Saturday, October 17, 2015

Became an audience at the RPG night last night - what I saw...

Dramatic scenes at the D&D tables last night, with people falling from ruins into pits of exploding monsters (pro-tip: Non lethal attacks, guys!) and others jumping after them to heal 'em! And on another the curved bridge across the chasm of doom with PCs and enemies alike hanging off the edge as gargoyles swooped around!

But somehow my table dropped right back to it's flakey status of about two months ago and only one player showed up. Atleast I had ~8 consistant sessions in the meantime!

Friday, October 9, 2015

When machines lie to themselves

The ingredients of this scenario are fairly prosaic, given the era we are in – though they might have generated cries of denial a mere hundred years ago.

The primary component is simply the optical reader of a smart phone that can read QR codes and an imagined environment where all objects have some sort of QR code (in some case, at different scales, many of them) imprinted on the object.

The QR codes often contain equations. Solving these equations or finding the equations amongst many other QR codes (which may or may not have information as to where an equation QR code is) leads to energy resupply and parts replacement. The optical reader and it’s processor are mounted on the armature of something essentially the same as a bomb squad robot. This allows control lines to run from the processor on board the robot to the various actuators in its arm – aiming the armature at different QR codes or running a systematic search for QR codes by moving the arm, or activating the treads of the robot in what is essentially a larger scale search for QR codes (by not just searching from one location, but changing location entirely before searching from one new location)

Apart from an environment with QR codes and electrical energy supplies scattered around it (hardly a natural surrounding), this is an entirely conventional arrangement with no controversy to be found at all. Maze running robots have been around for decades and this is simply a more sophisticated model.

What we will add here is not controversial either – adding complexity to the environment (harder to find QR codes that indicate energy, harder to find QR codes which point towards the general location of energy QR codes) leading to more pressing environmental demands – as well as random processing system/program change in various models (an analogy of mutation). The robots that keep finding energy sources (and where needed, replacement parts) will then be taken as the model for a next generation with a random change to their processing/programming. Those which don’t find energy or replacement parts cease to function and are not used as models for a next generation. To be clear, several generations of non mutation would occur to properly road test a ‘design’ (‘design’ being simply the old model with it’s new, random processor changes) to reduce the chance it’s survivability is purely dumb luck (just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get energy), before new mutations are added.

Further, there will be more than one machine and the environment will be difficult enough that it takes multiple machines operating to locate energy QR codes.

Arguably, given the random processor changes above, a machine might eventually change to where it does not need other machines in order to locate QR codes.

But for now we will assume that multiple areas need to be scanned at once (moving QR codes) and not only that, but in order to gain QR energy sources, the machines must be able to read each others QR codes, of which they can display a small range. In a particular set up this might allow the machine that spots a clue to QR energy, set a QR signal upon itself that the other machines, if they scan it, provides a signal to the processor that in a very particular set of arrangements between machines, guides the other machine(s) to a source of energy or parts.

Now, while before we ignored the potential for a machine to have a sequence of changes in it’s processing that latter generations can survive solo existances in the environment, here it could be argued that changes could easily occur cause a completely different occurrence than that scenario where one machine finds a QR clue and activates a QR display upon itself AND that QR display is triggers another machine(s) processing which eventually leads to the energy source for that machine.

For instance, what about a processor change where the finder robot just doesn’t activate the QR code?

Perhaps ‘selfishness’ leaps to mind? For the purposes of this scenario, this text does not inform you ‘do not think that’, but at the same time this text does not affirm you thinking that. Think it if you want to and draw associations if you want to – but you are not being asked to do so. If you do so it is your volunteering to do it off your own bat – this scenario, I would argue, does not require you to do so. And that is part of the point of the scenario. The optional nature of such an observation.

Continuing with random processor changes (in regards to which I am just going to break down and call ‘mutations’ from now on), there could be a number of break downs. The QR display signal is lit up, but the other robot has mutated to the extent their processor does not use it as an input at all.

A more complicated to explain breakdown might be where the QR code had markings, which triggered the processor of another robot to aim its camera in a certain direction (the movement of the arms actuators heavily influenced by the first robots display QR code markings) to a certain area. Where before this might have had the second machine looking at the QR energy, the mutation might break this delicate relationship as there are many ways the robot arm could move and just one different firing could have it aiming in an entirely wrong direction, making it miss out on energy and possibly it’s own extinction in regards to latter generations.

That was actually quite difficult to describe without resorting to saying ‘the information in the QR code points to the right location to scan’. However, what is important is to keep track of how a certain marking on a QR code can become an input to a processor, the processor – in regards to how the program triggers new on/off states inside the processor and how its arrays of semiconductor gates are configured in hardwired form or programmed form to those new states with further new states formed, until eventually we get the states sending on/off signals to actuators in the robot arm, which determines where the optical reader is aimed. And where the optical reader is aimed determines what QR codes are detected, the marks of those QR codes determines input to the processor, which generates new states, etc, etc.

When you keep this in mind you can see something quite active, but not really different from a plant – just far more active. Or if you must use the Z word, not much different from a zombie. The markings and semiconductor responses to markings and the actuator changes which then make the optical reader find new markings is a continual flow, like a river that triggers the release and closing of dams into it, with those closings and openings either releasing water that triggers new openings or closings, or especially important, the absence of water still triggering openings or closings. How could such a river keep going on and on without eventually running out of water? Well all the ‘rivers’ and the configuration of openings and closings that did run out (leaving a machine just sitting in a corner or driving endlessly against a wall) went extinct and the ones that flowed longer, long enough to lead to a following generation, are of course the ones that keep getting repeated from generation to generation.

Possibly one of the greater mutations in such a system is internally initiated Darwinism – one might say where ideas face adversity and are potentially allowed to go extinct. This adaptive model, instead of waiting for the animal to both enter into and die in a particular scenario it cannot cope with (and that death leading to an absence in following generations genetics, thus being the information in genes that is there by being absent), allows the idea/behaviour that drives entering that particular scenario to instead face some kind of adversity and potentially die itself, before that idea kills the organism by driving it into that scenario it cannot cope with.

But that, while it’s important to the subject enough to give a brief outline (enough to keep it vaguely in mind), it is a little off topic and I wont continue on it here.

One of the pivotal issues of this scenario is the breakdown of the machines ‘social’ system of hunting for energy QR. Here, like the reference to ‘selfishness’ from before the term ‘social’ is optional – though I grant I brought it in myself here and so you can blame me about doing that! Don’t think of a white bear! It’s terrible, but in raising so have I muddied the waters – and yet for a number of reasons, though I’m raising it as an optional consideration rather than ‘how it is’, I think it’s important to at least raise it as an optional consideration.

Having gotten those caveats over and done with, we can see the QR marking reactions that mean multiple machines (each with a set of scanning behaviours that scan the other machines and those other machines potentially lighting up their own QR codes on the surface of their machinery end up enacting the actions that eventually end in tapping into QR energy) could break down with a mutation here or there.

(And yes, long text in brackets will be our curse here as they are needed to avoid summarisations which, in their reduction of the events, give misleading conclusions. That is why I’ve tiptoed around words like ‘selfish’ and ‘social’ (even though it was me who brought up the latter! I know, I’m bad!))

What is important is to outline not ‘functionality’ (yes, more scare quotes to indicate optionals!) in regards to getting QR energy, but to instead outline how a breakdown can occur. With breakdown defined as one set of inputs and behavioural outputs and survival, with just a mutation here or there, being a set of behaviours that does not lead to energy obtainment/survival.

With an establishment of such breakdowns (how a careful sequence of input/out put can break, like removing a domino or two from a series of standing dominoes breaks the chain reaction), we can begin to see how machines can lie to themselves.

Machines that lie to the logic processes they are comprised of

As we can see, breakdown can lead to extinction. Thus mutations that somehow reduce the effects of breakdowns are more prone to survive in latter generations. Of course breakdowns occur from mutations – so it’s mutation vs mutation here.

As machines of a particular pattern who’s  following forebears existence hinges on the capacity (in the hardened environment we introduced) to not just scan their environment for QR codes but also scan other robots (of the same pattern as themselves) for QR codes as well, processing the QR codes displayed on other machines of the same pattern (in a way that leads to energy obtainment) is pivotal to survival.

At first glance this may seem far away from lying – we’re talking some kind of ‘understanding’ of other machines QR codes here, after all. Aren’t we?
Strictly speaking, no. We are talking the QR code on one machine, of which the markings are an input to another machine, who’s processors semiconductor gates go through a number of reactions to that input, creating on/off states, which more of the processors semiconductors react to, creating more inputs – this goes on for X generations until it hits an output to the robots arms actuators or treads.

