Thinking about climbing the social ladder

Author: DHBoggs /

This post isn't specifically about Champions of Zed, but is more about the Domain level of play in whatever version.
So, I’m going to jump ahead in the rules a bit and discuss something that’s long seemed a trouble spot in gaming rules – social capital and social power.  Here is what I mean specifically: suppose your character is a thief and you decide you want your character to join the local mafia and work your way up the hierarchy to become godfather.  Alternatively, maybe you want to have the character start their own mafia.  Or maybe your character is a wizard in a guild or a fighter in some fighting brotherhood – whatever.
In D&D, traditionally it just sort of happens.  Suddenly at level x you are king of the hill.  Okay, but there’s a chance for gaming being glossed over there.
Trouble is, trying to write rules for human social interaction and upward mobility can quickly descend into a complex morass, so it is not something I was eager to tackle.
The recent developments of Borderlands and Adventurer Conqueror Kings have inspired me to think about this some more though, so I pulled out a couple of the books I thought might provide some for thought Timothy Earl’s “How Chiefs Come to Power” and Raymond Firth’s “Elements of Social Organization”, and a few scattered papers on the rise of social power in small societies (mostly Brian Hayden’s) that I won’t bother you with.  
Then I thought about what is already in the 3LBB’s and the FFC – the Loyalty Trait (Men and Magic p13).  Loyalty – which for Arneson was synonymous with Ego - is essentially a seventh “ability score” meant primarily for NPC (although Arneson suggested that it could optionally apply to players too).  Its main use is to modify morale throws.  Here is the section I have prepared for CoZ:
“Loyalty Trait 
All Non-Player Characters (including monsters) in the service of Player Characters must be given a Loyalty Trait.  Loyalty Traits are a kind of Character Trait generated by rolling 3d6.  It primarily determines possible benefits or penalties to Morale Throws but can be used for other situations such as temptations to steal or attempts at bribery.  Adjustments to this score are made for the Player Character’s Charisma Trait and for other factors as determined by the Referee.  For example, hirelings continually exposed to extra-hazardous duty, poorly paid and so forth may receive a -1 or -2 to their Loyalty.  NPC’s kept in service may receive a +1 bonus for every year of time in game. If they are treated particularly well, given bonus pay, and participate in successful adventures, this bonus may be increased to +2 or +3 a year.  The players, of course, can not know the hirelings Loyalty Trait, shy of reading their minds.”

Okay; now here is what I’m thinking (and this goes beyond the CoZ rules and may appear in the expansion).  The loyalty trait lends itself to Domain Level play as a mechanism for playing out the power struggle in groups, because just as Morale can be applied to either an individual or a unit “loyalty” can be applied to a group too.  Winning friends and influencing (or coercing) people is how, broadly speaking, “chiefs” come to power, or as the line from Beowulf puts it “Behavior that’s admired is the path to power everywhere.”
There are three ways to wield power over others
1.       Inheritance
2.       Conquest
3.       Social mobility

These are not mutually exclusive.  Characters may wish to increase their social power within the game; fighters may wish to rule realms, mages may wish to lead magic guilds, preists may wish to head a religious order and so forth. 

Of the three, social mobility is essential, even when not a factor of gaining power, the rules of social mobility are necessary to maintain, and potentially increase it. (Just ask Ceasar)

To determine a characters ability to rise within an organization, or to found and grow an organization, or to maintain power from year to year, a  group loyalty trait known as a Power Index must be assigned.

The Power Index functions generally as individual Loyalty does except the Trait is assigned to the group the character wishes to exercise power in, and it usually starts off low – at 3 unless otherwise determined by the Referee. (or maybe it should just be 0)
To this figure are added or subtracted a number of factors, the value of which, positive or negative must be judged by the referee.

The factors affecting the Power Index are as follows:
Suki Relationships (Exchange)
Coor Relationships (community)
Length of Association
Adherence to Tradition
Honor Debt
Kin Ties
(all I've got so far)

“From each according to his status obligations in the social system, to each according to his rights in that system”  Raymond Firth, Elements of Social Organization;  p142 Third edition 1961

Any time there is a significant shift in circumstance the Referee should recalculate the character’s power index and make a Loyalty Throw.

Competition within a group is simply a matter of comparing the Power Index scores of each competitor – highest one wins. 


Chris Kutalik said...

I am using the OD&D loyalty score in Borderlands, it's a basic trait that carries through a number of interactions a player-ruler will have with NPCs.

In a rules option instead of using modifiers though I am linking it to a dice pool of d6s rolled against the score.

The Power Index sounds brilliant. I have been trying to model how characters can rise in the social advancement chapter, but honestly don't put it together as succinctly as you do here. Look forward to seeing where this goes.

DHBoggs said...

Thanks Chris. Please feel free to adapt the idea to Borderlands. It's been my hope all along that Champions of Zed players can refer to Borderlands to expand into Domain level play, so any cross talk you can borrow from me is a good thing.

Chris Kutalik said...

FFC has contributed to Borderlands a significant part of its DNA code, so inter-compatibility should be fairly easy (at least in theory).

I defer to your knowledge in general about all things Arneson, though, so I would love to see how we can adapt ideas into the sourcebook. (Of course with full credit to you for any.)

Right now I have two methods for promotion in draft form. One is very granular and particular to each kind of institution, the other is more general and abstract.

So in the former if you want to move up in a guild you have to complete the terms of service as an apprentice and then a journeyman and so on. Truth be told this is becoming a real headache.

In the other I make use of character level as a stand-in for a number of things: personal power, recognition, career knowledge/skill, etc. Modifiers are the standard CHA ones plus "inducements" (bribes).

I like your scheme because it's a good half-way point between each of those.

DHBoggs said...

I think with guild requirements and so forth the best thing is to leave that up to the Ref, in part because they can be so different. A simple mention of "provided they meet any specified requirements of the group they are in before attempting to advance."

Bribery - That is a great insight! I would think something like characters can increase thier power index by 1 factor for every 100 GP spent on bribes but each bribe carries a 10% chance of being caught, causing a reduction of -5 (or more) to honor.

I'll give it some more thought...

Anonymous said...

The Power Index is a great idea. Looking forward to this :)

Hedgehobbit said...

In the old game Bushido status system had two parts. A character's membership in a group was rated from 1 to 100 with 100 being the leader. Also, the group itself had a status factor from 0.01 to 1 with 1 being reserved for the royal family. To determine a character overall social position, you would multiply his membership by the group's status factor to get a number from 1 to 100 (with the Emperor at 100). This way, you could compare a leader of a merchant guild with a minor noble to see whose got more clout. But, more importantly, it means that a character can improve his overall social power by both moving up the ranks in his organization -or- by increasing the power or position of the organization itself. I've never seen another system where a character is incentivized to promote his group (be it a wizards guild or adventuring company) to the outside world rather than just climb the corporate ladder and mooch the benefits.

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