Dungeons and Discourse Third Edition: The dialectic continues

After more work than any sane person would ever spend on a philosophy role-playing game, the Third Edition of Dungeons and Discourse is ready. You may download it here:

Rulebook as .pdf plus basic character sheet (link)
Rulebook as .doc plus basic character sheet (link)
Advanced character sheet (requires NBOS Character Sheet Viewer, link)

Changes are many but the ones I can think of at the moment are the following:

– New spells like Dedekind Cut, No-Ghost Theorem, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Cloak, and Kurzweil’s Exponential Crescendo, and Infinite Egress.

– Plus player-suggested spells like Armor Fati, Summon Dire C. Elegans, Summon Invisible Dragon, Summon Bonum, and Descartes’ Rapier.

– Revamped prestige class system. Instead of the somewhat complicated and anaemic prestige classes of the Second Edition, prestige classes have been made more accessible and folded into books. Want your Logician to subspecialize in computer programming? Read a copy of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. Want to your normally hard-headed Empiricist to flirt with Taoism? Pick up the Tao Te Ching. 21 books to choose from.

– Threw away the Righteouness statistic and replaced it with Merit and Virtue. Merit is a set point to which your Virtue always slowly returns, Virtue is a state characteristic which rises and falls based on your most recent actions. In order to stay ethical you’ll have to worry about both.

– Creatures no longer have different physical and mental hit points. Everyone has a single hit point statistic, but damage can be inflicted either physically or mentally. Some creatures have bonuses against one type of damage or another, and other creatures, like Platonic Forms and P-Zombies, lack physical or mental substance and so are completely immune to that form of damage.

– Combat is much easier, with an official shift from keeping track of everyone’s speed, range, and position on a giant grid to the simple front row/back row system that we everyone ended up using during the last campaign. All spells and combat techniques have been updated to take account of this and this has also allowed serious simplification of the Speed statistic.

– Got rid of the five complicated “spell slots” you had to worry about and replaced them with a single Will statistic. You want to cast spells? Expend Will points. It’s that easy.

– The currency of Sophia has switched from gold to benthamite, a magical substance made of pure utility. A lot of the economic gobbledygook of the previous version has also been combined into a single statistic called Oikonomia.

– Items have been reworked, most weapons have been removed, and geasa have been separated off into to their own section for pennants and rings. More interesting choices around Euclidean polygon use. The arrow system is now potentially sort of functional.

– No-longer-quite-as-awful design includes front cover and character sheet produced by an NBOS program.

– Rulebook contains the campaign log and music from the flagship campaign for the Second Edition, King Under The Mountain, in the back.

Please let me know if there are any typos, obvious glaring balance problems, spells/classes/mechanics that are referenced and then don’t exist/were never explained, or things you really don’t like. The comments to this post would be better than email.

The long-term plan is to convert the rulebook into a wiki, which can then get edited on the fly whenever a glaring balance problem comes up during a game and which random netizens who stumble across the concept are more likely to read than a .pdf file. I am pretty resigned to having to do this myself, but if anyone else is really up for thankless data transfer work, it is totally yours.

The flagship campaign for the new edition is Fermat’s Last Stand, a continuation of the story in the last one. It begins…soon. I need to finalize a couple of the songs, figure out how I’m going to conduct one or two more things, and then ask for volunteers. Please do not volunteer now. Volunteer when I ask. This will probably be within a week.

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69 Responses to Dungeons and Discourse Third Edition: The dialectic continues

  1. Ben Coburn says:

    Nice! random bug report: the link for “summon invisible dragon” is pointing to the wikipedia page for C. Elegans right now

  2. ShardPhoenix says:

    The programming book mentioned is actually “The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs”.

  3. orthonormal says:

    Awesome! And just in time for the Madison D&Dis group.

    Typo in the description of “Smash”: it should be (your Strength + d10) – (their Strength + d10), not the sum of all of them.

  4. Anonymous says:


    “When cast on an object, the spell can draw 100 kg ten
    meters in one turn, or can exert a lesser force upon a larger mass. ”

    Surely the spell doesn’t result in a lower force when used on larger masses. If anything, the force would be greater, as it is a gravitational wave.

  5. falenas108 says:

    For the d0 (-10 to 10), couldn’t you roll a d10, then a even number die, and say odd multiplies by -1, even by 1?

    • Anonymous says:

      d21 – 11 is the canonical way to represent that range of values. There are 21 distinct integer values between -10 and 10.