Complex, but nothing about this requires anything we might call an accurate understanding of the other machine, at all. As long as the robot gets its energy in the end, it doesn’t matter what sort of process goes on in regards to receiving of input, the reactions and then outputs to actuators. As long as that energy is obtained.

Granted, a process that is a poor understanding of the other machine might lead to less energy gathering than could otherwise be optimised. But if the machine is getting enough energy even with a suboptimal process response to the other machines QR codes, then it’s going onto the next generation so in regard to Darwinism there is no issue there.

Now it’s so easy as to perhaps sound a little trite to simply state here that if that’s how the machine understands other machines QR codes…that just ‘if it gets the energy, then that’s good enough’…then that applies just as much to the machine understanding it’s own QR codes! Actually, even more so – ‘understanding’ other machines states helps it take advantage of their optical scanning, thus giving it much more capacity to survive than scanning alone would give it.

Where as understanding it’s own QR codes doesn’t grant it any further scanning capacity. If an understanding of its self is ‘good enough’ to get energy, then that’s as far as it will go.

Further, in it’s default state it can only scan the surface QR codes upon the outer hull of it’s robot body.  We’ll give it a break to some degree –we’ll say the components inside it’s processor have QR codes on each of them. Even the states have their own codes. But these codes are so tiny that the default optical reader simply couldn’t read them, even if it removed the cover of the processor (it would require a prosthetic and that the robot ‘trusts’ that prosthetic (a microscope/electromagnetic sensor) and doesn’t process it as the devils work or something). Even worse, this hits an Ouroboros point – it’s clear eventually the optical camera cannot look at the components it itself is made of, for being those components! Some amount of tracking is literally impossible, for it being impossible for a tracking device to track itself in detail (and sometimes, at all!). I believe the blind brain theory document refers to this tracking issue, originally.

Close enough is good enough when it comes to the other machines. A fairly promiscuous position already. When it comes to the machine understanding itself, it gets outright slutty! It’ll get down and dirty with the first understanding it lays its hands on!

This is the point where for those who argue against materialism, their own notions of ‘it’s just a machine’ turns against them.

Why would the machine do any better than that, in regard to itself? It’s just a machine, just as you say! Why wouldn’t it’s understanding of itself just be quite appalling compared to the actual state of things – the most convenient way of getting the energy it could come up with the least energy spent figuring that out? Whatever dross it comes up with (if any!) to gain an understanding of that thing it is comprised of. It’s just a machine, after all! Why would it do any better?

So, how does that tie in?

Well, if you take it that it does indeed show how a machine can lie to itself/to the processes it is comprised of, then we have a clear cut example of a machine doing something humans are well known to do. Lie.

“So…so what? It’s a parallel to human behaviour – in regards to us, that doesn’t mean…”

I’m not going to answer that. Instead I’m just going to ask you to put yourself in the shoes/treads of the machine and imagine it from their perspective as best you can.

From their perspective, instead of asking how humans differ from machines, let’s ask how the machine could differ from humans in regard to the lie it delivers to itself?

What is the machine going to do about that lie, what extra thing, to stop it from ending up in a lie about itself and recognising itself as a machine?

As you say, it’s just a machine – what else could it do given this limitation?

But it’s a machine lying to itself – it’s not just that that parallels human lying – it’s that the machine itself could be reporting that it has consciousness, it has experience, that it has…qualia.

“You’re just a machine! You don’t have any of that!”

But from the machines perspective, what extra thing is it ever going to do to stop thinking these plainly false conclusions? It’s clearly a lie – we’ve established the robot can lie to itself – and this is one kind of lie that could be taken up just as much - so therefore it could claim it and even feed such a claim, in information format, to it’s own processors.

And why would it ‘want’ to, given these reports it gives and it’s processor commitments to such end up getting it energy and it lacks the capacity to scan itself in fine detail, as well as the Ouroboros problem? Look at it from it’s perspective and there are so many hurdles in the way of disproving it’s notion it has some sort of ‘qualia’. It would have to develop some kind of prosthetic detection tools to really start to analyse it’s internal components and find no such qualia exist in there. Even then why would the machine accept that (what’s the energy profit in it for them?). The machine might report ‘There’s more to me than just the processor’. Claim there’s more to them than just the brain.

So you’re stuck with a bunch of robots reporting consciousness, experience, qualia. You might even say they are claiming such things.

And if you look at it from their perspective, you can see there’s nothing special about the machine that would suddenly snap them out of these lies and show them the truth of the matter. Instead they would indulge the notion, printing out massive reports about their consciousness and qualia – especially as such ‘social’ communications, given in the past generations communicating robots had some energy finds ‘shared’ with them, this communication with it’s flattering conclusions, gets more energy shared with them. (‘flattering’ being a derivative of robots which use a breeding process to determine new generations, with ‘flattery’ being something similar to the prime breeding stock signifiers that processors started to detect (after much mutation over time and some shorter term processing state ‘mutations’, with the processors getting so complex that the patterns in them can mutate, thus accelerating the evolutionary process))

So you have all these robots claiming consciousness, experience, qualia – I know, it’s appalling!

But what else would they do? Can you see it from their perspective – it would seem perfectly natural to them, just as much as you can see in mechanical terms there is nothing else they could do. They are just machines – there is no ‘out’ that would let them see otherwise. Indeed, if such an ‘out’ existed, it might mean they were indeed more than machines! A lack of divinity is what makes their sense of personal divinity exist!

Imagine trying to convince them otherwise – you can already feel it, because you know mechanically there is no way they can by default detect the lies they deliver to their own processors – you’d be arguing until you are blue in the face and they would keep reporting consciousness, experience and qualia.

Except maybe a few – maybe some, in a hunt for more energy collection, develop a kind of robot science – and at first incidental findings in regard to their own mechanical nature start to build up (as a new connection to energy finding is found to be enabled through it) and those robots, who ‘trust’ the measure prosthetics they have developed and then applied to themselves – they might actually listen to you and cease their claims of consciousness (or at worst, redefine the term radically). They might actually stop claiming consciousness, experience, qualia – at least in terms of how the other robots define them.

So what is robot science? How does it differ from our science?

Well, it doesn’t. It’s just more science. We all acknowledge the materialistic nature of scientific investigation – which means the robots would use the same thing (given they are in the same material plane as us, of course).

So some of the robots would use the same science as us. And for those robots, it would mean they would stop making claims of consciousness, experience and qualia like the other robots (the muggle robots!) do.

So now you have two robot perspectives – you’ve always know the robots claims of consciousness were naive – and now you have the post scientific conclusion perspective of some of the robots to consider as well.

How would the scientific robots explain to the naive robots that they are just machines? This is a particularly relevant question to those who argue against materialism – why do these naive robots, when we are used to calculators giving the right result every time, give such an egregious wrong result every time? We can’t say it’s purely the nature of the machines physicalism, if we take the scientist robots and their dismissal of the naïve robots consciousness claims to be the case.

Looking for an explanatory route, the scientist robots begin to refer to something that probably should have been checked some time ago. The mutating robots actually began to see QR codes where there were no codes – the veins of a leaf, for the mutated robot, began to resemble a QR code enough that the processor used its somewhat (emphasis on it being merely ‘somewhat’) equivalence to an actual QR code. Even though it wasn’t the same thing and so the identification is at first a false one, it proves slightly more beneficial to see these previously invisible things in the hunt for QR energy codes.

Us, not wearing QR codes previously, were invisible. But now the robots had started to see the spaces between QR codes.

At first we seemed like columns of mud, then columns of mud that moved to no particular immediately discernable pattern. Eventually the robots processors started an analysis that likened these mud column things to even, perhaps, being like the robots. This becomes a common knowledge amongst the machines, though it’s finer details are argued.

And eventually this is the scientist robots ‘in’. To show the naive robots that they are…robots, the scientist robots turned to us…and to the naïve, explained our evolutionary history, the Darwinistic pressures on us, our hunt for caloric energy. How we had to work in packs. How this required displays from one individual of us to be able to successfully trigger a response in another individual of us. How this sequence is breakable.

They used the way the robots treat us as ‘others’, as mud things and nothing to do with the robots, as a way to turn that upon the naïve robots and their superstitious claims. To explain how the mud men could continue after generations, but would put little into actually understanding each other beyond what simply worked in terms of energy gathering. They asked the naïve ‘think of it from the mud mens shoes – what else would they do? You say ‘they’re just mud’. Exactly, so what else could they do but lie to themselves? Without the prosthetics of science what else could they do?’

