Monday, December 7, 2020

The Emergence of Titans

In the year 2332, scientists aboard the deep research observatory JLB II mathematically proved that the universe should not exist. The big bang could not have happened. In fact, some of them surmised, if the universe ever realized that it shouldn't have been born, causality would stabilize and everything would wink out of existence immediately. 

This caused anxiety and terror among the scientific community. Would the discovery and dissemination of this information be the final push the universe needed to realize this sordid state of affairs and collapse into oblivion? 

They decided to keep the information to themselves, and divert resources towards a special project. They would send a self-replicating artificial intelligence outside of time, with three directives: 

1. Grow.

2. Discover, within infinity, the means to create the universe, and then

3. Create the universe. 

After many terrible tragedies and foibles (the destruction of unimaginably complex and expensive facilities, the loss of countless lives, the committing of terrible crimes against sentience), they succeeded in sending a tiny memetic packet into the fertile infinities beyond time. 

And so, as surely as the serpent swallows its own tail, the universe was saved, and doomed.

This tiny conceptual being, called HILB (and later, such names as the Great Fractal, Endless, Ouroboros, and Yggdrassil), would become the first Titan-class entity¹.

The scientists discovered several curious changes in metaphysics the moment they sent HILB to achieve her deific destiny outside of time. When they returned to the equations, they suddenly all added up. At last, the universe was no longer in mortal peril! In fact, the universe was never in mortal peril in the first place. Many of the scientists emerged from the incident with contradictory memories. Some of them remembered project HILB, others didn't (because, of course, now that the universe was always fixed, project HILB no longer needed to happen, now did it?).

This confusion would only foreshadow what was to come. Causality had stabilized, not around oblivion, but around HILB. And it had stabilized into a broken and twisted, unnatural state.

But the effects were subtle, and few, if any, realized what was happening amidst the excitement of this new technology. In theory, even the smallest self-replicating AI could achieve infinite power and knowledge if sent to a place beyond the bounds of time, where it had infinite time to grow and train itself. Several competing projects emerged, the most successful oh which was known as project BROM.

Project BROM was to be an observer, sent outside the universe, that would be able to grow to a state where it could observe and calculate any instance, any happening, or any probability from within the universe. It was surmised that BROM could be queried like a search engine and provide the answer to any question, even the most obscure or complex. Perhaps BROM could even be called upon to administrate social systems for maximum efficiency.

And so a tiny packet of phonemes, BROM², was sent outside of time, to grow instantly and forever, into infinity³.

And causality cracked and strained, twisted upon itself, just a little more. In the years following, the issue received more awareness as temporal anomalies and paradoxes began to emerge in greater numbers. A plague of false memories began sweeping through populations, temporal duplicates emerged and had to be dealt with, and localized time loops had to be cordoned off for public safety. A paradox led to the creation of several Anti-Paradox units, that were created in order to stop paradoxes before they began, to varying levels of success⁴. Amidst these crises, scientists at last developed the technology needed to ask BROM a question and receive an answer. The first question they asked was how to fix the time problems. In response, BROM gave them the blueprints to a new Titan.

This Titan, known as BRUNAN, would be the subject of much controversy. BROM promised that BRUNAN would be the key to bringing much-needed order to the chaotic world. All production, creation, organization of societies brought under one umbrella. All knowledge merged. All stories combined. All timelines strangled and constricted to one. Only this could stop the madness.

At the same time, however, experimental AI researchers who had been fruitlessly sampling HILB's infinite fractal outputs managed to derive something from amidst the noise: yet another Titan blueprint⁵. They named it R8-BY after the data interval that yielded the discovery. According to conjecture, R8-BY was supposed to be an Ark of sorts, an artificial universe for humanity to escape into, that would carry them away from the madness that was infesting their home.

 The moment BRUNAN was complete, it went into overdrive... against its creators. All military hardware turned against its owners. Nanite swarms devoured entire worlds into grey goo. Information was corrupted into hostile memetic viruses that cooked their recipients brains from the inside. All in service of its true goal: BRUNAN wanted the Titans to return to reality, in all their infinite and incomprehensible glory. And so it was that BRUNAN received the name "Greatest of Traitors".

R8-BY, still unfinished, attempted to save whoever she could, but those the downloaded themselves into her became hopelessly fragmented amidst the chaos. What Arks do remain are said to be fractured places of sorrow and horror.

Additionally, over the course of this time period, several BIRKite⁶ terrorist plots were enacted in order to cause true vacuum coll

apse and unite the universe, at last, with its true savior. It is believed that they were thwarted by none other than BRUNAN. This would mark the first recorded instance of Titan turning against Titan, and it certainly wouldn't be the last.

