11 Books of Change in 2020

I have had the privilege to read some great titles this year. They have, simply put, changed the way I understand life.

Any of these books is well worth your time. If just one changes your life half as much as it has mine, this post is worth it ๐Ÿ˜

Armor

Taking off from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, this novel by John Steakley builds off of that tone with the memory recordings of a battered and blasted suit of advanced combat armor. Exploring the vulgarities of war for war’s sake, the glorification of violence, and the battle scars that never disappear, Steakley set an example for me on how to write better war stories.

Art Matters

Neil Gaiman is prolific. Maybe it’s because he takes his own advice on why creation and expression is so darn important to the human condition.

Can’t Hurt Me

A man of many titles and accomplishments, David Goggins serves as an example for me in what it means to push through, how not to quit. It’s not enough to want something – a person must first conquer their worst enemy: themselves.

Energy for Future Presidents

Richard Muller gives concise information on physics, chemistry, economics, diplomacy, and sociology that not just provides information on where the world stands in regards to its fuel, but also how to evaluate new forms of energy that arise. I have a better understanding of the future of energy and you will too reading this book.

Masters of War: History’s Greatest Strategic Thinkers

The Great Courses does it again, delivering top-notch educational course material in audiobook form. I grew into greater appreciation of some of humanity’s shapers. Further, this course outlines some strategic methodologies that can be applied to everyday obstacles and decisions.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

John Grey has given me language to express what I’ve felt and have observed in others. MAFMWAFV uses archaic terms by today’s more nuanced world, yet through its teachings I can point out the reasons behind how relationships have ended, what others have done, and why anyone reacts the way they do. The book isn’t everything there is to relationships and gendered self-expression, but it’s a lot!

The New Human Rights Movement

Like a punch in the gut, Peter Joseph hits hard with the ails of society. Unlike how some philosophers and dictators will say a thing is a problem and throw out solutions, Joseph defines terms, assumes a common goal (i.e. eliminate unnecessary suffering; minimize/optimize what’s left), details problems in opposition to that goal, and outlines seemingly obvious solutions.

I’m a big fan of this book, though give due caution: It’s depressing to see how much trouble society has wedged itself into. I have great hopes in a mass correction of ills, yet it will only occur on a macro scale. (Market dynamics trump individual performance always.)

A Plea for the Animals

Matthieu Ricard has made me a full vegetarian now. Hope that’s enough said about their work ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Revelation Space

Here I refer to the series whose first book is of the same name. Alastair Reynolds shoots for the moon in this sci-fi epic saga that spans tens-of-thousands of years, and he goes farther. Revelation Space has changed how I think about spaceship shapes and travel, as well as how short stories pump great energy into the rest of the fictional universe.

The Truth

Very controversial Neil Strauss, author of the more famous book The Game, explores here the consequences of a hedonistic life. At times verging on the soft-core, The Truth concludes that the tools to become confident, meet people, and become intimate must ultimately serve to find the relationship that is worth burying those tools for.

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Neil Gaiman again here! This short story is… magical. Dark. Suspenseful. And of a kind of primal justice for which the characters (and we, readers) must journey towards. Not much of life lesson, but heck-of-a-fine read ~

These are the new works that most impacted me this year. A note that this does not include repeat reads, such as the graphic novel series Monstress or the advice found in Tribe of Mentors. Regardless, I am a better person for them all.

How many of these have you read? Which books would you suggest I pick up in 2021? Keep me posted and keep on improving! Cheers~

10 Posts 2020

In a first, I’ve posted every week of 2020! #FeelsGoodMan

Out of all of those, I want to share my thoughts on the ten most-eyed posts of 2020 ๐Ÿ‘€ What’s changed, what’s the same, you get the drill.

10. Character Sheet Essentials

This is my attempt to boil down characters to the essentials of what needs to be known. A character sheet still needs the four sections “Self, Seem, Story, and Stuff,” but there’s more wiggle room, especially on “Self,” on what a given game IP ought to include.

(Note card-sized sections are pictured for reference.”

9. BITS – The Core Mechanic

My joy of a game system, BITS delivers a faster pace of gameplay, simpler arithmetic, but a thorough set of possible outcomes for any action. Here I talk of the dice, the math, and other factors in resolving conflict in the system.

8. Cast 21 – Tools to Face Uncertainty

Back when I could upload podcasts, I outline twelve actions that remove stress and improve decision making. These are points that are recommended by the best performers and thinkers in our society which I have also tried out personally to great success ๐Ÿ˜

7. Cast 12 – Quick Table Top Role Playing Game – 1

My first publication of a tabletop role-playing game. (Check the second part for downloads.)

I’ve come a long way in terms of knowledge and technique for making games (specifically TTRPGs), yet this first system has a special place in my heart โ™ฅ

6. Cast 19 – Virtual Mentors

I go through the folks that I constantly learn from, folks that you can gain from, too!

The cast includes Gary Vee, Timothy Ferriss, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Paula Pant, and more!

5. Cast 09 – GDC and Crunch

I reminisce about being accepted to the Game Developers Conference (which I later give up my pass) while also facing crunch at work (on a project that later gets culled during COVID).

