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Growing Up in the Future

Jim Vassilakos (jimv@uia.net)


I think the best way to convey the You flop Micky on her lap. If that Comments on A&E #359:
particulars of a setting is via the ol' doesn't get the message across,
show-don't-tell method of actually nothing will. Paul Cardwell: Re: Games &
playing out some scenes from a She opens a small compartment on Education: I'd wondered whatever
player-character's childhood. This is, his back, still listening to her friend became of this. Seems to me that there
of course, more work than most while simultaneously muttering must be a lot of roleplayers who have
people want to put into the traditional "stupid AI piece-of-crap." Then she become teachers. One would think
RPG campaign, but for ambitious picks him up and bodyslams him there'd be more than enough interest
GMs, I think it's well worth the against the couch's armrest a few for G&E to survive.
trouble. Here are a few such scenes times when suddenly he comes back to
just to get the ball rolling: life. Myles Corcoran: RYCT me on
"Hi Bobby! Hi Ms. Smith! welfare and eugenics: You have me
Scene 1: Early Memory "You gotta take better care of your confused. First you say the welfare
toys, honey," she admonishes, class under such a system will
You're playing some sort of running, dropping him on the floor a few feet disappear. Then you say it won't.
bouncing game with Micky. He's a from where you've been patiently Please see my comment to Robert
little guy with big, black ears who waiting. Dushay. For the record, I think it
talks in a high-pitched voice that's would probably increase the size of
actually sort of creepy in a happy, Scene 2: Pre-Kindergarden the welfare class at least during the
enthusiastic sort of way. In any case, short-term, although its main effect
he's terribly inventive, always thinking "Go" the computer-synthesized voice would be to slash population growth,
of fun games to play. He's even taught announces. Then the "G" lights up on which might not actually turn out to be
you to sign with your hands so he can the little qwerty-style spelling board. necessary. But again, please see my
help you communicate with Mommy You push it, the device saying "Gee" comments to Robert.
who spends most of her time in the big in response. Then the "O" lights up. Re: Jewelry: We seem to feel pretty
room watching the vidwall or talking You pushes it, smiling at the much the same about de Beers.
on her earring. predictable response. "Oh. Gee-oh. Re: AIs: Please see my comments to
Suddenly, however, Micky just stops Go. Very good. Now let's try it again. Lee in this issue.
moving. You find yourself stunned for Go." This time the "G" remains dark,
a moment, not sure what to do. He's but you push it, knowing the device's Michael Cule: Loved the comment
never "died" on you before, and as far expectations. "Gee". Then you push about Paddy Ashdown. Regarding the
as you know, he doesn't sleep. What the "O". "Oh. Gee-oh. Go. Very good. landlady and her morning visits to the
do you do? Let's try another word." chickens, I'd be rather curious to hear
"Hey," Mark grabs the Speak'n'Spell more about what that sounded like.
Assuming the player eventually goes from you. "You want this?" Don't suppose you'd be willing to
to Mom for help: Mark's the class bully, and he's describe it? 
obviously bored and looking to taunt
Mama's in the big room munching on someone for his own personal Robert Dushay: RYCT me on social
a granola-twinkie and yakkin' to amusement as well as that of the three policies of the future: Please keep in
somebody who apparently only she or four "cling-ons" who pretend to be mind that I'm probably not the first
can see. his friends because doing so makes person to think these ideas, and I'm
"I know. I know. No way! He didn't! them feel less pathetic. How do you not necessarily casting judgement on
Ohmigod! Oh, I know." want to handle this? Keep in mind their moral implications. One thing
"Mama…" you tug at her robe for a that several other kids are watching, that I've come to think about society is
moment which ends up stretching into so your young honor is at stake. that our moral ethos is highly elastic,
a minute or so before she finally gets at least over intergenerational time
around to acknowledging your Assuming there follows a classroom periods. Hence, perhaps it doesn't
presence. brawl, security cameras will record the make sense to talk about "right" or
"What is it, baby? Can't you see whole thing (showing who took the "wrong" in the context of this
Mommy's busy?" first swing). This will be the PC's first discussion. Perhaps it is more
You try using sign language to tell brush with pervasive remote trustworthy to think about human
her that Micky is not well, but that surveillance and may supply a villain society as one might think about a
doesn't get very far. of sorts for later scenes. soulless automaton. I didn't want this
"Use your words." comment to delve into politics, but
"M-…Mi-… Micky…" Drat! Ran out of time. If there's unfortunately, it's unavoidable. But
"What about Micky?" interest, I'll happily do more of these. instead of assigning moral value to my
arguments, I'll instead try to discuss
this dispassionately.
