Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kings, what a sad waste. Salvage it then.

Those GMs who want to run Intrigue games, then I suggest you watch Kings, amongst the many great inspiration sources for a campaign like Rome. Since the show is in decline, It actually makes for a good framework to base a Political Web structure for a game and with the advantage that few people are watching it.

I admit that I'm more for a Rome Kind of Intrigue, but Kings is simpler and easier to work into a classic medieval game. A GM does not need a complicated plot, he needs a one that will work with the PCs and flesh out the world and fun. I'm a GM who used to pour so much detail in NPCs, but Players don't see those details. Not many Players are into that thing, but the GM is and it makes the whole game much more "creative" to him who spun it.

I'll try to break it down to Templates and Substitutable Elements in my notes, and see If I can organize it in a nice enough way that GMs can just grab the structure and replace-place their own elements in the slots. The thing about plots is that, a well conceived one is simple and elegant. This makes eases the GM's job cause he doesnt need to lead the PCs, they make their own way and lets their cleverness shine. Like in any Project, the GM takes the role of nature and adjudicates if certain risks pan out or not as part of the "adventure" part.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some Mooks Based on a SJG Post

Here is a write up based on Perfect Organisms post. My own take on these mooks, you may note I'm maybe considered fantasy killer. I hope you consider this Quality Content, because I've been having problems lately and I don't know when again I will be able to post. Note again Professionals have a competency expectation of about 90%+, that is why their skills are around 14+, secondary but frequently used or neccessary skills are at 12; basic and underused skills are at around 10.

Tactics 15! remember that Skills are relative to the expectations in a given Era. A Medieval Bandit may not have the tactics of a modern day hobbyist gamer, but in his era it is his professional ability and his survival depends on his tactics. So consider this relative to what is expected in their proper context.

Description: A city thug, made up of the dredges and excesses of the masses that makes up a city. Typically they are part of gangs and serve as muscle. Expect them to be stronger and in better condition than most of the populace because they make their living being tough and their gang allows them to take most of what they want. Suffice to say they live a better quality of life then the rest of the city's common folk. One cannot find "Thugs" outside of cities except for the taskmasters and ruffians employed by land owners.

ST 11; DX 11; IQ 11; HT 11.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 11; Will 10 (+2 fearlessness); Per 12; FP 11.
Basic Speed 5.50; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8; Parry 9 (Brawling/wrestling).
Brawling 13 or Wrestling 12; Holdout 12; Intimidation 13; Knife 13; Shadowing 10; Streetwise 12; Fast Draw Knife.
Clothing (Status -1); Large Knife (Reach C, 1d-2 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-2 cut). No encumbrance.

Description: Real Historical Assassins were typically soldiers or professional warriors who were exceptional in one-on-one combat and were very professional. They were never intentionally trained for this particular kind of killing, they just happen to have the set of skills that makes them good at it.
ST 11; DX 13; IQ 13; HT 11.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 11; Will 12 (+2 fearlessness); Per 12; FP 10.
Basic Speed 6.00; Basic Move 6(5-enc); Dodge 10(CR); Parry 11 (CR, weapon).
Acting 12; Climbing 12; Fast Draw (Arrow, Knife or Shortsword) 14; Forced Entry 12; Holdout 12; Bow, Knife or Shortsword 14; Shadowing 14; Stealth 14; Streetwise 14.
Large Knife (Reach C, 1d-1 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-1 cut / Acc 0, Range 8/16, 1d-1 imp), Small Knife (Reach C, 1d-2 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-2 cut / Acc 0, Range 5/16, 1d-2 imp). Combat Load (Light) .

Description: These are usually desperate men, opportunists, or a mix. There are many circumstances that turn one into bandits, but certainly most of them had no other life to turn to. This makes them hard men, unfortunately they are not usually disciplined. Typically, peasants who were levied in wars would posses some soldiering and some experience in foraging, survival and combat. A surviving group of bandits or brigands would certainly have some wartime training, to have lasted any duration long enough.
ST 11; DX 12; IQ 11; HT 11.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 10; Will 10; Per 11; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.00; Basic Move 5 (4-enc); Dodge 8; Parry 8U (Axe/Mace).
Melee weapon 12; Bow 14; Camouflage 10; Climbing 12; Intimidation 12; Knife 12; Scrounging 12; Stealth 12; Survival (Woodlands) 13; Tracking 12.
Cheap Sword (Reach 1-2, 1d+2 cut/1d+1 imp) or Long-shafted Axe (reach 1-2, 1d+3 cut); Hides and salvaged Armor (DR 2*, torso & groin); Worn Yew Warbow (Acc 1, 1d+1 pi+; +1 Weapon Bond); Small Knife (Reach C, 1d-3 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-3 cut); Combat Load/ Ranging Supplies (None/Light).

