Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Answering some Puzzles: Empires and Economics

I was stuck at how does an empire of millions stretching thousands of miles get its funding. One of the most interesting pieces of data I stumbled across is in the history of near eastern empires.

Back then, the precise balance of autonomy, responsibility, and duty was still a developing process. Beginning with Sargon the Great and his reign, how he should rule over the other "kings" was something no one would figure out the instant he became the first emperor.

The evolutionary process of governance was predictable, from a standpoint of: if you knew absolutely nothing. Back then, 3rd millennium BC, they tried to control everything. What I mean is that, it kept evolving towards the notion there was not enough control and they should be harsher and harsher to their rebellious subjects.

By 3rd Dynasty Ur you have the first controlled market bureaucracy. You have a highly standardized and systematic manner of governing several cities and their borders. All the possible minor bureaucratic innovations like supply depots, postal/messenger network, and labor allocation. Problem is, it was the cost of so much control and its inherent inflexibility. Eventually a small problem snowballed into a big problem with catastrophic consequences.

As many of the near-eastern empires rose and fell, harsher and harsher treatment of conquered enemies lead to great blood baths. This is an example continues to follow the logic that more control is what was needed. Eventually the blood baths began within the ruling dynasties. It first began in the Hittite Empire. There were 3 generations of slaughter that exhausted the ruling dynasty. It resulted to creation of laws that prevented this kind of escalation, only to be implemented 2 generations later.

We begins to see the trend of leniency and learning how to best apply it near simultaneous fall of the Mycenean, Hittite and Egyptian Empire.

The Age of Heroes, was another lesson. It is characterized by the petty machismo and insecure rulers who wanted to be immortalized as warriors. This violence lead to the self destruction of the mercantile Mycenaean Greeks crashing to their dark age. Which affected all other empires around it by creating a powerful and predatory army and navy of homeless pirates.

Around the time of Assyrian empire, you have the a new kind of rulership. One that actually asks pledges of loyalty to every individual and conquered people. The Assyrian empire was one of the first to begin having a near-national identity through their theocracy. Of course, as with something solemnly pledged through their religion, breaking these forced promises was sacrilege and resulted to the greatest punishment.

Don't be surprised at the severity of the Assyrians. To them, the rebells broke their solemn vow to their diety (Ashur) and it was the sacred duty to punish them and restore the order of the heavens. It no more harsh as how any zealot would treat infidels or the inquisitions heretics.

So you have the concept of solemn oaths out there. Eventually these oaths would evolve to concepts of state service and duty, then eventually to sacred loyalties nations, and more humanistic concepts that evolve all such boundaries. So the solemn oath to serve is not an entirely bad thing.

Fast forward to the destruction of the Assyrian Empire, you find the first "forgiving" Emperor, Cyrus the Great. He was the first to realize what Machiavelli and modern game-theory would simply describe as soft power. His forgiveness was not completely altruistic. Being called the messiah and known for his mercy crippled the power base and unrest that grew from it. People in general had less to complain about when they were treated humanely, even when you took their kingdom from them. This is because of the religious propaganda that "My god kicked you god's ass".

He evolved in his employment of diplomacy, which allowed him to generate rapport with his defeated foes. He respected them and began to ask a smaller tribute from them in return. This continued to develop after his death and this was when greater autonomy proved to be a more successful strategy.

Before Rome, there was the Persian Empire. Much like Rome, they were the first to experience the combination and balance of Diplomacy and Military Force and to extend to unprecedented heights. Their efforts to bring Greece into its sovereign fold created the pattern that would later mature in the roman empire. Consider this the prototype of the Roman Empire.

Fast forward to the time of Alexander, after the Greek Thalassocracy. Alexander, took all what Persians created and modeled it after his own genius and image. Although he didn't live long enough to enjoy or build over it.

Carthage is another footnote, they would have been the second Merchant and Thalassocratic Empire to rise the new Greece of Philip II.

After Carthage, and building on the tradition Alexander inherited from Cyrus we have the Roman empire.
Basically, after reading all that and examining it the 88 million strong empire of Rome, I had the false impression she was able to draw from every city, town and village. There were limits i failed to understand.

She was really limited to its capital city, Rome or Constantinople. She depended on a relatively small tribute of a few key strategic cities and ports, where the costs of transporting these resources still left a substantial profit. The reach of an empire, despite the great cost to collect tribute from far away vassals was more for securing access to mineral and special trade resources. Farther and farther from the center, everything became more autonomous. Stretching the empire that far only served to secure trade monopolies and special resource interests.

The Roman empire that spanned 8000km (5000 miles) could only really access the resources and specializations of less than 300,000sq km (115,000 sq mi). A radius of about 550km (340 mi) from the center, multiplied by roads and sea lanes.

So In calculating the resources
  • Take the entire Income of the Capital and its Main Port.
  • Take 10-15% of the Income the Major Cities within a 550 km radius.
  • These income generators would be producing according to what is most cost efficient for them, their specialty. This is because market scale, proximity, and established expertise and industry made certain goods and resources way more cost effective in a particular kind than in cash.

Now we move to another hard part: How to juggle all these specialties and how they interact with each other. Egypt has 3x the surplus of any region of its same size. Certain cities have lumber, tin, copper, and iron. Others have the industry to convert these raw materials to more expensive and valuable finished goods. This all kinda worked out, without the modern understanding of economics of the populace.





Monday, March 29, 2010

My Osric Character: Dwarven Fighter Thief

Rolled using http://www.pbegames.com/roller/ sending my GM the results simultaneously as I get them.

As a one shot, a lot of things are simplified. Long term character design build is out of the window. Keeping to my magical bias (and wanting to simplify my life) I am playing a naturally magically resistant race.

Playing this system is really weird for me if you noticed any pattern in what I like to tinker about.

My minimax concept is a classic dwarven pragmatist. I plan to play neutral, although since I'm uncomfortable with the alignment system since it assaults what I have learned about history, ethics, morality and psychology so I'm playing neutral. You can say, I'm that old 19Century concept of the Economic Man. Particularly when very long term and great fore-sighted self interest is almost indistinguishable from rational altruism.

The way the setting is made up, you can't exactly apply pre-modern/enlightenment morality without some disturbingly Bizarre consequences.

Normal Built, but a rather lean waist because of the very good dexterity. Charisma 13, in dwarven demographics I would assume it is the upper 16%. Intelligence and Constitution is also rather high given the range.

As for name, maybe Hammer-cart Borga. Blehhh... oh well. Having finally taken the time to read Osric, the equipment and weapons are heavy! I mean 8lb bow, 7lbs swords, 15lbs of leather armor... which is possible if it was something like very heavy hardened leather, which was common in ancient armies as non-metal elite professional soldier armor. Where are the clothes?

The tables are dizzying, i wonder why they didn't take the 3e formula system. particularly the one about Fighters having a +1 to hit a first level?

Anyway, its interesting that being a Tactician or Strategist may be difficult since there are no information gathering skills to set limits what the character may know. I know your supposed to "role-play" within character, I'm aware of information asymmetry. Still what stops me from applying a bunch of critical thinking skills in a constructive way I can feel or understand the limits of what I am able to do thus make the most optimal strategy?

... what the heck.

