Thursday, April 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Significant Actions

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

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

Faster GURPS Combat Update April 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Action, Evasion or Position
Choose two of either Action, Evasion, or Position. Either

  • Action and Position
  • Action and Evasion
  • Evasion and Position

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

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

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

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

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

Example, No Damage Roll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting notes. 

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Session, Act, Scene, and Player Scene.

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

Some Basics Definitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Discovering the RPG Design patterns, being Foxy, and repetitive

I'm gonna need to print the RPG Design patterns CC book by Whitson John Kirk III PDF out and I'm working on the Txt File for my @Voice Aloud Reader app. I'm also going to need to reference this a lot in my posts as well as have a small reference guide to the terms I'll be borrowing. I will try to migrate seamlessly into this terminology to help the audience love this book and help them empower their gaming.

If that was not already a lot of NEW skills to learn (lolz plus all the goings on in life) +Jay Dugger gave me this new GEM super memo's 20 rules of formulating knowledge. Which basically
means I will try to organize my writing into to following these 20 Rules - wow thats a lot on my plate. So much that I had to pause a lot in the new articles I was writing now (doesnt count the articles I've written already and scheduled to post).

So Ill be learning with my the RPGDP, 20rules, a bit of GTD, Extra Credits on Game Design,  various Rationalist or Cognition sources and looking at the world for inspiration to running TRPGS and how to improve the experience constantly. It will be a repetitive back to basics over and over again as I continuously revisit key concepts and slowly nudge and rework them over and over again (see 20 rules).

In self examination its a bit of the fox or the Trader mindset approach in TRPGS like in the Fox vs Hedgehogs (Thinking fast and slow p.220). Which is reinforced in the profile by Extra Credits on Educating in Game Design. that the Gamers can excel with the "foxy" profile he describes.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Merchant Skill decoupled in GURPS

Merchant Skill is calibrated for Combat focused game and has been built in too many capabilities that should be delegated to other skills. I would say that the Merchant skill is actually a Profession (Merchant) skill. I would like to talk to the GMs if I'm the player about the abuse of this skill.

Often Skills are supposed to have a form of Niche Protection. That's why skills like Psychology, Merchant, and Survival kinda run into some problems because they do a lot of what other skills can do - not just by their default options but by the wording and real world meaning of the skill. This also creates a problem in talents, which is my favorite munchkin move. I get one of these skills as my talent and I can default to them easily.

Typically its reasonable to get a 6 skill talent at +4 for 20 points. It would be a simple optimisation move to try to get two of these skills in the talent. A Nordic Viking would possibly Merchant and Survival with 4 other skills. A Merchant can easily justify Merchant and Psychology in the talent.

Negotiating and Bargaining (Fast Talk, Diplomacy).
Hard bargaining is a Fast Talk skill, Soft Selling practise is the Diplomacy Skill. Its easier to leave all the social strategies to the Social Skills. Courtesy aka Savoir-Faire would be defaulted to the "Profession" skill. Other Hard bargaining skills is Intimidation, Creative Bargaining leans more to Interrogation (since its the inquiry skill in gurps). See seth freeman on the Art of Negotiating a better deal. 

Industry Knowledge (Professional skill) helps in bargaining if there is antagonistic or predatory pricing. It also helps in narrowing the scope of the product or service to be the minimum of  what the PC needs.

Value and Industry Knowledge  (Housekeeping, Expertise, Profession, or Production Skill)
Note that Soldier is a Profession skill and should provide the character with such a skill knowledge of how much products soldiers tend to buy. Merchant being a "retailer" tends to know the most prices around, but they will always be limited to an Industry. 

Accounting (Writing or Research)
Accounting is an activity that can be traced back to the first Empires (See History of accounting). This is really just the skill of note taking a lot of quantities and tracking the many transactions. With that in mind maybe Writing or Research would be more appropriate with a Optional Speciality (B169).

Obviously accounting requires literacy (B24) and numeracy (see innumerate B140). While the accounting skill is a Hard skill, there are a lot of reasonable tasks in accounting that is not that difficult. I would recommend accounting skill^2 words per minute of researching with the accounting skill. Using writing or research would be at (skill-4)^2 while in the absence of writing or research the default (IQ-6)^2.

Operations, Bureaucracy and Organization (Administration, Leadership, or Profession)
Use Administration for levels of bureaucracy in operations of greater than 2 levels (10-15 elements or a team of teams under the leader) otherwise the Particular Profession skill is sufficient. Every level beyond 2 levels is a magnitude of difficulty wielding an organization by -2. Raise the penalty when there is limited literacy in the group.

