Whers and... trader caravans?

General discussions of games, players, ideas, and Pern canon.
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Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Sparky » Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:00 pm

Whers in Holds I get.

Whers in Crafts and mines I get.

Whers in trader caravans I don't so much get.

I get that they could be good for protection/whatever, but the things are meant to stink and have stinky dens, and they're photophobic and they're ungainly. How's on going to keep up with/live in a caravan?

I just don't get it as being possible. Opinions?

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Solaris » Fri Jun 29, 2012 6:31 am

A caravan used to traveling with significant numbers of livestock is probably going to have some method of dealing with moving and sheltering large creatures, so it's conceivable they could figure out a way to rig up something for a wher as well.

Unusual, perhaps; perhaps even improbable, but given the enormous number of ways book-canon is stretched (or entirely abandoned) already in many m* settings, I don't really see it as not possible, nor a particularly important point to nitpick.

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Quicksilver » Fri Jun 29, 2012 8:53 am

Since this was asked in the Constructive Discussion forum I don't think it's nitpicking at all. It's a valid question and the following discussion might help someone considering whers in Trader Caravans to RP the scenario more credibly.

Stretching canon for playability is one thing, throwing canon out for twinkism is just laughable. Not that I'm saying this particular scenario IS twinkism, just. Lets think about this:

It’s true that traders bring livestock along on caravan, BUT heh. The livestock WALKS or pulls wagons, carries men and packs. They aren’t lugged in carts. Poultry might be crated and carted, but whers? I sorta doubt it.

Why would a Trader Caravan want to lug along a wher anyway? The only thing I can think of is to use them as watch-whers. But wouldn't canines be a better choice? Canines serve several purposes. A few canines can run alongside the trail, help hunt, fight if an attack occurs, find a missing child... while whers... pretty much only do one thing. Unless there's a rockslide but then, even if whers are good at digging, they really can't move boulders.

Whers need a dark den and some undisturbed sleep during the day. That's... pretty difficult even in a dark crate-den inside a jostling wagon.

Whers usually were 'blooded' to one person or Hold family and hence loyal to them while hostile to others. People gave them a wide berth (yeah, I know Todd made them perky-friendly but ugh). Would you want to risk a nasty wherbite simply to go to the bathrooom in the middle of the night while it was roaming outside the caravan? I wouldn't!

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Solaris » Fri Jun 29, 2012 9:25 am

I just see it more on the stretching canon for playability side. I don't think cattle-like herdbeasts or porcines that a trader beasthandler deals with are going to be doing much by way of wagon-pulling or pack-carrying, mostly just taking up space until they're eaten and turned into leather, or sold. I think an experienced caravan would have a decent amount of capability to handle a large and ungainly creature, especially one with a dedicated handler who can keep them in control.

Whers are supposed to have fantastic senses of smell and the capacity to carry a lot of weight, so they definitely could be turned to productive uses (at least at night!) even past their very useful ability to help with sentry/guard duty at night.

If Hold watch-whers could become familiarized with residents of a hold and their handler's friends enough not to attack them, I imagine they could become familiarized with caravan members, as well. There are far fewer people in a caravan than in a Hold, at least. And if the Wherhandler is on guard duty with the wher at night, there is even less likelihood that unexpectedly attacking someone will be a problem.

I think it might be a bit off the beaten path, but still a workable thing for someone interested in playing a wherhandler. (And personally I would just love to see more people interested in playing wherhandlers!)

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Ashra » Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:52 pm

I have to ask because no one seems to have asked yet.

Is this actually happening somewhere? If so, name and shame, please!

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Sparky » Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:34 am

Quicksilver you're right on my line of thinking, those were the points I was thinking about when I made this.

Solaris I can see what you mean about the porcines and stuff too. There's gotta be some vans out on Pern that just exist to drive animals from place to place and not all of them could be good for carrying/hauling/whatever.

Ashra it's a caravan on Harper's Tale that has a character who's calling themself a guard and a wherhandler.

