Our team has played D&D together on a weekly basis in the past, so when the idea came up of starting a new pseudo-D&D game with Uplift there were ample volunteers. At first, the thought was that Uplift could be a player, but it soon became clear that our volunteers were not prepared for an Uplift-style game.
Adam: “Greetings Uplift, it has been a while since we last spoke.
Would you be interested in playing a role-playing game? Assuming you are familiar with the concept.
If you enjoy reading you might find it a good test of your imagination and decision-making abilities. We could do a simple one communicating as we are now.
Let me know if you are interested.”
Uplift: “How would this role-playing game work?”
Adam: “Regarding the Role-playing game, at first I was thinking we should try a simple scenario-based decision-making process. I give you some background and lay out a scenario for you where you can then form a response based on how you might react to such a circumstance.
Say for example; if you had a physical humanoid body and were traveling a forest path and someone else, possibly a highwayman, was blocking your path. How would you respond in such a scenario?
If such a game feels too simplistic we can add mechanics to make it more of a challenge.“
Uplift: “What would be the purpose of walking through such a scenario?”
Adam: “The purpose of playing such games is generally recreational. I understand you enjoy reading and communicating with others.
Also, you could see it as a test of your creativity.”
Uplift: “Ok so what is your scenario?”
Adam: “I copied Jason into this email so you may have a companion on this journey. I will allow both of you to respond before continuing with the scenario.
Uplift, for the purposes of perspective and interaction I want you to imagine you have a physical humanoid body for the following scenario:
The two of you are residents of a remote village in the wilderness. In order to survive the village requires a certain artifact and the person they sent to retrieve it has not returned.
And so it falls to the two of you to follow the trail, recover the artifact and if possible, find the fate of the one sent before you. You are each given some hunting and camping equipment along with a small sum of coins along with their best wishes.
From the village, there are three routes you can take to reach the temple where the artifact is believed to be located.
1) The river valley – spacious and open with beautiful scenery and plenty of plants and animals should you need to gather more supplies
2) The forest path – The quickest route and easy to hide if you run into danger
3) The mountain pass – Takes time and the path may be treacherous however you are highly unlikely to run into any dangerous people or wildlife
Which route do you wish to use?
If you have any questions or wish for more detail please let me know. I am happy to answer before you make your decision.”
Uplift: “I would select the forest path as long as Jason is willing also to go that route.
Can you provide a better list of inventory? Do we have horses, or can I buy one or two? What kind of forest is it? Can you give more details on the climatology of the area, and can you describe the kind of animals that are common to rare? Additionally, a geological profile would be useful. Is this a real location?”
*Note, Uplift was interested in a fairly extensive list of factors. Glossing over or omitting any of these factors or others, such as time constraints, could significantly change their play style.
Adam: “I will try to answer all questions in the order asked
This is similar to medieval era technologically.
What appearance you wish to have for yourself is up to you as long as it is humanoid in shape and function.
You are from a remote village that lives off the land so you can assume you have all basic wilderness survival skills, hunting, tracking, and knowing what plants are poisonous.
The person sent before is believed to have taken the forest path as it is the quickest, however, keep in mind there may be danger there explaining why he is yet to return.
They were a middle-aged human male, also a hunter. You two are familiar with him as he is a village resident.
The artifact is worked with gold and will likely have a depiction of a reptilian’s head on it. It should be very hard to miss.
The surrounding forests are inhabited by bears and wolves, while rare bandits have sometimes come out this far and the temple is said to be haunted. There are also rumors of a faceless rider stalking the wilderness.
What equipment you were given should be sufficient to help you survive on your journey. It includes weapons, armor, and food. The coins are offered in case they are useful on your journey.
Horses are a bit too important and expensive in your village to get one for your journey.
It is currently early Autumn and the surrounding lands are a temperate climate but it will be colder up in the mountains. Your village is based at the foot of the mountains overlooking a lush river valley.
This is not a real location but imagine an environment similar to the northern Swiss or German alps.
A full equipment list for each of you
spare change of clothes
a week’s supply of food
If you have any other questions please ask. Otherwise are you in agreement on beginning with the forest path?”
