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Projects and Bureaucracy Overhaul

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  • Projects and Bureaucracy Overhaul

    Now with Charms!
    An attempt at some more concrete rules for building empires, based on Sandact6's Creation Overlords System.


    Note: All future updates will be made directly in the Google Doc below; the original text is left her for posterity .

    Bureaucracy: Creation-Ruling Mandate


    Assets
    Just as socializing revolves around Intimacies, organizations revolve around Assets—the resources they can draw on, the unique skills and philosophies that make the group strong. An important trading contract, a particularly expert craftsman, and a company of soldiers might all be Assets. To accomplish anything significant, an organization must deploy a relevant Asset, just as a character must draw on a relevant Intimacy to persuade a rival. They may also be used to gain bonuses on other bureaucratic actions (see below).

    Assets do not have to be positive. Double-edged swords like “I never change my mind” usually make less sense when thinking about tangible resources, although it’s not impossible. If you captured a city from a rival kingdom, for example, they’ll likely hold it against you. More often, out-and-out negative factors show up on your Asset list, such as enemy spies or food shortages. Just as an unfortunate Intimacy can penalize your Resolve, a negative Asset can penalize your bureaucratic actions.

    Just like Intimacies, Assets come in different levels, based on the broader power of the asset.
    • Minor or one-dot Assets are extremely small-scale, such as would be relevant for a single village. A skilled mortal craftsman, a couple fishing boats, or friendly elemental could all be Minor Assets. If modifying a bureaucratic action, a Minor Asset adds or subtracts one success.
    • Major or two-dot Assets are more significant, such as would be important for a city. A jade or iron mine, a company of trained soldiers, or a Terrestrial Exalt could all be Major Assets. If modifying a bureaucratic action, a Major Asset adds or subtracts two successes.
    • Royal or three-dot Assets are beyond the reach of most cities, representing a level of power found only in great city-states, established provinces, or small kingdoms. A full legion of trained soldiers, a warstrider with full supporting infrastructure, or a Celestial Exalt could all be Royal Assets. If modifying a bureaucratic action, a Royal Asset adds or subtracts three successes.
    • Imperial or four-dot Assets are the tools of kings—and not the Savage Lands sort of king ruling over a couple dirty villages, either. An army numbering in the tens of thousands, a First Age factory-cathedral, or a legion of bound demons could all be Imperial Assets. If modifying a bureaucratic action, an Imperial Asset adds or subtracts four successes.
    • Defining or five-dot Assets are the sort of things that make the world tremble when they’re deployed. The Guild is one of the few mundane organizations that reach this scale; a state like Lookshy, if not being represented as an entity in its own right, would also qualify as a Defining Asset. If modifying a bureaucratic action, a Defining Asset adds or subtracts five successes.
    Once used, either to benefit a bureaucratic action to accomplish a goal, Assets do not reset. Once you’ve used an Asset to boost a roll or justify an action, it cannot be used again for the rest of the season. This represents material being expended and personal being exhausted.

    Qualities
    Organizations don’t use the standard set of nine Abilities and twenty six Attributes. Even if we put aside issues of complexity, standard Abilities and Attributes don’t always make sense in the context of a large group. Instead, they possess Qualities that lie somewhere between natural abilities and trained skill. Like Attributes, Qualities are represented by dots—they begin with one dot in each, and can increase them to a maximum of five dots. Each organization has the following Qualities:
    • Culture represents an organization’s “soft power”—how much influence it wields through its name alone. A organization with a high Culture score might be the seat of a religion that has spread throughout the direction, a famous center of art or learning, or simply a nation that commands respect through sheer age and inertia.
    • Discipline is similar to an individual’s Resolve, representing your general level of control over your organization. It represents how devoted the organization’s members are, how well they respond to internal inquires and initiatives, and how resistant they are to being corrupted.
    • Duplicity is a measure of an organization's ability to hide its actions from outside observers. A criminal empire masquerading as a legitimate business would make frequent use of Duplicity, as would a nation famed for its spy rings.
    • Economy represents an organization’s wealth and industrial base. A high Economy score does not necessarily mean giant piles of cash—rather, it shows how quickly the organization can take advantage of new opportunities, how skilled they are at arranging trade deals, and so on.
    • Governance represents how generally advanced an organization is. It covers things like public works, bureaucratic skills, and general high-level support of the organization’s members.
    • Military represents an organization's ability to use their troops effectively. It doesn't necessarily represent the number of soldiers or ships you can raise, so much as the skill of your generals, the loyalty of your forces, and your ability to get soldiers where they need to go quickly and with the necessary supplies.
    • Scale represents the organization’s size and scope. When opposing larger organizations, you take a two-die penalty for each point of size difference.
    Scale Description
    1 The organization is the size of a town or hamlet.
    2 The organization is the size of a modest city or spread out over several towns.
    3 The organization is spread out over a small country or is the size of one of Creation’s larger cities such as Chiaroscuro or Nexus.
    4 The organization is the size of a single large country or is spread out over multiple countries. In such cases each province could be an asset unto themselves.
    5 The organization encompasses the area of an entire direction or continent.
    Leadership
    Organizations don’t act on their own. In order to attempt anything which would require a roll, a non-trivial character must lead a concerted effort. This leadership roll functions as a normal check, with a die pool equal to the leader’s Bureaucracy plus the organization’s most relevant Quality. (Treat this as a Wits + Bureaucracy check for the purpose of Excellencies and similar). For certain tasks, such as leading an army or conducting diplomatic negotiations, a different Attribute such as War or Presence can be used with the Storyteller’s approval.

