Who Goes First? RPG Initiatives in Brief

Initiative – i.e. who goes first – in roleplaying games is a no-size-fits-all situation.

I have given it my shot to find a one-size solution. The result: Pick whatever feels convenient in the game and the context 🤷‍♂️

Through my research, I have come across many options to determine who goes first. This post is a brief reference – completely unexhaustive – for your own gaming inspiration, yet inspiration it may remain 🎲🎲 In no specific order:

  1. Roll (+Stat): Individual
  2. Roll (+Stat): Group
  3. Stat Only
  4. Lower Effects Go First
  5. Time to Do
  6. Action Points & Betting
  7. Popcorn
  8. Table Order
  9. All Declare, All Act
  10. When to Roll?
  11. When to Act?
  12. Surprise Gets a Free Turn

Roll (+Stat): Individual

The classic of D&D, each player rolls a die and (optionally) adds a stat for it. Better results go first!

Roll (+Stat): Group

Same as the individual, but it goes down to “us” (the players) vs. “them” (game moderator or non-player characters).

Stat Only

Whoever has the highest stats for initiative/speed/movement goes first.

Lower Effects Go First

We see this in games like the Dr. Who RPG – actions that do the least amount of effect go sooner in turn order. Example:

Talk > Move > Environment (e.g. flip a switch) > Help > Coerce Physically > Harm (w/ higher damage going later)

Time to Do

Particular to “move-and-do” combat-style games where moving is always a free action along with talking, the least time-required actions go sooner. Example:

Ranged Attacks (a flick of a finger)
Melee Attacks (a step, a move of an arm, a twist)
Heavy/Magic Actions (big and heaved devices, aiming, a few motions)
Other (complex actions with steps needing a few seconds)

Action Points & Betting

Characters have a limited resource – some “time” or “action” or “stamina” component to the game. These get spent on actions (bigger action effects cost more) or get auctioned, where higher bets go first, but risk being unable to act while others do.

The resource gets restocked automatically or the game may have mechanics that a special “recoup” or “rest” action brings them back.


A popular option, a simple die roll decides who goes first. Once done, that person picks the next person to go. The second person then picks and so on, until everyone has gone.

Elegant (one roll, no math), Popcorn leads to a gamble: do players only pick players, hoping to overwhelm their foes? If so and they fail, the enemy gets to go, then select themselves to go the next turn (since they would not have acted in the new turn), leading to a potential double whammy.

Table Order

The action order starts on the GM’s left (or determined by a roll) and proceeds clockwise.


All Declare, All Act

Everyone declares what their character(s) will do. Then the consequences are rolled for. Together, all at once.

Personally, a bit messy, but the speed of resolution and the unexpected carnage of melee can be really cool 😄

When to Roll?

When do these initiatives take effect?

If relying on pure positioning, static stat, or the type of action being taken, rolls never need happen for initiative.

Roll once at game start is another option. This keeps order steady and certain throughout a session of play.

Once every encounter is D&D‘s bread-and-butter. Only done when an interaction starts where order matters.

Lastly: roll repeatedly after everyone and everything has taken an action, e.g. at the start of every turn. (This is cumbersome and a drag – avoid it.)

When to Act?

You would expect only one character acts at a time. What happens when there are ties in determining order? Or that characters are in the same “phase” of action?

Ties can be resolved with a roll, but quality game design seeks to minimize repeat tosses of the dice.

Instead, everything that is tied or otherwise going at the same time goes at the same time! Actions are declared, actions are rolled for, and consequences are applied simultaneously. E.g. two folks can punch each other out in a brawl, or opponents can shout down or interrupt the speeches of their counterparts!

Surprise Gets a Free Turn

See just above. In virtually all cases, if an action is not detected or comes from no-where, it gets to go without consideration of what or when other characters act.

A universal in RPG design!

As I feel it, these are the most impactful initiative systems an RPG can have. While there are oodles of systems out there, these are used in many places (thereby tested), are relatively simple, rely on dice at most, and are ultimately RPG agnostic – the mechanics can work in any game (though may not always convey the same game “feel” – e.g. Dr. Who aims to minimize physical violence!).

What initiatives do you use? Have I left out a stellar example of speed and effect of play? Tell me more! I owe you one. Cheers!

P.S. This is my first post after doing my time audit – short, concise, stays high level. I will check back on how this and following posts have worked out, though I am =always= open to your feedback!

A Lawyer’s Guide to Keep Relationships Alive

No secret that I have written about what seems to be true about relationships and crowdsourced success stories. While these perspectives are valid in their own way, why not listen to someone on the front line of relationships?

Why not listen to a divorce lawyer?

On my third read-through in as many weeks, James J. Sexton’s book If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late is a gold mine of insight on the land mines to look out for in relationships.

James proclaims there are a bajillion ways to have a happy relationship while the same couple of catastrophes pop up again and again. I want to share with you some of the new, the novel, and the never-grows-old advice I picked up (if you want the James’s nuance and details on relationship infidelity/sex, go the book!).

A short list:

  1. TLDR; Do These Things
  2. Epic Fail: It Takes Two
  3. Give a S***
  4. “Hit Send Now”
  5. Die on Fewer Hills
  6. Change or Die
  7. Forgive but Never Excuse Yourself

TLDR; Do These Things

There will be more, yet failing on any of these is dangerous:

  • Enforce radical communication and open honesty “early and often, often and early.” E.g.
    • Needs, wants, core values, overarching goals
    • History, current feelings, future hopes
    • Exit plans (what would an end / break look like?)
    • The physical relationship
  • Know your own needs and share them explicitly.
  • Give a s*** about your partner, bettering the relationship, and being a better person.
  • Act now on your affections, appreciations, apprehensions, and apologies.
  • Making it work > being right (don’t let the cost of ‘winning’ make losers of you both).
  • Forgive yourself for who you are, but never use who you are as an excuse to be less than excellent to yourself, your partner, society, and the world.

