Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blog Update: Out of Prescheduled Posts and Hibernation

Hey guys, It seems that work has caught up and I can't update regularly for the while. Can't post regularly, probably just post some game sessions updates, but I don't know how my schedule will be until after Feb.

I will fulfill my obligations of running 5 sessions of sins of the crusade. (enough sessions until the VERY busy December), anyway I really want to RP and have fun while obligations can still be held at bay.

Its October, and November is filled with work and social obligations for Xmass prep, and Jan and Feb is the coolest and best season to go around the Philippines. Then there is plant OSHAS and ISO certification I have to focus on, and the bosses moved up the timeline :(. Then there is having no Nanny, and getting around to finding a DOLE (dept. of labor and employment) certified agency is just one more ball to juggle when I dont know how to juggle.

If ever I will be posting in "Trying to Game Work" blog since my brain will be filled with problem solving / gaming these challenges and blogging is still my "VENT" and way for me to constructively deal with my frustration.

There is a chance that this will be changing a bit more as I shift to Heavy Combat/Sparring, Airsoft, Fitness, and Community building, and various gamed personal improvement... when that happens I guess I'll have the time to meditate if I "turn in" my RPG bloggers "card" as I've would have gone off the reservation. My only claim to RPGs would be the Open RPG system i plan to set up based on the research I make for these hobbies.

Change and Age, I kinda accepted it and the trade offs long ago. Its hard to sustain things when so many things need our attention: family, work, friends, and curiosity.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Game Updates

Sins of the Crusades is running a second season. Unfortunately I have a big schedule problem, since we lost the nanny, and its kinda time consuming getting a replacement, I have to run my game earlier, in Philippine Time (GMT+8, or EST+12) thats 6am-10am. Although I can run it as early as 5am-9am. Unfortunately in EST that translates to 5pm which is still within the work hours of the guys over there, and people usually are available at 7-8pm because of travel and other chores. (uggg)

I'm running Games, and work is now more time consuming. My Gaming related hobbies have gotten more intensive. Like many gamers who are hitting 40s and up migrating hobbies to be more athletic is what is going to happen. Sitting down to game has to be more efficient and bang for buck, which is why I can't seem ever go back to Face to Face from the convenience and flexibility of Online (when schedules go to heck, Online has the least frustration).

Airsoft is my current "more Athletic Gaming", I plan to get into Heavy Combat as well. The rise and popularity of HEMA is helping have more ideas, best practices, and equipment available.

What happens to my Face to Face gaming Accessories, is that they become re-purposed for my son.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gaming and Visualization

There is a study about Visualization and Learning [1] and Mindfulness Meditation [2] that seems to a pretty good mental tool for learning and mental exercise (I'm listing the sources, the MM is in the wiki article that has the sources there).

To the point, it helps to visualize and immerse with your imagination all the details and sensory assumptions about what you plan to hone. To me this gets crazy when I game and when I zone out in a run. Details and nuances appear and come to clear focus and I act, in my mind, a bit faster and more intuitively. In a game, I'm able to draw more details out in the scene that may be relevant in capturing a deeper immersion or realistic feel.

It helps also learn a bunch of skills more quickly as well, but note that its poorer in currency than actual play... where the Hack comes is applying opportunistic use of idle time. Now this is where the mindfulness meditation comes in. The ability to meditate or zone out to mental places where you can be more productive with your time is a alternate use of the meditation skill.

Disclaimer. This is a pretty hypothetical hack and its really hard to observe and test any of the factors and products. Then there is confirmation bias and placebo effect to consider. 

Though if I find my mind wandering, and it happens to be visualizing at great FPS and HD quality I may want to visualize myself doing things I want to do in greater effectivity. Currently trying to remember all my old Kali skills from WAAAAAY back highschool and college days. Hoping that one day we can have Heavy Combat here in the Philippines.

[1] Schmidt and Wrisberg, Motor Learning and Performance 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[Open RPG notes] Narrative Fact , Yes-And, and Yes-But

Basically some definitions.

I broke down Player Agency into some conceptual units - Fact, Yes-And, Yes-but, Gambit/Gamble. It is in my Definitions, adding more of the 3rd Gen conventions and concepts in the ORPG.