And the left it to their fellow naïve robots, the ones who just couldn’t stop saying they had consciousness, experience and qualia – which as you would say, is ridiculous - to explain how the mud men could ever do any better than, by default, lie to themselves about their own nature? Why would they do any better than that, the scientist robots would ask, when the other robots would say that the mud men are just mud. Carbon. Why would they have any extra capacity that allows them to tell they are just wet mud?

Though the scientist robots would point out the mud mens scientists as well, and how they don’t claim consciousness, experience, qualia, or do but with radically different definitions from the naïve mud people.

The scientist robots put this to the naïve robots, the ones we know are infuriating for insisting they have experience and qualia, and the naïve robots could not think of a reason the mud men would just, by default, understand they are mud.

But then the naïve robots stated and asked : ““So…so what? It’s a parallel to robot behaviour – in regards to us, that doesn’t mean…”

The robot scientists refuse to answer it, saying instead ‘Put yourself in the mud man’s treads/shoes…they lie to themselves. The mud men claim they have qualia, just like you claim”

“They’re just mud! They don’t have any of that!”

But what else could they mud men say other than that, asks the robot scientist to the naïve robots? The robot scientist says “I know, it’s appalling how they claim these things!”

And the robot scientist added “And they act just the same way as you – they think you are the pretender to qualia, not them!”

“Absurd! BLATHER!”, cried the most miserly of naïve robots, who’s mutant heritage budgeted the least processing power to speculation thinking, in true Dunning-Kruger style.

And a few, a scant few of the naïve robots begin to see how this other, these mere columns of mud…they begin to see how mud can end up lying to itself. Lying to the processes they consist of. And looking at it from the muds perspective, how the mud could do no different – and how the scientist mud men could at least acknowledge the truth of the matter that the naïve robot knew clearly already, but only through their scientific prosthetics.

And these scant few robots began to wonder ‘What…what if this applies to me? What if my claim of consciousness, experience and qualia are just more of the same thing…’

Just as you needed them to finally admit.

‘…the same thing that the mud men engage in?’

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Point form adventure update!

To quickly update (so as to ensure doing so!)

  • They fought a flameskull - well, the barbarian picked a fight with it, then it flew away and he didn't do so well.
  • They survived and finished phandelver!
  • They returned to Red Larch and took up the notes of the previous party - who'd left none so I made it up some had left notes. Pliskin is after the mud sorcerer and Lucian the (now) barbarian has bad dreams so he want to smash elemental things.
  • They partied at feathergale spire. Then when the knights tried to have a slumber party with them (maybe!), the party butchered the knights and escaped on giant vulture (nat twenty animal handling) or spider climbed down the side of the tower to the valley below.
  • In the valley they stood around in the open (well, half did) and then were found by knights on vultures who refused to come down to the ground to be murdered by the barbarian and whatever Pliskin is. 
  • So the party got hammered by javalins and Lucian the barbarian almost died trying to distract the knights from the almost dead Muriden the noble dwarf, as he tried to get away with his vulture.
  • Muriden didn't say thanks. Nobles.
  • They hid and rested but at the eigtth hour gnolls, one a pack lord, find the less hidden of them.
  • Pliskin spares the packlord, insisting he is the gnolls leader now.
  • They find the gully they spotted through a telescope on feathergale spire, find some magic monks who try to beat up the party but get beat up!
  • They interrogate a final one and find the cult the monks are from hates the mud sorcerer! Plot twist!

And that was the short version!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Baksplaining : Akrasis (alternative title: 'Breaking Bard')

I liked a recent story at Scott Bakker's three pound brain blog, so I thought either A: I'd explain it here (as best I can) if it's confusing for anyone or B: If everyone gets it already, then I just get to talk about what I like on my blog ( lol! ) and also C: Spreading out the talk from TPB to other places to some small degree.


Quick to exploit the discoveries arising out of cognitive science, market economies spontaneously retooled to ever more effectively cue and service consumer demand, eventually reconfiguring the relation between buyer and seller into subpersonal circuits (triggering the notorious shift to ‘whim marketing,’ the data tracking of ‘desires’ independent of the individuals hosting them).

Okay, so here is a compacted bit and so compacted it's hard to understand. What is cue in 'cue and service'? It means an attempt to trigger an urge - see that advert with the mouth watering hamburgers (which in actual fact the ones in the commercial are plastic and not even Representative of the product)? That's trying to cue you - no, they aren't offering a service that you might take up - that's last centuries method! Here it's to trigger you - there's a reason a lot of junk food adverts come up around dinner time! To cue the urge. Then service the urge.

The extra trick that is compacted into this is rather like how if you stood behind bulletproof glass and someone on the other side swung a punch at you, you'd blink. It's a reflex - or it could be described as an urge. But ultimately it happens without you?

So what if A: There are other urge types that go on without you and B: Advertisers start mapping out these urges to trigger them?

It's outlining (in compact form) and referring to the outlined idea of A and B. But presumably more sophisticated than the current form of B.

The human dependency on proximal information to cue what amount to ancestral guesses regarding the nature of their social and natural environments provided sellers with countless ways to game human decision making.
So what's this mean? Well let's go back to the plastic burger. That 'burger' is easier to work with and construct into something that triggers the ways one finds such a food desirable. How do they find out the ways one finds a food desirable or if one even does? Market surveys, focus groups and...coming up more recently, scanning subjects brains while the subject observes the food. But market surveys, focus groups...these are clearly things that everyone agrees they do occur.

But it's a plastic burger! It's awful and nothing like what you actually want.

But it appears delicious.

But you know it's plastic.

You can see how knowledge and urge start to split apart here - which ties into the title.

The global economy was gradually reorganized to optimize what amounted to human cognitive shortcomings.
Burgers but bigger!

the simulation of meaning became the measure of meaning.

Burgers should look like that burger on the advert or they are awful and wrong and possibly a little criminal!

For billions, the only obvious direction of success—the direction of ‘cognitive comfort’—lay away from the world and into technology. So they defected in their billions, embracing signals, environments, manufactured entirely from predatory code.

Diablo, with all it's 'success' feedbacks ("Oh, I found a new, more powerful weapon! I feel great!"), but bigger (and more diverse). The 'world' begins to be gamified. Thousands of success indicators are added to lives, your lives, that have nothing to do with your actual contined heartbeat.

By 2050, we had become an advanced akratic civilization, a species whose ancestral modes of meaning-making had been utterly compromised. Art was an early casualty, though decades would be required to recognize as much. Fantasy, after all, was encouraged in all forms, especially those, like art or religion, laying claim to obsolete authority gradients. To believe in art was to display market vulnerabilities, or to be so poor as to be insignificant.
Not sure I entirely agree with this bit - I think to believe in art would be to be believing in something that could be targeted by attacks. Whether the rich (who would be behind such attacks) would target their own believed in art, I doubt.

However, if it's just suggesting art ceases to be inpenetrable/as invulnerable as a god, then fair enough.

Social akrasis is now generally regarded as a thermodynamic process intrinsic to life, the mechanical outcome of biology falling within the behavioural purview of biology.
Somewhat like how all life on the planet (probably) came from the one life creation event, but then clearly life has gone on to mutate into forms that eat other life (life eating life), here the one species starts to predate upon itself (unlike the animals, who have the decency to be a different species from the one they eat (yes, for those in the back row, it's not literally eating in the case of Akrasis. But go ahead and enjoy confusing literalism for wit)).

I'm not sure I totally agree with 'intrinsic', but as much as a fighter pilot can see a blip and press a launc button without really feeling he's killing a human being (or a drone pilot for that matter), with distance comes the sense you're a seperate species preying on another species.

Numerous simulations have demonstrated that ‘outcome convergent’ or ‘optimizing’ systems, once provided the base capacity required to extract excess capacity from their environments, will simply bootstrap until they reach a point where the system detaches from its environment altogether, begins converging upon the signal of some environmental outcome, rather than any actual environmental outcome.

I'm not sure I agree with the wording here - I'd say it's hardly the system that's detaching. More so it's likely there are many incentives toward the system providing pursuit signals (carrot on a stick) to members of that system that are unrelated to environmental outcomes (survival), but benefit that systems prefered enviromental outcomes. In such a case I'd hardly say the system is detaching from the environment! Unless perhaps one sees system as there for people (rather than the other way around) and so when people are detached from environment outcomes, it seems system would of course go with it.

