Friday, November 29, 2013

Fall of Constantinople Game I once Ran

This was before GURPS Mass Combat 4E and City Stats. One day I hope to write up a meticulously prepare campaign for this that can be used in a variety of game systems. One of the lessons I recently learned is that Sandbox is the way to go for some GMs. Once you have a good sandbox ready, preparing adventures is such a breeze. My idea of adventure modules have evolved to "Prepared Campaigns", those that have all the GM's work done for him. 

For a Game of the Scope of the First Crusade or the Reconquest, the preparation is laborious but worthwhile. What happens is that you research real-world locations and with Google Maps and the campaign material the players and GM are provided give the players POWER to shift the course of history and events. 

One of the Lessons I learned running the Fall of Constantinople was making historical figures come to life, even at the expense of some Historical Accuracy, was incredibly fun but too much work for one GM. After all the work was done, I realized that if it was prepared just the right way it had a lot of Replay Value OR it can be played as a "Plug-and-Play" with people who are familiar with GURPS mass combat, just going straight into the mass combat. 

The ability to just cast off some of the elements and run it purely as a wargame gives it a lot of replay appeal. There is also another way to go about this, and that is a Social Engineering Campaign and create a situation that will create many re-playable and different situations Social Battle Fields. 

One Job of anyone who will prepare such is to do all the crunching so that the GM only needs to cut-paste data and possibly fiddle with some of the numbers. Ideally everything is playable out of the Box, with a Flow Chart and Video of how to play accessible for immediate consumption. 

I also wish that if I make one, there is allowance for Mass Combat Cards and City Stats Cards for Holdings and Fiefs (either for Electronic or Face to Face play) so that the GM probably can just order a Print-on-demand of the cards and just give them to the players. 

Anyway, looking at how much work I did for preparing and the recent funds I have at my disposal, i've begun reconnecting with artists friends and editor/proofreaders for some services of such. Historical Plug-and-Play campaigns would be so awesome, particularly one that can satisfy myself in preparation comfort level. 

In the end, one needs to over-prepare a little bit to give people that confidence to run the game and the security that somewhere there is an answer to all those worries.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

GURPS Magic Notes 04: Enchantment

Ok I'm still studying the spells in GURPS magic, and I find myself comparing it to DnD 3.5 spells. Best way to begin Studying GURPS Magic is through the Magic Cart

More about Enchantment

Enchantment in B480 or Magic17 (GURPS magic the splat book) is divided into "Slow and Sure" and "Quick and Dirty". My work experience tells me Slow and Sure will lead to more failures than Quick and Dirty, and as the GM I would disallow Slow and Sure. This is because schedules, getting sick, and interrupted happen very often unless some Patron is there to throw money to make interruptions and distractions go away.

Quick and Dirty is more logistically plausible, of course there should a good way to track it: Enter your Roll20 account or PBem games. First calcuate your how may "Enchanting" cycles a character can make in the time they have in the day. The GM can impose some Time Tax of their waking hours related to house keeping and administration to be fairly realistic how many hours in the day the character has really free. An organized character will definitely have more time to spend in such a situation.

Since Roll20 can document the rolls you just need to make a simple /r 3d6 macro, although PBEM games is better when you consider you may be rolling for Items that are in the thousands in FP. Check out the example in M17 of Hawthorne and Tubbs. Basically type the FP invested and click the 3d6 macro every attempt and stop when you fail. This will make things go pretty fast and documented. To simplify things, every critical failure should be random amount of additional side effects to speed things up.

You can also have the Random Effects Table in B479 the Roll20 tables, it would take about (20-30 minutes to prepare such because of all the typing) so that you can quickly roll for the "perversions".

Low Magic Settings

Since Enchanters in my game have a problem with Low Mana and we use Ritual magic, I've just made it simple in a way that a if the spell requires another spell from another school apart from its core school (see prerequisites) the default penalty -1 unless the character has skill in that College. My reasoning behind this is that if you saw the SPELL CHARTS then you would have a hard time calculating pre-requisites so KISS (keep it simple silly) should apply here. So basically the Enchantment with 10 skills from schools required has -12 total prerequisites OUCH!

So in my game where Magery is up to 15 levels (its not that high or useful unlike other skills; which makes them more fitting as techniques if you ask me), a character with IQ12, Magery 15 and 4cp in Thaumaturgy (IQ-1) and 4cp in Enchantment (Thaumaturgy -1) 25 skill but at -12 enchantment default its skill level 13 lolz. Good thing in Ritual Magic a spell is a technique and spending 8cp to buy off that will help a lot bringing the skill to 20.

Recover Energy

This being so important to mages but near useless in a Low Magic setting if you read the fine print found in the spell description. Of course since I allowed players to package all their magic under one advantage and have the same limitation this can be offset. So all the mages that are found in the setting, out of neccessity have to be Mana Enhances (check basic for description). The mage then can afford to invest in healing of 4cp (-1) and buying off the technique bring it to skill-20 for recover energy
otherwise fitness and "breath control" will allow a character to recover 1FP a minute (almost as fast as Recover energy but requires more rolls).

Power Balance in my GURPS Modern game 

After making some mage characters in my current character creation parameters I've noticed a mage is as powerful as a technological character, of the same point value. One interesting draw back is the lack of Magical Economic Support Infrastructure and how another 150cp military/espionage/technology character can be more lethal.

Lack of Magical infra means mages have to make everything themselves and mostly self sufficient, and because of this I've made magic items x3 to x10 more expensive and existing in the setting with the Sourcing Roll and need for the right Contacts (ideally Contact Group Skill-18 to be reliable at 15cp; roll freq-9 every day to access them). This is no economic specialization in the way that we have in modern technological world, and very small scale production. This is natural because if you look at the Enchantment system and the Education system, there is no economics of scale to bring down the cost.

That said, and looking at the spells and the spell levels, a character can have a Spell level of 17 (about investing ~90cp) to 30 (investing ~140cp) thanks to Magery 15 (35cp) and Mana Enhancer 2 (20cp;  -80% limitations), depending on the circumstance and limitations (and limit-breakers), and IQ11-12 it saves him about 2-4FP per spell (nothing a $2-10 specialized 12g shotgun shell can mimic lolz).

Even if the mage manages to scrape time to make his or her enchantments, since enchantments require a Straight interrupted process a character cannot hope to achieve certain power point levels. The GM can cap it to a month or a 3 month project, it the player can explain how the player was able to do this without distractions. Given all these limitations, even if the mage manages to make a lot of useful little trinkets they all have an ambient energy requirement, and even with Mana-Enhancer, the player can only have so many magic items that are self powered.