Bandit Leader
ST 12; DX 12; IQ 12; HT 11.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 29 lbs; HP 11; Will 11; Per 12; FP 11.
Basic Speed 5.75; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8; Parry 9 (CR).
Same Skills but at +2 weapon skills, +1 to other skills; Intimidation 14; Knife 10; Leadership 12; Stealth 10; Survival (Woodlands) 12; Tactics 14.
Light Mail Armour (DR 4 vs cut/ 2 vs imp and cr; torso & groin); Good Yew Warbow (Acc 2, 1d+1 pr+; +1 Weapon Bond); Same as Bandit Weapon (+1 cutting damage); Thrusting Broadsword (Reach 1, 1d+2 cut / Reach 1, 1d+1 imp). Combat Load, Light.

Barbarian Warrior (Freeman).
Description: Barbarian is basically a culturally relative term. Freemen of different cultures have basically similar backgrounds and skills. Note that more civilized cultures don't have as many freemen as peasants (who are poorer freemen who usually sell their services to landowners). All Freemen of almost all cultures are trained to fight and bear arms, in self defense and in service to their overlord, chief, or community. Note that Freemen are highly motivated, independent and one of the most innovated peoples of any era; I've noted these exceptional quality in their stats.
ST 11; DX 11; IQ 11; HT 11.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 11; Will 11 (+2 fearlessness); Per 11; FP 11.
Basic Speed 5.50; Basic Move 4; Dodge 10; Parry 11/11U (Sword/Axe); Block 10.
Soldier's Arms (Long hafted Axe, Arming Sword, or Spear) 12; Shield 12; Brawling 13 or Wrestling 12; Fisherman, Farmer or Herder 14; Self Sufficient Crafts (all cottage industry skills like weaving baskets, charcoal making, animal tending, etc )10; Shield 12; Stealth 10; Soldiering 10; Shipman or Survival (woods) 12.
Long Shafted Axe (Reach 1, 1d+3 cut) or Cheap Sword (Reach 1-2; Mail Shirt (DR 4 vs cut; 2 vs imp and cr, torso & groin); Metal Helm (DR 4, skull & face); Light Shield (DB 1). Combat Load (Light).

Description. Peasants or poorer freemen are usually levied to serve the role of Pikemen in GURPS mass combat or commonly known as Spearmen. As poorer freemen and the more common sort of folks, they have more mundane stats, especially when these leavies usually occure twice in the life time of a typical peasant.

ST 10; DX 10; IQ 10; HT 10.
Damage 1d-2/1d; BL 20 lbs; HP 10; Will 10; Per 10; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.00; Basic Move 5; Dodge 8; Parry 8U (Spear), Block 9.
Hiking 12; Shield 10; Soldier 12; Spear 10; Packing 10.
Large Knife (Reach C, 1d-2 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-2 cut); Padded Helm (DR 1, skull & face); Peasant Raggs and Padded Jack (DR 4/2, torso); Light Shield (DB 1); Spear (Reach 1, 1d imp). Light encumbrance.

Description: Crossbowmen were Ideal levies because of the speed of their training, but sometimes some grow a taste of the work and do not return to their peasant life, and opt for the better chances of a mercenary life. They Provide safe fire support for cavalry as their crossbows out range longbows
ST 11; DX 11; IQ 10; HT 10.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 10; Will 10; Per 11; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.00; Basic Move 5 (3-enc); Dodge 8 (+4 to dodge into cover); Parry 10 (sidearm).
Crossbow 15; Hiking 14; Axe/Mace 12; Soldier 14; Riding 12; Packing 12; Fast Draw (arrow/bolt) 12; Fast Draw (side arm) 12.
Crossbow (Acc 4, Range 200/250, 1d+4 imp); Large Knife (Reach C, 1d-1 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-1 cut); Mail Haubergeon (DR 4 vs cut/ 2 vs cr/ 3 vs imp, torso & groin); Steel Sallet (DR 4, skull & face); Long Shafted Axe (1d+3 cut); Standing Shield (DB2; +4 hard cover) Combat Load (Medium on average, but light when shield is planted).

Description: Guards are typically peasant soldiers in towns, cities, and villages which are strategically important communities. They are also armed retainers of land owners, although this makes their abilities interchangable with city thugs. According to medieval culture, the worste quality soldiers are left as guards. Those of a higher rank and capability act as sergeants for Landowners or powerful Lieges.

ST 11; DX 11; IQ 10; HT 10.
Damage 1d-1/1d+1; BL 24 lbs; HP 11; Will 10; Per 10; FP 10.
Basic Speed 5.00; Basic Move 5 (4-enc); Dodge 8; Parry 9/8U (Sword/Polearm).
Intimidation 10; Polearm or Spear 10; Sword 12; Search 10; Soldier 12.
Glaive (Reach 2,3*, 1d+4 cut / Reach 1-3*, 1d+2 imp); Sword (reach 1-2, 1d+1 imp/1d+2 cut); Hardened Leather Armour (DR 2, torso & groin); Leather Helm (DR 2, skull & face). Combat Load (Light).

