Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are we more educated today?

In GURPS IQ is kept static per era, the only thing affecting IQ per Era is TL disadvantage and advantage. If you look closely at the rules an option allowed for GMs but no strictly enforced because its a "fun-killer" is that Literacy and Innumerate may be a "required" disadvantage for characters at about TL4 and below.
My take on this is that it could be degrees. TL4 may have more people at broken level of literacy and innumeracy, improving up until we hit modern and mature public education at TL6. 
So are we more educated today than yesterday? Well the problem with asking that question, and others like it (many of the bold and valid questions you tend to ask when game systems tend to make you take a new look at life in general) is that you have to begin with the assumptions. 

If I would set assumptions: as the largest social class of a given era then at present the middle and working class in developed countries, the working class and the struggling poor everywhere else as compared to serfs, commoners, and plebians of earlier eras that, is a resounding YES. As to game systems reflecting this, unless you OCD and you're players/fellow players/ or GM are as OCD or fascinated with economics, statistics, etc. then it's up to your tastes and where you get the most utility to have those details in your games.

Now consider Tech and its influence in cramming as much High Value/Quality Learning Time over the eras. Consider how learned techniques can actually be measured in the increases in productivity, opportunity costs, and quality of life; then consider the technology we have in the horizon: Learning Coaches (as Automated Learning Systems like Khan Academy and others I don't know their name but I'm aware off) and Leaning Material Designers and Engineers. Now imagine a world where a bulk of the Teachers Prep Time has been automated and shared, while being modular and highly customizable. teachers in the middle don't disappear, they either move to wards management, higher valued work in learning designers, or more personal learning coaches (by more personal, smaller student to learning coach ratios). 

The technology exploits Specialization and Comparative Economic Advantage; it removes many Teachers Jobs but consider that it removes it by transforming these jobs to management, personal specialists, and engineers. (I really find removes jobs as bad way to describe it because the crowd has a high information barrier to understand the context and can it can be used to play to their fears: It is job transformation, which has more truth in it than the removes). 

What has this got to do with Gaming?
Well I work with my Radical Sci-Fi Eras, my open game system, and I'm linking the Past, Present and Future. I look at the past and look at the overall quality of life and why a subsistence level of technology means to an individual, and see how every step of the way technology frees more time up for other worthwhile opportunities. If you trace that line back into the earliest civilizations like Çatalhöyük to the present; the influence of technology (or what has accelerated technology: the influence of science) has done for us, our ancestors, and our descendants in their quality of life. 

Now the most interesting and game-design puzzle is the impact of education: How different are my Key Performance Indicators to that of a person of the Past, or that of the Future. This is where assumptions, making and stating these clearly, save a world builder a lot of time in fixing and re-aligning prediction with up and coming hard and soft theories and facts.

Is a person here more developed than Alexander the Great?
My answer is: Yes. Many people receive education and opportunities Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar, and all the great people of history would envy. Every War College in the modern world pulls out people who would out manuver and out think Alexander, Ceasar, Scipio etc.. because they have the  knowledge of everyone who had before them, and the science to be able to reduce risk and uncertainty, and the ability to know how to decide because of cognition sciences. Everyone now has in them, more points spent, than anyone else in the past of equivalent social standing or of similar majority.

Technology is also seen in the way we discern from facts from errors and bad data. We right now have technology that allow us to cut through Illusions/Deceptions and Ambiguity. We have science; unfortunately Information and Processes are huge chunks of data that can only be put through a very small hole of the human mind. It takes Data Size over Data Acquisition Rate = Time to absorb information and be able to verify it. We are much in the dark because as a bunch of Humans, there are enough of us who have to much at stake to let Information reach the Equilibrium of Objectivity.

Low tech is better?
One thing that I am hyper aware of is that old nagging about old ways are better. If we go back to the oldest days people are subsitance living, that means NO other free time. That means less free to save up for the future, and a whole world with people who only live by the huge cost of getting anything done. When looking at the future and the past, we may be self reliant in the past BUT we don't have the freedom to do what we want (especially when we consider realistically how much time anything takes in Low Tech). 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Got a little carried away; saving for an open system

I was supposed to make a follow up on my second to the last post. What i did was breaking down templates into 5pt and 10pt chunks that way its easy to make a character by stringing key concepts and words together. I was using generic and universal terms like chamberlain instead of the myriad of cultural terms so that it would be generic and universal... I realized I should save this for my Open game system instead and come up with the GURPS version after.

My writing is not really slowing down, its as prolific as ever unfortunately I have to be strategic with the use so that I can open up as many doors and opportunities as possible. One interesting realization about making an Open System is that it has to be able to allow people who work on it to get compensated, in some reliable way. The more reliable the method the farther the strategic goals can be set out.

Currently I've been making headway with logical order and using what I learned in a self study for an MBA that is very useful in optimizing how I run, develop, and elaborate games. Its nothing you won't learn trying to get an online or free certified MBA, but its not really being packaged in an easily attainable way. Basically one has to work hard to bring down the learning barriers by unifying the logical order of a system and approach towards setting. Its having a few simple rules that can compress in mnemonics all that data one learns and creates with GMing and World building.

So I'm saving up for my open system. The goal of an open system is that it hacks at the problems of a deeply fragmented and niche market like RPGs. One is that an open system has the tools to make worlds as detailed and mapped as the big players easier; make them cost as much as the $3-$25 books and supplements we find out there. Also allow us to make these $3-25 much more efficiently packing as much data per page by giving the basic tools of unraveling this data in an open and easily available system (yes the open system I mean is going to be free).

Its going to be free and people are free to make money out of it. You can't have a purely volunteer only project if you want it to grow fast enough that the market is what it appeared when you first realized what it was, there is some mixed strategies of pay for product that's going to get in there. Also the entry barriers has to be low so that more people can get into this at Part-Time capacity; the work they do for their own games can be easily packaged and sold for other gamers.

A GM spends an inordinate amount of time preparing compared to any other hobby, having all that effort have some monetary compensation can buffer some of the cost but ultimately, i think the satisfaction of a work worth selling and someone is willing to shell money for is what is going to add to utility of the time spent. there is only some much players can offer the GM, sometimes some GMs are taken for-granted, and such keen workmanship should have an easier way of finding its market.  

