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An Economic RPG, anyone?

Started by Kuma, October 09, 2002, 01:01:11 AM

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Kuma

In the interest of full disclosure, I first posted this over on RPG.net:

One of the maxims that I've heard about game design is to 'Design the Game YOU Want to Play'. Well, I've been doing that now for about 2 years and finally I want to get other people's viewpoint on it to see what the audience is like.

The overall system (codename: Elsewhere) is this: a fast, flexible system for dealing with economics in games, be they fantasy, modern or sci-fi. The centerpiece of this system is a mini-game called simply 'Manor', in which the players all run feudal manors and feifs. There's the day-to-day operations (making sure there's enough of everything that the manor needs) and the political end where the manors are competing (and assisting) each other in the court of the king.  Somewhere in there is the natural goal of lining one's pockets with as many ducats as humanly possible.

Now obviously, this is not the game for everyone. You have to have a bit of the accountant in your blood to get excited over a surplus of wheat for the year or an exceptional harvest of apples or timber.

However, the system works, models well and has certainly given me a lot of joy just watching it come to life. The system interlocks with my RPG system, working title: Chamber. I can run a manor for a dozen or so years and at any point 'zoom in' and stat out a typical family, or even typical person.

Essentially, I've created SimCity without boundaries of any sort (and much less calculation).

My question to the Congregation is this: would any of you actually be interested in playing said game? Am I shooting myself in the foot when I suggest in the material that a calculator (or even Excel) might be a good idea for running the game?

Not that this will keep me from finishing it, mind. I'm just wondering if I can sell 10 copies of it.

Thanks for the input, y'all.  Poke holes in my idea, burn it, torch, set seige to the walls.  I want to see if I can't refine this idea down to a razor's edge.

Woot!

Jeremy Cole

Yes I am.  Every time I sit down to write source for ce, my game, I details things in an economic point of view.  No, its not as boring as it sounds.

But I was just wondering how detailed you're going to get into the economics of it, from a realism point of view.  Every game that ever mentions economics does in an extremely off hand manor.  The kingdom prospered with the gold mine etc...

What mechanisms do you have in mind.  The thing that interests me is the population, and it relation to income/capita.  Marginal returns etc...  Anyway, is this where you see the mechanics going?

Jeremy
what is this looming thing
not money, not flesh, nor happiness
but this which makes me sing

augie march

contracycle

Yes, absolutely.  I have considered such designs myself; it's just a bit tricky to conceptualise Actual Play - does it mean switching from one mode to another?  Also, the system needs to be robust enough to handle extension over large ranges and tiome-scales, potentially.  But I'd be interested in seeing anything going in this arena.
Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

simon_hibbs

I've played in and ran games in which trading was a background activity, but I have always found that actualy gaming out or simulating it in any detail simply distracts from the roleplaying. I'm interested in economic and trading games, but prefer to abstract things out in RPGs.

How do you envision this economic model actualy being used in a campaign?


Simon Hibbs
Simon Hibbs

Andrew Martin

Quote from: Kuma...would any of you actually be interested in playing said game?

I'm highly interested in it, and I've got a play group that can use it right now! :) My players are running a town in my Exalted campaign and some players want to get detailed on running the town. Our group has played three or four campaigns of Birthright (AD&D) with most PCs as rulers of realms.
Andrew Martin

Valamir

Couple of questions, as someone whose done a bit of studying on economics, how are you intending to account for both fantasy and modern style economics.  Are you assumeing that "fantasy" economics are like modern economics.  I ask because most fantasy contains pseudo medieval elements and medieval economics is a vastly different beast from what we have today.

Second, are you familiar with Lordly Domains for Pendragon.  If so, is your intention to make a sort of generic Lordly Domains book for insertion into other campaign worlds?

damion

Sounds like a very cool idea. How difficult is it to run something in 'high level mode', only zooming in when you need to?  I mean can you just stick stuff in excel, run for X time and look at the output? It would be perfect for simulationist games.
James

Kuma

Quote from: ValamirCouple of questions, as someone whose done a bit of studying on economics, how are you intending to account for both fantasy and modern style economics.  Are you assumeing that "fantasy" economics are like modern economics.  I ask because most fantasy contains pseudo medieval elements and medieval economics is a vastly different beast from what we have today.
One of the structural parts of Elsewhere is the division of the book into "Ages", starting with Ug and Og exchanging cowrie shells and moving through to the modern day.  The rules start with the basics (barter - actually one of the more difficult bits to model 'behind the scenes') and then go through such things as commenda contracts, societas terra and all of that good stuff.  The rules are also divided into basic/intermediate/expert categories, so if you want to play out the life and times of a feudal manor, but want to play it simple, you can announce that you're cutting out the advanced rules.  

The 'Future Age' sections are still very rough, because I haven't done much work with the creation of starbases and the like.  I'm just now trying to figure out how to run the game in modern mode without drowning myself in numbers.

QuoteSecond, are you familiar with Lordly Domains for Pendragon.  If so, is your intention to make a sort of generic Lordly Domains book for insertion into other campaign worlds?
No.  I've specifically steered away from tthe Pendragon books because I didn't want to influence my design too much.  I've just been going to the economic history texts and building this system from the ground up.  And getting quite an education in the process.

