Saturday, October 14, 2017

Star Wars: the Last Jedi (trailer 2)

So, I finally watched the most recent DisneyWars trailer. I haven't read many of the Star Wars books (maybe ten of them tops) but I still feel like this movie is a story I've read several times before.

Just like with Kyp Durron in the Sun Crusher books, Rey's storyline appears to be using Luke Skywalker mostly as a prop to showcase how Kyp/Rey is "even MOAR powerful than Luke!" Obsession with power made sense for Darth Sidious the megalomaniac Sith (not that it did him much good in the end) and it made him do interesting things that furthered the story; but in a film franchise instead of a character in a film franchise, that obsession becomes rather unattractive. (And of course they already did the Sun Crusher equivalent in The Force Awakens with their little long-range Death Star successor.)

I'm willing to consider this new DisneyWars movie a Star Wars fan-fiction movie, but I won't dignify it with the label of Episode VIII. Whatever else George Lucas was as a writer and director, at least when it came to Star Wars he was never derivative. Lucas's Episode VIII might have had bad casting and bad dialogue; but it would have a good story and interesting ideas, and probably would have introduced you to new corners of a vast and exotic conceptual universe. The Last Jedi is just going to be a rehash of ideas that George Lucas already made at least one movie about.

I'll pass on this one.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rash vow #97

I, Maximilian Wilson, hereby vow that I will eat no sweetmeat, until I rendezvous with my true love, or discover that I have none. On my honor I swear it, as a sign to the heavens that all worldly hungers are but as air and nothing as long as Thou, my dearest and best friend, art absent.

Thursday, Sept 14, 2017.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

5E encounter difficulty

[Historical context] Why "6 to 8 medium/hard encounters" meme is obsolete

The DMG, as well as the Basic Set, contains some self-contradictory guidance on adventuring days. There's a little section which reads:

The Adventuring Day

Assuming typical adventuring conditions and averageluck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day. If the adventure has more easy encounters, the adventurers can get through more. If it has more deadly encounters, they can handle fewer.

In the same way you figure out the difficulty of an encounter, you can use the XP values of monsters and other opponents in an adventure as a guideline for how far the party is likely to progress.

For each character in the party, use the Adventuring Day XP table to estimate how much XP that character is expected to earn in a day. Add together the values of all party members to get a total for the party's adventuring day. This provides a rough estimate of the adjusted XP value for encounters the party can handle before the characters will need to take a long rest.

*SNIP TABLE*
The thing is, the table that they give doesn't actually match the language in that first paragraph about "six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day." I think most people don't notice this, and even those who do notice it don't usually know why the discrepancy exists. I don't work for WotC, but I can explain the discrepancy by pointing to 5E's historical documents.

The "6-8" meme made sense before they revised the difficulty guidelines, back around Basic 0.2. Back then, the breakpoints were ceilings, not floors, so what today is an easy/medium encounter would have been a medium/hard encounter back then. If you do the math using those guidelines, you'll find that you actually can fit 6-8 encounters in.

Unfortunately, when they updated the difficulty guidelines and then printed them in the DMG, they did not update the accompanying text blurb saying that "most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day," even though they had changed the definition of "medium or hard encounter."

Concrete example: if you look at Basic 0.1 pages 56-58, there's a Hard encounter given as an example encounter between four PCs (three level 3, one level 2) and four hobgoblins. That consumes 800 out of the 4200 XP budget for the day (3*1200 + 600, per table on page 58), leaving 3400 XP left. If you distribute those 3400 XP evently between six other encounters for a total of seven encounters, that gives you one Hard encounter (hobgoblins, 800 XP) and six more barely-Hard encounters (whatever else, 566 XP). That's because a Medium encounter can be at most 550 XP (3*150 + 100) and a Hard encounter can be at most 825 XP (3 * 225 + 150), according to the table on page 56. So we see that "six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day" held, back then.

(Basic 0.1 page 57)

Example: Encounter Difficulty


You've designed an encounter for four player characters andwant to estimate how difficult it's going to be. Three of thefour players have 3rd-level characters and one has a characterat 2nd level (due to missing a session).First, note the XP values that define the four categoriesof difficulty. For each difficulty category on the EncounterDifficulty XP per Character table, you'll find the number fora 3rd-level character and multiply it by three (for the three3rd-level characters), then add the number for a 2nd-levelcharacter.

That gives you the following numbers:• Easy: up to 375 XP• Medium: up to 550 XP• Hard: up to 1,050 XP• Deadly: up to 1,400 XP

Now you look at the encounter you've designed, a fightwith four hobgoblins. Each hobgoblin has an XP value of100, so the total XP is 400. Since there are four hobgoblins,you double the XP value of the encounter; the encounter'sXP value, for the purposes of figuring out its difficulty, is800 XP. That makes this encounter tougher than a mediumencounter, but not higher than the hard threshold—so it's ahard encounter.

If you build a later encounter with four bugbears, withan XP value of 200 XP each, you'd end up with a total valueof 1,600 XP for the encounter. That number is above thethreshold of deadly encounters, meaning it's probably toohard for your characters to handle. If you adjust it down tothree bugbears, your total is 1,200 XP—still deadly, but atleast the adventurers have a fighting chance. Two bugbearsis probably a better encounter for this party: you multiply the base XP value of 400 by only 1.5 for a pair of monsters, giving you 600 XP—slightly easier than the hobgoblin fight.
Notice that Deadly is "up to 1400 XP" in contrast with today's "at least 1400 XP." Note also that back then there was such a thing as "Deadlier than Deadly" difficulty, which Kobold.com used to call "Ludicrous" difficulty.

Contrast that with today's DMG rules. (I'm AFB so I'll refer to Basic 0.5 instead here: http://media.wizards.com/2016/downloads/DND/DMBasicRulesV05.pdf but they are the same rules.) Now the example Hard fight is of a bugbear and three hobgoblins against the same party of three level 3s and a level 2. Due to the addition of a bugbear, it's 1000 XP, which crosses the new Hard threshold of 825 XP. The adventuring day budget hasn't changed, so we've still got 4200 XP total to spend, and 3200 XP to split between six encounters. That gives us 533 XP per encounter, which according to the new difficulty table on page 56 means each encounter is Easy (just shy of the 550 XP threshold for Medium).

The upshot is that whereas Basic 0.1 would have given you seven Hard encounters in a day, Basic 0.5 or the rules printed in the DMG would give you one Hard and six Easy encounters. Both versions preface the "Adventuring Day" XP table on page 57 with a text blurb stating that "Assuming typical adventuring conditions and average luck, most adventuring parties can handle about six to eight medium or hard encounters in a day", but that's a holdover from Basic 0.1. In 5E as the DMG actually published, that statement is no longer compatible with the table it's introducing.

