Joining The Stampede – Ponies, Bio-Arcana, and Eclipse

For today it’s a rather odd question; “Alzrius has written up several ponies recently. How do you think that their species, society, and Alicorn Ascension, works?”

Indeed he has: here we have Lashtada, Hearts and Hooves, the Sirens, Lex Legis, and his Origin, Celestia, Rarity, the Pony Races, and the Elements of Harmony.

Well why not? I know enough about the program and setting to speculate, and a few Google searches can help fill in the details as needed.

So lets see… It’s pretty obvious that the creatures of Equestria pretty much ALL use a lot of magic. While timberwolves and dragons are perhaps the most blatant about it, even the birds and normal-looking small animals are near-sapient and do some really odd things. Ponies are no exception. They pick up things with hooves, they heal with astounding speed, their genetics are more than a bit odd, and they’re incredibly resistant to injury. Having anvils and pianos falling on their heads from considerable heights is shaken off in short order, they crash into trees and through masses of rock without injury, and they are only briefly stunned by bolts of lightning. They still seem to be vulnerable to beestings, being smacked by other ponies and creatures, and similar menaces though, which is kind of odd. Perhaps the inherent magic of an attacking creature can partially overcome their defenses – which may explain their reliance on melee weapons.

So… pony biological systems all involve magic. Ergo, pony gestation involves magic – some sort of life-supporting effect to keep the infants magical systems working and (since any pony can have any kind of offspring) the ability to support and nurture all three basic types of pony magic – earth, pegasus, and unicorn.

As a pony develops greater reserves of magical power, all of it’s magical abilities can be expected to increase in power – if not all necessarily to the same extent.

Ergo, at some point, a female pony with enough power can be expected to start sustaining it’s own life with magic, becoming very difficult to harm or poison and resistant or immune to aging. As a female ponies ability to nurture all three types of magic within itself grows, eventually it will develop all three types of magic within itself – regardless of it’s original type.

Thus a female pony who develops sufficient magical power can be expected to hit a critical point and “ascend” to become an alicorn. Even if they do not do so, greater magical power can be expected to extend their lives. Male ponies probably lack that nurturing function – and so, while they may become powerful and long-lived, cannot ascend.

Even before that point, female ponies can be expected to survive prenatal issues, childhood accidents, and various illnesses more often than males, and to live longer lives – leading to some degree of sexual imbalance in favor of females.

It is possible that males – who seem to possess greater physical aptitudes than the females – also possess greater aptitudes for the more combative forms of magic than the females. This would be a rough parallel (which seems normal enough) with the behavior of earthly equines and would neatly explain the predominance of males in troop-level military roles in an otherwise female-dominated culture.

Of course, with magic, the development of skill and experience over time seems to outweigh most of the physical limitations of age. Thus, while young adulthood is generally the peak of physical prowess, magical prowess may continue to develop until senility sets in. Ergo, barring amazing natural talent, older females are likely to dominate the magical arts – likely including combat magic.

That’s a reasonably plausible theory. What kind of results will it lead to?

  • We can expect non-magical projectile weapons to be fairly useless – and therefore virtually unheard of.
  • We can expect the “military” to be fairly light-duty; it’s only real roles are 1) to keep things from surprising the powerful magic-users, and 2) to hold back monsters long enough for the powerful magic users to turn up and make them go away. For that… medieval-style armor and pointed sticks will do very nicely indeed.
    • That nicely explains why we see trains, engines, electrical devices – and weapons that are medieval at best.
  • We can expect most ponies to show one basic response to anything even remotely unexpected or frightening – to run to get behind the guards with the pointed sticks while they wait for the powerful magic users to take care of whatever-it-is.
  • Despite that tendency to flee, we can expect a willingness to live and wander about in unreasonably dangerous areas as long as the group is confident in their protectors.
    • So… we have creatures who are willing to live on the borders of the Everfree Forest, yet who will run in panic from a “stampede” of rabbits.
  • We can expect a primarily matriarchial society, organized around the most powerful magic users who are willing to defend the rest of the herd – and to see that even a bad leader, such as Sombra, can rule since even a noxious defender is better than none.
    What male leaders there are will be more tenatively in charge; since they cannot become Alicorns, they have no obvious sign of authority – and they will be subject to aging.

    • Thus Shining Armor – while capable of generating extremely powerful shields and barriers – is somewhat tenatively a “prince”, possibly merely by virtue of marriage. Prince Blueblood may hold an honorary title – but it’s interesting to speculate that his magical talent (perhaps an ability to confuse or manipulate directions?) is powerful enough to make it worth putting up with his deficient social skills. After all… if he was really THAT useless, Celestia has had a thousand years practice in manipulating people, rules the country, and is considered a goddess. She really ought to be able to get him placed somewhere where he wouldn’t be so annoying.

