srubna, Catacomb, or Poltavka which later emerged as Sintashta and Andronovo.

I wonder sometimes what might have happened had these peoples managed to maintain their phenotype and a culture that wasn't significantly backwashed by genetics and culture from the locals over whom they superimposed themselves.  Today we see the Russians or the Lithuanians as significantly different from us, for the most part, but we also feel a sense of kinship with them that we do not feel with the Bengals or Tajiks.  Some of that is the visual cues; Russians look more like Americans than Bengals or Tajiks, of course, but the early ancestors of the Bengals and Tajiks would have looked much like the Russians themselves during the Bronze Age.  And it might have been even more dramatic had we seen the Luwians, the Hittites, and the Mitanni as early expressions of our culture and our people, albeit we're not directly descended from them, of course.  What if the Western half of China were still white as it was during the Middle Ages, where Wusun, Yuezhi and Silk Road Tarim Basin peoples looked like they could have been Austrian Celts in terms of their physical appearance and even their clothing?

Why is it that our ruling elite so fear and loathe the idea of white nations and work so hard to destroy them?  Naturally, as a white person myself, I'd have preferred to see white Central Asia, as we had throughout much of the Bronze Age and Iron Age and even into Classical Antiquity and the Medieval periods (and which we got again to some degree through the spread of the Russians, although even they have retreated significantly from countries like Kazakhstan, where they used to be the majority, for instance).  I'd prefer to have seen a whit(er) southern Europe.  I think it's tragic that the white nations that were once in those locales were swamped and disappeared; not without leaving some legacy behind, but at the same time very different than they were when they were formulated in the first place.

Of course, that also makes ridiculous the notion of white nationalism.  There's not enough nationalism in the concept of whiteness, because "white" isn't a nation, and nobody really seriously thinks that it is.  At best, we see ourselves as related "cousin" nations that maybe should have better relationships than we do because of our relatedness, but nobody in the world thinks that a Russian is the same as an American just because both are white.

Anyway, the promised quote:
What became of the Nordic Greeks and Romans? Their numbers were reduced and thinned through war, imperialism, immigration, and slavery. Protracted internecine war was devastating. The Hellenes lost relatively few men in their two wars with the Persian Empire (490, 480-479 BC), but they were decimated by the ruinous series of inter-Hellenic wars that followed. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) pitted Athens and her subject Ionian cities against the Spartan Dorian confederacy. That was followed by 35 years of intermittent warfare between Sparta and Thebes (396-362 BC), which pitted Nordics against Nordics. These wars so weakened the Greek republics that they fell under Macedonian rule about 20 years later (338 BC), bringing to an end the classical age of Greece. 
Money was, as always, a racial solvent. Theognis, a noble poet from the Dorian city of Megara wrote in the sixth century BC: "The noblest man will marry the lowest daughter of a base family, if only she brings in money. And a lady will share her bed with a foul rich man, preferring gold to pedigree. Money is all. Good breeds with bad and race is lost." 
The Roman experience was similarly tragic. All of her later historians agreed that the terrible losses inflicted by Hannibal during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) were minor compared to the horrendous losses Rome inflicted on herself during the nearly 100 years of civil war that followed the murder of the reforming Tribune Tiberius Gracchus in 133 BC. 
Immigration was the inevitable backwash of imperialism as slaves, adventurers, and traders swarmed into Rome. Over time, slaves were freed, foreigners gave birth to natives, non-Romans gained citizenship, and legal and social sanctions against intermarriage fell away. By the early empire, all that was left of the original Roman stock were a few patrician families. 
The historian Appian lamented that "the city masses are now thoroughly mixed with foreign blood, the freed slave has the same rights as a native-born citizen, and those who are still slaves look no different from their masters." Scipio Aemilianus (185–129 BC), a statesman and general of the famed clan of the Aemilii, called these heterogeneous subjects "step-children of Rome." 
One hundred and fifty years later, Horace (65–8 BC) wrote in Book III of the Odes: "Our grandfathers sired feeble children; theirs were weaker still — ourselves; and now our curse must be to breed even more degenerate heirs." 
The last Roman writers therefore came to see their own people as both morally and physically degenerate. The subtext of Tacitus’ (56-117 AD) ethnological treatise Germania is a longing for the northern vigor and purity the Romans had lost. He saw the Gauls and Germans as superior to the Romans in morals and physique, and Roman women shared this admiration. Blond hair became the rage, and German and Gaulic slave women were shorn of their blond or reddish-brown hair to make wigs for wealthy women. By the time of Tertullian (160-225 AD), so many Roman women were dying their hair that he complained, "they are even ashamed of their country, sorry that they were not born in Germany or Gaul." In the early second century AD, the satirist Juvenal complained of the dwindling stock of "the bluest patrician blood," which is a figurative phrase for the nobility, whose veins appear blue through their light skin. 
Viewed in a historical context, it is almost as if today’s northern Europeans have set out perfectly to imitate the ways in which the Greeks and Romans destroyed themselves. In both Europe and America, patriotic young men slaughtered each other in terrible fratricidal wars. In North America, the descendants of slaves are the majority in many great cities. Both continents have paid for imperial ambitions with mass immigration of aliens. Will we be able to resist the forces that brought down the ancients?
Also; see what happened to the Nephite nation.  Those who bear Nephite ancestry were completely culturally assimilated into their enemy Lamanite nations.

