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Author Topic: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding  (Read 27788 times)

Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #30 on: March 18, 2015, 06:22:12 PM »
At which juncture, dear friends, we may want to start a "national identities" thread and go back to the OP, which was to share our personal experiences and influential books in unique areas that may help with world building.  Sorry, yes, I'm being bossy.  :-[

Now you're all wishing the karma button was back.  ;)
Sooo tempted to start calling you "boss" now.  :-X

I do agree though, it's a really interesting topic and well worth its own thread. I've noticed that happen many times recently, loads of interesting discussions that could deserve their own threads. I have an aversion to creating threads though, always assume that other people might be less interested in it than me  :-\
Please don't call me boss. I was really reluctant to comment. Just felt we were having a very interesting discussion that was way off topic. The OP is worthwhile too, sooooo. (But I do feel sort of assholish) :-[
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Offline Yora

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #31 on: March 18, 2015, 06:31:20 PM »
I was reading a blog post written by someone who travels for a living, staying in places for three months to a year and immersing himself in their culture - he mentioned that one of the cultural quirks of Germany is that everyone is very honest to each other, which could be a part of why as a country you've faced up to the past while others like to pretend it didn't happen. It's one of the things that makes Germany appeal to us should we ever want to move country again (which is quite likely) :P
I think that's a much older thing and (mostly) independent from any post-war developments. A lot of cultures throughout the world practice "politeness judo", where there are lots of customs and social norms that govern how you present oppinions in a socially acceptable way. Germany, and I think that extends to Scandinavia as well, does not really have that. If you can say something in four words, it's usually socially acceptible to say it in four words, and when you want to be extra polite you say it with six. Germans generally see no reason to say it in 16 or 24 words. Not for any real reason, but simply because that's what we're used to. In other cultures all the native speakers know exactly what the other person means as well, because everyone knows the conventions of the language with which you insult someone with only nice words.
Problems happen when you have two people talking to each other who are not used to the same conventions, and it's often something that is not a big part of language classes. Germans easily get annoyed by people from other countries who always change their oppinions and don't do the things they said they would do. Because we Germans don't get the idea that someone is refusing your request without using the word "no". The other way round, Germans often seem pretty rude, since we always skip the pleasantries and don't show any concern for the other persons feelings or dignity.
These things about language tend to be very subtle and even if you know about them it doesn't mean you know how to do them right. It's not uncommon for people from cultures that use a lot of politeness in their native language to turn down the politeness from 80% all the way down to 0%, even though actually Germans are comfortable with 20%. And 0% is still regarded as unacceptibly rude.  :D

Offline Wizard Police

Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #32 on: March 18, 2015, 08:56:44 PM »
RE: Knights and Samurai, I've read the same myself. Most of the time they were seen as corrupt who pilfered money from the poor. Ninjas were actually created in order to combat the Samurais. Doesn't seem too far off from how the modern world, or at least Americans, view police officers.

I think there may be a psychological reason for why time romanticized these high authorities as noble and honorable, and it could be tied to why romance readers find it hot to be seduced by a vampire and/or werewolf when those types of creatures should be feared. There's something alluring about a person with power not succumbing to their vices, even when they're fully capable of getting away with it. The act of self restraint itself is seen as more powerful than the authority they wield. And story is going to prop up the few that battled and tamed their temptation rather than the ones who didn't, which seems to be the overwhelmingly majority of knights and samurais.

The problem though being is that time has fazed out all the corrupted individuals with the few good virtuous ones only being remembered, misinterpreting the samurai/knight class as a whole as being virtuous for those that haven't lived through those experiences.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #33 on: March 18, 2015, 09:57:56 PM »
Please don't call me boss. I was really reluctant to comment. Just felt we were having a very interesting discussion that was way off topic. The OP is worthwhile too, sooooo. (But I do feel sort of assholish) :-[
Don't feel assholish, it's a perfectly reasonable suggestion :)

