Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Selling Water in the Wasteland

Cover art, "Death is the New Pink"
by Angie Groves,
©2017 DIY RPG Productions 
In Death is the New Pink by Mike Evans, one of the most unusual and innovative and interesting (to me) mechanics is the engine the game provides for running a business. It is part of DitNP's move to introduce dominion-level play into a modern RPG without bogging the game down with excessive mechanics.

The description of the business mechanic includes a discussion of losses, threats to the business, and how 'dealing with them' can prevent the losses from taking place. This is kept intentionally quite vague.

It works like this:


New Back Alley Dealings generate 1d4 GB of income each month. They also face threats from thugs, competition, damages, etc. that cause 1d4 GB in losses unless dealt with. If a Back Alley Dealings goes broke, it is bust and shuts down.  Meat Bags can feel free to dump their own cashflow into a Back Alley Dealings to prevent it from shutting down. 


If a Back Alley Dealings ends a month in profit, it’s income moves up to the next type of die, to a maximum of 1d12. Sadly, this means you attract more troubles and threats, increasing the die size for that as well.  (Evans, p.31)"

Why This is Awesome

The rules are simple and straightforward. I felt, however, that they needed a little attention. Like how to determine threats, what to do to eliminate them, and what a player might be able to do to deal with them. This one mechanic has the power to generate huge amounts of player-driven adventure. If the players feel invested in their PC's business and can adventure to make it better, they will write the campaign on their own.

"Robo Killer"  by Kelvin Green  (C) 2017 DIY RPG Productions
In situations like this, ideally, the
PCs should have no one to blame
but themselves for being there.. 
In a good campaign-length game, this is one of the things a GM ought to be striving for: a setting where PCs have their own self-generated in-game motivation to adventure. Ideally, the GM should be able to just sit back and let the PCs make up the hooks for him or her.

But the trick is, how do we do that without adding more needless rules and complications?

I've to pitch a business rule set inspired by the rules in Death is the New Pink to make a simple, functional system that turns a Back Alley Deal into an adventure-generating machine.

I am making it system agnostic, so that it can be readily imported across multiple systems and settings, but, I intend to make it entirely using mechanics that are congruent with a game as simple as Death is the New Pink. So here we go:

Selling Water in the Wasteland

Starting an Enterprise 

Player characters may opt to start an Enterprise between adventures. They must put down of 1d4 gp in seed money.  An enterprise has the following attributes:

Rank indicates the scale and success of the Enterprise. It is a description rather than a number.

An Enterprise's Rank also determines an optional Scale Multiplier, which is a number between 1 and 1,000. When a business rolls for profit and loss, this determines just how much money is in the line.

Profit Die is a die that is rolled to see how many gp an Enterprise earns at the end of a month. PCs can improve the profit die in several ways described in the section on "raking it in."

Loss Die is a die that is rolled to see how many gp an Enterprise loses at the end of a month. PCs can lower the loss die to a minimum of 1d4 in several ways described in "cutting your losses" below. Losses represent the cost of doing business: paying employees, keeping supplies up, dealing with damage to goods from the environment, etc. Particularly high rolls also indicate disasters, sabotage, or theft harming your bottom line.

Worth is the total value of the Enterprise. This fluctuates every month. Any time the PCs are in their home base location they can invest treasure into the business to increase its worth. 

As an Enterprise goes up in rank, it offers Perks. These are equipment, abilities, and contacts a business gives to a PC that are useful while they are adventuring.

The Enterprise begins with a Profit Die of 1d4, a Loss Die of 1d4, and a Rank of "Back Alley Deal." It has a Worth equal to the seed money put down.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm
Skizz the wastelander has had a few run-ins with mutant cassowaries that the locals call Jub-jubs. Jub-jubs live in the most toxic areas of the waste, and breathe radioactive fire. After looking one over very carefully for handy wasteland survival uses, he realizes that Jub-jubs purify water in an organ in their bodies. The sees Gold Bits in his eyes and decides to create a water farm where he can tap Jub-jubs to sell pure, radiation-free water.

Skizz puts down 1d4gp (he rolls a 3) in capital to set up a fire-proof pen, buy the parts necessary to tap a Jub-jub, and hire some people to help him catch it. He now has an Enterprise: 

Skizz's Water Farm.
Rank: Back-Alley Deal;  Worth: 3gp;  Profit: 1d4;  Loss: 1d4;  Scale Multiplier: x1

On the Dice Chain

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Profit and Loss dice often move up and down the a die chain. The chain goes:

1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12

If you are instructed to increase your die by one or more points, shift it that many spaces to the right on the list.  If you are instructed to decrease you die, move it to the left as many increments as indicated. A die may never decline to less than 1d4. Nor can it be raised above 1d12.

For example, if you have a d8 Profit Die, and it decreases by one die, it becomes a d6. If it later increases by two dice moves to a d8, then a d10.

Profit dice have a maximum based on your Enterprise's Rank.

Wheeling and Dealing

At the end of every game month, roll the Profit Die, then roll the Loss Die and subtract it from the Profit Die roll. Apply the result to the Enterprise's worth. If it is a positive number the worth goes up; the players have made a return on their efforts. If it is negative, the Enterprise is losing money, it's worth goes down. If it is zero, the Enterprise broke even.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm pt.2
On the first month, Skizz catches a few Jub-jubs, and keeps them in hidden pens, feeding them toxic sludge and giant mutant crickets. Pretty soon he is filling his first few jugs of pure water and trying to sell them to local farmers.

Skizz's player rolls his Profit Die and gets a 3. He then rolls his Loss Die and gets a 2. This is a net gain of 1, so the worth of the farm goes up by 1.
Easy come, easy go, however, as the next month Skizz rolls a 2 on profit and a 4 on loss, the net worth of his Water Farm drops by 2. 

If an Enterprise's Worth hits 0, the Enterprise will fold unless the PCs invest more money into it.

If an Enterprise's Worth drops below 0,  then the PCs owe money to an NPC of the GMs choosing, who will try to collect either by legal means or by force if they are not paid off immediately.

If an Enterprise lost more than 4 worth in a month, it is because some disaster cost the PCs a lot in resources or profits. Roll the Loss Die again and add an amount equal to the worth lost use this "mayhem roll" to check the results on the Mayhem table below. 

 Table 1. Mayhem

Mayhem rollWhat Happened?
5Vermin are destroying your supplies! If they are not killed, your Loss Die will increase by 1.
6A petty thief is targeting you over and over again. If they are not dealt with, there will be more. Increase your Loss Die. You can mitigate this by catching the thief.
7A caravan with supplies you needed - and already paid for - got hit by raiders. Double your losses this month. You can get half of those losses back by taking out the raiders.
8Random street violence or vandalism hit you hard. Raise your Loss Die one step. Find a way to calm the streets down to mitigate this.
9Someone has been passing counterfeit money through your business. You can choose to pass it on with a 33% chance of getting caught, or you can reduce your Profit die by one step. If you get caught passing the counterfeits, you are likely to be targeted by local law-men or vigilantes, and will have your Profit Die decrease two steps.
10A generous patron or investor has gone missing. Your profit die decreases one step. Find them, and you can raise it by one, instead.
11Supplies you needed got lost in a storm, causing huge delays, waste, and frustrated customers. Increase your Loss Die one Step. You can mitigate this loss by going on an expedition to find the lost supplies.
12A local monster or lunatic has been setting fires, including to your enterprise. Double ypur losses this month. You can get all of thus month's losses back in bounties on the pyromaniac...
13A corrupt, well-connected local bureaucrat or enforcer is demanding bribes - very subtly. Either pay up or get hit with fines. Choose to lower your Profit Die one step (pay), or raise your Loss Die by one step (refuse). Expose their corruption to mitigate that effect. If you choose to pay, there is a 33% chance that you will lose another step from your Profit die next month.
14It isn't just rats in your storehouse this time. It is something much, much worse! Fight to save your people from some monstrous horror or increase your Loss Die by two steps.
15An actually competent thief hit your business hard. Triple your losses this month. If you catch him or her you can get back half of the monthly losses.
16A local criminal syndicate has infiltrated your Enterprise. Roll a d4: 1. They are shaking down people connected to your supply chain. 2. They are threatening your employees if they don't embezzle or inform for them. 3. They are selling counterfeits to your customers. 4. They are regularly stealing your supplies. Decrease your Profit Die and Increase your Loss Die by one each. You can mitigate one of these by negotiating with the syndicate... but your Enterprise will become a front for their activities... Or you can handle both if you can make messing with you too dangerous.
17Another Enterprise starts up in your neck of the woods selling a cheaper knock off of what you are selling. They are aggressively targeting your customers and someone is funding them well. Reduce your Profit Die two steps. You can mitigate one die of this loss by either demolishing the rival enterprise, or by finding and stopping their backer. You can do both to completely mitigate the reduction.
18Malicious rumors start that you are somehow hurting, fleecing, poisoning, or infecting your customers. There are investigations, vandalism, and customers are drying up. Raise your Loss Die by one and lower your Profit Die by two. You can lower your loss doe back down by one and raise the Profit die up by one if you can publicly expose the liar.
19You accidentally hurt, fleeced, poisoned, or infected your customers. Choose to either lower your Profit Die 1d4 steps or raise your Loss Die by 1d4 steps. This will happen again in 1d3 months if you don't discover who screwed up.
20Irresponsible adventurers traced threat to location of of your Enterprise. They broke security measures, brutalized employees, looted your place of business, and trashed a bunch of stuff fighting gods-knows-what in a sensitive location. Reduce your Profit Die by one. If you can both find put what they were after you might be able to recoup 25% of the worth your business lost this month. The same is true if you catch the adventurers and make them pay before they skip town.
21A massive natural disaster  fire, flood, earthquake, etc., is puts your Enterprise in serious danger. Your assets are already burning, melting, being devoured, etc., and your customers are in dire need. Reduce your Profit Die by 1d3 levels. Your Enterprise will only survive if you put your skills into the relief effort.
22The local government decides it needs to do something about you. They seize as much as they can of your goods either for to destroy it or for "the public good." Reduce your profit die by 1d3 levels. You must find a way to either she, fight, overthrow, or bribe the authorities or lose the Enterprise. 
23A rival has decided that the only way to get you out of the way is total warfare he has sent hired muscle to shut you down, and there's a bonus for them if you turn up dead when the smoke clears. Reduce your Profit Die by 1d4 levels... If you survive.

Each mayhem  result affects you Losses, your Loss Die or your Profit Die, or a combination. Most describe a way to mitigate the effect. This is an adventure prompt that should take 2-6 encounters to resolve. These are up to the GM to design, although a collection of 5-room dungeons may be an effective tool to help you resolve these quickly.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm p.3
After hard work and some experiments in Jub-jub catching, breeding, and feeding, Skizz's business is big and profitable. He has a large complex where he keeps several pens of Jub-Jubs for water, and sells feathers, meat, and eggs as the occasion arises. He has a Profit die of d8 and a loss die of d6.

Skizz suddenly has a bad month! He rolls a 1 on profit, but a 6 on losses! That is 5gp of Worth lost! Something clearly want wrong. Skizz takes that 5 points of loss and rolls an additional d6 Loss Die to add to it, rolling a 3 for a result of 8 on the Mayhem table... random street violence or vandalism.

The GM decides that the local gangs are at war and stray bullets have wounded some of his birds and damaged equipment. His Loss die for next month goes up to a d8 as the wars don't look like they will be stopping soon.

Skizz is not going to take this lying down. He grabs his trusty junk cannon, calls his adventuring party, and decides to bash some sense into both sides of the conflict. No gangsters, no further violence. Once he is done sorting them out, his Loss Die drops back to a d6 before he has to roll next month's Enterprise tests.

Raking it In

PCs can choose to look for opportunities to improve their Enterprise once per month. If they do, the GM may opt to either provide them an adventure hook that he or she has planned, or create one by rolling on the random opportunity table below.

If the PCs successfully complete the adventure objective they may either increase their Profit Die or decrease their Loss Die by one step.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm pt.4
Skizz has had a few solid months of making his water farm grow, and now he is getting the help of expert trackers in the wild once in awhile, not to mention a steady supply of Jub-Jub jerky and all the fresh water he wants. Now he is hungry to make some serious cash. He decides to look for chances to boost his profits.

The GM decides that this is a perfect hook for his next adventure. He tells Skizz's player that he hears rumors about a ruined hospital nearby that has an intact dialysis machine. Getting a look at this machine might let him figure out ways to make better Jub-jub pumps. He calls up his adventuring team to hit the hospital.

The GM wanted to have the hospital adventure anyway, so the PCs get all the fights with berserk surgery bots and mutant cannibal doctors he had planned. At the end, Skizz takes home his share of treasure and xp, but now in addition he also gets to roll a d10 for his water farm's profit.

Getting Paid

At any time when the PCs are in a location where the Enterprise does business, the PCs may withdraw some of the organization's Worth or add to the Worth. If you are not using the scale multiplier rules, simply transfer gold from the Enterprise's Worth and add it to your character sheet. 

Withdrawing to 0 this way will close down the Enterprise. You may also withdraw an extra amount equal to your Profit Die and drop the Worth of the business into the negatives. This would indicate that your character has swindled the business by borrowing against future profits that will never come. Someone will expect to be paid and be very angry when they are not...

Making the Big Time

Each Rank represents a level of size, scale, and influence. As your Rank increases, you have an increasing level of access to helpful NPC contacts and employees, political clout, and information. 

In order to increase your Rank, you must fulfill certain in-game requirements. Once you meet them, decrease your Profit Die by one, but increase to the selected rank.

Back Alley Deal

Description: This is a small-time deal. An experiment with turning a few coins based on tips and instinct.
Requirements: 1d4 gp seed money.
Maximum Profit Die: d6
Scale Multiplier : x1
Perks: None

"Legitimate Business"

Description: You have gone beyond hustling in back rooms and set up shop. People work for you now, or at least have a sweet deal with you. You have a small, but growing customer base, and are starting to build up a reputation.
Requirements: Go on at least one adventure to raise your Profit Die.
Maximum Profit Die: d8
Scale Multiplier : x50
Perks: You have access to a large amount of the supplies and expertise related to your business. You can:
  • Get items related to your Enterprise worth a roll of your Profit Die x Scale Multiplier 1/ month -or-
  • Get the services of a competent NPC in a field related to your Enterprise 2/month. This NPC will be friendly, but won't risk their life for you, unless your Enterprise is mercenary work. Getting this NPC hurt will reduce you Profit Die by 1d3 Steps.

Pillar of the Community

Description: You have the respect of- (or dirt on-) many powerful people in your home base. Even the people who don't know you know your Enterprise, and love pr hate it, they know you have clout.
Requirements: Go on at least five adventures to raise your Profit Die. Provide funding and help to establish an NPC or other PC's related Enterprise. 
Maximum Profit Die: d8
Scale Multiplier : x100
Perks: You can get authorities where your Enterprise, or Enterprises you back, are located to ignore up to three minor or one major offense. This ability refreshes every 1d4 months. If you use it while it is still refreshing, reduce your Profit Die by one.

A "Respected Institution"

Description: You have multiple franchises, and are known for hundreds of miles. You employ the best talent, and have dozens of contacts... and quite a few enemies. You set the standard by which other enterprises are measured.
Requirements: Go on at least four adventures to raise your Profit Die. Help your allied Enterprise reach "Legitimate Business." Have at least one business that you are backing in a different settlement from your home base.
Maximum Profit Die: d10
Scale Multiplier : x500
Perks: You can get an audience with a local government official, liege, crime lord, or businessperson 1/ month, and begin the interaction with the NPC at a Friendly Disposition.

In any location within 50 miles of a place where your Enterprise or one you back is located , you can secure 1d4x100gp in loans or credit. Failure to pay creditors back decreases your Profit Die by 2.