The mechanisms that allow ponies to have three seperate forms, and to have members of any one group born to parents of any other group are… odd. Virtually any genetic explanation will have trouble explaining why, for example, Sweetie Belle resembles her sister Rarity so much, yet Pound Cake and Pumpkin Cake are entirely different types in a family of earth ponies. To make it even worse, we have ponies being transformed by environmental factors – such various characters becoming Crystal Ponies for a time.

About the only way to sort that out is more magic. It’s hard to say what governs it though; there really isn’t enough data to even speculate.

That does make another problem though. The three major pony types are so heavily interdependent that it’s hard to see how they could get along separately – or how their interbreeding would work if they were actually genetically separate. Yet the Hearths Warming Eve play suggests that they were separate tribes.

Of course, the Hearths Warming Eve play may not be any more historically accurate than the Morte de Arthur – especially since it’s describing a piece of history that predates Discord’s reign. Given that… I don’t think that much of an explanation is required.

Overall, the theory fits the evidence about as well as can be expected for a cartoon. I can’t guarantee that I’ve taken all the details into account since I don’t know them – but that gives us a reasonable basis for pony society and a number of it’s oddities as well a theory to extrapolate from.

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3 Responses

  1. I have to say, both the article itself and the question that prompted it were very nice surprises! I didn’t expect to be as taken with the ponies as I am, but it’s fun to be able to mix that with my favorite RPG (sub-)system, and I’m glad people are enjoying it.

    I’m also intrigued by the insights in your article. I had initially assumed that the female-centric nature of the show was largely a meta-situational; that the relative dearth of male ponies was largely because the “mane” cast members just happened to be female, and the female rulers were a coincidence. You make a very good argument for an alternate point of view, though.

    • Well, the ponies are cute, brightly colored, and relaxing – but from a gamers and game masters point of view there’s a lot more to them. They’re optimistic, only violent when necessary, form a cohesive, friendly, group which still has plenty of character interaction, have a nice balance of abilities, and are heroic protectors of the land and it’s people whenever that is required – while being somewhat disruptive when things are too calm. They’re pretty much an ideal party of adventurers – the kind that gets harder and harder to put together as you get older and the players start wanting to complicate things.

      As for the setting stuff… At least as far as I’m concerned, converting settings for rpg’s works a lot like converting literary characters for RPG’s; you take what the source material gives you as literally as possible and try to make sense of it while adding as little as possible.

      Going beyond that point… well, on one end there’s “How fast can Rainbow Dash go?” “Rainbow Dash doesn’t exist and thus doesn’t “go” anywhere. “She” is just an image on a screen and a voice actor, part of a cartoon intended to sell toys and advertising time”. On the other end there’s “how fast does Rainbow Dash go?” “the sonic rainboom is actually a rift to Bifrost, and once Rainbow Dash starts taking advantage of that she’ll be able to transverse space, time, and dimensions (including afterlife dimensions) at will, making the question of “how fast she can go” meaningless.”. Neither approach is much help in writing game statistics – so I stick with “well, this is what the stuff that happens in the show looks like to me”.

      There certainly is viewpoint bias – the program is designed to appeal to small girls after all – but trying to “correct” for that just results in introducing your own biases. As an example… it’s a readily observable fact that female characters on the show outnumber male characters and that the males that do appear generally play a far less prominent role than the females.

      I could easily argue that the males are simply out of sight – busy with things like constructing more railroads (given that some of those are at least partially pulled by ponies while others are entirely self-propelled in the show there’s evidently some upgrading going on) or other “manly” tasks.

      The thing is… once I start “correcting” things, I could just as easily argue that males are actually quite rare, and that most of the ones who are around are basically “as thick as bricks”. After all… the royal guard is basically useless isn’t it? Perhaps the only reason it exists is so that Celestia can keep an eye on the precious, stupid, males while giving them the impression that they’re doing an important job. Perhaps the proportion of males in Ponyville – which is close to Canterlot and the more-secure center of the country – is abnormally high for the same reason – and the fully intelligent males may have “wives”, but they also regularly stand to stud for other mares. Why don’t we see that? Because this is a kids show!

      Humans are GOOD at justifying what they want to believe – and once I get started on “what we’re being shown doesn’t REALLY represent the setting”, I can justify pretty much anything at all. Unfortunately, once I start that, very shortly the players won’t be able to recognize the setting at all – and once that starts happening… why bother? “I’d like to play in the setting” is the only reason for doing a conversion in the first place.

  2. […] I’m not quite sure why this came up other than the previous question on the biology of ponies, but the question was about Equestria’s Legal […]

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