The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

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The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:12

Rather than keep discussing it in the accomplishments thread, I've created a separate thread to talk about the nonhumans of my conworld, the dalar.

Some posts from that thread, by way of introduction to the subject:
alynnidalar wrote:It's basically a Masquerade world, where the dalar, a humanoid-but-not-human species, secretly live alongside human society. I'm not much of a biologist, but I suppose they'd be homo dalaris to our homo sapiens--close enough they and humans could interbreed, but still biologically/genetically distinct.

In this alt-Earth, there's a force or power that exists naturally in the universe and especially in living things (called amati in Tirina. It's magic by another name, but not of the spell-casting, fireballs-and-familiars variety). Humans generally can't sense it and can't control it, even though we all are affected by it subconsciously. This is the primary thing that sets dalar apart from humans--because dalar can directly sense and manipulate amati, which allows them to do a lot of (seemingly?) supernatural things, as well as hide their settlements/"enclaves" from humans.

As a result of their exposure to/use of amati, dalar live long lives, five hundred or so on average if they die of old age, and have mild psychic and telepathic abilities. And no sense of smell. Not sure why. They just can't.

There's a number of dalar nations, but the three major ones are the Sanmra, who mostly live in Central Asia or northern North America and speak Tirina; the Tuanmali, who live in South America and primarily speak Azen; and the Lorhan, who live in Europe and speak a language that I just call "Lorhan" for now, but if I ever actually start working on it, the name will probably change. I'm thinking either a Baltic lang or a Finno-Ugric one.

The dalar have been kicking around in my head in one form or another for about ten years now, but it's only been in the past couple of years that I've seriously tried to sort out the finer parts of their culture and society.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:13

alynnidalar wrote:
shimobaatar wrote:I think you have posted bits and pieces of that before, but I haven't seen this much in one place before. It's extremely cool!

If they can interbreed with humans, they'd probably be homo sapiens dalaris, as opposed to homo sapiens sapiens. Not that it matters that much.
Yeah, I've wondered about that. The dalar don't usually like going so far as to admit they're even the same genus as humans, even if it's patently obvious, though, so I don't think they'd submit to genetic studies.
shimobaatar wrote:So amati can be used to alter the perception of humans and other living things? Can the dalar use it on one another? Does it have any other uses? What's the extent of their psychic/telepathic abilities?
Yeah, that's the first major thing amati does, alter perceptions. So this can be used to make someone see something that isn't there, not see something that is there, alter memories (not exactly moral...), mind control (DEFINITELY not moral), etc., and by extension, mental communication is (to a degree) also possible. Dalar can indeed use it on one another, but of course having these abilities means they're better-suited and more motivated to protect their minds against it. (Humans can learn to protect their minds as well--it's just less instinctual for us.)

Amati could, in general, be described as reality warping powers, although doing more than altering perceptions is vanishingly difficult. But the other major use of amati is a big part of how the dalar hide their settlements from the rest of us. A large number of dalar working together can create a "fold" in the fabric of reality--I guess you could think of it like a teeny-tiny pocket universe that's almost, but not quite, cut off from the rest of the world. (We're talking on the order of a few dozen square miles at most.) As a result, their enclaves are basically undetectable by satellites, etc. because they're not really in our world, if that makes sense.

The third common thing amati is used for ("common" is being used loosely here) is rapid transport from one location to another. Teleportation, basically. You cut a hole in reality here, you cut a hole in reality there, you pass through from one to the other, and there you are. But again, this is not exactly an easy task, and a single person can't control anywhere near the amount of amati you'd need to pull it off. Big stuff like this is very definitely a group effort, and so prohibitively expensive that it's cheaper and less hassle to use human transportation to get wherever you're going... even in the days before air travel.
shimobaatar wrote:Is Sanmra considered one nation because of the Bering Strait? I'd assume that the proximity of Alaska and Siberia would make it easier for the Central Asian and Northern North American populations to communicate.
Originally all Sanmra lived in Central Asia. (actually, originally all dalar lived in Asia, but over time they spread out) Within the past several hundred years, a significant portion of the population ended up migrating to the Americas, but the two groups have stayed in contact through the aforementioned uses of amati for communication/occasional transportation. That's how they've managed to maintain a common government and language (although the Elten and Sakaran dialects have diverged a fair bit).

But yes, there's populations of Sanmra in both Alaska and Siberia, for exactly the reason you mention!
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:13

alynnidalar wrote:
shimobaatar wrote:Do the dalar themselves consider mind control and such immoral?
Yes, more or less--just because you have the capability to do something doesn't mean you should. But where the line falls between "acceptable use of amati for important purposes" and "unforgivable violation of someone's mind" varies. Most wouldn't consider a little temporary altering of perceptions to be "real" mind control (despite what you or I might think if we were the ones affected...), but actually taking control of someone else's actions would be.

The Lorhan as a culture rather infamously put the line a great deal farther than most everybody else.
shimobaatar wrote:Oh, wow. So they really can warp reality itself, as opposed to just a human's/group of humans' perception of reality.
Yeah, which has the potential to get wildly out of hand from a narrative perspective, but on a practical level, it's pretty limited. It's a great deal easier to just make someone think you're not there than it is to, for example, create one of those folds around yourself and walk by them.
shimobaatar wrote:How far can their telepathic communication abilities reach? Could a dalar in North America think of a dalar in Central Asia and automatically establish a telepathic link between them, at least temporarily?
Theoretically, under ideal circumstances. Again, on a practical level it's not usually that good. Just reaching out to try to find somebody else's mind at random would have a pretty limited range--maybe a couple of miles. If you've set up the link beforehand, though, when both of you are in the same place, then the link would have a much more extended range, on the order of dozens or even a hundred miles. (Although, two people who are very close can generally at least pick up impressions of emotions from the other, pretty much regardless of distance. For example, siblings or a married couple.)

