No announcement yet.

GM Question / Gear

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • GM Question / Gear

    Just started running a sci-fi setting, based in part on the characters being poor,

    My question is how do you regulate characters from looting? Just looking for ideas...

  • #2
    1) Law enforcement.
    Assuming that weapons and / or armor are legally restricted, taking powerful stuff off of defeated foes would result in the characters being targets of law enforcement.
    Similarly, if currency is digital then stealing credit cards (or equivalents) would not be viable for the vast majority of characters.
    Pretend for a moment that, in your real life, you had to fight off assassins and thugs. How would you turn their gear into wealth? How would you avoid raising suspicion? How would you hide both the evidence of your violence and that you had illicitly acquired wealth?
    Now apply those concerns to your player characters. The likely result is that they'll stop collecting loot.

    2) Safety features.
    Assume weapons have biometric safety features to prevent use by non-owners. All the foes' weapons are now useless to the party, except as paper weights.

    3) Self destruction.
    I rarely use this technique. Either the gear explodes immediately or, like the AD&D drow, the gear falls apart when it leaves a certain environment. I heard a lot of stories from frustrated veterans of those games, so I generally avoid self-destructing gear.

    4) Integrated gear.
    Opponent equipment is mostly composed of cybernetics, biomods, mutations, and similar body-parts. Taking that equipment requires surgery, and using it requires more surgery - and safe transfer of controls.
    Fantasy games often do this with racial templates, character-anchored magical effects, magical tattoos, and class features. Similar ideas can work in a sci-fi setting, depending upon the available augmentation technologies.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


    • #3
      Some good ideas


      • #4
        Well my first suggestion, even before ValhallaGH's excellent list, is "Player Buy-in". Are the players as amped as you are about playing a Rags-to-Rags campaign? If so, you're golden. If not, then all the GM chicanery in the convention hall won't stop them from accumulating and using wealth--or, alternately, from grinding the game to a halt arguing about why they should be able to. In particular, the players should be encouraged to make characters for whom hardscrabble existence is actually part of who they are. If the PCs are constantly seeking to get rich, then a "Keep 'em poor" campaign is eventually going to devolve into frustration.

        Is the game going to have any Arcane Backgrounds? If so, be ready for all the players to take them, as they represent a cost-free mechanism for achieving the same sort of power-ups that you get from gear.

        If not, expect at least one player to have McGyver out of the gate. Who needs laser pistols and power armor when you've got bubble-gum, paper-clips and a shoe-string?

        And even with player buy-in, be prepared for curveballs, especially relating to whatever ideas you're using to keep them poor. The first will simply be using the setting as a weapon. If brandishing a high-tech firearm gets the PCs swarmed by cops, then don't be surprised if, at some point, they decide to call the cops with an anonymous tip about the NPCs. Not always the best move, but if you're simply trying to remove an obstacle, it can be quite effective (likewise, the stolen weapons of fallen foes can become useful tools for framing someone else--contraband is a double-edged sword).

        Locking gear can be utilized by clever players, too. Swapping a couple goons' weapons can be much more efficient than stealing them--if the gun is gone, they know it's missing and have the opportunity to get a new one, but if the squad's guns are all accounted for, the fact that they've been randomly swapped around won't be obvious until the shooting starts.


        • ValhallaGH
          ValhallaGH commented
          Editing a comment
          Generally excellent input!
          I will note that owner-locked gear could be more broad that single individual. I'm thinking of the Lawbringer pistols from Judge Dredd, which are open to all Judges, but other examples of organizational locks exist.

      • #5
        One proactive way is to create a Setting Rule that incentivizes remaining poor. Something like, Luck of the Downtrodden: All players begin with the Poverty Hindrance, but draw an additional Benny at the start of each session. If the Hindrance is bought off, the Benny is also lost."

        You can also use the Wealth rules, with players locked in at d4. They can collect and sell all of the loot they want, but the best they can hope for is a temporary bump to a d6 Wealth Die. Hopefully the players will recognize that looting is a bit of a waste of time, and since the Wealth rules already assume basic needs are covered, they can just get back to the heart of the game.

        Whatever you decide, Good Luck.


