Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Orphan of the Stars: City Stats as Capital

In my previous post, I noted that physical capital can provide a basis for political power.  To represent this, I settled on Bill Stoddard's GURPS City Stats.

This represents the planetary lord maintaining his planet's infrastructure and expanding his power by expanding his industrial, commercial or population base.  Naturally, City Stats focus on cities, while I'm focusing on planets, but while this abstracts the gargantuan nature of planets a bit, it works well enough for my purposes.

Naturally, you can reversen engineer my material to work with actual cities (You'll have to adjust some of the costs, though)



Infrastructure

As Political Power

The first part of the series I want to do looking at political power delves into City Statistics and infrastructural elements. This adheres more to the war-game vision of political power, where political contests turn on who controls the most resources and the best buildings necessary to extract, exploit and refine those resources. According to this model, Harkonnen and Atreides warred over spice and its extraction. We also see this model played out in most strategy games, whether it’s Axis and Allies (Where you divide your resources between troops, infrastructure and development), Civilization or Starcraft.

This model focuses intently on the interplay between money and war. Even if we choose to embrace Mass Combat, as we likely inevitably will, Mass Combat itself turns on money, because one does not win Mass Combat just via good tactical choices, but via good strategic oversight and logistics. We could devise a scenario where we simply assign a budget to various armies (“the trillion credit fleet”) and see how they fair against one another, but this utterly neglects logistical forces (as well as strategic movement). If we’re going to have logistical forces, we need to know how much money we’re spending on our troops, we need to know where our money is coming from, we need to know how much money our enemy is spending on his troops, where it’s coming from and where to hit him if we want him to stop. And if we want any sort of choice when it comes to spending money on our troops, then we need the option to spend money on more things than just troops.

Instead of spending money on “guns,” we can spend it on “butter.” This represents infrastructure. Given a particular budget, we could spend money on improving our tax revenues, or on improving defensive structures, or on streamlining troop manufacture, or even on superior troops. This emphasizes the role of Administration and Propaganda, allowing someone who is good at “base micromanagement” to defeat someone who is good at “tactical micromanagement” by simply having more and better equipped troops when it comes time for war.

This brings up a third possibility often missed by most strategic games, but possible in an RPG and critical to the actual outcome of history: choosing to spend your budget on neither “guns” nor “butter,” but on frivolities. Historically, many bad rulers have squandered fortunes on palaces, mistresses and parties, while even many of the historically lauded rulers have spent considerable sums on arts, philosophy, religion and other worthy goals that don’t have anything to do with directly or indirectly improving military power.

Thus, ultimately what we’re discussing as we talk about infrastructure is, more broadly, the budget of the House. This must necessarily be an overarching element, that the whole house commits to. The politics that inevitably swirls around this is “who gets what?” Everyone always needs more money, and everyone must make their case to the ruler of the House.

This highlights a flaw with the approach: much of this is “over the heads of the players.” The master of the house ultimately decides, and thus, is it necessary for the players to be involved? Worse, a dedicated, detailed approach to this risks turning into Spreadsheats: the Roleplaying Game. Working out a budget and arguing over it might be vital to how real empires really work, but it’s also really boring. Isn’t it enough to simply know what sort of infrastructure a house has, and perhaps, as a GM, to simply state that there’s a budget crisis or that there’s a point of contention (“You have to fight with the military over who gets more funds, them or your spy agency”)? Well, it could be. As I said in my previous post, level of detail can float up and down depending on your needs. I’m going to assume a considerable degree of detail and write up, to a somewhat gameable degree, this Spreadsheets: the Roleplaying game, but with an eye towards ignoring it if necessary. Ideally, this system should give the GM a sense of what’s going on behind the scenes, and he can allow players a glimpse into the deep anatomy of power only as much as he feels is necessary.

Mission Statement

So what do we want? In the very least, this system should offer us inspiration by giving us insight into how the house works. Where does it get its money from, what resources does it crave and which does it have in surplus? We might also get a sense about how external shifts might generate a crisis (what happens if a vital resource is lost, or if someone sabotages an important facility), as well as inspiration about where to hit rival factions. The system should also generate interesting choices: Where should our money go, what should our priorities be, and how do I convince the Duke of that?

City Stats as Infrastructure

Let’s take a look at GURPS City Stats and its accompanying article, City Management, in Pyramid #3-54 as a basis for our system and see what it offers us.

City Stats

City Stats mostly breaks out the particulars of what a city is into a variety of stats.

