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Dwarven and Elven Crafting

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Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Octavius » Fri Dec 27, 2013 12:34 pm

Octavius wrote:Dwarven/Elven crafting is an excellent topic to discuss... not sure if they're putting it in-scope for Alpha (I suspect we shouldn't). I'm also excited about it, and like the idea of considering it in Open. To that end, I'd be happy of someone went to the Lore forum and started conversations about the Tolkien-canon theories of dwarven and elven manufacture that I'd be able to use to develop craftsets in the future.


Putting this here to encourage canon research and discussion that can facilitate future building.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Throttle » Fri Dec 27, 2013 2:15 pm

The canon reasearch would be minimal, it's really not the kind of thing that plays a significant role in the literature. This has always been pretty much entirely fan fiction, which is alright.

I would strongly advise against giving elves and dwarves the ability to craft codedly superior equipment -- at least not weapons and armor with higher damage and AC. Give them race-restricted crafts that produce crafting materials with unique variables that can be made into the standard armor/weapons but are perhaps slightly lighter (elves) or sturdier (dwarves). This would keep things balanced. Clothes are even easier with the ease of managing fabrics and patterns, and for basic things like tools and furniture, I think the decorate code should suffice to let elven and dwarven crafters make their work stand out.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby MrDvAnt » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:01 pm

Elves still have most of their crafting lore whereas it's stated that the dwarves cannot match the craft they had of old. Magic in Tolkien's world is subtle and only sometimes described in flashy displays. I would see nothing wrong with allowing elves and dwarves who specialize in crafting create items of above average quality. Elves more than dwarves. It would definitely need a timer though, so as not to flood the world with elf and dwarf crafted objects.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Octavius » Thu Jan 23, 2014 11:45 am

I'm interested in documentation of what their different processes might be, what the difference in their materials might be, and what the difference in the styles/appearance of their products might be. Those things are what is going to be best implemented.

As for the objects of old, or objects of power, they are likely unique given the way I read the Simarillion. Interested in other's thoughts on that. One of the things that struck me was that the powers of the Illuvatar and the First Elves were powers of creation - the creation of truly significant items was a unique event, and they could not be repeated. Once they created the seeing-stones, there could be no more seeing-stones. Once they created the trees of light, they could not recreate them once they were destroyed. If true magic went into an object, then the magic was IN that object and could not be used for further acts of creation afterward. (Side note: I also see this as one of the reasons the Illuvatar retreated to the West - they saw their power being depleted with each act of creation they performed and so withdrew to do less. Likewise, Melkor invested himself in so many acts that he burnt himself out.)

This has an impact on this conversation and our game design: Anything that is a repeatable craft is NOT the creation of a great item of power. All such items, by nature of power itself, MUST be unique items and created by staff. (If they are from ages past, their entry into the world is a significant event indeed. If somehow they are player-created, they would need to invest their very essence into it and deplete themselves in some way in the process.

The items that ARE made by crafts, particularly those of Superior quality and of Elvish or Dwarvish make, can have the subtle form of magic that comes from their nature as part of it, resulting in superior materials, styles, or qualities which are still far short of being a "magical item" or item of power. This is where I am looking for any descriptions of Processes used in any Tolkien book which could describe it.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Icarus » Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:15 pm

Through the act of creation an item can be imbued with "part" of the being making it, in the case of elves and other powerful beings. Even the dwarves have some of this, in that items made by their hand are simply better than those of others. There is no real process in tolkiens lore for this save documentation of the will that it took to make such things.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby MrDvAnt » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:53 pm

Well, as an example, you have the cloaks made by the elves that were given to Frodo and the Fellowship. They aren't great works but they are imbued with a subtle magic that makes them almost impossible to see when they wear them. I don't recall ever reading any actual processes though. It could range from being made by the light of the stars by elven hands to just being imbued with an eldritch quality because of the innate power held by the elder races. The flavor of the world always caused me to just imagine that certain types of people have more innate..something to them. Whether you call it power, wisdom, grace, bearing, nobility, or whatever. They don't necessarily have to chant words of power while making the object, in fact that would kind of go against the flavor of Tolkien's magic.
From a code standpoint, maybe each race has a certain hidden stat that no one ever sees that applies bonuses when crafting things. The Noldor would have the highest, the Sindar the 2nd highest, dwarves next, men of Westernesse the next, etc. The bonus could apply to many things aside from crafting. Like rolls to resist certain things, which would reflect the higher levels of hardiness displayed by certain races.

It was mentioned above that elven armor and weapons would be lighter and I just wanted to touch on that one really quickly. Bilbo/Frodo's mithril shirt was very light, but it was dwarven-make. I think that's more of a characteristic of the metal itself though. There's no reason in Tolkien's lore for elven objects to be lighter since elves are taller and stronger than Men. I think the elven=lighter is more influenced by D&D lore than Tolkien.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Brian » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:14 pm

Octavius wrote:I'm interested in documentation of what their different processes might be, what the difference in their materials might be, and what the difference in the styles/appearance of their products might be. Those things are what is going to be best implemented.


