Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sins of the Crusade Time Line Leading up to 1092

The detail and how often the pieces fit from the various Wikipedia entries are awesome. This is for my players but the amount of work it took to assemble this was very considerable so I am sharing it. I am aware that Im just using wikipedia articles, but this is an Alternate history.  This is continuously going to be improved and detailed. This is from the point of view of Conrad.

If you see a F or M that's gender, and the number is the age. You will see "Then" to give context to the age then vs 1092.

1092 (Present)

  • Emperor Henry IV attacks Matilda of Tuscany
  • Feb Tzachas, a Seljuq Turkic emir who assumed the title of emperor in Izmir with possession of the Thracesia, Cibyrrhaeots, and Cyprus Provinces. 
  • April John II Komnenos co-emperor at the age of five.  Anna Komnene’s (F9) betrothal to co-emperor Constantine Doukas (M18) and replaced with Nikephoros Bryennios the Younger grandson of Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder 
  • May. Megas Doux John Doukas, Thalasocrator Constatnine Dalassenos, Strategos Manuel Boutoumites, are set to Siege of Symrna/Izmir to deal with Tzachas


  • Feb Stephen II Dies with no Heir, Kingdom of Croatia Civil War
  • March Doux John Komnenos son of Isaac, is sent to pacify the Kingdom of Croatia and prevent the Expansion of King Ladislaus I of Hungray.
  • March  Ariebes (Armienian Noble) and Count Constantine Humbertopolous (a Frankish Knight Mercenary) was involved with a failed plot against Alexius. 
  • April 29 The Battle of Levounion is a turning point of the Roman Empire after so many losses. This is when machinations and planning to reconquer the lost Anatolian Provinces would begin. 


  • Former Emperor Micheal VII (M40) Doukas dies in Constantinople 


  • March Otto of Ostia is elected Pope Urban II
  • April. Tzachas Bey rebelled and seized Smyrna and continues to harass the Roman navy contesting control of the Aegean Sea. 
  • The Second Great Saxon revolt lead by  Rudolf von Rheinfeld

Egbert II, Margrave of Meissen proclaimed himself Anti-king to Henry IV


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish captures Antioch and tries to massacre the inhabitants. He’s killed by Tutush I, avenging the death of Arp Aslan his father. 
  • Abu Al-Quasim takes over Cappadocia, Opsikion, and Optimaton Provinces and calls himself Sultan.  


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish and Kilij Arslan expands the  Sultanate of Rûm and proceed east to contest his descendants of Arp Aslan.
  • July Robert Guiscard Dies and Bohemond leaves to contest his half-brother’s succession of Italian Holdings. 


  • Suleyman bin Kutalmish,  Kilij Arslan I and Abu Al-Quasim  and conquers Cappadocia, Opsikion, and Optimaton Provinces establishing the Sultanate of Rûm.  
  • Emperor Alexios bribes Emperor Henry IV to attack Rome to force Pope Gregory to recall Robert Guiscard. 


  • The Emperor Alexios bribes Emeperor Henry IV to attack the Papal States. This causes the Pope to recall Robert Guiscard, leaving a small force to hold what they just captured last year. 
  • The Emperor Alexios refinances the Army by confiscating the wealth of the church. He gets the Republic of Venice and Almafi to ally with him with free trade and monpoly agreements. 
  • Recapture of Dyrrachium under Ventian and Almafian Naval Siege. 
  • Croatia, Dalmatia to the Romans, is given to the Ventians. 
  • Hermann of Salm elects himself as anti king to Henry IV
  • Henry IV attacks Rome. 


  • Feb Emperor Nikephoros III Botaneiates tried to eliminate Alexios and his brothers but escape. Anna Delassenos and Empress Maria of Alania create a situation that allows him to March into the city to 
  • April Coronation of Alexios I with the promise of his Regency until Constantine (XI) Doukas comes to age to become emperor and marries his daughter Anna Komnena.  
  • May Duke Robert Guiscard Launches his attack on byzantine territories. 
  • Emperor Henry IV marched against Matilda of Tuscany
  • October Battle of Dyrrhachium (byzantine loss). Byzantine-Norman Wars. Robert Guiscard (M66 then), Bohemund (M23 then), Sichelgaita of Salerno (F41 then) and Constantine Bodin (M36 then). The Roman experienced Norman Couched-Lanced shock tactics in the first time. 


  • March Nicephorus Botaniates becomes Emperor and marries Emperor Michael's VII Doukas wife and Empress Maria of Alania and eliminates NIkephoritzes.  NIkephoritzes escapes only to be captured and tortured to death. 
  • Battle of Kalavry - Alexios, Constantine Katakalon under the banner of Emperor Nicephorus III Botaniates, vs Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder .


  • Jan. Walk of Canossa
  • Three Emperors War - Micheal VII Doukas had his two most powerful generals rise in revolt. Doux Nikephoros Bryennios the Elder of Dyrrhachium and Western Themes rose up in rebellion and declared Emperor. Doux Nikephoros Botaneiates of Anatolic Theme and Eastern Provinces with the aid of the Seljuq declared himself Emperor.
  • Roussel de Bailleul is was released to deal with Usurper Nicephorus Botaniates where he defeats him and tries to turns traitor. He is captured by Seljuqs and executed that same year. 


  • Alexios tricks Roussel de Bailleul which causes 
  • Roussel de Bailleul conquered the Opsikion, Bucellarians, and Cappadocia Provinces. He crowns himself Emperor. Emperor Michael VII  persuades  Tutush I to attack him, and he is tricked tricked by Alexios where he is captured by Tutush. 


