Sunday, March 29, 2020

Abstract Combat based on Adaptive Cycles

Basically, this is my idea of how abstract combat can work. This focuses a lot on storytelling and working towards a "minimum viable product" or the negotiation we typically have with an End User when we do the Requirements Analysis. 

As I get older, and having the disillusion regarding the Law, and Certainty, and how its this Feedback loop with people that really makes small wins snowball into big changes I find myself streamlining my mental models into these kinds of concepts. 

I realize there is a STRONG similarity between the Ideation of a Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP) or Agile Output/Deliverable and the Feedback loop of Players before a Roll. In Good-Faith we settle on an Outcome - having negotiated Trade-offs given the Circumstance, so much like what has happened in an Agile Project - we work out an MVP. If a GM or Player (in a GMless Game) can harness this you can have a very "Light" but satisfying system.

I'll try to make it "Qualitative" So that its more "Any Game System". 



The Fantasy Trip - melee flow chart WIP

200329 Fantasy Trip - Flow Chart 16.5" x 11.7" (A3)
I didn't detail it so much because I just needed to explain the flow visually.
Particularly the combat flow.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Speedier Combat - Roll to Overcome vs Attacks, Defense, HP, etc...

It was in the lesson about American law where I learned about the use of leading questions "breaking down" the action and expanding the time. The narrative trick of describing each discrete element slows time. I realize that it's the same in combat - rolling to hit, to defend, damage, etc...

We came from D&D and have broken combat into these discrete elements, but Wargames and Boardgames have done these abstractions for a long time already. So if I want speedier combat, then I will have to go for more abstraction.

Its all-time and place, what is appropriate given the game and the story. If the story doesn't stress combat then we can abstract the combat more. We look at the 3-4 hours and ask what do we want to be doing? This is where imagining the Story as a Flow Chart - and that Combat is not a binary outcome - but one of many processes that open many possibilities. In Activity On Node, or Precedence Diagraming, or in Flow Charting its Diverging Paths and Converging Paths.

We can imagine the games as a flow chart with a line that begins to enter a Process (Square), that later diverges to decisions/options (diamonds) that diverge into more other Processes. Visually we want to have very unique branching possibilities. I want to imagine the "Inertia" of the Situation as the Main Trunk of Possibilities and the PC's are experiencing the Extremes - if you're visualizing from left to right, imagine a complicated branching trunk that follows a particular path of highest probability - now the PCs are diverging from that path. Either imagining in 3d as a Tree trunk and its many branching possibilities of adventure - or in 2d where it branches out into a thick web of possibilities.

The visual cues that make the outliers special   - are Control Limits/Color Bands of Probability and Information. The more Information the PCs have their Branch of Probabilities are farther out the main trunk.  At the same time - the farther from the trunk the more they are going into unknown territory. More risks and dangers happen far outside the trunk.

After imagining the game as these probabilities - I can't imagine rolling that many dice or having the bandwidth to think of stories in dice to dice. I'd rather it be shaped by decisions and behaviors. In 3-4 hours - what kind of story would the players have had? Given the Expectation, Conflict, and Resolution curve of emotion and storytelling - what branching decisions got Players into the story?

I guess for me I'm imagining 40% of time establishing the baseline knowledge and decisions, world-building and the setting. 40% resolving the many conflicts in the setting with the PCs and their own goals and expectations. then the 20% of guessing and reshaping the world with unlikely rolls, setbacks, and change of strategy and path.

That means of that the second 40% and the last 20% Players will work with the GM to figure out what kind of world this is. What kind of timeline and history we are making, with our decisions?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Processing Games Emotionally oops I mean Processing Emotions with Games

If you notice the title of the Blog - Game in the Brain, then it may come to no surprise that gaming is how I process things. 

I got depressed last year, I saw the futility of my circumstance, and I just wanted to quit work. Every problem was preventable, but it required me to have extraordinary authority and resources to correct. It needed me to be above a regular person in some way. As the son of the owner, I felt that I had to fix every problem. I felt guilty and frustrated in the politics and the maneuvering that I had to do. 

Around that time, I was listening to the Late Ronald Siegel's The Science of Mindfulness, which was damaging my mental architecture. I was so used to multi-tasking and finding specific ways to get my dopamine hits that what the lecture was asking me was to give it up. 

