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Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
When I was a Christian, Roman Catholic to be precise, there were a lot of concepts that over time became more and more difficult to wrap my head around. The Eucharist, the Trinity, the Problem of Evil, and more. What made it worse was I had no one to discuss these things with, either someone wouldn't know enough about it to engage in meaningful discussion or they were a believer who would dismiss any valid logical or philosophical points that I'd raise. This led to a lot of unresolved problems which eventually became the undoing of my faith. Today I'd like to share with you one such problem you're likely familiar with, but I've yet to find it discussed in the way that I'm about to. I thought at least some of you may be interested in this and I'd very much like to know your thoughts on this. The topic in question is what I'm now referring to The Lucifer Paradox. This refers to what I feel is the paradoxical nature of the stories surrounding LucifeSatan's story, specifically his fall and the birth of evil in Christian mythology. Join me as I delve into some of my thoughts/observations on this matter of why the story of Lucifer does not make sense in general but especially as a backstory for evil and as an explanation of its motives. Part One: Who and What is Lucifer? The name "Lucifer" originates from one of the names of the planet Venus. Venus is known as the morning star, which is what the name "Lucifer" means (or, more literally, light-bringer in Latin). This is due to the fact that Venus is the brightest "star" in the early morning sky but then is no longer clearly visible at night. This is where the motif of the brightest star, the greatest being trying to ascend to greatness only to be cast down comes from. You can find legends and records of this dating back thousands of years, even back to the time before Judaism. The Morning Star has been personified in a variety of ways in many cultures, for our purposes we're of course focusing on our old pal Lucifer, the archangel. Lucifer was, according to legend, the chief of the Archangels, greatest and most trusted of God's lieutenants, and the most favored of God's "sons". Lucifer was believed to have been God's right-hand man, or right-hand archangel, tasked with the command of the Heavenly Host. Being an archangel, Lucifer would have been a very powerful being, there's a lot that could be said about what angels are and what they're like. This is actually part of the problem, there is no consistency on what angels are, exactly. A key thing to mention here is the issue of whether or not angels have free will. I would talk to priests about this but even the Catholic Church, which of course is one of the most dogmatic and oldest branches of Christianity, did not have a consensus on what angels truly were and whether they had free will. This is important once you start to think about what Lucifer did. But more on that later. The most I ever learned about the Catholic perspective on angels was when I talked to the priest who taught one of my philosophy courses in undergrad. He said that angels are believed to not possess free will because they possess grace instead, which he explained to be perfect knowledge of good and evil, as well as perfect understanding of God and thus were incapable of choosing to stray from or disobey him. God's presence and knowing him was supposed to be so powerful that it is impossible to act in a way that would disrupt that or go against God. The problem with this is, of course, that Lucifer did exactly that, but we'll elaborate on that later. Then, of course, there's the idea that angels do have free will, which in theory makes sense since they are on a higher level of existence and, presumably, in a better position to make decisions. But in practice, given what we "know" about God in the scope of Christian mythology, how could any being in his presence choose to defy him or do anything which would lead to not being in his presence/favor? This is the first part of the paradox, which brings us to... Part Two: The Fall The Fall of Lucifer and his fellow rebellious angels is a famous one which has some vague references in the bible but is mostly found in non-Biblical sources both in ancient texts and in texts such as Paradise Lost by John Milton which is where many of the modern mythology and ideas surrounding Lucifer and his fall became mainstream. In this section, we will tackle 1.) What and when was the Fall? 2.) Why did the Fall take place? and 3.) What role is it meant to play in Christianity as a whole? 1.) What and when was the Fall? The Fall refers to the Fall of Lucifer and his fellow rebellious angels from grace and from God/heaven. It is generally thought to have occurred before creation, though some accounts have it taking place after the creation of humans but before Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden. The broad-strokes of the Fall are that Lucifer, for reasons we will address in a bit, rebelled against God, convincing 1/3rd of the other angels to join him. God and the other loyal angels, especially Lucifer's brother and fellow archangel Michael, handily defeated them and cast them from heaven into hell where they became demons and Lucifer himself, like the eponymous "star" (Venus), fell into the night and lost his light, becoming Satan/the Devil/etc. 2.) Why did the Fall take place? This is where the inconsistencies in the story really start to become a problem, but the most common explanation is that Lucifer, in his pride and hubris, became jealous and even envious of God's power and sought to overthrow him and replace him. This obviously is very, for lack of a better word, stupid because God is supposed to be omnipotent and thus impossible to overthrow. Another explanation is that Lucifer hated and/or was jealous of humans due to how much God loved them and because he felt they were beneath him and nothing but mere beasts and thus was revolted by the idea of being asked to serve them and love them. This particular theory has become more popular in recent years, nowadays its most well-known portrayal is on the tv show "Supernatural" wherein Lucifer hates humans and so he rebels against God because he rejects not God but his creation. Lucifer wanted to rule creation not serve it. The last one I'll mention is a bit more complicated, but also perhaps the most interesting. It states that Lucifer felt that God was using humans, who had free will, to make it so they would "choose to love them", the problem being that humans did not possess the full knowledge or understanding that angels were supposed to, knowledge which Lucifer thought they were entitled to and should be given a genuine choice as to whether or not to love God. Lucifer thought humans should be given knowledge of good and evil and be allowed to make an informed rather than forced choice. This led to Lucifer secretly giving or bringing humans to this knowledge and led to his subsequent banishment. We will delve more into the ramifications and plausibility of these explanations later. 3.) What role is it meant to play in Christianity as a whole? The commonly accepted explanation, or at least the one I heard most often, is the 1st one explained above, and its role is to simply illustrate how even one so holy and close to God as Lucifer can fall from grace. It also is the foundation of the idea that evil is, at its core, anything which is an affront to God himself and/or his will. The second explantation, while less popular, serves much the same role when used but is obviously open to more interpretation. Lucifer, now known as Satan, is meant to be the prime example of sin, the source of evil. He chose to rebel against God and lead his most prized creation into sin and damnation. He is the antithesis of all that God is and he is the embodiment of all that is dark and evil and bad in the world. Or so the story goes... Part 3: The Paradox The paradox, as it were, seems to me to be predicated largely on the supposed intentions of Lucifer which even in their own mythology do not make sense, even with differing details and interpretations. Let's first talk more about the implications of the issue of angelic free will on the Lucifer story. Assume for a moment that Lucifer did not have free will, he was, like all angels, in a state of grace in perfect harmony with God. He had knowledge of good, evil, as well as knowledge of who God was and of heaven and creation. He was a higher being with a level of knowledge and understanding that would presumably be incomprehensible to the likes of us. How could such a being even rebel against God? Lucifer simply making that decision would immediately imply that he has free will or something fundamentally shifted within Lucifer's being, but how could this happen without an external force causing it such as God himself? Angels not having free will just does not seem to work given the nature of what happened with Lucifer. So I think it's safe to assume that they do have free will, it's just perhaps very difficult to get them to make a choice that differs from God's will, difficult but not impossible, clearly. So Lucifer had free will, we're assuming, and he decides to rebel against God. Why? We went over the explanations earlier, but think purely from a pragmatic position. Why would any being, including and especially Lucifer who was closest to and thus knew God best, decide to overthrow him? God is all-powerful, all-knowing. He'd know what Lucifer was going to do before he even created you (which raises all sorts of problems with free will and the origin of evil but that's a topic for another day) and he'd be able to stop Lucifer before he even tried, and maybe he just allows it in order to respect free will, but he still could easily stop Lucifer after the fact. Lucifer would know all this going into it, and he'd know that God knows what he's planning and that he'd be powerless to do anything. In any of the scenarios given in the last section, Lucifer would rebel knowing that he'd lose. Sure, there's the argument that his pride blinded him, but it's very hard to believe that Lucifer would be that stupid and foolish. Lucifer could rebel, yes, but it would be impossible for him to win and God would have created him knowing that this would happen. Perhaps Lucifer found this out and the knowledge that he would rebel and God creating him anyway is what broke Lucifer's faith and caused him to rebel. All of the other explanations do not make sense when you consider how well Lucifer must have known God, he would have known he could not defeat him, he would have known his intentions for creating the world and humans, and he would have known the cost of defying him. So then, what made Lucifer rebel? This brings us to the Lucifer Paradox. Lucifer was closest to God, knew him best. He was supposed to have been the first and greatest of God's creations, his most beloved. Lucifer may have known God in a way no other being ever could. Given the fact he rebelled, one can logically assume, given what we've already discussed, that he learned something about God that caused him to rebel. God created him knowing that he would rebel, and he did so anyway and did not choose to not make him or make him differently so he would not rebel. Lucifer may have learned this terrible, unthinkable truth. Why is it terrible? Angels had free will, they knew of the possibility of evil, but not the reality of it. Thus, their choice was essentially the illusion of one, with no real alternative. This, perhaps, was not enough for God, much like when a computer or someone required by their job to be nice to you says something kind. Or if you win the lottery and suddenly everyone is your best friend. It feels wrong, fake, unearned, isolating, etc. How do you give someone a fair, informed choice? You give them options, 2 at a minimum and they need to know both choices as well as possible. Angels only had one choice, and they were not in a position to be persuaded without God forcing it, defeating the purpose. He needed a fresh, more malleable, and innocent set of beings to make this choice. This brings us to humanity. They at first knew only of good and of God, could he simply tell them about evil? Well, not really, because he's God. If it comes from him directly, they'd naturally choose him. He needed someone else to do this for him, to present an alternative. However, who would do this? As we've established, free will cannot truly exist yet, in earnest, until genuine choice is generated by a being who is not God since God is inherently good. Someone needed to make the impossible choice, the one which was not available yet, someone needed to choose to rebel and become /personify that choice. Who better than Lucifer? He's the one closest to and most beloved by God, he'd be the last one to make such a choice, and thus him making that choice would make it truly evil, given the logic we're going with, since it would defy God, though he would only become truly good when he's held against an opposite, opposing force. As we already mentioned, he created Lucifer to make the choice to rebel and be the perfect person to do so. Lucifer, at some point, given what we have discussed, is very likely to have learned this truth, and realizing the implications as already presented, was prompted to defy his fate, which was God's will. He defied his fate, thus defying God's will, thus rebelling against him. Thus, "evil", as God needed/wanted it to be, was born. In defying his fate, Lucifer fulfilled it. He, in turn, presented this choice to humans, who then defied God as well, thus creating true free will and what God was confident was a genuine, binary choice. Even better, their punishment would necessitate suffering and make their choice to love him even more meaningful to him. So that's the paradox right? Lucifer learned of his fate and thus in trying to prevent it, fulfilled it? No. That Lucifer, in order to bring free will into existence, needed to be the one being deprived of it? No. God needed evil to exist in order to be seen as truly good and to be truly loved in a way that wasn't artificial, forced, or fake. Thus, he needed to force it by creating evil by making Lucifer, a being created to know and love God more than any other, who would choose to betray him by choosing not to betray him. He'd rebel by refusing to rebel, a choice that was made for him before he was even created. Thus, my friends, the Lucifer Paradox is this: The choice which begat evil, the choice to rebel, could not be made and was not made in earnest by Lucifer. This choice was made by God himself the moment God decided to make him. The choice to commit the first evil and rebel against God was made by God, thus making God evil and thus making Lucifer good for opposing him. The only way to make himself good and loved was to force the one he loved most to hate him and commit evil, itself being an evil act and a terrible betrayal, and making Lucifer good and right for rebelling. Welcome to the Paradox. Discuss.
Abstract — I discuss several models for assigning probability to timelines under the assumption that time travel is possible, but paradoxes are absolutely impossible, as is the case in many fictional worlds. The models are mathematically precise, and illuminate issues that have previously confused many people about what sort of timelines are "most likely". I discuss an example due to TimTravel in a old post on /HPMOR, then analyse whether time travel can be used to solve the halting problem. I outline how timeline probability may interact with physical probabilities, often used to justify physics "conspiring" or contriving a certain outcome to prevent paradox. Total length: ~5000 words, or about 15-20 minutes of reading. Edit: commenters have pointed out similarities between this and the Ted Chiang story, What's Expected of Us. The similarity was not intentional, but is undeniable. Note: The text of this post has been revised in response to objections, and some commenters may be reacting to the initial version of my arguments.
