Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Patrons, Demographics, and Realism

Patrons of "Ye olden times" had to provide assets for their retainers. Beginning with adequate capital of one's own earning was something VERY rare and to a point where you can just say it didn't happen at all. Assets break down and they need to be replaced constantly, people were paid enough to live a certain quality of life but it was the "Owners" and Patrons who had more than enough.

I've been finding so much use for Accounting, Statistics, and Economics in my games. It allows me to observe much of the world and measure it. I am able convert real world values into game abstractions to discover things only experimentation and role-playing can unveil.

I've been learning accounting lately, and it has opened my eyes to some interesting things my readings of the history regarding land owners and pre-capitalist economics I would like to share. Right now, I'm in a zealous study into economic theory and demographics that had only lately made proficient in grasping "ratios" come to greater forensic clarity.

Patrons in GURPS may be a simple concept of "Boss" for adventurers but it has hidden meanings that few economics that can be very inspiring to the imagination. What is not immediately visible is that Patrons, a person of access to such great resources, has an organization that operates beneath them. An organization of Assets, Resources and People.

When someone owns a ton of stuff there tends to be people involved in organizing it and keeping it all running. Efficiency may be a different standard from today, but the availability and access to certain resources were harder to come by back then.

First, some historical datum to give a sense of scale. Average wealth refers to Middle Class character which in Medieval times is not the same as the modern version when it came to frequency. The middle class was actually a relatively small small group compared to their working-class "freeman" counterparts. GURPS average wealth is the equivalent of Freeman Land owners like in the stories of Don Quixote (the closest literature of that era) who can afford to send their children to University.

The bigger the patron, the more complex the asset organism beneath him. In GURPS a 10cp Patron is 1,000x that of Average wealth. So a Patron of 5,000x wealthier than the wage earning laborer. The 10cp Patron is the richest person in a population of 1M.

For a sense of scale: In 11c Europe there was about 27.3M people in 10Million square kilometers. 1 million is Urban population at 3%, in a place as fertile as france he is the richest guy in 9,700 sq miles. or 25,123 square kilometers (2/3 the size of Brittany).

Equipping Characters. In GURPS the wealth of a character is almost never enough to afford the assets he needs the job. A knight can barely afford his equipment (at wealthy), and Soldiers certainly cannot (at struggling). This is solved pretty much by the understanding that it is a common role for a Patron/Employer to provide capital to his employees.

Patron's Equipment Enhancement. In my historical readings and observing real world equivalents, things are made simple if you consider that an Employer in some way sees his employee as an asset. A "human" asset that needs capital/resources (in the form of training and equipment).

An Employer typically gives an amount of capital to an employee based on the value of the service the employee provides to the employer. An employee that has heavily invested in the training and loyalty of an employee will give as much capital/equipment needed to take care of his investment. An employer that perceives a human asset as low value expects and spends accordingly.

So a Sergeant providing the service of a Man-at-Arms will be equivalent the equivalent of the Man-at-Arms of the current status quo. The same goes for Soldiers and Retainers. A Highly trained/loyal retainer will be have a quality of life high enough that he doesn't get tempted to sell his equipment.

As a rule of thumb: the 100% enhancement of Patron provides as much capital as the character's Annual Cost of Living.

Ex. A soldier (struggling) would have as much as $3600 in assets (he didn't exactly own) from his patron. Working back, if a roman soldier earned 1.5 gold piece a month that would amount to about $1300, then the the land given to supplement their income would be able to produce $2,900. The Patron might be providing as much as $1700 in equipment (for war and farming) and the rest land.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Unlike the more visible RPG blogging Community at large, the GURPS community is relatively a quite one having most of the activity occur in the forum.

Personally I wish there were GURPS blogger participation. A universal tool kit system has a ton of useful House rules to draw from, the games visit many different genres, styles and methods, and it is a way to find more GURPS players.

in reference to: GURPS - Steve Jackson Games Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Not reading other peoples Posts

In this thread about history and game skill resolution, the question asked is can there be a wrong interpretation and does that equate to lesser skill. Well i've read other posts who say "Yes" and give a penalty.

But what is crucially being overlooked as HOW people interpret History or Facts is based on other aspects of the character and not inherent in the skill itself. Its just annoying that they come to the same final conclusion even when I've given that answer early on and went out of my way to give concise examples.

You can test my knowledge of history by Q&A and with a definite standard of X facts. Although drawing up conclusions is based on my experience and my other knowledges.

If I have a good judge of people, then that understanding carries on to how I interpret Historical facts about someone's actions. The same way we go to various experts and get different interpretations with the same data.

Ex. A pool of 13th Century data (all sorts from equipment, to papers). An Economic Background can tell you the quality of Life, a Medical Background can give you average health, a Military background can give you Logistics and Organization, an Engineer can tell you how they made their goods, and as you compare and contrast different fields to their conclusions you come up with a whole Other bunch of interpretations of facts.