    Organizations act slowly, compared to individuals—even simple actions can take weeks to accomplish. However, unlike individuals, a group can go in multiple directions at once. An organization can attempt a number of simultaneous actions equal to its Scale. Each must be led by a different non-trivial character.

    Bureaucratic Actions
    The most basic bureaucratic action is the Deploy action, which represents using your Assets to accomplish things in the world. Similar to the Persuade social action, you cannot attempt to deploy your organization unless you have a ready Asset of sufficient strength. This is a leadership roll with a difficulty set by the Storyteller (or by an opposing force’s check). Doing so takes one week per dot of the Asset required—if using a Major Asset to accomplish a village-level task, it does not take longer than using a Minor Asset would.

    If you don’t have the asset you need, the Recruitment action is used to recruit a new Asset, or strengthen an existing one. Like the Deploy action, doing so requires you to use another Asset, with a dot rating of one less than the new or strengthened Asset. For these purposes, your organization’s Scale can be treated as an Asset with an equal rating. Significantly, the Recruitment action can’t strengthen an Asset to a higher rating than the organization’s size—only direct accomplishments by the players can do the trick.

    The Recruitment action is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s rating, and takes a number of weeks equal to the Asset’s rating.

    If you don’t have a ready asset, the Restructure action can be used to “recharge” an Asset that’s already been used. This is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s dot rating, and takes one week per dot of the Asset being recharged. On a success, the Asset is strengthened. Restructure can also be used to combine multiple Assets into a single stronger unit (such as three Major mines being combined into a single “Mining Town” Royal Asset) or to divide an existing Asset into multiple smaller ones (such as dividing a legion into component dragons). It can also be used to weaken an existing Asset, typically one that has been imposed on your organization. Doing so is a Leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the dot rating of the Asset being weakened, and taking one week per dot of the Asset's rating. Success weakens the Asset by one step, or removes it entirely if it would be reduced to zero dots.

    If something has gone wrong with your organization, and a foe has secretly sabotaged you, the Evaluate action can be used to discover hidden Assets and similar issue. Doing so is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s rating or your foe’s Espionage, whichever is higher. It can also be used to hide your own assets from foes, or disguise them as something stronger or weaker.

    Finally, the Development action allows you to increase one of your organization's Qualities by one dot, to a maximum of five. Like Deploy, you can't work in a vacuum-- improving a Quality requires you to use a relevant Asset with a rating equal to or higher than the Quality being developed. Doing so is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Quality's new rating, and takes a number of weeks equal to its new rating.

    The exception to this is Scale, which requires the use of three Assets, at least one of which must have a rating equal to the new Scale rating. Going from three dots of Scale to four takes one season, and going from four dots to five takes a full year. There must also be space to expand into--though ambitious empires can certainly make space by conquering their neighbors.

    The Social Influence Parallel
    If it helps to relate bureaucratic actions back to social ones, Deploy is equivalent to Persuade, Recruitment to Instill, Restructure to Inspire, and Evaluate to Read Intentions. Development has no analogue.
    Bureaucratic Conflict
    Things get more complicated when other people get involved, of course. Your organization will often wind up directly competing with a rival, making opposed rolls as you try to accomplish your goals. This still uses the four Bureaucratic actions described above, simply targeting your foe and reversing the effect.

    The Deploy action can be used directly, to force a foe to do what you want—surrender to your armies, place an embargo on a third party, and so on. Just like Persuade, the strength of the Asset required depends on the severity of your demand.

    The Recruitment action, used on a foe, becomes the Interfere action and can be used to weaken one of your foe’s Assets by one step, or impose a negative Asset upon them. You must still use one of your Assets to accomplish the deed, with a dot rating of one less than new Asset or the Asset being weakened. This is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s rating or the target organization’s Loyalty, whichever is higher. If Espionage is used, it’s possible to hide the result from the target until they attempt to use the weakened Asset or complete a successful Evaluate action.

    Restructure, used offensively, becomes Sabotage, and can be used to exhaust one of your foe’s Assets, or dismantle one into smaller units. This is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s rating or the target organization’s Loyalty, whichever is higher. The foe typically cannot tell what was done until they either attempt to use the weakened Asset or complete a successful Evaluate action.

    Evaluate easily becomes Spying, an attempt to discover your foe’s hidden Assets. This is a leadership roll with a difficulty equal to the Asset’s rating or the target organization’s Loyalty, whichever is lower.

    Organizations and Merits
    The Backing, Command, and Cult Merits are replaced by the Leader merit, described below:
    Leader (1-5): You command the loyalty of a group of followers, or even an entire kingdom. This is an organization with a Scale equal to half your rank in the Merit, rounded up. As usual, the organization begins with one dot in each Quality; you may also distribute a number of dots between its other Qualities equal to twice your rank in the Merit. Your organization begins play with a number of Assets equal to its Scale, each with a rank no higher than its Scale.

    In addition, the following Allies, Contacts, Followers, Mentor, and Retainers Merits can provide specific Assets for your organization, with a dot rating equal to the rank of the Merit. Other Merits, such as Artifact or Manse, can potentially be used as Assets, but must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the GM—a daiklave won’t make much of a difference to a city, but a First Age warship might.
    New and Revised Bureaucracy Charms
    Last edited by Grod_the_giant; 02-20-2021, 09:49 PM.

  • #2
    In general looks good. Not sure when I'd get a chance to test it.

    A small suggestion?

    Change Intelligence to Discovery (or something similar). First, it means you're not overlapping names with an Attribute. Second, it would be good to open up the concept to be a bit broader than intelligence gathering in a espionage kind of way. An organizations ability to discover information could be spies, or accountants, or inquisitors, or librarian-savants, or heck divination. Having more flavor available for how information is gathered (or hidden) that isn't going to matter to the specific mechanics is always a plus.

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    • #3
      What does Wealth actually do?



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      • #4
        @Heavyarms-- good call.

        Originally posted by Lioness View Post
        What does Wealth actually do?
        It acts as the merit, but more importantly it gets used for actions that involve throwing money at the problem. You might roll (Bureaucracy + Wealth) as part of an Instill/Recruit action to hire a mercenary company, or a Persuade/Deploy action to bribe an ally with trade deals.

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        • #5
          What does an organisation use its Willpower for? I assume it can spend it when an asset is attacked but that's unclear.
          Last edited by Lioness; 02-08-2021, 05:29 PM.


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          • #6
            Originally posted by Lioness View Post
            What does an organisation use its Willpower for? I assume it can spend it when an asset is attacked but that's unclear.
            Correct.

            ...I should probably be more explicit about what "generally use the social rules" means and actually write out the full text. The core ideas are to give organizations a set of stats (so that the skill of your underlings matters, and you're not just rolling Int/Cha+Bureaucracy every time), represent things like armies and civil engineering projects (and problems to be addressed) in a coherent and meaningful way, and to be able to have a framework for resolving things like "I want to raise an army" or "I want to sign an alliance with these guys" in a sufficiently strategic way. Sandact6 came up with the idea of re-purposing Intimacies, and a couple iterations later, here I am.
            Last edited by Grod_the_giant; 02-10-2021, 12:41 PM.

