Strategic Primer: Morale

One of the features that some players in the current campaign of Strategic Primer have been clamoring for is some model of the effects of morale … or, at least, that their actions intended to boost morale should have some positive effect on the rest of their results.

And, as with cultural factors in general, on this point you’re actually right. We need a system where morale works something like you might expect, and where this has consequences. And once the need for this broke through my resistance (which was largely based on the complexity and difficulty involved in designing and implementing the system and the tools I’d need to manage it) I spent some time thinking about some of the design parameters.

Morale isn’t quite a statistic; there’s little an individual worker could do to improve his or her morale, even in the long term. But it isn’t a standard bonus or penalty, as most modifiers either always stack with other instances of the same kind of modifier or never do, and different morale-influencing effects would stack with each other but usually not with themselves. And, on the gripping hand, it isn’t a typical sum-up-all-the-modifiers derived statistic that is then used for a few things but never itself applied to anything, either; its effects can be felt almost everywhere.

Morale affects performance in battle, of course, but that’s the least of it. Anywhere a worker’s enthusiasm or courage has an effect in addition to the worker’s skill, high morale can improve performance, within the limits of his or her skill and of the Job. Conversely, in any case where inattention, sloppiness, fear, malaise, or a lack of enthusiasm would affect performance—which is practically everywhere—negative morale hinders any efforts.

It’s not a linear thing—improving from “good” to “excellent” morale will probably help more than improving further to “stellar,” I’d imagine—but it’s not limited in either direction by anything more than the principle of diminishing returns. Players can’t “max out” their morale (even if they can accurately quantify it, which would be somewhat unusual in itself) and then go on to apply the extra productivity to something else, and nor can they simply invest in enough equipment or whatever to counteract the (presumed) maximum morale penalty and drive their population like slaves.

Morale will also—once I’ve figured out how to calculate this—have an effect on the rate of population growth. A high-morale outpost grows faster (through immigration and enlistment—remember that the players are playing the role of primarily military commanders, who take an interest in civilian affairs primarily because they are cut off, we presume, from their home, and thus from any hope of reinforcements, resupply, or for that matter orders), while a low-morale post will eventually suffer desertion.

Now, what kinds of things affect morale? There are some temporary effects, like banners and trumpeters in battle, but some of the more permanent factors I’ve thought of are sufficient food (and, better yet, variety), sufficient living space, music or other entertainment, having an (at least minimally enjoyable) job to do, not being required to work overtime too much, and availability of tea and coffee (which wouldn’t stack with each other).

What factors haven’t I thought of? And how could this model I’ve sketched here be improved?

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