Eliezer's latest story, past 1M words

So if you read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and thought...

"You know, HPMOR is pretty good so far as it goes; but Harry is much too cautious and doesn't have nearly enough manic momentum, his rationality lectures aren't long enough, and all of his personal relationships are way way way too healthy."

...then have I got the story for you! Planecrash aka Project Lawful aka Mad Investor Chaos and the Woman of Asmodeus, is a story in roleplay-format that I as "Iarwain" am cowriting with Lintamande, now past 1,000,000 words.

It's the story of Keltham, from the world of dath ilan; a place of high scientific achievement but rather innocent in some ways.  For mysterious reasons they've screened off their own past, and very few now know what their prescientific history was like.

Keltham dies in a plane crash and ends up in the country of Cheliax, whose god is "Asmodeus", whose alignment is "Lawful Evil" and whose people usually go to the afterlife of "Hell".

And so, like most dath ilani would, in that position, Keltham sets out to bring the industrial and scientific revolutions to his new planet!  Starting with Cheliax!

(Keltham's new friends may not have been entirely frank with him about exactly what Asmodeus wants, what Evil really is, or what sort of place Hell is.)

This is not a story for kids, even less so than HPMOR. There is romance, there is sex, there are deliberately bad kink practices whose explicit purpose is to get people to actually hurt somebody else so that they'll end up damned to Hell, and also there's math.

The starting point is Book 1, Mad Investor Chaos and the Woman of Asmodeus. I suggest logging into with Google, or creating an email login, in order to track where you are inside the story.

Please avoid story spoilers in the comments, especially ones without spoiler protection; this is not meant as an "ask Eliezer things about MICWOA" thread.

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Is the forum format important, with the separation between posts and the profile pic and info on the side of each post? Cause if not I would love to have an epub version of this so I can read it on my kindle, might even find a way to create it myself if it doesn't exist yet.

I liked how the epub strips out unnecessary UI from the glowfic site, but downloading and moving epubs around is a pain...

So I built a web reader on top of this code! Check it out here:

It'll work for any Glowfic post actually, eg Would probably be simple to add a download button to get the epub file; source code here.

Oh, huh!  I can see that format potentially being preferred by a number of people.

9Austin Chen2y
I hope so! I myself bounced off of Mad Investor Chaos twice before because the formatting was too hard for me to read... but after implementing this reader, spent 2 hours last night reading through it. Thanks so much for writing this Glowfic!
This is pretty great. One remaining issue is that it seems harder to hold onto your place if you stop in the middle of a section and then reload the page.
5Austin Chen2y
Thanks! I tried splitting into smaller sections (half the size) so that we don't have this issue as much; not sure what other solutions look like.
Ah thanks, that was helpful.
2Yoav Ravid2y
Nice! I'd love a download option, but for now I'll use your reader to read it. I saw there's an option to make the text window wider, which is nice. Is there a way to make the text background dark?
8Austin Chen2y
Your wish is my command - dark mode added!
8Yoav Ravid2y
Awesome! Thanks! One more thing, currently the box doesn't fully fit on my screen vertically when it's open (I'm using a laptop that doesn't have a high resolution). Is there a way to make the open box fit on the screen?
1Austin Chen2y
Hrm, I think I could code in a way to specify the height of the box... lemme look into it. Thanks for all your suggestions, btw!
I have a kinda-opposite problem. There's a "wide mode" but not a "tall mode", and for reasons beyond my understanding the box with the actual content in it is about half the height of my browser window. I can understand why you wouldn't make it full-width by default -- very wide text can be hard to read -- but I can't think of any reason for preferring less than (full height minus reasonable margins). Personally, for width I would prefer something intermediate between normal and "wide" (given the actual dimensions of my browser window, which occupies half of quite a large monitor) and for height I would prefer All The Pixels. Would it be difficult to have a "manual control" mode where you can set width, height and font size arbitrarily?
1Austin Chen2y
Done! Thanks for the feedback. Hoping 2000px is plenty but it's easy to increase lol. (Having too many options is sometimes a symptom of bad UX design, but it seems reasonable for a web reader to support these all of these.)
Nice! I see it's some way behind the current state of the story. Is that because there's some background thing that fetches only every so often, or because there's a cacheing layer that might be stale, or what? [EDITED to add:] I guess it's reading from the epub on Dropbox?
1Austin Chen2y
Yeah probably a stale caching layer, what fic were you reading? Glowflow doesn't read from an epub, it's reading html from the site itself. Lemme try rebooting to see if that refreshes. That's obviously not sustainable... I didn't expect people to actually use it for a live, updating fic lol. Edit: added a "Clear cache" button, hope that solves it!
Currently some way behind again; clicking "clear cache" does do something that looks like reloading but doesn't make it not be some way behind. [EDITED a couple of days later to add:] No change to what the reader is showing since then even though there have been updates on The "clear cache" button doesn't appear to help. Forcibly reloading the page also doesn't appear to help.
I was, unsurprisingly given context :-), trying to read the latest Planecrash: Right now, what happens when I go there is that I get "Oh no. Error running app. If this keeps happening, please contact support." (In both Firefox and Chrome, on Linux. It was OK earlier today. I have Firefox configured to disable most Javascript but have whitelisted the domains I think the app actually needs, and again it was working OK earlier today, and Chrome doesn't have any of the JS-blocking stuff.) The only possibly-useful-looking thing in the Javascript console says "INITIAL -> (10, 0, undefined) -> ERROR".
3Austin Chen2y
Sorry about that - had some configuration issues. It should work now!
Yup, all working (and apparently up to date) now. Thanks!
2Yoav Ravid2y
This is how it looks now when I increase the width. The outer box doesn't widen together with the text and background, and the text doesn't stay centered. Also, dark mode seems to have stopped working.
1Austin Chen2y
  Hm, do you have "dark mode" toggled on the sidebar? (There's two settings unfortunately due to how Streamlit is set up):   Yeah unfortunately this is mostly working-as-implemented. The box size isn't a thing I can change; "Wide Mode" lets it the box be big, otherwise it's small. Text centering might be possible if you're in "Wide Mode" -- I'll look into that.
1Austin Chen2y
Text centering should now be live!
Late to the party but: I'd love an option to adjust line spacing!

