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A Stately Pleasure-Dome Decree

It turns out that aren't all that many classic rock songs about constructing things, so this week we turn to more literary inspirations for our blog title: In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree... Creating player settlements and choosing the buildings your settlement constructs is one of the unique features of the Pathfinder Online game. While it may be easier to wave your hand and decree that your minions build whatever you want, we think it's a little more interesting if players have to think hard, plan ahead, and cooperate to get the most out of their settlements. This week, designers Tork Shaw and Lee Hammock take a look at buildings and building construction.

The Basics of Buildings

Buildings are structures created in a settlement. They include workshops where characters can use various crafting skills, training halls where characters can learn various martial or magical combat skills, commerce and storage structures such as marketplaces and banks, defensive structures that improve the settlement's guard force or strengthen its defenses against direct attack, and a variety of special-use structures that serve a variety of purposes. Low-level buildings are relatively cheap to construct, but they offer limited benefits and are easy to destroy. As a settlement invests in improving a building, the building "levels up" and provides better benefits and more expanded capabilities.

Settlements in Pathfinder Online are essentially groups of plots into which buildings are designed to fit. These plots are grouped into several large districts, each with its own potential building sites for buildings of various sizes. Some structures gain a benefit from sharing a district with other structures of similar or linked purpose. Settlement layouts aren't grid puzzles like the game Cathedral; they're more like planned subdivisions with curving roads, some predefined open spaces and lots of various sizes. The largest and most important buildings can't all be crammed into the same district, but deciding which buildings you want, which districts to put them in, and which plots in the districts to build on will provide settlement leaders with plenty of customization options.

Building Size and Appearance

As you might expect, higher-level buildings are visibly more impressive than their earlier versions. In general, the upgrade path for a building will look like the core, permanent structures are remaining in place and being improved, while temporary structures are replaced with more permanent ones—for example, a basic wizard tower may just be a one-story round building with a fence and sheds, but as it gets upgraded, the tower gains additional floors and the minor structures in the surrounding yard are replaced with additional wings or stone outbuildings.

Buildings come in four major sizes, based on the size of plot they require in the settlement district layout.

  • Large Buildings are the major structures of the settlement, and include the town's hall, buildings that host training functions for multiple character roles, and buildings that grant a major benefit or capability to the settlement (such as an important marketplace or a barracks to house a strong garrison of NPC guards). A settlement can only have a couple of large buildings, so deciding which large buildings to construct is how you decide what your settlement is going to do.
  • Standard Buildings are more specialized and limited than large buildings. While a large building might support several related character roles, a standard-sized building normally provides training for one specific character role. Like large buildings, standard buildings play an important role in specializing a settlement—no settlement can have all the standard-sized buildings at once.
  • Small Buildings fill out the types of structure that are more or less essential to every settlement such as crafting and other skill-related facilities. In addition, minor services such as post offices, alliance outposts, and buildings designed to augment a specific larger building are usually small buildings.
  • Support Buildings are primarily decorative structures that serve to give visual interest to the settlement and provide a bonus to the settlement's development indexes. They take a plot of about the same size as a small plot, but often don't fill the whole space, which leaves empty gathering space in even a fully packed settlement.

Initiating Construction

Players with the appropriate level of settlement permissions are able to initiate the construction of structures from the mayor's desk in the settlement's hall. Normally, these will be characters who are assigned to a settlement leadership position. To build a structure, an authorized character must select an available plot on the settlement map, choose the type of building to build there, and meet all the necessary prerequisites. Building requirements usually include minimum DI (development index) ratings, prerequisite buildings, or more rarely a specific settlement alignment or faction standing . When the desired building is chosen, the appropriate resources are set aside, and players can sign up for the construction of the building.

When the building request is initiated, the designated construction materials are immediately reserved in the settlement bank. These materials cannot be removed from the bank by any means other than completing or cancelling the construction. The settlement's leadership may cancel construction at any time; doing so frees up the remaining materials in the bank, but a proportional fee is paid out of the reserved materials and funds for all work already carried out on the project.

