As I finished putting on another layer of cobblestone atop my ever growing castle, I noticed a flat patch on a nearby hillside and thought to myself how wonderful it would be to have a small farmers cottage perched on that hill. I could put farms around it, make it look like someone lived there, maybe put a few more and give the illusion of there being a sleepy farming community right outside my home. The only problem is that all the dwellings would sit empty, and I'd be alone surrounded by a ghost town.
So I got to thinking, how could npc civilians be added to the game that didn't stifle creativity or options. This is my proposed solution.
A new mob, spawn in small groups wandering around much like the other wild fauna of Vintage Story. They would be hunted by wolves, ignored by drifters and maybe lash out or run if attacked by a player. In addition, they will seek out unattended bowls of food, not unlike a hare to crops or domesticated mobs to feeding troughs. Once they have eaten enough from bowls they will claim a nearby bed as their own. It's their home now, they live there.
At this point they would have a satiation threshold, which would reset at regular increments. With the seasons update on the horizon I would suggest that at the end of every season, their satiation is checked and dropped to zero. If they had had an empty satiation bar, they would leave their home, becoming homeless and wandering as they had before being fed. If they had a partially filled satiation bar at the end of the season, two seasons in a row, they would do the same as if they hadn't eaten for an entire season. Female Commonfolk would have a chance to become pregnant if their satiation bar was maxed for a certain time and they were around a male Commonfolk, she would have a chance to become pregnant and give birth after nine months. The child Commonfolk would require half the amount of food as an adult and take many years to grow into an adult. (I believe these times should be adjustable for single player versus multiplayer, months might be a better time increment than seasons for checking satiation)
As you can probably guess, keeping the Commonfolk fed would be quite a time consuming task, which goes against the whole idea of having farmers in the first place. Better to let them feed themselves.
A player with permission would be able to access a Commonfolks inventory, in order to give them tools and access anything else they might have on their person. By giving them a hoe, their behavior would change. Every morning Commonfolk with a hoe would wake from their bed and seek out the nearest fully grown crop within a certain range of their personal bed. They would go to it, harvest it, and if the soil nutrient levels would allow any seeds in their inventory to fully grow, replant the space. They would repeat this until all fully grown crops within range are harvested, and then water all dry tilled earth within range, then check all empty tilled soil within range to see if they can plant any new crops. Midday they would stop, go home and eat their harvest until their satiation is full or their inventory is empty of food and go to bed.
Children would also do the work of farming, albeit slower or with a lower inventory slot number.
I won't try to calculate an exact number for how much satiation per season they need as things might change considerably with the seasons update, but my thought is that a farmer maintaining about 24 medium fertility tiles would provide 110% of their food requirements. With more optimal farming layouts, paths between their home and fields, better quality soil, the yield would go up. My reasoning behind this number is that through much of history 90% of the population were farmers. If you want to have non farming Commonfolk you'll need around nine to eleven farmers to provide the food to feed them if you don't want to gather it yourself.
If a Commonfolk with a hoe, unarmed, or any other non weapon tool, is attacked, they'll fight back until they reach half health at which point they will drop any food in their inventory and flee.
Though mugging a Commonfolk for food would be pointless if you had permission, which is where contracts come in.
Contracts would be items the player can make that allows them to claim an unclaimed Commonfolk and access the claimed Commonfolk's inventory. A basic one might be a Tally stick that allows you to claim a single Commonfolk and access their inventory, while holding said Tally stick in your inventory. More advanced ones could allow more Commonfolk per item, progressing to clay tablets, parchment and pulp paper which could allow up to one hundred claimed Commonfolk. Right clicking a contract should open up a UI that lists all claimed Commonfolk and right clicking an unclaimed Commonfolk with a contract in your hand could be all it takes to claim them.
This would lead to a player being encouraged to build all their Commonfolk homes, design optimal farms, protect them from wolves, and other players who might mug them for food. What's more they would need to carry their contracts around the country side to effectively collect taxes near the end of every season (or month) encouraging them to build roads between the farming communities they've built dotting the landscape. If the player takes too much, they risk letting their farmers starve next season (or month) especially if crops do not grow in the winter.
However, that isn't the only threat.
As you might have noticed, I specified that all it takes to access inventories of Commonfolk is to hold the contract in one's inventory. If the Commonfolk population grow sufficiently large, players would have reason to delegate people to collect and maintain different areas, effectively creating townships within a greater kingdom. What's more, other players could attack and steal the contract, effectively claiming the area for themselves. Large populations of Commonfolk would be a valuable prize so contracts would need to be guarded when not being used to collect taxes.
Of course, you could always use your Commonfolk to protect the kingdom you've grown.
A Commonfolk given a weapon in their tool slot changes behavior as well; they'll sleep for a period of the day in their bed, but otherwise they will wander the area, attacking wolves or drifters they encounter and fighting to the death unlike other Commonfolk. They could be equipped with armor and just like other Commonfolk would need food, but as they don't gather food themselves, must have food put out for them in the form of bowls to ensure they are fed enough. If you want to travel with your soldiers timing would be important, leaving when all your soldiers are fed at the beginning of a season would give plenty of time for a campaign, but guiding a group of soldiers through rough terrain would take time.
To use soldiers more effectively they need to be given orders. Orders could be objects made like contracts, clay tablets, parchment or pulp paper. They would have a basic UI to issue basic commands, such as guard coordinates x,y,z at day or night, follow player x, patrol between coordinates x,y,z and x,y,z and maybe one or two others. Once one is selected and the required variables set, the order can be placed in a soldier's inventory. A player acting as a military commander would have to write an order out for each soldier, but that is the reality of war. Lots of paper work.
However this won't mean the soldiers will attack just anyone that approaches, they'll need further instruction.
Edicts could be created by any player, probably as parchment or pulp paper items. They would have a UI that allows the writer to specify a few specific instruction such as creating a black list of players to attack on sight while everyone else is left alone unless they attack a Commonfolk, or a white list that includes players that shouldn't be attacked while everyone else is. There could be other edicts created as other kingdom features were added but these seem the most important.
An edict would then be applied to a contract in a player's possession. Maybe contracts have a slot for edicts, or simply right clicking with an edict would update the contract. Whatever the case it would be a way of quickly setting players as friendly or targets for soldiers.
With all these features in place, a number of game play options suddenly become available. Players can build up a kingdom of Commonfolk, tax them, protect them from harm, build an army, and most importantly, have it all stolen from them. If they were to lose their contract due to their death another player could quickly claim control over their kingdom and black list the former ruler, effectively annexing them from their kingdom and having their own soldiers keep them out. While player death is relatively easy to recover from, losing your kingdom would be a devastating blow.
Protecting your contracts in castles and reinforced safes would be vital as well as having guards patrol with you when you travel your kingdom collecting taxes. A ruler banished from their kingdom could form a new kingdom and raise an army to claim their kingdom back. Kingdoms that focus too much on military campaigns might find their farmers raided by other players or attacked by wolves and no longer able to feed the army they had formed and have to convert soldiers back to farmers to restore it to its former glory.
All of these features could be largely ignored for players not interested in managing a kingdom, but it would open up a lot of options for both single and multiplayer. I'm certain this system could be expanded upon, other trades could be added, Commonfolk behaviors could be elaborated on, currency or kingdom trade/diplomacy could have more systems put in place.