11 December 2011

A Skilled Leader

I’ve seen a few questions about the named leaders, so I’ll amplify a bit on what’s in the manual.

By the way, named leaders are considered nobles (thanes), and are counted as such in the Clan screen.

Each leader is rated in seven skills. These are actually numbers, but rather than report them as 3.3 or 5.12, they’re categorized
Very Good

Normally any skill less than Good isn’t listed, to make things easier.

In the normal course of events, leaders gradually improve, until age 50. Elders may lose their Combat edge as they get older. (Once in a while characters can lose — or gain — skill in other ways.)

So what are those skills good for?

The quality of the advice someone gives depends on their skills. For example, Vordessa (with Very Good in Animals) can probably give reasonable advice about situations involving cattle health. But someone with a Renowned skill will probably have additional insights. The game favors the best advice, so depending on the situation, Vordessa will more often be giving Combat advice (since it’s Excellent) rather than Animal-related advice.

Leaders are sometimes explicitly tested in their skills. For example, the “Uralda’s Blessing” heroquest is hard because the quester must have a good enough Combat skill to survive the biting things. Or an interactive scene may let you pick who fights a duel or acts as an emissary. Depending on the situation, the game may only let you choose from characters who are likely to succeed. For example, if you won’t succeed unless you have a good bargainer, the “pick leader” dialog will only show characters above a certain level. (What skill is tested is not always obvious, and in fact more than one skill may be important, so you might want to sort the list several ways before picking.)

Leaders are also tested when they act as the clan’s agent. When you pick a response, somebody actually has to perform (or lead) the action. For example, this OSL code

Response 5: “We will go with you, but your clan will owe us a favor.”
# Calculate clan relationship bonuses
test Bargaining vs. Bargaining d5 + 1 + n, bonus: b

means that the leader with the best Bargaining skill makes the test on behalf of the clan. (The second “Bargaining” indicates that certain treasures or magic come into play.)

So the skills are quite important. You want leaders on the ring who can give you good values in each of the seven skills.

On the other hand, you also want seven different religions represented on the ring. This matches Orlanth’s first ring, and thus gives magical benefit. There are also times when a leader’s religion gives you additional options, like in this OSL code

[UroxOnRing] Response 6: Conduct a ritual to sense Chaos.

So picking a clan ring is a tradeoff.

Finally, no discussion of clan leaders should leave out their personalities. Everyone is an individual, with an aptitude for poetry, hatred of elves, or a solitary streak. This will color their advice (as they can’t resist from promoting their agenda), or drive their actions. Check out any statements a leader makes when you tap them in the Reorganize dialog, or watch for trends in their advice.


  1. One thing that bothers me about the IOS version is that on iPhone, when I'm re-arranging the Clan Ring, as I have to do every time I start a new game, there's not quite enough vertical room for the interface to show the entire skill list, so for each Noble whose skills I want to examine, I have to manually scroll him or her down to see the least-alphabetized skill names, usually Magic and Plants. Also, if I can't remember what god the symbol stands for, then that's another reason for having to scroll down.

    I have an idea how to make the iPhone interface slightly more tolerable here: Instead of showing the skills sorted in alphabetical order by name, so that Animal always comes first, at the top, and Plant always comes last, at the bottom, sort them according to skill level, so that the best skill is always at the top, and the worst skill is always at the bottom. That way, any Heroic skill(s) will always be at the top of the list, and any Fair skills will always be at the bottom. Information is sorted in order of importance and relevance, instead of according to arbitrary alphabetization. What matters is what skills any given noble is adept at.

    This means that in many cases, the only need to scroll each individual noble down, to see more info, on the Clan Ring screen, is if you can't remember what god the noble's symbol stands for, and that problem will lessen over time. I'm able to recognize most symbols now, for instance.

    The only problem I can see with this implementation is that with the new sorting, the interface might reveal subtle details that you might (or might not) prefer to keep hidden. Behind each verbal rating there is a more exact numerical value, so to take an example we might have a noble who is shown as Excellent in both Animals and Plants, so both his numerical values fall within the range for Excellent. In this case, the order in which Plant and Animal are shown will reveal which of the two he's best at, so if Animal comes first on the list, then we can know that he's slightly better, a tiny bit better, at Animal than at Plant.

    I really don't think that's a problem. But you might disagree, which is why I'm mentioning it. Also, if you do think it's a problem, it shouldn't require much programming to add an extra layer to the sorting method, so that such subtle exact value differences are not revealed, but instead within each range band, e.g. all skills marked Excellent, sorting is according to alphabetical order instead of exact value (so that Animal: Excellent always comes before Plant: Excellent, even if Plant is a couple of points higher).

    1. I typically sort by Plants if I want to find the best farmer for the ring. And I think a consistent order is probably preferable, since you see it elsewhere as well (for example, when assessing advice, or checking on a leader in an interactive scene).

  2. It's a particular problem on the Ring composition screen, because of the cramped iPhone screen. And note that often it's valuable to find Ring members who have *combinations* of traits, for instance an explorer with good Combat and Bargain, or a good poet with good Custom and Leadership.