Economic Structure

In recent Blog Posts, I have looked at a couple of aspects of the Game System economy – and as I have been changing my spreadsheets to reflect those, I realised that I could improve and simplify the whole system with a couple of basic changes.

Note:  These changes are open to discussion and comment.  They and aren’t set in stone and are open to some modification.  However, I do intend to this new approach (with any modifications) for the next Stolen Lands campaign round.

The rules started out with two economic factors, Economy and Consumption, inherited from the original system and, to some extent. They worked well together for that system.  However, the original rules were  Kingdom Building Rules, and assumes that every player is involved in the building and management of a single kingdom.  These Campaign Rules have a different emphasis, rather than a kingdom the Campaign Rules focus on smaller strongholds, and the businesses and organisations that underpin those.  You can still get a Kingdom out of them, but the focus is on the smaller elements that make up the Kingdom, rather than an Overview of the whole Kingdom. 

While Economy and Consumption have worked reasonably well, both of them have been ‘tweaked’ a few times to try and make them fit with our needs as settlements and businesses have grown.  As I worked through the rules, I realised that most of those tweaks, while all having slightly different mechanics, have had the same effect – producing Economy that strongholds don’t need to balance.   

The most obvious examples of these ‘special cases’ are …

  • The Magic Economy (which has been accounted for separately)
  • Trade Caravans (vessels, mule trains etc, that have  been classed as untaxed)
  • Merchant bases and trade routes (A taxed benefit, that is automatically balanced by Loy and Stab)

So why not add a new economic factor that fits that profile and pulls all three ‘tweaks’ together and might also give us an extra dimension to play with? So, Special Economy is born …  And the first benefit could be Toll Booths for Turnpikes and Canals that give people a way of realising a profit for serious infrastructure development.

Economy

Economy represents the day-to-day business of a normal settlement.  Shops, businesses, schools, parks taxes, good will, all the everyday resources.  But it relies on people working together and wanting to stay in the settlement – growth in the economy means  bigger settlements, immigration, and more people  trying to work together.  That is why it needs to be balanced with Loyalty and Stability.

Consumption

Represents the cost of maintaining and managing the settlement.  That is why, if you have a good stewardship Committee, who have the right skills sets, you can offset Consumption Costs with Consumption benefits.  But there are other things that make some settlements easier to run  and manage, a particularly fertile piece of land when a specific crop or plant grows abundantly or an accessible mineral deposit (for example),  can help support the common population of a settlement, as well as provide an economic opportunity for an entrepreneur.  Roads, Highways and Canals can do the same sort of thing, making it easier for everyone, including the common population, to trade back and forth.   They are all intangible benefits that make it easier to support more people and grow your settlement.

Special

However, some things are not really population dependent.  Creating Magic Items (the basis of the magic economy) doesn’t need more people, it just needs one or two special people.  Adding a fishing boat to a jetty doesn’t bring in more fishermen, however, it makes them more efficient.  A mule train working between two settlements, doesn’t add more people, but it helps move goods between towns and boosts the economy that way.  It is the same with Merchant Bases and Trade Routes – Merchant bases represent better ways to leverage the local economy, and while being on a trade route might help the settlement to grow, it also brings increased economic opportunity with it.

Taxes

Under the new system the Special Economy will be taxed.  That doesn’t affect the business /organisation at all – their income will stay the same, however, it will mean a larger tax take for settlements.  As an example, Tusk would gain an extra 4.6pb as tax income.  It won’t be quite that much under the new rules, but it won’t be much less.

Size

Special Economy will not count towards the size of a settlement, which will mean that settlements will grow more slowly and have a smaller population.  However, any status gained, in the Stolen Lands Game, so far – will be protected until the settlement catches up.

The Stolen Lands

I have already posted about the restructuring of Magic producing developments, and I think the only people immediately affected by those economic changes are Andalon and Mother Beatrix.  The changes don’t have an economic effect on the Merchant rules, although the way I record some of their economy will change – but that shouldn’t affect income.

The biggest change comes from Roads and Canals moving back into the Consumption Modifier category – and that affects Henry, Safiya and Tusk.  It is a small change for Tusk  (Which is covered by the general tax changes), Safiya’s holdings (and we have spoken about that before this post) and Henry’s Midmarch holdings (which will change the way he can develop things, but doesn’t have a huge impact as he is about to go into paying consumption costs with BP anyway).