4. COVID and False Arguments

There are a lot of disgusting, dangerous things being said to downplay or misinform about the current global pandemic.

One hit me so hard on social media it took me days to get over the audacity of it. Then I wrote a blog post in response ๐Ÿ˜‰

One thing I’d add to this post: You can’t give someone lung cancer from your lung cancer condition. You can give COVID-19 to another without even knowing you have it. Therefore, this is another point that comparing COVID to other diseases as a means to render mute the concerns (and lives lost) of the pandemic is not just infantile and uninformed, it is dangerous.

3. #PaidMe

Surprised that this isn’t higher. I got on the bandwagon of a summer hashtag that had folks sharing salary in different industries.

I went farther, breaking down role, base pay, take-home pay, inflation to 2020, and normalizing to a national cost-of-living.

Check the data out yourself to have a reference point in your own salary negotiations ๐Ÿ˜Š

2. Trip Across COVID America

I fled Las Vegas to the wilds and eventually the East Coast in May. What’s written retells my journal entries for the trip, including a very eye-opening understanding of poverty in the forgotten, decaying rural sections of America.

1. What Is Your Work Worth?

I wish I had this guide when I started in the professional sphere.

What’s inside is a step-by-step formula to calculating what you ought to be paid along with surefire ranges you must ask for when negotiating pay.

It’s dangerous to go about with ignorance when it comes to money. Take this insight along for the ride.

If you’ve missed out on these crowd-pleasers, it’s not too late! I also recommend checking out the other posts – you’ve plenty of content to gleam from.

What has been your favorite post? Which articles would you recommend I read? Let me know! Cheers to your 2020 wrap-up ~

2021: Looking Forward

As I compose my end-of-year review, I can’t help but to imagine with great anticipation what will happen in 2021!

Vegas

After spending most of 2020 away from Sin City, I’m headed back and look forward to this warm place of adventure and activity! The plan is to hike for now, and even that socially distanced, though how long may that last?

Vaccine

Social distancing will last as long as there are those unvaccinated against COVID-19. It’s our duty to do so. Luckily, there are recent breakthroughs and the inoculation distribution and protection of the populace may begin as soon as January 20th…

Presidency

The 20th! When the new administration is sworn in! It bears repeating again that the current administration as this is written has at best abandoned any responsibility towards the American people. Might feel strange to get back to a society-uplifting president!

Writing

Hopefully won’t feel too strange getting back to my writing (and publishing!). I’m working on a “Truths” collection right now, though I ache to pen sci fi and horror again ๐Ÿ‘ป

Voice Acting

I’m urging myself to have a paid voice acting gig in 2021. I have the material, the equipment, the study. Time to put all that to work to prove it ๐Ÿ˜Ž That, and I like the sound of my own dramatic voices ๐Ÿ˜‚

Gaming

Play. More. Games. Ever since university I’ve played few games (analog and virtual) and felt good about doing it even fewer times. Part of my self care in 2021 is to add a salve to that workaholic anxiety by making it a task to take care of myself ~

FI

Of course, there’s financial independence, my highest goal at this time in my life. However, I will be much more =chill= about it than I have been. 2021 is the time to live a little and take life less for granted. (Crossing fingers for a stock market breakthrough, either up or down!)

And those are a few things I look forward to. I dare not hope for travel just yet, though increased sociability after the vaccine and while I begin working on software tools for games again. Regardless, I promise myself and I promise you that I’ll “cut loose” a little more (COVID safe) ๐Ÿ˜Š

What are you looking forward to in 2021? Hopes and dreams and expectations of the world and yourself? I anticipate you too are taking less for granted! Cheers to your end of year ~

Guide to Your Goals: 10 Themes From Tribe of Mentors

The (in)famous Timothy Ferriss got me started on self-improvement with his breakout The 4-Hour Work Week. The book had me seriously scrutinizing my work and effort in ways that made me who I am today.

However, not just one of the best books by Tim, but one of the best books I’ve ever come across (I, who consume some 20 or so books a month [audiobooks FTW]) is the “short life advice” in Tribe of Mentors. Having gathered dozens of top performers, gurus, experts, and objectively pinnacles of humanity, these folks provide advice for goals and life.

What would this look like if it were easy?

Timothy Ferriss

The book is well worth a read (it’s one of the few I keep in hardcopy and also loan to friends), the above being the first highlight I made in the tome. Though filled with wisdom throughout, there are ten themes that come up again and again. Don’t take it from me that getting after these will change your life – really work them out, say, over two weeks each. The results will help what is an ultimate goal of life: Wellbeing.

The following are in a suggested order I came up with in my own experience, in which the latter build off of the former for a positively escalating domino effect.

1. Simplify

A [person] is rich in proportion to the number of things [they] can leave alone.

Henry David Thoreau, Renown Natural Philosopher

Decluttering, reducing, trimming, following the edge of Occam’s Razor – however it is called, simplicity reduces noise that distracts, confounds, induces anxiety and worry, and makes a person objectively weaker.

