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Arth Lore: Nove’s Principles of Universal Irony

Since the launch of Son of a Liche last year, the one item that keeps coming up in questions and requests from fans is a list of Nove’s Principles of Universal Irony. Part of the reason I wasn’t immediately forthcoming with a complete list is that some of Nove’s work wasn’t included in that book. You’ll need to wait for Dragonfired to complete your Novian studies, but that’s no reason not to get a head start now!

“The exact ratio of irony to matter in the universe is known as Nove’s Constant, and by definition it’s more than you’d expect.” – Son of a Liche

The Third-Age Gnomish philosopher-scientist Nove was best known for his theory that the reality is partially comprised of various forms of irony. Most of his work was boiled down in his seminal Principles of Universal Irony, which laid out several derivative concepts of his work on Nove’s Constant. Nove hoped to express his ideas as mathematical laws, but every time he presented his work to the Philosopher-Scientists Society of Essenpi, a ready exception to his equations was discovered no matter how carefully he had checked the math. Nove insisted that this was only further evidence of the merits of his work. The PSSE agreed, but in principle only, and Nove’s works never became law.

Nove’s First Principle: The likelihood of an event increases based how much it would disrupt perception or be surprising.

It’s well-established that expectations and timing shape perception, and that perception shapes reality. But it was Nove who originally inverted these ideas to posit that perception and expectations could change the timing of events. His first principle of universal irony was expressed as a long formula that involves Nove’s Constant, the number of people sharing an understanding, and the amount of time in which an event disturbing that understanding would be surprising.

For the common layperson, however, it was easier to remember that the universe had a nasty sense of timing, and it was best not to voice certain thoughts out loud. People avoided statements like, “It can’t be that bad,” “Just one probably won’t hurt,” or, “Well, the native population’s been drinking it for centuries, and they don’t seem to mind it.” While skeptics were quick to point out that a reasonable person would hardly expect a turn of phrase to alter the course of fate, proponents of Nove’s work were equally quick to note that was exactly the problem.

Nove’s Second Principle: The likelihood of an unfortunate event is directly proportional to the anticipation for the event that said misfortune would disrupt.

Nove’s second principle was a straightforward equation, using Nove’s Constant to show that the likelihood of an unfortunate event is directly proportional to the anticipation for whatever the misfortune would disrupt. In layman’s terms, the more people looked forward to something, the more likely that tragic circumstances will prevent it. This principle was famously reinforced when Nove’s experiments designed to demonstrate it failed on stage at the Academy of Essenpi, simultaneously proving and failing to prove the philosopher’s point.

The second principle of universal irony was the reason that professional heroes didn’t undertake quests while they were engaged to be married, or that Andarun’s kings never rode out in the last days before their queen bore a child.

Nove’s Third Principle: When a factor or result is indeterminate, expectations of negative outcomes increase the probability of a given scenario.

Nove’s Third Principle is actually his most complex, and it’s said that his attempt at proving it filled over three books. But, essentially, it argues that if you’re not sure about something, the mostly like scenario is usually the most inconvenient or unfortunate one. This simple axiom is often referred to as Nove’s Razor, and it’s widely cited by philosophers, credit officers, and cynics across Arth to this day.

That’s it for now! I’ll update this post when more of Nove’s principles become canonical. What other parts of Arth lore are you curious about? Let me know in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Arth Lore: Nove’s Principles of Universal Irony”

  1. I hope there’s not a Fourth Principle to the effect that, the more I anticipate “Dragonfired,” the longer it will take to get here. 🙂

  2. Hans says:

    I think the fourth one is that the complexity (or time requirement) of a given task is inversely proportional its anticipated complexity.

    “I can have this Ikea chair together in 20 min, tops…” 3 hours later… “Almost done, hand me another beer.”

    Conversely, “This report is going to take days to write…” “Oh, this is due today!…” 1 hour later, “Oh, I’m done. That wasn’t so bad.” Last weekend I asked my 5 year old to pick up her room. After 30 minutes of whining and complaining it only took her 5 min.

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