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Desslok

Players and the Perpetual Poverty Problem

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My players don't tend to fully loot bodies. They might take an obvious weapon off of a dead guy's body (particularly if it's something valuable or exotic, such as a lightsaber, or if they're just replenishing a few grenades), but they don't tend to go through the dead guys' pockets or spend more than a few moments doing so unless searching the body actually seems to be important to the story.

 

My group takes all the weapons we can get our hands on. But that's because we're literally planning on arming a third army to rival both the Empire and the Rebellion, so we'll need all the arms we can get. 

 

And by arms, I'm again being literal. If we can't recruit them, we'll build them.

 

The droids will be free.

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Let me tell you guys a little story about why it is important to keep credits low.

 

I had run a real good campaign with super skinflint bosses that kept my players perpetually broke.  We were nearing the end of the campaign, and they were off the main world where most of the story was happening, dosing a little side adventure before the big finale I had planned.

 

They wandered into a casino to get some information, and through a series of increasingly bizarre die rolls, turned it into a heist.  And I had made the mistake of saying the Casino boss was overseeing the unloading of some credits.

 

They murdered that Hutt, and stole all the credits.  And, because I was excessively tired that night, I told them it would be enough to buy themselves a a large freighter or something.

 

I had not looked at how much a large freighter actually cost.

 

After dealing with the fallout of the heist (involving 2 more crime bosses in a power struggle) and now drunk with money and power, they flew their crap ship to a large trade hub, and preceded to roll excellently on checks to find any **** thing in any **** book they wanted, and upgraded all their weapons obscenely well.  When they got back to the main world for the final battle, the wasted the Imperial Inquisitor in less than a round.  And then did it again after I brought her back for round two.

 

 

IN SHORT:  Never give your players money.

That is actually a great story! Also, I don't see the problem as I rarely like combat to go more than 2 to 3 rounds. Maybe 4 or 5 if there are just a ton of minions because of despair and/or threat rolls. I do however run a lot of combat encounters, so maybe that is why I prefer them to be shorter. 

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A reasonable reply, but I would offer this counterpoint:

 

Triumph.

 

That is to say: the universe is out to get them, because any time you roll the dice, you have chance for that dreaded (if you are "risk-averse") SUCCESS W/ THREAT result.  But you also have lots and lots of chances for Triumph, arguably much more often than Despair.  So yeah, you might want to minimize risk, as a character in this world, but you have huge chances of ancillary benefits coming at you fast and furious, since Challenge Dice come into play far, far less often than Proficiency dice.

 

So, sure, minimizing risk is something all competent professionals do.  But since you have no "game" (just plenty of "roleplaying") if you take away the dice, in some very meaningful ways the impulse to avoid bad results is an impulse not to play at all.

 

Pump up the volume, M.I.A..

 

To be sure, but when I talk about risk-aversion, I'm thinking less about making risky rolls and more about not risking things you don't have to. Players aren't likely to be keen about to leaving their ship open and unattended or putting it up for rent on "SpaceBnB" just so the GM can have someone steal it. And if the players just got a shiny new ship, they might not want to risk getting it blown to pieces by taking it into the Deep Core without Imperial clearance regardless of how many credits the NPC is offering. It's less about not wanting to risk Despair or Threat and more about wanting to control what they are putting on the line. As the old adage from EVE Online goes: "Never fly a ship you can't afford to lose."

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You know, I never played in a game where my PC was so afraid of anything he did nothing. Every time you walk across the street might be your last, and when you get back home from your walk your car might be sitting at the curb totaled with a not a witness one. What's so hard to understand about "here's some hooks, pick one", ffs. If you don't want to risk your ship then why do you even have it? Don't want your character to die, pick one: play smart, or go home and grind. **** happens, deal with it.

Edited by Alekzanter

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...If you don't want to risk your ship then why do you even have it? Don't want your character to die, pick one: play smart, or go home and grind. **** happens, deal with it.

There's a difference between "This mission requires you to run a blockade under fire from capital ships with swarms of TIEs breathing down your neck" and "If this salvage operation goes south, you're going to have to bug out before customs can get a lock on your ship." "Playing smart" means taking calculated risks, especially if your GM is looking to keep you poor and likes to punish "stupidity," which could range from "Why would you try to hide right next to the Star Destroyer?" to "You shouldn't have taken the job in the first place, the client was obviously shady."

