Organizations In Conflict (Action)

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Heroic Action Role-Play

Guilds clash, armies raid, and peasants pay taxes or revolt; the actions of a multitude of individuals combine to create history. These rules allow groups of organizations to engage each other in combat in a fast and smooth system. This is an expansion on the Organization rules for Action and builds on the organizations created in those rules.


The organization conflict rules are resolved using a deck of cards. Players represent kingpins and rulers with the resources of several organizations behind them. Each card represents a campaign or push by a group of people, higher value cards being more powerful. Face cards represent important individuals and act as a kind of trump cards in their respective suit. The suits represent various areas of human endeavor; spades are military, hearts represent social life, religion, and trade, diamonds represent crafts and science, and clubs represents supplies and subsistence. The suits form a circle of control, where spades trumps clubs, clubs trump hearts, hearts trump diamonds, and diamonds trump spades.

Rating an Organization

Besides the rules from the Organization rules, each organization in these rules have two additional values; a location and a suit.

Location is easy; it is simply the social and geographical center of the organizations power. The combination of social and geographical location is important, as the ability of the organization to act is limited as much by social boundaries as by terrain. If the conflict is between corporations in a cyberpunk setting, the branch of business each company is working in might be much more important than its geographical location.

Suit is somewhat arbitrary; the four suits represent fields of human endeavor that have been grouped based on the role they traditionally serve in stories. Each suit trumps another suit, is neutral in relation to one suit, and is weak against another suit.


Spades represent warfare and soldiers, more specifically the elite, mobile troops, raiders, and strike forces. Its element is air. In fantasy, this represents fighters and knights. In a modern military context this is tanks and aircraft. Capable of surgical strikes against priority targets, spades trump clubs. They are weak against hearts, the convictions of the elite can be swayed by faith and intruige. An operation by spades is an armed raid or offensive directed at destroying the enemy.


Diamonds represent constructive work, craft, and science. Its element is fire. In a fantasy setting it represents arcane magic and dragons. In warfare, it represents ordnance, city walls, and the headquarters that coordinate armies. Diamonds have the firepower and coordination to trump diamonds, while they are weak to the concentrated strikes of spades. An operation by diamonds is an artillery barrage, a destructive spell, or a hostile takeover.


Clubs are the wealth of the earth, those that till the land and support all the others. Its element is earth. In a fantasy setting, this is the farmers, barbarians, beasts, and the primal magic of druids and shamans. In a military context, this represents militia, conscript armies, formation fighting, and trench warfare. A unit of diamonds has more people in it than any other suite, all of whom are all at least somewhat elite. An operation by clubs is a pitched battle, an offensive to hold ground, a fight of attrition, or a denial of resources leading to hardship.


Hearts represent the home front, morale, supply networks, hospitals, but also spies and commandos. Its element is water. In a fantasy setting, hearts represent divine magic, astral beings, ninja, and rogues. In a military context hearts are chains of supply, morale corps, medical corps, and the navy. Hearts have the clout and ability to break morale to trump spades, but is dependent on the support of the diamonds and weak to their attacks. An operation by hearts is an infiltration, subversion, sabotage, or a very effective support of one of the other suits.

Scope of the Conflict

Once each organization has a location, a suit, and a power rating the stage is set. The final consideration before beginning is where the conflict takes place, and how this relates to the home location of each organization. The further away an organization has to stretch, the weaker its resources. A much weaker organization can still have the advantage on a much more powerful rival on its home ground. The following scopes of operation apply to organizations in conflict.

Home Ground

The organization is in its very heartland. This is a very local area or social sphere. A gang on its own turf, a corporation defending its headquarters, a nation defending its capital. Before an organization can be engaged on its home ground it is almost certainly weakened, or the opposition needs to be very much stronger. An organization with a power of 15 or lower has no influence beyond its home ground and cannot be challenged outside this area. An organization on its home ground has a maximum card size equal to its power -5. Each round of a local conflict is about a day.

Regional Conflict

The organization is engaged on it own territory, but not at the very center of its power. Often these are two regional powers fighting for living room in the same region or business. Geographically this is the size of a state or medium nation, but in a gang context it might be a single large city. An organization with a power of 20 or lower has no influence beyond its home region and cannot be challenged outside this area. An organization acting in its own region has a maximum card size equal to its power -10. Each round of a regional conflict is about a week.