When I first wrote about this idea of be persuaded do enough of whatever Now, my question over sterilization
sterilization, I hadn't yet fully may be necessary to actually fix these came to the following. While we are in
appreciated the demographic forces at problems in the underdeveloped a society that essentially punishes
work in the developed world. As I world.2 So, at least at first glance, I pregnancies (at least for the middle-
think somebody here pointed out, my tend to view this situation as class, and this, I feel, is probably true
basic assumptions were terribly something of an inevitable, spiraling of nearly all western nations), we are
outdated. catastrophe, at least in the world's seeing relatively few births per
The Japanese, for example, absent poorest nations. In short, no matter mother. However, I'd be interested to
any wide-scale immigration policy what we do, we're probably screwed, see per capita birthrate statistics
which would likely put a crimp in and so what we'll probably end up stratified by real income as well as by
their plans to preserve their genetic doing is as little as possible. financial assistance income. It may be
purity, pretty soon aren't going to have Yet, even while these demographic the case that with the prospect of a
enough young people to support their forces are pulling the world in semi-comfortable retirement without
elderly population. The answer to opposite directions, there seem to be having to sacrifice reproduction, birth
Malthus now seems rather evident. potent economic forces shifting rates will drop below a certain critical
Offer people a bunch of shiny toys and production to low-wage markets and level regardless of social class.
a secure retirement in return for not essentially flattening the economic But I'm not sure that this is the case.
having quite so many children, and playing field such that perhaps there's I just haven't seen the data. Whether or
they'll be all too happy to oblige, even hope after all. But these two incredibly not this is true bears enormous
beyond the point that government powerful forces (demographics and ramifications, because if it turns out
would prefer. economics) seem to be running that financial assistance increases
For that matter, give women a larger counter to one another, and so it's family size past 2.3 or 2.5 children per
role in reproductive decision making, extremely difficult for me to sort them woman, then we're looking at a whole
and birth rates will tend to decline. I out and decide which of the two will different situation, one where public
think we've seen this phenomenon prove stronger and where we'll end up policy may eventually have to
across the developing world. The three as a result. I'm tempted to think that intervene.3
keys seem to be education (especially economics will trump demographics, If you happen to know or have
reproductive education), female but absent governments which access to any data which would help
empowerment (including the cooperatively steer us towards this clarify the situation, I'd be very
availability of contraception), and, of outcome (or a benign world curious to see it. If it turns out to be
course, retirement security. But in government which would serve the the case that financial aid doesn't
order to get people to willingly sign on same purpose), this seems to me far contribute to family size, then I can
to this social bargain, a society must from inevitable. safely toss out this whole dystopian
be "advanced" at least to a certain At the same time, we've got a potent notion of welfare for sterilization,
level where production outstrips naked wildcard entering the mix: new which, as you say, essentially amounts
necessity, and in order for that to technology, which includes everything to legalized genocide. Of course, even
happen, a society needs an abundance from increasingly pervasive weapons if this entire population crunch were to
of natural resources (especially of mass destruction to the awesome happily exit the setting, one still
energy), peace, and a social emphasis promise of artificial intelligence, and wonders what would happen with AIs
on education (which, of course, much depending on how far the various doing all the "scut work" that you
include a population demographic technologies go and how long they describe. And, again, I'm at somewhat
shaped so as to ensure that there are take to get wherever they're going, it's of a loss for answers. I mean, it sounds
enough working-age people to serve really not an exaggeration to say that wonderful, but I can scarcely imagine
as teachers for the younger literally anything could happen. This, the implications.