See rule of 3 and 10 (this rule of thumb makes organizational sizes at 3^X where X is the level of organization. An organization that is 3^3 is a platoon sized organization up to the level it is 3^4; use this as determining the challenge in Administration and it has some factors in leadership. Will be covered in another topic)

Leadership is managing team members. Lubricating teamwork through various leadership styles (influenced by the other skills the leader has).

Economics. Use TL penalties (B168) for the concepts  and practices one is trying to use. For GMs wondering how to use this skill in a game this helps in Navigating the Tides and Winds of trade and economics. This allows the PCs to find what opportunities exist, supply chains, and the streams of commerce and how these all interconnect.
This in knowledge of other businesses, margins (profit), seasons, and more importantly the Opportunities or Threats to their business.

Marketing (Propaganda and Politics)
This is an out of place default skill and should not overlap with Merchant. A merchant may have the network to use these skills but executing it would be Propaganda and Politics. (Then there is the complicated decoupling and re-assessing how these skills are used and their niche protection for another time). Just having a network to attempt to spread misinformation or information is a good start.

Some basic leadership
"Practical Leadership" as defined in Michael Roberto is simply leading because you happen to know what you're doing. This is a very easy kind of leadership where others are given roles or assisted in their roles. This allows a person to lead small group of 2-6 other people but with a -1 penalty after the first person to coordinate in tests of leadership.

I will tackle leadership in games in general and how it can be applied to gurps in another post.

Job Rolls. 
My job rolls have changed to be more annual or seasonal (quarterly). Its so much easier to deal with things annually since many operations try to make enough money to survive the year in years of operations.
  • Job Rolls is 3d against 10. 
  • +1 if the key professional has an average of level-13 in 6 key skills. -1 if the average of the 6 key skills are below 10. 
  • The TDM is the Economic Cycle. Times of War, Famine, Recession, etc.. are at -2 to -6 and Stability, Peace, New Markets, Growth is at +2 to +6.

I would like to tackle Psychology, Survival, Administration and Leaderships in the future so that the challenges regarding the skills reflect the mastery of its techniques in my studies while leaving the decision making to the controlling Player.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GMing Techniques and Tools, Anki Cards

A couple of months ago I overhauled Game in the Brain and consolidated some tags. Recently I've reorganized my blog writing projects - it boils down to my Open RPG stuff and Gming Techniques and Tools.

The odd challenge is that my Open RPG stuff is intentionally designed to be overlayed on other Game systems that do not have certain types of mechanics - particularly logistics, complex situations (like some fairly macro economic rolls where there is almost no agency), more narrative but tactical combat, and narrative warfare.

I made these subsystems so that they can be used in Any Game Systems that doesn't have it or someone would rather use the scope of these systems is designed for instead the existing one in their core system of choice. After finishing Never Unprepared and Odyssey  (and also going through David Allen's Getting things Done), a common thread is that people have adapted to their Game Systems and some game systems not being as modular as they could be.

My challenge with my current tools is that: a more modular game system is a more open game system. That there is no authority that says what is best but a community (as a reference) that says what they are doing and what works for them. Instead of a single linear uptake on a system - there are various models of systems that describe and definite itself so that users can really pick and choose and coordinate easily with those who will play with them. So without any authoritative figure to simplify the signalling process (signalling that this is a good system), then there is a challenge of distributing these ideas and methodology.

All game systems are inherently modular, we really can pick and choose but that is modular in the way that you'd have to try them out first, experiment a lot, even reflect and think about it a lot, before we can really pick and choose. I was hoping of a modularity where the "time and motion" is stated. The way I am working on the Index Card Heuristic - get as modular as the system and its components can be Anki Cards that can be picked up and dropped.

The card thing is getting reinforced by Getting things Done, Anki, and my Portable and Modular Gaming Needs. So as we all get older and have more responsibilities to Juggle we will want our TRPG being more portable and easier. A modular system that allows us to pick and choose more easily as well as communicate those choices with players better (like sharing the Anki Deck of the game system) would be best.

Also since you can't have Anki decks of copyrighted game systems then open systems like Eclipse Phase, Traveller, Fate, Apocalypse Engine, DnD 5E etc... will be the earliest decks to be created. I believe that there maybe some GMs who will sending these modified Decks to their Players would be one of the significant "hacks". GMs compare and look at theirs and other gamer's decks as a way to measure if they are in-over-their heads in juggling tasks and creative challenges. A player can see a GM's deck and easily pull a card to ask more questions about it and get into the points more quickly.

