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What's with the rampant inflation of in-game economies?

SorensonSorenson Registered User regular
edited November 2008 in Games and Technology
So because unlike most of you fuckers I didn't have the luxury of heading out to get Fallout 3 on launch day or whenever my copy of it arrived back home I've been biding my time revisiting Oblivion with various mods and stuff. One of the bigger ones, Obscuro's Oblivion Overhaul, does what I guess are a lot of rather neat things, but one thing that absolutly pisses me the fuck off about it is that the developer felt it nessecary to jack up the costs of training an additional twofold (which has nothing to do with the similar decrease in skill gain rates, no sirree) - supposedly he wanted to do something about the copious amounts of money folks can accumulate (which is a load of bullshit seeing as how you'd only get into that kind of serious money at the earliest about 15 levels in, at which point you start to get near the endgame as it is).

He then follows this up by introducing a bunch of items into the loot lists, a good number of which go into the tens of thousands in terms of value. :facepalm:

My personal annoyance aside, this particular bit of madness demonstrates this strange characteristic, perhaps flawed logic or outright irrationality on behalf of the developer, that you see in the economies of so many different game worlds. For whatever reason, the prices for goods - usually, though not always, combined to weapons and armor - follow an extrordinarily high curve in regards to their value verses their capabilities, to the point at which for the value of a single item at the end of the curve, one could outfit a dozen or several dozen men with more mundane items of a similar nature that are only inferior to the high-end item by 50-60%, and with "extrordinary" items their values can be so inflated as to rival the entire GDP of a game province of no small size. For example:

In Oblivion: iron weapons are the low end of the spectrum, Daedric's the high end. An iron warhammer, once you hit master level in Blunt, has an attack power of 14, durability of 196, and a value of 60. The Daedric equivilent, on the other hand, has an AP of 28 and a durability of 784. How much do you think it costs? 750? 1000? 1500?

5000. For twice the damage and four times the durability you're paying an 8200% markup over the more mundane. But then again, there's the DWH's ability to hit ethereal enemies, so a more fair comparison would be a silver WH - a value of 200 and AP of 18. You're still getting royally screwed, though - the damage difference is only about 64%, but it's still a 2400% increase in price.

Another example: Final Fantasy Tactics. Cheap broadsword you get at the start of the game costs around 200 smackers for an AP bonus of 4 - on the other end of the line for buyables, Rune Blades, on the other hand, go for 100 times that, a grand twenty grand a blade.
Take a guess as to their AP.
14. Though to be fair to the RB it's also got double the Weapon Blocking chance as well as a bonus to Magic Affinity/Ability/Whatever, but that's beside the point
I could go on trolling for more and more examples, but I'm sure you've got the idea and have seen enough examples of your own. What I want to know is, why is this such a common occurance in game economies? Why is it allowed to continue being such a common occurance? While inflation is an understandable and unavoidable outcome due to demands for an item and the bidding wars that may erupt, why do devs feel that this inflation has to be on a scale of tens and hundreds of times when determining price compared to similar items as opposed to several times?

Sorenson on

Posts

  • NickTheNewbieNickTheNewbie Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The idea is that once you reach the level where that kind of armor is required, you're taking in a lot more bottlecaps than you did before. At least that's how it usually is in those games. Any stat increase at all in lower levels is a huge boost, so it's a big difference to be able to get better armor.

    NickTheNewbie on
  • SorensonSorenson Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The idea is that once you reach the level where that kind of armor is required, you're taking in a lot more bottlecaps than you did before. At least that's how it usually is in those games. Any stat increase at all in lower levels is a huge boost, so it's a big difference to be able to get better armor.
    Which, I suppose, is part and parcel of the problem, really - not so much that you're usually making more money than before through your activities, but that you're usually making a lot more money than before. If the dev insists on making the pricing curve extremily high, then he also has to make the payout curve extremily high as well lest people get frustrated by a sense of a lack of progress; if he makes the payout curve extremily high, he then has to make the pricing curve extremily high as well lest people just snap up all the top-tier equipment without so much as making a sweat. It's the Fat Bastard Economics cycle.