4d6 keep 3.
Abilities (Racial Modifiers Applied)
Str 11
Dex 16
Con 14
Int 13
Wis 10
Cha 13

Rolled Normal Build (taking Averages)

Equipment. (Rolled 110gp)

  • Non-Load bearing Items (13lbs, 18.83gp)

    • Bracer 1lb, 0.8gp

    • Gloves 3gp

    • Cloak 2lbs 0.03gp

    • Leather Armor 10lbs 15gp

  • Slung Items (25lbs, 6gp)

    • Shield (slung) 5lbs, 3lbs

    • 50ft Rope (slung) 10lbs. 1gp

    • 2 Waterskins (full of water; slung) 10lbs 2gp

  • Belt (occupied) 0.5gp (24lbs, 52.42gp)

    • Small Belt Pouch (Occupied) 1lb, 0.2gp

      • Thief's tools 1lb, 30gp

      • Flint and Steel 1gp

      • Whet stone 1lb 0.02

    • Small Belt Pouch (Occupied) 1lb, 0.2gp

      • *Money*

    • Dagger (Sheathed) 1lb, 1gp

    • Hand Axe (Slung) 1lb, 1gp

    • Small Quiver (occupied) 1lb, 1gp

      • Unstrung Short bow 8lbs, 15gp

    • Large Quiver (occupied) 2lbs, 2.5gp

      • 24 arrows 8lbs, 4gp

  • Backpack (occupied) 10lbs, 2gp (40lbs, 16.55gp)

    • Bedroll 5lbs, 0.2gp

    • Blanket 2lbs, 0.05gp

    • Crowbar 5lbs, 2gp

    • Grappling Hook 4lbs, 1gp

    • 5 days Rations 10lbs 2gp

    • 2 sacks 2lbs 0.3gp

  • Money Left 16.2gp, 1.8lbs

  • Total 102lbs

Game Design: an Expression of Understanding

I always try to express what I have just learned in my own words or game systems. Its a learning trick that allows me to build up an intuitive understanding of things with the least memory clutter.

Game design has always been my crutch to overcome my mental limits. If I can express it in a game system correctly, then my understanding is pretty good.

Lately, I've been tinkering with my health. I'm trying to lose waistline (not necessarily weight), like many people, and my readings regarding nutrition and fitness seems to go against the understanding and simplification of some game systems.

I know, I know... The standard of reality is never to strict as to be imposed on the fun of games. Still the anti-tweaking attitude is tantamount to argumentum vericundum in a hobby that is supposed to be democratic.

So anyway, other than my other readings I'm trying to lose weight and bring up my endurance. So i read up about calories, basically the energy requirement of the body. I remember the physics I've been trying to relearn in my short sword exercise.

I've begun to wonder: What is Strength and what is Constitution (or Health)? In GURPS strength is related to mass. After reading up about how bone density can be conditioned to be increased and of course the genetic disposition, and considering height in the body's architecture strength seems to be very measurable.

Strength. I don't mean to step on the parade of people who would like to imagine themselves stronger than their mass would give them credit for. Their are limits, and an engineer as much as a physical therapist, or a biologist will tell you that there are costs and trade offs.

of course there is a kinesthetic element in strength. The ability to shift balance quite precisely in lifting a heavy object maximizes mechanical efficiency of the body. So flat out, mass (muscle and bone mass) is not the primary affect on strength there is some Kinesthetics to it.

Strength is the ability to exert a range of power. A professional boxer able to throw 450J is a combination of muscle, dexterity and mass. one can attribute the kinesthetic aspect to the skill of the boxer, allowing him to multiply the mass transfered and attack precision. Still, strength plays a role in generating the basic level of power.

Strength can be compared to Amperes. The amount of Energy that can be commuted by the body in an instant of time. The more muscles, the more "pistons" are able to contribute in that single chemical burst that results to mechanical force. In this method, you can build a system that bench marks the strength in terms of amps

Endurance, the stamina and metabolism aspect of health or constitution as opposed to its other parallel properties, is very tricky. It is both a battery and a generator. One thing to that deserves some attention is the basic calorie requirement of the average 150lb human, 2000 calories. If I were to convert that to a more familiar energy, that would be around 350 watt-hours or 0.1 watt-seconds. taking in the modifiers like low-activity lifestyle and endurance sport (Iron Man, marathon running) and military requirements.

If you look at the iron age professional soldier (at 150lbs; 68kg) marching 24km (15mi; 6 hours) in full kit (60lbs; 27kg) once a week (de re militari) that is roughly 2100 cal. That is roughly a ~3000 day, averaging an energy generation capacity of 517 W*h or 0.14 W*S. About 50% better than a semi-active person.

If you consider the two premises, you might notice that someone who will try to increase their strength will naturally have to improve their Endurance since the person's body begins to consume more energy and you need time to effectively build muscle mass. There seems to be a natural equilibrium and relationship with strength and endurance. I think it would be rare for a 350lb Strong man to have a limited endurance...

Of course in the exceptions, another thing worth noting is how being "overweight" affects calorie consumption. A high BMI, where the person is encumbered with fat tends to burn up more calories because of the mass they are naturally moving around. So It actually "penalizes" efficiency, along with the cardio-vascular conditions inherent with a high fat ratio.

I guess I have to dig into my military handbooks for some more benchmarks. Although ideally, a 20% cumulative increase should suffice. As for stat limitations, extraordinary specialization: where both strength and endurance increase at the expense of the other should be benchmarked. The way you cannot find an Olympic endurance runner with the body a Strongman or vice versa. The optimization cap, basically starts making the economic limitations of the body quite visible because of the diminishing returns.

How about Fantasy?
Dwarves being short but powerful. Height has some problems, if you've read about the Castrata who become giants because of the coincidental timing of their castration suffer poor limb strength. This is due to the proportions of humans, which past a certain height has diminishing returns.

So imagine a human whose bone density has mutated to 20%-40%. Maybe, because of breeding selection by an outside force that required strength without the vertical advantage, you can have dwarves. Of course, remember that there is always an expense in evolution. Diet tends to "buffer" the biological cost. A diet of high in calcium can allow dwarves 20% shorter but 20% more massive. These values are set arbitrarily btw.

where humans have a (2.33*h)^3 = mass, the dwarves have a (3.18*h)^3 = mass. A 1.4m or 4'8" the average dwarf has a mass of 88kg or 194lbs. Depending on the logarithmic advancement of stats at a 20%, he is a point of strength better than humans. Naturally they will have a higher energy demand, so they will be more fat-ready biological design.

It would be interesting to note that I heard of instances people having crushed shells into their food. I personally eat the shrimp shell and all (except the head) when cooked in a way to soften it. A carnivorous diet of Insects: high protein and calcium, would be perfect for dwarves. Especially when they have subdivided these critters into their human equivalent.

Their pork, giant slugs or worms rich in calcium in soft chitin, fats, and a useful waste consuming omnivore. Their chicken would be an omnivorous scavenger, picking on insects too small to eat and their excess starch based basic food unit. Their cows and goats (a smaller version of the cow), which provides a a rich variety of secondary products could be giant amphibious beetles that dwell in nutrient rich underground lakes and rivers fed by volcanic nutrients and energy (2nd law of thermo dynamics). Soft boned frogs and amphibians would also fit as a diet rich in calcium.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Physics of Fighting

I'm doing some exercises right now both physical and in math. Just testing out my understanding of physics and comparing it to games and real world.

In wikipedia i found some useful benchmarks for performance. A professional boxer can deal 450 joules of damage at 9 m/s. That is roughly 11kg or 22lbs of mass behind that force. I wish I knew if it was a light or a heavy weight. An arm being 3kg or 6.6lbs can let me determine what amount of the mass is the arm and the body.

In GURPS basic set, I feel that work or joules is a better measure for physical performance. Take for instance the Basic Lift score, which is based how much weight a character can lift over his head from a resting position in a second. Given an average character uses 5'9" to 5'10" that is an arm moving at 1.88m/s. At 20lbs or 9kg plus for ST10 that's around 21J (including the weight of the arm).

Bows have a whole lot of physics problems that go with it. A warbow, composite or yew, with a draw weight of 180lbs or 81kg and a war arrow at about 40g would be able to hurl that arrow up to 20m/s at perfect efficiency. Probably 75-85 m/s because of inefficiency.

Sword Physics.
When you compare a thrust and a swing, the former travels the length of the arm and the displacement of the shoulder as body weight shifts to add power to the thrust. While the swing travels a ~100 degree arc which has a distance equal to the displacement of the shoulder + length arm + the blade multiplied * 2 * 3.14 * 100/360 at roughly the same amount of time. So you have the blade serving as a lever and significantly increase the force of the swing compared to a thrust.

I'm 5'9" (176cm) my arm is around 60cm from the sleeve of the shoulder to my knuckles. So If I thrust, drawing my fist to my shoulder elbows pointed back and turning my torso back, my fist travels the length of my arm, the distance my shoulder twists and my footwork covers.

