Last day for Ascendant

Ascendant is a superhero RPG system that provides the mechanical basis for the upcoming Alt-Hero RPG. I backed its Kickstarter campaign, and if you’re into RPGs, you will probably want to do so as well.

Comic book RPGs tend to be sub-divided into “descriptor-based” and “effect-based” games. “Bolt of Fire” is a descriptor, while “Ranged Attack that deals 50 points of damage to one target” is an effect. A descriptor-based game prioritizes the descriptor over the effects. An effect-based game prioritizes the effects over the descriptor.

Ascendant strives to be neither a descriptor-based nor effect-based game. It is, rather, a physics-based game. The game mechanics are intended to be the physics engine of the game world. Powers have both descriptors and effects. Some effects are precluded by the logic of the descriptor, and some descriptors inevitably entail certain effects. The mechanics are elaborate and detailed (as in an effect-based game) but they are also broad and universalized (as in a descriptor-based game). Players are expected and encouraged to use their powers in whatever manner makes sense within the physics of a comic-book world, but not in ways that don’t make sense.

If a descriptor-based system aims to let players experience a comic-book story, and an effect-based system aims to let players play a superhero game, our physics-based system aims to let players simulate a comic book world. To do so, we have created logarithmic chart-based universal mechanics, a style of design that has not been widely used in the last two decades.

The designer is not only a personal friend, he is one of the best in the role-playing business. Which, of course, is why I asked him to design the Alt-Hero RPG.

Mailvox: the king of all secret kings

BB believes he has discovered the King of all Secret Kings of fiction:

I believe I’ve found the most Gamma book in existence. It’s called Ready Player One. It’s about a guy who has to play retro games and recite lines of dialogue from movies to win a fortune. In one scene it describes him perfectly reciting every line from Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, and how the people listening to him were cracking up and bursting into uncontrollable laughter as he did so.

The conversations between the protagonist and their friends are some of the worst examples of gamma behaviour I’ve ever seen unwittingly put on paper. Every scene displays the worst aspects of a Gamma.

I find it very hard to believe this character could top Kvoth from The Name of the Wind, but he definitely sounds like a serious candidate. And note that both of these books were successful and very warmly received by the tattered remnants of SF fandom.

Of course, the characters tell us so much more about the authors than we ever wanted to know….

The humility of genius

Martin van Creveld writes about the limits of human knowledge:

At the heart of relativity lies the belief that, in the entire physical universe, the only absolute is the speed of light apart. Taken separately, both quantum mechanics and relativity are marvels of human wisdom and ingenuity. The problem is that, since they directly contradict one another, in some ways they leave us less certain of the way the world works than we were before they were first put on paper. The uncertainty principle means that, even as we do our best to observe nature as closely as we can, we inevitably cause some of the observed things to change. And even that time and space are themselves illusions, mental constructs we have created in an effort to impose order on our surroundings but having no reality outside our own minds. The incompleteness theorem put an end to the age-old dream—it goes back at least as far as Pythagoras in the sixth century BCE—of one day building an unassailable mathematical foundation on which to base our understanding of reality. Finally, chaos theory explains why, even if we assume the universe to be deterministic, predicting its future development may not be possible in a great many cases. Including, to cite but one well-known example, whether a butterfly flapping wings in Beijing will or will not cause a hurricane in Texas.

So far, the tendency of post-1900 science to become, not more deterministic but less so. As a result, no longer do we ask the responsible person(s) to tell us what the future will bring and whether to go ahead and follow this or that course. Instead, all they can do is calculate the probability of X taking place and, by turning the equation around, the risk we take in doing (or not doing) so. However, knowledge also presents additional problems of its own. Like a robe that is too long for us, the more of it we have the greater the likelihood that it will trip us up….

