Society, Balance and Settlements.

The recent introduction of community and cooperatively owned developments has made me think about the relationship between Loyalty and Stability.  When I set the rules up, I worked with simple definitions – which work on a mechanical basis, but don’t add a lot to the RP side of the rules.  However, now I might be able to find a more sophisticated definition which, along with a few minor tweaks, could facilitate  a bit more RP within the rules.  Not so much as to force the RP side, the rules still have to be mechanically usable for everyone, just an additional aspect.

That ties in with the relationship between Defence, Loyalty and Stability, Stability in particular.  Defence, according to my definitions, defends from external and internal threats – which implies every day policing as well as dealing with riots, revolutions, and similar major events.  However, every day policing could be seen as a Stab function, rather than a Def function.  It is too late to separate those completely, and I am not sure if I want to, but I can examine the way they work together.

Economy

Economy is a strange beast.  In the modern world we think in terms of monetary value and everything comes down to £, $, €, ¥ or some other currency.  In the earliest days, however, it was pure barter – I’ll give you this basket of apples for a leg of that pig – or something similar.  However, for most of the time (since the invention of money) it has been a mixture of the two.  And so it must be in  a fantasy world.  Adventurers live in  a world dominated by Gold Pieces and the value of their equipment, but many commoners live in a barter based economy, where they might exchange a few hours labour at the mill for a sack of flour.  They have cash as well, but probably copper and silver pieces – which don’t really impinge on the financial world of adventurers, nobles, professionals or aristocrats.   Which means that the ‘overall’ economy metric must be a measure of both.

In truth, even adventurers and nobles have elements of Barter in their economy.  You need to get licences to build?  Sure there is a fee …  It is probably negotiable and varied according to how well the parties like each other, who wants what from whom, which club you are a member of – all forms of barter.  The only difference is that amount of currency is involved, is decided the bartering / negotiating / dealing.

Economy always comes down to a mixture of Gold Pieces, having the right resources, having good will, knowing the right person, belonging to the right club – and knowing when to offer your own (or your businesses) services in exchange.  It is imprecise, and is difficult to convert into Gold Pieces, but Econ defines the economic wellbeing of a society.

Econ is one of the factors that decide relative importance, and influence, in a town, settlement or nation.  It is, primarily, a metric of interest to the wealthy.  Commoners  (and many other NPCs) don’t really care, so long as they don’t starve to death, freeze to death or die any other sort of death that is due to PCs messing with the economy.

Loyalty

Loyalty, on the other hand, is all about the resident, and what makes this a good place for them to live.  Does my town have things that make my life better?  Public baths to get clean, parks to walk in, is the excrement cleared from the streets?  Basically, does my town (village, city etc) care for me?

Stability

Is about governance, and is mainly the concern of the town’s rulers, and has to do with keeping order in the town.  A mint provides a stable currency, a local market is a structured place for people to sell their goods, courts and jails keep criminals off the street, a granary reduces the chances of unrest in a bad year for crops, a public works keeps the street and buildings in good order.

Defence

That definition of Stability allows me to define the way that defence points work.  Def is all about immediate action.  In the countryside the guards might chase away a small band of goblins, or deal with a wolf that is worrying sheep.  But they won’t follow them home to clear out the den – that is a job for the local lord and his soldiers – which might be ordinary soldiers sent en masse, or it might be a band of PCs.  The same is true in a town, the city guard might break up a fight, stop a riot, break up a fight or cuff the ear of an urchin stealing bread.  They might stop a robbery, if they catch the thief in the act, but they aren’t going to investigate crimes.  That isn’t there job, they provide a temporary, on street, fix for whatever disturbance there is – at the time it is happening.  Longer term solutions are a matter for the city rulers, be they a lord or a council, and that is a function of Stability.

Balance

There are many developments that are balanced, as far as Loy and Stab go, and that is fine, as many developments that make a society more stable, make it a better place to live.  It is also good for the rules, as a PC can run a settlement (and get satisfaction from the process) without having to think too much about philosophies or alignments.   Some development groups, such as academic Developments and core Hamlets are well-balanced almost all the way through.

Serial Discrepancies

There are two development chains that have discrepancies built into their structure.  Religious buildings are biased towards Loy, BUT they can, generally, be brought back into a balanced position by further developments – i.e. upgrading a Shrine (+1 Loy) to a Great Shrine (+1Loy, +1Stab).  It also feels ‘reasonable’ in Role Play terms –  the loyalty is to the cleric and the church, the stability comes from the regular preaching of the same general message, every week.

The Defence Development chain is biased towards Stab, and a number of Military developments have a bit more Stab than Loy.  This, perhaps, represents a military of noble’s court working from those buildings and helping to resolve some crimes and take criminals off the street.  That stability makes the whole are better to live in – at least the citizens know the rules and that some lawbreakers will be caught and punishes.

