Eclipse and Skills – Craft (Policy)

And today it’s a question on d20 politics, and how to play “Yes Minister” – or at least give a nod to politics and bureaucracy and organizing relief efforts and such – without driving all the players mad with boredom.

And for credit where credit is due… this article includes a selection of adapted comments and suggestions from Spellweaver on the effects of using these rules – or even of acknowledging their existence in the campaign background.

Craft (Policy) covers using a position of power or influence to effectively shape society. Sadly, as in reality, no generally accepted d20 rules for how societies work exist, much less how valuable or effective any given policy will be. (If you should happen to develop a set of rules that effectively models such things, please forget about games, take over the world, and get to work organizing and improving the place, OK?). Ergo, here are some very simple rules:

You need a fairly major position of authority to effectively shape policy.

  1. Trying to influence society outside of the area OR the field you have authority over doubles the cost. If both apply, it’s quadrupled. Thus the Minister Of Defense has to pay double to influence an irrigation project or a neighboring countries defense projects and quadruple to influence a neighboring countries irrigation project even if it WILL make things inconvenient for tanks.
  2. Each season you may devote each rank of your Craft (Policy) skill to trying to make progress towards a particular goal. Trying to influence society outside of the area or the field you have authority over halves the effective number of skill ranks invested. If it is outside of both your effective skill ranks are quartered.
  3. It generally takes a minimum of one season of such investment per point required to complete a particular goal. The skill check required is made at the end of each season, if it fails no progress towards the goal was made this season.
  4. On those skill checks a “1″ automatically fails, while a “2″ fails for an identifiable reason – opposition from another policy-maker, an accident or natural disaster, or whatever. In any case, failure means no progress this season.
  5. Episodic adventuring does not prevent a character from using Craft (Policy), but the greater the proportion of the characters time devoted to other pursuits, the greater the circumstance penalty on the user’s effective skill total will become up to a maximum of -10 (for near-total distraction) or not allowing a roll at all if the character is entirely out of touch.
  6. Craft (Policy) checks may be modified normally with Dominion points.

As for the classification of possible goals…

  • Trivial Goals – having some scholars do a little research and write a report on something, getting someone honored for their services, or getting warning signs put up – cost 1 point and are usually completed in one season with a DC 10 skill check.
  • Minor Goals – having tutors sent out to the garrisons to teach a course in monster identification so that you get better reports on what is happening, investigating some local corruption, help a village recover from a disaster – cost 2 points and are usually completed in two seasons with two DC 15 skill checks.
  • Notable Goals – launching a manhunt, getting spies reporting on another realm, getting sone post offices set up, or a new religious sect recognized – cost 4 points and are usually completed in a year with four DC 20 skill checks.
  • Major Goals – getting military bases, schools, or temples set up, launching an undercover trans-border raid, setting up a truly major magical ritual or some faculties useful to adventurers – cost 8 points, and are usually completed in a couple of years with eight DC 30 skill checks. If follow-up activity is required, it will constitute a Notable Goal.
  • Grandiose Goals – improving public education, rooting out a widespread Thuggee cult, building a major structure – cost 16 points and require at least four years and sixteen seasonal DC 45 skill checks. If follow-up activity is required it will constitute a Major Goal.
  • Sabotaging another policy maker is pretty straightforward; Make opposed checks at the start of a season. The “attacker wins ties, otherwise the highest roll wins. The winner may devote ranks of his or her Craft (Policy) skill to sabotaging his or her opponent this season. If his or her skill rank is higher than his or her opponents, each rank devoted to sabotage negates three opposing skill ranks. If the skills are equal, each rank negates two opposing skill ranks. If the defenders skill is greater, each three ranks devoted to the attack negates one rank. Sabotage usually occurs when another authority has an opposing notion of what to do.
  • Gaining support from other authorities is a job for Diplomacy, Bribery, Intimidation, and similar social manipulations – and will often be required to succeed in high-end goals. Sadly, no single policy crafter can effectively coordinate the support of more than (Cha Mod) other policy crafters; beyond that they just start interfering with each other.

And thus the reigns of fools and madmen are often no worse than those of the wisest kings – for if they lack the practical skill of Craft (Policy) neither’s efforts will have much impact. To make that even more true… if the bureaucrats and major officials have Craft (Policy) and the nominal rulers do not, then you will see the leaders setting overall goals and the bureaucracy developing policies designed to achieve them sensibly – thus keeping realms at least semi-stable despite their being taken over by new sets of adventurers every few months.

(Bureaucrat) Alright, the boss is too busy trying to figure out how to make an ice cream golem to impress some noblewoman to worry about this season’s planting. It looks like we’ve got some issues with the irrigation system that will need to be taken care of, the syndicate is making itself a nuisance again, and it looks like we may be facing a copper shortage for a bit given the recent accident at De Costa. So let’s try to hold things together until the boss deems to care or someone who does care takes over.

Of course, if the boss never does start to care… the Bureaucrats can always covertly craft a policy designed to hire some adventurers to depose of that particularly worthless leader. This will teach them to ignore those 6 AM planning meetings!