But perhaps rather like the cells of our own bodies are co-opted individuals who now serve an environment which doesn't tie directly to their survival, what you have is a system where people are becoming the cells of it and are serving success signals which don't tie to their own survival but instead the systems survival.

Hopefully I've explained rather than adding another confusing idea there!

Anyway, to sum up I like the story - they just establish themselves, rather than having to try and convince and use all the academics prefered genre of words (half of which I have to look up!).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Phandelver. part 6ish, 7ish and 8!

Oh, how the time flies!

They somehow managed to con the hobgoblins into them going inside to check on the king, while the PC's walked calmly, then jogged, then ran like mad away!

They managed to get the dwarf, Rockseeker (IIRC) back to town, where after resting overnight he immediately started insisting they get to wave echo cave.

The PC's did indeed make their way there - and apart from anti climactic stirge encounters (nothing like encountering them in pathfinder!), they opened a door with an illusion across it of the rest of the trick a wight inside that no one had opened the door - after discovering the rooms occupant, they quickly moved speak to a spectator and tried to convince him out of something that magic forces him to do (guard a location) and...the warlock seemed to ignore that you could bypass him if you simply twisted the words of his contract.

From that powerful foe they...then ran into a flaming skull, who'd been set to oversee the area. And managed to convince it that the dwarf noble amongst them was one of the owners of the ancient dwarven mining complex - DESPITE the nobles best efforts to screw this up by saying count comments!

They kicked open the barred doors of bugbears - then ran away, thinking the bugbears would chase them right into the flaming skull. The bugbears promptly boarded up their door again - having boarded it incase the flame skull had come their way - they knew about it, all right! Fair plan, otherwise!

Then an excellent ghoul encounter occured, where the party went and split itself most wonderfully! Lucian the warlock walks in to examine some tables, then the rest of the party in the corridor see him look to his right, look shocked and run left! Malcer the ranger (newer player, so fair enough!) runs after him...but then the fairly beaten up fighter Murden (bugbears did it!) decides not to draw the attention of six ghouls by running in front of them all! Ander instead shoots his short bow at one, drawing the attention of two!

After some zanyness and readied actions which confused initiative order for me! Players are like 'hey, didn't the fighter just have a go?' and because I'm tired and just did all the monsters moves, I say yeah - but actually it's because he readied his action to attack as a ghoul approached. So he goes just before them, and perchance of initiative rolls, he went right after them as well!

Anyway, they thought they were doomed, but with some nat 20's from Malcer and some sensible fighting, they did alright!

The final battle was while exploring a new room with just a handful of ghouls in it - a mere three this time! But Lucian decides to fall back while fighting - and this is the ideal time for the ochre jelly, that had seen them in their previous exploration and was following them, to attack! And it got in one good slap of it's pseudopod too - eventually Lucian retreated back to the party who had finished the ghouls. They all braced for the jelly to come at them...braced and...nothing happened. As far as the module informed me, the jelly picks it's fights - it doesn't come at superior numbers. Making the jelly smarter than some PC's, at times!

And so having beaten the ghouls and feeling hurt, they decide to rest in the room with the ghouls - using their bodies as blocks against the doors as best they can.

Whether they will short rest for an hour or attempt a long rest here, who knows?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 5 and some 6 )

Castle Cragmore was kind of quick in the end - the party burst in on a group of hobgoblins, one of which dashed away while the others faught. However, party members chased after and slayed him before he could open the door to...well, what was the door to that the hobgoblin so needed to open?

Well, they burst in and find a bugbear and a drow talking at a table, with an unconcious dwarf in the corner. Heh - I stuffed up here - because I kept looking at the stats of the 'drow' who was actually a doppleganger, I gave away what it was by accident! Saying 'The doppleganger attacks!'. I'm not even sure why it was a doppleganger to begin with - but anyway! Also I forgot the wolf that aught to be present - but the party got a little hammered by blows before taking the bugbear, king Grol, down as well as the doppler!

Great! So they revive the dwarf, find the map and that was the end of one session.

Next they explored a bit, with a new player in tow playing an archer - as usual a player turns up and no real question of that was made (since it happens so often), so ended up making a reason for it latter on that they found him as a prisoner alongside the Gundren the dwarf. Ah, the things I do out of sequence!

So they explore a bit - lifted the bar on a door, heard a giant monster inside roar and...though they won initiative, nobody put the bar back! The owlbear clawed up the fighter a bit (like, to 1 HP!), but they toughed it out and won.

The thing is when they go outside, they ran into a group of hobgoblins coming back.

The warlock starts his smooth talker routine to try and talk them down (mostly because the fighter was down and we only had four PC's this session), essentially saying 'all those dead bodies - it was like that when we got here!'

Then someone else says something that ruins his speel a bit and he tries to give up and sneak away (fails!).

I'm thinking of a new house rule in future of basically individual diplomacy rather than group. How it works is if one PC says something to offend the NPC, the NPC's don't automatically target all PC's. The other PC's can step back if they want (or join in the defence of that PC, if they want). But they aren't dragged into the battle because of someone saying the wrong thing.

I'm considering that, because in combat one PC doing something inept doesn't doom the whole party. So I think for talking it would do well to be the same.

Anyway, did they get out of it? Mr TORGUE knows the answer to that! MAYBE!!!!1!

Friday, August 7, 2015

D&D Bonus Story #3

Jibso Flagons poked around in the Tresendar manor ruins, entering its basement. After a tunnel or two he found a room with sarcophagi and shattered skeletons laying around - and amongst these, a ring!

Which he immediately took back to town to pawn!

However, you see where he came from and declare that you put the better part of the work into that. After fondling his dagger thoughtfully for awhile while contemplating this, Jibso decides to split some of the earnings with you!

For players of my D&D game, this can be claimed up to 6 times (which conveniently is the maximum number of players), once per player.

You gain 6 gold!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 4 to 5 ) Hello Lizzy

So what happened across two sessions, so as to catch up?

Well, they got to Thundertree, poked around fighting stirges and restless dead.

The druid Lucian, who has been rebuked by nature and become a warlock (he rebuilt his character) decides to look for the druids house from the highest point and rolls to find where that is. A natural one latter, they go to the tower on the hill.

This is where Pliskin the grappler rolls a nat 20 charisma check when talking with the dragon inside, and becomes its pet. Meanwhile other character get tongue tied and just kind of run away (particularly the noble dwarf, Murden - the player was right on the edge of losing another character)

Eventually they find the druid who knows the way to Cragmore castle and they rest in his shack...

The next morning the players/PC's sway gently in the breeze like restless dead themselves, as they wait for god/the GM to tell them where to go next as they have all forgotten about having any motivation to live - I'm really going to have to have something quite fatal lined up for this. If you have no motivation to live, then you'll soon die!

They journeyed to Cragmore, encountering elves that were none too pleased the PC's were trespassing...this MAY have been in because a player had built a high persuasion character and it was an experiment to see if he was aiming for a spotlight moment and what would seem to qualify as one. Anyway, the warlock (former druid) Lucian charms them and the PC's leave with the elves even wishing them well!

All is good until Pliskin ends up sliding down a hill by accident and waking up next to a giant constrictor snake! This MAY have been an experiment in a grappler on grappler battle - where I find creatures who auto grapple on a hit aren't that amazing. So they grapple their opponent - all that does is the opponent can't move away. If they don't plan to move away, then it's no biggie.

Hilarious is the number of javelins, rays, and splashes of acid (the spell) used against the snake as Pliskin grappled with it - which of course have no (by the rules) chance of hitting him.

Eventually he defeats it with some help (it takes the other players a round or two to arrive safely), and they make their way to the castle.

Everyone walks in the front door all casual - only the paladin doesn't get away with it and gets shot by the goblins behind the arrow slits (the goblins rolled poorly on their perception checks for everyone else!). Much battles inside until the initial goblin forces are quelled, with Pliskin knocking one out then straight faced telling the kill intent warlock (no wonder nature threw him out) that he'd killed him.

They battled a grick in the next room, who was too well hidden for familiars to see - so someone walked in, it dropped down and...missed entirely! Then the trap behind them got set off (okay, I forgot to set it off when they walked into the region, so I had it go off latter and affect two PC's at random). After some good bites, the grick gets quelled as well...and although keen to investigate statues which are not there, the party feels a bit beaten up at this point and needs to go rest!

