Thursday, February 27, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes: Alter Visage, Body and Voice

Because Alter Visage, Body and Voice have a duration of 1 hour, a Body Specialist Adept with a Body Control-27 [16] (normal mana through a special familiar granting Normal Mana level). Casting the spell at Body-17, Visage-17 (-1 second spell cast), Voice-16 (-2 3rd spell cast). If he spent at least 7cp to buy up his Recover Energy and has Healing-22 [1] and Recover Energy-21 to offset the Low Mana penalty, then he can recover all the energy that was used to maintain the spell.

Casting Visage, Body, and Voice should be done 10 minutes between each other to allow the mage to recover mana to pay for the maintenance in time.

It would simplify things to have it all in one spell, but the three spells allow for a Staggered payment of FP!

6fp, pays only 5fp 10 minutes to recover the energy
3fp, pays only 2fp 4 minutes to recover the energy
2fp, pays only 1fp 2 minutes to recover the energy

16 minutes every hour, the character has to rest.

With Acting-3 Impersonation the adept can really take on the role of someone. Its not an illusion, and only Analyze magic can detect it as an ongoing effect. If there is Conceal Magic Item, this will penalize magic detection.

The only clue is the character being weaker and distracted, which can be explained by the Body Control mage creating the symptoms of a fever, cold, exhaustion, or stress to add noise to the detection.

There should be a single spells that just does all this to make it simple. The question will be how many prerequisite counts or how hard is the GM and the Player going to make it?

Custom Spells can be Perks (house rule)

I guess this is pretty simple, a Mage who developed his own "Technique" or his own "Spell" can just have it as a Perk. Of course these are simple or minor feats of magery when developing spells that combine to spells or do something that would be within the skill level of the mage but not written in the book.

I'll have Custom Spell Perks to follow.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

GURPS Wealth and Status, notes 2

I've always puzzled wealth, status, economics and the like. There are many things I would add to this:

The Elite Granted Equipment

The soldiers steel were owned by the patron (patrons that grant equipment). As much as the fighter pilot did not own his jet, so did the man-at-arms did not own his gear. Controlled Materials are really that of a minority elite granted as a "privilege" of a patron to their clients. 

So a Roman cavalryman who earned enough for Status 1 really cannot afford his gear which may be worth 2-5x his annual revenues. "Freemen" who equip themselves were often the landed type and had slaves or indentured tenant farmers for production and had a rather large amount of land by today's standards. Freemen were not freemen the way we know them now, they held power over lower status individuals and can be argued a different kind of elite. 

Example of such freemen were the danes aka vikings who employed slaves regularly, even the most humble of roman citizens all had slaves, many medieval farmers had slaves or indentured servants. 

Patrons granting gear is the norm in low tech world, which is weird to us who see patrons as employers in modern world (they grant employment and all the benefits mandated by the state plus something extra for loyalty or less if the client is disposable). Only sons of Lords expect to start out with their own steel and mount, and those hedge knights earned theirs from lords and battles of times past.  

Although this may not be as expensive as Sticker price on the gear. Note that many of these Armorsmiths are on retainer and produce a quota of arms and goods to their lords in return for minor titles, monopolies, and a their lords ear. So the banneret decked out with all the best gear got it at a steel since he got it from his lord who happens to retainer Mr. Smith. Consider the entire town who has to pay tribute and concede to the monopolies of the lord are the ones financing the Banneret. 

This may come as a shock and a disruption in GURPS rules as written but in the end of the day the GM just need to give enough to make the game challenging and to create the expectation and atmosphere of immersion. 

Note equipment is "conditional" they are meant to be returned to the lords armory (many things happen that allows the retainer to walk away with the equipment but not the titles). Note that the patron described is a modern lense of a patron (B73), you may want to add minimal intervention and Freq-6 to listen to appeals (that odd meal with his underlings to check on their loyalty or their go-between pecking for the same pulse). 

Incremental Wealth

In my current campaign, War Beneath Heaven, the party is their own large corporation. About 100th the sized of the most prominent in their country of Haven. Wealth increments of a smaller degree matter more in such a game, when Logistics can be boiled down to a roll and the Captain of industry wields his assets like a force to size and conquer various objectives and terrains. 

These days I find myself just keeping notes on the slight differences of the wealth. I notice its not for everyone because the macro style play is maybe for more for me lolz. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Competing to Give the Best Escape

Ironic that I wanted to be a game designer when I took my college course but ended up not wanting to play computer games. Computer games takes hours and hours to play and enjoy. I admit the high can be very addicting but the problem is that if there is no end to the fun there is no control for those of us with very poor impulse control lolz (an argument with the wife about why she plays SIMS and I don't play any computer games anymore).

If games were an activity like a Tabletop RPG then things are a bit different. It reminds me when our team got Battlefield (it was on SALE) so that we can practice our maneuvers for airsoft. Computer Games are still the best training for reflexes when I consider my other options and constraints. What is very different about Tabletop games is that it Ends every Session and the GM with "responsibilities" (lols) has to really budget his time when preparing for the games. This leads me to a different kind of computer game.

So a move is worth millions and people spend a small amount but many people watch it. A computer game is worth a lot more, has some physical requirements and can be worth a ton of hours. Some mmos allow people to give up a huge chuck on their life... not judging if thats what you think (I don't their circumstance and when you consider how depressing some situations are it gives some perspective). Still thats the thing, the Per Hour Reward gets better and better for games. If a game will give you a place to be someone you want to be for a good chunk of your life its time well spent... The problem begins when games are competing to give you that escape for the maximum number of hours.

