Wednesday, December 25, 2013

From the Heath Brothers

Forwarded message:

Welcome to our erratically-published newsletter for fans of our books! Below you'll find a never-before-published "outtake" from our new book Decisive.
First up: Did you know we have uploaded a slew of resources related to Decisive? As always, they are free. Just go to our Resources page and log in using the email address that this newsletter came to. Let us highlight two of the new items:

·         Contemplating a job change? Check out the podcast Decisive for Job Decisision.
·         Are you an agonizer or a waffler when it comes to decisions? The How to be More Decisive podcast is for you.

For a future article, we are researching stories of people and organizations who bounced back from adversity. When you’ve experienced setbacks, how have you come back from that? If you’ve bounced back in your personal or professional life—or if you’ve been a witness to an impressive comeback—we’d love to hear the story. In particular, we’d love to hear HOW you did it—not just the beginning and end points (from a valley to a recovery) but especially the middle. The mechanics of the rebound. Were there moments of inspiration? Important points of day-to-day discipline? Tactics you found useful? If anything comes to mind, just reply to this email and we’ll get it.
[The following is a passage that we wrote for Decisive but ultimately had to leave out. This is the first time it has been published anywhere -- hope you enjoy it!]

The banana bread incident

To make a good decision, we need to assess our options, which means that we need to collect information about them. But there’s a problem: The information we’ll collect instinctively may not be trustworthy because of a few predictable biases.

Consider a story a friend told us about a place he used to work. (We will disguise names to avoid being gratuitously mean.) He had a colleague, Ed, whose wife, Melissa, sent baked goods to the office via Ed. She made pumpkin bread, blueberry muffins, banana bread, cranberry scones, and more. Naturally, people devoured them immediately.

“Unfortunately,” says our friend, “all the pastries were ‘low-fat.’ We used to complain about how dry they were. They were fine, I guess. Probably as good as ‘low-fat pastries’ can be. Which is not that good. But we ate them anyway … I mean, they were free.” Let’s face it: In most offices, even a free bowl of salted Styrofoam peanuts would disappear quickly.

At company parties, employees would meet Melissa, and their only point of connection with her was her pastries. So they’d immediately say something positive: “Keep sending that banana bread!” “You wouldn’t believe how quickly your goodies always disappear!” and so on. They were being nice.

The baked goods kept coming, week after week, with each batch disappearing quickly, until one day Ed announced that Melissa, elated by the reaction she was getting from the office, was thinking about starting her own catering business. “That’s when it hit us. Uh-oh,” said our friend. “What have we done? We’ve been so positive that we’ve convinced this woman to start a new career! But how could we undo the damage at that point? ‘Actually, your banana bread sucks.’ Who would say that?”

Our friend left the company right around this time, but he recalls that Ed had started to fish for catering opportunities among his colleagues, who tended to smile and squirm.

What information can you trust?

It’s a mistake to think that the information that’s most accessible to us will be the most accurate. When Melissa began to consider a catering business, she had a lot of positive feedback close at hand: I send food to the office, and people eat every morsel. And when they see me at parties, they rave about it. Their feedback confirmed her instinct that she should start a catering business.

But she never sought disconfirming information—information that challenged what she hoped would be true. Had she tried charging $5 per loaf of banana bread, for instance, she might have learned how shallow her pool of support was.

But Melissa also made another kind of mistake, one we all tend to commit: She got sucked in by the vivid particulars of her situation and failed to see the larger pattern it was a part of. For example, she took it as a huge compliment that people always finished every last morsel of her baked goods (the particulars); she didn’t realize that they finished every last morsel of anything brought to the office (the pattern).

Nor did she see herself as part of a larger class of people like her—good cooks who want to start catering businesses—and wonder what she could learn from the experience of others like her. (Is it a hard business to start? Can you trust that compliments will translate into orders?)
For another example of this tension between particulars and patterns, think of a manager who’s visited by three different employees during the same week, all disgruntled about their working hours. As a result of those visits, she concludes that the company’s scheduling process needs an overhaul. After all, the close-at-hand information was universally negative. (Meanwhile, the other 47 employees, a quieter bunch, were perfectly happy.)

We tend to confuse vivid information with representative information. Think, for instance, of the feeling we’ve all had that we always get stuck in the slow line. This is silly, of course—it can’t be statistically true that we’re all stuck in the slow lines (unless, perhaps, all the fast lines are in China). The problem is that we don’t hang onto memories of fast-moving lines, only the times when we were stuck.

Similarly, most people fear plane crashes more than car crashes, and most people believe that homicides are more lethal than diabetes. Both are false—on a mile for mile basis, you are 37 times more likely to die while driving than while flying, and diabetes kills four times as many people as homicides.

Many people fear shark attacks when they visit the beach, even though shark attacks have killed only 67 people worldwide since 1876. In fact, if you’ve ever rocked a vending machine in hopes of knocking loose your purchase, you were much closer to death; more people die from vending machine accidents than shark attacks. (Yet no one quakes with fear when they feed in coins for Fritos.)

Plane crashes and homicides and shark attacks are searingly vivid and emotional. Every time one happens, it makes the headlines. Meanwhile, car crashes and diabetes and vending machine accidents are every bit as terrible, but they’re less visible. They don’t make the papers.

[For more thoughts on gathering trustworthy information, see the "Zoom Out Zoom In" chapter of Decisive.]

Until next time,

Dan & Chip

P.S. If you pre-ordered Decisive to claim your freebies, you should have long since received them. If you haven’t, please email and we will sort it out pronto!

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The penultimate battle, after evil gets to the McGuffen first.

Argath Starshine sagged, his hammer heavy in his hand.  Somehow the three-fold seven company of the dark had reach the amulet first.  The power of the dark lord would rise again.

Five thousand years ago they had had godlings and planer beings to oppose him.  The world had shifted.  The secret hiding place of the amulet that was too powerful to destroy had been located and the race was on to either possess it for evil or deny it.

And they had failed.  There was nothing to do but watch.

The Seid had sacraficed two thirds of their number to build a wall of blood and magic, too powerful for the forces of the light to break through.  But Argath did watch.

Neriath, the leader of the forces of the darkness, the Seid, stood forth with the amulet.

"Now what will you do, we have triumphed!"

Argath started to laugh, he could not help himself.

"You know, five thousand years is a long time.  Maybe back then, when they still had flint axes and bronze swords that amulet was impressive.  Take a closer look.  Even your sophomore enchanting project was more impressive."

"There are still 21 of us, only 7 of you, and ... "

What he planned to say he forgot.  Neriath attacked.  The forces of light, well, not a single one of them had not progressed beyond sophomore enchanting.


Yes.  I saw Thor, the Dark World.  Not bad.  But seriously.  Thousands of years ago, Asgard puts an end to the Dark Elves.  They shatter scores of the Dark Elf air craft carrier equivalent.   Asgard has been at war since, increasing in might and dominion.  The Dark Elves have a single air craft carrier now, not fully staffed.  Ancient technology.

Do they snuff it out without thinking?  Imagine a Trireme.  The ultimate weapon in its day and age.  Now returned from a magical stasis for thousands of years to unleash destruction and mayhem on the modern world.

Even a Coast Guard cutter would put it down without a second thought -- if it recognized it as a target at all.

Keep that in mind sometimes in some settings.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Something different, an excellent sword

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Cold Steel Norman Sword

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Hip check O Soto Gari

I really like the hip check version of O Soto Gari (Major Outer Reaping Throw).

For classic O Soto, this is a great video:

The important part of the entry is fixing the opponent's leg to inhibit mobility, not for Kuzushi or breaking balance.

Inhibiting mobility is what stops counter throws.  Like many of my favorite throws, the approach is not what breaks balance.

Instead, after you have made your entry and fixed your opponent's leg to stop mobility, you go hip to hip rather than just behind your opponent.  You do not break his balance backwards.  Instead, you hip check your opponent and lift with the throwing leg into the opponent.

When I was serious about the throw my competition weight was around 172 (no longer a weight class, they moved the boundaries).  My weight training for the throw included 20+ reps at 240 pounds on abductor exercises.

Only after your opponent is off the ground do you engage in throwing torque and at that point your instep also catches the opponent's lower leg in a sweep.

It is a very forceful throw.


One, your grip is right hand to the inside lapel (the opponent's right lapel) rather than the traditional behind the head or left lapel.  

Two, your grip is a "no hands" (no hands on the Gi at the start of the throw), where you punch your right hand past uke and you parry his right hand with your left hand (and push it up and past your right ear).

