Claws and Effect: Raining Plastic [Realms of Pugmire]

Realms of Pugmire

Via Eddy:

Pugmire and Monarchies of Mau both make some subtle changes to the “traditional” fantasy gaming formula. One that I’ve found some people struggle with is the lack of a detailed currency system. Most people seem to get it after they try it for a bit, but I’ve had a number of players and Guides who simply can’t wrap their heads around it. So why did I do it? There are three main reasons.

For one, I just don’t like detailed financial systems. I think it gets in the way of the parts of gaming that I enjoy, and as a self-employed freelancer, I have to do enough of my own taxes as it is! But to be fair, that’s not a very good reason.

Another reason is that I wanted to reposition the role of money in fantasy. By carefully articulating how much money something is worth or how much a character has, you give narrative weight to that concept. If I discover that the rat bandits have, say, 14 plastic coins, there must be a reason why that’s important. And in Pugmire, it really isn’t. It’s important to distinguish if someone is rich and someone else is poor, and there’s something compelling about finding out a noble is only carrying a few coins — money does some role in things — but not enough to calculate it to the last plastic chunk. By abstracting loose money, it reduces the impact of it for the player experience.

Which leads nicely into my third point: It also doesn’t matter as much to the kingdom of Pugmire. Both Pugmire and Mau aren’t too far removed from pure barter societies. The Monarchies are a little further along — they had centuries of having negotiations and trade between city-states — but the idea that plastic is both valuable and a way to barter by proxy is still relatively novel. And while certain fantasy settings claim similar dynamics, it doesn’t pan out in practice. Player characters will haggle over a few copper pieces, because the price in the book is listed as a certain amount. By keeping currency abstract, it also allows for (pardon the pun) fuzzier negotiations for services. Imagine the following scene:

Guide: “The innkeeper scowls and holds out his paw. The services he provide are cheap, in every sense of the word, but he’s asking for a lot more than this inn is worth.”
Player in Traditional Currency System: “Well, he’s asking for 80 copper. Would 30 be a fairer price? I only have 25, so maybe he’ll accept that. Or maybe I can get a loan from the noble and come back with the difference. How much does everyone have again?”
Player in Pugmire: “He’s asking for many coins, when he’s only worth a few? Bah! I’ll convince him to lower his prices, or we’ll take our custom elsewhere!”

In both case the same idea is present, but one gets lost in the specific numbers, while the other keeps things moving. And in both the game system and the game world, the specific details are secondary to the larger point — this innkeeper is trying to get more than he can reasonably charge. The concept of detailed economics are one of the aspects that the Old Ones have yet to re-impart on the dogs and cats of the world.

All that said, if you prefer to pinch your plastic, feel free! Just because I don’t spell things out doesn’t mean you can’t add such details to your own chronicle. You won’t break the game by providing a price list for items and services, nor awarding players with heaps of plastic. If you’re running a game centered around mercenaries, this might be a particularly good addition. Just be careful if your core idea is that the characters are well-stocked adventurers taking on difficult tasks in the name of the state.