Thursday, May 29, 2014

GURPS Notes 12: Power Inflation, Why Doctrine

GURPS is fine in a realistic game. All the realistic advantages are fairly priced, no need to apply any modification. I cannot say the same in a game with Supernatural advantages. Here is where best practices and GM's world building are going to mean a lot of work.

Recently I discovered the cheese of Modular Abilities (B71) with -80% limitation (B110) (example - Preparation Required 1 hour -50%, Limited Use x10, -10%; Spells only -20%) (any combination of limitations). Its quite powerful, but before that I've struggled with powers reflecting the setting demographics - how often they occur and how the market prices such magical modification.

An interesting way to do this is creating a set of Tiers. Each tier is a Multiplier to the Cost of an Advantage or Power. Tiers multiply the cost, x1.5, x2, x3, x5. You can do this Before the Campaign begins or tweak it around mid-campaign. Of course, your players should be aware of this if its mid game. Of course you have to go to the forums and check what needs to be "tweaked" and what creates interesting organic results. Personally there should be some list of powers that can be calibrated. Modular Ability + Magic is one of those. Some people argue Magery IF you allow them in certain levels.

Why Doctrine - More Organization of Material, instead of More Material

The added cost only makes certain powers occur more often than others, and what happens next is Doctrine. This is what I wanted from my WBH game. See how best practice evolved from the game system, and I discovered some interesting combos and practices as a result of certain advantages and combinations. My regret is that magery is just TOOO big a chunk to process, especially when you consider the number of books about it. We've reached the point of diminishing returns, that we need more Prepared Material, like Doctrine, instead of New material. An aging number of players, the highest paying bracket, won't be very easy to part with money if its something that just adds work instead of reduces it.

I like doctrine, its something the GM can be good at even if hes not as smart as a bunch of players combined or those who can dedicate their resources and time to their character. With doctrine you have guidelines and procedure, it draws upon more of age and experience instead of brilliance and processing ability. You can pulls something out chaos and it will screw with a lot of things. It empowers the GM to give a real challenge.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

GURPS Mass Combat Notes: Logistics and Lances

Logistics have been separated in the cost of forces in GURPS mass combat. Since MC already simplified much of the tactical elements, Logistics because its own interesting and fun game. Its really about framing logistics to players is about adding Drama to Details (which should be covered in another article).  

Lets Review  

  • MC3 - Building and Maintaining your force. 
    • In my experience, I rarely deal with Raising Costs, and most of the time worry about maintenance costs. As the GM you can ignore the Raising costs since these combat units should already be already raised.
  • MC13 Logistics Costs. Raising a logistic force cost as much as the Unit itself and Half its maintenance. 
    • LS is a stat that measures how much forces it can maintain in thousands of $. The LS to raise is typically equal to raising the force, since we are ignoring this, then the LS to maintain is roughly always 50% of the maintenance cost of the unit (since the Unit's maintenance cost is typically 20% of its cost to raise, and maintaining LS is 10% of its cost to raise). 
    • Typically LS maintenance cost increases Maintenance cost by 50% (more over bad terrain and difficult circumstances). This is because most logistics is calculated with Maintenance Cost, maintenance cost is 1/5 the cost to raise for almost all units (except ships, should be tackled seperately), and the cost to raise a logistics force is x5 of a Logistics force while maintaining a logistic force is 1/10 to raise it. 
    • Administration skill to handle monthly costs. On campaign you can assume the quartermaster is working on this 12hrs/7days a week. Having more Administrators or staff (pages, scribes, cup bearers) will help if you can afford it.    
    • Costs to maintain go up over Terrain and Conditions. 
  • MC13-14 Readiness. Your force is not in constant alert. If they are 'ready' 3 months in a year (mobilizing, re-arming, and updating in 1 month), then you pay them at full at 3 months of that year and half as much 9 months of the year. 
    • Just add the Logistics Maintenance cost to the total calculation because even they are part of the force. with 9 months low readiness, Gross monthly maintenance is (4.5+3) * (Monthly Maintenance + LS monthly maintenance). The logistic force cannot be disbanded without giving yourself a headache scrambling for one, note that LS can serve to replenish losses. In some games other than camp followers, Pages or Servants make up LS (those who are still in training or in On-the-Job training). 
    • In fact if you want to maintain some discipline you may need to rotate forces. that means you will need 6x as many forces or 1/6 as many forces as you have disposable. 
  • MC17 Mounts. In some eras mounts are expected, even if the units fight on foot. The costs are that of riding horses - which are more for gentry. For sergeants cheaper mounts, those with -1 move, are half the price.  
  • MC14 Replacement Cost is equal to half the maintenance cost 
    • Small Wars Manual expects 25% losses for horses on campaign. (Ouch!)
    • in MC36 as survivable loss in a failed encounter would be around 20% and a typical loss even in good win would be 10%! if you expect 10% losses, raise your unit's maintenance cost budget another CF+0.5 and file it under Logistics Force. 

Commanders who Don't like Details!

If your the Logistics Officer you basically end up having to always frame information a peculiar way. For everything you ask for, it gets harder and harder because it appears you are moving the goal posts. To prevent this you have to put it ALL IN before you present information. 

This means if your lord gives you $20,000,000 of resources for raise a force and campaign for X months, you keep calculating down and down. You begin with the number of months, you then pre-calculate the cost of a "Knight" (which means 1 cavalryman, and 4 footmen). 

Example. $20,000,000 (3-5 years of rigorous administration and taxation; ideally after merchantile reforms and infrastructure has made the land more productive)
A Knight aka a Lance is Light Cavalryman, 2 Light Infantry, 2 Bowmen (this is a setting assumption).  That basically boils down to $10.4k to maintain each lance. But there are so many other costs. $10.4 Logistics and Reinforcement costs. That makes $20.8k per Lance. The lord has 200 lances, which translates to $4,160k per month.
The lord has two companies of sappers, thats $1,200k (100 men). In total, $5,360k or 3.7 months of operations, -1 month for rallying and getting back to full readiness.
The lord will need to see how much money he can bring in while these 2.7 months is happening and how his logistics officer can bring in more supplies. 

Useful Notes

  • Sharecroppers families (slaves and indentured servants) contribute $300/mo to the lord's economy. 
    • This is very simplified value is derived from offsetting the raised prices from the value chain and the rising share of the profit as it reaches the lord. This value, despite being in a monetary form would be assumed to be non-cash. 
      • If you want to convert it to cash, you can do so per season at 10% its value modified by a Merchant Roll for the margin of success at improving that at plus or minus 2% gross value with margin of success or failure. If you relied on a merchant broker, only half the profits go the the lord.
    • Typically it is in services, goods, commodities, Shelter and Food, and even social favors or obligations. There will be little cash in the transactions.
    • You will mostly base your logistics and maintenance costs all on how many families or how many micro-economic units it takes. 
    • On campaign, it is assumed 90% of the budget is in the form of supplies and logistical goods. 10% is hard cash for other purposes.  
    • A "family unit" is 2 adults, 3 dependents, and about 24 acres/ 10 hectares half of which is actively cultivated. 
  • In the end accounting for Logistics and Loss Replacement, you work with double the maintenance cost. When you go back to low readiness, you bring this value back down to half.  
  • Medieval Demographics Made easy will come in to play often. 
    • In devastating events many costs are not anymore taken care off so you will see slow time to raise forces, and mismanaged logistics. 
  • Just because a Region can Support X amount of troops, it doesnt mean it can or will be able to. Weather, battles in other fronts, communication, and many other details prevent armies from being mobilies in optimum sizes at any point of time. In points in time that the weather and economy allows for such large numbers assembled is rare and happens a few times in an entire life time. 
  • Simplify - 
    • Don't use Heavy Cavalry as much - I tend not to use Heavy Cavalry, at 20% less TS (which is not enough to matter) and at the same cost (using Equipment Quality modifier of CF+1 for 100% increase in TS and Maintenance) Light Cavalry has a recon superiority over Heavy Cavalry. Recon is very valuable and Heavy cavalry is for set piece battles. If most combat is skirmishes and guerrila fighting then light cavalry would be more important also knights are really trained as recon force with hunting, war games, and various cultural virtues and exercises. 
    • Light Infantry vs Bowmen - the funny thing about light infantry and bowmen they tend to be the same thing. It gets really muddy in their employment and use so when in doubt assume Light Infantry have bows but cannot employ it in the maximum artillery range bowmen can.  
    • So most of the time you just arrange battles between Light Cavalry, Light Inf, and Heavy. Sometimes they have Bowmen, Med Inf, Sappers, and Horse Archer elements.   

Allies: Gotta Get them All!

Allies is one of the most overlooked advantages for logistics. Allies or Manpower is like a Pokemon game, "you gotta collect them all". The right people, with the right fit, and all the HR matters that can distract and highlight the drama of a game. My favorite part of this is this is where the random NPC generators come in handy, the demographics really make skilled personnel rare or time consuming to train. Being forced to ally with dangerous or untrustworthy people is an exercise in politics, diplomacy, and leadership and its a pretty amazing if you manage to survive or get anything done.