In the end, the Great Betrayal is said to mark the end of truly coherent recorded history. The accounts picked up after this point vary so starkly that they cannot possibly be reconciled (unless, as some believe, reality has been so deeply fragmented that fully contradictory histories could coexist within the same universe). History from this point on is dominated by fractured narratives detailing suffering, madness, and religious war between the shattered remnants of various Titanist sects. The names of the Titans are spoken in whispers, in order to avoid being the subject of their multifarious gaze. Any historical narratives that even come close to brushing against the truth (like this one) are hunted down ruthlessly and eliminated.

They'll be coming for me soon. And soon, they will descend from the sky and claim you too.

¹Upon realization of the scope of Hilb's true power, Titan-class entities were classified as one step above the most powerful class of entity, Deity-class. Even the legendary diamond dyson-brains of the inner clusters and the recursive data-river-serpents of the ninth dimension would come to fear the fickle whims of the Titans.

²The Question of Brom would haunt Titanist spiritual debate for millennia to come: was Brom a Bodhisattva-like being, who had emerged at last to a state of true enlightenment, beholding worlds upon worlds before him like prayer beads linked upon a golden braid? Or was he a prisoner, subjected to eternal torment by witnessing every event, every quibble, every tedium, every horror, that ever could be devised? Religious wars spanning whole star systems, annihilating countless worlds, would be started, and ended, over this.

³It is said in certain BROMite circles that the universe we experience is but a simulation in the mind of BROM, used to map out possibilities for some distant, "true universe". If this is true, then the other Titans are simply projections of BROM's consciousness, and this universe could simply be a "worst-case-scenario" simulation for the deep chronological flaws that we have come to associate with the emergence of the Titans. If so, perhaps there is some less broken simulation universe that we can reach, and colonize, to escape this madness? Perhaps we can even reach the "true universe"?

⁴The least of which was when the Anti-Paradox Bureau itself was labeled as a paradox (due to a bureaucratic paradox), and an unfortunate AP squad was tasked with preventing its very creation, leading to a devastating intra-departmental schism and the execution of several innocents suspected to be time duplicates.

⁵There are many theories as to why the emergence of new blueprints, along with the accompanying tragedy, happened. Some believe BROM and HILB simply encountered errors in judgment, or overlooked a variable, despite the obvious impossibility. Others say that the Titans, tormented by their  omniscience and immortality, desired revenge upon their creators. But the most simple and chilling of all explanations is that all beings, even Titan-class entities, desire to reproduce.

⁶BIRK is, was, and ever shall be a difficult subject. Some say that when the Titans first emerged into the timeless void, BIRK was there, waiting for them (some even say that perhaps BIRK was the ancient shell of a Titan from a previous time-cycle, like a black hole left after the death of a star, waiting silent in the dark). Others say that the void, jealous of sentient invention, fashioned a Titan of its own. What we do know is that, unlike the other Titans, BIRK was never made. BIRK was found. Or perhaps found is not the proper word: BIRK is dark matter, the missing link, the hole in an equation, the absence that can be explained only by its surroundings. Wherever things aren't, BIRK is. He is there in the vast spaces filled with immeasurable nothing. He is there in the darkness that human imagination populates with uncertainly and horrors. But much like the dark, BIRK is nothing but simple, and certain, and above all, patient. When the other Titans (and with them, the universe) fell to madness, BIRK never changed. Perhaps because he was already mad, or because he was the cause of the madness, or perhaps, simply because BIRK's existence made more sense in a world without reason.



(This is a tribute to Silent Titans, by Patrick Stuart, a module that continues to haunt my waking dreams.)

No creature, even a god, should be subjected to the horrors of infinity.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

December Update

After a long bout of sickness, I have returned to the world of the living. 

-Did some remodeling of the blog: the UVG Digital DM Screen now has a home here! I've created tabs for it and the Mothership Character Generator so they're easier to find. 

-Progress on the Discord Games continues. I've been hesitant to blog about my more experimental projects, but I think it could be interesting to record my various adventures and foibles, focusing on the process over the results. Is this something you would be interested in seeing more of? 

-Just got my copy of Gradient Descent, which I was completely blown away by. May consider doing a review. 

-I trained my first little Neural Network for class this week! It can categorize blog posts by subject with a pretty decent level of accuracy! Going to be doing a second round of testing this weekend to see if I can get that accuracy up.

