Saturday, January 13, 2018

Player Building Prospects

I'll start by highlighting a comment made on the last post about Wowotu, from Pandred, a player in my online campaign:

"Ha, I think I had a devilish misunderstanding.
The improvements by my reading, only exist in the event that a reference of that improvement's type exists, and only then provide the additive benefit to the specific hex stats.
Or, to paraphrase, there is no fishing ground without fish.
Still, I'm now curious if an area could be developed by the PCs, expanding into a greater DEV level and potentially increasing the value of the references found there.
I want a piece of the adventure in which the PCs take a nobody town and make it something valuable to the region."

I made a comment of my own beneath Pandred's, but I'd like to address it further.

It need not even be a "nobody town."  It could be any place, from the densest city to the most obscure wilderness.  Because the idea is improvement, and because the system makes it clear that not everywhere produces everything, it is simply a matter of introducing something into a location that did not previously exist.

We've grown up with endless descriptions of towns and regions where it is always presumed that every kind of cereal or vegetable is grown, or that every kind of manufacture is taking place, or that every kind of mineral is being dug out of the ground, regardless of the region.  If there is anything missing, it is virtually always one thing, and that one thing invariably has one source, or is in the hands of the goblins in the north mountains, or some other patently obvious adventure-driven reason for missing.  In fact, scarcity is a common phenomenon, even more common in a medieval setting ... and the chances are that something missing from a town or region would simply be done without.  The players wouldn't be "saving" anyone.

That said, suppose the players, for their own reasons, chose to go prospecting.  This has always been a difficulty in role-playing.  We can make a table to determine success or failure, but what do we do when the success has occurred and something is found?  Now we're trapped in the questions, how much, what is it worth and how easy is it to get it out of the ground?

I'm trying to answer those questions.  Suppose the players are hunting around the town of Avalon for gold, knowing that there is already gold in the region.  The first question is where?  The generated map gives us a few more possibilities than a normal map would give us.

First, we know that the Avalon hex, 1106, is the most settled.  It's full of farms and so has probably been stumbled over enough times that we shouldn't expect to find something.  To a lesser degree, the type-6 hexes are likewise.

We also know that the type-7 hexes are mostly empty: just a few scattered farms, virtually no authority so long as we keep away from the few cottages and full of possibility.  And they have at least been picked over for really bad monsters.

The hexes without numbers are type-8.  Those are pure wilderness hexes; no people and big potential for monsters.  But they probably haven't been looked over very carefully.  Why not go look there?

Now, gold is an unusual commodity.  In the last post, I said that a mine raised the labor of the hex by +1.  Gold also increases the wealth of that hex by +1, and the happiness by +1 also.  People like gold.  It makes them happy [the moral anti-vice campaign notwithstanding].

So anywhere that we find gold is going to increase the labor, its going to increase our pocket change and it is going to make people happy to be there.

Suppose as a party we march up into 1008.  We've established it's an arid-vegetation hex, which we can fill with brush or with empty grassland or whatever vegetation fits.  From our original map, we know that it is hill country.  As a DM, I can already feel the encounters we can create.

The party at night is beset upon by a collection of vipers, having settled unknowingly near a snake pit, which approach once they detect the warmth of the fire or the bodies.  The snakes just want to curl up to a nice, warm fleshy cushion for the night, but the players don't know that and they overreact.  Or the players stumble across a giant ant nest and have to fight off five, ten or thirty giant ants, depending on how long it before they get wise and beat a retreat.  So much for the vermin.

After a week (it takes a long time to prospect 30 square miles of country), they settle themselves to run the length of a dry ravine, hoping that there will be some evidence of placer deposits.  Here they come across some tracks, which they follow, only to discover these are footsteps, which lead to an overhang, which conceals a cave ... and the party decides whether or not they want to fight things that have feet that are 10-20% larger than a human's.

After killing all the orcs in the lair, the party is much disappointed to find no gold nuggets or gold ore inside the now-cleared dug out cave system.  This doesn't look promising.  Surely these things, living here, would have found gold if there was gold.  Should we keep prospecting?

The party decides that yes, all right, let's just keep at it here.  Without luster, they work their way along the two-mile ravine, certain it has to be empty, since if there was something the orcs would have surely found it.

Wait ... what is that?  Fool's gold, probably.  But ... it feels pretty heavy.  And not a bad sized piece, almost a half a centimeter.  The players dust it off and wash it with water and detect quartz crystals mixed with a dull yellow gleam.  It is not pyrite!  Wow!  Is the character with prospecting experience sure?  He feels sure. At once the party begins searching every inch of the chasm, surrounding the find.  They don't find another piece.

