Master Mines

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[Decommissioned] Back 2 Square 1

Over on Taking a Step Back, I answered Clyde’s question about corporate life with the following:

“Corporate life is the idea of working for an amoral mass rather than for people; where decisions are driven by faceless stockholders towards profit regardless of the long term effects, where the people who built companies are driven out by a mob of people who aren’t part of the day-to-day activities, where operational decisions are made by groups of elderly people who are out of touch with how to actually do the job, led by executives who visit the teeming working masses only on scheduled visits filled with pomp and circumstance who see an office at an implausibly perfect state and deliver long presentations and answer prepared questions…”

I now consider this the core from which I want to re-build D-Com.  This means all bets are off.  I’m not even sure the PCs will be robots anymore, or if they fight battles for corporate entities.  Honestly, I’m not yet sure where the game is in this yet, which is daunting.

But this core is solid and interesting to me.  I want to write up some setting details and see if that inspires me to a story and game possibility.

I wanted to let everyone know where I was on D-Com


August 7, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 4 Comments

[Decommissioned] Taking a step back

As I mentioned in the comments on the Fuzzy Logic post, I recently did a playtest of D-Com. I wanted to test out the timing (the part where the Core stat degrades over time) and how to resolve conflicts with Core and Fuzzy Logic.  I got some interesting results, but not what I expected.

The game was a playtest, my first playtest. So yeah, it was all off. I didn’t mind that the mechanics needed tweaking. What got me was that I designed a game that I am not good at playing and don’t enjoy. A timed one shot when I realized, “Hey wait, I don’t tell fast-paced stories… uhm, I don’t usually dig one shots either…. wtf?!?  Why the heck am I making a game I wouldn’t really play???”

So, with that in mind, I’ve changed my status on Master Mines in regards to Decommissioned.  I need to rethink.

July 30, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 9 Comments

[Decommissioned] Fuzzy Logic

I am currently looking at a different way to express Fuzzy Logic. 

REVIEW TIME (since I’ve had a few flavors of this):

For the PCs (currently calling them Drones), there are two stats: Core and Fuzzy Logic.  Core is a fixed number that starts at 100 and drops by 10 every so often (variable by desired game length).  Fuzzy Logic is a stat represented somehow by dice and can be a result on its own or something that could be added to Core to give a final result.  Core and Fuzzy Logic or Core+Fuxxy Logic are compared against a Difficulty Percentage set by the GM (which I’m calling a Drone Manager).  The Difficulty ranges between 1 – 100 and should be the percentage chance of failure.

Therefore, if a Drone PC wants to jump across a chasm, the DM would say, “That’s a 60% chance of failure.”  The player looks at Core (since jumping is what a drone was programmed to do) and if the Core is 60 or better, the drone accomplishes the action.

However, if a Drone PC wants to chat up a pretty girl, the DM would say, “There’s a 40% chance of failure.”  The player looks at Fuzzy Logic (since flirting is not what a drone was programmed to do) and “rolls” Fuzzy Logic and tries to meet or beat a 40.

Fuzzy Logic Now

The current build expresses it as separate dice that are rolled and added together.  When I explained it to someone, they pointed out that it would work like dice in 7th Sea and the quote used was “how fun is it to roll 8 keep 8”?  I realized that in a timed game, this could slow things down.    I am sad that I may not have open-ended rolls (which I love).

One option under consideration

I could express Fuzzy Logic as a single d10 roll and the variable is the multiplier.  This means that Fuzzy Logic (FL) is a single digit, starting at a 1.  So, if you roll 1d10, get an 8 and FL is 2, then the result is 16 (compared against a difficulty ranging from 1-100).  This gives a wild spread, which maps to the randomness of a drone working outside its programming.  However, it also means I may have to throw a multiplication table on the character sheet (which is kind of funny).  What do you think about this?

What are some other options for Fuzzy Logic? 

Here’s what FL should do:

  • be simple and easy to explain; something I can have on the character sheet
  • use a randomizer (preferably 10-sided die/dice) to reflect the unexpected results of moving out of the norm and trying something foreign
  • allow for quick progression (something that can be increased every time the action is failed to simulate a learning computer and encourage doing things outside programming)
  • give a result that can either be a 1-100 number on its own or reach a 1-100 number as it increases
  • give a result that can be added to Core stat (Core starts at 100 and declines by 10 over time) for times when the player describes an action where the PC can use both Core and FL added as the final result to be compared against the difficulty
  • work quickly (it is a timed game)

Miners, please give me succor.

