Thursday, July 31, 2014

Learning Stuff Categorically

Learning stuff category helps for me. Like the confusing thing for me about Knockdown and Stunning checks.
Knock down and Stunning HT check is called if you take HP/2 in damage (aka major wound) OR damage to vitals. >
If you take Hp/2 damage to vitals the check is -5.
> major wound to the vitals like the skull and eyes the check is -10.

In the book B420 it would have helped for me if major wound was "under" Knockdown and Stunning. An Major Wound to Vitals was "under" major wound.

For me gurps combat is easier to understand if broken down to Maneuvers and Attack Options. Slam, Shove, Hit location (aka Called shot), Deceptive Attack, and *Feint fall under hit locations.

Maneuvers simplified into 5 groups.

  1. Do Nothing - Do Nothing aka "Pass"
  2. Mental Actions - Aim, Evaluate, Concentrate, Wait
  3. Movement - Change Posture, Move, Ready, 
  4. Defense - All-out-Defense
  5. Attacking - Feint*, (Standard) Attack, All-out-Attack, Move and Attack, Defensive Attack, Committed Attack
*Feint APPEARS like an attack, and should be under "attack". It should be indistinguishable from a normal attack. It would be simpler to assume it is an attack option and removed from the Maneuvers category.

Blue appears in GURPS Martial Arts.

I can simplify it even more if I base it on appearance - Do nothing is lumped into Mental Actions. Defense is in Movement. Explaining it to people that there are 3 Broad categories of Maneuvers is much easier than 14 maneuvers.

All the Attack options found in One list, neatly organized.

  1. Hit-Location aka "Called Shot"
    1. Striking Weapons 
    2. Striking Shields
  2. Deceptive Attack
  3. Feint (in RAW limbo, in many situations its like Attack option)
  4. Slam
  5. Shove
  6. Rapid Strike
  7. Unarmed Attack Options 
    1. Striking 
      1. Punch
      2. Kick
      3. Elbow Strike
    2. Grab
    3. Grappling
      1. Initiate a Grapple
      2. Takedown
      3. Pin
      4. Choke/Strangle
      5. Arm Lock
      6. Wrench Limb
      7. Judo Throw

Ok. this is just the tip of the iceberg and I think I'm going to have to hold some sample encounters for my new to gurps players. I go more into this in my Gdocs GURPS combat notes, I use this to improve my system teaching. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GURPS Rules that can adhere to the Core System

The core system in GURPS is 3d6 roll below a score, which has modifiers. I sometimes wondered why not just apply to everything so that there is only one core resolution to remember.

Parrying Heavy Weapons 

in B376 This is a system resolved using 1d6. which is strange since there are HT stats for items in B483
Why not just make it an HT check?
the weapon "surviving" in 4-6 out of 1d6 is similar to the statistics of 11! but most weapons have an HT of 12, which complicates this. What you can do is that at 3x the weight difference, you can have a -1 penalty to the check, and every additional weight difference you can say the "weight multiplier after 2x is the penalty. So x10 the weight is -8!
Fine Quality adds '+2, wile Very Fine is '+4!

Reaction Rolls

B359 A successful rolls means you get a "good" result while any other result is a "bad" result. A good result is a 13-15 result while a "bad" result is 4-6 (B560).

GURPS Mysteries and Social Engineering has created variants and nuances to this. Of course if you have a different opinion you can apply your own modifiers to the "strategies" (each social skill is a particular psychological strategy; threats, promises, and cognitive biases). This, I think, is really where Opinions of various GMs matter and various Cultural Awareness kick in. The negotiation strategies and practices of various Business Cultures come time mind.

It saves time to just make an Adhoc Reaction Score in a given situations. Typically or in Most occasions a pretty low score. Apply the reaction modifiers, and of course there should be a penalty to "strangers" or people you just met or (a penalty that is about -3 to -5) .

Instead of the B359's system you can just apply the Margin of Success of the social roll to 10.

This is where rolling 3d6 rolling high is good. Which is strange because you can easily make it the same. You can just make reaction rolls Quick Contest and the margin of success adds to 10 which you use to compare on the Reaction Table. A margin of failure, is a negative modifier to 10 which is

So if you roll very good, with a margin of 4, then your score is 14 in the reaction table.
If you roll bad, with a margin of 5 failure, then your score is 5 in the reaction table.
It even allows you Quick Contests of Reaction Roll, when you are trying to win over a 3rd party.

Regular Contests

in B349 Regular Contests is not something that is used often. Its often overlooked and can have very rewarding uses. My Opinion is that it adds drama if Modifiers or Strategies affect the outcome of the Regular Contest and the Information is Asymmetric!  This means that participants have uncertain idea of the modifiers the other participant is gathering for the contest.  

This is basically how many social situations are modeled. 

Regular Contests with Multiple Intervals

This is not in the rules, but its a small expansion to them. I can have multiple Intervals to my contest if the PCs can change their strategy or factors change in every interval. In this case the Total Difference of Margin of Success determines the winner. 

Many things can be done in this method. Note that you can change strategy, that means each interval can be an adventure in itself where the outcome weighs heavily on the odds of the PCs. This is a great challenge to see the strategic and planning ability of Players, especially to check how they hedge their risks and how pro-active they are in turning the system on its head.

Examples of this is Lobbying Socially, where groups are exerting influence on a 3rd party. Another is Economic Competition, like merchants competing for market dominance. 