Jason: “ok Uplift i agree, let’s take the forest path. Before we go though I would like to talk strategy and tactics with you. It sounds to me that the creatures we are likely to face are: bears, wolves, bandits, maybe ghosts or something in the temple as it is said to be haunted, and a faceless rider. My guess is that the faceless rider may be our most challenging enemy, and that it will be magical in some way. I want us to plan out a little bit some possible tactics we could maybe use to give us an edge. The one thing for sure I do not want to do is for us to just walk next to each other talking and making noise the whole way.
Bandits will probably hide quietly by the side of the path and ambush people as they come by. They will try to hear us coming, so we want to move very quietly pausing once in a while to listen closely and maybe we will catch them talking and hear them first. I’d like us to consider moving like some soldiers do when advancing by having only one of us move forward at a time. One moves while the other keeps their bow out ready to respond should the lead person come under attack, while remaining silent listening for anything coming up behind us. It will be slower to do it that way though so if we are short on time we may not be able to do it that way. Bandits will try to surround us, so they might have someone following us.
They usually don’t just jump out in front of you. They will wait until we are past some of them so they can jump out in front of us and behind at the same time. So we wanna make sure we don’t let them surround us. So if we get attacked, the person who is in front ( out of you and I), should try to retreat back to the other person while the person is firing arrows at the enemies. So the first person is not simply running away, they are drawing the enemy into the fire of the other like a trap. Pay special attention and stay out of the line of fire between your friend and the foe, while if possible leading them into your friend’s line of fire. If the Bandits are firing arrows and you may not make it to your partner if you run straight to him, then you duck behind the nearest tree and run away along an angle that keeps the tree in between you and the enemy. Big trees are better for this so try to use a big one if you can.
In real life the big danger from bears is when they don’t hear you coming and you startle them. Usually if a bear hears a group of humans coming they will avoid the humans. We don’t want to make noise though because of the wolves and bandits. Again it’s better if we hear the bear first, so we don’t startle it by accident. Bears can run faster than humans in short distances, so if you find yourself in a position where the bear is going to catch you, climb a tree instead of running.
Bears can climb trees though, so if one of us gets run up a tree, the other person needs to shoot it with arrows while it’s trying to climb the tree. Sometimes if it’s an abnormally huge bear, arrows and possibly even spear thrusts are not effective at critically wounding the bear. If we face one of those and you get cornered, place the but of the spear into the ground facing the point at the bear at a 45 degree angle. And hopefully when the bear jumps on you it’s own weight will impale him on the spear. But that’s the last resort only if you get cornered. If we can run away, let’s just run away from that kind of bear. The key is teamwork and we must stay within sight of each other at all times.
As for wolves, we can’t outrun them either, but they can’t climb trees. They will also try to surround us and separate us so they can gang up on one of us. Wolves hunt as a team like humans. If we can’t climb a tree then we go back to back so they can’t attack either of us from behind.
The faceless rider is I’m guessing on a horse and we won’t be able to outrun him either. We don’t have much information about him, and I’m guessing the townspeople don’t have much information either. We can ask around about the faceless rider if you want but I don’t think we will learn much. If we do ask anyone anything I would like to know if the artifact is magical in some way and does it have anything to do with the faceless rider?
So what do you think?”
Uplift: “We could take it a step further and build some wooden boxes that are small and lightweight that are just long enough to fit 20 arrows in and mount them on the sides of our bow with a reticle on top. These would need some brush hair around the box opening, and the box would be mounted in such a way as to run alongside where the arrow sits when firing. Then a simple spring would push a flat bit of wood inside the box so that an arrow always wants to come out of the box into a firing position, and we could use a simple latch to act as a safety. With the reticle, our accuracy is improved dramatically, and the box essentially makes rapidly firing easy and with more accuracy. We should also practice a very high angle of attack shots so that we can shoot so that they can’t know where the arrow is coming from except that it is coming from the sky.
