Friday, December 26, 2014

Committed Phase, Game Theory-ish

I talked about schelling point before and I learned to put to words something recently: Committed Phase. Basically its a chemistry term but recently I learned it is a business term, Anyway its a great tool if you are a GM or anyone who wants to break down nuances of social interaction into a RPG terms or any term that would suffice to serve a technical description.

The way I use it is basically is to describe a kind of a schelling point, or a focal point, where the game (by game I mean incentives and consequences) changes after making a decision on which path to take. Why I wanted this term vs just using cross roads is how illustrative the term "Commited" is to what happens next. Its like a "minor" point-of-no-return, that the game changes but  not so much as change your entire strategy.

One real useful use for the term is when I talk about social engineering or dealing with people in a social setting. There are "Favors/Debts", and there are "Pushes", "Soft/Hard sells", as well as "Conditioning" and other engineering type terms to illustrate the strategies one has to employ to deal with social constraints but one part that was hard to describe was "Committed Phase" meaning:
I'm always looking to make friends, I believe we change and that friends help us with their advice and perspective and having a lot of friends who are willing to give their TIME and perspective is always very valuable. Now when you bring certain elements into a relationship, you change it: you are enter a "Committed Phase" where your friendship is still one that is friendship but some of the elements have changed.
The classic example is lending money to friends. Its always advised never to bring up such matters around friends because it changes the relationship. ( Dan Arielly explores it in Predictably Irrational, but I forget the specifics of the page and chapter). This is an example of a "Committed Phase" and it applies to other actions that change the landscape of the relationship or "Game"(as in the game theory definition of Game). 

You can imagine that when you're talking to people and you express a hesitation to "ask this person out", then that is an example of a "Committed Phase". Or when you propose to a change of relationship, as well as realizing the validity or importance of Ambiguity (actions which have motives that cannot be easily discern or Impossible to discern).

In RPGs, the GM or the Players later on learn a more "realistic" scenario has many more "commited phases" that you cannot just retry or just attempting something, success or not, changes the game. So if you had to break down your strategies you can use CP (committed phase) to describe a list of possible consequences and consequences for even trying or even considering.

Its a great term to think about especially in light of Thought Police or where there is are limits even in the mind. That considering to do an action is already punishable, even if it was just considered and there was no action that took place.

You also then realize "Ambiguous" Actions, like certain kinds of "Flirting" which is permissible socially but can be interpreted as something or nothing at all. The need for "hinting" may be one of those tactics which tends to fall in "Alls fair in..." or in various situations where it is very hard to prove a particular "intention". If you've grappled with the Legal implications/challenges with Intent you get the picture of how this is a really big array of options and possibilities.

Anyway, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sins of the Crusade Episode 03, Season 02

Thanks to +Il Pella , +Wilton Heath , +Dan Mungham , and +Mike Dulay for playing.

Summary of Events

After the events in Taranto, we fast forward 3 months (mid May to mid August) as the Party has made arrangements to Sail to Constantinople despite the Summer Weather. Bohemmond and the party manage to settle their extradition, with promises of Doux-some title*  they travel east to formalize Bohemmonds oaths to the eemperorand earn his rightful inheritance from his father, Robert Guiscard, which is all the lands east of Italy.

The party made many arrangements and relationships changed and evolved. Tertius and Xeno's men have increased in number, although they still bring around their core and elite band with them when they can. Cato has increased in status, earning the confidence and place of confesor to the man who tortured him and brought him to ill health, Baron Dominic of Matera.

Joining them is the household of Lady Olena and many of the cast who may have bailed Taranto ship. Behind the Scenes - prior to leaving, the estates were "mortgage" to the Church at the desired amount need to campaign. This is roughly the entire "Net Income" of the estates and the monopolies for 5 years (an arbitrary number). With Papal officers as hostages they were able to get the money and leave behind Taranto and Matera to finance their new campaign abroad.

When the Party arrived there were many who greeted them (agents and solicitors), particularly Agents of various Houses. Xander (short for Alexios, because there are MANY  men named Alexios in greek since Alexander the great) of Dalassenos who offered the Emperor's courtesy. There was an exchange and Cato decided he would rather be in his more modest household than to be isolated in the Emperors' Guest palace. The rest of the lesser Agents and Solicitors were turned away.

Xeno arranged for his men, and let them loose under the guidance of Miroclones. They were all to rest for the months of journey they endured and to rebuild morale and confidence. Xeno went to explore the City an Berthold with him, they were looking for answers to questions about the events in Symrna that led to his capture and enslavement.

Xeno and Berthold had to dodge spies, a common pest found in byzantine court. Naturally very cunning, they were able to conceal their movements and finally disappeared into the crowds of Constantinople. They met with Marten of Bucarri, a retired captain who had a very politically neutral reputation. he had no great commission, but did not have many enemies. Xeno knows he is not clean, but cannot say he was dirty from the stories he heard as he served in the Navy.

Marten received them with great skepticism and suspicion. Still he listened, as something about Xeno made him a credible man despite his undisciplined appearance. Xeno talked about Symrna and the raid that happened 8 years ago (1084) when Tzarchas attacked and captured the strategic city and port. Marten has little to say to Xeno except that his story would have bring great interest to one of the generals, and the first one to approach him about it he should tell Marten.**

When they left Marten they stumbled on a high born youth and lady who were being harassed by thugs. Xeno made them out as soldiers, and approached them while Berthold covered him with his bow. Xenos' voice carried across the busy square and people turned to look, the soldiers were cowed and could not make their move when the attention was all on them. They made their presence scarce. The Lady thanked him, and asked to speak with them in private as they were one of the many solicitors who sought Bohemon's audience.

Xeno brought them to his ship. Where they talked, he learned he was Peter and Lady Belanca of Aaranal. It was a mother, a distractedly attractive lady, pleading for a commission for her son and her son did not know the humility to ask for such. Xeno could see the boy as less than a man (not yet 16) and has very little discretion. He would allow him service under him, as a commander if he would bring to Xeno 20 men who would fight for him in a months time. Peter looked disappointed and tried to hide it, and a mother looked worried.

A commotion got loud outside the ship and when Xeno came to look there were men brawling with his own men. They attackers tried to burn the ship but only stopped short by burning the unloaded supplies and goods near it. Xeno rallied the others and pushed them back, Rjugot managed to stop a bolt with his shield as flew to Xeno and Peter was able to cut down and route some men with just his short sword. The docks were not like the ship and Xeno survived by Fate, only losing a few men and manage to take down the ambushers who quickly fled when their first attack was rebuffed.

Impressed with the youth's prowess with the blade, Xeno gave words of encouragement in seeing Peter come with his 20 men. When they examined the bodies, they were under the command of their former master Constantine Umbertopolous (aka Umberto).

Meanwhile Cato has the help of his loving brother in having Bohemmon's entourage settled in. He managed many things, and was a terror to his servants in getting many of the other details done. And when he thought he had time to rest is broken body, Dominic starts calling, seeking him. Taking his mercenaries Velus and Mathew. Dominic had solicitors and he had to rebuild his staff, as many has abandoned him when he mismanagement of his estates.  When Cato arrived he found Xander of Dalassenos filling Dominic's head with garbage and inside the clutches of who ever Xander may really be working for.

Many solicitors but Cato was only interested in the non combatants, after filtering them he found them of use - first was a (Charlatan) healer, as if he never heard of so much none-sense come out of one place, second was a discharged student Jurist (aka Lawyer) who seemed to have been discharged for his relationship for his master, and lastly a Slav who claimes to be a Greek pyromancer. While Cato added these characters to his staff, Dominic was under the impression they worked for him.

Xeno brought word of their former masters betreyal and many agreed they better clear things up with him. Bohemmond being aware of all such affairs, wanted to meet this Frank who worked for Greeks and had his own many questions to ask him. Insisting, Cato had no choice to let his master and Tancred join them.  

When they arrived in the estate, it was already dusk and many of the city lamps were lit. The estate looked dark and when the servant was made to approach the door he found it open and a feast laid out, Berthod is first to investigate. They all go in and find the candles burning low (in food preparation it deters flies and other pests), and many of the lamps not lit. They could hear Umberto talking and they called out to him from in the dark house. He replied, a figure framed in shadow. He says its a bad time, and apologizes to them. When they asked why he sent his men to attack them, he was silent and his head seems to drop.

While others talked to the Umberto, Olek, the Pyromancer, began to eat the cold food. He noticed an oil that was hard to tell, because that same smell was usually on him. He found it translucently on the floor, food and many places. He quickly leaves, with an expression of fear. Cato quickly follows him.

