Friday, January 29, 2010

Pay Offs and XP.

Arbitrary Pay-offs points is what the Scott P. Stevens uses in the Game-theory lessons I purchased. In the lessons they used it, in a way like the Improv TV show "whose-line is it anyway?". Its not really the points that matters, its the relative value of these points to the circumstance.

XP and the like is the currency of character development. Like real currency, we see its buying power more than its aspect of legal tender provided and backed by the state. Currency, when perceived from the aspect of the state or the GM, is merely a tool whose value is completely made up.

Getting out of that basic premise of currency helps in allowing the GM and the Players work out a method of payoffs based more on the events and circumstances of their individual game.

This is my little experiment in XPs vs Payoffs.

When we achieve our goals, like in projects at work or in our own lives, we grow. Achievment is not just in the form of money or material gains. Sometimes it is something our regular disposition might take for granted, like having new friends, contacts, acquaintances, a reputation, and rapport. It can also take the form that we just proved certain techniques and approaches work better, sometimes these things get reinforced and sometimes the bad habits attached to these are eliminated.

Lets take a A squire or sergeant man-at-arms who is out there to take a big bite out of the world. He is not out there for XP, he is out there to win a place in his lords table. Probably he would want to have his own holdings and to have more power over his own destiny.

In order to do this, he has to do what his lord tells him to do. He would work with other men of ability who have their own reasons, but in this adventure they are willing to work together to reach their own goals.

The Optimistic Premise.
Let start with pay offs which are about as ambitious as each other. Players should declare their character ambitions (or lie about them when it is a secret). This way all players signal to each other their commitment to achieve their character's individual goals.

Ex. Knight's ambitions is to be a Manor-holder with his own retinue, A rogue with a very wealthy enterprise, a cleric with a large diocese, the agent with blood debt paid and a secret forever silenced, and a woodsman having returned to his little piece of heaven.

The GM sets a number of points needed to achieve each objective in the end of X sessions. He can use a guesstimate ball park range.

I use GURPS and for me, such a fun story plot with the climax progression of your typical movie would take about 3 sessions. Optimistically, that would take around 15cp of well role-played tom-foolery to give it up to them (assuming a group of players that like to engage problems against all odds).

If PCs voluntarily enter into play or find a way to inject their character background, personality, and limitations realistically into the Game then the GM multiplies their Pay-off points.

More Realistic Premise.
Realistically, it will depend on how I know each player approaches challenges, regular people I know aren't comfortable despite the Game aspect. You can observe the signals of how realistic or ostentatious each Players goals and use it to benchmark how the story is going to flow.

Knight = Do my duty
Freeman = Make some money
Cleric = Do what the Church asks of me
Agent = Do the task asked of me
Woodsman = protect my interests

Notice how reactive are the goals. If the GM expects to be the primary instigator (or the players have been conditioned to rely on the GM to be the instigator) then the GM has to pull in more work to generate more opportunities for the PCs. Given the economies of GM's use of time,

Hyperbolic Discounting affects a game when players cannot appreciate better long term goals for their own characters. Usually this is because, players don't know how to expect, appreciate risk, or have been conditioned to expect pay-offs of killing NPCs or what the GM told them to expect as a reward.

As for Pay-offs, the GM will be "grading" their reactions instead of seeing how the Players figure out a way to work together and achieve their goals.

In such a situation I would then benchmark the cps at 3 each session (1 attendance, 2 role-playing and keeping character), and the pay-offs at 90 pts for 3 sessions.

How helping the GM in his job can be rewarded.
GMs struggle to make the games challenging and interesting. Making his/her job easier, should be rewarded.

In Voluntary Disadvantages the GM can assign multipliers of 50% more (x1.5, x2, x3, x5, x7, x10, x15...) for every interesting factor the Player introduces into the situation. So a player who finds a way to insert his conflicting obligations, his personal beliefs, economic disadvantage and real physical risk in a roll that pushes the game forward x7 the pay off reward.

If it proved to be one of the 3 key events of a session that would have resulted to a 4 CP reward. That's is 1.33 x 7 = 9 pay offs for that event alone. He didn't even need to succeed, just weathering the consequences is part of the fun. You can also just ask the Players the Highlights of the session and base multiplier from there.

The main idea is to have accumulate a ton of points and use them to shape the story after each sessions and at the end of the story arc. Like currency, don't be concerned by its "buying" power. The forces of conflict and the direction of the game is taking (like in legal tender) affect its value.

If you want a real "benchmark" for those competitive players call it "Creative Contribution". The character who can work up the most points basically contributed the most in making the story interesting. You can even say, if it were the movie he got the top billing star.

Escalation should be a greater source of challenges.
Escalation could be bad, but that only happens when their is a limited appreciation of the problems they create.

A knight that becomes a land holder, will contend with neighbors, expected to serve and provide assets for his overlord, can have a family or a more luxurious private life to maintain and have more to lose.

The merchant will have to content with others who seek to break his monopoly, greedy nobles or clerics who envy their wealth, and more complex problems resulting from control over a larger necessarily complex organism.

Even if the woodsman who has finally owned the rights of his land, he might have to look far to see those that might threaten it now he is its only charge.

In the fantasy novel: The song of Ice and fire, by GRRM, The main characters like Tyrion, John Snow, and Dani who kept advancing but kept getting into more and more trouble. There are also those whose plans failed or succeeded with unexpected results, and died.

The escalation is inherently a challenge by itself. It is asking the PC "Can you handle it?". Can you handle the power, the responsibility and the consequences.

At this level of escalation, the PCs are actually more surrounded by challenges as they are given more power and visibility.

Player > GM. There are more players than GMs, they have a higher capacity of getting things done. Coordination (while in Character) is where a lot of the interesting self-inflicted conflict can come from. Ideally the GM, can focus as the Facilitator and Arbiter while the Players are busy impov the situation to make it more interesting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

AutoRealm, learning notes

You can get autorealm here. Its not that hard to find, you can just google it.

Ubuntu/Linux. You can use AutoRealms in wine. Ubuntu automatically comes with GIMP since it such a versatile tool. FYI GIMP is the free / open-source program that fills the job of Adobe Photoshop.

Inserting Images. You can insert images in AutoRealm by using ctrl+J or file > insert image. I recommend desaturating the image your planning to trace it or work with a really thick line and change it to what suits your purpose after.

The glue tool. This is the tool that allows you to connect lines. unfortunately its very cumbersome. If it doesnt fit perfectly you will have to Zoom in and draw a close on the gap and seal it in with the glue tool. This tool will be frequently used if you want to be precise in how the fractal polygons all fit together.

GIMP/Photoshop vs Autorealm. What it really boils down to is:
  • the fractal line generation,
  • vector lines,
  • the grid, and
  • the easy scaling.
The vector lines are important because, if you continuously zoom in, it will not pixelate. So when you move from your general overland view, zooming closer at a given area the lines retain their relative thickness.

The GRID. Strategic relationships between locations are simplified by the grid. Its harder to make a grid from scratch and scale it. Since the grids are vector lines the relative thickness is consistent even with different scaling.

Fractal Lines. If you tried to do this by hand it will look too perfect and artificial. You don't want natural features to look so odd as to be distracting.

