A proposed discussion of balance: London Suspicion


I’ve been playing Sunless Sea since a couple months after the Kickstarter, and recently took a little time off to delve into Fallen London as well.

Firstly, I admire the use of a unique menace to curb sunlight farming. I still smuggle sunlight, but it’s no longer a viable long-term income source - more of a gig. You can take one or two dozen boxes and make enough money to upgrade your lodgings, or a ship, if you’re careful and well-prepared. The experience, however, will make your zee-captain a sunlight addict who can’t be trusted to handle the product. The simplest course forward is to stop after too much of a good thing, and quit while you’re ahead. If they stay at zee for a VERY LONG time, they may recover and gradually regain their tolerance - which diminishes with exposure, rather than increasing. Such seems to be the nature of nostalgia, and perhaps why the product is so regulated in the Neath.

Red Honey, however, is still badly imbalanced compared to everything else. The Brass Embassy markup allows a mid-three figure return per vial, and the only necessary adversities are:

[ul][li]A port inspection which can be avoided by expending one’s &quotA Story Awaits&quot quality
[/li][li]Having to wait for that quality in order to purchase the product[/li][/ul]Accruing huge London suspicion menaces when taking large shipments

While a high Suspicion seems fitting for a Honey smuggler, it’s perfectly viable to wander the zee with 100 suspicion.

Such a character should rightly be able to exist - a zee-bound version of the Cheery Man, for example, would also struggle to perform transactions on his own behalf - but it seems implausible that being a criminal involves so few serious punishments.

Some proposals:

[ul][li]Gain 10 or 20 Suspicion, and London will spawn a dreadnought that is hostile to you. Perhaps neddy men chasing a bounty? Something just distanced enough from the dock inspectors that it makes sense why you’re permitted to land even when they were in pursuit. The radius within which it will follow you from London could scale with Suspicion; it scales indefinitely, so if you’ve moved enough honey too recently they’ll chase you all the way to Irem. If a person gained 10 points of suspicion when they were financially desperate for fuel and supplies, or they needed to pay off a certain businessman, this radius wouldn’t extend far, maybe a little short of Gaider’s Mourn.[/li][li]In order to prevent honey smuggling from being THE way to buy your first mansion and dreadnought, hull damage from law enforcement could also scale with Suspicion. This way, a person still using their starter ship will be in very real danger if they try to jump straight to the big leagues in honey smuggling. If they’re knowingly provoking the law, they should need some serious hull.[/li][li]Aggressive terror penalties from shooting down London’s ships; your zailors should be mortified at shooting down their own country’s ships, and taking down multiple Dreadnoughts, even in self-defense, should provoke mutiny. At least 10 points of terror for taking out a London ship, and 20 would encourage even a high-hull, high-Iron smuggler with good weaponry to retreat, taking some hull damage rather than rolling the dice on a crew mutiny. In order to maintain their honey income, they should have to pamper their troops - frequent, lavish shore leaves with good food and conjugal visits so zailors will be similarly reluctant to rebel.[/li][li]Paid suspicion reduction should exist for London, but the price should be MASSIVE and scale inversely with Suspicion. This way, the incentive to &quotturn back&quot and be less of a criminal should grow, while the cost diminishes. Maybe (1000 - (suspicion x 10)) echoes per point reduction, with a floor of 100. So if a former criminal really wants to go straight, it’s in their interests to have some clean port inspections for those last 20 points - a pretty lengthy penance, allowing them to rebuild the trust of dock inspectors. But if they’re rocking 90 suspicion and in very real danger of getting sunk with a few shots from a Dreadnought that has chased them all over the map, a few thousand echoes to some disreputable figures in the government (perhaps some more voracious, disreputable types in the government) should grease the wheels a little bit, allowing the player &quotsafe&quot harbor in the farthest reaches of the zee and taking some of the worst sting out of the funding for those pursuing you. Losing 100 suspicion should take a long time, but 100 clean port inspections is both too long and too easy. If a player lives in a mansion and drives the zee’s equivalent of a tank, then their sins should have more urgent consequences. With enough Iron to fight a dreadnought, enough Heart to get your zailors to port and mollify them, and enough Veils to get away when there’s no desirable outcome, only an expert zee-captain should be able to endure high-level crime, just as there exist more incremental rewards for skill and perseverence in legitimate enterprise.

What do you think of this? Any alternate ideas? Any thoughts, for or against this? I know money is a struggle, but I’ve always felt that survival should be a privilege requiring that a player exploit all options available to them, with assets like a better crew, better ship, better equipment and a better map allowing for more and better income opportunities. Novice captains can and should die easily, and that sweet sweet mark-up on honey should be balanced against comparable adversity.[/li][/ul]
edited by Gerald Edgerton on 7/7/2015

Can’t you only buy one Honey at a time? I doubt London can afford to have a scaling infinitely powerful fleet. The admiralty seems like its already the weakest faction on the Zee.