In both cases, there never was any expectation that you have six to eight encounters a day. The expectation was that you don't exceed your adventuring day budget and accidentally TPK the party. 5E's design parameters are built to handle two or three hard/deadly encounters per day just as readily as six to eight easy/medium encounters.

IMO the game is at its best when the PCs are outnumbered and outgunned but not outthought; I like pitting e.g. four 9th level PCs are up against six CR 6 Chasmes and a couple of CR 17 Goristros. DMG guidelines tell me that that encounter is ludicrously difficult (124,500 XP when the Deadly threshold is 9600 XP) but my experience tells me it is about right for a couple of hours of fun. I'd love to be one of the PCs in that party, especially when they collect all the DMG-generated treasure associated with such monsters.

TL;DR 5E guidelines recommend a couple of deadly, a small number of medium-hard encounters or as many as six to eight easy-medium encounters in a day. If you do the math, they don't actually recommend six to eight medium/hard encounters per day. The reason people sometimes think otherwise is due to sloppy editing of the DMG and the Basic Rules, neglecting to update some fluff text when the rule guidelines were updated, somewhere around Basic 0.2. What used to be "hard" encounters back then are now "medium," so it's actually recommending six to eight easy/medium encounters per day or the equivalent in fewer, harder encounters.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Dust of thy feet

In regard to those who reject the Lord's messengers, Doctrine and Covenants section 60 reads in part, "And shake off the dust of thy feet against those who receive thee not, not in their presence, lest thou provoke them, but in secret; and wash thy feet, as a testimony against them in the day of judgment. Behold, this is sufficient for you, and the will of him who hath sent you." And again in section 74, "And in whatsoever house ye enter, and they receive you not, ye shall depart speedily from that house, and shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them.  And you shall be filled with joy and gladness..."

I had long been mildly puzzled by the "joy and gladness" part, especially with regard to the following verses which talk about judgment. But I recently had an experience--the details don't matter, but it was about being witness to an online community which is casting out its righteous and everyone who will not call good evil and evil good, which prompted me to leave that community--and the promptings of the Spirit to me in that experience clarify what the Lord was saying to these missionaries. That is, when you are unjustly persecuted, you will be tempted to contend. You will be tempted to point out all the ways they are being unfair, and how hypocritical they are being, and to argue and contend and maybe even call names in your frustration. But just as Jesus spoke not a word to certain of his tormentors, you should not argue with those who cannot hear. Shake off the dust and move on, rejoicing--rejoicing not because of the fate that awaits them, but rejoicing because the Lord Jesus Christ has saved you from your sins and your life is good and filled with good people and good things to do. "Depart speedily" from the wicked instead of dwelling on the way they once behaved in your presence.

When the Lord showed Enoch a vision of the wickedness of his brethren and the fate which (a thousand years later) awaited those who would not repent in the time of Noah, "[Enoch]  had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look."

Now I understand that scripture. Peace, be still.

~B.C.


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Weak magic items for 5E

This resource is amazing: http://www.lordbyng.net/inspiration/. I'm definitely going to include some of these items in my game.

For example:

Scarlet Blade of Shade

Weapon (Shortsword), uncommon (requires attunement)

This weapon perpetually drips the blood of a monstrous race, chosen by the DM. The bearer can speak that race's language and has advantage on intimidation checks against monsters of that race when the weapon is revealed.

The bearer suffers no harm or discomfort in temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Family Activities



--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Other People's Stories

[Here's an interesting story. You never really know another person's story until you hear it from their own lips. -Max]

http://www.ldsliving.com/The-Surprising-Reason-Steve-Young-Didn-t-Serve-a-Mission/s/82995

Bishop Rasmussen didn't know me particularly well, but he had previously interviewed me and determined that I was qualified to serve a mission. I felt terribly guilty as I drove to the church to tell him that I wasn't going to go through with it.

Rasmussen was from Idaho, and he spoke slowly and softly. He had a way of putting people at ease. Still, I struggled to get the words out. "I really think the right thing for me to do is continue going to school at BYU," I said.

He leaned forward. "Can I tell you something?" he said.

I tensed up. Here it comes.

"A couple of weeks before you came home for Christmas break I was sitting in church, looking out over the congregation," he said. "And I got the impression that you were going to come see me at some point to tell me that you felt the right thing to do was return to BYU."

"You're kidding."

"That's not all," he continued. "I also got the impression that I should tell you that you should return to BYU."

He wasn't kidding. He was dead serious. I was speechless.

I had fully expected him to try to talk me into going on my mission. Instead, he gave me three simple pieces of advice: Serve Jesus Christ. Live your religion. Be a great example.

*snip*

People thought my status as a football player had influenced my decision not to serve a mission, unaware that I was an eighth-string nobody when I made that decision. It was only the fear and anxiety that had held me back. But now that I was a successful quarterback, I worried that kids would think I had shirked my responsibilities. I tried to make up for that by quietly living a personal code I had established for myself: never to do anything as a professional athlete—on the field or in private—that would set a poor example for kids.

-Steve Young

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Law of Chastity

I was recently reminded of this story, which I find remarkable. It makes me want to be a good man.

Kudos to my friends out there who are good men, and good women.

As a missionary, when I was in Finland, I was riding a train. I think I was alone. I was probably going to some new city. But I met a British dancer. She said she was a dancer. Now when I asked, "Is it ballet? Are you in concert halls?" she kind of said, "I'm a dancer." I don't know what this means, but this is our conversation. But she is British and I am American, and so I'm enjoying speaking English to somebody. So we are chatting. She says, "Now why are you here in Finland?" So I go through. And she said, "You don't smoke you don't drink?" We talked about this for a little while. And she says, "You don't believe in any kind of sex before marriage?" No I don't. And she starts off with disdain of how weird is this. But as we kept talking, in the middle of this she said, "I guess if you were dating men who felt the same way as you, maybe that would be possible." And then later on in the conversation she said, "ARE there any men who feel the same way as you?" At the end when I got off the train, I left a very wistful woman. It was so interesting. She listened to all that and I could see her reviewing her own life and the options that were available to her and she felt wistful. And I believe in that very famous quote from President Kimball, that in the ways that we are different from the world, it will attract women because they will want those things. Why? Because it is good for them. It is healthy. It is everything that they want. -Sharon Eubank

~B.C.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ye Are the Light of the World

Matthew 5:

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

13 ¶ Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

I just got the connection betweeen these verses. It says, basically, "When good is called evil and evil is called good, do not contend against those who contend with you. That is like salt losing its savor and becoming common. When you contend, Satan wins. Instead do good despite harsh words and false accusations. Be kind--by your fruits shall they know you."

~BC


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Law of Consecration

There's a small error in my primary manual. It says,

A few days after calling Edward Partridge to be the bishop of the Church, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the law of consecration (see D&C 42:30–39, 42). This law commanded the Saints to share with each other in an organized way.

