Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Bureaucratic Shuffle

Another short post today. Sorry about that. It's been a weird week for me and that's been cutting into writing time. Also, FarCry 3 is amazing and also cutting into writing time, but that's a thing for a different day. Today, I want to talk about the Bureaucratic Shuffle.

Have you ever used the Bureaucratic Shuffle in one of your RPGs? Do you even know what it is? I'm sure you've seen it before. It happens in a lot of video games, particularly RPGs, to help pad things out. The objective is to open the main gate of the castle, but to do that you have to go to all these other locations to do stuff first. Heck, Mass Effect made their entire game via the Bureaucratic Shuffle. You need person A so you go to them, person A can't help until you do something for them which will of course involve doing several other tangentially related things.

For example. In Mass Effect 2 to get Mordin to join your party you go to Omega. First you have to get to Mordin, which involves talking to Aria. Once you find Mordin he is having problems with a virus in the area. Mordin will help you, but first he needs you to do something for him. You go and do that job, he joins you, and you can go recruit others - all of whom require you to do something for them.

In table top RPGs players sometimes try to cut through this. This is where you get "standard player responses" that cause devastation, violence, and a sudden decrease in the guard population of a city. Still, I'm curious how much you guys use the shuffle to help add more to a small story idea.

For example, maybe the characters want to take care of a bandit lord. Only to get to the bandit lord they have to deal with a bear. To deal with the bear they need to get a magic key. To get the magic key, the wizard needs some ingredients for a magic potion. To get the magic potion ingredients they need to dance with the fairies. You can keep going on an on too if you want.

The problem is, put this in front of the PCs and assuming they don't just kill the bear (a real shame, as he was the missing prince kept under a spell by the manacle the key unlocked) they'll likely just steal the key. Still, it can be fun to try and see what happens. Especially when the consequences for the more direct "PC" path seem too large for the PCs to risk it (who wants to annoy a wizard or piss off a bear that can't run away?)

Still, I'm curious if anyone has pulled this off in their game to great success. Any stories to share?

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