That Will Be Money Dollars Please

There’s a trend in games on the lighter end of the spectrum to ditch currency in leu of a game mechanic that simply tells you whether or not you can afford something. And for the record, this is a trend I agree with. I don’t want to keep track of my dollars and pennies for most games. Especially in ones in which equipment is low on the totem pole of character competency. I used this kind of mechanic in Chronica Feudalis, in fact, with its purse system.

But Technoir is different. I wanted it to have that gear-porn element. The gun with the scope needs to be more expensive than one without. I wanted to make sure that the choice of what you buy, at any level, is meaningful. Technology is cheap in the future, but there’s still a cost when everyone is nearly broke. If you’re criminals and thieves, money matters. There comes a point where abstracting all of that becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

But I still wanted to keep this a relatively light game and I didn’t want the gear-shopping portion of protagonist generation to take several hours. So my strategy was to make costs sit primarily in the single digit range. Spending 10 Kreds on items that cost 2 to 7 Kreds a pop goes pretty quickly and makes thing easy to compare. As opposed to choosing between the $24,995 cyberarm or the $45,500 muscle replacements where each upgrade increases the price by 10%. Keeping the numbers low keeps the math easy.

The costs in Technoir also tie directly in to the game mechanics. The cost for any item is equal to the number of tags it has.[1] So a set of Interface duds with the tags gesture input and linked costs 3 Kreds. A stinger pistol with small, short range, derma-linked, and silencer costs 4 Kreds. So it’s completely transparent to see what you’re getting in mechanical and narrative effectiveness for your money. Of course some Objects can have tags like experimental or luxury that up the price without giving you much effectiveness.

The protagonists generation rules and the Object catalog (along with their costs and tags) are in the Player’s Guide. So feel free to take a look to see how easy it is to outfit your razorgirl or hacker.

  1. [1] with the exception that vehicles cost an extra 10 Kreds and cybernetic implants cost 5 Kreds to install
  1. Very interesting.

    I have to say that one of the few (only?) things that I don’t really like in CF is that purse mechanic. Even though it fits perfectly with the rest of the game and it is elegant and very quick, it just felt too random for me in a buying and selling context.

    And after thinking about it, there is something vaguely similar that I also didn’t like in the crunchiest game I have played: WH40K Dark Heresy. Instead of ownership or whether you can buy it, the die roll is determining whether you are able to find the particular item you’re looking for. But it ended up essentially acting the same way and it just frustrated me. Again, it fit thematically (it turns out it is difficult to find that one particular rare item in a homogeneous world of scores of billions that doesn’t have a shop at every corner like our society) and mechanically (everything is a d100 roll.)

    Both had the potential to bog the game down if players were looking for something (or anything after the first few misses) for their character. And it could just line things up so that the GM has to say “no, no, no” when it is much more fun for the GM to say “yes, yes, yes.”

    So I like this tradeoff between the crunchiness of counting and something light, easy, and simple. I’m a big fan of more choices in the player’s hands. Instead of rattling off a list of things while hoping to hit a die roll they get to customize something for their character that they think will be sweet. With Kreds being a very limited resource (I’m assuming) it requires them to make a trade off between having something cool now or something possibly cooler or life-saving later and becomes an actual decision point.

  2. Yeah, I think there’s comes a time when random abstractions become more trouble than they are worth. When you have to go to a lot of effort to explain what the random result means in terms of affordability or availability, then maybe it’s actually easier to just use currency. Currency is an abstraction anyway, right? So just make that abstraction as easy and straight-forward as possible.

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