Description: Sergeants are Armed Servants. They are better paid than simple guards and are often freemen who are professional warriors in service to a Land owner. The combination of being armed and a servant, makes them highly prized retainers, equal to what the Romans called Bucelari. The Sergeant presented is serves as a poor man-at-arms. Not common until near the age of gun powder, were sergeants in command of squads. Typically sergeants who were in any command, were called Lieutenant (as it means "In place off"; as they represent their employer).

ST 12; DX 12; IQ 11; HT 12.
Damage 1d-1/1d+2; BL 29 lbs; HP 11; Will 10; Per 10; FP 10.
Basic Speed 6.00; Basic Move 6 (5-enc); Dodge 8; Parry 12U (CR; ), Block 12.
Axe/Mace or Sword 14; Brawling 13 or Wrestling 13; Hiking 14; Intimidation 12; Knife 12; Leadership 12; Shield 12; Soldier 15; Tactics 12; Riding 12 (combat riding 14).
Large Knife (Reach C, 1d-1 imp / Reach C,1, 1d-1 cut); Heavy Flanged Mace (Reach 1, 1d+5 cr) or Long Shafted Axe (Reach 1, 1d+4 cut); Steel Cap and Mail Coif (DR4 skull; DR 4/2, skull & neck); Mail Hauberk (DR 4 vs cut /2 vs imp and cr; torso, groin, arms, and partial legs); Mail Leggings (DR 4 vs cut/ 2 vs imp and cr, Calves and Feet); Cavalry Shield (DB 1). Combat Load (Light).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Post Apocalypse Game: 1st Session Successful

Objectives Accomplished:
  1. Fun. Everyone unanimously had fun. Getting pats on the back, a follow up email, and even having my most staunches critic (other than myself) and hardest to manage player impressed.
  2. I was able to exercise what I learned in Game Theory (Strategic Decision Making) and Project Management.
  3. I was able to prove several of my gaming and life hypothesis.

Over all, exceeded expectations especially when they were set just high enough to have people to try it out and expect fun, but low enough to exceed them and expectations.

Identified Weaknesses: All except the first are only personally identified.
  1. Being able to manage players: specifically keeping them with in a time budget and to reduce argument.
  2. Schelling Point Identification and Utility (Improving this will speed up the game)
  3. Being able to see weaknesses in the players plans (make it more challenging and dynamic range of challenges)
  4. How to Keeping track of ongoing penalties (important with #3)
  5. Practice execution of game prep implementation (build up too slow)
  6. Preparation of NPCs to be used (keeping track of NPCs; idea, Card and Random internet pictures using Google facial Search)
Why am I this meticulous: It is better for a player to tell me what's wrong with my game, than the players lower their expectations, than my games suffering, than me assuming everything is alright, and eventually from losing players and eventually not being able to run a game. Another reason is that, It is better for players to think you are working hard on a game, so that they can appreciate it more and they know that the GM is continuously trying to improve. A third reason is that, I can really explore and practice Game Theory and Project Management.

This is a blog of someone who has too much game in the brain.

Reflection. I'm not the type of GM who will repeat stories about the adventure. Strangely I'm too old for that, I'd rather talk about where I went wrong, how could I heighten the player junkie-high and how can I ease my preparation.

Personal Promise: If I ever become successful enough to afford my own assistant, he will prep my NPC cards and paraphernalia for me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Second Opinion and Edited Courtiers

Secret Rolls: Role-playing Strategic Decision Making. Normally, Players may look at their rolls. I would not change this method in combat . In Character Decision Making, maybe I should start doing so.

What would happen if in all tasks where the out come is never immediate, the GM does not let the players see the roll? If this takes away the fun of rolling their own dice, let the Players roll it, keep it in a cup or container and conceal it until after the result would be apparent. Only the GM would be allowed to see it. The GM will then describe the result. Bring a lot of dice if you plan to do this. In such rolls, the GM must be able to describe the task as easy, challenging, difficult or hard, or very had or nigh impossible.

Characters with the same appropriate skill in a given task may be allowed to have their own opinion in the course of action. They also get their own roll and it will also be hidden from them. They will not know if they are wrong or right, and it is purely up to the PCs personality to act on this information.

Predictably, players will err on the credibility of the lead character, based on that character's level of skill. this is not meant to confuse the players, its supposed to give them insight into their own judgments and the probability of them being wrong or right.

Note: This system is appropriate only if the GM has a already streamlined resolution process.

