Up for a Quest?

Scott/Yvain has previously written a truly delightful Dungeons and Discourses game (inspired by these two Dresden Codak comics). Here’s an excerpt (which doesn’t even include any of the musical numbers or the ingenious solution to Nagel’s question: What is it like to be a bat?)

In his roundabout way, he identifies himself as Heraclitus, the Fire Mage, one of the four great Elemental Mages of Platonia. Many years ago, he crossed into Origin on some errand, only to be ambushed by his arch-enemy, the Water Mage Thales. Thales placed a curse on Heraclitus that he could never cross the same river twice, trapping him on the wrong side of the Abcissa and preventing his return to Platonia. In order to dispel the curse, Heraclitus finds a loophole in the curse: he convinces himself that objects have no permanent identity, and so he can never cross the same river twice since it is not the same river and he is not the same man. Accepting this thesis, he crosses the Abcissa without incident – only to find that his new metaphysics of identity prevents him from forming goals, executing long-term plans, or doing anything more complicated than sitting by the riverbank and eating the fish that swim by.

This sets off a storm of conversation, as each member of the party tries to set Heraclitus right in their own way; Phaidros by appealing to God as a final arbiter of identity, Macx and Nomophilos by arguing that duty is independent of identity and that Heraclitus has a duty to his family and followers. Unfortunately, they make a logical misstep and end out convincing Heraclitus that it is illogical from his perspective to hold conversation; this ends the debate. And as the five philosophers stand around discussing what to do, they are ambushed by a party of assassins, who shoot poisoned arrows at them from a nearby knoll.

Outnumbered and outflanked, the situation seems hopeless, until Macx notices several of the attackers confused and unwilling to attack. With this clue, he identifies them as Buridan’s Assassins, who in the presence of two equally good targets will hesitate forever, unable to choose: he yells to his friends to stand with two or more adventurers equidistant from each assassin, and sure enough, this paralyzes the archers and allows the party some breathing space.

He’s working on a new campaign, but he’s lost the spellbook he was working on.  He’s asking for suggestions to flesh out the ideas he remembers, and it seemed like you might be the band of philosophy enthusiasts to take on the job.  (And, I’ll confess, this feels like a fantasy-from-this-xkcd-comic come true: Only your capacity to make philosophy puns can save us now!).  Here’s the kind of thing he’s looking for:

A good name could be a philosophical concept that sounds like a spell, for example “Pre-Ordained Harmonics”.

It could be a violent or magic-sounding philosophical concept put into the classic Dungeons & Dragons form of [NAME]‘s [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN], for example “Churchland’s Psychic Elimination” or “Parmenides’ Stasis Hex”.

It could just be a weird but amusing idea about how to apply a philosophical idea to combat, for example “Inverse Communion” (turns your enemy’s flesh into bread and their blood into wine, killing them instantly).

It could be a summons, for example “Summon p-zombie” or “Summon Euclidean Elemental”

It could be a terrible pun, for example “Catatonic Imperative” for a paralysis spell.

It could even just be anything boring from philosophy that sounds like it would work in RPG combat (“Create a trolley to run over your enemies!”) and let me think of a name for it.

So please pop over chez lui if you have any suggestion, forward this around to other geeks, and do cross-post your suggestions here, so I can chuckle and read them to my housemates.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Rawl’s Cloak of Indifference – Throw it over an enemy, and they’ll maintain their former alignment, but be unsure which party they belong to.  Roll d(number of present PCs and NPCs) to determine who they act to benefit for the next n turns
  • Chesterton’s Diminished Poesy – if “The most poetical thing in the world is not being sick” as per The Man who was Thursday, this spell invokes lesser poetry and, presumably, incapacitating vomiting
  • Summon Parasitical Violinist - and the incessant bowing presumably throws off your concentration checks
  • and I just really want the Ship of Theseus and the Banach–Tarski paradox to turn up somewhere (possibly together)

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Joe

    The P. Z. Myers immunity injection. One shot of this stuff fills you with so much guile and snark all argument is useless against you. There is a version for RadTrad Catholics but its smoked through a thurifer.