So how does this all work with the long-distance communication thing? Well, you remember how I talked about teleportation? How you rip open reality here, rip open reality there, and slip from one to the other? That's exactly how it works for communication too, although because you're working on a much smaller scale, it's cheaper and can be done by just two people (one on each end) if they know what they're doing.

I haven't run into any time paradoxes yet with the whole instant-communication thing, but if I do, I'll just retroactively declare that such communication doesn't run faster than the speed of light. Ditto for teleportation. Amati is not quite subject to what we understand to be the laws of physics, but it really can only bend reality, not break it completely.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:14

alynnidalar wrote:
shimobaatar wrote:How do dalar governments work? Are certain uses of amati illegal, instead of simply taboo or immoral, and if so, how are those laws enforced, and how might people who violate those laws be punished?
Dalar governments are basically the same as any human government. The Lorhan are a hereditary monarchy (mostly), the Tuanmali are a fairly decentralized representative democracy, and the Sanmra are a wacky mix of Roman dictatorship and representative democracy. Unfortunately, while there's laws against manipulating fellow dalar's minds, or the small number of humans who are citizens of dalar nations, there's not a whole lot legally stopping anybody from messing with regular humans. Actual mind control is illegal, as is any use of amati that could threaten to expose the dalar or lead anybody back to them, but again, the lines are kind of vague. To be honest, if a dalar is going really far across the line (let's say, testing drugs on humans to increase their susceptibility to mind control, and then using those mind-controlled humans as assassins and suicide bombers), they're more likely to be quietly disappeared than actually get hauled back for a trial.

One of the most serious punishments possible, considered by a lot of dalar to be worse than the death penalty, is removing someone else's ability to manipulate amati. (It's possible to "burn out" your own ability to use amati, through over-extending yourself badly, etc. The end result is a total lack of ability to interact with, sense, or manipulate amati in any way, and almost certainly severe mental and physical problems. So using it as a punishment basically means forcing someone else through this.) The Tuanmali don't do it at all, and the Lorhan and Sanmra only do it for the most severe of crimes, and in both cases it must be sanctioned and carried out personally by the head of government.

Of course, more mundane punishments such as community service, imprisonment, and the death sentence are also around. Technically, confinement to dalar territory is also a possible punishment, but it's not exactly difficult to leave without anybody noticing, so it's more a slap on the wrist than anything else.
shimobaatar wrote:It also sounds like it takes a large amount of dalar working together to do some of the "bigger reality-warping jobs", so to speak. Or at least more than one.
Yep, precisely.
shimobaatar wrote:Could a dalar create a rip in space connecting themselves and someone else, but only large enough so their voices could carry through, or so they could see just a part of one another, like their faces or hands for communication?
You know, I really have never considered that angle! Seems sort of obvious now. I'll need to consider that, it could have a big effect not just on communication, but also things like trade (if you could pass small things through).
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:29

And the latest round of questions to answer!
shimobaatar wrote:
alynnidalar wrote:the small number of humans who are citizens of dalar nations
How did this happen? Are they aware of where they are and that they're not surrounded by humans?
Yeah, they're aware. It's happened for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's people who learned of the existence of dalar and chose to move there for whatever reason, sometimes it's people who stumbled upon the dalar by mistake but ended up living among them, and sometimes it's people who fled their homes for whatever reason and were taken in by the dalar for a variety of reasons. It's a pretty small percentage of the population, but the Sanmra human community has a long history and is well-respected by most dalar. Most humans in these families would identify much more closely with the dalar than with humans, even if they live so much shorter lives than everyone around them.

Interestingly, and this is a pretty strong hint in the direction of the origins of the dalar, the descendants of those human families who have lived among the dalar for centuries have begun to show signs of... well, changing. As in, they routinely live to be 150+ years old, and there's much higher rates among them of people who can sense/use amati in some form. Give it another five hundred years and you might not be able to tell who's a dalar and who's a human!
shimobaatar wrote:
alynnidalar wrote:One of the most serious punishments possible, considered by a lot of dalar to be worse than the death penalty, is removing someone else's ability to manipulate amati. (It's possible to "burn out" your own ability to use amati, through over-extending yourself badly, etc. The end result is a total lack of ability to interact with, sense, or manipulate amati in any way, and almost certainly severe mental and physical problems. So using it as a punishment basically means forcing someone else through this.) The Tuanmali don't do it at all, and the Lorhan and Sanmra only do it for the most severe of crimes, and in both cases it must be sanctioned and carried out personally by the head of government.
Wow… I wouldn't be surprised if most of the dalar who were subjected to that kind of punishment committed suicide sometime afterwards.
Yeah. I think you can see why a lot of people consider it worse than just executing somebody.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 03:35

alynnidalar wrote:even if they live so much shorter lives than everyone around them.
What would the average life expectancy be for a dalar?
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by adrin19 » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 08:31

shimobaatar wrote:
alynnidalar wrote:even if they live so much shorter lives than everyone around them.
What would the average life expectancy be for a dalar?
It's said in the first post that the life expectancy for a dalar is 500 or so, but what you quoted is in reference to the humans living in dalar communities, who "live so much shorter lives than everyone around them."
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 08:44

adrin19 wrote:It's said in the first post that the life expectancy for a dalar is 500 or so
Missed that. I used a search function of sorts (Control + F) to search the page for key words I thought might lead me to a number, since I was pretty sure the question had been answered, but that didn't come up.
adrin19 wrote:but what you quoted is in reference to the humans living in dalar communities, who "live so much shorter lives than everyone around them."
Uh, yeah, I'm very well aware of what I quoted. It's what I meant to quote, and I can see it in my post above. I'm not sure why you feel the need to restate it. :wat: I'm completely aware of what it was referencing, and since I couldn't remember the exact dalar life expectancy, I wanted to know what it was so I could see how much shorter human lives would be than the dalar around them, since I know the average human life expectancy.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by Thrice Xandvii » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 11:42

shimobaatar wrote:Uh, yeah, I'm very well aware of what I quoted. It's what I meant to quote, and I can see it in my post above. I'm not sure why you feel the need to restate it. :wat: I'm completely aware of what it was referencing, and since I couldn't remember the exact dalar life expectancy, I wanted to know what it was so I could see how much shorter human lives would be than the dalar around them, since I know the average human life expectancy.
I would assume it was restated merely to be clear to you and anyone else who may stumble across your post after skimming the above and missing the age as you did. You know, providing context.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 17:36

