Q&A, July 2017

Wellis of RPGnet asks: How difficult is it to learn most of these languages?

That’s a rules question. It depends on what edition you are playing!

I should have been more clear about the beast-race languages (Baru, Bullywug, Gajan, Shar, Thri-Kreen, and Viashino). People who don’t belong to the relevant race can learn to understand them, but won’t be able to speak them due to not having the right “hardware.” That is to say, a human or elf cannot emulate the toad-like croaking of the bullywugs with the subtlety required to communicate meaningfully. It should also be noted that the Gajan and Thri-Kreen languages have written forms, which can be helpful.

Wellis also asks: And since this is sort of post-apocalyptic, is there a difference in weapons and armor and tech before the Brothers’ War and now? Considering how different this setting is already, I’m already salivating over what weapons and armor are like here. Or what gear in general is like here. Or even what stuff like currency is!

I am flattered by your enthusiasm!

Weapons and armor did not really exist before the Brothers’ War. It was a Golden Age of peace and brotherhood. The only “weapons” needed were hunting and fishing tools.

As for the tech level in general, consider Clark’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Manadus operates on an inversion of that law, as described in this webcomic: “Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from science!”

What you or me would see as powerful technologies existed in the Golden Age, but they were in the hands of Hetama’at and the Archons, because in truth they were just expressions of divine power.

As for what gear is like now….that’s something I need to do some thinking about. I didn’t have a plan in mind when I initially designed Manadus. Really, Manadus wasn’t designed much at all.

It started when I began a new campaign and told players they could play as any races they wanted. They came up with a bunch of weird homebrew stuff, and I had to make a world where these characters made sense. The beast-races exist because a couple of them brought anthro characters. Devas are a major element of the setting because one person converted the 4th Edition race to 5th Edition rules and wanted to use it. Dwarves are weird (we’ll get to why later) because somebody wanted to be a weird new dwarf subrace.

They decided independently that their characters all knew each other because they were old war buddies. I created T’ang Lung and the dragons of Lung Kwo because I needed an enemy force powerful enough and evil enough that all these different races would be fighting against it together.

For that matter, the metallic Grue Ket replaced the Underdark because a druid player was casting meld with stone and freedom of movement together to make a mockery of my dungeons. Manadus being “the Great Machine” was something I introduced to explain the change, and that element of the setting took on a life of its own.

We just used 5th Edition’s core equipment list at first. Given the nature of Manadus as the Grand Machine, however, I do agree that should probably change. This world ought to be a bit more technologically advanced than other D&D settings, since the people can scavenge and perhaps reverse-engineer some of the ancient machinery all around them. This already started to happen. The actions of the players near the end of our campaign resulted in firearms becoming widely accessible. I also started flavoring magic weapons as energy weapons (lightsabers, laser guns) after a while.

The most advanced cities on Manadus have electric lighting, communication, and climate control. However, it has to be noted that the people of Manadus do not understand their own technology. These cities do not have power plants; they tap into the power grid of the Grand Machine. When a useful device breaks, it is not taken to a mechanic. Instead it is taken to a machine-priest, who reverently examines preforms rituals over it. Sometimes a simple mending spell can fix damaged equipment, but other times teams of machine-priests must consult the ancient texts to find solutions.

The most magnificent machines are not used, but enshrined in temples where they serve as demonstrations of the gods’ power. Clerics are rare. The class of choice for a crusading holy man in Manadus is Artificer.

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