I've been working up a new trading system for S*D New which bases an item's availability and pricing on the specifics of its production, and I thought it could prove useful to other campaigns. A word of warning, this is intended for S*D New, and I'm going to use S*D references a lot. However, I don't see why this can't be adapted for any setting, including a fantasy campaign (I'll explain later).
First, let me give some background. When I say availability, I mean an item's physical availability, not its legal availability. I have long thought of the availability codes presented in the PHB/GMG as a legal system, dictating what permits, licences, and/or paperwork a character must have in order to purchase an specific item (which includes vehicles). This has nothing to do with how common an item is, just what you have to go through to legally purchase it. For example, a nuclear warhead is rated at restricted, but that doesn't mean that a colony, nation, or world has only one or two such warheads. They could have thousands or even millions of them, but the only people allowed to buy them is a very limited group.
A second example would be a basketball. A basketball is rated as "any" in the PHB system, specifically because no one is required to buy a specialized licence or any thing else to have one. But that doesn't mean that they exist in massive abundance on every colonized world. There could be many reasons for a population to not have any, but it doesn't change the fact that they just don't exist there.
And this is where this new trading and production system kicks in. The system is intended to rate the physical availability for any specific item on the production capacity of the planet within a given industry, which is presented with a specific score that allows for a randomized roll.
Say, as an example, a PC loses their computer gauntlet to a pulse grenade or an alien creature or whatever, and now needs to buy a new one. They arrive on a colony world and state that they are going to look for the item. A GM can look up the colony's electronics industry score and rolls to determine the item's availability. The result can range from "total market saturation" (ie the damn things are available at every corner store and street vendor) to "rare import" (which means it could take months to get one in, with a much higher price tag).
A further breakdown of the system:
Industries are used as a means to determine item availability. They also are used to determine the availability of services (ie hiring people to perform a task).
The industries themselves are broken down into two groups, basic and specialized. Basic industries are those that every self-sustaining community needs to have, so they cover basic needs and services. Specialized industries are those that are not actually needed, but are usually pretty good for the community's economy. Note that these industries are not just about the production of new items, but also concern the maintenance of existing items and structures.
Basic industries, as noted above, cover the basic needs. While I don't have a full list yet, I can give you some of them. These industries include:
- Agriculture (including farming, ranching, logging, hunting, and agro-tech, such as hydroponics and recyclers; this is what you need to feed your people, even if it isn't doesn't taste good)
- Construction (the building of houses, apartments, and other ground-based structures; in trade terms, this would focus on refined materials, such as cut wood or bags of concrete, and on labor)
- Electronics (the production of computers, communications, and sensors that are not FTL, as well as computer programs; a must for future space colonies, given how much computers are needed for everyday life)
- Energy (the collection and refinement/distribution of fuel sources, the construction of power generators, such as battery packs and fusion reactors, and the production of usable power for the community itself)
- Entertainment (including video, music, art, live performances, fine dining, and hotels; also includes adult/illicit, such as recreational drugs, gambling, and prostitution; this is needed to keep the population from going crazy, but also boosts the local economy)
- Finance (includes basic banking, loans, stock markets, and similar financial activities; this is how the community can afford to buy big-ticket items)
- Medical (the production of medical technology, pharmaceuticals, as well as providing the services of primary and emergency care)
I also don't have a full list of specialized industries, but here are a few to demonstrate the ideas:
- Armament (the production of personal, vehicular, and spacecraft weapons and armor, as well as defensive systems; this can include e-suits at GM discretion; note that this does not include the vehicles themselves)
- Astroengineering (the design, production, and installation of large-scale space structures, such as orbital rings, space elevators, and massive space habitats; this also includes planetary engineering, such as terraforming; in S*D, the Solar Union leads this industry)
- Drivespace Engineering (the production of FTL engines, sensors, and communication systems; in S*D, the Orlamu are well known for this industry)
- Gridspace Engineering (the development of Grid technology, including gridcasters and programs; in S*D, Insight is the leader of this industry)
- Starship Engineering (the production of spacecraft, except for those systems covered by other industries; StarMech is highly rated in this area)
- Vehicular Engineering (the production of land vehicles such as cars and trucks, as well as traffic control systems (traffic lights, etc) and roadways)
- Hydrocraft Engineering (the production of water vehicles, including submarines, as well as the production of underwater habitats)
- Aviation Engineering (the production of aircraft, as well as traffic control systems)
- Survival Technology (a catch-all for various advanced survival gear, including climbing gear, e-suits, portable shelters, etc; regional guides on backwater worlds are included within this industry)
- Textiles (the production of fabrics and items made out of fabric, such as bedding, sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, and other items; this also includes tailors)
There are more industries I have bouncing around, though some are being problematic. For example, I view cybertech as just medical-grade robotics as they have similar technologies and equipment, but one has more restrictions (such as being installed within a human body). As a result, I'm still debating making the two a single industry of separating them.
