Page 1638 - Dungeons & Ponies, Part 13

13th Jan 2022, 6:00 AM in Intermission 15
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Dungeons & Ponies, Part 13
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 13th Jan 2022, 6:00 AM edit delete
Author: GreatDinn

Guest Author's Note: "my name is Dinn,
and wen its nite,
or wen the moon
is shiyning brite,
and all my frens
haf gon to rest-
i stay up late.
i rite the jests.

In all seriousness, there are two points about today's comic that I want to briefly discuss. The first: Fluttershy's question is one that I actually think about a lot for "trapped in another world" type stories. Basically all of them open up with "here's how the world works" exposition, but since so many of them are game-based, there's still a lot of shared assumptions that never get questioned or commented on. North, as a concept, has a surprising amount of cultural baggage that is so rarely considered, and while I don't think it's something that should always be explored, I think I personally would like some stories that really dig into worlds being very different, or having such a different understanding of the mechanics of the universe that we have a chance to reflect on our own. Though I wouldn't want to see any less where it's just a fun concept of being in a world that's similar but different. Variety is spice, after all.

The other thing is that what Spike is doing in the first panel is suffering from a problem I've experienced many a time as a DM: really wanting to give off the perception of fairness in random encounters by using a table, but also desperately wanting something to break up the tedium of a stretch of exploration that has reached its limit. It's mostly gut instinct for me, at this point, but I will be the first to admit that in my earlier days as a DM, I would roll on random encounter tables to the point where my players could tell I wasn't exactly trying to let them off the hook."


ANW 13th Jan 2022, 6:05 AM edit delete reply
What was supposed to be in that blank speech bubble?
King Marth 13th Jan 2022, 6:38 AM edit delete reply
The transcript has the line:
Pinkie Pie: Looks like we'll have to make the butter first, before it can fly!

The comic Erfworld played around with the concept of the passage of time, as the world was a turn-based game on a hexgrid. Time varied by hex, which the native inhabitants took as a matter of course; how else could you possibly get value out of scouting if you had to wait for the scout to reach their destination before making your decisions? Sure, if you crossed hex boundaries back and forth then the sun would jump around in the sky and you might experience a longer or shorter day, but it's not like you could go back to a previous turn.

It's similarly amusing for D&D worlds to be flat, with no timezones to mess with your Sending timing or teleportation. I particularly like the cosmologies where the astral sea is space, with the planes visible as stars (the domain of the sun god is then the sun). Eberron toyed with that, with the planes moving on orbits and occasionally intersecting.
Digo 13th Jan 2022, 7:34 AM edit delete reply
Unless your campaign has a mode of transportation faster than a horse, time zones won't really matter in the grand scheme.

It's when you develop highspeed transit like the train where timing becomes very important! You have to be able to predict where each locomotive is so that trains don't collide when using the same tracks.
Philadelphus 13th Jan 2022, 10:50 AM edit delete reply
Well, instant communication spells are a lot faster than horses, and that might be important.

"Are you sure you want to Send that notification? It's 2 AM at the recipient's location..."
Digo 14th Jan 2022, 3:59 AM edit delete reply
I haven't personally had the experience in any campaign where such communication came up; most D&D campaigns sit comfortably within one continent/area and so don't reach out farther than 2-3 time zones.

That said, I acknowledge that there could be a campaign that spans around the world and brings up such an issue; though if such magic exists then by necessity time zones would be created anyway.
Guest 13th Jan 2022, 7:55 AM edit delete reply
I've been toying with the idea of having not just random encounter tables, but also weather and environment options in case something feels tedious but combat wouldn't set the right mood.

It'd be something like a heavy storm rolls in, and the party has to problem-solve for how to find food and shelter, then after the storm passes everything's now wet and partially flooded, changing the 'rules' of how they're able to progress through the area, which can give other party members a chance to perform instead of just falling in line behind the others, or can encourage the casters to experiment with new spell loadouts for the changed conditions.
Wulfraed 13th Jan 2022, 9:14 AM edit delete reply
Well... If "North" is defined relative to the rise and set of the sun(s) (where "East" is the rise), this party has had plenty of time to track the sun(s) and define cardinal directions. How precisely "North" they are travelling is another matter -- a few degrees to east/west is not unlikely.