That's the interesting thing about "magic" in Tolkien's world. There is a difference between "magic" and what the Elves or Dwarves do. Here's a quote from Tolkien's letter 131 where he describes it:

Tolkien wrote: I have not used 'magic' consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves. I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion). But the Elves are there (in my tales) to demonstrate the difference. Their 'magic' is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation. The 'Elves' are 'immortal', at least as far as this world goes: and hence are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death. The Enemy in successive forms is always 'naturally' concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others* - speedily and according to the benefactor's own plans - is a recurrent motive.


I think the best sentence describing it in that passage is "product, and vision in unflawed correspondence." The way I read it Octavius is that there is no inherent difference in process. There is no need to chant or perform the making in any particular way. It's simply that, through their own internal gifts, the Elves (and Dwarves to a lesser extent) are able to take the product of their imagination and bring it to complete, effortless fruition simply because that's how they do it. I don't think they could -not- do it if they wished to; it's their essential nature, the reason that they were put into the world, as is illuminated in this passage from further in Letter 131:

Tolkien wrote:These are the First-born, the Elves; and the Followers Men. The doom of the Elves is to be immortal, to love the beauty of the world, to bring it to full flower with their gifts of delicacy and perfection, to last while it lasts, never leaving it even when ‘slain’, but returning - and yet, when the Followers come, to teach them, and make way for them, to ‘fade’ as the Followers grow and absorb the life from which both proceed.


Their expression of craft is the intent of Illuvatar, to bring the world to it's utmost of delicacy and perfection. It isn't magic, it's something they do just by existing. It's only when they, or anyone, try to exceed their natural gifts and limitations, to speed up the expression of their will, or to coerce or change the natural laws of nature, that you have "magic". In this respect, the Rings, created by the Elves, were an act of magic, and inherently dangerous and in many ways evil.

As respects materials and style, for materials I imagine they would use the same materials as anyone else. It's just that, in measure to the inborn talent and gifts of the maker, when they make a dinner fork it is the utmost expression of what a dinner fork can be. It's tines are equally long and equally spaced. They have an architecture where what is pierced with them never slides off unbidden. It never loses its luster and never needs polishing and is exceptionally difficult to scratch or bend. Whatever the artisan elf has in mind for that fork, whatever he imagines it should be, that is what it will be, in measure to his inner gifts.

With that said any stylistic choices would be informed by the culture of the elf, and for our purposes, it's just a matter of choosing what we think it should look like, and then creating it. Tolkien doesn't give a lot of specific examples of elven crafts, or any detailed descriptions. There are a few, here and there, but they're fairly minimal. The artists of the LOTR movies were making it up in accordance with what they felt was appropriate for instance, and we could do the same.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Brian » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:23 pm

MrDvAnt wrote:Well, as an example, you have the cloaks made by the elves that were given to Frodo and the Fellowship. They aren't great works but they are imbued with a subtle magic that makes them almost impossible to see when they wear them.


Relating an example such as the cloaks back to what I wrote above, we can analyze it. These cloaks are first mentioned as being worn by the Sindar of Mithrim in the First Age, and I would guess that the legacy of them was passed down to Lothlorien. So, what would someone want in a cloak that was designed in the First Age for the realm that was very near Melkor's fortress in the northernmost inhabitable parts of the world? What would an elf, designing a cloak, imagine for it? I think they'd want it to be light, easy to move in, warm, protective against the elements, and to aid the wearer in avoiding the attention of any orcs or other creatures wishing to do them harm. With that image in mind, the artist would make; there needn't be any chanting or mystical process. So long as the artist had that image in his mind for what a cloak should be, and if he was inwardly gifted enough, that is the cloak he would produce. As MrDvAnt says:

MrDvAnt wrote:The flavor of the world always caused me to just imagine that certain types of people have more innate..something to them. Whether you call it power, wisdom, grace, bearing, nobility, or whatever. They don't necessarily have to chant words of power while making the object, in fact that would kind of go against the flavor of Tolkien's magic.


