Sunday, May 30, 2010

"What is an RPG?" Exercise

Explaining "What is an RPG?" in the shortest and most efficient way speaks a lot about who the gamer is and where he is coming from. It also changes from time to time, as the human mind is so malleable to experience that emphasis moves around constantly.

What is a Role-Playing Game?
This is a game where players take part by playing the roles of fictional characters. Participants use storytelling, improvisational acting, and problem solving skills to interact with and create a world. This world can take any form, it can be entirely fantasy, authentically historical or contemporary, or speculatively futuristic.
Role-Playing games can serve as a catharsis, as it had been during it beginning. Although, like many games, it is more practically valued for its exercise Critical Thinking, communicating understanding of concepts, and exercising theoretical skills.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Finished: GURPS 4E player handout

I got a strong urge to make a player hand out based on GURPS Lite 4e. What I did was I inserted a ton of my home brew rules and made it tailor only to Low Tech. Basically its a complete enough players introduction to GURPS for low tech games.

There was no art and floating tables because I only did it in Open Office writer, so its only 25 pages.
  • Removed all Supernatural and Non-low Tech Genre elements
  • Used My definition of Social and Psychological Disadvantages
  • The disadvantages are re calibrated that Cannot Harm Innocents and Psychopathic tendencies are considered aberrant or part of the normal human character.
  • Put a more consistent organization on some definition.
  • Cut out a lot of the text that make modern references.
  • Cheap Items are the "default" price.
  • used the Marian Legionaire Equipment Load out as the Sample Load-out for quick starts.
Anyway, bottom line I find it suitable for introducing new players into GURPS 4E quicky while having enough rules to 25 pages. What happens next is me printing it out and editing it. As a document its hard to edit the problems on my laptop. A high lighter and post its would go faster and another pair of eyes.

Of course I put all the copyright disclaimers and its really meant for this GMs game and not for distribution.

GURPS: What Knowledge of Philosophies Do

This is an oversimplification or bottom line to what each Philosophy discipline does.

Philosophy Skills
Default: IQ-6.
This is the organization of bodies of knowledge in ancient times.
Natural: the predecessor of science particularly the study of the universe and physics. Characters would be familiar concepts of pressure, gravity, buoyancy, velocity, etc while unable to define it.
Geometry: Math involving shapes, size, relative positions, and physical dimensions. Requires: Literacy, Arithmetics.
MetaPhysics: The study of the realm beyond the physical universe.
Theology: The study of divine knowledge from religious sources, ritual and practice.
Other Philosophies:
Socratic: The skill of asking the right problem solving questions. The GM secretly rolls to see if the information the PCs want are what results in their line of questioning.
Platonic: The skill clear definition of ideas, concepts and essences. The GM rolls secretly to see if the right concepts comes across.
Aristotelian: The skill of objectively measuring and distilling observation and perception. The GM secretly rolls to see if the PC catches gap's in the chain of logic or assumptions that have no place in the problem.
Confucian: The reciprocative relationship among individuals in order to establish order. This is a very rudimentary and early kind of Political theory. The GM rolls secretly if the PC notices any imbalance in relationships among organization.
Buddhism: The mental discipline to frame situations and experiences to the advantage of the observer. This lets the Philosopher suppressing emotional distraction. The GM may roll again with Buddhism to negate disadvantageous morale affects.
Moizm: Another empirical based philosophy that focuses on value moderation or denial of objects while maximization with people. The GM may roll secretly for the PCs against Moizm in formulating defensive strategy.
Taoism: The skill of developing laws, punishing and rewarding. This is an effective skill in managing military discipline in high stress situations. Similar to Leadership skill for a long running organization and not just a small group.

I wish my Philosophy teachers would have framed it this way. It would have been more fun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Experience is WORK!

Its not the killing and Not the treasure that give people experience. Someone doesn't just transform incrementally by every creature or person they kill in a few minutes of combat. In normal lives it is the time in work we do that transforms anyone.

Time and Work - An adventure has in it elements of time and work. Success is just objective proof and validation of being in the right. Theoretically someone with a near omniscience level of self awareness can pretty much figure where he went wrong and with enough work correct that in himself and train to be better...theoretically.
Imagine what happens in the real world adventure: a military campaign. Soldiers train and train, and only the lucky and the practiced survive to improve and reap the rewards.

I was writing my GM section when I had to boil down my ideas of what is Experience. In making a home brew or adjusting my GM style to fit the reality more so that the consequences that follow are more believable and natural, I thought the xp system should reflect this fact.

When telling another GM how to reward players, there is a whole lot of game theory going on in any system of rewards. In particular, the Philosophical aspect of Growing and Changing.

Does Killing People build Character, how about marching through rough terrain, starving while waiting for reinforcement, near-TPK in "in-character" disagreements etc...? Trials, Pain, Suffering, Loss and Hardship is the physical stimulus that signal change is needed and is going on.

As for Levels of how much XP to give, imagine how much change a soldier goes through in his first campaign. Consider the kind of learnings, memories and experiences he comes away with. Then proceed to consider how many more of the same, before the next bit of change, then the next and the next.

A rule of thumb is that, experiences have diminishing returns. The First campaign is enough to level up to 2. In the next campaigns, if similar to the first, might take a few more to level 3. If the character escalates in responsibility, accountability, and magnitude of effect (rising through the ranks) it may take just a couple for level 3. Over time, escalation of challenge plateau. The character becomes one of the best generals or warriors, and being any better may half another life time. In fantasy games, plateau are less likely as characters become epic, demi-gods and gods.

