Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Finished The Long War: Killer of men, Marathon, and, Poseidon's Spear

These books makes me want to run a GURPS game set in that era (early 5C BCE). Although I would recommend getting the Authors Bibliography, GURPS Low Tech, Greece, etc to run such a game. It would be a terribly small audience for such game sadly.

Its a great series, and similar to the The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell. I was not much of a fan of the era, but these series made me a fan. I've always been curious about the Ancient Eras after finishing the lectures on Origin of Civilization, Ancient Empires before Alexander, and my own Chinese History studies that deal in the eras of the Shang and Zhou Dynasty.

I love how the author gets into the detail about training, conditioning, and discipline. It reinforces my own training and my own aspirations. When he does so it brings up is the amount of work it takes to be as good as the characters. Stuff I wish was an element in a game that people would enjoy like I do: enjoy choosing the best habits, routines, and training habits of my PC and managing his psyche. If I could afford a 40lb kit (which I cant) the stories in the book reinvigorate me enough to pursue crossfit weighted vest training as well as getting back into kali.  

I love it when characters love training and making themselves better. They dont kill stuff to make themselves better, they train and the world turns. I like stories like that and which biases me to this book.

What I love about historical fiction is how it uses techniques in Non-fiction writing to amp up the emotional score of an event and action. It gives a lot of perspective and comparisons. Its fiction but the writer has some limitations with the material he has to draw from. Working with those limitations show techniques I can take up for my own storytelling.

The books are great and I bought them in Google Play store, because Amazon won't let me convert them to epub so I can use my Text To Speech app (@Voice Read Aloud) to listen to them as I have 2 hour commutes. The books are so well written It can convey its emotions even through the App.

Check out the Hippeis bibliography for setting research if you are going to try to get into it. Like in my basic understanding of Medieval Agriculture and Demographics it puts a TON of things in perspective and it enriches the immerision in the setting. The way the agricultural studies was important in the book, as the Author notes, Its my key challenge in my Chinese history studies.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Deliberate Practice in TRPGs

Finding and setting up Deliberate Practice in anything one does is a mindset I've recently adopted. So far I've identified opportunities for deliberate practice in the GM's domain. These are:

Player Scenes.
When I break down games, I break them down to scenes. As scenes its easier to limit the variables to create opportunities for deliberate practice.
1) Time to communicate,
2) effectiveness of communication (the player's feedback or watching recordings of such sessions),
3) How quickly one plans all the Scenes needed to achieve an X effect or push the story in a particular direction. this is a time metric along with a results or output metric.
4) breaking down and Identifying key elements a scene should have based on the circumstance. Being able to quickly identify the key element that moves the player and pushes the story. Metric is rating the Scene by how well it pushes the story forward. A simple QA rating of X/5 and trying to get better and better.
1) In player feedback,
2) watching rehersals, mirrors,
3) Discipline or Will or Dedication to go back to notes or recorded sessions to look and critique.

Ideating Player Options.
This exercise is basically thinking up the hardest options a player may give to the GM. This is a slow and deliberate skill which takes a lot of documentation, rehersal,  a solid set of problem solving abilities and process or logistical skills.
1) How many and quickly can the GM think up about his key Story thesis.
2) How quickly he can identify and track all the times players have stumped him. The measurable element is how quickly the GM will capture and document hard choices he has to make for review.
3) How many can he correctly predict player choices. Simple measure of how often the GM gets it right. But it can also measure in bounds (how many steps ahead can the GM predict based on how strongly he knows his players)
1) How the game progresses, this is a prediction and how often it is correct becomes a form of feedback.

Preparation is Deepwork.
Writing out the Game, the plan, the characters, and the NPCs is one of the first elements we can always track and is the most basic.
1) Elements Created. How many locations, NPCs, scenarios, scenes, plot hooks, and motivations can be made in a sessions of concentration in 4 hours straight.
2) Algorithms Created. More sophisticated than Elements are formulas to make improvised elements that can serve to push the story and the players forward.
3) How we budget our time in each elements. Measuring how we use our time to make fluff, elements, contingencies, study the players and their characters etc... How systematic one approaches this is measured in datapoints,  and the checklists and guides one creates, as well as the revisions one makes (and documentations). As well as the experimentation we make.
1) How much of the stuff is used vs how much is unused.
2) Rating how useful what was prepared.
3) Post Prep Feedback, our own estimation, vs How the player feedback. Always get player feedback or someone else's feedback. The more we delay it or avoid it, the more we undermine our commitment to be better and learn. I know we can take only so much humbling criticism, but growing ability to take feedback is always a useful trait.