I think that's a much older thing and (mostly) independent from any post-war developments. A lot of cultures throughout the world practice "politeness judo", where there are lots of customs and social norms that govern how you present oppinions in a socially acceptable way. Germany, and I think that extends to Scandinavia as well, does not really have that. If you can say something in four words, it's usually socially acceptible to say it in four words, and when you want to be extra polite you say it with six. Germans generally see no reason to say it in 16 or 24 words. Not for any real reason, but simply because that's what we're used to. In other cultures all the native speakers know exactly what the other person means as well, because everyone knows the conventions of the language with which you insult someone with only nice words.
Problems happen when you have two people talking to each other who are not used to the same conventions, and it's often something that is not a big part of language classes. Germans easily get annoyed by people from other countries who always change their oppinions and don't do the things they said they would do. Because we Germans don't get the idea that someone is refusing your request without using the word "no". The other way round, Germans often seem pretty rude, since we always skip the pleasantries and don't show any concern for the other persons feelings or dignity.
These things about language tend to be very subtle and even if you know about them it doesn't mean you know how to do them right. It's not uncommon for people from cultures that use a lot of politeness in their native language to turn down the politeness from 80% all the way down to 0%, even though actually Germans are comfortable with 20%. And 0% is still regarded as unacceptibly rude.  :D
Lol yeah exactly, I definitely prefer the honest approach! :)

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Offline Nora

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #34 on: March 19, 2015, 01:55:00 AM »
Thanks you so much people! To say I was afraid of making a flop there, only to wake up to 3 pages of passionate posts! Damn! Yall do me proud!  :D

However I don't know if it's a win or a fail, but it took you guys 15 posts to win a Godwin point by mentioning Nazi germany!

I'm shortening my post by answering the (more and more off topic) themes in a spoiler.

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And our colonial rule was considerably non-violent towards the indigenous peoples of our colonies, at least until the 1960's

@Saraband  Koof kof *conquest of the Americas* kof...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_of_indigenous_peoples_in_Brazil

Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
Well, reducing Egypt to Rome's granary was something often done in the 60's / 70's / 80's, but History has changed, has all social sciences do, and so have its many perspectives.

Yes, I was a bit too blunt in my statement. What I only meant was that Africa, and especially North Africa, wasn't truly a land of freedom and independence and peace until the white man arrived.

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The results of colonialism and the slave trade are perfect examples of that, but are often glossed over by people in the west.

Indeed. The specific topic of the Muslim slave trading is largely forgotten and hushed. Arabs played a huge part by getting black africans themselves to sell them to white merchants who would only trade for them in the city's port. Some black africans also traded captured members of other tribes. The reason why north african countries don't have a big black former-slave population like the US does is that they used to castrate their slaves. References needed though.
It was always a joke between my french ex and I. While I have a quarter of muslim Algerian blood and ancestors who participated in the North african slave trade some centuries ago, my boyfriend had a black grand father who was a reunion island Creole. Meaning a descendant of french slaves. We both look more caucasian than anything else, so I enjoyed mentioning how our pairing was a hidden reconciliation between descendant of slaves and descendant of slave traders. (plot twist, my ancestors sold his ancestors away!)


@Raptori

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It's startling to see prejudices like that last so long, and that people are so unable to see past the problems of the past and realise that the people alive right now didn't even commit them.

Mmmh... While I fully agree that resentment is lasting a bit too long, I don't share your surprise. What people resent is not the war (that's a pretty mundane human behaviour after all, even as gruesome as it got).
It's the Jewish extermination. And I don't even think it's the genocide itself either, but mostly the way it was organised and executed.
What still shock people about the whole thing is how such a cold killing machine could be instituted and then ran. You'd think there would be enough people to refuse to take part in it... but mentalities and times where probably on their side, along with indoctrination and prejudices.
Today most people react pretty indifferently to Genocides like the one we had in Rwanda and the one that started in Sarajevo. I think in a way it's because there is a chilling difference between a mob of angry people with machetes and the construction of buildings specifically designed to mass execute people, sort their belongings, and such.

On that topic, read Night by Elie Wiesel

As a french person, I can confirm that most of the younger generation feels no anger towards the current german population. I think the internet and the european union are both to be thanked (though the EU will probably also be our downfall).
it's pretty logical. Europe still has a very heavy tradition of remembrance. As a french kid I was brought to movies on the topics at school, we studied the war exceedingly, and not many months can ever go by without commemorations, military or civilian. 
I completely agree when you guys mention the way countries tend to apologize to everything. However it isn't a German privilege. France, especial socialist France is on a perpetual guilt trip, with presidents spending a lot of time apologising to every former colony or harmed country or entity.
I think it soon becomes absurd and I regret this attitude in my country. Yes we colonised a lot of people. Blame Napoleon. Blame the times. Imperial France was a different time. It's good to say you're sorry, or good to make amends in a way, but it's ridiculous to bow our head every time someone raises their voice with some incriminating memory. We did what we did, it was another generation. As it is, when I see my country having fun rescuing Mali and stealing their resources in the same movement, it strongly smells of double standards.

