We have a problem with the way our cities are structured. When I really sat down and thought about it, I came to a rather new realization of mine: that (most) Ministries Are Bad For the Game.
In my post, I’m going to explain why the Aetolian city structure mechanics are a product of a time we’ve grown out of, how they don’t align with the modern expectations and models of current games/settings, and how a superior concept could make the experience more enjoyable all-around in a way that both satisfies supporters of the current model, and shakes it up enough to relieve the burdens of everyone else who finds citywork boring (going to go ahead and say with no scientific basis whatsoever that most of the game isn’t exactly excited about it).
Please don’t go ahead and skip everything in this post just to say “I LOVE being Culture Min ^_^” or “We don’t have this problem” or “Maybe your city just has an engagement problem” or something else similarly short-sighted. I’m not saying that you have to have 10+ years of IRE on your resume or anything like that, but just because you, personally, don’t see a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I also think that we need to separate the argument of “someone needs to do this” from “so that means it needs to be a Ministry” and encourage us to keep those ideas separate.
Why am I qualified to lead this discussion (and apparently die on this hill)? Sibatti isn’t really active in city politics anymore, as running a guild is more enjoyable and far less obnoxious. In my day, I’ve gone through and performed the work of every city task and role in the past 16 years of playing IRE games, including several stints as cityleader. At one point, I had all of the “busywork” tasks down to an automated science so that everything essentially ran itself. 2010-2012 Duiran could have survived without a single minister in-role, if it needed to (except war, but I’ll get to that later).My overall point and argument
- we don’t need most Ministries, we’ve outgrown them, most players do not enjoy busywork, and the lack of present and engaged ministers is more harmful than simply not having ministers at all.
First, a moment of reflection.
- Have you ever seen a post, maybe several in a row, from your city officials announcing that a ministry is open and needs to be filled?
- Have you seen that same ministry become a rotating door of uninterested volunteers?
- Does it seem like the majority of new posts in your city have to do with this painfully tedious task of shuffling people in and out of these boring roles?
- Do you even know who your Minister of Culture is? (I don’t.)
- Do you look at HELP (CITY) and go, “man I never see half these people”?
Having inactive/barely active ministers contributes to a broken window type of scenario in orgs that is unhealthy, but doesn't inherently mean the org itself is unhealthy. Even during peak hours, Duiran CWHO hovers around 15-18. There are 15 current roles in Duiran, Ministries and Council combined. Most of the city is in a position or at least an aide to it. I don’t think it’s too out of line to say that the bloated amount of leadership positions, when compared to the size of the organization, is out of whack here.
Many of the powers that these ministries are responsible for are going to fall into one of five categories:A - They are actually very important and someone should oversee it.
B - They are important, but can be automated
C - They are important, but should simply be built into the fabric of the game.
D - They aren’t important enough to be gatekept by a Ministry or an aide, and should instead be divested into another role or cityrank.
E - They don’t even serve a real purpose, functionally.
And yeah - you can bet I’m going to go through each and every Ministry, now that I’ve made such a bold claim.
For the sake of this not becoming a novel, I’m going to attempt to be as brief as possible for each one, because you all know this game and I don’t need to explain everything to you. Some powers are going to hit multiple categories.AMBASSADOR (C/D/E):
An extremely low stakes Ministry. No one uses treaties, there’s no actual way of enforcing them, and they’re the definition of a system designed around RP, when RP alone and self-managed projects or cityhelps could accomplish the same thing, without the clunky system. The Ambassador can’t even be fully useful here because rank 3 treaty commands (approving, rejecting, voiding) can only be done by the orgleader. The treaty system itself is a leftover relic of the war system and it doesn’t need to be around anymore. CARDINAL (C/D):
The rest of the Ambassador commands have to do with supporting newbies, where truenewbs in this day and age are so genuinely rare that there’s no reason for those commands to not simply be available to all citizens, or built into the existing cityrank system (cityrank 2 seems like a good fit). Helping a newbie is the baseline of everyone’s social responsibility, here, so there’s no need to make this a privilege. It should simply be easy to help a newbie if needed.
Suggestion: shelve the Treaty privs, give the newbie commands to everyone at CR2. Citizen is already a CR5 power.
I’m going to get a lot of disagreements on this, but I actually really hate Cardinal. It’s an extremely fun idea from an RP perspective. It shouldn’t be a city role. Why is the Cardinal of Duiran not in the Patron (Haern)’s Order, for example? Why should an unaffiliated citizen have the ability to act in the name of a God they don’t follow? CULTURE (D):
CITY SHRINESIGHT belongs in Security, no one cares about boons, hexing is inherently dumb, UNIFY isn’t hard to come across, and cityfavours/disfavours = unnecessary.