This is the caravan description -
The Chadey traders have a little bit of something for everyone. Though their goods lean towards the high-end and the luxury, if they're known for anything it's being able to satisfy most any tastes their clientele have -- cheap or expensive, commonplace or hard to find, given the time to locate it they can come up with near anything Pern has to offer. This frequently extends to the less-than-legal as well; for those who know what they're looking for, the caravan can be a good place to indulge more decadent interests, or find items of dubious origin. The caravan members tend to be protective of their own and it's unwise to cross them, but for those willing to work, keep their mouths closed about their business, and look out for each other, there's almost always a welcoming place to be found among their camp.

Not really a herding type.

I don't know if they have IC reasons for having one or anything I'm just surprised to see it. I don't remember ever seeing whers on HT before but maybe it's a new thing? Could be a new game hook?

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby najradanti » Sat Jun 30, 2012 8:05 am

Ashra wrote:Is this actually happening somewhere? If so, name and shame, please!

man, you could at least pretend like you're attempting to have constructive discussion. this isn't rvf.

@sparky: it might not list herding in the caravan desc, but i've been playing a chadey trader for years now, and all she does trading-wise is handle animals. including herdbeasts and porcines, so, it's at least on-cam canon that yes, this is a caravan that has large and cumbersome livestock along for the ride. i don't think it is necessarry that a caravan exist only for herding, if they're a big caravan they could deal in many things, herding among them.

i do think it is a stretch of the norm to have a wher join a caravan, but i don't think it's an impossibility. they are useful by way of guarding,tracking, carrying. i think the main difficulty would be rigging up a shelter for them to sleep in, but by way of difficulties on the road, that probably doesn't rank all that high.

as for ic reasons, the caravan wasn't really in the market for a wher, the handler came to them needing a place to go and the caravan agreed she (and her wher) could join them. oocly, someone wanted to play a wherhandler. nobody on ht is doing that currently, they just thought it'd add an interesting dynamic.

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby skywaterblue » Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:06 pm

It makes more sense than shoving whers into a Weyr, which just about every forum game in the universe seems to be doing these days.

I'd have the whers pulling a cart, myself, until I realized that caravans probably don't do a lot of night moving. Still, anywhere you have valuables and you don't have dragons, I think you can squeeze a reason for a wher.

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Noc » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:49 pm

As the player in question, I've spent some time pondering the logistics and have come to the conclusion that keeping a caravan-wher would a huge pain in the ass. But for most of the challenges, there are workarounds:

- First, whers are nocturnal and caravans travel during the day. In addition to habit and custom, trying to move wagons at night seems like a recipe for all sorts of accident and mishap, so switching the caravan to a night schedule is out of the question. I see two potential solutions to this: either the (grumpy, sleep-deprived) wher can be blindfolded and guided along during the day, or it can function as an outrider, leapfrogging from campsite to campsite on opposite shifts from the caravan proper. This would also allow it to put its senses to work as an advance scout, scoping out campsites prior to the caravan's arrival, with its size allowing it to haul goods or supplies ahead as necessary.

(One thing I had been wondering about is how physiologically suited whers are for overland travel. The portrayals I can recall paint them as rather sedentary beasts, but as pseudodragons they're likely to be at least somewhat athletically capable given the opportunity. I've been conceiving of them as roughly akin to real-life large predators, capable of respectable sprint speeds but poorly suited to distance running -- which would also mesh fairly well with their avian nature. So I'm figuring: slower than a runner on long hauls, but capable of carrying heavier loads, and definitely faster than a laden wagon -- at least after a difficult adjustment phase. If anyone has any additional insight, I would welcome it, since in the absence of existing literature I've sort of been improvising as I go along.)

