Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Weight of a Roll or Opportunity in a Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dispelling Myths: GURPS is too rules heavy

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

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

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

12 pages

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

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

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

OPTIONS per Book Gaming Model

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

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

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

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

Options and Implied Rules, the EUA for Players

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

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

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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Entrepreneurship of Adventuring, GMing Flowchart

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

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

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

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

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

Some Points

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rules in Review - HT and Fatigue Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

GMing  Work

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Low Tech Education Notes - The Cost of Education

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

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

Note that Ignorance is a tool of the powerful.

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

GURPS Combat Notes 1: Basics of Maneuvers, Attack, Defense, Injury, and Grappling

Disclaimer. This is a rather simple flow chart. Can you imagine if I added the critical hit, miss, and defense critical success operators?! Ok this should be kinda enough for newbies and a bit more. You can simplify it a bit more. I will make it available in my gurps teaching folder but note I'm a libreoffice guy.

Step 1 Choose a Maneuver

B324 (Characters), B363 (Campaigns)
  1. Do Nothing
  2. "Mental Maneuvers"
    1. Concentrate
    2. Aim
    3. Evaluate
    4. Wait
  3. Movement Maneuvers
    1. Move
    2. Change Posture
    3. Ready
  4. All out Defense
  5. Attack Maneuvers
    1. Feint
    2. Attack
    3. Committed Attack (MA
    4. Defensive Attack (MA
    5. Move-and-Attack
    6. All-out-Attack

Step 3: Choose an Attack Options

Typically techniques improve a character's ability to execute an attack option. While there may not be a technique for every attack option, every technique is an attack option.
  1. Hit Location (aka Called Shot; B369)
  2. Target Chinks in the Armor (B400)
  3. Strike at Weapons (B400)
  4. Deceptive Attack (B369)
  5. Dual Weapon Attack (B417)***
  6. Disarming (B400)
  7. Rapid Strike (B369)
  8. Slam (B371)
  9. Shove (B372)
  10. Unarmed Attack Options (B370; B400)
  11. Feint** (B365)
  12. Horse Archery (B396)
**it becomes a combat option in Martial Arts, but its already a combat option in Basic Set under Feint and Attack, which can be broken down to Double Attack: Feint and Attack.
Roll and Shout - Feint as a Combat Option
***make it -5 instead of -4 and only against one target only if you dont have GURPS martial arts.

STEP 3.1 If Unarmed Choose the following Options.

  1. Striking (B370)
    1. Punch
    2. Kick
  2. Grab (B370)
  3. Grapple (B370)

STEP 3.2 Grappling Attack Options

  1. Takedown - (B370) force opponent to the ground (B371)
  2. Pin - (B370) while on the ground, force an opponent to a weaker position.
  3. Choke/Strangle - (B371) deal crushing damage
  4. Choke Hold (B404)
  5. Arm Lock (B403)
  6. Neck Snap (B404)
  7. Wrench Limb (B404)
  8. Strike with other Limb (B371, Actions After being Grappled)
  9. Non Attack Options:
    1. Release Grip
    2. Throw away Ready Weapon

STEP 3.3 Grappled Character's Option

  1. Attack or All-out-Attack
  2. Ready
  3. Break Free

Melee Attacks

  • B369
  • Target Size Modifier (B19)
  • Attacker’s Reach B402
    • Scaling Weapons LTC2 p.21
  • Footing (B387, B547)
  • Combat at Different Levels - penalty to defenses for inferior position, bonus to defenses for suprior position, modifiers for hit location making some harder while others easier (B402)
  • DR B46, B282
  • Cover B407

Ranged Attacks

  • B372
  • DR B46, B282
  • Speed and Range Penalties B550
  • Aim and Weapon Accuracy
  • Target Size Modifier B19
  • Cover B407

Critical Hits and Misses

Critical Hit - B556 (30% improvement in damage or effect)
Critical Defense -
Critical Misses - B556 ()
Unarmed Critical Miss - B557

STEP 4. Active Defense

  1. Block (B374-375)
  2. Dodge (B375-376)
  3. Parry (B376-377)
  4. Physical Resistance Rolls (B)

STEP 5 Defense Action Options

  1. Retreat (for melee only) (B377)
  2. Dodge and Drop (B378)
  3. Cross Parry (MA121)

Combat flow Chart page 02.jpg

STEP 6 Injury

  1. Check Hit Location (roll random hit location B552)
  2. Roll Knockdown/Stunning B420
    1. If taking damage > HP/2
    2. if taking damage that can cause Shock on Head, Vitals or Groin.
  3. Check effects of Hit Location
    1. Hit location B398
    2. Effects of Crippling B421
  4. Shock penalty to DX and IQ B419
  5. Check General Injury B419
    1. < 1/3 HP remaining, 1/2 move and dodge
    2. 0 HP, roll HT vs Unconsciousness
    3. -1xHP Roll and every HP worth of damage, HT vs Unconsciousness and roll HT vs Death
  6. Other Effects
    1. Affliction (B428) ex. Moderate, Severe and Terrible Pain
    2. Poisons (B437)
  7. Optional Rules
    1. Bleeding B420

STEP 7 Mark Off Fatigue


STEP 8 Fright Checks


  • After the combat - if there is a grisly death (ex critical hits to the head or the character lost a limb) of close or strong relations, and there is a grisly death, or the loss of a limb roll Fright Check to see if there is Trauma and Mental Scarring (see fright check modifiers; fitting for gritty campaigns).
  • Characters with Post Combat Shakes immediately make a roll after any lethal combat.

+Steve Hartline made this audio flowchart with Quizelet.