Wednesday, September 30, 2009

RPGs and Business School

In reading articles regarding attention and productivity, Time becomes one of those finite resources that we have to "cheat" in order to lead a more productive and happy life. So what we usually do is try to hit two birds with one stone.

Working, Studying for school, Writing Gaming, fulfilling social obligations and of course making time for my family is really tricky. So we try to do two to five birds with one stone. In my case, 4 birds (working, studying, writing, and gaming) with one stone.

Right now I'm studying business organization, particularly entrepreneurship- which is basically "adventurer" class among the other business archetypes. My other class is Accounting for Entrepreneurs, which is not really supposed to be real accounting but you need to learn real accounting to understand it... forcing me to learn real accounting.

What am I going to do about it? Well, I can make it fun of course. See how it applies to my game and use the Case Studies in my books and Adventuring Material. Instead of going to my usual haunts for encounters, i just have to pull one of the case studies:

Ex. Maynard Company , case study 2-1 and 3-1. (accounting text and cases: robert n. anthony, david f. hawkins, and Kenneth A. Merchant 11edition).

Take the company, change some of the names, Scan and OCR the text, rewrite the values scaled up in millions. Change the NPCs, and throw in some kind of problem where highly skilled adventurers will be needed.

Brokering, Information Gathering, Recovery, Courier, Espionage, or Protection:

lets go with 1d6 (rolls 3), rolls 3x (5, 2, and 4).
Information Gathering
and Courier

Arrange in proper context, develope a time line of events, and write up story bench marks (so that you can pace the adventure to fit the amount of time you are running it)... and Viola! I converted a case study I find mind-numbing boring into an interesting 1 session senario for players who don't know they're going to learn a bit of the lessons I just learned (as a way to reinforce my own learning and to provide added value to the game session).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Running A Game: Sept 12

This about how a game went last saturday and not the game itself (because that would take too much time to narrate).
I ran a game on Sept 12 from 7pm to 12:40am. Although the game was intended to play from 5-11, unfortunately schedules were thrown off by mr murphy.

How the Game went?
The Bad
- Wasn't able to finish at a correct closure. This was caused by physical pain, my whole left side was going crazy with muscle and some torso pains and the mis-start of the game. By my assessment it would have taken 2 more hours for the game to wrap up. The pain was so bad, I coudlnt sleep when I got home and had to look for a 24 hour drug store (thanks to my wife for driving me while my left side was crippled.
- Lack of Preparation. I was going to introduce new players to GURPS. i had to balance their investment of time with my own (actually more of the reverse). So I decided to expend the minimalist effort. Of course the game would have been spectacular if I went full tilt with Character Cards, Comprehensive Character sheets with Skill Uses/description in the appendix. But that would have invested too much of my time when i have so many other responsibilities (school, work, my hobbies, airsoft, my family).
The Good.
- Got some Role-playing Fire going. Role-played a South African Business Mogul Tigress, (sheesh) without breaking character. I was in a bit of the zone and was thinking so much in character I was able to describe in exquisite detail subtle bit of body language (thank you Audio Books and writers like GRRM). I was pretty much into Character with all NPCs and that was a good thing and was very fun for me.
- I was able to describe the technology very comprehensively. Future tech of Privacy technology, along with how certain technology can invade such was (from my player's reactions) suitably impressive. The articles of technology and my understanding of business organization and process seem to impress the player who has a strong entrepreneurial slant (like me). I realized that the GM should provide Standard Rates of Exchange and Processes quickly.
- I was able to get a thorough assessment of the playing styles. I learned I should quickly shift my technological-descriptive "aperture".

After thought. I now have a better understanding of my players and can now incorporate their favorite stuff into the game better. Particularly learning about their curiosity and their "payoffs". Beyond my expectation was an NPC I made on the fly is now going to be a recurring villain.

The Observational and Psychological aspect of GMing a variety of players and posing comprehensive questions about their character's stance (value for life, overriding POV or belief system, intolerance, social obligations, chosen amount of responsibilities, etc. etc.) shaped both their own view of their character as well as them as a player and my understanding of them as both characters and players.

Xandra Sirenna
Known Assets at $100M, but rumored to have x10 more (an aspect of her keen business abilities). She holds controlling Interest of the Taharqo Venture Group. Their physical assets include 1000T Frontier Merchanter (equipped with a 2x5 fighter defense squadrons, and 100T courier on the vehicle bay.
What best describes her is that she is a pure Alpha-Type personality, with an aggressive and vindictive nature. Rumors persist of her hand in the deaths of her powerful associates and rivals that have died (suicide and accidents) or were financially ruined.
Notable Observable Traits: HT13+, Appearance: Beautiful, Fashionable and always projecting Power and Confidence.
People who have spent time with her will describe her to be at around 14. Those who know her better would find the assessment laughable.

I was prepared for the PCs to go this direction. The PCs had an options of going the very high risk route of Xandra, vs medium risk, and vanilla risk. All I would have done was raise all the stats of these people by +1 compared to the professional norm of 12-15. Scarry to go against 13s to 16s for the high riskers. the "adventurer" risk was roughly their level 12-15 which i was expecting the to take because of the natural schelling point. Although in retrospect, Vanila would be just as profitable and probably might be better.

When your the ACE, you advance far. Even in a low Risk environment, you can still make that trade off with some creative and imaginative actions. although there is that temptation to be complacent.

I will try to record the next session. Will try to borrow my parent's video camera and attempt at a pod cast of a GURPS Traveller Game my style. I'll try to keep things more organized for the listeners to follow the story.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Concept Generation: Super Light System.

