Income and Expenditures

Income and Expenditures #

This subsystem covers earning, borrowing, and spending currency.

Does the Game Need This? #

Before committing to using this subsystem for your game, it’s worth examining whether or not you need to. The rules detailed here are mostly for games that really care about the back-and-forth of gaining and spending currency, being flush with cash, being broke or in debt, etc. If these don’t make sense for the game’s concept, either don’t use these mechanics or use a more “traditional” currency model.


Examples #

Valiant Horizon #

This is about heroism and adventure in a very generalized, high-level, idealistic sense. Counting out currency and being worried about adventuring expenses are not really the kinds of concerns that are appropriate to this game.

Liminal Void #

This is pretty much explicitly around balancing doing jobs with maintaining your ship, your debts, your personal health, etc. This is definitely a game that needs something like this.

Machinations of Court and Frame #

This isn’t about material concerns to the PCs so much as grand, sweeping political concerns that have material impacts on other, less privileged people. It wouldn’t be terribly appropriate here.

Forms of Currency #

Currency, here, is intended to be a loose idea. It can refer to many things:

  • Universal money
  • Company scrip
  • A particular rare material
  • Scrap metal
  • Social credit

Decide what makes the most sense for your game.

Direct and Indirect Currency #

There can also be several kinds of currency. If so, typically at least one is indirect: it has a use that gives it value, but it’s not typically used to buy things, invest, etc. directly. Rather, it’s more commonly traded for other currency.


Examples #

Liminal Void #

There are two general types of currency.

  • The indirect currency is trade goods. These are things like hydrocarbons, rare metals, bulk stocks of batteries, crates of tools, water. They’re the kind of things that stations need and workers extract or scavengers find. Usually you’d have to sell these in bulk to get anything out of them, but some stations might trade them directly. This can also include things like company scrip, which are more easily used.
  • The direct currency is credits: these are issued by one particular company and are what corporations typically use to make deals with each other. You typically get these by trading other kinds of currency for them, often at exorbitant rates. These are required to move money at meaningful levels: any worthwhile banking works on credits.

Commerce Phase #

A lot of these kinds of activities are intended to take place in a mode of play referred to as a Commerce Phase. This is a time that’s intended to wrap around a different mode, like an action scene or travelling: for example, a group negotiating for a job, then afterwards spending the earnings and determining any expenses, would be working within the same Commerce Phase.

Each character quality (Skillset, Relationship, etc) that would qualify to help with negotiations of any kind may be used once per Commerce Phase for rolls.

Negotiation Rolls #

When one character is trying to get the maximum value out of something, they roll to negotiate. This is a roll that generally doesn’t worry about the Total, but will often use multiple values.

When taking a job, the GM sets a die for the job (Low, Mid, High) based on its intended baseline value. If the job can be done more poorly but still to enough satisfaction that the employer would pay for it, set that price as the next die down. If the job has things that are worth extra credit, set that price as the next die up.

Similarly, when trying to sell something, the GM sets a die for the job based on how much the prospective buyer might want it. (Which can include “not at all”, of course.) If it’s similar enough to something they actually do want, use the next die down. If it’s a very specific thing they’re looking for or it’s exceptional quality, use the next die up.

For determining a price for services and selling goods, the characters negotiating may use character qualities to:

  • Give the roll 1 Advantage.
  • Step up one die used in the roll.

In both cases, for things at scale (like trying to perform a larger task or sell multiple things at once) multiply the die values as appropriate.

Correspondingly, when PCs are trying to buy something, the GM rolls, picking a die based on rarity, relative cost, etc. A PC can use those qualities to:

  • Give the roll 1 Disadvantage.
  • Step down one die used in the roll.

As noted above, each character quality that could be used for this can be used once per Commerce Phase. Larger purchases (such as ship equipment) can similarly be multiplied.

Examples #

Liminal Void #

A crew is trying to negotiate with a mining station who wants them to retrieve the black box from a vessel whose crew disappeared. The GM determines this is a fairly standard-pay task (and in this case, pay is in company scrip), and sets the die at Mid (with the expectation that anything else on the vessel is theirs, should they want it). They determine that the job could be done better or worse: they can find out more specifically what happened to the crew for more pay (High Die), or if the black box gets damaged or seems tampered with, they’ll get less pay (Low Die). One crew member uses a corporate background as a Skillset to roll with advantage, and the roll ends up as 2, 2, 6: the employer really wants to know what happened to the crew (is willing to pay 6 scrip for more information on that front), but isn’t terribly concerned about the black box so long as it comes back (2 scrip otherwise). If this were a bigger job where multiple vessels had been abandoned, they might offer the same 2/6 split per vessel.

After the mission, they try to sell 3 crates of ice that the mining vessel had been carrying. The station is remote enough that clean water is always at least somewhat welcome, so the GM sets the value of a crate at High Die scrip. Since that player had used their corporate background already and nobody else has anything they want to use, it can’t be used again for this Commerce Phase, so the player rolls without Advantage and gets 2, 2, 3: this station is evidently topped off and not desperate, so they’re willing to offer 3 scrip per crate.