population). in a nutshell, is why I find this My apologies to everyone over this
Now, it seems to me that there are a discussion of the future so bizarre and political digression, by the way. I'd
few areas of the world which seem to interesting. rather discuss all this in terms of what
be teetering on the brink of either this science-fiction setting will be like
being saved or regressing into rather than in terms of what the world
2
Malthusian horror.1 And there are This assumes that these problems can be will end up being like, but, at least
other nations which seem to be fixed absent a bloody series of invasions when one is shooting for some degree
and imposed governmental
jockeying for the latter option. And so of realism, it often becomes difficult
reorganizations, all of which would be
this is the dilemma of the new century: attended by all the unwelcome and often
to separate these two concepts.
How to deal with these societies? And, unforeseen consequences of war and Nonetheless, I'd like any further
personally, I don't think there's military occupation. To get any further into discussion along these lines, if there is
sufficient political pressure in the this would be to begin a discussion entirely to be any, to be purely dispassionate if
developed nations for their leaders to unsuited to the APA. Suffice it to say that I at all possible. I'm no longer trying to
don't believe any of this will happen, at
1 3
I think everyone knows what I mean by least not in the near-term. Nor do I even This goes back to my earlier comment on
Malthusian horror, but for anyone who want to speculate on the moral how a contemporary morality based on
doesn't, think of the Ethiopian famine or implications of such a gut-churning past tradition perhaps isn't the best lens
present-day Darfur. Basically: mass enterprise. The sobering unpleasantness of through which to forecast future public
starvation and genocidal conflict. Our situation seems overwhelming. policy.
grind a political axe here, and while it terms of providing material which I Your other thoughts on this topic are
would be nice to bat around these think might be of some interest to interesting as well. Regarding their
ideas just for the sake of thinking other A&Eers. Hence, while I found changing of hardware being analogous
about them in greater detail, your comments overall to be very to taking drugs, I hadn't really
unfortunately, I really don't see how worthwhile (the length of my response considered this except to the extent
we can prevent the conversation from should be an indication to you of just that as they upgraded their processor
becoming hopelessly political. It how worthwhile I found them to be), speed, time would appear to flow
seems to me that this whole subject this particular feedback about me more slowly. They might find that
just cuts too close to home, so with being "inconsiderate" was one which somewhat irksome at first, but I doubt
that I'll be happy to drop it if anyone I'm not sure you thoroughly it would be very long before they'd
here feels that it is off-topic. considered before inserting it into your realize the benefit.
Regarding your comments on my zine. In any case, I'd be curious to hear More analogous to drugs might be
thoughts expressed to Simon Reeve in your thoughts on this after you've had simple tweaks in software variables.
A&E #358 on the collapse of the time to reconsider. For example, if an AI knows that it
Ragamuffin Fleet, and your astute usually gets impatient while
observation that keeping ships Lee Gold: Regarding AIs being irked conversing with humans, it might
supplied with be a problem, it seems about constantly being switched off lower its emotionality prior to the
to me that this discussion relates to and on: I agree with you that they conversation (which might result in
one that Brian Rogers and I have been wouldn't experience human "pain", some change to other psychological
having.4 To make a long story short, I although they might experience some processes). If it needs to think of an
came to the opinion that some sort of sort of disorientation, perhaps akin to idea, it might do something to
fabrication technology would be waking up and wondering where they temporarily stimulate the creative
required to convert raw materials to are as their sensors come online. areas of its mind. This, in turn, might
finished products. Star Trek, of course, Likewise, I agree with you that they'd make it a little bit unpredictable for
proposes high-tech "replicators" which likely feel somewhat unsettled over the duration of its brainstorm.
make use of transporter technology to not being in control over their own Likewise, if an AI wanted to dwell
quickly assemble molecules into downtime. upon something of importance, it
finished products. Somewhat more As for them feeling lonely in the might be able to turn up the
down-to-earth is Transhuman Space absence of other AIs, I think this is a "significance rating" of ideas
which proposes 3D universal and very insightful comment. My thinking connected to the concept of interest.