    Part of the problem too, I think, is the obsession with "epicness" that a lot of devs seem to have. In stuff like that you wind up as some demigod-ish figure who can smite entire armies with but a flick of your wrist and are more or less drowning in the local currency, but then it and the sense of accomplishment that you get from having acquired said currency is made to feel worthless when you see the prices of stuff you need to buy - in a more minimalist game (Ultima Online's mechanics spring to mind) you're just a badass normal who gets through scrapes by the skin of your teeth, so when you do make the big score the big score is a big score and really lets you go quite a ways.

    Sorenson on
  • PikaPuffPikaPuff Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Googling around puts a guess of the prices of

    1oz Bronze: $0.25
    1oz Platinum: $822.00

    Damn you price scaling for better items!

    PikaPuff on
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  • cheezcheez Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    A piece of equipment with twice the stats of another will be worth far more than twice as much as the second. This is common sense. You can only wear one.

    If you disagree, I will happily trade you 100 short bows for your Windforce.

    cheez on
  • thepizzaelementalthepizzaelemental Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I think the problem would be a lot less obvious if games that eventually gave all the money in the world to the hero actually had something to SPEND it on.

    Oblivion has a decent improvement over other games in the form of purchasable houses. They're a pretty big investment, and are quite satisfying to acquire. Of course, eventually you run out of houses to buy, and have to go get some mods.

    thepizzaelemental on
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  • descdesc bare man are locked in Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I dunno, when it comes to the cost vs. gains of high end swords or potions, I think about the cost difference between a basic Honda Civic and a Bugatti Veyron.

    Are you driving to the grocery store, or running time trials on the Nordschliefe? Are you stabbing a Kobold, or taking down a Lich king?

    desc on
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Can we also complain about the monster scaling in RPGs?
    Monsters in the first town are completely easy to kill, shit like cute little bunnies or maybe a particularly vicious bee until you have to fight the boss snail at the end. Then by the end of the game you're fighting god-damned tyrannasaurs who can breath fire or call meteors down from the heavens. And noone from the nearby town that you can save or buy new weapons at seems to notice or care. It's like just another day for them, completly oblivious to the fact that world ending abominations of nature are living right outside their town eating hapless adventurers.

    Can you imagine trying to start a career in adventuring from one of those towns?

    see317 on
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  • KhavallKhavall British ColumbiaRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    If there wasn't enough scaling then a small amount of grinding at level one could max out characters and give them no room for improvement item wise.

    The scaling is so big so that you have no choice but to be a high-level badass taking down high-level badasses to afford them all, not so a level one can get the magical mystical super-hammer-of-the-gods.


    Even then if you're OCD enough it's not hard. In oblivion a level one can go to all the shopkeepers that have alchemical ingredients, buy them, make potions, and sell the potions for profit. If you just keep cycling around the world doing that you won't have much downtime. Then you're in the money and can afford anything.

    Khavall on
  • SorensonSorenson Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    cheez wrote: »
    A piece of equipment with twice the stats of another will be worth far more than twice as much as the second. This is common sense. You can only wear one.
    I'm not saying that price should follow a scale based on a direct correlation to whatever characteristic/s give items value in the first place, just that it doesn't make sense that the price curve should be so steep that relative values are anywhere from several dozen to several hundred times the relative value of a similar, though inferior, object.

    Pikapuff: Point, but how many viable substitutes are there with the same general characteristics and potential uses as Platinum are there? Between the emission constol stuff and its use in electronics and lab equipment and its visual luster I'm guessing not many.

    Sorenson on
  • WingoWingo Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Upgrading to infinity is more or less what most RPGs are based on. If you've got a sword, the way to go is a better sword. And after that, an even better sword. And at some point, you've got our infinity-plus-one claymore, slaying kryptonium breathing space gods outside a village, tearing the ground asunder, summoning the ancients and finding a magic potion in the end.

