If you read this blog regularly and have checked out Grain Into Gold, you understand that #1 - I like my treasure (OK, that’s probably more An Army’s Arms Thunder Doom and the Slyvanian Infantry) and #2 - I get caught up in economies. It’s probably because I spend my days up to my eyeballs in the modern economy, but I do spend my nights in Fletnern (or sometimes Tamriel or Azeroth).
So it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I was thinking about the Dutch Tulip Mania. If you don’t know what Tulip Mania is/was, it makes for interesting research. I wish universities taught stuff like this to students instead of politically correct classes, but I digress. Tulip Mania seems stupid to modern folks. Why would someone pay the equivalent of half a million dollars for a tulip bulb? Because other people had made huge amounts of money doing similar things. Just like nowadays any grandma can open her own store front on the internet, back in the 90s, people were investing enormous sums of money in the dot coms - most of which were a couple of idiots in their parent’s garage with a PC. Trust me - The dot com bubble of the 90s will be seen as insanely stupid by the next generation. I know guys who had no business day trading telling me (an actual trained and experienced investor) that I was an idiot for actually doing my job during the day. I lost nothing during the dot com crash.
But that is the issue isn’t it? It’s Gold Rush Fever. It’s why the Canadian and US governments had to stop people from going into the Klondike during its gold rush. You had guys from Texas and Oklahoma who were wandering around Alaska wondering how in the hell it could be this cold. While they were in Seattle, they weren’t the least bit worried - They had the coats they brought with them from home. They may have known how to mine, but they had no understanding of Alaska and what real cold is.
You think I veered again, don’t you. But I didn’t. Gold Rush Fever, whether it is about gold, tulips or IT stocks all comes down to the same thing - People think they understand the rules and the risks, but they don’t. Fortunes and even lives are lost. This is one of those times where you need to think - What would the stupid folk do? It’s not about thinking things through logically and allowing them to evolve over time. Nope, this is fast fast fast - do something stupid.
And it does matter to your game world. History tells us that these kind of economic bubbles happen throughout history. If there is one going on in your game world now, what is it doing? Well, it is changing prices across a broad region if not the world. If it is something more like a gold rush, then where is it and what do they need? If it’s in the desert, they will be buying up all the camels they can, and probably shipping in building materials, because those are pretty rare out there (I mean wood and fabrics). If it’s in the arctic, then it’s heavy fur clothing and dogs for the sleds. (What the Seattle ship captains did during the Klondike Gold Rush to supply dogs to the prospectors was despicable.) Mountains? Mules, donkeys, and horses, plus ways to haul water. Then there are the ways that people are making money off the folks who are doing the work. Boom town prices! All of this can lead to some very fun and very quirky adventures for your players, or it can be a semi-interesting distraction while they are busy in other parts of the world.
I keep wanting to fully develop a boom town economy, but I cannot yet figure out a way to roll it into a supplement. The closest I’ve come is the boom town that developed around the rediscovery of the Lost City of Ballogfar. Ballogfar was the capital of an ancient Goblin Empire - ruled by ogres with orcish soldiers and goblin workers. After the civil war (when the goblins and orcs headed south), the ogres replaced them with undead zombies and skeletons. Well, that only worked for so long until the undead caused a massive plague and wiped out the ogres. Once rediscovered, there was a flood of adventurers racing to get there to plunder the ruined city, and the vendors that were willing to risk setting up shop there were getting richer than the adventurers. Oh well, someday, after I hit the lottery and don’t have to work for a living, I’ll publish The Lost City of Ballogfar. It will rival those other “biggest dungeon ever” supplements, so don’t look for it soon.