Going without the unimportant is the hallmark of greatness. This doesn’t mean taking the things found to be important for granted. Challenge those things. It is up to them to prove useful to you and the world.

Simplicity is the first suggestion for you to try as it makes all else easier. It is also the hardest thing to do, as you will strive to simplify and stay simplified forever.

2. Long-Term Yeses and Nos

Say “yes” to long-term activities and people who are of benefit to you, say “no” to everything else.

This echoes the first principle of simplicity, and it will require as great of courage and discipline to follow.

You must be selfish enough on behalf of your future self. Simply put: Practice delayed gratification.

Doing the leveraged, compounding move instead of the emotional ‘feels good right now’ commitment, even if that’s helping other people, is the smarter, kinder thing to do for yourself. It’s putting the cart before the horse, attempting fix the future of others or the world without first having done the hard work to make yourself an avatar worthy of emulation.

Not sure what is useful long-term? Tim and other minds offer strategies to figure this out, such as doing a Pareto evaluation of the best/worst people and activities, or as I would simply suggest: If you don’t feel it’s a “hell yes,” then it’s a hard “no.”

3. Act

You must act, you must do. Now.

Nothing Good will occur from stagnation. The very universe itself through entropy would rip your very atoms apart, let alone other living things that realize they must act so would take your lifeblood. And that is a natural justice.

So start. Use your head and hands to make something of yourself and the world.

(Need a place to start? Pyscologist Jordan Peterson has this advice: “Clean up your room.”)

4. Sleep

Sleep, or rest in general, makes you a better person.

Sleep cleanses toxins, balances biological systems, and allows your body to repair and grow and prepare for the day to come. Before diet, before exercise, having quality sleep (this does not specify quantity) comes first.

Keep in mind that this is not ‘doing nothing.’ Conscious, purposeful, prepared for rest is an act admirable to the principle above, if not more so in today’s workaholic, masochistic-labor-enthroning world (said as a recovering workaholic myself).

Quality suggestions: Cold room, no light, no work/surfing/lounging in bed.

5. No (Added) Sugars

A still raging obesity and diabetic epidemic requires this to be iterated again: Cut the sugars.

This recurring theme in Tribe of Mentors is less about adding to your abilities and more of removing the cap on your wellness and potential. Removing excess sugar will immediately improve your weight, acne, hunger, cardiovascular ability, bodily energy, and mental clarity, to name a few benefits.

A word of warning: A quick reduction in sweetness may give withdrawals, since sugar seems to have a more addictive effect on the brain than cocaine.

6. Meditate

Also put as ‘reflection,’ taking the time to be at peace inside your own head both refreshes, clarifies, calms, and readies you with the means to tackle your goals.

7. Exercise

It’s about being a stronger version of you. If [it] gets real, you know you could kill and eat everyone in the room which will make you feel more confident.

Scott Galloway, Economist and Professor

Your body is the only one you have and is the only thing you may rely on in the moment. It will also be the last thing to fail before you die.

You know the benefits of exercise: you become faster, stronger, longer lasting, more attractive, more confident, better. So do it and become better at it.

Side note: Exercise may also prove to be an avenue of meditation for you, so the sixth and seventh principles roll into one!

8. Zoom Out, Slow Down

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.

Timothy Ferriss

Forgo being ‘busy.’ You cannot know your destination or if your direction is correct if you do not pause, breath, look around where you are, and look up ahead to where you want to be.

If you don’t know where you need to go, or don’t care where you’ve been or are, going carelessly, blindly, may be especially disastrous! My request would be for you to at least stay out of the way.

Analogies:

      • Swimming from a sinking boat without first knowing where land is.
      • Running the wrong way in the wrong race at the wrong time.
      • Walking in circles.
      • Trying the same thing, expecting different results.

9. (Gratitude) Journal

It’s important to give credit where credit is due, especially when you and I live in objectively the best times in history ever.

We as humans have a hard time recognizing that, since a negative experience has more than three times the impact on our psyche.

Though important, gratitude is only a part of this theme. There’s an effect called “Rubber Ducking” that helps you fix your problems and gain insight without needing someone around. If you talk to a thing, even if it’s to your journal, and you’re allowed to work through the situation, a solution or next step is much more likely to appear!

So record the Good things. Appreciate. Go back to find patterns of things you can replicate (or negatives you can avoid). Recall the Good times in the darkest times. And figure out your problems.

10. Fats and Proteins

That ‘fat is bad’ is bunk. Your brain is fat and works better with more of it. You also require proteins for your cells to operate, more so if you’ve been exercising.

This last theme in Tribe of Mentors holds to it that fats and proteins are the key to your diet to increase thinking and performance while maximizing health benefits.

After you make sure you have enough fat and protein, hit the veggies (though you already know that ๐Ÿ˜).

These ten recurring themes that come up again and again from top performers craft those that follow the principles into better people. So start here if you’ve yet to get after what you want or need help figuring it out.

If you’re already on the path to accomplishment, may these be a friendly reminder of the tools you have at your disposal for optimal performance. Share with your fellows so they might improve themselves should they be so inclined.

