Wednesday, April 22, 2020


Much ink has been spilled over the ethics of killing orc babies.  I have a solution.

Pig-men just aren't viscerally disgusting enough anymore.  Man has never met a mammal so horrible that he wouldn't rub its belly if he thought he could get away with it.  Make mammal-beastmen neutral; they're self-interested and short-sighted but at the end of the day we can come to understandings with them.

Bug-men though.  Fuck 'em.  If you've ever woken up with termites on your face, or felt despair after months of failing to get rid of the moths in your pantry, you'll get it.  How can such tiny, stupid, horrible things best us?  Imagine if they were 100 kilos and clever enough to use equipment, but just as totally food-and-reproduction focused and utterly ambivalent about inflicting suffering.  Locust-men carpeting the plains in a crawling horde once every hundred years, leaving a barren wasteland.  Towering termite-man cities of baked mud, ancient when man had yet to discover fire, filled with a million pale blind crawling things, stripping forests bare and then burrowing beneath human cities to steal the wood.  Wasp-men with paralytic venom, ovipositors, and a -4 penalty to reaction rolls.  Flea-men leap from ambush to drain your henchmen dry, and take mammals as livestock for blood, not distinguishing between sentient and animal.  The ant-men are more discerning in their slavery, subjugating farmers as they once did aphids, and eating those who fail to produce enough.  The mosquito-man shamans work plague magic.  The bee queens allow passage through their acres of flower fields, but kill any who try to enter their hives.  Beetle-ogres strong enough to lift elephants wander the countryside eating cattle and peasants alike.  Roach-goblins come out of the sewers at night to steal and eat grain, pets, and infants.

Bugs are super cthonic.  They burrow in the earth and live in the darkness and shun the light.  If bugs had gods, what sort of gods would they be?  Deified queens for the communal insects, perhaps.

And then the question of orc babies becomes more like "If you're playing an Alien RPG and you find alien eggs, do you burn them?  If you're fighting the zerg, do you kill the larvae?"  Of course you do.  If they got their mandibles on a daycare, they sure wouldn't hesitate.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Money Up Front: Henchmen

Continuing the theme of turning money-over-time problems into up-front costs [1][2in support of loose-consistency open-table ACKS games: henchman wages.

What happens if, instead of a monthly wage, we take the monthly wage and multiply it by 30, as an up-front hiring cost?

LevelUp-front Cost (gp)

Magic items and fiefs can be used to pay this cost, at an appropriate effective gold piece value (and indeed, for high-level henchmen, there may be no other way to hire them).

When a henchman levels and fails a loyalty roll, their hiring player can offer them a raise to the pay grade for their new level for a re-roll.  On success, the player must pay the difference between the cost that was paid at hiring (or previous level-up re-roll) and the new level's up-front cost.  This cannot be used to retry failed loyalty rolls due to calamities.

Eg: Varimir levels from 2nd to 3rd and fails his loyalty roll.  Varimir was hired as a L0 man and previously demanded a raise when he leveled from 1st to 2nd.  Varimir's hirer offers to pay him 1500gp to retain his services (3000gp, the price of a 3rd-level henchmen, minus 1500gp, the wages Varimir demanded on attaining second level).

Nice properties of this proposal: the primary aim is to not have to track campaign time on the game-calendar.  Additionally, paying henchmen up front means that players are more likely to view them as long-term investments to be recouped rather than expendables.  It may also limit henchman-spam somewhat, where some players hire many many henchmen.

Problems with this proposal: 360gp is too expensive for an L1 adventurer to hire a L0 man at the beginning of the first session.  War dogs get even more attractive when henchman expenses are more immediate.  There seems to be a gap between these wages and the cost of henchmen created generation of characters higher than 1st level (who cost 1GP per XP - about 33% more).

There's probably some really interesting math to be done in terms of balancing henchman expenses with mercenary expenses, and it's easier to do when they're both lump sums.  An nth level fighter has x XP and 0.8*x total GP earned, which means we can estimate a PC's budget for henchmen and mercs at a given level.

The reasonable thing is probably to just pay henchmen for sessions played (but then it gets weird with henchmen who sit out - if I show up to a session and don't bring a hench on the adventure, I have to pay them, but if I don't show up to the session, I don't have to pay them).  But if you only pay henchmen for adventures worked, then building big stables of henchmen is encouraged.  Maybe that's fine?  Maybe we need a table for "what sort of trouble did your henchman who didn't go on the adventure get up to while you were away?"

Additional (tangential) proposal: Henchmen receive a quarter share of both treasure and XP.  Why?  Three reasons: this makes the math simpler (1/6th shares are a pain in the butt to do in your head), 1/4 share of XP instead of 1/2 share means that slow-leveling classes with fast-leveling henchmen are less likely to be outleveled (and most of the time henchmen will converge to party level minus 2, which is still useful, and places them appropriately to be lieutenants at any mass battle scale where the PCs are qualified to be commanders), and 1/4 share of GP instead of 1/6th share helps make up for their reduced effective-monthly wages (which may now lag their level).