This was going to be about why you shouldn’t chug two bottles of hard liquor – and it still is, really. A matter of weeks ago, colonists in Clockwork Empires could (and would) drink to great excess when they were the least bit upset. Which is almost okay in a semi-grimdark Historically Accurate Frontier sense of things, but the point at which a colonist knocks back multiple bottles of whisky is going too far, for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that we’d expect a normal human to have horrible alcohol poisoning after such a stunt. Plus the economic balance is uninspiring, considering the opportunity cost of making booze vs. bread (related, tangentially, to a re-balancing adjustment that doubled hunger growth).
So what’s booze to do in Clockwork Empires and how can it help my colony when it’s turning into a big mess? And how do cults work into it?
(This is going to get complex. And I will disclaimer the whole lot by saying that I’m describing a lot of design we’ve been doing on systems we’ve been working on in the past few weeks and they’re almost certain to change variously in future iteration.)
Let’s review the categories of booze in CE and their design justification:
- brewed: basic-level ‘beer’ made in a simple brewing vat. A colonist might have a pint of this at the pub in the grand British Tradition; should act as a minor domestic staple which isn’t necessary for survival but makes colonists a little happier about their life in the Colonies.
- distilled: hard liquor, requires processing brewed booze in a still; much more ‘effective’ at allowing a colonist to self-manipulate their emotions when they’re particularly upset and have requisite traits. Basically: “Feel bad? Drink this to feel something else, maybe even to forget what’s wrong.”
- medicinals: distilled alcohol mixed with other things included highly inadvisable drugs and other chemicals, made using distilled booze plus other ingredients by a chemist. This categories includes both laudanum and sulphur tonic at this point. Medicinals are a chance to cure “madness” at potential physiological cost including not only losing work-time due to tiredness, but possible injury and even opium addiction.
So what’s this “madness” and what’s the problem with it?
We don’t want to make this a warped reflection of Victorian (lack of) understanding about mental illness, though I imagine genre trappings infiltrate our themes slightly, but more of a Cosmic Horror measure of supernatural exposure intrinsically damaging to the human psyche. Mundane but extremely horrifying things may count as well (cannibalism, having to employ Frontier Justice on friends).
The most distinct property of Madness that I’ve been working on lately is that it opens up susceptibility to joining a cult and unlocks more extreme cult-related behaviours as it increases. Aspects of cults and how madness relates were discussed in this blog post from last month.)
Before last month, cults kinda just happened if you allowed colonists to talk to each other the dice rolled in a particular way, and certain traits and moods would load the dice a bit. Enough talk about certain subjects (murder, cults) would pump up an abstract value that would trigger extreme occult behaviours. This system effectively punished you for allowing colonists to socialize by triggering shrine construction and murder willy-nilly. This was hilarious the first few times but ultimately frustrating.
In overhauling the system, cult activity is now the result of failures (of a sort) that have pushed your colonists outside of safe & normal expected human experience. Booze – and the general well-being of having a nice, safe, and functioning colony which includes allowing people to socialize with one another allows colonists to be pushed back into safe & normal expected human experience by spending resources. Instead of inevitable cultist entropy, there are now tools to allow the player to pull back from the brink of cultism. And now that you have these tools, we can both re-introduce the more destructive occult behaviour AND tie it into other game systems that we’ve been working on.
For example: Shrines are now associated with a particular cult which will be very upset if it is destroyed. You may, via event (related to the framework for character events discussed in a previous blog post) set your colony’s policy toward cult activities. Do you permit them to practice their strange rituals? Do you violently persecute them? Or maybe you take a low-conflict approach and … here’s where we tie it all into a neat package … flood the colony with high-proof alcohol and laudanum to reduce anger and madness levels to the point where the cultists simply aren’t Mad enough to do anything cultish?
This requires the player to spend some resources in the form of a working Brewery – Chemist production chain, plus farming Opium or mining Sulphur, but it gets the job done without calling Frontier Justice on anyone. Like in real life, solving problems with violence should indeed be chaotic, upsetting to those involved, and problematic course of action (which in CE terms may well cause Madness to spiral further out of control).
(Further question: What happens when the guy whose job it is to destroy a cult shrine is, in fact, the leader of the cult that built it? … haven’t written a case for this yet, but it came up in testing yesterday.)
Now making this all work involves somehow making characters, cults, world objects, jobs, and events all play nicely with each other. The framework works! The ability is there! Now we’re diving into the tangles of logic and connect all the pipes in meaningful ways (and ensuring they let the player know what’s going on well enough that any of it matters, at that). The best part is, you’re all going to be able to play with these systems in the next experimental build release.
… So you know who else likes booze? Bandits. But that story is for another post.