Population: This determines how many people live in a city, and ultimately impacts the search modifiers. What I find interesting here is that those search modifiers cap out at 100,000 people, while the scale of civilizations that Orphans of the Stars deals with will almost certainly exceed that number in all cases. As far as City Stats goes, this is largely a useless number for us (It’s more interesting for a fantasy game where the difference between a village and city is definitely important). Population does impact tax revenue, though, thus is worth tracking.

Physical Environment: This presents a more interesting element for our sci-fi setting, but it doesn’t seem to do much, other than dictate what skill is necessary to survive their, which I take to be self-evident.

Appearance: This represents how attractive a city is, and that seems the sort of thing that a wise ruler might consider spending time and money on (building monuments and grand cathedrals, etc). It’s just not clear to me what a city’s appearance might do. If people roll a positive reaction to your city, what does that do? Still, it seems like a very interesting idea (what about giving a city a Reputation?) and I’d like to delve deeper into it.

Hygiene: How likely you are to get sick in a particular city. This is impacted by environment (ah, so Environment does matter), wealth, CR levels and tech level (Our TL is automatically a +1). This might seem the sort of thing we could do without, but on the other hand, biotech is of critical importance, so plague might be of critical importance. A squeaky clean, antiseptic city provides very few vectors for a viral weapon to operate!

Culture: These things matter in the same way that they matter in Psi-Wars, which is to say they’re important, but they’re probably not the sort of thing that a politician runs around trying to change, other than trying to improve (or retard improvement in) TL, and perhaps controlling language a little. I would argue that TL is, at this point, largely static. That said, having cultural controls might be interesting (it ties into the third tier, that of will), but I doubt City Stats will have much in the way of rules there.

Wealth: Ah, here we get into the heart of what we need. Tax revenue is based primarily on Wealth x Population. Wealth can also change, based on mismanagement (which reduces it) and investment (which improves it), though City Stats only has rules on the former. Still, this is where we start to get into political choices, as higher CR levels mean you have higher tax revenues, but eventually it will exhaust and destroy your populace, and thus ultimately deplete your tax source. An interesting choice, at last!

Status: Like Appearance, while this seems the sort of thing a ruler would want to raise, I’m not sure how it actually impacts gameplay.

Government: This, like terrain, doesn’t seem to impact mechanics so much as describe a situation, which is interesting, but unlikely to be something the players directly impact (they don’t want to undermine the rules of their Duke, after all)

Control Rating: Now, this matters, as the legal controls interacts interestingly with economics. This section lists a variety of possible breakouts, and those might be important. The biggest ones are likely:

Public Health (impacts Hygiene)

Economic Freedom and Taxation (Increases revenue at the risk of harming the economy)

Information Access and Censorship (Propaganda and information security)

The rest may well matter too, but these leap out at me right now.

Corruption: This provides ways around your laws and may well undermine them. That suggests that corruption is something you don’t want, but I can think of reasons you’d want things undermined. For example, if you let people evade your tax systems, you might allow the economy to grow until such time that you need increased revenue, then you only enforce the laws already on the books. You might also use corruption to undermine an opponent.

Military Resources: This gives us our core tax ruleset. I’m not sure if it’s intended to cover all taxes, but other systems seem to treat it as such.

Defense Bonus: This is a good example of something that we might choose to spend money on, instead of spending it on troops. Incidentally, improvised Fortifications are +4, while actual TL 10 fortifications are +14. Wow! Note that islands and mountains gain additional benefits here, though I’m not sure that’s true in a game featuring space combat.

Notes: Most of this isn’t directly relevant to politics, but a few stand out:

“Search roll bonus for specialized functions.” Some cities might have more swordmasters than others, or more doctors than others, etc. That seems the sort of thing players might want to cultivate

“Situations where CR is higher or lower than the overall rating” which is valuable if you want, say, strict health regulations but low taxes.

“Terror due to extraordinary beauty or ugliness” not something that’s likely to come up, but wut? Some cities might force you to make a Fright Check when you first see them? I suppose I can imagine that, but wow!

Long -Term Fighting: This section details what happens if we try to extract too many resources from a city for too long. This requires monthly rolls, which gives us a time mechanic, which will matter shortly. The pertinent skills are:

Finance, for not damaging a city’s economy in the first place

Administration: For maintaining law after the collapse

Architecture: For maintaining appearance after a collapse

Engineering (Civil): For maintaining hygiene after a collapse

Engineering (Combat): For maintaining defenses after a collapse

Politics: To avoid general loyalty roll penalties after a collapse.