Courtier Edits. I realized I was a bit too vague with some suggestions: specifically, how a PC's strategy skill affects the Players execution. I tightened the bolts a bit, anyway these are all in constant flux and are subject to revisions as I plug the holes of these ideas.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Courtier: The Power Brokers

What is a courtier?
This is a character role that has been mostly ambiguous and confusing to many gamer, including myself at first. A courtier is essentially a power broker. Their job is to facilitate a connection and to successfully close negotiations, at a benefit for themselves.

This job is fairly complicated and has a set of skills that may be unusual for an adventurer. Still, the kind of drama that it introduces in the game is very much worth effort if the GM and a player in the group is up for it.

Power brokers in the Game. Power brokers are a way to allow the PCs to me more pro-active in the events of their game-world. Instead of waiting for missions and reacting, they are pro-active and have their own agendas in a different context in a regular game.

A GM can have one broker in the game. Ideally, just one is enough to enhance the game experience immensely and so not to overwhelm the prevent the GM from having to weave a too complex a plot that he has enough time to prepare comfortably.

Courtiers in your game, are tasked to set the agenda, instead of the GM setting all of it up. They could be caught up in trouble they have made or are out to make trouble of their own. They have need for the other PCs as protection, their special skills and the ability to execute his plans while managing basic and social affairs for the PCs.

What Courtiers Do Step by Step:
Step 1: Gathering Intelligence
Step 2: Processing or Analysis
Step 3: Strategic Planning
Step 4: Execution
Note: typically a Courtier has his own assistant who is his steward, aid or valet. Usually the assistant takes care of basic management tasks for the Courtier in order to free his mind to anticipate future problems, his next course of action, and dealing with key persons.

Gathering Intelligence.
Role of the PCs: They must find good sources and interview them. PCs may delegate to NPCs for trivial tasks or for some of the key skills and representation necessary. Cultural and language barriers are common obstacles.
Key Skills:

  1. Relevant Skill to navigate a social sphere. Spheres like: the criminal underworld, Political Arena, Community's Social Life, Bureaucracy etc. (GURPS: Streetwise, Politics, Area Knowledge (Local) or Sociology, Administration).
  2. Questioning skill (GURPS: interrogation, an influence skill and Psychology). This is a secret roll of the GM.
Resolution: After the game briefing, this activity will take 30-45 minutes. This is one of the more carefree parts of the game where Players get to improvise and try to problem solve on the fly. The GM should try to make this part interesting as possible but fruitful still.
Sometimes the PCs just accompany the Courtier or his delegate to these tasks and get into some fun trouble or perform their personal errands. Bottom line is to take this opportunity to let the Players do pretty much what they want for the time being.

Processing or Analysis.
Role of the PCs: A specialist or the courtier can perform this within the party. Outside the party, the PCs must find a someone with the right expertise and must be able to present their information gathered to him.
Key Skill: a kind of Intelligence Analysis or Strategy skill (GURPS: someone with Intelligence Analysis of the proper field, or close enough to the proper field; the appropriate Strategy can default for this). The GM secretly rolls this and translates the situation to the PCs. The PCs are free to take the information or leave it, depending on how reliable they think of their own assumptions.
Resolution: If the PCs are looking for someone then allow for 10-20 minutes, if the PCs are equipped to do this, just a quick roll and few minutes of the GM explaining.

Strategic Planning.
Role of the PCs: The PC's Strategic Skills are there for the GM to highlight all the options and risks they can take and to take care of lesser details*. It is the Players who choose which course of action to take and the level of flexibility they will place in the execution of their plan if they don't trust its reliability (because it is a secret roll of the GM after all).
Key Skills: Appropriate Strategic Planning skill (GURPS: Strategy specified). This is a secret roll. The complexity of the plan will affect execution time and its manageable aspects. Encourage players to put their plan in a written outline. In this quick outline needs the following: Steps Taken, and Roles of every PC in key words and arrows.
Resolution: keep planning in 10-15 minutes. GMs should not punish Player's for their plan by making them be authors of their own failure.
The circumstances modifies the difficulty of the roll. If there is an active strategy working against the PCs, this is an opposed roll. The margin of difference between the PC's strategy's success or failure determines how the GM will arbitrate the situation on the fly. The margin of failure will determine a number of how "murphy" the gm will get, while on the margin of success how "serendipitous" the situation may be. The GM should not that, amount of casualties, resources, and effort lost in the end of the engagement reflects strategic roll. A failed strategy doesnt mean a failed execution, just a more difficult one.
The GM must remind the players that they should be flexible. If this is a complex plan call for a break (10-15 minutes) to prepare execution and consequence notes and to break down this plan to manageable chunks of 30-45 mins and call for a break. Players should not be idle and should be tasked to load out their characters for the execution of their plan. The GM may delegate the players to prep the board and may suggest they rehearse their plan.