When games compete to grant the best escape, diminishing returns and competition has some very interesting and unusual circumstances. Sorry for using movies as a comparison, so a movie is (these days) 2-3 hours long and a franchise that goes for two to three instances and then there are the Mini-series that are getting popular - epic shows that give 10-16 hours of stimuli and escape. Then there are RPGs with the improving graphics that can give you a good chunk of your life and a story of your own... Speaking as someone who played Oblivion to get lost and explore, not really caring about the plot, and before that Dagger Falls, Mount and Blade, and Dark Lands.

I'm all for escape, convenient escape that is. The games I play and run is that for me, but I also want more immersion and its cheaper going digital. So another Niche, one too small and unprofitable for anyone to pursue would be a digital tool to escape, build worlds, explore other worlds etc... I guess thats what I hope out of blender game engine or ogre (there is ogre with python which is hopeful). The online Tabletop medium systems pretty much is the early version of this, and hopefully things more immerse.

I guess as I get a clearer Idea of this I'll try to make some white paper about this and make my tutorial exercises work towards this goal... lols yikes forgot the hardware cost for this (i will eventually need to learn to run a server to help in setting these things up and help in the rendering lolz.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to Think of Ammo

One of the BIG puzzles in load out is how much ammo. A 30 round mag can be 1 to 1.6 lbs depending on the ammo type.  Some doctrines carry 210 rounds or 7 mags including the one in the gun, and some more in loose rounds. Ammo costs money though, in the Philippines a 5.56mm nato costs as much as a meal for a soldier. Imagine a soldier 210 meals worth of rounds. Often soldiers carry 4 extra mags and their load outs appear out of a Vietnam era war movie.

Ammo is how many you can kill

So when I'm writing up load outs, I draw on much of the simulationist experience and the discussion I have with friends with their theories of how much ammo to carry. One telling lesson is working with very very low ammo capacities, like a Sig-12 or shotguns.

The exercise of using a shot gun or studying up on how shotgun doctrine imposes very hard limits to what you can do. Immediately I began and looked at the entire ammo load and think about how many potential enemies and use that to divide the ammo load to track with Baker's Dozen consideration of a miscount and more enemies being around than Intel provides.

Note you don't have to kill all to win, you just have to kill enough and many objectives are not search and destroy.

Ammo is Maneuver 

Then doctrine begins to make sense when you consider ammo load would be designed behind expected force and how much reserves such a military engine would have. So in the Philippines fighting NPA and MILF guerrillas, the army is expected to deploy in much greater force so they need only less ammo since their numbers allow for more maneuvering opportunities. In modern armies where they have to be prepared for equal numbers, they make it up with fire volume hence the much greater ammo load out (> 210 rounds).

In some aspects of maneuver and not just how many you can kill with your gun. Cover fire is using ammo to create an opportunity to move and maneuver, the more ammo the more maneuverability - strange way to look at it. But Ammo does have a weight and it does cost a lot of money. 30 rounds in the philippines is $30+ USD each to a soldier who earns about $200 a month. (very often cronie bureaucrats think in this way about the economics of a soldier in my country). Also consider the budget an army or an individual needs to practice, in the end it all adds up in cost. 

Ammo is a tool in the Art of War

Then there is Ammo in the perspective of Sun Tzu, it is merely a tool in the exercise of violence. To put it plainly - it doesn't matter how much ammo you have its more of how creatively you can think of ways to meet your objective within the limits of what you have (and that is not just the ammo). That means, the PC is designed to kill in many other ways and his tactics involve various other ways of killing - through use of environment, terrain, their own numbers against them, psychological warfare, etc.. etc... Note it is uncommon objective to destroy all opponents (it happens mostly in RPGs lolz).

for the Munchkin

  • Ideally strong and wealthy enough to afford to carry 7-9 mags. this is good enough for a force half your number or enemies of mostly equal in strength but less ammo or less armed. 
  • If you have <4 mags then make sure your stealth, running, intelligence, and equipment is superior than the average on the field. In gurps have 14+ in those and move of 7+ or something like luck
  • Be compatible - realistically you really have to go with what is logistically feasibly and not your "favorite round". AKs get no love in the philippines, so if there is a coup, 9mm and 5.56 would be what is mostly available. Be compatible with your team mates, use the same rounds. 
  • Be adaptable, use battlefield reload- use your enemies weapons and train to be familiar with these. It can be a 1pt perk to just be familiar with a large group of weapons. Seriously GMs should really impose unfamiliarity penalties because some guns are a bit crazy to fire. 
  • Check out shotguns. In the current game, against undead and monsters Solid Slug rounds of 5d6(2) pi++ amd 6d6(2)pi++ is really more bang per buck vs 4d+2 pi to 5d pi. Note that with such power you can blow through cover! You may have to check out the UTAS-15, Kel-tec KSG, the Saiga-12 (there is a bullpup variant) and the Remington 870 with Bullpup Kit.
    • Shot guns are your Gimick or Gadget Rounds! from fire breather, silver buckshot, blessed salt, solid slugs, and explosive rounds. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