Aaaanyway, yeah, about 500 years from natural causes. Shorter for dalar living in the human world, because those types tend to be adrenaline junkies and get themselves into trouble.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Mon 12 Jan 2015, 19:54

Thrice Xandvii wrote:
shimobaatar wrote:Uh, yeah, I'm very well aware of what I quoted. It's what I meant to quote, and I can see it in my post above. I'm not sure why you feel the need to restate it. :wat: I'm completely aware of what it was referencing, and since I couldn't remember the exact dalar life expectancy, I wanted to know what it was so I could see how much shorter human lives would be than the dalar around them, since I know the average human life expectancy.
I would assume it was restated merely to be clear to you and anyone else who may stumble across your post after skimming the above and missing the age as you did. You know, providing context.
I'm sure my question wouldn't have been ignored and caused confusion for future readers. In fact, they could have just quoted a sentence or two from the post above where it first mentions the 500 year lifespan.

But, it's not worth arguing about. I responded to that post at around 3 am in my time zone, and I don't "take kindly" to (real or perceived) insinuations that I'm stupid. Therefore, it probably wasn't one of my most diplomatic posts.

Anyway, back to the real topic.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 16 Feb 2015, 23:11

I put down a bunch of thoughts on the functioning of the Sanmra government today, so I thought I'd see what people thought of it. Keep in mind, this is very much a first draft--I'm sure there's a bunch of contradictions I didn't notice. [xD] Also, yes, it's not very fair if you're not a member of one of the old, powerful families, and especially not if you're not human. It's better than it used to be, I'll say that much.

Quick note before I get to the copy-and-pasting, a "district" is a legal/political entity that basically corresponds to an "enclave"--a physical chunk of land that's hidden from the human world. Most consist of only a single settlement and surrounding land.

Legislative and Executive, Sort Of

A good place to start is by discussing the interaction between the sarda and the nuoda--roughly, the executive and legislative branches.

The nuoda, which literally translates to "voters", is akin to any number of representative legislatures in the modern world (such as the American House of Representatives). Representatives are elected from various districts (israd) and have the responsibility of passing/repealing laws, handling taxes, and taking care of a number of administrative duties, as well as regulating interactions between districts. There's two elected from every district, traditionally a man and a woman (but not always). Theoretically all citizens can vote--citizens being any dalar above the age of majority who have an association with a family/clan/house--but in practice the large and powerful families tend to submit their votes as a homogeneous block, meaning they have a lot of control.

Then there's the sarda The sarda is the formal head of the Sanmra government, and could be considered a sort of benevolent dictator or non-hereditary monarch. While they're frequently referred to in the singular, it's actually a pair of leaders. Like with the nuoda, it's traditionally a man and a woman. Commonly it's a husband and wife, but historically there's been siblings, cousins, or even two totally unrelated people.

The sarda technically has absolute control of the government. And virtually everything, if they really wanted. The military is under their control, they're the head of the judicial system, and they can veto or override any proclamations of the nuoda that they want. Obviously in practice this doesn't actually happen, or the nuoda wouldn't still exist. They generally fulfill a similar role to a prime minister or president: they confirm the laws and taxes of the legislature, they're the supreme commander of the military, and they're the supreme representative of the nation to other nations. But in times of emergency--or, occasionally, if the sarda is terrible people, whenever they feel like it--they do have the authority to make whatever laws they want, and enforce them to boot. Oh, and it's a lifetime position.

One of the major checks on their power, though, is that the nuoda elects them to begin with. While they tend to come from powerful families--the Kaorn house has had so many sarda in its history that it's often called "leten ni sarda" (the Family of the Sarda)--it's not a hereditary position. Rather, when the old sarda dies (or one of them--in virtually all circumstances, if one of the pair survives the other, they'll abdicate), the nuoda submit nominations for the position. (no, you can't nominate yourself. Or your spouse. And everyone will look sidelong at you if you nominate someone from your house in general.) Then they all sit down, argue it out, and vote. An absolute supermajority is required to come to a decision--at least 75% of all members (not just the ones present) must agree. If none of the candidates is at that point, then they just keep on arguing it over until they pick someone.

It again requires an absolute supermajority of 75%, but it's theoretically possible to remove the sarda from office as well. It's never actually happened since those laws were put in place (prior to that point, deposing a sarda tended to be a messy business involving stabbing), but maybe someday.

So overall it's sort of a representational democracy mixed with a monarchy, or maybe like a Roman Republic-style dictatorship, only on a lifetime basis. With hopefully fewer Julius Caesars.

On a district-by-district level, there's a variety of systems, but the majority of sizable districts have a "mayor" (elected by the populace) advised by a council, each member of which has a distinct area of responsibility (overseeing the local police, for example, or public health). Some districts might just have a council with no head over it, and some small districts might just have a single leader.

Military/Police

Because the Sanmra, like all dalar nations, lives mostly in secret alongside human nations, there isn't really a military as a separate organization from a single organization, the kasti ("police"), that handles border patrol, police work, and, in a pinch, function as the bulk of the military. There's many departments in the overall organization, as it handles a lot of civil service, not just police work. The rank-and-file members of the organization are broadly organized in a military fashion, but they only rarely carry out any form of military action. The kasti is under the command of the sarda, but the day-to-day minutiae are handled by officials appointed by the sarda.

The real military of the Sanmra are the len and the Tasen ni Sanmra--literally, "the Army of Sanmra", but in practice, a special forces group. The len are kind of an interesting group. They have an extremely strict code of morality and honor and accept very few recruits. A bit like the idea, if not the reality, of samurai or European knights. Historically, they started as an elite group of soldiers, but split away from the main military and became an independent group. (In fact, it's arguable if they're part of the government at all--technically, they don't answer to anybody, sarda included.) Today, they guard the capital Elten and surrounding areas specifically, as well as serve as bodyguards for the sarda and nuoda, and if the kasti is the first line of defense of the nation, the len are the last. So a bit Secret Service-y.

