Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Employment Strategies

Continuing on from yesterday's post.

I must admit that it seems strange to be codifying jobs/careers for D&D.  Universally, it's always seemed a little dumb when players ask if their characters can get work for a week or two, to earn a little money.  After all, why don't they just climb into a sewer, kill a few zombies and collect a bit of coin that way?

I'm trying to move away from that sort of game thinking, though not to the point where I expect characters to get jobs.  I see these rules more as a means to an end; alternatively, as a solution for any time when the characters find themselves in authority.

Let's consider the latter.  The local town has just been devastated by the Wererat King, a plethora of lycanthropes and a friggin' mess o' rats.  The party has helped beat them all back, but the captain of the guard is dead, the captain of the watch is dead, the burghermeister is dead, the head of the church is dead and three of the four major guildmasters are dead.  The town is in shambles.  The only reason why looting hasn't broken out yet is because the populace is exhausted.

So the single lead guildmaster, the deacon of the local bard's college, the former deputy magistrate and the most prominent judge left in town approach the party and ask them to take over management and administration of the town.  They're asked to keep the people in check, round up troublemakers, organize supplies and rebuilding efforts, etc.  In return, the town is prepared to give the players a monthly wage of 5,000 g.p. (the town treasury survived or the town has access to money they can borrow from the capital).

There are some players who would take that kind of offer - only we know that it would never really be made, because most DMs wouldn't know how to run it or what to do if the party said "Yes."  So instead the townsfolk thank the players very much, give them a one-time reward of 5,000 gold and send them on their way.

Very well, the former - a means to an end.  The party needs to get inside the prison but there's just no way.  They try bribing a guard or the thief tries slipping inside, but both attempts fail because the prison security is just too damn tight.  But then one of the players thinks, "Hey, what if one of us strips down and tries out for a job inside the prison?"

All right, let's say that's what they try.  Where are your rules for that?  I'm proposing this political thing, but chances are you're going to manage the problem with an arbitrary die roll . . . which is fine, it's all there is.  Good, the player gets inside, pretends to be a jailer (in my world it would take a month for the job to get obtained) and then waits for an opportunity to get close to the right prisoner, or perhaps the door that would let the rest of the party inside . . . 

Those would be good rules to have, right?  Even if the party wasn't that interested in 'getting a job,' there are situations where having the job and getting a sense of what's going on while holding the job would be good things to track.  That's why I think it's worth pursuing this thought process - because while it may fit a small niche in my sage tables, in the bigger picture it could be rebuilt by you, the reader, into something that would allow you to manage those difficult non-rule situations.

Very well, so much for the preamble.

Let's begin the issue with the character having obtained the job.  I spoke on this post about getting work, which I admit isn't alternate-system friendly, but might give you some ideas.  What do we do once the player has the job?  Please remember that the 'job' might refer to something as huge as managing all the money in the kingdom during a time of war.

The linked post in the above paragraph also contained information about how many days in a fort-month that a character would have to work - remembering that all the positions described on that post are political jobs without a schedule.  Even the apprentice was expected to work to some degree independently, as they were encouraged to search for their own raw materials, experiment, work on projects that they would present to their masters and so on.  An apprentice in the medieval period worked much more like an art student than a would-be electrician - something to keep in mind.  The number of days an apprentice 'worked' tended to be every day . . . so the number given by the system only refers to the number of days the apprentice worked in the shop under direct supervision.

Examine for a moment your choices about how to work at your job.  I propose that there are four basic tactics that you'll employ while employed.  I argue that everyone works on some refinement of the following:

1. Keep your head down.  This is what's known as "the company way" - shut up, do your job, don't make waves, don't get clever, don't push yourself but do exactly as much as you need to do not to get fired.  Be agreeable.  The result tends to be that you stay employed at the level of your current employment, until finally you've been there so long that people treat you with all the love and affection they have for the family dog.  Prior to the present two generations, this used to work beautifully if all you wanted to do was work.  Unfortunately, your competence doesn't increase and neither does anything else.

2. Work Hard.  Increase your output, increase your focus, take on more responsibilities, outperform your fellow and bust your ass making something right.  In the present culture, this is seen as being a 'sucker,' but strangely most of your employers seem to have mastered the art of perpetual work.  Disregarding the slacker insistence, hard work usually leads to greater pay and greater competence - in a medieval world it also leads to injury and other health risks (people dying in fires set by candles they knocked over while falling asleep) as well as resentment and making enemies.

