Hmm. Perhaps that's not an accurate name for subject I want to discuss but it is how I think of it. What I really mean is the bookkeeping elements of certain RPGs that relate to the game world or universe's economy.
- Busting Ghosts, getting paid, and putting take-out Chinese on the table in Ghostbusters.
- Docking fees, repairs, and paying off that galactic gangster you owe in Star Wars.
- Hiring Hirelings for Hire and I assume paying them in Dungeons and Dragons.
- Things like fuel, upkeep, and payments on a starship in Traveller.
These are just some examples of what I'm talking about but hopefully enough for you to get the idea. The settings of many RPGs revolve around the making of money just like real life does. [Remember this as it will come into play later on]. Making money in this context is very different from seeking Treasure. At least it is in my mind.
As opposed to Treasure being the one time motivation and reward for completing an adventure, Money is the ongoing ancillary element that allows the adventure to happen and to continue. Without Treasure, a Fantasy Adventurer goes on an adventure to find Treasure. Without Money, a business is out of business and the 'adventure' is over.
Now the big question that this brought to my mind was...is this fun? Is a game where you struggle to make sure your company stays afloat or you have enough fuel to keep your ship running something people enjoy?
Responses were mixed.
My friend Keith summed up the overall consensus that, "Worrying about how much money I have and whether or not I can pay the bills is what I do in real life. Making that money and balancing my books is work. I am not here to do work. I'm here to have fun."
Sure, I get that. Far be for me, as Anti-Math as they come, to advocate economics as an enjoyable pastime but...well...I have on more than one occasion run and played in games where this dynamic was present to a greater or lesser extent and had a blast. Funny enough, it hasn't always involved 'real math' but rather an abstraction of money management that sets a tone and atmosphere more than anything else.
The best example of this in my own experience is Ghostbusters, specifically my Ghostbusters/InSpectres hybrid. There you have a pool of dice or rather a set of pools called, 'Franchise Dice'. In my version, there are three pools that make up a Ghostbusters Franchise:
- Information - Resources in the form of physical or digital writing or access to it.
- Equipment - Resources in the form of physical device and gear on hand or accessible.
- Capital - Resources in the form of liquid assets - Cash or funds that are easily accessible.
An example of Information would be a small library at the team headquarters that includes Spates Catalog and Tobin's Spirit Guide. An example of Equipment would be a pair of Hand-Held Fire Extinguishers or a Geiger Counter. An example of Capital would be a Bank Account that enables you to write a check to pay a fine from the EPA.
PCs in my Ghostbusters/InSpectres mash-up get Experience Points towards improving their skills but they can also pool their points to improve one of the three Franchise Dice categories. The catch is, in order to improve any of the Franchise Dice the team must have been paid for their services and have a positive amount of money after paying for any fines or damages they caused.
In the end I am not saying monetary resource management is objectively fun, though I am sure some gamers out there do. What I am saying is that for me, some resource management and the trappings of 'needed to pay the bills' can be an interesting part of an RPG campaign; one oft overlooked aspect of 'Survival Skill' in modern to future settings. If you focus on the results more than the math itself, it adds a distinct level of immersion that makes certain genres and settings feel more real.