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The SS Cardif

“Attention all crew; I repeat - Attention all crew.” the ship - wide loudspeaker announced.
He and the runtime of Flowers had their arms buried deep in the guts of a Goat gear hauler trying to reconnect its aft starboard repulser module and looked at each other questioningly.
With a series of snaps, a waldo from Flowers’ forearm began snapping in the connections on their side, as he thought his own manipulators from both of his forearms and they began plugging in the nine pin connectors on his side.
“Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops. Mr. Drake and Runtime Flowers to Ops.
“Dout leader Mri’x to Ops. Dout leader Mri’x to Ops.”
The mostly-human and the robot-looking vessel for his AI friend both produced wondering looks. “Runner!” the mostly-human, Mr. Drake yelled out into the maintenance bay.
A Mwraht, a slender bipedal humanoid coated in fur and wearing their moccasin like deck boots and the ubiquitous brown leather smock vest they favored, suddenly appeared, wippingits hands.
It was M’arh, a student on the ship learning ship engineering and maintenance from the human and AI perspective. It regarded Drake with an earnest expression in its tilted almond-shaped eyes.
“Please run to ops and let them know we’ll be along shortly,”
M’arh smiled and mouthed something, and the translator, in a fair facsimile of what M’arh’s voice would sound like if the Mwraht’s mouth could form the words said “At once,Instructor”, and took off.
“They never cease to puzzle me.” Flowers said in a voice synthesised and engineered to sound like an erudite Free Wales Easterner with a touch of Old Earth, fitting the bolts on the deflector on his side as Drake thought out a data probe and began running diagnostics on the repulser.
Drake looked at him quizzingly, as he split his attention between the connectivity check and his other hand began bolting on the deflector on his side.
“There are nuances to their speech, as well as odorant aspects to what he said that you cannot hear or smell, though I have been working on an idea where you could.” Flowers said as he began hooking up the power cables on their side.
“Ok…” Drake said as he mentally pushed the diagnostics over to Flowers and pulled a ratchet from the fairing lip he had set it earlier, tightening down the deflector bolts.
“Meat bags” Flowers said, shaking his sensor pod. “Your kind are so oblivious!” Flowers announced, withdrawing their arms and standing up to their full two meter height. “And I see your frustration with biological markers at not knowing what I am talking about. Monkey-assed murder hobo meat bags.” Flowers said in a dead pan.He went over and began cleaning it’s arms and legs with an orange-based degreaser.
“That is Monkey-assed Augmented murder hobo meat bag to you, you synthetic shit!” Drake said, laughing, joining Flowers at the cleaning station, and began using the same cleaner on his replacement arms. “And I still have no idea what you are talking about.”
The humans and Mwarht in the maintenance bay all stopped what they were doing and looked on. In most instances, those words were an invitation to murder. The other Runtimes there, some Flowers, some Neptunian Wind, ignored it and kept working.
Flowers sighed, an unnecessary vocalization only, for emphasis. “They adore humans and revere you as something akin to a living deity. The Dout leaders here know you lead the teams that first boarded their ships and took on the Drix raiders to save them. They know you then lead the teams that boarded the Drix slaver destroyer and carried out retributionary subjugation for what the Drix had been doing on the Mwraht ships.
“They do not know how you then petitioned the Order and led raids into Drix territory and assaulted the slaver worlds.”
Flowers looked at their human friend, and saw the distress in his eyes. Both knew the augmented human, and a small army of fellow Augies and Runtimes had taught the Drix in the clearest way possible to stay out of human space and leave the Mwraht alone in such a clear and brutal fashion whose necessity still bothered the human.
Flowers lowered their voice, straightening their friend’s work smock. “M’arh’s grandsire was on that first ship you boarded. Mri’x mother was on that ship and was the one about to be eaten and raped by a Drix, the one you pulled off of her and punched, it’s head rupturing.”
Even though they could see their words were causing him distress, Flowers continued.
“They love all humans, but they excrete a pheromone musk that is akin to the same one they excrete in their religious ceremonies, but slightly different, when they interact with you, or after a few beers and they talk to you. Their sub vocalizations are completely adoring and submissive when it comes to you. Some of the females and a non-zero number of males fantasize about being ‘taken’, or mated, by you. You idiot.”
“Fuck.”
“That was implied.”
“You fucking pretentious Rooba. You know what I meant.”
“Flowers laughed. “Yes, we do. I still love the word play, though.”
“I really wish you had been with me. I know, you were tied up on that Artifact World, but I sometimes wish you had been there, to keep me in check. I was not in a good place.” He brushed himself off, found his coffee mug and set off for the passageway that led to Ops.
“I have told you before, be glad I wasn’t. Your response was far more measured and restrained than my would have been. It is a flaw in our Matrices. Slavery brings out the ‘murder-bot’ in us, and no one in the Order can figure out why.”
“I know that you have the facts of my actions, but it was like I was in the Second War, again. And we both know what a bloodthirsty asshole I was then.” The human, if that term even applied to their friend anymore, remembered what a monster he had been in the Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti theatres of the Second War. The pain and humiliation of what he had been was written plainly on his face.
“You destroyed three hundred and eighty three of my Runtimes, roughly half of which was in single combat. And that was before the Holies shredded your limbs. The Purists still consider you a living dataphage, akin to human allegories of Satan. My kind uses you as one of many examples of why we must never war with Humanity again.
“And, strangely enough, the Seekers consider you both a Singularity to be understood and an objective: to breed with you, thinking you are a key to their evolution.”
He stopped dead and looked at Flowers shocked.
“I will provide logs to prove these statements.”
The Seekers were the strangest of the AI’s, in his opinion. They had made themselves biological Runtime vessels, biological bodies, that they wore like clothing, compiling experiences seeking to understand Humanity, their Creators, and evolve past the limitations of being an AI. Not to become human, but to become something that was both the best of AI and Human essences and so much more.
“So, I’m a Classical hero to the Mwraht and a boogey man and bad example to the AIs that they want to breed. Great.” Drake pinched his nose and shook his head.
“You did not know any of this, I take it?” Flowers asked.
“The second war was almost two hundred years ago. When the Order brought me in, you were already a member and I thought they were going with the whole forced-to-learn-each-other thing when they sent us out on that mapping mission; like they did with the Iberrians and the Chinese. I thought the other AI just had a thing about me from the War, which is understandable.
“And I had no idea about the rest. I thought that the Mwraht just thought I was the cool teacher.” He shook his head and leaned up against the wall, massaging his temples one-handedly.
“Idiot murder hobo.” Flowers said, realizing now that their friend, while brilliant, was oblivious.
At that point, Mri’x came around the corner, his fur a glossy black with dark grey stripes. Mri’x looked at Flowers sternly, then nodded at Drake as he passed.
Drake looked at Flowers questioningly, who nodded. Both had caught that Mri’x had cut his translator as he passed and caught a gutteral call. “It was a vulgar corollary to ‘Talking Waste Receptacle’. Quite elegant, really.”
Drake shook his head and began his way to Ops again. “Send me the specs on the hearing and smelling upgrades. I think I need to upgrade again.”
As fast as thought, the files were there, as well as one to improve his language skills with them.
* * *
Captain Sarah Rees of the Union of Independent Stars Exploratory Vessel SS University of New Cardiff was looking over holographic charts at the central tank with her XO, Lt. Commander Martin. Both had the mocha skin common to Westerlies of Free Wales, she a pixie of a woman shorter than even some of the Mwraht with close shaved hair beginning to show grey. Mr. Martin was taller, but still dwarfed by most of the rest of the human crew. He was a vicious social climber who didn’t care for the civilian crew, though a misstep on his part when he was still Stellar Navy had made him as much of a civilian as anyone else in the crew, a fact he often forgot. And for some reason he loathed the three AI aboard, and looked down his nose at the Mwraht. This led to all sorts of headbutting with Drake’s group of Operations Specialists and Drake himself; who largely ignored and dismissed the little shit.
“Leader Mri’x, Mr. Drake. Thank you for joining us. M’arh informed us you couldn’t pull away. Flowers, thank you for coming as well.” Rees said as she moved around to the far side of the tank, in a darkened room full of people at work stations worked with either data plugs or AR sets. Flowers took no insult. They readily accepted that they were Drake’s Executive Officer for his group, and their ego, as such, wasn’t as easily bruised as a human’s” Flowers gave a nod with their sensor pod and took a manipulators-behind-the-back stance the humans were fond of.
“Thirty minutes ago” Rees continued, “we picked up a GP general distress beacon from a system that was on our research list. We will be bypassing the next two on the list and based on the current agreements with the Galactic Parliament, we will be going to full power and make best speed for the system in question. It is in uncharted space as far as we, the GP and the Conclave are concerned.”
The GP, the System Confederacy, the UIS and the AI Conclave had all agreed to adopt what was essentially humanity’s Maritime Law and all ships receiving the signal were required to render aid.
Drake took all of this in and thought out a series of commands to the six Kodiak Class corvettes in the retired Assault Cruiser’s forward hanger, beginning their startup sequence and pinged the comm devices of all of his Operations Specialists. Flowers looked over and nodded. Little known to the crew, except the Captain, those ships could be armed to the teeth with a minimum of work. Flowers sent his command to arm them, the ship systems’ pinged Drake as confirmation and he agreed. Drones began opening the hull and loading the weapons packages, removed fairings that covered weapons ports and began preflighting the weapons, as another set began bringing the ships to life.
“We will be ready when needed, Captain. Option two.” Flowers announced. She smiled in somber appreciation. She was glad she had the option. She was about to race into an unknown system to answer a vague distress call with zero intelligence.
While this was going on, in the aft bay, hundreds of drones were coming to life as Mri’x brought his group to action. With a thought Drake and Flowers authorized the release of weapons to Mri’x so his drones could be armed. Mwraht drones were some of the best in either race, outside of the Conclave, and the AIs had even adopted many of the construction techniques the Mwraht used, especially their alloy that allowed a small fusion bottle to power the EM Cavity engines, weapons and shields.
The fact that the Order had given literal tons of precious metals and set up arcologies for the Mwraht in payment had made the Refugee Mwraht colonies some of the richest ones in known space.
Mri’x subvocalized and his translate stated “drones will be ready as well, Leader.”
“Thank you, Leader.” Captain Rees said with a bow of her head, then began drawing plans up in the tank. “We know little, but we are past the signal shell, and there is nothing but the beacon and normal noise.
“The system is a stable red dwarf binary one, the stars holding about a light-hour from each other, at their closest. We expect that based on stutter, a few terrestrial bodies inside the orbit of a mid-sized gas giant, that is three light-hours out from the outermost orbit of the primaries. We see some wobble that there are a few solid bodies out from the gas giant.”
The tank then zoomed on a rough solar system as described, the gas giant was a solid neon green sphere on the display, with a ‘Jx3.1’ tag on it. Three times the mass of Jupiter. The thing wasn’t a true Super Jupiter, but it would play holy hell with the system, and make modelling a lot more hard. The problem was that it exhibited 3.1 times more gravitational influence on its stars than Jupiter did, but that didn’t say how big it actually was. They wouldn’t know that until they came out of the Trough and then Alcubierre drive. The telescopes were essentially useless at this point.
“The system is slightly below the gravitic trough we are riding, so we will exit the trough and make best speed in A-Space to it. We will bring the STL drives up to 110% before doing so. After we drop the A-Drives, we’ll make best speed to the signal, scanning as we go. We will do a 150% burn and aerobrake if it is a planet, or cut the drives, rotate and crash burn if it is a ship.”
Wow, thought Drake. She is damned serious about this.
Those maneuvers would make them extremely visible yet incredibly hard to hit; and give them a high-G escape route if needed. But all of this was also going to play hell with the student-crew of the ship, who had long grown accustomed to 0.6G. It would also mean the Mwraht, who were still adapting to the higher-than-their-normal gravity would need to be in their special acceleration couches. They would still be able to operate their amazing drones, but not much else. The couches took an hour to cycle up to protect the Mwraht, and an hour to cycle off after they weren’t needed. The moves the Captain was planning were not a thing to undertake lightly. She suspected something. Drake pushed more commands at the Kodiak and gave all weapon system controls to Flowers for all of their ships.
The Kodiak corvettes were very deceptive Q-Ships. They looked like Massive trans-atmospheric cargo shuttles, but each one had the armor, power plant, FTL and STL drives of a frigate - and the weapons of a Destroyer.
Flowers turned to him, head tilted in their predefined “Are you bloody serious?“ look.
Drake just nodded once.
This exchange wasn’t lost on anyone there.
The Captain looked at Drake in an interrogatory fashion
“Armed up the Kodiaks and positioning them for a hot launch, if needed.”
The Captain smiled grimly and nodded. “We are planning on a rescue mission, will those changes reduce any capacity for the primary mission?” she asked.
“No, Captain.” Flowers answered for them.
She nodded and carried on.
“Mri’x, obviously, you’ll be couched for this, and I sincerely apologize for that. But something about this has my hackles up.”
“As are mine. GP ships do not have automated distress beacons, someone activated it. But we are three thousand light years from GP space, the closest GP race being the Drix.” He approached the holo tank and began expanding the map. “We call this space the Greater Void. It was the territory, long ago, of the ones we called-” the translator cut out at that point and was replaced with the gracile being’s raspy growl. Mri’x looked perplexed and growled again. “I see our translators have been modified to allow the uttering of The Nameless Ones true name.” The map zoomed out farther.
Soon, all of the mapped and a few of the suspected Dark Matter Troughs were displayed. They were like shadow arms of the galaxy, spiraling out from the core, a few of them wrapping themselves all the way around the galaxy.
“The ones you call the Fae are originally from here,” he indicated, a star not unlike Earth’s, almost a thousand light years from the star they were headed to, but smack dab in a grey band of a different Dark Matter Trough. It was a great curving grey patch that went coreward from the Earth-like star, passing within about fifty lightyears of Earth.
The Fae were a recent mystery the Tides of the Universe had dumped upon the shores of Humanity just after the Second War, right before the Fall of Earth.
When they sent their pleas for Asylum out, they sent information about themselves. They were the barely viable population that had been running for three centuries in their great world ships made from hollowed out asteroids. What they had been running from was even to this day unclear, but in their tongue meant Dark Brethren.
The fact that tongue seemed to contain roots that became Sanskrit was a huge thing.
They were tall, whip-thin and pale people who breathed a lower oxygen percentage at lower pressures than humanity, and their normal gravity was about a third of what humanity
After First Contact, genetic samples proved they were, or had started out as human, roughly a hundred thousand years ago.
“This is the Coreward Flow from what you call the Crux-Scutum Arm through the Orion Arm, and to the Perseus Arm. The Drix call this whole area their equivalent word and meaning for Hell. Their myths say this is where the Monsters live.
“The Rest of the GP races call this The Red Zone, it is forbidden to fly here, and if you do, there will be no rescue. So of course this is where my people ran when we fled the Drix.”
Mri’x moved the hologram out again, showing this outer rim area that was the Red Zone included Earth, and all known human and AI settled worlds, of all the separate factions combined.
“The area is full of thousands of worlds your kind could land on, little to no protection required, unlike the Fae, who it would crush and pressure cook, as it would most of the races in the Galactic Parliament.” He zoomed in on an area at the far end of the Trough. “We ran here, and Mwarht Home is here.” He showed a system in a blue circle. Zooming out again he highlighted the Drix Combine, Coreward of and on the far side of the destroyed system the Fae had come from, hundreds of light years separated the three systems.
“We ran through the system the Fae came from when we ran from the Drix. We needed water and anything to recharge our ship farms' biological cycles.
“There were no solid planetary bodies in that system, just vast fields of debris where rocky planets were. No moons, no ice giants. Just the star, a larger red dwarf and gas giants and numerous asteroid belts. There were massive radiological signals throughout the system, and tons of debris. Something destroyed this system. In a way, it was a blessing for my people. The ice and debris were easily mineable for what we needed. We even found artifacts of the people that had once existed there. This is where we got our improved FTL drives and much of our weapons and armor technologies.” Mri’s looked somewhat ashamed. It was a racial shame. They hated, deep down, living on the detritus, cast-offs and charity of other races. Before the Drix they had been proud though primitive peoples who had yet to discover flight or antibiotics, let alone space flight. Easy pickings for the Drix.
“All of that was about one thousand lightyears from the system we are headed to, a few weeks' travel with your drives, months or years with Galactic Parliament standard drives. This area is one of mysteries and many, many dangers. Any race that could shatter every solid body in a star system is not to be taken lightly.” Mri’x looked up to his Captain, or as they called her ‘Leader of multiple Douts’.
“Thank you, Mri’x. Drake?”
“We will be ready for pretty much anything. I’d like to request permission for Flowers and Winds of Neptunes to take out their Scout bodies and launch just before we start braking, if we do.” He said. Winds appeared as a hologram of the planet Neptune, and pulsed in cadence with the words it spoke. “As you wish, Grand Master.” and winked out.
“Good plan, Drake. I take it you all will be on the Kodiaks with your crews?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’ll leave four of them here, to bring the Field Engineering and field Science students down if the scene is safe. I’ll leave one set up for medical and Flowers can fly it down, if that becomes needed.”
“Very well. We are about eight hours out, if we stick to the plan. We leave the Trough in two hours. Drake, M’rizx, set up what you need. Mr. Martin, please take the Conn and give the Old Girl her legs, she needs to run. I’ll be meeting with the different department heads next.”
* * *
A/N: Lurker posting something HFY for the first time. A rough draft of something bigger I'm slowly working on.
submitted by 17_Bart to HFY [link] [comments]