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            • #7
              The part that I'd have been unclear of from the basic text is the difference between the organisation's willpower and the character's willpower. The intent for me didn't click until I read Relentless Restructuring Regimen, which to be completely fair wouldn't be the first time that'd happened to me with reading Exalted's rules.


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              • #8
                Originally posted by Lioness View Post
                The part that I'd have been unclear of from the basic text is the difference between the organisation's willpower and the character's willpower. The intent for me didn't click until I read Relentless Restructuring Regimen, which to be completely fair wouldn't be the first time that'd happened to me with reading Exalted's rules.
                Irony: And reading your posts, I realized that I didn't have a great answer for "what does Willpower do?" So I got rid of it!

                I've done a significant rewrite of the first post. Not much in the way of actual mechanical changes (expanded Assets into five levels, dropped Willpower, added a Magic quality, expanded on a few actions, changed how Merits fit into things), but hopefully presentation is much easier to follow?

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                • #9
                  This is pretty interesting.

                  I think you use "Size" and "Scale" interchangeably in some cases which threw me a bit. It might also be helpful to enumerate what each level of Scale means, for the points between hamlet and great empire.

                  Second, it was pointed out to me that the note on Excellency use is a bit odd:

                  Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                  Leadership
                  Organizations don’t act on their own. In order to attempt anything which would require a roll, a non-trivial character must lead a concerted effort. This functions as a normal check, with a die pool equal to the leader’s Bureaucracy plus the organization’s most relevant Quality. (An Excellency being used to augment this check treats the Exalt’s Attribute as zero). For certain tasks, such as leading an army or conducting diplomatic negotiations, a different Attribute such as War or Presence can be used with the Storyteller’s approval.
                  As it is, this means Solars can add up to 5 dice, DBs can add up to 6 with a Specialty, and Lunars... are up a creek sans paddle, which I don't imagine you actually intended.

                  Lastly, are there mundane methods of increasing Qualities?

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                  • #10
                    A small clarity point: you use Scale and size interchangeably. For general purposes that's not really a big deal, but if a mechanic uses Scale as a part of the system, it's probably best to make sure you use Scale instead of size in that sentence to be clear about that (ex: "For these purposes, your organization’s Size can be treated as an Asset with an equal rating.").

                    I still kinda wish you'd broaden Espionage a bit, or at least consider having Evaluate have other options than Espionage. If I'm playing a Dynast that's controlling their House and one of the Satrapies seems to be having some weird numbers coming out of their grain productions, why can't I use my Culture rating via my strong ties to the Immaculate Order to have the local monks look into it under the pretense of it being a spiritual issue? Or us my Infrastructure rating to send in my bureaucratic savants to investigate things? It seems weird to have more options to investigate other organizations than you do to check in on what's happening within your own.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Beans View Post
                      This is pretty interesting.

                      I think you use "Size" and "Scale" interchangeably in some cases which threw me a bit. It might also be helpful to enumerate what each level of Scale means, for the points between hamlet and great empire.
                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms View Post
                      A small clarity point: you use Scale and size interchangeably. For general purposes that's not really a big deal, but if a mechanic uses Scale as a part of the system, it's probably best to make sure you use Scale instead of size in that sentence to be clear about that (ex: "For these purposes, your organization’s Size can be treated as an Asset with an equal rating.").
                      Shoot. I'll fix that, and add a chart of sizes.

                      Originally posted by Beans
                      Second, it was pointed out to me that the note on Excellency use is a bit odd:


                      As it is, this means Solars can add up to 5 dice, DBs can add up to 6 with a Specialty, and Lunars... are up a creek sans paddle, which I don't imagine you actually intended.
                      That is not what I intended, no. I'm not sure what the best way to address Excellencies is... maybe say the roll always counts as Wits + Bureaucracy for calculating excellencies and die limits?

                      Lastly, are there mundane methods of increasing Qualities?
                      Whoops-- added the Development action.

                      Originally posted by Heavy Arms
                      I still kinda wish you'd broaden Espionage a bit, or at least consider having Evaluate have other options than Espionage. If I'm playing a Dynast that's controlling their House and one of the Satrapies seems to be having some weird numbers coming out of their grain productions, why can't I use my Culture rating via my strong ties to the Immaculate Order to have the local monks look into it under the pretense of it being a spiritual issue? Or us my Infrastructure rating to send in my bureaucratic savants to investigate things? It seems weird to have more options to investigate other organizations than you do to check in on what's happening within your own.
                      The latter point is why I used "usually" and "typically" language on all the actions; there might be a default but you would use whichever Quality fits the situation best, just like picking Charisma/Appearance/Manipulation in social stuff. I'll make that more clear.