Scaling. Vector lines and the Measuring tools come in handy when you want to further detail a map.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Map Making Endevor

Campaign Cartographer vs AUTORealms. I've checked out campaign cartographer in youtube and compared it to my experience with AUTORealm.

CC3 is around 1G, while Autorealms is 3megs. As nice as CC3 may be, It is way beyond what I need and my budget. I have a bunch of Maps I can print out about Palestine. My problem is that these maps are incomplete as they differ from source to source and they are too small for my purposes. So I'm forced to make my own map.

One of the things bugging me is how I can get a JPG in the background so I can trace the outline of Palestine and its elements on to my own Vector based map. I also want to detail some parts, for villages and roads.

I want to use Google Earth Screenshots and layer it at the back to base my elevation colors. I don't mind, being unable to use nice looking map feature, I just need the terrain to create a strategic layout.

Making my own Crusader Palestine Map (which I'm aware it is an altered history in a way that will piss-off the current inhabitants). It was meant to reflect a more tragic turn of history, where the dark ages were extended and more human suffering continued and perpetuated.

You tube has the video tutorial of CC3. There is no youtube of AutoREALM but they look similar enough. If your used to moving between similar softwares this shouldn't be too hard. If your not, it is a useful skill: like Open office to MS word.

Mapmaking. I was inspired when I saw a HARN map. Its interesting to find out villages averaged 6km from each other (from the Medieval demographics made easy). This means that there was a source of food, lodging, and (most of all) water every 1-2 hours walk towards major channels. This 'network' got more sparse as it moved to areas with very little strategic value.

Having a village network around main roads means that major movement can be tracked quite easily. Also, the condition of villages would serve as a pulse of what is happening in a given area.

Since safety and speed would balance out as roads and paths "evolved" PCs can always opt to use their "Navigation" (GURPS) or Pathfinding skill to move towards safer or faster routes. Area knowledge or being able to dig up some information can allow PCs to dig up hidden paths used for obscure or forgotten purposes.

Anyway, i hope to find time to relearn Autorealm. Use autorealm maps in a search and see what images show up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kingdom of Jerusalem problems

I've complained about the limited material available regarding the Latin Kingdom of Syria also known as "the Kingdom of Jerusalem". Interestingly my collection of locales far exceeded my the Medieval Demographic tools... so I thought.

There was 102 locales listed in the comparison of several maps. Although there are only supposed to be 7 cities, and 30 towns. Then i realized that castles were something seperate and made up the power center of strategically relevant locales.

Adding the 72 castles put me at 109! So All the locations that don't fit the "town" are basically castles supported by villages and some manors. The excess castles are ruins.

Palestine has been settled and fortified for over 600BCE (and earlier), that would be about 1900 years, bumping up the number of castles to 72!

It is slowly coming together. I'll first focus on the Kingdom of Jerusalem's 39 locales. Then detail a narrow plot of interwoven villages and castles, near a town based on the level of map detail I can make.

Going through the book, I already mined some classic story ideas for a campaign. I plan to start with the timeline after the empire's rebirth at 354 (1453 CE). PCs are several professional soldiers/adventurers at the beginning of an adventure.

Crusades by Zoe Oldenbourg
Search terms:
Franking Kingdom of Syria 1140 Maps
Latin Kingdom of Syria 1140 Maps
Palestine (the location)

GURPS Wealth and Status v1

This gradual progression of wealth is more precise in calculating the difference of culture, lifestyles and opportunities present in an economic condition.

Wealth and Status are very strongly tied together despite what ideals that may govern a society. It is in the lower levels of the socio-economic ladder where ever small increment does matter more.

You will notice that in medieval times, the greatest variety of social economic status that allows for the best social mobility is found in the wealth levels beginning from wealthy upwards.

As we reach more modern times, economic diversity that allows for maximum social mobility moves toward the middle class and downward.

In the status that makes a figure central to communities ranging from villages to empires, the level of productivity and wealth affects the individuals over-all wealth. A more progressive and prosperous kingdom will result in a more powerful and wealthier king. That is why there is a very great variation in population ranges.

This system follows the 50% cumulative increase pattern, which is also used in the GURPS range/speed table. Ex. 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10...

Wealth is priced 5cp per increment, and 10cp for the leap of status and wealth. This changes to 10cp per increment and 20cp per leap of status and wealth.

If you plan to use Voluntary Disadvantages set a Default Social Status for all players and negotiate minor differences on a case to case basis per player. Economic disadvantage can appear frequently in many realistic game challenges.

In your Game. As rewards go, achievements and the accumulation of assets can be game objectives or rewards outside of character development (CPs). A character who grows and proves him/herself is not merely increases their competence but increases their wealth and status.

This many levels of gradation allows for the GM to have smaller increments of rewards, in terms of assets and status. A group of warriors who prove themselves capable may be granted their own lands and holdings to bring them up to the scale their abilities fit in.

Status -2, Poor

This is the status of serfs, sharecroppers and low-skilled laborers. These constitute the largest majority of the population the land less working force.

x 0.2 -25cp

x 0.3 -20cp

Status -1, Struggling

This is the status of Peasants and Plebeians who make up the working class. They are the second most common people after the poorer folk.

x 0.5 -15cp

x 0.7 -10cp

Status 0, Average

This is the status of the land-owning or highly skilled freeman. They make up the middle-class.

x 1 +0cp Late Roman Infantryman

x 1.5 +5cp

Status 1, Comfortable

This is the status of the more comfortable middle class, some impoverished nobles, and the growing self-made elite .

x 2 +15cp

x 3 +20cp Most Late Roman light Cavalryman

Status 2, Wealthy

This is the most powerful individual with in a small to large village. Typically a man-at-arms possessing a manor to provide for the maintenance of his arms and services.

x 5 +30cp Most Heavy Cavalryman

x 7 +35cp

x 10 +40cp Most Elite Men-at-Arms (ex. Banneretts and Kataphrakts)

x 15 +45cp

Status 3, Very Wealthy

This is the most powerful individual with in a population of 1,000 to 20,000. Typically this is a Lord who control a small fort, fortified manor, holdfast, tower or small castle and its surrounding asset villages.

x 20 +55cp

x 30 +60cp

x 50 +65cp

x 70 +70cp

Status 4, Filthy Rich

These are the most powerful individuals with in a population of 20,000 to 1 million. These were typically the rulers of Principalities, Counties, Great Baronies or Fiefs. Large Towns serve as the default "seat" of a status 4 ruler.

x 100 +80cp

x 150 +90cp

x 200 +100cp

x 300 +110cp

x 500 +120cp

x 700 +130cp

Status 5, Millionaire

These are the most powerful individuals with in a population of 1 to 5 million. The Basic Patron (10cp) starts at this power level. Individuals at this level of status are Dukes, Powerful Barons, petty Kings or Kings of Ancient times. Cities serve as seats of office for these powerful individuals.

x 1,000 +150cp

x 1,500 +160cp

x 2,000 +170cp

x 3,000 +180cp

x 5,000 +190cp

x 7,000 +200cp

Status 6, Multi-Millionaire I

These are the most powerful individuals with in a population of 5 to 20 million. The kings of England, France and Emperor of Eastern Rome and the Holy Roman Empire fall in this power level in the 11th-13th century.

x 10,000 +220cp Justinian I 6C (personal wealth).

x 15,000 +230cp Betrand de Guisclin 14C

x 20,000 +240cp

x 30,000 +250cp

x 50,000 +260cp

x 70,000 +270cp

Status 7, Multi-Millionaire III

This is the most powerful individual with in a population of 20 to 100 million. The Emperors of China and Rome, during the height of their empire had this much power and wealth.

x 100,000 +290cp

x 150,000 +300cp

x 200,000 +310cp Justinian as Emperor

x 300,000 +320cp

x 500,000 +330cp Augustus Ceasar

x 700,000 +340cp Qin Shi Huangdi

Status 8, Multi-Millionaire IV (Modern)

This is the most powerful individual with in a population of 100 million to 1 billion. This level of organization and population is only achievable after the industrial revolution and in much of modern History. The individuals who control the World Superpowers of TL6-8 fall in this category.

x 100,000 +290cp

x 150,000 +300cp

x 200,000 +310cp

x 300,000 +320cp

x 500,000 +330cp

x 700,000 +340cp

Example. If you were to check the link of Justinians Finances, you will observe the difference between the entity of the Emperor and that of Justinian.