Requesting a building construction causes a job to be posted on the settlement job board, along with the proposed payment for the project (see below). A flag also appears on the chosen plot, from which players can join the construction process. A minimum skill requirement for each structure is also set. This is initially determined by the structure itself but can be increased by the settlement if they wish. A settlement may restrict job access to members. Once at least one player has signed up to work on the building, the construction process begins. A character can only work on one structure at a time, and cannot be involved in working on another structure or crafting an item. However, the character is free to go adventure or travel—you can safely assume that when you're not online, your character is contributing to the construction effort.

During construction, the appropriate skill levels of all characters working on the building is totaled each day, and added to an ongoing progress score. When that total equals or exceeds the amount needed to complete the building, it is completed. When the process is complete the reward money put up for completing the structure is divided among all those character who contributed to its completion according to their contribution and subject to the minimum fee (see below).

Once the building is complete, a finished version appears, and players may interact with it normally. Structures that cost DI (development index) reduce settlement DI as soon as construction begins, but structures that add to DI only grant their DI bonus when construction is complete.

Upgrading structures from one level to another is initiated in the same way: The settlement's Powers That Be identify the building to be improved, reserve the necessary materials, and put up a job posting or building flag to invite other players to take part.

Building Prerequisites

All structures have a number of prerequisites. First, most structures require the settlement to commit some amount of Development Index (DI) to the building. Large, high-level buildings naturally cost more DI than small, low-level ones. DI isn't really spent so much as it's allocated, but the effect is the same—the settlement must have the available headroom in the necessary DI or DIs to initiate construction. The necessary architectural plans must also be available in the settlement's storage.

Buildings also require significant amounts of physical construction materials. To begin construction, the settlement must have the necessary materials available in its bank. When the construction job is posted, these materials are earmarked for the job, preventing them from being removed from the bank by any means except construction until construction is completed or cancelled. For some structures, the necessary materials may include special items or unique materials that require unusual effort to collect before construction can begin.

Constructing or upgrading a structure requires workers of the building's minimum skill level. You'll need some sort of work force, after all. For a lot of low-level buildings, those skill requirements are negligible—it's easy to find people who can work on simple buildings. But the higher the workers' skill, the faster and more efficiently the building will be finished.

Finally, the settlement must be prepared to pay for the work performed, so the settlement bank must also contain in full the total fee to be paid on completion of the project. This, like the construction materials, is locked down into escrow when the job is posted, and cannot be retrieved unless the job is cancelled. When setting this fee, the settlement must also set a minimum fee each participant will earn. This automatically determines the initial maximum number of participants on the build (total fee / minimum fee). A project cannot take on additional builders if this limit reached, unless some subsequently drop out of the project. A portion of this minimum fee proportional to the character's contribution is paid for any PC involvement in construction, even if construction is cancelled before completion. The minimum payment is modified by the percentage of construction time a player was involved in production, so players who join the project later will receive a reduced minimum payment, and are notified of this. It is always beneficial to get onto a project as early as possible.

Building Materials

Construction requires large quantities of relatively low-grade material—you're not looking for the perfect stave of wood to make an awesome bow, you need simple planks to make a floor and shingles to keep out the rain. Most construction materials are harvested by point-of-interest structures such as mines, quarries, or logging camps in wilderness hexes near the settlement, and aren't good for anything except the construction, upgrade, and maintenance of buildings. These materials include Bulk Wood, Bulk Stone, and Bulk Minerals. In a pinch, construction materials can also be created by standard player harvesting of naturally occurring resource nodes, but the exchange rate of low-quality crafting materials to bulk wood or bulk stone is pretty inefficient.

While a construction task is in process, the materials necessary to complete construction are reserved in the settlement bank and cannot be removed unless construction is cancelled. Each day at midnight, a percentage of the materials locked down for all ongoing construction projects is taken from the settlement bank. The percentage taken reflects the percentage towards completion the structure has achieved that day.

As always, please remember that this discussion reflects our current broad design intentions. As we implement these rules and systems, we may find that things don't work the way we thought they would and require changes or reassessment.

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