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Case Study: Plot Outline for Inhuman Resources

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Estimated reading time: 28 min

High-Level Considerations

Overarching Narrative Themes:

  • Characters should grow from act to act with an emphasis on Darren’s growth from a disengaged selfish employee to a leader who truly cares about the wellbeing of his team, even if he still doesn’t love working very much.
  • Technology is both a sentient force working against the party and an environmental force working the party. In some cases, technology comes alive to actively attack the party and in other cases the party is venturing into digital versions of the underworld to do combat. The idea here is that the definition of “reality” is very different in an online world, so we have the opportunity here to create some interesting content (and jokes) about technology as a tool and as an adversary.
  • We should lean on foreshadowing wherever possible, especially with sidebar NPC conversations. For example, if we are writing NPC dialogue for Act 1, we should be looking ahead to Acts 2 and 3 to hint at upcoming settings to better flesh out this world.
  • The completion of each quest should come with SyncedIn updates. This will be completed in follow-up passes as quest dialogue is written, but if we have ideas for what a character or company would post as a result of a quest, make a note of it as you go. SyncedIn updates should be a mix of personal posts from characters Darren has met, from companies in this world (even if we don’t interact with them directly). 
  • Each character should speak with a distinct voice in terms of tone, sentence structure, and word choice. Puns are worthwhile, but we should be careful not to recycle puns and should be careful not use so many of them that it gets in the way of the story. Humor is our larger goal, but we should let that humor come from the theme of corporate absurdity, the interactions between character personalities clashing, and then puns (in that level of priority).

Exposition

  • Tutorial

Part 1 – New Blood at the Old Firm

Part 1 – Boyezar fires Darren from the Old Firm, despite Darren’s best efforts to keep his job at the Call Center.

Major Settings:

  • The Old Firm
  • The Parking Lot
  • The Infernal Call Center
  • Sinitech
  • Boyezar’s Hall
  • Digital Hell (the hell inside of computers, a green-hued version of existing office assets)
  • The Shipping Docks

Minigames:

  • Office digging

Party Members:

  • Darren
  • Sheila
  • Onecent

Notable NPCs:

  • Valhelsing (digging tutorial)
  • Tentacle Tom
  • Philucipher
  • Boyezar

Key Items:

  • Mysterious Stapler
  • Cackling Car Keys
  • Slideshow of ____
  • Keyboards of Chaos
  • Endless Boot Discs

Key Narrative Themes:

  • Darren has a small crush on Sheila but she is career-driven and Darren is not at being direct. Think Jim and Pam but in hell.
  • Darren is not at all interested in actually working hard but doesn’t want to lose his job because not having a job is harder than being employed.
  • Darren and Onecent initially do not get along but their adventures together help them bond.
  • This act is software heavy, so we should lean into jokes about bugs, bad IT processes, file compatibility issues, and puns/spoofs of popular Office software. References toward the trend toward automation and AI should be subtle but plentiful.

Episode Outline:

  • Episode 1-1: The Call (Center) of Destiny
    • Small – Darren learns how the digging minigame works in the office of endless clutter with Valhelsing. He uncovers a mysterious stapler.
    • Small – Darren realizes he forgot his office keys in his car, so he ventures back out into the cursed parking lot to get them where he encounters vagabond demons and goes through the combat tutorial. 
    • Small – When Darren unlocks his office it’s clear that he doesn’t spend much time working–demons of sloth have overtaken his workspace! He must clear out the office before he can get to work. Darren also learns how office decorating works once his office is clear of enemies.
    • Medium – Darren gets an email from Sheila, requesting him to visit her in his office. Sheila is a programmer, and she has designed a small puzzle labyrinth to keep salespeople from cold knocking her for pitches. Darren must work through the labyrinth and fight Sheila’s assistant to have their meeting. Sheila informs Darren that his numbers aren’t looking great and that he should clean up his act because corporate has been running reports. Corporate sent an email, but it must have gotten caught in his spam filter.
    • Medium – Darren logs into his computer and accidentally opens a cursed attachment, sucking him into his computer to fight through his inbox (a series of generic NPCs and a few named PCs spitting generic corporate email lines before beginning a battle sequence).
    • Large – Darren decides to visit the call center (he hasn’t done that in a while) and he discovers that all of his underlyings have drifted into chaotic evil alignment. He must beat them back into lawful evil alignment to get the call center under control.
  • Episode 1-2: Achievement Unlocked
    • Small – After his long day of actually working, Darren fights his way back to his car to go home for the night. When he reaches his car, he gets a message from Sheila. It looks like corporate is still not happy with the call center numbers, so Darren goes back into the office for an overnight work session.
    • Medium – Darren re-enters the Old Firm to discover the night shift is there. These demons don’t recognize Darren’s authority and attack him on sight, in the dim lowlight of a late night hell office-scape.
    • Small – Darren unlocks a new upgrade item for his office for his first late night at the office ever and the late night janitor challenges him to redecorate to incorporate the upgrade into the aesthetic.
    • Small – Darren gets hungry. He orders delivery, but since it’s hell knows his order will be wrong and that the demon deliveries will fight him to get a tip. The order is wrong and they do indeed try to mug him for a tip.
    • Medium – Darren loses focus and starts clicking back through old emails. He accidentally logs into a webinar and gets trapped. It’s a tutorial about SyncedIn etiquette and he has to fight a bunch of corporate culture demons simulating inappropriate office behavior (while also learning about how SyncedIn works).
    • Large – Darren wakes up in the office with Sheila over him. She tells him that he is still in danger of getting fired and suggests he go to Tentacle Tom for help. Tentacle Tom wants back into his fantasy football league and sends Darren across the parking lot to Sinitech to “talk” to the fantasy league commissioner, Philucipher.
  • Episode 1-3: A Bone to Pick
    • Medium – Onecent arrives as a temp and Darren must visit the Storage Closet of Inconvenience to fetch him a new desk. The closet lives up to its name. Onecent is tasked with a series of upgrade tasks, and unbeknownst to Onecent and Darren, Onecent is actually installing the AI that will eventually replace every employee at the Old Firm.
    • Small – Darren asks Onecent to wear headphones instead of blaring his music on his speakers. Onecent refuses, so Darren is forced to fight him to end his insubordination.
    • Small – Onecent insists on taking loud personal calls at his desk in the middle of the office. Darren asks him to stop. Onecent refuses, so Darren is forced to fight him to end his insubordination.
    • Small – Darren discovers Onecent eating Darren’s leftover takeout. Darren asks for it back. Onecent refuses, so Darren is forced to fight him to end his insubordination.
    • Medium – When Onecent refuses to comply with Darren’s rule, Darren storms into Boyezar’s hall to demand that Onecent be ordered to respect him. Darren fights his way through minions to get to the inner sanctum and Boyezar crushes him, easily. Boyezar sends him back to the call center and orders him to team up with Onecenter for a team building exercise and to find a slideshow in the Storage Closet of Despair.
    • Large – Darren and Onecent venture into the Storage of Closet of Despair to find the Slideshow of _____ as part of a team building exercise. Onecent and Darren bond over their dislike for all things like work and bosses.
  • Episode 1-4: The Exit Interview
    • Small – Darren and Onecent try loading the Slideshow on Darren’s computer, but the file format is incompatible with the new version. To get the file to load, Onecent and Darren have to fight file conversion demons.
    • Medium – It turns out all of the computers are not working properly. Darren and Onecent go to Sheila’s office for help, but the software has turned against her and they have to fight the demons of cumbersome office software to rescue her.
    • Medium – With Sheila officially in the part, she recommends venturing across the street to Sinitech to get back the boot discs she loaned the IT team. When they step outside into the parking lot, it’s chaos, and they are swarmed by former Sinitech employees waiving resumes and issuing challenges, all in desperate bids to get jobs. When they reach the Sinitech door, they find Philucipher on the ground. His dying breath is to kick Tom back out of the fantasy football league.
    • Small – Back at the office, the numerous underlings have been replaced by a select few stronger underlings. Darren demands to know where his colleagues went, but the new stronger underlings attack the party. Afterward, Darren discovers his call center has been destroyed. Knowing he needs equipment to get his numbers back up, he posts a job listing on SyncedIn and heads down to the Shipping Docks with Onecent and Sheila to pick up a new batch of hardware that was due in.
    • Large – Darren and company head to the shipping docks to get a new shipment of cursed keyboards for the office. They discover that the docks are under siege by viking zombies. They fight them off and discover an ominous crate that seems like an important plot point.
    • Small – When Darren returns to the surface, he checks his email. A digital Boyezar informs him that he has been terminated. Boyezar is feeling sporting, so he sends an AI exit interviewer after Darren. Fortunately, Onecent installed a backdoor during his IT work that allows them to make an escape.

Part 2 – A Cold Reception

Part 2 – Darren joins Dismalsoft as the Director of InHuman Resources, responds to a Leviathan Corp. RFP and begins to endear himself to his team.

Major Settings:

  • Bar
  • Coffee Shop
  • Dismalsoft
  • CursePress (digital office representing a website dungeon)
  • Office Supply Store
  • Mail Room of the Abyss
  • Annex of Annihilation
  • The Third Circle Career (un)Fair
  • Icy Hell

Minigames:

  • SyncedIn Job Posting (Tetris game to assemble a mad libs style job description?)

Party Members:

  • Darren
  • Sheila
  • Onecent
  • Gourdy
  • Sloan?