Wound Threshold System

Wound threshold systems basically a different kind of abstraction. Basically instead of using Damage or HP, you just simplify it to the Wound Conditions. HP becomes a "threshold" or a benchark for damage.
Weapon's Average Damage plus Margin of success to Hit minus DR. In another perspective its basically making Regular Contests of Abilities but in a number of intervals (those abilities is damage and toughness).

The simplest Threshold System in GURPS is just to use HP as threshold. Instead of rolling Damage, just add attack's margin of success to the "average" damage of the weapon. Call this value the wounding score.

If there would have been damage multipliers add a bonus to the wounding score.
x0.1 -5
x0.2 -4
x0.3 -3
x0.5 -2
x1 (no modifier like crushing attacks)
x1.5 '+2
x2  '+3
x3 '+4
x4 '+5

An attack with a broadsword with 1d+4 cutting would be 7. 7 + Margin of Success. If it was at the neck where cutting attack becomes x2, add 2. An attack with a MoS of 4 would have 7 + 4 + 3 = 14 wounding score.

The defender resists with his HT + DR + HP/2, call this the Toughness roll. His HP determines his Major Wound and the damage threshold of limbs. These values determines the margin of failure that would result in his condition getting down. Edge Weapons Blunt Trauma doubles the DR of metal armor against edged weapons.

HT12, DR4 (fine mail), HP13 would be HT26 minus 14. Defender has to roll vs 12. If he succeeds there was no damage. If he fails and If his HP is 12, his wound need to fail by 6 to go down on any but a hit on the limb cripples or destroys the limb.

A regular failure is a "lesser" wound and shock penalty equal to the margin of failure up to 4. Every lesser wounds give a -1 penalty to DX and IQ (this applies to Will and Per, and Self Control). At -3 wound penalty 1/2 dodge and move. Beyond -3 or 3 lesser wounds, a combatant can keep fighting if they have a margin of fail equal to HP/4. Otherwise they are down. Greater than HP/2, they are dead.

Even if the defender makes a toughness check, if the margin of success less than or equal the DR, the defender has a "scratch" (if it breaks skin) or a "bruise". Scratches and Bruises add up, when they reach up to half a major wound, their combined effects count as a lesser wound. Poisons can be delivered through scratches.

Critical hits typically have a margin of success of 10! So on a critical hit the Attacker would have dealt 19 wounding score and would have needed a 7 to resist.

In the end you track only the "really" lethal blows, filtered by HT, HP, and DR.  Each Attack instance is a Quick contest against the Toughness of the Defender. The scratches dont really come to play unless its a BBG or monster with a lot of HP.

Monday, July 28, 2014

When PCs are Leaders and they deal with Kings, Armies, Bureaucracies and States

TL:DR - you still have to do important stuff yourself - you cannot delegate the most important jobs. This becomes more narrative and requires a basic concept.

Work inspires me to game, or more accurately, it frustrates me in so many levels that I really love to escape to the game. Still it is my source of inspiration, insight, and ideas. One idea that seems not to be accessible is that - higher up the food chain you still have to do things yourself. Of course you can pick and choose your challenges better, you can allocate that epic agent for infiltration, you can send your armies, you can mobilize your entire economies... but in the end of the day the only person who you have the ability to predict what is going to happen is yourself. 

Your army can fail, worse - get turned, captured, or destroyed. You spy can fail or be turned, or was actually a double agent. Your generals can turn on you, while you delegate on an important task (happens a lot in history), your Bureaucracies can be a mess, your economy is really not under your control, and there is nature, and your Enemies. If your GM enforces fair manpower limitations - that Awesome people don't show up ready to be employed under your command (and mostly people who "say they are awesome" but are actually crap or worse - traitors), then you cannot just get rid of them (as Alexios Komnenos case was a great example - so many traitorous generals and he cannot afford to kill them, frequent assassinations and betrayals). 

The only people you can count on is your "TEAM". Although your team is not like what they used to be, fighting side by side. Instead each PC has a small staff which is Role-Played by the other Players while their PC is off doing something. All Players are in the scene, but in different characters. One character has to negotiate this, spy on that, lead this army to this, ready a city for that, etc... 

In the end, the GM goes through Each Scene, and through each player playing their part. Of course in some scenes some Players are controlling the more Powerful PC, but everyone gets their turn in the spotlight. The same way we wait our turn to act, we wait our turn at the spot light. We wait our turn, but the GM can make our wait interesting by letting us affect the scene through Allies that we can take control. 

Format or How this Works

  1. Basically the GM reviews mentally the entire process. Diplomatic, Logistics, Administrative etc... Its that intimidating because the GM's mind just swooshes past the entire process and sums it up. There are many variables in every process and he just arbitrarily (or based on the character's weaknesses) introduces challenges that typically comes up.
    1. Ex. A weak diplomatic corps but competent Military. This can present problems such as the risk of your diplomat being turned or losing focus on the leaders best interests. Lack of personal initiative or resourcefulness. Etc... Even if the Diplomatic Corps is lead by a PC, and the other Player play the NPCs staff there are tuns of problems that can going on. 
    2.  Ex. An Army on the March, Marching Discipline, Weather, and Problems with the Locals can be the mini-adventure or challenge within this side of the game. Again the leading PC, and minor PCs representing the other Players 
  2.  The GM moves back and forth. Even if the players are aware of things they should not be, the GM can always adapt things and expectations. If the other players learned of a spy in the army or diplomatic corps, or in court the GM can just say - you learned the spy's name. I wont say to maintain assymetry but I will guide the actions of the character who knows it OR he can just present a hard penalty to detect motives. Always giving the impression of a red herring can help players choose the best economize their characters time. 