Then there is the Inquisitions, Zaibatsu/Giga to Mega Corporations, Triads/Cartels/Mafia, Gov'ts etc who can easily exploit human weaknesses and logistical limitations to trap a mage for their own uses. These Client Mages do not have much time to research or enchant spells because of the amount of freedom they need to do so and how much more useful they being used vs the risks of building an asset. Free-Mages versus Sponsored-Mages will be an interesting element in the game.

Lastly, spells are not that great compared to technology.  2-4d Fireballs are great an all, but an explosive 12g shell does as much damage and has much better range at about $20 a pop. Protection College has its limits (return missile being the primary defense, then realizing it doesnt really help against covered and armored targets).

I'm talking about relatively mages vs the world as it is now and with the advantages I've allowed. A GM can even be more harsh and add more penalties to magic but I feel that if I were a player if the ability to use magic is too complex and too difficult it may not be worth the effort to play. In the end of the day, I will allow players to power-trip with fairly powerful mages as long as they do the homework and study up their spells instead of relying on me.

Some Fairly useful Combos

  • Stone Missile (in Ritual Magic: Earth College -3) enchanted onto a firearm. If the skill is sufficiently high enough, it powers itself even in a low Mana environment (so at least skill-20! to counter the effects of Low Mana zone). Such an item would be fairly low powered, and useful in emergencies despite being weaker than a bullet. 
  • Drop Pouch that repairs ammo (M118) using spent shell casings and nearby materials or converts ammo of similar materials into the desired ammo (as long as the spent shell casings are there). Basically a mage Mcguyvers parts into the ammo he needs. Skill level-25 in a low magic setting to convert 5lbs of material into ammo.  Note there is no magical "Item" version of this, basically ask your GM.  I like drop pouches and would wear them to work if it would not be so strange lolz
  • Use Shotguns shells as a delivery method for silver, salt, holy whatever, cold iron etc... Much easier to prepare than rounds that need to be molded.
  • Low Encumbrance. Mages have the advantage that the technological equivalent of their powers have bulk and mass, although these are all getting smaller as technology improves. Mages with good athletics have synergy with a strategy that relies on few "toys" or trinkets. A mage with Parakour and Illusion magic would be very hard to capture in a 3rd world overcrowded and infra-poor city. Such a mage can always be moving. 
  • Web-gear. Arranging web gear can be such a hassel for an airsoft game, but what I learned is that you have to have like a 1h practice in about 2-3 days to have it all down pat and all the kinks worked out. Don't forget the drop pouches. 
  • Combining prestidigitation and illusions skills with real magic is always a pretty discrete and efficient use of such a character. Such a player will research on Social Engineering which is always a useful thing to be aware off. 

Damn, I have a lot more to talk about but this is going on pretty long. Await Magic Notes 05 in about two more weeks (because it takes time for me to crunch the numbers for you).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Getting used to the idea of Hands as feet

So I'm trying to get used to the idea of Hands as feet in a transhuman setting. There is a practicality to gravity, even just micro-gravity in habitats. 3d perception is great but when considering basic logistics of day to day living mic-gravity keeps things in order. Dealing with other environments and being able to be flexible with these environments means being able to handle 3d and 2d and higher gravity. 

I'm imagining life suits to have special feet reinforcements allowing people to spend more time on their lower limbs. Of course, at rest they will be in all fours which is unusual for humans. Transhumanism takes getting used to a different set of aesthetics and adaptions. Its being able to see beauty creatures distantly related to the basic human norm and to be able to connect with such. 

I dont think its arms as legs but more prehensile feet, with fingers and bones much thicker (like our feet compared to our hands) and more load bearing, with an opposable thumb acting as a heel, so the bone is much thicker and stronger. Anyway i think such would have a more enhanced bones...

I'd imagine if nano tech and bio-geneering would proceed in the same pace, some basic bone reinforcement nano-techniques would be made biological and possibly supplemented in diet. So a much stronger to mass ratio of skeletons and muscles. the Children of Terra becoming more "superhuman" as they make the succeeding generations more physically adaptable (possibly a Kryptonian origin story lolz). 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The war beneath heaven, an old memory

The older gods would eat the lesser gods when they thought they were weak. 

When my king called I answered. He summoned us for a quest, we were to kill grandfather a very old and powerful god who has fallen far and almost forgotten. How such immortal beings come to fall, the King said that it was their acceptance of weakness, of change, and of things they cannot change. A riddle or a lie, I could not tell. I'm sure the secret was also of his own weakness and he would not share it to his mortal thralls.
We ventured far and rode the rivers and seas in crafts of scuplted earth, against the tide and currents. The wind and life seemed to flow against us, and slowly we progressed ever forward to the source of all things. 

When we fought other gods, and our king showed us the way. When we slew them, we feasted on their bodies and that of their thralls. Every feast we grew in spirit and strength; and we came into legend. Time passed through and under us, we built great cities and nations where we conquered. We even passed the heavens, into the desolated void... Still we pressed on and followed our king. We followed him to darkness and hollow of the universe where his grandfather slept and saw how his robes was the sky and the stars, and at his center the god that slept. 

He was weak, as our king has forseen but this old god would not bow down or go silently. When his eyes open, it was like the night sky awoke and the secrets of all the shadows surrendered its terrifying dreams onto us. He consumed so many of us, before our king could come close to strike. I was his Archer and from the distance I smote the elder thralls as I lay my fingers on the image so far away. I tore them to pieces with my arrows, and my king began to drink of their blood and the wounds of the elder god... soon he was consuming them all while they struggled under his embrace. 

I could not avert my eyes to the sight, it was so terrifying that It froze me where I stood watching. It was some serpent or leech eating swallowing a great bull struggling desperately to be. His hungry eyes stared at me and his remaining thralls. When his grandfather stopped struggling, our King's belly smoothed and he took his closest and most loved thrall and ate him. 

He wore the darkness and looked upon us, his remaining loyal thralls and began eating us alive. I screamed and ran, as fast as I can out of the void. I could see him so hungry over my shoulder, and so many comrades taken by his madness. I ran to its edge and drew my bow to let out a rain of fire arrows inflamed by my panic and hope, it lit up the sky and it seemed a new universe was born. 

The arrows are still flying, and time have moved barely a moment forward. The mad king will not be killed. 

