August 26, 2012

Hack Goblish

Here's a chart for my version of Goblish.  This is what I use to make names for goblin NPCs, goblin villages, or any goblin words.

Feel free to make your own, better version.  Hack Goblish is for hacks, like me.  In either case, once a few words are rolled up randomly you might find certain rules for grammar start to take shape.  Whenever one occurs to you, just write it on the sheet.  It could be anything.  A particular combination of sounds might act as a root word, so it shows up in many related words.  Maybe most plurals end with the same sound.  Maybe some languages use howls, hisses, or clicks so you put those in the chart as predominate and frequent results.  It's the language for your goblins in your game, just write down whatever grammar and sentence structure rules you like and roll up the rest randomly.  Or let the players do it.  They love that shit.  Rolling up something that then becomes canon, like the name of a village?  Hell yeah.  That's almost as good as getting to name it yourself.

You roll percentage dice to determine each phoneme (distinct sound) used to say the word aloud.  A few rolls for short words, more for longer words.  The results here will form a pronunciation key, you can spell the word however you like.  By keeping certain sounds common to certain languages, I'm hoping that the randomly created words for each language will sound as if they belong together.  It seems a lot easier than inventing whole languages like Tolkien did.  As always, you may need to mix up the order a bit or add some vowel sounds to pronounce the result.

Maybe some examples?

First, let's roll up a name for a goblin shaman.  I don't want it to be very short or very long, so I'll use 6 phonemes.

*Rolls*  92 - 83 - 74 - 36 - 2 - 18
Result = O - N - I - OR - E - L
How I decided to spell it = Auneorrel

Second example.  Some PCs decipher some goblin runes about "blood".  Now they want to know how that is pronounced in the Goblish language, because, you know.... players.  So let's roll it up.  The word "blood" has 4 phonemes in English (B-L-U-D), but I'll say that it has 5 phonemes when spoken in Goblish.  Because, why not?

*Rolls*  8 - 49 - 28 - 56 - 79
Result =  F - Z - S - V - N
I just let my brain fill in the vowels sometimes = Fezsvin

Base 44

Blank Language Template

August 24, 2012

Hack Languages

Random name/word generator for any language.

Roll percentage dice a few times for short words, roll more for longer words.  Each roll is a distinct sound.  Just roll until the DM says to stop.  These results form a pronunciation key for the word, it can be spelled however you wish.  You may need to mix up the results a bit or add some vowel sounds to render a word pronounceable.

[1- 44] - Use the Base 44 Chart

[45 - 100] - Make a unique chart for each language using the Blank Language Template.  Just put the name of the language at the top, and pick the ten most frequently used sounds for each language.

Blank Language Template
Base 44

Below is the language chart I use to make names for human commoners, bandits, barbarians, tribesmen, pirates and more.  The percentages used here are similar to those heard in American English, but far less precise.  It's handy to roll up some names and words before the game, just in case you need the name of someone's nephew or whatever.  Rolling up words like this can be time consuming, but in moderation it can be fun let the players roll one up at the table.

August 14, 2012

Archeology makes me sad sometimes...

The archeological sites in the Middle East that interest me at the moment are mostly in the form of Tells.  Over many centuries new buildings were put on top of the remains of older structures.  These became large hills, mounds of mud-brick and sediment that accumulated as cities built up over time.

Some of these Tells are the cities of ancient Sumer, which became some of the cities of Akkadian Empire, which became a few of the cities of the Babylonian Empire.  Some of them were abandoned along the way.  Over the span of thousands of years, rivers and trade routes would change course; and so sometimes change the fate of cities.

That's not the sad part.

Some of these sites that were dug before the mid 1900s were not done systematically.  Without proper documentation the artifacts can loose context, and valuable information may have been lost forever.

Is this statuette from a temple or a home?  What else was found nearby?  We might never know.

In addition to that, these sites are all in Iraq.  You've probably heard that the political climate over there has been a little tense now and then.  As a result, digs have been started, halted, and started again.  There is a LOT left to uncover, and therefore a LOT more that the human race will eventually be able to learn about Sumerian culture.  I hope that I live long enough to learn about it all.

Was Ninurta the original Heracles?
Who is this handsome fellow?

That's not the sad part either.

Sometimes, the archeologists will start digging but then have to leave because of some turmoil or another.  Then once the site is exposed and abandoned, looters will come and dig for things to sell on the black market.  I don't mean like some punk kid and his buddies.  I'm talking about a large scale pillaging force.

On May 21, 2003, Col. John Kessel and Professor Macguire Gibson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago toured various sites in Southern Iraq by helicopter. After visiting Uruk, Professor Gibson "flew north to Isin, (modern Ishan al-Bahriyat) where I had already heard from a German visitor that it was being badly destroyed. Her report was correct. At least 200 to 300 men were at work on all parts of the site, and the damage was clearly of long duration. We landed and the men came up waving. They were surprised that the US troops would think that it was wrong for them to be doing the looting. They lied by saying that they had been working only a few days, only since the German woman has been there and told them to do so. We told them that it was forbidden, and the army men fired over their heads to speed up their exit. A boy with a tractor and cart, the only vehicle on this site, wanted us to pay him his taxi fee, since we had chased off his fares. The next day, the German woman returned to Isin with a German camera crew, to find hundreds of men at work again. Clearly, an occasional visit by a helicopter is not going to save the sites. Only the imposition of authority in the entire country, as well as the reconstitution of the State Board of Antiquities with its full complement of guards, backed by Coalition power, can preserve what is left of these major Sumerian sites." Scholar Simon Jenkins, in a subsequent report, noted "the remains of the 2,000 BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters."