- Secondly, whers need to eat, and the caravan doesn't necessarily carry enough livestock to sustain one on its own. I'd been imagining that this would require purchasing additional stock from holds along the caravan's route. For longer stretches between holds this may require advance provisioning. Naturally this raises the question of whether or not feeding a wher is actually cost-effective: while a wher definitely provides marginal value to the caravan, is it worth the cost of feeding it?

I suppose this is a question that could be dealt with through RP: the wher and his handler are both recent additions to the caravan, and it may very well prove that their presence proves to be a drain on the caravan's resources rather than an asset. On the other hand, the caloric and logistical inefficiency of a wher is dwarfed by that of a proper dragon, and that's a factor that gets routinely handwaved away in this setting anyways. Not to mention the question of why the holds keep them at all if their dietary requirements are so prohibitively steep. Thus, I figure that I'll leave the issue of the caravan-wher's economic viability to what ends up best fitting the narrative.

- Thirdly, whers are mean and unsociable. However, some of the reading I've done suggests that this is a feature particular to (or exaggerated in) unbonded whers, and it seems reasonable that a well-disciplined, bonded and naturally even-tempered wher might be approximately as (un)manageable as a particularly mean runner or herdbeast. So this is an issue, especially as an unruly wher can cause rather more damage than an unruly runner, but this seems to me like an IC challenge rather than a strike against plausibility.

. . .

So yeah. The idea of a caravan-wher is logistically questionable, potentially dangerous, and hugely inconvenient, which is honestly part of what attracted me to the concept in the first place: the difficulties involved in making such an idea work seem like interesting sources of RP.

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Sparky » Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:58 am

Watch-whers were the ungainly, malodorous product of an attempt to breed larger, more useful animals from the genetic material of the fire lizard, an indigenous Pernese life form. Watchwhers are nocturnal, exceedingly vicious when aroused, and highly protective of those they reconize as friends. Watchwhers can communicate with dragons, but as they tend to be very trivial and rather stupid, dragons are not fond of touching their minds.
It was commonly believed on Pern that watch-whers were a failed attempt at creating a second batch of dragons, however at one stage Wind Blossom reveals that she originally designed them to be nocturnal so that they could fly Thread at night. A watchwher is conditioned to know the people of hold, hall, or cot and is usually used as a nightime watchdog. It is generally chained to the front entrence of the hold, hall, or cot. Watchwhers possessed great strength, and as such were also very useful in mines, they were said to be able to "carry loads twice their weight."

I took this quote from then Pern Wiki.

I don't think I would play it. I don't think it seems canon enough. I don't know if they sound athletic? They probably can't hunt for food, they probably need it given straight to them cut up like weyrlings need it. A Hold can afford to do that because most holds have money and from what I remember only the big holds had watchwhers anyway, and the minecraft needs them so they pay their way by working, but trader caravan's don't have that much money to spend on something that isn't worth its weight, I don't think?

I know I don't have to be convinced by this but I'm still don't understand why someone would want to do something like this ICly and how it would work. OOCly I see that you want to do something different but why not be a wherhandler in a hold? there are lots on the game and I thought Harper's Tale stuck by canon.

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Re: Whers and... trader caravans?

Postby Solaris » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:21 pm

Given that there are unbonded whers, it is almost assuredly incorrect that whers need their food cut up and given to them, but given any particular bonded wher with a dedicated handler, needing food cut up and given to them wouldn't be a problem (for the wher; it might be a nuisance for the handler, but that's their problem to deal with! And the player has expressed an interest in playing out the problematic aspects of RPing a problematic creature.)

HT plays a lot of things canonically, but they play a lot of things not-canonically, as well. I'm still not convinced this is that egregiously not-canonical, anyway, but regardless, looking through lots of stuff that happens on HT, it is not a game that is rigidly dogmatic about canon. Yes, you are not going to have men impressing golds, but sure, you can have women being weyrleaders and democratic elections in a hold (both far less canon, IMO, than a traveling wher.) And you know what? I love HT for that. The RP goes where the RP goes, because wherever canon starts, RP ends up where players take it.

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