Somewhat. The profile pic changes based on the character's emotions, or their reaction to a situation. Sometimes there's a reply where the text is blank and the only content is the character's reaction as conveyed by the profile pic.

That said, it's a minor enough element that you wouldn't lose too much if it wasn't there.

On the other hand, it is important for you to know which character each reply is associated with, as trying to figure out who's talking from the text alone could get confusing in many scenes. So any format change should at least preserve the names.

6Stephen Bennett2y
Would a play format work? e.g. "Iarwain (languidly): I don't know that I am much interested in your family life, Lintamande" Someone would have to translate the various profile pictures into emotions, but I would expect there to only be a handful of them per character.

Planecrash has 307 images at the time I made this comment, for context.

2Yoav Ravid2y
So perhaps the character names could be kept, maybe the pictures too (though I don't know if there's a good way to include so many pictures in an epub format, it's not exactly built for having small images beside the text, as far as I know), but not the authors names. Cause though it's nice knowing who wrote what, it's also confusing because everyone uses special usernames and I don't yet know which name is the author's name and which is the character's.
The author's (user)name is always the final line of the inset box. If there are three lines in that box (e.g. "Carissa Sevar // to-let-you-in // lintamande"), then lintamande is the author, Carissa Sevar is the character, and "to-let-you-in" can be ignored (it's some sort of thematic tag for the character). Authors other than the main two don't appear for an extremely long time so I'd worry about that after getting that far :)
"Iarwain" is Eliezer, "Lintamande" is his co-author, and IIRC that's basically it for most of the story.

If you don't want to bother using the glowfic downloader yourself, here's the epub so far. My intention is to update it every day, but no guarantees.

I'm also thinking about writing such a script. Beautiful Soup is the perfect lib for the job.
One way to preserve the pictures and the general format while making the story more easily readable is simply converting the books into PDF. At least you could read them on a tablet, which is easier and less distracting than PCs. Tablets' screens are also much better for reading than PC monitors, even if they aren't as good as Kindles. It would be a good compromise, I think.
2Yoav Ravid2y
Oh, really? What's the difference between them? I did notice that I like reading on my tablet better (I use it as my kindle) but I thought that it's because I'm using a black background.
Small screens emit less light and consequently less of the blue light that tends to disrupt a proper sleep cycle than large screens do. Yes, the smaller size of the tablet is cancelled out by the fact that people tend to hold it closer to the eye with the result that just as much of the light coming directly from the screen enters the eye, but in the case of the larger screen viewed further away, there is much more indirect light (e.g., light that has bounced off the walls of the room) entering the eye. (As the amount of light entering the eye increases, the pupils constrict in compensation, but at the intensities used for reading at night, the compensation is only partial if my experience and careful observation of myself is any indication.) Also, many on this site are nearsightedness (because nearsightedness is correlated with intelligence). Nearsightedness would be my guess as to the cause of his/her belief that "Tablets’ screens are also much better for reading than PC monitors".

I don't get much out of the glowfic format, but I'd be interested in posts that basically excerpt out the parts that are like "here's how Dath Ilan works and why it's good", or that impart particularly neat rationality/coordination lessons. Some people have already been doing that, but I wanted to flag my own appreciation.

It does not seems like there will be straight answers to that:

There's actually quite a bit about dath ilan exposed in planecrash-- they've screened off their history from their citizens, not from readers. Also many of the ways dath ilan is good doesn't depend on its history, and many of the rationality lessons in planecrash aren't directly about dath ilan.

There are a few principles I'd be interested in people extracting, but two things I'd be particularly excited about (minor spoilers):

  • "Lawfulness" and its facets: Bayes, expected utility, the ability to coordinate and trade, etc.
  • How Keltham analyzes everything to try to understand it as an equilibrium between rational actors, whether this works in real life, and how to do it (partially covered in Inadequate Equilibria)

Does anyone know if there's work to make a podcast version of this? I'd definitely be more willing to listen even if it is just at Nonlinear library quality rather than voice acted.

I created one!
Yes please
3Henry Prowbell2y
I strongly agree

How much of the story and world-building was developed in advance, and how much arose through the process of telling it? Do the co-authors currently plan things out together off-forum, or is what we read both the story and the process of creating it?

