The Price of Grimdark Books

I broke down the cost of roleplaying game PDFs two weeks ago. Now, let me do the same for the price of grimdark books!

The Abstract

Short stories (8750-10k words) are much more profitable than full-length books (95k-115k) by a factor of 367% when it come to price-per-page.

The Data Collection

Data from the first and top-rated grimdark books from The Black Library and Amazon gives the average pages for short and full stories. Using the rule-of-thumb that there are 250 words per page, we can extrapolate word count. The “Range” below comes from a +/- ~10% of the average:

GroupCount ( Range )Words ( Range )
Short Stories37.5 ( 35-40 )9375 ( 8750-10k )
Full Books420 ( 380-460 )105k ( 95k-115k )
Average Page and Word Count

Short stories where virtually sold for $4. Full books (not anthological or omnibus collections) were approximately $12.

Therefore, a short story is priced at about $.11 per page ($.106) while full books run $.03 per page ($.029), a difference of ~367%.

Without a doubt, without considering how short stories have a lower barrier of entry for the buyer and make a faster/less-risky production for the producer, writing grimdark short stories (and pricing accordingly) is the better business decision.

The Collection Method

Not as fancy as the RPG pricing post, I did most of this collection on the back of an envelope (no, really).

Already referenced above, I gathered from four groups: the first 10 short stories offered by The Black Library, 7 full stories on Amazon, 11 stories recommended from a first-read list (a source I follow and reference for grimdark content), and 2 books I myself favorite.

All stories were rated above 80%, some particular attention given to >90% titles.

Here is my abbreviated data:

GroupPagesAverage
Short Stories61, 38, 27, 28, 52,
35, 33, 37, 35, 29
37.5
Amazon Full Stories416, 256, 208, 768,
640, 416, 415
446
Suggested Stories420, 452, 420, 420, 516, 420,
297, 315, 564, 369, 395
417
Favorite Stories492, 424, 431, 324418
Page Data

The above full averages come to 427, but when compared with a median, ~420 is a confident middle position, giving the +/- ~10% range of 380 to 460 pages.

Quick and easy. Simply put, there is much more bang-for-buck by writing short stories vs. full-length novels (in the grimdark tone, at least!).

I hope this helps you with your writing – it has already helped me determine the price of grimdark books and where I ought best spend my energies 😁 Cheers!

How to Price Your RPG

In general, games of all and every kind are not known as money makers.

For the niche of roleplaying games, it is paramount you know how to price your RPG if ever to even get the game played, let alone see a cent.

To those ends, I did the research so you don’t have to πŸ˜‰

The Abstract

Dollar values from here on refer to the price-per-page (ppp) of RPGs. These RPGs include some if not extensive artwork that can serve to boost page counts and perceived value.

TLDR; In general, RPGs undervalue themselves. OSR (old-school revival) games – more concise (i.e. fewer) rules, less pre-generated content – can increase ppp by 25% vs. the broad market (super-sellers like Dungeons & Dragons not included here). The most ‘lucrative’ publications are game extensions – extra rules, adventures, tools, artwork, or features – that can run at or 30% more than OSR games.

If you price your RPG and related content between $.08 and $.10 per page, you are being reasonable. $.30 per page is really stretching it, but no product is sold for less than $.04 per page.

The Data Collection

I ran data for general games, OSR games, extensions / modules / add-on content, and my personal favorites. See The Collection Method section next for what the thoughts behind here:

GroupAverage PPPMedian PPP
General$.07$.08
OSR$.08$.10
Add-on$.10$.13
Faves$.08$.09
Popular RPG Average and Median PPP

Dropping the edges, it would seem that a price-per-page range of $.08 and $.10 is the best option for pricing an RPG PDF.

Tangentially, the data for average and median page counts and prices:

GroupAverage Page CountMedian Page Count
General299288
OSR217203
Add-on134112
Faves258288
Popular RPG Average and Median Page Count

Conclusions here say page count for a primary product ranges from 200 to 300 pages. Extensions should be about half the page count (give or take) of the primary product.

GroupAverage PriceMedian Price
General$20$21
OSR$18$15
Add-on$14$15
Faves$20$20
Popular RPG Average and Median Price

As for price, expect to price between $15 and $20 for the most well-received products.

Check the data for yourself in Google Sheets.

The Collection Method

To gather the data, I referenced Drive Thru RPG, “the largest RPG download store,” for highly rated (>80% positive reviews) page counts and price (rounded to the nearest 50-cents). All prices reflect the PDF versions of games, as those are required by Drive Thru – physical copies are not.

Numbers came from the “hottest” of: core-rulebooks, OSR games, game extensions / modules, and my own favorite games. Collection was made in chunks of the first ~30 and ~50 of the “hottest” lists to sanity-check the calculations were accurate.

