Maliter - Infodump and AMA

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Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 10 Sep 2016 17:56

Maliter is a planet I started developing a while back as an extension and significant rewrite of a vaguely-concieved idea about a land with lots of ley-lines and also giant beasts that represent cities. The city-beasts were discarded and may be recycled later into a different project, and the ley-lines turned into something more like a magical magnetic field, and then I decided to actively deny the "everything is medieval England" tendency in fantasy and ended up shooting myself in the foot because at some point I decided that horses don't exist. And I really don't know how warfare would have developed without horses to ride so if anyone has ideas please tell me.

Incidentally, this is the world where Kolla Tash and Otla Osanremi Hatil of the Multiverse Inn are from.

Maps! Subject to change at my whims.
Basic map
Slightly weirder map. (I overlayed my temperature and precipitation layers into something that looks neat)

Table of Contents:
Planetary Basics
Magic And Its Effects
--Magical Eccentricities
--Elves
--Meat Farmers
Continent: Aspe (formerly known as the Northlands)

Contents will gradually posted on an irregular schedule as I feel like it. Feel free to ask questions if you have any.
Last edited by Firebird766 on 15 Dec 2016 06:29, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 10 Sep 2016 17:58

Planetary Basics

Maliter is very similar to Earth in the grand scheme of things: it has an iron core and an active magnetic field, sits in the Goldilocks Zone of its sun, Tas, has liquid water, and generally can support life. It even has a similar surface gravity. However, it runs a bit hotter and occasionally has some interesting meteorological phenomena as a result of the massive magical field surrounding the planet.

The major landmasses, listed in a wibbly-wobbly fashion from north to south, are Aspe (formerly called 'the Northlands' because I am great at names, temperate, freezes in winter, permafrost only near the pole itself), Onaq (subtropical to tropical, split in half by a massive north-south mountain range), Quil Raio (tropical), Ingsa (tropical to subtropical, still deciding whether to make it stretch down to temperate), and Warragoa (subtropical to temperate). All of these will eventually get their own posts. Islands will be discussed with the continents they tend to be associated with; Quil Raio especially has lots of them sticking out of the Raian Shelf.

There's also a non-continentally-associated, extensive chain of islands called the Iron Islands. The viewpoint characters of my stories are completely unaware of them right now (in that part of the world, they've only had contact with some of the Warragoan people so far), but they will be in the future.

I haven't settled on plate tectonics yet. Details of everything are subject to change.

The most defining feature of Maliter is the magical field that flows around the planet like a magnetic field, going from south to north and then back through the center of the planet south again. The magic is most concentrated at the poles where it enters and exits, and most sparse at the equator, simply because you have the same amount total in a much larger space. In addition, it changes as it flows. Living things absorb it as it passes through them, then excrete it back out into the field altered slightly. These changes gradually build up until you have a distinct gradient- in the far south, magic is easy to passively absorb, and in the far north, it's easy to actively grab and put to a non-biological use. This has had significant effects on the culture and ecology of Maliter.
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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 10 Sep 2016 18:01

Magic and Its Effects

Magic is weird.

Everything that evolved on Maliter has in some way adapted to use this weirdness. In most cases, this involves using the field of magic as an energy source. Now, it's not quite possible for mobile creatures to live entirely on magic, so it mostly serves as an assist. A very rough rule of thumb is that organisms on Maliter can survive about 1/5th again as long as their Earth equivalent when dealing with starvation, suffocation, or any other deadly situation where the end result is starving the brain of energy. A sailor who falls off a ship and sinks might have 30 - 50 more seconds to be hauled out of the water before he drowns.

In addition, the mast majority of animals use magic to boost their immune system. This is countered by bacteria and fungi using magic to slip past defenses, so the general result of the arms race is status quo in terms of the number of creatures that take infection or are infested by parasites. Another result is that every single plant and animal on Maliter will die if taken from said planet and left on another world. They will eventually run out of magic and just crash, either from massive systemic infection from their own gut flora or latent fungal spores, or just because their body is trying to use a type of energy it doesn't have even if it has plenty of food available. For humans, this process usually takes 3-5 days.