  • Roussel de Bailleul, tried to make a kingdom out of the Optimatoi Province. 
  • Roger Hauetvil captures Sicily to be Roger of Sicily, brother of Robert Guiscard. 
  • The First Great Saxon revolt


  • Co-Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes was plotting to return to power was dismantled by only to be blinded and die a slow and painful death from an infection. 
  • Doux Nikephoros Karantenos pacified the revolt of Constantine Bodin
  • Emperor Arp Aslan (father of Emperor Malik I and Tutush I) was defeated by Suleiman ibn Kutalmish (father of Kilij Aslan) in battle. 
  • Investiture Contraversy begins with Pope Gregory vs Henry IV 


  • April Fall of Bari (Italian Byzantine Holdings) despite Doux Nikephoros Karantenos efforts where he delt with Normans in Italy and had to pacify the Balkans. 
  • August Battle of Manzikert - Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes, step father of Micheal VII Doukas and Regent Emperor had the disastrous loss against the Arp Aslan of Seljuk. This resulted with the Seljuq and Roussel de Bailleul take over Anatolia. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenese was captured and Emperor Micheal VII (M21) came to the throne depending a lot on NIkephoritzes eunuch and Chief Minister of State. When he was ransomed back, he lost power to his son-in-law.  


  •  Romanos IV Diogenes married Eudokia Makrembolitissa against the wishes of former Emperor Constantine X Doukas. Despite being only Co-Emperor to Micheal VII Doukas (M18 then), he usurped his son to become emperor.  

Roman Provinces 

  • Thrace-Macedonia 
  • Thessalonica- Strymon (Doux Nikephoros Milesenos)
  • Hellas-Nicopolis 
  • Peloponnese 
  • Aegean Sea (Megas Doux John Doukas)
  • Crete 
  • Dyrrhachium (Doux John Komnenos)

Partially Controlled Regions

  • Paristrion - Buffer Region and Barbarian-Roman Colony
  • Archbishopric of Orhid (Bulgaria) 
  • Sirmium (Contested with Croatia and Hungary)

Neighboring States

  • Kingdom of Croatia (Civil War)
  • Duchy of Naples (Protosebastos Duke Sergius of Naples)
  • Kingdom of Hungary (King Ladislaus M53 )
  • Duchy of Poland (Duke Władysław I Herman)
  • Grand Principality of Kiev (Grand Prince Vsevold I)
  • made up of Principality of Kiev, Principality of Chernigov and Principality of Pereyaslavl
  • Kingdom of Georgia (King David IV the Builder)
    • Archbishop George of Chqondidi  

Marauding and Roving Peoples

  • Pechenegs
  • Cumans
  • Kipchaks

Other Empires

Holy Roman Empire 

  • Emperor Henry IV (M42)
  • Henry, Count of Monte Sant'Angelo,

Papal States 

  • Pope Urban II
  • Matilda of Canossa (F46)

Republic of Venice

  • Doge Vitale Faliero of House Fano.

Sultanate of Rum

  • Abu Al-Quasim
  • Chaka Bey

Sejuk Empire

  • Malik Shah
  • Tutush I

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Back to Basics: Pacing - Dice Agency and Framing the Narrative

  • As a GM or Player, what do you think of the activity of Framing the Narrative? 
  • Is Framing the Narrative part of Managing Tension and Conflict? 
  • If it is, how important is it in your pacing strategy?
  • How much does "dice feedback" (knowing the result of the die rolls) affect the job of Framing the Narrative? 

These Questions pointed out that Framing the Narrative is important to ME. Its not important in the enjoyment of MANY games. I'm am getting the impression many games can be enjoyed without it and its part of a niche way of playing.

Below is a discussion with +Charles Tan regarding the subject comming from a discussion of "Dice Agency". I only used his comments in the thread since he pursued the matter and pointed out some key elements about the discussion. Particularly its just one way of enjoying the game. 

Myself - Is needing to roll a bad habit? If the player feels agency only when they Roll bad? Does the gm requiring a roll to grant players agency bad? Sorry leading questions. 

Charles Tan - It depends on player and GM expectations, and what type of game it is.
For example, if the player roleplayed well, do they still need to roll to resolve the encounter, despite performing superbly (in the GM's opinion)? What happens if they roll low, would they still fail despite a persuasive argument?
Or if a player invested in a high Social Stat, and made a mediocre attempt at persuading the NPC, an auto-failure would not feel satisfactory to the player because they invested in their Social Stat, only for it to not come into play. They want the opportunity to make the roll, because that was how they built their character.
Also some RPGs, for certain actions, don't have mechanics for rolling, because they want it resolved in a different way (i.e. roleplaying, persuading other players, etc.).
There is also illusion of outcomes (i.e. Player Rolls vs. GM Rolls); interference from previous experiences (last game they played involved rolling, current game they play all conflict is resolved socially), and other factors. 

Myself - The context is the study of pacing, particularly managing tension via information asymmetry (or uncertainty). The GM delaying or manipulating feedback vs letting dice inform the player. The player vs character point made me realize I could allow success at a cost.