July 3, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 4 Comments

[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 | 5 Comments

[Decommissioned] Two Updates

1. I’ve been avoiding this post because its a bit embarassing, but I need help.

I have a mechanic I think it interesting and very quick to use with the two stat system and I have a nice device idea for the countdown.  I know how I want the book to look and what language to use.  All of that is well and good.

But I’m stuck on how to go from character generation to actual play.  I had this idea about the player(s) and GM writing down a series of scenes they’d like on index cards, and then sequencing them up into a session, but that still assumes that the GM and player(s) know what scenes they’d like.

How can I get this to work better?

2. I have secured a couple locals for an upcoming playtest and will be creating a playtest scenario this week.  I’ll post it up for review once I’m done.

May 27, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 4 Comments

Decommissioned: The Look of the Book

While thinking about the language of the book, I’ve also been mulling over how it will look.

I want the opening chapter to read very much like a combination employee handbook/ management book you’d find at Barnes and Noble.  This means I will open with details about The Compound, how the “battlebots” look, what they were created for, the general setting info, but the presentation will have graphs, some witty cartoons with captions, and sidebars.

Once I establish the setting, In future chapters, I want to progress into a more piecemeal approach with the book, using microfic, items from the world such as memos, letterheads, emails between characters, forum posts by “battlebots” telling the truth.  Imagine a scrapbook of different glimpses into the world, with a single narration guiding you through the rules.  I see this being influenced by Street Samurai catalog, one of my favorite supplements for any game.  I want to dance the line between an artifact from the game world and a player’s handbook.

Any thoughts good or ill about these ponderings?  Interesting?  Confusing?

What resources can you point me to for layout inspiration, gaming or non-gaming?

May 9, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 4 Comments

Decommissioned: The Language of the Book

I’m readying myself to do some unsexy writing, as Ryan called in an episode of Master Plan.  I’ve decided it is time to write up a playtest draft of Decommissioned in its current state.

Part of the playtest draft will be my attempt to describe the world of D-Com.  In doing so, I want to package the norms of corporate life into a satire that can be easily seen and understood by the audience.  I also want to emphasize the dehumanization of corporations as color to the setting.

Here are some of my language rules for writing the book

1.  The player character will not be referred to with pronouns or descriptors connoting humanity, gender or life.  PCs are units, tools of the corporations.

  • The PC is an “it”, not a “he” or “she”.
  • It does not “live”, it “functions” or “operates” or perhaps “exists”.
  • It does not “feel” or “hurt”, it “processes” or “computes”

2.  The Corporation will be described using as many pieces of corporate jargon as possible

  • Acronyms will be used to describe groups, agendas, policies or areas within The Corporation.
  • Catch Phrases will be frequently shaped into programs or efforts within the company.  The super bonus is an acronym that is also a catch phrase
  • Indirect, “HR-friendly” language will be used for anything potentially controversial.  When employees are killed, they will be referred to as “no longer with the company”.
  • Enemies will be referred to as “competitors” or simply “the competition”

3.  I want to create a few new phrases, a kind of D-Com jargon.  Nothing too complex like Shadowrun or Planescape, but a few words that set D-Com apart.  I’m looking for anything that has a business marketing feel to it, like “upside” or “net-net”, but unique.


* Do you have any rules to add?  What other language within a corporation should be satirized?

* What do you think about my goals for language used within the book?  Will this make the game silly, or does it give it a feeling of sickly sweet dread like I want?

* Does it look like it would work? By that, I’m asking, would gamers dig this?

April 26, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 4 Comments

Decommissioned: Setting Thoughts

In Decommissioned, the PCs start at The Compound, a place they’ve existed since their manufacture date.  The game begins as the PCs decide that a certain expiration is preferable to continued functioning as a corporate drone.  I’ve been pondering how to convey the default setting for the game.

No “Outside World”

I recently considered giving all setting details about existence within The Compound only and leaving the “outside world” completely open.  I know this could present some challenges, but if I gave a toolbox to the play group on what to use to create the “outside world”, this leaves games free to interpretation and makes each play group’s setting quite different.  Another benefit is that the “outside world” could be molded to the goal(s) of the player(s).

This approach to me is like describing a gun in excruciating detail, from how it is manufactured to how the bullet travels down the barrel and exactly what this gun is used to do, what it does to things and living beings.  Then, whatever someone does with the gun is really up to them.

