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Domains of Shadow: Requesting Criticism for an Original System

Nathan C.

Villager
I use office libre to write chapters and then cut and paste it into affinity publisher for double column. One thing that gets over looked is that fonts are not free, such as arial, something to look out for.
I am not going to be commercializing this TTRPG, so that really shouldn't be a major concern. All of the fonts I used (Impact, Spectral, and Georgia) extend rights to universal use on non-commercial projects. As much as I would love to collect some money I can spend to pay copy-editors, artists, graphic designers, advertisers, and the like, I just don't think I could have the time to manage a business.
No worries. I'm thinking the reason I'm seeing it as a wall of text even with indentation is possibly because the traditional size of an rpg book is 8.5 x 11.5 inches and the impression I had was that is the size.

Novels on the other hand are smaller and I don't have the same problem. And books such as Shadowrun 5E have a 2 column layout so again I don't have that problem.

Other rpgs published as smaller books (6 x 9, 5.5 x 8.5) also don't give me this impression even with a single column layout.
The page size for the Guidebook is still standard paper at 8.5 x 11.5, it's more that the font size (DoS uses 12, D&D uses 9), font type (DoS Spectral Medium, D&D uses Bookmania Regular, the latter of which is smaller), margins (DoS has 1", D&D has .625"), Indent Extent (DoS has 10 spaces, D&D uses 5), and a few other small details. Obviously, the font size is the big game-changer here.

Here is what the Introduction would look like if represented in D&D style: .

Here is the D&D 5e preface for comparison:
Though now that I look at the document, I do recognize that the paragraphs for DoS may be longer than they need to be. I wonder if the reason why you are having trouble reading it is actually due to the paragraph length and not the line spacing. Let me try an experiment: is this easier to read?
 

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Nathan C.

Villager
I do find all three easier to read.
Scopa! Took me long enough, but it looks like we finally narrowed down on the issue. I will split up the paragraphs more for the fourth draft of the document. Going to take me a while to complete that reformatting, but nothing about this project can exactly be done quickly.
 



This sounds like a petty critique, but I do not understand the names of your blights - and they seem like they are intended to be a big thing in your system if you list all four on the character sheet. The key point is none of them appear to me to have either associations or mouthfeel.

If we take what feels as if they might have been inspiration we have the four Chaos gods from Warhammer. And just looking at the names tells me a lot about the associations of the four gods. The mouthfeel of Khorne is starting with the hard C - like Clang and the name itself is short and single-syllabled for a direct god. Nurgle meanwhile sounds like burble and is sort of glutinous for a Lord of Decay. The tz in "Tzeentch" on the other hand is a lightning zap followed by another break with the tch at the end; we've a tricksy god where things stop and change. And Slaanesh is softer, and all wide mouth sounds. And all of them are short names - Khorne is just a single syllable, while Nurgle and Slaanesh are two each. Tzeentch is stoppier and startier - but stands out because of it.

Meanwhile I'm nowhere near as sure how to pronounce the names of your blights. None of them are anywhere near as short as Khorne; the simplest would appear to be Culghairm "named so because of its association with disease, disgust, moral decay, pollution, and resignation." This would appear in domain to be pretty close to 'Nurgle' - but Nurgle is almost sloppy sounding - "ur-ul". The sort of sound you make if you neither fully open nor fully close your mouth. Meanwhile the opening of Culghairm starts with a nice crisp 'C' - and then it continues with tongue movements almost like the decadent 'Slaneesh' with the requirement for a dextrous tongue, at the top of your mouth and the sound forward on the l and at the bottom on the a.

And with "Ice", "Forest", "Swamp", and "Burning Wastes" I'm not seeing the thematic breakdown and oppositions for all it feels very Warhammery.
 

Nathan C.

Villager
This sounds like a petty critique, but I do not understand the names of your blights - and they seem like they are intended to be a big thing in your system if you list all four on the character sheet. The key point is none of them appear to me to have either associations or mouthfeel.

If we take what feels as if they might have been inspiration we have the four Chaos gods from Warhammer. And just looking at the names tells me a lot about the associations of the four gods. The mouthfeel of Khorne is starting with the hard C - like Clang and the name itself is short and single-syllabled for a direct god. Nurgle meanwhile sounds like burble and is sort of glutinous for a Lord of Decay. The tz in "Tzeentch" on the other hand is a lightning zap followed by another break with the tch at the end; we've a tricksy god where things stop and change. And Slaanesh is softer, and all wide mouth sounds. And all of them are short names - Khorne is just a single syllable, while Nurgle and Slaanesh are two each. Tzeentch is stoppier and startier - but stands out because of it.

