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Author Topic: Acquisitions Incorporated rules for running a nonsatirical adventuring company  (Read 548 times)

HappyDaze

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I threw the $30 into the new D&D5e book Acquisitions Incorporated without knowing anything about it. Yes, it is loaded with attempts at satirical "office humor" (which, as someone coming into AI cold, I don't really appreciate most of), but it has rules for running an AI franchise. As written, a lot of it is downright silly and destructive to the general mood of most campaigns, but...

I recall early Forgotten Realms bits about licensed adventuring companies. They had charters and were a way for governments to make sure that the bands of powerful individuals roaming around the countryside were not entirely unregulated (and they funneled some gp back to the crown too). I also recall that, as a teen, I never really gave the adventuring company much thought. The idea of groups forming "corporations" of their own in-game didn't really spark my interest outside of Traveller and (ironically) Shadowrun. In most cases, it wasn't something that had crunch behind it, and I just waved it off.

D&D 5e is not the game where I would have thought to see rules for such a thing come up. Now, with the AI book, there are a set of rules that can be used for this sort of thing. No, not the sillier bits like "Occultants" that use a magical abacus to calculate the XP you get from encounters or the "Secretarian" that drops magical business cards that allow for cellphone-like communications. What actually looks workable are the parts about the business, including employees and headquarters, along with downtime actions that matter to both the characters and the business.

Don't get me wrong, AI isn't at all worth the price being charged for it; I'm just trying to make fertilizer out of the pile of shit I now own. Anybody else own this or looking into using it?

jeff37923

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I would like to post an often reposted blog entry.....

Quote from: multiplexer

The Murder Hobo Investment Bubble
FEBRUARY 16, 2015 BY MULTIPLEXER

The Murder Hobos sit across the table from the Old Man in the darkened, road side Inn. The Old Man proposes a mission to the group: goblins infest the hills outside town. And goblins, as we know, are horrific fiends who steal babies and chew on children's heads. Real nasty characters. They also gum up the place with goblin smell.

The Murder Hobos must travel to a nearby mountain, breach the Goblin Stronghold, kill all the goblins they see, and defeat the Goblin King. Roet Mudtwister. That King is a nasty bit of work with a bad reputation for foul language and a snaggle tooth. Then, the party must return to the Inn with proof of the deed. No time cap on this but make it quick, please. The goblins destroyed our fields. Think of the children. There is a reward.

In victory, the Murder Hobos will receive:

all the magic loot they find;
all the money they roll from goblin bodies
and a payday of 4000 gold pieces, cash.
The Murder Hobos weigh the risks of this mission against the worth of the payday. On one side of the risk equation, they face possible death at the hands of furiously angry goblins (less risk with a Cleric who can cast Raise Dead although if the Cleric dies, risk rises). Goblins are noxious characters and Goblin Kings doubly so. On the other side of the equation they bag:

Cash payout;
Possible magic upgrades;
Experience;
Heroism! Save the village and win the day!
This is a pretty sweet deal for the Murder Hobo party of the exact right level. Too low-level and the goblins will obliterate the Murder Hobos. Too high level and the side quest provides neither enough payout nor reward enticement for the Murder Hobos. The Old Man prices the Side Quest to a party of a precise level band.

For this particular group, the rewards vastly outweigh the risk. They have a deal.

The Old Man puts up no money up front. The Murder Hobos buy their supplies with their own cash, suit up, and follow the road to the mountain. A week later, they return with the head of King Roet Mudtwister, snaggle tooth and all. They've paid themselves back on their pre-adventure loan to themselves and made a bit more. High risk paid off with high reward. Murder Hoboing is lucrative business.

The Old Man hands over the coin purse with 4000 gold pieces. The village is, theoretically, saved.

But what's in it for the Old Man?
Let's assume for a moment the Old Man is not an altruistic lover of villagers and hater of all goblinkind. Nor is he sitting in the same Inn with the same offer of 4000 gold pieces waiting for the level-correct Murder Hobos to wander in for his health. What's in the side quest business for the Old Man?

This particular Old Man has a story.