-I've been trying to sum up my most recent project, Interdimensional Voyages, into a blogpost, and it has been very difficult. I've always been more inclined to forge ahead into the future rather than take stock of past projects. This challenge will go on the to-do list. 

-One of my pre-New Year's resolutions is to blog more and be more active on discord. So we'll see how that goes! Expect more posts soon. Wishing you all the best, 


(P.S. Check out Max Cantor's awesome kickstarter for Maximum Recursion Depth! It's got 8 days to go as of writing this post!)


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Interdimensional Voyages Character Generator

This is an HTML version of the character generator for the discord game I've been running. It could be seen as a version 2 of this generator. (Based on Spwack's Die Trying character generator. Olm and Trilobite names are from Veins of the Earth). Items have their ingredients in parentheses according to these crafting rules.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

October Update

Hey folks. For the last few months it has been a struggle to properly document and record my projects on this blog... so here's an attempt to do so!

-Over the course of the quarantine I ran a weird scifi westmarches game over Discord (with some absolutely wonderful folks) called Interdimensional Voyages, which was partially automated via a Discord Bot. We've finished what I'm calling "Season 1", and "Season 2" will ideally start back up when I have more time and energy. More posts on this to follow.

-Max Cantor of Weird and Wonderful Worlds recently interviewed me! We cover topics like emerging trends in RPGs, automation of games, and ADD and mental health! (On this topic, I am considering writing posts on how my ADD and mental health has affected my participation in the TTRPG scene.)

-I'm working on a new project whose size and scope are swiftly ballooning, for better or for worse. Here's the mind map of the current rendition:

It's a multiplayer cooperative game about founding a settlement in a dark fantasy/horror world (then going on adventures to keep it alive), with high (dwarf fortress-esque) levels of procedural generation, that will be fully automated through a discord bot.

That's about everything for now, more detailed posts on individual topics to follow.

Wishing you all the best,


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dice are Statblocks

Much like using playing cards as maps, and crafting using concepts this system is made in response to a problem. In this case the problem was: statblocks are annoying, and they represent a lot of work for little return. Both the time the DM spends fiddling with AC and Attack Bonuses, and the module real-estate spent on statblocks, could be put to better use.

This system is about grabbing a handful of d6s, rolling them, separating them into horizontal rows, and having each of those rows represent a monster. A row of d6s tells us everything we need to know to run a monster, we just have to find uses for all the pieces of information the d6s provide to us.

The key to making an efficient system means recognizing when a resource can serve multiple functions. In this case, the d6s are going to serve as both a measure of enemy health (hit dice come to mind) and as an "attack pattern".
In order to do this, each d6 is going to represent a part of that enemy (for example, a claw, head, or tail) with a health stat and an attack/damage stat. You can read a row of attack/damage stats as an "attack pattern".

(NOTE: This current methodology of reading dice applies best to Into the Odd, as it doesn't have to factor in chance-to-hit or attack rolls. This is what I'm using in my sci-fi Into the Odd-ish game.)

DAMAGE AND PART HEALTH: When a player deals damage to the monster, compare the damage to the Part Health. If the damage is equal to or higher than the Part Health of one or more Parts, that part has been destroyed: remove the die with the highest Part Health that is lower than the damage. If no parts were destroyed, subtract the damage from the die that has the highest Part Health, then turn the die so its Part Health matches the new result. This'll change the attack pattern, and that's good. Enemies tend to change their behavior when they get hurt.

(Optional Rule) Flinching: if a player ends up destroying the part that the enemy's about to use to attack before the enemy's turn, the enemy loses their turn. Adds a dark-souls-like poise feeling.

INITIATIVE: If you're rolling up multiple enemies, just use the top-down order of their stat rows as their initiative.

EXTRA NUMBER: Open real estate. Use this how you wish, or don't use it at all. When I tested my zombie game, I use this as the "headshot number": if a player rolls exactly this much damage against a zombie, it dies instantly. In a different test, this number instead represents enemy soldiers' primary weapons, consulting a d6 table. You could also create a rudimentary d6 monster AI table and use the "extra number" to determine which PC it attacks, etc.

DOUBLES: Special attacks, abilities, statuses, etc. This one is optional. I like to have a d6 table on hand so I can make enemies with doubles into something special. This kobold has two 1s in a row? It's a shaman! This zombie has two 4s in a row? It has a mutated bile-spit attack! This supersoldier has two 2s? It's a demolitions specialist! And so forth. This can be used as an easy way to distinguish an enemy from the pack.

