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Dungeons and Discourse revision - help with spells? [Dec. 27th, 2012|02:07 am]
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As most of you know, I once DMed a game of Dungeons and Discourse (you can see a write-up here). I said I'd run another just as soon as I went over the woefully outdated rulebook and polished some of the more ornery game mechanics. It's just that it's taken me this long (about a year?) to start work on that.

During that year, I had a file where I was saving up all my cool ideas for new Dungeons and Discourse spells to add to the rulebook or to use to replace some of the lower-quality ones I wanted to remove. And I have no idea what happened to that file. It is not anywhere on my computer. I do not want to have to spend another year thinking up good spells. And the only one I can remember is this:
Arrow Impossibility Theorem (Utopian, Level 3): Caster cannot be hit by arrows or other projectile weapons for five rounds (see here for more information)

And okay, admittedly, that's really good and I find it hilarious even now. But I need more. I don't expect most of you to know game mechanics (although some people, like nomophilos, definitely do). I just need names. And I need people who know about philosophy, science, mathematics, religion, politics, and economics (hereafter grouped under "philosophy") to help me come up with them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will admit that everyone I have previously asked for suggestions on this I have listened to and then said "No, that's terrible, how could you possibly suggest something so awful?", because I am hard to please and don't like taking other people's ideas. By the Outside View, I'm pretty likely to do that again. Then again, I have so much faith in you people you would not believe it.

If you want more examples of possible spells, some of the old ones, many of which I dislike, start on page 33 of the rulebook.

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[User Picture]From: avanti_90
2012-12-27 11:04 am (UTC)


Off the top of my head, I think 'anthropic principle' sounds good though I have no clue what it would do.
[User Picture]From: alicorn24
2012-12-27 03:02 pm (UTC)


You survive the next thing that is likely but not guaranteed to kill you, of course.
From: deiseach
2012-12-27 11:56 am (UTC)


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

You possibly might not want to do that in actuality, unless you want the likes of me coming after you with Torquemada's Mild Admonishment. Now, if I could only think of something interesting and witty to suggest in its place, then we might progress.
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 01:00 pm (UTC)


Möbius Inversion
Gödel's Rotating Universe (or University?)
The Outside View
Reverse Astrology (to monitor the movement of planets by asking people their star sign and how their day is going)
Fourier Transformation
The Doctrine of Chances
Regression to the Mean
[User Picture]From: michiexile
2012-12-27 01:50 pm (UTC)


Ambient isotopy
Milnor's surgery
Morse surgery
Whitehead torsion
Dehn surgery
Perverse sheaf
Manifold decomposition
[User Picture]From: Joe Mela
2012-12-27 01:25 pm (UTC)

Spell idea


If you don't have an Ax-iom of Choice [it should allow you to select one item from each adventurer's pack or similar], you're wasting everybody's time.
[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-12-27 09:27 pm (UTC)

Re: Spell idea


Obviously. Axe of Choice was one of the MacGuffins in the last campaign.
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 01:36 pm (UTC)


Occam's Razor (an ancient, mystical weapon that destroys unnecessary entities… according to the wielder's notion of necessity)

Hume's Guillotine (Those who attempt to argue its possessor into an "ought" starting from an "is", are instantly beheaded)

Hume's Fork (Stabs those who make metaphysical statements)

Zeno's Slowdown Hex (Cast on someone, makes them go at half-speed in the next turn, then at quarter-speed, and so on until saved by a math spell)

Carroll's Tortoise (The possessor of this fabled beast is unmoved by any arguments whatsoever, since they are always incomplete without further premises saying that the premises entail the conclusion.)

[User Picture]From: michiexile
2012-12-27 03:42 pm (UTC)


Zeno's Slowdown Hex (Cast on someone, makes them go at half-speed in the next turn, then at quarter-speed, and so on until saved by a math spell)

Such as the Absolute Convergence ?
[User Picture]From: Michael Peyton Jones
2012-12-27 01:41 pm (UTC)

Okay, I got a bit carried away...


Panpsychism (Metaphysician): all objects within Xft become animated for Y rounds. (use a pre-theoretical notion of object: rocks, trees, tables, jewellery etc. all count, dirt particles do not) Sentience/intelligence is proportional to size.

Strawson's Deterministic Regress (Metaphysician): target must make a Phronesis save or else become temporarily convinced of the nonexistence of free will, and so must declare their actions for the next three rounds in advance. Actions that turn out to be impossible will be attempted to the best of the target's ability.