I had a headache after listening to the audiobook while walking to work or doing a chore. It was because it was talking about being present in the moment. The lecture sent my brain to focus on my walking or the task. But then there was a conflicting command by being engaged with the lecture. 

I wrote a lot about it in my Work Blog and finally was able to process it all. To simplify Meditation is not continuous activity; the way Physical Exercise or diet is not a continuous activity. We diet and exercise at specific points of the day, but its effects are felt throughout the day.

I felt better after being able to realize the nuance of how it's supposed to work. 

Ronald Siegel's lecture led me to various other realizations and awareness of my behavior—mainly how I process my experience - and why I always Game. Or why I always have "Game in the Brain"


When people think of mountains, animals, and nature to be calm, my safe and peaceful place is with friends and family gaming. I grew up with two other brothers with an hour's commute from school going home. Gaming is how we passed the time. Gaming is how we developed and became who we are. So it's natural that when I think problems at work, I believe it in terms of Game Mechanics and mental models that would be easy to run or play. 

So now I'm all grown up and have work—my work beyond my capacity and temperament. I'm a bit more fragile and sensitive than most people, and can easily fold up and get frustrated. My responsibilities are difficult with its Politics and Complexity, and scarcity that so many people don't understand. It doesn't help that my first experience in management was serious hustlers, scammers, and sharks. That we had to take over of our BPO's IT around 2011. That my first boss, who was hands-on, was not who he claimed to be. That the Plant where I had been later assigned had a ton of problems that I tried to fix solo and realized I needed everyone's cooperation. Every year a new challenge and a new terrible discovery of something wrong. Things became surreal and that I needed to process it, and I stopped gaming. 

I knew I had "game in the brain," but I didn't realize how much it figured into my ability to emotionally process everything I had witnessed and experienced. 

It is after the Mindfulness Lecture did I realize that I do like the work: the Analysis, System Building, Consensus Making, Active Listening, and Hacking systems to work with less and fewer costs. I realized that those fears and trauma could be separated from the Good and Rewarding Work. 

That Mindfulness aligned with the Gamer Mindset. That we look for Optimum strategies - not out of fear, anger, addiction to the dopamine, but because we See a System where we all affect each other, and this is how everything can be made to work. 

So the strategy of escapism takes a more nuanced approach in this kind of gaming. I'm technically escaping the factors of my job - the real costs and consequences if I pursue a particular course of action. But in a game, I can have the same situation and try to act on it and deal with the unintended consequences and additional complexity. In the Game I can feel all this in a safe place and come out of it stronger or more mature. 

So all the crap at work is now game material. I've accepted and acknowledge that I hate it, but usually I'd have more bad dreams about work and feel stressed about it. Now I've accepted it in a way that it doesn't bother me as much. It's hard to differentiate the nihilism of "I hate it, and it won't get better" as compared to the "I hate it, and it's ok." I think the difference is that I believe that "it will never get better" is a lie. I guess I've accepted that It can get better or worse, and no matter what, I'll be ok with that. That in all that pain, a massive chunk of it is just me magnifying it with my fears. My body can only take so much pain before any additional pain stops being sensed. 

I thought this is a Game Related Post, because some people are Wired to have Game in the Brain. 

Sunday, February 2, 2020

GURPS Random Stats. Roll 12d6.

Step 1: Roll 12d6.
Step 2: Assign the 12 d6s to the 12 Attributes and Secondary Characteristics.

Attributes (4):
ST, DX, IQ, HT
1, 8
2-3, 9
4-5, 10
6, 11.