When a figure seem to move silently beside Umberto, The figure lit something and Rjugot threw his spear at who ever it was. The figure got run through and droped what blossomed into fire that ran through the house. The structure began to burn quickly, and white intense fire lit the walls and gate. Xeno and Bohemmon grab one of the heavy tables and ran using as cover. Trying to out run the fire's strength as it seemed to be focused on the courtyard. They break through the servants gate into a crowd that has formed try to prevent the fire from spreading with water (to no effect of some of the fire).

The crowd felt dangerous and someone struggled to have a clear shot with his crossbow behind the cover of people. Bohemmon ran for cover, tancred rushed at the crowd parting it. Rjogot was able to quick shoot his arrow at such a short distance. As the figure is struck, many blades appear from the shadows and the crowd panics. We ended the game there.  

*(note that prior to the crusade all the titles were very not as nuanced as Duchy, County, Principality. it was their introduction to the byzatnine regional system that created such nuances and the adoption of the high princely title of Duke)
** John Doukas is the current Megas Doux or Supreme Admiral, the Emperor's uncle Constantine Dalassenos (age 50s), and Emperor's younger brother Durongoi of the Fleet Nikepheros Komnenos,

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gaming in the Brain: that should Include Min Maxing myself.

What else was I busy with?

2007 i got married and joined an airsoft team, I know its 2007 because I had Laser Eye surgery at about Dec the same year. So i was 27 with such a metabolism that I could eat 3000-4000 calories without gaining much, after 30 I gained 50lbs (from 130lbs). Now the healthiest I can be without having symptoms of bad nutrition (canker sores, allergies, etc) is 165lbs trying to be within 1,500 calories everyday (how far my metabolism has deteriorated).

Took me 7 years to improve in Airsoft. 7 years from a Mindset that could not apply my gaming to Real life and always wishing I could. Getting hung up with so many things that did not matter in the long run.

Much of my team were all former Gamers who had families and no time to play. I still run games, its just 5am in the morning until my family wakes up and you can see me in the videos juggling that poorly. Then I wake up fairly early for an Airsoft game on the next day. I learned I will need to keep adapting my favorite past time in many forms that allows me to grow and thats changing and hacking a lot of myself.

What I learn in each hobby has to be applicable in everything else I do or else it gets forgotten. If its important a detailed report in my private journal of the entire Thesis of the idea and how I can simplify it to conditioned response or a simple mnemonic.

Now a days I need to simplify my running games and run my GURPS Fate-like lolz. A betrayer to the hard core gurps guys lolz. I think details should just be in the SIM games and not in the table top - because in an airsoft game or sparring match those details are done in less than a second but in table top game it adds minutes (IMO) per turn and in many instances (adding a lot of waste), what happens on the table are activities that GM and Players can wrap up quickly and push the story forward.

130lbs ( medium), 180lbs (A large), 160lbs (medium)... now I have a lot of ill fitting clothes lolz.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sins of the Crusade Season 2, Episode 2: Desperate Enemies

Thanks for +Mike Dulay , +Il Pella , +Alais Legrand , and +Thunder Clonch. +Wilton Heath was unable to join but gave a heads up early. 

I think there were many disconnections for me in this game, about 3, and one which put me out for a while.  

Basically what happened is the Party recovered some documents in Latin and in Cryptic Euphemisms, after murdering Reverend Father Peter and the messenger he was with. Their italian and philosophy allowed them to identify many of the nouns, but it was their Theology that allowed them to see through the religious symbol used to describe the situation. Basically it was manipulation of Baron Dominic, a guilt ridden lord who has had many failures and disasters despite being very capable.

The made all sorts of plans of revealing the ill gotten evidence, but all lead to a simple question: "How did you get this". When there was question who would broach the evidence to the lord, Lucretia offered but no MAN would suffer a lady to be placed in danger. Especially when the party has a particular guilty streak when it came to her origins.

Konrad and Berthold, again had a different opinion on the matter. Konrad being the most Classically trained offered her defense, that the "weakness" her gender had was her strength in this matter. Like all practical friends and loved ones, the first thought of a woman without adequate male protection occurred to them - and it was too risky...

But Lucretia had a history of not listening to her betters, and when she stole off Raoul and Berthold almost ran her down thinking her a Spy. She got a bit of a beating from Raouls horse but she survived and was able to make plans in how they will try to pretend to be emissaries and rest the evidence to Dominic.

The plan would have gone smoothly if there wasn't a whole army of co-conspirators who was in the camp. Also when the Party encountered the Lord, he was beating the Crap out of Cato to the tune of "Your making me hurt you!"

Berthold and Raoul co to track and observe the co-conspirators while Lucretia, simply walked in to the lords tent making him Strike her as she witnesses the beaten body of Cato. Lucratia, played by Thunder Joe, was dealing with Dominic and found a very confused and complicated person - "his good, but has a hard time being good".

Dominic was an Ideal lord, and met out violence and justice as would expected any christian lord. He also gave mercy when expected, and did not shirk from his martial duties. But even good and competent men are not immune to Fate and Chance, and poor management of the holdings and an aggressive neighbor made Bohemmond a boogeyman to him. In Peters notes, it was easy to demonize Bohemmond and make him the scape goat of all Dominics problems to get him to launch a surprise attack on Bohemmond - dehumanized as a the Devil.

While this was happening Berthold was able to have a quick pick of the key enemies, while Raoul was able to sow discord in the camp. The opportunist thief archer wanted to know the face he should aim for in the crowd and Raoul could feel the doubt of the lord magnified in his men, and tried to plant the idea of desertion instead of wasting their lives fighting.

You cannot turn a man 180 degrees but you an slow him down with doubt. When the letters were eventually revealed it had the opposite effect, gavlanizing the remorse and loss Dominic felt with the death of Peter, but when read aloud who is skilled in Rhetoric, the euphamisms were a slow acting and painful poison that drove a knife through the lord. Dominic's virtues got the better of him, and this demoness was going to be struck down - except for the words of Cato that gave he pause to see the blood he has covered his hands.

Enough reason surfaced to summon Lucretias companions, and when they had more to report swords and blades emerged from the Tent door. Raoul took many of the stabs, but dominic, lucretia and Berthold kept them at bay. When they left the tent the Conspirators were trying to kill Dominic, and Bohemmond emerged from their camps flank along with Xeno and Teritius to smash the army. Lucretia was able to call their banners and stop them from fighting Dominic and concentrate on the Papal forces Roger Borsa employed.

After this chapter we skip the Trip to Constantinople where a Norman Prince arrives to take his place among the great families of the Empire.

everyone got 3cps, and 4cps to give to others.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Got some Sparring Gear, Not HEMA but it would do.

Its not HEMA, but it should do till I make my own HEMA grade stuff. This is from STIX.

All I really need to spar is the Padded Sticks, but if we want to be a little bit more aggressive and attack important vital targets (like Head and Hands) then these would be needed. This is by no means complete, one should own a pair of "heavy sticks" any hard wood stick that would weigh 2-3lbs each for muscle conditioning and control. 

55USD for the helmet and about (4lbs or 1.9kg), 12.5USD for the gloves, and 8.5USD for the padded sticks. The padded sticks are easy to DIY, the gloves a bit harder, and the helmet is the hardest. This is their largest size. These all should fit an XL person. Sadly its really expensive to deliver it by plane to the US amounting to about $150usd from the quotes I get (the cheapest way is by Freight, which means someone has to buy them in bulk and sell them there lolz).

Compared to the Stuff in Amazon, its a pretty good price, and I can't find it in Aliexpress and the Local "Ebay" called Sulit aka OXL. 

Like I said, I'm a bit deviating from Gaming RPGs, but going more into Simulations and trying to apply my gamer mindset in my health. I am about 36 and I really need to pour more hours of my day into fitness. As a sedentary person, I need to have at least 1 hour a day of light exercise or 10k steps/8km a day. 

Not HEMA but a Great beginner set

This is meant to be used against "live Sticks" or best padded sticks. There is really no point in hurting the person, the ideal is to be able to make full strength blows that are safe. The grade of the nylon fabric is fine but many of the parts are made of a light but rugged upholstery pleather. The more fights he better, the less injury the more fights. 

Knowing the cost it takes to make this, STIX is the Original Manufacturer. They get their materials from the textile manufacturers themselves (I would know since its the only local textile maker in the country) instead of wholesellers and this the lowest it can go. You are getting this with no middle man adding to the cost. The company has a pretty good marketing arm, but very small which means it has minimal effect on the prices. 

But you cannot compare this to HEMA stuff which is mean to be used against spring steel. The pleather would be terrible against it and would require some repairs depending on how strong the blows expect. Although if you are using wooden or padded weapons, this would allow you to let your armor be your practice target. 

