FKR: Abstract money

Ray Harryhausen’s skeletons. Still the best.

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.

6 thoughts on “FKR: Abstract money

  1. Very interesting, I’ve been studying the various blogs about this new/old way of playing and would like to try it! Since I know a bit of pbta and since this new way of playing also includes large-scale battles, I was wondering if it was possible to manage them without miniatures but using some “move” or at least a trick that does not use miniatures, but at the same time manages to consider the long duration of the battles. Thanks a lot, I really enjoyed the last articles, well done!!!


      1. Supercool Norbert, now I wanted to clarify the management of the Patrons: in the other blogs, especially in Jeffro’s last post (
        In the other blogs, especially in Jeffro’s last post (), it is specified that the Patrons should be played by people outside the players of the characters, while I understand that you give them to the players. I like the idea of giving them to players, but I wanted to get this straight, are there any conflicts of interest? For example, if player A runs the goblin lair and the PCs want to clean it out, that could be a problem for player A! How do you handle this?
        Thank you very much and sorry for the pressing questions!!! XD


      2. Hi Federico!

        Yes, Jeffro explains it really, really well!
        You can handle patrons both ways: either let players play them in downtime, or give them to players outside of the campaign. Personally, I love giving them to my players.

        Occasionally, there might be conflicts of interests, for instance if the player characters are planning to raid a dungeon that belongs to a patron. If that happens, I simply “take them away” from the player and plan all the secret stuff, only to give control back to them when it’s over.

        The scenario you mentioned (player A runs the goblin lair, but player A’s character and his looting buddies want to raid it) is handled in exactly the same way: If the players announce it to me, I take control of the goblin lair and its patron, and plan the dungeon. Once the player characters have cleared the dungeon, I give control back to player A.

        What I’m also using from time to time is the ‘dirty dungeons’ method by John Wick – that way, a player can keep playing a patron and STILL not know what the patron’s dungeon exactly looks like:

        I hope this helps! If not: keep the questions coming! 🙂


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