Thoughts on Wildspace economics

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Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Dalillama » Mon May 21, 2018 3:59 am

Helms, per the original material, are really expensive. Ships aren't cheap either, and the SJ universe is chock full of magic items, many of which can be purchased for a big handful of cash. But how expensive are they really? They're all over the place; broken down tramp freighters have them for crying out loud. Also, we have these major campaign worlds with basically no space presence. What's the answer? The spelljamming nations are rich. There's a whole lot of money in circulation out there, and a whole lotta trade goods to spend it on, with the upshot being that prices are really high compared to places with less economic activity happening. By the standards of Cormyr or the Flaeness, helms cost a king's ransom, enough to build a castle or two. By the standards of the Rock of Bral, Cormyr and the Flaeness are impoverished backwaters, and a beggar might have as much gold in his pocket as a Lord of Waterdeep. But it won't do him as much good, because prices are high on Bral.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Icarus » Mon May 21, 2018 2:31 pm

So, my personal take on it:
You're absolutely right about the cost of a helm. They're incredibly expensive.
If one were to convert the 250,000gp cost, just by sheer cost of gold by weight, that'd be like $75,000,000 in today's money.

75 million dollars is a lot of money … especially considering that this is a vehicle we're talking about!! That's as much as a toppest-of-top-line private Learjet! There's not a whole lot of people in the world that own that kind of private plane. And, even lower end private planes are something like owning a Minor Helm instead of owning a Major Helm.

But, the thing of it is, while those items in particular are outrageously expensive, overall, they're not that big of an impact on the economy. There's still a lot of poor people, bad exchange rates, failing commerce, businesses going belly-up, or whathaveyou.
And there's just as many successful business ventures.
While the purchase and sell of a helm (or Learjet) does have impact upon the economy in a small, localized way, I don't think that it would drive prices to be higher than relatively other aspects. It's not really any different than a nation having a Navy or Airforce. They can field a number of Spelljammers, each with it's own helm, just like the ships and planes of a modern Navy cost millions of dollars apiece.
I don't think that the Imperial Elven Royal Navy is any more or less wealthy, comparably speaking, than Waterdeep, the Free City of Greyhawk, Cormyr, or Keoland. And not every nation has a navy like the US, for example … some spacefaring nations may only have a navy like Madagascar or Ireland (which is to say almost none, at all).

So, while planetside people pay an import premium for things coming from space, I don't think that the economies are all that different, based simply on the fact that they're spacefaring. If they had to rely on getting all of their resources from a central planet or there weren't robust insterstellar trade to help normalize costs, I would entirely agree.
But, in Spelljammer, I think that the economy wouldn't be a run away bull market.
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by AuldDragon » Mon May 21, 2018 8:31 pm

Icarus wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 2:31 pm
So, my personal take on it:
You're absolutely right about the cost of a helm. They're incredibly expensive.
If one were to convert the 250,000gp cost, just by sheer cost of gold by weight, that'd be like $75,000,000 in today's money.
By that measure, average crew hired on the Rock of Bral make $86,400/year, and a poor meal on Bral costs $60 and a pair of leather boots is $1500.

Using modern gold prices is not a good measure. You might get a better evaluation assuming the cost of D&D/Spelljammer gold in modern dollars is the same as silver, or better yet, compare the average price for goods on Bral to the average price of the same goods in the medieval period, and then compare that to yearly laborer income.

A minor helm and a ship to use with it should be doable in 20-40 years by a frugal merchant, and probably a lot faster by crew willing to risk joining an adventurers' vessel.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by night_druid » Mon May 21, 2018 9:05 pm

The inherent problem with SJ is that there was very little world-building in the official line. Outside of Clusterspace, which is a closed sphere, you don't have a massive number of ports nor is there much in the way of charts that contain detailed information about trade. Most settings have at least one map somewhere that indicates local resources, and who imports/exports what. SJ...doesn't have that.