I reached a point with my last captain where it made sense to take my heirloom and retire; with my current one I’m trying out a career path I’m less accustomed to, so she hasn’t earned the King’s trust yet. That said, last month I used to pull into London with 20 vials of Red Honey, a London Port Report and maybe a load of limestone or Clay Men to boot. My suspicion got so high that the fastest way to clear it was to change captains, and inheriting any stats besides Mirrors/Veils became financially irresponsible. That made it prudent to change maps in between every game, though, which brought back some of that delicious fear that got me hooked in the first place.

That said, if I can make 20k doing something I should also be at reasonable risk of death most of the time I’m doing it.

Yeah, Beatrice is making her way as an utter force in the Game. Her intelligence networks have begun self-funding, and she’s still moving honey effortlessly. She can’t easily resist the opportunity to invest in advancing her crews’ Ambitions, so she can only afford maybe 5 vials at a time right now, but a turnaround of 2k in marginal profits if she pulls into London WITHOUT a Story Awaiting her. Now, if she had been willing to spend a non-refundable 5k instead of just a partially-refundable 500 on her ship’s engine, full speed wouldn’t be necessary to make that run from the nearest port, having waited there for the quality to arise before spending it and immediately setting off.

Alternately, if she were running loads of 10 firkins, it would take a bribe of 500 Echoes - 1.25 units’ worth of transactional profit - to ignore all checks on getting through. The honey also lets her become terribly politically powerful in the Khanate, and in an unforeseeable emergency she can liquidate her honey portfolio in Gaider’s Mourn and break even, even make a modest profit. For RP purposes, she doesn’t like that the authorities know who she is and what she does. That said, her crew depend on her to keep everybody fed and paid, and this funds everything else. Doesn’t take much startup capital either - 2 units of vital intelligence to cover your first buy, or 6 vital intelligences to purchase 3 firkins, if you’d like to comfortably stock up afterwards on food and fuel, with enough capital to invest in a 4-to-5 firkin run next time through. The 5 firkin run will easily fund subsequent runs of 10 firkins, beyond which point pulling you over upon re-entry into London becomes a simply payday - somebody gets 500 Echoes, and you turn around to gross 10k, netting 3500 including product acquisition and repatriation bribe when applicable. One run buys you a fine engine - two run buys you any engine, so eventually you’re nimble enough not to pay the 500. 1-2 runs at 4k will allow for most one-step ship upgrades until you reach the merchant ship. No worries, though, once you have a Frigate, a simple 20-30 vial run will allow for a Dreadnought whenever you’re ready.

Honey is a powerfully efficient boost to spy networks grossing only 300-600 Echoes for multiple gained points of Khanate influence, which cash out at perhaps 600 Echoes if you AREN’T doing business with a certain disreputable figure. Her higher pay rates make a lot of sense when you start taking your maxed- out network for 2-3 consecutive acquisitions of natural secrets. You’ll want to bring coffee by to manage the relevant suspicion, but it’s OK - the honey wouldn’t take up much hold space if it took up any, and it’s not like 1k in coffee to build up a sizable portfolio of the Leopard’s favor is a huge hit in the long run.

So, yeah, considering how long it would take to amass this kind of wealth as a tour guide, explorer of ruins, harvester of dream-snakes, slayer of monsters, merchant or even a pirate, it’s a lot less danger for more money. Waiting around to buy more vials is perhaps the least appealing element, as well as the grisly RP aspects.

I’m not against making this much money, but it would be nice if there were some pitfalls, such as when dealing with the Cheery Man for a lot less money, and a lot more inconvenience and urgency.

Edit: Whoops, I was paying far too much for Khanate Suspicion reduction. Turns out, once you’re doing well enough with the Taimen they’ll accept Strategic Information at a much more favorable rate of return than anything else. So the farther you get ahead in the intelligence game, the farther you tend to stay ahead.
edited by Gerald Edgerton on 8/8/2015
edited by Gerald Edgerton on 8/8/2015

OK, achieving Glorious London Supremacy resulted in the removal of like 50 Suspicion. My character went straight and now only USES red honey, but enjoys fame and notoriety in London, whose devils she supplied with numerous shipments of the horrifying stuff.

Smuggling red honey isn’t that great. Sure the payout is great, but actually getting multiple firkins of the dreamy stuff is a massively boring chore since you have to regain ‘something awaits you’ every time that you want to buy another shipment. And then there is the time that you need to invest in just getting to the Isle of Cats, which has been located in the South-West Corner of the map for me every time. I’d much rather pay a visit to the Mangrove College if I wanted to make lots and lots of echoes.