It could happen to us.  The Promised Land is only the Promised Land for those who are righteous and stand up for their values and their freedoms.  We saw that over and over again in the Book of Mormon, and we saw that over and over again in founding of America.

UPDATE:  In any case, maybe I'm being a little too harsh.  I particularly miss the steppe peoples, like the Scythians, who I'd like to have seen continue.  Then again, maybe they did; the Scythians and Sarmatians are generally considered to have been linguistically absorbed into the early Slavic expansions, but that may well have been primarily (or even almost only) a linguistic assimilation, and we can look at guys like the 19th century Cossacks as the Scythians; maybe a bit evolved after successive waves of Goths, Huns, Turks, Mongols and Slavs have washed over them, but still essentially the same people.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Another series of Indo-European themed maps

I found some more maps; these are really quite nice, because they show the extent of a much broader array of archaeological cultures than any other alternatives I can find.  I'm not showing every map in the series (notably there's a paleolithic and mesolithic map on the front end that don't do much to show what I think are the relevant to Indo-European studies, and since we know too little about what to make of the ethno-linguistic identities of those cultures, it's kind of an intellectual cul-de-sac with little relevance on any subject about which we know much period.  There's also some later maps, but those are better represented by historical atlases I've seen rather than as specifically archaeological cultures from the historical period.)  The maps are color-coded, but the key given below is surprisingly unhelpful when it comes to interpreting the colors.  Luckily, I know enough about the literature that I can kind of make something of it as needed.

The first of these maps predates Indo-European proper, although it shows the cultures that gave rise to Indo-European as they themselves evolved into the Yamnaya horizon.  These cultures are in purple and dark blue respectively; the Sredni Stog and Khvalynsk.  It also shows the Suvorovo spread that is best associated with the early movement of pre-Indo-European proto-Anatolian peoples into the Balkans and from there, eventually, into Anatolia.

The green cultures are the Balkan Old Europe; the light blue are mostly far northern hunter-gatherer types that are linguistically anonymous, but which probably made up a significant substrate to later northern Indo-European languages.  And the brown spots, Botai and Teresk cultures, are similarly anonymous; they seem to represent Y-DNA haplogroups that were dead ends, so to speak, and their relation to any other cultures in the general area is dubious.  In the earlier map which I didn't post, he had Keltiminar moving out of the Fergana region, which I suppose means that the maker of this map believes that they were related to the Burushaski-speaking population today, or some such.  That seems are reasonable as anything else, although it's obviously speculative.

Note also that neither the Maykop nor Kura-Araxes cultures exist yet, although the pre-Maykop is labelled.

An early Eneolithic, right on the eve of the Yamnaya horizon, and representing a very early Proto-Indo-European after the Anatolians are gone.  Afanasevo is shown as removed already, in pink in the far east.  I'm not sure why Baden and North Italian is shown in a sorta purplish color, which would imply linkages with the steppe that would be considered controversial, certainly.  Baden may have been an early push of "kurganization" but more likely it's a development out of the TRB culture, like Globular Amphora with which it overlaps.  Globular Amphora has been shown in genetic studies to be linked to the EEF Old Europe population, not the steppes.

