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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Unknown Ponies: Earth Ponies redux


So in a previous playtest, Mike Pondsmith said:
One of the players pointed out that the Earth Ponies get extra Skills rule was similar to the Human bonus in D&D 4th, , then proceeded to show me how to game it.
After griping about how no sane GM would allow this, and it would only be an issue if you had Fluttershy running your game, I finally allowed that maybe, just maybe, giving skill bonuses to earth ponies wasn't the quick and easy solution I thought it was, and that I needed to give it more thought.

The thing is, I kept going back to this quote by Lauren Faust, which is where I got the idea for skill bonuses in the first place (emphasis mine)
On Earth Ponies:
"*fyre-flye Mar 3, 2011
While not magical like the other pony types, Earth Ponies do have a connection to the land that other types do not. In Equestria, growing food and tending animals (Fluttershy's talent with animals is unusual for a pegasus, I always imagined she feels more at home on the ground than in the sky) is just as necessary, as managing weather and magic. Perhaps more important, don't you think? They are ponies, not people, so perhaps appreciating each other as equals is not so difficult for them."
So it's imperative to me that earth ponies exhibit a certain je ne sais quoi for, basically, making and tending and doing earthy-worky-athletic stuff, and that it be represented mechanically.

And then, in a fit of madness, the idea struck:  earth ponies are animists

No, really, hear me out on this.  I think we can all agree that Pegasi are elementalists, yes?  I mean, they physically manipulate wind and clouds and rain and lightning.

Unicorns, therefore, are hermeticists. As in, they believe in magic, but they also believe in science, and that their magic is just as rigorous and formulaic as science is.

(Kelpies, despite being awesome, are non-canonical. Still, if they were, they'd be short path Buddhists with all the internal re-arranging of chakras and the like in order to shapeshift or develop beneficial adaptations.)

So with all this in mind, it's plainly obvious to me that earth ponies are animists. They have a special connection with the corporeal and terrestrial that other ponies lack. They understand the concept of of the genius loci, and they alone, of all the pony types, can perceive (if unconsciously) and interact with those spirits.

Or, to put it another way, earth ponies are friends with the earth, and can make it do things just by asking nicely.

Mechanically, it's quite simple: Earth ponies, and only earth ponies, may spend Friendship Points on inanimate objects* in order to achieve greater success.

Example:
Applejack is harvesting the apple crop from Sweet Apple Acres. She wants to buck the tree and have all of the apples fall all at once into her baskets and nowhere else.

Thematically (within the setting of the game), she understands the tree at an unconscious level and knows the sweet spot to kick and at what pressure. (Her cutie mark helps in this regard; more on how that works in a later post.)

Mechanically, she is spending a Friendship Point to accomplish this, in exactly the same way that other ponies could spend FPs in order to get help from non-player ponies.

So it's not so much that earth ponies have better skills, it's that they have a better understanding of what they are working with. They have better leverage.

To put it in empirical terms:

  • Cutie Mark skill always beats non-CM skill
  • Earth pony with CM skill always beats earth pony without CM skill
  • Earth pony without CM skill but who spends FPs always beats non-earth pony

Does this make sense, or is it clear as mud?


* And by inanimate objects I don't mean just rocks/soil/trees/crops. I mean "Anything that isn't a self-aware life-form."  This includes dresses and cupcakes as well as plants and farmland. 

6 comments:

  1. Kelpies might not be canon, but Changelings are, and the link you cite with short path buddhism seems to suit them to a T.  They feed on love, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Robert S SlaughterAugust 22, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Makes sense to me, and I've not been following closely.

    The only question it raises: should *each* pony type have a special way to spend Friendship Points?

    ReplyDelete
  3. No, because that would make earth ponies no longer special in that regard. 

    Pegasi have the Weather Control skill, which allows them to physically manipulate the atmosphere, and unicorns have two forms of magic with which they can affect their environment. Earth ponies need something special, and even then I worry they may be underpowered. 

    ReplyDelete
  4. "They have better leverage."




    Now I'm thinking Sweet Apple Acres is a bit like the Corleone Olive Oil Company.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hmm. On the one hand, thematically speaking that's a really interesting idea and also really cool to imagine in practice.

    On the other hand, this marginally unbalances Earth Ponies in that they suddenly require more Friendship Points than other races. D= That is, Earth Ponies must be twice as conscious about resource management in order to be useful in day-to-day encounters and also during scenes that require everybody to contribute for a Magic Point. (Here, I'm thinking back to the one-shot campaign I participated in so long ago) Now, I'm not a game designer so I don't know if this is a genuine problem or not, but I thought I'd point it out if no one else would. D=

    ReplyDelete

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