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Mercantile Skills in Project Eternity

merchant economy skill speechcraft barter haggle persuade supply demand arbitrage

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Poll: Mercantile Skills in Project Eternity (43 member(s) have cast votes)

How do you envision effective traders in Project Eternity?

  1. Silver-tongued smooth talkers that can somehow rob others right under their noses. (3 votes [6.98%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.98%

  2. Traveling merchants who utilize solid business strategy and work hard for their money. (5 votes [11.63%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.63%

  3. Skilled craftsmen that rely on the quality of their goods more than any underhanded methods. (7 votes [16.28%])

    Percentage of vote: 16.28%

  4. Some combination of the above. (27 votes [62.79%])

    Percentage of vote: 62.79%

  5. Neither of the above (please describe). (1 votes [2.33%])

    Percentage of vote: 2.33%

What strategies for increasing profit should Project Eternity offer?

  1. Building up rapport over time with specific NPCs until they like you enough to give you discounts (favor mechanic). (31 votes [15.05%])

    Percentage of vote: 15.05%

  2. Persuading NPCs until they like you so much that they give you good prices (whether through charm, intimidation, or bribes). (20 votes [9.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.71%

  3. Haggling aggressively with whichever gullible NPC one can find the quickest (conventional haggle skill). (15 votes [7.28%])

    Percentage of vote: 7.28%

  4. Utilizing an appraisal skill for uncommon items to ensure competitive pricing (appraise skill, possibly merged with identify skill). (23 votes [11.17%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.17%

  5. Seeking out non-merchant NPCs who need a certain item and bartering for another item that may be more valuable (bartering options). (20 votes [9.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.71%

  6. Seeking out merchants who specialize in certain kinds of goods and doing business with them (different types of merchants pay more or less for certain items). (30 votes [14.56%])

    Percentage of vote: 14.56%

  7. Exploiting differences in supply and demand from place to place (which would ideally be based on geography and resource availability). (23 votes [11.17%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.17%

  8. Exploiting fluctuations in supply and demand over time (requires some semblance of a simulated economy). (12 votes [5.83%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.83%

  9. Enhancing the items via crafting and enchantments to increase their value (basic crafting). (20 votes [9.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.71%

  10. Reducing items to their components so they can be crafted into something else or sold individually (reverse engineering in crafting). (12 votes [5.83%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.83%

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#1
mcmanusaur

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This topic is more straightforward than the ones I usually post, but here I'm simply asking how you'd like the mercantile skills to work in Project Eternity. In most DnD-based games I've played its given an abstraction centered around haggling and persuasion, and while this is part of getting favorable prices it obviously isn't the whole picture. Historically, there was of course quite a strong tradition of traveling merchants in medieval times, and I'd guess that this is because prices then varied between locations, just as they do now. Very few games make use of this in my experience, and I think that this could make mercantile activities interesting while refraining from making it into its own little mini-game. So do you find glorified speech skills an adequate portrayal of business acumen, or would you instead prefer the majority of profit stem from strategy rather than salesmanship? I myself am no economics expert, so a full-on economy simulation probably wouldn't be necessary for me to suspend my disbelief, but other people might be more knowledgeable.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 08 July 2013 - 11:07 AM.


#2
JFSOCC

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I believe I read a while back that there might be multiple currencies in Eternity, I'd like the idea of different prices for the same goods in different currencies, as some goods may be valued differently in different places. It would not immediately be obvious which place offers the best deal. One place may offer you quite a healthy sum for something, but have comparatively high prices. Finding ways to exchange currencies for decent rates could be a challenge.
Players who don't want to go through the motions will get decent prices, and players who want to gain every advantage can work out lists and move from place to place.
Add some exclusivity to certain items (trade embargoes, contraband status of certain items, lack of a market for some items) and you've got the makings of some challenge gameplay. (Smuggling items)
The rewards should be small enough that it doesn't break the game, and large enough that it's fun for those who don't mind the effort.

A city under siege may for instance seize any weapons you have "for defence" but if you can bypass them you could sell them for inflated prices in a wartime economy.
Of course, the currency itself may suffer from hyperinflation because of the siege.
A frontier town may be interested in more practical goods and have no interest in heavy plate.

