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One of my players is trying to find loopholes to make lots of money without having to work. His latest idea is as follows:

  • Get a ton of low-to-mid-level NPCs willing (or "willing") to waste a lot of their time.
  • Ensure that all of them have ranks in Craft (books) (any other craft skill will work as well), whether by training them or using a headband of vast intelligence. The player in question is absurdly good at crafting items, so supplying these guys with a crate full of headbands isn't a massive roadblock.
  • Have one of them "practice [his] trade and make a decent living, earning half [his] check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work.".
  • Have the rest of them (say, 100 others) use aid another to give him a +2 on his check each. Assume that they're guaranteed to succeed, by combining ranks and possibly skill focus.
  • The main crafter gets about +200 on his craft check, which he probably gets around a 15 on.
  • The main crafter makes about 108 gp.

The amount of gold you can make on this is directly proportional to how many NPCs you get ahold of:

  • 100 NPCs: ~108 gp
  • 150 NPCs: ~158 gp
  • 200 NPCs: ~208 gp

With 100 guys working away, he can make ~5,635 gp/year without doing anything. He can probably convince them not to need any money, whether by dominating them or being very charismatic or some other means of convincing them to spend their lives making money for him.

I can't really think of a reason why he shouldn't be able to do this, given that all he's really done is invent massive sweatshops, but I would like to ensure that there's nothing disallowing it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would they use aid another rather than simply performing the task themselves? That would earn you an average of 5gp per person rather than 1, and avoids any rules ambiguity. \$\endgroup\$ – AgentPaper Nov 16 '14 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ What's the campaign setting? If homebrew, could you provide some relevant details (e.g. labor unions, guild requirements, suppression of mass production by militant wizards)? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Nov 16 '14 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AgentPaper I mentioned this to him, and he has decided that this is a better idea, which I guess invalidates the rest of the question. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Hydrothermal Nov 16 '14 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Isn't this just the definition of a corporation? \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Nov 16 '14 at 23:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can't make a baby in 1 month with 9 women. My boss seems to think so but there's a limit to helping each other. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Nov 17 '14 at 1:42
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Yes, assuming that you grant the character the innovative ability of Henry Ford.

The key here is in the geometric progression of accelerated crafting, though with less optimism then provided in your question:

You may voluntarily add +10 to the indicated DC to craft an item. This allows you to create the item more quickly (since you'll be multiplying this higher DC by your Craft check result to determine progress). You must decide whether to increase the DC before you make each weekly or daily check.

This increases your craft check result multiplier and requires a higher craft check result. Using the logic here, we will presume that the character hires 300 commoners, for an average +50 bonus. (Half of them succeed in any given aid another.)

Therefore, the craft dc and check can be increased by 150. Presuming the character has 20 ranks (just for round numbers) and is producing antitoxin in an assembly line, that's (20 (ranks + bonuses) + 10 (taking 10) + 150) * (150+25) = 31500 sp. Wholesale price is 15750. Ingredient cost is a flat third of the original, leaving us 5250 sp. Paying a better than living wage to your workers is 6 sp leaving us 3750 sp profit. Which isn't bad for a week of work, and can lead to infrastructure improvements like masterwork tools.

The real challenge here is answering "why this character?" Technological innovations tend to happen across a whole of a society based on base knowledge and social needs (see technological innovation and railways, weaving machines, etc...) With this innovation, your game will turn in a much more Urban Fantasy direction (see Max Gladstone's novels) and will focus on the logistics of fantasy factory work.

While a game about the social disruption of factory work could be fascinating, and feature significant options for intrigue as opponents try to sabotage the factory, hire assassins, etc, it may not be the game you're going for.

At the end of the day, you may simply want to ask the player to stop, as his idea is thoroughly modern and violates genre conventions. It assumes a modern philosophy of technology and modern technological practices without any of the historical or genre precursors.

With that said, there are plenty of ways of breaking the economy, (wall of iron/wall of salt sold at wholesale) and you should come to a compact with your players that breaking the economy of the game isn't that much fun.

If the player insists on taking some or all of the earnings of people he has control over, he shouldn't aspire to be a business. He should aspire to be a lord. The power to tax is so much simpler than the power to run an economy-breaking business. It also is genre appropriate and leads to plenty of interesting adventures. Furthermore, you can control the amount of tax realised to not completely break the assumed mechanical constraints of the current desired power level.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As a note, the OP's player is looking to have them "practice [their] trade and make a decent living, earning half [their] check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work.", which pays out much, much worse than actually crafting items and doesn't benefit from geometric advancement. This is purely a better method, however, and probably the closest reasonable thing to what the OP's player has suggested. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 16 '14 at 23:29
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There is nothing, rules-wise, that prevents him from doing this, but he should probably have his alignment moved towards evil as a result. It's also a really inefficient method of making money, and if he's actually trying to make money (as opposed to setting up a purposely inefficient slave labor system just to be evil) but so lazy he wants not to have to have any part in it at all (if he's willing to do even just a modicum of ongoing work see this question) you should direct him to any number of other methods, like having his slaves make separate craft checks, owning an actual business (where the workers make money too, and produce goods rather than gold), taking an 'apprentice'.