Secondary Characteristics (8):
Hit Points, Lifting Strength, Striking Strength, Speed, Move, Per, Will, Fatigue Points,
1, -1 to a Secondary Characteristic or -0.25 for Speed.
2-3, -0
4-5, +1 to a Secondary Characteristic  or 0.25 for Speed
6, +2 to a Secondary Characteristic  or 0.5 for Speed

With the Stats Rolled
 1s x3, 2s x1, 3s x1, 4s x4, 5s x1, 6s x2

Fighter.
ST 11(6), DX 10(5), IQ10 (4), HT10 (4)
HP10 (1), LSST12(4), SST13 (6), SPD 5.0 (2), Move 5(3), Per9 (1), Will9 (1), FP11 (4)

Rogue.
ST 10(4), DX 11(6), IQ11 (6), HT10 (4)
HP9 (1), LSST9(1), SST9 (1), SPD 5.5 (4), Move 5, Per12 (4), Will10 (2), FP10 (3)

Notes:
1) Trying to keep the Motions Simple. Grabbing a fist full of 12 d6s and rolling them and sorting them.
2) Aware that with the 8-11 stat range Players will try to use up all their 4 and ups for Attributes.
3) Aware that they will use their 1s on the other "dump stats".



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Phandelver Notes - remaining Prep

Current Challenges.

I quit facebook > I cannot find other gamers

In the Philippines Facebook is everything. If you want to know what is happening, the most reliable way to keep in touch is facebook. Facebook in the Philippines has a lot of social mass that the gravity makes it a very difficult habit to manage and a source of unpredictable stress and complication. 

I quit it on October Last year (2019-10) and If I want to find gamers in my neighborhood I'd have to go back on Facebook. I think I'll just limit my posts... the thing is it tends to be a slippery slope that's why quitting was what happened, I'm not capable of moderating myself in Facebook. Quitting is easier than Moderation in some cases and in some people. 

So I'm in a Stalemate: Cons of Going back to Facebook and Breaking my Streak, and Finding Other Players. 

Finding Time to Play

Prerequisites for playing. 
  • within a 5-10 minute Radius of where I live. That's about 500-800 meters. 
  • 2.5 hours of Game Time. 
  • I can bring my son
  • in a 2-3 hour game 1 to 2 other players are fine. 
Minecraft as my Father-Son bonding experience has some serious challenges, particularly my Spatial Nausea I've developed because of my Age. I want to transition to TRPGs or storytelling.

Phandelver Preparations

200111 D&D5E Phandelver NPCS detailed stats.

Summary of NPCs

This is a Table of NPCs
1) Name and Vital Statistics 3.5 D20 Vital Statistics using Headings, hyperlinking him to the Entry in the MAIN story notes. 
  • Age - Age as a Number and In Parthenthis Appearance
    • Very Young Adult (VYA) = Starting Adventure Age, 20 and below.
    • Young Adult (YA) =  20s 
    • Middle Age (MA) = 30s  
  • Gender - M/F
  • Class - will use the Abbreviation and Note Subclass
2) Function. How they serve the story. are they a Hook for a Quest, Information about the Main Quest, Dressing, etc...

3) Pages of Information. Something like an Index where the NPC was mentioned and relevant. 

Summary of Encounters

This is a Table of Encounters that Happen in the Adventure.
1) Encounter Description. typically named after the challenges faced. "Goblins Guards" "Maurading Orcs" etc...
2) Encounter Function, what part of the story does it move forward or is it dressing, or scope limitation or an Opportunity.
3) Encounter Page Reference.  where to find it.
4) Code of Accounts or Work-Break-down Number. The numbering system that shows which Encounters are Sub-Encounters of a Main Encounter Body. So an encounter that is 1.2 means its a sub-Encounter of an Encounter 1. 

Body of Notes

This is the long body of notes that breaks down information into Bullets and Sub-Bullets. Its easier to visually see things as discrete itemized elements. Its meant for Phone or Tablet Reading. 
Also centralizing all the mentions. 

Appearance. I but more detailed appearances here. Both for Role-playing and Describing it to Players. As well 

Plot Twist. These are notes for Additional Depth and Complication in the Game. It provides details that can be taken at face value or leads to or foreshadows more complicated twists. Its used when:
  1. Players are Metagaming or Murder-Hobo-ing.  
  2. Players find the Simple Plot Flat. 
Tactics and How to Play. Instructions and how to use this NPC Optimally.  

The estimated Work remaining is about 20 hours. About 10 evenings after work If I'm not busy with studies.  