I think this is probably one of the hardest things to make a fun and challenging part of the game, rather than a strictly utilitarian mechanic.
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#3
mcmanusaur

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I believe I read a while back that there might be multiple currencies in Eternity, I'd like the idea of different prices for the same goods in different currencies, as some goods may be valued differently in different places. It would not immediately be obvious which place offers the best deal. One place may offer you quite a healthy sum for something, but have comparatively high prices. Finding ways to exchange currencies for decent rates could be a challenge.
Players who don't want to go through the motions will get decent prices, and players who want to gain every advantage can work out lists and move from place to place.
Add some exclusivity to certain items (trade embargoes, contraband status of certain items, lack of a market for some items) and you've got the makings of some challenge gameplay. (Smuggling items)
The rewards should be small enough that it doesn't break the game, and large enough that it's fun for those who don't mind the effort.

A city under siege may for instance seize any weapons you have "for defence" but if you can bypass them you could sell them for inflated prices in a wartime economy.
Of course, the currency itself may suffer from hyperinflation because of the siege.
A frontier town may be interested in more practical goods and have no interest in heavy plate.

I think this is probably one of the hardest things to make a fun and challenging part of the game, rather than a strictly utilitarian mechanic.

 

Hmmm... I don't have a verdict on multiple currencies without more specific information, so hopefully we learn more in that regard. I do like the idea of smuggling contraband, as long as it is handled in a more convincing way than "Is that Moon Sugar you're carrying? I don't think I can do business with you...". But yeah, balancing the reward is the difficult part here. While I realize that people don't want an economics simulation mini-game, I can really only see persuasion and haggling skill having a somewhat smaller effect on prices than actually lugging the goods to a different locale. So part of this thread is about asking whether people are fine with not having easy-mode persuasion skills that will do the job regardless of the circumstances. As much as I like non-combat approaches, for me the smooth-talker archetype is a bit bland and sometimes unrealistically effective.



#4
Sacred_Path

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We'll definitely see the classical craftsman with a shared workshop/ living area. Travelling merchants have always been in IE games and so I'm certain they'll also be in P:E.

I'd be pleasantly surprised if most trading was tied to factions (with discounts based on rank), and this would figure into your choice of allies.


And for the love of god, no 'real' trade between specific merchants or regions. I'm going to use dat phrase, "IN NO GAME I'VE PLAYED WAS THIS EVER FUN".

#5
mcmanusaur

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We'll definitely see the classical craftsman with a shared workshop/ living area. Travelling merchants have always been in IE games and so I'm certain they'll also be in P:E.

I'd be pleasantly surprised if most trading was tied to factions (with discounts based on rank), and this would figure into your choice of allies.


And for the love of god, no 'real' trade between specific merchants or regions. I'm going to use dat phrase, "IN NO GAME I'VE PLAYED WAS THIS EVER FUN".

 

Hmmm... although I agree that it's safe to assume we'll see NPCs that fit a variety of merchant archetypes- if that's what you mean- this poll was more related to the capacity in which PCs can fill the merchant role. In most RPGs I've played the PCs are restricted to the smooth-talker/haggler approach to business, and the party is just as well off selling their stuff anywhere as long as they have their "supernatural speechmaster" handle the transaction. I find this very generic and dubious, and the only exception is when all the general stores offer worse prices than specialized shops, which is still a bit shallow in my opinion.

 

While I do prefer faction-specific favor over a global morality meter, I hope that the faction system isn't too formalized because that feels a bit contrived and inauthentic to me. It tends to end up creating black-and-white scenarios of "friendly faction/enemy faction" and often your character's faction affiliation becomes known by all NPCs without any explanation. It's as if you're walking around wearing a badge, except you're not. So for that reason, I'd lean toward avoiding general faction-wide discounts and "Hail, fellow [faction name]!" scenarios. Discounts from individuals that your character has actually interacted with is one thing, but discounts from your guild/brotherhood/whatever just seem generic.

 

Hence, I suggest alternative methods for adding depth to mercantile gameplay, such as those listed in the poll. However, I'm not really sure what or which you are referring to as "real", since situations like this are cases of multiple degrees of "realism". For me, simply transferring the treasure haul to the party's high-charisma, designated loot seller and simply clicking away has never been fun, so I see this as an opportunity to make things more interesting, without necessarily simulating an entire economy.