(The Multiverse Inn result with Kolla Tash going to Rodenterra is not a tragedy in the making though because I consider it non-canon and I need to give her a happy ending somewhere because holy crap does she go through hell in her own story)

More complex animals can use magic in more complex ways. Smelling magical exhalation from other animals is pretty common, and has been selected for to an extreme in certain breeds of dogs. Jaguars can magically stifle the sounds they make, so they're even more stealthy than Earth jaguars. Some species of rabbit can bend light around them and become essentially invisible. Coyotes, and a single dog breed that's been cross-bred with coyotes, can cancel magical effects by throwing out an equivalent of white noise that disrupts spells. And there's lots more animals out there that can pull tricks like that. The only issue is that doing any of the tricks uses up magical energy and is thus tiring if overdone.

And of course, humans can use it too. It's something that has to be learned, and their bodies really don't like them using it for anything but energy and immune system defenses, but it's possible. It's just that mages tend to be those with the money and time to actually go out and be taught how to use it for anything it doesn't do naturally. And the amount of magic that can be pulled from the atmosphere is limited to a trickle (and one that varies in thinness depending on where you are on the planet), so there's only so much they can do at a time before they collapse of exhaustion and have to call it a day.

A good way to get around this is stone-plants.

Stone-plants are organisms that get their energy entirely from magic. They grow extremely slowly, using stone and earth as building materials, and are often indistinguishable from rock or crystal formations. To reproduce, they produce these structures called stone-seeds, which are capable of storing enough magic that a new stone-plant can root itself in and build a small protective shell before it runs out and is restricted to passive absorption.

Because stone-seeds can store magic, they are incredibly valuable. Magic-using animals dig them up for a quick boost, mages use them as magical batteries, and even other stone plants (if they're fortunate enough for a seed to land on them) use them for their own benefit. Hence, they're mostly found in underground caves, where the local biosphere is blind and slow-moving if it even exists. Even so, there are several stone-plant species that have gone extinct from overharvesting.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 12 Sep 2016 06:42

Magical Eccentricities

Sometimes a spike of magic will enter or leave the earth somewhere not at the poles and will instead form a spring or sink. These are mostly only detectable because the places where they occur tend to be where the really weird stuff happens. This is typically the odd meteorological phenomenon- Jor, a city-state on an island on the Raian shelf, is particularly prone to sudden, waterspouts that on occasion pick up fish and frogs to rain down on the city because of its proximity to one particular sink. Sometimes, though, you get more dramatic results.

If enough magic gathers in a small space, it can tear open a hole to another world. Sometimes these are natural holes from magical springs or sinks, but they can also form on battlefields if people have been fighting with magic. The latter is much more common in modern times than back in history, because it was only recently that Naqil figured out how to cost-effectively drain magic from slaves or enemy soldiers. For a connection to be made, there must be another world out there that also has enough free magic in one space to wear down the barriers on their own side. If a connection isn't made to another world, one will be made to the Underground instead.

Tourism and trade frequently happen with the other worlds (though Naqil and Muisa both have a strict restriction on the amount of time tourists are allowed to leave Maliter, because people dying of magic depletion isn't something they're particularly keen on), but someone would have to be very desperate to venture into the Underground because all too often there's no return from it. Unfortunately, all too often there is plenty of reason, because a common theme in my worlds is that people are awful to other people.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 12 Sep 2016 06:44

Elves

In most of the networked words, "elf" is a catch-all term that means "not human, by our specific definition of human." Indeed, in many of these networked worlds, the humans of Maliter would be considered elves simply because they need magic to survive. In Maliter, this is different. In Maliter, elves are immaterial, voracious beings that eat magic. They take physical form while stalking prey, and can take on any form they wish within a mass limit dictated by their age and thus strength. They often mimic the form of whatever prey they're tracking in order to get close enough to strike, so in human lands they're often seen in human form. There are small tells- hair might flow wrong, parts might clip in to each other or their surroundings (on uneven terrain, it's possible for an elf to appear to step slightly through the ground), but these are usually small enough that you would have to be looking for them to notice them.

Elves came to the planet through natural paths some tens of millions of years ago and have since settled in to the local ecosystem. As they're apex predators with only a very specific way of fighting them off, this settling in process was bad for the local fauna and terrible for the population of sprites, spirits, and other forms of immaterial life that have for the most part been eaten to extinction.

