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Subterranean Sight
Posted: Posted July 13th, 2008 by Rik
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I've had a lot of fun daydreaming about underground cities over the years, and how to light them:

biological - luminescent organisms are fun, so there could be lakes and streams (and waterfalls) full of bioluminescent micro-organisms; or luminescent slime moulds which can be painted onto sticks (or faces/hands) to give a little light; or more mobile critters like Terry Pratchett's vurms in his dwarf mines. MystIV (I think) used reflective flowers and glowing squid.

mineral - you can get light into an underground room by installing tubes whose interior walls are mirrored, allowing light to be brought from the surface to the room (even with twists and turns in the piping), so I've imagined caverns in rock formations laced with clear rock crystal with shiny metal deposits clad around them, which could then illuminate the space quite nicely - natural spot-lighting.

technological - I read (in the New Scientist, I think) about possibly using sound waves to contain a small fusion reaction - hoist the whole thing to the roof of a huge cavern and I can visualise the fields and terraces of wheat growing beneath it. Unworkable, I expect, but still one of my favourite solutions.

If that's a non-starter, then there's always the possibility of using networks of reflective mirrors (possibly created from the rock walls?).

magical - Stephen Donaldson makes use of rock-light, a magical manifestation of Earth-power, to illuminate many of his dark places. I prefer this to the Gandalf light-my-wand approach, but think with a bit more thought it could be developed into a very nice, internally coherent system of illumination.

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In my underground realm, the crust of the planet has veins of crystal that act as fiberoptics to bring sunlight through the miles of stone ceiling.

No just kidding. I have mushrooms. At least they speak.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

I've had a lot of fun daydreaming about underground cities over the years, and how to light them:


I'd just use mirrors myself. Course I took the cop out and gave my underground peeps a bastardized form of echolocation. <shrug>

Now that I'm thinking about it, they use light and color primarily for aesthetic purposes, so having a few huge mirror powered stained glass domes in some of the older temples would be pretty cool.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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gave my underground peeps a bastardized form of echolocation

The thing about echolocation, in its pure form, is ... you have no color at all, not even the contrast between black & white & gray. Everything would look as if it were coated from a single infinite can of monochrome spray paint.

Think about it: no writing (books*, signs), no yellow lines in the road or red-yellow-green traffic lights, no paintings or drawings, no quick way to tell if your girlfriend's pupils are dilated (try some other method to see how she feels), no computer-TV-movie screens, no blushing or any of the skin-color concerns we get hung up on ... LOTS of implications!

* Try reading Braille by echolocation.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

[jESua Xristos]

I just mentioned it kinda off-hand, when I haven't done much work on it (hence the working[/]).

Anyway, there are meadows of underground grains that photosynthesize using the light from the mushrooms. Entire ecosystems based off of the fact of "lol glowing mushrooms everywhar". And the shroom-city is multifaceted, some hanging from the ceiling, some from the walls... it's a city that looks like swiss cheese... made of mushrooms. Skybridges made of shroom-wood and rope are common.

It ain't just LOL RANDOM MUSHROOMS UNDERGROUND GROWING FROM THE FLOOR. OH YAH LOL THEY GLOW.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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At some point, ya gotta wonder ... if I like the clichs, why avoid them just because they're clichs? I like giant mushrooms and subterranean waterfalls. Maybe some day I'll get tired of them, but not yet.

Transfer of energy, as light from bioluminescent shrooms to photosynthetic plants ... I haven't heard that before. I wonder about the levels involved. Either the shrooms are really shining hard like 100W bulbs, or those green plants don't receive much energy and they struggle. The plants would have to be really efficient if the shrooms just kinda glow a little. Unless there's magic, which trumps the whole energy cycle.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

gave my underground peeps a bastardized form of echolocation

The thing about echolocation, in its pure form, is ... you have no color at all, not even the contrast between black & white & gray. Everything would look as if it were coated from a single infinite can of monochrome spray paint.

Think about it: no writing (books*, signs), no yellow lines in the road or red-yellow-green traffic lights, no paintings or drawings, no quick way to tell if your girlfriend's pupils are dilated (try some other method to see how she feels), no computer-TV-movie screens, no blushing or any of the skin-color concerns we get hung up on ... LOTS of implications!

* Try reading Braille by echolocation.


