Greetings!

And welcome to the website of Jimmy Chattin, senior software engineer, science fiction writer, orator, 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 read some original stories and fan fiction (for practice, of course!)? Those posts are coming to this website.

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.

Riskier Risk

It has been a minute since I last wrote about the game of Risk, the classic table-top wargame.

Now I’m back with a new take on the game: Catastrophic dice rolls.

Context

In the game of Risk, commanders (the players) know immediately and iteratively how well their armies are doing in combat. Using dice, no more than two units at a time can be removed from either side, while the math tends towards a 1:1 loss of units on both sides (slight advantage to the attacker). Between losses, an attacker can choose to preserve their forces at any time, stopping the wanton destruction of armies.

If only real war were so charming.

After reading military histories by author Rick Atkinson, it came to my attention how quickly even the most advantageous of battles can devolve into a debacle of incredible losses before commanders and generals are aware of what’s happening. Risk hardly lives up to its namesake, as while single army groups tend towards dozens of units, only two are at risk at any time.

A Problem

Losing one or two units over and over again is, well, tedious. Dice need to be rolled, compared, units removed, and dice rolled again until someone gives up or is eliminated.

Speaking from experience, a problem with Risk is how long it takes to play. (I don’t seem to be alone in this regard.) The dice rolling and one-two unit removal certainly plays a part in exacerbating the situation.

Thereby Risk is neither very accurate historically or quick.

Let’s stab at a fix to both those problems.

Riskier Rolls

In place of capping losses at one or two units, the dice themselves offer a way to increase the variance of the battles.

Normal Risk rules have the attacker rolling up to three dice against up to two defender dice. The highest dice are compared (up to two), any others discarded. Whichever player has the lower die in each comparison loses a unit (attacker loses ties).

It first came to mind that all values might be added together then compared, the difference being applied as losses to the lower-valued player. This is bad because it involves addition and subtraction. (More mental math in games is a hard no-go.)

Math is also a problem if the difference between individual dice is used. (Say, rolls of 6 and 4 are compared; 6-4=2, or 2 units lost, but that is still too much math from the original game.)

A method without extra math, and the most satisfying of our criteria of historical accuracy and fewer, faster rolls, is this:

Compare dice normally for the rules of Risk. Remove a number of units from the lower-value-die player equal to the value of the higher-die player.

So say an attacker rolls a 6-2-1 and a defender rolls a 5-4. The dice comparisons are 6v5 and 2v4 (the attacker’s 1 is discarded). Using the risker rolls rule, the first comparison requires the defender to remove six units; the second has the attacker remove four.

With all removals of units for a roll happening at the same time, an attacker’s advantage can quickly evaporate or a defender’s line be broken in but a single roll.

With riskier rolls, units are removed at pace, battles become decided in a fraction of the time, math remains minimal, only a single rule is changed from the base game, and more accurate swings of fortune get injected into the base experience that is Risk.

I’d count that as a positive ๐Ÿ˜‰

Riskier rolls rules! Gosh, I’m a sucker for alliteration ~

I’ve given these a swing with friends, and the feel is *French kiss*. More playing is required though, so give these rules a chance in your own games of Risk.

Let me know how your games go! Here’s to all the games you’ll enjoy ~ Cheers.

It’s a Bust

My computer, that is.

One of them, anyway!

(Finally typing this out on my cellphone.)

But because it’s been heck writing a blog post for this week, let’s keep it short and show off my new Lenovo Flex 5 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 14″ Touchscreen Monitor
    • 16 GB RAM
    • 256 GB SSD
    • Radeon Graphics

Expensive, sure, but so are all electronics in 2021 (i.e. the chip shortages). And with my last computer? It literally was falling apart ๐Ÿ˜‚

Think this will last me awhile ~

Thanks for being patient with this small post! Expect some RPGs next week ๐ŸŽฒ๐ŸŽฒ

Stay cool! Cheers!

August September Goal Review

A swell September to you!

August was a restart on doing goals. However, even the break in July wasn’t enough soul searching.

