Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leadership in TRPGs

The thesis of this post is that Leadership is made up of a combination of Roles that fall under what is conventionally conceived as "leadership". A person can perform all, most, some, and none of these roles. That to have them all in one person is what is commonly thought about as "leadership" but in most cases this "Ideal" (that all the traits are in one person) is not needed. What is needed is that the group or team has all of these traits to operate well.

Now that I've decoupled leadership into these traits: we now have Teamwork!

In your game if your expectations match the thesis of this post then you can help players find their niche in the Team or have someone take most of the roles that make up leadership. In either case it should help your players enjoy the game more and have a better understanding of Teamwork or Leadership that can be carried into real life.

This thesis removes Leadership Skill, and replaces them with the 5 roles you have below. Instead of rolling leadership you check it the situation can be broken down into these roles.

Taking a gurps example:

  • Rolling leadership for a group to march faster is not a leadership roll so much as a Hiking roll where the best hiking or navigating person sets the best most sustainable pace for the group as well as knowing how to make up for the weaknesses of some in the group. 
  • Rolling leadership to get people in the right mindspace when there is fear and frustration is a Public Speaking roll, or a Professional roll (sorting their distractions from their priorities), 
  • Rolling leadership when there is an internal problem with the team is the leader's consensus and relationship building skills. 

Leadership as various Roles

To fix this problem I've come to look at leadership as a variety of roles. That for a team or group to operate well many of these roles need to be present. These are flexible "traits" that appear in the mix in a group. Typically the "leader" tends to have the most of these traits.

This should appeal to Gamers who want Niche protection or know their role in the decision making of the team.

  1. Responsibility / Burden of authority / Credibility. Someone who can make the call and accept the consequences and credit. This is the person who has the credibility in the group. He may have Decisiveness and or Technical Expertise/knowledge.
  2. Decisiveness. The difference with Responsibility is that this is the ability to make the call when the call is needed. Its an issue of timing and making the call. Typically this has aspects of Responsibility or Technical Knowledge. 
  3. Coordinator. Coordinator is soemtimes the consensus builder or chief communicator of the group. He sometimes provides the Inpiration or Motivation, Technical Expertise, and sometimes has also the Decisiveness to allocate resouces and information to make a call. 
  4. Inspiration or Motivator. This could be the chief communicator and influencer in the group. he gives everyone the motive or reason to act as a group. Influence and aligning personnel in a group is a lot of work. Even if everyone is aligned with motives that mesh there are the other roles needed for the group to reach any action stage. Typically acts as coordinator, responsibility, or technical expert.
    The motivator gets the team in the right mindspace. 
  5. Technical Expertise or knowledge. Simply possessing the knowledge, perception, awareness or expertise to know what is the right decision OR know how to find the information to make the right decision. Sometimes this role coordinates, often makes the calls, and sometimes has the responsibility through his awareness of the matter. 

Leadership through Flaws

these traits tend to be visible through the flaws of the organization. We can always assess our own organizations and others by how their failure manifest. 

Analysis Paralysis. Like in many organizations which suffer from Analysis Paralysis there is no Decisive role who can make the call and Implement even if they know what to do, the risks, consequences, and reality surrounding the circumstance. Sometimes its the absence of Motivator to make a timely call or to frame risk and reward. There is also a tendency to lack someone with clear stakes and credibility to follow through. 

Bumbling organizations lack Expertise and Credibility. They do a lot of things but they fail practically all the time. Since there are no serious costs to them they still exist and they have no one to take serious responsibility for their actions. Unlike Analysis Paralysis, they don't know what to do. 

Apathetic organizations. Clearly lack motivations and key authority with responsibility and tend to also lack everything else. They may still be around as a dinosaur and may have some or most of the traits but has lost any motivation to follow through.  

Lame Duck organizations. These organizations that are powerless and are mostly appearance and little substance. They may lack credibility (responsibility) and decisiveness,  and may possess the other traits. 

Leaderless Team

In a TRPG its possible to have the traits so diffuse and ambiguously set up in a group that there is no clear leader. That's not a bad thing: in fact it may be an awesome trait or potential nightmare (see diffusal of responsibility).

Diffuseness of responsibility will only happen if the roles are not clear and clean, as well as a poor in personal initiative. Drama (good role playing in my opinion) ensues as there is overlap and individuals come into conflict and they realize this is a complicated problem after all.

A Mesh System is actually pretty awesome but requires everyone to be on top of their game. The ability to adapt or adjust their roles when plans make first contact requires a lot of skilled and well developed individuals. There are serious recruitment problems when one has  societies which have gross inequality (in education, capabilities, and wealth). There is a altruism to make a team so well oiled that one's absence is not a great hindrance. The mind touch a well trained team has makes it adaptable in adversity but doesn't mean it wont miss the members that are gone.

Leaderships Traits in GURPS

  • Responsibility. Rank, Reputation, or Status. 
  • Decisiveness. Perception or the person with the best skill appropriate to the situation. 
    • Callousness to ignore emotional distractions (or human costs)
    • Behavior Codes (like Code of Honor, Discipline of Faith, Fanaticism, etc...) that makes for the most objective (or the most stake holding) call. 
  • Coordinator. 
    • Communications. language, writing, sign language or gestures, or the professional skill (like jargon or comm protocols). 
    • Organization. Administration (in a bureaucracy)
    • Consensus building. Politics or Diplomacy. Possibly propaganda.
  • Motivator. Influence Skills
    • If consensus building. Politics or Diplomacy. Possibly propaganda
    • Inspiration. Reputation, Charisma, Public Speaking, Performance, etc... (Emotional Influencing skills or Traits). 
  • Technical Expertise. The appropriate Professional Skill or the key  Knowledge or Technical skill.  
    • Support skills. Such as Administration, Research, Information Analysis, and all the information gathering, filtering, and sorting/selecting skills. 

Parting notes on Leadership

Like Rationality Leadership has Instrumental and Epistemic traits.
The Instrumental concerns with goals and achieving these goals as being a good leader or possessing the leadership virtue which is problematic because it can be substituted with another virtue.

Then there is the Epistemic leadership which there "word porn" of traits and so many books and authors have attempted to describe and break down.

You can imagine as I run my fire team in airsoft, follow my squad leader, work in a battalion sized company with several projects under my domain how often the thought of "Roll Leadership" happens when problem arises or challenges have to be met.

In my experience its not workable to look for the "Ideal" of leadership that one person has all these traits. Its unrealistic to expect in an organization and with your friends, team, and fellow players or workers. Its better to think in roles and try to fill these roles as best we can

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crosspost: GURPS Day Impact on Game in the Brain

Cross Post about the GURPS Day brought to us by +Douglas Cole

Gaming Ballistics of GURPS day have had a very good impact on my blog. Its impact to traffic is not as significant as its impact on my writing and ideas.

On my Traffic.
My normal traffic is about from 0.1 hits per day on its down season to 1-2 hits per day when I was writing more often was more active. The only time I hit 5 per day was when I was running games and making material to 2013. I hit that number again recently and I did it with all this work I'm juggling.
*note on traffic: because of spam crawlers my traffic count in only half or 1/3.

Now that I checked the Blogger statistics I have to thank the blogs:
BAT IN THE ATTIC that has been with game in the brain the longest.
Dungeon Fantastic another great source
and finally Gaming Ballistic's GURPS day!

On my Writing
The GURPS day blogs has had a great impact on my writing. I'm most inspired when they talk about mechanics and workflow:

There are some new blogs I've just added  to my feedly and I'm going to have to wait till I see more of their ideas in my works. Still this is the font from which I draw inspiration. There is actually so much to write about the thing is these days I struggle to get the 4-6 hours to write the 1-2 posts a week. 

What I look for in GURPS Day.
Post I can add to my GMing List*. If you have a good idea I test it if its applicable with Any Game System or if it can be Overlayed in other game systems. Then I test if it would be good for a Newbie GM or where would it be in his path to being a good GM (later or early). If its a great idea I put it in a list and if its clearly from the blog I link to it. If it gives me an idea after some transformation I still reference it but take less effort doing so.

Drawing inspiration from the GENERIC UNIVERSAL role playing system for Any Game System should be no surprise. GURPS horror, mysteries, and splat books are great for any game system. While Game in the Brain is GURPS in mental hard-wiring it seeks system agnosticism by making concepts more modular and translatable (see the running GURPS More Narratively Series.)

Parting Thoughts
I decided at around 2008 to stop participating in the GURPS Forums and instead write my ideas in a blog. the discussions there can get very long and there was a lot of great ideas - but only a limited audience. I wanted to meet other gurps gamers in the "wilds" of the internet, so i decided to just blog what would have been LONG posts and hoped someone also was into gurps. 

Another push was from RPG bloggers (my highest source of traffic) which meant that I had to create a GAMING blog separate from my private and personal blog. I was blogging about gurps since 2003 in my private blog but only in 2008 starting Game in the Brain. How I love how this describes me and the writing. 

Anyway I hope you get ideas from the GURPS day blogs and join the it if you can. I'm always updating my feedly when there is a new blog in the GURPS day and I want want to read (i actually listen to them through an app) what you want to say.

*this list is a idea dump bucket. will organize it when i have free time but use it mainly to keep ideas from repeating or at least if it repeated in a new perspective and version tracked. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

GURPS day cross post - Appreciating the Work

when my gurps basic set fell apart with the bad binding problem of 2004 first edition copies I had these made. They were for the protection of my originals which SJgames replaced. Since 2004 I lost two of these to players  who borrowed and forgot to return it and this has been what I used where ever I went so my main books were never touched. 
"This is not it even its final form" my main GURPS day cross post is next week.

On of my take away from the GURPS day posts  is the appreciation in the amount of work many of the posts need since its on the data heavy side. For every bit of information on the post there is considerable increase in complexity and the lengthier evaluation in how that bit is placed and validity.

A 400 word post may take about 1 hour to research, compose and edit  (call center metrics of such work) . Doubling that to 1000 words doesnt double the time to compose and edit but it exponentially increases. it may take 3-4 hours. While scaling down may be so exponential oversimplified as to be ignored. See Erooms law and Man month fallacy as an example of complexity exponentially increasing the work.

Then there is the symbolic data bits - data that is representative of more data (like character stats and game mechanics) that is handled more difficulty. these posts take a lot of research and that is a challenge and an example of ideation with limitations.

Sometimes I count the ideas that needs editing and revising based on my poor revision needs and marvel at how they can turn out their posts. Slowly I'm working my own mechanics in predicting or estimating work for the blog and the work others make. Everyone in the gurps day have a day job, even the writers since they dont make money from such posts (but it may help with their readership). One definite pattern is that: these guys are like me, our methods and hard-wiring has given us a working memory able to work with these very dense data elements relating to Games and Real World or Other Mediums as it applies in a more accessible general medium.


  • Metrics of Composition (research, composition, and editing)
  • Complexity is exponential relative to elements (erooms law and man month myth)
    • add symbolic data: highly dense data bits. 
  • Writing, Researching, and Composition as a GURPS gamer are different from other game systems. 
    • that GURPS has trained observation of genres or real world material and apply it to a more accessible and general medium. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Running GURPS more narratively Part 3: implications

Continued from Running GURPS more narratively Part 2

A more elegant approach to complexity 

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

Instead of this flow chart. Which is basically:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Coordination Actions

Coordinating Actions are the following:

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

Concepts so far:

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

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Profession Skill Scope

As work also inspires my gaming, I've come to see Profession more differently.

Market Knowledge

  • Market Cycles. the seasons of the business, when most of its earnings happen and the timing of each aspect that has time sensitivity. 
  • Network 
    • Profile of Clients and Customers. 
    • Suppliers and Sources. Those up the supply chain feeding rawer materials into this business. 
    • Who's who in the industry. 
  • Protocol and Etiquette. 

Working Knowledge

  • Operations
    • Roles and Responsibilities in Operation.
      • Scope of work of each role plus the number ratio needed for each role. 
      • Sub specializations within a line of business.
      • Includes sub-tasks that are modular which can be outsourced or in-sourced.  
    • Work streams or Work groups and their steams of output
    • Costs of materials, consumables, services, and other expenses related to running or operating. 
    • Tools, Equipment, and Capital related to the business. This may include infrastructure if the business has frequent infrastructure related tasks. 
    • Awareness of the risks, possibilities, and consequences. Knowledge of various scenarios these business may have. 
  • Technical Skills. some professions is mostly made up of a core skill while others have a collection of skills that make up most of the work. 
    • Heuristics related to the work. 
    • technical skills 
      • Processes or sequence of activities that are practice often. 
      • These can be very complicated calculations and coding like Coding in modern and sci-fi settings, or Math or Rituals in earlier times.  
    • Time and Motion or the Metrics regarding the core technical aspects of the profession. 
  • The ability to work back this key concepts and heuristics to measure others. 

Imperfect Knowledge
This means that of all the scope mentioned no one knows everything in their profession. Normally people rely on others, reference materials, and best practices to remember these little details. People more readily remember something that they perform regularly and have a vague understanding of others outside their team or sphere.

The Role in a particular Trade
Its important that the character's other skills reflect the role he performs in his Profession. If there is informing details in the game system or setting material about the role more specificity gives a clearer picture of what the character can do.

Ask what does this character do most often, and what is his value in his work and field. If he's a grunt or peon, describe and elaborate the kind of engine and machine he's part off. If he is a special cog or gear get to describing more about it.

Adaptive Problem-solving 
Professional "skills" (as skill from RPG design patterns p.66) can be approached as having a near equal to equal "guage" as the Professional Skill (specify profession) and diminishing guage for taks moving away from the core Task ability.

One can be flexible as to let the Core skill have other applications (those enumerated above) related to the profession or scope of experience the Character has. So an Artist may possibly have some familiarity based on his core Artistic skill relating to the scope above.

DnD 3.5 had profession and craft as a skill as craft, if working or industry knowledge is called for the character can attempt to work a solution at a minor penalty or handicap it is a reworking of the Scope of Work the character is familiar with.

Defaulting in GURPS would be adaptive reasoning, instructional scaffolding, and conceptual framework in real world terms (lolz).

Having a lot of Professions.
As the "Lifetime" professions (20+ years in a single profession) are more quickly disappearing in light of automation this idea of professions needs to be able to scale with the relatively more frequent change of jobs and roles. A character would have a couple of professions or they have trained for a particular profession only to go to another one. These days its quite normal to have 2-3 professions in one's background and adaptively using a similar conceptual framework to marry these different worlds. Those with more than 2 having an interesting story of how they got where they are.

Looking back and we have more generalist and self sufficient professions. When carrying capacity improved because of technology we had greater and greater levels of specialization. When automation improved we have diminishing roles, unusual specializations, and more adaptive job roles (see Knowledge Work)

Application in GURPS. 
The Profession Skill (B215) can make the Job of the GM much easier if this approach is adopted. A Professional: Monger, Merchant, Inkeeper, Urban Prefect, Quaestor, Soldier: Optio, Soldier-Infantry, Homesteader, Tenant Farmer, etc.... can be made soo much simpler.

We can use the Profession as the defaulting attribute relating all the related spheres in the profession. If there is already a skill that deals with the Core role of the profession (like Negotiating, which is diplomacy, for Merchant) grant some flexibility A Roman legionnaire would have Profession (Soldier, Infantryman) and would have a lot of skills relating to his role - if he was a Tetrark or Dekark he may have some leadership, if he's senior enough to specialize maybe he would have some masonry, carpentry, or familiarity with the many specializations of an Infantryman.

Summary and Conclusion.
If your taking anything away it would probably be that you will narrow down the role of the Character in his profession. The GM and Player will work with the oversimplification of what he does and its relation to the narrative.
if you're a GM it may relieve you of some burden if you had these scope to reference when looking at a character Profession or a Profession in your setting you need to clarify.
If you're a player you would probably want to ask your GM these questions to narrow down the role of the character.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Running GURPS More Narratively Part 2; Faster GURPS Combat April 2016 Update

Quick Review from Running GURPS more Narratively
  • One Roll per Player Scene
  • Non-Binary Consequences (NBC)
    • Success at a Cost
  • Task Difficulty Modifier (TDM)
    • Agent
    • Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD)
    • vs Agent
    • vs Situation
    • Superiority 
  • Specificity
  • Zones
  • Aspects 
A simulation approach to initiative is not by speed, but who has the most Agency in the situation. This is measured by someone who knows more about the circumstance than anyone else in the vicinity. This is not a physical measure but a mental awareness of the situation. This also applies to any conflict situation where the PC is against another agent. This method of Initiative can be taken in combat and non-combat situations.

Initiative can be from being the best social skill in the scene, the best tactical awareness (Tactics Per), Administration (in organization), etc... the Skill used by the PC to seize the initiative allows him to make the First Move or the Last Word.

Initiative is a Player Scene Roll. So a player must choose wisely what he decides to do since it means what skill and strategy he'll lead by.

Order or Turns. Since initiative is a condition (see First Move or Last Word) we can just have the PC with the best Initiative go first

First Move, or Last Word. 
You cannot use this with Initiative in GURPS as is. This narrative mechanic requires a more pro-active player approach. If a character has initiative then he can either: make the First Move with a bonus (+2) or have the last word and allow him to alter or adapt his action.

When the PC choose to have the Last Word, instead of first move, he loses initiative. Initiative becomes something someone else can seize. Gaining the Initiative is an action that needs context how the PC decisively affects the whole scene-encounter. If the opposing party has the Initiative (like in an Ambush) and since there is no rolling for the GM, then the PC suffers a -2 to his rolls until he gets initiative back. He can try to get initiative at a Cost (a reckless action) but he must understand the risks and that the GM will need to make the cost significant to the PC.

Significant Actions

One Roll per Player Scene, so make the scene count! To do this here are some key points that can help.

  • Scale by the Least. This is like the principle of moving at the speed of the slowest element, but in this case we Frame, Dress, and Scale the events, actions, and consequences in the game by the PC who  has the least options. Its easier to scale by the least and move to scale up as we proceed to the characters who have more options.
    • Flexible Time Scale. Abstract combat is not second by second, as much as a lot of the TRPG works in a Flexible time scale. Since we are scaled to the least we need to work with a pace for both the player and the PC can be relevant.
               Players who are more empowered in the scene have more options and they happen to be choosing a character specialized in their field of expertise. So they can relate all their options or strategies more efficiently in a smaller amount of time. They are also informed by the actions of their ally. 
    • Lead by the Least. let the character with the least options set the pace by declare early in the game what he is doing. This doesnt mean he goes "first" it just means all his other more empowered allies know what he's going to do when it is his turn. 
  • Prepare Options. Significant actions don't have to be made up on the spot, in fact its based on the Players Character design what they intend to do when the field of Social, Organization or Logistics, and Combat happens.
    • Inquire and Ideate. In figuring out the character's options there is a lot of Inquiry the GM needs to ask the Player and needs to ask when he looks at the Character sheet. "what needs to happen next". The critical thinking techniques of the Ideation5Y's5Ws, and Asking what needs to happen next.
    • See Support Tactics Below. 

Faster GURPS Combat Update April 2016

As in everything, they are all works in progress and I plan to update it (or edit this) depending if I have enough new ideas worth updating or too few that an edit would suffice. 

Flow of Narrative Combat
What does this combat look like?
  1. The GM sets up the Encounter. 2-5 mins to resolve.  
  2. Determine Initiative and Position. He starts describing the "zones", NPCs/obstacles, and their relative positions to each other. 2-5 mins to resolve. Faster if the Zones were prepared ahead of time (or the GM has a flexible set of zones).  
  3. GM asks for their declarations and resolves Players by the best Initiative (See Initiative above). Each player can probably take 1-2 mins for the Player to describe and hopefully the GM can resolve it as he goes (see Scale by the Least).
             The more informed the players are about their strategies and options the less time it takes for them to decide (see Preparation and Support Tactics). 
    1. Opponents will attack when they can or move to engage if they need to. NPCs Maneuvering and Positioning is how NPCs compensate for their lower skill. 
    2. Resolve their attacks as if they rolled 10. 
      1. If its not enough to hit, they will maneuvering to hit. 
        1. Assuming they performed a Feint and rolling a 10 means their margin of success becomes a Penalty on the PC. 
        2. Evaluate (if no other option) to raise the NPC skill and increase his chances to succeed at a 10. 
        3. If they do all out Attack (Determined) to just hit the PC this means the PC can use Telegraphic attacks. 
        4. Trying to get behind the character to get the +4 telegraphing attack bonus, higher ground, or attack by numbers.  
    3. If the PC fails his Roll.
      1. If the opponent cannot make a successful attack with a roll of 10 the PC suffers no damage, just the opponent manuevering to have a better attack next turn. 
      2. If the opponent can make a successful attack with a roll of 10 at the PC, the PC will take damage. 
        1. The PC will take a dice roll of damage (exception to One roll per Player Scene and GM does not roll). 
        2. The PC can choose to Succeed at a Cost. this just means the PC compromised his defense to land a blow. 
    4. If the PC Succeeds he can deal damage (see Damage is MoS).
      1. Note that when the PC is against numerically superior foes fights at a penalty (See Superiority) reflecting his threat management. His successful attack means he managed the threat and was able to deal damage. 
  4. Summarize the Turn or Scenes before moving to the next Scene or Turn. While there is no real need this is a great opportunity for the GM to re-frame the narrative and make his adjustments. It also gives the GM the opportunity to go back and correct his mistakes or play-up what needs attention and emphasis.
           This is also a great segway for events without interrupting a Player's scene. 
Limited Modifiers
The game gets easier if we can reduce the modifiers.

  • Target Number
  • Task Difficulty Modifier. Choose the highest relevant to simplify. Avoid #deathbymodifiers. If you can juggle two or more modifiers 
    • (Number) Superiority. Superior number of foes apply a penalty to the Character's roll reflecting his threat management and the threat of attack.  
    • If the Player is the superior in number, like fighting with an entourage, and has the absolute superiority in numbers then he gains the Superiority bonus TDM. 
    • Initiative and other modifiers. 
    • Opponent Superiority. They will penalize greatly the PC like (Number) Superiority. 
  • Defense Modifier (see No defense roll below)
NPC Actions
They all assumed to have rolled a 10. The NPCs will maneuver to raise their odds of success, cut off the PCs from each other, or gain a strategic advantage. There are many options that can allow any Character to have a much better chance to hit like

  1. All-Out-Attack (Determined).  This is going to be the go-to maneuver of an NPC 80% of the time if the PC has a really high Defense score. this allows the PC to do a Telegraphic Attack (see Damage as Mos).
  2. If the NPCs have numbers these are their go to Actions:
    1. Flank. The opponent the PC is not engaged with will attack lowering the effective Defense of the PC by 3.
    2. Rear Attack. If there is enough room for the NPC to attack the rear they will make a Telegraphic Attack. 
    3. Feint.  This bonus depends if the PC succeeds or fails in the turn. Working with the Assumption the NPC rolls a 10, this can lower the Defense of the PC by the MoS of the NPC but reduced by the PC's MoS or improved by the PC's MoF.
  3. Feint. 
  4. Evaluate.
  5. Shift to a better Tactical or Strategic Objective.  

More powerful NPCs will not need to maneuver to simply start dealing damage to the PC. Very powerful NPCs that have advantages like that of Superior Numbers like some very Able NPCs (weapon masters), Giants, Dragons, Monsters, etc...  can penalize the PC like Superiority.

Action, Evasion or Position
Choose two of either Action, Evasion, or Position.
  • Action and Position
  • Action and Evasion
  • Evasion and Position
Evasion means being able to Defend, Position is Moving to a new position and being able to disengaging/engaging. This simplifies the movement, all-out-attack, and move-and-attack options into trade offs: either be able to defend or be somewhere you hope you won't need to defend.

Edit: If they choose only One, then give them +4 in what their doing but this means they've sacrificed their attention from the two others.

  • Sacrificing Evasion. Enemies can make telegraphic attacks, and the PC has no defense. +4 to hit. 
  • Sacrificing Position. The PC not just stand still, he gives ground when an opponent contests him and they can surround him gaining a position advantage over him. 
  • Sacrificing Action. no maneuver or other action can be attempted. The PC cannot coordinate with another PC, the other PC trying to coordinate with him has a -2 to -4 penalty if their action is trying to aid that PC.  Action assumes a level of attention in the other actions of the Allies (preventing risks similar to friendly fire).  

No Extra Rolls. 
Skills that are needed to allow an opportunity, example Fast Draw, is now part of the Attack roll.

  • Blind Fighting B180, 12-Blind Fighting. this penalty reduces the modifier of the "No defense roll" and lowers the attack.  Only applies to Darkness or Blindness. Flanking and Rear penalties still apply. 
  • Fast Draw , 12-Fast Draw
  • Zen-Archery B228, 18-Zen-Archery for feats of zen archery. 
  • Acrobatics, Acrobatics-12 grants a bonus to dodge up to 2. 

Example, No Extra Rolls
A warrior with blind fighting-10 attacks at -2 penalty and reduces his defenses by 2.

Damage is MoS.
This means a margin of success replaces the d6s of the damage roll, but the bonus is capped by 6.

Example, No Damage Roll

  • Weapons that would deal 2d+2 damage would deal 4+4+2 on a MoS of 4. 
  • A punch with 1d6-1 with a MoS 6 only deals 5 damage. 
No Defense Roll.
Instead of a defense roll, targets of attacks apply a penalty to hit equal to Defense Score-6. Modifiers that lower defense lowers this penalty as well as modifiers that increases defense increases this penalty. This Penalty cannot be a "bonus" for an attacker.

Limits of use still applies to these defenses. While Dodge has no penalties for repeated dodges, Parry and Block suffer their usual penalties for every additional attack (reducing them to 4).

Telegraphic and Deceptive Attacks. these mods remove Deceptive attack option and Limit Telegraphic Attack to completely defenseless targets. If there is the ability to defend Telegraphic Attack Bonus is not granted.

