Monday, July 6, 2015

Success Quota Mechanic. Complexity in Major Tasks.

I'm moving to failure is OK mindset because of the influence of my work and studies. In GURPS this means the having roughly a success quota of 2 in 3-4 attempts. To put it as briefly as possible:

  • Workload tasks is in intervals of hours, for up to 4 attempts.  
  • Man-Day task is in intervals of Workloads, typically 4 attempts or 2 workloads per day with 3 workloads pushing the limit. Man-Day task is -1 to -2 penalty to the roll. 
  • Pushing the limit causes an immediate interval cost to rest right after on a success, and a failure causes two intervals of rest and doubles the cost. 
  • A Week-long task is in intervals of Days at, with 1 day of rest needed for every 3 days. -2 to -3 penalty to the roll. 
    • Teaching someone to Ride a Horse 
    • Writing a simple treatise or composition with a lot of thought. A speech, or a summarized report compressing several thousands of words of material.   
    • An Audit of a season's accounts for a Barronet.  
  • A Month-long task is an interval of Weeks, with 1 week of low activity for every 3 weeks of attempts. -3 to -4 penalty to the roll. 
    • Fortifying a Town or a Small Section of a City
    • A Diplomatic even of the Scale of Counties, Towns, or Petty Court. 
    • Training a Company or Small Battalion.
    • Intensive training of Basic Literacy.  
    • Writing a Small treaties of a few to a dozens thousands words. 
  • A Season-Long task, is an interval of Months with 1 month of low activity for every 3 months of attempts. -4 to -5 to the roll. 
    • Court Intrigue or Major Diplomatic Event in the Scale of Empire or Kingdoms
    • A Major Trial
    • Training a Battalion or Regiment, Gathering supplies to prepare for an Year long Campaign
    • Fortifying A City
    • Intensive Training someone Working Literacy.
    • A major or Important Treatise of about scores of thousands of words, if the material to draw from is on hand.
  • A Year-long task is an interval of Seasons with 1 season of low activity for every 3 seasons of attempts. -6 to -7 to the roll. 
    • Examples: One of the initial stages of Great Reforms of Great People of History.
      • A portion of Justinian's Hagia Sophia, Belisarius Campaigns, Tribonian's Corpus Juris Civilis, John the Capadocians Tax Reform. 
      • Alexious Re-invigoration of the Roman Empire, Currency Reform, 
      • Alfred the Great's Reforms
      • Charlemagne's Reforms
      • Augustus Ceasar's creation of the Roman Empire
      • Marians Miltiary Reforms
      • Emperor Maurius' Military Reforms. 
      • Tang Emperor's Military Reforms and Sections of the Great Canals. 

Why this changes?
  • From the Art of Teaching and Creative Thinkers Toolkit lectures particularly, Failure and Attempts are part of success. The mechanics inform and enhance the problem solving process by allowing PCs to make multiple attempts to simulate the attempts made and the many set backs that are part of Success. 
  • I find most gaming Systems that do not allow setbacks which is terrible. What I mean by terrible is it is sets mindset that may be hard to separate from realities of problem solving and creates the false narrative that heroes succeed on their first try. It is dramatic to fail. and failure can be fully explored as part of Role-playing. 
  • The BIGGER the project, the more complexity and distractions abound. From my many lectures, I haven't gone around to Understanding Complexity by Professor Scott E Page but they've talked alot about his work to point out that Bigger Projects are more Complex and many instances of failure and setbacks happen along the way.
  • Emphasis in Preparation and Planning. While the system implies the PC breaks up the project into many sub-tasks the way the Player can approach the problem is open ended. By thinking in this Frame work the system encourages the players think in how to set about Smaller Win-able tasks that build up to the much larger scale task. 
    • A Player with Skill-12 will try to work towards tasks at Workload level, avoiding taking on much bigger tasks on the Man-Day level. This encourages more planning when he is at a lower skill level. 
    • At a Higher skill level the Player can take on bigger tasks, and his appetite and ambition can be more grandiose. 
  • This is an important mindset when thinking about Major Tasks and how they can fit in the Narrative. I want these things in my games and if possible the game of other GM's. 
  • How I solve problems is how I game. The same tools I use in GMing or Role-Play is the same tools I use to frame problems. It needs an update, to something better.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

GM Tools: The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle is the 80:20 Rule. What it means is that there are patterns in our everyday surroundings that occur with the 80:20 ratio. These patterns can be noticed by how strikingly juxtaposed they are from one another.  The 80's relationship with the 20's is typically something negative: asking myself "Let's say the 20% is this <insert factor> what would be disappointing or troubling to be the other 80%".

