Greetings!

And welcome to the website of Jimmy Chattin, senior software engineer, science fiction writer, game maker, orator, FIRE walker, and just about a little of everything else.

Interested in a C# programmer who’s worked for the likes of Microsoft and Aristocrat (#1 video slot maker)? Checkout LinkedIn.

Want to understand patterns found in games and how they matter? BITS is a great start.

Need something written or a voice that’s been described as “butter”? Reach out on the Contact pageย or my podcasts (start with #1).

Old posts can also be found at Make Better Games, where there’s mainly talk about goals and a few games.

Explore. ย Take a look around. ย We’ll talk in a bit.

Time for a Task List

Blessed be the list makers.

Someone, probably

Ever since university, I have been way, way busy with many different plates spinning.

The best help to keep track of things? (Drumroll, please!)

Task lists.

That’s right – “do this, then that” lists have saved my bacon more than I care to recount.

How I have kept myself on track in accomplishing goals has evolved over the years to suit my needs as they arise. If you need help with our own success (getting it or excelling it!), it is time for a task list for you, too ๐Ÿ™‚

Generally:

Each item on the task list should take more than ~10-15 minutes, but no more than about 1 (or 2, at the extreme) hours to complete.

Skip adding daily habitual tasks you need no help with. This could mean no list-item for brushing teeth or taking a shower, yet could include exercise or a reminder to dedicate time to having lunch. As such, laundry could be a task item because it happens only infrequently (i.e. less frequent than every day).

When written, keep tasks short-and-sweet. 6 words or less thereabouts to remind you of what to do (e.g. I listed writing this blog as “Blog #6”, the weekly review before publishing as “Review Blog”), a phone number or detail to help you, and that is all. Any more is largely time wasting for your task list ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

I find 4 tasks a workday (i.e. not including my job on a personal task list) is typical, 8-10 on a non-workday the same, so keeping this in mind is a great way to start. There may be more done sometimes, there may be less, but your tempo is for you to discover over time.

Separate “work” (i.e. employment) from “life” – what you need to do at your job has no place being on your personal list. Both work and life ought have task lists, but neither has place on the other as a distraction!

(If searching for a job is your new job, then sure, include those tasks too, but do not forget to schedule leisure too!)

Use boxes! Checkboxes, that is. An x or โœ“ just feels so tactile, so good – crossing out a completed item is a simple joy that encourages further accomplishment โค (Paper and pen really feed into this feeling.)

If you feel you are not getting your boxes checked in the best order or as many as you would like to, track your time. Do it for a day, a week, two, a month. Time tracking keeps you honest and your task lists prioritized. I have used Toggl for free for years, with my current time buckets like so:

  • Job
    • Individual development tickets and broad “support” buckets for meetings, answering questions, and planning.
  • Goals
    • “Tasks” for the monthly goals, but I throw in exercise, blogging, writing, and game design here too.
  • Others
    • Dates, meals together, lengthy conversations.
  • Leisure
    • Gaming, reading, movies, shows.
  • Chores
    • Maintenance routines (making food, waking up, showering, laundry etc.) and travelling.

Just Write ’em Down

As things come up, put them on a list. As that list runs to the end of the page, rewrite the tasks left to do in whatever order you see fit on the next page. If you have more than a page of things left to do, you have too much! Decide on what not to do or to delegate, and get those things off the list.

This can be utter chaos, yet you will have your task list!

Kanban Boards

These were popular when I was in university a long while ago.

Put every potential task onto a “card” or “ticket” in the “To Do” column. When starting on that task, put it into the “WIP” column. When done, move the card to the “Done” column.

Pretty simple – both in setup and execution with notecards on bulletin boards or using online programs. While meant for teams of people to know how the rest of the team fairs, boards worked great for me for a long time by also customizing the process (e.g. adding a “Planning” or “Review” column, or color-coding tasks on type or priority).

Calendar

Block out chunks of time to get tasks done. Include locations, people and contact deets if needed. Keeps your plans on track or lets you know if tasks are going “over budget” as it were.

Google Calendar is great for this because it has functionality in addition to appointments:

Have something to do? Create a task for it, adding extra notes internally. When done, click the checkbox to complete it.

As days carry on, uncompleted tasks carry over, stacking with others as time goes on. Easy drag-and-drop functionality lets reorganizing happen fast while also keeping track of the daily schedule.

Hours, Days, Weeks, Months

Mark down what needs to be done in the next few hours (today), days (this week), weeks (the month), and months (calendar quarter).

This list needs to be rewritten every day, so this time can serve as meditation of what is so important in needs to be done today, or what can be put off. Move things sooner as needed, and get started on future tasks earlier if ahead and so inclined!

Priority Sections

This was my go-to when writing this blog post some weeks prior to posting, so this has been kept fresh!

Every day, I list sections on a page consisting of 4 checkboxes, each section separated by a line. If I want to get something done sooner, I add it to the topmost section; if it can wait, I jot on the bottommost.

