Thursday, March 5, 2015

GURPS Houserules: No more double pay, Households, Relationships

Houserules I had to make to organize my game better and keep with the setting and immersion.

No Double Pay

In the GURPS FAQ there is a question about "Should I pay for Advantages Gained during Play?" Note that the wording is "up to the GM", but GMs still follow this rule for fear of power creep (see below). This leads to a whole can of worms being opened. This is because GURPS has quantified everything to points, relationships and stuff have a point value.

So if the PC gained a household as a reward he may need to pay for the status and wealth for it? The safe choice which doesn't look at the situation carefully: Yes. But to make an informed choice we look at Power Creep.

This rule also really breaks immersion and is problematic when you consider that a Gain is never a gain if you have to pay for it. It just doubles the cost and worse is that when the PC/Player has to lose it because he doesnt have the points. Not really good game design.

As with this system, Nothing is really permanent - you can gain and lose. Like HP just track it the same way. Some days you have a lot, some you have little. Early on the GM can establish that abilities and skills can be lost - failure to practice, injuries, and what occupies our attention slowly wears away on our abilities and the things we cannot take care off.

Change Wealth Rules: Collecting Households 

I had to dismantle the GURPS wealth rules and break it up. I now just focus on Sources of Wealth. Ive limited it to Filthy Rich for character start up and after such I wont put any points behind it. I dont want to put a Point Cost to Trebizoid, Constantinople, Izmir etc.. Because these are made up of smaller households and other parts that can be broken up and redistributed. Its simpler to just count in "households". So much simpler and easy to keep track of, which makes you realize why economists and how ancient administrators always simplify to households.

So basically I award or take away households. I'm shifting the entire Mass Combat System to be viewed in Households (the smallest and basic household). levels of efficiency changes and is rolled for.

Collecting Households/Holdings/ Fiefs is apples to oranges aka Incomaperables (power creep 3:51). They are different from CP and they have limits to what they can do for the PC.  In GURPS wealth is exponentially gained every level, which is not how it works at a certain wealth point in the setting. Malik Shah and Alexius are not the "Same" or not in the same "wealth bracket" that the system sees them as equal. Its better to just simplify them in by their "Holdings"/Principalities/Fiefs (parenthesis the number of households they are equivalent).

When Alexius lost Anatolia, he lost households and its weirder to impose some strange abstraction on his wealth. Its just simpler to add or subtract households.

Any Game System. You can take the Households = Revenues rule to any game system. It was a rule of thumb of ancient administrators, no one owns it feel free to use it. Feel free to design around it. Just make the assumptions of how much the mode average household generates after its own expenses it contributes to its  overlord. Wealthier households have some more efficiency and other households working under it.

Relationships: Allies are those with Loyalty 15. 

it should have been discussed in Allies and Contact rules, but I'll clear it up. The loyalty rules can make up for relationship scores. If the PC has created a relationship that lasts then they've gained an ally. Simply introducing them or giving them a relationship where they can talk and meet and arrange deals makes them a Contact. These are things the PC does not need to pay for and the GM should reward because these are also Incomparables - they have some maintenance cost and impose its own diminishing returns and complexities - relationships change with every other relationship and people can only juggle so much.

Relationships Scores are OLD and in many games. It should be emphasized a bit more since it brings relationships to light and focuses on managing them (Yeah sounds like a manager or a leadership seminar topic). You can use it on any game system, and simply using the systems scoring standard would be good enough.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back to Basics: Non-Binary Consequences

Here are tools to use non-binary consequences to further the game. If you're worried about gamist choices is being encouraged this should muddy up the the matter nice and messy. Continued from Empathy is the Goal.

A lot of the results found in the tables alter the success with some minor problems - problems that are distracting and a nuisance. They also give use unexpected costs, consequences and opportunity costs. This, hopefully, let's players learn the mindset of managing their own expectations.

The failures are also altered, with unexpected costs being avoided and failures letting us see opportunities where we did not see any before. In the failed roll players can force a success at a greater cost than they may be capable of paying.

In the end the system seeks to have more incomparables that push the story forward, the Players feel that even if the RP a decision it doesnt mean the game ends prematurely.

Limited use per player and per session. Its just a great way for a Stumped GM to push the story forward when success or failure ends the session or game or story sooner than ideal.