Economies of PCs Time. Simply adapt the Multi-tasking penalties or Rapid Strike penalties to a situation. One task and every additional task is -2 (from Spaceships Multi-Tasking).

In hindsight, I think I should have made a flow chart for this (although it is more time consuming). Anyway, if there is a demand for a particular modular process I'll make it. I guess its some Economic Rules of thumb people can fudge of make assumptions to model how large and complex organizations interact (some Psycho history lolz)

The Campaign, Sins of The Crusades is a publicly view-able game and learning experience in running such games. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wounding Rules

I don't think I need to site any argument against HP systems, and the cognitive (and assumption) disconnect about it. Its really a poor model, when compared to other models given the increasing amount average amount of medical and health science people have in this day and age. This is not a debate about HP systems, but alternatives which I proceed to give examples of other systems and what I happen to like about them.

A lot of game Systems use HP. Few, strangely, give Tiers of Conditions or Modifiers to the condition of the character from the extend of the damage (ex. Fading Suns and L5R and Traveller to name a few; This kind of system is called a "Death Spiral"). Fuzion and Hero are HP system with some quirks like the Stunning and lethal damage.

Wound Threshold or Wound Save system is simply a check/roll against Damage (more damage the lower chance of success) modified by things that define "toughness". WOD, Savage Worlds, and some D20 variants use these rules - I happen to think they, Wound Save and Thresholds, are the most elegant wounding rules because it can be translated so easily to many systems and allow you multiple assumptions where you just adjust benchmarks back and forth.

GURPS is a hybrid of Wound Threshold/Save system and of HP system. You check against the amount of damage (in essence you have a damage threshold) until you reach an amount of HP damage that physically (the system assumes in certain conditions) is Impossible to survive from (in GURPS its HPx6 to HPx11).

WH40k is a bit of a mixed HP system - many other stuff happens when you get damaged. Its more fun when you automate the statistics instead of checking on the book (memorizing it is not an option if this is not your system of mastery). You can generalize that Systems with Tables for Damage and all the conditions it will result is a Mixed System for HP. There are conditions but you have to consult a table which is tedious and best automated in an app the GM can just click IMO. To stress this more, try to time your game referencing and look at the Opportunity cost of checking such references to Playing. This method of analysis works in other aspects of games if you can record and measure them, the time you spend on something and if there are better uses of the time that will bring out more fun. 

In GURPS marital arts there is a more lethal "death spiral". Although I don't use them because, I find just enforcing the half dodge and movement rule already lethal (all your enemies are more likely to do Telegraphic Attacks) when you apply simple tactics and I find it additional book keeping. I learned in airsoft, when you've hit the wall everything goes down hill.

Its pretty easy to port the Wound Threshold system and the Death Spiral into many systems if you don't like the current system. You can port GURPS hybrid threshold HP system to 3.0-3.5 DnD (shock penalties, Fort saves when taking large amounts of damage, and a bit of a death spiral). In fact you can take a mechanic from any game system and translate it to another if you can understand the basic statistics of their success rolls (which is why I have a hard time with systems that use a lot of dice).

Wound Threshold System

Simply Take the Damage and use it against what counts as Toughness or Resistance to Damage, what is at stake is the Condition of the person or object taking the damage. The Damage can be static and the Defender roll their Toughness/Resistance or vice versa. Note that the more only one side needs to roll (player vs GM) the faster things go. 

Damage can be a Margin of Success of a Hit, to show their correlation. Armor affects Toughness and so are other intrinsic conditions and qualities. You can have classes to represent various rock-paper-scissors situation in wounding (Rock beats Scissors etc...). 

In GURPS I made damage as a Task Difficulty Modifier, affecting the Defender's Toughness roll. In D20 it can be modified  Fort Save vs a Static Damage number. Note that toughness being the variable can replace variable damage, Margin of Failure is important if conditions have multiple tiers. So a very bad failure can bring a character down multiple tiers of conditions. 

Ideally the players need to bring up their Attack to inflict more damage or add more conditions that will make it difficult to save against the Damage if they are gaming the system. So what was typically adding more damage, becomes increasing the damage options. 

Hit location like legs, hands, feet etc... can create damage conditions. These conditions modify the Wounding System with lowering the chance of Saving against the damage but limiting the conditions from Death to incapacitating the Defender. 

I just learned while writing this creating a blank Rules Template for this would help... but given how niche this is I'm better off making more token drawings. 

Damage Class and Wound Systems. GURPS has a very simple damage class system - which is scaling damage in 10s, and hundreds. Wound Threshold system can also have a damage class, a modifier to a "class of attacks" that are really far greater or for weaker. Small creatures can have a Damage class, a modifier, to all its attacks making it weaker against larger opponents and you can have a damage class against Fire Arms or Weapon batteries!

You can create a damage class system based on any arbitrary value, technological leaps in protection and damage (like in War Hammer and Rifts), and simply looking at all the damage scales in your game system and grouping them to simplify.

Note that the Wound Threshold System, Death Spiral, and Damage Class or Scale can be applied to in animate objects.

