Hardholder Generosity

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Hardholder Generosity
« on: November 30, 2012, 05:19:14 PM »
The Hardholder in my game is a generous dictator. He has offered free rent as a bargaining chip when dealing with his subjects. Recently, he opted to quarantine some plague victims, and their families were understandably pissed that their breadwinners were out of commission. The Hardholder mangnanimously offered two weeks' free rent to those impacted by the quarantine.

Whenever he does this, I tally up how much lost barter this offer would total, and I tell him that he has to find some way to make the numbers work (achieve barter somehow to pay off the deficit) or his Hold is going to start suffering as he can't make ends meet.

Am I being waaaay too picky, or is this a sensible way to play up scarcity and underscore just how costly generosity can be?
"Above the tortured heavens
So full of silent waiting
Howl screams of birth and triumph
Unlock the faceless hating"

- Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, "Ogdru Jahad"

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DWeird

  • 166
Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 08:01:21 PM »
The general thrust of it is not wrong, there are details that you could be doing different, and there are other ways to engage scarcities (that you probably know of).

General thrust: pushing forward a scarcity in an understandable way is great. It's easy to forget to that as MC, and then you end up with the "huh, my PCs are killing everything and it's working great for them" problem. So thumbs up.

Details: x-Barter is an abstract mechanicy thing, and as an MC you try to hide such facts. Misdirect, never speak its name, etcetera.

Barter in fiction isn't a number like today's cash mostly is - items of barter are things that people trade because they're useful. So, if people aren't working and the Hardholder isn't gaining rent, it's not just money he's missing out on, but stuff that could be crucial for the wellbeing of his hold. A sack of potatoes and a busted radio can be 1-barter both, but what they're needed for are different purposes, and so getting more barter-radios when your hold needs barter-potatoes can still be a problem.

Other ways (that you probably know of): You could not do barter calculus, have the hardholder be generous without much in mechanical hindrances, and instead just create a threat or front that's all about milking the hardholder's generosity for all it's worth, and then push that.


You could also not change a single thing in what you're doing currently and it'd still work great.

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2012, 09:07:24 PM »

Yeah, mostly repeating DWeird here, but these are not numbers -- this isn't like the Hardholder now has $500 less money in his bank account or something, whatever it was those people normally paid in rent is now missing.

It's a perfect opportunity to ask a question, or declaim decision making, or whatever -- next time the Hardholder gives someone a 'break' on 'rent' ask another player: what does that rent usually consist of? Is it labour, for the community? Do they scavenge supplies? Do they grow food?

Like, you say that the Hardholder had to quarantine the "breadwinners" of a family: what did those people actually do? Because now they aren't doing it anymore, because they're under quarantine. The repercussions of them not doing whatever it is they normally do should impact the 'Hold directly, not just upset their families. This is not some giant complex economy, we're talking about one or two hundred people at most. There are no office jobs, these aren't middle-managers failing to draw a paycheque.

If the guy who makes shoes is in quarantine, there's nobody else to pick up that slack -- you can't just be like 'oh well I go down to the mall and buy some shoes there instead'. Any sort of specialized good or service (beyond 'food' and 'violence') probably only has one or two sources, and those sources all involve people.

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2012, 07:45:21 AM »
Am I being waaaay too picky, or is this a sensible way to play up scarcity and underscore just how costly generosity can be?

Just as you, I'd try to push the scarcity aspect and make that generosity something to pay for. I'd do that the same way I deal with ammo, though.

Now and then, when it's my turn, I'd just make the Hardholder buy. No tally or anything, maybe a reminder on a sticky note, and when it's my turn and it fits : "hey, Uncle, that's a lot of gifts you've been giving, isn't that? You're 1-barter poorer than you thought. What do you do?"

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2012, 06:32:55 PM »
You could also make the repercussions of a lack of barter be social rather than simply economic.

Like, maybe if he lets some of his tenants off rent free, then next morning I'd have a fucking mob of the rest of his tenants all outside his door with pitchforks and torches, demanding to know why they haven't been cut some slack also... times are hard for everyone.  Then instead of just being like "oh well, I'm out some barter" he has a mob of angry citizens to deal with.

*

DWeird

  • 166
Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 09:03:56 PM »
I'd just like to reiterate that there's nothing really wrong with the initial setup.

In fact, tracking the barter pretty closely can be kind of neat - in most of the games I played (or ran), barter was either ignored altogether, or a shiny thing used rarely. The work Devonapple is putting in to closely track the numerical value of barter will pretty inevitably turn barter from something a character has to something a character needs, which is pretty awesome!

