Time for a rules and game amendment. Note that this is a full-blown glimpse at the methods and considerations we put into rules amendments. For those that aren’t interested in that and just want the cruch, there is a TL;DR at the bottom.
Rules are the underlying truth of a larp game.
Changing the rules should never be done lightly nor without a significant amount of thought and mentat-style projection.
Changes to the underlying truth of the game inevitably have far reaching consequences and fundamentally modify the way that we as participants interact with the in-game world and ooc game.
The rules are the most effective method of encouraging the game to (approximately) play according to your vision and so we are tilting the rules in a minor way to correct some play that is divergent from our goal.
So, I want to take you on a journey to understand what the change is and how we have come to the decisions that we have. This is presented in a semi-behind the curtains fashion, although it has been fairly heavily censored to protect everyone from spoilers.
The first point requires a little understanding of the economic model that Osterheim is based upon.
The original vision for the economy of the Osterheim colonies was a cooperative and flowing one. The designed flow looks something like this:
An Explorer, or patron, wants to go out and find some resources, so they start by finding a Priest and getting them to perform a ceremony to bless their expedition.
The Explorer then goes out into the wilds, but as it is dangerous, they take help along with them, probably Fighters and maybe a Doctor.
They visit the Uruk and consult with them regarding good exploration grounds and more information regarding the treats of the land.
They go and find some resources.
Upon returning with some Trade Good Tokens, they consult with their Politician friend who has been hip-deep in the stock market and knows (read: has manipulated) the current most valuable Trade Goods.
The party then proceeds to the Crafters who sequentially work the resources into the desired Tokens.
Payments and donations are expected to be made along the way, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to get Food and resources, and to play the game according to their desires. Simple, right?
However, this is not how it has played out. What we have seen is the flow breaks down near the end of the process, and Crafters have not been active in this process at all.
The majority of Crafting occurs either when a faction (such as the Patronic Church or the Namesh Clan) requires a large amount of a single type of resource to achieve some in-game goal or in the last five minutes of the game when people are desperately running around trying to get the Crafters to produce Food Tokens for them.
The second relevant point is that we have seen a decline, in both a relative and absolute sense, in the number of players choosing to play Crafters.
The third point is that we have received constant feedback from players with Uruk characters that the advantages they have gained are insufficient to give them an edge in exploration.
The fourth point is that the Uruk have felt isolated and perceived that many characters will not travel to them. They feel forced to go to the Old World colonies to experience the bulk of the game.
The fifth point, we have received multiple points of feedback indicating that the desperation for Food Tokens and efforts from players to get them are invalidated upon the arrival of trading ships, particularly late in the game.
The final point is that the Battle of the Docks was a highlight for many players.
- Playing a Crafter doesn’t feel rewarding. Crafter characters do not feel useful.
- The local knowledge-derived advantages given to the Uruk are insufficient to make them feel valuable. There is not enough encouragement for the Old Worlders to travel to and interact with the Uruk.
- The timing of Trade Good inputs into the game needs correction.
Modification to rules
All Uruk Crafters will gain the ability to craft Trade Goods Tokens into Uruk Goods Tokens. Uruk Goods will be set to the same level as Luxury or Blackmarket Goods.
Uruk Crafters, Type A, will gain the abilities “you may Craft four Raw Food Goods Tokens into one Uruk Goods Token” and “you may Craft four Raw Trade Goods Tokens into one Uruk Goods Token”.
Uruk Crafters, Type B, will gain the ability “you may Craft two Refined Goods Tokens into one Uruk Goods Token”.
Uruk Crafters, Type C, will gain the ability “you may Craft one Blackmarket Goods Token into one Uruk Goods Token”.
Uruk Crafters, Type D (if introduced), will have the ability “you may Craft one Luxury Goods Token into one Uruk Goods Token”.
Modification to gameplay
The introduction of a public shipping schedule with an associated jobs board that incorporates Goods Tokens including Uruk Tokens.
