Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some Updates: Studies, Organization, and Challenges

Some updates:

So we are learning to use a coding-less mobile app builder in work. there are two other Coding-Less system builders we are going to learn: one for sites and one for servers. I have plans to use it on my hobby. Particularly content in Game in the Brain that would make my GMing easier and the site better. I have a particular design in mind, but its scopes all depend on my free time and the learning milestones I can achieved.

I'm in a particular position to Gamify Good Habits and Personal Workflows in an actionable and measurable way as well as create the tools to make Game Mastering focus on more relationships and navigating and dealing with Social (Open-ended) Challenges (See non-linear games; Puccio Creative Leadership). Of course I'm one man, with about 4-6 hours a week of free time. I take double the time because I'm documenting and experimenting with workflows.

I've owned the domain of Game in the Brain and hope to be able to maintain stuff as I'm crysalis into studies, health, and various duties and responsibilities before getting back fully into games. I've consciously made the effort to resist running a game, because of the "Grown Up" stuff I need to do. I've recorded my games: which leaves me a lifetime of flaws to correct and habits to grow into.

I've pretty much Identified my main challenges in the regard of Gaming. Although i'm still pulled in 3 different directions: Studies on China, Africa, and Philippine History (in light of the successful General Luna movie bringing Philippine History back in the attention of the nation's psyche). Africa is still a fascinating study in so many aspects, its size and population makes it a whole new world and the affect of technology here in the Emerging and Frontier market-aspects has created futures not fully thought out by many. Then there is Philippine History, I used to run games in set in the late 19C and now people are looking for it. I'm so well equip now to run it and there is a market for it, fresh from the movie's influence BUT I have priorities. I'm sure there will be another Filipino GM who knows enough history to run the setting in a way to maximize drama and excitement... I hope. (so far I know no one who is as pedantic in late 19C lifestyle, economics, and investigation who was also into RPGs )

Lately I've finished a lesson on Moral Decision Making I don't think its made me a better person, but definitely gave me ammunition to Framing a Difficult Situation and attack Certainty of an Course of Action. Particularly the Socratic awareness and techniques that help in cultivating the mindset of Humble Inquiry as well as I. F.O.R.E.S.A.W. I.T..

So work and life is fuelling my ideas for a game. I have to hold it off, but note that when I exercise and run, the only thing motivating me are the games I want to run. Everyone needs a sense of motive to do hard physical activity, and for me trying to feel how characters push physical limits and get in that mindspace is what engages me in exercise. I need to run games soon because I'm running on the hope of running games again lolz.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Frustration from my Degree, History awakening in the Philippines

TL:DR So the Gaming Take away is: I've got no time to Learn new shit, maybe I should slowly incorporate it in my games?

Back Story:
I am a graduate Bachelor of Arts in Multi-Media. In the College of Saint Benilde there is a course of Multi-Media which I don't recommend.  One frustration I had (other than the 68 units that didn't need to be there) was that I had a Pseudo thesis. My "thesis" was an RPG set in Philippine History.

In CSB I had a "Thesis". Now they, CSB, cant call it "thesis", as my professors stressed and would often slip-up. They call it a Multi-Media Project but it walks, quacks, and looks like a Thesis. It has also a bearing and importance of a thesis. As one professor kindly explained to me: it's because they, CSB, did not pay for certification that allowed for one in the degree I graduated.

While I had a defence, worked on 10k words, did a lot of art and had to even outsource and pay friends for more art material it cannot be called a thesis. In fact I repeated the "thesis" even when I got a passing mark because I hated what I compromised to produce. I got up to the top level on the second try but only lost against the top 3 for the term. Note that I didn't learn to lessen Scope, back then. I was: Great Audacious Hairy Goal or nothing.

My "thesis" was about a Philippine Historical game set in the days leading to the revolution. It was poorly researched one cannot and should not wear too many hats (writer, researcher, artist, manager). Like my days in UP Fine arts, it was a 100 hours a week gig. Burned out so much the term "artist" still conjures so much revulsion. I got extremely myopic and didn't have the techniques I know now. It was 10 year too late, If I could go back in time and teach myself Gerard Puccio's "The Creative Thinkers Toolkit" and various self-Management techniques.  Even if I were to make it today and in light of Heneral Luna, I would only have 10% of the research material and probably could probably fill in the blanks of up to 50%. Learning my burn-out rate, it would be an impossible project for me these days unless I could delegate it.