The Lord gave the following instructions:

1. The Saints were to consecrate, or give, all of their property and possessions to the Church. The bishop would be responsible for these consecrations.

2. The bishop would decide with the head of each family what property and possessions the family needed to work and live. The bishop would give these needed items to the family.

3. Families would work hard to provide for themselves using the things they were given. After they filled their own needs and wants, anything extra they had earned or created was to be given to the bishop to help the poor and strengthen the Church.

...Early members of the Church lived the law of consecration for only a short while. Someday the Church will practice the law of consecration again, but today we as members are asked to live only part of the law. We are not asked to give all we have to the Church, but we are asked to pay tithing and fast offerings.

The practice the manual speaks of here is actually the United Order. It is one implementation of the law of consecration, but not the only implementation. We are still expected to live the law of consecration today and to be just as open-hearted and generous with our means as were the saints back then; but we do not live the United Order, so we do not follow the process outlined above involving the bishop. It is *that* process (the United Order) which has been supplanted in our day by the law of tithing, as commanded in D&C 119:4.

TL;DR: the law of consecration still applies to us today.

Also, here is some useful context from the Institute manual:

In a somewhat humorous but sadly true commentary, President Brigham Young recounted his early experiences in attempting to get people to live the [United Order]:

"When the revelation … was given in 1838, I was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren. … The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, 'Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?' Said he, 'Let them be the judges themselves. …'

"Then I replied, 'I will go and ask them for their surplus property;' and I did so; I found the people said they were willing to do about as they were counselled, but, upon asking them about their surplus property, most of the men who owned land and cattle would say, 'I have got so many hundred acres of land, and I have got so many boys, and I want each one of them to have eighty acres, therefore this is not surplus property.' Again, 'I have got so many girls, and I do not believe I shall be able to give them more than forty acres each.' 'Well, you have got two or three hundred acres left.' 'Yes, but I have a brother-in-law coming on, and he will depend on me for a living; my wife's nephew is also coming on, he is poor, and I shall have to furnish him a farm after he arrives here.' I would go on to the next one, and he would have more land and cattle than he could make use of to advantage. It is a laughable idea, but is nevertheless true, men would tell me they were young and beginning [in] the world, and would say, 'We have no children, but our prospects are good, and we think we shall have a family of children, and if we do, we want to give them eighty acres of land each; we have no surplus property.' 'How many cattle have you?' 'So many.' 'How many horses, &c?' 'So many, but I have made provisions for all these, and I have use for every thing I have got.'

"Some were disposed to do right with their surplus property, and once in a while you would find a man who had a cow which he considered surplus, but generally she was of the class that would kick a person's hat off, or eyes out. … You would once in a while find a man who had a horse that he considered surplus, but at the same time he had the ringbone, was broken-winded, spavined in both legs, and had the pole evil at one end of the neck and a fistula at the other, and both knees sprung." (In Journal of Discourses, 2:306–7.)

I know of certain acts of extraordinary sacrifice and generosity during early church history, so I know that Brigham Young must be exaggerating a little here. Not *everybody* was like this. Apparently many people were though, and it gives some insight into what conduct the Lord was chastising in D&C 105 when he said, "But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom."

~Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Search Your Feelings, Luke

Darth Vader: So! You have a twin sister. Your feelings for her... wait, what? Oh, wow. That's messed up. And you didn't... Son, you have issues, and I feel responsible. We need to talk. [sheathes lightsaber] Why don't we go have some ice cream and talk this out?

Luke: [comes out of the shadows after a moment] Okay. You know, Yoda never wanted to discuss this with me. He just said to bury my feelings.

Darth Vader: Well, Yoda gives bad relationship advice. I should know. You can't blame him though, he's been a bachelor for almost a thousand years--that's bound to give you a skewed perspective.

Luke: Was a bachelor. Yoda's dead now actually.

Darth Vader: What? No! When did this happen? [exeunt]

Emperor Palpatine: ...guys? Guys? Where's my fight scene?


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Personal Revelation and the Prophet

Really interesting story from Harold B. Lee, who was the Prophet and President of the Church back in the 60's. What I like is the insight it gives into what it is like to be in his shoes.

Plus, it's just a really touching story.

We had a bishop from down in Florida that had a great problem. A third of his total ward membership had been trying to buy a large piece of property, twenty-six thousand acres. They had obligated themselves to a bank and an insurance company and things hadn't gone right, and now the bank and the insurance company were going to foreclose. The property was worth twice as much as they had borrowed, but somebody had to bail them out. So this good bishop called the First Presidency's office and said, "I'd like to come to Salt Lake. I'd like to see if we can do something to save my people." This good bishop, good old Southerner that he was, came with all the papers. He just neglected everything else pertaining to his business, because he wanted to save his people. And so for two hours the First Presidency listened to him, and I sat there and I said, "No, we can't do that. We can't invest the Lord's money in that property. It can't be done. No, I can't see a way out. We'd get into more trouble." I could see all these difficulties, and so he was sent on his way back home. The President of the Church had said no. But before the next morning came, I knew that the President of the Church hadn't been speaking by the Spirit of the Lord. And when I met my counselors the next morning I said, "Where's the bishop?" And they said, "Oh, he's left on an early morning plane back home." And I said, "Well, I've had a complete change. I've done some praying; I've done some thinking. We mustn't let that bishop go down there without sending somebody down to see if we can help him. I don't know whether we can or not, but we can't send him back with just saying, 'No, there's nothing we can do to help you.' We've got to see if there's not some alternatives." We've had some brethren down there this last week trying to see if we can find a way by which part of the land might be purchased for what is all owing on the balance and save them sixteen thousand acres of their property. Now, I don't know what they're coming back with, but I knew that I hadn't spoken by the Spirit of the Lord the night before. But I knew before the next morning what the Lord was trying to say to me.

~B.C.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thought experiment: reconciling right to choose and right to live

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a pregnancy can be aborted without killing the child. I understand that we can keep premature babies alive if they've made it to about the 5th month of pregnancy nowadays.

If that is the case, then the woman's control of her own body does not have to mean the death of the child. She can just... stop. Termination of pregnancy, but not termination of life: an eviction from the womb, not an execution.

So the question: would you pay to keep such a child alive? How much would you pay? Does it matter to you whether it is your own child or someone else's?

I would pay... no more than $50K, and that only once, unless it was my own child and then I'd pay more than once.

~B.C.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Urim, Thummim, and Joseph Smith's Hat

I will never, never understand why some people get so excited about the idea that Joseph Smith may have sometimes kept the Urim and Thummim in his hat, including sometimes while he was using it.

(1) Like it or not, 19th century gentlemen apparently kept things in their hats in a way similar to how modern women keep things in their purses. I remember one account in particular involving a wild horse, and documents come flying out of Joseph's hat. This custom may seem weird to you, but regardless, he did it. So what?

