Bronze Age Barter System

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Rophan
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Bronze Age Barter System

#1 Postby Rophan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 11:56 am

I've been trying to develop a barter system for a Bronze Age sword & sorcery setting that I'm working on, and wanted to run my ideas by some more experienced Savages. I want to go with a barter system because coinage wasn't invented yet in the era I have in mind. Going with a typical Fantasy coin system would certainly be easier, but I think it would lose a lot of the Bronze Age feel. My biggest concern is that this mechanic might add an unnecessary level of complexity to the game that would take away from the setting instead of adding to it.

Here goes:

Starting money - PCs start with the usual amount of money to buy their starting equipment, but any left over funds must be converted to trade goods that the character carries with him (such as spices, precious metals, gems, crafts, cattle, etc.).

The value of items are are measured in "Gold Weights" - the base weight of gold ingots attached to an item. This doesn't represent Gold Pieces, but only the relative value of the item. Purchases are not actually made by exchanging gold, but by trade items of a similar value.

Buying items - When a PC buys an item from a merchant, both the merchant and the PC make a Persuasion roll. For the merchant, each success and raise represents a 10% increase of the base price that the merchant is asking for. For the PC, each success and raise represents a 10% decrease in price that the player has negotiated. The PC is never required to pay the final price negotiated, but he will have to find another merchant to haggle with if he still wants the item.

Selling items - The same as buying items, but the merchant's roll is subtracted from the base price as his offer, and the PCs roll is the negotiated higher price of the item. Once again, if the PC is unwilling to accept the negotiated price he must find another merchant to try to sell to.

The haggling mechanic should be saved for large purchases or for items of interest, (such as weapons, valuable objects, or an overall price to outfit a caravan, etc.) small mundane items can be simply purchased with trade goods at the base price.

Thanks,

Bruce
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Re: Bronze Age Barter System

#2 Postby VonDan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 2:47 pm

Rophan wrote:
“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."
— J.R.R. Tolkien (On Fairy-Stories)



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#3 Postby Dylan S » Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:38 pm

So, as far as I can tell, you're replacing coinage with unspecific trade-goods. It's a good idea, and I like your barter system (although I'm not sure why it's an opposed roll, rather than TN4 with each success and raise increasing the item's value by 10%).

A friend of mine came up with a neat idea for a post-apocalyptic campaign a while back. He didn't like the idea of coins either (or bottle caps), so he named the currency 'barter goods' and attached weight to it; I think something like 5 or 10lb per $100. This little rule showed the inconvenience of a pre or post-currency society, and made pack-mules pretty handy for long explorations. It also kept the players from having to track every piece of junk they picked up.

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#4 Postby Rophan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 5:52 pm

I guess I worded it wrong, my intention was for both the merchant and the PC's rolls to be against TN 4. The merchant's roll increases the asking price, and the PC's roll is the counter proposal to bring the price down.
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“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."

— J.R.R. Tolkien (On Fairy-Stories)

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#5 Postby Rophan » Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:59 pm

I've revised the system a bit and included some related Edges and Hindrances that could be taken:

Barter System

Currency

In the world of Age of Bronze, currency has not been invented yet. Commerce is carried out through a system of trade and barter. The value of items is measured in "Sheqels," a unit of weight equal to about 180 grains of Barley (approx. 11 grams), . Purchases are not actually made by exchanging gold or coins, but by trading items of a similar value. Such trade items can be precious metals, jewelry, beads, food staples, spices or livestock.

Characters can have up to 100 Sheqels of unspecified trade items in their possession. These items are considered to be small and portable and do not count towards a character’s encumbrance. Any wealth beyond that must be specified and accounted for in trade goods or listed possessions. Larger, non-portable wealth, such as a small herd of livestock must be provided for while the character is off on his adventures

Beginning characters start with 500 Sheqels to buy their initial equipment. (These are bought at base value and not haggled over.) After the purchase of any starting equipment, a player can designate up to 100 Shequels as unspecified trade goods. Any leftover wealth must be accounted for in specific goods or it is lost.

Haggling

Haggling should be saved for expensive goods or items of interest. Small items can be purchased at their base value.

