Quantum Currency

It's the second year of the Blades in the Dark campaign I'm playing in, and once again I find my mind drifting towards how it handles money. A "Coin" is actually a representation of a much larger sum ("about a week's wages") and can be spent whenever (despite how clearly cumbersome carrying that much coin would be). Smaller expenses like drinks at a bar or a new pair of shoes are simply assumed to be covered. Much like Blades' inventory, the Currency is Quantum, and more precisely its value and utility is highly situational when compared to games that'd give you exact numerical prices. Less counting coinage and more "big pile of coin when a score goes well, big pile of coin to level up the crew, a coin to bribe a guard or hire an ally." It works, I like it and it's relatively interesting! 

We're approaching the second year of the GRUNTS campaign I'm playing in, and once again I find my mind drifting towards how it handles money. A massive and very exact number is generated at Character Generation for your debt, into which your mercenary work can only put so much of a dent. New guns and gear cost money. Insurance costs money. Bullets cost money. Drinks cost money. Life costs money. Every cost exacted down to a T, every action you take a small side-hustle on a side-hustle. Invest in stocks. Strip copper. Empty wallets. Everything is measured to the cent. Everything is an opportunity to make money, and you'd better be taking it. For a game about living in (and being crushed under) the Americana grind-set it's absolutely sublime. It works, I like it and it's relatively interesting!

As some of you may know I've been working on a new game called Blood Lust, where you play as vampires surviving in an alt-90s setting. I've been hemming and hawing on how to handle currency, because (in the immortal words of Wu-Tang) Cash Rules Everything Around Me, and I want to be careful about how that's handled within the context of the game. Initially I was thinking characters would just have "Assets", a Blades-esc Quantum Currency that could be spent to automatically acquire Quantum Inventory items from a shop, thus you'd only need to spend it as needed but I could preserve some elements of ~ shopping ~ (the downside to this of course being that if the shop is too big, players might get bogged down thumbing through their options instead of engaging with the action).

But then other ideas popped into my head: Magazines with fashion options or obscure weapons. Apartments whose rent you still had to pay despite being an immortal Nightspawn. Stock trading, buying fancy drinks, etc etc. All of these gameplay wrinkles were much more conducive to tracking money to the dollar rather than a nice jacket costing "2 Assets." And so and alternative dual currency system was concocted works a little something like this:

In Blood Lust you manage two interchangeable currencies: Dollars and Assets. Dollars (as the name would imply) is the exact amount of spending cash you have access to at any given time. It's always assumed you brought just enough cash for what you needed to do on any Night. Assets represent favors, unique opportunities or investments in increments of $100 that can be Burnt to activate certain Perks, traded at a moments notice to acquire an inventory item from the Asset Shop, or traded with willing parties for a specific favor.

Assets and Dollars are interchangeable at any time at a rate of 1 Asset for 100 Dollars.

Your weekly expenses (including rent, food, gas and other daily costs) is measured in your Upkeep, which must be paid in Assets during Downtime. Failing to pay your Upkeep causes a roll on the "Overdue Table" (roll d8+your current Upkeep) and will cause a complication (some of which raise your Upkeep by 1).

I don't love this idea, and am fairly close to scrapping it, but I wanted to at least write it out and start mulling it over. The other idea (of course) is just to stick with Dollars and let purchases of quantum inventory and access to quantum money remain at a more precise value. For a game where you're not counting bullets but are meant to feel some of the pressures of day-to-day expenses, this feels like it may be a good middle ground (though I have to wonder how much of the pressure I can capture when not everything has a dollar value that's tightening the noose on you a la GRUNTS or Cyberpunk).

The advantage of not counting bullets and keeping things quantum is of course to keep things fast, highly narrational and worry less about the planning phase. I'm a slut for a good planning game, but I have a deep appreciation for how Blades' planning is much more focused on general beats and ideas rather than calculating out every detail (while still not sacrificing the feeling of limited resources that something like a Wealth Roll feels like it loses).

If I were to stick just to Assets, I might add "Part-Time Job" as part of character creation, which justifies why some of your smaller expenses are simply covered. Your gas station job doesn't pay rent, but it does pay for drinks! What do you think about these ideas? And how do you feel about quantum inventory and currency? 

[*0 : Honorable mention to games with stuff like "wealth" rolls (which I'm personally not a huge fan of) and whatever Trophy Gold is doing with Gold and Burdens (which feels like an interesting approach to having Blades styled Quantum Currency).]


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