Furthermore, surely no one in his right mind, looking around, would suggest that the number of glitches we all experience in everyday life has been declining. Nor is this simply a minor matter, e.g. a punctured tire that causes us to arrive late at a meeting. Some glitches, known as black swans, are so huge that they can have a catastrophic effect not just on individuals but on entire societies: as, for example, happened in 2008, when the world was struck by the worst economic crisis in eighty years, and as coronavirus is causing right now. All this reminds me of the time when, as a university professor, my young students repeatedly asked me how they could ever hope to match my knowledge of the fields we were studying. In response, I used to point to the blackboard, quite a large one, and say: “imagine this is the sum of all available knowledge. In that case, your knowledge could be represented by this tiny little square I’ve drawn here in the corner. And mine, by this slightly—but only slightly—larger one right next to it.” “My job,” I would add, “is to help you first to assimilate my square and then to transcend it.” They got the message.

Read the whole thing. It is a master class on the importance of understanding that what you know, and what you think you know, are merely a momentary glimpse of a fragment of the whole.

Hungary leads the way

Viktor Orban has learned not to let a crisis go to waste:

The nationalist government in Hungary passed a law Monday granting sweeping emergency powers that Prime Minister Viktor Orban says are necessary to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Those powers include sidelining parliament and giving Orban the power to rule by decree indefinitely. The law would punish those who spread false information about the pandemic with up to five years in prison.

“Changing our lives is now unavoidable,” Orban told lawmakers last week. “Everyone has to leave their comfort zone. This law gives the government the power and means to defend Hungary.”

During Monday’s vote, he said: “When this emergency ends, we will give back all powers, without exception.”

But critics insist that Orban is using the pandemic to grab power.

I should certainly hope so. By the time the pandemic is over, George Soros’s agglomeration of Satanic Society organs should be no more. Now the God-Emperor should do likewise, declare martial law, and take the opportunity given to drain the damn Swamp dry.

How money is created

Earlier today, I banned the commenter “map” for his ignorant attempt to “correct” those who actually understand how money is created. And on that note, if, at this point, you are going to try to argue with me on core economic concepts, you simply will not be permitted to comment here. The fact that I have correctly predicted two out of the last two serious economic crises – and done so in a timely manner – is sufficient justification for not putting up with idiots opining in ignorance on the basis of their outdated college textbooks. I am perfectly familiar with their beliefs about everything from comparative advantage to the money supply to the woefully inaccurate belief that banks keep 10 percent of their deposits in reserve.

In any event, back in 2014, the Bank of England helpfully explained how modern money is actually created in an article entitled Money Creation in the Modern Economy (pdf). If you don’t understand that money is debt, read the whole thing. And if you still don’t understand that after reading the article, read it again.

One common misconception is that banks act simply as intermediaries, lending out the deposits that savers place with them.  In this view deposits are typically ‘created’ by the saving decisions of households, and banks then ‘lend out’ those existing deposits to borrowers, for example to companies looking to finance investment or individuals wanting to purchase houses…. Another common misconception is that the central bank determines the quantity of loans and deposits in the economy by controlling the quantity of central bank money — the so-called ‘money multiplier’ approach….

Lending creates deposits — broad money determination at the aggregate level

As explained in ‘Money in the modern economy:  an introduction’, broad money is a measure of the total amount of money held by households and companies in the economy.

Broad money is made up of bank deposits — which are essentially IOUs from commercial banks to households and companies — and currency — mostly IOUs from the central bank. Of the two types of broad money, bank deposits make up the vast majority — 97{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of the amount currently in circulation. And in the modern economy, those bank deposits are mostly created by commercial banks themselves.

Commercial banks create money, in the form of bank deposits, by making new loans.  When a bank makes a loan, for example to someone taking out a mortgage to buy a house, it does not typically do so by giving them thousands of pounds worth of banknotes.  Instead, it credits their bank account with a bank deposit of the size of the mortgage.  At that moment, new money is created. For this reason, some economists have referred to bank deposits as ‘fountain pen money’, created at the stroke of bankers’ pens when they approve loans.

Just as taking out a new loan creates money, the repayment of bank loans destroys money. For example, suppose a consumer has spent money in the supermarket throughout the month by using a credit card.  Each purchase made using the credit card will have increased the outstanding loans on the consumer’s balance sheet and the deposits on the supermarket’s balance sheet. If the consumer were then to pay their credit car bill in full at the end of the month, its bank would reduce the amount of deposits in the consumer’s account by the value of the credit card bill, thus destroying all of the newly created money.

