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.
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
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.