Some GMs gave examples that: 80% of the Problems made by 20% of the players. Another example is that the real work may take 1 hour, but it really takes 4 hours to do all the things before and after it. Nick DeVera pointed out another memorable way to think of this is Yak Shaving.

As a tool, its not meant to taken exactly but an abstract measure of by how much may lie beyond my initial assessment.

As a GM Tool

Step 1: take a key activity and make an informed guess how much time and resources it would take.
Step 2: multiply all these by 5!
Step 3: rapid fire technique to list out all the possible thing that may need to happen. (this is a Divergent Thinking Technique) and write them down quickly in the small amount of time you have. A creative thinking technique is starting from any point of the alphabet and naming a new thing from any letter up to 3d6 many options. (a creative thinking technique is to push away from old patterns of thinking is by randomizing).
Step 4: Decide how complicated the GM is going to make this, and how appropriate the challenge is to the situation. Use the Pacing Technique (I keep forgetting to cover this) to evaluate time and place (Pacing as a Sensing Technique).

In Planning.
The Players can be involved and practice this technique. It allows them to exercise Divergent Thinking as they rapid fire all the other related options and ideas surrounding their plan of action, as well as other plans of action. If the GM does this he's created an example of a Divergent thinking exercise (from Professor Gerard Poccio's Creative Thinkers Toolkit).

Combined with the Six Hats Technique. this is a Planning session that may count as a adventure session, even though the Players are just planning things out.


Disclaimer:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Extra Credit Episodes as to TTRPGs, "Difficult is Fun" and Plan, "Practice, Improvise".

Relating and Adapting Extra Credit with what I'm learning and my own notes. Always a great resource for ideas and key concepts. 


Quick Summary: Punishing vs Extra Challenging Games as related to TTRPGs.

  1. Extra Challenging games have more consistency in rules thus rewarding mastering the rules. in TTRPGs it helps when the core system is applied to as much of the game as possible, with less exceptions. 
  2. More tools to work with or allowing for more strategies to win. This is accommodating the different strategies players favor to use in situations. 
  3. Telegraphing Opportunities within the game. Fore-shadowing and Managing Expectations tend to fit this in many ways. This is part of pacing as well (why pacing is a key sensing skill).  
  4. Iteration to retry (lowering the cost of retrying)  This is how the GM paces or moves from challenge to challenge when presenting other options and opportunities to succeed. 
  5. Usability. Strongly related to 1 and 2, rules that are easy to use and tools (or strategies) that are easier to get into. 
  6. Challenge Curve.  Basically how to pace challenges. Pacing is also the skill
Review: Pacing - the set of sensing* questions and techniques
Check out the #sidequest regarding Dark Souls (which I reminds me 



Another jewel from Extra Credit. More tools to assess and work on my game :D while most TTRPGs favor the other two (planning and improvise), practice comes in the form of techniques that can be encouraged.

In my case  I've been studying skills related to preparation, framing, negotiation, sensing  etc... these soft skills used in real life are problem solving skills that are player based. in this video, polishing these particular skills and challenges for these skills serve how best I can prep for a game and hone my gming. 

PPI and Difficult is Fun reminds me that these virtues in DiF applies directly to the skills we want to focus on. So if I should be able to identify the PPI or strategies I want to be Open About in my GMing and make sure to ask myself if I'm being consistent when I make certain decision about the Game. 

How We Learn by Professor Monisha Pasupathi Ph.D. talks about something similar in Chapter 16 under learning strategies. by What is similar is the 5 techniques discussed in Difficult and Fun is a form of feedback loop between Players and GM in learning each other and the game. They are elements that make up a particular set of strategies discussed. Plan Practice and Improvise relates very similarly since its how the GM designs his game and draws from himself. In my Hypothesis: We game the same way we solve problems, it is a way to deconstruction our own favored strategies in problem solving.

*sensing is a term used by Professor Michael Roberto to describe when we are trying to find out where we are in any given point or in the middle of an ambiguous problem. I'm a person who have attention overload and find myself lost in problems because I cannot hold on to the data I need to sort through it. So often I'm sensing where I am. Over time I believe I'll be doing this more often, and if your mental situation is like mine having a reserve of techniques for sensing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Workload Rule-of-Thumb



A continuation from the Narrative Mass Combat notes on rules of thumb.