 

Edit: Think in terms of Firefly, the archetype that poverty campaigns are often modeled on. The characters put their lives on the line all the time because they don't have a choice. They rarely put the Serenity directly in the line of fire, because if they lose the ship then they're just done. A group of PCs that are working their butts off to break even have no reason to expect that they'll ever see the kind of credits they'd need to replace a freighter, so the ship becomes more valuable then their lives (not to mention that it's easier to lose a ship than to get a character killed in this rules system).

Edited by Kaigen

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A reasonable reply, but I would offer this counterpoint:

 

Triumph.

 

That is to say: the universe is out to get them, because any time you roll the dice, you have chance for that dreaded (if you are "risk-averse") SUCCESS W/ THREAT result.  But you also have lots and lots of chances for Triumph, arguably much more often than Despair.  So yeah, you might want to minimize risk, as a character in this world, but you have huge chances of ancillary benefits coming at you fast and furious, since Challenge Dice come into play far, far less often than Proficiency dice.

 

So, sure, minimizing risk is something all competent professionals do.  But since you have no "game" (just plenty of "roleplaying") if you take away the dice, in some very meaningful ways the impulse to avoid bad results is an impulse not to play at all.

 

Pump up the volume, M.I.A..

 

To be sure, but when I talk about risk-aversion, I'm thinking less about making risky rolls and more about not risking things you don't have to. Players aren't likely to be keen about to leaving their ship open and unattended or putting it up for rent on "SpaceBnB" just so the GM can have someone steal it. And if the players just got a shiny new ship, they might not want to risk getting it blown to pieces by taking it into the Deep Core without Imperial clearance regardless of how many credits the NPC is offering. It's less about not wanting to risk Despair or Threat and more about wanting to control what they are putting on the line. As the old adage from EVE Online goes: "Never fly a ship you can't afford to lose."

 

 

I would play the crap out of a SpaceBnB campaign where the GM dropped a different set of weirdo NPCs into our laps every session and we had to figure out what to do with them.

 

EVE Online is, as sharper games critics than me have pointed out, a spreadsheet program with a really cool looking skin.

 

Again, with total respect, I gotta disagree with some of the hesitancy in this thread of some GMs to keep their PCs hungry.  Heck, offer them an utterly enormous purse in exchange for utter and total risk to life and limb, but make them work for it, y'all.

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Haley had it right on page two...

 

Keep 'em HUNGRY... not (necessarily) poor. As they grow, and need new things, new tools to overcome new challenges, they need to get those things.

 

And then lose them.

 

And then get them back.

 

And then lose them again.

 

And then get something new and shiny. That needs other things in order to get even shinier...

 

(see where I'm going here?)

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Again, with total respect, I gotta disagree with some of the hesitancy in this thread of some GMs to keep their PCs hungry.  Heck, offer them an utterly enormous purse in exchange for utter and total risk to life and limb, but make them work for it, y'all.

I guess my question is, what does keeping them hungry look like in your game? Because if it means keeping them hungry for credits, then they either can't get that utterly enormous purse, or you have to take it away from them somehow. Go through that cycle enough times, and the players will (rightfully) ask themselves why they're taking such big risks for such an ephemeral payday, and their mindset is going to shift away from being asked to put so much on the line for nothing.

 

Personally, I'd rather keep them "hungry" by dangling opportunities to pursue their Motivations. A character who's not willing to stick their neck out for credits alone might be willing to go for a job that helps their sibling get back on their feet, or furthers their desire to be known as the best tech in the galaxy (and, coincidentally, get them that little XP bump).

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My 2 cents, if you want a cash strapped campaign then outline that during session 0. That's a campaign theme right there, and not every campaign needs it.

There are many more obligations than Debt, and every obligation including Debt can apply to the rich just as much the poor.

Personally I love the idea of a Party getting around in a Silhouette 6 or 7 cruiser, dealing with much bigger problems than a measly 10k debt to some lowlife Hutt. I mean it would be great to play a campaign where the core theme was that some problems simply can't be solved with money.