Now though? Now I think there’s a plan forward. Let’s discuss:

August Goal Review

  1. New York City
    1. Won. A wild time and a new favorite city (specifically Manhattan). Would definitely go again, and again a third time because of how much there was to do (safely, despite the pandemic!).
  2. Minnesota
    1. Won. Seeing family and remembering better times was well worth delaying other, far less important plans.
  3. Las Vegas
    1. Won. I write this during one of the busiest, most fun social calendars I’ve had in a very long time. Simply put, it’s great to be back in Sin City ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s see how long I stay!
  4. Weekly BITS Revision
    1. Failed. Only two revisions were posted, and regardless of the excellent feedback, I failed to get more of it. However, I might redeem myself in September!

September Goal Proposal

    1. Update All BITS Guides
      1. Goal here is to create a September draft of all the different guides to the BITS roleplaying system. This tightens-up language and applies some of the feedback from August.
    2. 1-4 Page RPG
      1. Originally considering writing an RPG a week, I know I tend to aim a bit high on the creative front, so one table-top role-playing game in September will be enough ๐Ÿ™‚
    3. Move (Again)
      1. Decide how I’ll spend my time in Las Vegas at least through February of next year. I have Airbnbs, solo apartments, and apartments with roommates up for consideration here in the first few days of September.
    4. Private
      1. This goal is for me, defining how things will be done over the next six months. (Who knows, the next sixty years?) Anyway, trust that I’ll be honest in this regard when review-time hits in a month ๐Ÿ˜

With a failure despite how easy August initially set out to be, I am humbled going into September. Nonetheless, I aim to live a little better and be truer to myself as it comes to creativity and my future.

How is your September shaping up? New horizons you are about to cross?

Sincerely looking for your inspiration. Until next week, cheers to you and yours!

What to Do?

What do you do when you’ve done the important things?

That’s not rhetorical, nor am I asking for a friend.

I’m asking for the person whose done the needful things and has a whole life ahead of them, the person with ambitions and skills and resources, the person who may need to learn to leverage any of it.

I ask you “what to do” for me.

The rest of this post may lack for any answers, any insights, but hey, why do this blog without benefit to the writer? If you go, OK – if you stay, thank you for exploring with me ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s begin:

Deathwalks

I’ve mentioned “deathwalks” before (goals, full posts). These are the meditative exercises that work to reveal what’s important in life, the words and actions unsaid and undone, all that would consume the affairs of a last few months of life.

Many of the things uncovered on my first deathwalk years ago have been completed. I look at that list are secure for years to come! The skydiving, the letters written, the Last Will, the trips, the patterns explored

Yet, what does that leave a person, have they little left to prepare for when the time comes?

I can only liken it to a milestone on the horizon you walk towards for a long while. Once reached, though, the milestone is more petite than realized while the roads ahead are broad and many and long beyond sight. And nowhere seems the obvious convenience of a milestone showing “do this.”

So then, what is there left for a person to do if prepared for the final journey, the one hopefully decades or a century off? Where is the direction???

Living

Perhaps if “dying” is done, “living” is the next logical step.

Meditating on what makes a person “feel alive” is lauded in many circles as being a necessary and invaluable thing. Remembering joy and excitement and triumph, might those be milestones to strive for? Or even to build for ourselves? A live worth living?

But it might be hard to accept we might deserve “the good life.” The world delights in chaotic news, our neighbors seethe, and year-by-year even bodies betray themselves and the minds inside.

There is so much suffering, what hubris is it to seek and make pleasure?

Such judgements come awfully quick. But lest it’s forgotten, the only Good that may be said to exist is the net reduction of suffering. Does an individual’s suffering of indecision or lack of aim not qualify here?

Maybe that’s the Ego making itself heard.

“My experience makes me exceptional. I am entitled to feel this way, to be this.”

Now aren’t such regards the real acts of hubris?

That’s all that I have to say on that, all that comes to mind at this time.

I’ve a little while more to settle on September’s goals. If you’ve suggestions for a person to pivot from ends to beginnings, the comment section is below ๐Ÿ˜‰

Be well, friends. Cheers ~

A Taste of Digital Nomadism

COVID smashed the world order and personal schedules last year, and continues to cost the lives of millions.

Not all has been dire. Great opportunity in great disruption, right? The benefit to be since March 2020 has been to explore the lifestyle of digital nomadism.