This is Workload. a useful rule of thumb. In my studies its been very usable in many things like planning for games (since airsoft is almost half hiking/running in wilderness) and planning special endurance related events and activities. 
  • Its a handy rule for a game, as much as Force Multiplier maxims (will be discussed in the future)
  • Use it to plan out real life or in game activities.
  • Note that in certain seasons there is one to four workloads of daylight.
  • Less fit people need more frequency of rest or lighter loads. 
  • It informs how much work to budget and when people can rest. Note with fatigue there is entropy in the organization. 
Its based of metrics from the Tactica and Small Wars Manual. 
  • A useful rule of thumb. Workloads. 
    • A Workload is 4-5 hours a day (like a human). This is work where the animal is doing its maximum load without injury (this is relative to their body weight):
      • 30% for animals below 1,000lbs, 
      • 25% below 2000lbs, and 
      • 20% below 3000lbs). 
      • Warriors trained in the march can carry 40% bodyweight (60lbs). 
      • Halving the Load lets the warrior double the workload he can perform. Warriors can do two work loads at 20% their weight (30lbs)
    • Humans can travel 20km/12mi per workload. Horses and Camels about 40km/24mi. Oxes 15km/9mi per workload.  
    • A fit human can do a workload a day for 6 days for a season. Animals are less at about 4-5 days. Mules and Camels are the exception and as much as a human.. 
    • When there is 2 work loads per day increase the rate of rest 2 days to be sustainable. If not mark a level of wear. Every level of wear is a penalty to a lot of rolls, almost all.
      • Every level of wear is 2-3 days of rest. Doubling every level of wear. As the level of wear  depends on the game system. in 2d6 target number it would be 1 penalty. 
    •  When there are 3 work  loads per day double the frequency of rest or else take another level of wear. 
    • Workloads can be used for Men and Beasts. It can be used in modern measures or as a personal rule of thumb. remember its the not just the limit of endurance but the limit of safety. 

    Tuesday, June 9, 2015

    Game Mastering and Playing: Framing in Opportunities part 1

    I realized that identifying my own opportunities is the freedom and burden I look for in a game. The freedom to look for other paths, strategies, and to ask different questions. This is the ideal that I work towards. That even in the small set backs and failures having it as a goal makes me better with every try.

    One of the reasons I was really attracted to the Harvard Case Study method as a game-mastering technique was because it made the GM enable the players to find their own solutions. The players have to find the solution, and the focus was working with the ambiguity, ignorance, and uncertainty. That after creating the sandbox, I (or We) want the players to ask interesting questions, try different things, and challenge the status quo.

    My most recent studies talked about finding small wins to scale up: which is what leveling up and RPGs are about... but with the catch that We create our own opportunities. That we are using empathy, critical thinking, and expertise to ask different and challenging questions. Its one thing for the GM to provide a leads, its another when the GM can create fertile ground for players to develop their own.

    Seeing in Opportunities

    There is a system mechanics debate about what makes a combat round or an action round. In gurps is second by second, many systems work with 3 (White Wolf systems have this), to 5-6 seconds (and for a while this was my favorite). Old School games use Minutes! L5R 5e emphasized in moments and many Narrative Games emphasized in Significant Activities. 

    Seeing time in Actionable Opportunities is an expansion to the Significant Action system used by Narrative Mechanics but was something I used when I played airsoft or used in real life. Its almost existential (as it deals with consciousness) that: time is useless in amounts we cannot use! Looking at the narrative in the currency of Opportunities means we need to prepare so that we can better take advantage of them.

    Designing combat and actions around what opportunities can be opened or created is a powerful framing tool / or question that lets me figure out what the players can do, what I can do as the GM, or what I can do as a player. 

    Whats Different, What can be Implemented? 

    Many game-mastering talks emphasize various parts of game-mastering as important. They all begin to sound very similar over time and may muddy priorities. Framing in Opportunities means adding the questions: 
    • "Where is the Opportunity here?" 
    • "What opportunities can be observed?" 
    • "How can I see opportunities in this situation?"
    • "What conditions do I need to meet?""
    • "When are these opportunities available?" 
    I can generalize that every useful suggestion must give me a set of questions I can ask myself as I review my work and my strategy. If anyone is to give me any help it is to give me more ways to Frame Questions I can ask myself. Over time some questions will prove more useful than others, but in m preparation I have to have a stock of questions 

    The IFORESAW, MESO, Topics/Targets/Tradeoffs, BATNA/WATNA, etc mnemonics all serve to ask as many thorough questions to eliminate threats and blind sides to the problems we face as we scan from the proximity to the horizon. Framing is a Discipline with a lot of subskills that can be adapted to many situations - and one such simple adaption or tool for our toolkit is Framing in Opportunities. 

