Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A morality thread in the forums: Killing Orcs

This kind of topic always generates a lot of debate, since normally people go into it with the baggage of their moral standards, and we all know how different everyones are in close inspection.

Still i like these kinds of threads because it allows people to examine their moral lines. Of course there are a lot of openings to exploit in such arguments and specifics to be defined. It's a very back and forth discussion.

IMO It is something best saved for a forum over moral and philosophical debate. Although this illustrates how RPGs, for me, have been a great gateway into this kind of in depth analysis of my own moral code, those of others, and how perspective can complicate everything.

This is a Google Side wiki post

in reference to: [Fantasy] When not to kill the Orcs - Steve Jackson Games Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

[Low-Tech write up] Economic Overview of a Kingdom

This is the economic overview of a Kingdom. A kingdom, has a King who is considered first among his peers, who are other Princes, either by vote, vassalage, or conquest.

There are 17 Principalities. These Principalities are the largest organizational assets a faction can hold. The cost it takes to hold and run such assets test the limits of each faction capability. The most powerful individual, the King, has the revenues and resources of more than one principality.

Typically this is the principality his faction calls home, lesser assets and the seat of power. A principality that constitutes a "seat of power" has symbolic and strategic importance. Typically it has the greatest economic prosperity granting it population and developed resources, as well as the ability to hold other competing principalities in check by being the center of a logistical network ("all roads lead to Rome").

The size of each Principality, powerful enough to influence events and "play the game of thrones" typically falls within a range of 60% different from the largest to the smallest. Many principalities fall somewhere in the middle. The smallest happens to be in the "running" because of some exception to the rule.

How to proceed.
Part 1: Greater Map
The best way to proceed is to take a map, probably using Google Earth. Take a map with sufficiently diverse and large land area. Modify its features to be unrecognizable through stamp tool and healing brush. Apply vectoring tools to sketch and paint features, allowing for greater magnification. Then work with "broad strokes" dividing the area by its geographical and strategic features. Dividing things up to the largest swaths of principalities. Divide this into layers in the vector drawing tools. Overlay with hex grid, with 20-30km wide hex scale.
This would take about 4-6 hours with the right tools.

Part 2: Focus on one portion of the Map.
Proceed next into detailing one particular faction. Using vector drawing program's layering options, hide the layers containing other principalities and proceed to map out the particular principality. Follow water sources, having villages about 4-12 km from each other, depending on the natural barriers. Use "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" to determine a rough number of villages. The naming convention of villages default to Hex code and clock-wise count of the villages. Create a smaller hex layer scaled to 2-5km.

This would take 8-10 hours easy. This is about one week of GM prep, as long as all resources as easily available. Given that it takes multiple sitting, its better to spend the first sitting creating an outline of objectives.

Part 3: Asset Calculations.
Count the number of villages and towns, these are assets. Assign Incomes and Costs to these assets, and consider around 10% of all costs are ultimately tribute that finds its way to the Principality's ruler. Take the largest community, typically a city, and calculate for city income, assets and probably expenses.

Using demographic tools found in "MDME" or other sources, derive the population of various socio-economic classes. This helps determine the number of household man-at-arms, and raw numbers for knights and man at arms; also the professional soldier population; also the available militia/levy from peasant freemen available in the area. With such numbers, one can make a org-structure of the principality. The org-structure, using drawing tools, allows for understanding the force numbers available to the particular principality.

This can take 4-6 hours, if all resources are accessible. Assembling all demographics resources and writing down the objective, and what must be achieved in greatest priority will help keep within time budget.

Part 4: detailing a Smaller region and its Cast.
Having achieved a gross org-structure for the principality, proceed to detail one large manor, the particular branch of an org chart. This manor hold, would ideally be one of a town or an important fief. Using SWOT, describe the situation of the manor, emphasizing the challenges and threats worthwhile for adventuring.

Create a Minor House, develop its family history in relation to the major events of the Principality and potentially the setting. Write ups add up to 500-600 words, for player's consumption. This becomes a launching place for PCs, as they are somehow connected or relevant to this Minor House, and this is where their path to greatness begins.

Writing up the 400-600word story will take 2 hours if one is not attempting to create so many weaving plots. Writing up one relative to the major history events cannot be done. A prerequisite of 2,000 words general setting event overview would eat up as much as 4-6 hours by itself, even with a random name generator (without it takes more time to decide on names without a preferential pattern emerging). Another 600 principality history overview would be an hour to write up. Great reading preparing for such is overview of historical events like: War of the Roses, The Hundred years war, First Crusade, and other overviews of great wars or upheavals.