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To me "keeping them hungry" is just a euphemism for anything that helps keep the story moving and fresh, and the players engaged and enthused.  It doesn't really have anything to do with the amount of money the players have.  If they end up with the "best" equipment, you just scale accordingly.

 

The adage might be equipment focussed, because so many players treat the game as a race to maximize, but if the players are drawn away from racking up equipment then it no longer applies.

 

I could just be lucky, my players are not equipment-obsessed.  They got a tank a few weeks ago, and I let it happen because I knew I could face them off against something equally or more potent...in fact I just blasted their tank.  They came out of the scenario as the winners, but naturally there was a cost.  They didn't seem to mind, they just wanted to know if it was fixable.

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I understand the different concepts people have about 'keeping them hungry' and don't disagree.  In regards to the game though and specifically where the book addresses the concept and speaks to it, it is talking about credits and how much to hand out.  

 

I still say the concept in regards to money is a direct cause and effect to murder hobo/loot ***** syndrome.

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I said this in session zero:

You make the kind of character you want to play, and I will challenge that character. As GM I represent their adversity, not your adversary.

At some point in every campaign, someone gets the notion to pick the wrong fight, meaning dice go cold and regular blaster pistols don't cut it against piddly street thugs, so someone buys the OVER9000 to compensate instead of conceding it was just a bad dice day, and the arms race is off and running.

"Are you sure you need that big gun? You're the 'face/techie', am I right?"

"I just got my gnarblies handed me by a lowlife punk, so yes, I need this big gun."

"Okay."

Then armed conflict against logically inserted opponents is no longer challenging. Opponents become illogical: gun kata master thermal detonator-crapping vorpal bunnies of doom.

The point I'm trying to make here is this: players are just as responsible for their own fun as the GM is for facilitating it, so players should take a page out of that same book and learn how to keep themselves hungry for whatever it is they get a hankering; don't be in such a rush; if you have everything you want and are whupping everything in sight, then my job here is done.

Edited by Alekzanter

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Keep them hungry is a complicated issue.

 

Personally i suffered it through a Shadowrun campaign, part of the feeling of SR is the whole shady business which kinda breaks when players got money and refuse any jobs that it isnt squeaky clean. Problem with this is by the nature of SR, it needs lots pre preparation from the GM so when player refuse they basically derailing the GM in a ugly a way. Also another problem was that while cash is normally not that much for gear, living expenses were incredible long lasting for lower lifestyle pcs.

 

I used to keep them poor and hungry but finally i decided it was best to just sit down and say "guys, this is Shadowrun, this require lot of pre preparation on my part and part of the feels of the game is backstabbing johnsons and risky deals. If we continue this game i will lay the job for you and YOU will accept it. If it sound shady, then deal with it during the run. OK?"

 

Keep them hungry can devolve into ridiculous levels too, see the anime Get backers as a perfect example.

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Just look at the majority of heroes in books, comics, tv-shows and movie series.
They rarely change their equipment (hell, most rarely change their clothes) and they still go on adventures.

Their equipment give them their identity.

Now, I personally believe the root of all this (evil?) is the way the old DnD used to work (not up to speed on current DnD); in that you needed gear progression all the time.
You needed your new flashy +5 against orcs sword instead of your old +4 against orcs sword to feel like you were progressing.

 

Personally, I think progression through skills is a better way to do it.

Don't keep the players "poor", but don't make them a fortune either.
Let the money they get cover their expenses. If they're doing well, then let them have a bit over to increase their comfort in life, but don't let them become millionaires, because then they're suddenly businessmen running a corporation instead of adventurers out on adventures.

Unless they start out as someone wealthy, the change from being poor to being rich would usually stop most people from going on adventures.

Players should (IMHO) have other things that drive them, instead of money. 
That's where the obligation/duty system comes in to play so well. (in fact, in AoR, money is usually a non-issue, which is a nice feeling).
 

Edited by OddballE8

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There are many more obligations than Debt, and every obligation including Debt can apply to the rich just as much the poor.

Actually, debt can apply to them as much or more than anyone — sure, you’ve got a great big honking castle, and you’ve got all these fancy paintings and furniture inside, but how are you going to pay for it? And why kind of people might you owe in order to get that kind of money? And what might you owe them?