    Remember the Course of Action Method I talked about?

    Narrate by General to Specific: Strategy > Action > Objective. (Or in any order as long as you have all 3 elements).

    When I'm trying to word what strategy I will frame my questions in Opportunities (see questions above).

    • Actions is "What I'm going to DO?"
    • Objective is "What are the results I want to achieve?"
    • Strategy is "What are the opportunities I'm trying to create or find or would be available to me?"
    Note that this can be reversed or mixed around: 
    Objectives (What are my Goals?) > Strategy (What Opportunities do I need or looking for?) > Action (What do I need to do?)

    If I can practice always having all three elements (to make sure they are always there its better to follow a pattern - either specific to general or specific to general) would be a good habit. Even in communicating with others having all 3 elements would be more specific - once they get used to it.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

    Narrative Mass Combat Notes: Part 4 - Anthropometrics, Force Capacity, Land & Resources, and Mounts and Remounts

    When i was playing airsoft I ended up using anthropometry more and more because that was the easiest to think about instead of recalling precise measures. In a combat where there are large distances and time can speed up and slow down depending on fatigue, attention overhead, and coordination.

    In an RPG every second does not matter because I cannot sense it passing. I can only see action and events, or seeing the enemy react or give me control of the situation. So I'm recommending measuring opportunities, instead of time. As I got better I was aware of opportunities and not the time. The opportunity I could be taken out because I had gear malfunction, the moment the attention of my prey was diverted, or when the opfor had to make that decision to divide his mental resources. Those are the opportunities that matter in thinking in the chaos of battle, and not the seconds.

    I've gotten to the 5th book of the Saxon Series of Bernard Cornwell and... YES this is how to narrate a combat. Dont get bogged down by the seconds, because when sh*t hits the fan our minds is either prepared to spot and act on an opportunity or unable to act.

    Thats why I recommend framing an action in opportunities (in a previous post).

    Anthropometrics

    The wikipedia does a lot already for the research already so please check them out. Note that Anthropometrics extends from the Combat, as the GM and players describe distances and man-power, to the Preparation leading to mass combat - Marshalling forces, Levies etc... 
    • 1 pace is 0.8m or 4/5 yards. Roughly the width of a broad shield in a close formation. Half a pace is the distance between ranks in a shield wall.
      • As roughly the width of a man with a shield. The number of men in a rank is typically 2/3 of space in yards or meters. So a narrows of 30 paces can be held by 30 men in a rank. 
      • In a wargame where a unit hex is 50m, that makes 70-80 paces. That would mean a battalion of 400 can hold a 80 pace line 5 men deep. I use this unit because of the limits of Google Maps and Roll20.  
    • Walking or Cautious March 3kph = 0.81m/sec or 1 pace per second. ~50 paces is as many seconds.  (1 hex in my map a minute)
    • Fast Marching 4-5kph = 1.2m/sec. roughly 50% faster than Cautious March. 90 paces in just a minute. (2 hexes a minute)
    • A run of 7-8kph can be done in a 40-60lb kit. This is almost twice as many paces.  (3-4 hexes a minute, depending on what kind of unit and terrain). Horses can make these speeds easily. 
    • A fast run would be 10kph, for a horse it would be 15kph. that would make 5-6 hexes and 7-9 hexes.   

    Force Capacity

    The GM may have to declare how many people per Strategic Location. Be ready to know how many per space and area in the Map. This skill takes some training, I know some people who are able to make these assessments very acutely in a glance, I'm not one of them but I'm always observing to learn from them. But in a Game, the GM can make it up and I wont be surprised if the Players figure out an optimal employment of forces given the numbers I give - it all depends on my preparation.  
    • How many men can fight on a ship? How many need be a shield wall across the width of a ship?
    • How many can fight in the quarters of a Hall?
    • How many in a small space surrounded by ditches?
    • How many to hold a Fort?
    • How many to close off a Route or Pass?
    • How many can fight in the space afforded in the Wilds?
    • How many can be seen in the concealment of battle, wilds, or streets and structures?
    • to make it easier I will use Organizational Sizes
      • "It takes half a company to defend this space"
      • "it takes a battalion to hold this pass"
      • "it takes regiment to surround this force"

    • Note that 24/7 support requires up to 5-6x more forces if one will create shifts. 
    • I may end up writing on the GM side of the Roll20 layers 50, 100, 1000 etc... to note how much will it take to occupy a particular space. 

