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Author Topic: PCs as money makers? Introducing money making in your RPG  (Read 1719 times)
Master Marx
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Posts: 10


« on: August 12, 2005, 01:24:00 AM »

Hi all. I am sure this must have been done sometime, but I can't think of any game right now. If not, how would one simulate PCs running businesses in a fantasy game? Are there any good ways to simulate the ups and downs of large scale trading, salt mining, armor production or any other money making business? I spy an unanswered need here - many games allow characters to accumulate wealth but very few games allow  them to spend/invest their gold. Any ideas?

Yours, Robert, Tokyo.
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2005, 02:18:33 AM »

Any chance you get your hands on the original edition of Traveller? We spent many a happy hour playing traders in it. I know it's not fantasy but I'm sure you can use the principles.

My opinion is this: trading and economics are not, in themselves, interesting subjects for roleplaying. If you do plan on introducing them then it's important that you consider and prioritise the ways in which they enable and create interesting situations. I'd suggest therefore that your system needs to reward risk (trading into a war zone, trading weapons to the enemy), illegal activity (smuggling spices, drugs or religious artefacts) or politics (keeping the local lord sweet so he'll continue to allow you to trade, or stiring up that war I mentioned earlier).
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2005, 03:32:26 AM »

I think something to consider is what sort of role you want the business to play with regard to the perpetual question "What do the players do?"

A game where players are supposed to fling their characters head-long at risk and danger needs a different scheme of economy than a game where players husband their resources (including their characters) and avoid unnecessary risk.  You need to reward what you want the players to do, and "this makes the business grow" is going to be a big, big reward for a lot of people.

I agree that this is a very underexploited technique.  I'm also pretty keen on making fantasy-characters the head of (say) squabbling desert tribes, and giving them the chance to lead them to greatness.  As long as the things they need to do in order to help the business/tribe/fledgling-dragon/acting-troupe are good for the game you want to run you're golden!
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James Holloway
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2005, 03:42:10 AM »

I spy an unanswered need here - many games allow characters to accumulate wealth but very few games allow  them to spend/invest their gold. Any ideas?

Yours, Robert, Tokyo.
In most cases, this is because money in games isn't to the point -- it's something you use to get weapons and equipment, because weapons and equipment are part of what the game's about -- that is, exciting and tense combat and action scenes.

Now, that's not to say that a game about business and commerce wouldn't be a lot of fun. I think it could be a blast, and money is a great facilitator of conflict. But I think that it might be tricky to implement in terms of a traditional (read: D&D or similar) fantasy game without very heavy revision. Some genres suit it better than others -- the aforementioned Traveller. Mind you, when I ran a Skull & Bones game, the PCs spent much less time trying to have piratical adventures than they did trying to figure out where they could get a good price on molasses. They really liked being small proprietors. I should have run with it.
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Frank T
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2005, 04:26:05 AM »

If you really want to get into the details of simulating large scale trade in a pesudo-historical setting, you’ll have to do some serious research. First of all, you need a solid understanding of economics. Then you have to add the setting component: What goods are available? How readily? What currencies? Laws? Taxes? Logistics? Communication? What are the accounting standards? Note that the historical Fugger family built a trading empire in middle Europe due to their superior accounting skills in the renaissance.

Of course, as others have mentioned, there are other possible approaches to playing traders. You could just let the players make a roll that determines their profit or loss, and describe their success or failure. Or if you want something simulation-like, but without the research, you could boil it down to a little funky calculating. You pick some goods: grains, wool, stones, wood, gold, iron, salt, cattle, horses etc. You determine some cities with markets, and some other sources, and some prices. The price at the source is obviously lower than the price at the market, but you have to get the goods to the market. All prices vary. You can determine them just by random or give the players a chance to influence them, for example by sabotaging another merchant or protecting farmers from robbers. The players keep track of what goods they have where, and what money they have.