Note: Characters Weak Aspects can be further informed to the GM by a simple Time Allocation method which will be tackled in a later post. A simpler method than a time sheet.

Non-Binary Consequences Tables

This is a table to roll for 
Roll 2d6Chance

Minor Problems. A simple formula for a minor problem is to take any detail and make it a problem. An example is "For want of the nail". It's disruptive and breaks climax, it fouls moods, it blinds sides the Players - Which is how the GM should use them. Its exercise for the GM's thinking and a test of the Players ability to mentally shift gears.

The way this works is to take any detail, and the GM considers what is the easiest and simplest way to over come it. Typically delegation, throwing money at the problem, owing a favor or debt and other tactics the players can creatively think off, is the quick way to solve it.

Minor problems are small and should not occupy a lot of time but they can grow and a source of complexity in how the PCs choose to solve it. It should be almost a side note, depending on how creatively the Players can think through it.

Some minor problems arent really problems but nuisances. Think of the objective of the task or role, and just imagine some distraction to the task. Something that may seem important but it isn't. Nuisances typically are more visible and aggregating attention more than what it can cause.

Another kind of minor problem are fingerprints. These are clues or connections that can be collected that lead to the PC or connect them to a certain event, association, group, or object that can mean trouble when certain people have access to it.

A situation can have multiple minor problems or the GM can have one recurring minor problem (something like a running joke).

Challenges. Challenges are mentioned and refers to any tasks, problems, hurdles, objectives, etc... that was resolved or lined up to be resolved. Successes can be undone, while other ongoing challenges can be

Roll 2d6Partial Success Consequences 1d6
21-2)  Misplaced Credit. the credit of the success is diffused or misplaced among people or factors. most people think the character had nothing to do with it. There is word spreading the character is wrongfully getting credit for it. The characters has a hard time proving their work.
3-4)  A sacrifice for success. If the PC is busy or overloaded in some way give him the option of having to drop something valuable in exchange for this success. Otherwise the success is temporary or alleviates the problem partially.
5-6) Double Damned. Roll twice more. The first roll is only on the 3-4 result, the second is in the 5-7 result. 
3-41-2) Bad Timing. The timing of the success is off. It comes a late enough to cause a Minor problem.  that can come back to bite the PCs. Example would be that a deadline has come and the negative consequences are wrecking minor havoc.
3-4) At great cost. The cost of the success is *1d3+1 more than expected. If the cost is more than the PC can pay, the PC accidentally uses up someone's resources and they come to collect. This is a bit harder to resolve than a Minor Problem, consider it a minor problem that grows fairly quickly per session. OR It took more than what the PC expected out of him, the PC is spent. The PC needs to rest or suffers serious penalties when participating in other actions. If the Player decides the PC to rest, you may let a minor problem lapse in his absence.
5-6) Opportunity Cost. Create an Opportunity this success closes off. it has to be a worthwhile opportunity with a real gain. This opportunity presents itself as the character succeeds. The PC has the option to fail, failing that will trigger a Partial Failure consequence, that is automatically shifted to a worse result by one step.
5-71-2) That Escalated Quickly - The success makes the next challenge much harder, and more at stake, more to gain, and with little time to prepare.
3-4) More Problems. The success uncovers a bunch of minor problems. Roll 1d6+1 minor problems pop up.
5-6) Unwanted Attention. The the success has attracted unwanted attention. Someone who will use Deception or force on the PC to extract such services make contact with the PC. Make an existing NPC more resourceful and adversarial, but this matter can be resolved in a session. 
8-91-2) Conundrum. 1d6 minor problems show up as a result of the success. Failure to handle the matter effectively grows the minor problems every session. Solving them grants the PC resources or aid to resolve future minor problems. The PC is free to ignore them and sweep them under the rug. Ignoring all of them adds 1d6 more problems in the next session.
3-4) Repeat Success. A unique and special result came of the PCs attempt. Any attempt to repeat the success at the exact and unique manner is very hard and will require significant investment of time and resources. Failure to replicate will bring some disdain and disappointment all around, from the overlord to peers whose expectations rose to highly. The PC can attempt to manage expectations early, if they are quick enough before the expectations snow ball.
If the PC does not follow up the success and manages the expectations, someone will offer some minor reward in return for insight about the matter. If the PC accepts, some one almost replicates the success next session and diminishes the PCs standing from it, even brings some question if the PC really performed it. If the PC did not take the reward the replication is even better than the PCs initial efforts.
5-6) Apprenticeship.  The success gains the PC an apprentice, either their lord wants more of what the PC has to offer or someone admires the PCs competence and wants to be Apprentice. This person is incompetent and has some complicating factors - the Lord who assigned it is always waiting on improvements who seeks to capitalize on the new apprentice or the People who see or talk to the apprentice creating high expectations - creating more apprentices or putting the PC against his Peers.  
10-111-2) Thrust to Greatness. The Character is fast tracked in his career or path. Gain responsibilities and duties he may not be prepared for. More enemies and rivals show up, people begin to talk about him. While people are mostly undecided many have opinions are plenty and varied, and problematic.
3-4) too valuable a prize. The PC's reward for success is a price that is very hard to keep. Typically something that has a high maintenance cost, like a great Warhorse, A company of savage warriors, valuables too heavy and hard to move, land many want to contest or take, affection of someone who makes many dangerously envious.
5-6) Honors and Duties. The reward is honors that test the character's flaws and weaknesses. A greedy character is awarded the watch over a purse, a lusty character awarded care of a household where his master has a lusty dependent, etc.. basically a match that will end up in much greater failure and a test of the character's weaknesses vs his duties and honor. 
121-2) Fame! the circumstance of this success changes into one that happens to have many things hanging on it. The success of the PC becomes stuff of legend and may see him as a hero, but this is polarized by many who see the success exaggerated and accident. The reputation of success grants a good reaction to people, but the many who have the contrary opinion challenge and see every fault of the charcter. The character does all wrong. Like a celebrity that is deconstructed and demolished for being in the center of attention.
3-4) Burning Bright! The success increases in scope, gains, and attention. The character gains a minor bonus, 1d6 (dont tell the Player, just say he's in the zone). This bonus persists if the PC escalates the challenge, and takes more risks and puts more at stake. If the PC does not maintain this momentum, the bonus disappears, a Big Problem, Rival, or Enemy enters the scene and will try neutralizes the PC and make him fall farther down. He will end up with less than what he started with.

