Friday, November 17, 2017

Hi from my Hiatus

I have two kids now and I'm trying to turn around the family business, which by experience (of those who know better than me) takes about 3-5 years. So I'm definitely not able to game for the Longest Time - probably in the next 5-8 years.

I hope to be able to Say Hi, time to time from my hiatus.

Some musings.

  1. Following the FB groups about Romans and Medieval groups, the very active ones, I realize the Roman Tech (and thanks to De Agricultura) is pretty much a wealthy source of Low Tech Economics and Business Models to understand the times and the limits. Also they have awesome photo albums or Naval Pictures and Diagrams. 
  2. My Work is giving me inspiration for Games and Games inspire my work (I work as a Director of a Design and Build Furniture and Construction company). Particularly the models and mechanics that let me run a Fun Logistics Puzzle Games, and the uncertainty of human organizations. I work like a prep heavy GM that is unafraid of improv and has a focus on feedback with the players. 
  3. I definitely will need to run Warring States 200-500BCE China. The Diodochi series of Christian Cameron and my Chinese Studies have given me a great appreciation of the Time Before the Roman Empire or the Qin and Han Dynasty.  I'm able to see the Technological Parallels of the Roman Empire and their Eastern Counterparts in a way they are similar with exceptions that can be used to Model other such levels of organization. 
  4. The Human Era 10,000BCE or seeing everything from the perspective of the most Ancient Monuments in Turkey - that we are 12,017HE puts the 200-500BCE the 9500-9800HE. That they Great Bronze Age collapse is just the 8500-8800HE. That humanity may have had other levels of organization from 0HE to what we were able to dig up. That there are still an amazing set of things we are able to do prior to Metallurgy. 
  5. That Aging Penalties were a Buzz Kill that I have to accept now that I'm nearing 40 and i am able to monitor and document the decline of my physical performance. My median performance is more stable and better in some cases, but the limits I can push them have decreased. Its not that I've become weaker -its just I learned how much pointless damage I'm inflicting on my body. That It takes more effort (time in the day) to maintain my health than when I was young and I wasted it. That every excursion (like an airsoft game) is a risk of some injury that will give me pain for a long time, while sitting on my ass and playing something for 4-6 hours straight is not a luxury I can afford (given how my joints and body reacts when not active).  
    1. Basically I learned the long term effects of periods of Youthful exuberance, mindless of safety and the long term costs.  
  6. if I run games again, that it would be 40-50 minutes increments with a Tabata/Pomodoro Timer and have 10-20mins to move around, freshen up, and take notes. My Session planning will be based on those time units. 
    1. I would want to record them all. 
    2. A strategy of Cutting and Editing a Game session for ease of viewing. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Finished Appendix N by Jeffro Johnson

A great read 5/5.

And I  need to sched a sit down reread it:
1) for the jeffro criteria of bad and good rpg elements. I need to nail it down into a criteria for my gaming skills Gdoc.
2) to form a to read list so I can download it all in one sitting. I also need to improve on my author style analysis criteria. So that as I go through the yo read list I capture examples and great portions for analysis, modeling, and methodology development.
A good book for me has actionable knowledge - even if the action is directing me to knowledge. It also has a great criterias to allow me my own judgement and understand underlying assumptions.
I personally like alway checking the source material, always check or make accessible the sources. Having the derivative and originals is a great data point for comparisons.

Personal notes. 

I can relate. I'm born 1979. The guys that got me into gaming were guys 4-5 years older than me. the guys who got them into Gaming were 10-12 years older than me. I got to game with the guys who taught them to game like Bobby Navarro, Nikos Ong, Ben-g Perez etc... These guys were the original group of guys who played in the Baredo Home, during the early 80s when they first brought D&D in the philippines. So I have this weird relationship going half a generation to our senior Gaming Generation. I tried to read what they read, and saw how hey gamed.

Being able to look at the Source Material is always important. Especially when things can be so confusing and derivative and we lose track of inspirations and technique. We lose track of getting better if we can't track where we learned and our mistakes (and the mistakes of others).

After reading it I've set up my library to check out the sources. I love studying author styles, so learning how present day authors learned their techniques and pacing is a great learning experience and opportunity.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Complexity and Details; Bad Benchmarks

In the last Post I talked about how I use The 20 Rules of Formulating Knowledge as a criteria for books and knowledge in general.

I wanted to talk about some pet peeve, particularly Physical limitations. Something I talked about before and can be seen in how I use movement rules to look at how well a game models physical limitations. Now that shit doesnt matter in the grand scheme of things, at the same time details do matter. The whole argument about GURPS and other such crunchy systems is about how to deal with complexity.