Notable NPCs:

  • Valhelsing (undead)
  • Previous HR Director (alive and later undead)
  • Greg Dismal
  • Sloan
  • Moony

Key Items

  • TBD

Key Narrative Themes:

  • Darren and Onecent are becoming even more of a duo and their friendship is changing their outlook on what work means as they found joy in conquering challenges together.
  • Darren recognizes that he was one-dimensional with Sheila and realizes he might be pushing his crush too hard.
  • Darren is starting to feel as if something is very wrong in the underworld and as if a larger plot is revolving around him for some strange reason (it turns out that he and Sheila are the last two true employees of the Old Firm and they are keeping Boyezar from fully realizing the power of dynamic difficulty; Tentacle Tom was a contractor and Onecent was just a temp, so basically not even people as far as a corporation is concerned)
  • This act focuses on the absurdity of corporate rituals, especially as they relate to outdated or analog processes. For example, the obsession with fax machine requirements and the trend of companies clinging to faxes. Or the banality of a career fair or responding to an RFP.
  • References to a lost sales rep named Moony (full name Jack “Full Moon” Bonus) are littered throughout the act. It turns out he is frozen in the icy hell and joins the party at the end of the act.
  • The corporate underworld ecosystem is unraveling, which to Darren’s team looks mostly likely a few businesses hitting hard times, but really Boyezar is torpedoing as many entities as he can, disguising some as deals gone bad or failed bids to win key contracts.

Episode Outline:

  • Episode 2-1: Highway to More Hell
    • Small – Darren, Onecent, and Tentacle Tom head to the bar to drown their sorrows over getting fired. They have to fight a few battles to get a seat.
    • Medium – Darren and Onecent have had a few and decide to stumble their way to the jukebox to change the song. The jukebox is possessed and fights back.
    • Small – Back at their seats, the bartending is taking too long to serve them their next round. Darren and Onecent sneak into the backroom to get their own stash of booze to continue the night. The backroom demons don’t appreciate that very much.
    • Small – Tentacle Tom needs to use the restroom and is worried someone will peek at his tentacles. Darren and Onecent agree to escort him. Needless to say, the bathroom at a bar in the underworld is a frightful place and battles ensue.
    • Medium – Darren is pretty far gone. Demon versions of himself come to him in his vision and challenge his life choices in a twisted version of the bar setting. Onecent is still in the party, and that’s pretty confusing for Onecent, which he voices repeatedly. When Darren and Onecent come to, they are on the street with the sun coming up. Sheila is offering them jobs at a company called Dismalsoft, but they need to be at the office in the next hour if they want a shot at the interview. Darren and Onecent are overjoyed.
    • Large – On their way to the interview, Darren’s car breaks down on the highway to Dismalsoft and they have to fight their way through a bunch of monsters. They are not the only ones battling: demon traffic directors are here, and that mangles the highway into a twisted maze of standstills and self-referencing detours.
  • Episode 2-2: Just the Fax
    • Medium – Darren and Onecent arrive at Dismalsoft and meet Greg Dismal, Sloan Underwood, and Jack; his new team at Dismalsoft. Meeting his new team means touring the Dismalsoft offices for orientation and fighting all of the employees in a series of mini boss battles in the case of significant characters.
    • Small – Darren sets up and decorates his new office, after clearing out the squatting interns who were using it as a hideout to skip out on work.
    • Small – Greg believes the office needs to be presentable to potential clients, so he tasks Darren with cleaning the grounds around the office, which is underworld code for killing all of the street demons loitering outside.
    • Small – Sheila suggests that they should consider pursuing RFPs to find more business and Sloan agrees. Greg then agrees because he has no real ideas of his own, so he tasks Darren’s party with logging into the company CursePress to update the company website to make it compliant with the RFP database. They enter a digital dungeon where the demons are all poor design decisions like flaming text, autoplaying background music, and popups.
    • Medium – With the website live, the team needs a way to accept RFP requirements. Greg reads the fineprint and discovers that the biggest clients prefer fax machines, so Darren and his party go to the office supply store to get a fax machine to receive the RFPs by fax.
    • Large – Darren was not fast enough in retrieving the fax machine, but Sheila convinces the database to send the RFP requirements by mail. Darren’s party ventures into the MailRoom of the Abyss to retrieve the two new RFPs: One from Leviathan Corp and one from Kylig Group.
  • Episode 2-3: Darren’s Hiring Inferno
    • Small – Darren takes Sheila to lunch. He runs into an ex-girlfriend and they literally fight. Sheila is not impressed by the date and is confused as to why Darren brought Onecent along if it was at all romantic (“He’s a part of the party now and that’s how RPG parties work”).
    • Medium – Greg Dismal wants to see if Darren’s really up to the task of running HR, so he sends Darren to the Annex of Annihilation to tell the previous HR Director that he’s fired (Greg didn’t have the guts to do it himself).
    • Medium – Darren awakes in Boyezar’s Hall but the world around him is hazy and glitchy (he is dreaming but doesn’t realize it). Sheila and Onecent are dead. Darren battles his way through a stream of familiar faces saying strange things about work ethic and the future of corporate culture. When he reaches Boyezar’s office, Boyezar is with a corrupted version of Darren. When corrupted Darren charges, Darren wakes up at his desk.
    • Small – Sloan is clearing out the conference room in preparation for a new project. She doesn’t want to touch any of the undead that crawled up through the floor because they are icky, so she asks Darren for help. When Darren clears out the room, he discovers that one of the undead is Valhelsing, a former colleague of his from the Old Firm, but she has died and been reanimated. She just keeps repeating “The difficulty is… The difficulty with difficulty… The difficult thing about difficulty…”
    • Small – The team realizes that when they get the Leviathan Corp contract they won’t have enough capacity to fulfill it, so they need to staff up. Onecent suggests that they make a job posting on SyncedIn to bring in candidates. Darren plays the Synced In Job Posting minigame to assemble and post a job description, calling candidates to visit them at the region’s biggest hiring event: The Third Circle Career (un)Fair.
    • Large – Darren and his party go to a job fair to staff up. They have to battle their way to their table to set up and then face a stream of unqualified but difficult candidates visiting their table. The final battle is with Gourdyt. Upon defeat, he agrees to work at the company.
  • Episode 2-4: Icebreakers for New Hires
    • Small – Darren plans a party to celebrate the impending contracts, but he has to win a conference room slot first. Sloan is the head of the party planning committee and summons her minions to deter him.
    • Small – Darren goes out to pick up a cake at the coffee where he and Sheila had their “date.” It’s free espresso day and the shop is swarming with demons keeping him from getting to the counter.
    • Small – Darren returns to the Annex to hang fliers for the party. He discovers an undead version of the previous HR Director muttering similar difficulty nonsense as Valhelsing. Darren makes a note to tell maintenance and security to keep former employees off the premises.
    • Medium – Darren’s team is invited to a virtual conference to learn they outcome of their RFPs. The virtual conference is naturally a hellscape of remote meeting nightmares like dropped connections, strange microphone echo, babies crying in the background, and unfortunate backgrounds learns they didn’t get the contract from Kylig Group but they did get the contract from Leviathan Corp–a bittersweet victory that frustrates the team.
    • Medium – Old Firm thugs try to break into the office and kill Greg. Darren and his party have to clear them out and save the office from being sacked (and Greg from being killed, but that’s mostly a bonus).
    • Large – Darren and his team are sent to Kylig Group in Jotunheim to investigate a client who may have been killed (ice world). Darren and his team battle to the end of Jotunheim to discover Moony frozen in a block of ice and Darren learns that Dismalsoft is woefully behind in tech and therefore did not win the job. Darren notices, however, that a familiar crate is also in the office, and he suspects that Boyezar is somehow involved.