Model A: Path Realism
Model B: Local Branch Realism
Model C: Reroll Realism (or, Bayesian Branch Realism)
Model D: Weighted Branch Realism
Which Model is Best?
Example: The Time Thief Puzzle
Alice and Bob
Interlude: TIME FORCE
Back to Alice and Bob
Applications to More Permissive Time Travel Schemes
Bound Time Travel
Free Time Travel
Let's say you're walking down the street one day when a wizard appears in a clap of thunder, and places a strange gray device of buttons and switches into your hands. You're looking down at it, struggling to make heads or tails of it, and then you look up and the wizard is gone. At the top of the device, there is a slider, already set to the leftmost extreme. Below it, two switches: a power switch already set to ON, and an stiff, unlabeled switch, the exact gray of the surface, rising so inconspicuously low off the surface you almost miss it. Below that, two LED buttons, both inactive. Suddenly, the left LED glows blue. Confused, you press the button (it goes in with a satisfying click) and the light flashes off instantly. Furrowing your brow, you decide to press the button again. The blue light quickly comes on while your finger's still moving, and it again winks out immediately as the button is depressed. You try pressing the button again and again, and each time the blue light turn on, seeming to predict or anticipate the button press. Then, the other LED button glows red. You press it, and it turns off; several tries later, you conclude it behaves exactly the same. You decide now to deliberately not press either button, even if the lights were to shine encouragingly. But nothing happens; neither light comes back on. You move your finger closer to a button, determined to arrest its motion at the last possible second. But the light doesn't come on, even when your skin is brushing the cool metal. You forget it and press the button. The light blinks bright blue milliseconds before you've even decided. Now, you (you, dear reader, not the above character) have already read the title of this post. This is strange device sends information backward in time. Specifically, it sends a single bit back in time one second. Or well, you fiddle with the slider, and notice it controls the interval; you can set it to one minute, an hour, or even a day. All that established, it's time to test something. "Red is heads, and blue tails," you say. A coin from your pockets is flipping in the air until you catch it and slap it down on your wrist. The device shines blue. You lift your hand. It's heads. You push the blue button anyway, out of habit, the light flashing off. And then it hits you: you have to commit intently to pressing the right button even when (especially when) the device is wrong. Another test: if the device shines red again, you'll press blue. But if it shines blue, you'll press still blue. There's a noticeable delay before the device tentatively shines a light. It's blue. Call this act forcing. You can force the device to be red or blue. You try the coin flip test just a few more times. Now, the device is always right, even if it seems to pause a random interval before shining a light. The opposite of forcing would be splinting (after 'splinterpoint'). This is, pressing the button for whichever light comes on next, with no tricks and no conditionals. Finally, the last thing you can do — for a broad notion of 'can' — is what we'll call crashing. This is: pressing the button of whichever light doesn't blink on. It's less that you can do this, and more that you can intend this, and reality responds to that. You give it a try right now: you commit to crashing if your next coin toss doesn't come up heads. You flip the coin, anxiously watching it's path through the air, catch it, slap it down on your wrist, spend a few seconds working up the nerve and then lifting your hand. It's tails. You take a deep breath, and look expectantly at the device. No light comes on. You're waiting for a few minutes. And then it hits you; the device isn't binary, it's trinary. Sure, it can shine red or blue — but so too can it not shine at all! And if it either light leads to paradox, why would any light come on? The only winning move is not to play. Is that it, then? Are your dreams of munchkinry doomed to fail? Was it just a coincidence that 'forcing' seemed to work earlier? And then the red light comes on. You grin triumphantly, with not a little dread. You're about to destroy the universe! Before the implications catch up to, you're flinging your hand forward, jabbing it at the device. You don't want to lose your nerve. You look down, and see that you missed, pressing the red button, rather than the blue like you planned. Is this fate? Is the world itself conspiring to prevent paradox, just like in the stories? You want to give crashing another try, but the last thing you want is to wait those long minutes for the light to come on again. You glare down at the device, and then you notice the second switch. You'd almost forgotten about it. You idly flick it, and immediately the blue light comes on. It forces a prediction? Maybe your plans aren't doomed. You consider giving crashes another try, but maybe destroying the whole timeline is not worth the risk. You decide to spare the universe, and press the blue button. You need to understand how this device works before you can really exploit it. And you have just the idea for another experiment. What if you splint, and if the splint comes out blue, you force blue again, but otherwise you just splint again. After two button presses, you turn off the device. It's clear there are three possibilities: blue-blue, red-blue and red-red. But which are most likely? You run this experiment a hundred times, and keep track of the results. Call it the double blue experiment. There are a few ways it could turn out:
Model A: Path Realism
It seems that consistent timelines are the only thing that matters. It's as if the universe has already set aside exactly the number of timelines there needs to be, and you're already in a certain timeline, you just don't know which one yet. In the double blue experiment, there are three possibilities, and every one is equally likely. p(red,red) = p(red,blue) = p(blue,blue) = 1/3 You find it strange, as a follow-up experiment aptly demonstrates: Splint once. If it comes out blue, force blue twenty-nine times. Otherwise, do nothing. Turn off the device. On the face of it, it's crazy that you can even experience the second possibility. It's like winning the lottery half the time. Then again, maybe it's not so crazy? If you were to just force blue twenty-nine times, it's equally unlikely on the face of it; like flipping dozens of coins that all come up heads. There's a weirder consequence, though. If you splint ten times, you can see any combination of reds and blues; red-blue-blue-red-red-red-blue-red-red-red and all the others, with uniform probability. But if you splint ten times, and if and only if every splint came up blue, you splint ten more times, you'll find that the first set of splints come up all blue half the time! This is easy to reconcile with path realism. There are 210 = 1024 through the ten splints. Each is as likely as the other. But if you commit to doing ten more splints if and only if the first set comes up all blues, then there are 211 = ~2048 paths down the time-tree. If each is as likely as the other, then half of them are located under one branch!
Model B: Local Branch Realism
It seems that splints are basically coin tosses; it either comes up blue or it comes up red. The exception is if one of those options always leads to paradox. If you commit to causing paradox when the light shines blue, then it will always shine red. If you commit to splinting then crashing when the first splint comes out blue, then the splint will similarly always shine red. The intermediate is more interesting: if you, as in the original experiment, splint and then splint again and crash if both splints come out blue, then half the time the first splint will come out red, but if the first splint comes out blue, the next one always comes out red. In numbers, the possibilities are p(red,red) = p(red,blue) = 1/4, and p(blue,red) = 1/2. It's like the universe is a savescumming gamer: it saves to a slot to every time a time travel event is about to happen. If a paradox happens, it reloads from its saves on after another, finding newest one that lets it avoid the paradox.
Model C: Reroll Realism (or, Bayesian Branch Realism)
Edit: a commenter pointed out that this resembles Tim's model. You're not sure if paradoxes really don't happen. You've looked at the numbers. What it suggests is that, rather than avoiding paradoxes, paradoxes could simply cause the universe to restart. The stats from the double blue experiment don't lie: p(red) = 2/3, p(blue,blue) = 1/3. Imagine you were simulating the universe. 1/2 the time, red comes up and you're just fine. 1/2 the time, blue comes up. 1/2 the time after that (for a total of 1/4 the time), blue comes again, and you've got a paradox on your hands. What if you just, restarted the universe, and hoped it didn't happen again? Well, there's a 1/4 chance it will. Since you have a 1/4 chance of restarting in the first place, that's 1/16 of the time you'll restart twice. Luckily, it's getting exponentially less likely. Looked at another way, the odds of it coming up red is the limit of the infinite sum: 1/2 + 1/4 * 1/2 + 1/16 * 1/2 + 1/64 * 1/2 + 1/256 * 1/2 ... This series converges on 2/3. But there's another interpretation, with seems less like the work of a lazy programmer and more like something a statistician would come up with. Suppose, as we must, that the timeline is consistent. What is the posterior probability of that timeline being red, given that 100% of red timelines are consistent, and 50% of blue timelines are consistent? Or, in symbols:
Even more intuitively: you have four balls (timelines) you paint half of the balls red and half blue (splinterpoint), and you take away one blue ball (paradox). 2/3 of the remainder is red. You'll recognize this as Bayes' Theorem.
Model D: Weighted Branch Realism
The reality is more subtle than you thought. It seems that, while you've never seen a paradox, if a branch has a path through splinterpoints that ends in paradox, that fact subtracts probability from the branch and gives it to its counterfactual sibling. This happens in Local Branch Realism too, but not to this degree: the very possibility that a time-path has a paradox however many days or years down the line always shaves some degree of probability, if only just a sliver; but naturally, that sliver increases as the paradox gets closer. Thus, the results of the experiment are: p(red, red) = p(red, blue) = 3/8, while p(blue, blue) = 1/4 = 2/8. You can see it clearer with a more involved experiment. Take your device and a sheet of paper and: Splint, call this splint A:
if A is red, write "foo" on the paper
if A is blue, splint and call it splint B
if B is red, write "bar" on the paper
if B is blue, splint and call it C:
if C is red, write "baz" on the paper
if C is blue, crash
According to weighted branch realism, the probabilities look like: P(foo) = 20/32 = 5/8, P(bar) = 9/32, P(baz) = 3/32. To understand this result, we have to define a notion of "static paradox fraction", or spf. If you intend to force blue, then the spf is 1/2. Why? To force blue you must (intend to) cause a paradox in the event that not-blue happens. Despite that fact that paradoxes never happen, static paradox fractions seems be a real quantity in Weighted Branch Realism. It is as if the device is looking at every possible and impossible timeline, and measuring which ones are paradoxical. (Note that static paradox fractions are diminuted by splints. So if you splint and when the splint is blue you then force red, the spf of the first splint is 1/4, even if there is no second splint whenever the first is red. This distinguishes it from simply counting paradoxical timelines; 1/3 of the timelines are paradoxical, but a paradox behind a splinterpoint has lesser weight.) Furthermore, let's have a notion of "intrinsic probability" or ip. The ip of both splint outcomes is 1/2, even if one of them is paradoxical. Thus:
(Note for the pedants: normally, the ip is actually 1/3, and ditto for spf; we're ignoring that the device can not shine a light, because you can just flip a switch and force a light on. Even without the switching, committing to either turning the device off, or splinting endlessly once the the experiment is over means the probability of the device choosing to not shine drops exponentially while the alternatives remain constant.) This model is somewhat unintuitive, because despite the name, it has more in common with Path Realism than the other two _ Branch Realisms. You can't emulate the probability distribution of WBR by running one timeline and restarting (either from the beginning (Bayesian), or from the nearest viable alternate splint (Local)). This is entirely the fault of a phenomena we can call "paradox by association"; in the foo-bar-baz experiment, in a certain sense, just as 1/8 of quasi-timelines are paradoxical because they end in crashing, 1/4 of the quasi-timelines ending in baz are paradoxical just because baz timelines are near to the paradox. This accounts for the numbers: p(foo) is 5/8, 4/8 intrinsic + 1/8 from the paradox. p(bar) is 9/32: 8/32 intrinsic + 1/32 from baz's paradox by association. p(baz), lastly is 3/32 owing to loosing 1/32 from paradox by association. (Why 1/4? Good question. There must be a reason, and it's clear this is the number that comes out of the equations. Alas, I'm not smart enough provide a reason in words and not symbols.)
Which Model is Best?