The goblins moved in under the mountain a century ago. Then, they established their village and Goblin King. The goblins quietly toiled away in their underground community while human and demi-human farming villages popped up around them. Separate but at peace.

A few years ago, while mining, the goblins discovered their mountain sat on a highly valuable hot salt vein and spring. Applying a little goblin ingenuity and goblin Rube Goldberg-like mechanical engineering, they extracted the salt slurry into a high-grade and highly valuable salt production line. Even goblins need salt to preserve food. They had a handful of magic spells and items keeping food preserved but, much like people, goblins pack fish and game into giant barrels of salt. No longer did goblins venture out to deal with humans to purchase salt or scoop up salty sand from far-flung beaches. Salt was here, under their mountain.

The salt production was so efficient, salt overflowed goblin storerooms. So, the goblins started selling salt in the nearby village markets for low prices. They undercut local human-based salt production and into the local Salt Merchant Guild's profits. Goblin salt was clearer. Goblin salt was better. And Goblin salt was cheaper.

Sensing a possible business deal in the International Side Quest Industry, the Old Man traveled to the Goblin's Mountain with a party of his favorite and most trusted Dwarven surveyors to perform a property assessment. "10,000 gold pieces," the Dwarf told the Old Man. "That's how much this mountain is worth considering the roads and the layout of the tunnels -- and not including the salt business. Just the land. 10,000 gold pieces. Need to get rid of those goblins, though. Nasty business, goblins."

The Old Man met with the Transmuter Bankers who turn anything, including Goblin Mountains currently full of Goblins, into gold. And they gave the Old Man a loan on this security -- an investment on a future, essentially. They fronted the Old Man cash on his possible land investment. The Old Man found a buyer for his contract on the mountain at the assessed price: the local Salt Merchant's Guild. They exchanged their margins on the futures contract on the land through the bankers.

All the Old Man needed to maturate were some Murder Hobos. The Old Man took a gamble. His risks were:

in the land deal between him, the Bankers who hold his loan, and the Salt Merchant's Guild who will buy the Goblin Mountain;
that the right Murder Hobos would come along and take him up on the deal.
This worked out. The Salt Merchant Guild paid the Old Man 10,000 gold for the contract to get the salt mines plus the goblins exited their business. The Old Man paid off the Bankers the 4000 gold plus interest. The Old Man walked off with nearly a 60% profit which he shared a percentage with the Dwarves. Everyone (except the goblins) won.

Isn't Murder Hoboing profitable?

Once this deal wound up, the Old Man moved on to the next land speculation deal.

Speculative Investment in Murder Hobos
The Murder Hobos are the agent of change in Side Quests land swap deals. The giant in the cave? He's blocking further silver mining. That evil temple over there? Send some Murder Hobos to clean it out and renovate it as an excellent open air mall and dining experience. And that castle owned by one of the Lich Kings? Kill the Lich King, take the castle, and invest in a valuable hotel and resort destination!

But getting Murder Hobos off the ground is expensive. That starting equipment isn't free. They economy requires Murder Hobo patrons.

Murder Hobos are highly speculative investments; if one of the Patron's teams happens to cash out on taking out a high value and annoying monster while the Patron is holding the contract for that land, the bet pays out big. The monster is gone, the land is his, the Patron pays out to the Old Man on his contract, uses whatever he will with the land deal (hint: nothing good), and makes more money to invest in more Murder Hobos. The Patron only needs a handful to pay out to finance his entire enterprise.

The chain starts with speculative investment in Murder Hobos in a hodge podge corporation known as "Adventuring Guilds." Patrons pay up front to clothe, lodge, train, and arm potential Murder Hobos. Trainers group the potential adventurers together into teams who work reasonably well together. This is a non-trivial investment in energy, money and time.

Then, the Patron sends the 1st level characters out into the world while promptly investing in the next set of Murder Hobos. He hopes his teams see the advertisements of the various Old Men with side quests -- the typical rumors, roadside signs, and the people bribed to point Murder Hobos to the local Inn.

And of course, in the example above, the Salt Merchant's Guild has monetary investment and receives dividends on success from the local Adventuring Guild. Not only do they cut a competitor in the goblins, they pick up land, they acquire the already pre-built goblin facilities for harvesting salt, and they receive a payout on guild dues from the Side Questing Murder Hobos. Not bad for their money.

