Thursday, March 30, 2017

Improvisation hypothesis: Ideation Techniques

So I just finished Unframed by Engine Publishing. Among my other studies (found in the Gaming Skills doc) is that one unifying hypothesis is that Improvisation is similar to mastering a language, process, a song, etc... that the most complicated feats of Improvisation is like a dance or song: mastering chunks of procedural information. My recommendation is taking your favorite or most used Ideation Technique and using it for improvisation. Modifying it so that it can be used to bring out ideas that would color or aid the scene you are collaboratively building with others. 

Improvisation hypothesis: Ideation Techniques

The Improvisation Hypothesis of Ideation Techniques means that We can master ideation and problem solving techniques and use them for improvisation. These techniques when employed Elaborate or Create Blanks to be filled by a certain criteria. We fill in those blanks very quickly through master of the Ideation technique. Mastery, used to master language, where the technique is stored in long term memory and recalled immediately as soon as triggering events occur.

Ideation Techniques Include

Spaced Repetition

Spaced Repetition is important in Improvisation because it is the same technique that allows people to most effectively learn and use language, complicated processes, physical techniques and procedures. Creating the triggering conditions to exercise the Recall that is needed to draw out from Long Term memory the skill, process, or heuristic is key to appear to make a lot out of thin air. This technique requires the forgetting the technique in the conscious level, aka working memory, aka attention and to draw or pull the information under certain conditions in order to create the mental hardwiring to recall.

*again open call for collaborators or feedback.

One of my realizations is Musashi's No Thought technique in his book of 5 rings is the use of Long Term memory (the same memory we use for language) to unleash sophisticated attacks and tactics. The same can be said in improv. We master various Ideation Techniques to be able to create facinating improvisation using the Collaboration of our fellow players.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TRPG Books as Process Documents

*That TRPGs moving to a shorter feedbackloop with the community through using best practices in Operations Sciences would create more powerful tools and newer better value services and material in this very poor market.

So in my studies I've noticed how much TRPG books compare to process documents. TRPG books are filled with models or heuristics in the form of game mechanics, as well as Roles, Tools, and Processes of how to perform certain activities. The most interesting parallel is how TRPGs feedback as compared to Process Documents.

Process Documents aka Business Process in wikipedia is the Institutional Memory of a Company. Its all the processes written down so that it can be corrected, measured and improved. It allows organizations to reach higher forms of sophistication and capability through having the shared memory of the documentation and being able to adapt to reality and changing conditions through the institutional memory.

What is interesting when I compare TRPGs to Process Documents is that it does not have the same feedback loop. We feedback to TRPG book by making Homebrews and picking and choosing our mechanics. That feedback ends there. Instead of an idea and feedback going up and around and making its way to other people so they can appreciate and see if this would make their job easier it ends there. With the Wiki and Crowdsourcing, the Collaboration of TRPGs as Process Documentation would be amazing to witness as it Rapidly Iterates the consequences of their Charter/Goals and Attributes (Mechanics, Processes, Roles, Functions, and Tools).

This leads me to wonder if the New Generation of TRPGs would draw from Process Documentaton best practice. That communities feedback to the TRPG system and allow it to evolve better and more streamlined mechanics and techniques. One example is to apply Chunking in a lot of rules (particularly to GURPS rules). Imagine if one can feedback to evolve 2-4 options in Combat Manuevers instead of the 13 or so options in GURPS. Or drawing from Lean principle, shortening the Cycle Time or feedback loop in combat and removing all the Waiting and Waste in a sessions' Experience. Process Mapping via flow charts and Issues with certain processes are available for customization. Like simulationists use these Process Modifications in their Combat. This adds this much more steps and requires the knowledge of this many options.

If TRPGs take the Wiki and Open Collaboration Route what service to Game Designers have in this new ecology? I guess they deal with the Hardest Part  of running games: Creating the Tools to Tailor the TRPG experience. Creating the tools to manage and budget the TRPG experience. Allowing people to have more consistent and exceptional emotional heights in their TRPG sessions. To craft the training, skills, and heursitics for TRPGers to better craft and design these tools and techniques.

When mega nerds apply  their sills to something like TRPGs and creating a sustainable environment for the hobby to survive and thrive I think the product would be amazing. I compare the TRPG game to that of a Problem Solving session, I find them very similar. Particularly when Achieving Flow.

Walker's Retreat: The Internet Changed the Tabletop RPG business
I agree with the article and one of they key variables to implementing this is having the Skills to create a better business model. Problem Solve this shit .

The Same skills applied to this:
How to run a Large D&D Group (7+ Players)
The tools and the techniques to process design the experience is what is needed more than the "Campaign Fluf" or mechanics. Off the bat, Drawing form myH Game Maters Skill list min-maxing the Cycle Time between players and maxing out the Player experience would be a key objective. particularly identifying all the MUDA and getting rid of clunky and inelegant mechanics. By improving the Cycle time The GM will be checking for 1-scene per Player engage the player as much as possible per scene and try to keep it under a few minutes. Ideally engaging 2-4 players at the same time so that the cycle time of wait is about 2-5 minutes per group. He will need to design "Scenes" which engage many players (2-4) simulateneously and try to check if he's "engaged" a player every Cycle. He needs to learn to Defer Distractions or Concerns, when a set of activities would trigger one group to dominate the spotlight for a period, he needs to learn to break up the activites and steps (exploiting peak end or cliff hangers) to deal with the other groups.
I'm just pointing out that skills that allow us to design better experiences in play is the riches vein of discussion. Consider every detail and atmosphere mechanic as just fluff generation and the real problem is helping the GM and Players achieve a emotionally engaging level of participation and experience.