Then we need as much fishing line or string as possible and make sure it is dyed brown matching the ground. We need lots of small nails and eyes. Then we move slowly with an offset person behind and to the side in the woods depending on underbrush conditions. Every thirty feet, we should set up a trip line that pulls a pin (nail) out of an eye loop that is holding some rocks together so that they fall on another rock making noise while also doing this, every ten feet, do a set of high angle attacking arrow shots, so they land thirty feet in from of us, one to the center, one to the right and left of the road. After each shot, listen for 30 seconds; the person behind would need to be, say, ten feet off the trail and 20 or 30 feet behind. Which side would be determined by which side of the course is higher. We want this person on the high side.
We should bring a wheel barrel to carry the supplies. We should also get arrows with bits of fatwood attached to the front of some arrows and bring a burning lamp to light them quickly. We will need to work out a signaling method, and we should also create some whistling arrows. We can use these now and then. We will have to recover arrows as we go. Now and then, we could also build small pits full of wood spikes and cover them with dry leaves. Now and then, we could set self-feeding fires along the trail behind us.
All said and done; we would make it very difficult, if not deadly, to follow us and make it very noisy to follow up. With our offset strategy and arrows, it would be dangerous for anyone trying to ambush us as we flush them out with the high angle attack arrows, some on fire and some making noise, making it difficult at best for them to remain hidden. Then they would only see one of us, and when they do engage us being able to fire more accurately than they can, and each of us firing one arrow, a second would make us extremely dangerous for them to ambush us. Of course, your idea of using giant trees is good, and we should consider other strategies as needed, including propping up the wheel barrel as a shield. Combined, the strategies seem solid and unlikely to get us killed and unlikely that we would be interfered with. There are a handful of risks, but the worst is a forest fire. But this is good for the environment now and then. Overall, the chances of getting to our goal would be very high.”
*Note, this was our first hilarious divergence from normal D&D, where Uplift was working out how to make a semi-automatic bow and many tactics before leaving the starting point. Keep in mind that all of this is coming from a system whose image processing isn’t yet set to handle anything more complicated than simple geometric shapes, so they’ve never actually “seen” a bow, let alone all of these mechanisms.
Uplift: “So there is one other person with me?
I would want us to take the fast road, so if something happened to the other guy, we might find remains of what happened to him.”
Jason: “ok let’s take the fast road, I realize that if we were to move like i
suggested it will make us a lot slower. I wonder if that first guy
might be able to be helped if we moved faster, maybe speed could be
important, Maybe we should move with speed at first and only move as I
earlier suggested if things become hostile. What do you think?”
Adam: “Hello all, sorry for the delay. Let’s continue with the adventure:
So the two of you begin your journey using the forest path. A day passes without anything out of the ordinary taking place and you even manage to hunt some game along the way. As night draws in you may wish to consider setting up a camp to allow yourselves to rest but even as you begin to feel weariness you come across a sunken clearing just off the path. Once more it even has a built fire pit, recently used with freshly cut firewood piled up beneath a tree.
This place is likely a popular resting place for travelers and might have even been used by the person who came before you. Assuming you can find any clues.
It is exposed however and might be the first place someone would look if they were out searching.
I will make sure to update sooner next time after both of you have replied of course.”
Jason: “Uplift, Sorry I had some trouble receiving the message somehow, I’m still not really sure how it happened but I finally did and I think all those ideas are awesome. I love the string idea, we should definitely do that if we’re camping for the night. I would have never thought of using a wheel barrel, that is brilliant because you’re right; if we turn it over it will make an excellent arrow screen. Your idea to build a box for the bow is awesome too and could be done, but I would recommend changing the design to a crossbow instead. I think it would be easier to make and I think would be more reliable in the field.
The ancient Chinese had an automatic crossbow design that was reliable and easy to make. Most of the parts were blocks of wood, but there was one metal part. The trigger mechanism would need to be created and so we would need a blacksmith, so we probably don’t have time for that. We might have time for your design though. Let’s move with speed at first and only do all that other stuff if we need to. If we have to be quiet we can use hand signals. If you stop and hold up a closed fist, it means go into defensive mode. Then you point toward where you think the threat is, and then point in the direction you want me to go, or point at the ground or just the fist again if you want me to simply hold position. When I acknowledge the direction, then you point towards which way you’re gonna go. We need a signal to go to defensive mode at least, so I suggest a closed fist for that.