After this I'll go back in Prepping Dungeon Fantasy. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Hints of Elder Gods - Moloch and Slavery

When I started separating NPCs to Adventuring and Non-Adventuring, to explain why certain NPCs are "Stagnant" as compared to PCs, I inevitably ran into SOCIAL MOBILITY. The prickly question that "Does Social Mobility" exist in this world? Why?

World Building is taking Economics, history, Ecology, Sociology, etc... and weaving it into a HOBBY. as a hobby there is no wrong way to do it, as long as you're having fun. At the same time different levels of practice gives you insights to different things - like starting out in minis painting might just be for differentiation of your mini, or getting into drawing because you want to draw NPCs and Characters, and then later I become obsessed with color theory, lighting, rule of thirds, telling a story with an image, etc.... I can appreciate the 1st 30 mins of exploring a hobby, I can appreciate the 1,000 hour of exploring the hobby, I can appreciate and relate with the guy in the 90 min mark as well as the guy in the 8,000 hour mark. I dont feel any insecurity about the guy in the > investment of time than me, nor do I judge the person with a small investment of time from me. Whats important that when we play together we let each other enjoy what we enjoy out of the hobby.

So when the question of Social Mobility, Elites, and various problems of INEQUALITY I will take notes and chisel out the details behind the screen. It will be details in how I describe NPC's, that needs to be subtle. Like describing farmers as "Sharecroppers", having an offhand comment about "Taxes and Obligations", hinting on Crop Failure rates as described in my previous studies and subtle hints of debt-bondage.  Since PCs are "Socially Mobile" characters lets see if they can perceive the natural forces of such systems in place.

I just finished Chapter 168 of the Vinland Saga and the narrative of War and Slavery is interesting motivation and plot in the story. Slavery being alive in well in the modern world makes me remember that no matter how much a World Build like the forgotten realms may say Slavery is only practiced in certain parts of the world, when you enter into social mobility, inequality, and the messy details of making a living and economic scarcity you will run into broken Systems.

I was Introduced to Meditations of Moloch in 2016 but I cant help but recall this Elder God that we face everyday,
The question everyone has after reading Ginsberg is: what is Moloch?
My answer is: Moloch is exactly what the history books say he is. He is the god of child sacrifice, the fiery furnace into which you can toss your babies in exchange for victory in war.
He always and everywhere offers the same deal: throw what you love most into the flames, and I can grant you power. 
Moloch is the Elder God that one of NPCs has a pact with as a Warlock. It's also an Elder God that is hinted when I cater to the moods of superiors and not the reasons for the business. When I exploit biases to push my agenda, and the frustration of never being able to argue the assumptions of my proposal so that I may know what I cannot see beyond my perspective - the desire to be told that I'm wrong and be able to follow the logic, or a different experience and perspective that makes so much sense. Sacrificing TRPGs to study and perform these dark rituals of Influence Magic makes relate to Warlocks.

I remembered Moloch during the Ketil Farm Arch, during the arguments between Ketil and his Father Sverkel. The father, Sverkel, argued that a Larger Farm will control them while Ketil desired the security of having more tenants and land under cultivation. Remembering Farm failure rates (i cant remember the exact numbers) that farms fail about every 3-5 years (thats why a "stable" farm is a Hide of 120 acres). That what Ketil wanted was "reasonable" (a prerequisite of being a Moloch warlock, is to make reasonable demands but tended towards decisions that took a life of its own) which has interesting conclusions.

TRPGS are addicting to me because I get to see Players tell their story, in ways that challenge our narrative-biased brains. That AWE one sees in spiritual revelation, seeing nature, scientific discovery, and mindfulness-interconnectivity is what I experience when Players express an Internal Logic for their PCs in new patterns and the many unpredictable sub-optimal ways.

Drawing the Line. The veil that can be placed back.

My favorite technique at work is just not thinking about the Problem too much. I can say its an Elder God dilemma - and my mind will leave it at that. The way GMs who've run Cthulhu has to deal with illogical postulations and can leave it at that. Inequality, Social Mobility, Slavery, in a D&D world can be blend as Irrational things in the Background along with Owl bears, Gnomes, and Elven demographics. I can always cast a Cthulhu shade that - why dwell on the humanity of slavery and war - when there are spell plagues, zentharim, gods walking the earth, etc... To have such values would brand a Character "Crazy" in the setting.