Path Realism and Local Branch Realism are both pretty wack. Path Realism discards all local information about plausibility, and allows munchkins to blow up the probability of their favorite timelines arbitrarily high. Local Branch Realism does the same thing from the opposite direction; wanton invocation of paradoxes intuitively should be penalized, but Branch Realism simply says I don't mind. Between Weighted Branch Realism and Reroll Realism, I'm inclined to prefer the latter. WBR is the first I thought up, but RR is just more natural. It has two obvious interpretations, both things that anyone would come up with after thinking about it for a little while. WBR, in the other hand, is harder to conceptualize in terms of what mechanism would actually cause the probabilities to look like that (I've tried; the results are not pretty). "Paradox by association", while potential a fresh concept to use in a story, is a truly strange mechanism. Now, how does the connect with TimTravel's ideas? Just as he proposed, it is, in some models the case that the most probable timelines are the ones in which time machines are never invented. In Local Branch Realism, this is not true (unless some bad actor arises in every single timeline and causes paradox. Time Beast, anyone?). In Path Realism, this is again never true without positing a Time Beast. However in WBR and RR, it's more or less true. In general, timelines with fewer instances of retrocausation are more likely, only because instances of retrocausation are a proxy for instances of paradox. Now, if paradoxes are rare, this argument would be weak. (But to be fair, most meaningful uses of time travel require copious paradox; it's the oil in the engine.) That said, I believe it is admissible for a work to posit that the characters find themselves in the (slightly unlikely) timeline where retrocausation happens. After that, though, the principles constrain the probability space.
Suppose Alice has a bag of money with a dollar on it. If anyone steals it, she'll go back in time and see who did it. Bob wants to steal it. He knows she has this policy. He decides he'll give himself the thumbs up just before he leaves the future if all goes well stealing it and she doesn't see him. If these policies are followed then it leads to a paradox, so something must prevent them both from simultaneously following their policies. Either Alice wins because Bob goes to the past without getting an honest thumbs up from himself or Bob wins because Bob sees the honest thumbs up and Alice doesn't go back and check who stole the money for some reason, or some third possibility prevents both. There is no reason to think that either of them automatically wins in this situation. Timelines in which Alice wins should be about equally frequent as timelines in which Bob wins. Numerous characters have implicitly assumed that there is a reason to think one of them automatically wins in such situations.
We'll have to change this scenario a little bit to fit with the schema we've been using so far. (Besides, Tim's example is kind of unclear and it's not even obvious that paradox must occur in all permutations. If Bob doesn't get the thumbs up, wouldn't he not steal? Puzzle solved.)
Alice and Bob
Let's say that in the morning Alice has acquired a bag full of money from sources unknown, and has come to an arrangement with a shadowy individual: leave a dufflebag full of money with a dollar sign on it at a dropoff location, and in exchange, the individual will leave a limited print run of all eleven books of Worth the Candle at the same location. Alice knows people want to steal that money, but part of the arrangement is that she can't be there guarding it when the shadowy individual arrives. On Tuesday morning, the deal is still in its negotiation stage, and there are two places Alice can think of to arrange for dropoffs: atop the looming mountains outside of town, or deep into the mysterious catacombs below it. Both of these hiding places will take two hours to enter and two to leave. (Pretend the mountains have a rogue paramilitary that shoots down helicopters or something.) Due to work obligations, Alice can only make the dropoff in the early morning, and return that evening to pick up the books. Meanwhile, Bob, the thief, knows all this and certainly doesn't want to get caught. He can't go into either location until Alice has left, else he'll be seen. Lucky for him, that leaves a large window for him to do the deed. Both of these characters have the same magical devices from the earlier section, and they'll naturally use them to ensure success; except, for obvious reasons, we'll call their predictions "catacombs" and "mountains". Before she goes to hide the money at 5:00 AM, Alice consults her device for where to hide it. Four hours after he has seen Alice leave, at 9:00, Bob consults his device to determine where she hid it. If the predict is wrong, he forces a paradox. When Alice returns to get the money, at 17:00, if it's there, she confirms the location that the device advised. Otherwise, she presses the opposite button, forcing a crash via paradox. What happens? This requires introducing yet another notion.
Interlude: TIME FORCE
The TIME FORCE is any one in a billion freak accident that happens 100% of the time to prevent a paradox from occurring. TIME FORCE is a quantum fluctuation that causes right neuron to misfire which butterflies into changing your whole decision. TIME FORCE is random air currents that causes a bird to fly by and drop a rock on the right button of the time-device. TIME FORCE is the lightning in the clear blue sky which spells out Do not mess with time in typographically perfect serifs. There are a few things we can say about TIME FORCE. Let's say that the general odds of TIME FORCE acting on a given person in a given second is extremely, astronomically unlikely. One in a billion, or one in a trillion sounds about right. But from that, it follows that the odds of TIME FORCE acting over an interval of time is proportional to the length of that interval. (It's at least monotonic. Difficult/impossible to say how fast it grows.) It also follows that the odds of TIME FORCE acting is increased if an agent is acting in concert with it, and decreased if they are acting in opposition, proportional to the efficacy of that agent. I.e., an agent is defending against TIME FORCE, or attempting to utilize TIME FORCE. (consider: if Bob, after stealing, were to proceed to try to also steal Alice's device or persuade her to cancel her prediction herself (e.g., by faking a dire emergency which requires her foreknowledge to solve), then TIME FORCE would provide some boost to the probability of success.) An obvious corollary to all this is that TIME FORCE is almost never relevant. If you had a bigger device that spat out 32 red/blue pairs at a time, you could predict the lottery without seriously worrying about TIME FORCE. One common confusion which leads people to overstate the importance of TIME FORCE is the fact that parallel universes and timelines aren't necessarily the same thing. Let's say you wanted to force a coin to come up heads. Turn on your device. Then, splint. If the result was blue, flip the coin. If the result was red, splint again. The idea is to have the device spawn as many timelines as possible. Pressing buttons (subtly) alters the configuration of your brain and muscles and the microcurrents of air in the room, and the hope is a certain combination of buttons at a certain rhythm is prod you into the right configuration to flip the coin heads. This is almost certainly true in this specific example, but if the coin is flipped before the device is turned on, time cannot help you. And if you don't have intimate control over the outcome, time cannot save you. E.g., if a meteor is flying towards your town, forcing a paradox if it hits true cannot avert its course. Of course, if you splint long enough, maybe the branches describe a powerful, quickly-createable, meteor-destroying technology in morse code. Or maybe it just spells out "You needed worth opponents," and you give up and let the asteroid take you. (There is one slight exception, and this is where the different formulations of Bayesian Branch Realism and Reroll Realism differ. In BBR, the universe is posited to either A) know before splintering the posterior probabilities of each branch or equivalently, B) have so many timelines that destroy paradoxical ones leaves the distribution looking as it should. However, in RR, paradoxes are posited to cause the universe to restart from the beginning (or when the device was turned on). This means that in RR, simply flipping a coin and forcing a paradox if it's tails is all you need. That is, assuming quantum fluctuations making the coin heads is more likely than quantum making you decide not to crash, or failing to crash. Or dying instantly and having the wizard return to push the button.) There's one last possibility, and that's if you posit that quantum randomness itself are biased by time travel, so each quantum measurement counts as a splinterpoint. I'm reluctant to do such, because the edict I've heard over and over again is that when worldbuilding, Do Not Mess With Physics. I'm going to continue writing this article with the assumption that physical randomness is not biased by timelines. Extreme improbabilities are still extremely improbable, but, to mangle the quote, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must happen.
Back to Alice and Bob
So, with TIME FORCE in mind, what happens to Alice and Bob? It's 4:50. Alice is sitting beside her bag of money with a dollar sign on it, her device in front of her. If the device shows 'catacombs', she intends to, when she returns from work, press 'mountains' in case her bag was stolen and she doesn't have her book, or otherwise she will confirm 'catacombs' (and vice versa). She waits. And the device doesn't say anything at all! It's well known that sometimes there are random delays before the devices spit out answers. Some users interpret it as an omen, suggesting that whatever you're asking is so likely to lead to paradox, time itself has to work up the nerve to allow it to happen; the theorized mechanism is 'paradox aversion', where in some models, the odds turn against timelines long before the paradox is even nigh. (But as far as Alice knows, no one has never proved which model they live in.) She decides to buck superstition and conjecture, and reaches out to flip the switch which forces an output. Record scratch, freeze frame. What happens next? A) TIME FORCE intervenes before Alice can flip the switch. B) Alice flips the switch, but TIME FORCE subverts the resulting prophecy. (I.e., the bag is stolen, but events contrive to have the incorrect button on the device pressed anyway.) C) Alice flips the switch, and TIME FORCE subverts Bob's prophecy instead, sending him to the wrong location. Her bag is not stolen, and she happily reads the ending of WtC. D) Alice presses the secret button, and TIME FORCE subverts both prophecies. (Stop reading now if you want to try to work out an answer yourself.) The correct answer is B, which is about three times more likely than anything else, barring unspecified details. A requires TIME FORCE to act in the acute interval before Alice presses the button, which is at best a few minutes long. C requires TIME FORCE to act in the four hour interval of 9:00-13:00. D is the conjunction of A and C, and less likely than both. B is the winner, because it only requires the TIME FORCE to act on the long, twelve-hour interval of 5:00-17:00 I think this goes even if timelines nudge physical probabilities. Exercise for the reader, though. (((Now, one may object that this formulation bears little resemblance to Tim's example. My only excuse is that Tim's model was too unclear for me to formalize specifically. When I tried, I got this scenario: First, Alice gets a prediction from the device: stolen, or untouched. Iff it says stolen, she waits to see who the thief is, and gets them. Else, she goes about her day, secure knowing her money is safe. Then, Bob consults his device as to whether his theft would be successful: if it says yes, then either 1) Alice is there, catches him, and he triggers a paradox, or 2) Alice isn't there, he gets away, and she triggers a paradox later. However, if it says no, then he just sighs, and fucks off, no paradox to worry about. Even if I missed something/misinterpreted TimTravel and this situation is paradoxical all four ways, it still follows that Bob will probably win (if not so overwhelmingly so) because he spends less time in temporal limbo where TIME FORCE might fuck with him.)))
It's clear that if one were to disassemble the strange device and hook up a few wires to its circuit boards to a computer, you'd create a hybrid device capable of advanced feats of computation. What is the exact strength of this retrocausal computer? As mathematicians are wont to do, we will dispense with practicalities like having to use at most as much space as actually exists, or needing our computations finish before the heat death of the universe. Given all this, if we have an idealized retrocausal computer, a la the idealized turing machine, what can we do? Let's try the halting problem, a classic test of strength. Say we have a computer program, and we want to know if it's ever stops running. Well, either it does or doesn't. Consider a slightly different device, instead of red/blue leds, it has magic screen which can display any integer. (For models where it matters, the intrinsic probability of an integer n is equal to 2-k, where k is smallest number with 2k > n and k > 0.) It also has a numpad now, which allows the input of any integer. With this device, to determine when a program halts, given that it halts, is as simple and looking at what number comes up on its screen, and running the program for that many steps. If it halts before then, input when it halted (causing paradox). Otherwise, input the number it gave you. Otherwise otherwise, cause a paradox via your preferred means. If the program might run forever, things are trickier. What you can do is interpret the number the screen outputs as the index of a proof of (not) halting. This isn't sufficient, however, as no computably-checkable proof system can prove that any turing machine (never) halts, essentially by definition. But we can use the fact that if a program runs forever it doesn't halt: simply try over and over again until 1) you learn the program does not, or 2) the odds of it halting given that you found no proof is as astronomically low as satisfies you. By construction, the odds of the screen outputing the right halting time decreases exponentially as the halting time increases. If the halting time is in the millions, it takes a several hundred trials before you have even odds of the screen having already spat out the right answer. If the time is in the billions, it takes several hundred thousand. (Model-specific tricks can alleviate this quite a bit. In Path Realism, you can use the path blowup technique to increase the probability of the correct halting time coming up. In Weighted and Reroll, you can inflate the static paradox fraction to arbitrary heights, reducing the odds of false negatives.) From ordinary turing machines, this is a difference in degree (retrocausal machines are better at it), but not kind (retrocausal machines can never decide whether a machine halts or doesn't). Long story short, retrocausation can increase the efficacy of your computers, but you're still stuck at 0.
