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Author Topic: [AW] Barter counting?  (Read 2945 times)
Moreno R.
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« on: August 16, 2011, 08:58:41 PM »

I am having some difficulties understanding how Barter works in Apocalypse World.

I am used to having money (or wealth in general) treated in two kind of manners in rpgs:
1) Games where you count every single copper piece, and there is a price for everything (D&D, for example)
2) Games where there is a stat (or a advantage, or a bonus, or something character sheet) that say that you are "wealthy" (or "poor") and you can afford  (or not) to buy things that other characters can't, without counting coins.
Sometimes the "wealthy" stat can change following a exceptional payment, but it still remain a stat, non a number of coins.

"Barter" is confusing to me because sometimes it has to be counted like (1), other times its like a stat like in (2). When the player create his character, barter is used in a very abstract manner ("and you have two barter"). A lot of characters get some barter at the beginning of a session, without having to play getting it. But then there is the price list, and the "make them pay" MC move...

From my reading of the rules, the characters are supposed to keep track of the barter they gets and spend during the game session, and the MC should "make them pay" sometimes to keep track of what they spend  simply living and eating. But it seems to me overtly complicated for the results (it's even more complicated that counting coins, and less precise), and I think I am missing something here.

Apart from the general problem, I have some particular ones in my game.

All the other PCs work for Marco, the Hardholder.  So they should get the listed amount of barter every month? (4-barter the Battlebabe, 1-barter the driver, etc.)? If the Hardholder negotiate a different amount, this mean that Marco can keep the difference (if she pay them less) or has to pay the difference (if it's more) from the barter she gets at the beginning of every session?  (I am thinking that would be very easy to keep that barter, instead of losing it at the end of the session: all she have to do is lend money to the other characters, as "advance pay"...)
If the Hardholder increase her gang  by hiring other guys, she get the barter to pay them during the following sessions, or she has to pay the difference from the surplus? In this second case, how can she save to increase her gang, if she can't keep the surplus?

The 1-barter and 4-barter that the Driver and the battlebabe are getting are counted in their total barter, or it's assumed that they spend the same amount every month?
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
lumpley
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 06:05:09 AM »

Where is the battlebabe getting 4-barter a month from?

-Vincent
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Moreno R.
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Posts: 547


« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 07:14:27 AM »

Where is the battlebabe getting 4-barter a month from?

"rules of play: the character's crap", page 236, "things worth 1-barter"

"a week’s employment of a battlebabe or gunlugger as bodyguard,
gang leader, or thug-on-hand."

To be exact, it's 52-barter for a year, = 4.33-barter for a month.

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Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 08:01:45 AM »

Remind me, where is Marco getting the Barter to pay the other PCs in the first place?
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Moreno R.
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Posts: 547


« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 08:31:35 AM »

Remind me, where is Marco getting the Barter to pay the other PCs in the first place?

It's one of the things I would like to know...

The Hardholder "wealth" move description says that the barter Marco gets (or not) every session is surplus barter. The Hardholder playbook explain "Your holding provides for your day-to-day living, so while you’re
there governing it there’s no need for you to concern yourself with that."

So I would assume that she get the barter to pay for the wages of her men, outside that roll (let's keep wants outside of this for simplicity)

The Battlebabe and the Driver are parts of her gang, and their wages are regular expenses for the holding.

(The hold is a fortified island, with a lot of citizens, good defenses and a big market. Marco gets A LOT of barter if she roll a seven or more, so it's reasonable to assume that if that amount is her share, the total money circulation inside of the city is really big. They even have a kind of currency they "print" instead of a straight barter system)

If they gets their wages from "city money" and not from Marco's share, they can simply get the barter they need every week/month, and in this case, see my first post for the questions
If they have to be paid from Marco's share, the situation would be absurd: a really rich city that can't afford a Battlebabe as chief of the city guard.
(no Hardholder could afford a battlebabe as a hireling, judging from the game numbers: they would have to make their wealth roll every single time, and even that would not be enough - they can't save money from a session to another)
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Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 08:48:56 AM »

Cool. Got it.

Quote
From my reading of the rules, the characters are supposed to keep track of the barter they gets and spend during the game session, and the MC should "make them pay" sometimes to keep track of what they spend  simply living and eating.

Correct! So:

It's not your responsibility to give anybody barter. You can give people barter if you want to, to follow the fiction.

The hardholder, the battlebabe, and the driver can negotiate whatever pay and rent between them they want. It's not your responsibility to abide by their agreements, or to make their agreements make sense or be possible, that's up to them. Their agreements don't have mechanical weight.

