Midnight acks and midnight economy

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Lucasdelsur
Joined: 2015-05-05 18:43
Midnight acks and midnight economy

In midnight, humanity is under the yoke of the dark god and his orcs. And one of the ideas of the setting is that the economy was reduced to survival and barter. I have a friend about to DM an acks/midnight campaing, and asking about how to implement acks economic model to a barter and survival economy. 

GMJoe
Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56

Hmm... Well, I'm no economist, so this'll include a lot of half-remembered facts and simplifications, but...

Adam Smith was a great economist, but a lousy historian. Contrary to what he might have told you, most historical barter economies arose following the collapse of existing coin- or debt-based economies, and were replaced by new coin- or debt-based economies after only a short while.

See, in a barter economy, there's no such thing as a common unit of exchange, as there's no longer any commodity with a commonly-understood value that's used to describe the values of goods and services. This means that nothing has an established and commonly-understood market price. The value of an item has no persistence; when two people make a trade, they agree that the exchange is worth it based on the values the bartered items to them, at the time of the transaction, but they also accept and understand that the values of the items might be completely different the next time they use them in a trade.

This means that ACK's normal eonomic model breaks down when you try and make a barter economy. ACKS assumes an established economy where everything has a commonly-understood market value defined in terms of a specific commodity or currency that serves as a frame of reference (gold pieces), but a barter economy is what happens when that kind of economic system breaks down and no commonly-understood unit of currency exists.

If your friend is willing to try using such a system in play, they're a braver Judge than me. A more playable (but less realistic) option might be to assume that coins don't exist, but that everything maintains its established gold piece market value, and allow players to make transactions as long as they can provide goods of equivalent value.

Lucasdelsur
Joined: 2015-05-05 18:43

my friend asked me to post this: 

Hi everyone! ¨Friend¨ here. 

I am an economist, I LOVE acks system and I was trying to imagine chow to adapt it with out breaking anything.
In the midnight setting, there use to be a rich empire in which a gold standard was used to trade globe-wide, but it all ended when the tribal orcs conquered the continent, now most human subsist with the bare minimum (in some areas, where the orcs bleed the local economy to finance the decades long war of attrition against the elf, there is a constant population decalin due to hunger. Migration is forbidden and strictly controlled). Some traitor-human rulers try to enforce the gold coin system, but due to many reasons (it is constantly counterfeited, is easily taxable, it cannot be eaten)
Lucasdelsur has pointed me that despise that, silver can never drop below a certain value because it has a practical use; slaying undead. In Midnight, every dead person has fairly high chance of turning into an undead and every undead can evolve into a more powerful version. If a single peasant dies in the forest, turns into a zombie and then into a wight, it could destroy an entire village unless SOMEONE has at least a silver dagger. Additionally, magic weapons are forbidden by the law, so silver weapons are even more valuable.
My solution is as follows: a bi-monetary system. For simplicity, 1 gp is theoretical base reference of how much a peasant needs to survive, not a reference to the value of each coin.
Gold must be used by law in every transaction, but save a few coins nobody keeps gold if they can avoid it. Gold is so devaluated that a stone of gold (usually 1000 gp coins in acks) is only worth 10 gp base, and that price is subjected to the trade rules in page 144 of ACKS Core. Maybe the adventurers reach a town were gold is 10% cheaper and everything is relatively more expensive.
Silver is the real reference value for the economy, but silver coins and jewelry are rare because they are immediately melted for the raw materials. If one could gather one stone of silver coins (1000 coins) it would be worth 100 gp. Silver will be stable and every variation of price of other goods is IN RELATION to silver. If possible, merchant will use silver for stacking (for the same reasons previously mentioned for gold), preferring to barter in other goods. (+12 reaction roll to trade in silver?)
I’m not brave enough to alter the treasure values, I will use the rules for special treasure generation in page 209 ACKS Core and whatever coin treasure remains, I will adjust the weight. If my players find 1000 gp of gold they will see a mountain of 100 stones of pure, solid and worthless gold. Silver will remain the same. 
This is good enough for internal accounting of an experienced merchant or for long-terms agreement (I assume that garrison salaries and peasant taxes acks AS IF they were performed with a stable point of reference. I’m assuming that this transaction tends to an equilibrium and enough time has pass for it to reach it.). But for one time bargains between common folk or opportunistic merchants, GMJoe is right, price should be really variable and subject to the negotiation skills of the individual involved. 
As I pictured, if you want to trade a skin for a sword, in a barter economy you would first adjust both reference prices for the local demand modifiers. But negotiation skills should have an impact. Should I implement a reaction roll to add/subtract demand modifier?

 Can you think of any cool flavor mechanic to represent this situation?