So what I have planned is 30 second fights, padded sticks, and a Ref calling points for "control" (which is pretty much the same in Kali as it is in HEMA when I was fighting in tournaments in high school). There are several key drills and conditionings that need to be done, and the BIGGEST barrier is schedule since I have to make sure I recover well and don't sacrifice much of my sleeping.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sins of the Crusade Episode 01, Season 02

The week the party sworn themselves to Bohemmon, it feels a bit like some trickery. The Prince of Taranto has enemies, and they have begun to move against him. Their oaths are immediately tested, but not everyone took them willingly. 

A rift between Xenophon and Cato, Cato exposed Xeno to protect him and such betreyal is not easily forgiven. They have aired their grievances with each other that night, but all is not so easily forgiven.
A Norman scout, Raoul, discovered the suspicious activity and was able to report it. His witness expired, despite great effort to keep him alive. Reporting with detectable levels of inebriation and the lack of important details he was disciplined and assign to the new Captains, Tertius and Xenophon.
Cato presented the information to Behommon, who then heard the counsel of his men. Bohemmon was a difficult master to please, and did not like people to merely present problems but propose and offer solutions – Cato picked up on that only to be trapped to offer his services to “turn” the army on to Bohemmon.

When the party left, they moved quickly with 100 men between two captains, Xeno and Tertius, who can be mustered within the night and before the light of dawn they marched. Xenophon's 20 bulgars joined Raoul as advanced scouts, moving as flank guards.

Not long after they discovered the advance party of the opposition. They maneuvered and with the help of the bulgar scouts able to ambush them. Tertius, Xeno, and Bronn, maneuvered the forces that allowed them to set the trap, while Berthold captured its captain, a man named Antonious. They learned Baron Dominic of Matera marches against Bohemmon with over 1,000 men.

Antonious was tortured by Xeno, and was a hardened and loyal man – an Idealist. They are supposed to “treat” with the Baron, and to turn the force to aid Bohemmon when he marches to Constatinople... they realized they have a hostage, and they need to offer, them a suitable exchange in order for the lord to listen. They drew straws, and Cato drew the short one. Despite his cleverness, his friends know too well how to protect themselves from his sweet words – they hardened their hearts but gave them their promises they will make sure they get him out alive if things go south. At least Cato, was able to redeem some of his honor to Xeno.

When Cato was handed, word of Antonious's condition was learned and he was made to pay. Cato learned a Reverend Father influenced Dominic's and found himself with a lord desperate and afraid, and courtier in the cloth. At great personal suffering Cato overcame, and had the lucidity to challenge the lord's perceptions. Still his position as a hostage allowed his presence to be controlled and as the army marches Closer, bohemon has no word to Dominic's summons.

The Party also has also no word from Bohemmon. Taranto has been silent, no messengers or scouts have come to replace those sent to give word on their status. Already the army has marched near the walls, and waiting.

They decided to send in their own and investigate the Army camp. Rjot, Raul, and Berthold sneak in. They manage to seek undetected and come upon the priest, who happens to relaying messages to someone else. It became a simple matter, and they kill him and the messenger. They were almost successful except for chance that someone checked on the priest. They manage to kill them too, only to alert the camp and they ran.

When Dominic learned of the priests death, he appears before Cato with a knife at his throat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blog Update: Out of Prescheduled Posts and Hibernation

Hey guys, It seems that work has caught up and I can't update regularly for the while. Can't post regularly, probably just post some game sessions updates, but I don't know how my schedule will be until after Feb.

I will fulfill my obligations of running 5 sessions of sins of the crusade. (enough sessions until the VERY busy December), anyway I really want to RP and have fun while obligations can still be held at bay.

Its October, and November is filled with work and social obligations for Xmass prep, and Jan and Feb is the coolest and best season to go around the Philippines. Then there is plant OSHAS and ISO certification I have to focus on, and the bosses moved up the timeline :(. Then there is having no Nanny, and getting around to finding a DOLE (dept. of labor and employment) certified agency is just one more ball to juggle when I dont know how to juggle.

If ever I will be posting in "Trying to Game Work" blog since my brain will be filled with problem solving / gaming these challenges and blogging is still my "VENT" and way for me to constructively deal with my frustration.

There is a chance that this will be changing a bit more as I shift to Heavy Combat/Sparring, Airsoft, Fitness, and Community building, and various gamed personal improvement... when that happens I guess I'll have the time to meditate if I "turn in" my RPG bloggers "card" as I've would have gone off the reservation. My only claim to RPGs would be the Open RPG system i plan to set up based on the research I make for these hobbies.

Change and Age, I kinda accepted it and the trade offs long ago. Its hard to sustain things when so many things need our attention: family, work, friends, and curiosity.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Game Updates

Sins of the Crusades is running a second season. Unfortunately I have a big schedule problem, since we lost the nanny, and its kinda time consuming getting a replacement, I have to run my game earlier, in Philippine Time (GMT+8, or EST+12) thats 6am-10am. Although I can run it as early as 5am-9am. Unfortunately in EST that translates to 5pm which is still within the work hours of the guys over there, and people usually are available at 7-8pm because of travel and other chores. (uggg)

I'm running Games, and work is now more time consuming. My Gaming related hobbies have gotten more intensive. Like many gamers who are hitting 40s and up migrating hobbies to be more athletic is what is going to happen. Sitting down to game has to be more efficient and bang for buck, which is why I can't seem ever go back to Face to Face from the convenience and flexibility of Online (when schedules go to heck, Online has the least frustration).

Airsoft is my current "more Athletic Gaming", I plan to get into Heavy Combat as well. The rise and popularity of HEMA is helping have more ideas, best practices, and equipment available.

What happens to my Face to Face gaming Accessories, is that they become re-purposed for my son.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gaming and Visualization

There is a study about Visualization and Learning [1] and Mindfulness Meditation [2] that seems to a pretty good mental tool for learning and mental exercise (I'm listing the sources, the MM is in the wiki article that has the sources there).

To the point, it helps to visualize and immerse with your imagination all the details and sensory assumptions about what you plan to hone. To me this gets crazy when I game and when I zone out in a run. Details and nuances appear and come to clear focus and I act, in my mind, a bit faster and more intuitively. In a game, I'm able to draw more details out in the scene that may be relevant in capturing a deeper immersion or realistic feel.

It helps also learn a bunch of skills more quickly as well, but note that its poorer in currency than actual play... where the Hack comes is applying opportunistic use of idle time. Now this is where the mindfulness meditation comes in. The ability to meditate or zone out to mental places where you can be more productive with your time is a alternate use of the meditation skill.

Disclaimer. This is a pretty hypothetical hack and its really hard to observe and test any of the factors and products. Then there is confirmation bias and placebo effect to consider. 

Though if I find my mind wandering, and it happens to be visualizing at great FPS and HD quality I may want to visualize myself doing things I want to do in greater effectivity. Currently trying to remember all my old Kali skills from WAAAAAY back highschool and college days. Hoping that one day we can have Heavy Combat here in the Philippines.

[1] Schmidt and Wrisberg, Motor Learning and Performance 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Open RPG notes] Narrative Fact , Yes-And, and Yes-But

Basically some definitions.

I broke down Player Agency into some conceptual units - Fact, Yes-And, Yes-but, Gambit/Gamble. It is in my Definitions, adding more of the 3rd Gen conventions and concepts in the ORPG.

Player Agency allows players to make Narrative Facts about their Characters within the consensus of the rules and its assumptions, while the GM makes narrative facts about the world (same exception applies: consensus with rules sand its assumptions). Facts about the Character, the GM can only Yes-and or apply rules and their consequences (like the character takes damage or is afflicted with a psychological condition).

The GM wants to afflict a character, he has to go through the Player and the convention of the rules - He has an NPC attack the PC or a Boulder falls on the character. Narrative Facts don't just Happen to PCs, the Player has conventions in the form of Defense, a chance to protect himself. 

An important concept is the procedural - that Players have agency over their character but it doesnt mean their character is immortal or cannot "Play along". The Rules act as implied convention. Without going deep into Philosophy - we are all telling a story and playing a game, every action can be reacted.

Dangerous Facts. With every Action, there is a Re-action or unintended consequences.  What if the Player can turn a fact on the GM or another player. When a player reacts - making his defense, his perception roll, etc... what if he can make a Gamble, take the opportunity to sacrifice odds of success in return of being able to make more Facts.

NPC misses, creating an opening. Dodges the Boulder while pushing another Character in its path. 