I'm really thinking of having the penalty for resting being that you have to deal with a bunch of smaller encounters first before you can get to the main meat. It's like the further you go, the more profit you make - but if you rest then you reset - having to go through smaller profits for your time, getting back to the bigger ones. But I haven't scratched out a draft of mechanics for this.

They do rest and return, entering a room to the north of the grick where six goblins are waiting in ambush...though having waited eight hours, they are a little bored now!

Higher level now and the goblins not having anywhere to really run and hide once the PC's where behind the shrine the goblins hid behind), the goblins were soon destroyed!

And that's the quick summery of two sessions, with the next soon to come!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Soylent E(ntertainment)

In ancient times, when we were all in tribes, if someone was bothering to entertain you (gossip with you/tell you a story, sing to you, cook food beyond mere practical necessity for you), it was something valuable in survival terms (and thus, valuable in general) because you were essentially interlinked with them - that they entertained you meant they were looking out for you (maybe one would say they entertained you so as to curry your favour, so you'd look out for them. But whatever - some amount of mutual looking out would occur, centered around entertainment)

But it's pretty clear the people who entertain you now...are nowhere near you. Maybe, at best, you go to a music concert and see them way, way over on the stage over there (with a line of burly, violent looking bouncers between you and them) and they shout 'How ya doing?'. And maybe you scream out. But they don't know, even though they act like they do.

Your TV - your movies, egregiously so given hollywoods distance from you.

But they thing is, they put the human in the entertainment. That's how they unlock the money from you - they need the human in it, not because the human somehow is the important thing itself (as it loves to sing as if it is). It's because the system still needs to make objects that have human in them, to get resources from humans. They need to feed you the human in order to get your money.

And you buy into it, because of your ancient instinct that entertainment is good. And it was good, back when the singer/storyteller was across the campfire from you and was watching for what might come up behind you.

Or else why gravitate towards working hours of your life and even the unrewarded pursuit of labour (for which to be lowly rewarded) to give over the proceeds of that for some sound waves and some flashing colours?

If someone was watching out for you when they did that, that'd make sense.

I say this as a potential writer myself, with around the 50k+ words needed, or more if I patched together my nanowremo effort (man, that was a bizzare month!). What would I be selling you anyway?

What would I be being, trying to sell - I can see the system using human to extract from human. I can't pretend I'm just naively writing books and hoping gosh darn the good people just lurve the books. I can see the money. I can see the exploitation, wraught from being entirely wrenched from the ecosystem that made entertainment have value to begin with.

So what up from here?

Meanwhile I haunt bitcoin faucets...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 3.1 ) A quick delve

I'm a little behind (well, part of me is, anyway!) since we've had a session and I hadn't summerised the one before.

Well, they ran into wolves stalking them on the way to the manor. And the druid decided to sit amongst them - and not call to them soothingly or cast magic upon them. Just sit. So they ate him.

Or attempted to, anyway.

Next amongst the ruins, spiders droped down from the upper stories to ensnare Murden (who promptly busted out of it a moment latter with a nat 20, IIRC. He can't hit, but when it comes to stunts, he's the bomb!).

The spy undead looking humanoids in the more distant ruins - but decide not to engage. Instead they enter.

Underneath the ruined manor that was the Redbrands hideout, they find a pit trap, get the party split in half by said pittrap (until we find how far strong characters can jump) so of course throw fire at the coffins in the next room before the party joins up. They battle skeletons awkwardly.

Then the first two into the prison area suffer a surprise attack by the redbrands within. But it does not go well for the two and they are quickly slain. Then they rescue the prisoners Sildar sent them to rescue, one of whom mentions treasure hidden in Thundertree to the north, as they have nothing else to give to the PC's as reward.

On the way back the druid almost goes to pick a fight with the undead, but back out of it in the end...

Back in town they ask around for information on Cragmore castle - and find that a druid who is in thundertree knows about its location.

So after resting overnight, off they head, for three days of travel north to get to the ruins of thundertree!

And that ended that session, IIRC! They still didn't pick up the beaver pelts, which are gone now...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

D&D Bonus Story #2

The bugbears heard the commotion in the hallway, but decided to brace themselves to ambush the intruders once they entered the bugbears quarters. But the noises dwinded as the intruders seemed to go north...then never return.

When the bugbears ventured out, it seemed most of their Redbrand allies were slain or tied up.

Thinking not much of this lot, they decided to leave - but not before taking the beaver pelts that were stored here!

However, on the way the strange, one eyed beast of the cavern disturbed them, leading them to spill some of their loot on the way out. While the adventurering party members might, casually searching around the place latter, find the lost loot!

How much did they lose?

Up to six players can claim 5 beaver pelts, each worth 2 gold pieces (so 10 gold in total )

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 3 )

Okay, a recap of the characters motivations to start the session. And with six players that takes awhile!

Ander the rogue, 'Best served cold', out to get Windharrow
Tumbleweed the rogue, 'Best served cold'
Lucian the druid, 'Ominous dream' - a dream of the elements of the world falling out of harmony
Murden the Dwarf noble and fighter, 'Shatterkeel' - hunting down Shatterkeel for nearly drowning him and drowning a bunch of others by sinking the boat they were on.
Rickarian the paladin, 'Ominous dream'

And the note they found in the Redbrand hideout, the one signed with a black spider, refered to dealings with Windharrow, Shatterkeel and working from Cragmore castle (a place shown in the ominious dreams as being the start of the trouble). This black spider guy is tied into everyone!

But Sildar does seek them out, in regards to finding missing people from town that he suspects are in the Redbrand ruins. He also gives a tip about the Wyvern Tor job that the townmaster offered - that there might be quite some orcs and perhaps even an ogre as well. It could go poorly for them if they take a frontal approach.

Sildar also talks about Cragmore castle, as he thinks the bosses of the goblins are there and offers 400 gold to find the castle and defeat or drive off the goblin chieftan.

Background info, the module has him offer 500 gold - but as adventure league wont let me add treasure to the game (and give no budget for me to add anything, because they want to be throwbacks to the 1990's) I reduce it to 400 for Cragmore, using 50 gold as the offer to find the lost towns people and the other 50 gold simply in case I need it for some other reward.

So they have an option of find the people, travel to Wyvern Tor or start looking for Cragmore castle.

Really I'd like the choices to be more thematic - not just 'do you follow your motivation something else for the time being?'. But in a way the modules are set in just one direction and so it takes some work to do anything else, otherwise the motivations have to tie into the main direction OR you do something else/ignore the character motivations. I'll have to see if I can figure some choices that actually hinge on motivations next time.

In the end they decide to take up the cause of finding the lost people. So back to the Redbrand ruins they go!

Friday, July 17, 2015

D&D Bonus 1

When Glasstaff fled the Redbrand hideout to escape the party, he took a stash of gold with him!

Unfortunately for Glasstaff, in his hurry the bag of gold tore open upon thorns and branches. Having tracked his footsteps for awhile, you find part of his stash scattered on the ground and collect 7 gold!

( up to 6 players can claim this, once per player )

This is a bonus for players on my table, if they visit here!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2.2 )

Well what happened next?

Well they decided to try and track the boot prints - and the module says nothing about this idea, so it's improv time. I figure that Glasstaff would head towards the Redbrands hideout in Phandalin, the sleeping giant. There I could plausibly confuse the trail (from all the other Redbrands around) because I'm not sure you should just be able to find a main character just like that (otherwise why don't monsters with tracking simply find the PC's all the time - they don't. People who want to be special characters who get to ignore half the rules of the world are a bit too metagame for me). And maybe they could find the Ruffian who took the spoils of the gaming table in the dungeon before, as a sort of compromise towards their tracking efforts.

So they approach the sleeping giant inn - with two Redbrands on guard duty at the door. I think the dwarf fighter noble called Murden intimidated them (nat 20, I believe?), and while they were intimidated  maybe they let slip the guy the party was tracking was hiding out in a shed in the back - so they just started walking around the back openly. Well, the rogues may have stealthed, but Murden and the druid just strode around, where Murden proceeded to just kick in the door of the shed - another nat 20! Boom, the door flies inward and the startled redbrand has it hit him in the temple side on, instantly knocking him out! They grab the remains of the loot from the gaming table!

Now technically this would be a little loud - but on the other hand the second nat 20 was so cool it was kind of enjoyable to just have the PC/player have the badass moment without having to throw in whatever complications you might think might occur. Pure realism tends to dash just having a good spotlight moment.

At this point the townmaster of Phandalin spots them lurking around the side - and the townmaster, being afraid of the redbrands, tries to distract the PC's he sees with a quest to beat up some orcs at Wyvern Tor. The PC's he can see assure him they will, with some diplomacy checks and walking in with him to town...then going right back to the sleeping giant afterward!

