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Let's talk about the economy.

economy economics project eternity RPG businesses

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43 replies to this topic

#21
wanderon

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Whats the point in getting to the end of the game and NOT being able to buy the best items that are available for sale is perhaps just as good a question - or stated differently whats the point of having items for sale that can never be bought becuase you can't generate enough gold to get them.

I'm a packrat - I pick up everything - even if it takes two trips and I stash & hoard good usuable items waiting for that time when I will really need them in spite of knowing it will probably never come. I typically finish the game with more items and gold than I can use but that doesn't bother me at all - getting to the end and not being able to afford that Uranium Laced Obsidian Necktie of Soulpower I'd like to wear for the final battle would really piss me off tho... :disguise:
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#22
AGX-17

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The economy of a game is, in my opinion, one of the least discussed and thought, but in many ways perhaps the most important element of maintaining the fludiity and enjoyment of early, mid, and late gameplay.

[TRUNCATED FOR CONVENIENCE]

I'd like to hear other people's input and thoughts on how the economy should operate at this fundamental level. There are more in-depth and concrete ways of approaching this, but I'm trying to stay mostly theoretical with respect to how the game should operate its currency and process of handling funds in a very complex, but rewarding way. If the player feels they are really engaged with the economy there is a lot to be gained in playability. Skyrim sucks in a way because it's got a low ceiling, and no dynamic economy. Sorry this is a bit of a brain-fart and thus poorly structured and organized, but there are a few truths within it worth reading.




It depends entirely on whether or not the laws of conservation of matter/energy apply in this world. If a wizard can conjure up new matter with a spell out of nowhere, then it's not a closed system and all the established theories of economics go out the window. Every basic theory of economics starts with the notion that there are finite resources but infinite demand for those resources.


Whats the point in getting to the end of the game and NOT being able to buy the best items that are available for sale is perhaps just as good a question - or stated differently whats the point of having items for sale that can never be bought becuase you can't generate enough gold to get them.

I'm a packrat - I pick up everything - even if it takes two trips and I stash & hoard good usuable items waiting for that time when I will really need them in spite of knowing it will probably never come. I typically finish the game with more items and gold than I can use but that doesn't bother me at all - getting to the end and not being able to afford that Uranium Laced Obsidian Necktie of Soulpower I'd like to wear for the final battle would really piss me off tho... :disguise:


It sounds more like you've just been playing games designed around packrats who obsessively collect every worthless piece of garbage to pawn it for a tiny amount. Generally speaking, the idea is that you have to make a (hopefully) thoughtful decision about how you want to spend that money. You have to make a cost-benefit analysis to determine which item will get you the most "bang for your buck."

Edited by AGX-17, 17 December 2012 - 10:19 PM.

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#23
Jojobobo

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I think FO:NV had a decent system, rarely did vendors have significant amounts of caps for you to get for your items and so if you had a load of high level weapons in full repair you have to barter them for a different item (especially with the inclusion of the Gun Runners' Arsenal DLC) you wanted rather than currency. In this regard, you get a sense that wealth isn't limitless but at the same time it doesn't inhibit the player greatly.

I'm not entirely convinced that enough players would enjoy a dynamic economy enough to merit its inclusion in the game. I would enjoy it, but it does seem like it would be a very resource intensive venture. However if you look in the lore update under Readceras it mentions that a popular religious movement sparked the collapse of the nation's purple-dye market, so I think clearly the team is going to have the economy in the game in some shape or form.

Instead, you can always simulate an economy through quests (or as many have pointed out, events like natural disasters or war between nations). For example maybe there's a trade embargo between the Free Palatinate of Dyrwood and the Penitential Regency of Readceras, and a coterie of merchants in Readceras comes to the player wanting them to solve their supply issues. Solutions could be liaising with smugglers in one of the regions to solve this problem, or creating trade deals with the merchants of a entirely different region not involved in the embargo to solve the supply problem. After this has been sorted, new items will be available from the merchants to demonstrate their new found supply - indicative of an economy without having to actually produce a dynamic economy.
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#24
LadyCrimson

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Generally speaking, the idea is that you have to make a (hopefully) thoughtful decision about how you want to spend that money. You have to make a cost-benefit analysis to determine which item will get you the most "bang for your buck."

The problem with that is - the first time playing at least - that the player has no idea how much they need to save for those late-game "best items" that may appear, and thus cannot make any true rational/logical decisions about how to spend their money as they go through the game. Spend too much on a couple high priced items in the mid-game and you might not have enough to get what you really want at the endgame. I don't mean that you can't buy the entire 10 piece set of Uber-Gear-Set-#21 at the last merchant...but that you may not even be able to buy a couple pieces.

That's always frustrating, and I've played plenty of games where that ended up being the case ... and I don't mean just looting arpg's ... which is part of the reason I became a packrat in the first place. Where you become paranoid to ever spend money at all, until the last.

So whatever kind of economy there is, imo it has to have a bit of a balance ... so if you're the type who doesn't like to spend all their time looting/selling, you can still splurge here and there, just not as often ... yet those people obsessed with looting/selling (or crafting/selling) won't end up with 7billion quatloos in their pockets at all times.

...this all assumes that stores even have the chance to stock items that players are going to feel like spending "big money" on in the first place, of course. Perhaps P.E. stores will largely consist of more basic stuff and the better items will all have to be found.

#25
PrimeJunta

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Whats the point in getting to the end of the game and NOT being able to buy the best items that are available for sale is perhaps just as good a question - or stated differently whats the point of having items for sale that can never be bought becuase you can't generate enough gold to get them.


Yes, that would be silly.

However, having a Uranium Necktie of Complete Protection (1,000,000 ZM) and a Wet String of Instantly Lethal Damage (also 1,000,000 ZM) available for purchase, but only 1,500,000 ZM worth of other treasure in the game would be interesting, because it would mean that you'd have to decide which one you want, even if you'd wrung every last ZM out of the game. Then maybe pick the other one on your next playthrough.

That's what's cool about scarcity. It makes choices meaningful. If you always get everything (and a pony) it gets boring.
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#26
PrimeJunta

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The problem with that is - the first time playing at least - that the player has no idea how much they need to save for those late-game "best items" that may appear, and thus cannot make any true rational/logical decisions about how to spend their money as they go through the game. Spend too much on a couple high priced items in the mid-game and you might not have enough to get what you really want at the endgame. I don't mean that you can't buy the entire 10 piece set of Uber-Gear-Set-#21 at the last merchant...but that you may not even be able to buy a couple pieces.

That's always frustrating, and I've played plenty of games where that ended up being the case ... and I don't mean just looting arpg's ... which is part of the reason I became a packrat in the first place. Where you become paranoid to ever spend money at all, until the last.


That's what replays are for. The first time around there's a lot you don't know. What the toughest fights are like and which weapons, skills, and party builds are most effective in them. What the outcome of particular story choices you make is. What's around the next corner. That's what makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Games that let you have everything on a single playthrough are much less satisfying than ones with built-in limiters. These are the ones you end up replaying, that give you a different experience every time.

So the first time around you won't even know that there's the Uranium Necktie and the Wet String in the last shop you'll encounter, and you'll only have amassed a quarter-mil worth of barterable treasure. As long as the rest of the game is still beatable with a reasonable amount of frustration, that's all good. Next time around you'll be saving up for them. And the next time after that, for the other thing. Wanting to get everything NAOW! is a big reason cRPG's have gone downhill for the past 10-15 years.

#27
mstark

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I hope no "end game" gear will be available from merchants, only from side/alternative encounters (think Firkraag). Unless it's part of some epic quest to unlock a black market where you can buy decent gear at outrageous prices, or decide to shut down the market by killing everyone and stealing the items.

If the game is going to be anything like the (D&D) IE games, there isn't really such a thing as "end game" gear. No gear is really THAT much better than any other gear. A +5 sword, while obviously better, isn't that much better than a +1 (though there were some unique modifiers that made items clear best choices). If you knew where to look, you could find good, viable "end game" items in Baldur's Gate by just exploring. IWD, while on a similar item power scale, was a fair bit more linear in the way you found loot & how it scaled, I preferred the BG approach.

