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:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hard Mode: Rule 60-80

The mind doesnt like Uncertainty and playing with this bias can be unique role-playing and system mechanic opportunity I call hard mode 60-80.  Basically

Hard Mode Rule 60-80. Based on the Overconfidence Effect which has the surprising statistic that Experts who are 99% Certain can be wrong 40% of the time. This hard mode overlay on the rules is something that players may not all like except for stimulative, hard, or horror games.

This means capping the chance of success to 60% or 80% depending on the level of complexity and agency in a scene or scenario. When the level of control of the character is far removed from him like running an organization against another organization or the economy/market then it can fall to 60% cap. A good rule would be an Organization where the character is 1-2 levels removed he has only up to 80% control and at >3 levels remove at most the character has >60%.

Capping Success Consequences.
Capped success does not need to mean immediate failure It can be:

  1. Extended Cost/Conflict. The result is not a failure but an extended cost to the ongoing conflict. This results to a high attrition result. Repeating the Roll again while exacting the same cost (attrition or casualties), on both sides. 
  2. Complications. Not a failure and a more nuance version of Extended Cost and Conflict. There are more Opportunity Costs or Trade Offs that occur in the failure. Instead of adding costs like above, the GM creates opportunities that would be significant enough to alter course or enough to distract the key PC in the scene. 
  3. Unexpected Consequences. more confusing and counter intuitive than Complication. This is when the GM messes with the Pay-offs or Costs of the ongoing conflict. He reverses it in some way. Example would be something in the conflict would negatively affect the perception of the Character. the character would take a Social or Political consequence hit IF he would pursue for a success. 
  4. Confusion. this is when the non-success results to new information, doubt, dissonance, or confusing and contradicting information. The PC is unable to follow through to success and role-plays the changing off gears. Confusion can also be the GM makes the shifts the payoffs like unexpected consequences. 

GURPS 60-80% Rule
In GURPS this would mean caping success to 11-13. This would very relevant in Boardroom and Curia and Mass Combat. Implementing above would simply make the Margin of Failure result in the Capped Success Consequences for every 2 levels of failure.  So 1-2 for Extended Conflict, 3-4 Complications, 5-6 Unexpected Consequences, and 7+ for Confusion.

Traveller 80-60 Rule
In Traveller that would mean capping success to 7-9 in a 2d6 for 60-80%. Simply use the margin of failure to trigger Capped Success Consequences. So 1-2 for Extended Conflict, 3 Complications, 4 Unexpected Consequences, and 5+ for Confusion.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventuring Skills Part 2: Physical Skills

A lot of the adventuring skills mentioned here can be pursued out of fitness sake. As a Gamer the pursuit of these skills also means being informed, inspired, appreciating, and having a deeper understanding that helps in the role-playing and storytelling.

There is also a transformational aspect to these skills, it leaves its mark on the bodies and psyche of the character. Their habits change and the opportunities open to them and how they view the world changes - particularly in physical constraints.

Physical Skills 
Part 2
  1. Trekking.
  2. Running
  3. Climbing
  4. Swimming
  5. Strength
  6. Combat skills 
This is the ability to walk sustainably for hours in a day, and for days straight. What is usually misunderstood about trekking are:
  • is the amount of load one can sustainably carry, 
  • the pacing in an hour, in a day, and in weeks 
  • the equipment
  • a bit of navigation and place finding
  • a bit of outdoorsmanship when it comes to the weather, terrain, safety and care. 
  • the injuries and risk related to it
  • and how to train to be able to trek at 
    • greater sustainable speeds, 
    • sustain it in longer periods of time
    • in all manner of weather, terrain, and conditions. 

The biggest problem with Trekking is how its so misunderstood and poorly modeled in games. Typically the first thing I look at is the movement rules in a new game and check how they model travel. Going to a deeper level is if they can gamify or frame travel and trekking well. There is a lot of life philosophy and strategies to be drawing from trekking - how much baggage we carry, how fast we want to move, do we watch our surroundings, do we enjoy the trip, etc... Yet it can be nothing and an afterthought. A character may spend 90% of his time travelling and the player and the charachter get nothing out of it as we skip past it.