If you know of any I've missed or some suggestions I'm open.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Deepwork in Games

From deepwork https://g.co/kgs/muQ3Bi I realized adventure making would be more than a 15min activity. I had previous goals of keeping it at 15 but after deepwork if the adventure creation doesn't go deep its value as personal improvement, a way to be in the zone or have flow, etc is vastly diminished. I would have just eliminated the opportunity of personal growth.

Deep work has also given me an idea of using the first 15 mins letting the players immersed and set the rhythm of the turns and how to push for flow. It also points out diminishing returns for the hard mental activity as well as how changing gears helps the pacing and the brain from burnout.

If you use GTD for gaming and life , thinking fast and slow for mental stretching and problem solving challenges, Grit for character development guide, then deepwork would be a good book that applies to life and games. Game prep and the session fall under deep work (one is collaborative deep work).

If you happen to take general productivity tips, techniques, and inspiration and apply it to life and games I'm always up for finding more.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Obviously I'm in hiatus from the lack of posts. So that you have a better idea of how long I'm down to set expectations there is a chance I'll be back up on Feb 2017.

  • Physical Rehabilitation. My back rehabilitation is taking a lot of toll. it means having about 20-30mins more time per exercise in order to do the Sciatica lower back pain management stretching, and it means doing more stretching per day. Time I would use to bang at the keyboard for a bit. 
  • Baby due in November, from the months leading to Nov and the months after November a new baby means a large chunk of my time gone. Every child is a chunk of time per day (and per week gone) Typically drawn from personal time like writing, surfing, gaming, and research. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What Augmented Reality means to TRPG players: LARP Tools

With Pokemon GO all the rage its become clear that Augmented Reality Games will be the trend to look forward to. For Us TRPGers that means the possibility of more play opportunities with Virtual LARPS.

  • LARP Tools: 
    • All the Props are Virtual
    • Coordination and Communicating will be easier: 
      • Simple Coordination between large groups to set up a LARP type event
      • Send Scripts to NPCs through their Device
      • Discover Volunteers and their Availability through the Device
      • APIs that organize all the information, participants, and activities. 
      • Execute Template Events and Activities through the APPs. 
      • Using QR code or GPS for locations or ITEM based discoveries. 
        • Hidden Items with QR codes for special treasures

    • Facilitation of Character Abilities through the APPs.
      • Skill Checks through the APPS
      • Inventory through the Apps.
      • Information Access through the APPs
        • Characters with certain skills have information about something or someone based on their Observation or Special Skills. 
      • Combat through the Apps: 
      • Kinesthetic Activation of Attacks (no Touching) and Defenses. 
    • Props for the Devices - 
      • to add functionalities (like the TAP wearable keyboard)
        • Looking forward for Devices that allow for Martial Arts capture
        • Glasses HUD as the phone will not be accessible in play.
      • Packages that customize user interface and GUI for certain kind of play.
      • to add capabilities or range (Like batteries)
      • to make them in theme or discrete,
      • Make Traps, or Location or QR code Triggers. 
    • Virtual Locations, Creatures, and Avatars. 
      • No budget for all the props, just get props to make a place look good virtually. Make a Dungeon, Castle, Cave, Market, Town, etc. 
      • Monster Encounters or PVP 
      • Retrieve Item X with a QR code adventures. Or collect these Items and receive a reward when turning them in. 
      • Avatar Markets. As you flip through IP Lenses you see different worlds and different Avatars and Virtual Props based on the IP you are looking at. You may see Star Wars Props, D&D, Final Fantasy etc... Make a location something in the Virtual World (like in Ingress). 
  • Larger Scale LARPS, coordination with larger amount of people. 
  • More Opportunistic LARPS. Like Pokemon GO, LARP or adventures that can be squeezed in 5-15 minutes. 

Lolz. In 5 Years my brother's organizational ability of Running LARPS would be a highly valued skill for BIG IPs like DnD, Final Fantasy, Star Wars who will want him to run their Augmented Reality LARPS for him. They should get LARPS to get their best practices early and incorporate and enhance them via the tech. Serious Larp organizers have the background and skill in facilitating these events. 

