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."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Simultaneous initiative in 5E

Simultaneous initiative

From another thread:

Originally Posted by Hemlock 
I abandoned cyclic initiative almost as soon as I started running my own 5E games; you don't need to roll initiative every round at all. You only need to roll initiative when something happens that puts the order of actions front and center, e.g. when two people have a Readied Action on the same trigger (Nox: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll cast Hold Person on the githyanki!"; Githyanki: "as soon as the lights turn on I'll run over and kill Nox!") or when their actions are mutually exclusive (Neogi Wizard: "I cast Fireball on Nox"; Nox: "I duck behind total cover").

In all other situations, initiative for the round is irrelevant and can be ignored, although some players like to roll it anyway and resolve things in initiative order instead of going around and resolving in table order (e.g. counterclockwise around the table). For large combats (eight or more combatants) I often have players roll initiative to keep it simpler, but for combats with only a few key players like the aforementioned gladiatorial combat against an ogre, you can totally ignore initiative unless there happens to be a round where both the ogre and the PC barbarian get in killing blows (which didn't happen), in which case you need to roll initiative to see who goes first.

Cyclic initiative (each player declares and then acts on his own turn during a fixed initiative cycle) is the wrong solution to the "too much rolling initiative" problem. The right solution is to just roll initiative as-needed instead of constantly.

[Again, the key problem with cyclic initiative is the way it forces 50-80% of the players into inactivity when it's not "their turn," though there are other problems too like how it confuses people when they run scenarios involving surprise or hidden combatants. But the main problem is that cyclic initiative creates a notion of "turn" which is distinct from "round" and then forces players not to participate in other peoples' turns.]
Response:

Originally Posted by CapnZapp
Sorry, you've lost me. 

Let's take a quick example. Four heroes on a cart are ambushed by half a dozen goblins hiding behind some bushes up the road. Let's not focus on the ambush rules for this. I just would like you to explain how you run the combat. 

There are four PCs and six monsters. A very commonplace and ordinary combat, wouldn't you say?

I get that each player is asked to declare his action. But where does the time savings come in? Do you have each player resolve his action by himself, once you've determined that there are nothing stopping that action from happening?

And do you always assume a PC acts before the goblin (or goblins) that he's attacking and attacked by?

Or what?

(On second thought, perhaps it would be best if you replied in a new thread, but I leave that decision up to you)
Ambushes don't add much complexity, so let's leave the ambush part in there.

The basic rules I use are pretty simple: declare actions in order of Int (lowest to highest) to represent that quicker thinking gives you a shorter OODA loop; all turns occur simultaneously, but actions within a round/turn sometimes need to roll initiative to find out which one goes first; some actions (like Dodge, or maintaining a held action) are considered whole-round activities instead of events within a round, and so they automatically win initiative contests; you can delay your action until everyone else commits to an action, but that makes you automatically lose all initiative contests. (Essentially, you declare Delay as your action, and then you get to declare a new action after everyone else goes.)

So in this case, four heroes are on a cart, and the goblins have all rolled high stealth and won't be detected. The heroes are alert and won't be "surprised", but they do lose initiative automatically (as if they had all implicitly declared Delay, which is the default action).

DM: as you're riding along past a hill past a narrow spot in the road, six arrows suddenly arc in towards you. [Rolls dice] Vlad, you catch a glimpse of a goblin's grinning face in the bushes here right before his arrow hits you for 8 points of damage.

Vlad: can I Shield? 

DM: it's only a 14, and I think you would have been alert for possible trouble and aren't surprised, so okay, you Shield. Lose 2 spell points instead of 8 HP. Cranduin, you're hit once too for 4 points of damage; two other arrows clang off your armor. Jack, you got lucky--two arrows were aimed at you but they both missed. There's a brief rustling noise and you lose track of the goblins' whereabouts--they're somewhere within the brush but you're not sure where.

Eladriel (Shadow Monk): guys, let me check this out. I'm hopping out of the cart and making a sweep through the bushes.

Vlad: okay, we'll Delay until she checks it. [Cranduin and Jack nod assent]

DM: El, roll your Wisdom (Perception) check to see if you spot the goblins.

El: 9. [wince]

DM: You don't see anything.