    It's ridiculous. Maybe if RPGs dropped that upgrade mania and instead tried something more along the lines of specialty, such as a special zombie-b-gone-sword or the sword that mowes down enemies and lawns. Actually, it was like that during the first half of Final Fantasy X for me- granted, that's not a difficult game at all, but I still found myself keeping half of the weapons so that I could switch them at any time. Of course, that vanished when the freakier metal bars on sticks were introduced.

    What really bugs me, though, are superfluous zeroes. Want that ammunition for 3 kajingies a piece? How about 300? Given that this is the least amount of zeroes, why the hell are the zeroes there in the first place...? Sometimes, bigger numbers just fall flat on their faces.

    Wingo on
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    That's not inflation - inflation is a general increase in prices across-the-board. Which happens a lot in MMO's with bad money management, I'll grant, but not so much in Oblivion.

    The problem with Oblivion (specifically) is that one's ability to earn money increase roughly exponentially* with time invested. As such, prices pretty much have to skyrocket too. As things stand, with some care it's already possible to march into the Market District for the first time with enough moolah to buy Apotheosis, which is insanely overpowered at low levels.

    *okay not actually exponential. Polynomial, degree five or thereabouts. But you get the idea.

    ronya on
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  • RainbowDespairRainbowDespair Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I agree that all this scaling is exaggerated but if it makes for better and more balanced gameplay, I'm fine with it.

    RainbowDespair on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    The thing is you're basing your assumptions on how the economy should behave on a flawed system. A PA comic covered this a long time ago. The major flaw in that system is that a vendor will buy anything you want to sell. Got 20 instances of dried goat shit? Sold. It makes it very easy to earn money. However, you're expected to get much higher value items off higher value mobs, and generally you're going to have to fight MORE of those mobs at higher levels, so your earning potential really takes off.

    This is the sort of problem that plagued many MMOs...inflation. The greatest example that comes to mind for me is Asheron's Call. Granted that was in large part due to the catastrophic effect of the plat-scarab bug, but it was alread well on its way to pyreals becoming worthless. WOW took a very clever approach to the subject: make an indispensable item expensive as fuck. Economy's recovering? Release an expansion with a newer, much more expensive item (epic flying mounts). I'll be interested in hearing if they continue that trend to WOTLK.

    Scrublet on
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  • BecomingBecoming Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I thought this thread was going to be about MMO economies.

    Becoming on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Just to clarify I brought up the MMO thing as another example of improper scaling. 60% to 100% movement for thousands of extra gold is not very good scaling, but it has done a great job at reducing inflation. tl;dr scaling may be unrealistic, but it works in the unrealistic model of in-game economies.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
  • schmadsschmads Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I read a quote from the guys that make Peggle that relates somewhat, especially to the guy asking why there are so many zeroes. They basically said that scores are more satisfying when all of your values are in multiples of 5 or 10 (I'm not sure which he said). The point being that larger numbers make you feel like you're doing more.

    So, when I kill a monster and get 10 gold, I feel like I got more than if I got 1 gold, even if it pays for the same amount. Meaning that if you scaled gold by 10x but also prices by 10x, it doesn't change the actual value, but it feels like it is more. This certainly applies to Peggle, but I bet it is why you end up doing triple-9999's in Final Fantasy games also. You feel like a super badass!

    Ultimately, though, games need a feeling of progression, and the standard RPG progression is ruins to riches. You start out with three copper and a wooden sword and end up with 3 million gold and wielding the Demoncocksmasher, Sword of the Ages. This is especially prevalent in jRPGs, but I've seen it often enough in western style RPGs as well. Fable 2, for instance, started me out with nothing, but I've already got a few thousand in a couple hours of playing and doing some blacksmithing. I feel like I've made a lot or progress already, and I've barely started!

    Here's the real question: If you were playing an RPG based upon real life, and your starting character was yourself when you finished school, would you rather work your way up from there to a dreary middle-management position until you retire, or work your way up until you are Bill Gates or Brad Pitt or Ron Jeremy? Compared to where you were when you left school, those guys have all ended up a lot further along in life than the boring middle-management position. Well, depending upon how you value life :) My point is that real life is kinda like that too, it's just that RPGs tend to take the extremes and double it.

    schmads on
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  • UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    One of the other problems with game economies is that there is a limitless source of money. An infinite number of slimes and other things without the arms, let alone brains, to be able to carry any gold, and yet they somehow do.

