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? 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sins of the Crusade Time Line Leading up to 1092

The detail and how often the pieces fit from the various Wikipedia entries are awesome. This is for my players but the amount of work it took to assemble this was very considerable so I am sharing it. I am aware that Im just using wikipedia articles, but this is an Alternate history.  This is continuously going to be improved and detailed. This is from the point of view of Conrad.

If you see a F or M that's gender, and the number is the age. You will see "Then" to give context to the age then vs 1092.

1092 (Present)

  • Emperor Henry IV attacks Matilda of Tuscany
  • Feb Tzachas, a Seljuq Turkic emir who assumed the title of emperor in Izmir with possession of the Thracesia, Cibyrrhaeots, and Cyprus Provinces. 
  • April John II Komnenos co-emperor at the age of five.  Anna Komnene’s (F9) betrothal to co-emperor Constantine Doukas (M18) and replaced with Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger grandson of Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder 
  • May. Megas Doux John Doukas, Thalasocrator Constatnine Dalassenos, Strategos Manuel Boutoumites, are set to Siege of Symrna/Izmir to deal with Tzachas


  • Feb Stephen II Dies with no Heir, Kingdom of Croatia Civil War
  • March Doux John Komnenos son of Isaac, is sent to pacify the Kingdom of Croatia and prevent the Expansion of King Ladislaus I of Hungray.
  • March  Ariebes (Armienian Noble) and Count Constantine Humbertopolous (a Frankish Knight Mercenary) was involved with a failed plot against Alexius. 
  • April 29 The Battle of Levounion is a turning point of the Roman Empire after so many losses. This is when machinations and planning to reconquer the lost Anatolian Provinces would begin. 


  • Former Emperor Micheal VII (M40) Doukas dies in Constantinople 


  • March Otto of Ostia is elected Pope Urban II
  • April. Tzachas Bey rebelled and seized Smyrna and continues to harass the Roman navy contesting control of the Aegean Sea. 
  • The Second Great Saxon revolt lead by  Rudolf von Rheinfeld

Egbert II, Margrave of Meissen proclaimed himself Anti-king to Henry IV


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish captures Antioch and tries to massacre the inhabitants. He’s killed by Tutush I, avenging the death of Arp Aslan his father. 
  • Abu Al-Quasim takes over Cappadocia, Opsikion, and Optimaton Provinces and calls himself Sultan.  


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish and Kilij Arslan expands the  Sultanate of Rûm and proceed east to contest his descendants of Arp Aslan.
  • July Robert Guiscard Dies and Bohemond leaves to contest his half-brother’s succession of Italian Holdings. 


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish,  Kilij Arslan I and Abu Al-Quasim  and conquers Cappadocia, Opsikion, and Optimaton Provinces establishing the Sultanate of Rûm.  
  • Emperor Alexios bribes Emperor Henry IV to attack Rome to force Pope Gregory to recall Robert Guiscard. 


  • The Emperor Alexios bribes Emeperor Henry IV to attack the Papal States. This causes the Pope to recall Robert Guiscard, leaving a small force to hold what they just captured last year. 
  • The Emperor Alexios refinances the Army by confiscating the wealth of the church. He gets the Republic of Venice and Almafi to ally with him with free trade and monpoly agreements. 
  • Recapture of Dyrrachium under Ventian and Almafian Naval Siege. 
  • Croatia, Dalmatia to the Romans, is given to the Ventians. 
  • Hermann of Salm elects himself as anti king to Henry IV
  • Henry IV attacks Rome. 


  • Feb Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates tried to eliminate Alexios and his brothers but escape. Anna Delassenos and Empress Maria of Alania create a situation that allows him to March into the city to 
  • April Coronation of Alexios I with the promise of his Regency until Constantine (XI) Doukas comes to age to become emperor and marries his daughter Anna Komnena.  
  • May Duke Robert Guiscard Launches his attack on byzantine territories. 
  • Emperor Henry IV marched against Matilda of Tuscany
  • October Battle of Dyrrhachium (byzantine loss). Byzantine-Norman Wars. Robert Guiscard (M66 then), Bohemund (M23 then), Sichelgaita of Salerno (F41 then) and Constantine Bodin (M36 then). The Roman experienced Norman Couched-Lanced shock tactics in the first time. 