What I envision is people make tools that can make all the material the big players make but easier. Tools that make better tools that make much better tools. Down the line the technical work shrinks and the creative work gets more work time. So GMs have less technical problems has more time and quality of life to weaving better stories.

It's basically the cycle of open source; and open source does not mean it has to be free, it means Open Source: free to be modified and made to your own. Basically you get compensated for the service, not the "original" ownership of the work. People innovate and build over your work, if they didn't add much then critics and the market would reflect that when it begins to compare with your work. Open Source works best in any level of commitment, as a part-time contributor to a full time innovator.

GURPS: where is the conversation skill?

GURPS: where is the conversation skill?

I bought social engineering a couple of months ago, and I've read through it enough, so I thought. Strangely I just realized while i was making my templates that there is no real conversation skill or feat.

Conversation is a shared dynamic action of communication that can run very deeply. It can be about several things at the same time, while appearing as something else entirely. It can be a interrogation task, diplomacy task, psychology profiling task, etc... and um, i may be wrong, but i cant find it in social engineering.

I know savoir faire is used for getting along, and it can be the first skill employed when talking about the weather, nothing, and socialy expected compliments and actions, but there is nothing really weaving this all together.

I guess the GM is really going to have develop his own method of resolution regarding social interaction. Im fine with that, but id rather make a generic system/processes that can be used with any game system. Basically its applying game theory negotiation processes in conversation and social interaction with consideration of attention and multi-tasking limits.

So the closest thing to a stop-gap for conversation is a savoir-fair while performing one other skill like diplomacy, psychology, interrogation, intimidation etc... for a rolled duration, 2d mins, using savoir-faire as a skill cap with a -2 for multi tasking. Failure is aborting the multi-task making the conversation segway to one or the other skill... On a margin of failure greater than 2, its a failed influence roll with the consequence of the worse of the two skills.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, March 26, 2012

GURPS: Low-Tech Background Packages

These Background packages are  meant to give color to the character templates in pyramids adventurous occupations men-at-arms. This also allows the players and GMs to easily build non-warrior character.  Mental Road-map - the following are likely packages of a given background, these skills occur most often in the individuals who are fit these loose categories. No profile is perfect, consider that some individuals default from a related skill and build up from there, while others incompetent, lacking skills and forced to make best with defaults. 

Inspired by Mgelis background packages in JTAS March 20, 2012 background professions

some low-tech -assumptions: 
  • Innumerate (B140) basic mathematic skills are not developed 
  • Illitteracy (B24), cannot read and write in vernacular, note that the ability to write is assumed in my interpretation of comprehension levels (B24), but strictly in RAW that is not clear IMO. If you go by the description of writing in B228 people can write, but without the skill they write terribly at -5 default penalty when trying to be very clear and cram as much useful and consice information into a composition.  
 Note: using optional specialization rules B169 

Basic Education is 10cp, the rest is 5cp.

Basic Education and Literacy
Read/write: Vernacular (Native) [3];  Buy off Innumerate [5]; Literature (optional specialty: Native Lore and Stories) (A) IQ-1 [1]; Savoir-faire (High Society) (E) IQ [1]. 10 points

Multi-Cultural Education
Cultural Familiarity [1]; Speak language: 2nd language (accented) [2]; Read/Write: second language (accented) [2].

Classical Education
Speak Language: Ancient (broken) [1]; Read/Write: Ancient (broken) [1]; Philosophy (Classical) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Public speaking (A) IQ-1 [1]; Mathematics (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]. This is the typical kind of education provided by Roman and Greek tutors.

Religious Education
Speak Language: Ancient (broken) [1]; Read/write: Ancient (broken) [1]; Theology (Specify) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Literature (Religious) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Religious Ritual (A) IQ-1 [1]. This is the typical kind of education provided by Christian Clergy.

Religious with Classical Education
Philosophy (Classical) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Mathematics (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Theology (Specify) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Literature (classical or religious) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Public speaking (A) IQ-1 [1]. This is the typical kind of education provided by  Islamic and Christian tutors.

Reciprocity Education
Philosophy (Reciprocity) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Administration (A) IQ-1 [1]; Mathematics (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Psychology/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Research (A) IQ-1 [1]. This is the typical kind of education provided by Confucian scholars.

Legalistic Education
Law (H) IQ-2 [1], Administration (A) IQ-1 [1], Math (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1], Accounting  (H) IQ-2 [1], Savoir-faire (high society) (E) IQ [1]. This is the typical kind of education provided by Taoist scholar. 

Expert Skill: Political Intrigue (H) IQ [4]; Area Knowledge (Choose a Court) (E) IQ [1]. 

Body language (A) Per-1 [1]; Interrogation (A) IQ [2]; Law (H) IQ-2 [1]; Administration (A) IQ-1 [1].

Public speaking (A) IQ-1 [1]; Poetry (A) IQ-1 [1]; Writing (A) IQ-1 [1]; History (H) IQ-2 [1]; Current Affairs (E) IQ [1]. 

Research or writing (A) IQ-1 [1]; Philosophy (H) IQ [4].
Uses of philosophers in game. As the GM I would allow some cognitive therapy feats and access to some modern skills like economics, political science, and psychology. An example is mindful meditation is a bhuddist mental technique that improves concentration and multitasking in modern learning studies, very similar to the concentration enhancement of autohypnosis. What happens is these skills default to the Philosophy, Expert Skill, or History at -4.  
Research or writing (A) IQ-1 [1]; Expertise (choose one) (H) IQ [4].

History (H) IQ [4]; Public speaking (optional specialization: storytelling) (E) IQ [1]

Administration (A) IQ-1 [1]; Law (H) IQ-2 [1]; Accounting (H) IQ-2 [1]; Mathematics (applied) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Public Speaking (A) IQ-1 [1]. 

Law (H) IQ [4]; Current Affairs (Laws) (E) IQ [1].

Physician/TL2  (H) IQ-2 [1]; Diagnosis/TL2  (H) IQ-2 [1]; Pharmacy/TL2  (H) IQ-2 [1]; Surgery/TL2  (H) IQ-2 [1]; First aid/TL2 (E) IQ [1]. 