Meanwhile I'm nowhere near as sure how to pronounce the names of your blights. None of them are anywhere near as short as Khorne; the simplest would appear to be Culghairm "named so because of its association with disease, disgust, moral decay, pollution, and resignation." This would appear in domain to be pretty close to 'Nurgle' - but Nurgle is almost sloppy sounding - "ur-ul". The sort of sound you make if you neither fully open nor fully close your mouth. Meanwhile the opening of Culghairm starts with a nice crisp 'C' - and then it continues with tongue movements almost like the decadent 'Slaneesh' with the requirement for a dextrous tongue, at the top of your mouth and the sound forward on the l and at the bottom on the a.

And with "Ice", "Forest", "Swamp", and "Burning Wastes" I'm not seeing the thematic breakdown and oppositions for all it feels very Warhammery.
I don't think it's a petty critique. It's not what I expected people to bring up, but that doesn't make it any less useful.

The four Otherworldly Domains are themed around the range of human emotions. Their physical environments where themed after their emotional component, not the other way around. Tiranmairg corresponds to sorrow, Scaymlah to fear, Culghairm to disgust, and Adhlacad to Rage (happiness is reflected by Andulra). The "Woeful", "Gloaming", "Plagued", and "Blazing" elements of the names were just as important as the "Frosts", "Woods", "Mucks", and "Wastes" parts. I was worried that the thematic association would be too obvious (especially that I state the emotion they are themed after in the first sentence of each domain), but I must have overestimated how effectively an outside observer could have caught on to that.

I neglected to provide a pronunciation guide because all of the words pronounced exactly as they are spelled, with the exception of the "air" grouping that I thought people could catch on to quickly. People seldom ever explain the pronunciation for a word with phonetic spelling. I shouldn't have assumed it would make sense to others. I will mention that in the next draft of the Guidebook. Either way, that should let you in on how to say it.

With that pronunciation cleared up I hope that makes it a little clearer why the names are like they are. If you wouldn't mind, could you pronounce them like that and see how they sound. I know what I think the mental effects of their sounds are but I want to know what others would notice.

Also, just for some extra context, all of the names are based on Irish Gaelic words for concepts related to that domain. For example, "Scaymlah" comes from the Irish word for terror sometimes anglicized as "Sceimhle" (pronunciation isn't the same, but it's somewhat close). The Otherworld in DoS was already based off of Irish concepts of Tir Na Nog and similar Spirit Worlds, and the language itself has a naturally mysterious and magical ring to it, so I thought it would be best for the names to sound like they came from Gaelic.
 

The core problem is that the four names have no associations to me - and I suspect they don't to other people who don't speak a language from the Gaelic family of languages. What this means is that in practice for the first few sessions I'd have nothing to hang any of these words on so would have to either use a local name, the environment (and with the possible exception of the blazing wastes (as distinct from barren/desolate wastes) one word covers it) or actively look it up in a cheat sheet every time the word came up.
 

Nathan C.

Villager
The core problem is that the four names have no associations to me - and I suspect they don't to other people who don't speak a language from the Gaelic family of languages. What this means is that in practice for the first few sessions I'd have nothing to hang any of these words on so would have to either use a local name, the environment (and with the possible exception of the blazing wastes (as distinct from barren/desolate wastes) one word covers it) or actively look it up in a cheat sheet every time the word came up.

How would the names for the Otherworldly Domains have associations that people would understand though? The Domains don't match any settings in the real world or in mythology that they could be associated with. Could you provide some examples or ideas of names that you would think work? You mentioned names like WH40k's "Khorde", "Nurgle", and "Slaanesh", but those don't exactly have a universal association with them that I can identify either. The only names I could think of that would hold universal associations to English speakers would be ones actively constructed of English words, and naming them something like "Sorrow Land" feels childish and sounds like the exact opposite of "magical". Heaven and Hell are the only planes of existence I know that most English speakers could make an association with, but those obviously don't match very well with the Domains. Most names for fantasy places and things are entirely made-up or based on butchered pronunciations of obscure pieces of mythology; the only association they tend to bring up is emotional ones through how the words are pronounced, which the current names are already doing. I am not entirely sure what I could change the names to that would draw an association with people.

Also, isn't it expected that one would use the regional name or epithet for a fantasy place instead of actually saying it's true name? The Characters would almost certainly be doing that already. Many occult names like that in Gothic and Weird Fiction are seldom ever said directly. For example, the term "Vampyre" isn't used in Dracula more than a few times in favor of just using the individual vampire's name or a descriptive epithet. In many of the Call of Cthulhu (a system that greatly inspired this one) games I have played in or viewed the true name of an otherworldly location is rarely ever used if at all and instead the name for a somewhat similar mythological place is used. The names for pretty much every creature in the World of Darkness family changes depending on the individual system being used. Can you explain further why you think using a regional name over a true name is problematic? I always thought that was the expectation rather than the exception in Horror TTRPGs.
 

Nathan C.

Villager
The Fourth Draft of the Domains of Shadow Guidebook is ready! This one includes some sweeping changes in formatting, phrasing, combat, and the role of the game-master. .

The Character Sheet linked above is now obsolete with the current rules, so here are the new character sheets: (2) DoS Chara. Sheet
 

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