Here are my takeaways:

The Good and the Bad

Good: Being free of the office is glorious. Only requiring internet, a digital nomad has the world to extend out to (COVID conscious, of course). Flexible hours and flexible locations are benefits folks who haven’t had them before can’t imagine.

Bad: Workplaces tend to substitute for a lot of the social effort a person puts into their groups and friends. Losing that, it behooves a person to not only want to “go out,” but to be militant on having a regular schedule of escaping the home. This can be adventurous, but it demands work.

Good: Digital nomadism has shown me how much can be saved monetarily (I’ll post about the numbers someday). Specifically, Airbnbs are cheaper than rent. Much cheaper. And did I mention how you aren’t tied down to the place by signing away your life and earnings for a year? Nor is a nomad tied down by as much “stuff” that invariably crusts over typical homes.

Bad: Speaking of “stuff,” there is little available to move around. A nomad has at best a laptop computer, a duffle of clothes, toiletries, misc. small papers and electronics, and perhaps a vehicle. That’s it. Digital nomadism is an amazing opportunity to find out what a person can get along without, but that big TV? The favorite couch? The desktop gaming station? The golf clubs? They get left behind or long-termed stored.

Good: The future is yours as a nomad. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? When to do it all? The immensity of it all can be… let’s say nomads have great powers.

Bad: Yet also great responsibilities come with nomadism. Schedules must be kept, wi-fi attained, social experiences had, and more. A nomad can do what they want, but they need to know what they want then follow through. All this on their own too, as the lack of a “base camp” adds a level of uncertainty to life and strains relationships of all kinds.

Now, I might be missing things from the above. I can do without a lot, and inconveniences I may not consider to be outright “bad,” just something to deal with or go without. And the “good” qualities are largely a point of perspective. Do with that what you will ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

What I’ve Learned

Digital nomadism has been wild, beyond these little words on this blog post.

Regardless of what I have found good or bad about the lifestyle, it has been an experience I cannot regret. The adventure bar none has been well worth missed trips over the last two years. The self-confidence in both my capabilities and what’s possible no matter what happens in the future is beyond value.

All that said, I have learned some important points:

    • If driving while being a nomad, get a vehicle large enough for your sleeping accommodations, preferably a hybrid or electric vehicle so you can run the AC at night for less than half-a-gallon of gas.
    • Rest areas and truck stops are your friends. Not all rest areas are created equally.
    • Airports and public libraries have work-ready wi-fi and charging ports. (i.e. aim not to take time off on travel days.)
    • If you are in no rush, find somewhere quiet in nature to eat and meditate. Otherwise, have some go-to food options that are clean enough to dine on while driving – refrigeration (e.g. car food coolers) is somewhat overrated.
    • Visit people over places. People come with their own places, are someone to share experience with, and as COVID has shown us, may not last as long as places do.
    • Invest in that better laptop computer.
    • Get audiobooks and movies digitally through public library apps such as Hoopla and Libby. These will save your sanity and your back when not having to carry even more things along.
    • Earplugs, melatonin, and an eye mask. Get these and be comfortable sleeping with them. (Earplugs also for long drives and flights.)
    • You need less than you think you do. Less than that.
    • Digital nomadism is largely safe, especially in between cities (rest stops) and being around truckers.

Keeping this short since by the time you are reading this, I’m traveling again!

Clearly I haven’t completely given up on the digital nomadism lifestyle despite the “bad” points above. However, I do need a base camp going into 2022, so it’s about time to “pump the brakes” a little.

Will I find this slowdown sufficient for me? Time will tell. I’ll be a different person in 2022 – the world will be novel too. Regardless of what I do next, having the option to travel and work wherever, whenever is a thought of great comfort.

How about you? Have you traveled on little to far reaches? Have you been on the fence about taking on the nomad lifestyle? I’m happy to hear your stories or to clarify points of mine.

Hit me up! Safe travels. Cheers ~

BITS – Vehicles

To prove that the tabletop role-playing system BITS can handle everything, this post introduces the use of vehicles on adventures!

Now, let’s make a distinction between “vehicles” (generic) and the already-covered “ships” and “mechs” (specific). Yes, all vehicles/ships/mechs share the same mechanics and 0 through 4 tiers of effect, but the flexibility of including all things that allow travel carries its own nuance described below.

Tonnage and Tech

The first ways to classify how vehicles can effect BITS dice rolls is to group tiers based on vehicle tonnage or tech-level.

Tonnage would have tier 0 being below the weight of standard vehicles, such as animals and people. Each tier above is a magnitude greater in weight, 1 perhaps being cars, 2 trucks, 3 tanks, etc.

Tech tiers differentiate on the generation of machine. 0 might be a horse cart, 1 a Model T, 2 the modern car, 3 a battle tank, and 4 a next-generation jet plane.

Tonnage and tech have been covered in detail already (BITS ships and mechs, respectively), so check out these classification systems there.

Kind

Is the vehicle small? Armored? Airborne? Super-sized? Perhaps not a vehicle at all, but infantry or a building?

These are the “kinds” or “types” of capabilities a vehicle has when dealing with vehicle-sized objects. (Recall punching up or down sizes-of-magnitude has disadvantages and advantages.)

0 holds the place of masses of unarmored infantry or support teams. 1 has light vehicles and mechanized/mobile infantry. 2 carries the tanks and heavy armor. 3 shows off jets and helicopters. 4 rounds out with ships, titanic earth-movers, i.e. hulks that carry all the rest. Using this variation also unifies tiers of scale into one all-playable 0-to-4 set of metrics to keep track of.

Inspired by how the game Starcraft deals with unit sizes, vehicle tiers based on the kind of vehicle offers a lot of flexibility for fictional game context and rule introduction while maintaining sensibility (such as that infantry shouldn’t shoot down capital ships, at least easily!).

Cost

For those games with a larger emphasis on economy, vehicles can be assumed to be more useful by how much they cost (ie the difficulty of attainment).

Tier levels have to maintain their magnitude differences, but adding a few zeros to the tiers allows for rapid rebalancing of vehicle use. 0 say is <$1000, 1 between that and <$100K, 2 <$1 million, 3 <$100 million, and 4 being anything $100 million or more.

For example, a Ferrari and an armored humvee would be on tier 2 (both about $300K). However, where a Ferrari is fast, agile, and sleek, a humvee has ballistic plates and space for guns and passengers, yet neither floats like a boat.

Distinctions of what a vehicle can do begs use of special rules.

Everything Else: Special Rules

There is more to vehicles than their BITS tiers. A tier 1 implies only how good a vehicle is at its function, but the “1” lacks what that function is. Special rules provide that definition and make vehicles distinct.

Rules for vehicles should be common where they can, such as does it fly in the sky, sail on water, or drive over ground, is it heavy or light or of moderate frame. Uncommon rules ought to be especially concise and attached to any description of the vehicle itself to keep unnecessary information at bay until needed.

Getting more specific can be useful on a case-by-case basis (e.g. does it glide, hover, float, push with a jet, or pull with a ram scoop when it flies), but unless called for or the vehicle is especially unique, trust that players know a horse might be ridden, a car driven, boats float, and that a helicopter doesn’t need a runway.

These examples so far have covered the travel capacities of vehicles. Here are a few more options:

    • How does the vehicle deflect, absorb, or otherwise neglect bullets?
    • How long can it go without refueling?
    • Does it have weapons? Which ones and where are they? Do they have firing arcs? How long will ammo hold out?
    • Can the vehicle explode if damaged?
    • How many people can it carry as passengers? Is there a safety system? Cargo?
    • Any special skills to operate it?
    • Where can this vehicle fit?

Plainly, sky’s-the-limit as it comes to the rules that could apply to a vehicle. But as a design pillar of BITS, discretion is advised. Simple rules only need to be added (and even ignored) when required with a little insight and creativity.

And that’s how you bring vehicles into a BITS game! No longer restricted to human-scale walking and running and fighting, gameplay can expand with planes, trains, and automobiles (or their contextual equivalents).

Someday I’ll get this into a BITS guide. Before I do, which grouping – kind, cost, tonnage, or tech – is your favorite? (I’m a “kind” guy myself ~)

As always, deeply appreciate your feedback. Cheers!

July August Goal Review

This’ll be a quick one since I took July “off” to rediscover how I spend my time.

July Goal Review

Feeling rested, but anxious to plan and set about my future.

I spent my time with:

    • fair-weather weekend hiking and cat visits
    • weekly outings to my favorite burger-/pub-food-place of all time (since sold and closed a week by the time you read this ๐Ÿ˜ญ)
    • writing modules to BITS and getting BITS reviewed by strangers
    • walking about in the summer sun (luckily no tan to show for it!)

Without “goals” per say, I continued to increase my net worth towards FIRE while making friends, staying fit, and writing about games.

As I head into August with a few goals, these are kept light while remembering July for what might happen without the accountability of goals on this blog.

August Goal Proposal

It’s mainly all trips. August will have me living in three states:

    1. New York City
      1. My first time, so this will take a week out of August. Goal here is to have a great time, gathering experiences and perhaps attract a friend or few.
    2. Minnesota
      1. A somber family event. Won’t say more other than I’ll be outside Minneapolis for a week.
    3. Las Vegas
      1. Returning “home!” Getting the fiddly details figured out as I write, but I have confidence it’ll be a rockin’ good time to be back in the desert ๐Ÿค˜
    4. Weekly BITS Revision
      1. So I don’t spend all of August travelling, I want to keep up the effort to get BITS out and exposed to the world. BITS has been a goal many times, so maybe keeping it updated by the week for public consumption will evolve BITS to a new level.

Tada! July was decently chill, though plans changed in big, unexpected ways, both welcome and regrettable.

The bright side of August is now much newness is coming! If you live in Vegas, let’s make mask-safe plans ๐Ÿ˜ If you live outside of Vegas, let’s make plans anyway! Life is shorter than can be imagined.

What are you hitting up in August? Staying cool, I hope! Do your duty and we’ll visit soon. Cheers ~

BITS – Mechs

Are you interested in using mechs – giant robot fighting machines – in a table-top role-playing game? Good news! The BITS engine is modular enough for that.

With the short details below, multiple fictional universes that have mecha will provide real examples of adapting those properties to BITS.

How Mechs Work

Mechs, like ships, have a threat tier 0 through 4 that indicates their ability to act in the world. However, while ships typically use tonnage to class battlefield dominance, mechs rely on the context of the fictional universe.

For example, a tier system that represents leaps in technological understanding may have additional benefits rather than a system that represents adding more-of-the-same technological level to the body of the mech (this is the same with ships). Specific examples of tech and tonnage are included in the next section.

When a player acts as a mech, add the mech’s tier to a 2D6 roll. When acting against a mech, roll higher than that mech’s threat tier. For example, a tier 3 mech acting against a tier 2 must roll 9 or more (threat tier 2) with 2D6 and may add 3 to the roll.

Depending on the fictional context, tiers may also show how many extra smaller actions the mech may take. These smaller actions may be either defensive or of more minor consequence, but again, it’s a decision that needs context. (I’m still ironing out the value of different kinds of actions.)

A mech otherwise behaves as any other fictional Being in BITS. (This includes the use of Body as a hull and engine, Interaction as a sensory and weapon dexterity, Thought as targeting and computation, and Specialty for whatever role the mech is fitted out to do!)

Pilots

The human component driving the giant robot, mechs may have pilots. Pilots are Beings that allow a robot to move and fight.

Some mechs may require more than one pilot (Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, etc.). Some mechs may be autonomous or controlled remotely.

Pilots may enter through a cockpit hatch, the head, the feet, or other means to control the robot. Pilots might be able to eject or transform their robot.

Whatever the case, determining if a pilot can control a mech depends on the context of the fiction.

Size

Things human-sized are of an immense scale less than the machines they operate. If conventional vehicles are considered a magnitude above human-scale, mechs are at least that if not a magnitude above the vehicle scale.

If a mech is the size of a large vehicle, it would be considered a single size class above human-scale. Any Being of human-size would have naturally be at a disadvantage against these mechs.

For example, these would be the exosuits from the movie Avatar and the walkers from The Matrix Revolutions.

However, if a robot is truly giant, a human-sized Being cannot do anything against the mech that would do damage without very specialized tools (think ‘rocket launcher’ or ‘tow cable’). Being so huge, a person, without the correct equipment, taking action against a mech would at most get the mech-pilot’s attention. (The pilot then could choose to step on said offender.)

For example, Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, and virtually all places giant-monster kaiju appear are on a scale above even the most armored of vehicles.

