On Cash Dice and PCs with different magnitudes of Resources

Hey everyone. There is something that’s been bugging me a little, and wanted to hear some opinions: How do you handle cash dice when you have PCs with very different amounts of Resources.

Let’s say we have two PCs, a Baron with B6 Resources and a Wizard with B0 (since he spent it all on spells or something). Their lifestyle maintenance Obs are 6 and 1, respectively.

Since the books suggests interpreting cash as something material, like a bag of silver: how do you handle the PCs coming across some cash? The way I see it, if the amount of silver is meaningful for the Baron, then it should be an incredible wealth to the poor wizard. On the other hand, if the coin is barely enough to help the wizard pay for a room and some food, then it must be useless to the Baron (it certainly shouldn’t help him maintain his baronial court in any way).

If the PCs are homogeneous in their Resources then I guess this shouldn’t be an issue. But I wonder how do people handle this when they have a diverse group (a noble and his retainers, for example).

The best I can think of is having the die of cash be associated with some exponent of Resources: This bag silver is worth +4D to a poor peasant, +2D to a journeyman, +1D to a merchant, and nothing to a duchess.

Or alternatively, tie it to the Ob of the test: this bag of silver is worth 4D to buy some shoes, 2D to buy a small cart, 1D for an elven tome of lore, and nothing for a cargo ship.

Do you think something like this goes against the spirit of the game? Should I be bothered by this at all?

I’m interested in knowing how other people have dealt with on their own games, if at all.

(I guess this also applies when a B1 PC helps with an Ob 7 resources test to a B6 character. “Sure, my beggar will help you raise the funds to be considered for that viscountyship”).

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I don’t have the rules to hand, but the way you describe it, there does seem to be something amiss. I’m guessing it’s the sort of thing that gets handwaived or rejected at the table.

It makes me laugh, though, imagining a large group of players trying to work the system in their favour, each of them removing a die of cash from their character sheets as they hand over their bag of pennies to the character trying to buy a yacht for them all.

Maybe you just need to be explicit about about the type of cash die when you are handing it out: a ‘bag of copper’ cash die’, a ‘bag of silver’ cash die, a ‘promissery note’ cash die, etc

As it happens, this situation came up in the last session of our current BW game.

My character (Resources B2) negotiated a good deal with a merchant to transport him and his stock downriver in my barge, resulting in 1D cash (represented by “a bag of miscellaneous coinage”).

That evening, another character (Resources B0) wanted to spend the evening in the pub, during which they’d sort out food for the group. So, my character gave them the bag of coins, giving them the 1D they needed to be able to do a resources test to stock up on victuals.

Never occurred to me to ask the GM (hi, @Mark_Watson!) whether that 1D cash could become 2D cash the moment changed hands because “rich” for me was different from “rich” for the other character.

So, while I can see an advantage for detailing what the 1D cash represents if part of the group’s story is hiding their “cash” from thieves or “laundering” dirty money, I don’t see the mechanical effect of 1D cash as being other than +1D to a Resources roll made by whoever holds/is given that die.

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It might help to view cash dice like you do advantages or FoRKs, each with its own fictional weight. Cash dice need to be more than “1D cash dice”. They need to be an in-fiction, described item.

Just like FoRKing Accounting into Ugly Truth, justifying certain forms of cash have to be viable in the fiction

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I would rationalize that 1d bag of copper coins as a tool the merchant will use more skilfully than the peasant, as the former’s more accustomed to handling cash and funds. It would seem like the merchant is doing magic with just a bag of coins, while the peasant wastes it to no use because of his economic illiteracy.
But seen from the opposite angle, that bag will be super useful for the peasant to protect him from 1d of tax, allowing him a safe roll of resources. It might not help him succeed in the roll that much, but a failure without tax looks almost like a success to me.

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The joy of not getting taxed when you’ve got low Resources cannot be overstated; to the point I sometimes wonder if it’s better to have a Resources exponent of 0 rather than 1 because you’re likely to drop to 0 anyway but an otherwise identical LP character with Resources 0 will probably have more solid kit and stuff so ironically has less need to shop.