  6. Sniffnoy says:

    Fossil Gap appears to have the text for Exorcise.

  7. BeoShaffer says:

    This is awesome. Also, where/how should we report typos (e.g. “usually often gives” at the bottom of page 10 and start of page 11). I might find more as a read/play.

  8. Sniffnoy says:

    Also, I’m confused as to why the Ethicist’s “Summon Archangel” and the Apologist’s “Summon Archangel” have different types. (Actually, the former I just kind of don’t get in general.)

  9. Sniffnoy says:

    The spell “Gateless Gate” is mentioned but has no entry.

  10. Sniffnoy says:

    Yikes, I really should have collected these into one! Sorry for clogging up the thread, I really should have thought this out better. I will try to collect together any further noticeable errors that I find.

    Further spells that are mentioned but have no entry: Seeds of Doubt, Declare Prior, Inference Inferno.

  11. Thomas Eliot says:

    Where does it say how to generate your starting ability scores? I see a lot of things that modify them, but no way to generate just the starting values. Do they all start at 0? That seems unlikely, given how HP works, and that it seems entirely possible you could end up with negative scores.

  12. Peng says:

    If you cast Eternal Recurrence on a spell whose Will cost was reduced to 0 e.g. by Nietzschean Ubermensch or New Soviet Man, does that make the recurrence actually eternal, as in once every 10 seconds for the rest of the campaign?

    Eternal Recurrence is “Duration: Until your Will is exhausted”; but the spell text says it drains the other player’s Will, not yours, if the spell-to-be-recurred was cast be someone else.

    Is Total Depravity supposed to allow the target to commit any depraved act without permanent Virtue loss, since it restores Virtue at the end of the duration? Or was that an unintended effect and the primary purpose was to temporarily set Virtue to 0?

    Arrow Impossibility Theorem is defined in two places with different flavortexts.

    Summon Invisible Hand: Does this heal enemies that are richer than you? It’s not clear whether Clinamen’s statement that negative damage is equivalent to healing is meant to be a global rule or only a description of Clinamen’s effect.

    Rite To Bear Arms: Does this create ordinary items that you can e.g. sell? If so, it’s broken; If not, it should specify a duration or something.

    Become New Soviet Man: Why does this have a cost and a timing? It’s a trivial cost and a permanent transformation, so the cost doesn’t seem to have any in-game effect.

    Background Radioactivity is defined as a timing:1 spell, but the only creatures that have it can cast it as a free action. It’s also described both as dealing damage once per turn (inside the spell’s description) and being cast X times per turn (in the creature’s description), which would naively imply that the rate of dealing damage grows linearly with time that the creature has existed.

    Does Pangloss’ Optimization Hex affect Pascal’s Wager?

    “Save DC” is not defined in the section on saving throws, only used in the descriptions of spells. Of course I know what it means from AD&D.

    Still mention the obsolete distinction between physical and mental HP:
    The description of Dualist attacks on p.15, Operator: Subtract, Cogito, Raise P-Zombie, Become: Clockwork, Become: Platonic Form, Become: Nagelian Vampire, Assume Form, Morphine, Modafinil, Guarana, all of the creatures.

    Still have a range measured in “squares” rather than combat-rows or meters:
    Increase Liquidity, Assume Form, Convert Utilitarian, Draw Polygon, Gore, Maul, Poison, Turn To Fire, Web Of Belief, Wasp, Hydrogen Elemental.

    Still mention “spell slots” rather than Will points:
    The description of Feats on p.22, Feat: Deficit Spend.

    typo: Gift Of Tongues misnames itself in “You may not use Pentecost to learn programming languages.”
    typo: Fleece The Rich should use difference between highest and lowest level, right?
    typo: Curse Of Thrasymachus’s title is printed twice.

    If a character is under an effect that forbids fighting but allows speech, can they perform debate attacks?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Wow! Impressive. Thank you very much. I’ve fixed most of these and am still considering how to fix a few of the rest.

  13. orthonormal says:

    For the title page, there is no “largest cardinal”; it would be better to simply describe it as a “large cardinal” (which is a legitimate math term). It obviously doesn’t affect the game, but it makes me skittish of sharing the rulebook with my mathematician friends, who might get the first impression that D&Dis is merely about throwing around terms rather than about insightful and substantive philosophy jokes (and of course puns too).

    Also, let me reiterate my gratitude that you’ve made this exist!