I'm running a Systems Light Game for a group of players unfamiliar to my gaming style. I don't want to confuse them with a heavy system so I'll elect for a home made system. Something that gets the character creation done in a few minutes (at least all of the characters in an hour). I'll move to a more detailed system little by little.
My friend told me he gave them my copies GURPS lite, I assume they didn't have time to read 32 pages and would be easier to just work with some loose concepts. I will use GURPS as the basis of the rest of the modifiers anyway.

System Mechanics
Step 1: Roll 3 Six-Sided Die against a Target Difficulty (usually 10). The Die Roll plus its modifiers must equal or exceed.
Ability Rating + Profession/Background + Die Roll vs Difficulty
5-8 Degrees of Ease
9-11 Degrees of Challenging
12-14 Degrees of Troublesome
15-16 Degrees of a Hard and Ardous Task
17+ Impossible Tasks
Character Creation
Step 1: Allocate 9 Points between all the listed attributes. Allocating none equates to 0, the most is at 3, and one attribute can be reduced to -1 for an additional point.
Poor -1. Below Average and suffering the repercussions of it's lacking.
Average 0. Average is not just the man on the street but the general competence found among the working class, needed to survive and thrive in any given era.
Good 1. Better than Average, Good ability thrive and are found a tier higher over average.
Great 2. This is better than Good and particularly uncommon. This level of ability stands out clearly among its Peers.
Remarkable 3. A level of ability that gets around and moves big things (like large sectors of the character's society).
Step 2: Determine the Sub Attribute. Int the parenthesis these are specialization of a particular attribute, the assumption is both attributes are represented by the broader one. One can choose to specialize raise a sub attribute at the expense of the other (+1/-1), this specialization can only raise/lower by 1.

  • Physical Condition (Healthy vs Strength).
  • Kinesthetic Intelligence (Hand Eye vs Balance-Coordination).
  • Social Intelligence (Empathy vs Charm).
  • General Intelligence (Memory vs Technical).
  • Perception (General Awareness vs Concentration).
  • Personal (Convictions or Motivations vs Intuitive Sense).
  • Profession (Assets vs Skills). This represents what the character does.
  • Background (Assets vs Skills).This represents the skills and assets of where the character was from.

Josephine Quijano Zaladez
Physical Condition +1 Healthy, -1 Strong
Kinesthetic Intelligence 1
Social Intelligence 2
General Intelligence 1
Perception 1
Personal 1 Intuition, 3 Conviction
Profession: 0 Assets, 2 Skills
Background: Intelligentsia (Educated Middle Class) 1 (Assets vs Skills)
Josephine is a strong willed daughter of mixed heritage upper middle class family. She was raised to be married and settled down as early as possible, but her stubbornness and competitiveness with her older brothers has bent her father and mother to her wishes to educate herself and some measure of independence. Her eldest brother Theodoro was not especially helpful by getting her a "job" brokering lady's fancies like fashion, furniture, and (secretly) books.
She has taken to some nasty habits because of this, one particularly Padre Brillenes suspects to be reading, specifically secular books. Quickly Padre communicated his suspicions to her family, and her father furious of a possible scandal had made it clear he wants her to desist. In protest she leaves, and chose to live with her older brother's house, crippling her mother with despair and leaving her bed ridden for a week. This made all her relatives come calling and tried to urge her to reconsider, which only made Josephine furious.
Immediately she tried to confront Padre Brillenes, and in her sudden and spontaneous rush witnessed a surprising aspect to his personal life. Josephine was quick to take advantage of it an turn the tables urging the priest to ease her mother's conscience or let something particular slip among her many contacts concerning the padre.
When the mess was finally cleared up, her mother got better and chose to visit her often. What was surprising was she got to know the Padre Brillenes better and was able to win him over.
I don't know what to play:
Quick Sci-Fi or Mahadlika???

Monday, September 14, 2009

GMing Style learned with a bit of a Scientific Approach

My Simulationist Gaming Style
The GM is the Manager and Leader. As the Game Master, I manage a number of things: the players and their resources, the scenarios, the supporting cast, and the challenge.
My responsibility primarily is to my Players, as they are my sponsors. As my sponsors their satisfaction is my goal and to accomplish this the Charter by which I operate to accomplish is discussed and agreed upon.
At the same time as the players are my sponsors, they are also my task members. As my task members I manage them, provide them clear direction, and I do not get in their way of accomplishing their goal. Although as a GM and as a challenging and critical thinking game, the charter provides me the necessary power to make that possible. This means I take their solutions and introduce a measure of risk and problem that keep them busy an on their toes for the duration of the exercise.

The Players are both the Sponsors and the Task Members. As the sponsors they draw up the charter working the GM. The charter is made up of several expectations the player will want from the GM. At the same time as it is a game, it also list downs the parameters by which the GM can push the challenge.
As the Players are also the Task Members, they play along with the GM in executing this project. Unlike regular Task Members, the Players have an overall payoff attached in accomplishing the Goals they have set for themselves and the GM.