Trying to calculate a light thrust with a 21J character. Since there is considerable effort, I will bump up the factor of effort equal to an action comparable to the Fatigue expenditure of combat. That would be half of walking (basic move * 1.11 at FP per hour B426) to Paced Running (move basic * 2.5 at 1FP per hour) which is x1.13. At 24 joules sword will 3.25 m/s. This means the in one second, a thrust traveling the length of the arm with the torso turning along with it, which is 1m or equal to 1yrd reach, would take 0.3 sec or 0.5 second as arm recoils to a guard position. This assumes no footwork.

Assume the arm was around ~6.6lbs (~3kg), and the sword weight ~1.5lbs (~0.7kg).
That is 36% the speed and performance of a professional boxer.

Now that I know how much time I can probably calculate the speed of a sword swing.
How much force will I be generating if I swing with a Fullham Gladius where the tip of the edge would be traveling 3.85m and the the broad chopping edge would be traveling 3.15m?

An attack of that occupies the same time, but with the leverage of the length of a blade would be traveling 10.5 m/s. With the same weapon and mass, the attack is around 248J.

So a ST10 character, by gurps physics thrusts at 24J while swings at 248J with a shortsword.

Physics for a game system.
Physics is pretty complicated as a basis for a game system. I hardly remember my gradeschool physics what more high school. I only get practice because of game design tools and exercises.

I don't hear much of it used for games. I know that Mount&Blade actually uses physics to determine damage, because the game designers were such geeks they wanted to know more about mounted combat within the limit of their budget. I know some pseudo physics are used for games, particularly in destruction sequences.

Other than GURPS, has anyone tried making a game system that can be modified to be more consistent with physics?

I remember the TV specials about martial arts masters and the forces they are able to employ. The values are pretty amazing, but they are not unpredictable. In fact, thorough athletics testing and science can pretty much scan for optimal performance method.

As for a table top RPG, with the great limitation and consistency the body can be predicted, why not just have a physics based fighting system that is open to be tinkered. I can think of a bunch of reasons why not: "if it ain't broke don't fix it", "its a fiction why bother", who "would want that kind of game system?"

I know I would. I mean, I pretty much learned history because of RPGs. I think I would have really jumped into my math and physics homework if I was solving for the following:
  • Calculate the amount of force needed to penetrate 2mm bronze plate among the bronze age weapons.
  • What would be the range of a Composite Bow at 25kg draw with 60g war arrows?
  • Create a ballista capable of damaging or capturing iron age galleys.
  • What is the fastest galley you can generate in the 6C BC if you had access to only X technology and Y materials.
  • Given X physical attributes, what technique can be used to disable Y kind of shields. The technique has to make certain requirements.
  • How much weight is the warrior shifting when he throws a punch in this Illustration? Calculate the probably force being exerted by the warrior with his blade.



Comparing History and Games in contexts of Civilization

After finishing a book on Ancient Empires before Alexander the Great and short nostalgia of Civilization I'm recounting my lessons.

It is possible to run a Empire Building Campaign. Having researched several empires, from the earliest and most basic to the most successful and recent, there is a strong pattern apparent from an the point of view of several sciences namely: game theory, management, psychology, and game design.

Complex Bureaucracies are Easy. 3rd Dynasty Ur at 2nd millennium BC pointed that out. It was the best example of Overcontrol and Micromanaging rigidity. A lot of cultures came by the same Bureaucratic innovations in the course of a couple of generations. What really changes Bureaucracy is Philosophy, with out the higher levels of education and problem solving they become mindless and pointless. This underlies that organization is merely a tool and people who forget it are doomed to be consumed by it.

Theocracies are the first form of multi-ethnic leadership. Who else can legitimise being strongest in a way challengers don't get in the way of getting things done? Secularization of leaderships came about when the Administration and Religious Affairs became more complex and elaborate. Son of god was a very common term used by near eastern civilizations.

Religious Office is a money generator. It was basically setting up a super mall. People come to buy peace of mind regarding their future. Temples were the banks, centralizing the storage of the most valuable tradable goods. It also legitimizes the Authority of King who is also the
Chief Priest.

The Characters of history were all Renaissance men. They were Theologists, Statesmen, Managers/Administrators, Generals, Judges, Masterminds, Diplomats, Courtiers, Linguists, Engineers and the best Warriors of their time. It makes sense because of how absolute the office tends to be and how limited the accumulated body of knowledge they had then. I mean, any modern man is capable of being a king in those days because of socialized education, opportunities, and technology. You take anyone who makes the basic requirements of a soldier in terms of fitness and train him or her in all the skills mentioned easily in this age. Then, coming up with pure genius ideas when no one else had the skills to generate it was more remarkable feat. In our age, there is no excuse not to come up with a brilliant idea.

Population of Bronze to Iron age followed a simple pattern. 20 people per sq km and 40 people per sq km at its most fertile, respectively for Bronze and Iron age. Triple population density at for flood plains. Cities didn't exactly work the same way as MDME, as it completely dependent on Geography, more specifically arable land and fresh water source. This pattern cannot be more complicated since technology prevented this. Unlike in Civ the game, irrigation through the use of water wheels and underground canals, are bronze age tech.

Metals were the contested resources of the Bronze and Iron Age. Since metals determined food production through their mechanical efficiency in labor and the over all effect in cost efficiency. If you have an appreciation of the manufacturing business, wear and tear is what makes hard metal goods consumable. Scale that according to the scarcity of the resource, skilled labor and capital needed for production and you have the magnitude of demand that reaches mystification of its value.

Martial arts are evolve as quickly as Bureaucracy. There is two parallel aspect with martial arts and bureaucracy: the affect of technology and how easy it is to test the innovations. In fact, the most important innovations of the technique is how recently its effectiveness was demonstrated. If a technique is old but un-adopted by other cultures, by game theory, it probably is not as efficient as the current equilibrium.

Metal armor really stops blows. People don't really break through breast plates, but kill by blows to unarmored vitals. I don't know when did people start hearing about shearing off armor except in legends. The factor of weigh alone severely limited the coverage of armors.

Weather Sense is a Necessary Skill. It may not be as good as meteorological technology now, but it can be pretty accurate when you consider the power of human intuition. Every hiker or traveller, back then paid more attention to their surrounding for clues of danger, time, and circumstance than we do (staring at this screen). Its only in Eastern Texts do I read about Mastery of Weather prediction being so laudably praised.

As for PC-game development: You can break down organization into program organism that can grow, retard, get sick, be healthy etc. I mean these history books and discussions with history experts are a Civilization-style game developers gold mine. We are at a point where embryonic theory allows us to build a dna like program that instructs how an individual component reacts to stimulus to create highly effective structures and patterns (like a flight of starlings). When am I ever going to see that kind of Civ-like game, or will anyone put me in the game design team?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reimagining the Shortsword

I got a problem trying to imagine a shortsword. Warswords, as we know them, evolved from shortswords. This is an evidence of metallurgy than fighting style, since you can't develop a long bladed fighting style ~29" (~74cm) until you create the sword that can withstand the punishment.

According to Gurps Martial Arts 223 a shortsword is 18" (45cm) to 24" (61cm)
that would be an approximate blade length of 12" (30cm) to 18" (46cm)

In Gurps Martial Arts 213: Broadswords are 30" (76cm) to 40" (102cm).
that would be an approximate blade length of 23" (58cm) to 33" (84cm)

Xiphos approx length 17" (45cm)
blades length 13" (38cm)
Weight? I'm guessing 1.1b (~500g)
This should count as a long knife and not a sword.

Fulham or Mainz-Fulham Gladius ~26-28" (~65-70cm).
Blade length 18-20" (~50-55 cm)
Weight 1.6lbs(~700g)
Blade width ~6cm.

Gladius Hispaniensis:
Sword length ~30-33" (~75-85cm)
Blade length ~24-28" (~60-68 cm)
Sword width ~5cm.
Weight ~2-2.2lbs (~900-1,000g)

Gladius Mainz:
Sword length ~26-28" (~65-70 cm)
Blade length ~20-22" (~50-55 cm)
Blade width ~7 cm.
Sword weight ~1.8lbs (~800g)

Baselard approx length 22" (58cm) to 34" (88cm)
Blade length of 18"(40cm) 28" (70cm)

Cinqueda approx length of 16" (40cm) to 34" (86cm) average at 20" (53cm)
Blade length of 10" (25cm) to 28" (71cm) average at 15" (38cm)

Wakizashi length of 12" (30cm) to 24" (60cm) average 19" (50cm)
Approx Blade Length 8" (20cm) to 30" (78cm) average 14" (35cm)

Looking at all these, so called, short swords the length of the blade is not entirely consistent. Length alone is not the best way to look at a swords. The purpose of how it is used in the Era is more contextually dependent.

