Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

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Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-30 12:35am

Can i brainstorm the implications of an intelligent forest animal setting ala redwall?

MICE
Mice are small, vegetarian and at risk of being eaten by practically everyone else. It makes sense for them to band up as farmers, and to stay at range as far as possible, slings, bows and later crossbows. Farming puts them at odds with the sparrows and the moles but suggests an easy alliance with the hedgehogs and wasps.

Cooperation, not competition is possible of course, look at wolves and humans. Perhaps the sparrows as a militia and the moles tend the midden and irrigation ditches to ensure the best crop of worms. I imagine the mice's relatiley nimble grasping paws would be useful for other races neededing craft work. Mice as the weavers, tailors, clockmakers?
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-30 12:51am

HEDGEHOGS

Burly, slow and well defended - not a lot of things eat hedgehogs. Primarily eat slugs and snails, putting them into competition with thrushs I guess. They need a lot of food, so either roam a wide area as hunters (at stone age level), or possibly farm lush vegetation for the purpose of raising slugs - a bit like cattle ranchers I suppose. Hedgehogs are not climbers, and would probably ally quite well with the Squirrels - leave them to their treetop realm, and use the leaf fall to feed clay jars full of earwigs, worms or similar.
Slugs mostly eat fresh leaves, and as long as the hedgehog is careful with the plants I imagine the Farming Mice and it would get along famously. Bit like the human noble going pheasant shooting before the harvest. Hedghogs live longer than mice too, so i imagine they'd become important in the village in skills that take time to learn - weather watching, medicine
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Starglider » 2016-08-30 01:00am

Use of the word 'racial' in this context is an unfortunate D&Dism. Species are a fundamentally different thing from races.

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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2016-08-30 01:08am

And here I was thinking of how a lot of the creatures in Redwall are thinly veiled ethnic stereotypes...

Oh well. This is interesting too.

Most everything so far seems to make sense, though I'll add birds as obvious messengers/scouts. But what about incorporating larger animals? Where might, oh, a deer fit in this society?

Or if long-lived gives you an advantage in knowledge/training/experience, then what about turtles/tortoises as the "wise old sage" types?

Damn, someone needs to do a semi-realistic deconstruction of Redwall.

Oh wait. That's called Watership Down, except it came first. :wink:
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-30 01:11am

There's also Deptford Mice and the (brilliant for moles) Duncton Wood.

Let's make a rule. No species larger than a fox exists*, nothing smaller than a shrew is conversationally intelligent. Something to do with how magic works.

*this has interesting implications for the ecology, but not as much as dozens of intelligent species all trying to maximise food production...
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-08-30 09:44am

Huh. Would something the size of a mouse be able to cut down an average tree by itself, for example? Would it even *need* to?

Also: We hardly see any meat eating in Redwall (probably because aside from badgers and foxes, there's no species bigger than even a chicken... well maybe an exceptionally large rat but still). What are the implications of that for the ecology? Less meat eating=less need for space for domestic animals?

Do they drink milk? I can't recall... (the question being where the hell they get it from)
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2016-08-30 09:57am

Elheru Aran wrote:Huh. Would something the size of a mouse be able to cut down an average tree by itself, for example? Would it even *need* to?

Also: We hardly see any meat eating in Redwall (probably because aside from badgers and foxes, there's no species bigger than even a chicken... well maybe an exceptionally large rat but still). What are the implications of that for the ecology? Less meat eating=less need for space for domestic animals?

Do they drink milk? I can't recall... (the question being where the hell they get it from)
They eat fish, I believe.

Presumably (hopefully) fish aren't sapient in Redwall.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-08-30 10:31am

Fish are possible, I suppose.

Judging from admittedly ~10-15 year old recollections of the books:

Aren't the animals somewhat out of proportion to real-world sizes? For example, badgers aren't 2x-3x the size of mice, just considerably taller and stronger. Similarly foxes aren't much bigger either. Either they're smaller or the mice (and other, usually similarly small, species) are bigger, possibly both.