Master Builder
Mathematics (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Engineering (civil)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Architecture (A) IQ-1 [1]; Artist (sculpting) (H) IQ-2 [1]; Leadership (optional specialization: managing construction crew) (E) IQ [1]. 

Survival (Homelands) (A) Per-1 [1]; Navigation (land) (A) Per-1 [1]; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]; Hiking (A) HT-1 [1]; Observation (A) Per-1 [1].

Acting (A) IQ+1 [4], fast talk (A) IQ-1 [1]. 

Soldier (A) IQ-1 [1]; Hiking (A) HT [2]; Survival (A) Per [2].

Bow  (A) DX+1 [4] or Crossbow (E) DX+2 [4]; Fast draw ( arrow or quarell)  (E) DX [1].

Feint (H) primary weapon+4 [5].

Squad Leader
Leadership (optional specialty: only his squad) (E) IQ [1]; Tactics/TL2 (optional specialty: squad) (A) IQ [2]; Strategy/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Public speaking (optional specialty: squad)  (E) IQ-1 [1]. 

Combat Engineer
Mathematics (applied)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Engineering (combat)/TL2 (H) IQ-2 [1]; Armoury (artillery)/TL2 (A) IQ-1 [1]; Artillery (catapult)/TL2 (A) IQ-1 [1]; Traps (A) IQ-1 [1]. 

Elite Guard 
Observation or Search (A) Per-1 [1]; Body language (optional specialty: detecting threats of violence, cannot be used to detec lies or emotion) (E) Per+2 [4] or  Body Language (A) Per+1 [4]. 

Crewman: seamanship/TL2 (E) IQ [1]; swimming (E) HT [1]; shipboard-fighting perk [1]; rope use (A) IQ-1 [1]; climbing  (A) DX-1 [1]. 


  • GURPS: the Expertise and Philosophy skill and the Low Tech world 
  • Building Low Tech characters 5points at a time - an experiment of taking 5pt package farther. If instead of buying every skill, arrange 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Answers to some comments; Insight about Art services in the Phils.

HoldFast said...
Nice work! Do you think that putting these on a Creative Commons license might get your work noticed and thus create opportunities to use your drawing talent? I don't think that is your intention but just wondering.
Thanks. Actually I make way way more in IT than in art. For me to be up-to-speed would cost me a year of re-training and there is no money in art here in the Philippines (and the international demand is uncommon at best). Getting my work noticed is great.  I'd rather draw for my self, maybe manage artists (to optimize their earning) and help them sell their services as a hobby (if I make money or not, i'm fine either) than be an working artist here in the Philippines. Only the rock-stars make enough money to make ends meet, regular artists really starve.  

Artist Services in the Philippines
Artists don't get paid much in the Philippines and work is too irregular as a freelancer which causes pricing and quality of art services to be problematic. Many Bachelor of Arts graduates end up in call-centers doing voice services. 

Monthly a Toei trained artist in the Phils gets paid less than starting at $250/mo. working to $400/mo.. Key frame artists are the highest paid, I'm not aware how much they are paid but very few Filipinos get to that level, especially since it requires a lot of talent and training. Still majority work at about $1-2 per hour, which isn't bad by Philippine standards but has little monetary room and opportunity for further training and advancement. The attrition is pretty bad as well, most artists stay only for 2 years and they hit a pay and skill ceiling, there is very little room for advancement especially since the market is really small in the first place. Many switch to 3d after maxing out in the 2d art career track. 

3D artists are the few ones that get paid near equal and has a higher advancement potential, hitting as high as starting at $300 working to $600-700. Any artist in the Philippines that advances beyond those skill levels are the best of the best and are immediately recruited to work in Japan, HK, and Singapore.

Because artist work is so irregular, pricing per hour is typically x5 and the skill level is struggling. If you can fully utilize an artist, regular enough pay you can probably get one for $250/mo. on a trial basis on a contractor agreement producing working towards a pay per production of $500/mo. producing about 20-30 works a day depending on their portfolio (they usually give hours per work produce in their deviant art account); works best with some benchmarks to meet and an incentive of hitting. That would be monthly output of 160 hours a month, with 1.5 leaves per month. As an "exporter" the artist doesn't have to pay much in the way of taxes (infact they get a tax holiday).  

You can break it down to a formula, having elements and levels of complexity, and compositional complexity that way you can measure key performance indicators. Also ideally you have a lot of work lined up to fully utilize the time and allow the pay per production incentives to work. If you want to add a level of transparency, you can post the art or have it publicly rated (with IP tracking) and pay per performance after the ratings are taken. 

Although the odds of finding a work-at-home with good work ethic and won't screw you over is going to very slim, unless you have strong methods or ties in getting reliable service. Currently, work-at-homes are not very reliable, there is too many distractions especially since too many are not financially independent; if they had their own place in a decent neighborhood, less distractions than with relatives and many obligations. The few work-at-home people I know have very good work ethics, are the head of the family and owe very little/very scheduled in familial obligations. 

Basically the Profile of a successful work at home in the Philippines is someone who was middle class  in background and education, but has some disadvantage of being unable to join the regular workforce.  This is the story of the people I know who have a successful work at home career. Anyone of a lower income level will more likely have too many distractions at home, or live somewhere that does not have decent internet or security. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Early TL9 now; Multi-Tasking

A Personal Hack, If I could I would. I'm sure someone else figured it out by now, and is actually using it.

My prediction of TL9 computing is a lot of multi-tasking and automation to compensate for a lot of multi-tasking. What surprisingly supports my prediction is the variable priority multitasking work in Learning science.

What came to mind is the corded keyboard or a data glove that allows me to type into a portable computer like a rasberry pi, or a hacked smartphone. The data is displayed onto a wearable HUD (that video screen beneath the eye). On a data glove the language used would ideally be a modified form of sign language; in my opinion what ever yields the highest words per minute while switching between tasks. So If I could, have a glove that would allow me to write or surf while I'm doing a lot of things: jogging, walking in a crowded and noisy sidewalk while looking straight ahead, or while in traffic.  

Variable Priorty Multi-tasking allows me to juggle a lot of mundane tasks while working. Its not really super-science, the techniques emphasizes learning to manage and create a process by which you cycle between tasks at improving rates. Since your skill improves with these tasks, you become able to manage bite-sized amounts of the tasks as you cycle.

