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Currency in post-apoc / zombie world?

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Hi

Im doing a 2D-rpg along the lines of fallout 3. I want there to be "money" so the player can visit shops and buy/sell loot. Or get money as reward.

 

How would this work in the world? I have two possible scenarios:

 

1. Zombie apocalypse. But longer time has passed since the outbreak (compared to for example "the walking dead" where "the fall" is rather recent). Settlements exists with their own economy.

 

2. An evil force/government has taken over and enslaved mankind. They also have evil robots! You play as part of the resistance in the wasteland and attack "goverment bases" etc.

 

In those two potential scenarios, how would money work? I dont want a barter system only, i want money/coin/gold as well. But in scenario no 2, wouldnt it be everyone vs the evil government? Would you charge people for ammo/medkits? Maybe there would be traders that are not loyal with "the evil" or "the resistance"?

 

Use "pre-disaster money" or gold nuggets? Or some gimmick like "caps" (fallout). Right now i use "coins" but thats rather strange:)

 

Your input?

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If the scenario is of survival then rare or pretty things dont have the value of more normal times.  Objects which facilitate survival become trade goods (currency is usually ONE thing that is a near universal media of exchange).

 

So things like guns, matches, bullets, medicines, food packs, socks/boots are things that get exchanged for OTHER survival goods (and unfortunately most are consumables).

 

So in that knid of situation having some standard exchange value for barter goods like that might be the closest  -- and if things are still very unstable then a shortage of one thing makes it of greater value hampering your game having a 'simple' system.

 

On stupid thing Ive seen in a few games was incidental loot taken from the countless enemies you slaughter, but in the Real World their guns would have been the biggest value.  But then unrealistic slaughterfest game would have you so rich in no time the whole looting thing (outside of collecting ammo for use rather than trade) would be pointless.

Edited by wodinoneeye

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Ammunition would be a pretty good currency.

 

It's small, countable, every discrete unit ( = coin) has the same value, it's reasonably safe against counterfeiting, and it even serves a practical purpose. Since your life may literally depend on presence of ammunition, everybody will be willing to accept it as currency, too.

Also, it's initially abundant, but becomes rare and rarer with nobody producing more ammunition (post-apocalypse), which counters inflation of the currency.

 

EDIT:

Turns out Forbes Magazine stole my idea!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2013/04/09/the-bullet-bubble-is-ammo-the-next-bitcoin-or-gold-in-the-1970s/

 

And it looks like in New York, Nebraska, and Kentucky they are actually doing it!

http://www.vocativ.com/money/industry/gun-ammo-new-cash/

Edited by samoth

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it's reasonably safe against counterfeiting

 

Apart from those who can make their own bullets and reuse parts of fired shells.

 

Something impossible to produce after an apocalypse which is extremely useful would have serious value. Thinking small and portable how about watch batteries? 

 

They're already coin sized and shaped and could hold practical value powering small computing devices depending on your setting. The main reason I chose them though is that they will be very limited in supply and testable with a watch or such, and not at all counterfeit-able.

 

Thoughts?

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People making their own ammo is not a problem for the currency. If you own a mine dig gold nuggets, your gold is as good as any other gold (apart from, maybe, purity). But the mere fact that you produced it doesn't mean it has no value (or that the value of other gold nuggets is reduced... unless you produce a thousand tons).

 

Of course someone might make fake ammo out of empty shells and homemade (molten and remolded) bullets. But it would still take one (non-burned) detonator cap per round, and as long as the ammunition fires, it is as good as any other ammo.

 

It would be trivial to verify whether someone is trying to cheat on you in any substantial trade, too (by giving you e.g. recycled bullets in empty shells). If you can't tell by the weight alone, reach into the bag, take out one round, and fire it. If it doesn't fire, it isn't valid.

A round might -- rarely -- malfunction even if you are not being cheated, so to be sure reach in again. If the next round doesn't fire either, you can be very confident that you are being cheated.