Roll 2d6Partial Failure Consequences 1d6
21-2) A disheartening failure. the other PCs have their partial failure and success consequences shifted to a step worse for the session.
3-4) A mark of failure. The player gains a permanent physical mark regarding the failure. A scar, a permanent wound, the inability to do a minor task (play an instrument, carry his maximum load, run for his max speed at half the duration he normally can, etc...).
5-6) Weakness revealed. Characters who have no relationships or personal weaknesses let something slip. They utter a name, of someone who can severely distract them, a memory so strong it can serve as a talisman to make the PC weaker (distracted). Ask the player for a name, any name. If there are enemies in their presence they will learn something.
PCs with relationships, roots or family, will have family seeking them. it may be the failure bringing a loved one to the PC out of concern. This puts the loved one in harms way.  
3-41-2) More Drama. The failure causes 1d3+1 Minor Problems of a social conflict nature to be revealed. This is actually an opportunity where the PC can improve their relationships or gain a relationship if he takes the time to deal with them. Offer the opportunity to walk away from the problem, causing only one of the NPCs to have a deteriorated relationship with the PC.
3-4) A long night Ahead. Add to the failure's consequences a lot more work. The cost to fix this should be in significant time and effort. Give the PC multi-tasking penalty if he has other things he has to do other than fix this problem (if no multitasking rules just make all difficulties harder or the PC is distracted). Let the PC have the option to give up and give him no visible consequences beyond the initial flack for failure.
If the PC chooses to do the work, even if they dont have to increase the PC's virtue related to being professional or give him a bonus in self control or discipline. If that reward is not applicable, let the PC see a different opportunity for cleaning up his own mess.
5-6) Frustration. This failure frustrates and distracts the PC beyond its other negative consequences. Let the PC have some minor penalty as he works through this failure for the entire session. Give the PC the option to drown out the frustration or completely forget about it. This removes the penalty. If the PC works through the frustration by talking through it, meditating/reflecting on it, writing about it give him grant him a reroll in the next session. 
5-71-2) Not that bad.Take the last success or gains or mitigation of a loss or threat, Ask the player how badly he wants this to succeed. If he says yes, then the last success/gains/mitigation/aversion of a loss/threat is undone. Otherwise, if he accepts the failure he gains a minor reputation related to the matter OR some trauma related to the matter for a 1d3 sessions.
3-4) A for Effort. The PC's efforts were heroic and witnessed. Set up the scene where the failure is a test of character, if the character has any virtues let it contrast with his weaknesses. If the Player can Role-Play this scene out, regardless of how comfortable they are with such or bad they are with RPing, some people noticed their virtues (be it compassion, honor, bravery, discretion, etc...).  Roll for 1d6 NPC and name these NPCs and they will come to play later in the game to help with minor problems.
If the player can't role-play or gets really frustrated with the failure a powerful NPC, who has the capability of teaching the PC notices and criticizes the PC.
5-6) A window opens. The failure is demoralizing to the PC and those around him. The PC suffers some reputation damage but in trying an opportunity opens up. One that would have not been noticed or learned without the failure. if the PC pursues this opportunity for the session, let it mature on the next session. 
8-91-2) Cost mitigated failure. If any resources or time was consumed, the cause of failure made it that half or significantly less were consumed. Point this out to the PC. If the PC pursues looking at his current resources a minor challenge leads him to more resources that can only help indirectly. By indirectly, it takes another step or another activity to convert that small gain into a usable one. Looking for water only to find a dried up spring.
3-4)  Zero Sum. If there is someone who gains by the PC's failure, double the gains or double what the PC stood to lose but make the NPC feel pity, mercy, or magnanimous towards the PC. If it was a friendly competition, then the NPC is friendlier towards the PC from some event in the conflict that mattered to the NPC.
Give the PC some incentive to act like a total douche. Either point out that the crowd is jeering at the PC from the appearance of weakness, or NPCs that matter to the PC feel humiliated, crushed, betrayed, disillusioned by association to the PC and this failure.
 5-6) Learning moment. Failure causes a significant loss of resource, but the PC gains insight. Gain 1d3 worth of resources to improve the PC, be it character points, or other character resources. Or grant the PC a conditional bonus for similar circumstances equal to the die roll. 
10-111-2) Failed Reputation. The PC gains a reputation, a nickname, regarding the failure. it catches on and spreads the PC's reputation. Those who have not heard of it, once they learn about the reputation will underestimate the PC. This means the PC has more to prove in any task but, if the PC advances in society he becomes more remarkable and the Nickname intrinsic meaning changes slowly. Every time this result is rolled again by the same PC, the reputation spreads farther.
2-3) Sympathy Win. Everyone gains sympathy of the character. The crowd or witnesses are generally sympathetic to the PC.
5-6) Concentration. The failure has given the PC some trauma regarding the failure. On the next tasks, distractions can be held at bay from the impression left by this loss if the game system or play style does not make use of distractions, then allow a reroll on either the Consequences or the Task.

