Tag Based Gear and Wealth

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Tag Based Gear and Wealth

#1 Postby BlackJaw » Fri Nov 09, 2012 11:49 am

So I've spotted few common ways of handling wealth in games:

Direct Wealth
This is the classic gold coins and new yen system. You collect money from doing jobs, or looting corpses, and use it to buy things. This is the standard system in the Savage Worlds rules. Money is used to buy stuff, and players have an incentive to get more money equal to their desire to have more stuff for their character. The trouble with these kinds of systems is that in gear heavy games, like say Shadowrun, you need a accounting spreadsheet to work out your character's gear.

Abstract Wealth Rules
You have a wealth score or mechanic that you make a roll or check with in order to see if you can buy something. If you pass the check you get the object, if you fail you either didn't have enough money or it wasn't available. There is a post from Reality Blur's Sean Preston on using this kind of system in Savage Worlds. I know I first encountered this kind of system in d2o Modern, where the wealth rules included features like reducing your wealth from large (for you) purchases, and increase wealth from profession checks or decent pay days. Depending on the nature of the wealth system, they can be gamed a bit, or they can distinctiveness acquiring wealth in the game as it's no longer directly linked to your ability to buy things. If the players are offered $20,000 to pull a job, that $20,000 has to be converted into the abstract system before it can be used to buy something... if the players roll well enough. When they look at the $20,000 it doesn't directly translate into a new fancy gun or magic sword. In games where gear, or at least wealth, doesn't feature heavily this is actually a good thing, but it doesn't fit well in games with "gear porn."

Minimal Rules
Some games have little use for wealth rules or even the concept of buying stuff, as money has little influence on the game. At most characters may take a trait that describes them as wealth or poor, but this more about style than actual game effects because it's rare that anyone actually needs to buy something. My main example here is the super-hero game Mutants and Masterminds. Wealth isn't used to acquire gear or do anything as far the game mechanics are concerned. If you want to play Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark, you can take a trait that describes just how wealthy you are, but your power armor or bat-mobile are being purchased with build points. This works really well in a Super-Hero game, because money isn't a big deal, and high-tech gear is just another kind of power, but less so in most other games I've played in.

Tagged Based Gear and Wealth
And this is what I want to talk about. I'm inspired by a post I read about Technoir, which is cached here. In this kind of a system, gear is described with various tags, and an object's price is generally equal tot he number of tags it has: So a small, short range, and silenced gun costs 3. Most tags say something about the object's abilities, but some tags, like luxury or high-tech, don't do much more than make an item more expensive. The result is that an item can do just about what it's described as, but also the money in the game is slightly abstracted because it's been rounded off to single digits. Instead of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on various bits of gear, you spend 1-10 "kreds" (as Technoir calls them). The smaller amounts make it easier for tracking, but if you offer the players 5 "Kreds" to complete a job, they know exactly what value it has. This simplified wealth system works well for games where wealth and gear are important, but similar to the abstracted wealth systems, you can integrate it into the rules more, by having a profession check provide 1 "kred" a month from a day-job, or converting Kreds spent into a direct bonus on bribe-related checks, etc. It also glosses over all the small purchases, worth less than a "kred," to focus on the big name objects players actually care about.

While I doubt Technoir invented this system, I think it would be an interesting system to convert over to Savage Worlds uses. In particular I think it would work well in a post-apocalypse game. Objects could be valued in "Barter" depending on what they can do: like a rifle with a scope being worth 1 barter more than the rifle without a scope. Trade is also possible instead of using currency: You might trade 3 barter worth of ammo for 3 barter worth of fuel. You might loot 1 barter worth or random car parts from an auto-repair place and later trade them for 1 barter worth of clean water.

The question is how difficult would it be to convert existing Savage Worlds gear into "Barter" or "Kred" values. (Or, has this already been done by someone?) I think this would likely strip some variance out of gear, but that's fine for an abstracted system like this.
Let's give it a Try:
Colt 1911/Similar: Small, Short Range, Semi-Auto (3 Barter)
Desert Eagle (.50)/Similar: Small, Short Range, Semi-Auto, High Powered (4 Barter)

The Colt 1911 represents the standard auto-loader handgun in Savage Worlds. 2d6+1 damage and 1AP, working at 12/24/48. The Desert Eagle represents a larger version doing 2d8 AP2 damage, and has the "High Powered" tag because of it. If a player starts with about 10 barter worth of goods, picking up a Desert Eagle does use up a noticeable chunk of their wealth.

This is not a direct conversion of the existing rules, because we aren't also increasing the Desert Eagle range. In fact, for this system to work smoothly we'd need to set more or less standard concepts of what things like "High Powered" or "Short Range" mean. We're basically going to need to re-invent the gear in the game as a selection of feature/tags. We're also likely to include "stacked" tags for various things... a rifle may need both the Short and Long range tags to make it cost more than a hand gun that works at shorter range. Unless a weapon only works in full auto, it will need both Semi-Auto and Automatic as tags. etc. We also need to figure out how to handle negative features without using tags that increase price.