  • March Nicephorus Botaniates becomes Emperor and marries Emperor Michael's VII Doukas wife and Empress Maria of Alania and eliminates NIkephoritzes.  NIkephoritzes escapes only to be captured and tortured to death. 
  • Battle of Kalavry - Alexios, Constantine Katakalon under the banner of Emperor Nicephorus III Botaniates, vs Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder .


  • Jan. Walk of Canossa
  • Three Emperors War - Micheal VII Doukas had his two most powerful generals rise in revolt. Doux Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder of Dyrrhachium and Western Themes rose up in rebellion and declared Emperor. Doux Nikephoros Botaneiates of Anatolic Theme and Eastern Provinces with the aid of the Seljuq declared himself Emperor.
  • Roussel de Bailleul is was released to deal with Usurper Nicephorus Botaniates where he defeats him and tries to turns traitor. He is captured by Seljuqs and executed that same year. 


  • Alexios tricks Roussel de Bailleul which causes 
  • Roussel de Bailleul conquered the Opsikion, Bucellarians, and Cappadocia Provinces. He crowns himself Emperor. Emperor Michael VII  persuades  Tutush I to attack him, and he is tricked tricked by Alexios where he is captured by Tutush. 


  • Roussel de Bailleul, tried to make a kingdom out of the Optimatoi Province. 
  • Roger Hauetvil captures Sicily to be Roger of Sicily, brother of Robert Guiscard. 
  • The First Great Saxon revolt


  • Co-Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes was plotting to return to power was dismantled by only to be blinded and die a slow and painful death from an infection. 
  • Doux Nikephoros Karantenos pacified the revolt of Constantine Bodin
  • Emperor Arp Aslan (father of Emperor Malik I and Tutush I) was defeated by Suleiman ibn Kutalmish (father of Kilij Aslan) in battle. 
  • Investiture Contraversy begins with Pope Gregory vs Henry IV 


  • April Fall of Bari (Italian Byzantine Holdings) despite Doux Nikephoros Karantenos efforts where he delt with Normans in Italy and had to pacify the Balkans. 
  • August Battle of Manzikert - Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, step father of Micheal VII Doukas and Regent Emperor had the disastrous loss against the Arp Aslan of Seljuk. This resulted with the Seljuq and Roussel de Bailleul take over Anatolia. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenese was captured and Emperor Micheal VII (M21) came to the throne depending a lot on NIkephoritzes eunuch and Chief Minister of State. When he was ransomed back, he lost power to his son-in-law.  


  •  Romanos IV Diogenes married Eudokia Makrembolitissa against the wishes of former Emperor Constantine X Doukas. Despite being only Co-Emperor to Micheal VII Doukas (M18 then), he usurped his son to become emperor.  

Roman Provinces 

  • Thrace-Macedonia 
  • Thessalonica- Strymon (Doux Nikephoros Milesenos)
  • Hellas-Nicopolis 
  • Peloponnese 
  • Aegean Sea (Megas Doux John Doukas)
  • Crete 
  • Dyrrhachium (Doux John Komnenos)

Partially Controlled Regions

  • Paristrion - Buffer Region and Barbarian-Roman Colony
  • Archbishopric of Orhid (Bulgaria) 
  • Sirmium (Contested with Croatia and Hungary)

Neighboring States

  • Kingdom of Croatia (Civil War)
  • Duchy of Naples (Protosebastos Duke Sergius of Naples)
  • Kingdom of Hungary (King Ladislaus M53 )
  • Duchy of Poland (Duke Władysław I Herman)
  • Grand Principality of Kiev (Grand Prince Vsevold I)
  • made up of Principality of Kiev, Principality of Chernigov and Principality of Pereyaslavl
  • Kingdom of Georgia (King David IV the Builder)
    • Archbishop George of Chqondidi  