Fact, Narrative (Fact)

Simply this is something declared as fact and true in an RPG. As a Fact, it has to be consistent through out the game, and accepted by everyone. A fact cannot be changed without some narrative justification – which means GM and Players play out the fact. But the Fact is also subject to details and more specificity.

A fact affecting any "Character" gives that Character a chance to resist. An Attack is an example Action, and Narrative Fact, that is trying to affect another Character. The character resists, with his defense.

This distinction becomes important when the Player or GM makes Gambles/Gambits, sacrificing their odds for success to have more control over the outcome. GMs also bribes Players with rewards to alter their Facts. 

Many game system mechanics automate and simplify the informing of all those playing of various results, consequences and facts. These can be “altered” or “specified” by more Facts that come into play. RPG is a game of consequences, and many rules work to provide consequences to actions - the more consequences the more options for actions. 

Exception: Characters can react and counter Narrative Facts - PC or NPC. 
Limiting Facts: The only limit is the ability of a Character (a humanized concept) can attempt to counter or resist a fact imposed on it.  


Yes-And means the GM or Player agrees with the stated Narrative Fact and adds another dimension to the fact. Basically countering with another Fact, which may complicate or compliment. It depends on the narrative. Adventures are always filled with complicating “facts” and consequences to actions.


Yes-But means the GM can agree with the Narrative Fact on a condition. Unlike Yes-And, Yes but gives either the GM or Player the ability to turn down a Narrative Fact.
At default the GM has this power but players can have this when they make and win a Gamble/Gambit.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Experimental Game Hypothesis - Mental Health Care

Gin no Saji aka Silver Spoon gave me an idea of how Cognitive Dissonance can be healthy. The anime is about farming, and dwelt on the internal conflict of being a farmer - taking care of animals and killing them to make a living and eating them. Doubt is a virtue in some Philosophical disciplines which I wont go in to.

Today's (at the time I wrote this) morbid reality (reddit thread) got me thinking of declining Mental Health Care in many countries (looking at my own country the anecdotes of spiraling depression, debt and death seems to grow and the current traditional coping mechanisms, which is to brush it aside to buy time, does not work).

Since I'm a gamer typically I research and build the data into a narrative for it to make sense. Particularly the horror is tackling Mental Health Care. I'm imagining an investigation following the closing of many such care facilities, following the lives of these people which needed this system, and how it affects the psyche of a community as this psychosis is transmitted by the consequences of their actions. Madness, as a source of fear for the Players, is tackled in Kenneth Hite's GURPS Horror, and a bit in Lisa J. Steele's GURPS Mysteries (GURPS Mysteries and Horror is for any game system methodology and exposure to them will definitely arm the GM with more options and techniques in greater player engagement)

One can basically have a mystery where players are caught in the middle of the ethical dilemma that pulls in many directions (which is par for the course in engaging games). Particularly when they deal with "bad" people who are not "bad". When people are not simplified to good or bad, when there are "redeeming" qualities and juxtaposed with their inhumane vices. If the players want they can choose to have blinders and only to follow anecdotal evidence, but then the GM presents a subtle contrary evidence to mess it all up. (Typically the GM presents a biased view of non-verifiable evidence and testimony, vs the muddy uncertainty of facts in plain sight that follows a chain of evidence against the motivations of the players/ or the conclusions PCs are not suited to deal with)

The GM can prepare from a Web of various spinets, stories of decent into madness and depression of various peoples (there is many to be found online). It would be pretty dark, with no real villain except that the symptom manifest in some disturbing crimes and practices that are accepted in the community and kept hush. Willing Ignorance, Stockholm syndrome, Popular Opinion, and various cognitive landscapes/terrain that hamper most of the advance of the PCs. If the PCs are strangers, give them Isolation, if they are part of the community put them in a warm friendly bubble.

As for take away of the players would be the empathy and the awareness of situation - and a case study method of practicing player skills in Problem Solving (get ready for having no audience lolz).

Another is the GM risk a lot in narrating such a story as their intention can be misinterpreted/misunderstood. The GM will emphasize in the horrific and the disturbing for dramatic effect (duh), and present biased and callous information regarding everyday common place bigotry, abuse, and harassment (I'm a GM who won't risk reputation in running such a game unless its with friends who know me personally and trust me). Which is can be misinterpreted so easily, and triggering many to say the GM is just expressing his "real nature" lolz.

The GM applying a lot of penalties when PCs are in heightened paranoia (and trade off bonuses), checks to sleep, and role-playing many of the costs of being in such a situation (the cost of trust). Since its a game, the GM may grant many cognitive bonuses to morale when the PCs pursue stable and healthy emotions, relationships and attachments. Just realize a GM who basically put weight on the decision of a PCs to be friends with X and showing trust lolz. Definitely there are going to be too few people who would want to play such a game (mostly the morbidly curious).  But in such a game, there are times when even bonuses are not enough and the unlikely success happens, everyone rolls to see how things turn out.

 1 session is not enough and is just the Pilot episode. Just 2 sessions would be momentum going, and 3rd will be emotionally draining for everyone.

edited for clarity and painful to read grammar :(

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fallacies and Biases: Attacking the Source and not the Argument.

My brother loves DnD 4e, and I've not run as much games in 4e as he has. So I'll take his word over it even I have the same impressions as many people who dont see it as good because of it. Unless I really run a lot of games about it I can't really be all that objective about it.
The system I currently use, GURPS 4e, you will hear me bitch and whine about it (in a very constructive way).

Again the bias of who said what. Trying to over come that. Poisoning the Well, Courtiers Reply, and a couple more Fallacies deal with the source vs the argument - which makes then a fallacy. It should be because my friend or brother said so - of course the reason why I take their word over others is the assumption of Good Faith. Still, I believe one can assume good faith even with strangers.

It doesn't mean be gullible BTW, there is still the Burden of Proof and Proper or a Clear Thesis needed. When people over generalize, which is mostly the case (ex. of a bad form is the "begging the questionDid Warrior Women Exist is a classic example of Poor thesis, lack of a clear thesis, Over generalization, shifting goal posts, and, lacking burden of proof and then some lolz*)  You will notice that a Proper Thesis is basically the Steel Man approach to argument, which is cited as the best way to have an exchange of ideas. Asking for a Steel Man Thesis is a very good sign of good faith... and this is where arguments can happen - Give me a Steel man, heck give me your steel army - but remember if we don't agree in definitions this process will end.

And another note, never argue with someone you cannot quote back what they say (especially while you, yourself can be quoted). Funny also is when they can't quote you and they say you implied such but they can't quote you by what you said that made the implication uggg sigh.

And as all my friends did say - its the Internet, never assume Good Faith. Actually in a pragmatic Game Theory kind a way, yes they are right. In any game that allows for Free Riders  then there will always be Free Riders, or there will be those that will Exploit the system deriving maximum utility with no care for repeated participation. (if there are no free riders, then there must be another element in the game not factored correctly)

I try to have the energy to argue because I'm afraid of being too set in my ways to be able to change my mind when reason and evidence are presented to me. This goes for Gaming as well, I have a hard time when I have no counter point perspective of someone else - with different goals, perspective and ideas - to remind me of my own biases. The accommodation style of gaming ideally allows me to differences while being able to bring them all into a narrative everyone can enjoy.

I get it - when you have so many responsibilities and obligations, who has time to argue (only the young). But like in how we fit our obligations with real life duties, we find a way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Selective Humanization

Humanization and Dehumanization is something we exercise a lot in RPGs. We humanize our characters, our NPCs, and Allies, and we dehumanize enemies and other characters in order to simplify the problem solving and the context of the situation. (Humanism is a philosophical stance that can be religious or secular)

Story Tellers, players or GMs, play around with this Humanizing and Dehumanizing their surrounding NPCs. Gms and story tellers like to challenge the players or audience by Humanizing Villains, and Dehumanizing allies and the victims of the characters actions (to see if they will continue to abuse these victims).

The strange narrative that is found online in recent events talks about dehumanization, particular of women (see Objectification). Although I don't like to limit it just to gender, but like to observe its selectivity in poverty, nationality, ethnicity, and even online.

The funny thing about dehumanization is that "good" people do it to "sociopaths" dehumanizing sociopaths/psychopaths. Treating someone as disposable because they do not fit our own standard of morality. Then there is Animal Rights and applying Humanization or Humanism to being we cannot fully understand but we discover little by little can feel as much as us.

Its a really complex topic, and RPGs are a great vehicle by which we can explore the issues... especially when there is good faith among those participating.

One thing you have to note about Dehumanization is that it happens internally, and it can become a common practice among a group of individuals. You cannot really measure it, or say one thing dehumanizes X or Y. Which leads me to an annoying point is that - you cannot have an Authority call for what dehumanizes in such a simple call - especially when there is colorful rhetoric instead of bland and neutral analysis.

