Thursday, May 28, 2015

Narrative Mass Combat: Part 3 - Narrating a Scene

Narrative Combat. Natural Language and Playing out a Scene.

Step 1: Pick a Style. The first place to get a style is to absorb the style of my favorite author. Currently it is Christian Cameron and Bernard Cromwell for low tech, for Scifi its David Webber and John H. Hemry (aka Jack Campbell) when it comes to ships.

Step 2: Study the Style. What I did was I re-listened to the scenes again and again. The tool that made it more possible than my previous attempts in studying is using Pacing to study the method. There are 3 stages in Pacing and it is the tool by which I can find out what the writer is trying to achieve and what tools he's used to achieve the pacing goals.

After Identifying the Tools, I examine their formula and try them out. These tools include ready phrases and formulas to describe a scene. Keep a close eye for these.

Here are my Tools as an Example.

Geographic Storytelling:
I learned in mass combat and in Airsoft, the Terrain needs to be verbally mapped. The spatial area has to be communicated step by step, making the other person repeat or ask for clarification. When ever I describe terrain the first thing I need to have everyone have mentally mapped is the point of orientation. 
If we use in this there are a number of ways to do this, here are the ones I use: 
1) Have a Map! Simple, still one needs to give maps context. Note a map is not-realistic because people really dont have full information. Unless there is magic there are no accurate maps and distances, which gives the GM a ton of room. As one runs narrative combat this wiggle room just makes it easier for GMs and Players to run narrative combat. 
Go to Google Maps and visit many old battlefields via Terrain view to see the small the gaps and choke points are in the terrain.  
2) Map it from the PC's view, and tell the player what the PC's terrain mastery tells which vision alone cannot (this means telling him what normally lies beyond what he can see). Start from the immediate surroundings and proceed towards the horizon. Describe how much "noise" or concealment the area has, the weather, and the many tricks of the light that happens as time passes over the outdoors. Brightness makes shadows darker, Dimness lights up cavernous canopies, etc... A rich outdoor experience is the best teacher and school in this kind of narrative and if it improves one's GM why not have more outdoor experiences!
3) Map it from the Stories of the Scouts.  Like #2 but you have a composite and even more confusion and inaccuracies. This is pretty great as such methods emphasize key information gathering skills of the players. 
Formations and Geography
Some great french general said warfare was geometry. He's kinda right because people occupy space and people cannot help but follow the paths of the land. We may walk over difficult paths but we cannot not do that all the time when endurance is a finite resource. 
So it helps to know a man is as wide as a shield, about 0.7m or 2/3 yards. The same distance as a pace. That ranks are as much deep because of shields and weapons. That a 30m/yrd pass takes 45men to hold.
I discussed organization and groupings in a previous chapter. Here the 300 man battalion can hold 200m/yards three ranks of men deep. I learned to play with the ranks and numbers.  It helps to know that there are channels and paths in the geometry in the land, herding mentality, and crowds follow a sort of fluid dynamics. These tools help us visualize, and describe the scene. 
Since I use roll20, my Effective Communication Training tells me I have to keep sentences mid sized (not running), and limited to 2-3 before checking for confirmation and comprehension. Every 10-15 minutes I have to spend 3-5 minutes (1/3) trying to have this mental sync with the audience and narrate the scene.  
 Since I'm limited to ~3 sentences I have to describe efficiently. I describe directions oriented to where the cardinal directions. I have to be consistent and always moving from Cardinal to Ordinal. Confirming understanding then proceeding to describe whats happening.   
Experience and Mastery Kicks In.   
Mount and Blade, Airsoft, Athletics, and Martial Arts training along with an avid love of history and authors and professors who teach the subject is the deep well by which i draw from. I constantly deepen this well all the time. While movies and popular media give everyone some idea mastery makes it easier. I dont think its fair to make something out of nothing without any skill and practice involved and that is the expectations and the fun of mastery.   
Step 3: Know the Gap and Build a Skill Map. Reading this article is not going to make anyone like Neo and master a skill. No such thing exists, but Identifying (or learning to Identify) the small easily learn-able skills and building up towards the harder skills can be possible through the advice here and from the advice of others willing to share their techniques.

  • Geographic Story Telling
  • Outdoor Experience: Camping, Hiking, Area Knowledge of actual places visited, 
  • Team work and experiencing some Play skirmishes in Larp, Airsoft, PC Games like the Total War Series, Mount and Blade, etc... Take my favorite games and put them into words I can describe to my players
  • Understanding Groupings, Organization and Workstreams. The Art of War and Strategikon have maxims and take the Economies of Defense or Economies of Action and contemplate its full implications. 
  • Understand Communication, Command, and Entropy of an Organization under pressure. The stories of confusion, fear, and human frailty under adverse conditions colors the scene and informs us how and why and what it looks like. 

What happens next is how or if we choose to prepare. Preparation is prevention to cure, or to solve problem while they are easy before they get harder. In Narrating a scene I need to build up my skills and my well of knowledge. I cannot expect it to be perfect and awesome all the time, but I do want to learn and capture what magic manages to show up in a game (by recording that game).