Charles Tan  - There's two issues at here.
One is pacing, but that's relatively easy to gauge.
The other is information transparency or player feedback. This will boil down to the type of game you're trying to tell. For actions that have instantaneous repercussions, you want immediate feedback (and since the results are also immediate, there is no point in concealing the roll from the player).
In a game of diplomacy (or even a heist), however, there is rationale from concealing info from the player until the very end. For example, if you talk to 3 jurors who will decide on your fate, you might NOT want to make it clear whether they succeeded in persuading the 1st juror when they talk to the 2nd. Same goes from 2nd to 3rd. It's when the final vote comes in that you reveal the results (persuaded 1st, failed 2nd, succeeded w/ 3rd, etc.).
You can even do it game-show style. 1st and 2nd juror results are revealed before you interact w/ 3rd juror, heightening dramatic tension for 3rd juror encounter. 

Myself -  I agree. I'm wondering if the agency depending on the dice doesn't need to be the status quo. I grew up gaming that my agency was through the dice and thus my own expectations are tied to it so much it's hard to disconnect it. While in the real world I operate with so much uncertainty compared to PCs it makes the certainty of dice unusual in comparison. I'm wondering is there distrust for the GM something of a product of when I was a different gamer and focused on one-up-smanship. 

Charles Tan - Early RPGs were influenced by D&D, which in turn by wargaming--where it is a PvP scenario so you want transparent and equal rules--which is where the dice mechanics originally came from.
More modern story-oriented RPGs (usually indie RPGs) understand that it is a story-oriented game, so trust either the players (some games are GM-less, and involve communal storytelling) or the GM without needing dice as a mechanic.
And then there are other games w/c find mechanics that serve the type of story they're telling, such as Dread and Jenga Tower as conflict resolution (basically one death per session but the rest should be success...).
This lead me to think of how to work with "Dice Feedback" problems, since I will have to work with players who  have Dice Agency requirement. How to manage tension when the dice kinda made the job much harder (and GMing is already hard for me). That would be a great skillset regardless of a system that allowed dice feedback/information symmetry. The more tools I have prepared for such, the better I am in managing tension for the game.

Back to Basics Pacing - I've been mulling over this and found this the best "template" for prep and asking questions of myself to get ready. It is currently making me List and create many tension managing strategies - particuarly learning to work with LESS (and less and less lolz).

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Reflections] Ads for Skilled Players

Early on I realized that information is a barrier between people. As much as Shared Interests can connect us, differences in Interests separate us. I hated the vicious cycle of how this worked and how disconnected it made me feel. When I learn something, it should not make it harder to connect to people. The more I know, the more differences it can create and the natural thing for me was to make these differences matter more than they should.

I was reminded by this again when I noticed that trend of "Skilled Players Wanted!" I get it, it takes time to teach people to play a certain game. I felt that even more when I tried to teach people GURPS and realize I've made a pretty steep requirement for Interaction. I realized that was the problem of how I played DnD or GURPS, with all the expansions and companion rules I required. Holy Crap I'm distancing myself from people. 

It was first expressed in my personal philosophy and then towards my gaming. Tearing down those walls and reworking all the things I learned into being System Agnostic - its like becoming a Humanist. Of course there is the system I grew up with, and the system I know very well - but in the end I have to strip away the system and look at principles that can be applied universally. 

 So we can talk about games, I can "Yes&" in any gaming conversation if I can get down to the Attention Mechanics and Soft Skills that creates the Game Experience. We use game systems like Tools, and we each have a particular technique in applying these tools. I want to ask about your technique.

Everyone is in various stages and levels in their life. Its life, I should be able to relate if I work with what matters. Everyone wants to game, they will channel their desires and imagination and I should be able to work with it if I listen.

I guess it should boil down to "if the person is a pain in the butt?". Thats all that matters, people easy to deal with is all I need to make a great game experience. 

Proto-Stress Rules

Inspiration from work kinda makes me want to introduce a STRESS penalty rule. Basically responsibilities and worries accumulate, these distractions represents how much levels of mastery in skills are there to compensate for this. That higher levels of skill is not just for greater feats of ability but being able to overcome great amounts of distractions (basically representing greater and greater levels of "keeping it together" and concentration).

Leaders who are responsible are the first to take a lot of these penalties. Maintaining discipline and example is STRESSFUL as well as pay extra attention. Ad-Hoc a simple "Stress Penalty" would suffice for every responsibility. Delegation or Strategic re-organization of Assets and Resources would be the typical solution to this. The rule should be compatible and work well with Multi-Tasking rules or acting as such for systems with no such rules.  Characters who are not "organized" cannot see all the tasks they need to do, they can be aware of only a few tasks.

I think this kind of rule makes players appreciate the burden of multiple responsibilities and juggling these. It also incentives them to seek strategic solutions to minimize this and taking too many responsibilities on. It also simulates how mess the PC's life can get.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Back to Basics: Pacing and Tension, Pacing Tool

Two wonderful videos below on Pacing but I'm here to talk about some ways to apply it immediately.

Pacing Grid

I have my players/PCs names in the left most column going down in rows, and Columns are named for the 3 phases: Set-up, Conflict, and Release. I can implement this in a much larger scale, across two notebook pages.
This is a simple MAP by which I can tell where I am and where I'm headed. In each Phase I mark down the actions of the PC/Players.
Ex. I get everyone's set up (see below what should be done in set up). This informs me of what would be the best way to introduce conflict
The use of the GRID is to manage the attention mechanics of running a game: I get lost and my attention resource is severely finite.  I just need to look down and glance, if there is an empty space then I've not adequately extracted a significant contribution from the player.

When I complete a Column, I round it off and quickly summarize what happened. This happens every column.