The Murder Hobo Bubble
Once people get hold of this highly unregulated, largely under ground, and puppeted by Bankers financial system, it's a matter of time before anyone with a bit of money invests in the local Adventuring Guilds hoping to cash out on land deals from Side Quests. More Murder Hobos means more shots at completing the quest means reaping more land back from Evil while receiving a payout. And the Old Man doesn't pay out to Murder Hobos unless they succeed in their Quest. It's win-win.

Like all highly speculative markets with no regulation and no sanity, this is bubbly market. Bubbly markets leads to investment mania. And in investment mania, everyone eventually has a good time then loses their pants.

And this example goes something like this…

More people invest in creating more Murder Hobos teams through Adventuring Guilds hoping for more Side Quest payouts from possible futures land contracts while they simultaneously buy into Goblin Land Contract Market. Investors realize they can make money at both sides of the Murder Hobo economic system. And it's not hard to get gullible people to sign up to an Adventuring Guild to feed the investment maw. Being a Murder Hobo is more lucrative than, say, farming or tanning. More deadly, but certainly more lucrative.

Because suddenly it's an Old Man sellers market from the spike in Murder Hobo buyers, payout prices for successful Side Quest completion crash. Hey, it's an elastic price! Instead of 4000 gold pieces, maybe the Old Man can offer 400 gold pieces to passing Murder Hobos and get takers. High Level Murder Hobos pass on these Side Quests (risk to reward is too low; see above on Murder Hobo Risk) but low-level Murder Hobos try for it. Most 1st level Murder Hobos die in their great short-lived 1st level glory but some do level up in time and survive. Land deals cash out at an increasingly frantic pace. The investment cycle lives on.

Meanwhile, the payout price crash means plots for land acquisition under the humanoids balloon – the Old Man will see 90% profit if he can get some 1st leveled Murder Hobos to take his quest and survive. That's too much reward for the risk. More Old Men (where do they come from?) get in on the contracting and selling of currently-owned land business to get a piece of the action.

More Old Men handing out Side Quests means a space crunch in the Inns. They cannot sit next to each other like Side-Quest-giver kiosks. That would be weird. And a space crunch means more Inns which needs more land. No doubt that land is being held by some nice family of Kobolds. It will look fine as an Inn. More quests! More Murder Hobos!

Dwarves running land assessment and appraisal businesses see business boom.

Everyone is in on the game trying to either become a Murder Hobo (easy but quick way to die), get in on shares on Adventuring Guilds (less easy and expensive), taking up space in an Inn as an Official Old Man (few by now actually old or, in fact, men), or speculating on all the ancestral land of the various humanoid and otherwise so-called "evil" species. Inns turn into the Starbucks of the Adventuring world -- Inns are across the street from Inns in towns made entirely of services catering to Murder Hobos and Inns. It is Inns all the way down.

Eventually this happens.

People realize Murder Hoboing is a good way to die and quit trying for easy and quick loot, drying up the Murder Hobo supply;
Side Quests disappear as the hordes of 1st level Murder Hobos destroy the "evil" races;
Old Men run out of money paying interest on loans on land they do not own as real Murder Hobos become scarce;
Inns take up all the land in villages;
Investors no longer seeing big and fast payouts for land contracts exit the market.
Not enough land or murder hobos or speculators are left in the market to support it. People bail out of the market in a panic. Overbuilt Inns go out of business. Old Men go back to retirement. Farmers stop trying to learn how to use a Bec de Corbin. Adventuring Guilds close. Salt Merchant Guilds must contend themselves with selling regular salt. The Goblin Land Contract Market slinks back into obscurity. Professional Murder Hobos are enormously annoyed.

And the Murder Hobo/Side Questing economy crashes. Decades pass before anyone receives any new Side Quests. Murder Hobos are stuck doing the main quest only. Many die on final bosses from being under-leveled in this sad and trying time.

Transmuter Bankers make one hell of a pile of money.

But what of the Old Man?