I completely avoided the hottest game of them all: Dungeons & Dragons. I know that its price and page count and rating may be skewed for the sheer popularity of this godfather of RPGs.

Like D&D, some other data was excluded. Any price-per-page that far exceeded other ppp was excluded, though a comment has been left on the excluded page and price.

The ranges of prices are taken as the difference of the average and the median, pivoting around the average. The average was always less than the median, indicating that many games undervalue what they could sell themselves for reasons of market ignorance (this is speculation only).

Now you know how to price your RPG! This has certainly helped me determine what pricing and lengths I should be looking at.

Bonus observation: While going through content, I noticed that ppp was increased for creators who had a dedicated following, their “1000 True Fans.” Examples include Runehammer Games (YouTube, Drive Thru RPG) and Dungeon Craft/University (YouTube, Drive Thru RPG). Might be something to keep in mind for your own popularity ~

And cheers to that! Price your RPGs right and we will catch up next week.

The Layout of Your Game Rules

Picking up a rule book is the first formal introduction a player has to a game.

Sure, there is the cover art and gossip from friends, video plays on YouTube, but if the rules can’t be read or understood, it will not take long for the game to be put down if ever picked up at all!

Taking from Reddit, D&D, Tiny Dungeon, Black Hack, and Stars Without Number, I have distilled the layout your game rules need to follow to have the best success in readability and understandability.

TLDR; In General

You want to keep game rules as simple as possible.

Who is the player? What are they doing? How? Why, or, what are the goals with reward?

That is the back-cover pitch. With a few keywords (e.g. from roleplaying games: d20, OSR, Grimdark, etc.), that pitch defines a lot of the game’s ‘feel’ and filters for the intended audience.

A Freebie

Many games now come out with a free version for folks to pick-up-and-play quickly. Though this can skimp on things like internal page art or optional rules, the core rules and an introduction to the system must exist.

Introduction to the Setting – The first section. Answers most of the ‘TLDR’ above.

Mechanics – What (and when) is conflict and how is it resolved. This is where numbers on dice or comparing card faces needs to be explained at length. The ‘when’ outlines player turns and the order of gameplay.

Game Moderator – If the game has a referee, this should be a 1-page outline of what they can do to make decisions and introduce compelling conflict. Also recommended to include a rules 1-pager for quick player reference!

Pre-generated Content – Characters, factions, anything a single player would control.

At max, a10-page free manual to the game.

The Full Final Cut

This is it, the game rules as intended. Page art, examples of play, optional rules, reference tables, and tips-n-tricks for every game participant.

Here is a rundown as it would apply to roleplaying games, but can easily be altered for board games (where RPGs originated from!):

Forward – The cover, a table-of-contents, any dedications, and finally, an introduction to the game: What it is, who you are, how you do the things you do, and why.

Mechanic Systems – Details on how things get resolved in the game. When do players act, what can those actions be, and how to resolve outcomes. Randomizers of dice/cards/et al. for violence/socializing/magic need to be explained concisely along with how the player can – if at all – influence those outcomes.

Players – The characters or factions at play. What attributes do they have to affect randomizers? Any special actions or rules for the player? What are their resources, such as minerals, points, and health? Adding rules to create a character or faction from scratch should be here in the full rules.

Game Moderator – The referee needs everything they can get in the case of rules. However, when there is a referee, every rule is a guideline, not law – otherwise, what is the point of having a human not be a player? Principles, advice, and where to reference other resources exist here.

Bestiary, Tools, Rewards, Tables – The fiddly bits of play. Examples of what players and situations can include go a long way to setting the tone of the game while inspiring players for the stories they are enabled to tell. This is also the place the GM can save making a few decisions by randomly choosing from a preset.

Example Scenario – If not included separately, a starting dungeon, mission, or game needs to be included. This helps get players into play ASAP and answer a lot of common questions.

The full rulebook layout

Again, make sure to flesh out a full rulebook with art, optional/alternate rules, example situations, charts, lore, factions, maps, creation processes, equipment, rewards, and extra GM resources.

As a fiddly bit here, a full rulebook can be alternately distilled into Introduction > Terms > Objective > Turns > End-game > Mechanic Details > Victory > FAQs.

It comes down to taste and the needs of the game in question (e.g. perhaps there is no victory condition or terms are defined when introduced).

An Example

Lasers & Feelings is 1-page, yet complete with the who-what-where-when-why-how required of quality game rules.