A small old man smiled, and slid the shot glass down the bar to half build old man. The light played tricks on the small old man shade as it danced across the room like a web.
"You don't have to defend yourself to me, I hated him too".

"I dreamed of it again, brother. My arrows will not stay him, its light will fade. He will come... "

"...and no one is to stop him? Are you telling me there are no more heroes?" he took his own shot, while little spiders crawled from beneath him, dancing drunkenly.
"... you are quite mistaken. " said the small old man.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

GMF S02 E02 Bloodied but Unbowed, After Action Report

I'm glad the team did very well,

  • Cheng Dao, the Chaos mage and Online Blackmarket operator dealing with recreational drugs goes to his Shadow ISP to deal with harder drugs pushing into his territory
  • Gangs: Sangre Sacramento (Blood Sacrament), Maskara de Muerte (Death Masks), Pintandos (Painted Men), Cuervos (The Ravens), Hermano de Diablo (Hell's brotherhood) etc. are all likely suspects. 
  • Team is composed of Merle (The Hunter), Pieter (the Soldier), Fish (the Demo-man), Cheng Dao (The Chaos mage) and Jeni (the Lilim). Everyone else was reallocating resources and doing damage control so soon after the blow was struck last session. 
  • They first Investigated the Ravens, and learn more about the territories and how things worked. Ravens and Cheng notice the entry of Krokodil Variant entering the market. Ravens say its comming from the west territories. They allege that the Death masks and Painted Men have been slaughtering tons of dogs, and behind the 40ft container truck filled dog bones and rotten carcasses. 
  • The team decide next on dealing with the SS, they talk about ambushing but find it too difficult. Jenny, the social animal, decides to use a favor to ask Paolo the Confessor (of the Ravens) make introductions. These are done with messengers, and they have to wait for the messengers and the traffic to subside (it was 4pm, they get there at 8pm)
  • The Territory of the SS is a Church that was converted into a fotress compound.  They manage to talk to Balathazar , who throws back the accusation of spreading the Krokodil... only for Balthazar to realize something too late when Gun fire erupts. Undead swarm the fortress and take out so many of the gangbangers. 
  • The party manages to blow a hole and make their own way out but a mist stops them and shakes them (and the explosion gives them a hard time as well, deafening them). They continue to blow their way through to an exit while killing as many as they can. Again, killing and running away has seemed to work. 
  • As they leave the fortress they notice a Large Container Semi with what Jeni notiices as Quijolo markings. They call for help, Tasha is rushing to pick them up as they run back to base... 
  • The Heights is 45sqm but has a population of 5 million because of the Mega Slums, former housing complexes and warehousing prior to the 1990s economic collapse. Properties of the Bengsons, Villianuevas and HSS are prime if this human resource is to be harvested.    
the game ran long 7:10am to 10:40am but in my checklist of things to do I happen to meet most of the list: RP, Puzzle, investigation, action, everyone got to play with their toys lolz. I tried to maintain as much Information Asymetry as appropriate, simplified my explanations and resisted most urges to detail (which eats time). 

I have a major game to prep for in airsoft after this. lolz. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Philosophy is how the Brain is Wired; Wishing

I am a fan of Philosophy, especially after all learning on my own when my entire education consistent in metaphysics of Saint Thomas Aquinas. If you grow up only being taught Metaphysics and then was given access to Science BOOM! Head Explosion! 

Of course Science Evolved, and the love of thinking had many earlier incarnations. So when I did research for the GURPS Low Tech Player Handbooklet I made I made Philosophy very relevant. I also included eastern Philosophies 

Philosophy Skills

Default: IQ-6.
This is the organization of bodies of knowledge in ancient times. Natural: the predecessor of science particularly the study of the universe and physics.

Geometry: Math involving shapes, size, relative positions, and physical dimensions. Requires: Literacy, the character must be Numerate.

MetaPhysics: The study of the realm beyond the physical universe.

Theology: The study of divine knowledge from religious sources, ritual and practice.

Other Philosophies:

Socratic: The skill of asking the right problem solving questions. The GM secretly rolls for the PC when determining if he can get the right information from the PC's line of questioning or to give the PC clues to the right questions to be asked. Player can use this as the Interrogation skill. 

Platonic: The skill clear definition of ideas, concepts and essences. The GM secretly rolls for the PC when determining if he can break down alien or complex ideas through barriers of culture and language. 

Aristotelian: The skill of objectively measuring and distilling observation and perception. The GM secretly rolls for the PC when determining if he can if the PC notices in gaps or misplaced assumptions. This can be used as an Observation skill. 

Confucian: The reciprocative relationship among individuals in order to establish order. The GM secretly rolls for the PC when determining if hierarchical relationships and structures among groups or individuals. This can be used for Politics and Information Analysis relating to social groups and orders. 

Buddhism: The mental discipline to frame situations and experiences to the advantage of the observer. This lets the Philosopher suppressing emotional distraction on a successful roll. Add 2 and the Ability modifier of Buddhism to will rolls. 

Legalism: The skill of developing laws that effectively punish and reward to create order. This allows the PC to managing strict martial discipline in an organization. Can be used like Administration or Law.

Moizm: This is humanistic the philosoiphy that values love and life over other things. It emphasizes skills of empiricism that focus on resource maximization and defensive fighting. Use this skill like Strategy for Defensive Maneuvers and Administration.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Classics Re-Imagined: Ravenloft

Since I'm running a Kitchensink setting, I realized I can just mine old adventures for ideas and put them under the skin of the modern fantasy I'm currently running.

I actually had the original module BUT i never had the time to play it. So I ended up giving it away.

I remember researching/preparing for it. Instead of the old vampires I like this new generation of Vampires, since I got to read Anne Rice in highschool. too bad I never got to play Vampire, despite having the book. (like many gamers we have the books but we don't have the time).

So what if this was spun in a modern fantasy, but maybe passing the Bechdel test lolz instead of the damsel in distress or maybe more modern and humanistic themes.

So basically I can make a Ravenloft (or any adventure) in the Metropolis of Haven, where the BBEG is a Vampire. So now I have to think in 2-3 bound more than my players, trying to push some Imagination muscles how I'm going to avoid all those Gamer-predictable pitfalls lolz. Sigh

Anyway, I've realized I've barely touched the potential of a Kitchen-sink setting to explore ALL the old tropes and all the old adventures, but running them for my players in modern skin and with more updated modern problem solving and ethical dilemmas (players are free to completely ignore these unless they got it in their disads lolz).