Awesome both on its own, but especially in case of the Hardholder, getting the player activelly worried about the day-to-day life of his hold without, you know, immediatelly throwing damned serious crises of total economic collapse and angry mobs at him.

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2012, 01:19:14 AM »
You don't necessarily need an angry mob, though.

How about just asking for more details? When you give something to someone, it has to come from somewhere.

"You're going to give Sonia and Dremmer a place to live? OK, who are they going to live with? Will you let them sleep in your home, in your bed? No? You say they can live with Balls, he's got space. How does Balls feel about that? Even after they drink all of his whiskey?"

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2012, 12:10:13 PM »
I'm just re-iterating what others have already said. Find where he's out of control and push there. Someone is going to be pissed that other people are getting a free ride.

The scarcity in this case may not be barter/goods, it might be "fairness", and that can rile people up just fine. A mob works but make sure to give it a face. Who has always been a steady worker but won't pull another shift to make up for other people getting a free ride? Who hates the slackers to begin with and just needed and excuse to start some shit? Who is going without because they are "with"? Give someone a primal drive in their gut, or their heart, or their pants reason to object and then have them push wherever it makes sense.

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2012, 04:04:19 PM »
I like all of the ideas proposed - thank you for your encouragement as well.

I'm inclined to judge that if the Hardholder is spending barter out of his own pocket for this generosity, that means that the Hardholder is pulling in favors, shoring up supplies from other folks, paying people more to produce more of their ordinary share, etc. (and I should, as MC, certainly make more of an effort to frame these transactions as RP opportunities) in such a way that it all washes clean at the end, with little to no grumblings from anyone. What I'm taking away from this discussion is that this shouldn't really "wash clean", so perhaps I need to shift some allegiances, make some people unhappy with this situation, etc.

If the Hardholder wants to be generous *without* spending barter to represent the shit he has to make happen to keep things running, then certainly I am in favor of pushing along threat fronts, the home front, and any Wants related (however tangentially) to the scarcity and pressure that his generosity is causing. These are where I can press hard with insurrection, with supply scarcities, etc.
"Above the tortured heavens
So full of silent waiting
Howl screams of birth and triumph
Unlock the faceless hating"

- Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, "Ogdru Jahad"

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2012, 04:18:37 PM »
Can't the Hardholder give things away for free by having sex with people?

That I would be tempted to let go, consequence-free... because clearly it won't be!

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2012, 04:30:08 PM »
Can't the Hardholder give things away for free by having sex with people?

That I would be tempted to let go, consequence-free... because clearly it won't be!

Well, yes, but that isn't an option in the example cases I mentioned above. Not even a close option.

Mind you, if I start making scarcity threat moves and the Hardholder has to start making people happy, I can easily see him sexing up a producer who isn't getting paid, and buying complicity with some rough trade and giving up an "Oh, I've wanted one of those for-EV-er!" item.

But as a way of filling a barter deficit, "Pimp the Hardholder" wasn't coming up on the list of solutions. ;)
"Above the tortured heavens
So full of silent waiting
Howl screams of birth and triumph
Unlock the faceless hating"

- Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets, "Ogdru Jahad"

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2012, 05:44:10 PM »
I like all of the ideas proposed - thank you for your encouragement as well.

I'm inclined to judge that if the Hardholder is spending barter out of his own pocket for this generosity, that means that the Hardholder is pulling in favors, shoring up supplies from other folks, paying people more to produce more of their ordinary share, etc.

Yeah, I like that. Because it's creating scarcity one way or the other. Either he's marking barter off his play sheet (and there is only so much), or he's risking a move (manipulate, go aggro, whatever) or he's just eating shit for it. To me any of those represent the scarcity implicit in the setting.

Re: Hardholder Generosity
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2012, 06:55:54 AM »

It's true -- you want to avoid dinging the Hardholder twice on every transaction (not only does it cost Barter, but then it also sucks in this other way!) Everyone deserves the full benefits of their moves, etc. That said, it's still a good idea to make sure you have some shared understanding of what these transactions look like in the fiction -- not because you should be making some hard move on every occasion, but more to provide context for other moves that you make, when your opportunities come up.

It also just makes Barter more interesting -- unlike most things in the game, Barter really needs the help -- and since the Hardholder is one of (probably THE) most barter-focused characters, it's worth taking some time to explore his or her economic situation.