I would not recommend splitting off Broadsword and Shortsword. Looking at the weights and balances, the more consistent defining aspects fall in a difference of Knives vs Swords. I would rather use the term war swords to distinguish them from 15Centuries of swords where the business end is around ~1lb (~400g) and not exclusively a thrusting weapon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Civilization 5 as your Mapmaker

I've missed Civilization for a while. It sucks too much time. Seeing the new Civilization 5, I found my new map maker. Since there are Authoring tools, I can just write up a landscape and viola a realistic 3d rendering of my game setting. Complete with borders and switchable icons that might get in the way.

And another thing that will really help is that It now comes in Hexes! Whoohoo!

Thinking about it, it would be awesome to get a Wall paper print of my own campaign setting in Civ's realistic landscape complete with cities and locations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Coordination Game and Battle of the Sexes.

I'd like to talk about game theory and how it relates to RPGs.

The coordination game is very simple. You see it in any interaction where being on the same side or page as someone IS the intended goal.

When you don't know what to do in the situation, you ask. You ask your players what they think about an idea and if value their input and attempt to match them, that is the Coordination Game.

What happens when both needs are different but equal strong. Then you have "the battle of the sexes". In this situation, both are truly equal that you cannot reach a resolution. Any action you take in this situation: Changes the game to a coordination game.

When you "bribe" your players to go along with something. The bribe re-arrange the pay-offs to be more like the coordination game. If your players, make it clear that they won't enjoy your intended game: they make you see options where getting along is the higher pay-off.

We encounter these most basic and elementary of games in almost all human interactions. In fact the MOST basic act of manipulation is one party trying to achieve a Coordination Game without the awareness of the other party.

Now how does this relate to your game? These two basic games teach the fundamentals of interactive strategy (in my opinion). When I learned that information and my actions have the power to change the game, I have a greater power in influencing outcomes.

It may appear simple as common sense, but if you've read up on cognitive bias you'll learn that there is no such thing as common sense. No one has ever has a "perfect" understanding of logic and is able to divorce their biases to their own judgments without employing critical thinking techniques. Game theory and its little games are one of those powerful techniques we can employ to systemically improve our decision making and, consequently, our strategic thinking.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What is the Bronze Age?

I got confused when I learned Alexander was using Iron weapons. I thought the glory days of Hellenism was the Bronze age. I was very wrong.

If I were to put in GURPS terms, TL1 or bronze age starts around 3,000BC to 1,000BC. It begins around the time civilization began and people built cities with walls. Sargon the Great marked the beginning of this era.

Conveniently to historical gamers, the age ended almost simultaneously. One would think that there was something remarkable about all these great empires falling apart at around 1200BC, unfortunately its nothing Normal Accident Theory can't explain.

The Empires and Peoples that existed is very Conan inspiring. The Hittites, Egyptians, Babylonians, Akkadians, Sumerians, the Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks (The Age of Heroes) was a very different and interesting world. I learned bureaucracy was not some "leap" of sophistication or technology. Ur 3 aka 3rd Dynasty Ur had a pretty intense bureaucracy.

This allowed me to pick apart my notions of authority and the mystification of how it worked. People were trying to organize, they had leaders and over time common sense allowed certain levels of sophisticated organization to be created.

Sure they may not have that much armor, but pop culture pretty much spoiled us with the idea. Shields are very effective protection for the body, and helms protected the head when it needed to look out beyond its primary defense.

I learned early on bronze is rare and iron is very common (and later on aluminum as well). When you think about how rare metal was and how effective some stone tools are, the great difference can seem "magical" in nature. Which probably how people thought of it since there was no science nor philosophy.

The ability to separate iron from its ore is a bit tricky. you need something called coke to facilitate the extraction. The only iron they could use was the kind that was already in its fairly "pure" state when they found it: Meteoric Iron. Now that is awesome.

You've got stone weapons for your barbarians (and there are a lot of predatory peoples). Then a variety of Bronze weapons, from cheap to fine quality. The most common weapons: axes and spears have their "magical" counterparts in Bronze and Meteoric Iron.

Leather was not as common in the Iron age since, animal husbandry was still being developed and selective breeding was still in the slow process of shaping future domesticated breeds. This just meant leather was probably twice as expensive, and cheaper wicker and straw version of such goods were used.

Instead of leather sandals, backpacks, and bags you have instead a lot of woven items. Some technologies are easy to develop and when sizes of cities reached a certain level, the quality of craftsmanship equal that of future ages. Especially for items that easily had open competitions.

By technology, there were only a few key points separated the Bronze age from Iron age. In metallurgical technology which has strong implications over total productivity (more productive plowshares, more efficient harvesting and threshing tools, that leads to less waste). Iron was more common and better than bronze in tasks in the farm. Metalurgy affected many things as the basic tools that built civilization was more expensive and wore out more quickly than cheaper and stronger Iron tools. The only advantage of bronze over iron was its ability to withstand the elements, so it was actually better as a form of tender.

There a big difference in work animals, the lack of larger more cost efficient breeds of animals meant that food production below what we are used to in medieval standards. It explained why only the most fertile regions were inhabited.

The difference of accumulated knowledge is a major factor. The lessons of the past, is what crafted a more successful and stable system. Writing was unnecessarily complicated in its beginnings. Histories were very limited and their lessons were mostly lost with the civilizations that failed to acquire them.

Running such a game would not be that difficult. There is no complex level of specializations, everyone had to fight, administer, socialize and work. Very few specializations existed, and civilizations were their own "specialists" and had certain roles.

Memorizing the names, deities, and locations would be the first major trouble. Armies were organized in the decimal system. People had roles, but its not that strict in their boundaries. So you are allowed a high degree of inconsistency.

As mass combat goes, you have the regular infantry kinds: Bowmen, Light, Heavy, Medium and Engineers. Charioteers which was in common use at around 1,500 and peaked at 1,300. Armies are relatively smaller, reaching sizes of 5,000. Empires would have at most 10 armies, but would normally have 3-4. 1/5 to 1/20 of the army would be a Chariots. Organization followed the same rules of thumb: 1/3 archers (as much as possible).

Many of the empires had enemies on all sides. This basically meant in exhaustible conflicts and bad guys for a campaign.

They also had a policy of deporting the population to occupy fallow regions. This pretty much gave the impression that the empires, except Egypt, had systemic man-power losses and actually depended on raids to supplement their population. What is interesting it is a clear necessity for Hittites and Mesopotamians, to war against their barbarians.

Treasure raiding and dungeon crawling is also possible, but more of an overland adventure and actually into the towns killing its inhabitants for any convenient aribtrary reason (just like real adventurers!). War bands (around 100-300) are mainly tools with which you can keep your opponents from swarming you.

As for Magic, I have no Idea. Any magic can screws up a lot of balances that are inherent in how history turned out. Magic is really power and a dominant strategy, no one should underestimate more primitive people because there is very little difference between them and modern humans except for accumulated knowledge. If magic existed, then it would only sustainable as the prerequisite of the elite. Game Theory and magic just opens up a whole other can of worms.

That is pretty much my idea of a Bronze Age game. 1,000 BC to 1000 AD its about the Iron age in my opinion. The fall of civilization (aka Rome) is one of the extending factors.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Framing in Games

In psychology of video games, Jaime related how framing works out in WoW and in business. I discussed Framing in the review of the Art of Critical Decision Making. Anyway, its a great skill and technique. Its actually the difference between being happy or content more often. Its not lying by the way, its making overcoming disadvantageous cognitive dissonance.

GMs and Players who lead have to learn this skill, when they want people to focus on what they should do and not get distracted by setbacks. Even if you are aware of it, how much more difficult things will be if people dwell on the negative and failed to be adaptable and take advantage of the opportunities the situation presented is still an objectively powerful advantage.

