"... one is assured that Lek Laï is not a simple mineral but a kind of metal-animal , capable of "swimming across mountains"
Which other than being worth sharing because it's amazing, is interesting because it's easy to take for granted the thinking of animals, minerals and vegetables as obvious and distinct categories.
The idea of spontaneous generation is possibly the first thing you might think of ; the idea that animal life
(specifically verminous and unwanted life; I guess this was the only kind no-one bothered to check that hard. If someone was "hey silkworms come from water evaporated in moonlight" some entrepreneur would of got onto that )
could spring from inanimate; maggots hatched from meat, mice from old grain, snakes from dresses trellises left in rain barrels.
Other examples from this mindset were the mandrake( it's a plant but a screaming plant) or bears licking their cubs into being from salt, the "vegetable sheep" explanation for cotton.
Numerous plants marked a mythological event ; the first cultivated daffodil "Narcissus poeticus" , Judas ear fungus springing from the tree Judas hung himself on*
And then there was all shenanigans with whatever the fuck alchemists were on about.
Now before we get talking about animism : how do we know what was actually believed , what was metaphor or some kinda of catchy story to remember what a plant looked like or where it grew or just something to tell the kids to shut them up for minute?
Who the fuck knows and it's possible it was varying degrees of all this at various times or more accurately it would be some semi-fluid hybrid of bullshit, pragmatism , belief and faith which cannot be easily translated to any modern mental frame of reference.
So that plants don't have feelings, animals are distinct entities from the landscape , and just what was going with kings love life is completely irrelevant to soil quality : these are not self evident facts at various points of time and culture.
So this is where I go : make up weird shit for how the world works for your campaign for fun.
Well yes But.
So Ars Magica was set in "mythical europe" , the idea being, somewhat in passing, that all that weird medieval shit was true.
Which was a somewhat terrible idea as if all the ideas we actually treated as true it wouldn't actually feel medieval.
As in if dress trellises always turned into snakes could a siege hold out by turning spare clothing into protein? (okay maybe medieval people believed snakes were poison so it wouldn't work)
The point being in would kinda turn into a baron munchausen setting . Which is fine but it's just interesting result.
Though arguable you could make up more medieval bullshit to stop people treating the bullshit seriously or start claiming that being rational about things just makes them not work (because of the Realm of Reason , a thing in Ars Magica which was awkward and dumb)
I'm getting away from myself.
Animism. And those "tribal stories" where a mountain is also a daughter who ran away but also a mountain.
Animism can't be easily understood as "invisible things in stuff" , it's a complete rethinking or irrelevance of those categories of animate / inanimate, animal and mineral , agency and co-incidence.**
Tribal stories: are they a story or belief or a metaphor? My understanding of my own un-understanding is , that, basically no.
Trying to frame them or understanding them in such terms seems like trying to understand an ocean by writing about what the splashing noises sound like.
Fuck this is what keeps throwing me off writing posts , this was gonna be a list of weird shit and it's spiralling out of control in multiple directions and taking up hours.
I'm will try and wrap up somewhere useful:
Defining "animals" as things that are animals in this world and "monsters" as everything else is pretty terrible.
Everything should have a reason to exist that makes sense for the world and hopefully little sense in ours. I'm sure Arnold wrote something about this but now I can't find it so read this one as an example:
Magic as technology or magic as technology in a pulp comic have been done a lot.
Magic as technology is pretty familar, but so is the other one, it's just not explictly labelled as such.
Basic this form : there is magic, it's all over the show, it doesn't make sense , but it doesn't intergrate with anything and only monsters and wizards and their various aracana have it.
(Which in one form is the "magic is chaos" variant , where magic is always spooky and rare and corrupting and outside civilisation which is just kings and digging holes but some how magic is still worse than that. Which is generally considered more interesting than guards with +1 swords but I still think it's played out as shit and is more echos of christian metaphysically framing which is even more played out as shit. Even if has great production values like lamenations.)
AS opposed to "folk magic" , where everyone is kinda doing spells or bargaining with spirits and shit and there is an absolute intregation between magic and how the world works. There might be a lot of risk vs reward type deals and death spells and curses .
Like a guy that you buy magic items off sounds like bullshit but that's literally what happens
and it's great and there is couple of books I wish I had on me to reference right now about "outside priests/magicians" and "inside priests/magicians" and the activation of objects to deflect curse but I don't so it's a dumb content farm link.
but also average people have been doing magic forever
and voodoo dolls was people mistaking vodoun stuff for how white people used to curse each other and then promptly forgetting they used to curse each other
So I'm saying you can world where the barbarians have magical armour because they snuck around and dug up all your graves and made shirts out of your mourneds hair and that's even better than the shit where there is no magical swords except for one and it's super weird and you have to roll on a mutation table every time you use it and there is kings and hole digging.
and possibly you could reskin something that everyone**** complains about doesn't feel cool because everyone has magic powers (like 13th age or 4th edition or Feng Shui wait no-one complains about Feng Shui. Well okay they don't complain about that) not just the wizard and the priest.