Contrary to what many might think of a ruler's "earning", The 6M solidi is the Imperial Revenue is not the exactly the emperor's. If there is a serious disruption in the distribution of this resource the empire will be very unstable.

What the most powerful individuals actually wrestle over is the control over how this money gets spent. This is the emperor as part of an empire, and not the Individual powerful enough to be the emperor.

Although the actual imperial "revenue", specifically the net income is useful in gauging the actual wealth of the emperor. Since cost of living eats up +86% of the revenue of a individual you can find a schelling point reflected by the 2x-3x the annual income of the Emperor.

$300,000,000 (1M solidi) /12 months = $25,000,000 per month.
$25M / $800 (TL4) = 30,000 multiplier. which around +250cp at status 6.
Given the historical accounts of Justinian's power prior to becoming emperor the comparative wealth of his contemporaries, and the tendency of taxation he did not involve taxation of his own resources, one could say his personal annual revenue was 1/3 of or x10,000 +220cp. Note that this only applies to bureaucracies like that of Rome and China and this power represents the investment of Administrative and Military Ranks.

Feudal lords can be calculated differently. Ransom were based on the annual net income from fiefs. Tradition dictated that ransoms should not be so great as to bankrupt the noble.

Note that not all of the most powerful individuals were actually the monarch. Betrand de Guisclin who had 200,000 Livre or $192,000,000. The king-maker was usually more powerful than the king, since the power rested on his military prowess to make the kingdom exist.

Like a bureaucracy you can treat the revenue from fiefs as net income. As net income you can calculate back to the wealth modifier of around x20,000 at +240cp. These funds were used to maintain several costs: typically standing/recruitment of forces and were saved up to pay ransoms.

Disclaimer. Like many rules that are made to fit the facts, this is subject to change when new facts allow for better interpretations of how these all come about. I guess in the foreseeable future (a year or so) this system will do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Random Village Generation v0.1

Random Village Generation v0.1

A quick random village generator. It is intended to be used with Medieval Demographics Made easy. Useful accompaniments and reading: Lisa J. Steele's Fief, Grain to Gold, Pyramid's Building Low-Tech Landscapes I and II.

Roll 3d



Power Center





3d x 5



Civil Disupte




3d x 10

Low Grains






3d x 30

High Grains






3d x 50



Failed Venture




3d x 100*

Luxury Produce






16-18 is practically a small town or a market village.

Roll 1d

1-2 seasonal market

3-4 small market

5 a small guild of artisans

6 sizable market


Roll twice for Primary and Secondary.


Roll 1d

1-5 Forestry

6 Mine or Quarry


Roll 1d

1-3 Lumber

4-5 Game

6 Special Product


Roll 1d

1-2 Quarry

3-4 Iron

5 Copper, Tin

6 Precious Gems or Metals

Low Grains

Roll 1d

1-4 Feed Grain

5-6 Hedge

High Grains

typically Wheat, Rice can only be grown in the Jordan valley.


Roll 1d

1-3 Sheep

4-5 Cow

6 Horse

Luxury Produce

Roll 1d

1-3 Olive Grove

4-5 Fruit Orchard

6 Vineyard

Power Center

Freeman – the rare independent self made man or woman, who seems to hold the people together through force of will.

Clergy – the religious authority, typically a stationed novice or monk.

Bureaucrat – the legal authority representative of a higher absent one.

Aristocrat – the powerful Land owners

Military – the martial authority, either terrorizing, disciplining, or protecting the inhabitants.


Civil Dispute – a serious neighborly dispute that can get the entire village up in arms. This serious problem can have very petty beginnings that just escalated out of control.

Logistical – A problem managing resources or what can end up as a failed venture. Unlike failed venture, the community is buzzing or struggling to fix this before a deadline.

Abuse – the most common problem, given medieval civics. It usually begins with authority or power. It doesn't have to have a direct relationship with the village inhabitants. This is essentially more powerful people causing trouble with the villagers.

Failed venture – the village is suffering from some loss or shortage. A classic example is the primary or secondary product failed and will cause the entire village to suffer. Problems with the village infrastructure projects is also quite common: not enough resources to complete the new mill, granary, palisade, holdfast, irrigation etc...

The Disposition.

Roll this secretly.

Dangerous – potentially dangerous or out-right hostile.

Troublesome – the type that can easily lead to problems with the PCs.

Indifferent - (self explanatory)

friendly - (self explanatory)

helpful – (self explanatory)


Annual Income per Family and definition

Destitute ($1440 and below) – Sharecroppers who are poorly compensated.

Poor ($1500-$1560) – Sharecroppers who are barely making enough

Struggling ($1560-$1620) – A growing working class

Sustainable ($1620-$1680) – A strong working class and the start of a middle class.

Prospering ($1680+) – Sizable working class and middle class.

Village NPC encounter

roll 1d (and secretly roll disposition)

1 The Elder or Head

2 the Bailife or Caretaker

3 the clergy

4 the village hero or beauty (1-4 hero/ 5-6 beauty)

5 the village eccentric

6 the Transient

Village Name – typically a special feature of the village. This feature could be a unique product, founder, patron saint, part of the landscape, significant historical event etc. This also reshaped by the language of the inhabitants and the shifting and mixing of cultures.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Detailing the Kingdom of Jerusalem

I updated my byzantine blog. Its a specific blog about my altered history byzantine project: Sins of the Crusade. I have to say how hard it is to research on the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Being short-lived really affects the amount of material available about it.

One trade off, concerning GM prep time, is the size. At about 22,000-66,000 sq. km it is one of the smallest kingdoms I've had to read. The maps have a lot of key biblical towns (I assume towns) and locations.

I really have to wing so much, which should be good RIGHT? Unfortunately my compulsive keeps dragging all across the web to follow-up every possible hint of detail. I'm trying to stay on a budget of time and money, I don't want to give in to an urge to spend $50 on another obscure historical book to be delivered all the way to the Philippines. I should be content with Zoe Oldenburg's Crusades.

Such "details" just delay the potential to game and serves no real purpose of having fun in the soonest possible condition. Arggg...

Anyway, I can't wait to fix it up. Massive loss of life (wars) can slow down and in the setting, it is supposed to be 15C but tech has not moved much since the 11C. No plate armor here, especially given the climate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Too much Role-playing in Real Life

After learning Game Theory basics I've begun to pursue my own studies into it. I have to blend some actual "work" into my fun, and that can be a problem. Still, it is worth a try and I'm curious what new perspective this exercises will give me.