Asking the Right Questions

Logistics allows us to ask the right questions or gather the information we need about the setting (basically asking and rolling for answers from the GM). 
  • Can I learn the size of the economy from what I can observe, and the information I can gain from talking to various people? 
    • Its like getting the information if your 200 men can pick off at Region with a city of 10,000! (which would mean the region is about 100k pop and may have reserves of 1k). 
  • Can I learn their state and that of their economy? Can I find their most pressing matters, and where they are having conflicting needs and loyalties? 
    • If that 10k city is in civil war and balkanized, chances are good your 200 men can make a difference. 
  • What can i know about their leaders and key professionals? How is their tradition of warfare fare against my own traditions? 
    • You are stuck with poor grade iron, and they have traditions of Horse archers and ambush tactics OR they have a strong warrior citizen tradition, and each adult male of fighting age is a competent heavy infantry man skilled in the woods near the city. 
  • Is my information secure: economic activities, current political state, and persons at court? 
    • For all you already know, Intell has been gathered about your force and you are a pawn. Know your enemy and know when you are over your head. Note that even if you are weaker, you can negotiate because wasting time and forces on you can be a difficult decision if you play your cards right. 
  • What are the variables I can control, and what are the variables I will assign to others? With my judgement of their character and proficiency, how likely are they to fail/succeed? 

Sample Units that may be Helpful. 

  • A Lance. 1 Light Cavalryman, 2 Light Infantry individuals, 2 Bowmen individuals, and 4x  individual Mounts. $7.6k (everyone has woods terrain feature)
    • TS 1 (0.4 ranged, 0.6 recon, 0.2 cavalry). 
    • Cost Inclusive of logistics, the means there are servants, mules, cart, and supplies. 
    • Costs inclusive of replacement, this means the Knight as has a young squire and page. So there should be very little time to raise.
    • 9 months low readiness, 3 months readiness, makes for $57k a year. 
    • 16 share croppers to maintain. The equivalent of a Wealthy x10 ($5,000 per month!) and 160 hectars or ~400 acres. 
  • Justinian, Bandon. 1 horse archer element, 2 light cavalry elements, 9 Bowmen, 9 Heavy Infantry, and 9 Light Infantry.  (everyone has woods terrain feature)  
    • This may come to play if you plan to run an adventure set in this era (since its well documented). 
    • TS 78 (TS6 cavalry, TS26 rec, TS20 ranged)
    •  $560k per month, with 9 months of low readiness $4,200k a year (the equivalent of a extremely powerful patron or x500 of starting wealth per month). 
    • It takes a the wealth of 1,200 sharecroppers or an economy the size of as many households to support this (like a large town) or 120 sq km or 47 sq miles. This would be about 4% of a medium size Military Province. 
      • As example Large provinces have about 25,000sq km or 9,500sq mi (ex. Calabria, Konya). At 6 people per sq km or 15 per sq mi (byzantine empire post plague of justinian)   
  • Komnenian Kentarchia. 5 Archers, 5 Heavy infantry.    
    • TS30 (TS10 ranged).  (everyone has woods terrain feature)
    • $160k per month, with 9 months of low readiness $1,200k a year (equivalent of Filthy Rich x150 starting wealth). 
    • It takes wealth from 350 sharecroppers or an economy of the size of that many households (about 2,000 people). This would be 200 sq km or 800 sq mi. A very small fraction of a any province and more fitting for one of the many historical towns found in the era. 
  • 25,000sqm km region with a density of 10 people per sq km. 
    • Economy size is 50k families or about $180,000k a year. 
    • If there are 6 rotations of standing forces in a year, and each force is in low readiness at 9 months of the year, then there is a force worth $333k on full readiness at any time. 
    • This is equal to 10 infantry elements of  Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, and Bowmen. This also has enough resources for 3 Light Cavalry Elements and 1 Horsearcher element.  

Summary of a Summary

  • Use the values above to simplify your preparation for the game. 
  • Since you have a grasp of logistics you have more information to work with in planning a force or engagement, and if you have the same sources as your GM (like Medieval Demographics made easy) would know what questions to ask and can get creative in finding the right information. 
  • With these details, you basically try to win the battle without resorting to full asset mobilization - or limiting the variables you will have to deal with once you mobilize your assets. This should help use logistics against the opponent - since you know the limits of their resources from your own.  

Some notes

  • I also realize that a group of players who are familiar with others play styles and strengths, will be able to cut up the "project" into their various roles and specialties. I always get the most enjoyment in a game when the players have some player-skill roles where they are learning the role or pretty good at it it becomes a enjoyable to see a master at work. 
  • You may need to make a spreadsheet to speed up preparation. You may also simplify units and forget their other characteristics (like Troop or Equipment Qualities) to be able to have more mental agility in resolving these things. 
  • If the player seems to know more about logistics, don't fret ask him what each should mean. The GM has the ability to fudge the answer and defy the statistics anyway. 
  • Currently when I used GURPS Vehicles 3e to build galleys they ended up fairly cheap, what is expensive is the Crew. Even if the crew was struggling wealth for each man (and they were paid good wages except slave galleys later in the middle ages) or even poor, a 50 oar galley of 20 metric dtons would be at least $30k maintenance or $150 raising cost for just the crew. The 50 oar 20dton ship was about 5k the cost. So i had to add modifiers to raise the cost. TL:DR - ship stats needs recalculating. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Roll20 Macros for GURPS

Because the character sheets will be available eventually. You can find the Demo Campaign here. Thanks to +James Austin for teaching me all these macros. Don't forget the Roll20 notes on GURPS. it took me 5 minutes to input the Hit Location table.

Rolling 3d6 [[3d6]]

because the double brackets saves more space and reduces the clutter on the chat log. 

@{selected|character_name} tries to block with a margin of [[@{selected|block}+?{mod}-3d6]]

parry, dodge are all the same with just the text changed around

turns aka Initiative
@{selected|token_name} has a [[@{selected|SPD}&{tracker}]] for initiative!

I call it turns because it takes up less space than typing initiative.

wound save
@{selected|character_name} resists the wound with [[@{selected|HT}+?{Mod}-3d6]]

this is basically for Major Wound and Death Checks 

@{selected|character_name} rolled a margin of [[@{selected|attack01}+?{mod}-3d6]] hitting [[1t[hit_loc]]]

as you can guess, I have a hit location table. Just add more attack buttons for other attacks, and just keep it in the notes what attack does what. Ideally your best attack and secondary attacks. The hit location table is hit_loc

You will notice to remove clutter I've made most of them Token based macros. meaning that it shows up when a token is selected. If you want to save some work, you can ask me to share with you the campaign and you can branch it out if you want.

Until they make an if statement macro this is the most I could think off. Feel free to comment about other macro ideas that would save the GM time and make it easier to communicate ideas.
I already input the critical miss table and it took me about 15 minutes. Its faster if I used my own words than typing it out word for word. If I have the time the other tables found in B556 and in order of priorities
  • Magical Crit fail table
  • Vehicle hit location Tables
  • Unarmed Critical miss tables. 
  • Critical Hit table
  • Monster Hit Location Tables in B553 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why would you want a Patron?

In the modern world, Companies are Patrons.

When Haiyan struck the Philippines, one of the biggest corporations in the philippines was able to fly out its employees. In my work experience, certain corporations have benefits that cover healthcare, transportation allowance, even provide car allowance, housing allowance, and some even child care services (in the form of a daycare) etc... Not just large corporations provide such but very wealthy employers provide some similar economic benefit. 

continuing from another article Patron, Duties, and Frequency of Appearance

In some cultures there is a practice that some employers will help out in financial hardships. They provide assistance when gov't, banks, and all other relatives have been exhausted. Employees who act as agents to the Patrons, like lawyers or paralegals, nannies, drivers and messengers, actually get special support from the patron in emergencies. You would want to look closer using economic demographics at the savings rate and the average economic situation to understand how powerless people can be against misfortune, and how they look towards the economic superiority of a patron for aid. 

Patron and Client relationship is very much alive today. In fact its transformed a bit in the west, but it is very much alive everywhere else. Its also not as one sided a relationship as it was like in the past, the client had many bargaining tools then and even more now. Patrons always had to help out then, but gov'ts and communities have prospered economically to need less help from patrons.

I guess what is affront to Patron-Client relationship is that it dispels the illusion of equality. Scarcity and Wealth do not make people equal, some people are better off and have more momentum and resources than others. When Deng Xiapoing introduced the free market to communist china, he had to alter the communist ideology a bit saying that "others will prosper a head of others" - an interesting way to "frame" the economic disparity. 

In the modern world, strong Gov'ts - those that can provide for the basics of their population (ex. healthcare, food, food security, jobs, training and educations, stable cost of living, freedoms, rights, and some even internet) empower their populations so that they do not need a patron - a healthy and growing society is their patron. Of course, there is some memetics that try to make Gov't THE patron, but that assumes society has control over Gov't through democratic and/or technocratic process. Of course such are exceptions than the rule when you consider the world and the rest of history. You may even consider it even a fluke, if less than ideal situation of scarcity would ramp up the variables. 