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There are many more obligations than Debt, and every obligation including Debt can apply to the rich just as much the poor.

Actually, debt can apply to them as much or more than anyone — sure, you’ve got a great big honking castle, and you’ve got all these fancy paintings and furniture inside, but how are you going to pay for it? And why kind of people might you owe in order to get that kind of money? And what might you owe them?

 

 

Sometimes, they didn't owe anyone for the castle... they inherited it, along with the land and the rights and so on.  What they often did owe someone else was military service, a cut of the taxes, etc...  and that is a hell of a debt / obligation.

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I'm usually pretty good with coming up with a motivation for my characters and I'll happily bite off on a plot line so while I can live with the keep them hungry style, I despise the keep them poor interpretation of it unless it's specifically spelled out as a theme of the campaign.

 

When a GM starts charging me for a simple pair of goggles that don't do anything, or a pair of gloves, or socks, add nauseum; I'll adapt to it in the only logical conclusion.  If I can I'll loot whatever I can, to include socks and clothing if I can.  I'll also make sure I track every last piece of equipment to the minutia.  I have no problem asking the GM how many oz's of spray paint I just used when I tagged that imperial wall, or how much toothpaste is left in the tube, I'll even happily ask for details about every last ration on the ship.  If a GM is worried about the material minutia to the point that I have to worry about 5 credits or whatever for my characters lunch at the local bistro, I'm going to make the focus of my playing the minutia.

 

It's passive aggressive and generally slowly ruins the game for me, but I've seen GMs that thrive on those details from the players point of view but get annoyed when the tables are turned.  Fortunately I've seen most realize what they were doing and changing their style after a session or two.

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I'm usually pretty good with coming up with a motivation for my characters and I'll happily bite off on a plot line so while I can live with the keep them hungry style, I despise the keep them poor interpretation of it unless it's specifically spelled out as a theme of the campaign.

 

When a GM starts charging me for a simple pair of goggles that don't do anything, or a pair of gloves, or socks, add nauseum; I'll adapt to it in the only logical conclusion.  If I can I'll loot whatever I can, to include socks and clothing if I can.  I'll also make sure I track every last piece of equipment to the minutia.  I have no problem asking the GM how many oz's of spray paint I just used when I tagged that imperial wall, or how much toothpaste is left in the tube, I'll even happily ask for details about every last ration on the ship.  If a GM is worried about the material minutia to the point that I have to worry about 5 credits or whatever for my characters lunch at the local bistro, I'm going to make the focus of my playing the minutia.

 

It's passive aggressive and generally slowly ruins the game for me, but I've seen GMs that thrive on those details from the players point of view but get annoyed when the tables are turned.  Fortunately I've seen most realize what they were doing and changing their style after a session or two.

 

 

That is a pretty great way to handle that! I'm still relatively new to GMing though I'm having a blast doing it, and I think a GM being that nit-picky is ridiculous. I mean, if you have a player that you believe is abusing the system, and you want to start holding them accountable for their expenditures, that is one thing, but to force that level of micromanagement on the players for no real reason is silly. 

What I do, is if it has been about a month since the last session, I ask my players to deduct 500 credits. This covers, food, basic supplies, ship maintenance, and so on. That is it. If it has only been a few weeks, I don't bother. That is it, I'm not trying to bleed them dry or make them hungry(my players tend to be pretty greedy in general), or force them to account for every last credit they spend. At that point you are just getting bogged down in unnecessary details and taking the fun out of the game. 

Edited by unicornpuncher

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Well, to be fair, the universe is essentially out to get the players. If something can go wrong and create a plot, then it will, and problems that would be handed off to other entities in the real world usually have to be dealt with personally. I mean, if you put your house/apartment up on AirBnB and someone wrecks it or steals from it, you call the police and you call AirBnB and it's a huge colossal mess but you go about your normal life while the wheels of those entities turn and you see what recourse you have. In an RPG, you're going to have to go after the absconding tenant yourself, or else spend an entire session greasing palms and doing favors to get someone else to do it, especially on the Outer Rim. So if the players aren't interested in "The Hunt for the Jerk Who Tore Up Our Living Room," adventure, then they're going to try to prevent that from happening in the first place. Sometimes being a player is about controlling risk so that you can pursue the adventures you want to pursue, as opposed to the adventures that result from carelessness, and that translates into being risk-averse in some situations. That goes double if the GM is trying to keep them in poverty and they'd rather have adventures where they use their cool new ship instead of adventures where they try to keep the GM from taking their cool new ship away (which is not to say that those are necessarily mutually exclusive).

