I run a D&D game in which my players have built an outpost and are now attempting to "staff" it with craftsmen: Blacksmiths, Farriers and the like.

I want to give them a "choice" and let them pick the "best option" that conforms to a set of options. I am however struggling to come up with options that make the choice difficult, i.e. not to pick the guy with the most income.

Here are the options that I have come up with so far:

Name: Curtis Walls

Experience Level: Low

Description: He’s keen, but new. He certainly has a lot of gusto and told me he even has his own tools. I believe he has been working on the ship iron for the past few years.

Pull to the outpost: Small, 1-2 people a month

Expected outpost income (10% of earnings): 10gp a month

Availability: Can start immediately

My plan was to have four or so options, ranging from "Cheap and novice" through to "experienced but expensive" with a combination of things in between.

My question is what features can I add to these craftsmen that would give them "negatives" or something that would make the choice difficult?

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Dependents, enemies, rivals, bad debts, bad personal hygiene, trouble-making disposition, substance addiction. It feels like the list of potential answers is huge at the moment so you might need to narrow things down rather. And some of those things wouldn't even be immediately obvious. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, I couldn't think of any of those and they are great! $\endgroup$
    – GPPK
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Are these negatives that will be immediately obvious on meeting them or ones that might only be exposed by them providing a service (e.g. slow work/delivery)? $\endgroup$
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 14:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, GPPK. Please note that you can notify one user per comment using the '@<username>' syntax. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Upvoted just for knowing that there's a difference between blacksmiths and farriers :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 17:39

4 Answers 4


NPC species and focus/distractibility characteristics.

In. addition to the typical hiring things which TimB lays out in his comment, you could include D&D specific things, one of which is character species. Suppose you hire an elf blacksmith. He is very skilled and has the potential to bring in a lot of income. But he demands a high salary, and is a diva who only wants to work with other elves, and they are hard to find. If you hire on a human - or worse, a dwarf! - to work in his vicinity, he pouts and works much less than his potential, and might quit without notice. You can work out species specific things to be considered building your staff.

Mechanizing this D&D style more generally I could imagine two D&D NPC characteristics: distractibility and focus (like other D&D characteristic strength, constitution, wisdom etc. I think NPCs have these characteristics too). Distractions relevant to that character would then be totaled up (e.g. new hire for which he has antipathy, work stress, family issues) and he or she would roll a save against being distracted. The converse would be focus, and variables impacting focus would be totaled. Periodically the focus and distraction variables relevant to that NPC employee would be tracked and tallied. Subsequently this variable and their intrinsic characteristic would lead to a roll.

  • distraction - focus = less income and possibly NPC leaves employment. - distraction + focus = more income or other beneficial effects for endeavor. Double positive or double negative means no net effect. Other characteristics (for example wisdom) might be modifiers to the rolls. Once you have that all figured out for an NPC you could automate it.

This approaches sabermetrics as it is applied to baseball. Potential income is only one variable associated with an employee. A employer might want to hire a very high potential income elf and arrange things to optimize her performance. Another employer might hire a bunch of halforcs with low potential income, and nil distractibility because lack of drama and consistency is prioritized.

  • $\begingroup$ I have accepted this answer because I used the focus and distractibility idea in my solution. All answers are useful though. $\endgroup$
    – GPPK
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 14:58

Money is essentially made up in a campaign (how much gold does the dragon have?!?!?). It would probably be more fun for the players if they had to quest to get artifacts to draw people to their town. Or had to quest to find and hire someone of sufficient skill.

Guilds regulate the quality of a good

Anyone can hammer out a sword, but only a black-smith with level 7 certification in smithing can make a "Combat Approved" Sword. Do you heroes want to risk a cut-rate smith when the Goblin King is staring them in the face? Do they want their product's reputation to go to crap because their blacksmith didn't have the certification he said he did?

The leader of the Guild must visit your town and verify the swords produced will be quality. A Lich King that has been disturbed by the new forge could make certification difficult!

Phoning Home

The scholar is looking for a nice place to settle down where he can have a nice house and a big back-yard. But he also wants a library and a sphere of seeing so he can stay in touch with his friends and family back home.

Those Spheres only grow in the deep dark cave. Adventure Time!

Looking to Start Over

The new apothecary was caught making some "Good Time" elixir and selling it under the table. Word was he also might like to have a little of it himself. He's a nice guy who just wants to start over in a new place.

He also might think it was really funny to spike the Solstice Festival drink with some Party Potion - with unpredictable results!


People spend a good amount of time in their real-lives figuring out price-vs-value. It's not usually the fun parts either.

Do you by the low mileage Toyota, or the high mileage Mercedes?

Do you take a fancy consulting job that pays well but means traveling every week or do you keep your current job even though you're budget is a bit tight?

Don't make your characters haggle over stuff like this - it's not fun.

EDIT (in response to comments):

Unless the players are economists (and will have fun arguments over this decision), you're probably better off just choosing an NPC that is near the player's level and letting them occasionally get free/cheap armor upgrade.

I've found that money is usually the least fun thing to role-play as no one ever wants to game as "Phil from Accounts Payable." They want to be "World Class Theif Treegen (who has sticky fingers and a heart of gold)" or something like that.

Realistically, will you ever not let players go to the pub for the next quest because their account is overdrawn?

  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm... Is "Party Potion" just a euphemism for "alcohol"? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your last point. This is actually a player lead downtime activity that they do in RPG chat outside of the sessions. $\endgroup$
    – GPPK
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @thirtythreeforty - Party Potion can be anything from alcohol to a concoction that gives the partygoers wings (red bull), turns the ungrateful towns-folk into trolls for a day, or any other issue the players will have to solve. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 20:59

Perhaps, have the characters have certain characteristics that depend on chance. Eg. every time you collect the monthly 10gp, roll a d20. Different rolls have different outcomes.

So, a certain blacksmith has a tendency to drink.

You roll your d20: 1 - your blacksmith got drunk and injured himself, halving the profits you recieve (5gp) ; 5 - your blacksmith got in a fight with a customer while drunk, lowering store/outpost reputation ; 10 - your blacksmith became drinking buddies with an influential merchant, increasing store/outpost reputation ; 15 - your blacksmith spent the monthly salary on booze, but made plenty of friends in bars (0gp income, +rep) etc.

With this concept, you can get quite creative, and you can even make it lead to an overarching plot in your story (eg. your hired craftsman has a connection with a bandit camp; 1 - he betrays you and you have to fight the bandits ; 2 - the bandits become part of your militia, but now you have conflict with authorities).


Some trades require infrastructure in the town itself.

Choosing, say, a blacksmith requires building a forge and having a good supply of fuel. A town with its own blacksmith will be a boon to residents and will attract both new settlers and customers from surrounding towns who don't have their own. This will boost every business in the town, including construction. But the town might not be able to make the investment needed for the blacksmith to get started and keep going for a few months until s/he is self-sustaining.

A doctor might only come to that town if it can provide her/him a nice house, a job for adult family, and great schools.

A miller would be a wonderful draw for a town and it provides lots of jobs. But how long will it take to re-route the river and make it fast enough to turn the water wheels that power the mill? Can the town build roads from the mill to the center of town? Are there enough farms growing grains to support the mill? Is there a railroad in your world? If so, the mill will need access to it for import and export.


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