The human characters we make are vulnerable, and have the same worries and powerlessness in most situations as we do, but the advantage we can choose for them. If their world is much like ours, they may be even more vulnerable than us depending in their era or level of education. They may have a different take on "equality" in the presence or reality of patrons and clients.

In a Sci-fi "Utoptia" where society is a stable and healthy collective psyche and has sustainable economic goals you may have Society as a Patron. Even if there is such an assumption, everyone else will have more primitive social orders that exert a large amount of influence because of lower overhead and greater resources at its disposal. It also assumes the powerful forces of social entropy will be finally overcome in a stable form of "magical" social state lolz. Maybe in Sci-fi Fantasy.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Managing Discussions in Games

My mentor told me to always have someone with me in a deal or in a discussion. Its not something I can find in a book but its really been helpful, you can even say it saved my hide, when I was assigned in one of the most traumatic assignments in my professional life. In fact its such a important "tactical" factor, I was on the receiving end of a tactic that attacked my credibility because I had no witnesses in an informal passing meet (meeting someone in the hallway on my way to go somewhere else; you can say AMBUSH).

(flashbacks of my time in that assignment Lolz)

Anyway, back to Gaming. I found myself in a very engaging and intense discussion which shouldn't be the case in an RPG. We play this hobby to escape work, we expect tons of good will free flowing and we trust the people we play with to do what is fun and surprise us. Although we cannot help but have some emotional investment in this game make things a bit more intense than it should.

I realized we were in a bubble, and back into the scary and dangerous place of just being in a one on one discussion. Flashbacks you can say make it a bit traumatic for me, and has conditioned my response in a quirky unnatural way - you can say it was a survival mechanism. Still no one has the intent to harm one another, but that's the muddy and interesting thing about discussions and arguments, parties can be completely without malice but it can't help but get a bit intense.

Then in a moment of clarity, my mentor advice all of a sudden came clear back. Basically this kind of intensity is not typical in an open forum with people who can pull the participants out of the intensity. People can remind everyone about gaming priorities and what its all about. The ability to zoom in and out is easier when voices are not as engaged and work with a different perspective as the more active participants.

Arguments are part of a real engaging discussions, dissent is important, and being able to air everyone's ideas is crucial in a where people evolve more robust concepts and ideas. Of course, the ability to shift mindset is necessary to keep track of priorities and letting details work with the big picture.   Also note that this is a text based discussion, many things are "lost in translation". That last part cannot happen without an audience to remind them from their outside perspective.

The sense of ganging up is a definite concern, so is picking sides. Things that complicate things, needs a moderator, especially if this is a larger discussion. In a small discussion, just call for a recess when things are about to get too interesting for comfort.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sins of the Crusades Episode 4.5 - Intrigues

  1. In Episode 4.0 Tertius and Xeno were part of a "War Game" where they battled season vets and manage to win by an Off-called technicality. This was a way to exercise Mass Combat rules and see how it would play out. 
  2. Today, this episode 4.5 the team proceeded to do their machination. We simplified Cato's attempt to gather forces in Naples, his home town, and he did something rather amazing. The city was fractured with many conflicting interests, and he arrived with promises from the emperor. Promises that allowed him to carry off many of their readied forces to fight for the emperor instead. Joining his war against the Turks meant pontial status and gains. Lands lost to so many dyansties will be need new lords and stewards to the emepror. 
  3. The team was doing their machinations, it really is difficult to plan an assassination attempt on figures in history who are used to the game and only really surround themselves who are trustworthy. Assassination is a very difficult art it seemed. Fortunately they were speaking in Greek when a non greek, Anodai, followed Cato when he returned.
    1. Xeno was busy befriending Ponziano and Francesco, Francesco asks Xeno to watch tertius for him. 
    2. Tertius got into the good graces of Tancred and was slowly being indoctrinated to be in his group. 
    3. Adonai who followed Cato stumbled on them and seem to have a strong attraction to him. Cato giving attention to the broken thing which is Adonai has become something tangled and confusing. He entertains her affections, in return she gives him secrets of Francesco and some of his men. 
  4. The group adjourn to gather more information and to plan. Xeno investigates more of Francesco, and discovers one of the leads of Cato to be true, regarding the business of slaves. The question is it from East to West or the other way around. the Next day Francesco speaks to Xeno about what he saw, learning of his "use" of the slaves seems to ease Francesco's worries - he is more at ease when Xeno asks for priscilla, a sex slave, he "used" that night. 
  5. Cato uses Tertius' connection to talk to Tancred. He tries to make a deal and Tancred scoffs at the assumptions Cato has about Bohemon. Still he knows his cousin will be interested and lets them meet him. They are put on guard. 
  6. Xeno is presented to Bohemon by Francesco, calling for raising a Fleet and not just an army. Bohemon argues he does not need one, even with Xenos impeccable skills does not impress the land based warrior. 
  7. Cato and the party is presented to Bohemon. They are tested, and they seem unable to convince or move him, where they propose that they can prove their ability by raising the army for Bohemon. He is impressed but is still cautious, he asks them to prove it to him by eliminating his current steward - he gives them little head start - they were trying to plan when an ambush attempt tries to take the PCs down. We stopped at the last leg of the combat. 
Some notes about GURPS Combat. 
  • Losing 2/3 HP (HP = ST) halves dodge and move. 
  • It takes 3 seconds to shoot a bow. 2 seconds with fast draw. 1 second with -6 from Quick Shooting (MA119) in Archery. Drawing the bow with arrow takes 1 second and cannot be avoided. 
  • Feint is very valuable in GURPS combat. bringing down defense bonuses to 7 and below would speed up their kill per round. 
  • I'll fix their load out. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Looking Back One Year of Running Games in Roll20