Player Agency allows players to make Narrative Facts about their Characters within the consensus of the rules and its assumptions, while the GM makes narrative facts about the world (same exception applies: consensus with rules sand its assumptions). Facts about the Character, the GM can only Yes-and or apply rules and their consequences (like the character takes damage or is afflicted with a psychological condition).

The GM wants to afflict a character, he has to go through the Player and the convention of the rules - He has an NPC attack the PC or a Boulder falls on the character. Narrative Facts don't just Happen to PCs, the Player has conventions in the form of Defense, a chance to protect himself. 

An important concept is the procedural - that Players have agency over their character but it doesnt mean their character is immortal or cannot "Play along". The Rules act as implied convention. Without going deep into Philosophy - we are all telling a story and playing a game, every action can be reacted.

Dangerous Facts. With every Action, there is a Re-action or unintended consequences.  What if the Player can turn a fact on the GM or another player. When a player reacts - making his defense, his perception roll, etc... what if he can make a Gamble, take the opportunity to sacrifice odds of success in return of being able to make more Facts.

NPC misses, creating an opening. Dodges the Boulder while pushing another Character in its path. 

Fact, Narrative (Fact)

Simply this is something declared as fact and true in an RPG. As a Fact, it has to be consistent through out the game, and accepted by everyone. A fact cannot be changed without some narrative justification – which means GM and Players play out the fact. But the Fact is also subject to details and more specificity.

A fact affecting any "Character" gives that Character a chance to resist. An Attack is an example Action, and Narrative Fact, that is trying to affect another Character. The character resists, with his defense.

This distinction becomes important when the Player or GM makes Gambles/Gambits, sacrificing their odds for success to have more control over the outcome. GMs also bribes Players with rewards to alter their Facts. 

Many game system mechanics automate and simplify the informing of all those playing of various results, consequences and facts. These can be “altered” or “specified” by more Facts that come into play. RPG is a game of consequences, and many rules work to provide consequences to actions - the more consequences the more options for actions. 

Exception: Characters can react and counter Narrative Facts - PC or NPC. 
Limiting Facts: The only limit is the ability of a Character (a humanized concept) can attempt to counter or resist a fact imposed on it.  


Yes-And means the GM or Player agrees with the stated Narrative Fact and adds another dimension to the fact. Basically countering with another Fact, which may complicate or compliment. It depends on the narrative. Adventures are always filled with complicating “facts” and consequences to actions.


Yes-But means the GM can agree with the Narrative Fact on a condition. Unlike Yes-And, Yes but gives either the GM or Player the ability to turn down a Narrative Fact.
At default the GM has this power but players can have this when they make and win a Gamble/Gambit.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Experimental Game Hypothesis - Mental Health Care

Gin no Saji aka Silver Spoon gave me an idea of how Cognitive Dissonance can be healthy. The anime is about farming, and dwelt on the internal conflict of being a farmer - taking care of animals and killing them to make a living and eating them. Doubt is a virtue in some Philosophical disciplines which I wont go in to.

Today's (at the time I wrote this) morbid reality (reddit thread) got me thinking of declining Mental Health Care in many countries (looking at my own country the anecdotes of spiraling depression, debt and death seems to grow and the current traditional coping mechanisms, which is to brush it aside to buy time, does not work).

Since I'm a gamer typically I research and build the data into a narrative for it to make sense. Particularly the horror is tackling Mental Health Care. I'm imagining an investigation following the closing of many such care facilities, following the lives of these people which needed this system, and how it affects the psyche of a community as this psychosis is transmitted by the consequences of their actions. Madness, as a source of fear for the Players, is tackled in Kenneth Hite's GURPS Horror, and a bit in Lisa J. Steele's GURPS Mysteries (GURPS Mysteries and Horror is for any game system methodology and exposure to them will definitely arm the GM with more options and techniques in greater player engagement)

One can basically have a mystery where players are caught in the middle of the ethical dilemma that pulls in many directions (which is par for the course in engaging games). Particularly when they deal with "bad" people who are not "bad". When people are not simplified to good or bad, when there are "redeeming" qualities and juxtaposed with their inhumane vices. If the players want they can choose to have blinders and only to follow anecdotal evidence, but then the GM presents a subtle contrary evidence to mess it all up. (Typically the GM presents a biased view of non-verifiable evidence and testimony, vs the muddy uncertainty of facts in plain sight that follows a chain of evidence against the motivations of the players/ or the conclusions PCs are not suited to deal with)

The GM can prepare from a Web of various spinets, stories of decent into madness and depression of various peoples (there is many to be found online). It would be pretty dark, with no real villain except that the symptom manifest in some disturbing crimes and practices that are accepted in the community and kept hush. Willing Ignorance, Stockholm syndrome, Popular Opinion, and various cognitive landscapes/terrain that hamper most of the advance of the PCs. If the PCs are strangers, give them Isolation, if they are part of the community put them in a warm friendly bubble.