As I understand it, the setting of Golarion and Cheliax is Lintamande's take on the world from the Pathfinder RPG system. She'd already written lots of glowfic stories in that setting by the time Planecrash came to be. Meanwhile, Eliezer had already written about dath ilan in some other places (like the original April Fool's post, and later on in some shorter glowfic threads). So there was definitely lots of pre-existing worldbuilding.

But whenever the story demands it, the world is further fleshed out. Eliezer even occasionally posts Twitter questions on things like "what's the best way to do X" as inspiration for dath ilan's Civilization.

I wonder this too. My impression is that it's some of both.

Here is an alternative for generating the epubs, adapted from a version I wrote a few weeks ago. The format is similar to Glowfic, but with images/characters to the right. This way (imo) the text flows better, and the image hints at who is talking in the corner of the eye without having to read their name.

I would be up for setting up the planecrash posts to be added and auto-updated in the repo above for easy downloading if the authors want that.

A note for anyone else writing scripts: Glowfic has an API, you can check the linked code or their repo for specifics.


Thanks for the new story! It's great.

I suspect it's at least somewhat idiosyncratic, but I found myself, so late at night on the first day I started it that it was also very early morning, wishing that whomever had first pointed me at this had included a 'content warning' like what people (reasonably) often provide when linking to, e.g. TV Tropes. I found the story extremely engaging.

Thank you very much! 

As I understand, a part of the enjoyment from reading this kind of creative work is to observe the interactions between the co-authors. Thus, the forum format. 

Nevertheless, I predict that many readers (myself included) would prefer a plain-text book, devoid of the usernames, forum formatting etc. 

If there is a plain-text rendering, please kindly provide a link. If there is no such rendering yet, I think I may be able to automatically generate it.

I would prefer plain text, or at least dramatically more compact.  I find glowfic, including this one, to be borderline unreadable because of the format.

It's not just the format for me. Glowfic is really diluted and lack direction (as expected in a collaboration/improvisation). Consequently it tends to say in 10^6 words what could have been said in half as many. I tend to think that when your novel is twice the length of the Lord of the Rings and counting it is probably a bit too long.
When something is a million words long, you should probably be thinking of it like a series rather than a single novel. But it's not crazy for a series to be that long; for comparison, that's about the length of Harry Potter (the original 7-book series, not HPMOR).  A Song of Ice and Fire is up to around 1.8 million (and counting).

I don't think this would fit into the 2022 review. Project Lawful has been quite influential, but I find it hard to imagine a way its impact could be included in a best-of.

Including this post in particular strikes me as misguided, as it contains none of the interesting ideas and lessons from Project Lawful, and thus doesn't make any intellectual progress.

One could try to do the distillation of finding particularly interesting or enlightening passages from the text, but that would be

  1. A huge amount of work[1], but maybe David Udell's sequence could be used for that.
  2. Quite difficult for the more subtle lessons, which are interwoven in the text.

I have nothing against Project Lawful in particular[2], but I think that including this post would be misguided, and including passages from Project Lawful would be quite difficult.

For that reason, I'm giving this a -1.

  1. Consider: after more than two years the Hanson compilation bounty still hasn't been fulfilled, at $10k reward! ↩︎

  2. I've read parts of it (maybe 15%?), but haven't been hooked, and everytime I read a longer part I get the urge to go and read textbooks instead. ↩︎

I feel like Project Lawful, as well as many of Lintamande's other glowfic since then, have given me a whole lot deeper an understanding of... a collection of virtues including honor, honesty, trustworthiness, etc, which I now mostly think of collectively as "Law".

I think this has been pretty valuable for me on an intellectual level—I think, if you show me some sort of deontological rule, I'm going to give a better account of why/whether it's a good idea to follow it than I would have before I read any glowfic.

It's difficult for me to separate how much of that is due to Project Lawful in particular, because ultimately I've just read a large body of work which all had some amount of training data showing a particular sort of thought pattern which I've since learned. But I think this particular fragment of the rationalist community has given me some valuable new ideas, and it'd be great to figure out a good way of acknowledging that.

Darn, there goes my ability to use Iarwain as a really unusual pseudonym. I've used it off and on for almost 20 years, ever since my brother made me a new email address right after having read the LOTR appendixes.

...sincere apologies.

2Aryeh Englander2y
Heh, no problem. At least I changed my LessWrong username from Iarwain to my real name a while back.

Reading Project Lawful (so far, which is the majority of Book 1) has given me a strong mental pointer to the question of "how to model a civilization that you find yourself in" and "what questions to ask when trying to improve it and fix it", from a baseline of not really having a pointer to this at all (I have only lived in one civilization and I've not been dropped into a new one before). I would do many things differently to Keltham (I suspect I'd build prediction markets before trying to scale up building roads) but it's nonetheless extremely valuable to read someone's attempt at this.

The thing I dislike most about it is that every interaction is suffused with highly adversarial deceptive analysis. I find this pretty hard to do in real life and kind of distasteful and is not a skill I aspire to have. I understand Keltham finds himself in a highly adversarial environment, but I still don't like it.

I really wish it had chapters or similar units of chunking. I bounced off like 4 times before being able to read this book, having to learn the practice of "this is about enough reading for now / this is probably a good place to stop" which most books help me with themselves.

Overall +9 as an assessment of the quality of the contribution, though I agree that I'm not quite sure how this would fit in the review. Perhaps we could just include a select few pages of it for flavor then link to the website.

Love accidentally glancing at the content warnings at the top of the post and getting massive spoilers. Like these are seriously the most spoilery content warnings I've ever seen in my life. "Hey so here's some really specific info about some shocking stuff that happens later, which the beginning of the story doesn't hint at in the slightest." I'm not against the warnings existing, but could they at least be under some button or other barrier that says they're enormous spoilers?

1Space L Clottey8mo
Agreed, the spoiler level was insane

May I ask what the copyright status of this work is? This could be relevant if someone wants to publish a spinoff or something set in the same universe. (to be clear, I have no plans to do that, but it seems worth asking)

The relevant license is (probably) this one: * Paizo Inc. Community Use Policy – PathfinderWiki:Community Use Policy - PathfinderWiki
I'm pretty sure Pathfinder (really Paizo), the creators of the world in which the story is set, has some kind of 'open license' for some of their content and I don't expect they're likely to object to this, given that it's basically 'fan-fiction'. But I also don't think the copyright status is clear enough that anyone would want to "publish" derivative works – beyond something similar to this work itself.

I don't think that putting in the guide was a very good idea. It's the unfamiliarity that makes people click away, not any lack of straightforwardness. All that's required is a line that says "just read downward and it will make sense" or something like that and people will figure it out on their own nearly 100% of the time.

Generally, this stuff needs to be formatted so that people don't click away. It's lame to be so similar to news articles but that doesn't change the fact that it's instrumentally convergent to prevent people from clicking away. 

3Yoav Ravid1y
Contra: what pushed me away before isn't that it wasn't familiar but that I didn't get the format even after trying several times. That guide seems fantastic, though unfortunately I don't currently have the time to read the story.

Just out of curiosuity, is “Lintamande” a member of the rationalist community in real life, is her (his? their?) identity known at all

It's one of those "many people know who it is but it definitely is not to be written down" deals.

In his dialogue Deconfusing Some Core X-risk Problems, Max H writes:

Yeah, coordination failures rule everything around me. =/

I don't have good ideas here, but something that results in increasing the average Lawfulness among humans seems like a good start. Maybe step 0 of this is writing some kind of Law textbook or Sequences 2.0 or CFAR 2.0 curriculum, so people can pick up the concepts explicitly from more than just, like, reading glowfic and absorbing it by osmosis. (In planecrash terms, Coordination is a fragment of Law that follows from Validity, Util

... (read more)
Thanks for the sort-of-response. My main point was that it's tricky to include Project Lawful in the review, since the past three times those were fairly short (and small!) books. Long things are fine, but I was critical about the value of including all of Project Lawful in the review.
(that's a quote from Max H, not from me)
whoops, corrected from habryka to Max H. That section was a bit unusual, this is not a normal mistake that I'm predisposed to making (this is an example of a mistake that I'm very predisposed to making).

Was Pathfinder only used for worldbuilding, or did you actually roll dice as part of generating the story?

9Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
We rolled dice on a few special occasions, but mostly it was worldbuilding.
Semi related question: If I want to read up on whatever the usual pathfinder setting is like before getting rationalfic’d, is there a particularly efficient and/or fun way to do that?
5Said Achmiz2y
Doing so may seriously spoil your enjoyment of this story, as you see major things that Eliezer & co. fudged to make the story work.
Huh, can you say more? Is this different from seeing the ways HPMOR differed from Potter Canon?

I am not a connoisseur of Harry Potter, as I am of D&D/Pathfinder (22 years playing, 19 years DMing / designing / participating in the community), so I cannot be sure of the comparison’s validity, but—yes, I think it is different.

Project Lawful falls into that category of fiction (overwhelmingly, but not quite exclusively, represented by fan fiction) which can be roughly described as “person find himself in world which is governed by rules of tabletop roleplaying game, must now exploit those rules to survive/win”.

Such works vary, of course, but what is common to all of them is that in order to be… interesting, “valid”, “fair”… they have to, to the maximum extent possible, take as given the actual rules of the game in question, as they are experienced by actual characters when the game is actually played; and likewise, to the maximum extent possible, the fictional setting should be taken as it is exists in the actual game as played.

Why is this? Because the unique appeal of this genre, and the primary value of an instance of it, is similar to (but—IMO—much better than!) the value of a “whodunit” detective story: it presents a challenge for the main character(s), which also double... (read more)

7Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
Pathfinder rules-as-written seem merely unstable, in terms of how much they're munchkinable?  "Tears to Wine" in the hands of a 15th-level caster can provide a +10 competence bonus to Intelligence-based skill checks that lasts 3 hours?  Any wizard of any level with any magic item creation feat can transform 500gp of raw materials into 1000gp of magic item every 8 hours? I don't think we've particularly been giving ourselves non-RAW useful-to-characters capabilities, with the exception of Prestidigitation chemistry as is a story conceit.  We've mostly been nerfing things because otherwise the world couldn't be in its depicted equilibrium. I think I'd be interested in hearing about what you think is a violation of what we think is our principle.
8Said Achmiz2y
Hmm, I am not quite sure that I know what you’re asking. I don’t know what you think your principle is, so I couldn’t say what violates that. I will note what problems I perceive; whether they violate your principle is, of course, something you’re more qualified to determine than I am. ---------------------------------------- First, a slight digression on the subject of tears to wine. (You may skip this section if you are in a hurry, though I do think the point I make here is relevant to discussions of how “munchkinable” Pathfinder is.) It is a well-known feature of 3e-like systems (D&D 3rd edition, D&D 3.5, Pathfinder) that they get more complex with time, as their creators release more and more “splatbooks” and other rules content. There is no real “availability scoping” in the rules, so when Paizo publishes a new book of rules content, such as the Arcane Anthology, there is no hard distinguishing factor between, say, a spell that appeared in the Core Rulebook and one that appears in the newly-published book. In this way, the amount of stuff in the game system increases monotonically with time, and likewise does the number of possible interactions between system components. This makes “munchkining” a “mature” 3e-like system easier than doing so with a younger such system—there’s simply many more things to potentially exploit (and “power creep” is a thing as well; for reasons of market incentives, later-published content tends to be more exploitable than earlier-published content). This is a problem for users of the system, but it is not as much of a problem as it could be, because the solution to this, as to many other things, is the Game Master. It is commonly understood that a GM is well within his prerogative not to simply allow the use of all published theoretically-canonical game content, but to limit what is available, to one degree or another. (Indeed, you will hear this recommendation perhaps most clearly precisely from those communities of D&D/PF play

Yup!  I originally didn't understand how Message works very well.  Having misunderstood it, I played it consistently from there.

If you think this is Terrible then you're holding the story to a standard it's not particularly intended to meet.