The Tasen ni Sanmra (in Tirina commonly just called "tasen" (army). In English, often called "SSF"--Sanmra Special Forces) don't have internal authority (unless granted to them by the sarda in exceptional circumstances or times of war). Instead, they carry out missions in human nations (or sometimes other dalar nations, but let's not talk about that...). A lot of them are ex-len (either they got kicked out for breaking their strict codes or couldn't handle it and left), some are long-term kasti, and some are new recruits. Their basic goal is to protect the interest of the Sanmra, which generally translates to making sure humans don't find out about them. Sometimes they have to hunt down rogue dalar who are causing trouble... sometimes they hunt down humans who are just a little too perceptive. The majority of Sanmra spies are from this organization. They, like the kasti, are commanded by the sarda, but on a much more direct level.

Judicial

Previously, it was mentioned that the sarda is/are the head of the judicial branch. There's no Supreme Court; you appeal directly to the sarda themselves. (or, let's be real, to a minor administrative assistant seventeen layers of bureaucracy away from the sarda) But prior to that point, there's some different courts you could end up in.

As in many judiciaries, there's a separation between civil and criminal court. Criminal cases are actually not tried by the general judicial system, but rather are handled directly by officials in the kasti/police. Civil cases, though, along with contracts, legal transactions, marriages, interactions between families, etc. etc. etc. are handled by the judges, the kida. Really, "judge" isn't a very good word for the role of the kida, because they're like combination judge-lawyer-notaries.

Anybody can "practice law" in the sense of charging money for legal advice, but to actually participate in courts, a person must be confirmed by the nuoda/Voters. This process generally requires a degree in law from a dalar university, as well as a recommendation from the mayor/council/other authority of the district to which they wish to be appointed. (Each district has their own rules about when they'll give a recommendation, but generally it's stuff like they must be an upstanding member of the community, they must live in the district, they must be above the age of majority, etc.) After this point, they can formally be called a "kida".

In each district, there's a number of courts/judges to which kida can be appointed (or elected--again, it's handled on a district-by-district basis). Lower courts handle basic functions such as marriages and overseeing simple contracts. Higher courts handle more delicate situations such as feuds between families, duels, and lawsuits. Non-sitting kida--and occasionally even those who do have the seat of a judge--function as lawyers, both prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Federal courts are kind of more ad hoc things. There's a handful of permanent ones in central locations/large cities, but the only court cases handled by them are when it's a civil case between citizens of two separate districts, if it's a conflict directly between the government of two districts, or if it involves the government itself--it's brought against the sarda or the military, for example. The judges for these cases are appointed directly by the nuoda, and while they may already be a sitting judge somewhere, they're intended to be an impartial observer, and thus should be from none of the districts involved in the case.

Now for how cases can get passed from court to court. If the lower courts doesn't think they can adequately deal with something--a contract dispute gets out of hand, for example--it gets kicked up to the higher courts. If they can't handle it, the presiding kida can petition the nuoda for a special federal court, or even petition the sarda directly.

As for right of appeal, only certain types of decisions can be appealed. You can technically always appeal the sarda, who are considered the supreme justices and final word, but the odds they'll actually hear the case are extremely low. Aside from that, it's again a district-by-district thing, what kinds of appeals can be made, how many, and to what courts.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Sat 21 Feb 2015, 05:41

Very interesting as always!
alynnidalar wrote:Also, yes, it's not very fair if you're not a member of one of the old, powerful families, and especially not if you're not human.
(Emphasis mine.)

Do you mean if you're not a dalar?
alynnidalar wrote:a "district" is a legal/political entity that basically corresponds to an "enclave"--a physical chunk of land that's hidden from the human world. Most consist of only a single settlement and surrounding land.
How many districts are there? Are they all physically/geographically discontinuous? That is, do any two districts border one another, or are they all total enclaves surrounded by 100% human territory?
alynnidalar wrote:any dalar above the age of majority
What is the age of majority for the dalar?
alynnidalar wrote:but in practice the large and powerful families tend to submit their votes as a homogeneous block, meaning they have a lot of control.
I'm not sure if I understand what you mean here. Various large and powerful families get together and decide how they're going to vote, and then they all vote that way, right? But do individual family members all vote, or do the families vote as single entities?
alynnidalar wrote:(or one of them--in virtually all circumstances, if one of the pair survives the other, they'll abdicate)
Why? Has this ever not happened? What would happen if the remaining one refused to step down? Would they rule alone until their death, would the nuoda elect a new second person, or would the remaining person be kicked out so they could be replaced by two new people?
alynnidalar wrote:If none of the candidates is at that point, then they just keep on arguing it over until they pick someone.
How long does it usually take to elect a new pair of people? What happens/who rules during the period between the old sarda's death and the new sarda's election?

How long does the sarda usually reign? Related question: how old are the people who are usually elected to that position?

Is being a member of the nuoda also a lifetime position? If not, how often are elections held? Are representatives elected as pairs like the sarda, or are they elected as individuals?
alynnidalar wrote:technically, they don't answer to anybody, sarda included.)
Why don't they control everything, then?
alynnidalar wrote:Sometimes they have to hunt down rogue dalar who are causing trouble... sometimes they hunt down humans who are just a little too perceptive.
Does "hunt down" mean "assassinate"?
alynnidalar wrote:Criminal cases are actually not tried by the general judicial system, but rather are handled directly by officials in the kasti/police.
Could you tell us more about this?
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Sat 21 Feb 2015, 15:25

shimobaatar wrote:Very interesting as always!
You're too kind. :)
shimobaatar wrote:(Emphasis mine.)