It is also habit you get when ever Min/Max habitually but have the confidence to take on challenges.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Test run for Random Lord Generator

Experimenting with Random Lord Generator. I used this dice roller to generate a list of d6 rolls. Following the step by step aspects in the table, I will just use the numbers as arranged.

451, 165, 124, 541,
144, 514, 313, 614, 455, 454, 614, 413,
655, 652, 2, 32, 15, 663, 613, 264, 654, 451, 616, 433,
251, 144, 334, 361, 513, 236, 1, 666, 654,
531,
163, 336,
162, 154,
125, 144,
Unused values: 2, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 5, 5, 2, 4, 3, 6, 1, 2, 3, 3, 6, 1, 3, 5, 6, 4, 4, 2, 3, 6, 2, 5, 2, 1, 6, 5, 1, 3, 6,

Random name Generator
1. Lonnie Lauria
2. Ted Mitten
3. Darryl Gaiser
4. Lilia Drapeau
5. Carmella Hirata
6. Julianne Curd
7. Chandra Kelling
8. Tyrone Cendejas
9. Kelly Reetz
10. Allie Godard



Laurence son of Laurence (from Lonnie Lauria)
Attributes: ST11, DX11, IQ 10, HT11
Secondary Characteristics: Dmg 1d-1/1d+1; BL24; HP11; FP12; Per11; Will10; Spd5.5; Move 5.
Advantages:
  • Wealth: Multi-Millionair (x1500)
  • Military Rank 6 (1000 cavalry, 6000 footmen)
  • Allied Peers: None
  • Retainers: 5 (based on his needs, 1 other administrator, 1 courtier, and 3 commanders)
  • Vassals: 6
  1. 3x Rank 4 (5 hvy cav)
  2. 2x Rank 3 (1 hvy cav)
  3. 1x Rank 3 (5 Lt. cav)
  • 10cp Advantage (Charisma +2)
Disadvantages:
  • Sense of Duty (Small group)
  • Code of Honor (Professional)
  • Discipline of Faith (Observing)
  • Honesty (15)
  • Intolerance (General)
  • Obsession: Ambitions (6)
  • -15 disadvantages: Miserly (15), Workaholic, truthful
Primary Skills:
  • Proficient Courtier/Noble
  • Proficient Administrator
Secondary Skills:
  • Basic Soldier
  • Basic Arms and Horsemanship
Background Skills:
  • Educated
  • Social
Back story: The unlikely heir, Laurence came to power when his two older brothers died on campaign with their father. He was redundant and was supposed to be sent to the monastery to prevent him giving problems to his older brothers family's. He made himself indispensable in administrative affairs and court, to circumvent the problem temporarily.

When word that his his father and brothers died, he was quick to seize control and draw up treaties and alliances to preserve the family holdings. He took advantage of all contacts he was able to create and to allocated resources efficiently to allow his family to weather this hardship. His efforts were fruitful, his overlords were merciful and his father's vassals were grateful but were reluctant to renew their oaths.

An unskilled commander himself, he took his father's retired sergeant Theodore (Ted Mitten) and bade him to bring the family's muster back to full force. The old man was reluctant, half blind and depressed as he lost his own sons with his young lords' father. The man was unmovable. Laurence's vassals eventually neglected their oaths and correspondence ceased.

Laurence, concerned that the vassals might move against him, summoned his father's yeomen. He then proceeded to lock them in his halls and attempted to make them see him as the undisputed heir of his father. Laurence met with each leader and negotiated with them for better terms on their jurisdictions, rights and duties. He was overwhelmed but stubbornly clung on. When a majority of disaffected yeomen were planning break out by force, Theodore stepped in and forced them to listen to him. The senior man-at-arms still commanded a presence if he willed it, and helped settle the disputes quickly.

When they settled all matters, the yeomen pleased with their new privileges and rights found their celebration cut short when Lord Darryl Gaiser was marching to them to ask Laurence to step down.

The yeomen were frustrated at the news, after all the time spent negotiating they were going to lose their hard won freedoms to a new lord. Theodore just laughed at the news. He exclaimed, out loud, to everyone, nothing yet is lost. He points out Laurence was still Lord and if they fought for him, they can keep their prized rights.

It was easy to see there was no confidence in the Laurence's command. No one was ready to fight along side a lordling unbloodied by war. The silence filled the great hall, broken by the sounds uneasiness.

Theodore... then smiled...
... and knelt before his young lord...

Conclusions:
Fix the pacifism roll,
allow for other disciplines
Roll for retainers and their abilities.
More variety to Vassal Forces



Monday, March 15, 2010

Female Warriors

One of the better threads, particularly since it is very constructive to me. Taking to account, biology and how it affects culture and the role of women in warfare. I know women in history can be very depressing, especially since the extents cultures have used women as a population resource more than a another contributing individual.

The history of misogyny is quite telling as many of these terrible ideas are actually quite recent (11-13C on ward). Particularity the intolerance and condemnation of women that challenged the status quo and how they are conveniently and painfully silenced as witches.

Even today we have witch burning, in the form of dehumanizing by calling them ***** and *******. It is uncomfortable when I do not hold back the misogyny when I run my historical games, but that's nothing when I'm very much aware of common modern practices of it. What would be worse is actually ignoring it and pretending it doesn't happen. In the RPG it is disturbing, but is also a reminder of a past many people tried to survive and the new forms the same problems take.

As for problem solving, I like seeing how players try to role-play the weakness of the situation and how they overcome them despite the odds. Searching for a solution in character is hard, but that's the challenge. I always consider seeing and identifying my limits more easily a good thing (especially in a harmless and friendly medium).

Random Lord Generator and Empires before Alexander

The Random Lord Generator is meant to allow for the quick, simple, and detached creation of NPC lords as allies, patrons, or adversaries. They are also designed in mind of populating a setting for a GURPS Mass Combat War Campaign. Random Character creation can be fun when the Would Builder tries to make stories that would explain the whos, whys, and hows of the character.

I have yet to test this out and I will attempt to post several sample lords quickly generated when I get the chance (when I go home and print out the tables). The Random Man-at-arms tables and the Low Tech Mass Combat Templates will be quite useful when rolling up Vassal knights and Retainers. As a "jump-off" point these characters can have noted differences with the templates instead of having all the stats reprinted.

The idea of having a map printed out, and a quiet afternoon rolling up NPCs and using a random name generator I can find to populate a setting. Reminds me of the Appendix in Song of Fire and Ice where there was a cast of "thousands". Plenty of little notes and references to other NPCs.

That reminds me I should have a better village generator up, since I found my Building Low-tech Landscapes Pyramid article print out. That article really needs a step by step summary, it was really hard for me to use although informative.

Makes me wonder if there was a Physics geek ever thought about fixing the Fudge damage system or know how to develop a damage "save" system like in T20. So much has happened since the long wait for GURPS low tech 4e I've moved so far on.

Right now I'm studying empires before Alexander, beginning with Sargon the Great. I find such lost and forgotten empires so alien. Applying game theory in terms of how certain patterns of decision making and organization evolve gives a lot of insight regarding what possible hidden factors influenced their culture.

Applying the Allison Model, what deduction can you make studying the earliest empires on earth? Considering the development of cultures of active problem solving, competition, personal freedom, and ethics what would these empires look like given the limitations of their technology?

Given cognitive dissonance and modern understanding of human behavior, why were stories so embellished with fantasy? What made men color what is clearly massively witnessed events (such as wars) with fantasy? Was it shared delusions? Strong reasons to idealize a new age?

How would such an empire appear with certain technologies present? When certain cultures developed? or when something as subtle and grand change, like the slow stretching of the seasons?

The thing about ancients forgotten empires, what ever cultural aspects that led to their failure to adapt and the uncoupling of long incubated problems in their systems are probably nothings so strange as what normal accident theory explains.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mass Combat Low Tech Templates

Made a bunch of GURPS 4e Mass Combat Low Tech templates. They feature the basic Ally cost and some lenses. Right now I'm constructing a way to randomly roll up Lords or Status 5 and 6 characters. They make great adversaries and patrons for a campaign. I also lately realized that these characters make up setting more than any economic system I can create.

