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astronomy

Postby mwsasser » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:41 am

How are you guys using Astronomy in your games? I'm drawing a blank on this one to be honest.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Lemnoc » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:59 am

mwsasser wrote:How are you guys using Astronomy in your games? I'm drawing a blank on this one to be honest.
Hasn't come up in a game yet, but in an ancient world setting I would probably consider it an aid to navigation and reckoning, possibly even timekeeping. Being a subset of Lore, it might even yield knowledge of the campaign's great myths as written in the sky.

Could be mistaken, but I don't see that navigation has its own skill, so perhaps this could be used in place of that. This seems to be borne out in the Explorer occupation.
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:36 am

Astronomy would be a Lore skill, much like Lore (Alchemy) would be used to identify, say, an alembic or an athanor in someone's lab coupled with various signs scattered about the place to indicate that the man whose lab they busted into was practicing some sort of left hand alchemy and had been cast out of the local Guild.

In the same way, your characters can learn Lore (Astronomy) - might as well call it that, rather than Astrology - to discern when a specific star is about to rise, the location of the northernmost constellation for the purpose of navigation and so on, and likewise to recognise the marks and tools of the practitioner: the Guild symbols on the tower, the domed roof open to the sky, the three telescopes, the charts, the astrolabes and of course the shelf loads of almanacs.

Basically, the lore of the stars in your sky is entirely up to you.
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Re: astronomy

Postby soltakss » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:16 pm

Looking at the skies for signs, performing divinations, noticing a new star/comet/planet/whatever and drawing conclusions on what it means, deciphering ancient riddles ...
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Re: astronomy

Postby mwsasser » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:35 pm

It appears that I was thinking too logically and modern when considering astronomy. Good suggestions.
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 29, 2012 2:46 pm

soltakss wrote:Looking at the skies for signs, performing divinations, noticing a new star/comet/planet/whatever and drawing conclusions on what it means, deciphering ancient riddles ...
I still prefer the more mundane version - predicting eclipses, calculating the position of the Moon over a 19 year cycle, using his calculations to construct tide tables and almanacs for sailors and farmers during down time, and ephemerides for the mumblers and astrologers of the court while he trains explorers in navigation by the stars.

Seriously, the mundane version of astronomy is the older and less modern version - not that pseudomystical astrology garbage. The oldest astronomy concerned itself with predicting the turn of the seasons, agriculture and the Spring flooding of the Nile delta. That "death of princes" drivel came later, when publishers discovered that people will buy a book full of boring tables of numbers if you throw in completely unrelated stories of sex, scandal, death, war, disaster, bloodshed and predictions on which horse would win the big race and whether or not to sink money into turnips this year.
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Re: astronomy

Postby PhilHibbs » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:42 pm

alex_greene wrote:Seriously, the mundane version of astronomy is the older and less modern version - not that pseudomystical astrology garbage. The oldest astronomy concerned itself with predicting the turn of the seasons, agriculture and the Spring flooding of the Nile delta.
That's partly because the real world has no actual magic and gods, in a fantasy world where astrology actually works, people will pay more attention to it.
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:47 pm

PhilHibbs wrote:
alex_greene wrote:Seriously, the mundane version of astronomy is the older and less modern version - not that pseudomystical astrology garbage. The oldest astronomy concerned itself with predicting the turn of the seasons, agriculture and the Spring flooding of the Nile delta.
That's partly because the real world has no actual magic and gods, in a fantasy world where astrology actually works, people will pay more attention to it.
It actually does have real magic and gods. We invented the idea, enough to have believed in it in the past. Humans could not live in a world where gods really did walk the earth. But if you imagine magic as being something human beings do, either individually or collectively through Pacts, the existence of non-existence of the gods can become just another Mystery of Faith thing, just as it is in this real world.

But early astronomy predicted the circumference of the world, calculated the distance from the Earth to the Moon and speculated on the nature of the stars and planets. The "death of kings" stuff came out when people realised they could mix in a bit of nonsense and bilk money in floods from a gullible public.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Lemnoc » Sun Jan 29, 2012 7:09 pm

alex_greene wrote:your characters can learn Lore (Astronomy) - might as well call it that, rather than Astrology
In the ancient world, probably up until the period of Dr. John Dee, there was no more difference between Astronomy and Astrology than there was between Alchemy and Chemistry.