The next portion is figuring out how big the community in question is. I'm intending to keep this relatively variable. I recommend that it at a single city or town, but then it can be scaled up. A community could be a single city and range up to a stellar nation.
Using Bluefall as an example can show this. The city of Hughes Island could have its own rating (which would include the waters off of the island as well). You could then move one level up to catch the whole of planet Bluefall. The next step up would be the whole of the Aegis system. A third step up would bring you to all of Regency space (which is only two star systems). A fourth step up would be the whole of the Verge (the region the Regency occupies). Potentially, you could also move another step up to include all of human space, but that is too broad of a catch all in my opinion.
Regardless of the size of the community you are selecting, the next step is to assign scores to the basic industries, and to select and score specialized industries. Note that as you get bigger, the number of specialized industries should dramatically increase, even to the point of including all possible industries. For example, all stellar nations include pretty much all of the specialized industries, with but a few minor exceptions (the Hatire don't have a cybernetics industry, for example).
The scores themselves range for 0.1 to 9.9. I elected to not include 0.0 (which would mean the industry doesn't even exist) and 10.0 (which would be perfect) simply to keep all of the basic industries within the play. Specialized industries can of course be 0.0, which would mean they are not selected.
The scores are grouped using a MOGA system, though it also includes the category of "None":
- None (0.1 to 1.9) - there is virtually no production to be found, with most of it being in a simple portable workshop setup; most items within the industry are imported.
- Marginal (2.0 to 3.9) - there is little production within the industry, with most of it being performed in general manufacturing systems such as a ship's workshop or fabrication facility; the community has some spare components, but most items are still required to be imported.
- Ordinary (4.0 to 5.9) - there is enough local production to make the community self-sustaining for the most part; while a specific item may be hard to find or require importation, a similar item is likely to be found.
- Good (6.0 to 7.9) - the industry produces enough excess to actually allow effective broad exportation; most items are locally made or regularly imported to allow them to be easily found.
- Amazing (8.0 to 9.9) - the industry produces almost everything within its field locally; only the most rare or unique items require importation, and the industry itself is a major export industry for the community.
The use of the MOGA system is intended to help with parity between communities but also to give a GM an idea of what resources a community may have within the industry. For example, two different colonies may have a rating of Amazing within the Starship Engineering industry, but that doesn't mean they have identical scores. They just both produce starships for sale on the open market, and they are likely to have large production facilities and lots of resources to build them.
Determining Item Availability
The scores assigned to an industry determine the availability of a specific item a character either wants to buy or sell, and helps to determine the cost of the item. Note that the rules applied to black market dealings also apply, so the price for the item could be even higher than is shown.
First, determine what industry the item or service would fall under. Then look up that industry's score. The score is intended to rolled with a d20, with the following results (rounding is explained below):
- 50% of score (round down): item is one of the major locally manufactured goods of the community; the market is saturated with the item, reducing price to 75% of normal.
- 100% of score (round down): item is manufactured locally, but is not a major item; cost is normal, and it isn't hard to find the item in question.
- 150% of normal (round up): item is imported, but it is a common import; cost is higher, ranging from 125% to 150%.
- 200% of score (round up): item is only rarely imported, and requires specialized orders; cost is 200% to 250% of normal.
- 200+% of score: the item is almost never imported, requiring very specialized arrangements and significant time; cost is 500% of normal.
"Normal price" is the listed price of the item from whatever source it was found in (the PHB, AEG, etc).
For an example of how this can be applied, let's look at a 9mm charge pistol. The base price for this weapon is $400 (from the PHB, Table 39, pages 176-177). The actual price for this weapon is determined by the industry, so that matters (for this, I'm going to use Table S6 from the S*DCS, page 82). This item would fall under military technology.
In Austrin-Ontis, this item would have an industry score of 9.3, and the results for the roll would have a range of 4 (rounded down from 4.65), 9 (rounded down from 9.3), 14 (rounded up from 13.95), 19 (rounded up from 18.6), and 20+ (the next number up from 19). A d20 roll lands on 14, so on this particular AO world, the 9mm charge pistol is imported and slightly more expensive ($500 to $600), but it is still easily found.