What I like about such a technology is that I can do a spreadsheet or layout while doing something of a very low processing, like walking in a safe and secure environment. I'm basically taking all my transit time, and converting some of it to work time.

The consequences of basically i would look strange gesturing with my left hand, while moving or waiting in traffic (it will become illegal I guess and not really safe).

The next hack is having the computer help me multi-task by allowing doing the navigation for me (gps and calendar alerting and giving directions), and warning or reminding me to concentrate. Like in economics, where the lower value jobs are being handed off to someone else to free up more productive units to do higher value work, resources of attention will be allocated in the same way. Simple computers who can manage our navigation, mobility, and personal safety and security free our more productive systems to get work done or get more fun things done.

These days, I use more of my phone recording feature to "write stuff" while on the road. Of course play back is a b*tch and I hate hearing my own clumsy voice (listening to skilled lecturers don't make their skill rub off, your standards for speakers improve, and brain-storming is very messy).

Now, if I can use this advantage to generate more free time by working out and bringing my sleeping hours to 4.5 (poor sleep quality because of the apnea because i'm at BMI 25, target BMI ~23), then I'll have more even more time to do productive stuff.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sharing my Art; Making it Creative Commons

I used to be an artist before I went into IT. I was a starving artist for about 2 years when I though enough was enough. Since I've stopped being one, I might as well share my work. It might find some new life in one of the many ebooks around. 

My Skoutotai
My Toxotai

My Spathatoi 
These were spearman, archer and swordsman... pretty self explanatory and generic.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Common Good Market Research for the Gaming Industry

James Desborough had a post about kickstarting a TTRPG Market research. I think its a great Idea, but its one that needs some more consensus and brainstorming if you want to get as many people on board. Ideally it would cover multiple countries, not just the USA and Canada. It would be nice to have the research go into EU, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, S.Korea, Brazil, Mexico, as well as China and India... I know i'm hitting unlikely territory with "wishing" for South East Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Hong Kong) even if I scale down my survey expectations.

It would be nice to look gaming demographics, just to know what is out there, and see where the hobby is trending. Such information would be helpful in making adjustments in how one spends resources for the future. I'm also open to the answer being pessimistic.

Knowing the total market for RPGs in the globe would be awesome. While I'm studying mandarin I was able to learn about the amount of people learning english in China is far greater than 200M. India speaks english and the BPO community requires a high cultural familiarity with Australia, UK, Canada and America. if you would take the people who can read and understand the RPG material, the inroads look quite promising.  of course someone was to be the one to break through to those untapped markets, for the others to get in, but the first one in is the standard by which all others are measured.

It gets me thinking ala-Traveller about market penetration: like what if X got big in Indoneasia with its 240M, how big can be the niche community be? especially with game materials prices going down with ebooks; or Y was in chinese and sold to Taiwan, Hongkong and Singapore, and became big there. Big enough to sustain a Friendly Local Gaming Store? or that game get popular enough it reaches the economic zones like Macau and Guangzhou, also in Shanghai and Beijing?  I bet there would be knock-offs but these all serve to develop the market in the long run.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Learning Theories and TTRPGs

I'm studying up on studying and here are learning techniques inherent in Table-Top Roleplaying. While i was going through this several big flash bulbs were lighting up over my head. I can completely relate because most of what I studied was learning through doing TTRPGs, and my preparation for the games as a GM. If you took the Time Use sheet in GURPS and applied it to your self, you'll know what I mean.

Learning through Elaboration - basically it works by giving more meaning and relevance to information, by finding a way to connect to it. Its just how we memorize gear tables, monsters manual, ability lists... its all relevant to our character so we instantly absorb it.     
Learning through Storytelling - the act of telling stories is an act of processing our own experiences. its recoding and organizing the experience with the most optimized structure, allowing us to best remember and incorporate the in our personal narrative. As we learn to tell stories we are aided by our teachers   instructional scaffolding. In a peer learning environment we get to look at various methods and if better use these as scaffolding to improve on our storytelling. 
It makes me realize that when something serious and life changing happens, we repeat our personal narrative and continue to work through it until it makes sense when we incorporate the serious event in to it. For good events, we passively make edits over time only allowing us to appreciate the matter later on, as for bad events we do the same (that is why its important to write and talk about it) and allow us to move on when the narrative starts to make sense. 
Learning through Visualization - Visualization can count as practice when practicing a task. studies point out they are very close to similar to practicing the task, that there is little to no difference from those who did do the physical practice. Note that Visualization doesn't take as much resources as Practice and allow us to go into circumstances we cannot normally go into. Visualization in TTRPGs are dangerous situations if it were real, I think some of the visualization can contribute to our growth. 
Learning through cooperation and sharing of information - a TTRPG is a social environment with people, sometimes, freely sharing their information and alternative strategies. We tell each other stories and others turn those stories around or recode them even better. 
Elaborative Storytelling vs efficient story telling. Efficient Story telling is getting the facts right and summarizing it to a timely fashion as necessitated by the circumstance, Elaborative storytelling is finding out all the little details that make the experience human and real. Elaborative storytelling is a skill we teach to children when ask them how their day was, some cultures prefer efficient. The advantage of elaborative storytelling is that it uses elaboration and storytelling learning in synergistic effect. Children who learn this method come out with much longer and detailed stories, being able to notice more of the details and absorb it. As an adult, it helps us think more about our lives and we have permission in the TTRPG setting. 
Discovery based Learning, Guided Discovery-based learning. Pure discovery based learning is worse than traditional learning, it makes sense to me because there is no structure and processes that would evolve and speed up learning. also there it is up to the student to find his motivation, which requires emotional maturity. The middleway between Traditional and Discovery based is Guided Discover-based learning which gives structure and "scaffolding". Also the Guide can help develop motivation and relevance to the reasons for discovery. 
As a TTRPG gamer, when I hear Discovery Based learning, I think of sandbox/organic settings. In the sandbox settings it is up to the players to figure out structure and motivation. That is why the GM has to give clues and low hanging fruit. He has to have a guide to give structure and proper motivation.  
Problem based learning, Guided Problem-based learning. In real work I get a lot of exposure to this, and the formula is the same with me or the people I work with. We can only go so far on our own until frustration catches up and the diminishing returns make other tasks more relevant and do-able, leaving the problem unresolved or failed. Pure Problem based learning is BAD, that's why you always need some guide or someone of higher skill. I'm not sure about the differences between pure problem-based vs traditional. So I'll skip to the Guided problem based learning: Case Studies. In my more early posts I've drawn heavily from the formula of Case Studies for running games, now (confirmation bias possible) I'm surprised my reasons and hypothesis was already a theory before I knew it to be.  
In my second to the last post (at the end) I pointed out that I think it is a more effective use of time to give problems where characters face a moral, ethical, economic, tactical, political, social etc.. dilemma than a large series of word, symbol, and mechanical puzzles. GMs don't have to serve as "master" but can be part of the audience looking at how everyone rationalizes and use all the other techniques to solve these problems. 

Bottom Line - TTRPGs is a Min-Maxer's learning tool. Its synergies with so many techniques, ever hour spent has a high return-on-investment in both satisfaction, personal and professional growth. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Elaborative learning at work... i mean games.

Ive mentioned before that found a very modular and culturally flexible system of determining how fictional organizations and communities exist, and its called accounting 101.

Anyway, i've had a break through in terms of a logical order and process that allows a gamer who doesnt know accounting to have fun and building out villages, towns, cities and regions. I'm excited and hope to consolidate my notes in the next couple of months. A lot of tools to bring down the barriers of time and cost.

Hope to submit it in E23. Hope they accept it.

I wonder if you can sell a libre office spreadsheet or that can generate such for various archaic and low tech cultures and settings?

Ill test it out by asking players to populate 10,000 sqkm. I guess i have to give the players a working budget, and way for me to consolidate their input.

Naming Projects; Default and Generic Settings

So I'm naming my projects.

The Millennium of the fall - this is a Radical Hard Sci-Fi setting of human civilization having a socio-economic collapse and the resulting social changes that occur with the retarding of trade and increasing desperation and despair. It color is heavily inspired by my Crusades and Byzantine studies and influences. My purpose and story telling focuses on how the Macro affects individuals, how deviations from the general perception of how human civilization can be summarized in a macro perspective can have a stark difference to what happens in the individual and personal level. 

Another side aspect of this settings is that it has "dungeons" in space, because all colonies are situated in worlds where humans go deep underground to protect themselves from orbital bombardment (and the assumption weapons that can destroy planets are very rare). So its an opportunity to build vast networks underground cities inspired by the underground cities of capadocia and all those artists and visual works that try to conceptualize such. 

This uses the Real Near-Star Stellar Map, but with made up worlds and "content" in those stars (since we can't detect all the exo-elements in them yet.

Although there are many similarities to the other "dark" fallen universes out there. I tend to focus on the social aspects I am very much advocating in the real world. Particularly aspects of Poverty, Education, Common Good, and aspects of Game Theory that highlight how those balance between common good and power structures can be in direct conflict. I guess its a way to use learning through elaboration my understanding of economics, game-theory, and cognition (well I can say that about all my games). 

I also have a heavily modified "In My Traveller Universe" setting which will use the Real Near-Star Stellar Maps and the fluff transplanted. Its still traveller, but ISW 2170CE setting. 

Sins of the Crusade - this is my Crusades setting and default Ancient-Era game. I mean serious nothing Black-White about the moral and ethical aspects of the Crusades. Its not trying to be preachy about the Crusades, its just that sh*t happens and people do sh*t for all sorts of sh*tty reasons. Heavily inspired by Game of thrones [hipster]before it became mainstream [/hipster]and again my byzantine and crusades studies.

The setting is basically set on the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople 1453, but instead of a fallen Roman Empire you have a revitalized Empire but with Frankish and Norman infused nobility. What happened is that Bohemmon fell in lust/love with Anna Kommena and she was able to overthrow her brother successfully with her Norman lover and proceeded to make the most epic diabolical couple and dynasty. Their reign and their dynasty combined Byzantine Politics with Norman ruthlessness (Bohemmond having access and improving on the Strategikon, with Anna writing her version of the Prince hundreds of years earlier). It lasted for a while, till about when they were overthrown by the dynasty created by Baldwin, through the alliance with the Dynasties ADin and Osman. 

The world changed a lot since, the new Komenos Dynasty negotiated with the Mongols and they moved on to destroy much of western Europe remapping it into hundreds of petty kingdoms ruled by a Mongol Warrior class. They upgraded to western weapons and horses, as well as improved on the shock tactics. The only "western" refuge left was the Britain, Scandinavia territories, and Roman Empire (some of eastern Europe, asia minor, and levant) and many western nobles infused these territories and improving on the poor demographics of the area. 

Rome came back to its own because of these pressures, and it really helped that there was a infusion of educated and trained manpower to increase the talent pool. The roman bureaucracy came back thanks to Anna's efforts and Behommon's military success. 

The setting was also designed in mind so that I can recreate some mass combat scenarios using 11Century tech. The world suffered a huge economic collapse and there was some technological loss in the mongol invasion. Much of the equipment is mostly 11C going obsolete and with 12C tech coming into greater use. I'm trying to avoid gunpowder, to play the knights and vassals game for a longer while.   

Mahadlika: The People under Heaven. This is my Philippine Historical setting; its my default 19C setting. I still have a blog about it. It has moved from fantasy to pseudo-historical re-imagining aka alternate timeline. Inspired by the sordid historical details and study I've had regarding philippine history. Not a single proud moment that ends with tragedy, and the "bad guys" always winning because the good guys are ignorant/naive, petty, and incompetent.

As an alternate and open historical setting, it sets the stage for people to try to make characters that fit the setting but will try to change the course of history. As a GM i emphasized in historical accuracy and severe realistic limitations, particularly regarding competence and access to education and opportunities.  Basically the setting address why the good guys were ignorant/naive, petty and incompetent: starved of education and literally starved and mostly beaten by adding an immunizing tragedy: a Disaster and domino effect caused by the existing power structure to shift. 

