Re: >H games (Was: 2001 Prometheus Award)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 13:39:05 MDT

On Mon, Apr 16, 2001 at 02:52:06PM -0400, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> Anders Sandberg wrote:
> >
> > On Mon, Apr 16, 2001 at 10:56:53AM -0400, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> > > Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > > >
> > > > BTW; GURPS Transhuman Space is apparently close to completion.
> > >
> > > I didn't know there was such a thing. I thought about trying to write
> > > GURPS Singularity when I was 16, but decided that it might not be the best
> > > of all possible uses for my time; a pity, since there are so *many*
> > > obvious campaign ideas...
> >
> > You mean "Stop the bad SI from transcending and taking over the world",
> > "Help the good SI transcend and take over the world", "Be the SI and
> > take over the world" and "Fix the ridgeways clenchirions in the
> > armiphlange"? :-)
> Any campaign that centers altered or improved cognition is a Singularity
> campaign, not just campaigns where the main action takes place in the High
> Transcend or SIAI's basement. There's the entire realm of neurohacked
> humans to consider, for example. And uploads. And brain-computer
> interfaces. And infrahuman and human-equiv and only slightly transhuman
> AIs.

In my current campaign, the player have one group of characters that are
the executive board of a major corporation. With the exception of some
slight genetic tweaking in one case, they are standard homo sapiens. But
they all use wearables running agent software giving them instant access
to their staff and vast computing resources. In a sense, they already
are SIs, it is just that their intelligence is the result of a huge
pyramid of consultants, clipping services, simulation and visualisation
software, information managers, search engines and contact networks
acting together rather than their own brains being extremely enhanced.
They probably have an effective intelligence far larger than the actual
transhumans in the setting, at least for now.

> And all the gruesome GMing possibilities that open up when, no
> matter what the players do, you can pretend that the evil transhuman
> opponent thought of it three months in advance and had a horrible trap
> ready; where losing a battle or being captured by the enemy or finding the
> McGuffin can alter the character's mind and personality (and "IQ"
> attribute); where the players, even with their magic technology, can't
> outfight *or* outsmart the enemy and are forced to try and work within
> whatever complex manipulative strategy the enemy is running them through;
> where pieces of the character's thoughts and personality can wind up
> embedded in random Internet sites, or the opponent; where the "players"
> only slowly learn that they are pawns in a still more complex game, and
> they're never quite sure which of the real Players are the good guys, and
> they'll *never* be able to extricate themselves...
> When the enemy is a transhuman, you can do *anything* to the players.

Which is of course why such games seldom work. Having an enemy that is
simply unbeatable doesn't work in the paradigm of "heros vs. enemies"
since the fight is so uneven that it doesn't even matter. It might work
better if the supremacy of the opponent is actually part of the setting
and the game deals with an entirely different issue; for example, in
Vampire: the Masquerade elder vampires can do practically everything you
describe, but the real game still works because characters struggle with
their own unlives and local politics rather than deal with the (in this
case very literally) posthuman antediluvians.

> Roleplaying a game where the players are also transhuman
> would obviously be a lot more difficult, but it could be done, perhaps by
> allowing the players to get away with far more devious and twisted
> strategies than would ever work in real life, or by modifying the
> campaign, invisibly and on the fly, so that whatever "transhuman
> deductions" the players come up with turn out to be the truth.

In the above campaign, I of course give the players a lot of helpful
information as well as point out when an idea is subtly bad (you have
probably seen the advice for evil masterminds: "always keep a five year
old girl at hand to explain your plan to. If she sees a flaw, don't
implement it"; a software or employee version of this can be quite
useful and I simply assume the characters have one). It is very fun to
have players brainstorm, building plans on the fly and let autonomous
systems implement them. Now we need only to make software and
organisations that make this game *real*.

> And then there's simply Ravna and Pham trying to outrun the Blight, or
> Roger and Deborah diverting the DoD's tanks while fighting it out with the
> Mailman.

In my case it is Phoenix Space Development Corporation trying to outrun
the deranged SI called the US Gov...

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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