Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Escalation when making Homebrew Rules

I was making my own homebrew rules for City Stats, designed particularly for Low Tech Mass Combat in GURPS and I experienced that escalation of objectives that tends to kill such projects. I've had different attempts in this blog, now I'm ready for a new one learning from my previous mistakes and hopefully being able to accomplish my objectives.

Right Now, I have to make a set of City (from Cities to Villages) that would allow me to create the base set of assets and environments that would finance armies and backdrop of the wars. It started simple enough but...

Revenue is not as simple as Population x Taxes. A problem that became apparent was that taxes affected Families and not exclusively Individuals. Lords don't exactly tax every wife, child of every family, the tax them as a whole. So using the basic metrics of average family unit size, I had to divide the population by 5.

The Role of Forced Labor. Forced labor is an abuse and a method of extracting taxes from the poor. Just like the "Building Lowtech Landscapes" article, poor (status -2) families produce as much revenue as their struggling (status -1) counterpart, the difference is in loyalty/morale.

There is no Leveled Taxes in Low Tech Eras. By my calculation every family contributes $1200 in taxes per year (divide it by 5 when multiplying it with population). Wealthier characters contribute the difference between their taxes and tithes and what is 1/3 their CoL. Traditionally it is Religious Center that distributes these gifts to less fortunate of their community. This is where some of the Reaction Bonus from Status comes from.

Annual Income instead of Monthly Income. Taxes are not Collected Monthly in Low Tech eras, most taxes are collected and generated at the end of the year. So in essence you can only spend what you saved up when everyone's dues were paid up and collected.

Tax Collection has always been a difficult task. Control Rating, Administrative Competence and Internal Conflicts with Illicit Powers all affect Revenue Collection. Tax collection is never perfect and requires such a level of competence that history is made by the effectiveness of these bureaucrats.

Feudal Lords salivate at the Roman Bureaucratic Centralization for this very difficult problem. The success of empire depended largely in the hands of these bureaucrats and it would be pretty fun if the PCs could collect, trade and recruit them as part of their state building endeavorer.

Corruption: Legitimate and Illegitimate authorities. Legitimate Authority is a more "objective" way at looking at government and what happens in history. As culture and social equity changes so does who is considered legitimate. This matters since this creates a seemingly active and intelligent inner conflict within any city: the Illegitimate Force vs the Legitimate one. This is what many inner city conflicts are made off in games. Rolling up these aspects makes characters rolled up in a city not appear to exist in a vacuum. it makes the key city officials have a life and problems of their own.

Special Structures. This is what really slowed me down. Its from playing too much civilization more than being authentic. Still it is these special structures that make a city special. Religious Centers generate Income (through Pilgrimages and Devotions), Administrative buildings keep a city running smoothly, Water Reservoirs and Aqueducts allow for a larger population and better hygiene, Fortifications allow it to withstand Assaults etc. etc.

All these matter when you are world building and war mongering. In history religious relics, market places, public forums, etc. allowed small communities to become great cities. In low tech worlds, each special structure determines the very status and potentialof a city. Its difficult to ignore completely, especially when it matters in aspects of mass combat.

Not only does a powerful city marked by a powerful and historic structures, those structures are a force called on by the PCs or NPC Lords when they tap their resources. It dictates their strategy and affects their decisions.

Morale. Cities have Morale, Attitude means a lot in almost every situation. A city with a poor morale can be trouble for the PCs by itself or another Color or Shade to the circumstance they are in. It matters often when it can means survival against all odds, very often in history.

Make it Quick, Fun and Tangible. Being a little more practical, I believe any system augmentation should be one that can be done quickly and resolved conveniently. It also has to be a bit tangible. I like going back to my CCG days and making the cities into special "Domain" Cards (From L5R) and the Special Structures and Persons into Cards as well. If I can do that then the game takes a whole different life.

Having your Cities in Card form, allows it to be laid out on the table for players to see, putting chaos into order. Being able to hold the cards not only helps in remembering places and people, but allows the Players and GM to form connections better because of the "externalized memory tools".

I wish I can finish this... right now it looks like I can't control my compulsion to escalate. I'll wait a while and see if I could have a clearer vision of what needs to be done.
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