BSW Unified Fantasy Setting
This started as an idea spawned from idle discussion in CBox; many of us are not only fantasy fans, but have created our own fantasy races, cultures, or just characters, and there has been at least one RP run with them. I figured we might as well compile what we've got. Feel free to add your own thoughts and ideas; I think we should start by just throwing stuff out, and once we've gotten a good amount of material, we can start merging it.
And, of course, what better way to start this off than with Shinki? Given that they're the defining part of the forum, I know they're probably going to be more ideas about them than just about any other part of the setting, so let me put this out here: feel free to suggest modifications or variations to someone else's efforts. Try and stay constructive.
A common theme in fantasy dating back to the Greek era, and one of the places where fantasy and science fiction often blur, is in the construct. A construct is a very broad term, and technically refers to any creature or object of artificial or synthetic origins with a motive force and the ability to take actions without continuous direct input. Constructs can be broadly split into three general groups in increasing order of complexity: animated objects, golems, and tawkin. The boundaries between the three are rather blurry, but almost all constructs fall squarely into one of the three.
Animated Objects: The simplest form of construct, an animated object is simply any object that is capable of motion or action by itself by generating some force on its own parts. They sometimes are capable of hovering or otherwise moving around the immediate area. Unlike golems and tawkin, it is not uncommon for animated objects to be animated by a source exterior to the object itself; for example, the doors in a mansion might all be animated to automatically lock by a single source. Any exterior animator will by necessity have limited range, which can usually be extended via physical conduction channels.
Golems: Golems are perhaps the most iconic form of construct. A golem has the ability to sense the world around it, to interpret those inputs in a set of predetermined instructions, and to then act in some manner to interact with the world around it. While not technically required, almost all golems are capable of movement. Some are even capable of speech or otherwise making noise unrelated to their motion. All golems, however, are also incapable of true sentience. Simply put, a golem's reactions to any stimuli are predetermined upon construction. More complex golems have a rudimentary memory and may not react the same way to stimuli when repeated; some very advanced golems are capable of significant levels of learning. Where the line is drawn between nonsentient golems and sentient tawkin is still debated at major universities.
Golem construction is as much an art as a science, but there are three general categories of golem bodies:
Mechanical golems are generally the first that come to mind. A mechanical golem body has joints that are capable of the full range of motion of the completed golem. Most or all components in a mechanical golem are stiff and not designed to deform during motion. A mechanical golem's body is the most complex to design out of the three body types, but they also have the least complex animation methods, as making a mechanical golem move is a s simple as applying force to the joints. These golems tend to suffer from poor flexibility, but are often very durable. The majority of military golems among major powers tend to be mechanical.
Amorphous golems are the polar opposite of mechanical golems; a very simple body with complex animation methods. Amorphous golem bodies consist of a material that is either malleable by nature or made magically so, and is directly reshaped by the magic used to animate them; clay is the most well-known and traditional material. Depending on the material, magic is required to either soften the material (such as with stone) or to hold the golem's form together (as with any liquid).
Biological golems are made from, and make use of, preexisting biological structures. Their use is often frowned upon as desecration of the original source of said biological structures, however, and many people would have a hard time distinguishing a biological golem from true necromancy, adding to the stigma. Biological golems draw many of their physical capabilities from their components, and are generally more fragile than other golem types, but can often move faster.
Tawkin: The ultimate goal of many construct crafters, tawkin are the most recent type of construct and the only one to possess true sentience. Simpler tawkin are often made by re-purposing existing mind patterns, while the most advanced tawkin have ones created (or, as many tawkinsmiths would say, "grown") from scratch. Tawkins are by far the rarest of constructs and generally the most expensive to create. While individual tawkin types may be limited in their materials, tawkin as a whole can be mechanical, amorphous, or biological.
Homunculus: A homunculi is a category of tawkin; by most accounts they are the first tawkin created, and are definitely the first to have their creation methods widely known. Homunculus all use mind patterns from humans, gathered in various ways, and physically are quite small, usually no more than a fifth the height of a human. They have historically served a variety of purposes and been made in a variety of ways; most common are biological homunculi.
Busou Shinki: Originally intended as curiosities for the rich, Busou Shinki have seen a variety of uses. Originally patterned after a widely-used design of mechanical soldier golem, Shinki are feminine mechanical homunculi that stand about one-twelfth the size of an adult human. Among homunculi, Shinki are known to be intelligent and generally emotive, and are often held up as examples of sentience among tawkin. The very first pseudo-Shinki were repurposed scale models of the mechanical soldier body used for intelligence testing; while they demonstrated sentience, they were also too expensive to mass-produce for military purposes. A noble took interest in the little mechanical girls, and now several different golem magifactories produce small numbers of Shinki in a variety of models. All Shinki use a similar base body licensed from the original creators, but their appearances can vary. The mind pattern sources for most Shinki are generated from among humans and stored to be copied, giving each Shinki of a given model identical starting personalities, though they have a tendency to diverge quickly within the first few months. Shinki intelligences also feature an innovation designed for modularity among combat intelligences: a trio of small modifier-holders intended to easily give combat troops equipped with different equipment different behaviors without lengthy training. Among the well-off, including young nobles and merchants, Shinki have become popular enough in certain regions to be a common sight among gatherings of the wealthy. Staying close to their roots, most Shinki models have weapons and armor made for them; some for display, but most for combat. Recently, this has lead to a renewed interest by militaries in the Shinki design, and some full-size Shinki have entered limited production to be used either as squad leaders for golem forces or as special operations units.
There's my first bit. I tried to keep Shinki decently close to existing concepts while also giving full-scale Shinki a presence. Feel free to make suggestions on my parts as well as adding your own.