Trade System ODD?

edited October 2010 in Game Design Help
So smart people at storygames. I've got a player who is gunning to setup a merchant league. I was wondering if someone out there had a neat idea from a trade system based on d6 system for trading goods across differing cultures, etc...

I know Traveller has a trade system but it's slightly wonky. As in you can accumulate wealth really rapidly.

The default system is something along the line of ODD or similar retroclone or Dragons at Dawn.

Any suggestions?



  • edited October 2010
    See if you can find any of the old gazetteer books that came out around the same time as rules cyclopedia. I know one of them had a system for playing merchants, or barring that, the Al Quadim book had rules for handling trade in AD&D 2, which wasn't remarkably different.

    Essentially I think they consisted of off camera proficiency/skill checks which could probably be easily swapped out for Ability Score checks if the system your using is skill-less.
  • Cool. Thanks. I forgot about Al Quadim. I think I have that around here somewhere.
  • The system in Al Quadim is neat and covers the business as a whole. I was wondering about something a little more finely grained like the Traveller system.

    Any econ folks out there to suggest a simple economic model?
  • edited October 2010
    Someone smart on Story Games proposed a thing where you roll a number of d6 depending on the size of the market, say, 4-8 or so. Roll for each commodity for sale, maybe one commodity available per market size?

    Each 1-3 you roll adds to the price of the commodity.
    Each 4-6 you roll increases the amount of the commodity available.

    So in a tiny market (one die), there's only something available half the time, but it's mega cheap. In a bigger market, you get more normal fluctuations of price and availability. Every so often you'll get a glut of a particular product. If you wanted to, you could make the dice rolls a modifier to a base price and availability, like:

    Grain: Cost 1, Availability 10 units.
    Gemstones: Cost 5, Availability 1 unit.
    Lumber: Cost 2, Availability 5 units.

    And then each 1-3 multiplies the cost by 1.5, and each 4-6 multiplies the availability by 1.5. Or something. Not an economics major.
  • Despite my distaste for the overall rules of Rogue Trader (one of Fantasy Flight's 40k RPGs), I did think the rules for large scale commerce were pretty cool. Since the characters are merchant-adventurers, it mostly focuses on how much crazy crap they can afford at different scales, but it also tied the trade into the gaming. Basically the group has a "profit" rating which is rolled like a skill. You modify the roll based on the scale of purchase (a personal weapon/enough weapons for an army and steps in between), quality of product, and rarity/availability. The GM provides "ventures" (adventure hooks) the successful completion of which adds to your profit (and messing certain stuff up subtracts). Unfortunately, it doesn't give any crunch to the wheelings and dealings, if that's what you're looking for, but it's a pretty straightforward way to integrate business into an otherwise adventure/mission focused game n
  • Great ideas all. I like the varying scales being described here.

  • Most trading systems out there are basically wrong, because they are based around the idea that what is being bought and sold only involves goods and money. In the real world, this isn't really what is going on. More important than both of these is risk. Most trading that happens, especially these days, is more properly viewed as the trading of risk. And there are all kinds of risk. The important question is not so much "will this trade be profitable?" but "will this trade be worth the risk?". A system based around answering that question would probably go a lot further than others I've seen.

    One market that is almost purely about risk is the futures market. Managing risk is the whole reason it exists. In this market, the "goods" that are being bought and sold are non-tangible. They are, in effect, promises. It's an entire market of tracking and trading nothing but obligation, yet if it didn't exist, the modern world would slow dramatically. The risk that it allows companies to manage would have to be managed in some other way, and that would likely require higher prices, lower production or both. I don't think a gaming system needs to deal with the futures market, necessarily, but if the system can be easily used to do so, it is on the right track.
  • Another thing about rules for markets: avoid the mistake of a lot of trading games (particularly computer games, like Escape Velocity) where there are known "profitable routes" that people can use over and over to generate essentially infinite wealth. The problem with such systems isn't that profitable routes exist. They should (and, historically, did) exist. The problem is that traffic on these routes typically has no effect on the prices found on the route. Instead, the more a route gets used, the less profitable it should become over time.

    This "degrading prices" solution also works to avoid things like the Wall of Iron trick.
  • Heya Wordman,

    So what would this look like in an RPG system? I see what you are saying and nodding. I am not so great at taking ideas like this and putting mechanics to them.

  • Personally, I would hammer something together from Daniel Solis' "market system" (the one Simon described above), Apocalypse World's Barter "mechanics", and BW's Resources (or Chronica Feudalis' Purse dice).

    1. Have a mechanic that randomly, but within limit, changes the availability:price distribution of goods. This should mainly be used to establish the initial situation on the market. If I roll 3d6 for Grain and get Availability 3: Price 1 for that market, and my merchant buys a shitton of Grain, then the situation should become Availability 1: Price 3. This is still fairly predictable, so insert another degree of randomisation. (and possibly a degree of influences on the markets of the whole country) So, you can't buy Grain cheap forever.
    2. Use abstract measures of wealth, to avoid tracking individual coins and the impossible inflation that usually comes from such "systems" (ie. see the absurdities of the common D&D market).

    Freemarket might also hold something for you. It's a post-scarcity society, but I think certain things about Flow and stuff could be reskinned to model a more traditional economy.
  • edited January 2011
    Posted By: Simon CSomeone smart on Story Games proposed a thing where you roll a number of d6 depending on the size of the market, say, 4-8 or so. Roll for each commodity for sale, maybe one commodity available per market size?
    That thread is here and the blog post here.

    Inspired by this idea, Quentin Hudspeth created a great, much more fleshed-out system for a variety of genres: Playing the Market

    Among other clever advances in his supplement: In a post-scarcity Sci-Fi setting, the precious commodity is not the rarity of an item but how long it takes to get to you.
  • edited October 2010
    You could story game it up, of course. You roll your Trader skill once per session, or whatever. If you succeed, you get a wealth, and you should do a quick scene explaining what happened. Take notes; reincorporate previous profit scenes, maybe, or use that scene to feed into the rest of the session. If you don't succeed, you don't get a wealth, or maybe lose a wealth. The GM establishes a scene with a conflict, and you play it out knowing you lose.

    Or... sigh. Roll (2d6)+Trader. 7-9, pick one, 10+, pick 3.

    You get two wealths.
    You learn something profitable and take +1 on your next Trader roll.
    You don't lose a wealth.
    You don't make an enemy (that enemy gets a +2 bonus on all rolls against you the next time you interact).

    In OD&D terms, Trader would be a proficiency, I guess? (or are those strictly AD&D? I forget.) Maybe a fraction of level? A save vs wands? Your WIS save modifier or +Languages modifier from INT? Whatever. And a wealth would be, say, 5% of the XP required for the next level, in GP?
  • I made some guidelines for RP-driven barter/gift economies in my space opera RPG. Quite rough, and it's designed to avoid accumulation. Untested so far! You could allow for skill/reputation rolls to hide negative aspects of what you have to trade or otherwise improve how it looks by association.
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