The title has a link to Harvard Business School Press: role plays. They are complex business scenarios that require a background way over my head. If you have a chance to read it, you'll notice that there are a lot of things one can take away from this.

The organization and the systems they use in negotiating (beyond the number crunching) is something graspable in role-playing gamers. Even more graspable if your the type who has the skills to research what these terms mean and see the potential relationship to your games.

Knowing it is out there, and the chances that I might not get it, It wouldn't hurt to try and see for myself. Who knows, I might get lucky.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Voluntary Disadvantages: an Exercise in Game Theory

An system-neutral look at character disadvantages, their value and how they provide incentive for role-playing.

Disadvantages have a measurable affect on the character/player's decisions. They influence the complexity of their strategies and the difficulties of actions or tasks. In a game these obstacles become adventures by themselves, a rich source of drama, or the memorable moments that make up gaming.

Voluntary Disadvantages adds another dimension to RPGs and attempts to create an incentive for players to voluntarily bring up their disadvantages in appropriate situations to enhance the game's experience.

Disadvantages rely greatly on context. They should not also be a completely uncontrollable factor. Not every situation will highlight the range of limitations or challenges a character may posses. Players and GMs are should still be free to employ discressionin their strategies or style of play.

In the current system the variability of context, pricing and gauging disadvantages and their effect prior to a situation can be very arbitrary. Factoring individual styles that may emphasize on particular challenges adds another unknown variable to the GM's or Players evaluation.

Voluntary Disadvantages remove the incentive of taking a disadvantage for the sake of the points they grant. Ideally the incentive should make the player choose disadvantages based on where he feels he can take the challenge. A system where the reward is applied after the disadvantage is observed and its effects measured would be most optimal.

Game Theory Applied: A re-evaluation of the method used to emphasize value is needed to properly modify game behavior towards the ideal goal: more role-playing less meta-gaming.

Having Points too closely associated to the disadvantage is a conflict of interest for the player. It rewards the player for min/maxing strategy of selecting disadvanages the GM can least use against the PCs.

Shifting the value from a direct relationship to the disadvantage to the consequences should, hypothetically, be better.

Voluntary Disadvantages can be used in any game system. Particularly easier to employ on a game system that already has a disadvantage system because you can just remove all the point values of the disadvantages or use another perferred disadvantage system.

What is conclusive about this method is that since the context of the disadvantage can now be measured, and disadvantages have no point values only Role-playing values the only governing principle that changes is the how rewards are given.

Since many systems already have reward system for role-playing as optional rules, Voluntary Disadvantages gives a more objective methodology for its dispensation.

Here is a basic description based disadvantage system that can be handled by Voluntary Disadvantages: Note that these sound more like character describing devices that gives players or gms a check list of details to fill out.

  1. Humanity - Describes the character's value for life. This can be further defined into sentient or animal life.
  2. Social Bonds - It describes the social obligations, duties, and connections a character may have. Details include intensity of relationship, degree of priority, strength of the bond, if the bond goes both ways, who they are, and nature of relationships.
  3. Intolerance - Ideas, People, Perspectives, Cultures, Philosophies, Theologies etc... the character responds and feels strongly against.
  4. Belief System/ Perspective - Philosophy, Theology, Ideology... etc. the character adheres to. This describes how the character internalizes or thinks.
  5. Background - Origins of the Character has an indelible mark in the characters psychology or physical nature.
  6. Morality/Ethics - This is further refinement of Belief System, but sometimes there are instances they are compartmentalized (seperate). These usually affects the character's behavior, while perspective/belief system affects how the character thinks.
  7. Secrets.
  8. Physical and Mental disabilities.
Filling this out can be time consuming, that is why a game systems "legal" definition can speed up this process.

Notes for Use in GURPS: I plan to remove the disadvantage system and make it voluntary in my games. Players can quickly fill this up by answering these questions candidly about their character. Since the reward only comes up when the disadvantage aggravates the problem this should prevent 100pts of disads from being confusing for the GM or player.

1st instance of experimentation. When I did this for a Traveller game, players who naturally role-played themselves were able to visualize their character's behavior better. I could measure this because having interviewed each player candidly about their character they attempted to make their "priorities" consistent to what they described them to be.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sample Outline for Game Preparation and Organization

Here is a sample outline designed to help GMs describe their method and process of preparing a game.

Sample Outline:
  1. What are your priorities?
  2. How effectively do you communicate with your players? Do you talk to them before or after the inspiration for the game is set. Do you just have a small talk or Do you go out of your way to interview them each? Do you negotiate expectations? Do you they have a lot of ideas or do they expect you to come up with most of them?
  3. Do you have an agenda or a clear goal in mind when your prep a game?
  4. What do you expect from a GM and Players? How much work do you expect from your players?
  5. How much game material do you need to prep? What resources do you find very valuable and why?
  6. How do you organize the tasks of preparation? Does it come naturally or do you have a system? Do you get any help?
  7. How do you wrap up or know when to stop? Do you set a personal deadline?

Some Questions that can be answered by how Gms prep their games:
  • How they spend their time and how much time do they invest on prep?
  • What they do to inspire themselves or their players?
  • Tips to working w/o inspiration?
  • Resources they frequent?
  • What do you ask their players? What standard set of questions you ask players when you need to get feedback for your game?
  • How to cheat the amount of work or do you have a Pro-tip?
  • Do you delegate work with players?
  • Do you notice any predictable patterns in your style? How do you shake up things?
  • How do you enhance your improvisational skills?
  • What are your Post Action Reports like?
  • How much energy goes into your games? Is it intense and short, low but sustainable, do you have a way to gain momentum in the middle of the game? Do you "burn-out" after a session or do you have a wind down?
  • Any bad habits or challenges that make game prep hard?

Thank to all those who contribute, i didn't realize it can be energy intensive to summarize a ton of one's experience in games in such a short medium.

Making the Game fit how you observe Life and Challenges

Making Theories fit Facts instead of Making Facts fit Theories. This is why I play GURPS. The science that makes up the system is perfect for my scientific predisposition. I like a system that is so nerdy in science that it allows me to follow that intellectual discipline.

I'm big on science and learning. I have a cluttered mind so I need to make it more efficient by throwing things out I can't use for anything else. GURPS and the facts I remember are mostly useful facts I can use in everyday life.


Hiking rules that was cleared up in a mega thread and fixed in GURPS High Tech. I remember the rules because it follows basic land travel principles that allow me to plan hiking trips and our military simulation exercise. This is an instance of the Game being shaped to fit Facts.

Soldiering, Adventuring, Organization and Leadership. In business and in warfare these topics are interconnected. Project management and organization requires a lot of study, insight and observation. Since MUCH of adventuring is trouble shooting what I learned in Games and in Business and Miltiary Process are compatible with each other.

Armors and Weapons. Reading up on historical armor weight. My study into Armors led me to a more detailed study on metals and manufacturing which is usefull for my real-world work.

Wealth and Social Class. This was very insightful. My understanding of economics, the human condition, poverty, health, technology etc. all enhance my understanding of Socio-Econimics which allows me to use the language of GURPS to express these ideas efficiently to other people in games and help my surrounding communities.