FIRST session of GURPS Modern Fantasy

Session 1-8
Season 02, episode 1-11
about 60 hours of gaming

Things Learned

  1. Sustaining New Cast and Players. I only have 1-3 regular players in the span of the campaign and a lot of people who try it out and part ways when its not a fit. My experience with this is parallel with how work and family really pulls us in all directions. Its not a bad thing, its just how life is now. You can't let all those biases get in the way of enjoying being able to run or play RPGs. One important thing that came out of this is how understanding the limitations helps me appreciate whats there and achievable. 
    1. Curiosity of meeting new people. I've gotten to know a lot of people over the Games and G+ and with every new person I meet and interact with my image of the world changes and is reshaped. As bill nye would put it "they know something you dont" and this mental expansion is something to look forward to because age is actually getting in the way of my learning new things. 
    2. Constantly Making stuff up for New Players can be pretty challenging. Especially when I make a report after the game. I get it if you don't have to rationalize anything by end of game, but when making a session post it becomes a bit challenging. What happened with WBH is that I used it as a tool to let new people try out GURPS and always open the table for people to try. 
    3. Long term Investment in Time. I get it why it is Ideal that you have a long standing cast - you can build story around them playing to their favorites and preferences. I don't expect the GM to know your preferences and master meeting them in one session or two even.   
    4. There is a lot of relationship dynamics in a campaign. There is also the barriers of schedule. It is in the games I can be regular in is where I cultivate a stronger connection in relationships. There are campaigns I wish i can join but are well outside my schedule. 
    5. Ages perspective over time. Because of work and family and Age, time can pass very quickly and a couple of sessions schedules will begin to conflict.  
  2. Use Roll20 Campaigns to 
    1. people of your desired time slot. Make a campaign and put it in LFG with an disclaimer that you will run with enough people. Use it as an AD to find players or GMs who are available in the same Slot.
    2. people of your same very niche Interests. Make campaigns like above, put it in Looking for Games (LFG) so that you can find people who like the same very niche games you also like. 
    3. This is what kinda played out with my obsession to run games and find players who'd play them. In the end I found people who are of a similar sched and interests. Working with what you've got, even if it is not the "IDEAL"(the incredibly PLATONIC and unreachable ideal for some) is the best case scenario. Its sad when people dont even try and can't compromise in RPGs! (having "your way" in this hobby is not a great way to make friends). 
  3. Conflict is King. Drama can be a pain, but the drama that gets me and, I think, the guys who play my game is the kind that makes a strength out of a vulnerability. The disadvantages that we get our 50cp from is where we get an idea of what kind of conflict and vulnerability we want to explore to strengthen us. The nice guys and the misunderstood jerks, drawing from their own weaknesses for strength and empowerment. As the GM I have to formulate a narrative based on these motivational forces.  
    1. Drama is the biggest Quality Time chunk of a game. I believe that drama/conflict has the biggest return on investment in game prep. Note that my idea and definition of drama or what makes for Dramatic actions and scenes has expanded with experimentation and random success. Since I'm not a master I'm really not that good at describing it and how to bring it out. My best guess is to mix economic and interpersonal conflicts and shake it till something happens. 
  4. A good night's Sleep. Fake it till you Make it which is true when it comes to confidence but when I lack sleep, my "bounded rationality" gets really limited. So you can't fake something unless you have the mental agility to improvise. without sleep I can't improv.  
  5. Managing Expectations. from the smallest to the subtle to the biggest disconnect of expectations. People can go into your games expecting certain things and it takes a lot of follow and juggling to get it all done and ready for the game. 
  6. Timing for a Change. The best time to end a game is on your own terms. It sometimes ends prematurely, and sometimes life just gets in the way. It does really suck when it ends interest wanes and the ability to stop just in time is a very difficult one.  With OnAir recording I can keep record of the games, and at least save all of that. 
    1. The GM's ability to run a genre needs to be recharged and he needs to pull away from it now and then. A break is important.  
    2. Every End campaigns means an opportunity to try new things. Since I'm a research and Try out new things GM. I really should survey how long 
  7.  Keeping a lot of Notes in Gdocs. I hope nothing happens to Gdocs because thats where all my notes can be found lolz. One big advantage is when I'm hit with inspiration I can open the app version on my phone. Until Dropbox and Libreoffice docs can be better used on mobile I think Gdocs would be the most used. 
  8. How to pitch your game to strangers! This needs a long and separate post, but I guess its trying to be professional because its the only thing your particularly interested and all pistons are firing in the old noggin when it comes to games lolz. 
  9. Learning some topics I never thought I'd learn. Learned a lot about Orisha and Africa, principalities and thematas. I learned more of operational logistics for the small arms armies, and medieval retainers. Learned a lot about 11C history lolz. 
  10. My games are slowly becoming Project Based Challenges. The project based mindset from work has given me some tools to see a challenge, any challenge: social, logistical, combat, long actions, etc..., as mentally tackled as "Project". To frame a problem quickly in the Empirical Process and Format, and the Set up challenges in the same methodical manner allows for a manner of GMing where players can use any Strategy and the GM won't be flatfooted without a method of resolving it. This should be another topic of discussion (which requires a couple of case studies). Very Niche and probably nobody cares about - which is why the blog is 
  11. Filtering Opinions and Constructive Criticism. Its your game, and enjoy it how you like. People would criticize but most of the time they should just enable (via Constructively Criticize, like in any professional environment lolz). I realize debate and argument is a young mans passion, these days its just going to your gaming peers and presenting a problem and the results you want to achieve. Its not about "Ideological Perfection" but more of Dramatic Effect and Emotional Immersion (aka having fun). 
  12. Practice and Process. I have small improvements over the number sessions, what improves most easily is preparation but its less appreciable lolz. Still the processes of getting the mindset ready for the game is a very challenging and difficult one. Psyching myself out is important because I need to visualize all the things the pcs will do in the most extreme case. I can't say worse case because if they really decide to go to a direction it should be as good as any other if its purely from an RP perspective. 
  13. Facts Sheet or Post game Report, Flow Charts, and Checking up on players. Strange is that these are skills used to entertain clients and meet their expectations and I happen to be using it to make sure my players are on the same page and prepared by the next adventure. 
  14. Running Mass Combats. I like the scale of great leaders, generals and nations. So many great things (and so many trampled underfoot, the things that happen behind the propaganda) that add drama but dressed up as a fairytale people will want to believe.
    Mass Combat and major economic efforts are things I want to explore in a game because behind the simplicity of the statement "The city built a wall" there is "the city employed press gangs to work for the wall, a man died every day in construction and many families starved when they were manpower short to prepare the harvest as enemy troops were raiding the lands". Internal conflict of someone whose seen the human cost of various actions - i find it dramatic and entertaining when Players are able to foresee and struggle with it.
  15. Journalize and Consolidate my weird prep heavy manner. I like heavy prep, but I can't do it every session. Out of an 4 sessions, one heavy prep's material lasts for 2-3 sessions. It also only works when I've established a profile of what the players like to do, and cater and compromise to that.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

GURPS Notes: Assorted Notes and a Simple exercise of Attrition

GURPS Mass Combat needs practice and rehearsals for the GM to get it right and so that the players also get the feel of the system. Much like GURPS combat, it may appear clunky at first but after 1-2 hours of playing you get the hang of it quickly. Includes tools (see bottom)

MC stands for Mass Combat, the page is the value after. 

GURPS Mass Combat is for Narrative

If you want it "Tactical" you need to get Pyramid 3/44 or gamble on my house rulings.

Tactical Combat vs Narrative Combat
In a Tactical Mapped Scenario the recon units would have had the ability to choose who to fight, picking out scouts or archers in numbers that would give them a win even if both rolled averages. In a Narrative scenario you are fighting the Total forces regardless of your actual physical location - this is where the Narrative System break down.

Note that such small scale scenarios Horses can only be good for 2 hours or 8 turns before the need to switch in a realistic environment. The GM may be giving an HT+4 check every 15 minutes with a -1 for every turn for potential Injury.

Tactical Mass Combat vs Regular Mass Combat

A smaller force cannot beat a Larger force in Regular Mass Combat. This is because you cannot simulate or resolve for those times when a smaller force chooses when and where a battle should be and against how much of the enemy force. For that to happen, where the smaller force (lead by the PCs) would feint and lead the enemy force into a trap, you have adventures... but when it is at the scale of Squads then you have a problem. 

This is where Tactical mass Combat Excels at, when it picks at an army one piece at a time. When you harry them and you take advantage of their size. You can't do that with the regular rules. 

Significant Actions and Risk

You will only know how your players feel until they try it out. Some will feel that this method of resolution is unsatisfying.  This is because the PC hero has to raise a score of 5 (a 4% of success) to 10 (a 50% chance of success) to grant the Commander a plus 1 to his strategy roll, at the chance of the enemy rolling a 6 (10% success) to 9 (40%) chance to deal 2d-1 damage. Nothing "empowering" or reactive or pro-active from the player.
  • if players don't have options in significant actions then they cannot make a value judgment or strategic decision on what they should do
  • Tweaks to give the player multiple contests, where he expends or re-allocate resources/tactics and rolling 3-4 times against someone 3-4 times would be more satisfying. 

Training Time

Training cost and time (MC12) has a complication that may help the GM and creates a level of awareness for players regarding man power complications. This is that there is a limited number of trainers and anyone with Teaching and a level of experience is very valuable. Since skill 12 is good enough for intensive training (B293), a skill of 10 is enough for basic training. 

In the BPO industry, where training is very much mass produced, 15:1 or 1.5 elements per "trainer" is optimal in cost vs productivity. This metric is also found in many organizations. So an Element of Average units can train up to x10 to x15 as many elements if they are "converted" into squad leaders. This also means a Fief maintains as many as 1/10th the force they will need if they have to massively mobilize. Of course War comes with no 6 week notice. 

So when the call of arms comes, and the lord is "flatfooted" and his banners will need 2 mobilize his Squad of man-at-arms will train up to x10-15 as many men at Inferior quality! This is a separate activity as "re-readying" (see MC14). 

True Cost! Simplifying Expenses

When I do my calculations for maintenance and raising I consider all the costs that are a "must" and I call this the "true cost". What counts as a must depends on your "best practice" or setting doctrine.
  • Raising Cost, is always Inclusive of Raising Logistic Strength (MC13) - double Raising cost. 
  • Add Terrain Type modifier (MC10). Terrain modifiers is the equivalent of giving Recon to some units (it grants '+1 to recon tests and '+4 if everyone has the same terrain specialty; See MC29), and it Doubles TS for the purposes of Recon, Battle, and Superiority!  
    • because it adds a small bump in Raising cost but no additional cost to maintenance units "gaining" Terrain specializations would be common. In the end it adds as much time to train as their raising cost. Units that can spare that time can "gain" the terrain specialization. 
    • The closest to having a Bowmen with Recon is Woodland Bowmen.  
    • Practically many units will have woodland because of how much forest there was back in the day.
  • Maintenance inclusive of Logistics Maintenance - increase maintenance cost by x1.5 or CF+0.5
  • Plus budget for Force Loss. A Very Good commander will have about up to 10% loss per turn even if he manages to win. You may not be fighting many winning battles but you're bleeding a nick at a time. 
    • If you add 10% cost to raise to your maintenance cost you have 10% forces "Streaming" in or replacing your forces every month (x1.5+0.5 to maintenance). 20% additional cost to raise means 20% additional forces every month (x1.5+1.0 to maintenance). 
    • as an example Good Ave Light Cavalry is costs $30k to maintain. With the LS its $45, and with 20% replacement $75k per month! This adds 2 horsemen joining the ranks (squires being promoted or man-at-arms in training going to the front line). Personally I work with just 10% for a simple x2 maintenance cost. So my $48k horse archers would be at $96k.  
Where is Desperate Ground? You can say Sun Zi is an ass of a commander for intentionally putting his forces in desperate ground. Note that if you read the 9 situations he purposefully chooses to let his enemy surround his forces - so that they will fight more desperately. Its a dick move and I don't know how I'd feel about a commander who put me in that position but it was a time and era where commanders kept their own counsel and more than the usual intrigue happened among generals. In this case I would waive the 25% casualty and let the commander roll leadership to see if everyone can get as desperate as he is... if the commander chose less risky action it would be harder to do such a move and without loss of respect and trust for a commander.

