I don't like the wealth rules

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Stempest
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I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Stempest » 04 Feb 2018, 07:18

(Disclaimer: I'm sure others do like the rules, and I'd like to discuss them. If you're here, perhaps it was because the thread title did its job and drew you in ;)

Before I start, my background: I've played a lot of RPGs in the past, in all different styles. I cut my teeth on AD&D (well after its heyday) and D&D 3.0 and Pathfinder, and have played a lot of other games such as Cyberpunk 2020, a number of the Warhammer 40K RPGs from Fantasy Flight, and Adventurer Conqueror King (an OSR game focused on domain play). I'm currently running Savage Worlds, which I'm a big fan of for a lot of different styles of games/genres. As I've aged into real jobs and kids, my general tendency is to prefer games that play fast and don't require me to look up rules every 10 minutes, or spend hours pouring over character creation, or (as a GM) see me ambushed by some weird feat every session.

So, in the vast majority, I really like what I see in S&S at the moment. Things I really like about it:
- Universal mechanic (including a focus on trimming down unnecessary guff. I didn't necessarily agree with the move from d10 to d6, but appreciate the reasoning)
- Relatively fast character generation (once Traits are understood)
- A good number of skills. Not too broad or too specialised. Lovely.
- Maneuvers simplified since TROS, but combat still has the same feel. (I've reservations about teaching it to my group, but we can start with the basic stuff and go from there)
- A focus on characters/people and their motivations. I love that drives encourage and reward players for acting in accordance with their goals. PC goals are a big thing for me when I run games. How can a PC operate if you don't know what it is they want in life?
- I love love love the way traits are done. They replace things like feats, or Edges/Hindrances from Savage Worlds, but rather than requiring players to remember specific special rules, simply impact on play when they seem relevant. I also love the need to balance positive traits for advantage and negative traits for advancement.

As you can see, I appreciate that S&S is a pretty lean system, which allows players to focus on the important stuff...

Which is why I'm cold on the Wealth System. I'm not saying it's not clever, and there's even some elegance to it, but I feel like it actually COMPLICATES the issue of managing money. It seems to me that a simple cost system like most RPGs would actually allow players to finish their shopping / maintenance in the fastest possible time and get back to the plot, as it becomes simple addition/subtraction rather than needing to roll dice. And in the scheme of a game that really lives by "if the player can't fail, or the result isn't important, don't roll dice", rolling dice over simple matters of money doesn't seem to fit with that mentality.

Obviously there'll be people that disagree vehemently with my opinion, and this isn't meant to be an attack on the authors or the system, rather a conversation. If you like the Wealth rules, why? If you dislike them, why? Why is my take on the Wealth rules and their contrast from the rest of the game ill-founded?

Personally, they'll probably be the only thing I seek to modify through house rules, but I'd love to hear from others.
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Korbel
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Korbel » 04 Feb 2018, 07:47

This abstract wealth system is another thing to learn, hard to deny that. Hard coin is more intuititive, isn't it? Maybe it would be possible to include both?
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by higgins » 04 Feb 2018, 09:47

Sorry to hear that. Here's how we reached our design choice:

We used to have hard coin(ish) wealth rules, but they quickly took on a life of their own. We sunk a ridiculous amount of time and research effort into it. At some point we took a step back and asked ourselves whether the actual wealth and shopping aspect was in the core focus of our game, and it just wasn't. That compounded with the fact that the hard coin system just didn't work well for faction level expenses, which can be relatively vague and goal based, as opposed to buying distinct services or items (as is mostly the case with personal finances). This meant we needed and abstract wealth system for the factions anyway. So, rather than having two separate systems for an area that was never supposed to be in our focus anyway, the hard coin system got ditched and we just expanded our faction wealth system downwards so it also covered the personal expenses of the characters.
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by dysjunct » 04 Feb 2018, 17:23

I like the abstract wealth system. It’s almost impossible to create a price list that reflects reality. The prices of things changed constantly, even from town to neighboring town. Coinage changed constantly. Supply issues could drastically impact shortages or surpluses across regions. All of that would require either an insane amount of work, or a huge amount of GM fiat, or likely both.

For comparison, look at how ACKS does its economic system. Markets are rated on a 1-6 scale for size. Availability of any given item is a function of its cost, and the market you’re shopping in. There’s a base cost that is then randomly modified based on the market size. And then there is sill GM fiat if, for example, you want to reflect that food is cheaper in fall than in spring. And that’s from the RPG that is widely considered to have the most realistic treatment of economics!

An abstract resource system, however, waves away most of the difficulties. If you fail your resource roll, then you can decide whether it’s due to a random shortage, lack of liquid assets, or whatever else. Sometimes things will be available and sometimes not. Yes, there’s an upfront learning curve, but you don’t have to deal with a miniature economics sanction in a game that’s ostensibly about determining how far you’re willing to go for your beliefs. That’s an excellent trade off in my book.
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Stempest » 04 Feb 2018, 20:42

With respect to all the detailed research and economic considerations that made the hard coin based system difficult to assemble, I suppose the question I'd ask is: Does perfect realism matter?

As has been said, prices of things fluctuate for all sorts of reasons, so would one not just put together a price list that is there or thereabouts, and call it a snapshot of a particular point in time? Your world could then have it's own unique snapshot of a state of an economy, and players would makepurchasing decisions based on those prices. If you wanted to encourage different decisions you could tweak prices, but the same can be said of the abstract system too.

As long as a meal costs less than a sword, costs less than a trained warhorse, costs less than a castle, does it really matter if the costs aren't perfect when as established, the game is about how far people will go?

I'm not pushing a barrow, I was really just looking to start discussion. I'll probably just go and borrow a price list from some other game that feels "about right".
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Benedict » 05 Feb 2018, 14:51

Abstract wealth systems have always been my prefered MO for the past 25 years (or something like that). Basically since I started playing Vampire WoD back in '93.

There are many reasons I like abstract wealth systems but it all boils down to this: abstract helps keeping the focus on what's important instead of day-to-day upkeep and logistics - which is boring when we are talking about RPGs if you ask me.

For that reason 'Scoundrels going abstract economy was golden for me.

Time for some observations and questions on my part.

Stempest wrote:I feel like it actually COMPLICATES the issue of managing money

I honestly don't get how it complicates things. I read what you posted after that, but still can't make the connection. Could you elaborate?

Stempest wrote:a simple cost system like most RPGs would actually allow players to finish their shopping / maintenance in the fastest possible time and get back to the plot, as it becomes simple addition/subtraction rather than needing to roll dice

Disclaimer: I will be using 5e DnD as a hard currency model and 'Scoundrels as an abstract currency model for the following comparissons. This ain't bashing at DnD or whatever. I just use DnD because it is one of the most popular systems.

One thing about specific hard currency systems that I detest is that the longer one plays the more money becomes redundant.

Example 1:

Your armor-clad character is thrown over a pirate ship two miles away from shore. He manages to swim back to safety, but loses his armor and weapon in the process. When back in town he replaces lost gear.

Hard currency, 5e DnD Style.
Check breastplate and great sword price = 400gp + 50gp.
Subtract said amount from current funds (10.000gp stash). Being lv10 and having looted those crypts paid off.
Zero complications.

Abstract currency, Scoundrels Style.
Check breast and back munitions plate price = r5.
Check great sword price = r5.
Total cost is r7 (armor r5 + r2 for sword).
As a high freeman, character has asset4 and coin12 from months of playing.
You get 4 dice to buy that. Getting 7 successes with 4 dice is impossible. You can spend coin to reduce req to more manageable levels.
Reducing to r0 by paying coin7 waives the roll and you make the purchase.

Which seems more desirable?

Example 2:

Hard currency, 5e DnD Style.
A lv10 Fighter wants to equip 10 guards with:
10x Padded armor (10gp) = 100gp
+ 10x Shield (10gp) = 100gp
+ 10x Spear (1gp) = 10gp
Total = 210gp

Personal comment: 210gp for a lv10 character is a joke. He could equip 100 men without breaking a sweat. Or 1000 men with some effort.

Abstract currency, Scoundrels Style.
A lesser noble wants to equip 10 guards with:
10x Long Gambesson (r2) = r2+3 = r5
+ 10x Heater Shield (r2) = +3 = r8
+ 10x Spear (r2) = normally +3; cost is already at r8; no increase
Total = r8
He can always spend coin8 and waive the roll, or take his chances by rolling assets.