Only part of that list that hasn't been fully addressed is the monitors, particularly early versions. Far in the future we can all use holodeck technology to make 3d pictures out of magnetic fields and protons and people will believe us. So far I've been using mainly mechanical forms of feedback. Metal rods will push out from a screen rather than a blip of light. Maybe more of a reliance of auditory feedback, maybe small speakers in a grid will hum. I dunno what I prefer yet.

Posted July 13th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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It ain't just LOL RANDOM MUSHROOMS UNDERGROUND GROWING FROM THE FLOOR. OH YAH LOL THEY GLOW.


Of course not.

It's LOL RANDOM MUSHROOMS UNDERGROUND GROWING FROM EVERYWAREZ. OH YAH LOL THEY GLOW N STUFF CAN GROW WIT TEH LIGHT. OH LOL THERE ALSO RLY BIG LIEK A CITY.

How many video games have subterranean cities like this?

I believe Ryzom has something similar in the deep roots; WOW has a glowing mushroom city in Zangarmarsh, which might as well be underground.

I don't play either of those games so I can only tell by screenshots that they aren't too far from the exaggerated stereotypes that are popular today.

An exaggerated cliche' is still a cliche'... until you take it far enough to blow an o'ring. I think the teeny-boppers writing fan fictions have already done you a one-up on the glowing underground mushroom cities by now.

What makes it particularly interesting aside from the waving fields of grain? Tell me the mushrooms are at least growing from the corpse of a dead god or something to justify them... that could at least be a little cool via the morbidity.


The thing about echolocation, in its pure form, is ... you have no color at all, not even the contrast between black & white & gray. Everything would look as if it were coated from a single infinite can of monochrome spray paint.


Not necessarily true. You don't have light colours, but echolocation can distinguish between density to such a degree that it can appear as colour.

They could read things we couldn't, just as we could read things they couldn't.

Try reading Braille by echolocation.


I presume they might still have fingers?

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Blake
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Blake
 

echolocation can distinguish between density
That's cool! You could "write with foam on steel" maybe.
they might still have fingers?
DOH! *blush*

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

honestly, a creature that "sees" through form rather than color shouldn't have a problem reading braille anyway. (assuming their ear/antennae/what not are roughly as acute as our eyes of course)

Posted July 14th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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Oh sorry I meant for signs, normally out of reach, to be read from a distance.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

Oh sorry I meant for signs, normally out of reach, to be read from a distance.


That would be fairly easy.

Say, for a rock wall, you could just hammer out your text. We wouldn't be able to see it, but the hammering interferes with the structural integrity of the rock and changes the sound reflection and conductivity.

At a very large distance, it might be tricky for them to make much detail out though. I think it would be kind of like being near sighted.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Blake
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Blake
 

I had the idea of glowing mushrooms in giant caves, MSat. I threw it out by now. I liked it, (I had a few ideas besides glowing mushrooms for my spiffy caves of not-so-darkness) but it wasn't working out for my story world.

Actually, looking at the set-up of my world, I don't things evolved in the manner that they did here.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by bloodb4roses
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Ahh toff, your post humored me greatly :D

Also, uh:

Think about it: no writing (books*, signs),

Engraving/embossing? Braille, come to think of it!

no yellow lines in the road

If you're driving by echolocation, you're already pretty much screwed.

no quick way to tell if your girlfriend's pupils are dilated (try some other method to see how she feels)

If your echolocations are coming back as distorted sound waves, she's probably pretty pissed off.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Xhin
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Xhin
Sky's the limit

your post humored me greatly Very Happy
Make niggaz laff all day keep they mind off da booty.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

I was working on an echolocating race a while ago. I never fully constructed a script (there language isn't started either, what I have done I'm going to make the proto-lang) but I gave a lot of thought into how to do writing. What I came up with was to use a Braille-like system of raised squares (I'm presuming that they would have sensitive fingers) that can be scaled up to a monolithic script that can be carved into the wall -- or at higher technology levels use a display made up of various mobile squares.

Signs might have to use larger scripts than is possible with vision. I suspect that sound waves are much, much larger than light waves (and of course, we definitely don't see the smallest bits we could theoretically resolve with visible light waves).