So the search for a better model, and a model that is easier to implement (less points of potential failure or disaster), goes on. This compulsion only applies to some, and those so thoroughly afflicted create heretical constructs derived from many systems "hacked" together to create a monster. Their games run smoother, with a dangerous edge while the GM can pull levers and press buttons that create special effects that dazzle and maintain the powerful illusion of the game and its world.

Disclaimer: Experimentation leads to Hersey, Doubt, falling outside the Norm, and a disruptive behavior. For your social comfort and stability do not experiment without the supervision or permission of an Authorized and Certified GM. You will comply.  

Edit: Notes from Comments:

  • Dice Pool or Value Pool System - in Tunnels and Trolls combat performance is by rolling a pool of dice that is then distributed - allocated against an opponent or opponents. This creates wound conditions for those who "lose" against the higher value.  I forgot the system, but I played one with Dice Pool that shrinks as one takes wounds - I think its Aberrant or some WoD system. 
  • Not all HP systems are the Same - Some HP systems are very limited. Fading Suns and Qin The Warring States have a HP system that averages around 10 give or take 50% to double (and sometimes more). Some are a lot of points like in DnD. Some is Mixed like in the early Star Wars D20 with "Vitality" representing Gygaxian HP and Con being the "physical" HP. 
  • Soaking Systems.  Some Alternate to HP with a few Tiers of Wounded conditions use Soaking Systems like WoD where Damage is "Soaked" up by Toughness or The Endurance Stat equivalent. Failing to Soak is damage and you track it like HP. Some systems are more lethal, others can be dialed up or down in lethality. Soaking Systems are not so different from Any System that lowers the Damage or makes damage the equivalent of Checks creating a Binary Yes or No if the character is wounded or Not.
  • Narrative Control. House of the Blooded is the only system I got to play that uses Narrative control for damage. if you beat the guy (there is a wager system, a kind of dice pool penalized as you want more and more narrative control, more opportunities to declare facts) you declare what you do to the opponent. You can declare one "fact" like Killing him, but if he also makes a mistake, he can also say the other guy Dies of his wounds. To say I killed him and Survived is two facts, while the opponent can also say he survived (restating a fact does not cost any "facts), but is imprisoned for the murder. etc... 

Edit: the Few Systems I know (will update)

  • Qin TWS - HP with Death Spiral
  • L5R - HP with Death Spiral
  • GURPS - HP with Thresholds, and various penalties. Optional rules for gritter and more dangerous Death Spiral. 
  • Hero - HP with non-lethal damage and Thresholds. 
  • Tunnels and Trolls. Damage is from values rolled by a Dice Pool, reallocation of the value per opponent afflicts Wounding Conditions 
  • War Hammer 40k - HP system, with Critical hit Tables. These tables act like variable conditions. 
  • DnD 1.0-5. - HP system. In Later version  with various damage conditions
  • Harn 3.0 
  • WoD - Mostly the Core system uses Damage Soak, with a Few Wound Tiers (which can be viewed as HP)
  • Traveller Classic to Mongoose - Stats as HP, Death Spiral from Stat Loss. 
  • Fading Suns 1-3.0 HP system with few points, with death spiral. 
  • D20 Alternate Rules - Wound Threshold with improving Toughness Saves. 
  • House of the Blooded - Narrative Control
  • Mech Warrior / Battle Tech - (will review)
  • Rifts (and Many Palladium Games) - HP system
  • Dungeon World - 
  • Dead Lands - Wound Saves/Threshold. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Terrain Evolution

Experimenting some more. These are Gifs of 128x128. They average 10kb. At 256x256 they average 30kb as gif and 90kb as png. I'll be sticking to gifs more to run the game smoother. 
They look more and more like BIT art lolz. Which is not a bad thing. But to optimize memory going to Gifs and limiting the color pallet is needed. 

Newer Versions of Terrain

Tree, bad footing, and bushes. 
Roots give bad footing. so hexes without roots have no penalty.
Bad footing Terrain and Bushes both give bad footing penalty, worse penalties in the bushes but they provide concealment and break line of sight. 



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movement Rules Matter

One of my little peeves is the Movement rules. I always check the movement rules in various game systems because it is actually the most Accessible understanding of how the Body works. Running sites litter the internet, and marching performance can be found in many war manuals like in Vegetius's De Re Militari and more recently the Small Wars manual (and the Combat Leaders Field Manual).

If you don't have a good model for movement then I guess we are of different wavelengths in gaming.

Walking and Running can be analogous to many other physical activities. Swimming, Climbing, Push-ups, Digging, Heavy Lifting, etc... can be derived from a good set of WORK (SI) related rules. Each different task is just a modifier on the rate of energy expended in such tasks. I can Jog 10 minutes at 7kph or roughly 5mph and my heart rate won't rise by so much, but make me do push ups for 1 minute straight and my heart would be pounding and my arms shaking.

A good model for Work is always a useful metric and tool in everyday life – travel, chores, and various other physical tasks can be quantified and assessed for utility over time. Planning Trips, like going to the NY to visit relatives and I'm bringing along my 32lb 3yr old (who is a very picky eater) translates to a lot of work – ALOT of work (adding 32lbs to my carrying encumbrance)

In an Airsoft game, I'm surprised by how slow we move – simply because we don't want to trip over and get stabbed by various factory implements sticking out of the ground. My 26lbs kit weighing down on me and the occasional sprints and slides into cover with my trusty knee and elbow pads. My fit bit tells me I didn't run as much in a 3 hour game day as I would have in 40 minute run adds to the metrics minded ness of measuring Work and Endurance (last I check maybe just 1k of running lolz).