    If we could go out and kill any stray cat and inside was a 10 dollar bill, you can bet the price of things would skyrocket. Especially the farther you get from your hometown.

    UncleSporky on
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  • NeadenNeaden Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    How much things scale in RPGs has always bugged me. MMO's are definitely the worst offenders though. Take WAR for instance. Random Bum's in Altdorf are higher level then highly trained soldiers in the starting areas.

    Neaden on
  • Cucco LeaderCucco Leader Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    see317 wrote: »
    Can we also complain about the monster scaling in RPGs?
    Monsters in the first town are completely easy to kill, shit like cute little bunnies or maybe a particularly vicious bee until you have to fight the boss snail at the end. Then by the end of the game you're fighting god-damned tyrannasaurs who can breath fire or call meteors down from the heavens. And noone from the nearby town that you can save or buy new weapons at seems to notice or care. It's like just another day for them, completly oblivious to the fact that world ending abominations of nature are living right outside their town eating hapless adventurers.

    Can you imagine trying to start a career in adventuring from one of those towns?

    That would be beyond awesome. Monsters that can absolutely wreck you from the start. No hope. As long as battles aren't handle with random encounters.

    How about a game where everything is available from the get-go, monsters, weapons, and magic? No level requirements.

    Cucco Leader on
  • thepizzaelementalthepizzaelemental Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    see317 wrote: »
    Can we also complain about the monster scaling in RPGs?
    Monsters in the first town are completely easy to kill, shit like cute little bunnies or maybe a particularly vicious bee until you have to fight the boss snail at the end. Then by the end of the game you're fighting god-damned tyrannasaurs who can breath fire or call meteors down from the heavens. And noone from the nearby town that you can save or buy new weapons at seems to notice or care. It's like just another day for them, completly oblivious to the fact that world ending abominations of nature are living right outside their town eating hapless adventurers.

    Can you imagine trying to start a career in adventuring from one of those towns?

    That would be beyond awesome. Monsters that can absolutely wreck you from the start. No hope. As long as battles aren't handle with random encounters.

    How about a game where everything is available from the get-go, monsters, weapons, and magic? No level requirements.

    How about Monster Hunter? No levels whatsoever. Just a lot of hard work to get that armor and weapon combination you need to pass the next hurdle.

    thepizzaelemental on
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  • PikaPuffPikaPuff Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Sorenson wrote: »
    Pikapuff: Point, but how many viable substitutes are there with the same general characteristics and potential uses as Platinum are there? Between the emission constol stuff and its use in electronics and lab equipment and its visual luster I'm guessing not many.
    Ignoring coutner, here's another example :D

    This item gives 1.8. Price? $20

    This item gives 3.2. Price? $1529.99

    Rabble rabble rabble.

    Look I completely understand your point. But items scale for a gameplay reason and if you want to try to pull real examples into a game setting, then so will I (asking why extrodinary items have a huge price difference with little gain realistically). Edit: my two posts in this thread are in jest.

    PikaPuff on
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  • TiemlerTiemler Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    In Fallout 3, the general stores have mid-game items available from the start, but they're hideously expensive. I don't have a problem with that because having a house there and instant travel to return to those areas ensures that I'll be able to return and buy that stuff when I can scrape together the caps. It'd be a problem if these shops were in an area that I'd never revisit.

    Tiemler on
  • HefflingHeffling No Pic EverRegistered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Look at the real world. Compare a Nissan 350Z to a Ferrari 599. You're doubling the horsepower at ten times (or more) the cost.

    Higher quality, rare items always carry a higher price tag. I don't see why this is surprising.

    Heffling on
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  • PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Heffling wrote: »
    Look at the real world. Compare a Nissan 350Z to a Ferrari 599. You're doubling the horsepower at ten times (or more) the cost.

