Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Updated GMing Techniques; Games Literacy

So I've updated my GMing Techniques Document and differentiated it from my TRPG playing skill document. Basically the GMTD is the skill (or the Tricks) unraveled and explained. While the TRPG playing skills tries to identify and list the skills needed to play particular games.

TRPG playing skill will list the skill or knowledge needed to run (Collaborative Setting) Fantasy, Packaged Settings (which Include Historical), Mysteries, Warfare, and Horror. It will be used to make comparisons and a checklist for GMs and Players when evaluating what they are getting into.
I hope this develops processes for GMs to evaluate their Work, allowing them to scale down the distracting elements, and plan how much work they are going to do.

GMTD is the skills, mnemonics, heuristics, and tests. If a GM or Player wants to learn a technique that will enhance their experience in playing the game it would be found in the GMTD.  The wording is best to allow the person to perform the skill and the uses of the skill, and implementation of the skills.  Ideally the Total Cost of Ownership - the time, effort, difficulty, tools, etc... of performing certain activities in the game gets illuminated in the GMTD document.

I've begun trying to organize the Ideas. Grouping them into Heading 2 key topics.

Extra Credit had a very relevant special to my interests: Particularly Gaming Literacy. Basically literacy about all the devices, skills, techniques, Meta-knowlege about the hobby of Table Top RPGs. You can say the GMing Technique Document and TRPG playing skill lists are major sources then.

I'm, as always, looking for feedback and like minds who can help improve on this. In the end, without feedback there is no reality by which these ideas can be tested against. Open to Collaboration as I can only work on this when time permits.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Skills as Barriers to Games

Skill or Mental Models as Brain apps
The thing about Load Bearing Gear, Logistics, and any Mental Model is that its kinda a skill when it comes to TRPGs. By skill I mean: One has understood it to a point that they can recall a lot of key details about the matter without much load to their working memory Or ones conjures the Mental Model (imagine it as an app that starts running in your brain) that will deal with: Travel Mechanics, Trade mechanics, Personality mechanics, etc.... working with the example of load baring gear: the more you tackle and handle load bearing gear the more intimate and ingrained the knowledge becomes. Almost without much effort you realize and constrain your options and actions based on the Opportunities and Constraints of the Load Bearing Gear (or what every Mental Model you've conjured).

Which provokes a kind of discussion about TRPG running/playing games skills (which Id like to further discuss in a Gdoc):
Hypothesis/Claim: Some games or styles of play are harder and more complicated because they require some Skill or Mental Models to run smoothly (or run with a Good User Experience). 
Are these Barriers to certain Games? Is it why people hate these kinds of game, are theyre just experiencing the Skill Learning Curve to a certain game, are they experiencing the ambiguity of uncertainty from not really mastering the skill (or having no one to feedback to help them improve)?

An example of mental model: The Constraints and Goals/Opportunity Model.
An Inspiration from Work and in Games (can't tell anymore) is Goals and Constraints Mnemonic.  So basically in any project of so much complexity that our working memory needs anchors and tests to know if we are headed the right direction there are Goals and Constraints by which we can check our progress. There is a Skill involved in crafting Goals and Constraints as well as conditioning so that when Our attention and focus realized an amount of time or work has passed we go back and check on these navigation guides. This becomes a skill when the person can always rattle out all the Constraints and Goals at any point of time: they have a working memory slot to be able to hold the constraints and goals to be able to use it periodically.

I learned this in TRPGs and further developed it in work. Basically I realized that when I role-play I adopt the Goals and COnstraints of my Character. These are in the form of the characters SWOT, his personal history and psychology. You do RPGs enough that we get into character quite easily and quickly - but to take it further is to use this technique in Navigating Projects of complexity that we can only take small bites or bits of the Project at a time and process them with our working memory.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Definition of Terms. More useful ones.

This is speculation on what kind of gaming material I'd like to make If I had the time. I've improved some of my definitions - particularly what kind of gaming material I would like to make.

The gaming material I'd like to make has to do with Skills, Processes, and Models that deal with running the game, building the world (in a way that makes sense to us, to close loose ends), and to enhance immersion and engagement.

