Thursday, August 20, 2015

Economies - A New Way To Play?

If you are a fan of Savage Worlds and you haven't been tuning in to the Savage GM's Hangout, you should. 

So here I was wallowing in a lack of inspiration to get back into writing my blog or diving back into Starpunk, then I listened to their podcast on Money and my brain has reopened.

The podcast touched on an interesting point about in-game economies, and that is the fact that you don't necessarily need one. 

Here is the problem I tend to have with game economies like D&D. The players go out, defeat monsters, gain enough treasure to technically retire, and come home. When the next adventure starts, the hero has lost no money for living costs, just the money he has spent on his equipment. His treasure hoard builds and builds.

Some people like this style of gameplay. They need these rewards to feel like they have gained something at the end of each adventure. In fact the accumulation of wealth starts to be the focus instead of the adventure. Case in point - "I loot the bodies".

But can a game be played without monies and prices? Yes, and in fact some games have been doing it for a while: Military and Espionage games. In these games, a characters gear is usually picked or assigned to them by the agency they work for. But what about regular games where the heroes aren't a part of a wealthy organization? Games like Starpunk? Well...I'm thinking of just applying common sense to the problem.

Starting Gear

The hero starts with whatever gear makes sense for the character. If he's a bounty hunter then he will have a weapon, handcuffs, and possibly some armor. I might make it a simple armor if he's just starting out. If a player wants their character to start out with something a little more advanced, then they should make a compelling argument. It will likely give me something in their backstory that I can use against them later.

Buying Gear

If a hero wants to get a new piece of gear for some reason and it's believable that an average person could afford it, then they buy it. If they have the Poor hindrance then you might be more stingy about what they get. If someone has the Rich edge, that's going to open up a lot more options to the group. Getting special or illegal items may still require a Streetwise roll.

Voila, no bookkeeping.

One big reason I like this idea is that the price of equipment always seemed like an artificial barrier to me. Being poorly equipped should be a function of whether or not the character is prepared as opposed to what the character can afford.


This is one that I will be keeping an eye on. If characters could conceivable acquire a great many tools and weapons, the player may mistakenly think that he/she has access to it all at any time. Nope. Like any adventurer he/she is going to have to pick and choose which gear they are likely to need and hope for the best.

So it's a simple idea and I don't see much that can go wrong. If a player wants a piece of equipment that you feel may unbalance the game, then money doesn't really come in to it (especially since in most games the players have hoarded enough money to buy the item). So balance issues will come up whether you are counting pennies or not. In the end you will still have to GM your way through game balance.

Leave a comment if you find a fault in the idea.


  1. I like the resource system from Shaintar and Accursed. You can quickly decide what is the value and availability of an item, apply modifiers, make the Player roll his Resource Die and that's it.

    1. I'm not familiar with those systems. I'll have to spend some more cash and have a look.

  2. I've been playing this way for a long time without really thinking about it. It started when I started running play-by-post games. Works very well.

  3. quite possibly my favorite system was in d20 Modern. Every character had a "wealth score" and every item had a "purchase DC." To purchase an item was sort of like a skill check: You roll 1d20 + wealth score and compare it to the Purchase DC. If you beat the DC, you buy the item. You could add/subtract modifiers to the DC based on legality, availability, or anything else, and depending on the DC your wealth score would decrease by a certain amount. The score was a representation of "purchasing power and general wealth"

    The system also included rules for "on hand" items. Anything your character would probably be carrying but isn't expressly stated on your character sheet (lighter, pocket knife, cellphone, etc) can be rolled for or just assumed to be had.
    Finally, your wealth score represented what kind of lifestyle you could afford and just brushed the complexities of modern day budgets under the rug.
    It wasn't a perfect system, but anything that keeps me from tracking monthly bills and doing taxes for a fictional character is good in my book.

  4. I remember some insights from Gary Gygax and those close to him on the issue of wealth.

    The wealth tables he used were based on the fact that characters were nickle and dimed every step of the way with Highway taxes, entrance fees into cities, money changers, and overall costs of living.

    He ran a fairly gritty game in that regard.

    I like the idea, of whats stated above, however, I prefer immersion game play to begin with, and anything that allows me the suspension of disbelief is something I will typically default too, unless I just want to run a miniature combat session, then by all means, why role play at all?


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