This gives us an idea of what sorts of skills might matter for running a state, and gives us our first glimpse into actual politics, in the sense of “the art of managing a polity.”

City Management

The following is based on “City Management,” from Pyramid #3-54

Rulers: Will be the lord of the House, of course.

Revenues: This suggests that the “Military Budget” from City Stats is, in fact, the whole of your tax revenues, which is a system I’ll stick to.

Civic Improvements: This is the heart of what we’re looking for. You’re either spending your money on units or civic improvements (or things we’ll introduce later, but this is where we’re at right now). These take one year to complete, which means this isn’t the sort of thing that will come up very often, but we likely wouldn’t expect them to come up that often. This also suggests a very long, very slow game… which might not be a bad idea! We have an event that players play out, then we plan out a year, and at the end of the year, or sprinkled throughout it, we have our actual adventures.

Examples include

Population: This requires the Propaganda skill with no listed cost (it seems it would require the cost of a propaganda campaign), though Building New has some suggestions on population costs, in that you have to literally build their housing. Costs are:

Transportation: between $10k and $20k per person moved around (the latter for “air or by land”, which I presume would also cover “by space)

Housing: about $20k per person housed in the new location.

City Management assumes housing adjusts naturally unless you improve the population by more than 5% in a year.

Appearance: This costs $2.5k per citizen in th epopulation times (the new reaction modifier +1), and uses the Architecture skill, with a penalty equal to the new bonus.

Hygiene: This costs $1k per citizen per step, and requires a roll against Engineer (Civil). No word on a modifier.

Literacy: I didn’t mention it before because I can’t imagine it being very important (I doubt there will be many illiterate cities in a TL 10 society), but we might expand it to cover education in any skills. For reference, this is $3k per citizen and requires an Administration roll.

Wealth: Improvement is “tricky,” and requires about $2k per citizen (based on the current wealth), and requires a Finance roll with a penalty for every level above Average. If the roll succeeds, income increases by 10% (which matches the decrease caused by overtaxation), but if it fails, the city instead loses income. Woah!

CR: This requires a straight Politics roll and no money, and modifies CR +/-1. You just dictate it, and it is so! But it will almost always have dire consequences. The article has a table of Bad Things (which we can use and/or modify), but to avoid them requires a Politics roll at -2x(6-Original CR), so going from 5 to 6 is -2, while going from 0 to 1 is -12! You use Propaganda as a complementary roll, but it requires a full advertising campaign (from social engineering), otherwise it causes some sort of problem. Lowering CR causes less problems than raising it.

Corruption: This requires an Administration roll and $1k per citizen to lower corruption. You can, instead, raise it to get kickbacks based on the city’s revenue, which will probably prove to be staggering (An Average, CR 4 city of TL 10 with a million inhabitants would provide a staggering $12m a month to the ruler on a basic success). Profiting from this requires Administration or Streetwise.

Defenses: This requires a complex calculation, but “fortifying” a TL 10 city of a million inhabitants runs about $2 billion, though it’s not clear to me if that’s +1 defense, or if it gives you a straight up +14. It also discusses what happens when the population exceeds the original, defended population value: either you defense drops or your hygiene does. You either become vulnerable to physical attack, or viral attack! Interesting! This uses Engineering (Combat).

Search Modifiers: This covers specific search modifiers, like making it easier to find top-notch doctors, or top-notch martial artists. This is generally $500 times the current population times the current search bonus (though it’s not clear if its the absolute search bonus, gained for the population, or the specific search bonus for that specific group), with no modifier for less than +1. The pertinent skill here is Propaganda.

Daily Administration: This treats the day-to-day handling of the city as a job (thus, something rolled once a month). This uses Administration, and failure results in some disaster.

Summary

So what does City Stats and City Management show us? Well, we have a scale of the money involved and the money spent, a scale of time to play with, and the pertinent skills for running a domain.

An average city of one million TL 10 inhabitants gives you about $250 million in montly revenues (at CR 4), or about $3 billion in yearly, and most civic improvement tasks will run you between $1 and $3 billion.

The primary skills for running a city are: Administration, Architecture, Engineering (Civil or Combat), Finance, Politics and Propaganda.

