This system for managing an organization came out of a discussion of people trying to brainstorm up a simple but interesting kingdom-management system on a RPG discord. The main approach people were taking was the seemingly standard approach in sim-ish RPGs--all about juggling various currencies (wood, stone, iron, gold). It made me realize what has bugged me about this approach for a while, but that I couldn’t put my finger on--material conditions and the ways that wealth get created matter a lot for an organization, but they’re only interesting in how they create conflict and incentives with the people in and around an organization; how much wood you have isn’t interesting, but the question of who gets to profit off of it really is. This is my take on a simple and abstract organization management system that’s all about who gets what shares of an organization’s wealth.
In order to keep this system and setting agnostic, a lot about it is left intentionally vague--it should work just as well for tracking the turf controlled by a street gang as it does for tracking the territory controlled by a fantasy kingdom. It is also very much not meant to be self-contained--it’s built to basically be a plot-hook generator, interfacing with the fiction as often as possible.
Organization Sheet & System
First off, here’s the sheet used to track this all. It’s pretty lacking in the quality-of-life department, but it gets the idea across:
Name: Some Fantasy Kingdom
An organization has five main types of things it cares about:
Wealth, an abstract representation of valuable goods and currency
Resources, which can be worked to generate wealth
Factions, representing the various members of the organization and want a share of the wealth
Infrastructure, representing the various non-person non-wealth holdings of the organization, which cost wealth to maintain
Problems, which occasionally rear their head and have to be dealt with
Each season (which is flexible in how long a time period it represents) an organization’s resources generate wealth, which then gets divided up between the various factions and infrastructures making up the organization. Anything left over goes to the organization itself (in this case, the King’s treasury).
Additionally, each season there’s a chance that things go wrong and must be addressed. This can come from unhappy factions, underfunded infrastructures, or long-term problems facing the organization. These are generally expected to be handled within the fiction.
Wealth is liquid and abstract--it represents a sum of all the money, trade goods, resources, food, luxury, etc moving within the organization.
Wealth replaces the need to track individual types of resources. It’s assumed that if a kingdom has a large amount of lumber and not enough stone, they are able to trade with neighbors/etc in order to meet their needs.
Exactly what one ‘unit’ of wealth’s exchange rate represents is going to vary depending on setting. Maybe it’s something like 1000gp in a D&D-like setting? I don’t know, I’d have to run more math to be sure.
Resources are the things held by the organization that generate its wealth.
Each unit of a resource generates 10 Wealth when worked.
These might represent land held by a feudal kingdom (farmland to create food, woodland to create lumber, mines, etc), but could also be more abstract (a trade deal, a mob-run casino, a smuggling operation, etc).
Importantly, these resources must be extracted with labor coming from one of the factions. Don’t sweat the exact numbers, but you should have appropriate factions available in order to work each resource.
In a fantasy setting, peasants are probably going to do most of this labour for Resources like Farmland or Lumber.
But you could also imagine needing a Merchants faction in order to extract wealth from a Trade Deal resource.
What a ‘unit’ of a resource represents is fairly fluid.
In a hex-crawl game, maybe one hex of plains can support one unit of Farmland?
But then a single diamond mine might be represented as 3+ units of Mining, since it’s much more valuable.
Instead of generating Wealth, a resource can be worked to directly pay for a relevant cost at double value.
If you are building a Castle and have a Quarry, you can use one Quarry Resource to pay for two Wealth worth of the castle’s construction.
Basically, by using the resource within the organization instead of needing to trade it around to generate wealth, you get more value out of it.
This will usually be used to pay for infrastructure costs, but some Factions might be bought off with especially apt resources as well.
Luxury goods like Fine Wines or Silks could be used to keep your Nobles happy in this method, for example.
You can also loan resources to allies, in order to give them this double-value bonus.
Factions are the people your organization has to keep happy.
Each one has an Amount rating. Keeping one unit of a faction happy for one turn costs ten Wealth.
How many people make up a unit differs based on the type of faction and how expensive they are to keep happy. 1 unit might be 1000 peasants, 100 soldiers, or 5 nobles.
Each turn their happiness moves one unit towards 7 if paid or two units towards 10 if paid double. If 50%-99% paid their happiness moves one unit towards 0, 1%-49% it moves two towards 0, and if not paid at all moves three towards 0.
Roll 1d6 each Turn per faction. If the result is over their happiness rating they cause some sort of trouble this turn. For each turn in a row they’ve been making trouble, the trouble gets worse.
Trouble might be a one-off thing or might be adding a new Problem to your org
Paying a faction represents a mix of maintaining the infrastructure they need to live (maintaining roads and paying tax collectors for peasants, building fancy summer houses for nobles, etc) and the amount of wealth that they are allowed access to (the amount of money and food that don’t get taxed out of the peasants).
These are things your organization owns or has built. They probably let you do cool things or give you bonuses at stuff in other parts of the game, but here they mostly just cost wealth to maintain.