Part 3 – Corporate’s Hell Game

Part 3 – Dismayed by losing the Kylig Group contract, Dismalsoft commits to upgrading their tech while doing their best to fulfill their promises with Leviathan Corp. The Leviathan Corp contract turns out to be tied to the Old Firm, so Darren and Boyezar collide again. Darren turns down Boyezar’s offer to conquer and rule the cosmos.

Major Settings:

  • Coffee Shop
  • Dismalsoft IT office
  • Egypt (Leviathan Corp HQ)
  • Car Rental Service
  • Highway and rest stop (x3)
  • Hell Motel
  • Hellfire Lake
  • Bar
  • Alternate Dismalsoft office layout
  • Hotel Ballroom
  • Yoga studio
  • Boyezar office vision (warped reality, mixed with the Hell Motel assets)
  • Cyber hell (digital burning office environment)
  • Old Firm + secret server room

Minigames:

  • Space invaders minigame to block incoming hack attempts

Party Members:

  • Darren
  • Sheila
  • Onecent
  • Gourdy
  • Sloan
  • Moony
  • Bart

Notable NPCs:

  • Dubianubis (Leviathan Corp CEO, based on the Egyption god Anubis)
  • Tentacle Tom
  • Boyezar

Key Items

  • TBD

Key Narrative Themes:

  • Darren begins to see the true meaning of leadership in this act, culminating in a turning point for his character at the act’s conclusion. Therefore, we need to see moments where characters observe Darren caring more than he used to and taking charge more often than he used to.
  • Leviathan Corp is based on ancient Egyptian ideas, so it’s a strange blend of arcane practices and masterful applications of technology but in a disguised, stone-age manner.
  • Since Bart is a new party member introduced in this act, we should use his him frequently in interactions with other characters to build his character up while also expanding on the character arcs of existing party members.

Episode Outline:

  • Episode 3-1: Hello My Name is Darren 
    • Medium – As part of the company’s initiative to be more competitive in their use of technology, the party visits the Dismalsoft IT department. It’s a wasteland of classic demons working with Mad Men era tech and processes. After defeating the IT demons of yore, the party agrees they need to find a new IT solution.
    • Small – Sloan can’t fix a paperjam. Her attempt to reset the firmware on her printer boots an ancient evil version of the software and printer demons swarm her office.
    • Small – Onecent vows to cut caffeine. Recognizing that he doesn’t have self-control, he vows to destroy the coffee shop and asks the party for help, turning the coffee shop demon baristas into enemy combatants the next time the party visits. 
    • Medium – Needing to rebuild their IT department, Sheila and Gourdy suggest looking for an outsourced solution. They pull a contact from SyncedIn and the party heads out to visit the vendor. When they arrive, the party discovers that the IT team they intended to hire has become undead and are using IT tech for evil that goes beyond the usual evil. When they clear the dungeon, they discover Bart in hiding, who joints joins the party. 
    • Small – Gourdy is being cyberbullied. The party logs into his email to investigate where they encounter anonymous demons attacking Gourdy’s insecurities. It turns out that Bart had been sending the emails. He was upset that Gourdy automated a part of his project management workflow and felt like he was less relevant. He apologies when he realizes Gourdy was actually trying to help and that this team is different from other companies he has worked for.
    • Large – With a new IT infrastructure in place, Dismalsoft feels more optimistic about their ability to live up to the Leviathan Corp contract and heads to the Leviathan Corp kickoff event held at a fancy hotel ballroom. The event turns out to be a test of Dismalsoft’s preparedness, at least that’s what Dubianubis, the Leviathan Corp CEO tells the party after they defeat one of his demon lieutenants.
  • Episode 3-2: It Burns When I Retreat
    • Medium – After hearing about the lavish event and the apparent strength of the Leviathan Corp culture, Greg decides the company should take a team building retreat. He asks Darren to head down to the rental car company to get a van for the team. The underworld version of renting a car is almost as bad as it is in real life, it turns out.
    • Small – Even though the van breaks down almost immediately, Greg insists on continuing with the retreat and refranes the walk as an opportunity to get to know each other. He spends the first stretch of highway talking about how his work ethic is the key to his marriage and how much his wife appreciates his never being home. The party fights down a hell highway and gets a small reprieve at a dirty rest stop.
    • Small – Since Bart is the newest to the team, Greg asks him to answer a few classic ice breaker questions on the next stretch of highway. Oddly, the same staff seem to work at the next rest stop. The party remarks on this.
    • Small – Next, Greg asks for volunteers of who wants to share more. Onecent jumps in right away and immediately makes the party uncomfortable with his openness. The party again stops at a rest stop and worries that they are caught in the wrong circle of hell as this appears to also be the same staff and the same restaurants.
    • Medium – The party arrives at the Hell Motel. It’s gross, and the party has to defeat giant bugs to earn their rooms. Moony talks his way into a room upgrade and that surprises the rest of the party because otherwise Moony can never sell anything ever.
    • Large – Greg asks Darren to take charge of the retreat activities at Hellfire Lake to sharpen his leadership skills. The party goes on a scavenger around the Lake as part of a team building exercise and awakens a lake monster. The lake monster turns out to have been hired by Greg, much to the party’s frustration.
  • Episode 3-3: Meddling Middle Management
    • Small – Darren is nominated for an office decorating award and has the chance to be featured in a magazine, so he takes that as a challenge to up his game and expand his office decorations yet again.
    • Medium – In the middle of an HR meeting with Moony, explaining what is and is not appropriate underworld language in the workplace, Sloan busts in to inform the party that Sheila is in danger.  Someone is hacking Dismalsoft and Sheila needs help fighting them off, sending the party back into digital hell (with hints of Ancient Egypt) into a Space Invaders minigame to blast away the final fingers of the hacking attack.
    • Medium – Someone leaves a bad company review on Backdoor. The party goes online to investigate who it could be (turns out it was Greg being sad).
    • Small – Tentacle Tom sends a cryptic message to Darren on SyncedIn, so the party heads to the bar to meet him. Some of the patrons remember Darren and Onecent from before and attack. In the backroom, Tentacle Tom reveals what the party had suspected: Leviathan Corp isn’t what they seem and they might be in cahoots with the Old Firm.
    • Small – Bart introduces a new project management system and accidentally summons a curse (shuffles the Dismalsoft office layout, needs run like a dungeon to be returned to normal)
    • Large – The party goes on the offensive and heads to the strangely designed Leviathan Corp HQ, built in the ancient aesthetic of Egypt with many references to old gods. The party’s suspicions about Leviathan Corp’s true intentions are confirmed with the Leviathan Corp staff immediately attack. The party battles to the tip of the pyramid to face Dubianubis, who reveals that he had no choice but to work with Boyezar or face true termination. Dubianubis agrees to not reveal the party’s discovery to Boyezar because he realizes Boyezar will ultimately betray him if he doesn’t join the fight to end his plan.
  • Episode 3-4: The Riveting Report
    • Small – Sheila tries to take a new online course but loads the wrong module, forcing the party to fight through a totally useless tutorial on Flash before they can get back to work.
    • Small – Moony can’t get a bad prospect to leave his office. A battle ensues.
    • Small – Darren and Onecent try yoga on their lunch break. During meditation, Darren experiences himself at Boyezar’s desk and fights off an invading force of good demons threatening his ultimate rule over the underworld.
    • Medium – Sheila goes missing. Sloan tracks a paper trail to an abandoned office building where Sheila is being held prisoner by Boyezar thugs. The party must rescue her.
    • Medium – In keeping with their contract and ruse with Leviathan Corp, the Party works to finish the project but loses the final version of the project and has to go into the depths of cyber hell to recover the temp version back up. When they emerge, they print the document (per the requirements) and discover that Dismalsoft does not own a stapler. Darren remembers his stapler from the Old Firm and concocts a plan to recover it from his old office.
    • Large – The party attempts to break into the Old Firm to get to Darren’s office. The office is more twisted and evil than before, but they eventually reach Darren’s old office. Upon retrieving the stapler, the party is trapped by Boyezar who offers Darren the opportunity to join forces. Darren declines, explaining that he doesn’t want to become just another evil boss. Boyezar sicks two mega minions on the party and leaves to take care of more pressing matters. The party defeats the minions and escapes to the Dismalsoft offices to regroup.

