How to play a town leader
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Knowing your community
There are different kinds of towns. Some are based on individualism and everybody does what they want - this kind of towns don't care much for having a leader. The leader or leaders come to power in various ways, there is no one defined way as how to climb (if there is) a ladder to become the leader of a town. They have various duties as the leader, here are some examples given by the people: to help the newspawns get adjusted, issue building permits or take care of selling abandoned houses, decide what to do with the items of the dead people and take care of things that affect the community as a whole.
Then there are close-knit communities that work like a single family or a company. The town leader may be responsible for starting projects, keeping a stock of resources and sending resource runners on their way.
When a new town leader rises to power, they might have some revolutionary ideas as to how things are to be run which usually don't turn out well, in general, people like the things the way they are so it's better to make slow transitions.
A good town leader knows their people and is aware of their personal goals and needs. Cantrians tend to prefer doing everything on their own, so you might have trouble shifting people to work for the community instead of themselves even with equal or better pay.
You naturally need to be aware of the resources and machinery a town possesses, so that you know what you have and what you need. With the various towns comes the various ranges of assets that can be found in them; You can come across a town with few buildings, one devoted to public machines or find a town with many buildings that contain machines but you ultimately end up finding that there are various buildings with the same machines that really don't get used. Likewise, people tend to gather resources and tools in private stashes and might be ready to hand or lend them out, if someone just asked.
Keep in mind that you don't need to be a town leader forever.
If your town borders a sea, it's likely to get a lot more visitors and will be more lively than inland communities. But this involves the risk of getting hit by pirates and it's good to think ahead for these situations.
Non-coastal towns tend to be more peaceful, but that is not to say they are without danger. You have to take the good with the bad.
The amount of control that a leader exerts on his or her citizens depends entirely on their leadership philosophy, but it is impossible to govern a town without having some kind of power. The leader of a town will presumably have access to all the resources, tools, weapons and machinery owned by the town. This is what gives them the power to govern their town.
To leverage this power and use it to run your community effectively, you must be aware of the loyalties and ambitions of all members of the community. If it is likely that somebody has aspirations to usurp your leadership, kidnap people or steal from the town, it would be best to take steps to insure minimal damage done by taking steps you see fit to restrict their actual fighting power. Similarly, if any of your people have proven their loyalty to you and gained your trust, trust should be reciprocated in any manner you see fit, being great access around the town, resources, etc. Trust, as you'll learn, is best earned and not given away.
Relations with neighboring towns
Resources and trade
A town may be self-sufficient when it comes to food, but they generally need to import at least something to be able to carry out various projects. Towns have their own resources and some can have certain resources that can be in demand which will make trades much easier for the town. Like most things, there is a wide range of resources which not only vary in rarity but also in value and it is up to you to figure out in the game what is the best local resource, if any, to exploit. Cantr is constantly growing and a resource that was once worthless can become the most prized around the world.
You generally try to export things to towns that don't have the resource in question or don't have the machinery to gather it as effectively as your town does, and you import from places that offer the best trade rates. Trading can be good for a town, but sometimes it can backfire; a town you thought friendly may use your own resources against you, so make sure to forge strong relationships.
If your town is known as a friendly place with fair trade rates, people are more likely to visit. Also if you maintain good relations with your neigbours, they're likely to assist you in stopping thieves or offer support if you get attacked by pirates.
Then there are communities that prefer to look tough and not have anyone dare to mess with them. Towns like this may be hated by their neighbours but if you let them know that you're fair with people who obey your laws, good people have no reason to feel threatened. Helping neighbouring towns to take down criminals will earn you more respect and people will turn to you in their hour of need.