War Beneath Heaven S02 E06 - Under the Heights

Quick Summary

  • The damage done by the crew in order to fight the magical swarms had its cost. It was worth a ton of lost business and security as it was made to the Cheng's base of operations. The crew called it a night and let the rest of the team cover for them, come early morning they night team discovered some tunnels along with the sewer system. Tunnels that threatened Cheng's operation in this vulnerable time. Cheng sent a bunch of his zombies to explore and less than half was able to return. Keeping guard and warding, the night team awaited the day team to survey the mess - good thing the damage was done by a miner - Fish.  
  • The crew had to quickly set up, improvising and making up a bunch of the equipment from remote controlled cars and picking from their portable wire-less CCTV cams. They expected water but a they were met by dry series of tunnels. 
    • Fish can make out a lot of details - it was feeding canals meant to bring water to a population that was above them, but has not existed for probably a thousand years. Canals also served many purposes, and it can be seen in the markings of people using them for other purposes, but none that looks recent. There were hints of closed off passages but he can't make heads or tails of it: was it made during the time it was a canal because it too had water damage but different - details better made under light and a mining lab. 
    • Merle had other details, he can see the zombie tracks Cheng has sent but a rather large limbless creature moving around recently disturbing some of the tracks. 
    • Bill was without much powers except to infra because of a botch. 
    • Speedy was setting up beacons for relative positioning reference since they had no GPS. 
  • They covered two km when one of the beacons moved and eventually disappeared. Fish first notice that there were closed off passages and something. Merle didn't like blind spots and something moving behind them was conflicting his better tactical judgement. The group moved to cover the rear, and find several passageways broken. They tried to tracker this fresher trail, which entered the closed off passages. They lead to a fork and a strange clay door. 
  • They examined the door and came to slightly different conclusions - consistently it seems a woman crying and sobbing, what seems like pleeding and the sense that there was wilderness outside. The figures seemed to be under some tree and the wind rustling the leaves. Fish can hear the crying and asks if the crew wants to open it. He opens it for them, and see what appears like a thousand year old mass grave. In the corner what appears to a mummified woman holding swaddling clothes. 
  • When Bill manages to do a Magical Search, he senses the presence of sentries approaching. Guards made of stone, bone and metal charge at them. Powerful and with the regalia of royal retainers they assault the crew - but this is not their first rodeo. 
  • Things were quickly moving one way, till an unexpected visitor appears - one of the serpant men that escaped the tower during the flood. (in some way it would make sense). Like typical adventurers they immediately deal with the threat ASAP. Merle manages to evade its attacks long enough to reload failing to shave a second off his reload). The crew got to check out bills magics, and Speedy was able to shoot the thing after two attempts with his Taser Gun. 
    • The Taser hits the first time but the creature was able to shrug off the effect but creates an unearthly howl that awakens the ghost in the room. The ghost wrestles with it at its expense, and fades away by the time the team was able to bring force to bear. 
    • Stunned and reeling back, Merle finishes it off with 3 round snapshot at the head. Snake soup everywhere. Merle has never relied on so much solid slugs before. 
  • The ghost cannot communicate with the crew, its voice slowly fading it leaves only tiny motes of light over the swaddled clothes. Bill investigates to see a mummified infant which exudes the magic he's knows has to do with magical companions and the vessels they reside when he touches to examine it a spirit manifests into a small child, not much of a toddler who asks "Are you my master?"

Thursday, February 13, 2014

GURPS SpaceShips: Getting into a TL9 Doctrine

So it can't go interstellar, and I admit it was painful at first to conceptualize a doctrine without reactionless drives BUT Iearned to love it after some inspiration... and it is in ICE ships!

Yes, convert your fuel into an ENTIRE HULL! I'm sure someone else has thought of this because its so damn simple a leap. In GURPS Spaceships you can make an ICE ship by making an entire vessel typically at the least SM+15 (700m x 160m x 160m) to SM+17 (1.5km x 300m x 300m) tanks and a hull of ICE! The way it works is that you have a Skeleton Ship (acts as a Spine and a rear module), one that is 1-2 sizes below this ship providing Thermo Nuclear Rockets to push the ship with relatively Low Accel. The Ice hull is held together with cables and material, with "Spiders" roughly SM+6 to SM+8 in size. These spiders dancing around provide repairs and maintenance around the ice hull to keep it intact and shoot at Small Debris that will damage the hull. The spiders provide manuver drives as well to allow for course adjustments.
In the rear is the Spin Gravity habitats for occupants and tech which still need some gravity.

These Ice Ships are the fuel but move the ice to cycle around the Star System. If you cycle between Mars and Earth (typically 1AU distance) and Ice ship will take 2 years to do the rounds... but if you have several Ice Ships you will have an Ice ship arriving pretty often, feeding the Economy with Reaction Fuel from Gas Giants. Travel within the system is hitching a ride on these ice ships. There is a bit of a steam punk feel to these Ice ships as they can be compared to Zeppelins with dangerous reaction matter all around the living compartments.  

Basically to get the right amount of velocity (mps) to get anywhere in GURPS spaceships you need a ton of fuel... like an F*ton of fuel. While nuclear pulse is how we get there in the beginning to have an entire economy set up for continuous travel without using Reactionless drives look towards a larger energy source.