IIRC, species Maddoc hasn't covered yet: rabbits/hares, otters, cats, shrews, rats, moles. Were there ever deer? Cows? I assume the cut-off was under wolf-size?
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2016-08-30 10:37am

First book had a horse, I believe, though its a one-off anomaly.

For this thread, madd0ct0r said nothing bigger than a fox.

As to badger sizes in Redwall, considering just how powerful the badgers tend to be in combat, I wouldn't rule out three times as big as mice, by any means.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Kingmaker » 2016-08-30 10:50am

They're all out of proportion. To give you an idea, a typical house mouse is about 40g. A typical badger is about 10kg. The difference in size between Cluny's vermin and the mice defending Redwall seem to be the difference between a big burly dude and a small one, not a literal order of magnitude. You have similar issues, as noted, with hares and otters and foxes. To a mouse, a fox or a wildcat is a kaijuesque monstrosity.

(I have a vague recollection that Redwall itself even obliquely mentions humans and horses at one point)
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-08-30 10:52am

Well, Constance the Badger didn't seem to be *hugely* bigger than the residents of Redwall Abbey... possibly about 2x. She was big enough though that she was considered a threat by... who was it in the first book, Cluny? and specifically targeted. The Badger lords of Salamandastron though were probably bigger, yeah.

The first book's horse was drawing a cart in which Cluny's entire army was travelling. So yeah, that's something of an one-off right there. Cats are implied in the 'Martin the Warrior' book IIRC (Tsarmina, Gingevre mainly) to be big enough to be a serious threat to a mouse and perhaps even badgers.

Apparently Brian Jacques said straight up that the sizes of the animals were up to the reader for the most part (which sounds like a bit of an ass-pull to cover for the fact that he couldn't keep things straight in the first few books, but whatever), so you're not going to find any canon apart from book text and that's not going to be internally consistent.

There's a wolverine in one book, Rakkety Tam (which I haven't read, mind you, going off what I'm seeing on a Google search).
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Elheru Aran » 2016-08-30 11:09am

A few other questions, nothing to do with the species (or does it...)...

They are described as having iron implements and weapons. Yet you hardly ever see a forge in action apart from Salamandastron, and nobody's cutting down trees for firewood. Who's digging up the iron ore? Who's refining it? Who's making it into weapons and tools in their scale? Hell, who made the scaffolding and cranes that would have been necessary for building something the size of Redwall Abbey?

Where are they getting their cloth? Worse, where are they getting their leather?
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Ralin » 2016-08-30 07:52pm

Wolves are mentioned as existing once too, or at least a wolf. It's off-screen, but the villain of one of the books is a fox that skinned a dead wolf and wore its pelt to show off how powerful and cunning he was.

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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2016-08-30 08:17pm

Elheru Aran wrote:A few other questions, nothing to do with the species (or does it...)...

They are described as having iron implements and weapons. Yet you hardly ever see a forge in action apart from Salamandastron, and nobody's cutting down trees for firewood. Who's digging up the iron ore? Who's refining it? Who's making it into weapons and tools in their scale? Hell, who made the scaffolding and cranes that would have been necessary for building something the size of Redwall Abbey?

Where are they getting their cloth? Worse, where are they getting their leather?
Theory: Only Salamandastron has invented metalworking, and everyone else's weapons are either purchased by trade from them, or stolen by its enemies as plunder. :)

This would also explain why Salamandastron is such a big deal, prophecies and such aside. Yeah, its a big fort guarding the coast, but one fort can't control the whole coast, and its not even in a terribly strategic location.

Okay, there's probably something to contradict this, but still.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-30 10:09pm

I imagine metal, timber and stone comes from the same type of sources they did for roman europe - scratch mines, veinchasers, the odd metorite, lumberjacks, open quarries ect. I'll pursue that rabbithole when we get to it.

