05 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP (Part 20)

Magic the Gathering has 5 general resources, all the different things that can be brought into the game can be purchased through these. Other games have different numbers of resource types, some functioning on a single resource (typically monetary), others bringing dozens of possible resources into the game economy.

How many resources should we use in this game?

It's a tough question that really alters the way the game economy works. A limited number of resource types simplify the game, but this comes at the cost of realism. A high number of resource types make it harder to keep track of economic flows...who has influence in what fields?...does anyone hold a monopoly on a specific resource type?...can a monopoly be circumvented by other means?

Personally, I think there needs to be a fundamental infrastructure in place for the game economy to work. Since we've already established that this is a game about heroes, we don't need players to take on the role of shopkeepers, farmers, and similar drudge positions. That doesn't mean players couldn't find meaningful storylines in such positions, it just means we don't need to force a certain percentage of our players to take on these roles to keep the game economy working.

Let's work on a basic town infrastructure, the general minimums to support bands of heroes. With this, we can probably work out the resources that would inter-relate these people.

(For the purposes of this post, I'll write all of the occupations in bold and I'll underline all of the resource types.)

Let's star with a merchant, a farmer, and a craftsman.

The merchant focuses on money, and trades things with this as their primary resource. They get food (crops and meat) from the farmer to live. They get trade goods from the craftsman. The merchant keeps these in stock, and generally makes trade easier because they are able to move around while farmers and craftsmen are able to keep working with the skills they've mastered in the locations where such skills are put to best use (ie. the farm and the workshop).

The farmer focuses on crops and meat, and generally spends their life growing these. They trade these foodstuffs with the merchant for money (or directly barter for other goods), they might trade directly with the craftsman for tools necessary for farming (and other things to make their lives easier, more comfortable, or more prestigious), or they might trade with other farmers (herders trading with crop farmers for the cereals to feed their animals, maybe trading manure as fertiliser). 

The craftsman makes things, sometimes using tools made by another craftsman. They trade these things they make, sometimes directly to the farmer in exchange for the foodstuffs they need to continue surviving, sometimes to other craftsmen, but most often to a centralized merchant using the currency of the realm.

This gives us...

Money (From: Merchant/Everyone, To: Merchant/Everyone) - The general resource of the realm.
Crops (From: Crop Farmer, To: Herder/Everyone) - Used as a general food staple
Meat (From: Herder, To: Everyone) - A more premium foodstuff
Fertiliser (From: Herder, To: Crop Farmer) - This also gives us a source for explosives.

It doesn't really give us specific resources for the craftsman, but it generally feeds everyone, so we can expand this group to add a bit more support structure.

Miners might dig up the raw ore that one craftsman (Smelter) refines into usable metal (of one or more types), and another craftsman then turns into useful metal goods. The more interesting characters here would probably be the final craftsmen (Smith) who produce those useful goods. 

Woodcutters might chop down trees to produce raw wood, which can then be finished into timber (by Millers), and from there to useful wooden goods (or combined with metal to other useful goods by Woodcrafters).   

This adds...

Ore (From: Miner, To: Smelter) - These could be simple rocks to someone who doesn't know better.
Metal (From: Smelter, To: Smith) - Definitely valuable, but not incredibly useful.
Wood (From: Woodcutter, To: Miller) - Useful for starting fires, needs milling for most other tasks.
Timber (From: Miller, To: Woodcrafter) - Useful as a building material, or in many crafts.
Useful Goods (From: Smiths/Woodcrafters, To: Merchants/Everyone) - Useful goods aren't typically defined as a trade resource because they are finished items in their own right capble of providing skill bonuses or other direct benefits. 

But it might be useful to add a few specific types of metals (and respective ores...which always move from Miners to Smelters), and then pen up a few additional types of craftsmen.

Gold/Silver (From: Smelter, To: Jeweler and the local Imperial/Colonial Mint) - Metal(s) for precious pieces such as jewelry and noble goods.
Iron (From: Smelter, To: Blacksmith) - Used for weaponry and sturdy goods.
Copper (From: Smelter, To: Boilermaker) - Needed to make stills.

So we're starting to get quite a variety of people in our chain and can even start linking people in other ways.

Brewers might deal with Boilermakers to get their stills and Crop Farmers to get their regular supplies, to produce beers, spirits or the perennial pirate favourite "Rum" (generally alcohol).

Butchers might buy meat from Herders, to improve it's quality.

Innkeepers might buy their improved meats from Butchers, then crops from Crop Farmers, and drinks from Brewers. They combine the ingredients into meals (or get Cooks to do it) and selling space in their inns as lodgings.

The Mint deals with smelters for it's raw metal (or might melt down the coins of other realms), then passes the coin of the realm to Soldiers who pay Merchants for goods, and Innkeepers for food and drink.

Soldiers (under the auspices of the local authorities) might sell their services to local herders and crop farmers to protect the lands from natives and merchant ships from pirates. They might buy weapons for their jobs from the local Blacksmith

Other people selling relevant services might include Healers (selling medical services), Scribes (selling formal documentation), Messengers (selling information), Priests (selling hope), and more illicit services made available by their respective sellers. Services and items that could be found in their final form (healing herbs, fish, water, etc.) might not need to pass through an economy of transformation before appearing for sale to characters.

Then we might look at things like sand, smelted into glass (possibly by a specialised Smelter), then refined into final products by a Glassblower.

Workshops, Inns, general houses and other structures might be built by Stonemasons and Carpenters (using wood or timber depending on the quality of the building desired).

That's around a dozen resources already, linking together almost twenty core occupations (that could be learnt by player characters, or simply filled in by generic NPCs). Since I'm choosing to follow the Warhammer Fantasy model with the available occupations (dozens of interconnected jobs and career progressions, each with their own specific niche in society), this seems to fit that goal. 

In our game, there is also an ability called "Investments" which could easily represent the profits gained from being associated from any business in this ecosystem, or perhaps a character could take a more hands-on approach by actually earning the trades associated with these occupations. There will probably be a few techniques linked to this ability, these might allow characters to gather specific resources from various parts of the game economy (depending on occupations they may have, or contacts they may have made).  

Still more to think about...  
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