Disasters has a great way of fixing social order, because it gives more power to the smallest unit. Also lack of resources forces Trade to occur. These early precedents, and the memory of that disaster set into motion the social and demographic change that gives the Philippines a "fighting" chance. Of course disasters also create greater extremes and creates more predatory phenotype because of the circumstance. 

Casualties of Change is my "Generic" Modern Setting, its focus on: the "3rd world countries" and how their landscape and society changes so fast. The Emerging World perspectives is a clash with the old and the new, you have archaic and almost unchecked set of assumptions of right and wrong, a lot of diffusion of misinformation, and radicalism through poverty and marginalization. Economic Prosperity or Change introduces social change and power shifting, you have the formula for radicals, clamping down of liberties and dissenting opinion, and one side turning the tide for better or for worse. 

This is I guess the focus of a modern struggle. Here in the Philippines, I'm worried about loss of separation of church and state, lack of education, informed consent, reproductive health, the possibility of losing my unenforceable rights and liberties, and demographic shift towards greater poverty and inequality because of incompetent/conflicted existing power structure (even if you have a positive growth rate, the number of people discontent regardless of their relative amount to the non-discontent will have an affect by their sheer volume). It is considering how some people prepare for the Apocalypse, but the "end of days" is something like the Arab Spring, full censorship, economic, and information lockdown, and the capitulation of civil rights and liberties; or some combination of the two.  

In this generic modern setting game, it is about worse case scenarios. Typically it is about surviving violence and extreme and adverse conditions. My last modern game was surviving a hostage taking, as a coup was about to begin. Mostly everyone had fun, and what I got out of it was a formula for running and prepping for such games. Looking at the formula, I realized a lot of ways to improve on it and shift the games into that non-puzzle problem solving focus but tactical, diplomatic, psychological,  logistical, and economic problems.

Thanks for Reading. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Planning is Hard; Multi-Tasking is the way to go; Prospective PGA

Planning is Hard in the sense its takes a lot of time but all you have is a list of things to do and if your lucky maybe a basic mind-map to show for. I've just finished planning and organizing for some personal projects and it ate up 9:30am to 2:30pm spend most of my time planning and organizing my old notes. If you want to have it all, you gotta have a plan and you have to have really achievable goals, even if its underwhelming by personal standards. 

Anyway, in my min-maxing plans I realized that there is really a hard limit to how much productivity and originality you can squeeze out in a day. It helps when I have a day job, because finding small wins at work also contributes to over-all morale (and I'm speaking like work is not my 1st priority; human after all). Because I've hit the diminishing returns of my productivity, the only source of "time" and "energy" I can find is by making a lot of my note-taking and planning mobile. That means using my phones' built in recorder and do a lot of things using route memory. Traffic in Metro Manila is about 1 hour one way, to most of my destinations. 

I'm one of those guys who has to talk about an idea to really be able to scrutinize and visualize it. Its really weird, I only get more ideas if i have someone to bounce more ideas to even if monopolize the entire conversation (which is kind of being a jerk). Maybe its another psychological artifact of growing up gamer. I'm not the type to abuse friendships in that way, so I'd rather pay someone to listen to my ideas and not sacrifice any social capital having someone bear my pedantry. 

So the best kind of planning I can do is while on the phone, speaking to someone who is taking notes and organizing my thoughts into a chart or list of some kind. The Visualization of Ideas in that basic graphic form always helps me think, even if its so hard to prove how useful it is. The plan is that as I continue to work out the details, I can then create a structure to follow. The structure helps me find when I can proceed and know when its most economical for me to stop and proceed to the next phase. All the writing  I will be needing does follow a kind of structural formula, answering a list of questions and details needed by the reader.  

So I have a prospective Personal Gaming Assistant now. Before I start making a serious financial commitment I'll be spending the month organizing my notes and seriously looking at the projects I've lined up. Using what I learned in work to make conservative predictions at the cost-benefit of such an attempt. Hope it works out, anyway, worse-case scenario I'll post my post-mortem so that other GMs can build over what I learned (i hope they share what they learned). 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reply to Comments: Future Tech, Education and Economics

Thanks John,
Monopolies and Business Interests run contrary to consumer interests (one wants to minimize competition, the other wants as much competitions and options as possible). These are definite assumptions in my POV when I wrote this.

Hi Yong,
Well before we go to god-like AIs first we must consider how an increasingly intelligent and complex computing power would be used and how economics and human interactions are at several magnitudes greater than the complexity of the human brain (since these are an overlayer above individual predictability), and a number of enhanced rational players.

The way power is gripped so tightly, would it ever happen that power would be given to a 3rd party? I could understand power being handed to the 2nd party, those who thought of the better way but to gain such power and hand it over to a 3rd party without strings, seems more unlikely.

Also consider before we make an AI smarter than a human, consider that as the technology moves toward such there are many who will try to infuse such intelligence into themselves. technological revolution does not happen in Gov't labs, there would be many rogue and outlying experimenters who would be trying to control that power.

As individual needs and capabilities get more sophisticated  the Economy and the Politics even get more sophisticated as the "rules of the game" evolve along with the players. If Moore's law continues, and we can have a Datacenter in our pocket, consider the power an individual has at his/her fingertips.

What stops humans who have made a smart machine, from using the machine to make them smarter. Why free the genie from the lamp, when you can wish for the abilities (and none of the weaknesses) of that genie?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What my writing about Future Tech and Economic Patterns for my upcomming game has made me realize

What will happen if we take advantage of automated educational tools, learning coaches and peer studying? There is this really annoying assumption that automation remove jobs and jobs are a Zero-Sum game, which is not true if you took economics (and the long winded proof is in the economic course). If it was a zero-sum game then why haven't we run out of jobs at 7 Billion? 

  • Educational automation works best with technical professions, so if the automation is very well implemented then you can train more with relatively low resource input.
  • Assumption: technical professions can self-improve 

If the cost of studying is cheaper, relative to cost-of-living, this affects barriers of learning. It's now easier to supply a particular skill-set, you can make more technicians (medical, computer, engineering, research, etc.). 
Who wouldn't want a lot of [Insert technican here] to bring down the cost of medical/computer/engineering... etc. services?   
Still competition and market forces make life difficult. Any time there is too many of a particular professional/technician, the finite world can only support so much of a particular technician, the rest become redundant. But if the cost of training is cheaper, then there is still a lot of hope for the unfortunate ones. 