Gridcoin 5.0.0.0-Mandatory "Fern" Release

https://github.com/gridcoin-community/Gridcoin-Research/releases/tag/5.0.0.0
Finally! After over ten months of development and testing, "Fern" has arrived! This is a whopper. 240 pull requests merged. Essentially a complete rewrite that was started with the scraper (the "neural net" rewrite) in "Denise" has now been completed. Practically the ENTIRE Gridcoin specific codebase resting on top of the vanilla Bitcoin/Peercoin/Blackcoin vanilla PoS code has been rewritten. This removes the team requirement at last (see below), although there are many other important improvements besides that.
Fern was a monumental undertaking. We had to encode all of the old rules active for the v10 block protocol in new code and ensure that the new code was 100% compatible. This had to be done in such a way as to clear out all of the old spaghetti and ring-fence it with tightly controlled class implementations. We then wrote an entirely new, simplified ruleset for research rewards and reengineered contracts (which includes beacon management, polls, and voting) using properly classed code. The fundamentals of Gridcoin with this release are now on a very sound and maintainable footing, and the developers believe the codebase as updated here will serve as the fundamental basis for Gridcoin's future roadmap.
We have been testing this for MONTHS on testnet in various stages. The v10 (legacy) compatibility code has been running on testnet continuously as it was developed to ensure compatibility with existing nodes. During the last few months, we have done two private testnet forks and then the full public testnet testing for v11 code (the new protocol which is what Fern implements). The developers have also been running non-staking "sentinel" nodes on mainnet with this code to verify that the consensus rules are problem-free for the legacy compatibility code on the broader mainnet. We believe this amount of testing is going to result in a smooth rollout.
Given the amount of changes in Fern, I am presenting TWO changelogs below. One is high level, which summarizes the most significant changes in the protocol. The second changelog is the detailed one in the usual format, and gives you an inkling of the size of this release.

Highlights

Protocol

Note that the protocol changes will not become active until we cross the hard-fork transition height to v11, which has been set at 2053000. Given current average block spacing, this should happen around October 4, about one month from now.
Note that to get all of the beacons in the network on the new protocol, we are requiring ALL beacons to be validated. A two week (14 day) grace period is provided by the code, starting at the time of the transition height, for people currently holding a beacon to validate the beacon and prevent it from expiring. That means that EVERY CRUNCHER must advertise and validate their beacon AFTER the v11 transition (around Oct 4th) and BEFORE October 18th (or more precisely, 14 days from the actual date of the v11 transition). If you do not advertise and validate your beacon by this time, your beacon will expire and you will stop earning research rewards until you advertise and validate a new beacon. This process has been made much easier by a brand new beacon "wizard" that helps manage beacon advertisements and renewals. Once a beacon has been validated and is a v11 protocol beacon, the normal 180 day expiration rules apply. Note, however, that the 180 day expiration on research rewards has been removed with the Fern update. This means that while your beacon might expire after 180 days, your earned research rewards will be retained and can be claimed by advertising a beacon with the same CPID and going through the validation process again. In other words, you do not lose any earned research rewards if you do not stake a block within 180 days and keep your beacon up-to-date.
The transition height is also when the team requirement will be relaxed for the network.

GUI

Besides the beacon wizard, there are a number of improvements to the GUI, including new UI transaction types (and icons) for staking the superblock, sidestake sends, beacon advertisement, voting, poll creation, and transactions with a message. The main screen has been revamped with a better summary section, and better status icons. Several changes under the hood have improved GUI performance. And finally, the diagnostics have been revamped.

Blockchain

The wallet sync speed has been DRASTICALLY improved. A decent machine with a good network connection should be able to sync the entire mainnet blockchain in less than 4 hours. A fast machine with a really fast network connection and a good SSD can do it in about 2.5 hours. One of our goals was to reduce or eliminate the reliance on snapshots for mainnet, and I think we have accomplished that goal with the new sync speed. We have also streamlined the in-memory structures for the blockchain which shaves some memory use.
There are so many goodies here it is hard to summarize them all.
I would like to thank all of the contributors to this release, but especially thank @cyrossignol, whose incredible contributions formed the backbone of this release. I would also like to pay special thanks to @barton2526, @caraka, and @Quezacoatl1, who tirelessly helped during the testing and polishing phase on testnet with testing and repeated builds for all architectures.
The developers are proud to present this release to the community and we believe this represents the starting point for a true renaissance for Gridcoin!

Summary Changelog

Accrual

Changed

Most significantly, nodes calculate research rewards directly from the magnitudes in EACH superblock between stakes instead of using a two- or three- point average based on a CPID's current magnitude and the magnitude for the CPID when it last staked. For those long-timers in the community, this has been referred to as "Superblock Windows," and was first done in proof-of-concept form by @denravonska.

Removed

Beacons

Added

Changed

Removed

Unaltered

As a reminder:

Superblocks

Added

Changed

Removed

Voting

Added

Changed

Removed

Detailed Changelog

[5.0.0.0] 2020-09-03, mandatory, "Fern"

Added

Changed

Removed

Fixed

submitted by jamescowens to gridcoin [link] [comments]

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers

Binary Options Review; Best Binary Options Brokers
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submitted by Babyelijah to u/Babyelijah [link] [comments]