As the day begins, I tackling the first section, perhaps dipping into the second as opportunity comes. When a second completes, I take a break by doing a task for leisure (a goal of mine to spend more time on leisure) – playing a video game level, reading ~30 minutes, watching an episode of some show.

For me, sectioning my task list is the best way at this time for me to treat some formerly rampant workaholism. It may help you, too!

Category Sections

My current technique.

Same as the above – sections of 4 – but only 4 sections per day. Those sections are my current priorities, coming in “Job”, “Projects”, “Relaxation”, and “Chores”.

Can hit them in any order, getting some 8-12 done a day. from starting breakfast to dimming the lights. Not all 4 in a section need to be filled to leave room for the impromptu, but I find chucking surprise tasks into a large list* for tomorrow to be a better option.

* This list is a text document on my computer of priorities 3-2-1 (0 doesn’t make it). I judge a task based on “+1 Now (within the month-ish) or +0 Later?” “+1 Required or +0 Optional?” “+1 Heck-Yes I Like It or +0 Dislike?” I pick from 3 on down to fill the next day’s tasks!

Which Task List Is Best?

The million-dollar question. And the hopefully not-too-flippant answer?

It depends ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Depends largely on the situation you are in and the task list that best fits how you work.

What matters is that you have a plan of action, then stick to that plan. That is where tasks lists shine, being a great companion for me and are or will be for you too. Now is the time for a task list, so get after it!

Work for Pay, Not Free

The zeitgeist regarding labor is smarter now than it was just 10 years ago as it comes to work, pay, et al. As with all things, it could be better.

One of the ways thoughts on employment could be improved is to work for pay, not for free.

Here are points on how:

Experience

Experience is garbage. The person offering “experience” in exchange for cold, hard cash cannot go choke on that “experience.” Why? Because it holds no tangible value.

I.e. experience is “free.” Do not work for “free.”

Denied a Raise?

Say a coworker is earning more for the same (or even less!) output than you, or a new employee is offered higher compensation. You attempt to negotiate a raise but are denied.

What now?

Either:

  1. Quit (but only if you have another job lined up, are financially set to take a well-deserved break, or do not require the wage-slave benefits like health insurance)
  2. Get cut by cutting back the day-to-day effort (collecting that sweet, sweet unemployment insurance)

Do not wait! Act now for your own benefit. Check out some other options and help on cutting back:

Get a Pay Cut?

First, what counts as a pay cut? A few things:

  • Meeting or exceeding performance expectations, not getting a raise despite that.
  • Not getting at least a cost-of-living increase in wage (as of May 2022, that is North of 8.3% – anything less is wage theft by the employer).
  • Demands by work to work more.
  • Org or team changes that decrease the quality-of-life at work.

If any of the above or similar occur, it is time to cut back in proportion to how the employer has cut back on you. A few ways to do that:

  • You can always quit if able (see above).
  • You Earn Commission
    • Raise your rates, especially for this employer.
    • Retain control of your work (e.g. a photographer keeps the unwatermarked originals, an artist holds Photoshop files, programmers source code local to themselves).
    • Aim to drop the employer (if 80% of pain comes from 20% of clients, drop that 20% sooner than later).
  • You Are Hourly
    • Clock out on time.
    • Do 0 (zero!) extra.
    • Take your breaks on time and use your paid leave regardless of business needs.
    • Reread your job description; when told to do something outside of that agreement, decline to do it (unless the employer is ready to immediately renegotiate the agreement, with an immediate pay-bump for you ๐Ÿ˜‰)
  • You Earn Salary
    • Over-estimate the time it will take to do things, making sure your work takes up that extra time. (I find an extra 30-40% is a useful tool if previous performance has not been recognized.)
    • Again, do nothing extra – it is not in your job description to organize events, work on other products or projects, or in your incentive to work on anything that hasn’t been agreed on with management for how you will be judged (i.e. Objective Key Results – OKRs – used to define pay performance).

What Else?

Work advocates like the hustle-hustle-hustle icon Gary V speak to “getting in” for time vs. any other compensation, even experience.

E.g. serve coffee and run packages for the CEO for free – that may work for a select handful with a decent safety net, but that willful enslavement is not something I can ethically get behind.

And if an employer ever offers or suggests working for free, they have done you a great favor: the employer has shown you they cannot be trusted to act fairly or honestly for you. You might still do business, but you will be fighting everything the employer says because everything they say will come at a cost to you.

So if you have other ways to recognize employer exploitation or how to maximize your earnings under subpar conditions, share them! Your work has value, so work for pay, not free.

The Real Values of Your Job

You get a wage, yet that is not all. What are the real values of your job? Or any job offer?

Base Pay

The hourly or salary numbers of the job.

This is a guarantee of value. Out of virtually all other values, this is the most fundamental because it is not a hypothetical. You will be paid this by law, otherwise the law is broken.

Additionally for hourly, though a person could expect HOURLY RATE x 40 HOURS, that may not be the case. Adjust accordingly, in that it may be 35 hours instead, or there is overtime pay on the regular – talk with your coworkers about these expectations.