Objections to City Stats

What about planets? Can we just class them as cities? Do we only care about the cities on them? That belies the deep importance of Arrakis to the plot Dune, or to the rural Fremen vs the urban Imperials. Also, for all my talk of resources and industry, we don’t have resources and industry here. In principle, if we abstract everything out to money, then a planet that does nothing but banking is as lethal, or more, than a planet rich in strategic resources and the industry to mass produce soldiers. How do we tackle these elements?

GURPS Space

GURPS Space tackles not just planets, but whole economies, which have some parallels to the City Management stats above. For this, we need to jump to “Social Parameters” starting on page 89.

Settlement Type: This is largely irrelevant; or better said, this is always “homeworld,” not because these are literally homeworlds, but they’ve been settled for so long that they might as well be. We’ll assume that all worlds exist at more-or-less carrying capacity.

Tech Level: 10, as agreed.

Population: It might be worth it to dive into the affinity modifiers as an ultimate cap on population. But if we assume most world’s were talking about are “shirt sleeve weather,” so probably Affinity 6-7 in most cases. That gives us a population of 2 billion per world, assuming they’re at carrying capacity.

Society Type: Irrelevant for our purposes, at least for now.

Control Rating: Already covered by City Stats (Something that we’ll see again and again)

Economics: TL 10 has ~$60k per year, which is the same as our ~$5k per month. Like Cities, worlds have differing wealth levels, but unlike cities, there’s actually rules for trade. This has more to do with determining whether or not there is trade, and where trade routes exist, which is useful for working out what tramp freighter pilots will do, but it’s not so important for us. For our purposes, trading routes will happen when nobles allow or encourage them.

Installations: This presents something different from City Stats, which assumed that all cities have whatever they need. You don’t check to see if a city has a hospital or a prison, you just assume it does, or detail it. However, if we’re going to make concrete proposals and improvements, it might be more interesting to say things like “We have a new corporate headquarters” than “We improved the Economy and Appearance!” Houses of the Blooded (and my knock-off for Fate Core) follows this model, with characters adding concrete improvements to a territory, like building improvements in Civilization or any other 4x game. Of course, those in GURPS Space focus more on what is useful to players than what is useful to a government, but in principle, we should try to blend the two. We’d want our improvements to represent things players might actually visit.

The Scale of GURPS Space

Before we go much further, I want to look at the scale of population that we’re discussing and how much power a lord of a “house” (and at least one planet) has. So far, City Stats has suggested arbitrary numbers: we could rule over 10 people, or 10 million, and the numbers would “work” as written, but with GURPS Space, we have a hard number for the population of a planet: about 2 billion.

2 billion average TL 10 inhabitants bring in a yearly income of about $120 trillion. Assuming a 5% tax (typical of a CR 4 civilization), we expect about $6 trillion a year. How many troops does that buy you?

Well, if we look at it in terms of “How many Empire-Class dreadnoughts does that get me per year,” (a ship I choose because it’s one I’m familiar with, and “how many Star Destroyers per year” is a good, visual measure for anyone who has seen Star Wars), that comes to around 25 per year. Twenty five.

How many troops? Well, we can flip to Mass Combat for that, and just choose Riflemen units, but let’s do something “realistic” when it comes to soldiers. Let’s design a military company as our basis, consisting of three rifleman platoons (about 5 rifleman units each), one artillery platoon, one tank platoon, and 1 CAS. The net result is about $10 million per company to raise, and $0.5 million to maintain.

If we want to get a real idea of what our forces look like, we’ll need to get insight into our logistical forces as well. We don’t have “space logistics,” but aerial logistics will do. Air logistics runs at $20k per $1k of logistical support provided, and has a “support cost” of $2k per $1k provided. A spaceship has a maintain cost of 1/10 of its base cost.

The absolute upper limit on the number of troops you have is matching the monthly maintenance costs We have about $500 billion in monthly revenues, and if we divide that evenly between a space navy (assuming nothing but dreadnoughts) and land forces (our hypothetical companies above), and we assume logistical forces as part of the cost, then we come to 3 dreadnoughts (they have a maintain cost of about $25 billion, and the logistics forces that support them cost $50 billion per month, which is a total of $75 billion per month, and three of them will cap out our $250 billion), and 150,000 companies, or about 25 million active duty personnel. The whole world probably has less soldiers than that, but not by much, and we are talking about a complete world worth of soldiers. This many troops is roughly 50 field armies, each requiring a general, or 10 army groups, each requiring a five star general!

In practice, a military will almost certainly have less than this. After all, it needs budgetary room to acquire new military strength, or for civic improvements. If we half the numbers, though, we might end up with two dreadnoughts per planet and 3-5 army groups.