Banks making loans and consumers repaying them are the most significant ways in which bank deposits are created and destroyed in the modern economy.

Now, perhaps you will understand why I am a deflationista. And so are you, if you believe that any of the current outstanding debt will be written off or otherwise go unpaid, even if you don’t realize that you are. Debt forgiveness and bankruptcy-related debt write-offs are the literal destruction of money, and since deflation is a reduction in the money supply, any reduction in the amount of debt must necessarily be deflationary.

Seems likely….

Another high-ranking government death in Germany:

The finance minister in the German state of Hesse, Thomas Schaefer, has taken his own life. His colleagues said he was pushed over the edge by an inability to cope with the harsh economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schaefer’s body was discovered near the speed railway track line in the town of Hochheim am Main on Saturday. Prosecutors said that the cause of his death was most likely suicide.

“We are in shock; we are in disbelief and above all we are immensely sad,” Volker Bouffier, head of the Hesse regional government, said of the passing of his close associate and fellow member of Angela Merkel’s CDU party.

Perhaps it was suicide. But have a look at that face. Whatever the inspiration may have been, I very much doubt it had anything to do with Corona-chan or the economic fallout thereof. That face all but screams “horrific hobbies and interests” that almost certainly included Star Trek.

Let them go bust

NN Taleb is right about letting the airlines fail:

“Planes will fly with new owners.”

Famed author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb has trained his sights on billionaire Richard Branson, urging the UK government to let the airline owned by the “tax refugee” to go bankrupt. Branson has had a torrid fortnight, drawing the ire of politicians of all stripes for putting all Virgin Atlantic staff on unpaid leave because the carrier has been walloped by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tycoon has led the calls for a state-sponsored bailout of the aviation sector, but plans to use the funds to cover fixed costs, rather than pay its staff.

That goes for the banks too.

The definition of unnecessary

Some are worrying unneccessarily about the inevitably inefficient state of the Indian lockdown:

My God! Delhi-UP border live. What have we done?

Given what I’ve observed about the average Indian immune system, Corona-chan is going to take one look at her competitors and flee for the hills. Every single Westerner I’ve known who has visited there has fallen ill, in many cases, violently so. There aren’t many benefits to living in overpopulated disease-ridden filth, but an immune system that laughs at bacteria and viruses alike is one of them.

It tends to remind me of the Chuck Norris joke: Chuck Norris came in contact with the corona virus. Corona-chan is now in quarantine for 14 days.

Gamma, guaranteed

Then again, it was a moment that was beautiful in its own way:

Italy has been through hell and that moment was magical and raw and so very human.

However, the reason it was all of those beautiful things is that it happened organically, it came from the heart at a moment of desperation and maybe even some hopelessness. Those moments that come from such raw emotions are hard to recreate, even when the circumstances are similar.

A quarantined man in New York City discovered that the hard way when he tried to recreate that very magical moment by singing out his window.

However, instead of inspiring others to sing along, he was told to “shut the f*ck up!”

That New Yorker is like the little kid at the wedding who goes up to the microphone and repeats the same thing that someone else just said that got a laugh. Neither the kid nor the New Yorker has any understanding of why his predecessors inspired a response, he just sees the opportunity to try to make himself the center of attention.

It may sound strange to higher-ranking individuals, but gammas are constantly thinking about how they can somehow impress everyone, when they’re not plotting revenge on those who inadvertently humiliated them in junior high, or stole the heart of their soul mate du jour, or called them out on YouTube, or…. you get the picture.

Quarantine Hollywood

But New York is a good start:

President Trump is considering quarantining New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in desperate efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The move will restrict travel to and from the three states, which are some of the hardest-hit by the outbreak.

‘Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined. I’m thinking about that right now,’ he said Saturday.

‘We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine – short term – two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut.’

However, it appears that the rumors about Tom Hanks being arrested are false.