Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My notes on Organization in TRPGs

These notes serve to help the GM or Player think and imagine an organization scaled up or down. When the gamer thinks of organizations he can imagine those up the chain, around, and below the group. This helps imagine the chaos, the conflict, the challenges and problems of all these inefficiently coordinating groups, and how to use the friction as providing a rich source of interesting elements in the game. .

Defining an Organization for a Game

The most basic and easiest way to approach the organization is treating them as an entity like a character.  Seeing to tackle organizations in any game system. 

  1. Identify the Organization. the name or what they can be called. 
    1. Determine their Reputation.
      1. this is what groups positively or negatively associate with them. 
      2. how hard it is to know of them. the simple mechanic is making it harder and harder for every step the PC is removed from knowing the group.  
  2. Determine its Size or Scale
    1. from a Team, to a Platoon, or to a Brigade (you may use Military Grouping as a useful mnemonic). 
      1. determine subgroups or internal organization and their size/scale. 
  3. Determine its Scope and Purpose. 
    1. What does this organization do? 
      1. keywords or categories they fall into. 
    2. Follow the Money, how does this organization support itself? 
      1. Determine the Assets Value
        1. Typically this is (2% times Administrator's skill, times average wealth level) of its Operations Cost for the years its operated to put it simply. 
        2. Note that speedily liquidated assets lose a lot of their value (1/2 to 1/10 its value).   
      2. Determine the Annual Operations Cost - Revenues
      3. Determine Reserves. x0.25 of Operations per year of ops times (the average margin of success or failure )  
  4. Determine its most Influential or Important members.
    1. Determine its secondary key members and redundancies
  5. Determine its Vulnerabilities. 
Non-Cash in low Tech
Low tech tends to be Cash poor. typically 1-10% of all these taxes are in cash the rest in in kind. They typically go to Maintenance and upkeep since a lot of everything in low tech tend degrade over time (wooden structures rot in a year without constant upkeep, with very good upkeep slowly integrates stone improvements).


  1. Identify the Organization: 
    1. The Office of the Logothete of Opsikion 
      1. Positive reputation to those who reap the benefits of their taxation. 
      2. Generally negative for all those who are taxed. 
    2. The Band of the Red Ravens 
      1. A positive reputation for their previous employers save the Duchy of Elrand. 
      2. Negative reputation to the enemies of these past employers and Duchy of Elrand. 
      3. Neutral states and groups tend to have a positive reaction to them because of their competence BUT most people who have interacted with them have a negative reaction to them because of their use of magic and arcane methods. 
  2. Determine its Size or Scale
    1. Logothete of Opsikion - The region has a population 1 million in 1080s (the time of the Alexiad) but the Logothete itself only has 200 members carrying the office. With members at the lowest rank are Scribes, to Couriers, and Magistrates. They have about 80 other support servants. They are given authority to draw from the Osikion Theme for military support, but that depends on the relationship of the Logothete, the Dux of Opsikion, and the Emperor.  
      1. Teams of Scribes of 3-5, there are 20 of such. 15 are moving seasonally. 
      2. Teams of Couriers of 3, some are lead by a magistrate. 20 of such constantly moving 
    2. the Red Ravens - they are actually a squadron or platoon of 30 members.
      1. 2 teams of 4 in reserve, rotating. 
      2. 5 teams of 4ish on operation.  
  3. Determine its Scope and Purpose. 
    1. What does this Organization do? 
      1. The Logethete of Opsikion administers the Province of about  50 thousand households, about 30,000 sqkm, and about 20 million in GURPS usd in kind, duties, service obligations, and 1% in coinage. 
      2. The Red Ravens. They are a squadron of scouts that take their name from their employment of raven familiars and other trained ravens in their information gathering and communication. They have a signature binding process that reddens some of the feathers of the ravens they bond with. 
    2. Follow the Money, how does this organization support itself?   
      1. The Logethete of Opsikion is funded by a percentage taxes they collect and from the support of its Patron. They maintain the administration and the ability to tax and deal with the debt many have when they fail to pay their taxes. 
        1. Taxation, Administration, Intelligence/Census
        2. Assets: 9M (2 * 13 skill * 8 years * wealth level of x2 =x4.16 of ops)
        3. Operations Cost  2.9M/ 20% of gross taxes (from the 20M in taxation)
        4. Reserves: 8.7M 
      2. The Red Ravens charge a premium of 15 silver pounds per month plus a long list of expenses in horses, equipment, and tools. Their pay doubles in wartime activities (when a side has clearly declared war or battle). 
        1. Recon, Stealth, Light Cavalry, Magic
        2. Assets: (2 * 14 skill * 6 years * wealth level x3) 
        3. Operations Cost 720k / 2.9M (90% in kind)
          1. They charge about 3x monthly operations expenses in kind. Remounts, rations, equipment, and much of the CoL taken care off by the employer. 
        4. Reserves. They've had a challenging recovery since Duchy of Elrad 3 years ago. they only have 360K in cash reserves. 
  4. Determine its most Influential or Important members.
    1. the Logothete of Opsikion 
      1. Mathaios of Akropolites is the 58 year old mayor of Prusse (modern day Bursa). A patriarch of his dynasty and sponsoring his eldest son in the court of Nikephoros III but was quick to withdraw and come back to court pledging allegiance to Alexios.  
      2. Irene, his daughter of 26, has been at his side in running the Province and actually knows where all the bodies are buried. She has managed the province despite the many bungles of her husband Iohanness of Palailogos. 
    2. The Red Ravens. 
      1. Nikomedos "the great raven" runs the squadron with his nephew Ramwren. He took over when Ramwrens father was imprisoned in a coup that left their land devasted and probably for the better. With their wealth and special skills they left their land to rent their services as mercenaries.    
      2. Ramwren is his uncle's squire but serves more as combat front line in many of the night skirmishes that is part of their operation. He is well rounded in his skills and persistent in his training, unfortunately there is some great anger in him when he learned of his father's sins.
  5. Determine its Vulnerabilities. 
    1.  The logothete is an administration and has been competently run in the past 30 years, and only in the last 8 has been proving to be thriving. Their major problem is the lack of educated men of action to draw from and their convoluted bureaucracy that only Mathaios and Irene seem to understand. They are relatively fast compared to the other Logothetes but suffer from their less influence in the emperors court and their start up resources. 
    2. The Red Ravens key vulnerability is the wide age and skill gap between Nikodemus and the rest of the team leaders. A veteran of running the Black offices for nearly 10 years Nikodemus is rare and has an unusual set of skills. Skills he's not been able to successfully transfer to those he trusts and his only heir: he brothers son. 

