Simulating hyper-intelligence

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Lemnoc
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Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Lemnoc » Sat Jan 26, 2013 1:32 am

Looking for tips, thoughts, resources on running adversaries of extreme or alien or extremely alien intelligence. Guides on simulating this. I'm talking about a chess master style of intellect that is generally a step ahead of or beyond the capacity of PCs but still’ y’know, capable of being outmaneuvered and defeated. With difficulty.

Puppeteer, uplifted human, eugenic wunderkind, xenosophont, nonEuclidean interstices coterminous with time and space, etc., etc.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby rust » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:32 am

This is a really difficult one, because it is basically impossible to play
a non-player character who is more intelligent than the game master
who plays that character. :shock:

The only potentially helpful idea I can think of is to give the character
access to all background informations which remain unknown to the
player characters, but this would only result in an omniscient charac-
ter, not a hyper-intelligent one (although it might seem to be the sa-
me).
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Captain Jonah » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:46 am

If you want to use the chess master type then you need to give the players a number of clues about how dangerous the enemy is. Lots of clues about how he has planned for everything and monitors everything.

Then look at the campaign and the kind of areas it will take place on or around. Pick one as being so unlikely that even the super genius would not think of it. On every other world give the players a few days then have whatever they are doing blocked by agents of the bad guy.

Your super genius can plan for every eventuality so allow him to block any plan a day or three after the players start it. His agents are nowhere near as good so even though he has planned for everything his goons are slower on the uptake giving the players a day or so to act before they need to run.

What you will need to do is give plenty of clues that your players need to think laterally to beat the bad guy.

For example attempts to use electronic surveillance are detected and defeated quickly every time. Shipments coming in to the local starport are damaged or lost, a local shop keeper can tell the players he can never order in snooper gear from off world as it never arrives. However they can also meet a backwoods farmer Joe type who can tell them a lot about what happens at the bad guys base because his farm is nearby and he wanders in his fields looking after his mutant cow/sheep hybrids and no one bothers him.

Try to make your players think outside the box because every plan they come up with that is not truly bizarre will have been anticipated. Every method of surveillance fails except spending a week with the farmer learning how to look after his animals and then wandering the fields tending to the herd while watching the bad guys base. Even his super intelligence has not predicted that the grubby peasant tending cow/sheep hybrids in a field across the valley is a spy since the farmer has always been there.

Or to get electronic gear on world they would need to start a character run business on world, get an office and a license to trade then hire themselves to import electronic spy equipment. As a new company it has not been included in the bad guys planning. A hint could be that the shopkeeper got his first few shipments delivered just after he started but since then he gets nothing so he no longer orders spy gear.

To play a super genius you don' need to be a super genius; you just need to be smarter than your players. Or cheat :twisted:
Traveller: Nonsense, those rumours about me and crashes, no truth in them at all. I never had a landing I didn't walk away from!

ACTA-SF: Who are we, GORN. What do we want, Cruisers that can turn.... Wait, OK Escorts... Wait. I'll get back to you !
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Hopeless » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:18 pm

Depends on what kind of hyperintelligence you want your npc to have...

Thrawn used the cultural art of a race to figure out how an opponent thinks, Sherlock Holmes would deduce all he knows just from a glance, Brainiac would have all of his alien supertechnology to run any sort of scan he wants or needs to deduce what he thinks he needs to know whilst a truly superior foe when confronting the PCs would make idle gossip making mention of stuff the gm is able to relate as the player provided them that knowledge and its returned in a way that either creeps the PCs out or puts them at a serious disadvantage.

So it comes back to my original question what kind of hyperintelligence do you want your npc to have?
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Mithras » Sat Jan 26, 2013 12:24 pm

Lemnoc wrote:Looking for tips, thoughts, resources on running adversaries of extreme or alien or extremely alien intelligence. Guides on simulating this. I'm talking about a chess master style of intellect that is generally a step ahead of or beyond the capacity of PCs but still’ y’know, capable of being outmaneuvered and defeated. With difficulty.