Whether I could afford them or not, I would hate seeing items that are clearly better than those I spent hours exploring every nook and cranny of the most dangerous tombs & dungeons to find available from a merchant once I get to an end game area.

As for different cities having different supply & demand, it existed in games like Freelancer (and other space/travelling/trading sims), and, in my opinion, turns an otherwise enjoyable single player experience into a MMO-ish grinding/trading experience, since it encourages buying items in one place, travelling to another, selling them... rinse and repeat until you've evened out the market and the profit isn't worth it anymore.

Edited by mstark, 18 December 2012 - 05:28 AM.

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#28
AGX-17

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Generally speaking, the idea is that you have to make a (hopefully) thoughtful decision about how you want to spend that money. You have to make a cost-benefit analysis to determine which item will get you the most "bang for your buck."

The problem with that is - the first time playing at least - that the player has no idea how much they need to save for those late-game "best items" that may appear, and thus cannot make any true rational/logical decisions about how to spend their money as they go through the game. Spend too much on a couple high priced items in the mid-game and you might not have enough to get what you really want at the endgame. I don't mean that you can't buy the entire 10 piece set of Uber-Gear-Set-#21 at the last merchant...but that you may not even be able to buy a couple pieces.

That's always frustrating, and I've played plenty of games where that ended up being the case ... and I don't mean just looting arpg's ... which is part of the reason I became a packrat in the first place. Where you become paranoid to ever spend money at all, until the last.

So whatever kind of economy there is, imo it has to have a bit of a balance ... so if you're the type who doesn't like to spend all their time looting/selling, you can still splurge here and there, just not as often ... yet those people obsessed with looting/selling (or crafting/selling) won't end up with 7billion quatloos in their pockets at all times.

...this all assumes that stores even have the chance to stock items that players are going to feel like spending "big money" on in the first place, of course. Perhaps P.E. stores will largely consist of more basic stuff and the better items will all have to be found.


Why would these endgame items cost the same as the total possible amount of money a player can accrue throughout an entire playthrough without buying anything else?

Besides, these days it's usually a given that the best gear is not found in the hands of merchants.

Edited by AGX-17, 18 December 2012 - 01:50 PM.


#29
jethro

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Whats the point in getting to the end of the game and NOT being able to buy the best items that are available for sale is perhaps just as good a question - or stated differently whats the point of having items for sale that can never be bought becuase you can't generate enough gold to get them.


There is a difference between "can't buy any highest-level item at end-game" and "can't buy all highest-level items at end-game". I was arguing to prevent the second possibility to occur. Because if you can afford everything, everything becomes cheap (in the sense of "worthless").

#30
jethro

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I hope no "end game" gear will be available from merchants, only from side/alternative encounters (think Firkraag). Unless it's part of some epic quest to unlock a black market where you can buy decent gear at outrageous prices, or decide to shut down the market by killing everyone and stealing the items.


I wouldn't mind some high end gear on the market, just so that the gold you earn has value. You have to be able to spend that gold for something. If not, finding gold treasure becomes useless.

But that doesn't mean that merchants are packed with high level stuff. A good ratio might be one or two items of highest level for each class (at outrageous prices), the rest for your eight or ten item slots you can only find through questing.


If the game is going to be anything like the (D&D) IE games, there isn't really such a thing as "end game" gear. No gear is really THAT much better than any other gear. A +5 sword, while obviously better, isn't that much better than a +1 (though there were some unique modifiers that made items clear best choices). If you knew where to look, you could find good, viable "end game" items in Baldur's Gate by just exploring. IWD, while on a similar item power scale, was a fair bit more linear in the way you found loot & how it scaled, I preferred the BG approach.


Since Brennecke revealed that they won't have those +x modifiers but distinct armor for the power progression and they are limited in the amount of different armor they can produce (by budget and time) I would guess that you likely will get your wish. And that is not a bad thing: A moderate power scale makes you less dependent on whether you completed all side-quests and found the corresponding loot.

