Sunday, July 18, 2021

Designers Notes: Secret Masters (Pyramid Scheme: Modern Action Issue)

 With the latest GURPS Kickstarter coming to a close and currently shy just $515 and 96 backers to unlock the final streatch goals I thought it a good time to do my designers notes for one of the things you can get as an add-on.

Edit: That is now just $253 and 77 backers to go as I finish and submit this post to the internet.

The Pyramid Scheme was three issues of a dozen articles and is available again at the $15 pledge value, getting you 36 great articles plus all the new supplements!

Secret Masters

This was my article for the Modern Action issue of the Pyramid Scheme Kickstarter.

GURPS Conspiracy Resources

Steve Jackson Games has long been know for a fondness of conspiracy and behind the scenes games, board games, card games, and RPGs all have had their share of fun conspiracy related themes.

GURPS Illuminati was for GURPS Third Edition and this article was a way to adapt some of it to Fourth Edition and add a fresh twist.  Instead of just being aware and part of a conspiracy the character can be in charge of one!

GURPS Fourth Edition includes the advantage Illuminated which I think we first saw in GURPS Illuminati but was also included in GURPS Voodoo another great conspiracy setting. This advantage lets you be aware of the conspiracy and grants some nice benefits.  GURPS Social Engineering (pretty much the entire series). GURPS Boardroom and Curia helps give simple stat sheets to organizations and GURPS Realm Management helps with running a country or town.  Supported by some Pyramid articles as seen here.

This is all great for players running organizations or player characters being pawns or members of such, but what I felt was lacking was being a mover and shaker.

Illuminated Master

The core idea behind this article was using existing resources and rules as much as possible. I created one new advantage, though its essentially just an Unusual Background.
This allows the player to buy Rank in an organization without actually being a member of it. The advantage includes some other stuff and the article a lot of suggestions I wont go into here (Buy it) but the concept and gist is that Rank gives you limited authority in an organization but typically requires a Duty, and required skills or other advantages and significantly accountability! However when your not the CEO or General but have them in your pocket (or at least can call in favors) you can get stuff done. I also briefly suggest options for non-supernatural advantages. After all you dont need magical powers to manipulate people!
And some genre ideas for existing advantages, skills, and techniques as well as book recommendations.

What is Left?

Articles are very tight word count and I left out a lot of potential ideas that could have been done in a supplement.  Recently I started in a campaign where I am playing a godling with Business as a domain and Businessman! for a wildcard. Manipulating corporations seemed a good for him so I proposed this advantage and article to the GM (Christopher Rice). He countered with buying Rank with Cosmic which is a good option, especially for controlling one or just a few organizations. I'll add my proposed ideas to that response here. Mind you these are proposed and have not yet been submitted or accepted and he may have differing opinions or ideas.
  • Cosmic (Rank (Organization Name, Unattached), +50%): Your Rank is unofficial and does not require you to have a Duty or obligation to the organization. Your a known associate, perhaps retired or a benefactor and people will know about your relationship.
  • Cosmic (Rank Organization Name, Stealth), +100%: You have effective Rank in the organization but your orders and requests are effectively "Black Box" and not traceable directly to you or even a specific associate.  This cinematic capability can represent the work of a department that can issue commands or requests without accountability or people desiring to look into the directives. It can also represent fake identities, shell companies holding assets, or simply a network of contacts through which requests can be made without holding a single valued asset responsible. Includes the Unattached level and commands can be obviously from your or untraceable at your discretion.
  • Cosmic (Rank, (Organization Name, Illuminated), +300%: This godlike tricks level has all the advantages of Stealth above, but extraordinary access as well. Orders can be issued with absurdly fast reaction times as you bypass normal channels and procedure and no one really knows who or why such directives were made. While the organization may be held accountable by others, internally no one can be properly assigned responsibility. Its up to the effects and GM to see if this results in finger pointing a scapegoat (personal rivals for example) or closing ranks to present a unified front.
Rank can be normal, Informal, -50% (GURPS Power-Ups 8: Limitations, p. 15), or Courtesy - though the limitations of Courtesy Rank (p. B29) still apply in that most non trivial requests will be denied as you have respect, but without authority.

The GM's other suggestion was Rank! a wildcard version. That could look something like this.
Rank! (20/level)
You have extraordinary leadership and social presence and people tend to listen to you even when they probably shouldn't. This can come from extreme social skills such as Talker! or knowledge within various fields and about organizations.  This could allow any 5 point power (per level) the GM approves, including different types of Rank. The powers must be plausible uses of Rank and if they are limited use traits (Contact, Serendipity, etc.) that trait is unavailable for the normal duration. This is similar to how traits like Blessed work under Divine Favor.
* Compare to alternative abilities which would get you up to 16 instances of Rank per level for the same 20 points. Though you could have different levels of Rank in differing organizations, instead of the same in 16 organizations. Its more expensive (that is a LOT of organizations!) but more versatile and certainly easier bookkeeping!

Mitzadu would likely take it with Aspected (Merchant), -20% and Costs CP as an aspect of his godly Domain (Business), though if he had Domain (Leadership) or something similar it would be without the Aspected modifier.
Anyhow I hope you found this useful or at least interesting and even better if you like the concept enough to add that Pyramid to your pledge.  And there is more material I could add, including many more examples should a full supplement be requested,

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