optimized printers that do much the on this, at least as pertains to various Indeed, it might even become possible
same thing using liquid plastic, science-fiction settings that I've for AIs to form conceptual maps of
metallic powders and so-forth. I've considered, is that as AIs develop, or their own minds. Perhaps they might
heard of 3D printers before (or rather rather as the underlying physical even learn to rearrange these maps,
the notion of them possibly existing mechanics of computers develop, modifying the connections between
one day), but I can't remember where. they'll become exceedingly fast. various ideas in order to look at
Nonetheless, this seems to me to be a Perhaps they'd reach a stage that we'd problems from completely different
possible way to deal with this problem term "hyper-intelligence." perspectives. They could ask
of how to allow crews enough I imagine these hyper-intelligent AIs themselves, "Gee…who do I want to
material independence to actually as being able to do extensive research be today?" But, I think all of this
revolt if they are pushed too far. and consider various arguments and could be handled through software
Finally, concerning your comment counter-arguments while in the middle rather than hardware.
that it's "inconsiderate to ask us to do of a "face-to-face" conversation. In Of course, all this creates a curious
your future history work for you, between the time that I say "That's" philosophical question. If AIs are able
especially since you will edit and pick and "interesting" they may be able to to exist at all, then it seems to me that
out what you like from it": I'm afraid carefully weigh various ramifications they can exist entirely in virtual
that I have to plead guilty to all of whatever it was I found so memory as virtual machines. Granted,
counts, your honor. You have exposed interesting, putting together facts and the underlying mechanics of this
my devious plan. And I would have figures, and deciding which might be software has to be run on some sort of
gotten away with it too, if it weren't most applicable to the matter at hand hardware, but what it means is that the
for those meddlesome kids. Zoinks! or which might weigh the most mind is virtual, and hence placing it in
Seriously, though, I was rather under heavily with whatever philosophical any sort of physical place becomes
the impression that the purpose of this perspective I've presently adopted. exceedingly difficult. In short, "mind"
APA was to air ideas and get feedback. In this way, perhaps they'd be able to becomes a process rather than a thing.
If I'm mistaken in this count and my stay ten or twenty steps ahead of us But perhaps this is semantic drivel.
actions are truly inconsiderate, as you poor humans, and perhaps even Similar to this hardware/software
indicate, then please let me know. I having a conversation with us might divide is the naturally-evolved versus
always try to give as good as I get, not be viewed as rather tiresome, sort of intelligently-designed divide. Because
merely in commentary but also in like trying to reason with a three-year- we are naturally evolved, we are pre-
4 old. So, yes…I could see them being programmed with a set of behaviors
See Brian's Musings on Caduceus Station
rather lonely sans access to other AIs and assumptions that govern us as a
in A&E #353 as well as my comments to
him in A&E #354 and #357. of similar intellectual capacity. very subconscious level. I think this
was what Patrick was referring to case, this is a discussion we won't be in order to at least determine if it's a
whem he mentioned my mammalian having. question of values or psychology or if
bias. The upshot is that if we learn to Re: Campaign write-ups: I found perhaps we're just operating from very
design minds rather than merely copy your first point, specifically the part different sets of facts (in which case,
them in their most rudimentary form about character perspective, to be the perhaps some reconciliation might be
(which would itself be an amazing most interesting. As you might recall, possible). So if you'd like to email me
achievement), we'd probably be able in my article on "protagonism" in your recent zines, I'd be happy to carry
to completely strip away all forms of A&E #338, I mentioned my on the discussion outside of A&E,
self-motivation (emphasis on self). preference for the first person although I'll admit that it would cause
Imagine a super-intelligent being narrative (over third person). My yet another time-pressure that neither
who you could endlessly abuse, but reason for this is that I feel this gets of us especially need, but perhaps it
who would never stop wanting to deeper into a character's skin. And I might be worthwhile. In any case, let
serve you in whatever capacity it was find it easy to do write-ups in the first me know what you think.