Puppeteer, uplifted human, eugenic wunderkind, xenosophont, nonEuclidean interstices coterminous with time and space, etc., etc.

I always told my players, play someone as intelligent as you or less, because I just don't think it works the other way. You can't simulate what you cannot conceive of ... saying that ... a way to do just that via cheating is to give the race insights into motivations, macro scale events etc. to be able to predict things no-one else can. Very Sherlock Holmsian. KNowing what no one else knows, predicting what no one else can predict. That is in itself quite unhuman.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby CosmicGamer » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:06 pm

Mithras wrote:I always told my players, play someone as intelligent as you or less, because I just don't think it works the other way. You can't simulate what you cannot conceive of
So how can one role play being a pilot, medic, engineer, scientist or anything they are not? I guess because they can "conceive" it. they also should be able to conceive someone that is more intelligent.

Now, a GM that requires me as a player to know and play my medic character properly and penalizes me for not recognizing the symptoms they describe and acting out the proper medical procedures would be a problem. My character would know. The same goes for higher intellect. I know plenty of people smarter than me. I can conceive it. I can play it as long as the GM does not expect me as the player to be the one to put together cryptic clues and come up with the brilliant plans.

High intellect doesn't mean all knowing. My best example is language. It doesn't matter how intelligent you are, if you have no language skill you won't know another language. Yes you can learn it, yes you might deduce it.

Especially with an alien mind, education and background, there are things they might not know or understand. Something like a parents bond with their child might be a strange concept for an alien born and raised otherwise. Hence a person acting suicidally to save a family member might not be something they think of. Pre plan some things the characters might exploit and you also can reward the players ingenuity.

On the opposite side, when the players characters come up with a plan they find they are thwarted. Someone always seams to be one step ahead of them.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby rust » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:21 pm

CosmicGamer wrote: So how can one role play being a pilot, medic, engineer, scientist or anything they are not? I guess because they can "conceive" it. they also should be able to conceive someone that is more intelligent.

The pilot, medic, engineer and scientist have specific tasks, and a
skill roll decides whether they are successful or fail. Higher or alien
intelligence does not have a defined specific task, and it is therefore
rather difficult to use any kind of game mechanic to determine whe-
ther the hyper-intelligent or alien-intelligent character is successful
or fails.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Mithras » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:21 pm

You are confusing skills and abilities with that most nebulous of qualities, intellect. Of ourselves I can play a starship engineer in the far future, but as him, my assumptions and thoughts, my decision making and planning will be done by me at my level of intellect.

You are right when you say all-knowing does not represent intellect, of course it doesn't, I recommended using the trait of all knowing, of making almost unearthly predictions to simulate high intellect without actually going through all of the observations, perceptions, calculations and cognition that someone way above our intellect would use. It's a cheat that gives you in-game the effect of superior intelligence without having it, you simulate the outcomes.

CosmicGamer wrote:
Mithras wrote:I always told my players, play someone as intelligent as you or less, because I just don't think it works the other way. You can't simulate what you cannot conceive of
So how can one role play being a pilot, medic, engineer, scientist or anything they are not? I guess because they can "conceive" it. they also should be able to conceive someone that is more intelligent.

Now, a GM that requires me as a player to know and play my medic character properly and penalizes me for not recognizing the symptoms they describe and acting out the proper medical procedures would be a problem. My character would know. The same goes for higher intellect. I know plenty of people smarter than me. I can conceive it. I can play it as long as the GM does not expect me as the player to be the one to put together cryptic clues and come up with the brilliant plans.

High intellect doesn't mean all knowing. My best example is language. It doesn't matter how intelligent you are, if you have no language skill you won't know another language. Yes you can learn it, yes you might deduce it.