Special Considerations

Special rules to consider are few for mechs. Mainly as flavor-adding tidbits, a fictional robot in BITS mechanically follows the rolling and resolutions as any vehicle or organic body.

But, as any BITS game expands to fit the needs of the context and no more, mechs may have special rules added on a case-by-case basis. A single mech may be able to fly or jump, there could be ejection seats for pilots, all mechs may have a fuel or heating element similar to their inventory or health status.

What does appear in mecha throughout fiction is the kind of weapons used. Such fall into four categories (excluding ‘none’, of which the robot would be unarmed except for its momentum and girth):

    • Missiles/Rockets (dumb or smart, things that can be shot down and go boom)
    • Kinetic/Ballistic (a chunk of metal traveling very fast)
    • Energy (lasers, fire, electricity, particles)
    • Melee (close-range brawling devices like blades, claws, and clubs)

Tier Examples in Fiction

Tier 0

Gundam Poster

The genre-setting Mobile Suit Gundam is all about giant robots, but its recognizable tanks and jet planes are T0 through and through. They are the ‘generation previous to mech warfare.’

A universe like MechWarrior / BattleTech also has planes and tanks, which are classic T0 when compared to mechs.

In the grimdark of the Warhammer 40K setting, everything is taken to the extreme. That’s why mainstay Knight walkers would qualify as T0 when they are in fact mechs.

Tier 1

Gundam‘s many series would introduce their first generations of mecha suits here. From Leos to Zakus to Guntanks, these are the foundation that proved mechs were the next phase of military hardware.

Zaku & Leo

When it comes to a technologically-stagnant IP like MechWarrior, T1 is the lowest, ‘Light’ tonnage. Super-heavy tanks can fill a T1 role, but that’s about it.

The same respect to tonnage fits with the Warhammer 40K setting. The smallest of the mighty Titan classes, a Warhound-class Scout armed with two weapon mounts, is T1 along with super-heavy tanks (a single Titan-class weapon mount if any) and the largest of Knights (though these latter likely at a disadvantage).

When technology does not evolve, classifications of mechs relies on size and capability, as ships do.

Tier 2

Rick Dom

Another generation of tech in the Gundam universe means GMs and Rick Doms and Dolls arrive. These can be brought down by their T0 predecessors, but it’ll be a fight!

Warhammer 40K brings to bear the middling Reaver Titan, some five-stories tall and wielding three weapons.

Tier 3

The titular Gundam of Gundam – a step above the mainline mechs used in armies with its own heroic special rules. Included would be mass-production Mobile Armors (a combination of speed, lethality, and defense) and mechs meant to counter a Gundam’s ability like the Virgo II.

It makes sense BattleTech Heavy mechs like the Mad Dog appear here with gauss rifles and cannons.

WH40K escalates size and ability again with the Warlord Titan.

For a similar almost-fantasy example, the lesser-known Zoids franchise shows off huge bio-mechs like the Iron Kong.

Gundam
Mad Dog (aka Vulture)

Tier 4

A wrecking-tier of robots:

Gundam shows off advanced suits like Wing Zero – which destroys entire battle groups – to boss-level super-massive Mobile Armors the equivalent of multiple divisions (Big Zam, Apsaras III).

+100-ton Assault mechs in BattleTech plate the most armor, the heaviest weapons, and strike fear into any encounter. (The death’s-head Atlas being one such beast.)

Imperators in 40K are walking fortress-cathedrals that carry a company of troops just to prevent enemies from scaling the heights of its legs.

Mech species in Zoids cap out with the gargantuan sky-borne Whale King, land-battleship Ultrasaurus, and the Godzilla-like Death Saurer.

Imperator Titan
Atlas

There we are – mechs for use in BITS.

These rules are easily adapted to organic monsters as well (Godzilla, Attack on Titan, etc.), and that’s the benefit of BITS: flavor the system to what’s being played, because it caters any play.

How would you improve the use of mecha in a role-playing game? What universal principles specific to mechs did I miss?

Whatever your playstyle is, have fun out there! Cheers.

BITS – Ships

BITS – the roleplaying game system – is all about themes. Carrying off of last week’s theme of groups in BITS, I’ve been able to think awhile on how different kinds of actors in BITS work together.