Specific Discrepancies

There are a couple of specific discrepancies in the lists.   In the Civic List the Public Arena gives +6 Loy and +2 Stab, which is a real anomaly.  Nothing else gives anything like that sort of differential.  I will remove that and replace it with the Public Amphitheatre, which is much better balanced.

The Court House is another anomaly.  It currently returns (+2 Loy, +2 Stab), but according to the definitions above should provide more stability to the settlement.  Consequently, I will change its values to (+1 Loy, +2 Stab) and reduce its costs accordingly.  There is only one out in the Southern Region, and that can be amended and compensated without upsetting the balance of the town.

Bad Things Table

I have had a poorly defined Bad Things Table, that I have used to threaten settlement rulers with since the start – but I have never really thought about how to implement it.  The rules are based on a Model Society where Econ, Loy and Stab are (more or less) all the same – with a threat of something bad happening if things get out of balance.  Now, with those more sophisticated definitions, I can see how that might operate.  The outcomes are all remarkably similar, but the flavour is different.

  • A settlement with a higher-than-expected Stab, is liable to be lawful and (perhaps) highly regulated – which some residents will find oppressive.  There may well be demonstrations, riots and even (in the extreme) revolution.
  • A settlement with a lower-than-expected Stab, is liable to be chaotic.  Again, there might demonstrations and riots, possibly protesting about the high levels of ongoing crime or anti-social behaviour.
  • A settlement with too much Def, is probably going to be repressive, with large numbers of guards on the street.  Without the back-up of Stability, guards deal with more issues at street level, because there are ineffective social restraints, on no effective judicial to fall back on.  That could well lead to armed riots …
  • A settlement with too little Economy, leads to food and employment protests, demonstrations and riots.
  • A settlement with too much Economy, leads to a dissatisfied population – as all those rich people make even more money at workers’ expense.
  • A settlement with too little Loyalty, leads to a dissatisfied public – with protests, demonstrations and, eventually, riots.
  • A settlement with too much loyalty, doesn’t mean that everyone is happy –  but probably means that one or two sectors of the community are being ignored.   It might only be a small group to start with, but dissatisfaction is infectious …

Social unrest can have many drivers, but the outcomes are often similar.  How the City’s Rulers deal with those disturbances says a lot about the alignment of the people running the place.

A New Philosophy

Overview

We are currently playing through the Campaign Round in the Stolen Lands game on RPoL, and that always forces me to look at the developments I have available and think about the ways that I can use them.  For a while now, I have had the politics of running estates in the back of my mind.  A short while ago I added a section detailing community building, in an attempt to meet the RP needs of a couple of players who wanted to build an agrarian holding. I have been used a couple of those developments as I have been fleshing out a couple of long-standing NPCs, which made me think that there might be another, perhaps better, way of managing a player’s holdings.

The Economic System that I use in my campaign rules is based on a semi-feudal, capitalist system – with socialist overtones.  The rules assume that players want to:  a) gain titles, b) get rich, c) exert religious influence, d) some mixture of those or e) not be bothered.  Using the rules skilfully can lead to great success, but there have always been ways to play with different levels of involvement, right down to the academic rules that need minimal investment in time and effort but, in turn, lead to slower advancement. 

Since we have started, I have added a proto-democratic system, where players can elect their own leaders and develop an independent council to run a joint holding.  After that came march-holdings which allows a player to build a more centralised holding, and finally the community buildings that allowed a player to use their wealth to invest in the local community – although, so far, they have all been tied to a semi-feudal political structure.  However, I am starting to realise that has to do with the original inspiration for the rules, and its effect on my mind-set, and rather than any real need.

My original inspirations were the strongholds rules from AD&D I, that allowed any high-level character to set up their own stronghold.  I managed to get one or two characters to those levels and build a stronghold, and it felt good.  The Merchant Rogue class, from the Al Quadim setting (AD&D II) gave me an insight into characters running their own businesses, and I hassled a couple of DMs into letting my characters set up businesses, of one sort or another.  They were based on Merchant Companies (as was the Merchant Rogue), but they had homes and other business ventures as well – and they were fun, but we had to keep negotiating the rules every time I wanted to expand.  Then came Paizo’s  (Pathfinder) Kingdom and Downtime rules.  For my players, the Kingdom rules quickly became a pain and when I played the downtime rules (as a player) I soon realised they were quite time-consuming, and I didn’t really find them very satisfying.  Which is how I came to write my own campaign rules, and that’s why there are different levels of involvement.  Players can go to town on the rules – BUT they can also participate in less time-consuming ways.