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I despise the thin line making patriotism and nationalism good or bad. Frodo adores Shire, Boromir loves Gondor, elves are loving their forests... are they good patriots?

I appreciate patriotism. To an extent. I agree that Frodo or Boromir are patriotic characters. Frodo gets a lot of his motivation from the sights of a devastated Shire if he were to fail, after all.

I think patriotism is great in the way it helps preserve national particularities and identities. Would we love Japan if it had the same culture as ours? Would we enjoy visiting India or Italy or the USA or Aussie, if all those countries looked exactly as ours? I think not. In that aspect I'm rather opposed to the European Union and the way things are globalized. How depressing is it when you cross half of Europe and arrive in a town where you hear more touristy english than local tongue, and recognise every single shop?
The current wave of nationalism in Europe is mostly due to people reacting against that generalisation and the way Europe over-rides national laws, especially the ones that happen to be locally popular somehow.

When it comes to EU fuelled hate, Greece is a perfect example. I grew up in a France that believed vaguely that Greece was a lovely summer destination, filled with lovely ruins, goats, cheese makers, gay men and broken statues. Ever since the crises hit, I've been hearing a lot of hate. Greeks are lazy, they deserve their problems, they're corrupted, they're going to drag us all down, they don't deserve our help, they never worked, they lived way above their means.... All of that because our already endebted state had to empty millions of Euros down the Greek hole. And then came Italy, Spain... Ireland. Countries we never had any grief against suddenly became an issue to us. Germany, I believe, is also pretty strained, as their very strong economy is part of the problem, and also what keeps the EU together to this day.

Anyhow, I'm glad I left Europe. What I genuinely loath about my country's "patriotic/nationalist" side and parties, is just how incredibly stupid they are when it comes to nuclear power and resources management like over fishing and soil protection. It makes me murderous when someone who loves his patrimonial, his land, his region, his soil, his "terroir", says that nuclear power in France is great and welcome. How morbidly illogical is it?
And Marine Le Pen, wanting to abolishing fishing quotas... Gee, European quotas are scientifically proven as decimating our fish population. To the extent that Tuna is about to go extinct. Scientists are desperate to lower those quotas who don't allow population renewal, but our nationalist party wants to fully abolish those quotas (serious facepalm)...

People interest in the danger faced by fish populations and how close most our to extinction ought to watch the documentary "The end of the line". It starts slow but you end up pretty stunned.

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Sadly, the honourable samurai is largely fictional as well, just like the medieval knights!

Yeah a lot of good anime and manga cover that.

Right. Now unto some relevant comment :

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I think the most important item is the misconception about horse speed. Horses can run very fast, but not very long. If you need to get somewhere nearby as fast as possible, a horse makes all the difference. If you're traveling for more than a few hours, it's not much faster than going on foot. (Great thing about horses is that they can carry more stuff than you without slowing to a crawl.)

Actually, I'm honestly not sure about that. I've been working with thoroughbred these past three months, and I totally agree : they can run extremely fast for up to 2km or so but you won't gallop 5km with one.
However breeds like Arabians are built for endurance.
I have a hard time believing that horse riding developed so thoroughly while foot travel would be faster on longer distances.
I think this event would also disqualify your claim :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_versus_Horse_Marathon

When you take into consideration the fact that while most horses can participate, most humans who travel around on horseback in fantasy would not be fit or willing to casually run 35km to get to the next town while horses will do it carrying both you and your belongings. All the winners of that race ran around carrying nothing but their clothes too, while the horses were all ridden.

Horses are actually one type of character who very often spark in fantasy, and not often enough work and developed. They Are pretty amazing creatures though, with very intricate personalities and levels of smartness.
I'll probably write down some of my conclusions and discoveries in the topic, after three months spent taking care of horses, I think I could offer some hindsight to people who never rode or cared for horses, even if it's a topic that is pretty easy to research.