3. Suck up.  Screw work, make friends.  It isn't what you do, it's who you do it for while on your knees making coffee.  Or, to put it in medieval terms, it's all about the grease.  This obviously increases your chance for reputation and promotion, the former being how you're thought of by those people above you.  Working hard may grant you a bit of reputation, but sucking up to the boss will undoubtedly get your more.  Sucking up, incidentally, is what you'd want to do as the jailer who wants to meet the prisoner or find which door to open.  The downside is that it tends to erode competence - so that if you don't get yourself posted somewhere better, or you're not going to quit as soon as the prisoner is broken out of jail, you'll fuck up eventually - resulting in a loss of both reputation and possibly health.

4. Innovate.  Figure out a completely different way to do your job.  This is the long shot and it isn't for everyone.  In fact, most of the time if you try to experiment on the job, you'll crash so spectacularly that people will be talking about you for months.  At the same time, however, if you succeed you may change the world.  Logically, this is the most risky strategy and the sort that most feel won't be worth it - remember that the consequences for this sort of thing in a very high level post tends to be public execution or a lifetime in the royal tower.  Success does greatly increase competency; it may or may not increase reputation in the short run, depending on how it is viewed (many employers hate innovation).  It may come with monetary rewards.

The mistake would be to think that an employee must act in accordance with only one of the above. Many do, but this is a choice.  Fact is, that choice can be made every day, or every week.  For game purposes, I think that every day might be a bit too often - it would slow the pace of the game down as the effects for each were rolled this often.  Once every seven days of employment might be more practical.  Too, once a day would mean the rewards or punishments couldn't have a high degree of importance.  Every seven days might allow greater benefits or consequences; once every 30 days might add still more.

Since there is the potential for some gifted persons in high positions to work under supervision as little as 6 to 10 days every two months, linking such rolls to actual number of days worked may not be the best plan.  A Lord Chancellor can fuck up more things in an hour than 5,000 apprentices can fuck up in a lifetime.  That needs to be considered.

My next plan, then, is to write about consequences and rewards - and all that descends from the competence of the employee.  I thought I had that in hand, but I think I may need a few days before I come back to that.


Oddbit said...

I'm guessing game world events would operate quite well as the opportunities that arise often in the Sims games. Instead of random results it would be based on how the player dealt with (or ignored) situations/opportunities.

If they did benefit from those I wonder if they would benefit the 'job skill' or just adventuring skills.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Actually, I feel that basing the success on how the player 'dealt with the situation' would be reducing the rule dynamic to the same old DM-fiat driven role-playing that I'm trying to get away from.

Listen, whenever you try to base a rule on unrestricted role-playing, the game is broken. Once again, it becomes the relationship between what player can bullshit most effectively versus how much bullshit will a DM swallow. Since this is never the same amount for any participant anywhere in the world, it's a total crap approach to a game system.

I must point out that one of the WEAKEST points in the Sims 3 game is that you know if you're willing to sit there and make your avatar chat-gossip-tell funny story-chat-gossip-tell funny story over and over again, the NPC avatar in the game WILL be your friend. The reward in that game is not ability or actual roleplaying, but repetition until effectiveness is achieved.

This does not translate at all well to D&D. I need a mechanic where the player says, "I decide to get clever about saving the total amount of food in the kingdom during a famine," and I can roll a result that the player knows can come up 'GET EXECUTED BY THE KING' without this being my fault.

It isn't the casino's fault or decision whether or not the dice come up craps. I need a rule mechanic that gives me the same freedom from responsibility, while at the same time giving you, the player, the same right to risk it all.

Baron Opal said...

Okay, so you could have a mechanic that generates win, lose, uncertain, escalate. "Uncertain" yields nothing but loses little. The minions run around in circles, but don't spend much gold. "Escalate" lets you advance to a higher level of risk / reward, but as you have spent some time and resources you have gained a better understanding of the situation.

Dealing with the famine would be (say) a level 5 situation. Very serious and wide reaching. Dealing with local solutions at the hamlet level, a level 1 problem, takes time but gives you insight (bonus) to dealing with the kingdom wide problem. This would let the player decide if they wish to tackle the situation directly, or spend time, gold, favors, or other resources to gain a better grip on the situation.

Oddbit said...

Hrm, I was more thinking...

Famine occurs...
So the players take there characters, hijack some food shipments from other kingdoms, get some druids to help crops (I know I know) then capture slaves in an epic campaign against the kingdom of X to work in the fields...

The 3 month campaign activity... would it boost their career at all?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I sincerely doubt those actions would be seen on a kingdom level as praiseworthy. After hijacking food shipments from other kingdoms and going on a slave campaign against kingdom X, what happens to the century of diplomacy and handshake agreements that have gone on before between these kingdoms? Suddenly your kingdom is facing a coalition of three or four kingdoms who want compensation, the king is furious, the local church is furious, discipline in the army has broken down due to the men learning that the state approves of looting and pillaging and there are ten guards outside your study waiting to arrest you.