Leadership/Teamwork and Trekking Notes
I found that trekking (or travelling) is a good example of leadership and teamwork in a very simple scale. When a team is trekking we see the roles, weaknesses, strengths, and abilities of each member. How a group deals with the slower and weaker members, and how the more able members act.
We can "fudge" trekking and just ignore these elements or spend the 1/3 to a lot of time not getting along or trying to get along, or working out something.

The other modes of travel: running, climbing, and swimming doesnt have as much baggage as Trekking.

GURPS trekking is Hiking. Its  leadership test to increase a group's speed by 20%.
The thing is that: what is a groups speed? should it be average or the slowest pace? In many things regarding a group: we move by the slowest unit and not the average. But what is the slowest unit if we have "average" stats? Then its probably within the lower deviation of the stats, typically  10%.
I would suggest that it not be a leadership roll but a Hiking roll as a technical guidance towards a squad sized group (if you want to give penalties for larger groups to the roll feel free or you are free to only allow only a small sized group to handle technical instruction and guidance).

Running is similar to trekking in the scope of the skill and the level of misunderstanding around it. The skill itself is more for greater management of bodily and mental functions in a more intense physical task.

The differences are:
  • Lighter loads
  • there are two shorter increments of time but greater distances.
  • There are two specializations in Running that change the body's morphology:
    • Sprinting - more powerful legs an
    • Long Distance Running. - leander build 
Running is an aspect of travel and a skill when evading from or advancing to a challenge.  Its a complex skill that deals with conditioning the body and mind to deal with greater levels of stress and internal distractions over a long period of time. Simple feats like breathing and footwork become something effortful in running.

GURPS Running
I would prevent the "Move" characteristic to be bought up independently and instead work something out with the Running Attribute Modifier.

Climbing is a key skill in overcoming physical obstacles. Its not quite flight but it can get the character over some heights and depths. A key take away with climbing and adventuring is that as much as it can overcome obstacles in evasion it can put obstacles in the way of pursuit. A fitness take away is that its good practical conditioning for upper body strength - its not just to lift a weight to build muscle but to have the flexibility, strength, and skill to lift one's body up and out of harm.
  • Its a skill if every member of the group does not have, will mean someone being left behind or the whole group's fate hinges on that prerequisite.
  • its also a skill that, like swimming, could mean a fear of the medium. 
  • Its also a great way of training for strength and keeping fit. 

*Vally Uprising

Gurps Climbing is pretty much as is. If a character takes up the skill its like a personal gym allowing him to use his own bodyweight for strength training (i realize this does not matter to a lot of characters but does in real life lolz).

GURPS climbing. I'm currently still learning more about free climbing since its the most applicable to the game but I'm going by Valley Uprising stats of speed climbing of El-Capitan of 2.3 hours of its 2km elevation. more crunchiness to follow (working back the TDM of El Capitan, what would be the skill of the fastest climbers and how it works out to 2.3 hours factoring they did a well known route).

Swimming is much like climbing as it moves the character through a medium that few may pursue and allows him to survive in that condition. Like running, swimming makes the simple action of breathing effortful and a range of conditioning happens to the body when it pursues greater levels of swimming performance.

Strength is a particular skill that is misunderstood, filled with superstition, and underappreciated. Its one of the skills that has a certain stigma of being associated with a certain group and negatively, while having as much depth and science as the other physical skills. Feats of strength can be as sophisticated as a Martial form despite the simpler form and motions - because like martial techniques subtle improvements matter, and getting good at it is a lot of subtle improvements.

In RPGs this is lumped into atheltics, in GURPS its lifting and doesnt seem to really matter so much or come into play so much (which I want to correct). When I injured my back I didnt realize how much the form mattered in so many aspects of how I move until I got a pain signal when I moved the wrong way.

I went overboard and went to make a "strength" advantage that mimicked the cost of maintaining strength: dietary restriction high protein calorie that tends to multiply the cost of eating by x2 to x3 (thus making cooking a necessary skill - see mealprep) and exercise of 2-4 hours a day for those who have ST13+. Strength is one of those lifestyles that take up a bunch of time, money, and mindset of a character.

Like all the Physical skills - its a lot of Pain, tearing, sacrifice, for so little gains and a real test of grit and perseverance.