4Said Achmiz2y
I admit, I’m curious to hear what standard the story is intended to meet / “what you think is your principle”.
6Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
It's meant to be reasonably hard fantasy, not necessarily conformant to Pathfinder canon because that doesn't describe a world in near-equilibrium relative to the smart people running around with +6 headbands of vast intelligence (that do exist in-universe), but once the characters see something it ought to go on being true.  Above all it's hard decision theory.
2Said Achmiz2y
Well… but in that case there’s still a problem: as I noted elsethread, the first use of message in the story (when Keltham first learns to cast it) does actually seem to be correct as per Pathfinder RAW. Uses later in the story are inconsistent with that one. I certainly wouldn’t think to hold Project Lawful to a standard of conformance to Golarion setting canon; that would be somewhat silly, from a literary standpoint. But as far as mechanics go, if you’re trying to do “hard fantasy”, then, yeah, it does seem like there are flaws. The message thing is one; another is protection from [chaos/evil/good/law]. (Does the spell’s protection against mental control work only against mental attacks made by opponents of the targeted alignment, or all opponents? In Pathfinder it’s the former, and that is how it’s described in the currently most recent section of story, but earlier it is described in the latter way. I suspect this might be a case of one of the authors getting the 3.5 and PF versions of the spell mixed up, as its anti-mental-attack functionality was changed in PF to function in the alignment-limited way.) There’s more, but I haven’t been keeping meticulous track; those two inconsistencies are just the ones that jumped out at me. More broadly, while I am not quite sure what you mean by “hard fantasy” (I can make the obvious inference from context and by analogy to “hard sf”, of course, but mapping that concept to fantasy, with magic and so on, seems non-trivial, though not impossible), I do think that aside from any questions of internal inconsistency, changes like “buffing” message in the way that you did are problematic. As I say upthread, this is a noticeable boost to the power of (at least) low-level spellcasters, relative to the PF RAW baseline. A world such as described in the story, and where anyone who can cast a cantrip effectively has at-will, robust, undetectable-by-bystanders telepathic communication with nearby targets of their choice, should look
1Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
So the main thing I missed about Message was the chance of it being overheard.  Most of what you are reading as 'pseudo-telepathic' communication is usually a character having their mind read by Security running Detect Thoughts, and then those thoughts being relayed to others via Security using Message, rather than by characters Messaging each other. I remember checking Protection pretty carefully at the time and I think at the time it blocked against all the mental control, not just mental control originating from the targeted alignment.  Possibly a rules change to PF2?  But if not, Keltham is still running Enchantment Foil at the time. There's multiple big deviations from RAW; the main one I can think of that I homebrewed for this is 'oracles go with gods and a god can have at most one oracle'.  If that's not what you're referring to then I don't know what you're so coyly hinting about, and that kind of coy hinting is not something I find particularly pleasant.
1Said Achmiz2y
Yes, there is definitely some of that, but also cases where that can’t plausibly be happening. (Also, in cases where it is happening, there ought to be a noticeable communications lag, e.g.: think message -> Security reads via detect thoughts -> Security transmits to recipient via message. In some cases there are intervening walls, etc.—i.e. the characters are in different rooms—so there would then be the additional step “Security transmits to another Security via message”, which second Security then transmits to recipient.) Indeed not. All functions of protection from [alignment] are alignment-limited in PF1, and always have been. (You can verify this, if you’re so inclined, by checking early printings [in PDF] of the Core Rulebook; if you don’t have access to such, feel free to PM me, and we can rectify that. But probably this is not important enough to go to any such lengths.) My best guess remains that you accidentally happened to look at the 3.5 version of the spell text. True enough. (Of course, enchantment foil is only a +4 bonus to the save, not immunity… but there’s certainly no reason not to assume that that +4 bonus did happen to make the difference between success and failure, on that particular save.) Ah, I don’t think I’d consider that a deviation from RAW, as such. It’s true that this is not at all Golarion canon, but I don’t think there’s actually any rules that forbid this from being the case in a setting, or even in Golarion as such. (I don’t think it’s a particularly consequential change from setting canon, either.) Apologies; it wasn’t my intent to “coyly hint”, only to avoid cluttering up the comment thread with what might not be of interest to you. What I was referring to was the idea that gods can, e.g, bestow seven cleric levels on someone, or four oracle levels on someone else, etc., i.e. that a god (in Golarion) can decide to just give a mortal a bunch of character levels. This is definitely not how things work in Pathfinder, where one
2Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
Well, that one is standard in lintaGolarian, not an innovation of ezerGolarion, and happens in an earlier continuity as well.  We've reinterpreted a lot of mechanics like that for reasons of "They are not actually living in an RPG and experience points are not actually a thing."  Spell durations go up continuously rather than in discrete jumps per level, similarly.
2Said Achmiz2y
Hmm… I am not quite sure how to take the “lintaGolarion” / “ezerGolarion” stuff (it doesn’t seem relevant? but possibly I am just not familiar enough with this terminology to get the implication)… but I think that perhaps I’ve not gotten my meaning across. Let me try again: That the characters in Project Lawful are not actually living in an RPG and are not actually governed by literal game mechanics is clear enough. The same is almost to the same extent true of characters in an actual Pathfinder game, though! As mechanics in 3e-like systems, including Pathfinder, tend overwhelmingly to be associated, those mechanics do represent things that are ostensibly true from an in-world perspective. With that in mind, here’s a concrete example. The blasphemy spell, which affects nonevil creatures, has an effect that is determined by the difference between the caster’s caster level and the hit dice of potentially affected creatures. If cast by, say, a 16th-level cleric, blasphemy will kill nonevil creatures of up to 6 hit dice (assuming they fail their Will save), but will only paralyze creatures of 7–11 hit dice (ditto). We can accept that experience points are not actually a thing in-world, likewise “levels”, etc., but it remains the case that if an evil “eighth-circle” cleric walks up to Ione and casts blasphemy, and she fails her save, there does need to be an answer to the question: what actually happens to her? Does she die, or is she only paralyzed? Of course you can evade this question by altering blasphemy to not be HD-dependent, or removing it entirely (but I think it’s been mentioned in the text already? but perhaps you could retcon that, if so); but then are you going to remove all HD-dependent or level-dependent effects that have discrete “breakpoints”? There are quite a few of those! Deciding to remove from Pathfinder all mechanics that force you to make determinations of what level a character is, or how many hit dice they have, etc., seems to me to commit y
It seems to me that Planecrasn is very much not aiming for the thing you say is central to the genre (and criticize it for not doing right): Yes, readers of Planecrash know (or can know, if they take the trouble to find out) the standard Pathfinder game rules. But the characters in Planecrash, most notably Keltham, do not. Keltham thinks he might be insider a fiction but it hasn't crossed his mind (nor does there seem to be any particular reason why it should, or for us to expect that it will) that he is inside a roleplaying game with known rules. There absolutely is a class of fiction whose key feature is "person familiar with game X suddenly transported into an instance of game X", and such fiction can function the way you describe, but Planecrash is not one of those and I don't think it's fair to judge it by how well it succeeds in being one of those. (I haven't read a lot of glowfic, but my impression is that (1) there is a substantial body of other glowfic that also takes place in a modified Pathfinder world, and (2) none of that involves protagonists familiar with the game. So, to whatever extent there are close precedents for what Planecrash does in that respect, they don't give reason to expect it to work that way.)
3Said Achmiz2y
I think you have substantially misread my point. It is not necessary, for anything I said, that Keltham should “know” that “he is inside a roleplaying game”. (I don’t think it’s even true, in-story, that “he is in a roleplaying game”, so there isn’t anything for him to “know”, in that case.) I did not say anything about ‘a class of fiction whose key feature is “person familiar with game X suddenly transported into an instance of game X”’. What I said was: I will also note, even aside from your mischaracterization of my point, that your protestations are substantially subverted by the fact that the characters in Project Lawful are constantly talking about people’s ability score values, their Sense Motive and Bluff and so on, etc. Yes, there are in-story explanations (for some of these things, less so for others), but that’s the point: this is a world with knowable rules, and people know them. Including Keltham, increasingly.
It certainly seems as if I have misunderstood what you wrote, whether or not I misread it. I also think that your interpretation of what I wrote isn't quite what I meant, but at least some of that is because I was sloppy in my wording, so let me first of all try to fix that. When I said "inside a roleplaying game" I didn't mean literally inside an actual-game-being-played, I meant inside a system whose rules are those of a roleplaying game. (E.g., "inside the world of Pathfinder", as opposed to "inside an actual game of Pathfinder that someone is playing".) I think you took me to mean the latter rather than the former; I should have worded things so as to rule out that interpretation; sorry about that. Another thing to get out of the way at the start: I don't understand your last paragraph; so far as I can see, nothing I wrote is invalidated at all by the fact that within the fiction there are things like numerical "intelligence" scores and "Will saves" and so forth. We know that those things correspond to game mechanics, but it doesn't look to me as if the way they're written requires (e.g.) that any of the characters see them as game-mechanic-like. OK, on to what I guess is the main thing: my apparent misunderstanding of what you wrote. I've reread your original comment and, while your vigorous repudiation of what I took to be your meaning sure seems to indicate that I misunderstood it, I'm still failing to see how I misread; the only interpretations I can come up with that are consistent with what you're now saying seem to me to make less sense than my original interpretation, rather than more. (Which, to be clear, I appreciate likely indicates mostly that I am still misunderstanding! But maybe what follows will clarify the nature of my misunderstanding in a way that lets you fix it.) Consider the following three claims one could make· One: "In this sort of work, the point is for protagonist and readers to know, from the outset, what the rules are, and to tr