I guess what would be removed is Dungeon Crawling and more of the 3rd gen RPGs "Scenes" where the GM just have to cite some key words for a given scene. Although i can provide some prep for Spatial Combat with roll20.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Design Philosophy: No Counter-Rolls or Interrupt Rolls

I have many unfinished projects related to gaming but despite that I consider them a part of a learning process *cough *bull$#! +*cough*

Anyway they helped me slowly identify several key concepts over the years. Each iteration refining a good idea and ever time I see away and come back the idea becomes more refined. A different perspective is incredibly helpful for these kinds of puzzles but in the end only we can afford our own attention to look over these works and assess their value.

Hacking Current Systems to Use these Design Philosophies

The thing about these design philosophies they are not exactly System biased, but allow you to tweak systems to your Design Philosophy. Particularly the Design philosophy that tries to crunch less but still capture the key information that you are looking for in a roll. Re-organizing a system so that it makes more symmetric or mnemonic sense!

No Counter-Rolls or Interrupt Rolls

Give a static difficulty value when opposing another PC/NPC drawn from ther  PC/NPC's relevant abilities. This applies abilities that Interrupt the Player on his turn, only a Static Value is presented during their Course of Action.

Example 1. In 2d6 roll on/below score. A character with an effective skill (after all relevant modifiers) of 9 (83% success) attacks a character with a Score of 10. Defender's defense (skill/2)-1 is a penalty to the Attacker's skill: 9-4 is at 5 (28% success). This does not need to statistically be a mirror (83%*8%= 0.07%) because it depends in your design philosophy the value of attack versus defense. In this case its easier to successfully attack vs defense.

Example 1.1. The attacker is targeted by Dazzle Spell or a body guard defending his charge, at skill 6 set to interrupt/disrupt his attack. Instead of the Interruptor rolling, the attacker rolls his regular Attack with the Dazzle spell skill as his penalty. So the same attacker in Example 1 at 5 rolls against -3 which is effectively 2 skill.

The most the target PC/NPC may get is the ability to call a reroll. Rerolls can be at a bonus to the one doing the reroll, only slightly skewing his odds of failure instead of drastically altering it.

Example 2. In 2d6 roll on/below score. A character who has exceptional skills with complimentary abilities may have a synergistic advantage to cause a Reroll where the PC rerolls at +4 representing a small handicap at success. taking the example 1

Eliminating the Counter Roll or Interrupt Rolls means a lot of time saving and allows players to interrupt each other a lot more without eating up a lot of time as the GM moves back and forth between players. The idea is that during YOUR TURN you are the only one rolling dice/or playing a hand.

GM's and players attention moving between Targets and Stimuli have a poor cycle rate, but Interruptions are what makes Timing a crucial factor in a game and I want to incentive's careful timing. Such an incentive also incentives preparation and presence of mind and being mentally present during another players turn, despite not being able to roll.

Increasing the Consequences and Conditions Density per Roll

As much I'm aware of correlation and causation BUT I don't want to have many wasted rolls. My pet peeve in GURPS is how many the rolls are compartmentalized.

Example is Rolling Defense, then Rolling HT for Stun/Major Wound/Knockback etc.... there are so many separate rolls that I wish it it used Save & Status/Condition based system for damage and fatigue tracking. Details I don't need is damage or HP exactly. I really liked it when they had Wound Saves in one of the D20 systems.

The problem is that Save&Condition Based system is rewriting all the weapons in GURPS. those are a lot of weapons. When there is an innovation and inpiration, I realize that I might as well implement it in my Homebrew Tinkering System.

So I adopted the Save&Condition based system for this 2d6 system I'm working on. When you roll to attack, Margin of Success modifies your next roll: the Wounding Roll. The wounding roll is where you try to defeat the armor and the toughness of the character and try to inflict a Condition - from scratch to killing blow. Its basically the Symmetrical Opposite of the a Toughness Save.

Example. attack 8, damage 8, defense 8, toughness 6.  The attacker attacks with a 0 margin of success (rolling 4). He then rolls damage 8-3 = 5. lets assume he makes it. His margin of success in damage determines what kind of condition he leaves the defender at. Because of how certain stats affect each condition and rolls, there is a Narrative Causality that informs the GM or Player what factors played a key roll in the circumstance.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

GURPS Magic Notes 01 on System Mechanics

I've been busy looking at the GURPS Magic System last night. There is the Basic Magic System (BM for short), which doesn't have a name and there is Ritual Magic System or RM (not to be confused with Ritual Path Magic System which is free form magic).

So Basically +James Austin and I have been busy studying the Magic System and Optimizing.

Hal's Work in GURPS Magic

Hal of SJgames forums has always talked about the flaws of the system when you consider economics. Economics is science, by what i mean as science is that it is it a discipline of analysis and Magic that never stood up to the scrutiny of science became BS and magic that withstood the scientific discipline became SCIENCE lolz. Still his work, Hal's work, is the basis of many of my analysis into what  Magic Systems of any game system. Many forum regulars (can't name them all) also talk about gurps magic and economics.

What Hal did was try to make sense of magic economically, what is the standard practices and how it reaches equilibrium. Anyway since Hal's work is already there for people to use, I'll add some relatively new but basic.

His older threads has most of the magic relevant discussions. Look for the heavily discussed ones... or just TL:DR magic is HARD.

Mindset in Making a Mage

If you are going to make a mage in GURPS in a low powered setting, (like my game) be prepared to play him as though you are wielding a SHOTGUN instead of a Assault Rifle. This means you'll be in a more dangerous position (short ranged and vulnerable as casting a spell), you need to prepare (specialized shotgun ammo), you have FAR less "Shots" to deal a lot of damage or effects (7 shots vs 30 for assault rifles), and balance your capabilities with a TON of real world considerations: make use of Web-Gear, Body Armor, Grenades, Radios, etc....

Magery and Power Investiture Advantage. in B68 Magery is not limited, 3 is a recommendation to the GM found in the 5th paragraph of the Advantage. If your part of the Cult of Stat Normalization then you may want to have lower stats but focus on Talents like Magery or Power Investiture.  The best is to have 80% of limitations. Feel free to flavor up the Aspects. I don't mind (but your GM might) exchanging Dance for Kata/Combat Art or Singing for Prayer/Chanting/Poetry.

