Monday, October 31, 2016

The Secrets of Heaven are Not to be Revealed

Every day, the fortune teller peddled his trade in the same corner of the park square, right beside the fountain. His tools were but a worn pack of playing cards packed in a paper box that had long since lost its cover, and a cardboard sign propped up against the fountain edge that announced in a loud marker red, "$5 for a fortune."

As far as I knew, his readings were uncannily accurate. There was, however, a catch to this prescience. Before he would tell a fortune, the fortune teller would begin with a well practiced warning.

"The secrets of the diving are not to be learned, not without cost. Each time that I would read into a future, your fortunes would be correspondingly reduced."

It was a chilling statement that undoubtedly increased the sense of mysticism to his practice, but I could not help but think that he would have been more successful if he had adopted a different pitch, especially one that did not discourage repeated business. Once, I did mention this poor marketing decision to him, but he only shrugged in response.

"More business would be good, but that sentence is not something that I can afford to change. It's something that's necessary in this line of work, you know? Without it, who would suffer the price of leaking Heaven's secrets? Me. Which does makes the profession impractical as a business, right? Well, historically it was so, and most prophets and seers did tend to meet unfortunate ends.

But if the risks were transferred- if you think of it as a sort of mystical contract, not unlike a transfer of liabilities- then it becomes possible to deal in fortunes."

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Guild to Save the World

At some point in history, humanity realized that there were too many threats to their continued survival. In a moment of collective enlightenment, an organization was formed, peopled by talents from each and every corner of the known world, and funded by all the human kingdoms in the realm.

Moved by such noble ideals, I entered The Guild to Save the World when I finally reached the minimum age for joining.

Unfortunately... I quickly learned that the number of humanity threatening crises that the Guild had resolved was... zero.

Surely you'll go, "What! This must be a mistake?", as I exclaimed many years ago when the Grand Custodian mentioned this fact.

With the impenetrably solid logic of a bath sponge, he explained that it was simply too difficult- impossible, in fact- to combat all crises at once. Attempting to do so was folly. Instead, by temporarily reassigning the least urgent threats to be addressed at a later date (and with more resources), all the resources could be focused to achieve greater results. In any case, it was impossible to predict the timing of world-threatening events, and each crises required a different set of measures to address. A demonic invasion could be fought off with an army, but would be useless against a magical plague. Simultaneously planning for all threats was logistically impossible.

The Grand Custodian then brilliantly extended this argument repeatedly, and by a clever process of induction, managed to save the Guild quite a bit of work.

He called it "the principle of maintaining maximum readiness and flexibility (soft mumble)by doing nothing(soft mumble)".

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Wise Words of a Fee-losopher

You can do it. Not talking about me, I'm talking about you. Whatever you want to be, I believe you can do it.

It's true.

One caveat: You must choose to act.

Those were the words of wisdom taught to me by a fee-losopher. Unlike normal philosophers, fee-losophers charged dearly for their insights. You get what you pay for, and thus the advice of fee-losophers was held in higher regard than that of the amateurish philosophers. 

I did not initially believe the smooth-faced man before me. Belief alone was insufficient. I knew- I had tried many times believing, but no change was wrought. My goals were not being met. It was precisely this desperation that I had sought out the help of the fee-losophers.

"How do I become a ninja turtle?" I had asked the wise man. And he answered, though I was reluctant to trust him.

"Very well. I shall demonstrate," he spoke, sensing my hesitation. 

His preparations were meticulous, to say the least. Dabbing his face with generous globs of green camoflague cream, and then putting on a turtle shell costume, the fee-losopher quickly began to resemble a ninja turtle in appearance. 

"Now watch closely, as I will begin my demonstration."

It was a miracle. Before me no longer stood a human, but a ninja turtle performing all sorts of advanced martial acrobatics. 

And then he stopped, and once more became a green-faced man dressed in a funny suit.  

"H-how did you do this, MASTER!?"

He only grinned. 

"Did you not listen closely? One caveat: You must choose to act.

You must hone your acting skills!"

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Short Note on the Origin of Magic Power

Though exceptions exist, a person's attunement to magic appears to be largely inherited. The existence of the so-named mage families, not to mention the royal bloodlines, are strong proof that magic capacity is a factor inherently tied to blood.

At least, that is the understanding that is promulgated as absolute truth. I have my own doubts about the matter.

The greatest unresolved question in magic theory is that of the "unblooded prodigal"- a mage of exceptionally strong capability who does not have any ancestors of remotely notable magical power. The number of such individuals, while not large, is sufficient to hint at explanations of magic ability other than blood.

Allow me to indulge in a moment of heresy- perhaps it is that magic power is not actually inherited?