3Said Achmiz2y
I certainly was not endorsing One. Two, if that is entirely the approach that the author takes, puts the work into some other genre, so this is also not what I was talking about. Three cannot quite be taken literally, as there are always facts about the setting that are not constrained by any game rules but are a “free choice” on the part of the author/GM, but that nonetheless constitute “rules” in the sense that they are stable facts about the world that the protagonist inhabits (and which he, at the very least, benefits from knowing). (Such things exist in almost all genres of fiction, of course.) Still, Three is the closest to my intended meaning. I do not agree with your analysis. For one thing, what’s necessary is not that the readers already know the rules, it’s that (a) the readers know that the rules exist prior to the author writing (any particular part of) the story, so the author is working within a set of constraints that he isn’t just making up as he goes along according to his authorial whims (and also that the rules aren’t going to change mid-story, except by events in the story), and (b) the readers can, if they like, go look up the rules—if they want to figure out a solution to a problem the character is facing, or if they want to check whether a described solution works, etc. (This is perhaps the distinguishing feature of this genre, in fact. In most works of speculative fiction, except perhaps for the hardest of “hard sf”, you really have no idea what the rules are, what they permit, what they forbid, etc. The author could spring something on you from nowhere at any time. He can declare that it works, and provide some contorted reasoning why it totally accords with previously-described things; and this is the case regardless of how impossible it would’ve been for you, as the reader, to either predict the new thing in advance, or to gainsay the author on the question of whether it all “really works”. That means that stories where the reader is
It seems to me that you have picked a particular set of goals and constraints, called them "this genre", and declared your dissatisfaction with the fact that Planecrash is not seeking those goals under those constraints. I agree that Planecrash does not appear to be seeking the goals you specify under the constraints you specify. I don't see any particular reason to think either that its authors intend it to be doing those things, or that in some moral sense they ought to be doing those things. As for whether the work would be better if they were doing those things, I don't know, but it does seem like there's a substantial community of readers who are enjoying it without them. (My feeling is that they are to some extent aiming  to be able to set challenges to the protagonist with corresponding challenges to the reader -- indeed there is concrete evidence that they are doing that at some particular points in the story -- but for that there is no need for the readers to know more about the rules than the protagonist does, and indeed I think it's better if their knowledge is pretty much the same as his.) I do agree that there is a lot to be said for having rules that don't get made up ad hoc as the story progresses (even when the story isn't mostly about setting well-posed puzzles for the readers), and of course "non-speculative" fiction has that feature automatically, the rules being those of the world we're actually in. To whatever extent the point of the story isn't mostly to give readers well-posed puzzles, rules made up ad hoc are just as good provided they end up being as consistent and "fair" a set of rules as they would have been if fully worked out beforehand rather than e.g. being tweaked to get particular author-desired outcomes in particular situations. (One could e.g. imagine an author who, in the interests of fairness, decides that when some situation comes up that involves questions they haven't already decided the answer to, they will ask an imparti
3Said Achmiz2y
Once again, I disagree with your characterization and your analysis. You are speaking as if the classification of a story into a genre is something arbitrary—a personal choice I have made, according to my preferences and whims, and no more. This is inaccurate. Story genres are patterns of what sorts of structure and features of a work are enjoyable to readers, what sorts of reader responses they evoke, how effectively they do so, and other things of that sort. How we slice up the space of possibilities along these dimensions is certainly something we can debate; but it is not a matter of merely “picking and declaring”. When I say that this story falls into a genre, I am making reference to objective (or, at least, intersubjectively consistent) facts, not simply expressing my preferences. What the authors intend, I cannot but speculate on (until such time as Eliezer & co. make their intentions known). That having been said, while I would not wish to push the “death of the author” line too far, still the author of a work does not have complete freedom in determining what sort of work it is. Likewise, genre conventions should certainly not be straitjackets (or else genres would never change, nor new ones arise); but deviations from such conventions ought to be justified by making a work better than otherwise (and, as in most such cases, it is almost invariably better for a work’s quality if the author understands the conventions he is violating, and commits the violations deliberately and with intent; note, by the way, that Eliezer absolutely does do this in other aspects of Project Lawful—see below). I do not think morality, as ordinarily understood, enters into this, so at any time in this discussion when I say “ought”, I refer to aesthetic or prudential considerations, not ethical ones. Yes. You will recall that this conversation began when I advised someone that they might wish to avoid learning more about the Pathfinder rules, lest their enjoyment of the work
Classification into genres is not arbitrary. But I don't think inferences of the form "this story has features X, Y, and Z, which put it in genre G, and stories in genre G generally try to do P, Q, and R; therefore this story should be doing P, Q, and R, and not doing so constitutes a defect" are valid unless either you can get from XYZ to PQR without going through G, or XYZ are tied to G so strongly that no reasonable person familiar with G could deny that a story with XYZ is trying to do what stories in genre G generally try to do. If Planecrash ends up being enjoyable to read, or instructive, or funny, or prophetic, or suitable for turning into a wildly successful 30-hour-long opera cycle, those merits are not in any way nullified by its not doing particular things that stories sharing some of its features often do. I think the discussion is devolving into "Said states his position. Gareth states his position. Said restates his position. Gareth restates his position." which is seldom productive, so I shall leave it here unless there are particular things you are anxious to have a reply to (in which case, let me know and I'll probably oblige). Regarding your final few paragraphs: it is possible that I am being defensive, but I am pretty sure I am not being defensive on behalf of Planecrash, which I certainly don't regard as flawless or unworthy of criticism. I simply disagree with some particular claims you are making about it, and if I am defending anything it is my position on what makes a given work of fiction better or worse.
"convention" vs "rules" but Keltham has had some stuff in that direction crossing his mind.
Gotcha. (In my case, I was pretty disinterested in this aspect of Planecrash and mostly find myself skipping past the various D&D minutia. The thing I was interested in re: pathfinder was more about the story than the rules, i.e. how various gods and alignments and nations are normally portrayed) It's not obvious to me how much Planecrash was (implicitly?) promising to deliver on the sort of thing you describe here, but, makes sense to be sad if you were hoping for that, and/or to caution people about it.
3Said Achmiz2y
I will note that the Project Lawful examples I have in mind can’t be fairly described as “minutiae”; they get at fairly fundamental aspects of the structure of the rules and the world. (That said, it’s of course quite reasonable not to care at all about that sort of thing.)
I'm somewhat familiar with D&D, having played it a bit and read the rulebooks about 40 years ago and not since. So I recognised at once that Planecrash was set in a D&D-like world. The system of alignments, character classes, ability scores, and levels, and so on were familiar. I had never heard of Pathfinder but now know that it's the specific D&D-like rules and world in which Planecrash is set. Beyond that I don't care what the exact rules are (of Pathfinder or D&D). From that point of view, are any of the defects you have in mind still recognisable as defects? The story of the munchkin 2-year emperor is clearly a failure even for someone with no knowledge of the specific D&D rules that it violates. The fact that the author flouted several rules that were in the way of his plot just makes it worse, it turns it into tennis with the net down, but the plot as it stands was already pretty bad.
3Said Achmiz2y
Please see my reply to Eliezer for one example of the sort of thing I have in mind.
(that said, your comment prompts me to wonder about the domain of videogames, where there typically isn't DM judgment restricting XP gain. You've also written about World of WarCraft and I find myself curious if the 2 year emperor trick works there)
Most multiplayer games have some way to limit XP gain from encounters outside your difficulty, to avoid exactly this sort of cheesing. The worry is that it allows players to get through the content quicker, with (possibly paid) help from others, which presumably makes it less likely they'll stick around. (Though of course an experienced player can still level vastly faster, since most players don't take combat anywhere near optimally to maximize xp gain.) That said, Morrowind famously contains an actual intelligence explosion. So you tend to see this sort of stuff more often in singleplayer, I think. (Potion quality triggers off intelligence. Potions can raise intelligence.) And of course the entire genre of speedrunning - see also, (TAS) Wildbow's Worm in 3:47:14.28(WR).
3Said Achmiz2y
It absolutely does not, precisely for reasons #2 and #3 I listed. Game designers—especially designers of extremely popular games with large budgets and armies of playtesters—do not, as a rule, tend to be idiots. And they would have to be very stupid indeed to allow a very serious and very obvious exploit that has, furthermore, been known for decades. This is why I find things like the aforesaid Two-Year Emperor “exploit” to be insulting to my intelligence as a reader. There’s few quicker ways, than that, to ruin any possible enjoyment of a story.
Like with lots of things like this, there's a dedicated wiki: * PathfinderWiki