Part 4 – For Sail

Part 4 – The AI expands its reach, putting Darren’s job in danger. Leviathan Corp sneaks a message to Dismalsoft about where to learn more about the marketing team and dynamic difficulty, so Darren and his team decide to track down the Marketing Team to stop Boyezar’s plot.

Major Settings:

  • Inside Greg’s mind
  • Dismalsoft Breakroom
  • Dismalsoft Parking Lot
  • Underworld Streets and small generic bars
  • The Archives
  • Dismalsoft Bathroom
  • Coffee shop (AI invaded)
  • Bar (AI invaded) 
  • Inside SyncedIn
  • Office Supply Store
  • Ancient Campus
  • The Annex
  • Highway + rest stop 
  • Dismalsoft IT department
  • River Styx + Cosmic Mega Yacht

Minigames:

  • BurgerTime minigame to push the pieces of a map together while dodging demons chasing you

Party Members:

  • Darren
  • Sheila
  • Onecent
  • Gourdy
  • Sloan
  • Moony
  • Bart
  • Slacker

Notable NPCs:

  • DevilDOS
  • Leviathan Corp Employee

Key Items

  • Ancient Campus Map (unassembled)
  • Ancient Campus Map (assembled)

Key Narrative Themes:

  • Darren is now consistently putting his employees first, especially in moments where he stands to benefit the most.
  • The AI rumors about Darren’s poor workplace behavior should create some office gossip and also create passive aggressive SyncedIn posts and messages related to Darren.
  • The party is much more collaborative now. Where some party members used to bicker, they are now more supportive and remark on this change in their interactions.
  • This particular section is ripe with opportunities to reference the Social Network and allude to major moments in Facebook’s history. We should also allude to key moments in the designer/marketing team backstory to expand that narrative and give more depth to the universe, especially since many of the main dungeons in this act are variations on ancient ruins or are specifically the domain of the Marketing Team.
  • The AI’s expanding reach should be clear to the player as being more powerful and expansive in this act than it was in the previous act.
  • Episode 4-1: Take a Look; It’s in a Book
    • Small – Greg Dismal has a breakdown and needs brought back to reality. Sheila uses a new piece of tech to plug into his mind to fight Greg’s inner demons, which are mostly worse versions of himself.
    • Medium – Sloan commits to reopening the breakroom and it is overrun with Boyezar’s undead, many of whom appear to be previous Leviathan Corp employees. When the dust settles Slacker is discovered napping instead after 100 years (but it’s cool; he was collecting paychecks the whole time; Slacker joins the party).
    • Small – Slacker wants his desk back, and Greg shares that it probably ended up in the Storage Closet of More Despair. Darren and Onecent aren’t happy to go back into a closet again after what they experienced at Dismalsoft, but they do it for the sake of the team.
    • Small – Someone dents Darren’s car door in the parking lot. He explores the office for clues, talking to the other characters to learn more about where they were and what they were doing in the timeframe it was likely dented. Greg admits it was him. He “accidentally” fell off the roof, bounced on the pavement, and hit Darren’s car. Greg seems disappointed in the outcome for some reason.
    • Medium – Sheila sees that the company is acting down over the recent events in the underworld and suggests they go out for a bar crawl. A bar crawl in the underworld means lots of street fights and a few bar fights. At the last bar, a mysterious Leviathan Corp employee passes them a message: The secret to undoing Boyezar’s plan could be in the Archives and be tied to the Marketing Team. 
    • Large – Sheila locates the coordinates for The Archives, a pre-tech repository of knowledge hidden deep in the underworld. The party ventures there to learn more about the Marketing Team and how they might fit into Boyezar’s plan. In the depths of the Archives, they find the DevilDOS, the early predecessor to the Analyticon Boyezar is using to conquer the underworld. After a big battle, the DevilDOS reveals more backstory about the Marketing Team.
  • Episode 4-2: Punched by the Phoenix
    • Medium – Darren has a rough morning and stops to get coffee before heading into work. When he enters, he discovers that Boyezar’s AI has started to corrupt and overtake the coffee shop. The undead coffee shop employees mumble about how Darren is stealing company money from Dismalsoft and sleeping on the job. 
    • Small – Bart attempts to project manage an espresso machine. The pieces are scattered in various dungeons that the party has visited previously and he needs help finding them.