Observation: Equipping hundreds or thousands goes outside the scope of character finances and falls under faction finances (tba).

What is more appealing to you?

Stempest wrote:in the scheme of a game that really lives by "if the player can't fail, or the result isn't important, don't roll dice", rolling dice over simple matters of money doesn't seem to fit with that mentality

Above in the first example I said "zero complications". Implying that there could be some complications under 'Scoundrels when re-equipping your character. In the aforementioned example where the character is tossed overboard. Failing the roll doesn't mean that you failed buying the things you wanted. It means that the merchant is in league with your enemies and won't sell. Or that he fears them and again won't sell. Or that he's out of stock because the local lord is equipping conscripts to fight those pirates. Or other possibilities. Wealth management suddenly becomes a thing in story direction. Hence the roll. Otherwise in hard currency its down to GM fiat (no armorers in this city), which can easily lead to bad blood, or hamlets full of specialized craftsmen.

Also note that if the GM asks for trivial purchases asset rolls -- ie for a freeman to buy a loaf of bread and half a pound of vegetables for cooking a meal -- he is playing the game incorrectly. Because:
pg 68 wrote:A wealth check is made whenever a character needs to make a significant or unusual purchase that falls outside of their normal lifestyle expenses (See Maintenance).

If that same freeman wanted good wine and meat every day of the week that calls for checks.

I have a feeling you haven't really tested the wealth rules yet. I understand not liking them, anything outside one's comfort zone might seem awkward at first. My suggestion is to give them a sporting chance. I honestly believe its a really dynamic rule subset that meshes perfectly with the core mechanic.
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by KillerRed » 05 Feb 2018, 20:26

Benedict wrote: I honestly believe its a really dynamic rule subset that meshes perfectly with the core mechanic.

For what it's worth, ditto
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Stempest » 07 Feb 2018, 07:45

@ Benedict: You are indeed correct that I have not actually played with the rules. Kind of hanging out for the "complete" beta before I introduce the rules to my group.

My main reason for suggesting that the rules complicate wealth management is simply that, compared to a hard currency system, you are rolling dice to see whether you can buy something, while a hard currency system just requires some basic maths. I can see that the abstract method could open up new opportunities for play (where the GM interprets why the roll has failed, for instance), but I also feel that I don't necessarily want or need extra plot options from players doing their shopping. For me, shopping is something to get out of the way, not to make central to a game at any/some point. Or, I would say, if I had a GM tell me I can't buy something because I've put the merchant's nose out of joint, I feel that should be a result of a failed Mercantile roll or Persuasion roll, rather than a failed wealth roll.

It also feels a bit strange to me that you can fail to acquire something, yet still lose wealth. If the merchant tells you to get stuffed, or you can't find what you're looking for, why does wealth disappear?

I confess I'm interested to hear more about the faction rules, as they'd be pretty central to the game I intend to run.
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by thirtythr33 » 07 Feb 2018, 09:38

Stempest wrote:It also feels a bit strange to me that you can fail to acquire something, yet still lose wealth. If the merchant tells you to get stuffed, or you can't find what you're looking for, why does wealth disappear?

Just a quick correction. You don't lose anything when you entirely fail to acquire the item. It looks like you even get refunded any coin you spent trying to decrease the Req.

I had the same mistaken reaction when I read through it the first time (probably because losing money on a failure is what happens in Burning Wheel, which always annoyed me).

Whether or not the abstract wealth roll is more or less work than counting pennies comes down to the frequency you have to engage the system. Counting pennies is easy, but it has to be done all the frigging time. Would you rather roll Wealth once or twice a session, or would you rather keep track of the price of meals, accommodation and bridge tolls? A reasonable compromise would be to use a counting pennies system, where you only track the largest units of wealth (say gold) and all trivial expenses of silver and copper are rolled into a monthly upkeep of a few gold.

The real reason (I suspect) the abstract wealth system was chosen for S&S is because it mechanically plugs into so many other systems naturally. Tapping, Cascading, Social Class all plug into wealth rolls quite nicely. Traits get great support from the wealth system from things like Factions, Patrons and Status.

