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Old 09-30-2017, 09:52 AM   #10
Mailanka's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Eindhoven, the Netherlands
Default Re: What details for organizations *must* you have?

I few things I've found vital based on feedback from my Psi-Wars readers/players.

An organization needs:

Personality: It's not enough to know that there's an organization. We need to know some people in it. The Mafia needs their Michael Corleone, while the sinister conspiracy needs its Cigarette Smoking Man. At least one major character helps both you and your players get a feel for what the organization is really like.

Agendas: What does the organization do? What does it want? It helps to understand the structure of the organization, but things like "Where do they get their money from?" and "What's their recruitment process" can be buried behind these. Ideally, these get framed like story hooks, because that's how they'll tend to get used.

Ranks and Organization: If characters are members of the organization, they'll need titles to go with their ranks (if that's pertinent). Likewise, it helps to know what high level organization might be like. Who sets the agendas of the organization and what obstacles might they run into? This is mostly important for those who want to defeat the organization or make some fundamental change to it.

What the organization can do for you!: As others have mentioned, Pulling Rank benefits are very handy. However, based on my experience, the "generic" ones in Pulling Rank don't really need to be revisited. In practice, I find I just reference those and make judgement calls. What's more interesting is handling signature tricks or unusual assistance. For example, a sinister alien conspiracy might grant you access to alien technology or telepathic interrogators. It might help to stop and think about these, or to discuss them with your readers. The mafia, by contrast, is unlikely to give you access to anything that isn't already covered by Pulling Rank, so you don't need to talk about much there, unless there's an unusual situation going on.

Doctrines: How does your organization fight, and what does its security look like. I don't tackle this nearly as much as I should, but the moment your game turns into an action game that features this organization, you'll be glad you did it. It's not that important in modern organizations as you can likely guess, though doing some homework here will help you out (how does infiltrating an ISIS cell differ from infiltrating Google HQ?), but this is especially important when dealing with exotic organizations or settings. This is both a passive and active consideration. This is not just how does an organization secure its buildings and VIPs, but how the organization goes about achieving its objectives or responding to threats made against it.

Opposition: If the organization features combatants, what do those combatants look like? If they're fairly generic ("Mafia goons with guns, skill 12), then you don't need to really address them, but if they have access to unique combatants (like the sinister alien conspiracy), or all the organizations feature distinct combat approaches (various kung fu sects), then it might be useful to discuss what a typical minion from such an organization might look like. This is appropriate if the organization is one the PCs will face in battle, or if the PCs will call on the organization for allies.

I've found everything beyond this superflous, and you don't even need to hit all of these points for your organizations (especially if you're willing to improvise, or you're dealing with a highly generic or well-known organization, like the mafia or a typical US police force).
My Blog: Mailanka's Musing. Currently Playing: Psi-Wars, a step-by-step exploration of building your own Space Opera setting, inspired by Star Wars.
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