Community Decks for their Settings, like Traveller, Eclipse Phase, OSR Settings, etc... will be available and the GM can easily transmit valuable information. A GM who is keeping some rules and discarding others, while adopting some alternative rules, can communicate it to the Players and they can look at the cards and ask questions one topic at a time. The ability to reinvent and edit these decks is a big deal and much easier.

I remember when I got the War Hammer 40k universe Biblio, or had to read through all the FR books of the Current setting of 2004 to run an Epic Level FR game, as well as all my Philippine and Crusade History studies - all would benefit from Anki Cards. These decks can be used for In-My-Traveller Universe Code - every setting assumption described and clarified.


  • Deck of Key Concepts from GMing sources like Never Unprepared, Odyssey - the compete guide to Campaign Management, Storytelling, 
    • A deck of storytelling tropes (See TV tropes)
    • A deck of key concepts in Scifi (like a deck drawing from concepts discussed in Atomic Rockets)
    • A deck of key world building terms and concepts: 
      • Economics and Demographics, 
      • Anthropology, Cultures and Languages 
      • Historical Analogues 
  • Game Mechanics and how they are organized and made modular
    • Game systems being more modular by clearly signalling what sub systems or options are being used and not being used. 
    • Fate, Eclipse Phase, Apocalypse Engine (Dungeon World), Traveller SRD, and DnD SRD can have their own decks easily made. 
  • Settings and Worlds 
    • Setting Fluff Customization Notes. Using TV tropes, World Building Decks, and Setting Decks 

A measure of Information Barriers.
Lets say GURPS and DnD 5E at the sum of 500 pages (if you bundle the 3 core books and 2 core books) each work out to around 3,500 cards. A GM just measures how many cards are part of the Deck he's running. In any given game the gamers use probably 10-50 card concepts a session, and 150-200 card options in the course of play. Since Options become Sub-decks managing these options becomes much easier.

Many concepts would be fine with a familiarization. Some require some basic understanding, and only 2-3 concepts require a good understanding: typically Core Mechanics, Framing the Challenge (different settings have particular framing techniques like Mysteries, Horror, Fantasy, Scifi etc...). Master is optional but is normally sought and is rewarding.

The head ache the GM who will have to run with 500-700 cards-concepts as part of their game unless he's mastered a few sub-systems already that whittle that to 200-300 cards. The ability to see what I'm juggling and say: No please / No thank you!

The trend of my Gaming reading has been personal organization. Which is awesome. That's the hobby that improves me as I get older and there is more challenges that make me want to retire and take it easy - TRPGs are pushing me even if I'm not 20 any more.

If a new Gamer learns all the Personal Organization Skills in Gaming because he just wants to find more time to game and make the game experience more awesome - then the hobby is serving a greater good!

Interested in Anki Cards for self study, check out A year of Spaced Repetition where a teacher uses it for his class.

Time and Motion.
Note that if I have 40 mins of an hour to do such cards. I would only be able to make 1 per 2 minutes (assuming a 20 word description; it works with what ever your composition wpm is and how many drafts of Ideation you work with; It usually takes me 30 minutes to reorganize 10-20 ideas and i do about 3-5 re-writes). Including half the time reviewing the cards and the material I want to convert. That works to about 10-15 cards per 40 minutes (not counting the 160mins of drafting and rewriting).

Thanks to +Jay Dugger in introducing me to Anki Cards, Spaced repetition studies and memory techniques that let me discover this use.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Collaborative Gamer's Solo Campaign is a GMing Practice Session

I would recommend following +Collaborative Gamer's Solo Campaign as your GMing practice Session.

