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Jun 28, 2022 5:49 PM
Griffie in the Hari Empire
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"That sounds about correct. Right now, almost all the major factions are pretending to do very treaty-limited warfare but at least two of them are in fact working on treaty-violating secret weapon projects. The last time they fought all out … non-secret information includes that they had temporal weaponry that probably shattered time by the end of it and they sent continents flying. I'm willing to give you more information than that, with the understanding that it's not for publication and I would like you to respect the interests of the people who gave me the information when we get in contact with them."

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"What might it entail to respect their interests?"

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“To make me comfortable sharing their information … not publishing it and not using it to do things they don’t want. I want to pitch you on allying with my faction more generally, but will understand if that doesn’t happen, just, if I share their resources with you you shouldn’t use those specific resources to facilitate stuff like the making-people-unhappy components of slavery. Obviously if you independently rediscover it you’re not using their information anymore.”

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"I do not know of exactly one possible category that includes the aspects of slavery that make people unhappy."

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“Just don’t use it for enforcing slavery law, then. I don’t expect it to have significant applications there anyway.”

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"What do you expect that avoidance to entail?"

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"If you can somehow use the information I give you for, say, increased surveillance capabilities, you do not use those capabilities to look for runaway slaves or slaves who committed crimes against their owners. If you use it to develop improvements upon the state of the art in command magic, you do not use those improvements for binding slaves. Does that gesture at the relevant space?"

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"What if I just promised not to attempt to prosecute slaves who commit crimes against their owners?"

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Something feels a bit off. "Look. I'm not, actually, authorized to negotiate a deal about how to share Heaven's classified information with the Hari Empire, I'm just attempting to act as a representative of their interests. If you haggle with me about terms, what happens is not that you get a straightforwardly better deal, what happens is that either you don't accomplish anything you couldn't have accomplished some other way, or you make me a worse representative of their interests. But that doesn't change their actual interests! Heaven understands the concept of conditional cooperation just as well as the Hari Empire does, and if you interact with my world at all, which I doubt you can avoid forever, it will be in your interests to work with them."

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"Perhaps you should tell me more about Heaven and their goals."

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"So! Backround information first: My world, which is called Suaal, has dramatically more variation in personal power than, so far as I can tell, Har does. In Har, what magic people can do is based on what magic they were born with and how well they understand how to use it. …you know that, you live here. In Suaal, magic varies dramatically in strength, and there are a small number of very very strong people called gods. Gods are, instead of being born to parents or built by designers, are made of quintessence, which is concepts-given-substance, including concepts like 'agriculture' and 'good tools' and 'overthrowing governments' and such. And then the gods build lesser beings out of quintessence and other materials that share their values, and the gods and their allies go around making the world more like their values which gives them more power. Except actually, it turns out if a bunch of disagreeing gods do too much of that, then the world breaks, so most of them they made agreements and now they mostly don't go around changing the world in person and have limits on what the people they make can do, too."

"There are some coalitions of gods. One coalition is based around Law: like the Hari Empire, they want the people they have power over to know what the law is. They want to have peaceful negotiations instead of value-destroying violent conflicts. The notable members of this coalition are Hell, Axis, and Heaven. The other major coalition is based on … Hari is the Language of the Empire gave me fewer words for this. Friendship, wanting to help everyone, wanting people to not be miserable, et cetera. This coalition is the Celestials, sometimes known as the Upper Planes. Members of it include Heaven and Elysium, but a lot of the Celestials aren't part of either."

"I don't think you want to work with the non-Heaven Celestials much, they'd respect your laws about slavery less than Heaven would. However, if you do want to work with them, I like them just fine and would have no objections to this. …okay, I actually do have an objection to you working directly with Elysium, I'd strongly encourage you to put up signage saying 'Hari children have powerful magic and if you free them from slavery they can be very destructive very quickly' or similar before doing so. But that's tangential."

"Anyway, of the Lawful powers, Hell would like to enslave and torture pretty much everyone and is very good at misleading contracts, even when they set things up so you not them get to write the contract they can still twist it to their favor. Axis shares your desire to have the law reflect the results of the violent conflicts that would happen so as to make those conflicts pointless, but in Suaal, that principle doesn't point to democracy, and so to appease the rather powerful god of Death, Axis enforces laws requiring everyone who isn't a god or some other exceptions to die eventually. Heaven is the only major Lawful power who actually wants the people of Har to do well."

