Thursday, 22 January 2015

Monitors: those pesky mammals

I have made what I modestly call world-shaking strides in the development of my silly reptile game, and am now assembling a very preliminary draft! It's all very exciting. Then, I ran into a problem: to whit, mammals.

See, Monitors has a carefully-designed system for monitoring body temperature and its effects on your ability. This is perfect for portraying reptiles. However, mammals work completely differently. Instead of allowing fluctuating core body temperature, they have to stay very very close to a specific temperature or die. Instead of relying on heat absorption and dissipation, they generate their own heat and have their own heat-dispersal mechanisms.

Put a reptile somewhere cold, and it gets cold. Put a reptile somewhere warm, and it gets warm. Put a cold reptile in a jumper and put it in a warm room, and it remains cold. Put a hot reptile in a jumper in a cold room, and it stays hot.

Put a mammal somewhere cold, and it stays around 37C until it keels over. Put a mammal somewhere warm, and it stays around 37C until it keels over. Put a mammal in a jumper in a warm room, and it stays at 37C, gets increasingly uncomfortable and then keels over. Put a mammal in a jumper in a cold room, and it remains at 37C.

Do you see the problem?

Mammals and other homeothermic endotherms have several separate things going on:

  • They maintain a stable body temperature. The game mechanics must allow this, or they'll all die.
  • They are impaired over time in either cold or hot conditions.
  • They generate their own heat. They can generate extra if they're particularly cold, but they're always pumping out heat. If there's no way to disperse that heat, it can build up disastrously.
  • They have cooling mechanisms. They can sweat or pant to dissipate unwanted heat.

Mammals can stave off getting cold or hot more easily than reptiles, but if they do get very cold or hot, they don't cope with it as well.

I think that, mirroring nature, I'm going to need more than one system to make mammals work right. In fact, I probably need to have rules for homeothermy (a separate heat chart) and endothermy (mechanics), and possibly also cooling (more mechanics). But first, I need to work out what actually happens to mammals over a long period under various rulesets, and to do that, the best option is probably a model. Which means coding.

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