121-2) Wu Wei. there are serious consequences to the failure, but they completely disappear by next session. Something just happens to matter more and takes precedents. Everyone remembers the event differently, and what ever actions the PC had undertaken laid the groundwork for a new opportunity (which shows up next session).
3-4) A Teacher appears. A mentor, appears and criticizes the character's technique. He antagonizes and makes the character insecure. This mentor does not appear like a mentor but one of the Characters Critics. When the character confronts the mentor he learns of the respect he has of the character when he talks to him face to face, and how much he actually constructively criticizes the PC.
Make the source of a teacher always challenging or easily overlooked. Every time this result is rolled, the teacher can grant a wider range of mastery.
5-6) Center Stage Failure. The PC is propelled into the center stage of a the ongoing event because of the failure. The failure is catastrophic and he survives the failure, those around him barely or not at all. The world is polarized about the opinions about the PC, these opinions can be all negative and nuanced and heaps negative reactions for the PC. What stands out is that it draws so much attention the PC is in a position to Change what people think of him.
Every time this result i re-rolled the reputation grows and the polarization intensifies. So many made up rumors about the PCs exist and his failure is talked about. He is made villain or victim in various stories and retellings. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Open Notes - My Open RPG progress in Feb 2015

I've been working on a simple homebrew for years now. Its fairly simple and focuses on fundamentals. I began with definition of an RPG, a glossary of terms related to the hobby, and then instead of going into the rules I realized I had to go into "Running a game". This meant not just the GM, which is a lot of the work, but also the player-side as well. It can go long so I would definitely just word it as "basics", focus on core principles, and tackle more in a later chapter.