Retreat and Drop Modifications. These temporarily increase Dodge, the option is available after the attack is declared but before the roll of the attack.

Example, No Defence Roll
Dodge-10 (from DB2), Parry-12, Block-12
translates to attacks against this characters has:

  • Dodge: -4 (DB2),  attacks from the flank Dodge -1
  • Parry: -6, but cannot be used against attacks from off facing side. 
  • Block-12, attacks from the off-facing side

Support Tactics
Most key support options is through Harrying Tactics or what I'd like to call Threat Management. These are creative and clever choices in engagement and positioning which divides the combat strength of the opposing side

  • Force a Facing. Combatants must declare their facing or who they are engaged with. To simplify, a Character cannot defend against two opponents and suffers flanking as the character gets ganged up. Also Known as to take Aggro
    • Declare Engagement. In abstract combat there must be a declaration of facing, and suffer penalties from attacks from those 
    • Ranged Harrying. This means a character not in the right facing to defend against a ranged attack suffers defense penalties. So ranged attackers who can fire in a safe angle not to hit his ally can Force a Facing.
  • Hit and Run. This is the combination of positioning tactics and tricks
    • Defense in Depth. Drawing the opponent deeper into your side's threat area. This is usually done by presenting a valuable target: the leader, wizard (artillery), etc... and either moving him deeper in to the teams threat area OR moving the threat area up. 
    • Kiting. A highly mobile attacker with reach or range attacking and moving (see Evasion or Position). Characters who move and attack or attack and move are just unable to effectively defend for simplicity.  
End of Article Review
  • Initiative
    • First Move or Last Word
  • Significant Actions
    • Scale by the Least.
      • Flexible Time Scale
      • Lead by the Least
    • Prepare Options
      • Inquire and Ideat
      • Support Tactics (see below)
  • Flow of Narrative Combat Overview. 
  • Limited Modifiers
    • Target Number
    • TDM
    • Defense 
  • Action, Evasion, Position
    • 2 of the 3. 
    • Focus on just one
    • Sacrifice of either 3 
  • NPC Actions
    • NPC's go-to strategies if they can't hit the PCs. 
  • No Extra Rolls
    • Except Damage to the PCs
    • No Fast Draw, Zen Archery, Acrobatics, etc...
    • Damage is MoS
  • No Defense Roll
    • No Deceptive Attacks, Conditional Telegraphic
    • Retreat and Drop
  • Support Tactics
See previous articles

Parting notes. 

Scale by the Least is a principle that has come about from my frustration of feeling helpless when the Player feels helpless in a scene. I hate the experience of "Passing" a turn or an unsatisfactory turn. When I compared to my experience in more narrative games and GM's like +Tobie Abad, there are techniques that make me feel like I'm doing more and contributing to the Drama and Conflict. 

So the people with more player skill (of the game system and role playing in general) can have fun with less GM oversight as compared to the Player with the most handicap per scene. So make rules and concepts that balance that. I can juggle with my GMing working memory a finite amount of techniques and concepts so I'll prioritize: Facilitation and Storytelling.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Session, Act, Scene, and Player Scene.

I've come to a better understanding of Pacing, Acts, Scenes and Player Scene after analysing my problem solving techniques, Odyssey - the Complete Guide to Campaign Management, Never Unprepared and having caught up to most of my listening backlog.

Some Basics Definitions.

In learning a skill we can break it down to concepts and ideas. Some of these components can be used with a familiarity, others components are harder and less intuitive to use and would require some understanding, and some needs a minor or petty mastery of this component. 

Pacing in storytelling can be simplified by 3 stages. 
First is the establishment of the setting and expectations, pitch for the buy in of the Audience (Players), and the introduction of the main idea or challenge. 
Second is the rise in challenge, events that engages the audience with the challenges and elements that invest them into the story. Minor to Major Conflicts occur in this stage. In extended Stories, twists occur that go back to the First Stage and proceed to the Second Stage. 
Third is the Climax and Closure of the story. In extended stories a reletively lesser climax but the absence of closure occurs in every stage.

Pacing Informs the GM (and the Players) what they need to get done or what is the next action (or what needs to happen next). Its a broad goal that gets narrower as we go from Acts to Scenes, and to Player Scenes. 