- Frank
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Sifolis
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Posts: 53


« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2005, 05:30:37 AM »

The game we made over the past year deals with buisness and money making..its sci-fi but still deals with it (hell, theres an entire class thats built around buisness)

they way we handled it is through skills....lets look at say "stock trade"

(cut n pasted)
Stock.
*
For each slot placed on stock, the desk jock receives one stock. This stock has the chance to earn 10,000c per month on an unmodified roll of 1d6.

The desk jock rolls 1d6 for each slot owned. For every natural 6 rolled, the desk jock can earn 10.000c.
For every two 6s rolled, the desk jock can choose to earn a free stock-slot instead of taking the credit.
If three 6s are rolled the desk jock can cause a stock to earn permantly +10,000c on successful rolls of 6, instead of taking money.

These stocks can be freely given, sold, traded etc with any legal identity.

that allows a player to collect, trade and sell stocks...alot of players get into it.


we also handle corperations like this....another skill.


Corporation.
1d12/max11.
The desk jock can form and run a corporation that earns credit per month. The desk jock needs to place an amount of credit down to form the corporation the desk jock then makes a skill roll per month vs. doubling the money that was placed down.

If one thousand credits have been invested, then a successful roll will cause a one thousand credit return on a successful roll.

The player can place and remove credit freely from this placed credit. But the skill only doubles credit that is placed into the corporate account.

Any natural skill rolls of 1, result in losing all credit involved in the corporation (credit placed down) due to a horrific business deal.


now all this is prolly confusing....but the point is, the details of buying pens, faxing paper, and dealing with your workers is not detailed....who wants to waste hours pretending to do the monthly tax forms? its a simple system used to build money and power over a time period....

doubt i helped you at all..just wanted u to know its possible.
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Sifolis
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Posts: 53


« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2005, 05:31:53 AM »

oops typos..we developed the game over years, not a year.
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Frank T
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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2005, 06:14:52 AM »

Just a side thought: This type of game would lend itself very well to troupe-style play. The players could switch playing all the key persons in their growing empire.
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xenopulse
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« Reply #8 on: August 12, 2005, 08:20:17 AM »

I think Frank is on to something. Imagine the playing first the high-level traders who make arrangements based on profit (including how well to equip their guards), and then playing the (underequipped) guards when the transport is raided! :)
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2005, 09:00:52 AM »

Hold on here.

Robert, is this a game we're talking about? A game in development, something which someone is working on with intent to publish?

If not, then the thread has to go to RPG Theory.

Best,
Ron
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Master Marx
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Posts: 10


« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2005, 09:37:14 PM »

Robert, is this a game we're talking about? A game in development, something which someone is working on with intent to publish?

Ah, yes. It is my intention to use anything suitable that comes up in this thread for my pseudo-historical fantasy game (less fantasy more history though). But if you feel that this thread is not grounded enough in my game, please go ahead and move it to RPG theory.

Back to the subject.

I have seen games doing the "buying goods and raw materials at the source then sell expensively at a more expensive market/harbor/planet", but I wanted a system that was a little bit more far reaching, allowing players to be able to get into the trading in stocks/shares of abovementioned trading schemes. Ultimately getting into the trading of securities, options and loans/debts.

For this game I am looking for a an additional area of conflict/interest for the players. My game has a combat system (physical conflicts), a social intrigue system (social conflicts) and I intended using the same resolution system for an "economical conflict" but I found it a little bit too simplified to engage my playtesters.   This whole line of thought came up when I was working on the world description and found that the governing class in city A spent a lot of money on enjoying fine wines. But how does this wine get from City B to City A? This is where I saw an opportunity for adventure! Smuggling, trading, trailblazing new caravan routes, safe-guarding warehouses, monopolies, sabotage, piracy and a hundred other things.

But I also realized that some players would be very interested in all this while their characters might be unwilling to spend the better part of a year looking for a place to unload the salt their newly acquired salt mine (a reward from a gratious king for saving his only daughter from the clutches of an enemy warlord, for example). So why not sell the produce at the place of production and invest in options/shares on the trading ventures themselves?