 Focusing in a particular set of GMing is the part that is puzzling since I can narrow it down with better ways to express it, but I dont want to come off as this is the only way to GM. That problem that I have a set of mnemonics and ways to juggle and run games, and break down the complexity but my method is not the only one or the best one for you - but the method that is easy for me since I work with certain soft skills that I value in daily life. :P

Anyway part of my current line up of articles is Non-Binary Consequences. I'm working on some tools so that the GM can easily improvise on such (using 2d6 tables of word formulas). How to manage the valleys or low points in pacing (the perfect time for building player buy-in). As well as some dice tools (again 2d6 tables with word formulas) of how GMs can draw out tension. Well I hope I get it all done, the articles are half written with me leaving a ton of the problems to be worked by my subconscious.

So you can imagine how much it has evolved from 2015, my anticipation is that I will have more work and more responsibilities so gaming has to be more portable, Intuitive and more "Ice-breaky". That I can quickly get a regular person, non-ttrpgamer, to try it and play to kill time. So it has to be physically and mnemonically portable, and probably great training for sales lolz. Truly general universal role-playing - in what ever system the audience is inclined to.

EDIT: I'm incorporating this Extra Credit, currently working now on how to implement the ideas and giving examples of such examples. After finishing it, I have to rethink a lot of what I just wrote above and design it around an adventure. I will have a rulebook and the Tuturial Adventure. Tutorial Adventure first, then collect everything as a rule book to follow.

Back to Basics: My Game Itinerary

Why it takes me roughly 4 hours to run a game. Part of the Back to Basics because I've tried to make my style system agnostic and dependent on Active Listening and Consensus Decision Making Skills.

1st hour

Getting everyone story, refresher. I'm not your teacher, I'm a GM. I dont give home work and my games are not meant to keep you or ME busy during the course of the week so we are going to catch up and remember what happened. I'm also getting everyone's tone and mood. See whose there and see what I can work with.

2nd hour

Active Listening at 100% - I should be LISTENING and actively incorporating every new Idea and Action into the Narrative. I absorb everything that is happening and try to make sense of it and see what frightening cliff we are steering into through the "audience" in me.
I am the audience, as much as the players are the audience. I'm watching and enjoying their genius and crazy ideas that they try to pull of, as well as their well thought out RP and strategems. As I am Actively Listening, like any person watching a great show one's mind wanders into the possibilities.
Sometimes shit gets complicated in this hour and I rally my wits to execute and RP through the event or complication.

3rd hour

Did I do enough in the 2nd hour. I remember often looking at the watch "Holy crap we did a lot" and thinking "that was just 2 hours!?". My blind sides are showing. Especially when so much happened in the past two hours I'm struggling to make sure EVERYONE GETS AIR TIME.
Honestly If I remember to take a break and have a snack and drink, my performance is good but most of the time I forget and I'm juggling stuff at the house and technical difficulties. I had to change gears and switch to dad mode to help my kid at the toilet then run back to remember what byzantine intrigue did the players get into.
This is when I try to make sure everyone has a second chance at greatness if I failed to do so in the past two hours. This is me starting the process again of Active Listening 100% but with some considerable mental fatigue.

4th hour 

This is my last chance to make an impression and make things good. Look at notes, think back quickly "who got spot light and is getting some real intrigue and action going?" By now my wits is exhausted and I'm struggling to have enough of a mind to tie everything together in some sense. I really just prepare and I don't have some ending in mind. I search through what has happened and look for the emotional focal point, what would make this a good show? I struggle to make it make sense and

4.5 hour

By now my wife is hinting I have to go and they need to be fed. I have to wrap it up and as always I don't have the wit to make sense of all the things that has happened because I did not PLAN, I just prepared, what plan I had was the fruition of the goals of the NPCs and thats not exactly a plan.

After the Game

I wrap things up. I listen to myself and cringe "white knuckled" through my flaws and mistakes. its humbling and I have to be a bit forgiving. I finally hear what the players are hinting and keep those as notes for the next session and over arching plots and machinations of the NPCs. I write a summary, straight to the point when I have the time. I can't make it nice, I dont have the time, so I present it with all the flaws and the best effort one can make.

Some note that I just woke up, and I'm a slow riser. If I'm lucky I would have had 6 hours of sleep. I've come to depend on the Game Recording very much because it gives me a sense of where I am and what are my weaknesses. There is no ambiguity to my flaws, they are there and painful to see but that pain makes me feel good strangely - a bit more alive and I remember I have power to change and overcome my flaws. My mom watches this so I can imagine her CRINGING when I screw up so the pressure is a bit on and should stay on.