Total of 16-20 hours. Probably 2 weeks of reading and researching and then writing.

Part 5: Props, details, and preparation.
The GM will need tools to make the preferred conflicts and challenges run smoothly. Take the "Character Generation Tables" from Low Tech world (still under construction) and tailor fit it to the game's setting. Create a fun system to generate NPCs and PCs, and the GM gets to use it by making 10-20 cast, NPCs, members of various backgrounds.

Have several tables of load outs and combat stats available for easy reference. Include the social stats that make social interactions challenging and require a level of cunning from the players.

Have a "script" how things are supposed to proceed based on how the key members of the cast, NPCs, are trying to achieve their own goals. Note the resources they have in case the PCs get in their way or help them achieve it. Highlight all those who can easily benefit from the utility of the PCs.

These all would take one afternoon, 4-6 hours, if all the tools are easily available.

In an hour or two, creating and having a walk-through the Character Creation, Setting Immersion, and Introductory Session plans. Also organizing all the data and storing them properly for future continuance, if proven fruitful.

A total of 52 hours.
If the setting would be fully developed, that would be about 1000 hours. If that could be delegated and be made into a full time job and outsourced, hiring an artist and a writer fulltime. Discounting the management of the writer and artist, $2700 and probably have a turn over of 3 months. This doest count fixed costs of office and utilities.

If I would have a secretary make sure everyone followed the GANT progress chart, I can say it would be finished on time but not at the best costs, probably $3500. To fully utilize the secretary asset, leave him to assemble, organize, and lay out the material. Probably keep a blog and webpage with all the material.

If I did this all with part-time workers, a serious consideration since the people I know who can do this are all working, maybe i can do it at 1/3 the cost but at a production turn over of of 8-10 months.

Objectives.. If I were to try to make this profitable
Making this setting profitable is not the objective. It would be, for me, making a very usable and GURPS 4e very low fantasy (practically realistic) setting with maps detailed enough to use for Mass Combat and play a "Game of Thrones" seizing cities, forging and breaking alliances, and making a lot of enemies.

If I were to make it profitable, I would approach Tale Worlds and venture such a game with their Multi-player Mount and Blade Engine (the game company with a rep for historical very low fantasy game market). Develop a Multi-player game where such options are available. Probably offer a method to outsource and sub-contract the game module development here and create a 100 play-hour game module with a 6-8 week turnover for a number of modules depending on sales. Although they would, of course, rather build on their existing setting. All that money can be attributed as proof of concept.

If making independent Low-Fantasy Game, designed primarily for multi-player (near Table-top-like, near free-form style of play), such a project has a turn around of 2-3 years... definitely out of the question.

Given all the risks of developing a game, what will probably happen if things are ok (3% chance).
Even if it is an Ogre SDK, it will take $90,000 of labor costs and fixed costs of $25,000. Yikes $115k, that doesn't even count marketing. Marketing on history websites, google, Gamer magazines for 6 months before release of $15k and the Datacenter to host these games $25-60k (assuming I can get a Cloud Service to be my datacenter on demand instead of buying a datacenter).

The ROI with $8 play per month plan (free download) and 20,000 players (1/5 of the mount and blade players) will be in 4-6 Months. After those months, maybe profiting 10% of the lowest play per month plan and benefiting from the PEZA tax holiday. All the other expenses in running the datacenter, game services, and "betterment".

Probably ROI in 3 years, have really small margins while investing heavily in betterment in the only year you are profitable. After the betterment, sell the damn thing for its future income x the betterment for about $30M (revenue per month x betterment over 5 years x inflation of 5 years - operation and fixed costs) if anyone is interested.

As a Low-fantasy game with a more conservative graphics, it can compete in emerging markets with expensive online infrastructure costs. Develop more 90s styled-adventure, problem solving modules, along with the combat and mass combat.

Friday, April 22, 2011

My Game Writing blurring with my Work studies

"The adventure should have the least amount of barriers. The wording and material should be designed with a GM work flow that takes account of the amount of time the GM uses to prepare and the use of his time."
I was writing down objectives to some of the material I was creating for my catharsis. One of the things that struck me is how people find realistic-level games difficult to prepare. So I thought about the objectives that would clear this up, based on my experience running historical RPGs. In my learnings at work, I should gun for the highest bang-for-buck in terms of problem solving catharsis.