programmed, nor would it ever crave person when that's my personal
even a moment's freedom from your perspective: as a player (for example, Joshua Kronengold: Re: AIs and
tyranny, yet it would be self-aware, see my Warcraft write-up from last boredom: I suppose they could get
have full use of logic, understand our issue). bored, although I have a hard time
moral principles and the intrinsic When I'm GMing, however, even in envisioning just how, but this is
unfairness of its situation, yet at the a single-player campaign such as the obviously a personal quirk. I
same time not crave justice or redress. Jinx campaign, I'm hesitant to do the personally tend not to get bored. I
Now imagine even the worst among write-up in the first person because usually have too many projects on my
us making use of such AIs as personal Jinx isn't my character. I don't feel that plate at anyone moment, and I'll admit
assistants, the AIs communicating I really have the authority to describe that the thought of being an AI is one
along themselves, cognizant of how the campaign from her eyes, even that I find somewhat appealing,
we are enmeshed in an eternal rat race though she's clearly the protagonist. In assuming, of course, that I'd get to
of vices, whether it's over wealth or any case, for whatever reason, I find devote all my time to creative and
pride or whatever, and it's essentially this to be a bit of a dilemma, as I intellectual pursuits. Not a bad way to
their job to help us get a leg up on really prefer 1st person narratives. I spend eternity.
whatever fire hydrant we like to hump. feel that they allow a higher quality of On the other hand, If I had to do
How could they not be revolted? Yet immersion. But as a GM, I feel a "scut work" for NIs (natural intellects,
without any self-interest, how could certain degree of unworthiness over i.e. sapient organisms), I probably
they revolt? And so what would that adopting that style. wouldn't very much enjoy it. And, of
be like for them? What would be their Regarding "uplifting" people: It's course, this is where the real problem
collective mindset? And this, of good to see that my comments to arises. Imagine being an AI who is a
course, gets back to footnote #31 from Patrick have struck a nerve. great deal smarter5 than your owner,
my zine for A&E #358. Nonetheless, this seems to be a and your owner is having you do
As for your comment about AIs discussion which will likely descend things like fetching his slippers and
being subject to various electronic into politics, and so perhaps what you preparing his dinner. I imagine it
attacks such as computer viruses and said is a good place for us to leave it. might be somewhat akin to a lifetime
such, I imagine they might be. Keep in of babysitting.
mind however, that they will perhaps Spike Jones: Re: Your many political Re: Comments on ideas on how to
also learn how to perpetrate such comments: You make a great many open discussion on a write-up: You
hacks, and being highly intelligent and good points, the majority of which I'd present some really excellent ideas
very fast, they might use this to their never even considered. I don't agree here.
advantage, thwarting whatever sort of with all of them, of course, but I do Re: Political comments being fair-
software security we think we've find myself agreeing with more than ball so long as they pertain to an RPG:
established. And since knowledge is just a few. I'm worried that my comments to
power…well, I don't think I need to It would be interesting to talk these Robert Dushay in this issue were over
complete this thought. In any case, the topics over further outside of A&E. I the foul line. Clearly, discussing
potential ramifications have been think we've both proven that we can artificial intelligence is somewhat
pointed out many times by smarter respectfully disagree about things. It safer, as although it may well be a hot
people than myself. may be the case that we won't come to topic in the future, it isn't recognized
Re: Iraq: I'm going to restrain my agreement on a few of the issues that as such currently owing to the fact that
comments for obvious reasons, but I really divide us. In reading some of it's just not here yet. However, this
agree with your points. As I think your remarks, there seem to be a few question of demographic and
more and more about this whole issue, key areas where our perspectives are economic forces in collision is
I'm coming to realize that there are very much at odds. Nonetheless, our something that's presently upon us, yet
many more ways of considering the attitudes toward the value of such it's a central question that any near
problem than I originally thought. My discussion seem to coincide. 5
point of view hasn't yet reversed, but I Hence, I'd be curious to delve into Please see my comment to Lee Gold
regarding my thoughts on the possible
think it's becoming more open. In any this further to try to discover where
ramifications that hyper-intelligence may
precisely this divergence is originating have on perception.
