Monday, September 14, 2020

Updated Seas of Sand pricing lists and merchant rolls

Disclaimer: the most economics education I have is AP Econ in high school, so this is extremely inexact. I'm a game designer, not an economist.

Over the course of my two short Seas of Sand playtest campaigns, one of the recurring issues I ran into was that of pricing—players wanted to hunt for good deals, go to cities where demand was high, and otherwise influence the prices of their goods. Which is reasonable, it makes a lot of sense; Seas leans into mercantile adventures, and so players wanting to interact with the systems there is good gameplay.

Now that those campaigns are over, I've been trying to think of a solution; the obvious answer is a series of compounding percentage modifiers (+5% for good deals, +20% for high demand, etc.), but that math gets pretty complicated fast, and quickly turns players off. 


Instead, I've made a pretty gigantic table of prices, ranging from very high demand to very low demand. Here it is:

TABLE OF GOODS AND PRICES

Good
Minimal Demand
Low Demand
Less Demand
Average
More Demand
High Demand
Extreme Demand
Armor (light)
100 / 0.1
200 / 0.2
400 / 0.4
500 / 0.5
750 / 0.75
1000 / 1
1500 / 1.5
Armor (heavy)
1,500 / 1.5
2,500 / 2.5
4,000 / 4
5,000 / 5
5500 / 5.5
6250 / 6.25 
7500 / 7.5
Arms
150 / 0.15
250 / 0.25
500 / 0.5
750 / 0.75
1000 / 1
1250 / 1.25
2000 / 2
Beer
20 / 0.02
30 / 0.03
40 / 0.04
50 / 0.05
75 / 0.75
150 / 0.15
500 / 0.5 
Camels
300 / -
350 / -
400 / -
500 / -
600 / -
800 / - 
1200 / -
Cloth (cheap)
200 / 0.2
500 / 0.5
800 / 0.8
1000 / 1
1250 / 1.25
1500 / 1.5
2500 / 2.5
Cloth (Luxury)
20,000 / 20
30,000 / 30
40,000 / 40
50,000 / 50
60,000 / 60
70,000 / 70
80,000 / 80
Food (cheap)
50 / 0.05
100 / 0.1
150 / 0.15
200 / 0.2
400 / 0.4
800 / 0.8
2000 / 2
Food (luxury)
500 / 0.5
1,000 / 1
1,250 / 1.25
1,500 / 1.5
1,750 / 1.75
2,500 / 2.5
4,000 / 4
Gold
-
-
-
400,000 / 400
-
-
-
Liquor
300 / 0.3
650 / 0.65
900 / 0.9
1,250 / 1.25
1,500 / 1.5
2,000 / 2
2,500 / 2.5
Metal
100 / 0.1
150 / 0.15
250 / 0.25
300 / 0.3
400 / 0.4
550 / 0.55
800 / 0.8
Salt
50,000 / 50
100,000 / 100
150,000 / 150
200,000 / 200
300,000 / 300
400,000 / 400
500,000 / 500
Silver
-
-
-
20,000 / 20
-
-
-
Spices (cheap)
10,000 / 10
25,000 / 25
40,000 / 40
50,000 / 50
80,000 / 80
125,000 / 125
200,000 / 200
Spices (Luxury)
50,000 / 50
100,000 / 100
200,000 / 200
250,000 / 250
300,000 / 300
350,000 / 350
400,000 / 400
Tea
250 / 2.5
350 / 3.5
450 / 0.45
500 / 0.5
750 / 0.75
1,500 / 1.5
3,000 / 3
Textiles (cheap)
750 / 0.75
1,000 / 1
1,500 / 1.5
2,000 / 2
2,500 / 2.5
3,500 / 3.5
4,500 / 4.5
Textiles (luxury)
35,000 / 35
45,000 / 45
60,000 / 60
75,000 / 75
85,000 / 85
100,000 / 100
120,000 / 120
Water
-
-
-
1,000 / 1
-
-
-
Wine
40 / 0.04
60 / 0.06
80 / 0.08
100 / 0.1
120 / 0.12
180 / 0.18
250 / 0.25
Wood (scrap)
500 / 0.5
650 / 0.65
800 / 0.8
1,000 / 1
1,250 / 1.25
1,750 / 1.75
3,000 / 3
Wood (corded)
2,500 / 2.5
5,000 / 5
7,500 / 7.5
10,000 / 10
12,000 / 12
18,000 / 18
25,000 / 25

Let me explain how this table works, since it's a lot:

The key information is the column on the left (goods), and the central price column (average). In a regular city at a regular time, this is what you'd pay for those goods. The first number is by the bulk (approximately 1,000 lbs.), and the second italicized number is by the pound. Merchants deal in both, depending on the good. These prices are listed in skins, or silver (1 day's worth of water = 1 skin = 1 silver piece).