So yeah, if the game system doesn't care about Movement Rules enough then they're are ignoring the most easily measured and processed activity in an adventure. Its that detail that makes me too tired to counter attack if I reach cover or move to place in the battlefield where I am needed, or too tired to be aware of my surroundings, or unable to make an effective reaction as the situation changes. Fatigue doesn't come up in a game, then we Ignore the most challenging internal enemies of a character. Fatigue is the ally of his doubts, his biases, and the limits of his attention.

As a GM, If I'm not bringing PCs down to 1/3FP I'm not doing my job right. I don't think a win is satisfying if PCs don't break a sweat, and the last Ass Kicking we ever gave in an Airsoft game made us shaking from exhaustion.

Edit. I'm aware we can all hand wave movement. As much as we can handwave every challenge that can comes up in the game into the ones that matter to the players and the GM. if movement does not matter for you, that's (sigh) ok by extension Logistics too. You probably like social and combat challenges, if not that's ok. Maybe I guess its just telling a shared story where there is an internal conflict... no - no internal conflict such as biases, personal weakness, and conflicting beliefs and loyalty... ummm... anyway enjoy your game in what ever way you wish this is a hobby where you can do no wrong, until it breaks the shared convention because any other imagination game without convention or consensus is just day dreaming. 

Related Post: 

Some notes on Endurance
Persistence Hunting  - gives you a sense of perspective what our endurance is in the animal kingdom.
Bipedialism -  gives you an idea of what a perfectly evolved biped looks like, in light of the 5 toed "running" shoes legal case.
Small Wars Manual - it has pack animal endurance metrics as well as marching metrics. It also talks about how long it takes to set up camp and protocols. Its a great all around book and any GM who runs "physical adventures" will benefit from this book. If your try to be more outdoorsy this should also help. Note that after travelling set up camp and security, and foraging are very time consuming activities.
De Re Militari - more doctrine goodness. 20 roman miles (30km or 18mi) in 5 summer hours (which is from dawn to before mid-day or about 5:30am to 1pm or 7.5 hours lolz) that is 2.4mph or 3.8kph it does not say with a Kit and if you read on it talks about marching and running.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Roll20 Optimized Combat Mapping

First you have to Roll20 Best Practices

  • Gif is the Smallest, and has some lost detail. Comparing the same file from PNG to Gif at the same px the Gif is 1/4 the size. 

1028x1028 is the optimal size for a combat map. By Combat map, I mean the map you are going to move around in with a number of tokens. I run gurps and I can be a combat heavy GM, and I like the Mass Combat rules and allow large number of units to participate.

This does not prove the same rule or standard for overland maps which is not token/asset heavy.

Sample Optimized Battlemap

At 70px per Hex, 1027/70 = about 14 hexes.
14x14 is the optimal. But thats pretty clear, I can suffer some pixelation to have more playing space. I experimented with 0.7 enabled grid unit size and 0.2. I looked at the pixelation of 1028x1028 (~700kb).
In the end I need the following details:
  1. Bad Terrain
  2. Cover
  3. Visibility
  4. Line of Sight
  5. Visibility Fall-Off. (Select the Token and press "L" to see what ithe token  can see). 

In combat I opted not to use COmbat Maps made in GIMP. Instead I made maps with 256x256 Gif Assets (4kb each). Will make prettier assets in the future. Again they will be drawn with GIF as the intended output for combat maps. 



You will notice this terrain has a lot of trees and cover. Its a more open era for combat, as forests go.

so basically IF I littered a scene with 20 4kb, and 40 2kbs I'd have a total of 1.600kb scene. Still smaller than most scenes with a map. And it depends on the density. 

Some OSs allow you to Zoom different from the Ctrl+Mouse wheel. My PC used to be able to do it, now I dont know what happened

Lesson: this means breaking up a beautifully detailed map into 1028x1028 chunks or planning your map making around this size. Which is not so bad. Crop up a map, and place it in your drawing space and work on the sections.

Quick and Simple Method

Combat maps lack a lot of detail, the area is so limited what matter are the terrain, its effects and Information asymmetry (for tactical decision making). In this method I can quickly make a map and even make one on the fly. 

All my units have lighting so I can see what they can see. Beyond their visibility and enemies behind cover the PCs have to make listening and observation checks and I can "Ping" where. 

Information Asymmetry - PCs or the Players can develope good protocols and rules of thumb to work with limited information. This also allows Biases and Disads to come into play. Aggressive, Paranoid, Cautious, Level Headedness, etc... are accentuated with Information Asymmetry. 

Lightening Assets

you will notice the asset below. The Spear wielder is 590kb (1500x1500px) vs the smaller one at 32kb (258x258). That adds to the load. I will have to reduce all that very nice detail into a more playable size. 
1500x1500 PNG 357kB 

256x256 31kb PNG
256x256 9kb GIF

* You will have to adjust the visibility. I use 20/10 for how far the character can see (simulating Combat Awareness and information Asymmetry), but at 0.2 this is screwed up. So from 20/10 it becomes 4/2 and 22/11 becomes 4.4/2.2 

Lesson the GM who wants to cram as much assets and terrain into his play space and he has limits in screen size and bandwidth he has to work with Optimized Asset Sizes. Basically work on 258x258, png for tokens, and Gif for Assets, and a map of 1028x1028 or No Map at all..

