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Modiphius > Mutant Chronicles RPG

A question about abstract economy.

posted Mar 13, 2016 11:06:36 by Assault Zero
So I've been poking around the rulebook and found something what can be described as.. odd, to say the least.
Let's say we have a PC character with Earnings 5 and Lifestyle 10. ER5 says:
Extreme luxury, without the need to worry about most needs. Can live a lavish lifestyle with society’s elite. May own multiple houses, boats, cars, and luxury vehicles and goods that convey a sense of superior status.

So, basically, you can own the whole city block, but trying to actually buy something? Hell no, only about ~50% of success chance.
Is this some sort of mistake in rules or is it me being unable to understand something?
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26 replies
Pat Murray said Mar 13, 2016 12:58:45
Nathan.Dowdell said Jun 21, 2015
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
Lead Writer - Brotherhood Sourcebook for Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition

TL;DR it reflects you looking for the best deal. But you can still purchase things with assets.
avatar said Mar 13, 2016 14:05:24
Thanks, this helps a lot.
Marcin.Skupnik said Mar 13, 2016 15:12:03
The economic system in MC3 is so abstract, that any similarity to real economics is purely accidental.
I ditched most of it in my games, surprisingly the game became much smoother and fun.
MC3 homebrewer. Check the thread!
CA-138 Deathlockdrum - when you want to put a grenade launcher on a grenade launcher, so you can launch grenades when launching grenades.
Pat Murray said Mar 13, 2016 16:42:18
Can you give an example as to how you've replaced it? It seems pretty straight forward to me, but I could see how it could benefit from simplifying it.
Marcin.Skupnik said Mar 13, 2016 17:35:02
While I agree it's straightforward, it often runs with its head against the wall.
For example, "Stylish clothing" has a restriction of 4 which is the same as an average machine gun. Why? Because reasons.
When it came to such ludicrous situations I asked myself "I'm a local, can I buy item-X in New York on 1st August 1939?", most of the time I realized that the system was playing dumb and removed the restriction test.
For most civilian items I turned the restriction rating into a availability rating, so most of the time the PCs only need to pony up the cash. Every place has an availability rating from 0 (Venusian Jungle) to 5 (Major Metropolis), items above the availability rating of a location can't be found there.
Civilian equipment equal in cost to the PCs earnings requires no test, unless I spend DSPs. Rolling acquisition for a bottle of aspirin is everything but not fun. PCs can also squirrel away assets equal to earnings rating per month. This represents a saving account/money in the sock.
MC3 homebrewer. Check the thread!
CA-138 Deathlockdrum - when you want to put a grenade launcher on a grenade launcher, so you can launch grenades when launching grenades.
Pat Murray said Mar 13, 2016 18:01:51
Interesting and well thought out. I really like the savings aspect.
Marcin.Skupnik said Mar 14, 2016 21:26:44
Thanks! Glad you like it.
I'm also rethinking the pricing for several items/services. This is an ongoing thing in my game, for example I removed the price from Brotherhood medical care, because nothing sends a man towards heretical cults like a medical bill.
MC3 homebrewer. Check the thread!
CA-138 Deathlockdrum - when you want to put a grenade launcher on a grenade launcher, so you can launch grenades when launching grenades.
Citizen-171 said Mar 14, 2016 23:14:29
The Restriction mechanic does seem a bit off, especially with regards to its effect on availability. I can understand where the authors want to be: The MC3 system places a lot of the power in equipment, and a mechanic to govern access is only to be expected. However, the Restriction rating seems to mostly slow down access. There isn't much a player needs to do to have his character "unlock" access, no in-game milestones needs be achieved; he only needs to be patient and keep rolling acquisition tests.

There are ways to work around the Restriction rating for "low-level" characters with a lot of time on their hands (such as between adventures): Teamwork, Chronicle points, Dark Symmetry points. But it boils down to acquisition being a chore. Which is a shame since the mechanic is fairly elegant and simple and readily applied as a story tool for characters looking to make an on-the-spot purchase.

For example, the PCs are tracking a heretic leader that's just fled town, but not before sabotaging their car. Can the PCs quickly find a mechanic? Or can they rent or buy a replacement vehicle? This is where I would find it reasonable to make an Acquisitions test.

For down-time purchases, I feel there is room for a different governing mechanic. I think it is fair to say that, given enough time, a character will eventually find the item he's looking for, and for a price he's willing to pay. There really is no need to roll dice, since he will eventually roll the results he needs and rolling only wastes valuable game time and adds needless frustration. So the governing factor is really how much time the character has. And time is an easily overlooked, yet significant factor. Without any Momentum, buying twelve Restriction 4 items takes a full year!

I'd love to see a system for this, it's not always the best idea to hand-wave these things.

Ryan Smith said Mar 16, 2016 06:46:49
The restriction rating only seems to make sense if the character needs an item in a hurry, or if they are stuck in a place where items being hard to get is a storyline factor that should be enforced by mechanics. I can't imagine making them roll restriction for a (legal) item between adventures on Luna.

I am wondering though with characters with a high enough earnings/lifestyle to buy simple items without dipping into their assets. Will they just be buying essentially endless ammo and meds for the entire team whenver there is downtime?
Marcin.Skupnik said Mar 16, 2016 12:37:15
I agree with you almost in every way. Save for the hand waving, I see modifying the system as the needs arise a priority. Keeping a system that isn't working in play detracts pleasure from the game.