Luckily, elves are for the most part solitary and will happily cannibalize each other if they get a chance, and in general only only older and more powerful ones can target larger fauna. They're also non-sapient until they grow enough in strength, and most are very easy to detect because they don't know how to act. The ones strong enough to target humans usually try mimicry to blend in until they get a chance to strike, and they're not very good at it. Especially speaking. Even the smartest ones try to minimize the amount of speaking they have to do.

So a very common end result of an elf attack is a sudden panic by everyone in the vicinity, a hasty attempt to salvage the situation on the part of the elf, and half the time the elf gives up and tries again later because now everyone's defenses are up and it's harder to rip the magic from their body. However, an elf old and smart enough to plan out an attack and blend in with the locals can be an absolute terror to a given population. People are right to be afraid of them.

Some of this was touched on in the answer to Gestaltist's question below below this section was written, but it's repeated up here in order to keep everything together.
In general, elves will go for the largest and most easily taken source of magic that they are capable of subduing. However, as a rule, they cannot consume a source of magic bigger than they are. Elves can and will attack each other, but in general weaker ones will avoid places where elves stronger than them are. The best sources of magic are animals- raw magic such as that found crossing Maliter or in springs and sinks is hard to actively consume and typically must be passively absorbed, and the magic in stone-plants is extremely well tied up in their biology. Stone-seeds are easy to eat, but most are quite small and don't hold much magic- they really only need enough to get a new stone-plant started on life.

As for animals, the amount of magic contained in one is higher the larger, more intelligent, and capable of naturally using magic it is. Because of their higher energy requirements in general, you typically also see higher levels of magic in endotherms compared to ectotherms. While there are plenty of animals larger than humans, there aren't all that many more intelligent (though a few Kyska philosophers will happily argue that), so humans tend to be the best prey around when elves come hunting.

Which brings me to another point- only the strongest elves will typically prey on humans. And those elves tend to also be smart enough to actually be able to think beyond just eating whatever they come across. Since one adult human is usually about the same quality as any other human, and humans tend to cluster together in cities in towns, some of these stronger and smarter elves have started developing preferences. Some start to prefer magic that's been flavored by confusion, or alarm, or general going-about-the-day boredom. Fulfilling these preferences is difficult, because an elf sighting is a great way to send everyone in the vicinity into a blind panic, but they try anyway because why settle for something lesser?

I couldn't decide on a good spot to put this, but elves can communicate with each other. It's typically a screech that sounds like metal being cut. This screech means, depending on context, "This is mine!" "Back off!" or "I'm stronger than you!"
Last edited by Firebird766 on 15 Sep 2016 08:27, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by gestaltist » 12 Sep 2016 12:20

Quite an interesting setting. I like elves portrayed as apex predators.

I have a few questions/remarks:

1) it looks like Maliter is very Earth-like, down to having the same animal species, and yet you speak about them co-evolving with magic. It strikes me as inconsistent. If there were stone-plants, a whole ecosystem would grow around them - like with normal plants. (Elves fit the role of the end of that food-chain. But it sounds like you don't have anything in-between.) That in turn would influence the evolution of other animals... Having rabbits, dogs and coyotes seems a little weird. Is this a thought-out decision or is it more of a "I don't want this world to be too divergent because it would be harder to relate to" kind of thing?

2) why would elves target humans if there seem to exist much richer sources of magic (the magical seeds, the eccentricities, animals that use magic more innately - it would seem that even rabbits should have more magic than humans, since they use it to such a significant effect.)

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 12 Sep 2016 16:11

1. It was originally a generic fantasy world clone before I started changing things, is why. At this point, changing all the animals would just be changing all the names and maybe saying 'this one has stripes instead of spots!' If it acts like a rabbit and fills the same ecological niche as a rabbit, might as well call it a rabbit. It might also have something to do with me being just awful at picking names for things. So I could say it's to make the world easier to relate to, but that would be an after-the-fact justification.