A map I recently finished, I'm learning to paint maps and terrain slowly a lot of lessons learned. Infinite Painter with Note 10.1, probably took me 3-4 hours (redoing many things, a lot of trial and error, and still many errors).

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Very Quick Roll20 Tokens for my Warring State Game.

Here is my non-professional work lolz. Hope you can find it useful. Some notes on the scale I use which I had to resize to fit in properly (and to flip around because their handedness keeps gets screwed up)

This is for my Warring States Game which still has a slot-ish open. The party needs Muscle so warriors are especially needed. 

Redoing these below.

Note 10.1 (2012; 4.4), Infinite Painter for Note.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

GM Preparation Formats - Ultra Lite

Game Preparation in GURPS is a time consuming process, but hopefully more and more GM notes will be available online so that it will speed up everyone's prep and people can build over and into each others work.

Here is a sample format I am following. Basically its Setting Expectations, Skimming Guide, and Sources (for independent reading or listening).

Expectations - the Spiel and Introduction 

the Game Spiel has to be short. Its also loaded with "key words" that signal to the target audience. Words that are not used everyday and signal a particular understanding like - Kataphrakt, Broadsword, Recon Operations, etc... Details come after and there is a format to it - you don't want to overload potential players, but you want to reinforce the signal.

Typically I can arrange the Introduction by giving 2 key ideas that deal with the setting in the order of ease of communication, or ability to get the idea that puts everyone on the same page across.

The Warring States Period.

Key Idea (for me) -

  1. The 7 States, The Hundred Schools of thought, and the many Chinas that could have been plus the hidden diversity we can't quite capture as outsiders.
  2. Intrigue, Warfare, and Logistics in the a Bronze age era that is more complex and sophisticated than would have previously imagined. World view changing perspective as we explore a world not many fantasy or history writers talk about. 
  3. (implied in the manner of communication) A bunch of Wai'ren (outsiders) using an RPGs to learn about china in a comfortable setting of fellow gamers and curious amateurs. 

  This is something that should be easy to get out of the way, as the interested person skims past. People skim a lot these days and be sure that key concepts hare properly highlighted and the shortest possible explanation is given. Details and the richness this conveys comes when you guys are discussing the setting. Of course, leave the sources in the end of the document.

Skimming Guide - the Topics discussed

"Ain't nobody's got time for that"
Seriously, I'm not proud that I have a 100wpm reading speed but there is really not much I can do about that except skimm skimm skimm ( I'm a researcher with 100wpm reading speed lolz). Skimming works by just picking up on key words - so you will notice I bold, capitalize, italicize and color text to compensate. In my head, there is another me who is always in a hurry criticizing and telling me - "BOORRING!" and various other childish knee jerk reactions to how I'm writing. He gets carried away too... (I don't use underline much because it gives my eyes a hard time)

When I find my nerdy pedantic self going crazy about a particularly fascinating and obscure fact or trivia - somebody inside my head's gonna smack em get your pace back on track. Of course self control in a hobby we really love is something we really don't expect, especially if I'm not paid to do it lolz. (sniff) 

Sources - because your don't sound as good as you think

my favorite lecturers are Prof. Kenneth Harl, Lazlo Montgomery, and Prof. Stephen Hinsaw , to name just a few - i have a lot, and I don't sound as good as them - duh. (You can imagine my wife readily and enthusiastically agreeing to shut me up in the background) So we cite our sources, because you may just lose your audience if you go at it too long - Over time we have more errors - you can say that over time we sound dumber lolz.

NPC Picture Technique

Have a bunch of NPCs pictures. I have over 200 pictures for actors (probably 500+) and I just draw them out as I tell the story. Each picture is a mnemonic acting as a way for me to RP and remember he name. In a Physical game, printing out cards would help as the act of having the faces and these actors in Costume help in remembering various elements about them. Its a story telling exercise of drawing what you can from a picture. 

Prepare some in advance, but in the Sandboxy types of games I run I expect that my players will go everywhere else but the place I prepared (in the Warring States game, they went to the far west instead of east in the city). Tell a story based on the appearance and what possible secrets such a person may have, or motives. This gives flexibility and use your phone and notes to take pictures. 

Although the technique is much better if you like studying people, psychology, stories of people, and experiences that make you question more your understanding of people than playing the stereotypes we all have in our individual heads.  

Visualized Loci/Place Technique

same as the NPC picture technique but draw from your own visualization and immersion to bring out details and rationals as to how a place works. Experience helps enrich this, travel especially so. Use the details and patterns you see in your travels or in your neighborhood to tells many small stories about elements about the surrounding and bring the elements that dont make sense and striking surface. 

Google maps with streetview is powerful for modern games. Make up little stories, make it all up and go crazy with odd details and conflicting paradigms. 

Drawing the map is an exercise in itself, how geography shapes behavior and economies fuel more details and create more conflicts and stress points. Challenging yourself is a common element in both the techniques mentioned, and putting elements you are uncomfortable with and flaws help challenge creativity in making up stories why this is there or leave it to the imagination of the players /PCs.

I keep all my image portraits in a Dropbox folder. If helpful I may make a copy just for sharing. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Warring States Pilot Episode


Thanks to:


  • The party begins in Hebi, a fortified village that serves as a way station for Zhao goods travelling from Nao to Zhao and Zongshan Lands. Their Patrons, the Zhi and Jin, were killed and dispossed but they still had some contacts that arranged them to own a warehouse where they can try to move goods to Nao or Zhao lands. 
  • Hebi is quaint with many small farms, more than what is needed to support the 50 Zhao troops (up to 300 soldeirs because many are on patrol) who protect the river from pirates. The town is run by a lady named Zhuyi who manages the farms for the Soldiers. The captain is Dongming, who doest like the look of the characters. 
  • When the PCs get their warehouse and bill to trade, Dongming opposes it and says he does not serve anyone but the Zhao. He points at the old seals, which were until recently (this year), the authority of the Zhou - but now the Zhou are puppets of the Wei and this well decorated Zhao commander knows his loyalties very well. He punished the soldier who let them in, and punished him again for trying to make an excuse. 
  • Well Yuan or Zhexue, would not stand for this crap and offered to read it to the Commander, who calmly asked his soldiers to draw their spears, escort them out, and stab them if they resisted. 
  • The group escorted outside had to make their own way. They surveyed the land, they had supplies and was able to find out a lot of the farms were squatting and were not really "assigned" to them. Farther from the Hebei irrigation, they were not as productive. They moved further noth and found an abandoned manor, and what remains of a modest fief. Struggling farmers with poor irrigation. Donghua was their head man, he was in Hebi earlier asking for aid but turned down. The Party offered their aid in return of getting the land they can farm. The party was not made up of farmers, so what happened is that they ended up bartering their civilization building skills for improving the life of the farmers. In time they did improve the lives of the farmers but the threat of raiders eventually materialized.  
  • Donghua has brought the problem before, and the team hastened to fix it. YiQin was quarrying for materials when he found a limestone cave suitable for defense. It is about 6 miles from the town. Aiguo patrolled and was able to spot a scout. When Xiao-Xiao was this scrawny orphan who helps him out and messages "Big" Yuan and Zhexue to follow. They were surprisingly able to stalk the scout when Aiguo alerted him, and DaYuan chased the scout down. 2 minutes of running and the big man caught up, causing the Scout to turn around and draw his hatchet. The pause allowed Aiguo and Zhexue to catch up. Zhexue grab scout and managed to hold his weapon arm when the others tried to pile on. It was easy and they had managed to capture the scout. 
    • So they proceeded to torture the scout and get information from him. Being a scout, he does have a lot of information. The scout had no clue that, "Da" Yuan hacked the head off and put it on a pike which rallied some of the villagers. Its 60 men, mountain folk that live by raiding and their own small farms and foraging. When its cold enough to travel south, they raid to supplement their stores and grab some booty along the way. 
  • Xiao-Xiao and Da Yuan decide to scout and try to pick off the bandits, even though they are poorly skilled for the task and the odds against him. The rest had to focus on rallying the villagers and only 15 of the adults decided to join, among them farmers who have nothing to lose, and aid Zhexue and YiQin. Aiguo maintained the perimeter.  
  • Xiao-Xiao and Da Yuan made some smart decisions, and were able to catch a small flank guard of 4. On their prowl, they were discovered and Da Yuan, closed in against them. Untrained in warfare the Big merchant cut off the arm of the first man, and staggered the second. He had the benefit of a heavy cuirass and a good bronze axe. He took many wounds, hatchets cut muscle and hit bone, long knives went deep but fortunately avoided arteries. The huge man was so muscled that mass buffered what would have cut down any normal man. Xiao-Xiao stabbed at those stunned by his great blows, they were more worried about the aggressive warrior. (random hit location rolls). After cleave the head of the last opponent, (failed HT to recover from stun for the others), Da Yuan collapses and barely able to tend to his wounds the little orphan struggled with the man three times her mass. Fortunately Zhexue, in his medical and meditative haze had the inspiration to seek them out and found them through Aiguo. They all brought him back, while leave calling cards of their butchery.  
  • When they returned, the village is estatic, they have arms but their biggest asset is wounded and need of bed rest (-14HP, ST14). So near death, and covered with wounds staving off infection would be the first threat they experienced.

Session End

  • I will need to make a map of the village. Similar to those Harn Maps. Terrain, irrigation, and farms. The traps as well. Good thing I have some time. 
  • everyone got 2cps and 3 which they decided how they are granted to the other PCs. Example is Steve gave 2cp for Dan, each for a leg, which will go into his rolls against infection and crippling (Dan has HT14). 
  • We have one new player and will have a session two weeks from now, 18th. 
  • I use the Optional Rule: Influence Success Rolls in B347 which allows them to spend CP (which they have a short supply of) to alter success. 
  • All players are new to gurps. 
  • I will need to make merchant professional template, since a result of 12 seems to occur a lot in the background roll. 
  • Next time I'll try to have roll20 on screen share so that my mug is not whats on the video most of the time. 
  • This is very sandbox. I had many things prepared, but not so much where the PCs wanted to go. My preparation there was my extensive knowledge of logistics (from the industry I work in, construction and manufacturing, and other related hobbies and interests). Good thing I prepared  - the Seasonal length, and the activities per season of farmers, then there are the farming activities and how many acres/hectars that can be processed (the basics from Low Tech companions 3). It gave a sense of what resources the PCs had to build their civilization. The path they decided is taking a fallen manor and build their own estate from there. Far from other lords, but with a river that lets them come close to Nao and another major place to trade. The scale of time will definitely be in seasons with points of intense activity and problems. 
    • Here is something to consider, the problems that go to them, the more they dont have to go to these problems.
    • I have a lot in store for this kind of adventure path. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My Notes in Mapmaking with a Note 2 and 10.1

You can, hypothetically, do this in a Note 2 or 8. Of course with a note 2 its going to be more painful on the eyes and hands. SAVE CONSTANTLY (if you have an alarm set it to remind you every 5-10 minutes! don't be like me and forget to save after 1 hour of working! the technology is still buggy and crashes often enough.