    • endoself says:

      Georg Cantor actually did believe in a largest cardinal, which he considered to be God. Today his metaphysics is mostly forgotten, but he considered it to be an important part of set theory.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am using “largest cardinal” here equivalently to “greatest cardinal”, which is indeed a legitimate math term. Granted, a legitimate math term that was legitimately proven not to exist, but certainly something Cantor thought often about and looked for.

      Is there some reason this is clearly mathematically wrong if you know more about the subject?

      • orthonormal says:

        Huh! Never mind; I’d forgotten that it took Russell’s paradox to show that Cantor’s set theory was naive, and I didn’t know Cantor thought that the set of all sets was a thing.

        I might not be the only mathematician to be confused by this, but you certainly have precedent for including the largest cardinal.

    • g says:

      Data point: I am a mathematician and I thought the “largest cardinal” joke on the title page was very funny, and wasn’t at all put off by the fact that in fact there is no largest cardinal. (Spoiler: in fact cardinals in that sense aren’t red birds either :-).)

  14. falenas108 says:

    This is really awesome! It looks like I’m going to be DM-ing this in a couple weeks, is there anything in particular that I should know that makes this different from a DnD style campaign, other than what’s in the manual?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Are you with the Wisconsin group of players? I’ve been talking to Alex by email about their plans.

      • falenas108 says:

        No, this wouldn’t be with a LW group. It would be some of my friends that have enough familiarity with logic/philosophy/economics to be entertained by this.

  15. Scott Alexander says:

    Most of the typo reports listed above are now fixed. Thanks, everyone!

  16. g says:

    I think there should be exactly one more CAT… IMPERATIVE spell. (Purely for fun, not because it would improve the gameplay.) Catabolic? Catalytic? Perhaps just Categorical; if so, that one would need to be the lowest-level so that readers see it first.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Hmmmm…you’re right that two is a weird number…it looks like I’m trying at a running gag and then running out of steam. I’ll think about whether I should add or subtract one.

    • falenas108 says:

      Catalytic Imperative: All spells for the next 5 rounds take half the casting time, rounded down.

      • Charlie says:

        – Cattle phobic imperative. Scared of cattle, perhaps Nietzschean overtones of breaking form the herd.
        – Keratoic / Keratinic imperative. Grow some armor.
        – Kerr-Newmanic imperative. You become charged and must rotate.
        – Mesozoic imperative. Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur.

  17. g says:

    Shouldn’t Schroedinger’s Dire Cat have type:dire?

  18. g says:

    Should possession of a Pentagon enable one to summon up Rayguns, or something of the kind?

    You have a double space in “Arrow ad baculum”, and at least one before “Akrasia” under “Universal Curing Machine”.

    There is a missing full stop (period) at the end of the first paragraph under “Character Creation”.

    Should wearing the Charity Bracelet have some effect on debate? (Perhaps in line with the Principle of Charity spell, but that might be too heavy a cost.)

    Rings are supposed to be hard to get; should the one summoned at will by readers of de Beauvoir disappear when they stop reading the book, or something?

  19. Charlie says:


    Front row / back row combat definitely a good idea.

    The ring of Gyges isn’t with the other rings – maybe it’s too legendary?

  20. Peng says:

    If a religious player character dies, can you both raise them as a P-Zombie and resurrect them, thus resulting in two copies of the character? This seems like it should work, both by rules and by in-story logic: The P-Zombie doesn’t involve their soul, and bargaining the soul back from Heaven is specified to not require the body so presumably it creates a new one. (I was going to suggest “Banach-Tarski the corpse” as an equivalent for atheist characters, except that’s temporary and thus not very useful.)
    Can a zombified character gain experience? The University of Sophia doesn’t seem to have a general anti-zombie policy, since they accept Clockwork materialists.
    “You may not use other spells to optimize the result of this d4.” Can you use luck?
    What happens to summons if the caster dies? First guess: zombies disappear since their Will maintenance cost isn’t being paid; other summons last out their duration, but no one has any influence over them, so they can act however they want to as a tiebreak.

    Sieve Of Eratosthenes: Does this grant immunity to all non-damage spells? For area spells, is it the total damage or the damage to the protected character that has to be prime?

    Non-Euclidean Transform: Should specify a radius in meters, since it has a whole lot of non-combat uses.

    Cantor’s Diagonal Slash: Is the +20 vs Paradox Beasts computed before or after checking for uniqueness?

    Reject Null: I’m guessing this is only supposed to apply to basic attacks since it isn’t type:metamagic, but it doesn’t actually say so. Do you keep rerolling until you get a nonzero, or only once?

