Jul 082013
 

I have a game design blog that I’ll be cross posting this to, but since I have discussed money and keeping track of it in games before, I thought I’d pop this here first for people to take a look at. Expect the idea to be more refined by the time I put it into the actual game.

I have commented on forum threads, and other blogs on such subjects, and waxed lyrical about how much I enjoy the spending of money in games where it makes sense. My favourite example is from my most recent GMing history, and that was running Cyberpunk 2020. With the emphasis of the game being all style over substance, it makes sense for the shopping side of things to take a prominent role. There are splat books full of nothing but things to buy, and I think they’re great for adding flavour to the setting.

But in almost every other game, I would be happier if less time was devoted to the book keeping involved in keeping track of money and flicking through books to find things. In a game I have played in repeatedly – and hope to play again soon – they have a nice mechanism for dealing with day to day monetary spending while still allowing for shopping to take place for specialist items and the like. Basically, money is put to one side to cover your character’s living expenses. If you have little money then your lifestyle will be poor; living in a flop house and surviving on two cheap meals a day. This means more for buying fancy things like armour and weapons, but means you have a higher chance of picking up something contagious. Put more money aside, and you have a better lifestyle. Staying in a single room in a hotel, with meat in at least two of your three meals, plus a few pints of beer a night too.

This works for the game in question and adds to the flavour of it, which is one of the biggest things I look for. So with that in mind I have been thinking about how to handle it for my RPG. The Automata that the players will be taking on the role of  have just as much diversity of personality as do the Humans who made them. They are just as likely to be covetous of the belongings of others, and unwilling to share. As a society though, the Automata have sought to move away from the weaknesses of their creators. After the war the most valuable resource for them was fuel, but since it was necessary for the survival of the Automata, it is available to all, as long as there was enough supply.

I wanted this attitude to permeate most of their society. A socialist state as it were, especially with regard to trade. The only value of objects is how hard they are to create and how useful they are. What this means for the game is that each item has a score that modifies the dice roll required to convince the owner to part with it. This will make the Bargain skill a lot more useful to people, and hopefully stop the Interface Attribute being used as a dump stat quite so much. As a side effect it might also stop players thinking that treasure is so important. Unless something has a use, it has no value. As an example of play, the characters find themselves at an Automata settlement where they make an additive that prolongs the burn time of fossil fuels. One of the Automatons they meet has a lovely pneumatic sniper rifle, that one of the players could really use. This is a rare item, so the base chance to convince any Automaton to give it up would be pretty high, and the two characters would make opposed Bargain checks to see who can be the most convincing about who should own the weapon. If the NPC is a guard of the town, then he would get a bonus, as he has more use for it, but if it was a scientist or production worker who lacked the skills to use it, the player character would have the advantage as they were often in dangerous situations dealing with Human aggressors.

When it comes to character creation, each player character will have a set number of points which they can use to get access to items. Each item is worth a number of points equal to its Bargain modifier, and I’m playing around with the idea of allowing players to spend some of their character points to increase the number of points they’ll get for equipment. Based on a character creation session I ran, one player did ask of there was anything else they could spend their points on as they had picked up all the skills they wanted, and had a point left.

I’m not one hundred percent sure on any of this yet, but I would like to try it out. I know that a lot of gamers are happier without micromanaging equipment and money, and although this will not get rid of such concerns in their entirety, it should minimize them some what. As always sound off below with your own thoughts on the subject.

  2 Responses to “Some thoughts on economy and equipment in RPGs”

  1. Money getting in the way of fun became such a big thing for me that I took the economy out of my DnD game. Every few levels I let players just upgrade their stuff for free.

    Good call.

    • It can work in games where it makes sense. Not just CP 2020, but Unhallowed Metropolis where money is an indicator of your societal standing, and how you choose to spend it is important. Most of the time though, I just want to move away from that side of thing as quickly as possible. I’d already started down this route by having most upgrades as things that are bought with XP rather than currency.

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