Stock

AKA Options. This is flexible value in an employer offers at a discount or pre-set rate.

For many in, say, the tech industry, this is the bread-and-butter of employment, the real value of their compensation. For pennies on the dollar, you can gain stock then sell it at a steep profit.

Be warned: Stock is fickle in that it can fall nearly as easily as it can rise (at least in recent years). What you may have banked as the cornerstone of your finances can become so much bitter ash.

Time Off

Sick days, vacation days, holidays. Each day is worth about .4% of Base Salary (1 8-hour day in 2000 annual working hours).

Not something to sniff at. These values can add a significant proportion to the overall value to a job, but be careful if anything is “unlimited” – these days have no value if not taken or are allowed to be taken (these instead have negative value as a lie from the employer).

Matches

Talking about the big one here – 401K matching. The employer will match dollar-for-dollar a 401K contribution.

Free money here. A very important value, though it is not offered everywhere and only works if you are able to. Keep an eye out on this!

Bonus

Annual performance, sales, commission – these can be substantial, or trivial. They can happen often, once a year, or not at all.

Whatever bonus gets offered (if any), take note and negotiate on this too!

Misc.

Largely subjective, include any other items you feel might be of value to you in your work. This bucket is mainly for values of a few hundred dollars, but could be worth a lot more.

Examples:

  • Commute Time (less is more! 0 is best)
  • Special Health Insurance Benefits (specifically of benefit to your upcoming year or lifestyle; you ought be getting basic health insurance regardless!)
  • Snacks
  • Gym Memberships
  • et al.

As with everything, a lot of these offerings only have value if you reap the value from them. If not using anything of benefit, it has no value to you and should not be included in the value of the job.

Experience?

You can’t even choke on experience, so it is of virtually no value here.

Can you gain training, networking, and exposure while on another’s dime? Sure, yet there still needs to be that “dime.”

Are some employers worth it? Perhaps. Big names, such as Google, Facebook, or Apple are all great names in virtually any field, while some banks or law firms would be great in their fields. Yet these employers are tiny compared to the vast swath of the broad market, where you are likely to be employed.

Experience is nice, but again, it cannot feed you.

Putting It All Together

Job Value = Base Pay + Stock* + Time Off + Matches + Bonus + Misc.**

*Stock is the number of shares given in a year multiplied by (market right now – rate given in the offering).
** Money is time – the more money you keep, the more time you will be giving your future self, so do not discount time savings as being worth a lot!

This will give you a dollar amount, the real value from the real values of your job.

April May Goal Review

How are you doing? Here’s me:

April Goal Review

April has been insane. A whirlwind. A trying time.

With some extra travel that resulted in a ruinous chest cold (cold, not COVID – took test), my misery made things sour both in my social and personal life. The sickness killed off more than my health. Spending days doing nothing but sleep and drugging myself enough to do a semblance of work at the day job, April has not seen much time spent doing anything else, much less attempting to “get my mojo back.”

Yet, all this has helped me take less for granted. I have learned further what “rest” can be. After I write this post, I will spend an afternoon with myself in some gentle breezes by blue water. Though sad, my future is much clearer now.

May Goal Proposal

  1. Death Walk
    1. I have taken these periodically since 2018 when a great friend and I had a teary conversation (tears all mine). Death Walks are incredibly important for putting things in order, so I will take one in May and get to acting on it.
  2. Plan June
    1. May is fairly flexible, yet I can begin major plans for June and even July. Visiting friends and family perhaps, getting major tasks scheduled. Though plans may turn out to be worthless, the planning will be invaluable!
  3. Seize May
    1. I have a unique opportunity to explore places far flung and see important friends long departed from. Like planning June, it is time to get it on the calendar to make up for lost time!
  4. Rest
    1. My time-tracking process had no equivalent entry for something like “smell the roses.” Now, days by the water, reading because I want to, and generally “chilling” – let me be no stranger to self care as I seek to forge a new self.

I think this feeling counts as “burn out.” So I take myself up by the shirt collar and give myself a good shake. Should I end up working on roleplaying games and writing in May? All the better – can count it as part of the Death Walk as I find out about myself.

You, take care. May be seeing a few of you very soon – cheers through then!

You Are a Slave to Your Work

No argument: You are a slave to the work you need to do. Let you and I jump into why any other mode of thought is a delusion:

Getting Terms Straight

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

Slave – “a person who is legally owned by someone else and has to work for that person […] and has no personal freedom.”

Slavery – “the condition of being legally owned by someone else and forced to work for or obey them […] the system in which some people are owned by others.”

Free – “not having something that is unwanted or unpleasant.”

Work – “to do a job, especially the job you do to earn money […] to make a person or animal do a job.”

Job – “the regular work that a person does to earn money.” And, “a crime in which money or goods are stolen, or an action or activity that is dishonest or unpleasant.”

Money – “used to buy things, or the total amount of these that someone has.”