Also the priest is as boring as possible so he's not mistaken for the wizard and mutation tables and what the fuck am I doing I'm literally collating very different systems philosophies into one straw man here I need to stop adding more to this bit and finish the table at the bottom which is what I intended to write 5 hours ago
and you should read everything here if you haven't already
and I just started to scratching the surface of this oh gawd I just wanted to make up this thing
like that thing I talked about at the start.
1. Mountain Bear : It's a type of rock but it's also a punishment for taking too much prey and not leaving offerings when staying in caves.
Like it's any rock that looks like a bear that someone found , and everyone lets their kids play with them. But it's also death scary to find one in a cave if you don't have anything to offer them because then a large bear of earth with a rock skull that breathes with stolen breath will kill you before that night is over. Unless you go out and kill and over the first thing you see. If you make that promise , go off and see something and don't kill it then the Mountain Bear will kill both of you.
It's also a rock that is good for sharpening hunting spears and knives (reroll the first attack roll with that weapon in a hunt and take the best), but if used for war you then have to go to Mountain Bear (it's a place too, but not a literally place, except it kinda is) and make a successful case to Mountain Bear (it's a god too) why it was a legal war or your entire village disappears.
2. Traitors river: This is water that will poison peoples minds against those that trust them. You can find it by drowning someone and using them as a boat in a moonless night in most small bodies of water. After that the easy bit is getting someone to drink it , it's exactly like water and so can be easily slipped into their drink or food. The next bit is a bit tricky; whatever you were hoping to happen will genuinely work but create such a shitstorm it will fuck your shit up as well.
So in order to not have that happen you have got to work out what the water wants to do and then betray it before it betrays you.
A good rule of thumb for how this works is if when you, as your character, declare you are using it and the d.m can't work out why the fuck you would do that or at the very least , why you would do that right now, why then the Traitor's river is properly just as shocked.
3. There is this tree and this whale and they swap places sometimes and tell each stuff and pissing off one means the other is going to be really pissed off and everyone in the respective environment listens to the tree / whale so it's going to be a bad time. The locals use the same name for both the whale and the tree but are real vague if they are talking about every one of this tree and every one of these whales or there is just one tree and one whale or even if they recognise there is difference .
4. Cats are literally shithead shadows from hell and the only good thing about them is they eat mice and mice are terrible gossips as well as shitheads from hells so if a cat knows something you know only that cat and whoever in hell bought the secret knows it. Mice learn something, everyone in hell and everyone who talks to hell will know it.
Nobody kills cats that often because all the mice that haven't been digested will escape.
Also all shadows are a kind of dead cat and cats age in reverse so there's bound to be another one soon anyway.
Oh and when they digest mice they cough them up as moths which are idiots and fly to moon and tell them all the stories they have misremembered and/or made up. Then the moon tries to verify all this bullshit with you at night and that's what dreams are.
So obviously if you can keep away from mice, cats and mothies you will stop dreaming and then no-one can see or remember you except in song.*****
No , none of those entries were "rumours" , I am saying they should be literally true if you use them in campaign.
*yeah for purposes of ye olde time fungus is a plant. Also the tree is supposedly a elder tree, so good luck finding a decent strong branch there Judas"
** I mean someone's prob going to learn me here , I mean all you bastards seem to have all these degrees and such. But I will learn something
*** Speaking of grossly ill formed but talking about stuff anyway let's just stop here
**** by "everybody" I'm just flailing at some fucking straw windmills here like Don Quixote on a rpg forum this is worst mixed metaphor.
I was watching Vikings and man if you are going to play that loose with your historic "France" just give everyone onions and striped shirts and berets and have the fucking eiffel tower right there it would distract me from how terrible that siege plan was like holy shit guys they have crossbows inside the castle we didn't expect them to shoot us with crossbows when we got inside though they only worked when they used them against people outside the castle.
No, I'm not being facetious I would be able to take it seriously if all the French people had berets but don't take it seriously when they have a stupid plan and keep forgetting about shield walls. You don't understand my complicated relationship with the ridiculous yet.
***** Rats are noble and wise because they have kings which is the dumbest thing about this whole thing. No-one has worked out what happens when cats eat rats or rats eat mice. When rats eat cats however it's a matter of political delicacy and people don't talk about it.