As for take away of the players would be the empathy and the awareness of situation - and a case study method of practicing player skills in Problem Solving (get ready for having no audience lolz).

Another is the GM risk a lot in narrating such a story as their intention can be misinterpreted/misunderstood. The GM will emphasize in the horrific and the disturbing for dramatic effect (duh), and present biased and callous information regarding everyday common place bigotry, abuse, and harassment (I'm a GM who won't risk reputation in running such a game unless its with friends who know me personally and trust me). Which is can be misinterpreted so easily, and triggering many to say the GM is just expressing his "real nature" lolz.

The GM applying a lot of penalties when PCs are in heightened paranoia (and trade off bonuses), checks to sleep, and role-playing many of the costs of being in such a situation (the cost of trust). Since its a game, the GM may grant many cognitive bonuses to morale when the PCs pursue stable and healthy emotions, relationships and attachments. Just realize a GM who basically put weight on the decision of a PCs to be friends with X and showing trust lolz. Definitely there are going to be too few people who would want to play such a game (mostly the morbidly curious).  But in such a game, there are times when even bonuses are not enough and the unlikely success happens, everyone rolls to see how things turn out.

 1 session is not enough and is just the Pilot episode. Just 2 sessions would be momentum going, and 3rd will be emotionally draining for everyone.

edited for clarity and painful to read grammar :(

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fallacies and Biases: Attacking the Source and not the Argument.

My brother loves DnD 4e, and I've not run as much games in 4e as he has. So I'll take his word over it even I have the same impressions as many people who dont see it as good because of it. Unless I really run a lot of games about it I can't really be all that objective about it.
The system I currently use, GURPS 4e, you will hear me bitch and whine about it (in a very constructive way).

Again the bias of who said what. Trying to over come that. Poisoning the Well, Courtiers Reply, and a couple more Fallacies deal with the source vs the argument - which makes then a fallacy. It should be because my friend or brother said so - of course the reason why I take their word over others is the assumption of Good Faith. Still, I believe one can assume good faith even with strangers.

It doesn't mean be gullible BTW, there is still the Burden of Proof and Proper or a Clear Thesis needed. When people over generalize, which is mostly the case (ex. of a bad form is the "begging the questionDid Warrior Women Exist is a classic example of Poor thesis, lack of a clear thesis, Over generalization, shifting goal posts, and, lacking burden of proof and then some lolz*)  You will notice that a Proper Thesis is basically the Steel Man approach to argument, which is cited as the best way to have an exchange of ideas. Asking for a Steel Man Thesis is a very good sign of good faith... and this is where arguments can happen - Give me a Steel man, heck give me your steel army - but remember if we don't agree in definitions this process will end.

And another note, never argue with someone you cannot quote back what they say (especially while you, yourself can be quoted). Funny also is when they can't quote you and they say you implied such but they can't quote you by what you said that made the implication uggg sigh.

And as all my friends did say - its the Internet, never assume Good Faith. Actually in a pragmatic Game Theory kind a way, yes they are right. In any game that allows for Free Riders  then there will always be Free Riders, or there will be those that will Exploit the system deriving maximum utility with no care for repeated participation. (if there are no free riders, then there must be another element in the game not factored correctly)

I try to have the energy to argue because I'm afraid of being too set in my ways to be able to change my mind when reason and evidence are presented to me. This goes for Gaming as well, I have a hard time when I have no counter point perspective of someone else - with different goals, perspective and ideas - to remind me of my own biases. The accommodation style of gaming ideally allows me to differences while being able to bring them all into a narrative everyone can enjoy.