Another thing, is there any mechanic for bandits kingdoms? nomads hordes? anything to let my players live outside of civilization.

GMJoe
Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-01-04 12:56

Gold must be used by law in every transaction, but save a few coins nobody keeps gold if they can avoid it. Gold is so devaluated that a stone of gold (usually 1000 gp coins in acks) is only worth 10 gp base, and that price is subjected to the trade rules in page 144 of ACKS Core. Maybe the adventurers reach a town were gold is 10% cheaper and everything is relatively more expensive.

-Lucasdelsur
I should probably point out that you've made gold too heavy for adventurers to bother picking up.

See, due to the limited space avaialble in backpacks and other containers, every adventurer has somewhere between four and ten stone of carrying capacity. A stone of copper (or gold, in your system) is worth 10 gp. For comparison, a second-hand sword pried from a beastman's dead hands can be sold for 9 gp (on average, assuming you're using the rules for scavenging treasure from page 209) and weighs 1/6th of a stone, meaning that a stone of second-hand beastman weapons is worth 54 gp  - more than five times its weight in gold. If your adventurers have access to a cart, bag of holding, or some other way of carrying very large amounts of weight around, they might go to the effort of packing up and carrying the copper and gold coins they found - but if they're in the middle of a dungeon or a long way from civilisation, they'll likely ignore them in favour of more portable treasure.

Silver is the real reference value for the economy, but silver coins and jewelry are rare because they are immediately melted for the raw materials. If one could gather one stone of silver coins (1000 coins) it would be worth 100 gp. Silver will be stable and every variation of price of other goods is IN RELATION to silver.

-Lucasdelsur
I suspect you'll find your players start using gems and jewelry as currency instead of coins. This isn't without historical precedent; I reccomend reading up on hacksilver.

If possible, merchant will use silver for stacking (for the same reasons previously mentioned for gold), preferring to barter in other goods. (+12 reaction roll to trade in silver?)

-Lucasdelsur
+12 is larger than the largest total bonus to a reaction roll it's currently possible to get in ACKS, even if you learn every proficiency that grants a bonus and use the most generous possible interpretation of whether you can stack them. Because reaction rolls use just 2d6, even a +1 bonus to reaction rolls is a big advantage; with a +12 bonus, any PC with charisma four or higher would be literally unable to fail at trade reaction rolls barring GM fiat.

I’m not brave enough to alter the treasure values, I will use the rules for special treasure generation in page 209 ACKS Core and whatever coin treasure remains, I will adjust the weight. If my players find 1000 gp of gold they will see a mountain of 100 stones of pure, solid and worthless gold. Silver will remain the same. 

-Lucasdelsur
As I said above, making gold heavier makes it harder for your players to carry away. This means that increasing the weight of gold like this effectively reduces the amount of treasure your players will get. That's not a problem in itself, of course (and it won't have any effect at all on treasures composed of silver, copper, or platinum coins), as it just means your players will gain less treasure and experience points unless they invest in a cart and mule and spend a lot of time hauling treasure back and forth.

That being said, if you find yourself worrying that your players might not have enough jink, it might be worth looking at how the classic Dragonlance setting handled a similar change: Like you, they made gold pieces as valueless as copper, but they also introduced "steel pieces" that were totally incidentally worth exactly as much as gold pieces were worth in other campaign settings, allowing GMs to convert adventures made for other settings simply by changing the gold pieces in treasure hordes to steel.

But negotiation skills should have an impact. Should I implement a reaction roll to add/subtract demand modifier?

-Lucasdelsur
The bargaining proficiency already represents negotiation ability in a way that's easy to handle in play.

Another thing, is there any mechanic for bandits kingdoms? nomads hordes? anything to let my players live outside of civilization.

-Lucasdelsur
Well, as long as they don't mind living on their own, it's easy enough for PCs to survive in the wilderness if they take the Survival proficency or spend their days hunting. If you want them to rule domains, you don't really need special rules for that - the existing rules for establishing domains work just fine for building up small independant fifedoms that call no orc master. They'll have to be ready to fight off potential conquerers, of course, but that's just part of the fun.

If you really want their kingdoms to feel like bandit kingdoms, you could use the rules for criminal guilds instead... Or even the rules for chaotic domains, if they seem more appropriate.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

The only thing I'd add to the above is that ACKS isn't actually based on a gold standard or silver standard. It's actually based on a wheat standard. The value of gold is pegged to the price of a bushel of wheat. All other prices in the game are then based on historical prices relative to the known price of wheat. 

If you remove gold and silver coin, the economy will still function on the basis of barter IF you assume wheat becomes the unit of trade instead, as it was in some areas of early Mesopotamia.