[MUD-Dev] DGN: Lords, Vassals, Serfs and the Clergy

cruise cruise at casual-tempest.net
Tue May 10 22:19:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2005


Jaycen Rigger spake thusly...

>     1. Put another player into a position of power.

>     2. To actually follow the rule of that player or another with
>     similar power. (i.e. What's in it for me?)

>       - Removal of the ruler from his position of power must
>       result in a negative impact for that ruler's subjects.

How is a player deposed? That didn't seem to be covered at any
point.

>       - A system must exist to back up the ruler's reign so the
>       negative effect of the ruler being deposed is thwarted.

Makes sense. Rewards planning and foresight.

>       - The entire system must support the ruler's power and make
>       removal of the ruler difficult in order for the system to
>       attain stability.

Agreed. People are fickle even in RL where it matters. Incredibly
more so in game.

> History provides the perfect model for a societal structure that
> will function in the context of a fantasy MMORPG.  The rigid
> hierarchy of feudal Europe is an ideal system on which to model
> the typically chaotic social disorder of a virtual world.

And since most "fantasy" style MMORPG's have a medieval level tech
anyway, it's fits thematically. It also arguably fits within a
sci-fi theme too, with corporations replacing kingdoms, and
Directors instead of Kings.

> To support the ruler and 'begin the process' of erecting a
> society, a system for religion is required.  In most societies,
> the 'chief' rules by divine right, or the two power structures are
> closely linked.

Interesting. Could this form the basis for removal too? If a king
ever loses the support of enough of the religious groups, then they
can remove him?

> A priest should be necessary to the creation of a ruler.  My
> suggestion is that each major city be laid out similarly, such
> that each city has its own castle.  The castle is the seat of
> power, and is the place in which the ruler should be required to
> conduct his official business.  If commands which are accessible
> to only a ruler are only accessible while the ruler is in the
> castle, then the ruler is encouraged to spend time in the place
> which serves to maintain the context of the game.  It is in this
> castle that the potential ruler and priest must meet in order to
> confer the title to the new ruler.

If you impose this restriction on city management, then provide a
"portal stone" or something that allows the player to instantly
return to his castle (and then back again). Otherwise it's going to
be boring as heck for a standard player to be forced to remain in
the castle. Of course, some players will then treat your game as a
God-game, ala Stronghold or Settlers, and be quite happy. If there
is sufficient detail and control at this point, this would be an
excellent way of providing longevity and variety (as per the "Game
of a Thousand Faces" thread).

> I'm also suggesting that multiple religions be capable of
> performing the same 'anointing ritual' on the ruler, so a ruler
> can strengthen his rule by garnering the support of multiple
> faiths.  This also leads into regional banking.

So players with the best social skills are more likely to be in
charge. Seems a reasonable enough mechanism. Also promotes a lot of
competition between religous groups too, since if one can get a
monopoly, they have complete say over who rules.

> Once a character has become a ruler, he can immediately begin to
> subject other Player Characters.  If a PC agrees to subject
> himself to the ruler's power, that PC instantly gains any and all
> benefits conferred by the active improvements in that ruler's
> city, and the PC begins to pay taxes on the next, and subsequent
> tax cycles.

> PCs should be taxed at a standard rate set by the game.  Rulers
> should have the ability to adjust the prime tax rate by +/- 10%
> for their particular city.  PC tax burden increases for property
> ownership and merchant status (owning a player-vendor and vendor
> stall).  This places an increasing tax burden upon those most
> likely to create and hoard the most junk, encouraging those
> players to sell off junk to pay taxes.

> Each tax cycle, gold is collected from all the subjects of a city.
> This takes the form of a pop-up window asking the player to pay
> their taxes.  Requiring players to pay taxes directly and from
> their pack (as opposed to having the gold automatically taken from
> their 'bank account') keeps the tax obligation in the mind of the
> player.  There is no penalty for failure to pay if the player has
> not logged in for a few cycles.  The total tax due is simply
> collected on their next log in.  At that time, the PC can pay
> their taxes, or go get the gold required to pay and log out and
> back in, re-prompting the PC for tax payment.

While I understand the reason for the reminder, a message informing
them the taxes have been taken has much the same effect without lots
of activity on the part of the player, which would get
irritating. Having to log-out/log-in would be particularly
frustrating. Perhaps an interesting variation would be tax a small
amount for each day the player is logged in. ie. If I can only play
weekends, I only pay two copper pieces (or whatever). Someone with
more time to play everyday pays 7. Now you'd be hard pressed to not
make 1 copper in a play session, and so doesn't hinder anyone, but
means those most using the cities facilities, and getting the most
benefit, pay the most. Scaling the tax per player level (if you have
levels) is likely a good idea too.

> If a PC refuses tax payment long enough, however, the ruler can
> choose to jail the character.  If the character's tax burden
> becomes greater than their property value, the ruler can choose to
> repossess the PC's property.  This removes the higher tax burden
> from the PC (assuming the ruler doesn't kick them out of the city
> entirely), and it grants the ruler ownership of all the PC's
> possessions within that property.

Jail is bad (there was a thread about it a while back). A similar
system to your city tax shortfall recovery might work better, where
the most expensive items within the property are reclaimed
first. Though the little-but-often approach above should mean that
no one could ever not afford their taxes.