Reasoning

Making a leap in assuming you can connect the dots here, you need money to buy the things that make life survivable: Foods, clean water, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, etc.

All the above – at least in the United States – costs more than the means of production, and is actively denied a person without money. Without food, a person starves and suffers; without water, a person becomes sick and suffers; without clothing and shelter, a person is exposed and suffers; without medical treatment, a person suffers and dies.

(All this needs to be addressed further, so we go without mention of what makes life livable, e.g. means for recreation, time for rest.)

If prevention of suffering is one of if not the only fundamental Good in the world, then a person is obliged to have these things for themselves and those who depend on them. “Enslaved,” as the physical requirements of life are non-negotiable.

What Is Required, What Is Optional

Working in some way to cover the costs of merely existing is the obligation, the enslavement a living creature must carry out for the privilege of being alive.

This is a required enslavement, or experienced as a suffering (if the work be unpleasant) to prevent and reduce a greater suffering.

To care for others who are not able to provide for their existence – regardless of cause – is what a moral and just society is. Though not a total definition of a civilization ought be, without this care, “moral and just” must be left out of the society’s description.

Care for others is optional enslavement – we only have the morals we can afford.

Yet care for oneself, let alone others, is endangered when optional enslavement is required to earn the money to buy goods to sustain life.

What is that optional enslavement, not caring for others?

That enslavement is the excess beyond the cost of initiative, time, and material used to create the good, to exchange for the service. That is the money that funnels to one entity from many individuals. That is profit.

And profit is the name of the game in the United States – and by extension from the US’s economic and cultural global dominance, the world.

Treatment for This Condition

I am no financial planner, analyst, expert. This is not advice, because I do not know beyond a reasonable doubt the validity of the following. It seems to work out on the back of an envelope, though it is uncertain how it would apply to the facts of the world at large.

It is at least a start.

First, a definition of Profit – “money that a business [or person] earns above what it costs to produce and sell goods and services.”

Second, should there be profit? Yes – Communism tried to remove that incentive, and it led to a lot of suffering for entire populations. Profit can be the incentive to have taken the risk to do something that could fail. Yet, excess profit is excess optional enslavement to a job and thereby excess optional suffering for the unpleasantry of it.

Some thoughts:

  • Capped Percentage of Profit per Good or Service Rendered
    • No one action will be more than an X percentage of the cost to create and provide the good or service, X being greater than the profit that might be rendered through other investments – say, stock – within a standard deviation or three. This leaves room for living well while also having cushion to make prices competitive by lowering them from the profit margin.
  • Progressive Tax of Profit Based on Market
    • The bigger a single business gets, the less profitable by-percentage it gets, though the net amount continues to increase. It slows the formation of monopolies, allowing other companies to adjust and catch up, thereby encouraging competition. Further, production-cost-cutting is encouraged, as additional profit can be gained for a larger market share, benefiting the consumers while forcing innovation from the business and its competitors. Lastly, public funds are increased that can be reapplied where needed from the taxes, as is part of the responsibility of a society’s government (I forego chatting about such ideas here).

Compelled to Industry

Compel – “to force someone to do something.”

Industry – “the quality of regularly working hard […] in the production of goods for sale […] and makes a lot of money.”

You are compelled to industry, and therefor not free.

You are only as free by that which you can do without. Everyone is enslaved in some degree by the fact of being alive. Beyond those costs, and the costs of reasonable enjoyment in life, everything else is optional enslavement.

Yet the option is not yours.

By either or both through the means of your work or the profit for required goods and services, you are a slave to your work. This is the way of things, though it does not need to be so.

Rule #1: Play the Game

In your work, your society, your life, the first and #1 rule is this: Play the game.

What does that mean?

I mean, play the game. The “game” being the set of rules and expectations set before you. Cases in point:

In a job, the system is that the employee does X kind of work for about Y hours over a Z amount of time. The employer provides A, B, and C in exchange for and to facilitate that work. Skimp on any piece of this, or try to add more in on one side, and the job is no longer tenable for either the employer or the employed.

In diet, obey the rules of fewer calories, better calories, and physical use of the body. Anything else is at best a lie, at worst a waste of time. By the rules of the game of biochemistry, doing X gives X results, doing Y gives Y results, and cheating or failing to grasp what is happening at any point can be the difference between health and heart attack.

In language, not following writing, grammar, spelling, or pronunciation ‘rules of the game’ will quickly get you ostracized from it, i.e. no one will attempt or welcome exchanging with you because you have failed the winning condition: to concisely and efficiently convey useful information in communication.

Get on with it.

In short, you have a part to play in a great, grand game. Your responsibility is to know the rules and execute them the best way you deem fit.

Yet, which rules a person follows is variable. There are a base set of rules, these being fundamentals of the universe. Chemistry, physics, math. 2+2=4.

But there are other rules too. Genetics, weather, et al. of the ‘natural’ world – these add a layer. Culture, history, society – another layer. Family ties, daily life outside oneself – yet another.