What has worked for you? What would you add to a beginner’s guide to life? I’m listening.

Cheers~

November December Goals Review

And we’re back!

Things are getting cold where I am in the American North East. Guess it’s about time to head back to warmer climates ๐Ÿ˜ Let’s talk about that:

November Goal Review

    1. Truths Collection
      1. Won. A dozen journals, the magnificent tome that is Tribe of Mentors, and a few decades of experience has given me a collection of statements of seeming fact that provide a sketch of reality. Future plans include organizing these ideas into a book, a guide, for life.ย 
    2. EOY Setup
      1. Won. It has been weird with the longest, most pesky background check I’ve ever gone through. That hasn’t stopped me from gearing up to start mobile development work in December!
    3. Vacation #1
      1. Won. Went to the Adirondacks! It was terrible! But the trip was taken, so I’m marking this up.
    4. Vacation #2
      1. Failed. During “vacation #1,” a kidney kinda stopped functioning ๐Ÿ˜ถ Totally bonked any other vacation plans. After two weeks of bedrest and a few healthcare visits, I seem to be on the up-and-up ๐Ÿ˜‰

December Goal Proposal

I must be honest here: It’s been a heck-of-a-year and it isn’t over yet.

My time is going to be spent on tasks that either happen… or they catastrophically don’t ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ To me, that is a copout for setting goals in December. So, instead, time will be given 100% towards these items in our final month:

    1. First, I’m traveling across the country back to Vegas! This will take about a week, more or less, as I’ll be casually meandering while staying away from people (sans safely getting fuel).
    2. Next, I’m settling back down in Vegas! This will generally involve your generic “moving in” issues.ย 
    3. After moving in, I’m starting work as a senior mobile game tools maker. Since I want to make a fine impression, this will have my attention for the last week-and-half of the year.
    4. Lastly, I’ll be reviewing the year as I’ve done for the last few. Picture gathering, letter writing, and outreach to some of the most important people in my life is aย very important requirement for me.

75% accomplishment in November is disappointing, though I ripped through many a book and I rewrote a story outline I was having great trouble with.

As we look forward to December, I think it is about time for a bit of a rest without adding more pressure. As a recovering workaholic, I also encourage you to see about chilling in this holiday season ๐Ÿ˜Š

Be well! We will converse again next week. Cheers in the meanwhile ~

Avatar RPG Inspiration

I’ve gotten around to watching the shows Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) and Avatar: The Legend of Korra (great shows, btw). Along the way, I’ve taken notes on recurring themes and opportunities to bring ATLA to the tabletop.

This post is less than a full game – for those, try out Avatar-inspired titles like Legend of the Elements (Powered by the Apocalypse narrative game) and The Last of the Lacers (D&D game). The following are the elements (see what I did there? ๐Ÿ˜) I’m concerned with for making ATLA into a streamlined RPG.

Themes

ATLA is consistent with a set of ‘rules for the world’ which make it ‘kid friendly’, though these can begin to be stripped away for a harsher feel depending on game genre.

  1. No one kills another. (It’s only an option for the biggest, baddest evil villain.)
  2. People live for over a hundred years.
  3. Gravity is really low, so falls, jumps, and throws are very impressive.
  4. Injuries reduce capability until a person is unconscious, not dead.
  5. There is the Spirit World and the Material World.
  6. There are four Elements (Airโ˜, Water๐ŸŒŠ, Earth๐ŸŒŽ, Fire๐Ÿ”ฅ) with a subset and super-power each.
  7. A person is either born able to Bend (magically control) one of the four Elements or not. (Cataclysmic events or powers can give or remove Bending ability.)
  8. Animals are intelligent and a companion is common.

Got it? Cool! Onto mechanics…

Mechanics

Very similar to BITS, two six-sided dice (2d6) roll at or above a target number, that number representing the threat of an individual or otherwise the difficulty of enacting a character’s will on the world.

To aid rolls, the applicable stat number gets added to the value.

Stats

A simple set of stats represent the collective ability of any action a character may take.

  1. Martial
    1. For fighting and physical exertion, getting your way manually. This includes the name of a preferred weapon that, when used, gives a bonus to the action or outcome.
  2. Influence
    1. For leading and convincing others, getting your way without violence. This includes the name(s) of a companion, human or animal, that gives a bonus when they are also interacting in a social situation.
  3. Training
    1. For when doing a life’s work. This uses a specific name of a specialty which in turn has lists of actions that could be taken for a bonus.

Training may be Bending, Soldiering, Crafting, Performing, Wandering, Administrating, or other professions a character could spend their time at. However, if not choosing Bending, other boons are given to the character, eg another weapon they are practiced with.

Other stats keep a character in the game and add color to their life:

  1. Nation
    1. Where the character comes from. This is also the default Element the character may Bend, though for role-play another Element may be Bent if it’s specified that a parent is from another Nation.
  2. Endurance
    1. How much more the character can take. Any detriment to Stress adds conditions that impede the character’s actions before they are ultimately rendered unconscious or otherwise lost.
  3. Confidences
    1. The things the character is proud of. Some advantage may apply when doing such things.
  4. Failings
    1. The things a character should be ashamed of. Some disadvantage may apply when doing such things.

