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Old 06-26-2018, 09:47 AM   #1
vicky_molokh
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Default Living off making New Inventions?

Greetings, all!

There are various character concepts whose professional activity is best described neither as a regular job nor even as freelance work, but rather as producing what would be best classified as New Inventions in GURPS. These need not necessarily be technological R&D people either, so long as their core professional cycle centres around investing time, effort and money into producing something and eventually getting a payoff of some sort based on it. For instance, an independent musician could need to spend time 'inventing' a new song, then recording and selling it, either to a distributor or directly to the public by setting up one's own shop-site. A non-governmental writer could spend after-work hours on writing a novel, hoping to eventually publish it and, upon earning some extra money from that, quit the nine-to-five and become a full-time writer. A programmer could produce some piece of software and then set up a donationware account to earn a payoff from the people who found it useful and decided to reward such work. And of course it could be the young inventor who wants to produce some gadget (a steam engine! a way to write down spells into scrolls! a better new approach to teaching uplifted ravens a human alphabet!) in the hopes of then living off royalties as everyone has a use for it.

GURPS has somewhat universal rules on New Inventions for physical things, and has made attempts to make it even more universal by applying them to e.g. social inventions. But that's not quite what I'm after.

What I am after is a way to benchmark the complexity levels and payoffs in a way as to make them compatible with the rest of GURPS' economical system. E.g. making it so that working a stable job, working a freelance job and working on new inventions with occasional payoffs upon success could all be calibrated to an Average Wealth musician/writer/inventor etc. And that it could be recalibrated to other wealth levels to handle Wealthy Musicians/Writers/etc., Struggling ones and so on. One thing that seems like an obstacle to calibration is the way opportunities-for-payoff-with-a-chance-of-no-payoff are likely to scale to the skill level in a way that risks making the living-off-inventions a no-brainer choice for any PC with typical PC-grade remarkable primary skill levels.

I totally understand that any results of this endeavour would be generalised abstractions, but so are invention and job rules, so that's not a problem (so long as the the salaryman, the freelancer, and the inventor can all be calibrated to a given Wealth Level). I also know that Social Engineering handles the topic of seeking patrons who are willing to invest into an inventor, but that's not the focus of this question.

So what generic-universal ways of handling such activities are there? Particularly ones that aren't significantly more fussy than the rest of the invention and wealth rules?

Thanks in advance to all who answer!
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Old 06-26-2018, 12:01 PM   #2
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Greetings, all!

There are various character concepts whose professional activity is best described neither as a regular job nor even as freelance work, but rather as producing what would be best classified as New Inventions in GURPS. These need not necessarily be technological R&D people either, so long as their core professional cycle centres around investing time, effort and money into producing something and eventually getting a payoff of some sort based on it. For instance, an independent musician could need to spend time 'inventing' a new song, then recording and selling it, either to a distributor or directly to the public by setting up one's own shop-site. A non-governmental writer could spend after-work hours on writing a novel, hoping to eventually publish it and, upon earning some extra money from that, quit the nine-to-five and become a full-time writer. A programmer could produce some piece of software and then set up a donationware account to earn a payoff from the people who found it useful and decided to reward such work. And of course it could be the young inventor who wants to produce some gadget (a steam engine! a way to write down spells into scrolls! a better new approach to teaching uplifted ravens a human alphabet!) in the hopes of then living off royalties as everyone has a use for it.

GURPS has somewhat universal rules on New Inventions for physical things, and has made attempts to make it even more universal by applying them to e.g. social inventions. But that's not quite what I'm after.

What I am after is a way to benchmark the complexity levels and payoffs in a way as to make them compatible with the rest of GURPS' economical system. E.g. making it so that working a stable job, working a freelance job and working on new inventions with occasional payoffs upon success could all be calibrated to an Average Wealth musician/writer/inventor etc. And that it could be recalibrated to other wealth levels to handle Wealthy Musicians/Writers/etc., Struggling ones and so on. One thing that seems like an obstacle to calibration is the way opportunities-for-payoff-with-a-chance-of-no-payoff are likely to scale to the skill level in a way that risks making the living-off-inventions a no-brainer choice for any PC with typical PC-grade remarkable primary skill levels.

I totally understand that any results of this endeavour would be generalised abstractions, but so are invention and job rules, so that's not a problem (so long as the the salaryman, the freelancer, and the inventor can all be calibrated to a given Wealth Level). I also know that Social Engineering handles the topic of seeking patrons who are willing to invest into an inventor, but that's not the focus of this question.

So what generic-universal ways of handling such activities are there? Particularly ones that aren't significantly more fussy than the rest of the invention and wealth rules?

Thanks in advance to all who answer!
Priority number one to this thread. Ive been interesting in these since the first day of playing GURPS. So far, Ive tried making estimations with real world market values numbers and potential growth, but its not as easy as it seems. Moreover, I would also like figures to figure out financing, funding cycles, control stakes, etc. when starting a company from those inventions.
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Old 06-26-2018, 12:20 PM   #3
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

The simplest mechanic is that you work a job (using job rules) that gives you hours to spend towards inventing something. If you need money as well as hours but you have the skills to provide what you need, the job gives money only for the purpose of labor costs.



Once you've accumulated enough resources to get the invention roll, make it! A success indicates you have a product worthy of making money.



It should be noted that making the product is often the easy part. The hard part is selling it. Good ideas die every day, and the only way to get money is to convince someone to give it to you. That may be a job roll all of its own. Or merely a roll to sign on with a publisher or agent who will do that for you (and take a large share of the profits).