Peculiarities of Style:
Investment of time and effort. This style redistributes the energy and commitment of a game between players and GM. I have learned from experience, the level of investment adversely affects a game because of the simple nature of any human designed project. As the demands of both sides are made clear, the realistic ability to meet these expectations can be made to better fit the limitations of Play and Prep Time.
Rapid Improvement of Play and GMing style. Treated as a Project, there is a self correcting and debriefing exercise. Typically the social dynamics of the old-school of gaming sees this an an artistic approach and cannot be criticized. This style holds no sacred cow and seeks to maximize both the proponents' future satisfaction as well as improve the overall performance of the team. The semi-professional atmosphere adds a layer of buffer against personal feelings getting in the way.
I find the narrow focus on the goals, the craft and the group's psychology is more constructive and sustainable. This is because a bad habits can still be corrected, and boundaries can be drawn and redrawn based on the accumulated experience and knowledge.

Primary Style Goal: Sustainability and Constant Accumiliation and Advance in Technical Proficiency.

Personal History. Back when I just graduated high school my "little" brother wanted to GM but I didn't let him. In the Philippines there was that sense of authority and respect that made it feel awkward if my little brother would GM both his older brothers. When my best friend was able to use humor to successfully point out the flaws of such feelings I gave it a try and then I realized that he was a much better GM than I was. I quickly embraced the humility at the same time, both of us grew very open and critical of the GMing styles of others and our own.
Local culture combined with RPG culture created a sense of privilage for one to play. This had varying results in playing styles. Some were to self obsessed and forgot the players and focus primarily on the GM's satisfaction. There were GMs who grew ineffectual and traumatized players remvoing them from the hobby.
Then there was a sudden surge of GM elitism among our circle started by my younger brother. It was elitism in the sense that he tried to reverse the negative elements by following a code of conduct and professionalism. I followed suit, and found ourselves offending other GMs with our one-upsmanship. I eventually got caught up in satisfying my players more than my craft, which led to many unsustainable bouts of epic games where the rules and energy researching these rules overcame even my personal life.
Lessons learned from swinging from GM to Player power was what shaped much of my ideas of GMing today. In my experience, both have lead to unsustainable games. My understanding of management actually helped shape my GMing style, because it focused on the Psychology of working together with a Clear and Defined Leadership and Goal while not giving one side more power than it needs to accomplish its goal.
I admit this style is not for everyone, and as a hobby at this level of (self) critical professionalism may not be appreciatble in the casual atmosphere people seek in a game. Although as a workaholic it suits me quite well because I want maximum Satisfaction from a Game session with the most sustainable investment of time. This style removes some of the catharsis of running a relaxing game and makes it a technical performance. It forces me to be more productive with my time and compartmentalize it efficiently allowing me more free time to pursue other hobbies and diversify my source of happiness.

Planning to Post an invite in the Free Thinkers Group I've joined, still mulling it over. Here is what I wrote.
Hi, I usually run Role-Playing Games and have an open invite for those who want to try. In theme of free thinking, i don't run fantasy or supernatural. I usually run realistic or simulationist scenarios. The topics I usually like gaming about are taking an emergency or extreme but plausible scenario and have characters, who are either suited or ill suited for the task, go through the scenario given the best of the Player's own ability.

My favored method of conflict resolution favors creativity, although if people want tactical exercises I am very flexible. I'd like to say I specialize in running social scenarios that emphasize in negotiation, diplomacy, empathy and awareness (although the lack of players interested in only such tactics are rare and my practice is limited).

Things usually like running are Calamity scenarios (like civilians in coup d'etat, trapped and survival), events in Philippine history (specializing in 19th Century), detective mysteries, and entrepreneurial adventures (free lancers and opportunity seekers out to make a buck and some mark). I am also open to a other variety of scenarios and games, depending on what the players want and what I have access in terms of research.

I usually run my games short (3-4 hours) and with a small manageable size of players at 4 (which is my limit... any more and I exhaust myself and the quality of the game suffers to a point against my pride). I use GURPS a Generic universal Role-playing Game System, but I don't stress on the system or mechanics. The game system is merely a way to arbitrate abstract quantities of risk. I usually run a rather rules-light Character creation with just a short talk defining the character strengths, limitations, and stance.

If there are other GMs out there who like to use their games as a way to create safe exercises of free thinking I'm also open to being a player.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gurps Traveler: Expanding GURPS BASIC SET

I think there should be more fan made BASIC SET material online. I've heard complaints from my fellow GM that the other Books just pile on more rules and there was a thread or two that just talks about what campaigns can one make with just the basic set.

I will try to convert my data to Basic Set 4E usalble systems and save other GMs some grief.I will also fix up a bit of the Vehicle Combat Rules in Campaigns to be more easy and "ready-to-play"

Cheap Small Armed Frontier Merchant

Description: This small Merchanter is meant to survive out in the frontier and for the entrepreneur working on a budget. This ship has a very strong defensive ability, these are not offensive missiles but ECM missiles which launch accompanying the ship and scrambling the source of its active signal and emissions. (i will explain more of this in detail... the wife is asking me to sleep).

dHP 78 (dDR10); Hnd -2 (SR 5); HT11; Move: 1.7G/1.1G/0.6; LWT: 875 (Load: 400/800/2000, 1100m^3); SM +8 (65m); Occ 12+6ASV; Range 200yrs/2-parsecs Cost $57.5M; Locations 3Rr2+1t

Combat Capabilities: 8x12 ECM missiles, 4 Pulse Lasers.


Cargo: Convertible to Supports 550m^3 Hangar (3 x SM+4 75m^3 crafts) and 550m^3 Fuel Tank (+2-parsec range and wilderness refueling capable).