2. Because humans are the richer source of magic. Going through the other options in order:
  • Stone-seeds contain magic, yes, but the only one that could hold anywhere close to the amount of magic in a human being went extinct from overharvesting (much to the horror of Naqil, who considered them a national treasure and quite thoroughly blames Muisa for it all). The stone-plants themselves do have a higher concentration of magic in them than animals do, but it's much less fluid and a lot more tied up in their biology, so it's not as accessible to outsiders. Animals need to be a lot more flexible in their magic use than a lifeform that just sits there and very slowly grows.
  • Eccentricities can't be eaten, because again there's the accessibility issue. They can be passively absorbed, and elves are drawn to magical springs and sinks (and also other places with excessive magic floating around, like battlefields), but they're more likely to go after the animals in the area who have helpfully concentrated the magic in their body than to just sit and passively absorb what's there.
  • There are several factors that go into how much magic an animal contains. Ability to use magic is one of them, but the other two are body size and intelligence. And while there are plenty of animals out there that are bigger than humans, there aren't so many that are more intelligent.
Also, humans helpfully congregrate into towns and cities, so you don't have to go looking for them.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Creyeditor » 12 Sep 2016 20:53

Nice [:)]
So magic is basically like vitamins: plants do have a lot, but they are more accesible in large animals.
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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 12 Sep 2016 21:34

Exactly!

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by gestaltist » 13 Sep 2016 10:32

Thanks for the explanations, Firebird. They make sense and I'm looking forward to learn more about your setting. You mentioned Naqil and Muisa. Who are they?

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 13 Sep 2016 17:29

They'll each be getting their own writeup later, but for now they're both countries in Onaq. Naqil is set along the big mountain range splitting the continent in half, Muisa stretches across the northern half of the continent up to where it borders with Naqil.

Naqil's holding a bit of a grudge against Muisa because, once upon a time, Muisa conquered most of that half of the continent, including the region that would once become Naqil. After losing much of their culture and most of their languages (Naqil currently speaks Muilo plus a few surviving loanwords from the various Tlatol languages), the seven mountain tribes united, met in secret to develop new war magic, and drove Muisa out. The two have been feuding on and off since then.

They're currently in an 'off' phase- Naqil suddenly needed to deal with the corn blight and subsequent famine in Kyskin (their neighbor to the east), which has been flooding them with refugees and the significant worry that the blight might reach the mountains; and Muisa just found a new enemy in Oruas, the country in the Northlands where the original people of Muisa came from, because Oruas was caught setting up false flag operations in order to keep the Naqil-Muisa feud going strong.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by gestaltist » 13 Sep 2016 17:56

How big is the continent and said countries?

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 14 Sep 2016 21:46

I can do you one better in the form of a rough map. Or possibly half-a-one better because it's a map I did at school and took a picture of with my ipad so the quality isn't that great. Maybe even a quarter-a-one better because of my handwriting skills and especially the lack thereof.

Anyway, here's a link: http://i.imgur.com/hx2VvMw.jpg

The whole of Onaq is a little smaller than Australia. The question marks are countries that I have it in my head exist, but don't have any details other than that. The exception is the one with the asterisk, because it will be mentioned in one of my stories as an endpoint for smuggling escaped slaves out of Naqil, and I swear I had a name for it but I cannot for the life of me remember it right now.

All borders are subject to change, especially the ones with questions marks.

Also, physical geography is not my strongest suit so please tell me if anything seems weird.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by elemtilas » 15 Sep 2016 02:08

Just wanted to say that I'm enjoying this thread much! And find the way magic works *there*, and how Elves go after it quite interesting. I hope to hear much more about this world in the future!

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by gestaltist » 15 Sep 2016 10:55

The geography looks fine except for the complete lack of islands.

So... is this continent isolated or is there some other, larger landmass closeby? If it's the size of Australia, and isolated, it would be extremely unlikely for the civilization to progress beyond primitive agriculture. You need a certain amount of people for the exchange and improvement of ideas so that civilization can progress. This landmass is too small for that.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 15 Sep 2016 16:21

How unusual is the lack of islands? And could any new islands go anywhere, or is there a place where they're more likely to end up?

There's the Northlands (which some day I will come up with an actual name for), which has a point dipping south pretty close to where that northernmost jut in Muisa is. It's where the people of Muisa originally came in from when they arrived and started conquering people.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 16 Sep 2016 00:47

First of all, you would not believe how happy I am that you all are interested in my world. I'm touched.

Second of all, who wants something weird?