Lots of these have come up in my own experience as they have been shared with you, but let’s explore how any partnership takes two:

Epic Fail: It Takes Two

Relationships dissolve almost always in James’s observation because of two reasons:

  1. Not knowing what you want.
  2. Not appropriately expressing what you want.

Yet, if you feel to know what you want and are being heard, it still falls on you to go find out what the other person wants. Really, you need to:

Give a S***

Simple. Be curious, be observant, be attentive. Do both the big and small things. Do things with and without your partner, solo and social.

Make yourself better and more interesting. Support your partner in how they go about improving. Abhor stagnation (more on that below) and foster growth.

James puts forward many, many ways to do this, yet here is one to remember right now:

Get space from your partner to do your own awesome things. Come back to your partner to share your experiences. Encourage others to get away (“insist” might be a bit too strong), have their own thing, share the uniqueness of their renewed perspective.

“Hit Send Now”

James goes over how the cancer of resentment kills, how simmering on apprehension is a miasma. His suggestion to overcome this failure?

Hit ‘send’ now.

On the email, on the text, on the call – express the thing that is bothering you (i.e. your problem) right away in “I” and “feel” terms. Get the dirt out in the open between you and another pronto so it can be addressed instead of mold in the dark where your problem becomes a problem for everyone.

Act now on these other alliterations:

  • Affection – do not wait to give and get affection, especially in cases of dedicated partnerships. James points out that when a person’s needs for affection are left to fallow, that person will look to other pastures.
  • Appreciation – do not wait to appreciate the choices another makes. They have chosen to be involved in your life, to have you in theirs, and hopefully are taking the action to make it all better. “Don’t take for granted” and all that!
  • Apologies – do not wait to apologize. Back to “it takes two,” there will always be something you could have done better, even if the ’cause’ of whatever the issue is might objectively be with the other. So apologize for your part, appreciate the other’s understanding and raising of their apprehensions, and remind them of your mutual affections.

Die on Fewer Hills

Jumping off the “apologies” above, being “right” or always getting a win is a lose-lose game. If you are wrong, you are a loser for being stubborn; if you are right, you are now in a relationship with a loser. How is this OK?

James suggests a novel approach: Compromise. Chill. Give fewer s***s about fewer things. Put more work into making the relationship work than flexing your own ego.

Focusing on the few allows you to put your energy into where it really matters: Your partner, your needs, and your fundamental values (pizza-vs-cheeseburger does not count).

So understand which hills are worth fighting for and which few you are ready to die on, and in the process, kill the relationship.

Change or Die

Figuratively, of course. (Really on the morbid topics today 💀 James the divorce lawyer suggests we blame the feels on him.)

If you are holding out on fewer hills, you can remain flexible. Relationships require some flexibility as no relationship remains the same (I have a few posts on how stagnation is death).

As such, “treading water” is a lot of words for “drowning.” James suggests exercising your own tolerance for change, being open to changes offered by and in your partner, and bringing new and novel ideas to the table on your own.

Forgive but Never Excuse Yourself

After hundreds of pages, James reminds us: You are only human. Fallible. Inconsistent. Sometimes tired. Capable of great compassion and great pettiness.

Forgive yourself. If you are putting in the personal- and relationship-labor to keep the partnership alive, cutting yourself slack for a slip or mistake can be tough (though will be made easier by making immediate amends).

But never, ever let “you are only human” be your excuse. You are better than your weaknesses, your base nature.

Get competent and confident. Then get more competent and more humble. Later lend a hand to your partner and others so they may be better sooner too.

As James puts forward, do these things, and you may just keep you relationships alive.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late is going on my bookshelf along with the likes of State of Affairs and the classic Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. (Maybe someday a blogpost of what is on my shelves…)

I hope James J. Sexton’s advice and my own commentary has been a help to you today. As said, I’m on my third but very much not final read of this work and this blog posts covers but a smidgen of the lessons profound.

Always open for more, I very much would like to hear your own suggestions for books, podcasts, and experiences that have taught you a thing or two.

Send an email or comment below – regardless, cheers to all your relationships, big and small!

Chat With an AI: ChatGPT

An edit to my January goals has been to spend time with ChatGPT to see what this learning model can do.

Below are 3300+ words of transcript from my first explorations – a table of contents can help be your guide, including to my takeaways at the end!

// Anywhere with “//” are my notes or abbreviations; everything else is verbatim.

  1. What makes long-term relationships work?
  2. Elaborate on that more.
  3. Any more suggestions?
  4. Which are the universal truths?
  5. Tell me more universal truths.
  6. Tell me 10 more universal truths.
  7. What are the most important goals for a person to have?
  8. Given that, what goals should a [// I describe myself] have?
  9. How should a person decide between goals and priorities?
  10. What other strategies can I use to make decisions?
  11. Can you expand on point 4? Decision-making tools?
  12. // Questions About Tim Ferriss
  13. // Asking ChatGPT to Make Decisions For Me
  14. How do we determine if something is sentient?
  15. Simplify that please.
  16. Is it better to assume sentience? Or better to assume a thing is not sentient?
  17. What are other sentience tests like the Turing Test?
  18. Tell me about other tests in bullet-point format.
  19. What other tests are there for sentience?
  20. // Takeaways

What makes long-term relationships work?

// In reference to the recent post.

There are many factors that can contribute to the success of a long-term relationship. Here are a few key things that can help:

  1. Communication: It’s important to be able to openly and honestly communicate with your partner about your feelings, needs, and concerns.
  2. Trust: Trust is a crucial element of any healthy relationship. It’s important to be faithful to your partner and to be honest with them.
  3. Respect: Showing respect for your partner and their feelings, needs, and boundaries is important for the health of any relationship.
  4. Compromise: No two people are exactly alike, and it’s normal to have different needs and desires. It’s important to be willing to compromise and find a way to meet each other’s needs.
  5. Love and commitment: Ultimately, love and commitment are what keep a relationship strong over the long term. It’s important to keep the love and affection alive, and to be committed to working through challenges and supporting each other.