The less mundane aspects of these studies would be the guarded purview of cults and mystery schools, so I would say the only way a character could advance far with this Lore would be through those associations. Anyone gathering such knowledge outside sponsorship or membership of a mystery school or college might be a target of attack or assassination.
alex_greene wrote:The "death of kings" stuff came out when people realised they could mix in a bit of nonsense and bilk money in floods from a gullible public.
I'm pretty sure all this grew up hand-in-hand with sky and nature observations. Your explanation implies a bit of hucksterism that I'm not sure was present in ancient times. Kings were ritualistically sacrificed (until they learned they could proxy that duty [perhaps the beginnings of hucksterism]). In other words, I'm pretty sure that (much like today) the ancients actually believed their own nonsense.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Mixster » Sun Jan 29, 2012 11:50 pm

Using astronomy for navigation should probably be handled by a Survival Check, a Shiphandling Check or a Lore (regional) check. Using it to predict when the next solar eclipse will be, what stars will be were the next days (except for fixed stars), calculating the size of the earth from shadows etc. could be it's own skill.

Because basically it would suck if a player had a high shiphandling skill and assumed his character knew his way around a ship, only to find out that the GM wont let him find out where he is or where he is supposed to go if his character hasn't learned about the stars from an academic association.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Lemnoc » Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:42 am

Mixster wrote:Because basically it would suck if a player had a high shiphandling skill and assumed his character knew his way around a ship, only to find out that the GM wont let him find out where he is or where he is supposed to go if his character hasn't learned about the stars from an academic association.
I thought about this, too. The Shiphandling skill doesn't mention any navigational ability of any sort, yet we *know* it must be there. Meanwhile, one's ability to glean direction from the stars is not limited to the sea alone.

I'd probably be inclined to allow free improvement rolls on Astronomy Lore in connection with improvements in Shiphandling. It's not exactly a skill that, if improved, is subject to inflation or player abuse. Ancient mariners were notorious sky watchers....
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Re: astronomy

Postby PhilHibbs » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:22 am

PhilHibbs wrote:... the real world has no actual magic and gods, in a fantasy world where astrology actually works, people will pay more attention to it.
alex_greene wrote:It actually does have real magic and gods.
:shock:
alex_greene wrote:We invented the idea, enough to have believed in it in the past.
Oh, yes the real world has the idea of magic and gods, but not the actual, real, functioning magic and active deities themselves.
alex_greene wrote:The "death of kings" stuff came out when people realised they could mix in a bit of nonsense and bilk money in floods from a gullible public.
You could say the same about magic - in the real world, what people thought of as "magic" was all trickery, psychology, and secret knowledge (e.g. stunning a snake so it appeared to be a staff, then releasing the paralysis to "turn your staff into a snake"). So, if you discard astrology in your fantasy roleplaying game, why not discard magic as well, because they are both based on real-world nonsense?
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Mon Jan 30, 2012 12:52 pm

PhilHibbs wrote:
PhilHibbs wrote:... the real world has no actual magic and gods, in a fantasy world where astrology actually works, people will pay more attention to it.
alex_greene wrote:It actually does have real magic and gods.
:shock:
*sigh Yet another attempt to gain the high ground, like this is a game of chess*
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PhilHibbs wrote:
alex_greene wrote:We invented the idea, enough to have believed in it in the past.
Oh, yes the real world has the idea of magic and gods, but not the actual, real, functioning magic and active deities themselves.
Again, applying modern thinking to very unmodern minds.

Nothing existed, deity wise, magic wise, before we turned up as a species. When we evolved, so did our gods. We brought them into being with us - and, in the remnants of the Fortean phenomena we see in the world today, all the weirdness, our susceptibility to hypnosis and trance states, our need for sleep, our ability to dream, we still carry our gods and magic with us.

In part, it's why we have stories of Merlin and King Arthur, of Robin Hood and Little John, of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and why we can become fans of Captain Kirk and Spock, of Captain Mal Reynolds and Serenity, of Doctor Who, of The Avengers and The X-Men, of Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman with her f/f bondage fetish. It's why we can see a man dressed in a big rubber suit that looks like a mouse, and see a gigantic bipedal mouse in trousers and shoes.

We no longer have bicameral minds, so we have to invent them as external fictions. And fight version wars over them.

And roleplay characters who are mighty barbarians and spell-wielding sorcerers.

They are as real to us as the words you hear in your head when you read this response. As real as the voice you hear when you read them. That is not my voice you're hearing - you have never heard me speak. That is your voice speaking back to you.

Consider that, for a moment.

