Obstructive Bureaucrat
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Basic Information

An Obstructive Bureaucrat is an archetypal character representing a member of a large and powerful organization whose main task in the story is to keep someone (usually the protagonists) from getting what they want - either the protagonists need something from the organization itself, in which case the Obstructive Bureaucrat will do his best to bury them in red tape, or (usually in the case of organizations with legal enforcement powers) the Obstructive Bureaucrat will get the organization itself involved in the current affairs of the player characters.

There are various subtypes of Obstructive Bureaucrat.

The first is seeking a bribe and is actually fairly common, particularly in places where salaries are inadequate and/or irregular - payment of an appropriate sum will make obstacles vanish with suprising speed. Possibly because they never existed in the first place.

The second main type is hostile - they disapprove of the protagonists (or what they think the protagonists are) and are creating obstacles to their progress - these types can be convinced to co-operate1 or possibly bypassed by contacting a less hostile superior. The bored and malicious (rather than directly hostile) bureaucrat and the "little Hitler" revelling in the chance to excercise power over someone for once belong to this subcategory.

The third - and most troublesome type - are those who are not bending the rules and are absolutely correct (if over zealous) in their application. They can often belong to the Lawful Stupid branch of philosophy and can be hard to work around in any moral (or at least legal) way.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • These guys are very useful whenever you want to make the lives of the player characters more complicated. And since killing them will tend to be frowned upon by the local authorities, the PCs will need to get creative when dealing with them. After all, if they could just take what they wanted, they wouldn't have needed to deal with the bureaucracy in the first place!
  • Considering the loathing they inspire, Obstructive Bureaucrat tend to make good Acceptable Targets.
  • Consider using the subtypes for greater colour - and as an opportunity for the non-combat specialist PCs to shine. Subtype 1 in particular remains extremely common in the developing world and is likely to re-appear wherever the state is slow to pay.
  • The third type can made a good signpost, to show that whatever the PCs are up to is dangerous, or at least not generally approved. "Yes, we know about the buried temple and the ancient worm god bound in it. Why did you think you needed permits to go into the catacombs?"
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