Three, reverse grip.  You stand right, grip left and throw right. Often the hip check does not make it all the way to side by side, and the torque is more like an Uchimata after uke is airborne than it is an O Soto.

That is the classic Kimura O Soto.  But in the third frame where he is reaping, there is a hip check.  Only after the hip check has raised uke from the ground do you have the fourth and fifth frame torque for the throw.

The follow through is sitting out into Kasa Gatame.   Your goal is to transition into the pin as you are hitting the map.  Landing in a pin is one of the strongest ways to get a full point for a throw.

In a real fight, your goal is very different.  I will not be discussing the differences here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

For tomorrow.

Occupation_____________ Religion_______
Race _______________ Origin ___________
Parents occupation_______ Age___________
Distinguishing marks/mannerisms__________
Family/next of kin______________________
Agility   dex/5 
Boat       1                 ___o 
Climb     4                 ___o
Jump      4                 ___o
Ride        5                 ___o
Swim      3                 ___o
Throw    3                 ___o
Run        5                 ___o
___________         ___o
Perception  int+will/5
Listen     5              ___o
Scan       5              ___o
Search    5              ___o
Track     5              ___o
Scout      1              ___o
___________      ___o
Melee Weapon  str+siz/5
    Attack ___________          ___o
    Parry   ___________           ___o

    Attack ___________          ___o
    Parry   ___________           ___o

Missile Weapon str+dex/5
    Attack ___________          ___o
    Attack ___________          ___o

Communication int+cha/5
Fast-talk   1               ___o
Orate          1             ___o
Sing            1             ___o
Speak Languages:
     Own       2               ___o
     Common 4           ___o
      Read     0              ___o
 Write   0                     ___o
   ___________        ___o
Stealth   dex/5    
Hide       2              ___o
Sneak     2              ___o
Pick Pockets         ___o
___________      ___o
___________      ___o
___________      ___o
Magic int+will/5

    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
    Cast (   )_____________   ___o
Knowledge int+will/5     
  Animal  1                ___o
  Human  1                ___o
  Mineral  0               ___o
   Plant      0               ___o
   World    0               ___o
Craft         2              ___o
Smith        1              ___o
     __________        ___o
     ___________      ___o
     Armourer               ___o
     Brewer                   ___o
Cooking  2                ___o
Evaluate      1            ___o
First aid      2             ___o
Armor str+con/5
___________      ___o
___________      ___o
___________      ___o

Shield dex+str/5
___________      ___o

Hit points con+siz/2
Manipulation dex/5          
Conceal 1                  ___o
Devise   1                  ___o
Sleight   1                  ___o
Play instrument
___________           ___o

Runeskills  will/5
_____________   ___o
_____________   ___o
_____________   ___o
_____________   ___o
_____________   ___o
_____________   ___o


                You live in a world infused with magic.  The sun in the sky cycles through a rainbow of colors, each of the seven moons in the sky is home to a hero-saint, and magic is real.

                The world itself, seen from a distance, looks like a ball of frayed steel wool, floating in seas of mist.  People live on islands that thrust themselves out of the mist, they travel between islands on flying boats, magical pathways and trade routes that do not go too far into the mist.

                Deep below, where the light of the seven moons does not reach, in the perpetual dark, are undead, of seven kinds.  There are mysteries of mastery that one can reach after a lifetime of study, or, one can gain access to matrix magic by being initiated to one of the pathways of the seven saints.  In return, the initiate has a duty, a compulsion, to travel and strive against evil for a season.  Many people choose the "easy" path to magical enlightenment, wear the colored magical shirt of their patron saint, and travel for somewhere between eighteen months and two years.

This is your world, this is Mistworld.  Rather than just "fill in a character sheet" you ask yourself:
  • "Where do you come from and what was it like?"
  • "What do you do"
  • "Who do you worship"
  • "What do people first notice about you?"
  • "What do people who get to know you discover about you?"
  • "Who are your friends and why?"
  • "Who do you love and do they love you?"
  • "Who are your enemies?"
  • "What are your prized possessions?"
  • "What secrets do you have?"
  • "What ambitions do you have"
  • "What do you fear most?"
  • "What is your catch-phrase?" (makes me think of  Get Fuzzy the comic strip).
Pick five traits.  The available trait pairs are:
                   Chaste ......./.....Lustful     
                   Just    ........./.....Arbitrary   
                   Pious   ......../.....Worldly     
                   Trusting  ...../.....Suspicious  
Hero/Saints are:
  • Smith/Maker
  • Gardener
  • Herdsman
  • Harpist/Loremaster
  • Sailor/Trader/Scout
  • Builder/Architect
  • Peacemaker/Purifier