 

One might be able to smuggle one or two counterfeit rounds into a bag of 100 during a trade, but any substantial scam would have a significant risk of being detected. And you sure don't want to be caught cheating on someone living in a post-apocalypse world who owns both a gun and ammunition. laugh.png

 

Now, how do you tell how much charge is left in a wristwatch battery? That isn't nearly as easy.

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First, you need to think long a hard about what money IS, and why it exists. It IS barter, but abstracted (you're still exchanging work for work, except the result of this work is not chicken and eggs, it's $ vs $, and their values are not predetermined by fertility).

Money is based on shortage of food (more or less) and evolved from there. There's a lot more to it, but bear in mind that money came to life as a form of debt-collection and means to acquire commodity: ideally everyone gets to eat, but the one that can't can somehow formulate a debt to get some, and the one that has "money" can buy a chicken instead of barley.

 

In a post-apocalyptic world, it's possible that the tech level grants you access to food relatively quickly as the world recovers (moreso than in Antiquity) so you have to consider what's "rare" and "desirable".

Some pointed out energy, might also consider sanitation (anti-rad pills!). It seems you are interested in something that is not inherently useful, as it would not make sense as a currency (people would just use it if it's that critical, or hold it so that its value increases*).

 

Money's value should be finite, unlike the goods it is used to acquire.

Coins might no longer serve as currency because they have more value (assuming minerals are scarce), but paper money? What's wrong with it?

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but paper money? What's wrong with it?
Actually the fact that is has no value beside what is printed on it is what's wrong with it :) The game setting is not that different from "current" totalitarian countries. In such setting official money usually has no value, mostly because government may and will just print more if needed. People are forced to use other forms of currency to get necessary goods from others. You actually need something that is relatively small, countable and desirable. The fact that it can be created doesn't change anything as there may be some risk creating it (ammo can blow up killing the maker, anti-rad pills production may be for some reason unhealthy or just so obvious that government forces can easily spot you.

 

The fact that you can just use the pills or wait for their value to go up doesn't mean it is bad currency. Just the opposite! It is valuable because it can save someone's life.

 

To add another possible currency to this thread I would say alcohol. It is desired, easy to "validate" and countable. It can be made (by player or someone else), but making it is risky and relatively easy to spot so dangerous. You also can't make a lot of it in short time.

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To add another possible currency to this thread I would say alcohol. It is desired, easy to "validate" and countable. It can be made (by player or someone else), but making it is risky and relatively easy to spot so dangerous. You also can't make a lot of it in short time.

 

I like this idea.

 

I feel the objective with currency should be to choose something that is disassociated from every other object in the game. That's why I'm not a big fan of Metro's currency, it's weird to have 'money' that's also often consumed in game through other actions besides buying things. It creates a weird economy.

 

To this end I usually lean one of two ways. 

 

1) Just pick something random (ie. Bottle Caps)

2) Go with a present day object

 

Regarding option 2, I'd say something along the lines of batteries or alcohol. Something that would be rare during the apocolypse, not easily created, but still has some actual value to people in a survival situation. 

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That's why I'm not a big fan of Metro's currency, it's weird to have 'money' that's also often consumed in game through other actions besides buying things. It creates a weird economy.

 

... as opposed to having money you spend on bullets which are then consumed in game?

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That's why I'm not a big fan of Metro's currency, it's weird to have 'money' that's also often consumed in game through other actions besides buying things. It creates a weird economy.

 

... as opposed to having money you spend on bullets which are then consumed in game?

 

 

Yes. Money that I can spend on bullets or other gear or whatever. Money that is, as money should be, an abstract concept of value. 

 

Creating a currency that also has a primary function in the game's combat feels bad to me. You essentially force the player to bankrupt themselves in order to stay alive. You end up creating moments when the player regrets doing the ONE THING you've created the game for them to do, kill things. Shooting your gun is negatively reinforced by directly costing the player money. In other games if I get a crap load of ammo I can go nuts with it, go rambo, fuck things up without so much as an inkling of a strategy and just enjoy the mechanics of the weapon. Knowing that even after I waste some ammo it's not going to stop me from using my other money and that my other weapons have enough ammo to sort me out for the foresee-able future.