  • Who
    • “The crew of the interstellar scout ship Raptor.” After the introduction, a section on creating characters that details what they have and a definition of the attributes that have a mechanical impact in conflict resolution.
  • Why
    • Players are given options to choose their character’s goals: Advance in rank, explore, blast stuff, solve mysteries, prove something, or have nothing to prove! A random table of adventures details a conflict to resolve too, making the “why” of this game multidimensional.
  • Where
    • Raptor, including a section on creating this ship! Further, a random table to determine where an adventure is taking place.
  • How
    • Use 1-3 6-sided dice (d6) to compare to the character attributes. Situational modifiers and success levels get short yet complete snippets.
  • When
    • “When you do something risky.” Vague-though-flexible definition on implementing the “how.”
  • What
    • Implied above, the adventure table details what is going on.
  • GM
    • A final two paragraphs outline for the ref how to navigate various situations they or the game may encounter. Quality GM advice!

A bad example would be The Orc and the Pie (despite how much I enjoy the premise, having used it not once, but twice). The rules have a who, what, why, and where, but no how – there is a present conflict, but resolution to that conflict relies on players having prior experience with game randomization mechanics.

Laying It Out

Follow this guide and reference any other highly-rated game’s rulebook to perfect the layout of your game rules.

Putting a game’s rules into a format others can enjoy is not difficult so long as a bit of prep comes with it πŸ™‚ Cheers to your game making!

In Europe as a Digital Nomad

It was my privilege and honor to live and work in Europe as a digital nomad this past spring 2022. From the bustling expanse of London to the luxurious leisure of Montenegro, these experiences have molded me, teaching me so much.

I share with you some general takeaways – comment if you would like to see a more detailed breakdown of the locations that hosted me for months in 2022!

Be a Good Student

The first thing I needed to do for my travels was be a good student, if no a better student than I have been in years.

For you, learn from others who travel for weeks and months at a time. What where their challenges, what have they learned, how did they deal with situations fine and foul.

The grief and generosity of others online, in videos, and on forums is invaluable. Google search “digital nomadism” along with the features of where you want to go (and check out my #travel tag).

Headed to Europe? Which country or countries? What is the local currency? Tipping culture? Language and medical system? Et. al. There will be no end to the questions, but it is up to you to do the groundwork before your trip.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

If you are working remotely, work remotely. There is virtually no reason to tell your workplace where you are working from, so long as there is a place to collect mail, an internet connection, and your time is managed.

Asked about where you might be – unless the boss or coworker is buying you a plane ticket for business – a simple “I am visiting folks” or “I am in a different time zone for now” is both true and vague enough that they ought leave it there. You are under no obligation to specify when it is no-one else’s business!

Time to Talk About Time

Speaking of time management, the easiest way to pull DADT is to adjust your working hours to the time zone of your workplace. If you are clocking in at the same time, any questions or talk of where you are are no matter.

As for adjusting to times abroad, unless they are on the same side of the planet as home, this can be a hard adjustment. What worked for me was:

  • Eat little in transit. That way, when you arrive, you can either have a big meal to start the new day or go straight to bed if it’s nighttime. That leads to:
  • Do as the locals do. Eat meals at the local time, start walking to destinations, take cold morning showers and hot evening ones, get groceries the first day, and get the right amount of light throughout the day.
  • Avoid light at night. This is quality life advice – you will be ready for sleep sooner the sooner you cut out evening artificial light. And, if you feel the need to nudge yourself to bed, taking 1-3 mg of melatonin is extra effective (light hampers melatonin use)!
  • Save your health. Take naps in transit (bring a hat or eye mask for light, earplugs for the plane noise), pop sprays or tablets of zinc every hour or so, wear a face mask, wash your d@mn hands. These measures help ensure you are going to enjoy the trip!

Pack So Much Less

Skip the roller bag – instead, go for a backpack, maybe two.

You think there isn’t enough room? Let’s talk about that:

You are going to be carrying everything you have for weeks and months. Most places in the world are likely to be cheaper than where you are now (looking at you, U$A), so purchasing any necessities will be a breeze. Dragging a bag makes it hard to move fast either through airports or across towns and tags you as an easy-mark tourist. And your human bias says to handle any possibility, when 20% of what you want to take will handle 80% or more of your trip.

To help you pack, a rule of thumb I came across was to pack your bags, then remove half of what you packed, taking the rest.

Another is a rule of 3 or 4, meaning only 3-4 shirts, undies, socks, jackets and pants, etc.

