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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Classifying the World

A quick idea I should write down instead of letting it slip into oblivion: A way to classify mundane objects in the world, for example as an aide to making rulings. Start with some very broad Aristotelian divisions

  • Immaterial
  • Material
    • Natural (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral)
    • Artificial (Structures, Vehicles, Containers, Tools, Worn Items)

Further subdivide “Mineral” into the four classical elements plus stone and metal. Animals get divided into invertebrates and vertebrates, but the traditional subdivisions of those two might be a little much, so let’s go with

  • Invertebrates
    • soft
    • shell
    • exoskeleton
  • vertebrates
    • fish
    • cold-blooded land (amphibians, reptiles)
    • birds
    • prey mammals
    • predator mammals

(No, this is not scientific. And no, it’s not precise. That’s kind of the point. I’m aiming at something that feels like something medieval or pre-medieval, but also easy to apply on the fly.)

Similarly, we’ll just divide Vegetable objects into trees, other plants, and fungi. That’s three plants, eight animals, and six minerals, for a total of 17 broad categories, which we’ll call types. I tried to make it so that you don’t need to memorize the types or keep a list of them, but can improvise

There are two kinds of modifiers to the types: Substance and Mobility. Many of the Animal and Vegetable classes above have obvious substances associated with them (hide, flesh, bone, shell, feather) which can be used to describe Artificial objects. Mobility is Living/Animate versus Dead/Inanimate.

What do you use this for? One example would be judging how long Polymorph Object spells last. This system is just a tad simpler to the similar one presented in AD&D, but basically if you transform some object into another of the same type, substance, and animate/inanimate status, it will be permanent, whereas one, two or three differences will make the duration shorter (say, a year, a month, or a day.)

Similarly, you can use this for other off-the-cuff rulings, like defining areas of knowledge in terms of the object studied: broad areas of study would be about a specific type or substance, while narrower fields of study would add a distinctive adjective, such as “Elven Metal Tools”. Chances that a sage would be able to identify an object depends on whether it’s in the sage’s area of study, or has one or more differences.

But the real reason why I felt the urge to define these types will have to wait for a future post.

Written with StackEdit.


  1. My guess at the real reason: you are inventing your own fantasy language. Just a hunch.

    1. You are kinda in the ballpark, but not really.

  2. Nahhh, he's gonna introduce himself as the OSR's David Attenborough! :)

    1. I'm wondering what that would entail...

    2. If not British, adopting a suitable accent and narrating the various rule sets while observing them in use...