(2) The Urim and Thummim were detachable from the breastplate. Lucy Mack Smith's account makes clear that the first time Joseph ever showed her the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates, it was while they were detached from the breastplate. Joseph showed her an object and told her it was "a key", and it wasn't until later that he identified it to her as the Urim and Thummim and showed her the breastplate which came with it. So they were detachable--so what?

(3) Joseph had a another seer stone which, yes, he acquired earlier than the Urim and Thummim which came with the plates. It had some interesting properties, and Martin Harris tells an interesting story about a prank he played on Joseph, replacing that stone with a common river stone. (Joseph apparently panicked a little because the stone had apparently stopped working--"all is dark as Egypt!", at which point Martin fessed up to his prank.) Joseph was clearly far more impressed with the Urim and Thummim that came with the plates though, so there were qualitative differences between them... but he eventually stopped needing either and relied upon direct inspiration. To me this is congruent with his identification of the tool as "a key"--once you've unlocked the door and gone through to other side, who needs the key any more? In any case, if Joseph had more than one tool, so what?

(4) Joseph said that he translated the book "by the gift and power of God." We know from the Doctrine and Covenants that this included a requirement to "study it out in your mind" and then seek for confirmation. Who cares if the way Joseph channeled the power of God doesn't conform to your preconceptions of how you think it should have happened?

I see some people get really exercised over this issue like it's some kind of big disappointment to them, but I can't understand why. It's interesting, yes, just like any other factual detail about a miraculous event. You can learn things from it, which may help you better understand revelation in your own life. But the doctrinal significance of this factoid is strictly limited.

-Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Peer Pressure vs. Revelation

A lesson in following revelation (1 Kings 13):

Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.

And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the Lord, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.

He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. And he lied not until him. [JST]

So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.

...At this point warning bells should be going off in your mind. (Red alert! 116 pages!) There is no happy ending when you ignore revelation you've received in favor of arguments from your peers.

-Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Friday, May 5, 2017

[5E Magical Item] Unushgila'a the Dayshard

Unushgila'a the Dayshard. One day, thousands of years ago, Luru'inili the Last of the Enkidu was looking up at the sun in the middle of the day and he saw a piece of the sun sticking out, like a twig poking out of a bush. Luru'inili got out his mighty longbow and shot it into the sky so that it hit the piece of the sun that was sticking out, and it broke off and fell down to earth. When Luru'inili got to where it had fallen he found that it had burned a mighty forest to ashes where it landed and now there was a desert, and in the desert was a puddle of liquid metal, and in the puddle there was the piece of the sun. Luru'inili liked how shiny it was so he took the metal and bound the sun within it and forged it into a blade which he called Unushgila'a the Dayshard. 

This 2' long knife is forged from mirror-bright brass. It is sized for a 9' tall Enkidu but can be used by a Medium-sized creature with big hands as a kind of long-handled shortsword (1d6 martial weapon, slashing damage). It is magical, and is at all times enveloped in shimmering flames which cause 2d6 fire damage to anything which contacts the blade. Fortunately, Luru'inili also forged a sheathe for the blade out of elemental chalk which resists heat and always stays the same temperature; as long as Unushgila'a is in the sheathe it will not harm anyone. When plunged into a pool of liquid, it will dry up at least 1 gallon of liquid per round, turning it to a 10' x 10' square of steam with the same properties as the original liquid--so an acid puddle will dry up into a cloud of acid steam, and a poison puddle will dry up into a poison cloud. A cloud of steam will usually dissipate in about a minute.

Some of the spirit of the Last Enkidu resides within the Dayshard he forged. Whoever wields and is attuned to the Dayshard will be able to read and write Enkidu engravings; will be able to smell magic as if it were sulfur (harmful magic) or cinnamon (beneficial or healing magic); and will always know which direction to go to find drinking water, as long as there is any such body of water within a day's travel. He will also suffer disadvantage on saving throws against plague or other disease, which caused the fall of the Enkidus; and he will never have offspring so long as he is attuned to the blade.

It is only possible to attune this weapon once. Once attunement has been broken, the blade will reject re-attunement from the same wielder.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Priesthood callings and patience

There was a period of time from 1849 to 1979 when, for reasons the Lord has not seen fit to reveal, men of African descent were not ordained to the priesthood. That's 130 years.

If that seems like a long trial to you, consider the patience of Mahalaleel! "Mahalaleel was four hundred and ninety-six years and seven days old when he was ordained by the hand of Adam, who also blessed him." Most of his contemporaries (ancestors and descendants) were ordained to the priesthood around the age of one to two hundred, but for reasons the Lord has not seen fit to reveal, Mahalaleel's calling did not come until he was almost five hundred years old--he personally waited for more than twice as long as the Church has even existed in this dispensation, and almost four times as long as any African man would have waited for his calling.

There are a lot of things we don't know about why and when the Lord calls men to the priesthood. It happens so frequently nowadays that you could take it for granted--but don't. It is a mighty thing.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter

As a child, I knew how to appreciate Christmas. If you'd asked me, I would have said something like this. "Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus' birth, and Jesus was perfect, so when he was born we all knew we were going to be saved." But it wasn't until I was an adult that I really got a handle on how to think about Easter.

Joseph Smith taught, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Notice: the Savior's mission was not completed by his death. It was complete when he returned from beyond physical and spiritual death and blazed a trail for us back into heaven.

If Christmas is the day we celebrate the arrival of the Savior who would someday save us, Easter is the day on which we celebrate the fact that he actually did what was impossible to any of the rest of us: died, was resurrected, ascended into heaven and was exalted to his Father's (and our Father's) throne on his Father's (and our Father's) right hand where he beckons to us, "Come unto me and be where I am." And some of us have already (the scriptures say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob "have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods"--see D&C 132:37) and others of us yet will when we have finished our testing. And Easter is when we celebrate that future.

Easter, fundamentally, is Resurrection and Exaltation Day.

Happy Easter!

-Max

--

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.


"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Crackpot science

[The writer clearly has an agenda so I'll take the "crackpottery" generalization with a grain of salt unless/until I know more about the historical context and the extent to which a given scientist was denigrated by his community. Nevertheless, this is an intriguing list. I'd like to know more about all of these stories firsthand. -Max]

From http://amasci.com/weird/vindac.html

Weird science versus revolutionary science

While it's true that at least 99% of revolutionary announcements from the fringes of science are just as bogus as they seem, we cannot dismiss every one of them without investigation. If we do, then we'll certainly take our place among the ranks of scoffers who accidentally helped delay numbers of major scientific discoveries throughout history. Beware, for many discoveries such as powered flight and drifting continents today only appear sane and acceptable because we have such powerful hindsight. These same advancements were seen as obviously a bunch of disgusting lunatic garbage during the years they were first discovered.