That said, my solution is that Spelljammer helms are extremely rare. Typically property of one of three groups: VERY wealthy merchants (who facilitate ground-to-space trade), powerful adventurers (typically 8th level or higher), and military fleets of some sort (and even then rare). Most ships equip out with Splendid Sails, which are much, much cheaper. They facilitate trade between small moons, asteroids, flat worlds, and such. These ships are most commonly prey to pirates, and some are pirate vessels as well.
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Dalillama » Tue May 22, 2018 3:33 am

The thing is, there have to be a lot more ports than the published material describes, because Wildspace is absolutely crawling with pirates, and they have to be preying on someone. And, since more trade ships make it through than not (otherwise people would stop sending them), there has to be a whole lot of trade going on. Also the Rock of Bral; a place like that can't exist without a bunch of larger nations whose ships come through Bralspace. Unfortunately, most of the published worlds are basically giant dungeons, there for murderhobos to come and kill stuff, which leaves the question of where all those nations are. I've solved it by removing the Vodoni but keeping their worlds, adding in a bunch of fan worlds and stuff I built myself, and putting the Radiant Triangle well off the main spacelanes; they're seen as impoverished backwaters full of ignorant hicks who have nothing spelljammers particularly want, hence why there's simply not much movement to and from them.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by AuldDragon » Tue May 22, 2018 3:45 am

The Rock of Bral accessory mentions farming asteroids owned by some of the wealthier nobles; IMO, it is clear is, and has to be, part of a belt (in my fanon) or cluster wherever it is placed, and a significant number of those asteroids have the equivalent of villages. There are also probably some other Bral-like cities in the mix, too, and overall, the whole thing needs to be dense enough for a ship without a helm to be able to get to the nearest inhabited asteroid in something like 1-3 days at tactical speed. The other cities would be comparable to Neverwinter or Luskan to Bral's Waterdeep, though, to ensure that Bral is the premier location. Those other cities probably have no more than 1000 people, and the villages would have somewhere between 50 and 200 each.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Dalillama » Tue May 22, 2018 4:42 am

Clearly it has to be part of a belt, but it also has to be part of a community of spacefaring nations. The story of how Bral came to be relies, again, on a large volume of pre-existing trade that the early inhabitants robbed and the later inhabitants took part in. Bral can't exist as a unitary space power; it needs a community of nations to be part of, or nothing about it works.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Big Mac » Tue May 22, 2018 12:51 pm

One thing to remember, if you are making a real-world comparison is a British pound used to be a sovereign (a gold coin) a British shilling used to be a silver coin and a British penny used to be a copper coin.

The ratios were not the same (there were 12 pennies to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound) but if you look at medieval prices for things, they used the same money.
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by GMWestermeyer » Tue May 22, 2018 1:59 pm

night_druid wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 9:05 pm
That said, my solution is that Spelljammer helms are extremely rare. Typically property of one of three groups: VERY wealthy merchants (who facilitate ground-to-space trade), powerful adventurers (typically 8th level or higher), and military fleets of some sort (and even then rare). Most ships equip out with Splendid Sails, which are much, much cheaper. They facilitate trade between small moons, asteroids, flat worlds, and such. These ships are most commonly prey to pirates, and some are pirate vessels as well.
Nightdruid and share the same basic solution. Also, remember the prices in the books are guideliones, they differ from place to place. And you may not find a buyer - or merely attract thieves.

Remember, money isn't real, it is merely a system we use to measure resource allocation. Helms are valuable for what they can do.

For myself, I try to use Splendid Sails and Oars more often then not (their limitations also help explain why spelljamming doesn't interact as much with groundling worlds, they are only viable in wildspace communities).

I make landing and taking off from planets dangerous.

I also make helms fairly fragile, and when they get destroyed I make it fairly spectacular (multiple wild magic surges).

Also, I assume treasure gluts the markets of most wildpsace communities. Normal gear, food, drink, clothing on Bral always cost twice what the Player's Handbook says.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by night_druid » Tue May 22, 2018 2:31 pm

Dalillama wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 3:33 am
The thing is, there have to be a lot more ports than the published material describes, because Wildspace is absolutely crawling with pirates, and they have to be preying on someone. And, since more trade ships make it through than not (otherwise people would stop sending them), there has to be a whole lot of trade going on. Also the Rock of Bral; a place like that can't exist without a bunch of larger nations whose ships come through Bralspace.
That certainly is an issue with Spelljammer. Realmspace is the worst, while Greyspace at least made an effort with Ginsel and Greela. As most sphere guides lacked adequate moons, adding some moons & minor planets would help matters. Its implied that other spheres, such as Heartspace, Pathspace, and Winterspace might have more sophisticated trade networks, but again, very little was written about said spheres.
Unfortunately, most of the published worlds are basically giant dungeons, there for murderhobos to come and kill stuff, which leaves the question of where all those nations are.
I modify some planets slightly, particularly Glyth and H'catha in Realmspace.

