Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Warfare Notes

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

So I've been listening to Tyrant Series, I just finished funeral games and I'm now in King of the Bosphoros. I started reading all the Wikipedia about the Diadochi and all related articles. Christian Cameron and the Wikipedia has helped make these successor wars very interesting. Particularly the evolution of the Cavalry and Specialized unit roles. 

I find myself revising a lot of my understandings on man-power regarding some of the units. Basically the economics and psycho-mechanics of these units. Here are some key take aways: 
  • Edit: From feedback from Ian Borchardt
    • Pikemen, Halberders, Spearmen, swordsmen, etc... are all heavy infantry. the circumstancial modifiers will be detailed in my Warfare notes. 
    • Professional/regular vs Conscript Forces/iregular are 2 : 1 better. Trade-offs and circumstantial bonus based on their equipment and training.  Veteran and Elite are 2:3 meaning Elite is only marginally better but can 
    • With Open terrain where Regular vs Irregular have 2 vs 1 odds.  
      • In GURPS mass combat there is Troop Strength. It doesnt really have any mechanic to represent Flexibility and Adaptability that comes with a well drilled machine and the cumbersomeness of some tactics. The closest work around is to give it conditional penalties when it comes to being flexible or adaptable or giving conditional advantages to other units who exploit their inflexibility/in-adaptability. 
      • Wedge formation. Will be modeled as an Risky and Aggressive maneuver. Well armored units (and those with shields) are better at it than other units. Whats great about it is destroying cohession of the opposing unit and getting to more vulnerable units past it. 
    • Regular would be 5x in cost and time to train and equip than Irregular (especially because of half of the cost and time will be Overhead to reach Regular status. 
  • Heavy Infantry is not a unit but more of a role. A role that requires a lot of discipline and training.  
    • The Hoplite or the Roman Legionaire are heavy infantry. Special Unit Qualities:
      • Heavy to Light Shield
      • Heavy to Light Armored
      • Sword (defaults to Short sword)
      • Spear
      • Pike
      • Pole or Great weapon
      • Great, Strong, and Skirmishing Ranged
      • Shock or Skirmishing
      • Heavy (Closed formation), Medium (small group formations), to Light (Open Formation). 
    • Shock Action as well as taking the brunt of shock action are parts of the Role. The byzantines called heavy infantry Defensores. Many armies depended on the role as an a morale anchor. 
      • Taking the brunt of a Shock action is harder and takes more discipline.
      • Charging to become the "shock action" is easier which is why more expendable Auxilia can be made to do it. (the Kurasores)
    • So there will be Heavy "Armored" Infantry or Heavy Infantry Role to be more clear. 
    • In GURPS Mass Combat Troop Strength can be further simplified with the following tool (which I'm using with Open Warfare system). 
      • Ignore the previous TS method. 
      • Start counting the (Professional) Warriors. You can set that as your TS of 1 per warrior. So 1,000 trained warriors is a TS 1000. 
        • The most important table is the Relative TS Table. Relative TS table 
          • next is the class superiority modifier. 
          • limit to 2-3 key modifying circumstance modifiers. do not get too bogdown with
        • Equipment. This is a conditional multiplier the way Special Classes superiority gives modifiers to the roll. If the Force has the Equipment superiority for the situation then they get the Special Class superiority.  
        • Experience Level. consider the warrior the benchmark of quality of troop. non warriors count as 0.3TS, TS1.5 for veteran, to Elite of TS2, to a max of TS3 for heroes. 
      •  this simplifies the situation to:
        • what are the forces engaging? 
          • no. and quality (which is the TS)
        • what is the circumstances (who has superiority)?
          • terrain, position, 
          • their respective maneuvers, 
          • equipment
          • condition, initiative
        • roll and check combat results table. 
  • Remounts have a very very tangible effect in the Cavalry. The biomechanics of horses are very similar to humans, you can't expect them to carry a rider for more 4-6 hours (depending on horse's quality) without risking injury or getting injured if they go all-out. 
    • There are some serious problems of making it reflect in GURPS mass combat mechanics. In fact mounted combat has been very hard to model, and only recently with games like Mount and blade, simulations in Total War, and books like those of Flavius Arrianus being recently getting the rounds  reworking a lot of the notions of how Mounted combat works. Allowing GMs to stress it as an advantage. 
  • Any economic entity mechanics have to be pretty abstract as to leave the details of land usage, and focuses on the final products of a particular area. 
    • Further readings and the limitations of Historical knowledge would be a great and helpful set of directions to get people to see for themselves. 
    • The KPIs of the region can be a long list, but can have an order of details. Some details are more important and others are just dressing that help in immersion. A handy guide would be helpful because the details can be overwhelming (and powerfully immersive).
    • So far I've figured out much of Roman and Greek systems. Trying to figure out  Persian and Near East traditions, as well as Chinese traditions. 
  • Warfare system needs a checklist. The first checklist being: what are the Assets/Resources, and how they are employed/deployed. 
    • then comes the overhead, logistics, and support of these resources. 
    • step by step: from simplest combat in a narrative formula to levels of details.
  • Much of Chinese warfare is conscripts as r/k strategies. It became much clearer when the profile of heavy infantry became more apparent and universal in many of my studies. They did have shields but The Art of War by Thomas Cleary the commentaries by the other generals stressed on conscripts infantry. 
    • Its possible to have no heavy infantry units, especially given the population and man power in chinese history.  Its kind of telling how sun tzu resorts to tricking his own men and putting them in desperate situations vs western tradition of heroic combat.  Just my pet theory, googling around for contrary opinions (because that would mean I could find a heavy infantry). Their halberdiers arent exactly heavy infantry, still open to ideas. 
    • There is a possibility there were Heavy Infantry in the Warring States. But the Qiin must have killed them off. 
Currently Reading
  • People Land and Politics Demographic developments and transformation of roman itally 300 BCE to 14 CE Luuk de Ligt and SJ Nortwood 
  • The Beginnings of Rome Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars 1000 to 264 BCE by TJ Cornell
  • A History of the Roman World HH Scullard and TJ Cornell
  • Hanson The Other Greeks The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization
  • Women in the Ancient World The Arethusa Papers SUNY series in Classical Studies by John Perdaotto and JP Sullivan
  • Ancient Chinese Warfare Ralph D. Sawyer
  • The Roman Empire Economy Society and Culture by Peter Garnesy and Richard Saller 
  • The Roman market Economy by Peter Temin
  • Ancient Mesopotamia New Perspectives by Peter Knight
  • Millet Cultivation in China by Francesca Bray
  • Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece by Victor Davis Hanson
  • Rome at War Farm Family and Death in the Middle Republic by Nathan Rosenstein 
  • History of the ROman Legion (a self published book in google play that is very poorly sourced but aggregates a lot of secondary sources)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