Do you mean if you're not a dalar?
[xD] Whoops! Yes. There's my speciesism rearing its head again.
shimobaatar wrote:How many districts are there? Are they all physically/geographically discontinuous? That is, do any two districts border one another, or are they all total enclaves surrounded by 100% human territory?
They're all discontinuous; the largest enclave wouldn't even be a hundred square miles, so there's no real reason to subdivide them. So each district consists of at least one complete enclave, and possibly might consist of two or three small enclaves if they're geographically close to one another.
shimobaatar wrote:What is the age of majority for the dalar?
48--they use a duodecimal (base-12) number system, so that's 40 for them.
shimobaatar wrote:I'm not sure if I understand what you mean here. Various large and powerful families get together and decide how they're going to vote, and then they all vote that way, right? But do individual family members all vote, or do the families vote as single entities?
I'm still sorting this one out... I want the large families to have disproportionately significant amounts of influence, while still giving the vote to all adult dalar. The way I've been thinking of it is that each member of a family could vote individually, but a family/house can also submit votes for the entire family as a whole. (a "family" is more than just people related to each other--it's also a legally recognized entity with various powers over its members. I should write up something on the families, I have all these nebulous ideas about how they work that I haven't pinned down) So generally speaking, your whole house votes together (the way they vote would be decided by agreement among the older family members), but if you had some particular objection, you could choose to vote separately. (although it might be seen as a little traitorous to go against the rest of your family)
shimobaatar wrote:Why? Has this ever not happened? What would happen if the remaining one refused to step down? Would they rule alone until their death, would the nuoda elect a new second person, or would the remaining person be kicked out so they could be replaced by two new people?
It has, albeit rarely; especially if the surviving member of the sarda is still young, they might marry again/choose another relative/whatever. But I think the new sarda would have to be confirmed by the nuoda anyway. The whole one male, one female ruler thing is pretty deeply ingrained, any attempts for a single person to be the sole ruler have been swiftly put down.

So I guess the options are:

A sarda dies (a member of the pair).
- The remaining member abdicates.
-- The nuoda chooses two new people.
- OR the remaining member refuses to abdicate.
-- The remaining member refuses to pick a new partner and insists on ruling alone.
--- They're kicked out with force if necessary!
-- The remaining member picks a new partner.
--- The nuoda confirms the new partner and life continues on. (usually only if the sarda is young)
--- The nuoda won't confirm the new partner but they and the sarda come to an agreement about somebody else and life continues on (again, only if the sarda is young)
--- The nuoda won't confirm the new partner and asks the sarda to step down so they can pick two new people (if the sarda is older or if the nuoda wants to get rid of him/her)

After all, if an older sarda just kept on ruling, they'd die eventually and you'd have another succession question on your hands. So you might as well just kick them out and pick somebody younger who's probably going to last longer.
shimobaatar wrote:How long does it usually take to elect a new pair of people? What happens/who rules during the period between the old sarda's death and the new sarda's election?
Good questions I haven't entirely worked out! If one member of the sarda is still alive, then they'd usually keep the government going while the nuoda picks the new sarda. But things sort of come to a standstill anyway. I'm not sure how long it'd take to pick a new sarda, but less than a couple of months; pretty soon after the sarda's death, you'd have a special assembly of the nuoda to submit candidates, within a few weeks you'd be voting on them, I think.
shimobaatar wrote:How long does the sarda usually reign? Related question: how old are the people who are usually elected to that position?
Probably around 200; like I said above, if they're too old there's a certain feeling of "well, they're just going to die in a hundred years, and then we'll have to get used to a new one". But much younger than that, and they'd be seen as far too young to rule. A full reign is in the neighborhood of 200-300 years, assuming they don't get themselves killed. (sarda are expected to not just be political leaders, but military ones as well; they don't just protect their people politically, but physically as well. Due to various nebulous something-or-other mumbo jumbo, they're the most powerful users of amati/magic, too, because they're the leaders. A Sanmra leader hasn't gone to war in a good long while, but historically, more than a couple died that way.
shimobaatar wrote:Is being a member of the nuoda also a lifetime position? If not, how often are elections held? Are representatives elected as pairs like the sarda, or are they elected as individuals?
It's not a lifetime position, but I'm not sure how frequent elections are; possibly every ten or fifteen years or so. I'm not sure, but I think representatives would run as pairs, but actually be voted for separately. Most people would vote for them as a pair, though.
shimobaatar wrote:Why don't they control everything, then?
Yeah, that's a good question. Tradition, on one hand. Very small numbers on the other.
shimobaatar wrote:Does "hunt down" mean "assassinate"?
Pretty much, yeah.
shimobaatar wrote:Could you tell us more about this?
Unfortunately, I don't have more to tell than just this! I'll see what I come up with, though. I'm imagining there's a branch within the organization of kasti that handles criminal court cases, and probably confirmed kida would be involved, but I'm not sure how it all works yet.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Sat 21 Feb 2015, 21:26

alynnidalar wrote:So each district consists of at least one complete enclave, and possibly might consist of two or three small enclaves if they're geographically close to one another.
Ah, so there isn't a 1:1 enclave to district ratio.
alynnidalar wrote:but if you had some particular objection, you could choose to vote separately. (although it might be seen as a little traitorous to go against the rest of your family)
Is there any way someone could vote separately without their family finding out?
alynnidalar wrote:(sarda are expected to not just be political leaders, but military ones as well; they don't just protect their people politically, but physically as well.
Oh, wow. I assumed they were just the symbolic leaders of the military, like how the US president is the "Commander in Chief", but never actually goes to war as the president.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Mon 23 Feb 2015, 16:20

shimobaatar wrote:Is there any way someone could vote separately without their family finding out?
Another good question...