A system of generating NPC Lords, mean I can populate the small upper level niche of the setting faster. The lords can be pretty random, there is a small chance you can have a lord with none or all key disciplines: Administration, Court, Command, and Combat. As the GM rolls up a random lord and certain strengths, this will determine the over all strategy the NPC will follow in the course of the game.

After I fix this system up, I'll try to experiment rolling up a bunch of NPCs in my Sins of the Crusades Setting. After having the stats, it becomes a deductive and creative story telling exercise to explain the NPC's background.

So far I've accumulated a lot of setting building tools. If I can arrange them and test them, maybe I can have a really random setting generation system booklet via PDFs. Complete with Mass Combat Cards for Units.

I wish I have time to draw, I really want to do the Mass Combat Cards of Units. If your curious how I draw, I have a deviant art account. Drawing simple "stamp" art styled pix are easy and fast (the style ramon perez uses).

Anyway, planning to make some Mass Combat Scenarios now that these templates are all done.

Pacifism: Cannot Harm Innocents

The Pacifism: Cannot Harm innocents Disadvantage is common through out all cultures. Innocents and Humanity is diffused by the lense of culture and moral perspective. A person, may love his child, his people and neighbors, but so easily see foreigners and those who are different as inhuman.

In the many times I've tried to work with those with contrary views, there is always those who seek to paint the opposition as inhuman. Regular people, capable of doing the very same good things become convinced that those different to them are not human and threatening them and their way of life.

When we see savagery in the news: witch doctors killing children, hate crimes, and religious intolerance you see the dehumanization of the victim into the targets envisioned threat. Children become Witches, a convenient scape goat for hardships and trouble. This act doesn't mean the people who condone their authorities in practice this violence are inhuman in their compassion, it just that they were lead to believe the other side is not human.

I usually apply Pacifism: cannot harm innocents to most NPCs. NPCs who don't have any such remorse for taking a life are psychopaths and my recent studies and readings continue to affirm this. That is why so many gamers like dehumanizing the evil in their games. I don't like that, it paints such a simple picture in the fantasy that leads me to deduce they may want things to be that simple. That they find it acceptable to dehumanize people who offend them and not attempt to understand their perspective.

RPGs have become a way for me to learn more about the perspective in others. I may be a kill joy making sure others use it for such, but I don't mind a sparse gaming table.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How GMing was my Management Training, Old lessons

The reason i can emphasize so well with bad management was because there was a time I was a really bad GM and I lost all my players. Its hard to know you mistakes when no one will take the time to tell you. It is always worse to be the last to know. So the attitude I adopted about criticism improved a lot over the time I had no one to play with and had to spend a lot of time thinking what I did wrong.

Every classic bad management mistake i have done as a GM and paid the price for. It is interesting how GMing was my management training.

I used to avoid leadership roles ever since that one very successful time I lead a group at grade 6 and failed miserably after. I felt that I was the reason and when my teachers tried to talk to me about it I cried. I hated being the leader and I still do. I just didn't realize I was always asking to be one every time I run a game.

Asking to be the GM is asking to be the leader. Being the GM means asking people to trust that you are going to give them a great experience. Being able to deliver on that consistently is what I always keep working on, even when I know It is impossible to replicate an idealized memory.

You just gotta put yourself out there all the time or you will never learn how to do it better the next time. Despite how much I hate being the leader and be the primary reason why things go bad, I just keep punishing myself .

That hardship is really all you can expect from life, being able to see hope, happiness and light at the end of it depends on how you frame it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sacred Oaths

The humble Serf, as well as Husbands and Wives, to entrepreneurial Peasant and Yeomen, to loyal Retainers and Vassals, the Knights, Lords, Dukes and Princes... all these people have one thing in common: Promises.

I have said before promises are cheap, in game theory and in human behavior they are worthless unless you have a way to enforce it. Their unreliability is where conventions of law, justice and mutual stability and gain comes from. But before such degrees of cultural sophistication and efficiency we had oaths, obligations and duties.

I pointed out before in my previous posts that wealth was not what made the Lord, Duke or King. It was the promises he was able to gain and make others keep, by any means he can get away with. Here I plan to point out how frequent these oaths occur, how they evolved, what was so important about them, and how you reflect it in game.

In ancient times, these promises were relatively simple because people of a nation were of a fairly homogeneous tribe or ethnicity. Barbarians or Outsiders, were not trust worthy simply because they had different conventions of honor and promises. Even when the unifying culture, that was Romanitas, was weak in uniting so many diverse people because it could not meet them half way.

Promises were a big deal, especially when there was no 3rd party, like government, to arbitrate on the matter. When people made promises, it was to those who were powerful and who held authority. They made promises to their community, fellow men, to their elders, or to their parent's name. Later, religion played a role as things deeply personal found form in religion organized and private.

People lived with promises everyday, these took on forms of roles. There was Master and Servant, Vassal and Lord, Cohort and Chief, and Husbands and Wives.

Before the it became a religious sacrament in the 13C, Marriage was an oath between two families. Just because there is mutual gain to be had in such marriages across the spectrum of class, it doesn't mean there wasn't real love and family at its center. Expectations were just very different, but love flourished.

Between masters and servants, there was oaths that reciprocated. A master actually had some duties to a slave, they were dependents. Despite the abuse they endured, common sense made it clear such slaves could not function effectively with harsh treatment and failing to feed them. Man-power costs as they were then made slaves valuable. Cultural convention was that a master who could not provide, has no business owning a slave and might consider being one.

Slaves, who were entirely dependent on the master, evolved to serfs or indentured servants. They gained small levels of independents, allowing them to fend for themselves while remaining profitable. They depended on their masters for protection, and often these promises failed. This systemic failure is what allowed for the personal freedom to bear arms to develop. In some laws, a serf was considered free when his lord asks him to fight and gives him a weapon.

Peasants, Plebians, or the working class were the next stage of this evolution. In the Ancient times man-power demands to sustain the citizen army drew heavily from the working class. It became a "duty" or a promise made by the generations before them that they will serve to fight in the name of the state.

Barbarians, freemen in their own culture, made these same promises to their more civilized and powerful overlords. Rome founded many military colonies, drawing from the feoderati to fill ranks in their armies. A promise which the succeeding generations were expected to keep.

In medieval times the same system can be found in the duties of peasants to fight under their lords banner. In return for their lord keeping their freedoms, their limited personal property and what is rightfully their own they lend their services. The levies we hear about are these common men, who have no business fighting but do so for their what is their own.

Yeomen, Sergeants, and freeholders is what has come close to our modern concepts of employment. They are still peasants with better gear, a family background that prepared them for their duties, enjoying the ability to make a career out of the work and being highly valuable. Sometimes they climb up the ladder and become gentry.

Merchants, very successful peasants, filled their obligations by paying someone to do it for them. Some merchants became bankers, using sacred oaths, paper, and the self interests of authorities to keep promises in check. Wealthy merchants can marry into dynasties.

Up the food chain, when we look at the gentry, nobles, equites, and patricians we see a different set of promises. The most common promise we can see is the marriage (or in medieval times: the corporate merger). The Vassal, is when near social equals have oaths between each other.

Vassals can get really messy because these very oath-bound men can rise, equal, and surpass their lord. We see this in the Norman kings of England do that allowed them to make a claim for the rulership of France in the Hundred Years war.

I would like to point out: Duke, Barons, Counts, Earls, Prince, Marquise... etc. are all titles of various antiquated customs of leadership. As the Duke came from Dux, it just so happens to be a higher rank because of its association with the Roman division head. The same goes with all these titles. They don't really mean much, it is just a cultural preference. These meanings are inconsistently applied through out the ages for the very good reason that culture has changed a lot and often. A Chief can be a King, an Emperor, or a Lord. It just really depends on the size of his "Tribe".

GURPS 4e and all these duties.
In the previous post, I gave an example of a lord who had the regular amount of vassals, retainers, and yeomen. It is easy to see how BIG a deal these oaths play in the power of the lord. His property may be small, a motte and bailey supported by a large village but it is his vassals that determine his power.

