Sunday, January 27, 2013

Uncanny Navigation

There is far too much life going on this month and keeping me from blogging or doing much else in the way of relaxation. I finally was able to score a free minute to flip through this month's National Geographic. Fortunately, in my second paragraph of leisure reading this month, I came across this gem in a piece about exploration and human nature:
[Captain James] Cook granted [a Polynesian priest named] Tupaia a berth on the Endeavor in Tahiti. Soon after that, the Polynesian wowed the crew by navigating to an island unknown to Cook, some 300 miles south, without ever consulting compass, chart, clock, or sextant. In the weeks that followed, as he helped guide the Endeavor from one archipelago to another, Tupaia amazed the sailors by pointing on request, at any time, day or night, cloudy or clear, precisely toward Tahiti.
This blew my mind. I read a while back about a people who have a similar ability. The language of this people (I think it was an Amazon tribe) has no words for relative direction, such as left or right. Instead, everything is described in cardinal directions - Dan is sitting to the east of Steve, for example. Even inside buildings, they could always point north instantly.

It struck me that such an amazing human ability must be codified into gaming somehow. I always fond it exciting when I come across real world evidence that such a trait could actually exist. No doubt some games have such a thing, but I'm not about to go do any research. The closest thing that comes to mind is the Dungeoneering skill, but that falls short of this. So here's how I would describe it:

Uncanny Navigation
Because of the character's cultural familiarity with the terrain type, she simply cannot get lost. No matter where she travels, she will always be able to identify the direction to a known location. Drugs, magic or other unnatural inhibitors may temporarily disrupt it, however. The character must be from a culture that is defined by the terrain she can navigate. For example, an island people may choose the open ocean, Bedouins the desert, Dwarves underground, etc.

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