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Jul 06, 2022 10:21 PM
Griffie in the Hari Empire
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"So we'd be contacting a specific member of the alliance who has an interest in tools? In the south it's common to sell jewelry charms that kill certain insect species, remain cool on hot days, count time, prevent scrying, and often display an illusion of some plants or animals. Is that the kind of thing you're thinking of?"

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"I was thinking more of the physical-object type, like, a wrench and a pair of scissors and such. It's probably the wrong place to use resources to spend too much money and search effort on any given object and honestly it might be smarter to do a decent sample of stuff targeting major gods' areas of interest that are advanced here, like a few seeds of a good rice type and a navigational tool."

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"I expect we could find those things. And if we contacted Heaven, would that make Axis more inclined to try to murder us all?"

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"I can't confidently rule it out at this moment, but it feels out of character for them. I'll try to get back to you on that?"

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"Of course. Meanwhile, what can you tell me about how you came by the information you've been telling me?"

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"I've personally visited with the Upper Planes and Axis, as well as had various opportunities to talk with their critics and enemies. I can give you more information on how I learned a particular thing. For an example, people who don't like Axis generally object to actions Axis admits to taking, and I've never heard anyone say 'Axis said they would pay for the costs of contacting them about something they wanted to be contacted about but then they didn't' or such, and they pay for the contacting-them costs of those things when anyone I know has done it."

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"If I heard that kind of claim under normal circumstances I would know how expensive it would be to set up fake Upper Planes to visit, how easy it would be to catch a lie, how easy it would be to check that there wasn't a pattern of specific people going to report things to Axis and disappearing..."

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"Faking the Upper Planes would be very difficult. I'm sure people have faked regions of it for deceptions, but for what I've seen to be a deception … they would have had to bring in some actual high-quality expensive infrastructure and disguise it as Upper-Planes-ish or rapidly relay information from real infrastructure elsewhere to the mockup, or they'd have to be colluding with my wizard friend long before having determined that lying to me in particular would be useful, or have seamlessly replaced him at some point. They'd have to not just hide from some of my exotic senses but actively forge results for them, and I haven't seen any illusion magic that can do that."

"Hari people seem to like privacy a lot so I thought I'd clarify that this exotic sense doesn't detect anything about Hari people. It's for detecting the magic thing people in my world are made of but Hari people are made of their brains instead. …language. Anyway."

"You'd have to fake interplanar relations between other factions and the Upper Planes, which would again involve fooling my exotic sense to impersonate other types of people. I've met with … let's go with the translatable thing and call him Big Ear. Actually, no, he was explicitly allies with Axis and the Upper Planes even if he hated them, never mind. Anyway. I've met with enemies of Axis and the Upper Planes who don't cooperate with them at all and would probably love to ruin their day, and they never told me that the Upper Planes or Axis misbehaves in the way you describe? I've met mortals who the Upper Planes and Axis would have trouble colluding with who had complaints about both and none of the complaints included dishonesty in the relevant domains. …Axis does promote the false theory that some faraway portions of the world don't exist but I suspect they openly admit to promoting falsehoods in situations like that, and it's plausible that they avoid making the claim too directly as well."

"I've found suspicious patterns of disappearances before and none of them were about Heaven or Axis's behavior."

"Do you have follow-up questions?"

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"When you say 'situations like that', what kind of situations do you mean, exactly?"

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"Situations in which they're attempting to avoid giving information about the functioning of reality or their infrastructure on the basis that people with such information could do serious damage and omission of information is not hiding-y enough? When I visited a Heaven library about one such topic, a restricted section had a read-before-entering document saying that some of the information might be intentionally or unintentionally inaccurate."

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"I see," the imperial minister says dubiously. "Is there anything you anticipate us regretting if we were to contact the Upper Planes right now?"

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"I think the most likely area of regret, by far, is message interception, including interception of the fact that there is anything interesting here at all."

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"How likely is that and are there steps you expect we could take to mitigate that risk?"

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Griffie blinks with the awkward expression of someone who has just been asked an extremely reasonable question which ey was nonetheless entirely unprepared to answer.

"I don't know, I don't know the base rates and I don't know what the risk looks like under circumstances like these. The only interception case I'm familiar with is one in which the message was interception after the messenger returned to the Upper Planes, which should be mitigatable with me paying for a more capable messenger. I'd suggest we perform a study of other magic, but I don't think I have good 'reference' spells for this."

