1. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Developing Fantasy Race, feedback

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Berber, Jan 20, 2012.

    I'm currently working on the plot line for a new fantasy novel and really want to try creating a brand new race of beings apart from the typical dwarf, elf, human trifecta.

    One major aspect of the novel involves the identification of prophecy through death-bed visions (which is basically a concept that suggests the breaking down of the physical world when nearing death to allow for momentary sight into the unknown.) In order for these prophecies to be feasibly recorded, there would have to be a second party (aside from the dying individual) who could partake in this vision as well.

    So, I've taken to creating a race that I've coined the "Spectres." They were a long forgotten and ancient race of humanoids that live underground in small populations. The pretense is that they live their lives in a dream-like state. What would be sleeping to us is their preferred state of consciousness. They are adept lucid dreamers and can communicate and interact with each other in their dream world, which they refer to as their homeland. Each spectre's mind is their personal dwelling, which they craft without limitation. Spectres may enter each others' "homes," but only maintain complete authority over their own. Naturally, spectres are a very peaceful race, without the construct of war within their society. This fosters a very naive outlook towards the outside world.

    Spectres consider being awake as their resting state; it is the period during which they eat, relieve themselves, and perform any necessary survival functions. Physically, the spectres are very small, both in frame and in stature. This is due to their limited mobility, confined to only a few hours a day. They also experience stunted growth due to their meager nourishment, limited mostly to water, locally grown fungi, and small prey that survive in their dwelling. Lastly, they have extremely pale skin and hair, a byproduct of living centuries underground.

    Some years ago the spectres were discovered and enslaved by humans. The were originally deemed "Spectators" (their true name long forgotten), because it was believed that the race could be used to gleam information by viewing the unconscious mind. But the task proved impossible. As the spectres tried to explain, the dreaming mind is a dwelling not a data base; information does not spring forth unwillingly. The spectres grew to despise the human dreamworld they were forced to occupy, erratic and unstable, uncertain of its desire.

    Just when it began to seem as though the spectres were of no use, humans stumbled upon a new calling for them. The name spectator quickly whittled into spectre when the race began being used to decipher death-bed visions, prophecies that a land caught in civil unrest believed could be used to sway the odds in their favor. Now there are only a few dozen spectres left, but it is not unusually for major cities to have a spectre among its healers. The locals regard them much like they may the grim reaper, for they have received a false reputation for attracting death.





    Okay, so that's just a basic profile of the race. Since I intend for one of my main side characters to be a spectre, I wanted to get some feedback first to see if this seems like a plausible and not overly cheesy race.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    They sound really cool!

    On the note of physical characteristics from living underground for centuries -- lots of these features would appear to some as scary. For example, bulgy and buggy eyes for seeing in the dark (or, perhaps, small and beady eyes if they don't need to see much at all); hunched-over posture for lots of climbing on all fours; etc. This might also serve to make ignorant people think they are subhuman or animalistic, when really, they are far more intelligent than humans.

    Just my suggestions, of course. And I really like your concept of the Spectres, because I've never heard of a fantasy race like that before. It sounds totally original. :)
     
  3. IrishLantern
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    IrishLantern Member

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    They seem like a pretty interesting creation to me. They certainly stand out in comparison to the usual fantasy fare.
     
  4. Jethelin
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    Jethelin Member

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    I agree with the above. They are very interesting to me. And even just this description of them made me want to read more about them/your story.
     
  5. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Thank you all for such encouraging feedback.

    Mallory; I am interested in altering their physical appearance to give them more of an ominous, frightening look. I think that would make an excellent contrast for their personalities - gentle and calm. But, I don't want to over do it and make them seem bestial because they are a humanoid race. I think altering the eyes is an excellent idea. I've already been working with the concept that they may be able to dilate their pupils much more than a humans, allowing for keen night vision; however, on the reverse side, they struggle to see during the day (perhaps wearing thick, blackened goggles during the day), making spectres almost seem nocturnal because of their affinity for the darkness. I think I like the image of beady eyes, gives them a searching, inquisitive look.

    The main thing I'm struggling with right now is how to make them a viable companion in a treacherous landscape - what would they bring to the table during an attack? Beyond night vision, they don't currently have a higher function in combat. I'm leaning towards them being distance fighters, stealth archers who've honed their skill to be as efficient as possible in order to obtain their food supply in the dark caverns with speed. But, I'm not all together in love with the idea.
     