    • Small – Moony hires a sales coach to help him with his sales, but the sales coach is too powerful. He starts selling off pieces of the office to start ups and Darren has to either buy them out or defeat them in combat to recover the Dismalsoft office grounds.
    • Small – Greg creates a bathroom signup sheet and disappears. The party explores the bathroom to investigate and learns that in creating the sign up sheet, Greg created a covenant with a bathroom demon and when he himself neglected to use the sign up sheet, the demon takes Greg’s soul. Fortunately, Greg’s soul is not worth very much and the party can buy it back after beating some bathroom baddies.
    • Medium – Onecent informs the party that the AI has spread its reach into the bar. AI bar. Onecent can’t tolerate a move as brash as destroying the bar he loves so he implores the party to try to salvage it. The party saves the bartender’s life, and Onecent receives his greatest honor: his own designated seat the bar. This AI is trashing Darren’s character as well, and the party mentions it would be bad if Greg started to believe these rumors.
    • Large – Gourdy hatches a plan: He believes they can hack into SyncedIn and resurrect old profiles to find more clues about the whereabouts of the Marketing Team. The party ventures deep into the twisted digital underbelly of The Social Network (inside SyncedIn) where the party learns where the Marketing Team did their undergrad (after beating the crap out of a SyncedIn mega demon). 
  • Episode 4-3: Is That a Tentacle or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
    • Small – Darren signs up for online dating and gets catfished by Tentacle Tom.
    • Medium – Darren turns to Google to learn more about where the Marketing Team went to school, sending him in a weird and twisted digital dungeon of unusual search terms and their related demons
    • Medium – Sloan sends Darren to the office supply store to have the map of the campus location printed. Because of Boyezar’s scheme, the office supply store is in rough shape and that means the final prints of the map are in rough shape as well. Darren has to play a BurgerTime style minigame to put the pieces together while avoiding demons.
    • Small – Moony tries a direct mail campaign to get more clients. Every prospect who received a letter visits the office to fight Moony over his use of spam. The party intervenes to protect Moony.
    • Small – Sloan asks for help cleaning out the breakroom refrigerator; demons come pouring out.
    • Large – The Ancient Campus — By exploring an abandoned university and uncovering lost yearbooks, the party learns that the Marketing Team dreamed of retiring to a yacht, sailing the river Styx for an eternal retirement. Sheila believes she saw a glimpse of such a boat on SyncedIn and convinces the party this is where they should look next.
  • Episode 4-4: Styx and Stones
    • Small – Greg implements reserved parking spots and lets employees fight for the spot. Darren fights one on one against his party members in a gauntlet to earn the space. In the end, he offers to rotate the space monthly among the staff so that everyone can benefit.
    • Small – Slacker and Bart realize they don’t have to be as busy if they move their offices to the Annex. Unbeknownst to Slacker, his desk was covering up a hole in space-time, and when he moves it a monster from an alternate dimension breaks into the office and must be defeated.
    • Small – Gourdy wins an eSlay auction but is too afraid of social interactions to go pick up the item, so Darren heads out to the rest stop to retrieve the item from an unscrupulous online seller. The highway is more dangerous than ever, but the rest stop is somehow just the same, minus the strange demon in an overcoat trying to pass off a reproduction cursed game cartridge as if its authentic.
    • Medium – Onecent has the idea to hack into underworld satellites to locate the Cosmic Mega Yacht, so the party uploads itself into the satellite feed in an attempt to establish a secure connection. Along the way, they encounter parts of the Boyezar AI and have to battle it.
    • Medium – Sheila needs more wifi juice from the Dismalsoft IT department, so the party goes down to make the request. The IT department has become undead and attempts to destroy the party.
    • Large – Onecent somehow secures a boat and the party sails to the Cosmic Mega Yacht where they fight through floor after floor of security to finally reach the Marketing Team who has been using the yacht to stay hidden from Boyezar. They explain dynamic difficulty to the party and explain that it might be too late to stop Boyezar.