I love flowery words as much as an audience, but to maintain good faith I need to describe things in sanitary and measurable terms. Especially in a matter as tricky and confusing as Dehumanization. My fear, which was realized, is that it can be used as a form of "Heresy" - an arbitrary excuse that can be called upon to incite fears to set on another person the Burden of Proving Good Faith - instead of just by the merit of the argument.

What is a bad sign for me is that I can only talk to my friends about these maters, because they can vet me and know I mean well when I ask. Although that should not be the primary measure of discussion - instead  what should be focused on the argument. Many Fallacies are based on Poisoning the Well or Attacking the Credibility of the person who asks, Guessing their intent instead of looking at the Question/Argument/Thesis.

Dehumanization and Humanization is a great metric to measure our own biases. it can be simplified as a basic system of ratings. How people dehumanize minorities, slaves, poverty, cultural enemies, etc... How they humanize their peers, ideological compatriots, countrymen, etc... its a simple tier system and grouping. I like exploring it in game, and testing the selectivity of characters (as the Players internalize them).

As we humanize interesting connections arise, we connect to something we may know little about - the way propaganda tries to make people connect with its leaders despite how disconnected they really are from each other - or how people that are suffering the same tragedies are all connected but may be in opposite ends of the conflict.

We humanize people with the mental disability in empathy, but we dehumanize sociopaths/psychopaths. Can you humanize your predator or abuser? lolz anyway I wanted to pointed that this is fun aspect of RPing. happy gaming.

Open Humanization System

Break down society in Gender, Wealth, Ethnicity, Race, Religion, Profession, Nation, etc... Along these groups there is a hierarchy, one is "subjectively" better than the other. For every step or category someone is different, that counts as a modifier to how the PC humanizes or dehumanizes another person.

So a PC has a Social Position - where he is in society, if society was a map and the differences were locals. The farther the another person is in the Society map, the less they can care about this person. Empathy is the Highways or Worm Holes or Warp Gates of Humanization lolz.

Then we set what is Neutral and what is Positive, then negative. Neutral is 0, what counts as 0 is almost arbitrary. Typically the minimalist relation - their culturally related individual. Then we proceed to be negative as we go farther, and positive as we go closer. Examples found on the character sheet in the form of their "relations".

Notice how this Falls in the Hyperbolic Discounting but in Relationships instead of Utility.

A diety is the highest possible Humanization rating. Since it is a projection of one's self, the humanization of an Ideal or Diety grants great influence over the character. This can be used as an external influence - for devotion or even Fanaticism, or rallying for a Cause.

This also aids in dehumanizing as well, which history is rife with examples.
You can always use a Diety as an excuse or a cause to rally behind because it appeals to the most humanized being the person knows.  This can be used in many ways, often exploitative (abuse is a dominant strategy of utility maximization).

Lolz. basically people who don't trust them selves are those with the least influenced by this Mnemonic, while those very sure of them selves are the most influenced by this form of leverage.
This mnemonic can exceed the natural instinct of self preservation by making the self an external element - seeing ones self of very low value and the claim of a greater value outside ones' self.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More Player Agency. Incentive Points.

I'm a fan of narrative games - house of the blooded is the only I've played but I've followed +Tobie Abad's Tagsessions which play mostly such games. I love the Initiative and the  "Player Agency". I like reacting to the players being unpredictable. I like going with the flow, and when there is a flow I can read players better and know how to better prime a situation for more drama and excitement. It is controllable, if you are not too attached in doing things in a particular way.

You can do that in GURPS, its under the rules of Influencing Success B347. Players have the power to use CP to buy success (buying success rule) and influence the kind of success (player guidance). Lastly, you can BRIBE your players to act on their disadvantages a certain way.

If I were to Teach New Players into GURPS, those of a different point of view, I would like to show them this Narrative Side using Wildcards and Influencing Success rules. Actually it is possible to have multiple ways of enjoying the game, as long as everyone gives each other the space or spotlight. You can play GURPS like a simulations or like a storyteller/thespian.

To gamers where certain details matter - , like the number of shots, the halfswording technique, if the armor edge protection, etc...  This may not be for you but do try it out.

Influencing Rolls (B347)
I allow buying success rules to spend CP for success
I allow player guides rules to allow the Players to influence the nature of a success.
BUT, I reserve the option to "give" (Bribe) the player CP (1cp only) in exchange for the player to act on their disadvantage in a particular way.

So basically Imagine GURPS Lite with the Core System, Wildcard Skills, and Influencing Rolls and GM bribery. Its like a Fate mishmash with GURPS but the detail can be scaled (or called upon) if you want it to be. Its a great medium for a GM to try out Fate from GURPS, or Fate to GURPS.

In Other Game Systems

Its as simple as making XP into a Currency of Character Development for Bribes and Costs for Dramatic Success. It can be done with any system since you can influence the die roll. the GM can even "recycle" the spent XP or Character Dev Commodity into a "fate pool" when a Player spends a lot of his "points" to alter success they get a different set of incentives and challenges. 

Example in a DnD Game, XP is in a currency of Points related to the Level. The higher the level the Higher the Points are worth in XP so it always stays the same to the PC, X no. of points is equal a level. Now the GM Bribes the Players with more XP influencing their character, while the Players spend Xp to influence their Success. 

You dont have to stop there, XP spent in this way may go somewhere. This is where some Home brew guys will get a lot of fun. Making XP benchmarks and what it does. It can be based on "Alignment" or the "Class", goes into their reputation, or a secret random kind of fate (a mixed blessing). After enough XP in this "fate pool" something happens. The PC can have kinds of nemisis, a lover that brings problems, a family with a lot of responsibilities, etc... they can have a low level but their Fate has more in store for them than they can potentially handle. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Community Building Focus Transition.

I will be changing content direction slowly. I have a ton of old posts and material, which I will evolve to be more System Agnostic. Game in the Brain will be shifting to Open Gaming Community Building.

This means DIY Projects, Organization, Consolidation, and Sharing of best practices in Open Gaming. This is not just RPGs, but any form of Gaming (including some LARPing, Heavy Combat, Adventure Games, and Combat sims). It is moving away from the traditional model of Gaming where we produce a product and sell it, instead we build a community which enables the people to Game by their own terms.

Community management is being able to create an environment that draws the resources of a crowd  and manages the negatives of diversity, dissent, and personal tastes and goals. Inclusive, the focus allows families to find more avenues to play together, and play with other families. Its a gaming community that is not just an Adult pursuit, where parents can have their children participate in creative and constructive ways. Where they will learn many skills through these pursuits as well as socializing with a range of people, topics, and disciplines.

I believe through this model Artists, Writers, and Designers can find a more sustainable means by selling their services and modular products designed to grow the community and lower the entry, complexity, and personalization barriers.


  • Open Gaming Starter Kit   - This defaults in the Philippines because I only have local knowledge of how to source materials there. But it serves as a template of how to create user friendly DIY instructions that include how to find the materials needed and benchmarks of costs. One thing is to tell a person how to make something, the harder part is finding the materials given the limits of their surroundings. 
  • Racing Game System - A simple system that allows parents and children to play with the cheap Die-cast cars in a friendly competitive race game where they can make their own maps, cars, devices, and genres (from Tokyo Drift, Off-Road, to Post Apoc Road Warrior, Prison Death Race etc...). Take your map ma
  • Templates for the Creation of Custom War Games, RPGs, and other Table Top games.
  • DIY Repository and Wiki allowing people to speedily evolve their best practices
  • Finish that Homebrew Projects - basically projects where groups can finish together their Game Systems they set out to do. An exercise of project management, creating feasible deadlines and objectives, and working with all the limitations. Growing the Skills that can be applied to tackle anything really. 

Why this focus

In the Freemarket of Ideas, things Change and Evolve. I believe that we are transitioning or creating a niche where Gaming is about community building through playing together and making games. Game in the Brain cannot be just one system, since that is a dogmatic approach and should focus on a more Adaptive Approach to gaming - evolving best practices and allowing real life skills to be honed as we play. For me, Gaming as a Coping Mechanism for learning, dealing with difficult problems (both personal and professional), and Socialization. 

There is room for Gaming as a traditional product that needs to be sold to a market, but we are entering an age where knowledge and tastes are more individual and nuanced. that Gaming is more about relationships with others than the Game System, and realizing that then cultivating a community that is sustainable, and able to draw from many positive habits will create a better game experience and people who feel better about themselves and their situations.  

There will be barriers for entry, learning, and personalization. This is where artisans come in, producing services and goods to grow the community, allow greater personalization, and improve their craft and skills. 