Sample Scenario: Attrition Warfare

  • Note that I fixed this spreadsheet to have a Binary Toggle for Terrain Bonuses (a simple if statement). 
You will notice a force that will definitely crush the other. A fairly well rounded Force A with Archers and Scouts vs Well Equiped and Veteran Horse archers. Modifiers '+10 vs '+2! The spreadsheet I use is here, you will need to make more Sheets (I wish I could run this on my tablet while I run the game).

What should Force A do? Horsearchers excel in Skirmish and check out what happens in each strategy. In a Recon Test, assuming commanders are equal in competence,
  • Attack? The Horse Archer chooses Skirmish, he get '+2 and assuming you both roll 10 Force A has a MoS of 6 for 25%-5% casualties (2 men) for -1, while the force which won lose 5% (5 men). 
  • Indirect Attack? The Horse Archer chooses Skirmish, he get '+2 and assuming you both roll 10 Force A has a MoS of 3 doubled to 6 for 25%-5% casualties (2 men) for -4 and , while the force which won lose 5% (5 men). 
The best case scenario is the Good Good Horse Archers win the Recon Test. Assuming commanders of Intel Analysis of 12. The Gd Gd HA have a '+4 vs Force A. If the GGHA choose to fight in Trackless Woodland or Night Fighting in Plains they would have enough to achieve Ambush. In Ambush they can Raid. 
  • On a Raid against confused enemies they can have a '+1 to attack and the enemy must Rally or Full Retreat.  If both Roll 10, Force A would have rallied and inflicted some casualties at a Margin of 5 or 20% (2 horsemen) at the Raiding force, while the Raiding force deals -2 or 10% (10 men)
    • This worthwhile if you can target your losses. If the 10 men lost were Bowmen or Scouts then the 2 horsemen would have been worthwhile. 
  • On a Skirmish against confused enemies they can have no bonus to attack and the enemy must Rally or Full Retreat.  If both Roll 10, Force A would have rallied and inflicted some casualties at a Margin of 5 or 20-5% (1 horseman, -3 strategy penalty) at the Raiding force, while the Raiding force deals -2 or 10% (10 men). Next round the Skirmishers disappear into the night. 
    • This becomes more effective if you can "Target" your losses but skirmishes are opportunistic it really depends on the GM. 
  • You need an overwhelming Recon Advantage to do Raids. Your Forces has to be comparable and at a recon superiority. If the Horse Archers were Terrain specific and they were fighting in that terrain vs non-terrain units. Note that the Mongols, masters of logistics, would map out all enemy territory and trained in that. When armies assembled untrained levies, the mongols could easily mow them down. 
Some Personal Notes
You can have an army mostly composed of Light Infantry than to have one mostly with Heavy Infantry. Average Light Infantry is expensive, being paid wages equal to Heavy infantry and you get what you pay for - its either your heavy Infantry is actually Good Good Light Infantry (which is the case) or you use Poor Inferior Scouts. the other option is Heavy Infantry with woodland, and you can "lighten" their load out so that they an act as "scouts" with that '+4 to recon from being all woodland.  
Personally I'd rather work with a smaller Good Good light Infantry than having no scouts at all. If Infantry were to remove their armor and fight in loose formation then you would be Halving their effective without giving them the Recon trait - at least they can Move quickly (moving 5 hexes). 
Gd Gd Light Infantry would have x1.7 maintenance which is further multiplied by "True Cost" for 20% replacement - at $33.6k maintenance each element.  
In this scenario its too hard to win and on a Narrative scale I would be training Scouts especially if I'm defensive. I'd even spring for "Mounted Scouts" with cheap mounts just for the "mobility bonus" in Recon Tests. Later on, after enough experience they can trained as man-at-arms if there is enough gains to answer the horse logistics. 

Aid in resolving Scenarios - spreadsheet that helps calculate all the Superiority and Battle TS modifiers. Since in Tactical Combat it has more varied who you encounter this will help the GM out.
Create Low Tech Armies - This helps you build your armies with TRUE cost parameters.

So basically Running GURPS Mass Combat should be easier now.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Conflicted is a Good thing?

I just realized what made the game very memorable was the deep sense of conflict I could feel from my players when they made their decisions. It was not that they did something good or evil, it was because it was something so gray and difficult to accept that it provoked some interesting character responses.

I took me a while to find words to describe it, and I guess you can take my words with some skepticism because it is a GM tooting his horn. So I may be imagining it but when the PCs did what they did, I was also their audience and I was also pretty much in conflict of what happened.

Conflict and Doubt can be a strong source of emotional stimuli. Not having any right answers is pretty much what life is all about in my experience, but in real life we have no control so ordinary people are painted a darker tone - their weaknesses overwhelm their motives. While in a game or story, where you have real control, conflict does not have to end with frustration or a negative emotion.

The party did rescue most people, they did what was good for the Empire, even if it was not good for few people, and they didn't like having to hurt people and tried to avoid it. They had limits, there was scarcity, and they had other priorities that pulled them to many different directions. In that mess of forces there were many truths and many difficult decisions.

I'm not trying to reward any particular strategy, although forming a strategy and feeling and thinking through a problem I do admit strong bias towards. I guess I'm tooting my own horn. Although i do feel good about the conflict, and how I find what they did heroic and in how they handled the matter even with all their faults and weaknesses.

I may be suffering some confirmation bias, lolz. Still, when they felt conflicted Its only now I realize that is the strongest trigger of emotion I felt from the GM's seat. The conflict is the drama and what makes us love characters for their actions and their very human motives. This is probably my 21st gaming session I've GMed since coming out of retirement. Thats probably 52.5 hours of GMing (not counting preparing the games).

There is a finality in certainty, and in doubt and conflict the problem and the circumstance replays in many perspectives and many "Ifs".

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

List of Preparation for Warring States Campaign

Here is a list of stuff I tend to prepare for my games. If there is any question why I set up a game in 4 months in advance this is why it takes a while. I have a month and a bit to go and I've found 2-3 people who can probably make the schedule - my usual is GMT+8 7-11am on a Saturday which translates to Friday night in the US. 

I'm trying to wrap up my Crusades game in 1-2 more sessions so that I can proceed to taking a season break and running another Game. My Campaign Endurance Survey is a bit right on how attention and energy goes down for most gamers after 4+ sessions and I have many aspirations to run many other games and settings before real life will force me into hibernation again. 

I'll have something ready by the end of may for The Warring States Campaign.
  1. Setting Situation Research with a Fact Sheet that is easy to read. 
    1. A similar Setting Primer like the one in Q:tWS but even more summarized.
    2. a list of sources and bibliography
  2. Dress up the Map and Prepare it in Roll20
    1. Prepare the all the macros
    2. Prepare all the map templates, Scale and Dynamic Lighting (includes prep for Mass Combat)
    3. Prepare all the Tokens - Dynamic Lighting and Scale.
  3. Modifying my GURPS Low Tech Lite Crusades for tWS would take about 10-20 hours.
    1. more notes on metal use and availability.
    2. Notes on Mass Combat and figuring out how to ease players in learning Mass combat and GURPS Combat. 
    3. Remake the Templates for 4C BCE China. 
  4. Make a bunch of Actor and period portraits. A lot for NPCs and Extras.
    1. I typically gather about 60-70 portraits per campaign, about 5-10 per week (which is why my off weeks are important). Dont worry about getting lost, I typically put it in a session notes who's who and would explain it if need be again.
I try to keep games short 1-5 sessions, so that we dont run into diminishing returns and have left over material that can "stew" for a new batch of adventures. Even as a GM I am the audience and immersing myself in these strange and forgotten historical worlds brings me great joy and excitement.  

Sadly where I come from History is a rare and a poorly understood subject, revisionism is rampant as propaganda tries to muddy the issue (you know them by their lack of sources and very poor grasp of basic statistics). An appreciation of history through games hopefully allows it to weather the storm. 

Note there are many inferences you can make about Campaign Endurance regarding how People enjoy games and why the number of Chances vs the Endurance vs GM's own finite ability to be consistent may infer some depressing hypothesis. (I just need a way to test it). 

