My Games

Friday, April 19, 2024

The Law of Unintended Consequences: A Two Party Competitive Game

The Law of Unintended Consequences is a competitive game played between two parties, managed by a single GM.

One team are The Heroes, and the other team are The Outlaws.

The Heroes overthrew the previous corrupt regime, and seek to create a better world. They'll have to contend with the corruption, incompetence, and sheer magnitude and complexity of the problems within, and also,

The Outlaws are a more heterogeneous bunch. Some are idealists who simply have no faith in the system as-is. Others' lived experience suggests to them that they must look out for themselves and theirs, and live day to day.

For each of their game sessions, The Heroes speak with their advisors, speak with the people, mitigate conflicts, legislate, and supervise. As they attempt to solve problems, it will be increasingly obvious all the ways they are being undermined every step of the way, both by corrupt factions and criminal NPCs, and also,

The Outlaws play more like a standard TTRPG, as opposed to the Domain-play of The Heroes; whether that be picaresque adventure, or something grander. All the same, they will frequently find themselves at odds with the policies and agents of The Heroes.

This game would benefit from tables and such; suggestions for "Unintended Consequences", various issues Heroes or Outlaws may confront. Maybe I'll write those later if people are actually interested in the idea.


  1. This sounds kind of fascinating the way I am imagining it!

    Obviously there are a lot of different ways you could implement this, but I think if I were running it, It I would do the heroes as one group, maybe in a play by email or similar system where they are making policy decisions etc, trying to handle and fix the huge mess that goes with their situation. So they have a situation and a limited number of things they can do in a “round” – something like what Dave used for the PBE thing he ran a while back might work, where there are different “spheres” that a player can give orders on, and each round they can TRY to accomplish something within that sphere. For example, a “hero” player in charge of security might try to build a military or an internal intelligence agency, or a nationalized police force, but they cannot do all of these at once, and some things they cannot even attempt without having accomplished a prerequisite – like you can’t catch a bomber who has thrown the populace into a panic without an internal intel agency, etc. Players could take on roles that were sufficiently broad to keep things interesting – Minister of Health, Business, etc, or whatever titles / system of government they chose.

    Then the outlaws would play a "round" in a world adapted to the outcome of those decisions. Certain things that the outlaws might do would create problems for the heroes. In an example one outlaw player might decide to bomb a public building for some reason or another, perhaps just because they were well paid to do so and the character is amoral. This would be played like a “normal” rpg as the outlaws break into a building and evade security teams to plant the bomb. The action (if successful!) might ignite a problem that the heroes then have the option to try to deal with in some way – this could be anything from Tourism dropping way off as word spreads that the area is not safe to a panic in the general populace that leads to a spike in gun sales and a more heavily armed population which ultimately makes a revolt more likely to succeed in the future. Of course, the actions of the outlaws could also HELP the heroes!

    It's interesting that the two groups do not necessarily have to be opposed. The differing philosophical positions necessitate some kind of conflict, but it's not one that perforce must end with violence. If I were on the side of the heroes, for example, I might target those outlaws in whom cynicism is the motivator and see if I could swing them to come and join the “heroes”!

    Anyway, this is how I envisaged what you described here. I may be way off base, but it sounds very interesting to me!

    1. This sounds really cool :). I hadn't thought about the idea of making it PBP or more of a strategy game but ya that totally makes sense.

      Ya one thing that I obviously didn't elaborate enough on (maybe in a future post), is the actual idea of the "unintended consequences".

      I actually partially don't want to create a table, not just out of laziness, but also because then it spoils it as an option if the players ever read it.

      But the idea, to your point about the Heroes and Outlaws not necessarily being in direct opposition, is that the Heroes might enact some policy with good intentions, but then the consequences of that are things that negatively impact the Outlaws, or alternatively, the Outlaws find a way to exploit the policy to their favor in a way that makes sense for them but undermines things for the Heroes; that's the specific tension I want to explore. However, by being Heroes and Outlaws, it's flexible enough that the whole game doesn't have to be about that, it can be a lot of things, it's better that way.

      The other thing I didn't say in the post but maybe should have elaborated on, is the asymmetry. The Heroes have much more power and access to resources, but because they're dealing with this huge complex system, they can only do so much at once as you noted, and can only see so much so quickly, and their actions can have Unintended Consequences.

      The Outlaws have fewer resources, they have less power, but they have much more freedom, and flexibility, and they are closer to the ground; they know exactly the consequences of their actions the moment they take them (not necessarily literally but ya know what I mean?).

  2. *cough cough* Matrix game this up! It'd be beautiful!

    +1 interest in those tables! I'd be curious to see what setting flavor comes through the tables... :D

    1. Ya I know there definitely need to be some tables for this, struggling to think of the best approach that would actually interest me to write, as opposed to feeling like a requisite task. Appreciate seeing interest though :).

      Also like I said in the comment thread with Blackout above, part of the problem with making examples of Unintended Consequences is that then you can't use them anymore if the players read them >.<.