DMC Diner, and Currency

I worked on a diner location for the DMC today. Last week, I was able to get the map hooked up such that I could launch an encounter by clicking on a section of the map. So today, I wanted to start fleshing out one of those locations to test out the flow.

The diner should be a sight for sore eyes (and empty stomachs) after traversing the wasteland for a few days. Full plates of food, and pitchers of relatively clean water. And a roof to eat it under! The promise of a hot meal is a worthy goal for a scavenger, so I want that experience to be satisfying.

What's more, the diner is a great place to sprinkle a bit of local culture and color, and start painting a picture of what the city is like as a whole. I used the opportunity to get creative with both the food on offer, and the location itself. There are three combo plates, and I had fun researching local Detroit food when putting them together.

However, as I was hooking it up in the encounter editor, I realized I forgot to look into payment methods. The player currently has money, but encounters don't have any way of knowing how much the player has. So far, I've been able to hide certain options when the player is missing the appropriate skill, item, or condition. But with money, it is neither an item nor skill. And making conditions for all potential prices (e.g. has > $10, has > $22, has > $24, etc.) would be inefficient.

The DMC is going to involve money. That's just the reality of a civilization. So I'll need to solve this one way or the other.

I briefly considered a type of polymer currency. Australia uses one, since it's more durable and harder to counterfeit. However, in an age of nanorobotic medkits, and other microfabrication, I suspect a polymer would be pretty easy to hack.

Another option is smartphone or debit cards. Smartphones are pretty ubiquitous, even today, and could easily interface over DMC wi-fi/4G to conduct a transaction between accounts. Basically, the phone is just access to an account number, and the transaction occurs remotely (like a using/recharging a metro card). This has the rather nifty side-effect of making smartphones a sort of currency, provided one could access the phone's contents.

Wasteland scavengers might have a cheapo smartphone to deposit money from selling scrap, and to use when buying services. And predatory types might return to the DMC with a handful of smartphones to hack and consolidate.

I think that would make for some interesting mechanics to try (including offering another use for hacking and/or electronics).

So I think that's where I'll start tomorrow morning. I'll still need to solve the actual transaction part, and might need to overhaul the junk market transaction method. But for now, I need to switch off my brain. Too much reading about future currencies :)


Scavenger's picture

First thing, I am really happy for the diner. I hope that once food nutrition values will be balanced, it will still be fun and practical alternative to stuffing oneself with a dozen of cakes.

I am not sure about paying though. Lot of raiders, bandits and generally people living outside of the walled-off DMC center are give impression of rather crude hobos, what's with the mismatched, often damaged clothes, single shoe on the foor, scavening through the ruins with some rusty crowbar in the hand and so on. I actually like the impression they give though, but giving them smartphones though would kinda distort it. Not to mention that it's usually easier to hack a computer (smartphone) when OS is already there and just needs some application/workaround for some functions than to change the card user cannot interact with directly without specific tools. On the other hand, regular DMC citizen could understandably have some something like that for the sake of convenience.

Maybe there could be separation of credits for DMC and general flea market/wasteland 'plebeian' funds? And even if not, in case of DMC, the bracelet allowing entrance into DMC proper could also store account's balance and other data about the user, being sort of electronic wallet with all content regular wallet could have.

dcfedor's picture

You make a good point. Finding a smartphone on a looter with hardly any clothes to his name would seem weird. On the other hand, someone trying to make a living scavenging items near the DMC will probably want a way to get paid for his junk.

I think it's probably better for me to wait a while before tackling currency. There are still questions like yours to solve, and I realized that this would probably delay new content unnecessarily. In fact, I had an idea this morning that allows me to continue using the existing money as-is, and allow players to pay for things in encounters.

So I can add the content without having to decide on and build new currency ideas.

Thanks for the input!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

tuges's picture

With regards to money, I can see the phones/cards working, with the card being the actual data and the phone as the medium.

Thus, it can also be something of a way to determine value: in places like Junktown, it might be people trading for the card itself as well as the value of the account, while in the inner circles of the city, it's transactions through the cards that really determine their use. I don't think everyone would have a phone or tablet, but anyone that does could keep a tally of what they have on their cards and even make finance transfers from one card to another. This mysterious inability to put value to the card until you have it "plugged in" could add to it being more of a gamble as a result.