Like, castle walls might give you a bonus if you start having wargame play, while Alchemy Labs might give you potions to bring with you into the dungeon, and Exquisitely Tended Gardens might give you bonuses in international diplomacy
Each one has a cost rating--you need to spend that much wealth to maintain it for a Turn.
If you pay it in part it loses one health, pay nothing and it loses two health.
Health can also be lost via narrative events--Orc catapults are as capable of damaging walls as lack of funding
You can have zero-cost infrastructure--it just represents an asset the organization has that doesn’t need funding to stay useful
Repairing lost health costs a Wealth.
If you ever engage with the thing in-game you can roll a die the size of its Max Health. If you roll over its health then something goes wrong or dysfunctional and causes you problems.
It costs one Wealth per Max Health to build a thing. If you use an appropriate Resource to pay for it each one used can replace two wealth.
You can also use Resources to pay for upkeep and repairs at a discount, too.
Max Health should be the size of a die, if possible.
Sometimes Infrastructure can be gained through play, instead of built using this system
“A big stockpile of guns” can be bought, or the PCs can acquire it via a heist.
These can potentially be somewhat abstract.
An alliance to a nearby kingdom could be counted as Infrastructure--especially if the relations are being kept good with paid diplomats and gifts
You can use the building system here to create Resources and Factions, potentially.
You could potentially fund the founding of an Engineer’s Guild, which could then become a resource
You could potentially fund the founding of a Wizard’s School, which would then produce a “Student Wizards” Faction.
These sorts of constructions probably require some roleplaying in order to kick off--you can’t really found a wizard’s school unless you have some wizard teachers lined up, after all.
Organizations have ongoing slow-burn problems. There’s a place to track them here
Problems have a Rating--this is how likely the problem is to come up in a given season
Roll 1d10--if you get under or equal to the problem’s rating then an issue relating to the problem flares up. It needs to be dealt with in some manner or something bad will happen
Monsters Roam the Wilderness might cause problems like “giant spiders have driven the lumberjacks out of one of the forests--gain no Lumber from it until they’re dealt with” or “people are getting scared of goblins--calm them down or they’ll lose happiness”
Mutual Enmity with the Elves might cause problems like “a border skirmish breaks out--increase the rating of this problem by one” or “the elves straight up declare war”
The nature of the problem should just be something that makes sense narratively
The Elf King isn’t going to declare war out of the blue, but if two problems ago a bunch of elves got killed in a border skirmish and the PCs didn’t do anything to de-escalate and then last time the Elf King demanded reparations and you didn’t give it, then maybe this time when the Problem gets rolled war is totally on the table
This is a system for handling unexpected problems bubbling up. If last turn something bad happened and wasn’t addressed, it’s reasonable that it might come up again this turn even if the Problem wasn’t rolled. If it was rolled, then maybe some unexpected event pours extra gas on the fire
If the Elf King declared war, the elves will probably attack next turn no matter what. Rolling a new problem would represent them trying some sort of scheme (sending assassins?) or some side-problem cropping up (food shortages?)
As always, this is a concept-dump and hasn’t been tested yet
Remember that these are a sort of ‘if business is running normally’ rules. They should be modified and ignored as appropriate as things happen in the fiction
Like if you’re under siege maybe all those Silk Farms don’t give you anything, since you’re not trading them to anyone
I’m somewhat allergic to tracking all this stuff for its own sake, so the goal is just to create a simple engine that creates narrative events that need to be solved in the other modes of the game
Resources are McGuffins to come into conflict with other organizations over
Factions that become unhappy cause trouble that needs to be resolved
Infrastructure gives you tools to do cool things in other modes of gameplay
The lines blur between the three types pretty easily
The difference between Resources and Infrastructure is that Infrastructure has a net negative or neutral impact on your Wealth while Resources are positive
Conceivably a Resource could become an Infrastructure, or vice versa. A restaurant that’s losing money is Infrastructure, but that same restaurant turning a profit is a Resource.
Maybe you can damage a resource to get extra wealth out of it short-term?
For really big organizations, maybe you can have smaller vassal organizations as resources.
And maybe you should get penalties if you have too many holdings, which you can abate by creating vassals to manage them for you.
How often are turns rolling around? Rolling for each and every faction every turn sounds painful if they hit every 15 minutes, but totally fine if it’s more of a “once every few sessions” thing.
Honestly, the whole ergonomics of this needs a lot of work. I think I can get it there, though.
The tracking who’s working each resource and resources being able to pay extra for relevant expenditures are both pretty awkward to track. I’m leaning away from tracking the first, but I would be sad to see the second one go. I’ll try to think of methods
This was initially meant to be pretty PC-facing, but it might be useful for NPC organizations in a faction-play game as well
In that case I wouldn’t track wealth or roll for problems/happiness, and would just use it as a way to visualize what the factions and desires of the NPC org are for quick rulings.