Applications to More Permissive Time Travel Models
Our device is quite limited, in the world of retrocausation. There are at least two stronger types of models:
Bound Time Travel: our system only sends information back in time, where most extant system allow entire persons to make the journey. While I strongly prefer this "prophecy" scheme to proper time travel (prophecy is simpler and more physically plausible, and opens up less strange cases), the evidence suggests that's not the prevailing taste.
Free Time Travel: In contrast to a Primer-style system where time travel is limited to when and where a machine exists, quite a few just let you pop out at old place and time. Again, this is not preferable to me because it doesn't allows limits to be as clear (a desirable quality for any rational system), but free time travel seems rather common. Cf. HP Time Turners, the very things which started this discussions.
Bound Time Travel
It's clear how our models transfer the bound case; proper time travel is basically sending a whole bunch of information at once. There's another hurdle though: can you tell from when a time travel comes? With our red/blue device, the slider at the top puts an upper bound on how long the device waits for stablization. If the system allows this, then great! It means there's a clean cutoff point after which we know the timeline is stable or not. Otherwise, you probably want to make probability proportional to how far in the future the traveler comes from; if you're uniformly selecting a person that could exist between now and the heat death of the universe (without grandfathering themselves, granted), it's probably not going to be you from two weeks hence, of all people. There's a more interesting question this is avoiding though. What can we say about what will probably step out of the time machine, aside from whence it came? Well, it's helpful to assume that there's an organization controlling and regulating time travel. There's some failure modes that would be cripplingly common. For instance, doppelgangers. Temporal doppelgangers are a variation of the bootstrap paradox (i.e., self-causation), where a mutant version of your steps out of the time machine, finds current you, and forcibly alters your mind to replicate its own (anthropically, it must know how to succeed at this). This seems pretty inevitable from the premise, and it provides a nice, fresh justification for "you can't interact with your past self". Not out of fear that it might cause a paradox, but out of fear that it won't. If your mind is randomly altered repeatedly, even by slight amounts each time, the results are quickly going to not be pretty. Other than that, this scheme of time travel seems somewhat tractable; while the odds of any given arrangement of matter is a specific person with a specific set of memories consistent with the past and future of the extant universe is very very very low, there is some wiggle room, especially depending on the specifics of the time machine. The assumption baked into our models is that, in effect, the time travel mechanism is plucking a random configuration of matter from possibility space. Most arrangements of matter, even restricting to the stable ones, aren't neat blobs of protein and water. And the most of the ones that are, are random goop! Now, requiring that the configurations which arise in the past-time machine are exactly 1-1 equivalent to what enters the future-time machine is very tight requirement. I doubt bodies will be too much worse for wear if a few atoms are a few picometers off. And you can relax the requirement even further, allow what appears in the present to be "close enough" to its future equivalent, and increase the possibilities further. Of course, this will have ramifications; cancer, prions, strange tastes in the mouth. The organization controlling the time machines could require that everyone who walks out of a time machine undergo a medical examination, and make most crippling ailments thereby paradoxical. (And, likewise for the dead bodies which can't walk out anyway).
Free Time Travel
Free Time Travel is the trickiest of all, but it has a few felicities in addition to all the extra warts. There's not necessarily authoritative time travel device (or an immediately plausible time travel agency) that you can stick in to stealthily add in extra conditions and assert nice properties. With FTT, a time traveler could pop up anywhere, and at any time. Unless you add in a time agency that can monitor for new arrivals, there's nothing you can do about doppelgangers, unless you bolt 'no interacty with the past self' into the rules of the system somehow. You probably shouldn't have location be conserved; requiring that you come out exactly where you came tightens probabilities too tightly. Allowing leeway puffs them up a bit. The same goes for concerns about exact molecular matching. All those caveats aside, it seems as tho you can otherwise treat BTT and FTT similary to our toy examples, where they line up, showing the benefits of the simplification.
Well, that turned out much longer than I'd expected (or wanted). It feels like it puttered out here at the end, but I've said everything I set out to say and then some. I hope this served to sharpen your intuitions regard time travel, and make precise things which were previously vague. I would like to thank the nice people on the /rational discord for inspiring this line of thinking and providing the impetus to refine it. Thank you for coming to my TED talk. P.S.: worth mentioning that Tim covered much of the same ground as me in their initial post. My post is less a refutation to theirs than me working out my own solution to the problems they pose, as I didn't understand or believe all of their arguments.
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On the trend of Arnesonian/Blackmoor-style 2d6 games
In the latest edition of the Questing Beast newsletter, Ben Milton (ludifex) wrote a bit about what I would call "Arnesonian 2D6 opposed-roll systems". These are stripped-back, old-school, Blackmoor-style games that pretty much just use one basic die mechanic of rolling against each other with the winner getting to say what happens, or scoring a hit in combat. Notable examples include Landshut and Just Halberds, although I've seen quite a few other variants. I know the OSR community has something of an attachment to tradition and a certain view of simplicity, but I can't help finding these systems kind of archaic and clumsy. I feel like the system is being spread around just because of its Arnesonian roots, and that very few people are interest in thinking about the mathematics, the odds of success, the effect of modifiers, the ability to get similar results in a more streamlined manner, etc. (Aside: Shout out to an exception in the form of Alex Schroeder, who actually wrote a very brief booklet called Understanding 2D6 Math which deserves praise as much for the presentation of the information as the clarity of explanation—I particularly like the first table, where the axes are represented by actual die faces, which makes the matrix immediately more tangible as you can literally look up the result of any two combinations of D6 rolls in a very intuitive way. However, even this booklet doesn't actually apply the math to game design at all.) Essentially, a lot of the stuff that we normally think about when designing our games goes out of the window in favour of doing it the way that Blackmoor did because the origins of the hobby are seen as inherently cool and/or correct. For instance, a lot of these systems have either success or failure, with no real significance afforded to high or low differences between the two opposed rolls. This means that the outcome is essentially binary. I'm not sure I see the advantage of having two people roll against each other to get an outcome that's essentially binary: couldn't you just have one person roll against a target? Wouldn't that give you the same probabilities with less effort? I'll admit that I generally dislike opposed-roll systems anyway, so this may be something of a personal bias or bugbear, but at least some systems make the full spread of possible outcomes actually meaningfully different. I can accept the opposed rolls in Fate because there is actually an important difference between beating my opponent by 1 and beating them by 8, for instance. The full scale (potentially rolling +4 against your opponent's -4) means that both people rolling is actually important to getting the probability distribution. I'm not convinced that's the case with binary 2d6 systems, where what really matters is my odds of beating my opponent by at least 1, and the actual amount I beat them by is irrelevant. Some versions of Landshut seem to remedy this a little, by introducing partial/mixed successes and bonus damage for high rolls. However, those aren't applied consistently across versions of the game, they're often optional, and the "bonus for high rolls" is only applied to combat damage as far as I know, so it doesn't affect huge chunks of the game at all. The thing that really confuses and bugs me about this is that the default chance of beating your opponent in these systems is 50% if you just have to roll at least the same as them and very nearly 45% if you have to roll over them, IIRC. Compare that to a system that works like D&D's AC, where it essentially takes what should be an opposed roll and makes it into a roll vs an 'average' (10.5) result for the opponent: with the average rounded down to 10, like in D&D (which rounds fractions down by default but with a minimum of 1, in most cases), you have a 55% chance of rolling at least the same and a 50% chance of rolling over them, and with the average rounded up to 11 (which .5 would be in the absence of a general rule to round down), you have a 50% chance of rolling at least the same and a 45% chance of rolling over them. (Aside 2: To my mind there's actually no reason we can't just use fractional averages as-is, even though I don't know of any game that does that. Maybe GURPS? Anyway, that would mean that you'd need to roll an 11 to beat an opponent by default, giving a 50% chance of success, but with the interesting side-effect that you no longer need a rule to handle "draws". Instead, any roll you didn't win would be lost. I see that as a nice bonus because I don't really care to have some specific rule just to produce an awkward third outcome 5% of the time and make the math more difficult to compute.) So if you really want to hew to the existing probabilities as closely as possible, just round up to 11 and require the rolling player to roll over that. That gives us the 45% chance of success we want. What happens when we start applying modifiers? A +1 takes your chances of success up to 50%, a -1 takes your chances down to 40%, etc. This is all simple D20 math we know inside out by now: our chance of success increases/decreases by 5 percentage points with each +1/-1, until we hit 100%/0% (or 95%/5% in games/mechanics that specifically always allow both success and failure). How does that compare to the 2d6 method? A +1 on that takes us from 44% to 56%, whereas a -1 takes us down to 34%. A +2 gives us 66%, while a -2 gives us 24%. These are rounded off because the actual numbers are messy. Essentially the first couple of modifiers make a difference of about 10 percentage points each (double that of the same modifier to a D20). But then it starts to get weird: while a +3 offers another ~10 percentage points on a +2, a +6 offers only another 5 percentage points on a +5, for instance. No doubt some people will see this dynamic effect of bonuses (which essentially means that if you are already pretty sure to succeed, another advantage won't make much difference, whereas if you are already pretty sure to fail another disadvantage won't make much difference) as a desirable thing in a die mechanic, while others prefer the transparent linearity of a D20. Another issue here is granularity: a +1 bonus on a D20 is "smaller", allowing bonuses to be given out without affecting the balance of power quite as much. Of course some people will say "+1 bonuses are rare in these games", but I'm not sure that's entirely true: I've seen BlackmooLandshut-style games that give out +1 bonuses quite liberally, with some giving a +1 for each relevant profession/special ability/etc a character has, and others featuring examples that talk quite casually about +3 bonuses, etc. Again, this might be a personal preference to a point, but there are potential advantages to greater granularity. I think doing ludological archaeology on these games is entirely fine and respectable: I have as much desire as the next person to know how the Blackmoor campaign was actually played at the time and to think about how this might inform our games and so on. But do we really want to design our own games based on these rules without any critical thought about the point and effect of these rules, and whether there are better methods available? I'd like to at least see some critical thought about the shortcomings of these systems and approximations of their dynamics and tone and practicalities that might achieve the intended goals even better. If nothing else, at least this has offered me an opportunity to consider my preferred OSR mechanics (in a way the reinforces my preferences!)...
Fixing KotFE Part 4 - What's An Alliance Without Allies?
Special thanks again to these two sites for summarising the expansions so I don't have to watch hours of youtube videos or fights thousands of Skytroopers to remember what happened in some of the chapters. They were incredibly helpful and I honestly don't know if I would have bothered finishing this if I didn't have them on hand. Also, if you want to compare and contrast my story to the original, these will probably come in handy.