The illithids of Glyth can be traded with; I'm thinking they should have some trade posts on some of the moons where they are willing to trade with non-illithids. Maybe even work with non-illithid agents, while the illithids pull the strings behind the scenes. Perhaps even downplay the illithids altogether; rumors of illithid conquest of the surface were greatly exaggerated. Of course, the illithids are always there, in the shadows, using their puppets in a propaganda war to ensure the rest of Known Space that nothing is wrong on Glyth.

H'Catha is a little different. The beholders are certainly in charge, and everybody knows it. However, beholders are not exactly numerous. Nor are they even a large minority. At best, they act as noble houses at best, rival criminal cartels at worse. Each beholder operates a number of non-beholder operatives, dozens to hundreds. They're constantly at war with one another, but almost always through agents. Lots of Machiavellian politics with each beholder scheming to claim the Throne of H'Catha, but their constant scheming and backstabbing prevent anyone from gaining too much power.

In both cases, merchant ships can come and go as they please, so long as they don't hack off the local authorities. Its actually relatively safe for low-levels, so long as they don't go flashing too much money or magic and stay out of the shadows. Adventurers, of course, might get sucked into the politics of both worlds if they so choose, perhaps fighting agents of one beholder clan on behest of another beholder clan. Or assassinating illithid agents and weakening the grasp the illithids hold over Glyth.
I've solved it by removing the Vodoni but keeping their worlds, adding in a bunch of fan worlds and stuff I built myself, and putting the Radiant Triangle well off the main spacelanes; they're seen as impoverished backwaters full of ignorant hicks who have nothing spelljammers particularly want, hence why there's simply not much movement to and from them.
I like the Vodoni Empire itself, not the adventure that accompanied it. Of the spheres, only a couple are really useful (Vodoni, Vodonikaspace, and Zalanispace). And really, you could probably compress the entire Empire down to one or two spheres without really losing anything; there are so few details with each sphere that its not too hard.
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by GMWestermeyer » Tue May 22, 2018 6:04 pm

night_druid wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 2:31 pm
Dalillama wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 3:33 am
The thing is, there have to be a lot more ports than the published material describes, because Wildspace is absolutely crawling with pirates, and they have to be preying on someone. And, since more trade ships make it through than not (otherwise people would stop sending them), there has to be a whole lot of trade going on. Also the Rock of Bral; a place like that can't exist without a bunch of larger nations whose ships come through Bralspace.
That certainly is an issue with Spelljammer. Realmspace is the worst, while Greyspace at least made an effort with Ginsel and Greela. As most sphere guides lacked adequate moons, adding some moons & minor planets would help matters. Its implied that other spheres, such as Heartspace, Pathspace, and Winterspace might have more sophisticated trade networks, but again, very little was written about said spheres.
The information is there, just not obvious. And it is spread throughout many sources.

I wrote this a long time ago on Bral economics:

http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/locs/ ... omics.html

not much, i know.

I also did an article on shipping for Bral. Note how so many vessels are 'company' vessels? Remember, as a Renaissance-era technological and social setting, Spelljammer exists before nation-states, pre-Treaty of Westphalia. In other words, vessels have home ports, but only haphazardly do they have nationalities ('racial' vessels like Elves and scro being exceptions).

Also, remember this is not an encounter table, but ships docking at Bral. This is a pretty old article, I wrote it long before 2003. I've developed Bralspace a lot since then. I'll likely be redoing this someday, making more use of other stuff I've written, like the Oriental Adventures and Spelljammer Guide pdf.

http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/locs/ ... affic.html

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by night_druid » Tue May 22, 2018 8:36 pm

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 6:04 pm
The information is there, just not obvious. And it is spread throughout many sources.
I can pine for sourcebooks for places such as Pathspace, Winterspace, Primespace, and Heartspace. :)
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Dalillama » Tue May 22, 2018 10:51 pm

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 6:04 pm


The information is there, just not obvious. And it is spread throughout many sources.
Really it's not, though.
I wrote this a long time ago on Bral economics:

http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/locs/ ... omics.html

not much, i know.

I also did an article on shipping for Bral. Note how so many vessels are 'company' vessels? Remember, as a Renaissance-era technological and social setting, Spelljammer exists before nation-states, pre-Treaty of Westphalia. In other words, vessels have home ports, but only haphazardly do they have nationalities ('racial' vessels like Elves and scro being exceptions).