Ultimately, here is my packing list before I shipped off to London, all contained in 1 30-/35-liter computer backpack, a drawstring bag, or worn through airports:

  • 6x shirts (all buttoned sans 2 for workout), undies, socks
    • A useful number, since I have since lost wear to wear (holes and such). Still could have bought replacements!
  • 1x pair of jeans, shorts, swimwear (look like shorts)
  • 1x loafers, running shoes, flipflops
  • 1x sweater
  • 2x local power converter (and maybe a power strip, too!)
  • Toiletries (day and night moisturizers, non-greasy sunscreen, clippers and tweezer, disposable razor, travel lotion, toothbrush and paste, sampler cologne)
  • Electronics w/ chargers (work laptop, personal laptop, cell, watch, headphones, earbuds, Brio Beardscape trimmer)
    • I highly suggest learning to cut and trim your own hair – it is empowering!
  • Passport, vax card, scratch notebook, journal, wallet, local-currency cash (~400 was more than enough for more than a month).
  • Snack food (2-3 high-quality protein bars, electrolyte mixes)

Things I ended up buying over 3 months:

  • SIM cards for data and local calls in the country or area.
  • New jeans because the brought pair ripped.
  • Another journal, some pens.
  • 1:1 replacement toiletries.
  • Groceries and hair conditioner.
  • Supplement vitamins.

That’s it πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

Apps to Save Your Bacon

A shortlist of apps to check out that made my stays a breeze (none of which I get kickbacks for):

  • Airbnb – turns out that even in the US many places will have cheaper stays than paying apartment rent (let alone hotels!). The price, safety, and flexibility of Airbnb is unparalleled.
  • Hoopla (or other media app) – through my local library, I get 20 free pieces of media to check out a month.
  • NordVPN (or other VPN) – safety is important. I have my VPN on literally at all times – it secures my digital presence so I didn’t have my financial or personal information stolen abroad.
  • Skype – I bought a phone number and a US-calling plan for less than my regular phone service. Using data, I could call any US number for free and receive free texts (send for 11c). Great when I needed to give a US number for others to call.
  • Traveling Mailbox – Get your mail sent to a US address. Dozens of cities to choose from, pretty affordable, and I haven’t hit the max mail received or opened for many months!
  • WhatsApp (and perhaps Telegram) – a standard for any international traveler. Be able to text, call, and send pics to folks on WhatsApp who have your phone number. It uses data instead of cell service, so you can stay in touch even when you don’t have your old phone number.
  • Wise – international banking and conversions for better rates than your bank. Also can use any ATM twice a month without incurring fees from Wise (though the ATM may have its own). A must-use for getting cash when your bank doesn’t operate where you are!

All this fails to mention your flight provider’s app, social apps to share the adventure, banking apps, payment apps like Venmo, and ride and delivery apps local to your new area. Get what you need before you need it!

Explore New Places and Palettes

Get out. First day, if possible. Get out and keep getting out.

Go to the places that don’t speak your language. Eat the foods you can’t 100% identify. Enjoy the famous locations, sights, dishes, and events your trip’s location is known for. Yet, schedule in days of rest every 3 or 4 days or so – you need to recover to fully enjoy things!

It is so easy to take an area for granted if you are there for a long time. “It’ll be there tomorrow” you might say – don’t believe it. Before you know it, it’ll be time to move on!

That said, meander. Take your time to experience things, especially the casual atmosphere of being a local. If you are going out, think of one or two things to do that day, and linger on those things. Again, the time will be over before you know it, so be present for it. If there is anything left over at trip’s end, all the more reason to come back πŸ™‚

Bring a Friend

Sometimes you need an excuse to get out, sometimes you may feel safer having someone watch your back. While not required, I encourage you to try nomadism with a friend.

Yet, a partner your friend must be. This means they are on your wavelength – they are the same socioeconomic class, have outgoing energy, have your endurance, have similar interests, are OK spending time on their own and with you, and are companionable without a negative mindset.

Without any of the above (a nonexclusive list), cracks will form over time, making the travel a bit more bitter. Try not to resent each other, communicate, and get after it ~

Set a Date to Leave Without Return

Go. Do it now. Within the next 3 months, within your means, buy the ticket, even if it departs later on. Commit. Any plans you make are less valuable than hot air without some action towards it.

Have your departure ticket? Great! You can start making other plans (tourism, housing, etc.), but don’t buy a return ticket just yet.

Again, stay in your location for awhile, at least a month (you can get the biggest discounts this way). A lot happens in thirty days, though, so hold off on returning home.

Perhaps you will want to visit a neighboring country, visit friends in your nation of residence, have to show up to jury duty, get an injury or sickness, lose or gain a job, who knows. Try not to close out your adventure before it even begins ~

Now Go Forth!

You have all of mine that comes to mind. A one-stop-shop to begin the rest of your life.

Being a digital nomad has been transformative for me. Going to Europe for the first time (and for 3 months!) was amazing. Great for my health, great for my finances, great for my productivity, great for me.

Long-term working travel will be great for you too. All you need to do is take action to make it so.