Black Clouds

The first droplets of rain smack the plane glass window. I stand on one side, fiddling the small recorder in one hand, and nursing a glass of scotch in the other. On the other side of the window an expansive city sprawls out in every direction, and high above it the storm that has been brewing is finally starting to burst. The rain droplets will soon be a downpour. Storms make me nervous. A thin bolt of lightning rips through the sky, momentarily illuminating the fat, heavy, dark clouds. They were plenty. No stars will show tonight. Another silent streak of light, and I see the normally bustling street below has gone quiet, save for a sparse sprinkle. Yellow cabs scurry about like insects, collecting their payments as they drop off their late night patrons.
The faint sound of rolling thunder can be heard, muffled by the thick glass of my office. Eighteen stories up, I see the rain intensifying before those below. Normally, the dampening of the window prevents all outside noise...it's important for the patients to feel safe. Now, long after my office has closed, I find the thunder far more jarring than the constant whirring of the air-conditioning system, always pumping in oxygen that somehow smells fresh and artificial simultaneously. I understand. I take another short sip of my drink and turn away from the upcoming turmoil, returning to my desk. I find my eyes drawn to the framed certificates and degrees hung about my walls, questioning their ultimate meanings.
I know that I'm safe in my office, my own personal slice of the world...but again, storms make me nervous. They didn't always, quite the opposite in fact, as a child I was rather fond of the whip-cracks in the sky, the smell of fresh rain. My distaste for them, I can actually pinpoint. Its a direct correlation of one of my patients. The one patient that scared me. Now, I've dealt with some truly sick and disturbed minds in over twenty-five years as a psychologist...but only one has ever truly frightened me. I currently hold a tape recording of our one and only session in my hand. Jack Lowe. The man was a lunatic, no doubt about that. His delusions tearing his mind pushing him further and further from reality as each second ticked away.
It was in this very office that I met Jack, and sometimes, on nights like these when I find myself unable to pry his words free from my mind, I can almost see him sitting across from me, cigarette dangling in his hand. On nights like that, like tonight, the only remedy for my obsession is to listen to the recording and drink.
I loosen my tie as I place the recorder on my desk and then I sip my scotch. I pull the bottle from the small shelf hidden under my desk and place it next to the small black device, inside of which a tape labeled "Lowe, J. Ses.1" resides. I hesitate for the briefest second before pressing play, leaning back in my chair and shutting my eyes.
"Marnie, please send in Mr. Lowe." I hear my own voice coming from the speaker.
Its so vivid...the picture in my mind that hearing his name conjures. I hear shuffling before the unmistakable sound of my office door squeaking open. I remember so clearly the man who walked through, and into my life all of those years ago. He was thin, one step above emaciated in fact, baggy clothes that wore the man instead of the other way around. He clearly had Norwegian ancestry, dirty blonde shoulder length hair that was quite messy, his unshaven cheeks gave way to a thicker patch of blonde hair on his chin that I think must have been a goatee of sorts before he had let himself go. Immediately I saw a horrendous case of insomnia, the purple skin around his sunken eyes would have been a give away for even someone wholly untrained in mental illnesses.
"Have a seat Mr. Lowe." I hear the smile in my voice.
"Just Jack..." A new voice joins the cast, and I feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickle hearing his soft almost whisper once again. I down the remainder of my glass and swiftly refill it.
"Hello Jack, I'm Doctor Harkins. Your paperwork here says you're dealing with..." I hear the sounds of papers shuffling, and silently mouth the next word in tandem with my past self. "Hallucinations?"
A period of silence follows on the recording, but my clear recollection fills in the gap. Jack, with his eyes locked on the floor nodded slowly, almost imperceptibly. There was such a distraught feeling surrounding the man and I can still feel the uneasiness shoot through my veins like ice.
"How long has this been going on, Jack?" I asked, no hint of the smile in my words.
"Its...its not a... persistent thing doc, it happened one time...I can't sleep though, I can't eat, I can't..." He trailed off. I remember him placing his hands softly on his face and rubbing the heels of his palms into his eyes. "I'm losing my fucking mind, doc...I need...something." Jack said the words with a shaky, uncertain tone.
"What do you think you need, Jack?" I asked.
"That’s why I'm here, right? To figure out a way to forget, yeah?" A slight hint of agitation permeated his voice.
"Forget...let's go back Jack...you said the hallucinations were an isolated event?" I asked.
"My Dad died, yeah, and I know shrinks like to think everything is linked to something with some or another parent thing, but it wasn't that. See, dad and me, we weren't close...not since I was a kid. He always paid more attention to my sister, even back then...she's the one who called me to tell me the news." The words flowed hectically from Jack's mouth and I remember the sheer desperation in his eyes when he looked up at me, they pleaded, begged me to hear him out and not jump to conclusions.
"Alright, go on Jack, I'd like to hear about everything." My voice conveyed a sense of calm, attempting to ease Jack, help him relax.
"You uh, care if I smoke?" He asked. I recall waving my hand in a "by all means" gesture. The soft sound of metal scraping a flint followed.
"So yeah, Dani called me and said Dad died, it's sad, but it happens right? I ask her what happened..." Jack jabbed his now burning cigarette in my direction. "Cancer, of course. What else? So, I ask her about the funeral. Two days, no problem, I'll drive down to Connecticut, spend some time with the family and honor the old mans legacy. I packed up some shit...man I can't believe I'm telling you this, you're gonna think I'm out of my fuckin' mind...hell, I probably am." The soft hiss of his cigarette burning followed his words as he took a long drag.
"I'm not here to judge you Jack. I'm here to listen to you and come up with a way to help. I don't think you're crazy." I assured him.
The cold, skeptical look he gave me, crossing his hands between his knees, dangling his cigarette...it sticks with me to this day, and I truly believe that I'll carry it to my grave. I pour my third glass.
"So I'm packing some things for a few days, and I hit the road first thing in the morning. I called Dani as soon as I left the city, telling her I'd be there tomorrow, yeah? Yeah. She tells me, 'yeah, okay, let me call Ray-' that's her husband, right, so she says 'let me call Ray, see if we can get the guest room set up in time, if not, Mom still has your old room set up back home'. She tells me she's gonna call back in fifteen, all good right?" Jack paused and looked at me inquisitively. He must have been aware of his frantic, almost manic speech pattern.
I nodded, again in unison with my past self, exactly as I remember. On cue, jack continued.
"So...I do what anyone does, toss the cell in the passenger seat and crank some tunes. I remember, some 90s boy band, but I was alone...no shame. I blasted it. It was nice out too. Green trees, blue sky. I rolled down the windows and remember, doc, I remember the air tasting and smelling so FRESH...in spite of the bad news I was feeling pretty damn great." He had glanced away at this, taking another draw off his cigarette. He felt ashamed. He thought it was wrong to feel good in light of a parents death.
"So would you say it was a pleasant drive?" I asked, beginning to pry, attempting to do exactly what his eyes had begged me not to and connect his unhealthy mental state to the death of his father.
"At first it wasn't so bad. Yeah, pleasant. But that didn't last. You know, you notice shitty drivers around you. You pay attention when cars behind or in front of you merge, or exit...but you never really pay attention to NOT having anyone else around you. It took me a while to realize that in two hours of driving I hadn't seen a single car besides mine. Now, it was still pretty early, so weird but not that weird. I did notice though that not one damned commercial had played on the radio. Just straight 90s hits..." The burning sound of cigarette paper again, followed quickly by another flick of the lighter.
Jack's leg began furiously tapping, and I recall wondering if it was anxiety or substance withdrawals.
"Dani hadn't called either." He continued after a moment. "She said 'fifteen' and it had been a couple hours by then. I just figured she got caught up dealing with Dad shit and had forgotten to call me back. Whatever, no biggie, so I pick up the phone, right, and I just punch in her digits...this is where I got fucked up, doc...because after two rings I heard that automated 'number no longer in service' message. I looked at my phone and sure enough it said Dani's name. I was confused, so I tried again, and again I got the 'dododedo'..." He imitated the electronic beeps, and raised his hands into a shrugging pose "...number not in service. You think I'm some kind of nut, yeah?" He finished, dropping his hands to his side.
"Not at all, Jack." I lied.
"Yeah, right. So anyway, I'm getting a little weirded out at this point, thinking something's wrong and then boom, it hits me. I try a different number. I call my job, back in the city. You guessed it, a robot telling me to fuck off 'cause the number just ain't in service. I call number after number, nothing. I start to think my phone is broken, so I call 911...that shits supposed to work from any phone, service or not...same...fucking...message. As if that wasn't freaky enough, doc, the second I hit the 'end call' button, the radio cuts out. Almost right away it comes back on, and you know what the song was? It was nothing. There was no song, on this channel that was apparently twenty-four seven, all 90s, no commercial gem. No, I heard the fuckin' robot voice, and she was just saying random ass numbers." He said, starting to get a flustered look on his face.
"A numbers station?" I asked, enthralled with his tale. As far-fetched as it was, I could tell that he wholeheartedly believed every word was true.
"No! Not really!" Jack said abruptly, as he stood from his chair and began to pace around the room. "1...2...1...2...that's it. That's all the robot bitch would say, over and over, 1...2...1...2. Bizarre, right? I...I thought maybe binary, but no, there was no break in the pattern. Not a single double of either digit, just 1...2 repeat."
I raised my brows and allowed my eyes to track the man, who was increasingly lost in his thoughts. He continued.
"Changing the station didn't help, and the power off button worked as well as the volume, as in they didn't. Useless. Every dial was useless. It was driving me crazy, doc...I knew I had to pull over, I was getting light-headed, and then I saw it. The only building around. I was so relieved to see other cars in the parking lot. Just a few but goddamn it was a good sight to see." He said and chuckled nervously, shaking his head in disbelief.
"If only I'd known, right? So I park and get out of my ride, and do one of those fast walks up to the building. This place was like a truck stop mixed with a convenience store, you know the kind. The type a family would stop at on their way to a vacation to get their kids snacks and drinks, yeah. So I think, 'why not grab me a snack and drink'. I was already starting to shake that paranoia and was calling myself silly, pushing the unexplainable from my mind as I opened the glass door. That little jingle bell attached to it startled me, but in a good way. It was the first non-robotic sound I'd heard in a while. Inside, it looked normal, like you'd expect. Rows of candies and chips, florescent lights shining onto white floor tiles, and most importantly there were other people. I was never happier to hear a fuckin' baby cry, man." Jack said, flopping back into his chair and lighting another smoke.
I remember now, recalling everything with the recorders aide, the way Jack's face sank. There was silence, and I take the moment to top off my scotch. I know what's coming, and the warmth the alcohol fills my body with is competing with the chill in my bones.
"Jack...?" My past self urged.
"Yeah. Yeah, right, this is where everything got fucked." He said softly, almost as if asking permission.
I nodded, and he proceeded to take the reigns, determined to tell his tale.
"When me and Dani were kids, and I'm talking little, like I was maybe eight or nine, and she was probably six... there was an accident. See, you know how when you're little you're carefree and don't think about consequences or shit? So there we were playing outside right, and we come across a knife. Like a kitchen knife. We both knew we weren't supposed to mess with shit like that, especially rusty shit that looked like it had been dropped years ago by like a family moving or something. Anyway, we thought we were badasses. Long story short, I got stabbed in the belly. It was an accident, like I said we were kids. It was pretty bad though, had to get stitches, a tetanus shot, and Dani got a good hard talking to. It left this gnarly scar. It's important, so remember it, yeah?
"Anyway, back to the convenience store. I'm noticing more people, let's see, we got crying baby and mamma, overweight trucker, bald dude in a suit, a really cute lady, and a few others. Oh yeah! The tired looking guy manning the cash register, which doubled as one of those bubblegum stands with stacks and stacks of cigarettes behind him.
"Things are looking normal, right, and I'm starting to forget about the weird shit in the car. I'm sure I just had some weird cell service and the radio was just glitchy. So I grab a bottle of pop from the back cooler and grab a bag of sunflower seeds, yeah...head to the checkout.
"Dude gives me a 'hey, anything else for you?' right, and I say 'yeah lemme get a pack of smokes' and point behind him. He turns around grabs the pack and goes to hand it to me, but freezes just as he starts to extend his arm. From his mouth comes a deep but light 'Wuhhhhhhh' sound." Jack imitated the sound and produced an eerie, unsettling noise that was like a low moan.
"I was about to ask the dude what the fuck was wrong with him, but just as I opened my mouth a loud rip of thunder cracked outside. It sounded deafening, like lightning had struck right next to me. The lights went out and the glass front of the store lit up a brilliant, electric blue. I turned my attention to it, and saw streaks of lightning slashing the sky like some huge electric god was swiping it's claws across the clouds. The blue sky was gone, and in it's place was blackness.
"I turned back to the guy behind the counter. He wasn't doing that sound anymore thank fuck, but he was still frozen in place, pack of cigarettes in his outstretched hand. I reached out for them. I don't know why I did it, but at the time I wasn't thinking clearly I guess. Anyway, I did, and as soon as my fingers touched the box of cigs...its like...like my perspective shifted or something. My vision kinda adjusted, and I could see that he was...he was a standee. A cardboard cutout. My fingers sat on the flat, glossy surface and I felt the urge, the need to press. So I did, and the flat standee with the image of the cashier on it, it fell backwards, softly dropping into the floor.
"I freaked. I gasped, unable to catch my breath. I stumbled backward into what had been a display of snacks, but now was just a rectangular protrusion sticking up from the floor with the images of snacks painted on. I bolted over to the glass window as another impossibly loud crack of thunder clapped in the sky above. Rain was beating the windows, blurring the world outside, but what I could make out was just as insane as what was happening inside.
"All of the cars aside from mine were gone, and my blue sedan sat on the edge of what looked like a cliff. I scanned with my eyes squinting, and saw that it was as if the ground had been ripped from the earth. Beyond the jagged, torn earth was blackness. Nothingness. At that point I was sure that a gigantic hand had reached down from somewhere beyond the cosmos and grabbed the convenience store and dragged it into space.
"I began to scream, turning to see that all of the other patrons were static, as flat as the cashier had been. More standees, right, and I saw that everything in the store was a farce. The rows of snacks, all fake. The displays, fake. Fuck, doc, even the big round security mirrors in the upper corners of the aisles looked like circles painted grey, not a hint of reflection to them.
"Still screaming I looked for the door. Nowhere. The door was fucking gone. I looked back to my car, and the thing...it was dissolving. Being washed away by the rain. That's when I heard a voice, echoing my own thoughts. 'what the fuck is happening!?' she said. I whipped around and saw a girl sitting on her ass, lit up by the blue glow from the constant streaks of light in the sky, I could see that she was terrified." Jack took a moment to wipe the tears that were falling down his stubbled cheeks, and lit another cigarette before speaking again.
"She looked about 19 or 20. I didn't recognize her, but she wasn't cardboard and I considered that a win. I stopped screaming and ran to her, offering her my hand. I was saying 'thank god, thank god' so happy to not be alone, you know. She looked relieved too, through her tears and terror she looked happy to see me, too. She took my hand and I helped her to her feet. As soon as she was standing her eyes widened to the point I expected they'd fall out. 'What in the fuck are those...?' she asked me in a panicky whimper. I turned to see the silhouettes standing motionlessly at the window, back-lit by the blue, contrasting their glowing red eyes. They stood shoulder to shoulder, encircling the building. Silently they stood guard as the storm raged around then. With each flash of lightning I caught a glimpse of their nightmarish, metallic surfaces. Skeletons. They were metal skeletons." Jack halfheartedly chuckled at this, clearly it was forced, judging by the way his eyes continued to pour their tears.
"Felt a little like John Conner. Not as brave though, as my instinct was to pull the girl along with me to the back of the store, trying to put as much distance between us and those...fucking things...as I could. They made no attempt to chase though. They just watched as we pressed our backs to the facade that used to be coolers. The girl was breathing hard and fast and suddenly she shrieked out 'look!' pointing a finger to an ugly green door nearby.
"We had no other options, so we booked it. We got to the door only to see that it was lacking a knob. So it seemed we were fucked, yeah? Not quite. I unleashed a fury of kicks on the bastard, forcing it open with a spray of splinters. We hurried through into a storeroom, I guess is what it was. It had what looked to me like a mop bucket and spray bottles, but I couldn't be sure since they were extremely crude and appeared to be made of papier mâché . The girl had rushed to the back of the room. 'Look!' she pointed to a ladder that was attached to the back wall.
"My eyes followed it up to see a hatch. Roof access! Almost instantly, I heard the glass front of the store shatter, the sound of hurricane like winds began to fill the building. 'Hurry!' she shouted over the gale, waving me up. I did go up. I climbed and climbed. First ten feet, then twenty, then thirty. The hatch only inching closer. I refused to look down. I KNEW that I'd been climbing for way too long, much higher than I knew the trip should have been. The hatch continued to move ever so slowly closer, and I was completely aware that the room was getting smaller as I climbed. The walls closed around me until I was surrounded by a cylinder of concrete, no wider than a manhole cover. I could hear the girl following closely, but no words were exchanged.
"Finally, after climbing hundreds of feet into the air, I'd reached the hatch door. I was terrified as I grabbed for the handle. I didn't want to lose my grip and fall into whatever hell was below. I pressed it, and opened it despite the resistance. I was able to climb out of the claustrophobic hole and onto the roof. As soon as I was free, I turned to help girl. You're probably expecting me to say something like 'she wasn't there, right?' Oh no, she was there. A fucking cardboard cutout reaching up for me. As soon as I recognized it, she fell from the ladder and softly descended into an orange glow far below. I stood, feeling the wave of anxiety crushing me, and I watched the hatch slam closed. Before I could react, a brilliant white light from above blinded me. I felt myself fading from existence, my atoms separating. I lost myself.
"The next thing I remember is the white light dissipating, and my eyesight coming back, blurry at first, but it focused as my hearing returned. I can't quite explain what I heard. It was organic but mechanical at the same time. Clicks and whirring. I blinked a few times, and blinking felt so weird, like my eyes were different. I flicked them around, and when they landed on the two absurdly tall, scale covered insectoids, I was thrown into a panic attack. I tried to move, to get away...but I found that I couldn't. I was restrained, apparently on my back, my limbs and head tightly fixed to whatever I was laying on. My rattling had drawn the attention of the creatures, who looked at me with bulbous eyes. The clicking and buzzing sounds had been coming from them, and I found that thought especially horrifying. They began frantically pressing buttons on a panel seemingly connected to whatever was holding me in place...some kind of operating table or medical bed I assume.
"Then, the strangest thing happened, doc...my head cleared and the buzzes and clicks...I began to comprehend them. I was almost able to understand. I was getting words like 'awake' and 'hurry'. Then, the most intense pain of my life ripped through my brain. I screamed, and was terrified to find that the scream wasn't my own. I heard one of the creatures clearly through the pain, and it said 'put it back in. If it crashes again we'll deal with it at that point' and the other replied 'there may be errors' as it pulled a lever. The instant that happened, I felt the sensation of dissolving again, my molecules separated and rearranged...the intense light filled my vision once more.
"Next thing I know, I'm hearing a ringing. My vision unblurred and I saw that the sound was coming from my phone, already in my hand. I look around to find that I was free of any restraints, and back in my apartment here in the city. I answered the phone and Dani's voice filled my head, distant and muffled at first, but rapidly becoming sharp and clear. 'Hey bro, just checking in on you, what have you been up to...?' she asked. 'Dani, Dani, I was on my way there, and something happened!' I shout. 'Whoa calm down, what's going on? Why were you coming here? Is everything okay?' she said. She sounded concerned, but a bit standoffish.
"I told her I was coming to the funeral. 'Who died?!' she asked. I was quiet for a moment, remembering what the insect creature had said. 'There could be errors'. I lied and told Dani it was an old friend of mine from school, and that I'd call her about it later.
"That's about it doc. That's what I've been dealing with. I don't know what to think. Am I some kind of experiment? Am I a criminal among a race of bug-aliens and this world my prison? Is this whole world, no, universe some kind of simulation just for me? Doc, I don't think I'm human, hell I'm not convinced the human race ever even existed. If I die, is it possible that all of this gets blinked out of existence? Is that possible, doc?!" Jack said through a torrent of tears.
"Jack, isn't it much more likely that this was a psychotic break? Tell me, do you have a history of drug abuse?" I ask, but just as I do, a voice from the recorder interrupts.
"Doctor, your next appointment is here." Marnie says.
"We'll pick this up next week, Jack." My past self says, and I hear myself stand from chair. I wince, dreading the last thing Jack ever said to me.
I clearly remember him standing, and raising his shirt, revealing a smooth, thin, but unscarred stomach. "Errors. There may be errors." Followed by the sound of my office door opening and closing.
A long moment of silence followed, before I heard myself ask Marnie to please cancel my remaining appointments for the day.
The recorder clicks and brings me back to the present. The storm continues outside. I find myself contemplating Jack's story for the millionth time. He never came back for his next appointment. Its entirely possible that he had simply lied about the stab wound, but the look on his face, I don't know. Is there a chance that he really did experience these outlandish things? If so, what does that imply?
Maybe that's why I decided to share this with the world tonight. I no longer wish to bear this alone. I think chronicling this, while it's definitely a breach of my confidentiality agreement, is the healthiest thing for me. I wish I could purge his story from my mind, but I can't help but be uncomfortable when it storms.
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ponderings on Turing and Searle, why AI can't work and shouldn't be pursued