I don't think it would ever be revealed who/what an individual vote was for. However, I don't think there'd be legal protections about who voted in the first place, so if a family checked up on its members, they probably could find out if anybody voted separately. (I imagine that any individual votes would override family ones, so if your family representative came along and submitted the family votes together, the voting authorities would handle any cases where individuals' votes differed from the family votes. In such a case, they might even mention to the family that so-and-so voted individually, so they'll know not to submit a vote for them.)
shimobaatar wrote:Oh, wow. I assumed they were just the symbolic leaders of the military, like how the US president is the "Commander in Chief", but never actually goes to war as the president.
Well, a proper conflict between human and dalar forces hasn't happened for a long time; they've become a great deal more isolationist in the past five hundred years or so. So in practice, anymore, the sarda don't usually directly participate in things like that. But there's an expectation that they'd be able to, if such a situation arose.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Thu 28 May 2015, 14:29

I really should post more in here...

I've been thinking more about travel. I mentioned teleportation before, and how it's a difficult task that requires a group effort to be able to pull off without killing anybody, or at least without putting anybody in a coma. I've come to the conclusion that for both practical and security reasons, teleportation within Sanmra would be strictly controlled/owned by the government. (Practical, in that it requires quite a lot of coordination and personnel to do properly; security, in that if you just let people teleport all over the place, you'd never be able to control movement in and out of an enclave.)

It should also be added that for various reasons, short-range teleportation is especially impractical. Dalar have ways to move very quickly over short distances, but for actual, proper teleportation of the "tear a hole in reality here, tear a hole in reality there, move between the two" variety, anything less than at least a couple hundred miles is quite difficult. To add to that, you can't just teleport places at random, you have to have people on the other side, prepared to open their side of the portal at the same time you're opening yours. Finally, it's possible to set up amati-based protections against teleportation. All of this adds up to meaning you can't just teleport into the sarda's palace, assassinate them, and leave without a trace.

Anyway, the largest/most secure enclaves can (generally) only be reached through this government-controlled teleportation network. A large enclave, such as the capital Elten, will have several "satellite" enclaves (or outliers, or suburbs, I haven't settled on a name yet). To access the capital from the outside world, you'd first travel to one of these smaller enclaves, pass customs there, and then teleport from that enclave to the capital. Once you're within the network, you can teleport directly to most other large cities (so once you enter Elten, you can teleport directly to Orsili without having to go back out to one of Elten's outliers).

Or at least that's how the system ideally works. In reality, there's plenty of black market teleportation to be had, if you know the right people and have enough money. Obviously good Sanmra citizens would have little reason to use this, but for criminals and people who just don't want their movements to be known, travel via the very very expensive black market networks is available.

These networks also come in handy for dalar living in the human world, as no dalar government has any official portals outside of dalar territory (technically, the Tuanmali teleportation networks aren't state-owned, but none of the Tuanmali transportation companies have any portals outside dalar territory anyway). Most sizable human cities have an unofficial portal of some kind, run by one of the big dalar crime organizations. While the Sanmra government officially is against them, they mostly look the other way so long as they aren't teleporting criminals back into Sanmra--it's a valuable service that even government officials need to use sometimes, when they're in the human world.

Unfortunately, these networks aren't regulated for safety as the official ones are, and they don't have the best equipment or personnel, so while it's a whole lot faster than an airplane, it's a whole lot more unpleasant. As in, they immediately hand you the puke bucket when you come through on the other side, and that's with taking motion sickness medicine.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Fri 29 May 2015, 00:53

alynnidalar wrote:I really should post more in here...
Well, I certainly enjoy reading what you post, and I'm positive I'm not alone. Don't feel pressured to post more if you ever don't feel like it, though!
alynnidalar wrote:I've been thinking more about travel. I mentioned teleportation before, and how it's a difficult task that requires a group effort to be able to pull off without killing anybody, or at least without putting anybody in a coma. I've come to the conclusion that for both practical and security reasons, teleportation within Sanmra would be strictly controlled/owned by the government. (Practical, in that it requires quite a lot of coordination and personnel to do properly; security, in that if you just let people teleport all over the place, you'd never be able to control movement in and out of an enclave.)

It should also be added that for various reasons, short-range teleportation is especially impractical. Dalar have ways to move very quickly over short distances, but for actual, proper teleportation of the "tear a hole in reality here, tear a hole in reality there, move between the two" variety, anything less than at least a couple hundred miles is quite difficult. To add to that, you can't just teleport places at random, you have to have people on the other side, prepared to open their side of the portal at the same time you're opening yours. Finally, it's possible to set up amati-based protections against teleportation. All of this adds up to meaning you can't just teleport into the sarda's palace, assassinate them, and leave without a trace.

Anyway, the largest/most secure enclaves can (generally) only be reached through this government-controlled teleportation network. A large enclave, such as the capital Elten, will have several "satellite" enclaves (or outliers, or suburbs, I haven't settled on a name yet). To access the capital from the outside world, you'd first travel to one of these smaller enclaves, pass customs there, and then teleport from that enclave to the capital. Once you're within the network, you can teleport directly to most other large cities (so once you enter Elten, you can teleport directly to Orsili without having to go back out to one of Elten's outliers).
Ah, interesting. I don't very much about physics and such, hypothetical or not, but this system makes sense to me, especially because of the existence of the protections against teleportation, the risks of teleporting, and the difficulty of transporting over shorter distances.

What ways do they have to travel shorter distances without teleporting? How do these anti-teleportation protections work, and how are they controlled? I personally like the term "satellite", but there's nothing really wrong with "outlier" or "suburb". Are these official portals open nearly all the time, or are they opened and closed again as needed? How often are they used, and by how many individuals?
alynnidalar wrote:Or at least that's how the system ideally works. In reality, there's plenty of black market teleportation to be had, if you know the right people and have enough money. Obviously good Sanmra citizens would have little reason to use this, but for criminals and people who just don't want their movements to be known, travel via the very very expensive black market networks is available.
How would these black market portals get around the official anti-teleportation protections put in place? And just how expensive would these black market portals be to use? On a similar note, how often are they used, and by how many individuals? Do a significant amount of criminals have enough money to use these portals?
alynnidalar wrote:These networks also come in handy for dalar living in the human world, as no dalar government has any official portals outside of dalar territory (technically, the Tuanmali teleportation networks aren't state-owned, but none of the Tuanmali transportation companies have any portals outside dalar territory anyway). Most sizable human cities have an unofficial portal of some kind, run by one of the big dalar crime organizations. While the Sanmra government officially is against them, they mostly look the other way so long as they aren't teleporting criminals back into Sanmra--it's a valuable service that even government officials need to use sometimes, when they're in the human world.

