What is Lantan? (was: The new 5E storyline will be announced in early June)

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willpell
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What is Lantan? (was: The new 5E storyline will be announced in early June)

Post by willpell » Fri May 04, 2018 4:32 pm

What the hell is Lantan?


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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by Zeromaru X » Fri May 04, 2018 5:17 pm

An island full of Tinker-like gnomes, or so, and "technology". It is pretty much irrelevant in the overall plot of the Realms, but it seems it has fans.

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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by willpell » Fri May 04, 2018 5:25 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 5:17 pm
An island full of Tinker-like gnomes, or so, and "technology". It is pretty much irrelevant in the overall plot of the Realms, but it seems it has fans.
Unless the technology literally can't function anywhere off this island, it absolutely wouldn't be irrelevant. Our entire universe was transformed by technology. If it works on the Realms, there won't be any Realms anymore; it'll turn into a steampunk setting with no trace of fantasy cliches, faster than the Iphone took over our planet.

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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by Zeromaru X » Sat May 05, 2018 2:47 am

willpell wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 5:25 pm
Unless the technology literally can't function anywhere off this island, it absolutely wouldn't be irrelevant. Our entire universe was transformed by technology. If it works on the Realms, there won't be any Realms anymore; it'll turn into a steampunk setting with no trace of fantasy cliches, faster than the Iphone took over our planet.
I think the same, but Lantan isn't prominent in the canon Realms, and the Lantanese aren't relevant despite their technology.

AFAIK, the priesthood of Gond has this technology controlled. The Lantanese had ablot of marvelous stuff, but people only knew about their small clockwork items. Gond seems to have technology downplayed in the Realms as well, as, for instance, powder is pretty much useless in the Realms due to something in the ambient.

Also, Lantan was destroyed during the Spellplague, and while 5e says Lantan survived, most of their technology was lost.

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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by Big Mac » Sat May 05, 2018 8:51 am

Zeromaru X wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 5:17 pm
An island full of Tinker-like gnomes, or so, and "technology". It is pretty much irrelevant in the overall plot of the Realms, but it seems it has fans.
I've always thought it would make for a good place for a Gnomish Sidewheeler, from Krynnspace to visit.

I've also thought that Lantan would make a good place for some of the non-Dragonlance gnomes in Spelljammer (and specifically Realmspace) to originate from.
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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by Big Mac » Sat May 05, 2018 9:28 am

Zeromaru X wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 2:47 am
willpell wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 5:25 pm
Unless the technology literally can't function anywhere off this island, it absolutely wouldn't be irrelevant. Our entire universe was transformed by technology. If it works on the Realms, there won't be any Realms anymore; it'll turn into a steampunk setting with no trace of fantasy cliches, faster than the Iphone took over our planet.
I think the same, but Lantan isn't prominent in the canon Realms, and the Lantanese aren't relevant despite their technology.
We have had technology in the real-world for ages without it turning the real-world into a steampunk setting.

The Antikythera mechanism is the sort of thing that Lantanese gnomes would have built if they were on our world. It was lost in the sea and only rediscovered in 1900. It never went into mass production and people have been trying to figure out exactly how it works for ages.

We have had other mechanical devices, like orreries for hundreds of years. How many people have you met who actually own something like this? Most of these things are in museums or owned by rich people.

We also know that, even in more recent times, it was very difficult to build things like difference engines. Charles Babbage was never able to finish his Analytical Engine. I actually saw a documentary about it and the British Government refused to fund it, as it was far too expensive to build.

Something like an iPhone would be useless as a communication device in the Realms if you didn't have the telephone masts to back it up and the internal abilities of the phone would only work for as long as you could keep the thing charged. Once the battery drained, it would be totally useless. So, take that back to a Lantanese device in Faerûn and you have something that may well be awesome, but if it gets bashed, it becomes junk.

If you have owned a mechanical clock in your life, you must have had one jam up, need winding up or break. That sort of thing would happen to Lantanese devices discovered in treasure hordes.

I've seen old station clocks with keyholes in the front, where a winding key was inserted (presumably by someone standing on a ladder) to wind the clock. So you need someone with skills (maybe not major skills) to keep these things operating normally.

The bottom line is that this stuff would not radically transform the Realms...because it didn't. If Lantan was supposed to have just discovered this stuff, and the gnomes were aggressive traders who were happy to let other people steal their ideas, maybe you could suggest that it would spread. But Lantan is not new.

However, if you want to see a campaign setting that does play with this sort of trope, I suggest you look to Eberron. The Dragonmarked Houses put out low-level magic items and mundane items on an industrial scale there. They have telecommunications, shipping and healing taken over by Dragonmarked houses.

And if the idea of Lantan growing in power appeals to you, maybe you could look at ways to use ideas from Eberron's Dragonmarked Houses and maybe also Thayan Enclaves to build some communities of gnomes that can start to spread the ideas of Lantan that you would like to see change a Forgotten Realms campaign into something more steampunkish.

But, I think you would need to explain why the gnomes of Lantan would give up their hard-won industrial secrets, if you wanted to have other races building similar stuff.
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Re: What is Lantan?