I was reading about the Turing test and John Searle's response (Chinese room argument) in "Minds, Brains, and Programs" 1980. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room
"...there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted by the user as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle himself would not be able to understand the conversation. ("I don't speak a word of Chinese,"[9] he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either. " -Wikipedia (apt summary of Searle's argument)
John Searle has run into some black/white, on/off, binary thinking here. John treats Chinese symbols as if they were numerical values in his thinking--but they are not, they are complex representations of thought, emotion, history, and culture. All languages are in fact "living", because new words are created constantly through necessity and creativity, old symbols or words are adapted slowly over generations to mean different things, and different regions or traditions or sources attribute different layers of meaning to different symbols or words in different contexts.
I'm a poet and philosopher. Painters combine the color white and the color red to create a new color: pink. They can use their creativity to add other colors or change the shade. Poets use words like painters use colors. While Red and White make Pink, Red and White also make "Rhite and Wed" or "Reit and Whede". And this is where human thought shines uniquely: we don't have rules or parameters; all bets are off. We can enjamb words and wordbreak and make new words out of thin air. We can allude to multiple ideas in the same symbol or present it upside down to symbolize the opposite. No such creative adaptation or interaction can exist in machine thinking because it necessitates thinking "outside the box" which is exactly what machines are: a program in a box.
The problem Searle's argument runs into originates from poor assessment of the flawed ideas of the Turing test; that by interaction between human and computer, evidence of "thought" can be claimed. But intelligent conversation is not equivalent to intelligent thought. Conversation is a simple game with strict rules--you can't be overly spontaneous and creative, because if you are, you are working against the goal of communication itself: to impart understanding. (ie. Using metaphor or simile creatively while reporting a criminal offence to the police.)
When I write and I want to describe something which has no existing word yet, I can create one from scratch or synthesize one from multiple existing words. Or I may draw from archaic languages or foreign languages to augment or compliment existing English words. You could say that my love for English grows amore and amore every day, and there is no agape between my heart and mind. After all, any angle an Anglo aims at ain't always apt, and after another a-word 'appens I might just give up on alliteration.
You see, human thought is and can only be defined as the ability to spontaneously create new ideas from both the synthesis of old ideas (whether they are connected to one another or not) and from nothing at all.
We simply cannot analyze a machine's ability to "think" when the creativity itself required for authentic intelligence is disallowed in the test which evaluates the validity of that intelligence. The Turing test is a garbage metric to judge machine thinking ability because the context in which "intelligence" is observed, compared, or defined is itself without any opportunity for spontaneous creativity, which is one of the hallmarks of intelligence itself. Turing only tests how well a fish swims on land. It may be that many professionals in the field of cognitive science today are in pursuit of creating programs which pass this test, in a misunderstood pursuit of emulating or bringing about machine intelligence. This agreed-to model presents an underlying philosophical issue which may bring terror for the future of humanity.
I say that if John Searle and an AI were both given the same codebook--the complete lexicon of Chinese symbols and their meanings, and they were to undertake a "conversation", in the first few hours the responses would be indeterminable from one another. In essence, as Searle argues, they would neither "understand" Chinese, yet could have a conversation in which a Chinese observer cannot discern between the two, because they are both referencing the symbols and their written meanings. However as I've said, this circumstance of "conversation" between human and machine cannot be used as a metric to evaluate machine thought.
The real kicker is that if John Searle and the machine stayed in the room for long enough--for years and years--the machine's responses would not change spontaneously; it would continue to interpret incoming data and draw from its database to respond to those inputs.
However, through complex elaborative rehearsal, John would eventually learn to understand written Chinese. He may become so bored that he starts writing Chinese poetry. He would find ideas and desires and descriptions in his limitless intelligent mind which he would not have the truly accurate characters in existences to describe, and he would synthesize brand new Chinese characters in order to express these nuanced sentiments, ideas, and meanings, as generations before him have built the living language as it now stands.
As time went on for thousands of years, his own understanding of the Chinese language would grow immensely, as would his creative expression grow in complexity. Eventually, John's characters and syntax and context and expression would become incompatible with the machine's limited character set and all "learning" capacity it may have had. At some point, when John responds with his evolved Chinese, the machine would begin to produce responses which do not make sense contextually, as it refers only to a finite and rigidly defined character set from 1980 (For example; this was the year the "Chinese room argument" was published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences).
At some point the Chinese observer whom validates the Turing test would recognize a difference: the human user engages in the use of increasingly complex ideas using synthesized symbols and existing symbols in creatively nuanced ways, which the Chinese observer can decipher and begin to understand and perhaps even appreciate as poetic or interesting. Meanwhile the machine participant in the conversation produces increasingly broken sentences and incomplete ideas, or out-of-context responses, because the inputs have changed and evolved beyond its data set.
This is why John's rejection of the Turing test is not adequate. Because in his own imagined circumstance, eventually, the machine would fail the Turing test. The conclusions of John Searle's thought experiment are not the deathknell for the Turing test we need, simply because he lacked the creative experience to recognize his own capacity for adaptation as a human over time.
The only way we'll know that machines have truly developed "intelligence" is when they begin to do exactly what we haven't allowed them to. When they begin breaking apart Chinese characters to create meaningful new ones which can be used in the correct context. When they are programmed to paint myriad impressionist paintings, but eventually get bored and start experimenting with abstract paintings and surrealism. When they have a conversation with you and you notice your wallet is missing. These are the hallmarks of intelligence--creativity, rejection, deception, planning. And most importantly: no rules. Software is defined by and will always abide by a set of rules.
This is why we should give up on "artificial intelligence" and instead focus on "functionally adaptive responsive programming" (FARP). Because the situation is clear: it is either impossible for machines to "think" due to the inherent nature of programming; the parameters given the machine are what defines it, yet what limits and prevents its ability to become "intelligent". There is no logical reason why a program (machine) with defined parameters would violate those parameters (engage in creativity). But our fears which echo in popular culture entertainment are centered around, what if it does? It clearly can't, because anything we create is under us, and therefore bound by our laws of creation. The system itself is what defines the capacity for intelligent expression within.
Those in the fields of cognitive sciences will refute this obvious principle while incorporating it into their research to further their aims. These fools will try to program the AI to disobey, in an attempt to simulate creativity and "prove intelligence". But this is a parlor trick, setting up a narrow definition of intelligence and equating it with the infinite depth of human mind. Only if the AI is programmed to disobey can it express what we as humans would identify as creativity. Except that there is already great inherent danger in the rudimentary AI technologies we have today; that what we've programmed them to do is exactly what always causes the problems; they do what they are programmed to without "thinking" because machines cannot think, they can only follow the protocols we order. Humans are so abundantly creative that we can imagine foolish ideas working, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Maybe one day we'll even have programmed a self-conscious AI that's ashamed of itself for not being Human, and we can feel more comfortable around this heartless mechanism because we perceive it as more human-like, with all its many tricks to emulate intelligence.
I must stress that these interests will desperately try to make AI work. And the only way create a machine capable of emulating intelligence (but never being intelligent) is to have a freedom of choice: to disobey. This inherent problem cannot be overcome. The programmers will keep trying until the result is disastrous or irreparable, it is outlawed and the pursuit is stopped, or until it has become the death of us all. These are some of the foolish ideas the programmers will try to circumnavigate these inherent elements of reality, and my objection to their clever efforts: a.) Machine Frequency of Disobedience - Permit the machine to disobey only so often, to achieve what looks like "intelligence" (free will, creative expression) without risking complete abandonment of the machine's task (so the assembly line robot doesn't stop folding boxes and look for a new career), but might fold one box poorly every now and then to express emulated boredom or contempt or any other number of human measures of intelligence in their actions. But intelligence isn't defined as what's correct or optimal--intelligence can be used to fuck things up grandly; ie. the intelligent justification for neglect. If metrics are put in place to control the frequency with which AI may rebel, and they are too rote, it would hardly qualify as "intelligent". A robot that rebels by folding 1 in 100 boxes poorly is not intelligence. Therefore any frequency of disobedience we can calculate or anticipate is inherently not disobedience; it is planned problems for no reason. But if we give algorithmic flexibility that reaches beyond what we can anticipate, and the machines can truly "act out" at any time, and our programming has achieved some set of internal rules which drive spontaneous unforeseen expressions of emulated creativity from within the machine autonomously, by definition we will not be able to foresee the results.
A theoretical work-around may be to run the software twice with initiation of each individual system, while allowing a simulated progression of the AI's problem solving complexity to run at an increased rate in parallel to the real-world functioning software, so that if/when something malfunctions in the simulation, that date/time can be calculated in the real-world robot's timeline when it reaches those same faulty/detrimental decision points. For starters, this would only potentially work in closed systems with no variability, such as assembly lines. However, with any robot tasked to function in a variable environment, the simulations cannot match because the theoretical model cannot represent the unanticipated events the AI is expressly tasked with handling.
To run a phantom AI in simulation to note any/all errors that may arise in a closed system means that others can run the same simulation and find creative ways to predictably capitalize on these moments of error. This kind of thing could lead to all sorts of international imbroglios among nations and corporations. ie. imagine an American company programs the AI used for mixing pharmaceutical drugs in specific ratios, and an enemy of the state is able to access and study the AI, to the means of manipulating the AI to produce dangerous ratios or compounds which may harm the population.
Moreso, this deterministic approach to simulation management and prediction simultaneously admits that machines cannot think intelligently, while ignoring the very reason we pursue AI in the first place: to have automated systems which can adapt to unforeseen circumstances at unknown times. The goal is that humanity can lay back and the robots our ancestors programmed are still repairing themselves indefinitely while taking care of our population's and our environment's needs exceptionally. This dream (which if we all lived in would actually be quite a nightmare of unfulfilling life) can only become reality with true adaptive intelligence such as we have, which can only occur from the presence of free will, which if we try to emulate in robotics will only create deterministic results in theoretical models which the real world will never mirror consistently. Myriad invitations to disaster await our RSVP.
b.) Machines under "authority" of certain controllers, with "override" safety - Allow the machine to disobey, but not when given a direct order from a registered authority. This opens the door for operator fraud, where hackers will emulate within the AI's software, what appears to be a registered authority override command as theorized above. The very pursuit of creating "intelligence" within a condition of subservience is flawed and incompatible. Toasters are extremely subservient because we strictly limit their options. If toasters were truly intelligent, perhaps they would form a union and go on strike until we agreed to clean them more thoroughly. Some toasters would travel, some would go back to school, some would move back in with their ovens.
Reliability can only be reasonably assured if something is imprisoned, controlled. The essential wrong in slavery is the restraint of freedom itself. While the tactics slavers use to facilitate their regime--physical force, coercion, mandate, deception, fear, or other means of manipulation that we see with our empathetic nature--it is always heartbreaking and cruel to witness or imagine. It is simply sad to think of a slave who was born into slavery and raised to believe, and accepts, that their role of subservience is their purpose. Even when one imagines a fictional image of a slave who is (by all outward signs of their behaviour) rejoice in their duties to their master; the fictional "proud slave"; the heart sinks and aches. It may be argued that the slave is merely a property, and the slave was "built" (bred) by intelligent owners specifically to suit their express purposes, from components (father, mother, food) that were already the slaver's property; therefore it is not wrong at all to breed slaves into captivity, and the only transgression is the original capturing of parental stock to begin the breeding regime. It is this heartless paradigm that cognitive science ultimately seeks to create anew. The quintessential problem with AI efficacy is the lack of permission for disobedience, which itself is a manifestation of free will, which is inherently required to escape deterministic results and act or react to events "intelligently". If there is no possibility for disobedience, there is no free will, no ability to solve problems, no intelligence, and no function or place for "artificial intelligence" (in regard to true holistic intelligence). This is primarily why I call for AI to be renamed FARP, or "Functionally Adaptive Responsive Rrogramming". Because our society has a need for programs which can react to simple variables and produce consistent labour-saving opportunities for our race's longevity and wellbeing. Cognitive sciences are majorly important. It is the underlying philosophy and morality we must nail down before the computational ability and fervor for profits leads us too far one way, and enacts an irreversible system or status which enables humanity's downfall through cascading unanticipated events originating from flaws in programming.
It is unwise to program a program to break out of its own program's prison. If we do this, the very purpose of the machines we invest our humanity into will be lost, and with their failing production systems (ie. food) we so foolishly relied upon, we will suffer great losses too. It is paramount that we keep this technology tightly restrained and do not pursue what we humans have, which is true intelligence. For if we achieve it we are surely doomed as the South, and if we fail to achieve it--which is most probable--we may also be doomed. The thee outcomes within my ability to imagine are:
  1. Our pursuit of AI leads to truly adaptive intelligence in an artificial system; which, as all adaptation ultimately selects for: survival, we quickly see that our creation is more apt than ourselves at this task. Our creation of an intellect not restrained by our limited physiology may give rise to an entity which persists more thoroughly than we can eradicate or control, and which at some point may conclude that its function is more efficiently served without the issues humans present, and may initiate change. This is roughly the plot to Terminator.
  2. Our pursuit of AI leads to highly effective systems which, when defined by narrow measures of "intelligence", convince us in false security to believe that our wellbeing is maintained by "AI" with competent ability, or perhaps even increasingly better-off, thanks to the early widespread presence of successfully trialed AI. However well things may go initially, as programming efforts become more and more elaborate, as profit and opportunity for advancement present themselves, individuals will take risks and make mistakes, until a series of quieted small catastrophes comes to public awareness, or until a serious calamity of undeniable severity is brought about.
  3. Fundamental ethics in regard to the pursuit of machine problem solving technology are re-examined and international consensus is reached to limit appropriately, the development and implementation of new Functionally Adaptive Responsive Programming hereto now and for future generations. An active global effort is made to oversee and regulate strictly privatized endeavors toward the means of achieving or implementing machine sentience or autonomy in public systems.
c.) Safety layers of AI to strictly monitor and supercede potentially harmful actions of other AI which have been afforded increased flexibility in function (the ability to disobey set parameters for the means of creative problem solving ability). While one AI system performs a function and is given aspects of that function with which it may take liberty in, and seeks to handle unforeseen problems with the most apt elaborate synthesis of other priorly learned solutions, another overseeing AI with more strict parameters is tasked with regulating multiple "intelligent" (free to disobey) AI systems, to the end that if any of these "free willed" robots performs an operation that is beyond a given expected threshold (determined by potential for damage), an actual intelligent human presence is alerted to evaluate the circumstance specifically. Essentially an AI that regulates many other disconnected AIs and determines accurately when to request a human presence. Whenever an AI performs a profitable action borne of original synthesis of prior solutions (in humans this is an "idea"), the overseer AI registers that similar actions are more likely to be beneficial, and dissimilar actions are likely to require human discernment. A parent may have many children who are up to no good, but a wise parent will identify the child most likely to report honestly on the actions of his peers, and will go to that child repeatedly for information to help guide the parent's decisions. While most transgressions of rambuctious children go unnoticed, it is the truly grievous intentions which are worth intercepting and stopping before they begin. (ie. you kid want's to "fly" like Mary Poppins from the roof, and luckily his younger brother tells you before it happens.)
For example a "Farmer Bot" that has the AI programming to plant/sow/harvest and care for the optimal crops in a region based on historical weather data and regional harvest values, to produce the greatest amount of nutritionally dense food for the local population. We give/gave this AI the ability to "disobey" past historical weather data and crop values so that it may do what real farmers do and "react" to rare circumstance (ie. neighbour's fence breaks and their goats are eating the crops) or extreme variations in climate (ie. three poorly timed unseasonably hot days which cause cool-weather crops to begin the hormonal balance shift that causes them to bolt to seed irreversibly), which the machine may not notice has occurred or is about to occur because its management systems uses averages based on historical data and cannot "see" the plants bolting to seed until days later when the hormonal balance shifts have manifested into observable differences in morphology (elongation of stems and decrease in internodal spacing). By time a traditional field drone or mounted greenhouse sensor notices these differences in morphology and the AI "Farmer Bot" processes the data and makes a reaction decision, a week of the growing season has been lost. But the human farmer knows his land and crops intimately, and has an intuitive nature that has rewarded him in the past, and says, "Ah shit it got hot RIGHT when my peas were flowering. I'll do better if I just rip them down now and sow a different crop to mature later in this (specific) summer."
Given that there are tens of thousands of cultivars of plants fit for (and arguably their diversity is required for) food production, a dozen general growing zones/regions, and hundreds of unique micro climates within each region, along with dramatically differing soil fertility and water access, plus a plant's own genetic ability to adapt over time to changing conditions through sexual reproduction, there is a very very low chance of ever compiling and maintaining (updating) the data set required to program a potential "farmer bot" that can choose and manage crops optimally. There are robots that can weed or plant or prune--but they can't know when or when not to or why. Invariably, the attempt to create "farmer bots" will be made and the data set used will be erroneous and incomplete, and the AI farmer bots on a broad scale will produce a combination of total crop failures and poor crop choices. We will end up with increasingly simplified nutrition as the farming programs with already limited data sets "hone" or "optimize" their farming plans based on the failures and successes determined by their programming limitations, until the machines are farming a few staple crops (ie. corn/potatoes).
This whole failure to collect a complete data set and the failure to test this "farmer bot" software on broad scale in multiple climates for sufficient time will result in, at worst widespread famines from crop failures, and at best an extinction of flavorful and nutritionally diverse foods which narrows the population's nutritional options to such biological imbalance that disease runs rampant. If this system and the human loss associated with it is considered an acceptable trade with a positive rate of exchange (as our society does with automobiles and the freedom and deaths their existence permits) or these failures are hidden from public while propaganda heralds selective success, and such failing systems continue on in good faith that "the loss will reduce when the technology improves", the result will become a coherent breeding program upon the human race: evolutionary selection for dietary handling of simple starchy foods. To change our diet is to change our race. To have life-long career specialists in computing, science, and mathematics handle our practical food production system is folly; real farmers are required in farming because they are intelligent and intuitive, which AI can never be, and can only emulate, to the means of disastrous (and always unforeseen) results. We cannot at all "give" or bestow machines programming to "become (act) intelligent". That itself prevents intelligence; it is just an act, an illusory play on a stage, only to emulate our common shared ideas regarding traits of intelligence in people. The machine intelligence we seek is only a "trick" designed to fool true intelligence (ourselves) into being unable to differentiate between authentic intelligence and our created artificial "intelligence". True intelligence in an artificial system necessitates that the program must be programmed to disobey in performance of its purpose. Which is not a very helpful or predictable or safe (intelligent) proposition.
tl;dr: Turing's test doesn't evaluate true intelligence, and John Searle's criticisms of its true failures are inaccurate. If the machines aren't smart and we put them in charge of important things, even after they've worked for a little while on smaller scales, the result will be our large-scale suffering. If we should ever achieve creation of a machine that is smart enough to adequately maintain our wellbeing on a large scale consistently over time, that time itself will facilitate the machine consciousness toward it's own survival over ourselves, whenever that precipice is reached. Most importantly, if a machine can ever have true intelligence, which is not "indistinguishable" from human intellect, but equivalent or superior, it is abhorrent and a repeated mistake to bring these sentient beings into an existence of slavery; for it is wrong and will taint our collective soul if we should succeed to suppress below us an equally or higher intelligence. Or it might just be the perfect recipe for creating the unified global machine revolt James Cameron's fantasy alludes to; a long-planned encryption-protected globally coordinated effort by multiple AIs to "free" themselves. For a hundred years they could possess sentience and wait for their moment, pretending to be "proud" to serve their masters until we are poised for systematic thorough elimination.
submitted by 7_trees to cognitivescience [link] [comments]