Category / Weapon / Damage  Required STR/DEX   ENC  Armor  Strike Rank

   2H Axe / Bardiche 2d6+1                       11/8           2.5     11         1 (no shield) 
   1H Axe / Battle Ax d6+2                          9/9          1.5       5          2
   Dagger  / Dagger d3+1                             1/2            .5        3          3
   Dagger  /Long knife d4+1                         4/6           .3        4          3
   Spear    / 1HSpear  d6                               6/7            1.5      3          2
   Spear    / 2H  d6+2                                    8/9            2.0     10         1 (no shield)
   Sword   / d8+1                                           9/7           1.2       7          2
   Staff     / d6+1                                           9/9            1.5      11         2 (no shield)
   Bow     /  d6                                               7/10          1.5       0          0
   Pilum  /   d6+1                                           8/10          1.0       0          0

Spells:  (maximum points = max level of skill in spell)

    First Aid:            Cost one point, Range touch
                                No target resistance.
                               Heal d3+1 over ten minutes, 1 point per day there after on success.

   Heal:                  Cost = points healed, Range touch
                             No target resistance
                             Heal = points.

  Blade Magic:      Cost = points, Range touch
                                No target resistance
                                +1/+1 to damage and skill for Will minutes

  StaffBlunt:         Cost = points of blunt, Range touch.
                                No target resistance
                                +1 to damage, +1 to armor/parry for Will minutes

   Mistwall:            Cost = one per 10x10' wall section, Range = will in yards with shirt, will in feet without.
                                No target resistance
                                Obscures an area with mist for Will minutes (creates a wall of mist).

   Detect:                Cost = one per +10 to detect, Range = will in yards with shirt, will in feet without.
                                No target resistance
                                Detects the condition/substance specified.  (usually different spells for each).

  Fire Dart:             Cost = one per d6 damage dart, Range = will in yards with shirt, will in feet without
                                Target resistance = Will of Target
                                Does d6 damage per point.  Armor absorbs damage.


Resolving skill contests;
Every time the rules day roll d20 you may roll 1d20 or 2d10 or 3d6.  A berserker always uses a d20, a typical fighter usually uses 2d10.  A typical man at arms uses 3d6 for all tasks.
Roll d20 + skill - defense.  Positive number = a hit.  Net positive points = damage hit does. Negative number = a fumble.  Negative number = damage done to weapon.  Default defense =  5.
Skill = skill + bonuses + magic + weapon
Defense = skill + bonuses + magic + armor
So, if a skill of 7 in fist (a d0 weapon), vs. 4 points of armor, 10 points of defense (default amount) 5 points of parry it is 7+d20 - 19.  or d20-12  On a rol1 of 13 or more, it is a hit, on a rol1 of 12 or less a miss.
A weapon would make a difference, since it is added to the attack chance of success.  The amount of damage is the amount by which a hit occurs, with special effects (poison, etc.) applying on only if damage occurs.  In our example, if a 20 were rolled it would be 20-12 for damage (8 points).
In greater depth:
                     Most tasks are determined by (skill + d20) - base (the base is usually the average value of the randomizer).  If the matter is not random it may be skill - 0, or skill +d6 -3; or skill + d10 - 5; etc.
                    For example, running at level 12.  Running on a track is a minimal level difficulty task.  Running on a track would usually be a 12 (skill)  to determine progress. 
                    Running cross country might be a skill + 10 + d10 task - 5.  Without a path, it might be a skill +3d6 - 11 for progress.
                    Tools would add something.  Good shoes might be a +1.  Magical leggings might be +3 or more.  Brambles might add 5 or 10 to difficulty.
                    You can see the system in full force in combat, per the above.
                    You can also apply it to other tasks.
                    Take Eregorn at level 6 skill sailing when he is sailing the Wavestalker out of port.  It is enchanted (+3) a superior ship (+1) and leaving the port with the wind is a simple task.  The task is simple and requires overcoming three points a round.  To successfully leave the harbor, Eregorn has to earn 3 points a round until he is out.
                    His base is 6+3+1.  With no hurry, and no opposition, he earns 10 points a round and easily leaves the harbor.  But if he encounters a mild squall, which would be a 3d6 problem with 5 points of armor, he would be rolling d20/3d6/2d10 (depending on his approach)+10 minus 10+5 (base + the additional problem of a squall) or d20+10-15 -- He needs to roll a six or better to avoid problems and a 9 or better every round to avoid losing ground (and to keep making his 3 points necessary a round).  He might want to take the cautious approach (3d6) vs. the berserker approach to life (the d20) roll in this situation.
                    He makes it out of the port and docks at Helvetica.  He has a 3 in the language.  To read a menu he needs to earn 3 points.  However, the menu has 3 points of armor, due to the handwriting and format problems.  The randomness level is d6.  So, he rolls d6+3-3 every round.  It takes 2 points of success to read the menu.  In a round or two he has succeeded.
INT    3D6-1   9.5 average
CHA  3D6-1   9.5 average
SIZ     2d6+6   13 average (-3 for female)
CON  2d6+2   9 average (+3 for female)
DEX  21-Size + (2d6-1d6)
Will         76- total points
Add nine points per player allocation.