Models. Tversky and Khanneman work got me thinking about how much I, and to their observations much of humanity, depend on models (this assumes you agree on the stipulations of their work, I recommend the Undoing Project by Micheal Lewis). We think in models and accepting the limits and failings of that, I proceeded to start documenting them and swapping out models that do not work as well as others, while looking for some that can serve as scaffolding for other fields and approaches.

A Game mechanic is a Model. Humans have many heuristics and rules of thumb they use in work and in life (which the T & K work highlights) and Gamifying these and designing them to be more modular with what ever game system or perspective humans take is the lesson that I've taken away.

Example is my studies in Fitness and that of Horse performance from reading up the American Endurance Riding Conference material, on horsemanship, and many other books (also for vetinary books I bought on used book sales) - they are pretty much line up when I compare them to articles on fitness. I mentally use a model that works with what I've read, I've only not put it to writing and further editing and refinement.

The same model can be approached in my Operational Science Studies can accomodate books like De Agricultura and De Re military. I just need to refine the wording to capture the abstract thought that needs documentation for other perspectives to rework into a better model.

Processes. Processes are simply steps in doing anything, the requisite steps, actions, information, tools etc... before the next step can be undertaken. Eventually we simplify processes to what our working memory can accomodate and just "do the math" in our heads but it would be useful to have the process on paper for notes of exceptions, weaknesses,

Where processes matter in gaming is Giving a gamers the various processes that work for us. Sometimes we change processes depending on whats available: we have a setting and we want to run games based on that, or we have players and we run games based on their tastes, etc...

One interesting aspect at work which I've begun to appreciate about processes is that they are measurable. That when someone recommends or uses a processes each step can be measured and mistakes, lessons, revalations, etc... (end user relevant notes) can be documented on the step used.

Any treatise from De Agricultura, Art of War, De Re Military, On Horsemanship etc... are process books where previous readers of ancient times commented where the processes fails, notes to aid people through the step, various other helpful notes etc... Approaching gaming to have some of the most used processes documented helps.

A Treatise on Zones. 
An example of Processes being assembled in one place that would be useful to so many would be using Zones. How we formulate zones, how we juggle 2-3 (up to 7) items in our working memory when dealing with zones, how we take time to explain the details of the zone and make it easy to remember. I'd imagine if a bunch of gamers worked to make a whole Treatise of making zones (basically a treatise of how to handle Space and Time in a game) would be useful in story telling. Showing how to keep the word count down (wordage of the GM or everyone involved), how to make it more immersive, Identifying some key narrative and descriptive skills and techniques, how to improvise challenges, flexible without violating some key assumptions, etc...

Skills. Knowledge that informs on the best options, how to organize options/how to break down complexity to manageable chunks, and identifying measurable and improvable actions. While the world can use more education and more ways to bring education to everyone, gaming and its fundamental principles are something that can be included in that endeavor since it is a Practical Exercise of real world useful skills.

So I can imagine that if I had the free time to condense what I've studied into something practical and written for games it would be the following. I

On Agrilculture. a gaming book on economic entities from the household to the estate; PCs being involved in the petty and grander politics of these entities (which is in its root a human drama). Sources: De Agricultura, Various Treatises that have been Open source about farming and organization of labor (on not just agriculture).

On Horsemanship. a gaming book on modeling horses and their use, and care. Sources. Xenophons On Horsmanship and Cavalry Commander. Ann Hylan's Medival warhorse, American Ednurance Riding Conference Materials, De Agricultura

On Warfare. Running games with group warfare and logistics. Sources: De Re Military, The Art of War (Cleary's version with Commentary), and various other books.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Source Material

I've been getting source material that are open source or public domain like De Re Militari and using them as inspiration to my own studies and gaming material. They are Inspired by my operations research studies which has a very gamer mindset perspective in looking at things with stats.
If you want to reinforce that bias I recommend the works of Amon Tversky and Danniel Khanneman's works on decision making and judgement (use them as a search term or get thinking fast and slow).
These books which were tried and true for centuries, like De Re Militari, finds new life when i can model them in gaming stats grounded by some models I've developed for games and work. I've taken some heuristics and modeled them into game mechanics for open collaboration and improvement.