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1D of “cash” is worth 1D to anyone, be they queen or peasant (looking at you, @DaveHiggins! ).

The big divide, as @Moravec spots, is in the Lifestyle Maintenance.

Good luck with that Baron hitting their Lifestyle Ob 6 on their 6 dice!

For our Wizard friend (Resources 0, Lifestyle 1), they can probably get away with a dice or 2 of “cash on hand” (needing only a single success).

For our Baron, even 2 dice of “cash on hand” probably still won’t be enough to pass that Lifestyle test (8 dice vs. 6 is better than 6 vs. 6, but it’s very far from guaranteed).

The advantage of being the Baron with Resources 6 is that minor things, like shoes or a night at an inn, are much easier to achieve on an ad hoc basis.

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The joy of not getting taxed when you’ve got low Resources cannot be overstated; to the point I sometimes wonder if it’s better to have a Resources exponent of 0 rather than 1 because you’re likely to drop to 0 anyway but an otherwise identical LP character with Resources 0 will probably have more solid kit and stuff so ironically has less need to shop.

I would not be so sure, @DaveHiggins.

The Consequence of Failure is where it gets “fun” for those with 0 Resources.

Ones I’ve previously used:

  • your finery goes out of fashion (and is no longer finery), as you cannot keep up with the trends
  • you are unable to maintain your armour / weapons, and they’re now poor quality.
  • you fall sick, due to being unable to look after your Health.

Other ones to consider:

  • in order to avoid the tax-collectors / leg-breakers, you have to pawn your ___.
  • you are unable to maintain contact with your Relationship, and they feel slighted.
  • your Toolkit runs out / breaks / etc.
  • a loan-shark is only too happy to “help out”
  • your enemy buys up your “I owe you’s”, and do not have your best interests in mind when they arrange for them to be “collected”.

NB: failing a roll in BW has consequences, and these tend to fit the state your character is in. If you’ve got no Resources to lose, I’ll look at other things to poke.

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All those R0 ideas seem more examples of why it’s “better” :grinning:

Losing a level of resources, while mechanically irksome, doesn’t go straight to the heart of a character—unless I suppose they have a Belief about being utterly rich. But, for example, discovering you are a season out of fashion and still seducing the Duke while he’s getting married is best in life.

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Perhaps it’s just my ignorance showing, but I can’t see any controversy here - 1D is an absolute value (albeit effectively on a pseudo-exponential scale for lifestyle, not a linear scale), not a relative value.

Like Mark said, 1D is the same value for everyone…

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First and foremost, thanks for all the replies!

Just to be clear, the issue I’m struggling with comes from trying to root the Cash in the fiction (reading some responses makes me think that I was not clear). I’ll try to delve into the example.

Let’s say our Baron wants to generate some cash, since his firstborn is going to be knighted soon, and he wants/needs to give him proper arms (might even throw a tournament on his behalf, if he can afford it!). To do so, he calls on his vassals, imposes some taxes and ends up with 2D of cash. This, as many have pointed out, is not an abstract concept. This “cash” probably takes de form of hundreds of bushels of grain, safely stored in the granary of the Baron’s keep. After all, it has to reflect what a Baron can muster from his landholders.

Now let’s say it’s a Farmer who is generating Cash. Maybe he had a good harvest this season, and thinks he can get a good price at the market for the surplus he squeezed out of his 30 acres of land. So he tries his luck, maybe even throws some Persona and a Fate point, and what do you know? He met that Ob 4 and also produced 2D cash.

That’s great, those will come in handy if he ever needs to replenish his apothecary cabinet!

But then again, he did owe the Baron from that time he did that thing, so he goes and gives him his hard earned cash.

This is what bugs me. If the 2D are an absolute value no matter what they are represented by, who uses them, or for what… then now the Baron has options to help him with his tournament organization -some taxes raised from all his vassals, or the (admittedly extraordinary) produce of one single farmer- and they are indistinguishable.

