Monday, 28 May 2012

No Abstract Wealth Please; I'm British

I ran a second session of Diaspora yesterday afternoon. I think my overall feeling is that the jury is still out. Some aspects of the game worked well, but others really didn't (although I have to hold up my hands and say that for some reason I felt really off form, like a striker snatching at chances).

What I dislike most about the system is that it abstracts wealth. The way economics works is, you have a "wealth track" which represents how financially secure you are. If it goes down to zero - you're out forever: fiscally dead, reduced to a lifetime of flipping burgers or serving as a debt slave, or whatever. (This in itself is something I strongly dislike, by the way - as long as a PC is alive I want his player thinking about ways to get out of whatever difficulty he is in. That seems like a large percentage of "the game". I recognise that there is a sort of 'story' oriented view that it is interesting to have available the negative consequence of being removed from the narrative permanently, but death seems to me to be the only genuine way of doing this. Though I digress.)

You take financial 'damage' by failing an assets roll. What this boils down to is, to see if you can afford something, you roll against your assets skill. If you miss the required target, you take hits to your wealth track. You can mitigate this damage by taking consequences - from the minor (you are worried about your finances and it might affect your concentration) to the major (you owe a loan shark a shit load of money), but you always get what you want to buy. This is supposed to represent an interesting choice (either don't take a risk and never get anything, or get whatever you want but take a huge risk, potentially involving what is effectively death, in the process), but at least to my gaming style it feels like it takes away something interesting.

That "something interesting" is that, by keeping wealth concrete and not abstract, you prevent players being able to get all the things they want - and this forces them to do interesting things to get the money they need to do that. Wanting better stuff is one of the key seeds from which adventure sprouts, to use a rather shit metaphor. You want a spaceship but don't have the credits? You go out and do whatever it takes to afford one - or you steal one. You want a sword +5 but you don't have the gold? You know there is one at the bottom of that huge abyssal chasm full of hordes of demons - so you go down. Maybe keeping track of gold pieces is a bit bean-counter-ish to some people (I get the sense the Diaspora designers are that kind of person), but it seems to me to be a vital element in giving the game any sort of engine and stopping the players being reactive.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding something, but I have to confess to feeling as if there is something crucial missing when wealth is abstracted in this way.

39 comments:

  1. I agree. I strongly dislike abstract wealth mechanics. There are a number of games that I would be happy to try but for that feature. It's a deal-breaker for me.
    ~V~

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  2. I kind of like it depending on where and how it's employed. InSpectres does a pretty good job (or maybe I just love InSpectres :-)

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    1. Oh.

      http://memento-mori.com/project/inspectres/

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InSpectres

      :)

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  3. One of my groups is playing FF's Black Crusade atm, and it has abstract wealth, pretty much rolled as a skill check to acquire things. What's worse is that the system doesn't even have a time frame modifier or a list of likely services the pc's would need, such as hiring and army of mercenaries, or hiring a bunch of crew for a ship, the only things that are written out in explicit detail out are typically, weapons and equipment. Even then it doesn't tell you how long it takes to find anything, just leaves it all up to GM's discretion like FF wrote it, realised how much they had bitten off that they couldn't chew, and then added in the line about GM's discretion. We house ruled the crap out of the system, but it still suffers from similiar problems, including the fact that the abstract wealth statistic is also your influence with the chaos gods, and you gain it for desecrating stuff, and you lose it for dying. Because dying totally effects your capacity to purchase stuff.

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    1. I faced a similar problem in Rogue Trader, a game which is more or less about buying things. I figured out the missing bits by borrowing information from Dark Heresy and converting it over; the conversion was easy, but it's not ideal to have to use a whole other game to help fill the blanks in the one you're playing.

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    2. I thought this was the point of money inRogue Trader, in that you have absurd wealth, and it is merely the credit flow that matters. Walking around money is hardly worth worrying about, when you have a giant spaceship/fleet/credit writ signed by the emperor.