Game PREP. This tool can be used to plan a GAME session. Simply plan out the cycles of Set-up/Tensions/Release. Problems foreshadowed will be here and in PREP mode, I will be writing down the "buttons" I should be pressing per character.

The Set-up - Player Buy In Time.

This is when the GM needs to get the Players to have their buy in. To do this I establish a kind of "down time" or "sand box". I then ask the PCs what they want to do, as these actions root the PCs into the world as they begin to shape it.

The PC's Persistence. Action is agency but, to create buy-in you need Persistence - Permanence of the Players's actions.  Activities like buying stuff is one of these, but more so are activities that lets the players freely shape the world around them. Let the PCs fix/manage their household or holdings, make some strategic decisions about their resources, or cultivate relationships with NPCs. Let them make preparations, and set their long/medium range plans in motion.

Building Value in the PC's effort. Letting them buy or make stuff or preparations is not enough.  Putting Value in what they buy and make is the next part. This is true with the relationships they cultivate, and the elements of the world they personally try to shape. Basically I "Yes&/but..." then proceed to highlight the values. When I get better I will find a way to weave in the risks through implication.
Its one thing telling the PCs what part of the world they are affecting, its another to tell them the repercussions and the value of how they affect the world. We can describe it, or we can show it, and it will take up some time to convey it. So you will find me trying to Actively Listen if the Players get it.
I take note of the relevance, and its used for material for the next session, improving the value of the buy-in as each cycle of Buy-ins add greater and greater value. The more I can recall these details and weave it in the next session, the better the appreciation - as well as it reflecting in the Post-Session Notes.

Rising Tensions - Enter Conflict

After setting up the PCs roots (filling up the Set-up side of the Pacing Grid), Tension rises when the Problem, Challenge, or Conflict is Introduced. In basic Problem-Solving "Frame the Problem" and let the PCs work on it. Typically the session already has fore-shadowing of this problem. The better the Story teller, the more "Narratively Aesthetic" the problem/conflict is introduced (I'm not really good there).  

Initial Reactions - This where players start asking questions or interacting with their environment. Don't let them ask questions directly to the GM (that breaks immersion), let them perform Informing Actions (I fail to do this). Informing actions is letting their PCs ask questions and interact with the world to learn more. This is to keep immersion and to have something for the PCs to do.

The same goes to the GM, "Show" don't "tell" (another weakness of mine). Typically this is a Loss, or a Change of their Environment, or an Event! I try not to use monologues to describe things, let them perform Informing Actions. they ask questions to NPCs or make Skill rolls analyzing the situation, but they have to be specific?
  • Rolling against Skills in Informing Actions: Can I use Intelligence Analysis/Streetwise/Criminology/Area Knowledge to determine the source of the threat? - this is not enough. I, the GM, should be asking what "facts" or "clues" do the player is taking into consideration. The Player Actively interacts with the world to get their answers.  
  • I go to around, talking to X, Y, Z, and get a clue of what is happening and try to use A-skill to figure it out. Then the GM asks what specific "questions" are you asking? Move towards finding the right questions. Wrong questions Ok, it just leads to an unsatisfying answer or an answer that leads to more questions. 

Managing Tension/Suspense/Conflict. Informing PCs/Players manages Tension. I should start with answers that make more questions. These are typically General Sweeping Statements, typically Loaded with so much particulars and details that would take time to sort.
  • Start Close and Work towards Farther Threats/Problems. People who are good with analyzing threats analyze from the closest/most immediate to the farthest! (something I am working on myself) Begin with what is CLOSEST to the PCs. 
    • You notice tracks that are not you own! 
    • The Immediate area has gone dark and quiet. 
    • Your radios can't seem to work. 
  • Distort Information! ALL ROLLS ARE SECRET!!! No Player Rolls from this point. This is where Players should not be listening too closely to Out-Of-Character Knowledge.  (I always lack the presence of mind to do this more systematically)
    • In the cave - Tell the ranger one thing, the rogue something else, and the dwarf another. 
    • Put each other's expertise and credibility against each other. The hireling expert disagrees with the PC Expert. 
  • Initiative! (using the same principles of Narrative Combat Initiative) Resolve Actions before Questions! Get everyone's Declarations, then resolve by Actions to Asking. Create a sense of Urgency, and let Threats and Problems cause losses and more problems (use the Minor Problem method)
  • Occupies the Players Attention! You don't want them to disengage, but you can only deal with a few Players at a time. a Player challenge keeps things occupied, because they need time to formulate their best answer while the clock is running. 
    • Acting vs Asking will require the Players to frame their Questions in the form of Actions that will give their PCs insight. 
    • Framing Questions, then there is the right way to Ask Questions. To keep things moving, i the player is stuck with "Ummm..." just look at his PC skill. Never penalize trying or Initiative, reward it.
    • Actions have COSTS! For every action there should be a tangible and substantive loss in resources or time.
  • Urgency! Everytime no one steps up on to the "plate" create a loss or more problems. Action and Trying, and even Failing is better than Idle time. We Improv and our PCs have skills we dont have, we can forgive failures but not the lack of Initiative. 
    • Their breaks are only my break to take notes, have a drink and snack (which I always forget and would have made for a more sustainable energy level) , and regroup my thoughts.  
    • If they need a break, then I better take a break as well. This is for fun and there is diminishing returns. When idle I can write down what is happening and What I'm trying to do!
vs Drawing Out Tension - The moment I think I am drawing out Tension, then the PCs may have realized that already and they may disengage. If I'm caught up WITH THEM in the Urgency and the Problems, then they will detect it and by sympathy continue to engage!

