Abusing the hell out of commune


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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This thread will be a place to discuss the intelligent use of commune.
So, here's what Ultimate Intrigue says about commune:

Ultimate Intrigue on Commune:

Commune: This is a critical spell to note, particularly because some improved familiars can use it earlier than normal and without spending the required gold. Normally, casting commune consumes 500 gp worth of special materials. Remember that commune talks to either a deity or divine agents; there is no guarantee that the spell will contact a god. The spell text includes a reminder that powerful beings of the Outer Planes are not necessarily omniscient, so be sure to think about whether they would know the answer. As a rule of thumb, look at the deity's portfolio and have the contacted agent be particularly knowledgeable in that area. This can also lead the PCs to find a cleric of a more appropriate deity to cast the spell on their behalf. This could add an interesting narrative step and a potential for roleplaying the interaction. In any case, remember that commune calls out that the question has to be one that could be answered with a yes or no, though if the deity or its agent thinks a misleading one-word answer would harm their own interests, they might give up to 5 words to help clarify. Chances are, the PCs were already suspecting something before they cast the commune to begin with. For instance, if they already suspect that Lady Proper-Names-Are-Not-OGL has been replaced by a rakshasa, they could ask if she is, and if it makes sense for the deity or its agent to know the answer, it might say "yes." However, if the PCs know that there is a rakshasa imposter, but not who it is, they couldn't ask "who is the rakshasa" to get the answer "Lady Proper-Names-Are-Not-OGL."

Key points to note and/or assumptions we're here to question are in bold.

Now, commune is basically a game of 20 Questions (or 6 Questions and a feat, or 1 Question per 2 levels and 500 gp), with the added bonus that some actively misleading answers are called out as such and give additional information, and that the spell will answer with "Unclear" if it doesn't know the answer.

You would think that commune would be an incredibly inefficient way to find out information if you don't already have numerous other clues, but it's actually easier than you would think, if you do it right.

Example: Finding a Stationary Location:
As an example, I'll use one that may not be very useful (because find the path can often answer this type of problem instantly), but is a great demonstration because it can be mathematically quantified very easily and any 8th-grader has the mathematical knowledge to follow along.

So let's say you're trying to find a stationary location (say, the birthplace of King Something of Lostrecordslandia), you have an Improved Familiar that can cast commune for six answers per week, and the location of the place or object in question is known to the deity you are asking.

Let's say you have a month or so to find it, and you know what continent it's on, which has an average diameter of about 4,100 miles or less (which, for reference, is an area over four times the size of the continental United States).

Now, here is the incredibly simple procedure by which you can find the location:
Pick two points that are on opposite sides of the continent (or the closest known landmarks to each of those points, if you want to stay in character), which we will call Location A and Location B. (Imagine them as points on the diameter of a circle that encloses the entire continent). Then ask if, say, the birthplace of King Something is closer to Location A than it is to Location B. (If you want to be technical, ask if the distance as-the-crow-flies between Location A and the Birthplace of King Something is less than the distance as-the-crow-flies between the Birthplace of King something and Location B).
Repeat the cycle, with the new point A being whichever of the previous two points the location was closer to, and a point B at the center of the previous circle.

You start with a 13,176,795 square mile area with a radius of 2,048 miles.
After the first question, you have a search area of 3,294,199 square miles with a 1,024 mile-radius.
After the second question, you have a search area of 823,550 square miles in a 512 mile radius.
After the third, you have a search area of 205,887 square miles in a 256 mile radius.
After the fourth, you have a search area of 51,472 square miles in a 128 mile radius.
After the fifth, you have a search area of 12,868 square miles in a 64 mile radius.
After the sixth, you have a search area of 3,217 square miles in a 32 mile radius.

If knowing where it is to within about 60 miles isn't good enough, you'll need either another week or another 500 gp and 5th-level spell slot.

After the seventh question, you have a search area of 804 square miles in a 16 mile radius.
After the eighth, you have a search area of 201 square miles in an 8 mile radius.
After the ninth, you have a search area of 50 square miles in a 4 mile radius.
After the tenth, you have a search area of 12 & 1/2 square miles in a 2 mile radius.
After the eleventh, you have a search area of 3 square miles in a 1 mile radius.
After the twelfth, you have a search area of four-fifths of a square mile in a half-mile radius.

If you don't know what continent it's on and have to start with "Is it closer to the North Pole than it is to the South Pole?", you've only increased the number of questions by 1 or 2. In either case, it only takes three weeks to locate any stationary location on the planet to within 330 feet or less, provided you can identify it unambiguously and are the right religion.

Modified sequence for "I have no idea where to begin":
Start with up to 210,828,714 sq mi search area with a 8,192 mile radius as the crow flies (i.e. ignoring curvature)
(~196,100,000 sq mi = earth's surface area)
After the first question, 52,707,179 sq mi, 4096 mi-radius
After the second, 13,176,795 sq mi, 2048 mi-radius
...
After the fifteenth, you'll have a search area of a fifth of a square mile in a quarter-mile radius
After the sixteenth, 152,053 sq yds, 660-ft-radius
Seventeenth, 38,013 sq yds, 330-ft-radius
Eighteenth, 9,503 sq yds, 165-ft-radius

If you got through all that, you'll understand the key to the spell: it works just like a binary search tree. If you don't speak computer, that means that if you can word a question in such a way that each answer eliminates half of the remaining possibilities, then the power of simple yes-no answers is exponential. With one casting of commune, an improved familiar could find the single correct answer to any problem with 64 or fewer possible answers. With 2 castings, it could find the single correct solution out of up to 4,096 possible answers. Three? over a quarter million. A month? Over 16 million.

Obviously, this approach is either time-consuming (with the 1 per week limit) or expensive (with the 500 gp per casting cost from the party's divine spellcaster). So there are still plenty of ways that a GM could stop this lunacy even without making a god look stupid: either with a ticking clock in scenario A, or the simple reality of wealth-by-level for scenario B.

I've been trying to come up with a procedure for finding names as easily as locations, but language is a hell of a lot more complicated than basic geometry.

Anyone have any thoughts, either for the example above, for a procedure to find names with commune, or other ideas relating to using commune intelligently?

Note:
If you're going to provide an example from a Paizo adventure path, please put it in a spoiler, with the name of the path and the chapter it's in, like so:

Rise of the Runelords, Chapter 1:
No 1st-level character is casting commune, for free or otherwise.


The main problem I see with Commune is that Deities and their agents in Pathfinder aren't omniscient (as far as I know). So in your example, they could very well answer "Unclear" to the first question (because they simply don't know where the birthplace of King Something of Lostrecordslandia is). Not to mention, they may answer Yes or No and be wrong too, which creates a whole host of other problems (after all, the spell does say "The answers given are correct within the limits of the entity's knowledge", emphasis mine.)

But if your deity is indeed omniscient and such, sure, you can find anything playing twenty questions, it's just a question of time (and it will probably take more than twenty questions).


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TheFinish wrote:

The main problem I see with Commune is that Deities and their agents in Pathfinder aren't omniscient (as far as I know). So in your example, they could very well answer "Unclear" to the first question (because they simply don't know where the birthplace of King Something of Lostrecordslandia is). Not to mention, they may answer Yes or No and be wrong too, which creates a whole host of other problems (after all, the spell does say "The answers given are correct within the limits of the entity's knowledge", emphasis mine.)

But if your deity is indeed omniscient and such, sure, you can find anything playing twenty questions, it's just a question of time (and it will probably take more than twenty questions).

I'm aware that Pathfinder deities are not omniscient, and mentioned that in the post. GMs can almost always shut down divinations in one way or another.

You could always try contact other plane if your god (or your familiar's god) isn't the best. It can be more dangerous and the entities can intentionally lie to you, but there is, believe it or not, a mathematical method for dealing with that.

In the example linked, it discusses optimum strategy for dealing with 1 or fewer lies in a given set of answers. It's technically possible for there to be way more lies (in fact, up to 100% lies) in a given set of 1/2 CL questions, but when you get the spell, you have at most 4, and if you're a wizard or arcanist, a pretty decent shot at making the DC 16 check to ask a greater deity, who is 90% reliable, so you'll almost always be able to use the Rényi-Ulam strategy on a given batch of answers.


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The presence of "Don't know" makes the percent tables on contact other plane somewhat misleading. What matters are the chances that a definite answer is reliable (i.e. true) or unreliable (whether a lie or random).
The percent chances for those are shown in the following table:

.

____________________________Reliable___Unreliable
Elemental Plane:_______________47.2______52.8
Positive/Negative Energy Plane:___52.7______47.3
Astral Plane:__________________57.1______42.9
Outer Plane, demigod:__________62________38
Outer Plane, lesser deity:________70.6______29.4
Outer Plane, intermediate deity:___79.3______20.7
Outer Plane, greater deity:_______89.8______10.2

As you can see from the chart, there is no reason to visit any entity less powerful than a demigod, and you should shoot for nothing less than an intermediate deity each time.

Paizo Employee Designer

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You probably want a lawful deity for this, I'm guessing if any deity-level entity will humor such a search, a primal inevitable might do so if its interests align. I play with a bunch of mathematician, physicists, and computer scientists, so our group tried to do the exact spatial binary search you suggest (we also talked about whether P=NP with commune by asking the gods for yes/no and then checking) with Desna and we wound up getting a bit on her bad side. Desna wound up being more OK with us asking whether a given hex on a hex map had "something particularly interesting" to explore, though it was often something like a great view rather than treasure.

Liberty's Edge

Mark Seifter wrote:
You probably want a lawful deity for this, I'm guessing if any deity-level entity will humor such a search, a primal inevitable might do so if its interests align.

I dunno, Brigh might be a good candidate since she's interested in knowledge for knowledge's sake. (Same goes for Nethys et al)

What's really fun is combining Commune with Duplicate Familiar - 5th level spell slot in exchange for a free commune plus a familiar clone who sticks around for a bit.

When I'm using commune, I try to limit myself to the intent of the spell and not things like using a binary search tree to determine proper nouns. (5 questions to determine the first letter of the killer's name, 8 questions to determine the exact age in years of a normal human, etc...) Helps to keep the GM's blood pressure down and all that.


Sounds about right to me. A party with consistent access to a high level divination can find the Lost Tomb, no matter where it is, with enough questions... if they're asking the right god, have compelling no time limit, the Tomb isn't protected from divination (a pretty common trick at the levels where infinite Communes become an option), and they know enough to know it exists in the first place and that they need to go there.

No problem here though - if the party is aware of the tomb, presumably sooner or later the GM wants them to find it. It can shortcut an adventure (since the players no longer need to apply to the Sages of Wisdom to find it), but the GM can plot-block with ease by making the Tomb immune to divinations. The PCs must already know something of interest about the Lost Tomb to be looking for it in the first place.

It becomes more problematic when you don't have a stationary target. "Is the Rakshasa Agent closer to Location A or B within the city?" is useless, since they might be walking down the street and have moved on by the time you get there (particularly if you're casting the Commune over a week!).