 

The concession I'll make is that if your goal is to make the person into a serious gear-miser and constantly worry about their inventory, then I'd take the Metro method. However I still think there are better ways to do this. 

 

Lastly though, if you stick with the Metro method, you box yourself in economy-wise. I can't see a way of having an actual dynamic economy when the player can dump half a town's GDP into a wall inside of a minute. Additionally, you'll run into complications regarding ammo drops around conflict areas and boss room balancing. There's a lot you could do to solve for those issues, but doesn't seem worth it to me.

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I have to agree with Eaglerufio, I also don't like the ammo IS money option. It just doesnt feel nice for me as a  player.

I also hated the barter system of Path of Exile. It made it impossible to quickly know the value of different loot and clogged the inventory.

 

I might go with small batteries, or gold nuggets, or whatever.

If i go with a world with a brutal government which controls cities and rebels hiding in the wilderness, things like batteries will still be produced (since there are evil robots and hitech weapons) however so it might not work as currency.

 

But the thread was more about how the world would work around having money AT ALL. Not what thing is used to represent it.

If its ALL humans VS some evil force i think it would be strange. Everyone would just help in the way they could. But if lines are blurred, some are "neutral" to the two sides you will maybe have a more or less standarized currency.

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I think you are looking for something that is not consumable so that the money is just money and can only be used to buy things and not eaten or shot etc..

So

Scenario 1.  You already said their are settlements with their own economy.  I don't think they'd use paper money as each settlement would potentially have a separate currency.  Probably precious metals or gem stones would be a good candidate and also redilly available as the population would be smaller so things like jewellery, silverware, old catalytic converters would be much more abundant per person.   Or you could go the wacky route and have something like fallouts bottle caps.  I think in the case of a Zombie apocalypse then something like dried zombie fingers would work.

 

Scenario 2.  This one is much simpler.  The evil corporation would most likely have some kind of currency system (paper money, credit chips, coins).  Even if you are the resistance you would still need to use the global currency to buy things.

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In the event of a zombie apocalypse, the survival of paper money seems highly unlikely. The coins that supplement the paper money, though, seems a lot more durable. Coins like pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters are common in North America, and would still be common enough to exist after your average apocalypse, even if there's no continuing production.

 

Additionally, it's a "new" currency system, so you're not necessarily bound to 1 nickel = 5 pennies, etc. Different coins could have higher value in certain settlements (Clan A really likes dimes, so it'll take 8 dimes to buy bread instead of 10 nickels), or certain settlements could each have their own "currency" (settlement B accepts only pennies, settlement C accepts only quarters).

 

If you set it in Canada, you have two more coins to work with! :D ( 1$ loonies and 2$ toonies)

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In all honesty a system of currency implies civilisation and possibly government. The first money systems appeared with the first big civilisations and monarchies/governments/republics such as ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. 

 

Without a central mint to produce currency and a government to regulate it and ensure it maintains value and has a CONSISTENT value across geographic distance it would cease to have any relevance.What would be the point if you had to pay $30 for ammo in town A when town B sold it for half the price just 10 miles away?

 

Any realistic game should probably only use a barter system, but this is hard to do well and gameplay should be more important than realism IMHO.

Edited by braindigitalis

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I think it can be fun to have no official currency and having to find out what each NPC values without  saying too much about yourself (which can call an ambush).

 

If universal currency is prefered then I would say some long lasting food (beans, dried lizards etc.) and gasoline which represents mobility, heat source or can be a weapon... 

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If you're going for realism, then barter would be a strong component, even alongside a more traditional currency.

 

In general, things that work as money have a couple properties -- namely, that they either have intrinsic value, or they are difficult to forge -- or both; They also need to be practical for using in denominations typical of common goods. Intrinsic value is all about supply and demand -- a very useful practical good in short supply has more worth, especially if its a durable good. I recall reading an article once, about a war-torn city cut off from supplies for months that descended into a very post-apocalyptic scenario -- BIC lighters were very valuable, as were razor blades and sewing needles. To the extent that it was possible under very unsafe conditions, cottage industries sprung up for refilling disposable lighters, mending clothes, etc. Gold, Jewels, and other finery were of little use or value.