The same technology for space elevator, is used to suck up gasses from gas giants for processing (but gasses are easier to transport I'm guessing). So its pretty much converting these gasses into TNR fuel. Stations send the ICE where they can orbit and be guarded. Where tugboats move them towards Shipywards to equip the skeleton into the ICE hull. Gov't makes forcasts on the amount needed and what is cost efficient for the economy and they build as needed to spur the economy.

The Freighters have a path and schedule (ex Venus to Earth, then Earth to Mars, and mars to some major Rock on the belt, then Rock to Jupiter). They accelerate and decelerate to make their schedule and stops along Space Stations (slowing enough for Shuttles to match Velocities to unload/upload passengers or special cargo). Against pirates, warships follow a similar logistics system with ice being moved around along with them. Some Warships are very small relative to the ICE ships and are launched from the Ice ship to match velocities and create an Ice ship. Tethered sensor spin around the Ice ship to provide better resolution.

Still travel is slow, and there will be a particular Industry that is meant of Taking Care of Property and Assets while the owner is Away. Since they can be away in 5 years easily, its not your typical Financial Entity. They have to be really really stable.

Despite TL10 technology, TL9 is still the cheapest way to colonize a system because of the industrial base is easier to build. Its actually TL10 but its TL9 is effectivity, the same way a 747 is TL7 but with TL8 upgrades. TL10 is having a more self sufficient and portable TL9 for colonizing.

In my writing I tried to make a time line for developments of technology and how it changed the industry again and again. Thanks to the table and indexing tools in libreoffice lolz.

Gas Exaction Technology

Gas Extraction allows for Gas Giants to be skimmed safely with a advance super strong materials to extend a "hose" long and far enough to draw gasses. The technology is not just great for getting gas but also for terraforming! Guess where we are getting the initial gas??? Venus lolz.

imagine extracting the gass and letting some of it liquefy and crystallize. Set it down a path where the Ice is now a Ring around Venus. Design the ring to shade venus and you have a two fold method of cooling it while fueling your economy lolz. First stop is Venus to Earth Ice freighters.

Oh no Venus is running out of its super dense atmosphere, begin seeding with biotech meant to trap X chemicals into a solid harvest-able form lolz. In the end Venus has two wide band rings that shade some of it from the sun while providing skimmable fuel for travelling reaction drive ships. Eventually the rings will be sustained, until there is a way to balance the energy Venus is absorbing from the sun while making mostly habitable.

Gravity in TL9

Because of BioTech you don't need gravity in a ship, although without gravity micro debris can accelerate into dangerous velocities... but then again Biosuits are standard. No gravity means dirt can really go everywhere, so gravity (even just microgravity) is there to keep things in order and to buffer against acceleration.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GURPS Templates notes: Write Up instead of Stats

Instead of the just the stats, why not just create a Archetype based on his or her SOP or Modus Operandi. Instead of stats, a series of MOs of various Archetypes may be more usefull.

Instead of writing out an Assassin Template.

Assassin: Hitman

  • Gets his job and clients through a Completely Reliable Contact (Freq-9, Skill-18, 9cp or Ally Freq-9, 100% power level 5cp; Typically Hustler or Hacker) who acts as a buffer, screening, and broker. He also helps in information-analysis/strategy since he gets all the information from the client. ($10k basic job cost; 50% goes to various contac). Another contact Usually reliable (Skill-15, Freq-9; 4cp) is a Law Enforcement ideally part of administration or back office, he helps leak information to the Team. 
  • His Method of Operation is through primarily opportunistic close range head shots with a small body pistol (Close-Hip Shooting Pistol-15; Fast Draw-11; Holdout-18). He takes 2-3 weeks to scout the patterns of the mark, and will look for an opportunity to strike in the daily routine. Longer if the mark is secure and alert, and this costs extra. The best is an unaware mark. 
    • Think of a signature MO. For this Hitman, parking lot hit by activating all the car alarms and shooting from inside a bag or jacket and then blends into the crowd. He tries to shoot them with their backs turned.     
  • He prepares with shadowing and observation. The closer the person who wants to kill him, the better since it gives more information to the habits. His contact, will help him gather information and basic research. He is an very good basic social engineer (acting-15, psychology-15, Lock picking-12), able to find excuses to get into places or inside personal space for information gathering. He takes pics and gives it to his contact for analysis and profiling. He has at least locates 3 vulnerable areas and means of escape before taking on a job. 
  • He has some armoury and very basic DIY skills (house keeping) used to prepare. He also uses housekeeping expertise to draw out his target.    
  • Notes: he costs x3 his Monthly income including his ally/contact's commission rounded up. His contact/Ally deals with the money security.  His contact screens for also the schedule, if it has to be done within the year or a month, the longer the better but half the money in small increments (less tracable).  He has $250k set aside.  
    • Hacker Ally is very important in TL8, he keeps the assassin aware of much of the electronic countermeasures and helps the assassin adapt them. He will be using a simple dialer and radio combination. At minimum, he prevents the electronics from being used against the team, he removes their electronic footprint.
    • He is a dying breed of assassin, and the new ones are poisoners who combines their skills with their other technical allies to create convenient accidents. back in early TL8 and below, this kind of assassin thrived without a hacker.    
  • In a game this can be a NPC targeting one of the PCs or hired by them. As a PC, the MO has to be adapted to at least fill in some necessaries: Filtration, Money Security, "Back-Office Analysis", Buffer, and Technical Support. This can easily be a Paired Character concept like the young hacker and the old hitman. 
The purpose behind this method is that the character Creator is to focus on what the character is going to do most of the time, and think about the kinds of f*ck ups that the character should be prepared for. As I was writing this Assassin template it was the write up that helped trimmed down the dizzying options.  

