Sunday, January 6, 2019

Auto-Convoluted Bureaucracies

One of my favorite things I've seen recently in the OSR-scape is Kyana's Convoluted Bureaucracies minigame, which uses the english language impressively to showcase how amusing and frustrating bureaucracies can be when applied in games. This is the autogenerator for it! (All content within belongs to Kyana!)

One person plays The System. Another person plays The Visitor. It is always one Visitor against The System. Running through bureaucratic maze is a very solitary experience where each on their own.
The purpose of the Visitor is to make the System validate, approve, sign, confirm or otherwise process some important request on their behalf. The purpose of The System is to wear down and evict The Visitor without letting them complete their goal by any passive-aggressive/bureaucratic means possible.
Sometimes The System acts through the single person in a room who puts the signature in place (‘person-signature’), sometimes through the whole collective; The System player effectively controls everybody who is not The Visitor.
For resolution of risk during the Process itself one 1d6 die would be enough.
How to do The Process:
1. One of the players generates the name of the organization where The Visitor will be travelling. Use random generator for names above. The name should be no less than five words and can be as long as fifteen, although on average it is six to eight words.
2. Each word means one step of approval in the process of final approval The Visitor must successfully obtain before getting the whole Process done. “Department of Oceanic Cooperation and Family Synergy would have 5-step approval process, while “ Registry of Spiritual Multi-Technology and Support in Domestic Affairs” would have 7-steps approval. The Visitor needs to collect the amount of approvals equal to the # of words in the name of the organization. Mark each achieved approval with a checkbox of some kind.
3. Each word in the name of the organization means new room of importance in said department that The Visitor must go through to get one approval. Generate each room through [What is going on] and [How this places looks like] tables. The System player describes the situation to Visitor, using as much imagination as they deem to be fun.
4. With a rare exception of when it is obvious from the text of “What is going on” table (such as #10), no approval otherwise can be obtained from a room unless The Visitor takes a point of Exhaustion. Visitor can only take three points of Exhaustion before they suffer insurmountable mental and physical fatigue and have to leave The System.
5. If by taking the final point of Exhaustion or going through the last room The Visitor doesn't have all necessary approvals, The Visitor is defeated. If by taking the third point of Exhaustion The Visitor achieved a final approval, they barely succeeded. If the all approvals are collected without hitting three points of Exhaustion or there are still a number of unvisited rooms by the time the final approval is achieved, The Visitor obtains a significant victory and can [optionally] start with a [Class] next time.
6. In addition to their common human stamina, each Visitor has additional parameter for backlash. At the beginning of each Process, The Visitor selects either Nerves or Anger and can chose a different one (Anger or Nerves) for a different Process. The difference between these two is mostly cosmetic and mostly defines the way how The Visitor is lashing out onto The System and what the end failure state of this backlash is going to be. Some places also more or less affected by one type of backlash over another, at discretion of The System.
7. Instead of taking a point of Exhaustion The Visitor can instead take a point to their backlash (i.e. a point to Nerves if Nerves were selected). The Visitor can only take three points of backlash – if the forth one has to be marked, The Visitor has either complete nervous breakdown (Nerves) or full on assault (Anger) on a clerks in current room. Either way, The Visitor is removed from The Process and The System celebrates flawless victory.
8. After the initial interaction with the room (i.e. getting a point of Exhaustion or point of backlash) The Visitor can directly invoke their backlash in order to speed up the Process. They note the sum of current Exhaustion + backlash stat and make 1d6 roll. - If the roll is under or equal Exhaustion, nothing happens: The Visitor is too tired to force outburst. - If the roll is higher than Exhaustion but less or equal to Exhaustion + Backlash, the outburst is a success. The Visitor marks additional approval and moves on to the next room. - If the roll is higher than Exhaustion + backlash it is a failure. 6 is always a failure. In a failure, The Visitor couldn't handle their own outburst and went too far. Remove one previously earned approval.

Here's an exercise that could help practice making logical sense out of the absurd: generate the name of a department, and then try to visualize how that department would function. Something like "The Measuring Empowering Council of Flexible Encouragement, Senior Maintenance, and Medical Community" is clearly an organization that organizes medical professionals to develop units of measure for the upkeep and care of the city's elderly citizens, focusing specifically on joint health.


  1. My only objection to this is: by making it so convenient with the button action generator, you’ve taken the bureaucracy out of it.

    Surely, anyone wanting to use this engine, should have to fill out an application form in triplicate, the form being at least notarised and sealed …

    1. Oh that's brilliant! One day I will be able to make a recursive generator that can randomly generate its own design flaws. One day...