Pseudonym Writes

Just another site by someone who refuses to give their own name.

Month: September, 2013

Level 300



At low levels, your average magic-user is balanced against their pointy-stick-wielding brethren by being very easy to kill, so they need fighters to protect them. They sacrifice raw numbers – especially defence – for versatility.

The trouble with this is, of course, that if you’re versatile enough it becomes increasingly easy to compensate for any weaknesses, while those focusing on armour and damage dealt find they can hardly keep up with fireballs and force fields. Additionally, supernatural powers are often simply more useful – because the designers picture a mage of a certain power level doing things a similarly-skilled barbarian could hardly dream of.

This is a standard problem, and it ultimately stems from the fact that people have trouble imagining what a “mundane” fighter can do once they reach levels of ability that aren’t, well, mundane. Sure, they can hit harder, jump further, etc etc; but that simply doesn’t scale.

One way to make combat less boring and more creative – this applies generally, not just to this issue – is to have various maneuvers that can be used at a penalty. Thus, rather than doing more damage to some orc’s hit points, you might lop off his sword hand – or maybe, at an appropriately large penalty, his head.

But here’s something very, very common in pretty much every portrayal of hypercompetent fighters, that doesn’t really seem to show up to the same degree in games supposedly simulating them – holding off large numbers of opponents singlehandedly. Examples are probably already springing to your mind, here. But game designers have learned that extra actions are rare and precious things, so they tend to be doled out sparingly if at all. The solution, of course, is simple when you think about it: you want “fighting multiple opponents at once”, so just allow them to split their bonuses between multiple opponents. Depending on your core mechanic, this will almost certainly mean a penalty to each attack, since you’re starting with a certain basic level of competence for most tasks.

How much should this cost? Well, ideally, fighting two guys should be about twice as hard as fighting one of them. So if your system doesn’t feature exponential increase, then this isn’t going to get very epic, but then if you wanted epic then you might want to rethink that anyway. (Yes, D&D levels/CRs are supposed to be exponential.) Also, hitting one guy while blocking another should be possible, although the reduced complexity (and added simplicity! Reward your player for helping you do your job) means that cleaving through five men at once or whatever may be easier, if you want.

And, of course, one man against an army will need rules for “they can’t all reach me at once”, probably about equal to any cap you place on multiattacks. But really, that depends on your design goals, there’s no one perfect number here. Unless you’re using minis, in which case this is not even slightly an issue.

Ex Cathedral

There’s an interesting phenomenon, in religion, called left-hand path religions.

Most religions have something Bad to define themselves against. Maybe there are evil spirits going around tricking people into sin. Maybe the only way to reach Nirvana is to give up all attachment. Maybe psychiatrists are an evil conspiracy, older than man, dedicated to our enslavement (I’m looking at you, scientologists.) These are usually real, on some level, in the sense that you can hold witch hunts against them and so on; maybe what you’re attacking isn’t exactly what it sounds like in the pulpit, but whatever.

But the thing is, there’s nothing so awful, so laudable when fought, so filled with negative connotations, that you can’t argue in favour of it. You may not be right, of course, but the handy thing is that you can claim it as a subset of something that really is useful and then argue in favour of that instead.

And so your bogeyman takes on a life of it’s own. Some people – not most people, not a lot of people, but some – decide they rather like the sound of this “Satan” guy. He gave us the knowledge of good and evil, and knowledge is good, right? And I sure don’t like the priests, they say XYZ are bad, and I like XYZ; and they say Satan wants XYZ ‘cos it’s bad. Hey, he’s a rebel angel, right? They’re probably just badmouthing him because he rebelled against their stupid dogma! Yeah!

This is where real Satanists come from. And every major religion has it’s equivalent – . They generally have a somewhat different view of everything from their parent faith – they don’t believe all the same stuff but throw their lot in with the villains, although they may phrase it that way; they construct a narrative in which the “villains” are heroes with bad publicity. Of course, without people getting suspicious of the official story, they wouldn’t be able to attract them to their alternate view of events.

So now you know.


But then, don’t other movements construct bogeymen?

I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of progressivism-as-religion. You have your tenets, like “all men are created equal”, and the various things people derive from that. You have evangelists preaching to homophobes to repent and vote for gay marriage. You have your heretics and your minor schisms, where someone says something that, if subjected to lengthy analysis, is sexist or racist or something and everyone freaks out about it.

Progressives go on about how X is totally sexist/racist/etc and it’s old white men trying to screw people over and cling to power. How we need to fight (minor thing) because it’s technically sexist/racist/etc, and thus Bad. Because of all the political nonsense involved, there’s usually somebody, even if they’re just a vocal minority, claiming that the actual right choice is sexist/racist/etc and must be fought.


Now, in point of fact, there are people who define themselves as the “conservatives” liberals talk about. They’re often from liberal backgrounds themselves. The standard term is “reactionaries”; many seem to stem from Moldbug’s long-winded blog Unqualified Reservations, but in the grand tradition of Left-Hand Paths there are plenty of unrelated groups with only their origin (progressive strawmen and other poor arguments) in common … although this is where it gets confusing, because you get people who belong to more than one of these movements at once (MRA PUAs, for example, I ran into just the other day) and usually they treat them as kind of the same thing (we see through the feminists’ lies!); and there are people who the original bogeyman was derived from, like Stormfront. I haven’t seen it yet, but I don’t doubt somewhere, there’s somebody busy appropriating the terms of one or more of these movements for use by original-flavour conservatives (who, of course, wouldn’t touch most of this stuff with a twelve-foot pole.)