If this feels like overwhelming and a sudden explosive challenge after the slow build up of the two previous articles, its fine. It is gonna get harder and its going to be about active and conscious practice and consistency. There is time to get things right, as long as there is a rough start vs not starting at all.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Hypothesis of Flow from Games to Life Problem Solving

I guess gaming is the first and early experience of Flow  for a young mind. Since games give a framework for problems it is possible to frame problems using games but then deviate to more practical life and professional skills from the earlier games. I think for me life changed when I achieved flow solving games and then using the same tools to solve life and work problems.

I've noticed that I've deviated a lot in my gaming topics and it has become a coping mechanism for me. So much so that its all I think about with what little attention I have left. Its one of the few things I can muster all my dwindling mental resources on.

The thing about flow is that there has to be enough challenge, frustration, and reward in the experience. That it takes a lot of work to achieve it, and once achieved (like an addiction) it becomes something sought after and we get better at with practice. Its on of the few states of human nature where I cannot be satisfied with status quo and don't mind the work involved.

Other than Entertainment, a greater sense of Agency and the able to deal with the limitation of Agency, Flow is an objective in how I game and GM. That I can work towards flow and be able to recreate flow in my players as well give them the environment to make a framework they can use in other aspects of their lives. 

how we learn by Professor Monisha Pasupathi
art of critical decision making by Michael Roberto

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sins of the Crusade Season 03 Episode 01.5

Thanks to the players:
+Mike Dulay+Il Pella , +Wilton Heath+Dan Mungham , and +Ken Kthulhu


The army separated. they divided between the two paths. This is because of the rising tension between Mauger and Tancred. Olek joined Mauger who took the western path while the rest of the Party Joined Tancred who took the middle path.

Olek and Mauger

There was fear of further raids, Maugers with his Commanders took counsel of Olek. Olek and his theology was taking shape and with his own keen strategic understanding influenced them to act. At first Olek's attempt fumbled, the army wanted to wait but he twisted and weaved his words. Hey preyed on their pride and their strength and got them to be filled with valor. He had them fighting for the honor to ambushing the enemy.

Thiostav fought for the honor of leading the raiding party. A tall and wiry northman with so many arm rings it seemed like armor and tarnished silver teeth, he had the largest and loudest band of Raiders more than 400 men. He contested Sur's honor for leading the raiding party. Sur is the war chief of the veteran and elite corp, every man he has is a warrior and Sur himself is a man who can be mistook for a dwarvish Woden with his crow and blackened eye. He did not take it well, Olek quick witted settled the matter and did it with his guile and manipulation. He let Sur lead, but manage to save Thiostavs face by granting him the vision of killing a great prince of the Huns (note that characters in the setting get all the ethnicity and peoples wrong).

That night their Raiders took to the mountains and marched all night. They did an incredible pace of 7kph, veterans running with light kits and limited supplies. Olek joined and their cordon of spies were able to prepare as scouts passed and reported the vulnerabilities of their faux camp. When 600 horses came through the Raiders closed the road by cutting trees and digging spikes quickly. A shield wall with spikes and logs blocked the path back. Sur let a company ambush the scouting patrol.

When the Turks expended their horses as they raided and wheeled about to draw Maugers forces to charge they were not phased. They let out curses both sides could not understand. Arrows partialy spent and horses strong enough to ride back to the camp for their second of 5 remounts they went back only to find the ambush.

On foot the men of Mauger charged and formed ranks. The band of the Huskalars ran but when fire came, they knelt and brought their shield wall up in a fairly close order. When the riders wheeled about, their ranks opened and huskalars ran and did the same. Every 30 to 50 paces they did this. Opposite of them their barricade had Greek fire and shields to take the archery. Men charged with horses on the edge, hoping to give a glancing charge to deadly error as raiders threw javelins and axes to kill horse and man. Fire prevented them from charging effectively as the Hammer came towards the anvil.

Close enough the Hexers archers stood on shield thrones to fire down at the horses and men so that they would not harm their own. Arrows, Fire, the Night, and frightened animals. Panic ran high and chaos. Archers drew and loosed, then battle cries were called when Greytooths men came through the Shield wall to frighten the horses unable to wheel and charge. By fire light the turks were slaughtered and Mauger saved some for thanks to the gods.

The detached company and took out the scouts and guard, and took the remouts. by that night the Jarl had 3000 horses. Almost two horses per man, and the resources to travel to Nicaea before anyone was wiser.

Tacred and the Party

Tancred was still unable to be amicable with the party. The resentment was strong and the fracturing made the men impetuous. Berthold led a platoon of young nimble scouts with him to recon the position of the enemy. While a master archer, rogue and hunter, he was not a leader and the boys were lost and confused. He used them as bait, and was able to ambush the scouts. With war arrows and the bait he managed to take out two Scouts, only to let two escape.

The other youth ran back, and gave word. The most elite Defensores came forward, while the rest mustered. They managed to meet in time to defend the wounded scouts who were attacked by a band of Turks. It would have been an easy match but the discipline of Tertions Night fighters kept their discipline and their backs to the mountain side. Turkish arrows bristled their shields, the grain of the 25lbs Scoutai split with the leather backing keeping it barely together. The Turks wheeled and fired, looping to try to shoot over the edge. To deter their bravo Berthold heaved and loosed his great war arrows while Tertion carefully coordinated his Skoutatoi.