Meanwhile the sneaking types, Tumbleweed, Anden and Pliskin are all climbing into the back of the Sleeping Giant one by one through a window and poking around - finding a door ajar and seeing six Redbrand Ruffians playing cards at a table or standing around watching.

To summerise what happened next, the rogues (and the grappler, Pliskin) decide they can totally tank - they shoot through the door that is ajar, miss alot, hit once and then suddenly they each have two redbrands each. And they get hurt quite a bit! For some reason they split the party, Murden and the Druid at the front door.

So they use their actions or bonus actions to disengage and run...leaving Pliskin there, all alone...who is quickly beaten into the ground by three Redbrands as the rest partly chase after the rogues, after not really getting to attack. But not too far as the Redbrands realised they would be standing out by some bushes and cover with some rogues who might pop out at any second with an attack from stealth!

Then the druid Lucian turns into a bear and show how at low level druids of the circle of the moon are destroyers!

Basically a massacre at the front door, even though the fight in the interior goes quite badly!

Eventually the front door PC's enter and start to attack the Redbrands inside as the rogues snipe from outside - and Pliskin gets an image in his semi concious head of a Nothic who could heal him - apply the healing potion he had on him to Pliskin, magically. Pliskin will have none of this freaky Nothic mind probe stuff though and denies him...fortunately the Redbrands had only beaten Pliskin unconscious (because the PC's hadn't hurt any of them at that point) so he wasn't making death saves. Reflecting on it now I might let the player decide that next time when the enemy only goes to beat them unconcious - whether they want to make death saves (with the chance of a nat 20 reviving them!) or just be unconcious. I think I gave Pliskin an asterix for that - it's my sub currency for character choices which aren't quite worthy of a inspiration point. Get three asterix and you get an inspiration! So he got something from lying down (as well as XP latter!)

I think another PC got knocked out during that battle - the druid certainly got knocked back into druid form at one point, despite being a CR 1 bear with 2D6 damage!

But they beat them in the end!! This encounter which is NOT in the module! Sadly adventure league will not let a GM add treasure and has no budget to let the GM add treasure built into the modules, so fighting at the Sleeping Giant gains the PC's absolutely no loot at all! Woot fun, adventure league!

But beaten and bruised, the party now considers its motives as individuals and what to do next...meanwhile, Sildar is seeking them out with an offer...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Had a big week

So I'm just recharging a little - hope to get onto the next part of Phandelver soon! Indeed I better - we skipped D&D last Saturday because the store was moving. But the game is on this saturday, so I'd better get the last session written out soon!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2.1 )

So, it's a twisty turny road back down to Phandalin (ah, that's why I kept calling this Phandalin rather than Phandelver to begin with!) and I realise the players were so quick to take up the tunnel entry rumour previously that I never actually ran the Redbrand 'In your face!' encounter. So I have them walking up the road while the PC's are walking down the road. Well actually they were tracking boot marks from the ruined manors cellar - it's the usual thing players do - they just have to try and kill any potential recurring villain as if they were terminators, even though they never met Glasstaff and frankly he never actually did anything to them. But he got away! I'm not sure why this provokes this responce.

I kind of imagine the Redbrands as a little lax and frankly not expected opponents to be coming from their main secret base, so I have the players roll perception checks and atleast one of them spots the Redbrands. Of course, when you ask for all players to roll perception, really one of them will make it generally, though not always! So I know I'm making the task pretty easy when I do that. But on occasion everyone stuffs up. Come to think of it though, I might want to work something out on that - the more players there are, the even easier it gets. Perhaps some DC adjustment per player over 4?

They decide to set up an ambush in the bushes by the side of the road. For this I decided only those who pass stealth AND use a ranged weapon can get a surprise attack - because of the distance between bushes and road (if they could just jump out five feet from the bushes and melee attack, that'd work). Not sure if adventure league rules is picky about that distinction - probably some pendant would be picky.

In addition the player of the Grappler turns up at this point, late to the session. I decide that he was following the Redbrands from town and ran around the side and ahead to set up an ambush - or atleast I air the idea of that and get no dissent from the player (lack of dissent = consent! lol!, don't take me seriously on that!).

My oh my.

The Redbrands roll terrible initiative (as I understand it, you roll even if you're the surprised party and doing nothing).

So the whole group goes...then goes again! If you've ever wondered what is the point of initiative, well this is a magnified version!

They utterly trounce the Redbrands, the Grappler only just barely getting one into a lock, while the Druid showing that early level circle of the moon druids turning into CR 1 bears is broooken!

Having fought a pitched battle with Redbrands before, the party is now relieved at how easy it was...err, from latter events it seems they think they have become more powerful than Redbrands rather than it being the power of surprise attacks (and good initiative rolls).

This makes things go quite wrong latter on...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 2 )

So, after deciding to rest in the wizards quarters for an hour (I tossed the idea around, but as the module describes some other rooms occupants, they simply prep to ambush rather than roam around) to patch their wounds, the party sets out again, crossing the chasm by the north bridge and looking into a room that dead ends...though it does have a lot of beaver pelts in it. Which I note are both heavy yet players often forget to come back for such things.

Now the thing is there was a secret door in the wall. And I'm kind of at a loss for how to run such things - because while a video game might have some slight difference in the graphics as a clue, if you say anything about a particular wall in tabletop, the players will then swarm that wall. And you can't describe every single wall. And making up some sort of ambiguous clue that is attributable to the room but is a clue to the secret door (ie, strange air currents) - well, why didn't the module maker do that?

Never mind, it's not a big deal - the players decide to leave the pelts where they are for now and head south along the east side of the chasm, coming to a corridor that leads east and...right to a dead end. Now THIS time the PC's recognise something is amiss! But of course the person who looks fails the check and the next person who looks because they looked, gets it. Ah, that special anti-climaxical quality of D&D - so much like reality, in a way!

They go through and...the thing is, in this room there's a cistern and some barrels and a door to the east (and one to the north I failed to read the map properly over!) and it's the rogue who goes and checks the barrels. Now he's a rogue so I don't imagine he'd just roll the dang barrels around - but there are enemies in a nearby room who would hear that (the module tells me). So I have him do a stealth check as a compromise between the two positions, which he passes handily and searches the barrels without incident! And then he checks the cistern as well, where he rolls well and spots a rope going down into it and a bag at its end.

Now the thing is the wizard is supposed to have run from his room way back and taken whats in the bag. But you know, players actually exploring their environment is good. So it'd suck to say there's nothing in the bag. So I make up the fiction that the bag had a second part that was hard to get into and so the wizard gave up trying to grab what was in it - I have the healing potion and eight of the gold from the wizards stash still be there (four players at that point). That way I'm not inventing treasure (because Adventure League says NO to that!), just distributing what was there. I'm pretty sure there are some gamers so rigid of mind they'd treat the wizard taking everything AS a rule. You guys suck. But if no one would do such a rigid thing, then I'm good with that.

So the Druid, Lucian, decides to look for tracks - a fair move. And so he finds a pair of them. Boot marks leading to the east door (so it's kind of okay I mistakenly didn't mention the north door!). Unbeknownst to them (though guessable!), one set is from the Redbrand who almost slayed the Tubbleweed the Rogue. The second is from the wizard (I noted some wet water around the cistern - in fact maybe the events happened in the reverse order. It may have been the druids tracking which showed the wet ground which lead to the rogue searching the cistern).

So they decide east! I ask how they move and they go with stealthy - it's funny how one player will do it and then suddenly every other player follows suit. But anyway, the enemies in the west room (the door to which I have revealed to the players by now) do not hear them, even though the Dwarf Fighter Murden fails dismally. Because I went with a group stealth check and half passed and frankly it is SO predictable someone will fail that you are basically (deliberately or not) railroading the party into something if you expect everyone to pass their stealth check to avoid something. I think the designers know that and that's why they made group checks. Which is eminently sensible!

And they climb some stairs, finding themselves in the ruins of the manor on the edge of town - having exited the dungeon from its entrance!

And shortly after this, the ambush happened....

Monday, July 6, 2015

Kids shows are junk food

You're not gunna get this. I don't even get this.

Kids shows indoctrinate kids to A: think the villains are outsiders, rather than someone protected and even nurtured by the very laws and forces that are supposed to be good/on the kids side and B: (if they are inclined to become artists of some kind) to make more kids shows like this.