Social and Psychological Disadvantages. Understanding our human nature more and more, I am able to best role-play or simulate these disadvantages. I also use it to best deal with people through allocentrism.

Often I shape the game to fit the Facts and Observations I have made. This turn around has freed me up of useless facts and knowledge and allowed me to build up my ability to enjoy life and the Games.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My own Investigation on Horses

This was last year. It was my "investigative" research regarding horses. I was aware of the relationship of body mass, food, and work out-put relationship. This is made me really appreciate the smaller horses (ponies) and their valuable difference between their larger more Iconic "cousins".

Note: this is a much older research post. Right now, I have more cause to believe the 1/3 price difference between purchase of horses because of my study of accounting and game-theory.

I'm in vacation here in the Philippines' mountain province and former American military base, Baguio (“Bag-yo”) City. One of the only places in my country you can pay for horse rides and hikes for up to 8 hours at $8 an hour. I was talking to the horsemen who provide these services and care for the horses and here are some interesting answers that arm chair discussion should consider.

These horses are 12.2 hands high (at their hithers). They are around 550lbs (250kgs) on average and eat, at a minimum, 6kg of feed on a work day and 4kg when there is no work. Larger specimens eat as much as 8kg.

These ponies are modestly cared for and can be ridden in the lightly forested mountain trail about 8 hours with reasonable breaks now and then (to feed and to rest). I don't think this is sustainable daily. According to the care takers, these ponies can sustain a gallop of up to 5 minutes (which would require additional feed and water above the working average for the day if required). Safely a minute of gallop would be enough if the total encumbrance would be (probably) at 200lbs.

This horse would wearing riding saddle, stirrups, bit and bridle of up to 35lbs (30 to 45lbs). They can carry along with the riding gear up to 300lbs (but cannot gallop at this level of encumbrance). In all the horse would fall under the ST20 range.

Their feed is a mix of grass grown specifically for animal feed (good quality for grass), molasses, and corn grown for animal feed (bad quality for corn).

Things I can't see for my self and confirm as easily are its speed and its galloping speed (if it is x2 or x1.5 at full move). Cost wise it is not polite to ask, especially its pries too close to the costs of their profession.

The strength and working endurance of this pony is much better than the Basic Set stats. So much better that they would probably be a more common key piece of equipment if only we had a good source of prices. Arm chair speculation with a lot of discussion and hearsay woud put the horse such a pony at around $1000-1,500* (if you're familiar to the buying process). I would put their quality at around poor/cheap with a certainty that it doesnt fall under good condition. I would put HT at 10 and the speed would probably be around 6 (from 7). I think a privately own horse would be in a much better condition. These horse would fall under the 35 years old age.

*this is relatively expensive given that this is a mountain province and horses are a novelty. In a location where they are more common and widely used expect the price to fall.

More info.

A pony foal costs about P15-20,000 $300 to $400. They can be trained to ride for only a year. There was about 60 horses, many with an age of 3-15 years. Although 300lbs were the most they would carry a total encumbrance of 200lbs was the ideal. Again considering this is a novelty (they are bred for tourists than for actual work) this price would be considerably lower in places that still use horses extensively.

It just means a horse would be better performing at light encumbrance than medium (near its maximum riding capacity). Still many of the ponies would be within the ST20 range. Given that the horses need running now and then, I could only compare the speed of their gallop to my personal running speed and these sure ponies may have a ground speed 7 or 8 with a rider on light (how much faster i can guess they are compared to me running on the same ground). Probably Move 6 with ground speed 1/2.

According to our guide, these ponies are meant for the mountain terrain of the local province. Many times in the trail there were times a hiker on foot would have taken extra time negotiating, the horse seemed to have as similar challenge.

Since they were raised and trained in these paths and they had the difficulty of being in Light Enc (-1 DX) I would give them a DX 11. I would let the horse make a running DX based roll and for a faster paced hiking a hiking DX based roll.

Given our frequency of breaks and the sweat i could feel and see while I road the horse and my questions with the guide. I figure that these horses would have an average HT11. Still I think that they could easily have a HT12 if they were privately own, had better equipment, and feed.

I think given better quality feed and better care, I think these horses could be much stronger, probably ST21-22. At 21 the horse is already fit for skirmishing cavalry. At 22 they would be enough for light lancers (like the goths in the 6C gothic war with Belisarius).

IMO players should be able to purchase horses at their untrained price (1/3) their cost. Unlike a car, a horse requires familiarity and a high level of involvement with its owner. It would be only natural for a character to purchase the horse at foal costs and train it themselves. I think one can use Int based Riding check to train a horse, but Animal Handling would have a huge difference in training time. Animal Handling would probably allow a character to prevent many bad traits from setting in. Training horses with just the Riding skill would give the horse probably a bad trait, a few bad quirks and would have familiarity penalties with other riders.

Allowing players to purchase horses at 1/3 would be appropriate if they were adventurer types and those with Skill-12+ (Since these characters have horses part of their daily regiment). Other non-adventurous characters with riding-12 should pay 1/2 the cost for partial training or for the full cost for horses that can be used by anyone.

Byzantine Warhorses were roughly 7 solidi ($2,520) purchased by soldiers. Fully trained horses sold were 3x the cost (21 solidi). These were untrained since soldiers were expected to train them (Strategikon). Assuming these horses were a much more refined breed compared to the legendary horses of the Fargana Valley (Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare by Philip Sidnell) of ST13.5-14 hands, I think they would have ST23+.

Mountain Pony
ST: 16; DX: 10; IQ: 3; HT: 11.
BL: 19 (72lbs, max rider 217lbs); Will: 10; Per: 11; Speed: 5.0; Dodge: 8; Move: 6.
SM +1 (2 hexes); 550 lbs.

Traits: Domestic Animal; Enhanced Move 1 (Ground Speed 12); Hooves; Peripheral Vision; Quadruped; Lifting ST +3; Weak Bite.
Skills: Running-10; Hiking-10; Mount-10; Survival (mountain)-9*.
Cost: $1,000.

Cost per Day of Feed:

Formula: BL/8 in lbs. X1.5 for work, x2 for heavy work. Good Feed is $1 to 4lbs. It is based on BL in lbs because make it follow the energy requirement of the animal.

Ex. 18lbs ($4.5) on a heavy work day, 13lbs ($3) on a regular work day, and 9lbs ($2) on a idle day. This is good quality feed.

Feed: Good quality of Feed gives the horse +2 HT per day (10hrs) that is applicable for checks against performance deterioration and for recovering from extended periods of work. Cheap feed gives no bonus, Grass Feed -2 penalty (or worse depending on the quality of grass).

Deterioration follows the Starvation damage rules (B426) every failed check counts as an instance of missing a meal (and rest).

they can carry up to 300lbs but can't run. Consider this an "extra-effort" feat -6 (ST22).

Survival (Mountains) - use DX based for footing on mountains. This also allows them to forage in mountains

Armor Problems in GURPS Basic Set.

There has always been problems with the armor system and it comes up so often in the threads. I'm wondering why Dan Howards articles, which is where they are drawing Low-Tech Armor details, are not made available in the 6 months before Low Tech arrives.

Mail - Why Bother
Scale and Lamellar

These are two articles Locked up in Pyramid and probably won't see any access because Pyramid changed its format. Why not free up these articles to clear up all the hullabaloo.