In 5 years 4GB ram would be the low end and 8GB would be the mid end for most Devices. 

Mental Organization as part of the Game

what one carries with them is a bit of a fascination. I'm pretty cluttered and want to declutter but there are things that I carry with me which have a pay off that reinforces carrying around extra baggage. But then there are those who manage to figure and do so much with less.

I like tracking inventory and encumbrance and i like looking and finding out other people's load outs. Their load out for combat, real life, work, going out on some adventure, their trekking load out, etc... Its fascinating and encouraging.

In TRPGs encumbrance rules and keeping inventory  are on of many lists we keep. Then there is the character which has lists of abilities, weaknesses, motivations, priorities, relationships, open loops,  etc... an inventory of so many things.

I like bringing some of those mental disciplines and habits in the games I play. I like seeing it in others so I can look. When no one else exhibits such traits it can be dull and small problems get bigger. Mastery petty details and challenges are such a small thing but I've realized when we see Attention as such a precious scarce resource how we approach details determines how effectively we use our attention.

I guess that's why I like trying to master the little things: so I can tackle the harder things easier. That's kinda the key lesson in Checklist manifesto I took away - I want to free up mental ram with the small things and focus on the big things. That tracking these petty feats and tricks may elevate us to deal with more interesting and important challenges.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hard Mode 60-80 Part 2

Hard Mode 60-80 rule was meant to stress direct agency in a situation. It highlights that some situations we cannot control if we have no direct influence in the matter.  These situations that have been mechanically given a lot of control over would need this cap. Examples of these rules is Mass Combat, Professional Rolls, and any roll dealing with organizations and complex entities (i havent read board room and cura which has rules regarding this).

But what I want to stress through this rule are the following:

Working with Direct Influence.
If some key things needs to be done then the PCs take the matters in their hands. They move to be in direct influence of the events. There will be things beyond their control or influence, but there are some ways around that and ways to move themselves directly into the situation and influence its outcome to the effect of the bigger picture.

There are mechanics in some games, not just GURPS, which grants the PC a surprising amount of influence despite there being no influence in it. Like choosing Stocks vs beating the Market, there is an illusion of control.

Examples of where at default there is a lot of Control but there should be a limit:
  • Leadership. it assumes the control is in the leader. 
  • Influence Checks at first glance. its inconsistently adjudicated as the contest or a roll by the influencer. 
  • Mass Combat. When actually there should be more of a TDM representing the group instead of the the Strategist or Tactician's skill level allowing for an uncapped success rate. 
  • Profession Rolls. a professional has his skill level as his success  over a month of work, as is the rules is an oversimplification sets problematic conclusions and extrapolations.  
  • Rolls against complex systems: Marketing, Physician, Politics, Economics, Sociology, Finance, etc... any system with many "actors". The solution is to Capp success (as this post is about) and emphasis on TDM of the situation.  
TDM and not The Agent.
A lot of rolls and circumstances are really more about the Situation (Task Difficulty Modifier) and there is a limit to the control and influence of the Agent or Character.  The examples above all would be shifting the "control" or "influence" away from a Single Agent and the GM should just call the Circumstance.

Choosing your battles. 
Those situations we can directly influence and identify those we cannot. This is my favorite bias and bad habit which GTD has been helping me work out: doing too much vs doing what matters. The GM can present so many problems and little distractions that would make the game as overwhelming as it really is in the real world but the ability or the wisdom to know what problem to tackle or how to break down a big problem into smaller chunks is a key challenge that may be worth "skinner boxing"  in a game.

But note this is Hard Mode. That challenges and complexities such as this and other such mechanics are only for those who feel like they want do something different and challenge themselves. Going into these challenges without more basic problem solving has been tackled can lead to frustration and distraction from what makes the game enjoyable.

What this is NOT
That there is no way to influence events. There are limits to influence events.

Hard Games
Hard games are going to be tackled in a long post I'm still rewriting about the research of myself and others about Traveller (including GURPS Traveller) that over time the failure rates of any business in traveller is greater than half (meeting the base rates in the real world for small businesses of 70-90% over 3-5 years). That running procedurally the game is unforgiving, and can be really fun.

Related Issues: