Author Topic: A world without money  (Read 6675 times)

AgingMinotaur

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A world without money
« on: November 01, 2009, 01:39:29 AM »
I've been trying to think up an alternative way to implement economy in a RL. I think the classic RPG trope of "collecting all the gold you can, and buying stuff at fixed prices" can become boring, and even slightly offensive ("Kill'em all! Take their stuff!") For my own game, I wanted something different, so I made a choice to leave money out of the picture, but I would also like some sort of economy, to implement encounters like peddlars, toll bridges, and so on. Besides, collecting treasure can of course be made fun.

Discuss. You don't even have to read the rest of my drivelling post, but I'll begin anyway:

A simple idea would be to implement some kind of barter economy. You give people gifts, with a special command, or by dropping stuff next to them. This pleases them, and they might do favours in return (which then displease them back towards a neutral bias). I'm sure this could be used for some interesting effects. Different critters like different loot (knights are happy to get weapons and armor, but not impressed with low-level stuff; farmers like food, tools, clothing), and might do different favours and give different gifts. Critters like shop keepers should be coded to haggle in a meaningful way. For instance, the player picks up what s/he wants, and starts dropping stuff s/he wants to pay with. When there's enough loot on the ground to satisfy the shop keeper, the player is allowed to leave the shop.

A different idea I had was to try and operate with a "wealth" trait (in my system, it would probably be a skill). This would be tested whenever you need to perform a transaction, like buying something or paying a tribute to the local temple. If you botch the skill roll, your "wealth" skill value is bumped down, and/or you don't get the benefits you wanted to pay for. ("Sorry, you don't have enough money to buy the foo.", "Is that supposed to be protection money? Get him, guys!") Great rolls would result in getting the benefits without a decrease in wealth (because the required prize is just small change to you). The idea was that wealth could be increased by recovering treasure from the depths. If you come out of the dungeon with a gold crown and four books, this might be taken as a representation of the loot you bring back. Wealth could be increased, and the stuff might as well even stay in the player's inventory. That way, you can furnish your house with the bounty you have from your adventures.

There are some loop holes in this "wealth skill" idea, however. First of all, you need limited inventory space, so that it's annoying to lug around useless stuff like sculptures. And it would only work with nonpersistant or semipersistant dungeons. If the player can just keep a stash at level 1 of every new dungeon, and carry out everything bit by bit, it's just pure grind. I thought about having perishable dungeons, that you can only enter one time. They would behave as persistant dungeons, but once you return to the surface, the staircase/portal disappears. Your adventure in that dungeon would be over; you failed or succeeded, and brought back no more than you could carry, but at least you survived, and there's bound to be another dungeon entry around here somewhere. This could be an interesting system, but of course it's a decision that affects the whole game in a big way.

And there are other issues I haven't really found a solution to: How do you avoid that the player just tries to buy the same sword one million times, until he lucks out on the skill roll? You might let shop keepers close their shops after the player has (tried to) buy anything. This kind of fits in with the time horizon implicit in "perishable dungeons". Buying would be a betting game, where you assess how much you can afford, and you get one shot at paying. The shop keepers would then reopen once the player ascends from the next dungeon. But this might lead to a kind of stairhopping, unless the player is punished for not completing a dungeon, or something like that. And besides, it strikes me as a "feature" that could easily just be annoying. Failing to buy healing remedies for your next expedition, just because of an unlucky die roll, would probably not be so pleasurable. But if it's perfectly balanced, the player should always think, "Ok, I got too greedy, and now I'm being punished for it." :)

Rambling as always,
Minotauros
This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

Vanguard

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2009, 01:47:06 AM »
And there are other issues I haven't really found a solution to: How do you avoid that the player just tries to buy the same sword one million times, until he lucks out on the skill roll?

Why not give the player only a finite number of "shots" at any given item.  Say you're only allowed to try for the sword once, and after failing the roll, it's removed from the store inventory as if it had been purchased.

You'd have to put limits on the way the store's inventory refreshes, so the player doesn't just grab at anything until they get it, or add some kind of negative consequence to doing this.

Ex

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2009, 01:51:22 AM »
What about a game like Harvest Moon? More strategy and relationship based than kill stuff based.

Z

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2009, 12:32:31 PM »
This wealth idea is interesting, but if the wealth corresponds to money, then simply having money is more logical. Also, I don't see how it fights the problem of "collecting all the gold you can".

I think it would work better in something resembling a communist utopia: there is no money or wealth, people are supposed to share their stuff with other people without any payment. But nobody will want to share with someone who does nothing good for the community. Every character has a reputation, they will share for free if your reputation is very good, for a reputation cost if it is average, and won't if it is bad (and still the reputation is lost). Thus, this would be used exactly like "wealth" you described. But the metods of gaining reputation would be different, and more interesting, I think.

Another moneyless option is to have a world without economy of any kind. Most big roguelikes have shops, but the game would not be actually that different without them. Instead, you could have a scroll of acquirement which would allow you to receive one item from a list (thus, SoA would act like money that you can use to buy different things), or you could have crafting your own equipment out of limited resources.

getter77

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2009, 12:47:16 PM »
I like the bartering/wealth notions of tweaking.  I'd say otherwise, work in something roughly comparable to indentured servitude----contracts for actions over long and short term backed by other actions and/or resources supplied being something that could well work past notions of "money".
Brian Emre Jeffears
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Z

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2009, 12:58:33 PM »
In my idea of reputation, you would probably both have a general reputation, and also each specific person would have his own attitude to you. If you emerge from the dungeon with a dragon hide,  and a story about how you have killed the nasty dragon, your will gain some general reputation, but a swordsmith could hate you, because he actually likes dragons. (You could have a "storytelling" skill which would help with gaining reputation in this situation, whether you have actually killed the nasty dragon (which would make it easier to tell a good story) or not.) You could then give the dragon hide to the armorsmith, which would allow him to create great armor and make him like you, but it would make the alchemist envious. Lots of possibilities unknown to the capitalist world ;)

AgingMinotaur

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2009, 03:23:59 PM »
Thank you all for the thought provoking responses that have already come up :)

What about a game like Harvest Moon? More strategy and relationship based than kill stuff based.
I don't know that game so well, but I've often heard good things about it. I'll have to investigate.

This wealth idea is interesting, but if the wealth corresponds to money, then simply having money is more logical. Also, I don't see how it fights the problem of "collecting all the gold you can".

You're probably right. The idea, I guess, would be to make treasure hunting more strategic, in the sense that retrieving lots of treasure to increase your wealth limits the amount of useful stuff you're allowed to bring from each adventure. Also, I was thinking a solution like that might make treasure hunting less grindy. Instead of mechanically picking up all the gold pieces that lie scattered around, you'd pick and choose a few items of value. It also opens up for possible new ways of balancing wealth. In typical RLs, you start out quite broke, but soon you have more money than you will ever need. With a more abstract system, you could avoid for instance "the paradox of the filthy rich monk" that you have in most roguelikes, because it might be a viable strategy to actually ignore valuables. Playing to become a rich man would impose quite a lot of inventory handling, since raising or even maintaining a very high wealth score would demand that you bring more and more treasure from the deep (causing inflation, and so on). Most useful implements like scrolls would have to be left behind, and shopped for on the surface. The monk might never get enough wealth to buy the guaranteed lance of death in the village shop, but the merchant might have to leave behind interesting (non-guaranteed) stuff in the dungeon, or lose money by bringing it along.

A side note: You seem to have hit the nail on the head with your hints that I might be better off emulating a pre- or postcapitalist society (or even a world where capitalism isn't even a historic necessity/possibilty). I'm hardly a communist, but I'm very fond of the works of people like Marx and Kropotkin. So I would naturally like to make a game that doesn't implicity promote imperialism, even though (or precicely because) I chose a genre that's so burdened with ultracapitalistic and IMHO even fascistoid views. Not to start a political discussion, it just felt timely to mention it :D

A reputation system, as you outline, could be a very interesting way of doing it. It would be a bit more complex to implement than a more traditional economy, but seems also to open up for many interesting uses, since you might better keep track of the player's conduct and let society react accordingly. If you do a "cattle hustler" quest, all the herdsmen will love you; if you kill the local librarian, it might make you a hero amongst the neighboring tribe of barbarians, and so forth. You could even get "badges" from doing quests and sidequests, that will make you recognizable as a champion to certain NPCs, and possibly an enemy to others. These "badges" could be permanent, or perishable in the form of actual certificates and trophies that you give to NPCs to get a favour from them.

As always,
Minotauros
This matir, as laborintus, Dedalus hous, hath many halkes and hurnes ... wyndynges and wrynkelynges.

Skeletor

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2009, 03:36:09 PM »
SKELETOR IDEAS ABOUT A NO-MONEY ROGUELIKE

Wealth could be an attribute (and it's also logical), maybe ranging from 0 to 10; every item in sale has not a price but a required wealth to afford it. If an iron ration requires 2 wealth point, if you have 2 or more wealth you can afford all the iron ration in the store and all iron rations of the world. After buying those, your wealth doesn't change. Like in real life; a surgeon (wealth: 4) can afford how many packet of cigarettes (wealth points: 1) he wants.

But in real life a surgeon (wealth: 4) can sometimes afford a Ferrari (wealth points: 5), and not three of them. So it must also be possible to buy stuff that cost more than the wealth, but this has to be limited; for example, every person has a wealth attribute and then some (1d6?) spendable "savings points". Every saving point could be spent to buy something that costs exactly 1 point more of the current wealth.

Another way to buy something that costs more than the wealth attribute a person has, is to barter.
If a precary worker (wealth: 1) finds in his office an old gem worth 4 wealth points, he can barter it to obtain another item worth 4 wealth points.

Bartering works different for every person: if you give that old rare clock to that blacksmith he will value it no more than its basic wealth points, but if you barter it to a clock collectionist he'll value it 1 point more than it's worth.

Selling items for money is also possible, but only for items so big the standard of life would be permanenly changed.
Selling an item worth x has the direct effect to make your wealth attribute permanently raise to x-1.
So if a bum (wealth: 0) finds an ancient scroll (worth 6 wealth points) in a trashcan, he can barter it for a 6 value item, or sell it to permanently raise his wealth attribute to 5.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2009, 03:37:46 PM by Skeletor »
What I enjoy the most in roguelikes: Anti-Farming and Mac Givering my way out. Kind of what I also enjoy in life.

Antsan

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2009, 01:08:13 PM »
The wealth idea is used in the free (unluckily there is only a german version) P&P-RPG EPOS (www.epos-fantasy.de).
I'll try to tell in short how the system works: Shops are represented as parts of organizations - you don't really have to care what different shops you have, only whether the organization that can supply you with a certain item is present at your current location.

For buying any item from any organization you have only one try - buying the same item from a different organization or buying another item from the same organization should be no problem.
When buying an item a roll on wealth is done. Any item has a certain price - this is the number of successes you need in the roll on your wealth - how you measure those successes is not really important.
When you miss the roll by x successes, you either buy the item anyway and loose x points in wealth or you decide not to buy the item and just give up.
When you succeded with your skill roll you get the item.
When you bought the item before, you can try to buy more of the item - this time with the price raised by one. This way you wont be able to buy 500 potions of heal wounds only because their price is far below your wealth.

How you represent organizations in your game (as shops or maybe multiple shops or even with multiple shops which give you only access to a limited subset of all the items a certain organization covers or as whatever you would like) is up to you.

How can you raise wealth?
Whenever you find something valuable and manage to bring it back to your home/sell it/whatever you do another test on your wealth. When you get *less* successes than the price of the item is, you get your wealth raised by (+ (random price) 1), otherwise your wealth will stay the same - grinding for small items won't be really worthwhile when they will raise your wealth as good as never.
For wealth-only items you could do the roll as soon as you pick them up. This would take out the possibility of stashing them away for doing a grinding-circle of buying and selling. You could even limit selling to once in a certain period.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2009, 01:16:10 PM by Antsan »

Krice

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2009, 10:36:42 AM »
I think it would work better in something resembling a communist utopia: there is no money or wealth, people are supposed to share their stuff with other people without any payment.

Trying a communist economy in gameplay should be interesting. Will it work or fail?

Antsan

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Re: A world without money
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2009, 04:38:43 PM »
This idea sounds wounderful. You could try this with other ideas too. Every social and economical idea in the end consists of certain rules, which could be implemented in games.
You could even start experimenting with those ideas to test those models.