So today: How ship-sized vehicles in space and on the water interact with each other.

How Ships Work

Ships have a threat tier that indicates their size:

0 – Fighters, boats.
1 – Corvettes, frigates.
2 – Destroyers, cruisers.
3 – Battleships, carriers.
4 – Dreadnoughts, city-ships.

When acting as a ship, add the ship’s tier to a 2D6 roll (or appropriate BITS value, if so inclined!). When acting against a ship, roll higher than that ship’s threat tier. For example, a tier 3 battleship acting against a tier 2 destroyer must roll 9 or more (threat tier 2) with 2D6 and may add 3 to the roll.

Tiers also show how many extra smaller actions the ship may take. These smaller actions may be either defensive or of more minor consequence. (I’m still ironing out the value of different kinds of actions.)

A ship may hold inside it smaller ships that are 2 threat tiers below it, and/or multiple groups of ships 3 or more tiers below. For example, a tier 3 carrier may hold 1 tier 1 corvette and/or multiple groups of tier 0 fighters.

A ship otherwise behaves as any other fictional Being in BITS. (This includes the use of Body as a hull and engine, Interaction as a sensory and communications capability, Thought as targeting and computation, and Specialty for whatever role the ship is fitted out to do!)

Tier Examples

Tier 0 fighters and boats exist only as groups when interacting with higher-tier ships. Tier 0 can be subdivided into interceptors, bombers, dropships, and others. Subdivisions of tier 0 ships are differentiated with simple rules.

For example, a Star Wars X-Wing would be a heavy fighter with critical roles against single ships automatically destroys the other ship (representing a proton torpedo exploding). A Gundam Ball is incredibly cheap, but cannot travel without a carrier though is useful for ship repair. A Chinook helicopter serving with the United States Navy is slow, but can carry supplies, a platoon of troops, or gunship weapons.

Tier 1 ships include dedicated troop carriers, freighters, and smaller warships. Individual capabilities are defined per ship, such as being able to travel between worlds or systems.

For example, the Star Wars Millennium Falcon is a very fast cargo freighter. Expanse‘s Rocinante packs freight, troops, and torpedoes with high maneuverability (and fits into the Donnager tier 3 battleship!).

Tier 2 destroyers and cruisers can carry a boat or small fighter group to support operations. Ships called “cruisers” (Star Trek Romulan D’deridex) and “destroyers” (Star Wars Star Destroyer) are often tier 3 battleships and carriers in their abilities.

For example, a USN destroyer may have a vulcan cannon to have advantage defending against missiles and fighters while having a mine-laying helicopter. Star Trek Galor cruisers have a large forward cannon, multiple weapon arrays, and high speed, but can be taken out by swarms of fighters or beefier battleships.

Tier 3 represents the battleships, carriers, and hybrids that bring the largest hurt and the largest number of forces to play.

For example, the Imperial Japan Yamamoto battleship had defensive and offensive advantage against any other ship on the water. The Star Wars Star Destroyer could field squadrons of tier 0 TIE fighters, capture a tier 1 Tantive IV blockade runner, land an army of troops and supplies, and bring massive guns to bare. Many Star Trek variants of the Enterprise flagship were on-par with battleships, fielding multiple torpedo launchers, heavy shields and armor, and even fighters and personnel shuttles.

Tier 4 ships are awe-inspiring, all-commanding giants. For the most part unassailable, tier 4 ships get to do what they want to do until a lucky action halts their progress.

For example, Star Wars has the Executor dreadnought that only by a lucky suicide and very poor design was brought down. The Expanse has the literal Behemoth city-/generation-/flag-ship capable of holding a fleet inside it. Star Trek brings to mind Borg Cubes that single-handedly can wipe out armadas. Even the universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune has Heighliners as the only mega-vehicles capable of interstellar travel, taking entire planetary populations from place to place.

Bonus Topic: Stations

Space stations or naval dockyards work the same way as the ships they house. Stations use similar groupings:

0 – Buoy, small communications satellite, mine, sounding station.
1 – A station with limited docking and housing capabilities. The International Space Station.
2 – A regional yard or asteroid base. Halo‘s orbital defense platforms can handle cruiser-sized craft but none larger.
3 – A strategic hub of resupply and production of battleship-tier craft. Deep Space 9 from Star Trek caters to multiple battleships and support vessels. Stargate Atlantis has Atlantis, which may count as a tier 4 station (there’s some techno-magic that makes classification fuzzy).
4 – A massive complex meant to be bringing forth armadas and entire fleets. Star Trek‘s Spacedock 1, Halo‘s High Charity, USN Norfolk Base.