32 Flavors and Then Some

Another way I could go is to come up with a selection of very different settings that could be used exclusively or used to describe different sectors of the universe.  For example, in Sector Alpha, the PC’s missions are broadcast on all the popular media channels and they spend their time in “sleep mode” talking smack to each other.  But in Sector Beta, missions are extremely covert shadow ops and the PCs are hidden from sight of the public, doing the dirty deeds the corporation doesn’t want to see the light of day.  Then, over in Sector Gamma, the PCs are just another machine in a populace inundated with mechanized conveniences in worlds with dingy grey skies and awash with slothful humanity.

* Do either of these setting descriptions sound like a good idea? 

* If I were to create a toolbox, do you think it could work as a series of Don’t Rest You Head-type questions?


April 22, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 3 Comments

Decommissioned: 5 Reasons to Expire

The idealized D-Com game that resides in my head is a satire of corporate life. It’s a sci-fi take on the mundane day-to-day, the dehumanizing jargon of Big Business, the repetitious mind-numbingness of the whole cubicle existence (hey… don’t you analyze me, suckah).

Here are five Goals I see players choosing for their PCs to pursue when they escape the Compound.

1. Online Connections
While Battlebots are in Sleep Mode between Missions, they spend their hours cruising The Grid, posting up info about their most recent missions, watching trids and chatting with other Bots. While The Corporations don’t ascribe gender to Battlebots, invariably, companionship and issues of gender arise. This B-Bot has found a love online and will risk it all to find them. Will it be requited? Does the object of affection even exist?

2. Got a Better Offer (aka The Headhunter Strikes)
On the back channels of the grid, a headhunter contacted this Battlebot and offered a retirement package for secrets. The Battlebot wishes to escape The Compound to join the competitor (who has promised freedom for those secrets). Is there freedom at the other end? What form would it take?

3. I’m Taking Them Down Myself
The Tech Masters have belittled this Battlebot or marginalized or mocked it one too many times. This Battlebot has decided that no matter what, the Tech Masters will pay with their lives in a blazing ball of fury. Hoo-ah!

4. Whistleblower
The Battlebot has seen the Corporation doing something awful. It has heard of human news organizations that tell the truth and decided to leave The Compound and tell them of the Parent Company’s wrongdoings. But are the news corps just another purchased entity?

5. I Draw the Line Here!
The latest mission for this Battlebot was too much. Either they were ordered to kill some humans (a violation of Asimov’s Laws or some such) or some petty Tech Master wanted to do harm to The Corporation. this Battlebot decided to disobey orders and now is fighting to survive to report this to its superiors.


What do you think about these potential goals?  Are they compelling?  Do they spark more ideas?

April 18, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 6 Comments

Decommissioned: Keeping Time

(This is mostly a re-post from my own blog, put to public display in hopes of getting feedback)

The beginning of a D-Com game consists of the player(s) and Department Manager (my term for the person “runs” the game) discussing how long they want to play that night. The negotiated length of the play session determines a central mechanic in the game: Core System Time.

Let’s say the 2 players and the Dept Mgr decide on a 2 hour game. The two Battlebot PCs begin play with a 10 in Core and a d4 in “Fuzzy Logic”. Since in this example the game length is 2 hours or 120 minutes, every 12 minutes, both Battlebots lose 1 point of Core. When a Battlebot’s Core is 0, they are completely broken and cease all functions. These 12 minutes are real-time since everyone agreed to a two hour game.

If you think about this with the Core mechanic of “Stressing the System”, most of the time, the game would last less than 2 hours.

Here’s my favorite part of the timing mechanic. Once the play group settle on a game length (in hours), they play an mp3 that comes with the game that lasts two hours. The mp3 is completely silent (nothing to distract those players who hate music in game) most of the time. But for the two hour version, every twelve minutes, an audio cue notifies the players that a Core System failure has occurred (I’m envisioning a cool robotic voice).

But say you only want to play for an hour? That’s cool. The game will come with an mp3 with audio cues every 6 minutes. The game will come with mp3s for play sessions of 1, 2, 3 and 4 hours. As for what “comes with” means, I’m still pondering the details of either a CD included with the game or more likely, hosting the mp3s online.

* So, combined with the Two Stats, what do you think?
* Does this sound like a fun thing or a frsutrating thing? can GMs roll with this kind of short, structured game?

April 15, 2008 Posted by | D-Com | 8 Comments