  21. Thomas Eliot says:

    Why do you want to make this into a wiki? It is currently at a much higher level and in a much nicer format than I would anticipate a wiki being, based on my experience with wikis for RPGs in the past.

    Have you told Aaron Diaz about this? I think there is a very real chance you could collaborate with him on finishing this, get him to illustrate it, make a Kickstarter, and get a not-insignificant amount of money for it. I know I would buy a copy.

    In case this increases your willingness to listen to that suggestion, I am the founder and head game designer at Sixpence Games, and successfully raised over $22,000 for my first game: http://kck.st/YoijOo

    I am 80% confident that this would make a successful Kickstarter campaign, contingent on you collaborating with Diaz.

  22. Oligopsony says:

    Rain of Terror should be leftist, not absolutist. Ultimate Ensemble should arguably be rationalist rather than empiricist.

    Razors (Occam’s, Hanlon’s…) should be a basic weapon class. This implies that there should be basic weapon classes at all, but I can’t think of what to put in there.

    Speaking of artifacts, the Pauline corpus sports a famous armor set: the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Sword of the Spirit, the Shield of Faith, and the Helmet of Salvation.

    Obviously, only the most courageous adventurers on Sophia are apt to brave the Meinongian Jungle, where your chances of survival are non-existent!

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Speaking of artifacts, the Pauline corpus sports a famous armor set: the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Sword of the Spirit, the Shield of Faith, and the Helmet of Salvation.”

      You forgot Axe of the Apostles (as did I, actually).

      Justify why Reign of Terror leftist vs. absolutist?

      • Oligopsony says:

        Because the historical Reign of Terror (which was also the Reign of Virtue, which should be exploited) was us, not them. Perhaps you’re using “absolutist” more expansively, though, and there is of course a tradition of referring to/differentiating between Red and White Terrors. But that itself is still left discourse; only the left refers to its own political violence under the heading of Terror (although, to be fair, some sections of the ultraright can be equally frank.)

        Axe of the Apostles! That’s beatiful and almost muflaxian. Okay, there’s your second weapon class. Axe of Thecla. Axe of Spiritual/Corporeal Mercy. Axe utilitarian.

  23. suntzuanime says:

    I don’t understand the “Independent Study” spells. Are they spells that cannot be learned via level-ups, but only via books or similar?

    Can you gain spells incompatible with your beliefs via means other than level-ups? For example, if I am a Leftist Capitalist and I become a New Soviet Man, can I now cast Communist spells?

    • Scott Alexander says:


      Yes, you can in theory gain spells incompatible with your beliefs in the way you describe. This can lead to some awkward (but intended) situations like capitalists being themselves able to cast Smite Capitalism. I suppose it’s no weirder than the fact that libertarian socialism is a real thing.

  24. suntzuanime says:

    Also, Pascal’s Wager should probably do more damage.

    • Peng says:

      Yep. As-is it’s just obviously a worse deal on average than any of the deterministic spells, even if you are shooting at something with 20000 HP, unless you’re going to exploit luck effects to massively boost the probability.

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  26. fhyve says:

    The logician’s abilities and books I think needs a revamp. It feels too high school mathy and not very deep in comparison to the other classes. So I am going to dump all my opinions and ideas:

    I think there should be more pop-math and math meme type stuff like godel’s theorem, banach-tarski, pigeon hole principle (“If you drill n holes in n+1 pigeons, at least one pigeon won’t be dead”), ham sandwich theorem, hairy ball theorem, proof by intimidation, handwaving, spells should sound like a math textbook (use lots of “such that”), fractals, zeno’s paradox, devil’s staircase, turning coffee cups into doughnuts, general abstract nonsense, “mathematicians turn coffee into theorems”.

    For mechanical depth and interaction with other classes, you could use more puns on “real” and “imaginary” to interact with metaethicists (dedekind cuts should make things real), calculus should probably interact with economics and physics, maybe a pun or two on ideals, radicals, and orders.

    More math items like commutative ring (makes you go faster), gabriel’s horn (dunno what it should do), Koch snowflake, real projective line (allows you to attack from your back row to opponent’s back row), klein bottles.

    I don’t really like the polygons thing, feels contrived and not very interesting, or at least make them a euclid’s elements thing or a subset of mathematical objects in general. Same thing for tokens, though they some potential.

    Get rid of overly specific spells like sin^-1 wave and d/dy (which especially stinks of high schooly math).

