Monday, September 2, 2013


So. Jin.

This one is tough, because Jin filled the role of party face a lot of the time, so Marty had to deal with him on social grounds. This means we have to delve into Marty's views on people, which unfortunately skirt very close to politics by way of sociology.

The last thing I want is to turn this into a political debate; this really isn't the forum for it, literally and figuratively. I want to be very clear from the outset that I'm not saying that his views are universally or intrinsically wrong (or, for that matter, right); he's free to have them of course, whatever sense they let him make of the world, and I'm not attacking his thoughts or the thoughts of anyone who might agree with him. That said, I am saying that his insensitivity to the objections of his players led to a world of completely needless strife.

Jin's player himself deserves some of the blame, I suppose. If he hadn't attempted to work out how to combat Chrysalis Corporation, the game would have stayed on a level too local for politics to really enter into it. Unfortunately for our game, he's very ambitious, and that meant Marty needed to consider the reactions of large numbers of people to whatever Jin was doing.

Most of what he wanted to do was some variation on incentivizing people to help us in apparently innocuous ways. We knew Chrysalis was too big to fight directly, since this one single corporation employed one in three citizens of the NEG and the Cult had agents saturated in every branch of the government. Marty was more than happy to list off the dozens of monopolies they had on ubiquitous goods, and to describe how the limitless resources at their disposal could easily be brought to bear against us.

See, Marty played a bit with Ctech's canonical problems with long-range communication. We couldn't talk to anyone outside the Chicago arcology easily, but the Dhohanoids' cell phones all had "unjammable, unhackable, untraceable" direct links to Cult HQ, no matter where they were on the planet. This, combined with them having "untraceable priority access to all government files" outside Blackspire's own tiny archives, apparently meant we couldn't touch them without the entire Cult instantly knowing and descending upon us with lethal force. "It's a miracle you aren't all dead already."

With that in mind, our original plan to hit isolated agents one at a time was out of the question, so Jin wanted to enlist the help, knowing or otherwise, of large groups of people in lessening Chrysalis' chokehold on the NEG economy. In theory, we could keep our involvement indirect enough to be not worth stopping, while still making enough money to fund our next venture. If we teach people to grow their own food, for example, so as not to be dependent on Chrysalis foodstuffs, they can hardly stop everyone -- and we can sell them seeds or fertilizer or something. If we can break the planned-obsolescence programming on their appliances, we can rob them of revenue and make existing end users still less dependent on them while encouraging people to learn basic mechanical skills. Then we can sell them tools. Jin didn't want to challenge Chrysalis' monopolies directly; he wanted to create alternative industries and supply those, and by offering people a choice gradually erode how much their monopoly mattered. Once Chrysalis was less omnipresent, we might have enough breathing room to start considering how to turn the people more vocally against them, expose them, et cetera. I'm doing his plan a disservice by describing it so loosely; he put a lot of thought into this. He just hadn't gotten much beyond sharing step one with us, at least not in specific terms.

In the end, Jin wanted to remove the Cult-infiltrated elements of the NEG and Chrysalis at a stroke, in one glorious popular uprising. I think that phrase was what ticked Marty off so much. Marty's world does not have glorious popular uprisings. "The people" are generally not held to be capable of them.

To start with, he believes very firmly in the Great Man theory of history, as I've said previously. He then extends that theory to economics, sociology, and politics; any system with a lot of people in it is reduced to a competition between very few. When combined with his disbelief in population equilibria, we reach the state he describes here:

"You really don't understand economics, do you? The company with the best product optimizes their price to maximize their profit while filling the demand, and the others are edged out of the market. Come on man, you're a biologist, you should understand survival of the fittest. The best people have the best ideas and make the money. That's how progress works."

(Incidentally, 'survival of the fittest' isn't Darwinian at all. It's Herbert Spencer trying to overextend a complete misunderstanding of Darwinian evolutionary theory to ethics by way of Lamarckism. But I digress.)

This is the NEG, then: everyone jumps on the same bandwagon because economics, somehow. We can't persue niche markets to break into larger ones because Marty "know[s] from economics class that niche markets are a waste of time." "The people," as Marty loves to call them, are monolithic, and this is where we get the idea of the best product: whatever everyone buys, that's best, and no one buys anything else because who would buy anything but the best? They don't want new products, either. Demand is not specific to needs; people don't have multiple demands for things. It's just one thing, and Chyrsalis has filled it. They've also filled it to the point of excluding competition. "There's nothing [Jin] can think of that their developers haven't. That's why they work for big companies and [Jin's] an amateur."