Also, while starting this kind of system is not prohibited rules-wise, it is the kind of opponent mid-level adventurers take on, and his activities will be fairly obvious as these kind of Craft checks can only be made in a settlement and noticing that a person is effected by domination magic requires only a DC 15 Sense Motive check. Furthermore, if he leaves no money to his slaves at all, which it sounds like he is doing, they will die of starvation eventually, though this will take some time and he can always get more.

As a note, 'Charisma', i.e. the Diplomacy skill, won't work for this, as the DC of the Diplomacy check increases by 5 for each task he forces his slaves to complete and Diplomantic minions only stay enslaved for 1d4 hours per check without GM discretion (though he can bind all his slaves as a single group). Also keep in mind that Diplomantic slaves are vulnerable to the use of the Diplomacy skill not just of other Diplomancers but also that of random passerby, and that the attitude of a Dimplomantic Minion is not fixed by his initial Diplomacy roll for binding but rather can decrease afterwards if the situation warrants (e.g. as they and those around them start falling over dead from starvation because they are being worked to death). If mastery of the Bluff skill is part of his skill in the Dimplomantic arts, this becomes much more feasible, but his minions will probably all be completely insane.

In my games, the Paladin Order stops these kinds of mockeries of Lawful society, violently. In other peoples games that I have played in, Diplomancers are not allowed (though it is RAW supported and seems to be RAI encouraged given the plethora of feats, traits, and racial abilities that only interact with the Diplomacy skill and provide flexibility to Diplomancy.) and domination schemes like this are likely to be rejected as 'too powerful' by GM fiat (though, as pointed out above, this is really VERY inefficient and pretty much only good for establishing oneself as a wannabe BBEG).

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He can't do that without you explicitly allowing it by GM fiat.

Before we dive in, I wanted to stress an important point: one of your responsibilities as a GM is to use your judgment - a player should never use rules-lawyering to force you into introducing something which you consider game-breaking into the game - if you feel that this is the case, than no matter what the RAW say, you and your group should discuss this offplay and agree not to go to such directions.

In the specific scenario you've described, however, there are also several places where the RAW themselves will deny your player from achieving his "money for nothing" scheme:

1) RAW of 'Aid Another' for skill checks

First, take a look at the Aid Another rules for skill checks:

Aid Another

You can help someone achieve success on a skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort. If you roll a 10 or higher on your check, the character you're helping gets a +2 bonus on his or her check. (You can't take 10 on a skill check to aid another.) In many cases, a character's help won't be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once.
In cases where the skill restricts who can achieve certain results, such as trying to open a lock using Disable Device, you can't aid another to grant a bonus to a task that your character couldn't achieve alone. The GM might impose further restrictions to aiding another on a case-by-case basis as well.

(All emphasis mine)

Note, that the rules state that:

  1. The default assumption is that on many cases, assistants won't help (or only a limited number of them do).
  2. The GM may impose further restrictions on a case-by-case basis.

So, RAW mandates that any case of getting help from Aid Another requires GM's approval.
This unusual case of 100+ assistants definitely qualifies as a "special case" requiring GM discretion.

2) RAW for coercing people through Diplomacy

Let's say your player figures he can ask each assistant to make a craft check of his own instead (or find some other scheme bypassing the Aid Another issue), using diplomacy won't work for his "prolonged slave labor" because:

  1. While the base DC modifier for "Give lengthy or complicated aid" is just +5, he'll have to continuously ask his assistants for aid, and any "Additional requests" raise the DC by +5 per request. So the DC will become unmanageable very fast.
  2. If he won't compensate his workers they'll start resenting him, leading their attitude down to Indifferent and later Unfriendly (if he plan on working them to death it'll happen much faster...), and since:

    Any attitude shift caused through Diplomacy generally lasts for 1d4 hours but can last much longer or shorter depending upon the situation (GM discretion).

    He won't be able to improve his slave's attitude long enough for them to willingly work for a week.

  3. Finally,

    Some requests automatically fail if the request goes against the creature’s values or its nature, subject to GM discretion.

    It's reasonable for you to declare that asking people to work without compensation for a long period of time is "against their values", and no amount of sweet-talk will make them play along with that. Having a high Diplomacy is not some kind of domination magic - there are some things you simply can't convince people to do.

3) Other considerations

From a narrative perspective, in a setting with a medieval level of technology, having more than a handful of assistants won't help - you can't really coordinate their actions efficiently, they'll get in each other's way, and the tools, materials and partially completed products won't be standard enough to effectively combine the output of 100 people into one complete product.

