The Hermit’s Dilemma: The Price of Privacy in TribeNet

The world is a dangerous place, with perils and calamities lurking around every corner. It seems a prudent decision, at times, to cut off all ties to the outside world, ensconce oneself behind a fortress of stone and obscurity, and hope to go unnoticed and unmolested by the teeming troubles beyond the gates.

The idyllic life of a Hermit, unfettered by societal obligations, diplomatic responsibilities, or contractual bonds with outsiders is, for a rare few, a consummation devoutly to be wished. Without the bondage of external expectations and resource demands, the modern day Chief is completely free to do as he sees fit, whenever he sees fit, without concern for approval, or admonition, from others.

His own plot of land staked out; his populace together and content; his herds grazing freely on native pastures; the hum of his personal industry drifting between the huts and hovels of his village…what more could a Chief desire or expect? It seems a perfect life, even a prima facie Utopia. But, dear reader, gather, and surmise….

Those perils, calamities, and teeming troubles outside are unconcerned with his happiness, his herds, or the thickness of his stone walls. They want inside, and they will chip away at his defenses until they breach the facade, leaving his population bare and exposed.

Hunters encounter foul weather and dismal returns. Crops fail or are left too long upon the vine. Herds dwindle and stray. Scouts and elements fail to return home. Iron and coal stockpiles are depleted. Generally, things fall apart.

These “inconveniences”, when suffered one at a time, can be troublesome. Compounded, they can turn deadly. Populations starve, cattle-driven industry grinds to a halt, and the rum supply vanishes, leaving your population with little recourse left to them but death or revolution.

Even in the best of times, when everything appears to be swimming along at a leisurely pace, the home-body Chief may find that his population is simply not large enough to hunt, farm, herd, mine, refine, and produce enough of what he needs or wants, and efficiency suffers.

Yet, simple misfortunes may not be enough to break the desire for seclusion and anonymity for some. Stalwart isolationists may very well chalk all of this up to the cost of being independent; “The Price of Privacy”. Discounting external factors, none of the above ‘calamities’ seem like deal-breakers. However; those “external factors” can turn the best laid plans on their heads.

“Out there”, beyond the perimeter of his palisade, Chaos lurks. It lurks in the form of shadowy figures at the edge of the woods, and smoke from concealed campfires in the distance. It lurks in the thrum and thunder of war drums, and in the trill shriek of advancing battle cries. It lurks in the knowledge…or, in the case of our storied Chief, in the lack of knowledge…that something wicked this way comes.

Even though our Chief wishes to remain alone in the world, the fact is that he is not. There are others out there who wish, for whatever reason, to do bitter business. There are those who desire what others have built, and are not above taking it at a sword’s point. If one is “blissfully unaware” of the locations of these blackguards, miscreants, and marauders, one is, by extension, “blissfully unprepared” to deal with them.

In times like these, when an accident of administration, or an over-abundance of misfortune bring his Utopia crashing down around his head, it’s probably time for our Chief to start thinking “outside the walls”. Even the most ardent “latch-key Lord” may find, as many others have before, that, for the cost of a bit of privacy, those troubles could have been abated.

Enter: The Ally.  Everyone can use a helping hand at some point. Even our modern Chief, when provisions stores are looking a bit thin, might hope for a neighbor upon which he can call for aid. Of course, that aid would mean allowing an “outsider” into Utopia, and breaking the locks which have kept the world away for so long. But, is that such a high price to pay for peace of mind? After all, mutual cooperation is the foundation upon which most modern societies are built. One hand washes the other, as they say.

A cooperative agreement between neighboring clans who trust one another opens up a world of new possibilities for our previously hermetic Chief, and will, in short order, relieve several of the burdens both clans, as individuals, had to bear alone.

No longer will one clan bear the weight of mining, refining, and processing base metals into finished products. One clan can mine, while the other refines, and splits the end product in an agreed-upon ratio.

No longer will one clan bear the weight of logging, building wagons, and turning the excess into charcoal. The duties can now be split, and the end products shared equitably. And, while the division of labor is certainly advantageous to both clans, there is another element to the equation which may outweigh the other benefits: Shared Intelligence and Defense.

Once our Chief abandons his self-induced exile, he will be much better equipped to spot, track, and dispatch those marauders and miscreants who showed up in paragraph 10. He and his ally may now take a proactive approach to security. Exchanging information about hostile or foreign tribe locations, and the movements of their agents, gives each clan a broader view of the world around them. It allows them to “see” what is happening at a distance through information exchanges, rather than physical observation, and allows them to prepare in advance. Those shadowy figures at the edge of the woods are now fully illuminated, and can be seen for what they truly are…even if they are merely passing merchants with Elephants to trade.

There is safety in numbers, so it has been said, so it stands to reason that the more allies our Chief is able to rally to his cause, the safer each of them will be. I know of only a handful of clans which would storm a well defended, well established enclave of allies. And, I won’t do it again….

All of the above notwithstanding, one of TribeNet’s most alluring characteristics, to my mind, is the possibility for social interaction in a realm in which everyone has the same opportunities, and speaks the same “language”. Not necessarily the same cultural language, but, rather, the language of the game. The language of the world in which we have immersed ourselves. That social interaction, whether it be through e-mail or message, phone call or Skype, enriches the gaming community as a whole. Bantering back and forth, hatching plans or schemes, plotting raids, coordinating trades and production schedules…it all has value. Our Chief who decides to avoid this aspect, I feel, is selling himself (and his clan) short. But, that’s just one man’s opinion.

As with any good adventure, TribeNet is rife with endless possibilities and paths to wander. If the path you choose leads you to a life of quiet contemplation and self-sufficiency, devoid of the distractions and demands of the outside world, that is a perfectly acceptable destination. Just understand that every decision has a price all it’s own.

Can you afford the cost?