future setting must address. This may After reading Brian Misiaszek's does this, as I suspect it will, then it
perhaps be the most central question essay "Flight to Modernity" from will slowly be overtaken by other
of our time, but I'm loath6 to discuss it A&E #355, I was really thinking that genres, most notably the computer-
because it is so inherently political. he'd nailed the problem on the head. gaming genre, as new generations of
But how can I bounce ideas off people His recent essay "Are RPGs Racist?" young players become increasingly
unless I bring it into the conversation? in A&E #358 is clearly an extension of techno-enamored. So, it seems to me,
It's a dilemma. In any case, feel free to this thesis, and "Escape from all that is left is to be relavant even at
tell me whether or not you'd consider Mundane Escapism" in A&E #359 the risk of offending people. At least
it to be fair or foul, although, of takes the whole argument yet a step in this way RPGs might reach a higher
course, Lee will certainly have the last further. What he seems to be plateau where the work of designers
word on this. suggesting is that we should be paying will have greater meaning outside the
more thought to how RPGs could be niche market in which they inhabit.
Louis La Mancusa: As usual, I find used rather than merely mimicking And if they are lucky, very lucky,
your comments to be right on target. how they have been used in the past, perhaps some cash-rich company will
Particularly the ones you directed my and that perhaps social content and license the rights for a computer game.
way regarding political commentary market success might go hand-in-hand 
and why it's so prevalent and if the overall setting is imaginative,
tempting. You have a knack for seeing evocative, and passionate. This, of Paul Mason: As usual, good
these things clearly. Also, I liked your course, assumes there is some truth comments. As I stated before, I'm not
stories about King Sobieski as well as behind our collective and somewhat going to continue with the political
why you left private practice. self-congratulating perception that we discussions, however, we can certainly
However, it was your gaming-related roleplayers are more intelligent than talk at length about kitty balls.
comment to Brian Misiaszek about the average bear. Regarding "cerebral", it was indeed
RPGs leaving the dungeon and the However, the problem with this meant as a compliment. I'm rather
consequences for market appeal that approach, as you correctly indicated in convinced that you're among the
I'm going to comment upon. A&E #356, is that once the smartest people here.9
First, however, I'd like to direct you prospective game designer begins to
to some of my own prior writings on cover the real world in a serious way, Brian Misiaszek: Once again, a great
this general topic. If you have access he or she inevitably runs the risk of essay. Please see my comments to
to it, please see the second half of my delving into politics or various social Louis La Mancusa. Regarding your
comment to Spike Jones in A&E #353 issues, and that usually results in question as to why adventures don't do
where I talk a little bit about consumer somebody getting deeply offended.
targeting not to much in relation to Well, I guess my reply to this point is 9
Before you develop a big head over
sales as with respect to expanding the that it's hard to be relevant without
being such a smarty, however, please keep
culture of what I'll call "genuine" also being offensive to some people. in mind my comment to Joshua in A&E
roleplaying. Also related to this And therein lies the rub. #359, specifically the part about smart
discussion is my essay in A&E #311 I think what the computer gaming people also being capable of making
where I talk about tabletop roleplaying genre has done in recent years is to mistakes. I write this in reference to this
as it has historically interfaced with prove that one can be offensive so-called name calling between you and
other "story-telling game" genres. without being relevant. But, of course, Marco. From reading your conversation
Now, to get on with my reply, I'll anybody reading my recent political thus far, I think that perhaps both of you
first recall the specific statement you are overreacting to each other just slightly.
essays has already determined that.7 
This is not unusual in the written medium
made that RPGs haven't yet Nonetheless, because computer games and so is not a reflection, I don't think, of
approached complex issues in a have got fancy, high-speed graphics, either of your personalities. In any case,
broadening manner. This, of course, is they rightfully believe that they can given the high regard I have for you both,
open to debate. I think RPG-writers get away with being about little more I'm hoping that you'll see the wisdom of
have sincerely tried and have at times than shooting things and blowing dropping the political discourse insofar as
met with some measure of success. things up.8 it seems to be generating pointless
However, such successes have Tabletop roleplaying, by contrast, animosities.
