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New System: Organization Rules (Cults, Conspiracies, Orders and Covenants)

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  • #16
    Originally posted by NeoTiamat View Post
    I will be honest and say the system does not get used an awful lot. It does come up periodically, but both my player-run organizations are steadfastly apolitical and neutral. That said, I do think it helps in that it lets you keep track of who's who and how powerful people are, which serves a clarifying function.
    Well I see some good stuff in here, I think there's a few problems in terms of getting players to use it.

    1) Starting your own organization is somewhat tedious and slow. A PC group of five players in a coterie/pack/cabal/etc. need to all get Status 5 that only applies to their own small group of five people (essentially having no function until they've all invested it) and then then need an Advance to actually be able to do anything (and you never really say what happens if a Rank 0 or 1 organization doesn't get an Advance since they, by the rules, need zero Reverses to deteriorate). And then you get pretty much nothing that you couldn't have gotten by buying other Merits directly/Status in existing organizations. You have to push to Rank 3 or 4 to really have enough oomph behind a PC organization to see a real return on the effort. That's a minimum of six consecutive Advances (which seems rather difficult to actually pull off and means at least six full adventures of game play).

    2) There is a lot of tracking to do for a single organization. As a player who is liking to be running one or maybe two over time, that's not a big deal. But if I were running the game, I'd need to stat up every relevant organization for the players' organizations to interact with. Even if it is just a quick Rank/Reach/Grasp rating, I need to add that to every significant organization in the area, or the PC organizations can't interact with them via this system.

    3) It puts a pretty big disincentive towards having multiple overlapping organizations that a character belongs to. In a normal game a character could easily have their PC group, a mundane organization, and multiple larger level supernatural organizations they belong to. A Guardian Moros detective has his cabal, his job as a cop, his Order, and his Consilium to deal with. That's four organizations they need to track the benefits/drawbacks for, and four organizations constantly pressuring them into various things. If this mage wants to make a name for himself in the Consilium by getting it Advances, he's probably going to have to put aside pushing for Advances in the other groups and hope that someone else manages in his place. If it looks like his cabal might take a Reverse (which they really can't afford), he could avert it, but he'd lose all his progress on the Consilium unless someone else manages to push for an Advance (but that also means he's giving up any social gains and someone else is getting credit for taking over his hard work).

    I guess I just don't see the net benefit here. It isn't that the systems are bad, but the work for implementing them seems to not be worth the benefits they provide. It removes a lot of the focus from the players and their characters to put it instead on organizational maneuvering (and it seems painfully easy for said maneuvering to be taken out of their control by either being in someone else's organization and not being able to stop another group from costing the whole a Reverse, or running a big show and dealing with underlings causing Reverses).

    If I wanted to run a game where the PCs hand climbed up the rungs and are running the show, I don't think I would use this over the Primacy rules in Damnation City generalized to a wider range of organizations. It keeps the game about the characters and their control over the local organizations rather than moving the game from being about the characters to being about the organizations they belong to.

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    • #17
      First off, thank you very much for the comments. These are good, and they're going to be helpful when I eventually return to Organizations and do some overhauls (miiiiight be a while though, I've a full plate and organizations are way back on the to-do list).

      Some random thoughts in response
      1) The process is intended to be slow, though I may have overdone it. Essentially, the idea is that a group of wannabes shouldn't be able to create a rival to the local Consilium without some epic work. I will note that in the cases where groups have actually been rising and falling in-game, it's most often been as a result of cannibalizing other groups, which serves as a leg-up. Actually recruiting and building things from scratch is fairly rare. I'll have to look at this again.
      2) I don't think that the tracking is too bad, but then I rarely bother to stat anything below Rank 3, and even in my enormous, sprawling campaign that works out to about a dozen factions. Below that, few factions have that important powers that it's too relevant. That said, I have run into situations where the situational benefits of factions get forgotten (my players already have a lot of stuff on their character sheets), which is something I'm thinking of how to handle. Essentially, I am considering streamlining the system a decent bit.
      3) I see what you're saying, but I'm not completely certain it's a bug as opposed to a feature. In other words... someone with that many different commitments probably should have serious issues of conflicting loyalties. At the same time, I think easing up on the advance/reverse thing may make this a simpler process, and I'm trying to figure out how to handle overlapping memberships in groups.

      As far as Primacy goes... different systems for different purposes, I suppose? This thing was mostly designed as a way to evaluate and judge what various Big Groups in my campaign could do, and how they stacked up against one another. I concede that it still needs some kinks worked out though. >_> Anyway, thank you for the advice, and I will take it under consideration!


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      • #18
        I think my biggest concern when looking at my response is player buy-in.

        I think a lot of what you're looking at in terms of features are more ST tools. They're not things the players are going to play with (at least directly), they're things for the ST to stat up groups as a guideline of what that group is capable of doing on a larger scale. I think a lot of the "clunk" to be streamlined comes, essentially, from trying to bolt PC-level stuff into a system for treating individual organizations as NPCs. It is one of the reasons I look to Primacy for this sort of thing. Primacy is more player oriented.

        A solution could be to just hack out Rank 0-2. Things like the default PC level groups and small specialist groups like Bloodlines just don't operate on this scale (or if they do, they're impressively powerful for such a group). This removes the "speed bump" of a lot of in and out-of-character resources being spent to just get to Rank 3 in the first place. The formation of a Rank 3 entity doesn't need to have a lot of system behind it. Whether it's a cabal that's grown large enough that it operates as essentially three cabals with the oldest members in one and the youngsters in the others follow orders, or four packs coming together and the alphas agreeing to equal leadership positions in their efforts to organize the city's werewolves against bigger threats, that can all be a matter of role-playing and common-sense expenditures. Once they hit that point, however they got there, they can start playing in the Organization arena.