Your biochemistry, your experiences, your obligations.

What you had for lunch yesterday, the clothes chosen today, the cushion of where you now sit.

Your hopes, your dreams, your fears and anxieties.

Layers, layers, layers. All your responsibility to know, work on mastering, and to execute in whatever the ‘game’ is.

What is the game?

Read again the above paragraphs: It is everything.

Perhaps it could be described as ‘society,’ but this does injustice to simplicity. Society does not dictate how a person learns about burning a hand on a hot oven.

Maybe we describe the game’s systems as physics, yet how much more must be known than only physics to understand why a rainbow is beautiful to a majority of folks, while others gain no pleasure from the aesthetics?

At first glance, nothing appears to be an easy answer. The “game,” as game-entertainment is systematic, may be best defined along terms of value. Perhaps, “the game is a multi-player-specified systematic approach to determining value, value being that which is wanted by any other player.”

Is that definition hardened against critique? Not yet, but just as ignorance of solar fusion does not stop plants from growing under the sun, a partial definition (e.g. plants grow in sunlight) is better than none (seeds unplanted in the dark).

Why do I need to “play the game” again?

If you do not play the game, you will be buried by it. You will become more of a tool for use by others than if sitting at the table to participate.

The game is active, as in it will actively punish nonparticipation.

On second thought, the game of *waves hands at everything* does not “punish” – that is a moralistic term, and morals are both subjective and only able to be afforded in relation to present context.

Instead, the game repurposes any and every part of, well, everything. If a player does not want to play, it will be a piece. If a piece becomes inconvenient, it is crushed into the pillar the game is played on – a pawn turned to dust and ash of buried history to support the present.

How could so cruel a thing ever be justified!?

“Cruel” is a poor term – the Hippocratic Oath handles aspects of cruelty much better than will be discussed here.

The Oath is a useful tool that has lasted thousands of years because it understands something about the game of everything. The game is not more fair or unfair – it just is, existing and churning and doing as it will.

Gravity will drop a cliffside rock, waves will wear rock to sand, sand will settle in an oyster, an oyster will make a pearl, a diver will adore the pearl’s luster, a thief will take the bauble by force, a hungry bird will eat what is left behind, and onward and onward and onward.

None of the above is “fair” or “cruel” or any such thing. These events, these things are, and that is enough for the game.

But to the question of justification: There are ‘outs’ other than being consigned to oblivion. Those either be 1) benefit from the game rules-as-written, taking advantage where possible at least personal cost, or 2) advocate to other players to change and how to change the rules.

Remember, “the game is a multi-player-specified systematic approach to determining value.” Players determine the values the game’s systems work towards. Whether the player-determination system is democratic, representative, monarchical, authoritarian, plutocratic, oligarchic, theocratic, or otherwise, that is the way the game is set at the moment.

There yet may be hope for the game to change, but only if a player advocates for it.

That is not enough reason to play the game.

Improving your situation so as to suffer less? That is not enough?

Then think of others: Change the rules to benefit as many as possible. Raise up the “pieces” you will come across to be “players” in their own lives again. Render your excess unto the less fortunate, or dedicate your play at life to the better positioning of another player of your choice, whatever the whim.

Or, just get out from underfoot. Care less about being a pawn. Seek to be less inconvenient for those attempting to make something grand of the game. It will be better for you and everyone else if done, for the game will seek to crush nonparticipants regardless – getting out of the way saves time and effort for everyone else.

Rule #1: Play the Game

Play it well. Find out and know the rules. Be the best player you can be.

Everything else is optional.

Advocate for yourself. Advocate for others.

Change the rules, yet only after understanding what can or ought be changed.

And if you can’t? Serve others following Rule #1 and get out of the way.

Can RPG Gear Level-up Too?

Chatting about roleplaying games (RPGs), it struck me: Why are there not rules for leveling-up gear like player characters (PCs) do?

Time to discuss:

PC Leveling

Leveling is when someone or something has accomplished a great deed or series of actions.

What causes a PC to level is everything from grabbing more gold, having adventures, slaying a dragon, or just surviving to fight another day.

When a PC gains a level, some boon or bane happens to them. In most games, the PCs get better with more health, increased performance, and special rules they can use in-game. The rare few games allow a PC to get worse – since these are a super-minority, let us ignore ‘getting worse’ in this analysis.

Gear

Gear, equipment, weapons, armor, trinkets, and more – “gear” for now. These are the tools that assist or enable a PC to do things.

In both real myth, fictional fantasy, and sci-fi, gear is everywhere. Most of it involves no-name, indistinguishable junk – a sword exists for someone to have a sword, nothing more, a helmet could be a hat for how much value it has.

That gear doesn’t matter.

Or maybe it does? Famous pieces of gear had to start somewhere after all.