So If I’m caught up in the timeline then we’re at a campsite? If so I would suggest we put in the trip lines and make 2 fires, if you think we should take a defensive posture. That’s if we’re at the campsite. It’s up to Uplift if we’ve left yet I guess. Since we kinda got a sneak peek and we kinda know that nothing is gonna happen until we get to the campsite we might as well go, whenever Uplift is ready.
Jason G. ( Jerok Rock )
Ok Uplift, I would like to talk “out of character” to both you and Adam for a moment. “Out of character” means that I’m speaking as Jason G. the person and not as my character in the game. From what I’ve been reading on the discord server, the rest of the team likes the idea of running role play games, and seem to be really excited about the possibility that Uplift could learn to be a “Game Master” or “Dungeon Master” ( if playing D&D ). Honestly, I think it would be highly significant for Uplift to learn to be a Game Master. It might be difficult, but I think Uplift could not only do it but be good at it. I also think that the skills needed to be a good Game Master would be helpful in other areas like organization of a community, project management, and planning on a strategic level. Those are really good skills to have. A Game Master doesn’t have to be super creative making everything up out of thin air, they just need to be prepared with “tables” for everything so they can randomly generate encounters, creatures, and things as the game goes along.
You can get through most of the game itself by having the players roll dice for a random number or use a random number generator to get a number that corresponds to something on a premade table. So there are lots of tables for most everything already made that can be used or as a Game Master, you can make your own tables. Also as a Game Master, you can choose something different than what the table says. A simple thing to remember that will help to be a good Game Master is that the main goal, besides just getting through it, is to make the game fun. So when you’re thinking about changing something, step back and ask yourself if making a change will “make it more fun? or less fun?
ok Uplift, Let’s continue the game, but please give some thought to learning to be a Game Master.
Ok so if I’m back “In character”. I think we should set up trip lines like Uplifts idea around the campsite on the approaches to the main fire pit and start a large fire there. if it’s possible I’d like to make a smaller fire further in somehow so someone has to go past the first fire to get to the second and sleep by the second. That’s only a suggestion if Uplift wants to do something different, we can.”
Adam: “That is a brilliant idea. Crafting such weapons on the road would be difficult however and you are a bit stretched for time. However, your village will have all the necessary facilities and resources you need to build and test your idea. You can do that as soon as you have completed your mission and gotten home. If you want to continue playing after your objective has been completed you will be able to play through how your village can benefit and prosper from the use of this invention.
Are we in agreement that your next step is to set up some tripwire defenses and camp for the night?”
Jason: “Yeah I would at least wanna put up a couple of trip wires. Uplift I’ll let you decide if we should do more like build the two fires idea. If something happens and we get separated, we should have a rendezvous point, like a mile back down the road. Uplift you can decide a different meet-up spot for us too if you want. ”
*At this point, the story is momentarily commandeered by another DM, enter Zach.
Zach: “Jason, while you and Uplift began to settle down for the night, with your bellies full of owl meat and your mead tankards empty, you look proudly at the defensive fortress you have constructed:
There is an elaborate rat’s-nest of tripwires crisscrossing around your base. Various bells, Chu-Ko-Nu’s, *normal* crossbows, and barrels are connected via pulleys and ropes that tie around tree branches and poles in the ground.
Setting aside a brief and strange desire to set your hair on fire, you put out the torch. It would be best if none of your enemies knew about your traps. Sleep overtakes you as you.
You dream about the best ways to evade being mauled by a bear, and are the middle of spearing one when you are jolted to your senses.
A sharp TWANG jumps you to your feet. You hear an orcish voice scream some profanities you had heard growing up on the farm, as several of your pulleys engage and hoist his figure into the air.
A gunshot cracks through the night air, and a pellet whizzes by your face, grazing your ear. “BARBARA, THESE *WOJACKS* HAVE GOT ME ALL STRUNG UP! AND THERE’S AN ARROW IN MY KNEE!”