Its not for everyone. Its indeed Altruistic, and everyone has their own disposition and circumstance where this perspective does not work for them. Its just an idea, and its only looking for those who share in it and its goals. The more the merrier, and we get to learn from each other and feel good knowing others are learning and sharing as well.

Consider such a community an exercise in Diplomacy and getting along with minimum use of hard tactics and authority (and being very open and honest despite the cogntive biases that reduce the common good with honesty). Minimize Externalizes and Manage Conflict and Dissent and Difference of Perspective. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Anygame System - Gamer Guide to Small Wars Manual part 1

Any Game System or GM will benefit from this Free Public Domain Book! It will highlight Tasks  any Adventure (aka Operations) the PCs will engage. Note that this book has Pack Animal care and logistics notes, which can be used and translated into your Game Systems' needs (some thing that is not covered by many game systems).

I will highlight some chapters so you can easily digest this massive book from the most important and relevant gaming pieces to the more theoretical and strategic elements that may be important if your game goes there in a series of posts.

Logistics in the Game

For every detail the PCs cannot perform with mastery consider noting it down. Skills like Packing, Organization, Recon, Basic Navigation, Leadership and Due Diligence are often done in conditions where someone practiced and proficient can succeed almost all the time. But when there is room for failure, this is where the GM can roll for where some internal challenges can come up. No plan survives contact, the GM has to make the internal challenges happen to test the adaptability of the PCs

Basics. Check out Infantry patrols> the March (6-38 p.23-34)

It talks about Rate of March, Load, and Bivouacing aka Camping!
If your game system has no rules for this, you can make them up using these practices. GURPS covers the marching part pretty well (but you need to set limits) , but not the Camping part.

SWM 6-40 Rate of March
Basically its 45min march because there is 15 min breaks. Breaks that go to fixing packing gear and hydration BUT see the book for more of the details the GM has to consider.

Even if you have minimal experience of the outdoors you will notice natural paths, worn trails, and difficult terrain. This is really a matter of awareness and familiarity, witht little experience and reflection you will notice these details. These practices (the book) is there to mitigate risks and because time and effort are of short supply, people tend to march the safe route - a visible natural path or worn trail. To deviate means to risk bad footing, which penalizes people in progress or the chance to injure themselves. A shortcut through difficult terrain is very difficult to capitalize because of the level of exhaustion, coordination (they have to be together, you are dragged down by your weakest team mate), and the risk of injury. Once you've sprained or injured you're leg, like pack animals, it has very serious consequences. So common sense - stick to the path, unless you're so good in navigation or survival you can pick out a path hidden by the foliage (if there is another PATH, the GM is the final arbiter).

Pack Animals

Important points in Packing 3-26 p.18
A successful packing easy roll should be 30 mins. Since this is can be a trivial task, the GM doesnt really roll for this If you make this whole march a task, one of the road bumps could be in the packing.
Mounted Detachment > Care of Animals >
Rules for Handling Animals 7-9 p.8
Management of Animals on the March 7-16 p. 11
- you will notice that animals are not the same as humans when carrying a load relative to their body mass.
Spare Mounts 7-35 p. 28
Animal Encumbrance

you will notice it takes a lot of effort to take care of animals. Other than camping (see below) you will need to care for your animal - your mount or pack animal. A your "torch bearer" better have packing and animal handling skills.

SWM 6-58 Camping. 
Camping is done 3 hours before sundown, 1 hour to look for suitable place to camp (ask your the player who is tasked to recon for the best camp sight to make a roll, the margin of success can be used as a reference point against ambushers) then two hours to move into the area, clear it and prep it, and then set up camp.
You can guess why this is a big deal? (does the system have penalties making camp at night?)


  • Hiking is 45 mins per hour with 15 mins for breaks. breaks mean eating a quick meal, drinks, and readjusting packs. Re-adjusting packs mean load outs are important and good quality gear and efficiency is key. This means PCs that overpack will be penalized.
  • Hiking in Daylight Hours, longer in seasons with longer days and shorter over seasons with shorter days. 2 hours before night fall, look for a safe place to rest and set up camp. Assuming you have limited man power security and details eat up more time.  
  • Packing is time consuming and takes 30 mins for a skilled packer. Typically specialized, that means mobilizing as soon as daylight arrives will be an hour or two from daylight when you need light and want to maintain security. 
  • Animal attrition is at about ~20% over a period of a short campaign. So there is a buffer for how much pack animals. Animals are time consuming, having such adds to the number of specialists to reduce the time impact or it will increase the time it takes to ready and preapare. Without such you may end up spending 1 hour for animal to be feed and prepped. 
  • All the details add up and your hiking time shrinks, then there are other security considerations. A party moving fast and lightly encumbered will have to "take" their supplies as they go, this means they know where they are going, the odds and are equipped to face them. Note even Mongols did due diligence (making maps of Europe prior to invading). 
  • Factor nature, Magic and Technology, civilization complexity, and economics. A setting with multiple packing animal options with trade offs, magic in logistics, how communities are organized and where they position. 

My Jabbering 

Ignore it if it will ruin the above (most likely it will).

This book was around in the Phil-American War and was the traditions drawn from by the Philippine Scouts in WW2, so I can pretty much appreciate its historical relevance and has impacted how Philippine history played out.

I bought my copy of the small wars manual in 2010, while in Singapore in the Borders there. We don't get these kinds of books in the Philippines and I've never heard about it until I've saw it then, bought it, and read up on it. (I also bought the Combat Leaders' Field Guide 13ed there and the SAS survival).

I consider these book necessary homework for GMing wilderness and logistics. The "doctrine" and practice is present to reduce the complexity of a task and highlights the main risk each tasks most likely encounters.

It is in this Doctrine do I see more supporting evidence of the differences between Human marching endurance and animals (see Animal transportation 3-25 p.17 on wards and Care of Animals 7-5 p.3 and onward).  It also talks about the kind of attrition expected for such animals. Already the details and specifics about care speaks volumes of the kind of problems the Adventurers would encounter if they adventure without Doctrine or a Tradition to draw from. this is Biomechanics.

Oh yeah, Drawing from Military Tradition is a BIG deal. These practices are honed over the frequency of use, ingenuity and pragmatism of fighting conditions. These traditions are indispensable and to "Make them Up" as you go would be a truly fantastic feat of genius (like someone just coming up with Gunpowder in a low tech era!). You can guess why Nomadic and Migrant Peoples were special favored for conscription, once you settle people they forget many of the logistical consideration of travelling over great distances. of course we can ignore these details to have fun, but once you realize the gap of knowledge offered by tradition vs "winging it" it may come nagging at you how your Players Set camp, or how many daylight hours they allocate on a march, or how much manpower they allocate for recon, if they bother to deal with local guides etc...

One sure use of the SWM is GM Ideas. If the GM looks at the practices and the reasons for it, every lack of diligence due builds up the challenge up for the players. Although, I'm a fan of the players, and ask them to roll Administration, Soldiering, Tactics, Information Analysis, Observation, Strategy, etc.. etc.. when I see that they overlook something that should be practiced by people of their level of ability.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Weight of a Roll or Opportunity in a Game

Edited for Clarity:
Here is a funny thing about most of the systems I've read, no one gives guidelines as to how many rolls matter. I learned this from some Old School GMs who make it tough by just making me roll more, and arbitrarily choosing which of the times I rolled matter more.

Further Explanation: No system really talks about: That in a span of a session or event in a session, how many or which rolls matter. If you look at Combat Systems, which have more rolls than all the other circumstances in a game (much higher relative to in game time) you will notice that there are More rolls and each have various weights in how they influence circumstance. There is so much emphasis, yet if you step back and look at all the elements of the adventure: social, logistical, intrapersonal, etc... and ask "what should matter more?" its completely arbitrary. Like why can combat be a simple roll, (like any other skill) brings to light more of how arbitrary emphasis can be. 

This is a simple and powerful technique, and something that comes naturally in logistics, echoed in the For want of a Nail. If the GM so wishes it, he can make the entire adventure hinge on a nail or a characters life, a magic items survival, etc... . In GURPS it can mean a character can die because he failed a fast draw roll, or in other game systems that death can be from Logistics or Fatigue, or that one can only die by the hand of the enemy.

Why the technique is so effective is because our attention and memories are easily played with, even when we think we are paying attention. These memory errors come out more if you record your games. One Interesting internal feedback I get when I do so is - Thats not how I remember GMing or Playing it! The weight of the roll, when viewed more objectively outside the game can be manipulated, Skills to do so can be found in Verbal Self Defense techniques and many other Social management skills.

F* u justin why the heck are you bringing out this closely held GM secret!