Especially with an alien mind, education and background, there are things they might not know or understand. Something like a parents bond with their child might be a strange concept for an alien born and raised otherwise. Hence a person acting suicidally to save a family member might not be something they think of. Pre plan some things the characters might exploit and you also can reward the players ingenuity.

On the opposite side, when the players characters come up with a plan they find they are thwarted. Someone always seams to be one step ahead of them.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Lemnoc » Sat Jan 26, 2013 4:39 pm

These are excellent tips and cautions.

Captain Jonah, I think you may have gotten to the nub of it, because I believe the aim is to convey to players that this intelligence is their superior, they've met their match, and cause them to begin to think and plan accordingly. If I've done that—cause them some fairly worried, paranoid pre-planning and second guessing—I think I'll have simulated this effect.

Strikes me the issue is less I run that kind of intelligence than that players realize (and quickly, I hope, for the sake of their lives) that that is the kind of intelligence they think they're encountering.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby alex_greene » Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:34 pm

There's the obvious +DM to all skill checks, as well as the +DM to pure intellect rolls. However, there is the other aspect to being hyperintelligent - namely, that the ultra-intelligent know things, and think on a different scale.

When the characters encounter the being, let them see him performing something impossible, such as playing multiple games of 3D chess, solving a mathematical or physics puzzle considered impossible by the best experts, or simply playing a musical composition of complexity to make Bach's most baroque compositions sound like "Chopsticks" by comparison.

The being could easily size up the characters' lives and motives for meeting him, her or it based entirely on an examination of their clothing, with Holmesian accuracy (of course, as Ref, you'd have all of that knowledge to hand anyway) and, perhaps over tea ("It's really rather calming to be able to suspend thinking for a time") talk about a complex issue unrelated to the characters' story. ("What do you think of the Trexalon Question? I hear they're debating about the District 268 cold war as far as Capital these days.") along with proposing a solution which seems utterly absurd ("I know what we can do with that invading Aslan fleet - we can drop them into an alternate timeline where humans never evolved, and let them conquer a universe's worth of empty worlds to their hearts' content!"). Something big. Something grand. Something absolutely, magnificently impossible.

A bit later, towards the end of the story or campaign, let the characters hear of something incredible: a sudden, inexplicable, lasting peace in District 268, the declaration of permanent cessation of hostilities from Trexalon, or the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of the entire invading Aslan fleet - spies detected them entering Jump, but nobody detected them coming out.

Something big. Something grand. Something absolutely, magnificently impossible. Something only a hyperintelligent being can accomplish.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Lemnoc » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:15 pm

Good points. Probably the greatest depiction of hyper-intelligence in fiction was the Holmes encounter with Moriarty:
“ ‘All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ said he.”
“ ‘Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,’ I replied.”
Can get a bit dull. :)

The intelligence I am contemplating for this scenario, though, is less an oily villain with whom one could sit down for tea and more like The Thing in the John Carpenter movie of the same name. Was The Thing intelligent? Hard to tell, but it clearly was a step or four ahead of what most of the characters were planning around. Ouch.

Catching my players with their pants down, trapping them in an airlock like a bug in a jar, may suffice to make the point. A truly superior intellect, really bent on killing the players would—y’know—probably just kill the players without a lot of James Bond, Dr. Doom evil genius style exposition or interaction. That detailed 'splainin' being kind of stupid behavior. But, I do want them to have an enjoyable adventure. And win. Probably.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby rust » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:39 pm

If you want to make your hyper-intelligent creature vulnerable, one
option would be to let it suffer from the inability to decide which of
the many possible strategies it could use has the highest probability
to succeed. For a very simple mind there usually seems to be only
one approach to handle a problem ("Take club, hit head ..."), for an
extremely intelligent mind there are lots and lots of possible approa-
ches influenced by lots and lots of variables and leading to lots and
lots of probable outcomes to consider, which can result in a kind of
information overload and indecision ("Should I use the strategy with
a 67 % chance of success or the one with a 68 % chance of success,
or use Plan B-293 to improve the success chance of the first strate-
gy by 2 %, or activate Plan C-811 to achieve ..."). The more variab-
les the characters introduce into the situation, especially bizarre and
difficult to judge ones ("Why did they buy that Groatl, drive it to that
remote hill and set it free there ?"), the more complex and increasing-
ly confusing they make the situation for their counterpart, and the less
able this counterpart becomes to act decisively.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby alex_greene » Sat Jan 26, 2013 9:49 pm

