Adventuring vs. Hijinks at midlevels

My 5th level Nightblade has spent a lot of time recruiting Ruffians and building up a small syndicate (23 in one class VI market, 9 in another) that to date has cost him a lot of money (700gp per month roughly). Last month, a couple of reasonable (but not outrageous)  rolls netted him 20,000gp and xp (after cap) which caused him to level. 

Out last adventure netted a few hundred gold, for seemingly much higher risk. 

Is this just a quirky month, or should he retire and run his criminal empire? 


I think it’s an intended feature of ACKS that, around mid levels (5+), clearing out random dungeons for whatever loot they may contain stops being your primary activity.

(That said, it’s also semi-famous that hijink income is ludicrously high. There have been some threads about it.)

Beacause I'm a contrary Grognard, I'll chime in with a slightly dissenting opinion. Hijink income is not a problem, per se. Yes, it's potentially very high. However, what is required to balance this is competition from all the other pre-existing criminal guilds. This is never explicitly discussed in the ACKS rulebook (unless I'm forgetting something), but there is a discussion, in the Secrets chapter I believe (don't have my book handy), around generating the Criminal Guilds in the starting city. That table is pure gold for working out what the likely opposition to a Thief or Thief-like PC's criminal empire will be. Don't let your Thief PC conduct their Hijinks unopposed. If there's 20,000gp to be easily made, someone else, likely more powerful than the PC, is going to come looking for either their cut, or the whole enchilada. 


[quote="bobloblah"] the Secrets chapter I believe (don't have my book handy), around generating the Criminal Guilds in the starting city. That table is pure gold for working out what the likely opposition to a Thief or Thief-like PC's criminal empire will be. Don't let your Thief PC conduct their Hijinks unopposed...


Being the good player that I am (I'm the now 6th level Nightblade PC), I've never read the "Secrets" Chapter :-)

I'm sure my GM has though, as several of my Carousers have gone missing (OOC I suspect sacrificed to by Cult of Nergal  in the town). I've also run afoul of the puppet Mayor (front for the said Cult), who I owed a favour to. Which involved assassinating a key Lawful NPC. Luckily someone else got there first.

As a long time player of Thieves back to the red box days, I'm just revelling in and slightly stunned by this huge new facet of playing them! Even those pitfalls above are just more story hooks and flavour for the character  :-)



I dont have much to add here besides maybe that one also should consider that high case hijinks also can have an effect on the campaign world.

Some secrets better stay uncovered, some smuggle runs are about more then just tax evasion and some people who end up dead could have been important. The highest bidder for such criminal acts also might have his own plans…

What harm could a boatload of Warhorse do?

Yeah, the Secrets chapter doesn't really have specifics on what trials and tribulations a guild will face, only what might already be in an existing settlement. I think the Judge needs to consider it the same as defining Lairs when a PC decides to clear a Hex for a Domain: what type of resistance is already in place? For Hijinks, that probably means existing criminal guilds, or even the Domain Lord if too much money is being pulled. 

Speaking of that last point, it would be interesting to develop a realtionship between criminal activity and lost revenue and/or domain morale. Could create a direct source of motivation for maintaining law and order by attacking a criminal guild.

First stab at it: Take the total hijink income from a settlement. Divide it by the number of urban families. This is the effective “hijink tax” being levied by thieves, and applies a penalty to the settlement’s morale rolls just as if it were normal taxes. Sufficient levels of criminal activity will lead to vigilantism (ie, rebellion). Maybe apply a counterbalancing bonus to morale rolls based on the number and level of perpetrators caught and punished in a given month.

For Carousing and Stealing that would seem appropriate. But how about for Smuggling  take the amount away from he Settlement income, so it affects the Ruler rather than populace? And Assination and Spying could go either way - GM to decide whether it's a "hijink tax" or a domain revenue reduction. Treasure Hunting seems almost neutral...? (Unless the treasure is the Barons treasury)

Ouch! My 6th level Nightblade earning 12,800 from Spying in an 120 family settlement has a huge impact ... The 145gp carousing less so

Right, and that's where judgement needs to be applied. Your example also illustrates the difficulties with a flat rule for Hijinks. Where did that 12,000gp come from? Probably not the 120-family settlement, unlike with some other criminal activities! If I were making the justification as Judge, I'd likely come up with something like: an outsider paid for information retrieved from a noble that was passing through the settlement. However, even if the money didn't come from the settlement, a secret worth 12,000gp might still be destabilizing; perhaps the noble comes back to find out just who commited treason?