With names, it's a little easier to narratively "cheat" with metagaming. The Rakshasa Spy underpinning the campaign is probably someone you've met at some point, because it's a lame surprise if there was no way for you to work out it was the Stable Boy You've Never Met. Suppose the players go to the King's Ball. There they meet over 30 nobles, but only Lady A and Lord B have scenes "on-camera" where the GM plays out the dialogue. When they come to divine for the Rakshasa agent, the players conclude these two are important because they got names and screen time, and Commune on them first (for no in-character reason), solving the problem rapidly. As the GM in this scenario, you'd need to enforce the metagame and make them ask 30 questions, one for each noble, even if most of the questions are asked off-screen (maybe a % roll to see where Lady A happened to fall in the line of questioning.)

In the scenario where the players have a sufficient list of questions and can play Guess Who indefinitely, I'd allow them to find the Rakshasa Agent by this method. "Does the Agent live closer to X part of town than Y part of town?" eventually narrows it down to a street of an address, at which point you can run through a small list of names to find the Agent.

Good luck pulling it off in an actual game, though.


DrSwordopolis wrote:
When I'm using commune, I try to limit myself to the intent of the spell and not things like using a binary search tree to determine proper nouns. (5 questions to determine the first letter of the killer's name, 8 questions to determine the exact age in years of a normal human, etc...) Helps to keep the GM's blood pressure down and all that.

That's commendable, and ultimately this is a cooperative game and not a competition. I just think it would be neat to have a thread where we can examine spells like commune (and its close cousin, contact other plane) and devise strategies for it.

Grand Lodge

Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

For example. The BBEG would have alter egos, disguises and other means of throwing you off the trail. So if you try to divide the population I would put them in both camps.

"Is Baddie a girl?"

"Yes."

"Is Baddie a boy?"

"Yes."

"...Is Baddie a hermaphrodite?"

"No."

"Is the Baddie blonde?"

"Yes."

"Brunette?"

"Yes."

"Tall?"

"Yes."

"Short?!"

"Yes."

"Is the bad guy many things??"

"Yes."

You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

Liberty's Edge

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Jader7777 wrote:

Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

<Snip>
You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

You're basically saying "Divination spells don't work in my game" as your players try to use them. Why not just say it outright?

Also, why not allow the functioning of divination spells in your game?

Grand Lodge

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DrSwordopolis wrote:
Jader7777 wrote:

Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

<Snip>
You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

You're basically saying "Divination spells don't work in my game" as your players try to use them. Why not just say it outright?

Also, why not allow the functioning of divination spells in your game?

The spell works, I think it's asinine to think a spell gives you dry technical 'game' information. If you bother to read the rules you'll see that the spell had a lot of conditional modifiers. I'm sorry that "you have to be careful and use you brain about this" instead of "I brute force algorithm my 1800-dial-a-god gimmick" offends your delicate player senses.

This logic is just as bad as "I use magic missile, everything is a glass crater now right, thats how missiles work"


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This reminds me of the optimal Guess Who strategy.

For getting a name you could ask, is the first letter of the target's first/last name is from the fist half of the alphabet, and so on. You could determine a letter with 4-5 questions, perhaps fewer if someone in your group has a good Linguistics skill and can determine likely names from possible letter combinations. Another option would be to get a comprehensive list of likely/common names and ask if the target's name is on the list, then if it is on the first half of the list, and so on.

You could also try geography questions to determine the person. For example, Does the target living in this county? Do the target live in a more northern than southern region? Once you have the region identified you can start asking about the city they live in and at least narrow the area down to improve your search. If you know that the bad guy lives in the Baron's mansion then you have made some good progress in your search.


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http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/p/planar-inquiry <If a servant of a deity is going to know the answer, this is generally a better method of finding it out.

Commune search trees can certainly work, but it seems like a fairly bad first resort unless you already have an improved familiar and that's the best use for commune you can think of. There are almost certainly far better uses for it.

Grand Lodge

relativemass wrote:
This reminds me of the optimal Guess Who strategy.

I wonder if people play this game at a competitive level. I see no other point for this to exist aside from an extremely good conversational point at parties.


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Jader7777 wrote:
DrSwordopolis wrote:
Jader7777 wrote:

Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

<Snip>
You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

You're basically saying "Divination spells don't work in my game" as your players try to use them. Why not just say it outright?

Also, why not allow the functioning of divination spells in your game?

The spell works, I think it's asinine to think a spell gives you dry technical 'game' information. If you bother to read the rules you'll see that the spell had a lot of conditional modifiers. I'm sorry that "you have to be careful and use you brain about this" instead of "I brute force algorithm my 1800-dial-a-god gimmick" offends your delicate player senses.

This logic is just as bad as "I use magic missile, everything is a glass crater now right, thats how missiles work"

And devising algorithms doesn't qualify as using one's brain for what reason exactly? I can't follow the thread there.

A GM can shut down commune at any time, whether subtly (the god knows misleading information), not-so-subtly (the god doesn't know anything), or very unsubtly ("All communication with the Outer Planes has been severed; put on your adventuring boots).

And instead of a god saying "it's male and female, but not a hermaphrodite," it would answer "unclear" to the first question, or if it is actually trying to help, give a short answer like "They have many faces," which is still vague enough that it could mean either multiple suspects (which changes the search parameters significantly) or a shapechanger/master of disguise/vigilante.

That's the brilliance of Information Theory. Unless your god is ignorant of the answer (in which case contact other plane can serve a similar purpose while contacting other gods), a search tree can be implemented that can eventually find an answer (or, answer space) that is useful, given even an arbitrarily small seed.


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Jader7777 wrote:
relativemass wrote:
This reminds me of the optimal Guess Who strategy.
I wonder if people play this game at a competitive level. I see no other point for this to exist aside from an extremely good conversational point at parties.

People stack plastic cups at a competitive level.

Stack.

Plastic cups.

Competitively.

Nothing surprises me anymore.

Grand Lodge

Thelemic_Noun wrote:
That's the brilliance of Information...