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"So it sounds like you're warning us that - there are people who want to cheat us and have the ability to break reality, there are people who predictably don't follow laws and will try to steal our slaves if they come here, there are people who want to torture and enslave all the free people of Har, and there are people who want to murder us all. And that these people might come to our universe at some future date. Is all that basically accurate and have I missed anything important here?"

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"All of these categories of people have leadership with reality-breaking capability, in case I didn't make that clear. I don't think you're missing anything comparable in importance that I'm also aware of."

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"Can you think of any way we might defend against their reality-breaking abilities?"

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"I'm not sure how you'd defend against the gods at their full power on your own. I would recommend you attempt to contact and form defense agreements with Heaven or Axis: they'll deal fairly with you, and a large population of powerful mages has a lot to offer them. I haven't made extensive attempts at contact myself, but my magic might work to do it. I would recommend that we initially attempt this, and if it fails I would recommend that you hire me for testing the interactions of the subset of Suaal magic I'm capable of with Hari magic to see if it produces useful results."

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"If we contacted Axis for defense, how likely is it that they would try to murder everyone in this universe?"

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"It seems unlikely. More importantly, I expect them to go to work hard to make sure that you contacting them with the goal of cooperative trade does not make you more likely to get outcomes you do not want such as your deaths."

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"How quickly do you expect others to arrive here if we don't contact them?"

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“I don't have good estimates and will list contributing factors out loud because you might be better at getting an estimate out of them than I am."

"First off, knowing that nobody after me has arrived for several days is informative. …actually, you might want to confirm that there have been no traces of any of the types of exotic matter composing me that aren't from me, you have cheap worldwide scrying and it's possible that someone with antiscrying would still forget to cover their tracks thoroughly enough. Secondly, my allies haven't contacted me at all, which means that either it's extremely expensive to do so or they've been distracted by more pressing issues. If nothing happens related to me specifically, my guess is that the gods are likely to return to total warfare within the next 12 local years. Uh. If time passes at the same rate here as at home, which I haven't actually confirmed, and is plausibly not the case, that's a problem. Anyway. If the gods return to total warfare, probably someone will win, and probably they'll go searching for worlds to impose their preferences on, and even if I only reached here by freak accident they'll go try to replicate lots of weird conditions in interplanar travel. I … am not sure how much more personal attention to expect, but I'm probably needed for a complicated scheme, my intuition says 'six months is an upperish bound on how long to expect before contact' but that's not a very capabilities-based estimate."

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"If we don't contact anyone first, who do you expect to be first to contact us?"

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"Heaven or Abaddon, where 'Heaven' as a faction also refers to people allied with it like my companions. …I didn't name Abaddon earlier. They're the ones who want everyone to die, and one of the ones definitely doing treaty-violating secret weapon projects."

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"If we were to try to contact one of these factions, how would we do that?"

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“For initial attempts to contact Heaven, we’d compile a letter in an appropriate language accurately describing the situation and place it with some of my possessions and, ideally, a locally manufactured high quality multitool with some good wards. I would then do magic with the goal of sending the letter with valuable resources indicating priority, which would fail if we’re out of range. For Axis we’d do the same except with a different letter and a different demonstration of Har’s importance and value. If that fails I also have a crystal I can break to attempt contact, but it’s single-use so we’d want to save it for optimal conditions. It’s also possible for me to use very scarce personal resources to repeat the letter-sending attempt with more power behind it if the first attempts fail.”

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"Can you elaborate on the multitool?"

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"Sure. So, my closest contact in Heaven is the domain of Aiyuna, the Goddess of Good Tools, whose symbol is a wrench that's also a really fancy multitool? So I think advanced multitools would be more attention-getting than other demonstrations of value. I suspect it's unlikely that including something exciting and" Griffie attempts to search for a word and fails "their-symbol-ish is going to make the difference here between success or failure, but it seems like it might help a bit, and we'd like a rapid response if we're going to get one."

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