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#6
JFSOCC

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as long as it is handled in a more convincing way than "Is that Moon Sugar you're carrying? I don't think I can do business with you...".

Agreed!
There could be many reasons for something to be contraband, including economical reasons. (No sugar from South America in the Netherlands, it would crash the internal sugar market; or... All ships carrying pepper will lose it, by order of some merchant king)
Something might be fine in one place and illegal elsewhere.
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#7
Sacred_Path

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Hmmm... although I agree that it's safe to assume we'll see NPCs that fit a variety of merchant archetypes- if that's what you mean- this poll was more related to the capacity in which PCs can fill the merchant role.


oic

my last point still stands though, I'd rather die by a thousand cuts than having my party shuffling horse manure from Herptown to Derptown in exchange for flaxen gold (for real hair wigs). Again. I've been there, done that (the Might&Magic series was a bad offender in this regard).

While I do prefer faction-specific favor over a global morality meter, I hope that the faction system isn't too formalized because that feels a bit contrived and inauthentic to me. It tends to end up creating black-and-white scenarios of "friendly faction/enemy faction" and often your character's faction affiliation becomes known by all NPCs without any explanation. It's as if you're walking around wearing a badge, except you're not. So for that reason, I'd lean toward avoiding general faction-wide discounts and "Hail, fellow [faction name]!" scenarios. Discounts from individuals that your character has actually interacted with is one thing, but discounts from your guild/brotherhood/whatever just seem generic.


Of course I'd imagine basic items would be available for anyone, and they would be traded out in the open [market squares]. Only the more exclusive items would be available per faction; therefore they don't need to know your affiliations, other than your standing with them.
Health potions are supposed to be rare; I think it would be simply logical to assume all potions are rare, if not unattainable, outside one faction that has the knowledge to craft them (and may also pass on this knowledge in the form of recipes). I'd love to see what being on good terms with P:E's Oswald Fiddlebender may net you 8)

#8
gentlemanorcus

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Merchants should be characters in themselves. The kind country merchant will reduce prices if you help the village but refuse to sell to you if you have a poor reputation with them. The hard-bitten, back-alley city merchant won't reduce prices for anything, but will sell to anybody. That adds depth to the world and makes them more than walking shop screens.


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#9
Sensuki

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There won't be any Mercantile skills in Project Eternity I don't think.

Value of stuff might be linked to faction reputation but that's it.

Having a skill or ability score that reduces the cost of items means that the PC needs to have that skill or ability to be able to do it, because when initiating dialogue I believe George Ziets said that the PC will always be the intended speaker, companions will only interject.

#10
curryinahurry

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While I do prefer faction-specific favor over a global morality meter, I hope that the faction system isn't too formalized because that feels a bit contrived and inauthentic to me. It tends to end up creating black-and-white scenarios of "friendly faction/enemy faction" and often your character's faction affiliation becomes known by all NPCs without any explanation. It's as if you're walking around wearing a badge, except you're not. So for that reason, I'd lean toward avoiding general faction-wide discounts and "Hail, fellow [faction name]!" scenarios. Discounts from individuals that your character has actually interacted with is one thing, but discounts from your guild/brotherhood/whatever just seem generic.

 

 

 

 

Reputation with mercantile factions should be fairly granular.  Many of these factions could be restricted to 1 small town, a district, or even an individual shop depending on how Obsidian envisions trades, guilds, and politics functioning from one region to another.  Larger merchant guilds might be limited to the Valian Republics, Defiance Bay, and only now making inroads into Dyrwood.  

 

Obtaining some level of reputation with these larger groups should also only bring so much benefit moving from region to region.  Just because you did a merchant of the XYZ Trading Coster a solid in Defiance Bay shouldn't mean much to the head of the New Heomar Chapter; after all, these guys are in the business of making money.


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#11
mcmanusaur

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There won't be any Mercantile skills in Project Eternity I don't think.

Value of stuff might be linked to faction reputation but that's it.

Having a skill or ability score that reduces the cost of items means that the PC needs to have that skill or ability to be able to do it, because when initiating dialogue I believe George Ziets said that the PC will always be the intended speaker, companions will only interject.