There are Right and Wrong interpretation, right in as much as there is indirect/direct experimentation and simulation as a way to prove a hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt and wrong as it falls outside what is reasonable.

Stuff unprovable like intentions, motives, and reasons are usually free to be interpreted as you wish. Although behavioral game theory is finding ways to read motives and analyze behavior psychology has a hard time proving.

What does a Flip gotta do to get some attention?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nerd On! Lances and Physics

I'm a fan of "Nerd On"! Its like an argument you would have in "Big Bang Theory" by its arcane nature and subtle philosophical undercurrent. I'm a big fan of the Gamers who make it their calling to strive for more consistency, realism and a better way of resolving a Gaming dilemma.

The link is about Lances and Physics, but what is awesome is that time and time again Hal points out a truth hidden in the web of illusion of our games.

The prominence of the scientific principle can be found in the quest for facts and a way to prove certain ideas. It can be a terrible habit that can ruin other people's fun, but it can be kept under control. It is usually Hal, Dan Howard, and Icelander who go all historical authenticity on the boards. There are many others who contribute in such discussions and I always tend to have an eye out when they start bringing a ruckus with, what in the sub culture considers "controversial".

I like the change, it makes the RPG grow and evolve better ways of doing things. GURPS's attempts to model reality gets better every contribution because reality is something verifiable and tangible to work on. GURPS adaptability is what makes it an awesome RPG system. It grows with me and allows me to cross over many of my real world skills.

Gaming is the only thing I am really confident to know with the greatest certainty. not exactly know "what" but how. Specifically how to fix problems on the fly and how to learn from it and move forward. (an important skill in business and entrepreneurship). I guess despite how bad things can get, such a "refuge" is necessary.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Bribe, a real world skill games can teach

Its really just meant for games, but in some countries corruption is a way of life.

GM's usually quickly factor in:
  • Risk of getting into trouble vs Severity of Penalty,
  • Opportunity Cost vs Target's Wealth,
  • How wealthy the PC appears,
  • and Relationship with the Target (Contacts Advantage).

Step 1: assess the situation
Step 2: A Psychology Role: (see skill description)
"Will this character take a bribe of X?"
Step 3: Merchant, Diplomacy or Streetwise roll to communicate the intent via innuendo.
Step 4: Then a Body Language Roll to see the character's response. Make sure a deal or agreement is struck so that you can use Detect lies roll or Body Language roll to detect sincerity.

Shades of Gray.
Over here in the Philippines bribing police and government bureaucrats is part of the culture. This is caused by the great social inequities and corruption that rob the lower level public servants of their income and the capital to do their work. Unfair circumstances create more unfair circumstances.

Police in the Philippines usually supplement their income with bribes, and its called "Kotong".

The police are pulling people over for frivolous and sometimes imaginary faults they can still charge people with "reckless" driving which is a completely arbitrary infraction. Typically one can bribe them as much as $1 to $10 (that is why it is important to always have change ready when driving) depending on how hard you put up a fight and negotiate.

My brother in law plays "nice" guy and sometimes succeeds in a guilt effect, my other friend gets more harassed cause he looks like the "rich Chinese-Filipino" so he has to really negotiate with innuendo. He is able to get off with $1, and I usually end up having to cough up $2 because I'm struggling to hold my temper. Back when I was a total newb I had to cough up $10.

It is easy to lose your temper when these guys pull you over when you didn't break any law and they throw in "reckless" driving crap. Complications like unfairness and the predatory nature can be a Influence Roll penalty as the PCs can be insulted when they are being violated.

Our police earned $12 a day, so they really have to earn roughly $6 a day to keep their heads at Struggling CoL in GURPS terms.

Contacts is very important when bribing a bureaucrat, as it is a means of communication and one can avoid dangerous "middle men" who can be found government offices offering services to "speed" up papers. Investing on a Contacts allows you to cut through all the middle men and bribe the least amount of people.

Sufficient contacts that take advantage of the status quo, a character can pretty much be very successful even with mediocre competence in countries/places where there is insufficient social and legal equalities.

GM think Tank with Google Wave

Playing around Google Wave the ideas that first get to me is how It can be used to improve my game.

GM think tank.
  • With the Google Search tool, every comment can be annotated with a wiki, link, and image.
  • Drawing from Google Maps, and using terrain features and GIMP allows the GM to build worlds more quickly and efficiently. Quite simply the GM can use various locations around the world as references to exotic locales.
  • GMs and Players authoring their games into stories will have more flexibility and efficiency editing and clarifying works.
  • Having it running while your players are on your wifi saves a whole lot of paper in notes, time explaining stuff, and space in the character sheet and having to transmit Player specific information. (since you can see edits made to the character). Especially since players can use their Droid Phones to send secret messages back and forth to the GM.
  • Plan out an adventure with other GMs. If you use a particular formula and anticipate a variety of interesting things to do, take the opportunity to brainstorm with Gwave, or while in session PING a fellow GM for some advice (they can easily catch up to what is happening through the play back feature).