#31
LadyCrimson

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Why would these endgame items cost the same as the total possible amount of money a player can accrue throughout an entire playthrough without buying anything else?

I wouldn't know, you'd have to ask the creators of the games I played. ;) I'd guess it was to encourage you to explore instead.

That's what replays are for. The first time around there's a lot you don't know. What the toughest fights are like and which weapons, skills, and party builds are most effective in them. What the outcome of particular story choices you make is. What's around the next corner. That's what makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Games that let you have everything on a single playthrough are much less satisfying than ones with built-in limiters. These are the ones you end up replaying, that give you a different experience every time.

Designing a game that assumes that every player will replay it is not, imo, good design. Which isn't to say I don't personally like replaying a lot of games or don't want games to have aspects to encourage replays. Just that I don't think that should be a requirement to feeling like I enjoyed the game/the game played fair.

I hope no "end game" gear will be available from merchants, only from side/alternative encounters (think Firkraag). Unless it's part of some epic quest to unlock a black market where you can buy decent gear at outrageous prices, or decide to shut down the market by killing everyone and stealing the items.

That's pretty much my view. I think merchants should largely just have basic gear and potions, ingredients if any, spell scrolls if any, that sort of thing. That way the game isn't a "how much gold do I have?" mini-game. You aren't likely to get tons of gold, but you don't need to spend tons of gold. I'd rather have it motivation to explore/quest because I'll find good stuff in hidden chests and on enemies, not so I can get big gold rewards to spend at a merchant.
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#32
mstark

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Going back to IE/BG, it's fairly "realistic" that your hero grows rich, considering the amount of exploring/adventuring done.

In BG2, if you don't do more than 1-3 side quests + the main quest line, you have barely enough money to buy the many magical 20-40k items available in Athkatla. If you do everything, however, you should have around 300-400k by the end of the game, easily enough to buy near enough everything (though the gear you will have looted by then will be far better anyway). In ToB it kinda goes insane though, I ended up with 1.2 million and nothing to spend it on. I still quite enjoyed being that epicly rich, and, considering it was the final game in a long running series, what better place to allow you to have that feeling? :)

BG2, IMO, is a well designed game in this regard. If you complete 50% of it, you can just about afford to buy most merchant items, and they may be better than what you've looted so far, but if you complete 100% of it money stops being an issue, without any grinding involved, just exploration of unique & enjoyable content.

Edited by mstark, 18 December 2012 - 04:39 PM.


#33
wanderon

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Whats the point in getting to the end of the game and NOT being able to buy the best items that are available for sale is perhaps just as good a question - or stated differently whats the point of having items for sale that can never be bought becuase you can't generate enough gold to get them.


There is a difference between "can't buy any highest-level item at end-game" and "can't buy all highest-level items at end-game". I was arguing to prevent the second possibility to occur. Because if you can afford everything, everything becomes cheap (in the sense of "worthless").


But if you can't buy or otherwise accrue most of the things a typical party is going to want / need by games end then the whole process of loot becomes equally worthless doesn't it?

And if the loot is there and the packrat player grabs every last bit set out for him shouldn't he be able to benefit at a higher level from it than the player that left the bulk of it on the ground?

#34
PrimeJunta

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That's what replays are for. The first time around there's a lot you don't know. What the toughest fights are like and which weapons, skills, and party builds are most effective in them. What the outcome of particular story choices you make is. What's around the next corner. That's what makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Games that let you have everything on a single playthrough are much less satisfying than ones with built-in limiters. These are the ones you end up replaying, that give you a different experience every time.

Designing a game that assumes that every player will replay it is not, imo, good design. Which isn't to say I don't personally like replaying a lot of games or don't want games to have aspects to encourage replays. Just that I don't think that should be a requirement to feeling like I enjoyed the game/the game played fair.


I agree. But I feel very strongly that a cRPG that lets you get everything on one playthrough is lacking. It removes one of the things that, for me, make the appeal of the genre -- choices and consequences. Choosing something implies not choosing something else; otherwise it's a phony choice. What you don't get defines what you do get.