HEDGEHOGS CONTD
Hedgehogs hibernate over winter. In these modern times there are a few that try to chase the sun by staying awake, but they tend to run to corpulence and heart disease, and few continue to attempt it year after year. Needing to sleep, and needing enough body fat to wake again after means the hedgehogs tend to have driven, focused personalities. Even near starved after waking, they will work themselves hard to turn the soil and plant the first of the succession of green crops. If they have partnered with a mice family, they will be in better condition, as the mice will have crushed and dried all the beetles or weevils invading their graneries over winter. Ground to a flour, and shaped with a little water or beer, the the protein bakes help early waking hedgehogs across the lean times of early spring.
Hedgehogs shed and regrow a large number of their spines a year. This process, known as quilling is often the cause of extreme grumpiness and surliness. The newer quills are typically thicker and coarser and have to force their way out of the older small holes in the skin. A wise old hog will keep a bagfull of oats spare for a long soaking bath for an adolescents quilling period. The shed spines are often disregarded by the hogs themselves, but one tribe is known to carve love tokens from them. The spines are solid, impervious to water and quite tough for a few years before becoming brittle. Mice families have been known to use them for everything from arrow shafts to construction dowells as well as carving. (Anything humans use sticks, ivory or rhino horn for)


SPARROWS
The sparrows have a saying. "One dies one. Flock dies none." They are inctedibly gregarious amongst their own kind and dangerous enemies to anyone else. There are still tales of the Sparrow Lord Gengchip Ironspur and his war to exterminate the raptors. In places, the mice still live in the bad old days where a band of maruding sparrows could strip a crop unless driven back by arrows or stones of the mice. In those places high watchtowers and gaurdmice with spears are needed. In most places, left behind in weaponry, the sparrows have made peace.
The sparrows, as a flock, are fearless, bombastic,and territorial. They make excellent scouts and a credible defense against larger flying predators. In times of piece they sometimes act as couriers, but since they will not cross another flocks territory, the message scroll has to be exchanged many times. Within their tertitory they are irriorigable gossips, passing on and sharing the smallest of news.
Sparrows are nimble with their feet and balance, but are largely limited to single hand tools. As Ironspur's name suggests, they will adopt weapons made for them, but the need to penetrate armour rarely occurs when fighting other birds. The Sandviners tribe are famed for flying into battle with hooks and line against the rapacious gulls, but this may only increase the severity of the battle to both sides, not the certainty of the result. Against armoured rat or similar, the sparrows are best used as skirmishers, scouts and spotters. The sparrows apparent immunity to chilli powder has been used on occasion.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2016-08-30 10:32pm

Elheru Aran wrote:Huh. Would something the size of a mouse be able to cut down an average tree by itself, for example? Would it even *need* to?
Functionally no, in large numbers it wouldn't be outright in impossible. At least if they had metal tools it should be feasible.

I'd suggest though that birds and mice have very opposed goals in life, and birds simply travel too much territory. Alliances will work better if the goals are more directly aligned then less.
Also: We hardly see any meat eating in Redwall (probably because aside from badgers and foxes, there's no species bigger than even a chicken... well maybe an exceptionally large rat but still). What are the implications of that for the ecology? Less meat eating=less need for space for domestic animals?

Do they drink milk? I can't recall... (the question being where the hell they get it from)
If you have no large animals then what would happen is the landscape would grow much denser, deer and the like trample that stuff down and help keep open meadows and fields naturally. Take that activity away and the landscape should turn into dense woods over the centuries. Crazy enough numbers of mice though, well that might keep things down locally, but by the same card they'd be very vulnerable to droughts. That's something scale will bite you bad on.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-31 01:06am

Ill have a rethink on the birds. The sparrow flocks near me are quite small territorial wise - a circle from the nests of a hundred meters at most. A dozen birds in the flock. Crows and thrushes, being an order of magnitude larger cover much more territory. Ill come to them