It is not a secret that the mage families are notoriously reticent. Most sons and daughters of famous mage bloodlines only attend magic academies after the age of 16 (if at all), at which point their magical abilities are already largely developed. Could it be that the key to their abilities is some method of special training during the formative years? If so, this would explain their reluctance to openly share the secrets to their fame and power.

Needless to say, these are dangerous speculations.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Short Note on Elven Seers

The mechanism behind the appearance of demonic hordes is still unknown to even the best minds of the world, but this does not prevent the prediction of such catastrophic events. Throughout history, several seers have been known to be able to accurately foretell the timing of demonic invasions; almost all these prophets are elves, or of elven blood. This is not to suggest that the elves possess some special quality that affords them particular prescience; rather, this is simply an result of elven lifespans, the immediate nature of predictions, and the frequency of demonic appearances.

With a considerably large margin of variation, demonic invasions tend to occur about once or twice a century on average. Therefore, most of the free and good peoples of the land, humans in particular, would only experience one or at most two demon invasion events in their entire lifespans. On the other hand, even the best of divinations is only able to foretell an event a decade in advance. The combination of these two factors means that it is very difficult to assess the accuracy of would-be seers specializing in predicting demonic invasions. A single correct prediction could easily be a fluke of chance; a second correct prediction made fifty years later would provide more convincing evidence of the seer's prescience. However, considering the lifespan of a typical human, it is very unlikely that a confirmed seer would live to be able to make a third forecast. An elf, or on occasion a half-elf, would not suffer from this problem; their greater lifespan would even allow more opportunities to confirm their predictive efficacy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

A Short Note on the Structuring of Monster Bounties

I recently had a prolonged talk with a senior clerk of a well-known Adventurers' Guild, and learned a great deal about the workings of monster bounties. While most of us will only understand bounties as being well-illustrated posters with a description of the task to be undertaken and a reward to be dispensed upon completion, there is actually an art to the creation of the bounty poster.

An uninformed person, such as I myself was before my conversation with the clerk, would think that the most important detail when creating a bounty poster was to accurately price the reward. I was quickly informed that this was in fact incorrect; the prize money was itself secondary; correctly describing and scoping the quest was an order more important.

The clerk then accounted to me several instances where the bounty task was improperly designed, leading to worse outcomes. Consider the most basic of quests available to adventurers, which is that of eliminating common pests or wandering beasts. Not only once has an inexperienced guildsclerk offered a reward on each rat or wild snake killed and brought in; the bounty was quickly exploited by unscrupulous adventurers who subsequently began breeding and farming the very creatures they were supposed to eliminate! Thus, it is a common practice nowadays for bounty descriptions to mention concrete outcomes such as the permanent removal of a specific threat.

Another mistake is to be too specific in the methods to be applied. As a general rule, bounties should not restrict the approach adventurers can take in handling a problem. For example, if one offered a reward for the defeat of a dragon in order to release the captive princess, it might be a long time before a sufficiently strong hero capable of slaying a dragon actually arrives. On the other hand, if the specific task (rescuing the princess) was presented as a quest, then other more feasible alternatives become possible, such as a stealthy operation into the dragon's lair. Of course, if the task were phrased instead as that of obtaining the princess' freedom, then even more possibilities present themselves, such as negotiation with the dragon itself.

Monday, November 02, 2015

A Short Note on Adventurers' Guilds

For some reason, adventurers are much more capable of dealing with monsters and demonic threats than standing armies. From data compiled by the royal historians, of the last 100 threats rated as "Kingdom-threatening" and above, 90 were defeated by adventurers, and only 10 were successfully resolved using armies.

The obvious realization should be that soldiers and knights are a waste of money, and ineffective at dealing with such problems in the first place. In fact, in many small kingdoms and independent city states, it has become increasingly popular to reduce the army to a small core of soldiers, and to use the resulting savings to establish and fund "Adventurers' Guilds". For the unacquainted, Adventurers' Guilds are state sanctioned bodies to organize adventurers and channel them towards useful work. The most basic guilds can be as simple as a bulletin board to advertise monster bounties and a clerk to handle bounty claims. On the other hand, the more elaborate guilds offer other services such as training, healing, and equipment maintenance.

Of course, several mistakes were made in the initial iterations of Adventurers' Guilds. Open bounties that could be attempted by everyone had the tendency to attract people attempting to make a quick fortune, but who were not sufficiently skilled for the task. While this did not drain the state's resources, as no payout was made to failed bounty attempts, it resulted in an overall loss to national productivity as labor was lost to failed adventuring, not to mention the possibility of lives being lost in reckless bounty attempts. After undergoing much experimentation, the majority of Adventurers' Guilds today incorporate some kind of tiering system for adventurers, gating the scope of available quests for adventurers of different skill.