Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

On the natural history of conference rooms

You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do (aka The Owlbear Game) has two phases. In the first, the Meeting phase, players have a pre-workday meeting in character as their owlbear characters. The Team Leader is selected before each meeting by some mechanical means, but thereafter, people are expected to behave in character for the meeting – the TL is actually encouraged to reprimand people _in character_ for speaking out of character, which I find pretty funny. After the meeting concludes, there is the Action phase, in which speaking in character is actually forbidden. It consists of basically facing whatever threats you didn’t manage to weasel your way out of during the meeting, and rolling on tables.

That’s about all I know about phase two at this stage… which is a problem. Phase 1 I know plenty about, but I suspect that all of it is wrong.

The mechanics of phase 1, the meeting phase, are meant to be performed “silently,” that is, without rules-specific discussion as you stay in character. This might take a bit of practice, which leads to an effect of newbies being treated like clueless interns for their first meeting scene. Yes, I think this is funny enough and on-theme enough to merit inclusion in the game. But anyway. The mechanics basically involve bidding dice back and forth, to push Blame on others and avoid receiving it.

Players start with a die pool of probably ten dice. These are just plain d6s. When you start talking about a coworker and how their behavior concerns you – maybe they have been chewing too many of the barkroots that are supposed to be for everyone and it just concerns you that team-playing isn’t as core of a value here on the team as maybe you thought! – you push forward some number of dice. The Blamed player makes excuses, etc., and either accepts the Blame mechanically by pushing forward no dice in response, or attempts to pass the Blame by committing some dice in response. The dice are then rolled, with 4s, 5s and 6s counting as successes. If the Blamer gets more successes, the Blamed must take the blame (and then cast more Blame on someone else with his/her remaining dice if s/he wants, on the next turn). If the Blamed gets more successes, the same dice immediately face another player, who must take the blame or make excuses, and so on. Dice leave the pool for the phase after being used. The successes, besides resolving the blame fights, also go into a resource pool for use in the action phase.

So, all of that is fine and good. It has something of the air of irresponsible pointlessness that a good business-meeting simulation ought to have. But there are a couple of problems:

1) it isn’t a tight-enough economic loop; it just spits stuff out into whatever happens in the action phase, and I think I’ve been telling myself that I’ll sort it all out when I design that phase. Yyyyyyeah. The fear of having to do this is probably why I have no design for phase 2.

2) Something about this dice-bidding thing is a little too abstract. You shouldn’t get some dice pushed at you; you should get something you definitely Do Not Want pushed at you. You should feel a little panicky. Dice are like, whatever, I’ve got some of those too. Also, they’re a bit directly about players using their power against each other, and I’d like that to be present but more indirect. I don’t think it’s the point the game is driving at.

There’s some other stuff in the meeting phase that will definitely be sticking around, like the fact that there is a honey-gathering quota for each action phase, that goes up exponentially over the course of the game, to the point where it’s ridiculous to think that the team will reach it; at the beginning of each meeting, the top honey gatherer becomes Team Leader (basically getting some ritual duties and first crack at Blame-casting) and the bottom producer possibly loses a limb. I want the honey-gathering thing to be a bit Doctor Lucky-esque if I can manage it; apart from that and a lot of loving parody of D&D I haven’t got much on the action phase.

Any thoughts, free associations, or sharp rebukes concerning the meeting phase?


September 11, 2007 - Posted by | You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do


  1. Mike,

    First, as I was reading this, I laughed and the explanation made me want to give it a try right up until the dice thing. I think you’re right, there’s something missing there.

    Blame needs to have serious negative repurcussions in the action phase. For instance, you have to resolve the Blame before you can gather any honey. I think that it makes sense thematically that Blame is a challenge to overcome before work is done or at least hampers you from work.

    My other thought was that instead of me pushing blame dice to you, I get to take your dice instead. For instance, if I say you have 3 dice worth of blame, you roll those dice and keep any successes. Perhaps 2s and 3s are removed from the table, but I keep any 1s to show that I am building myself up by cutting you down.

    Overall, I think you have a fun theme. I do worry about the loosy gooseyness of the Blame mechanic. Also, should the initial dice be determined by pack heirarchy? It seems like the intern has less ability to Blame than the Team Leader.

    I hope that helps.

    Comment by commondialog | September 12, 2007 | Reply

  2. Sorry, one other question, is there an advantage in keeping my dice? So if I don’t bid all my dice and keep some in the action phase, does that help me or the team?

    Comment by commondialog | September 12, 2007 | Reply

  3. Hmm… if the dice you keep help you in the action phase, then the group as a whole has an incentive to be nice to each other… and we certainly don’t want that.

    So yeah, I think you’re right that (if I keep anything resembling this mechanic at all) you have to be able to get something good by attacking others, in addition to getting something bad by being attacked.

    But all this about attacking and blame may or may not be germane to the theme. I need to decide how to get that mood in a way that makes sense dramatically.

    Comment by misuba | September 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. Mike, have you played the Paranoia Mandatory Fun Card Game? There are some “team dynamic” elements there that seem appropriate here.

    Comment by ptevis | September 13, 2007 | Reply

  5. I have! Wow, I thought the OgreCave crew were the only people who liked it. I’ll give it another look when I am in California next.

    Comment by misuba | September 13, 2007 | Reply

  6. Excellent. Anyway, your comments about the Team Leader changing made me think of the the way that the different missions either put the Mission Leader in a really good or really bad position. The team dynamic in that game honestly reminds me a lot of office politics.

    Comment by ptevis | September 13, 2007 | Reply

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