Failed Gambits and Backup Plans

May 15, 2009 at 11:58 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , )

Backstory: every summer, my best friend and I start a project on RPGFO. To give a brief history, here is what we have so far joinly accomplished in our leisure time:

2006 – started the nation of Frenelia in Isis, a persistent world; created the classesRoleplay Creation and Maintenance in the Academy

2007 – created (with Vorlikesh) Kel’Amnir, another persistent world; took over administrative duties of the Academy and taught several classes

2008 – forced an Academy overhaul and created the Library and other resources

One thing that we tried to do in 2008 was to revamp Isis, the persistent world. It had died (as such projects often do when not carefully monitored), and everyone seemed to not want to clean the slate and start fresh. After much discussion and using me as a bouncing board, my friend came up with a modest proposal. It received mixed reviews, but ultimately fell through due to low popular vote. Everyone fights change. Isis ended up undergoing minor changes which fixed nothing, and proceeded to die. Again. It was like kicking a dead horse.

Now we come to 2009, where we just tried to create a completely new way of world building – via media. Instead of linear first person roleplays defining the world, we wanted to have the world defined through speeches, newspaper articles, and various other forms of popular media. Unfortunately, as many times before (including the 2008 Isis gambit described above) we at first received mixed reviews, and then a final flop: the idea was too ambitious, too different, and thus did not strike many people’s fancy.

But this time we had a backup plan! Namely, the very same modest proposal, but this time it followed a gambit that was far more ambitious and different! We effectively raised the bar for acceptable change by proposing an apparently unacceptable change.

Moral of the story is that if you want a gambit to succeed, preface it with something far more outlandish, and push it as far forward as you can. When it fails, introduce the gambit itself as your backup plan. Unless it too is outlandish, you are far more likely to succeed than if you went in cold. Otherwise, you’ll have to do what we did, and wait a year before you can come back with your original idea.


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Permeating Life with Physics

September 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

Really, it applies to logic, reason, math, science in general: I like it when things make sense, even when I suspend my disbelief. Recently I’ve found the drawback to this in watching movies. Unless the movie has incredible watching value (or book reading value), small logical and scientific incongruities greatly reduce my dels.

An aside on dels: dels are the units of deliciousness. They are subjective but absolute. They are real and extend in both direction from zero, and in my experience they have always been integers. I used to use several unit scales (including sogs and zombs) but have since abandoned all but the dels. However, deliciousness implies enjoyment (for me personally, of course), so I have no qualms with extending dels to apply to non-foodstuff quantities (and qualities). Dels were originated jointly with Brad and Tim, as a logical progression from the units of confidence (inches, apparently). A story for another day.

Regardless, I find only able to suspend my disbelief so far: I can make an assumption, but I expect the rest of the world, namely the world within that movie, to also adopt that assumption. I feel that too often movies with false assumptions don’t carry them through far enough but rather only so far as it is convenient for them.

I am a roleplayer (play-by-post), and so I frequently find myself playing surreal characters in fictionalized worlds filled with magic and other such irrealities. A few weeks back, when I started spending some time in the Role Play Gateway chat, I stumbled onto a conversation about the nature of magic. Well, “anti-magic”. Roleplaying worlds get pretty crazy, and I thought that it was highly impressive that these roleplayers were recreationally discussing and rationalizing how this anti-magic (and magic) worked, in that particular world. I put forth a couple of my ideas there but have since reworked it into a thicker discussion on RPG Forums Online in their debate section. While I’ve pushed for the debate section to get brought back after a year’s absence, we haven’t had very much success in starting it back up. Still, I watched Eagle Eye last night and remembered this. Hopefully by sharing I will get some insights (or debunks!) on the nature of magic in a general sense.

The Nature of Magic from a Physics Standpoint

I am a Physics Major, so when it comes down to magic I sometimes have serious thoughts and discussions, regarding magic. I don’t believe in magic, but I most certainly suspend my disbelief when it comes to roleplaying and books and movies. But I still feel like this ethereal concept should have a set of real world laws governing it.

A fairly recent discussion I had with some members of RPGateway in chat started from the premise of Anti-Magic (AM) Guns. What, you might ask, is an AM gun? Well, it isn’t really a gun, but rather an AM Generator which creates an AM Field (AMF). Great! What does an AMF do?

Based on the premise of “anti-magic” one would expect that an AMF would dissipate magic, similarly to how mesh armor might dissipate striking force. Going from that analogy, the force is still applied despite the dissipation, so in an AMF, magic would still act in some way, just not in the intended way. Perhaps there is an ambient magic density (much like there is humidity), and an AMF dissipates magic to increase the ambient magic density.

So, working off of that, we have some sort of AMF. Since it is a field, it would have to work via an inverse square law, like gravity or electromagnetism, which gives me a chance to make more parallels. Magic can be used to add energy to things, but in many different ways. Not only can you use magic to shoot a fireball or heat up a pot or make light, but magic can be used to move and lift things. While the first set involves electromagnetic radiation, the second involves adding gravitational potential energy. So magic isn’t photons or electrons or mass, but something new. More importantly, magic can take energy away like making ice, and it can also teleport things as per summoning rituals.

So, in the spirit of physics, matter and energy (photons) need to have conversion potentials to a whole new particle, which I will call the robeon as per the quote “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.” So we have the robeon, but is it a particle, or a wave? Does magic have mass? Physics has determined that most of the universe is actually composed of dark matter (22% of the universe) and dark energy (74% of the universe), with normal matter and energy, namely us, taking up way less than 4%. So, for the sake of using what we’ve got, I’m going to say that the robeon is the main wave-particle of dark energy. (This is a GREAT place to disagree with me, btw.)

So, robeons are dark energy: what does that explain, if anything? Well, the way I see it, this conserves energy in the universe. Dark energy, which we can’t perceive, is converted into regular energy via field manipulation, or regular energy dissipates into dark energy, producing such effects as water to ice, or a “darkness” spell. But, what does field manipulation mean?

Have we all read His Dark Materials? This is a great mode of explaining “field manipulations”, because I’m going to go so far as to equate dark energy to dust in that sense, with dark energy drawn to people and sentient beings in general. For the majority of cases, mages are old, and most “wizards” or “gifted people” come into their powers come adulthood, which is also when dust becomes heavily drawn to humans in His Dark Materials.

At this point I am going to stop, even though I surely have much farther to go. What can you do in this topic? Well, help me work out this theory. What doesn’t make sense to you, or in general? What isn’t developed yet, or where might this theory produce contradictions? You are welcome to build on it, or provide counterexamples and contradictions, or alternative theories. When given contradictions, I will do my best to work the theory to fix them. Or, if someone dropped a contradiction, you are welcome to try your own hand at fixing the theory. So, thoughts?

Since then I had some insights and theorized on a new particle, the haton (also from “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.”). However, I’ve also forgotten those insights, but if you decide to take this further then please, feel free to employ robeons, hatons, and whatever other particles make sense to you. After all, all great theoretical physicists have each invented at least one particle!*

*According to Lincoln Wolfenstein, a particle physicist and (ex-)professor at Carnegie Mellon.

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