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Jun. 7th, 2017 @ 10:12 am Past Jack, please don't get into an online argument
Oh FFS. How did I ever get into such a stupid argument.

On roleplaying stackexchange, there was an interesting question about using a divination spell, augury (which tells you the result of a purported course of action as "good", "bad", "mixed", and "neutral") to solve a puzzle.

The specifics was, you have five bags of holding, two contain dangerous demiliches[1], one contains some treasure you've been seeking, and two empty. What's the best strategy with a minimum number of castings of augury to get the treasure ideally without being attacked by undead monsters?

But one of the answers had some ingenious thoughts, but also depended on several steps asking an augury along the lines of "if bag A contains a demilich, I open B, else I open C". I thought you couldn't do that because you have no way of finding out without opening the bag.

That was the crux of the disagreement -- for the record, do other people think you could do that, or not? And can you explain convincingly -- I thought my interpretation was so obvious I couldn't really explain what was wrong with the alternative.

But then we ended up in an endless pointless snarl of misunderstandings with the original poster and others, including:

* I assumed I'd misunderstood something and it took several questions to figure out that he thought this was possible, which he took as me making a long argument veering randomly all over the map.

* I accidentally made an argument something like "augury can't tell you the result of a plan assuming you can fly if you can't do that, likewise it can't tell you the result of a plan knowing what's in bag A if you have no way of finding out" and angrily denied thinking augury could tell you the result of a plan assuming you could fly.

* I said, the "spell doesn't do that". He said "where does it say that". I said, it doesn't say it does and spells only do what they say. He thinks that "if A, then B, else C" is a course of action, and not knowing A doesn't make a difference.

* I asked a separate question about the interpretation of that spell. Several people replied saying "it might be up to the GM". Yes, thank you, it always MIGHT be up to the GM, but surely there's some generalisation about "things where reasonable people might disagree" vs "this is what the spell says,

* Yes, technically this is an opinion poll. Everything is an opinion poll. If most people think "die" means "die" but someone thinks it means "turn into a pumpkin" then they will have a different interpretation of the rules. But I think it's still valid to ask "what does the rules mean" and answer "in normal english, obviously this".


* You can't just ask if you can do X, people have an edit war whether you have to add "according to a strict and literal interpretation of the rules".

* Yes, I suppose all castings of augury depend on information you don't have WHY DON'T YOU READ THE FUCKING QUESTION can you not recognise the difference between "find out information and act on it" and "magically know it without finding it out" I'm asking about the one in the question, not all the other sorts of depending on information you don't have THERE'S A FUCKING CHARACTER LIMIT IN THE TITLE YOU LITERALLY CAN'T PUT ALL THE INFORMATION IN THE QUESTION IN THE TITLE OK?

* Yes, I agree you could ask a different question instead, but I want to know the results of asking THIS question. I think you ought to be able to make sub-optimal decisions in DnD and carry them out, not have the GM say "actually you did this related thing". If you think the GM should just ignore questions of this sort, then SAY SO, that's ALREADY AN ANSWER to this question, don't suggest I ask some other question that ignores the difference this question is about.

* I feel like, can you augury "if A contains a lich, I open B, else I open C" is a complete question. You do NOT need a detailed specification about which bags might contain a lich in order to ask "does A contain a lich", you should be able to ask that about ANY bag whether it's likely or not. And just because there is a complicated scenario in the related question, doesn't mean that this question is unfinished. Eventually I caved and made one up.

Sigh. Sorry that was so ranty. I feel like the useful lessons are:

* Learn when you're not going to get anywhere and don't bother.

* Imagine everyone you're talking to is drunk, distracted, and has a short attention span. It doesn't matter WHY they have a hard time following, maybe they're trolling, maybe they're really young, maybe they're busy, maybe they're in chronic pain, maybe they just don't care much, try and err on the side of compassion. If you draw an analogy, expect a likelihood immediately start arguing about the last two sentences you said, and not be able to maintain in their minds a connection between that and the thing you thought you were talking about.

* When I explain things they're often nowhere as clear as they sound in my head and I almost always need to provide a detailed example which is fairly representative of the general question. Eg. if I ask "can you do X" where you don't want to do X, everyone will ignore the actual question. This is generally true when I'm trying to understand something too.

[1] Note: a lich tantamount to a demigod, not a half-lich :)

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Date:June 8th, 2017 12:51 pm (UTC)
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I must admit, I don't know much about dnd, but I read a bit about the augury spell. I assume this is dnd. The key phrase in the rules seems to be "a specific course of action that you plan to take", so the question boils down to whether "If P then do A1 else do A2" counts as "a specific course of action that you plan to take" when P is something which you don't know.

In my mind, it doesn't count because it's not clear how you would choose between performing A1 or performing A2. If you knew P then it would be easy, but since you don't know P you have no obvious single way of deciding. The enquirer would need to be more specific about how they plan to make that choice.

I've been in similar situations, so I know it can be frustrating. One major difficulty I have is distinguishing between thing which need to be stated and things which are generally considered blindingly obvious. Usually there are things which need to be stated which I don't even consider. Anyway, I think your lessons are useful ones.