  • Elliot

    Pyrrho’s Darts, leave the player tranquil and disinterested for a few turns.
    Consistency check, gives 50% chance that any future attacks will rebound on the attacker.
    Fog of Equivocation, allows player to use two attacks simultaneously, unless countered by…
    Distinction’s Breeze, which dispells the fog and causes equivocator to lose a turn.

    • Yvain

      These are good…although now that I think of it, Pyrrho needs to become pyrrhomancy or pyrrhokinesis.

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  • Will

    The Trolley Spell, which paralyzes the target between two objectives.

  • E. Cantrell

    Hannah Arendt’s Banality of Evil: one target of your choice turns into a mid-level German bureaucrat who follows your orders no matter what.

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    Pantheism — a utility spell used to fill your pan with vittles when you are out adventuring in the wild. Unfortunately the vittles are an ungainly mix of bread, wine, and quail’s flesh, all compounded together so that each pervades the whole.

    Panentheism–creates a number of stained glass windows (n) to be determined by the caster

    Trans-unsubtantiation–when cast by a defeated magigogue or philomage or whatever the people call themselves in that adventure, it makes it so that while you have not been able to formally substantiate your arguments, it appears to everyone that you have been able to do so.

    Hesychasm — by throwing enchanted glass beads on the ground, a number of magical Hessians arise from the ground who quickly dig a moat separating the caster from the outside world. In an advanced version of the spell, cenobitical hesychasm, the caster can included members of his party within the moat.

    • Elliot

      Hesychasm needs to include the power of the uncreated light.

  • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

    The Origen of Specious–a dangerous foe who launches deadly frivolous and and flippant arguments and is immune to conventional counter-attacks. If offended in any way, he will pluck out the eyes and cut off the hands of the offending party. The only defense once he engages is to invoke Bertie Wooster and to trifle with him.

    The Thomas Jefferson Quote Book — particularly high-capacity magazine for semi-automatic and automatic Arguments from Authority, with which are frequently armed the inhabitants of the Land between the Nets.

  • http://unhappilyagnostic.tumblr.com/ Unhappily Agnostic

    Pascal’s Mugging: Roll five 20s to kill every enemy currently involved in combat. This only occurs 1d6 rounds of combat after the spell is cast; however, however, each opposing character must make a moderate courage roll during the each of the preceding rounds; if that roll fails, the enemy flees and runs away.

    Ayer’s Acerbic Positivism: A fog that renders the spells of all continental philosophers ineffective. It also irritates all enemy combatants, however, so that they attack none but the caster for 1d6 rounds. (Can also be used to intimidate heavyweight boxers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._J._Ayer).

    The Shield of Paraconsistent Logic: Prevents one’s own spells from rebounding against one when countered.

    Husserl’s Phenomenal Epoche: The player momentarily brackets the existence of all enemy players; their attacks do not damage, stun, or influence the player for 1d6 rounds. After the spell ends, roll 1d6: on a three or higher, the accumulated damage is inflicted on the player.

    Intelligent Dasein: I have no idea, but I wanted to write that phrase down, unfortunately. I think I’ll stop now.

    • Adam G.

      Reality Mugging would be a good spell for Nomophilos.

  • Summitt

    Necklace of Subjective Mortality: Allow an otherwise killing blow to render an illusion of your death to your adversary instead, become invisible for 1d6 turns all other characters see a corpse of you until your invisibility wears off.

    Monads have no Widows: Bring someone’s significant other back from the dead.

    Cartesian Draught: A Potion that allows the player to have an out of body exprience

  • Qmwne

    I’m not creative enough to do this by myself, but your friends may find this useful: http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/dhm11/deathindex.html

    For example, I think they could work “elan mortel” (or “elan vital”) into a spell.


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