GURPS Mass Combat Notes: Mass Combat in Roll20

These are my notes in correction of the mass combat I ran recently. I hope to update this when new data becomes available. This system shows my bias as a scout and analyst lolz.
*Edited: Defense strategies should be double your casualities, not enemies. Thanks to +Il Pella 

Map Preparation

25x25 hex map
40x40 hex map 
60x60 hex map 16km accross
  • Units in 25x25 to 60x60 Hex map will encounter each other within the day (following the natural paths found in the terrain). In larger scales the GM and players play it out more abstractly using a larger map assuming the rate of movements found in MC27.
    • MC27 is pretty generous for me. My assumptions come from The Small Wars Manual and the very overlooked activity of "Making a secure Camp" and organizing patrols and security. This means half the Foot and Mounted rates because of the camping and cycling of patrols plus reporting. You cannot be too generous with these stats because in the end of the day you move as fast as your weakest unit and generals and historians are always exaggerating about their circumstance and success. Of course it depends what sources and material you adhere to. 
  • 0.125 miles or 0.2 km per hex. Units travel their Move score in 15 minutes. They can double their speed, doing a paced run. this is a 2.1 acre or 0.866 hectar hex.  
    • Scouts (light Infantry) Move-5 (no enc.)
    • Assault Troops (Med. Infantry) Move-4 (light enc.)
    • Heavy Infantry (Hvy Infantry) Move-3 (Med enc.)
    • Cavalry Move-7
    • in stealth, units are better moving in small squads. As such, one hex can hold 200 people or 20 elements. 
    • On a 60x60 map it was about 84 hexes for 17km across 10 miles across.
  • Forests and Hills block line of sight (see below). 
  • Page Settings > Fog of War - Disabled
  • Page Settings > Dynamic Lighting - Enabled
  • Page Settings > Activate Enforced Line of Sight
  • Page Settings > Only Update on Drop
  • Natural Paths - You will notice I drew orange lines to illustrate natural paths. This means moving on these paths have the least penalty in footing but this can also mean that enemies plan their ambushes around these paths! The GM can draw trails in advance or draw them on the fly (following the terrain contours). He can put it in the GM layer to be moved into the Map Layer to be visible. I draw on the fly because its easier and only when the player is intentionally Recon. 
  • Terrain Score. Terrain and Surprised table in MC29. Put it in Map layer so that you don't have to remember or just remember the score for Woods, Hills, Plains
  • Defense bonus. GM just rolls 1d3 Defense Bonus based on the terrain advantage or just simply assign 1 for some terrain, 2 for light woods or rolling terrain, and 3 for hills and dense woods. Note that the unit that gets to "dig-in" and is prepared gets to use the terrain for a bonus. 
  • GM layer notes. Event Location Notes can be placed in the GM Layer. Personally I have not much time for this, except for the most critical elements. 
  • Tip. Its easy to make a map once you have at least one other map down. Cutting and pasting the trees and terrain is easy, then just re-arrange for the game. 

Unit Preparation

  1. Green is Troop Strength. Its easier if I just keep track of one stat with so many elements. 
    1. select the status in the Token, choose green, mouse over green and type the TS value to make it immediately visible. 
  2. You will need to clump units under NPC leaders or PCs.  Each PC has all its units under command in one token (their token). Adjust the TS and abilities based on the PC's commanding force. Once this is set it will take a lot of time to reorganize such groups (in RL its a big hassle)
    1. Typically its broken down to Faster or More Mobile Force, Heavy force or Secondary Mobile force, and Reserve or Heavy force. So 3 groups to one side plus the PCs. 
    2. At most 200 or 20 elements in one token. Since this can be time consuming work with your time budget, where less units is less work. 
    3. You can break down units one token per element, but you will have to make a Character sheet and save the tokens' values (updating the token)
    4. You may stack your Rec Elements up to 5 WT (or 4WT) groups.  
  3. PC Units - Unit Settings > Advanced > 4km (2.5 miles), starts to dim at 0.2km (0.13mi), 360; has light 360. 
    1. Cavalry have 4.5km (2.8mi), starts to dim 0.6km (0.13mi)
    2. NPC units generate "Light" so Players can have a "Chain" of visibility. 
  4. Prepare a "Torch" Token. this unit is used to light up an area that is elevated or units spotted while elevated. Typically one hex of light. 
  5. Display TS in blue. Click on Unit, click "status" and chose green (or any color) and mouse over the blue in the status options and type the TS value on to that unit. 
  6. Display Loss penalty. On the Commander's token, choose orange (or any color), mouse over the orange color and type the loss penalty up to 9. When it exceeds 9, chose the red color, mouse over red and type up to 9. if it exceeds -18, choose the Black color, mouse over up to 2. the combat ends when a force has taken up to -20 or 100% casualties. 
  7. Save units at their default value to Character sheets or have them all in GM layer. Cutting and pasting them all to new maps on the GM layer where you duplicate them as you need them.
  8. TIP: bandwidth permitting open a duplicate of the Tab you are working on and exit to rejoin as player. Make sure units have GM control so that you can see dynamic lighting in action. I will yet experiment seeing if I can run two tabs with one at GM layer so that I can move "invisible" units. 

Running GURPS Mass Combat in Roll20

I had to make some tweaks. I have a flow chart I made for my players. 
  1. Recon Ops.  Intelligence Analysis MC28-29, these are scouting tasks. Even non-recon units can be used for this but at a -5 to relevant Stealth and Operational Security checks. Since these units are more bulky and easier to spot, they need to take precautions that make it harder for them to gather useful intel. 
    1. Navigation allows them to spot natural paths, and even find hard to find paths that might give them a way around an obstacle or land feature. 
      1. You will notice I drew orange lines towards natural paths. This means moving on these paths have the least penalty in footing BUT this can also mean that enemies plan their ambushes around these paths! 
      2. The GM can draw trails in advance or draw them on the fly (following the terrain contours). he can put it in the GM 
    2. Survival for hazards and can be used to default for Navigation at -3.
    3. Observation allow you to notice and catch things, but the skill to interpret them usefully will be found in skills like Naturalist, Tracking, and various expertise. 
    4. Anyone can spot obvious tracks, digging intel from them takes Tracking
    5. Naturalist Skill is helpful in looking for human passage or use or disruption in the environment.  
    6. Torches. Use torches or light sources to illuminate features the PCs spot.
    7. Horizon formula is useful if the GM decides how far what PCs sees if they decide to climb. in 15min turns, its hard to climb far enough to break the treeline. -5 climb penalty for scouts, and greater penalties for heavier units.
    8. The generous movement rating in Mass Combat can be attributed as having "No Security" (MC29) as a default and moving without security is running.  
  2. Maneuvers
    1. Movement: Units can cover a distance of their movement in hexes in 15 mins. Paced Running doubles movement and costs 1FP per turn and FP+1 for every level of enc. Units with 12+ running would have a discount of 1FP.  more elite units have more FP. 
      1. This means Light Infantry can move 5 hexes, run the most, 6 turns of paced running (10 hexes).   
      2. Medium Infantry and Bowmen can move 4 hexes, and run 3 turns of paced running (8 hexes). 
      3. Heavy Infantry can move 3 hexes, and run 1 turn of paced running (6 hexes).
      4. Cavalry can move 7 hexes, and run 1 turn of paced running (14 hexes). 
      5. Moving Stealthily. half movement (no running). Commander applies a penalty -1 to -3 to his own Recon and his opponent. 
      6. Fatigued Units, FP< 2/3FP total fight at -2 and cannot run. 
    2. Concentrate. Perform a Long Action.
    3. Ready or Hide. A unit can get ready or stay put and hide, for +4 to Recon checks vs being detected. 
    4. Move to Engage. Because tactical maps allow you to pick and chose your battles with more nuance than the default system you will need to be able to move and engage. Move half your normal move to engage, choosing a strategy but you suffer a -2. 
  3. Recon Contests. The GM keeps enemy units "Invisible on default" and asks the commanders to roll every turn. When Elements or PCs makes "Contact" roll Reconnaissance Contest (MC28-29). This is a Information Analysis skill (a rare skill in low tech; typically default from Strategy-6 or Soldier-6) contest using modifiers with the Units Present in the "Contact". 
    1. Note Recon Superiority (MC32) which is needed for this roll. 
    2. Note terrain and surprise table (MC29). the more visible the terrain the harder to achieve surprise (and the higher the Terrain score; imagine the terrain score as a Task Difficulty Modifier the bigger the value, the harder). ex. Plains 8 vs Woods 5 (or 4 in dense woods). 
    3. Stacking Units MODIFIERS! The problem with recon is the density of Units within the 2.1 acre or 0.86 hectar area. the more troops in an area the more visible the Army or its elements. A "terrains" carrying WT capacity is equal to 10 - Terrain Rating. Ex. Woodland can hold WT5 or 5 elements while Plains can only hold WT2 until it becomes visible. Every additional WT is a Penalty to the Commander. 
      1. So in Plains, units are spread out to hide their numbers. In Forests they are stacked up. 
      2. The better the Quality of Troops, they have more TS to WT ratio. 
    4. Distance in Hexes. Use the Distances in hexes to determine range penalties. So 3 hexes away is -1 to "spot", 20 hexes (4km) away is -6 to "spot" . 
    5. Traps. In the Recon Contest these traps and tricks all play out. It is either you ambush the unit, or you are the one being ambushed.  
  4. Type of Battle
    1. Encounter Battle (MC34). represents Initial Clashes (no deliberate strategies). Mobile forces can only Attack, Raid and Skirmish, or Mobile Defense.  
    2. Encounter Battle, Ambush (MC30). One side is confused (can only rally or full retreat), the other side (typically mobile) cannot use any deliberate, defense (except mobile defense), and retreat strategies.   
    3. Pitch Battle (MC34). A head on confrontation with the numbers of forces visible to each side. Any strategy can be chosen.  
  5. Individual battles, instead of One Commander. Use the tactical map to inform the circumstance of the PC and his unit. The PC declares his Strategy (or Tactics if he is less than 6 elements), Risk and Significant Actions.  
    1. Risk is Built Into Significant Actions.
      1. Add the risk modifier in any Strategy.
      2. Honor or Dishonor in taking Risky or Unrisky Commander positions depends on the culture and setting. Earlier eras saw commanding from the rear as weakness, while some came to accept it (Sun Tzu and Byzantine Treatises), when it comes to risk PCs should look at their disadvantages first. 
      3. Note that the smaller the force, the more risky the Commander tends to be. 
    2. GM quickly resolves Risk and Significant Action as a Quick melee if Applicable:  This lasts 3 sec plus Risk modifier. Do not roll for misfortunes of war when the Commander chose risk greater than -3. Use the TS comparison as how many enemies the Commander will face minimum one, -1 for every level of risk below +3. If he is facing 7:1 odds he faces 7 minus his risk below +3. So if he chose -2 risk which is he faces only 2. 
      1. The Encounter Ends after the number of seconds - Alive or dead the PC may be. 
      2. When the Commanders TS greater and he chose a positive Risk modifier, he will face the most formidable NPC in the unit. 
    3. Risk Benchmarks. If your player have a difficulty imagining what risk is, these are some benchmarks.  Risk Modifies the Commander's mortality vs effectiveness in command.
      1. (+3) PC leads an Action from the front. Leading by example and showing courage and conviction. 
      2. (+2) PC Joins an Action. 
      3. (+1) PC Participate in an Action. 
      4. (0) PC maneuvers his entourage or guard to block. 
      5. (-1) PC is about 3-4 Ranks behind his troops or 10yrds away barking orders.  
      6. (-2) PC is about 5-6 Ranks, his orders echoed by lieutenants because he cannot be so easily heard. 
      7. (-3) PC lets his lieutenant execute while observing in safety, moving only to bark commands when his lieutenant lapses. 
    4. Roll Strategy, against Opposing force. The Player Types out his Total Troop Strength, some notes, and Rolls. The GM rolls and resolves it quickly, he can keep note of the Losses using Orange, Red and Black color markers on the Token with an assigned value (mouse over the color while in Status selection, then type a value). 
      1. Position Bonus. Other than tracking Losses, PCs track Position Bonus. The GM just plops a colored Txt Value on the battle field - green for friendly, red for enemy.
  6. Step 5 tends to repeat itself until the battle is resolved with -20 or 100% causalities. 
  7. After the battle take count of losses and reorganize to how many elements are lost. a 20 element army after -6 or 30% losses will be down to 14 elements. 
  8. Maneuvers and Strategies Expanded
    1. Retreating allows the Unit to "re-emerge" a number of Hexes equal to their remaining FP. They may not be visible. 