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        • #19
          You are, I think, onto something. I'll go look at Primacy some more when I tackle this. Have any first-hand testimonials on it?


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          • #20
            I've never run a game that progressed from starting level to the point where Primacy game into play. But we tested out Primacy once. It worked well and seemed to do a good job of making the players feel like spiders in the middle of their webs of influence. It was definitely a lot more fun that past experience with old PCs (in a cWOD game) constantly raising things like Allies to represent all their pawns.

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            • #21
              *nod* Duly noted. I'll have to look it over again, clearly.


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              • #22
                Firstly, loved your system on the old forums, and I still like 'em.

                That said, I don't agree with Status 5 being required, nor even with being bought. I tend to have Status be levels of group members beneath you, essentially where you are in the caste system. So in that framework, each group would start off with Status 0. When they get newer members, the original members go up to Status 1. When they branch out and start using the neighboring institutions and diversify their interests, the original members go up to Status 2, the newer members to Status 1, and the hired lackeys are Status 0. When there are more members who join the power structure with the newer members, essentially "middle management", the original members are Status 3, the middle members are Status 1 and 2 (depending on the individual position), and the hired lackeys are still Status 0. I've found this encourages players who want Status to either gain a promotion or grow the institution beneath them.

                If I were to use your system (And I am tempted to do so!), I'd say the maximum Rank of an organization is the highest Status of all of its' members, and the maximum of any of Reach, Grasp, and Benefits is twice the Rank (not factoring in any Benefits).


                Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. Four times is Infrastructure.

                Rule #2: Never let the game-mechanics get in the way of a good story.

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                • #23
                  Not a bad idea. I'll have to think about it. Rank is to some extent a proxy for organizational complexity, so makes sense that higher Ranks means more variation of Status.


                  GM of the Walking Shadow Campaigns
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                  • #24
                    I'd also be interested in your take on one organization investigating another. I would presume it would be contested via Blocking, with successes leading to learning more about the infrastructure, Reach, Grasp, or Benefits? At least, failing should give *some* information, namely how did they shut the investigation down.


                    Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action. Four times is Infrastructure.

                    Rule #2: Never let the game-mechanics get in the way of a good story.

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                    • #25
                      That seems reasonable enough for me. Or I might simply have it be a contested roll between whichever of Reach+Rank and Grasp+Rank seems most relevant, assuming there isn't a handy PC to involve in the investigation.


                      GM of the Walking Shadow Campaigns
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                      • #26
                        While not the best written subsystem, Geist's krew mechanics fit the same sort of conceptual space. I don't suppose you'd give them a once over and demonstrate how to model them in your system?


                        Thoughts ripple out, birthing others

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                        • #27
                          I definitely would like to see an example organization. Otherwise, I like this quite a lot.


                          I have decided, after some thought, that I don't really feel happy on these forums. I might decide to come back to post. Who knows - but right now, I'm gone.

                          So good bye, good luck, and have a nice day.

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                          • #28
                            I've actually streamlined the system in recent months, so I should put up the newer version. And then I can put up a few sample organizations, certainly.

                            I'll also take a look-see at the Krewe material, yes.


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                            • #29
                              So! Updated the system to reflect the rules I am using at present -- still room to tinker (I'm particularly trying to come up with new, good Drawbacks).

                              Now for some sample organizations:

                              The Invictus!
                              Rank: 5th
                              Reach 8; Grasp 8
                              Benefits: Pull; Well-Paid; Wealthy
                              Drawbacks: Treacherous, Stupid, or Both?; The Madness of the Crowds

                              Basically, they have lots and lots and LOTS of money, and a great deal of influence should they choose to use it. Members also get to trade on their cachet as members of the local mini-Illuminati. The catch? It's a whole society of Patrick Batemans.

                              The Ordo Dracul!

                              Rank: 3rd
                              Reach 5; Grasp 4
                              Benefits: Scholarly; Proprietary Magic (The Coils of the Dragon)
                              Drawbacks: Disorganized

                              Smaller in my game, but they have access to enormous libraries, and of course, the Coils of the Dragon. On the downside, due to the small size, there's only about seven Sworn total, which means that the leadership structures are a bit chaotic.

                              The Temple Guard!

                              Rank: 2nd
                              Reach 2; Grasp 4
                              Totem: Shadow Cipher (Rank 2: Investigation +2, Occult +1)
                              Benefits: Influence (Criminal); Where the Bodies are Buried
                              Drawbacks: Parochial

                              A pack of werewolf information brokers, with links to the criminal underworld and a lot of secrets, but which fades very rapidly outside of London.


                              GM of the Walking Shadow Campaigns
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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by NeoTiamat View Post
                                The Ordo Dracul![/FONT][/COLOR]
                                Rank: 3rd
                                Reach 5; Grasp 4
                                Benefits: Scholarly; Proprietary Magic (The Coils of the Dragon)
                                Drawbacks[COLOR=#000000][FONT=tahoma]: Disorganized

                                Smaller in my game, but they have access to enormous libraries, and of course, the Coils of the Dragon. On the downside, due to the small size, there's only about seven Sworn total, which means that the leadership structures are a bit chaotic.

                                As far as my experience says smaller size means better organisation. Among 7 people, one person can effectively organise them... One cannot effectively organise a group of 50. Of course, leadership in such a group probably comes down to 1-2 people tops, but it's much easier to navigate the organisation due to it's small size


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