Prep Before the Next Game

This is what I mostly do, I prep by learning more of the history and imagining the relationships going on. Since I document the game's recording in a summarize what the PC/Players are doing and the consequences, I consider what are the forces they will be going against (By forces its not just people but mindsets, culture, and logistics). I try to write them all, but too often I can't read my notes because I'm too busy juggling. I'm trying to have the skill to execute a good piece of drama and have an aftermath that will allow me some room to look back into my notes. Currently having problems writing notes down while the game is ongoing.   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to GM Abstract Combat Part 3 - Initiative, Combat for the Non-Combat GM

Part 2 can be found here. This is Back to Basics.

Initiative is a simple matter, it is for the Player (not the PC), to act or re-act. The matter of GMing Combat for non-combat GMs or GMs who may have different values for combat as their players brings us back to being a Good Listener and having the presence of mind to act and respond to the players actions and add dramatic context.


In order to have Initiative, in real combat, one cannot wait for all the information to be in. One moves with an incomplete idea of what is happening. Most players are not really comfortable doing this (I'm not comfortable doing this!), they want to be informed, so when they ask for information - they've spent their turn observing and getting an idea what is happening. This may be upsetting to some, but consider those who jump in with barely a clue and how little they go on (and I've been sent into many scouting missions where I really have no clue what I'm doing).

GMing Combat for the Non-Combat GM

Not everyone is a Combat GM, and some GMs dont emphasize it as much as others and every GM has a different source of enjoyment from combat. I have changed a lot in this regard, I've moved away from Map to Narrative, from Complete Information to Asymmetric and I will have some discomfort playing in games which want Symmetric and Perfect information in combat. Still, we do this to have fun. That people have different values and I can adapt and get into the mindset that is fun for the group, and not just myself.

What a Non-Combat GM has to keep in mind with combat is the Audience. I would love the focus to be chaos, economies of Attention, classical combat rules of thumb, or decision making and problem solving but when we have fun we must pay attention to the players and pace them in the details and the value they place in a given Combat scene. Put it simply - We ask them to fill the scene with their character actions.

This is asking the play what his character is doing, and interpreting it with a generous amount of essential assumptions they would have factored in if they knew - and to narrate the action with these assumptions. So I ask my play what he is doing, and fill in details that highlight aspects of the character in the situation when I respond to him. Its basically Yes-And/But, I listen carefully and work with what they say, new information is worked in as the world and NPCs respond to the character's actions.

The same virtues that speeds up play, Good Faith and letting the PC factor assumptions that would be plain to them. Don't let details or challenges overwhelmed the Player and PCs, IF their characters are warriors they are performing at their strength. If there are meddling details, introduce it one at a time, dont throw a whole lot of problems per turn - it just demolishes the momentum of the Players narrative. So in reiteration, make it easy for them to respond but challenge them with one more detail that makes the situation challenging or dramatic.

Examples: stuff you may add as the turns of the combat progresses

  1.  Perceptive members of the party notice movements in the Periphery, maybe someone is circling, using the opportunity to escape, a trap is being set. Give a hint, if the Player does not get it check his stats if a more direct simple explanation would be reward his character's ability, the players caution, initiative or forethought into the situation. It doesnt have to be even stats that give you reason, it could be motivation - the character's irrationalities or disadvantages. 
  2. Ask the players where they allocate their attention. Its as simple as filling details where their attention is placed. If they are looking for the boss, they see the boss and you describe him. Those who watch the rear notice those who try to flank or sneak up on the group. Those supporting and aiding their allies, grant them better chances of success (and my house rule is that all those who aid, suffer the consequences along with those they aid) and have the consequences of such to suffer and gain. 
  3. Character who are social, dramatic, or non-combatant will notice non-combat opportunities - Threats to be emphasized, or made with every successful turn, Incentives to talk for their enemies, words of succor for their allies, or thinking through context of the Violence. Consider it a challenge as a GM to note that Violence has context and that if the player finds and manipulates that context he would have put his non-violent character to good use. 
  4. Other than attention, be  mindful of the PCs objectives and "buttons". Push those buttons - Honorable characters are implored, those with Duties have the consequences of failure hanging over their heads, those who are paid have costs they are willing to pay and unwilling to pay, those who fight with no thought to it have things they have taken for granted because of the violence. 
  5. Strategic Goals - if you read a lot of sun zi you will note that violence is not all there is, and that there are moves and actions that Check an opponent with minimum effort and risk. Make it up, or Make it complicated.  