Role of the PCs: As the Pieces are in Place, the GM executes the PCs plans and the triggers the consequences
Key Skill: The PC's key strengths in action.
Resolution: Depending on how complex the plan is, the remaining game time is taken up by this event. It is possible to fit one thorough encounter in an hour or 45 minutes, or Lesser encounters in 30 to 45 minutes.
Unanticipated consequences may require a break between these encounters of just 5-10 minutes. Unanticipated consequences in the very last part will be wrapped up with the best possible cliff hanger the GM can think of on the fly.

GM skills to be aware off:

  • Time Awareness
  • Fast Briefing
  • Fast Preparation
  • Story Telling
  • Improvisational skills.

Final Note: This is an example of what Courtiers do, but consider that the courtier could be doing this through the course of an arc, with each step being part of the background or the focus of an entire session.

Consider also that Courtiers act best in fleshed out settings, settings with a Power structure Web the GM would hand out to the Courtier Player. This would start as a macro web, and a web of the current role and place of the Courtier in his personal affairs. This is the best guideline for the GM to execute the drama through the adventures.

Things to look forward to: Power Brokers in Mahadlika and My Byzantium.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some Character Creation: A Squire

A Squire. I made a squire for a Fading Suns. The way I make characters is starkly different from many of the other people I know. I emphasize on well roundness, education and psychology.

One particular interest is in personality, specifically: what social skills the character tends to use often. People aren't mostly aware of what skill they use when they are dealing with other people. I've observed some people tend to be pushy, some tend to be diplomatic, others courteous or use flattery Unusually cultural perspective camouflages most of these approaches. You will notice Lazarus has an honest and truthful demeanor but is skilled in acting, this translates to sincerity and the ability to not give off the wrong cues. Even the way information is omited can be detected, Lazarus is honest and cannot be faulted for falseness but he is very discrete.

One particular aspect of the character few may notice is how he uses truth and more precisely Credibility. In leadership, Credibility is gained through example, confidence or a sense of fairness. Lazarus's personality does this through transparency and his integrity, which is plain to any who have a chance to know him. Of course all of this has a cost, because such a personality can be too rigid and torturous. He has an addiction to Antidepressants and Sexual represents.

Now this addiction is an extension of his ambition. He takes knighthood seriously and has sacrificed even his sexuality to achieve a level of control that is to be expected from anyone of such lofty ambitions. The anti-depressants are a natural part of his difficult life, especially since in many circumstances he is alone.

He technically doesn't have anything exceptional about him, as squires goes and he is average given the standard. What makes him special is actually his motivations and his background. On paper, his skills are fair but the disadvantages, internal conflicts, and synergies reveal something else entirely.

Curious, he is open to knowledge and possibly troubled by it, still it is better to have a mind attracted to opportunities than indifferent of it. This is synergistic with his ambitions as he sees opportunities and explores it. An open mind is also very adaptable, and his ambitions allow him to actually face challenges. He doesn't have any extreme personality allowing him to be moderate, discrete and prudent.

Anyway, I have a new appreciation of skills and I realize that skills make up the character more than advantages to some point. Because skills represent how we do things, and what we know limits what we think of doing.

He leads a large Platoon of House Guards in TL7 gear. He wears an antique clunky but rugged Powered Armor, his father won in spoils of battle.

Friday, April 10, 2009

GURPS 4e gunfights

Gun Fights. Here are some basic rules that can help in simulating Gun Fights only GURPS can deliver and no other system can hope to match. These points when followed and practiced, will result to a VERY fast game (a GM practicing how he runs combat drastically affects the speed of it). Implementing Options or Rules, or using Ad-hoc may cut time, but a sensible organization of what rules and why they are applied as such as well as practice makes for much better combat.

Each Players deal will have the Following:
  1. Combat Cards
  2. Fatigue Tokens (which he surrenders to the GM)
  3. Visual Markers (which he places on locals the GM declares he spots an enemy)
  4. Character Sheet or Information
What the GM prepares:
  1. Maps. The GM should have at least studied a map (Google earth and the internet has a lot of maps available, don't waste time making your own) and noted the tactical strong points. Note that the PCs usually have poor access to these maps (maybe only 10 minutes to discuss if they get the map before hand) and do not have the GM's prep.
  2. Deployment Orders. He just has to remember the deployment orders for the NPCs and works on a flexible roster budget. Bogging down with too much details will kill the speed of combat, work with the budget and if you given the PCs CP they can burn for rewinds or autosuccess, then youhave allowance to fudge these budgets to maximise their challenge.
  3. NPC Intelligence. Some up the NPC's objectives, knowledge and circumstance each with a couple of sentences and no more.
  4. Tokens for Heat, Figurines for Visible targets,

The GM could master the following processes to help in his Gun Fights.
  1. Visual Markers. Each player has his own set of markers. When he spots an opponent he could put a marker at the opponent's position.
  2. Heat Tracking. Again with Tokens. The Players receive a heat token for every magazine or load emptied in a 2 minute interval. He remove 1 token every 2 minute interval of cooling. Heating will affect the guns Acc and Malf.
  3. Average Damage. Just have the minimum and average damage of a firearm ready. A margin of success of 0 results in a minimum damage while a margin of success greater than it would result to the average.
  4. Qick turns. Players have to declare their actions immediately or be left to spend that game second thinking.
  5. GM declares Penalties. and the Players should have their bonuses in order.