Hume's Fork (Empiricist): summon a large magical (+n ?) trident for X rounds.

Inkantation (Metaphysician): caster must recite uninterupted from the Transcendental Deduction for three rounds. If successful, all enemies within Xft are struck by large shards of Noumenon for 3d8 damage.

Kripke's Essential Transfer (Metaphysician): two targets have their essences swapped. All contingent properties remain the same. For example, one could swap the essences of a dying party-member with that of a nearby lizardman, resulting in a dying enemy who happened to look like your party-member did, and a healthy party-member who happened to have been born a lizardman.

Singer's Song (Ethicist): caster begins singing. All sentients within Xft must roll a d50 (or somesuch) and get *under* their Righteousness score, or else behave in *exact* accordance with their moral beliefs while the caster continues singing.
(although I now notice you've used this pun, but I thought I'd leave it in anyway ;) )

The Intentional Stance (Metaphysician): caster adopts a stance of power (must describe in detail to use!). As long as they maintain this stance their agenthood is enhanced, granting a bonus of +4 to Rationality and Phronesis.

The Compactness Theorem (Logician): you may fit any object inside any other object. The effect lasts for one week, after which the object must be removed or the spell renewed, otherwise bad stuff happens.
(alternatively: you may take something of infinite size and make it have only finite size. Creative usage up to the player)

Godel's Distressing Incompleteness (Logician): target must pass a Strength check or find that a part of themselves has become distressingly incomplete. (Roll for which body part to lose?)

Godel's Comforting Completeness (Logician): target regains a part of themselves. This must be a part that can be argued to be part of their Form: no arguing that you are really a giant mecha-droid who happend to be born hideously deformed and looking like a human!

Putnam's Magical Reference (Metaphysician): you may make a representation of someone (draw a picture etc.) which magically refers to them. You may cast one spell at this representation and it will act as though it was cast at the target. After this the image disintegrates. They get a +5 to all checks against spells cast in this way.

Parfit's Identity Dissolution (Ethicist/Metaphysician): target ceases to have an identity for one round. This means that they cannot be the target of any spells that must target people. At the end of the round, they become a person again. They cannot take any actions in this period. This spell may be cast as a free action if the caster succeeds at a DC 15 Bulshytte check.
(think of this like those MtG cards that exile a card and then return it at the end of the turn)

Modus Tollens (Logician): this creates a magical shield around the caster. For X rounds, any mental damage that this character would have suffered is instead reflected back to it's source (with a loud "dong!" sound ;) )

Dennett's Dangerous Idea (Empiricist): name a belief. All characters within range who hold that belief must make a Rationality check or suffer X mental damage.

Hyper-efficient Market (Utoptian): pick an item (your enemy's equipment would do well). That item is immediately put up for auction. Anyone present at the casting of the spell may bid. The winner gets the item. There is a State Law of strength 40 against attacking someone during an auction.

Midas Mouth (Utopian): you may make a bet with the GM. The GM has unlimited money, but values it as much as you do. The GM may negotiate.
(needs a better name)
[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-12-27 02:36 pm (UTC)


Kant's Categorical Imperative

Control's the target's actions, not by commanding a specific action, but prescribing a universal maxim that the target must follow under all circumstances for as long as the spell remains in effect. The maxim cannot name specific persons, places, or objects.

This spell can only be cast on targets intelligent enough to understand and apply the maxim.

Example: Cast "categorical imperative" on an enemy during combat, and prescribe the maxim "do no harm willingly to anyone else."

Plato's Republic of the Soul

Causes the target to experience successively the states of the soul described in Plato's Republic. Each state lasts for the same amount of time.


The target is ruled absolutely by its reason, and is completely immune to passions, emotions, or emotional manipulations of any kind. Does not respond to art or poetry in any way, will not try to get money.


The target is now subject to pride and anger and cares for nothing but honor, and it will be easy to goad or shame them into fighting.


The target is extremely greedy and cares for nothing but money.


The target is led by all their passions, and is extremely vulnerable to suggestion, emotional manipulation, and temptations of all kinds. However, these manipulations wear off more quickly than they would on someone not affected by Republic of the Soul.

Each of these states can also be cast separately, but lasting for a shorter period of time.

Aristotle's Unmoved Mover

This spell has a primary target (often the caster) and a secondary target. Allows the primary target to apply force to the secondary target without experiencing an equal and opposite force.