I also have noticed that the current rules only function for freelancer games. Even the Brotherhood rules are kinda wonky.
A military game where the PCs are part of a military hierarchy won't work with the acquisition system, mostly because the PCs wouldn't buy anything with cash/assets and their Lifestyle skills would be dismally low.

@Ryan Smith
Yeah, when the PCs are in a pinch then rolling acquisition is ok, every time else however...

I solved the problem of multiple purchases/military goods in a simple way, the rule I use excludes military/restricted items and allows only to buy a single dose/item. So a medic buying a single medikit and a box of painkillers is golden, no rolls he just gets the items. Someone wanting a dozen reloads for his HMG isn't, and gets to roll.
MC3 homebrewer. Check the thread!
CA-138 Deathlockdrum - when you want to put a grenade launcher on a grenade launcher, so you can launch grenades when launching grenades.
Ryan Smith said Mar 17, 2016 07:39:56
I just had to create my own assets/earning threads as I realized that my starting characters are likely to begin with zero assets, no reloads for their guns, and the "Spend an asset you don't have if you roll a 6" rule for the Cash roll is going to put them all in massive debt the first time they try to buy a flashlight...and the higher their Earnings are, the more likely they are to roll at least one 6 and thus go broke. Am I missing something, or is it really that big of a mess?
Ryan Smith said Mar 17, 2016 07:57:01
One POSITIVE thing about the Restriction/Acquisition roll is that it gains momentum to reduce the cost of the item.

So, if you have making that roll represent shopping around for the best price, the chance of failure makes good sense. Could be an optional roll in places like Luna- you KNOW you can find the item, but do you want to spend the day shopping around and hoping to find a sale (roll Acquisition in hope of gaining Momentum) or do you just say screw it and buy it the first place you see it, skipping straight to the Cash roll?

That makese good sense to me.
Nathan.Dowdell said Mar 17, 2016 13:10:47
An admission first - there are several parts of the Mutant Chronicles rules that I'd have done differently, but I wasn't in charge of anything at that point. Many of the things I'd have done can be seen in later versions of 2D20. Acquisitions is part of that.

The way I tend to handle the MC acquisitions rules in-play doesn't change massively from the rules-as-written, but it does make things flow a little better. I ignore the basic durations of the acquisitions tests by difficulty - instead assuming that all acquisition tests take an hour. It's not a case of "you go into a shop, and make an acquisitions test", so much as "you make an acquisitions test to find somewhere that sells what you want". Increase the time taken, you reduce the difficulty: reduce the difficulty by one step for each additional interval of time (hour, 8 hours, day, week, month, etc). Difficulty can be reduced to 0 (see the Difficulty Zero tests sidebar on p79), which allows characters to just roll to generate Momentum.

That change alone makes it a little more flexible for in-play and downtime acquisitions alike.

I also say that characters can automatically afford any item with a Cost equal to or less than their Earnings, no cash roll required.

All that aside, remember that buying your own faction's items is easier than those of other factions, as per the normal faction talents. Getting a custom-tailored suit from a proper Imperial tailor is easier if you're Imperial, though it's still not easy because there aren't many such tailors around, and they often cater to an exclusive clientele.
[Last edited Mar 17, 2016 13:16:10]
Game Development - 2D20 System
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Citizen-171 said Mar 25, 2016 12:52:25
@Ryan Smith: In case you missed it, the player characters do start with a "cash bundle": A number of Assets equal to their Personality at the end of the character creation process.

But yeah, rolling a "T" and having to pay an asset? I can't quite see this justified in the fluff. Is a character with a great Personality and/or a high Earnings rating more likely to waste his money than one with less Cash? It seems paradoxical that "wealthy" also means "wasteful".

However, looking at the effect of the game mechanic: Every time a player character makes a purchase, he risks having to pay some Assets. This means the character will never really be economically safe - he will always have a need/use for more money. As far as I am concerned, that's a good thing, since it increases the "lifetime" of monetary rewards being a significant incentive.

Ryan Smith said Mar 25, 2016 17:18:19
Yeah, I've come to terms with it; when I noticed the cash bundle thing, I felt a lot better. Also, the whole 'roll a 6, spend an asset' seems bad and a burden against people with high Earnings, but when you do the math, it may still come out in their favor on all but the tiniest purchases- a person with a high earnings is more likely to roll 6's and burn an asset, but a person with low earnings is likely to burn more assets to cover the cost outright, and at least rolling a 6 gives you two points of cost for burning one asset. This may give unreasonable results on *particular rolls* where the rich guy rolls three-6's to buy a flashlight, but over the long term, the high Earnings guy is probably burning assets slower.

What do you think would happen if you ruled it that if your Lifestyle roll generated enough Momentum that you could afford the objecct with momentum + earnings, you don't have to make the cash roll at all? It was suggested above, and fixes my original concern, I worry about it leading to the one rich character in the party keeping everybody perpetually stocked on gear as he can get ammo, meds, etc. essentially for free.

Maybe it's not such a big deal if you enforce encumbrance rules, though.
[Last edited Mar 25, 2016 17:19:11]
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