For purposes of gameplay purposes, you could also make exceptions to this by saying that certain "upper level" people within the city also have security measures to prevent would-be thieves with sticky fingers from getting their earnings. This could potentially put the Hacking skill into good use as well in the process.

As always, these are just ideas.

dcfedor's picture

I was thinking that the phone/card would be just an ID key, and the data/account would reside in "the cloud." Basically, the bank still has your money, and conducts the transaction between your account and others/merchants, but you initiate those transactions by using your card or phone.

The card or phone doesn't have any dollar value stored on it, it's just an account number. Like a metrocard or debit card. It's a piece of plastic with an account number in the magnetic stripe or chip. In order to use the card, it has to be swiped at a terminal (to see the balance, or to initiate a transfer).

Some smartphones could initiate a transaction, which is just phone A saying to the cloud that it wants to give X dollars from it's account to phone B's account. The bank still does the transaction, and the accounts are adjusted.

Storing the dollars on the card or phone would be pretty insecure, since, as you point out, hackers would be constantly trying to change that dollar amount offline.

There's also the idea of "BitCoin." It still works a lot like the above in practice, except there's no bank. A peer-to-peer network controls the currency, and everyone sees every transaction, so they can be cross-validated. I think the DMC would probably still have traditional banks, given its history. But the sprawl and other communities might use bitcoins as a side currency, if they had decent access to electricity and network.

The trouble with either of the above approaches is what happens when there's no network coverage. No transactions can be verified nor recorded without a network in either case, unless there's some sort of bearer instrument (e.g. cash, bonds, notes, gold bars, etc.). In the case of BitCoins and debit cards, you could argue that whomever has the card, has the money. They'd just have to defeat any security measures like PIN codes or passwords, and then they could get the money whenever they enter a service area.

Out in the wilderness, one would basically be left to wonder whether the card or phone they found has an account worth anything or not. And they'd need hacking (and possibly electronics) to do anything about it. I could see looters hoarding such cards and phones as they find them, with the intent of selling them to the black market to be hacked. Fences might buy an unknown card for a flat fee, betting that one in a dozen might actually pay off in the long run. Or, they may pay the finder the account balance minus a generous cut for the hacking service. Though many finders might prefer to get the flat rate, in case the account is empty (or unhackable).

Of course, none of this explains why people with networked currency cards are wandering the wilderness. Looters, maybe, since they probably want to buy things in or near the DMC between looting trips, and their main fences are probably sprawl junk marketeers.

However, when a bandit party is gambling on dice around a campfire, they're not going to use debit cards nor smartphones. No transactions would be official until they reached a service area, so it would be too easy to cheat. There needs to be something else out there. Maybe just barter, or some sort of enclave scrip.

I'll have to sort it out eventually, but for now, I can just keep using the "money" stat until the right solution comes along :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Banjo's picture

I think the original Fallout's "like for like" trade system is one of the simplest yet best PA shopping systems, personally.

While I'm much more interested/"into" the scavenging and bartering aspect, of the suggestions here I like the "card" option the best. I definitely think MOST folks - especially outside the DMC - would use bartering (I'd rather win bullets or beans in a campfire cardgame than some theoretical wealth only spendable in the DMC) but I like the idea of a dystopian DMC hierarchy trying to impose "currency" on the people so as to become even more dependent on them... and the "we keep the money, you have 'access' via a card or chip" fits with that for me.

Even in a "total collapse" PA world (Mad Max, Waterworld, etc.) I imagine that major settlements/authorities would have some form of currency they "back" (be it bottlecaps, semi-precious metal, their own crude coins or whatever); nobody wants to collect their paycheque in several pounds of canned food and ammo when there's a store down the street!

The DMC, seeming more advanced, would probably have something cyberpunky and electronic and easy-to-control. Mess with the authorities or "big boys" of the DMC? They can just cancel your card and you're just another hobo again. That's why I like the idea of an "actual bank" somewhere... those are the bastards who'd stand to gain most from a return to currency rather than trade.

Making personal DMC "bank cards" tied to their user completely (implanted chips, even!) would stop "theft" if you wanted to, otherwise I think requiring the Hacking skill would be best to give it a valuable use.

Regardless, I think currency should be kept for the DMC and barter for outside, personally; not just for realism but because it would add to the "haves and have nots" feel.

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