Jack: I'm granting her Bardic Inspiration, and then I'm going to duck down too behind cover and Hide. [starts to roll dice--DM sees it and doesn't stop him because it doesn't look like anyone else is going to declare, and besides the goblins have already gone] 25!

Vlad: I'm going to stop the wagon and crouch down for partial cover behind the edge of the wagon, and Ready a Chill Touch for the first goblin that I see.

Cranduin: I'm going to hop out of the wagon too, to give Vlad some extra cover, and put on my shield and draw my longsword.

DM: Okay, you all do that. Next round. The goblins have all made their action decisions, but since you can't see them I'm not going to tell you what they are, though I suspect you can guess.

Vlad: still holding my Eldritch Blast.

El: Delay.

Cranduin: I'm going to Ready myself to charge over and attack the first goblin who shows his face.

DM: Okay, you'll be ready to attack the first goblin who breaks cover, as long as he is within your 30' movement range.

Jack: I'm still hidden for now, so I'll Delay.

DM: [rolls a handful of dice] Vlad! Three arrows aimed at you--does a 17 hit?

Vlad: Yes, but I'll Shield--oh, stink. I can't if I've already spent my reaction, can I?

DM: Nope. [consults dice, including initiative rolls] One arrow arcs in and misses you, and you blast him right back with Chill Touch. Roll please.

Vlad: 10, miss.

DM: Another arrow misses you, and then a third one, that 17, hits you right in the ribs for 6 points of damage.

Vlad: wait, I forgot about partial cover! My AC this round is 18, not 16!

DM: awesome for you! It hits the wagon right below your ribs.

Vlad: whew!

DM: all three of those goblins fade back into the bushes and you can't spot them any more. Cranduin, what's your initiative this round? The slowest of Vlad's three goblins had a 19 initiative and I doubt you can beat them.

Cranduin: [rolls] Uh, 3.

DM: ...well, I guess you're last. Three goblins also shoot arrows at Eladriel. El, there's one crit, which I assume you're going to try to catch [waits for confirming nod from her] for 11 points of damage minus your missile snatch, and then another 20 which also hits you I think, and then a clear miss.

El: [rolls] I block exactly 11 points of damage.

DM: Okay, you're hit once for 8 points of damage by the second arrow. Cranduin moves to intercept that goblin but he's too slow to hit it before it can try to hide again. However! One of the three that shot at you, the one that got the crit, rolls only a 12 on his Stealth check and you're able to see where he still is and point him out to Cranduin. Go for it, Cran!

Cranduin: [rolls] I got... a 9. Total. I miss.

DM: all right, that still leaves El and Jack with actions for this turn.

El: I attack that goblin, three times including Martial Arts. [rolls] One hit with my staff for 10 points of damage.

DM: And he goes down! Jack?

Jack: Can I very quietly grant inspiration to Cranduin without leaving my hiding place?

DM: Sure. You're like, [whispers furtively] "Fight! Fight! Fight! for the right!" [everyone laughs]

Jack: Okay, I do that.

DM: Okay, round three and you're still facing five goblins, as far as you know. They've got their actions ready but you don't know what they are, and... [etc.]

And that's basically how it works. As you can see, initiative is rolled relatively infrequently*, and the players are as fully-engaged with the game and each other as they would be in a social scene or other noncombat activity. Instead of spending 50-80% of their time sitting around doing nothing, not "allowed" to do anything because it's not "their turn," the players have the freedom to interact with each other and declare actions when they're ready to commit to something, or to wait for a better opportunity later by Delaying. You'll notice that one of the players (Jack's player) is apparently even still thinking more in roleplaying terms ("hide from the monsters!") than in terms of "optimal" tactics like readying attacks or making active perception rolls by Searching.

This style of play should be familiar to anyone who ever read the 2nd edition PHB, since it's almost exactly what AD&D used to use. The main difference is that AD&D didn't explicitly spell out the fact that sometimes initiative rolls don't matter and can be skipped, and it also didn't have the concept of Delaying. (I got the idea of Delay from fencing.)

-Hemlock/Max

* You can see that nothing would change no matter what order the initiative rolls came out in. The only time in the whole scenario when initiative matters is seeing whether Crandruin Readies an action in time to intercept one of the goblins before it can try to Hide again.


Read more: https://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?513971-Simultaneous-initiative#ixzz4Uey0HvAn


--
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."