In science, pursuing revolutionary advancements can be like searching for diamonds hidden in sewage. It's a shame that the realms of questionable ideas contain "diamonds" of great value. This makes the of judging crazy theories far more difficult. If crazy discoveries were always bogus, then we'd have good reason to reject them without investigation. However, since the diamonds exist, we must distrust our first impressions. Sometimes the "obvious" craziness turns out to be a genuine cutting-edge discovery. As with the little child questioning the emperor's clothing, sometimes (but rarely, of course,) the entire scientific community is misguided and incompetent. Sometimes only the lone voice of the maverick scientist is telling the truth. 

Below is a list of scientists who were reviled for their crackpottery, only to be later proven correct. Today's science texts are dishonest to the extent that they hide these huge mistakes made by the scientific community. They rarely discuss the embarrassing acts of intellectual suppression which were directed at the following researchers by their colleagues. And... after wide reading, I've never encountered any similar list.[1] This is very telling. 


"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." - Jonathan Swift

THE LIST: scroll down 

To add: B Belousov, Carl Woese, Gilbert Ling, John C. Lilly

"Concepts which have proved useful for ordering things easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as 'conceptual necessities,' etc. The road of scientific progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors." - Einstein

"Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable." -J. W. Goethe


Some ridiculed ideas which had no single supporter:
  • Ball lightning (lacking a theory, it was long dismissed as retinal afterimages)
  • Catastrophism (ridicule of rapid Earth changes, asteroid mass extinctions)
  • Child abuse (before Kempe 1962, doctors were mystified by "spontaneous" childhood bruising and broken bones)
  • Cooperation or altruism between animals (versus Evolution's required competition)
  • Instantaneous meteor noises (evidence rejected because sound should be delayed by distance)
  • Mind-body connection (psychoneuroimmunology, doctors ridiculed any emotional basis for disease)
  • Perceptrons (later vindicated as Neural Networks)
  • Permanent magnet levitation ("Levitron" shouldn't have worked)

"The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated." - Wilfred Trotter, 1941


"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false." -Paul Johnson



--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pilate and Jesus

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, "Art thou the King of the Jews?"

Jesus answered him, "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?"

Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?"

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

Pilate therefore said unto him, "Art thou a king then?"

Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world..."

I finally understand this bit of dialogue. Pilate comes to ask Jesus, "Are you king of the Jews?" Jesus says, "Point of clarification: are you asking whether I am denying my previous teachings, or are you asking whether I am fomenting insurrection from a Roman legal standpoint?" Pilate says, "I don't care about Jewish prophecies; I just want to know if you're breaking any Roman laws." Jesus says, "No." But he says it in such a way that Pilate is intrigued, and gives Jesus the chance to say, "No, but I am the Savior of the world" and testify of his own divine mission. And of course as everyone knows, Pilate is impressed with him, despite himself, and even tries to save him from the mob--but ultimately Pilate doesn't have the spine to risk his political future just to save some nobody from Galilee from being framed for treason, even if he is an impressive nobody.

Under similar circumstances, Martin van Buren once told an oppressed people, "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you; if I [help] you I shall lose the vote of Missouri."

I used to feel more sympathy for Pilate than I now do. He wasn't a bad man, but he wasn't a valiant man either.

-Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ambiguity

A couple decades ago, Richard Heuer wrote a book for the CIA to help improve the quality of their analysis. In chapter two (available online here) he mentions an interesting fact about a certain drawing:


"The right-hand drawing in the top row, when viewed alone, has equal chances of being perceived as a man or a woman. When test subjects are shown the entire series of drawings one by one, their perception of this intermediate drawing is biased according to which end of the series they started from. Test subjects who start by viewing a picture that is clearly a man are biased in favor of continuing to see a man long after an "objective observer" (for example, an observer who has seen only a single picture) recognizes that the man is now a woman. Similarly, test subjects who start at the woman end of the series are biased in favor of continuing to see a woman. Once an observer has formed an image--that is, once he or she has developed a mind-set or expectation concerning the phenomenon being observed--this conditions future perceptions of that phenomenon."

This in a nutshell is American journalism today. Reporters who started off with one set of beliefs--that they were in the process of viewing one disaster--are completely blind to the evidence that's actually coming out, indicating a quite different disaster is actually occurring. (Details of which scandal/disaster aren't important to my point.) This is why CNN/MSNBC and Fox News almost seem to be reporting from completely different universes right now; it's not that they're malicious or actively conspiring to lie--they just started at different ends of the series of drawings, and they're not fighting to overcome their biases and see the picture with fresh eyes. They're not evil; they're just not any brighter about their own psychology than the average intelligence analyst.

It is however possible to do much, much better than the average, if you work hard at intellectual honesty. That's what real science is about.

~B.C.

P.S. The Joseph Smith quote in my .sig seems relevant. "Shall I bear them down? No." etc. Note to self: try to be patient with people when they're seeing a different picture than you.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

CO2 trends vs temperature

I mentioned to a friend on Facebook that global temperatures have mostly levelled off compared to CO2, and he got confused and gave me a link to a claim that January 2017 was the "third-warmest January on record." That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the fact that we've done NOTHING substantive to reduce CO2 outputs, so total atmospheric CO2 continues to climb approximately linearly--but temperatures basically stopped rising around the year 2000.

It seems like an important fact to be aware of for anyone who wants to understand global warming.

You see how the gap between the red line and the blue line keeps growing after the year 2000 or so? It's hard to know for sure, but possibly that's because physics says that adding more CO2 to an atmosphere has diminishing returns: CO2 captures energy in certain bands, but at a certain point it's already capturing pretty much all of the energy and after that point more CO2 doesn't matter--except of course that if CO2 concentrations get a few thousand times higher it will kill you from CO2 poisoning. (You can die from oxygen poisoning too, but IIRC CO2 is lethal in lesser concentrations. "The dose makes the poison" as they say--almost anything can kill you if you have too much of it.)




(http://www.climate4you.com/images/MSU%20UAH%20GlobalMonthlyTempSince1979%20AndCO2.gif)

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Friday, February 24, 2017

More on 5E Mass Combat

Contrary to what I'd previously believed, the CR table is surprisingly linear. Between 1st and 20th level, 1 point of CR pretty much gains you 15 HP and 6 points of damage. Between 21st and 30th levels (inclusive), the rate of gain triples: 45 HP and 18 points of damage. CR 1 has about 5x the HP and 2x the offensive power of a typical CR "step" (but of course, most CR 1 creatures in the MM are not actually as tough as that table predicts). That means that all of the non-linearity after CR 1 comes from gains to-hit and AC, which kind of offsets the early stat HP/damage boost that comes before CR 1. Linear is good for mass combat because if you sum a linear measure, you can be pretty sure the result will come out close to your actual result.

I'm still running sims to find a BR measure that is plausible to me. So far, it seems roughly plausible to assign BR = CR for CR between 1 and 20.