RABBITS (and HARES)
Before the plauge, rabbits were by far the most successful species. They shaped the landscape to suit their own ends, they built the fortified warrens and they taught the mice all they know. In the stone age, rabbits were among the largest of the herbivores. Unlike the mice, they could eat almost any green vegetable, and even over winter they could derive some nutrition from tree bark and pine needles, even if it had to be twice eaten. They naturally lived in expansionist tribes that would clear land and cooperate against predators and had the size and the toughness to drive all but the largest off. Their singular disadvantage, before the plauge, was their tough paws lacking opposable thumbs.
A stone age rabbit tribe would typically maintain a campfire above ground ready for the winter, for they had limited ways to restart the fire should it go out, and a fire in the warren was a recipie for choking death. Here the lineages split. In one the larger and tougher hare tribe lived full time on the grasslands, protecting the fire under a felt tent and using a hollow twig to transfer the embers during one of their frequent moves to new grazing. Felt Tents are used to keep the wind and rain off in the winter, and are erected as frames in the summer to frustrate direct attacks by the few remaining large raptors. Hare groups are small and highly self sufficent. The Felt is made from their downy underfur in the spring, pounded on a hot flat stone with water. Colours and patterns, frequently spiral or based on eyes or ears are commonly included at this time. Being nocturnal animals, contrast is deemed more important than the specific colours. Scented oils are sometimes applied to the tents for markibgs and adfitionsl wsterproofing. Tent covers or rare armoured cloaks are made by pounding spiny twigs berween two layers of felt, giving a material that is stiff in one direction but can be rolled in the other. Tent frames are produced as three or four long straight twigs, joined at one end by the same felting process. A common winter tent configuration is a shalliw scrap in the soil underneath 2-3 tent frames in a line. Tent covers are propped against each other inbetween the frame points. The ends of the spiny twigs within the covers interlock past each other forming a spiky top to the long tent. Although the hare group is highly mobile, they frequently return to the same spots for felting, the winter equinox, the spring love run and, rarely, the summer haystack.
The last was an old ritual where the grass in an area would be cropped and left to dry. A sapling, stripped of bark, or a large twig set in the ground for this purpose is used as the central pillar, with the dry hay would around it to make a tall wide haystack. This might then be plastered in river clay to keep the worst of the weather off until the winter hunger sets in. These graneries were tempting targets for mice and sparrow raiders, and many a hare tribe would return to find their hay scattered on the ground in the search for seeds. The Rabbit Empire and subsequent Farming Mice have pushed the Hares into ever more remote spots, espcially places with thin soil that precludes burrows or much farming. There is at least one mouse village built in an abandoned ancient haystack. To be continued.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-08-31 05:04am

RABBITS CONTD.
While the stone age hares were developing their nomadic culture, the same techologies of fire and felt were also being developed by the rabbits. Unlike their cousins, the rabbits are fiercely territorial and socially driven. Fires in the mouth of a warren could be easily maintained, and fixed warren entrances meant that stockades could be built. The rabbits preferences for habitat was to prove far reaching. They needed free draining soil or raised banks for a comfortable warren, leafy overgrown area to hide up in during the day, but also want lush short grass areas for the evening silfay. The first rabbit cities were on the edge of the woodlands. Sharp teeth chewed away at new saplings, and greedy fires swallowed them up in winter. The population grew. New cities were founded. Wars fought for the best territory. Islands in rivers were cleared, and stakes driven in the mud to build banks. Bridges built across streams by teams dragging logs on rollers. At somepoint the secret of seeds was understood and banks in sites selected for new cities would be cleared by fire and old brambles cut and laid over the warren while new cover was grown. Salads and herbs, like soporific lettuce, winter chard and kale were grown for feast days and to supplement food supplies. Important root crops like carrot, turnip and dandylion were starting to be developed in sandier places. Other crops, useful for their products, were steadily introduced. Oily sunflower seeds were crushed and ground for waterproofing and perserving oil. Pumpkins, hollowed and dried, and sometimes lined by clay, made for seasonal water tanks. Stinging nettles could be twisted into crude ropes useful wherever rabbits had to move something they could not hold in their mouth.

