Monday, August 24, 2015

Economies Part 2 - The Rebuttal

Hey folks. There were a lot of good responses to my last post that were useful. I do want to address the idea of a Wealth stat - or die and the problems I have had with it. Also I wanted to go more into detail about how purchases add or don't add to the game play experience.

The Wealth Trait

This suggestion came up and to tell the truth I was using this several years ago in one of my first Savage Games. The problem I and my players found was in the swingy-ness of the rolls. For example-

  • The player in question wants to buy a new pistol. He rolls his wealth die and fails. So he moves on to another vendor and decides to buy a car. He aces the roll and buys a car. This actually happened and left the player questioning how he could have enough money for a car but not a pistol.
So the randomness doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Even if you figure in some haggling, the odds that someone could haggle a new car down to below the cost of a common firearm breaks belief.

Which brings me to the gameplay experience

Now was there anything wrong with just letting the character buy the gun? It wasn't going to break my game so it really isn't an issue of balance. In Savage Worlds there isn't a power creep of items like you have in D&D.  Sure a Bazooka is more powerful than a pistol but it has several built-in drawbacks: weight, slow reload time, lack of concealability, and the fact that any law enforcement will shoot at you on sight.

The mechanic of purchasing equipment is binary, meaning you either can buy it or can't. There's no challenge in purchasing, no extraordinary successes. You either get it or you don't. I'm not sure that it qualifies as a fun game mechanic. Even in D&D, the characters eventually gain enough money to make purchase-limitations inconsequential. 

Ultimately equipment acquisition comes down to game balance. Do you want the characters to have access to that or not. If you deem the object to be too powerful, you will find a reason that the heroes can't have it even if they can afford it, and whether you are counting coins or not. 

Love to hear more feedback.


  1. The character might have been able to buy the car while not affording a pistol because the dealership allowed financing, while the pistol might have been cash only. Just a way to explain seemingly stupid wealth rolls.

  2. Here's how it looks like in Accursed/Shaintar:

    PCs start with their resource die of d6 which increases on each Rank (up to d10) and can increase/decrease if said PCs gain or lose some huge cash or resources in general. Next thing to consider is modifier based on Value (from +2 to -6) and Availability (from +2 to -6). There are also some modifiers both to resource die and to acquisition rolls based on certain Edges, Hindrances and Streetwise/Persuasion (Investigation could be used as well, when searching the Internet) rolls.

    In making an acquisition roll it's not only about whether PCs have money or don't, but also whether they've found a vendor willing to sale or having for sale certain item. So back to your example of car and gun.

    Let's say we're playing in a modern-day Warsaw (I live here so it's easier for me to use Warsaw instead of, say, Los Angeles) and John wants to buy a gun. He searches the Internet for an auction or a gun shop and makes an Investigation roll. Boom, a success! He adds +1 to his acquisition roll. A gun is pretty much easy to find so there's 0 for Availability, but it's fairly expensive so it's -2 for Value. He then makes his resource roll (d6+Wild Die) -1 and fails. What happened? The price was too high (for a gun, of course), the seller seemed shady, someone beat the PC on the auction or as Beckett said.

    Now, he decides to buy a car, he goes to a vendor and rolls Persuasion check. He scores a success, so he has +1. Cars are common so there's 0 for Availability, but he decided to buy Toyota Supra, so let's make it -2 Availability. Since his resource die is only d6, let's give him -6 for Value and add -2 because...well, d6 is not much. So he has -9 to his roll...and somehow he manages to score a success. What happened? He convinced the vendor to give him lower price, the vendor turned to be a friend of a friend, new Supra was too expensive but it turned out that the vendor has a cheaper used one, etc. If you don't want to make things up, you can always tell your Player "Sorry, you can't buy it, it's to expensive" or you can give even higher negative mod.

    IF said PC bought the car, he now has to make next acquisition roll based on the Value only. On a success his resource die drops by one, on a raise the die level remains unchanged, on a failure the resource die drops by two levels. With a Value -6 or -9 it's VERY possible he have not only lost all his money, but he also has a debt.

    Phew...sorry for my crappy english.

    1. Your english was very easy to follow, so no worries. However what you describe sounds like even more work than just keeping track of coin.
      As for the explanations...
      The price was too high...that is a player decision. The gun might be to expensive if he is buying it from a street seller, but from a shop? It might be a little more expensive than normal but the PC may decide that need outweighs the extra cost.

      I am starting to think that a Wealth or Resources die might be a good idea, but only because it makes a good compromise between freeform (like I envision) and coin counting. I am not sure I want to go through something as complicated as what you have described in Shaintar, though. It seems like too much calculation for something that just boils down to shopping.

    2. Thing is, there's fairly the same amount of calculation as it is in every check - just that negative modifiers can be higher than in normal case and there might be 1 or 2 additional rolls involved. That's it. It may seem as too much (it's because I'm terrible at explaining things), but there's no bookkeeping with that system and no flipping through pages with "fuck where was that..." question in your head. You just roll your dice at -6 for instance and do it again with -4 if you succeded. It goes smoothly - I use it all the time since I started my present campaign 8 months ago. It works and this is from the guy who wants to open his veins everytime he has to do some bookkeeping.

      It is a very abstract system though and it's not for everyone. There are Players who just like to now how much money do their PCs have and what's the price for every single item.

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