Maykop and Kura-Araxes are also present, which always get talked about a lot in Proto-Indo-European studies due to inevitable proximity and apparent archaeological and trade interactions, although of the two only Maykop has ever been proposed as actually Indo-European, and that seems to be even more unlikely than ever now due to genetic analysis showing no admixture between Maykop and the pre-Yamnaya steppe.

Given that this map has Baden (but not Yamnaya) it must be a snapshot of the period between 3,600 BC and 3,500 BC, since the inception of Baden is the former date and the inception of Yamnaya is the latter.  I'm not sure I'm confident in the accuracy of dating to that fine a level for much of these cultures, but hey, this is someone's interpretation, and they've gotta do something.

This map now shows the Yamnaya horizon and the Corded Ware horizon (keep in mind that the guy who made this map subscribes to the Corded Ware Uralic substrate hypothesis, which is almost certainly incorrect.  Uralic seems to be closely tied with the N1 haplogroup which arrived later form the northest with the Seima-Turbino complex.)  Indo-Europeanization (or kurganization to use Gimbutas' term) has started in earnest in the Balkans, but according to the most likely interpretation, it's also done so in northern central and eastern Europe with the Corded Ware.  Kura-Araxes is at it's nearly greatest extent, and there's an interesting hypothesis I've now seen that the Kura-Araxes people, who almost certainly represent an early proto-Hurrian population, were able to spread peacefully because they were the guys who did viticulture, and wine was a renewable yet constrained luxury good that the developing proto-Imperial Middle Eastern states would have valued.

I still think it's very curious that the Botai-Teresk guys are right there nearly adjacent to the westward spread of Yamnaya and between Yamnaya and Afanasevo, which is genetically identical to Yamnaya.  And yet, they seemed to have played little to no part in the development of either.

Later in the Eneolithic, the Yamnaya horizon is starting to break up, as is the Corded Ware.  The Indo-Europeanized Balkans have spread further westward and become the Beaker people, and been color-coded red (which is unusual, because red was in the prior map the non-Indo-European cultures of far Western Europe).  The remnants of Balkan Old Europe have been swept away culturally and probably linguistically except for what I presume he means to be Pelasgians and Minoans in the Grecian peninsula, Crete and Cyprus (although steppe intrusions into Greece may have already started by now.)  It's unclear to what extent that represented population turnover as opposed to cultural turnover.  In the northern Corded Ware horizon, the population is represented as being largely intrusive from the steppe, made up of R1a Y-DNA haplogroups associated with the Sredni Stog culture of the western steppe, but in the Balkans and further abroad, like Anatolia, central and western Europe, it's much less clear-cut.

There are still big gaps in the vast area of Turkestan; just because no cultures are shown here shouldn't be interpreted to mean that the area was completely depopulated.  Although it might well have been relatively empty; a Bond event climate cooling (and drying) is known to have taken place around this time, probably prompting much of the migration that we do see.  And while we're at it, probably making the more arid eastern steppes and desert to its south much less inviting and hospitable than it had been before.  We're still talking about Eneolithic technology, and the carrying capacity of such a climate is not high.

In the Early Bronze Age, Anatolian is well established (in Anatolia) and most of the cultures not in the Middle East (excepting BMAC, Egypt, Harappan and those Seima Turbino cultures in the northeast would all be Indo-European by now (well, maybe that little green dot in south-central Europe is still "Old European").  What is notable is the spread of Corded Ware successors further east, and the spread of the vast Andronovo horizon, many of which blended with eastward spreading Corded Ware successors to form interesting hybrids like Sintashta.

The multi-cordoned ware culture, in the area formerly occupied by Yamnaya, is often associated with proto-Thracians, and as the Andronovo gradually evolved into the Scythians, may have pushed them into what later became Thrace.  A portion of them might also have been the Cimmerians, for that matter, which are often interpreted as a Thracian subgroup. I really wish we knew more about the Thracians, Dacians and other such groups.  There's a fascinating backstory that we only see very dimly through the later writings of the Greeks and Romans.

