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February 2nd, 2002

More Random Brainstorming

What is The Secret Book? Why is it secret? What does it contain?

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The glint of something shiny under the water turned out to be a sword, half-buried in the silt ... but there was something very peculiar about it. It hadn't rusted -- or even tarnished. To Tarsakh, that could only mean one of two things: either the sword had just been put there recently -- which, given the nature of this place, Tarsakh found unlikely -- or this was no ordinary sword.

Tarsakh knelt, one foot and knee in the freezing water, and stared long and hard at the sword. It was not of a style he recognized ... it wasn't the short, businesslike blade of Vespirian manufacture, nor the elegant sweep of a Khaldunish blade. It was long, straight, and two-edged. The grip was damaged, revealing the end of the tang underneath, but that could easily repaired by a competent blacksmith. What caught Tarsakh's eye was the inscriptions visible on the tang, which carried up onto the blade itself. But they were not in a language that Tarsakh recognized, not even Elvish.

Tarsakh knelt there, water seeping through his boot and pants, staring at the sword. Part of him wanted to take it up, claim it as his own -- certainly he needed a weapon. But another part of him was disturbed by its mystery -- and afraid. The sword was clearly magical, and magic is never something to be taken up without sober thought.

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Let go! That's the problem. Let go and enjoy the ride.

Thinking about the fiddly little details makes for a richer, more well-thought out story ... but it also exposes you to the danger of knocking down your own suspension of disbelief. You want to build your fictional foundation up, not knock it down!

If there's so much magic floating around the world, why do only heroes encounter it? Surely if there are towns and cities full of people, then tons of people must have run into these things; what makes the hero special?

It's like Tom Bombadil, bopping through the forest; surely there must be trade between the shire and the lands to the east, why don't more people happen upon Tom besides just the hobbits?

Maybe I'm just so used to living in a high-density area, that I can't really fathom an empty wilderness. Remember those vaaaaaaast stretches of nothing out west? Who knows what could be crawling around out there and there'd be nobody around to see it. And going out into that without a car, cellphone, radio, would take a very different sort of mindset than most people have.

I've got to remember that in a preindustrialized setting, stuff that's "just around the corner" for me, is a long way for the people who live there. Ancient kingdoms were tiny ... like county- and state-sized ... because people rarely traveled more than thirty miles an hour ... and they had to either carry their provisions with them, or live off the land as they went.

This is why rivers and seas are important -- traveling via water is fast compared to walking or riding a horse. You can sail the seven seas in a matter of months or years ... hiking those same distances, even if it were possible, would take a loooong time. The kingdom that controls the sea, controls trade and through it, controls wealth.

The preindustrial world moves at a much slower pace, and requires a much longer view of life. This is important to remember as you write about it.

-The Gneech

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