Post by willpell » Sat May 05, 2018 8:53 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Sat May 05, 2018 9:28 am
We have had technology in the real-world for ages without it turning the real-world into a steampunk setting.
Are you sure?

But seriously, we don't have magic. Technology would affect a world that has magic somewhat differently than it did our universe, but it unquestionably would affect it. Technology is reliably reproducible and can be mass-produced; magic allows you to miraculously overcome the limitations of technology. Get both of them working, and the results are going to be reliably insane. You're not going to end up with the same kind of medieval cliches as in the classic Realms (again, unless Lantan's technology only works on that island, because of some sort of non-portable phlebotinum).
We have had other mechanical devices, like orreries for hundreds of years. How many people have you met who actually own something like this? Most of these things are in museums or owned by rich people.
Because they have very little practical value. On the other hand, how many people own flashlights? How gigantic would the effect on any classic D&D world be if *you didn't need torches any more*, didn't need to buy lamp oil and flint/steel, never had to pay 100 GP or whatever for an Everburning Torch.
Something like an iPhone would be useless as a communication device in the Realms if you didn't have the telephone masts to back it up and the internal abilities of the phone would only work for as long as you could keep the thing charged. Once the battery drained, it would be totally useless. So, take that back to a Lantanese device in Faerûn and you have something that may well be awesome, but if it gets bashed, it becomes junk.
It'd still be a massively transformational effect. If you could get a device on Lantan that broke all the rules of normal D&D effectiveness - let's say that it lets anybody make multiple attacks as a standard action, one of the biggest issues in 3E rules - then even if it broke five minutes after you arrived, you'd spend the rest of your life trying to arrange more expeditions to Lantan, with the objective of trading with them, or plundering and enslaving them, or anything in between.
I've seen old station clocks with keyholes in the front, where a winding key was inserted (presumably by someone standing on a ladder) to wind the clock. So you need someone with skills (maybe not major skills) to keep these things operating normally.
Now, I'd be very much behind getting into a D&D setting that had this kind of 18th-century tech as commonplace (similar to, but distinct from, Eberron). But all of this wouldn't be Forgotten Realms anymore, it'd be something similar to a game whose exact title I can't recall, but which has the subtitle "Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura" or something to that effect, which is what I was trying to reference with the steampunk thing earlier. It would be a fascinating world, but Drizz't and Elminster wouldn't recognize it as their homeland.
However, if you want to see a campaign setting that does play with this sort of trope, I suggest you look to Eberron.
Jinx....
But, I think you would need to explain why the gnomes of Lantan would give up their hard-won industrial secrets, if you wanted to have other races building similar stuff.
The moment knowledge of this place reaches the mainland, an arms race begins. Industrial espionage is big business; when the stakes are that high, bad people are going to take the gloves off. The gnomes might be able to keep their secrets, but they'd have to work for it. They'd be captured and tortured, they'd have 30th-level thief-acrobats pillaging their vaults or eavesdropping on their workshops...the resources that the rest of the world could marshal toward this objective far exceed what Lantan itself would have to defend, even with their miracletech.

I should point out that when I make this kind of argument, I'm not trying to ruin anyone's fun; I'm just protesting the idea of tossing out a bit in some creative work, and then having nobody think about the obvious logical consequences of that inclusion, and the creator not thinking about those implications, is a shortage of thoughtfulness that I find unfortunate, and which I believe should be pointed out. That's as far as I'm going with it; it doesn't mean the thing is bad, but it does mean that I think someone should think about it, come up with an explanation (an apologetic, if necessary), and possibly change the status quo after some time has passed...maybe the locals didn't think of it themselves at first, but eventually, someone should, and things change as a result. If nobody ever thinks of a thing, which to us is so obvious, then it suggests that the people in the Realms or wherever are just not that bright, compared to us. (There's evidence to back this up; in the real world, we have something called the Flynn Effect, which documents that people have been getting smarter at a phenomenal rate over the past several decades, to the point that our great-grandparents would have just stared in stupefaction at things which we take entirely for granted. It makes sense to believe that the enforced medieval paradigm of D&D universes might hamper mental evolution, so that we would be geniuses compared to them, but I'm not certain we really want to go there.)

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Re: What is Lantan? (was: The new 5E storyline will be announced in early June)

Post by Sturm » Mon May 07, 2018 9:47 am

Indeed Lantan should have influenced the Realms much. The reference you were thinking of is the Arcanum videogame: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcanum:_ ... ck_Obscura which shows indeed a fantasy world where technology is developing fast.
In the RW too people tried to control or limit technology in many ways from the Renaissance to the XIX century. Eventually all such efforts failed, but some were effective for limited times, hence a Church like Gond trying to limit or control tech could be effective, at least for a while, but tech will spread eventually in the turn of 2-3 centuries.

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Re: What is Lantan? (was: The new 5E storyline will be announced in early June)

Post by willpell » Tue May 08, 2018 7:35 pm

I thought the name might be some variant of Arcana, but I wasn't sure.

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