Meanwhile Rjugot lead the band of Scouts to flank around to their east. While Konrad raced to come to their aid with the skirmishing force straight ahead. When his hunting arrows flew to harrass the Turks 10 men were down, a quarter of the force Tertion had with him. 6 kilometers was a painful and ragged 30 mins for the light infantry while Rjugot had the terrible task of looping around to surpass the same distance with Xenophon. When Xenophon arrayed his Battalion to close off the Turks they were spent.

Berthold hurled 3lbs of great war arrows in the dust cloud of men and horses. He struck horse and man. The battle went no where fast and remounts were needed for another fresh round of fire. When they turned away from the feeble attempts of hunting arrows and clumsy javelins an array of 30 men abreast 2 ranks deep came to stop them. Xenos men were struggling to bolster the shield wall when arrows flew overhead and pierced 10lb shields. The third rank barely formed when glancing charges smashed through and collapsed the first rank - Xeno's toughest men.

Spears were lunched but Arrows replied, gaps opened, and Xenophon cried out for it to be filled. Boys and men began to fill the gaps. The arrows shooting overhead prevented them from fleeing and came to find shelter in the ranks of the shield wall now thickening to three and almost four. Konrad arrayed the raiders from the slopping forest mountains and continued harrass them. While hunting arrows were not enough to kill, it was enough to harm horses and no one wanted to have to run on foot if the worse came.

The pressure increased and now glancing charges smashed against the human wall. A horse jumped over and came to crush the two ranks infront of Xeno. The rider slashing with a heavy saber down  at men panicked and shocked. Xeno cried out loud to rally killed the hansom animal and his terrible riders leg was smashed beneath it. They moved forward but then an ambigious sign came. Sounds of french echoing the mountain sloped walls and thundering heavy iron hooves. The earth shuddered more under the hooves of half ton horses.

Tertion was swearing as Tancred's men clipped passed them knocking one of his men. The knights saw blood and glory and headed straight for it. They smashed everything else getting to it, and the panick made Xeno's job harder as he tried to Pivot his wall. On command they moved and the farthest man was smashed out of the way by fear fueled horses. And more than a third of his wall collapsed, and so did the ranks behind them as heavy saber came down young, confused, and spent men.

It was not aid that came but the thunderstorm of knights that echoed blows onto the mountain walls. Xeno lost good men and Tancred took glory at the expense of the garbage that walked. When the fighting died down Cato near collapsed dealing with all the repurcussions of the events that transpired. The rift among them deepened as word spread that the party were ungrateful of aid when their foolhardy attempt for glory (with the intent to exclude Tancred) came on their heads and their Norman lord saved them.

Cato was bed ridden and not much progress was made that day.

Side Adventure. 

After long meditation and counsel Xenophon discovered who betrayed the Emperor and let Smyrna be captured and him and his men enslaved: The man who's son he has rescued from the Emperor and has promised to come back with "evidence" of the culprit.

Garbas needed the navy occupied in the Agean so that he can be left to his own devices.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Narrative Mass Combat: Part 2 - Applying Groupings and using Economies of Defense

This post is for GMs who want to tackle mass combat or scale the game at the level of armies and states.

Strategikon and the Art of War has rules of thumb about how much I need for certain victory. First I want to discus Economies of Defense. In later posts I will go into Terrain and Circumstances which is discussed in the Sun Zi's Art of War (AoW for short in future discussions) but I will go into implementable examples and aids. I will then go into Force Multipliers or Dividers, these are Meta Systems that can be plugged into Game systems that do not have Mass Combat.

Economies of Defense

I found this concept very useful in both combat, in sparring and airsoft, and in Mass Combat. The concept allows me to focus on economies of Attention.

This simplifies how having greater numbers of soldiers works. That greater numbers over another force allows me to divide the defense of another side. That One against One means both having 100% of their Defense available, while Two against One halves the defense of the lesser Force.

This concept means numbers don't matter as much if the greater force cannot divide the defense of the other lesser force (numbers mean more "Shifts" of fighting, wearing down the smaller force). This simple matter means that in Narrow or Contested Ground (the Art of War: The 9 types of ground) I cannot take advantage of greater numbers as effectively.

Reiterating that in a fight of 2 to 1, the casualties of the greater force depends on how efficiently one can take advantage of the opening created by the flanking of the other. This flexible mental concept of dividing the defense is so useful it will greatly improve the GM's narrative when describing forces and organization. In the geometry of battle ranks thin to cover flanks against greater numbers. When ranks thin, gaps are not filled as quickly and when lines break flanks are exposed and the men in ranks despite how tight they may be may see too many men and fright takes over while the other side gains bloodlust.

Defense can be translated as adapting to the circumstance externally dictated. That in an organization I act defensively when I am adapting and reacting, instead of directing and attacking. This takes the concept to an abstraction for scenes not as geometric as battlefields.

Quality and Quantity of Force

Because of various biases humans use these numbers to determine their force instead of going by quality. It is easier to mass the numbers by using full-time or part-time soldiers forcing other men to fight in the army. 