Now this is obviously not really an effective social simulator, and can be fairly readily exploited if someone really cares to make the effort – but given that few characters actually care about public policy, this works well enough to allow any who do to try and make their realms work the way that they want them to – and for a game system that is quite good enough.

Faceless Bureaucrat: Immunity/being distinguished from other bureaucrats (Uncommon, Minor, Great or Epic, protecting against effects of up to L7 or L20 respectively, Specialized/only applies to things the user does as a bureaucrat. 3 CP for Great, 6 CP for Epic). Bureaucrats with this handy talent are somehow never actually responsible for anything, even as they promote their desired policies. They can neither be influenced nor tracked down, although Craft (Policy) may be used against them normally. Truly persistent characters attempting to deal with the 6 CP version of this talent also tend to find that anyone they try to talk in the bureaucracy will turn out to be a poorly paid clerk that hardly speaks the language and can be of no help whatsoever – no matter the level of translation spell used – whenever someone is trying to trace or identify the user.

“We’re sorry, but your Scrying, Commune, or Hypercognition effect is being rerouted to our service department. Please note that your attempt may be monitored for better service in the future…”

“Ah, I think I’ve found the problem sir! Somewhere, some guy rubber stamped an assassination order on your head… It looks like it MIGHT have been routed through the department of Psychic Immigration Services Sentinel Event Detection, Office of Naturalization, where you were classified as a Mind Flayer in disguise, but everyone there uses mind-wiping effects to keep the Mind Flayers from finding out what is going on and due to the massive amounts of complaints that have come in… I’ll see if I can get it straightened out! It shouldn’t take more than three or four months with a little luck. Please try not to get killed in the meantime; it complicates the forms no end!”

And suddenly the head of a bureaucracy becomes someone to be feared – and not for their ass-kicking skills.

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11 Responses

  1. I like that Immunity :3
    We always use test communities where people have a lot of different political viewpoints and lifestyles and basically test the policy there, observe what happens and take feedback. Doesn’t work too efficiently in most campaigns, but it’s better than nothing so far.

    • I suspect that a lot of real historical bureaucrats – who often faced retaliation for simply trying to make things work – would have liked being able to buy that very much indeed.

      And that is the headache isn’t it? Observing the long-term results of a policy requires that it have been in place for years – so unless you want to be hopelessly far behind, you wind up implementing things based on hypothetical projections.

      Hm. That would provide a really major motive for running Ancestor Simulations; you could start it centuries in the past, apply various policies, and observe high-speed social evolution as influenced by those policies.

      • Heh, well, that would cross out possibility 2, no? :3
        Observing Long-Term results is really hard, true. Luckily, most campaigns only go a few years at best^^

      • It is hard for a computer simulation to get revenge on it’s programmer isn’t it? At least barring the really silly scenarios…

  2. The first and second rules for using Craft (policy) seem to make it almost impossible to advance policy goals outside of your political purview in a foreign land. For example, if you have 16 ranks in Craft (policy), then rule #2 means that you can only allocate four ranks in a foreign project outside of your purview, while rule #1 means that you’d need to allocate quadruple the ranks normally required…and so could only pursue trivial goals!

    Given that, it suddenly becomes a lot more understandable why people would rather conquer a place, or try to expand their personal power to cover new areas of responsibility, rather than simply keep trying to push their project through.

    • I think that would also be a scenario where things like diplomacy and bribery might be used for less violent methods of accomplishing the same goals. This could include things like trade agreements (i.e. the produce your kingdom grows could be sold to the kingdom that actually has the water rights at reduced cost if only they’ll get that canal built) or things like the local noble owns shares in a foreign venture and isn’t above using that leverage to manipulate some of the nobles in that land to support his causes and policies on his behalf.

      • Actually, now that I have time again… the overlap between rules one and two is the result of them originally being one rule, which I decided to split into two and reword for clarity – and I forgot to delete the restatement.

        It could be taken as fortuitous of course. The duplication makes it near-impossible for – say – the Minister of Agriculture in one country to substantially influence Urban Development policy in another country (which seems reasonable) – but then high-end d20 skills are all about accomplishing completely unreasonable things. Any opinions, or should I just edit it?

    • It is indeed an editing error – but it also makes it more realistic. I’m a bit torn on whether to edit things or not!

      • The issue at hand is how difficult it “should” be for someone to affect an area in another domain/outside of their area of control.

        As it stands right now, both of those quarter the amount of effective ranks you can leverage, and they stack. So if the Grand Master of Fisheries and Waterways wanted a neighboring country to change their border patrols (a grandiose goal), he’d need to have a Craft (policy) goal of +256! If they didn’t stack, he’d “only” need to have a +64. And that’s for a grandiose goal outside of his purview in another realm; he’d need far less for a smaller goal, closer to home, that was in his area of control.

        So it really gets down to A) how much you think local politicians should be able to mess around with their neighbors policies, and B) to what extent you want the higher levels of the d20 System to enable that degree of silliness (particularly since magic can already make a lot of silliness happen anyway).

        My instinct, for what it’s worth, is to leave it as-is.

      • I think I agree there – which could be a reason why it got left in originally. I think I’ll stick with the current mechanics, even if I think of a way to further improve the wording.

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