In more low tech and realistic settings, at this point they diversify: they become conquerors, which requires politics, administration, diplomacy, espionage etc.

Diminishing returns are important for the GM to reflect. If its the same-old same-old then there aren't any "unknowns" being explored, Gaps in the abilities of the character. then the are not gaining much or anything new.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Your Alternate Description - Steve Jackson Games Forums

Your Alternate Description - Steve Jackson Games Forums:

I wish I can find more people into Gaming Kaizen or Philosophy. I know many others are out there are taking what they learned and putting it into how they run their game.

particularly those who like to use Ethics, Philosophy, Game theory, and Science to understand the world and convert it to fun playable chunks in their game.

The internet is a big place, and anyone who is into Kaizen or Learning will need a sounding board to test and challenge their ideas so that it can be refined or retired thanks to criticism of other critical minds.

I bet there would be a community out there somewhere hope someone can point me to the direction where they all are Gaming Freethinkers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How much magic would I tolerate?

When I do allow magic, only allow the subtle communications, empathy, and mind spells (GURPS). Basically spells that do not affect economics, politics, and technology so adversely and can be conveniently removed from the narrative.

Along with magic, I apply the harsh realities and challenges of education and communication of ideas. Knowledge is very fragile and a lot of it failed to survive time, despite their utility. The axial age of human history saw the flourishing of so many ideas which many were destroyed when an ideology comes to power. Ideas that could have been refined and tweaked to fast forwarded humanity into a brighter age.

Spells with its complexity and inconsistencies is similar to economics, psychology and medicine which are very hard to advance because of their multitudes of unobservable factors. If one were to limit magic to mediums of communication to that of the Ancient World, spells as complicated as

Modern Day Magic: Lie Detection is modern day magic. If deception expert were to go back in time he would be called a wizard. Economics, Negotiation, Sociology, Psychology, Math, Engineering are all skills that can mastered by an individual inclusive of any aids and applied with devastating consequences when brought to times of the past.

I frequently wonder what I could contribute to the Filipinos of the 19th century so that we wouldn't end up exploiting each other for generations. If I could offer my services to Antonio Luna and Andres Bonifacio when they needed good people around them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

RPG Kaizen: Game Definitions and Continuous Learning

Old school Role-playing is asking a lot of questions and critical thinking. Its not really the "game systems" but the attitude to challenges and learning.

Game Definitions and Real-World Definitions. Really good definitions are easy to find online and these days easy to master. Concepts that were vague back in the day, are now more concise and differentially defined from other similar terms.

Language is the medium of the game, and being able to define the parameters more clearly and accurately helps in communicating most effectively and facilitating the game. If we want players to ask a lot of questions then we have to have a lot of stock knowledge and be able to connect many intuitive relations in everything we describe.

No one just "gets" this habit of filling in details. Details don't come out of thin air. It really does take a curious or inquisitive personality and one that likes asking "stupid" and elementary questions. A GM's attitude to questions depends in his own attitude to knowledge.

From Socrates followed Plato and Aristotle, by the same hierarchy the skill of asking Question came before the other methods of deriving knowledge.

The skill in asking questions is not just filling up the blank spots, but also the ability to know where to look for blind spots. It reminds me of when I do my 3d work, as I always change angles in order to triangulate what is really going on. Each angle is insight and the more angles I can view the more accurate I am able to judge what I am doing. being able to ask the right Questions work in the same way: it is narrowing down a solution by eliminating what you can and already know.

Language has a lot of assumptions built into it. Philosophy 101 is about having an introspective awareness of these assumptions and being able to verify them before proceeding into further inquiry.

I guess its not about the system, but the Critical thinking skills and process displayed and used by the players. I can remember falling asleep when the games are so straight forward, there is nothing mentally stimulating. if you went through the same predictable formulas in a CRPG what's the point of the freedome of Face to Face RPGaming?

Violence without rational context or drama is just boring. Its basically a way to sate personal ego by focusing on a very simplified puzzle that has very strict set of limitations and certainties. This boredom and disappointment is not really from the game system, but GMing and Player expectations.

Of course there is a tendency to be disappointed when the oversimplified nostalgic system gets bashed by years-refined problem solving. The old systems were improved for a reason.

guess in the end, there is a RPG Kaizen to aspire to and problems are never going to be as simple as the system but the actual problem solving skills of the group.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Icelander's: A Private War On Narcoterrorism

Helpful information about "Tactical Shooting: A New World: A Private War On Narcoterrorism - Steve Jackson Games Forums by Icelander".

The stats are pretty realistically detailed it would apply to any other game system. Although i don't know any other game system that runs fairly realistic modern combat.

Enjoy the gratuitous detail

in reference to: Tactical Shooting: A New World: A Private War On Narcoterrorism - Steve Jackson Games Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)

Game Design: Objectivity of Skills and Ability

The real world works on a mix of both relative and objective standards. We notice relative Standards in passing rates, grading curves, and supply and demand. When there is relative scarcity of abundance of something price and wages changes to suit the comparative demand.

Objectivity can be seen in standards, grading and bottom line output. Standards may require X in hours, percent successful performance, output, etc. An example is the abundance demand of nurses and mariners. Greater and greater free trade has made shipping grow and the same can be said about longer living Population and a higher quality of life when compared to health care. Because of such manpower demands, objective skill assessment are in place to make sure the market grows in a healthy rate.