People will always continue to improve and develop more sophisticated products to stay relevant and employed. Things get sophisticated because as we refine a technique/technology until these are simple, then we build over that technology to meet a greater level of productivity until we reach a point of diminishing returns to the complexity and the cost of building.  

As there is a larger pool of technicians, more strategies of pursued. More strategies pursued means more technology being applied and developed, and eventually market forces whittle down the competition to the most effective/productive. The cycle begins a new after the maturation of one technology and the beginning of something new, then we build over what we have improved and simplified. 

We will never run out of things to do, and jobs to fill. As productivity improves, things get to be more cost efficient. Opportunity costs change because there are a near infinite no. of needs and wants to satisfy and we have the finite limitation of being people (no matter how evolved, augmented and enhanced we are). The more productive we are, the more opportunities we can afford. Extra Productivity can allow people to afford greater amounts of Environmentalism (reducing/negating negative externalities), Advocate their Social Responsibility, and greater choice over their Lifestyles. 


No one loses when education and training gets cheaper. When you bring down the cost of gaining skills, you bring down the cost of surviving in this ever changing job landscape of a global and continually evolving world. When there is investment in the common good of education, particularly improvements that allows automation to stretch every cent to improve the lives of so many people, is a win-win situation.

Free education is great, when it is a society that has matured with liberties. Cultures matured with Liberties have less of a "free-rider" problem. Many developing countries and some cultures very bad free-rider problems. Especially when the culture has a long long history of great social injustice and the lack of liberties. When people have been treated inhumanely, human decency is a luxury.


Renewed my JTAS Subscription for Php854 for another 2 years and got myself GURPS Classic: Orc Slayer for what would be the cost of a meal Php128.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

[GURPS Spaceships and Spreadsheets] Game Preparation

The game is set in the default Inter-stellar Wars period of 2170. Unlike Classic Traveller this will be Radical Hard Sci-Fi (UT9) some trans-humanism elements here because of how technology might turn out. This is based on what I know currently, and is of course subject to change as we learn and discover more things about everything (like all science).

For reference, 2170 is early TL10, basically TL10.3.  

Setting and GM particulars
  • Game Prep-sheet. Measure how much one needs to read up on setting 2170 (March 5-9)
  • Computer skills write up (done)
  • Professional job description (visualizing the job) (March 5-9)
  • Character Generation Process (March 12-16)
    • Degree of control: Random vs Character point, pros and cons.
    • Background
      • social status
      • ethnicity
      • opportunities
      • education and training
    • Professions 
      • Fields and Specialization, array of job descriptions.
  • Character Creation spreadsheet 
  • Character templates and load outs 
  • the Merchant Enterprise
    • What is the common practice/dominant strategy? (April)
    • Setting Primer (April)
    • Sample template of Income statement (April)
    • Sample template of balance sheet (April)

Economic Face of TL10, Interstellar "Humans"
Increased Productivity means the ability to sustain one's self in what appears to be a very barren worlds. The greater the in-habitability of a planet or location, the more resources it takes to make it habitable. That is something to do for the most productive humans have ever been in history. As to why people would use up enormous amount of productivity, values very great by our standards, it is because there are still too many things in the universe we need to observe, and as humanity gains greater independent thought we have the freedom to go where we please and grow where we please.

Inspiration from The World Without Us by Alan Weisman Earth is not a great place to live in by 2170. The time it takes to put TL10 technology to good use in fixing up the environment, preserving it and improving quality of life has been put aside for the Interstellar War. So for the peoples whose needs were set aside on Earth, its easy to start over in someplace new, and TL10 technology is going to let them live somewhere where they can choose the way they are going to live.

Economic Assumptions: What is sustainability
Utilities (power, water, recycling, terraforming, and telecoms), food production, and infrastructure development (development of common good infra: roads, bridges, passageways, common areas, parks, ponds, water reservoir, bunkers etc...) are the essentials to sustainable continued existance. Everything beyond that is Commodities, Commercial Manufacturing, Technology, Defense/Military etc. industries that may be neccessities to some but not to all. All, being from the most remote and isolated colonies or outposts to the centers of human civilization. 
I don't really have the data with me, but I can make an arbitrary call that sustainable TL8 would be at around 90% the Gross Domestic Product (that is why its hard to go all green today, the opportunity cost is too high). I mean that if humans would actually take care of every little negative externality they produced and tried to negate it then only 10% of the GDP would be free to pursue other economic opportunities (which include R&D). This is a game assumption, and no way reflects the real world, just a call to get things moving along. 
In TL 9, automation has brought Sustainable Survival down to 80% and moving towards 60% at TL10 (median is 70% in at TL9.5). In space or hostile worlds, barren worlds, and goldilox worlds the cost to population is 98%, 90% and 85%. In TL10 its about 95%, 85% and 70% to less 10-15% in mid TL10, to 20% in mature TL10. By TL11, many negative externalities are left to "pollute space" since it does not affect humans and their scale of time and reality adversely.    

Population Growth
One thing that has returned since the Low-Tech eras: Population is now a factor for economic power and people can sustain much larger families at the cost of what was sustainable in previous TLs. The economy has changed rapidly, people can live fairly comfortably relative to their lower economic equivalents of past Tech Levels. 
There is sufficient productivity to spend enough for the common good of all, without severe loss to one's on personal welfare. The educational systems with automation, learning coaches, and open tools has made it easier to create more competitive and capable individuals with less resources. 
Individuals now have more time for family, when TL8 families had difficulty finding time and ways to maximize quality time per member, things have changed and families can now easily grow to two breadwinners and four dependents (and any combination in between), instead of two breadwinners and two dependents. There are societies and gov't with policies with growth in mind, taking advantage of the technology, raising the family size potential to as high as 6 dependent! This has improved the average working age and allowed the retired to have a healthier social-security benefits. 