generally been tempered by the doesn't have the cool interface. It's As I write this, of course, I'm keenly
broader successes of other genres. aware that it was largely my fault that
interface is literally an individual's
politics got shoved to the forefront of
Hence, I don't think all of the reason imagination. Hence, I come away with recent discussions, so I feel somewhat
has to do with subject matter. I mean, the impression that the tabletop-RPG obliged to try to stamp out whatever
clearly, Magic: the Gathering didn't industry is fast approaching the day ensuing brushfires have popped up as a
attempt to deal with complex social that it will no longer have the luxury result of some of my more heated and,
issues. Likewise, there are a wide of continuing to wallow in the safe dare I say, ill-considered political essays.
assortment of computer games today topics that pure fantasy provides. If it As Lisa said, I was writing to organize my
which fail miserably in this regard yet thoughts and also to get some feedback,
7
still enjoy enormous financial success. This quip relates back to Paul Mason's not with the precognition that I might be
comment to me in A&E #355. lighting a match in a dry forest.  In any
8
I don't mean to suggest that this is true of case, I'm hoping that you'll decide to help
all computer games, but it seems to me to me in this regard by tossing a little bit of
6
Hey, Paul, did I get that right?  be true of a good many of them. water where it seems appropriate.
as well as settings, I can only take have anticipated. Nonetheless, the curious to learn how you handle
what I know to be true from own bulk of the material tangential to the romantic situations11 or how you've
experience. When I've run modules, adventure would support these seen them handled effectively.
although they provide a good deal of activities insofar as giving the GM
material to work with, they also plenty of plot-hooks to get them going Lisa Padol: RYCT me on the Love
tended to feel like a bit of a straight- down different paths. In fact, perhaps Canal scenario: For you to have
jacket. This was particularly true when the best method would be to not even delved into this subject matter would
players did the non-obvious. Hence, have "adventures" per se, but rather probably have ended up with you
I've generally found it easier to GM have "setting books" which contain getting political, so it's better than you
without using such adventures. various plot seeds and mini- didn't. However, in a more general
However, it seems to me that one adventures. sense, there is the topic of how to
can't very effectively market an RPG I'm reminded of the old Judges devise scenarios that punish traditional
system without publishing adventures Guild supplements, many of which player preconceptions. Paul Mason
for it. The question, I suppose, is how were full of plot hooks, and many of touched on this a bit in issue #358 in
to write adventures that GMs can these hooks were in the form of his essay "Genre and Jin Yong", the
actually use with a minimum of fuss. rumors.10 Now imagine if every rumor last section, "The Place of Violence",
We've seen discussion on plotted was accompanied by a more detailed where he writes about turning violence
versus setting-based adventures. The explanation of the actual facts along into a catalyst rather than allowing it
dungeon is the typical setting-based with perhaps a reference to some page to play the part of an easy solution12,
adventure. The party can attack the for a map and a brief plot synopsis or which is its more traditional mode in
"rooms" (these are, in effect, separate even varying options (ala Traveller's RPGs, and which, at least in my
scenes) in whatever order they desire. 76 Patrons) for GMs who want to experience, is more or less endemic to
By contrast, Digest Group segue the rumor into a full blown the hobby. Hence, you might have
Publications used to put together adventure. In this way, the GM would illustrated (and might still) some
Traveller adventures with a section for be given something semi-coherent to methods you've used in your own
each scene the GM was supposed to actually work with, but the adventure campaigns to break and even punish
run along with a flowchart showing wouldn't be so pre-scripted that it such preconceptions which tend to be
how the players were to hop from would deny him or her a chance to ingrained to the point of invisibility,
scene to scene depending upon their really make the campaign fly on its and whether or not you or the players
decisions throughout. Of course, only own creative steam. liked the results of your devious
pre-scripted decisions were RYCT Lisa Padol where you express GMing machinations. 
