I’ve been at something of a loss for my next step. I have now gotten the basic conversation (hello, gossip a bit, goodbye) functioning well, although I admit that it needs some more tuning. However, I don’t want to do fine tuning until I have fleshed out the other bits of conversation – and that opens up a can of worms. What shall I implement first?

This has in turn raised a question regarding the acquisition of information (knowledge of aura-counts) by the Actors. Here are some ways that they can learn the aura-counts of others:

1. Random magic
Each morning they wake up knowing, for some unexplained reason, a randomly chosen aura-count for a randomly-chosen Actor. This was how the original game handled the problem, and I have never been satisfied with that solution. It makes no sense.

2. From dream combat
This scheme posits that, when you engage somebody in dream combat, you learn one of their aura-counts; perhaps you learn the aura-count of the aura that they used on you. This means that you learn two aura-counts (out of 18 unknowns) every night.

3. From experience
This is the most logical choice: when you engage in dream combat, you know what aura they used, and whether they won or lost. By combining this information with information from other Actors, you can steadily build up a better picture of everybody’s aura counts. Let’s work out an example. Here’s a complete game, played out to the end (Actor #6 wins) without any conscious strategy on the part of any player:

The format is simple: ‘A3t’ means ‘attack Actor #3 with tanaga’. ‘D4k’ means ‘defend against Actor #4’s attack with katsin’. The rightmost columns show the aura-counts of each Actor at the beginning of the turn.

Now let’s apply the knowledge that all the Actors have compiled at the end of each turn. If all the Actors pooled all their information, how close to the truth would the pooled information be? If we use Option #3 (‘from experience’), our pooled knowledge won’t amount to much, because we know only what they lost, not what they have left, and they could have started off with different values, so we’re not much better off. 

But if we use Option #2 (‘from dream combat’), then each Actor knows a single aura-count for each of two other Actors. In fact, the ones who were double-teamed on turn 2 know even more. Here’s the list of what each Actor has learned at the end of turn 1:

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This shows what each of the seven Actors (left to right) knows about other Actors. The first entry shows that Actor #1 knows that Actor #3 has 1 shial and Actor #4 has 1 katsin. The most valuable information is about those Actors who have zero auras of a given type; they can be attacked with knowledge that they cannot use that aura to defend themselves. If we pool all this information, this is what we would know about the Actors:

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With this information, I could safely attack Actor #1 with katsin, because he couldn’t defend himself with tanaga; I could also attack Actor #7 with shial, because he couldn’t use katsin against me. But now let’s look at the situation at the end of Turn 2. Here’s the aggregate of what everybody has learned:

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As you can see, the aggregate amount of information is getting better. Only 3 Actors have any question marks. After just two turns, it should be possible for an Actor to zero in on another Actor and find out all the information necessary to defeat that Actor in dream combat. 

But is all this too much to ask of a player? Can a player figure out all these details and put together the big picture? I think not – but then, the player doesn’t have to assemble it all into a big picture. The player will want to focus on a single Actor to attack. The player will also want to know about who’s sniffing around about him. Which leads to a new verb: ‘Has anybody been asking about my auras?’