#35
ShadowTiger

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First off, the most important thing is to avoid the economy breaking.

The main issue I have is with rogues. In baldur's gate 2, I drank a potion of master thievery and a potion of mind focusing or whatever for a large bonus to pick pocketing and stole enough gear from merchants to basically twink myself in the first hour of the game. Similarly, if there are tons of items hidden around and guarded by locks or traps, it can be somewhat unbalanced.

Part of the problem with pickpocketing is that if you succeed you get great rewards, but if you fail, you get a game over basically. I think they need to think very carefully about this system and how to avoid unbalancing the economy.

There is also going to be a crafting system if I remember correctly, that can have huge implications. In many games, crafting is pointless because you get the best items from loot drops and usually an item that took lots of saving up to build is obsolete after a short while.

On the other hand, you probably don't want parties to be 100% self sufficient either, so finding a good middle ground will be difficult.


In terms of stores though, I think there is a simple way to make it interesting but not overcomplicated.

Have each merchant generate an inventory, perhaps static or maybe randomly decided based on what type of merchant and how wealthy of an area it is.

Then have it so that as you buy items, the inventory gets replenished at a certain rate, up to a maximum.

So lets say an alchemist has 5 healing potions. You go and buy 4 of them. You come back the next day and he has 2 healing potions in stock. You come back 2 weeks later and he is at 5 potions again. You could also make it random, so some days the inventory goes down instead of up, because some other band of adventures came and bought up all the stock. Similarly, maybe he got sick so one day he doesn't craft any new potions.

It would be a simple system of die rolls to modify the inventory, though it would be cool if the shop keeper changed the dialogue to explain why the inventory is going up or down.

Finally, in terms of magic items, I think that there should be 3 tiers of items. Common, Rare, and Legendary.

Common items should be everywhere, fairly cheap, and could be things like healing potions, long sword +1, etc. It depends on how things scale really. This tier of items should be easy to buy and sell.

Rare items are hard to get, requiring lots of components and skill in crafting, doing quests for npc blacksmiths, wizards, etc, or should drop from powerful monsters or be hidden in well guarded chests. This could be things like archmage robes, gauntlets of ogre strength, and a mirror shield. It should be difficult to find someone who can afford to buy these from you, and it should be very rare that you can buy one in a store.

Legendary items should be pre-placed, very powerful with unique effects, and should have a boss + skill check or a difficult puzzle in order to get to them. A few should be part of quests, and a few should just be in side areas that you find by exploring. These should be items like the holy avenger sword, a ring of invisibility, or armor that has no encumbrance. These items should all be priceless so you can't sell them, though maybe you could trade them to an NPC as part of a quest. You should never be able to buy these.

Edited by ShadowTiger, 19 December 2012 - 03:31 AM.


#36
mstark

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^There are easier ways than the rogue trick to get endless amounts of money within the first hour of playing BG2, but I'd consider all of those tricks bugs that need patching, not bad economy design. If such loopholes are discovered early on in PE I believe they will be patched rather quickly.

I agree that the D&D pick pocket system didn't really work in IE.

#37
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I hope gold and treasure will have weight and player will have to scrap every piece to afford the amazing Maximillian Plate. Then LadyCrimson will choke kittens because she used everything on healing potions and cool looking hats.

#38
ShadowTiger

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There is a "trick" where you steal items and sell it back to the same vendor for unlimited amounts of money, but I don't do that. Drinking a potion of master thievery is an intended feature of the game, though maybe they didn't expect me to have a pure rogue instead of a dual/multi class.

The main issue is vendors not having a limited amount of money to buy your items with in this case... Arcanum did a good job with this and having wares/money replenish every once in a while.

Edited by ShadowTiger, 19 December 2012 - 06:07 AM.


#39
Azrayel

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I think that vendor prices can be tweaked between areas easily, but what iThink would be better for P:E than a dynamic economy is--

a scripted economy! (scripticonomy for short, and sCripCon for the college class).

How do iMean? You see, there will be a finite amount of options to impact the economy/story at the same time. Also, if random encounters are included when traveling that could be involved.