Okay, okay, let's not panic.  Let's leave three people here with the equipment to clear away the brush, build up a little protection, stake the ground so it can be found again if we all have to leave and resist spending a day and a half digging up rock that may be nothing.  Then Yanzig and I will head off to the village, confirm that this is gold, and ...

Once the find is confirmed, the party debates telling anyone about the find's location. Of course, the assayer knows (and there would be one, there's a gold mine just 10 miles from Avalon already), and the assayer might suggest his cousin's younger brother could trail after the two strangers and see where they go ...

And meanwhile the party goes wild with excitement.  But it will take time to find the vein; the small rock could have been kicked by animals for five thousand years of time, miles from where the actual mine should be.  The job is only begun.

On its own, the hex hasn't any "natural hex production" because it hasn't been developed.  The gold, however, by itself, will add +1 wealth to the hex.  As I wrote in an earlier post, this is 354 g.p. per year.  Not bad.  But not spectacular.  Most of this doesn't even come from the physical quantity of the gold.  Some comes from the willingness of the area to just give the players money, in the hope of finding more gold.

The question is, does this small gold find count as part of the original gold reference that is already in the district, or does it count as a NEW reference?

That's tricky ... and I haven't any rules for that.  But we can invent some rules without much trouble.  Merely finding a small vein of gold would not be sufficient; that's what the usual wealth increase accounts for.  A new reference would be very, very unlikely: say, a 1% chance per year of digging.  And meanwhile, there'd be a 10% chance per year that the existing gold would run out.

That's not encouraging ... but we don't want the party easily stumbling across a motherlode of gold every day, and here's why:

The earlier post I linked describes one reference of gold as equal to 3,894 ounces ~ that's the amount drawn out from the mine every year.  Such a mine would go on long past a lifetime: say, a 1 in 500 chance per year of petering out.  Since one reference makes two locations, we must half the total (though we could always argue rolling two d10s and use these to determine what hex of the two has more and which has less).  Consider, however: half equals 1,947 ounces of pure gold per year.  Or a total of 16,968 g.p.  Every year.  At least, in my game.

That would transform the hex almost overnight.  Within a month, the hex would be officially changed over to a type-7, as labor and others rushed to the hex from all over Wowotu (and even outside).  Even a small gold discovery would produce this effect, though not quite so quickly.  The party wouldn't have much chance to prospect elsewhere in the hex after that ... there'd be prospectors everywhere.  If there was any groundwater under the hex, there'd be gangs looking for it.  Once they found ground water, some farms might appear if the season were right, or fruit trees and vegetables planted, or sheep watered (there are already plenty of sheep in the district).  And all the while the party would be busy organizing their own labor, to sink a shaft, bring in wood to shore up tunnels (because I've described gold ore, it wouldn't be sluice boxes), find labor, keep labor, build defenses, fight off a few more vermin, perhaps encounter the one really big monster in the formerly wild hex and generally lose money in costs before hoping to make money on the gold.

But we are talking years before there's any real chance that this will boom ... and by the end of the first year, the other prospectors may have given up, leaving only a few score people and little else beyond that pleasant, non-life changing 354 g.p per year.

Still, what if the players decide to spend it on sheep?

Ah, there we have a different formula.  We don't prospect for sheep.  We know where they are.  The gateway for sheep is the amount of available water.  Perhaps there is some in the newly transformed 1008, but there is more in 1007 and more still in 1107.  So we start calculating how much water there is and we start buying sheep.

Water makes food, which we can also buy in Port Tethys, so we build up our flocks, buying more labor and pouring more money into the three hexes we've decided to occupy.  There's no real government here, not in a Dev7 region (Dev8 would bring new problems, like a local priest who might contend with our activities), so we're really only limited to our coin, our wherewithal and our luck.  The sheep might contract a disease, or we might lose a bunch of sheep to something out of hex 1108 that is feeding on them.  But in any case, we're pouring all this money into 1007 and 1107, as well as 1008 ... what is that doing?

Sheep do not grant any special wealth bonus to a hex.  Oh, the owners make money, but unlike gold, it doesn't fire up the local economy.  It does, however, potentially increase the importance of the hex.

Again, I have no rules made up for this.  Which, apparently, are a lot harder than I thought.  Okay, rewriting this post, let's try to figure this out.

The "natural hex production" for a type-7 rural hex is the natural vegetation for an arid hex (1 food & 1 labor), with an additional +1 labor from the loose assortment of farms.