 

A good friend of mine who I've gamed with a ton wants to start us up gaming again, but none of us have the heart to tell him that he's that GM, the one who makes the players more and more risk-adverse and frustrated because everything MUST BE A CHALLENGE, and anything you have is an opportunity for loss and chaos.  Everything you try to do becomes a opening for him to mess with your character, every conversation with every NPC feels like a minefield, and it's always that one detail that YOU forgot to ask about that comes back to bite you, but it's YOUR fault because YOU didn't again and again thoroughly examine every minute detail of every encounter and room and scene. 

 

I've played with a GM similar to this.  

Me - "Is there a terminal of some kind that I can use to unlock the door?"

GM - "That will be a Formidable Perception check, and I'm going to flip a Destiny Point to upgrade it."

Me - "...uhhh."

GM - "And don't forget three Setback because the lights are flickering, and and additional two Setback because of 'reasons.'"

Me - "Naturally, that sounds very reasonable."

 

He'd also always curse and get angry whenever his NPCs failed a check against the party.

Good times.

 

He was very stingy with any type of rewards as well. I never looted bodies, not without a specific reason to do so (like looking for a code cylinder, etc), until playing with him. Even looting was hilarious, we'd be attacked with a fully tricked out heavy blaster rifle, and it'd turn out be a standard blaster pistol once looted.

Edited by Holzy

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My players make a lot of money. They have about 970,000 in the 'bank'. But rather than break the campaign it's just simply upgraded their wants. Now, instead of wanting weapons or armor, they are trying to buy space stations, capital ships, and recruits to form their own mercenary army. So it really depends on what the players want. a 200,000 reward is overkill for a small group who only care about themselves. But, for a group who wants to wage war or do something big, 200,000 barely pays to keep a capital ship running. Hell, if they want to make a simple cargo company a large cargo ship will run them 6,500,000. So it all depends on the scale.

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My players make a lot of money. They have about 970,000 in the 'bank'. But rather than break the campaign it's just simply upgraded their wants. Now, instead of wanting weapons or armor, they are trying to buy space stations, capital ships, and recruits to form their own mercenary army. So it really depends on what the players want. a 200,000 reward is overkill for a small group who only care about themselves. But, for a group who wants to wage war or do something big, 200,000 barely pays to keep a capital ship running. Hell, if they want to make a simple cargo company a large cargo ship will run them 6,500,000. So it all depends on the scale.

This sounds similar to our group.

 

Through one player shrewdly (but still legally per RAW) setting up several businesses with a decent windfall the group received, we were already each comfortable financially. Then, by making use of a smuggling scenario that the GM had set up to be a potential recurring job, we discovered that doing the job to full capacity of our ship (more accurately, ships, as we gained another one or two) in a loop was rather lucrative. This built up the nest egg quite nicely. Our resident gambler then had some hot dice, and turned that into well over a billion credits, that was split among the group (with an extra, equal cut going to a "business" fund for the group). Today, after a few more of the smuggler runs, the GM put an end to them, stating that the recipients of the goods were now set up for a generation. But, by that time, the player (not group) had a few billion. Then bet on a race that another player took part in; he bet it all with Jabba and a Black Sun Vigo with the 100:1 odds the GM gave him. With the race looking like the player would lose, Jabba & the Vigo kept upping the bet, until they hit quadruple or nothing. When the player won the race, the gambler ended up with a few trillion credits to his name.

 

As we were all leaving the session, each of us with at least 600 million credits (and at least the one obviously much better)...none of us really know what our characters will do with their newfound fortune...talk of fleets - large and small, legitimate and pirate - have been tossed around. We'll see what happens going forward.

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Yeah, when crime lords lose bets like that, they generally don't take it in stride, especially if they suspect that they were hustled. I'd expect Jabba and the Vigo to make life difficult for the players in the future (possibly represented by a sizable Obligation).

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