More questions? Take action here to let me know! I am happy to share finances or on-the-ground insights – heck, might write more posts here regardless πŸ™‚

When you get to Europe as a digital nomad or anywhere else, let me know! Your experience will embolden my next trip out. Cheers to us both!

What You Get Reading “Homo Deus”

Homo Deus – i.e. “Human God,” top-rated book by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, author of multiple other best-sellers – hit me like a brick when I read it.

I have covered butt-kicking, life-changing books before, so let this be another added to the list. Though, let me give you my personal spark notes – what little they are – for what to expect for what you get by reading Homo Deus:

Humans Are Dividual

We are of many minds in one body, hardly an “individual” by any reasonable expectation of what makes a human a human. Thought, action, and even memory all change based on context internal and external, and changes over time.

Another way to put it would be that people wear many masks for the parts we play in our own lives and the lives of others.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Humans try to assume something is known, attempt to take comfort in something certain.

Yet how might that be certain? All the puzzle pieces might seem to be in the box, but until the puzzle is put together, how can one be sure?

The Truth-seeking crusade of science, the firmest field of knowledge towards what might be real, hedges virtually all of its claims with “this may be wrong” and “there is more to know here.” In that way, we humans must always account for our own ignorance in literally every claim we make or piece of knowledge we take stake in, be it ourselves, others, or the world at large.

What Comes Makes All Before Obsolete

Human history took tens- or hundreds-of-millennia to accomplish pottery, baking, and basic plant domestication. Countless generations laid bricks in foundations and fortresses and footpaths for empires. It took one man a lifetime to learn just enough to make a decent shoe if he was gifted, passing that knowledge on to at least one or two sons before his death if lucky.

The works of this species in all recorded history were reproduced and exceeded in the last 100 years. Change and creation have only escalated – what took years, now months; months, now weeks; of weeks, a single tweet can wipe away a week’s efforts.

If change takes as long as a year, we are counted lucky, for everything that comes next makes everything that has come before obsolete.

Question Yourself

Is life just a set of algorithms, our existence only justified by being better data processors for the model?

Is intelligence the greatest benefit? Or does consciousness hold more value?

What is life when algorithms know us better than us?

These questions are vague intentionally, allowing answers for yourself or for considerations about society at large. Whatever the answers end up being to those with the means and opportunity at some future time will decide great changes to come.

Handling Humans

Democracy (a system of distributed power and processing) acts slower, yet is more thorough than other decision-making forms. It works well in high states of change, when idea surpasses implementation.

Autocracy (central processing; efficient, yet emphasizes systemic bias) works when implementation is more important than ideas. ‘Get it done no matter what’ has been the mainstay of all cultures up until the last spit of two centuries, and even yet has widespread adoption.

One or the other is only “good” or “bad” in if it is being used at the most optimal times. Holding onto one method when the other would really do causes unnecessary strife. All of this proves to be yet cyclical as intentions and executions change.

Durant agrees about the cyclical nature of our species. As a renown historian, Durant points out that decision-making in economies and governments repeats over and again as the waves of policy change. (Set aside the observations that autocracy has been the #1 driver for species advancement historically and that the merit of democracy in the last 300 years has yet to be proven more than a coincidence for the astronomical growth thereabouts.)

Not a lot, yet these are the things to keep in mind for what you get reading Homo Deus.

Highly recommend the book, as it humbles oneself towards what unknowable future comes!

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ

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 βœ“ just feels so tactile, so good – crossing out a completed item is a simple joy that encourages further accomplishment ❀ (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 πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ 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!

MASTER MAST Goals

You have heard of SMART goals – now is the time for MAST goals!

What?

Remember SMART goals? Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound goals were and still appear to be all the rage.

Yet. YET. What kinds of goals are not already pointed to the overarching desires and ends? Sounds like those are just excuses for busy work 😐

Sounds like “Relevant” is also “redundant.”

After this realization, let us consider:

MAST

  • Measurable – Quantitative values that ->
  • Attainable – Are within a person’s or organization’s means that ->
  • Simple – Are as simple as possible (see Occam’s Razor) that ->
  • Timed – Are bound by a realistic chunk of time (4 hours, day, week, month, quarter, rarely anything more or less).

So long as the goal-of-goals is seen like an isle on the horizon or guiding star in the sky, MAST goals provide the propulsion to get to that destination. On the chaotic sea of Life, the self can be an orderly ship, the MASTs catching the winds of opportunity πŸ˜ƒ

Why?

If one cannot be honest enough with themselves enough to not distract themselves away from their ends, I am of a personal doubt anything will help an excuse-maker not make excuses.

Yet, ends make the means. If SMART can get the important things done, so be it.