Crew: Commanding Officer, Executive/Tactical officer, Sensor Officer, Navigations/Gunner Officer, Communications/ EW-ECM Officer, Chief Engineer, 2 Engeineering/Maintenance/Cargo Service Crew, Chief Steward, Ship Master, and 2 Medical (Nurse)/ General Service Crew. Lodging enough for 6 Passengers or Small Craft Crew .

Cheap Small Fighter

Description: This small fighter is based on a civilian recreational racer usually converted by frontier governments and merchanters into armed escort.

dHP 38 (dDR10); Hnd +0 (SR 5); HT 9; Move: 4G/4.5G (with no pulse lasers); LWT: 68.5 (Load: 13.5); SM +4 (8.5m); Occ 2ASV; Range 40 Days Cost $9M; Locations 0+3t

Combat Capabilities: 3x12 ECM missiles, 3 x Missiles, 1 EW Missiles, 2 Pulse Lasers.


Crew: Navigator/Sensor Officer and Gunner/EW-ECM

Friday, September 4, 2009

Role-Playing/Narrating a Hard Sci-fi's Starship's Bridge

Ever wondered how hard is the job of a Sensor Officer aboard a ship? Given the advances in computers at present day, there is that pitfall assumption that the sci-fi profession will just get easier.

Gunnery Officer
Descriptions: There are Gunner roles offensive and defensive. At the offensive role he has to face the opposing force's Gunnery, EW and the Nav Officers or the meager computers substituting them.

The Gunnery officer is not just a click and shoot job. Fire patterns and the target's defensive patterns are calculated, updated, and corrected continuously based on the immediate results at hand, this makes Gunnery a very complicated math intensive job as the officer tries as quickly as possible. The gunner also controls and coordinates the missiles, specifically their EW penetration aids, evasion pattern, navigation, target priorities, and formation. The gunner must be proficient in the use of EW

On the defensive role, the Gunner is also the second line of defense (the first being the Nav Officer with evasion maneuvers). They coordinate point defense fire control solutions for direct energy weapons, and counter missiles. This is made up of very complicated constantly correcting patterns that try to anticipate the enemy's pattern as quickly as possible.

Skills: Artillery Missile, Gunner (Beam Weapon), Electronics Operation (Electronic Warfare)
Typically Mixed Role: Navigation, Tactical, and ECM duties.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics):

Electronic Counter Measures Officer.
Description: This job is one that very few GMs are able to imagine and visualize. In fact, it is one mostly forgotten in many games. Generally Electronic Warfare is a very broad description of task and duties referring to sensors and communications manipulation. Specifically, on a Sci-Fi starship bridge it refers to Offensive and Defensive Electronics Warfare. EW generally refers to offensive use of Electronic Warfare which is tackled by the Gunner. Electronic Counter Measures is the term used to describe the Defensive EW role.

Defensively the ECM officer is the ship's life saver, he is the last and final defense (in Hard Sci-fi) of any star ship against enemy attacks. He is a cross between the street hustler and a special effects director. His highly complex and Special FX shell game of signals, patterns, drones and dummies create a veil of uncertainty to conceal the precise location of the ship despite being localized in a "hex".

The ECM officer uses external ECM missiles or drones to bounce all the ship's signals with complex programmed distribution and reflection patters. Patterns can be imagined as a house of mirrors displacing the actual ship coordinates far enough to be believable from their actual location.

The ECM officer usually coordinates with the Navigators, as they base all their calculations of the 3d Maps and coordinate with their evasion patterns.

Typically Mixed Role:
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics):

Chief Engineer.
Description: Scotty may be the most popular star hip engineer because of pop media but the engineer is far from just go-to guy if the captain has problems with the ship.

Life Support, Jump/Hyper Drives, Maneuver Drives, Operational Electronics and Computers, Power Allocations, Weaponry, and the Ship's Hull and Frame are the domains of the engineer. Although, typically all ship systems are automated to be self regulating and monitoring as to reduce the chances of human error.

The Engineer's first job is to manage the technology of a ship in areas the accumulated knowledge of the makers cannot anticipate. The Engineer's has to be constantly aware and ready with the best precautionary measures they can take with the limitations of what is on hand of the ship in case of failure. He does this with the help of the ship's diagnostics computer the ship's vulnerabilities and analyzing the work life of every part. He then drafts a number of measures and procedures, as well a drilling his underlings and the rest of the crew in how a systematic way of countering these possible failures.

Regularly Ship Systems have updates and sometimes these updates have to be scrutinized by the Engineering Section. In return, the Ship also reports operational insight to the manufacturers. All of these elements have to be presented and clarified to a lot of people.

The second job of the Engineering section is allowing the ship to work past their safe operational parameters in order to get out some necessary performance. The trade of such action is the reduced work life of certain parts (in game terms- self inflicted injury).

Engineers typically have a robot helper (like R2D2) who act like a mobile ship diagnostics computer, tool kit, as well as independent systems interface. Because of the potential repairs ships may need in hazardous and frontier journeys there would be ideally 3 Heavy Spider Exo-Skeletons and roughly 5% to 10% of ship cargo allocated to spare parts costing roughly 1 month's worth of maintenance. Ships like the Serenity will still have such safety-nets available if the crew wants to be able to sleep at night.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics): 1 dHP is of a ship represent 1/Total dHP cost of the ship. Every time the ship pushes the envelope, the Engineer rolls -1 per 5% of improved performance to he is trying to get out of the systems, at a maximum of +25%. Failure means nothing happens. Although, any such occassion the ship must roll HT, on a success it only loses 1 dHP per turn and per 5% "pushing the envelope" on a failure double the self inflicted damage.