This is where 20rffk applies and can make my life in gaming and work so much easier. It helps us by being able to deal with complexity - we are not afraid of it, neither daunted, or bothered in a way that would distract us. It is in mastering how we organized knowledge (what ever note taking system you use) and how we 5S our mind, workspace, or gaming space that allows us to deal with any sort of complexity.

Of course there are details to this thesis. There are Constraints (a term I  use to categorize a group of details that limit actions and goals) to consider.

  • It helps that the Game Book educates or facilitates the learning of being better organized and able to prioritize. That it give knowledge that adheres to the 20rffk - so its saves time and facilitate practice in 
  • That the game book has well defined goals and objectives for the gamers can use for themselves. Something more useful and SMART than FUN.
  • That it teaches how to set up a feedbackloop between the Participants and the Goals.

Call to Action

to deal with Complexity we have to have a foundation of Knowledge acquisition and organization. 

  1. Try to Define your SMART gaming goals. Define and Measure how you and your group, have fun. When you do, you slowly start creating testable criterias. 
  2. Have a Methodology, Communicate that with your Peers or Group, and have feedback loop going. 
  3. Organize your knowledge and feedback, adapt, think and feedback. 

The Distracting Rant I wanted to talk about

Physical Limitations are details worthy of our attention. Physical Education 体育 is one of those things related to First Aid, Being healthy, and understanding the Ethics of Being Healthy. Its one of those Skills that are prerequisite to a healthy and stable society. 

No your character cannot hike 30miles/48km a day carrying 60lbs/27kg for  like a month! Reasonable physical benchmarks have become more accessible each passing year. Its just amazing how a person without lifting skill can pick up 50% their bodymass and not injure themselves. 

You know how often I think of Physical Limitations- EVERY TIME I WORK OUT! EVERYDAY I wonder if I'm permanently injuring myself or making my core stronger so I can do HEMA in 30lbs of gear one day or when I play airsoft  with 20lbs of gear doing encircling maneuvers in hilly terrain with my 38 year old knees against guys under 30. That all my friends are suffering some kind of physical ailment and are trying to do some physical therapy to get over their weaknesses. 

I dont like character physical benchmarks and limitations to be set on SUPER specialized Modern day Olympians. I dont like Physical Limitations that fail to capture what IS remarkable. I don't like setting up the wrong benchmarks - that demotivate people from achieving tangible gains or appreciate every hard won millimeter. 

The same goes with Mental Limitations - my learning Chinese has taught me a lot of what it costs to be able to speak it and read it. That when every company tries to squeeze the productive hours of its employees to the last drop, that what is left is for self-care, family, relationships, and recovery - that there is barely any time or space for personal development. 

To sum it up, I dont like bad benchmarks. I know we make shit up in the fly but when more realistic benchmark comes up, lets be ready to adapt to a better model. We go through game mechanics the way we go through apps, games, movies, tv shows, etc.... Its a tiny detail - its wrong, but it annoys me to no end because everyday mandarin at broken has added up to more than 600 manhours. That just eating right takes about hundreds of hours of Tries, failed experiments, and going too far. That there is a lot of Human Experience behind some bad numbers. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

How I use the 20rffk to evaluate RPG books.

The 20 rules of formulating knowledge violates its own rules. I'm spoiling for anyone who hasn't read this and removing the chance to have this awesome discovery. When you realize it violates itself, then you may realize that it becomes the first exercise of the 20rffk.

Going back to TRPGs, below is the simplified version of the 20rffk.

  1. Understandable. 
  2. Simplified.
  3. Organized.
  4. Engaging. 

#5 User Friendly. Does it give me all the tools that saves me time to run my game. In one prep session can I print out all the tools? Tables, Character Sheets, Rule References, Flow Charts etc...

My Methodology

Basically this is Auditing, we check against something, typically criteria or SMART goals
  1. Take note of Violations to the 5 point criteria.
  2. Taken note when they go out of their way to explain further. If they use more than one way to explain a point and they used one of the 5 point criteria. 
  3. Take note when I don't understand. 

The 20 rules of formulating knowledge Simplified to 4 points.


1 Understand to learn.* (Do not learn if you do not understand)
2 Learn before you memorize
3 Build on the Basics

*my favored methodology is always to frame as an action and detail as a constraint. 