Typical Practice

It all begins with Scouts. The use of scouts aka recon capable units varied in history and the sophistication varied. Maurice and Sun Tzu (and his disciples) had very sophisticated practices documented in the related books The Strategikon and the Art of war. 

The simplest way to go about it is you divide your force in 3s: One in reserve or rear guard, One more mobile, and one more Powerful. The mobile force does Recon coordinating within line of sight with flag bearers, and through runners. 

When forces are too far to communicate with each other in this way, they work on their orders and their leaders personality - typically the GM has to process the Information Asymmetry and it is in Player to RP their PCs in such situations. Familiarity, gestures, and back up measures are important in low tech warfare. 

Working on the Initial Intel, like "Enemy is over There", Recon units use Navigation, Survival, Observation to see how that unit got there via natural paths. Its up to the Commander if he is a good enough pathfinder or Tracker to find a path to intercept or predict the movements of the enemy. 

Good habits and best practices are observed until Contact, which is when Organization (aka Tactics) bring forces to bare. 

Some useful PNG files for your terrain

Bad terrain happens a lot. Put this in the GM layer or in the map layer. A skilled tactician, survivalist or naturalist or navigator will be able to read the signs to know that fighting here is bad footing. What you can also do is that fighting outside natural paths is bad footing. 
bad terrain

Elevated Terrain. You cannot go changing the Distance view of the Tokens every time they are on elevated terrain. Simply use the Torch to highlight the areas they would see. 

I came up with this system specifically for my Crusades game and for my Waring States game. I don't know how magic will figure into this because if it exists it will change the fundamentals by such a degree the GM may have to rewrite practices.

Check out Pyramid 3/44 for another Mass Combat Tactical System.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Made up Historical Maps

Did them in a big rush, so they are not that pretty. Although they did give me a lot of ideas. 

I basically used Google Maps and took screen shots of the places and traced over them. Its harder than 
it seemed and it would have been better if i did them in Inkscape than in GIMP. 

Lessons Learned
  • Use Ink scape and start my own Gdocs notepad of my own notes for how to use it. 
  • Solid colors and shapes, would be useful when using Inkscape. Since they are vector I can zoom in and out. Of course as vector maps and program, It will require my newer notebook computer than this older one. Such detailed maps are going to be very ram and processor consuming. (its not like I can afford an 8 core sigh...) 
  • The best thing about Vector is in a JOINT-project. someone can just add more detail when they have thee time, and you have a new map. You see a lot of Vector maps in Wikipedia in the historical sections about Rome and Byzantium. 
  • I have to prepare brushes and tools ahead of time. Develop some legends on how to draw mountains and the like. I guess I will need to spend some hours researching in the cartographers guild. 
  • Towns are hell small, I noticed that the ruins of their walls are still visible in Google Maps. They about a few hundred meters across. It would not take much time to walk from one edge to the other, and it would be hard to get lost in a town compared to our standards of complexity now. 
  • When i do taranto I'll try to do it in vector. With Haven in my other campaign, I'm basing haven from Manila, Rio, and HK and adding some more geological features. I really need a season break to prepare more materials. 
  • You really dont need much details, relative positions and landscape. Google Maps, you have to type out Terrain to get the terrain features which is not part of the options anymore. 
  • Mapping the mediaval world even if its not going to be accurate is going to be useful in many ways, for history lovers and gamers a like. Even if its not going to be accurate, just having a foundation to work on is so much of the workload off the GM's or story writer's shoulders. 

Here is another Useful map from +Winchell Chung 

Friday, May 2, 2014

GURPS Warehouse 23 23.23% Off Sale Purchases

Inspired by +Peter V. Dell'Orto  post

GURPS Classic Vehicles 3e - Because I plan to work on some 3d galleys and simple naval combat rules for my Crusades game (which has returned me a TON of notes, testing it with 3d model to see if the geometry is close to right). Bringing down the barrier to have naval engagements in your GURPS games. I already finish my Galley creation spreadsheet and just need time to arrange the articles and model the ships.
GURPS Social Engineering - Because I like living on the edge lolz. Social Encounters are the most unbalancing and unfamiliar terrain to most gamers and because of that tensions are much higher. The satisfaction of being able to outwit the enemy is also very satisfying and addicting.  Aso Ideas how to organize and resolve Social Encounters.
GURPS Classic Conan 3e - The only Fictional Setting I will learn (I typically use Historical Real world settings) and this is going to be my "Go-to" fantasy setting now that it is PUBLIC DOMAIN!!! Whohoo! Conan is the really old school Fantasy lolz (Will definitely make a hard copy of this book). I can use all my research from other historical settings for this game.
GURPS Template Tooklit 1: Characters - After buying it It helped me refine my Article ideas to bring down the complexity barrier for gurps and make it easier for people to get into the game. A lot of ideas.
GURPS Horror 4e - trying to level up my story telling. Since I'm a big fan of GURPS Mysteries, horror is another set of complimentary skills.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

GURPS Magic Notes 13: Using Magic Items

A review of magic Items and some notes about how it affects a setting.