The character may also do things which seem to make no sense at all to the player characters - suddenly cutting off a conversation in mid-sentence and bolting for the door; ordering an orbiting ship to fire all weapons at an empty field in the middle of nowhere; talking in short bursts of an alien language nobody can understand; even laying claim to a lucky break that the player characters barely survived in an earlier adventure, just so they could be brought before the entity today.

If the entity has a countdown running to mark some sort of destructive event, ask yourself why - if the alien can keep perfect time, is the countdown for him, or just to keep his subordinates' activities synchronised until the attack begins?
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Greylond » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:00 pm

Another thing to keep in mind, and is sometimes so obvious it gets overlooked, an Alien Intelligence is just that, Alien. So, just because it is a Genius, doesn't mean that it is going to have a proper point of view to always think of EVERYTHING. As a GM, I'd leave some weakness open for the players to exploit...
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby CosmicGamer » Sat Jan 26, 2013 10:39 pm

rust wrote:
CosmicGamer wrote: So how can one role play being a pilot, medic, engineer, scientist or anything they are not? I guess because they can "conceive" it. they also should be able to conceive someone that is more intelligent.

The pilot, medic, engineer and scientist have specific tasks, and a
skill roll decides whether they are successful or fail. Higher or alien
intelligence does not have a defined specific task, and it is therefore
rather difficult to use any kind of game mechanic to determine whe-
ther the hyper-intelligent or alien-intelligent character is successful
or fails.
Tasks can be based on characteristics and not skills. A strength check to see if you can force a barricaded door. An Int check to see who prevails in an intellectual challenge.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby rust » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:01 pm

CosmicGamer wrote: An Int check to see who prevails in an intellectual challenge.
Yes, of course, but this is not my point. The professions mentioned
in previous posts (pilot, medic, and so on) have clearly defined tasks
and can therefore be played even by players who have no idea what
the specific task really is, they only need to know when to roll the
dice to determine success or failure.

Just imagine that your player character is a professional Gibler with
a Gibling skill of Level 3. Whenever a problem can be solved by Gib-
ling, the game master tells you to make a Gibling skill roll and after
rolling the dice you know whether your character succeeded or fai-
led and the problem is solved or not. There is nothing to conceive
or understand, thanks to the game system you can do this without
the slightest idea of what Gibling is and a Gibler does. The same is
true for Piloting, Engineering and all similar tasks - no real world
brain sweat required.

An intellectual challenge, on the other hand, needs a little more in-
formation to be plausible than "There is an intellectual challenge,
roll for INT", especially when it is a challenge for a hyper-intelligent
creature. Most players will only accept it when the game master de-
signs an actual intellectual problem, and coming up with one that is
too difficult for the player characters (and the players) but not too
difficult for some hyper-intelligent entity is, well, a true intellectual
challenge.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby alex_greene » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:06 pm

There's also the tells, those things that the ultra-smart mind really can't shake - tells such as a habit of leaving behind clues in the form of riddles, or a calling card left at the scene of each murder which points to the next, or even a series of breadcrumb clues which invariably lead the player characters to something that the entity wants the characters to do - or luring them towards a meeting with said entity.

The entity might have other bad habits, an inability to lie, a tendency to get lost in his memories, a complete lack of a sense of humour or inability to be able to focus on any problem other than the one he is currently concentrating on etc.