The point of this isn’t to say “And that’s what Orphan’s militaries will look like, because we don’t know, but it gives you an idea of the scale of what we’re talking about here, at least if we go by the book.

This also gives us an idea of the cost of a Propaganda campaign: An advertising campaign meant to reach 2 billion TL 10 people will cost you $10 billion. For one month.

GURPS Ultra-Tech and GURPS Spaceships

If we want to buy factories, the only books with information on them are GURPS Ultra-Tech and the GURPS Spaceships line. A a $10 billion robofac (UT 90) will produce $0.3 billion of goods in a month (or $3.6 billion in a year, meaning it’ll make its investment costs back in 3 years). A $10 billion mining facility will produce 1.5 million tons of ore a month, and $10 billion refinery will produce 4.5 million tons of chemicals or gas.

A Class III Orbital Spaceport runs about $20 billion; a Class IV Orbital Spaceport runs about $60 billion, and a Class V Orbital Spaceport runs about $200 billion.

If we need other things (“Can we terraform a world?”) we can look at Ultra-Tech or Spaceships for additional costs.

Orphan of the Stars as an RTS

I dislike how the above mechanics detail very abstract concepts. We have dollars and months, and we have nebulous “people” and “improved skylines” or “better economies” but no real insights into why. What exactly did House Godwin do to improve their economy, and how is it different from what House Ananda did? How does the economy of House Godwin even work? And how are their soldiers different and why? Are the Fremen of Dune just better than the Sarduakar? Or were they both pretty good, but in different ways, and that difference served as the turning point for their battles? And if so, why? Personally, I prefer more concrete details, and given that we have a concrete setting, we can do that. City Stats and City Management keep their rules abstract because players using them will create everything from modern gangster cities to advanced utopias to ancient steampunk landscapes. Since we know what Orphan of the Stars is, more or less, we can define things more precisely.

Or, in principle we could. For now, I don’t personally know enough to do a complete take on what it might look like, but I can offer a start, and what I suggest draws inspiration from games like Warcraft or the Total War series; we treat the civic improvements as concrete improvements applied to a planet or to a city.

Resources

The problem with dollars is that they can represent anything. If Fremen absolutely wallow in a wealth of Spice, you’d think they could just buy as much water as they want, but in practice, their economics don’t work that way. The Empire works to keep the price down on this most precious and rare of artifacts, and one way they can do that is to deprive the populace of water, which means they can trade cheap water for expensive spice and profit magnificently.

Most strategy games do something similar, where factions either have access to a resource or they do not. Houses of the Blooded does this as well, with Metal (Military), Lumber (Civic), Stone (Civic), Herbs (Mystical), Poison, Wine (Cultural) and Spices (Cultural). Characters have the ability to trade and the ability to manufacture goods, but locally gathered resources tend to be “cheaper” than resources one must acquire from trade.

Endless Space does interesting things with resources too. Rather than represent limits, they represent new options. Anyone can build warships and weapons, but people with specific resources can specialize in particular directions. What I’d like is something like this latter, where resources don’t represent hard limits on capability, but the ability to unlock particular avenues. For example, perhaps anyone can have “Riflemen”, but power-armored soldiers tend to be cheaper if you can supply a specific rare resource required for their manufacture, and commandos/assassins tend to require a different rare resource.

If we go this route, then we’ll need mining/refining facilities, plus access to a world where they’re commonly found. I suggest 2-3 resources per “category,” with the categories being “Generic technology, Psionic technology, biological technology,” as those represents the three major forms of technology that stand out to me for Orphan of the Stars. For now, as an easy-to-grasp place holders, I suggest:

Titanium (General)

Vespene Gas (General)

Red Crystals (Psionic)

Blue Crystals (Psionic)

Ketrazine (Biological)

“Black Goo” Agent A0 (Biological)

What they do, or even what they’re named isn’t important (and will certainly be changed as the game evolves). The idea is that there should be multiple resources, each representing a different take on a particular technology, but not so many that players begin to lose track of them.

Improvements

Most 4x games offer improvements, but I suggest following the RTS model a little more closely than the generic 4x model. We don’t need technological improvements (TL is static as this isn’t a game of discovery and invention), but infrastructural improvements. What makes a shipyard advanced is not the innovative technology within it, but the various supporting structures that allow it to be built and supplied, and the degree to which the lord has invested in it. This also means that if saboteurs blow up the shipyard or some key infrastructure supporting it, that improvement is lost, or at least damaged.

