Thursday, 3 November 2011

Following the money, or not?

Has anyone ever used inflation in a game world?

Every time the party brings treasure out into the world there could be a knock-on effect, prices rising in the local area as the new money gets spread about, or those rolling in it get milked.

Or when an army brings its guns and requisition orders and there are shortages of the basics.

What new industries might spring up, and if there was a limited population, what might not get done? Where would the equilibrium be? Would everyone make for the caves and ruins in a new gold rush, or follow forces over the horizon for barter, auxiliary work or prestige? Would new centres of power and cliques appear, or a cargo cult form?

How about a realm leaving the precious-metal standard? After all, if one of the functions of money is to store value, it ought to be a thing that loses little value over time, and the aim of the game could be undermining that. It needs to be a good medium of exchange and unit of account too, but in a fantasy world there might be many things to do it better.

Even in our world there might be many things to do it better. How would our our own made-up money work in a fantasy world? Would it be laughed off, or be a scheme for a smart group to try? Could a pyramid get going, and would the lords and their lieutenants clamp down? Would the newly rich be allowed to take treasure into other realms?

And why would treasure bring experience anyway? I guess it's just a short-hand for the process of development in getting it. Maybe a better basis for that would be number of decisions or dice rolls made, maybe with a bonus for failure or injury, for the reflection.

Lots of questions. I didn't mention currency unions though. That could well be too raw.
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7 comments:

S. P. said...

I've never done it, but it's such a good idea that I might have to do so at some point.

When a loaf of bread costs ten gold pieces, what will everyone do?

Porky said...

Maybe this.

Of course it could be easier in the short-term for the locals to borrow or steal from the characters. That could mean the characters hiring more bodyguards, and in turn fewer people doing what they usually do, making the problem worse.

The so-called endgame could come early, with migrations to a regional centre forming around the party and them running a private army to keep a grip on everything they've won. Is this what they wanted? How far will they go to keep it? Can they find a way out, maybe using a meta-knowledge gained from our world, a bit like Leto?

This could work with the minus level character idea, the party becoming the bad guys and the new characters drawn from the society they've created.

Drkmorals said...

I have adjusted prices of things being sold by the supply and demand. For example if they kept bringing in dragon scales they would get less and less for trade or sale of the item as there are too many.. To the point it was funny because it was a joke that everything had them and they became worthless.

Never did anything beyond that though. =P

Jonathan said...

I suppose you could inject inflation into the world, but wouldn't it just be easier to not give them so much damn treasure? Honestly, if you're having to come up with real-world economic currency dumps, such contrivances will seem thinly-veiled attempts to correct a situation that the GM/DM caused in the first place.

Porky said...

@ Drkmorals - That makes a lot of sense, and in wider gaming terms too - it says to the players, 'Right, you're obviously good at that - so what's next?' The example also highlights that something like this doesn't need to be a complex formula worked out in advance with tendrils reaching into every corner of the game world - just a point of contact where the game world pushes lightly back and the ripples run out.

@ Jonathan - I can agree with that by and large, especially for its suggestion of free creative choice. In one sense I'd go further even, and say that treasure as a motivation for adventures feels rather overused, basic and simplistic, and could be left behind more often. On Stopover for example there's hardly any in the classic sense, and even fresh water is hard to come by; tools are more relevant than many magic items. And that's still thinking materially of course. All that said, I think experimenting with the standard approach to treasure is worthwhile, that there's a lot of scope that doesn't seem widely tapped, and even interesting learning to be done about real world processes.

Marc Pavone said...

I have read the argument that treasure brings experience because the thing is getting it out. When PCs work on solving the logistics of removing the treasure, when they figure out the easy way to grab the cash, when they avoid fights they are doing it the smart way.
Kicking everything's ass may get you fighting experience, but some people think the game is about bringing the treasure home and spending it.

Porky said...

It's a reasonable argument, and that last point goes back to the idea of the need for the treasure at all, and the broader issue of even having XP. Giving XP for treasure and deaths caused assumes these have a value of some kind to these characters in the game world, and bring experience by whatever mechanism. It also suggests to the players that they play the game in a particular way. This of course means that by changing what XP is awarded for, we can change fundamental assumptions. And even with current assumptions, there could be times when the characters go on an adventure to find one specific creature dead or alive, or a given item, or a fragment of knowledge, like the rubbings Bujilli makes here for example, situations in which standard XP can seem inadequate. Maybe in general it ought to be awarded for combats fought rather than deaths caused, for individual problems solved or spaces entered, modified by the nature of the problem or space, for the challenge it poses to self-control for example, or the awareness it brings. The issue then is the subjectivity in the awarding, but when we trust the GM for more or less of the entire context, and many GMs already play around with these things, it's not so unusual.

For those who might not have seen it, Marc suggests an interesting alternative treasure scenario here.