 
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #35 on: March 19, 2015, 02:31:16 AM »
@Nora... "Hindsight", you may mean "insight"? Hindsight usually implies looking back at something that has happened, but now with regrets or wisdom of how it could have been done differently, or was the best it could have been, etc. I actually think "hindsight" is kind of funny, though, applied to horses  ;D
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #36 on: March 19, 2015, 08:15:24 AM »
Quote
It's startling to see prejudices like that last so long, and that people are so unable to see past the problems of the past and realise that the people alive right now didn't even commit them.
Mmmh... While I fully agree that resentment is lasting a bit too long, I don't share your surprise. What people resent is not the war (that's a pretty mundane human behaviour after all, even as gruesome as it got).
It's the Jewish extermination. And I don't even think it's the genocide itself either, but mostly the way it was organised and executed.
Yeah I meant the prejudice itself rather than the holocaust - it's not something people should forget, but it's also not something that people should blame on those who happen to be from that country.  :-\

What still shock people about the whole thing is how such a cold killing machine could be instituted and then ran. You'd think there would be enough people to refuse to take part in it... but mentalities and times where probably on their side, along with indoctrination and prejudices.
Today most people react pretty indifferently to Genocides like the one we had in Rwanda and the one that started in Sarajevo. I think in a way it's because there is a chilling difference between a mob of angry people with machetes and the construction of buildings specifically designed to mass execute people, sort their belongings, and such.

On that topic, read Night by Elie Wiesel
And most people are completely okay with mass-murdering non-humans, using the same techniques that were used by the Nazis. I do find it odd that people are so upset by some kinds of killing and just shrug off others as if they don't matter at all.

As a french person, I can confirm that most of the younger generation feels no anger towards the current german population. I think the internet and the european union are both to be thanked (though the EU will probably also be our downfall).
it's pretty logical. Europe still has a very heavy tradition of remembrance. As a french kid I was brought to movies on the topics at school, we studied the war exceedingly, and not many months can ever go by without commemorations, military or civilian. 
I completely agree when you guys mention the way countries tend to apologize to everything. However it isn't a German privilege. France, especial socialist France is on a perpetual guilt trip, with presidents spending a lot of time apologising to every former colony or harmed country or entity.
I think it soon becomes absurd and I regret this attitude in my country. Yes we colonised a lot of people. Blame Napoleon. Blame the times. Imperial France was a different time. It's good to say you're sorry, or good to make amends in a way, but it's ridiculous to bow our head every time someone raises their voice with some incriminating memory. We did what we did, it was another generation. As it is, when I see my country having fun rescuing Mali and stealing their resources in the same movement, it strongly smells of double standards.
Yep, not to mention it's crazy to send billions in aid to countries that are largely corrupt when your own economy is failing.  :P
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Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #37 on: March 19, 2015, 09:07:14 AM »
It amazes me how much text you guys and gals can produce in a day.  ;D

I felt a little sorry for @Nora as I watched how quickly things went off topic (well, not strictly off topic, but still slightly off from the intent of the original post, i guess). But that kind of "derailment" happens on forums, and sometimes (like in this case) it's not entirely a bad thing, since the ensuing conversation is good. Still, It's totally appropriate to comment on it when it happens. So, i don't think there's any need to feel assholish, @Jmacyk:)

And now to the topic (in a way). I have looked through the Internet (the whole Internet, really) for resources relating to traveling speeds in medieval and roman times, and I try to see if I can link some of it here at some point. But for now I just want to say, that even though horses can carry people faster than those people could walk, the distance traveled per day and the sustainability of the speed (for days or weeks) depends quite a lot on the skill of the rider. I would think that an inexperienced rider would feel the strain of controlling the animal and sitting in a saddle pretty soon.

I don't have any first hand experience with horses, though. Maybe someone who rides horses can tell how straining riding horses for longer distances is.
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #38 on: March 19, 2015, 09:26:53 AM »
As a citizen of the place that still has most of the remains of the western front, I can't stress enough the necessity of our remembrance culture in Europe. Especially with the last generation that knew the war dying out, there will no longer be any first-hand reports of that WW2.