Managing means Pacing. Heck take deep breaths would help! Lets manage the Tension together to keep it engaging.  

Release! - Ending the Conflict  

Feedback is Release! My problem is how poorly I can judge the weight of the Information which leads to a clumsy release. I really need a method to handle information even when my brain is maxed out. The answer lies in the Mnemonic of the Pacing GRID!

I should be noting already what Release would be on the Release column and manage how it comes out by the actions of the Players. Simply glancing back and forth between columns should get my brain thinking of how to connect it in the most "engaging" way possible.

The Release Notes happen before I Release! Its the only way for me to Check and run through an Improvisation. This is where skill from practice, and experience will matter more and more. The sooner I get this process down the sooner I can maximize how on my experience and skill.

I will have more on Release in future Posts.

In Conclusion. 

Pacing is hard, but I would not have been able to work on it had I not been listening to myself GM in Hangouts On-Air. In fact I now NEED to listen to it despite how painful it is to catch myself do so many wrongs.


An example of Pacing in (any game system) Mass Combat, 
  1. The Set UP is the Recon, and Army Preparation. 
  2. The Conflict is introduced when the GM describes the Actionable Recon and Prepration Results. The Tension rises as maneuvers are executed, Ideally these are now secret rolls of the GM and Players do not make any rolls. the GM rolls factoring the bonuses from the maneuvers. GMs who suck in dressing a scene (like me) work on reports of lieutenants, the sounds of familiar voices, and familiar battle instrument tones and notes. 
  3. Release Happens depending on the circumstance, always there to Inform the Players when 

Pacing As a Sensing Technique (EDIT: 7-2-2015)

Now that you've understood the basic use the Pacing as a way to ask questions. Here are a set of questions you ask to know where you are in a situation.
  1. Are the Players ready for the Next Challenge? Do they want to prepare? What are their current distractions? - this checks if they players are in the Set up Stage.
  2. Have they latched on a Problem or Conflict? Do they want to Escalate?  Do I have buy in of the next challenge? - to check if I can move to conflict and rising tension. 
  3. How is the player's Buy-in? Are they still engaged or how is their engagement? They are typically looking  to fight in their own terms have you noticed their communication for this?  Are they feeling unprepared or unready? What is the mood of the PCs vs the Mood I am trying to achieve? - Sensing how Conflict is fairing. its ok to take a short break to think and re-examine when there is a Lul in the action.
  4. Is the player exhibiting Decision Fatigue? Has the players reached buy-in or excitement levels like before? What will bring certainty or end this chain of uncertainty? What conclusion or consequence will have something definite to say about the Motives and Character of the PC? - This is Breaking Tension with a Climax or consequence).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Back to Basics: Organizing your session by Challenges, and a reminder on Pacing

Keeping things simple, my players will notice I will be using these mnemonics: Minor and Significant Challenges.

Minor Problems/Challenges was covered in Non-Binary Consequences. Basically it is resolved quickly. What ever answer the player gives, the GM takes note and moves the scene forward. I would add, the GM can ask a roll for every minor problem without giving any more detail about Target Number or Difficulty. He just notes it and moves it along as quickly as possible. Save it for the post game notes, priority is the flow of the game.

Major or Significant Challenges/Problems take up a scene. the key is budgeting the scene time, beginning with 10-15 minutes and adjusting for the number of participants. You'll know when everyone got a lot of participation when there was something to note from each. For me it would be going through the names again and again and thinking about how they are contributing.

My problem is budgeting the scene time and making it as significant in the engagement as possible WHILE allocating some time for me to take down notes. Mastering in managing the Value of a Scene comes from some soft skills, particularly framing. Basically describing the scene in a way that presses the audiences buttons the right order and way. This is covered in many gaming posts from many other blogs but the underlying technique, if you want to research it, is framing. Look at examples of framing.

Sorry for Climate deniers, the statistical frequency of super storms in ASIA has been so significant we watch US media to marvel the masterful use of framing techniques. Framing can be boiling down to cherry picking particular information that is representative for ones particular agenda (inoculation against framing effect lets you learn to use framing effect better, which we can tackle later on).

So in the end Ill be preparing by brain storming of all the possible scenes that will involve everyone or most of everyone and connect them, or draw inspiration from real life and injecting it to the game. Minor Challenges/Problems is a small feat and easy to master. Although this is all good but a multiplier to the satisfaction from this is from Pacing and Tension and Release.

Future Topics

Continuing with Back to Basics and Any Game System techniques/System Agnostic Techniques, I have to set aside these two related future topics. 

Pacing Basics 
I can go into some implementable basics for these that anyone can use. It talks about how it works in principle and gives you some factors which you should be able to prime. But I'll cover it in greater detail later, especially since I'm one to talk I know where I flub it so often. Still i am reiterating stuff from Extra Credit and will focus on examples. In the end, Mnemonics are what I will depend on to perform these feats while juggling the game, if you can figure some out for yourself what do you need me for.

Consensus Decision Making Magic
How to have the Players drive the scene with their interaction via Consensus Decision Making Magic
- this is where the GM is there to remind players of their conflicting goals and their own motives and resolve among themselves and NPCs the Significant Challenge. This will have to be a future article.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

GURPS Houserules: No more double pay, Households, Relationships

Houserules I had to make to organize my game better and keep with the setting and immersion.