  6. Kesteven
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    Kesteven Member

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    This sounds like an interesting basis for a race, but I think what makes dwarves and elves so interesting is the effort Tolkien and others put into developing their cultures and histories. Because your race is too few and dispersed to explore their political systems in the story, it might be a good idea to put emphasis on their art and history etc. Presumably most of their great works would have been completed in the shared dream world, perhaps psychically passed down through the generations in a kind of public shared dream space? You might have a character visit their 'cities', now derelict and muddled, filled with fragments of lost wisdom, as there are not enough minds in the collective to sustain the foundations.

    As for combat viability, I'm somewhat against this D&D mindset that every race and profession has to justify its existence with combat potential. It's perfectly acceptable in my view to have characters that are an utter dead weight or liability in combat, as long as their skills or attributes in other areas make up for it. Not only does the variation allow for more interesting tactics, but it makes your fighters more impressive, and also can make for very dramatic moments when the weaker characters show they're not completely useless.

    In addition, civilians might not be very useful during an attack, but they can be incredibly useful in not getting into the fight in the first place. Where more combat-focussed allies might try and solve every conflict with violence, they might be more prepared to compromise, negotiating with potential enemies and noting routes and behaviours that avoid angering the wildlife.

    Also as a side-note, I think it's unlikely a peaceful underground race would use bows, since they need the right kind of wood and string, and work best in open areas. I'd expect something more along the lines of slings, which can be made with a range of materials and are perfectly adequate for hunting in the right hands, and simple hand-weapons like daggers and maces. Also in low-light conditions, most animals use smell or hearing as the primary sense, so superhuman non-visual senses might be an option too. Tactically speaking, being able to smell your enemies coming a mile away and estimate their numbers by vibrations in the ground would be at least as useful as being able to shoot them in the face when they get there.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    What about incredible strength? They'd have more muscle built up than humans from having to climb around in steep caves all day and possibly catch/kill their food. Sharp teeth/claws that can seriously maim or kill goes hand-in-hand with the strength thing. Night vision also serves as a tool in itself.

    Or you could make it a mental ability that's the key thing they bring to the table. Perhaps they can travel to the minds of enemies, learn what they plan to do and report back to their allies.

    However, with such a powerful ability as mind-reading, make sure to balance it out with some type of disadvantage, or negative symptoms/effects each time they use their powers. Otherwise things become too convenient and the element of struggle is removed.
     
  8. IrishLantern
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    IrishLantern Member

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    I would agree with Kesteven I think. Not every race needs to have a fighting ability, and the ones he laid out for you seem like they would be quite valuable to a group.
     
  9. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    Kesteven: Thank you greatly for your input; it has been invaluable. I do plan on working into the political and spiritual structure of the race, but had not reached that point. Your degradation of the dream space is a beautiful idea that I believe would be well adapted to the piece - I've been trying to work in "visits" to the Spectre homeland.

    I want to work on the premise that the dream world is an actual world, however intangible - a shared plain that all races occupy and yet most disregard whilst sleeping; only the Spectres were capable of successfully cultivating a life within this realm. I'm thinking the use of lucid dreaming would have originated as a means of escape and a survival technique that allowed the early spectres to communicate with each other, though I have not outlined the danger or servitude under which they formerly lived that prompted the need. Over the centuries, the need became a luxury became a lifestyle, passed down and taught to babies while they are still in the womb. It's got kinks in it still, but its a start for a back story.

    I recognize now, after reading the responses, that it is foolish to try and force a sword into every characters hand. I think the interaction would be strengthened if I allowed the race less obtrusive advantages in combat. The strengthened senses is an idea I was toying with, though I feared it may come across as cliche. I was especially intrigued by the use of touch, the feeling of vibrations through earth and stone. The spectre I'm using as one of my main side characters rarely wears shoes for this purpose.

    As for the bow bit, I feel silly for even making the suggestion as I clearly had not thought it through. Where would they get the wood? Hah. I really don't think they'd be much of a contender up-close. I'm now thinking more in the vicinity of blow darts or even boomerang-esque weapons.
     
  10. Kesteven
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    Kesteven Member

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    Bows aren't that silly, they could get wood from roots or just use something that's wood-like, maybe bones from large animals? I still think they're not the most likely though, and honestly they're just a bit boring when there are so many other plausible options to explore.

    As for the strengthened touch sense, I think it would be fine. Clich├ęs are only a problem when they come across as lazy or jarring, and I don't think that's the case here as long as you handle it realistically instead of making it some kind of superpower.
     
  11. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    gosh.. i had a very similar idea a couple months ago. but your concept is more elaborate,
    mainly because i'm working on something else right now.
    but go for it seems really cool.
    love the name ''Spectres'' i wish i would've thought of that.
     

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