The organization is reaching outside its own territory or branch, trying to expand into a great power. A war is the first international scope of conflict, often fought in a no-man's land or buffer zone between between the contesting organizations' home regions, but expanding onto the home region of the enemy as one side gains an advantage. An organization with a power of 25 or lower has no influence on the world level and cannot be challenged in a world war. An organization at war has a maximum card size equal to its power -15. Each round of a regional conflict is about a month, but depending on weather and logistics, there are usually only four playable turns in a year, called the campaign season.

World War

Certain conflicts escalate beyond mere wars, becoming intercontinental world wars or interplanar or interplanetary wars between worlds. Whole nations are objectives in such a conflict. An organization with a power of 30 or lower has no influence on the next stage of battle, superconflict, and cannot be challenged there. An organization in a world war has a maximum card size equal to its power -20. Each round of a world war is a year.


Certain conflicts escalate beyond mere wars, becoming interplanar or interstellar superconflicts. The prizes in these battles are entire worlds. Conflicts on this scale, and the organizations that wage them, are usually beyond the scope of even the greatest heroes, being the province of galactic empires and gods. An organization in a world war has a maximum card size equal to its power -25. Each round of a superconflict is a decade.

The Card Game

Once the battlefield is known, and the scope of the conflict for each side is determined, each alliance should have a maximum card size it can use in each suit. This is the power of the best organization in each suit controlled by a player or faction. The card size determines which cards can be kept and used in the later stages of the game.

Join the struggles of the Purple Dragon League, a home-defense group consisting of the Warriors of Ki (the player characters, spades, power 14), the local fire department (clubs 11), the Little Leaguers, a group of scrappy kids and their pets (diamonds 12), and Tony's Pizza Delivery (hearts 9). The scope of the conflict is local, the citizens of the block are refusing to budge in the face of a zombie invasion. Because of the local scope, each suit has a maximum card size five lower than its power; spades 9, diamonds 7, clubs 6, and hearts 4. Their opposition are the hopping vampires (spades 9), the fireomancers (clubs 6), the the shambling dead (diamonds 7), and the ghosts of Christmas past (heart 8). The stage is set.

Drawing and Discarding Cards

Each side draws 15 cards, discards as many cards as they like, and then refill their hand back to 15 cards again.

In general, a player will want to discard all cards he cannot use. A player can use all face cards and any card in a suit that is lower or equal to his rating in that suit. Sometimes, a player with a particular high rating his suits may want to discard low cards in that suit in the prospect of drawing higher cards, but there is always a risk in doing this.

The First Card

The aggressor plays the first card. This card determines what the conflict is all about. It must be of a suit in which the defender has a scope high enough to be engaged on the current scope of the conflict, see Scope of the Conflict.

Playing Cards

The players then take turns playing cards, beginning with the player who initiated the conflict. Each card must exceed the value of the last card played, in the following priority.

  1. A higher card in the same suit. A face card is generally easy to exceed, having a value of jack = 1, queen = 2, King = 3.
  2. Any face card in the same suit. Face cards care a kind of mini-trumps within their own suit.
  3. Any card in the trump suit. As outlined above, spades trump clubs which trump diamonds, which trump hearts which trump spades in a big circle.

There are thus two suits playable at any time; the suit of the current card (only face cards and higher-value cards allowed), and the trump suit. Once a new card is played, all previous card plays are forgotten and only the currently played card matters.


Play continues like this until one player cannot play a card any more; the other player wins this round of conflict. If the last card played is of the same suit as the first card played, that means the conflict came to a positive resolution for the winner.

The conflict is about something; there is something which is at stake, determined by the first card played. But there is no guarantee the conflict ends on this note; most conflicts merely end with losses for each side.

If the first and last card matches, the winning player increases his value in that suit by one. Otherwise, the loser reduces his rating in the suit of the last played card by one.

Multiple-round Conflicts

A conflict is rarely resolved in just a single round. Instead, each round is followed by another, with the loser of the previous round generally beginning the next round. There is often an pause between rounds, a time for adventure, intrigue, or other interludes.

A conflict generally ends when one side is so reduced in rating that it can no longer be attacked on the scene the conflict was played out.

Table: Hand Size
on Team
per player
1 15 15
2 8 16
3 7 21
4 6 24
5 5 25
6 4 24
7 3 21
8 2 16

Multiplayer Conflict

Often, a conflict will be between groups of organizations controlled by different players. Such a game is played in the usual way, with players on different teams. The number of cards each player draws depends on the number of players on his team. The total number of cards in the team increases, to compensate for the difficulty in coordinating several separate hands. More than 5 players to a side offers no advantages and are not encouraged.

Each player calculates their rating in each suit separately.

All the players in a team take one turn together, juggling the playing of cards the best they can agree. They win or lose together.

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