IMO, the biggest problem with the wealth system right now is that it really doesn't work well with Cashing Out during character creation. I'd probably tweak it so that if you cashed out you got to choose a number of items according to an array. Eg, A lesser noble that cashes out gets to pick 2x r8+ items, 5x r4-r7 items and 10x r1-3 items. (numbers entirely made up for example. Probably not reasonable).
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Benedict » 07 Feb 2018, 11:52

Stempest wrote:compared to a hard currency system, you are rolling dice to see whether you can buy something, while a hard currency system just requires some basic maths

Correction. Under abstract you engage the system (=roll) whenever the character needs to make a significant or unusual purchase that falls outside of ones normal lifestyle expenses.
Under hard you engage the system every single time the character buys something, from a toothpick to a mansion.

Stempest wrote:I don't necessarily want or need extra plot options from players doing their shopping

You don't have to if you don't want to. After all this is an option. But.
Stempest wrote:shopping is something to get out of the way, not to make central to a game at any/some point

What about supply and demand? World demographics? And what does "shopping" means?

Buying food or clothing to cover one's needs certainly counts as shopping. Hence no rolls are required under 'Scoundrels when doing so. Just a Maintenance roll at the end of the Maintenance cycle to check how well the character managed his resources.

Buying a sword, a suit of armor, or a score of acid vials (for battling those trolls) is outside one's lifestyle expenses, ain't it? By modern standards it's like saying that I can go out and buy a M16 rifle because I can spare the expense. Could I just click "buy" and have the thing mailed at my door by crediting my account? Guess there are more technicalities involved in such a purchase. The abstract system handles that with a roll. On the other hand most hard currency systems don't take it into account at all.

And what happens when characters start buying mercenary armies, arms and armor for said armies, castles, warships, and scores of war machines, simply because they can afford it? Either give them what they ask or veto they can't buy it? Transactions of such a scale are central to the game or not? Are they simply something "to get out of the way"? :?

Anyway, I'm not bashing at you or anything like that. :mrgreen:

Just having a (heated as always) discussion. :D

Basically thirtythr33 is spot-on:
The real reason (I suspect) the abstract wealth system was chosen for S&S is because it mechanically plugs into so many other systems naturally. Tapping, Cascading, Social Class all plug into wealth rolls quite nicely. Traits get great support from the wealth system from things like Factions, Patrons and Status.

or as I said earlier
its a really dynamic rule subset that meshes perfectly with the core mechanic

You could even tap in there shite like Proficiency. Because having a gun pointed at your finest china makes saying "not for sale" so much harder. :lol:
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Stempest » 08 Feb 2018, 08:19

I do still feel that things like supply and demand and demographics are things that I don't really have any interest in exploring in this game, although that doesn't necessarily refute any specific argument you've made.

I do feel like those critical purchases one might make, dealing with the merchant to buy the only one of something you desperately need, or the like, would be best roleplayed, and if that is the case, that using Mercantile or Persuasion would be more appropriate than rolling wealth, as it seems that those are the skills one might use the most in trying to convince the fellow to sell you the relic you need.

I suspect a part of our different views is just different inclinations. (Actually, that probably goes without saying). My training/career involves a decent amount of maths, and I'm pretty comfortable with doing large sums (not to say others aren't). Conversely, I've got 2 kids, and by the time I finish work, get them to bed, and finally sit down to my games, my preference is as little rules learning as possible. Maths (hard currency method) is a "rule" I already know well. Abstract wealth is another rule to learn, and one that seems less related to the core foci of S&S than some other things (like Drives, Traits or the combat rules). Now, it's not the rules' fault that I don't really want to learn rules that aren't related to what -I- feel are the core foci of the game, but then, I did only say that I don't like the wealth rules, not that they're bad.

(Re: buying armies at faction level, and whether it's something to get out of the way: It depends on your focus.)
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Re: I don't like the wealth rules

Post by Agamemnon » 18 Feb 2018, 16:03

A lot of this is just down to personal preference. I find it easier to make a roll once or twice per game than keep track of expenses. A major one is that even when using traditional money mechanics, people tend to ignore them after a while anyway because no one wants to actually pause to calculate totals on shopping lists. When you have twelve-hundred gold pieces, who wants to bother tracking how much copper you spent on a night drinking? On the other hand, it is a different way of handling it than what a lot of people are used to. The best advice I can offer is just to give it a shot and see if it works for you. If it doesn't, it'd be easy enough to throw out the wealth rules and then just use the price list from a D&D game or something.
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