Imagine if you can make sense of De re militari in character templates and stats. What are the baselines and what are they when you look at real people vs the statistics? So detailed that you can be inspired to undergo that training as a hobby. That you know what kind of training is needed to do a 32km March 2x a month in 40-60lbs of gear (even if it's in the safety of a gym treadmill at an incline to simulate hard terrain).

Knowing what ( in an operations science way) a task, activity, and ability is and how to measure and schedule a plan to reach  a performance level is another coloring of my gaming and my gaming mindset regarding my work studies. And the game is the exercise I want to do.

Primary sources colored by updated material. Imagine some gaming mechanics and entries drawing referencing de re militari, Wikipedia and, US Marine corps small wars manual. Sources that can help inform the reader the assumptions and hopefully someone can come up with a better model.

Public domain books Gdoc

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Review of Game in the Brain

Game in the Brain is going in low performance mode. I've been busy with work, family, health, and studies.


Top 3 Best Posts are in 2016 from all time. These are:

  1. Random Character Gen update: Life Event Table .  I honestly forgot about this and I forgot to link the Gdocs. 
    1. Life Events Table Gdoc Commenting again I am always looking for feedback. I can't promise I'll act on it immediately (it depends what I'm juggling) but I will take note of it and when i come back around I will act on it. 
  2. Appreciating the Work. is a post about guessing the kind of work that goes into making analysis posts with the most abstract of numbers
  3. My Notes about Zones. This is my notes about Zones compiled from various sources and my take on it. I usually try to look at it where entroy will tend and highlight what key process needs practice to be a skill. Where attention is best applied on. 
2016 may be my most productive since 2013 because:
  1. My  son turned 5 and take care of himself
  2. Election means no Airsoft so not team related tasks and activities, which has a lot of prep.
  3. I had a co-worker help me with my tasks for the first time in a while. Thats Nick. 
  4. The company I work in was relatively stable. 
These factors dont apply anymore for me in 2017. 
  1. I have a daughter born mid nov 2016, any of you fathers there know that will be months of high maintenance lolz. 
  2. Nick is leaving and I'm training a new guy. 
  3. I'll be more hands on work because I finally got some important training and studies relevant to my job. (lolz I'm draining the swamp lolz).  
  4. I'm having my son shadow me when I train and exercise and study. The only manner I know how to teach is to show and lead by example. All these tasks now double in time and half in quality lolz. 


   I'm trending towards System Agnostic Skills and Techniques. Its weird, because going with techniques that are more universal regardless of system is actually a more niche hobby because of the anchoring effect of systems.
   Never underestimate Anchoring Effect, at work we are studying Risk Management as a requirement of ISO 9001:2015 and the Black-Scholes model was brought up,  by Nick my co worker,  and its debacle has the trappings of Anchoring Effect. Basically the need to Assign a Value to Risk even if that model is so short lived and useless in the long run. Our brains needs anchors even if its a stupid and terrible anchor. Nature hates a vacuum and so does our mind.
   Game Agnositicism is such a waste with GURPS day to add to my readership :( I know but I'm applying what i've learned and what I've learned has let me be more efficient in my use of memory and attention.
   My System Agnosticism is going to be weird and natural at times. Work also is getting me into time and motion aka Psycho and Bio Mechanics. Even if things have variables there are always benchmarks we can strive to surpass or limit our failure to. This is the Cognitive Dissonance of gaming and real life: its Game, its a Faulty model, But I have nothing better to use, or Its useful some of the time etc... I think as we grow older we get better at managing Dissonance but we have to be aware of it. We cannot normalize the internal conflicts and limits of our beliefs and understanding or else we fail to correct ourselves. Sorry for the deep personal belief tanget, its just me expressing my fundamental assumptions and how my mental algorithms work (for ease of reprogramming when in error). My belief is that Cognitive Dissonance is bad when we fail to be aware of it, and are unable to make a self honest assessment of the limits of what we know and validate the uncertainty of every source and assumption we use to formulate our conclusions.
    So because life is limited in time, memory, and practice, my gamings borrows from the  mental models I use at work or my work borrows from the mental models I use in games (hence the Dissonance). Of course some mental models requires a System Two Appraoch and we need a System 1 to run games fluidly or be able to change gears quite fluidly when we are entertaining Players or able to make the Players Enjoy shifting gears with the GM (which is the ideal and the most benefit for everyone IMO but we do not force something unless the person asks to be helped force his mind to change).
   I've mentioned many times the open Gdocs I'm working on. its easier to show progress and updates in those because I really only have a handful of 2-5 minute instances to think and write notes with the back of my mind always churning and processes-sing everything in a Gamer way , hence the blogs name
   Time flies when you're raising kids, taking care of other people, and taking care of ones' self. So while I maybe back before I know it, if you find my absence short if you have other people to occupy you.


