Monday, December 26, 2011

Personal Gaming Assistant part 2

I've heard complaints about the GM carrying 90-99% of the workload. There is some exaggeration there, but the emotional color is worth bearing in mind. Maybe the GM feels like he/she is carrying 90-99% of the load. I don't think its a good idea to have a lop-sided distribution of work or investment in time, in a shared activity. When people can't meet in the middle, there tends to be frustration and resentment. If one would take an economists look at the situation, maybe there is a way to fix things without blaming anyone.

One interesting thing about being able to Pay for the VPGA is being able to make the GM's job more pleasant. Social Norms (Predictably Irrational ch4), the non-monetary contribution the common good of the group, has their place in the Game Table, but so does economic incentives. Note that the monetary contribution to GM assistance does not go directly to the GM, it goes to the entire group.

Where to begin?
I guess such begins with setting expectations. Using metrics, we can potentially forecast workload. Its pretty much how you would measure clerical tasks: Research (Words per Minute) + (Transcription/ writing (WPM) ) x complexity of task (original thinking involved/level of autonomous decision making involved) ). The more steps in the processes the longer the task would take. 

Measuring to Project costs?
In the end, it boils down to the GM's experience in preparing such material, he would first make a guess then talk it over with the VPA. What really happens is that we only know the amount of work something is going to take when we've done something very similar or when we are 50% into the task. In this situation constant communication is what allows parties to maintain expectations. Over a course of a relationship, VPA just get more efficient as they get more familiar with the Client's style, needs and expectations.  

Its a person to person job after all.
A VPA is a relationship that begins with sensing and measuring, and finally with an assessment of its cost effectiveness. As one can imagine, gets projects a little at a time, these allow both parties to get familiar and understand the circumstance better and more effectively meet expectations. Given how gaming circles go, a recommendation of another GM can go a long way, and a negative assessment of one can be very detrimental. Here is where some Call-center skills can be very much of use. 

Nothing Ventured nothing Gained.
Like many VPA's there is a trial period, where there is a shared risk between client and vendor, if one didn't then people would just walk all over each other (thats just basic economics and game theory). This also lowers the risk for both parties and keeps people honest most of the time. There are risks and both if not one party should protect each other from failing too badly. Failure is Ok, I find negative reviews are ok as long as there is an improving trend. When things go south, it should be automatic that the VPA make a root-cause-analysis report in a poorly delivered service and protocols established to prevent this from recurring, even in faultless transactions. It's the professional thing to do. 

Low level VPA ($1-1.2 per hour).
This assumes purely skype and emailing. You can use this for evaluation period.
  • Research 200-250wpm. if thats GURPS book, 12-15 pages an hour. 
  • Transcription and organization 8-10wpm from gaming material
  • Creative writing 400-500wph (assuming 1/3 of time with research and discussion of instructions. this is over a long period, at least 2 hours)
  • proofing 100wpm
Mid-Level VPA ($2-3 per hour)
increasing performance by +50-100%. Typically can offer more complex tasks and services. 

High Level VPA ($5-6 per hour)
better performance of Mid-level of up to 20-50%, and a much larger range of services offered.
Sample task for Lvl 1 VPGA:
This is a task I would need: List all equipment in GURPS in Campaigns, Characters, High Tech and Ultra Tech in a spreadsheet, convert all cost modifiers to CF format, and have columns for weight, cost, details and description, and pages. This is so that when I build up campaign and setting inventories and requirements I have a handy source to get from. Already this sets the stage for other projects: load-outs, equipment for npcs, unique setting equipment, etc...
Expected hours 16 (2 work days) = $16 (since this is low complexity, mostly cut and paste). This is about triple the cost of a e23 book that presents collated material, but consider those are sold for a couple of thousands.
Step 1: Establish instructions and deliverable, have a short deliverable to see if everyone is on the same page. Break down tasks into segments: GURPS Characters, Campaign, HT and UT. use pages as metrics. At this stage, the convention is constant contact. At this stage, realistically the Lvl1VPGA is juggling multiple GMs or has other part time work, so its not surprising that deliverable are in a day or two. 
Step 2: Agree on a compensation. How many deliverables vs pay.  Typically, at the low VPA level, its VPA entails the risk first, delivering 20-50% for the same percent in payment. 
Step 3: Rate each other. The client gets to publicly rate the transaction. In every transaction there is an evaluation for an ongoing relationship. As the client, how much value this is going to to be worth to him. Did spending $16 worth while for all that labor. The simplest way to look at this is that, instead of doing this particular task what did I do with my time and is worth while? If your players appreciate the work and services, do they appreciate it to share in the cost? 
Familiarity Incentive.
Less 10 to 20% in a long ongoing relationship. I spelled out the costs, but what is the point behind long-term client discount: as you get more efficient/it gets easier doing work for the client, it is only worthwhile for both parties to incentive each other for a longer on-going relationship.


Why I need this for myself. I want to game. I happen to be good in my job, but the more time I put into the job the more money and time I get to spend on other things. Of course, some gaming preparations are not very cost effective use of my time. I want to game, but I don't have enough time to prep a game the way I used to before many things (work, family, obligations, exercise etc...) tied up all my other free time.

I happen to like the level of detail I would get into Gaming. I admit I ruined GURPS for my GM when it became a Cost Benefit Analysis and Accounting nightmare, but I find myself a much better person becomes of it and I am able to approach work very effectively with the Gamer Mindset. I'm very sorry for my GM, but I can't be so sorry as to not-want what happened to happen. I'm very gratefull for his GMing, and hope to impart the same experience and love for critical thought and strategic thinking to other players as well, if only there were others who see RPGs as that kind of learning opportunity.

Without those skills, I don't think I would have reached the point where I am now: able to some-what afford to pay someone to help my GM or help me GM. Maybe this year, if I find myself a PGA or VPGA, I can run more games. Maybe run them more efficiently and effectively, and have less of the work and more of the fun of the experience.




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