*Bottom Line up Front (BLUF, a different kind of TLDR)
Poor Market. Size of the market and its value as compared to similar ways of spending time. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Game Mastering Research Update; leave it to Gamers to Game Self Improvement.

So I'm preoccupied in updating my Game Mastering Skills and Heuristics Document. I found this so much easier to update than blog posts because blog posts have an expectation to have a 500 word singular theme or  idea. I cant exactly say a small thing like "I finished reading dungeon world" lolz. An idea as incomplete as that, I might as well post in G+.

Anyway I've just finished a BUNCH of readings:

  1. GURPS Horror (finally after all a few years I finally got to finish it). 
  2. Chronicle of Darkness
  3. Dungeon World (its rather short compared to the rest). 
  4. Qin The Warring States (thoroughly, not just a systems analysis).
  5. Qin the Warring States the Art of War
Using my Production and Operation Studies. 
So I've been studying Production Operations for about 4-6 months now. Reading stuff recommended, and those that an Industrial Engineer should have studied. One thing I'm clearly taking away is the techniques that refine and improve Processes and Activities that can be clearly applied to the way Games are run and played. 
I'm self studied in Game Design and User Interface or designing a User Experience since the 2000s when I hoped to get into Game Design Course (which didnt exist then). These "User" design techniques augmented by studies of Behavior Sciences, particularly Kahneman and Tversky's work (thinking Fast and Slow, Prospect Theory, and Applying the Behavior Sciences in Designing an Experience and Process). 
To put simply The Game Master Skills and Heuristics are actions and activities that allow someone to repeat and practice certain abilities that would enhance their Gaming Experience. Its have emphasized the following:
  1. Actions. instead of Principles, Guidelines, long Essays of theory. Lets give  the Gamers ACTIONS to do. We can give them a default set of actions, and we can expand to how to modify and improve what ever Action Process they use to improve their gaming experience. 
  2. Working Memory Management. Many of the Techniques have their emphasis in dealing with a terrible working memory or hacking and conditioning it so that skills are so ingrained that they occupy less of the working memory and allow greater bounds of complexity as well as preventing the gamer from being overwhelmed. A good mental environment, a 5S inside one's head.  
  3. Opportunities for Deep Work. As we identify skills and heuristics, a lot of small techniques get mastered quite quickly and more opportunities for DEEP WORK begin to emerge for the Gamer. This can take the form of Flow in prep and refining improvisational abilities OR with his/her players. 
Moving into Gaming Agnositic has had some Interesting results. One of the most useful is focusing on the User Experience and Game Experience that does not hinge on any system. To have tools that allows the Gamer to have greater levels of engagement, experience, and enjoyment regardless of system. Isolating core principles that no one system can hold monopoly lolz (LIKE SCIENCE! Lolz)

You'll notice the Studies in Operations Sciences are BLENDED with Zen and some Philosophical Works. If you've checked out the Toyota Production System and Kaizan, its kinda steeped with Eastern Philosophy. Particularly the derivations of Buddhist and Confucian continuous improvement (commonly known as Kaizen). Whats notable about this is how it related to Memory and Skill Mastery. There is so much mysticism about it, but when you explore works concerning memory, behavior and biases it can be interpreted as a 5S and Lean Six Sigma approach to self improvement. 

Arthur V. Hill and many of the Operations Sciences researchers have noticed that MANY of  the "tricks" in the science can be applied in a personal level (coining Personal Operations). Especially since its an OBSESSION with heuristics which should be very familiar to gamers because these are basically the Models and mechanics we horde in our memory when we learn other game systems. Imagine using that memory, conditioned to memorize tons of Heuristics (game mechanics) applied to more practical mechanics and GAMIFYING those mechanics . That mindset that can pick and choose, modify and improve, or HACK, heuristics and models to serve what ever ends we gamers so desire lolz. 

To be a Gamer, particularly a TRPG gamer, maybe a kind of heuristic collector. There is some gamer pride about being able to learn ANY heuristic or mechanic or model. And there is an amount of satisfaction with being able to PLAY with any  heuristic or mechanic. And to play and play with these models - how MUNCHKIN is that method to max out a particular skill. 

I can go on and on. I'll just leave with the note that I'm always on the look out for feedback and collaboration in developing the Skills and Heuristics document. Feedback is a key aspect  of being a Gamer - when our expectations dont match up with reality, our ability to adapt and improvise is one of our strong suits. So if you want to join a particular feedback loop of challenge its good to look for places that would allow our limits and flaws to be visible and work on them. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Updated GMing Techniques; Games Literacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Skills as Barriers to Games

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Definition of Terms. More useful ones.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Source Material

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

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

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

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

Public domain books Gdoc