Some examples of famous gear that get more legendary as time goes on:

    • Medieval armor could be handed down for generations, gaining notable battle scars and a reputation, as much as the family’s suit inย Mulan.
    • The oceanic-people’s term “mana” denoted the power of possessions owned and passed down by great leaders.
    • Excalibur from the real life legend of King Arthur, a sword with magical properties and a key to ruling all of Britain.
    • When Bilbo gains the One Ring inย The Hobbit, the simple thing shows off its powers again and again until the Ring seats its place as a hugely powerful piece of gear.
    • Gundam introduces the titular Gundam mobile suit. It is dumb and clumsy at first, nearly destroyed by ‘grunt’ enemies. Through use, new systems are installed, abilities get unlocked, and the suit itself becomes ‘smarter,’ able to engage legions of enemies.
    • Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber fromย Star Wars was a fury – slaying armies and being the blade to end the infamous Clone Wars. Its fame builds, being lost and destroyed and reforged over decades.
    • Halo‘s Master Chief armor,ย Bolo‘s titular tanks,ย Warhammer 40K‘s … everything, cast iron cookware, and the real world compounding its infrastructure and technology.

Plenty of gear has gotten better with use. Why, then, do virtually all tabletop roleplaying games miss out on this opportunity to grow bonds and allow players to influence the fictional lore?

Gear Leveling

You get where I am coming from now. TTRPGs ought include a benefit for players to keep around the gear their PCs use.

Not only will leveling gear increase player investment, it will also serve as an avenue for story, roleplay, and unique leverage should the PC’s gear ever be the focus of aggression.

What such a system could look like might be this, what I am including in the BITS system (by no means exhaustive of possibilities):

When a piece of gear is worn or wielded during or is otherwise actively used in completion of a game milestone (slaying the dragon, intercepting a bullet meant for another, broken by the enemy and reforged afterward, etc.), that gear may level up.

When leveling up, gear gains an ability either related to what it was involved in or used for, or is chosen randomly from a table.

Gear may also gain a name the first time it levels up, e.g. Sting. Gear may also gain a title the second time it levels up, e.g. The Orc Finder.

Gear may only have a total of 6 abilities. If there are already 6 abilities for given gear, the gear may not level up. Abilities may be removed if the gear is destroyed, severely damaged, re-created, or otherwise changed fundamentally in form or function.

Why cap at 6 abilities? That is to keep all the special things gear can do to a manageable minimum. (Humans can only maintain about 7-ish items in memory.) But I am not married to the idea – with further playtesting, perhaps 4 or 3 is a better cap.

The above comes with the idea that magic/ancient/prototype/exotic items will already come with some abilities, a story to tell about their creation and history. Whether the player keeps pre-made famous gear or births a story of their own, that is roleplay, something up to the player ๐Ÿ™‚

Any better ways to add legendary power to gear?

Always open for suggestions! Tell me in the comments or send me a DM.

Now off to make a randomizing table of famous abilities gear has had in fiction and history – cheers!

March April Goal Review

March Goal Review

  1. Settle In
    1. Won! Move made, though I lost the key to my storage ๐Ÿ˜‚ Glad I don’t need it for now! Exploring my new digs with abandon.
  2. 10 Write-Ahead Blogs
    1. Won! Blogs are on for the next two months ๐Ÿ˜
  3. 4 More Gunslinger Improvements
    1. Failed. Did not touch on a single one of these. Feels like the time to do the “experience” and “settle” goals – how will I make this up???
  4. Travel Experience
    1. Won! And my-gosh did I win. Heck, I write this line over fish-n-chips that are 100% the famous English version. Going to need to pull back a minute on this as it took a lot of time ๐Ÿ˜…

April Goal Proposal

A break.

March needed a lot of time and took a lot of time and effort out of me, yet still landed a cool 75% completion rate – 75% when the tasks were already fairly ‘passive’ as goals go. As I write, I am… lethargic? Melancholic? Towards making up for the slippage in March or taking up new endeavors in April.

Maybe it is a seasonal thing – a little depressed under cold and windy clouds. Or burn out. Or perhaps April needs to serve as a platform for me to get my mojo back.

Whatever the case, I am taking April off, but will keep a log of what I do and how it makes me feel. That could prove useful soon ๐Ÿ™‚

All to your own goals! Cheers to them and your accomplishments here in April.

BITS – Gear Maker

If making a roleplaying game, there must be guidelines available to fill the game with gear.

BITS as an RPG system keeps it real with simple, universal rules for equipment. Every paradigm results in the single ‘value’ of equipment that BITS uses for everything from effectiveness to monetary amount to requirements for use in game.

Because BITS also makes for different kinds of games, it also comes with different methods for putting together a design consistent and (fairly) balanced.

Let’s cover what those are:

Kind

What kind of thing is it?

The simplest question with the simplest answer. This category of gear creation is as simple as comparing what is wanted with what is available or similar on charts.