If skills can be objectively assessed, then one can actually compile a list of industry and performance tasks that are used to assess these abilities. At least create a set of parameters and steps people can measure and compare standards and performance under scientific method so that they can post it on a thread and .

I think professionals who are gamers around the net can cite from personal experience regarding standards of their industry, the level tolerance for failure, and what is professional reality. Such information made available goes a long way in understanding other people and their work as well taking in the lessons of other disciplines as to applying it to our own.

Maybe to make this exercise easier a default format and a wiki would be useful. The wiki helps people who don't have whole pieces of information contribute their tiny nuggets to build up into a complete idea.

The Game System as a Language to augment the transmission of ideas, work and risk. In communicating these ideas: Study and Work are the typical currency of progress. They are used to measure the cost of performance levels relative to the value of the skill in a given market, individual or point of time.

I find this very useful in describing and narrating games and its challenges. After having compiled or read through several sample standards from a variety of fields certain patters emerge for intuitive application. Such study on professional insight would make other people of different professions appreciate the work that goes behind the scenes in other professionals.

Game System Progress:
The Relationship of Utility, Diminishing Returns, and Time is a strategic insight. In our decisions and everything we do there is diminishing utility that influence how much time we spend on any given action. The limited human rationality is what make these decisions when something has lost its utility: from the number of push-ups, overtime, amount of GM prep time etc.

Describing it in a simple way that allows GM's to apply the intuition and communicate concepts to players has been a challenge. I had to rewrite a bit, using these concepts in mind.

They are useful because it answers several fundamental questions regarding risk and uncertainty: how much more time and resources can you allocate until the utility is optimized. It answers "what actions are worth taking", or "has the maximum utility". Highlighting the limitation, also helps get an adventure underway when you can point out that The Time and Opportunity lost to bickering diminishes the utility of the game and the group has to move forward because even at the worse case scenario: it is better than to be still arguing and paralyzed.

I'm also describing in detail weapons and making sure most of the key assumptions are transparent. I think declaring assumptions is a great way to prevent getting into an argument. Once these are exposed, the logical method is easier to follow. When people don't agree on or tend to favor different assumptions then you can easily weigh the cost of pursuing the ardous task of bringing evidence and proof to bear vs what you get from it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Evolving Game Systems and Chinese Historical Game

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" - John Maynard Keynes
As a Science nut, I am for evolving and better game systems and tools. I don't like it when a game system sweeps a critical flaw under the rug or repackages it as "retro". As someone who used to run Epic Games with a party of munchkins who scoured the WOTC forums and discussion boards for optimum builds where my hands are tied by plausibility and context I'm a strong proponent for a system that is harder and harder to Break.

Part of the reason I use realism and pragmatism is because fantasy and magic is like arguing Logic and metaphysics and post-modern relativism they are so arbitrary you can easily argue any position because of how poor are the premises. In fantasy or magic, the constraints are the imagination but if you've experienced the arguments taken to their absurd lengths then objective/scientific discipline is one's only safeguard against having one's hard work butchered beyond recognition and turned into ruined pieces.

Holding Ideas like Game Systems as Sacred Cows isn't intellectually healthy. I guess thats why i feel good and vindicated having a homebrew to tinker with and channel all my complaints into something structured and clear. As a mental exercise: laying out all my assumptions where others can easily replace it for their own.

Chinese Historical Game: Spring and Autumn Period and The Warring States.
It will be easier for me to learn mandarin if I make it an RPG exercise. One kind of GM i've never met or heard of is one that can run Ancient China. I always wondered if I'll ever meet or hear about the game run by one, but it seems it will never happen (in english at least).

Separating Wuxia or Cinematic Realism from Chinese Historical setting is very hard. The appreciation of Gritty, Haphazard, Floundering heroes and circumstances seems to very limited despite there are many historical precedences for it: Founding of the Han Dynasty, Confucius, and others whose names I can't remember because they are in chinese.

Grasping Chinese history becomes much easier when I begin my understanding with fundamental economics and the science surrounding civilizations. Being a skeptic helps separate historical embellishments and bring the past within easier reach.

the Hundred Schools is particularly interesting era that is mostly lost to us when the First Emperor of Qin buried and burned all the scholars. It seems as warring states: if power could have been balanced in a way that they never unified, such conflict would have given them greater dynamism and adaptability. China at that time had a lot of free thinkers and scholars who pursued economic philosophy - particularly when they understood principles of self-interests as something as neither good or bad as early as the 300 BCEs. I find that fascinating.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Game Wealth Thread Argument spilling over to Economics

The thread of How to Handle Wealth became an economics discussion. What I like about the SJgames forums is how world views and personal philosophies are very transparent and apply to people's games. The last thing one would want is to have a politicized opinion of the world cramping your game fun but these are valid and challenging questions. They should be encouraged but separated from the game so that it would not ruin the fun of others.

Of course there is an easier way to settle this: get some economic data. Its not that hard, World bank, the links found in the sources part of a Wikipedia article and a subscription to Scientific Journals.

In the case of the argument it seems there are strong differences in opinion regarding having a job and actual ability. This points out a particular assumption: that High Skills means better pay. As with supply and demand: High Skills of a High Demand ability = High pay. High Skills of a Low demand (because of high supply, obsolescence or a very niche demand) would equal low pay.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Economics in my GMing: How I handle wealth

I was lurking in the Sjgames forums when I cam by this interesting question. How do you handle wealth increase.