    More mechanics like theorems, conjectures, proofs. For example, Summon conjecture. You summon a conjecture about the current debate. It doesn’t take any actions but it has life points. If you destroy it with logic spells, you prove the conjecture and something big happens.

    I don’t get the integral spell. Maybe it should make dice rolls do 1 damage each (integrate under the probability distribution of the die)?

    There should be an existential quantifier that possibly interacts with metaphysician stuff.

    Operator: logarithm that makes something or other additive instead of multiplicative and Operator: modulus which takes the modulus of enemy attack spell’s damage.

    I really like the power word co-, need more things like that (it should reverse maps and transformations too). I feel like there should be something on maps/morphisms (which can be reversed by power word co-), and commutative diagrams/diagram chasing.

    Other no-go theorems possibly (no communication, teleporting, cloning).

    Other transformations like laplace transform or linear transformations, differential forms, alternating forms, natural transformation.

    Recursion or self reference spells which has a high chance of summoning a paradox beast.

    Non-classical logics spell which gains influence on paradox beasts.

    Commutative group spell, or non-commutative group spell which makes your group move faster or makes the enemies’ slower

    It seems like logic is divided into 3(.5) groups which is illustrated by the books. Ancient greek math (Euclid, euclidean geometry, polygons, rational numbers), computer science (SICP, it is mostly old 2nd edition stuff), modern math (principia (sort of), non-euclidean, transfinite, sets, abstract algebra, topology, etc), and Bayes. Right now it is mostly greek math and stuff that would be appropriate for a Stewart Calculus book. A lot of my suggestions would expand the modern math section. The books need expanding, they are all rather boring in comparison to the other books. I would suggest some popular math textbooks too like Rudin or Lang. You might want to add GEB or Flatland as well.

    Anyways, the game is coming along great and I hope you like some of my suggestions.

    • Thomas Eliot says:

      I strongly agree with all of this.

      Atlas Shrugged seems to be written entirely using outdated rules.

      The description of Utopians says they can create laws but there is no actual mechanic for this.

      Having now digested the system more thoroughly, my biggest complaint from a game design perspective is that your ability scores seem to barely affect your offensive capabilities at all. Rationality or Bullshytte affect debate, Strength affects Smash, and they each affect damage for maybe two or three spells, but they don’t affect the save DCs of spells or the damage of almost anything. Saying things like “Logicians need a high rationality” does not make sense with the rules as written. Rather, you need a high rationality to resist logician powers, as it stands.

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  28. Li says:

    For a few additions to the books section, how about adding Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica” or “Summa Contra Gentiles” for the theists and the apologist class? You could also use Peter Lombard’s “Sentences”, Augustine’s “City of God” or one of the modern apologist texts like Edward Feser’s “Last Superstition”.

  29. Thomas Eliot says:

    It seems the Queen Paradox Beast should have the Greater version of Principle of Explosion, otherwise nothing has access to that spell.

    Do Conundrums have game effects? It seems they do, given how Philosoraptor can “make one Rationality/Conundrum attack” but I can’t find rules for them.

    There is still the mental/physical HP distinction among the monsters.

    Despite pointing out all the little mistakes like this, I hope this is not discouraging you at all-this is one of the best and most ambitious RPG projects I have ever seen and I truly hope something physical comes of it.

  30. Christian H says:

    I don’t want to spam this comment thread, but I think for intellectual property concerns you (ie. Scott) should know that I enjoyed the idea of D&Dis so much that I wrote a Critic class (ie. literary theory and criticism) for it. You can find it here: http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.ca/2013/03/playing-as-critic.html.

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  34. Yadal says:

    A few requests to make this better:

    -Include Amoralism in Ethical Beliefs
    -Better factoring for Skepticism in beliefs
    -Ideally speaking, include Personal Identity questions (lowest importance as this involves a lot of work probably) in Beliefs

  35. linkhyrule5 says:

    Oh dear gods, I wish I had found this sooner because this is hilarious. I’m going to go browse for recruitment posts :P.

    On a side note – is it just me, or is Sagan’s Invisible Dragon just asking for agame of red-truth blue-truth?

  36. Keller Scholl says:

    I will be running a game of this soon, and will report on what happens.

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  38. Zippy says:

    I would like to suggest the item “Gettier Case”. Weapons (or people) stored in the Gettier Case will deal true damage… for the wrong reasons.

    (True damage ignores the enemy’s defenses altogether; I’m not sure if this was already clear.)