Data points: purely by the numbers, a Marilith can take on 20 orcs, just barely, but loses pretty badly to 21. A Githyanki Knight can take on 6 orcs, about 70% of the time, but loses about 60% of the time to 7, and it's hopeless against 8. (In a real fight these differences would be less extreme because terrain and tactics come into play, but we're just talking pure numbers here, which is what mass combat is all about.) A pit fiend handily beats 30 orcs reliably (10/10) but loses reliably to 35 (9/10); the tipping point seems to be about 32. (Pit fiend winds 50% of the time against 32 orcs.)

So, I think you wouldn't go far wrong to start off saying that BR = CR (in conjunction with some set of rules that's better than the UA rules, e.g. http://bluishcertainty.blogspot.com/2017/02/mass-combat-rules-revision-to-unearthed.html), with CR 1/2 counting as BR 2/3 and CR 1/4 counting as BR 1/3, and anything over CR 20 counting as perhaps BR 20 + 3 * (amount over 20), so CR 30 is BR 50. Then the DM can adjust things on the fly as needed, e.g. he can say that an ancient red dragon (BR 32) against 300 orcs (BR 200) counts as BR 320 for offensive purposes because its breath weapon scales so well against massed targets--so the ancient red's commander just needs to find some kobold or goblin meat shields to soak up orc javelins while the ancient red annihilates the orcs, and he'll be able to win. Similarly, a DM might reasonably rule that Ogres are not BR 2, they are only BR 1, barely better than orcs. (He might also downgrade them to CR 1 as well, but that's a separate conversation.)

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mass Combat rules (revision to Unearthed Arcana system)


(1) Every mass combat turn takes 10 minutes, not 1 minute. (This is an aesthetic choice to make battles feel right; choose a different timeframe if you prefer.)

(2) Use everybody declares/everybody acts resolution, like BattleTech or AD&D, instead of turn-by-turn resolution. This is important for resolving battles.

(3) There is no Attack action, only a Fight action. When a unit Fights another unit, both of them are fighting and either one can take damage. See below.

(4) Resolve movement before resolving Fights. You don't need to Disengage unless you were already adjacent to the enemy at the beginning of your turn (during action declaration).

(5) When a fight occurs, you total up the BR of all allies involved in the Fight on each side, and roll [B]3d6 * (BR/100[/B], not rounded). The enemy units in the fight must lose that many BR--the enemy commander(s)/players can allocate the losses wherever they chose. Whoever loses the most BR is the loser and must make a morale check or disband and be destroyed. There is a cumulative -1 penalty to the morale check for every 5% casualties the unit has taken. 

Example: If 200 BR of dwarves are Fighting 300 BR of Yetis while 150 BR of elven archers fires arrows at the Yetis, the dwarves and the elves roll 3d6 * 350 and the Yetis roll 3d6 * 300. If the elves and dwarves roll 11 and the Yetis roll a 12, then Yetis lose (11 * 3.5) = 38.5 BR, rounded down per usual 5E rules to 38. The elves and the dwarves lose 12 * 3 = 36 BR, which the dwarven commander allocates to the dwarves (because that makes sense, since the elves aren't in the melee and Yetis don't have spears). The DM is playing the Yeti commander and allocates all 38 BR to the Yetis. Since the Yetis took more BR damage, the elves and the dwarves win the field, and the Yetis must make a DC 10 morale check at -2 (they've taken 12% casualties) or be disbanded. The DM rules that the Yetis are normally Stalwart (+4), so the Yetis roll at +2 total. They roll a natural 14, for a total of 16, and remain intact. The Yetis and the dwarves will continue to fight next turn.


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

5E old-school multiclassing rules

Old-school Multiclassing in 5E: rule variant

Remarks: with this variation, you gain some potential synergies that in some ways make a fighter/mage more powerful than a fighter and a mage working together. For instance, you can wear heavy armor and cast a Blur spell and Shield when hit, which is more than twice as good as either heavy armor or Shield + Blur spells by itself. But you're more fragile (fewer HP) than a fighter and a thief, you do less damage (get half as many attacks), and your attributes are spread thinner because you're only getting half as many ASIs to boost both your spells (Intelligence) and your fighting (Dexterity or Strength). It remains to be seen whether a party of three multi-classed PCs is stronger or weaker in practice than a party of six single- or dual-classed PCs, but it will certainly be more complicated and therefore potentially interesting! ~Max


Rule 0.) For purposes of this discussion and for historical reasons, 5E PHB-style multiclassing will be referred to as "dual-classing" and this proposal will be referred to as "multi-classing". Where ambiguity exists, this proposal may be referred to as "concurrent multiclassing" or "old-school multiclassing" to resolve the ambiguity.

Rule 1.) Dual-classing and multiclassing are mutually exclusive and must be decided at character creation time. You cannot dual-class and multi-class with the same character. Some DMs may wish to impose additional restrictions, e.g. only humans can dual-class and only demihumans can multi-class, or perhaps only certain multiclass combinations are available (e.g. paladin/warlock/rogue may not be an option). Do what works for your campaign.

Rule 2.) When you multi-class, you may have either two or three classes. You split your experience among them evenly and level them up simultaneously.

Example: John is a 1st level fighter/rogue. He earns 300 XP from adventuring, which gives him 150 XP as a fighter and 150 XP as a rogue. Since he needs 300 XP to reach 2nd level and has only 150, he does not level up until he gains another 150 XP in each class.

Rule 3.) You must meet the same ability score prerequisites as a dual-classed character, using the usual PHB table for multi-classing ability score prerequisites.

Rule 4.) At first level, you may take the best HP, armor and weapon proficiencies of all of your classes. You may select one of your classes from which to gain saving throw proficiencies--you do not gain all saving throws from all of your classes.

Example: Rupert is a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist. Because Battlemasters are proficient in all weapons and armor, Rupert is too. Because Hunters and Battlemasters both have d10 (6), Rupert does too, even though Illusionists have only d6 (4). When he goes up to 11th level, Rupert will gain d10 (6) HP plus his Con bonus. Rupert is proficient in Strength and Constitution saves because he chose at first level to take his saving throws from his Fighter class.

Rule 5.) Class features with the same name may only be gained once. For purposes of this rule, "Nth level ASI" is considered a distinct feature. Spellcasting is an exception (see rule 6).

Example: Rupert is a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist. He has one fighting style (Archery) chosen as a fighter at first level; he has earned 3 ASIs so far at levels 4, 6 (as a fighter), and 8.

Rule 6.) Spellcasting is tracked separately for each class. You cannot mix and match spell slots or spell points between classes unless they are the same type of spellcasting, i.e. come from the same class spell list. (So basically, Arcane Tricksters and Eldritch Knights are cumulative with wizards.)