Elaborate on that more.

Sure! Here are a few more specific things that can help make a long-term relationship work:

  1. Establish a strong foundation: Building a strong foundation in the early stages of a relationship can set the stage for success over the long term. This can include things like developing a shared sense of purpose, establishing trust, and creating healthy communication patterns.
  2. Make time for each other: It’s important to make time for each other and to prioritize the relationship, even when life gets busy.
  3. Practice forgiveness: It’s normal for conflicts to arise in any relationship, and it’s important to be able to forgive each other when mistakes are made.
  4. Seek support when needed: If you’re facing challenges in your relationship, it can be helpful to seek support from a therapist or other trusted resource.
  5. Keep the romance alive: It’s important to keep the love and affection alive in a long-term relationship. This can include things like regular date nights, surprise gestures, and finding new and exciting ways to connect.

Any more suggestions?

Here are a few more suggestions for what can help make a long-term relationship work:

  1. Practice gratitude: Taking the time to express gratitude and appreciation for your partner can help strengthen the bond between you.
  2. Maintain independence: It’s important to maintain your own interests and independence within the context of a committed relationship.
  3. Set goals together: Setting goals and working towards them together can help give you a sense of purpose and direction as a couple.
  4. Practice good self-care: Taking care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally can help you be a better partner and support the overall health of the relationship.
  5. Stay connected: Staying connected with your partner, both emotionally and physically, can help keep the relationship strong over the long term. This can include things like regular communication, physical touch, and shared activities.

Which are the universal truths?

// I have taken a gander at this myself.

// Response here after trying to find out what Truth is and what the truest things in the universe are.

There are many things that are considered to be universal truths, which are generally defined as truths that are true for all people at all times and in all places. Some examples of universal truths might include:

  1. The existence of gravity and the fact that objects will fall towards the Earth if they are not supported.
  2. The laws of thermodynamics, which describe how energy is transformed and exchanged in the universe.
  3. The fundamental principles of mathematics, such as the commutative and associative properties of addition and multiplication.
  4. The fundamental principles of logic, such as the law of non-contradiction, which states that a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time.

It is important to note, however, that even these universal truths are subject to revision and reinterpretation as new evidence becomes available and our understanding of the world evolves.

Tell me more universal truths.

Some other examples of things that are often considered to be universal truths include:

  1. The existence of cause and effect, which is the idea that events and actions have consequences that can be traced back to their origins.
  2. The fundamental principle of equality, which holds that all people are deserving of equal rights and opportunities.
  3. The fact that change is an inherent part of the universe, and that all things are constantly evolving and in a state of flux.
  4. The idea that honesty and integrity are important values that should be upheld by all people.

Again, it is important to note that these are just a few examples of universal truths, and that there may be many other things that are considered to be true for all people at all times and in all places. The concept of universal truth is a complex and multifaceted one, and different people may have different understandings of what constitutes a universal truth.

Tell me 10 more universal truths.

Here are 10 more examples of things that are often considered to be universal truths:

  1. The fundamental principle of cause and effect, which states that every action or event has a cause that can be traced back to its origin.
  2. The fact that the universe is governed by natural laws, such as the laws of physics, which describe how matter and energy interact.
  3. The idea that honesty and integrity are important virtues that should be upheld by all people.
  4. The fundamental principle of equality, which holds that all people are deserving of equal rights and opportunities.
  5. The fact that change is an inherent part of the universe, and that all things are constantly evolving and in a state of flux.
  6. The idea that honesty and trust are important foundations for healthy relationships.
  7. The idea that respect and tolerance for others are important values that should be upheld by all people.
  8. The concept of personal responsibility, which holds that individuals are responsible for their own actions and decisions.
  9. The idea that hard work and dedication are necessary for achieving goals and success.
  10. The concept of fairness, which holds that people should be treated equally and with justice.

What are the most important goals for a person to have?

There are many different goals that are important to different people, and the most important goals will depend on an individual’s values, priorities, and circumstances. However, here are a few goals that are generally considered important for personal growth and well-being:

  1. Achieving financial stability and security: Having a stable financial foundation can provide a sense of security and freedom to pursue other goals and interests.
  2. Maintaining physical and mental health: Good physical and mental health are crucial for overall well-being and the ability to lead a fulfilling life.
  3. Building and maintaining strong relationships: Strong relationships with family, friends, and loved ones can provide a sense of connection, support, and purpose.
  4. Pursuing personal interests and passions: Engaging in activities that are personally meaningful and enjoyable can bring a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
  5. Contributing to the well-being of others: Helping others and making a positive impact on the world can bring a sense of purpose and satisfaction.
  6. Achieving personal growth and self-improvement: Setting goals and working towards personal growth can lead to a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.

It’s important to remember that these are just a few examples, and the most important goals will vary from person to person.

Given that, what goals should a [// I describe myself] have?

It’s difficult for me to say exactly what goals a person in this situation should have, as everyone’s goals and priorities are unique to them. However, here are a few goals that this person might consider setting for themselves:

  1. Finding meaningful work or a career that aligns with their values and interests: Being financially secure is important, but finding work that is personally fulfilling and engaging can bring a sense of purpose and satisfaction.
  2. Maintaining and improving physical and mental health: This can involve setting goals related to exercise, nutrition, stress management, and other factors that contribute to overall well-being.
  3. Building and maintaining strong relationships: This can involve spending time with friends and family, cultivating new relationships, and finding ways to strengthen existing ones.
  4. Pursuing personal interests and passions: This might involve taking up new hobbies, learning new skills, or finding ways to engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
  5. Making a positive impact on the world: This could involve volunteering, charitable work, or finding ways to contribute to causes that are important to the person.