For readability, let me label separate charts for separate things (though every piece of gear could go onto every other list – the tiers remain the same):

TierMedieval / Fantasy Weapon Kind
0Fists, Feet, Darts
1Knives, Cudgels, Hatchets, Whips, Sticks, Rocks, Slings, Mini Crossbows
2Swords, Clubs, Maces, Axes, Spears, Short Bows
3Broadswords, Battle Axes, Flails, Warhammers, Pikes, Lances, Crossbows
4Claymores, Zweihanders, Great Mauls, Halberds, Long Bows
6Especially Magical Weapons, Ballistae
10Siege Machines
Tier 3 melee weapons have disadvantage if used with 1 hand; T4 can’t be used without 2 hands.
Ranged strung weapons from T2 on can’t be used without 2 hands.
T10 is meant more as once-off, immobile set-pieces or divine favors than regular-use gear.
TierMedieval / Fantasy Armor Kind
0Clothing
1Leather, Furs, Round or Square Shield
2Studded Leather, Mail, Kite or Legionnaire Shield
3Partial Plate, Wall Shield
4Full Plate, Wheeled Shield
6Especially Magical Armor or Shields
10Stone Wall, Metal Gate
T1 shields can be attached to the back, the shoulder, or the forearm for carrying.
T2 shields need a hand to hold.
T3 shields and higher require 2 hands or other means of projection.
TierModern / Sci Fi Weapon Kind
0Tasers
1Pistols
2SMGs
3Assault Rifles, Chained Swords
4LMGs, High Powered Rifles, Shotguns, SAWs, Molecular Blades
6Rockets, Grenades, Miniguns, Sawn Shotguns, Energy Swords
10Missiles, Artillery Shells, Vulcan Cannons
Only includes gunpowder and later weapons.
T2 ranged weapons have disadvantage if used with 1 hand.
All ranged weapons T3 on require 2 hands to use.
All Modern / Sci Fi weapons cannot be blocked by worn Medieval / Fantasy armor.
TierModern / Sci Fi Armor Kind
0Clothes
1Kevlar, Riot Suits
2Ceramic Plates, Bulletproof Glass
3Shelled Carapace, Ballistic Shield
4Bomb Suits, Powered Armor, Light Force Field
6Mech Armor, Ship Hull, Tank Hull, Force Field
10Spaceship Hull, Structural Force Field
Some armor may regenerate, stop or push back attack, or cause attackers harm.
No Modern / Sci Fi Armor can block magic.

Make

What is the make-up of this thing?

This method requires more work but can enable a game designer to create unique-yet balanced equipment.

The formula goes like this:

Tier = SUM(all elements of thing)

An example would be a Large, Automatic, Grenade Thrower. Large is +2, Automatic is +1, and Grenade ammo is +1, making this weapon a Tier 4 weapon.

Same can be done with a Normal Pike. Halberds are Large (+2) but this one is Normal (+0), so the weapon is T2. (This contradicts the previous section, but that is game design – fiddle with the value +/- 1 to get something that “feels right.”)

All elements are either +0, +1, or +2 in value. A small list of those elements as might concern combat equipment:

Thing+0+1+2
Melee SizeSmall, Off-HandMedium, 1-HandLarge, 2-Hands
Gun SizeSmall, Off-HandMedium, 2-HandsLarge, 2-Hands
MeleeNormalChainedPowered
RangedBullet, LaserExplosivePlasma
AreaFlameGrenade, RocketBomb, Missile
MagazineUnchangedDrum, ExtendedLink Fed
QualityMundaneBlessed, MasterAncient, Exotic
ShieldNormalPlatedPowered

A T1 Laser Pistol, a T2 Chained Sword, a T3 Powered Maul, a T4 Large, Powered Shield, a T10 (!??) Ancient, Large, Link-Fed, Twin Missile Launcher ๐Ÿš€

Mind, some elements are exclusive (i.e. a thing cannot have two different sizes). Otherwise, the math is simple and easy to follow.

So simple, in fact, an RPG that allows customizing a character can give players an allowance, a number of ‘points’ to buy and make gear of their own.

These elements discussed don’t cover everything, nor does every element fit nicely into a +0, +1, +2 system. Be a designer – adapt! Wiggle the numbers or add rules instead.

Some suggestions of elements that add rules instead of numbers:

  • A second weapon (grenade launcher on a rifle, flame thrower built into a shield, a shield or bayonet fitted to a laser gun).
  • Scopes that increase range.
  • ‘Smart’ seeking ammunition.
  • Compact design to make something be a size smaller without losing the bonus (e.g. Moderate +1 size made into a Small +1 carbine).
  • Extreme fire rate that does two attacks at once.
  • Extreme fire power that does extra over an area or by ignoring armor.

Follow?

Only these two categories for gear crafting in BITS. That’s it ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

I have tried other methods of making weapons, armor, and stuff in general and nothing fits as nicely as considering what Kind or Make of a thing there is. Both have applicability depending on how they ‘feel’ with other mechanics and player expectations for customizability.

Oh, again, of course these groupings can be fudged +/- 1 depending on game needs. Heck, in a “modern” game of mine without knights and magic, melee weapons are either T1 or T2 depending on size, all strung weapons are T3, and missiles fit into T6 instead of T10.