        • #6
          A meta-game way to do it is to have different wealth math. Most stories, TV shows, and movies have the majority of wealth-level related things in the background. A poor character lives in a lower class way, but otherwise does not have to do all of the day-to-day things that we do unless it is part of the plot. Move that idea to gaming and do the same.

          When the GM says "you get $30" that is what that really means it "you have $30 to spend". If you do not want looting like people tend to do in dungeon crawls and computer RPGs, say that they can only keep what they buy with that money. Other things could be used for the rest of the session only. For example, they take down some enemies and the GM says "you get $300 of gear", they pick what they want with their money and can keep that between sessions, but otherwise what they find is gone as soon as that game ends.

          All other money-related things are considered fluff. They happen in game, but are not managed by the character's money level. Cost of living and travel is assumed.

          On a related note, the past few game sessions I have been trying out an idea: Gear Tokens.

          In addition to whatever characters get with their money, a gear token or benny can be used to temporarily have an item for a scene. For example, a torch, or a vial of paint (my character used that last Saturday). Adventurers tend to have a lot of things and it is a pain to buy every single thing and track it on the character sheet. So, we spend the gear tokens to get what you need when needed. We are only Novice, but the plan is (for default wealth) 2 Gear tokens per rank, usable per session like a specialized Benny. The poor characters with the Poverty hindrance only get one per Rank, Rich get 3, and Filthy Rich get 4 per Rank. This also has the side effect of having your wealth level mean a bit more with mechanics to back it up. So far we have liked it. It also helps to let the players have their special spending money like I was suggesting, where you buy things that matter.

          People do not loot everyone very often in most movies and books, except for a new weapon or two. Why not continue that trend? Nothing sucks more in a Sci Fi campaign when the GM gives the players a ship, or they capture one, and they would rather sell it and use the money to get more loot.

          Just be up-front about having a setting rule with the money. It might seem weird sometimes but it is for game balance and it is, after all, a game, and not a simulation of reality. You don't make them track all of the math of life, after all. It is a trade off to make it more playable.


          • #7
            For an example of hand-waving in shows:

            Someone was telling me that they read about someone taking the time to calculate how much money the characters in the TV Show, Friends, needed to make to afford their life styles. Their jobs did not offer that kind of money. It was all hand-waved.


            • #8
              Strictly enforce Encumbrance. In most cases, PCs aren’t going to be able to carry much loot before they start suffering penalties and probably aren’t bringing a pack mule with them wherever they go. In my case, it helps that Fantasy Grounds automatically calculates Encumbrance and applies the appropriate penalties. I could see where GMs in face to face games have a harder time.

              If characters are looting better gear than what they currently have, that’s an upgrade and understandable, so you can limit the gear the enemies they typically run into have to stuff that is equivalent to what they already have. If they are just looting everything with the intent to turn around and exchange it for cash, that’s a whole different story. I would think in most settings you can’t just take weapons into a pawn shop and sell them, so you have to find black market types. That could be an adventure in itself. Then there is the simple fact that the buyer has to be able to resell it and make a profit, meaning the they pay 25% or less of the “list price” for used gear. There might still be some players that want to load up as much as they can carry and sell it for pennies on the dollar with the attitude that some money gained is better than none at all, so throw in the fact that their contact isn’t a bottomless pit of money that always has the capability to buy whatever the PCs bring them. The PCs aren’t the only ones they are acquiring inventory from and they may just not have cash on hand since they just bought stuff from a prior “customer” and need to sell some of their inventory first. Where are the PCs stock-piling stuff pending being able to sell it? That’s a target for theft. Also, the buyer has to have demand for all the stuff the PCs are bringing them and they may just say, “No, got plenty of that type of item in stock already and don’t need more at this time,” even if they have the cash available. This isn’t a video game where everywhere the PCs go there is a merchant with deep pockets willing to buy all the junk they’ve accumulated. Players can’t “grind” if you don’t enable them to. On the flip side is what they intend to do with the wealth acquired. Better gear could be locked behind other things than just a high price such as licensing or military affiliation.

              However, it all starts with the GM setting the appropriate expectations up front. If the players know that looting and reselling gear is possible, but isn’t a fast and easy way to wealth they are less likely to be frustrated and feel the GM is just putting arbitrary road blocks in their way.