However, might I stretch again with a counterproposal of MASTER goals?

MASTER

  • Measurable (quantitative)
  • Attainable (means exist)
  • Specific (i.e. simple)
  • Timely (happens ‘soon’)
  • Effort (makes everything else easier or extinguished [i.e. no longer required])
  • Real (applies tangible results towards a grander goal)

Until personal impulses can be controlled, drives recognized, time and effort itself mastered, MASTER goals provide better questions than a SMART goal.

(Doesn’t calling something “SMART” sound fundamentally patronizing too?)

Whether using MASTs to reach an end or using MASTERs to keep on track, one thing is clear: SMART goals are old hat.

I encourage you to 1) figure yourself out and what drives you, 2) set goals, 3) use MASTER MAST techniques to cut out the chaff of possible goals, and 4) get after it 😎

Let me jump the gun and wish you the best getting after your own goals right after this article πŸ˜‰ Cheers to your coming accomplishments!

The 4 RPG Modes

I have studied tabletop roleplaying game systems for awhile now. With that has come =oodles= of learning that I then pass along here and there to you.

One of the patterns I cannot help noticing is the kind of experiences that recur again and again. From Dungeons & Dragons to Call of Cthulhu to 5e Hardcore to Tiny Dungeon and more, each picks from a small selection of difficulties. Or, what I call “modes.”

How Mode Is Established

A game sets its experience first and foremost with how well it prepares the fictional characters players use to face conflicts conflicts in the game.

Being well prepared decreases the difficulty and commonly increases the feeling of power in the player by overcoming conflicts. The opposite – likeliness of death, powerlessness in the face of adversity – grinds down the expectations of a player.

That laying of expectation is “mode,” a combination of difficulty and empowerment.

For example, a darkly-themed war between “the Heavens and Hells” would imply low expectations for a player playing as a meager human. However, if the player character slays demons and commands angels, that would clearly be a heroic or super-human achievement. Therefore, just because the theme says one thing, the tone is ultimately set by the mechanical achievement of the characters.

Let us explore the four modes I’ve identified (the most common to the least common):

Heroic Mode

This is vanilla Dungeons & Dragons, specifically the 5th edition (5e).

Though facing everything from giant rats to otherworldly gods and titular dragons in dark and dank dungeons, characters rarely die. Should a character bite it, they will not be dead for long.

With an abundance of healing potions, spells, and entire rituals to bring the dead back to life, 5e enables characters to slog through the worst. In addition, characters are given buckets of hit points (the things that allow a character to take punishment and keep on kicking), which lengthens both the attrition the characters can sustain and gives the players ample time to reposition or reconsider their actions!

Ultimately, the players are in near complete control of their fates, the randomness of dice smoothed out over the many rolls required to bring a character down.

At the end of the day, Heroic Mode is meant to make the players feel that they are the heroes in command of the story, and heroes never die.

Human Mode

A more grounded perspective on what a character is expected to do.

Characters may grow to become stronger, have eventual access to rare-but-powerful items, and can give as good as they get. Yet, “Human” characters can die, are more limited by their means, and may eventually cap-out with how truly able they can be.

Games I’d put into this category are Tiny Dungeon and Index Card RPG. Characters start at a common few hit points (e.g. 6 if one species, 7 if another, or 10 for everyone no matter origin), have a few useful-but-limited pieces of equipment, and the magic or technology of the world can only do so much (e.g. not make someone alive the way they were before death!).

Adventures can be had and bold actions taken, though consequences, if uncommon, will be felt. Confidence armed with caution is the rule of the day. (Luckily, Human Mode still lets folks run away!)

Hardcore Humbled Mode

Ah, the “grimdark” mode.

Games of this ilk are geared to punish characters for the hubris of attempting to right the game world’s wrongs, to fight against the will of things far more powerful than mere human understanding.

These games are brutal. Mork Borg, Call of Cthulhu, Zweihander, and Band of Blades would be appropriate inclusions, as would virtually all of the “old school renaissance” (OSR) games (some might be considered Human Mode if the game designers are generous).

Weapons break, armor protects but little, hit points are low and capped low, characters can become both temporarily better and permanently worse, and often the choice is whether to eat or have fire to stay warm and safe(r) from the dark. Characters are brittle and weak and progress but little towards any goals.

Obstacles are enormous: god-eating gods, titanic monsters that slay at a whim, powerful overlords that care not for the plights of mortals, and vicious consequences for any attempts by characters to do anything await. Characters will fail and they will fail often and failure will be all sorts of terrible.

Hardcore Humbled Mode is at the edge of what it means to be a game. This mode lets players know and know often that their fumbling is pathetic in the face of such impossible odds.