Unfortunately, these networks aren't regulated for safety as the official ones are, and they don't have the best equipment or personnel, so while it's a whole lot faster than an airplane, it's a whole lot more unpleasant. As in, they immediately hand you the puke bucket when you come through on the other side, and that's with taking motion sickness medicine.
Excluding the motion sickness and all, are these illegal portals notably unsafe? That is, could someone be mugged or stabbed or something while teleporting? What kinds of equipment and personnel are needed to operate portals?

Again, are these less legal portals open constantly, or only some of the time? Do lots of dalar use them, and are they used frequently? Do humans ever use them, either intentionally or accidentally?
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by alynnidalar » Fri 29 May 2015, 17:19

shimobaatar wrote:
alynnidalar wrote:I really should post more in here...
Well, I certainly enjoy reading what you post, and I'm positive I'm not alone. Don't feel pressured to post more if you ever don't feel like it, though!
Aw, thanks. :) Means a lot even to just see that the topic has views, and comments are even better. I love getting questions about this kind of thing, it gets me to think about the world from perspectives I never considered before.
What ways do they have to travel shorter distances without teleporting?
Okay, this kind of goes back to how these enclaves are kept hidden in the first place. They create these large-scale "folds" in reality, inside of which are their cities. But dalar can actually do this on a smaller scale as well. The huge folds require hundreds of contributors to create and especially to make permanent(ish), but a little one, on the order of a couple of feet and only temporarily, is easily manageable by a single person. A dalar could actually use this to hide themselves undetectably, by creating a little "fold" around their body.

But, clever dalar figured out that you can also abuse this to move quickly. The thing is, these "folds" are a lot like folds or pleats in cloth (which is why I call them "folds" to begin with!). Two points on a piece of cloth can be far apart, but if you make a fold in the cloth between the two points (with the fold of cloth being underneath the "surface" of the cloth), those two points are now a lot closer.

So what you do is, you make a little fold on the ground in front of you, let's say covering a couple of feet, and step over it. Release the fold, and you're now two feet farther from your starting point than you would have otherwise been. If you're good enough at this, you can do it on the fly even while running, allowing you to cover a great deal of ground very quickly, even though you aren't actually running any faster than you would otherwise.

In other words, you're not moving any faster, but reality is. It's kind of the same idea around some theories for FTL travel--don't move the spaceship, just move the space around the spaceship. But more mundane methods of travel and disguise are almost always going to be more practical. :)
How do these anti-teleportation protections work, and how are they controlled? [...] How would these black market portals get around the official anti-teleportation protections put in place?
Well, to be honest, it's less "you can't teleport at ALL" and more "they can detect whether or not people are doing this". When doing this kind of monitoring, you basically have to make the trade-off between "very precise but very limited in scope" (which would be done for high-security areas, such as the sarda's palace) and "not very precise but very broad" (which could be done for a whole city). So if you and some friends tried to teleport into the sarda's palace, security would know someone was doing it and where the portal was opening inside the palace before you could even get the portal all the way open. But if you tried to teleport from somewhere else just into the city somewhere, the border patrol could tell that somebody teleported somewhere, but they would have no way of knowing precisely where. And in a small town or city, they might not even care that much. In Elten, though, you'd have an investigation opened immediately, because it's a pretty big security breach.
Are these official portals open nearly all the time, or are they opened and closed again as needed? How often are they used, and by how many individuals?
They're opened and closed as needed. Once you've established a portal, it's less work to re-open it later. The portals between the biggest cities would probably only be closed at night, if at all.

EDIT: missed the question about volume. I'm not sure on specifics. In the city-to-city network, I imagine there'd be a constant stream of traffic, and the largest volume would undoubtedly be cargo, not people. In the outlier-to-city connections, those would be more rarely used.
And just how expensive would these black market portals be to use? On a similar note, how often are they used, and by how many individuals? Do a significant amount of criminals have enough money to use these portals? [...] Again, are these less legal portals open constantly, or only some of the time? Do lots of dalar use them, and are they used frequently?
Good questions, and I'm not sure of the answers for all of it.

For cost, I would say it'd depend on the area and whether or not you're "in" with the group operating the portal, but potentially on the order of thousands of dollars per "passenger" (even though it takes about as much effort to teleport one person as it does to teleport twenty--once you have a portal open, it doesn't require a lot of effort to keep it open). It'd basically always be cheaper to take a plane, but much like airlines, they capitalize on the fact that people who need to use these portals generally need to be places FAST, and mark up the price accordingly.

If you're actually a member of one of these crime organizations and are using a portal for "official" business, you probably aren't paying out of pocket anyway, and the operators of the portal might have an agreement with your bosses for payment.

For volume of passengers... I imagine even a high-traffic black market portal might still only open up a couple of times a week. The majority of traffic would not be by innocent people.
Excluding the motion sickness and all, are these illegal portals notably unsafe? That is, could someone be mugged or stabbed or something while teleporting?
Unlikely--if you're doing that kind of stuff, word would get around and nobody would come to you. The dalar black market has a certain amount of self-regulation; if someone is dead, they can't buy from you. Plus, when you're already charging people a couple thousand dollars a trip, the twenty bucks in their back pocket aren't a big reward. (of course, this doesn't stop there being urban legends told about this kind of thing happening, and I suppose it surely happens sometimes, just rarely)
What kinds of equipment and personnel are needed to operate portals?
The equipment is of the handwave variety. I know there are certain materials that react to amati and thus can be used to construct tech that can be controlled or affected by amati, but I have no specifics. I imagine there's equipment which can "save" a connection between two points, thus making it relatively easy to close and re-open a portal, but I don't know further than that. Opening a brand new portal might take up to a half-dozen people on each side, but for re-opening and stabilizing an already-established one, two or three on each side could handle it (with the passengers being expected to contribute as well).
Do humans ever use them, either intentionally or accidentally?
Accidentally wouldn't be possible, because they're not left open at random, but intentionally, yes. It's pretty rare, as there are very few humans who live in the human world but also know about/are in some way a part of dalar society. While passage is pretty safe for dalar (aside from the aforementioned motion sickness), it's somewhat more dangerous for humans. You are, after all, sort of stepping outside of reality for a second there, and being subjected to an enormous amount of amati all at once. This is fine for a dalar, who instinctively will protect themselves with their own amati, but we humans can't/don't do that.