In economic behavior, a windfall is typically saved. In high saving countries part of the reason is that bonuses are deferred and not payed out immediately is to encourage saving. This follows much of the logic, people are able to differentiate what is a long term increase to that of a short term one.

I heard this study in my critical thinking lessons and economic history studies. In my wife's CFA exam this was also covered.

In my games, it follows that same logic. The PCs have more "cash" or liquidity. Thats pretty much it. It only becomes a more stable increase of wealth if they reinvest it wealth generating capital or more assets (weapons, armor, medical supplies, "hedging" against future damage).

Its weird to me when GMs try to "control" the wealth the players stumble into. what I mean control is they force the Players to spend points for it or else they lose that money. That is both unusual and highly unrealistic.

If' I inherited $1M in the middle of the game do I have to pay points for that? Doesn't this follow the same logic as character death: consequences and things that happens beyond the control of the players? The GM or the players demanding "fairness" after the dice rolls up something they don't particularly like is more like griping.

Anyway, wealth is a resource unlike a character's ingenuity, can be easily measured and have very tangible limitations. There are a lot of things Money and resources can't do, one only needs exercise one's imagination a little bit more.

When GM or the Game systems try to control this wealth and scale (after character creation) reminds me of the argument of "scaling" the reality to fit the character not the character fitting the reality. The kind of world which conspire to make all the challenges spoon fed to the characters that there is NOTHING they can't defeat as long as they follow certain rules.

Freedom is supposed to encourage innovation because of accountability ultimately falls on the character/player's abilities. screw with a Great Wyrm, he might kill, win it over, or work for it: What may happens depend on how adaptable the Player is in making a bad situation good, its an imaginary game and I don't need a safetynet (extra pregens maybe).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Experiment in Play tools

Converting all options and aspects of a Character aspects into cards? Its been done way before, but I'm thinking of breaking down the game system I'm designing into printable cards sets.

Tangibility helps in Awareness of options as well as going through every option one at a time. Notebooks and writing augments the rationalization process by allowing the medium to act as augmented memory in order do certain operations using other intelligences. Cards and the way ideas are organized and separated into them help coordinate focus.

This will require me to shorten my descriptions more and rework those special rules into the Game Physics sections. In other words, simplify what medicine skill does and moving the large chunk of explanation to the healing and recovery chapter.

Background (Race, communal/formal education, and profession)
Special Skills
Combat Options

I've also made Flow-charts for some of the game mechanic rules. I was reading the DnD 1e description of how Suprise Rules work in OSRIC and I wanted to throw the book across the room. The urge to shout at the book hoping communicate to the guys who first wrote those surprise rules back in the day and reprimand them for how counter intuitive and difficult to understand the rules overcame me after rereading it for the 10th time. 1st 5 times was thinking i misread it, the other proceeding times slowly realizing: Yes this does not make any sense and is difficult to understand without some very complex Flow chart.

[Any Systems] Defense: Realistic Reflections

Assumptions on Shields. If two fighters are equal, and they have 50% chance of hitting each other in a given amount of time. This is assuming this is due to footwork, no parrying, and while they are within reach of each other. Then a shield the relative size of Heavy Infantry Shields to the wielder will bring down the odds of hitting by 2/3rds. That gives shields a 33.34% or rounded off to the "benefit of the doubt" it reduces the odds of hiting each other to around 15%. This means in combat, with trained fighters who manage their effort and wait for the highest utility over time opportunity to hit there is a 15% chance they hit each other.

Where did I get the 2/3rds rule on shields? At 5'9" or 175cm the average person's movement range occupies an circular area of 2.4sq.m. or 2.8sq.yrds (height/2 radius). Then factor in stances in combat where it is typically profiles of about 2/3rds which grant me 1.6sq.m or 1.9sq.yrds. area. A scutum is roughly 1sq.m. or 1.2sq.yrds. which is roughly a 2/3rds comparative ratio.

Feel free to replace these variable assumptions.

Taking Damage. Even if they do hit each other, these fighters improve their ability to judge how to best manage their attention regarding his opponents and judgement regarding attacks. This reflects how finely they can keep maximum secondary defense. Relatively a fighter gets better in part by being able to take more punishment: when it comes to pure kinetic energy fighters learn to tense up their muscles in the "combat form". In combat with edged weapons, this is by keeping an optimum form of easy last minute changes for evasion and rolling with the blow.

In reflection the first thing I learned sparing with my brother is that despite how much I want to go for cinematic blows, small whittling attacks against the fundamental skills is best against an equally skilled fighter. All-out-Attack or Reckless attack is relies heavily in context. In a situation where I leave my defense has momentary lapsed to "kill" my opponent technically is not reckless but calculated.
Mobility is the first defense. A shield or the toughest armor is only as good until the opponent is in a position or opportunity to ignore it. AC10, GURPS dodge 8, To be hit 10 or what ever defense typically assumes mobility. Many systems assumed this this because it is regardless of type of attack: projectiles vs melee or if the character is carrying a weapon or tool for parrying. Parrying is not a factor in basic defense when the defense assumes no difference with ranged or melee attacks except for distance and size. At 40m/s (fastest baseball pitch) or 73yrd/second is pretty hard to parry. If I saw the wind up or where person aiming the bow the easiest thing to do is to move at any perpendicular direction at the moment of release.

The role of Armor in all of this. Ancient up to Modern armor is centered around the torso for a good reason. When i was a kid out of pure aesthetics I cannot imagine armor without extending to the extremities. The idealized imagery overcoming the rationality was quite natural being a kid, growing up and getting some self confidence I see aesthetics just a circumstantial bonus and not the requirement.