Marauding and Roving Peoples

  • Pechenegs
  • Cumans
  • Kipchaks

Other Empires

Holy Roman Empire 

  • Emperor Henry IV (M42)
  • Henry, Count of Monte Sant'Angelo,

Papal States 

  • Pope Urban II
  • Matilda of Canossa (F46)

Republic of Venice

  • Doge Vitale Faliero of House Fano.

Sultanate of Rum

  • Abu Al-Quasim
  • Chaka Bey

Sejuk Empire

  • Malik Shah
  • Tutush I

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Back to Basics: Pacing - Dice Agency and Framing the Narrative

  • As a GM or Player, what do you think of the activity of Framing the Narrative? 
  • Is Framing the Narrative part of Managing Tension and Conflict? 
  • If it is, how important is it in your pacing strategy?
  • How much does "dice feedback" (knowing the result of the die rolls) affect the job of Framing the Narrative? 

These Questions pointed out that Framing the Narrative is important to ME. Its not important in the enjoyment of MANY games. I'm am getting the impression many games can be enjoyed without it and its part of a niche way of playing.

Below is a discussion with +Charles Tan regarding the subject comming from a discussion of "Dice Agency". I only used his comments in the thread since he pursued the matter and pointed out some key elements about the discussion. Particularly its just one way of enjoying the game. 

Myself - Is needing to roll a bad habit? If the player feels agency only when they Roll bad? Does the gm requiring a roll to grant players agency bad? Sorry leading questions. 

Charles Tan - It depends on player and GM expectations, and what type of game it is.
For example, if the player roleplayed well, do they still need to roll to resolve the encounter, despite performing superbly (in the GM's opinion)? What happens if they roll low, would they still fail despite a persuasive argument?
Or if a player invested in a high Social Stat, and made a mediocre attempt at persuading the NPC, an auto-failure would not feel satisfactory to the player because they invested in their Social Stat, only for it to not come into play. They want the opportunity to make the roll, because that was how they built their character.
Also some RPGs, for certain actions, don't have mechanics for rolling, because they want it resolved in a different way (i.e. roleplaying, persuading other players, etc.).
There is also illusion of outcomes (i.e. Player Rolls vs. GM Rolls); interference from previous experiences (last game they played involved rolling, current game they play all conflict is resolved socially), and other factors. 

Myself - The context is the study of pacing, particularly managing tension via information asymmetry (or uncertainty). The GM delaying or manipulating feedback vs letting dice inform the player. The player vs character point made me realize I could allow success at a cost.

Charles Tan  - There's two issues at here.
One is pacing, but that's relatively easy to gauge.
The other is information transparency or player feedback. This will boil down to the type of game you're trying to tell. For actions that have instantaneous repercussions, you want immediate feedback (and since the results are also immediate, there is no point in concealing the roll from the player).
In a game of diplomacy (or even a heist), however, there is rationale from concealing info from the player until the very end. For example, if you talk to 3 jurors who will decide on your fate, you might NOT want to make it clear whether they succeeded in persuading the 1st juror when they talk to the 2nd. Same goes from 2nd to 3rd. It's when the final vote comes in that you reveal the results (persuaded 1st, failed 2nd, succeeded w/ 3rd, etc.).
You can even do it game-show style. 1st and 2nd juror results are revealed before you interact w/ 3rd juror, heightening dramatic tension for 3rd juror encounter. 

Myself -  I agree. I'm wondering if the agency depending on the dice doesn't need to be the status quo. I grew up gaming that my agency was through the dice and thus my own expectations are tied to it so much it's hard to disconnect it. While in the real world I operate with so much uncertainty compared to PCs it makes the certainty of dice unusual in comparison. I'm wondering is there distrust for the GM something of a product of when I was a different gamer and focused on one-up-smanship. 