Rawls's Veil of Ignorance

The target cannot choose whom to act on. If they want to say something to someone, give something to someone, cast a spell on someone, or take any other action whatsoever, the target is chosen at random from all feasible targets for the action, including themself.
[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2012-12-27 04:22 pm (UTC)


Unmoved Mover would perhaps be a charm spell, since the Unmoved Mover moves as the beloved -- the way a beautiful person, or picture, or sculpture, or flower, makes you move toward it.

Then, perhaps that should be Platonic Ladder of Love. Which is also the name of the un-charm spell, which makes the subject realize that there are many more beautiful things than the beloved object.
[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-12-27 02:38 pm (UTC)


Hobbes's State of Nature

Renders the target solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-12-27 02:48 pm (UTC)


Socrates's Sting of the Torpedofish (alternate name: Sting of the Gadfly)

Renders target inactive in a state of perplexity for a fixed period of time. Repeated uses get stronger. Targets with lower intelligence are less vulnerable.

Kant's Dichotomies

This is a family of spells, I don't have plausible effects for all of them.

The Phenomenon-Noumenon Dichotomy

Separates the appearance of the target from its true location and state. If someone attempts to act on the target, things will appear to happen exactly as they would have without this spell, but the target itself will not be affected.

The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy

The A Priori-A Posteriori Dichotomy

Here are some more where I just have names, not plausible effects:

Summon Hobbes's Leviathan

Summon Hobbes's Behemoth

Summon Maxwell's Demon

Edited at 2012-12-27 02:49 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-12-27 02:53 pm (UTC)


Eidetic Memory

Replaces an actual memory with an idealized one where everything in it is perfect.
[User Picture]From: alicorn24
2012-12-27 03:33 pm (UTC)


I'm doing these from memory and apologize for any duplicates.

I think I once proposed "Locusts of Causality".

A spell for generating Gettier cases could be hard to adjudicate, but fun to play with - it could be useful for producing disguises, if, say, guards expect "the next person authorized to enter is a six-foot-tall blonde" you could be one of those long enough to get in.

I don't think you've used all the spells mentioned in the original Dresden Codak comics, so there's those.

Summoning a Fully Informed Self might be overpowered, but it's a thought.

A Mandate of Heaven could be fun but I'm not sure what it would do.

If you have read about Peter de Blanc's notion of "ontological crisis", that would be a fun thing to induce in opponents.

Various logical inferences (modus ponens, modus tollens, etc.) could have their places.

I don't remember if there are any aesthetics spells, but it would be fun to declare something art and have this require people to undergo rigmarole to be able to destroy it or something.
[User Picture]From: mrmandias
2012-12-30 05:20 am (UTC)


The mandate of heaven? You would quell disturbances with the rumor of your imperturbability.
[User Picture]From: st_rev
2012-12-27 03:45 pm (UTC)


Power Word: Co- (Logician, Level 4) Reverses all arrows. Until the caster's next action, all arrows, bolts, javelins and similar projectiles within a 30' radius target the character launching them. Does not apply to thrown weapons or slingstones.

Not sure about the level. This is a stronger effect than Arrow Impossibility Theorem, but only lasts one round, and doesn't discriminate between allies and enemies.

(In homological algebra and category theory, any diagram has a "co-"construction obtained by reversing all the arrows. For instance, if taking coffee from the lounge when you aren't allowed to is stealing, then putting coffee in the lounge is costealing.)

Edited at 2012-12-27 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 09:17 pm (UTC)


I thought co-stealing was when you took co-lounge from the ffee
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: Leah Libresco
2012-12-27 04:07 pm (UTC)


Rawl’s Cloak of Indifference – Throw it over an enemy, and they’ll maintain their former alignment, but be unsure which party they belong to. Roll d(number of present PCs and NPCs) to determine who they act to benefit for the next n turns

Chesterton’s Diminished Poesy – if “The most poetical thing in the world is not being sick” as per The Man who was Thursday, this spell invokes lesser poetry and, presumably, incapacitating vomiting

Summon Parasitical Violinist - and the incessant bowing presumably throws off your concentration checks

and I just really want the Ship of Theseus and the Banach–Tarski paradox to turn up somewhere (possibly together)
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 04:09 pm (UTC)


Evening star: summons a morning star(weapon)
[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-12-27 09:24 pm (UTC)


Morningstar of Frege already an artifact, so good work :)
[User Picture]From: tremensdelirium
2012-12-27 04:24 pm (UTC)