Compare this to a type-6, also rural, which adds a bonus of +1 food AND +1 labor:

  • Type-7 arid, rural hex: 1 food, 2 labor
  • Type-6 arid, rural hex: 2 food, 2 labor

1 food [binary 1] is enough to feed 70 persons a diet of 2,200 calories a day. 

2 food [binary 11] is enough to feed 210 persons.  So to change a type-7 hex to a type-6 hex?  Add food.

We can add food by filling the hex with sheep.  Or ploughing new ground.  Or buying fishing boats.  As it happens, this won't raise the labor in the hex, as I originally though when I first wrote this post.  But the extra food will raise the population, which we can arguably charge rent, then continue to use the labor to run our own farm.  We become the middlemen for the produce of the other farmers, trading their product by buying it for slightly less than what town would pay, saving them the wear and tear on their carts, animals and the time spent hauling it.  We shear our own sheep, and charge others to shear their sheep ... and we build a mill, which adds another +1 labor and, happily, +1 wealth.

There.  I hope that clears up the former errors in the post.


  1. We can apply our spells and other resources, as well. How much will a druid's magic improve the harvest? If we can affect the quality of pastures and fields, does that improve the production of sheep and associated byproducts? Clearly, I can't commit my 3rd-level druid for the entire year, but if my main character is 10th-level instead, I can have one or two druid henchmen who spend a significant portion of their time helping farmers and shepherds. What about detect metals and minerals? (Assuming there is such a spell, of course...) It won't eliminate the need for a prospector, but if I pair him with an appropriate spellcaster, it should reduce the amount of time necessary to identify the source of that lone gold nugget.

    All good stuff.

  2. Yes, spells.

    There was once a big flame war on the blog about this. As I said then, I think you will find that the area of effect for spells is so tiny compared to a world, that they are largely ineffective for significant terraforming. There is no detect metals spell, but there are wands. The range, however, is a mere 60 feet. The charges would be gone before you could hope to find something. Remembering, too, that such a wand would be calibrated not to recognize trace amounts of metal, else it would be impossible to use the wand without detecting the elements in your party companion's body, not to mention in hundreds of rocks containing the smallest amounts of iron or calcium, which would be everywhere.

  3. Hello,

    Still a fan of those posts, it's coming out very nicely.

    The natural hex production for a type-7 rural arid hex is 1 food & 2 labor, whereas it is 2 food & 2 labor for a type-6.
    You said "to change a type-7 hex to a type-6 hex? Add food" & " once we do that, the labor comes along for free". Seems logical. But there is no labor change between type-7 and type-6, so do you mean another kind of labor ? Or did you think about other types of hexes ? Although if I remember correctly, it is having a settlement hex that add the labor ...

    Would you be so kind as to shed some light on this ? Where am I missing something ?

  4. Vlad,

    You know, my whole week has been going like this. I can't seem to get anything right.

    First of all, for whatever reason, when looking at the data, I was looking at the settlement type-7 and type-6 data, NOT the rural type-7 and type-6. So, total facepalm.

    I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board a bit. And today has been, well, awful so far. I'll need a moment.

  5. Okay, Vlad, I've corrected the post. Let me know how it flies now ... and thank you for seeing the flaw in my reasoning. It helps to have another eye on these things.

  6. Hello Alexis,

    Everyone makes mistakes. How we manage them and grow from them is important - and from what I've seen, you're doing a mighty fine job of it.

    Now the text is clear, good. So I have questions / remarks !

    1) Clarifying how to upgrade hexes when a change of labor exist could be interesting. Without that, I'd go with Food increment => Hex Type increment => Labor & Wealth increment, but maybe that is not the case.
    2) Regarding the raising of Food & Population :
    2-A) The methods for the Food (sheeps, ploughing new ground, buying fishing boats) look like providing means of production, that need Population to be used. Is that so ?
    2-B) If one could raise the Food without a need for more Population (cutting edge agrarian tech, whatever), would that nonetheless raise Population, and what would said Population do then ?
    2-C) Conversely, if one could raise Population without raising Food (by importing it, for example), what would the impact be ?
    3) You speak of building a mill, which would bring +1 Labor & +1 Wealth. What are the conditions before building one ? I've seen no new Reference, maybe it's the hex level ?

    That's enough questions for now. Your last paragraph is a gold mine, and I'm dead curious to see where things will go from there, so I'll refrain to add more and let you write the next post instead :) .

    Thanks for the Infrastructure & Trade, the gifts that keep on giving.


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