I get it, you know.  Times were tough and full of craziness.  They're just trying to do what was best for themselves and their families.  I try not to judge, really.  I don't live there, so I don't know what it's like.

but I do know that this is the sad part...

Umma above has been rather thoroughly looted.

 Bad-Tibira isn't a total loss... yet.

That is Zabalam up above, we know that because of clues found at other sites.  It has never been officially excavated, at all, ever.  What you see there is all the work of looters.  Impressive really, in a soul crushing sort of way.

Hopefully any looted tablets and artifacts will make their way through private collections and eventually end up in museums.  Of course, there often won't be any way to tell which artifacts came from which cities, so good luck with that Sumerianologists.  I wonder how many irreplaceable treasures of history were broken by shovels, dropped, or stepped on.  *sigh* 

Alright, I'm done being sad.

Learning about Sumerian culture and mythology is really a tangled snarl of contradictions and conjectures.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  These cities evolved over a huge span of time, their names and gods sometimes changed, old myths were sometimes recast with new characters, and certain beliefs held in one city might be different than the city down the river even though they both existed at the same time.  It's a lot to take in and try to puzzle out.

It's all super confusing, but also super fascinating.  Here are some helpful websites if you are interested in reading about Sumer without any of the ancient alien theories.

Iraq's most significant ancient sites and monuments

The Nippur Expedition, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Sumerian Deities

Sumerian Mythology by Samuel Noah Kramer

The Temple of Sumer

This map is interesting.  The dotted lines show the future paths of rivers.  The Persian Gulf is today receded so far to the south that it would be off the map, but in 3000BC it covered the area roughly as shown above.  The dotted red line is the current Iraq/Iran border.  A few of the cities are out of place, and shouldn't be there.  Babylon and Borsippa haven't been built yet, that probably comes after the Euphrates changes course 500 or so years later.  Also, Baghdad has apparently traveled back in time a few millennium just to appear on the map here.  Maybe those are just on there for reference?  Regardless, it really is one of the best maps I've found of Sumer circa 3000BC.

August 13, 2012

Ancienter Ancients and Aliens

Living together in a long forgotten valley.  Year Unknown.

1. Prehistoric Goblin
2. Prehistoric Human
3. Prehistoric Halfling
4. Prehistoric Wild Elf
5. Prehistoric Woodwose (Sasquatch)
6. Prehistoric? Morlocks (Orc/Ogre)
7. Prehistoric Dwarves
(Not Pictured) 8. Mysterious race in a vast underground complex (dungeons).  Most of this scientifically advanced race are sleeping away the centuries in cryo-stasis.  A small group is left to watch over the complex and the frozen sleepers. Each watch lasts about a decade, then they'll defrost the next group and prepare themselves for cryo.  These geneticists made their own Jurassic Park on the surface.  Pterodactyls, Terrorbirds, Saber-toothed Smilodon, Titanoboa, and herds of mighty Snooffleoophegoos.  There are even stranger creations shuffling down the corridors in the complex below.  Recently, the watchers have started sending mixed teams of humanoids (PCs) to the surface where they work together trying not to get eaten.  Any survivors get picked up at the end of the day.  These teams either spend their down-time in a lovely garden, being medically scanned and treated, or getting new training downloaded into their brains, Matrix style.  Are these tests leading up to a reward, or are the watchers just bored and passing the time by betting on who will survive? 

I'm still doing research on ancient Sumer, but this idea amuses me.

The Real Facts
1 HOMO HABILIS ~ NICKNAME: Handyman LIVED: 2.4 to 1.6 million years ago HABITAT: Tropical Africa DIET: Omnivorous – nuts, seeds, tubers, fruits, some meat

2 HOMO SAPIEN ~ NICKNAME: Human LIVED: 200,000 years ago to present HABITAT: All DIET: Omnivorous - meat, vegetables, tubers, nuts, pizza, sushi

3 HOMO FLORESIENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Hobbit LIVED: 95,000 to 13,000 years ago HABITAT: Flores, Indonesia (tropical) DIET: Omnivorous - meat included pygmy stegodon, giant rat

4 HOMO ERECTUS ~ NICKNAME: Erectus LIVED: 1.8 million years to 100,000 years ago HABITAT: Tropical to temperate - Africa, Asia, Europe DIET: Omnivorous - meat, tubers, fruits, nuts

5 PARANTHROPUS BOISEI ~ NICKNAME: Nutcracker man LIVED: 2.3 to 1.4 million years ago HABITAT: Tropical Africa DIET: Omnivorous - nuts, seeds, leaves, tubers, fruits, maybe some meat

6 HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Goliath LIVED: 700,000 to 300,000 years ago HABITAT: Temperate and tropical, Africa and Europe DIET: Omnivorous - meat, vegetables, tubers, nuts

7 HOMO NEANDERTHALENSIS ~ NICKNAME: Neanderthal LIVED: 250,000 to 30,000 years ago HABITAT: Europe and Western Asia DIET: Relied heavily on meat, such as bison, deer and musk ox