That in earlier eras numbers mattered more than quality and they would get all the fighting age males (and sometimes too young, too old, and women depending on the circumstance; typically aged 14-40) and herd them. One realizes that this "buffering" of numbers is why one hears about 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 5 fighting men. Spartans and Vikings (Raiding northmen) were typically 4 out of 5 fighting men (20% being servants who dont really fight but may be made to do so in the rear). In the poorest quality of troops one needs at least 1 warrior beating the shit out of people to control 8-9 other people (1-2 of these people mostly serving as servants).

One realizes that it is a Herd of humans, disciplined by violence, threats, conditioning, practice, punishment and rewards. That these marvelously arrayed blocks of battalions or regiments of humanity can be compared to herded animals. There are times of great motivations and prize to be won, but fear and pain are the most common tool of disciple. No wonder Sun Zi talks about the dangers of cornering a foe, when cornered every man becomes a fighting man. 

In Sins of the Crusade, the army is made up of 1 of 4 are fighting men. Slaves, Criminals, and the many second sons and disguised daughters of a Europe that is experiencing the limits of its carrying capacity. 

Using Groupings and Economies of Defense

Now begin by taking the Strategic and Tactical strength used in an Era. Great Empires during Ancient Eras waged wars in the scale of Corps and Divisions (100,000 to 30,000 per side on field of battle) where they moved pieces of Divisions (10,000). This includes the Ancient Near East Eras, Ancient Roman Era, and Most of the Chinese Eras (eras I know fought in this scale prior to renaissance eras).  In other eras it was battles of Divisions to Brigades (50,000 to 10,000) with pieces of Brigades to Regiments. In the Medieval eras they fought in the scale of Divisions and Regiments (30,000 to 5,000).  

Once I know what size I will be dealing with, this is broken up to its "Tactical" and "Strategic" units.  These are relative terms, with the emphasis of Tactical being what is on the ground or being used. Strategic is the forces that takes more preparation, they have various stages of readiness, and factors what can be raised or what is in reserved. 

A Corps of 50,000-30,000 men can be Strategic if its the total pool of manpower that State can draw from or as a Tactical unit, it is the force being deployed and used. In SotC the Strategic unit depends on who I are talking to: The Emperor or Bohemmond or Abu'l Qasim. Bohemmon's Strategic force is his whole army of a Brigade sized force of 10,000 men (but at 1 warrior out of 10 men), and his tactical units are two regiments of ~2000 controlled by his Hypodoux (visduc in french; the terms change as they don't want to use the greek terms) Tancred and Mauger. Alexios has about 60,000 and as he assigns them they are his strategic units: 20,000 which he's assigned to Megas Doux John Doukas, and 10,000 to deal with the Balkans. How these forces are deployed is their Tactical level.

Finally at the Tactical level, when forces are engaging each other I can factor economies of defense. In the Tactical scale I examine the terrain realtive to the size of the army. A man is a Pace wide (2/3 a yard or meter), so to hold a line of 40m I need 60 men. I reinforce these men with ranks, as armies are mobs that smash into each other and a line can easily fall without reinforcing ranks. In open terrain numbers are even more pronounced and important, even if the quality is questionable.

Ill go into Force Multipliers in another post.  

Translating it to Dice

In 1 to 1 each has a 100% resources to defend and there is a 50% of either one to make an attack penetrate the defense then we can work with this baseline. In odds of 1 vs 3, the lesser force has 1/3 of their defense available. Multiply the defense penalty to the 50% baseline, in this case 15% chance to defend. This translates as a -35% penalty to the defender or a +35% bonus to the attacker. Just to be different I will recommend a penalty

Two forces can be of equal in number, but if one force is able to divide the Other's ability to defend this would allow the other to better overwhelm the other.

If there are penalties for "Fatigued" or "Spent" forces it would apply to their defense as well. Again, at "half" strength, the half the odds of success and translate that to dice odds. 

Back to basics : exploring the fears to enhance immersion

Fear in war should be better explored. There is Fear of the enemy, fear of...
... the minor tyrants  who use violence and coercion for men to fight a battle they want no part of,
... never seeing or going home,
... being sold into slavery,
... the close quarters of ranks compressing in battle or moving,
... the blow that will come from nowhere,
....screams of men slaughtered like animals,
... being crushed and trampled,
... being maimed and crippled,
... being trampled or smashed by a wild animal or a stampede of men,
... the hunger and suffering of the march and camp,
... the exposure to the elements,
... the disease and dysentery ,
... uncertainty of numbness from Fatigue, wounds, or illness ,
... failure, defeat and execution,
... reputation and honor lost,
... fear for the life of the man beside them,
... for their tribe and home,
... loss of friends and loved ones,
... The gods and being damned, etc...

Every fear thoroughly explored and visualized in the narrative and every tragedy contemplated makes for a good war campaign (or adventure) .

Every pain as well, the loss, starvation, thirst, ache, loss of innocence, etc. I guess expanding the ways to describe and reimagine these all enhance the game.

The focus or mastery of the negative aspects. The ideas I instinctively shy away from but need to explore to humanize and give war, adventure, violence, and killing proper context.

Currently working with the techniques above to enhance immersion, techniques to frame tragedy effectively or unexpected success, and consequences that pull in opposite directions until confusion.