Let me introduce you to my friends Heisenberg and Schrödinger.

Ah you know what, let's just ask the Gods what colour this dress is.


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Jader7777 wrote:
Thelemic_Noun wrote:
That's the brilliance of Information...

Let me introduce you to my friends Heisenberg and Schrödinger.

Unless you're dealing with an undead radioactive cat or the Missing Lynx, most questions PCs will be asking are sufficiently macroscale to ignore quantum-scale probabilistic perturbations.

If you object to players 'cheating' by using divination magic, how do you feel about them 'cheating' by using Conjuration, Transmutation, Evocation, Abjuration, Illusion, or Necromantic magic?

Grand Lodge

Quote:
ignore quantum-scale probabilistic perturbations.

In both exact nature and broader strokes these 'perturbations' can be seen; More on that later

I love how people just believe what they see in a spell. For example, if I had an adventuring party walk into a room and I said the room was 15x15 with a woman sitting on a chair with her arms folded they would think "That's a trap!" but if they cast some sort of divination spell and see the same thing they just think 'welp, there's the woman, the spell confirmed it, lets go rescue/murder/mcguffin'

Arcane spells don't care about 'truth', they just fulfill their mechanical obligation and the divine, well we assume that a god who for the sake of example has 9999 in all their mental stats have a different perception than our own as to the 'probabilistic perturbations' of little teeny tiny mortals that dot the material plane.

I don't know where you came up with the idea that "I think divination magic is cheating" when in fact I simply stated "Well in my game the nature of the spell isn't an instant win button"

Even in popular media (Original source of all the D&D mechanics, mind you), prophecies and predictions are not immediate in nature. They are abstract, they are above your knowledge and understanding until the right time and place when you have all the pieces in front of you.

As for the other schools of magic, they too have their nuances but I think divination in particular is misconstruded a lot.

It's safe to say that in a society where magical observation is probably, likely and even practical people would go to great lengths so as to avoid it. Right now cameras in public locations are scanning your face and logging it for future reference and comparing it to a chart of faces in a huge offshore security database. People are coming up with makeup that will screw around with the algorithms, and with the dynamic nature of fashion and design there will never be a perfect code to break it, it will simply be the nature of always being one step ahead.

If you think the big bad who hasn't already been caught by the local guard and their diviner hedge wizard, you're really not taking this game seriously. :)


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People think you think divination is cheating because your response so far has been , in my game the gods would make no effort to be helpful and simply give completely useless obscure answers because why would picking a spell and paying 500 gold ever provide any useful information.

A god with mental stat 9999 is capable of not being pointlessly misleading to their followers.

No one in thread is suggesting it's an instant win button, the initial post actually suggests it could potentially be a two-three week win button some of the time if you're lucky.


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Reverse wrote:

Sounds about right to me. A party with consistent access to a high level divination can find the Lost Tomb, no matter where it is, with enough questions... if they're asking the right god, have compelling no time limit, the Tomb isn't protected from divination (a pretty common trick at the levels where infinite Communes become an option), and they know enough to know it exists in the first place and that they need to go there.

No problem here though - if the party is aware of the tomb, presumably sooner or later the GM wants them to find it. It can shortcut an adventure (since the players no longer need to apply to the Sages of Wisdom to find it), but the GM can plot-block with ease by making the Tomb immune to divinations. The PCs must already know something of interest about the Lost Tomb to be looking for it in the first place.

It becomes more problematic when you don't have a stationary target. "Is the Rakshasa Agent closer to Location A or B within the city?" is useless, since they might be walking down the street and have moved on by the time you get there (particularly if you're casting the Commune over a week!).

With names, it's a little easier to narratively "cheat" with metagaming. The Rakshasa Spy underpinning the campaign is probably someone you've met at some point, because it's a lame surprise if there was no way for you to work out it was the Stable Boy You've Never Met. Suppose the players go to the King's Ball. There they meet over 30 nobles, but only Lady A and Lord B have scenes "on-camera" where the GM plays out the dialogue. When they come to divine for the Rakshasa agent, the players conclude these two are important because they got names and screen time, and Commune on them first (for no in-character reason), solving the problem rapidly. As the GM in this scenario, you'd need to enforce the metagame and make them ask 30 questions, one for each noble, even if most of the questions are asked off-screen (maybe a % roll to see where Lady A happened to fall in the line of
...

'Is the spy someone we have interacted with recently?"

Grand Lodge

Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
People think you think divination is cheating because your response so far has been , in my game the gods would make no effort to be helpful and simply give completely useless obscure answers because why would picking a spell and paying 500 gold ever provide any useful information.

Mmm seems like my point is not really getting across.

Okay, it's more like how a parent might explain something to a child. Concepts like "Where is the sun at night?", "Does a tree falling in the woods make any noise?" and "Do animals have feelings?" The child will get an answer that it probably will have difficulty relating to or processing because it's perception of the world is very different.

The gods aren't being misleading on purpose (Unless they're a god of misleading... I don't know what you were thinking) it is simply the nature of the communication.


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Oh right because it's totally beyond a creature with 9999 intelligence to put something in such away that a PC could process? I thought they were meant to be intelligent?

Not to mention paizo has published interactions with gods and they didn't speak in useless riddles. So no you're just trying to explain away making a 5th level spell useless because you don't like it.


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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
People think you think divination is cheating because your response so far has been , in my game the gods would make no effort to be helpful and simply give completely useless obscure answers because why would picking a spell and paying 500 gold ever provide any useful information.
Jader7777 wrote:

Mmm seems like my point is not really getting across.

Okay, it's more like how a parent might explain something to a child. Concepts like "Where is the sun at night?", "Does a tree falling in the woods make any noise?" and "Do animals have feelings?" The child will get an answer that it probably will have difficulty relating to or processing because it's perception of the world is very different.