Most interesting, though are cultural things that might come of it:

- there is no light vs dark -- though there is something vs nothing, sound vs silence, heat vs cold to be used in dualistic imagery
- they would probably describe textures and densities with as varied and artistic of terms as we do for colors
- they can't see the stars (even if they do go outside, the sky would be completely blank to sound), so no astronomy until they develop something capable of detecting electromagnetic radiation
- they wouldn't see shadows -- since they are the origin of the sound, the echolocation shadow will always be invisible to them, as it will be on the opposite side of the object from their sound production system
- active echolocation can be "turned off" in a way that can't be done with sight. If an echolocating creature stops sending out signals, they are effectively blind (though they could possibly learn to navigate using ambient noise, albeit imperfectly).

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Fonori
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Fonori
 


- they can't see the stars (even if they do go outside, the sky would be completely blank to sound), so no astronomy until they develop something capable of detecting electromagnetic radiation

Man, I didn't think of that. That's a good point, and come to think of it, they'd have no concept of night/day either, except for changes in temperature and internal clocks. Similarily, they wouldn't connect rain with clouds in the sky. Instead, it would seem as if the water is falling from nowhere. (although then again, how long did it take for humans to realize clouds were another form of water?)

- they wouldn't see shadows -- since they are the origin of the sound, the echolocation shadow will always be invisible to them, as it will be on the opposite side of the object from their sound production system

Unless they had multiple echolocating organs, positioned on different parts of their body. I'd imagine they would, if they were so reliant on echolocation.

- active echolocation can be "turned off" in a way that can't be done with sight. If an echolocating creature stops sending out signals, they are effectively blind (though they could possibly learn to navigate using ambient noise, albeit imperfectly).

If you forget to open your eyes after blinking, the same effect occurs.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Xhin
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Xhin
Sky's the limit

Transfer of energy, as light from bioluminescent shrooms to photosynthetic plants ... I haven't heard that before. I wonder about the levels involved. Either the shrooms are really shining hard like 100W bulbs, or those green plants don't receive much energy and they struggle. The plants would have to be really efficient if the shrooms just kinda glow a little. Unless there's magic, which trumps the whole energy cycle.


They're relatively high output; think twilight. Greenish twilight. And the plants have been engineered through years of selective breeding to be able to deal with low-light environments; the Duniai do realize even the undercity needs air/food.

The entire place is like a hive, the undercity. It's layers upon layers of shrooms growing on each other, over each other, dangling from the ceiling, linked by bridges and footpaths. The idea of "ground" means relatively little to undercity dwellers until they're trained to be soldiers in the abovecity.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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I suspect that sound waves are much, much larger than light waves


True, though high frequency sound has reasonable precision, they can't develop microscopes.

"they wouldn't see shadows -- since they are the origin of the sound, the echolocation shadow will always be invisible to them, as it will be on the opposite side of the object from their sound production system"

Not so. Echolocating can be done with any ambient sound. Of discernible origen. Humans can echolocate, so we know fairly well the extent to which this it true (we can ask).


"active echolocation can be "turned off" in a way that can't be done with sight."

Quite the oposite; echolocation is always active; eyes can be closed easily, or light can be turned off. There's always ambient sound to a tuned ear, even if just breating or a distant drip.

"(though they could possibly learn to navigate using ambient noise, albeit imperfectly)."

Bats don't squeak just to echolocate for navigation. They emit high frequency sound to see insects (which are too small to be seen clearly with normal sound). Blind people can echolocate walls without needing to make sounds based on ambient sound "shadowing" (can't think of a better word for it). Of course a click or a tap is better, due to direct reflection and consistency, and echolocator wouldn't necessarily run into anything without it.

Good observation on the stars and such- important cultural points.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Blake
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Blake
 



Signs might have to use larger scripts than is possible with vision. I suspect that sound waves are much, much larger than light waves (and of course, we definitely don't see the smallest bits we could theoretically resolve with visible light waves).



:!:, didn't think of this, going to have to rethink how the Myrmidon form their clicks, at least for hearing really small objects or reading text.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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:!:, didn't think of this, going to have to rethink how the Myrmidon form their clicks, at least for hearing really small objects or reading text.



Bats can see mosquitoes and very tiny gnats. It would only be a problem with legalese fine print (which isn't supposed to be legible anyway).

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Blake
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Blake
 

Up till now, I had thought that a Swahili style click would be sufficient to get good readings, not a bat one. So I gotta adjust a bit. They're supposed to be able to hear as well as we can see, human eyes are nothing to sneeze at.

a "normal" click should be fine for hearing down a corridor, but i want them to be able to read without using their hands. Just a little adjustment.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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Signs might have to use larger scripts than is possible with vision ...
... going to have to rethink how the Myrmidon form their clicks

And imagine a crowd of people "reading" a public notice.

CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK
CLICK CLICK CLICK - CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK -CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK -CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK -CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK
CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK -CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK

... doesn't work.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

a "normal" click should be fine for hearing down a corridor, but i want them to be able to read without using their hands. Just a little adjustment.


You may want to think about increasing the duration of each sound then. A single click may not be enough to gather sufficient information for a prolonged interpretation. Especially when it requires a greater attention to detail like picking up distinctions in a single grapheme - unless the graphemes were very basic and very distinct from one another. Like someone else said, size would also help.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Cerne
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Cerne
 

I kind of wonder whether bats see the insects themselves as much as the turbulence they create in the air. I have heard that they can resolve something about the width of a human hair -- not sure how reliable that is. In any case -- what you can see isn't necessarily what you can theoretically resolve (I'm pretty sure I can't actually see something 600 nanometers across).

One thing I can say, a crowd reading a public notice shouldn't be a problem. AIUI, bats and other echolocating creatures use unique calls -- so that when a group is in the same area, an individual can filter its own signals from the noise by recognizing its unique click pattern.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Fonori
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Fonori
 

This topic has been covered like a billion fucking times.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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Wow, that's almost enough for China.

We should do Chinese driver jokes with echolocation.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

Excuse me for not knowing all the ub3r Internet memes -- but what is a Chinese driver jokes? From what I've seen of Chinese drivers -- you could get some jokes out of it, as long as you're willing to use some dark humor :P

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Fonori
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Fonori
 

All echolocation jokes are dark humor.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

All echolocation jokes are dark humor.


Okay that was amazing.

Posted July 14th, 2008 by Mr. Saturday
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a "normal" click should be fine for hearing down a corridor, but i want them to be able to read without using their hands. Just a little adjustment.


You may want to think about increasing the duration of each sound then. A single click may not be enough to gather sufficient information for a prolonged interpretation. Especially when it requires a greater attention to detail like picking up distinctions in a single grapheme - unless the graphemes were very basic and very distinct from one another. Like someone else said, size would also help.
I think for reading at least, they'll pretty much be squeeking while reading. I've heard bat signals in museums before. it sounds like crackling paper, at least when slowed down. There might be reading "lamps" at libraries for people who expect to read for long time, or the elderly. Higher frequency noise would also be easier to keep separate from the language.

Posted July 15th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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There might be reading "lamps" at libraries for people who expect to read for long time, or the elderly. Higher frequency noise would also be easier to keep separate from the language.


If there are sound emitting devices... why not just play the audio?

Posted July 15th, 2008 by Blake
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Blake
 

If they are using echolocation as a primary sense, they'll probably have a specialized sound production system. Some bats have modified nasal passages. AIUI dolphins have some sort of specialized system in their jaw. In any case, I suspect they'd be able to hold up a sustained series of clicks. Also, processing clicks from a different source might be a little difficult for a creature evolved to process echolocation signals that are sent directly -- and as Blake said, if you have good audio technology -- why not audio-books?

I still don't see why they couldn't write signs with larger text that is well distinguished from the background, while using a tactile script for books, notes, personal display systems, etc.

[My inspiration for my blind race was actually a device a friend of mine uses -- a "PDA for the blind" -- that uses a series of mechanical pins to display Braille characters.]

Posted July 15th, 2008 by Fonori
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Fonori
 

If they are using echolocation as a primary sense, they'll probably have a specialized sound production system. Some bats have modified nasal passages. AIUI dolphins have some sort of specialized system in their jaw. In any case, I suspect they'd be able to hold up a sustained series of clicks.
You're most likely right. I can really worry about this later anyway.

Also, processing clicks from a different source might be a little difficult for a creature evolved to process echolocation signals that are sent directly

That's something to thing about, but I think it'll be ok, since they mainly use passive echolocation (the humming of machineary gives them more than enough sound to avoid bumping into things for example.) One big problem i can see would be shadowing, which would distort the "image" of the text. this could be solved by using more than one speaker, or it might not be a problem at all. Again, these lamps would probably only be used by those who needed them, not the general public.

I still don't see why they couldn't write signs with larger text that is well distinguished from the background, while using a tactile script for books, notes, personal display systems, etc.
No reason they couldn't, that's just not the way my artistic metal image is rolling. You can easily feel myrmidon writing with your finger, but that's mainly do to the fact that they see in "form" rather than in color.