Why and Ideas in relation to GMing Practice.
  • With a Timer and Audio or Video recording device his Solo Campaign would allow a GM to work on his craft without having to take the time of another player. 
    • I can watch my habits and see how I work under the pressure.
  • I can get to practice my improvisation. Using his procedural world building tables and rules I can basically generate game elements and string them along into a story. this works best with some time Pressure or, at least, timing how long it takes me to string them up.
  • It is a great way to look at one's process and organization. What kind of notes do I make or what kind of notes will i need. 
    • This lets me see what tools I will need. Just watching my time and motion in the game will highlight my weaknesses. But I will really need some time to processes the videos and have more sessions to really see what would be the key things to work on. 
  • I can generate an Adventure with his system! I can recycle and improve on the adventure I would be playing through his solo system (when its finally available with all the tables and tools; plus flow charts).
  • I can do some minor experimentation in various GMing techniques and Policies. 
  • I can examine my prep Workflow through the system. When I finally get a hang of the system, I can more easily create adventures on the fly. 
    • I'm curious about the time and motion of his tools. I go through references books at about 3-5 minutes digging up through notes - Dead Air. If I printed all the tables and the flow charts and incorporated them in my accessible and portable notes this would be awesome. 
    • Curious if I can make them into Index Cards to be portable and less dependent on Tech. My phone is a clumsy last resort, and if I dont need to use a Laptop this would be better. If these tables were all easy to find in Index Cards, then I would take less than 5-10 seconds to find it (even marking them or laying them out quickly beforehand). 
  • Finally - "railroady" urges can be expended in these sessions and possibly be sick of one's own input all the time. It may want to long for the input of others. If spotlight is my problem or taking up too much of the share of the center stage I'll find it in these solo sessions. 
  • Edit. this would be great for new Players like kids who are strating to play TRPGs. If they learn this system early its a great scaffolding on many story telling techniques. Add this with Anki Cards of key GMing techniques. 
I will one day make the time to use his system because it will allow me to practice while I'm on hiatus (back injury, firefighting at work, spawn on the way, writing projects, etc...). Having such a handy "GMing Personal Gym" to work out and train is so important and helpful.

I always wondered how I could go about practicing when real life gets in the way and Collaborative Gamer's Solo Campaign tools is the key to this. When life gets in the way I can get some practice and not rust so bad.

Some GMing References
How to be a GURPS GM

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Running GURPS more Narratively

If you want to have less rolls, or probably no rolls as a GM in GURPS here are my notes.

One roll per Player Scene.
This is the design principle behind Dungeon World (and the Apocalypse Engine). If you want this in your GURPS game despite how heretical it may be then you're not alone and there is a way to do it.

Player Scene is a Sub-scene. A scene can be made up of a Player Scenes, an Encounter can be considered as Scene. A Combat Scene or Social Scene can be made up of all the players having their own scenes as the GM resolves it with everyone's participation.

This rule works in tandem of One Spotlight per Player rule. This rule prevents players having more spotlight than other players because of how the circumstance works out - they split up, a PC has more actions, a player has more Characters or can act through henchmen or allies.

exception: Damage rolls, Saves that limits the effect (but not eliminates it), and similar rolls are not part of this rule.

Player Buy-in of this System Adjustments
Of course before you set about this method, you may need to show this post or tell your players that you adhere to the One Roll per Player Scene. Point out that in such a rule you won't see the GM fumbling with a bunch of NPC rolls or bean counting modifiers.

Non-Binary Consequences (NBC)
You will need Non-Binary Consequences if you are going to just have One roll per Player Scene. For GURPS my mechanic for NBC, succeed at the cost of Margin of Failure. Using the Margin of Failure as the penalty on the PC or Margin/Severity of an effect.

So if the PC failed in his Player Scene he can choose to Succeed at a cost. Because the GM doesnt roll this cost cannot be something that requires the GM to roll to take affect and it needs to Last for the scene unless the PC intentionally does something to undo the effect!

A PC failed to attack by a margin of 4, he can choose: 

  • take +4 plus the damage from an enemies attack. 
  • be -4 to all his active rolls (saves and checks wont be  for the duration the entire scene or encounter (until he does something to .  

my notes on non-Binary Consequences. This may aid in more examples or use the Margin of Failure to push the "Cost" or penalty the PC suffers to the worse consequence rolled here. If you choose to use NBC table this is definitely an exception to the "one roll per player scene".

Because of NBC there are more difficult rolls. The GM would calibrate the adventure by looking at the circumstances and how the adventure tends to flow and see how uncertain it can be. Seeing how often the PCs Fail, Succeed at a Cost, or Succeed.

Task Difficulty Modifiers (TDM).
see Colin's Simplifying with Task Difficulty modifiers

Basically, just use TDMs and avoid #deathbymodifiers. I've migrated to this school of thought not just out of design reasons but because of recent understanding of statistical fallacies from Daniel Khaneman's Thinking Fast and Slow - on the role of circumstance and success, Fallacy of the Single Cause, and from my wife's one financial studies that point out small business success (an analogy for complex and risky undertakings) are heavily influenced by the Economic cycles and circumstance than by the key decision maker. And if that's not enough my re-reading of Thomas Clearly's more Taoist take on The Art of War.

So you will use TDM a lot when you GM this way. The only exception to this is if you use BAD (see below).

Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD).

see Douglas Cole's GURPS Action: Exploits
Its weird that I would recommend BAD but what if you don't have GURPS Action: Exploits (GAE)? Its ok BAD is just TDM with more guidelines (honestly I believe that GAE is a must - at a level that I think a lot of basic should have been eschewed for GAE and it would have made a better product). Considering that I'm trying to bring down the complexity barrier of GURPS I can say that the only take away for BAD is an "official" authoritative option to use the score of an opposing agent (by agent I mean character with agency) as a modifier to the roll instead of making a contested roll.

Roll vs Situation
So if you have TDM and believe that the strongest agent has a small effect on the circumstance modify that TDM by 1 (up or down) only if the agent is an expert or unskilled.

Example. (Roll vs Situation)
The PC is fighting a two warriors by himself, lead by an poor tactician. In such conditions the PC may have a TDM of -4 but being lead by poor leader (maybe his impetuous, doesn't coordinate, etc...) the TDM the PC rolls in is -3. 

Roll vs Agent
But if the situation is an agent (like direct contest) then the TDM is the difference of the opposing agent's skill minus 10.

Example 2. (Roll vs Agent)
PC against another Agent, then the Agent's skill level less 10 becomes the TDM. If the Agent is an expert at 14 then the PC has a TDM of -4, if the Agent is a novice then the TDM is +2 to the player. 

Don't mix the "Roll vs Agent" and vs "Roll vs Situation".

This is an anchoring guideline for TDM. Superiority is when there is more resources, agents, time, etc... superiority relative to the other party. If the PC is fighting a Group of opponents, take a note from GURPS Mass Combat in odds. If you don't  have Gurps Mass Combat use this simple heuristics for Superiority:
  • 1.5 to 1: TDM by 2 (a bonus if the PCs is the superior side, a penalty if the PC is the disadvantaged side).
  • 2 to 1: TDM by 4
  • every 1.5x increase of the multiple of superiority increase the TDM by 2. (ex. 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 7 to 1). So 10 to 1 is TDM 12.

The PC's team is having a political battle of reputation attrition. He's at a disadvantage in resources the GM calls to be a 1.5 vs 1 odds the PC works with a -2 penalty. 
The PC is arguing against 3 people in a forum, the GM says the "lead" agent being heavily conflicted to put up a good argument the GM can call it to be -4 TDM but less 1 because of the lead agent's hampering their efforts. 

notes on superiority.

  • Workstreams  is another example of resources that may apply in superiority. This heuristic is a helpful simplification in the real world and games. 
  • Man-Month Myth - some complex activities like knowledge work  that cannot get any benefit from man-power. It can probably be nudged a bit in exceptional circumstances (a Team of Experts - like the Party; On the winter equinox or special event; somehow finding more time, knowledge, and better communication medium - like telepathy). 

This means using language to be more broad, then move towards specific only as needed and being more open to Yes& (i would like to link to this but there is so many good ideas surrounding this and I can't remember distinctly the sources anymore).

The GM may make use "Tags" or Aspects, as part of his description and details he will be using. Using this will make his job easier but will entail learning another technique like Zones. Fortunately this is Creative Commons and an Open Technique.

Conclusion: How this comes together
This alters the GMing buy taking a systematic broad to specific approach to describing details in a scene. He then works one Player scene at a time. The goal is to spend more time Elaborating the Scene and working out the details instead of stopping to roll every detail to be interpreted. To let the players have more influence in the story there are intentional vagueries so that he can add his own details and touches of the scenes.

It boils down to the GM making every Player scene an opportunity to make Significant Actions (which will be covered in Part 2).

To be Continued.

  • Initiative 
  • First Move or Last Word
  • Significant Actions
  • Terrain and Conditions
Ideas for Anki Cards
  • One Roll per Player Scene
  • Non-Binary Consequences (NBC)
    • Success at a Cost
  • Task Difficulty Modifier (TDM)
    • Agent
    • Basic Abstract Difficulty (BAD)
    • vs Agent
    • vs Situation
    • Superiority 
  • Specificity
  • Zones
  • Aspects 

Index Card Heuristic (to simplify and organize concepts)
Cards as an Organizating Mnemonic
Mike Shae's Using Fate Style Zones

GMing Abstract Combat:
Part 1: Thinking in Opportunities
Part 2: Economies of Attention
Part 3: Initiative and for the Non-Combat GM

GURPS Action Exploits

Dungeon World SRD
see GMing Page for my ongoing list of GMing Skills and Policies