Torso armor typically covers the chest and abdomen. Many close-quarter weapon using martial arts rely on belly slitting or reaching the vitals from the belly. One of the unusual things I learned about "killing blows" is when using knives I have to train to make as many multiple strikes on all vitals to bring up the certainty of bringing down a threat. When I consider this and double tap, burst fire, and sword techniques that very quick rapid succession attacks: the single blows don't kill so easily. The torso is a lot of person and the body can operate even when internal systems are junk for a shock fails to kick for a few critical moments.

Armor Familiarity - I own a sparring suit for Arnis/kali and really appreciate the amount of training one needs to be good at fighting in it. Although my guro was telling me to practice more with the armor, It was much easier not to. The the lack of movement range, visibility (helmet), center of gravity, and heat was some effort to get over. Armor familiarity is assumed, i guess if the person gets 40 hours of practice one can consider it covered. In terms of performance in DnD terms -1 or 5% to -2 or 10% physical actions without familiarity.

it goes without saying that this kind of familiarity can only be inforced it players role-play or account for their character's professional conditioning.

Armor Cumbersome Myth. Dan Howard in Myarmory and many others had done much to dispel this myth. There are certain key weights all armors share. It follows this logic: if a human can easily move around with 10-14lbs on his torso, he will use material that has the best hardness to weight ratio comparative to the cost: in this case layers of cloth or leather up to metal.

Helms. The shield covers half the face behind it and the rest of the head is behind the helm. In drawing, the basic facial proportions puts eyes dead center of the head. peeking behind a shield without a helmet means half one's head is exposed. I would like to point out that the area presented by the head is just as big as those presented by the hand or feet behind a heavy infantry-man shield. Given the option to hit limbs and the head, risk times utility when it comes to head shots will always be greater if you want the opponent to cease being a threat.

As a modern people, we know that the head is the center of our nervous system and its destruction can kill us before the body even realizes. Ancient people thought the liver, heart, stomach etc. was where life exists and must be protected in order to survive. Unusually, despite their beliefs warriors wore helmets at the expense of a Cuirsass If a good shield was available.

Here are armors, locations and their typical weights:
Torso: The Chest-rib cage, shoulders, and abdomen. It ends with the waist. armors can range from 10 to 15lbs.
Groin: The waist to the edge of the crotch is the Groin area. This is the point where flexible or articulated armor is used. This typically weighs 3-5lbs.
Skirt/Fauld: From the waist to the knees. this weighs 5 to 7lbs.
Arm: the arm refers to the shoulder up to the elbow. This is around 2-3lbs
Fore-arm: this refers to the elbow to the wrist. This is around 2-4lbs.
Leg: This refers to the part of the legs from knee to the ankle.
Thigh: Armor for this can be called cuisses or tasset. 2-4lbs
Feet: These are called Sabattons or Sollerates. This usually protects the ankle, the toes, and the metatarsus. This weighs around 1.5 to 2lbs
Half-helm or Cap: Just the skull and sometimes along the nose bridge. 2lbs
Helm: The skull and sides of the face on the joint of the jaw. Sometimes along the nose bridge.2.5-3lbs
Faced Helm: Armor that extends to the cheek bones and much of the jaw. Sometimes along the nose bridge.
Mask: A effigy of a face or a ornate face mask. usually 1lb.
Coif: a hood of flexible armor covering most of the face and the whole head. Around 2lbs.

7150sq,cm. is the area of a long sleeved shirt for medium sized men.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

OSRIC Game May 8, 2010

No Combat in the Game. My players expected some, but I'm happy they were not let down when I got carried away with the role-playing. They gave me an ok rating. It is our first time play and we are still getting a feel for each other's style.

I didn't suffer my past uncertainties in the game, this time it was all about the fun. We enjoyed talking and exchanging ideas and we got to test them out in the game. I threw in all the impressions and voices I can do. I improvised some characters from the sick and sickeningly sweet corners of my mind and borrowed extensively from cliche's and popular stereotypes.

I tried to make it that every group of NPCs had a distinct voice and archetype the players can easily identify. There is a bit of a mystery to solve in the adventure Against the Cult of the Reptile God and part of the fun is being able to string the clues together on their own.

Modules are not sacred. I didn't pour precious time preparing them. They are tools and it is easy not to get overly attached and ditch canon/dogma for what works in the situation. In fact playing to the freedom, I can exaggerate and role-play to the HILT easily being free to blaspheme.

In the beginning of the adventure I've made this all clear to both my players. Babastosin ko to! (translated it is a way of saying I'm going to abuse this). Let all the ideas and word associations to "abuse" come to mind. Unlock the flood gates and tickle the player's "ick" threshold.

It was fun and funny. We intentionally let in all "broken" parts of the system when it comes to magic, and the supernatural but maintained the interaction and realism.

They both were elven F/M/T because I let them abuse the system. I find it the two: system and the relationship in the game very different. This transparency is something I learned in organizational cohesion, what is essentially a sense of fairness and what people expect from each other. I'm happy I got to apply that knowledge, the better to incorporate it in my skillset.