Super-Heroic, Herculean Mode

The last mode, the godly mode! The complete opposite of Hardcore and a step above Heroic!

I have included this because of how Dungeons & Dragons 5e changes as characters progress. At lower levels, characters will encounter threats that really are challenging. Even teamwork may fail (though the consequences, as mentioned, do not last). However, once top-tier levels are achieved, players become =unstoppable=.

A game enabling this mode poses no threat to character ability. With hundreds of hit points, equipment that smites mountains, magics and techologies that command the forces of nature and space and time, and other resources even the players stop tracking for their grandest treasures are but toys, players shall feel like gods.

Do what you want to who you want when you want where you want how you want, and consequences be cast to the wind. The only challenge might be fundamental cosmic and natural entities who band together to face the player characters, but even that is no guarantee of defeating the force of god-tier beings.

This mode I’ve encountered the least in my studies. I think it may be because such systems are immediately called “unbalanced” when encountered cold – why 5e gets away with it I suppose is because the gradual nature of slowly increasing levels to enter this mode.

Another reason Herculean Mode is so rare may also be this: Players find out that being godly is =boring=. When nothing can stop you, there is no real conflict, the spice that drives entertaining stories. Challenge with the possibility of failure is more fun πŸ™‚

Perhaps that is why people in general like to topple the powerful and rarely rise to accept the responsibility of power themselves πŸ€” I digress!

Four modes that every game adopts some form of. The theme tries to set the tone, yet the mechanical foundations laid for the players’ fictional characters establishes the feelings felt.

As an aside, BITS keeps these modes in mind for the specific kind of game it is trying to make. My WIP Gunslinger is a Human Mode game, while converting D&D characters is a Heroic Mode affair as opposed to BITS of Mork Borg and that Hardcore Mode adaptation.

I =really= think I have included all modes (there has been a lot of reading done!). Yet, if you have one or an amendment to make, comment! Let me know!

Toodles and cheers to your gaming ~

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

Be well, friends. Cheers ~

Truth: Top 10 Truisms

What is Truth? We might know it by how these top truisms are us and the universe.

1. Simplify

Less is truly more. Should you need more anyway, there is some written on this.

2. Suffering Exists

Exists and is inevitable, a persistent, constant force in the universe. I have taken a deeper dive into the topic.

3. Knowledge Is Terrible

What is known cannot be unknown along with all of its consequences. Care to know more?

4. Be Attractive

Attraction is a basic law of nature where to be attractive is the only thing to be. More material outlining attraction is available.

5. Don’t Settle, Suffice

In short, have higher standards, but keep those standards in line with what’s sufficient.

It is naΓ―ve to think things cannot be better regardless of situation. To seek to be better is one of the most noble activities to improve yourself and the world. However, an obsession without end will cause more suffering that it corrects.

Wisdom arrives when you know the world and yourself enough to understand what, subjectively, is “enough.”

Achieving this is a numbers game. Be it the theory of Pareto’s Principle, the Optimal Stopping Strategy for professionals and love-seekers, or Statistical Significance, the number of trials to find what’s sufficient correlates with both knowing and achieving that “enough.”

Truth requires continuous action until higher standards are met sufficiently. For you, that means being the harshest critic of your own monstrosity, leaving nothing for anyone else to critique.

6. Competition Is For Chumps

Competition spends immense amounts of energy. The more energy one has unspent for competition, the more likely that competition will be a success. And survivorship is Good!

But a strategy of expending too much energy against others goes by another term: War of Attrition. Attrition warfare can also cascade into a Pyrrhic (a.k.a. not-worth-it) Victory. By its very nature, competition tends towards less-than zero-sum outcomes, all competitors having spent their energies against each other, not their goals.

To come away from a singular competition with less or even no energy takes away that fund available for future competitions over food, space, and mates. Thereby, a competitor may have survived the competition, but their likelihood of surviving thereafter goes down (not Good).

Be it peacocks maintaining elaborate plumage to out-gaudy other mates, male lions killing each other for pride control, or humans laboring and becoming indebted to attain status symbols that are more form-than-function, competition takes a toll.

So what is the alternative? As renown military philosopher Sun Tzu would have it, “the best strategy is the one that delivers victory without fighting.”

In competition, little is gained. Effort is largely wasted and suffering gets accumulated by all parties in true competition (consider the benefits of play, the faux competition).

Energy spent in cooperation or subtle, low-energy, indirect competition (if competition must occur) is much more beneficial; all else is for chumps.

7. Know Better

Despite knowledge being a terrible thing, it is a requirement to know better, especially of oneself. The Good that knowledge can bring far outweighs the harm that may arise.