No Double Pay

In the GURPS FAQ there is a question about "Should I pay for Advantages Gained during Play?" Note that the wording is "up to the GM", but GMs still follow this rule for fear of power creep (see below). This leads to a whole can of worms being opened. This is because GURPS has quantified everything to points, relationships and stuff have a point value.

So if the PC gained a household as a reward he may need to pay for the status and wealth for it? The safe choice which doesn't look at the situation carefully: Yes. But to make an informed choice we look at Power Creep.

This rule also really breaks immersion and is problematic when you consider that a Gain is never a gain if you have to pay for it. It just doubles the cost and worse is that when the PC/Player has to lose it because he doesnt have the points. Not really good game design.

As with this system, Nothing is really permanent - you can gain and lose. Like HP just track it the same way. Some days you have a lot, some you have little. Early on the GM can establish that abilities and skills can be lost - failure to practice, injuries, and what occupies our attention slowly wears away on our abilities and the things we cannot take care off.

Change Wealth Rules: Collecting Households 

I had to dismantle the GURPS wealth rules and break it up. I now just focus on Sources of Wealth. Ive limited it to Filthy Rich for character start up and after such I wont put any points behind it. I dont want to put a Point Cost to Trebizoid, Constantinople, Izmir etc.. Because these are made up of smaller households and other parts that can be broken up and redistributed. Its simpler to just count in "households". So much simpler and easy to keep track of, which makes you realize why economists and how ancient administrators always simplify to households.

So basically I award or take away households. I'm shifting the entire Mass Combat System to be viewed in Households (the smallest and basic household). levels of efficiency changes and is rolled for.

Collecting Households/Holdings/ Fiefs is apples to oranges aka Incomaperables (power creep 3:51). They are different from CP and they have limits to what they can do for the PC.  In GURPS wealth is exponentially gained every level, which is not how it works at a certain wealth point in the setting. Malik Shah and Alexius are not the "Same" or not in the same "wealth bracket" that the system sees them as equal. Its better to just simplify them in by their "Holdings"/Principalities/Fiefs (parenthesis the number of households they are equivalent).

When Alexius lost Anatolia, he lost households and its weirder to impose some strange abstraction on his wealth. Its just simpler to add or subtract households.

Any Game System. You can take the Households = Revenues rule to any game system. It was a rule of thumb of ancient administrators, no one owns it feel free to use it. Feel free to design around it. Just make the assumptions of how much the mode average household generates after its own expenses it contributes to its  overlord. Wealthier households have some more efficiency and other households working under it.

Relationships: Allies are those with Loyalty 15. 

it should have been discussed in Allies and Contact rules, but I'll clear it up. The loyalty rules can make up for relationship scores. If the PC has created a relationship that lasts then they've gained an ally. Simply introducing them or giving them a relationship where they can talk and meet and arrange deals makes them a Contact. These are things the PC does not need to pay for and the GM should reward because these are also Incomparables - they have some maintenance cost and impose its own diminishing returns and complexities - relationships change with every other relationship and people can only juggle so much.

Relationships Scores are OLD and in many games. It should be emphasized a bit more since it brings relationships to light and focuses on managing them (Yeah sounds like a manager or a leadership seminar topic). You can use it on any game system, and simply using the systems scoring standard would be good enough.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back to Basics: Non-Binary Consequences

Here are tools to use non-binary consequences to further the game. If you're worried about gamist choices is being encouraged this should muddy up the the matter nice and messy. Continued from Empathy is the Goal.

A lot of the results found in the tables alter the success with some minor problems - problems that are distracting and a nuisance. They also give use unexpected costs, consequences and opportunity costs. This, hopefully, let's players learn the mindset of managing their own expectations.

The failures are also altered, with unexpected costs being avoided and failures letting us see opportunities where we did not see any before. In the failed roll players can force a success at a greater cost than they may be capable of paying.

In the end the system seeks to have more incomparables that push the story forward, the Players feel that even if the RP a decision it doesnt mean the game ends prematurely.

Limited use per player and per session. Its just a great way for a Stumped GM to push the story forward when success or failure ends the session or game or story sooner than ideal.

Note: Characters Weak Aspects can be further informed to the GM by a simple Time Allocation method which will be tackled in a later post. A simpler method than a time sheet.

Non-Binary Consequences Tables

This is a table to roll for 
Roll 2d6Chance

Minor Problems/Challenges. These are challenges and problems that does not take a roll to overcome or neutralize but requires the Player to detail his trade offs and how he approaches the situation. The sole objective of this technique is having more details to work with for the GM, creating the sense of scarcity and limitations with trade-offs, and building up towards climax or extending the challenge in pacing.

