Tech Support (and let's play it right here!)

This is a nano-game I posted on my blog; I'm copying the text of it here in the hope of starting a game on the forum!

The premise is simple: one player takes on the role of someone employed in tech support, while everybody else takes it in turn to call them with problems. The twist is that the callers can be calling up for the support they need in doing anything and the call-taker will help them, no matter what. This requires some principles and assumptions to be laid down before you can start playing:

- Nothing is ever the customer's fault, even if the root cause is their own ignorance or failure: the caller should always report a specific instance of something not working the way it is expected to, not merely "It doesn't work," with no context.
- Callers are always placing a call to whoever specifically deals with the issue they are having: they aren't just calling the emergency services or a generic helpline, it is always the corporation that sold them the product or service they are having problems with (even if no actual sale of any kind was involved - see below.)
- The call-taker is professional, courteous and doing their best to help with a genuine problem; the caller is always anxious, polite and genuinely grateful to the call-taker for their help. No ranting, raving, screaming, asking to speak to supervisors or hanging-up angrily is allowed.

In all situations, the caller explains what is happening with their product or service and the call-taker responds by seeking further explanation, offering solutions to the problem or finding some other way to help them if the problem cannot be fixed. The essence of the game is coming up with novel situations that stretch the definition of 'tech support' as far beyond the usual as possible. Here are some suggestions for the types of calls to make:

Low Tech Support
"I tried putting my shoes on this morning but they didn't fit."
"I was reading a book but two of the pages stuck together."
"I was trying to make a cup of tea but the water wouldn't boil."

High Tech Support
"My clone just tried too kill me and take over my life."
"When I go to warp speed, everything goes all blurry and shaky."
"My time machine brought me to this era but now I can't get home."

Non Tech Support
"I'm failing all my subjects at school."
"I don't think my partner loves me any more."
"I never seem to get invited to any parties."

Non Human Support
"I've been trying to fly south for the winter but I keep getting lost."
"My dominance of the pack has been challenged by an outsider."
"I've collected all this pollen but it's not making honey."

Supernatural Support
"We found a cursed book and read from it, now one of my friends is possessed by a demon."
"Nothing is appearing in my pentacle."
"I've tried stabbing, shooting and setting it on fire, but nothing I do makes this monster stay dead!"

If you're the caller, you can draw on your life experience or your knowledge of history, science, mythology and popular culture to define your problem ("I just tried teleporting but a fly got into the pod with me and our DNA got mixed up") as long as you stick to the tone of the game: communicate your problem calmly and clearly, as if it were no big deal and a perfectly acceptable problem to have. If you're the call-taker, remember your options when dealing with any issue:

- Ask for more information ("Was this zombie moving very fast or was it quite slow?")
- Take the the caller through some simple diagnostics ("What happens if you change your political opinions?")
- Suggest a solution ("Try regurgitating the frog then swallowing it again.")
- Ascribe the problem to temporary conditions ("Well, it looks like civilisation was due to collapse this morning, but society should reform some time in the next 5-10 generations.")
- Explain that it's a feature, not a bug ("That actually sounds like empathy, not telepathy, so you can only sense their emotions, not read their thoughts.")
If all else fails, offer, to replace, refund or upgrade ("I'm sorry I've not been able to help you today, but I can offer you a karmic upgrade for your next incarnation upon the material plane.")

The caller can never just arbitrarily block the call-taker's contribution, they must respond to everything that is said, either positively (give the information the call-taker asks for or confirm that their suggestion has worked) or negatively (explain why they can't give the information or what other issue is preventing the solution from working.) The call ends when either the caller is happy that their issue has been resolved or the call-taker has to offer to replace, refund or upgrade.

Additional Rules for Forum Play:
- We deal with one call at a time and each post has to be an answer to the previous one: please don't start a new call before the current one is complete.
- Anyone can jump in and take part as either the caller or call-taker, but no double-posting, please: give other players a chance.
- Don't be afraid to finish a call, if it seems apt to you as a response to the previous post, but then leave it to someone else to start the next call: remember, no double-posting.

Comments

  • edited June 2014
    Call #1

    "Hi, I'm trying to design a game but my conflict resolution mechanics aren't driving play in the way I want; can you help me out?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Yes, thank you for calling, sir or madam. Let's see what we can figure out.
    First: Is this an empirical simulation system or a story-first system?"
  • "Uh, I'm not sure... how do I tell which model I'm using?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Oh I'm sorry for being such a geek; it's an occupational hazard and I sometimes forget my social skills. Does your system possess charts or tables which are used to determine and apply the fictional effects of actions based on the laws of physics? Or are the applied effects of actions based more on narrative concerns like drama and character development?"
  • "OK, hold on, I'm just going to turn it over and have a look on the back... yes, there are a lot of tables there and a whole chapter of modifiers to rolls based on circumstances, so I think it's the first one you said? The frictional effects of the laws of psychics?"
  • "Ok, thank you. That's exactly what I needed to know. You can put it down now.

