Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Fantasy RPG Economy

Some Background

I'm running a homebrew hexcrawl game where the characters have all been sent into a northerly wilderness to subdue and claim it for "The Empire". They are mainly exiles, criminals, or debtors, and have only the resources the land offers and what they carried with them. Soon a larger group of settlers will follow them and likely begin forming a settlement.

To emphasize the isolation we're using a slightly more complex food tracking system than I usually would. There's not really an option to go buy more rations in town at the moment - nobody has built the town yet. So they're hunting and foraging as they go, watching some food go bad before it can be eaten or preserved, and dipping into a dwindling supply of rations at times.

Last session they found a stream full of fish. The excitement at this, something normally reserved for treasure hordes in fantasy RPGs, suggested the approach is working.

Likewise, I don't normally go in for crafting systems much, but here it's going to be important to know what you can make and how long it will take, because that's probably the only way to get it. This is some serious frontier business - if your axe breaks, that was probably your only axe.

Crafting & Money

This game is using silver pieces (sp) as its baseline currency. A silver piece is worth 10 copper pieces (cp) - if most people have actual coins on them, they will be copper. 10 silver are worth one gold piece (gp), which are either old or used by institutions. We're four sessions into the current game and there's no hint of gold.

Here are the current crafting rules. Checks are usually just d20 plus the appropriate ability. If what's being attempted is something the character has training in, also add d6.

In an 8-hour workday, you can convert 1 copper piece worth of materials into 2 copper pieces worth of goods for each point of your skill check.
Skilled or desperate crafters can apply challenges to their check at -5 each:
  • If the item you’re attempting to craft requires specialized training you do not possess.
  • Make a check every hour instead of every day.
  • You are trying to create an item of exceptional quality.
If your challenged check is 10 or less, your efforts use up double the usual materials.
If your challenged check is 5 or less, any progress is lost and the item ruined, and you must pass a saving throw or trigger some calamity - the workshop is damaged, the stores of materials polluted, or something similar. 
So, given an average ability is 0 and an average d20 roll is 10, an average worker can expect to turn 10 cp worth of materials into 20 cp worth of goods. Assuming they keep 10 cp worth of that for the next day, they earn 10 copper in profit on an average day, and probably follow a budget like this.

short term saving1 cpabout 3 sp a month, which buys a tool, a suit of clothes, a head of livestock, or a lantern.
long term saving1 cpabout 3.5 gp a year, which buys a weapon and shield, or a mount.
taxes1 cp
lodging & upkeep3 cprelatively small, clean, and safe.
food3 cp
discretionary1 cpa few drinks at the pub.

That means in this economy a person can live reasonably well for 10 cp, or 1 sp, a day.

Someone who can call on that extra d6 for their check is going to have a few more cp to throw around or save most days.

Notable characters have abilities between 1 and 4 at low levels,

Food & Materials

The game also uses three broad categories of food.

Item Cost Load Notes
Provender 1 cp 3 Flour, vegetables, beans, tubers, game. Raw, bulky, prone to spoiling.
Provisions 2 cp 2 Bread, fruit, dressed meat, milk, oil. Resists spoiling.
Rations 4 cp 1 Cheese, biscuit, sausage, nuts, salt. Compact and almost never spoils.

An adult human needs one “unit” of food per day if they are undergoing strenuous activity (exploration, combat, or hard labor). Otherwise, they need half that much.

A full day of foraging can acquire 1 unit of provender for every 2 points of a Wisdom skill check. A forager can thus provide for 5 people on an average day in good conditions.

The notion here is foraging is almost certainly going to yield something, though it may not always be a lot. I will probably use the "you get 1 unit of stuff for every X points of your skill check" for other gathering tasks, like wood or stone, when it comes time to start building things.

Hunting requires a successful Dexterity check of 10 or better to secure d10 provender in the form of game. On a result of 15 or more, a plentiful hunt represents an additional d6 provender.

Unlike foraging, there is no assurance of finding something to hunt, or killing it if you do, so you may come home empty handed. However the reward of taking a large game animal is potentially a great deal of food.

At some point I'll probably use the "hit a target number to get dY units of stuff" for mining as well.

Preserving Food

You can craft with food to make it easier to carry and resist spoiling:
  • If your check is a 10, that means you can turn 10 cp worth of provender (which is 10 units) into 20 cp worth of provisions (which is also 10 units).
  • If you want to turn that provender into rations, the same roll will make 20 cp worth of rations, which is only 5 units.
  • However if you take the 10 provender, and turn that into 10 provisions, and then turn those into rations, the roll of 10 means you've still only created 5 rations, but you have 5 provisions still hanging around, so still 10 days worth of food. (Well, minus the two you probably ate.)
Somehow that feels right to me.