Still added skill only matters to get FP discounts after 15. I really care nothing for skills beyond 15, so instead of spending 20points to raise a College Path Skill by 5 spend 10points bringing up specialist magery to 5. In the end the GM has to cap how much magery can be bought. I would cap it at 35, which is the equivalent of having a generalist with having only 3 levels of magery or power investiture

Sample Limitations are ff:

  • Avatar the Last Airbender Inspired: Dance/Combat Art Kata -40% and College (Elements) -40%. 
  • Spell Singer would have Singing Aspect. 
  • Accessibility - Full Power only unless Emergencies otherwise Half Power -20%, Dance/Kata -20% (half power unless accessibility is met B110), Song/Ceremony (half power unless accessibility is met B110), Solitary -20% (half power unless accessibility is met B110)
Mana Enhancer p.68 with 80% of limitations gives the most bang per buck after Mageryand usefull in settings at low mana level. So once you get the 'right' limitations its 10cp for what would be +5 to your magic or enough to offset the -5 low magic setting. At +

Typical -80% limitations (hand sized small SM-5, -10%; Wooden or Ivory or Hardened Leather DR2 -20%; Can be Stolen, a bracelet, amulet, beads, etc.. , -30%; Temporary Disadvantages: Mild Flash Backs , Mild Phantom Voices,  Wierdness Magnet or Supernatural Features -20%)

Other Useful Advantages.

  • Single Minded, it should help in certain concentration actions. 
  • Less Sleep or Does not Sleep. More time to enchant on your down time. Unless the player has a magical way of Knowing or a high Introspection skill, I won't tell him his body's cycle setting. 
  • edit (2/27/2014) Regeneration specialized only for FP +0% (in Powers, so I'm told, haven't read the book). since all the other levels of FP Regeneration is useless because the body regenerates FP at a faster rate than that. The player can make it an Item 30cp Item and VIOLA regenerate 10FP per second lolz. Now the PC can cast a bunch of spells that are Cinematic ally Powerful/ or what you would find in many Shonen anime's 
  • Compartmentalized Mind. Managing Spells and Combo Effects. 
  • Ally as a Familiar, "Heroic Spirit" (like in Fate Stay Night/Zero), Golem/homunculus (Unbreakable Machine Doll/ etc...) I'll come up with a separate article for a template for such (remind me!).  

Ally Aspect

A special ally that allows you to Cast spells or Full Power to cast spells is an Accessibility of 40% or 20% respectively. Take note you will need to get Supernatural Enhancement for the Ally at +50% and to offset that you will need to take Sympathetic (your fate's and lives are tied) at -50%! With such an Accessibility and all you need is 4cp for an ally (x4 for constant, +50% supernatural, and -50% sympathetic; 1point ally) and Viola you get a -20% limitation to powers. I love the "Half Power" limitation that halves the cost of limitations but still allows you to cast spells at half power. Its very usefull now that there are more awesome Limitations to take. 

Disadvantages in Magic for me, always in a Cthulu-esque theme where one loses humanity and sanity. Its just more fun that way, so Techno-mages always get a little magic to make a lot of technology go a long way.

Don't rely on High Skills instead rely in creating Magic Items. In GURPS Magic you need to have a skill of 15 to get a discount of 1 point in casting. This is enough to make some "Blocking Spells" to cost nothing to the character. Otherwise most of the spells have costs of 2 and above, on average worthwhile spells are 6FP with a maintenance of 3cp.

You will notice in RM there is no point of spending more than 4 points in a College Path vs Spending those point buying up Ritual Magic or Thaumaturgy Skill. Since there is no difference in spending on College Path vs RM/Thau skill just buy it all up because it has more uses.

Note that its also diminishing returns to Buy up a lot of Thaumaturgy or Ritual Magic. Sometimes its just cheaper to spend the 4 points in improving Enchantment which has a RM of -12. Use Enchantment to build your arsenal.

Magic Items. the magic number is $33 per power point value of an Item when CREATING it, otherwise the Item has a Market Value of $50 per point. (reference page to follow). In a Modern Setting where you have a large starting cash this would be great, in a Low tech setting this would be hard. This is where the GM should Rule on Market Value per Point. In a Low Mana setting, tripling the Creation Cost should be simple enough for $100 and Market Value could be around $1000 per point. Skills like Administration, Merchant etc... can go into lowering the price. Still a Margin of 90% makes sense to something as valuable as Magic.

The Techno Mages. They are the most dangerous and mostly played by skilled players who know their Technology and Mastered the GURPS magic system and did all the research. Basically people who if given magic and time will be Techno Mages themselves. Unfortunately I can't get into this because I'm the GM and have no time to make optimized Characters :( Still some basic concepts come to mind.

The Sorcerers Social Engineer (Communication Empathy College or Mind Control or Illusion)

The Mircale Working Doctor with Healing and Necromancy

The Artificer Engineer,  Make and Break College (as a foundation for Techno spells) and Enchantment will allow an engineer to basically a Gadgeteer. The first combo to come to mid is the use of more powerful drones and very specialized drones able to do things dreamed off in sci-fi (like Micro-Bots in my modern Fantasy game) or even MECHA and Powered Armor! From the Drone builder (who basically builds his assistants) one can make various specializations: Hacker or Demolitions or Civil Engineer (building secret dungeons and bases).

Sleuth with magic is a simple combo but done a lot. Still I can see room for new ways of pulling it off especially since Analysis and Strategy is not so much explored.

Underworld Magos Campaign

I was influenced by Fate Zero and various Anime's with Heroes with clever combos and "Limit Breakers". Because of the new lessons I got from James, I think the "underworld" of haven will be very very interesting and Terrifying.

Its like studying up for DND Epic games where one sorts through all the spells and classifying their tactical and economic relevance. Because the Game in Kitchen Sink and a Shadow War has begun, I can always incorporate my current Inspiration to the game without having to start a New Game.

No magical Grail to win or Some magical tournament, in this setting. Its social and economic conflict, its human conflict, but where magic exists but it is used in the shadows.

That was an inspiring Article about the Gap of Technology between certain powers and regular people. The gap is so huge, I could easily put Magic as part of that superiority and people are still as powerless and depressing lolz (sigh).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Transparency in Communication and in Deals

TL:DR i noticed that you can spend time and money on marketing or transparency in game kickstarters or biz projects. I'm in favor of smart transparency, less noise and simpler to deal with. sadly its not the practice.