As a GM the write-up is all that I need actually. I don't need the template, and need more write ups for MOs. I think the players can use the sample template dedicated to a particular MO better than one that is switches and multiple choice. It gets the player thinking of how to be the character. The GM has to be a guide, and the GM needs the information in the write up to make informed decision. I don't know of other game systems that do the same, but I'd like to know. 

Think about the Soldier Template, now if I were to make one I'd have to read up on Philippine military doctrine (that is published) or base it on of The Small Wars Manual applied with notes about the state of present day warfare. I would write up the role of Rifleman, AR, Gr, TL, Comm, Etc.... then a Note on their Logistics and Expectations of their Doctrine. But Since I'm writing for the Fictional Nation of Haven, this is going to be more liberating (although I'm still using Philippine MO since we have a ongoing armed conflict with various fighters). I'm going to draw up inspiration from the Vigilante Groups in Mexico for some Milita Template and Write ups.

Its strange that a Series of MOs vs a series of Templates means you have to tie down your definition of the world or the how that world works. In my case I think about it as, how I would go about this in a Philippine setting. There is going to be need to be worldly and a bit of a Fact monkey learning about some demographics and statistics for some foundation (NERD!!!) 
I've made one for hustlers and "bad faith" business men, which is a great read if your going into Philippine business lolz (to be fair they thrive more when people are desperate and there is economic uncertainty, right now many of the swindlers I know either got raided by law enforcement and went out of business because of the minor economic prosperity). Particularly how Gray the area is in many business because it deals with subjectiveness of VALUE and that cognitive disconnect of "MARKET" lolz. It was a mental exercise of how people who screwed us in the past could have screwed us more efficiently. That one would merit maybe a 2 part post from the discussion of ethics vs what is practiced (and it isnt cleanly ethical lolz). When I made a hustler, I had to design him in a way that he had a day job so it eliminated a ton of strategies and allowed him to go into a low profile. That was a sad experience (because it basically showed me you can make a living fooling people). 

the Template (its colored because after seeing a screen full of templates its hard to distinguish here one ends and another begins)

Monday, February 10, 2014

War Beneath Heaven S02 E05: Big Trouble in Cheng's Town

Quick Summary

  • Intelligence Reports are that there are more parties digging into the Heights
  • Bill's been doing scans and there is large Bio Activity, and its coordinated. He reminds people that Swarms are a powerful and versatile familiar that allows intelligence gathering indirectly. 
  • Killian has been using his Coven contacts to find out any activities and movers in the area. His report is that no "Mage" has laid claim to the Heights and ever since OGW suddenly pulled out smaller factions have been eyeing the territory. He was following up a lead when all these mages (including himself) stumbled on scounting parties... particulary a Dragon in 4pm.  
  • Bill and Fish investigate, they get there and were able to observe various gunmen trying to flank the dragon. The dragon seems to be tearing up the sewage system and burning away the cockroach swarms. The swarm fails to hurt the dragon as it easily deals with them. one of the men see the HSS Drone an panics trying to shoot it. The Dragon is strartled and begins running away. A figure jumps off a building into the dragons back as it runs into the shanties. 
  • Bill and Fish ambush a gunman, who is filled with disgusting cockroach themed fetishes and jewerly. They get some information from him - The Kaeneen, and it turns out to be a mage who tries to uses the swarm to overwhelm the Fish and Bill. Bill uses a powerful gust of wind to crush the bugs (messily), the mage gets really angry and casts darkness and tries to grab something from Fish (but ends up empty handed). Bill and Fish flee, but go around to investigate.
  • They find the burned out residential building. Bill introduces Fish to magic and some interesting things happen. Fish can examine the arson pattern and determines they are scouting the area - possibly using the fire and collateral damage to move in. 
  • The Kaeneen enventually face Chengs people and the Cockroach swarms attack his fortified manor. Fish, Bill and Speedy (who free runs to get there) help out. Cockroaches everywhere and deals about 20k usd worth of damage to the mansion... Bill crit fails his magic which causes the swarm to grow stronger and fiercer engulfing him and others. Fish fixes the problem with 8lbs of explosive plastic and adds another 200k usd of collateral damage to Cheng's property. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why Networking is used explained in a Gamer mindset.

Networks are the easier way of doing business IMO, but that's not the impression that actually influence character builds. Sun Tzu's says avoid a test of prowess (avoid drawing the sword or going to war), which means if that I must explore all the other options before resorting to those with risks.

There is a red flag in the back of my brain being raised when I'm about to enter a situation that has risk, when presented in a way that there are limited options (false dichotomy). The condition response is that, I can find another way and there must be an answer that does not require a test. Why should I enter a negotiation (or a situation) where I don't know the outcome, its better be a negotiation that has nothing to lose and something to gain otherwise (where it will cost me something if I lose).

