Monday, June 6, 2016

Hiring Hirelings

Next problem.

I think I've got a fair handle on the effectiveness of crew quality on the turning of ships.  This brings us to the question of how to determine the crew's quality?  How do characters know how qualified their crews are?  It isn't enough to just say that a captain knows what weaknesses and failings the crew might have, because that is provably not true.  Outright mutinies are rare, admittedly, but individual discipline for individual crew disobedience or incompetence is not, nor is it rare that either causes the loss of equipment, time, battles and life.  Often it can be quite innocent: consider the message of this folk song.

At best, we can guess at the quality of a crew and accept that often we have to take those with less than ideal skills/personalities because of circumstances - i.e., not enough of the kind of labour we'd like.

Let's come back around to the database of traits I had proposed last week.  I was screwing around this morning with combinations this morning, starting from a premise that created this table:

Remember from the earlier post, if we set the number 7 on 2d6 as zero, then the best possible result is +5 with boxcars and -5 with snake eyes.  Taking 3d6 to determine our x, y and z axes (regardless of what personality traits those three rolls give us), then we have 46,656 possible combinations that, together, will add up to a number between -15 and 15.  On the table, the numbers show the possible combinations that get a positive or negative result in that range.

It's interesting, but it also means that someone whose first two traits are +4 and +5 can have a trait that's -5 . . . which produces a sum of 4 overall but doesn't make that person a desirable person.  Such a person is potentially capable and cheerful, but they might be intensely dishonest; or they might be a very positive person and be scrupulously honest, yet be hopelessly unqualified at everything.

For the record, I am rethinking the original three traits that I proposed with my first post on this plotting traits' concept.  I think perhaps we can wrap competency and experience together; we can take honesty as a second axis; this then gives room for the person's nature: are they, by and large, positive or negative?  Friendly or taciturn?  Genuinely helpful or self-serving.  A person may easily be completely honest and yet unfriendly; or a person could be very positive and yet profoundly dishonest.  This eliminates the conflicting ideas of a person being experienced and yet unskilled (which happens, but seems 'wrong' at first glance).

What's really wanted are three traits that can't be accounted for in the character's ability stats.  Are intelligent people necessarily capable?  Are charismatic people necessarily friendly?  Are wise people necessarily honest?  I don't think so.  There are familiar associations we make between these things, but it is easy to imagine an educated dishonest person or a hateful, charismatic demagogue, and certainly a smart person who seems to fuck up all the time (personally, I only need a mirror for this last one).

So I reconsidered the organization of the personality traits, to get a better handle on who might hold a given position/role/responsibility in a vocational framework.  Towards this end, I imagined that we might organize these traits as a series of "shells."  The first shell would be occupied by the 1 in 46,656 persons who had +5 on all three axes.  Progressing outwards, each successive shell would include those persons who had a minumum of +4 in each axes, +3 in each, +2 in each and so on (always including those of the smaller shells).  This produced this table:

Note that persons without any negative traits consists of less than 20% of the total population.  This makes it virtually impossible to run any sort of entity without at least a third of your people having negative traits and another third having really bad negative traits - that you have to take on because you can't run a big concern without having to hire a lot of people.  If we consider that 10% of the population being unemployed is a bad thing, from the numbers above we have to consider that more than 10% of the working population are people with a -4 personality in something: either they're incompetent, dishonesty or naturally cruel, vengeful, jealous or greedy (pick the deadly sin).  This is a sobering thought.

We need 30 or 40 sailors to serve aboard our frigate; we don't know the market city where we're hiring our crew because, like most adventurers, we're far from home.  It's a port town and most of the town already has a job.  Those that don't, who are trying to get on as sailors, have probably worked for someone before if they're at least competent enough to know one end of a rope from the other.  Some of those will be looking for work after visiting their poor, dear mother for a month inland, but most of them are going to be people who were turfed when the ship they served aboard reached port.  And now they want to hire on with us.

In the last few posts, I've used the Wooden Ships & Iron Men designations of poor, green and average designations for crew.  It's very important that we don't see "poor" as meaning less experienced or able that "green."  A green crew has an excuse: they haven't shipped out together, not for long anyway, they're young, they haven't had a chance to become experienced.  A poor crew are a bunch of miserable, brooding, unscrupulous malignant and potentially hostile misanthropes, whose miserable speed at turning the ship around has less to do with inability as it does with willful disobedience or apathy.

And these are the sort that will get hired, even if we don't want them.

Thing is, for the interview, they'll trick us into thinking they're merely second-rate and not third-rate hirelings.  We need a table that a) determines how many of these we'll get; b) how likely we'll be able to detect them with our own experience; c) how spells like penetrate disguise or know intent will work in this context; and d) how much will such people of each personality shell will cost.

As yet, I don't have this table.  I'm thinking on it.  I know that morale will figure in the mix . . . and I'm also thinking about practical rules for changing people's personalities and behaviours.

I know that last will seem, well, inappropriate.  But there are some institutions that specialize in making persons see the world in a different light, adapting them to becoming more decent, more reliable, more effective as participants in ventures of every kind.  Some of these institutions fail miserably at it, but it seems to me that evidence of some success means that success is possible.  Therefore, rules ought to exist that will enable us to redirect an individual's cynicism, clumsiness and calumny to make them a more effective hireling.