For the Combat GM, and you are a student of Conflict and Violence then the Game is your own reward and its intellectual and physical pursuit your own nourishment. I dont need telling from me when are already fans of the subject and continue to study and explore it. All these things will seem natural, but of course we have to consider the Non-Combat or Violence people who play and accommodate their satisfaction. They should have as much fun, and  we listen and are open to how this can happen.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sins of the Crusades Notes on Army Organization

Sadly its really hard to research Komnenian Armies. This is because of the haphazard situation and the constant conflicts unlike Justinian/Belisarius and Maurice's time as well as titles being a tool of manipulation (an arbitrary manner to move people up or down the pecking order). Then there is the adoption of Western organization, which is simpler and more useful given the constraints of the time. To make it easier and more intuitive I will limit the terms used with those that are more modern and easier to follow.

This is also from my experience in fighting in groups, and how challenging it is to coordinate as well as some management science insight. I've noticed the Military Fiefs determine how things are organized because these are the simplest ways of disseminating resources.

This is meant to make it easier to understand military organization. For the non-military characters in the game, this is to understand the logistics - that a soldier = a household, typically with a tenant farmer attached (I was not able to assemble these into a proper thesis but reading up on Byzantine Economics by Kenneth Harl is where I got this). That their leaders have greater and greater households awarded to them, and it is up to their virtues or vices how these resources are spent. As you can imagine, the higher up the chain, the more they need specialists and administrators and how limited they are in recruiting skilled talent, or how fortunate they are to have any skilled administrators.

Military Terms

Komnenian Army
Byzantine Army

  • A Squad is 10 men, with one of them leading them called a Sergeant (Dekarch).
  • We will use Companies (Pentekons and Hekatons), lead by a Captain (aka Pentatonarch or Hekatonarch), to call a group (of typically 5) Squads. So this is typically 50 men average mode (100 an uncommon number and a mark of a upward climbing military career).
  • We will use Bandon, lead by a Commander (aka Companions or Komes) to call a group of Companies (typically 3 to 10). 200-1000 men.  
  • We will use Army (Tagma), lead by a General (Strategos), to call a group of Bandons (2 to 10). Generals and their Armies vary greatly and posturing makes it hard for us to tell how many is an army. Which is not a bad thing because that is part of the game, the confusion sowed by the differences in organization.   

In the mindset of the time grouping focused on having more maneuverable units which needed competent leaders as well as awarding Households to compensate and support the soldiers. So the Army had a tendency to break up into small subunits of Companies in order to make it easier to coordinate and maneuver. A fairly experienced captain can organize up to 50 men within the parameters and expectations of the time. So most grouping is having as many Captains as possible. Captains get a large household, while his sergeants and soldiers get a household with tenants. Gaining men and resources is up to the ingenuity and aggressive manner of the Captain and his posse.

When a captain is sufficiently skilled and experienced his men grow to 100, and he moves up to be a Commander when he can organized more as he promotes within his Company his own sergeants. Commanders aka Counts, who are typically given estates of a fifty to hundred households, organizes their assets in Companies, while his whole strength is called a “Bandon” or “Band”.

A General, typically gets a vacated or recaptured Fief or Provincial Estate worth hundreds of households. If held and maintained, the succeeding generations become Dynasts themselves. Wealthier generals have been in the military for generations and have a much larger army, they stylize themselves as Dukes (Doukas) or Princeps or what ever title the Emperor will give them. the Appearance of strength and power is important so they tend to look for titles and estates to gain. You will notice that the Byzantine/Roman Imperial bureaucracy allows for this, rewarding titles, and to make it easier for the players and myself I'll simplify this with small notes on how many titles or households or soldiers instead of remembering or researching every single title.

Households and Soldiers

Note that Soldier = Household is a very typical formula for thousands of years. Also note that the more mobile, or farther from the household the soldier operates, the need for multiple households per soldier to support him. The longer the operation the more households is needed. Its from my chinese studies that about 10 households per soldier was about the cost of the border operations of various Dynasties in China. You think in households because you think in how to make it ongoing. Sun Zi had a formula for it in ounces of silver and Chinese miles, the romans I'm sure had such rules of thumb but it wasnt as widely adopted and evolved as the Chinese.  