The dice was unmerciful to one of my players. I wanted to emphasize that it is them and not the dice that matters changes the rules but not the game. When pursuing general inquiry, a bad roll is not a dead end. Adapting is part of it, there are more senses and aspects of our perception, intuition and inference we can employ. Problem solving is trying a bunch of stuff till a successful strategy emerges. A failed deception reading roll or interpretation of a particular emotion or action is not the only ways to test for veracity, there are other "weaker" links or lower hanging fruits one can find in the situation. More if one is patient.

I guess, being open minded is another aspect that has changed with me. How really open minded I was changed when I've become more interested in how the players imagined all the events. Asking them to describe it as they see it in their minds eye helped create a stronger cohesion in ideas and develop an intuition where their thoughts are going.

I have two players and I'm very satisfied with the number. Although i do have a gregarious urg to share too much. I know I will really have a harder time with more. Simply from the is needed in carrying a good conversation. I guess quality attention can be described the same standards of the feeling really being listened to. (It is easier for me to listen to what people have to say when I can get sick of my own thoughts and move on to wonder how other people are thinking of the same things. )

Anyway another game next week. Hope our scheds can keep it up.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

(Homebrew) OSRIC pregens

Made some homebrew tweaked OSRIC pregens that Fit CCG Sleeves. I plan to cut the printoutsand place them with my old L5R serving as stiff backing. I'm not going to destroy the cards.

Pregen Equipment (Card Back).

Shields. One can argue by OSRIC rules: it is Mobile Cover. Its better than normal cover because its reacts to attacks AND the wielder can shift his footing with greater flexibility. 1 bonus to AC can be "at rest" bonus. I'm keeping note that Shields are still vulnerable to being broken, they follow the Item save table in p. 375 crushing Blow and Normal blow modified (worsened) by damage. So a sword hitting a shield for 11pts of damage causes it to save at 14 (or DC31 with a +17 bonus).

Armor is not AC, instead it grants Dmg Resistance equal to its Armor Class Bonus. As mentioned in the previous post leather armor is Boot Leather Stiff and thick lames, scales, shaped "Muscled" cuirass or breastplate. 10lbs is good for torso. Targeted attacks are -4 to hit. Heads are armored with steel helmets for the warriors and hardened leather for non-warriors.
Because some weapons Can't penetrate armor, PCs have to make called shots for necessarily unarmored or lightly armored joints and limbs.

Rounds. I also tweaked the rounds to be 6 seconds while maintaining the rate of attacks. Darts at 3 attacks per round (surikens!) Darts are there to keep a targets shields facing the Dart Thrower. If it does not draw enough attention, +2 to hit because it typically means there is a worse threat to deal with!

Movement. movement in yards per second.
Money. is in bronze Farthings/Folles following Prices in Grain to Gold and Fief. Warriors 1200f, Clerics 100f, Rogues 700f, and Wizards 500f.
Pregen notes. I WAS going to convert the Pregen PCs at the back of the adventure, but the damn stats are TOO HIGH! I went back to 3e's NPC array 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8. F*Ck stat envy, the cognitive bias Players have when they encounter "ordinary" NPCs with a couple of 17s and a couple of 16s. It is like the people rolling the stats though just because its not an 18 it is more likely. I think two 17s are more unlikely than one 18s, and 2 x 16s, 2 x 15s, 2x 14s, and 2x12-14 are even less likely.

Realization. Flanking is easy with teamwork and a lot bonuses "stack". When i was a kid, I was always having a hard time with the combat rules because I don't know what really goes on. I failed to see the options and improvisations i could have done. Now, after all that experience (fight club, larping, Arnis/Kali, combat sim etc.) and history research it is not so confusing and I feel freer to improvise.

6 seconds per "round" has a lot of context and knowing that goes a long way in helping combat narration and adjudication of actions. I'm pretty confident we will have a fun game, regardless of tweaks. The Assumptions of the Rules are meant to be broken by experimentation and solid analysis. Historical Accuracy, some basic knowledge of statistic and details really give that internal legitimacy to go with my gut more and where my intuition leads me.

I also realized one can survive without Cure-light wounds and there are really more options than the rules allude too if you add physics and geometry to the mix. I may not know be able to defeat a dragon at level 1, but i know how to used diplomacy, tactics and logistics to make the most out of my stats.

Imagination Exercise: "Light" Armors

In this thread, Dan Howard dispels the gaming Myth about the flexibility of armor (apart from mail). In gaming "Light armors"like leather and Cloth is imagined as the thickness and comfort of winter or leather jackets when in actuality as armor they need to be much tougher and thicker.

Imagining Hardened leather is easy if I take a look at my old ROTC boots. In the discussion thread about Layering, armor strong enough to stop any blow is very inflexible. The boots I have, in their hardest part, would be roughly 1/5ths of a cm. I remember the boots with dread. They were so painful to wear because they didn't bend where my toes would. If you can imagine you leather shoes and look at the point where it would bend, and imagine how it would feel if that part didn't and you needed it to when you ran thats how painful the experience was. I took a hammer and tried to mash up the leather to give enough wear to bend but as much a I hammered at it the thing was as tougher than the toughest rubberized plastic I encountered. It is leather by the way by the texture I can feel.

Doing the math, an average 4mm or 4/10ths a centimeter around the area of a torso and sleeves would weigh has much as 5kg or 12lbs. Imagine the toughness of your shoe soles and what you put them through as lames (rectangular arrayed pieces) or scales. If you are going to do armor experiments take old boot leather, measure the thickness and whack at it with a sharpened sword. The Rigidity of the material Stops your thrust from going deeper by the friction it acts on the weapon. If you stabbed it with a small blade, may penetrate but you can feel the force ebb away because of the friction acting on the edge. You will have a problem pulling it out. That friction of pulling it out, is acting on the blade as you push it in.