In dry places stepwells, inside and outside the warrens were built. Damns thrown across streams, the water backing up into irrigation ditches across plains of grass, salad and burrow banks topped with thorn trees. Kings and despots rose and were replaced. Wars fought for the control of streams. Alliances made with foxes, to deliver information on a rival kingdom.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-09-02 06:15am

RABBIT PRESSURES
With warfare and predatation came the need for defensive sites. Instead of long straightish banks topped by thorns, the kraal of a circular bank protecting an inner area of grass came into use. The bank served as bulwark and home, and frequently was armoured with stones and pebbles from excavation or from streams, pinned in place by twigs or living thorny plants. Some even built secondary fireplaces within the warren, using tall chimneys burrowed through the earth to the highest point of the bank to draw the smoke off and refresh the air of the warren. It took but a little fire burning at all times to keep the soil warm.
The greatest of these cities might have three concentric rings of kraal, ponds and wells and new spokes of the outer ring pushing out into the cleared areas around the warrens. Heavy wooden doors, chewed out of a felled tree or branch and with a drag handle on one side could be used to block, or delay and entrap invading rabbit parties or the more sinister enemies. The strategic use of smoke was known.

Limited by their dexterity, the rabbit kingdoms rarely progressed much tecnologically. They had a wide knowledge of herbs, brewing and drying of certain plants. Grinding slabs developed into fire proof bowls, and in coastal areas, travellers brought back wide shells to use as bowls and strorage urns for grain. These shells or perhaps limestone fire pits led to a slow appreciation of lime mortar, and a few kraals built great stone faces to their outer wall to prevent predators burrowing in. Pitfalls and traps were not unknown, but rabbits must carry only with their mouth, and cannot tie intricate knots or make joints in wood. Still, they dominated the early world, clearing forests and establishing the patchwork nature of the countryside.

RABBIT EATERS
The emnity between Raptors and the Hares we have mentioned, and the rats and foxes we shall return to but there is one family of predators the Rabbits hate with an espcial passion. In rough order of doubling size, for individuals and territories vary hugely, they are wasels,, stoats and related ferrets and polecats - the "rat snakes". Weasels are the smallest of the family and even the largest males are unable to defeat anything bigger than the youngest rabbit. Weasels are a problem for mice and sparrow sized birds, but rabbit patrols would kill or drive them off when they found them and could catch them.

Polecats are the largest, and relatively strong and stocky with it, and their masked faces are a nightmare for rabbit soldiers. If a male or female locates a rabbit city, they will camp on the outskirts, looking to take a warren on the edge for their own home. The presence of one often leads to others, with seige of female polecat dens slowly encircling the kraal, and the travelling larger and even more dangerous males appearing with increasing frequency. It is a brave rabbit that goes to war with one of these psycopaths, and a fearless one that is annointed with the death mark before the attack. The deathmark is made from the worst poisons the warren's apothecary can make, mixed with oil, clay or sticky sap and resin. The mark is painted on the volunteer's head and back fur. The aim is to protect the marked, or at least poison the predator. It is said preparing or wearing the deathmark takes a season off that rabbit's life. Since the polecat is known to target the brain in such a way the victim is left paralyzed but alive, to be eaten later, tge risk of being poisoned by the same bite that kills the predator is seen by some grizzled veterans as the lesser risk.

The stoat is smaller than the polecat but just as ferocious a predator. They frequently use their smaller size to an advantage, nesting in stumps or boulder piles where enraged rabbit soldiers cannot reach it. It does not dig its own nest, but will kill a smaller beast and tske its instead. Frequently, the skin and fur of the former inhabitant is used to decorate the nest walls. In the north, all of the family will moult to a winter coat, but the stoat has the richest and whitest of the furs. They burrow happily in the snow, erupting out of it like the hunger of winter unleashed. The snow is feared.

As rabbit techology and organisation increased, the threat of these solo predators, never truly eliminated, slowly decreased. A gaurded karaal with limited entrances and exits were hard targets to approach, espcially if the karaal had wooden block doors or the despot ensured the land outside the karaal was kept coverless by frequent burnings. Even approaches under cover would result in retaliatory raids, and a seige or prevention of hunting for even three days would leave a stoat or polecat perilously weak. Thus emerged the ferrets.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2016-09-02 07:44am

Honestly, we are at a point where we really do need to be sure whether or not we want to stipulate size, because lots of the things done in the Redwall books would be impossible without our little woodland friends being human size, or the world scaled down. I mean, Redwall was almost breached because they dont have a no-mans land, and trees were too close to the wall with branches close enough to extend boards. Yet, the barn owl has a barn...

