So we currently have a campaign with a paladin, trickster, cleric, ranger, and nightblade, all starting at name level with domains.

The first four classes used the recommended buy-system for high-level conquerors (240,000 gp), and they all ended up with similar domains: About 4-8 hexes of controlled land, a monthly income of around 10,000 gp on revenues of twice that, and some moderate expenses. They’ve been growing very slowly at a few percent a month, with heavy investments of gold that will take many months to pay back. All this seems to be working fine.

The thieves’ guild is rapidly expanding, and is earning more net income than everyone else combined.

Roughly speaking, he started with around 120,000 gp worth of spies, the highest level thief type. They’ve been making something close to the estimated average of 425 gp of net income per month using their hijinks (and paying various court fees, etc). With around 100 spies, this amounts to 42,000 gp of income, against 12,500 gp of their salary expenses, for around 30,000 gp each turn. Which means that guild income already starts out a factor of 3 larger than everyone else’s.

More to the point, guild income can rapidly expand. With access to a few major markets (I have a Class I and two Class II’s within a month’s travel by sea), his roster can add a couple dozen spies a month and many more low-level ruffians. At this point he’s making over 70,000 gp per month, while everyone else is still creeping slowly through the 10,000 - 15,000 gp range, and is expanding his syndicate to multiple cities.

He’s also obviously at a loss for what to do with all this extra money. He keeps petitioning me for some kind of elite high-level exotic troops that can be quickly recruited to absorb this income. But I really don’t want to move the campaign in that direction so quickly, with griffon riders and vampire platoons making everyone else’s basic infantry look paltry by comparison.

What can I do to create a sink for all this exponentially rising syndicate wealth? Is there some sink already in the rules that I’m not noticing?

He’s already offered to switch to playing a mage and restart his domain if I can’t find another solution, but I hate giving up on the rogue classes entirely for domain-level play.

We had much the same problem, and concluded that the proper use for thiefmoney was to help other people build strongholds, finance wars, and craft magic items. Cooperation makes it useful.

It’s kind of thematically peculiar that thieves are designed to be the most generous and charitable members of the player alliance. It was entertaining watching my nightblade and cleric players collaborating: “OK, you rob everyone blind and then send the money to my church, so I can build some massive new fortified cathedrals at half price!”

A cynical observer might describe this as providing a little too much realism for comfort in its simulation of medieval life.

Not to get too far into the “Punish your players for success” mindset, but it seems to me there should be some consequences for creating a crime syndicate that stretches across most of the major cities of the realm. It may have been a mistake to allow him to expand unchecked; other cities might have rival syndicates or lawmen that’ll check his rapid growth. (I mean, I guess ACKS already takes into account being occasionally caught, but they could do something like a citywide crackdown, right?)

I haven’t actually looked too closely at the chapter for high-level thief play yet though.

That’s where being a Judge comes in. :wink: Every player activity is a springboard for things to happen, as the world reacts. The rules are to help the Judge and supplement and facilitate what they think could reasonably happen (or would be interesting to have happen). Getting stuck on the rules and just the rules will produce dull results (and, as Alex has pointed out, results that are less strange and interesting than even reality).

This is true, to a point. Certainly there are compelling simulationist reasons why successful syndicates should run into all kinds of unique dynamic world reactions that generate negative feedback to their growth. Rival bosses trying to wipe out competition should be a big part of being in the criminal underworld, for example.

But if it’s the only balancing mechanism for income generation, then it would help if the game rules would produce some examples of what events could be used to balance things out. If I need to come up with This Month’s Disaster That Affects Only Thieves And Exactly Absorbs Their Surplus Income, then having some kind of sample table full of the table of disasters that work well would be a big help. Otherwise it’s a lot of work to offload on the GM. Even then, I still feel like it’s difficult to deal with the fact that syndicates seem to have exponential growth coefficients that give them an income doubling time so much faster than standard realms.

It’s tough to come up with events that only soak off guild income but not the income of any other domain (in a cooperative RPG!), and yet are interesting to all the players and actively involve them. I’d rather come up with challenges that can be solved by players assigning their resources freely with lots of autonomous agency, not challenges designed expressly around the need to fix issues being caused by the economic system itself. It’s one thing to say “Ah, maybe I should run some kind of crackdown event on my thief, to keep him paranoid”, and another thing to have this be a mandatory and constant requirement that is essential to the campaign starting the moment everyone hits name level.

What I’m really hoping is that someone will point me to something already in the rules that helps to solve the (apparent) problem. For the present, my nightblade player is now switching to being a wonderworker, so I have plenty of time to think about it.

I think the big issue is creating a syndicate out whole cloth without having to play up to it. In actual play, it’s going to be a lot more like herding cats: you’re going to be making reaction rolls trying to hire those spies, you’re going to to be making reaction rolls for the henchmen you assign to run branch guilds, and so on, and it’s going to get messy and possibly expensive to deal with.

“Soaking income” seems pretty irrelevant to me (but then I have no experience, as yet, of the relative incomes of various PC classes at 9th+ level in play - although I am certain they’ll never be equal).