Also, remember this is not an encounter table, but ships docking at Bral. This is a pretty old article, I wrote it long before 2003. I've developed Bralspace a lot since then. I'll likely be redoing this someday, making more use of other stuff I've written, like the Oriental Adventures and Spelljammer Guide pdf.

http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/locs/ ... affic.html
Sure, but that doesn't at all address the main issue, which is where those ships are coming from/going to.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Sharkbelly » Wed May 30, 2018 3:16 am

The point that no one seems to be addressing is how many water clocks equal one major helm.

Seriously, though, when I read the title of this thread it got me thinking. SJ vessels and helms are VERY expensive; no one is arguing that. What sorts of uses would justify that kind of cost?

1. Military--societies place a very high value on security

2. Trade--what sorts of products are they shipping from one planet or sphere to another to justify sinking that much money into a venture? It would have to be something that people could not produce on their own world. What sorts of things would that be?

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by GMWestermeyer » Wed May 30, 2018 4:31 am

All economics are imaginary, and they are fluid, constantly changing.

Simply put, it's really not possible to get a 'right' answer on economics, everyone will shift the underlying assumptions to change the outcome to what they prefer and then call it objective.

So, as a DM, think in broad terms and thumb rule things. All that matters here is that your campaign isn't derailed by out of control inflation, as DM you can control that.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Icarus » Wed May 30, 2018 2:50 pm

Sharkbelly wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 3:16 am
… What sorts of uses would justify that kind of cost?
1. Military--societies place a very high value on security
2. Trade--what sorts of products are they shipping from one planet or sphere to another to justify sinking that much money into a venture? It would have to be something that people could not produce on their own world. What sorts of things would that be?
Interesting points, both!!
Perhaps, they're related!
Maybe, they could start just by exploring, and then find that they can gather other products not available on their planet, that could expand to not available in their sphere ... and at some point they'd need a military to protect their wildspace and inter-sphere mercantile interests.

I'm trying to think, for example, what could be available in Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms that would be worth importing like that.
I mean, a different type of grain or mundane ore hardly seems worth it.
Maybe there's an asteroid cluster that has, some "true metal" like adamantine. Or, perhaps it's gathered from visiting non-prime planes. They could find Elukian Clay through an Elemental Water plane color pool. Or Astral Driftmetal or even Githsilver!!
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Sharkbelly » Thu May 31, 2018 2:15 am

GMWestermeyer wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 4:31 am
All economics are imaginary, and they are fluid, constantly changing.

Simply put, it's really not possible to get a 'right' answer on economics, everyone will shift the underlying assumptions to change the outcome to what they prefer and then call it objective.

So, as a DM, think in broad terms and thumb rule things. All that matters here is that your campaign isn't derailed by out of control inflation, as DM you can control that.
Does the DM use fiscal or monetary policy to control inflation? :-D

The underlying principle is solid, though. People will only invest that much money in a project when they believe there is an equal or greater payoff for it.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Sharkbelly » Thu May 31, 2018 3:13 am

Icarus wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:50 pm
I'm trying to think, for example, what could be available in Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms that would be worth importing like that.
I mean, a different type of grain or mundane ore hardly seems worth it.
Maybe there's an asteroid cluster that has, some "true metal" like adamantine. Or, perhaps it's gathered from visiting non-prime planes. They could find Elukian Clay through an Elemental Water plane color pool. Or Astral Driftmetal or even Githsilver!!
Wasn't it the case that steel was used as a currency on Krynn? It seems to me, then, that people would be filling SJ ships with old swords and things to take there and exchange for something else.

Also, there would be magical transportation competing with the more mundane shipping. Very valuable items, like gems or magic items, would more likely be transported via magic. That would leave ships to carry more bulky, less valuable items.