Visual Markers.
These represents a player spotting an opponent. Other player cannot just attack something their character didn't spot, so shooting at another player's marker will result to blind fire.The GM can replace these markers, with a figure if everyone has gotten a visual of it. This speeds up the game because:
  1. The GM doesn't have to track his pieces on the board.
  2. Players work with less information, thus coming to a decision faster.
  3. Its clearer who spotted what.
  4. Resolving Line of Sight.

Heat Tracking. GURPS combat is in second to second, gun cooling can couple of minutes. This is key in both the players decision making process and simulating. Every excess token drops the Malf by 2! Each weapon has a token cap: Light Assault Rifles have a cap of 1, Battle Rifles and Assualt Rilfes 2, heavy assault/battle rifles 3, Light machine guns 5, Heavy Machine guns 7.
Note: this is partially accurate, but this information his highly realistic. Player understanding what it means to have a machinegun at a squad or party's disposal (or at their enemy's disposal).
Average Damage. survivable damage and lethal damage is what matters. Simplifying the two damages as such will speed up the game resolution to focus on more key-dramatic actions.

GM declares Penalties and Checks. The GM Declares the following others quickly.
  • Range Penalties. The GM declares the Penalties and the Players declare their skill and total bonuses, at this point the GM can quickly disallow any bonuses he sees fit, then roll.
  • Restricted movement. Max 1-2m/s on broken ground, Max 2-3m/s on rough ground, and allowed to go to max move on the most ideal conditions. Any failed Running DX reduces movement or stops movement for that second (the PC catching himself, partially stumbling, or slowing down). Realistically, often only a Track oval or a manicured Pitch would be the one of the few places a person can move at their full speed without requiring a DX check.
  • Unintended Fatigue Loss. Running, Climbing, Jumping as an HT check represents trying to sum up the energy for an action in such crucial timing. Failure means an unintentional loss of Fatigue. These problems are VERY common in the battle field, stressing the importance of fitness and athletics in the battle field.
  • Fear Checks. Getting shot at by auto fire or a group, or getting the shifting tide of battle. Only the GM may know this completely and he should declare it quickly. Even the most well trained marines wrestle with combat fear and the cold unfaezability of gunslingers can only be found in fiction or coked-up zealots. A good rule of thumb is when a Side begins to consolidate, any "drama" happening or a PC about to do a "dramatic action".

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sci-Fi Table Top Role-Playing continued

> Uhm, sorry if i sound ignorant, but what's the point behind this? :-)

Expectations actually.

When the players want to play- they want options, powers, opportunities to do fun stuff. The GM has limitations of his own fun, time and effort. Discussion about these two things are key in developing a game that is both sustainable and fun for both parties.

As in the last part of it, a game can be much easier prepared when a group can manage both expectations, understand what they are after, and most importantly economise the effort involved.

As with the GM's own preparations, the players are also expected to prepare. Typically these expectations aren't discussed, there is that veil to be preserved and the GM's authority as well. There is an investment of effort and it can be such a waste at times. Waste that leads to frustration.

If the expectations are made clear and both parties can work out their tasks in the matter then there will be less chance for frustration and the chance to avoid it.

I've been using the Managing Projects Large and Small: the fundamental skills for delivering on budget and on time, by the harvard business school. I found it exactly what GMing is all about: organization.

The GM's perparation is one of the hardest task which can easily lose sight of its overall objective. Experience develops the practical aspect of it, books like Robin's Laws and the DnD DMG4e helps develop the theoretical side. Why let things as they are and frustration get to both players and gms, when it can be avoided by careful and efficient use of resources and time?

World Building Prelude

This is meant to be guide to channel a GM's world building compulsions to be more productive, efficient, and marketable.

Marketable, now a lot of GM's and Artists have the temperament of making things just for themselves, the problem arises when they have some level of frustration when there is no affirmation after the large amount of sacrifice and effort. As a tinkering GM, I've gone through this so many times and I've understood many of its pitfalls.

In my opinion, there should be some management involved. Some coaching and direction the GM is given, because the practical aspect of world building takes too much time and the compulsions that govern the GM are taskmasters that have a will of their own.