Description: You control the fate of your industry. You have the ability to pull strings at the highest level of your region, and your decisions can reshape the economy. You are one of the shadowy types who pull the strings, now... congratulations! 
Requirements: Go on at least five adventures that raise your Profit Die, and at least one to lower your losses die. Mitigate at least one event from the Mayhem table. Use your money and influence to meet a major personal character goal, such as overthrow a corrupt governor, destroy a network of raiding bands, become famed (or infamous) for your art, etc.
Maximum Profit Die: d12
Scale Multiplier : x1,000
Perks: You can use you influence to have the military, city guard, or a crime syndicate goon squad attack a target of your choice, or you can make amendments to a law in a state where you do business. If you use this power more than once a year, roll 1d10+10 and consult the Mayhem table for fallout from your vulgar display of graft.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm pt.5
Skizz has become a powerhouse in Scratchtown. As a "Respected Institution" he can get the ear of the Regulators any time he wants, and plays poker with the gang boss. He can get loans pretty readily, which he has used to start a Jub-jub Egg and Meat diner in Scratchtown (a Pillar of the Community.) He also runs a water caravan company that carries water to three other towns (three Back Alley Deals). His Enterprises look like this:

Skizz's Water Farm.
Rank: "Respected Institution";  Worth: 67gp;  Profit: 1d10;  Loss: 1d6;  Scale Multiplier: x500

Jub-Jub's Diner.
Rank: Pillar of the Community;  Worth: 22gp;  Profit: 1d8;  Loss: 1d4;  Scale Multiplier: x100

Water Caravan to Sniffleberg.
Rank: Back Alley Deal;  Worth: 6gp;  Profit: 1d4;  Loss: 1d4;  Scale Multiplier: x1

Water Caravan to Mutant Village.
Rank: Back Alley Deal;  Worth: 3gp;  Profit: 1d4;  Loss: 1d4;  Scale Multiplier: x1

Water Caravan to Beer Factory.
Rank: Back Alley Deal;  Worth: 3gp;  Profit: 1d4;  Loss: 1d4;  Scale Multiplier: x1

All that is left for him now is to cement a glorious legacy. Skizz has long had dreams of building a heavily-armed warband that he could use to wipe out raiders. He withdraws some Gold Bits from the Water Farm and uses it to hire some muscle. He uses his Pillar of the Community perk to get authorities to look the other way while some town guard weapons "Fall off a truck" and his "Legitimate Business" perk to get a Jub-jub trainer to help he train battle-bird mounts.

Using his caravans as bait, he tests out and hones the tactics of his Jub-jub mounted war band, in the process decimating a raiding clan (raising the Profit Die on his Caravan,). He is on the way to reaching his dream. This lets him meet the last pre-requisite on the next level.

Skizz's Water Farm goes from being a mere "Respected Institution" to a wasteland-wide Empire worth thousands of Gold Bits, and the heart of his new military might. His Profit Die drops to 1d8, his scale modifier leaps to x1,000 and he gains a new Perk letting him change the laws of Scratchtown or call in a strike from the Regulators if he needs it.

Skizz's Water Farm.
Rank: Empire;  Worth: 17gp;  Profit: 1d8;  Loss: 1d6;  Scale Multiplier: x1,000

Upping the Ante (Optional)

By default, this system tracks Worth in GP. However, as Enterprises grow and expand in scope, income can increase dramatically. To this end the GM may opt to use a Scale Multiplier when dealing with the amount of money at stake.

Whenever a character wants to invest money into a Enterprise, they must determine how much they wish to raise the Enterprise's Worth by, and then spend that amount multiplied by the Scale Multiplier for their current tier.

When they withdraw money, have them reduce the worth of the businesses by the desired amount. They get that amount multiplied by the scale modifier in gold pieces (or equivalent) out of the business.