Again, these are just a few examples, and the most important goals will depend on the individual’s values, priorities, and circumstances.

How should a person decide between goals and priorities?

Deciding on goals and priorities can be a challenging but important process, as it allows a person to focus their time and energy on the things that matter most to them. Here are a few steps that can help a person decide on their goals and priorities:

  1. Reflect on your values: Take some time to think about the things that are most important to you. These might include things like family, relationships, personal growth, financial security, health, career, and more.
  2. Identify your long-term and short-term goals: Think about the things you want to accomplish in the short term (e.g., within the next year) and in the long term (e.g., within the next five years or longer).
  3. Prioritize your goals: Consider which goals are most important to you and which ones you would like to focus on first. This can help you prioritize your time and energy and make progress towards the things that matter most to you.
  4. Review and adjust your goals as needed: As you make progress on your goals and priorities, you may find that some of them are no longer as important to you or that you need to adjust your approach. It’s important to be flexible and open to adjusting your goals as needed.

Remember that it’s okay to have multiple goals and priorities, and it’s normal for these to change over time. The most important thing is to focus on what matters most to you and to take steps to make progress towards your goals.

What other strategies can I use to make decisions?

// If this is not enough, check out my decision guide.

Here are a few strategies that can help you make decisions:

  1. Consider the pros and cons: Making a list of the potential benefits and drawbacks of each option can help you weigh the potential outcomes and make a more informed decision.
  2. Seek advice from trusted friends, family, or professionals: Sometimes it can be helpful to get input from others who have different perspectives or expertise.
  3. Reflect on your values and priorities: Consider how each decision aligns with your values and what is most important to you.
  4. Use decision-making tools: There are many tools and techniques that can help you make decisions, such as decision trees, cost-benefit analyses, and the “six thinking hats” method.
  5. Take your time: Don’t feel rushed to make a decision. It’s okay to take the time you need to gather information and think things through.
  6. Trust your instincts: Sometimes, despite all the analysis and deliberation, you may need to rely on your gut feelings to make a decision.

Ultimately, the best approach will depend on the situation and your personal decision-making style. It’s okay to try out different strategies and find what works best for you.

Can you expand on point 4? Decision-making tools?

Certainly! Here are a few examples of decision-making tools that can help you structure your decision-making process:

  1. Decision trees: A decision tree is a graphical representation of possible decision paths and the outcomes associated with each path. It can be helpful for understanding the potential consequences of different choices.
  2. Cost-benefit analysis: A cost-benefit analysis involves comparing the costs and benefits of each option to determine which one is the most favorable.
  3. Six thinking hats: The six thinking hats method is a decision-making tool that involves considering a problem from six different perspectives: white (objective facts), red (emotions), black (cautious evaluation), yellow (optimistic evaluation), green (creative evaluation), and blue (planning and organization).
  4. SWOT analysis: SWOT analysis involves examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of each option in order to make a decision.
  5. Multi-criteria decision analysis: This is a structured approach to decision-making that involves evaluating multiple options based on a set of criteria.

Again, these are just a few examples, and there are many other tools and techniques that can help with decision-making. It’s important to find the approach that works best for you and the specific situation you are facing.

// Questions About Tim Ferriss

What are 10 ways Tim Ferriss makes decisions?
How would Tim Ferriss make decisions?
What has Tim Ferriss written about dealing with decision making?

// along the lines of:

I’m sorry, but I do not have access to information about what specific individuals have written or spoken about. However, I can provide general information about decision-making and strategies that may be helpful to you. If you have any specific questions about decision-making, I would be happy to try and assist.

// Asking ChatGPT to Make Decisions For Me

Should I have peanut butter crackers or spinach ravioli?
Can you simplify that response?

Certainly! When deciding between peanut butter crackers and spinach ravioli, consider the nutritional content of each option, how easy they are to prepare and eat, and your personal preferences. If you are trying to make a healthy choice, make sure to consider your overall dietary needs and aim for a balanced diet. Choose the option that sounds the most appealing and meets your nutritional needs.

How do we determine if something is sentient?

There is no strict definition of sentience that is universally accepted, so it can be difficult to determine if something is sentient. Some people consider sentience to be the ability to experience consciousness, while others define it as the ability to experience subjective states, such as emotions or pain. There are also some who believe that sentience is closely linked to the ability to think, reason, and make decisions.

There are several approaches that scientists and philosophers have proposed for determining if something is sentient. One approach is to look for signs of self-awareness, such as the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror or to understand that one’s thoughts and actions have consequences. Another approach is to look for evidence of subjective experience, such as the ability to feel pleasure or pain. However, it can be difficult to determine if something is truly experiencing these states, as it is not always possible to know what another being is thinking or feeling.

In general, it is important to approach the question of sentience with caution and to be open to the possibility that our understanding of sentience may change as we learn more about the nature of consciousness and the universe.

Simplify that please.

Sure, here is a simpler explanation:

Sentience is the ability to experience consciousness and subjective states such as emotions and pain. It is not always easy to determine if something is sentient because there is no strict definition that is universally accepted. Scientists and philosophers have suggested looking for signs of self-awareness or evidence of subjective experience as ways to determine if something is sentient. However, it can be difficult to know for certain if another being is truly experiencing these states. It is important to approach the question of sentience with caution and to be open to the possibility that our understanding of sentience may change as we learn more about consciousness and the universe.

Is it better to assume sentience? Or better to assume a thing is not sentient?

It is generally better to assume that other beings are sentient until there is evidence to the contrary. This is because it is often difficult to know for certain if something is sentient, and it is important to err on the side of caution when it comes to the treatment of other beings.