There has recently been a History Awakening of the Philippines. History in its most well informed form is rare and unlikely. In the Philippines, like the rest of the world as I'm told by history loving people online, is terrible. By the measure of terrible: to be able to absorb and apply (being able to see the effects and repeated mistakes) what is found in the most basic history book.

A terrible state caused by the brain drain and demographic shift: 20% poverty (subsistence) running away at 40% at the end of Martial Law  going as high as 60%.

Such complication is the reason why I want more History settings - to Mix Games and History so that people can Learn history  while enjoying a game, because mixing these is one of the few ways to get over the "Got no time for This". Carving out time to learn things like History, Science, Social Skills etc... is hard and mixing such tasks is one of the simple yet effective solutions for some (like me).

I guess its like why I love Airsoft and why I want to get into Heavy Combat. Its SO many things at the same time. RPGs is problem solving, empathy exercise, diplomacy and negotiation, project or task management, and all these other skills. If I can add one more aspect to get more bang out of my time would solve a lot of the Time Management problems I (and probably others) have in my life.

did this with Nico Salonga on a Pentium 3 in 2004ish

I know the from Hell reference, but I didnt really watch the movie until after college. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Present-day Africa - My next Modern Game

Initial African Studies Notes So I'm using the broad strokes of Demographic and Economic Data, and will proceed to go into more and more detail. I've set up Google Alerts on DRC and Nigeria. I'm slowly learning more and more of the differences. The wife recommeded the IMF data since its more uptodate. I realized I should also use Gapminder.

Still looking for more books on Africa. Ideally Audio Lectures I can play at 1.5x speed. Youtube and Crash Courses has material, there is a Extra History on Zulu Empire. Google Play Books would be nice except its hella expensive, Its where I found $2,000usd books, and only app that uses the Text to Speech API.

I plan to exhaust Wikipedia, and then proceed up to secondary and closer to source materials. Of course doing this while I juggle a bunch of stuff, like my more serious effort in Mandarin Studies.

Predictably, the wealthier and stable countries have the most complete info and commentary. The poorest and least stable has outdated data. The Philippines as an Emerging Economy and the natural inclination to know its neighbors is also adding more context to the subtleties of Emerging and Frontier Economies and Markets.

I want to be a GM and a Person who can differentiate between various African countries, peoples, and politics. Understand it, like the appreciation I've gained in each field of history I've studied and find interesting characters and people from learning more about it.

Africa is the most far removed and alien from my situation. One of the reasons I'm studying Africa is because I believe as the world shifts in the accelerated development of the Pacific Rim nations and South America, India and China, Africa will play a more decisive role and I want to be one of the first GMs running setting as the most bleeding edge near future sci-fi.

Looking for other people who want to work with me fill this spreadsheet up. Again, offering my local expertise of the Philippines in return.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Back to Basics - Occasion to Roll

The occasion to roll is one of those ambiguous elements in TRPGs. I recently thought about some Project Management techniques in a different way that lead me to having more to contribute to this discussion.

In an an iO9 article about terrible Tabletop experiences, I am reminded of one of the problems I faced as a player and a GM - the occasion to roll. This is a common source of mistakes, and a part of RPGs that make the narrative enjoyable and removes the players from immersion. I realize how the GM and I, or the Player may have very different expectations of consequences, but there are some ways to maintain a close matching set of expectations.
Example. In driving. When GMs make a mundane task have lethal consequences serving no purpose in the narrative. I'm reminded by it constantly every time I drive. When I'm behind the wheel, I know I can take my time and avoid a risky occasion and maneuver to an occasion with inconvenience as a consequence of failure. 

What can we measure or observe? 

This would be our players engagement and their level of frustration, or exhaustion. We can measure how many ideas they communicate and how many we can juggle, and remember. We can look at our notes and see how many facts have entered into play.

Of all the things we can track, the ideas the players communicate and attempt are the things we can observe most easily. Its easier also when we make them, the Players, "Dress the Scene" more or build up the scene they know they have to get into themselves with the GM challenging or adding details as a "Backchannel" (a kind of "I agree and..."). The GM can use leading, guiding, or informative questions to guide this.

Example for the player dressing the scene.
 You need to convince The Prince this argument, how do you think that will play out? Walk me through what your PC does. 
Backchanneling Example

  • Ok, how much time and resource are you allocating? 
  • What are you willing to risk?  What are you willing to pay?
  • You cannot have X, if you are going for Y. Both cannot work out, are you sure? 
  • This will put you into conflict with the Duke, 
  • Your men will not like this if they find out.
  • Can you elaborate/clarify/give more details?  