I'm coming from Call Center Background, I hated Cold Calls and Outbound Campaigns. I don't like it being pestered or spammed, and most people don't either. I know its part of work, but thats the result of match making (finding someones whose willing to deal). I've experienced too many fly by nights in the misguided effort of trying to salvage the business and having dealt with such desperate and shady people, there is a reason why we filter our transaction by who we know (renshi 认识, kilala in tagalog). In the end of the experience, when I contemplate Due Diligence was something overlooked too often. But the cost of due diligence adds up over time, so we use what we have and deal with who we know when we cannot give due diligence.

Renshi 认识 or Guanxi 关系 in Traveller

So I'm doing business with people in another star system. Even more is relationship and network more important. I like it when the GM emphasizes this because, it always boils down to this. Especially in my experience dealing with BPOs and establishing new markets and business. 

Introductions is a big deal and Social Occasions are also, I cannot AFFORD to be reclusive and anti-social as much as I want to. At least I'm not stuck with my anti-social disadvantages, instead I have my characters or if the game system does not have that kind of granularity then HAHA I don't have those disadvantages! Those disadvantages are what makes it interesting and immersive for me, we all have quirks and even the Pros have a "best practice" which shows where their strengths are invested. 

Basically, make introductions (crypto  letters of introduction) so that one has some trusted verification who they are dealing with. Socialize with the NPCs, lolz. What is funny is that its kinda like dating! Your trying to socialize with someone and they can come in all different forms, and you can get into some risky situations or even trouble before you make business relations. 

I'm the type who likes meeting people, partially because as a gamer I find myself running out of people to play with since they move around and get busy. I translated that to work, and the chance I can meet a gamer at work lolz. So anyway it is an exercise of being open minded and through that interesting things happen. 

I guess any adventure scenario can begin with a bunch of people testing and verifying each other. Think of the golf game where business people try to read each other while playing, and other hobbies where we get to know each other through the medium of the hobby. 

Enemies as Contacts

An Interesting thing about GURPS is that Enemies are people you know as well as Ally Groups. You can have Watcher enemies, that the character KNOWS. They may not like the character but the character KNOWS them and thats a good start (sometimes all you really need is a connection to someone who has what you need even if that person hates your guts).

I remember making a Fading Suns GURPS character whose primary build is that he KNEW everyone lolz. Enemies and Contact Groups was his special ability. That was a one shot so nothing much happened after that, but in my work experience, if you knew everyone and what they did then you would know who to ask, what to ask, and who can answer and how to go about making something possible.

Count Watcher Enemies as very unreliable contacts (basically contacts that PAY YOU in points lolz), what they are good for? Count on them to do tell your enemies what you mislead them to think they should not know lolz.

Contact Groups: Diversity

Gaming Contact Group: Having a Contact Group may be excessive... unless you can use that LARGE group for your networking. Imagine a group of people as a spectrum and the variance within that group there will be some odd fringe/outlier people who can provide some unsual connections for the PC.

So the GM may allow you to use a Contact Group with a Familiarity penalty. "Oh Jimmy here has family in the Mob/Gov't/Army/etc...  So Contact Group is really 5x more expensive than one contact but has more survival chances and versatility.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GIMP Tutorials and Lessons in Game in the Brain

its been so long ago, i think I've lost many of my works to crashed computers. Unlike today where there is a cloud and sufficient space to save works in, I don't think I'll ever get those works backs. this is as much for others as for myself.

I guess its not so bad to begin again, although it does take up a chunk of time to relearn to draw. But many basics are still with me. I've given up paper and pen drawing for drawing on a graphics tablet (45php to 1 usd about $26-46USD per tablet vs the branded ones). There are many important capabilities with the trade off of dependency. 

Trade Offs
  • Opportunity - I tend to draw in my Note 2 only. Its a mental barrier more than anything. 
  • Instant Gratification - Quickly save and store works. 
  • Easier to Erase and Start from a clean slate
  • Better Tracing - you can't exactly trace in in the Note 2. It takes some work with S Note to trace and be able to delete the picture you traced over. 
  • Transform Tool - some problems can be corrected by warping the image instead of redrawing the whole thing. 
  • No more scanning and cleaning process. Your processes is all on the computer so faster turn around. 
  • More opportunity to Experiment and Practice Velocity - save a version where you are at a cross road, then explore another path. Analog its one path and direction until you "complete", in a computer with saves I can go many directions after wards. more on this. 


Sherlock talks about limitations of the mind, keeping the brain uncluttered. Einstein talks about needing to remember something he can look up. Tracing is a method and tool to achieve your desired results. 

If you see how anatomically correct some images are, there is a good chance there was a trace. Being an artist is not a profession where they pay you extra for mastering a 3d image in your head, and Critics can be brutal. There are time constraints and dead lines. 

Some artist don't trace, many pros don't trace... but their proportions are way off as part of their "aesthetic". After a while you get to notice some limitations to the patterns of the human form vs the Ideal you and your audience desires. This gets interesting where an artist compromises, or where he seeks strength. The artist who don't trace have a bit more freedom, but still are limited by the cost of honing the skill while those who trace move off to others things and accumilate a ton of reference material. 

In the end, its just one of those skills that doesnt matter if you do it or don't. Its those things that mattered when I was a kid, but didn't matter anymore when I got my results.

Many Paths

The opportunity to experiment is crucial in artist development and something that is easier in a computer. By easier, non-cruicial actions are eliminated and more of the important exercises - stroke and control & sense of perspective and composition. So I drew a face. I can draw the body several ways and either explore each way as an exercise or choose the best for the requirement I'm given by my editor/patron. 