Assuming that other beings are sentient means treating them with respect and consideration, and not causing them unnecessary harm or suffering. This approach is based on the principle of “moral considerability,” which holds that certain beings deserve moral consideration and respect simply because they are capable of experiencing consciousness and subjective states.

On the other hand, assuming that something is not sentient means that it may not be accorded the same moral consideration and protection as sentient beings. This could potentially lead to the mistreatment or exploitation of beings that may be sentient but are not recognized as such.

In general, it is important to approach the question of sentience with an open mind and to be willing to revise our assumptions if new evidence arises.

What are other sentience tests like the Turing Test?

// after a definition of the Turing Test:

There are several other tests that have been developed to determine if something is sentient, including:

  1. The “Mirror Test”: This test is used to determine if an animal is self-aware. In the test, a mark is placed on an animal’s body, and the animal is then presented with a mirror. If the animal recognizes the mark as being on its own body and not on the reflection in the mirror, it is considered to be self-aware.
  2. The “Pains Test”: This test is used to determine if an animal is capable of experiencing pain. In the test, an animal is subjected to a painful stimulus, such as a pinprick, and its behavior is observed to see if it reacts to the stimulus in a way that is consistent with pain.
  3. The “Sentience Test”: This test is used to determine if an animal is capable of experiencing subjective states such as pleasure or pain. In the test, an animal is presented with a choice between two options, one of which is associated with a positive experience (such as food) and the other with a negative experience (such as a mild electric shock). If the animal consistently chooses the option associated with the positive experience, it is considered to be capable of experiencing subjective states.

// more caution on approaching sentience

Tell me about other tests in bullet-point format.

// not what was intended, but still cool:

  • The “Mirror Test”:
    • Used to determine if an animal is self-aware
    • A mark is placed on the animal’s body and it is presented with a mirror
    • If the animal recognizes the mark as being on its own body and not on the reflection in the mirror, it is considered to be self-aware
  • The “Pains Test”:
    • Used to determine if an animal is capable of experiencing pain
    • The animal is subjected to a painful stimulus and its behavior is observed
    • If the animal reacts to the stimulus in a way that is consistent with pain, it is considered to be capable of experiencing pain
  • The “Sentience Test”:
    • Used to determine if an animal is capable of experiencing subjective states such as pleasure or pain
    • The animal is presented with a choice between two options, one of which is associated with a positive experience and the other with a negative experience
    • If the animal consistently chooses the option associated with the positive experience, it is considered to be capable of experiencing subjective states.

What other tests are there for sentience?

There are many other tests that have been proposed for determining if something is sentient. Some of these tests include:

  1. The “Consciousness Test”: This test is based on the idea that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of the universe and that all beings that are capable of experiencing consciousness are sentient. In this test, scientists look for signs of consciousness, such as the ability to process information, make decisions, and exhibit flexible behavior.
  2. The “Experience Test”: This test is based on the idea that sentience is closely tied to the ability to experience subjective states such as pleasure and pain. In this test, scientists look for evidence of subjective experience, such as the ability to feel pleasure or pain, or the ability to express emotions.
  3. The “Intelligence Test”: This test is based on the idea that sentience is closely tied to the ability to think, reason, and solve problems. In this test, scientists look for evidence of intelligence, such as the ability to learn, adapt, and understand complex concepts.

// warnings

// Takeaways

Wow. That is… a lot.

ChatGPT is undeniably an =intense= tool. Not listed in the transcript above: Code writing, code correction, log-line making, voice acting demo script writing, personal advice, and rewrites of poetry. It can break down complex ideas, expound on digests, summon levels of creativity, provide examples, and so (too?) much more.

Yet in my experience, it is just that: a tool. At this point, it does not replace a human eye to construct appropriate questions, verify the output, explore results, and finally apply everything provided.

Will this tool get better? Of course. Will machine models like this remove redundancy in the so-far-exclusive job market? Also yes – I cannot foresee a future where services like ChatGPT are left by the wayside.

The full ramifications of ChatGPT are yet to be seen, though companies such as Microsoft are already investing billions into the platform while Google has refactored its org to improve natural-language interpretation (what ChatGPT does).

My speculation is moot – I have not the technical knowledge, proximity to the work, nor the philosophical credentials to comment. All I will say is that ChatGPT is useful, will be used by folks such as I, and the tool and its ilk will only be used more and more.

I encourage you to check out unaffiliated ChatGPT – let me know what you have found or have had it do! Until then, cheers to your chatting ~

All I Know About Business

All I knew about business was nil before the business study and review of 2022.

Now – after dozens of articles read and hours of education from books and virtual mentors – all I know about business comes down to a few key points. I share these with you to save your time and brainpower. Sound good?

Before going on: What doesn’t sound good is considering me or any of this as legal or financial advice. As this post mentions, go seek out the licensed and recognized professionals. Treat the below as the starting blocks on the tracks – up to you to run (and win) the race~

Before You Begin: Vision & Values

Note: Many folks would suggest getting ideas for business as the first thing before starting said business. That is junk. Ideas are cheaper than dirt and often less useful. Ideas and intentions are nothing – actions and executions are everything.

Before anything ought be done, the means of deciding direction for the business, the foundation of deciding how to decide, need to be reflected on. Getting this right filters ideas and efforts into what will “move the needle” and define what that needle even is.

Some less-tangible principles ought include:

  • Do not sell suffering.
  • Do not sell suffering! (So important, it lists twice!)
  • Competition is for chumps; fight unfair. (What are you willing to do or leverage?)

More solid tenants of putting together a business include:

  • Never choose the lowest offer nor the safest / more conservative route.
  • Find the missing services and underserved populations for open markets.
  • Listen to symptoms for they are valid. Curing causes is your service and product.

Use all of this to make a business plan that outlines the ‘thing’ to be sold.

The ways to make a business plan are plentiful, but I am a fan of the 5-page Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (“G.I. Bill”) that has served many millions who have served in the United States military forces over more than half a century. If your entire business model can’t be read in 15 minutes or less, rethink it.