One cannot but wonder – how many communists sprang up under McCarthyism? A lot, I’ll wager.

The mechanics of the so-called sexual revolution’s success are still disputed, but I note with interest that free-love type movements show up with amazing regularity right up to the one that caught on. Early feminism contains a lot of fascinating nonsense that mostly straightened out when it became a mainstream political movement, like advocating converting to lesbianism. Does this happen to any ideology that becomes popular enough?


What examples have I missed? Or is my brain seeing patterns that aren’t there?

Free RPG – Powers and Principalities

This game is basically a monument to the fact that Exalted is hyped up as The Game Where You’re God-Tier. And that I’m the sort of Simulationist type who wants to be able to recreate stuff they’ve read/scene/whatever. And that I’m a fan of Superman, everything Neil Gaiman has ever written, and also real-world mythology.

And I’m a total RPG nerd.

(Mechanics after the jump.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Correct Position On Euthanasia – REVEALED!

OK, so I have long been deeply suspicious of euthanasia, mainly because I tend to think people will be too quick to kill off perfectly good people (and also because I’m not quite sure how to calculate the utilities involved so I tend to err on the side of caution.) Now, this view has recently been challenged by the inestimable author of Slate Star Codex, who rechecked the numbers on anti-euthanasia advocates’ (myself included) favourite example – the apparent slippery slope evidenced by actual examples of legalising euthanasia.

Both Yvain and the doctors whose self-reports this is based on are, obviously, in favour of euthanasia (probably for much the same reasons – he works in a hospital), and are distinctly biased. But still, this significantly weakens the evidence that was pointing me toward keeping it illegal and I at least have had to update my estimate downward, even taking the bias into account (I think). The post in question is here.


However, fear not! For, him having previously alluded to knowing the correct numbers, I had already gone “hmm, if this is true it might be an actual moral conflict, where whatever I think is right I’ll still feel like a terrible person either way.” And, wandering the internet on unrelated business, I stumbled upon THE ANSWER, courtesy of Eliezer Yudkowsky, who tends to do that.

The article below was written by Yvain, who just started practicing in a modern hospital. Some people consider Professor Quirrell a cynic but the truth is that real life is so vastly more insane that there is no way to have it make sense even as a story allegory. You’d need Azkaban to have been built as an old-age home for people’s beloved parents because they can linger for another few years, before finally dying, if they’re being eaten by Dementors. Scott’s description of a modern hospital reads like a description of Azkaban right down to the screams coming from behind locked doors, only with more grotesque tortures than just your life and happy memories being drained away. What the FUCK is wrong with our civilization that we would rather torture old people to death to show how much we care, and then they inevitably die ANYWAY, rather than sign them up for cryonics so we could let them go peacefully knowing we’d done our best and that they might actually have a chance at coming back.Eliezer Yudkowsky (emphasis added)

Cryonics, folks. It’s a thing.

(‘m not sure which is worse – that I didn’t even think of that, or that no-one else does either:/)

Political Correctness Gone Mad

Everyone knows what the term “political correctness” refers to, and if they don’t they know where google is. But what I didn’t know, until recently, was the origins of the term.

You see, it originated among Communists as a term for the Stalinist party line – politicians would stick to the politically “correct” position provided by the Party, and were criticised for it by their more freethinking bretheren:

It was used by Socialists against Communists, and was meant to separate out Socialists who believed in equalitarian moral ideas from dogmatic Communists who would advocate and defend party positions regardless of their moral substance.

-—[source][actual source]

The term was picked up by, y’know, liberal types, feminists and such, sometime around the seventies, and acquired roughly it’s modern meaning. So far, so much boring minutiae that I didn’t know, as such, but it fitted what I already knew, right? Here’s the thing, though: why exactly were they using a disparaging term that basically meant “censorship” for their own beliefs?

Because they were being self-depreciating, that’s why. It was originally a joking warning against their own cultishness! Every subculture has these. But then – dun dun dun! – in the late eighties/early nineties, conservatives picked up on it. They started asserting – mistakenly? – that this was a serious term used by liberals, and they were here to warn you that (surprise surprise) it was basically censorship.

Of course, at this point, liberals suddenly became very defensive. What they were doing, after all, wasn’t a bad thing (although it did have risks, as the “political correctness” joke had warned.) So they started arguing that no, political correctness was a good thing, and, well, arguments are soldiers, and self-depreciating warnings about censoring people weren’t exactly supporting the troops. They had to go.

And that’s the story of how a joke turned into reality, and self-awareness was used as ready-made propaganda. Sweet dreams, kids.

(No, there’s no real point to this post, it just interests me how I – and most people, including liberals of all stripes – had it completely backwards.)

Quote Of The Week – Gun Control

Despite the name, this isn’t actually going to be a weekly thing. I’m going to post things under “Quote Of The Week” when and if I find new quotes.

With that said, here’s the first Quote Of The Week, by someone I know in RL and who, naturally, is amazing and witty and so on:

Gun nuts are fond of saying “but criminals will still get guns if we ban them and innocent people will be defenceless!”. The problem is, “criminals” aren’t some sort of separate group of dastardly-deed-doers who meet in shady alleys and cackle a lot. They are often people like you or me who either do stupid things or snap and start shooting. If this often-used argument were true, the US would have a similar or lower gun-homicide rate than most other developed countries, right?

— “Sheep” [Source] [His new site]