    Land and Resources


    • 1 Hide = 4-6 Virgates (or 4-6 families). So 1 Hide is able to support 1 full-time warrior. 
    • Acres was a Man-Day of work to prepare an amount of furlongs (assuming a team of oxen and plow). It took about two days to prepare a field, and three days to harvest it. So every acre cost 5 man days. 
      • A Virgate of 30 Acres will require 75 man-days a year to work because only half is needed. 
    • 1 Acre of Barley or Rye is roughly 7-17 bushels or median average of 13 bushels or 624lbs of barley or rye. 
      • This is ~13 Bushels and when made into bread 1,200lbs of barley/rye bread. This is enough to feed 3.4lbs of bread per day for a year or 4,000 calories a day. Enough for an Active Soldier or Two adults.
      • 1 Acre = to 1 man-day to till, 1 man day to sow, and 3 man-days to harvest. So 1 acre is 5 Man-days of work.   
      • A bushel, a common volume of measure with its own container makes bread of 2000 calories bread for 60 days. 
      • 2000 calorie of Barley/Rye Bread is 1.5lbs.
      • 1 Family (5-6) with Ox and Tools is needed keep 15-45 acres productive (median ave of 30 acres). This is around the size of a Virgate. For simplicity 1 Virgate = 1 family. 
        • Note that only 1/2 is actively used as the rest is fallow.
        • This means 75 man days to work the fields. But working the fields is a one of many parts of what a household does.   
    • In SotC aka 11C Byzantium  the units were "Are" are (/ˈɑr/ or /ˈɛər/ symbol a)  with a numeric Prefix. Surprisingly the term "Hectar" is from Hekaton-Are or Hektare. 1 Hektare is 10 stremma or Dekare. 
      • A hektare is 10 man-days to till, 15 man-days to sow, and 25 days to harvest. 50 man-days per hektare.  
      • A Hippikon (~10 Hektare) has only 5 hektare utilized. it takes 250-man days (This means the wife, children, and slaves need to be employed).   
    • 1 Hekare of Barley/Rye is 31 modii (modii and bushels are both ~8 dry liters). 
      • this is 9,600 calories of Barley/Rye bread for a year. This is enough for a family. 
        • As an Asian I'm not really exposed to dark breads as we don't have these flours here. Although its easy to understand this in Rice metrics, while rice having the advantage of being much easier to prepare. Although rice is half as much calories to weight as Barley at 1.1 calorie to gram ratio vs the 2.5 calorie to gram ratio for rye and barley.   
        • Meals (like oat meal) and Cakes and Biscuits are the many common means of preparing these. And because there were not many sweeteners these were typically savory and herby in flavorings.
      • 1 family is needed for ~12 Hektares or a Square Diaulos
      • 4-6 Diaulos = 1 Square Hippikon. This is enough to support 1 fulltime soldier.  Hippikon or Hippikia = Hides of land.  
      • A square Milon (M'len) which is the equivalent of a square Mile is 4-5 Hippikons or a Tetra or Penta of Soldiers. if the distance is used as a radius around multuply this by Pi but also round down for how arable the area can be.
      • A square Dolichos (4.8km or 3mi) which is equivalent to 40 Hippikons.  In a Dolichos radius (or 1 Dolichos in all directions) its roughly 80-120 Hippikons.  
      • A square Parasanges (3.4 mi or 5.5 km) which is the equivalent to 50 Hippikons or a Pentinta of Soldiers. In All-directions its 100-150 hippikons.
      • A Schoinos/Schoenus (4.6 mi or 7.3km) is 100 Hippikons or a Hekaton of Soldiers. In all-directions its 200-300 hippikons.  
        • A few Schoinos make up a Tagma Panoia. Each Schoinos having an administrative HQ of a fort or village that watch the network roads that allow the are to feed the highways with traffic and trade. 
      • A Stage (18mi or 30km) or a whole day's is ~1000 Hippikons or a Chillia (Thousands/Regiment) of Soldiers. In all directions its 3000-5000 hippikons. 
      • When a Doux summons his forces from 1 whole days journey away in all directions (an area of a Circle whose radius is 30km), there could be as many as 3-5,000 soldiers.
    • Output. 5 hectare or 15 acres produce 195 modii/bushels. 
      • minus 40 bushels/modii for stores for the next year.
      • the remaining 155 is about 3 years of stores (counting loss from storage). Typically ~40-100 is taxed and the other suprlus years are for the discretion of the farmer... in IDEAL scenarios.
      • Merchants or the Lord can buy the surplus for trade.  
      • In Wheat the output is 2-3/5 as much but 50% denser per bushel/modii. 
    • A Modii was once a measure of currency. Since a Modii/Bushel can feed a man 2000 calories a month it would about the cost of a Silver piece. Gain prices fluctuated in war doubling to reaching x20 in famine. 
      • 1000lbs of grain or 20 modii/bushels would fetch about 20 silver but delivering it with an ox and oxcart (see below) would be 400 silver! 
    • Levies. A levy can be extracted from the population instead of purely supporting soldiers. Easily 1 able body can be levied per family at the cost of the regions Economy! for every Man Levied the productivity of an entire Hide or Diaulos goes down by 20% which also means if that population loss is permanent in the next year there would be 20% or worse gross output. Its hard to bounce back from such.  
    • 1 hide = 1 (square) Hippikon = 1 centuria (100 heredum) = ~20 ha = ~120 acres = roughly 1000 bushels of rye or barely production, ~2500 man days of labor as tax, and ~1000 man-days of cottage industry labor goods  = (Note 50% variance in productivity) ~5 households = 1 full time warrior 