A station may hold ships that have the same threat tier or below whether constructing or docking the ship. The station may or may not have defensive or offensive means. If so, the station uses its threat tier for resolutions.

For example, a tier 0 listening post may detect ships approaching a tier 1 science station orbiting a moon. Tier 2 defense platforms may open fire and release a compliment of fighters so that a tier 3 space dock can muster battleships and carriers to fight. When all else fails, a distress signal summons reinforcements from the fleet HQ, a tier 4 mega-station.

Thought Behind Design

Inspired by shows like The Expanse and of course movies like Star Wars, I began to see patterns in how the large vehicles known as “ship” were treated in fiction (a class their own; another post later about vehicles later).

After experimenting with carriers (ships carrying smaller ships) and threat tiers, I am struck by how tightly the BITS treatment of ships above fits into naval considerations. From the real-world United States Navy, to modern space flight, to hard sci-fi in The Expanse, to the fantasies of Star Trek and Star Wars, a 0 to 4 threat tier system where some ships carry other ships seems to work really, really well!

So that’s the thought behind: Keep with the mechanics found throughout BITS, allow for all the classic naval designations, and thematically represent ships regardless of “universe” or IP they exist in.

Ready to play some BITS? I know I am ๐Ÿ˜

Now to get these manuals taken care of and updated to 2021 standards!

What do you suggest for putting rulebooks together? What holes are there to sink this handling of ships? Let me know! Cheers to your gameplay ~

BITS – Groups

Back on BITS!

(A reminder: BITS is a proprietary Body-Interaction-Thought-Specialty game system for tabletop roleplaying games.)

This time, I’ve been thinking awhile on how to handle large groups. Since humans can only track about seven different things at a time, I thought it best to figure out how to make anything more than a small gathering feasible.

Solution

Members of a group have similar capabilities. Everything they do, they do together and at the same time.

Groups have a rating that indicates their size.

0 – An individual. Does not use group size.
1 – A gang or squad of ~10 or fewer individuals
2 – A company, century, or mob, ~100
3 – A demi-legion or town, ~1000
4 – An army or division, ~10k

Ratings also show how many extra actions the group may take.

When a group acts against another group, that action has advantage or disadvantage if the acted-against group is smaller or larger (respectively). For example, an individual 0 is always at a disadvantage when acting against a group 1+.

Certain actions committed by a group may have disadvantage or not be available at all. For example, a group would have disadvantage on being sneaky, or having a 10k army fit into a Manhattan apartment.

To resolve an action by or against a group, the threat tier of an individual member of the group. Different threat tiers should be grouped separately from each other.

A group has a state of health like any individual Being. However, when a group reaches 0 for their state, they break up into D6 (a dice roll of 1 to 6) of the next smallest group. That means a rating 4 10k group at 0 state breaks up into 1 to 6 rating 3 1000-member groups.

As a choice, when a group reaches 0 for state and breaks up into smaller groups, a second D6 may be rolled to give the new group a state 1 to 6 to represent the harm already taken.

Thought Behind

BITS is all about keeping things simple yet deep in what it can be used for. The system attempts to address a lot of the problems other systems run into, and handling large groups (“mobs”) has always been a sore point.

With the BITS use of groups, everything from street fights to clashing armies can happen with a solid dynamic between all engaged. Since BITS also handles social conflicts with the same mechanics as physical violence, inciting mobs or inspiring a legion can be accomplished with the group mechanics here.

It came to my attention that perhaps an individual shouldn’t be able to face down an army of 10K. But then I remembered the brutally brilliant (and violent) “Crazy 88’s” fight in Kill Bill – the player, as hero, ought to be able to have a try at beating the odds ๐Ÿ˜‰

And that’s how BITS handles groups!

Will be sharing more BITS content over the next few weeks, including revisiting some sub-par implementations of the past.

If you’ve ideas on groups, share ’em! In the meantime, cheers to your play ~