Monday, 5 September 2011

There's money in gaming

Today of course is Labor Day in the US, an old celebration of work. In an economic sense, work is an attempt to add value, but it does seem that some values can be more valuable than others.

Take NetherWerks' adventure Gathering Mold. A business will fail badly without the help of the adventurers. So how much is their work worth? The going rate? More? How much if the owner is desperate? When does a price become excessive if the work being done is essential?

Maybe the most profitable work adventurers could do in a medieval-themed fantasy or post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting is set up a relatively luxurious but highly complex system only they understand, involving pumping of waste say, or farming exotic plants and creatures, or simply an intricate money-lending operation - to build dependency.

Then all they need do then is threaten to stop, or point to an imagined or exaggerated threat on the horizon. What would the consumers not do to keep the good times rolling?

It is highly immoral after all, but hey, this is roleplaying, and when we act we make our own realities. Lucky that only happens in roleplaying, right, or where would we be?

We just have to hope imagining the worst doesn't cause it.

The problem of economics in games has come up many times, but the solution could be simple. We can spend time detailing an overarching system, using spreadsheets say, by applying clear rules to a given degree in advance. But we can also work from the ground up, applying those rules as we go, as a consequence of individual actions.

The characters escort a delivery of stone. The expense rises to include their work, a kind of insurance, but risk of loss falls; the building is finished sooner, new structures can be planned better in terms of cost and schedule, and interest grows in the benefits of stone over wood. Prices rise, suppliers look to enter the field; shipments increase and stone starts to become commonplace. Risk of fire falls, general health improves and population grows more steadily, with new tradesmen appearing. Razing is now more difficult; tactics of armed groups change. Waves of interactions rippling out.

Everything's fine so long as they don't get carried away, or take their eyes off the basics.

This sees a world evolve, begin to live in a sense, with the adventurers at the centre of it, which fits the approach of many games. We can start with arbitrary numbers, just as we start with arbitrary rules, but keep thinking and moving things on.

Worlds are built from the bottom up.


The Angry Lurker said...

....or extract the urine, the only money in gaming I've known is painting miniatures but that that's a cost in time aswell.

Porky said...

Making money from gaming is a whole different kettle of fish.

That's probably part of why we like the imaginary worlds so much. After all, how many gamers are actually generals throwing away the lives of men, bloodthirsty tomb robbers or traders in dangerous contraband in real life? Hopefully not too many.

Games aside, or maybe not, extracting the urine could be big business in the wider economy.

NetherWerks said...

Look to the economics and you'll find plenty of motivation and inspiration for adventuring, profiteering, armed violence and skullduggery. Everything a group of players could want can come directly out of the economics underlying the setting--including the redistribution of urine as fertilizer and those involved in testing it that it isn't adulterated/watered-down, those pesky goblins who hijack a urine-wagon, and possibly a nefarious plot to contaminate the local cess ponds with undead flesh so that it taints the farmlands using it as about taking the pi**...

If you liked the Short Adventures so far, then You're going to love Wermspittle, Porky -- just wear a good pair of boots and watch your pockets...

Paul´s Bods said...

Extracting the urine WAS big business throughout the ages,,,urine which was used for softening leather and in the cloth dying process...a lot of the public toilets set up by commodus (180 to 192AD) helped not only to keep the city of rome cleaner but put money into his accounts.
Toilets...a building block of civilisation.

ArmChairGeneral said...


Porky said...

We're really getting back to basics here, but it makes sense to think about the subject. Bodily functions are likely to be important in many settings, and maybe ought to be represented in some cases with rules. Armies march on their stomachs and we already know they may not enjoy those stomachs turning. There are illnesses to consider too, especially if lands are strange and new and peoples have little interaction, and some of these could inconvenience the characters and troops.

NetherWerks said...

Paul's Bods is right on the money. Collecting urine for industrial applications really was a big deal at least as far back as Roman times. I won't even mention the guys collecting dog feces to sell to the tanners, etc.

Sanitation and illness are also really interesting things to examine in terms of possible plot-drivers and adventure inspiration sources. A lot of it is fairly ick-tacular, but it was the way it really was, and there is a ton of intriguing possibilities just waiting to be mined...

Paul´s Bods said...

Sanitation etc plays a part in the Total war PC games...if you don´t upgrade the sanitation (toilets/baths) the population of the cities starts getting annoyed,maybe leading to revolt or the plague breaks out. Siege a city too long and either the city gets the plague or the besieging army.

Porky said...

That ickiness is probably the reason we don't see it as much as we could. It's not necessarily the kind of thing that sells glossy products. Which is a pity. I think we can get too distant from the facts of life. And sanitation is of course still a deadly problem in large parts of our supposedly advanced world.