Sensor Officer.
Description: The sensor officer's job is not supposed to read out loud what the instruments are detecting. First off, sensor data is very course and rough. They are rarely in anyway makes sense to a layman and often in distances of a light micro second there are no visuals (like in submarine combat). It basically almost like watching strings of codes crawling across the screen, except that advances in computer interface will try to make some intuitive sense of these streams of data.
Computers are used to measure, filter and translate the course information presented by the sensors. They posses a huge data library of emissions, signatures, frequencies, signals, and metrics of everything it detectable and provide these suggestions to the Sensor Officer. Another way to imagine a sensor station is to compare it to a Crime Lab forensically drawing a picture of the crime by stringing together subtle and obscure clues.

Another monumental task of the Sensor Officer is to keep track all these detectable objects and hand them over to the Navigations Officer. Typically these objects also shift and change their displaying attributes as the ship's relative motion affects what it can detect from it as well as the effect its surroundings will have on the object.

Active vs Passive Sensors. I mentioned that Visuals are something of a least likely a Sensor Officer can encounter. This is because space with all its sources of light creates an infinitesimal level of gradation that eats up a lot of computing power (and thus energy) and requires time and special equipment.
Skills: Electronic Operations (Sensors), Expertise (Space Faring Vessels),
Bridge Challenge (System Mechanics): The Sensor Officer has to choose the order of objects to process. This is tricky and require a lot of intuition and experience to guess which may be a random cluster of micro meteors or stealthed missile group.

Sensors have bands of effectiveness. The default Sensor Range Band (or SRB) is equal to Ship Size Modifier -6 or Sensor Model-No x 2. SRB in Hexes counts as Close Range for Ship sensors. Everything at this band has gives the sensors a +3 to +7 bonus. Objects at SRB x2 to x3 in hexes have a +2 to -2 from being successfully detected and identified. At SRB x4, objects have a -5 to -10 of being detected and identified. Add the object's Active Signature, Sensor Stance (Active and Broadcasting vs Silent and Passive).

The GM typically describes things in general terms to the Sensor Officer based on the roll. The better the roll the more informative. On a margin of 5 or better it is an identification, on a critical success specific signature details (outside normal working parameters) mark it's finger print. He can use certain detectable traits to describe "Big" or "Small", "Dense" or "Light", Estimates on the Levels of Power coursing through the ship (about 110MW to 1GWs), "Fast moving" or "Evasive", etc. It is the Player who draws up the conclusions

It takes around 1d or 1 to 6 minutes (average of 3) for the Sensor Officer of the scan through an object. Apply Haste Rules, Range Modifier (Scaled in the Hexes Size), and Tool Quality.

Navigation Officer
Description: At first glance, many would assume Navigation Officers are merely tasked in plotting how a ship will get from A to B. It's not that simple.

As in many Sci-fi settings, ships capable of moving in fractions of light speed will have very complicated vectors as they have to account for the perhaps a several to a hundred different gravities factor, avoid obstacles (like belts, rings, clouds, flares, "winds" etc.), follow official lanes and paths, and plot complex intercept courses with other near-light moving detectable bodies.

The Navigator has to also has to filter the data of the Sensor Officer and updating the 3d map for the rest of the Bridge Crew. This also requires the Nav officer to predict potential vectors of other relevant moving objects relative to the ship. He also has to calculate one or two other vector, maneuvers and actions options for the CO to weigh in.

In combat situations the Navigator has to calculate and update evasion pattern solutions as well as coordinate with the ECM, Engineering, and Gunnery Officers.

Computers will be mostly tasked in making all the routine crunchy computations and to organize, format, efficiently present all the data.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics):

Communications Officer
Description: The communications officer is not the captain's secretary. The Comm officer is tasked to look at all detectable electronic patterns, monitor all channels of communications and to quickly gather and organize electronic intelligence. The comm officer is also the ship cipher, actively trying to penetrate enemy communications as well as protecting allied channels. Often the Comm Officer handles the ECM role has he uses the drones to bounce off signals to hide the ship's actual position.

Broadcast vs Tight Beam. Tight Beam is secure way to communicate with other ships and objects unfortunately there are severe limits to its range similar to that of lasers: eventually the physical precision of the mechanism cannot accurately target the beam at a certain range.

At certain ranges the tight beam tends to fray, this is intentional as to hit its intended target at its most extreme range. This suffers the same security risk the broadcasting, but requires very very skilled stealth sensor drone control.

Broadcasting is not spherical but a very narrow cone to get more range. It eats up a lot of power, to get at its farthest range, but can reach much farther ranges than tight beam at the cost of security. as well as communicate with more targets. Since anyone or their drone in the region of the broadcast can pick it up, record it, and break it only certain information can be used with broadcasting.

The computers not only aid the Comm Officer in organizing and keep track of a thousand different things, it analyzes broadcasts by looking for key words or codes in a hundred different languages. Comm equipment is suitably equipped at the task of Data Storage and Ciphering.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics):

Ship Steward.
Description. Neither is Ship Steward the crew's or the Captain's assistant. The job of the steward is that he or she is the Chief Operating Officer aboard the ship. This is a task that should not be taken lightly, because in every successful operation there is a very capable logistics officer behind it.

As the chief operating officer the Steward is in charge of the books (accounting), which entails keeping track of expenses, projecting future expenses, making sure the crew gets their pay, listening to all the operation concerns of every member of the crew, managing human resources, stretching resources and finding ways to increase profit (by either lowering operating cost OR adding value to the service).
As it goes in ranks aboard a ship, in a civilian ship he is directly below the Ship Master, sometimes even holds greater authority over the commanding officer in matters of the share holders (which is different from stake holders).