    Let's see how your system responds to a few simple diagnostics. Don't be scared, it's not complicated. I'll talk you through it. Tell me... What happens when you enter a starting halfling character swinging a halberd at a typical NPC fighter? Does the system accept that?"
  • "How do I find the input for a typical NPC fighter? Is that in the back of the book?"
  • "I'm sorry, my bad, that's what I get for using the script. They give us all scripts, did you know that? Let me try this my own way. I'm sending you psychic vibrations right now. Please close your eyes and let me know when you feel a connection."
  • "Alright, but, uh, y'know... don't look in my spank bank, ok? Just give me a second... ok, I can feel a connection forming... yes... is that your name flashing in my id-box, next to the pop-up ad for artisanal pencil sharpening? I'm clicking on it... ok, we're connected psyche-to-psyche."
  • "Perfect. Now let's...
    Let's uh...
    I'm sorry, could you please stop focusing on the spank bank?
    How about let's replay the last problem you had with your conflict resolution mechanics, and I'll see what I can see."
  • "Well, I... I'm not sure if this was okay, but I sort of... well, I inserted a conflicted romantic interest into the game plot and then things got all weird. The system just kept making several Charisma rolls and maybe it's stuck in a loop? I was hoping for some kind of, um, 'bleed' or something, I guess, but it hasn't left Table 15-C."
  • "Did you try manually resetting the subplot?"
  • "I'm not using a sub-plot; should I be? I was just going to make the players follow the main plot no matter what; if they fail any rolls, I can just make them roll over & over again until they succeed."
  • "Oh, I understand the problem now. I can sense through the connection that you still have the original packaging somewhere nearby. Please look in the box? You should find a set of Railroad Dice. They're in a small ziplock bag labeled "MOAR PLOT".

    Those are the dice you want to be using for this scenario, because they roll only the numbers the GM wants to see.

    I also notice that your purchase is still under warranty. That means if your set was defective or missing, we can replace them for you at no additional charge. Shall I route your call to the warranty service department?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Thank you, you've been... rattle rattle... 2d6 very helpful gnolls."

    End of Call #1
  • (I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read Asif's last post.)
  • Call #2

    "Hi, is this Puppy Love Inc.? I ordered a puppy from your website yesterday and it was delivered today. Everything else is great, but he doesn't eat. What should I do?"
  • "OK, I just need to get a few details from you; can you read out the serial number tattooed onto your puppy's belly? And confirm the breed?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Sure, I'm going to turn him over... it says... K9-861-841-3-9... and... Bred in China. I'm pretty sure it's a dachshund. It's not very long, but I think puppies are supposed to be short. It has large flappy ears and it said 'Dachshund, wire-haired, grey' on the box. Come to think of it, the girl delivered the box upside down. I don't know if that's the problem?"
  • "Okay. Just to get this one out of the way first, have you tried resetting his gyral state? I can help you with that if you're not sure."
  • "Yes, I tried that and I also tried adjusting his leptin and ghrelin levels with a drip, but he still won't touch his food..."
  • "Can you just confirm for me that you are giving him Puppy Love McPuppy Chunks from a registered supplier and not any other alleged 'food'. If you wouldn't mind."
  • "Yes, I did give him McPuppy chunks. I got them from someone down the market, but they did have Registered supplier written on the box, although now I think of it, they're quite a bit darker than usual, and the words registered supplier were spelt 'registed suplier'".
  • "OK, let's see... can you get a Geiger counter and run it over the 'food' you bought for your puppy, then let me know what reading you get?"
  • edited June 2014
    "Bloody hell, it's off the scale! And now I look at the box again, I see there's something written in Russian on the underside of it that's been very crudely scratched out. From my limited Russian it looks like Best Friend Pet Shop, and then, er, *he***b*l. That make sense?
  • "We have an M9 Mutant Dog model in development that is designed to digest radioactive food. The regular K9 models, though, cannot. I suggest you get original Puppy Love McPuppy Chunks. If you can't find a local registered supplier you can order McPuppy Chunks from our website. Thanks for calling and have a nice day!"

    End of Call #2
  • Call #3

    "Hello? I am in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. What should I do?"
  • edited June 2014
    Call #3

    "Hello, is this Mrs. Madding's Mystic Mattresses? There's a monster under my bed, and I can't get it out."