10lbs of leather armor is only good for the Body (torso, abdomen and groin), one would need 4lbs for greeves and 2lbs for bracers, and helmets would be around 2lbs.

Layered Cloth is very effective in diffusing force when impacted . It is also unusually inflexible when layered up to 7-8 or 15 times and stitched together. Imagine a thick wad of cloth or paper, now staple its borders and afterwards try to bend it. I think in principle, 1cm of heavy gauge fabric is going to be that stiff.

Now consider strips of wood, bamboo or cane reeds woven into "basket" armor. We had some old rotting wicker furniture which we bashed up as a kid. They were unusually tough, especially when I still have them and they are around 15 years old right now. Flexibility and Elasticity allows an object to deform without taking serious damage to its structure. By itself only the thickest and heaviest wicker would be adequate for combat, it should be examined that they were used as durable practice shields and by Ancient armies.

Wicker Armor is begun to like and have incorporated in the game I'm designing. Light wicker is combined with layered canvas to make some pretty nice looking shaped cuirass/breastplates. It can appear as wide bamboo strips woven or thick multi-layered Canes with layered cloth stitched over it and comfortable linen beneath it. It can also be made to be fairly flexible at the abdomen area. The combination of wicker and cloth would be cooler to wear if the wicker did not trap air as well as cloth to allow ventilation to cool body and more comfortable by distributing some of the weight to the hips. I wonder if they can be made into greeves and bracers. i'd imagine thick bamboo or wood strips with layered cloth.

Treated and lacquered they serve as great ornamental breast plates for ceremony and parades.

I plan to make a large 3m 3-person giant Loom available in the setting. I'm not going to change the cost of cloth, because much of the demand usually run by the "state" to supply it sails, sacks, and all sorts of materials. It will off-set leather poor regions.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Internal Consistency Fun Rant

I was researching on shields, and find it quite unusual that something people actively use to cover up more than half their body target area only grants 5% improvement in defense while having rules regarding coverage which grant variable bonuses of -2 to -10.

I've gotten back to looking at my old DnD books: ADnD revised, the black books. Such a nostalgia trip.

Doesn't learning more about history, the real world and the basic physics involved in fighting give one the power to describe a scene in greater detail?

I mean, can't I just tell the GM that I use my shield in a way to cover an area about the size of my body adjusting to my opponent's movement?

If the opponent is hovering within reach to strike my character, with his 74cm blade, 60cm arms reach, and 50cm step my scutum, which occupies 1sq m. area that adjusts and adapts to his movement as I track him through my helmet as I peek over my shield, occupies 80-90% of his threat area. Why the heck would it just affect 5% of chances to hit?

a few OSRIC.
  • At 2gp for 1 days ration - All non-leader mercenaries earn less 4sp a day! So a hireling cannot afford a days ration! At such costs mercenaries will demand rations from their employers.
  • 15lb of Silver Coins is comparable to worked 7lbs steel!
  • At 10 coins equaling 1lb! a character cannot carry more than 25 coins in his small pouch.
  • Laborer is paid 1sp per day, but is paid 20sp in a month.
  • Heavy Horseman earns 12gp a day, It will take 4.7 years saving up ALL income to replace all his equipment! Selling the loot of a heavy horseman is worth more XP than defeating one!
  • No price for helmet, but it if one would extrapolate it would cost +13.34gp!
  • It takes 45 days for an armorer to make Mail armor. In which time he earns 300gp yet produces an item that costs 75gp! If that was a dwarf, he would be earning 450gp for 22.5 days of work while selling that 75gp scale armor. I wouldn't say efficient, more like overpriced.
  • On the flipside: a Tailor or a Leatherer making Scale will cost 3gp of services! A human tailor is more cost efficient than a Dwarf Armorer! I guess the reason why the gnome and the dwarf armorer can't stay more than a year is because they are incurring huge losses!
  • A scribe is better paid than a Man-at-Arms at 300 sp per month yet still cannot afford a days ration!
  • Only Sergents and PCs can afford Days ration!
  • It is cheaper to hire a Cook and Eat everything you can kill than to purchase rations.
  • Light footmen costs as much as laborers but can fight. Another way to look at it, dress up a laborer and you got a Light Footman.
  • Characters who "run" 240ft in 1 minute is merely moving 1.2m/s or 4.4kph or 2.7mph! Technically thats walking. A character "Charging" actually just walking briskly up to an enemy! In scale mail a character moving at 1kph/0.685 mph! Whoah Slow Down! Imagine a charge that takes an Entire 60 seconds! pretty anti-climactic.
  • Marching 120ft per minute is moving at 2.2 mph or 3.5kph or 0.98 m/s. Marching 24 miles a day is marching for 11HOURS!
  • Arrows weigh 3 to 1lb! The heaviest arrows weigh 1/10 of a lb.
  • Does Armor Get a Item Save? If it does, doesn't being attack successfully constitute that save? If the armor succeeds does that mean the wearer doesn't take any damage?
  • One survive many Encounters, just carry a shield and don't wear armor and run! unless your a dwarf.

Hazards of not following common sense and going by RAW blindly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Game Experiment: Unknown Rules

What If I played DnD on the surface but all the mechanics used was something else. Players select Scale, Shield, and a broad sword. The "fantasy" stats would be AC5, 53lbs of equipment, and 1d8 damage but in the way I adjudicated it it was 2mm of steel scales over a cloth and leather backing, balanced lever capable of generating 180 joules of edged force in quick and defensive footing attacks (the way a skilled boxer would through a punch and shift quickly)?