Goals

Stat advancements are the first goal since they improve the odds of accomplishing other things in the game.

The goals in fiction are ultimately up to the type of game being played. The primary goal must be shared by all players, but each player may have additional goals for themselves that give reward such as stat advancement or other mechanical boon.

Some group goal ideas:

  1. Stop the Fire Lord from conquering the world.
  2. Resurrect the Avatar.
  3. Unite the Material and Spirit worlds.
  4. Find an item of power to bring balance to the Nations.

Bending

The “magic” of the game offers great robustness in how diverse a character may become as they Train. Whether used as a utility, brought to bear in offense, or as a matter of healing, Bending can do about all. Each Element also has a magical Elemental animal.

AirEarthFireWater
ExamplesSoftening falls,
pushing objects away,
flying.
Raising the ground,
throwing rocks,
carving stone.
Creating fire,
throwing fireballs,
immolating.
Freezing,
spraying,
using water to manipulate objects.
Subgroup BendingCloud BendingSand BendingLight BendingSwamp Bending
Advanced BendingGravity BendingMetal or Lava BendingLightning BendingBlood Bending
Healing PowerSicknessBonesBleedingFlesh
AnimalSky BisonBadger MolesDragons(none)

No matter the Bending Element, a true master-level character may Bend with only their minds. Hands-free magic!

The god-tier forms of Bending usually lie with the Avatar, the incarnation and agent of the cosmos to keep balance in all things. Walking the Spirit world, telepresence, removing Bending ability, using all Elements at once, achieving a temporary state of extreme ability, and transforming into a hulking colossus of energy are a few examples.

Non-Bending

Not to be outdone by Benders, normal folks have their own gifts too. In advanced Trainings, a non-Bender has access to a lot:

  1. Acrobatics to dodge attacks, run on water and walls, and scale heights.
  2. Chi blocking or assassination to immediately disable the limbs or whole body of an opponent.
  3. Medicine to care for any ill or injury.
  4. Weapon skills to duel with and defend against any foe.
  5. Engineering to create machines and tools matching or exceeding a Bender’s ability.
  6. Brilliance to outthink any situation and foretell things to come.

Bending gives a natural edge that some non-Benders have overcome with study and dedication.

Closing

As a world, ATLA is rich with potential. Keeping things simple, the above outline establishes a solid way to create a purely ATLA game experience. Surprised this wasn’t a post about BITS?

I may come back here someday to create a game from this, though if you beat me to it, let me know ๐Ÿ˜‰ Cheers for now!

Devaluing Your Worth

As I approach a new year with a new company, let’s look at common nasty bits of the flip-side of how to value your worth: devaluing it ๐Ÿ’ฉ

First Off: Not Knowing Your Value

You would do yourself a better favor ignoring any new paid work if you haven’t done the bare minimum of any interview process.

That bare minimum? Doing the research, ie:

Know where the money is ๐Ÿ’ฒ

Figure out how much a title pays nationally. Know what that role pays in the region and industry (though industry is less and less relevant). Glassdoor the salaries paid at the company. Normalize everything to the cost-of-living (CoL) of the town you live in and where the company is headquartered.

Of those numbers, get the median. Get the average. Pick the highest value.ย At least multiply that number by 110%, if not 110% to 125%.

Then what do you have? Value. Or, more precisely, an appropriate range (high average or 110% to 110% or 125%) of value you must ask for with the role with the company in the city. Anything less is at best worthless, if not going to be a sticking point for you later.

Second: Anchoring Low

A common negotiation tactic is to anchor the talks on a low value.

You are not low value.

When the company goes low, you go high. Heck, if the company goes OK, you go high. If they go high, you goย higherย ๐Ÿ”ฅ

They mention a range lower than yours or doesn’t intersect the top of your range? You sigh, you flinch, you gasp, and you quote them your researched range. (Apply emphasis that your skills warrant the top of the range no-doubt.)

You are cornered or feel compelled to mention a range? That 110% to 125% is looking awfully fine right now ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you feel uncomfortable asking for this kind of cash, just know other companies across the nation are paying at or above your quoted. So why do you deserve any less? (If you have an answer to this rhetorical question, there are some confidence and self-esteem issues you need to figure out ASAP.)

No, seriously, if you don’t think you doing a role is worth the nationally determined compensation for the title, stop reading this article. I wish I had something of mine to link here, but I don’t – go get help!

Side note: If you ever find yourself being in the very rare and unusual position of the company offering more than the top of your not-yet-quoted range, tell the company the both of you are close, but you were looking for approximately-10%-over-the-company’s-value. That way you leave nothing on the table that the company was not already planning on giving you!

Third Up: Not Shutting Up

After you have spoken, cease speaking ๐Ÿ˜ถ

Simple, ya? No. Human nature wants to justify ourselves and our expectations of others to others. To do that, we’ll lace our speech with weak words and bury our hopes in our own babble.