As put, knowledge is powerful. However, having the wrong knowledge can be worse than having pure ignorance – the road to Hell is paved with good [but ill-informed] intentions.

So figure yourself out, your duties, and the when and where you are. Be more selfish in coming to these terms. Until you have the language and patterns of understanding to ask and enact what’s required, you are no use to anyone except at best as a pawn (others may know how to use you better than you of yourself).

Better knowledge starts with asking better questions:

What does culture demand in status and contribution? How can one survive in the environment?

What do you like? What do you despise? What do you fear? How do you fail yourself and society?

Learn. Study everything. Find that gaps that need filling. Others have suffered in ways aplenty so that you do not have to. Yet some of these lessons are faulty, thus only by sheer numbers of examples can better knowledge be affirmed (like how the community process of Wikipedia allows correct information to form).

Competition is to be avoided because of the energy it spends; the same applies to gaining knowledge. Defer to the expertise and strength of those that have lived and done the things you seek to do – if they have proven Good (i.e. survived and reduced suffering), they are models to follow.

After the questions and the study, you will have the better knowledge needed to not only improve yourself, but better the world.

8. Escalate

More. Up or down depending on the context, always get to better faster.

Escalation of magnitudes is preferred – doubling, halving, or changing ten-fold is the broad stroke required to anchor what’s expected in any exchange. If the strength of X is insufficient to twist open a cap, at least 2X is required on the next attempt.

However, delicacy is sometimes required in a situation – perhaps the vessel to open is brittle or a negotiation comes to a close. In that case, less than a magnitude in change is required, but escalation plays a part here, too: to achieve less than 100% change, use 10% (.1X instead of X).

Yet, it may come to be resented if too much is asked for, or cause disgust to ask for too little. What would be acceptable between those extremes comes from better knowledge and caring for one’s own wellbeing. Trust that another will defend their own self interests as you ought to be an advocate of your own.

Therefore, escalation is a benefit to the universe: It saves time (the expense of energy), it wastes less by finding the sufficient amount to expense (magnitude of energy), and reduces mental suffering from an effort too generous or stingy (buyer’s remorse).

9. You Are Responsible

With existence comes responsibility. All incentives, all motives, all actions, and, ultimately, all outcomes are the responsibility of the perceiver. Whether through the tangible consequence or the mental perception, the individual has stake in anything that goes on.

Respect yourself and take caution. All that you do and perceive is at least a subjective reality. Merely by consciously perceiving the world, you create what’s real. In this way, you are partly-if-not-wholly responsible regardless of context.

So what will you do with that great power?

In existing and therefore creating reality, you have a part to play in the suffering in the world, both for yourself and others. A person cannot abstain from action and expect that abstention to not cause suffering.

The only way to have a say in survival and suffering is to act, which carries its own set of consequences. Despite that, failures in action are overcome faster by further action and personal change of perception. A failure to act passively discovers outcomes that – if the universe has any bias – tend towards entropy, the ultimate failure to survive (not Good!).

(This brings up that action appears to be Good, but that’s a separate discussion.)

Whatever comes, by existing, you are responsible for all action, inaction, and your perception of the outcomes. Only by taking action and curating your perceptions might you also be responsible for any Good.

10. Forgive Yourself

A stark follow-up to the “Responsibility” point above, you must also take responsibility for forgiving yourself.

The journey to be better and do Good is long, difficult, and continuous. People are similar and people fail – you are much more like them than you imagine.

Meanwhile, you have the morals you can afford, so be merciful to yourself when you fail, slip-up, or otherwise dwell on what must be temporary setbacks. Should failure prove to be a habit, be the harshest critic of your own monstrosity and be better immediately in the moment (you may always recess to being lackluster later).

There is the same self-forgiveness universally. No land dwells on the consequences of a volcano or earthquake. Instead, the land bears its scars and continues. Indistinguishable it is for wind and rain and galaxies that crash into each other, each holding no grudge but instead swirling away to continue their atomic existences changed, yet continuous from one form to the next. No mountain crumbles under its own self-doubt or loathing, but continues to push up through the clouds by its volition no matter the wear. As you must too.

That’s the reason you must own care for yourself – no one else will have your drive or context to be up to the task of forgiving your failures, nor ought they if you’ve not done so already. Thus, through forgiveness, resolve some of the greatest sources of suffering for you: your own doubt and guilt and regret. Thereby, to forgive yourself is a Good thing.

These ten truisms appear to be some of the most-true things for not only people, but all life and the universe, too. The sections above do not go into depth of any great description and proof-by-example, yet everywhere I look these things make themselves present.

As a character in a Zelda videogame once put, “it’s dangerous to go alone,” I only want you to take this so you can do Good and that Good may happen to you.

All something to live by. Cheers!