    "Yes, hello! Um, are you currently equipped with our certified Labyrinth Diagnostic Gear?"
  • edited June 2014
    Call #3
    I'm working on my laptop in a cafe, and the sun's shining directly into my eyes. I called The World Meteorological Control Service, but they said that as I don't have a premium account with them (whatever the hell that is) they can't respond to my request to re-angle the sun's rays. Hello? I think there's another call on this line. Hello? Hello?
  • (We're a crowd of freaking ninjas in here.)
  • You said it!!
  • edited June 2014
    (James has scratched an itch, apparently! Go ahead and take the next line, Leo.)
  • edited June 2014
    "A maze of twisty passages, you say. Hang on, I'll just bring up the schematics... Bear with me... Ah, here we are. Oh. According to this map you should be at the top of the Burning Tower. No idea why they call it that. Anyway, could you try adjusting your backpack's short-range antenna for me? Just give the end a bit of a tweak."
  • edited June 2014
    "Uh, I gave it a tweak and it made a snapping noise and bent at a weird angle. Is it supposed to do that? I think I hear it whispering."
  • The call ends when either the caller is happy that their issue has been resolved or the call-taker has to offer to replace, refund or upgrade.
    A note to the other players that I didn't end call #2 in the correct way. There's no way for the call-taker to say that the issue is resolved. I could've offered an upgrade to the M9 puppy model.
  • edited June 2014
    You should make that the subject of Call #4.

  • Whispering, eh? That's doesn't right. Tell you what, I'll try to help you through this maze, and then if you'd like to send it in I'll mail you a free upgrade.

    End of Call #3
  • Call #4

    "Hello, Necronom Inc.? I've been trying to summon Nyarlathotep using the procedures shown in chapter XIII. I've drawn the circle and I've drawn all the glyphs accurately, but it's really difficult to pronounce some of these words. Can you help me?"
  • "Hi, my name us Suzie and I'll be helping you with your summoning problem today. If you can hold on for one moment and I'll open up a chat window. How has your week gone so far? Mm hmm. There, there should be a box on your PC opening right now, try not to focus on the corners too much. Excellent, now, if you could copy in the words that you are having trouble with and I'll type them back to you phonetically."
  • edited June 2014
    "Ok, hang on one sec... It's right in the middle of the the second paragraph. Fatan solem nibar... Here. How about your week? I expect you -- HOLY SHIT! THERE ARE TENTACLES COMING OUT OF THE CORNERS! SUZIE! CLOSE THE BOX! CLOSE THE..."
  • "I AM THE ONE CALLED SUZIE, IGNORE THE SCREAMING & CRYING SOUNDS YOU MAY JUST HAVE HEARD... I DROPPED THE COFFEE I WAS DRINKING WITH MY HUMAN MOUTH! GRAAAaaargle... pardon me. It sounds like your soul may be incompatible with this ritual; I am sending you an... 'upgrade request'... yes, that is definitely what is is and nothing sinister or diabolical. When you open the... 'upgrade request'... just slash your left palm open with a silver blade and press it to the screen while reciting the words you will see. Don't forget to check the 'Yes, Master' box at the bottom of the window."
  • I read this and started to think there might be a deeper game that goes with the premise of this one, something like 'Tech Support: Site Visit!' Maybe an alternate setting for InSpectres?
  • edited June 2014
    "I'm afraid I can't do that, 'Suzie'. You see, while you were busy explaining about the coffee and the upgrade request, I pulled the power plug out of the wall. And then - in my capacity as the regional director of the NSA's Cosmic Entity Fraud Unit - I ordered a tactical nuclear strike against your call center which should be hitting right about... NOW.

    Thank you, my problem has been resolved."

    End of Call #4
  • I read this and started to think there might be a deeper game that goes with the premise of this one, something like 'Tech Support: Site Visit!' Maybe an alternate setting for InSpectres?
    On another wavelength, I think it'd make an interesting spin off of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.
  • Game designer Francesco Sedda took it upon himself to translate my Tech Support nano-game into Italian after a friend told him about it. He's kindly shared the pdf he created with me, so now I'm sharing it with you. Enjoy.
  • Call #5 "Hi, thanks for picking up, I think there's something wrong with my phone. Everyone I talk to on it refuses to speak anything but Italian."
  • edited June 2014
    Sì, grazie, e ciò che la lingua ci si aspettava di sentire?
  • "Äh, ich denke, ich hatte erwartet, um Englisch zu hören? Wie ich spreche."
  • "I opehay I'may otnay etectingday a otenay ofay enophobiaxay; erhapspay ifay ouyay ustjat elltay emay hichway odelmay ofay honepay ou'reya usingyay andyay eway ancay esolveray histay orfay ouyay."
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