Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scifi notes - accessibility and abundance tradeoffs

Disclaimer :written on a note 2 pardon my many mistakes. (the blogger app is barred in the Philippines play store and the app available has worn my patience)

I've almost caught up with my Sci if reading and one aspect of lost fleet where it doesn't focus (for good reason)  on imaginatining the blossoming of new cultures and the implication of the level of productivity that results from the automation from drones and AI and where humans fit in all that. It kinda tests my understanding of economics when I try to use gdp per capita, quality of life and poverty.

Too often when technology creates abundance it is of a slightly different quality.  Take cheese for example and the cheap cheese, the Philippines has an underdeveloped dairy industry. We still have the cheeses people used to eat back in the day, hard cheeses like qeso de bola, but we have this poorer quality but more accessible cheese (what people consider fake cheese and challenging what "is"  cheese). Instant noodles are the same, as well as preparred meals (microwave meals they now sell in convenience stores) . The idea that automation would produce something of a "different"  quality but sufficient while making the rest of us access it.
The people who have already access to its more original form and quality now may not appreciate it but the majority of those who didn't have now a bigger utility out of it. I may be a food snob sometimes but when I frame in terms of accessibility and the budget of the Philippines average mode income the perspective changes.

What if the artifical meat will never be as good as the real thing? Still it grants us the Protien we need and some of the satisfaction of eating meat. It may make an unprecedented accessibility of meat never known in human history.  Take that experience and multiple that to the possible things we may finally have personally  access but not at the level of quality or satisfaction  we once thought.  Heck working on a phone is different from working on an "ancient"  2000 laptop still it gets the job done. What if we use 7 inch tablets with blue tooth key boards and power management cable nodes instead of desktops or laptops? Would the life suits we would need in space have some lacking compared to space suits of older generation, an economic tradeoff for abundance and accessibility.

This is not limited to products, it's also in our relationships. What are our Internet relationships compared to our face to face relationships? What is a family when it depends a lot on the state to provide communal nursery to centralize and make more efficient child care as its adults are productive? How is this home and childhood differ from the childhood from a previous era's? How is our work different from cubicle or office work in a  era that derives productivity in more imaginative ways.

Combat readiness and secure population vs that with specialized and dedicated force in an era where productivity allows people to be worth 10s of people of work in a previous era?  Is the quality of security and defense different in the abundance of combat and security ready Personnel in these tradeoffs?

Hopefully you see how abundance and creative ways of what makes up productivity, relationships, and key human needs and wants may change humanity in ways beyond our imagination.

Another thing in abundance is the kinds of states and organizations! Technology and space will allow for the blossoming of new people's, cultures, and efficiencies. I can't wait for what they might be,  for good or for bad, but their experimentation and mutation is essential in creating the diversity for optimum happiness will thrive. Happiness is not truely rational so the results of which may be completely counter intuitive to us of this era.

This is where a collaborative shared world can happen among GMs. A living setting can happen

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back to Basics Narrative Tool of Scaling; Definition - World Building Game Style?

Scope and Scale: Individual vs Individuals with organizations

If I were to look at the Novels and Stories I'm currently into, they are different from the stories that focus on individuals and their heroism in the face of adversity. Its something more contemporary or modern storytelling (like in many Biz or Military fiction or non-fiction), we have Individuals who are part of Organizations who deal with organizational challenges while facing their own Individual and Personal challenges. I've realized I'm a fan of this kind of narrative, as I use it as my own coping mechanism in work as part of an organization and the challenges the organization faces while deal with my own challenges. (i know how egocentric this sounds like but whatever)

The scale of Individual vs Individual as part of organizational (or community) tend to be very different as these military or biz fiction and non-fiction books have the Organization serving as a multifaceted NPC that is very complex and layered. An example is a Tribe or State, with its members - from its leaders to its lowest and weakest members, and the internal conflict within these organizations. 

More and more I find that the Cognitive Dissonance of an Individual is very similar to the Internal Dissent and Conflict within an organization. That I, the GM, can humanize elements of an Organization as I humanize elements of an Individual while the other elements (of an Individual or an Organization) are dehumanizing or antagonizing to the PCs/Players.  

It appears that I have simply moved from the scale of Individuals and organizations, and its median, freely in the narrative. That I should use this technique to bring about harder internal conflict within the players: A PC or Player can hate/love an Individual or Organization but depending on where I zoom in or out give him something that will conflict with his strongest leading emotion. This conflict happens as the PC is a humanized element

The ability to scale from Individuals to organization, from moments to days and using narrative tricks of projecting imagery of what can happen because of an event with a vast amount of time. I think this scaling can be used in time and subject focus, and maybe it can be used in Pacing as well.

Definition: World Building Game

This Scale, got me thinking of the Games I want to run. Its not enough that I want to run a game where there are PCs, but that these PCs can come to influence and groups and organizations and eventually shape the world. The emphasis is like in Military or Biz Fiction or Novels: that the Individual is not alone in the triumph. There is his party, peers, his henchmen or retainers or servants (his household). There is the organization, his army or his noble or military peers. That the PCs are interconnected by this complex web of relationships and as they move the matrix moves.

Typically World Building is just fun for the GM. I want the PCs to shape the world, I really want them to change history and the face of the world for either Good or Worse. The stories and tragedy is very interesting and engaging for me, the GM, and hopefully the players, and ideally the audience who wants to follow the story.