The gods aren't being misleading on purpose (Unless they're a god of misleading... I don't know what you were thinking) it is simply the nature of the communication.

As the father of two children, I think you're vastly underestimating the general intelligence of children.

The only times I don't explain things well are when I don't have time (in which case I'll say, "That's a good question, but I'll get back to you later." - the equivalent of "Unclear." or "It's Complicated."), that I don't know something (hey, look, "Unclear"), or in the case where the child will get the wrong idea or just be confused with a technically-more-accurate-answer.

In the last, however, I consistently give them information they can actually work with - information that gives them exactly what they need in order to do the thing they want (presupposing it's not a bad thing they want to do, in which case I'll tell them, "Don't do that, it's bad." - a useful short message to get the point across).

Generally, this has worked out well.

The idea that deities with super-sentience can't tell the local permutation of reality the question comes from is absurd, not only because it explicitly denies the utility of a tool for the players, but also because it doesn't make sense for the deity in question to be confused - they explicitly function in the same reality of the PCs in published settings. You can change that, should you like, but then you're actively changing a presumption of the game. That's fine, but there's a lot of push-back, because people generally don't like that sort of thing.

The idea that deities with super-sentience can't find a way to describe things in a way that makes sense to "smaller" minds is also absurd, because, frankly, it's possible for humans to do the same. That "yes/no/unclear" answers could be misleading is certainly possible, but, recall, the deity explicitly answers in a way that goes along with their best interests. If you presuppose the PCs are followers of a deity (which, if they're using commune, they either are, or have a magic item), that deity is going to respect them, and their over-all goals are usually going to line up.

Also, it's super-irritating to have someone purposefully string you along with incorrect information. So.


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Also, I would think the ascended deities would know how normal existence works enough to provide useful information.


Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:

Oh right because it's totally beyond a creature with 9999 intelligence to put something in such away that a PC could process? I thought they were meant to be intelligent?

Not to mention paizo has published interactions with gods and they didn't speak in useless riddles. So no you're just trying to explain away making a 5th level spell useless because you don't like it.

Real life intelligent people quite often have trouble explaining things to 'normal people'. Something that seems blindingly obvious to them isn't to another person.


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and some real life intelligent people are lecturers and teachers who literal job is explaining things to people.

this is one of the most ridiculous examples of someone trying to nerf a spell into uselessness by applying skewed real world logic I've ever seen.


RDM42 wrote:
Real life intelligent people quite often have trouble explaining things to 'normal people'. Something that seems blindingly obvious to them isn't to another person.

Mm.

True.

But... not all real-life intelligent people have high wisdom ("Profession (teaching)") or charisma (generally persuasive and informative interaction), or ranks in the relevant skills.

That said, I don't see PF deities having the 99999 intelligence seemingly given to them, here.

As a GM, it's much easier to just explain, "They don't know." by using the "Unclear" option than it is to try to mislead the PCs by giving them conflicting answers.

That said, I will amend something: I'll give my kids misleading and conflicting answers... so long as they can see the large grin on my face, and know that I'm teasing them. So, I do have to own up to that.

... but, uh, "Hey, we kind of need to find something important, is it closer to the north border than the south?" isn't a good time to play that game, because they can't see my face and wouldn't be able to tell I'm just messing with them.


I will also say that, if something is causing problems, it's quite valid for a GM to have a deity respond, "Do it yourself." or other such things. If a spell causes a problem for your game, the most important thing is to make sure that the players and GM are all satisfied with the over-all experience.


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RDM42 wrote:
'Is the spy someone we have interacted with recently?"

Yes.

Then you ask the GM how many people you've interacted with recently. He hums and haaws, then says between the 30 nobles you spoke to at the ball (which include Lady A, and a bunch of other people who didn't get screen time), the waitstaff, and the carriage drivers who drove you to the ball, he makes it about 40. 40 Commune questions later, you'll have your answer. If there's no time pressure and you can afford that many Communes, why not?

Grand Lodge

Tacticslion wrote:


The idea that deities with super-sentience can't tell the local permutation of reality the question comes from is absurd, not only because it explicitly denies the utility of a tool for the players, but also because it doesn't make sense for...

Okay, using the example of locating an object. Easy right?

The hard fact of the object is that it's occasionally moved and owned by multiple people.

Example: A necromancer is spreading disease in a city to improve his access to dead bodies- to do this he has employed the use of the local postal service. The object is a parcel that rewrites it's own label after being delivered, after which it silently infects those who contacted it with Zombie Rot which doesn't start until 1d4 days later and not before the death occurs 10 days after that. The person who receives the parcel then forwards it to the 'proper' address and this perpetuates the goal of the necromancer.

The PCs only know "Someone is causing an outbreak". If they focus on chasing the necromancer he will simply have the appearance of a typical wizard and will have probably memory wiped himself after sending the parcel to give the perfect illusion of innocence.

Now if the players chase the parcel with the long-term plodding of communes with say, Serenrae who hates undead and wants to help the PCs with the most accurate information and they try to use reductive questioning they will simply starting at square one over and over because the parameters of the target are constantly changing.

Of course, imagine you're some PCs without any of this knowledge and you have to deal with it, commune will be a useful tool, but it won't solve this case, not before the whole town is a shambling hoard.


If you think that's what's being argued by the OP, you may need to read the OP again.

Grand Lodge

And you may need to read my first post in this thread.


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Can anyone else see the goal posts moving? It's like someone cast animate object or something.


Jader7777 wrote:

Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

For example. The BBEG would have alter egos, disguises and other means of throwing you off the trail. So if you try to divide the population I would put them in both camps.

"Is Baddie a girl?"