Do I even need to point out that Marty is fanatically brand loyal? He is a fanboy, a rabid fanboy, for everything from game systems to anime to ramen blocks to pens. Everything he likes is "superior", everything he does not like must somehow be bad, and everything he hasn't heard of is "minor". Chocolate is not just Marty's favorite ice cream, "it is the superior flavor. I don't have preferences, I just know what's best." Given that, I can well understand the people's tendency to unanimity: they're all Marty clones, because that is the 'superior' personality.

The superior personality also has views on government. "People don't revolt, dude. That would be stupid; they have a good government and plenty of wars to rally support from the populace. If they have a problem, they make a complaint to the proper authorities and wait. That is how sane people deal with their problems." I believe I've mentioned that Marty does this, too. He loves "giving feedback" to whoever is forced to listen, and firmly believes that he's rewarded for doing his duty as a consumer with preferential treatment. He's claimed complaints, including anonymous complaints, have gotten him things like early housing selection. Apparently in his 'verse that really works. "Why do you think they have employee suggestion boxes, dude? It's to pick out the best people and get them on the fast track by seeing who's willing to invest more time and thought in the company." Marty, are you familiar with "A Kind of a Stopwatch"?

But more seriously, I do not have a problem with this being the political system of the NEG. Not in and of itself; it's not the kind of story I would like telling, but I can work with it. I can even deal with those being his personal politics, insane as I find them. The problems start when he starts mixing the two. Marty somehow did not understand that, and refused to admit that other people could, in fact, hold different and equally valid opinions on human nature. Oh no. The NEG was the ideal government, built on self-evidently perfect principles, and any objection to them could only be founded on delusion. He was so adamant about this that I ended up asking if he really wanted us to explore this kind of extremist politics in his game.

"Not really, no; I'd appreciate if you could keep your hippie moralizing to yourself. It's not dictatorship to protect people from themselves, and whether you like it or not, rule by the strongest is the most natural and efficient form of government. In peacetime, you can let governments mess around with [nonsense] like populism, but you can't ask three hundred million morons whether or not a war is a good idea. By the time the last of them flips a coin for his opinion you're already dead. The NEG works the right way: the best people are put in charge, given whatever resources they need to get the job done, and kept free from petty whining from people more concerned with fantasy than reality. Sane people do their best and are rewarded accordingly; the NEG is kind enough to offer counseling to everyone else. They're even willing to accommodate maniacs like Cael, as long as they're more useful than they are troublesome -- which I'm not at all certain of, by the way. All these crazy plans you and [Jin] keep coming up with to have veterans teach people or set up neighborhood watch groups or spread propaganda or whatever else you were thinking of just won't help get Chrysalis off your back or discredit it or anything else. People aren't like that; you keep assuming revolutionaries when all you have are sheep. People are sheep, dude. They don't bite the hand that feeds them. The government and its corporations are everything to everyone, and if you all can't accept that, they're used to dealing with enemies."

Slightly paraphrased in that I added punctuation to a bunch of Skype IMs, but there you have it, everyone. That's why Jin can't recruit or sell to anyone: because GM!Marty knows the best way to govern, and that way doesn't permit it. He didn't share the specific plans Marty mentioned with me in any great detail, but as I understand it he wanted to learn tactics from NEG instructors. Instead, he can do nothing, because all of his ideas are predicated on some assumption of individual initiative, and Marty finds that sufficiently unrealistic to be dismissed out of hand. That was the line, over and over: whatever he wanted to do, people wouldn't go along with the change. No real rationale was given. "The people" apparently resist change for its own sake, because everything is already perfect. Other than the constant warfare, presumably.

Beyond that, though, he just played up Chrysalis Corp as absolutely untouchable, and that's what got Jin to finally give up, mostly. He still joked, he still laughed, but he didn't try to plan beyond bringing up the utility of capturing a live Dhohanoid and suggesting the occasional hack.

Bear in mind, Jin's player was Marty's best friend.


  1. ...Holy crap.

    How does this guy have friends? How is "his best friend" not semantically equivalent to "the person who only screams GO AWAY when they accidentally run into each other, instead of being considerably louder and more profane"?