Example: As a 10th level Hunter/Battlemaster/Illusionist, Rupert has 4/3/2 slots for Ranger spells (or 27 spell points by DMG spell point rules) and 4/3/3/3/2 slots for wizard spells (or 64 spell points). Wizard spell points/slots cannot be spent on ranger spells, and vice versa.

Example: Rupert's friend Durk Dursley is a 10th level Eldritch Knight/Abjuror. Durk has 4/2 wizard spell slots (17 spell points) as an Eldritch Knight and 4/3/3/3/2 wizard slots (64 spell points) as an Abjuror, which means he has a total of 6/5/3/3/2 (81 spell points) wizard spell slots (spell points) to spend on any wizard spells he knows as an Eldritch Knight or has prepared as an Abjuror.

Note: when Rupert's single-classed friend Olaf the Stout is a 17th level wizard with 240,000 XP and 107 spell points with access to 9th level wizard spells, Rupert will still be 10th level with 80,000 XP in each class and 91 total spell points with access to 3rd level ranger spells and 5th level wizard spells.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

5E: Trap Gremlins

IMC, that's why I created Trap Gremlins. Their one purpose in life is to create nasty-but-theoretically-solvable traps exactly like the ones which amuse evil DMs everywhere; more powerful Trap Gremlins create more creative and more deadly traps; various rituals can attract or even summon Trap Gremlins of varying strength, e.g. leaving junk food out after midnight may attract a few weak Trap Gremlins into your kitchen, but leaving a gigantic golden idol unattended in a stone chamber is almost guaranteed to attract a powerful Trap Gremlin, especially if you trace a pentagram around the idol made out of honey mixed with your own blood.

Therefore, a relatively cheap and easy way to create defenses is to perform rituals which summon powerful Trap Gremlins. True, it is less effective than setting a genuine, secure, deadly trap like dozens of Symbol of Death spells layered on top of each other... but it's also cheaper, quicker, and easier. Besides, you can always use both kinds of traps for really important stuff.

A Trap Gremlin can transform into the shape of an inanimate object, and when you fall victim to a trap, you may often hear a high-pitched giggling. However, disarming a gremlin's trap causes the gremlin to explode as if it were a soda can full of ugly green goop being squashed by a giant hammer, no matter what shape the gremlin is currently in, so if you solve a puzzle guarding a door and the barrel next to the door explodes into green slime, you have probably just slain a Trap Gremlin. (This is also why disarming traps often grants kill XP.)

TL;DR I invented a monster to explain why dungeons are full of traps that are amusing (to the DM) instead of lethal.

Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?519194-UA-and-depth-of-complexity/page7#ixzz4Wukwxsrg


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Extending DNA with new codons?

This is quite interesting. There are some organisms in the wild that interpret DNA differently than humans do (kind of like running Apple IIe software on a PC--the same DNA produces slightly different proteins depending on what organism interprets it) but in this case they've managed to engineer a couple of extra possibilities. It's like going from binary to base three.

How interesting this is depends on how it affects the universe of possible proteins you can code, among other things. I don't know if this is significant. But I do definitely find this interesting.

http://www.sciencealert.com/new-organisms-have-been-formed-using-the-first-ever-6-letter-genetic-code

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

5E equipment cards

[RE: spell cards]

Equipment cards aren't a bad idea either, especially for new players. Have one card that says, "Here's a 50' rope. You can tie it to things to climb down holes, use it to clothesline horsemen, tie up bad guys, etc." 

Another one says, "This is a bad of spiky caltrops, shaped like jumping jacks straight from the pits of Mordor. If you scatter these on the ground, anyone who runs over them without slowing down may wind up injuring his feet. (DC 15 Dexterity check if not moving at half-speed; on a failure, take 1 HP of damage, lose rest of movement for this turn, and speed goes down by 10' until you heal at least 1 HP.) You can use them to run away or set up a trap." 

"This is a torch. It allows you to see well out to 20' (eliminating Perception penalties and combat penalties), and dimly out to 40' (eliminating combat penalties only) and it lasts for an hour; but things in the darkness can see you coming or even smell your torch burning."

"This is a horse. It has trouble squeezing through tight places (needs at least 5' wide corridors to move through at half speed, or 10' wide for full speed) but you can ride it to gain free movement: 60' of movement plus a Disengage or Dash that doesn't cost your own action. The horse has AC 11 and 19 HP and can be killed. It eats twice as much food and drinks three times as much water as a human [AFB so I just made that up -Hemlock]."

"This is a jar of oil. If you spend an action to dump it on the ground and light it on fire, it burns for two rounds in a 5' diameter puddle, dealing 5 points of fire damage to anything that passes through it. It weighs 2 lb. [AFB] and costs 2 sp to refill."

"This is a net. As an action, you can make an attack roll to throw it up to 15' at anto tie it up, preventing it from moving and making it easier to hit, and making it harder for it to hit anyone else. If you are proficient in Martial weapons you gain your proficiency bonus on the net's attack roll; barring special circumstances, the attack roll will always be made at disadvantage; the net cannot be used against a Huge or Gargantuan enemy; it is possible for an enemy to throw off the net with an action or to cut its way through with an slashing weapon. It weighs 1 lb. and costs 1 sp."

"This is a bear trap..." Etc. 

Those can be just as valuable as spell cards for new players.

Read more: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?518933-What-happened-to-one-off-games/page2#ixzz4Woctsp10


--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Resolution

Oh, look, right on cue: a Democrat is no longer President, and suddenly the NYT notices the deficit again. Because the $9.35 trillion that Obama added in eight years is obviously TOTALLY different than the next ten trillion. Just don't expect them to mention the deficit again when it comes to covering people trying to do something to actually reduce it. No, at that point, the NYT will be back to moaning about all the projects that don't get funding and all the infrastructure that is slowly degrading under not-enough-funding.

Hereby resolved: if you see me talking about politics again any time in the rest of 2017, please kick me in the shins and remind me to instead do something productive or fun with good people. Let the spiritually dead and intellectually bankrupt bury their dead. I cannot save them.

-M.

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Day

Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." There is something in the universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying, "Truth crushed to earth will rise again."

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

--

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fatherhood and motherhood: a definition

I was talking with K. about my daughter, and about how having daughters is a new experience for me because I've only ever had sisters before. And I feel like explaining my definitions for relationships because you can't understand how I feel about my kids without knowing how I think about fatherhood.

Okay, first thing. Fundamentally, "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be." (D&C 93:29) That is, I don't think fatherhood or motherhood is fundamentally rooted in an act of creation ex nihilo ("the people who made you exist"), because the gospel tells us that there is no creation ex nihilo. This is true for earthly parents ("I lived in Heaven a long time ago, it is true") and even for spiritual parents. So what is a father or a mother?