The only thing I see that needs fixing in the articles is the price adjustment. i don't know where the $ value of the 3rd ed is based on, but assuming the copyright at 1986 in my 3rd ed basic set thats 18years.

So when the value of 4th ed was normalized at 2004, if you average the [URL=""]inflation values[/URL] you would get x1.7. So the riveted Mail Haubergeon of $400 would cost about $680 in GURPS 4e.

I given the weight and the labor of the material. I would say this is Fabrication Cost instead Individual Sale Market cost. So if you want to get a walk in the store price for PCs that's a x3 the cost. If it was a lord making an order for a Large Set to equip an century it might cost the listed price of $680.

10lbs of drawn wire vs 3lbs of hammered metal - at roughly comparitive prices of 600 vs 680 one should look closely at the context at this disparity. Remember metal is expensive in the middle ages, the way we find titanium rare and expensive today. Historical interpretation of prices sometimes confuse the Mass-Order and Walk-in-the-Store Prices. It would be reasonable to conclude that the $680 is a Mass Order Price. Walk in the store price would be roughly $2040 or x3 the Mass-Order price.

So your Mail Hauberk is equal to half the annual income of a working class peasant or soldier. Having such a expensive gift given by the Lord or the Army to the soldier puts into perspective a source of his duty.

Note that only Guildsmen, administrators and officiers privy to the logistics would know these Mass-Order prices. Everyone else will think the fair price of a Riveted Mail Haubergeon is $2040. Merchant skill will allow you to negotiate, pointing out the actual fair price given supply and demand trend going on.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Falkovia with Medieval Demographics Made Easy

An interesting look at Ravenloft's falkovia with Medieval Demographics Made easy.

Population: 60,000.
Note that if you look at the population breakdown this is merely the Urban population added up. The urban population will let you deduce the total population, because you need enough villages to support more complex communities like towns and cities. At Dark Ages you can peg the percentage of urban population at 2%, at Middle Ages 12-13C 2.5%, 14C 3%, and 15C 4%. I would like the technology to be Carolingian, puting the population at 3 million.

Area: ?
Some sources describe it like Germany, while others compare it too France because it is the bread basket of the Domains. If you look at the map, it is heavily forested, so I'll go with Germany population density. That would be 30 people per sq km. That would be 100,000 sq km.

At this size many of the maps, which appear to be around under a 1,000 sq km must be scaled differently. One has to imagine that around every key settlement there are hundreds of small villages that line the longer roads and dot the larger landscape.

100,000 sq km is the size of 1/3 of the size Germany. Given this perspective, grab the old Darklands Game map of 16C Germany and re-imagine 1/3 of the area as Falkovia.

Government: Military Dictatorship
There was no such thing in the medieval era as military dictatorship because the military was built into the ruling class. You would need to seperate the military from the state to create that definition.

What you can quantify from the population, the neighbors, and the factors surrounding Falkovia and what you have is a seriously Military State, like that of the Spartans. Note that the Spartans were a warrior class. This will not work if the "despot" is the mercenary Vlad Drakov.

Vlad Drakov is now commanding a population comparable to the old Holy Roman Empire. Given that he is surrounded by undead and is in a constant state of war, he has enough political will to organize an military state similar to that of Israel.

One thing about the military that doesn't have much of an oligarchy is that it has only one way of putting people in positions of power: meritocracy. You can't afford an ineffective and corrupt ruling body when you are surrounded by undead. You cannot hold a state together with such people.

Re-imagining Falkovia as this Germanic Military State that is fairly egaletarian sets some interesting consequences.

Trade: Bread basket
You cannot knock food production. A military state that has a high food production means that it can field a larger army. Although having a larger army requires a different approach to organization and equipment. Your average joe in Falkovia is much like a roman soldiers, a highly trained professional that retires to farming with a household of cheap labor (non-human slaves).

Having more grain than everyone else means you can also field better or more horses. Since the man power size is much greater and a effective egaletarian state would rather to distribute than gamble so much resources on a elite few you then have a high amount of rounceys, warponies, and work horses distribution.

This would make further sense since many of the farms would need the heavier rounceys serve a dual purpose as work animals. Villages would naturally pool resources for draft animals, because given that the are no nobles that require huge stocks of grain to feed heavy warhorses.

Condition: Poor
Actually for what is supposed to be the only non-magical area and people in all of the Domains a greater level of organization, initiative and Identity is needed for Falkovia to exist. Such traits cannot exist without changing the status quo to encourage such behavior: thus they would more likely have a strong working and middle class.

Since non-humans make up the poor, most Falkovians come from a fairly comfortable culture that requires a lot of initiative, organization and hard work. Fighting undead, they need a lot of will and values that create an identity.

Having a cultural Identity and control over your destiny makes a people very progressive.

Re-imagining a Falkovian.
A falkovian can be appears like an eastern European, with a rich military tradition, and a strong sense of community. The strong sense of community that can be observed in the medieval English as they slowly became the superpower of the High middle ages. Although you have to color that image with a greater soldiering culture.

Many serve and many still serve in a rotational basis. A culture brought around a "spiritual" reason to serve the Dark Lord Vlad, for country, their loved ones and their brothers in arms.

Because of the causalities, large families are in style. The state and villages help out widows. Now and then rare women get into the action. Their status compared to men improved compared to other regions because of the man-power demands.

Communes will come into great use for effectively raising children and preparing them for the psychological challenges of their future. Probably an initative of the state.

The Falkovian Forces.
At 3,000,000 you have 20,000 career professionals. You will have roughly an additional 40,000 rotational soldiers. In a worse case scenario Falkovia can draft another 40,000.

100,000 fighting force. At 3% you have a fighting force relative to the population is not so bad. If you go to look at some-place like North Korea which have 5% active military, 20% reserve, and up half their population fit for military service (another 25%).

Every village will definitely have a holdfast or some basic fortifications. Small and highly coordinated platoon groups (6x6 + 4 officers + 20 baggage and reserves).

Running this Falkovia.
This falkovia will be quite interesting. I would enjoy imagining how such a state and people can fight undead like those of Left 4 Dead: fast moving "zombies". They will have to have different tactical formation, but the imagery of a cohesive military force bracing against charging zombies is quite exhilarating.

Formations, Tactics and Techniques against Boomers, Tanks, Hunters, Witches, and Smokers would be interesting to see.

There will certainly be a need for mixed group of skilled crossbowmen (using composite crossbows) and archers with broad leaf bolts/arrows. Javelins designed to slowdown charging "zombies". There would be a special Tetsudo/Tortoise and Pike Hedge formation against the zombie rush. Pikes will have stopping crossbars and hacking swords will be common.

Witches and Tanks will certainly be problem. Tanks are slow enough for very powerful and slow crossbows might be useful. Witches will certainly need keen fire organization and superior coordination with heavy infantry.

Numbers tell a Story

Having a better a appreciation with Demographics and Numbers have given much inspiration for drama and the human condition. I've been reading up Poverty playing with Gapminder. Numbers clarify so much of the drama humans face. When you look at a poor country like the Philippines, seeing a shanty town may be a strong visual input but when you learn to understand the numbers it adds layers and layers of information that give another thousand words to that picture.