It is implied in the game that we deal with PCs, but when organizations and the world being changed and shaped, i think the game is a World Building Game. Well that's my subjective and narrow view of the definition.

By Biz and Military Fiction and Non-Fiction Books I mean lessons like that of Professors Micheal Roberto and Stanely K. Ridgely along with various other Biz Studies and Lectures. Strangely these are also inspiration for my games. Applying such techniques in a game is a bit of a high. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

my Universal Conflict System: foundation of my open narrative combat system

System Summary

A combat system that has 3 scales: Individuals, groups, and whole organizations and works follows 3 particular elements that is universal. This rule of 3 helps in limit the mental overhead of using the system, and allows the user to scale upward or downward, or from vaguer or more specific. 

Future works will expound and add more and more detail and variables that will create immersions and better simulate conflict and challenges, meanwhile the system will priority its basic structure which depends on three Elements:
  • Element 1: Pacing and Metre
  • Element 2: Course of Action
  • Element 3: Reactions and Consequences

Pacing and Metre

This is the first element of the Combat System and everything flows from it. There are three (3), stages or steps:
  • Stage 1: Set-up and Buy-in
  • Stage 2: Initial Conflict and Managing Tension/Suspense.
  • Stage 3: Conflict Climax and closure or wrap up.

Pacing and Metre follows almost everything. The GM has to be conscious of it as well as have it become second nature. 

Course of Action

There are three elements in a course of action. These are: Strategy, Action, and Objective. These follow from the broadest and vaguest direction, towards greater specificity.

Course of Action: Strategy > Action > Objective

Strategies - These are about economies of attention and resources. This is also where the player allocates his resources or predisposes his intentions and motivations. In individual combat this is Stance, in group combat this is formation, and in organization its Disposition. There are a variety of Stances, Formations, and Dispositions that make the individuals, groups or organizations better at a course of action compared to others.
Strategy and Anticipations - Strategy allows the Actor (regardless of the scale: individual, group, or organization) to react because it has Anticipated a range of possible courses of actions. Its easier to Defend when in a Defensive Strategy, as compared to an Aggressive strategy.

The GM may and will often Withhold this information depending on the circumstance. Sometimes the apparent strategy is not easily observed. This is true for NPCs with PCs, being unable to know their strategies. The GM may mislead regarding this, as some Strategies are designed to be such. 

Actions - From the generalities of Intent and attention, we go to something more specific: Action, Techniques (for an individual), Tactics (for individuals or small groups), Maneuvers (for Groups), or Projects (for Organizations). These are the actions and methods employed.

Some actions are complimented by the Strategies initially declared or altered. One can be in a Defensive strategy while Attack, but the attack is not as effective as an Attack from an Aggressive strategy.

Actions are the only thing the Characters can be fairly certain in what they are perceiving. Then again without Strategy and Objective, many subtle nuances may be lost. 

Objectives – this is what the action seeks to result or accomplish. An attack becomes more specific and nuanced in meaning when used to off-balance, injure, disable, or kill. 

Specificity – When a Course of Action becomes more specific or detailed it takes advantage of such details afforded by the situation. When a warrior masters a particular technique, when he uses that particular technique he has better odds. It is true in both defense and anticipation, when a reactor plans to react to something more specific then they are better in dealing with that specific threat.

Note that the GM may withhold this piece of information when describing the Course of Actions of NPCs and other Groups. Information Asymmetry applies here. 

Use Course of Action as a tool to complete the Idea. 

Reactions and Consequences

Reactions depend on the declared Strategy or Stance or Disposition. Strategy determines how resources and attention are allocated and it is a finite resource. 

Confusion. As such, when an blind area is struck or attacked there is little one can do. When ever this happens confusion is the result – depending on the scale (Individual, group, or organization) the time confusion takes hold changes. When confusion happens, the Actor (individual, group or organization) can make another course of action against the confused opponent but cannot deviate from their initial strategy. This is the default rule when there is an opportunity presented by successfully confusing an opponent. 

Reactions depend on specifics declared (to the GM or secretly in a card or note), when such specifics are allowed. When these specifics are wrong, the degree of failure matters.

Consequences can be the Objectives met out by the course of action, it can be causalities, or conditions suffered.

The GM resolves a Course of Action with the Pacing Metre. As the GM gets better, he can make the narrative more gripping and satisfying (hypothetically).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back to Basics - Each Session is a Unique Dialogue

Realizing Each Session as a Unique Dialogue is a new mnemonic/coping mechanism and tool for me. A session is not just a Game, but a Conversation where we deep dive into the character. We find something NEW, and we do that from the challenges and conflict that come up. particularly the un-intended consequences and random events that happen in the game. 


Let me emphasize in a UNIQUE dialogue. As an Objective, that means I have to come away with learning something new about the PCs or Players. Something material to add to my notebook and game notes. Its discovering a New thing to Appreciate about the Players.

Particularly something Unpredictable! This metric is challenging if I am able to control or limit my expectations and when I am reeling from the stunning effect of my expectations being bypassed and I have to work to catch up. 


Unique Dialogue vs Conversation. Dialogue means really LISTENING. Often used by manipulative people to frame a situation, falsely, as a way to cause *Unilateral  (One sided) Change vs *BiLateral (Both Sides) Change. 

*I find them "Big Words" and Jargon used to confuse people.

In any point in the GM session, I should be asking myself - Did I learn something new?