World building projects will tend to be too big, simply because a GM, like an artist has sometimes greater expectations than his own capability. One must remember this little bit of knowledge: when the expectations far exceed the capacity, there will be frustration. Frustration is one of the biggest challenges of any artist. When GM projects are managed, the manager must relieve frustration or anticipate it as his top priority.

World Building Part 1: Design and Plan.

1st, Define Time Line.

When does the GM want to start playing?
When does the Players want to start?
How much time does the GM have to work on the Project?
Consider how long it takes the GM to processes a number of ideas to words, how quickly the GM can organize these ideas on paper, then consider how much work can the GM given in the amount of time?

2nd, Define Audience.
  1. Work with the Players and their Expectations. They will want more options and freedoms, while the GM can only afford them as many options and freedoms as he has time and resources to anticipate and prepare. This is basically working out the finer points of the "social contract" players have with their GMs.
  2. If there are no players for this particular case of world building, then skip this and proceed to step 4 and make sure to answer it completely.

3rd, Define Resources.
  1. What game system, books, setting, sources, adventures the GM has at his disposal.
  2. Consider the following Resources: Fief by Lisa J. Steel, Grain to Gold by John Josten, and magical medieval society: western europe. these are a highly recommended Basic Reading.

4th, Define Goals and Objectives.
  1. The first among the list of goals of a setting, a GM must answer what kind of game he intends to play or what story he intends to tell. The GM asks "What do I want to be able do in this setting?"
  2. It is usually best to draw on other settings and describe the difference the ideal setting has with these more well known settings. Usually differences between settings come in the level of detail, organization, style and intended design. The GM must be able to answer this completely

Note: The world builder or GM is meant to answer each point with a sentence or two. This should only take an hour or two as the GM refines or continue to refine the ideas. If there is enough time, the GM should be able to have a night to really thing about most of his answers. The dialog with players should only take the same amount of time. The GM should push any harder than a day to answer this, a swift execution of all the initial ideas is very important in this process, even if its partially thought out. The GM can refine it further down the line, but most importantly the ball should be moving immediately.

To be continued...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Before any Sci Fi Campaign

Sci-Fi Table Top Role-Playing

I'm having a problem with Sci-Fi that is finding its way in my dreams. Basically it is answering the question: “What do I want from the Sci-Fi game I want to play?”. Looking around a lot of people will give many cosmetic reasons why they prefer sci-fi. This generalization calls those differences cosmetic because in an organizational standpoint, they just are.

The reason this is bothering me so much is because any setting more advanced than medieval has far more options to be considered. The capital rule in Medieval and any time before the age of reasoning is Ignorance limits all role-playable options. There are few bodies of knowledge that exist that are extensive and whose fundamentals can fit a few books. Having mastered these fundamentals, I usually have the mental agility to explain the cause and effect of the players actions and the extent of it.

I have mixed feelings about ignorance . It is a powerful force even today. Ignorance affects a character's options. Practical skill, without theory has options limited to the existing experiences (I will explain the difference between practical skills later on). As a GM, ignorance is my ally and a powerful force in the decision making element of the setting. In settings with Vast amount of Ignorance, I am able to come closer to the number of options my players will come up, anticipating about 90% of what they will. It is very much like a chess game at this point, the flow of decisions tends to come to a limited and logical conclusion based on the player dynamics.

Segwaying into Sci-fi again, I have the problem of options. I can at least analyze an example in any past event and narrow down points where options were limited and areas of ignorance. Sci-fi is all together frightening with the advent of Augmented Reality (which was the TED special of the new 6th sense). So to make assumptions of how it will be in the future, any GM who will run it, will run it as though it was modern times but with fantastic dressing.

Let us look at Fading Suns. My favorite part of the setting is that, what if ignorance was and is still a powerful force, even in the far future. Civilization tends to break down over vast distances, what more space? Despotism and Oligarchies can rule well within modern times thanks to the Church (Philippines this is a very real example). These social classes can romanticize themselves as great Houses, the way Dynasties of Pre-modern Philippines would about their Spanish Heritage.

When preparing a Sci-Fi game there are two schools core differences that affect a game: One is Narrative or the story, and the other is Cause and Effect. The GM's job is to provide a mix or the exclusivity of the either one. Some people like the story, some like the CaE. CaE is the core of TTRPGs game aspect. If there were no reasonable consequences then there would be no point in making it a game.

In many instances where there are those who do not provide the cause and effect scenario, instead they are just using RPGs as an excuse to tell a story. In many cases a story that in strongly affected by their own prejudices or the drawing as much attention to themselves as possible. The same truth can be applied to people who play it for the pure thrill of the game. As an RPG, role-playing ignorance, priorities, bias, prejudices and delusions are important in criticizing the decision making process.

