Treasury Worldbuilding Info

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Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Alicorn » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:31 pm

Here's a summary of what we have so far including some things I made up just now. Anything that is not nailed down in the threads themselves is subject to change if we think it would be fun or if it turns out Aestrix and I were not on the same page about it.

The Planet:

The world is an Earthalike (like Rêverie, Lake, and Thalassa, in Effulgence) - the continents, species, etc. are the same, but history diverged enough and early enough that there are many large-scale differences, unlike the relatively constrained differences between, say, Medallion and Chamomile (this mostly shows up in place names). Our heroes live in Noregr, which location on an Earth proper would be roughly Norway. The tech level is about 1970s but the calendar year is 1802.

Artifacts, In General:

When someone in Treasury dies and has a very cherished object, it has a slim chance of becoming magic. Magic things have effects on people who touch them; these people are called "touched". Continuing to touch an artifact you have already touched has no further effect on you. Artifacts as a group:

Are durable. They are not literally indestructible - in particular, there could be an artifact that lets people destroy other artifacts - but conventional knocking-around won't leave a scratch on them.

Have both a main effect and a side effect. The main effect is a beneficial ability conferred on the toucher, often usable at will. The side effect is a permanent change to something about how the touched person functions, almost invariably a drawback. It is not impossible for the side effect to render the main effect useless, or to more than outweigh the main effect. The side effects can be physical, psychological, or a combination like needing to sleep a lot.

Stack. If you touch multiple artifacts, all of their effects will be operative on you at the same time. If they interfere with each other particularly badly, this can certainly kill you (if you need a lot of sleep because of one artifact, and you are an insomniac because of another one, you will not be able to sleep enough, and you will die). If their properties interact in other ways this can have all kinds of fun effects. For instance, if you are touched by an artifact with a side effect causing you to be unable to withhold information from your favorite person, and another that seizes control of who your favorite person is, the result is obvious.

Can be molded - slowly. If you are touching an artifact, you can nudge its properties a little bit in directions that you approve of. This can improve its main effect, mitigate its side effect, or both. (Or you could make it worse, if you preferred.) These changes only apply to people who first touch the artifact after they are made; you cannot retroactively make it better (or worse) for yourself. This kind of change is very gradual - over your entire lifetime you're not likely to make an artifact significantly more appealing to pick up - but it also doesn't require concentration; as long as you're conscious and in contact with the artifact and have made up your mind about how you want it to change, it will make its very slow progress in that direction.

Begin to exist when there is a cherished object belonging to someone who dies. Artifacts are more likely to be art objects, books, weapons, etc., than they are to be jam jars or left shoes, because they have to be much-beloved belongings. Most people, by far, don't leave artifacts when they die - for lack of such an object or by the sheer odds against it. The traits of the artifact will have to do with the personality of whoever leaves them behind, but not in any particularly systematic way.

Artifacts, In Particular:

Some artifacts whose properties we have defined are as follows.

The knife has been plaguing Vaguely Scandinavia for about a hundred years. Very unusually among artifacts, it has an effect that can take hold on people who have not touched it. From a distance, people within its radius are compelled to walk towards it and touch it, picking it up if it's not already in someone's hand. People who have touched it (called "cut", even though they do not necessarily suffer injuries from the blade) lose, or at least appear to lose, most higher mental functioning (including the ability to use any at-will magic ability) and work to move the knife around more or less at random. Its positive effect, assuming it has one, is not known, but may be related to why it's still at large and not in a fenced area somewhere in the wilderness even after all this time. People who pass into and then out of its range without touching it (e.g. if they are on a train that goes by it, or paralyzed) do not experience aftereffects.

The horn is a hunting horn (as in, an animal's horn which can be blown through to make sound). Its positive effect is to allow its touched to hear sounds associated with the nearest artifact (including the horn itself), which earns its touched the name "trackers" - if they wander off from concentrations of known artifacts, they can find new ones. Its side effect is that trackers are incapable of withholding salient information from their favorite people, called their "keepers"; trying causes crippling, crushing guilt. The horn is in the possession of the University of Drofnfjord.

The harp is a lap harp also in the possession of the University of Drofnfjord. Its only living touched holds the title Dean of Analysis, because its positive effect is to allow him to inspect the properties of artifacts without touching them. This process takes a few hours to get anywhere, turns up information only in bits and pieces at a time, and is accompanied by the side effect of needing to sleep for twenty hours a day.

The necklace is an artifact found by Aldaras. Its positive effect is immunity to mental magic, including the ranged effect of the knife, but not including mental side effects of itself or other artifacts that its touched have also touched. Its side effect is propensity for Twivamp-like love-at-first-sight.

The thimble also belongs to the university. Its touched can read minds at a distance of several yards and also experience near-constant verbal tics compelling them to swear at the top of their lungs - they can talk and eat, but the tic will sneak in between words/bites.

The chair is a rocking chair that the university has which allows its touched to turn invisible, but gives them an overpowering phobia of shoelaces. It is reasonably common for there to be shoelaces attached to the entrances of buildings holding expensive things as a holdover from a time before the chair was under responsible gatekeeping.

