Thursday, April 21, 2016

Merchant Skill decoupled in GURPS

Merchant Skill is calibrated for Combat focused game and has been built in too many capabilities that should be delegated to other skills. I would say that the Merchant skill is actually a Profession (Merchant) skill. I would like to talk to the GMs if I'm the player about the abuse of this skill.

Often Skills are supposed to have a form of Niche Protection. That's why skills like Psychology, Merchant, and Survival kinda run into some problems because they do a lot of what other skills can do - not just by their default options but by the wording and real world meaning of the skill. This also creates a problem in talents, which is my favorite munchkin move. I get one of these skills as my talent and I can default to them easily.

Typically its reasonable to get a 6 skill talent at +4 for 20 points. It would be a simple optimisation move to try to get two of these skills in the talent. A Nordic Viking would possibly Merchant and Survival with 4 other skills. A Merchant can easily justify Merchant and Psychology in the talent.

Negotiating and Bargaining (Fast Talk, Diplomacy).
Hard bargaining is a Fast Talk skill, Soft Selling practise is the Diplomacy Skill. Its easier to leave all the social strategies to the Social Skills. Courtesy aka Savoir-Faire would be defaulted to the "Profession" skill. Other Hard bargaining skills is Intimidation, Creative Bargaining leans more to Interrogation (since its the inquiry skill in gurps). See seth freeman on the Art of Negotiating a better deal. 

Industry Knowledge (Professional skill) helps in bargaining if there is antagonistic or predatory pricing. It also helps in narrowing the scope of the product or service to be the minimum of  what the PC needs.

Value and Industry Knowledge  (Housekeeping, Expertise, Profession, or Production Skill)
Note that Soldier is a Profession skill and should provide the character with such a skill knowledge of how much products soldiers tend to buy. Merchant being a "retailer" tends to know the most prices around, but they will always be limited to an Industry. 

Accounting (Writing or Research)
Accounting is an activity that can be traced back to the first Empires (See History of accounting). This is really just the skill of note taking a lot of quantities and tracking the many transactions. With that in mind maybe Writing or Research would be more appropriate with a Optional Speciality (B169).

Obviously accounting requires literacy (B24) and numeracy (see innumerate B140). While the accounting skill is a Hard skill, there are a lot of reasonable tasks in accounting that is not that difficult. I would recommend accounting skill^2 words per minute of researching with the accounting skill. Using writing or research would be at (skill-4)^2 while in the absence of writing or research the default (IQ-6)^2.

Operations, Bureaucracy and Organization (Administration, Leadership, or Profession)
Use Administration for levels of bureaucracy in operations of greater than 2 levels (10-15 elements or a team of teams under the leader) otherwise the Particular Profession skill is sufficient. Every level beyond 2 levels is a magnitude of difficulty wielding an organization by -2. Raise the penalty when there is limited literacy in the group.

See rule of 3 and 10 (this rule of thumb makes organizational sizes at 3^X where X is the level of organization. An organization that is 3^3 is a platoon sized organization up to the level it is 3^4; use this as determining the challenge in Administration and it has some factors in leadership. Will be covered in another topic)

Leadership is managing team members. Lubricating teamwork through various leadership styles (influenced by the other skills the leader has).

Economics. Use TL penalties (B168) for the concepts  and practices one is trying to use. For GMs wondering how to use this skill in a game this helps in Navigating the Tides and Winds of trade and economics. This allows the PCs to find what opportunities exist, supply chains, and the streams of commerce and how these all interconnect.
This in knowledge of other businesses, margins (profit), seasons, and more importantly the Opportunities or Threats to their business.

Marketing (Propaganda and Politics)
This is an out of place default skill and should not overlap with Merchant. A merchant may have the network to use these skills but executing it would be Propaganda and Politics. (Then there is the complicated decoupling and re-assessing how these skills are used and their niche protection for another time). Just having a network to attempt to spread misinformation or information is a good start.

Some basic leadership
"Practical Leadership" as defined in Michael Roberto is simply leading because you happen to know what you're doing. This is a very easy kind of leadership where others are given roles or assisted in their roles. This allows a person to lead small group of 2-6 other people but with a -1 penalty after the first person to coordinate in tests of leadership.

I will tackle leadership in games in general and how it can be applied to gurps in another post.

Job Rolls. 
My job rolls have changed to be more annual or seasonal (quarterly). Its so much easier to deal with things annually since many operations try to make enough money to survive the year in years of operations.
  • Job Rolls is 3d against 10. 
  • +1 if the key professional has an average of level-13 in 6 key skills. -1 if the average of the 6 key skills are below 10. 
  • The TDM is the Economic Cycle. Times of War, Famine, Recession, etc.. are at -2 to -6 and Stability, Peace, New Markets, Growth is at +2 to +6.

I would like to tackle Psychology, Survival, Administration and Leaderships in the future so that the challenges regarding the skills reflect the mastery of its techniques in my studies while leaving the decision making to the controlling Player.

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