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"What might happen if the message were intercepted?"

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"People hostile to both of us showing up to take advantage of the situation and, if they're sane, escalate the opportunity to their superiors."

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"What are the next few most likely things to go wrong?"

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Griffie feels unprepared for this scenario and wishes the party wizard were here, or failing that that ey had a party Discrete Storage book. Or the HBoIG, though it might just be out of range.

Whether ey's in the HBoIG's operational range is not testable but the thought does, actually, suggest a viable test, which is a summoning attempt. An S1 SNA is likely to be incredibly boring, it's normal for summons to be across far boundaries, and if anything hostile does manage to come in it's almost certainly not going to have much context or such. And if ey somehow reels in a Jabberwock due to being extremely unlucky or ill-fated, then the Hari Empire could just actually win, they don't really seem to be the 'solve problems with blades' type and they could totally handle a powerful dragon if they were prepared.

Ey realizes that ey's supposed to be answering a question and, belatedly, does so. "I am not sure that these are the actual most likely due to both poor memorization of risks and a poor model of the specific situation, but some plausible problems include: Some kind of dramatic societal incompatibility I've failed to notice and would also fail to notice while writing a letter of introduction. Very boringly, but quite plausible, I spend the highly limited resource on a contact attempt and it doesn't go through and I can't get it back and this reduces our resources for further plans going forward. We contact someone that depends on the stability of my world's unstable-here exotic matter to exist and we haven't prepared the area with a ward to stabilize it, obviously fixable by preparing the area with that ward."

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"Good to think about wards in advance, certainly. We could each attempt to list the first few things that come to mind that could make a society fundamentally incompatible - I suppose a hatred of privacy or of gravity or a reliance on the presumption that a foreign government will own its citizens as slaves, or overlapping territorial claims, or a record of breaking promises, would all make it difficult or impossible for us to work with a polity."

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"Heaven does not hate privacy, and I can specify a respect for the, ah, high levels of privacy Hari citizens apparently value in a letter of introduction. They're fine with gravity. They don't rely on the presumption that a foreign government will own its citizens as slaves. They do not see themselves as having territory claims here currently and might want to negotiate for such but will not assume you are occupying their territory by being here. They will have preferences about the state of Hari territory, if that's a problem, but they won't … see this as you taking something of theirs? If they were infinitely powerful they would want to replace various aspects of your government but wouldn't want to lower the quality of life of Hari citizens, and they're not even infinitely powerful, and again, won't use attempts to contact them against those who attempt such. They definitely don't have a record for breaking promises, and the same applies there to Axis and Hell. I would appreciate a summary of typical Hari attitudes to privacy, it seems to be some kind of major cultural gap, but you may wish to delegate this."

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"I can delegate that but as the person here who's encountered both our attitudes and Heaven's you might be better-positioned to find the differences."

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"If you're willing to spend time on this I'm willing to discuss it, I don't know what your plans are."

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"I am currently trying to identify potential upcoming disasters and I am currently trying to make sure that all the broad strokes of the things that are decision-relevant and for which I don't have better evidence come up while you're here in this room. If you think Heaven's general attitude toward privacy is different enough to discuss, I don't yet know enough to cut off avenues of inquiry as unlikely to be important. I'm leaning toward contacting Heaven but am holding open the possibility that your description of the risks involved has been adversarially phrased and I have been planning to at some point ask if there's anything you've been hoping I wouldn't ask about and whether you think there are other options we might want to pursue that you've been downplaying. I am also hoping to form a more complete model of what is happening."

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Griffie nods. "All of this sounds very reasonable. I'd say that I'm not being adversarial but that's not evidence of anything. And sure, we can discuss Heaven's attitude towards privacy. So. To get very basic here, privacy is a desire that people not have some types of information about you, which people have both because someone might use that information against them, but also often still have on an emotional level even when they know people won't use that information against them. An example of the former would be, say, wanting to conceal that you committed a crime, or that you found a resource but didn't have the equipment to collect it when you found it. An example of the latter would be, say, wanting people to not know you had sex that it would be socially acceptable for you to have had. Are we on the same page so far?"

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