 It tends to be guide or leading questions, and commentary about the costs, consequences, and complications of certain courses of action. The GM ideally will be 1 out 3-5 sentences of the players course of action.

We know an elevator pitch  takes about half minute or so, or speil (the pitch and the speil) takes about 2-5 minutes with the GM backchanneling details and other considerations. The longer the GM asks the player to talk, the easier it is for the GM to do the following:
  • learn the most important part of the pitch or speil
  • the part that has the strongest emotional pull on the player
  • the opportunity cost of what the player is proposing in his pitch of speil. 
Given these elements, we can make some simple guides to what occasion is best for the roll.

Guide of Importance

A simple test of importance is to check against the Scenario (the Goal of the interaction), and the situation the GM and Player are working on. In about 5-10 minutes of exchanges, between GM and Player, a roll could be called of the most uncertain part of the plan or course of action of the PC.

Let the player talk, there are implied and explicit details he will be getting to, but let him bring the whole picture. The GM backchanneling with questions or minor detail clarification ("Yes and...") should help him make a very good overview of his goals as well as his risks and obstacles. This mindset is similar to Case Study Analysis or Problem Solving Questions or Facilitation type activities.  

The GM may draw from 5W+H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How), and various other guide techniques:

  • Pros and Cons
  • SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • TTT (Topics, Targets, Trade-offs), 
  • Divergent Perspective or Problem Framing Techniques. 

The GM highlights activities part of the Adventure or High Risk activity part of the game. This High Risk can be substituted with Uncertainty in games of Horror or Drama. The risk or uncertainty he calls to roll serves the story. Asking that question: "How does this serve the story?" is worth reflexively asking every roll is called.  

Guide for the Dramatic

A simple test of Drama is to do a check of Importance, and the GM asks himself “what are the current strongest emotional triggers or draws in this situation?”. In the importance, he looks at the emotional context of the action or uncertainty. 

The GM examines where is the emotional crossroads that leads to uncertain futures or which really test everyone's understanding of the character.

The GM checks Pacing - where he is now in story and if he is trying to "build up" or trying to use what he's established (using the build up) to lead into rising conflict or tensions. Or is the GM trying to resolve a scene and then focus on what will the actions say about the character.  

Dramatic is more informed if we keep good character personality and relationship notes. If the character has flaws and strengths that the player is well aware off, and what may be inevitable in folly (character tragedies type stories; GM keeps taking note of what kind of setting and genre his running - in Tragic settings then tragedy must ensue). 

The last guide is the Games Theme and Consistency. Dark settings, Heroic settings, Fantastic settings, etc... each have their own template of how certain scenarios play out. These are guides where the drama is to be found.

This may mean the Player may not be rolling regarding his competence, but mostly the circumstance surrounding him and the likeliness that the setting and drama will complicate events.  

Guide of Opportunity

This simple test is too look at the task and examine its Opportunity Cost Value. The GM asks “How much work does this represent?”. This is the most quantitative means of measure, but like other guides can be mixed and matched depending on the GMs resources at the time. 

 Trivial Matters, things of low cost may be ignored and work that weighs heavily, representing days or weeks worth of work having much more serious penalties applied or much greater difficulties assigned for the roll.

When the Speil or pitch is made, the GM tries to figure out the Scale and elements involved in the success. He looks at the "Plan" devises what are its chunks and how all this work coalesce or from it emerge something strange and different (emergence theory, from complexity theory). 

You may find the complex tasks article useful for this.

Final Note

I don't expect any GM to hit all 3 prerequisites per roll. It would take a lot of practice and repetition to be able to structure games and scenes in this way. Its juggling a lot of details and adapting to what clicks for the players. Hopefully wording it, would make it easier to capture for the GMs or players reading this.


Always check it the Players are enjoying setting up the scene. that you can just use leading/guiding backchanneling questions to set up the costs (and opportunity costs) of the interaction (as nothing is free and easy). Its when they "push their luck" (or maybe taking forgranted what is at stake or the risk) then we call for the roll.
Telegraph or Foreshadow the Risk and Costs. In the Six thinking Hat Method you are the Black Hat. The GM is bringing convergence in the ideas and narrative. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Updates: Need to listen to a Ton of Audio Recordings and Much Prep

Hi everyone,
Currently doing some basic prep work and Data and RL house keeping.
So I have about 12 hours of audio to listen too. I hope I can speed it up to x2 in VLC to bring it down to just 6 hours. I have about 6 hours of One Shot Sessions I've downloaded from youtube on Call of Cthuluh games I'm doing for research on Disempowerment games (Tabletop Gaming with Juce, Captain Grothnog, and Duhad).

Sadly this is not data I can listen to while multi-tasking, I really have to find 10 hours in the next few weeks to listen to this and take notes. 

I have some serious problems that need addressing and cutting into my writing and gaming time. Which kinda sucks since I invested in Mentor level in Roll20 and every weekend I'm not using it is money wasted.

Currently down from a Cold, the wife and I must have gotten when we had to spend 6 hours in the hospital waiting for her doctor. (I wish the doctor could be better in setting schedules as not to expose us to the hospital over such a long period given that I have a lower  than average HT, especially when it comes to disease resistance rolls).

Burned out from work, and with so many things on my plate.

I think I will have to push a lot of my gaming to next year. With airsoft and basic fitness being a priority, and the need for me to  seriously find time for my mandarin studies I need to cut back a bit. at least till I reach Level 3 mandarin (conversational and able to read in mandarin).

Well here is hoping I figure out how to make it all happen while doing all this and doing well at work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Character Creation and Personal Development

In this hobby we have a strong ability to differentiate real life and the game. There is the priority of storytelling over realism or cold internal consistency. I wonder if: we can have a truer-to-life model and yet have just as much fun?

There are so many character generation mechanics and philosophies. The breadth of ideas explored in Games regarding Character development has been exhausting models found in fictional storytelling and slowly working its way in Social Science theories regarding it. What I find novel in Character Development is exploring schools of thought regarding Personal Development. Particularly: How we Learn by Prof Monish Pasupathi, The Art of Teaching by Prof Patrick N Allitt, HR and Training Heuristics, Educational Demographics, and Biz Heuristics.

One off the key lessons in RPGs is planning your character development is the best way to go through challenges. Character Dev, gets really sophisticated as we advance, we think in terms of Opportunity costs, secondary strategies (having multiple strategies), and various low cost to fail strategies by our strengths, weaknesses, and the most frequently encountered circumstances.

Personal Development works the same way, and we tend to have a particular planning method similar to Character Development. Unlike Char-Dev there is no singular forum or source for the best doctrine (or a game system's best practice), instead we have to go through so many sources and people.

What am I getting at? Well I want that you walk away with the following:
  1. its never too late to use your Character Development Skills for my own Personal Development. 
  2. That personal empowerment happens when we can frame more of the "grinding" in the same way we get it framed for us in the game. That we can frame in a way we see the opportunities and this engages us deeply and profoundly. 
  3. That no single model or personal development, as there is so many models of Char Development from various systems: we have to look at our paradigm and what do we want out of this game. 

Character Development vs Personal Development
  • Working with Random Stats, "Life giving you Lemons", is in  Gerard Puccio's Creative Thinker's Toolkit a great way to test and exercise our creativity and coping ability. These days I like limiting character options and randomizing a lot of character aspects. I feel empowered enough to let go of some control and that is a great measure of my Locus of Control/ Sense of Agency. 
  • Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses, and seeing the cause of effect of such Archetypes we see in life and in games. How are we falling into this archetype (which has a particular role and doctrine or best practice in Game Theory). Special Characters find a way to break away from the negative aspects of the Archetype and in this we find inspiration for our own lives and new characters. In games we get to explore and experiment these. 
  • How do we really improve? What really does happen as we get better? Do we gain a bunch of skills or do we trade off skills? This is when we have to be more rigorous or scientific. The great thing about World Building is we declare our assumptions about the world and we get it out, and when criticism comes we see examples that don't fit with our world view. We test our understanding and work with the Cognitive Dissonance of How we would like the world to be, how we are wrong, and that our ideals (despite being a bit far from reality) is the part of us we are admittedly remorsefully irrational about. 
  • That to adventure in our own life may not be as grand as that of fiction, but can be as challenging and costly to who we were, to maybe become who we may want to be. That it has costs that we may not ever want to pay - the harder decisions, that gives us perspective of what do we really think is hard or easy. 
So after reading this, hopefully in the back of your mind you may look at the skills and heursitics you learned in character optimization and compare it to your own Personal Advancement plan. If it sucks, maybe explore other systems or if it makes some sense test it for limits. I hope when you start doing this, you feel a greater sense of agency as you explore new strategies and perspectives.