Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's All Greek to Me

When I first mentioned the possibility of making a JRPG in a Greek steampunk setting, my friend (and college RA) Bergy was estatic. In addition to being a JRPG aficionado, Bergy was a classics major with great familiarity and interest in ancient Greece. He's been invaluable in all kinds of brainstorming, world building, and editing, but for the purpose of this blog post, I'd like to focus on a particular skill—Bergy can speak ancient Greek.

Among other benefits, this means that if we ever wanted to invent a word for a unique concept in our setting, we could ask Bergy the ancient Greek translation of the concept. While there're all kinds of situations where we could use this power, we're trying to keep XKCD's advice in mind, even with our glossary system helping us out. Specifically, we try to invent words only for new concepts, where we'd have to teach the player the definition even if we weren't using ancient Greek.

For example, one of our characters is a sort of druid or ranger (in the D&D sense) devoted to the service of Artemis, the goddess of hunting. Rather than trying to force that whole connotation onto an English word, we borrow the ancient Greek word for bear (a reference to some of the character’s abilities) and refer to her as arktos.

We also wanted a phrase for the steampunk devices and technologies that permeate the setting. At first, we tried combining the Greek words for "steam" and "machine" to make "Atmomechanai". However, our early playtests saw people stumbling over the word (or misreading it as "Automechanai"). We tried again with "god" and "machine" (reflecting the divine influence in developing this technology) and got the much more pleasant theomechanai.

One concept we’re still struggling to put a name to is the mystical devices the Pythagorean order has been creating in their quest to make machines with souls. Our first attempts at combining Greek words sounded really awkward to English speakers.

Biomechanai (“living” + “machine”)
Metiomechanai (“advice/wisdom/strategy” + “machine”)
Psychomechanai (“soul” + “machine”)

We alternately tried adding the “descendants of” ending on some mythical half-human, half-mechanical beings.

Talonidai (referencing Talos)
Galateïdai (referencing Galatea)
Paphidai (referencing Paphos, the son of Galatea)

We’ve also considered going half Greek with something like “Children of Galatea” or “Talos Spawn” though those phrases are somewhat more cumbersome. A quick survey of friends has suggested Talonidai as the best current option, but we’d be happy to hear your feedback in the comments.

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