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#2 Postby ValhallaGH » Fri Nov 09, 2012 1:32 pm

That ... is an interesting concept.

One that reminds me of Zadmar's Savage Armoury. That seems a good starting point for the mechanical impact of various tags.

Obviously, the tags that make the weapon cheaper have to be removed.
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#3 Postby The One » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:04 pm

To me, any abstraction of the currency system seems pointless, all you're doing is reducing the scale of the numbers, so instead of $200 for the Colt 1911 and $350 for the Desert Eagle (books not handy, prices likely wrong), you've got 3 tags and 4 tags

I don't disagree that accounting for every penny of expendiature is fun, but in much the same way I'll throw down £40 in for a meal out rather than splitting the bill item by item, I'm happy with players guesstimating expenses for things that aren't equipment
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#4 Postby ogbendog » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:09 pm

I think the best way, particularly for modern games, is to use a system like skills.

SW has (adventuring) skills light Fighting, Stealth, Persuasion, and common knowledge.

so have adventuring gear (guns, armor, etc) and "Common gear", which varies by setting, wealth and background.

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#5 Postby BlackJaw » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:04 am

So the more I think about this, the less inclined I am to do the tags = value system. My primary reason for this is that to do it properly would require rebuilding all of the gear in a setting, and I'm afraid that it would throw off the game balance. If pistol damage is tuned to work at 2d6+1 AP 1 in the core book, and this attempt to build a new system makes that just 2d6, it may have unplanned consequences. The Technoir game was built from the ground up to use a tag system, but Savage Worlds was not.

Without the tags = value component, the system is reduced to a rounded-off price system, which I think might still work well in some setting, but is more or less strait-forward.

The One wrote:To me, any abstraction of the currency system seems pointless, all you're doing is reducing the scale of the numbers, so instead of $200 for the Colt 1911 and $350 for the Desert Eagle (books not handy, prices likely wrong), you've got 3 tags and 4 tags
I agree that in many savage worlds games there isn't much of an incentive to stream line the money system. Savage Worlds characters start with only $500 and prices in the core (Deluxe edition) book are simple and low. Really complex gear simply has a price of "military."

However if you are converting or making a new setting that is more gear focused, an abstraction system of some kind is useful. If you were converting Shadowrun to Savage Worlds, you could take the existing money mechanics and price lists from Shadowrun directly, and now you have the spreadsheet problem again, because the economics of shadowrun were not designed to be Fast or Furious. I'd be really tempted to throw out the overly complex gear of a setting like that and opt for a simplified system that met the Fast & Furious nature of Savage Worlds. I don't think the existing money system would do that, and Technoir's cyber-gear Kred system would actually be a good place to start instead.

Also, money itself becomes an abstraction in some settings. In Hell on Earth Reloaded, money is used as an abstraction for bartering. Money represents "small food items, bullets, bits of jewelry, a squirt or two of toothpaste, matches, and the like." I'm not sure I like this system compared to a Barter value economy, although the rule for digging through one's barter cache for a useful item is interesting.

ogbendog wrote:I think the best way, particularly for modern games, is to use a system like skills.
I honestly really like the abstraction systems like d20 Modern used, or the money as a savage worlds skill Sean Preston did a blog post about here. I think they do a good job of handling concepts like credit, loans, and other modern economics that a desperate hero might use to acquire an expensive item he needs. I don't think it works well for a Tolkien style fantasy setting, EG: Gold Coins, and I don't think it works well for Post Apocalypse games where money itself tends to no longer exist.

A Post Apocalypse game is actually what I had in mind for the Tag-Based Barter system. I had been picturing a setting taking place after the Yellowstone super volcano erupted, blanketing much of the US in ash, disabling most air travel, and lowering the global temeratures by as much as 21 degrees for years... possibly starting a mini-ice age. Mind you, that's a topic for another post, and not a game I intend to run anytime soon.

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#6 Postby Thunderforge » Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:20 pm

It's a really interesting concept and one that I think would work well in a lot of games that don't have a lot of gear. Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space has something similar for melee weapons, especially improvised ones (base damage, +1 if it's cutting, +1 if it's heavy).

The problem I see is that for a gear-heavy setting, you can run out of building blocks pretty fast and get a lot of very similar looking equipment. Also you get into some quirky situations when you start modifying weapons (e.g. sawing off the barrel of your shotgun).

Savage Worlds could have gone this route, but as others have said, since you'd have to do a lot of work to put this into Savage Worlds, I think it would fit better in another RPG.
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