Friday, March 8, 2013

Doing RESEARCH? Perish, forbid...

So I've been jumping around reading up on some actual facts and stuff about ants, and came across this quick primer... the most interesting thing in here as I look at it right now is that ants live for an average of 45-60 days. I had expected them to have a short life expectancy, but DANG.

In composing my background and setting material for the game, I've been considering a number of these perspective issues. One of the things that was always fun about D+D was considering how your character's life expectancy factored into his or her worldview. Sure, we can understand how humans view things (because we're human, of course), but what about a creature like an elf that can live for up to a thousand years? What can you learn in that time? How does it impact your overall perception of the world? Of time? Of patience?

The MTDAA RPG forces you to move in the total opposite direction. I'm thinking of doubling the statistical average and going with a time frame of 90 to 120 days for life expectancy of an army ant (I'll leave drones at the 45-60 average- their hard lives and poor living conditions would lead to shortened life expectancies); this makes an ant's day a rough analog for a year to us.

This means that my comic characters will only experience one season. It's been spring in the comic the whole time I've been doing it... so I guess it will stay spring! I've had ideas for a winter's tale, but I don't suppose that I'll be able to do that with this team of characters.

Of course, I could use creative license to stretch this considerably, and allow an army ant to live much longer (not much of the game is tied to the real world - I'm working on several short essays about that to include in the game... if you try to apply real-world physics to tanks and explosives at the scale they're happening in play, things totally fall apart). However, there are some things about the shorter lifespan I like. I like that the clock is always ticking. Your tour of duty as an army ant might be a month. That's your prime. If you make it beyond this, you have done something remarkable.

I've seen Sarge as being on his third tour of duty, which would put him somewhere in the neighborhood of 75+ days old. He's an old ant. I've had inklings of ideas for stories set in Sarge's first and second tours of duty (I have to explain how he lost an eye and antenna some day!), and this would allow me to do that.

The other impact falls on the overall view of time and generations. If a season is now the rough equivalent of a human century, we're looking at only 5-7 years since the ant bronze age, and only 3 years since the ant iron age. Electricity and flight were just discovered last winter. New innovations are being made DAILY, almost on an hour-by-hour basis. This makes the rate of human discovery and scientific progress dwarf by comparison.

All cool things to consider as I keep designing...