Terra's workforce continues to grow at almost 2% per year, at 12 Billion, that's about 24 million added to the population per year that has late TL9 to early TL10 quality of education, tools and training. 
Colonies are about 10x their size and about the same order of magnitude in economic capacity, and then some as in the ISW book references. They are growing at the same rate as Terra, but they are on the receiving end of migratory population. Half the population is going to interstellar Infrastructure, while the other half goes to the colonies.
Vilani vs Terra in Population: Vilani's communities were meant to add to their tax base, Terra's colonies were trying to increase their liberties as they carved out more and more niches for themselves. Growth of Vilani communities factored maximized stability, so they continue to be part of the vast empire. Terra's colonies are maximized growth, which made them highly autonomous and created their own unique culture. Terra is pro individuality, Vilani is pro community. 

Education in the 2170
I have to set benchmarks in TL7-10 education and make the comparative difference between quality from poor to wealthy. Every $ has an effect in the performance, noting diminishing returns. Also note the sad truth those-who-can can buy the best education, which is equal to CP which can also affect wealth again. A perpetual cycle is in place until it reaches diminishing returns again and what the TL can offer in terms of enhancement. The ability buy training, tools, exclusivity, and time, if opportunities permit is a aspect of this Game Setting. A wealthy character has very big edge, but min-maxing these all is part of the game (there is a theme of self-data-mining and improvement in the incoming TL when looking at the workforce, the lengths people go to prevent themselves from being obsolete). 

TL improvement creates better mnemonic devices that "hack" the other parts of the brain. These "hacks" improve brain plasticity greatly, allowing the brain to temporary seize the specialized processing abilities of various parts of the brain. In TL8 many of the brain hacks are very hard to come by, nor real discipline yet. The Graphic User Interface is a Brain Hack allowing people to Visualize what is happening in the computer in a medium people can intuitively grasp, a TL8 innovation in computing. 

In TL9 the discipline of "Brain Hacking" is first formalized and a greater understanding of mulit-int theory has mapped hacks for 30% of the modes of cognitive operation. Enough is mapped that cyber neural interfaces allow for effective prosthesis. At the beginning of TL10, it has risen to +60%, enough so that brain machine interface has become very cost effective and powerful enough to beat wearable computing. Also this allowed the interface to allow Multi-Int to be augmented with specialized computers. Note that not all neural-cyberware are meant to just augment the brain directly through sharing the processing load, some are designed to exercise it like a machine and allow it/or force it to create new interconnections. Some whave been experimented with bio-tech to grow (make denser) other brain centers to increase computational power.       

The 2170 Workforce.
Everyone's a Technician, because every human has to be a skilled laborer.  Everyone not only masters a given technology and its hightech tools, but they continue to customize, optimize and innovate. 

The templates will follow the GURPS 3 core skills pattern: design, repair and use. The difference is that there will be some refinements to the relationship. This is because, everyone can do everything given the time and opportunity; what makes people unique is their dominant strategy based in their unique circumstances and what the market demands. 
They design (including customize and enhance), repair, and use... and innovate. Working from a broad view and moving towards the details, what differs with technicians are their fields, and which societies/markets value them more. In TL9 robotics revolutionize all jobs, the amount of automation is far beyond the expectations of previous eras and the job market assumes robot augmented services often, as often as computers figure in jobs in TL8. Robots are so ubiquitous, its taken forgranted by TL10 and only a rare few jobs untouched  by robots remain.

Humans were not idle even before automation found its way in many aspects of human lives, before AI matured and robots were practical many of the performance augmentations have been incorporated into the professional lifestyle. Jobs have always been a priority, and despite several market misalignments humans still kept most of the productivity edge. Abundance of productivity allowed many earth changing projects thought impossible, now possible.

One's Field is what separate technicians from each other, but even in a field there are those who design, repair-customize and operate-use. Everyone has a different and unique balance to where they have the best dominant strategy, and what unique experiences that influence their strengths.  

Examples of Fields are: robotics, cybernetics, bio-tech, jump-drive, reactionless-drives, medicine, Gravitics, fields, energy, computing and AI, cognition and psychology, economics and psycho-history. Templates are made up of the Design, Repair-Customize, and Operate-Use skills, and have unique combinations of specialties

Underground Cities
A difference from the regular traveller is that architecture is on the surface, but for terraformers its much easier to build underground, seal it and defend it. this is a processes that works for terra, since they rapidly expand and they need to do so without having to wait for terraforming to kick in.  

An assumption is that it takes about 80-70% (TL10.3) of the population to sustain itself in barren planet, if you want to grow you need to allocate more in the carrying capacity and support, as well as open new trade routes to allow for the carrying capacity.  

Underground Cities are huge, with hundreds of cubic meters of space for an individual (instead of the ship standard of 20-30cu.m. Such cities are so huge that they have their own weather and atmosphere. These cities are also kilometers deep, the have sheltered ports and branching hubs and nodes much higher up than themselves. Deep enough to sustain bombardment for weeks, while having a series of tunnels and systems to defend itself. 

Part of a worlds' infrastructure project is to increase its fortifications. this is done by diffusing the density of the city, by creating multiple redundancies. Also choosing the hardest part of the planet to bombard, with regards to other consideratins (proximity strategic resources, ideal port area, etc...)  

Soldiering in TL10.3
Around this era, robots can be very lethal. In economies of scale, robots are cheaper, easier to produce, and reliable enough by TL9.7. The problem is that around TL10 swarms can not only neutralize many robots, but wireless communication can be disrupted easily. Human soldiers, with shielding (against swarm, emp, and jamming) are still the best with their low-tech alternatives, like talking and team work.  

Swarms are easy to counter since their inherent wireless communication device has to be very primitive, it can be defeated by many EMP and jamming devices. As simpler processors, with very light shielding, can be countered by smart disruption field.

TL9 had a huge host of drone technologies that came into play, but there also grew an effective way to counter wire-less communication. It came in the form of anti-wireless missles and smart guns, as well as better emp and jamming technologies. Drones grew in prominence in TL8.4, and ubiquitous in TL9.1, but declined towards TL9.7. 

With cybernetics, soldiers just kept getting better and better, or course diminishing returns in terms of cost created practical limitations. Soldiers, despite ups and downs in the advance of tech, are still highly skilled technicians who specialize in military equipment and are the few who are in the best, and sometimes augmented, physical form.   

Still most armies still follow the two soldier typologies: the Army and Marines. Army being more flexible with its soldiers skillsets, while marines specialize in combat, tactics, and penetration.