 

I think if society had made it to the point of starting to re-establishing itself, you'd see a variety of competing traditional currencies specific to geographies, both new and old. I think you'd see communities based almost exclusively on barter, I think you'd see some where the currency was backed by time rather than tangible goods. I think you'd see groups of communites band together under common currencies, sort of like the EU/Euro, with all the benefits and drawbacks. I think you'd see very harsh penalties for theft and forgery.

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In all honesty a system of currency implies civilisation and possibly government. The first money systems appeared with the first big civilisations and monarchies/governments/republics such as ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. 

 

Without a central mint to produce currency and a government to regulate it and ensure it maintains value and has a CONSISTENT value across geographic distance it would cease to have any relevance.What would be the point if you had to pay $30 for ammo in town A when town B sold it for half the price just 10 miles away?

 

Any realistic game should probably only use a barter system, but this is hard to do well and gameplay should be more important than realism IMHO.

 

In theory, arbitrage should smooth out gradients. If neighboring towns end up with ammo prices diverging too much, somebody would eventually buy the ammo in A and sell it in B. Now, if town C is 50 miles through the mountains, it could maintain a very high cost of ammo. This could even be a source of gameplay for the players, suffering risks in return for profit.

 

I agree that money developed in relatively sophisticated circumstances, but it's not clear whether that's a necessity to maintain a currency system once one exists. I suspect people who had been part of a stable civilization would miss the usefulness of fungible money and be eager to recreate it if possible.

 

Partially it's a trust issue: do you think someone else will take this currency for what you really want? If the issue is a zombie breakdown or whatever, the basic fabric of trust that weaves a society together isn't necessarily torn to bits. If everyone standardizes on "zombie fingers are money" and "around here, approximately 10 zombie hands to the gallon of gas", then that could be enough to keep a monetary system going.

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Partially it's a trust issue: do you think someone else will take this currency for what you really want?

 

The liberty dollar is a good example of this. It is not a legally recognised currency and each liberty dollar has no defined value, it is backed only by the precious metals used in its construction. [s]People use them to pay for services in the US and come to gentleman's agreements on which services are worth what amounts and of liberty dollars. This is actually perfectly legal in the US too so long as you don't try to pass off a liberty dollar as an actual US dollar.[/s]

 

Interesting stuff... 

 

Edit: seems my information on this is [url=https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Dollar]out of date[/url].

The US government found a way in law to claim it was illegal and in competition with the real currency. hence it was made a federal crime to use it. Still, as an example of trust issues in new currencies as you might encounter in a post apocalyptic setting it serves as a good example. On an unrelated note I wonder how bitcoin etc get around this...

Edited by braindigitalis

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Any realistic game should probably only use a barter system, but this is hard to do well and gameplay should be more important than realism IMHO.

 

In any barter system there usually ends up being one commodity that is in demand so much that it becomes the default currency.  Historically it has been things like cows, camels, rice, salt etc..
The barter system would certainly happen but in the OPs example society has already started to kickstart itself again so I can imagine that some unit of currency would already be the de-facto item that is used to barter with.  I think Revynes example of razor blades and Bic lighters is a more modern example of commodities that could be in demand as the new currency.  However his example seems more like a survival situation rather than something long term.



 

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Im leaning towards two currencies, some kind of official money used by the cities/evil company, named something like royal mark/chip. Most likely metal or plastic coins.

 

In the wastes another currency (but the currencies may be traded with eachother maybe). Maybe gems. Mineable in the desert and has traditional value. VERY hard to forge. A more or less standarized size of ANY gem will count as value 1. Larger gemstone are broken down into stones of value 1. Not entierly realistic maybe but may work nicely gameplay-wise.

 

Feedback?

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In the event of a zombie apocalypse, the survival of paper money seems highly unlikely. The coins that supplement the paper money, though, seems a lot more durable. Coins like pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters are common in North America, and would still be common enough to exist after your average apocalypse, even if there's no continuing production.
Also, coins can be used as anti-tyrant ammo as seen in cinema: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1RxCl9EB5g

 

Though in a more realistic setting, I would be concerned losing a hand or two getting a result like this out of coin ammo:

 

pc4-kb2.jpg

 

 

 

The thing why I don't believe coins would be too successful is that they have no real value. They are of course much better than paper money, which merely has the value of toilet paper (any other value that it has is purely based on a promise made by your government, which already isn't worth a lot now but surely is worth nothing in a zombie apocalypse).

 

You can eat tuna cans, but you can't eat (well, you sure can swallow, but to no avail) nickels or dimes. The rare metal in them is not really all that rare, so there is not much of an incentive hoarding them for "better times" when society has been rebuilt, 10 or 20 years later. Other than for example gold, they'll be pretty worthless. But even gold quickly loses its value when there is nothing to eat around. In order to carry a noticeable amount of money, you would have to carry dozens of kilograms worth of pennies.

 

Now, canned tuna, or ammunition, or even clean bottled water is not particularly valuable either -- to us. But they all have a huge situational value when there is nothing to eat, only reeking water, and lots of zombies that want to kill you. Nobody will trade a pair of shoes for 20 kilograms of coins when the winter is nigh. But he might as well risk cold feet for six bottles of water or two dozen rounds of ammo.

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I think in the case of a Zombie apocalypse then something like dried zombie fingers would work.

 

I like this one, small societies could start accepting them, because if they do they would be rewarding people for killing zombies(and taking their fingers) giving the society some kind of safety.

off course, a society creating any kind of currency without intrinsic value(anything that is not consumable) would need some kind of internal functioning economy making enough profit to pay for these fingers, and it would take a while before the currency wouldn't be so dependent on certain (official) backers.

Paper money has followed the same route, in the beginning it was backed by a promise of gold but after a while that would no longer be as necessary.

(UK still prints this promise on it's currency but no longer holds the promise)

 

Another idea is some kind of bitcoins, a post-apocalyptic world would not necessarily have lost it's satelites, and only the traders would need the hardware to access the bitcoin-network. Off course it would kill the trade between non-traders/players.

 

Some things to think about:

Do you want the value of goods/currency be "set" in advance of creating the game-world, or do you want an open economy where supply and demand dictate their values ?
Do you want goods to be created or maybe even be in unlimited supply by (NPC-)traders ?

Do you want currency to be created or maybe even be in unlimited supply by (NPC-)traders ?
Or would you prefer the game world to always hold 100(or whatever) units of currency per (active)player ?

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You are thinking WAY to realisticly about this decision:) The game is more along the lines of diablo...

Gameplay-wise and how the world works is more important than what money actually is and how it would work in real life.

 

Good questions powerneg!

 

1. Value of money and almost all items will be fixed. Maybe some vital trade goods like medicin can be supply/demand but i dont want the game to turn into a trading and transport game.

2. NPC-traders will work like in diablo. They spawn some items. These are refilled/replaced over time.

3. NPC-traders have limited money. So you may not be able to sell all your loot at the same place. However, if you buy from a trader, that "cash" is added to the traders cash.

4. No word-wide limits on currency. Not needed for my game and hard to balance. Also, its single-player

Edited by suliman

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Since this doesn't appear to be a realistic simulation of a post-apocalyptic world, I think trying to be super-realistic isn't necessarily desirable. You must first ask yourself how this currency fits within your game. What is its purpose and what characteristics must it have to achieve this purpose?

From the game's description, my guess would be that the currency must make buying and selling things easy, and that ideally it should add personality to the game (i.e. it says something about the world and the people who inhabit it). Nobody's looking for a realistic simulation of economics -- in the real medieval world, almost nobody had actual gold coins, much less monsters in the middle of the woods, yet nobody cares when that happens in Diablo.

The caps in Fallout do that very well, and so may the zombie fingers mentioned above. Off the top of my head, here are a few more ideas:
  • pre-apocalypse credit cards (the cards themselves, not the value on them)
  • can tabs (the pull-tabs to open soda cans)
  • batteries (of various sizes)
  • ammo shells
  • playing cards

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