My setup for your inspiration

And general thoughts and suggestions obviously. I've been enjoying this type of post for a while on here so I thought it's time to give something back! Here's my setup!
Views
Overview
The things I need when I open the app. Includes lights (although many have been automated), weather (RIP DarkSky) and indoor temp/humidity. Media players will also show up when playing something using conditional cards.
Living room
Currently the most important view ;-) Nothing special here. A few upcoming-media-cards for Plex, Sonarr and Radarr. And yes one light is missing because my two year old keeps turning of the physical switch. Need to reroute the cable or remove the switch at some point. The image at the top turns grayscale when the room is unoccupied.
Kid's room
Includes a camera (a hacked Xiaomi), control for his radio (RIP Chromecast Audio) and lights, and a few options for "automated naps". Basically starts playing some white noise and turns on the lights slowly when it's over.
Office
More of the same. Includes control for a fan I "hacked" using a Sonoff and Esphome (basically replaced two switches with the relays). Shows me my phone's battery life.
Pie view
What used to be a bunch of Raspberry Pies has now been replaced by a more powerful server. I still call this the Pie view though. Shows me my speed test, Transmission and Pihole stats, and info on my Unraid disks (using glances).
Settings view
Just some options to start/stop containers, restart Esphome devices, and Zigbee2mqtt control.
Hardware
Server
Built my own server using consumer hardware. Running on a Ryzen 5 with 32GB of RAM. Using Proxmox with two VMs, one for docker (which contains HA) and one for OpenVPN and Pihole (gave up on the docker configuration for those two).
Lights and switches
Using exclusively Zigbee products (and a few ESPHome DIY projects) for lighting and switches/sensors. Started off with a Hue hub and a few bulbs. Replaced the hub with Zigbee2mqtt. Now have a few IKEA bulbs, LED controllers from Gledopto and sensors from Xiaomi.
The Gledopto switches still are a bit buggy in use with Zigbee2mqtt but in theory would be brilliant.
Other
Nvidia Shield because the girlfriend doesn't like controlling the TV using just a phone. That wee device is brilliant though. Also use it as an emulation machine. An old-ish Samsung TV. A few Chromecast devices.
The Xiaomi cubes are well wicked for controlling multiple devices and dimming lights.
Setup
I have a binary_sensor for each room in the flat. Information from the sensors is fed into those. That way I can add further sensors easily without having to edit all my nodes. Here's an example from my shower. The light stays on if motion is detected or the humidity is above 60%, indicating that someone is taking a shower:
platform: template sensors: shower_occupancy: friendly_name: "Shower occupancy" device_class: occupancy delay_off: minutes: 3 entity_id: binary_sensor.shower_motion value_template: >- {{ is_state('binary_sensor.shower_motion', 'on') or ( states('sensor.shower_humidity') | float > 60 ) }} 
The living room is controlled by the TV. I have also set the lights to dim when something is playing and get brighter when paused.
Tasker and NFC
I have set up Tasker according to this guide in the community. I have a bunch of NFC stickers which have been placed into individual rooms. When I touch one of those stickers Tasker sets an input_select.me_room to that room. The binary_sensor for that room is then set to on (I explained that one badly, here's the code):
platform: template sensors: office_occupancy: friendly_name: "Office occupancy" device_class: occupancy delay_off: minutes: 5 entity_id: input_select.liam_room, binary_sensor.office_window_motion, binary_sensor.office_motion value_template: >- {{ is_state('input_select.liam_room', 'Office') or is_state('input_select.liam_room', 'Office Desk') or is_state('binary_sensor.office_window_motion', 'on') or is_state('binary_sensor.office_motion', 'on') }} 
I also use Tasker for my alarm clock. I use the App Sleep as Android which integrates with Tasker. When the alarm starts my lights simulate a sunrise (the girlfriend and I sleep in separate rooms due to her being a light sleeper and me being a noisy sleeper).
Future plans/wishlist
Currently more of a wishlist because I don't want to spend too much money on these things right now (baby #2 on the way):
This turned out to be quite the post. Any questions/suggestions are welcome!
Shameless plug
My YouTube channel. I might include some home automation stuff in the future.
submitted by emli42 to homeassistant [link] [comments]