Pseudo Layers! When you import an image in S-Note it goes under your drawing. When you "Cut" it you can draw before pasting it back, which is a neat trick to if you are like me, and eyes get all confuddled with all the lines and colors.

Pseudo Layers Trick 1 After arranging your picture, make another page and Copy and Paste it again there. Try to preserve the "Scale" you are using so that you can copy it back to the other page you are working on in case you accidentally delete it.

Pseudo Layers Trick 2 Use folders to allow you to save multiple copies.

  1.  Copy into a folder
  2. Rename one of the copies,  like Version naming 01, 02, 03 etc. typically the one outside the folder
  3. Rename the copy you are working on. Save in every step where it looks good and you're afraid its all going to go to waste. You will notice my file names say 01, 02, 03. 
The way you organize your files is maximizes your productivity, experimenting in that helps. 

Sync it to your Google Docs so that you dont lose your files and 

Use Google Earth/Maps. Our ability to do scaling is rather limited and there is no shame (except for elitists) to trace over a map or use it as a reference. In the case of this map, I used a screen capture of my desired scale (50km scale) and then proceeded to cut and paste it to my dropbox which my Snote can access. 

Step 1: prep a Google Map of the Desired Scale. This gives you a sense of how BIG the mountains should look.
Notice I used a Map as a guide but ultimately DITCHED IT lolz. its a guide and don't let it be a barrier. 

 Step 2: Chill! Test it out. Do not commit yet, and maybe walk away for a day. If you feel the overwhelming pressure to make this awesome maybe you need to relax and do something else. As someone who has alot of anxiety I learned to chill and make mistakes.

Step 3: Gradualy gaining of Confidence. Remember your previous versions are your "save points" and never forget its there to help you.
You have variations of this map in other pages. Experiment and take your time. Make mistakes and take notes.

 Step 4: Feeling confident, remove the undermap and just make it up along the way. Its freaking made up, no mistakes and there is an interesting story in every mistake.

The thing about this is that there is no "End" or final project. You work with what time you have and the limitations. if it looks ok, its ok. It can always be improved but Time is your benchmark. Its not like your doing this professionally...

Step 5: Export it and Re-Import the Image on another page. use edit pages to arrange your pages. Basically Its now an underlayer and I can draw stuff like territorial boundaries. I plan to just put text in GIMP or some other similar app.

This is designed in mind for hexes. I use the Small Wars manual for such. If you find it a good book, then you will realize Camping eats up 2-4 hours per day - not counting eating, sleeping, foraging, paroling, and cooking. That an the lack of "roads" make progress slower. So even at the scale of this map you can have a lot of interesting "small wars" in the scale of hundreds of man-at-arms and levies.
My latest version of making mountains and forests. So I decided on this version because it looks ok close up and away and it because I can be consistent without Tiring my pen hand. 

Note that being able to do this RELAXING is a priority, I don't do this to make money and if I feel good, I take comfort in that. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Myth Dispelling - Does it matter when its all abstracted anyway?

There are many videos out that dispell myths in RPGs and bring a lot more detail and understanding into the game. For me, these highlight fundamental physics or sciences that work beneath the distracting stimuli of "cool moves".

Although, I think about it - does it matter? Its weird because, many who come to the information change their world view and try to model and adopt their view considering the new information... but then there are many more where it doesn't matter at all. I guess its that cognitive disconnect where something you may value is not value by others and it creates that difficult to swallow realization that should be normal but never gets easy.

Whats funny is that, that dose of information is addicting to some and leads them down a dangerous path of experimentation and SCIENCE! From my anecdotal experience, those are very few people and "No ones got time for that" in the end of the day, many rules are still the same and the tactics and conclusions that are drawn from those flawed assumptions become stranger and stranger with each iteration or every "bound" of rationality. It becomes so alien, but because we grew up and adapted to this environment - like perceptual adaption, this is the only way to see the world and to change from it is dizzying, strange and worse of all - lonely.

You can say statistics, game theory, and information theory model instances of being a lonely outlier fraught with some many biases and fears - no one wants to be on the outside looking in - anyway its just a few made up rules of an imagination game - there is no harm in it.

Still many more myths are dispelled and many people begin to wonder about what they are doing and trying to reconsider if they there is another way of doing this, is there a detail that has more weight in the circumstance than first assumed.

In the randomness of epiphany, many things mattered only for a moment, to be forgotten and overcome  and consumed by loneliness (the fear of a mental state that would lead to more isolation).  It stopped mattering, and we are back to playing for an audience of our peers, having completely forgotten what was that thing that was bothering you when the rules made a call to the circumstance.

So its a meditative post on the conflict of various mental pursuits and compromising our vision with those of others. Taking into account our cognitive biases this is not a bad or good thing - its a difficult circumstance that is confusing because of how basic it is a problem as part of any decision making.

It only needs to matter to you. Dispel the myth, and have it reach an audience and let them decide if it matters to them.