Note also that the Afanasevo culture has disappeared and its territory overrun by Andronovo cultures, but the prevailing opinion is that the Tarim mummies are ethnically and linguistically descended from Afanasevo.

By the Middle Bronze Age, we start to have written history of the Middle East, so we know a fair bit about what's happening there.  The Hittites and Luwians have emerged from linguistically ambiguous steppe intrusions as Anatolian languages in Anatolia, and Mycenean Greek has emerged as well.  Europe is still illiterate, so although we have archaeological cultures, it's hard to determine who they are linguistically, and several known linguistic groups have to spring from them somehow, distinct from each other.  So, it's one thing to say that there is broad archaeological continuity from the Unitece culture in the last map to the Tumulus culture shown here to the Urnfield culture of Late Bronze Age, but who were they?  Archaic proto-Celtic?  If so, where did the other language groups spring from?  Dunno.  There's a lot going on culturally in Europe and interpreting it is difficult.

In the Middle East it's easier because cultures were literate, and further east it's also easier because there are much larger, simpler, broader horizons.  Andronovo has started to filter through BMAC to become Yaz, Gandhara Grave, etc.  The splitting out of the Indic from the earlier Indo-Iranian identify of the earlier Andronovo is starting to show up, both in Mitanni and in northern India/Pakistan—although that really long arrow from Tazabagyeb to Mitanni may not have happened quite like that; most likely they staged from somewhere close to the Caspian Sea, and the Indic horizon was broader (geographically speaking) than we can identify today.

Note also the Srubna culture's appearance, indicating that the way of life of the original Yamnaya, in the territory of the original Yamnaya, continued, although it's not clear exactly which daughter language groups it was associated with.  The tentative consensus, such as it is, suggests that the Srubna may have been the Cimmerians before they invaded Phrygia, and may have been a relative of Thracian linguistically.  Note also the westward movement of Seima Turbino, bringing with it, most likely, the Uralic languages.  Uralic is interesting; although the N1c haplogroup seems to be associated with them, they also were a language family that assimilated more locals rather than imposing a new genetic and physical phenotype on the areas that later emerged speaking one of their languages.  This is why the Estonian and Finnish peoples are both physically and genetically more similar to the neighboring Swedes, Russians, Latvians, Lithuanians, etc. then they are to Khanty or Mansi speaking peoples, for instance.

This map is called Late Bronze Age, but it appears to show the immediate after-effects of the Bronze Age collapse; Luwians and Phrygians have replaced Hittites, Neo-Assyrians and Neo-Elamites have replaced the former versions, Mitanni and Mycenean Greece are gone, etc.  Of course, Greece remained Greek even though the Mycenean palace civilization collapsed to be replaced by the Greek Dark Age.  What's happening elsewhere in Europe is still somewhat difficult to interpret, but it's important to remember that not everything was Indo-European.  Etruscan in the form of the Villanovan culture is developing in Northern Italy, which was non-Indo-European, and Iberia had at least two attested probable non-Indo-European languages.  Other barely attested languages of the Italian peninsula and elsewhere are possibly (probably?) not Indo-European still, and the red right there between Iberia and what will later emerge as France is still the homeland of the non-Indo-European Basques even today.  However, the first historically attested big wave of a distinct Indo-European group over northern and central Europe is Celtic, and it has yet to emerge.

Western Iranian subgroups like the Parthians, Persians and Medes are showing up, and the Indic guys are consolidating their cultural hold on what will become India and Pakistan.  Meanwhile, the steppe way of life continues with late Andronovo variants from which the historical Scythians will emerge shortly.

As we enter the Iron Age, the Celts are finally starting to form in the Hallstatt and La Tene cultures (the big brown blob).  The steppes are now populated by known east Iranian groups, like the Scythians and Sarmatians, who have spread westward and displaced the probable Thracian speaking Cimmerians and whoever else was still lingering in that region.  Of course, most likely even as linguistic identity changed on the steppe, much of the genetics probably remained; I expect that even the Cossacks were still quite Scythian in their DNA, for instance, even though they'd been overlayed by Goths, Huns, Turks, Mongols and most especially Slavs, which language they spoke.