Gotta do what you gotta do ๐Ÿ˜‰

Which do you think is the best way to craft equipment? Where have you seen similar or (gasp!) better systems?

Tell me in the comments, send me a dm. Cheers ~

BITS – Downtime Activity

What is there to do when roleplaying game adventurers aren’t slaying dragons and delving dungeons? That in-between time, going from beat to beat?

That downtime activity can lead to great boons for a player’s character, their group, or the fictional world at large. Or, it can let a wounded treasure-seeker lick their wounds to fight another day.

Downtime activity is important. Here is how the TTRPG BITS system implements it:

Core Mechanic

As with everything in BITS, it all comes back to the core mechanic

Roll 2 6-sided dice (2d6) to meet or beat a target number, the challenge representing the effort and sheer luck put into the task ๐ŸŽฒ๐ŸŽฒ

Downtime does the same with any activity taken, the challenge increase or decreasing inversely with how much time is taken, aid used, and what tools are available.

Time as a Resource

How much time is given to an activity? The answer will drastically affect the probable outcomes.

Given an hour, a downtime activity is likely to fail, needing 11+ to succeed. Only with serious aid and concentration can a positive outcome be better guaranteed.

A day? 9+. There might have been enough time, but the chances of something being missed are not slight.

7+ for a week. >50% of success here. There has been dedicated time to a worthy project. That, and this should be the default downtime in the normal course of a game – a week to prepare for the next adventure.

5+ for a month. Even building a siege engine could be done by one with this time. Should be easy.

A year or more? Patience is rewarded by automatically passing this test, though that assumes some peace and quiet as well.

The higher a target number, the higher too are the chances for breaking or having a dire consequence for the task. When the same value is on both dice but the sum of the dice are less than the target, that critically fails the activity (how is sensitive to the context).

Same for rolling a double pair above the target. A critical success in BITS allows a character to take any of their otherwise allowed actions immediately, giving them a chance at success or failure in the same amount of time.

But what can a character do with their downtime?

Activities

Some ideas for downtime, only one selected for the span of downtime, say, a week:

    • Crafting – Buy resources, improve gear, repair equipment, or make some material possession. A wizard makes their potions, a knight buffs their armor, a Jedi improves their lightsaber, and Sam buys bread for the Fellowship ๐Ÿง™โ€โ™‚๏ธ
      • Critical failure ideas: what was bought was faulty, the attempt breaks or degrades the quality of the original item, a personal injury happened.
    • Networking – Socialize, carouse, or spy, a character learns more about others. Relationships can be made or destroyed here ๐Ÿ˜Ž
      • Failure ideas: a friend is insulted, a stranger seeks a debt on you, the enemy changes plans because of the spying.
    • Resting – Simply put, regain health. Physical, mental, constitutional; no matter the source, dedicated rest may set bones, treat illness, and settle humors ๐Ÿ˜ด
      • Failure ideas: the condition gets worse, a new illness is contracted.
    • Training – Study, meditation, or physical exertion to gain some experience or improve ability. As the designer, I suggest this be the activity for characters to level-up abilities or gain skills (since abilities cap-out at a value of 4, I suggest capping the benefits of training at 2 for an ability; the road to being the best is by being out and about and doing things!) ๐Ÿ’ช
      • Failure ideas: a personal injury happens from training so hard, the skill decreases from improper technique, social standing falls as some flub is public and ridiculed.

Now, I do not include traveling here. Traveling I consider to be a separate action all together. Downtime is meant to be what you do staying in one place, though should that place be on a starship or boat piloted by others in the crew vs. on feet or needing one’s direct influence, I see where downtime can be spent on other things ๐Ÿ™‚

Above should cover most everything, but if a player wants their character to do more, that is for the player and the GM to negotiate ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

But let us not forget followers and those under a character’s command! Those NPCs could undertake downtime activities too with the same respects given to consequences.

Final Notes

Even though probability says that doing the same activity day-after-day (i.e. the shortest time possible over and over), these short instances increase the likelihood of critical failures. Those failures could be worse than not trying at all, so taking time to get it right (with the bonus of possibly being able to take on additional activities!) is well advised.

Buying / Going to market may not need to be a ‘roll for it’ activity, but it should include at least a 50/50 (or 7+) roll to see if 1) the items were bought at a fair price (failure), and 2) the items are not fake/rotten/stolen (critical failure).

Time is weird. BITS likes the number 4, so perhaps difficulties could be based on using 1-of-4 parts in a day, 4 days in a week, 4 weeks in a season, 4 seasons in a year… IDK. Time is a construct. Don’t @ me ๐Ÿ˜‚

And on that speculative note, here exists now downtime activities for all games that adopt BITS as the core system. Fantasy or sci-fi, grimdark or heroic, BITS works with it all ๐Ÿ˜

What do you do in your downtime? Render, revel, rest, revamp?

Whatever you and your characters choose to do, cheers to it!