So, there's two other threads bouncing around with similar titles, and I thinking this one should more or less work the same way. The fact that there's a culture competition leads me to believe that there's supposed to be actual conflict over it, and right there's a lot of problems with that. Some of them are mechanical and probably only have mechanical fixes, and I'm outlining my thoughts on that below. But some of them probably have social fixes, too, and I'd like to hear ideas on that.
Now, I'll admit to having a little bit of residual bitterness over some of this, so please try to filter that out if any bleeds through into what I'm saying. I'm also probably going to be giving examples of a couple things here, and not all of them are really complimentary, but it's nothing personal. Please don't take it that way.
I think that there are two big problems with culture. The first one is that it's pretty static. The second is that it really doesn't effect anything. I'm going to handle the first one first.
I think that staticness is the big reason that there isn't much actual competition going on over culture. I'm pretty sure that Glomdoring has been cultural center for something like three quarters of the time I've been playing Lusternia. It's hard to get into the spirit of competition when it's so hard to make an actual change or have the outcome be in doubt. Make things change more easily, and I think you've got a big start on making cultural competitions better. I think this one's mostly a mechanical problem.
If you look at culture scoring, you'll notice that most of the points come down to certain static bonuses. Biggest library, most honorable family, and so on. This is bad. The problem is that in a lot of these categories one place is so far in the lead that people aren't likely to catch up. This wouldn't be so bad if you could score points in those categories some other way, and those things were just bonuses for doing well. But you can't, which means that a lot of the time a person's effort won't actually have any effect on the scoring. Look at Serenwilde's library, for example. Not so many recent books published. They'd have to churn out a ton of books to try to contest the library ranks, and until they get close (A huge amount of effort. Writing is time consuming and a lot of people don't do it, I'll get to that later) nothing will have a visible effect. I think that disincentivizes competing pretty hard.
The solution for this for the library (And I assume stage things, although I don't really know how stage scoring works) is to either drop the points for being biggest library and such or reduce them to just being bonuses. Instead of the way we do it now, base the score off the actual scores used to see who gets those bonuses, (Fun fact, you can check that with LIBRARIES. I have no idea where that command is in the help files, but I only heard about it when I saw it mentioned on a forum post somewhere.) Keep the prestige awards the way they are. I think they do contribute to making things more dynamic, but they aren't enough and most people can't really get in on them, so they can't fix the problem on their own.
Family honor has the same core problem, I think. The first step is to remove the cap on honor for lesser houses so that every city can compete. Right now, Hallifax just doesn't have the population in one family to get a greathouse, which makes it way harder for us to compete on culture. I think the second step is to break up honor into multiple categories, writing, stage, hunting, and such. Basically make the scoring on everything that gets a + or - based on house type its own score with its own rankings. Then give a bonus on culture for top X scores in each, and give points based on the absolute score, just like the library.
If you get that going, people would actually be able to feel like their making a difference on culture by doing things. I think that would get more people into culture, which makes it more dynamic. Plus it removes the possibility for wierd quirks like a city that's ranked fourth in both literary and scholarly individually, but does great overall if you add them together, to do poorly because it split its writing.
Second problem is that culture doesn't really have an effect on anything. It adds power, I think, and that doesn't really matter. There's no real incentive for doing it either for the organization, except trying to be the best in something. I don't have great ideas on how to fix this. You could make culture rankings give some bonus or penalty in revolts. Makes sense thematically, and it helps tie culture into conflict more, but I don't know what that would do to revolt balance. You certainly wouldn't want to do this unless you rebalanced culture so that people can actually compete at it. Otherwise it'd just be handing out a bonus to one or two orgs. My only other thought would be to add some neat thing that an org can access if it's doing well. Some kind of bling or something. I'd like to hear ideas on this if anyone has them.
As a side note, if you did things like that you could add in support for formal cultural alliances to merge culture from more than one org and share the benefits, so that an org with strong culture and weak fighters could feel like it was contributing more to its alliance.
Those are the problems I see with how culture is set up. That said, there's also problems with participation. To put it real bluntly, next to nobody has anything to do with culture. At least it seems that way from my perspective. I'd have to count to be sure, but I'm pretty sure a majority of the books I've published in my year or so as Hallifax's librarian were written by me. I'd have to ask around to see if that's the case in other orgs and for the stage, but I'd bet that it is. Some of that's probably on me. I'm not great at getting people to do things, and I think some of it's inevitable since writing isn't really everyone's thing. But I think we can fix some of it.
We could find a way to make the culture people get more credit. There are times when I, and I assume most other culture people, feel like I get basically no credit for things I do unless I kind of go fishing for compliments. That probably discourages some people. That's probably a social fix.
We could also try to change the fact that there's basically no reward. Hallifax hands out credits, but it's so few as to be basically irrelevant and I don't think most people ever collect them. I've never remembered to. Some of that's a thing orgs can fix, but I feel like handing out money or credits probably won't help no matter how much you offer. You could maybe ask patrons to set up something like a guild honors line that you can hand out for culture (is that possible, @Zvoltz
? I don't really know what you guys can do for that kind of thing) and that might help. I dunno how much other people care about honor lines and such. You could make it so publishing and such give XP. I don't think that would get new people into culture, though. It'd help out those of us who hate the grind of bashing and make up for the time spent writing that could be spent on bashier pursuits, so I think it's a sound plan on its own merits, but I don't think it'd change much.
So, mechanical fix proposal. You could set up a system where publishing/performing/whatever gives some currency. I'm calling it patronage and fluffing it as either people wanting to support an artist for fame and such, like patrons do, or in a place like Hallifax it could be gifts from hangers on trying to soak up the culture person's limelight. It has some thematic justification, basically. Anyway, let people get this per word published or whatever metric seems best, and trade it in for stuff. You could go for the curio/ikon route, and maybe even do culture only ones for it. I could see some awesomeness on each org getting a curio set that you get from being cultural, or a culture ikon group either per org or in general. You could do minor artifacts like dolls or something, too, or maybe honors lines. The more I think about it the more I like tying the rewards into the org, since that seems to fit the theme of being cultural, but that might be way too much coding. If you do this, make sure to give patronage out for acting in plays, too. Gives people who don't want to write a way to contribute and get in on the goodies.
That's about all I've got. I welcome your ideas and commentary, especially on social fixes. I'm not too good at those, so I'm hoping to hear some good advice, personally.
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