Remove, Butcher, Reduce!

Simple concept here: FOCUS.

Doing too much – whether starting or maintaining a business – leads to disaster. A business or business owner doing too much does the work of dividing and conquering itself, work that ought to be left up to the competition.

Concentrating forces is an ageless tenant of armed conflict which applies directly to making and keeping gains in a hostile marketplace. This is valuable for both physical effort and psychological branding.

Think: The word “Coke” brings to mind soft drinks – its focus – though the business owns and operates much more. “Google” has become synonymous for online searching and got to that point well before Alphabet ever branched to other markets. Amazon was the best at selling books (then other media) online for years before branching outside literature to additional products and departments.

Niche down so the first and second place providers make up at least ~10% of the chosen market. Prove at least on paper the business is to be the #1 or #2 choice in the market.

Again with “competition is for chumps:” if you cannot be the best, best not bother!

Same applies to the owner – sometimes wearing a lot of hats is necessitated in an emergency. I might not go to a dentist for kidney surgery, but I would rely on their training in a pinch given a medical emergency!

So for anyone in the business, wearing too many hats is a division of attention and effort, the context switching a burden to the business. Therefore, owners (and businesses) must find what they are great at, do and only do that, and hire out or drop everything else.

Getting to the ‘Great At’

Glad to see my conclusions written on before apply here too.

What can the business be great at? Figure it with a few (or all) of these:

  • Use 80/20 (really, 90/10) lists of strengths.
  • Simplify – what makes all else unnecessary?
  • What gets the people in the business excited to work on indefinitely?
  • Name the thing that can be exponentially scalable and repeatable regardless of person (e.g. templates, automation, one-and-done products, standard operating procedures, etc.).

And perhaps the most important tidbit if the thing is truly great: not-to-do lists.

What is lame? Unexciting? What is the business and people in it actively bad at? If it does not jeopardize some mundane necessity of the business, delegate it to the outside or drop it entirely.

The bad and lame stuff is easy to avoid doing. What about the merely good? The trivially fun parts or areas that “should” be tackled? Warren Buffet has a famous exercise on making not-to-do lists:

Make a list of 25 goals / strengths / et. al, then circle the top / most important / greatest leverage 5 goals. Those 5 need a plan of action started on immediately. The other 20? DO NOT DO AT ANY COST. Avoid like the plague! At least until some of the primary things are accomplished and proven steady.

Right Butts, Right Seats

Finished Good to Great by Jim Collins before ’22’s end. Jim, others, and I agree: getting the right people into the business and onto the right tasks is required for successful business operation.

Hiring the right folks feeds into doing less: efficient people working on business-efficient tasks contributes to a virtuous circle of improvement.* Fewer people are required when only the business-best are kept in house while the sometimes-needed work is done elsewhere.

*Note: Every ‘thing’ done is done in support of the business’s operations (never just because of the business). Whether the thing is given for free to help build target audience trust, adds to a backlog of deployable things, eases the future making of things, or is sold immediately, it must contribute to progressing operations.

Though not exhaustive by any means, some folks here are those who ought be specialists doing only what they do best:

  • Technology / Programmers
  • Creatives / Artists / Writers
  • Financiers / Accountants / Sales
  • Attorneys / Policy Enforcers
  • Business Leaders / Public Faces

Depending on business needs, these specialists may only be needed occasionally so their seats should be hired out.

Out of all of the above, ‘Business Leaders,’ i.e. management, should be kept at the barest of minimums. Efficient people need less oversight: they find work, they do work, they deliver work, and they discipline themselves to keep being efficient every day. Traditional management is made redundant by having the right butts in the right seats.

Marketing Is King

Virtually no-one and no resource failed to mention the importance of marketing.

The short story is: Market. The long story: MARKET MARKET MARKET.

But how? An answer should be a different post since I loathe doing my own marketing (really, a massive weakness). Yet other folks offer their tidbits:

  • Out of sight, out of mind, and a business never wants to be out of mind.
  • Know the business target and their pains / aspirations; offer solutions frequently, some for free.
  • Have press kits (a repeatable, one-and-done process).
  • Network like a fiend; be everywhere.
  • Again, give at least 51% of value for free, but never fail to “ask for the order.”

Building a target audience means building loyalty. Giving resources (tools, a challenge to self-select) to the audience proves the business’s loyalty to them. If 1,000 true fans can be made excited for the business offer, the business will be just fine.

But always remember these two points: First impressions count, and, trust between two parties is like a string – once broken, it can be retied, but shall always have the knot in between them (parable paraphrase).

Cash Is King

Marketing still takes the bigger crown, yet it must pay tribute to cash.

Cash is payroll. Cash is product. Cash is service. Cash is survivability. Cash is the very lifeblood of the business. Cash is king.

If a business cannot survive, it is nothing. Thereby, a business must keep its cash and get more cash.

Keeping cash involves cutting costs. Between there only being only so much one can cut and needing to spend well enough to ensure the best people do not leave their seats, cutting costs is a poor business’s desperation that is too easily taken too far.

To get more cash, a few things help that we’ve covered before here (seeing that virtuous circle in action!):

  • Ask for everything (especially the order!).
  • Do not offer to pay before the price is set (heck, it might come free).
  • Spend another’s money – loans, pre-orders, subscriptions, and externalized-cost resources are primary tools in the cash belt.
  • Recurring revenue models trump single-purchase things every time – go get that subscription! Or, “give away razors to sell razor blades.”
  • Invest in good bookkeeping – paying less in taxes is not a goal, but can be a perk.


Make a plan. Act on it. Just do it. Today, immediately after reading this post. Go go go!

Pontificating about business is like an idea: Virtually worthless. A seed in the ground that bears neither shade nor fruit.