Armenian is in place, showing by its color coding its probably relationship with Phrygian and more distantly with Greek.  The foundation of the Achamaenid Empire is in place, displacing the Elamites and other peoples who once lived in what is today Iran.  But in the illiterate portions of Northern Europe, it's still unclear what linguistic identity these cultures should sport.  The Jastorf and Nordic Iron Age are probably early Germanic.  Probably.  The orange area is probably Baltic, but it's not clear yet that Baltic and Slavic have split from each other, or exactly what the nature of their relationship is anyway.

Classic antiquity; the last of the maps I will show, with the early Roman Empire and the Persian/Parthian empires well in place.  Most of the peoples shown here are now known to us through classical sources, although we still have to guess on occasion as to the linguistic affinities of barbarian tribes that were not well known to their writers.  That said, the Celtic heyday was over with the conquest of Gaul and Brittania, and the Germanic heyday was percolating and getting ready to spill over as the Romans dwindled.

The next two maps, which I'm not showing, were the Migration period and the Middle Ages, which still show a fair big of ethno-linguistic and cultural turnover in Europe and the steppes obviously.

Friday Art Attack

Once again Friday comes around, and once again, I'm pissed off about corruption in politics running apparently unchecked.  Goodbye, America.  It was nice while we had you, but in my lifetime, I had only the last gasp of American greatness, only to have it snatched out from under me and stolen from my posterity altogether.  Can it be rebuilt?  Not without massive, massive culling of the literally Luciferian doctrines of socialism and Trotskyism and "there's no such thing as an American nation".  Sigh.

Anyway, on to the art.  A bit more space opera than fantasy today, as luck would have it.

A space ship.  Meant to be a bomber from the image description, but who can tell, amirite?

Part of a series where this guy with the red cloak goes to find a cure for sleeping beauty, only to end up cursed himself.  Then sleeping beauty dons the red cloak and goes and fights the witch who cursed him in an interesting mirror image quest of sorts.

However, as a person who isn't a total idiot when it comes to recognizing physical reality, I greatly prefer the adventuring male warriors and find adventuring female warriors tiresome, politically correct in the worst possible way, and kind of insulting.  After all, generally speaking, neither women nor men find women who act like men and vice versa to be very appealing. 

Here red cloak fights what could have been a very interesting take on a white ape from Barsoom, actually.

Two studies of grown up Ahsoka fighting Maul.  Too bad that the Star Wars Rebels show was so disappointing in general.  This was one of the highlights of it, such as it was, although ruined by the stupid helicopter inquisitors.

Concept art for an Alien 5 movie that (at least to date) hasn't been made and doesn't look to be, since we got the Prometheus and Covenant prequels instead.

Allosaurus fragilis study. Always one of my favorite dinosaurs.

An interesting take on a darker redesign of Superman.

An even more interesting take on an alternate design for Darth Vader.

And here we have... Heraklesette?! taking on the Lernean hydra.  Sigh.  Cool image, but it would have been much cooler if that were actually Herakles, not some Greekish bimbo.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Indo-European expansion maps

There is one major, major flaw to these maps; the association of the Maykop culture with the Anatolian languages, which is almost certainly incorrect.  That idea was already archaeologically unlikely, but now genetic evidence further tears the rug out from under it; there is almost no Y-DNA haplogroup sharing between the Maykop and steppe populations. Curiously, the maternal DNA evidence suggests that outmarriage of women wasn't completely unknown, and of course, archaeology has long suggested that there were significant trade between the two populations as well as probable cultural diffusion of some cultural elements (including kurgan burials, possibly some element of social stratification, bronze metallurgy, etc.); I had thought maybe that some element of Maykop elite dominance from Maykop accounted for the CHG element in the Yamnaya population.  But it looks like genetics has told me no.  In any case, in neither of those scenarios is Maykop an Anatolian expansion of Indo-European from the steppes.  So, ignore that label, and otherwise check out these pretty cool maps which are very suggestive of the para-historic expansion of various branches of Indo-European.