Summon Wittgenstein's Beetle

Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence
[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2012-12-27 04:26 pm (UTC)


Important Nonsense

Haven't a clue what it would do, but it was the thing some Logical Positivists came up with, to save their philosophy from the trifling flaw that their sole and central axiom was defined as nonsense by itself.
[User Picture]From: marycatelli
2012-12-27 06:02 pm (UTC)


Oh, I know. The equivalent of a philter of glibness, except that it forces the speaker to use logical fallacies and other errors.
[User Picture]From: histocrat
2012-12-27 04:41 pm (UTC)


Psychic Unity (Empiricist). Merge all entities the caster is in physical contact with into a Hive Mind until contact is broken.
Strange Loop--Space (Metaphysicist).
Strange Loop--Spacetime (Metaphysicist).
Gresham's Purge (Utopian)--Destroy any nonliving object. Requires that the caster brandish a live-size replica of the object, which is not consumed in the casting.
Tail Recursion (Logician). Stuff the tail of any tailed creature in sight into its mouth, briefly disabling it.
Free Will (Apologist). Targets any sentient being within 2S. The next action taken by that being is free of any compulsion. I don't know what that means.
Summon Straw Man
[User Picture]From: histocrat
2012-12-27 05:03 pm (UTC)


Parfit's Parfait (Ethicist)--Address a person in earshot and demand a promise from them. If they make that promise and are predestined to keep it, their favorite dessert immediately appears in their hands.
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 07:20 pm (UTC)


(This is Manfred / Charlie)

I'll send you my big list-o-ideas when I get home from vacation (in a bit more than a week). The sticking point of me making my own version is mainly that making an interesting game out of all these ideas is hard - you can't let the game self-balance if each class only has 9 skills - the balancing has to be done by hand, and the choices the players face still have to be interesting.

Some ones I like and can remember off the top of my head:

- Summon Dire C. Elegans
- Zarathustra Booster (a song reference: ) "You pray to Zarathustra. You pray just like you used ta'. You activate your Zarathustra Booster, and it's good enough for you."
- Reduce (to make things smaller)
- Explain In Terms Of Parts
- Rapier Wit (the basic attack of the dualist, of course)
From: (Anonymous)
2013-01-01 07:55 pm (UTC)


Ah! I remembered what may be my favorite :D

IT's for when a Nietzschean needs protection: Armor Fati.
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 07:29 pm (UTC)

Math Spells


Cauchy-Schwartz Inequality: You see shortcuts everywhere. The time your actions take is divided by 1.4, or by 1.7 if flying. If you are in a narrow corridor or tunnel, this spell has no effect.

Cauchy's Convergence Test: You detect all agents in a neighborhood around you.

Cauchy's Equation: You emit an eldritch glow. Choose one - You may see through any one material in the visible spectrum; or your heat and fire effects may pass through any one material as if it were not there; or you are impervious to carcinogens.

Cauchy's Functional Equation: You realize that all points in your current plane are almost connected to each other. Your next action (or whatever) may affect anything on this plane whose location you know.

Cauchy's Mean Value Theorem: ?

Cauchy's Theorem: An object you choose is impervious to physical deformations (for some time?).
[User Picture]From: sniffnoy
2012-12-27 10:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Math Spells


I suspect this is getting too far to the purely-math side. OTOH, some of the stuff in the original game strikes me as too much towards the purely-politics side. I guess it's up to Scott regardless.
[User Picture]From: selenite
2012-12-27 07:30 pm (UTC)


Utilitarian Functionality - target unable to take any action until he has calculated the exact effect of his action on each member of society.

Summon Strawman - enemy forced to fight strawman instead of caster.

Zeno's Paradefense - incoming projectiles keep coming closer but never reach caster

Summon Sisyphus's Hill - force target to roll a boulder up to top of hill until he makes a DC 30 saving throw.

Plato's Cave - target is placed in a cave and can only interact with shadows of other entities.

Pronounce Them All - target player forced to correctly sing Monty Python's Philosophers Song or forfeit turn.

Decarte's Defense - clouds opponent's mind. He ceases to be until he makes a saving throw to start thinking again.

John Stuart's Mill Grinds Fine - next action of target must increase utility of all players.
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 11:17 pm (UTC)


I like these. Especially the strawman.
[User Picture]From: lonelyantisheep
2012-12-27 07:33 pm (UTC)


Benoit's Infinite Duplication: Creates an infinite number of copies of the caster. The first copy is half the caster's size in every dimension, the second copy is a quarter, etc. Copies obey simple commands. (The bigger the copy, the more complex the command?)

