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

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  • Paddon
    replied
    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).

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

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  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    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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  • NeoTiamat
    replied
    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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  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    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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  • NeoTiamat
    replied
    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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  • Heavy Arms
    replied
    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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  • Leetsepeak
    replied
    Those were my thoughts exactly. I'm thinking I'll adopt these rules as well, just with a focus on the narrative component of their use rather than talking about mechanics too much.

    Much obliged for another interesting system.

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  • NeoTiamat
    replied
    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.

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  • ElvesofZion
    replied
    I like it. I think I'll use this for Agencies and cults in my Demon game.

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  • Leetsepeak
    replied
    You're right. Since this is working outside the remit of the Experiences system anyway, that makes sense.

    Out of curiousity, does this system of organizations come up a lot in your games? Do your players engage with the mechanics or just their effect on the narrative?

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  • NeoTiamat
    replied
    Well, there's a reason for the quadratic costs, to use your term. Each dot of Grasp or Reach is noticeably more powerful than the one before it. Grasp 8 is much better than Grasp 4 and Reach 4. Hence the growing cost and the Rank-based caps, to prevent really lopsided organizations (the great Mafiya syndicate that can't even get someone to go to the library -- all Grasp and no Reach).

    If you want it linear, I would make it much less. A Rank 4 organization would have 12 points total, plus Drawbacks, and each benefit gives you one of each. But you'd have to keep a firm eye on the organizational distribution to prevent shenanigans.

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  • Leetsepeak
    replied
    Question: So organization advancement uses Quadratic Costs. Do you have any suggestions for converting that to use the more linear Experiences system in Blood & Smoke?

    I'm thinking you can just divide the totals given for each rank by 5, but that'll sort of lime it you. What if you divide them by five, then double them?

    So a Rank 4 organization let's say, gets 20 Organization Experiences to spend on their benefits. Each one costs 1 Experience. Each Drawback gives you 1 Experience.

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  • ErikModi
    replied
    Hmm, very nice. I may yoink some of this to add to my Mafia rules.

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  • NeoTiamat
    replied
    Drawbacks

    Structural
    Parochial (Requires Rank 2+): Perhaps the group just has an obsessive focus on one place, or perhaps they're tied to a specific ethnic community. Either way, the organization has full power in its little slice of territory, and has a harder time projecting influence outside. The penalties for Regional, National, and International uses of Reach & Grasp are increased by 1 each, to -3/-6/-9.
    Difficult Neighbors (Requires Rank 2+): ...and not just because they never return the sugar they borrowed. The organization shares its home territory with some kind of supernatural presence with which it can interact only poorly -- the area is heavily haunted and you're a mortal, it's riddled with Trods, there are a lot of spirits and you're not a werewolf, and so forth. They're not necessarily hostile, but they can become so if the organization isn't careful. If the neighbors are antagonized, the organization takes a -2 to Reach and Grasp from their interference until they can be somehow placated.
    Unclear Leadership So who's actually in charge here? This is what happens when organizations are too free with Status: the organization has more than one person who is capable of deploying its resources, and -- this is the important part -- they don't necessarily coordinate or see eye-to-eye on most things. In addition to the usual problems of getting involved in things, in any adventure where two or more leaders are present, the organization suffers a -2 to Reach and Grasp from being pulled in too many directions.
    Glorious Leader: What the Boss says, goes. Which is a bit of a problem when the Boss isn't around to say anything. This is a very hierarchical organization, and the person in charge doesn't like to delegate power. If the leader of the organization is not on-screen and directing events, then the organization takes a -2 to Reach and Grasp as subordinates lack the authority to get things done.
    Disorganized This is a group that tends to have a hard time getting all of its ducks lined up in a row. It muddles along most of the time, but when confronted with other organizations, it tends to flounder. Its Rank is treated as 1 less for the purposes of Blocking or being Blocked.
    Impoverished (Requires Rank 3+): The organization’s coffers are emptier than a vampire’s heart. It has Resources equal to Rank-1.
    Violence-Impaired (Requires Rank 3+): This is an organization seriously lacking in thug-power. They might be very bookish, very moral, or very cowardly, but there's a distinct absence of leg-breakers in the membership. Subtract the organization's Rank from the successes to be spent on combat minions.

    Membership
    Dues: As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." This Drawback covers the latter. Members reduce their Resources dots by 1 at Status 1, 3, and 5 -- if this were to bring them below 0, they do not gain the benefit of Status until they raise their Resources.
    Tithe: Not all of a supernatural organization's tasks can be easily accomplished with money alone. Cults and covenants need blood or essence or glamour, and these organizations take it from their membership. A member's minimum starting fuel is reduced by Status, to a minimum of 1.
    The Madness of the Crowd: We don't suffer from insanity, we enjoy every minute of it! Members take a -1 penalty to Innocence rolls for Breaking Points, Frenzy, Death Rage, and similar at Status 1, 3, and 5.
    Creepy: One horrible monster is bad enough, but how about when there's a whole gang of them? Whether due to their personal inhumanity or simply poor social skills, the organization's membership isn't terribly charming, and the effect is worse when they're in groups. Members take a -1 penalty to Persuasion (Make a Deal) rolls at Status 1, 3, and 5.
    Marked: All members of the organization are marked in some specific, visible fashion. They might all have membership tattoos like the Russian Mafiya or the Yakuza, or they may all gain mutations from worshiping some alien creature down a well. Regardless of the specific form, anyone familiar with the organization can spot Marked members on sight, and even the ignorant can notice that something's up ("Why do all those guys have a blue tattoo on their wrist?"). Members take a -1 penalty to Subterfuge (Disguise) rolls at Status 1, 3, and 5.

    Miscellaneous
    Saintly: Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. The organization has a powerful moral code that looks down on the kind of illicit shenanigans that comprise much of Grasp. Whenever organization members are called upon to do an action that harms another (so assault, arson, larceny, murder, but not covering up deaths, acquiring fake papers, or self-defense), the organization's leadership has to roll either Presence+Persuasion or Manipulation+Intimidation, minus the Grasp rating of the action. On a success, the action is carried out; on a failure, nothing happens; on a dramatic failure, the leader in question loses a dot of Status.
    Wrath of Murphy: Anything that can go wrong, will. Every time the organization uses its Reach or Grasp, the GM rolls a chance dice. If it comes up a 1, then something goes dramatically wrong for the organization -- usually in the most entertaining fashion possible.
    Treacherous, Stupid, or Both?: Getting the organization to do what its leadership wants it to is an exercise in herding cats. Rabid cats, possibly. Every time the organization uses its Reach or Grasp, the GM rolls a chance dice. If it comes up a 1, then the organization does something else -- usually not what the leadership wanted it to.
    It's Loose! It's Loose!: Frankenstein would have been proud. The organization regularly has issues with peculiar and uncanny horrors occurring on their turf -- maybe they just have very poor experimental procedures when trying to pervert the fabric of the world, or the local fabric comes pre-perverted and they just suck at keeping it under control. At the start of each adventure the GM rolls a chance dice. If it comes up a 1, then an entity with a Rank equal to the Organization's manifests and is hostile to the organization. The specifics will vary from organization to organization (unhappy spirits, happy demons, grumpy elder vampires, inscrutable Abyssal horrors, etc), and it could be simply a supernatural effect that is equivalent in danger to a creature of appropriate Rank.
    Last edited by NeoTiamat; 06-30-2014, 12:53 PM.

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