As for different "mechanics of the universe"... Check out RuneQuest's Glorantha -- in which the planet is a cube floating in some cosmic sea (only the top side is inhabited), Yelm (the Sun (god)) rises via a spiral stair case tower in the east from the underworld, traverses the "sky dome", then sets via another spiral staired tower in the west to spend the night traversing the underworld.
rmsgrey 13th Jan 2022, 9:50 AM edit delete reply
There are two subtly different versions of "North" on Earth - one defined by the planet's axis of rotation, and one defined by the planet's magnetic field. If they're going rotational North, then the accuracy of their direction depends on how well they've pinned down the positions of sunsrises and sunssets (and also on the axial tilt of the planet and how rapidly the suns' tracks are moving North/South at that moment). If they're going magnetic North, then the accuracy of their direction depends on the reliability of the planet's magnetic field, on which version of North the directions they were given used, and the differences between versions.

And then there's celestial North, which is defined by the plane of the ecliptic, but that takes much longer to identify.

Of course, if the world they're in isn't a rotating sphere, there's no guarantee that both suns follow approximately the same track across the sky - if the two suns rise 90 degrees apart around the horizon, and both pass directly overhead, what does that do to directions? If there isn't a strong, consistent magnetic field, then that messes with compass directions.

And then you get into scenarios where the non-Euclidean aspects of the world's geometry are relevant on a local scale - if buildings are routinely bigger on the inside, or if you can cover a large chunk of the planet just by walking for a day, or some other weirdness, where directions don't really work the same way we're used to.
Philadelphus 13th Jan 2022, 10:47 AM edit delete reply
Well, the party doesn't seem to have a compass, so they're probably not following magnetic north. (As an aside, it'd be neat to have a world where compasses exist, but are basically pointless because the magnetic field isn't aligned with the planet's rotational axis, like Uranus' magnetic field. Follow one "north" or "south" and it just leads you to two random points on the planet's surface.)

And circumbinary planets like the party's on, while cool and all, are a bit cliche by now. Put a planet in a binary system, sure, but have it be a wide binary and only orbit one of the stars for a truly alien feeling! (For roughly half that planet's year, the primary sun setting would simply see a secondary sun I want to work out what the climate would be like on such a world. Space the stars out far enough and it should be livable.)
LupisLight 14th Jan 2022, 11:15 PM edit delete reply
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri had just such a situation! It was on old turn-based strategy game that took place on a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. This planet was officially named Chiron (after the leader of the Centaurs) by the expedition to colonize it, but everyone just came to call it 'Planet' since no-one could actually agree on what to call it. It didn't come up a whole lot in gameplay, but the manual had a whole section on the physical specs of the binary system incase you were interested. I pulled my GURPS Alpha Centauri book, and it too has a lot to say. Here's a summary:

It was noted that Alpha Centauri B would have either destroyed or prevented the formation of most planets orbiting the primary star (simply referred to as "the sun"), so it was named Hercules since in mythology he killed a lot of centaurs apparently. Hercules at it's closest to the primary comes about as close as Saturn is to our sun, and at it's most distant, is a little closer than the average distance between our sun and Pluto. It appears in the sky as the brightest of the "fixed" stars, and is anywhere from 140 and 1,400 times as bright as a full moon on Earth, so plenty bright enough to read by at night. It even has a small but measurable effect on Planet's climate - When Hercules approaches perihelion, the native wildlife gets more active, which is an actual game mechanic since said wildlife is NOT something you want to cross paths with...

Oh yeah, and the Alpha Centauri system is actually a _trinary_ system. Alpha Centauri C, aka Proxima Centauri, is a red dwarf star, though and orbits no less than a quarter of a lightyear away from the A-B pair, so it is too dim to really make out amongst al the other stars in the night sky.
Philadelphus 16th Jan 2022, 10:32 PM edit delete reply
I've heard a lot of good things about Sid Meir's Alpha Centauri over the years but never actually played it. That does sound pretty neat!
Roguim 13th Jan 2022, 12:47 PM edit delete reply
Well, Milk solves both thirst and hungry issues...
And more carry weight capacity.
Wulfraed 14th Jan 2022, 12:57 PM edit delete reply
Until the cow dies from lack of grazing land... {At which point you stew it in its own milk?}