Anyway, the bottom line is that the Judge needs to apply (wait for it!) judgement to the situation, and "play the world," as opposed to assuming Hijink income is created ex nihilo.

Yeah, having smuggling reduce domain income seems very reasonable (this also puts a cap on total smuggling revenues per month). Given spying’s yield and the fact that the penalty is often treason, I’m very OK saying that spying only makes sense when targeted against the domain’s lord, church, or other high-level NPC with a name, a face, a statblock, and magic weapons. Nobody else in an average domain has 12kgp in cash on hand to pay to a blackmailer. (And if you’re a PC ruler and can’t pay up, the spies can release the secret, causing a scandal and a penalty to domain morale rolls?) With assassination, your target is going to have a family, and they’re gonna be mad that their liege is unable to maintain law and order, and to demand blood in return. I’m OK with assassination affecting morale as a result. Finally, treasure hunting is an awesome hijink that actually leads to adventures, and copying treasure maps is an extremely efficient form of crime (in that it does not cause any immediate loss to anybody). I’m actually fine with treasure hunting having minimal morale impact, because incentivizing treasure hunting is incentivizing adventure, and you have to actually go do more work in order to make the money. You might piss off other adventurers by scooping them, but that is best handled with NPC parties instead of domain morale.

It’s worth considering that 12000 gp is a tremendous amount of money; 100gp is the life savings, hovel, and cow of a peasant family. 12000 gp is the life savings is 120 families, or about 600 average joes. That’s like… stealing all the private (ie, non-lord-owned) property in the entire settlement. It’s a ton of money, and somebody’s gonna be right pissed about being blackmailed for that much.

Agreed. I've actually been thinking of spying in terms of commiting treason for money, but blackmail is good, too. to speak.

Alright, already! Can we please stop giving my GM more ideas on how to make life interesting for me?  He's reading this thread :-) 

The campaign is actually taking place in a Domain where the ruler (Baron from size I think) was recently brutally assasinated , and his former Spymaster took over (through a political marriage). He has subsequently been disappeared by a vile warlord (Anti Paladin)  who is pillaging the domain. The 4 settlements in the Domain are now largely autonomous, with varying degrees of control over the land around them. Roaming brigands and warlords abound, whilst the Lizardmen are recolonising their lost pyramid city that is coincidenently rising from the swamp. The Elven fortress looks on impassively of course. Comets and portents abound... 

Within the area,  there are 3 player parties: the heroes trying to reestablish control of the Domain, the Evil supporters of the AP, and the self interested group who have established their own settlement and cleared a Hex. I'm in the last group,  and I have guilds in one settlement under the sway of Chaos and another that was until recently under the rule of Chaos (we liberated it. And then had to swear fealty to the AP. But we had our fingers crossed). 

So I'm really hoping I'm helping the heroes with that 12k Spying,  and not the Spymaster. He didn't seem a very nice guy. I'm sure I'm not helping the Anti Paladin,  right? 


Love it!

Other threads that are helpful here:

notes for each market size maximum trading volume in loads. That's something to keep in mind when talking about smuggling, stealing, etc.

is a bit of a predecessor to that in the same thread, which also includes some text about wealth per family, etc.

That whole thread started out talking about sailing ships, but there's talk about hijinks in there as well.  I'd brought up but never finished developing a thought about limiting the "market" for hijinks - i.e., a reversal of market availability for providing entities that are willing to pay for the service, which I still think would go a long way into naturally limiting the income of hideouts, along with the assumption of rival guilds - you can have 100 spies, but who's paying for jobs? (Hijinks sell, but who's buying? *guitar shred*)

Then this tread:

specifically talks about an interruption in trade due to piracy affecting morale once it's gotten to some threshold - and the rules linked for piracy are essentially reskinned hijinks. That speaks to jedavis's idea about applying it as a 'tax' that effects morale.