244: Tabletop Roleplaying
Title text: I may have also tossed one of a pair of teleportation rings into the ocean, with interesting results.
Four people are playing a role-playing game. Megan is the game master (GM), describing the events of the adventure and what happens. The other people control imaginary characters in the game. Cueball attempts to have his character lead other characters in the imaginary construction of dice and gaming sheets. This would allow his character to become the GM of a new game inside the game they're currently playing, effectively taking control of the game away from Megan (at least temporarily). To "recurse" refers to recursion, a concept of computer programming where a piece of code calls itself, essentially making the code run multiple times "within" itself. This may be the simplest way to implement an otherwise long and complicated action. (For example, a folder may contain files inside, but also more folders inside. Asking a computer to 'search through everything' in a folder may involve first checking the files in that folder, and then checking the folders in that folder and 'searching through everything' again in those folders. The single command to 'search through everything' may cause numerous additional 'search through everything' commands to trigger on increasingly nested folders, stopping only once a folder(s) with only files inside (and no folders inside) is found.)
It should be noted that Megan, the current GM, has multiple ways of dealing with this scene to prevent Cueball from attempting to take control of the game. She could simply allude to the success or failure of the recursive game and "skip to the next scene." She could also allow the roleplaying to continue more literally, with crafting checks determining the quality of the miniatures and a gambling check determining the outcome of the in-universe RPG session. Finally, she could simply have the party's plans be interrupted by some sort of threat, or just drop huge rocks on the party.
The title text refers to a pair of fictional rings. Anything passing through one gets teleported instantly to the other, as if the two rings were next to each other. There's an old gamer theory that, if you drop one of the rings in the ocean, water will naturally pass through it and out the other ring, potentially draining the entire ocean, or at least creating a perpetual seawater fountain out of the other ring. And if you teleported one ring directly to the bottom of the ocean, the amount of pressure pushing the water through would cause a gigantic, never-ending torrent, obliterating anything placed in its path. That idea is drawn out in 969: Delta-P. A similar concept is addressed in What If? 53, "Drain the Oceans, where a reader asked "How quickly would the oceans drain if a circular portal 10 meters in radius leading into space was created at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the ocean? How would the Earth change as the water is being drained?". This question may have been inspired by the mention of throwing teleport rings into the ocean in this cartoon.
The rings themselves are most likely inspired by the "Ring Gates" item from the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Dungeon Master's Guide (the most recent edition of Dungeons and Dragons at the time this comic was published), which had a similar function. However, a key thing to note is that the rings only allow 100 lbs of material to pass through them each day, meaning that your geyser would only erupt every 24 hours (though this may still qualify as an "interesting result").
- The DnD 3.5 SRD's "Ring Gates"
- A Giant in the Playground forum thread discussing the "pair of teleportation rings"
- [Four people sit around a table. Megan has an open laptop.]
- Megan: Your party enters the tavern.
- Cueball: I gather everyone around a table. I have the elves start whittling dice and get out some parchment for character sheets.
- Megan: Hey, no recursing.
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