Currently at work I'm kinda enjoying the "building a consensus" exercise when troubleshooting. Since we are dealing with many different individuals who have different motives and objectives, the process is simple in theory but time consuming in practice. The time consuming part in practice, is easy to adjudicate in a game. Most of the time what goes wrong are things that are mundane yet are barriers deserving of respect, despite how "everyday" it might appear to those who thirst for magic and wonder.

In fact, as I get older, these everyday challenges hold more and more "magic and wonder" for me. Its part of that humanist spirituality (Professor Robert Solomon: the passions, intelligence of emotions). So I'm more inclined, or Biased, to bringing a new perspective to mundane conflicts and the deeper aspect of it rooted in the myriad of human natures.

Progress in Low-Tech World.
My work in Low-Tech World is focused right now in Load Outs. Going to as far as detailing: Combat Load (Carried and Worn), Marching Load, Squad and Squadron Baggage and Support staff. There are some minor problems in terms of rulings. Eventually some of it lead to finding out the GURPS errata e-group subscription has been down since 2007 and that I'm not the only one feeling that there is no one updating the errata on the PDFs (as the ideal).

I'm near finished in reading Qin: The Warring States. Although, even when done, I'll have to leave it to digest. Meanwhile, I'll be working on classic Load-Out stapples: Imperial Roman Legionaire, Republic Roman Loadouts, Alexander's Army load outs, Feoderati Loadouts etc. Load outs that have some or a hint of what they are comprised off.

Right now "balancing" the loadout weight budget of the Roman Horse Archer found in Procopious History of Wars I: The Persian war is having some problems. Its just too heavy, so I've got to fix it.

Other Historical or Low-Fantasy Gamer Blogs?
Where are they, I'm more interested in reading those kinds, I'm not for the DnD stuff unless there are bits of Historical and Economic elements.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Looking forward to more about China

The east is the least understood and least played setting in RPGs. So I have a special props for Qin: The Warring States for making a game about the Warring States period. I realized that part of the focus I will do in my Low Tech direction, (there was only one vote to a particular direction and it is towards Low Tech) would be to cultivate more information about Ancient China.

I've gotten back into studying my Putong Hua. My 8 week year old son happens to find it funny when I practice to him. I'm particularly influenced me is the talks by Patricia Kuhl: the linguistics genius of babies. So I'm getting the little guy primed with Putong Hua sounds and speech pattern (all that Anime subtitles growing up helped developed an ear for Japanese and Chinese, particularly Ranma since we had a lot of it in Chinese with english subtitles).

Right now downloading all the free history books and wiki articles on Ancient China. Confucius, being very Secularist Humanist friendly (contrary to how it may be interpreted, it has strong a humanist and nerd philosophy).

I'm looking more for Household Life. That JSTOR subscription is looking more tempting, good thing the last time I had that subscription I downloaded all the material related to ancient history (of all cultures). I still have some JSTOR articles about marriage statistics and culture in ancient china (can't remember what era).

I've checked GURPS china and sadly, I cannot recommend it. China seems like just another setting where you just have to memorize another roster of dieties. My opinion is that, given how Sun Tzu wrote, the affairs of the supernatural were something quietly dismissed by the academic and technical elite.

"Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts. Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.

"Thus, what enables the wise sovereign and the good general to strike and conquer, and achieve things beyond the reach of ordinary men, is FOREKNOWLEDGE.

5. Now this foreknowledge cannot be elicited from spirits; it cannot be obtained inductively from experience, nor by any deductive calculation.

6. Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men."

Sun Tzu

I think the approach for a Chinese setting requires an understanding of difference in values. I think a Tour-guide book to China can very well do a better job than a gaming book. Professors Hammond's "From Yaho to Mao: 5000 years of chinese History" is a great place to start also.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Help Me Focus, a Poll.

Last week I had a bad fever and all I could do was write and read about games. Now that I have a bit more control of my willpower, I realized I started a lot of projects (each one I would love to finish or produce more product) but I can't decide which one should I focus on.