    Remounts and Pack Animals

    • An Trained 2000lb Ox with an Oxcart of 1600lbs can carry 1000lbs of Barley/Rye, 200lbs of feed or 10 days of feed for the ox, and 1,000 man days of food as long as there is ready water and ready oven to make the bread. Otherwise its made into meal instead.
      • An Ox feed 20lbs per day.  
    • A Small Pack Horse or Mule of 650lbs can carry 200lbs for a workload. 
      • A 650lb Pack horse/mule can 2% of their body weight on feed. If they carried only feed (160lbs and 40lbs of packing gear) they are good for 12 horse-days.
      • A packhorse travels about 20km a workload. 
      • Every remount able to rest (not carry anything but riding gear) add 5kph to a workload of travel. 
        • So with 5 horses with only 2 carrying feeds adds 10kph for that days workload. 
        • Doing three shifts of workload every day would mean 90km a day. 16 hour straight.   
      • 2:5 Pack horse carrying feeds ration (with 1 rider) is good for 5 days of travel. 
      • 4:5 Pack horses carrying feeds ratio (with 1 rider) is good for 9.6 days of travel. 
      • 1:2 Pack horse carrying feeds ratio (with 1 rider) is good for 6 days. 
      • Skilled horsemen can lead up to 4 other horses other than their own. 
      • Typically such travel is so dangerous and typically two riders are sent. 
    • A Good Pack Horse/Mule is about ~850lbs can carry 250lbs. 
      • Because of their increased size, the Horse Days a full 250lb pack is roughly 11 horse-days. 
      • The advantage is that a more equipped rider can be carried. 
    • A Large Pack Horse/Mule is about ~1,200lbs can carry 300lbs. 
      • They have roughly 10 horse-days of feed.   
    It took me about 3 weeks to research all this :P

    Thursday, May 28, 2015

    Narrative Mass Combat: Part 3 - Narrating a Scene

    Narrative Combat. Natural Language and Playing out a Scene.

    Step 1: Pick a Style. The first place to get a style is to absorb the style of my favorite author. Currently it is Christian Cameron and Bernard Cromwell for low tech, for Scifi its David Webber and John H. Hemry (aka Jack Campbell) when it comes to ships.

    Step 2: Study the Style. What I did was I re-listened to the scenes again and again. The tool that made it more possible than my previous attempts in studying is using Pacing to study the method. There are 3 stages in Pacing and it is the tool by which I can find out what the writer is trying to achieve and what tools he's used to achieve the pacing goals.

    After Identifying the Tools, I examine their formula and try them out. These tools include ready phrases and formulas to describe a scene. Keep a close eye for these.

    Here are my Tools as an Example.

