Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deeper and Deeper

So, these damn sage tables.

I'm working through Politics at the moment, which is proving to be an awful rabbit's hole going down into the lands of Lewis Carroll, no question about it.  I feel compelled to explain.

Last night, for instance, I was working on a particular idea - that characters (player & non-player alike) who become political will, quite reasonably, expect to obtain positions of authority.  I don't know player character in my world would want to become the local tax collector - but as there are no rules about what characters are allowed to become, we ought to at least acknowledge that some player in the world has imagined the possibility.

Very well, let me put the reader into this position.  You have a player who, rather than marching off to the next dungeon, expresses an interest in being a tax collector in your world.  How would you manage it?

I feel quite certain that most of you have no rules whatsoever for such a contingency, and that the very idea of making such a rule seems ridiculous and - in light of the sort of campaign you run - even stupid.  This gives you as a DM two options.

First, you can tell the player that it's not possible, tax collectors come from certain families or of some other predetermined nature that totally closes that door off to the player, FOREVER.  Alternatively, you can play the whole scenario by rolling dice for a completely invented number (one you have invented in the last second or so before rolling) and then saying, "No, it's not possible" or "Yes, all right, whatever."  If the latter, you fuck around with the numbers, claim such and such an amount of money is collected and perhaps roll-play a few things until the player gets bored.

In other words, you're stuck with DM fiat.

This has been my situation too, though I must admit that the pursuit of the sage abilities has begun to crack this model open at the seams, as I realize step-by-step that there IS a logic to it all, albeit a sort of crazy "is this really D&D?" sort of model.

So, a player decides to be a politician and, according to the rules I've proposed thus far, the character starts with 12 points of political knowledge.  Or the player chooses another expertise, but slowly amasses 10 points and thus becomes an amateur politician.

The Functionary skill (as yet unwritten, so I don't have a link for it) provides the character with the possibility of campaigning or otherwise angling for a public position of some kind.  Just now, I am thinking about the political knowledge points being a sort of influence.  The more knowledge points you have, the better the position you can angle to obtain.

This puts me on the hook for listing a large number of political/public offices, which then demands a table and okay, that's a bit of work, but not that bad.  Obviously, each position needs to be assigned a value in political skill above 10.

Let's say 10 points means that you can become, if you wish, a 'rat-catcher.'  It's a job, it gives you an income, you become recognizeable to the local guard and it gets you inside a few places.  If the players want to use this for undercover purposes, to get into the guard house for nefarious purposes, it's there.

This makes me think, what does being the rat-catcher actually offer?  Does it give you a connection to the underground?  Wouldn't the thieves and the beggars also know who you are?  Wouldn't this be a great way to contact the thieves' and assassins guild?  Or a means to find certain sewers or other subterranean dens under a city?  That information might even come with the help of other rat-catchers, who themselves may have a guild.  Isn't it a jump-off point for urban adventuring?

That sounds good to me, if a character could survive the actual rat-catching part, what with disease and all . . . but here is the bigger problem:

OH SHIT, now I'm on the hook for making rules for every political position throughout the whole of society.  Not just for rat-catchers and tax collectors, but for bailiffs, catchpoles, chancellors, constables, courtiers, diplomats, exchequers, haywards, jailers, liners, masters of the revels, pursuivants, reeves, watchmen, woodwards and gawd knows what the hell else I can come up with for job titles.  All of which would now need a page in the wiki for the player to consider if the player does want to 'join up' to get a hold of some local power.  Not to mention that it's just good sense to provide all that data for the non-player characters who really do need their power and job-descriptions sorted out and fully understood.

Um, shoot me?


  1. Yikes, that is quite the rabbit hole you lept down.

    I had something similar happen. My players last session, apropos of nothing, said "we want to pick a district in [major city they are based in], and basically run that district."

    I said "okay, here is a map of the city, pick a district. Next week, I will have it laid out for you." They picked it, and I have been working on it all week. It's been rough, but very insightful.

  2. Seems like the only digestible solution would be to generalize it. Could you break down into some set of enumerated characteristics?

    For example, rat-catcher might be represented by the set: income (minor), recognition (guards, thieves, beggars), danger (rats, disease), access (city buildings, sewers)

    In this sense, instead of detailing every job, you'd only need to provide reasonable guidelines for a DM to break down a job into these characteristics on the fly. That way, when the player says, "Hey can I run for rat-catcher?", the DM can just say yes and figure out what the job actually entails over the next few minutes.

    You're still working with DM fiat, I suppose, but a guide is better than nothing, in my opinion.

  3. Holy fuck Alexis.

    "Sociology is a continuation of D&D by other means?"

    What you're demonstrating is that a setting sourcebook is useful only to the extent that it might provide these kind of mechanics for adjudicating social interaction in the setting.

    Also, something I've been wondering for a while: have you considered floating a grant proposal to some kind of meddlesome government agency? This seems like the kind of stuff that would make analysts simultaneously salivate and cringe.


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