"Yes."

"Is Baddie a boy?"

"Yes."

"...Is Baddie a hermaphrodite?"

"No."

"Is the Baddie blonde?"

"Yes."

"Brunette?"

"Yes."

"Tall?"

"Yes."

"Short?!"

"Yes."

"Is the bad guy many things??"

"Yes."

You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

You mean this one? The one where you explicitly used commune to mess with the players' heads because you indicated that using clever math was not using your brain?

I read that one.

It's the one you said,

Jader7777 wrote:
Sorry Thelemic, but I believe commune would allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish. Like for example if you needed to find the big bad who was hiding in a city and you decided to use a Guess Who? style of reductive questioning I would have conflicting answers that were 'true'.

... which you then (apparently?) back-peddled on on with,

Jader7777 wrote:
Okay, it's more like how a parent might explain something to a child. Concepts like "Where is the sun at night?", "Does a tree falling in the woods make any noise?" and "Do animals have feelings?" The child will get an answer that it probably will have difficulty relating to or processing because it's perception of the world is very different.

... which isn't at all how parents would help their kids, but anyway, you went on with,

Jader7777 wrote:
The gods aren't being misleading on purpose (Unless they're a god of misleading... I don't know what you were thinking) it is simply the nature of the communication.

... which is a pretty dumb thing to do.

"Hey, there's a guy who's killing people and turning them undead. I need useful info to stop him."

"Yeah, I'm just gonna be super-vague and entirely unhelpful, 'cause you guys are dumb and use stupid math instead of actually using intelligence."

That may not be your intent, but that's how it comes across.

And if that is your intent, that's fine - for tables that are okay with that sort of thing.

The majority of people will not like that, however.


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I mean, okay, let me link and quote the commune spell.

First, here's the link to the spell.

Quote:

You contact your deity--or agents thereof--and ask questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no. (A cleric of no particular deity contacts a philosophically allied deity.) You are allowed one such question per caster level. The answers given are correct within the limits of the entity's knowledge. "Unclear" is a legitimate answer, because powerful beings of the Outer Planes are not necessarily omniscient. In cases where a one-word answer would be misleading or contrary to the deity's interests, a short phrase (five words or less) may be given as an answer instead.

The spell, at best, provides information to aid character decisions. The entities contacted structure their answers to further their own purposes. If you lag, discuss the answers, or go off to do anything else, the spell ends.

Bolding mine.

The fact that you give answers that are misleading and contrary-to-the-deity's interest is fine, but you're doing so against what the spell actually says it does. So you need to recognize that.

The fact that you're saying, "Oh, what you're saying won't work, 'cause the dude moves around." is explicitly not what the OP is talking about.

So, again, it looks like you're just posting to be contrarian, especially with phrases like,

Jader777 wrote:
I'm sorry that "you have to be careful and use you brain about this" instead of "I brute force algorithm my 1800-dial-a-god gimmick" offends your delicate player senses.

... which is incredibly condescending and unpleasant.

You're literally calling people stupid (i.e. "not using your brains") for, you know, using their brains.

It's fine if it's not your cuppa, and don't want it in your games, but don't be surprised when people don't like the way you're phrasing it, if you're calling them dumb for doing something pretty clever.


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The premise of the thread is basically "If you can communicate with somebody who has information you want and is cooperating, 20 questions is a perfectly reasonable way to narrow down the results really far and surprisingly quickly, provided no assumptions on the part of the questioner are blatantly wrong. Commune allows you to play 20 questions with a deity who presumably likes you."

As such, it being a useful spell makes perfect sense. It's not perfect; if the premise is wrong (for example, space is folded in such a way that one cannot properly say if it's closer to one side or another because it changes depending on the time, who's leading the effort to find it, or some other property). And it can take quite a few questions to narrow things down in some situations. As such, I continue to be more of a fan of more direct "ask entity a question" options like "planar inquiry". (Which is also something available at levels 5/6 instead of 7+)

Grand Lodge

Tacticslion wrote:

The fact that you give answers that are misleading and contrary-to-the-deity's interest is fine, but you're doing so against what the spell actually says it does. So you need to recognize that.

The fact that you're saying, "Oh, what you're saying won't work, 'cause the dude moves around." is explicitly not what the OP is talking about.

It was a point of consideration, as you may have seen all my ideas of the use of commune were means of circumventing reductive logic which is what Thelemic was hoping to achieve by opening the floor with 'How can you use commune?' and by myself putting in the idea of 'Well it's not going to work all the time, especially when other parties are involved' suddenly turned me into a rule disregarding no fun nancy.

Contrarian logic? Eh? You don't think that in the game, in-universe, this is how targets of such spells would think? Do you suggest that GMs only consider the viewpoint of the player and if their logic is sound then the task should without fail be executed?

Quote:
In cases where a one-word answer would be misleading or contrary to the deity's interests, a short phrase (five words or less) may be given as an answer instead.

Yes, this is exactly what I was getting to in my previous post about parents and children. If you are trying to chase someone but a commune says "Don't look for a person" that would definitely speed things up- but it raises it's own questions does it not?

Tacticslion wrote:
It's fine if it's not your cuppa, and don't want it in your games, but don't be surprised when people don't like the way you're phrasing it, if you're calling them dumb for doing something pretty clever.

I'm not calling any person stupid, this is what people replying are doing, putting words in my mouth and generally attempting to ad hominem. I am saying the idea of always getting correct information is stupid. I even tried to illustrate this with the room anaogly, so here's a real world one:

Up until recently DNA evidence was used all the time to support cases in court, however recent studies show that simply having 'DNA evidence' swings juries opinion like some sort of quickened casting of mass suggestion. When individuals hear that one side has DNA evidence their minds jump to some sort of CSI tv drama montage which gives them a heavy dependence on what the DNA says, as opposed to all other forms of evidence.