I found the sandbox thread but hurting people is wrong, and found the part about Quiet Cities, and I nearly cried because I can't describe how badly I want something like that and would move to one immediately if it existed.

I'd also like an EPUB version that is stripped as possible. I guess it might be necessary to prepend the characters name to know who is saying what, but I find the rest very distracting. I find it makes it hard to read.

I'm looking for the discord link! It was linked at some point, but I was catching up then, so I didn't want to see spoilers and didn't click or save the link.
But now I'd like to find it, and so far all my attempts have failed. 

2Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
Here's one
Thank you :))

Is there a dedicated Wiki (or "subject-encyclopedia") for Project Lawful? I feel like collecting dath ilan concepts (like multi-agent-optimal boundary) might be valuable. This could both include an in-universe summary and context of them, and out of universe explanation and references to introductory texts or research papers if needed.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in this RP thread.  Unfortunately, I've always found it a bit hard to enjoy roleplaying threads that I'm not participating in myself.  Approached as works of fiction rather than games, RP threads tend to have some very serious structural problems that can make them difficult to read.

Because players aren't sure where a story is going and can't edit previous sections, the stories tend to be plagued by pacing problems- scenes that could be a paragraph are dragged out over pages, important plot beats are glossed o... (read more)

7Eliezer Yudkowsky2y
We are both experienced authors not in need of this advice at this level.
-6Kevin Brannan2y
[+][comment deleted]2y90