So we want to be clear on that, bearing in mind that without grazers and browsers like deer, this world will be completely non-functional.

Once we stipulate world-scaling, THEN we can get into whether or not deer and the like are present and if they are sapient.
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-09-02 08:40am

Well im sticking with 'real' size, habits and instinct+ magically bestowed intelligence. Mice should be small and powerless, its why children identify with them so strongly.

Given the implied absolutley enormous intelligent rabbit population pre myamtoxis, are you certain the world is nonfunctional?
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Alyrium Denryle
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2016-09-02 03:01pm

madd0ct0r wrote:Well im sticking with 'real' size, habits and instinct+ magically bestowed intelligence. Mice should be small and powerless, its why children identify with them so strongly.

Given the implied absolutley enormous intelligent rabbit population pre myamtoxis, are you certain the world is nonfunctional?

Yes. Large herbivores are responsible for the creation of forest clearings as well as nutrient cycling. Without them, forests get overgrown (until they burn catastrophically) etc. The knockdown effects are huge. If the system is functional, the world will be unrecognizable because it would have reached a new set of equilibrium states with respect to community composition
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2016-09-02 08:18pm

Well, a world with periodic massive forest fires has a certain potential for drama, at least...
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madd0ct0r
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by madd0ct0r » 2016-09-02 09:45pm

This might be a case of conflicting mental models. Im working on my limited understanding of the british landscape, northern england and wales espcially. Its temperate, wet, green and lush.

North americsn forests do have periodic massive fires dont they? The uk has gorse and grass fires commonly, but its a rare year the dry hot summer is long enough to dry the forest out.

Hmm. I have the rabbits clearing and maintaintaining the forest edges, but you are right that in the deeper areas undergrowth would build up. Who does the undergrowth benefit? Moles might cull it to feed worms, songbirds would use it for nesting, squirrells might cull it to reduce fire risk. Forest rabbits eat fern leaf, and the small birds and mice will eat the spores. There is also a variety of insects, caterpillars, aphids ect that might be "farmed" on the undergrowth. I can see mice, shrews espcially, treating aphids the way we do prawns.
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Alyrium Denryle
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Re: Worldbuilding - racial implications of redwall type setting

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2016-09-03 02:55am

madd0ct0r wrote:This might be a case of conflicting mental models. Im working on my limited understanding of the british landscape, northern england and wales espcially. Its temperate, wet, green and lush.

North americsn forests do have periodic massive fires dont they? The uk has gorse and grass fires commonly, but its a rare year the dry hot summer is long enough to dry the forest out.

Hmm. I have the rabbits clearing and maintaintaining the forest edges, but you are right that in the deeper areas undergrowth would build up. Who does the undergrowth benefit? Moles might cull it to feed worms, songbirds would use it for nesting, squirrells might cull it to reduce fire risk. Forest rabbits eat fern leaf, and the small birds and mice will eat the spores. There is also a variety of insects, caterpillars, aphids ect that might be "farmed" on the undergrowth. I can see mice, shrews espcially, treating aphids the way we do prawns.
Without grazers and browsers, there would be no natural grasslands, or very few. A large percentage of the fens and bogs in the UK (especially in the south) are the historical result of deforestation. Deforestation that, in a world without humans, would never have taken place.

North american forests in a natural state do have periodic fires (no matter where they are, including our wetter regions like southern Alaska), but under natural conditions their size is contained by the fact that animals like deer defoliate the undergrowth. We have disrupted this in the past hundred years because we have removed most of the predators (ecology of fear: predators keep herbivores moving from place to place all the time, creating new clearings in the undergrowth).

The problem is, these are all more or less normal sized animals. There is only so much squirrels can do to clear undergrowth. You are not talking about a huge amount of mass for these little guys and the amount of actual work they can do is limited, and they dont have draft animals. A branch that we find trivial to pick up and move--that we might throw for our dogs--is going to be beyond the powers of anything but a large rabbit to move on its own, and would take teams of anything smaller. Now consider the size of a british hedgerow.

The only thing that can really do the work necessary even locally are beaver, and they are bigger than foxes so you have hedged them out.
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