 

Ah, well that sort of changes things in that it diminishes the purpose of offering optional speech-related skills, if the optimal strategy would always be to take these skills with your PC and to have your companions take other skills. But who knows... I've seen it done before (I believe KOTOR was like this?). But all in all, I'm perfectly happy to hear that speech skills likely won't be emphasized in P:E, because even if I like that sort of approach it always feels like quasi-magical force powers rather than simple persuasion.

 

To go off on a slight tangent, I'm starting to wonder roughly how many "non-combat" skills we'll end up having, since obviously if P:E has too few then it jeopardizes the whole point of being able to choose skills. in other words if the only skills to choose from are stealth/lockpicking and a couple crafting skills, that only allows for two types of non-combat characters, which would become repetitive. I for one would like to see something remotely close to the variety in classes/combat approaches for the range of non-combat approaches, since the latter is arguably a more general category. And just in case Obsidian feels like they can get away with one, things like "balance", "concentration", and such don't count as non-combat skills if their main application is to combat, but hopefully the developers already realize this.



#12
JFSOCC

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yeah, when I read that a character might only specialise in about two skills, alarm bells were going off.
But since I have little information to go on, we'll see.
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#13
Sensuki

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To go off on a slight tangent, I'm starting to wonder roughly how many "non-combat" skills we'll end up having


Less than the amount present in the D&D 4E handbook.

#14
mcmanusaur

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To go off on a slight tangent, I'm starting to wonder roughly how many "non-combat" skills we'll end up having


Less than the amount present in the D&D 4E handbook.

 

 

Hmmm... so to me that suggests something along the lines of KOTOR. I guess that's fine if the skills are adequately substantial in their application. If there is a maximum of six party members, that would mean that you could possibly cover all the skills at a rate of two per character, which seems alright. At least that means there will be little redundancy, but at the same time the more or less guarantee that you'll have all skills covered at the end of the day is a bit of a double-edged sword. Sure, you won't be tinkering with any different skills on successive play-throughs, but I guess that means you experience the full skill content the first time around. Hmmm.



#15
Keyrock

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A supply and demand based economy complete with regional pricing, fluctuations, shortages, etc. would be ideal, but that is almost certainly beyond the scope of this game.  I'd settle for regional pricing and the favor mechanic.


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#16
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regional pricing


also pretty horrible. Item X being available cheaper at A than at B is only acceptable if A is only reachable later in the game, which OTOH compounds problems with inflating wealth. If B is reachable later than A that's completely out, because you can't possibly sell "you have more gold now but everything costs twice as much LOL" to a player with any brain cells. Both being reachable at around the same time simply is a chore because you have to monitor your consumption of X when you're at the unfavorable place or otherwise do loads of backtracking.

#17
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For me, selling my stuff is one of the more boring aspects of an RPG, so I'd like a very simple system. I want different types of merchants who specialize in different items and give you different prices for them, and maybe a bit of regional fluctuation to keep things interesting. I think it's also intuitive that if you've insulted a merchant in some way, he'll give you worse prices for your items. And maybe there could be a trait or perk that gives you better prices in general.

 

But I don't want a bartering skill that you have to raise or large regional differences in pricing (large meaning "enough to make me go to a different town to sell my stuff") or complex disposition systems with individual merchants. I also don't want to do something to my items to make them more valuable, like enchanting them. Simply because I find no joy in doing these things. I do find joy in completing a quest for a merchant so that he gives me better prices and generally building up relationships through quests.



#18
mcmanusaur

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Item X being available cheaper at A than at B is only acceptable if A is only reachable later in the game, which OTOH compounds problems with inflating wealth. If B is reachable later than A that's completely out, because you can't possibly sell "you have more gold now but everything costs twice as much LOL" to a player with any brain cells. Both being reachable at around the same time simply is a chore because you have to monitor your consumption of X when you're at the unfavorable place or otherwise do loads of backtracking.

 

 

Herp derp.