Sometimes the Steward also serves the chief Business Intelligence Officer, processing massive amounts of business data collected in the ship's travells to best predict when the next opportunity will open up for the Ship.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics): None

Executive and Tactical Officer.
Description: As I've been explaining the tasks of the bridge crew it is quite easy to realize that they are very complicated. This is why the executive officer is needed to help the Commanding Officer organize and processes all this complex data as an added level of safety and certainty when a decision is made.

Time pressure very often in dangerous situations prevent the Commanding Officer from contemplating his decisions and it is the Tac/Exec job to provide him that Point of View that prevents him from being blind sided. This requires the Exec/Tac Officer to be the CO best critic and follower.

Often enough, there number of tasks exceed the grasp of the Commanding officer. This is when the Executive Officer steps up and handles it while the CO keeps all his attention on the more important priories.
Bridge Scenario (System Mechanics):

Commanding Officer.
Description: John G. Hemry description of a Commanding Officer in Lost Fleet suffices for me to describe the virtues of what is desired from a CO. Mr Hemry's description is not alone in the many Ideals expected from a CO, which the GM and the Players must choose depending on their taste and playing style. Most importantly, the CO must be a capable bridge officer and can get inside the heads of his officers to appreciate How they interpreted the data they are giving him as he is the final arbiter of the data's priority, relevance and identity.

The CO's main job is to lead and to analyze the bigger picture of whats going on. While everyone is busy with the detail, the CO points their efforts towards the direction that will let them survive, succeed or get the job done.

Both the CO and the Tac/Exec have their own display console and computer presenting all the information as conveniently, completely and efficiently as possible. They also put their own highly technical input on this console and not just call out the crewmen. In fact all dictation on the bridge come with subtitles to make sure and confirm all expressions are understood with certainty.

Ship Master.
Description: The Ship master is often the ship owner. If he knows better (and he should with such a valuable investment going around very dangerous waters) he leaves the experts to do their job. In the ship commercial hierarchy the corporate representative or head (if the corporation only extends to the ship itself) is next to "God" in command. On warships there is no ship owner and the CO is next to "God" in command.

Often the Commanding Officer (or his exec) or the Ship Steward happens to be the ship owner.

As an Added Bonus:

Sci-Fi Ground Forces:

Field Tactical Officer.
Description: Since I'm on the page of describing the Sensor and Tactical officer on a Starship's Bridge, this leads me to mention that a Sci-Fi Ground Forces Tactical Officer does the same thing.

His primary task is to create an advanced field of detection and process it to useful Intelligence. He also maintains the tight beam communications with each individual of his squad. His tools are his combat computer (see my Load Outs), and reconnaissance robots.

His Combat Role is to upload the updated visual tactical display of every member of the squad. So the guy drawing, coloring, uploading video, text and audio and intelligence on the Squad member's HUD display is the annoying nagging Tac-Of.

The Robots of the Tactical Officer can be called a "Familiar" as the role of the officer is close to the DnD controllers. They shape the battle field with the help of intelligence and coordination. Sometimes these Familiars are armed and the very often the Tac Of has not hands free and relies on his shoulder mounted weapon (typically an 40mm auto-grenade launcher).

Description: They are the eyes and ears of the Tactical officers. In sci-fi with advanced endurance operational technology and incredible weapon lethality (despite advances in defense) Robots take to the battle field not as killers but as valuable companions. (yep just like the DnD Ranger)

Typically these companion AI robots are maintained and controlled by scout-rangers and can be any form that suits the Player's fancy, personally I go a bit soft on these with battle cats, steel wolves, Stealth Falcons, insectile ornithopters etc.

Primarily the Robots are ultra stealthy advanced sensors, who can physically go in a manner and carry more stealth equipment that no human can. Rarely are these delicate and highly specialized tools put in direct combat (because of their huge monetary cost but more for because it is outside their core competence) but what limited disruptive tools (and weapon) these robots can carry allow their "handlers" optimum flanking advantage in a fire fight.

Quoting Myself on this Thread
Crackerjack just gave me an idea for a squad organization. Another advantage of keeping costs down and being able to field more is the more specialized roles that come up. A specialized tactical officer, feeding data to the troops, converting the commanders orders to HUD visuals, maintaining tight beam comm, and coordinating with other forces takes advantage of the quantity vs quality advantage.

A Squad Loaded out with Robot Scouts (like the battle cat in that Mars movie) as a forward sensor edge, moving as a diffuse mass, and with Operational Endurance will make for a pretty effective strike force that can be fielded without PA (just Load Bearing Exo-skeletons). Small fan-hovering robots could be relays to keep transmission secure all via tight beam and even if there is orbital dominance the size and lack of a long logistical trail makes this group way more effective at stealth.

Forward (fast manuvering)
marksman, heavy weapons and anti-armor
tactical officer (controls the robot scouts)
squad commander

at TL10 Man-POrtable Stealth Plateaus at Multi-Spec Cammo and Deceptive ECM. the nice thing about the non-PA is the redundancy non-PA load outs have (see shared load-outs) when the M-spec Cammo suffers battle or environmental damage.

operational endurance factors greatly in stealth because it creates a wider search area while maintaining a low sig. So even if they are looking for them, they have more ground to cover.