Vassals are allies of fairly close to the peerage of the character. They can be made a 3-5cp ally that has a Frequency of appearance of 9. At 9, this means seasonally has something to see his lord, offer tribute and socialize with his family. The vassals family has to get to know the lords family so that the future generations can remember the agreement.

the Duty Disadvantage, is a catch-all term for responsibilities and how much time they take up. To save on purchasing and keeping track of separate duties, it is best to imagine them as: how much responsibilities keeps the character busy. Anything outside of duties is personal, or what counts as person to the character and not exactly work. This can be raising a family (or families), hobbies, parties, and soirees.

I want to point out that oaths are not an employee-employer relationship. These vassals grew up with their lords. Their parents try to make them, as kids, like each other and become best of friends. There are religious and spiritual aspects associated to it and very long tradition that spans into the ancient era. In the old English poem the wanderer I realized the fraternity of such relationships are much like great generation-spanning friendships.

This very relationship is what makes for a perfect adventuring party material. Consider it a "free" ally advantage, but there has to be a glue that binds the group. While a particular leader in a group might be offensive to some members, it doesn't mean he has to be role-played like an authoritarian or bully. Some naturally take on the Eisenhower or Kennedy style of leadership.

One serious problem of the Ally advantage is how it gets really messy when representing such relationships. You have the Ally and the Rank ways of doing things in one game system. I feel it would be best to use the Rank system to represent various Roles of the title holder. Especially since large group of allies, that become faceless multitudes, can get pretty complicated when grouped into hundreds. The a culmulative progression of size is easier to manage in point-wise.

A powerful character can have fief through this system instead of using his income. Nobles tend to have their own assets, separate from their tax base. Some nobles generate olive oil, spices, wine, silk, linen, wool, and other high capital and highly profitable goods with their own estate. Such administrative ranks grants the man power available from this population. You can just call this a Fief rank.
1 Small village 10-50 families
2 Medium to large village 50-200 families
3 Small town 200-500 families
4 Large town 500 to 1,600
5 City 1,600+
6 Province 20,000 families
7 Kingdom 200,000+ families
8 Empire 2,000,000+ families
As an administrative rank, the character gets status and cost of living bonuses.

The army is basically an oath based body because they are made up of peasants sworn to fight. Use the standard below to see how many forces the character can levy. These numbers are not strict just a helpful guideline.

1 Sergeant (and other non-com officers) (squad) 10
2 Sergeant Captain (company) 20-50
3 Sergeant Captain (company) 80-100
4 Knight Commander (one company, with 3-4 sergeant captains ) 300 to 400
5 Constable or Marshal (one battalion) 2,000 to 3,000
6 (one division) 6,000 to 7,000
7 (one army) 24,000+
8 (all the armies) what ever amount that is.
The terms get pretty redundant after a point. There was very little military standardization in medieval armies, so the terms get used a lot.

As a general rule, competent character like are worth 1cp ally 2cp as a retainer (freq-12 x2cp), seasoned or professional sergeants and yeomen are 2cp or 4cp as a retainer, and those who are wealthy enough to serve a cavalry role are 3cp or 6cp when serving in the character's household. Over time these allies grow in number becoming Ranks or these allies grow in power with the character becoming "peers" at 5cp.

Vassals of great power, should be generated as separate advantage. I would use the Patron advantage system to represent various "allies" since it acts more of an upper limit extension of the Ally advantage. So another lord of x1,000 wealth is 10cp and 20cp when regularly working with the character.

Status is purchased in character creation or after doing something "distinguishing". Status 1 is Noble or Gentry, 2 some old and distinguished line like Patricians, and 3 is for a Royal house or dynasty. Characters who fail to purchase the wealth that goes with it become pawns, for the machinations of others. Either they will forced to marry into a line to legitimize their claim or used to rallying point of a movement for the old status quo to reclaim. Most likely, their family were the losers of the previous regime and are supposed to be exiled or imprisoned.

Names and Titles only get special treatment when they can enforce it. Without any power, all one has is the enemies their family made ruling and getting to the top. This makes Status 3 end up being a Secret (imprisonment or exile) -15cp.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

War Campaign musing

I've joined Arm Chair Generals forums to work through some of my campaign problems.

One of them, I'm stuck on is military readiness. Using GURPS mass combat, plotting the precise human resource is very hard and difficult when with all the money that goes into keeping a war machine running, even if the engine is on idle.

Levies are a great way to cheapen the overhead cost. Knights and Lords with their Feudal obligations also count as levies.

Sure, levies and promises are "cheap" but the constant military mobilization is expensive. The logistics increase over all costs by 16x! That is x5 for the land support, x5 for the sea support, maintenance per month increases to x1.5 and you have to end the campaign in 2 months in time to go home before the beginning of the harvest season.

The funny thing about war and game theory, when you and your opponent's population is doing well, it is a good time for war. Its a prisoners dilemma, like what Von Neumann pointed out about Nuclear inevitability and that Sun Tzu adage: when negotiating for peace make preparation for war (signaling serious intent). Realizing this, it is no surprise populations of Levant, the crusader states and Byzantium were constantly falling during the medieval era.

The anticipation for war can be a killer. Preemptive strikes are not only strategic, but due to emotions running high.

So a minor Lord who has jurisdiction of a early 11C style castle (motte and bailey) and the neighboring town might have a income of $810,000 (50cp, and 15cp in status) might only have a budget for $240,000 for troops. That is "just" enough to hire squad of sergeant man-at-arms. The recon ability is whole set of skill that is important in managing a fief, particularly intelligence gathering. If this lord were to answer a call to duty he might have to draw on his areas population of 7000 for levies (3 Levies ally group 18cp: once a year counts as rare-freq x1/2cp, 51-100 x12 x3). He would call on those estate holders who owe him fealty (Vassals Ally group 15cp; once a year counts as rare-freq x1/2cp, 6-10 x10cp) like yeomen archers and some harriers (light infantry). That lord would run up a social advantage cost of 96cp.


Its all about the Sack! Now here is a funny thing of how peace is settled in such settings is that it becomes a game of match making. If you want to make sure that guy is not going to fight you, its best to make him part of the family. Its not the most sure fired way, but its one of the best. Why fight, when can have it all with a "corporate merger". At around 11C primugeniture is not only a way to accumulate power, it is a system of creating long lasting dynasties. It is ironic that the happiness, lives, and suffering of all the regular people depend on the success of nobles if their "celebrity love lives".

As Henry VIII love life determined much of history, so can players enjoy a war campaign when they go to war behind the scenes. Rolling up a freaking host of NPCs can be maddening, it doesn't help that they didn't exactly have sure names to keep all the Johns in check.

While populations rebuild and old problems silenced with the convenience of the past war slowly get their voices back, PCs can be busy getting to know everyone they may have to face on the battle field. This guys cousin, his brother, his sister, her father, her best friend, her lover, his teacher, his master, his servant, his squire, his broker, her husband, his wife, his priest...

the drama, before the war. It is no surprise that lords who face each other in the battle field, knew each other in a "private high-school"-like environment of court (repressed, many small cliques, emotionally charged, forced socialization and status driven).

Lords muttering to their men at arms, about the guy across the field.
"Lord Athos, had a certain way with Lady Veatryss" (that guy was looking at the girl I liked in a bad way)
"I can still remember Sir Harl squiring for Old Sir Kylean, washing the breeches of the old man when he kept soiling himself"

High-school cliches are useful if you need to populate your court quick.

Thoughts about running War campaigns. Knights and Lords did not stay in one place long, they had duties to attend. The lack of instant communication meant a lot of travell for men of responsibility. They had to see things first hand, and fix up a sticky situation. PCs who composed of an entourage of powerful individuals working together will find a lot of situations where they work out a solution, and go off to their individual tasks.

Diverging from the usual game format the GM would let the Players quickly build up a set of plans, then individually handle each player and his responsibilities. He can limit the brainstorming to 30 mins to 1hr, then adjudicate its player in less than 15 min like a problem solving improv session(something like the Ignite 5min talks).

Eventually war breaks out and the PCs get to work on their specialties. The PC commander will have to delegate, build up bonuses by letting other PCs execute special maneuvers in mass combat. Support PCs, might be left in the background and their players take on NPC allied commanders.

