Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Drink and Be Merry

This post is probably the result of my be forcibly kept from my keyboard for 10 hrs. yesterday, but what the hell; I have something more to say about liquor.

The following is a table of prices for liquor in Benghazi, Cyrenaica (modern day east Libya).  There's no special reason I've chosen this place; it was the last time my off-line players went to market, so the numbers have just been left as a default.

Chartreuse isn't on the list because its produced in Spain, and I haven't added Spain yet. Of course, I established earlier today that I'm going to move the production to France, but that's a lot harder than it sounds - and at any rate, there's no point in updating the sources until I get the pricing table in order.  That said . . .

(oh, I suppose I should also add that 17th century Libya was under the control of the Ottomans, who were not fundamentalist regarding distilling liquor; plus Benghazi had a large Greek merchant population so there would be no reason a person couldn't buy liquor there)

The prices are all created, as the tutorial explained, from distances, references and relative cost of ingredients.  Arrack, the coconut liquor, is ridiculously expensive because I haven't added any parts of my world that produce coconuts to the general system.  That means getting coconuts to make liquor is extremely difficult - thus, a stupidly high price for something not considered that valuable.  When I add West Africa, East Africa and Indonesia to the mix in the next few years, that price will drop precipitously.

Elixir de Spa is a different matter.  My sources say it is remixed cherry liqueur (kirschwasser), so that it is thrice distilled, piling up the cost of the ingredients; it is also made in only one place in the world, in Belgium near the German border.  Thus, any place that more than a few days away from it and the stuff is going to be pricey.  We can assume that if there is someone with a bottle of the stuff in Benghazi, that someone has brought it from a long way away and doesn't want to part with it - except at an extraordinary price.

Others are going to notice that even whiskey and gin are really expensive, whereas local spirits seem to be almost irrationally cheap.  The thing to remember is that it seems like this might be the system exhibiting glitches, it's more a matter of perspective.  We live in a world of super fast-and-easy delivery.  The Renaissance did not.  Any distilled beverage that was replaced in any single locale was bound to be non-existent outside that locale; and I only have a few places that produce classic "whiskey" or classic "gin" (none of which probably did in the 17th century, but we must stretch definitions now and then).  Most people did not drink anything like a brand-name distilled juice . . . but on the other hand, distilled juice was, in fact, easy to make.

My first wife Michelle (my daughter's mother), when she was a teenager, used to work in a mall kiosk called Grandma Lee's, where they sold baked goods, cookies, banana bread and such.  Some of these were made fresh so there was yeast available on the premises.  As 16-year-olds, they used to mix some yeast into fruit juice, along with berries that went in the muffins and such, then 'hide it' on top of the cupboards of the kiosk for a week at a time.  Everyone knew about these little cups except the management, presumably.  In a week, after a shift, they'd all get a little tipsy.  Distilling is really, really easy.

The important thing is not to 'fix' the prices, but to realize that high prices like this promote scarcity and empty player wallets, and are thus a good thing.  We tend too quickly to lower the prices of things to make them 'reasonable' - and not only is reasonable unnecessary, it is boring.  We can always say that above a certain price the substance just isn't available, and I'll eventually work on my rules for that.

What we want, however, is to concentrate on using these high prices to promote a good game.

One way might be to identify a benefit to paying a certain price for liquor - improved morale, a better chance to hit, a better saving throw, plus power for casting spells, adding dexterity (snooker players claim a little drink does) or other ability statistics, etcetera - IF the amount paid is very high and IF the character doesn't actually get flushed.  Call it a 'happiness' measurement; obviously, it could apply to any number of things, beyond spirits.  Basically, the idea is that if the character spends enough on themselves in a certain period of time, they can gain the benefit.  The actual amount could be staggered, as well, so that 50 g.p. produced this result, 500 g.p. produced a better result, 5000 g.p. a better result still . . . and we can stipulate that the product paid for must be something relatively useless, like a bottle of Armagnac or a bright and shiny new sword (which in no way is better than the old sword, except that it's new).

That's the simplest method.  I think a better method would be to create a list of thirty or forty luxuries (easy, from my list), one of which would especially appeal to the player's character.  Those things might be incense, intoxicants, spirits, textiles, fruits, spices, nuts, perfumes, pottery, color dyestuffs, woods, glass objects, whatever we want.  Basically, Vladimir collect ceramic unicorns, and when he finds one, he's absolutely deadly with that axe.

Here is where it matters.  Scarcity means that many of the things on the above list can't be found for any price.  So that when the party does go to a new town, and the die rolls for that object line up, bingo - the player is super-happy (and the character too).  Where do the players want to settle?  Well, obviously, where they can find enough pistachios, saffron, tea or good gin to keep themselves happy.

I was just hit by inspiration upon finishing this section of my pricing table.  Now I have to put this stuff down, have an hour to eat and relax, then get started again on the book.  21 days is awfully close (and I work for the next three!).


JB said...

Count me among the "snooker players" that feel my dexterity improves with a little drink (though straight pool or nine ball are my usual games of choice).
; )

Maxwell Joslyn said...

You've been posting quite a bit the last few days, never would have known you'd gotten the job. Congratulations on that bit of fortune.

You've come around to this point -- "characters have a dozen or so things that make them happy and thus grant bonuses to this, that, or the other" -- a few times over the years and it's a good one. One more way to finagle some points for their characters ... while simultaneously getting them to absolutely care where they are and what goes on there. Good stuff.

Alexis Smolensk said...

For anything to mean anything, it has to apply to the technical requirements of the game. Truth be told, the more complicated the game, the more things you can shave or modify: +1% experience bonus for anything gained on the day of finding the thing you love, anybody?

Ray Doraisamy said...

Awhile back, you mentioned you used comments to gauge interest. I'm leaving this here for that - I liked this post.