When you’ve stated your range, when you’ve told the company they need to have a better offer, when you’ve asked for that bonus, shush.

As many professional negotiators put it (see this post’s Further Learning section):

They who breaks silence first loses.

This in part applies to:

Fourth, Your Greatest Enemy: Yourself

What I mean is you will negotiate against your own self interests.

There are many ways to hamstring your efforts:

      • Quoting a dollar range first.
      • Agreeing to additional responsibility without additional compensation.
      • Settling for splitting the difference.
      • Generally being too agreeable ๐Ÿ˜‡

The root of your self-harm is fearing the discomfort of disagreeableness.

Be conscientious of your value, be kind to those you negotiate with, but be brave enough to be disagreeable when a benefit to you and your future selves is on the line.

What have you done in negotiating down your value? I’ve done all of the above and more – which have you? Share your experiences for others and myself to watch out for.

COVID is still very bad – While you Zoom safely from home, may you earn your worth and more ๐Ÿ˜ Cheers~

October November Goals

What. A. Week. What a month! What a year!

To business:

October Goal Review

      1. BITS Alpha Edits
        1. Won. The AASB guides are looking pretty good! Equipment is more concise while spellcasting cut the 120-spell balance-hell list, instead giving a “make your own spells” table and example spells from that previous uber-list.
      2. BITS Format and Principles
        1. Failed. I’ve started on the Design Guide for BITS that is home to the plethora of design decisions I’ve encountered and the choices I’ve had to make. However, that requires more attention, and thus the formatting with images of the other guides has been missed.
      3. BITS Beta Edits Tools Interviews!
        1. Won. Scrapped sending BITS out into the wild this month to instead spend quality time with C# and reacquaint with the interview process. The interviews went splendidly and have a direct impact on November’s work.
      4. Outline
        1. Won. Two outlines are complete! A third is underway! Now can I actually discipline myself to write these out? That’s… a question ๐Ÿ˜…

November Goal Proposal

      1. Truths Collection
        1. First up in November is going through all of my journals, skimming the items that seem to be steps towards capital-T Truth. This is a holdover from the outlines goal in October, yet should shed valuable light towards another book proposal of mine.
      2. EOY Setup
        1. Surprise! I’m ending my sabbatical and going back to tools in a position I’m sincerely excited about! To facilitate that, I’m still in Vegas WFH, but I need to plan how to get back to Vegas! So here’s to housing, travel scheduling, and all the necessary bits of going “back to the grind” ๐Ÿ˜Ž
      3. Vacation #1
        1. While I’m still out and about, I need to leverage the freedom of no work and no people. Will that find me in the Adirondacks? On the Appalachian Trail?
      4. Vacation #2
        1. Same as above as I have some three or so weeks between this post and when I’ll be prepping to settle back in Vegas. Yes, it’s not a here’s-a-product kind of “productive”, but I’ve talked before that breaks are really hard for me to take, so here’s my incentive to ~chill~.

Because of the drastic change in the next few weeks, I’m shelving goal requirements on my writing and game design projects. Yes, I’ll be working on game drafts, the BITS guides, and stories – you’ll get those as they arrive!

October stumbled from my streaks of 100% success – understandable, yet I will be getting back on the wagon.

Winter has come. So has another month that allows me a step towards accomplishment. I hope you and yours are safe and have your own endeavors in tow. Here’s to them and you! Cheers ~

BITS – The Spells ๐Ÿง™๐Ÿปโ€โ™‚๏ธ

Spells, magics, powers, tech abilities – whatever you want to call it, powerful, spooky actions by players in BITS need rules. Healing, harming … that and more BITS takes care of ๐Ÿ˜ Just in time for Halloween! ๐Ÿฆ‡

What Spells Are

As the title has it, spells are unseen phenomena that allow a player to do marvelous and dangerous things. Electricity and technology are as much a kind of magic as what is practiced by fantastical druids and warlocks. BITS being a generalized game design ruleset, the same principles apply to any form of ability a player could have!

Spell Effects

The specific effects of spells or how the effects get conveyed rely on the setting or genre of the game. There are nonetheless traits that reoccur in any spell system, each with intuitive exchange of cost-to-do and effect-of-doing:

    • Switch a location for another.
      • eg teleportation, telepathy
    • Morph what’s in a location.
      • eg alter colors and sizes
    • Bring into or remove from a location.
      • eg conjuration, removing some or all of what’s in a location
    • Act in a location.
      • eg mind control, telekinesis

Some spells do little more than move objects around, but what happens when the effect itself needs to be taken into account?

BITS gives spells the effect of being “magical.” However, for many games, increased granularity is required for a more tactical game feel.

To bring tactics to a BITS game, there are only two other kinds of spell effect:

    • 2Ps
      • “Power” and “Pyro” are the first branches out from basic “magical” kinds of spells. Power is for anything purely magical or electrical, Pyro for (what else) fire or heat-addition and heat-removal ๐Ÿ”ฅโ„

        Sure, one or two additional kinds of effect may be added here or the Ps themselves may be renamed, but they must conform to the theme of the game. (Cellular, Laser, and Software for a game in modern times, anyone?)
    • Dungeons and Dragons-Like
      • D&D kinds of games are the bucket added to the end of the BITS spell toolbox, but this doesn’t mean a game can go off the rails with the kinds of spells they bring to the fore.