A family that suffers from the classic case of hardship, lost opportunities, and tragedy can be observed and counted. Numbers repeat that same similar but different story over and over again. Imagination takes over when the numbers begin to teach you that the tragedy is not isolated and it affects everyone and everything around it in different ways.

Instances and actions have subtle consequences that escape us from seeing the bigger picture. Killing 10 castle guards means 10 families will suffer in the winter. Oppression, Ignorance, and Abuse are reflected in the numbers.

As a GM I'm a story teller. Learning demographics and the science has changed my taste for games and stories. I have the experience to know what conditions create these dark and tragic stories we tell in our tales, thanks to science.

In the Basic Reproductive Health battle going on in Philippine Politics, the amount of scientific data of the observed and proven need for this legislation vs the Influence and Power of the Catholic Church is another story told by numbers.

Numbers are not some arcane language only mages can understand, anyone can understand them. The amount of lies people tell and the actions they do in the name of their belief, ambition and fear is another thing numbers bring to light. Numbers allow us to count the cost.

I know as a GM and when I make my own material I don't really need to go into the detail of what is poor, suffering, abuses, and causalities; but if I want my players to understand the scale and scope of what they are perceiving numbers is another tool that helps my narrative.

Warlords that have triumphed cripple their enemies to make sure they never rise up again. You walk the streets filled with pox rotting men mutilated and begging for food. You realize the human cost of a tragedy that is infused in the background and it reaches out to color the character's psyche.

A soldier that dies, could mean the survival of a family. Enough people die, could mean the survival of a village or a community. Enough casualties can mean a man made famine. The consequences are as certain as the numbers that allow us to observe the phenomenon.

Its nice to know one of my new nerdy hobbies is helping enrich my GMing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thread Titles

Title threads with exactly the (boiled down) question or idea. No need to declare newb-ness or any other matter. Consider that when the thread gets answers people will have an easier way to find it in the future.

People are nice and even the most seasoned Gamers ask for some basic advice and opinions (if they can't search it).

I realized this is is one of the better uses of sidewiki.

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

Having Mundane Combat Skills

Realistic Ancient Soldiering was basically getting a bunch of people to one place in the best condition possible to fight. That is why if you look at the soldier skills, logistics had the greatest emphasis.

Getting to Place X is always troublesome and have many factors that can affect the out come of the battle: Desertion, Lack of supplies, Weather, Low-Morale, Confusion, etc. That is why having combat skills at 10-11 is quite common and survivable.

If a bunch of disorganized barbarians meet a bunch of organized soldiers, chances are the soldiers will be in a better condition to fight. Having brought all that "Capital" or Equipment with them these soldiers are already at a big advantage compared to the barbarian. Discipline also goes a long way in this encounter, since it cuts down the amount of stupidity.

So a soldiers just has to do what he is told. At Block-10 (+2 from DB), Attack-10/Parry-10 and armor a soldier will outlast a Block-9, Attack-11, Parry-9, and being at a better FP condition than the disorganized side allows for acceptable losses to the organized side.

An adventure can be about getting there at the most opportune moment.

Having more appreciation of obstacles, challenges, and the technology that has allowed us to travel great distances in much greater comfort and safety, has made me realize how much harder it is to organize that it is to fight.

Fighting is easy, its a few things that hold your attention. Traveling and Organization is hard, because there is a lot of planning, improv, and limitations that compound over time and distance.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Wealth and Horses

Medieval horse Types and Traits is an awesome contribution by Icelander. Especially since Horses would be more central realistic/gritty games. They are tools of combat, logistics and travel. Thus their strategic relevance to certain games can be immense.

I draw mostly from my byzantine sources, which have pretty much the most detailed medieval sources of incomes and costs thanks to its bureaucracy (the Logos). As a basic rule of thumb, the cost of equipment (investment capital) is proportional to the a character's annual income.

In the 11C and onward byzantine soldiers were roughly middle class (average wealth, and not working class at struggling). Constant man power shortages and demand is what influenced this. Note that these middle class infantry men were Skilled archers comparable to English Yeomen (who were middle to upper middle class- average to comfortable wealth). These soldiers would have a budget of their annual disposable income for pack horses or work horses (for their farms).

The Cavalry was x3 the Income of Infantry men but had more land, so we can chuck that into "wealthy" (x5 average income) for the sake of simplicity.

Men-at-arms who earn $42,000 (wealthy) have disposable income at around $6,000. Given the risks of war many soldiers or their patrons would hedge around up to the disposable income for replacement gear. Patrons are usually the ones who take care of this because its cheaper and more secure if it left to the owners discretion than to leave it up to the soldier (examples of which can be found in the Gothic Campaign and Belisarius and other byzantine texts on waging war).

From my experience in studying pre-capitalist business owner behavior - Patrons typically will not be paying the Full Market Price when purchasing gear. Economies of scale play a strong role in much of equipping vassals, retainers and soldiers. Patrons like the army would get horses at 7 solidi or $2100 for horses that have a market value of 21 solidi ($6300).

The biggest buck can be made selling to the state or lords, and orders for horses are raised with scale in mind. (brokers will always haggle for their patrons) Like many pre-capitalist economies basic principles of future sales were very risky. Hence the high cost multiplier for individual sales. This principle can be applied to all war-related production costs.

A sword at $600 could actually follow the same rule. At market price it is the books listed price, but when ordered by a lord or the state to equip their armies the costs would fall to 1/3 the individual sale market value. So a Cheap Sword market value at $360 would fall to roughly $120 close to historical prices kept in war time ledgers by bureaucrats.

Basic rule of thumb - Market Price in pre-capitalist eras is pricing heavily modified by uncertainty of sale. It ranges opportunistically from x2 to x5, more dependent on the arbitrary value of the merchant.

At the +100% enhancement of patron, a retainer can expect gifts (aka employment fee or loyalty bribe) up to their annual income. the higher the wealth level, the more of this "gift" is made up of Land Assets used to generate income. (its hard to cite the sporadic sources that talk about gifts of land from patrons, the byzantine practice is better documented and makes for a better example; Emperor Nikopheros 12C).

Of course, rarely do patrons "provide" for their retainers so when pricing your patron advantage minimal intervention -50% and freq-6 x1/2 are very common point modifiers.

One must understand that pre-capitalist patrons cheapen their over all costs when they take on the logistics of their retainers instead of letting them run their own logistics. Unfortunately this is a lot of work and not all Patrons will do this (or have a retainer who is good at doing this).

Emperor Generals like Maurice who took good care of these details were rare. In my readings of Chinese warlords (from anecdotes in Tsun Zu) this was also the case.

in reference to: Medieval Horse Types and Traits - Steve Jackson Games Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Accounting Ratios and Characters.

I learned this "trick" in accounting. Ratios are used to measure, abstractly, an entity's performance. You can do the same in GURPS but it suffers the same limitations as the accounting: requires a lot of Context in interpretation.

Character Ratios work by organizing the use of points into where they are considered an Asset and comparing them to the Total Points invested (including points gained from Disads). I made 4 basic asset groups: Profession, Combat, Social, and Background. These are merely my way of organizing it because of my playing style.

These asset groups require further detailing by the GM or the player to precise roles.

An example is how Soldiering is a profession while a soldier's combat skills are separate. Since soldiering are made up of logistical, travel and survival elements, it is easy to see where they are an asset. Same goes with the Knight since Man-at-Arms can be his profession and Noble can be his background.

