Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Two Birds - One Blog
The two birds - common FRPG plot points of: secret societies and alchemy turning lead into gold I am not a big fan of the way secret societies are depicted. The Illuminati are huge and powerful, why? Too often because their foreign. The real group was pathetic. The Masons hid billions of dollars of treasure where even they couldn’t find it? Why not use that money to try and be the Illuminati. The Seven Sisters - now them I could sort of get behind, but I’ve spent my life in the corporate culture and I am probably biased. So what did I do for my world when I felt it needed this sort of shadowy super power? I created the “Gold Guild”. I was trying to justify why the ratio of copper to silver to gold was always 100:10:1. Shouldn’t a gold rush change that? Or a slow down in silver mining. Or a war using copper or bronze weaponry? So why is that ratio so solid throughout time? Or is it? I created the Gold Guild. Sort of like what most people think of DeBeers, the Gold Guild is a consortium of the largest gold producers in the world, where they control the world markets for gold through the supply chain. This means they have an enormous stockpile of gold, but they only let out a trickle in order to keep the value of it much higher than it would normally be. Why are they so powerful? Because they have been the wealthiest “families” in the world for more than 1,000 years. Oh, and they are sitting on a pile of gold that they could flood the markets with, thus destroying the world economy. Because some of my play testers will read this, I need to keep the details close to the vest on these guys, but they are able to control politics on two continents, at least for the last centuries. (Actually some historically significant events are attributed to these guys going back around 3,000 years, but they were only getting started back then.) Why can’t fantasy alchemists turn lead into gold? Well, I assume they can. Though I haven’t put stats around it yet, I have assumed for a while that a skilled alchemist could turn small amounts of base metals into small amounts of gold. The main issue being that he could probably make more money by making and selling healing potions than he would making gold, so why bother? But here’s where the Gold Guild comes in. They have agents placed throughout the world. If an alchemist starts “printing his own money”, the Gold Guild will send agents who will assassinate the alchemist and take all of his research away. Yes, they are a global secret society and have the money and power to monitor just about every town/city with a population >100,000 folks. Even if the alchemist is hiding in a little town, eventually they will find out. Those agents are actually supposed to be listening for new gold strikes, prospectors coming in with stories of new mines or new gold fields. The Gold Guild steps in before the gold rush starts by buying out the prospector (or causing him to have an accident). There is a materiality issue here. The Gold Guild wouldn’t step in if an alchemist was producing gold he needed for some experiment and was only churning out a pound a month. As long as he kept it really small, he would likely be unimportant to them. So what did I do here? I created an active global secret society that controls the world economy and profits from it. These guys can be fantastic enemies to any adventuring party, permanent enemies who keep melding back into the shadows and showing new, formerly unknown, segments of their organization. I justified the stagnation of the world markets in precious metals. Probably didn’t really, but there is a kernel of truth here which is most often enough for that willful suspension of disbelief. And I justified why the most important goal of the alchemists of Earth never seems to be an issue for FRPG alchemists. I love it when a plan comes together!