Notes for Game Writers:
The majority of the jobs should be “Deliver X and receive Y” type jobs, where X should be a complex mixture of Tokens and Uruk Goods should be included in many of the jobs.
Jobs should be sufficiently profitable for them to be contested.
Significant other plots should be tied to the shipping schedule so that each arrival requires many NPCs and encourages enough players to be present to create enough chaos for shenanigans to easily occur.
The possibility for smuggling ships with a less public (read: more targeted distribution of information via blackmarket-related NPCs) schedule (afterdark activities) should definitely be considered.
Addressing the first point, a scheduled set of contested jobs requiring a complex combination of Tokens should encourage ongoing play with Crafters.
Addressing the second point, making Crafters more valuable and central to more higher intensity game-points should make playing a Crafter character more fun.
Addressing the third, giving Uruk Crafters an advantage that is intrinsic to their profession and will have ongoing value.
The fourth is addressed by a constant demand from the docks for Uruk Goods.
The fifth is addressed by having the schedule pre-advertised. This way the arrival of resources via shipping will be included in calculations and won’t arrive as a relieving surprise.
The sixth point is accounted for by an increased emphasis on competitive (but not necessarily combative) gameplay around the docks and shipping.
Of the options considered, including doing nothing, this is most consistent with the original design documents.
A reasonable number of points of feedback that have been submitted and many may be addressed by these relatively minor changes (the major amendment is a gameplay, not rules). The positive impact to the game is expected to outweigh the negative impact that is associated with instability in the rules. We believe there is sufficient reason to make a change.
The proposed changes are not expected to significantly detract from other players’ experiences. Non-Crafter professions are not less useful. This does not impact on the religious, social, national or clan based spheres, unless there is an imbalance in the availability of Crafters (particularly Uruk Crafters).
This is in addition to the existing economic model, which will remain intact, although there will be significantly more demand for the last couple of stages (demand and transformation to supply). This is a positive impact.
Players of non-Uruk Crafters may feel like their characters are less capable than the Uruk Crafters. This is true in an absolute sense, but we expect that this will be balanced by their proximity to the docks, which will create additional demand for their skills (read: demand for them to play) by convenience.
Players of non-Crafters may feel like there is an increased emphasis on other players (the Crafters), but the new game elements are exclusively added to the existing gameplay and nothing is being removed. Players of non-Crafters may experience additional play, albeit play that requires the contribution of players of Crafters.
This influences immersion in two ways.
The first is the increase in abstraction as it is not possible for a pre-known schedule in the Age of Sail with the level of detail or accuracy that we are suggesting.
The second is that it changes the experiential feel of the colonies to something more like a trade hub. A regular flow of merchant shipping will reduce the frontier feel of the colonies, which is appropriate given their age and increasing population. For the Uruk it will increase the feeling of inevitable invasion and the encroaching Old World civilisation.
We’re changing the rules and a particular part of the game play a little. This is a big deal as any change is a big deal but it won’t affect the majority of play. We’re doing it because it will better serve the game and create the style of play we want and because we got a bunch of feedback about it.
The rules change: Uruk crafters can now craft Uruk Goods (trade goods at the same level as blackmarket/luxury) – in addition to whatever they crafted before.
The game play changes: Incoming trade ships are now a bigger thing. There will be in character schedules with details about when ships are coming in, what they have to trade and what they want to trade for. As with most of our game the dissemination of this information will be tied in with NPCs, plots and alegences. The Uruk tokens will be a big deal in this trade.
The biggest take away for the average player: We are making the trade game more involving – meaning the crafters/traders/explorers all get to be more involved in the game. Food Tokens are a major part of the trade game so this small change will still likely change everyone’s game in some way. It’s your task to work out how it will change things for your character. Also… this time, there won’t be a ship with tonnes of food turning up in the last hour of the game, so you had best be prepared well before then.