These improvements don’t need to represent something new; they can be a codification of several generic civic improvements into something concrete. For example, if we want to improve search modifiers for a medical personnel and improve the planet’s hygiene, we can combine the two into a “Hospital” improvement or, better said, we can design a “Hospital” improvement that contains those two civic improvements in it, including their costs and the rolls necessary to create it. This grants us a concrete thing for our world, something the players can see (even though it ultimately remains an abstract thing, as it’s not like one hospital can suddenly improve the health of the entire planet). We can visit the hospital, and we can destroy the hospital. We could visit the “hygiene improvements” and destroy them before, too, but we had to stop and think about what those might be. Now, it’s easier to visualize.

Like in an RTS, we can allow our improvements to grant access to particular mass combat units, technologies (that is, we’re now able to manufacture those technologies), forms of training, interesting contacts, and so on. Some of those elements we gain access to could be other improvements. For example, mines that access resources could serve industries that manufacture goods from those resources, which supply soldiers that train at local barracks. Just as the typical RTS game creates infrastructure chains in their economies, we could too.

So, where do we get our improvements? I suggest GURPS Space as a source, as it has a variety of interesting improvements already suggested.

Alien Enclave: This won’t work for literal aliens, but it might work fine for foreigners. In the very least, it represents a bonus to find a particular racial group, and might allow access to their unique technologies.

Black Market: This definitely grants a bonus to find illegal goods, makes it easier (or possible!) to temporarily improve corruption to get kickbacks and likely allows criminal contacts.

Corporate Headquarters: Such a building will almost certainly beautify the skyline, improving the Appearance of the city, as well as improving the local economy.

Criminal Headquarters: As the Black Market, above, but perhaps with an eye towards a specific gang.

Espionage Facility: This would certainly grant access to certain kinds of contacts and likely allows the “manufacture” of spies and assassins, in the same way that military facilities “manufacture” soldiers. It might also allow access to espionage technology.

Government or Private Research Station: We don’t need research because there’s no additional technology to uncover, but we might include it to represent access to higher levels of technology within our infrastructure. For example, while Orphan is a TL 10 setting, we could say that TL 9 is as good as most planets can do “out of the box,” and that producing TL 10 technology required advanced facilities, and advanced facilities require research stations.

Mercenary Bases, Naval Bases, Patrol Bases: These all represent access to superior military troops, in the very least allowing the planet to produce Basic or even Good mass combat units

Prison: A prison might be necessary to improve CR.

Rebel/Terrorist Base, Refugee Camp: more likely the result of a catastrophe than a real civic improvement.

Religious Center: Allows for propaganda and likely improves the local economy, as well as granting access to more religious/philosophical contacts. Almost certainly improves the appearance of the city/planet and involves attracting religious adherents to the area.

University: Similar to the research station, this might also represent access to superior education, for superior contacts or superior mass combat units. In the Total War series, one often needs top-tier training facilities to gain top-tier troops, and that might be true here too. If you want Elite soldiers, you need Elite dojos to train them at, which might also make it easier to find sword masters, etc.

We could also include other improvements based on core infrastructural needs: Mines and refineries to access resources; industry to manufacture goods (general or specific), defense systems to protect our world, and even core infrastructural concepts, like power stations or sewage systems.

The problem with this, as I hope the generic nature of the above improvements show, is that this little minigame takes a lot of work. It comes with some benefits and I could certainly create such a “minigame” but how sure would we be that players would regularly interact with it? If players only push policy in one direction or another (“We want more military, even if it hurts the economy, and we need to improve our spy game against this specific enemy”), then we don’t really need details other than perhaps the broad economic implications (“Okay, master of coin, roll finance to keep their overspending on the military from bankrupting the planet. Again.”). On the other hand, if the players like the idea of congregating around a flowchart of improvements, arguing in favor of certain improvements, giving them names, visiting them, etc, then we have a full “Houses of the Blooded” scenario on our hands.

Infrastructure Complete!

So, what do we have? We can use all of the above information to, in the very least, get a sense of scale that our Houses have, as well as a sense of what economic pressures push and pull at them. In more detail, we can offer the players greater control over the direction of the house and, if we wish, we could turn it into an entire minigame that the can play out.

Whatever direction we want to go, this highlights the skills players will need to make these changes, which begins to help us see what political players might start to look like, at least when it comes to infrastructural concerns.




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