I guess this can apply to many other communities, but I'm more interested in the Gamer Market. I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to funding Kickstarters. One of the annoying thing of funding such projects is the lack of Transparency or the ability to Ask Questions to a real person (not that FAQ crap). Given the many and recent Kickstarter Failures and Scandals (despite Funding) the frustration grew because of the tools we have available.

Establishes lines of communitation: the business plan

The basic business plan. Some part of the business plan should be available to the funders. By Business plan I mean, I they are going to get the product to the people (logistics), and who are their target market (market analysis). I know its a requirement that is PISSING off people because Paypall is being shrewed about it, but given the recent scandals it should be a requirement with all, and this business plan should be visible to anyone who is risking hard earn money on the people.

If one is seeking funding outside one's target market, then make it clear who your market is. Many kickstarters and starting projects are made by the producer and marketing is something done ad hoc. So often these small projects can't communicate it effectively. Its forgivable if its a project of a few dollars, and goal that are equal to a few months of pay but the product's comparable market value is better than those established online.

Larger projects, strangely has no time to report to stakeholders (anyone who has a stake in the product, including the people who bought it and have yet to see it).  I mean there is Google OnAir! One has no excuses to set aside 0.5-1 hour taking questions (and you can have a volunteer type up the FAQ as one asks, since you are using the same FAQ for all other events, you can just direct repetitive questions to FAQ. )

Open Systems Promises

I'm a big fan of  Open Systems, either computer based or for tabletop. There was an allegedly, Open project that is currently seeking funding but unlike the other Open Projects they did not make the code available to begin with. In fact, they promised to give USBs with the code to the larger backers... why would you need that if the code is open and available? Its basically because the kind of "deception" one can do for an employer (doing X for employer but also doing Y with the same money and time) can be the same kind of deception to a faceless mass of backers.

Open Communities have many idealists, but I think one should never take forgranted the good will and trust given by an open community. I mean that you give them the information and report to them without them Asking. Such practice is expected merely because of professionalism and not because of being Open. Open implies broader boundaries of transparency and information sharing, you can tell people that your not meeting some ideals and how much a certain ideal would cost in time and money.

Its like I want X but I need Y to go with it, because professionally this is optimum in the industry. I tell people we can do X with the budget and it would take an arm and leg for Y (pretty much stretch goals).

Work with the Crowd

Good communication is setting reasonable expectations, and opening up your Notes (sure you can reveal everything or very little) allows you to be able to get corrections quickly and immediately. Why go for Crowdfunding if you don't intend to Crowdsource some of the editing and corrections. I mean feedback as fast and soon as possible is GOLD! the ability to adapt and correct youself or at least have another point of view is valuable. Especially the opinions of people who really care for you to succeed.

Milestones and Celebrations. I think they should be at about 2x a month or every two weeks if its part-time OR every week if it is a fulltime project. This includes the onAir discussion. this really depends on the kind of project. If I were to do one, I would do it part time but have a couple of full time people working on it while I do logistics, marketing, and executive product design decisions. When that person higher up Answers to everyone and scores (an ability to measure consumer confidence at the end of the show would be awesome).

Prepare for Trolls

What if: Assholes and Trolls, one of the key tests of business (especially being well rounded professionally). Despite how much preparation and expertise you can bring to the table Assholes and Trolls adhominem and ignore all Technical and factual answers. If you've been in an encounter where every answer you give, the other side makes you to look like the worse person in the world lolz. I know a particular business practice where personal attacks are part of "Business" (which is bullshit if you ask me, when is personal attacks being PROFESSIONAL?). You gotta take the bad with the good, in business.

I do not consider harsh constructive criticism as part of this kind of bad, it is easy to Frame harsh criticism in the voice of an over-demanding Mentor but pure personal attacks are really what they are: pure personal attacks. Benefit of the Doubt, or what everyone else calls  naivety is a state of mind that can prevent a knee jerk reaction to personal attacks or what appears as  personal attacks. Its best to Ask everyone one else if that is a personal attack before responding to block a person for not keeping within the medium and topic of discussion.

Don't Gamble with other Peoples money

like Stu Veneble of Happy Jacks, I whole heartedly agree with his idea that: Do the project first, then get funding for it. What is essential in this strategy is you DO NOT GAMBLE AWAY your credibility. You can FAIL and having never let that Failure touch your credibility you can TRY AGAIN! Like the many kickstarters that made funding but failed, and seem to get funded again and again I think Paypall, Kickstarter and Indiegogo shouldn't let these people ever ask for funding if they fail to deliver.

Having done the project first also means you have a GOOD track record, your practically done and just adding Stretch goals as a bonus. The cost of implementing reasonable stretch goals are   

If you did the project ahead, what will naturally come up is Mothballing the project to give yourself some time to have a different mindset and be able to see if the product with a different perspective. If your cynical self goes back and begins to believe in the project again: Go ahead. 

This is important because you want to time your project in periods where there are not many other competing projects, and since you can deliver by the end of the month or two, 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

GURPS Modern Fantasy S02 E02 Bloodied but unbowed

Primer for Next Session S02 E02 Nov 23 2013

The explosion shook the building and fractured even its load bearing corners. The block that was once dark is now lit up by blazing fire that has been caught in the buildings. Flaming bodies ran, along the streets spreading flame and terror. In the brightness of the flames, there are men who clung to its shadows and one who commanded fear among them.


Sasha Ramirez was watching everything unfold, on her screen. The team made a mistake, and she was struggling to fix it when a scream echoed through the corridor of the safe house. Speedy’s IT team were embedded deep inside the hidden floors, behind thick walls, ceilings and floors design to carry the load of heavy vehicles and an overcrowded commuter hub. The sound can only be heard through the only entrance and exit of the command station

They all began to look at the door, removing headphones and mics they heard things their imagination refused to acknowledge. Shots were fired, and everyone stood up. Sasha was able to draw her Barreta 93R, and barely was able to ready its stock when something slammed the heavy siege proof door.

This was not what they trained for, everyone instinctively drew away from the door. She had to command and raise her voice which seemed to make what ever behind it incredibly agitated. They manage to draw from a hidden cache four saiga-12 assault shotguns and began to take cover. Her commands and urgency seem to also cause what was behind the door to hurry and its berserk rage tore its hinges. 

The silhouette she saw and the blood that flowed from the floor ignited a fear and adrenaline that made her want to cower. Everyone hesitated, long enough for it to close the distance to tear bone from flesh. Tears of desperation flowed down freely as she charged to meet it head on and give everyone a chance to survive this. Gunfire erupted in frenzied bursts and hearts stopped.


