Suggestion: A penalty for "sacrificing" crew

Hello again,
during my latest play-through I began suspecting something about &quotMenace: Unaccountably Peckish&quot, something that the most experienced zee-captains here I’m sure are already well aware of. What I am talking about would be the fact that &quotUnaccountably Peckish&quot doesn’t represent a &quotmenace&quot at all (from a gameplay mechanics prospective) but instead something purely advantageous to have. And my suspicion got confirmed after googling it up a bit.

That got me thinking about losing crew in general: I, usually, don’t care at all about sacrificing a couple of my crewmen and I, in fact, end up treating them as just another resource; a resource even less critical for my survival than fuel or supplies or even Terror level because the normal &quotwear and tear&quot of the zee doesn’t consume it. In truth, as long as you plan carefully and have a lot of crew available, you can simply &quotwaste&quot zailors however you like only to stop when you are getting too close to the &quothalf crew&quot limit. After that, you can just play conservatively until you get back to London and then recruit new crew members without any sort of consequence.

After writing this, I wrote a somewhat lengthy exposition of why I think this should be changed. I put it as a &quotspoiler&quot in order to make it easier to skip to the point if you’re not interested in my thoughts on the matter.

[spoiler]At first, I thought that this was a clever representation of the historical truth that, on the ships of the past (even a relatively recent past as the Victorian Age would be) the lives of stokers and the like where essentially at the mercy of whatever the captain wanted to do with them (that is, if a mutiny wasn’t organized in the meantime).

But, in SS, you get zee-captains (like my own captains xD) that get their crewmen killed over and over with the crew as a whole not even being disturbed by it as long said captains manage to get Terror under control. This simply doesn’t work. Even more so if you think about those zee-captains (again, like my own captains xD) that turn cannibal and chose to snack over their crew once in a while when &quotthings get a little too rough&quot.

I really think that it’s fine to expect from players to role-play at least a little bit and to choose to act in a certain way only because they feel that it’s &quotthe right thing to do&quot and not because of incentives and disincentives.Truthfully, some great RPGs and story-driven games in general may present choices where &quotdoing the right thing&quot it’s actually disadvantageous regardless of you moral alignment (if the game includes one). In these instances the player may still feel compelled to do so because he’s actively role-playing a &quotgood guy&quot. But, as I discovered playing SS, this doesn’t work as well when said moral choices are not limited to single events (regardless if they have almost no effect on the overall plot progression of the game or if instead they alter the whole course of said plot) but instead are involved in a core game-play mechanic: that is, losing crew when failing certain challenges.

As much as I would like to role-play a &quotgood&quot captain, I only too often end up in situations in which caring for the well being of a crewman is simply too detrimental for my own play-through and this line of thought even extends to something &quotextreme&quot as resorting to cannibalism. I would simply feel &quotstupid&quot by not taking advantage of the opportunities granted by relinquishing the life of a couple of my zailors when said opportunities crop up over and over again. My thoughts on the matter are that this behaviour should be balanced out by having a really disadvantageous consequence to it, in order to &quotforce&quot the player to chose between one of two evils when faced by said situations and &quotrole play&quot accordingly.[/spoiler]
So, my suggestion to the developers is in fact a really simple one: to implement a significant penalty for recruiting new crew members over and over. A good penalty, in my humble opinion, would be to make the Hearts challenge that comes when recruiting crew members in London increasingly more difficult, even to the point of getting to an almost impossible level of difficulty when dealing with particular &quotcallous&quot zee-captains (or, more simply, with cannibals). This could be done by introducing a new &quotMenaces&quot quality that would contrast with the Hearts skill in much the same way that &quotMenaces: Khanganian’s Suspicions&quot contrasts with the Veils skill when trying to Gather a Port Report in Khan’s Heart. A &quotMenaces&quot quality of this type would also be an efficacious way to convey the idea of your captain accruing distrust among the zailors of London because of his ruthlessness (or, as I already said, because of far more terrible reasons wink).

I would be glad to hear the thoughts of my fellow zee-captains on this matter. Thank you for reading.
edited by Blacklight on 3/12/2016

There should definitely be a penalty associated with Unaccountably Peckish. Maybe a Terror multiplier.

One small point - you can lose crew in different ways so unless the increased price is related to Unaccountably Peckish it would penalise people who were setting up a Colony for example.

That’s right! You should also make it so that the difficulty will naturally drop down as time passes.

I strongly disagree. I understand why you want this, and I know that almost every other game does this, but I think it makes a mockery of the concept of &quotselfishness&quot or &quotevil&quot, if you like.

The whole point of being evil/selfish is that you get stuff from it! Being selfless is completely neutered in games where you get equal or greater rewards by being good. How exactly is it &quotselfless&quot to do something nice because you expect to get rewards that are just as good or better than if you were evil?

This is a great quote, because I think it shows the heart of the matter. Because, hey, I guess you learned something about how much you really want to role-play a &quotgood&quot captain! I think that’s an interesting lesson. I myself have done plenty of horrible things in the game just because I thought it would make things better for me, or more interesting. I felt bad about it, but I did it, because I thought it was worth doing. If it wasn’t worth doing, there wouldn’t be anything to feel bad about.

… by whom?

The game does treat cannibalism seriously. There’s plenty of text about how monstrous it is. Mechanically, you’re rewarded for doing it, though. I think that’s exactly the point.