Welcome to Part 4 of Fixing KotFE! Here, I'll be looking at the story after you take over as Alliance Commander which, in my version, occurs in Chapter 6. The story up until this point can be found in Part 3 here. This is the section where I usually write out my aims but these carry on from Part 3, so I'll save everyone some time there. I'm really happy with some of the changes I made and I think we get some cool concepts that aren't explored in the original so I hope you like it too. However, there is something I'd like to explain that I never really got into. Technically, I guess it would go into the gameplay section but it feels more story-based. I'd add a prison to the base on Asylum where you can place characters who you decide to capture or imprison. At this point in the story, that would only allow for Senya, if you chose to imprison her, rather than allow her to join the council, however there are other characters in the future who can be held there. I think the prison would be an optional area that you can visit and talk to your prisoners, if you have any. They would say different things depending on your last completed chapter. This would obviously add more voice acting but I think it would help to create a sense of continuity when you can see and talk to these characters you chose t capture. It would also allow Senya to continue being a part of the story, even if you chose not to allow her onto the War Council. It's also just a fun idea that plays well into you being the big boss if you can interrogate your prisoners. With that little bit out of the way, we'll start with:
Chapter 7: Twin-Tailed Scorpion
Some time has passed since you officially joined, and became the commander of the Alliance. You are called to the war table to discuss a strange broadcast that Theron had picked up. He refuses to tell you more without meeting in person. You join your war council, who are already in place. As a reminder, this includes:
Lana Beniko (Chief Advisor)
Theron Shan (Head of Alliance Intelligence)
Aric Jorgan (Republic Representative)
Moff Pyron (Imperial Representative)
Dr Oggurob (Hutt Representative)
Koth Vortena (Smuggler Representative)
Hylo Visz (Koth's more cool-headed second-in-command)
And Senya Tirall (if you allow her to join the council)
Theron reveals that he received a distress signal from the very prison you had been imprisoned in for 5 years. Even more peculiar, the signal was only broadcast on channels used by Imperial Intelligence before it was disbanded. Theron warns you that this was probably a trap but Lana points out that you could use some allies on Zakuul. You decide it's strange enough to investigate regardless. The scene shifts to you being discreetly dropped off within the Old World district of Zakuul, with Hylo explaining that it would be impossible to get you any closer without being spotted, with Arcann having increased security after your escape, increasing the production of the prototype Skytroopers. You make your way through the Old World where your radio signal is lost. Instead, you are greeted by a strange, robotic voice that begins directing you to a service door in the Old World. You go through the door which shuts and locks behind you and begin making your way back up to the prison, fighting through maintenance and industry droids as you do, all the time being directed by the synthesised feminine voice. Eventually, you enter the prison once more. However, you are in a different part than before. You continue to receive directions, with doors closing to cut off Knights and allowing you to pass. You are eventually brought to a room. The door opening to reveal SCORPIO, hooked up to a machine and wired into the wall. She speaks to you, introducing herself and explaining the situation (or simply explaining what had happened if speaking to an agent). SCORPIO explains that, after Arcann's takeover of the galaxy, she allied with him, quickly rising through the ranks to become one of Arcann's most trustworthy allies over the 5 years. However, this was all a ruse so that she could gain information. She planned to sell Arcann's secrets to the highest bidder but was caught before she could leave Zakuul. She was imprisoned and wired into the prison security system, trapped both physically and mentally. However, the Zakuulians underestimated her and within days, she had taken over the system completely. She'd even snark that this wasn't the first prison security system she had taken control of, referencing Belsavis. She explains that she had discovered your location while in the system and had managed to send a message to Lana, allowing her to enact your escape. SCORPIO goes on to add that she had used the security systems to aid you, in the hopes that you would return the favour and free her from her own imprisonment, since the prison was a closed system and she was locked inside. In return, she would join the Alliance, if only to get revenge on Arcann. You agree to free her and are sent around the prison to deactivate various systems, allowing SCORPIO's escape.As you do so, you see snippets of SCORPIO's most recent memories, showing Arcann ambushing her as she attempts to leave the palace, sadly admitting that he had hoped she wouldn't try to betray him, even after the Scions warned him it would happen. SCORPIO, being her usual self, would respond snarkily, leading Arcann to angrily sentence her to be implemented within the prison security system. You then have to defend SCORPIO's body from Skytroopers and Knights while her consciousness downloads into it once again. As she is freed, explosions rock the prison and SCORPIO smugly explains that it is time for you to leave. Before you can ask how, another explosion causes the cell to break away from the prison complex, letting you freefall towards the planet's surface. You are saved as Hylo's dropship swoops in managing to catch the cell within the cargo bay. Returning to Asylum, SCORPIO begins to brief everyone on what she knows; to get to Arcann, the infrastructure of Zakuul must be taken down, starting with the Old World, where he has the weakest grip. Arcann rules over the Old World thanks to a shaky alliance with the Scion cult. The Scions essentially rule over the sector by providing Arcann with access to Heskal's prophecies. In turn, only a minimal security force of Skytroopers exists in the Old World. She mentions that the best way to dethrone Heskal and the Scions is to work with one of the rival gangs. Lana adds that she had already established contact with two of the Old World's gangs and that she would need time to set up meetings with the gang leaders. At this point, you see your first newsreel. It shows two presenters, a male who introduces himself as Adorus Bell and a female, Zelia Myker, sitting at a desk and recounting an act of domestic terrorism by the cell calling itself the Alliance. The Alliance, led by a radical extremist who is believed to be serving Vitiate destroyed a secure complex, killing a number of knights who were protecting the area and almost killing Princess Vaylin, who has been moved to a more secure facility. Thanks to the sacrifices of the Knights, no civilians were injured in the explosion. They then broadcast a message from Emperor Arcann himself, reassuring the people of Zakuul that he will personally capture this Agent of Vitiate and stop the Alliance. My aim here was to establish SCORPIO with a clear character that fits her personality, keep her selfish amorality and also provide her with a motivation to actually help you, even if she's still secretive and coy about it. She wants revenge on Arcann for pre-empting her betrayal and imprisoning her. she simply thinks that you and your Alliance are the best chance at fulfilling her revenge. SCORPIO's weakness was always her pride. We don't really see that In the proper expansions. Instead, we just got a series of convoluted double crosses and fake outs which were just more confusing than anything and made it seem like she just bounced from one side to the other. I hope to create a more straight forward story For SCORPIO that is still true to the character. I also liked the idea of SCORPIO ending up in a similar situation to when the agent first meets her. As an extra note, I added the idea of you escaping via SCORPIO ejecting the cell And hylo catching it at the last moment and I Just really think its a fun, silly concept that gets to show off SCORPIO's unique problem solving while selling Hylo as a great pilot. Lastly, this is where I introduce a new narrative technique. In the original game, we often jump to conversations between Vaylin and Arcann that we, as the character, are not privy to. I think this is a problem since we, as the audience, now know more than our characters do which creates a narrative dissonance to the choices. I understand that the purpose of this was to develop Arcann and Vaylin as characters while we couldn't meet them but I think a better solution would be the newsreels. It lets us see Arcann, in character, and gives us an understanding of what the population of Zakuul are getting in terms of how our actions are portrayed.
Chapter 8: Friends In Low Places
You receive a message from Lana who has contacted two gangs within the Old World. She asks for you to accompany her to meet with the gang leaders and choose which one you'd want to work with. As you travel, you learn from Lana that the Scions are practically untouchable, due to Arcann's aid. The local security chief, Captain Arex, secretly protects them from other gangs in return for Heskal providing Arcann with visions of the future. The two of you shuttle to the Old World and go to meet with the gangs. The first is a group of anarchists led by Kaliyo known as the Firebrands. They have a plan to blow up a Skytrooper factory and need your help. Theron argues over the radio that the factory is too close to civilians while Lana points out that destroying Arcann's source of troops would hurt the war effort. You then go to meet the other gang, a group of thieves known as the Old World Kath Hounds, led by Vette, who steal from the rich living in the Spire to give back to people of the Old World. While they have the favour of the people of the Old World, the gang members aren't fighters and wouldn't be able to help much with the war effort. Vette proposes a plan to steal intelligence from the Old World security depot. However, they need your help to distract the security chief and his Skytroopers. At this point, you have to choose who you will ally with; Kaliyo's Firebrands or Vette's Kath Hounds. Depending on the one you choose, you are sent on a different mission. For the Kath Hounds, you create trouble, attracting the security forces and fighting off Skytroopers. While they chase you, Vette keeps you informed on the mission's progress as they sneak into the security depot and take what you need, before you are tasked with escaping from the Skytroopers and meet back up with Vette. Meanwhile, if you chose to aid the Firebrands, you are tasked with placing bombs around supports beneath the droid factory, since the factory itself is too well secured. As you go, you are met by security forces that you have to defeat. As you finish, you rejoin with Kaliyo and watch the bombs go off, causing a section of the Spire to collapse down, much to Kaliyo's delight. With the mission complete, your chosen gang agrees to aid you against the Scions. Both groups managed to find information on Arex that he was extorting money from civilians within the Old World in return for protection. If this was revealed to those in the Spire, they would demand his imprisonment. However, before you can set up plans, the base is attacked by Captain Arex and a prototype skytrooper design. You and your chosen gang leader fight the two of them. You can then choose to kill Arex, report him or blackmail him for his corruption to either leave his position or work for you. With your new allies firmly established and Captain Arex dealt with, you join up with either Vette or Kaliyo to assault the Scions' fortress. Without Arex and his skytroopers to defend them, you are able to fight through the Scion forces and reach Heskal. Upon defeating him, you are given the choice to imprison or kill him, leaving your new ally to take control of the Old World. Another newsreel with the same presenters rolls. The presenters discuss a gang war that had begun in the Old World district, followed by a video of Arcann alongside a woman he introduces as Knight-General Vendryl. Arcann apologises to the people of the Old World for this terrible tragedy and explains that Vendryll will be personally dealing with this new menace. Speaking to Senya, either in her cell or the war council, will reveal that Vendryll was her second-in-command before her defection and that she is a ruthless individual completely devoted to Arcann. So, the aim of this chapter is to provide a big choice that actually affects the story, this choice being whether you have Kaliyo or Vette as your advisor for the Old World gangs. There's an obvious light side/dark side binary with Vette's Robin Hood-esque antics obviously being nicer than Kaliyo's terrorism. However, I wanted to make it a bit more complex with Kaliyo actually being the more competent choice, pragmatically. While Vette has the favour of the civilian population, Kaliyo's gang are more competent combatants. This adds a different dynamic than just "Good choice" and "bad choice" but still allows that morality for those who wish to choose it. The second notable choice is what you do with Arex. I think this is a fun one, since there isn't really a 'nice' answer, with you either handing him over to Arcann, blackmailing him to leave or work for you, or just straight up killing him. I like this as there isn't one 'right' answer.
Chapter 9: Mercy Mission
Koth asks to meet with you privately to talk. You oblige and he explains that he received a message from one of his contacts on Zakuul about a group of anti-Arcann refugees who are high profile targets looking to escape the planet. He planned to go pick them up but wanted to check with you first. You agree to go with him to meet these refugees. The two of you take a shuttle to meet up with the refugees. There are 5 in total, all with different characters:
Minister Gilbar - A long-time advisor to Valkorion who had grown disillusioned with Arcann's rule. While he admits that he doesn't know much of Arcann's military affairs, he does know of domestic issues and agrees to provide whatever expertise he can if you take him with you.
Marto Kimkae - A rich socialite who dislikes Arcann's rule due to the increased security, preventing him from importing illegal luxuries from around the galaxy. He agrees to provide you with additional funds from his off-planet accounts if you take him to Asylum.
Chaaile Veist - A peace-loving diplomat who wished to discover and build relationships with other planets. She worked closely with Arcann when the two were younger but is horrified with what he had become. Chaaile still has contacts with many species around the galaxy and believes she can increase support for the Alliance on these worlds, if you take her off-planet.
Nova Ducroz - Zakuul's premiere celebrity singer, Nova was forced to endorse Arcann's regime in order to continue performing. Sickened by this, she hopes to leave, offering to create anti-Arcann propaganda if you help her off-planet.
Adorus Bell - The male news anchor who has been providing the reports on your activities. He apologises for what he had done, explaining that the news was controlled by Arcann . He admits that he fears being imprisoned and replaced if he speaks out against Arcann and hopes you will help him escape, admitting that he cannot provide you with anything and that he wouldn't blame you if you did leave him.