Edit: to implement the techniques above what I would do is take the awareness I have of their fears and focus on it. Remark about the fear and how people react to it. That in war or in an environment of violence this is what drives them and all the stories of how crazy and irrational it makes people. Work with the observable fear in its subtle cues and consequences.

Ex. Many non warriors are forced to fight and you can see their button welding sergeants and corporeal hovering nearby.

Proceed next to ask the player what his character stands to fear from this situation. Or to start small as him what he empathize the fear of the man next to him.

Just a couple of times per session check for what situations make the PC nervous and if they would express it in their decision making. If the player still does not feel it from the environment to translate to PC, the frame in the negative and emphasize on risk. I will have multiple articles on framing if it is asked or needed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sins of the Crusade Season 03 Episode 01

Titled war, this was caused by the stalemate of the talks of Bohemon and Alexios. Bohemmon wants a command of Asia Minor, the equivalent of ~1 million households. An economy, when fully realized that can forces reminiscent of the age of Empire. A stalemate that forces Bohemon to sieze these provinces himself and negotiate when he has them in possession because of the informal truce with the Sultanate of Rum under Abu'l Qasim. 

The game is also available in audio which I use to make these notes. I use VLC media player and play it at x2 speed to get through it quickly enough. its 4.5 hours long.

Cato is a diplomat in a war party. He is Bohemon's diplomat but he realizes how alien he is among these Northern warriors. The army has begun plotting how they will divi up the land while Bohemmond is away. The Factions become more pronounced. Already men are making claims and calling dibs. 
  1. He plans to reminds Bohemmon that with Constantine Doukas, son of the former emperor Michael VII and Maria Alania he has a claim to the throne. The way his father did more than 14 years ago. 
  2. Cato decides to focus on a far away town and maybe have the coast as holdings for his party. He tries to salvage a space for the party when everyone is calling dibs, their aggressive nature pushes him to be defensive and it is an uphill challenge to control these warriors. 
  3. Cato is managing the crisis of leadership Tancred vs Mauger. Olek and Konrad are helping organizing.
  4. He works with Cedric, "Capitane" (actually Count level) of the harrier Battalion to get Tancred to act appropriately. Still there is a huge gap to bridge.  

Olek has begun a lot of his machinations. He has begun recruitment of the city's population, and applying what he had learned of these Northmen and their gods. He takes the Germanic Christianity (where there are parallels of Woden and Christ)  and uses it to gain the respect of the Northmen and Balkan warriors. He re-examines the old gods and with his mastery of theology, and adapts it to his listener.
  1. His recruitment is for able bodies. He focuses in having enough squad leaders mix and discipline his men. 
  2. His mastery improves as he takes the shamans of these warriors and manipulates them into his theology.
  3. Olek takes a lot of logistical roles and along with his ability to spread important skills to his followers  raises their abilities painstakingly.
  4. He uses Opiates and his very good physician to create a corps of men dependent on his skills.  
  5. He aids Cato in managing the Crisis of Leadership: Tancred vs Mauger (The Colonels or Marquis rank). He was "Machiavelanating".
  6. He goes with Mauger and continues to win their confidence and their psyche as their Chaplain. 

Konrad becomes the Baggage Train Quartermaster. Ken now controls Konrad. (many technical problems with the connection)
  1. He meets Cedric, Capitaine of the Harriers. Cedric wonders what a fellow german speaker is doing here.
  2. He observe the looting is not efficient and organized.
  3. He also notices the baggage train is not as efficient as it could be. He manage the baggage train. 
  4. He manages to help Cato to get Tancred to move faster. He points out how important initiative. He cleverly developed a formula how to talk to Tancred, thinking through more of the details and planting the suggestion of the necessary course of action. 

Xenophon. We were recapping a bit. there were many threads that had unsatisfying and dubious ends. There was the confession of Doux Theodore Garbas, his claim that the Taronites were involved in the sneak attack. A claim and the word of a man who may not have all the facts
  1. Who betrayed him to have him captured and enslaved by the Turks in 1081? This is the same year Alexios came to power. (see timeline)
    1. former Kapetano Marten Bucari tells Xeno this was during this time 5 Doux served to deal with the Norman threat by the sea. He knows only of Garbas, and the lord he serves which he did not mention. 
    2. Upon speaking to Garbas, he learns that Milessenos and Taronites were assigned in the task group. (Update) Taronites for the logistical base, and Milessenos for the ground forces.  
  2. Who killed Count Constantine Umbertopolus, the former commander of the Frankon Tagma and former lord of the party? Currently suspect is Nikephoros Milessenos, by way of his Hekatonarch Ardos. Berthold is a suspect.   
  3. What is the relationship of Tancred Doux Milesenos? Bohemon used Tancred to deal with Milesenos to help him in his negotiations with the emperor. When the negotations had a stalemate instead of helping Bohemmon Milesenos used the negotiations to publicly shame Alexios (his brother in law) and Bohemon "the barbarian". 
  4. He has gotten tired of Maria Alania, and has offered her to Konrad. 