The other six columns, from minimal demand to extreme demand, are just prices for the same goods as they go up and down. Take, for example, tea. Tea is ordinarily half a skin per pound, or 500 skins per bulk; if demand was a little higher, it would go up to 750 skins per bulk, but if it was a little lower, it would be 450 skins per bulk. As demand increases or decreases, so too do the prices. 

Generally speaking, luxury goods have flatter progression up and down, where cheaper, more necessary goods spike harder in both directions. Necessary goods (with inelastic demand) spike the hardest when in the most extreme demand—everyone needs food.

Gold, silver, and water don't change prices because they're used as currency; yes, this isn't how it works in actual economics, since currency exchange exists, but that's above my pay grade. Camels don't have per-pound prices because one camel roughly equals one bulk, and you can't buy 1 pound of camel.

For a hypothetical future GM of Sands, these numbers could definitely be shifted up and down as they needed. 

WHAT CHANGES DEMAND?

OK, we have a big table. What makes these prices move up and down? The unhelpful answer is "shortage and surplus," which in turn asks the question, what causes shortages and surpluses? Here's a non-comprehensive list for each.

Shortages:
  1. Social/market interest (people buy more of the hot new thing, now there's none left)
  2. War (merchants get nervous, people start hoarding)
  3. Piracy / privateering / other hits on merchants vessels
  4. Natural shortages, either from simple lack of availability (the iron mine is very far away) or from natural disaster (a famine decimated all the crops)
  5. Manufactured shortages, from guilds or cartels agreeing not sell too much
  6. Legal price-adjusting; the lightweight version of this is tariffs and taxes, the heavyweight is declaring a good to be illegal
Surpluses:
  1. Social/market disinterest (people just don't want to buy the once-hot thing)
  2. Natural abundance, like finding a new vein of iron or having a boom year of camel births
  3. Artificial abundance, like a sudden new shipment arriving or a bunch of merchants all deciding to ship the same thing
  4. Government subsidy, allowing for more production that would otherwise be able
You can imagine how these kinds of tools could shift demand up and down for the players—and how the players could influence the market themselves. 

On a very rough level, I'd imagine that for each of these that apply, you'd shift the prices one column; so if you were in a city with natural abundance (-demand), but the guilds are price-fixing (+demand) and war is brewing on the horizon (+demand), you'd end up at a net +1 demand—more demand. It's rough, but I think it should work.

PLAYER MERCHANT SKILLS

This tackles one of the problems I mentioned—high demand and low demand in cities—but it doesn't immediately solve the other, of how players can get better deals when they buy and sell.

To solve this, I propose the merchant roll: this is a variable pool of d6s that, when the PCs are buying or selling their cargo, they roll:

  • For every day spent in port, searching for the best deal possible (meaning crew must be fed, watered, and paid), add 1d6.
  • If you succeed on an Intelligence, Wisdom, and/or Charisma check (just roll 1d20 for all three), add 1d6 each. 
  • If you have training or skills in mercantilism, add 1d6. If you're really, really talented, add 2d6.
  • You might add additional d6s based on other external factors, depending. 
If any die shows a 6, adjust your prices one column better (cheaper if buying, more expensive if selling). This can only shift prices one column better; even the best merchants can't push their prices that far.

This generally only applies to buying and selling significant chunks of cargo; you don't need to roll this for individual pieces of gear or whatever.

This mechanizes and, on some level, ritualizes the buying-and-selling process. It's it's own little microsystem, one that I think—hope—that GMs could tweak and adjust to their own tables, as necessary.

I need to run Seas again, and that might be a while in coming, but I think this will help.

Let me know your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I really like this, especially the 1d6 mechanisms at the end - this would work well for the UVG - I wish I had that before!

    ReplyDelete

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