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  4. I gm'd Diaspora for about nine months, an to tell you the truth, the Wealth track was never used. I like how they trimmed FATE way down for the game, but I wish the had been a bit more practical about their implementation. No clear statement of what skill to use for something like a ship's sensors, but a very fiddly space combat system and an excessively abstract social combat system.

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    1. Yeah, I'm still not sure about it yet. It might be that I'm too much of a stick-in-the-mud to run this new fangled FATE thing.

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  5. I talk about default goals and how they interact with game structures over here.

    The problem with Diaspora doesn't seem to be the abstraction of Wealth, but that you can't even use the recovery of lost Wealth as a motivator.

    I also wouldn't necessarily be opposed to removing money as a default goal if it was replaced with some other default goal of equal interest. (For example, wealth would feel completely inappropriate to me in a Star Trek game.)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It's not the abstraction of Wealth per se; it's that gaining and losing wealth is not represented in a way that benefits the game.

      I agree that another default goal is sometimes needed. In a Star Trek game (assuming the players were Federation types) it would presumably be rank, or prestige, or 'exploration points', or somesuch.

      Delete
  6. I can understand treating wealth/money/finances in an abstract manner, if (and this is the big if) wealth is of little or no significance in the game setting - however, the 'assets roll' and 'wealth track' you describe above strike me as being a poor implementation of something that is of significance. To put it another way: it doesn't matter what wallpaper a character has in their bedroom, 500km away back home or even on another planet, it might matter greatly whether they have enough cash in their pocket to pay a bribe or fine or for drinks at a bar where they're meeting a contact.

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    1. Yes. That's the point I was getting at: not having enough money is interesting.

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  7. I'm fine with it being an abstract mechanism in this setting: with civilization(s) distributed through several star systems a high wealth track could mean a variety of banks or agencies that can vouch for your credit. Fail a roll and it means that (in this instance) you might have to take out a loan (which would further limit your options in the future) or some other consequence.

    My bone of contention with the system is that the mechanic for all three stress tracks is the same, and I think for wealth it should be a matter of choice if you follow through on the action AFTER the roll.

    I'm not just saying this because I was failing all of those rolls either, honest! ;)

    If you go to a shop and you have limited means, and see something you like but can't afford it without your credit card, then you have to make a judgement as to whether or not that is something you follow through with. You don't stand outside the shop beforehand (unless you are totally irrational) and say "Whatever it costs me now or whatever consequences in the future I MUST buy this thing!"

    Diaspora, in effect, puts you in that position. You roll with assets skill to buy something and automatically take penalties if you fail it, rather than there being a common sense narrative of "You have to sell spare parts from your ship's reserves" or "You use up a line of credit" (which could be marking a box on the wealth track) OR saying, "Well, I wish I could get that, but I just can't right now" and so, you don't buy it at all and take no penalties going forward - other than not having the piece of equipment or whatever.

    (OK, so maybe I think this way a little because of all the failed rolls...) (...but only a little)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I understand why the system is the way it is - it's because the game is supposed to be about story goals rather than in-game goals. But still.

      Delete
  8. Hm. My own SFX! system has abstract wealth, because I do find tracking gold/credits bean-counter-ish. But I do it a little differently, in a way that I think addresses some of your beefs. What do you think of the following?

    Each level of wealth represents an order of magnitude (Wealth 1 is single digits, 2 is tens, 3 is hundreds, etc.) When you want to purchase something, as long as it's at least 1 level lower than your current wealth (cost in 10's when your wealth is in hundreds) you just purchase it, no problem. If you want to purchase something greater than your wealth, you can't (though you could RP getting a loan or something). If you want to make a purchase that's at the same level as your wealth (costs thousands when you have thousands) then you make the purchase but have a fixed chance that your wealth drops a level. If it does, you can refuse to make the purchase and preserve your current wealth, but it's on the edge...the next major purchase you make will reduce it until you've spent XP to restore it.