The crew is subsequently trying to buy a mineral deep-scan sensor suite for their ship. This is a mining station, so they’re fairly common: the GM sets the die at Low Die, and rolls 4, 4, 5. (Maybe they have a lower than normal stock and are raising prices accordingly, or maybe by default they normally try to rip off itinerant traders.) The multiplier for this is 3x due to being fairly normal civilian equipment, so the cost would be 12 scrip. The crew managed to find out what happened to the crews of those mining vessels, however, and leverage that local sympathy to get a slight discount: the die is stepped down to 2, and as such they end up paying 9 scrip.

Regular Expenditures #

Expenses like maintenance, debt, and resupply are assessed one by one at the end of a Commerce Phase. As with purchases, each of these has either a die value (for variable situations) or a fixed value (for less variable situations). There may also be a starting die value no matter what.

Each roll is resolved individually and funds are subtracted in an order of the PCs’ choosing. If the total ends up being more than they can afford, that presents a hook to the GM for future consequences depending on any expenses that can’t be purchased.

Liminal Void #

At the end of their trip, their expenses are totalled. Refueling and Resupply start at Low Die no matter what if they’ve gone anywhere for the job; in this case, though refueling is Mid Die. Repairs are also Mid Die: the vessels they investigated were in an asteroid field and their ship had gotten scratched up. Payments on debt in Liminal Void, however, are set based on the amount of debt they currently have: in this case, their interest owed is 2 Credits.

The crew can use the scrip they’ve earned for repairs because of their remote location, and convert some of it to Credits through the same purchase methods as above, leaving them with 10 scrip and 2 Credits. They decide to prioritize debt, then repairs, then refueling, then resupply: the set 2 Credits from debt are deducted first, then they roll for the rest. The repair roll for Mid Die is 3, 4, 4, costing them 4 scrip and leaving them with 6. The refuel roll is 5, 5, 6, leaving them with 1 scrip: maybe they had a fuel leak, or fuel is expensive here because the remote mining station knows what they have and charge accordingly. The resupply roll, unfortunately, is 2, 3, 5: they’re 1 scrip short, which means that there might be some lean days ahead if they get stranded…

Debt and Risk #

Depending on your currency, it may make sense for characters to be able to be in Debt. This is usually a consistent expenditure based on how much Debt it is, but could also be represented by a die (Low, Mid, High as normal). You can pay down debt by paying down the amount you’ve received: consistent expenditures represent things like minimum amount to pay back interest rather than paying down the principal.

However, if the situation is slightly different or the currency is less monetary in nature, Debt may not make any sense. In this case, Risk is probably a better fit. What this entails is that PCs are using more currency than they should be by removing currency intended for something else. Much like Debt, Risk has a numerical level: whenever the deprived quality is stressed, the GM decides a die (High for low stress, Mid, Low for high stress) based on how much stress it’s under, then the PC rolls against their current Risk. If the die value is lower than or equal to Risk, some kind of consequence happens.  

Examples #

Liminal Void #

Each level of Debt you’re in represents 10 Credits’ worth: so someone with 3 Debt has theoretically had access to 30 Credits’ worth of expenditures. (Obviously, this usually goes straight into a big purchase, usually ship-related.)

Groups who are willing to put off ship repairs and maintenance can do so by accumulating 1 Risk for every Commerce Phase where they skip it, or 2 Risk if the expected cost is 5 or 6. This can be paid down at a rate of 5 Currency per Risk: the longer it stays unmaintained, the more it’ll be to repay.

Investment and Self-Reliance #

The counterparts to Debt and Risk are Investment and Self-Reliance.

Investment is a measure of having enough currency stored away that you always have some to mitigate small expenses. For every level of investment, when deciding on expenditures, players may step down one expenditure. Unlike normal cases, non-fixed Low Die expenditures stepped down this way become 0. (Fixed expenditures stepped down are reduced by 1 as normal.) It also might make sense to limit the amount of Investment that can happen by Tier.

You create and enhance Investments by spending an upward scaling amount of currency. Pick a number like 10-20 x the new level of investment to upgrade, scaled up or down depending on how many expenditures are expected, how much currency can be expected to be gained, and how much PCs have to spend on in general.

Self-Reliance is the corollary to Risk. Whenever something that relies on service is needed, PCs can potentially gain something that allows them to do it themselves. This can entirely remove a certain category of expenditure, usually of a certain die size or lower. Increasing the number and grade of expenditures that can be removed in this way is a good idea for higher tiers.

Examples #

Liminal Void #

Investments in Liminal Void are worth 20 Credits multiplied by the new Investment level - so 20 Credits to gain Investment 1, 40 to upgrade from 1 to 2, etc. These are a major method of getting ahead, as expenditures can be intense - more intensive missions and rarer cargo that would necessitate greater risk tend to be worth more. The kinds of things that would accept this level of investment, however, only pay dividends to parties that they have more confidence in - meaning PCs have to prove themselves first to gain a certain amount.

By default, ships can be outfitted with certain, expensive features, like a medical bay or a workshop. This can allow the automatic removal of Low Die expenditures of that kind. Refueling, resupply, and debt service are out of reach by default, but expanded access (at higher Tiers) can open up the possibility of higher-grade facilities to remove Mid and eventually High Die expenses, or high-grade engines that don’t run on fuel, and so on.