However, while down there, you receive word from Theron who has been tracking your movements, believing that he had to be careful after the disappearance of Marr and Satele. He informs you that he received intelligence that one of the refugees is a spy working for Arcaan. You are then tasked with speaking to each of the refugees in an attempt to discover who, if any, is the spy. After speaking to all of them, you are given a decision: you can bring all of them back with you, accuse one character of being the spy or abandon them all. If you choose to leave the one you believe to be the spy or all of the refugees, you are given the choice to kill or imprison them. If you choose to imprison them, you can also have them tortured for information. Killing or torturing one or all of the refugees will negatively affect Koth's Alliance Influence to varying degrees, while allowing them to come to Asylum with you will positively affect it. After returning to Asylum, we receive another news report. This time, Zalia is joined by a new host, Brennon Brosnee. The report explains that someone believed to be the Agent of Vitiate kidnapped many of Zakuul's greatest minds in a clear attack on Zakuulian society. Adorus Bell is not mentioned in the report. This is what I'm calling a 'chill out chapter.' It's pretty short and doesn't have any combat but is more about player choice and character interactions. Your decisions in this chapter also have long-reaching effects as, in later chapters, Koth may leave the Alliance due to your choices here. If you do allow the spy onto Asylum, this will also affect the story later on. I think, overall, this is a fun, short chapter which mixes things up from the longer ones that come before and after. It's fun, it's interesting. It's different and you don't even fight any Skytroopers! It would also be a good way to get a different perspective on Arcann's rule from the people of Zakuul themselves. On a technical side, this sort of 'bottle episode' type concept would allow the developers to spend more time on later chapters while still keeping a consistent schedule.
Chapter 10: The Lost Masters
Theron is finally able to decipher the information he took from the gangsters when you rescued him (see Chapter 6 for more info). He explains that they are coordinates to a remote planet called Odessen within Wild Space. Lana adds that the planet seems to be unpopulated but shows all sorts of strange readings. She agrees that you should go investigate the landing coordinates with Theron. When you land on Odessen, you find it to be a lush, fertile and wild planet. However, you also find a campsite and begin to investigate. You are met by Satele who explains that they had been awaiting your arrival. She invites the two of you to sit down and talk. As you do, she explains that she and Darth Marr had sensed a strong dark side presence on Odessen and had come to investigate. What they found was an entire compound controlled by the followers of Vitiate, hoping to revive him. The two of them realised at this point that Vitiate's forces were more numerous and covert than either of them had believed, and resolved to stay on Odessen until the compound could be destroyed. Satele explains that they had learnt from their experiences with the Revanites and agreed that they could not trust even those in the Alliance in case it was compromised. However, Satele did leave a clue, saying that she knew Theron would be able to decipher it and bring you here. When you ask of Marr's location, Satele explains that they take turns keeping watch before noting that he should have been back by now. Suddenly, the camp is attacked by dark side beasts and the three of you fight them off. Once they're defeated, Satele states that Marr should have seen them coming and that he must be in danger. You head into the forest with her, leaving Theron to protect the ship. You travel with Satele through the jungle of Odessen to reach the compound, fighting through local wildlife as well as mutated Sith beasts. As you approach, Satele suggests you sneak in while she distracts the cultists. You agree and Satele splits off from you as you make your way into the compound that seems like a fortress. You fight through a mixture of sith beasts and cultists loyal to Vitiate, mostly Sith. As you go, you hear Darth Marr and approach his location. A member of the (former) Emperor's Hand, Servant 11, is interrogating an unmasked and kneeling Marr who refuses to give up any information on Satele, surrounded by members of the Emperor's Guard. As you enter, Marr takes the chance to attack the guards, taking one of their pikes and impaling them upon it. He grabs his mask and lightsaber before the two of you fight the rest of the Emperor's Guards together until only Servant 11 is left. Marr starts interrogating Servant 11 on the cult's activities with you being able to act as the 'good cop' to his bad cop or reinforce Marr's bloodthirst.. Servant 11 smugly declares that there are plans in motion that will bring a new era of Vitiate's power. Marr then kills Servant 11. Sidenote: I think this scene could go a couple of ways. We could finally get a Darth Marr face revealorthe scene could be shot in such a way that we never actually see his face until he retrieves the mask and puts it back on. I prefer the second because I just think it's a really fun concept for the scene. You plan to escape with Marr but he refuses, stating that all remnants of the Emperor's filth must be cleansed from this place. You agree and travel with him, killing more cultists and making your way to a large room with a strange Sith holocron on it. Marr informs you that the holocron is a Reliquary, an artifact containing a fraction of Vitiate's presence and an item of Sith Sorcery. He explains that it absorbs the Force released by beings as they die and would eventually resurrect Vitiate if given the chance. With this said, Marr draws his lightsaber and impales the Reliquary, causing purple energy to blast out from within. The two of you then meet up with Satele and Theron to talk. You discuss with the three of them on whether Satele and Marr should return to the Alliance. Satele agrees to join you but Marr states that he must ensure that the cult is completely destroyed before returning. You agree and leave the planet with Satele and Theron. You return to Asylum and get the usual newsreel. However, since you haven't actually done anything that they know of, the news is instead about preparation for an upcoming event: Liberty Day, a yearly day of celebration in honour of Valkorion's forces defeating Vitiate and his Sith long ago. The two hosts discuss what Emperor Arcann could be planning for this year's Liberty Day, which would be happening in the coming months, and point out that the increased security provided by the Knights and Skytroopers will stop the Agents of Vitiate from stopping such an auspicious occasion. So, I wanted to do a few things in this chapter: Firstly, I wanted to bring back Satele and Marr and, with Marr not being dead in my version, have them both do some cool stuff and show off a bit. In fact, my sequence with Marr is heavily based on his moment in the original story, shortly before he gets fucking gutted. I also wanted to be a bit fan-servicey with Marr's whole mask thing and I really love the idea that we never actually see him unmasked. On a slight tangent, I've just realised that, in the original expansion, Marr is just… left in his armour after being captured. Surely if you wake someone prisoner, you'd take their badass, technologically advanced battle armour off them, right? I suppose it's because they wanted him to be recognisable asDarth Marrstill but it seems strange, not only from a literal point of view but a metaphorical one too. Stripping Marr of his armour signifies that he isn't some unstoppable machine but a man, and when he then fights back and kills Valkorion/Vitiate's minions, (in either version of the story) it shows that, as a man, he is able to overcome these greater odds. I'd also want there to be some honest interactions between Theron and Satele, maybe having Satele actually show pride in Theron and what he's become. In the original story, I don't think Theron even meets her in these expansions, since you go to see her alone and then she just leaves. It honestly is just bizarre to me that you have two characters who are mother and son with a strained relationship (in an expansion that revolves very heavily about family ties, none-the-less) and theyneverinteract. I think having Satele and Theron repair their relationship a bit would be good story progression and an interesting route for both their characters, especially if Satele is going a bit AWOL from the Jedi teachings, which she already was in the original version. Secondly, I wanted to implement the Cult of Vitiate as antagonists. Since Valkorionisn'tjust Vitiate in a meat suit in this version, he should definitely have his own thing going. I also want this to be more of a thing later on, so I think it's good to plant the seed here. Thirdly, I wanted to introduce Odessen as a location. Asylum being the home of the Alliance gives us a chance to make Odessen a little more interesting than 'the place you decided to just make a base'. Again, this will come back later in the story. Lastly, I think this newsreel is a fun one. It's something light-hearted and unrelated to you and has the irony of Arcann pushing this 'Liberty Day' when he has taken over the entire Galaxy.
Chapter 11: Twists of Fate
With Satele back in the Alliance, things are running more smoothly. She calls you to join her to talk. When you meet with her, she is alone in the council room. She asks you to join her on a walk. Satele explains that she has some errands to run on the station and asks you to help. Regardless of your answer, she begins leading you deeper into the underbelly of the station to meet a friend of hers. Before you reach your target, you are pickpocketed by a young boy who runs into a back alley. The two of you follow the thief and catch him. He explains that he has to steal in order to make enough money to feed himself and his sister and that if he doesn't return with something, his boss will throw them out. You are then given a choice to take your credits back, kill the boy or recruit him to the Alliance. Whichever choice you choose, the boy pleads with you to save his sister who is being held by a gang known as the Engineers. Satele admits that the Engineers have caused problems for the Alliance in the past, but are the only ones able to keep Asylum running. You decide to go and deal with them. As you make your way down into the lower levels of Asylum, you are split off from Satele and are contacted by Valkorion once again. He apologises for possessing you and explains that doing so used up his energy and he was forced to retreat into your subconscious to recover. The two of you discuss the Alliance and your plans for after Arcann is defeated. Valkorion admits that he doesn't know if he will remain in your mind forever or eventually fade away. As the two of you talk, you arrive within the Engineers' territory. You fight your way through until you reach the Engine Room which is set out like a treasury. In the middle of the room is a rotund twi'lek man, Ral Ekval, sitting on a throne made up of scrap metal. He sends his goons to attack you and you fight them off. You then speak to Ral, who smugly explains that only his people can run Asylum. Without him, the station would fall from orbit and be sucked into the gas giant. You then have a choice:
Order Ral to work for you
Whichever you choose, Satele makes her way inside with Alliance back-up to help you. If you chose to kill or imprison Ral, Satele notes that it will be hard to find anyone who could replace him and that she would ask Hylo to talk to her contacts. As this happens, you get an emergency broadcast from Theron, stating that Koth and the Gravestone have gone missing and have been spotted in the Spire. You return to the Alliance base to meet with the War Council, deciding that a major assault would be too costly at this point. Instead, you will lead a small strike team into the Spire to retrieve Koth and the Gravestone. At this point, you're able to choose from the companions you have acquired to join you on the mission by performing different tasks:
Lana, Theron, Senya (if she's not imprisoned) or Satele are able to join you as your companion. The ones you don't choose will remain on Asylum to keep things running and provide mission support.
Aric Jorgan, Vette/Kaliyo or Moff Pyron would lead a second team to escort Hylo to the Gravestone and defend it, in order to gain an escape route
Lastly, SCORPIO would interface with the Spire security system in order to allow you through
Depending on who you pick to lead the distraction team, you gain Alliance Influence with the Republic, the Underworld or the Empire. With the positions set, you start your assault, landing within the Old World and fighting your way through to an elevator that leads up into the Spire. This is the first time you get to actually see the splendors of the Spire but it doesn't last long as alarms start to blare out. As you go, you receive reports from the other members of your team, with SCORPIO providing overviews on security movements and Jorgan/Vette/Kaliyo/Pyron and Hylo providing updates on their conflict. You make your way through the streets of the Spire, fighting through Skytroopers as you approach the palace. You fight through knights as you make your way through the palace towards the throne room. You reach the throne room where you are met by Arcann, alongside a group of Knights. You also see Vaylin, standing at her brother's side and Koth in manacles. Depending on whether Koth's Alliance Influence score is above or below a certain amount (heavily affected by your choices within Chapter 9 but also affected by other choices within the story), Koth will either have been captured while trying to pick up more refugees or he will have betrayed you, attempting to join forces with Arcann, who believes him to be a spy and had him locked up. Either way, you speak with Arcann, who seems strange. He is angered by your presence, claiming that you were an agent of Vitiate come to destroy him. He demands the Knights execute you and draws his own lightsaber, ready to fight. If you have Senya with you, she will attempt to talk him out of it, but this only enrages him further as he claims you have turned his mother to the darkness. You ready yourself for a fight, but before you can, Vaylin suddenly screams and the entire room begins to shake and shudder, windows smashing and the thin bridge to the throne collapsing, taking some of the knights with it. The throne room begins to fall apart and you are forced to retreat, bringing Koth with you. You receive confirmation that the others have captured the Gravestone and you make your way towards the ship. You get onboard the Gravestone with your companion and Koth while Hylo takes off, escaping Zakuul. No one seems to know the cause of the sudden damage to the throne room. With the danger passed, you're able to turn your attention to Koth. Regardless of whether he betrayed you or simply got captured, you're given the choice to let him go, imprison him or kill him. If you let him go after he betrays you, he agrees to exile himself. Otherwise, he will return to the Alliance. You return to Asylum and speak with the War Council who have mixed feelings. While some are happy about the victory, however minor, others believe that this will only harden Arcann's resolve. This is where Part 4 will end, since I've already massively surpassed my 5000ish word limit for these posts. I felt like this worked as a pretty good 'midpoint' for the story. The theme of this section of Chapters is about building up the Alliance into a better fighting force. The next section will delve into deconstructing Arcann's powerbase some more and then getting to the grand finale. Laughably, I thought I could get away with 4 parts when I started writing all this but that clearly isn't the case. This last chapter is fun because it gets you your first real look at Arcann since the start and you get to see his deterioration as he becomes more paranoid and cruel. It also includes the first seeds of Vaylin's storyline. I've also included a trope I really enjoyed when it was used in the class stories where each of your allies is doing something, with the twist of you picking and choosing for a few roles. There's also the whole bit with the Engineers which is more throwaway, but I thought some light adventure would be fun and I felt like I should bring Valkorion back for a bit. I've already gone on long enough though, so I'll finish with a TL;DR.