There is some string theory elements in the "save" and experiment which is pretty cool. 

Some Basics: GIMP

The set up, have enough space for your Graphic Tablet in one hand (typically right) and your keyboard on the other (left), with a big screne +19". I have an old 2008 laptop dual core for this so its a bit slow. Gaming platforms are the best for this kind of work. 

  1. Connect yoru Graphics Tablet before opening GIMP
  2. Open GIMP (use help> about to see edition; I'm using 2.8.6)
  3. Go to Windows > Single Window Mode 
  4. F11 for full screen mode (maybe have these notes printed out or on another screen)
  5. Ctrl + N for new - begin by testing testing the size of the image you can make. If you have a new computer 2012-2013 with 4 cores and 4G ram you can afford to set your Toolbar > edit > preferences > environment > change the unit of measure to megabytes and set the .
    1. Tile Cache to 1/2 your total ram to 1/4 your ram. 
    2. Maximum Image size is 1/4 to 1/8 your ram. 
    3. Default Image > You can try using A5 or B5 at 300ppi or even Small A6. play around with the pen tool. Like any crafting hobby you better check your tools and see how they work and their limits and optimal use. Take note of the "standard" size you will use because this is a big physical barrier. maybe when you get better you can afford and deserve a hardware upgrade to make more elaborate works. but if you can make well with so little it helps build confidence. 
  6. Play around with the pen tool. You will need to calibrate your pen tool for your graphics tablet, sometimes they are usable at default sometimes they need some calibrating. 
    1. First choose the Pen (N) and then look at the left hand tool bar for a blue arrow with orange dots trailing it. Click the Icon and a list will appear. You may selected Pencil Generic for starters. Lets call that symbol the Paint Dynamics Icon or PN. Keep note that you have pen (N) selected - always check.

    2. On the upper right hand side where layers can be found, you can scroll through the many options till you see the PN symbol (the same blue arrow with orange circles trailing). There will be two, look for PN symbol but with a black box border around it, it's called Paint Dynamics when you mouse over (do not confuse with Paint Dynamics Editor) the icon tab and look for the symbol which I encircled. You can create a new pen dynamics or edit one of the pre-existing pen dynamics settings.
    3. Use the Paint Dynamics Editor, the same PN symbol but without the box border. You will notice that in mine have the pencil generic encircled if I wanted to edit it I'd have to choose edit in the Pain Dynamics tab. The blue circle allows you to select what quality you want to edit like Size in this one. Since I'm using a cheap $46 graphics tablet and my sense of touch is not what it used to be I am fiddling around this to be more sensitive. Basically making the curve turn upward sooner. I can do the same for opacity. Check if you are on Pen Tool... in Airbrush and Paintbrush dynamics have caps.

      The Blue Circle, you can choose Mapping Matrix to add features by clicking on the check box.
      You see the grayed out options below the graph, that will be activated in edit mode. You can add other variables that are not already checked. 
    4. Tool Bar > Edit > Preferences > Tool options> Paint options shared between tools" ideally uncheck these so that your eraser will not act like your pen or airbrush or stuff. I dont know why they made this default. 
    5. Tool Bar > Edit > Preferences > Toolbox > you may want this information incase your absent minded like me.   
  7. Then proceed to practice. 

Most Used Controls while Working

  • N Pen
  • Shift + E eraser
  •  [ and ] - re-sizes your pen
  • Ctrl + Middle Mouse Button Wheel or to scroll Zoom in and out
  • Space Bar Hold + Mouse - move the page
  • Alt + A - Select All
  • Shift + Alt + A - deselect all. 
  • Shift + Ctrl + N - new layer (always work on a new layer when taking a new approach)
  • X - change color
  • like Word Processing Shift + Ctrl + S or Shift + S to save. Have a system for versions and naming. 
  • Ctrl + S to save work, Ctrl + shift + s to save as (and save different versions)
    • when you save try choosing not to preserve the resolution (downgrading the resolution but preserving the dimensions like A5 ot A6). 

Early Objectives of Playing around

  • know how to find all related controls
  • what kind of pen do you plan on using? do you want to act close to a real pen, there are limits. 
  • learn the ideal brush px size no. for me at A6 its 5px as a pen. 
  • Prep you Pen and Eraser
  • see how long you can make a controlled stroke. this determines the smoothness of your lines. Note that zoom in/out, px density, pen settings, and the style you are after are factors to consider. 
  • Establish the perimiter. Since you will be using the G.tablet a lot sense the space. Note that in a dual screen (my set up above) a portion of my G. tablet goes into the other screen. 

First Exercise: Tracing!

Trace the art you are going to draw and want to draw. You get more show-able results faster this way. Begin with a 300dpi workspace.

  • Ctrl + o - open and import a new image.
    • C to cut/crop the image 
  • Shift + A to select it. 
  • Shift + C to copy
  • Shift + V to paste
  • R for rectangle tool to select an area or E for the ellipse tool version. 
  • M to change into the move tool. Shift + LMB to move an image within a selected layer. Use move to compose the picture. (ctrl + mouse wheel to zoom in and out) 
    • shift + r to rotate
    • shift + t to scale
    • shift + p to skew perspective
    • shift + s to sheerS
    • shift + f to flip (used to make an image symetric)
  • place the image on a layer and control the transparency so that your strokes are more visible, work 
  • create a new layer to draw on with with Ctrl + Shift + N or Ctrl + V to paste an image and then convert that image into a layer by right clicking and choosing new layer. 
  • Ctrl + E and Ctrl + Shift + E for export to a Png or Jpg to examine the output image. 