Strength got me thinking of Physical therapy became much appreciated and I dont know yet how to model in GURPS.

Carrying Forms
These are forms that one may be familiar with when one tries to go into Practical Strength Feats (and want to avoid injury). In any game system having a way to resolve these would add a lot of visceral detail to the scene and appreciation of the skill.
  • Load Bearing Gear
  • Fireman's Carry
  • Farmer's Carry
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
GURPS skill Lifting. Giving lifting the same bonus to certain standard feats of strength, like the carrying forms, would be the simplest. A character with Lifting +2 and 10 strength can perform a firemans carry or deadlift at ST12.

Combat Skills
Combat skills are the most over emphasized in the hobby and tends to lack the emphasis the other physical feats. Combat skills are like sports and are sports in themselves. One take away is that all these skills depend on each other and compliment each other. As an airsofter and from reading up on SCA Fitness is strangely not a priority when learning Combat Skills - there is no other conditioning done to improve on combat ability. Most systems do not Cap combat skills to a certain limit if the Character does not round off their physical abilities with complimentary pursuits. Most systems do not give Diminishing Returns to the pursuit of martial ability - despite the masters (the 5 rings, the art of war, Arma, and european fighting texts) kinda point it out.

Related Notes:
GURPS combat skill.
I like the strong "bow" perk as a default ability with gaining a attribute modifier to a skill. I didn't need to go out of my way to learn to hit harder when I learned to use a weapon or fight a particular way - it was part of the skill. It would be "out of the way" if I could hit much harder than that.

So recommending: Attribute Modifier up to 2 for combat skills to strength for damage and the perk allows up to 4. Unless you find gurps damage too high already. But in my games i don't mind the lethality.

Social Skills in Adventuring
Part 3
  1. Social Awareness 
  2. Negotiation/Bargaining 
  3. Conversation/Communication
  4. Courtesy 
  5. Threats 
  6. Deception
  7. Argument

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Random Character Gen update: Life Event Table

Creating a Life Event Table for Any Game System (of course it can be used in GURPS but it will be usable in D&D and in my ORPG) inspired by the Traveller's life events but taking it further (there are so many design patterns that can make a simple 2d6 roll generate A LOT of interesting data in one roll).

I realized it can be helpful to looking at Problems in an Social-Economic Perspective. That Problems, Threats, Events, Relationships, Groups, Associations, Failures, Achievements etc... how it can move the character UP or DOWN Socio-Economic status. Narrative Bias fills in the details lolz.
Excited by this project because its one BIG component to Random Character Gen for GURPS, D&D, and my ORPG (and any game system).  It summarizes and gives color to Life Periods (= terms) of the character. An Interesting way to look at life,  which I would not have been able to appreciate unless I was in my 30s lolz.

The system works under these dichotomies:

  • Positive or Negative. On a bad life event roll, something a negative version of some category. Typically this is relative to societal norms and status quo. 
    • Example:
      • Reputation - can be positive or negative
      • Opportunity is positive, the negative is Problems or Threats that limit opportunities. 
      • membership, patronage, or mentorship can be also a positive or negative influence. 
  • Work vs Personal. What would improve the character's ability to make money, earn a living, advance in his career and what would develop his personal life. 
  • Loss or Gain. Either to Gain a Problem, Threat, Opportunity, Reputation, Accomplishment, etc... 
It will be a Gdoc as well as a blog post - I hope to get feedback to help improve the mechanics. (the Random Char Gen system is based of traveller but drawing from the Design Pattern of the newer gen systems that are more elegant). It will be out a week or two from this post - finished or not finished.

Personal Aspects of Character Development is one of those things that is more challenging to define. Its harder because gaming Personal Well being is not very much talked about as compared to gaming making a living. It can be measured in a way great personal development gives a person greater agency and resilience against bad fortune. Definitely it gives goals and motivations greater than the self.

Sorry I'm at 15+ hours if I count all the times I've made it and remade it and rewritten it on paper and electronically. Its only now I've gotten a good grasp of what would make a good life event table and system.

Edit: I forgot to add Health matters in the event, as well as clarifying opportunities for shared experience. So it will add probably 4-5 more hours as I recalibrate them all.