While gaming is what made me, I'm using it to improve my life. It will be there when My son comes of age, and I have more free time. But I can make it also there when I frame my life and work as an adventure in itself. I will always talk about gaming and life as one thing and it sadly it will be what will limit me. If I cant make the game part of my life, then I dont have the free time to work on it. 

In 2016 i made my Gaming Life Blog. A terse blog of updates of my training and studies. If I'm a character of my own adventure then I better be Min-Maxing and leveling up lolz. I'll come back to this blog when i can, if time permits and I have more of a TRPG thing to say. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Levels of Participation: Commenting

The level of Participation in Table Top Role-Playing Games:

  • 8-12 hours a Week: enough to prep, blog, and run games. blogging comes from the material the prep generates. the blog is like the 2 second rule* going down the rabbit hole to give closure to a train of thought and curiosity. 
  • 4-6 hours a week: enough to prep, blog, and run games every other week (or on week ends).
  • 2-6 hours a week: enough to blog regularly. I was able to punch out 1-2 posts a week. 
  • 1-4 hours a week: enough to blog 1.5 to 2x a month. 
  • 1-2 hours a week of intermittent time. The ability to blog 1/month and comment. 

Interment. A lot of time is Interment and the most I can do is what can be done in 2-5 minutes. Every task can be measured in this to a point that I've kept notes on my time and motion in this lolz and will apply this in Games.

*2 second rule in Productivity is taking the time to write down any distracting thoughts so that it can be tackled later from the task at hand or when attention is better used than entertaining the distraction. Encyclopedia of Operations Arthur V Hill.

Commenting or Gdocs Collaborating.
Commenting and Gdocs doesnt need a lot of prep time. Blogs have about 1-2 hours of prep time, 50% is the writing and thinking about it while writing, 50% is the intermittent time thinking about the problem and the issues.
So I only have 2-5 minutes and i can only post opportunistically. So I'm only good in commenting (if I was able to listen to the post in my app's Text to Speech; so I cant comment when the idea hits me, only if I remember to comment when I have the chance. 1/20 chances of me remembering lolz). With my crap reading and thinking speed I can only really comment and gdoc post.

I like collaborating even if it is limited to Feedback. Meaning I can give my opinion on a metrics level or user-experience level. If that matters to you and You don't mind my me having only 3-4 x spend 2-5 minutes on the Gdocs with you guys then maybe you can invite me for collaboration (if I like the project too.) Note that I'm studying a lot of Bio and Psycho mechanics because of work so my comments tend to narrow to that vein.

My open Collaborations Invitation.
I use Gdocs to dump what I learn and read. A lot of these projects are dormant since I have so little time to really dedicate to fill it up.

  • GMing Skills. General Gaming Dump list. I learn some new metric or trick that has applications to a game I put it here. I sort it later on.
  • Warfare Notes. Notes in running warfare games and analyzing its scope and trying to narrow it down. Figuring out how to prepare players and GMs in running it, and learning to run it. It uses the basic system of my Open RPG. this is updated almost as frequently as GMing skills since all my historical logistics notes are dumped here. 
  • TRPG Skills. This is a simple Gdoc that tracks the mastery of learning a Game System. I'm 
  • Open RPG. This is an open RPG project that uses a simple 2d resolutions system and plugs in a lot of my lessons in process efficiency and simplicity from various studies (most can be found in GMing Skills). Its all creative commons and designed that a System Agnostic person will be free to use it without fear of copyright or legal baggage. 
  • Kiddy Open World. trying to build an approach to using TRPG skills to teach children. Basically parents using TRPG skills to gamify the thinking and life skills children need to learn to survive and thrive. 