Lastly- this set up lets a squad get close enough to peek, mark targets and take anti armor measures while fading back into stealth. (time delayed disposable missile launchers).

PA on the other hand seems to really dominate ship boarding because of DR threshold of a ship's internals

Thursday, September 3, 2009

GURPS Intelligences: why Math kicks too much a...

This is why mathematic ability shouldn't just be worth 5cp.

GURPS Intelligence. I envy those who have "leet" math skillz, and in an RPG as in real life I know what I can do with such things. In a military situation, someone with such abilities can call down Artillery Fire more accurately, decode enemy intelligence better, and juggle more complicated logistical problems. In any game, such a character will be earning heck more than other employed characters, justifying a high wealth.

In any sci-fi setting, that character just scary good. Summarily he can do any computerized, highly calculation intensive job, at roughly +5 to +10 better (because he is doing something people pay thousands of dollars for to aid them in the calculation). In the system this can represent a -50% to -90% less time to accomplish a task. Such a character will be able to multi-task his Navigations, Hyper Space Navigation, Sensors, Gunnery Solutions, Tactical Coordination much faster than other characters.

All such highly technical abilities will require high level of training and math. In these tasks computers will provide cleaned up solutions and options more humanly comprehendable.
  • A character who can keep up with the computer can "Hack" the computers job and find all sorts of short cuts,
  • he can also follow a line of options outside the computer's programing parameters,
  • the character begins with a mental Road Map of the decision matrix speeding him up
  • he can use himself or the computer as spare muscle computing peripheral options that have a higher risk of being useful but would eat up valuable time in evaluation... etc
Hanging out too much at Pharyngula- as my answer is colored by the mindset against anti-intellectualism.

Sorry, I didn't know anyone was commenting. I just recently fixed it that I get an email alert from now on.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

GURPS Ultra tech and High Tech Corrections

Some unofficial (but necessary) corrections. This makes more sense for me, and allows more natural progression in combat doctrine as TL advances. Instead of seeing a TL9 electro-thermal chemical round with 7dx2.5(2)pi or 62 (2)pi damage cut through a TL10 DR100 battle armor.

I'm particularly happy about the Exo-Skeleton Ready Suit modification. It just really weirds me out that Hardsuits are too obsolete given the severe weight limitations. It also annoyed me that all the Really nice Exo-Skeletons could only work with Sealed Tactical Suits at best, then there is that huge Jump towards Battle Suits ignoring the hardsuits in the tactical doctrine.

APEP Rounds TL9+

Comment. The original stats failed to follow the cubic root conversion of energy to damage, was inconsistent with High Tech's cost progression and did not live up tot he text describing the tech of APEP. See DU and the APFSDSDU corollation.

Damage: Conventional +20% (+2 per 3d), ETC +33% (+1 per 1d), ETK +50% (+1d per 2d or +2 per 1d). Downgrade Pi by one level, at a minimum Pi-.

Armor Divisor: (2)

Cost: x3

APHC Rounds TL9+

Comment. The cost of a very mature APHC technology is not adequately reflected and has no cost advantage to the other options for the same cost.

Damage: Downgrade Pi by one level, at a minimum Pi-.

Armor Divisor: (2)

Cost: x1.25

HEMP Rounds TL10

Comment. The ammo has some balance problems when it comes to damage. A pistol round (which has the same diameter but shorter than a rifle round) is the same damage as the rifle round.

Damage: 10mm Pistol/SMG round: 6d(5) imp inc + linked 1d-3 cr ex [1d-3]; 15mm Pistol/SMG round: Use the 10mm rifle round.

Cost: x5

ETC Early TL 9+

Comment. In the ETC thread.

Damage: +10% (+1 per 3d ).

Range: +10%

Cost: x1.5 cost of conventional small arm

ETK Mature TL9+

Comment. The same goes for Electro Thermal Kinetic.

Damage: +25% (+1d per 4d, or +1 per 4 average dmg).

Range: +25%

Special Advantage: +1 Accuracy for 2 handed fire-arms.

Cost: x2 cost of conventional small arm

Exo-ready Hardsuits Mature TL9+

Comment. Before jumping towards battle armor and so that hard suits will not be too out class at higher TLs, Exo-skeleton ready Hardsuits are designed.

Special Advantage: These hard suits can be worn with a specially designed compatible Exo-skeletons.

Cost: +$1,000

Hardsuits Mature to Late TL8+

Comment. Basically the Mature to Late TL8 version of the Hardsuit.

DR: 35/20

How much energy is released in a gauss rifle?

Gauss Rifle 0.006lbs (0.0027Kg or 2.7grams ) at 3,476 Joules a speed of 1134 m/s. 3,476 Joules x 12 ROF= 41,712 joules per second or 41.7KWs. 41,712 KWs x 5 seconds = 208,560 Kws or 58KWh (kilo watt hour).