I say, "It would be stupid to only consider the DNA evidence". The jury stands and cries "How dare you be so condescending and unpleasant to me! I want everything that he said stricken from the record!"

Okay.

To finish this thread lets assume that you should never Commune to internet.


Dude. You used insulting turns of phrase, intentionally or otherwise, and are now trying to say that others are putting words in your mouth. I have not suggested that you are wrong for your games, but have suggested that the way you are presenting them is not getting a benevolent point across.

Beyond which, you're coming into a thread that says, "How can we use this?" and going, "Well, you can't in my games." which... you know, is kind of irrelevant to the actual question.

In fact, I didn't respond to your original post because, though off-topic, it had a point - it can't be used to track a moving target. Your subsequent attempts at clarifying that have been insulting or poorly analogous to the situation.

You came into a thread that pointed out that commune could be very useful in the right circumstances, with, "Well, it can't always be useful." and there are only two ways to take that - either you're disagreeing with the premise of the thread (that it can be extremely useful, and here are some ways), or that you don't like the way people are playing the game. Indicating that they are not using their brains, which, I will quote you on this, so that there's no confusion,

you wrote:
I'm sorry that "you have to be careful and use you brain about this" instead of "I brute force algorithm my 1800-dial-a-god gimmick" offends your delicate player senses.

... makes it seem like you're just being condescending and disliking peoples' ideas on principal, while also calling them dumb and insinuating that they need thicker skin.

This is your own words, and how they come across to others.

That said, I do need to apologize for something.

me wrote:


... which isn't at all how parents would help their kids, but anyway, you went on with,

Jader7777 wrote:
The gods aren't being misleading on purpose (Unless they're a god of misleading... I don't know what you were thinking) it is simply the nature of the communication.
... which is a pretty dumb thing to do.

That bottom sentence there is clearly poorly phrased on my part, because it looks like I'm calling you dumb. I apologize for that. It is not my intent, and I clearly miscommunicated. I am sorry.

What I was calling dumb was,

still me wrote:

"Hey, there's a guy who's killing people and turning them undead. I need useful info to stop him."

"Yeah, I'm just gonna be super-vague and entirely unhelpful, 'cause you guys are dumb and use stupid math instead of actually using intelligence."

... which, of course, is not an actual dialogue, but is how the dialogue comes across when you posit,

you wrote:
Now if the players chase the parcel with the long-term plodding of communes with say, Serenrae who hates undead and wants to help the PCs with the most accurate information and they try to use reductive questioning they will simply starting at square one over and over because the parameters of the target are constantly changing.

... as the same scenario with,

you wrote:

"Is Baddie a girl?"

"Yes."

"Is Baddie a boy?"

"Yes."

"...Is Baddie a hermaphrodite?"

"No."

"Is the Baddie blonde?"

"Yes."

"Brunette?"

"Yes."

"Tall?"

"Yes."

"Short?!"

"Yes."

"Is the bad guy many things??"

"Yes."

You're basically saying "With this fishing rod I will catch anything!" as you cast into Red Herring lake.

... and,

still you wrote:
allow me to mess with your head as the nature of questions function the same as twisting a wish.

... combined with what the spell actually says, which is the opposite of all that.

You're clearly trying to point out that the spell can't do everything. That's entirely acknowledged in the OP, when he pointed out that it would take time, resources, or both, and you couldn't insta-solve all problems in the first place.

More to the point, you're coming to someone else's party of, "Let's have fun doing X." and saying, "I'd never let you do that!" which is kind of... well, it doesn't come across pleasantly.

Jader7777 wrote:
I say, "It would be stupid to only consider the DNA evidence". The jury stands and cries "How dare you be so condescending and unpleasant to me! I want everything that he said stricken from the record!"

And see, you're still doing it. You are saying that, no matter how many times I've explained that it's totally okay at your table, that it's the equivalent of me demanding that everything you've said be stricken from the record.

It may just be a problem with your similes and metaphors, but, so far, it's just not coming across in your favor.

Jader7777 wrote:
To finish this thread lets assume that you should never Commune to internet.

... is wrong. It's just that people mis-communicate. Talking it out is a thing. If someone notes, "Hey, you're coming across as condescending and insulting." that might be a sign.

I know I did up there, and I'm sorry for it - I recognize, in retrospect, how that particular bit of phrasing can appear. Fault's mine, there.

But you've done that several times, and are now protesting innocence and vitriol. I'm not saying you're bad and should feel bad. I'm pointing out that you made an etiquette breach, and the way you're presenting yourself is not optimal - i.e. pointing out the cause of push-back against you.

Either way, I hope you have good gaming, my dude.

And now, I hope, we can drop this? Peace.

Grand Lodge

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I'm sorry if I caused any unpleasant schism in the thread.

I wouldn't be here if I couldn't discuss with players optimal strategies and retorts- I think it really adds a sense of verisimilitude when players take the in-universe abilities seriously and I enjoy it tremendously when players deliberate their actions.

One day we may be at the same table, and with your company I'm sure I'll have the best of gaming. :)


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Remember for familiar based commune it's asking your familiar's deity, not yours. While your alignment will match, it's unlikely to expect much from a voidworm.

relativemass wrote:

This reminds me of the optimal Guess Who strategy.

For getting a name you could ask, is the first letter of the target's first/last name is from the fist half of the alphabet, and so on. You could determine a letter with 4-5 questions, perhaps fewer if someone in your group has a good Linguistics skill and can determine likely names from possible letter combinations. Another option would be to get a comprehensive list of likely/common names and ask if the target's name is on the list, then if it is on the first half of the list, and so on.