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    1. I think that would make more sense. I like counting beans, though.

      Delete
    2. My problem is less with the accumulation of wealth, which tends to happen in large discrete chunks, than tracking it as it's spent. Shopping expeditions are the worst form of dead time in any RPG I've played.

      I will say that in Zounds! I've included price lists with exact prices for people that want to track every silver, even though I hope they only count the digits to see where it falls relative to their wealth...

      Delete
  9. The funny thing about this kind of wealth system is that it is abstracted, but the abstraction focuses on debt not saving. Amusing in a way that it was invented before the financial crisis!

    As I said somewhere else on the internet, debt focused mechanics are a great way to keep a high pace in games; you can deal with a problem right now, but it forms another problem, and another problem, and so on.

    Games that allow prep can just stretch and stretch out into the future, where people do this, so they can do that, so they can do that.

    Grumpy GMs and Players who want to get to the end of that process can then propose adding time limits, and make prep itself urgent, but that means getting crazy about "time spent", which becomes the real resource.

    Basically, debt based mechanics allow you to skip to the climactic problem solving you're invested in then play out the fallout, automatically injecting urgency.

    Prep based mechanics either need good ways of handling deadlines, or a relaxed focus on enjoying the prep itself, as it's own value.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am wrong. Just thought of loads of ways to make prep interesting without getting time obsessed. The big one is one I've used in shadowrun and probably one you use in cyberpunk; usually the more you prep for something, the more obvious you become.

      You don't need to count the days, just count the people you've given info about your plan, know of your rising profile, have heard that your building something etc. The side effects of planning can themselves interfere with whatever your planning.

      That's not even including the classic D&D paradigm of working out the perfect risk/reward escalator; if prep has it's own risks, then prepping too much might kill you before you ever complete your goal.

      In my head D&D is basically 80% saving up, and the risks to your investments.

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    CREDIT TRUST FINANCIAL LOAN SERVICE

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    1. CREDIT TRUST FINANCIAL LOAN SERVICE
      Email: credittrustloanservice@gmail.com
      ======================
      We give out our Loan in USD($) and GBP(£) and any currency of your choice.
      Are you financially Squeezed?
      Do you seek funds to pay off credits and debts
      Do you seek finance to set up your own business?
      Are you in need of private or business loans for various purposes?
      Do you seek loans to carry out large projects
      Do you seek funding for other various processes?!
      =====================
      Loan up to $1,000,000.00
      Attractive Interest Rate & Processing charges
      Easy documentation
      Speedy loan processing
      No security/collateral required.
      Flexible repayment options
      Part Payment Option upto 25% of principle outstanding in a year
      Personalized and professional service.
      =====================
      APPLICATION FORM

      * NAME--------------------
      * COUNTRY-----------------
      * OCCUPATION--------------
      * MARITAL STATUS----------
      * PHONE NUMBER------------
      * MONTHLY INCOME----------
      * ADDRESS-----------------
      * PURPOSE OF LOAN---------
      * AMOUNT------------------
      * DURATION----------------

      All interested persons are to fill the application form
      and send it back to us Via email: credittrustloanservice@gmail.com
      and we promise to make your dreams come true.

      THANKS AND REGARDS
      WILLIAMS BROWN
      EMAIL: credittrustloanservice@gmail.com
      CREDIT TRUST FINANCIAL LOAN SERVICE

      Delete
  15. Hi,every once,My name is Donald from USA I was recently scam by 2 loan lender online from Nigeria and I thought all hope was gone,Until a Friend of my refer me to LAPO loan company in Nigeria were she got her loan from at first I was scared due to my past experience,but i have their site look real and i decided to contact them after three days I applied for $100,000 business loan my loan was transferred to me,without any form of scam and I only pay for the registration they ask me and my loan was transferred to me please if any one have been scammed or looking for a loan and never get it then LAPO loan company is the solution to your loan problem you can reach them at...(lapo.loanservice2013@manager.in.th) and their website is....http://www.lapo-nigeria.org contact them now through this email.lapo.loanservice2013@manager.in.th and be free from scam and loan issue I never thought of getting a loan form Nigeria after been scam until I found LAPO PLEASE PEOPLE HELP ME SHARE THIS GREAT EXPERIENCE.