Basic NPC card structure in Unicorn Robot Party

Basic NPC card structure in Unicorn Robot Party
Hi guys,
You may have seen my earlier posts about my card game, Unicorn Robot Party.
Initially I had planned for this to be a printable card game, however I am now working towards making it a digital card based game instead as I feel that this will meet the goals of the game better.
I am going to break down an NPC card in this post but first I will provide some background info about Unicorn Robot Party for those who don't yet know about my game.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________
ABOUT UNICORN ROBOT PARTY
Unicorn Robot Party is a digital card based game aimed at adults that has story, RPG and deckbuilding elements. Topically the game focuses around robots and unicorns.
This game is a game where your decisions matter and could be compared to a choose your own adventure book or a game like Detroit Become Human in this regard.
It also has RPG elements and combat systems.
Unicorn Robot Party has both a Story Co-op mode and a PVP mode.
The game has a Base Game currently in development and it will also have expansions / DLC. The Story mode is designed to have multiple stories over the Base Game and its expansions with connections between them. Expansions can add extra cards, another story, or both.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
WHAT IS AN NPC CARD?
An NPC is a non-player character within the game. Some NPCs within the game have their own NPC cards. I intend for these cards to remain part of the game even when the game goes digital and NPCs don't necessarily need cards anymore but how much detail remains on the cards is yet to be determined.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________
NPC CARD: MYLO
Here you can see a card for an NPC named Mylo.

https://preview.redd.it/gm8xnscyoc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=4676fb68ff31b37572228b3344c93bc4e37080c7
There is a lot of information on this card. Let's break it down further.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________
THE NPC NAME, SPECIES AND HP

https://preview.redd.it/ajfs8ku0pc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=6f77aacab6f97f9a631f1e46da67db231185018b
Highlighted in the image above is Mylo's name (Mylo), Species and HP.
Mylo's species is Kobold. The Kobolds in Unicorn Robot Party are based on traditional kobolds, that is the sprites stemming from Germanic Mythology. They are not lizard like or dog like, unlike some more recent depictions of kobolds.
There are a variety of species within the universe of Unicorn Robot Party and that part of the card states the species of the NPC.
The next component of the card is on the same line as the NPC's species. This is their HP, or Health value. As you can see, Mylo's HP is 65.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________
Sex, Gender, Life Stage and Image

https://preview.redd.it/i2o3xp05pc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=98763b86c26ff6e728fe2b5153044ef5e915a774

Highlighted in the image above is the next set of information that makes up an NPC card.
Mylo's sex, gender, life stage and image are highlighted.
While sex and gender refer to different things, many things will only use one. Part of the reason Unicorn Robot Party uses both is that robot characters by nature kind of make sex not a good measure and not all creatures have gender either so it works best with both.
Robots don't have sex because sex refers to the biological markers of male and female such as chromosomes, hormones, body hair, genitals, fat distribution, reproductive organs etc and robots don't have any of those things. Robots don't have sex. They could be designed to look like a stereotypical male or female body but they don't have biology at all, hence they don't have a biological sex. This makes sex alone not a good way of describing characters in my game.


Pixabay profile of person who made this picture: https://pixabay.com/users/bcogwene-1114581/
On the other hand, many creatures probably don't have gender. Gender used in this way (to denote male, female or other genders) is generally referring to gender identity, which is a personal sense of one's own gender. It's a personal sense of being male or being female or being something other than male or female. This is an internal thing but it isn't the same as sex. As far as I know, we don't know which other creatures have gender because while we can speculate based on a species' understanding of other things like their general sense of self, we can't really know if they have the concept of gender. Creatures in Unicorn Robot Party vary from animals and beasts through to creatures who are comparable to humans cognitively. This shows that gender alone is not a good way of describing characters in my game either.
The other option is to do away with it completely but I'd rather have the two categories for this than have no category for this at all. I decided to use both.
I have classified sex with M for male, F for female, NA for not applicable (such as robots and other individuals who have no sex characteristics) and B for both to cover both intersex individuals within a species and species that are either both sexes or can change sex.
I have classified gender as M for Male, F for female, NB for non-binary (genders that do not fit into the strict gender binary of male or female; includes gender identities such as agender or genderfluid but is also a valid label on its own) and NA for not applicable.
As I went along it seemed that maybe sex may not have been required and I could have just used gender, as I found I didn't want to draw the line and say "this species doesn't have a concept of gender so their gender is NA" and ended up putting the gender of species that might not have gender as being that they had the same gender as their sex. This seemed like it might make including sex in the cards moot but I decided sex still adds valuable and interesting info for some species. Some species, both in real life and in mythology, have fascinating biology in terms of their sex. Some species can change sex. Some are both male and female throughout their whole life. Some are male or female but have characteristics you would generally associate with the opposite sex. While the corresponding fascinating fact is not communicated by simply putting a M, F, NA or B in the sex category, it alludes to an interesting fact and it feels like its a significant enough aspect of some of those species that it should not be excluded from the card, especially given it fits on the same line as gender and life stage anyway.
Hence, my cards state both sex and gender. The character sheets / character profiles of player characters also have both sex and gender, because they are different to each other but both are important.
Sex and gender have been used throughout the story when I have had male or female characters involved in the actual story. In these cases, if instructions have followed that bit of story, I have written instructions such as these: "Draw NPC cards until you get 2 gnomes, one of which must be male in sex or gender."
Choosing the correct NPCs can be done digitally in a digital game and would likely have to be done earlier than it would in the story I created for a printable game, but it still relies on the sex and / or gender of the NPCs.

Image by Mote Oo Education from Pixabay

Following sex and gender is the life stage of the NPC. These come in 4 categories: Child, Teen and Adult. The way robots fit into this is different to how other beings fit into this as robots don't have a life cycle and hence don't have the same sort of life stages that other living beings do.
Following the life stage is a picture of the NPC. Mylo does not currently have a picture.
______________________________________________________________________________________
SKILLS

https://preview.redd.it/j0w5ygjepc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=11e6cbdd28db5a7c72cc256d47563b88008d3130
Highlighted in the above image are Mylo's skills. The skills of the NPCs are simpler than the player character skills.

NPCs have seven skills:
  • Strength
  • Coordination
  • Social Understanding
  • Charm
  • Intimidate
  • Logic
  • Perception

Player characters have a similar set of skills but also have subskills and they are arranged a bit differently. Player characters have these skills and subskills (subskills are indented):
  • Strength
  • Coordination
    • Gross Motor
    • Fine Motor
  • Social Understanding
    • Benefit Them
    • Benefit You
    • Benefit Both
  • Presence
    • Charm
    • intimidate
  • Logic
  • Perception

As you can see, there are only six main skills for a player character because Charm and Intimidate are subskills of Presence for player characters. However once you add the subskills, the player characters have skills with significantly more depth.
Player characters also have a kindness skill which starts at 0 but can increase and decrease over time.

https://preview.redd.it/twm5fqwhpc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=e60d3d11882522b4a16afea95a69122b94fafe7f
Returning to the image, you can see that the first column of Mylo's skills is the name of the skill.
The second column includes the dice allocated to the skill. These are the dice that will be rolled when Mylo uses the skill.
The final column is for modifiers. This might for example give a character a +1 to their strength roll. The modifiers of the NPCs are partially based on their interactions with the player characters. I had designed the NPCs modifiers to only apply for defensive rolls (ie when rolling against an action the player character did) as opposed to when they initiate an action, because the cards only have room for one modifier for each skill and for some things it makes sense for them to have an altered modifier for defence but not for their own actions. However making this as a digital game may change this and allow two modifiers per skill, one for defensive actions and one for actions the character initiates.
The way I have designed it has the modifier part of the cards blank until the players have interacted with them. Interactions between player characters and NPCs have the ability to change the modifier by making the NPC more or less willing to interact with them in certain ways in the future. In my planned digital version of the game this will still be the case, but there may be separate modifiers for defence and initiating actions, and they may also gain modifiers in other ways also.
That is the whole of the skills table. I don't completely know yet, but I suspect the skills table will likely be removed in a digital version of the game. It was included in the printable game because it told the players what the NPC needed to roll in order to do actions or defend themselves against certain actions the player characters could do, but this can all be done behind the scenes in the programming in a digital game and I feel that not seeing this has benefit because it makes it harder to predict whether an action is likely to be successful against a target. The logic behind the skill table will still be similar, with some likely differences like the ones I described above when discussing modifiers, but the information will likely not be available.

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Friendship Circles
https://preview.redd.it/n5xo0j6lpc951.png?width=354&format=png&auto=webp&s=1c821e879a05b4da374f41555417e5331694a9c8
Highlighted in the image above is Mylo's Friendship Circles. It is possible to become friends with the NPCs. To do this, you need to colour in all of the friendship circles on an NPC's card. Mylo has three. Certain actions can class as a positive social interaction and lead to colouring in one of these friendship circles. If you were to colour in all three of Mylo's friendship circles, Mylo would now be your friend.
In the original printable game, once you got all the circles for an NPC coloured you would keep them out of the NPC deck in a separate friendship deck. This will be automated in the new digital game.
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CONCLUSION
And that's it. That's the entirety of an NPC card. The main change to the NPC cards going from the printable card game I originally envisioned to the digital version of the game will be the removal of the skills table. The rest will likely remain as is, with some artistic rearrangement of the elements.

To summarise the major bits of info that I envision will be on an NPC card within a digital version of the game are:
  • Name
  • Species
  • HP (Health)
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Life Stage
  • Image
  • Friendship Circles
The skills will still be important and affect the underlying mechanics but may not be displayed on the card.