A shield is +1 AC? 5% affect on defense. Experimentation by anachronistic reenactors have very strong evidence that this +1 AC item is practically 2/3 the defense of an individual scaled to the skill of the individual. In a close formation fighting its practically all the defense, since very little footwork can be used. Why would I let nonsensical munckin Logic dictate that shields are 1/20.

ARMA's take on Myths is an essential reading.

I'm getting at, what if the players don't exactly know that shields grant them 2/3 their defense. Or if all things being equal and two basically skilled combatants have 50% chance of hitting each other without a shield, with a shield they would hit each other 2/3rds less. Or 2/3 x 50%. rounded up that shield would grant a +6-7 to defense or AC.

Armor, just reduces damage by the amount they really did in historical experimentation. Meaning most metal armors are Blade proof, as long as they are made out of materials and worksmanship of closely equal quality and the force does not exceed what can be generated by all those within the 20% physical ability deviation of professionals (320-450J). At greater than 450J there is a chance of breakage.

As the GM, what if I start asking specific or targeting questions about footwork, balance, stance, metal quality etc. As well as provide unprecedented levels of details? Using deductive and inductive reasoning to provide inferential data from tiny differences and details. even if the player is not familiar with martial arts, but phrase concepts in economies of attention: Do you pay more attention to X or Y? In any given moment of around 6 seconds, how do you distribute your attention?

It all seems DnD in the surface until after character creation. Where all of a sudden even the economics goes "realistic" norms. Gold fluctuates to the value and relationship to goods and its monetary equivalents: typically ranging from 1:20 (gold to bronze) or 1:4000+ (gold to bronze).

Verbal -linguistic Intelligence. It is weird when races posses 7 or more languages (+2 with average int of 9-10). It is strange when Human Intelligence and abilities are dwarfed by demihuman races. By language count, elves and half elves are Int18, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, 16. Demihumans exhibiting Multi-lingualism comparable to human geniuses doesn't exactly put Int of the two different races at the same level. Learning a language a great cost and needs to be maintained through practice. Einstein's brain is an example of trade off Verbal Linguistic Int vs Visual Spatial Int. How can one say 18int human is equal to that of 18int demi human. Even geniuses have problems learning language, depending on which intelligence their abilities lie.

OSRIC game planned next week

I was at my bi-monthly Freethinkers meeting and its no surprise to find some of the members being the last generation of Old-school gamers in the group. In fact bringing out the book changed the topic of conversation. Some of the guys said: "Why not!"

The youngest generation I know that still played "old-school" is my generation (born 1979). My younger brothers don't have the same sentimental attachment as I do regarding that style of gaming. It should be no surprise, it is all a matter of timing after all. It was only around the early 90s DnD really got a more solid footing here in the Philippines. There is that cultural comprehension and economic requirement to have access to the hobby. We were the friends of the younger brothers of the younger members who initially got into it.

Looking back, Old school rules are funny. When I learned more about the world and furthered my education the design of the system can look very haphazard. Well It was, I'm not going to beat a dead horse about it. Although there is some fun to be had expounding the premises to their absurd conclusions.

Reductio ad absurdum is when one argues a premise to its logical absurd conclusion. It can also be funny. One of my favorite is when I look at the Thief and his abilities: why is it the thief can do certain things functionally better than anybody else is a good exercise of absurdity.

Looking at the old-school spells, abilities, races and classes with (Utility-Cost /Time) x Odds is also another way to look at all the old DnD. I find the scariest min-maxer is an adept game-theorist, with the skill of breaking things down to pure utility and who can do the math mentally.
I'm really looking forward to having some of the Freethinkers have a crack at Old School.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Is Being a Wet Blanket a Good thing?

I can't help being a wet blanket. I would like to think that I've have trained myself not to be surprised by learning to look for problems and all the possibilities, while considering the odds they can occur. So I can't help but see problems a lot and often.

I don't live a pessimistic or cynical life just because I see problems often and in everything. I find it relieving to be able to see them before they show up when I can't do anything much about them. Part of being able to solve them is to be able identify their importance and relevance. Surprisingly that is actually a critical thinking skill, as it related to overcoming cognitive biases. It is a cognitive bias to get hung up over problems and be unable to solve them. How effective can one be getting emotional on a problem that can be solved rationally.

In RPGs being a very meticulous critic is part of being a GM. Seeing all the problems and choosing which one's to emphasize is part of the craft. Especially since players, ideally, act creatively (and thus unpredictably) to solve problems put before them. When they put a solution, I as a GM, use philosophy and critical thinking to silently note all the assumptions and introduce uncertainty into them.

The players and the Gm are the same in problem solving capability. The difference is that the GM knows which assumptions will give way to problems, and the Players have to figure it out by sorting out the GM's clues and effective question asking.

When the GM "knows" where the problems are, he shouldn't usually make it a 100% certainty. Ideally, the GM applies that same chance factor for all possible problems. So even He doesn't really Know certainly where the problems are, and just makes sure the Odds of the bad things happening follows through when the dice say so.

Check out Wikipedia's List of Cognitive Bias. Spotting those and Logical fallacies can be a source of fun in a game. Fun in the sense that everyone is trying to map out their thinking and problem solving habits, and cooperatively bolster the weaknesses.