Bloody Diaspora clusters are everywhere

I’ve been resisting this. Really.

However, I started playing around with something for Hollowpoint (tired of the acronym) based on some feedback from friendly and interested folks on Buzz and Twitter and Etc. Turns out they are smart too. Because Hollowpoint is basically about agents of some agency handling some more complex relationship diagram, it is a natural to build that relationship diagram and the cluster system from Diaspora has already demonstrated functionality. Okay I give.

The first idea was to define the agency itself, but I don’t want the agency to become a character. The opposition, however, is a character, so that’s what we’re defining. I establish three attributes, use the same rules for linking as in Diaspora, and then add some rules for interpreting the results. Some of the rule outputs need re-wording but I think the idea is clear. So the attributes are:

Honour. How honourable the entity is.

Cash. How much cash the entity has.

Manpower. How much force the entity can bring to bear.

Now because we’re using six-siders for Hollowpoint, this must also, so we use the d6-d6 method: roll two differently coloured dice and subtract one from the other using a pre-determined rule (subtract black from red, say). This gives a shallow curve from -5 to 5, peaking at 0. So we roll that for each stat and then for each node roll it again for connections. A negative result connects to the neighbouring node only, a zero result adds a connection to the next available node after, and a positive result adds a a third connection to the next neighbour open after that. An open neighbour is one not already connected.

And then we interpret based on these rules:

A connection between nodes that both have positive or both have negative values for an attribute indicates that the nodes are allied on this attribute. Honour implies friendliness, cash implies a mutual reliance, and manpower indicates a pact or truce.

A connection between nodes where one or another has a zero attribute is ignored.

A connection between nodes where one is negative and the other is positive indicates an imbalance that is a potential source of friction (mission driver!) So for honour this is a debt of honour: the negative seeks revenge on the positive. For cash this is a simple debt: the negative owes money to the positive. For manpower this is weakness and strength: the negative is weak to (and therefore defers to) the positive. Here’s an example:

Well I have to say that that invites some missions. We have some debts, some weaknesses, an interest in revenge and an interestingly cash-poor overall operation where everyone is interdependent. Clearly there are too many families in this syndicate! We also see the hub — that second node that everyone is weak to and everyone is connected to. And their sole realy strength is manpower — violence.

There’s something deeper in the cluster creation system than it looked at first. And though we touched on what it might be right there in the book, I don’t think it was clear until now just how rich it is in the abstract. It’s nice that it’s also an icon for VSCA, so if I use it in everything I ever produce I guess that’ll be okay. Or at least explicable.


10 Responses to “Bloody Diaspora clusters are everywhere”

  • Toph Marshall Says:

    Fun stuff.

    As I suggested on the wiki when I offered nascent thoughts on organizations, the three variables I saw at work were manpower, area-of-effect, and independence (the reverse scale of level of oversight). I was not using a bel-curve scale, obviously, and I recognize that that will make a difference.


    Manpower we agree on, just as the size of the operation. I suggested area-of-effect/sphere of influence to measure the global range of these organizations. My sense from what you had written was that the Agency you were thinking of had global reach, whereas some of the opposition would be local mob-bosses, etc.

    I had not included cash, because I thought that you had stated as a goal to have the agencies above anything as mundane as cashflow problems (if someone wants a mercedes, they get it). Sphere of influence may imply cash (and its source) but it allows any difficulties to be overlooked if necessary.

    I am struck by your thought of honour as a variable though: again, given that you state specifically that you do not want agencies to become characters, ascribing a moral value to the organizations seems to work against this. You are saying explicitly that he agencies behave well or not, which sounds almost like an alignment system! (ha ha).

    Level of oversight (or autonomy, or whatever) instead assumes that all organizations will behave similarly whether they are criminal or not: they exert forces that can be read as moral or immoral depending on perspective, but which do not possess a natural (human-centered) bias.

    SO — I like the cluster diagram (bien sur!) but I am not sure the specific vales you have assigned match your stated goals of above-ordinary-human-conflicts and not-a-character.

    Food for thought.

  • halfjack Says:

    I think you’ll find that the agency employing the characters is not described here.

  • clash bowley Says:

    Second paragraph:

    “The first idea was to define the agency itself, but I don’t want the agency to become a character. The opposition, however, is a character, so that’s what we’re defining.”


  • Noah Says:

    I’m reminded of an excellent quote I read on way back:



  • halfjack Says:

    That looks a lot worse out of context. :D

  • Johnstone Says:

    Funny, I thought of this quote myself:

    I like this idea, though, especially the values attached to the connections.

  • Johnstone Says:

    Funny, I thought of this quote:

    I like how you’ve given values to the connections here. Neat!

  • halfjack Says:

    I think some algorithmic method for extracting relationship information might generally be useful for cluster diagrams. I know we do it just by talking it out at the table with Diaspora, but have some mechanically generated “facts” come out of the machine might be useful. At least distilling a fraction of our table process as a machine for others. That would nicely facilitate even lower prep play too I think.

  • Johnstone Says:

    Yeah, in Diaspora it’s a physical connection, and adding a social connection component on top of that would make it too cluttered. Right before you posted this, I was discussing adding qualifiers like this for cluster-based city building over on Praxis, and then here you are with a concrete example! Good timing.

    Or it would be if anyone actually paid attention to Praxis.

  • halfjack Says:

    Johnstone, in my defense there is more context to that comment than meets the eye:


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