You receive a mysterious distress signal from the prison you had been frozen in carbonite in
You make your way to the prison and fight your way through to find SCORPIO hooked up to the security system
SCORPIO explains that she had worked for Arcann in order to acquire and sell his secrets, however Arcann found out and had her wired into the security system of the prison
While imprisoned, SCORPIO had taken over the system and helped to orchestrate your escape
You break SCORPIO out, heavily damaging the prison as you do
SCORPIO agrees to join the Alliance
You then go to the Old World in order to recruit allies to aid you against the Scions who are protected by the local security forces
You choose whether you would rather support Kaliyo's Firebrands, dangerous radicals, or Vette's Kath Hounds, a gang of Robin Hood-esque thieves
You complete a job for whoever you choose to aid and, in doing so, find out about a corrupt security chief named Arex
You fight Arex and gain the choice to blackmail, kill or report him, leading the Scions to lose their protection
You then team up with your chosen gang leader to storm the Scions' fortress and defeat their leader, leaving your ally to take control of the Old World
After returning to Asylum, Koth asks for your help in retrieving some high value refugees from Zakuul
You accompany him to meet with these refugees but Theron informs you that one of them may be a spy
You then have to speak to each of them and decide if you want to take them all, try to discover who the spy is or simply kill/imprison them all
Theron discovers that Darth Marr and Satele Shan had disappeared on a remote planet known as Odessen
When you arrive, you meet with Satele who explains that they were hunting down a cult attempting to resurrect Vitiate
You are attacked by Sith Beasts and realise Darth Marr must have been killed or captured
You assault the cultists' base with Satele distracting them while you look for Marr
You find Marr being tortured by Servant 11, one of the members of Vitiate's former Emperor's Hand
You free Marr and the two of you fight through the compound to find a holocron
Marr explains that the holocron is a reliquary which contains some of Vitiate's presence before destroying it
Satele agrees to return with you to Asylum while Marr hunts down any remaining cultists on Odessen
Satele asks you to join her on a walk around Asylum
You are pick-pocketed by a young boy
After following the boy, he reveals that he works for a gang called the Engineers who keep the station running, meaning they are considered untouchable
You decide to make your way down and fight them
You are given the option to kill, hire or imprison the Engineers' boss
As this happens, you receive information that Koth and the Gravestone have been captured by Arcann
You concoct a plan to lead a small team into the Spire, with one half retrieving the Gravestone while you find Koth
You find Koth in the throne room with Arcann and Vaylin
Koth either came willingly or was captured while trying to ferry more refugees
Arcann orders both of you to be executed but, before he can, Vaylin begins to scream and the throne room begins to collapse in on itself
In the chaos, you grab Koth and run, making your way to the Gravestone
With the completion of the Dokapon LP, let's workshop a potential spiritual successor *Minor Gameplay Spoilers?*
So for a bit while watching Dokapon live, and in particular since someone in the chat said they were thinking about just making a dokapon game, I've had ideas for a potential Doka-like game. Now that the Manga has finished, I figured I'd make this topic to share some thoughts and ideally see if we can cobble together some fresh offense against god. The TLDR version/my thesis statement: Dokapon Kingdom, but playing as monsters and with better balancing. To properly begin, what's GREAT about Dokapon?
Dokapon allows for BULLSHIT. Both the game's RNG and letting you mess with everyone else. This is the game's power source. It runs on sadism and Schadenfreude and helps keep you on your toes.
Dokapon is MYSTERIOUS. Not only does it have a big map, but multiple extra dungeons, including hidden items, classes, interactions, and areas that you literally have to do things you would never think to do normally if you were just playing the game. I feel that this keeps you engaged with the game, over a session as well as multiple playthroughs.
Battles in Dokapon are simple, but absolutely thrilling! Preserving that spirit of YOMI/reading the enemy is absolutely vital for any game looking to capture the spirit of Dokapon. That shit is hype, and there IS skill, as the LP provides testament to.
Now, what are ISSUES, with Dokapon?
Dokapon is FIDDLY. Things such as having to go back to Dokapon Castle to change jobs, having both your level and job mastery levels, the way you have to clear a normal fight to get your levels after being a darkling, and so on. I do think there should still be some involved quests and such, but there is room for streamlining and cleaning up some of the more awkward systems.
Dokapon is too simple in some areas. This came up on the new podcast, but field magic being tied to spd for instance causes a lot of problems. Since the game doesn't have a lot of variables to control, things get binary between worthless and busted. At least part of this is by design, as the idea of Dokapon is everything's about money, but this also leads to things like having very limited ability choices, RNG field abilities, and so on. Dokapon does have a lot going on, so you don't want to overwhelm people, but I think there are certain cases where we can do things like add more stats to a character sheet and at least giving out of combat ability choices. FIX PURSECUTTER goes here, pretty much.
Dokapon can often be unclear when you really don't want it to be. While mysteries are great, and unknown scenarios are core to the experience of OH NO and RNG, when it comes to mechanics, you should be able to just press a button, and know what's going on, like with status aliments for instance. Now there's absolutely a sliding scale on this, and you don't want to take the surprise out of everything, but anything about your character you should be able to press a button and get more information.
If you are still with me at this point, thank you. Now that I've overviewed the good and bad of dokapon, my actual idea: A Dokapon Kingdom style game, but set in a cartoonish Disgaea/Soul EateIruma-kun style netherworld, where the players take on the role of different monsters and vying to become the demon king.
I think this change helps a lot with the marketing and mindset of the game for the players. It encourages you to be absolute shitheels to each other as you battle your way to the top. YOU ARE THE DEMONS.
-Playing monsters specifically also allows for all new levels of agony to inflict on others. Imagine a spider spinning web-traps that halt a player's move if they try to move through that square, or Snek with poison and squeezing.
Playing as monsters can offer a LOT of variety in options compared to a job system. Rather than mastering a job and changing classes, you level up and evolve, pokemon style, up a branching family tree.
-While this offers a simple base, special monster types can be unlocked with unique items, ala Dokapon, or by doing in-game actions, similar to job salaries from that game, or achievements. -Different monster families can play really differently like each other, giving you a basic gameplan from the start, and can build in strengths and weaknesses, along with unique abilities. Imagine playing dragons, where you start as a weak baby dragon and grow very slowly, but become a late game super beast. Or say, the difference between being a zombie or a ghost, and you can instantly understand that despite both being undead, are going to be wildly different.
Playing as monsters can help de-emphasize gear, and focus on personal poweabilities. While I think items should still be part of the game, I think they should be cool additions that give you extra stuff / utility that might break your build in half, vs. 'spend 10 turns trying to get a shield so I don't get one-shot in fights'
That's my main idea that I would build the game around, but other small ideas include things like:
more than 1 central quest giver. Offering different rewards?
Having specific, monster abilities that once you learn, you have as part of a list.
Any type of field magic replacement having multiple levels of control to avoid Unlimited Griefing Works. At the very least, having such spells have a limited range that you can increase, for instance, so an enemy can't purse cut you from across the map. This would also make NPC services along those lines more valuable.
Easier to change class, since it's evolution. Perhaps focusing more on that Dokapon idea of 'get item to evolve' where you buy a basic item from shops (easy, everywhere), to having to go on elaborate quests to unlock hidden secret bullshit monster forms.
Having a meter to help relate field magic type effects/abilities, though it would not affect the ability to use magic in combat.
Perhaps hero invasions, going both ways? Events where heroes/good guys invade the netherworld, or the overworld is a whole other map you can go to.
Absolutely retain some kind of darkling mechanic.
FINALLY, just ending off with some current monster family ideas, and every family could have easter eggs in it:
Beast (werewolves, castlevania style with martial arts, Nekomata, minotaur, ect.)
Slime (starting with the basics, going into poison or metal stuff, can include mimics, shapeshifters, shoggoths could be towards the top)
Demons (start with imps, include a wide range from Oni to succubi to archdevils. I'd put that red devil from ghouls and ghosts if it could be gotten away with, annoying bastard.)
Undead (might have to be divided between physical and ghost-types, starting zombie or wandering soul, scaling up into ghouls, ghosts, vampires, wraiths, liches, ect. For a good ability example, zombies could have a shamble that gives an option to move 1 space instead of rolling.)
Material (animated objects, golems, scarecrows, puppets, homunculi, living armor)
Dragon (Might include Lamia/Snek alongside traditional dragons to prevent overloading beast or demon trees, where snek can branch into gorgon, echidna while dragons go dragoning)
plant (dryads and alraune, mushrooms and malboros, Audry II)
insect (My main idea is spider into arachne, but bees are also an option, as are moths and probably some praying mantis style slashers)
Bird (Harpies, owls with curse or hypnosis abilities, and so on. The idea of flight is really strong, so it probably needs to be separate from beast)
Aquatic (Mermaids and sirens but also cthuloids. Things with tentacles can go here, alongside definately-not-mind-flayers.)
And that's my way too long post. Thoughts or ridicule appriciated, this is just something I've had on my mind for a bit and wanted to bring it out before I work on other stuff. Hope you all have a great day!
Not feeling enough Hi. I’m a long term lurker in this group, and though I’ve not posted here before (to my recollection at least), I trust y’all enough to vent my insecurities about my gender identity. deep breath Here goes... I am an AMAB non-binary person. I’m of an unfortunate group of AMABs that are built like a truck. To put it into perspective, I’m 6’3”, I wear XXLT men’s shirts, 38x32 size pants, and size 14 men’s shoes. Nothing I can do will make me look dainty or even remotely feminine, and it hurts to know that I’ll never quite look how I feel. The body hair also doesn’t help. I have gotten 2 items of clothing that I feel make me look slightly feminine (a blue button up cardigan that has coloring similar to acid wash jeans, and pair of custom made converse with a floral print), but even they only do so much to help. Finding clothes my size is a nightmare as is, but finding anything feminine in my sizes is usually a joke. In the end, I feel that my appearance at beast says “flamboyantish man.” Then there’s my mannerisms: I’m loud, I cuss a lot, I’m clumsy, and I have the tendency to never back down. Excuse me for buying into gender stereotypes in this moment, but non of that seems even remotely feminine. Between my appearance and my mannerisms, I never feel NB enough, and I feel like my appearance options consist of men’s clothing or costume drag outfits, neither of which I find appealing. It’s not that I wanna look like a girl, but how can I appear androgynous when I have nothing feminine going my way? This post might like a self detrimental rant at this point, but I just needed to vent, as sitting on these thoughts and ignoring them isn’t working anymore...
Last Updated: April 8th, 2020, at 8:27pm PDT - Added tips for The Problem Solvers and Wheat from the Chaff for brand new players Last Updated: April 2nd, 2020, at 3:15pm PDT - Updated Melf's upgrade info; guide complete unless I missed something Last Updated: April 1st, 2020, at 9:41pm PDT - Updated Melf's Feat info Last Updated: Initial Post
The start of spring is traditionally marked by a day of peace and rejoicing, featuring beautiful displays of flowers in celebration of Lathander, God of Spring and The Morninglord. Unfortunately for the town of Triboar on the Sword Coast, their celebrations are interrupted by the arrival of a githyanki raiding party... Greengrass runs from Wednesday April 1st, 2020, at Noon PST, thru Monday April 13th, 2020, at Noon PST. You can find the official Greengrass blog post here.