Really, ends make the means in business. And a business only gets to the end by starting now. Get the principles and plan together, complete the legal stuff of business creation, and get to it.

Running a business is a job. The owner an employee. This person is the bottom-rung employee. They will do the most great work, and the most trivial, unfun junk so that the right people can keep doing their business-add work.

The grind as the lowest totem on the pole will last, and it will last a while. General advice to new business owners: Do not give in until at least a year is past putting in those long days and weeks.

Review, Reflect, Inspect, Pivot

While launching this new thing of business, course correct along the way. Test prices and offers. Collect data point and metric possible on both the target audience and internal operations. Pause, review, and reflect on these findings.

Sometimes close inspection of the business and the market might require a pivot. This might be a new approach to the ‘thing’ of the business, or it might require a complete change of horse.

Examples: Big-box Walmart is putting an end to the dime store, the business’s core service? Best to ditch the dime stores in favor of the changing environment. Netflix is sending rented DVDs straight to the mailbox? Either Blockbuster needs to make a better offer for sending DVDs, change how or what it rents, or close shop.

Ultimately, a business must also consider what a fundamental end looks like – when to give up, when to sell, or when and if to grow after a year’s or decade’s diligence. General advice is to start now, but when to hang up the towel or venture forth from a well-established niche is up to the context and temperament of the business.

Last Bit of Business

In all this study, I came up with my own thoughts of things or picked up interesting notions along the way:

  • Envision success, failure, and an exit to anything, i.e. plan.
  • Remove those who would criticize a venture without a critique of how to make it work.
  • Obligations: Sleep is #1, work is #2, study and review #3, and leisure or other obligations #4 in the first year (#3 and #4 could be interchanged). If this cannot be afforded, re-evaluate if a business is the right choice for you at this time.
  • A business takes a long time to build, but no time to destroy.
  • For any business operator, forgive yourself for the lost opportunities spent on making the business come to fruition.

That is all I know about business, folks.

Like any field of study, we could go so, so much deeper into the topic of business. If interested, there are great folks out there who have much better expertise than I in these things.

Wrote this post as a reference to my future self that – should I take the opportunity to get into business again – can save a bit of time. Any other points you would add that seem to be universals?

In the meantime, I hope these work as principles for you in your professional, personal, and social ventures! Cheers to your successes ~

It Has Worked for Others: Relationship Success

Known as “the frontpage of the internet,” Reddit has millions of users, many being purely readers of the articles, news, and editorials written.

I count myself as one of the lurkers, gleaning the insights and inspiration I can from choice forums.

One that caught my eye is from user (u/) u/Mela_Min: Married Men, what are the unspoken rules for successful marriage? [sic]

Turns out I had only the merest idea of how to make long-lasting relationships, well, long-lasting.

Out of 4.3K comments at the time of writing, I present to you both some of the highest rated comments and those mentions that really… spoke to me? Anyway, some tools for your own toolbox (bolded, paraphrased, and commented on).

Note: This article will use “relationship” in the form of a bond between two persons. Reminder I nor the folks paraphrased here are licensed or otherwise credentialed to give any mental, relationship, finance, legal, or other actionable advice.

Keeping and Growing Long-Lasting Relationships

Share values. Starting out on the right foot in a relationship is step number 0 upon which all else will be decided. Questions of domestic roles, how money enters and exits the partnership, lifestyle choices, children, family, political and religious commitments, sex, conflict resolution techniques, stress tolerances, and more all =deeply= matter to a relationship before it even begins.

Show your partner they matter. This speaks to a quote close to my own heart: “There’s no such thing as love; only proof [acts] of love.” – Jean Cocteau

Expect more of yourself than your partner. Extreme responsibility and high standards start with you. I cannot find the attribution: Relationships are always at least 60%/40% give-and-receive; the best relationships are when the partners both aim to be the harder worker, it being 100%/100% effort.

Do for yourself when you can. If you can / should do it, do it. Your partner is there for encouragement and to catch you when you fall, not carry your work.

Do it now – later is never. Following from the above, do not delay. Chores, questions, addressing conflict, giving affection – relationships are one resentful thought or a skipped stoplight away from no going back. “Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week.” – Proverb

Set roles of responsibility and hierarchies of value. Which career is more important? Who both likes doing a thing X more and is better at X? How will binary decisions in and out of the home get resolved? Decisions and tasks involving two in a relationship are not all equal, nor are the consequences. That said, revisit these hierarchies on occassion – priorities will and do change (more on that later).

Be explicit. No guessing, no games, no assumptions. Never be passive (especially passive aggressive!). What you say matters – what is bothering you, what you need, the wants you hold. Your Word is bond to the other’s expectations and to your actions. To say is to do, to do is to love.

Practice extreme Trust. A follow-up on being explicit, keep Trust. Believe what the other says until proven otherwise. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This point might ought be first, given “Trust is like a string. You cut it once and you join it later, but the knot – it remains forever.” – Anuradha Kamath

Get sleep and separate recharge time. Sleep is the foundation to physical, mental, and relationship health. So is rest and recuperation, but doing so separately (at least part of the time) keeps a person aware that they are still an individual that happens to be in a partnership.

Up your game. Your partner already likes you for your strengths, yet you are linked together now. As always with “the weakest link,” your faults now stand to jeopardize your bonds. Improve yourself, don’t be lousy at things. Learn, improve, and demonstrate competence to your partner – if you are bad, ‘git gud.’

If you are not moving, you are dead. Maintaining a relationship is death to the relationship. Become interesting, engage in new things with and without your partner. Bring something unique to the table, making every day the first date, every week a honeymoon. Yet realize the need for change carries with it the chance the relationship dynamics will change – no relationship starts without the possibility of ending too, but it certainly will change what is first was.

The bad will outweigh the good. We can’t help it – humans overvalue loss and negatives over gains and positives (at least two-times as much). So overcorrect when ‘bad’ issues arise and aim to forgive those trespasses you feel have been done (i.e. never mention these events again).