3 Build on the Basics
4 Use the minimum information principle
5 Simplify and make discrete each bit of knowledge (originally Cloze deletion is easy and effective)
6 Use Imagery. It takes some visual planning and design to formualte what images help engage the audience as well as serve a learning tool. Rarely do game writer work with their designers for visual learning aids the focus more on engagement. 
7 Use Mnemonic Techniques
12 Optimize Wording


8 Use formulas, models, or definition (originally Avoid Sets). instead of creating a set and filling in the elements of the set, just use a formula to describe the category. 
Chunk Information (Originally Avoid enumeration; chunking means keeping this 2-4 bits long)
11 Track Interference (Originally Combat Interference)
12 Optimize Wording
18 Provide Sources
17 #3 and always create a link to the basics (originally Redundancy does not contradict the minimum information principle)
19 All relevant accessible and referenced. (original Provide Date stamping. in the case of TRPGs, create a way for people to see all the relevant topics under a category like the See Also section in wikipedia. this is for the purpose of updates, errata, and other such added details that accumulate over time)
20 Prioritize.


6 Use Imagery
7 Make discrete Imagery notes, while keeping a holistic view (Graphic deletion is as good as cloze deletion)
13 Give tools for Personalization (Originally Refer to others memories; the best way to create tools for personalization is knowing your audience)
14 Personalize and Provide Examples. (allow the audience to be able to personalize)
15 Rely on Emotional States
16 Context cues simplify wording

Goals and Objectives

A strong relationship with our audience, even those who don't agree with us or have the same preferences. A methodology and process can be critiqued and communicated to other people. It creates a basis to align our perspectives as well as to allow us to include the perspectives of others. 

Assuming (Criteria, Goals and Objectives, and Methodology) is where a lot of miscommunication begins. Its better to have it all out and written for feedback than to not write it and make incorrect assumptions.  


What caused me to write this is the argument about knowledge complexity. The 20rffk helped create a method of measuring complexity. I will post more on bridging the Gap of Audience and Product in the future. But this post and the related post are the basics.

Inaccessible Knowledge is knowledge that cannot be used or enjoyed. Everything learned occupies space (in its written form) and time, and it all adds up to make things more complicated and complex as to be inaccessible. If we are very connected with our audience and empathic of their circumstance we can overcome the Isolationist tendency of being in an Ivory tower with our knowledge.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

When the line of my Characters and me blur

So I'm a min maxer, also known as a munchkin, and the goal of looking for the optimal character combination went a bit too far or it can be said that it was not far enough.

Hey my character does something cool, why can't I do that? 

At first we say its fantasy, but then we research on line for precedents and other examples and then it doesnt seem so far and fantasy anymore. By accident, I started doing the first part of Problem Solving: I started gathering information and asking questions.

I can Change me.

Have a munchkin/min-maxer and you have someone who's mastered the ability to twist and justify any rational for an advantage. Someone who can start believing the mix of half truths and distorted perspectives they used to justify their character. After all its Role-playing and this is just another thing to pretend. 

But my Character kicks ass, his world view and skills are engaging. I like playing and pretending in doing the things I believe he does to maintain his ability as no ability exists in a vacuum. So I study, work out a little, track how I use time, calculate and evaluate my options. 

I am how I spend my time. 

If who I am is by my actions then what do I do? 

Hour/Week Character Points. Get a Guestimation of how much time do I spend doing stuff per week. If am how I spend my time then I know what I am by how I spend my time. You don't need to even go into great detail, you just need to be honest and it can be a honest secret of secrets.

Wow my character sucks balls. But wait, I've played mundanes before. What kind of gamer would I be if I couldn't manage this character?

Engagement and Empathy

My character is human. He has limitations, biases, and motivations. A challenge to overpowered would not just bankrupt him, but can demoralize him, and permanently alter the cost of improvement and his life. He has to be able to engage with the Challenges he faces. He has to be able to really believe he can change his mind, that he is not some hapless NPC that will stubbornly be in denial of actual conditions that conflicts with what they assume or believe. Maybe I can throw some of that Empathy to others and myself. 

30 hours a week working, 3 hours a week on health, 10 hours a week studying, 10 hours a week distracted, 50 hours a week sleeping, 2 hours a week on grooming, the rest on family and household (50+ hours). No time much for friends or socializing.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Studying Authors' Writing Style

I need to create a good method of researching an Author's writing style. here is my draft process:

  1. Google/Search Author's Writing Style
    1. (Needs a list of key words and terms to try)
  2. Dump them all in the Gaming Skills Doc as references for processing. Typically I slowly work my way through them. 
  3. Proceed to draft and model one of the aspects of the storyteller's style.
    Note: I can't get the OVERALL style, I can only comment a piece of the authors style like the blind men and the elephant
    1. Categories tend to follow Pacing. 
      1. Immersion, Setting Expectations. 
      2. Hooks, Building up to Climax, Complications, Escalation of Conflict. Cliff Hangers  
      3. Pivoting, Twists, Deflecting, etc...
      4. Closure.
  4. Sort and Collect a number of Author Styles for evaluation into TRPG storytelling. 

Started on Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I notice the author works with a lot of complex elements and pleasant distractions. He can hammer at your attention with one two punches of descriptives that lean but filling for your imagination. Then when your attention is saturated he pivots the story into directions that surprise and engage.

When I compare him to my favorite author - Jim Butcher uses more modern memes to embed a lot of meaning with a few words while Christian Cameron uses a lot of athletic, logistic, and military immersive detail to draw my attention.

I have a Hypothesis that Storytellers need to be armed with all the various ways to describe key Interest point. It can be either Logistics, Geometry of Combat, Athletics, Attention, Beauty, Nature, Cities, etc... That one can use the 20rffk to create a methodology of describing one and another, and that some methods can carry over to another field/specialty.

Narrative Combat - describing Combat Geometry, and Physical Movements of Fighting and Time are one of the methodologies I want to help detail.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gaming Skill List Update: Redefining Goals

The original goal of the Gaming Skill list was that it was a place to dump knowledge useful to gaming. It typically drew from a lot of places. One favorite use was Rules of thumb or Heuristics we used in Work Operations and Daily life.

The Document has gone through some changes that mirror my professional training and my general education. Particularly in Process Systems Engineering, Language Studies, and my experience at work and life.

Process Systems and Project Management is teaching me to better organize information in a way that it can be acted on, replicated, taught, and communicated.

My mandarin studies was a revelation about Spaced Repetition System and Active Recall Testing. It has influenced the document in how it is possible to train in Storytelling, Improv, Problem Solving, and Analysis Techniques. That is why Its being reorganized in a way that the Techniques can be made into a Flashcard for SRS.

Another revaluation was the GMless Game. The GMless game is an inspiration because it means that the work is trully shared and everyone has the duty and responsibility to Uplift the other person's story and experience in the game. Its one of the things I learned from Transformational Leadership. That real transformational leadership transforms a group that they don't need a leader to organize and rise to aid each other to make something greater than the sum of its parts.  That everyone takes a role adapting to the situation, everyone may have their strengths, but they are cross trained and coordinated to mitigate each other's weaknesses. I know that there needs to be some accountability placed on some individuals and all those tiny little details and constraints in how such a transformational team works out but i wont go into the long rambling thesis of it.

Current Challenges in the Document is organizing some of the Self Improvement and Study Aids into it. The Document serves to help gamers, like myself, be better at creating a collaborative game experience by having more skills and tools for them to create an immersive experience (analysis techniques and storytelling techniques for delivery), compelling action (through problem solving techniques, and again storytelling techniques), and a way to feedback and work on one's weaknesses or work towards a strength.

One underlying philosophy of the Gaming Skill list is that - its System Agnostic Approach to improving our gaming experience. That our skills in collaboration, storytelling, problem solving and improv has the BIGGEST impact on game experience relative to the time we put in.


How this document is supposed to be used.

  1. Technique or Heuristics
    1. Basic Description of Technique (if Needed)
    2. How it is used (Process of the Technique which follow 20rffk)
    3. Examples
    4. References or Sources
    5. Description at Length
  2. Definitions or Knowledge
    1. Basic Description
    2. How it is Used
    3. Example of Use
    4. References or Sources
  3. Activity
    1. Basic Description
    2. How it is Used
    3. Example of Use
    4. Reference or Sources

Organization and Categories

Running Games

All the knowledge that deals with Running the Game.


Deals with the Player’s Ideation and collaboration. Skills and abilities in collaborating with other players tend to default to here.   


Deals with Player’s Narrative Delivery and Structure.  

Problem Solving

Deals with skills and techniques that help identify or define the everything around the creation of conflict and its resolution. Like course of action, challenges, problems, risks, constraints, strengths, weaknesses etc....   


These are all the time consuming activities that can’t be done while running the game.

World Building

Deals with techniques and Knowledge that Populate the setting, world, or provides backdrop or background to the game. Warfare, Politics, Economics, Technology, Culture, Language, etc… default under this category.


Deals with methodologies of training, studying, and improving one’s “game”.