My working definitions are these:

Parent (father or mother): someone from whom you will inherit traits. Someone you will grow up to resemble. In a spiritual sense, Heavenly Father is and always has been willing to be our Father in every sense, but some people (like Cain) choose Satan for their Father and inherit what Satan has and is (nothing) instead of what the Father has and is (everything). Hence they are called the "sons [and daughters] of Perdition [which means 'loss']."

Siblings (brother or sister): someone who shares one or more parents with you. Can also be used metaphorically for those for whom you feel an inbuilt kinship, a sense that you have similarities, whether or not there is an identifiable parent in common from whom you both inherit those similarities.

Friends: people with whom you get along well, but who aren't necessarily headed to the same metaphorical destination you are. They're growing up to be someone else.

Family Pets: adorable creatures who are to be appreciated for their own sake and treated kindly, but aren't expected to inherit anything.

Children (sons and daughters): someone whom you intend to inherit from you. Someone whom you're trying to help become more like you. From this angle, there is nothing weird about the fact that Jesus Christ, for example, sometimes refers to us as his children even though we usually think of him primarily as an eldest brother. He has a paternal interest in us by virtue of wanting us to follow in his footsteps (which were also his and our Father's footsteps before him). But I think he doesn't mind at all if we think of him as a brother and not our father.

Spouse (husband or wife): this is kind of a special relationship because you're sort of mutually inheriting traits from each other as you jointly develop towards your ultimate metaphorical destination. Your spouse's role is neither to be an influencer (like a parent) nor an influencee (like a child, though of course it's not strictly one-way), but sort of both at the same time. Choose your spouse as carefully as you once chose your parents.

-Max

--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Admitting Ignorance and Asking Questions

From another discussion:

How Admitting Ignorance Might Have Prevented A Nuclear Holocaust.

Excerpt from Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

Most accounts of the missile crisis attempt to answer the central questions by comparing competing hypotheses, examining specific details of the deployment of missiles in Cuba or the blockade for clues to governments' goals and intentions. On the assumption that actors do what they intended, the details of actions taken and comparisons of the costs and benefits of the different options provide evidence about intent. Yet despite the best efforts in analyzing the behavior of the Soviet and American governments in this case, including our Chapter 2, anomalies and inconsistencies abound; "inexplicables" invite attention through the lens of organizational behavior.

As a point of departure consider the troublesome Jupiter IRBM missiles (15 in all) deployed to Turkey under Turkish control, along with their nuclear warheads, which would remain under U.S. control. Originally a highly publicized gesture of reassurance to allies fearful of the Soviet ballistic missiles being fielded in the late 1950s, the crude liquid-fueled Jupiters, along with F-100 fighter-bomber aircraft and their nuclear bombs, were by 1962 part of NATO's plans for defending Europe, specifically the eastern flank—namely Turkey. These pieces on the chessboard greatly complicated the challenge President Kennedy faced in managing a confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba.

Unraveling the more important threads of this story requires entry into the arcane world of military acronyms or, as a colleague has named it, "acronymphomania." The term refers to the practice prevalent in Washington, especially in the Pentagon, of using acronyms that many participants in discussions do not understand but are afraid to ask about lest they expose their ignorance. In the case of Turkey, the most important acronyms were: EDP and QRA. These stand for: Emergency (or European) Defense Plan and Quick Reaction Alert.

A vignette from the tapes of the missile crisis deliberations captures Kennedy as he discovers EDP. On October 21, in one of the few direct presidential orders of those two weeks, he dictates that a special order be sent to Turkey giving commanders explicit instructions. They should not fire their nuclear weapons, even if they were attacked, unless and until they had a direct order from the White House. At the meeting on the morning of October 22, the Deputy Secretary of Defense reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff object to sending out such a special order and thus that none had been sent.

Kennedy repeats his instruction: "We may be attacking the Cubans, and a reprisal might come. We don't want these nuclear warheads firing without our knowing about it." Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze responds, explaining that the Chiefs thought such a special instruction "compromises their standing instructions." Eager to avoid conflict between the President and the Chiefs, Bundy and Taylor attempt to move the conversation along, observing that a reminder to commanders to be sure to check their standing instructions requiring presidential authorization for the use of nuclear weapons should suffice.

But then Nitze let the cat out of the bag. "They [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] did come back with another point, and that is: NATO strategic contact requires the immediate execution of EDP in such events." Many participants undoubtedly wondered: what do "strategic contact" or "EDP" mean? In most discussions, however, that much acronymphomania, especially from authorities who presumably know what they are doing, would strangle questions.

Not with President Kennedy, who persists: "What's EDP?" Nitze replies, "The European Defense Plan, which is nuclear war. So that means . . ." Kennedy interrupts, "Now, that's why we ordered that [special instruction] on that."

Backpedaling, Nitze tried to explain that the standing order did require presidential authorization. Yet Kennedy pushed to the deeper point. "They [in Turkey] don't know . . . what we know," he said. "And therefore they don't realize the chance there will be a spot reprisal. And what we've got to do is make sure these fellows do know, so that they don't fire them off and put the United States under attack. I don't think we ought to accept the Chiefs' word on that one, Paul."

Recognizing that he has dug himself into a hole, Nitze tries to stop and move on: "I've got your point and we're going to get to that." The Cabinet Room erupts in laughter. But sensing the president's skepticism, Bundy says, "Send me the documents, and I will show them to a doubting master." More laughter. In the end, an hour later, the instruction Kennedy wanted was sent. It said unambiguously, "make certain that the Jupiters in Turkey and Italy will not be fired without specific authorization from the President. In the event of an attack, either nuclear or non-nuclear . . . U.S. custodians are to destroy or make inoperable the weapons if any attempt is made to fire them." The instructions were kept secret from the Turks, Italians, and other NATO allies.

Kennedy's caution was well founded. While Nitze and the Chiefs were certainly right that presidential authorization was legally required in order to authorize any use of U.S. nuclear weapons, all—including Kennedy—knew that the president had, by earlier order, delegated some of this authority to NATO entities in the event of attack. There were at least two reasons for such predelegation. The first was that a Soviet nuclear attack might well kill the president and other leaders before they could issue orders for retaliation. So to keep the Soviets from being tempted by this scenario, launch authority was delegated in advance if such a contingency occurred. (Presumably, the Soviets should know about the arrangement, although it is not clear anyone told them.) The second reason for predelegation was that some allied governments, such as Germany, sought proof that all NATO nuclear weapons would be used under certain predetermined conditions, so that Soviet attack would be deterred by a more automatic response that left little to chance or whims of an American president. To address the first concern the Eisenhower administration had predelegated its nuclear use authority "in the event of a nuclear attack upon the United States," authenticated as such if possible. To address the second, Eisenhower had predelegated the authority to use nuclear weapons for the defense of U.S. forces based overseas if there was "grave necessity," subject to required consultation with allies.

Don't ever be afraid to admit that you don't know something. Some day, it could save the entire world from annihilation.

-Max



--
If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

"Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."