ETC Storm Carbine, APHC 10mmCL; Dmg 7d+2(2) pi; Acc 5; Range 900/2,700; Wt. 8/2.5; ROF 10; Shots 50+1(3); ST 10†; Bulk -4; Rcl 3; Cost $2,700/$65; LC 2.

note: 26(2) dmg (ETC APHC) vs DR50 (TL9 Hardsuits)

ETC Storm Carbine, APEP 10mmCL; Dmg 7d+7(2) pi; Acc 5; Range 1000/3,150; Wt. 8/2.5; ROF 10; Shots 50+1(3); ST 10†; Bulk -4; Rcl 3; Cost $2,700/$135; LC 2.

note: 31.5(2) dmg (ETC APEP) vs DR70 (TL9 Power Armor)

ETK Storm Carbine, APHC 10mmCL; Dmg 8d+2(2) pi; Acc 5; Range 900/2,700; Wt. 8/2.5; ROF 10; Shots 50+1(3); ST 10†; Bulk -4; Rcl 3; Cost $3,600/$65; LC 2.

note: 30(2) dmg (ETK APHC) vs DR70 (TL9 Power Armor)

ETK Storm Carbine, APEP 10mmCL; Dmg 10d+2(2) pi; Acc 5; Range 1000/3,150; Wt. 8/2.5; ROF 10; Shots 50+1(3); ST 10†; Bulk -4; Rcl 3; Cost $3,600/$135; LC 2.

note: 37(2) dmg (ETK APEP) vs DR70 (TL9 Power Armor)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Philippines as an RPG setting

The Philippines is, unfortunately, a great place to find all sorts of villains and human tragedies. The country is filled with factions that don't really have a sense of duty to its people (even those factions that traditionally fill the role like the police, military, or government). Everything is just a game and faction heads are constantly just probing each other for weaknesses, unsympathetic of who they tred over.
Quoting myself in a forum discussion.
...Well the truth of the matter is that the book's description of the Philippines is not that far from the actual. You can even say our "triads" don't work in shadows and in fact work out in the open (we have a impotent self correcting judicial body: office of the ombudsman doesn't tackle anything worth while without international pressure). We are top 3 of the most corrupt in Asia, even legitimate actions need greasing (you can't even pay proper taxes or attain proper permits without a bureaucrat threatening to tie you up in red tape).

Its really a warlords paradise with a comfortable tech base and a very useful backdrop to run politically charged modern combat games against less well equipped and trained extra-military forces (warlords henchmen). There is are roughly around 20+ political murders here every year. Not to mention the human trafficking that goes on because of our huge labor export and the complications of being a "western" ally amidst a number of anti-western faction with porous borders.

I very much envy American gun rights.

Typical Philippine Scenario-
Part 1 (introduction) Big Pork barrel (government spending deal) worth about $20M several or Corporation wanting to develop X despite certain protective laws in place (could be land, natural resources, a sector of the tech industry etc. ) factions are always trying to get a big piece.
Part 2 (PCs get hooked in) Apart from these factions messily maneuvering to get the largest piece, you have leaks and some civilians (typically small time local journalists or human rights activists) getting caught up in the wheels.
Part 3 (Things get Complicated and Climax) Typically some people get killed and someone gets the money OR someone successfully leaks the information (which is usually the losing side who didn't get the cut they wanted) and while somtimes the innocent survives...
Part 4 (Resolution, Debriefing) Those who survive long enough to get public and international moral outrage causes these factions to duck down and keep a low profile. This is merely get a slap on the wrist. Rinse, Lather and Repeat (ex. ZTE Scandal, Missing USAF donation for
Balikatan, Phil-Russian Money Laundering, Fertilizer Scandal, Razon-Coal mining etc. )

Philippine Journalist Blogs and Forums have almost all the classic example cases of corruption: fixed bidding, secret bidding, conflict of interest deals, passed laws with "secret" provisions catering to a particular faction etc. etc.

Mercenaries here are plentiful thanks to our very corrupt and underfunded military and police, private armies go with the territory when you reach status 3+
The setting is a play of grays. Factions only care for their own goals, and they use deception, pandering, force and seduction to get what they want. There are so many victims to exploit and almost no one to turn to, no greater good that will protect the lone justicar. PCs have to play really smart if they want to play the political aspect OR really competent to survive the arms difference.

Jin Roh, Inspired Combat Load.

Jin Roh suffers some a few problems despite being a good modern combat anime movie. Particularly the lack of “combined arms” and actual “tactical” doctrine. Playing in a game set up like in the movie (early 1970s activism) can be a fun para-military adventure.

Urban Combat Load 58lbs (ST12*) $3,662

*ST11 in my home brew rules where organized and well distributed load-outs allows a character to carry a load +1Lifting ST higher encumbrance.

This gear load out is using GURPS basic set only. It also uses a made up set of rules to simulate the early Night vision tech which was done with Active IR.

Variations include the use of tactical shields, assault carbines and shotguns for larger open areas and armored foes).

Worn Equipment



Frag Helmet (DR 5)



Night Vision (TL7; Infra-red Light Night Vision 20 yards/meters)



BDU (Urban Camouflage)



Frag Vest ( DR 25/22*; Front Torso and Groin )



Gas Mask ( DR 2; eye face; No Peripheral visions)



Load Bearing Vest



Combat Boots



Knee and Elbow Pads






Carried Equipment



SMG 9mm (Dmg 3d-1 pi; Acc 4; Range 160/1900; Wt. 7.5/1.3lbs; ROF 13; Shots 30+1(3); ST10+; Bulk -3; Rcl 2; Cost $1,200)



Auto Pistol 9mm (Dmg 2d+2 pi; Acc 2; Range 150/1850; Wt. 2.6/0.7lbs; ROF 3; Shots 15+1(3); ST9; Bulk -2; Rcl 2; Cost $600)



2x SMG 9mm magazine



Auto Pistol 9mm magazine



Fine Combat Knife



Tear-Gass Grenade (respiratory attack, No Delay, HT-2; vision based, No Delay, HT-2)



Concussion Grenade (5dx2 cr ex)



10mile Radio and Headset



Personals (multi-tool, 10m cord, electric tape)