Rules in Review

The rules for using Magic Items in B482 or M21.
  • Hidden Lore or Expertise. In game knowledge of Magic Items may be useful. Since magic items have limitations on what form they can take and how they work, such a skill would help in a game of analysis and deduction (if the player likes to play that game or want to boil it down to a roll). 
  • Power Rating (B481 or M17). under the title "Power of a magic Item". A powerful mage, who has high enchantment and prerequisite spell, transfers this level to the Magic Item. It needs to be at least 15 to work, and is affected by Low Mana zone, bringing it down by -5. So in a Low Magic Setting you need a PR of 20 or the user is a mana enhancer 1. 
    • Two Specialists and a... Since Enchantment is a Ceremonial Magic process, you can rule that one specialist enchanter (with high enchantment) and the other specialist 
    • Power Levels are important for the resistant rolls against the magic item. A spell that is Resist-HT/Will will roll against the Items Power (note rule of 16). 
    • Inspired Creation (M115) makes fine and very fine equipment for 5fp. It says in any ONE craft work. it doesnt say if it has to be magical or mundane (which gets to be a really messy a distinction as magic becomes a science). Its big deal is that it adds +5 to the mage's effective skill in making the item if the skill matters. So that translates to +5 power rating. GMs call (my call is why not; if it doesnt give me an additional head ache, and it makes sure ALL magic items are made on Fine/Very Fine Items). 
  • Using Magic Items (B482 or M21).  
    • Magical Items are used by Will. But...
    • ...You still have to Roll (using the PR) to activate a magic Item. Note that distance penalties apply, you would want to have a magic greater than 15 or else you will have to touch all that you wish to affect. 
      • No ritual means no special activities or actions
        • Which means you can make it as part of a ready action to activate. Ex. You can activate it while you reflexively drawing a weapon if the spell does not require you to target it on anyone but yourself.
        • It also means that you cannot benefit from the meta-spells, since its really not casting of a spell.   
      • It is as though you're casting a Spell (see describes the paragraph before the bullet points) but this is not "Spell casting".  So that means critical fail tables will come into play. So you might as well get a high power.
        • Normalization. This means 1 out of 46,656 castings will result in a DEMON summoning. Here is your campaign Profession: Demon Hunters because of the wide spread use of magic items. Actually you can have an entire Campaign premise of a magical setting where characters all have to kill demons for a living that result in a botched roll. 
        • Its really up to the GM what the Demons do. It can be they are amassing or plotting or they stir up a ruckus enough for the farmers to call the Demon Hunters. (i find it a great use if I 'Hoard up' the demons for some grand purpose later in the game). 
      • Same Casting Time. As the spell, no modifiers from Power Rating. 
      • Same FP cost as spell, The Item just takes FP from its user, if the user has no FP to grant it will not work. (So undead with no FP cannot use magic items that require FP). High Power does not discount the cost of FP, so in a way Magic Items are great for Non-mages to participate at great FP cost. Power Spell (M57 or B480) powers a magic item (note it provides half as much in low mana zones).
        • Tons of FP! Its weird that if you have low upper body strength doing a push up takes more effort than running 200yrds. Ask the gm if he allows Aspected (Accessibility) FP that works related to the magic item. 
      • If you want High Power makes it more expensive. If 15 is the minimum, so for every point greater square * 10%. (lets use a TL3 Shape Earth of $6600). 
        • Power 15
        • Power 16 +10% (example shape earth; $7260)
        • Power 17 +40% (example shape earth; $9240)
        • Power 18 +90% (example shape earth; $12,540)
        • Power 19 +180%  (example shape earth; $17,160)
        • Power 20 +250%  (example shape earth; $23,100) 
        • * assuming $33 per 
  • Which Items are always on? The easiest way to tell is just looking if its clothing or jewelry. Spells always one or maintained are the ones with out worry of critical spell failure. 
  •  Innate Attack Skill (B201) will be needed for certain spells. Artist (Sculpt or Illusion) will also be needed for certain spells. 

Item Creation Notes

  • Found in these pages. B481-482 or M16-18 
  • Magic Item Power Rating (discussed above). 
  • 483 or Price of per FP is calculated as Average Monthly Income divided by Number of Work Days per month. Note that this can be very different per setting, depending on what mages are in the Economic Order of things.   
    • If they are sufficiently rare, like the Byzantine Empire's Pyromancers who supplied Greek Fire to the navy or Archimedes or the very valuable specialists that provided the best technology available at the time: Shipwrights, Engineers, and Masters. The cost of the items would reflect a station of such creators. In such cases, an Empire or Kingdom would have such a guild made up of very valuable specialists of incomes of Wealthy (x5 starting wealth) plus price modifiers (x2). So it wouldn't be a surprise if each work day would cost to create would reach  or x10 more than the prices in gurps magic or B483.  
    • Price per FP is recommended at $1 and price of time is based on Income. In the end of the day the GM will just rule on the price and it tends to be on the inflated size because if there are a lot of magic items in the game, then the mages know how to milk profits. Encouraging more creative means to get magic items is an option. 
  • The GM has to make up the cost and kind of materials. 
    • $10 per FP plus $20 per prerequisite count in basic material like papers, inks, chalk, silver dust, salts, candles, etc..  Each attempt ideally costs something. 
  • Quick and Dirty. 
    • Drawback - risks. Do this if your skills are at 16, so you don't suffer critical spell as often. From 1:53 rolls to 1:216 rolls.
    • Energy requirement. Unless you have the mages present then you cannot do it. Since Contributors who are not mages can only give up to 100fp then you need a lot of mages as you reach FP of over 100. Disposable magic Items using Temporary Magic Item will be possible with such limitations. To build a Cult Following you just get the playbook of real world cults.   
      • If you are a undead able to burn HP at no penality with immune to pain or numb (numb should not allow you to tell how much HP you burn) you can draw on more power. 
    • Benefit - speed. 
  • Slow and Sure Method. 
    • Note - Its more suited for Modern Settings or Normalized Magic in a setting. 
    • Benefit - depending on your assumptions (mine are in here) this can allow for very powerful magical Items (over 100FP) . 
    • Drawback - time consuming and man power intensive. 

Low Magic Games and Economics

  • At $33 per energy point a Very Fine Balanced Sword is $15,000 vs $8,250. It kinda disrupts the economics of it but if the setting has a lot of magical items this may be the cost. Of course the GM rolls randomly what magical items are on the market.  
    • Note that a Low population low tech world will find magical items showing up if these items are more indestructible than regular technological wonders of metal at the time.
  • At x10 more expensive magic items, a Very Fine Balanced Penetrating Sword would (M43) be the same cost as a Mercenary Poor Medium Footman Squad (10 men; TS2.25) for a year of full time inclusive of overland logistics cost. 
  • Warmachines that will allow Lords (Mage Lords) to more effective than squads or divisions of men would an example of what a Lord would spend for. The best example of such spending is when Mehmet spent for the creation of the Dardanelles Gun, or when the Romans used Greek Fire, or Siege engines by Archimedes. 
  • Truthsayer, Persuasion, Sense Emotion, Mind Search or Mind Reading combined with various Mentalist Techniques can allow a mage to filter participants. A well paid mage can have a lot of apprentices and participants, pretty much similar to the household of a clergy in a Fief or Imperial Palace. He can probably have the population of a monastery with its attached Village holding as part of his 
    • Such Spells can be Enchanted on Icons

Wizardry Tools

  • Powerstones are very important. A casting of a powerstone spells by a very skilled enchanter would be worth while. Only high powered mana, magery, or powered games would allow more powerful power stones. Dedicating a powerstone
  • Mana stones is going to be common in a low magic and low powered game. They may not be rechargeable but a mage with nothing better to do and has Manastone at 16 or better will be able to make use of his free time creating back up mana stones. A mge would be charging the stone 1 per hour. On an 8 hour day, where he does light duties he can cast the spell 19 times. 
  • Scrolls. They are so hard to use that in most games that the opportunity cost is making one is reserved to games where magic is very rare but sufficiently low tech that technology would not out-class a spell. 
    • Scrolls still require FP to cast, like magic items.  
    • Powerfull spells take a lot of time to make, compared to making a magic item through ceremonial magic or quick and dirty method. Also unlike the scroll, these items are not consumed.  
    • That economic conflict that the more powerful the scroll is made by a mage who has a very high skill, high skill that makes it a waste of his time to make a scroll compared to other pursuits.
    • Scrolls would create artificial scarcity for magic, if the magic producers act like a cartel. Still since its DAYS instead of hours, its just too expensive. 
  • Staff, its cheap enough that most mages can enchant and make them. Since spears are one of the most versatile weapon skills (with form mastery, grip mastery, default to staff at -2, great on horseback, a ranged weapon etc.) 
    • Limiting enchantments are Expensive compared to making Staffs. 
    • Staffs are limited to your imagination and GM permission. The Tesubo which is bascially an Iron-Staff can be made into a Staff, pole arms can be made into a staff, Bokken, Rattan sticks, cudgels, etc... its all up to the GM. Nothing like a powerful damage dealing touch spell on a staff-spear or staff-cudgel. 
  • Usually at 1000+ points of power, especially in low tech periods these items get incredibly rare. The coordination and the specialization needed to have such is at an annoyingly high degree. Its better for high Mana settings. 

GURPS Spells that deal with Magic Items

  • Many Meta Spells that affect spells cast with a magic item. 
    • Countermeasure spells like: Counter-spell, Suspend Spell, Ward, Reflect, Seek Magic, Dispel Magic, Scryguard, Magic Resistance, Spell Shield/Wall, Steal Spell, (and all their variations) etc
  • Charge Power Stone will come in very useful.  
    • Typically cast a Ceremonial Spell for lower level mages (if they can meet the Skill-15) and non mage character can contribute energy (up to 100!). 
  • Make and Break Spells. 

Mana Setting

  • In a Normal Mana setting, specializations where mages and rulers control the production of magical items that increase the productivity of their holdings from this can allow for magical Items to proliferate.