Error Theory: For x minutes, none of target's beliefs have referents. (I have no idea what this means.)

Hobbes's Hobbling: Target becomes nasty, brutish, and short.

Summon Golem: Summons a man-sized clay automaton. The caster must give the golem up to a paragraph of precise instructions as part of the summoning. The golem does EXACTLY what it is told, as determined by whatever will amuse the GM most.

The Trolley's Dilemma: Two targets. Both can choose to cooperate or defect. Outcomes:
Both defect - Both targets are hit by a small trolley and take moderate damage.
One defects, one cooperates - The cooperator is hit by a small trolley. The defector is healed for the same amount.
Both cooperate - No effect.

No coordination between the two targets is allowed, of course.
[User Picture]From: selenite
2012-12-27 11:50 pm (UTC)


"Hobbes's Hobbling" - oh, perfect. I was trying to come up with a nasty/brutish/short gag and struck out.
[User Picture]From: Mark Spurlock
2012-12-27 08:00 pm (UTC)


Summon Steel Man - Some sort of metallic golem

Occam's Razor - in the same vein as Quine's Dagger and Pierce's Arrow

Sagan's Invisible Dragon - Summon an invisible dragon that thwarts each attempt to detect it. The idea is that each time the opponent tries to detect the dragon (so that they can attack it or guard against it etc), the dragon loses whatever property it would need to lose in order to remain undetected. So if the enemy throws flour into the air, the dragon becomes incorporeal. Gradually this loss of properties renders the dragon totally epiphenomenal and therefore useless.

Loss of Agency - target loses a turn

Axe of Choice - Whenever this axe deals damage, the wielder chooses who receives the damage

Contradiction - your basic counterspell

Free Will - User gets +3 to will saves... Fo free!
[User Picture]From: squid314
2012-12-27 09:25 pm (UTC)


Is steel man a real philosophical term outside our own little corner of the Internet?
From: (Anonymous)
2012-12-27 10:24 pm (UTC)


For the Singularitarian (But Not That Kind Of Singularitarian) class:
Hawking Radiation (sacrifice health for radiation attack)
Killing Field (kill/harm everyone on a line or on a circle)
Cosmic Censorship (invisibility, comes with weak and strong versions)
(Invoke) Holographic Principle (make an illusory copy of yourself)
No-Hair Theorem (turn any object into something else with the same mass, momentum, angular momentum, position, and charge) (or just remove someone's hair)
Polchinski's Firewall ( (defensive spell; can be countered by invoking the No-Drama Principle)
Penrose's Extraction Process (absorb energy from target)
Spaghettify (strech out an object near you)
[User Picture]From: sniffnoy
2012-12-27 10:52 pm (UTC)


Hm, potentially philosophically relevant math stuff... the Ultrafilter Lemma, maybe? The Well-Ordering Principle? (Useful for forcing your enemies to attack you one at a time?) And I don't know what an Ultrapower would do, but it sounds useful.

This one's old enough that math wasn't totally distinct from philosophy: Summon Ghosts of Departed Quantities! (Or they could just be monsters.)

I want to also include some philosophy-of-math thing. Like, being a constructivist protects you from certain attacks, because, see, they aren't effective! No idea how you'd make that work in game. (At the least it would protect you from the Axe of Choice, but as that was a big McGuffin last time, that is not likely to come up.) Or there could be some sort of finitism curse you could cast on enemies. In the spirit of this anecdote, it could maybe prevent them from doing multiple things at once? That seems kind of a stretch, though.

It seems like maybe some also logicky-computer-science would fit. The basic computability stuff, anyway. How about a Fixpoint Combinator? Glues your enemies together and holds them in place! Or maybe you could simultaneously physicalize and flatten your enemies by turning them into Pushdown Automata?

And of course the Church-Turing Thesis should probably be something available to Materialists.

Hm, with the automata stuff we're verging on linguistics... the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis ought to be useful for something. (For that matter, kind of surprised that psychology got left off your initial list of subjects, seeing how often philosophers have concerned themselves with that.) Edit: Oops, didn't notice you included the catchall "science" in there.

Also, Paradoxical Decomposition.

Edited at 2012-12-27 10:54 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: sniffnoy
2012-12-27 10:56 pm (UTC)


Also, altering geometry to cause projectiles to miss you. (Because, see, they assumed geometry was Euclidean, but it isn't.)
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