2D is +50% of B4 and +33% to B6. So relatively, the 2D are worth less to the noble.

But I think you’re also perhaps inflating the scale of Resources. B6 is nice, but it is by no means secure. With a B6, you can handle gracefully the small expenses of life, but you still must work and husband what you have.

Your B6 Baron is no better off than a successful farmer or comfortable merchant. In your fiction, the baron collects levies, vassalage and taxes. That’s perfect. This behavior is encouraged by design. You note “hundreds of bushels of grain.” This is almost certainly more than 2D of cash by any measure in Burning Wheel. So I think perhaps you might adjust your scale. A baron with access to this kind of land would likely be much wealthier than a B6.

But a baron with just three or four vassals should be able to do much better than 2D come tax time. He should be able to routinely squeeze them for a bag of silver (1 cash die each) (+3-4D!) without touching his own larders or treasuries.*

If that’s not enough, he can use the vassalage to invest in a fund—a new treasury or an account with a Hospitaler bank, perhaps. There’s some risk (since he’ll have to roll), but I think it should be clear that just from his position alone, the baron can accrue wealth and leverage his finances in a way the farmer can’t.

Resources are chunky and granular in Burning Wheel. It’s a bit counterintuitive until you realize that no one is as rich as we’d imagine. Wealth comes from owning land and having people who you can squeeze for money (ultimately under threat of violence).

*And FWIW, these lords and knights are likely squeeze their own people for the payment until it is the poorest among them who have to bear the greatest burden. Also, it’s worth noting that at some point a duke or prince or king will come calling on the baron, looking for vassalage or even a loan.

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Thanks for the answer!

I admit I didn’t really think about the scale before writing, so you are probably right. I’ll look into it in the future!

The reason I gave narrated the vassal thing as I did is that I figured that Resources was an abstraction of the means a character has for getting stuff (social connections, titles, tools, properties), and the mechanical way to handle a Baron collecting what he is owed was just rolling resources.

The thing you said about getting cash from each vassal rang a bell, went to check and I now see that you had talked about that situation in the Codex.

But if he is “easily” squeezing each vassal of 1D each, producing a total of 3 or 4 dice… am I wrong to think that the mechanic being used is not the “Generating cash” one?

I mean, the Codex talks about having 10 vassals and producing 10D of cash, so I guess that is not accomplished by an Ob 20 test.

May I ask how would you handle it? Is it that being a Baron allows going to the vassals and doing some social/legal/management tests with the intent of them giving the due tribute?

Also, if I understand correctly, each die of Cash is supposed to amount to a bag of silver, and so they can be added or split at will?

Again, thank you so much for the comments. I’m giving my first steps in GMing BW, so this all helps bringing the mechanics and the fiction together.

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Is the character a pre-existing relationship? Are they a friend? Enemy? Can you roleplay out the ask? Or will it require a test?

Or were they generated by a Circles test? Did you take the modifier so they’ll do as you ask and provide that cash money? Or do you need roll to make the ask?

It’s a bit situational!
-Luke

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In addition to @luke’s point about an extra 1D being less useful for larger rolls, I think the abstraction of a character’s Resources (their material wealth plus their influence and status) can allow for a physical bag of coins (or whatever) to be used differently by different characters.

A peddler is using those coins to actually pay their bills, carefully counting every coin, and they might or might not make ends meet.

A baron may barely acknowledge the actual cash value of the coins, but having them on-hand will help them use the extra influence and status they have in their society. Perhaps they “coincidentally” run into one of the guild masters and buy them a 1D lunch (and why no, I had not heard about the bumper crop of ghost peppers this season). Or maybe they conspicuously add 1D cash to the church collection plate (all those other poor souls together can barely muster 1D) which catches the Bishop’s eye (you know, I was just thinking of a sermon on the benefits of giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s).

The abstraction of Resources means this all normally goes on behind the scenes while the dice fall from your hand to the table, but allows for creative storytelling around what one character can do with a bag of coins that another can’t.

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