    Geographic Storytelling:
    I learned in mass combat and in Airsoft, the Terrain needs to be verbally mapped. The spatial area has to be communicated step by step, making the other person repeat or ask for clarification. When ever I describe terrain the first thing I need to have everyone have mentally mapped is the point of orientation. 
    If we use in this there are a number of ways to do this, here are the ones I use: 
    1) Have a Map! Simple, still one needs to give maps context. Note a map is not-realistic because people really dont have full information. Unless there is magic there are no accurate maps and distances, which gives the GM a ton of room. As one runs narrative combat this wiggle room just makes it easier for GMs and Players to run narrative combat. 
    Go to Google Maps and visit many old battlefields via Terrain view to see the small the gaps and choke points are in the terrain.  
    2) Map it from the PC's view, and tell the player what the PC's terrain mastery tells which vision alone cannot (this means telling him what normally lies beyond what he can see). Start from the immediate surroundings and proceed towards the horizon. Describe how much "noise" or concealment the area has, the weather, and the many tricks of the light that happens as time passes over the outdoors. Brightness makes shadows darker, Dimness lights up cavernous canopies, etc... A rich outdoor experience is the best teacher and school in this kind of narrative and if it improves one's GM why not have more outdoor experiences!
    3) Map it from the Stories of the Scouts.  Like #2 but you have a composite and even more confusion and inaccuracies. This is pretty great as such methods emphasize key information gathering skills of the players. 
    Formations and Geography
    Some great french general said warfare was geometry. He's kinda right because people occupy space and people cannot help but follow the paths of the land. We may walk over difficult paths but we cannot not do that all the time when endurance is a finite resource. 
    So it helps to know a man is as wide as a shield, about 0.7m or 2/3 yards. The same distance as a pace. That ranks are as much deep because of shields and weapons. That a 30m/yrd pass takes 45men to hold.
    I discussed organization and groupings in a previous chapter. Here the 300 man battalion can hold 200m/yards three ranks of men deep. I learned to play with the ranks and numbers.  It helps to know that there are channels and paths in the geometry in the land, herding mentality, and crowds follow a sort of fluid dynamics. These tools help us visualize, and describe the scene. 
    Since I use roll20, my Effective Communication Training tells me I have to keep sentences mid sized (not running), and limited to 2-3 before checking for confirmation and comprehension. Every 10-15 minutes I have to spend 3-5 minutes (1/3) trying to have this mental sync with the audience and narrate the scene.  
     Since I'm limited to ~3 sentences I have to describe efficiently. I describe directions oriented to where the cardinal directions. I have to be consistent and always moving from Cardinal to Ordinal. Confirming understanding then proceeding to describe whats happening.   
    Experience and Mastery Kicks In.   
    Mount and Blade, Airsoft, Athletics, and Martial Arts training along with an avid love of history and authors and professors who teach the subject is the deep well by which i draw from. I constantly deepen this well all the time. While movies and popular media give everyone some idea mastery makes it easier. I dont think its fair to make something out of nothing without any skill and practice involved and that is the expectations and the fun of mastery.   
    Step 3: Know the Gap and Build a Skill Map. Reading this article is not going to make anyone like Neo and master a skill. No such thing exists, but Identifying (or learning to Identify) the small easily learn-able skills and building up towards the harder skills can be possible through the advice here and from the advice of others willing to share their techniques.

    • Geographic Story Telling
    • Outdoor Experience: Camping, Hiking, Area Knowledge of actual places visited, 
    • Team work and experiencing some Play skirmishes in Larp, Airsoft, PC Games like the Total War Series, Mount and Blade, etc... Take my favorite games and put them into words I can describe to my players
    • Understanding Groupings, Organization and Workstreams. The Art of War and Strategikon have maxims and take the Economies of Defense or Economies of Action and contemplate its full implications. 
    • Understand Communication, Command, and Entropy of an Organization under pressure. The stories of confusion, fear, and human frailty under adverse conditions colors the scene and informs us how and why and what it looks like. 

    What happens next is how or if we choose to prepare. Preparation is prevention to cure, or to solve problem while they are easy before they get harder. In Narrating a scene I need to build up my skills and my well of knowledge. I cannot expect it to be perfect and awesome all the time, but I do want to learn and capture what magic manages to show up in a game (by recording that game).

    If this feels like overwhelming and a sudden explosive challenge after the slow build up of the two previous articles, its fine. It is gonna get harder and its going to be about active and conscious practice and consistency. There is time to get things right, as long as there is a rough start vs not starting at all.