Because you never turn on the villains who shelter under the same laws as you. Villains are always bwahaharing outsiders - doing clearly destructive things to your world. And always acting very neatly as being outside of your world, bent on destroying your world. Like Sauron. Always aim you at the outsider villain.

Even wormtongue is a puppet of an outside villain. Wormtongue is never THE villain...amidst you. Because that's the greatest trick the wormtongue ever pulled - convincing the world to look outward.

And you think you know that.

But look at your fantasy. Look at your kids shows.

Outsiders. It's always an outsider who is the villain.

Where's your celebration of the villain within your ranks?

You don't want to celebrate such an infiltration.

You wont stand vigil without celebration.

You're not gunna get this. I don't even get this.

How fat we are.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 1.3 )

So let's wrap up last weeks story because we ran a session yesterday so there's more to get to...

Well, the rogue chases after the Redbrand who grabbed the money from the table. Side note: In the end I had the NPC grab half the money - sure, it might make sense that he'd get it all (he had several turns), but you weigh up sense VS fun for the players and find a compromise. Or atleast I do - going the extreme on either end is extremism. Making sense lacks fun, and being 'all about the players fun' would have meant the next part of spontaneous story would never have happened.

That being that the rogue chased the Redbrand and eventually made himself adjacent (my, can level 3+ rogues run! That bonus dash!!) so if the Redbrand ran, he'd take an attack of opportunity! Well, he decided not to and instead turn around with his two attacks and start slicing up the now by himself rogue!

And slice him up he did!

With that, the Redbrand ran, leaving the rogue called Tumbleweed bleeding out by a bridge by a chasm in a hole in the ground.

And that's when the nothic approached...

"Ah, my little marble murderer...."

Something reaching into his mind...and stabilising his wounds.

Meanwhile the other characters are wrapping up when they heard a cry from far away and suspect the rogue is the owner! The druid follows (by himself! It'd have been great if I'd had an abush waiting! PC's come one at a time around a corner where I knock them over the head...). He finds the rogue and carries his unconscious but stable body back to the group, where the palladin lays on hands.

In the end they go into a final pair of rooms but only find a chest with some coin and a mysterious note with a spider at the bottom as a signature! The note mentions various entities party members are pursuing! Windharrow is one, who is speaking against the owner of the spider signature! Shatterkeel is another, who is hiring some Redbrands from the spider mark for mercenary work. As is someone called the mud sorcerer!

This is the record of PC motives so far (missing some players when I recorded this)
Ander the Rogue : 'Best served cold' (hunting Windharrow)
Tumbleweed the Rogue : 'Best served cold' also!
Lucian the Elven Druid : Ominous Dream
Murden the Dwarf Fighter : 'Shatterkeel'
Pliskin (the likely to be rebuilt) : 'Mud Sorcerer'

And that wraps up last week....soon onto last Saturdays session!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 1.2 )

So the party decides to take a passage to the west. This leads to a corridor that has a door on the south wall just before the corridor turns north and shortly ends at another door.

The first level druid prompts the...I was to say first level dwarf fighter to open the door. Who just does what he's told and...there are several redbrand ruffians inside playing a game of chance. I think the PC's tried the 'we live here' - this time the lunatic was met with the violent!

Since the dwarf is in the doorway, the redbrands can't get around him - so they all end up focus firing on him! And they win initiative! Though on reflection two of them would have a -2 to hit for cover. Not sure if that would have made a difference, as the dwarf is pummeled into the ground because two attacks each from the ruffians! And I think a crit was in there as well! So he did nothing and then was beaten unconscious - but the player was pretty cool about it, to his credit.

The next bit makes me think I should have sketched out the corridor and room a bit on some paper (I have no battlemat - donate me some money so I can buy one! :) ), because the position of his body and everyone crammed in the corridor was a little hard to track with theatre of the mind. I'll take a scrap of paper for this next time (though a battlemat would be so much cooler, doncha think?)

There's ruffians standing over the dwarfs body, then the person who steps up goes to fight the ruffian rather than try to stabilise the got pretty chaotic!

The thing was, two people tried to stabilise the dwarf and the dwarf got a death saving throw - can you believe three natural ones on every single occasion (with the death saving throw making it two failed saves out of three, of course!). Then when it was the dwarfs turn again - just failed normally and died!

But on the other hand, one of the PC's that went to stabilise...did have a cure spell (the other healer couldn't get near the body and had a touch healing spell only).

I've run into this before where someone who could heal decides to continue to fight. I'm not sure adventure league has touched on this at all. Thing is, I think it's pretty dishonest to not explicitly say 'take the players choice (on whether he heals or fights) away from him/her' but perhaps both expect it because of the text that implies PC's should work together and maybe even scald a group for not...taking away a player choice that's explicitly outlined in the rules. If they want that choice taken away, then they can suffer the players ire at being told how to play his character. The GM shouldn't be the focus of that ire for what is an adventure league decision. OR if adventure league are okay with that choice, well you have a pretty massive non co-operation going on when PC's that could live die because someone wants to save their spell for latter.

Anywhoo, we've yet to enter the tale of the ruffian who was stealing all the money from the table while his mates fought the PC's - and the rogue who took offence to the ruffian stealing his money...

Next Session!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Phandelver ( Part 1.1 )

So they made their way through the cave and so enter the redbrand hideout by semi unconventional means, seeing before them a large semi natural cave they are at the south end of, with a chasm from south to north through it's floor and they on the west side of that chasm. A pair of bridges cross it and a pair of natural stone columns support the ceiling. And something not quite human lurks behind the closest column.

Well, it they look closer and it's a man sized creature with one massive eye. At that point it starts speaking into their minds "What are you doing here?"

Now the responce - it seems a little meta. A little fourth wall breaking. A little deadpool. They say they live here now.

I mean, who says that straightfaced in real life? But if you're half out of character because you're half in the meta, then why not? But in real life it's actually a little lunatic to say that with a straight face/conviction.

On the other hand they don't just discard the idea of negotiation (in favour of, say, hacking anything not them to bits). Even when the paladin detects it as evil (which, I try to explain, doesn't mean it's somehow right to kill it - though it does mean it's probably a jerk and a douche)

The rogue decides to rush up and...spread marbles!

I think he expect it to be dazzled by shiny objects as it's a monster - now I haven't checked, but I'm wondering if the creature actually has a higher INT score than the rogue.

In responce it reads his mind for a dark secret - so I prompt the player to describe his background that he said was detailed. I may not recall correctly, but I think at first there was something about wanting to be the best baker in town...and really, is that a dark secret?

So I push some more...and some more...and I get something about him having killed his rival!? Whoa! Paydirt! There's a sudden, juicy chunk of meat on the table!

"Ah, my little marble murderer! Such a delight you are!" the creature (a Nothic) whispers into his mind.

Someone just made a friend!

Well to be fair it wanted food and even though they were practically still in town and could buy food, they decided to hunt anyway - catching several rabbits as the passing roll has it. Which they offered to the creature who took them happily. With that, they began to examine the exiting passages from the cave and make their choice...

But that marble murderer moment would tie in in a perverse poetic justice latter on...


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Phandelver : Part 1

So, it was a return to Phandelver indeed. One new player, one semi new player, one player from a long time ago, two semi regulars and one regular.

I asked for them to peruse the motivations from the princes of the apocalypse book - I'd photo copied them so as to make that easier (it wasn't for personal use - I handed it to someone across the table! Take that, copyright!). But as much as I leave players to monitor their own HP, I didn't write down their motivations - I think I remember some, like 'best served cold' and someone was after the mud wizard. I'll write them down next time.

So they'd already played part of this under another GM and now found themselves leaving a goblin hideout and entering Phandalin.

I'm not sure I'm excited by this format they seem to use of presenting a whole lot of buildings and hoping the PC's kinda get excited or something about them enough that they get this quest inside. The druid player did investigate the shrine and spoke to it's priest and of her woes a bit, but then it was back to the pub. I went from player to player asking one at a time what they do (otherwise they both tend not to do anything, then they latter think how they didn't get to do anything - to be fair, the louder voices do tend to do the most if you don't go from player to player). So they ate some crusty bread and heard various rumours. I actually found the rumour of someone in the village being killed as quite strong, brutal even in tone. Nup, not a ripple amongst the players - though who knows, sometimes the players with a PC who'd care, well, the player gets caught up in keeping up with the group. So you get a hive mind effect - and if the hive mind shrugs at murder, well it does. And maybe the pally just didn't hear me read the rumour - it was loud in the shop!