Challenges. Challenges are mentioned and refers to any tasks, problems, hurdles, objectives, etc... that was resolved or lined up to be resolved. Successes can be undone, while other ongoing challenges can be

Roll 2d6Partial Success Consequences 1d6
21-2)  Misplaced Credit. the credit of the success is diffused or misplaced among people or factors. most people think the character had nothing to do with it. There is word spreading the character is wrongfully getting credit for it. The characters has a hard time proving their work.
3-4)  A sacrifice for success. If the PC is busy or overloaded in some way give him the option of having to drop something valuable in exchange for this success. Otherwise the success is temporary or alleviates the problem partially.
5-6) Double Damned. Roll twice more. The first roll is only on the 3-4 result, the second is in the 5-7 result. 
3-41-2) Bad Timing. The timing of the success is off. It comes a late enough to cause a Minor problem.  that can come back to bite the PCs. Example would be that a deadline has come and the negative consequences are wrecking minor havoc.
3-4) At great cost. The cost of the success is *1d3+1 more than expected. If the cost is more than the PC can pay, the PC accidentally uses up someone's resources and they come to collect. This is a bit harder to resolve than a Minor Problem, consider it a minor problem that grows fairly quickly per session. OR It took more than what the PC expected out of him, the PC is spent. The PC needs to rest or suffers serious penalties when participating in other actions. If the Player decides the PC to rest, you may let a minor problem lapse in his absence.
5-6) Opportunity Cost. Create an Opportunity this success closes off. it has to be a worthwhile opportunity with a real gain. This opportunity presents itself as the character succeeds. The PC has the option to fail, failing that will trigger a Partial Failure consequence, that is automatically shifted to a worse result by one step.
5-71-2) That Escalated Quickly - The success makes the next challenge much harder, and more at stake, more to gain, and with little time to prepare.
3-4) More Problems. The success uncovers a bunch of minor problems. Roll 1d6+1 minor problems pop up.
5-6) Unwanted Attention. The the success has attracted unwanted attention. Someone who will use Deception or force on the PC to extract such services make contact with the PC. Make an existing NPC more resourceful and adversarial, but this matter can be resolved in a session. 
8-91-2) Conundrum. 1d6 minor problems show up as a result of the success. Failure to handle the matter effectively grows the minor problems every session. Solving them grants the PC resources or aid to resolve future minor problems. The PC is free to ignore them and sweep them under the rug. Ignoring all of them adds 1d6 more problems in the next session.
3-4) Repeat Success. A unique and special result came of the PCs attempt. Any attempt to repeat the success at the exact and unique manner is very hard and will require significant investment of time and resources. Failure to replicate will bring some disdain and disappointment all around, from the overlord to peers whose expectations rose to highly. The PC can attempt to manage expectations early, if they are quick enough before the expectations snow ball.
If the PC does not follow up the success and manages the expectations, someone will offer some minor reward in return for insight about the matter. If the PC accepts, some one almost replicates the success next session and diminishes the PCs standing from it, even brings some question if the PC really performed it. If the PC did not take the reward the replication is even better than the PCs initial efforts.
5-6) Apprenticeship.  The success gains the PC an apprentice, either their lord wants more of what the PC has to offer or someone admires the PCs competence and wants to be Apprentice. This person is incompetent and has some complicating factors - the Lord who assigned it is always waiting on improvements who seeks to capitalize on the new apprentice or the People who see or talk to the apprentice creating high expectations - creating more apprentices or putting the PC against his Peers.  
10-111-2) Thrust to Greatness. The Character is fast tracked in his career or path. Gain responsibilities and duties he may not be prepared for. More enemies and rivals show up, people begin to talk about him. While people are mostly undecided many have opinions are plenty and varied, and problematic.
3-4) too valuable a prize. The PC's reward for success is a price that is very hard to keep. Typically something that has a high maintenance cost, like a great Warhorse, A company of savage warriors, valuables too heavy and hard to move, land many want to contest or take, affection of someone who makes many dangerously envious.
5-6) Honors and Duties. The reward is honors that test the character's flaws and weaknesses. A greedy character is awarded the watch over a purse, a lusty character awarded care of a household where his master has a lusty dependent, etc.. basically a match that will end up in much greater failure and a test of the character's weaknesses vs his duties and honor. 
121-2) Fame! the circumstance of this success changes into one that happens to have many things hanging on it. The success of the PC becomes stuff of legend and may see him as a hero, but this is polarized by many who see the success exaggerated and accident. The reputation of success grants a good reaction to people, but the many who have the contrary opinion challenge and see every fault of the charcter. The character does all wrong. Like a celebrity that is deconstructed and demolished for being in the center of attention.
3-4) Burning Bright! The success increases in scope, gains, and attention. The character gains a minor bonus, 1d6 (dont tell the Player, just say he's in the zone). This bonus persists if the PC escalates the challenge, and takes more risks and puts more at stake. If the PC does not maintain this momentum, the bonus disappears, a Big Problem, Rival, or Enemy enters the scene and will try neutralizes the PC and make him fall farther down. He will end up with less than what he started with.
5-6) ...Gift Horse in the Mouth! Play down the success and take the first problem you can think off, ideally one that presses the PCs buttons the wrong way, and present it to the PC. This is a permanent gain in disguise, it looks like a poisoned gift and initially it may be a poisoned gift but all the minor problems iron themselves out.
Ex. more responsibilities, that look impossible but actually is low maintenance. A difficult NPC, who happens to love solving some of the PCs problems. Etc...
Give it a couple of session, treated right it would be a permanent gain. 