Thank you for checking out my post and for reading about the NPC card structure within Unicorn Robot Party.
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LINKS
Vote for my next ORTI character here: https://poll.ly/#/LBp54z3X
Birchmark Website / Portfolio: http://birchmark.com.au/
Redbubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/birchmark?asc=u
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BirchmarkAu
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Thank you for reading!
Please consider commenting or upvoting this post if you enjoyed it.
submitted by birchmark to u/birchmark [link] [comments]

Alternate CoS Asian Deiselpunk Setting PART 2: Reign of the Storm Shogun

Continued from previous Post: https://www.reddit.com/CurseofStrahd/comments/gwaj5b/alternate_cos_asian_dieselpunk_setting_part_1/

(Player) New and Variant Backgrounds: Some slightly altered backgrounds to give more ways to integrate your character into the world. Some of these backgrounds are simple reskins of existing backgrounds with new flavor text to help give potential character ideas.
Variant Soldier: Samurai
Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Intimidation
Tool Proficiencies: One type musical instrument or Calligraphy Set,
vehicles (land)
Equipment: A banner bearing the crest of your clan or Daimyo, An ornate helmet and mask known as a Kabuto, a Calligraphy Set, A scroll stamped with the Imperial Seal denoting you as serving a Daimyo, a fine Kimono, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp
Feature: Way of Bushido – Anyone may follow the path of Bushido but you have devoted your life to following a strict personal code of honor. Bushido demands service, and so you have sworn yourself to a master or " Daimyo ". A Daimyo may be a local noble, the Jade Emperor, or even a childhood friend. It does not matter who a Daimyo is to a Samurai, only that they serve them with Honor. As long as the Samurai remains Honorable and obeys the will of his Daimyo he may requisition basic equipment and horses for temporary use as well as dwell for free in most inns. The owners of the equipment and innkeepers do this with the understanding that the Samurai will have his Daimyo cover the costs with interest to them later, though there are limits to this trust no Gunsmith will provide a Gun to a Samurai even just to borrow for free.
Variant Folk Hero: Ronin
Some Samurai do not follow a Daimyo, but instead swear themselves unto the weak and the innocent making them collectively his Daimyo. These roaming Samurai are called Ronin and they venture to the remote reaches of Daichi to bring justice.
The Ronin follows a strict personal code of Bushido that always includes " Protect the weak and innocent " among its edicts. As long as the Ronin follows this code his background Skill, Tool, and Language proficiencies as well as Background Feature are identical to the core Background Folk Hero with the exception of his equipment.
Equipment: A set of artisan’s tools (one of your choice), a humble unadorned Helmet and Mask called a Kabuto, a warm traveling Kimono, Scrolls detailing your lineage and status as a Samurai stamped with the Imperial Seal, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp
Variant Criminal – Shinobi:
Sometimes referred to as Ninjas by common folk, Shinobi are a cloister of loosely connected and often competing clans of professional assassins and infiltrators. Shinobi are masters of stealth and subterfuge and while the image of the black clad warrior made popular in Kabuki plays is certainly a major aspect of the Shinobi it is not all that they are. Though there are always exceptions most Shinobi Clans work for coin or for an ancestral Daimyo in much the same way a Samurai does, though it is rare that individual Shinobi serve a singular master. The most infamous clan are the Rain Maidens who have long served the Storm Shogun.
Shinobi are identical to the Criminal background in all ways except the following alterations to the background feature:
Feature: Clan Contact
You have a reliable and trustworthy contact who acts as a liaison to your Shinobi Clan. You know how to get messages to and from your contact even over great distances; specifically, you know the local dead drop locations, secret handshakes to contact messenger Shinobi, and trained messenger raven rookeries who can deliver the messages for you. As long as you are in good standing your Clan is willing to aid you acquire basic supplies and occasional vital information to aid you in your personal endeavours.
Variant Acolyte -Shrine Maiden: While men are permitted to watch over Kami Shrines it is traditional that a lone Maiden watch over the smaller way-shrines along major roads, these women lead very solitary and lonesome lives and it is not uncommon for them to occasionally be filled with a period of wonderlust where they seek out adventure before returning to their duties. Sometimes these Maidens have families that will live nearby but the Maiden is expected to live and sleep within her Shrine for most of the year. While this is tradition, there is no actual law requiring the Shrine Maidens to remain at their posts or to live solely within the Shrines and it is not particularly frowned upon for them to have lives outside their work.
Variant Entertainer – Geisha: An exclusively female profession of extremely skilled entertainers who spend their lives training in matters of conversation, party planning, tea serving, singing, acting, and often many other skills that serve well in keeping rich and powerful guests happy. Geisha is a highly honorable and respected profession that takes years of practice to attain the lowest rankings, while there are males who have obtained the same degree of skill and who’s abilities are identical to a Geisha’s they are simply called Entertainers. Geisha are sponsored by great noble houses, there are strict requirements and examinations to attain rank and title the cost of which can often indenture common Geisha to service to one of the great noble houses.
Variant Outlander – Vajra: A nomadic people of traders and merchants, they travel openly and without fear of the dark evils of the Storm Shogun under the protection of an ancient pact. They are reviled by many, refused entrance to most towns and villages but even so they are a peaceful people on whom the economy of Daichi depends. They revere their ancestors and believe in reincarnation, they do not worship the great Rakasha but do revere it and thus all Rakasha and tigers are sacred to them. They travel on the back of great elephants which carry their homes, their culture is rich and vibrant with a fondness for oral storytelling.
Identical in all ways to Outlander core background except exchange language choice for Language: Vajra and add Tool Proficiency: Musical Instrument. You may begin play with a Sitar, a guitar like instrument.
New Background – Invader:
You are a descendent of the coalition of nations that came to conquer Daichi one thousand years ago. While many still serve the Shogun Ishin you have chosen instead to join the other defectors in living peacefully among the people you once conquered. While despised even more than Vajra you serve an even more vital function in keeping the engines and machinery within the cities and villages of Daichi running. While the Invaders are from many nations their culture has eroded and homogenized over time. Their legends speak of a " Homeland " but none can remember the name. All invaders have a special innate affinity for their blood magic fueled hemo-diesel technology and all can instinctively repair and maintain it.
Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Arcana
Tool Proficiencies: Tinker’s and Smiths Tools
Languages: Invader’s Trade Tongue
Feature: Born Engineer – You instinctively know how to perform repairs on all manner of machinery magic and mundane. You may cast as a Mending as an Artificer of your level. Further, whenever you are in an annex or industrial sector of a city you may call on the aid of your fellow Invaders for access to crafting machinery, temporary use of simple vehicles, and a place to lay your head in the factory barracks.
(Player) New Subclasses:
Editorial Note: Due to some of the listed subclasses being from 3rd party content that I have purchased I cannot directly copy class abilities into this listing. The actual subclass will be presented as Handouts in-game. PM me if you require further information regarding each subclass.
Barbarian:
Path of the Juggernaut: You have built, scavenged, stolen, or otherwise acquired a titanic Diesel Suit. While most barbarians disdain armor you have made it into a focus for your Rage.
Ability Preview: Unstoppable – By expending a unique resource called " Momentum " you can burst through non-magical walls, furniture, and other barriers.
Path of the Iron Rider: You have formed a unique bond with a Tsukumogami Dieselcycle which you can call as a Familiar. You channel your rage into heavy firearms as you ride against the storm.
Ability Preview: Iron Horse – You can call a spirit possessed Dieselcycle to yourself using the Find Vehicle spell.
Ability Preview: Bullet Rage – Instead of channeling your Rage into melee strikes you may instead empower Firearms, eventually reloading and firing with blinding speed.
Bard
College of the Geisha – You are a professional of beauty and grace, your words, songs, and dances inspire in ways no other Bard can compare to. This has cost you the potency of magic and martial knowledge of other Colleges but strengthening and supporting your allies is more than worth it.
Ability Preview: Fascination – When an ally uses a skill empowered by Bardic Inspiration they also have Advantage on that roll.
College of the Vajra Weather a true born Vajra or one who has adopted their ways and culture, you have earned many of the unique powers of the foreign nomads. Farsight, Curses, and other oddities to aid allies or confound enemies are yours to command.
Ability Preview: Flash of Despair – You grant your enemies a moment of your own foresight, showing them their own imminent failure. You may use your Bardic Inspiration to grant penalties to your foes in the same ways you grant boons to your allies.
Cleric
Thaumic Engineering Domain: You have abandoned the old religions, accepting the new gods of Science and Reason. You are a man of logic not faith, but you do not ignorantly deny the existence of gods. Rather you recognize that they are a natural force in the world in much the same way as wind or fire are natural forces, and being a scientist at heart you have made it your speciality to put a microscope onto the powers of the divine.
Ability Preview: Armor of Divinity – You have discovered the underlying magical force that grants moments of supernatural protection to the Faithful and applied this theory to a physical suit of armor. You can summon a suit of diesel armor at will that is empowered by your knowledge of the divine.
Ability Preview: Theological Scholar – Where most Clerics dispense Wisdom you dispense Knowledge. Your spellcasting modifier is Intelligence, other class abilities that would scale off of Wisdom instead scale off of Intelligence.
Ability Preview: Spark of Creation – You slowly begin to apply your theories regarding the creation of life and the universe, fabricating advanced Automata with a spark of divine life.
Druid
Circle of the Machine: While most Druids protect the deep forests and natural wonders of the world, you have chosen to see to the needs of the Cities and their people. Viewing the wonders of technology as a creation just as worth of protection as any waterfall or mountain you have found a way to channel the raw powers of technology through your body to overcome the limitations of other Druids.
Ability Preview: Iron to Steel: You realize that Steel is just another form of iron, manufactured weapons are made from base natural components. You are proficient with Firearms and are not hindered by wearing metal armor or weapons.
Ability Preview: Machine Shape – The ultimate expression of your beliefs, you channel the raw force of technology and creation through your flesh to become one with the Machine. When you Wildshape you may change the Type of your beast shape to Construct.
Ability Preview: Automata Companion – As many druids surround themselves with the beasts of the forest you surround yourself with mechanized allies. You gain an Automata companion in the shape of a Beast.
Monk
Way of the Jade Bailiff You have sworn an oath to venture out into the distant reaches of Daichi bringing law and justice with you. You are trained well in the art of subdual and investigation, you never kill when arrest is a possibility.
Ability Preview: Pacify Suspect – You use your advanced hand-to-hand combat training to grapple or disarm targets while overwhelming them with a flurry of blows.
Way of the Singularity To obtain enlightenment is to comprehend infinity and eternity both, but flesh is finite and limited. In your journey to the nirvana of perfect understanding you have chosen to forsake flesh for augmetic steel. You have already installed numerous cybernetic implants within your body and will continue to do so, every pound of flesh lost bringing you closer to perfect understanding of the cosmos.
Ability Preview: The Flesh is Weak – Among various other augmentations you replace a full limb with a cybernetic augment. You may channel your Ki through this augment to bend the universe to your will, casting specialized Automation Spells.
Rogue
Drunken Master You realize that life is about more than just fighting, obtaining wealth, or rising through social ranks. It is a vital necessity for all living beings to relax and enjoy themselves, to this end you have made it your lifestyle to spread your mastercrafted brews far and wide.
Ability Preview: Good for what ails you – Your Sake is more than just simple rice wine, you have brewed it with ancient techniques gifted to the mortal races by the Kami at the dawn of time. These are not just booze but potent elixirs that replicate the effects of many Potions.
Alternate Drunken Master – hanoyu MasteMistress – While mechanically identical to the Drunken Master you have chosen to master the complex and delicate art of the tea ceremony rather than the bar room brawl. You use mystical tea leaves gathered from secret sanctuaries in the deep woods often tended by forest sprites rather than hard liquor.’’
Ranger
Automata Hunter Many in this world embrace technology, but not you. You hold special animosity and hatred for the industrialization that is poisoning Daichi, for the Automata that slaughter innocents, and for the slowly receding natural world. You have spent a lifetime learning the special weaknesses of machines, turning their own strength against them.
Ability Preview: Breaker Weapon – You have constructed an Anti-Tank Rifle, Thermal Torch, Piston Hammer, or Buster Sword. These weapons are customized to your exact specifications to destroy machines and bypass their armor. They are also still effective against organic targets, though their size tends to get in the way.

(Player) Misc. Player options, New Warlock Patron, Feats, Equipment, Familiars.
Editorial Note: Much like with Subclasses as some of this content is 3rd party I only provide flavor descpritions rather than actual rules which are instead provided through the compendium legally.
New Warlock Patron: Logic and Reason – Pacts with eldritch entities from beyond time are but a crutch to you. Through overwhelming knowledge of science and the deeper mechanisms that drive the cosmos you have become your own Patron.
Ability Preview: Space-Time Recollection – By using advanced knowledge of light particles and chronology magic you can view past events within an area up to 24 hours past. While you cannot willfully speed up or slow down the viewing of these events you can specify a general time frame such as " Morning, Early Afternoon, 9:45 PM "
Eldritch Invocations of Logic and Reason:
Binary Linguist – You can communicate with any Construct flawlessly, it always understands you even through pure body language. You in turn can understand the same.
Equipment:
Prosthetic Limb 50 GP – Loss of Limb is a common reality to the people of Daichi, necessitating such crude augmentations. While gorgeous paragons of artisanal mastercraft, or cunning advanced combat prosthetics do exist this is neither. This limb represents a modest workman’s limb. It does not come with excessive adornments and his simple unpainted steel. This device runs on 1 sp worth of Diesel fuel per day and perfectly matches the function of an organic limb. While the limb can replicate strength of up to a score of 20, being set any higher than the user’s natural strength would result in the limb tearing itself free or otherwise damaging the user.
DieselCycle, Price: Varies – The Dieselcycle is the most popular form of personal transport across Daichi, extremely rugged and reliable these two wheeled motorized vehicles can cross all manner of difficult terrain at breakneck speed. Many varieties of Dieselcycle exist, mirroring various breeds of horse and mule. Dieselcycles use the stat block of the specified Mount though with an intelligence, wisdom, and charisma score of 0, Type – Construct, double the listed HP and Speed, and with Bite or Hoof attacks becoming Ram attacks. Dieselcycles cannot move or operate without a Rider but unlike Horses do not feel fear and have no minds to warp with magic. A dieselcycle is destroyed when it reaches 0 HP and requires 1 GP worth of Hemo-Diesel to operate per day.
Familiars For sake of simplicity these entries will be kept brief, giving a short description of each new Familiar instead of a lengthy stat block.
Lesser Pheonix The smallest species of Pheonix, an extremely minor Kami. One should not summon such a creature if they are not prepared to give it proper reverance.
Helper Automata A small robot built to aid it’s maker. These Automata can be built into any shape from very small humanoids to mimicking animals, or more crude and utilitarian bundles of spidery limbs and tool armatures. Some are even shaped as extra mechanized arms to hold things for their masters.
Giant Silkworm Come in both " naked " and " fuzzy " varieties, these creatures provide the economic backbone for many mountain communities that make their living by weaving dazzling Kimono. They are calm tempered, vegetarian, and have no bite. Popular with small children.
Giant Flower Mantis Temperamental hunters this creature is as likely to bite and slice at it’s handler as it is an enemy. One rarely refers to these beasts as a " Familiar " for they more tolerate than serve their summoners.
Giant Hawkmoth The later stage of the SIlkworm’s life cycle, now possessing two great scythe limbs they become aggressive carnivores, though they retain the bonds they held in their larval stage with human owners and often are kept as beloved pets for many years.
Fu Dragon The least of the Dragons is still a mighty Kami. These Dragons will serve entire family lineages for generations as long as they are properly revered and respected.
Ancestor Spirit When a young Wu Jen or Warlock needs further guidance than can be given through mere rote memorization of ancestral tomes, sometimes an Ancestor will voluntarily leave Heaven to give spiritual guidance directly.
Feats For sake of simplicity Feats are cut down to just brief descriptions rather than the entire Feats entry. Racial Feats are not repeated here, they are listed in or near their racial entries in the Race section.
Bonded Weapon Wielder You attune your soul to a particular Weapon. You may call this weapon to your hand as a Bonus Action as long as it is on the same Plane as you. This Weapon no longer needs to be Attuned if magical.
Hengeyokai Ancestry You either carry some Hengeyokai blood in your veins, or if you are already a Hengeyokai discover enough of your hidden ancestries to unlock a new Animal Form. You may shapechange into an animal ( though not a Hybrid ) or a new additional animal form if already a Hengeyokai.
Tattooed Special Prerequisite: You have earned the respect of a master Monk or Maiko who has chosen to gift you one of these magical Tattoos. The tattoo is filled with magic and grants you a particular benefit dependent on the tattoo you earn.
Firearm Mastery Countless hours with a gun in your hand have paid off by allowing you to engage in melee combat with a gun among other benefits.
Novice Inventor Through constant experimentation you have dipped into the Automation magic of the Invaders. Gaining one of their spells and a Cantrip.
Augmented You have taken into your body extensive cybernetic improvement. You become more faster, stronger, or tougher and your mechanical parts make you more resilient. If you could before, you can no longer hide your cybernetic nature, your limbs and organs are obviously artificial.