In summary

  1. Name (Reputation)
  2. Size (Organization)
  3. Purpose/Function
    1. Assets
    2. Ops Cost / Revenues (What they Charge)
    3. Reserves 
  4. Key People
  5. Vulnerabilities

Organization and Roles

The simplest way to approach to populate an organization is to look at roles. There is the assigning and sorting Roles or Functions that make up any level of organization. It takes Professional Knowledge to know the roles and how they relate to each other. 

In any time the GM or Player looks at an Organization he may need to sketch out or ask about the roles. The two primary roles in organization are Support and Operations. 

Operations (Key Activity) 
Operations are the key activity or has the most direct relationship to the final product. In manufacturing its called production, in construction its called construction, in IT its programming, in the military its fighting, etc... 
Support is all the other activities that is indirect to key activity or final product. Support has task of Organization, Recruitment, Training, various Human Resource management roles, Accounting, Documentation or Reporting, even Leadership, Quality Control, etc...

Backup and Shifts
Considering what kind of work the organization has consider back up or additional manpower needed for a particular role or operation. In TRPGs this means elements of an organization have secondary roles or may have some critical vulnerabilities with the lack of redundancy or back up personnel. Its always much easier ,

Teamwork and leadership
After the Support and Operations there is another set of roles relating to Leadership and Teamwork. Secondary roles and characters may exist to fill these leadership or important teamwork roles. Some characters have a primary role as a Leader, while some organizations have leaders that are highly trained with everyone else being disposable, while some organizations have mesh-type teamwork that can survive a loss of a leader. 

GURPS and Organizations

The board room and the curia is a special splat book for Organization.
If you don't have the book above you can pretty much keep notes of an organization using the some repurposed GURPS stats.

  • Name (Reputation)
    • reputation by association
    • how legitimate members are identified and signaled
  • Size (Organization)
    • sub grous
  • Purpose/Function
    1. Key skill. the organizations general competence in performing its role. This is usually from 9 to 12 with TDM of the conditions giving a -4 to a +4 modifier.  
    2. Assets
    3. Ops Cost / Revenues (What they Charge). 
      1. just take a CoL and Income level, but I recommend annualize it. 
    4. Reserves 
  • Key People
  • Vulnerabilities

Key Heuristics

Learning these useful heuristics help inform in dealing with organizations. 

  • Rule of 3 and 10 in Organizational Size
    • how it works: every time an organization triples or decuples that roles and tasks groups need to be re-arranged.  Its a signal to reorganize or in anticipation of changes in structure to reorganize. It fits perfectly with the military rule of thirds and military grouping structure.  
  • (Military) rule of thirds.
    • how it works: basically divide your resources or force by 3. One part is used in operations (or what counts as direct desired output, in manufacturing this would be considered production), one is in support (support could be flanking, guard, logsitics, etc..), and one part in reserve or being moved around between support and operations.
      Typically used in conjuction with Miligary Grouping Structure. 
  • Brooke's Law
    • How it works: Manpower has factors of coordination and information that take time and effort. That in an N amount of Elements/People the number of one to one communication channels is equal to N^2.
      Example. If we have 10 members, and If each member has 1-hour-bit of information to pass then we would have 10^2 * 1-bit-hour to get everyone up to speed.
      This rule is useful in being able to look at the mental "bandwidth" an organization will need or go through and all the factors around information channels like data-degredation and misinformaiton that will factor in.
      Finally if one is going to tackle the corrdination problem it gives a sense of scale and scope how to deal with this problem one bit at a time. 
  • Military Grouping Structure
    • How it works: Use military grouping structure in naming what the various sizes of the groups. It's easier to use because there are built in roles within a group.
      Example:  Using a 100 or so people group a company, a group of 3-7 a team, or 300 group a battalion etc..
      It helps to think of the groupings as levels. A team is two levels below platoon. A Platoon is 4 levels below a Brigade. 
    • Example
    • 3 Team
    • 10 Squad/Section
    • 30 Platoon
    • 100 Company
    • 300 Battalion 
    • 1000 Regiment 
    • etc..

Related Posts

No comments: