Now we are going to talk about what I consider one of the strong points of penumbra, some role playing games are quite dependent on the equipment that characters have at their disposals yet they don’t have an adequate system for handling how to get it or how to replace them over time, well that’s not the case in penumbra and today we talk about…
Commerce in Penumbra.
Yeah this is not the most epic or striking aspect of the game, in deed this is something that tends to be quite overlooked in other role playing games, I feel that’s quite strange since most games do encourage characters to be oriented to commercial activities, the result is that in most cases those characters never have a chance to unfold completely.
In Penumbra while you have at your disposal some tools for avoiding that to happen the fact is that there is no real chapter about how to conduct commerce, there are some ideas and the like but as I do wanted to write something else about it, here is a more detailed description of the system.
Anyway: Commerce in penumbra.
Globally in penumbra commerce (as an entity) should be treated almost as a vital asset needed for the survival of pits and túmulos (well “should”… as always do as you want in your sessions this is just an advice), the issue us that there are going to be lots of shelters that count with more or less permanent caravans to arrive at their gates or they could face a serious threat for their survival.
In Penumbra it is quite common that pits growth in locations that have abundance of some short of desired resource (natural or human made), that resource can be almost anything but in general it will be valuable: An old oil deposit, a source of purified water, a mine or a storehouse of some kind of mineral or chemical compound… in deed almost any resource is suitable for offering a chance of a pit to growth, even a huge wheel storehouse could serve as a commodity for trading.
It is also common that a certain pit lacks of everything else so they have no other chance than to trade it with other places that has the inverse problem.
With those lines I hope to have convinced you about the importance of commerce in a world like Penumbra, if not just discuss it in the comments, I love discussions ;P.
But what it really matters for us is how our players characters are going to interact with commerce and how commerce can provide your sessions a better deepness beyond if commerce itself is a strategic asset or not for Penumbra. What I want to say is that this is a roleplaying game not an anthropologic review of an imaginary world, anything that doesn’t provide some kind of tool in terms of playability and fun should be removed.
Maybe your characters don’t have much interest in commerce but I can ensure you they will have it in their equipment and resources, specially those that are directly related with survival. Having at your disposal an adequate protective equipment, a vehicle, some short of weapon its quite important, having some medicines a water purifier and a communication system will probably be quit handful too.
There your characters will find two problems, the first one is that in penumbra, opposed to what happens in other role playing games, items don’t last forever, the second one is that even if they did the most probable outcome is that at the start of the game your character won’t be able to buy everything needed.
So sooner or later your character will have to go to a shop to buy something.
But what shop? With this we start to get into what commerce can add to your games, all gamemasters and players have faced adventures in which all shops were basically identical to each other.
In certain games sometimes a player asks: there is any inn in town? Yeah of course, it looks like exactly the same as any other you can find in any other town and it offers the same kind of goods or services and you can almost add: There is a shop/market that sells the same and at the same prize than any other shop/market of this world.
Solving this requires of investing no few hours in the game setting, some time that you would prefer to invest creating the story, antagonists or scenes. Penumbra offer you some easy tools for personalizing commerce in your Pit/Túmulo depending on its reason for existence and its size. In deed this can allow you to create a local personality of this place (if you want) based on that reason of existence.
When you created a pit you give it a reason to exists. From there you have half of the path done, just think on what kind of external demand have the commodity produced by the Pit, you will immediately know if the pit is “rich” or “poor”. Logically richness or poorness in Penumbra standards.
That will tell you if there is only one trader or if there are going to be a lot of them, what kind of goods they will have and what commodities will scarce. If you can’t detail it or use common sense for deciding if certain good is common in any given place you can always appeal to equipment availability in the equipment chapter.
All this is of great help, now populations are not “standard” just deciding the reason of existence of any given pit will almost immediately let you know about the amount of population in the shelter, their richness and what they do in their daily basis. That’s awesome when trying to make deeper performs even if you are improvising.
Not going to lie you almost all the Túmulos described in the book were created following that scheme: where they find their resources from? How many people can that sustain? How does the extraction of that resource affect the live of the people in the shelter? What’s the influence that the Túmulo can extend over other areas exploding that resource? How much interested are other Túmulos for getting their hands into that resource?... Answer that and a few other questions and you have your Túmulo as an entity created.
Not going to write more here because it is possible that another future help would be “how to create your own Pit/Túmulo” and we will be able to talk longer about it there.
Well back to the players: we have seen how some stupid questions can affect your game and provide credibility and uniqueness to your Pits, but when talking about commercial performs we can create some interesting scenes thanks to the tools provided in Penumbra.
In Penumbra trades should be “I give you 15 gold coins, you give me a long sword” (although they can if you are short of time).
In Penumbra we are thinking in stuff like: “I want a bolt riffle” ok, I have those 3 different riffles, one is the older version, the other 2 are newer ones but have different qualities… Of course their prizes differ. The funny part is that unless the character has the adequate skills he won’t be able to be sure to know if the seller is trying to cheat him or not.
Just understand me, this is not a matter of “ 20 gold coins for along sword? This guy is cheating me!”. It’s a matter of “Do I pick the newer version even knowing that there isn’t much difference even it being slightly expensive? It is true that the riffle that is 20 bullets more expensive is of better quality? It is true that he is selling me that riffle 30 bullets cheaper because he has a surplus or because it is almost broken and want to get rid of it?” In other words, trading in penumbra has some subjective elements that allow to create some scenes around a trade.
There is also the fact of that anything in Penumbra is susceptible of having an economic value and therefore is possible to commerce it in exchange of goods or services. That when do well is awesome too, it’s a fact that the amount of rubbish that a character can load is limited by his weightlifting limit is by the containers it wears but the fact is that there is no reason for a character asking to exchange a few meters of cables for some bullets, a carburetor for a rum bottle or even a set of metal plates for a dinner.
Finaly say that while in other role playing games the prize of living is relatively low, in Penumbra just having food for eating range 3 bullets a day, and well, you have to earn your bullets somewhere, you can do it precisely by selling that kind of junk, in deed lot of people in penumbra do it.
Of course you can get your resources from the looting of your death enemies, but you have to be cautious with that because there is one last thing to say. In Penumbra bullets or ammunition equals to money and that makes that bullets themselves are quite expensive. Just think that firing 3 bullets is like not having enough for eating one day… makes you to think twice before firing in automatic mode…