Charles Tan - Early RPGs were influenced by D&D, which in turn by wargaming--where it is a PvP scenario so you want transparent and equal rules--which is where the dice mechanics originally came from.
More modern story-oriented RPGs (usually indie RPGs) understand that it is a story-oriented game, so trust either the players (some games are GM-less, and involve communal storytelling) or the GM without needing dice as a mechanic.
And then there are other games w/c find mechanics that serve the type of story they're telling, such as Dread and Jenga Tower as conflict resolution (basically one death per session but the rest should be success...).
This lead me to think of how to work with "Dice Feedback" problems, since I will have to work with players who  have Dice Agency requirement. How to manage tension when the dice kinda made the job much harder (and GMing is already hard for me). That would be a great skillset regardless of a system that allowed dice feedback/information symmetry. The more tools I have prepared for such, the better I am in managing tension for the game.

Back to Basics Pacing - I've been mulling over this and found this the best "template" for prep and asking questions of myself to get ready. It is currently making me List and create many tension managing strategies - particuarly learning to work with LESS (and less and less lolz).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Reflections] Ads for Skilled Players

Early on I realized that information is a barrier between people. As much as Shared Interests can connect us, differences in Interests separate us. I hated the vicious cycle of how this worked and how disconnected it made me feel. When I learn something, it should not make it harder to connect to people. The more I know, the more differences it can create and the natural thing for me was to make these differences matter more than they should.

I was reminded by this again when I noticed that trend of "Skilled Players Wanted!" I get it, it takes time to teach people to play a certain game. I felt that even more when I tried to teach people GURPS and realize I've made a pretty steep requirement for Interaction. I realized that was the problem of how I played DnD or GURPS, with all the expansions and companion rules I required. Holy Crap I'm distancing myself from people. 

It was first expressed in my personal philosophy and then towards my gaming. Tearing down those walls and reworking all the things I learned into being System Agnostic - its like becoming a Humanist. Of course there is the system I grew up with, and the system I know very well - but in the end I have to strip away the system and look at principles that can be applied universally. 

 So we can talk about games, I can "Yes&" in any gaming conversation if I can get down to the Attention Mechanics and Soft Skills that creates the Game Experience. We use game systems like Tools, and we each have a particular technique in applying these tools. I want to ask about your technique.

Everyone is in various stages and levels in their life. Its life, I should be able to relate if I work with what matters. Everyone wants to game, they will channel their desires and imagination and I should be able to work with it if I listen.

I guess it should boil down to "if the person is a pain in the butt?". Thats all that matters, people easy to deal with is all I need to make a great game experience. 

Proto-Stress Rules

Inspiration from work kinda makes me want to introduce a STRESS penalty rule. Basically responsibilities and worries accumulate, these distractions represents how much levels of mastery in skills are there to compensate for this. That higher levels of skill is not just for greater feats of ability but being able to overcome great amounts of distractions (basically representing greater and greater levels of "keeping it together" and concentration).

Leaders who are responsible are the first to take a lot of these penalties. Maintaining discipline and example is STRESSFUL as well as pay extra attention. Ad-Hoc a simple "Stress Penalty" would suffice for every responsibility. Delegation or Strategic re-organization of Assets and Resources would be the typical solution to this. The rule should be compatible and work well with Multi-Tasking rules or acting as such for systems with no such rules.  Characters who are not "organized" cannot see all the tasks they need to do, they can be aware of only a few tasks.

I think this kind of rule makes players appreciate the burden of multiple responsibilities and juggling these. It also incentives them to seek strategic solutions to minimize this and taking too many responsibilities on. It also simulates how mess the PC's life can get.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Back to Basics: Pacing and Tension, Pacing Tool

Two wonderful videos below on Pacing but I'm here to talk about some ways to apply it immediately.