My understanding is that since a hideout does not secure domains and does not attract peasant families, a thief-type’s domain should generally be weaker than that of another PC type.

I would therefore treat a thief-type ruling a domain as if he were a 8th level or lower character (ACKS core page 134), because he lacks a class ability to secure a stronghold just as an 8th level fighter does.

In summary, they don’t get any automatic followers or peasant families for building a stronghold, and they don’t get the adventuring growth bonus, and nearby domains do not respect their power. (They can still manage the peasant families that already live there, so I would say to estimate that based on the area; most likely the Wilderness starting population row, unless it is for some reason a well-populated area that is not owned by anyone else).

Since a hideout doesn’t secure domains, a thief-type doesn’t have a domain. He lives in someone else’s domain. Unless his hideout isn’t built near a city, in which case what exactly is he smuggling/spying on?

He does not automatically receive a domain, but there’s nothing stopping him from spending some of his income on a stronghold to secure a domain, separate from his hideout.

He can then invest into urban settlement and build a city in his domain, then move his hideout’s main area to the city.

Net effect: His hideout is in his own domain.

I can’t claim that this is in the rules, but I would consider treating the income from this huge crime syndicate as an additional tax for Morale purposes. Are they soaking up enough money from the economy to rival the tax collector? Shoildn’t this have an effect on Morale?

On a similar note, perhaps increases garrisons should impose a penalty to hijinks rolls. If you put more soldiers out there to keep the peace, isn’t that going to slow down the criminals (a little)?

Like Aryxymaraki says, anyone can create or rule a domain if they have the means; those who aren’t 9th-level adventurers just have a harder time of it. Most domain rulers in a feudal setting based on Medieval England or France would be 2nd-5th level fighters ruling 1-4 square mile domains of 50-500 people. Most barons (1-hex domains) would top out at 8th level (the maximum for their average domain income, no adventuring, combat XP forms an insignificant portion).

A thief can rule a domain and operate a guild as a “side-business,” for instance (although depending on what hijinks your people get up to, you could run it openly as a “legitimate” enterprise, like a merchant house).

That depends - does the thieves’ guild run prostitution?

Seriously though, something like that sounds perfectly reasonable if you think it produces results that make the campaign better.

Hmmm… Purchasing 100 spies without any other members of a guild seems to distort the demographics somewhat. 4th level characters are very rare. Someone hiring nothing but 4th level characters is going to have a very top heavy organization.

In order to have that many spies he would have to be recruiting in a large city. A large city would have a guild with a large membership including many ruffians and thugs and carousers. Presumably the bosses of those guilds would not look kindly on someone hiring away “the cream” …

Possible solutions, should you wish to address:

  1. Require that the player hire his ruffians in some semblance of the “real” demographics.
  2. Have the spies begin to get counter offers from rival guilds, raising their rates. This will reduce their profits. Meanwhile, the flood of spies doing high end work has lowered demand for low level thieves, who will accept a bit less. In other words, allow the economy to react to the player’s undemographic exploitation.

3. Have a rival thief guilds begin assassinating his spies. If a rival guild has 1000 men, it might be worth it to run … 200 hijinks per month against your player’s spies. He will lose about ten per month.

Typed on my ipad from an airplane, so I apologize for my uncharacteristic terseness.

The set-up logic basically went like this:

Player wants to create a syndicate in the largest city possible. (“Where’s the largest city on this regional map?”) I offer to let him use the imperial capital (treat as a Class I market), and then estimate that the number of spies is 2d10 a month. Since the high-level start rules indicate that hirelings receive an average 6-month retainer, I assume that means that half of them were around for longer than 6-months, and half shorter – that’s a year of hiring. So assume the set-up reflects about 12 months of hiring, or 122d10 spies, for an average of 1211 = 134 spies available. Relative to that metric, starting with 100 spies using a retainer of 6 months wages didn’t sound crazy.

I could easily have required a starting syndicate in some smaller or more remote location – and probably would have done so initially, had I realized in advance that this was going to be a problem. And presumably the imperial capital would have an established crime-boss hierarchy that doesn’t tolerate independent rivals on their turf, or else requires a substantial cut to allow them to operate in the area.

It’s also likely that if the D@W rules include some kind of soft-cap or diminishing returns for mercenary recruitment, the same rule could be applied to hiring ruffians so that hiring additional ruffians from the same market begins to become very expensive. But thieves have a fairly unique ability to expand their guilds with new syndicates, since they don’t need to clear any land first. They just name a new city and stake out a hideout, and suddenly they have a new market full of recruits.

I love the idea of dynamic and interactive supply and demand for all markets (marginal-cost pricing, substitution effects, etc), and would like to implement that kind of system to more accurately handle that for other goods and services beyond recruiting. But it sounds like a big job to get a uniform system that works for everything!

I think you need to look at any market the Thief wants to set up in and consider, based on demographics, what could already exist there. Dealing with that is the “clearing the hex” that the Thief-type character has to deal with.