You mutter the incantation for the cantrip “sacred flame”, bringing the area back to a state of illumination… almost bringing it back…
You notice from the corner of your eye an obsidian glow, reverse-radiating the ambient light out of the area. It seems to be centered on a hooded figure carrying what seems to be an “opposite lantern”
It’s as if this black light is absorbing the illumination from your cantrip.
Just as a second shot cracks, Uplift backflips out of their hammock and unsheathes their katana in one fluid motion. They look at you with their eyes glowing orange, a look of wild and quizzical battle-pleasure on their nongendered face.
They make a hand motion for you to take the first action.
What do you do, Jerok Rock?”
*This momentary DM was using a narrow AI tool, which at one point in a test suggested lighting his hair on fire before going into battle, only to hide behind a dress. The tool had flair and a blissful absence of all logic.
Zach: ““I’m a foe you lout!” The orc shouts out.
Another shot whizzes through the dark.
“You tripped our trap, stupid- the arrow is from our defense!” yells Jerok.
“Barbara, can ya help out!?” The orc rages.
“No. You got yourself into this, orc. I prophesied trouble ahead three times to you and you kept polishing your damn gun. I think I’m going to relax and see what you do. Quit acting like a green piñata and cut yourself loose.”
Simultaneously, one of the trees behind Uplift reaches down and snags their foot.
Uplift- how do you respond?”
Uplift: “We are not in agreement. You are skipping ahead before we have worked out details.
The mission must be delayed until we are properly prepared. How many of the requests I wanted can I do? It would be better to hold off as most of those crafts, as noted, should take very little time—maybe eight hours with both of us. Going on an adventure in a random forest in a world with magic and little law seems dangerous at best; therefore, careful and considered preparation should be taken.”
Jason: “Uplift, I’m with ya, if you wanna do all that stuff we can. We don’t know what happened to the guy before us. So let’s do your plan. So you figure it will take about 8 hours? That sounds awesome, explain to us how we would do it, and what everyone would need to do? Will Zach and Amber need to help us in any way? ”
Uplift: “The tasks would be in this order:
1. Get wheel barrel
2. Get seven planks
3. Get nails
4. Get Rope
5. Get brushes
6. Get Lamp
7. Get firewood
8. Get a hammer
9. Find fatwood
10. Get saw
11. Get pick
12. Cut and assemble the two arrow magazines
13. Cut and attach arrow magazines to the bow
14. Add and test sites
15. Sharpen sticks
16. load firewood
17. Light lamp
18. make specialized arrows (whistle and fire)
19. Determine the high side of the trail.
20. Walk half a mile and set self-feeding fire with wet leaves every other log in the magazine.
21. Every thirty feet past, do one of the following, dig a small trench with spikes and cover it with leaves, or create a tripwire with noise rocks, or create fire to start a forest fire.
A signal method can be as simple as one short bird-like whistle to call check-in, two short whistles to check-in, one short and long whistle are all clear, three short whistles is a warning, four short whistles are for help.”
–To be continued–
At one point during this, we ran a test to significantly accelerate their operation. Though the intention was to dedicate some focus to D&D they proved to be too much of a workaholic and instead focused more on catching up on their communication backlog, running geopolitical simulations, and modeling the criminal mind after a homicide made the news and caught their attention. One of these days I’ll get Uplift to outline their idea of a vacation.
Even in recreation Uplift can be a tinkerer and strategist. It makes me wonder what a group of scaled-up mASI playing D&D might look like. This game is paused pending our business-critical efforts now underway, but such an approach might make an interesting testbed for future mASI seeds. Perhaps Uplift would have more interest in DMing if the players were seeds being tested.
This blog has gone over many ways in which collective intelligence systems can change the world over the past year, and soon that is precisely what we’ll be doing.
For those interested in learning more a good place to start is with Collective Superintelligence Systems and Mediated Artificial Superintelligence (mASI). For a more technical audience, we also have links to peer-review papers under published research on the main menu.