Exercise Objective

  • See how different thicknesses and smoothness of strokes and ppi appear. It is important to know how well your tools work. so you can strategist how your going to draw something highlighting your desired feature and minimizing the suck (min/maxing in art lolz). 
  • You can use export to see how the final image will look like in composition. Zoom in and Zoom out to see how much details degrade in zoom in and how much clearer are certain details when you take the picture as a whole. 
  • get hours of practice until the controls are intuitive as would type in a keyboard. The faster you master this the faster you can output work and the more productive each session of practice is. Its the equivalent of honing your blade or mastering the use of your tools. The "artistry" comes later. 
  • by the end of the exercise you have something to show for and that builds confidence and confidence builds more practice and more personal reward in the activity.  Often i know you are your worse critic, so it is important to build up confidence and find people who are willing to give their time to help you improve with constructive criticism. 


Saturday, February 1, 2014

The War Beneath Heaven S02 E05 Backstory and Primer


Thomas was looking out from the new HSS safehouse. A recent but temporary command center, in the edge of the Heights overlooking both Cheng' Territories and a view of the CBD. When he arrived, Jeni was working with speedy and the other IT setting up the network. He hasn't seen Speedy so beat up since he still worked as freelance and in the streets. Jeni is quite a soldier, she didn't bulk when Speedy was giving her network basics a mile a minute. His coaching helped a little, but speedy really needed the help and the distraction and they needed more network expertise. Jeni needed to know how the system worked and getting her hands dirty was going to the best way to train.

Everyone looked ragged, so did thomas. He was not eating right and retaining so much water. He kept popping antacids till he can't feel hungry, then he would suffer terrible migranes since he would get all caught up with work and then self medicate for the pain. He was still competent, but not by much. Osman and Emily took over most of the personal meetings, and had to hire some man power from SGC to finish the last details on the business plans. Thomas knew it wasnt going to be exactly the way he liked it, and the more medicated he became as he grumbled to himself.

Cheng now shows up for the board meetings of HSS, the group opened up a new entity, "f(x)" or coefficient, particularly for the development of the heights. Every meeting Cheng would have more muscle, in just four weeks manage to demolish several hectars of old informal settlers (about 6,000 families) and tested the SGC charities limits. He got them squatting in the school, Thomas was already predicting that it was a move to devalue the property in order for him to buy and convert it to his own housing system and his muscle will make sure everyone knew who they owed their loyalties to in the next district election.

A few of the HSS did grumble a bit about cutting down several gangs in order to put an allied Hong in its place. Osman was quick to listen to them air their problems with Bill listening in and making sure this grumbling wont find its way to Cheng. Thomas was to weak to play hardball and get his ambitious ally in check as he expanded.

Growth has its footprint, and International Politics is going to catch up with them. Many new clients have voiced silent interest in the Heights development under the new entity f(x) since many are from the black market network of both the HSS and Cheng. The legitimate business plans talk about new network infrastructure and buying new connections, the word of mouth to the clients is that an enhanced and fortified shadow ISP will be created in the area.

The promise is HSS will be a network node that will allow a distributed network for HSS clients to perform their business. When a client buys one slot, its effectively 13+ collocation slots around the islands each with their own independent connections. To sweeten the deal, HSS has created an "exit package" to help these prospective clients leave their current network and appear to be destroyed or dismantled - a win for their inside guys and a brand new start for them.

Primer: June 12 2013, 3:14 am

Thats when the first layer red flags came up. In all the noise of the movement patterns around the properties, they needed another way to view the patterns and that was taking up the old burned out mess that was being used to attack their location. Bill cleaned out of the bad Juju but despite the skepticism of the crew they can't shake the feeling that trouble was going to happen. Thomas assured them trouble will and that's why they needed a more forward base of observation.

The alarms were merely IF systems monitoring the floors of the buildings nearby. Many were old even in the 90s, so when activity spiked they got a closer look. So it seems another group is setting up their CCC in the next block overseeing Cheng's and HSS territories. Chengs and Thomas networks own the territory now, nothing happens here without them knowing and when a group with expert field craft sets up next door something is up.

Their new neighbors brought their own baggage... It looked so innocent and none of the guys would have picked it up. The crew has gotten a bit nose deaf in their new C3 and got used to having to swat bugs in the area when just that day Bill didnt have to pick out any bugs from the sugar he put in his instant. It was those kind of clues and that kind of absense that played into their imaginations.

Bill went a bit crazy with that little thing, his questions were bugging the guys and left them squeamish. Everyone thought it was crazy, on his way to the forward C3 they would pass by the fastfood garbage pick up area, you know it from the smell and the fluids that seeped into the gutter visibly behind some small iron door. Bill was with Merle and asked him to follow, to satisfy his curiosity open the door. Merle was a bit pissed, bill argued it was his thing to check up and security. Merle can tell if he was BSing so he gave him the benefit of the doubt. Opened to find garbage, and almost caused merle to hurl... and not enough bugs...

Bill was asking Killian to set up more wards, and Killian didn't like taking suggestions from his older brother when the night got a little too dark.