> Once a city accrues enough tax money in the 'coffers', the ruler
> can begin to buy improvements for his city.  Each city improvement
> has a start up cost and then draws gold from the coffers for
> upkeep.  Each tax cycle, the system checks to see if there's going
> to be enough gold in the coffers to cover each improvement.  If
> not, improvements begin to disappear in order from the most
> expensive upkeep to the least, until there is enough gold in the
> coffers to cover the burden of the remaining city improvements.

At which point the player is effectively playing SimCity :P Which,
as I said above, is probably a good thing for many reasons. Allowing
the redevelopments to be visible within the city for those wandering
around it, seeing the construction taking place, etc. would really
provide that sense of having an effect on the game world.

> City improvements should confer some skill or attribute bonus to
> subjects of the city, or provide some service that is greatly
> desired.  In any case, the reward for removing gold and items from
> the system should be a service.  This resource/item sink helps to
> increase the efficacy of the ruler system as a whole, and helps to
> drive the entire system in a realistic fashion, even when the
> actual systems for removing the resources aren't totally
> realistic.  Even so, the realism with which these systems have
> been implemented in some games ended up being a serious negative
> due to player expectations of what a game should be (see Raph
> Koster's treatise on player economies - work equals profit).

The main trouble with this is the cities with the most players
become the cities with the best bonuses and therefore more players
join them - you would eventually end up with maybe one or two
mega-opolises. And no one would ever bother to found another city,
because why would anyone want to join it?

As a suggestion, have upkeep for improvements scale faster than tax
money as population increases (more people, higher running and
maintenance costs). This neatly provides an upper-cap on city size,
unless the player increases the tax-rate (at which point the appeal
of the city decreases), or they start putting their own funds into
the upkeep.

Additionally, the more people in a city, the less chance each one
has to take advantage of the facilities - so slowly reducing the
bonuses given for upgrades as the population rises provides a motive
for players to join smaller cities - they get a greater
benefit. Hopefully this would at least go some way to counteracting
the so called "zerging" that games such as Shadowlands suffered
from.

> Finally, to add stability and longevity to the entire structure,
> and in order to deal with those players who inevitably collect
> insane amounts of gold, a 'hierarchy' system needs to be in place.
> The ruler needs to be able to sell 'titles of nobility' to the
> richest players.  Titles are priced by the system, but who is
> allowed to buy a title is the purview of the ruler.  The nobility
> must pay a one time price for their title and then an upkeep fee
> that is higher than the standard tax rate, but is not applied to
> the tax coffers, but is kept in a separate fund.

> If there is no hierarchy in place when the ruler is deposed, then
> the entire political structure of that ruler's city collapses.
> All the city improvements and their conferred bonuses are lost.
> If a hierarchy exists, on their next login, each member of the top
> tier is prompted for a vote.  If the vote succeeds, the new ruler
> is chosen from the top tier, the second tier is then prompted for
> a vote to move a member of that level to the next tier, and so on.
> Assuming the top tier successfully votes in a new ruler, the gold
> in the hierarchy fund is moved to the tax coffers to cover the
> cost of all current city improvements until the next tax cycle as
> the 'ruling families use their own money to prop up the government
> during the time of turmoil'.

Alternatively, would it not make sense to leverage the clergy, once
more, and let them pick who from the highest ranking nobles they
want to rule? And why then promote one from each other rank? Are
there meant to be certain numbers within each rank enforced by the
game system? Surely having increasingly exorbitant price tags on the
titles would have a similar effect - and as soon as someone could
afford the "promotion" they would simply buy it.

> The ruler would receive pressure from his own subjects to sell
> titles to players who can afford them, so everyone doesn't suffer
> should his rule be deposed.  At the same time, the ruler will want
> to put players in positions of power whom he trusts.

> The ruler enforces his law through his knights.  Knights are
> standard fighter classes who are 1.) members of the same religion
> of that anointed the ruler (or one of the other supporting
> religions in the city) and 2.) a current subject of the city.  The
> ruler can knight a fighter class character and turn him into a
> Paladin, the sword arm of the Priests.  Priests can excommunicate
> a Paladin and strip him of his powers should the priests wish.

Now this, for me, is where a lot of interesting possibilities
develop.

A "fighter" can join the King's knights. They get better equipment
and skills, but they now have to follow his orders or lose the
benefits. A Knight can become a Paladin if his chosen religion
approves. He gets additional, God-given abilities. But now he has to
follow the precepts of his order in addition to those of the king.

A king will generally have the military muscle in the form of
knights. However, the various religious groups have smaller, but
effective, military forces too now. Not only does this allow
fighting between the religious groups as a method of achieving
dominance, but a powerful enough religious force (alliance or
otherwise) might be able to challenge a King (especially with help
from their deity, if he agrees the current King is unnacceptable).

Additional interesting social complexity could be gained by granting
the nobility command of some of the knights - then a noble could try
and bargain with the religious groups to assist in any coup d'etat.

There is a lot of very interesting social interaction possible in
having a true player run game, and it is a pity that it hasn't been
done better before.

--
[ cruise / casual-tempest.net / transference.org ]
   "quantam sufficit"
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