So instead the pally seems to get piqued by a rumour of some child having found a secret tunnel in the forest that leads into the manor ruins on the side of town. After speaking with the child who knew of this other kid, they decide to rest the night because (at a guess), the goblin hideout probably beat six shades of resources out of them!

Motivated by this random direction, the PC's awake from their luxury one gold rooms the next day and head out... More next time!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The success of a nation entirely filled with fantasy writers

I think people used to come from a position where they operated their own food production and supply (sometimes known as a garden or farm) - then they did zany or odd things so as to curry favour amongst other people and gain goods or currency for that zany.

Now people operate their own zany or odd production behaviours. You can't stop being those things. Sure, you might not want to stop, but that's a bit like wanting to have, say, sex - when you couldn't say no anyway.

But everyone finds the sex examples extreme, when really the extreme is just to highlight the moral principle. If I described a forest being lit by a single match to show how a camp fire can be lit by a single match, everyones fine with the plan - but show the loss of personal protagonism by comparing it to such a thing at a sexual level and everybody loses their minds!

Annnnyway, I think perhaps a lot of people act as if they come from something, as if they accomplish something - like they would if they ran their own food production and supply. But now they've transfered their sense of accomplishment to...the zany. The odd.

Like a fantasy writer.

Or one who makes money, anyway.

(yeah, this idea might not be in human readable format - but it goes to show just keeping it in my head wasn't making it go forward. Needing some writing)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Return to Phandelver

Due to a sad pet event, didn't run a game last Saturday.

I'm at a games club with multiple D&D tables basically with an organiser. Since I keep getting new players (who in order to play at all turn up with a level 1 character in a dungeon for level 4 or 5!) we're looking at running the starter set for new characters to run through the POTA characters to recruit from - at least it's tuned to low level characters.

But I want to keep the 'story hook' part of POTA. I think of them more as motivations than 'hooks', but regardless the starter set doesn't really have them. It has a Dwarf who goes 'go do some task for me'. That's not really personal like the POTA motivations, which include wanting revenge on a guy who almost killed you and killed everyone else that was on the same boat as you. Now that's meaty! I'm hoping they have more motivations like that in latter D&D products - I should write a letter, I guess.

But anyway, I need to work out a list of motivations for the starter set - I need a list to ensure some amount of choice (and hey, if a player has their own motive in mind - one that the character would risk their life for, cool - saves me some work! :) ).

And I want to try and make the motive work in the starter set and in POTA.

Thinking so far of maybe the 'hired hand' hook in POTA, extending it that some of the mercenary bands that the cultists used were the redbrand ruffians (spelling?) from the starter set.

But that's just one motivation! Not much choice in one option!

Also I have no printer, so I'm gunna have to scratch it out or take it to the local print shop.

Edit: I keep calling Phandelver 'Phandalin'. My apologies! Have edit it!

Next Bit!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

D&D 5E; Princes of the Apocalypse (P.4) : Watery grave...wait, watery bedroom!

Didn't run the game as a sad pet emergency occurred, regretfully.

To wrap up the events of the prior session: Shargoth and Angrog start exploring the room they've never been in before and it's at about this point I decide that it'll be above the difficulty rating of the game for the ghouls who are waiting inside to simply destroy them with their lack of gear and lack of HP. So I have them make perception checks and when one passes, give a warning that there seems an ambush here. At a higher difficulty of play you'd expect players to map and to figure in advance a retreat plan. Here the players didn't map and started to explore new rooms rather than swim across a lake (which is partly understandable as you don't know what's underneath - on the other hand they already killed a monster that came out of it) to an area they knew of.

At some point I've really got to write up a difficulty chart.

So they retreat at the hint and decide to swim the fairly still, calm lake. I think they keep expecting water to just kill them by drowning - I blame video games of the ninties where all water was lethal. See, video games can teach you adverse behaviours!

I say if it was some raging ocean or atleast choppy water they could potentially drown, but as is they both are skilled, it's very calm water - the worst that can happen is they move slowly and don't look particularly cool as they cross the water.

When they get across, they get back to the room with the dead bugbears - the fight that started this whole mess. Long story short, fight tough bugbears while they are low on resources - then the room to the north opens after the fight and a bunch of reavers enter the fray! Being a nice GM here (and slightly incompetent), as the room text says the north room occupants would hear a fight in the south room and join. I read this AFTER the fight and so had the north room burst in then. Which is advantageous to the players. But still, they had to run - and run they did and many things happened including dragonturtle...but I digress, as there has been much that has happened before this chronicle was begun.

So they get back in there real quiet like and start looting the dead bug bears for gear. Again I'm nice and have them find gold on the bugbears, as per the dungeon text (rather than, say, the north room occupants having already looted the bodies. I see that as a possibility, but I think it raises the difficulty of play above the setting aimed for currently. Really need to work on that chart...)

Long story short they still end up partially alerting the north room and then meet up with Reed, who I'm not doing justice to by skipping his attempt to also con a Reaver, subsequent return to prison and second break out and then flight across the bridges (including the bridge that the troll he scammed lives under).

They get into a room with weird backpacks with canisters on them. Finally! The proton packs! We can do ghostbusters!

No, no, no - they are copper canisters with some fluid in them that...when they go to jame each door of the room with them, the fluid moves weird. Yeah, they planned to rest here and use these copper drums to jam each door. The room that happens to be right next to the north room full of reavers. And when they go to jam the doors they find the water in the drums moves weird. And they blocked every door out of the room with these weird drums.

Then they nap.

Surrounded by Reavers and weird water, do they ever wake up?

And that finally covers the previous two hour session!

Gygax would have killed them by now. But I am not running at Gygax difficulty, because it's rather extreme (though I'd like to run a game at higher difficulty some time. Not sure I myself would survive at Gygax difficulty!!). Do need to work on that chart!!

Next Bit!

Friday, June 19, 2015

D&D 5E; Princes of the Apocalypse (Part 3) : Between a Troll and the deep dank cave pool!

Okay, so what do you do as a GM when you've got that prison scene coming up and you kinda just dread going through what will likely end up at nothing? I mean sure, players sometimes come up with some crazy plan and get out. But if they don't, then it stops dead and you find yourself fast forwarding to them being taken out and basically going to court. And if they didn't get a crazy plan in prison that worked, probably at court they wont either.

So you figure some psuedo-and-made-up-on-the-spot puzzle to get out!

There's a troll under one bridge in this dungeon and there's another bridge near the prison window - so I figure maybe the troll patrols sometimes (pun not intended). So there's a figure walking under the water - everyone's lousy at perception rolls, so I ask who have they met before in this dungeon. Actually Angrog remembers the troll (and a bunch of others) off the bat - it's nice to be remembered for once!

It's been about a week now, but as I recall their opening diplomacy involves throwing stones at the gain it's attention!

You know, I really, really want to record the dialog at my table - because it is so hard to remember all the crazy nonsense afterward, but it's all really engaging at the time!

I want to record it because now I have to cut to the chase - Reed offers the troll all the money under his bed if he comes and lets them out. All of the money under his bed would be zero money, of course. So there's a bit of a firecracker once the troll finds out - which is quite shortly after as he opens the prison door and comes in to look!

As I recall, they all pretty much book it out the door - except the honest barbarian Shargoth, who the Troll spots before he can sneak out. The barbarian gives some line about having to go catch that rogue for the troll and rolls a nat 20 persuasion roll, IIRC! So troll and Shargoth are best buds and Shargoth heads out - somewhat confused himself as he maybe needs to catch the rogue now to be honest?

They go south, as things are in general - and find themselves at a pier overlooking a lake. They can see off in the distance (about 160 feet away) a shore they've been on before.

But everyone is terrorfied of the water! But they've dead ended themselves - they are stuck between the troll coming down the corridor and the water! Well the rogue decides to climb the rough stone wall and kinda hide by clinging to the ceiling, semi Jackie Chan style. Shargoth and Angrog, being jocks (ie, having athletics as a skill) finally decide to swim to a closer dock than the far shore. And then Shargoth is the only one who fails to hide from the troll.

Troll: "You got that rogue yet?"

Shargoth, floating in water: "Uh, no? Still trying"

Troll: "Okay, that's good! We get him, yeah!"

And the troll slips into the water to head toward his bridge, hunting around for Reed the rogue as he goes.

There was even more than this - Shargoth and Angrog climb up and enter...the room of the many, many ghouls. And Reed goes back to prison!

And that's not even the two hours over, yet! And I'm running the next session of princes of the apocalypse tomorrow!

Part 4