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  16. Warm Regards To The World,
    I am Prof. Ahmad Jongi by name,And for the past 26 years now,I have been the person in position to attend to all of our customers in need of financial assistance like business and personal loans, In this loan firm called NORT JEJE LOAN INVESTMENT,And ever since i have been in the position of doing that i have giving out loans to so many people world wide!! I am also aware that their are so many fraudulent loan lenders online now a days that has made so many of us feel that there are no longer legitimate and reputable loan lenders online anymore.I AHMAD JONGI IN POSITION OF GIVING OUT LOANS TO ALL IN NORT JEJE LOAN INVESTMENT HAS COME TO DROP AWAY SUCH THOUGHT IN OUR MIND THAT ALL LOAN LENDERS ARE NOT THE SAME!! Interested ones should please send there contact to this very email address:nortjeje@hotmail.com AND PLEASE ANYBODY WANTING A LOAN OR LOANS FROM THIS LOAN FIRM MUST BE A DEDICATED CHRISTIAN OR MUSLIM. Cos i don't want to lost money to those borrowers that are not committed to the will of GOD AND ALLAH. And also please don't apply for this loan and be compering us with other scam loan lenders that scammed you out of your hard end money.
    Thanks,
    Prof.Ahmad Jongi.

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  17. Warm Regards To The World,
    From Nort Jeje Loans.
    I the head of loan application Department in NORT JEJE LOAN INVESTMENT Provides both long and short term loan financing. We offer secure and confidential loans at a very low interest rate of 3%. We offer;Personal loans, Debt Consolidation Loan, Venture Capital, Business Loan, Corporate Loans, Educational Loan, Home Loan and Loans for any reason!We are the trusted alternative to bank financing, and our application process is simple and straightforward. Our loan ranges from $1,000.00 ( One Thousand dollars ) to $25,000,000.00 (Twenty Five Million dollars). Additional Info about this loan is that: We're fast becoming the private, discreet, and service oriented lending choice for general loans. We're the company to turn to when traditional lending sources fail. If you are interested do not hesitate to contact us with information’s below by Email:nortjeje@hotmail.com . 1. Your Full names: 2. Contact address: 3. Occupation: 4. Your Contact Telephone Numbers: 5. Monthly Income:6. Contact Email Address: 7. Loan Amount:8.Age:9.The classified sites you saw our advert.
    Warm Regards,
    Prof. Ahmad Jongi,
    Head, Loan Application Department,
    Nort Jeje Loan Investment,
    Email Adress:nortjeje@hotmail.com

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  18. ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES
    HEAD OFFICE---Richmond Road,Worthing, West Sussex,BN11 4BJ, United Kingdom
    EMAIL---[stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES is a charitable loan firm,
    and we spread that Good News and help those those we meet with financially.

    We give out loans from the range of $1,000 to $90,000,000.Our loans
    are well insured and maximum security is our priority,at an interest
    of 1.2% rate.
    ======================================================================
    We offer the following kinds of loans to our clients------------

    *Investors Loans
    *Debt Consolidation
    *Second Mortgage
    *Business Loans
    *Personal Loans
    *InternationLoans

    Interested clients should please fill our application form below-

    LOAN APPLICATION FORM { ONLINE FORM }
    PREFIX {MR.,MRS.,MS.,DR.,etc.}
    1)YOUR NAME...................
    2)YOUR COUNTRY................
    3)YOUR OCCUPATION.............
    4)YOUR MARITAL STATUS.........
    5)PHONE NUMBER................
    6)MONTHLY INCOME..............
    7)ADDRESS.....................
    8)PURPOSE OF LOAN.............
    9)LOAN REQUEST................
    10)TELEPHONE..................
    11)LOAN TERMS AND DURATION....Our company mailing contact box is
    via- [stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]

    ROBERT CHAPMAN
    EMAIL--[stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]
    ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES

    ReplyDelete
  19. ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES
    HEAD OFFICE---Richmond Road,Worthing, West Sussex,BN11 4BJ, United Kingdom
    EMAIL---[stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES is a charitable loan firm,
    and we spread that Good News and help those those we meet with financially.