The NPC might tend to engage the characters in a sort of intellectual pursuit, like John Doe in Se7en, leading the investigating characters along just for fun, to see if they can guess the pattern of his activities.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Jan 26, 2013 11:28 pm

A Nexus 6 character would have higher stats then regular humans. That's it. Then you just need someone to role-play the character and provide a decent setting/story for it to happen in.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby CosmicGamer » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:10 am

rust wrote:
CosmicGamer wrote: An Int check to see who prevails in an intellectual challenge.
Yes, of course, but this is not my point.

An intellectual challenge, on the other hand, needs a little more in-
formation to be plausible than "There is an intellectual challenge,
roll for INT", especially when it is a challenge for a hyper-intelligent
creature. Most players will only accept it when the game master de-
signs an actual intellectual problem, and coming up with one that is
too difficult for the player characters (and the players) but not too
difficult for some hyper-intelligent entity is, well, a true intellectual
challenge.
I think I understand what you are saying. Remember, I'm not one of those extremely high Int folk. :D

First, personally I hate a truly intellectual problem for role playing. I always have the issue of either
A) I solve the problem but my character is dumb as a rock, should I use what I know or role play that my character can't figure it out?
or more commonly
B) I'm too dumb to solve it even though my character is smart. I am terrible at picking up clues and piecing them together.

=========== Anyways...

An example of my concept would be the characters figuring out how to infiltrate the "smart guy's" base. Could this be the "intellectual problem"? They come up with a plan, bribing someone for uniforms to get past the first layer of security, taking out guards, hacking into security, and so on. All these might be different rolls none of which reflects the "smart guy's" intelligence but the GM can make an Int roll for the "smart guy" or maybe an opposed Int roll and if the "smart guy" wins then there is something the characters either didn't think of or didn't figure out properly. Perhaps proof that they were up against someone smarter.

If you know what someone is thinking, then with imagination and not necessarily high Int, the GM or player of the "smart guy" can add a hitch in the supposedly perfectly figured out intellectual problem.

- Success by just a little and maybe the patrolling guards were a decoy and the real guards are in camouflage armor. Just an example.
- Success by more and maybe the "smart guy" only had this base as a decoy and was never here and there is nothing to find but a note in the safe that says "You'll never catch me".
- Success by a lot and maybe the "smart guy" let the characters bribe and get the uniforms but they actually have tracking and/or listening devices in them and... lots of possibilities.

Please don't nitpick my hastily created example. That's not the point. What I'm saying is that you can have your difficult intellectual problem and even let the players pat themselves on the back for solving it. It was a real problem. They did a good job.

But you can still pull the rug out from under them if the "smart guy" "makes the roll". From it was merely a distraction to keep the characters occupied to yes, you caught the "smart guy" but they knew people were after them and there was a possibility someone would catch them so they have already pre planned their escape. Or maybe you think you destroyed them but what you don't know is they faked their death. They'll be back in the sequel.

Obviously the GM, or whoever plays the smart guy has to be imaginative, but they don't necessarily need to be smarter than whoever they are up against.
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Re: Simulating hyper-intelligence

Postby Lemnoc » Sun Jan 27, 2013 3:57 am

CosmicGamer wrote:personally I hate a truly intellectual problem for role playing. I always have the issue of either
A) I solve the problem but my character is dumb as a rock, should I use what I know or role play that my character can't figure it out?
or more commonly
B) I'm too dumb to solve it even though my character is smart. I am terrible at picking up clues and piecing them together.

--[snip, snip]--

Obviously the GM, or whoever plays the smart guy has to be imaginative, but they don't necessarily need to be smarter than whoever they are up against.
Good observations. And my point is not to riddle my dimbulb players or set my all-powerful mind against their soft and weak ones :wink: , but to try to simulate an adversary that really does have the drop on them. My impulse is to do the Aliens thing, where they get to watch 75 hyper-competent and exceedingly brave honor guard jarheads get mashed one by one into smears of bawling, pants-wetting red jelly. That should give them some clues and motive to start thinking out of the box. :twisted:

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