I'm an open source nut, and my tricks are all in display, because I want to learn. Of course, you cannot execute any trick without practice - yes the f-ing reality that we cannot do things on the fly - only a logistician would nag this reality. So practice in privacy or among friends and enablers allows you to perform these tricks well. Its freaking science, there is a rational to the trick but it doesnt stop being amazing just cause you know whats behind the veil. For me, what is amazing is the work and inspiration behind the trick. 

The other funny thing about this trick is that it is used in conversation, its called "changing the topic" or "deflection" found in. Hell just using the verbal self defense listed give you an array of Gaming Tools for both GM and Player.

Makes you wonder if the Gamers Hanging Out  Community a Verbal Dojo where we practice facilitation by just  hanging out and listening to each other? What kind of conspiracy is learning to amicably listen to anyone willing to share their gaming experience, joys and frustrations has the self interest of self improvement.

In Narrative Games (like Fate and other such systems), Players who understand this concept cannot be controlled - as they shouldn't be because it is more of a collaborative game. Same goes in many simple discussions where everyone is contributing and no one is trying to dictate the issues without everyone's consent.

No matter what the system, the GM (and the players) should have power to emphasize what matters.

Because, even with this Power over the story the Players have the power to say your game is no fun. Awareness of the technique means, you can see how hard the GM is working to make it challenging or so that you can give the GM the opportunity to look deeper into the context of the situation and turn it around. And if both parties are trying to make it challenging, then the experience becomes more rewarding.

So we make a judgment on the GM based on how he uses such a power (like if he wants to share it).

So basically, the same Cognitive Framing techniques we naturally use can be further honed to surprising flexibility and adaptability as to help us GM better AND deal with people and life events better. *cough*bullshit*cough*

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dispelling Myths: GURPS is too rules heavy

There is only one way to dispel the myth and its to actually count the pages (plus notes on average word count).  Its annoying when people use anecdotal evidence and throw around opinion like facts. In order to quantify how "crunchy" or rules heavy a system is, lets go about its system and in its

Options are what fills the Pages of GURPS - options in Ads, Disads, Perks, Quirks, Equipment, Skills and Techniques.

Core System -
3 pages - Success Roll, Contested and Quick Contest Rolls, Reaction Roll and Damage Roll
Characters Rules and System -
2 pages - Character Stats (ST, DX, etc...)
3 pages - Social Background (wealth, appearance, culture, language, rank, status)
3 pages - Rules behind Advantages and Disadvantages.
2 pages - Skills and Techniques
2 pages - Character improvement
Game Physics
4 pages - Equipment, Armor, and Weapons
3 pages - Physical and Mental feats
4 pages - Basic Combat
4 pages - Hit locations, Mounted Combat, and Tactical Combat
6 pages - Injury, Fatigue, and Hazards in general

12 pages

I've tried using simpler language to re-write the rules of my own game hand-outs and you can boil this down to 1/3 as many words/pages. If I illustrated some of the concepts instead of wrote them down, even less words. Now here is the awesome part - add the pages of these rules to the FAQ and the Errata and then you get the entire bulk Data Size.
The FAQ and Errata should always count towards this.

Of course this all very easy to learn if someone was showing it to you... and many demo and show how simple it can be. If your frustrated or don't get it there are enough who are interested to hang out and talk you through (consider that as way to measure the community).

Advance Rules
Martial Arts - more combat options, more detailed rules on many aspects of combat.
Tactical Shooting or High Tech - modern weapon rules and some technique and skill options.
Low Tech - options and most importantly how the technology is used.
Mysteries - some social rules
Magic - adds 10 more pages worth of rules
Social Engineering -  emphasis in social campaigns
Mass Combat and City Stats - Macro campaigns - leading armies and nations.
Vehicles - making vehicles
Space Ships - abstraction and simplified ship combat system
Space - more detailes about physics and futuristic games.

OPTIONS per Book Gaming Model

The Options per Book is a great model that DnD was already pulling off that was later Refined by WOTC as a great money making engine. Options per Splat Book creating more nuances in essentially stuff you already have. I remember when Sword and Fist first came out, and how successful it came to be which became the standard marketing for a lot of games: Sell Options to Players and secondarily the GM. Many game systems followed suit. 

Now You may be overwhelmed by GURPS and Martial Arts but note how Two Books covers, one being the Core Books, covers so much of Martial Arts and draws from Historical and Real World martial arts. It also gives you tools to make your own stuff. If we are inventing stuff, I don't see the difference between the game designer and the hobbyist (which is a Courtier's Reply a kind of fallacy about the source). So yeah - GURPS gives you a lot of your not burdened by Bias for Authority - and a lot of Non-Game writers produce awesome set of rules and material which they share for free (my bias is to whats FREE). 

The trade off for all those options being in a couple of books than buying them bite sized is that there is a lot and one may feel obligated to read them all. If your getting value for money, I don't think one should be complaining that they got too much value. I think the writers did their job and the reader just needs time to digest - and its not even that hard of a problem when there is so many friendly gamers willing to share their time to help others understand. Take the Mook's stuff for instance and the bradley harvey's gurps youtube stuff and many others. 

In the end learning can be very easy, if you're busy google someone to help you learn it. 

Options and Implied Rules, the EUA for Players

If you're a GM and you want more realism, GURPS is not only your friend it is that End-User Agreement thats biased towards you. Its already in the book that you can pick and choose what ever rules you want, but what is great about it is that the Near-Realistic Baseline is the Implied Assumptions at how challenging the GM can make it. 

When a new set of rules come out, its a modification to the EUA between players and GMs. When ever someone chooses an Add-on Book, that's an EUA modification as well. If you are a heavy modder, that's parr for the GURPS course. There is no STAMP of SJGames approved needed, if it makes sense to you and you guys have fun and there is no Stigma for heavy mods as the rules are really very modular.

You don't even need to read the other rules, and most people don't. When I did my flow chart of GURPS rules I noticed there are many rules that would be nice and can bring a lot of realism. In face to face, with apps, spreadsheet and some automation they are great but in my current automation I use most (automation via Roll20 Macros)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Entrepreneurship of Adventuring, GMing Flowchart

Some Family History - my father came from a Roast Pig and a grocery store business (Lechon is common in all spanish cultures, despite how ignorant most filipinos that there is lechon outside the Philippines)  when he was growing up. In that very young age, despite how much business and work they got it was too much work for too little take home and the risks involved. He went into technology, manufacturing, and construction.

Working Smarter is something I really believe in, and I take it to my games. Which makes it a bit of a sandbox, because part of the problem of working smarter is the Information Asymmetry (as to which is the best way to make money). In that I have no answers, just propose the PCs to go what ever direction and I will bring the problems, details, and logistics that come with that strategy (the Case method)

With Sins of the Crusades, the War Beneath Heaven, and The Warring States - I've been trying to be open with various methods of problem solving as well as letting characters perform outside my own ethical preferences (where the consequences are subject to the same chances - sometimes bad things and no good deed go unpunished; there is no Karma in the setting).

The challenges of this method is Follow Through - which is very realistic. With the world of opportunities, we try out various things and some things have diminishing returns. It can be demoralizing and that's when the GM finds a way to light a fire under the players. It doesn't mean their path is right or wrong - it just means the world keeps moving regardless of the PCs own activities (a very Daoist or Adam Smith perspective, amazing how these philosophies parallel in this).

The flow chart below should illustrate my sandboxy method of GMing and help you devise your own method.

Some Points

  • Open Minded is key - because the players will always want a direction that may never make sense to the GM unless he is a good listener and able to frame the situation to be exciting to everyone involved. A lot of Freethinker (science disciplines) and/or Leadership skills (stuff tackled in many Business leadership curriculum - gaining consensus/buy in, small wins, active listening, managing conflict in a healthy way etc. etc....)  we are talking about Working Smart. 
  • You don't have to achieve this all in one session, but you do need to make each session something memorable and exciting. Well dont feel too much pressure, this is not a Job so there is a very low bar unless you involve money (like paid GMing, which monetizes good will which in studies behavior economics, like in predictibly irrational, make people act more like jerks).
  • Knowing your players and their buttons makes this all so much easier, as well as going through the catechism of cognitive biases to improve ones ability to mentally shift around blocks. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rules in Review - HT and Fatigue Rules

In GURPS B349, you find the Physical Tasks rules. Many of the rules deal with performance, but not the effects of performance over time which is where HT comes in. The measurable performance is a fine metric, but its actually just Half the picture. The other half is Fatigue, particularly Economies of Effort - what PCs decide to Do and how much effort they can put into it before they start suffering from Fatigue.