In fact, their money is marked with intricate carvings, so they would actually be "reading" those tactility while digging them out.

I'm really not ignoring the idea, I'm just not using it. If something happens and someone can't echolocate they most certainly read that way, but for the most part, I've decided that I want them to read with the echolocation.

Besides, having to learn to read twice kinda sucks IMO.

[My inspiration for my blind race was actually a device a friend of mine uses -- a "PDA for the blind" -- that uses a series of mechanical pins to display Braille characters.]
That's kinda how I imagine their monitors and machine displays working, rather than using light like ours do the devices would change form, which could be easily "seen" through echolocation.

-- and as Blake said, if you have good audio technology -- why not audio-books?
While they may be the same thing in terms of technology, they aren't in terms of perception. A myrmidon wouldn't dream of using a speaker to listen to a book when she could just use it to light the book up and read it.

Posted July 15th, 2008 by wheelerpm
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Makes me wonder. Jews are not allowed even to touch the Torah. They use a little pointer called a yad. I wonder how people who read by touch would handle sacred texts. If they read by echolocation they probably have to sing or chirp special holy clicks. No profane sound must touch the words of the gods!

Posted July 15th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

Haha! Perhaps only ordained priests may touch the holy texts, and only after going through a special purification ritual. Only those with clean hand and clear mind may touch the Word of God -- unclean hands would foul it's holiness.

I may nick that idea -- hadn't really thought about Tzll religion, yet -- but since the culture I was developing there allows people to walk through museums and feel canvases, statues, etc (most of their art is tactile or has a tactile component) -- so having at least one religion that has rules as to who may touch sacred objects would be a nice contrast.

Posted July 15th, 2008 by Fonori
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Fonori
 

Haha! I may nick that idea
leave a nickel in the jar.

Posted July 15th, 2008 by toff
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toff
 

I've been playing around with my teneber idea for some nocturnal or cave-dwelling creatures, and I started to think about what these creatures might see during the day. My Photo Shop Pro 6 has two nice little filters under the type Edge, Find Horizontal and and Find Vertical, which give something like the effect I can imagine for creatures that rely only on teneber "vision" when in daylight.

I'm still debating what to do for creatures that could rely on both to some extent. Obviously, they wouldn't see the same as Humans, but if I wanted to give an approximation. (One thing I'd like to do with this is take picture of Solaith that Kinetiq made for me and tweek it so it's more similar to how Solaith would see it. 8) ) I'd like to post some examples of the full effect, and maybe you guys could suggest effects (layering, polarizing, etc) or other filters that could get the effects I want for daylight and night conditions.

Posted July 26th, 2008 by bloodb4roses
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my conworld has underground caverns with giant mushrooms. that shit is ftw honestly. i never really thought of terrain features as breaking a world, but keep in mind that i haven't done much real thinking as far as geography. i'd say that's one of my weakest points, along with magic

Posted August 6th, 2008 by Fetus Commander
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Okay, I've brought some order to this post. I think the topic was a good one, and should be resurrected at some point, but for now I can just bump it up to the top and hope someone will take initiative. :D

And of course, Saturday's name is removed from the post topic. It was a bitch to move his message down without everything losing sense, but ehh, works good now.

Posted September 1st, 2008 by Xhin
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Xhin
Sky's the limit

Okay, I've brought some order to this post. I think the topic was a good one, and should be resurrected at some point, but for now I can just bump it up to the top and hope someone will take initiative. :D
And of course, Saturday's name is removed from the post topic. It was a bitch to move his message down without everything losing sense, but ehh, works good now.
Congratulations, and thanks.

Posted September 4th, 2008 by eldin raigmore
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I was rereading the Subterranean Sight thread and it has inspired me to decide that one of the reasons all adult dwarves —— not just males —— have facial hair, is to aid in echolocation.
It should also serve as vibrissae.
Perhaps pre-pubescent dwarves should also have vibrissae, though I suppose they won’t be much until they’re old enough to learn to walk, or to be weaned, or some such age.
Maybe they should start coming in about the time the youngster starts cutting teeth; be at least minimally useful around the rugrat age; be useful beginning about the walking age; and well-established around the time the youngster masters toilet-training, or at least before “early childhood amnesia” starts (around 4y/o for RL humans).

Posted February 13th by chiarizio
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