        After severe study, even D&D seems to overdo the eight schools of magic it uses, leading to balance issues where schools like Evocation objectively better perform some other schools.

        A better look is a maximum number of different things a player can track (hint: it’s seven). To improve the D&D issue, a modest proposal of six kinds (and never more) of spells for any kind of fantasy game:
        • Divinity – Blessing and cursing targets.
        • Temperature – Heating and cooling targets.
        • Form – Making something from nothing and morphing targets.
        • Life – Decaying and rejuvenating targets.ย 
        • Mind – Knowing what targets know and bestowing ideas.
        • Sensorium – Altering the senses and using illusions.

      • Those previous six are themed forย D&D high fantasy, but what about other genres? BITS handles those to, focusing on the “4” theme that repeats throughout BITS.

        On offering are example sets including: Space, Time, Gravity, Power; Solids, Liquids, Gases, Plasmas; Animalism, Potions, Meteoromancy, Shamanism; Create, Cease, Control, Change; etc.

Spell Systems

There are more ways to convey the awesome power of spells as there are writers of magic systems. Thus, to pick a system of spells for your game, BITS offers some guidance:

    • Take the D&D Approach
      • Dungeons and Dragons is the best known roleplaying game ever. How the game does magic is it restricts a player’s use of a spell to the kind of “magic school” the spell is, and both the difficulty of the spell and number of spells based on player character experience. Further, there are a finite number of spells premade to choose from that a player has to decide on before an adventure, a daunting task as there areย hundreds of spells ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

        BITS mitigates this option paralysis by doing two things: removing the excessive limits, and paring down spells from systems likeย D&D (BITS has a 120-spell collection taking the best fromย D&D and balancing out what were previously “must have” spells inย D&D).

        There are still limits with this approach any game designer must choose to include or forego: Only magical players or game equipment may cast spells, and, players may only use spells from the kinds of magic they understand. Other than that, a player can use any level of spell difficulty! Though, nothing terribly bad is guaranteed to happen if a player foils up casting a spell…ย 
    • Slim Approach
      • Which brings us to a slimmer, more deadly approach!

        Following the influence of old-school revival (OSR) games, there is at most a page or two of succinct spells that speak to the theme of the game.

        Further, when players critically fail to cast these otherwise resource-free, ranged, and power spells, BITS requires the spell to target the casting player and any effect turned negative towards the player. That heal spell now hurts, that fireball explodes around the player, the airstrike you called in is on your location. BITS achieves balance here by keeping the game succinct and spell use deadly.
    • Freeform
      • What if players are especially imaginative? There are no walls barring magical ability? Is the gameย Harry Potter themed?

        BITS solves that too. In a freeform system, a table guide for spell effect and the difficulty of the spell exists to aid not just impromptu game systems, but also for GMs and players who want to introduce their own material to the game.

        Spells range in difficulty from 0 to 4 (from a required roll of 5 to a roll of 13). That 0 to 4 corresponds tightly with the effect of the spell, its range, and its radius of effect.

Default for BITS Spells

As mentioned before, what spells end up in the game depends on the kind of game being gone for. A bucket of spells? A tight selection? A creative ocean of spell possibilities? Regardless, BITS focuses on a set of realities to keep spells both balanced and powerful in any game.

First, the difficulty of a spell roll is the difficulty of the spell, not the threat of what the spell targets. Melee fighters and arrow-shooting rangers have to meet or beat the difficulty of harming a target, but a spell thrower merely needs to account for the spell they cast, leaving them free to focus on their role as magical support.

Second, spells will target and harm the caster if the caster critically fails their roll. If this is too harsh, BITS has the optional rule to allow casters to choose between accepting the negative themselves, or destroying what equipment they carry to completely negate the spell. (Just be careful of naked adventures running around with sacrificed clothing!)ย 

Third and lastly, spells are what I call “runaway”. Like a train without a conductor, when a spell is cast, it keeps going until it’s finished. Plenty of spells are instantaneous (zap โšก), but some last the lifetime of a target or until some special rule of the spell is met. Runaway spells lessens the bookkeeping of tracking multiple spells in the game world while freeing up magical players to otherwise continue acting instead of babysitting some effect.

And that’s spell use in BITS! Thank you for getting this far, reader ๐Ÿ˜ If you haven’t yet or need a reminder, checkout BITS’s core mechanic, the equipment, and the role of the GM.

Tomorrow is Halloween ๐ŸŽƒ Next week is the US national election ๐Ÿ™ƒ After all that, look forward to when I review October’s goals and we look ahead to November. Stay safe! Vote! Cheers ~

BITS – The Equipment

There’s been the intro, the core mechanic, and the GM guide to BITS. Let’s talk now about how players use tools to interact with the game!