By contrast, the Borealis Republic has a military industry score of 2.7. The roll would have a range of the following: 1 / 3 / 5 / 6 / 7+. Rolling a d20 for the same 9mm charge pistol gets a result of 12. That particular Borealian world not only doesn't make 9mm charge pistols, they have to be specially imported from a single provider at a cost of $2000 or more, and it will likely take at least a couple of months for it to arrive.
There are some other factors that affect an item's availability. For example, some items are just so common that they are almost universally available. In S*D and other far future Alternity settings, a dataslate takes over for paper. Everyone has one, so they can be deemed to be incredibly common. In that case, a GM can rule that ordinary quality dataslates have an effective score increase, which makes them more likely to be available.
I haven't gotten a good list of modifiers yet, so I don't have much to post on this right now, but I will say that they will be both positive and negative. Potentially, an item's legal availability code could also have an influence on its physical availability, as more restricted items are kept under tight controls (including who can and cannot sell them).
For example, an item could be in high demand in a specific area, which in turn lowers its availability score. On the two warring colonies in Algemron, both are likely to have at least a Good score in the Armaments industry, yet the demand for weapons is so great that weapons become more likely to be a major import item rather than an export item (a negative modifier to the industry's score)
What Does This Have To Do With Trade?
A wonderful question, that also matters to some PC's.
As I noted at the beginning, this is intended to serve as a system for trading. The way I originally envisioned this is that trade flows in a manner similar to diffusion: from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. The bigger the difference (and shorter the distance), the faster the rate of flow.
In the original S*DCS, Table S2: Commodities was included (page 26). It gives a very generalized prices for various trade goods, some of which don't make a whole lot of sense. The prices are based on a single cargo unit (10 cubic meters of storage) filled with the specific trade goods.
For example, a GM may dictate that weapon case measuring 1m x 0.5m x 0.5 meters holds 3 rifles. Inside of a single 10 cubic meter cargo unit, you can fit 40 such cases, which amounts to 120 rifles. According to Table S2, the value of such cargo is $3,200. However, an 11mm charge rifle costs $1500, so 120 of them actually cost $60,000 (ie over 18 times their value on Algemron, which supposedly has a high demand for such equipment). By contrast, a quantum rifle costs $8000, so 120 of them costs a whopping $320K, or 100 times their value on Algemron. The cost on Algemron for weapons is the highest of any Verge system listed, so if you can't make money selling these things on Algemron (regardless of where you buy them, you will never make a profit), what's the point of selling them?
That is where this system takes over. It allows a group of PC's to work in a way that actually makes sense for traders. They can purchase items from a community where such items are cheap, and then sell them in places where they are are expensive.
Modifying the System
As I said in the beginning, I think this trade/production system can be modified for a wide variety of campaign settings. Mostly, the way the scores work and rolling remains the same, while the industries are swapped out. For less advanced settings, you can eliminate industries that shouldn't exist and add ones that would.
For a fantasy setting, you can include Magic Items as an industry, as well as Blacksmithing. From there, the industries work just as normal, though the specifics of how items are made are slightly different and the specific industries can change.
Okay, that's it for this rather long post. Any thoughts, critiques, and suggestions are welcome.
I'll see what I can do with both of them. As I said, I haven't fixed much of this.
One thing I was thinking about is treating the industries in a manner similar to skills in Alternity. In that regard, the basic industries are overly broad and lump a lot of products and services into them. From there, the specialized industries are sub-industries specialized to a specific field.
For example, I may make 6 basic industries: agriculture (described above), energy (described above), finance (described above), and medical (described above). In addition, light industry (the manufacture of items intended for consumer use, such as textiles and personal electronics) and heavy industry (the manufacture of large and complex structures and/or machines, including all vehicles as well as mining and construction) are added.
From there, the specialized industries branch off of the basic industries. Additionally, a specialized industry can have a production score no higher than twice that of its basic parent. For example, a colony with a score of 4.5 in heavy industry has specialized into Starship Engineering. It can have a score in SE of up to 9.0 (twice that of the HI score).
With that system, I can see some benefits popping up. For example, the price modifiers within a specialized industry could be different, with the price tags getting lower rather than higher. For communities without that specialized industry, you just rely on the basic industry to determine the availability of an item or service.
I'll see if I can't some examples thrown together. I'll make one a PL7 S*D-like, one a PL5 DM-style, and I'll try to make one into something like a PL3 fantasy. I'm also going to include both items and services (which the PC's may be interested in hiring or providing).
I'm thinking for the DM example of throwing in a sub-category known as "dark industries". These would be industries that focus on the occult, which is out of the mainstream, but of importance to PC's and GM's. The PL3 fantasy will be more geared to ideas seen in D&D campaigns (so magic is allowed).