Thoughts on the Economy Rules

It has been an interesting week or so. As I have been working through the recent economic changes, I have come to realise that I could use the Tax and Profitability rates, to help achieve a couple of ideas that have been floating around in my head for a while.  But first:-

DON’T PANIC – I am not going to implement these changes in The Stolen Lands game, but I do want to get them straight (and written down) for the next time I use these rules.

When we started the game, I wanted ‘civilisation’ to get started quickly and for players to become involved in the campaign side of the game early on in  the game.  Generally, especially at RPoL, if there isn’t a quick(ish) return people lose interest, so the return on investment (0.5) was set to encourage that – and it worked.  However, there has not been any real incentive to settle new areas (I have often had to push that) and growth has been very fast –  faster that I would have liked.  In the space of 6-7 years we have built a city that is already one of the largest settlements in Brevoy and the River Kingdoms.  In a couple of years time, it could be directly comparable  to Restov and Port Ice – the second and third largest cities in Brevoy.  Alongside that, we have developed Midmarch – a province that could soon be comparable with the estates of the great Noble Houses of Brevoy.  Nothing wrong with those things, it is just too fast  :]  Another 5 or 6 years / levels would be much better for the game.  Now I must ‘manipulate’ the Noble houses, a lot more than I would like to, to keep things in balance.  Anyway, before I get to Tax and profitability …

One of the first things I will do (next time I use these rules) is to add a building materials upgrade route.  There is nothing about construction materials in the rules so far – and materials tend to change as a settlement matures, or better materials become available.  In ‘Boom Towns’, which tend to be temporary, buildings are often thrown up with what ever materials are to hand, often wood.  Those   cities that survive, generally make a transition to more carefully constructed buildings, often built from stone.  Ideally, I want to replicate that change, which would help slow development rate down slightly.  Perhaps 0.5bp per size of the building would work?  All I have to do is set fire to part of a city, to encourage the Local Council to enact an ordinance …  I could even factor that cost into the original costs for significant buildings – such as city walls, cathedrals, castles, and universities.

Anyway, back to Tax and Profitability …

Some time ago I added a list of costs and sale prices for developments according to the size of the settlement (shown below) and (IN FUTURE GAMES) I am tempted to use it to manage profitability as well

Ratio125%100%75%50% 
Purchase Price GP 
Hex TypeOutsiderStandardPreferredSale PriceProfitability
Managed Wilderness (*)37503000225015000.5
Semi-Wilderness43753500262517500.5
Rural50004000300020000.5
Small town (+)56254500337522500.45
Large Town62505000375025000.40
Small City68755500412527500.35
Large City75006000450030000.30
Metropolis87507000525035000.25

That works, as profitability  is based on the BP value of the development – and GP value of BP changes according to size of settlement, and as settlements grow both the cost of land for further development and the cost of living go up …

Just as importantly, it should do two things. Slow down the rate of settlement growth, and encourage people to invest in smaller settlements.

But Tax is at the discretion of the council.  Standard tax generates 0.2bp per pint of econ in the economy.

I can see, in some circumstances, city rulers putting tax up – lets say to 0.25bp per point of economy.  That would result in a 0.05 reduction in business profitability – and a possible slowing of the economy and settlement growth. 

A council might also drop tax– lets say to 0.15bp per point of economy.  That would result in a 0.05 increase in business profitability – which might result in  the economy and settlement growth, speeding up. 

The Magic Economy 2

Recently I have been thinking about the basic management rules for the Campaign system, and I have realized that the core concept is more complicated than it needs to be. This comes about, mainly, from the tax changes I have been looking at (allowing settlements to collect tax on vessels and trade caravans) which made me consider the way that Magic creating buildings are handled.

If you look at the Settlement spreadsheets (you can find them on the game wiki) you will see that they are quite complicated, with separate columns for different levels of magic production and another for ‘untaxed’ items – and that starts to make the formulae quite convoluted as well :}

However, I have finally realized (D’Oh!) that Magic, Vessels and Trade Caravans have something very important in common – they don’t need balancing against Loy or Stab, nor do they need permission from the settlement holder to add into the game. And, with the recent change both add to the tax take for the settlement. Both were added to the rule set for similar reasons as well.

Vessels and trade caravans are one of the ‘advantages’ that Merchant Houses benefit from, and can be leveraged (along with bases and trade routes) to help generate income faster than any other rules set. Merchant House rules are complex and need careful management to squeeze the advantage – get it wrong, and they are no more profitable than the ordinary business rules.