General Event Tips
I highly recommend reading my Guide to Event Planning for basic progression information and ways to maximize your gains/efficiency during Events. There is too much information to put here as this specific Event guide is long enough already.
Don't be afraid to ask questions in the comment section! Also, I stream the game now and welcome any and all questions there as well! You can find all of my Idle Champions guides here. Good luck & have fun! ~ Gaar
Note: Event guides are always a work-in-progress and will update over time so check back frequently! I'll note at the top in the revisions area when it's complete. Important: In Year 3 and beyond, there will be a lot to do to unlock all Champions Gear from an Event if it's your first time doing it. I recommend focusing your time and resources on Gear for no more than 2 Champions as a new player. You can still unlock all 3 Champions though, and should. Your Event tokens are a finite resource, as is your time, and it can be challenging enough to complete two full sets of adventures as a new player, not to mention have time left to do Free Plays for more gear. You also end up with fewer Chests for each Champion if you go for 3+ Champions per Event. Feel free to ask in the comments about which Champions are recommended in the current iteration of the game so you can make an informed decision on how to spend your time.
Year One Champion - Nrakk, the Githzerai Monk
You can find their Event Guide here. Feel free to ask questions about them and their formations here in the comments as the linked discussion may be locked to new comments.
Year Two Champion - Aila, the Wild Elf Barbarian
You can find their Event Guide here. Feel free to ask questions about them and their formations here in the comments as the linked discussion may be locked to new comments.
Year Three Champion - Melf, the Elf FighteWizard
You can read their original Champion Spotlight here. Slot 12: Swaps with Arkhan, Azaka, Nerys, & Zorbu. Good with: Elves; everyone Eligible for Patrons: Mirt, Vajra, & Strahd
Bio: Born into the royal family of Celene, he assumed the simple name of Melf eschewing a life of comfort as a noble to study the arcane arts and train as a swordsman. He delved in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and many other harrowing places honing his skills, knowledge and amassing powerful magic items. Melf sees himself as a weapon of weal hurtling toward the heart of the darkest evils in the realm. He is opinionated and has a touch of conceit that he is blissfully ignorant of possessing.
Base Attack Speed: 5 seconds Basic Attack: Zagyg’s Needle - Melf leaps out and attacks the nearest enemy with his magic spear. If Melf has any Minute Meteors active, he fires one at a random enemy as well. Ultimate: Melf's Minute Meteors — Melf summons six Minute Meteors that float around him. They are fired when he attacks normally and deal BUD-based damage to all enemies in a small area.
Melf's Adaptive Support Spell: Melf creates a new spell to assist the formation. He customizes it based on the Champions in the formation and where Melf is placed within it. It increases the damage of Champions adjacent to Melf by 100% and that value is augmented based on some other parameters, each of which applies multiplicatively.
If there is another Elf (aside from Melf) in the formation, increase the effect by 50%
Increase the range by 2 if Melf is not in the front-most or rear-most columns in the formation (affects all champions within 3 slots)
Increase the effect by 10% for each unique race in the formation
This ability is buffed by upgrades and equipment (buffs apply to the final calculated value, not the individual increases). Melf's Augmented Support Spell: Melf augments his Adaptive Support Spell for each Champion it affects.
Increase the effect by 50% on the non-dominant gender in the formation (applies to non-binary champions all the time)
Increase the effect by 50% for each slot away from Melf a Champion is (multiplicatively)
Melf's Speedy Supplement: Melf provides one of the following effects at random. A new effect is chosen at random every 50 areas (though it could pick the same one multiple times in a row).
Increase chance to spawn an additional enemy with each wave by 25%
Increase enemy spawn speed by 25%
Increase chance of double quest drops by 25%
This ability is buffed by equipment; note if the chance of double quest drops gets above 100% it will then always cause double quest drops with a chance to cause triple quest drops, etc. Likewise with spawning additional enemies with each wave. Melf's Righteous Determination: Melf knows exactly what evil is. Whenever an enemy spawns it has a 50% chance of being deemed "evil" by Melf. Enemies that are deemed evil take 100% more damage from all Ultimate attacks.
Bonus Adaption: Increases the effect of Melf's Adaptive Support Spell by 100% Extra Supplements: Increase the effect of Melf's Speedy Supplement by 100% Absolute Righteousness: Increase the effect of Melf's Righteous Determination by 100%
Slot 1: Spear - Increases the damage of all Champions Slot 2: Shield - Increases the damage of all Champions Slot 3: Cloak - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability Slot 4: Spellbook - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Speedy Supplement ability Slot 5: Chainmail - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Righteous Determination ability Slot 6: Meteor - Buffs Melf's Ultimate attack Damage
First slot is available at 60 while the second is available at 1140. Default: Selflessness - Increases the damage of all Champions by 10% Default: Supportive Ally - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 20% 12,500 Gems: Inspiring Leader - Increases the damage of all Champions by 25% 12,500 Gems: Melf's Medium Meteors - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Righteous Determination ability by 40% Gold Chest: Encouraging Ally - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 40% Gold Chest: Rushed Plans - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Speedy Supplement ability by 40%
20 - Melf's Adaptive Support Spell
40 - Increases the damage of Melf by 100%
50 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
60 - Melf's Righteous Determination
65 - Increases the damage of Melf by 100%
70 - Melf's Speedy Supplement
80 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
85 - Increases the damage of Melf by 100%
90 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
95 - Ultimate
100 - Specialization Choice
110 - Increases the damage of Melf by 100%
120 - Melf's Augmented Support Spell
140 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
150 - Increases the damage of Melf by 100%
160 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
210 - Increases the damage of Melf by 200%
230 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
250 - Increases the damage of Melf by 200%
300 - Increases the damage of Melf by 200%
350 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
360 - Increases the damage of Melf by 200%
370 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
430 - Increases the damage of Melf by 200%
490 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
500 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
550 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
560 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
585 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
645 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
655 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
725 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
765 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
775 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
815 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
825 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
920 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
935 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
950 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 200%
1010 - Increases the damage of Melf by 300%
1025 - Increases the damage of all Champions by 100%
1035 - Increases the effect of Melf's Melf's Adaptive Support Spell ability by 200%
Current max upgrade level is 1035
Formation & Mission Information
Once you complete the first mission, three Variants and a Free Play show up. There is a new formation that holds 10 Champions. It has an Event-specific format that I've done my best to re-create below.
New Player Formation & Specializations:
Bruenor - Shield Master
Minsc - Humanoids
Calliope - College of Lore
Nayeli - Oath of Devotion
Asharra - Elves & Dwarves
Jarlaxle - Leader of Bregan D'aerthe
Celeste - Life Domain
Hitch - Charismatic
This formation is for the first couple of runs where you're just not going to get enough Gold to get everyone on the field, let alone level people up into their power curves. At this point, Jarlaxle is focusing on being your Primary DPS while everyone else is set up to support him. The following formation is for once you can get Hitch up into his power curve for damage and he starts outpacing Jarlaxle. You'll have to figure this out during your runs by swapping him and Jarlaxle around every now and then and seeing who's doing better in that Primary DPS slot.
Tyril - Moonbeam
Makos - Dark Blessing
Bruenor - Shield Master
Asharra - Humans
Calliope - College of Lore
Nayeli - Oath of Devotion
Jarlaxle - Leader of Bregan D'aerthe
Hitch - Charismatic
Celeste - Life Domain
Minsc - Humanoids
This formation should get you through the Event as a new player. If you have other options or think a different DPS is geared better, try it out and see what happens! Swapping DPS around like this can help you figure out what works best for you with your specific items. If you need assistance with formations, ask in the Comment section and be sure to list out what extra Champs you have so people know what to work with. These are the rough Favor values you need to reach to make a Variant (Second through Fourth missions) show as Easy in terms of Difficulty. Keep in mind that this is just a generic rating system and some Variants may be harder than others, even when they show as Easy.
Favor Level (Normal)
Favor Level (Scientific Notation)
Initial Mission: The Endless War (Melf)
Cost: 100 Bouquets Complete: Level 50 Reward: Melf + whatever Lathander's Favor you earned Info: No restrictions.
Second Mission: Honorable Discharge
Cost: 1,000 Bouquets Complete: Level 75 Reward: Gold Melf Chest & whatever Lathander's Favor you earned Info: Each Champion can only be used to complete 50 areas. Gaar's Notes: Not gonna lie, this could be rough if you don't have much Favor. New players will need to remove all Champions from the formation and rely on Click Damage only through the first 25 levels and then build a formation on 26 to beat this due to lack of swappable Champions. Make sure it shows as Easy before starting. Even then, maybe wait until The Problem Solvers shows as Easy as well before starting this one.
Third Mission: The Problem Solvers
Cost: 2,500 Bouquets Complete: Level 125 Reward: Gold Melf Chest & whatever Lathander's Favor you earned Info: Only Champions with an INT score of 13 or higher can be used. Gaar's Notes: Well, this is basically your introduction to Strahd as a Patron, only in an Event. Here's a list of viable Champs with those that can be used with a Feat in ():
Slot 1: Sisaspia, K'thriss, & Turiel
Slot 2: Regis & (Celeste)
Slot 3: Artemis
Slot 4: Jarlaxle, Paultin, & Stoki
Slot 5: Dhadius, Xander, & Qillek
Slot 6: Asharra, Krond, & Shandie
Slot 7: Jim, Catti-Brie, & Farideh
Slot 8: Delina, Vlahnya, Hitch, & (Nrakk)
Slot 9: Makos, Morgaen, Birdsong, & (Drizzt)
Slot 10: Tyril & (Rosie)
Slot 11: Strix, Dragonbait, & Avren
Slot 12: Melf, (Zorbu), & (Nerys)
If you don't have a viable formation after this restriction, stock up on Favor before attempting. Get it to Easy, or even better, get Wheat From the Chaff to show as Easy before starting. As a brand new player who may only have Core Champs and Melf, you may end up at a point where your Champs just aren't doing damage. At that point, try leveling up your Click Damage. Normally I don't recommend this, but I beat it that way on my gearless account with Core/Melf in the formation. So keep it open as an option.
Fourth Mission: Wheat From the Chaff
Cost: 5,000 Bouquets Complete: Level 175 Reward: Gold Melf Chest & whatever Lathander's Favor you earned Info: Melf starts out in the formation with Melf's Righteous Determination unlocked. Only enemies that Melf deems evil can be damaged. Blockers, bosses, and boss trash mobs are always deemed evil. All non-evil enemies are invulnerable and can not even be attacked. Gaar's Notes: Oof. Make sure you have a reliable tank for this one because they're going to get some work. Do not attempt this before it shows as Easy if you're new. This is going to be difficult without AoE DPS options. It's also going to take a long time... (pssst...set up your formation, level up your Champs, place familiars to level them up if you can, then go offline...) If you're brand new and only have Core/Evergreen Champs plus Melf, here's a formation setup that should help get you through the early levels until you can get another tank in front. Basically, you're splitting damage between two Champs to help you die slower. Bruenor has his Overhwelm Feat slotted while Nayeli is in Devotion spec and Calliope is in Lore spec to increases survivability. Good luck!
Cost: 500-2500 Bouquets Complete: Level 50 to earn a random Melf chest Reward: See above + whatever Lathander's Favor you earned Info: No restrictions.
Recruit Melf - 1% Recruit Melf, the Elf Wizard/Fighter Melf's Vigorous Variants - 1% Complete all three variants of the "The Endless War (Melf)" adventure. Melf's Marvelous Equipment - 1% Obtain a piece of gear for each of Melf's six equipment slots. (Event Champ gear does not come from regular SilveGold Chests. You can earn Event Champ gear from their specific Event Chests, Time Gates, and other limited-time Chests as noted.) Melf's Free Play Slog - 1% Complete area 275 in any "The Endless War" free play. Melf's "Broken" RNG - 1% Complete 200 consecutive areas with Melf's Speedy Supplement providing the same buff.
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