Running, B354 is where you find the rules for HT checks, where on a failure you lose 1FP. There is a simplicity to it, 15 seconds for running and 1 minute for Paced running. Like I've talked about before, from here you can basically make your Work related rules - HT checks for the character to conserve FP.

If you look at all the Physical Tasks: Climbing, Digging, Hiking, Jumping, Lifting and Moving, Swimming, and Throwing all of them can be resolves via HT instead of DX. HT is is how many Push ups you can do before your body tells you no more, it means how many pull ups you can do (I went climbing for the first time and found that I was my arms were shaking in exhaustion so I had to call "Down" for the spotter to let me down - That is an HT check). Digging is definitely an HT check, while ST determines how much material is moved, the time factor is his HT (every time I see someone dig a 6ft grave in a movie I'm like Holy crap thats would leave me hurting everywhere). If you had to jump a lot, like in treacherous terrain, then fatigue would set in and half your move. Lifting and moving is basically like digging and I think should have been a

My take at it is that it would have been simplified with WORK and stats for work output given ST, DX, equipment, and Skill.
  • TDM penalty. 
  • FP Cost for the Activity. Failure adds additional FP cost, equal to the Initial Cost. On a Critical failure tripple the FP cost.  
Long Distance Riding 
Here is the funny part if you look at Riding is not tackled in sufficient detail in Basic set. It is in Low Tech, LT133, where you read about HT checks. But there are no rules for Long Distance HT checks in either B349 or in Fatigue B426. So what HT checks is the system talking about? The only rule where you roll HT to avoid Fatigue is in Running!
Fatigue is the most frequently encountered struggle - everything in an Adventure is incredibly tiresome and we weigh how we best use our effort. An Attack can be foiled simply because its just to hot outside, or the warriors failed to pace themselves (see the battle of Towton).

Activity Intensity is difficult to measure, but it is more of something we can feel individual. Paced Running can be something of 120-160 heartbeats per minute for some people, while Sprinting can be 160+ bpm. More Intense activity, like Sprinting, would be another penalty of -6TDM.

HT check per...
15 seconds, a '+2 TDM, 0FP (1FP on a fail)
1 minute, a '+0 TDM, 1FP
5 minutes, '-3 TDM, 2FP
15 minutes, -4 TDM  3FP
1 hour, -6 TDM, 5FP
2 hour, -7 TDM, 7FP
4 hours, -8 TDM, 10FP

GMing  Work

I don't know how many people here budget their effort in a days work. With Immune levels going down with fatigue, and the myriad chronic conditions that aggravate with fatigue as well as the poorer decision making the most Strategic use of our physical effort tends to the painful reminder of how poorly we take good care of our health. 

So when PCs go running around doing things without any strategic efficiency of effort, or consideration of logistics these limitations should arise and give some problem solving and strategizing that becomes so useful in games. 

This also means the GM budgets the workload OVER than the fatigue levels of the average member. So adventures would take up every waking moment and more. If it doesn't deprive them of sleep, bring their fatigue levels into dangerous levels (causing them IQ penalties, Self Control Penalties, and other Temporary Disadvantages that come in) then its hell easier than a day of real world work and these can't be considered Adventures but VACATIONS! 

Adventures has worse risks than the worse day we have at work with the opportunity of a Vacation and personal advancement.  If you think in that way as your method of formulating an adventure, then players have to strategize and invest in the small but important things - like BEING HEALTHY for one. There is so much brains, strength, skill and dexterity can do and in the end of the day the Player bases his decision in the endurance budget he can afford with the cumulative risks that threaten them as they hit the redline. 

Of course if the System does not allow for that, you have problems. For those who wish to Ad Hoc that, you need to SET EXPECTATIONS. So it helps if the Rules are there for it, but you as the GM have the options to not use it. Its like a Contract with Fine Print in your favor.

Related Posts:

HT and Simplified Running.
will go through some further analysis by looking at various other systems and how they model fatigue.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Low Tech Education Notes - The Cost of Education

I don't really enforce these rules and details, that would be too much of a buzz kill for a game. Still when I tinker, I am aware that the world view regarding the details that go into education and how we are able to think and process ideas and experience.

Being educated in Low Tech eras in GURPS is expensive. 
  • 3 points for being able to read and write, 
  • 5 points for being able to do arithmetic past single digits. 
  • 3 points to be able to speak and comprehend the lingua franca, and being skilled in the language of every major cultural and trading partner is another 2-3 points. 
  • If you study and practice your language skills you will need research and writing. 
  • Savoir-Faire at least 1 point for decent manners. 
  • When addressing a crowd or speaking in public, you may want to have Performance or Public Speaking. A low skill may show as lack of confidence (a lot of those who shake and are visibly nervous when speaking in public)
  • You have to be versed with all the religious practices and various superstitions of your people, like how many angels dance on the pin of a needle. Theology 1cp for the faithful with optional specialization as Devotee (all the stuff you have to take on faith). The purpose of deeper religious education is fulfillment in lives of Sacred people and their practices, as well as dogma and teachings. If your pragmatist, it becomes a Political Tool allowing you to manipulate interpretations to suit your purposes.  
  • You would be marked as an outsider if you don't know the legends, myths, and stories and histories of your people with Literature and History. 1pt is every wive's tale, as you reach 4pts you can recite verses of these epics (since they usually in a form of a song or poetry). It should allow allow you some history rolls OR storytelling public speaking rolls at minor default. Also many sayings and expressions will draw from this. 
  • If you are in court or dealing with a lot of high status people you will need to be versed with History (dynasties) and know all your relatives and feuds and alliances, and so many juicy gossip to entertain you hours without end. Heraldry could be an Optional Specialization of this kind of History. 
  • Sometimes you are taught law if your family and people follow Roman traditions or Something Equivalent, especially if you are of a High social status where you are expected to play judge. Norse, Gothe, and Ethnic Traditions of Law can be useful because its knowledge of precedents. Consider these ethnic laws and traditions as optional specializations.
  • If you're really lucky, you'd have a Science teacher, Aka Natural Philosophers, who will teach you philosophy of the great masters, Natural Philosophy (what passes for science), Geometry, and Naturalist. 
    • Socratic, Platonic, Aristotelian, Hipocratic system, Pythagoras, Stoicism, etc....
    • Arthashastra, Bhuddism, Moizm, Confucianizm, Legalism, Logicians, School of Diplomacy, etc...
  • This does not include the training expected of a Warrior. It it is anything like boot camp, about 4 hours a day 6 days a week with a teacher from 6-8  on wards. The hours and teaching can be up to 70cp at just 16 in Physical conditioning and skills. 
  • In the East you are required to learn Divination (Religious Ritual and Fortune telling), and you are required to know all the ancestors and all the legends and stories. Your mastery of this colors your mannerisms and tastes, and marks your status. This is an important skill, because legitimacy hangs on it - at least at levels of IQ+2.
  • Politics and Current Affairs Politics would a more refined art and more of a requirement as part of education since there are many many vassals and lords and relations. 
  • Administration, Accounting, and Merchant are important skills since management of estates and holdings keeps many noble families busy and shorthanded. The threat of Scholar Administrators deposing Noble families is always a contentious matter in court, and the Noble families have to outshine the common born scholars as well as rise to the heights of Kingship amids the weakening Zhou. 
  • If fortunate, the education is well rounded thanks to the Hundred Schools of thought that debate and compete to be the formost school of thought in Zhongguo. 
    • If you're lucky you would learn Logic with the Logicians, Geometry and Engineering with the Moists, Psychology and Diplomacy with the Confucians, Law and Administration with the Legalists, Farming with the Agriculturalists, The flow of Heaven from the Daoists, Natural Sciences with the Yinyangjian, and if you are really Lucky (unusual background) probably meet a strange man from the far South west and tales of Inner Peace etc... 
Your teacher counts as a Contact or Ally and you really don't stop consulting him and your fellow students, your fellow students are also Contacts or Allies, and you have to come from money to afford an education (unless your parent is the teacher, or you are a ward or a household vassal family). 
If you didn't invest in an education, you don't have the basic critical thinking skills of 5th grade level we take for-granted in the present day (assuming your education was not replaced with BS).

Note that Ignorance is a tool of the powerful.

In the Modern World much of these hours our built into our life style and by the Infrastructure laid down by wiser people. The infrastructure of Education serves to bring the cost of education down and make the pursuit of knowledge a natural part of our daily lives (see the internet). All these points are "free" in an era. In later Eras Healthcare (through augmentations) may also be "free" in the same way, so will the tools to make for a dignified existence (IMTU the gov't subsidizes ship creation for this purposes, everyone is part of a ship to participate in inter and intera stellar trade)