Of interesting note, much of this isn't dictated by the specific gaming system. Alternity's skill and action system has no bearing on the availability of an item or service.
|This could be interesting to explore (for a start, describing a fantasy campaign economy that actually works in a rational fashion will be something new).|
What I'm leaning toward right now is the second setup I mentioned, where you have fixed basic industries and the specialized industries are linked to one of them. In the case of a fantasy setting, Medical would be swapped out for Magic, which could branch into Alchemy, Magic Items, Pilgrimage (creating/maintaining shrines, churches, and reliquaries), Academies (magic schools), etc, etc.
Sorry, I meant to say that Energy would be replaced with Magic. I think that would balance the two very well, given the differences between the science fiction and fantasy.
Medical will be modified, however, probably to just express non-magical knowledge (which would include non-magical healing).
This post has been edited by cobalt_phoenix on Aug 30 2017, 00:03
Okay, so it has been a long couple of weeks with some family issues, so I'm still working on this, but let me give an update.
First, I've decided to use Alternity's skill system for the industries. The way this works is that Basic Industries are intentionally overly broad, while Specialized Industries are far more narrow and grouped under a Basic Industry.
Second, there are four primary BI's that all societies have automatic access to, while all SI's are linked to PL's. The four primary BI's are:
- Agriculture (which allows a society access to farming, ranching, and other industries needed to feed their populations, as well as harvesting naturally growing plants and hunting animals)
- Finance (which is solely intended as a system for commerce, but it includes trading, banking, and minting)
- Light Industry (focused on making products and items intended for the consumer, and usually not labor intensive; includes electronics, textiles, education, entertainment, survival technology, and (currently) transportation)
- Heavy Industry (focused on large scale or labor intensive production, such as mining, blacksmithing, shipbuilding, infrastructure/civil engineering, metallurgy, and astroengineering)
There are also addition, additive/optional BI's. These either require a specific PL to access them, or at least sufficient access to an unusual ability (psionics or magic). These BI's are also given their own SI's. These BI's include:
- Energy (while humans burned wood for millennia, it wasn't until PL4 that a true energy industry emerged; this focuses on fuels, generators, and electric distribution)
- Medical Industry (this is a scientifically based medicine, so it starts at PL4; includes drugs, sensors/scanners, hospitals, genetics, and cybertech)
- Magic (both religious and arcane FX fall under this; includes magic items, academies for teaching new practitioners, and even pilgrimages (which is referencing cities or nations that profit from important sites, such as holy shrines))
- Psionics (a favored one for the fraal; pretty much covers psi-tech and sanctuaries to learn from master Mindwalkers)
- Superhuman (for Super-power FX; I added super-labs, where people are given superpowers, but that is to keep it distinct from Magic and Psionics BI's, so it doesn't mean this can't include an ancient temple where the PC's can learn how to use Chi skills; also includes superpower tech)
Third, I'm thinking there should be a benefit for adding points to an SI over a BI. Otherwise, it would be far too easy to just max out the BI's and not worry about the SI's. I'm also adding this because BI's are so broad, while SI's are very narrow. (NOTE: this applies to rolling for the availability of an item.)
Currently, I'm debating between two options.
Option 1: BI's incur a +1 step penalty to availability rolls. For an SI rated below it's BI's level, there is no penalty. For an SI rated equal or above it's BI's level, there is a -1 step bonus.
An example: A society has an Light industry rating of 5.0. To find a dataslate, you roll using the 5.0 as the basis of the scores, but add a +1 step penalty to the roll. If the society has an Electronics score of 0.1 to 4.9, the roll can be made using this at no penalty. If the Electronics score is between 5.0 and 9.9, the roll is made with a -1 step bonus.
Option 2: Pretty much the same as option one, but there isn't any penalty to BI's, and SI's start with a -1 step bonus for scores below their BI and a -2 step bonus for scores equal or above their BI's.
Same example: A society with a Light Industry rating of 5.0. To find a dataslate, you roll using the 5.0 as I laid out in previous posts, with no penalty or bonus. If the society has an Electronics score of 0.1 to 4.9, that can be used as the basis, and the roll gets a -1 step bonus. If the Electronics score is between 5.0 and 9.9, the roll gets a -2 step bonus.
Personally, I like option 1 better, but I'm open to any thoughts or suggestions on the manner.
Fourth (and final for now) is that I decided to tie the number of points for industries predominately to PL's. I figure that as societies grow in technology and understanding, they improve their ability to harvest resources and produce goods. This isn't tied to a specific tech track, just that tech is advancing continuously. From there, an additional factor will be the population size, which mostly just adds bonus points.