    We give out loans from the range of $1,000 to $90,000,000.Our loans
    are well insured and maximum security is our priority,at an interest
    of 1.2% rate.
    ======================================================================
    We offer the following kinds of loans to our clients------------

    *Investors Loans
    *Debt Consolidation
    *Second Mortgage
    *Business Loans
    *Personal Loans
    *InternationLoans

    Interested clients should please fill our application form below-

    LOAN APPLICATION FORM { ONLINE FORM }
    PREFIX {MR.,MRS.,MS.,DR.,etc.}
    1)YOUR NAME...................
    2)YOUR COUNTRY................
    3)YOUR OCCUPATION.............
    4)YOUR MARITAL STATUS.........
    5)PHONE NUMBER................
    6)MONTHLY INCOME..............
    7)ADDRESS.....................
    8)PURPOSE OF LOAN.............
    9)LOAN REQUEST................
    10)TELEPHONE..................
    11)LOAN TERMS AND DURATION....Our company mailing contact box is
    via- [stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]

    ROBERT CHAPMAN
    EMAIL--[stmaryoftheangelsloans@gmail.com]
    ST MARY OF THE ANGELS LOAN SERVICES

    ReplyDelete


  20. AM SO HAPPY

    Am SUSAN DENISE Am here to testify of how i got my loan from HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER, me and my family are happy today because MATILDA

    WILLIAMS saves my son,s life by giving me a smooth and easy loan amount of $850 000 from her charitable and reliable
    loan firm named HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER.

    Am making this testimony today to every one out there who is in financial crises and in need of loan badly to contact
    HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER with the email address below---[holyfamilyloancenter@gmail.com].and here is their site www.holyfamilyloancenter.webs.com
    MATILDA WILLIAMS is a women of her words here is their email address [holyfamilyloancenter@gmail.com]
    Once again i must say thank you MATILDA WILLIAMS for saving my son,s life.

    ReplyDelete


  21. AM SO HAPPY

    Am SUSAN DENISE Am here to testify of how i got my loan from HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER, me and my family are happy today because MATILDA

    WILLIAMS saves my son,s life by giving me a smooth and easy loan amount of $850 000 from her charitable and reliable
    loan firm named HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER.

    Am making this testimony today to every one out there who is in financial crises and in need of loan badly to contact
    HOLY FAMILY LOAN CENTER with the email address below---[holyfamilyloancenter@gmail.com].and here is their site www.holyfamilyloancenter.webs.com
    MATILDA WILLIAMS is a women of her words here is their email address [holyfamilyloancenter@gmail.com]
    Once again i must say thank you MATILDA WILLIAMS for saving my son,s life.

    ReplyDelete
  22. We are Providers of all types of BG and SBLC with the best workable procedures. Our BG/SBLC ranges from MT799, MT760,(Both two way confirmation), MT103/23, MT103 (Both can be one way confirmation and two way confirmation) in USD and EUROS. Issuing Bank ranges from Top world 25 banks with face value ranging from 1M EUROS/USD to 5B EUROS/USD

    BROKERS ARE WELCOME & 100% PROTECTED!!!
    Intermediaries/Consultants/Brokers are welcome to bring their clients and cases to our attention and in complete confidence we will work together for the benefits of all parties involve

    For further details contact us with the below information Thank you.

    Contact : Mr. Wong Man
    Email: reliablemandate@gmail.com
    Skype ID: reliablemandate

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