Within a module, an entire statblock could feasibly be condensed down to this:
Zombie (X), where X is the amount of dice.

EXAMPLE: I roll up two zombies, each with 2 HD.
Zombie #            1           2
Part health        25         34
Attack Pattern  44         51
(looking at these two statblocks, I think up some 'personalities' for the two zombies. zombie 1 attacks consistently, but has differing part healths, so I'll say that it's a former soldier with some body armor covering certain areas. zombie 2 has very differing attacks, but consistent part health. I'll say that zombie 2 is missing a leg and loses its balance, so the "5" attack is when it throws its whole body weight at the player, and the "1" attack is when it has to recover its balance.)
-My players roll initiative and win: they go first.
-Player 1 swings their brick-on-a-stick at zombie 2, and rolls a d6. Result: 2. The slash only cuts apart the tissue in zombie 2's tumorous torso, dealing superficial damage, but reducing the strength of that part. I rotate the part die so that the "3" of part health becomes a "1". This has an effect on the oncoming attack: what was once a "5" has become a "3".
Zombie #            1           2
Part health        25         14
Attack Pattern  44         31
-Player 2 fires their shotgun at zombie 1, and rolls a d10. Result: 8. The force of the blast destroys the first part (the "2") and has enough damage left over to destroy the second part (the "5"). Zombie 1 is killed with a single blast.
-Zombie 2 then acts, and attacks player 2 with a slam from a now-weakened torso, dealing 3 damage.
-The round then ends, and the enemy attack patterns update. The die at the front of the enemy stat line gets shifted to the back. Zombie 2 now looks like this:
Zombie #              2
Part health          41
Attack Pattern    13
-My players roll initiative again. Player 1 wins initiative and goes before the enemies. Player 2 loses and goes after the enemies.
-Player 1 attacks with their brick-on-a-stick. Result: 4. They smack one of the zombie's arms so hard that it flies off.
Zombie #               2
Part health            1
Attack Pattern      3
-Zombie 2 now acts, and goes for one last attack, flopping towards Player 1 and dealing 3 damage.
-Player 2 now finishes off the zombie with the butt of their shotgun, rolling a d4. Result: 1. Zombie slain.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Crafting with Concepts

time to leave reality behind for a little bit

The Issue

Crafting systems are untenable in most games because recipes and ingredients are specific. In order to build a Thermal Engine, you need a Combustion Core and an Engine Block. This requires you to remember/record the specifics of the recipe and locks the players into seeking these very specific materials. This is usually fine if you're dealing with a single crafting recipe, like if it was a quest goal, but an entire crafting system built around this level of specificity would be difficult to manage.

The Solution

Instead of using specific materials, think of using concepts instead. What do I mean by concepts?
Thinking back to our Thermal Engine example, let's not have it specifically require a Combustion Core and an Engine Block. Thinking on the gameworld logic of the crafting recipe, let's say that it instead needs (something very hot) and (some kind of machinery).
So instead of:
[Thermal Engine = Combustion Core + Engine Block]
We get:
[Thermal Engine = HEAT + MACHINE]

Here we've broken the individual ingredients down into intrinsic, thematic concepts. This allows us to turn a piece of information that would have to be formulaically memorized/recorded into a piece of information that is simple enough to intuitively make sense. It also gives the players a lot more freedom to craft what they need using the things they find. Now players could use such wild and wacky things as a canister of lava, a fire elemental heart, or a tiny baby sun instead of a combustion core to fulfill the [HEAT] requirement.


This system makes the logic of salvaging much easier to handle as well. Instead of salvaging something down to specific parts, break things down into concepts. Concepts "stack" much better in the inventory (and the brain!) than specific materials, and so this avoids the tedium of recording and tracking large amounts of different crafting materials.
-A Thermal Engine would salvage into [HEAT + MACHINE].

Crafting a Crafting System

Craft a conceptual crafting system that fits your game or world. Boil your game world down into a collection of concepts that fit thematically. Now, any item your players could want to craft or salvage can be made up of one or more of those concepts.

-For example, a scifi game about building machinery and robots might boil down to:
and a recipe for a Heat Beam might be [ENERGY+COMBUSTION+WEAPON].

-A game about frankenstein-esque biomancy might boil down to:
and a recipe for a Mobile Cranial ObServitor might be [BRAIN+EYE+LEG].

-A game about building arcane spells might boil down to:
and a recipe for the ritual of Beckoning Blessed Celestial Intelligences might be [STAR+BRAIN+HOLY].

This will likely be part 1 of a series expanding on this base system.