That brings us to CITY BLESS which is a neat idea but if anyone who is still around remembers the war system, it was incredibly frustrating to have something THAT critical and time-sensitive sit with a single person. It means that your Cardinal is either going to have to be online 24/7 (and they’re usually played by characters who aren’t interested in war, so probably aren’t going to be), or the role will be wrested into the hands of someone actively involved in war, which completely defeats the purpose of it being the spiritual compass or whatever of the city. I’m gonna go ahead and argue that if something is more or less required or assumed in order to proceed, then it shouldn’t be a command and should just be something that’s built into the fabric of the game.
Suggestion: Move shrinesight into Security or the Ruling Council. Change CITY BLESS to be a mechanic of the game that requires no player command OR make it require less micromanagement from the Cardinal (if they’re blessing the troops today, I’m gonna assume they have their blessing tomorrow, etc.). If it’s absolutely sticking around (since war isn’t really a thing anymore), incorporate this concern into whatever revised war system y’all come up with. Going to say again that if XYZ buff is going to be “required” to engage in the most efficient manner, we should just do away with it entirely. Otherwise, you just have this scenario where no one's gonna act until they can get blessed, because why not go in with every advantage available?
Dump the rest OR move those powers into the Orders of the city’s patron OR make the Cardinal require being in the Patron’s Order. It would be far more interesting instead to incentivize and attract ranking members of a Divine Order to a city so THEY’RE the ones providing the spiritual/religious guidance, and able to boon/hex their orgs, and whatever else. It’s not like Orders have anything else to do, right now, everyone hates holy wars and for good reason.
With very rare exceptions, everyone is exhausted by Culture. You get your bright-eyed-bushy-tailed types coming in, cracking their knuckles, and being excited for all of one major event before they realize what everyone else has already concluded: it shouldn’t be one person’s job to hold events and keep up the morale of the city. It’s too much, full stop. Everyone in the city is responsible for the culture of their home, full stop. STEWARD (B/C/E):
City Sanction commands are interesting, but you don’t need to put this in a Ministry. You’re going to set them once and likely never move them ever again, if you even remember them. That means, mechanically, all that’s left is Arena events, which are so rote and commonplace that everyone should just be able to use them, let’s be real it’s not hard to be appointed as an Aide to Culture in the history of ever.
Suggestion: Move City Sanction into the ruling council, give Arena commands to the cityranks. Events/RP don’t need a position beyond the ability to stay organized and work with others, all of which don’t need a Ministry to accomplish. If someone needs to make sure cultural events are getting done, it should fall to the top-tier leadership/council to seek folks out to lead the charge. See my bit on Treasurer for how to handle arena funding.
The very definition of a warm-body-in-seat Ministry. Steward performs a very important checks-and-balances system that prevents any one person from robbing a city blind. This was a lot more important in the wild west days of IRE where people actually had the nads to do this, but now? I’d like to think we’re better, and I’d also like to think that we shouldn’t leave that on the players to figure out who to trust. No one in this day and age would get away with taking all the money out of a city - because we can universally agree how Bad it is, and with all of the ways we’ve built anti-theft mechanics in a protection for protection’s sake approach, I’m going to make another bold claim and say that we should just apply that to orgs too. DEVELOPMENT (A/B/C/D):
That leaves us with a few remaining commands that no one cares about (revlog, econstatus), commands that are essential to the leadership of the council and can simply sit with them (funds coffers, funds ministries), and “appropriate bank” for that measly 3k you get a year that is just another button to press for the sake of pressing buttons. Just bake it into the game, already!
Development is interesting. I’m hesitant to dive too much into it because production is a relatively new mechanic that we haven’t fully realized yet. In addition, WITH the relatively new production mechanics folding into this ministry, it makes it fork into two different paths - production is interesting, but feels more like it should belong with the financial responsibilities of the city. CHANCELLOR (B/C/D):
Which brings us to the other path - adding buildings is as uncommon as the aforementioned City Sanction commands - you’re going to get your bases covered with mechanical additions fairly quickly, which then reduces this fork of the Development Minister’s role into some weird pseudo-landlord role where they lease apartments to people who don’t own houses. And apartments aren’t even an official “thing”, it’s just some clever idea that players designed and it became the norm, though execution varies from city to city.
Suggestion: I’d have to mull this one over a lot more, but I almost want to say that a case is being made for a catchall “Financial Ministry” to oversee Trade/Production/Treasurer/all other things money, and let the building management fall to the ruling council. Chances are, the DevMin doesn’t have the actual decision-making power to add buildings willy-nilly, so they’re going to be caught up in red tape anyways. It then makes them a glorified rent-collector and not much else. Apartments rose as a need that players got creative with, but I don’t know if that’s the right answer for them, or we need to respond as a game to codify this. More thought/brainpower needed here.