Chances are your career would improve through your willingness to give a good speech to the people telling them why it is best that they starve right now.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Unquestionably, however, addressing your larger point Oddbit.

There MUST be a way to incorporating actual adventuring into the proposed system - but the purpose of the system is to manage these things WITHOUT needing to role-play them. Thus I would probably try to offer ordinary adventuring rewards for adventuring, while relying on the sage system to determine competency or even reputation (though a simple die roll for that could be employed).

I take on difficult operations and tasks all the time without my competency necessarily improving - while at the same time, there's no guarantee that 'saving the kingdom' will result in a positive reputation gain. After all, I understand that being able, capable and self-determiend will often make a person deeply despised and hated, depending on the present political environment. I don't think we can necessarily argue that IF the player does something amazing, this makes them more able or likeable.

Barrow said...

At a casino craps table, according to wikipedia there are players, the boxman, two base dealers, and the stickman.

Using your player/famine/king example and applying the craps model I assume we are giving the DM the role of boxman, base dealers, and stickman, and the player the role of dice shooter or the player.

I can think of 2 derivatives worth bringing up. Both involve betting with influence points. I like the idea of betting influence points. This means that players and NPC's can lose influence points, which I think is appropriate. A sort of falling down the ladder.

1: Allowing all applicable parties to wager on an outcome.

Why shouldn't the King have a seat at the table, he has a stake in the outcome of the player's gamble. While the player is betting that they can skim some off the top by cleverly rationing some food during a famine, the king wagers that the player will properly ration food during a famine.

They are two separate bets, but hey, this is craps. Each player can wager on different dice outcomes. I can bet on the number 6 and another player can bet on the point number.
If the player throws crap, the king would lose his bet too. If the King and player are gambling with influence points, how much the King has lost during the bet will determine his reaction.

The challenges are deciding how much influence the king has wagered on food storage and what the odds for all possible outcomes are.

Once all possible outcomes have been determined and what the percentage chance for that outcome to be rolled, all relevant players and NPC's could place wagers. The King's brother could get in the mix by wagering a small amount of his influence that the famine will divide the kingdom and give him greater influence.

As NPC's bet more of their total influence on an outcome, the stakes go up and the player's consequence is more extreme.

This derivative creates and environment where influence points are dealt out and taken by the casino or DM. The casino has an unlimited amount of influence points to give out.

2: What if we took the DM out of the model and replaced the DM with the King. Now the player is gambling to win the Kings influence points.

If the player wins, he takes the influence points and the King loses the influence. If the player loses, the King absorbs his influence. Maybe there is an outcome where both the King and player lose, a push. The points go to the stickman which could be the angry mob of hungry peasants.

A PC could react severely to a player taking a large amount of their influence. Or they may gloat when they absorb many of the players influence points.

On another note, I like the idea of taking down a rival by taking their influence points. Placing smart bets at the right time to reduce the NPC's influence in the eyes of everyone else.

Like wise, when a player has too many or too few influence points for their position, an imbalance occurs. This imbalance may make some NPC's uncomfortable, or might impress others.

Alexis Smolensk said...


In the creation of rules, a thing to be avoided is the ad hoc inclusion of random elements.

You may have misunderstood the craps metaphor. This was to establish that dice games are interesting because of the stake involved.

Reading your comment, I find myself wondering if I wrote this post or any post in English.

Did you miss the part where the system has to include application to gamewardens, tax collectors or jailers? And that the daily life of each would be far from the daily life of a magistrate or a chancellor?

Did you miss where I suggested that the rule had to apply to NPCs as well as PCs? How exactly can any of the suggestions you've made apply to NPCs? Do you really expect me to figure out every person 'sitting at the table' for every NPC in the kingdom?

Sorry, but that's crazy.

Barrow said...

Yes I was looking too closely at: " I need a mechanic where the player says, "I decide to get clever about saving the total amount of food in the kingdom during a famine," and I can roll a result that the player knows can come up 'GET EXECUTED BY THE KING' without this being my fault.

It isn't the casino's fault or decision whether or not the dice come up craps. I need a rule mechanic that gives me the same freedom from responsibility, while at the same time giving you, the player, the same right to risk it all.

I was trying to piggy-back on your idea of influence points. I think they are a good idea to start and that they could be used as the basis for a solution to the bit above in italics. Not sure how I got to the long winded comment. I could answer your questions, but I'm pretty sure you are ready to move along.