Part 5: Revelations

Part 5 – Darren and his team invade the Central Ziggurat to launch a hack against the Old Firm. Afterward, Darren faces off with Boyezar, capitalizing on an old loophole to name himself CEO of the Old Firm.

Major Settings:

  • Dismalsoft Offices
  • Shadow realm (an inversion of the Dismalsoft offices)
  • Leviathian Corp HQ (AI corrupted)
  • Slacker’s digital MMO world
  • Alternate Office Supply Store
  • Abandoned Office
  • Ziggurat
  • Dismalsoft Parking lot
  • Boyezar’s castle
  • Normal coffee shop
  • Normal bar
  • Hellfire Lake
  • Rival Office
  • Dismalsoft Dungeon
  • Heaven

Minigames:

  • Challenge mode where players are handicapped prior to a new dungeon to earn improved loot
  • Protect Greg mode (complete a run with one less party and a very weak Greg)

Party Members:

  • Darren
  • Sheila
  • Onecent
  • Gourdy
  • Sloan
  • Moony
  • Bart
  • Slacker

Notable NPCs:

  • Boyezar
  • Ultimate Boyezar
  • Heavenly Tentacle Tom

Key Items

  • Boyezar’s D20

Key Narrative Themes:

  • Darren has come a long way, and his team appreciates it, but his strange bond with Boyezar and their ongoing battles is wearing on him. The final fight is near, but he’s getting tired and needs reassurance from the people he cares about.
  • The party is still a group of flawed misfits, but they are no longer mean to each other at all. The stakes are too high.
  • There is an opportunity here for the party to remark on the meta of Boyezar’s character arc and how it lines up with a typical RPG. We don’t want to lean too hard into that, but we can touch on it.
  • In the final episode, the party should be noticeably reflective and changed by their experience battling Boyezar. They should seem more mature, more relaxed, and more caring. Darren should behave similarly. There is still room for humor here, but it should be more in the tone of looking back on the “good ol days” and sharing memories with each other.
  • Tentacle Tom should be appalled that the party somehow left their reality to invade his and he should be very upset that his game has somehow turned against him.
  • Episode 5-1: Rise from Your Grave
    • Small – A full moon drives Moony into a frenzy and his werewolf pals crash the office. The party has to get Moony under control and clean up the mess.
    • Medium – Darren receives a negative Hellp review and goes searching through the streets for the culprit pursuing a singular clue: a blurry hoof in a profile picture. He discovers it was himself after several battles and Onecent takes a second look. Darren must be sleep walking as his hallucinations get worse. The party is worried about him.
    • Small – Greg gets divorced and his ex-wife comes to claim the company. The party must defend the office from his ex-wife and her evil team of lawyers.
    • Small – Gourdy gets sentimental and invites the party to relive memories via his blog, introducing a mode where players are debuffed or pre-loaded with stat reductions in dungeon runs to increase difficulty and raise the quality of loot.
    • Medium – Onecent takes up poetry and unintentionally teleports the party to the shadow realm. The party must battle out of an inverse world.
    • Large – Believing that Dubianubis has either been terminated or has betrayed them, the party mounts an assault on Leviathan Corp in an attempt to weaken Boyezar by cutting off his ally. When they arrive, they discover that Leviathan Corp is overrun with demon AI and they learn that Boyezar and his fortress at the Old Firm are stronger than ever.
  • Episode 5-2: Set Up the Bomb
    • Medium – Darren has another vision and in it he must fight for his life as his friends turn to zombies around him on a burning version of the Cosmic Mega Yacht. Throughout the vision, Boyezar torments him. At the end, he faces Onecent and must refuse to attack him in order to escape the vision.
    • Small – Bart orders food for the office and attempts to delegate the bill. When no one offers to pay, the delivery driver summons a horde of companions.
    • Small – Slacker gets lost in an MMO during work hours. The party must log into a digital world to convince him to come back to reality. He reluctantly agrees.
    • Small – Sloan wants to return the fax machine, so the party goes to the office supply store in the town over so that the staff doesn’t recognize her. It still turns into a fight.
    • Medium – To prepare for their attack on the Ziggurat, the party breaks into a rival office (now controlled by Boyezar AI) to gather new weapons and to collect additional intel on the Boyezar and the Ziggurat.
    • Large – Climbing to the top of this strange combination of ancient and modern technology, the party fights through floor after floor of the Central Ziggurat. At its peak, they defeat the Ziggurat guardian and Sheila proceeds to launch her malicious coach at Boyezar’s Castle.
  • Episode 5-3: Ozymandias 
    • Small – Someone pranks Darren and hides his office decorations around the Dismalsoft grounds. Darren has to go hunting for them and must complete a series of trading fetch quests with Dismalsoft employees to get his stuff back.
    • Small – Greg asks to go on an adventure to better understand his employees. The party must complete one dungeon run without Greg dying to complete the quest and Greg is very very very fragile.
    • Medium – Boyezar attempts to counterattack by sending forces to the Dismalsoft parking lots. The party must defend the office before making their final assault.
    • Large – With the security offline, the party enters the Old Firm which has transformed Boyezar’s office into Boyezar’s Castle, a labyrinth of opulence and narcissism.
    • Large – At the end of the dungeon, the players fight zombie versions of the bosses they faced previously in a Boss Rush and then they face off against Boyezar. Boyezar reveals that he believes his cause was noble, but the party disagrees. Boyezar never really found freedom because he took it from others. And that was a lot of work for nothing when he could have just relaxed a bit. With Boyezar’s death comes the power for the player to take his place or to bring back the people Boyezar killed. If the player chooses power, the game ends. If the player brings people back, he is returned to the Dismalsoft offices after the credits roll.
  • Episode 5-4: One Ticket to Paradise
    • Small – Go to the bar with Onecent. Onecent reminisces about their friendship and they start a few bar fights just for the fun of it.
    • Small – Go get coffee with Sheila. She plugs Darren into a digital retrospective of their friendship and she talks about how she hopes Darren finds someone for him. Darren appreciates that sincerely.
    • Small – Greg takes the party back to Hellfire Lake to celebrate and they do a small team building celebration exercise.
    • Small – Slacker believes that Moony deserves a sales award, so the party breaks into a neighboring office to steal one to give to him. 
    • Medium – After a few weeks of peace, Greg goes missing. The party discovers that he found the Boyezar artifact and used it to open a door to heaven via the Dismalsoft basement, a previously unknown and unexplored part of the building. The basement is very dungeon like and monsters abound.
    • Large – The player arrives in heaven and fights through a slew of angelic demons. At the end, the player battles a zombie version of Boyezar. Upon his defeat, the designer is revealed to be Tentacle Tom. In addition to fantasy football, he enjoys tabletop roleplaying and reveals that you are his creation in a game of his design. Defeating Tom strips away the rules of the world for good and gives the party the freedom to build new worlds of their choosing. When this happens, Darren collapses and awakens back at his desk at the Old Firm in New Game+ mode.
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