Pacing Grid

I have my players/PCs names in the left most column going down in rows, and Columns are named for the 3 phases: Set-up, Conflict, and Release. I can implement this in a much larger scale, across two notebook pages.
This is a simple MAP by which I can tell where I am and where I'm headed. In each Phase I mark down the actions of the PC/Players.
Ex. I get everyone's set up (see below what should be done in set up). This informs me of what would be the best way to introduce conflict
The use of the GRID is to manage the attention mechanics of running a game: I get lost and my attention resource is severely finite.  I just need to look down and glance, if there is an empty space then I've not adequately extracted a significant contribution from the player.

When I complete a Column, I round it off and quickly summarize what happened. This happens every column.

Game PREP. This tool can be used to plan a GAME session. Simply plan out the cycles of Set-up/Tensions/Release. Problems foreshadowed will be here and in PREP mode, I will be writing down the "buttons" I should be pressing per character.

The Set-up - Player Buy In Time.

This is when the GM needs to get the Players to have their buy in. To do this I establish a kind of "down time" or "sand box". I then ask the PCs what they want to do, as these actions root the PCs into the world as they begin to shape it.

The PC's Persistence. Action is agency but, to create buy-in you need Persistence - Permanence of the Players's actions.  Activities like buying stuff is one of these, but more so are activities that lets the players freely shape the world around them. Let the PCs fix/manage their household or holdings, make some strategic decisions about their resources, or cultivate relationships with NPCs. Let them make preparations, and set their long/medium range plans in motion.

Building Value in the PC's effort. Letting them buy or make stuff or preparations is not enough.  Putting Value in what they buy and make is the next part. This is true with the relationships they cultivate, and the elements of the world they personally try to shape. Basically I "Yes&/but..." then proceed to highlight the values. When I get better I will find a way to weave in the risks through implication.
Its one thing telling the PCs what part of the world they are affecting, its another to tell them the repercussions and the value of how they affect the world. We can describe it, or we can show it, and it will take up some time to convey it. So you will find me trying to Actively Listen if the Players get it.
I take note of the relevance, and its used for material for the next session, improving the value of the buy-in as each cycle of Buy-ins add greater and greater value. The more I can recall these details and weave it in the next session, the better the appreciation - as well as it reflecting in the Post-Session Notes.

Rising Tensions - Enter Conflict

After setting up the PCs roots (filling up the Set-up side of the Pacing Grid), Tension rises when the Problem, Challenge, or Conflict is Introduced. In basic Problem-Solving "Frame the Problem" and let the PCs work on it. Typically the session already has fore-shadowing of this problem. The better the Story teller, the more "Narratively Aesthetic" the problem/conflict is introduced (I'm not really good there).  

Initial Reactions - This where players start asking questions or interacting with their environment. Don't let them ask questions directly to the GM (that breaks immersion), let them perform Informing Actions (I fail to do this). Informing actions is letting their PCs ask questions and interact with the world to learn more. This is to keep immersion and to have something for the PCs to do.

The same goes to the GM, "Show" don't "tell" (another weakness of mine). Typically this is a Loss, or a Change of their Environment, or an Event! I try not to use monologues to describe things, let them perform Informing Actions. they ask questions to NPCs or make Skill rolls analyzing the situation, but they have to be specific?
  • Rolling against Skills in Informing Actions: Can I use Intelligence Analysis/Streetwise/Criminology/Area Knowledge to determine the source of the threat? - this is not enough. I, the GM, should be asking what "facts" or "clues" do the player is taking into consideration. The Player Actively interacts with the world to get their answers.  
  • I go to around, talking to X, Y, Z, and get a clue of what is happening and try to use A-skill to figure it out. Then the GM asks what specific "questions" are you asking? Move towards finding the right questions. Wrong questions Ok, it just leads to an unsatisfying answer or an answer that leads to more questions. 