As to your next point about the code standpoint, this was attempted on SoI2. It was called the Power stat, and though I believe it had great potential in creating those distinctions, it was never fully realized and only brought to a half implementation that I think was ultimately unsatisfactory for most people. The problem with it was that, in trying to be true to Tolkien, it created very large imbalances in ability between the various races. This may be canonical, but unfortunately, it doesn't translate well to the game environment. Perhaps a Noldor elf should be able to do everything better than everyone else, but this doesn't go over very well for the people who aren't playing the Noldo.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby tehkory » Fri Jan 24, 2014 6:42 pm

The honest-to-God problem with the power stat(especially for elves) is that they were already a lot better than everyone before Power was implemented, and were doubly-impressive with it.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Burke » Fri Jan 24, 2014 8:50 pm

Brian wrote:As to your next point about the code standpoint, this was attempted on SoI2. It was called the Power stat, and though I believe it had great potential in creating those distinctions, it was never fully realized and only brought to a half implementation that I think was ultimately unsatisfactory for most people. The problem with it was that, in trying to be true to Tolkien, it created very large imbalances in ability between the various races. This may be canonical, but unfortunately, it doesn't translate well to the game environment. Perhaps a Noldor elf should be able to do everything better than everyone else, but this doesn't go over very well for the people who aren't playing the Noldo.


I honestly think that it's far better to tell people that's just how it is than to abandon being true to the source material. Anyone in any settings who objects because "I have to be the bestest or I'll stomp and scream!" is a blight on any game. However, I also think that the Noldo shouldn't be a playable race here since, barring Galadriel, the very few who remain in Arda are in Imladris or Lindon.

Regarding the crafts of the Silvan and Sindar elves of Thranduil's realm, if we want to take suggestions from Unfinished Tails, it says in appendix B of The History of Galadriel and Celeborn that when Oropher (Thranduil's father) came eastward to live among the Silvan Elves, he "came among them with only a handful of Sindar, and they were soon merged with the Silvan Elves, adopting their language and taking names of Silvan form and style. They did this deliberately; for they (and other similar adventurers forgotten in the legends or only briefly named) came from Doriath after its ruin and had no desire to leave Middle-earth, nor to be merged with the other Sindar of Beleriand, dominated by the Noldorin Exiles for whom the folk of Doriath had no great love. They wished indeed to become Silvan folk and to return, as they said, to the simple life natural to the Elves before the invitation of the Valar had disturbed it" (UT 272). It also says that, compared with the Sindar, the Silvan folk were "rude and rustic."

I think that suggests that, while the crafts of the Elves in-game would be made with great beauty and skill, they might not be any more powerful than a well crafted item of the same materials fashioned by a man. By contrast, the cloaks given to the Fellowship in Lothlorien were created under the supervision of Galadriel, who not only seems to have been the most powerful Noldo remaining in Middle-Earth but also was wearing (and using) Nenya. Those are far different levels of skill.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Letters » Sat Jan 25, 2014 6:16 am

The Hobbit specifically refers to the mail worn by Dáin's folk as being of particularly fine make, both unique to and apparently not distributed to others by dwarves. Or at least their chausses were.

The greatest issue with elves in old SoI wasn't equipment, or their higher stats, really, but that they had these things and also received a healing tick every fifteen minutes rather than every hour. A high constitution elf with a solid defence could keep going for a very long time indeed. Power exacerbated matters further.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby MrDvAnt » Sun Jan 26, 2014 1:22 am

We're kind of derailing away from crafting to actual questions on the races now but I'll toss in my two coppers. I've never been a big fan of balance between races and classes in role playing games. If everyone is balanced and equal, what's the point of having different races? I think it's fairly natural for people who don't have something nice to be envious of those who do, but that's something that should be overcome on a personal basis, not enforced to the detriment of others. The entire point of giving out RPP or whatever system a particular game uses is that the person who has them should be able to be trusted not to misuse the advantages given by having them. There's been a big emphasis on balance and "fairness" in the last decade or so of gaming. I can't help but feel that it's at least partially a result of the growing feeling of entitlement and instant gratification that each newer generation seems to have. Elves are better than humans in almost every way..that's just the way the world is. We shouldn't nerf them just because some people who cannot play them think it isn't fair.

Wow..I didn't mean to be that long winded. This should probably be discussed in another thread.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Octavius » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:57 pm

Side topic now moved over here:
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=310#p3728

:D


Please continue talking here about the idea of crafting.

I didn't mean to imply that elves would chant words of power. But, I do need to make "elven crafts" that provide echoes of HOW and elf or dwarf interacts with the raw material to make a final product. I want those craft echoes to add to the feel of being an elf.

Materials will also be an important differentiation. If the elves can make "everything a spoon should be" instead of "a spoon," I need to consider how I reflect that in the items. So, that's why I'm looking for source material inspiration.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby MrDvAnt » Mon Jan 27, 2014 2:16 pm

Perhaps they can make their weapons with more artistry. Silver inlays, runes engraved on blades, things like that.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby cfelch » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:20 pm

Perhaps they could sing or whistle as they work.
Music is suppose to transcend such meager boundaries as race.
I believe Tolkien had a fondness for it as well.
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Re: Dwarven and Elven Crafting

Postby Throttle » Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:06 pm

"He's making a sword, he's checking it twice..."
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