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I'm now into the phase that's the least work but likely to be the most time-consuming: legal inquiries. I have to do them in a certain order for a number of reasons, and every one of them is a potential obstacle. So I wait impatiently for a reply before I can move on to a resolution. There's not much point in doing the actual writing until that's all cleared. Meanwhile, I'm working on peripheral things, like assigning and coordinating keywords and abilities...which brings me to a big issue with HQ2 Core. Character creation is too generalized; there are all kinds of options for abilities but not a lot of guidance. If you happen to have played HQ1 or HQG, there's a structure that is missing with Core. I get why it's that way; abilities tend to rely on the setting, and Core is supposed to be able to cover any setting. But it's a high bar for newbies, especially if there's no one who has experience with the game in its more specific forms. Occupation and cultural keywords provide that kind of framework, so that you end up with a modular character that's still plenty customizable. To provide a bit of a teaser: magic, being the lifeblood of Earthsea, will have its own specialized framework, primarily having to do with wizardry. This is a consequence of the system presented in the books. It's going to be like yet unlike the schools in HQ1; for one thing, there's only one school and one system in Earthsea, although there are other avenues of magic (chiefly the Old Powers). There will also be a plethora of occupational keywords, so you won't have to be locked in to playing a wizard. That's about all there is to report at this point...except that I'm revising my theory in the last post to Segoy meaning parent instead of father, given the generally indeterminate gender of dragons. More news as it occurs.
Research is finally complete, to the tune of 183 pages of notes. Well, mostly. Now that I have the basis, I'm going to check out some of the wikis to see if they have anything interesting or unique to add. The synthesis begins. I realized in researching the last book that I was missing the two stories that were the germs of Earthsea, The Word of Unbinding and The Rule of Names, both from Le Guin's short story collection, The Wind's Twelve Quarters, which is basically a sort of retrospective of her first decade of published work. (I happened to have that book as well, primarily because when I find an author that I really like I tend to buy up everything that I can get my hands on that they've ever written.) Unfortunately, they have a much different tone than the Earthsea series, and some of the rules of magic are in flat contradiction to the later books. So I read and discarded them; there's really nothing in there that I find that bears on the setting that isn't already better explained and executed later. This brings me to a question that cropped up while I researched the last few books. While there are things that Le Guin meant to be mysteries from the beginning, there's one issue that nags at me. It has to do with Segoy, the Creator. In the very useful appendix to Tales From Earthsea, where she gives a great deal of background for the world itself, there's a small section relating to Segoy which is as inconclusive as it is unsatisfying (to me). The logic is a bit complex, but bear with me. Let me quote the relevant statements here, interspersed with my own comments. Note: I've omitted page references because of the differences in various editions, using somewhat less specific but indicative ones. So there is no being before Segoy, whether he is a being or not. (I'll use the general pronoun, with the understanding that gender is inconclusive or even inapplicable.) Here we come to multiple ambiguities. If Segoy is an Old Power, he must be the first, since there are no Old Powers of the Earth that aren't connected to one of the islands, unless you count the sea itself, which isn't in the mold of the other Old Powers. I don't find the supposition that Segoy is another name for the Earth particularly compelling either, but it's not germane to the issue I want to deal with. As for 'what is certain,' I don't find it certain at all: If Tehanu calls Kalessin 'Segoy' in the Language of the Making, at best the etymology is the reverse: that the Old Hardic words are a derivation of the name Segoy. Assuming that the familial references are literal, Kalessin, being the son of Orm, cannot possibly be the Segoy, since Segoy was before all beings. This leaves us with the assertion that Segoy is an ancient, respectful nominative, and brings me to my contention: that Segoy is the word for Father in the Language of Making. Segoy is the Creator, the Father of all...and Tehanu calls Kalessin Father because it is literally so. (One wonders how that works out, since Tehanu is one of the 'winged people' and Kalessin is a dragon, but Tehanu's true origin is shrouded in mystery.) The reason I bring this up is that it will definitely appear in the variant...so, does anyone have any counterarguments? Is there some logic I'm missing or that is fallacious, or do you have other interpretations?
Five books down, only one left to research: The Other Wind. The light approaches. After having increased the margins to make hunting for entries faster (and thus reducing the total number of pages by about 15%), the notes still grew to over 140 pages. Tales From Earthsea has by far the most notes of any of the books. Alright, so why am I doing this research, anyway, if there are numerous wikis out there on Earthsea? Well, I'm glad I asked. Three main reasons: first, I didn't want somebody else's filtering getting in the way of the content. Second, I've read entries from a few of them, and none provides much of the information that would be useful in RP'ing, that the books do: physical description, motivations, mannerisms, etc. Mostly the wikis are about history, "X did this, then he/she did that." Or "X was Master of Underwater Basketweaving." Finally, it immerses me in the world to an extent that wikis just can't, so that I have the proper mindset when I start writing. OK, now for some ground rules. You've all read the books, right? Good. About true names: in keeping with the practice in the books, the only true names that will be used in the variant itself will be a small selection of names of objects or animals so that GM's can have some kind of baseline to extrapolate other names, and those personalities whose true names are public knowledge (Lebannen, some dragons, the old Kings/queens). If they really want the other names, enterprising wizards (and GM's) can go through the lore-books. Of course, sneaky bastage that I am, I have a master list of names. (I never quite got why kings would want their true names bandied about; it seems like a security risk to me, at the very least. They're not that well-protected, especially in a world chock full of mages.) Next is physical combat. I think there are a total of three such fights in all the books, excepting the last, which I haven't gotten to yet. While occasional mass battles or dragon-on-wizard violence are mentioned in passing, none of the stories focuses on any kind of melee, or archery, for that matter. Magical duels are much more common; even wizards' staffs aren't used to beat on people, other than the occasional recalcitrant student. So the rules will tend to work accordingly. Besides, a warrior isn't going to be much good when the mage he's fighting binds him. There is one type of magic (wizardry), not three as in Glorantha. The two examples of organized religion, both Kargish, are about temporal power and politics; there's no evidence in the stories that any magic derives from them other than calling the Old Powers in particular ways, and they're limited to the proximity of the Power. Theism otherwise is dead except for the semi-pagan rites of the Long Dance and Sunreturn, and they don't seem to have much practical or spell-like effect. They're more a way of retaining and passing on the oral history of the world. Spirits don't play the same role as they do in Glorantha, either; they generally don't have much effect in the physical world other than informationally. And witchery is just a weaker offshoot of wizardry. So that's where I am right now; at this point I only have general impressions rules-wise, since most of my effort has been doing research...and the dull brain which it tends to engender. Once that's finally done I'll be able to apply more brainpower to synthesis.