I get it - when you have so many responsibilities and obligations, who has time to argue (only the young). But like in how we fit our obligations with real life duties, we find a way.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Selective Humanization

Humanization and Dehumanization is something we exercise a lot in RPGs. We humanize our characters, our NPCs, and Allies, and we dehumanize enemies and other characters in order to simplify the problem solving and the context of the situation. (Humanism is a philosophical stance that can be religious or secular)

Story Tellers, players or GMs, play around with this Humanizing and Dehumanizing their surrounding NPCs. Gms and story tellers like to challenge the players or audience by Humanizing Villains, and Dehumanizing allies and the victims of the characters actions (to see if they will continue to abuse these victims).

The strange narrative that is found online in recent events talks about dehumanization, particular of women (see Objectification). Although I don't like to limit it just to gender, but like to observe its selectivity in poverty, nationality, ethnicity, and even online.

The funny thing about dehumanization is that "good" people do it to "sociopaths" dehumanizing sociopaths/psychopaths. Treating someone as disposable because they do not fit our own standard of morality. Then there is Animal Rights and applying Humanization or Humanism to being we cannot fully understand but we discover little by little can feel as much as us.

Its a really complex topic, and RPGs are a great vehicle by which we can explore the issues... especially when there is good faith among those participating.

One thing you have to note about Dehumanization is that it happens internally, and it can become a common practice among a group of individuals. You cannot really measure it, or say one thing dehumanizes X or Y. Which leads me to an annoying point is that - you cannot have an Authority call for what dehumanizes in such a simple call - especially when there is colorful rhetoric instead of bland and neutral analysis.

I love flowery words as much as an audience, but to maintain good faith I need to describe things in sanitary and measurable terms. Especially in a matter as tricky and confusing as Dehumanization. My fear, which was realized, is that it can be used as a form of "Heresy" - an arbitrary excuse that can be called upon to incite fears to set on another person the Burden of Proving Good Faith - instead of just by the merit of the argument.

What is a bad sign for me is that I can only talk to my friends about these maters, because they can vet me and know I mean well when I ask. Although that should not be the primary measure of discussion - instead  what should be focused on the argument. Many Fallacies are based on Poisoning the Well or Attacking the Credibility of the person who asks, Guessing their intent instead of looking at the Question/Argument/Thesis.

Dehumanization and Humanization is a great metric to measure our own biases. it can be simplified as a basic system of ratings. How people dehumanize minorities, slaves, poverty, cultural enemies, etc... How they humanize their peers, ideological compatriots, countrymen, etc... its a simple tier system and grouping. I like exploring it in game, and testing the selectivity of characters (as the Players internalize them).

As we humanize interesting connections arise, we connect to something we may know little about - the way propaganda tries to make people connect with its leaders despite how disconnected they really are from each other - or how people that are suffering the same tragedies are all connected but may be in opposite ends of the conflict.

We humanize people with the mental disability in empathy, but we dehumanize sociopaths/psychopaths. Can you humanize your predator or abuser? lolz anyway I wanted to pointed that this is fun aspect of RPing. happy gaming.

Open Humanization System

Break down society in Gender, Wealth, Ethnicity, Race, Religion, Profession, Nation, etc... Along these groups there is a hierarchy, one is "subjectively" better than the other. For every step or category someone is different, that counts as a modifier to how the PC humanizes or dehumanizes another person.

So a PC has a Social Position - where he is in society, if society was a map and the differences were locals. The farther the another person is in the Society map, the less they can care about this person. Empathy is the Highways or Worm Holes or Warp Gates of Humanization lolz.

Then we set what is Neutral and what is Positive, then negative. Neutral is 0, what counts as 0 is almost arbitrary. Typically the minimalist relation - their culturally related individual. Then we proceed to be negative as we go farther, and positive as we go closer. Examples found on the character sheet in the form of their "relations".

Notice how this Falls in the Hyperbolic Discounting but in Relationships instead of Utility.

A diety is the highest possible Humanization rating. Since it is a projection of one's self, the humanization of an Ideal or Diety grants great influence over the character. This can be used as an external influence - for devotion or even Fanaticism, or rallying for a Cause.

This also aids in dehumanizing as well, which history is rife with examples.
You can always use a Diety as an excuse or a cause to rally behind because it appeals to the most humanized being the person knows.  This can be used in many ways, often exploitative (abuse is a dominant strategy of utility maximization).

Lolz. basically people who don't trust them selves are those with the least influenced by this Mnemonic, while those very sure of them selves are the most influenced by this form of leverage.
This mnemonic can exceed the natural instinct of self preservation by making the self an external element - seeing ones self of very low value and the claim of a greater value outside ones' self.