EXAMPLE 1

Your Stronghold is in disrepair; gathering resources isn't a problem, but keeping beams and boards replaced and holding up is.

Most carpenters aren't willing to take up living with you, given the danger and oddity of it all. However, the carpaneter of a small village whom you saved (or didn't) from bandits is willing to, assume you foot the initial cost of 500 coin to move his workshop.

You get the immediate benefit and immediate cost of having wood-based (bows, arrows/quarrels) processed crafting components\products in your Stronghold and the ability to repair/sell them with your carpenter-- but the town now has no carpenter! You take a rep hit, but it's not too big so oh well.

Later on in the game a band of brigands is sweeping through the region with a vendetta for you. Between your Stronghold and them is the small village, and in want of their "fine goods" they attack the village (you can help them defend or stay holed up in the Stronghold).

With no carpenter the village bearly even has stakes in the ground and their doors barred. This fight sees bandits entering from 180 degrees of the area and sneaking around buildings for cover, with the NPC defenders getting picked off pretty fast.

WITH carpenter however, it's a whole new ball game; assuming some other conditions are met they'll proceed to rebuild the old stockade they had when they were still a new colonial-ish settlement. By the time the brigands are on the war path the wall is all but built; it's just missing a gate. There will also be two sally doors that get busted in, but three doors top 180 degrees; of the PC decides to stand and fight with them they will be easier to repel, and even if they don't the village stands a better chance.

Conversely, the stronghold will have some weak points it wouldn't've if you don't hire the carpenter and any attack on it will be harder to repel.


EXAMPLE 2

Random encounter: you come upon a camp with several wagons and some tired guards. The caravan master meets with you and informs you that his expedition is stuck because an investor fell through. Unless he can find another 2000 coin he won't be able to cut the deal and buy low from his connections at X to make a mad profit at Y.

The player can either coerce an NPC to finance the deal and cut you in on their profits (should they make any) or pay it yourself.

Random chance, skill, or another variable will determine the outcome. If all goes well you'll make a lot of money after a few quests when the deal gets made and the caravan stops by your stronghold.


EXAMPLE 3

A heated political rivalry for control of the city comes to a head when the Watcher and company blunder in, searching for answers and getting wrapped up in the conflict despite (or in accord with) their best efforts.

Ultimately the decision comes between two leaders for the city: one is an old merchant who had some people murdered to make sure things fell into place, while the other is a young nobleman who's playing by the books and wants to clean up the city and is full of idealism and righteousness.

Get the merchant in power, business booms and the status quo is protected. You are rewarded financially by your rep boost is minimal.

Get the noble in power, and business is derailed by his inexpereince despite social injustices being addressed and violent crime being combatted. He cannot spare you much coin, but knows that loyalty is not bought-- your rep is boosted greatly with both the noble's faction he works with and the common people, but everyone who makes a living off the market square is a great deal poorer.



These things, while not "dynamic" strictly speaking, are the sort of things you can easily incorporate into an RPG without all new systems.

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Atreides

Atreides

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You have a lot of loot you find and some of it must be of your level. To get some approximate numbers, in a typical quest you would find one or two items fitting to your level. At a specific level you can do lets say 15 quests before gaining a new level, so this means you will get 30 items at a specific level of which your party can use maybe a third, i.e. 10. The rest you sell at a ratio 1:4 (in a typical IE game) of what you have to pay for it. Even ignoring a barter skill and additional gold loot you can afford to buy 5 items of your level with that. Definitely too much.

Solution: Merchants don't buy at a ratio 1:4, they buy at 1:10 or even better 1:20. You make money with each piece you sell, but it is small. At 1:20 you could afford exactly one item of your level to buy from a merchant (with my very back-of-an-envelope calculation ;-). And probably another one from the gold loot.

Any hole in my logic?

At those merchant ratios, I'd be one too. Or at least take the merchant route/encourage trade and tax at my stronghold.

May make more sense that easily substituted items have lower profit ratios while merchants can charge more on scarce/rare items.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: economy, economics, project eternity, RPG, businesses

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