When losses are recovered during a Mayhem event such as chasing down a thief, the losses appear in the form of treasure worth the losses multiplied by the Scale Multiplier that may be invested back into the Enterprise.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm pt.6
Skizz's Water Farm is a grand Empire funding his war on the bandits, which is heating up. After a couple of rough months and some adventures, it looks like this:

Skizz's Water Farm.
Rank: Empire;  Worth: 26gp;  Profit: 1d12;  Loss: 1d8;  Scale Multiplier: x1,000

Skizz decides he wants to buy an armoured war-bus to protect his support personnel, and manages to spot one - complete with nuclear power source - for an insane 16,500. Normally this would be out of his reach, but the Water Empire is worth a lot. Skizz starts selling birds and old pumping gear. In mechanical terms, he pulls out 17gp from Worth and applies the x1,000 modifier: that is 17,000 Gold Bits.. He has enough now to buy the bus, add some people, and get some better weaponry. Leaving the Water Farm worth 9 (which in liquid cash is 9,000 God Bits now.)

Then, Skizz has a bad month, he rolls 8 on Losses and only 2 on Profits. That is 6 points of Worth gone! A 1d8+6 roll on the mayhem table lands him a 13: an official is demanding bribes. Even after exposing the crook, The Water Farm is hurting at 3 Worth. Another bad roll, and it could collapse!

Skizz's player knows that he needs to get the Water Farm's worth up to 8 to make sure it can stand up to even the worst roll possible. Raising his worth by 5 would only have cost him 5 Gold Bits back when he started the farm... but this is not those simple days. To get the Water Farm back in the black he needs to invest 5,000 (Desired Worth change x Scale Modifier) Gold Bits! He'd better get back to adventuring... Fast!

The Opportunity Table

If the GM has no planned adventure for the PCs to discover, he or she may opt to use the Opportunity Table to create the seed for an adventure. To use the table, roll 1d6 four times, once for each column of the Opportunity Table.

Each column, rolled in order can be used to fill in the blanks of the following sentence:

You have an opportunity to enrich your enterprise: You are going to ________ the ________. You'll be going up against _______. There might be a hitch, though: ________

1StealA rival's supplies.The competition's airtight security.A competing Enterprise wants it, too.
 2DestroyTrade secrets.A corrupt official.Your enterprise is currently under scrutiny by nosy officials.
 3RecruitA rival's star employee.A group of citizens opposed to your Enterprise.The people you want to help you out don't want your help.
 4RescueAn expert.A criminal syndicate.Your Enterprise has a saboteur who is planning on stabbing you in the back.
 5ScoutA trade route.Monsters or mutants.Your objective is in a dangerous location like a dungeon, cave system, or underwater.
 6SalvageSomething from a lost caravan.A very organized bandit ring.Your information is bad. (re-roll a column for what is really happening.)

This design is inspired by the Adventure Generator in Tiny Dungeon 2e by Gregory Israel over at Blue Oxrat.

Example: Skizz's Water Farm pt.7
It has been a crazy year for Skizz. He barely saved the Water Farm, and another bad roll dragged down his Profit Die to a d10 again:
Skizz's Water Farm.
Rank: Empire;  Worth: 12gp;  Profit: 1d10;  Loss: 1d8;  Scale Multiplier: x1,000

Skizz wants to get the Loss Die back down ASAP so that he is at less risk of serious Mayhem. His Player asks the GM if he can find any leads.

The GM has run out of 5-room dungeons thanks to the Water Farm, War Band, and another player running a similar Enterprise. He needs a new lead fast, and so he breaks out the Opportunity Table. He rolls 3,4,5,5 and uses them to fill in the sentence like this:

You have an opportunity to enrich your enterprise: You are going to Recruit the An Expert. You'll be going up against Monsters or Mutants. There might be a hitch, though: Your Objective is in a Dangerous location.

The GM ponders for a moment, and then tells the player that Skizz has heard about a master biomancer who might be able to help him make artificial Jub-Jub kidneys without the whole bird. The tech might let him create organic water purifiers capable of handling the radioactive sludge of the waste with less feed and mess.

The problem is, he was last seen in looking to collect bio-mechanical parts from the Bandersnachii of Maxnome Cave, and has been missing for weeks...
This version of this work is Copyright © 2020 Brian Rideout, All Rights Reserved, except where excerpted from Death is the New Pink, which is Copyright © 2017 DIY RPG Publications. Look for a future version to be released under a Creative Commons License.

No comments:

Post a Comment