Mastery of Pacing is the ability to recognize Story Elements and put them where they best fit in context of the Players, the PCs, and the Story as a whole. It also means the GM can generate more ideas that are better suited for each stage of Pacing. Such a master can tell if his players have been emotionaly set up for the goals of the pacing stage. Finaly a master in pacing has some clue to give closure. 

Closure is a very difficult technique to master because it really is different per player. Closure is a very important technique because it is, to my experience, what makes the ends of my games not as satisfying even if I seem to have "closed the loops" in everyone's story. 
      What I missed is that Closure is personal to the Player and his Character. It is something we learn during the Second part of Pacing as we adapt and learn more about the PC or Player's mindset. 
My default strategy for getting closure is keeping good notes on the player's mood and RP, as well as always keep having feed back to check if any of the PC's/Players motives and expectations change. So keep good notes and keep being in touch with the players. As I'm just barely understanding Closure I'm still far from petty mastery of this.

  • What is closure for this Element of the Character?
  • What is closure for  this Player's goal? 
  • What is closure in context of the story for this character? What is the character in light of his actions in the events? What is the narrative the Player will like to cap-off or push (and enable him to do so). 
For those who are trying to avoid narrative bias and are suspicious of stories (See Tyler Cowen's TED talk) and are working towards accepting "the Mess" closure is exploiting the bias in light of the mess.

Acts are components of a Game Session which fit into each Stage of Pacing. A 3-Act, 5-Act, and 7 Act game sessions follow the Pacing Guideliness but change in scale. 
In a 3-Act Sessions there is the 3 stages of Pacing which is what a 2-4 hour session can probably accomplish.
Personal note: the 3-Act session is what I can do reliably. I can even sometimes "fudge it" to feel like I squeezed it enough lows and highs to feel like a 5-act (but those are on rare days). 

In a 5-Act session the first 3 acts follow the 3-Act staging but the 2nd and 3rd act are smaller in scale/gravity than the 4th and 5th act. The 3rd-Act can be a minor Climax that bleeds into a twist that creates a new paradigm, set of expectations, and round of buy in for the players. The 4th Act is a higher scaled rising tension and conflict. A 5-Act can be a 4-6 hour session. Its possible for a GM to improvise an additional amount of Acts if so much is getting done and the players are excited for more!
Personal note: in my older age I can't do 5-Act easily, last time I did so it took my out and I needed a nap. I had my fitbit and my BPM was about 80 and I could feel my brain fps was hitting 60. 

7, 9, or 11 Acts are pretty much the same fractal pattern of pacing. Because of Bounded rationality not a lot of GMs have the processing power to create enough material for greater number of acts without railroading. There is a lot of cooperation with the players in making more acts  per session.   

A Scene is a sub-stage of an Act. A scene can be as long as an combat or social encounter or a problem solving challenge. This is what 10-30 minutes of exchanges between Players and the GM when they are trying to push the story forward. 
This is handy concept because it lets a GM plan exchanges with the Players. I use a Scene to hit goals regarding: the PC's background, PC's chance to shine in his role, establishing key clues and events, and other such milestones the GM needs to accomplish to Build up the adventure and let the Players feel empowered to act with their characters. 
I use the Pacing Grid for this purpose* I normally plan in Acts and Scenes. In every Act I Ideate the problems/challenges/fronts***  and have a ready supply of these to use for Scenes. The way I frame a Scene is based on the Act. The PCs having Agency in the First Act is different from the other Act. Their actions, their effect on their surroundings and people, and the way the world transforms is guided by the Pacing process. 

Player Scene**
This is similar to a Sequence (filmmaking). These are the exchanges between the GM and the Players. I can't really plan to this level of detail. Al I can do is keep score to see if the Player is enjoying himself and getting the agency he needs to move his character's goals forward.

(Elevator) Pitch Speed. This is the speed of compressing an Idea and breaking it up to digestible portions for the listener to consume in their own pace and sequence. This is typically 30-90 seconds, but can be faster when there is a lot of shared understanding already, strong familiarity with both parties in their communication styles, and an established protocol when dealing with communication bottle necks. (Yes& is one of these protocols). 

Note Taking
Session (Episode) 02, Act 2/3, Scene 1/3, John's 2nd 
or for shorthand: E2, A2/3, S1/3, John2. 

This is an update to my understanding and finding better ways to communicate the ideas. I've also had time to digest and reflect on it considerably. Having a familiarization or almost working undersanding of this concept is helping me keep better notes and track my Player's emotions better (I have recordings of my games which allow me to revisit its pains and pleasures).