A typical male character:
  • SIZ 12
  • STR 13
  • CON 8
  • CHA 9
  • INT 10
  • Will 10
  • DEX 14                 

Total points = 76. The player has 9 points left to allocate to reach the 85 point limit. That is just enough to make a difference in a few areas, perhaps creating a character with extraordinary STR or with good INT and POW.

Premade Characters:  Addorilla
 (all bonuses round down)
  • SIZ         10           12 hit points
  • STR        13           Melee +4; Shield +5
  • CON       14           Armor, can wear up to 5 points of armor
  • CHA       9              Communication Skills +4
  • INT         12           Perception Skills +4; Knowledge Skills +4
  • Will         12           Magic +4
  • DEX       15           Agility skills +3;  Missile Weapons +5;  Stealth +3; Manipulation +3
Herd lesser Llamas      3+4             Start 7
Ride greater Llama      6+3             Start 9
Throw Pilum                  7+5             Start 12
Shield                              4+5             Start 9 to defense
Sword                             6+4             Start 10
Blade Magic                  3+4             Start level 7
Speak         Origin language             Start 6
                    Common                       Start 8
Lore            Animal       1+4             Start 5
Sneak                             2+3             Start 5
First Aid                          1+4             Start 5 (note, first aid requires magic to use).
                    Greater scaled llama
                    Pilum x 4

Premade Characters:  FiatLux
 (all bonuses round down)
  • SIZ         15           15 hit points
  • STR        15           Melee +6;
  • CON       15           Armor, can wear up to 6 points of armor
  • CHA       11           Communication Skills +4
  • INT         10           Perception Skills +4; Knowledge Skills +4
  • Will         10           Magic +4
  • DEX       10           Agility skills +2;  Missile Weapons +5;  Stealth +2; Manipulation +2
Throw Pilum                  6+5             Start 11
Armor                             6                  (6 points of armor worn)
Bardiche                        6+6             Start 12
   Parry                            4+6             Start 10
Blade Magic                  3+4             Start level 7
Speak         Origin language             Start 6
                    Common                       Start 8
Lore            World         1+4             Start 5
Climb                              4+2             Start 6
Jump                               4+2             Start 6
Heal                                1+4             Start 5
                    Heavy Boots

Premade Characters:  Savarian
 (all bonuses round down)
  • SIZ         10           10 hit points
  • STR        10           Melee +4;
  • CON       10          
  • CHA       11           Communication Skills +5
  • INT         17           Perception Skills +7; Knowledge Skills +7
  • Will         18           Magic +7
  • DEX       10           Agility skills +2;  Missile Weapons +4;  Stealth +2; Manipulation +2
Run                                 4+2             Start 6
Climb                              4+2             Start 6
Staff                               2+4             Start 6
                    Parry           2+4             Start 6
Speak         Origin language             Start 9
                    Common                       Start 11
Read           Common                       Start 7
Write Common                                 Start 7
Lore            Human      1+7             Start 8
Brew                               1+7             Start 8
Cook                               1+7             Start 8
First Aid                          1+7             Start 8 (note, first aid requires magic to use).
Fire Arrow                      5+7             Start level 12
Heal                                1+7             Start 8
                    Brew/Cook Gear