So if a human did pass through, they'd really only be safe if they went with a dalar who could shield them through the passage. Otherwise, there could be some pretty bad side effects, everything from mental problems like hallucinations to physical problems like seizures and <strokes? nerve injury? it'd be nervous-system-related stuff, but I don't know exactly what>.
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Re: The Dalar: Culture, Biology, and Other Things I Think Of

Post by shimobaatar » Sat 30 May 2015, 02:14

alynnidalar wrote:Aw, thanks. :) Means a lot even to just see that the topic has views, and comments are even better. I love getting questions about this kind of thing, it gets me to think about the world from perspectives I never considered before.
[:D] Glad to hear these questions also help you, at least a little, in a way.
alynnidalar wrote:Okay, this kind of goes back to how these enclaves are kept hidden in the first place. They create these large-scale "folds" in reality, inside of which are their cities. But dalar can actually do this on a smaller scale as well. The huge folds require hundreds of contributors to create and especially to make permanent(ish), but a little one, on the order of a couple of feet and only temporarily, is easily manageable by a single person. A dalar could actually use this to hide themselves undetectably, by creating a little "fold" around their body.
What's it like inside of a fold? I'd assume it would be dark and void-like, but that doesn't seem to be the case. If a dalar were to hide themselves in a fold, would they be undetectable to just humans, or to other dalar as well? Also, since city-covering folds are only permanent-ish, what could cause them to fail/break/be taken down/or something else?
alynnidalar wrote:So what you do is, you make a little fold on the ground in front of you, let's say covering a couple of feet, and step over it. Release the fold, and you're now two feet farther from your starting point than you would have otherwise been. If you're good enough at this, you can do it on the fly even while running, allowing you to cover a great deal of ground very quickly, even though you aren't actually running any faster than you would otherwise.
This sounds awesome! I'm curious about how visibility, reaction time, and such things factor in here, though. Would this only be possible/a good idea to do across flat, open areas, or can especially experienced dalar dodge buildings and such in their way? Similarly, how does this kind of movement look, both to the dalar moving this way and to others (both humans and dalar) observing a dalar moving in such a way? Would dalar have to avoid human-filled areas while doing this so they don't cause a scene of some sort?
alynnidalar wrote:Well, to be honest, it's less "you can't teleport at ALL" and more "they can detect whether or not people are doing this". When doing this kind of monitoring, you basically have to make the trade-off between "very precise but very limited in scope" (which would be done for high-security areas, such as the sarda's palace) and "not very precise but very broad" (which could be done for a whole city). So if you and some friends tried to teleport into the sarda's palace, security would know someone was doing it and where the portal was opening inside the palace before you could even get the portal all the way open. But if you tried to teleport from somewhere else just into the city somewhere, the border patrol could tell that somebody teleported somewhere, but they would have no way of knowing precisely where. And in a small town or city, they might not even care that much. In Elten, though, you'd have an investigation opened immediately, because it's a pretty big security breach.
Oh, interesting! This makes a lot of sense, too, at least in my opinion. If you were to teleport into Elten, how likely would it be for the investigation that gets opened to actually find you? Sorry if this has been answered before, but what would happen if they did find you?

Also, you said that if someone were to attempt to teleport into the sarda's palace, they would be detected with pretty high precision before they even finished opening the portal they were trying to make. This isn't mentioned for the citywide teleportation detection system, so is the kind of system used at high-security areas also faster as well as more accurate? Sorry if I failed to get what I was trying to ask across there.
alynnidalar wrote:They're opened and closed as needed. Once you've established a portal, it's less work to re-open it later. The portals between the biggest cities would probably only be closed at night, if at all.

EDIT: missed the question about volume. I'm not sure on specifics. In the city-to-city network, I imagine there'd be a constant stream of traffic, and the largest volume would undoubtedly be cargo, not people. In the outlier-to-city connections, those would be more rarely used.
Hmm… any estimates of how large these portals would be, in area, I suppose? Alternatively, any ideas about how many individuals could use a portal at once?
alynnidalar wrote:Good questions, and I'm not sure of the answers for all of it.

[…]

If you're actually a member of one of these crime organizations and are using a portal for "official" business, you probably aren't paying out of pocket anyway, and the operators of the portal might have an agreement with your bosses for payment.
No worries about not having all the answers at the moment! I guess crime organizations would at least generally prefer it if their members didn't use the portals all the time, since they'd have to pay?
alynnidalar wrote:The equipment is of the handwave variety. I know there are certain materials that react to amati and thus can be used to construct tech that can be controlled or affected by amati, but I have no specifics. I imagine there's equipment which can "save" a connection between two points, thus making it relatively easy to close and re-open a portal, but I don't know further than that. Opening a brand new portal might take up to a half-dozen people on each side, but for re-opening and stabilizing an already-established one, two or three on each side could handle it (with the passengers being expected to contribute as well).
Once a portal has been opened somewhere, is it established in that location forever, or only for a limited period of time/number of uses? Also, how specific are portal locations? That is, if a group of dalar were to try opening a new portal somewhere, would they be able to detect/sense an already established (but probably closed at the time) portal in the area, which they could reopen to save themselves time/work? If so, how close would they have to be to the already established portal?

Are there any materials/objects/what have you that can't pass through the portals (perhaps because of amati-related properties)?
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