You could also try geography questions to determine the person. For example, Does the target living in this county? Do the target live in a more northern than southern region? Once you have the region identified you can start asking about the city they live in and at least narrow the area down to improve your search. If you know that the bad guy lives in the Baron's mansion then you have made some good progress in your search.

I'd advise adding "when written in Common" to questions regarding "the alphabet" and use "family name" or "given name". Ancient deities aren't exactly going to share those assumptions.


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One game I was in, I had a witch with a Silvanshee familiar, and I did spend some time between sessions trying to plan out question-trees to ask.

Amazing how much info you can get from 6 yes/no questions if you phrase them right.


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Seriously I'd probably let them use the questions to winnow it down to. Relatively small number before going to an 'answer unclear' mode and then they can investigate that small number. It serves the story as well.


As someone playing an Oracle of Ancestors/Harrower with a free daily Commune, I have to say this spell is only as abusable as the DM allows it. Sure, I've done the following on lots of occasions, which seems borderline abusive:
-Is BBEG X creature type? (If no--->)
-Is BBEG Y creature type ...
-Is BBEG X class?
-Can BBEG cast resist energy?
-Does BBEG sleep at nighttime?...
...To the point that I've figured out someone's race, class, powers, magic items, sleeping habits, and typical buffs without ever having seen the person. This makes this spell potentially more abusive than scrying with one stipulation, the DM can always say "Unknown." There is a high level villain in Age of Worms who employs this very tactic against the PCs, divining the group's powers and the best time to attack them.


Rakshaka wrote:

As someone playing an Oracle of Ancestors/Harrower with a free daily Commune, I have to say this spell is only as abusable as the DM allows it. Sure, I've done the following on lots of occasions, which seems borderline abusive:

-Is BBEG X creature type? (If no--->)
-Is BBEG Y creature type ...
-Is BBEG X class?
-Can BBEG cast resist energy?
-Does BBEG sleep at nighttime?...
...To the point that I've figured out someone's race, class, powers, magic items, sleeping habits, and typical buffs without ever having seen the person. This makes this spell potentially more abusive than scrying with one stipulation, the DM can always say "Unknown." There is a high level villain in Age of Worms who employs this very tactic against the PCs, divining the group's powers and the best time to attack them.

People will tell you that nobody, not even deities know the concepts of class, despite it being able to be determined experimentally. Personally, I think that at least a deity of magic and/or knowledge should know.


Now, if you're willing to go into the softbacks, the Harrow sorcerer bloodline arcana grants rerolls on percentage dice for divination spells. Thus, contacting a greater deity results in a useful answer 98.56% of the time, and an honest answer 98.96% of the time. Of course, for a sorcerer, a DC 16 Intelligence check is no joke. Since bonuses to ability checks are way rarer than to skill checks, you'll want fox's cunning, good hope, and moment of greatness up. You'll have only a 55% of success, +5% per point of Intelligence bonus.


Mark Seifter wrote:
You probably want a lawful deity for this, I'm guessing if any deity-level entity will humor such a search, a primal inevitable might do so if its interests align. I play with a bunch of mathematician, physicists, and computer scientists, so our group tried to do the exact spatial binary search you suggest (we also talked about whether P=NP with commune by asking the gods for yes/no and then checking) with Desna and we wound up getting a bit on her bad side. Desna wound up being more OK with us asking whether a given hex on a hex map had "something particularly interesting" to explore, though it was often something like a great view rather than treasure.

Would this stuff even work?

Let's say the big bad is an Elf that was born with the name Perrik. He assumed the name Cainess when he turned to villainy. He's been pulling strings in a city under the name The Puppet Master.

The PCs go, "Question 1, does the Puppet Master's real name start with a letter A-M?"

"No."

"Does the person's name start with N-T?"

"Yes."

"Does the person's name start with an N?"

"No."

"Does the name start with a P?"

"Yes."

"Is the person humanoid?"

"Yes."

"Is the person human?"

"No."

----

A non-human, humanoid, who's name starts with a P.

Too bad nobody in the city knows the Elf's birth name was Perrik. So they'll pass right over Cainess.


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HWalsh wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
You probably want a lawful deity for this, I'm guessing if any deity-level entity will humor such a search, a primal inevitable might do so if its interests align. I play with a bunch of mathematician, physicists, and computer scientists, so our group tried to do the exact spatial binary search you suggest (we also talked about whether P=NP with commune by asking the gods for yes/no and then checking) with Desna and we wound up getting a bit on her bad side. Desna wound up being more OK with us asking whether a given hex on a hex map had "something particularly interesting" to explore, though it was often something like a great view rather than treasure.
Would this stuff even work?

Quick answer: Yes, unless the GM is deliberately being a jerk.

Longer answer: Basically, you're dealing with wish rules here. If you know or suspect that the GM doesn't want you to use this particular solution to the problem, you also know that the GM will twist your wording, so you can either hire a lawyer to write the most loophole-free questions you can:

Quote:


Too bad nobody in the city knows the Elf's birth name was Perrik. So they'll pass right over Cainess. You need to specify "name" more precisely, for example, "name by which he is commonly known for his non-criminal activities."

.... or, more sensibly, you can find a GM with a more compatible style. But that's always a problem. If I use one of my wishes from the ring and ask that my whole party be healed, do I really need to specify that "healed" is spelled with an 'a,' so that I and my party will not be buried under parts of footwear?

Yes, the GM is at liberty to set up contrived situations that will make certain attempts to use commune efficiently fail in contrived ways. A skillful GM will resist that temptation -- the primary limitation on commune is time (even through a familiar, it's only once a week), so if you blow your wad figuring out that the bad guy is named Cainess, that won't actually help you any more than spreading some money around the underworld.

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