A household is the soldier's household, and plus that of its tenants. This is a fluid number and not necessarily 1+1. The soldier can have slaves, and they provide the labor or tenants farmers who have migrated or have been captured.

Friday, February 20, 2015

GM Seminar at Makati B&B Jan 25 2015

+Marc P. Reyes organized the GM Seminar Jan 2015.  This was held at Makati B&B aka the Gaming Library in International Language Institute in legaspi village.

Pix from Jose Roxas
The speakers were +Marc P. Reyes , mysefl, +Tobie Abad w/ +Rocky Sunico (Tagsessions), and +Jay Steven Anyong.

The other videos will be linked to their respective speaker's blogs or platforms.

+Marc P. Reyes Mastering DnD 5e

My Take of Online Table Top RPGs

+Tobie Abad's The Beautiful Lie

+Jay Steven Anyong 's All the Small Things

That was a very busy week end. 

My presentation was to Try out Online Table Top Roleplaying, and what are the Pros and Cons I've experienced in my couple of years of running them and playing them.

The event was very active, and met a lot of GMs I've never met and some old faces of a particular generation of Gamers. You can call them the younger brothers of many of the first Gamers in the country, on average 10 years younger than the generation of Gamers who first picked up the GM screen. As in the cycle of life, our seniors are all busy with family and work, and we are those who still not to busy because of such. (expecting a great amount of fall out from such causes).

Still the community is energetic and still try to get books even when there are many barriers for them to access such. This group is just the Tip of the iceberg since Metro Manila Logistics makes us Insular and many more such communities exist around the various Friendly Local Gaming Stores that have popped up.

This is a labor of love and you can see from the devotion and resources expended by these Gamers. Some of whom traveled 30+ km or what would be 2 hours drive away. The venue was full and many more wanted to join. So much more that the event created the momentum of pushing for another such event bridging DnD Philippines and trying to accommodate as much of the community as logistically possible. A stellar effort to all those who made it possible, and hope a stronger and closer community can be created despite how difficult it is to meet in the Philippines (the traffic situation is so bad, almost 9/10 people sacrifice 2+ hours per day in commuting)

This Feb 22, Sunday, in Makati B&B there will be another GM Seminar:
(by +Marc P. Reyes)
1. Using Filipino History, Culture and Myth in your RPG GamesThree designers of Filipino themed tabletop RPGs, will discuss how you could insert Filipino folklore, culture and myth into your game world, or how to look up information for these in your game!Discussion Facilitators: BJ Recio, Marc Pozon Reyes, Fabs Fabon
Start time: 12:00nnEnd time: 12:45pm 

2. Duty, Love and HonorHow to run the Legend of the Five Rings RPG to the fullest by using the social dynamics of Rokugan. Don't know what this is? Think you know what this game is about? Prepare to be surprised!Discussion Facilitator: Jay Steven Uy Anyong
Start time: 1:00pmEnd Time: 1:45PM
Intermission/break: 2:00pm-3:00pm 
3. Encounter Design in Fantasy Roleplaying GamesAn edition neutral panel on how to design combat encounters in any flavor of D&D and games similarly constructed.Discussion Facilitator: Lawrence Augustine R. Mingoa
Start Time: 3:00pmEnd Time: 3:45pm 

4. Narrative Control: What it is and how to share itTobie Abad explores the story aspect of tabletop roleplaying games and how the story is narrated by both the players and the GM together.Discussion Facilitator: Tobie Abad
Start Time: 4:00pmEnd Time: 4:45pm 

5. GM Help PanelA panel of GMs, including everyone who talked in the previous GM seminar, will offer their advice on YOUR problems as a GM. Problem players, game balance, player recruitment, rules questions etc, ask and a panel of veteran GMs will try to answer your question!GM Help Panelists: Marc Reyes, Tobie Abad, Justin Aquino,  Laurence Augustine R. Mingoa, BJ Recio, Jay Anyong
Start Time: 5:00pmEnd Time: 6:00pm 
The group is more active in Facebook in "Philippine Tabletop RPGs" Group. A community growing strong thanks to improving economic conditions in the Philippines despite massive barriers to travel, trade and access to books.