Rjugot wife scene. Vito helps Rjugot connect with his wife. Rjugot leaves a note for his wife, and she tries to kill herself when she realizes who the note comes from. He hears about it and goes to her. He sees healers and around the house, where she lives, vicious rumors of all kinds that assumes the worse of her and the family.
       He goes to Vito, and Vito helps him to bring Miro (Miroclones) in return help some poor out of luck men get work under Xenophon. So Vito introduces Miro to the Pater de Familia of Rjugots wife (Ayna). Miro finds a very loving household, as though the social status gap fails to exist there. Miro discovers she tried to kill herself out of shame, and the greatness of the shame was what saved her as the poison, so bitter, caused her to gag and vomit it before it was digested well. He discovers the master's wife caring for this servant who obviously is sleeping with her husband. 
       Miro discovers a small island of love and acceptance in this household, a rare sight which is offset by how tragic the people are in this group and how fleeting their presence in their world. He discovers the child is that of the Masters.  He prescribes cannabis for the chronic disease. 


Much of the party decided to throw their lot at Tancred, Who still saw them as shit. Mauger who has the same opinion but was not very vocal about it went of to the western path while Tancred went to the southern path. The party wanted to play the two commanders against each other only that it went so well as to divded them. 

The end of the sessions is punctuated by a steppe horse archer ambush. With both forces reacted predictably against and boxes up. Discipline prevailed as they were not drawn to engage, but morale suffered at the failure to display "Courage".

Tertion acts to deal with the harrying force and brings his force to forward. When their flanks were about to be attacked, their attention was diverted enough for Tancred to launch a charge. The blow smashing into the enemy's looping action. Tancred gained glory for the engagement and Tertion was used as a decoy. 

Maugers force is warned in of an ambushing force by Olek. They manage to switch their facing and formation to adapt. What was a flank and poorly manned gap, was actually squads of formed up to let cavalry through and their archers and shock troops to throw javelins at the cavalry.  

Character Highlights

Mauger - is based on the undocumented infantry commanders that followed Robert Guiscard and threw their lot with bohemmond. A barrel chested warrior, he is the Warmaster training and drilling troops and teaching them formations and array. He is called "the Jarl" as assembles the battalions of Raiders, Archers, and Heavy Infantry fighters under him.

Cedric - The Harrier Capitaine. A man at arms who is surrounded by cavalry scouts who is more senior and experienced than Tancred. Dependable and is the caution Bohemon wants out of Tancred's experience. Without Bohemmon, Tancred reinforces his statuss over the much older Cedric.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Narrative Mass Combat: Part 1 - Groupings and Leadership

3 part post about Narrative Mass Combat. This helps in running Mass Combat since it gives some basic principles to consider.

I will give more specific examples and show how I use this foundation from recordings of my on going campaign. An open and system agnostic system.

Learning the Groupings and the Leaders

On a game table there is only a limit to the number of Players a GM can handle. This concept of groups and the tasks they can handle or, for training, the amount a trainer can train is called workstreams. If the GM considers how many players he can handle, this is an example of the kind of thinking that goes into workstreams or group tasks.

Key Concepts

  • Smallest group is a Team. Very similar to a Game Table or a Group of friends talking - typically 4-5 people. The team is found in military as Fire Team and lead by a Non-Commission officer called a Corporeal and in many Business Settings we have the team and have a team leader. These teams assigned for a particular task, project or department.
           A Household or Family is a Team with the head of the family the leader. A Clan or Tribe elder is the head of a group of households in as far as representing them and remembering their traditions, history, and rituals. Another leader of a group of households is a Bailey aka Bailif aka gobernadorcillo ("Little Governor") aka Steward.
  • A group of groups. The next size of group is Section or Squad. A Section is made up of number of teams, typically a couple of Teams. Depending on the size of the group Sections can be made of a number of Teams, but we do have conventions of just a couple of teams.
           Administrative groups have their own Teams which is separate from the Population they manage. The basic unit of many eras are Scribes. Other terms for such basic units are Pages and Clerks. Administrators have a lot of terms for them, a lot in the Roman tradition. Some religious orders draw their administration from other successful Administrative organizations. Christianity draws from Roman traditions, while in the east philosophical and religious organization are the pattern for bureaucracies - example is the Taoist and Confucian systems. 
           Religious Orders also follow some kind of grouping and leadership. Novices serve as team members while their leader is a rank higher having some some religious office. A Friar or Monk is part of a Mendicant order. They are in effect Novices until they gain rank and holy orders. To keep things simple, they are all Novices, even lay people, with minor differences in vows from their mendicant order or place in the community. Novices are separate from the Laity as they are the ones managing the laity.     
  • The group leader cannot be the leader of a subgroup. This is when the pattern becomes fractal and repeats as we Zoom out at larger and larger groupings. Each team will have a leader, and the one in charge of the entire Section cannot also be the leader of one of these teams.  The overall leader of a Section is a Foreman in worker groups, in some militaries we have Sergeants, in the Roman tradition we have Dekarchs, Decurions, and Conteberions.
           In religious groups there is the Priest with his team or his section and teams. Depending on the era Priests have varying degrees of importance and status. the "product" a Priest provides is sufficient for a community or wealthy patron. The size of novices and laity that support his activities depends on the status he serves. In the next level, bishopry, typically is at the level of generals and counts. The Bishopry or Patriarchy (Theophylact) are considered "princes" of the church. Its really up to the GM or the Setting how much influence they have.  
  • Conventions of Leadership and Groups change all the time. Different Eras have different conventions of conventional group size for a particular task. A platoon is a small group of 4-5 Squads under a Lieutenant (Pentakonarch) while a company is 8-15 squads under a Captain (Centurion, Chief, Captal, Hekatonarch etc...). 
         There are many forces that determine convention: the ability to support full time soldiers, traditions of leadership (the ability to create and train leaders), and the body of knowledge peoples possess about warfare. This also changes as armies lose their numbers over a period of a war. Note the repeated expression of the pattern found in the Section level.
          Typically a region provided 1 fighting man per household in earlier eras where these men were the Pater Familia of the household. This changed to almost 2-3 households per specialist fighting man (Heavy Infantryman or Archer) as soldiers became dedicated and specialized. light cavalry was supported by three times their infantry counterpart (6-9 households), while heavy cavalry twice that of light cavalry (12-20 households).  