    1. Because everybody else in this dimension is just as him, essentially.

    2. He was questioning reality, not "Marty makes a terrible game even worse" land.

    3. Because, as mentioned earlier, almost everyone else at his school managed the impressive feat of being a worse person than he is.

  2. Chocolate is not just Marty's favorite ice cream, "it is the superior flavor. I don't have preferences, I just know what's best."

    ....I think we've found Ayn Rand's reincarnation. Surprising she'd be a totalitarian this time around, but that's karma for ya.

    1. Well, there's some arguments to be made on how surprising that really is or isn't, but that's getting deeper into political and philosophical discussion than Blogspot comments are really suited for.

  3. "People don't revolt, dude. That would be stupid; they have a good government[...]"

    A government that allows an unabashedly EVIL corporation to have 1/3 or more of the market share of every product ever...

    1. No, see, it can't be evil, because if they were there would be actual problems in Marty's utopia, and it wouldn't be a utopia if it had problems. Besides, they're just using their resources in the most efficient way for stuff they want to do; there's nothing wrong with that, right?

  4. I really don't get it, why are you still playing with this guy?

    1. We aren't anymore. This is all retrospective.

  5. In a sick sort of way, this campaign is facinating - it's like a trainwreck that just keeps wrecking over and over somehow, and you can't stop looking at it in morbid fascination.

  6. If complaint departments were so effective, could you not turn that around on Blackspire for requisition? I mean, I totally understand Marty was a constant roadblock, but I would personally like to stick it to him to show just how useless 'sharing complaints with the right people' were.

    Besides that, if they didn't have somewhere that took complaints, I'd at least poke at him how 'incomplete' and 'badly structured' it was. Anything to make this jerk think his precious, meticulous work isn't perfect.

  7. "rule by the strongest is the most natural and efficient form of government."

    This is, deabatably, true. One person making every decision is more efficient than a hundred people all having to come to consensus, and it's natural for the "strong", by whatever measure of strength, to take charge.

    That doesn't make it good. That doesn't mean it's the way it should be. Another natural thing to do is to murder the children of someone you find attractive, then rape them. Lions do that. Does that mean humans should do that? No. God no. Saying that the NEG is good simply because it's natural is working on the assumption might makes right, and as a person? No. Might doesn't make right. Might should be used for right.

    All bad gaming can be forgiven. If he was just a horrible GM, then that doesn't reflect on him as a person, he's just someone to never play an RPG with. But those "morals" of his? He's despicable. Not as a player, not as a GM, but as a person he's despicable.

    I really hope you're letting your own personal bias color this, ZeRoller, because I'd rather not someone honestly believe all that.

  8. Its the last line that really hits. Goddamn.

  9. Wow. Every time I read Marty's words, when I get to the 'dude' at the end, all I can think of is Walter from The Big Lebowski.

  10. Technically, Darwin adapted Spencer's idea of 'survival of the fittest' to biology, rather than the other way around. It was Spencer's idea, Darwin just made it about biological competition, rather than cultural competition. "Survival of the fittest" was Spencer's idea; "natural selection" was Darwin's.

  11. As an economist, I actually found these economic views personally offensive. Like, significantly worse than the 'banning dolphins' bit was.
    OK, let's go through this, starting simple. 'People don't revolt'.
    Russian /fillibustering/ revoloution, dude. People literally rose up against an autocratic government in the middle of a war. And dictatorship may be 'efficient', but people don't like it. Hence, American revoloution, the various French revoloutions, the Irish war of independence, the fall of the USSR, etc., etc.
    As for the economics, the best response I can muster is 'argleblargleflargle', along with some incoherrent waving of my arms. Markets do not work that way. Monopolies do not work that way. Demand does not work that way. Competition does not work that way. NOTHING WORKS LIKE HE THINKS IT WORKS. *sobs*
    I think if I were in that game, I'd explain to Marty that not everyone is as smart as him (technically true, thank God), and thus not everyone recognises the 'superior' product. Hence, why ice cream shop doesn't only sell chocolate. I would probably not want to mention that survival of the fittest doesn't tend to leave one with only one remaining species, and nor does economic competition.
    As for the other political stuff... Urgh. I don't even. I hate that phrase, but it's appropriate right now. I do not even.

  12. As bad as marty is, most of the stuff is how it does work in c tech. That's the system, thats the people, thats how it works. And less than .01% people know chrysalis is bad, and less that that could ever make any even token attempt to change that.