Thomas stood rigid with the news. He offended many when he took away his earbud and put on his HUD glasses as he walked away. He fought back to control the fear overwhelming him, he activated his macros and his “little bots” did their little deeds again. Scrawling through data found in home network node to confirm the Princelings research. His second re-evaluation and analysis was plain as day, and turned up even more unsettling red flags.

One particular red flag is the Quijolo’s and OGWs acquisition of one of the Leorazon’s delta properties. Territoriality, the Leorazons have left them isolated and surrounded in all sides by rival businesses. It would be a matter of time before the Local Gov’t Officials would be turning up near their territories with bogus claims.

Thomas looked for Osman’s gaze and their exchanged looks told Osman everything he needed to know. Emily in his arms, could feel his shoulders slump and she tightened against him to give reassurance and whispering pleasant distractions into his ear. His fortitude found some solace in Emily's whispers, while his eyes drifting through the crowd caught the amused eyes of Dylan Baker tipping his glass to him.  

Jakub woke up amid the stink of his blood, vomit and piss. His teeth littered the floor and his blood spiraled to the draining corners of the room along with the hose water used to drown him while he sat. He was a broken man, his precious legs the tools of his craft were butchered and his hands and fingers maimed. The bravery and desperation that fueled that last gambit was foolish, but regret did not cling to him, it was washed away by the peace of mind honed in a warriors path.

He was a fighter and the horrors he saw fueled that desperation to seize the day. It seems despite his stoic and pragmatic facade the hopelessness of the land he has made his home for so long has broken his iron discipline. Beaten beneath a skilled hand of pain, he would cry out and wish to tell them everything they wanted to know.

His torturer was overly zealous, he didn't ask questions. He seemed to enjoy the opportunity breaking someone who spent their whole life honing their spirit.

“This is more pleasure, than she could ever give me.”

Saturday, November 9, 2013

GMF S02E01; Shadow Wars Session Summary

Well the shadow wars have begun and the team foiled a take over for the meantime. 

  • The Prince was able to find out more about the threat. Discovering an conglomerate shaping up to start seizing and destabilizing other businesses (HSS assets are being targeted). This group is already taking their strongest ally, the Leorazons to their side.  
  • Jeni spies on a discussion between SGC and Quijolo Group. Her report is not good; SGC are being strong armed to cut ties from HSS. After the party the Empress is not part of HSS character roster. 
  • The Warehouse District Safe House goes dark. 
  • Jakub Kovar is MIA
  • Enemy Quarters were destroyed
  • Speedy is seriously injured but is doing well
  • The Counter Intelligence operation went south. But they were able to get some faces out of it. 
  • The team took a beating, everyone gains 2CP and 2CP to give other Players. CP is awarded to the Players they can put them in any character they want on their roster. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Magic in the Campaign

I was talking to +James Austin about Magic in the GURPS Modern Fantasy Game. We settled on GURPS Ritual Path Magic, which can co-exist with GURPS Ritual Magic found in GURPS Magic. The decision mostly hinged on the following: GURPS Magic and Thaumaturgy which is +400 pages and GURPS Ritual Path Magic which is self enclosed and is about 52 pages. 

I also considered GURPS Ritual Magic from the Basic Set p. 242 as part of our game's magic system. The over-riding idea is to bring down Data Requirements: the need to read so many books. I don't want players to read 400 books to get what I'm talking about. The plan is, we will need to take a break for Christmass and I will buy and read up in Ritual Path Magic. Since I'm already invested in GURPS Magic, I will limit it to these books. 

They should have a different name for Ritual PATH magic and Ritual Magic. Like Narrative Path Magic for RPM and Core Skill Path Magic. I was reading the magic chapter and noticed the way they "tagged" the ideas were a bit messy and confusing. They used Ritual to Describe a lot of different things, where they could have just expanded the key words to better describe system mechanic elements.  

I have no problem learning Tech or sci-fi stuff, since it is anchored to the real world but I hate having to learn Magic or some non-sense (like Metaphysics; 9 units worth is 9 units too much). When I learn magic rules I get shivers as it goes back to learning metaphysics and debating with sophistry. It reminds me of the lack of logic or critical thinking in my country's education system and how many bad decisions I had to go through with such a very very poor manner of evaluating and analyzing. Still I will learn it and will allow it in GURPS Modern Fantasy, I will enjoy it and make it a very good experience for the players. It is because its something a "Pro" would do.  

In light of magic systems, I find the narrative systems most easy to use (which is how RPM works) and easiest to build into a story. It also follows some Economies of Action, which helps me makes sense of things and laws of consistency.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hangouts Basics

Some tips using Hangout, this is basically my experience so pardon for the lack of sources. 

Hangouts seems to work even with just 40 kbps (40 max download or upload). Note that bandwidth can be unreliable dropping off when more people in the area use up internet. The 40kbps is my PLDT (isp) copper wire Internet that is parallel my land line for about $20usd/month. A good wifi router is also a factor, from experience of trying various other brands (TP link and D link) Cisco has performed the best. Remember to reset your router and if you don't secure it beyond password, change the password when there is an inconsistency to it on wifi versus direct hard wire connection. 

Of course the more bandwidth the better but there are some little things that improve the experience.
Note: sound is data, reduce it and you reduce the bandwidth you need. Reducing ambient noise reduces the data you need, so Noise Canceling Mics are very handy and when you speak into your phone you may want to put the phone close to your face (and turn off the face camera). 

Self mute yourself when your not talking, it prevents noise from creeping in. Feedback can build up slowly and steadily, I've seen it happen in games glad I took Audio mixing in college since the science of this is pretty hard to default from other skills. 

Earphones prevent the sound from your speakers that will build up feed backing into the discussion and overloading the system. Background noise is bad, I've learned not to take it badly if the guys have to mute me when I could not mute myself when I have to do somethings. I don't like muting people, but sometimes I find it that its needed because of the feed back.  the technical requirement of earphones is strange because its prevents feedback but many don't want to impose the technical requirement. 

If people can't hear you, maybe turn off your face cam or ask them to turn off their face cam. The camera does add to the bandwidth requirement, both upload and downloads. 

Often I just used the PLDT internet when I'm using G+ and will have my Roll20 app open. Of course I have to cut down on tabs and in many other things. Our Philcom internet is MUCH faster being able to have a consistent 300kbps and allows me to run my games with little lag. I run my games at 7am on Saturday so I get to use the best internet for the day despite the Huge maps I use in my games. 