What did the Maykop people speak?  Who knows?  A number of language groups in the Caucasus have arrived historically from elsewhere (Armenian, Ossetian, various Turkish languages, etc.)  If the nearby Kura-Araxes culture was Hurrian (as a linguistic family, not necessarily a specific language) that's a possibility.  Looking at the linguistic situation in Papua, it's obvious that entire language families can lurk in isolated mountain valleys to possibly spread later, so the languages that appear to be native to the region can easily lurk out there in prehistory without needing archaeological visibility.

Not only that, the Maykop culture was really north of the mountains, not in the mountains anyway.

Again; Maykop should not be labelled Proto-Anatolian, which should instead be the Suvarovo cultures to the immediate west of the Yamnaya on the western shores of the Black Sea.  Note also the early separation of the proto-Tocharians.

Usatovo, baby!  The first spread of Indo-Europeans (as opposed to Indo-Hittites, which is maybe just a semantic quibble) over much of the territory of the Suvorovo culture.  Anatolian languages should probably by now have spread to the very southernmost Balkan area, and possibly even across the straights of Marmara into northwestern Anatolia.

Here, an isogloss and the earliest, most primitive proto-languages of the Indo-European "stocks" is put tentatively on the map.  For people like me, who are of primarily Anglo-Scottish ancestry, it's interesting to see that the Usatovo culture is here presented as splitting into a northern and southern group, Italo-Celtic developing (eventually) out of the southern dialects and Germanic out of the northern dialects.  Both are, of course, important to the development of me personally.

The same map again, but this time highlighting a different linguistic isogloss.

Yet another isogloss mapped to the map.  It's curious because what this shows is that while separating, these peoples and dialects were still in some form of contact, because shared isogloss bundles were not necessarily limited to one branching early dialect.  This particular isogloss is satemization, by the way, which probably doesn't justify the amount of ink spilled on it, because it's not necessarily more important than the other isoglosses highlighted so far.

Another isogloss on the same map.

The final isogloss mapped on the same map, again showing how the various dialects split and yet also interacted with each other.

Finally, we get additional expansions and advance the map forward in time.

Finally, the Corded Ware horizon appears.  Curiously, no identity is assigned to it, except in the Fatyanova variant, and the Proto-Germanic, Proto-Celtic and Proto-Italic areas are unmoved (whereas Proto-Greek either goes through the Proto-Germanic, or around them by crossing the sea.  Of all of these, this seems perhaps the most handwavy and inherently unlikely, at least in terms of where the labels still fall.  Nobody really has any idea where those ancestral proto-stocks were spoken.  If by some chance this map is right, it also could suggest that the vast majority of the Corded Ware horizon spoke some form of Indo-European that is anonymous and possibly no longer even extant; kind of the Nordwestblock hypothesis writ even more large. (Or perhaps it's meant to indicate that those were the regions from which Corded Ware allegedly spread?)

The next big expansion after the Corded Ware is the Andronovo, shown here.  Now we've got Anatolian languages in place (although the Maykop territory is still red, ignoring that it's obviously where the unrelated Georgian and other Kartvelian languages were attested in the first appearance of written history), Thracian comes ex nihilo from somewhere, and Greeks have conquered Greece.  Even if the Usatovo locations of Proto-Germanic is accurate, it's extremely unlikely that they're still there, so I'm not sure why it's still labeled as such.

Mysteriously the Proto-Germanic label has migrated, Indic and Persian (the latter being too specific of a label to be accurate) are now showing, although the Indic superstrate over Hurrian Mitanni is not shown (maybe it's a little too early), Greek is shown now in North Africa, which is also almost certainly correct; I don't know of any reason to believe that they settled that area until after the Bronze Age collapse and Greek Dark Ages, nearly a millennium later.  Also, neither Crete nor Cyprus should be Greek yet, unless we're talking about the very late second millennium, nearing the Bronze Age collapse itself (and even then, it's doubtful that Greek actually replaced the languages of those cultures, especially Cyprus.

Still; even if some of the labels are questionable, the maps themselves are quite valuable and the early ones are even quite informative.