And yeah ... sometimes, the settings I run can get a little freaky. This stuff runs right through everything I write.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Simulacrum » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:29 pm

Lemnoc wrote:I thought about this, too. The Shiphandling skill doesn't mention any navigational ability of any sort, yet we *know* it must be there. Meanwhile, one's ability to glean direction from the stars is not limited to the sea alone.

I'd probably be inclined to allow free improvement rolls on Astronomy Lore in connection with improvements in Shiphandling. It's not exactly a skill that, if improved, is subject to inflation or player abuse. Ancient mariners were notorious sky watchers....
I keep separate Shiphandling and Navigation skills. A captain uses his Shiphandling skill to keep a course that he is either familiar with already or has been given him by someone who has plotted it using a Navigation skill. Navigation my use stars as a sense check, or when out of sight of land, but landmarks, prevailing winds, tides, currents etc will also be important parts of the skill.

As for Astronomy - I think how you use it rather depends on what the heavenly bodies are in your setting. Using it as a mundane/non magical skill presupposes the subject of study is itself mundane and entirely predictable. The Navigator may rely on predictability, and the astronomer search for the unexpected. His lore may be the foundation of a magic system, or a key part of a religion. If the stars are something to do with the gods, or even gods themselves, then astronomy is a truly arcane skill. It does not have to exist as a skill in its own right. If, like the AoT Korantines, you worship a Celestial Court then Astronomy may be wrapped into the higher theology of your religion.
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:26 pm

Simulacrum wrote:As for Astronomy - I think how you use it rather depends on what the heavenly bodies are in your setting. Using it as a mundane/non magical skill presupposes the subject of study is itself mundane and entirely predictable.
Since the dawn of the study of astronomy, it has been considered the very epitome of predictability. :) That is kind of the point.
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Re: astronomy

Postby DrBargle » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:10 pm

Except, of course, that very early astronomy - and the RQ, whether Gloranthan or not, takes a *kinda* Bronze Age technology level as its base - did struggle to explain the apparently irregular movements of the planets, and the seemingly unpredictable visits of comets. And if your fantasy world is, like Glorantha, not a sphere flying through space, then the movements of the Heavens will not be determined by mundane physics anyway. And, even if it is a sphere flying through space, if the peoples of that fantasy world do not believe it to be a sphere flying through space, then their assumptions about the way in which the heavens work will prevent them from assigning anything but magical or divine explanations to the way that celestial objects move around the sky.
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Re: astronomy

Postby alex_greene » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:33 pm

"It's the Will of the Gods."

Eugh. I hate sloppy world design.

The players might like a slip sliding world that shifts around, where gravity depends on whether the God of Gravity is paying attention today, but Games Masters don't have that luxury.

If only for the sake of the players' sense of fair play and enjoyability, the worlds you inhabit have to be consistent.
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Re: astronomy

Postby Fonso » Mon Jan 30, 2012 5:39 pm

DrBargle wrote: And, even if it is a sphere flying through space, if the peoples of that fantasy world do not believe it to be a sphere flying through space, then their assumptions about the way in which the heavens work will prevent them from assigning anything but magical or divine explanations to the way that celestial objects move around the sky.
Well, you can have both beliefs at the same time too.
During Hellenistic era, for example, divine believes of our cosmos (Apollo is the god of Sun, etc.) coexisted with classic philosophers and science teaching (Hero of Alexandria determined the size and configuration of the Earth).
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Re: astronomy

Postby DrBargle » Mon Jan 30, 2012 6:59 pm

alex_greene wrote: If only for the sake of the players' sense of fair play and enjoyability, the worlds you inhabit have to be consistent.
Fair enough, but if you're playing in a world where the Sun really is a God riding across the heavens in a chariot, and where the stars are the souls of saints set on the crystal dome of the sky, that *is* consistent. There's nothing wrong with gaming in a world that works like that. If we're playing in a world where magic isn't just unexplained science, where prayer yields results, where miracles do happen, then the predictability of the world is not just subjectively lower than ours (i.e. not just a result that we know more), but actually is lower.
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Re: astronomy

Postby PhilHibbs » Mon Jan 30, 2012 7:23 pm

alex_greene wrote:"It's the Will of the Gods."

Eugh. I hate sloppy world design.

The players might like a slip sliding world that shifts around, where gravity depends on whether the God of Gravity is paying attention today, but Games Masters don't have that luxury.
Sure, if you extend the whim of the gods to something that is evidently very consistent, such as gravity, then you do make a mockery of the concept. But, apply it to earthquakes, lightning, or tsunamis, and it's entirely plausable that they are the work of petulant deities.

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