The Current Setting

In game, we have three distinct areas.  Midmarch (the original setting) is pseudo-feudal, with lords and landholders having some responsibility towards Viscount Henry, my main NPC.  Henry, is turn, is both neutral and liberal – so he lets everyone go pretty much their own way –  so long they stick to his core concepts.  Tusk is a proto-democracy – run by the PCs for the PCs – with rules for elections for the main administrative posts and an advisory council that includes PCs and NPCs.  TBH, it would be hard to change the Main Council –  because the city’s economy is based around their abilities –  and there would be a couple of years of instability if council members were ousted and replaced.  BUT the options are there.

The Narlemarch wilderness reserve is another.  Parts of it fall into Lord Henry’s domain, part of it is an independent march-hold and (technically) part of it falls within Tusk’s sphere of control.  However, almost everyone with a leadership responsibility (in the Narlemarch) is a priest of a nature religion (The Green Way, Gozerah and Erastil) or a ranger.  There are settlements, including a small town, but they all have very ‘country’ and ‘wilderness’ philosophies at their heart – and the area is much more wilderness that anything else. And this, in particular, has made me realise that some aspects of the game can be left to role-playing, so long as there is enough ‘infrastructure’ to support that. 

Range

At the moment, our settlements are fairly homogeneous.  They are well-balanced, in the mid-range comfort zone and (generally) made up of people with the same (general) philosophy on life.  Everyone is happy, there aren’t any peasant revolts – the PCs (and significant NPCs) get a chance to make themselves rich and gain titles and the peasants are happy with their lot  (which is actually quite comfortable, even generous, compared to many places in Golorian).

However, if a PC deliberately takes their settlement out of balance, you can force other environments.

  • A LE Town might have a dictator ruling by Intimidation, a military that exceeds the limits, and have all the economic developments owned by the dictator’s friends.  I can foresee civil unrest, underground militia, vigilantes and revolt.  Which may (or may not) be put down by the Dictator.
  • A CN town could have a weak central administration, few  state forces, and lots of factions (perhaps six PC leaders) each going their own way.    The people will be playing one faction off against the other, there will  be skirmished (but  possibly not outright war) between the factions, a thief’s guild might arise …
  • An NG/CG town might have a relaxed planning regime –  but asks every investor fully balances their Econ, Loy and Stab – every time they build something.  The council on community or public builds and has minimum defence points. 

They can all work within the current rules

Possibilities

However, The Narlmarch shows that an area can have its own identity and a consistent ‘philosophy’ – but it is role-playing that philosophy that makes it work.  There is no reason why other philosophies can’t work just as well across the game’s setting as well.

To some extent, it already does.  The temple of Abadar spends its money things that encourage business, as well as building religious builds.  Pharasma, on the other hand, spends money on religious buildings and graveyards.  Both have spread across the whole of the game area, regardless of political boundaries.

Recently, however, I have met a couple of Characters with a more community-oriented philosophy, and I had little that I could offer them.  I cobbled something together, BUT it wasn’t a brilliant solution.  I met some of their needs, but not all of them.

The solution could include a number of developments that can be said to have  ‘community’ elements. 

  • The first are ‘balanced’ developments such as farms, schools or lodging houses – each of those examples bring  +1 Econ, +1 Loy and +1 Stab to their local community.  They cost more than most economic developments and are more expensive (in terms of economy) than just about every other economic development.  The Player still makes a good profit from it, BUT they have added a bit more to the community than they needed to.  These have always been a part of the ‘low involvement’ part of the game – however, they could also be played, pro-actively, as part of a co-operative / community oriented role-playing philosophy.
  • There are Civic/Public Developments, which always bring more Loy and Stab (community elements) than Econ (personal elements).  These are mainly used by settlement owners who need to maintain a balance – but there is no reason why they should not be built as part of a co-0operative philosophy as well.   However, players should probably use them sparingly – PCs who do not have an ‘income’ will not be able to spread their philosophy any further.
  • Community developments are particularly.  The developer deliberately chooses to take a reduced profit, so that the wider community can benefit.  The community returns are too small to be accounted for in the spreadsheets, because they are spread widely among the whole community in the form of discounts, bonuses, and other small amounts.  Everyone in the community has a slightly better life.
  • Religious developments are a possibility as well.  A deity with a community or co-operation domains might work in this context.  A Lawful deity might help impose a (real world) communist philosophy, (because one of their priests believe it is for the good of all the people!).  A priest of a more chaotic deity (Hembad or Lorris, for example) would have a much freer, individualistic interpretation.

Another part of the solution is liable to be a Community Leader, a low level NPC who speaks for the community and manages assets on their behalf.  We already have one in the game, a halfling called Verna.  After years of holding the villagers together, she came to the fore when an oppressive regime was overthrown by a group of PCs.

How it works in practice, of course, is down to the PCs involved –  BUT I think that all the tools are in place to let it happen.