Monday, January 16, 2017

Pulling Rank in Psi-Wars

The next step in looking at our Social Engineering rules is to take a deeper look at Organizations.  This would be the bit where I would first try to argue against Organizations, but I cannot. First, Pulling Rank is right there in GURPS Action.  It's a fundamental element of how Action plays (and, in fact, largely spawned later works on the topic).  I'd need a really good, Star Wars-backed reason to remove it, only Star Wars itself is largely about organizations.  One might describe Star Wars as a battle between the heroic Rebellion (an organization) and the sinister Empire (an organization) while plucky heroes seek the last remnants of the Jedi Order (an organization) for help.  Unlike your typical murder-hobo game, and rather like most modern action thrillers, the characters' actions largely take place in a larger context of a conflict between organizations, and often involves interacting with organizations (like the Hutt Cartel, or the Galactic Senate).

Thus, Psi-Wars is necessarily a game that features organizations as one of its foundations.  This is convenient for us, though, because you may have noticed that organizations serve as natural containers for things like martial arts, cultural distancing mechanisms. military doctrines, and opposing minions.  We might say things like "The empire fights differently than the rebel alliance,"  or "The Order of True Communion offers a different understanding of Communion than the Oracular Monks".  In all these cases, we were already talking about organizations.  Now, we can talk about them in more detail.

As I look into this in more detail, I'll be primarily using three books: GURPS Action 1, and its section on Pulling Rank, then GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank, for an even deeper look at that, and then Boardroom and Curia, for a look at building organizations from the ground up.  Finally, I'll be using GURPS Space for some thoughts on what sorts of organizations to populate my setting with.

GURPS Action 1 and Pulling Rank

GURPS Action 1 introduced me to the idea of pulling rank, which made rank much, much more concrete to me.  Since Psi-Wars uses Action rules as straight as possible, then naturally, we should include these as well.  So how does it currently work?

GURPS Action 1 includes Rank 0-8, and allows bonuses for using your Adminstration skill, having the Smooth Operator Talent (no bonus for Charisma, despite such a reference in GURPS Social Engineering!), and then various additional modifiers.  Success offers a variety of examples of assistance, much of which is highly specific to Action, such as cash amounts, the sort of backup you might get, or references to helicopters and SWAT teams.

All of that is fine, but we've added a few additional caveats, such as Intuitive Statesman adding its benefit, and we might expect some slightly different benefits one can gain from Pulling Rank.   We might also have different rank levels, as Social Engineering suggests that ranks might run all the way up to 12(!) for a galactic organization. Finally, we know back from Psi-Wars and Economics in Iteration 3 that we'll need organizations to have their own wealth level

Social Engineering: Pulling Rank and Boardroom and Curia

"Hey, I wanted to use Communion, but I had to modify it, because I don't own as many books as you."
-A Ladder, paraphrased.
Right!  I have a rather extensive collection of books and I regularly reference them but do not publish anything in them, because I want to encourage you to buy them, but this can make Psi-Wars rather difficult to run.  Ideally, I think you should be able to get away with just GURPS, GURPS Action 2, Ultra-Tech, Psionic Powers, Spaceships and Martial Arts, which is already a rather extensive collection (but the sort of collection a lot of GURPS gamers have).  If I start running around asking you to have more obscure books, it might cause a problem. Nonetheless, Social Engineering: Pulling Rank and Boardroom and Curia are pretty key to understanding and building organizations, so I'll have to find some compromise point between using (and encouraging you to use) the tools available to me, and in requiring you to add yet more works to your library.

So what's in these books?

Pulling Rank


Pulling Rank discusses, first, variant rank prices. I'd like to avoid this.  Action and everything else prices Rank at 5/level, which is nice, simple and easy and doesn't require extensive fiddling.  That said, it also has rules for various Patron costs interact with 5-point Ranks.  Social Engineering suggested mini-societies and macro-societies, which we can extrapolate into small organizations that cap out at Rank 6 and large organizations that cap out at Rank 10, and then work out what levels of rank buy you.

The rules for calling on assistance add new optional skills (which might be specific per organization), Charisma is returned, and Reputation is added, if the organization adds formal reputation.

Finally, Pulling Rank looks at the sort of assistance an organization can provide.  This strikes me as the most interesting.  It varies from organization size to the sort of organization it is.

Thus, Pulling Rank allows us to customize our organizations: We can have variant organization sizes, variant skills to call on their assistance, and unique benefits for accessing organizations.

Boardroom and Curia

Boardroom and Curia is more about designing organizations themselves.  A lot of this falls outside of the scope of what matters for Psi-Wars, as our characters aren't conspirators or movers and shakers who conjure up and manipulate whole organizations so much as people who fight with a backdrop of organizations.  That said, Boardroom and Curia has some interesting advice.

When it comes to Orgnaization Stats, TL is obviously TL 11^ and wealth definitely matters. It represents how much money an organization can offer you, and how much you have to have to join is (That is, it will raise you to that minimum level should you join).  Contact Skill is hard to peg down, but they recommend later in the book of allowing organizations to provide NPCs with combat stats equal to their contact skill-3.  This captures what we've been doing for Minions all along: Contact skill 12 = skill 9, Contact-skill 15 = skill 12, and so on.  Member Traits represent some interesting options and minimums a character who joins the organization might have.  This mostly encourages us to think about traits we might associate with the organization, if any.  Costs and Values includes a lot of irrelevant information that I would rather bake into the Patron Value.  The Empire is big, the Alliance is smaller, that's all that really matters, though I suppose Resource Value might change some based on wealth.  Social Attributes are very interesting, as they provide a basis to look at what sort of Pulling Rank benefits an organization might provide. Control Rating and Loyalty have to do with trying to manipulate or control members of the organization.  I'd rather bury this behind BAD.  Then we have rank, which covers how much rank an organization has, and what sort, income range which is again more detail than we need, reputation which we probably won't need to discuss (obviously, our Jedi Order has a better reputation than the Empire, but I'm skeptical of the need to reflect that in play), and Notes, which is a tiny little section full of great little ideas, like cool technologies or techniques you can access, or membership requirements, or other organizations, and so on.  All worth considering: mostly fluff, but useful fluff!

When it comes to Organization in play, everything in Facing an Organization looks like something that should be covered by BAD.  That is, rather than worrying about specific loyalty or the difficulty of infiltrating an organization, just determine the BAD of an organization and use that.  Note that this can and should vary: Trying to corrupt or infiltrate the Emperor's Elite is an entirely different matter than getting past the worst two imperial troopers stationed alone in an imperial backwater.   The section on Pulling Rank is golden and we'll use it at the basis for determining what an organization can do.  Reaction Time is not interesting to us (Aid shows up when the GM says, usually either immediately or "in the nick of time). Starting and Running an organization do not interest us.  That's not what the PCs generally do.

For the rest, I'm afraid, you'll have to tune in tomorrow.  It turned out to be more than I could handle in a single post.
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