All haggling tests are assumed to be between a character and an NPC. Any player to player haggling should simply be roleplayed out. Including roleplaying in haggling tests is encouraged, and the GM may choose to give a player a bonus or penalty to his roll based on his acting. Haggling tests are made with the Streetwise Skill, adjusted by Charisma and other relevant Edges or Hindrances.

Finding a Merchant: Depending on the location of the characters, it may take some searching to find a merchant who is willing to deal with the party. A successful Streetwise roll will allow such a merchant to be found. Each Streetwise roll made to find a merchant takes about one hour. The GM is free to adjust the time frame of each roll based on the current location of the party. If the party chooses to cultivate a relationship with particular merchants then no Streetwise roll needs to be made.

The Haggling Test: The character and the merchant both make opposed Streetwise rolls. The winner of the roll gains a 10% bonus over the base value of the item for each success and Raise he acquires. If the character loses badly, he may choose to walk away from the deal and look for a merchant who is easier to deal with.

Example: Samutan (Streetwise d6) is seeking to buy a new sword (base value 200 Sheqels). He finds a merchant (Streetwise d8) willing to sell and the two of them make opposed rolls. Samutan rolls a “5”, and the merchant rolls a “6”. The merchant is unwilling to go below 220 Sheqels for the sword. Samutan can choose to pay the slightly inflated price, or go looking for another merchant who may be easier to deal with.

Related New Edges:

Silver Tongue
Your character is a smooth talker and can out bargain his own mother. Add +2 to Streetwise rolls when haggling.

I Know a Guy
Your character has connections in the local bazaar. The time required for finding a merchant (or other bazaar contacts) is cut in half.

Related New Hindrances:

Sucker (Minor):
Your character is either really gullible, or just plain bad at haggling. You receive a penalty of -2 to all Streetwise rolls when haggling.

Cheat (Major)
You have been accused of cheating in the past, and merchants don’t want to deal with you. When you are searching for a merchant to deal with, it takes twice as long as usual to find one, and you receive a -2 to your Streetwise roll when haggling.
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“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."

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#6 Postby Crumbs » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:03 am

I think the hagiling mechanics won't slow the game down significantly if at all. They pretty much amount to two rolls but add to the flavor of buying things.

Personally the part I don't think is very barter like is the unspecified trade goods. It's basically just reskinned coins. If I was doing a barter system I would make the trade goods vary in value from region to region and possibly from week to week.

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#7 Postby Rophan » Sun Nov 18, 2012 1:39 am

I see your point that the unspecified trade goods seem like reskinned currency, My original plan was to have the characters track all their trade goods, (3 bags of incense, 5 nuggets of gold, 4 bags of salt, etc.) but when I thought about it I realized that this could really bog down play. I wanted players to be able to experience a barter economy, yet not have to deal with it every time they spent a night in an inn or a caravanserai. The more I think about it I think that 100 sheqels seems like too much to have as unspecified. Perhaps I should lower it to 25.

As I develop the setting, and start to describe the city states a bit more, I hope to include descriptions of what each area has in abundance and what is in short supply to make the barter economy really come alive. The setting I have in mind will be loosely based on Greek, Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures so there will be lots of room for a varied trade economy.
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“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."

— J.R.R. Tolkien (On Fairy-Stories)

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#8 Postby The One » Sun Nov 18, 2012 8:23 am

If you want a little extra flavour for your barter goods, consider having a couple of categories of goods

Category A - Luxury items such as tabbaco, sweets, alcohol etc. Weighs 2lb per $100, looses 30% value every "session" less 10% per success and raise on a Knowledge (Merchant) roll

Category B - essentials, tinned goods, soap, razorblades etc. Weighs 5lbs per $100, no value loss

Category C - fuels and bullets - Weights 10lbs per $100, can easily be turned into improvised weapons (either grenades, booby traps or similar)

And so on. The value loss roll per session assumes that you're running a typical scenario per game night and can be tweaked as feels appropriate
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#9 Postby VonDan » Sun Nov 18, 2012 9:09 am

To get an idea what some one might carry out in the boonies of the bronze age look at Otzi the ice man and his gear. He was from right before the bronze age the age of copper

http://www.iceman.it/en/oetzi-the-iceman


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