Comparing Point Investment make things very clear in certain contexts.

A high point ratio Nobility Background shows how much more a character blends in with his peers.
... Assets in Combat (clarified with Combat Role: Hvy, Lt., Med, Ranged) points out how "invested" a character is in that role.
... Assets in Profession and Social easily reflects the character how good the character is with their role.

Gauging Effective use of Points. Another interesting use for Point Ratios is having a way to gauge Point-expenditure Efficiency. Characters can have a similar budget of Points but perform very differently.

Overlapping. Overlapping occurs when the investment of points overlaps with either of the 4 categories. A Social Character can be Social can have their skills as part of their profession, background. Its ok to Overlap as long as the definition. As in accounting, such overlaps are ok, you can't get everything so clear cut and dry. Especially since there are Backgrounds and Professions that are specialized in either Combat or Social. So a knight may have comparable ratios in the Background: Knight, Combat: Hvy+Cavalry, and Profession: Knight.

So if the Profession Counts IQ, HT, and DX vs Social which is IQ and probably HT (if the character has Carousing and Sex-Appeal), its ok that you count IQ and HT twice for those two separate assets since they are used on different things.

The intent of ratios is to have "power levels" of narrowed down to aspects of characters for quick reference.

After getting a hang of this, "winging" NPCs can be interesting since exposure to the ratios give a feel for how many points it takes to be relatively as good.

In an Social encounter with the NPC Steward against a PC who has a 80/185 ratio in Social won't get much of a challenge against Will-11 20/75 Social.

The same deduction can be said about Adventuring in rough terrain. If a Regular Soldier is expected to have a Profession: Soldiering 30/75 to fair well traveling 5 days in 8 hour marches, characters with a extrapolated Traveler Ratio of 5/185 will have a hard time.

Combining Ratios with Combat rule of thumbs. Combat Rules of thumb be found in Strategikon, some martial arts books (so I've heard) and versions of Tsun Zu that has anecdotes and appendices of further details.

So X Soldiers with combat: hvy. 25/75 will be a challenge for combat: light 80/185, combat: Ranged 110/185, combat: med 130/185, and combat: hvy 80/185.

Sorry it can't be simpler, but after some practice it gets easier to guesstimate.

Professional Ratio: All the points spent on relevant skills advantages, characteristics and attributes, that makes the character do a professional ability (that is neither the other ratios) well. Note the profession, “role” or strategy these points are intended.

Here are NPCs that can be found in the Blog that can be broken down to ratios.
  • Urser of Leon-Silvas

    • Combat (heavy infantry) – 84/185

    • Social (leader) - 51/185

    • Professional (soldier officer) – 86/185

    • Background (veteran)- 10/185

  • Markessa Letissia

    • Combat (self defense) – 0/185

    • Social (Diplomat/Negotiator) - 85/185

    • Professional (Administrator) – 65/185

    • Background (Patrician lady)- 89/185

  • Kayleen of Midrenn

    • Combat (Direct) – 89/185

    • Social (Agent) - 50/185

    • Professional (scout) – 117/185

    • Background (peasant)- 4/185

  • Corsan'gen Veriden Romanii

    • Combat (medium) – 63/185

    • Social (manipulator) - 70/185

    • Professional (Cavalryman) – 55/185

    • Background (Noble)- 42/185

  • Averrin

    • Combat (medium) – 76/185

    • Social (Agent) - 102/185

    • Professional (Agent) – 68/185

    • Background (Noble)- 19/185

Accounting Ratios and Characters.

In financial accounting I learned to use ratios to infer what happening in an accounting statement.

Point based system characters are not that different from accounting statements, you can consider all the characters point investment as assets which can be measured against the total cost of the character.

Measuring it against the total CP, is allows us to infer how effective investment is relative to the character's power level.

Ratios are for the GM and Players. Players can take the few minutes to write up their ratios for the GM. This allows the GM to scale encounters and situations based on more definite . It will take only a minute or two to write up, if your character sheet is well organized.

Overlaps are common when judging what skills go to where. Since these categories sometimes to complement each other.

Professional Ratio: All the points spent on relevant skills advantages, characteristics and attributes, that makes the character do a professional ability (that is neither the other ratios) well. Note the profession, “role” or strategy these points are intended.

Combat Ratio: like professional ratio but all takes all combat relevant expenditure of points. Note also the combat strategy or role:

  • Melee – Light (highly disbursed fighting), Medium (loose formation fighting), and Heavy (tight formation fighting).

  • Ranged – Pelter, Direct, and Artillery

Social Ratio: like professional ratio but takes all social relevant expenditure of points. Note the Social Role:

  • Diplomat, Negotiator, or Broker – make deals that will be honored

  • Seducer, Manipulator, or Leader – make others or people do

  • Talker, Spy, or Agent – Intelligence gathering and being able to appear as something else.

Background Ratio: this is the amount of points invested in making the character's “fluff” and social-economic background. This is important to some Gms as believability of a character can be set at a certain ratio if GM wants to reduce the munchkiny-ness of a character.

Looking at the Ratios we learn that...

  • Urser of Leon-Silvas

    • Combat (heavy infantry) – 84/185

    • Social (leader) - 51/185

    • Professional (soldier officer) – 86/185

    • Background (veteran)- 10/185

  • Markessa Letissia

    • Combat (self defense) – 0/185

    • Social (Diplomat/Negotiator) - 85/185

    • Professional (Administrator) – 65/185

    • Background (Patrician lady)- 89/185

  • Kayleen of Midrenn

    • Combat (Direct) – 89/185

    • Social (Agent) - 50/185

    • Professional (scout) – 117/185

    • Background (peasant)- 4/185

  • Corsan'gen Veriden Romanii

    • Combat (medium) – 63/185

    • Social (manipulator) - 70/185

    • Professional (Cavalryman) – 55/185

    • Background (Noble)- 42/185

  • Averrin

    • Combat (medium) – 76/185

    • Social (Agent) - 102/185

    • Professional (Agent) – 68/185

    • Background (Noble)- 19/185

Looking at the ratios we learn the strengths of the character and how to use ratios to work backwards for NPCs.

If you have an social encounter and made NPCs with 60/80 social (negotiator) ratios (ex. Merchant), you can already think of the potential abilities the NPCs may have at their disposal. You also may know, who in the party can best deal with this NPC. The same goes for combat.

Profession and Background is not as simple. They depend highly on context, 40/185 is what can be expected from a generic Noble, a noble with less will not “appear” or fit in as well with other nobles.

In profession, a Soldier has about 30/80 ratio. Characters without as much investment in Adventuring or Soldiering will not do as well as the soldier on a trek, feats of logistics, or survival.

So here are Accounting Ratios for GURPS. Its more for Gms and players who have more time. Personally I just try to use them as rules of thumb, since I count the amount of time I spend on my gaming hobby. You can just have these

Naming Characters with the Ratio System.

What does Jorren the Captain of the Guard 120cp tell you? Compare that to Capt. Jorren, Commander 80/180cps or Master Jorren Heavy Footman 70/180cps, or Ser Jorren Investigator 60/180cp. The second method uses the name + primary asset + primary asset point ratio. Through inference by using the primary/dominant asset, the particular role, and their ratio allows for a greater descriptive context instead of just using point totals and title.