The Komnenian Roman Tradition

  • The Tetrarch or Corpreal commands a team 4 men. 
  • The Dekarch or Sergeant commands a squad of 10 men. A learned Dekarch would be wise to have his 2nd of command lead a Tetrarch and another lead the remaining men of the squad. 
  • The Hekatonarch or Captain commands 8-12 squads. He will have a lieutenant, one of the "Primary" Dekarks, who will command his personal squad while he maneuvers his other squads. 
  • The Comes or Count (also called a Tribune) commands a group of 4-5 Hekatonarchs. The group is called a Tagma, or Bandon. This means he administers over a Tagma, a region of about 1200 households. 
  • The Doux (Duke) commands 3-5 Comes (Counts) or Tribunes. The region administers is of the same name as the force he commands: A Themata or Theme. This is made up of 4000 to 20,000 households. In earlier Eras this was much densely populated or bigger to make for the lower density. Alexios commanded about 8-12 Doux or Strategos. Sometimes he had problems with the Doux and separated the Administrative role from the Military leadership having Strategos. He lacked capable administrators and borrowed heavily to finance his armies created many "orphan" forces that did not have a Themata to fully finance the force. 
  • Rome's Pretoreans or Constantinople's Scholae are Battalion (Bandon/Tagma/ Marian Cohort) level forces that draw its finances from the households of the Capital. These "House Guards" are similar to the Houscarls or Huskalars. The important thing to remember is that these House Guards are client families of the ruling family, and are typically very loyal and dedicated. They are also very wealthy as the wealth of the households that support these have the Patronage of the ruling Family or Faction. This is a source of loyal manpower if the line of patronage in uninterrupted. 
The rule about the Group Leader has to delegate the leadership of all subgroups and cannot have a subgroup under him, creates "Hypo" (under) versions of his Title like Hypo Strategos or Hypo-hekatonarch. Of course its easier to just call the lieutenant the same rank as the sub leaders under the Group leader. 

Learning Notes
  • As the group gets bigger various rules get harder and requires dedicated people. At Company level you have an officer, an Optio, who is in charge of logistics. Other than the Lieutenants/Sub Leaders of the Group Leader, he has a Sub leader who is in charge of all support personnel. He may not command a sub group but all the support people counts as the subgroup under him. 
  • I should be able to move up and down the scale of group easily. Once I master how to break up a force into its subgroups I can better work with the numbers without being overwhelmed. Remembering I deal with the Sub-leaders of this groups helps both in visualizing the kind of entity I'm dealing with. That communication degrades per level the information disseminates. That the sub-leaders have to communicate it to his men. 
    • I realized how important training particular maneuvers are because it requires less interpretation when a command is given. 
  • In Part 2, we talk about some rules of thumb and generalities that give us an idea of what each Group Scale can do and expected to do. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

hypothesis: I game in the same manner I solve problems

In a discussion on different ways to run Mass Combat with a friend I realized that I cannot imagine how else to run Mass Combat because I can only run it given the Coping or Problem Solving mechanisms I have. Which jumped to the hypothesis: Is the way I game based on how I solve problems?

This is a good meaty  question as all of a sudden I am criticizing all of the ways I run games and all of the ways  I deal with problems. Its a good question to meditate and write about, which I am doing now (as part of a multi-part exploration). It brings me to realize the Blind Side of my GMing - to solve problems the ways other people solve problems.

Of course with any Hypothesis there needs to be a way to prove or disprove it. For this hypothesis I need to learn the other methods of problem solving as I continue my biz studies and review the problem solving techniques I've discarded since It does not work for me.

One of the core things about Gaming (as it relates to problem solving), for me, is that it can accommodate different ways of solving problems. In a gaming table, I can (and should) accommodate the play styles (conflict resolution techniques) of all my other players while being able to push the narrative.

Which sounds like something I heard from my wife when she discussed a book she was reading. The wife is currently reading Quiet by Susan Cain and it talks about Introvert vs Extrovert Leadership. Particularly the Introvert leadership tends to be receptive to input and more-extrovert team members while Extrovert Leadership requires submissive team members ( a claim in the book). A mix of the two is always good - the ability to listen and take in input, and the extrovert confidence to follow through a course of action. The point being that GMing is very similar to how Introvert Leadership as described in the book.