                      As for Espionage... one of the players I'm developing this for is a spymaster, so I've kind of got that on my mind. My concern with broadening it too much is that "we've got lots of sages" and "we've got lots of spies" have a lot of places where they'd don't overlap... maybe if I move the counterespionage stuff to Loyalty as part of a broader "control over your own organization" thing? Rename the latter Control?
                      Last edited by Grod_the_giant; 02-10-2021, 10:32 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                        That is not what I intended, no. I'm not sure what the best way to address Excellencies is... maybe say the roll always counts as Wits + Bureaucracy for calculating excellencies and die limits?
                        I'd probably argue for allowing various Attributes depending on leadership style and the action, like how commanding BGs can be done with a few different Attributes? Intelligence and Charisma feel like pretty fitting ways to run an organization too.

                        If limiting Excellency size had been your intent (which I could understand) my suggestion would have been "half round down normal Excellency, and for DB Excellencies that add successes, just have them add dice instead".

                        EDIT: Should have said earlier, thanks for enumerating the Scale levels and including Development! I'm starting to look at existing Charms in the context of this system, such as how Benevolent Master's Blessing would probably let an NPC act as a leader within the user's organization, or how Unshakeable Mountain Management could possibly be modified to help resist offensive bureaucratic actions.
                        Last edited by Beans; 02-11-2021, 10:34 AM.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                          Irony: And reading your posts, I realized that I didn't have a great answer for "what does Willpower do?" So I got rid of it!

                          I've done a significant rewrite of the first post. Not much in the way of actual mechanical changes (expanded Assets into five levels, dropped Willpower, added a Magic quality, expanded on a few actions, changed how Merits fit into things), but hopefully presentation is much easier to follow?
                          I try to be a helpful sounding board. The intent is much clearer now especially with regard Assets especially.


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                          Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Beans View Post
                            EDIT: Should have said earlier, thanks for enumerating the Scale levels and including Development! I'm starting to look at existing Charms in the context of this system, such as how Benevolent Master's Blessing would probably let an NPC act as a leader within the user's organization, or how Unshakeable Mountain Management could possibly be modified to help resist offensive bureaucratic actions.
                            No problem! And yeah, the next step is probably "rewrite the whole charm set," but... yeesh.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Grod_the_giant View Post
                              As for Espionage... one of the players I'm developing this for is a spymaster, so I've kind of got that on my mind. My concern with broadening it too much is that "we've got lots of sages" and "we've got lots of spies" have a lot of places where they'd don't overlap... maybe if I move the counterespionage stuff to Loyalty as part of a broader "control over your own organization" thing? Rename the latter Control?
                              I don't have the best answer even after taking some time to think about it. I do very much agree, whatever the name, "capacity to gather information, esp. about rivals and enemies internal or external," deserves to be its own Quality given the kind of stories you'd use these mechanics for.

                              What I struggle with is that it stands out as being the lest variable in how it looks. Most of the Qualities can be pictured in meaningfully distinct ways with dozens of possible expressions. Even Scale, the most concrete of them, could be an empire with a strong central power that controls lots of smaller surrounding groups, an alliance of city-states, a trade network, a criminal organization running dojos and tea houses across a given area, etc. Even if mechanically it's below a Quality's resolution to put in a difference between them, when picturing what these organizations look like, I can see how the Qualities let me express the narrative specifics of the organization.

                              Espionage feels, perhaps because it's a specific activity rather than a general descriptor, like it's always going to look the same. It doesn't feel like a fast growing religious cult should need to invest in actual spies (not that they can't, but it shouldn't feel assumed) in order to stamp out heretics or keep their flock from adopting outside ideas; but that's activity that current falls under the Espionage umbrella. No one would bat an eye if you stated up such a cult with Military to represent its not super well trained by highly committed fanatics that will take up arms, but if they rely on soft power to control the faithful rather than distinct spies, it would feel weird to have a high Espionage rating even if that's what the mechanics imply.

                              I could just be getting dug in on the name, but it feels like there's a bit more to it when you compare them.

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