Another “nag” ministry. The chancellor typically exists to bug everyone to pay their taxes every season. They occasionally sell and reskin a shop and might citylock something. TRADE (A/B):
Suggestion: Citylock is more of a security concern than anything, so let’s shuffle that on over. Players can already do their own redescing in the Esterport shops (meaning, the work to code this in already exists!) so it’s far easier to just let people reskin their own shops. Everything else is rare enough that it could fall to the council/cityleader to action on. Automate the shop closure. No more chancellor. While I’m at it, could we rethink taxes as a mechanic? I’ve got some beef there, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Piggybacking off of the bit about Production and DevMin, I think Production makes more sense under an umbrella “Financial Minister”-esque role, along with Treasurer and Trade. I’m going to confess that I don’t know what the modern-day Trade Minister does ever since comms changed. I do think that the mechanics of ‘moving comms around’ is a little dated and hard to grasp as a concept. We could make this a whole lot easier with a little bit of thought, I feel.TREASURER (A/B):
See above. It moves money, retracts comms, and approves loans. There are some interesting concepts here with equity, but only a small number of players will find it interesting enough to engage with it. Overall I like it, I just think Treasurer/Trade/Production should be made into one ministry, which helps keep the work around for those interested in the nitty gritty of economics. I don’t really care for having to juggle budgets and think it’s dumb, so maybe someone Upstairs could think of a less annoying way to manage this. Any other changes would require some significant reworking.WAR (E):
Hey, the useless one! (At least right now). I don’t feel like I should even bother with this, since we don’t have a war system and it’s simply here for RP right now. This is “the PK ministry” up there alongside Security. In some pipe-dream of mine, we’d have some kind of seamless “PKer Ministry” combining Security, War, and various militia commands all in one place. This is out of the scope of my post though, so I’m just gonna leave it alone.SECURITY (A/B/C):
A ministry with some actual teeth. I’m super glad that it isn’t nearly as tedious as it used to be with the Layout system, and the costs aren’t quite as painful. You’ve got sigil management, guard placement and management, enemying processes, and bounties. My only complaint about security is that there’s some overlap with War, and the militia system is really just for RP right now. And it usually ends up with both of these ministries being assigned to “Competent PKer #1” and “Competent PKer #2”. There are probably some minor things we could improve on here where automation removes unnecessary tedium, but for the most part I think this ministry is solid. Except for bounties… yeah.RESEARCH (C/D/E):
Ylem requires some oversight and management, but I don’t think it needs to be its own ministry. The initial investment into unlocking and investing in trees feels more like a bigger city decision and conversation that the ruling council should agree upon. The rest of it is just a couple of gated commands regarding crystals, which I think most city leaders just end up doing in the absence of the research minister - so again, it’s a position that just feels like it’s there in a “why not” sort of way rather than a “why.” It’s one of those sets of responsibilities that could likely be distributed elsewhere.
Suggestion: Divest into ruling council (tree decisions, crystals) and cityranks (ylemlog), or one of the financial or security ministers (crystals, tree decisions, ylemlog).
Okay, that was… a lot. If you’ve made it this far, kudos to you. We’re almost done.
What would be better than what we have, now that we’ve looked at how it currently functions? My argument is in favor of cutting out the fat in favor of a city having two Ministries - Financial and Operative(? - basically Security/War/some random other commands like citylock). Essentially, one ministry interested in economics, and the other in the umbrella of conflict, security, and PK. The rest of the ministries don’t merit the actual work necessary to have a butt in the seat, and then find a new butt to occupy the seat, and then another new butt… you catch my drift.
Here are my parting thoughts I will leave with you - why all of this matters, why I feel so strongly about it, and why I believe the game will be better for it.
- It’s going to make being a minister far more meaningful instead of the “You want the job? Grats, it’s yours” of today’s Aetolia.
- It literally only takes one person (outside of war, which isn’t even around anyway) to keep a city running, in all actuality, and that person doesn’t even need to be superhuman. They just need to know what to do, how to automate it, and be diligent.
- Games have evolved, and Aetolia needs to evolve too. Pointless busywork, artificial difficulty and excessive red tape went out of vogue years ago.
- Burnout is real, and you want to avoid players burning out for the health of the game and the health of the org. The self-inflicted pressure we put on ourselves to “do things” makes everything less fun. You’re going to get higher quality results out of people who are actually passionate about doing things, rather than expected to. This is just how we are, as humans.
- You don’t need to be a Minister to “do something.” There are better tools out there for ad-hoc projects to be assigned to people interested in doing them. Just because I want to throw an event doesn’t mean I want to take on the whole dang Ministry of Culture.
- It flattens the org a bit. Regular citizens should get more to do, where it can’t be abused.
- Overall, it needs to be less of a chore to play this game.
Huge alternative to all of these suggestions: copy the guild system, where the cityleader can create, destroy, and move privileges around as needed. This could potentially be WILD so I don’t know how I feel about it.