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So, how much money is in my magical wallet tonight?

posted Jun 16, 2015 23:35:06 by Volontius Vortia
"If the Acquisition test succeeds, the character then applies his Cash to the purchase. Cash is a number of equal to the character’s Earnings rating, and is increased by the character’s Influence onus (see page 70). Each Dark Symmetry Icon rolled on these increase the total rolled by 2, but also costs the character one Asset,regardless of whether or not the acquisition is successful.
If the total rolled equals or exceeds the item’s Cost, the acquisition is complete and the character has purchased the item." - Mutant Chronicles 3rd Ed. draft v4 pg. 248

While I'm all fine and good with the idea of an abstract economic system, this whole "roll to see how much money you have RIGHT NOW" system seems really nonsensical and like it would really ruin a player's sense of immersion. If I'm reading this segment correctly, a player must roll #D6 EACH TIME they attempt to purchase something to see if they have enough cash on hand. A player could attempt to buy a cheap, used moped, roll poorly and end up unable to afford it, only to walk into the Bentley dealership next store and suddenly find a massive wad in their pocket to buy the ultimate luxury sedan!

Why would we want an economic system which all but prevents players from actually planning their purchases? It's hard to understand why a character wouldn't have at least a basic idea of how much money they have on hand and that it wouldn't be consistent based on their income/expenses. I know I've never woken up with random cash in my pockets!
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6 replies
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Nathan.Dowdell said Jun 21, 2015 16:43:24
As much as anything, it's a reflection of variable prices from different vendors, haggling, discounts, ability to get things on credit, the cost of licences, and so forth. Like a damage roll, it's a reflection of the myriad variables involved in the process - the speed and weight of different bullets in a magazine don't vary that much, but those aren't the only factors in a damage roll.

The system doesn't strictly reflect walking into a shop and handing over cash. It reflects deciding to buy something looking for the best available deal (hence why Momentum on the Lifestyle test can reduce Cost - you find a better deal), which can take anything from hours to weeks. The basic test, and the uncertainty is a matter of risk - you're seeing if you can find an item of whatever type that you can afford in the shortest possible time. Sometimes, you can't find one within your price range in the time you've got. Sometimes, you might spend longer looking for something (as per the difficulties table in the Skills chapter) to gain extra Momentum to spend on reducing the Cost, representing shopping around for a discount.

Your example doesn't really line up; whatever the roll, you can spend Assets to make up the shortfall, so it's only with expensive items you're likely to find yourself unable to buy at all, and vehicles tend to vary a fair bit in Cost.

Also remember that a good portion of the Mutant Chronicles setting is as much feudal as capitalist, and even in Capitol, being powerful and influential can mean you get a lot of things free or cheap that other people pay a fortune for (for a real-world example, consider athletes getting free stuff from their sponsors, or celebrity endorsements of products).
Game Development - 2D20 System
System Design - Star Trek Adventures

Rules questions and playtest feedback to nathan@modiphius.com
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Volontius Vortia said Jun 22, 2015 10:38:37
I'm sorry if I seem pedantic, but by the wording in the rules for Acquisition tests, seeking a better deal appears to already be covered by the Lifestyle/Persuade/Thievery check you initially take. If the check you make based on your Earnings Rating doesn't actually reflect the cash you have on hand, but is instead an extension of the haggling process, I'm not sure why it would be called "applying Cash" towards the purchase. By your description, spending Assets is applying cash, and the applying cash step is more of a "money talks" influence check.

If that was what was intended, I suppose I can see that making sense, but that's very unclear from the rulebook. If anything, the wording really seems to indicate something else entirely.
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Ryan Smith said Feb 25, 2016 06:36:23
I haven't run the game yet, but I do wonder how the Assets/Earnings system is going to work in making sense of a freelancer's life. I guess getting paid for a job would mean giving them some Assets? But then what does Earnings represent? If they screw up jobs and don't get more for a while, should I lower their Earnings? How is negotiating a payment for a job going to work when the in-game dollar values don't actually map reliably onto the characters spending power? If the players are trying to get $12,000 for a job, and the employer is insisting he won't go higher than $10,000, should I as the GM be thinking "Well, I'm just giving them 5 Assets regardless"?
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Nathan.Dowdell said Feb 25, 2016 12:31:19
With freelancers, the same rules apply - Earnings aren't just salaries and wages, but any source of regular income; the assumption of regular minor jobs, routine contracts with minor corporations or even with the corporations, investments, and so forth. Screwing up regularly can be a change in Earnings for anyone - it might as easily represent a demotion or pay-cut for a corporate employee.

Negotiating a job's pay... decide on an arbitrary equivalent for cast to assets at that moment. The routine costs of living aren't covered by the rules either (there's no "paying the bills", "filing a tax return", "repaying that small business loan, or "buying groceries" parts of the equipment chapters - the nearest thing is the maintenance cost, and that's essentially hand-waved away if Maintenance is equal to or lower than Earnings), so the whole thing is abstracted in countless ways.

Here's the heart of the issue; any modern, or modern-like setting cannot function properly with a cash economy in-game. The complexities of modern finance are such that few people want to recreate the experience in-game - I don't know anyone who wants to spend a session every month sorting out their character's bills and expenses, or a session each year sorting out a tax return on all the money they "liberated" from the bad guys (though, they must clearly be out there, given that people still play Traveller and are quite willing to sort out the mortgage on their ship while running an interstellar trading business). All abstract wealth systems for RPGs - and I've seen a fair few - have points where they don't quite work as the players think they should, and that's part of the cost of abstracting something so monumentally complicated.
Game Development - 2D20 System
System Design - Star Trek Adventures

Rules questions and playtest feedback to nathan@modiphius.com
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Ryan Smith said Feb 25, 2016 16:24:26
I actually really like the abstract economic system, and I've worked with them in other games- Pandemonio has one, Delta Green's new rule set has one. So I'm not generally saying I don't like the idea. There's just some aspects of this game that give me more of a 'Shadowrun' vibe, and that's a little harder for me to sit right in my head without the players actually dealing with distinct cash. In the end though, there's enough items with asset costs in the rules that it won't be hard to come up with what an appropriate payment is in assets for a job.

But yeah, nobody wants to role-play paying the electric bill.
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JakeBernstein said Feb 25, 2016 19:36:48
This used to bother me, but then I got to thinking. The only game where a cash economy really makes sense is something like D&D with gold pieces. In a modern game, how the heck do you handle credit? Loans? Payments? Do you make the minimum payments? Do you ignore the payments and wait to be taken to court? Do you roleplay out the collections calls or the lawsuits?

What all of this means is that you really need an abstract system in a game with credit--and MC has credit, even if it's not as electronically based as modern day.
-Apoc527
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