The main thing I’m worried about is the “I really want to be a cleric… even though I have a Spirit of 1 and a Body of 2; and would make a perfect engineer with my Mind 6 + being happy to abandon a job and run away from monsters at the slightest hint of danger” (as long as you keep them inside the walls, such an engineer should never get stuck in combat since running away from enemies will mean running back towards the town center)
You see, I’m sure there are a lot of us who will put story over efficiency in most cases; and will see the opportunity to give our hearthlings “ideal” jobs as a (practically mandatory) challenge and narrative opportunity rather than an optional extra.
Having to make hard choices based on controllable factors; but when it’s forced by the RNG it just doesn’t feel fair. Choosing between two less-than-suitable candidates to be your replacement footman after losing the previous one in battle, for example, is a tough choice but one which comes as the consequence of a clear cause-and-effect chain, which the player probably could have created a different outcome for if they had chosen differently.
The choices I’ve been presented with so far in Stonehearth haven’t really been ‘tough’ in the sense of “choose between two options, neither of which will make you happy”… there have been some tricky choices and some which demanded creativity; but none which felt like being forced into a corner.
With all of the above said: if we get a way for hearthlings to train their base stats (I’m not just talking buffs over the top, but actually improving their Mind, Body or Spirit base scores up to 6, and gaining a set percentage benefit to each of the attributes under each trait); then I’m all for the idea of hearthlings who dream big. I want to be the kind of mayor/leader who allows the scrawny farm-boy to become a mighty knight, thanks to a good diet and plenty of training… and also the kind of leader who fosters learning within their towns; so that the big-n-dopey worker with a heart of gold, who is inspired by the Cleric’s bravery and compassion during a battle, can learn those traits and achieve their aspirations of becoming a cleric too. Those kind of stories would be amazing to play out!
But seeing that farm-boy pining to be a knight and knowing they’ll never have the right stats for it (Stamina/HP you can train, but there’s not much you can do about walking speed or endurance; and you can’t have a soldier who’s slow to get around and has to eat frequently)… that’s just sad, IMO, and doesn’t feel very satisfying as a decision. At the same time, sending that character off to certain death as a soldier is no more satisfying either.
So, I think that for this system to work in a satisfying way, we need one of those two things in place – either hearthlings have realistic job desires for their character traits; or we get some way to train and educate our hearthlings for their desired roles (and naturally this training would need to get very expensive very quickly, so that we don’t end up with super-hearthlings in every town…) If I could snap my fingers and make one happen then I’d go for the latter, since it has so much more narrative and gameplay potential; but I suspect that the first option is the more practical one to implement.
I think the best overall solution, though, is to avoid specific jobs and instead have affinities for types of work – “I want to work with animals”, “I want to be outside”, “I want stimulating and challenging duties”, “I want to work with other people”… and so on. That way, a hearthling can have an affinity for several different jobs, giving the player more freedom to assign them where they’ll be best suited. The system can also be expanded into things the hearthlings don’t want to do (e.g. “I don’t want to work with animals”, or “I don’t want to carry heavy loads”); making the choices a little more challenging. The benefit of doing it this way is that the likes and dislikes/wants and don’t-wants can be drawn from the hearthling’s traits directly – a high Compassion hearthling will want to work with people and/or animals (shephard, herbalist, cleric, maybe trapper), for example; so their job desire will be similar to where the player is likely to want to assign them anyway. The question becomes whether to send your high Body, high Compassion hearthling to become a shephard rather than a cleric because she wants to work outside; or set her as a cleric and hope that her interactions with other hearthlings make up for the fact that she’ll spend a lot of time indoors.