Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Words for worlds (2) - getting on top of falling stars; tabletop curvature, troid warfare and the sphericrawl

Back in November I made a suggestion regarding the classification of celestial bodies, coining the term troid to group the many terms for objects of lower mass than the newly-minted dwarf planet.

Beyond the pressing and practical concerns, the meteor that broke up over Russia last week poses a supplementary question in this context: can the related terms 'meteoroid', 'meteor' and 'meteorite' be rolled into an expanded solution? We know they can be confusing, and the past few days have been a reminder.

So how about this then - a possible 1d3 table to go with the two 1d4s in the earlier post.

1. troid     2. introid     3. postintroid

It's fairly clear I imagine. The first is the term for a troid outside of an atmosphere, the second while inside but still in motion and the third when in contact with the other body or an immediately adjacent entity, e.g. held by one of us, or on a display cabinet shelf.

Forget the 'stalactite' / 'stalgamite' trouble of 'meteor' / 'meteorite': it's now 'in-', or 'in-' and 'post-'. The Greek-derived root for the whole is altered by the Latin prefixes. Seems apt.

It also leaves an opening for the preintroid, as well as the intriguing idea of an extroid...

You could see this is a form of Newspeak of course, but it needn't be. If science wants all of our minds, and if English is a lingua franca for scientific discourse which non-native speakers have to learn, and if clarity of construction helps young minds comprehend, and if these terms supplement existing terms in the language rather than replace them, enriching the language rather as borrowings from other languages do, we only gain by it.

Anyway, while we're talking here mainly about microtroids, why leave it at that in gaming and wider fiction? Assuming you want an Earth-like gravity for your fictional world, or a gravity of similar strength - and often we seem to - why not run with one of these ideas:

  • a troid that's large and/or dense enough to result in a near-Earth-like gravity that you could wargame with the horizon right there on the tabletop, or delve into a spherical megadungeon of passages and rooms that curve away, and a gravity that shifts slowly up the walls as you move down through the levels;
  • the same troid, but now an introid within the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet, forming a binary system with a barycentre outside both bodies, with circulation of shared fluids and suspended particles and both bodies warping;
  • the same introid, but now an postintroid shunted delicately into contact with an Earth-like body to become a recognisable world upon a world - assuming the surfaces of the bodies retain more or less their original form you'd be able to take a swim in the high pressure air and micro-gravity between the curves.

In wargaming they could be the basis for a 'troid warfare', in tactical roleplaying a new crawl type, the 'sphericrawl'. Troids of lower mass could also be used. ArmChairGeneral shows how simple rules for lower gravity can be kept in his Conflict on Mars sourcebook for When the Navy Walked - essentially modifying distance - but jump pack-style arcs of movement, unintentional loss of contact and escape velocity could all be introduced too.


Trey said...

Word games as a creative excercise. I like it.

Cygnus said...

"For the world is hollow... and I have touched the sky!"

Tim Shorts said...

So would there also be an outroid, an overtroid and untroid? I had to this post carefully so I could follow it. Good stuff though. I've been thinking of doing something more futuristic lately.

Porky said...

@ Trey - Words are a little like pitons in a cliff face that could represent perceptible reality - they carry us the current limits of our range, and make a relatively solid starting point. Then again, the cliff face does run off in various directions, and it's only one surface in the wider world. But then climbing is still a thrill.

I'm guessing you'll be interested in the deeper sources too: the troid warfare seed was probably planted originally by an Arthur C. Clarke short story, "Hide and Seek", and a specific example of a sphericrawl popped into mind when pondering the similarity of even the supposedly less typical megadungeons.

@ Cygnus - The interesting thing here is the kind of life that might develop inside a large troid run through with passages, whether in our reality or in a more fantastic one. The Lobian sheetworm is a candidate, but it could get a lot weirder than that. It would come down to energy source and that could also be weirder than we might think - there's an interesting article linked at this post.

@ Tim Shorts - They all sound good to me, especially 'untroid'. I think you could quite comfortably leaven The Manor with a little sci-fi, even in a very subtle form, or maybe drop a thread of background ideas and practical elements through the Starter Adventures to draw in an even bigger audience. The lines between the traditional genres are easily blurred and a single element can often be read in more than one way.