TL:DR lost a lot of my time.  Some personal notes: 
So I have a second child and the logistics of that has had an impact. I'm actually double checking my notes as to what the over all time impact of this. It doesnt help that the school doesnt do "all" the work of teaching our first child and I'm going to need help in the form of Tutorial services (Asian educational arms race). My 5.8 year old attention needs me to sit down for an hour out of distractability instead of any really significant amount of work.

Which brings up the level of participation. When getting married, I didnt game as much and spent time with the wife. When having our first child, the first few years I was unable to game but was able to blog. I had time to game when we got a nanny and the child turned 2. With the 2nd child I'm expecting to take a long hiatus and with my sons studies I would still lose a lot of my time.

What i've chosen to do with my time is to do some min-maxing. Training my son, letting him join me in my self improvement: chinese studies and exercise (health and studies) is one compromise that diminishes the quality of the activity to allow me to be a dad and to hopefully give an example to him.

Work has also gotten complicated as I am set to train a coordinator (an industrial engineer graduate to be trained in the plant's processes and operations) as my first staffer.

Then there is the Airsoft Team Work. Lolz writing Doctrine, DIYs, and how-tos. I'm doing the radios, prep-checklists, exercises, and sourcing materials. The overall goal is to reduce prep time and clutter (bringing down our gear inventory to minimalist, while meeting all our operational and convenience goals). Again I have intermetent time and a lot of notes go into my A6 size notebook i carry with me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Warfare Notes

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

So I've been listening to Tyrant Series, I just finished funeral games and I'm now in King of the Bosphoros. I started reading all the Wikipedia about the Diadochi and all related articles. Christian Cameron and the Wikipedia has helped make these successor wars very interesting. Particularly the evolution of the Cavalry and Specialized unit roles. 