Currently my Game writing projects and their current status:
  • IMTU Military Doctrine. Where I detail military doctrine of the Imperial Military Branches. Clocked in probably 6 hours this week writing and doing equipment load out calculations. Ended up finding a lot of UTerrata that has not been taken care off. I need to provide my own Magazine weights and stats for the Gause of ETK weaponry, better Scout Robots.
  • Primary and Secondary Education for gaming. I did a study about secondary education, as an exercise of my understanding of how study and learning works. So I'm getting a handle on it, as well as understanding more about how and where education can fail. So why not make a character generation system that allows the detailed accounting of the subject matters and skills of a character. I realize this is a throw away choice
  • GURPS Low-Tech World. Inspired by my study about Harnworld, Origins of Civilizations, Ancient Empires before Alexander, all lectures of Kenneth Harl, "From Yao to Mao: 5000 years of Chinese History". I've modified my GURPS Knights and Incomes document and converted into a overview (just started outlining the topics I feel i can cover). I got the idea to reorganize it to a more top-down approach and overview of a medieval world. I have been unable to update and maintain my previous and related work: Low Tech Households revenues and expenses. I got carried away
Thanks in advance for those who can contribute the time to help me focus on a more relevant topic.

Monday, April 11, 2011

IMTU Doctrines of the Imperium

I was doing a detailed review of Gurps Traveller (Ground Forces and Star Mercs) and I was disappointed with the inconsistencies. I was supposed to write a review, but I got busy and filed it as a Draft in my blog. I don't think it would be productive to "rant" when I can do something about it instead.

What I choose to do about it is write about the Military Doctrine of My Traveller Universe instead. I began with a description of the economic state of the Imperium, and I'm slowly working my way towards details and a more unified outline. I realized the Economic overview helps build a more consistent explanation as we move towards details.

I've recently did a pretty in-depth read on US Army and Marine training and proficiencies. The Philippines is pretty much patterned after that, except that its poor and its soldiers are not taken well taken care off. My country's military provides a good example of what balkanized and unstable military services are like in the many poor and struggling worlds of the Imperium.

I will also tackle Naval Doctrine, building on Mark Gelis' article The Imperial Navy in a 4th Edition GURPS Campaign Part I. Basically detail it in the way David Webber did for Honorverse, but given Traveller equipment and ships.

I like doing load-outs so thats one of the things I've begun to do with the details. Currently my internet is buggy and I can't finish my writing.

As for the Doctrine Overview, I'm considering doing Army first.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

FAQ: Knight Incomes in GURPS 4e

I made this little thing to sort out what is a knight income. The basic template is household knight/man-at-arms. Whats funny about this one is that I'm using Suzie Orman's rule of thumb that your household expenses should be 40% of your income (which i roughly translated as 50% cost of living). She says that if your spending beyond this for just household expenses your living beyond your means.

what has changed compared to my other incarnations of such is that I've more sources and my assumptions are more plainly stated. Also there is some symmetry in the numbers.

I will go into Household expenses more in detail in this google doc.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Low Tech Households

Here is the google docs of the list of Household Revenues and Expenses. I've just listed all the items so far and have yet to define them along with putting where I got all my sources and footnotes.

I decided to do this first before making a spread sheet. This is meant to be generic, as I plan to do several households: Roman Republic, 11C Crusader, Han or Zhou (can't decide yet), and maybe a Spanish Hacienda in the 19C Philippines.

People interested in a shared work, can just ask for an invite. The intent is to be flexible and open, to allow as many interpretations to presented in an orderly fashion.

So much work plus the baby, its fragmenting my writing and concentration.

Friday, April 1, 2011

[GURPS High Tech] Resource: PTR products

Precision Target Rifles - A gun-manfucaturer that had a revamp. The happen to have my prefered airsoft gun: the G3. Contrary to Gurps HT stats, its $900 not $1,500. What is also interesting is how a old gun gets new life.

Its April 1, so I guess I can't trust any of the news I hear. There is unverifiable news that PTR is building an MP44 for production. This is a big deal for my WW2 re-enactors airsoft friends and I'm quite interested at the collectors market for such a weapon.

Also gaming related, is about the "rights" to produce these anacronistic designs, the ww2 guns. Governments will always have the resources to make their own gun. Although, a Freetrader in traveller, can bring $2-3M worth of equipment (stamping machines, steel casts and molds, machining tools, etc.) and give a small country an arms production facility. In order not to conflict over copyrights, they may use those made by governments that don't exist anymore and were the holders of the weapon design rights.

So imagine going into a port and seeing a bunch of ww2 german weapons. Slightly modified to take advantage of what was available in the locality.