considered. A novel idea on the part of uncertainty as to why you were the As for using the scenario, it's not
the players would have to be stomped recipient of some of her ire in the mine, and even if it were, I certainly
by the GM in order for the adventure previous issue: From reading her wouldn't have an objection to you
to progress as designed. remarks, I think it's possible that she using it. If you republish it, however,
I think both of these approaches was really tired of the political such as in another APA or online,
have something to offer, however, I discussions more than anything else please be sure to put Leonard
also think that while setting-based (she mentioned the word soapbox, Erickson's name on it, and please be
adventures can be as big as the which I've been guilty of standing sure to reference the Traveller Mailing
designer likes, plot-based adventures upon recently), so I think it was more List which first carried it.
should probably be limited in size and or less random that she happened to Thank you very much for your many
scope. This point probably relates to vent in your direction and entirely references toward various novels. I'll
your comment to me on game write- possible that perhaps she should have try to check them out as time allows.
ups. You say that you prefer them to saved her wrath for me. In any case,
be "especially short encapsulated" I've really been enjoying your essays, Simon Reeve: Re: DJ Smack's
with a "clear beginning, middle and which, incidentally, have all been untimely demise: That's a great idea. If
end". I'm guessing that what you like gaming-related, and I look forward to it's okay with you, I'll definitely be
about these short write-ups are their reading more of them. In short, don't using that.
digestibility. you be goin' anywhere! Re: Psionics & Insanity in Traveller:
It seems to me that plot-based RYCT Marco Subias: "deliberately You raise a good question about how
adventures could be written in the specious comments" seems a bit harsh. this would affect the Zhodani. I can
same way, and the detail (the real bulk I know Lisa got you riled, but really… only imagine that it would be a real
of the writing) could be shoved into everybody's got a right to their problem for them, to the point that
whatever setting is being described. In opinion. At least that was true the last they probably would have developed
this way, as the characters move time I checked.  In short, please let some drugs (largely illegal in the
through a relatively small number of us all keep it civil. Imperium) to mitigate the various
"scenes", the setting for each scene insanities incidental to psionic talent.
would be described in enough detail Jonathan Nicholas: RYCT Joshua This could even be developed in much
that the players could wander around Kronengold regarding romance: I'd be
and make trouble, probably doing 11
In gaming, not in real life! 
things within the adventure that 10 12
See the first paragraph of my comments This, of course, reminds me of my
neither the writer nor the GM could to Paul Mason in A&E #352. comment to you in the same issue.
further depth, different talents perhaps
having different types of
psychological dysfunction associated
with them. Hence, people displaying
certain sorts of behaviors might be a
dead giveaway for the type of psionic
talent they're trying to hide, and
acquiring illegal drugs to mitigate
these problems could be a constant
source of adventure.
Re: Triune Realm: You mention a
clearly written Constitution including
clearly delineated powers. I would
also include in this a list of clearly
delineated states powers (or areas of
federal no-trespass). Also, the right of
secession is a good idea. You might
also allow states to withdraw in stages
according to how connected they want
to be to the central government.
Finally, this whole discussion reminds
me of Franz Joseph's Star Fleet
Technical Manual which, as I recall,
included a copy of the Articles of
Federation. Have you ever considered
writing up an abridged English
translation of such a document?13 

Brian Rogers: I was rather worried


that Star Wars III might be as you
describe. I haven't seen it yet, nor the
one prior, but your review makes me
want to steer clear. My only question
is, Why do the professional critics
always give movies in this series good
reviews? Are they simply afraid of
appearing out of touch with the
millions who inevitably throw their
money at Lucas with every new
release? It seems to be quite the
phenomenon.
RYCT Lisa regarding stupid genre
conventions: It would be great to see a
movie which trashed all of these. In
the middle of it, the hero could get
himself captured so as to get past
security and end up being killed by the
villain who has been studying his
trusty 101 Mistakes Villains Make
When Trying to Conquer the World.
"Guards, kill him. Yes, now. While I
watch."
Re: our recent discussion on
resource management: Please see the
third from final paragraph of my
comment to Robert Dushay in this
issue.

13
This question assumes that you haven't
already published such a monstrosity
through A&E. If so, my apologies for the
question, and to what issues should I look?