Personal experience.
A lot of older people here are still very anti-germanic, not just because they blew up pretty much most of the country (the allied forces are equally guilty of that), but because both wars were wars of collaboration and traitors. That hatred runs deeper than simple hatred for a country and up to this day some people are marked as "blacks" (named after the german uniforms or the tar after the war was over, depends on source) for being family of a traitor.

Historical.
The European Union originated from the war in the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) to help revitalise the economy of a place that pretty much had nothing left (reason it was European Community of Coal and Steel initially). Perhaps it will break up one day, but a lot of realizations (the euro or ecu, the Schengen accord,...) will stay in place according to my vision.

As a sidenote: concentration camps were pretty common in that time and an invention of the English (first reports during the Oranje-Boer wars in Southern Africa). The Nazi's took an existing concept and placed it in a streamlined apparatus. (I am by no means minimizing the holocaust)

Again personal sidenote.
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Offline Nora

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #39 on: March 19, 2015, 09:56:32 AM »
Yes, remembrance is vital. So is humor on the topic, and forgiveness.

I'll share two memories, on-topic, both topics, war anecdote

As a kid they got us to see movies with a lot of former-soldier or former incarcerated jew experiences. Some stories were pretty graphic for kids as young as we were, and one is imprinted on my memory :
A man, I don't remember if he was jew or a political/gay prisoner, but he certainly never fought before, was a member of a smaller camp, one that produced or repaired goods or some such. Anyway, they had a little room in which several of the prisoners were given tools in order to repair the shoes/coats and other items belonging to officers. The man who told the story participated in a rebellion that completely overthrew the camp (ran away and got caught again!) but he shared with us the most vivid memory he had of the revolt.
It was when they actually attacked, he was inside that working room, and when a german officer opened the door to get in, our man killed him with a big strike from an axe straight in the middle of the face. And he said he could still picture how a massive spark appeared as the axe met the man's teeth.

*boooom* in my little 12 yo brain!

Another from another documentary : former soldier of the french resistance tells how, on one of his first missions, barely 18 yo as he was, he suddenly bumped into a kid the same sort of age. Except he was in a german uniform. They were both armed, alone in a forrest path, both instructed to kill the enemy, and probably neither had ever killed before (the man assumed).
They both stared silently at each other… then started circling each other… and went their separate ways.
I'm definitely not telling this in the same poignant way as the man did. But yeah…
WWII docos give extensive clues and anecdotes about real war situations. They're a great resource. Both to know personally and for support.

@Henry Dale  : yep, agreed, older generations still have mixed feelings in France too. But we're altogether more concerned by our muslim populations than any remnants of serious hostility towards Germany. I suppose we're too strong a duo by now.
However I don't believe the euro will survive. I reckon it'll crash, and take the EU down.

@Raptori : please, let's not start on animal mistreatments…. It turns me nuts very fast…. So does debate on nuclear power.
Seriously, I recently met an english guy who worked for a milk farm, and when it was mentioned that cows are massively mistreated in the business, and traumatized even more each time a baby is taken away from them (you can hear them cry for days)  the dude said "Ah doesn't matter, they completely forget it and pretty fast". Came that close to punch the bloke.
A video that doesn't need you to understand french to break your heart - seriously don't watch if you don't want to take the train to feeladelphia :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUnwj6T3I0A&feature=youtube_gdata

The voice says the baby was born during the night.

@Jmacyk : shall I admit to my mistake, or claim the pun?
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #40 on: March 19, 2015, 10:15:47 AM »
Claim the pun. Own the pun. Be one with the pun.
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
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Offline JMack

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #41 on: March 19, 2015, 10:18:19 AM »
@HenryDale. Belfry and Carillon. I'm on it.  ;)
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #42 on: March 19, 2015, 10:22:19 AM »
@HenryDale. Belfry and Carillon. I'm on it.  ;)
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Offline xiagan

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Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #43 on: March 19, 2015, 10:33:35 PM »
As a fellow German I agree with about everything Yora said about our country and history. :)

If you guys really want I can split this (or any other thread) in two, separating the nationalism stuff from the original topic.
It's a bit of work, but if you want, I can do it.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Real life experiences and non-fiction sources for better worldbuilding
« Reply #44 on: March 19, 2015, 11:10:17 PM »

Again personal sidenote.
I want a story that has a belfry in it...and a carillon. Anyone? :)
Does the belfry have to have bats in it?
I will expand your TBR pile.

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