Thursday, July 19, 2018

SKM Development: The Ruler

Now this is one where I didn’t even really bother in the old system. To the consternation of one of my players.

Since ACKs intends for you to earn a Stronghold as part of its high level end-game. It assumes you have a player character already built, and nice doughty rules on how to create successors, use money, gain xp, and so forth.

Ultimately, this was more then was needed for a top-down kingdom management game, except ACKs requires /adventures/. You’re expected to go on four of the damn things a year. Also, while off adventuring, you’re not at home administrating. This meant that I, the DM, had to carry a lot of admin weight as the PCs didn’t hear about their decisions from a month prior to adventuring, until they got back from the adventure. Meaning they missed out on events and administration.

Also, PCs had  a hard time figuring out what it was they were really good at.

Now, being an RPG, and an OSR RPG at that, ACKs is very well built, but ultimately, we don’t need all of it.

Now, a major inspiration for this game, was a video game called Crusader Kings 2.  CK2, as it’s known, is a game where you take on the role of a dynasty of rulers and see how they thrive, or die, throughout the rough time period of roughly the 8th through 15th centuries.  Your various rulers have a series of traits, and five stats. These five states determine how well you deal with your subjects and others (diplomacy), how good you are at plotting (Intrigue), how good you are at war (martial), how smart you are (learning) and how good your guy is at basic management (stewardship). The traits modify these five stats, and each of these stats has different effects on other factors (size of your army, how well people like you, how big of a kingdom you can manage, how many vassals you have, and so on).  A high enough martial, or certain traits would also grant a ‘personal combat score’ meaning that your ruler himself was a force to be reckoned with.

For us, I think a set of similar stats would be useful. A base idea of class, and then ratings for more adventurer-y things.

I find myself thinking of stuff like say..

Thew:  How physically tough is your leader?
Craft:  How magically tough is your leader?
Shrewd: How cagey are you / how good are you at doing roguish things?
Ministry:  How good are you at managing things?
Allure: What is your personal charisma?

It’s kind of like the classic four classes (and the bard) , although every ruler would a rating in each of these. It would basically let management of disasters come down to a die roll when adjudication is needed.

I think the scale would work best on a 6-tier system. This also makes generation of courtiers and successors easier (roll a 1d6 down the line).

As an example. Let’s say I’ve got Conan.

He’d be say
Thew: 6, because he’s relentlessly beefy.
Craft: 1, because magic is damn near alien to the guy.
Shrewd: 4, he used to be a thief, he’s also pretty damn clever.
Ministry: 3, Conan means well, and 3 here is average. He’s not precisely a master steward, but neither is he an incompetent.
Allure: 5, he’s apparently spectacularly charismatic and people immediately fall in behind him.   

Compared against say, Grima Wormtongue
Thew: 2, because he is a man of Rohan, even if he’s the weediest.
Craft 3: He actually knows his way around magical shenanigans.
Shrewd: 6, honeyed words and sneaky git.
Ministry: 1, if this guy was managing the Sahara, they’d run out of sand.
Allure 1: He’s repugnant to even his own ostensible supporters.

I might modify the ratings, or make the scale wider, but I like this system. Especially for conflict resolution stuff. I think I’m going to eliminate the ‘must adventure’ stuff and the ‘lose out on administration’ stuff, for the most part. If you’re going on a journey that takes a few months, you will have to go into ‘regency.’

Also, I’ll need to automate what the ruler stats do to spreadsheet elements, if anything. Ministry might affect Subsistence spoilage for example.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

SKM Development: Townsfolk or “The Adventurers have to get jobs from someone”

ACKs has a system for founding a settlement. As the game is an OSR game primarily focused on stuff like markets, dungeons and the like, creating a town is a relatively easy thing to do. For a ruler anyway. It requires that you control a hex, that the hex be at Civilized tier, and that you have enough dosh and enough people to turn them into an ‘urban population.’ Now, the urban pop generates no land value income or service income, but they do generate tax income and they do generate a specific urban income value based on how many fams live in the urban settlement. More people in the settlement, more that each family brings in. So having a really big city, makes up for the fact every person you put into the city deprives the ‘land’ of them.

That’s fine and dandy for ACKs, since in ACKs townsfolk eat gold pieces. And as long as gold keeps getting generated, they’re fine. We changed that economic angle though. We knocked down the fence that had all income be gold.

So what are we going to do?

Well, firstly, since we abandoned Civilized-Wilderness hexes, we’re letting players create a settlement whenever they want to. One settlement to a hex. At least at first.

