Master Mines

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[Decommissioned] Arrows by Any Other Name

Quite a while ago, Rob Bohl commented that Battlebots, the term I was using for the protagonists in Decommissioned, was a TV show.  Since that time, I’ve been noodling over what to rename B-Bots.


This past weekend, I settled on something that drives back to the core of my corporate satire idea.  I’m currently digging on Drone.  I have considered adding an adjective of some kind at the front of the name, something alliterative or descriptive or just plain cool, but I haven’t settled on anything yet (Destruco Drone… War Drone… I dunno).  I do like the feeling of “drone” because it touches on the feeling of being manufactured for output instead of input, of being mindless.  Any ideas on Drones names out there?


The idea of a PC Drone then gave rise to thoughts further a-field.  What if there aren’t just “War Drones”, but also “Worker Bees”?  This of course, makes some logical sense.  Not only would a robot made for battle want freedom, maybe a robot built for lifting things or one created to weld stuff.  Now, I find myself at a crossroads. 


The game as originally conceived was short and sweet, simple and to the point.  You run, you fight, you “die”.  But what would a game about a Worker Bee?  Is that compelling emo porn?  Or does it present the player with an option that is interesting but leads to the “What do I do now?” problems?


Is this a good idea or does it dilute my focus?  I feel like it dilutes my focus, that this thought process might be best for future supplements or an entirely different game, but I don’t want to chuck it aside if someone finds it grabby.  What are your thoughts, Miners?


June 18, 2008 - Posted by | D-Com


  1. I’m not a Miner (just a fan of Robert’s game, really), so take this for what it’s worth…

    I *am* a philosopher who works on war issues, so what this immediately makes me think is: the distinction between rote menial work and war is tied up with our romanticized version of war – that doesn’t match up too well with modern industrialized warfare. A TV show featuring War Drones would probably be splashy that way. But if these Drones are used for *actual* war, their lives might not be that different from the lives of Welder Drones, or whatever – “Select from target list. Calculate trajectory. Launch bomb. Repeat.” Or even, “Observe car at checkpoint. IFF checklist. Destroy car YES/NO.” Part of the tragedy of modern war is the disconnect between the drive for industrial efficiency that is the great asset of major military powers and the human conscience. One of the most chiling responses I’ve gotten from a military interviewee was when I asked a Navy pilot how he felt about the killing people part of his job, and he told me that he didn’t really think of it that way – he was just highly trained in certain skills and liked getting to use those skills.

    A War Drone that comes to see its actions as of moral import, not just as a rote exercise in calculating bullet trajectories against moving targets is a clearly compelling protagonist. But then, couldn’t a welder be one too? What if the Drone realizes that it’s welding bombs together? Or even just cheap dangerous toys? The unifying concept would then seem to be recognition of the broader implications of a role that the protagonist initially sees as just mindless repetitive labor. I mean, finding out that you are an output not an input is a kind of existential chill. But discovering what your output really is, and taking that as a driving need to become an input as well, is a pretty compelling story. I think.

    Comment by dhlevine | June 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. I am going to agree, but then disagree with dhlevine. First, I do agree top to bottom that having a worker drone realize it’s a worker drone and try to snap out of it is a good premise for a game.

    Where I fear we diverge is that I don’t know that it is the right premise for D-Com. D-Com to me has never been about the battlebots, it’s about the fall of a powerful character into nothingness and the interesting tactical and character building choices it presents.

    Really, I think in RPGs we still caught up in the romantic idea of combat. That’s what D&D is…it’s the swinging of swords and making explosions. No one pays much attention to the fact that most battle wounds were caused by infection, not the weapons themselves. That’s why you have the party cleric, right?

    So I think that since we are still in the realm of the romantic/fanatic, the cry “I have lost my ability to fight effectively” is akin to the “I have lost the ability to affect change in my world the only way I know how” and is an easier sell and more exciting than “I can no longer lift trash!!!”

    That being said, if you want to write the other game, cool. Writing a game based on the existential funk of realizing you are just an output and taking that next step to know what your output truly is would be awesome. It is very discomfiting when it happens in real life and to carry that out to play sounds cool. Still, don’t call that game D-Com.

    Comment by commondialog | June 18, 2008 | Reply

  3. Rich, I think this is a wonderful idea, but I think it distracts from the simplicity of design that is D-Com. Make D-Com first, then consider hacks, supplements, or optional rules. I could easily see a section in the game that broadens the scope of the game outside of just battlebots, presented as an appendix or optional rules.

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | June 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the feedback, dhlevine. I really appreciate your perspective. The mechanical perspective on war that you provided is powerful. I will keep it in mind.

    Perrin and Matthew,

    I think you put words to my gut feeling about losing the simplicity of the original concept. Matthew, its funny that you talk about making the game I want first and then working in supplemental. I just finished Master Plan 30 where Ryan really nailed that home.

    I have to put in the quote “I can no longer lift trash!” somewhere in the text now. I’m still smiling about it.

    Comment by orklord | June 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. Orklord, I think it’s very easy for us to get over-ambitious on our first design. I remember reading a blog post a few years ago (I want to say it was Ben Lehman) talking about making games like a craftsman – an apprentice game, a journeyman game, a master game – and that he needed to make his journeyman game before he could tackle his master game. I think we’re on our apprentice games, and they should be (relatively) simple.

    If you think of D-Com as your apprentice game, then expanding its scope to encompass “drones” of all sort, that’s your journeyman game.

    From my own viewpoint, I think Seiyuu might actually be my journeyman game (The Front is my master game), which makes me think about doing a quick apprentice game (like Love and Loyalty) *first*, just to cut my teeth.

    I hope that all makes sense and is valuable to you in some fashion.

    Comment by Matthew Gandy | June 18, 2008 | Reply

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