Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Running GURPS more narratively Part 3: implications

Continued from Running GURPS more narratively Part 2

A more elegant approach to complexity 

This makes it more elegant to me: the GM and players ideate, negotiate, narrate and roleplay their 2-5 minute interactions then there is a roll as compared to a process that has many rolls between certain decisions. Mastery is easier when the stages move more seamlessly into the next instead of punctuated by uncertainty and dice.

Instead of this flow chart. Which is basically:

18 Maneuvers > if attack 12 Attack Options (up to 28 actually and more per book) > modified by 14 factors > action/attack roll > 7 defense options > defense roll > damage roll > condition rolls* 


Course of Action (3 fields of attention, but 6 combinations) > Specificity (2 levels, up to 12-18 combinations) > Conditions/Modifiers (3 conditions) > Roll > Succeed at a Cost > conditions (may or may not roll).  

*of the top of my head: shock, major wound, bleeding, stunning, wound condition, and penalties. I agree with Colin.

Objective of Hacking the GURPS  to be more elegant and working with:

  • less prep (all of them reusable and modular to be rearranged for a new adventure), 
  • less space (cafes), 
  • less materials (less books to bring and papers), 
  • less working memory (see parting reflection below)

Elegance vs Simplicity. For this series I'm using elegant as a way to describe an approach that can scale well when it gets more complex and people want to use more details as their working memory gets better in handling the system. Simple is a stage, it gets more complex and rewarding and we want that escalation to be elegant.

It will be obvious why I use the GTD philosophy and Super Memo's Knowledge Formulation guideliness in crafting these rules. Bundling ideas for better mnemonic carrying capacity and leaner working memory is what I hope to achieve with this set up.


  1. Higher Tension. The NPC threats are more certain. 
    1. With no roll the GM just counts the number of actions and maneuvers it takes to line up the NPCs to take down the PCs. How many he needs to surround them, the circumstance, and how much firepower. 
    2. The GM thinks in these action steps instead of basing his plan on the uncertainty of every step hanging on a die roll. These guys will kill the PCs if they don't make a significant action in every opportunity.  
    3. Even the Players know their Risks. At an assumed Roll of 10 the Players know what will kill them and will maneuver accordingly. 
  2. Significance. Clearer Objectives and Action for Players. 
    1. Position and Opportunity vs Options and Attempts. This makes it easier to get to the key objectives. No more stages divided by a bunch of rolls, every option has cascades elegantly into various trade-offs. the players can make the calculations in their head without stopping for dice. So from Situation to the Action needed - the PCs have one die roll between them and their next action. 
    2. Options and Attempts were pretty much "Kill the leader" and everyone has a high pay-off but low chance to kill the boss. Now you can't just simply gamble like that: the options to position and maneuver for an advantage have no rolls - the rolls are mostly to inform what Costs the PCs are willing to take for that advantage. 
  3. Threat Measure. Lethality is easier to Measure by Getting the TDM and Turn Count. 
    1. The working statistics for the Finally Odds for the PC would be typically be:
      1. 6-7 in high pressure high attrition adventures. 
      2. 8-9 to bloody and costly battles, and 
      3. 10-12 for some nail biting but the PCs escape mostly intact.
      4. 13+ for most of the easy combat. 50:50 unscratched. 
    2. The number of rounds the PCs have to manuever before one to half of them can be killed can be counted easily. X/Y where X is the number of rounds it takes to be in a position to automatically deal meaningful harm to a PC. Y is the number of rounds/turns it takes for half the PCs take meaninful harm. 
      1. 1/3 is hard. 
      2. 2-3/6 is moderate.
      3. 4/8 is easy.

Coordination Actions

Coordinating Actions are the following:

  • Comm-Coor. Giving coordinating information to allies who are not in line of sight of each other but can hear the coordinator. 
    • potential to grant a +1 to all allies when they attempt to team work an action. Typically limited to a zone. 
    • can grant  +2 to two allies coordinating (this typically offsets coordination penalties). up to one zone away. 
  • Overwatch (rear-guarding). on a successful roll can be attacking a flanker or giving the ally the opportunity to defend. 
  • Gain Ground. Shifting the positional condition of all allies in the same zone. This can be from disadvantageous ground to neutral, or from neutral to advantageous. 

Concepts so far:
  • One Roll per Player Scene
    • Non-Binary Consequences (NBC)
    • Success at a Cost
  • Task Difficulty Modifier (TDM)
    • Agent
    • Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD)
    • vs Agent
    • vs Situation
  • Superiority 
  • Specificity
  • Zones
  • Aspects
  • Initiative
    • First Move or Last Word
  • Significant Actions
    • Scale by the Least.
    • Flexible Time Scale
    • Lead by the Least
  • Prepare Options
  • Inquire and Ideate
  • Support Tactics 
  • Flow of Narrative Combat Overview. 
  • Limited Modifiers
    • Target Number
    • TDM
    • Defense 
  • Action, Evasion, Position
  • NPC Actions
    • NPC's go-to strategies if they can't hit the PCs. 
    • No Extra Rolls
      • Except Damage to the PCs
      • No Fast Draw, Zen Archery, Acrobatics, etc...
      • Damage is MoS
      • No Defense Roll
      • No Deceptive Attacks, Conditional Telegraphic
      • Retreat and Drop
  • Support Tactics
  • Implications of the less rolls
    • Higher Tension.
    • Significance.
    • Threat Measure.
  • Coordination Options. 
    • Comm-Coor
    • Overwatch
    • Gain Ground

This is a work in progress, and I'm tearing down old practices, habits and skills and overlaying my GTD learnings as scaffolding in how I approach the game. The procedure approach is to work with less working memory and free up my mind to fully engage in the fun of the game instead of the rules. This is pretty much what GTD does to any task - be it work or chores or games - freeing up working memory to the point that possibilities arise and perspective changes. 

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