Yesterday, I wrote why financial records (yaaaaawn) are important for old school gaming. Today, I’m taking a closer look to find out what exactly it is that makes this type of game work.
Why does Classic Traveller push its players into the depths of debt? Because THAT will force them to DO something; it's like a kick to the butt: Swim or sink, buddy.
To prove my point, I used Into the Odd rules for enterprises. If bad luck hits you over the head with low income, but high losses, you’re sliding (sometimes, falling) into debt quickly. This is important to know if you’re planning to give a barony or some other kind of empire or business in your players’ hands (and trust me, you do).
I hate book keeping. And yesterday’s post was a prime example of exactly that. So I’m asking myself: Is there a possibility to determine the means of a business or empire? Is there a way to determine what it can afford, without keeping a revenue-surplus account?
And thank the gods, there is.
(Enter stage left: Fallen Empires, a pbta game)
Apocalypse World and its hacks are games I’m referring to from time to time. pbtA has lots of good ideas, even though I don’t like the system. One of Fallen Empires’ character classes is exactly what I’m looking for: the Strongholder. Take a look at this:
Let me pull up the information on yesterday’s gang quickly:
There is a small empire called “Barony of Bones”. Its king is Skulltor. The Barony has a military force consisting of 60 skeletal dinosaurs. And it sends out troops of undead warriors each night to rob people.
Let’s use the description above as inspiration:
The Barony of Bones has 100 un-souls, living in a rotten castle built in a godforsaken swamp. About 40 of them, violent skeleton warriors, are raiding the nearby town on a regular basis. Their weapons are almost worthless, rusty and prone to breaking. But people are terrified of them. There’s a lot of infighting because Chaos has crept in and is slowly eroding morale.
So far, so good. But what about the finances?
That’s what one of the Strongholder special powers (“moves”) is for:
Now we’re cooking with gas, aren’t we? So at the beginning of the session, preferably in downtime, I’m rolling 2d6+ hard. Hard is rolled when you “go aggro; sucker someone; do battle”. Let’s say Skulltor has Hard 2. So I’m rolling 2d6+3. A total of 10. That means Skulltor will have the financial means to pursue whatever plan he has in mind. Had I rolled a total of 6 or lower, the Barony of Bones would not have been able to realize its plans – and that would have forced Skulltor to hire experts, for instance.
Experts, like your player characters.