Now, on the small scale, all is nice and well. I don't really need a system at this point, but if I wanted to upscale it, and found that a character has a bigger portfolio that he can possible handle by himself it would be cool to have rules regarding this, rules a little bit more extended than a simple opposed skill resolution roll "Economics" vs. "Market Risk" with a multiplier depending on the sum invested. You could make a far more cumbersome "random events table" to cover the unexpected events, but a solid piece of rule mechanics would be nice.

This is when I realized that there might be a similar system already out there, as part of some undergraduate school program in applied economics or something similar.

So, while I am busy reading up on Roman/Greek/Hansaetic trading and financing systems, I decided to throw out the question over here.

Respectfully yours,
Robert, still in Tokyo.
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Justin Marx
Member

Posts: 88


« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2005, 10:31:34 PM »

Interesting thread.... am reading at the moment Fernand Braudel's "Civilization and Capitalism: 15th - 18th Centuries" three part work, which pretty much ties in economy with the late-medieval lifestyle. If nothing, check it out as it is very interesting on the mechanics of the craft. I highly highly recommend these books.

I think the problem with developing an economic system in the game is the case of rewards. As someone said before, most fantasy games which treat cash as accumulation only do this so that players can purchase all those funky toys to play with in their next hack-and-slash campaign. After a certain level of cash (and remember that in many games, the good items come from GM inserted treasure or treasure tables, etc. anyway, which downplays earning money legitimately) it becomes a bit of a joke, everyone has loads of cash and people compare the number of gems on their character sheets for sport, but not for play.

As you said, if spending game time on accumulating money is important to your game, it has to be rewarded. Some people enjoy the process, but I am going to guess that most players enjoy the reward. So how can you invest money? If you invest capital you may earn more capital to invest.... and so on, recursively ad infinitum. I don't think many players are that interested in that - otherwise, they'd be out as budding entrepreneurs trying to make cash in real life perhaps (and not writing or playing roleplaying games). If you can find something that players will want to invest in, that will give them real tangible benefits in game mechanics (and not in purely exploratory terms, which can be easily overturned or downplayed in narration), it has a lot of potential.

However, I see a reward from a strong company that works within the medieval context and which most players would like - social rewards. Prestige. Having art works made after you, becoming a local potentate through economic clout. People listening to you and respecting you. In addition, investment in businesses, such as taverns (how many players would love to have their own tavern to chat in instead of some NPCs?), owning your own ship. The economic benefits of the ownership of investments need to have, in order to faciliate play for non-capitalist players in my opinion, spillover benefits to assist conflict resolution in other spheres. Buying chunky armour and swords is an easy way to increase one's proficiency in physical conflict, buying a big house may make people respect you in social resolution. Working out a mechanic for that would be an excellent incentive.... if you don't do it I may give it a shot myself, I think it is a interesting field of enquiry.

I can think of some sim-games (specifically Pendragon) that had rudimentary economic systems in them, however they were there to add cohesion to the setting itself, and to add colour. In Pendragon they had a inkling of social rewards, however it was not explicated - that the more money you had, the more expensive your clothes were (and recorded on the character sheet). It had no game effect though. If it did, it would have been great.

Am interested to see what comes out of this thread, it is a very interesting idea.
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Adam Dray
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« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2005, 07:06:19 AM »

I think tracking the number of silver coins or whatever is not the interesting part of playing a business or economic game, though certainly players will use that as a benchmark.

The really interesting part is how opportunities are opened up by business relationships and by having capital. The "what's at stake" bit becomes "if we can earn enough money, we will have enough to purchase a trading ship, and that will open up export opportunities."  Concentrate less on the amount of money and more on the things that money can do for you. Business isn't just about money; it's about relationships, agreements and contracts, risks and rewards. If you reduce a business to the bottom line, it'll be boring to players. Concentrate on the decisions and opportunities, it can be exciting.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2005, 07:13:36 AM »

Hello,

I think an important reference for you is Obsidian, published by Apophis Consortium. This game has well-developed rules for player-characters' starting, running, and developing corporations.

Best,
Ron
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