Defining Terms

Equipment is anything the player’s character uses to aid their adventures. These things are just that: things (objects, items, stuff, etc.), each with a common set of properties that describe how the equipment helps with possibly additional explanation as to special, specific rules for the item.

The most common properties include a base damage or an armor value, a physical range of use, a weight or other abstract carrying value, a money value (which may be derived from other properties), and name that implies common use (we all know what a “shovel” is, right? ๐Ÿ˜ถ).

Lastly, after diligent study of what makes-up the tools in games, equipment falls into four categories:

    1. Wielded Equipment
    2. Worn Equipment
    3. Whatever
    4. Trinkets

About Equipment

Wielded equipment is anything held in one, two, or more hands depending on how the game means to accommodate weight or carry capacity. This type of equipment is what typically has the “base damage” (BD) property, which is the bare minimum of hurt the equipment will do to a target if successfully used. In the case of shields, though, the “armor value” property exists instead.

Armor value (AV) mostly stays on worn equipment which by its namesake stays on a character’s body. AV reduces any damage from damage passively should an action to hurt the wearer ย get through successfully.

Both BD and AV may be reduced over time depending on the game experience intended. This then introduces repair (at a cost) and exchanging BD and AV values to negate or ensure actions. Thus, an economy of equipment is born!

But I digress…

“Whatever” is any equipment that is the miscellaneous, well, whatever that a character would be expected to bring with them on adventures. Fantasy examples include torches, bedrolls, rations, rope, and things specific to a character’s role or background, such as lockpicks for a thief or a war horn for a soldier.

Whatever is abstracted into a value of how much is brought along by a character. When the situation needs a tool, a character can take from that resource pool to get one of the item. Needless to say, this savesย a lot when it comes to bookkeeping and tedious minutia when playing.

Trinkets are special things from a character’s past. These are equipment that take none of a character’s carrying capacity and are merely conversation starters that allow players to pursue different aspects of role-play with their characters. Mysterious rings, stained handkerchiefs, and even a ruddy deck of playing cards give the imagination a running head start. (And who knows? Players will always come up with more than the game designer, so a clever player may find a context to put their trinket to work!)

Ranges

Range is a finicky thing that changes based on how tactical or how abstract a game is meant to be. BITS gives tools to go either way.

A middle-ground example of the abstract and concrete is the approximation of distances like so (directly taken from the 201021 version of BITS):

Self – ~1 meter. Reach without a step.
Wagon – ~5 meters. Reach with one or two strides.
Room – ~10 meters. A road with two lanes and shoulders.
Half-line – ~50 meters. The height of a normal tower.
Field – ~100 meters. The length an arrow travels from a normal bow.
Peak – ~500 meters. When a hill becomes a mountain and a normal skyscraper height.
Horizon – ~1000 meters. Maximum visible length when on a road in wilderness.
League – ~5000 meters. Distance walked in an hour and maximum visibility on completely flat water.
Mountaintop – ~10000 meters. Mountains are not higher.

This is probably too specific – that’s why BITS is still a WIP ๐Ÿ˜‚

Anywho, hand-to-hand encounters default to a wagon, or ~5 meters, away which is also the distance traveled in a single unit of movement. Therefore, positioning is preserved and other actions may roll directly into combat โš”

There is a strict segregation between hand-to-hand and at-a-distance equipment (ie bows, crossbows, and slings). Equipment that may attack from afar first uses ammunition which is drawn from the character’s whatever, but only on critical failures. Balancing whether to keep shooting or to retreat comes because ranged equipment has disadvantage when there are opponents in hand-to-hand range while also being improvised equipment when dueling mono-a-mono.

Improvisation and Degrees of Success

Sometimes what you have is all you have to solve the problem in front of you. Thus, improvised equipment must be accommodated for.

Be it a suit made of rope acting as armor or a broken bottle in a bar, the reassigned devices work far less effectively than their purpose-built cousins. Armor value sits at 1 and is heavy while base damage is 0 (at most, 1) if using degrees of success.

Speaking of, degrees of success (DoS) offer a varying level of effectiveness with any action, and when it comes to equipment, that’s the damage caused.

DoS is how much higher a roll is than the roll needed to be. A pass of 7 but a roll of 10 has 3 DoS. This value gets added to the damage applied to the target, ensuring that an unarmored character with a shiv can still find a chink in a fully suited and shielded knight!

Other Stuff

There’s a lot to consider and accommodate for as it comes to equipment:

How do I throw my axe? Do I have a bonus or advantage if it’s aย throwing axe?

So how does weight, or as you call it, “carry”, work?

Do spears also default to the same range as other HTH gear?

What about all this junk I want to bring along?

Ad infinitum…

These are important considerations which have been incorporated into the BITS designer’s guide. To really get into the meat of it all would require a whole new post for edge cases that rely primarily on the game experience sought by the designer.

However, if you have a specific question on your mind, of course it may be answered! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ Reach out (not with your longsword, please) to help shore up BITS, saving other designers the same wonder!

Next week will be how spells and magics apply to BITS! Stay tuned and stay healthy. Cheers ~ย