Managing Tension/Suspense/Conflict. Informing PCs/Players manages Tension. I should start with answers that make more questions. These are typically General Sweeping Statements, typically Loaded with so much particulars and details that would take time to sort.
  • Start Close and Work towards Farther Threats/Problems. People who are good with analyzing threats analyze from the closest/most immediate to the farthest! (something I am working on myself) Begin with what is CLOSEST to the PCs. 
    • You notice tracks that are not you own! 
    • The Immediate area has gone dark and quiet. 
    • Your radios can't seem to work. 
  • Distort Information! ALL ROLLS ARE SECRET!!! No Player Rolls from this point. This is where Players should not be listening too closely to Out-Of-Character Knowledge.  (I always lack the presence of mind to do this more systematically)
    • In the cave - Tell the ranger one thing, the rogue something else, and the dwarf another. 
    • Put each other's expertise and credibility against each other. The hireling expert disagrees with the PC Expert. 
  • Initiative! (using the same principles of Narrative Combat Initiative) Resolve Actions before Questions! Get everyone's Declarations, then resolve by Actions to Asking. Create a sense of Urgency, and let Threats and Problems cause losses and more problems (use the Minor Problem method)
  • Occupies the Players Attention! You don't want them to disengage, but you can only deal with a few Players at a time. a Player challenge keeps things occupied, because they need time to formulate their best answer while the clock is running. 
    • Acting vs Asking will require the Players to frame their Questions in the form of Actions that will give their PCs insight. 
    • Framing Questions, then there is the right way to Ask Questions. To keep things moving, i the player is stuck with "Ummm..." just look at his PC skill. Never penalize trying or Initiative, reward it.
    • Actions have COSTS! For every action there should be a tangible and substantive loss in resources or time.
  • Urgency! Everytime no one steps up on to the "plate" create a loss or more problems. Action and Trying, and even Failing is better than Idle time. We Improv and our PCs have skills we dont have, we can forgive failures but not the lack of Initiative. 
    • Their breaks are only my break to take notes, have a drink and snack (which I always forget and would have made for a more sustainable energy level) , and regroup my thoughts.  
    • If they need a break, then I better take a break as well. This is for fun and there is diminishing returns. When idle I can write down what is happening and What I'm trying to do!
vs Drawing Out Tension - The moment I think I am drawing out Tension, then the PCs may have realized that already and they may disengage. If I'm caught up WITH THEM in the Urgency and the Problems, then they will detect it and by sympathy continue to engage!

Managing means Pacing. Heck take deep breaths would help! Lets manage the Tension together to keep it engaging.  

Release! - Ending the Conflict  

Feedback is Release! My problem is how poorly I can judge the weight of the Information which leads to a clumsy release. I really need a method to handle information even when my brain is maxed out. The answer lies in the Mnemonic of the Pacing GRID!

I should be noting already what Release would be on the Release column and manage how it comes out by the actions of the Players. Simply glancing back and forth between columns should get my brain thinking of how to connect it in the most "engaging" way possible.

The Release Notes happen before I Release! Its the only way for me to Check and run through an Improvisation. This is where skill from practice, and experience will matter more and more. The sooner I get this process down the sooner I can maximize how on my experience and skill.

I will have more on Release in future Posts.

In Conclusion. 

Pacing is hard, but I would not have been able to work on it had I not been listening to myself GM in Hangouts On-Air. In fact I now NEED to listen to it despite how painful it is to catch myself do so many wrongs.


An example of Pacing in (any game system) Mass Combat, 
  1. The Set UP is the Recon, and Army Preparation. 
  2. The Conflict is introduced when the GM describes the Actionable Recon and Prepration Results. The Tension rises as maneuvers are executed, Ideally these are now secret rolls of the GM and Players do not make any rolls. the GM rolls factoring the bonuses from the maneuvers. GMs who suck in dressing a scene (like me) work on reports of lieutenants, the sounds of familiar voices, and familiar battle instrument tones and notes. 
  3. Release Happens depending on the circumstance, always there to Inform the Players when