There is no father figure in Sunless Sea to judge you or punish you for being bad. You make your choices, and then you get to live with them. In the Neath, being amoral is a lot easier than sticking to your humanity or your principles. This is a deliberate design choice, and one I really like.
edited by Acrolith on 3/22/2016

I agree. Being tempted into evil, and resisting, is one of the joys of Sunless Sea.

For instance, I blew 1000 echoes delivering live specimens to the Chapel of Lights rather than sacrifice two of my innocent crew.

On the other hand, I also sacrificed a crew member to the honey gardens, but in my mind justified it as the captain’s vengeance for the crew member opening up a box of my sunlight earlier.
edited by Harlocke on 3/23/2016

I haven’t seen an official pronouncement on the issue, per se, but I believe that the possibility to take advantage of the lawlessness of the zee to become a bloodthirsty monster, hunting and killing your fellow human beings for sport and eating their remains, with no specific practical downsides, is working as intended.

For what it’s worth, I’ve managed to keep my ships largely cannibalism-free, even under my less scrupulous captains. It’s just one of my funny little peculiarities.

Late to the party here.

I think it’s interesting that the game punishes incompetence far more harshly than it punishes immorality.

It’s not even clear what “morality” means in a place where Hell is just down the road and is happy to invite you in for tea, people can literally sell their soul for cigarette money, anything death short of being ground into bits isn’t real death, and eldritch monsters are so commmonplace that they aren’t really monstrous.

The people who “fell” along with London might have been surface dwellers with surface morality but once they arrived in the Neath, they and their offspring became something else.

I’ve only resorted to cannibalism once, mainly to see what happened. I think I felt worse, though, about the time I sacrified two crew members to Stone and it rewarded me with five barrels of fuel; just enough to save the ship in the end.

When morality is typically dictated by some kind of religious or spiritual guidepost, what do you do when your gods are real, present, and capricious? Where does the line between morality and immorality exist?

The people we meet in the game who are cannibals for pleasure are repulsive, yes. Dangerous. Frightening. Immoral? It seems like a relative concept in the Neath.

Immorality, by surface standards, is not only unpunished, but sometimes a necessity for survival.

Meanwhile, carelessness and poor planning is punished summarily. I remember one of my captains dieing ignominiously within a stone’s throw of London, due to running out of fuel and being forced to abandon ship. If he’d sacrified a crewman to Storm, he might have survived. Likewise, all of the captains who foolishly attacked some Zee-monster or pirate ship and paid the price for it. Death stalks the incompetent captain. Death turns a blind eye to the immoral captain.

So, I’ve been thinking about this topic a bit more recently, in light of my brief association with the keeper of the gardens in the Isle of Cats. Her patronage ended when I refused to let her have my crewman for “garden maintenance”, as I believe the weeping captain in the brothel puts it.

I guess I’m seeing the original post as being less about cannibalism (which is actually one of the selling points of the game. “Explore. Battle. Lose your mind. Eat your crew. Die.”) and more about reputation.

As I said before, my gut feeling about the Fallen London/Sunless Sea game setting is that the Neath changes people and that surface rules aren’t necessarily applicable.

On the other hand, @Blacklight is still making an important observation about ship morale.

In the Unterzee, a captain is going to be respected, feared and/or trusted based upon his ability to bring a ship home consistently. If that means being willing to do what has to be done, however distasteful, well, that’s life on the Zee. The zailors know when they leave port that Stone, Salt, and Storm are out there and that a captain may have to appease them or worse.

The reason that can work is that the captain is putting the good of the many above the good of the few, even if that sometimes requires him to be repulsive, immoral, and/or insane in the name of bringing the ship home to London.

The flip side, though, is the captain who does treat his crew as resources. The captain who willingly sacrifices crew members for his own personal gain or pleasure. Cannibalism is only one of the many ways that can happen. Sometimes it’s simple recklessness. I remember exploring one of the islands where I was spying for intel for a port report, and making a difficult skill test because, who cared if I failed? Well, the dead crewman ended up caring.

Whether he’s incompetent or he’s a Bluebeard who’s utterly corrupt and psychopathic, word is going to get around about a captain who regularly leaves port with a full crew and returns home with most hands missing.

The ;tldr here - A captain who regularly brings the ship home safe from the Unterzee is likely to be respected despite (or perhaps even because of) his willingness to do the unthinkable if it brings the ship home. A captain who sells his crew for echoes or regularly makes them Zee-monster chow in the name of fun and/or profit is going to be mistrusted, feared, and avoided.

It would make sense for there to be be some sort of reputation that a captain builds up over time that affects how easily he hires new crew for his ship and keeps his existing crew signed on.


I agree, I think a reputation system would be awesome. I just think it should plug into a lot of things, and not be just a clear-cut &quotyou did good so here’s your rewards for that.&quot

Maybe losing a lot of crew members could make it harder and more expensive to recruit crew! But maybe it could also draw you to the attention of the Brass Embassy, for good or for ill. Maybe they have a job for an enterprising zee-captain that doesn’t get hung up on little details like what sort of suffering his actions cause to other.

Obviously, other factions might be more easy to deal with if you’re not known to be heartless bastard. But I do like the fact that there’s a definite temptation to take the dark path in a lot of interactions, and resisting it means making a real sacrifice.

Technically there is one penalty associated with Peckishness - if pursuing Your Father’s Bones as a ex-soldier, there are two possible trophies and which you get is determined by whether you’re Peckish. So if you want that trophy you can’t eat anything risky whatsoever. Not a very big penalty though ;)