RPPR Episode 139: Chains of Command

News: To celebrate the release of the first episode of our first Base Raiders campaign, I have put the main book on sale! Get Base Raiders in print for 30% off!

Synopsis:Instead of being lonely murderhobos, player characters can start and lead organizations in many games. Tom, Dan, and I discuss how to run a campaign about building an organization and how it differs from a standard campaign. The degree of new game mechanics necessary to run such a game varies so it’s possible to run this style of campaign in nearly any RPG. However, picking a game that has focused mechanics may result in a more engaging game. We also have shout outs and anecdotes!


Song: Unfinished Business by Hong Kong Express

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  1. Just in time! We’re starting a campaign based around this exact premise next month. Thanks RPPR!

  2. I’m listening to this as I’m 3 to 4 sessions deep into a Blades in the Dark campaign, and it’s really highlighting how good that game is. I’m sure some of it comes down to our GM, but a lot of this stuff is kind of addressed with in the trappings of Blades already.

    I think if you’re going to do an organisation game, the players need to be from one org.
    Like the organisations in Ross’ Iron Heroes game really felt like after thoughts.
    As a person from Dan’s game, I think (in hindsight) the orgs might have worked better if rather than each player making one, the players should have paired or grouped up and had a few factions. Cause then it would have been more like folks working as parts of a taskforce/alliance.

    But you know, good episode.

  3. Seconding Blades in the Dark as a game with a great (and eminently hackable/re-skinnable) system for handling organization building.

    Honestly, it’s a game that I’d love to see RPPR take on in a campaign at some point.

  4. I would love to see Caleb all over Blades in the Dark.

  5. Im surprised lords of waterdeep is just now getting mentioned such a good game.

  6. I have some experience with this topic!

    I actually ran a whole Team Rocket (from Pokemon) themed game using Monsters and Other Childish Things. The player characters were framed to take a fall and were kicked out of the main Team by an executive trying to subvert it from within.

    So we ended up with three groups: the original Team Rocket, the Conspiracy, and the players. The players eventually formed their own small organization, then crushed the people who had framed them, restored their reputations, and rejoined the rest of Team Rocket.

    I though it worked overall, but even with an ORE base, not everyone engaged with the Company rules as much as I was expecting.

    The idea of Company stats worked great and everyone was just gleeful as they got to improve their own subgroup after absorbing the Conspiracy group. The stats also provided a way (besides fiat) to limit what they could assign minions to at a given time. And everyone enjoyed investing their experience points into making their subgroup cooler and more powerful, while personalizing its strengths.

    However, they didn’t really get into the whole system of Company actions or the idea of taking on any other organizations in the world.

    I definitely think it added to the game, but I think it’s also good to scale back the level of rules-ness based on how your players are responding.

    I notice an overall trend (based on both the experiences mentioned here and others) where GMs are really excited about the Reign Company rules, but that players don’t click with them as much. I think some of it is that many players don’t mind the organization being a framing device or somewhat grounded in fiat – especially if it means they don’t have to keep track of more stuff.

    As always, lots of great thoughts. I think Fate Accelerated would provide a lighter way to keep track of the different aspects/strengths of an organization that might be more easily adaptable than Reign.

  7. Dan! I miss our 5th Ed games! They were fun times!

    As a side note, I would have been happy to carry on with just having the companies devolve into a framing device for dungeon delving and PC sideplot/fun. I know I enjoyed having something grounding my character into the world beyond the typical murder-hoboing.

  8. I am also starting Kingmaker and I’m talking my group into using FAE for running the kingdom

  9. As someone who has been on-and-off running a Kingmaker campaign for a couple of years now… tell them that this is probably wise for a multitude of reasons.

    Kingdom building sessions are known as “the spreadsheet sessions” and take up far too much time, even if I’ve done some streamlining of the process. At this point I get the feeling it’s more sunk cost fallacy and a desire to see the campaign through than anything else that keeps them going.

    You’ll also want to introduce a couple of self-made red threads, personal plotlines and plot hooks of your own that tie into the main plot – at least that’s what I ended up doing. The campaign books don’t really give a feeling of build up towards the end game. The overarching plot is kind of peripheral and doesn’t actually surface until the last two books.

    (Make lavish use of the fey.)

  10. A little late to this discussion on this topic but a good one to look into, check out the Esoterrorists 2nd edition (Gumshoe) by Robin D. Laws where in the core book it talks about putting the players & GM into a bit of worldbuilding with this topic. In Station Duty, the paranormal hunting player group of the game gets set up in some kind of small town & need a cover station to work out of. Not a ton of pages on this section but really well done on setting up the town, cover business for the players to work out of, creating NPCs, landmarks & mysterious plots on what to throw against the players.

    Also really enjoyed the agency created with the Monster of the Week games on RPPR & this too would be a good fit on how to put the players more into the world by giving them a particular organization to run out of & deal with instead of being monster hunters living out on the road. For me after getting hooked on Monster of the Week from RPPR actual plays, I’d almost prefer having some kind of organization for the players to at least interact with if not join up to be more associated with it.

    I think that the organization works better with more modern settings than a fantasy RPG as the players might need to get the help of an organization to survive financially and/or deal with whatever things being done for the game (be it monster hunters, new paranormal mages, etc.). The organization when broken up for players & GM to create and maintain gets everyone invested into the game and the world more.

    Though knowing that some players can be occasional horrible monsters in their actions, the best approach on organizations for an RPG campaign/setting for a system would be to get everyone in on the worldbuilding however get the GM to run the organization. This should keep the players in check from ignoring the current bad threat by hiding at their desks running the organization (or with bad decisions taking a simple organization & running it into a huge mess of a death spiral). Keeping the players in the worldbuilding before the game starts & letting them work in the organization than running it when the game gets going lets them explore their characters then deal with the stress of running the organization.

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