what I miss about gaming

what free time I have is being on call with the new baby. Otherwise its trying to corral my son to do his homework or pull him from the vice grip of youtube. if not that it would be so many other things like studies, errands, chores, and obligations. I dont think there would be more freetime until my son is old enough to have the self control to do his own "character building" exercises (if he has my attention problems then that would be all through his teens lolz).

What i miss first off is the World Building. Particularly fleshing out people and places based on recently learned psycho-mechanics Economics, Logistics, Risk, Behavior, and Operations. As a Player being part of a GM's world building = creating the tables (or automated spreadsheets) that would help flesh out the Setting and Populate it with characters that meet the variability and predictability of various demographic studies that explains so much of the world to me. 

Then there is the Character Building. While I consider groups or communities as part of world building, parties or cadres or (what has been popularized currently) squads of personalities and their dynamics, conflicts, and failures of coordination (in wants, motives, needs they are not aware of etc..).

So alot of my reading has been World Building Inspirational.
Recently I've had the Tyrant Series and the Long War by Christian Cameron as inspiration. I learned to appreciate intrigue and political from GRRM, I learned to appreciate Classical Antiquity as a setting with Christian Cameron. I went through his bibliography, and found the Other Greeks, particularly Hanson Victor Davis as a source of other material. I discovered Shelly Waschmann's Seagoing Ships and Seamanship in the Bronze Age levant (not yet read but looking for a copy) at the end of Salamis (Book 5 of the long war).
These got me thinking of Bronze Age era, particularly past lectures Ancient Empires Before Alexander, and Origin of Civilization. Thanks to wikipedia I was able to reread and find more books on the matter: Basically read all the stuff on Bronze Age, Mesopotamia, Sargon of Akkad, Medes, and all the entries related that dealt with Civilizations. Then I went farther back with the Neolitihic Wikipedia Article where I discovered Aşıklı Höyük in Central AnatoliaGöbekli Tepe in Turkey (check out Kurzegsagt in youtube) the date for the Holocene calendar that marks human civilization at 12,016.

Christian Camerons difference of opinion with Victor Davis Hanson got me thinking about Agriculture and carrying capacity. leading me to study the literature on Agricuture again, from the wikipedia to source books. A world building exercise that got me thinking about the fraglity of their economy and the need for trade (and empire to cement it).
Christian Cameron got me to start thinking about Hema again. but More of HMA (not centrally focused on ) Manchuarchery.org's article on the Last Manchu Archer got me thinking about incorporating archery to my Hiit Routine and of course thinking more about Archer characters. So did Nikolas Tomihama and his Backyard Bowyer give some ideas in practicing archery with such a small space.

Current events was depressing and in the philippines we have terrible unimplementable laws. the discovery and understanding that we exist in this fragile state that confidence in the law leads to order, but if we look closely at how easily it is to game and how hard it is to fix, and how difficult it is for even to perform actions that move things (not just protests). Drug addicts or even drug criminality related people are considered subhuman, and can be killed without repercussion has gotten me to read up on a lot of laws, the terribly written constitution of the philippines, and more about the analysis of various groups that really go down to investigate the problems. The Philippine center of investigative journalism do their due dilligence more than most, Rappler comes second and the mainstream media here is just click bait (no sources or actionable items).The logic of political survival has come into my reading list.

On some lighter reading all the fitness related articles in Wikipedia. I highly recommend strength training and overtraining, and taking note of all the Psychomechanical interplay of those exercise articles with Taylorism/Scientific management. Reading it along with all the Management Sciences like Arthur V. Hills Encylopdia of Operations, Books on Lean Management, and as I'm delving deep into more Production Manufacturing books is coloring and detailing another part of the world for me. When I think about a filipino laborer and "productivity" i realize what little rest they have comes from a light hand and a well experienced technician who plans very well (which makes their rest comes from the incompetence of their leaders). an interesting picture since I apply it to Corve labor and that in my low tech studies.

I've started watching and studying the biomechanics of the HMA and archery. Particularly with the other notes of work sciences in mind. Of course this gets the gears of imagination working about what kind of character I would like and what kind of life he would have had or can have. Its brought me to thinking of the training more and more, and the painfully slow improvement and how mindset plays in the improvement (it doesnt feel slow to me, it happens when various things fall right and to expect that with certain lifepaths - like a family man on call will have serious limitaitons to meet this). Another key thing I think about its "Making Time" for me and my character. I realize elaborating our priorities doesnt get to the bottom of what we really prioritize unless time, pressure, and others make us realize what our real priorities is. and when I think of characters having a misleading idea of what their priorities are I wonder how to model it in the game and how players may not like that level of complexity.

It will be a while when I realistically have the time to game and even get into world building again. I would really love to flesh out a world with my new knowledge because thats how I memorize it and make it part of me: get new knowledge and reframe and rewrite it again and again till i have a portable model I can carry with me or a model I can tuck away in my notes and decompress when I need it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Core Mechanics can get complicated.

I almost take for-granted how complicated the basic mechanics can be:

Determine relevant Scores or Stats for the roll. This has a lot of implied knowledge. They can be intuitive but when you go down to nitty-gritty there are counter intuitive exceptions to everything and there are ways to frame and approach a problem or challenge.

It gets complicated since there are so many ways to frame the scene, narrative, problem, challenge, and situation and the practice that comes in rearranging Facts to frame something in a manipulative way. It may lead down the rabbit hole of Non-Fiction Writing techniques, Cognitive Biases, Arguments, and even (legal) Objections.

Determine the Situational Modifiers or Scope of Objective of the roll. Determine if the Character has any relevant modifiers from his capabilities, the environmental's or timing's or circumstantial modifiers, and then the Scope of the objective - relative to the resources and time that an action or roll.

One thing that is not usually comes up unless the GM plays Hard Mode is going into the details of the Cost or Opportunity Cost of the Action. Does it consume time, patience of another person or relationship credit, and consumable materials and how each attempt alters the circumstances.

Determine the Consequences of the Roll. If failure, success, or set backs happen. There is the Game's System way to resolve it and there is the best way to resolve it based on the story, the player, the party, and the long game of enjoying the hobby.

Then there is elements of Risk and Chance. if you've heard of a GM who killed a PC on rolling a 1 lighting a torch on a D20, after a basic review on Risk (reading wikiarticles on Probablity, OSHA, and system processes) this becomes something someone more informed would not do. And by Informed this can mean 3000-30k worth of words bits of data of Informed.

Something as Basic as Core or Basic Mechanics can get pretty complicated. so my Gming gdoc keeps getting longer