2010-02-18 : Currency - Spanning Divide and Range

Before we get to reliable vs unreliable currency, there are a couple of key things to note. Both of them happened to appear in the gun-guy thread so I'll just pull them out.

The first is here, tucked into these 2 example currency rules:

- When an attacker lands a hit on your character, mark off wound boxes according to the attacker's weapon's damage.

- When you go up from warrior level 2 to warrior level 3, you get 2d6 HP and +1 to your Brawn, and if your character serves a king, the king will grant you land.

(new emphasis)

Your game's currency rules can refer, perfectly ably and equally, to both fiction and real-world. Your character, the attacker and the hit she lands, the king your character serves, the land he grants - those are all fictional things. Wound boxes, the damage listing for your character's attacker's weapon, the class, level, HP and Brawn listings on your character sheet - those are all things in our real world ("cues," in Emily Care Boss's terms).

So the idea of currency spans the fiction-cues divide.

The second is here, explicit in my answer to Matthijs:

If I draw a distinction between systemic and mechanical, you get what I mean, right? System is what the players are actually doing to play the game, which may or may not be written down, and may or may not include mechanics, but it still exists, right? So freeform games have systemic currency, not mechanical currency - I have no qualms about that whatsoever.

...Characters take effective actions that (a) deplete, restore, build, or otherwise change their resources, and (b) change their circumstances, sometimes only immediately, sometimes profoundly. Characters' resources (a) provide breadth and depth to their ranges of effective actions, and (b) can also change their circumstances, immediately and/or profoundly. Characters' circumstances, of course, (a) constrain and provoke their effective actions, and (b) can change their resources.

A warrior kills his enemies, gaining experience and looting their wealth, but suffering exhaustion and wounds. For a while he's able to stay ahead of the curve - his experience does him more benefit than his wounds hamper him - but that time comes to an end. He uses his accumulated wealth to buy a wife and a home, and he turns his battle-cultivated experience to politics, to good effect. Now he's mayor.

Cycles of effectiveness, resource, and positioning, all trading off one into the next. That's currency. (So however it happens in play, that's your game's systemic currency, whether you have character sheets or dice or whatever or none.)

So currency spans the whole range of formality and informality too. It can be mechanized into hard, concrete rules, it can be implicit in the interactions of the players, or any combination. This makes sense - currency is just part of system, after all.

Everybody good? Questions please!

1. On 2010-02-18, Ben Lehman said:

Is currency invested in things besides characters?
If not, what is the same thing called when it isn't located in a character (but say, in a group, organization, or idea)?



2. On 2010-02-18, Vincent said:


Currency = the various relationships within and between effectiveness, resource and positioning, or, more generally, within and between components of character.

Does the group, organization or idea have effectiveness, resource and positioning, or more generally components of character? If so, are there relationships within and between the components? If so, yes, there's a currency in play.

They're called "components of character," but if something other than a character has them, that's fine with me.


3. On 2010-02-18, Josh W said:

Perhaps it's that exact correspondence that makes them cues.

Vincent, in your Ars Magica game, where you stopped using the sheets, were the actual changes going on in the game completely different to the ones the sheets referred to, or did you revisit the same areas those stats were supposed to cover?
And if you did deal with injury etc, did you do it in different ways?


4. On 2010-02-19, Ben Lehman said:

Yeah, I get it.

I think that that definition of "character" bites in the ass in terms of fostering understanding but that's a terminological fight, and thus pre-lost.



5. On 2010-02-19, Roger said:

There's currencies that only exist, say, on the player level too, right?


6. On 2010-02-19, way said:

I am not sure I am understanding "currency" here. Is it like an exchange rate between various more or less measurable aspects of the character (either in the fiction or in the real world)? Kinda like the laws of motion in mechanics?


7. On 2010-02-19, Vincent said:

Josh: We revisited and totally changed everything, more than once. We did deal with injuries etc, in different ways, yep.

I should make a post about that, there's an interesting thing.

Ben: Ha ha ha! Remember what I said about this when you visited? I decided to go forward with it anyway.


8. On 2010-02-19, Vincent said:

Roger: Well, since currency is just part of system, it always exists at only the player level. Nobody enacts a game's currency but its players, and in action it doesn't affect anybody but them.

Or do you mean that currency rules might refer only to real-world things, like "spend a Hero Point to reroll all your dice"? If so: yep.

Way: It is, yes. In most games, it's not just one single exchange rate, but a whole raft of them:

1 successful to-hit roll => 1 damage roll => x-number of HP lost => y-chance of significant long-term consequences

1 successful skill roll => x-variety of circumstantial changes, some of which => y-modifier to future rolls and/or z-expenditure of resources

...And as you can see, it's not usually 2-directional like a real currency exchange. You cash your successful to-hit roll in for a damage roll, but in most games you can't trade your damage roll away for a successful to-hit roll.

Does that help or am I heaping nonsense upon nonsense? I do that sometimes.


9. On 2010-02-19, Roger said:

It's not usually 2-directional, but it's not unusual to have a closed loop, which often results in the dreaded Death Spiral.


10. On 2010-02-22, Josh W said:

@Vincent. Heaping nonsense? Well that is how they cracked enigma! Keep getting a bigger and bigger pile of differently encoded versions of similar stuff and you can pull out the message.

On the other hand, they did have a few geniuses and an army of typewriter-ers.

Another example of a currency loop is marshal's unfinished lunar notes, where the various effects loop to such an obvious extent that you can see the struggle of the game extending on into infinity: Every condition may swap into another one when you try to remove it, and so eventually back round to the first one, possibly with more conditions added. To me the effect is pretty amusing actually, I can just imagine fast-forwarding through it!


11. On 2010-02-22, Marshall Burns said:

That currency loop in Lunar Notes is, I should note, totally intentional, and basically ripped off of the Cruel Fortunes from Poison'd.


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