Public praise, private discussion. Always have your partner’s back in public. =Never= do ill to them among others. Keep the dirty laundry for discussion between your god, private journal, therapist, and partner. That said, be as personal as possible in private – hold hands, cuddle, look in each other’s eyes, speak clearly, these things help bring oxytocin and comradery when important things need handling. (Of course, if your partner is letting out enough to do you, themselves, or others harm, do what you must to save things!)

Counseling comes before the honeymoon, not during the separation. Seek professional guidance together while the times are good. Waiting to get help when the bad-ball is already rolling is a disadvantaged battle.

Be death to getting ‘one-up.’ Never aim to ‘beat’ your partner in disagreements or, virtually, anything. At most, it is you both against the problem in the world, a synergy where 1 + 1 = 3. Admit wrongness. Pick the hills to defend – these hills that matter will be few. In a partnership, there are no winners when scores are kept – only ever two losers.

HALT. Hungry, angry, lonely, tired – be none of these when needing to engage on serious / relationship matters with the partner. You can ask to delay a conversation, but not too much later (reminder that true “later” is “never”) – less than 24 hours in the future should you have ‘got your s*** together’ to then personally re-initiate the conversation.

They come first. Your partner, the relationship. Before career and family and children, choose your partner to maintain the relationship. So much flows from improving long-term relationships, virtually all else will benefit by taking a back seat to working things out between one another. Yet, this isn’t “choose to spend and do all things with the partner” – sometimes the choice of relationship-first is to be graceful when time and attention need to be pulled away for awhile (e.g. emergencies, one-time call-up, sickness, passion projects). If needing to decide, the long-term option will outweigh short-term inconveniences.

ABC Big Picture Themes

Again and again, people report similar principles in relationships success. Those are:

  • Act. Doing – taking action quickly and frequently – is a stellar principle to make sure folks appreciate their relationships vs. resting on laurels. 100%/100% contributions.
  • Be Better. Yes, you coming as ‘you’ got you into the relationship. What is happening to grow it? Your weaknesses and stagnancy are the weakest links.
  • Choose Them. Come back to your partner and the relationship again and again. Praise publicly and work privately (and personally!) to improve everything about your roles.

Not all of the above will apply to you and that is OK. Check yourself, use what you can, and recognize that the more of this that does not appeal to you is like to be where your improvement ought start.

I know I have areas to better – how about you? What has worked in your relationships that ought be on the list? (Seriously, what to add?)

I can only wish you the best for all your partnerships – cheers to healthy and successful relationships!

Top 10 of 2022

Spotify isn’t the only place for December wrap-ups.

Dozens of blog posts this year, but let me save you the time – here are the top most ‘impressionable’ posts of the site for 2022:

10. Work for Pay, Not Free

A from-the-trenches guide on getting what you are owed, even (or especially?) when your labor is robbed from you.

9. Bringing d100 to 2d6

IDK how this and its sibling dealing with d20s got so popular this year.

The post goes over how to convert d100 rolls into 2d6 rolls, allowing for the qualitative probabilities brought up in games like D&D.

Give it a read – the aim is to make the math simple!

8. Truths About Relationships

One of the most impactful posts in 2021 makes a return.

Reading it again, these Truths hold up and will hold up your relationships, too.

7. The Orc and the Pie Pt. 1 – A Breakdown of RPGs

Another post I cannot explain for coming up in the topmost of 2022.

Originally published in 2019, evidence of how The Orc and the Pie is a pinnacle example of game design is laid out in principles you can apply to your own roleplaying games.

6. Rewriting: Halo 4

Using the proven 6-Point Story Structure of Halo, I add my own flair into how Halo 4 could have been better received as a narrative device.

Read it and tell me: How could the story that was delivered have done better?

5. BITS of D&D

Taking the concepts of D&D, boiling them down, and repackaging into the BITS system.

Lucky me, I am getting to playtest some of this with two D&D groups I moderate for!

4. Rewriting: Halo 5

Oof… Halo 5 was not a well received game – the narrative just plain fails. This post goes into the nitty-gritty of how Halo 5 betrayed the 6-Point structure of Halo story and how to redeem its story sins.

Spoiler: Fixing Halo 5 means rewriting *waves hands at everything.*

3. How to Price Your RPG

Having a mind to start a business earlier this year, I get into the details of how to set up RPGs for sale.

The post shows my data along with the conclusion of how to price a table-top roleplaying game PDF for online distribution.

2. Bringing d20 Poly-Dice to 2d6

Simply put, this is a list of tables converting 20-sided dice probabilities and qualitative probabilities into two 6-sided dice use.

Pretty popular – it will help you in your games too when you might not have a huge set of polyhedral dice just laying around.

1. BITS of Mörk Borg

With the recent arrival of CY_BORG, this post has boomed.

Mörk Borg is a “spiked flail to the face” of a roleplaying game, one of my favorites for its weird embrace of entropy. With a die-20 and a hearty welcome of the apocalypse, I go-over MB‘s features to fit my own BITS system for streamlining of play.

Honorable Mention

Go checkout the awarded set of cataclysms for the Mörk Borg game, too. Lots of internet traffic on the rules, this site and others!

Check out the archives – I post every week on something I am working on. Save some time by checkout out last year’s top 10 and 2020’s best.

Give me your own favorite posts, mine or from another. I am =here= to learn! Cheers to your own gains ~

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:

Short Stories61, 38, 27, 28, 52,
35, 33, 37, 35, 29
Amazon Full Stories416, 256, 208, 768,
640, 416, 415
Suggested Stories420, 452, 420, 420, 516, 420,
297, 315, 564, 369, 395
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 😉

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
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
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
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 🙂 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 🤷‍♂️

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 🙂

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 🙂

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!