    Higher quality, rare items always carry a higher price tag. I don't see why this is surprising.

    But to extend the car analogy, where are the Z06's or ZR-1's of the game world economy? Not as rare, not as flashy, not as blinged-out and won't get you nearly the amount of medieval ho's wanting to take a look at your Staff of Penetration +69 (thanks Yahtzee) - but goddamn if it won't be powerfully quick for a lot less money.

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  • KageraKagera Imitating the worst people. Since 2004Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    If the top-shelf shit weren't worth a shitload everyone would have it.

    And that's just silly.

    Kagera on
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  • Casually HardcoreCasually Hardcore Once an Asshole. Trying to be better. Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    It's a cultural disease.

    Instead of placing real value on stuff. Value such as "This sword as been with me for 90 levels, it's as part of me as I am as part of it. I will part with this sword only after I had died in honorable combat", instead we place monetary value on stuff "My sword is worth $20, and that sword is worth $100. So that $100 sword must be 5x better then my sword because it costs 5x as much!".

    Casually Hardcore on
  • descdesc bare man are locked in Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    Heffling wrote: »
    Look at the real world. Compare a Nissan 350Z to a Ferrari 599. You're doubling the horsepower at ten times (or more) the cost.

    Higher quality, rare items always carry a higher price tag. I don't see why this is surprising.

    But to extend the car analogy, where are the Z06's or ZR-1's of the game world economy? Not as rare, not as flashy, not as blinged-out and won't get you nearly the amount of medieval ho's wanting to take a look at your Staff of Penetration +69 (thanks Yahtzee) - but goddamn if it won't be powerfully quick for a lot less money.

    What would that accomplish in terms of game mechanics?

    You could plot something like this into a Fable2 style game, with a social modifier being improved by wearing designer label boots of silence equating to new conversation options. But other than having NPCs chirping, "Is that a REAL Sword of Herbert's Slaying +17? Wow, take 10% off the prices of all my potions!" or somesuch, I'm not sure where this would be getting you. If you needed the fancier items to unlock conversation, which I know is not what you're talking about here, you know players would get violently deranged on the internet about having to grind extra gold for the frilly sword that only unlocks a quest but does no extra damage.

    If we're talking RPGs, players expect to become more powerful, but at least in Western RPGs, they expect visual feedback. A high level item should look more unique and look more specialized than a lower level item.

    If the in-combat effects of two items are the same, I guess I just don't see why you would need multiple items of a comparable tier for the sake of having the Reasonably Priced Used 'Vette of dungeon exploration in addition to the Ferrari.

    Using my own example -- the character starts out wielding a Honda Civic. They face down the final boss wielding a Veyron. They have a reasonable number of upgrades which swing upwards in price as they progress through the game. In a simulated world with no modelling of scarcity and an infinite supply of money available to the player as they sink time into it, what difference is there between charging $10,000 for a sword +2 vs. $35,000 for a sword +2 with a glowing gem?

    desc on
  • MinionOfCthulhuMinionOfCthulhu Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You know what really bothers me? Inns. So you start out at Fuckington Castle, and the nice town's inn costs like 5 gold a night. The town looks great! The beds probably kick ass.
    You get to like halfway through the game, and end up at Shitplow Village, a dinky little town that subsists on cabbage farming, and a bed is like 500 gold a night. What the hell.

    MinionOfCthulhu on
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  • LorkLork Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    If you could sell two iron warhammers and use the money to buy a daedric warhammer then the game would be too easy and wouldn't be any fun. Next question.

    Lork on
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  • xzzyxzzy Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    I think the bigger question to be asked is why the fuck animals with no pockets drop money at all.

    Or why rats chase you down in a murderous rage instead of running the fuck away and hiding.

    And when I shoot a fireball into a forest, why doesn't the fucker burn down?

    xzzy on
  • UncleSporkyUncleSporky Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    You know what really bothers me? Inns. So you start out at Fuckington Castle, and the nice town's inn costs like 5 gold a night. The town looks great! The beds probably kick ass.
    You get to like halfway through the game, and end up at Shitplow Village, a dinky little town that subsists on cabbage farming, and a bed is like 500 gold a night. What the hell.