Historically fashion has played a role as well. I just finished watching the first season of Frontier, which is all about the fur trade in North America.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Icarus » Thu May 31, 2018 4:57 pm

Sharkbelly wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 3:16 am
… when I read the title of this thread it got me thinking. SJ vessels and helms are VERY expensive; no one is arguing that. What sorts of uses would justify that kind of cost?
1. Military--societies place a very high value on security
2. Trade--what sorts of products are they shipping from one planet or sphere to another to justify sinking that much money into a venture? It would have to be something that people could not produce on their own world. What sorts of things would that be?
Further thoughts on this ...
It's a common theme in shows like Star Trek that they're explorers and/or scientists, not armed forces.
You're absolutely right that societies place a high value on security.
Even if it's not of military interest directly, protecting trade interests is inherent to most any society.
When acient cultures' resources were threatened, war occurs. Or modern ones, for that matter.
So, it seems to me that the two are almost intrinsically tied to one another …

But, the question remains, what interests could a spacefaring culture deem worthy of the cost of a Major Helm, in order to procure or supply, and how far would they go to protect such interest?
Sad to say, I can't think of any particular resource that would be both unique and available on Oerik that could be of such vital importance that it could be exported universally.
Oerthblood, perhaps, but, I doubt anyone is gathering much, or selling it, if they do.
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Icarus » Thu May 31, 2018 5:14 pm

Icarus wrote:
Wed May 30, 2018 2:50 pm
I'm trying to think, for example, what could be available in Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms that would be worth importing like that.
Sharkbelly wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 3:13 am
Wasn't it the case that steel was used as a currency on Krynn? It seems to me, then, that people would be filling SJ ships with old swords and things to take there and exchange for something else.
This is a very good point! That's the basis for how trade works! Taking a valuable item from one place, and exchanging it for another valuable item! I hadn't thought of the fact that something worth little in one culture is currency in another!
Sharkbelly wrote:Also, there would be magical transportation competing with the more mundane shipping. Very valuable items, like gems or magic items, would more likely be transported via magic. That would leave ships to carry more bulky, less valuable items.
This is very true! I have often used magical transportation of goods as a thing. There's an organization that I found in Dragon Magazine, or maybe it was Aurora's Wholerealms Catalogue, that transported goods via Teleportation Circles!
Sharkbelly wrote:Historically fashion has played a role as well. I just finished watching the first season of Frontier, which is all about the fur trade in North America.
I can only imagine the state when fashionistas could say, "This is the newest trend from the Rock of Bral! It's a silk imported from the moon Kule in the drow city of Urrq'azzt! Spidersilk is all the rage now!"
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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Sharkbelly » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:02 am

Can we get back to economics?

When I think of SJ ships, I think of the Dutch East India Company. I imagine a consortium of banks and investors building huge trading fleets.

To that end, what do adventurers do with all the wealth they accumulate? Surely they don't just hoard all of it... they must understand opportunity cost. Do they invest in new ventures (after building a cool place to live, that is)?

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Jaid » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:12 pm

adventurers are broadly speaking people crazy enough to decide that you know what, risking their lives constantly while generally fighting enemies that outnumber and/or outpower them by a significant margin in order to maybe get filthy stinking rich (but more likely to die horribly) sounds like a pretty great idea... so i don't know that i would expect them to be terribly smart about how they invest their money when they retire :P

if they were the kind to think ahead that much, they probably wouldn't have decided to be adventurers ;)

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Sharkbelly » Sat Jun 09, 2018 12:01 am

Risk, reward... that sounds just like investing to me.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Lord Torath » Sat Jun 09, 2018 1:55 am

Reminds me of Terry Pratchett's short story "Troll Bridge" in the After the King compilation. Cohen the Barbarian never thought he'd live long enough to need to plan for retirement.

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Re: Thoughts on Wildspace economics

Post by Dalillama » Sat Jun 09, 2018 3:21 am

Jaid wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:12 pm
adventurers are broadly speaking people crazy enough to decide that you know what, risking their lives constantly while generally fighting enemies that outnumber and/or outpower them by a significant margin in order to maybe get filthy stinking rich (but more likely to die horribly) sounds like a pretty great idea... so i don't know that i would expect them to be terribly smart about how they invest their money when they retire :P

if they were the kind to think ahead that much, they probably wouldn't have decided to be adventurers ;)
Right, but this isn't about adventurers, it's about the backdrop they buckle their swashes against. You're sailing into the unknown in search of fortune, great, but where are you leaving from? Whose frontiers are you going beyond? etc.
Sharkbelly wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:02 am
Can we get back to economics?

When I think of SJ ships, I think of the Dutch East India Company. I imagine a consortium of banks and investors building huge trading fleets.
That's the kind of thing I'm thinking of too; that's the Tyger Republic's whole deal, frex. There still need to be a lot more star nations around, though. :p Maybe if 5e brings it back they'll do it up proper this time. Starfinder's right popular afaict, there's a market for sure.

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