It's reasonable for you to say that 4-barter for the battlebabe and 1-barter for the driver can come from the holding, and that the characters have to make up any difference they've agreed to. You aren't required to agree to this - it's not the rule - but it makes fine sense, and it doesn't break any rules.

If the battlebabe's getting 4-barter a month and living off of 1-barter a month, then she gets to write down 3 more barter on her character sheet every month, sure.

It's also reasonable for you to say that the hardholder's surplus evaporates at the end of the session even if he gives it to someone else. It's not like money, cash, otherwise he'd get to save it, right? The hardholder's surplus is his ability to use the holding's resources for his own personal purposes. If he gives the battlebabe or the driver access to the holding's resources the same way, they don't magically become stable and lasting, bankable, they still vary from session to session. So if he agrees to pay the battlebabe 6-barter per month, he's not automatically allowed to make up the difference out of his surplus.

"Make them buy" and "take away their stuff" both give you direct access to the characters' barter, or you can threaten it by announcing future badness. "I dunno, Marco. You're going to have to do something about the waste in the manufactory or you'll have to cut your peoples' pay," with significant looks at the battlebabe and driver. If the holding's providing the barter, it's perfectly appropriate for the barter to follow the fortunes of the holding.

The hardholder can, conceivably, improve the holding by buying better, hiring new gang people or buying better walls or whatever. His surplus isn't suitable for this, precisely because he can't save up to make major purchases. He'll have to figure out some other way to get a big mess of barter.

In fact, here's a thing you can say, if you want to: "Marco, sure, you can go over into the barrens and hire enough thugs to bring your gang up to large, just by promising to pay them, but making good will strain your holding's resources bad. Change your gang to 'large,' add 'want: desertion,' and now on a 7-9 on your wealth roll, you have to choose two wants, not just one." You can say something similar if he wants to pay the battlebabe and the driver extra too.

In general: as MC, don't be distracted by the fact that barter looks kind of like money. It's not money. It's a thing you can use for misdirection for your moves, that's all.

Making more sense?

-Vincent
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2011, 09:02:22 AM »

Oh, to add: it's ALSO perfectly reasonable for you to say, "Marco, your holding can support its gang and its population and maintain its structure and its gigs, but dude, no way it can also maintain a battlebabe. You're going to need to come up with 4-barter a month, and not from your surplus, or you can't pay her. What's your plan?"

-Vincent
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Moreno R.
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Posts: 547


« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2011, 04:35:55 PM »

A little more clear, but I have still some doubts.

Quote
From my reading of the rules, the characters are supposed to keep track of the barter they gets and spend during the game session, and the MC should "make them pay" sometimes to keep track of what they spend  simply living and eating.

Correct! So:

It's not your responsibility to give anybody barter. You can give people barter if you want to, to follow the fiction.

The hardholder, the battlebabe, and the driver can negotiate whatever pay and rent between them they want. It's not your responsibility to abide by their agreements, or to make their agreements make sense or be possible, that's up to them. Their agreements don't have mechanical weight.

These two, together, confuse me a little. I "can" give people barter (number) if they get barter (stuff) in the fiction? I though that was automatic. Or you mean some fictional situation where a PC "should" get barter (for example, she did a job for someone) but ir's not automatic? (the employer could try to kill her because he really has no  money to pay her)

Let's say that the battlebabe ask for the "usual rate" (4 barter), and the Hardholder agree.  It's reasonable that the city will have no problem in paying her (she took the place of a previous gang leader, so she simply took over a job position that already existed). In this situation, what does it mean that it's not my responsibility to give her that barter?

Maybe it's better if I explain the way I am looking at this: the MC seems, to me, the final arbiter about the fictional stuff (he can't override rolls, but he is the one that decide how the rest of the universe react to the roll results). So, at the end, if something should "logically" happen in the fiction, following the PC's action, it' my responsibility to make that happen. Even if that "something" is "The battlebabe gets barter"

Or what you are saying is simply that it's not my responsibility to "make it true" that the battlebabe gets 4-barter, if she don't do anything to get it?  (example: the battlebabe did not search employment, she is not the chief of the city guards. It's not my responsibility to find her another employer, this is clear)

Quote
"Make them buy" and "take away their stuff" both give you direct access to the characters' barter, or you can threaten it by announcing future badness. "I dunno, Marco. You're going to have to do something about the waste in the manufactory or you'll have to cut your peoples' pay," with significant looks at the battlebabe and driver. If the holding's providing the barter, it's perfectly appropriate for the barter to follow the fortunes of the holding.

The hardholder can, conceivably, improve the holding by buying better, hiring new gang people or buying better walls or whatever. His surplus isn't suitable for this, precisely because he can't save up to make major purchases. He'll have to figure out some other way to get a big mess of barter.

In fact, here's a thing you can say, if you want to: "Marco, sure, you can go over into the barrens and hire enough thugs to bring your gang up to large, just by promising to pay them, but making good will strain your holding's resources bad. Change your gang to 'large,' add 'want: desertion,' and now on a 7-9 on your wealth roll, you have to choose two wants, not just one." You can say something similar if he wants to pay the battlebabe and the driver extra too.

This is clear (now), but I find it a little problematic.

Not so much the "future badness" moves, some extraordinary misfortune can always happen. But a judgment like that one about the holding resources is about the normal, ordinary domestic setting of the characters. And no matter how many questions I asked and answered, it's too big a place to be the same in our imaginations. Everybody will imagine a different holding, and usually (always, I would say) the image in the player's mind is more optimistic and secure than the imagine in the MC mind

In this case, the difference in imagined situations cause direct consequences on the character resources, abilities and self-image (the image of the character in the player's mind). If the player is really invested in his character image this could go tr arguing and discussions at the table (worst case), but even if this don't happen, what always happen is that the players try to change the fiction in their favor, by maneuvering and fictional positioning (to get more barter, or to prove that they already have it).

Now, this is usually step-on-up behavior. It's the way you survive in old D&D: you must be smart enough to avoid rolling dice.  Even if a player is not already trained to respond in this manner, in these situation everybody is pushed to use his or her intelligence/culture/cunning to his character's benefit.

This clash with what I should do as MC: "make their life interesting". This means that no matter what they do, I will have to make my moves.

I am not sure I am explaining what I mean well enough. I am worried about creating a CA clash fueled by investment in the fiction from the players (as we already discussed some time ago in Anyway).

Maybe I am worrying for nothing, but by the other hand, we already had the start of one in the very first session (I don' remember about what exactly, but a player started to argue about something as "unrealistic" after less than 30' of play... I stopped immediately the discussion, but it was like the return of a old presence at the table. Someone I was not seeing by a long time and I did not miss at all... )

Oh, well, nothing I can do to avoid it, we'll see what will happen in play...

Quote
In general: as MC, don't be distracted by the fact that barter looks kind of like money. It's not money. It's a thing you can use for misdirection for your moves, that's all.

But how do I use it during the game?

Example. The battlebabe has 5-barter.  So... what does the battlebabe have?

A long list of useful items, to bater away? To check off when she barter that old t-shirt for a beer, or that rusted knife for a new hat?

A number of "barters",  not defined, but when she want to have a old t-shirt to barter away she can say that it was part of her barter?

Totally abstract, as in "I will pay you 1/4 of barter for that beer"? (I find rather difficult avoiding to use "parts of a barter" when a barter is what you eat in a month... )
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Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2011, 07:09:34 PM »

How you use it in play! That's the question.

Never use fractional barter. If something isn't worth at least 1 whole barter, it's not worth your tracking it. "Sure, you can buy that, no sweat." If somebody's buying a LOT of small stuff, and you feel like future badness could come of it, create it as a threat (naturally). Use a countdown clock to track it, not fractional barter.

Never worry about how much barter the PCs have, ever. It's their job to track it, not yours. If they want more barter, it's their job to come up with ways to get it, not yours. If they want to spend it, there are a couple of moves for that, so that's easy, and otherwise they should just say what they spend it on. When they say that they buy something, tell them how much barter it costs them, and if they have enough, they subtract it, and if they don't, they have to do whatever they're going to do about that.

Once a month, have everybody subtract 1-barter for their living expenses, unless they've got unusual circumstances, like the hardholder or the maestro d', or unless something else weird is going on. Just at the start of the session: "oh, hey, it's been about a month, yeah? Everybody subtract 1-barter for living expenses. Marie, you've been living awfully luxe, as you've made clear, so you subtract 3-barter."

If they don't have the barter to cover it, you get to make a move. Put them in a spot, take away their stuff, announce future badness, whatever makes sense to you.

If an NPC is employing them, have the NPC pay them when he pays them. If the holding is employing them, have the holding pay them when it pays them. Sometimes the NPC or the holding won't be able to pay; they'll have to deal with that when it happens. It's your job to tell them when, and if you're looking forward and you think it's going to happen, start announcing future badness about it now so that when it DOES happen, they believe you.

If they have 100-barter, hooray for them! All the above applies just the same. It's their job to figure out what to spend it on, not yours. Don't worry about it.

Follow your principles and agenda. 1-barter is SO MUCH money, a month's food and rent, and so untied to any real economy, precisely so that you have all the wiggle room and abstraction you need. Make their lives interesting, don't bore yourself counting beans.

-Vincent
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2011, 05:20:27 AM »

Moreno, it might be useful to consider Barter with a simile from a very similar game you know: in Solar System terms Barter is an ultimately arbitrary point of contact between the fiction (flow of wealth from and to a player character) and the mechanics (a way of counting that wealth and determining when they run out). The concept of wealth, as mechanized by Barter, is utilized by the GM in dramatic coordination (is it interesting to bring Barter into this fiction, now?), setting consequences (this event, does it inspire loss or gain of Barter?) and driving new content (PC has a lot of Barter or none at all, and either implies possible new scenarios to consider). In terms of when and where to utilize it, whether to ignore it or not, Barter is the same as something like the Instinct Pool SS characters have.

About players trying to maneuver for character benefit by establishing favourable fiction, that's happening because you have a contentious social dynamic in the group, which seems to me to be unrelated to any specific game mechanics (except perhaps mechanics that allay these problems, but Barter doesn't have anything to do with that). Ideally in this sort of game your baseline exploratory activity, detached from any game mechanics, is neutral of character interests simply because the players are not yet aligned for or against anything in the fiction: you can just establish stuff like whether characters are employed or not together, with no conflict of interests, because you're not yet struggling - you're just setting up the scenario, discovering what the world is like for the player characters. A modest example of this is when you establish that the hardhold is dirt poor because that's interesting, not because the GM won a shouting match; a more extreme example is when the players of Trollbabe, say, plot to begin a scenario with the Trollbabe washing up on a beach alone, poor, tired and hungry, all because everybody finds it dramatic and exciting. The struggling part should come about later, when the fiction is robust enough for it and the scenario is wound tightly enough to make the character spring into action. Having the player detached from the character fighting the GM over whether his character's house can have a wire fence is a dysfunction of some sort, because by default these sorts of decisions are either shunted off into the fiction (does your character buy one?) or agreed upon amiably in the interests of dramatic coordination (does the scenario need that fence to be interesting?).

I'll also give a shot on the issue of PC hardholders paying PC professionals. My understanding of the method would indicate that the PC hardholder may, indeed, hire folks and have the community pay them, but the GM is the one who can tell the hardholder that the community can't afford the wages he's slinging out. Specifically, I again cite dramatic coordination: don't think that just because you established a prosperous community that obviously can afford a battlebabe, and just because she got her wages last month, don't assume that just because of those facts she will obviously be entitled to having that situation go on forever. No, you fuck up the situation to make it interesting: what will the hardholder do about the worsening economy of the community, will he maybe stop the payments to that expensive battlebabe? Could be, could be, and putting pressure on the players to resolve these sorts of economic deficiencies is interesting; allow them to prove to you that their community, indeed, can pay everybody "book wages". It's easy to start the game with a community that has been able to do so in the past, but the only proof of present capability and future prosperity is ultimately in playing the game, going to the dice and seeing what's what.

As far as I understand the above is exactly what Vincent said: the hardholder is fictionally positioned to sling around paid positions in his staff, but the GM is enabled by the rules to threaten this status quo in whatever way he finds entertaining. Bad harvest, trouble in the manufactory, evil robbers taking all the trading goods, whatever. The economy of the community itself is not even simulated, as it's all a playing field for the GM's imagination in the interests of producing interesting situations (dramatic coordination, in other words).

Finally, because there might be some misunderstanding of nuance here: that price list that says that battlebabes get this or that amount of money for working does not indicate an entitlement - the default assumption of the game is that nobody's getting Barter from anywhere. The players have to establish the fictional position that provides them Barter, whether by doing jobs or stealing or whatever. Moreno's description of the situation sounds a bit like they're reading that list of "what things are worth" as the default situation of a player character. Of course it's possible to begin the game already salaried, that's just fictional positioning. And of course the GM can threaten that position.
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« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2011, 08:28:20 AM »

Eero: Exactly! Right on, top to bottom.

-Vincent
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