By self examination my Universal Conflict Resolution System UCRS based on Scaling and Scope, Course of Action and Pacing Metre is now my go to for Mass Combat. Now I need to explore other systems and take away more ideas how to possibly run things. Note that I cannot really leave my UCRS because I need it to break things down to smaller things I can handle.

I realized my Problem Solving techniques (those mentioned above) follows the principles of the Pomodoro Technique (time boxing and similar techniques) in the sense of breaking things down to actionable time amounts. One key difference is that I realized scaling the task to the smallest kind I can perform with the least anxiety and distraction. I've recently realized that within me I only have so little of my mental resources reliable (the prefrontal cortex) and the rest are distract-able (the limbic system) mental resources. That breaking things down to Pacing Metres Stages, Course of Actions, and using flexible sense of Scaling and Scope is what I will be using to process new techniques.

So with this I can look for other methods.


  • Is the way I game based on how I solve problems? 
  • GMing relies on Accommodating different play styles = Problem Solving able to Accommodate different Problem Solving styles similar to Inrovert Leadership discussed in Quiet by Susan Cain. 
  • UCRS is similar to pomodoro technique (and various other similar techniques) in the way it breaks down problems in smaller chunks.
  • That after eliminating these methods I can look at other methods. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Back to Basics: Listing GMing Techniques

I have a coping mechanism where I break down the mental routes I use and try to hack and analyze them. I can somewhat modify them and get them going again while being able to consciously criticize and watch it done in my head.

I've begun collecting techniques. Many discussed here, and over-analyzed in the "Back to Basics", GMing, and Gaming Philosophy. Its arbitrary naming of the techniques and re-purposing definitions from work and from various studies.

Disclaimer - This is My Coping Mechanism you are free to Enjoy and Run Games which ever way you want. You can do it like John Favreau - 90% intuition.

List of Techniques

  1. World Building Campaign - more of a policy or approach. Being able to let Players affect the world and not just follow an adventure path. Sub-skills that frame the events and actions into a narrative in context of how it affects the Setting and not just the Players microcosm.
  2. One Spotlight per Player - A policy and a simpler way of adjudicating how much time to spend on players vs PCs.
  3. Yes &/But - a well known technique in Improvisation discussed at length in Happy Jacks and other more Narrative Driven Gming Styles.
  4. Active Listening GMing - Using the techniques in Active Listening in GMing, to optimize communication in the game. Disciplining the GM's Listening Skills.
  5. Consensus Decision Making GMing - Finding a way for the Players to make up more of the scene with their Intra Party conflict in a CONSTRUCTIVE way. A team and GM skill.
  6. Unique Dialogue mnemonic - how to know if we are moving forward. (If I learn something new or a new angle on something I took for-granted).
  7. Course of Action - Breaking down action by Strategy > Action > Objective. A structure to help GMs and Players complete the Idea.
  8. Pacing Metre - the 3 stages of Pacing: Set up, Initial Conflict, Climax-Consequences. Mastering it and seeing the Pacing in everything.
  9. Relationship Scope and Scaling - Scaling the Scope of the Scene to afflict Cognitive Dissonance or Complications to the Scene. To Scale from Individuals and their Internal Conflicts to Groups and their Internal Conflict. to Organisations or States and their Internal Conflict.
  10. Informative Actions - Not just to ask GM questions but to Frame it as Information Gathering Activities or Courses of Actions.
  11. Frame in Opportunities - Do not merely frame in Actions but the Opportunities wishing to discover.
  12. Zones - in-depth study of the Narrative use of Zones for Place and even Time.
  13. Task Grouping (workstream) - At first the GM masters this, but Players learn this for their Staff, Entourage, Factions or Organizations and Armies
  14. Case Study Method (project based) - Techniques in the Harvard Case Study method applicable to gaming. Particularly how they Pace and Frame.
  15. Intuitive metrics - Using Heartbeats, Breaths, Paces, Object-Lengths (Men-Abreast, Horse-Lengths, etc...) Intuitive Metrics instead of hard metrics because in Airsoft I realized I think in those terms when the perception of time gets wonky
  16. Sub-Technique for Set-up - List of Set up techniques in Pacing.
  17. Sub-Techniques for Initial Conflict - List of Initial Conflict in Pacing.
  18. Conversation of Mutual Interests - the simple skill of controling a geeks tendency to Nerdjack and work towards a fairer amount of spotlight and listening. Channeling the nerdjacking healthily.

I have more and i'm still polishing them. Some I will expound on. There are those I'm seeking to master that I should name and add to the list and set up a status and ideal/recommendation note. I'm trying to apply my ISO training in these things.


So I'm one of those guys who can't improve unless I criticize and analyze what I did or do. As I've explained before - I grew up in competetion with my genius younger brother in GMing and it left me in a predisposition to improve my GMing despite my weaker processing ability. This lead to the accumulation of some coping techniques and mnemonics to sort, perceive, judge and analyze things. As well as taking down the mechanism and criticizing, using trained doubt and freethinking skills to fix it.