 

For one, you assume a linear, restricted progression through the game environment, which in my mind is only remotely excusable in space settings like KotOR that involve hopping between separate planets. Otherwise, I find the notion of arbitrarily partitioning off whole regions and settlements more comparable to adventure games like LoZ:OoT; even if the narrative might advocate a sequential progression, it should always ultimately be the player's choice. However, I suppose that gets into the general merit of "open worlds" (and we all know how many posters feel about that newfangled phenomenon) and narrative points of no return (which I personally find minimally compelling), which is largely a separate issue, but I will say that I don't at all mind a bit of backtracking in the overworld (while on the other hand backtracking in dungeons is pure evil).

 

In specific regards to mercantile/economic stuff, you also make a lot of unwarranted and incorrect assumptions. No one suggests that the price of "everything" should vary by location; rather I suggest that the local price of specific goods should realistically be affected by resource availability, which is a function of geography. For example, resources required for weapon and armor-related crafting might be cheaper in a town whose economy is based around mining operations, or food might be cheaper in an agricultural hamlet than in a city. This would simply be yet another aspect of place differentiation that creates a deeper and more convincing world, and yet it's something many RPG's neglect (and will likely continue to do so if people mindlessly cling to the genre's conventions).

 

I also take issue with your apparent insinuations that the game's economy serves primarily to balance the looting/progress of the PC's party, rather than to characterize the setting. I don't understand how we could expect a game system designed to focus exclusively on the player's experience to be even remotely immersive, but I suppose that's a broad difference of outlook on roleplaying.



#19
mcmanusaur

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For me, selling my stuff is one of the more boring aspects of an RPG, so I'd like a very simple system. I want different types of merchants who specialize in different items and give you different prices for them, and maybe a bit of regional fluctuation to keep things interesting. I think it's also intuitive that if you've insulted a merchant in some way, he'll give you worse prices for your items. And maybe there could be a trait or perk that gives you better prices in general.

 

But I don't want a bartering skill that you have to raise or large regional differences in pricing (large meaning "enough to make me go to a different town to sell my stuff") or complex disposition systems with individual merchants. I also don't want to do something to my items to make them more valuable, like enchanting them. Simply because I find no joy in doing these things. I do find joy in completing a quest for a merchant so that he gives me better prices and generally building up relationships through quests.

 

This sounds mostly reasonable to me, but I will say that perhaps the reason that the economical (and other simulation-oriented) aspects of RPGs have historically been so boring is that most games tend to utilize the same kind of simple, conventional system. Maybe people will disagree with me, but I tend to find "more complex" to be "more interesting" (within reason), and the fact that something has been boring in the past is a reason to try to add depth to it in the future as much as it's a reason to keep it simple and painless.


Edited by mcmanusaur, 09 July 2013 - 01:34 PM.


#20
Sacred_Path

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In specific regards to mercantile/economic stuff, you also make a lot of unwarranted and incorrect assumptions. No one suggests that the price of "everything" should vary by location; rather I suggest that the local price of specific goods should realistically be affected by resource availability, which is a function of geography. For example, resources required for weapon and armor-related crafting might be cheaper in a town whose economy is based around mining operations, or food might be cheaper in an agricultural hamlet than in a city. This would simply be yet another aspect of place differentiation that creates a deeper and more convincing world, and yet it's something many RPG's neglect (and will likely continue to do so if people mindlessly cling to the genre's conventions).


It doesn't really matter what your ingame explanation is; it's a pretty horrible mechanic that punishes players arbitrarily. In an RPG, you're either following a quest route or you're exploring; you aren't chartering a course according to some grand trading scheme. Backtracking for no reason that would further the game is not only a great nuisance to a vast number of players but the insular model of item distribution can cause you to become stuck/ make the backtracking even more unnerving because you're lacking some items that are needed/ helpful for overland travel.
 

I also take issue with your apparent insinuations that the game's economy serves primarily to balance the looting/progress of the PC's party, rather than to characterize the setting. I don't understand how we could expect a game system designed to focus exclusively on the player's experience to be even remotely immersive, but I suppose that's a broad difference of outlook on roleplaying.


Eh, this seems to be a theme with you. Didn't you also suggest P:E would be better off imitating MMO's in that events shouldn't revolve around the player? You're looking for a different kind of game I'd say.





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: merchant, economy, skill, speechcraft, barter, haggle, persuade, supply, demand, arbitrage

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