Let me start by saying that I’m a somewhat amateurish mathematician. I minored in math in college, but that was several years ago. If I make mistakes in terminology I hope you will forgive me and not be too strict with me. If I err conceptually or philosophically, please point that out because that’s what I’m mostly interested in.
Also, I guess I should say, even though I think it goes without saying, that Torchbearer is great. This is just something that I’ve been thinking about and hopefully y’all will find interesting.
Theory and Background
One of the things I found fascinating about BW was how Resources were non-linear. 10 objects that can be purchased with and Ob 1 resources test could never be traded for an object requiring an Ob 10 resources test. Obstacles existed on something closer to a logarithmic scale than a linear scale. That’s great! Not only does that work perfectly with the non-linear probabilities of increasing attributes in a dice pool mechanic, but it means we only have to work with small numbers for our stats. This is a good thing particularly because a linear scale version of the difference between Ob1 Resources and Ob10 resources would require some very very large numbers.
Then there was helping dice… no matter what your score is you get +1D? That doesn’t make sense… the difference between 1 and 2 is much smaller than the difference between 9 and 10! Some hacks to work around that were suggested in the BW forums, but for the most part it was only +1D, so who really cares.
Then TB came along… now I have concerns… The dice scheme is the same, so logarithmic (or something of a similar nature) obstacles make sense, but now we’re talking about linear helping dice that are often in the +3D and sometimes as high as +6D or more! Yikes! The difference between 1 and 7 isn’t even close to the difference between 4 and 10… unless the obstacles are linear… in which case what’s the obstacle for a noble to buy a mansion? (granted you wouldn’t necessarily do that in this game RAW, but I could see something similar coming up) Ob1000? That would be crazy…
I have a really simple solution in mind that can maintain the non-linear nature of Resources while incorporating the sweet loot of TB. It’s pretty easy to apply and the rules are very simple and straightforward:
[li]Cash and Treasure are not bonuses. They are independent resources and behave as if there were another player with their value at the table either making resource tests or offering help. e.g. A fine gold bracelet would not be +3D, it would merely be 3D, and you can use it to make a Resources test to buy something or pay for lifestyle or offer help with any of those things.
[/li][li]The use of Cash and Treasure is obviously under the control of the person who possesses them. Using Cash or Treasure counts toward advancement as if the player using it had used their own Resources.
[/li][li]Any given resource can only help resources of equal or lower value.
Let’s suppose you have a bag of Cash 1D, a bag of Cash 2D, a bit of Jewelry 3D, a really fancy gem encrusted sword 4D, and a Friend with a Resources of 1. Each of these is a separate resource but they can help each other out. For example your friend and lend you a hand and help out your 1D Cash, now you’ve got 2D. Your 2D Cash can offer help, now you’ve got 3D. You 3D jewelry can help that out, now you’ve got 4D. Your fancy sword can help that out, now you’ve got 5D.
1D+1D+2D+3D+4D = 5D vs 11D in TB RAW
That kind of math is hard!
A: Sure, if you’re working with a huge inventory. But remember that TB inventories are small! It’s a perfect fit! It’s pretty easy to think about it in terms of helping, and if you do think about it that way then you don’t have to worry about fancy logarithmic math, the math is in the system!
Okay… but I noticed something else. A 3D helping a 1D would only make it 2D. What a waste of a 3D treasure!
A: Then don’t use it that way. Just spend the 3D treasure. It’s fine! However, what if the 3D were a friend who’s helping? Then it wouldn’t be a waste at all! A friend with very high resources is able to help lots of people, from the very poor to the very rich, what a great friend to have!
But if my 1D cash can’t help my 3D jewelry, then all the 1D cash I have lying around is useless…
A: And Bill Gates should never stop to pick up a penny, what’s your point? If you’ve got so much Resources that you don’t even need that 1D for buying candles and sacks, and poles, and other cheap gear, then don’t pick it up in the dungeon. Also, keep in mind that your 1D cash is separate from yourself, which means if you have a Resources of 1 or higher you can help that cash, for a total value of 2D.
Success And Failure
This does raise the question of what happens to Cash, Treasure, and your own Resources when you succeed or fail. But I think the following solutions work pretty well.
Instead of Tax: You do get what you wanted but you lose all the cash and treasure involved and you accumulate a debt equal to the margin of failure. You can pay your debts with an equal value of additional treasure, cash, or tax to your own resources or you can skip out on the debt and face a twist.
(Optional) Bad Investments: You don’t get what you want, but you don’t lose any Cash, Treasure, or Resources either. However, it turns out your previous investments didn’t work out so great, you have debt equal to the margin of failure. You can deal with it in the ways described above.
You get what you wanted but spent all the Cash and Treasure applied to the test in the process.
(Optional) Junk: The shopkeeper or service provider gives you a piece of equipment or gear with an Ob equal to the margin of success. “You are such a good customer, I will throw in these complimentary steak knives if you purchase now!” You can keep it, try to sell it (using the normal rules) or throw it away. It’s up to the GM what you get, and it’s usually appropriate to the idiom of the salesman or organization you are trading with.
Consider allowing Haggling to be used as a resource, but only for help. It can’t be taxed, but it does absorb a tax. What this means is that if you are very skilled at Haggling you can use it to help out with large purchases. If you are relatively unskilled with haggling you can use it only to help with very small purchases.
This is a lot harsher, particularly when you have a lot of treasure. A massive pile of treasure isn’t quite as massive with this system as it would be in TB raw. For that reason you might want to make some items have a higher value.
For example, to offset this I would suggest that a bag of copper is 1D, a bag of silver is 2D, and a bag of gold is 3D, and that all of these take up space of pack 1.