See, remember how I keep mentioning how our maximum size for a domain is 16 contiguous 6-mile hexes that forms 512 square miles, and is roughly the size of the New York Metro area? Well, like New York itself, or like the fictional Midgar from Final Fantasy 7, massive metropolis style cities are often formed from numerous towns folding together. So, let’s think of that as like our ‘end goal’ for settlements.  

In the meantime, for a settlement, let’s assume that requiring the charter for one requires a gold piece outlay and the people in the city still need to eat. So basically it’s like a ‘hex’ you pay for, and you’d still need to take fams away from the hex you’re building the settlement in to populate it (although we’d need to put a mechanic in that penalizes you for depopulating a hex too quickly). 

Our settlement would then expressly not generate subsistence. Not a damn grain. No. Towns and cities in our system are going to be hungry little jerks. They’re going to represent families in a realm that have to be fed, but who’s population cannot be allocated to subsistence production.

In exchange, they’ll make resources. They’ll make shitloads of resources.

Whatever the resource value for a territory is, the families allocated from a settlement will get a more beneficial return on them. A mining town is going to be more efficient at mining then random peasants. Maybe there’ll be a research option to let a city start generating food on its own, or some food. See, the terrible truth is that towns and cities, even in the modern world, aren’t self-sufficient. They require outside resources.

ACKs also uses settlements as a way to bust the hard-cap they put on pops for a territory. I’d need to check the numbers for that, but I might end up cribbing off of them again. Mostly because I know next to nothing about reasonable quasi-medieval population density statistics.

Sadly, we’re getting to the close of the theorycrafting soon.  Once I figure out some other mechanics, I’m going to have to start crunching numbers, and I am not looking forward to that.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Wizards are Weird: The Unclean Arts

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the idea of the wizard as a cheat, or the wizard as the foolish rule breaker. The foolish rule breaker wizard, for the most part, has transmogrified into the mad scientist. The guy who uses the nuclear reactor to cook his hot pockets because a microwave takes two and a half minutes, but its only thirty in the reactor and HE KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING, YOU FOOL!!!

As a result, the short sighted genius still lives on, he just took off his wizard hat.

Then there’s the other side of things.

The evil side.

Sometimes they can be musicians.

Magic and spell casting is strongly associated with the forces of evil. Why is that? Well from a Judeo-Christian perspective (which informs most fantasy) it’s because powers only have two real sources, one side is the noble side, granted by God, and the other side is well, not.

The other side is the side of blood sacrifices, of using things for purposes they decidedly aren’t intended for. The seductive dark side. And there are no shortages of weirdness to be found here. Horrific, terrible, and for a DM, wonderful weirdness.

I was born to murder the world!

This is where we see the wizards as the corruptors, the destroyers, the despoilers. The strange agents of the unholy amongst us. With motivations as strange and imperceptible as a hurricane, or a demon.

The guy above is Nix. We never quite learn what his motivations are, but the guy is evil. He leads a cult. He keeps trained baboons. He comes back from the dead as an undead thing. And he claims he was born to murder the world. 

He’s horrifying, but a lot of what he does, doesn’t make sense. He kills those loyal to him. His aim always seem to be corrupting others, to spread whatever it is that corrupted him, to people of equally promising skills. But why? Who knows.

The idea that magical powers have an intrinsic cost is represented by people like this. They start down the path of magic for whatever reason, start as normal folks, and then turn into, well..

Something inhuman.

The master would not approve

By the simple expedient of trafficing with powers that are..not right, they themselves become the sorts of entities who spread that not rightness.  To the point that while we know that these creatures began as human, the fact they started treating with unholy powers, started making deals with strange masters, and started drifting with powers better left untouched, they transmogrify into something so thoroughly, we can't even imagine them as once being a "normal person."

You can even see this in sci-fi depictions of wizard. Remember, the 'wizard' isn't just the guy with a pointy hat. He's the weirdo. The strange thing that commands powers outside the ken of most.

Such as the Emperor of Darkness
I might revisit this, there's a lot here, but remember that just by being something else the wizard can be weird, and terrifying.

Also, I think that Grahf picture there is ridiculously righteous. I found it at this link here so please, go check that guy out. His art's pretty awesome.

Musical Inspiration Challenge Part 2: Our Contestants

Well, let’s begin this poorly thought out challenge idea for an adventure. I realize I should’ve thought of a way to determine level. Whoo...