Valamir

Well damn Kuma if you're going to get all scholarly about it, put me down in the hell yeah category.

I once did a paper on the origins of modern banking (I cleverly managed to turn the same paper in for my Money and Banking Finance class and my Geography: Urban Development class) so yeah..."quite an education" is true enough.  Fascinating stuff though.

Kuma

Quote from: damionSounds like a very cool idea. How difficult is it to run something in 'high level mode', only zooming in when you need to?  I mean can you just stick stuff in excel, run for X time and look at the output? It would be perfect for simulationist games.
The process works like this: let's say I'm running a kingdom (Yaria).  Elsewhere assigns any entity a Scale Factor ranging from 1 on up ... let's say that my kingdom has a scale factor of 12.  At that scale, I conduct the business of the kingdom with other kingdoms around me.  Any entity in the game can interact with any other entity on any other scale factor, but for the sake of convenience, play works best when the scale factors are within 1-3 notches of each other.

During the course of play, a certain town, called Udar becomes of great interest.  Maybe there's been a lot of tension in the area with a rival town over rights to the forest between them.  The players decide to 'zoom in' and play out the conflict between Udar and neighboring Cathar (controlled by another player).

Udar, at the scale on which the home kingdom Yaria was working, was invested with, say 420 RUs (Resource Units), of which we know that 200 RUs are invested in timber production, but thet rest is sort of nebulous.  Now we have a simple framework to flesh out Udar.  With these 420 RUs we have to purchase people, buildings, land and other basic factors, along with specifics like a lumber camp, lots of tools and some specialized lumberjacks.  The player spends out those 420RUs, adhering to the one condition that 200 RUs must be spent on items directly related to a timber industry.  Essentially it's a character creation process, only with some idea of what the character looks like beforehand.

After both towns are detailed, then play commences.  The length of a turn also changes with scale.  A turn for Yaria is 1 season (by default, it could be more).  A turn for Udar is a day.  We can play out up to 90 turns (a year being 360 days for sanity's sake) of the conflict between Udar and Cathar before maintenance needs to be done on the rest of Yaria.

This sort of 'drilling down', as I call it, can go right down to the individual if necessary, where the investment in skills and whatnot are translated directly into the stats that one would have in the Elsewhere RPG.  In this manner I can avoid a lot of numerical headaches and housekeeping ... the only numbers you need are the ones that affect what's in front of you.  Anything that has been drilled down before and is looked at later only has the stipulation that the it conform to what is still enumerated.  Say 50 years from now we look at Udar again, and it has grown to 1200 RUs in size, but over the turns the timber industry has been changed out for 500 RUs of weavers.  Depending on how the player wants to work it, he could leave everything in place except the timber industry (which we know is gone), and of course he or she must add in the 500 RUs of weaving industry.

If the player never again visits the hamlet of Udar, he never has to enumerate anything about it.

That's the long and short of the dirlling process ... much of it is still in the works.  The actual numbers involved are a bit larger than what I've stated, but you get the idea.

contracycle

Quote from: KumaI've just been going to the economic history texts and building this system from the ground up.

I just wanted to mention that any serious discussion on this matter is going to get "political" rather quickly in that I am going to stick my oar in with some rather unorthodox analyses of how barter economies function, and function distinctly from modern financial economies.  Please take this as my disclaimer: I will be honestly advocating an economic analysis becuase I think it is correct, not because I have an ideological axe to grind.  I would hope that we could engage with this on the principle of discussing all perspectives on these economic mechanisms.
Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Valamir

Kuma:  Your description of the drilling down process sounds tremendously like Aria and Aria Worlds (largely regarded as an enormous, wonderful, but completely unplayable RPG).

If you haven't seen them, I might suggest taking a look just to make sure you aren't reinventing the wheel.

Kuma

Quote from: contracyclePlease take this as my disclaimer: I will be honestly advocating an economic analysis becuase I think it is correct, not because I have an ideological axe to grind.  I would hope that we could engage with this on the principle of discussing all perspectives on these economic mechanisms.
Sounds ominous, dude.  Fire away.

Kuma

Quote from: ValamirKuma:  Your description of the drilling down process sounds tremendously like Aria and Aria Worlds (largely regarded as an enormous, wonderful, but completely unplayable RPG).

If you haven't seen them, I might suggest taking a look just to make sure you aren't reinventing the wheel.
You're looking at Aria's biggest biatch.  I love that game to pieces and in fact it was an attempt at bridging Aria with d20 (several years ago when there were supposed to be other Aria books) that started me on this particular journey.  Aria's IH, while an inspiration to Elsewhere is just the launching point.

Believe me, I keep Aria at arm's length ... both to refer to and to keep myself aware of its pitfalls.  Like Capitalization from Hell.

Valamir

Sweet.  I also love Aria.  Worlds should be required reading for anyone trying to design a home brew world.  Whether you use the actual numerical system or not, the encouragement to think about the effects of isolation and inheritance patterns and their effect on what your societies will look like is pure gold.  The RPG should be required reading for anyone trying to publish an RPG as a lesson on how presentation can take an incredibly cool idea and make it heinously inaccessable.

Universalis has been called a free form version of Aria Worlds (which was one of the design goals) so yeah, I'm a huge fan too.

So this will be out by christmas right? ;-)