Magic for religious building was to compensate for the heavy price they pay in Loyalty and Stability costs. They are the only buildings that consistently provide a Loy and Stab boost to settlement owners. It means that religious houses are always in demand, and characters can RP spreading their faith around the game world. That part of the magic economy was intended to help those characters – the ‘price’ is the RP The advantages for other casters was, almost, a side effect.

That means I can manage them all in one column and simplify my spreadsheets – and when you see the size of Tusk’s SS, you will understand why I want to keep things simple!

That is all well and good, but it sent me back to looking at Religious Developments. Some time ago, I rebalanced all magic producing buildings to bring the magic economy in line with the general economy, and the cost of magic production doubled.

I didn’t realize it at the time, perhaps because we didn’t have any characters starting out in Clerical classes, but that it makes it very difficult to get started, if you want to build a religious order of the type that Bishop Andalon or Mother Beatrix have.  Starting PCs get 1bp at the end of each of their first two outings – so each new PC gets a 2bp starting stake. The first religious development to generate an income costs 3bp. Low level priests starting out, literally can’t build a sustainable religious organization without extra help. This is the only class / category in this position – you can start generating an income with 1bp, in every other area of the economy.

In my head, Religious Developments were meant to progress more slowly than standard commercial developments, but they weren’t meant to be the easiest option, hence the RP requirements. I know those have only been written in recently, but they were in my mind when I wrote the rules – I just didn’t implement them well. Academic Developments were always intended to be the easiest to play options. Every settlement owner likes Academic developments – they are all fully balanced and increase the tax take. What isn’t to like about Academic Developments?

The Magic Economy is also an anomaly in another way. One point of ‘Magic’ costs 2bp in the build phase, while everything else costs 0.5bp (Loy, Stab) or 1bp (Econ, Def) – and that is responsible for the big price hike when moving from a Great Shrine to a Holy House, which a religious organization needs to become sustainable. However, a Point of ‘magic’ has also generated twice the income (1bp / campaign round) that a point of Economy does (0.5bp) which also makes for some minor difficulties as I tweak the Tax / Profitability ratios in the game. V&A’s expansion has really helped me understand that section of the rules – something that never really happens until the rules are used. While I recognize that it annoys Adoven (sorry Adoven), it often prompts rule developments – which I really appreciate.

Therefore, I intend to reduce the initial cost of a Magic Point from 2bp to 1bp, but correspondingly, reduce the base profitability to 0.5bp – which fetches it into line with a point of economy – but doesn’t change the cost/profit ratio.

To do this, I will revisit every development that is involved in the magic economy – from exotic workshops, through temples, caster’s towers up to universities and cathedrals. I expect I will have to add a couple of new buildings to help manage development flow – BUT seeing as I haven’t started the process yet, I have no real idea of what the outcome will be.

Two things – thoughts and comments are always welcome, and watch this space …


And this is what I am thinking of, at the moment. Most buildings get a slight reduction in Income generated, but I will refund some of the development costs. In a few cases, I might offer another, equivalent, solution. You will note that I have added a new building called a Friary, to make progression a bit easier.

ClassificationNamenew costIncome changeEconomyLoyaltyStabilitymagicStars
ReligiousHoly House2-0.50111
 ReligiousHoly Grove 300112 
 ReligiousFriary3.510212 
 ReligiousChapel3.500212 
ReligiousPriory {★★★}5.5-0.502230.5
ReligiousTemple {★★★}6-0.503230.5
 ReligiousAbbey {★★★★}8003341
 ReligiousMinster {★★★★}8.5004341
ReligiousCathedral {★★★★★}11-0.504452
00
MagicalMagic Shop (★★★)3.5-0.520010.5
MagicalCasters Tower (★★★★)6-0.520031
MagicalGreat Tower (★★★★★)8-0.520051
CommercialLuxury Store {★★★}3.5-0.520010.5
CommercialShopping Court {★★★}6.5031120.5
ManufacturingExotic Artisan {M} (★★★)3.5-0.520010.5
– Example– Alchemist {M} (★★★)3.5-0.520010.5
– Example– Herbalist {M} (★★★)3.5-0.520010.5
AcademicObservatory {★★★}3.5-0.511110.5
AcademicBardic College {★★★}4.5-0.512210.5
AcademicMagic College {★★★}5.5012220.5
AcademicAcademic Academy {★★★★}8-0.523311
AcademicMagic Academy {★★★★}9-0.523331
AcademicUniversity {★★★★}14-134441