    Not always. In some games it's always a minimal flat rate based on the number of party members, in others it's based on your level which could logically be explained by the innkeeper figuring that you're big and strong and rich enough to afford whatever price he sets. Or something.

    One thing that is interesting is how individual games have met or tried to meet some of the more realistic expectations from this thread. In particular, Morrowind, which does its best to fill the world with random quality items that you can get anytime you have the cash - or the thieving ability. And everyone who played the game and who didn't care about breaking it marched straight down to Ghostgate and stole all the godly green glass equipment as soon as possible.

    But I did like the economy, how everything really had a set stock. In the first major town, I turned the local pawn shop into an emporium of magical wonder. I sold all of my junk there, extra magical artifacts, booze, everything. I laughed when the salesperson equipped all of it and looked like a freak, and when I'd pickpocket her and go through 10 pages of stuff, and when she got mad at me but couldn't move due to being weighed down with everything. That's how you do a shop.

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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    That's hilarious.

    Malkor on
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  • kaleeditykaleedity Sometimes science is more art than science Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    traditionally, games that scale this way do so exponentially. One could say that doing so increases the player's sense of accomplishment, being able to look on previous challenges as though they were jokes.

    kaleedity on
  • BrilliantInsanityBrilliantInsanity Registered User regular
    edited October 2008
    It's a cultural disease.

    Instead of placing real value on stuff. Value such as "This sword as been with me for 90 levels, it's as part of me as I am as part of it. I will part with this sword only after I had died in honorable combat", instead we place monetary value on stuff "My sword is worth $20, and that sword is worth $100. So that $100 sword must be 5x better then my sword because it costs 5x as much!".

    This is what I like about "low magic" settings... like Dragonlance. Oh snap, you got a masterwork steel sword? Keep it for life.

    BrilliantInsanity on
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  • MinionOfCthulhuMinionOfCthulhu Registered User regular
    edited November 2008
    It's a cultural disease.

    Instead of placing real value on stuff. Value such as "This sword as been with me for 90 levels, it's as part of me as I am as part of it. I will part with this sword only after I had died in honorable combat", instead we place monetary value on stuff "My sword is worth $20, and that sword is worth $100. So that $100 sword must be 5x better then my sword because it costs 5x as much!".

    This is what I like about "low magic" settings... like Dragonlance. Oh snap, you got a masterwork steel sword? Keep it for life.

    Dragonlance? Low magic? Pffft. Try Dark Sun.
    You got a masterwork steel sword? No, you don't. It's a club made out of bone.
    And your armor is made of chitin.
    Now get back in the gladiator pit, mul.

    MinionOfCthulhu on
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  • minigunwielderminigunwielder __BANNED USERS
    edited November 2008
    It's a cultural disease.

    Instead of placing real value on stuff. Value such as "This sword as been with me for 90 levels, it's as part of me as I am as part of it. I will part with this sword only after I had died in honorable combat", instead we place monetary value on stuff "My sword is worth $20, and that sword is worth $100. So that $100 sword must be 5x better then my sword because it costs 5x as much!".

    This is what I like about "low magic" settings... like Dragonlance. Oh snap, you got a masterwork steel sword? Keep it for life.

    Dragonlance? Low magic? Pffft. Try Dark Sun.
    You got a masterwork steel sword? No, you don't. It's a club made out of bone.
    And your armor is made of chitin.
    Now get back in the gladiator pit, mul.

    A pound of iron is a fucking insane amount of wealth.

    And then you see, on the head of the sorceror-king a tiara of diamondine platinum.

    Sorceror-kings, in this setting, being miniature Iuz'.

    Dark Sun is awesome, much better than other D&D settings.

    minigunwielder on
    Your sig was too tall. -Thanatos
    delroland wrote: »
    Gumpy wrote: »
    Gumpy and Friends versus The Interesting 8

    The first post of the thread.

    That was an edited in. It originally read "Gumpy & Friends vs the Generic Bad People"
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