Meat Farmers

Meat farmers are the other established outsider to Maliter, though they arrived much more recently than elves have. Within human history, in fact. They first came from a hole to another world that opened on a magical battlefield in a place that would eventually be conquered by Muisa. The path is still there today, though usually it's only the meat farmers themselves who go back and forth through it. Since their arrival, they've spread very slowly through Maliter (with most still living around the world path and only a few elsewhere, most notably in Jor) and are more or less considered nuisances.

You see, meat farmers farm meat. They spread and nurture a substrate of blood-filled moss, cultivate trees of bone and skin that grow eyes and organs as fruit, grow houses of pulsing flesh and cartilage. It's considered disturbing and disgusting, but the people who live near them learn to become immune to the most disturbing aspects, preferring to focus on the flies and scavengers attracted to the promise of an easy meal as the target of their ire.

Their interactions with humans are often limited to the accidental. If someone's between them and wherever they intend to go, they'll bump that someone out of the way and continue on. They have a vague concept of trade in that they think of it as leaving something in the place of something you take, but the idea of an equitable trade eludes them. It's not uncommon for people who live near them to take their sandals indoors instead of leaving them on the step, because otherwise one might find one replaced with a kidney or a tooth in the morning. They're resistant to being disturbed, but a sufficiently stubborn and foolhardy human might annoy one enough to prompt them to bite. This might not seem like such a big deal, as their teeth are all molars and thus don't have a lot of piercing ability, but they have incredible jaw strength and when they bite down on something, they don't let go.

Meat farmers themselves are fairly unimpressive to look at. One is nearly identical to the other. They're small, egg-shaped creatures, barely three feet tall, with bald, round heads and stubby arms ending in three sausage-shaped fingers. Their mouth stretches all the way across to where their ears would be if they had any, their nose is a simple pair of nostril slits, and their eyes are small, beady, and set wide apart on their heads. While from a distance it looks like they wear clothes, closer inspection will reveal that it's actually just folds of skin that happen to look like clothes.

Also, they're only mildly inconvenienced by being stabbed and are completely immune to elves. In fact, meat farmers despise elves and make a point to try to bite any that come near their communities. In response, elves tend to avoid them. This is the main reason why anyone would want to live near a meat farmer community. If you can tolerate the biting flies, the potential theft of anything you leave outside, and aren't easily disturbed by living in a place that looks like something out of a nightmare, then safety from magic-eating apex predators is probably a good deal. The stuff they farm is even edible as long as you get to it before the flies do. Even the moss is, technically, though it tastes absolutely disgusting and has the texture of a blood-soaked sponge.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Ebon » 16 Sep 2016 13:46

The meat farmers and their farming sound highly disgusting. I like it. :mrgreen:

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 21 Sep 2016 17:10

Aspe The Northlands

Spectacularly undeveloped to the point that I don't even have a proper name for the continent yet. The shape is vague except that it's a large continent and that there's a point that sticks out pretty close to Onaq. The ecology I'm mostly stealing from North America.

I have a name! I'm not the laziest conworlder in the world! And I'm making a map so I have an actual subject-to-change shape for the thing! Admittedly, a lot of the shape is a "map projections are awful and this is a polar continent" blob, but there are lots of sticky-outty bits to make up for it. The ecology is still stolen from North America, though.

There's a named country, Oruas, and an unnamed country, and a vague mess that probably has other countries in it. All I have about Oruas is that it's the land where the people of Muisa originally came from before they broke away from the mainland and started conquering Onaq, that there's some bad blood remaining about Muisa breaking away in the first place, and that it's to their benefit to keep Muisa and Naqil fighting. The unnamed country is practically nestled right up on the pole, has available and uses a vast amount of magic because of it, and is home to an incredibly large entrance to the Underground. Going in there to look for goodies is incredibly illegal without proper permits but people do it anyway.

Like I said, I haven't developed this continent much. Most of its relevance to my stories is in how it relates to Onaq.

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Re: Maliter - Infodump and AMA

Post by Firebird766 » 26 Sep 2016 06:13

Slight update to stuff: the Northlands are now called Aspe, and the country-that-I-couldn't-remember-the-name-of, in Onaq, is Palthes. I finally remembered something yay. In addition, I added a tidbit to the Planetary Basics post about a new place- a chain of islands.

Also I am working on a map! It was originally going to be a simple thing but then I got sidetracked into plate tectonics and all sorts of other minutiae so it might take a while for me to actually finish it but I am totally working on a map for all of ya!

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