Fading suns has dress of Ignorant Feudalism and the most timeless forces that effect human kind: The value of Family and Faith. These two things create a huge ripple affect in much of how technology will develop and how society works. In fact one can draw a web structure of how everything tends to have a role in the whole order. Interestingly the Status Quo is the biggest hand the Universe gives to the GM.

Having analyzed what makes Sci-fi difficult and addressing it's serious problems, the next step would be to define the Great before defining the small. Starting first with the roles of each social class and what keeps everything in their place, then moving progressively down towards the level the Players will be expected to Role-Play. Defining the Checks and Balances of a particular area, the GM can make several

In my own process, I've realized that a Minor House (one that I've defined as uniquely autonomous from the most powerful factions in the setting) in its constant diplomatic efforts to maintain its freedom will be the best place to start. It will be made up of several families (and names) who are both new and old. Some families are married into the House provide valuable skills and resources.

The characters available to be played are the Men-at-arms, highly skilled military retainers with special equipment and supporting their own forces in the defense of the family's holdings. The courtiers, power brokers who are out and about gathering information and probing the more powerful factions for the defense of the House, these courtiers also involve relatives who are part of the church. Other highly skilled retainers are also available, like those trained by the Merchant League.

This set up will also allow for characters with the same level of capability as those who rule the Empire, but with vastly diminished resources. They will also have a sense of “tribe” to look after, so that their goals are homogeneous. This will also allow for the GM to think up or ripp-off scenarios and missions that he can align with the party's objectives.

Although, before any effort should be made in preparing this kind of adventure the GM should have a dialog with the Players and try to meet each other's expectations while following an agreed upon set of parameters. Players negotiate the range of their freedoms and opportunities, while the GM will work out what he can afford to give them with the limitations in time and resources. In this dialog, the GM can even ask if any of the players would volunteer in the preparation and can assign a work breakdown structure to allow for maximum ease and fun in all aspects of the game.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Post Apocalypse Game: Stripped Down

Well the Post Apocalypse Game will be pushing through. Basically with these new organizational skills, thanks to my new bible for Game Preparation. I've got myself organized and I'm now able to focus on what I should be doing and smaller achievable goals.

Constantino Belrosario
Jimmy Tang
Jun Rosario

Professional Skills

GURPS. In gurps I've always wondered how these skills reflected real life. I've taken to account several things, and particular one of them was: Expectation. One expectation I've focused on is the expectation of society: particulary the paying customer.

Professional (Skill-15, or 96% success).. Professionals aren't expected to Fail in the Regular Tasks. Failure has really bad consequences in any job. Hard skills like that of a Doctor will have many skill that should be at this level, A soldier will be expected to have his fundamentals at this level (soldier skill and weapon skill).
Trained (Skill-12, or 75% success). Students and Fresh Graduates are expected to at lease have this level of competency. Typically this is done with Easy tasks and Extra Time to allow for certain success.
Basic (Skill-10, 50% success). This is to be expected by with someone who is in the middle of training.
Mastery (Skill-16 to 20). this is meant for specialists who are paid to take care of uncommon but very important circumstances.

Problems with this Point of View. Factors that effect these stats and the balance in the game is the working amount of character points.

NPCs. This is usefull when working with NPCs.
  1. Resist All Urges to write down NPC stats. Just focus on few key elements. 1 element depending on the importance (none for mooks), with the most important one for a game being run broken down to just 3 key features. I won't go into specifics what they are but if you can sum an aspect up easily then thats one.
  2. Count the number of NPCs you have! this is often overlooked. During the course of a Game the GM's mind should be agile and you maintain this by not leting NPCs clutter up short term memory. He should limit the NPCs to the amount of "air-time" available. A few tricks to consider is that, you can make a group of individuals One NPC if they fall under a stereo type, can be described as a group, and have easy access to each other's information. You can diffuse them in a location in order to create the "illusion" of many NPCs but essetially that their extra numbers don't provide a key advantage the PCs will need to move forward and that they are forgettable.
  3. If there will be more detail needed about an NPC begin by determining what is that NPC's role in his world. NPCs should look like the exist for the world and not for the PCs. If he's a farmer, what is his role in his community? Is he the most prodcutive farmer? Is he the village elder? Is he the village head? If he is, what is his relationship with the miller (key monopoly of the village services) or the village bailif (the manager of the village for the landholder)? Do not write any stats, just bullet point roles, and keep working out questions about roles and relationships the stats naturaly develop from these. The farmer must be intelligent or charismatic in order to have the miller and the bailif bobbing their heads after him. The village would natural seek his approval in many things, etc. etc.
  4. In any basic organizational effort, like when making NPCs, put the horse before the cart. Establish your object in the game and work from there backwards with what the PCs will need to move towards that objective, then provide the NPCs. Try to be efficient and cut down on complexities, unless you have a way to execute the complexity effectively during the game.