I find myself revising a lot of my understandings on man-power regarding some of the units. Basically the economics and psycho-mechanics of these units. Here are some key take aways: 
  • Edit: From feedback from Ian Borchardt
    • Pikemen, Halberders, Spearmen, swordsmen, etc... are all heavy infantry. the circumstancial modifiers will be detailed in my Warfare notes. 
    • Professional/regular vs Conscript Forces/iregular are 2 : 1 better. Trade-offs and circumstantial bonus based on their equipment and training.  Veteran and Elite are 2:3 meaning Elite is only marginally better but can 
    • With Open terrain where Regular vs Irregular have 2 vs 1 odds.  
      • In GURPS mass combat there is Troop Strength. It doesnt really have any mechanic to represent Flexibility and Adaptability that comes with a well drilled machine and the cumbersomeness of some tactics. The closest work around is to give it conditional penalties when it comes to being flexible or adaptable or giving conditional advantages to other units who exploit their inflexibility/in-adaptability. 
      • Wedge formation. Will be modeled as an Risky and Aggressive maneuver. Well armored units (and those with shields) are better at it than other units. Whats great about it is destroying cohession of the opposing unit and getting to more vulnerable units past it. 
    • Regular would be 5x in cost and time to train and equip than Irregular (especially because of half of the cost and time will be Overhead to reach Regular status. 
  • Heavy Infantry is not a unit but more of a role. A role that requires a lot of discipline and training.  
    • The Hoplite or the Roman Legionaire are heavy infantry. Special Unit Qualities:
      • Heavy to Light Shield
      • Heavy to Light Armored
      • Sword (defaults to Short sword)
      • Spear
      • Pike
      • Pole or Great weapon
      • Great, Strong, and Skirmishing Ranged
      • Shock or Skirmishing
      • Heavy (Closed formation), Medium (small group formations), to Light (Open Formation). 
    • Shock Action as well as taking the brunt of shock action are parts of the Role. The byzantines called heavy infantry Defensores. Many armies depended on the role as an a morale anchor. 
      • Taking the brunt of a Shock action is harder and takes more discipline.
      • Charging to become the "shock action" is easier which is why more expendable Auxilia can be made to do it. (the Kurasores)
    • So there will be Heavy "Armored" Infantry or Heavy Infantry Role to be more clear. 
    • In GURPS Mass Combat Troop Strength can be further simplified with the following tool (which I'm using with Open Warfare system). 
      • Ignore the previous TS method. 
      • Start counting the (Professional) Warriors. You can set that as your TS of 1 per warrior. So 1,000 trained warriors is a TS 1000. 
        • The most important table is the Relative TS Table. Relative TS table 
          • next is the class superiority modifier. 
          • limit to 2-3 key modifying circumstance modifiers. do not get too bogdown with
        • Equipment. This is a conditional multiplier the way Special Classes superiority gives modifiers to the roll. If the Force has the Equipment superiority for the situation then they get the Special Class superiority.  
        • Experience Level. consider the warrior the benchmark of quality of troop. non warriors count as 0.3TS, TS1.5 for veteran, to Elite of TS2, to a max of TS3 for heroes. 
      •  this simplifies the situation to:
        • what are the forces engaging? 
          • no. and quality (which is the TS)
        • what is the circumstances (who has superiority)?
          • terrain, position, 
          • their respective maneuvers, 
          • equipment
          • condition, initiative
        • roll and check combat results table. 
  • Remounts have a very very tangible effect in the Cavalry. The biomechanics of horses are very similar to humans, you can't expect them to carry a rider for more 4-6 hours (depending on horse's quality) without risking injury or getting injured if they go all-out. 
    • There are some serious problems of making it reflect in GURPS mass combat mechanics. In fact mounted combat has been very hard to model, and only recently with games like Mount and blade, simulations in Total War, and books like those of Flavius Arrianus being recently getting the rounds  reworking a lot of the notions of how Mounted combat works. Allowing GMs to stress it as an advantage. 
  • Any economic entity mechanics have to be pretty abstract as to leave the details of land usage, and focuses on the final products of a particular area. 
    • Further readings and the limitations of Historical knowledge would be a great and helpful set of directions to get people to see for themselves. 
    • The KPIs of the region can be a long list, but can have an order of details. Some details are more important and others are just dressing that help in immersion. A handy guide would be helpful because the details can be overwhelming (and powerfully immersive).
    • So far I've figured out much of Roman and Greek systems. Trying to figure out  Persian and Near East traditions, as well as Chinese traditions. 
  • Warfare system needs a checklist. The first checklist being: what are the Assets/Resources, and how they are employed/deployed. 
    • then comes the overhead, logistics, and support of these resources. 
    • step by step: from simplest combat in a narrative formula to levels of details.
  • Much of Chinese warfare is conscripts as r/k strategies. It became much clearer when the profile of heavy infantry became more apparent and universal in many of my studies. They did have shields but The Art of War by Thomas Cleary the commentaries by the other generals stressed on conscripts infantry. 
    • Its possible to have no heavy infantry units, especially given the population and man power in chinese history.  Its kind of telling how sun tzu resorts to tricking his own men and putting them in desperate situations vs western tradition of heroic combat.  Just my pet theory, googling around for contrary opinions (because that would mean I could find a heavy infantry). Their halberdiers arent exactly heavy infantry, still open to ideas. 
    • There is a possibility there were Heavy Infantry in the Warring States. But the Qiin must have killed them off. 
Currently Reading
  • People Land and Politics Demographic developments and transformation of roman itally 300 BCE to 14 CE Luuk de Ligt and SJ Nortwood 
  • The Beginnings of Rome Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars 1000 to 264 BCE by TJ Cornell
  • A History of the Roman World HH Scullard and TJ Cornell
  • Hanson The Other Greeks The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization
  • Women in the Ancient World The Arethusa Papers SUNY series in Classical Studies by John Perdaotto and JP Sullivan
  • Ancient Chinese Warfare Ralph D. Sawyer
  • The Roman Empire Economy Society and Culture by Peter Garnesy and Richard Saller 
  • The Roman market Economy by Peter Temin
  • Ancient Mesopotamia New Perspectives by Peter Knight
  • Millet Cultivation in China by Francesca Bray
  • Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece by Victor Davis Hanson
  • Rome at War Farm Family and Death in the Middle Republic by Nathan Rosenstein 
  • History of the ROman Legion (a self published book in google play that is very poorly sourced but aggregates a lot of secondary sources)