Roll 2d6Partial Failure Consequences 1d6
21-2) A disheartening failure. the other PCs have their partial failure and success consequences shifted to a step worse for the session.
3-4) A mark of failure. The player gains a permanent physical mark regarding the failure. A scar, a permanent wound, the inability to do a minor task (play an instrument, carry his maximum load, run for his max speed at half the duration he normally can, etc...).
5-6) Weakness revealed. Characters who have no relationships or personal weaknesses let something slip. They utter a name, of someone who can severely distract them, a memory so strong it can serve as a talisman to make the PC weaker (distracted). Ask the player for a name, any name. If there are enemies in their presence they will learn something.
PCs with relationships, roots or family, will have family seeking them. it may be the failure bringing a loved one to the PC out of concern. This puts the loved one in harms way.  
3-41-2) More Drama. The failure causes 1d3+1 Minor Problems of a social conflict nature to be revealed. This is actually an opportunity where the PC can improve their relationships or gain a relationship if he takes the time to deal with them. Offer the opportunity to walk away from the problem, causing only one of the NPCs to have a deteriorated relationship with the PC.
3-4) A long night Ahead. Add to the failure's consequences a lot more work. The cost to fix this should be in significant time and effort. Give the PC multi-tasking penalty if he has other things he has to do other than fix this problem (if no multitasking rules just make all difficulties harder or the PC is distracted). Let the PC have the option to give up and give him no visible consequences beyond the initial flack for failure.
If the PC chooses to do the work, even if they dont have to increase the PC's virtue related to being professional or give him a bonus in self control or discipline. If that reward is not applicable, let the PC see a different opportunity for cleaning up his own mess.
5-6) Frustration. This failure frustrates and distracts the PC beyond its other negative consequences. Let the PC have some minor penalty as he works through this failure for the entire session. Give the PC the option to drown out the frustration or completely forget about it. This removes the penalty. If the PC works through the frustration by talking through it, meditating/reflecting on it, writing about it give him grant him a reroll in the next session. 
5-71-2) Not that bad.Take the last success or gains or mitigation of a loss or threat, Ask the player how badly he wants this to succeed. If he says yes, then the last success/gains/mitigation/aversion of a loss/threat is undone. Otherwise, if he accepts the failure he gains a minor reputation related to the matter OR some trauma related to the matter for a 1d3 sessions.
3-4) A for Effort. The PC's efforts were heroic and witnessed. Set up the scene where the failure is a test of character, if the character has any virtues let it contrast with his weaknesses. If the Player can Role-Play this scene out, regardless of how comfortable they are with such or bad they are with RPing, some people noticed their virtues (be it compassion, honor, bravery, discretion, etc...).  Roll for 1d6 NPC and name these NPCs and they will come to play later in the game to help with minor problems.
If the player can't role-play or gets really frustrated with the failure a powerful NPC, who has the capability of teaching the PC notices and criticizes the PC.
5-6) A window opens. The failure is demoralizing to the PC and those around him. The PC suffers some reputation damage but in trying an opportunity opens up. One that would have not been noticed or learned without the failure. if the PC pursues this opportunity for the session, let it mature on the next session. 
8-91-2) Cost mitigated failure. If any resources or time was consumed, the cause of failure made it that half or significantly less were consumed. Point this out to the PC. If the PC pursues looking at his current resources a minor challenge leads him to more resources that can only help indirectly. By indirectly, it takes another step or another activity to convert that small gain into a usable one. Looking for water only to find a dried up spring.
3-4)  Zero Sum. If there is someone who gains by the PC's failure, double the gains or double what the PC stood to lose but make the NPC feel pity, mercy, or magnanimous towards the PC. If it was a friendly competition, then the NPC is friendlier towards the PC from some event in the conflict that mattered to the NPC.
Give the PC some incentive to act like a total douche. Either point out that the crowd is jeering at the PC from the appearance of weakness, or NPCs that matter to the PC feel humiliated, crushed, betrayed, disillusioned by association to the PC and this failure.
 5-6) Learning moment. Failure causes a significant loss of resource, but the PC gains insight. Gain 1d3 worth of resources to improve the PC, be it character points, or other character resources. Or grant the PC a conditional bonus for similar circumstances equal to the die roll. 
10-111-2) Failed Reputation. The PC gains a reputation, a nickname, regarding the failure. it catches on and spreads the PC's reputation. Those who have not heard of it, once they learn about the reputation will underestimate the PC. This means the PC has more to prove in any task but, if the PC advances in society he becomes more remarkable and the Nickname intrinsic meaning changes slowly. Every time this result is rolled again by the same PC, the reputation spreads farther.
2-3) Sympathy Win. Everyone gains sympathy of the character. The crowd or witnesses are generally sympathetic to the PC.
5-6) Concentration. The failure has given the PC some trauma regarding the failure. On the next tasks, distractions can be held at bay from the impression left by this loss if the game system or play style does not make use of distractions, then allow a reroll on either the Consequences or the Task.

121-2) Wu Wei. there are serious consequences to the failure, but they completely disappear by next session. Something just happens to matter more and takes precedents. Everyone remembers the event differently, and what ever actions the PC had undertaken laid the groundwork for a new opportunity (which shows up next session).
3-4) A Teacher appears. A mentor, appears and criticizes the character's technique. He antagonizes and makes the character insecure. This mentor does not appear like a mentor but one of the Characters Critics. When the character confronts the mentor he learns of the respect he has of the character when he talks to him face to face, and how much he actually constructively criticizes the PC.
Make the source of a teacher always challenging or easily overlooked. Every time this result is rolled, the teacher can grant a wider range of mastery.
5-6) Center Stage Failure. The PC is propelled into the center stage of a the ongoing event because of the failure. The failure is catastrophic and he survives the failure, those around him barely or not at all. The world is polarized about the opinions about the PC, these opinions can be all negative and nuanced and heaps negative reactions for the PC. What stands out is that it draws so much attention the PC is in a position to Change what people think of him.
Every time this result i re-rolled the reputation grows and the polarization intensifies. So many made up rumors about the PCs exist and his failure is talked about. He is made villain or victim in various stories and retellings.