He's still in his corner of the dark gloomy Inn, shilling out Side Quests for which he can no longer pay.


HappyDaze

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I had not seen that before. I enjoyed it more than the "humor" in AI.

Omega

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Quote from: HappyDaze;1093304
Don't get me wrong, AI isn't at all worth the price being charged for it; I'm just trying to make fertilizer out of the pile of shit I now own. Anybody else own this or looking into using it?

Aside from the business rules I found it to be just short of worthless to me. I just do not like their brand of humor and like it even less live or on Neverwinter.

But you could save some cash and just use the rules from the DMG and I believe Xanathar.

HappyDaze

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Quote from: Omega;1093335
Aside from the business rules I found it to be just short of worthless to me. I just do not like their brand of humor and like it even less live or on Neverwinter.

But you could save some cash and just use the rules from the DMG and I believe Xanathar.

Well, I already bought it, and I don't even regret the purchase all that much; $30 isn't much of a burden for me. For others though, especially if gaming $ are short, that's probably good advice.

Some of the new downtime actions, like exploring territory, can be useful outside of the franchise/adventuring company set-up too. I wish the Backgrounds were a little more generic. I can use Gambler and Failed Merchant (although why it couldn't just be Merchant is beyond me) in most campaigns. Beyond that, Celebrity Adventurer's Scion can fit some games, but Plaintiff and Rival Intern are pretty married to the AI-style of "office humor" game. The spells are largely useless to me, but Fast Friends might get some use. The Verdan race is... I'm not sure what to make of it. I don't like the fluff much, but the crunch is OK.

I do agree that I do not particularly care for the humor that AI uses. I can appreciate sarcasm and wit, but what's in the book really falls flat to me. Maybe it works better when heard rather than read, but I generally don't listen to podcasts all that much and I don't watch videos of people playing games. I've also never player Neverwinter (Nights, right?) so I didn't know that some of this material was from there.

Shasarak

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I do like Acquisitions Incorporated and yet somehow missed this book being announced.

It could be worth a look, certainly compared to the rest of the regurgitated stuff that gets released lately.
There will be poor always,
pathetically struggling,
look at the good things you've got! -  Jesus

HappyDaze

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Quote from: Shasarak;1093354
I do like Acquisitions Incorporated and yet somehow missed this book being announced.

It could be worth a look, certainly compared to the rest of the regurgitated stuff that gets released lately.

If you are already a fan of their humor, then you'll likely appreciate the book more than I do.

I haven't read the set of adventures in the back yet. They are supposed to give you an idea on how to run a game around an AI franchise, but over the next week (hey, I work) I'm going to look at how it might fit into a more traditional game.

finarvyn

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Count me in the "got the book, now what?" camp. I don't find it to be that funny, probably because I never saw the comic it was based upon, and I'm trying to figure out if there is anything I can do with the thing now that I have it. I had kind of hoped (based on the title) that it would be sort of like the Warehouse 13 show from SyFy where you have to go acquire artifacts. I may be able to use it for that, but in a quick skim the book seems more about how to run a franchise instead of what kinds of adventures to run. Still hoping, however, as I read more.
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HappyDaze

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The "adventure" starts off with the PCs confused for an experienced adventuring party by one of the main IA NPCs and then another of the main IA NPCs comes along to... just be there... not fixing the situation? OK, whatever. Now you've got an adventure to go check out a sinkhole in Waterdeep's waterfront where two members of the Watch disappeared. So first we have to have the exploration phase because, no matter what the PCs backgrounds (or Backgrounds, including Urchin), they will be unable to find the location without a guide. Then the guide is thrust upon the characters and, or course, leads them promptly into an ambush (or two). It's like they needed to have "random seeming" non-random encounters inside a civilized city just so we can have the combat phase. Anyways, you get past them to the sinkhole where you have to deal with the Watch. Then you have to assume the silly names of the experienced adventures that they are expecting and act like them (one has a pronounced lisp) to get in the required interaction phase. Next you discover that you're looking for two lost members of the Watch that went into the sinkhole. One is a badass woman and the other is a pathetic man (yeah...) so we can have the Seattle awareness phase. If you get past this part... well, you've gone further than I have.