In a war campaign, army strength constantly goes down. There are no "instant" regens, like in fantasy. In a way this makes the math easier, but the decisions much harder. In such a war, like that in the medieval times force sizes are around the average of 3,000 to 7,000 (average of 1/6 to 1/10 cavalry) each. The first crusade with its 35,000 was unusual and possibly exaggerated (its all demographics, don't believe the bigger numbers you can't get those numbers with the current population and economic capacity of the participating states) although still one of the biggest forces assembled in the era.

One nice thing about a war campaign, I can look forward too is that when all the fighting is done and over the man power depletion means no more war for quite a while and I can end the campaign at that point.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wold Building Research Mind Dump

I broke my own home brew rules. I've gone back to the basics and tried again. This time a little bit more detailed. As I've always got game in the brain here is some of my tinkerings.

Transportation and Logistics TL. The size of a state is affected by its transportation and logistics technology. In GURPS TL2 the Roman Empire was able to span the entire breadth of Europe. Unfortunately the certain limitations meant that that very little of taxes found their way to the administrative central because of the diminishing return of transportation costs. This explains in a way why Rome can be divided by east to west.

Every citizen has 1/3 of their taxes, which is 1/3 of their Cost of Living (if they are at the wealth level of struggling or higher), is supposed to go to the central government. This is because their initial taxes goes to their local government and typically 1/3 is demanded by overlords as tribute/taxes.

Every taxable unit, which is a family, would normally pay $33.33 ($66.67 going to local administration). I will simply this to $6.67 per individual. So a population of 88M spread out over 17 per sq km or around 5M sq km. This would normally provide $7,600M in taxes per month. Unfortunately if you find a way to calculate the relationship of the distance, this value will greatly diminish.

To find this out I had to use Justinians reign and finances. Thanks to Tribonian, his infamous Questor, his reign was one of the most effectively taxed and detailed eras.

What I got was a basic system where I used the area of the state to determine the level of inefficiency. I established a technological base line of logistics and transportation. This was: a state had an effective organizational efficiency of 100km x [1 + (TL x0.5)]. So Rome at TL 2 had an organizational efficiency of 200km radius (6 days by road). at 88M inhabitance or an area of 1300km radius the inefficiency was around 15% dwindling the resources by $1,170M.

At 1300, that would take a 40 days for the legion to march there or 2 days by the fastest ships. Its pretty troublesome. So the there is 2 forces at work: Size and Logistics that go against each other.

Justinian thought it was a "good" idea to reunite the empire because his ego and who can say no to having more people to tax. Unfortunately as the distances became greater the costs of keeping lines of contact open with security, ships, animals, ports, and bureaucracies got more difficult. You can say there are "free market" forces at work here: Demand for taxes vs. the cost of maintain control over that source.

Social Mobility TL.The second interesting affect TL has on groups of people is in Social Mobility. A state with more entrepreneurial or well compensated people is a happier state (yeah right), unfortunately happier people are more demanding. They would rather not get involved in anything stupid someone else has planned, like going into war, if they had a choice.

In Building Low-Tech Landscapes II: Overlords, you have a system in GURPS to create communities. This is where mercantilism comes in. Rome was pretty mercantile, but that was lost after the fall. The survivors of Rome, those who initially colonized the more defensible marshes of Venice and City States continued to become more meritocratic and surpassed Rome. The rest of the world rebuilt at around the 11C and exceeded Rome in the 13C onward.

Yeomen and Merchants were as well to do. Merchants were as wealthy as nobles, but unlike them, you can tax them a pretty penny. Sergeants were actually social class. Consider them Yeomen who were professional servants (which is what sergeants meant). Typically a Lord will have a couple of squadrons of sergeant man-at-arms. A well to do knight would normally have a sergeant to do the scouting, shield-bearing and valet duties.

In a group where practically everyone was a struggling peasant share croppers and serfs, the taxable income was $100 per family. Serfs and Slaves can't be made to fight and are considered dependents. Peasants, like the plebians can be made to fight by the state or the lord they are pledged to. So in a way, serfs are more controllable but your exchanging that head ache for the skilled warriors you would have to hire. Peasants are demanding, they can fight and are obligated to fight but you would have to be a d*ck to get your way with them.

A population of 60% serfs, 25% peasants, and 15% yeomen produces 15% more. Unfortunately 40% of the population can be obligated to fight. At 80% peasant, 18% yeomen, and 2% non-taxable noble/gentry you have 15% more productivity but 98% population to levy. At 80% peasant, 15% yeoman, and 5% merchant you have 30% more productivity. At 60% peasant, 20% yeoman, 15% merchant you have 60% more productivity.

So basically a minor lord of Status 4 (filthy rich) can have his $840k income from a several villages and a castle of total population of 3040 at the 11C, a town with a population of 2700 at 12C, or town with a population of 2200 at 13C.

Social Mobility modifier allows for greater income generation. So at Rome's mercantile height of +15% productivity (since merchants didn't have a very great status), compared to Italian city state republics of +200% productivity.

Given the Empire example above, at an annual revenue of $1,170M income would be around $1,345M with a relatively large freeholder class.

Medieval Tech for me. TL 3 for me is 10C-15C. The very steep population decline since the fall of the Roman Empire from 4C all the way to the slow resurgence at around 11C is indicative of the return to regular levels of civilization. After that Medieval World lecture, I'm pretty much convinced of that Rome was not-so-kinda TL4. Most of the lost tech came back at around 12C, and food production was something the Roman didn't have any better than the Medieval World which counts more than just the difference in Literacy and Bureaucracy.

Primogenitur, or the ability to Monopolize and Accumulate power and wealth over generations really got much better in the medieval era. It allowed for more stable transitions between rulers. Although, the meritocracy of military coup was great, it always left a huge mess. It also stopped siblings from killing each other to reunite the properties.

I think warfare was what really had a slow resurgence back to roman levels of discipline, and organization. The problem with the Roman techniques is that it was highly dependent on skilled individuals. After you exhausted it, no-one inside the small niche was able to pick up after the previous generations.

Looking at population levels, it appears that at the height of Rome population was at its own height. After all the wars and fights, population levels didn't get back to full strength of 88million until the 15C (the Renaissance). Population is heavily correlated to Technology, because of the rules governing economics and specialization.

So it is no wonder that highly motivated citizen armies didn't come back to fashion till the renaissance.

The mark of TL 3 warfare is citizen armies and the ability to sustain a standing force regardless of weapons and technology is TL4. Rome was TL3 in warfare but TL2 in transportation and social mobility. There were few ways to keep that army sustainable: barbarian levies and plunder were the limited methods. TL4 armies was the obsolescence of a cavalry elite.

Feudal Obligations to fight, and levies are pretty much TL2 in my opinion. You can find them all over the ancient era.

States could not normally sustain a citizen army because of cost of money and life. Its so much cheaper to make promises instead (levies). It costs money to keep a standing force kicking ass. There is only one thing that will allow a state at this point to keep a larger standing force: social mobility or tollerance.

One of the first people to get that right were the Ottomans with their Janissaries. Their tolerance towards the Jews and Christians allowed them to have more merchants around, which provided a lot of income. It also didn't hurt that their "open" recruitment policy gave them a large man-power pool to draw from.

More and more evidence that stirrups were not a big deal in mounted combat have been coming a lot lately. First hand, I've seen mountain pony riders in my country prefer to hug the horse with their legs over the stirrup in uneven terrain. This was the conclusion more than 20+ years ago and it has been thoroughly debunked by now. Second, china has had access to it since the 2C and Kataphrakts have been doing shock maneuvers before it found its way west.

TL3 ends at Civil Bureacracy. Stewards and Logothetes count as TL 3 bureaucracy for me. China got there first with their standardization, paper, wood block printing and really high literacy rate. Literacy rate more than 15% is bordering TL4.

Age of Sail is very TL4, venetian galleys or fast galleys are the height of TL3 ship making. Longships are TL3 ships when it mostly was populated by TL2 ships.

Well thats what I wanted to unload, sorry for the mess. I just have to get it out of my system now and then.