Internet is pretty much about Luck or Bureaucracy. Some places have really good internet because they area has good infra because of BPOs here in the Philippines. Some have really good internet because its just so profitable, like our building here and 3 ISP providers are offering internet. 

Some places have good internet even they are pretty far from all these ideals, while I have a friend who's family and residences is supposed to be a premier living place for Expats but has crap for internet (I bet the residences lost a lot of clients this way). The way I know how he could fix his situation is have his building put pressure on their ISP (yup the development company also owns the ISP that is giving crap internet). You need to know the org chart and roles, and be on top of that until they deliver (by on top, detailed report why they failed to deliver). 

Other places and the friend of mine can benefit from a Potato Mesh ($99+ delivery cost cheaper when bought in bulk). Particularly having two Potato Mesh devices (up to 3MBps), making a wireless connection. Although its wastefull for my friend, since the building should have good internet in the first place. 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Long Running game

I guess TL:DR No more short arc games, just long game and experimenting and trying out new things within that game. 

I realized I should tell my players that I intend to run this game as long as possible. Basically until the more extremes of reasons prevent the game from being fun anymore or plausible. Of course there would be some seasonal hiatus since jobs and personal lives can be affected by the season. I forsee December would require a hiatus for everyone, maybe until Feb. 

I think a long running game is important because it adds to the value of the rewards of a game and does not tax the players to much. Once' you've made a character in GURPS you've invested a LOT of sunk cost. Anything granted as a reward is only as valuable by the amount of pay-off the players can get out of it. So when you get a Kingdom in the end of a game, it's not that valuable as a +1 in a long running game. 

This was a lesson I learned back in the day, but I realized there really is not much of a market for one shots or short arcs. Long arcs are nicer, especially when players and GMs can both play many different ways. Kitchen sink settings allow such a flexibility, especially in a Game System that can accomodate all the weirdness a Kitchen Sink can come up with as well as all the "simulations" people would want to try in such a situation. 

Also I got a lot of practice and learning with Kitchen Sinks from past traumas. I've run and played a lot of Rifts and played a few high powered GURPS games (plus Epic munchy games), so I'm pretty aware of the loop holes and dangers. Still, the bottom line is trust and coordination, in such a game even newbies in anygame system won't be too overshadowed by optimized PCs. 

So Kitchen Sink and Traveller are the kinds of games that I feel like can take on many forms, even Magical or Fantastic to players.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Comedy of Errors: Screwing around with On Air

A bunch of hangout virgins fumbling around. Well there were a lot of lessons learned. Many will be going to the invite notes. The new Hangouts Layout complicated things a bit. I have to say who I'm talking to and I have to keep notes... which i did  in past interviews... but this time it didn't work because one needs someone to keep things moving while another guy answers the technical problems of the others while someone filled dead air. 

Also Project! Don't be shy to get close to the mic and the camera with a full facial close up and PROJECT  Lolz. I guess this should not be any different from all my on air games but I don't know why I went back to my shell. 

Anyway, I think the juggling was it, yup it was JUGGLING too many things not some inherent incompetence that maybe staring me in the face right now (or a toddler wondering where is daddy in 11pm). 

I guess its a cheap shot having my toddler around for likes/+1s/ and 5 stars. 

Below is a crashed attempt. 

Bench marking against GURPS

Just Browsing Running Results

Nothing is as humbling as learning your GURPS stats. I did a run and finished at the 17% of men and 12% of men my age. And you know what: a GURPS average character would have finished in the 9-5% percentile without any skill in running (because running has no default penalty) or any points invested at 33 mins running 5km any time of the week. 

Since this is an event run, mr. GURPS average would probably be finished at 20% better or 25 minutes, well with in the passing requirement for entering military service. Its been long admitted that GURPS averages are already heroic, at about 1% the population by cries and wails of the Cult of Stat Normalization

A soldier would have finished at 1% at 25mins. The average soldier would do that run and finish well below that time anyway of the week and not just a one time big time run. If it was an event to train for in a month, they would probably hit 20mins. 

Running is one of the most well documented and studied practices and it should be the most easy for any game system to model. Although you may have to tweak gurps a bit. As the GM I would allow characters buying the following: 
  • Increased Move: Run and Sprint only. -60% = 2cp/lvl max 2 levels
  • Increased Move: Paced Running only -60% = 2cp/lvl max 2 levels
  • Increased Move: Hiking only -60% = 2cp/lvl max 2 levels
The costing of Movement is modeled after Keen Senses and some Game Mechanics, I don't think its worth while to purchase if any more expensive and I don't like fractions in CP. 

Straight Stat Defaults

Too bad Running is defaulting to Straight HT and as an Average Skill. It seems like a useless skill in RAW IMO and I use houserules to make it more relevant. I think it should have been an Easy Skill, simply cause the alternate Default is Straight HT. They should really fix those skills that have a straight ability default. Skills that not well designed can clutter up character sheets, and ideally clutter is reduced (the reason they removed the "half point" option).   

GURPSify Yourself

When I used to browse the threads where people would convert themselves the 25cp average character in gurps is pretty generous to many. I think when people are young they have "average physical stats" but when they are older and with a career their time and effort is placed elsewhere. They sacrifice physical capabilities for education and professional skills. Its only when your career hits a certain point can you finally pursue hobbies/education or sports/hobbies that will allow you to improve. 

Benchmark skills of 12

If you find the "average" gurps character heroic at even 50-75cp, what more are characters who go beyond that? I've trying to populate my games with "realistic" people and that means a 90% of the setting population with 9s in many of their stats. If you look at that ability and consider that their ability to make a living is 12, that benchmark earns a lot of respect.

Still you can get away with a lot with just 12 in Real Life, simply because we tend to have time to do stuff. Heroes and PCs dont, so what happens is that they face things normal people would very much try to avoid and if they ever faced would be an interesting story to tell if they survived it and an unbelievable one if they did succeed it.

Characters in the Game I'm running have competency levels of 15-20 in their chief abilities. They need it because the feats they are supposed to do are those no ordinary people can do. 15 is Industry expert, you can say top 1% of the industry and 20 is something of an International level of ability.

Note that in perspective, cultural and environmental barriers add up to -3* to -6* so these people can be very formidable around the world, even if they are removed from where their status, power, and familiarity would aid them.

*from traveller 

Cults of Stat Normalization Segway

If you are aware of other such Stat Normalization Cults in other Game Systems I would be very interested in their theology and scripture.