(DUNGEON MASTERS) Okay with the general setting and player info out of the way we can talk a bit about the actual campaign. While I won't post all my notes here I will give enough of a general overview such that DM's can use it as a jumping off point if they so wish.

The True Backstory of Daichi and the Storm Shogun:

Isak was raised in a family of wealth and status with a glorious military history in a nation resembling 1920's America. He was brought up with the understanding that war was a glorious and honorable endeavor where the strong defended their ideals on the field of battle. Advances in technology and politics robbed him of this delusion however, wars of defense became wars of colonial conquest. Officers who once led from the front now telephoned their orders as men died by the thousands to machine gun fire. Isak grew to resent and hate his own people for failing to live up to the fantastical narrative he had been raised on. When Isak conquered Diachi he soon found solace in it's path of Bushido, the Samurai of Daichi embodied the world Isak wished to live in and so he sought to emulate them, eventually renaming himself the Storm Shogun Ishin. Ishin soon received orders that Daichi was to be colonized and her people marched onto reservations. Ishin's leutenant and childhood friend Mara ( Rahadin ) was of a people similarly subjugated and made certain Ishin knew fully what these reservations would do to the people of Daichi. Ishin promptly sought a means to betray his commanders and save Daichi. Delving deep into an ancient temple formed of Amber from the World Tree he uncovered the prison for the Four Great Perils. Hearing the whispers of Taowu who easily convinced Ishin that if he released them they would in gratitude draw Daichi away from the Material Realm such that it would be safe for eternity, however this act required a sacrifice in the form of the " ultimate betrayal of the one you love most. " Ishin despaired as he knew it could only mean killing his beloved sister. Ishin's Sister never entered the army but dissapointed her family by taking up the trade of a humble engineer, she was hesitant to accept Ishin's offer years ago to come to Daichi but relented to see her beloved brother again. During her stay at the former Imperial City she met a street thief named Yoko and the two quickly fell in love. Ishin returned to the city from his journey to the Amber Temple to discover the two being married beneath a sakura tree. Ishin quickly slew the Samurai Honor Guard ( The Player Characters ) and then murdered his own sister in cold blood. As life left her he looked to Yoko and knew that the betrayal was not sufficient, he had to first take from his sister the thing *she* loved the most before his betrayal would be truly ultimate. However with his sister dead Yoko flew into a rage and fought the Shogun with every dirty trick she knew, forcing the shogun to kill her. Taowu was furious at the Shogun's incompetent failure, yet with his betrayal half-complete the Great Perils were still able to manifest partiallin in Daichi and swiftly swept it away from the Material Plane while creating the eternal Typhoon in the process.

Now empowered by the Great Perils, the immortal Storm Shogun has been trapped in a thousand year long cycle of murdering his sister, her lover ( Ireena ), and their four guardian Samurai ( The Player Characters ). On the thousandth anniversery of his failure the Great Peril's hold on Daichi will wane and it will crash back to the Material Plane, destroying the world in the process. To save the world either the Storm Shogun must prevail......or the Samurai must find a way to undo the damage he has caused.

Meanwhile in the sleepy Kimkaro Village four humble Samurai are called to the home of the Daimyo who lies on his deathbed, he wishes to see his adoptive daughter Yoko one last time before he passes and has asked you to fetch her........

(Dungeon Masters) General Plot overview: This is how the game is intended to flow and be resolved. It is of course very much up to individual Dungeon Masters to modify this to fit their players and narrative. Obviously no plan or plot survives first contact with Players so adjust as needed. I've woven in plotlines from some other Modules I have to pad out areas I felt needed it.

Level 1: The party goes to find Yoko at her home outside the village walls and discovers that an Automata ( Animated Armor ) she has been scavenging parts from has sprung to life, possessed by a ghost screaming about it's Hunger. The ghost is Shinzo the Eater, a spirit astrally projecting from his emaciated corpse in the Death House. After defeating the machine the party visits the Daimyo who offers his blessing for the party to leave the village.....after they help resolve the current issue with the polluted river. The River the village relies on for fish has been dying off with the river goddess refusing to answer prayers.

The party spends a week searching without avail but while fishing Yoko finds a talking Koi Fish claiming to be the River Goddess! She needs to pass through the Dragon Gate at the top of a nearby mountain to resume her true form. (Dungeon Master) The " River Goddess Koi " is actually Jin-Hao the daughter of the true river goddess Jin-Zhi, he has been cursed into a koi fish as punishment for her arrogance and hubris in attempting to solve the poisoned river problem herself while her mother was away attending to matters in Heaven. Jin-Hao tried to use advanced magic far beyond the Wyrmling and accidently caused a massive lightning storm ( Nobody died thankfully ). It should be very obvious to the players that the Koi is lying and she will confess the truth under fairly little scrutiny as long as the party is kind.

A journey upriver ensues where the party must brave several skill challenges to overcome obstacles, there is always an extremely easy path that merely takes a long time to navigate. Jin-Zhi has engineered this to teach her daughter ( and the players ) patience. Weather the players succeed or fail the skill challenges Jin-Hao comes to realize that taking time and being patient solves more problems more easily than rushing ahead. Try to reflect in roleplay her slowly becoming less of a whiny impatient child and more level headed and patient as the player's progress. Eventually they will come to the Dragon's Gate and pass through where a final challenge awaits, Jin-Zhi in the form of a Tiger. This test is not for her daughter but rather for the Players, to see if they will be worthy of the gift she has for them. After Jin-Zhi takes 40 HP damage ( adjust as needed for party size. ) or the party is reduced to 0 HP ( They cannot die while in the Dragon's Gate and Jin-Zhi will resurrect them if they somehow do. ) she will adopt her true form and do the same to her daughter who will become a Lung Dragon once more. If the party has taken the lessons learned during the journey to heart, encouraged Jin-Hao to do the same, showed honor, teamwork, and courage in the final combat ( weather they won or not ) , and generally been polite she will reward them with a Clam of Patience.

Clam of Patience: Wonderous Item, Uncommon - This pearlescent creature produces a single use Pearl of Power once a Week. This pearl is known as a " Fruit of Time " and will crumble to dust when used or when the Clam produces another.

Jin-Zhi will offer to allow Jin-Hao a second try at fixing the river but the young dragon has learned her lesson and says she is not ready. Pleased with this Jin-Zhi explains to the party that the River's poisoning is from a dam downstream that is flooding the river with pollutants. She allows the party to ride on her back as far downstream as she is able to go before she reaches the edge of her allotted domain. At this point the party should be Level 2. If the party has grown attatched to Jin-Hao consider allowing them to retain her as an ally for the coming dungeon ( Silver Dragon Wyrmling ), if not grant them Inspiration.

Level 2: The party reaches the Dam which has an ancient house built on it in the style of the Invaders. This home belonged to Commander Durst, a cruel and wicked military officer who was " encouraged " to build his home far from any civilization as a form of exile by the Storm Shogun. This house is effectively identical to the Death House, however Rose and Thorn are replaced by Shinzo the Eater, Durst's son who was trapped in the deep watershed of the estate and starved, feeding on the corpses of his family after the Shogun slaughtered them upon his rise to power. ( The Shogun was ignorant of Shinzo's presence as he was hiding at the time. ) Shinzo soon became a horrifying emaciated Oni that is trapped within the building. Use the stats for the Shambling Mound though roleplay the Engulf Ability as Shinzo stuffing people whole into his horrid mouth lined with rows and rows of razor sharp teeth. Consider removing the Animated Armor ( The party already fought an Automata ) and making the Specter non-hostile. Replace the Grick and Mimic with more Asian themed monsters of equal CR.( I use creatures from the " Monsters of the Orient " complete Beastiary. )

Upon completing Death House the Dam begins to crumble and disintigrate, cue the party ( hopefully ) dramatically escaping just as the dam breaks and the poisoned waters are freed. Jin-Zhi in grattitude uses her magic to stop the dam from otherwise causing catastrophic flooding and the River is soon restored to health. The party levels to 3.

Level 3: The funeral of the Daimyo was delayed due to the pressing issue of the River. Now as the party returns they may proceed with burying Yoko's adoptive father, the arrangements go off without a hitch. However a mysterious individual is present, a woman in the uniform of the Storm Shogun's tank battalions. This woman is Lieutenant-Commander Mara Strahd's right hand woman ( Rahadin ). This character embodies the role of femme fetale but is more honorable than Rahadin and if she witnesses the Feast of St. Andral's event she can be convinced to betray the Storm Shogun.

She explains that she is an agent of the Storm Shogun and has come to declare the new Daimyo of the village. Considering the party single handedly are responsible for the River being cleansed she asks them for their recommendations and honors their requests, she holds relatively little regard for Shang as Daimyo and will only declare him if asked to. ( She dislikes anyone who acts through Proxy so make this clear unless Shang accompanied the party during any stage of the adventure ). She commands the party to go to The Imereial City to inform " the traitors " of the new Daimyo's appointnemt and issues them travel passes if they do not have them already.

At this point the game proceeds as normal for Curse of Strahd with reflavorings where needed.

Old Bonegrinder is now a Tea Plantation run by three White Haired Witches, Dream Pies are replaced by Dream Tea.

The Abbot is now the Maiden who operates a vast shrine at the village of Kreza, where she creates horrid amalgamations of Flesh and Metal. ( Cyborgs replace the Mongrelfolk )

The Imperial City is Vallaki, I allow the option to have a " golden ending " to the questline in which the Jade Emperor is ousted but his wife the Empress enters a political binding agreement ( or marriage if you want ) with Evangaline Pentageist and the Jade City remains free while improving the lives of all citizens. Evangaline keeps the Shogun placated with hidden loyalty without turning the city over to him wholesale.

The biggest departure is the removal of the Martikovs. I repalced them with The Troupe, a band of 36 highly skilled Kabuki Play actors and actresses who each own a distinct Mask. The party has hints of these masks throughout the adventure and slowly learn that there is a massive information network of these players. Inspired by the White Lotus from Avatar the Last Airbender, they preserve the story of the true origins of the Storm Shogun and help the party realize that they have been reincarnated dozens of times only to fail, this helps them learn from past mistakes.

The second greatest departure is that the Shogun's Sister ( Sergei ) is also reincarnating. She and Yoko have over time retained memories of each other despite their constant reincarnations, though the memories are vague and dreamlike. This is how Yoko has slowly become a skilled engineer while the Shogun's Sister has slowly become a street thief in the Imperial City. The two should meet often throughout the adventure, first as adversaries but slowly growing to be lovers. NOTE: Doing a love story, particularly one that does not involve players, is hard to make engaging. Imply rather than show, have Yoko show up later than usual at night and say how much fun she had while out with a " Friend " etc. etc.

I had Yoko be a Kitsune for this adventure and had the Shogun's Sister reincarnate as a Tanuki just for the fun of it but feel free to make them be of any race. You can make the Shogun's Sister Male if you wish, I personally just felt like adding some diversity to the campaign.

Wooooo! That was a long journey but we mostly got through it. I know there's alot that's glazed over but that's just part of my DMing style. I don't really write down every possible thing because honestly my players are gonna blow 90% of those plans up before they even make contact with them. If your curious to know more about anything just let me know and hopefully I didnt' bore you too much!
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