Wednesday, January 18, 2012

[GURPS] Hazards of Lower Status (or being too Cheap)

In case you've ever wondered if it is worthwhile to save some extra cash and live below a certain status. This is mainly a reminder when players game the systems, which they should, to see if there is any consequences to choosing the cheapest options in all things (not the most cost effective options).

It begins with where you live.

Status is not just appearance, or an aesthetic. One of the most keenly felt aspects of status is where you live. In Low-Tech and High-Tech settings this means Sanitation, Protection from Polution, Public Transportation, Crime rate of the area, access to Heal-care facilities and expertise, and general access to various skilled services and resources.

The worse off you are, the worse lot you get. This translates to all the hazard poorer people suffer: disease, food poisoning or poor nutrition, ailments due to pollutions and toxic hazards in their living conditions, and criminal elements: parasites or overlords, are a RISK in a lower status environment. 

Being a RISK it has some circumstantial and random factors, more often (and like all risks over the long run) a character suffers its burden. You may be saving some money, being in a cheap and high crime rate neighborhood but your gambling that saving and more, potentially spending more or getting in way over your head.

GMs have the opportunity to screw the players through crime, disease saves, being constantly probed for weakness in their security, and being pawned scamy products or resources. Because this is the poorer section of town, shops have a higher overhead because of security or the criminal overlord taking a huge cut. The players have some serious risks of spending more.

Opportunities, Access and Education.

In the modern or High Tech settings, the first big problem you encounter being poor (and a lower income) is having less diposable income for education, training, certifications and tools. A higher status person in the modern era, has more disposable income or privilages for all these personal enhancement opportunities. If your poor, struggling to meet basic needs and maintain relationships, then you don't have these things.

Before you meta-game and decide that the character will maintain optimal social mobility and invest highly in education, training and access (in Low-Tech this can be apprenticeships, guilde access, or paying the high price that goes to having a much greater amount of knowledge) there are trade-offs and characters begin certain economic limits.

A character that came from a certain status and background, has opportunities, typical of that status and background (a matter of a social dominant strategy). When that character makes trade-offs to climb higher, he has to take much more risk and work than almost everyone in their status. The lower the status, the more painful and severe the consequences of failure (again reference to the matter above).

Access to Special Resources and Credit with Peers.

The better off one's peers are, the better the resources one has at his/her disposal when they tap their social connections. I left off to dealing with this last because sometimes this is the most ignored because this is sometimes the hardest for the GM to enforce. Typically a GM has to have a “thesis” of how society works in their setting or subscribes to that of a setting with a developed set of social norms. There is a balancing act the GM has to perform accommodating a varied group of characters, and when players all choose to ignore this aspect of society.

Ideally, if players and the game chooses to ignore this element of the setting, it is ignored at the consequences of the opportunities lost. Certain status has access to various resources: the healthcare, experts, the best toys, and people who will do absurd things for them. All too often, everything is on the menu of the players when it comes to gear, magical and non-magical expertise, and man-power. I can't blame the GM, to make special lists of what to allow and what is available takes time and careful consideration of resources. Its not like there is a table that will help Gms quickly narrow these down (this would make a great spreadsheet btw; organized by degree of technological sophistication to determine what kind of community might have this and something to randomize whats available).

Financial Independence 
Greater Financial Independence happened when people didn't need the special advantages of having a family provide their basic needs. instead certain levels of urbanization and financial comfort the market can meet these needs, instead. 
  • Housing
  • Food Preparations and Optimization
  • Social Security in the form of Children or Dependents
  • Management of extra-man power in the form of Children or Dependents

  • Consider the conditions that making poor suck
  • Characters has no cash to pay for training 
  • Some resources supposed to be monopolized by the elite, shouldn't be accessible to low-status characters. 

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