Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hidden Jobs

In every profession there are “hidden jobs”. These are the jobs (in a big company) or the tasks (in the smaller ones) that those of us not in those professions never think about. For example - Most of you have an understanding of credit cards and how they work. You would not be surprised to learn that in today’s culture, most credit card decisions are made by computers. You might even think that there must be some math/economics whizzes in there deciding what the computers will allow and what they will reject. But did you know that there is actually a profession for the people who translate the economics into something the programmers can understand and then translate the IT speak back into something the economists can understand? It’s a hidden job.

Why does it matter? We published 100 Professions to give GMs and players an idea of what kinds of things their PCs could be doing when not adventuring. But we did not put in a whole bunch of hidden jobs. In fact we avoided it. Why? Because it seemed to be far too specific and to be honest fraught with things that people would argue with us about.

But these jobs matter, because paying people to do these hidden jobs runs up the cost of ... well ... everything. Additionally, when you’re thinking about how many people you have in your cities, you need to think about some of these hidden jobs. There are way more people working in that brewery than you are thinking about.

Examples: all the janitors or other cleaning staff; accountants and bookkeepers even in labor jobs; pay masters and those who protect them; mechanics and other fix-it folk who maintain the machines being used - everything from the fabric looms to the mills; the toolmakers who make scissors, soup ladles, and steel anvils; runners of absolutely all kinds - the people (kids) who are bring supplies to workers or delivering messages or even product around the city; the secretaries and other assistants who take notes, keep schedules, and do just about everything for the big thinkers and other bosses.
Let’s stop on this one for a second. I assume that the vast majority of you reading this are younger than I am, so we’re all in the same boat on this one. Ever see a movie like 9 to 5 where they have this huge room filled with people (women) typing? Yeah, we don’t get that. None of us ever worked for a place that didn’t have some manner of word processing. None of us ever worked for a firm that actually did their books on four column accounting paper. We don’t get, but your parents or maybe grandparents understood a work force that is incredibly different from ours. That’s one or two generations ago. Think back to the time before Ford and his assembly line. That’s the day and age you need to think about for your fantasy cities. Every wagon part is hand crafted for this particular wagon. You cannot go to the wagon part store and get something that will replace what you have, because everything is custom built and a little bit different in size. Even bricks are little bit different in size and might not fit where you want them to. Maybe that all makes sense to you, but I have to stop and think it through nearly every time, because I have never lived in a world like that.

What’s the moral of this story? When you think about a blacksmith’s shop and you think that the blacksmith either works alone or with an apprentice, you’re probably missing the point in a big way. He might have one apprentice just for pumping the bellows on the forge, one apprentice for tending to the horses before he shoes them (yes, I know that’s a farrier and not a blacksmith), a journey man who helps him hammer, and another apprentice who holds the object with the tongs. Early this morning, those three apprentices may have had to carry a couple hundred pounds of coal into the shop and stack it in the bin, in addition to filling the water barrels (for drinking and otherwise) or whatever else they are quenching in (assuming they do that). Someone had to deliver the coal, someone had to put it wherever it is now (even if that meant shoveling it off the wagon), I could go on all day on this stuff and barely scratch the surface.

So what do I do? Well, most of Grain Into Gold was based on statistics from an era before the modern age (could be the year 1000 through early 1700s) on how much work got done in a day. More recent work has often been based on minutes/hours required by re-enactors or in some cases actually information from the proper era. But when I use minutes/hours to craft a specific item, I assume that they are only getting 7.5 hours of work done in a typical 10 hour work day. Why? because I am trying to compensate for all those hidden tasks that I don’t know about. This is why you would rather buy Board Enterprises supplements then try to figure all this stuff out yourself. We’re not just pricing an apple at one copper coin because it sounds good. We’ve figured out how many apples the guy can grow in a year and what he needs to sell them for in order to not go broke before the next harvest season.

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