Why are festivals so expensive?

Playing with Domain Morale, and . . . I think a rational player (read: selfish optimizer) will never pay for a festival. I can’t see any upside to spending that much for so little.

If you can find enough mercenaries, increasing garrison is more cost-efficient for Morale, and you have troops at the end! If you can’t find them, lowering taxes and skipping the festival nets you more money and the same Morale, which seems wrong.

I realize that many players will pay for a festival because they want to pay for a festival. But it seems to punish them.

Thomas, I love the questions you ask. They tend to be deeply philosophical ones disguised in game mechanics. There's two interpretations you could take to the rules:

1. ACKS really is telling you that a wise ruler should run his realm as a minimalist state that concentrates on defense and doesn't engage in expensive wealth transfers like festivals. Imagine stoic, pragmatic peasants who respect their wise ruler, and sneer at foolish neighbors who profligately waste the realm's wealth on parties. 


2. When ACKS talks about "normal taxes" and "normal garrison", it means "normal for the realm". If a selfish optimizer lowers taxes and raises the garrison while putting a stop to festivals, then after a period of time the peasants begin to see their current (excessive) garrison and current (low) taxes as normal, and slowly begin to remove the morale benefit from this. After the peasants take for granted low taxes and a well-policed realm, they start to clamor for festivals like all the neighboring realms get. This of course makes it too expensive to run the realm, so the ruler has to raise taxes and cut defenses in favor of "bread and circuses"... This causes a drop in morale, as the peasants take to the streets in outrage. An "Occupy Aura" movement spreads throughout the realm demanding monthly rather than seasonal festivals. 

The idealistic libertarian answer is #1 but it seems like it only works if the peasants are Swiss. Otherwise, the historically plausible answer is #2. Psychologically speaking, festivals provide a morale boost because of their sporadic and unreliable nature - they are a variable reward - whereas consistently low taxes and good policing will soon be taken for granted. I'd probably go with #2 in my own campaign if PCs went that route.








Alternate take on Alex’s #1:

ACKS is telling you to run your realm as an authoritarian police state, maximizing your military strength while minimizing spending on public benefits that don’t reinforce the power of the ruling class.

On the other hand, that’s about 1,200 years of thinking after ACKS’ implied time period, isn’t it?

Also: Occupy Aura. Heh.

Great point, Maticore... Thomas's player might be Il Duce rather than Imperator....

Here's another possible way to think about it:

  1. If the player reduces taxes while maintaining festivals, there is a morale gain.
  2. If the player increases garrisons while maintaining festivals, there is a morale gain.
  3. If the player reduces taxes while eliminating festivals, there is no morale gain for the tax reduction. The peasants bitterly complain about the loss of festivals and demand that the rich yeomen pay more.
  4. If the player increases garrisons while eliminating festivals, there is no morale gain for the garrison increase. The peasants believe their ruler is a tyrant and secretly denounce him for ending traditional festivals. 

The simplest way to balance this might be to make the penalty for missing festivals cumulative. At least during the medieval period, festivals were very much a part of the social contract and would have been seen as one of the obligations of the lord, not just something that they did to make the peasants happier.

I was thinking along similar lines, increasing the penalty for a missed festival. Perhaps missing festivals decreases the domain’s base morale until you make amends.

Also, I feel like it makes sense to cap out the bonus from having a large garrison at say, double the minimum for your territory. Peasants in wilderness territory might be more willing to give up their festivals if they get more protection from the bugbear in the woods. (And then, as the territory becomes more civilized around them, their desires naturally shift the other way).

I haven’t read the Realm rules in a while, but are there rules for Bread & Circuses in urban settlements? I think these would go well with the Roman themes of ACKS, as well as fit my Canahu (Barbarian Conqueror King) setting very well.

Thats pretty much how the County in my Campaign works: No festivals, increased taxes and high military spending’s to keep the populace in check.

Works pretty well for the ruler with Soldiers around every corner. The only “downside” is that I decided at the beginning of the campaign that the resistance movement is ill-equipped, poorly organized and without any big resources (cause I thought that good deeds should not make you rich) with the effect that my players mostly dont give a damn about the resistance and their noble goals and rather go out to seek treasure and collect beastman heads so they get land grants and medals from the evil count. :slight_smile:

Chlodomer never skipped a festival, so I hadn’t noticed. I think I would make the festival penalty cumulative and rolling (i.e., you are only penalized for missed festivals within the last year, for a net maximum penalty of -4).