Moreover, even if it was possible for your player's PC to create some sort of assembly line arrangement to make mass production feasible, this still goes strongly against the genre. So, unless this is where you as the GM and the entire group of players wish to take your game to, you should probably just agree (off-play, around the table) that you won't - it's a pretty standard part of the social contract of fantasy RPGs anyway...

Finally, as the dark wanderer explains in his answer, doing something along the lines of this would probably be considered evil, and at any rate will be frowned upon by the general public - it will be difficult to hide - and such schemes are a classic act of the protagonists (which PCs are called upon to punish). If that PC goes on with something like that - he is asking for all sorts of trouble, and if he has any measure of common sense is probably aware of that - and you should inform the player of that...

Hope this helps, and goodluck with your game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "So, RAW mandates that any case of getting help from Aid Another requires GM's approval." Well, no. Most cases of getting help from aid another can be revoked by GM fiat without the GM violating the rules. That's different than GM fiat being required for the task to be allowed, and the task is allowed without restriction by default. The rules do suggest that the GM consider whether the number of assistants actually helps, but this isn't a case where the number of assistant's should be limited, particularly since they are working together to make a living, not crafting a single item. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 20 '14 at 10:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer - The point is that aid another assumes GM discretion - whether the action is allowed by default (and can be vetoed) or requires approval to begin with is splitting hairs, especially when it must be discussed with the GM anyway as part of normal course of play. Contrast, for example, with a player who declares his character is attacking another PC - in that case, there really is nothing rule-wise preventing him from going through with it. While in our case, the rules explicitly leave room for arbitration. Of course, GM fiat is always available, even for the PC vs PC case... \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Nov 20 '14 at 12:10
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Mostly addressed elsewhere already but there are so many problems with the idea its unreal.

Getting people to do work that makes you money is totally reasonable. We call it a job. Of course, unless you're providing your employees something they can't provide for themselves they have no reason to work for you. Diplomacy is not mind control and it definitely does not turn people into slaves. At best you'd be using it to negotiate their salary and benefits but unless you're providing them something they can't get on their own, they might as well just do the work for themselves and pocket all the money. Following from that, as soon as they can afford to work for themselves they will unless you provide them incentive not to; at which point they are costing you money instead of earning it.

Logically, you can't have that many people assist a single action. And you wouldn't want them to. A typical craftsman might be able to make use of between one and three people. A bookbinder might have one apprentice handle the construction of the boards and spines and another might handle folding the sheafs for binding. A journeyman might handle the actual binding while the master tools the covers or vice versa. But any more than that and you end up in assembly line territory which require interchangeable parts and removes the artisan aspect of the work. Of course, mechanically you wouldn't want to do that anyway since an average person (+0) can earn 5g a week instead of the 1g their assistance would provide. Of course that's because the system isn't realistic, but moving on...

You also need enough room to host those 100 people. And everything they need to do their job. Consider the example of a blacksmith. A single blacksmith needs at least a 10x10ft room to fit their forge, anvil, tools, quenching trough, and still have enough room to avoid burning themselves. So assuming you can find a way to reasonably tile all that without additional space between you'd need 10,000 square feet. Of course that's ignoring the need for footpaths and break facilities. That's going to take a pretty hefty chunk of your profits to rent (assuming you can find 10,000 sq. ft. of blacksmithing space in one place) or an even larger downpayment. I suppose if your setting has lots of unowned space you could build your own but getting the equipment to do it is still going to be a pretty hefty chunk. And then you have to build somewhere for 100 people to live. Facilities. Food. It's just a huge mess.

Oh, the economy! Supply and demand, folks. The baseline for profits assumes that you are adding a single person's products to the economy for a small period. If you add 100 bookbinders to the workforce, who's going to buy the books? The bookbinders certainly aren't going to pay you more than they earned to buy their own books. And no single town is going to need 100 bookbinders' books, especially not in a roughly medieval setting. Now, you could always set up a work town (like a Virginia mining town or Pittsburg with its old steel mills), but then you have to consider how you get your products to the consumer. You'll need to purchase carts and beasts of burden to carry your supplies. If you have to transport the goods any distance, you'll need multiple teams per cart so your beasts don't die from the exertion. You'll also need to hire drivers and workers to load and unload the carts. You'll need to purchase and transport food for beast and man, as well as emergency repair supplies. And all of that leaves aside that most people will not need to repurchase significant quantities of the same non-consumables, meaning that you'll have to keep going farther and farther for business opportunities. And, of course, you're probably going to have to underbid the local producer.

In short, anyone with the start-up capital could do this even in real-life on one scale or another. But there's a number of pretty good reasons new production efforts are generally limited to new product types or come after years of an over-priced monopoly with poor service.

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