The globe is a textured desk globe (also belonging to the university) which allows its touched to fall into a non-sleep trance and project astral forms of themselves to listen in anywhere on the planet in real time. Both the person's body and their astral form are completely blind.

The vase is an ornamental flower vase (also belonging to the university) which gives its touched the power to teleport. They also find that water causes barely-endurable agony if it comes into contact with any part of their surface, including in the form of humidity, sweat, or their own saliva in their mouths. (Intravenous fluids don't exacerbate this problem.)

The bicycle (also belonging to the university) is an old-fashioned bike which confers on its touched super-speed, and also dissolves all of the bones in their feet, making it prudent to either amputate the feet in favor of prostheses or do one's being-very-fast with the use of assistive devices.

The comb (also belonging you know the drill at this point) is a bejeweled hair ornament which allows its touched to see and hear past times of their choice at whatever location they are standing in. It renders them unmeliorably illiterate and unable to write, to the point where they can't even draw symbols in languages they have never seen before such that someone else can read them.

Other artifacts exist (the university doesn't have them all, just a lot of them).
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Aestrix » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:49 pm

The thimble is possibly my favorite.
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Kappa » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:53 pm

Have you decided on the knife's currently unknown-in-universe properties?

Edit: Also, do all listed artifacts in the possession of the university have at least one touched person whose job it is to hang onto the artifact all the time and slowly make it suck less and awesome more?
Last edited by Kappa on Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby jalapeno_dude » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:55 pm

but not including mental side effects of itself or other artifacts that its touched have also touched

This would seem to be a MAJOR spoiler. It means that the necklace can't cure people who have touched the knife, right? (And also that Treasury!Adarin is still screwed if he ever happens to touch the knife...)

They also find that water causes barely-endurable agony if it comes into contact with any part of their surface, including in the form of humidity, sweat, or their own saliva in their mouths.

How is 'water' defined for these purposes? It includes sweat, but presumably it doesn't include blood, right?
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Alicorn » Wed Jul 30, 2014 4:57 pm

Kappa: No; someone might come up with a clever way to neutralize the knife which would not have taken the inhabitants of Treasury a century to come up with so we need wiggle room.

jalapeno_dude: It does not necessarily mean that. The knife is unusual. But, for instance, Aldaras still has to spill his secrets to his keeper, even though he is also necklace-touched. And blood has enough water content to be painful if they get it on their skin, but usually it's not on the skin.
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Tamien » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:00 pm

"The traits of the artifact will have to do with the personality of whoever leaves them behind, but not in any particularly systematic way."

Are the traits conferred by an artifact traits that the person had, or would have liked to have had, or might have had if they had had Powers That Suit, or would have particularly disliked having, or some other thing? I'm curious how people know it has to do with the personality of whoever leaves the artifact behind if it's not systematic how it has to do with their personality. Can you talk a bit about the people who left behind the artifacts listed?

Are artifacts strictly inanimate objects? Could a cherished pet become an artifact? Could a person? Could an artificial intelligence? Could a Device?

Which of the listed artifacts are actively being molded? Who by? Towards what changes?
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Alicorn » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:05 pm

It could be any of the listed things. For example, maybe the owner of the globe liked to travel and was blind; maybe the owner of the thimble had a really hard time reading people and was appalled by swearing; maybe the owner of the comb was a dyslexic historian. I think you might be able to make a Device or the hardware an AI was on into an artifact but not a person or an animal and not a nonphysical thing.

The Dean is trying to mold the harp to require less sleep, when he doesn't need to spend his waking hours figuring out what other artifacts do. We haven't determined if any other artifacts are undergoing active molding right now.
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby jalapeno_dude » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:07 pm

It renders them unmeliorably illiterate and unable to write, to the point where they can't even draw symbols in languages they have never seen before such that someone else can read them.

[from Treasury!Bell]
"I don't actually know, can pastwatchers 'draw' words they see...?"

[from Treasury!Adarin]
Aldaras shakes his head. "No. Otherwise we'd know what the treaty of six emperors said. We just know it was written and signed."

This seems to imply several alternatives when, say, a pastwatcher sees a giant white sign with the letter "T" on it.

1. They see the letter 'T', but do not recognize it as such. They can report that the white sign had something on it, but nothing further (i.e. they can't say they saw a horizontal line above a vertical one). (This seems to have weird acausal implications: what happens if the sign has a smiley face instead of a letter on it and twenty years from now someone invents a language whose alphabet includes the smiley face).
2. They see the letter 'T', but can't convey that information in any way. (What happens if we put them in a brain scanner?)
3. They don't see a letter on the sign. (Do they see the sign as pure white? Or see right through they are where the writing is? If I put dense enough graffiti on a wall can a pastwatcher subsequently see right through it?)
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby Alicorn » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:09 pm

~*~it's maaaaagic~*~
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Re: Treasury Worldbuilding Info

Postby jalapeno_dude » Wed Jul 30, 2014 5:11 pm

And blood has enough water content to be painful if they get it on their skin, but usually it's not on the skin.
Ah, okay, missed that it was only on the *surface*. I am a little skeptical that the 'surface' of a body can be defined unambiguously to include only what we'd usually consider 'external', but will give you guys the benefit of the doubt. :p
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