Friday, October 22, 2010

Widening The Equipment Table

Back in July I proposed to limit the availability of goods on my equipment table, which I've worked at casually these last few months.  I believe I've got a system now that works, something that would guarantee that goods produced in or near the market would always be available, while things farther away became increasingly rare.

The simplicity in the system is that I make no attempt whatsoever to describe the 'supply' of the item, nor its local demand.  I argue that such things do not need to be computed, if we reason that scarcity is controlled by the relative cost of the item (players will be unable, or willing to buy items even if they are available) and abundance controlled by the general nature of the system, which can be examined here.  It is not generally understood by tourists of Economics that 'demand' is a product of the industrial revolution, and not a consideration in mercantalist systems ... given that the world was quite used to demand not being met and the starvation of helpless people being a commonplace thing.  Of course people demanded things, but the middle class had yet to be invented and mass-production did not exist.  It did not matter if more people in a town demanded shoes, for instance, since the shoemaker could not increase his output and the number of skilled shoemakers in the world were finite ... to invent new shoemakers out of thin air was not something that could be done as easily as putting up a factory and having machines built that would do the job.

I often encounter an insistence that modern production/economic rules must apply to non-industrial societies ... a thinking box which suffocates many attempts to create a fictional medieval trade economy.  The simulation immediately seems vast, with endless variables - when in fact most of those variables aren't applicable.

But enough about this.

All we want is to be able to say whether or not the product is available, and how many of the item the player can buy or sell.

Towards that end, have a glance at the three images below:

(Wouldn't you know I'd screw up the graphic?  The Purchasing block should read No. / Price / Unit)

The table is divided in two parts, the first being what a player would normally see as an equipment table, the second being the number of things which this luthier would pay to buy, and how much the luthier would pay.  Note that there are changes in the tables, but not excessive ones ... and the bigger change is in what the luthier will buy, rather than what he has to sell.  Note also that some products are always rare, and unavailable, except when you're actually in the region that produces that object.  If you want violins, you'll have to visit Italy.

These are all from the same location (at present the mean location for everywhere, so a place that doesn't exist), and would represent a different moment in time.  The idea is that it presents not the number of items available in the town, but the number of items the players can find in the space of one day ... or week, I haven't quite decided.  Just because there might be four times as many lutes in a particular town doesn't mean the party has found those other lute shops while schlepping themselves around.  And yes, generally the lute shops all tend to be on the same street (although this was not always so, though it was common), it still doesn't mean that the lutist isn't working on an order for someone else, or that someone didn't just come in and buy up all his stock five minutes ago.

The important thing is that the supply is limited ... and that if the party finds a treasure that includes fifty lutes, they may have to search through the town for quite a while to eventually unload them all (particularly if I make the time frame a week).

A side note ... the table is intentionally created so that some objects can be both for sale and for purchase - if it so happens the luthier is short on those things.  Note the price will allow the luthier to make a little coin on the exchange.

Something else about this table and its importance.  I plan to build my treasure tables out of the same figures (I think I can see just how to do that now) ... which means that the most likely treasure will also be items that are plentiful in the local area - and therefore, not something the local merchants will be interested in buying.  Which is only natural.  The local orcs will be most likely to steal barrels of ale if the local industry is a brewery, shipping barrels of ale out along the local roads.  And if the party kills the orcs, and gets back the barrels - whose barrels do you think they are?  You expect the local merchants to buy the barrels back?

I'm liking the system.  I'm still calculating the numbers for the 1,300 goods and services involved, both sales and purchasing, which is mostly at this point a lot of formatting to make it all look pretty and easily edited later when I want to add MORE things.  I can see other ways to fool with it, and additional complications I can add later, if I want to - but that's probably something I'll leave for a couple of years.  This is enough of a change for now.

There are always other projects beckoning.


Frank said...

So what variables did you change between the tables?

How do you decide what the luthier will buy?


Alexis said...

Each item has it's price and availability calculated according to the availability of materials and the locations of luthier guilds, by virtue of the link I posted about the general nature of the system. A random number is rolled against this availability, modified slightly when the individual nature of the item suggested special circumstances.

The 'random number' is calculated so that if the base chance is above a certain point, then the object will always be available (though the number of choices can still go up), whereas if the chance is below a certain point, the object will never be available. However, the latter is highly rare, while the former is quite common.

An example of something that would always have a level of availability would be grain, which is grown virtually everywhere. An example of something that would never show up would be tortoise shells in Siberia.

The Hex Master said...

Formal definitions of supply and demand may be a relatively modern concept but I believe there is value in including the concept in game economics. Supply and demand indexes can model economic forces present in any economy and are not strictly tied to modern production technology. While mercantalism had a poor understanding of the concept and lacked the ability to either collect enough market data on anything but a local scale or react to market conditions, the god's eye perspective of the DM is not so limited. Basing game economics solely on mercantalist models of market understanding would lead to unsustainable market situations. I find that recreating mercantalist behaviors within modern model of economic understanding leads itself to greater equilibrium when trying to crunch the numbers. It also has the benefit of allowing other economic strategies to be included, like the older Roman system, Arabic merchants, and the networks of Jewish merchants. It's also easy to adjust prices for situations like customs taxes, wars, lawlessness, random events and poor trade networks when these are expressed as multipliers to the supply and demand index.


gilgamec said...

If a party wants to obtain a "magnificent pipe organ", shouldn't any reasonably established luthier be able to obtain one (through their own contacts) even if they don't have one on hand? How would you price things obtained "on order", or would you require that the party schlep to Vienna (or, at least, hire someone to do so) to get something that's not available in Roumelia?

Alexis said...

My world takes place in 1650, prior to most customer service models. So I would, in fact, demand that the party schlep to Vienna - which, according to things I've read about the period, was standard practice. If not to go yourself, to send a lackey to bring the expert to you.

C'nor said...

I noticed you've mentioned that certain things will never be available in certain places. But if your party wants to buy tortoise shells in Siberia shouldn't there be a chance of a private collector that owns them, or a "rare goods" shop selling things that other adventurers have brought in? Since there's the whole world certain things will be rare, but if the party needs a South American slave as a gift for an African king, it's likely that there'll be one somewhere closer than, say, Brazil.