From a GM perspective, the hardest part is how much the finished intellectual product is worth: how many people want it, how much are they willing to pay for it, and how long will they buy it for?
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Old 06-26-2018, 01:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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The simplest mechanic is that you work a job (using job rules) that gives you hours to spend towards inventing something. If you need money as well as hours but you have the skills to provide what you need, the job gives money only for the purpose of labor costs.



Once you've accumulated enough resources to get the invention roll, make it! A success indicates you have a product worthy of making money.



It should be noted that making the product is often the easy part. The hard part is selling it. Good ideas die every day, and the only way to get money is to convince someone to give it to you. That may be a job roll all of its own. Or merely a roll to sign on with a publisher or agent who will do that for you (and take a large share of the profits).


From a GM perspective, the hardest part is how much the finished intellectual product is worth: how many people want it, how much are they willing to pay for it, and how long will they buy it for?
Yes. We need to clear the last part, but I consider it to be impossible. We could with a bit of effort make a realistic and playable mathematical system, but that would take several days, and would be unmanageable without a computer, so we would need to code it into a piece of software or a spreadsheet too. And nobody is going to pay for that, so who would take the challenge? I know I would not do it for less than a couple of grands, but I would not pay anyone to do it for me either. I have designed a minimalist GURPS based system based on industries, so I know it's theoretically possible to go deep enough to do it with specific inventions, but as I say, it would take several days, and it would need to be expandable to add new inventions from the future books.

Last edited by Alonsua; 06-26-2018 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 06-26-2018, 02:20 PM   #5
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

The trouble with this is that the economic value of this kind of thing tends to follow a power law. The top 0.1% of songs, computer programs, and gadgets captures a fairly overwhelming fraction of the money going towards the purchase of songs, computer programs, and gadgets. Being an inventor isn’t like being a salaried employee with a predictable income, or even like a self-employed person or a salesman on commission who will earn more money the more and the better they work, with returns scaling roughly linearly with work output/quality. It is like being in the business of buying lottery tickets, where being a competent and hardworking inventor-entrepreneur will let you buy more lottery tickets at better odds but will by no means guarantee that you can break even, let alone win big.

I’m inclined to address this simply by saying ‘this set of professions can accommodate an unusually large spectrum of Wealth, from Poor to Multi-Millionare 3 with multiple levels of Independent Income’, and be done with it.

If I had to make a system for it, there would be separate rolls for executing your project well (Machinist, Computer Programming, etc.) executing it on time and under budget (Administration?) and having enough of an understanding of the field to be working on something that’s likely to catch fire in the first place (Market Analysis, Merchant, appropriate Current Affairs specialties?)

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Old 06-26-2018, 02:37 PM   #6
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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The trouble with this is that the economic value of this kind of thing tends to follow a power law. The top 0.1% of songs, computer programs, and gadgets captures a fairly overwhelming fraction of the money going towards the purchase of songs, computer programs, and gadgets. Being an inventor isnt like being a salaried employee with a predictable income, or even like a self-employed person or a salesman on commission who will earn more money the more and the better they work, with returns scaling roughly linearly with work output/quality. It is like being in the business of buying lottery tickets, where being a competent and hardworking inventor-entrepreneur will let you buy more lottery tickets at better odds but will by no means guarantee that you can break even, let alone win big.

Im inclined to address this simply by saying this set of professions can accommodate an unusually large spectrum of Wealth, from Poor to Multi-Millionare 3 with multiple levels of Independent Income, and be done with it.

If I had to make a system for it, there would be separate rolls for executing your project well (Machinist, Computer Programming, etc.) executing it on time and under budget (Administration?) and having enough of an understanding of the field to be working on something thats likely to catch fire in the first place (Market Analysis, Merchant, appropriate Current Affairs specialties?)
Oh, it can accommodate a large spectrum. But what I'm interested is getting the game-mechanical representation of the process just like there is one for making inventions. I want to have some way to go from "you made an invention worth G$N" to "and here is how much royalties you can get by licensing it to the world", and similar things for writers and so on. I'm poking around that because it's something PCs are interested in.
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Old 06-26-2018, 02:41 PM   #7
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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The trouble with this is that the economic value of this kind of thing tends to follow a power law. The top 0.1% of songs, computer programs, and gadgets captures a fairly overwhelming fraction of the money going towards the purchase of songs, computer programs, and gadgets. Being an inventor isn’t like being a salaried employee with a predictable income, or even like a self-employed person or a salesman on commission who will earn more money the more and the better they work, with returns scaling roughly linearly with work output/quality. It is like being in the business of buying lottery tickets, where being a competent and hardworking inventor-entrepreneur will let you buy more lottery tickets at better odds but will by no means guarantee that you can break even, let alone win big.

I’m inclined to address this simply by saying ‘this set of professions can accommodate an unusually large spectrum of Wealth, from Poor to Multi-Millionare 3 with multiple levels of Independent Income’, and be done with it.

If I had to make a system for it, there would be separate rolls for executing your project well (Machinist, Computer Programming, etc.) executing it on time and under budget (Administration?) and having enough of an understanding of the field to be working on something that’s likely to catch fire in the first place (Market Analysis, Merchant, appropriate Current Affairs specialties?)
Yes, but that doesnt help much when one player wants to financially hurt anothers enterprises or businesses, or when a player wants to play an entrepeneur making openings to new markets with her inventions...
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Old 06-27-2018, 09:22 AM   #8
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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From a GM perspective, the hardest part is how much the finished intellectual product is worth: how many people want it, how much are they willing to pay for it, and how long will they buy it for?
For the character, that means rolls vs. Market Analysis (Is there a market for this product? If there is, what's the best way to maximize our profits?) and Merchant (What's the best way to buy materials, manage inventory & employees, and sell the finished product?)

Beyond that, it all depends on the campaign. If the campaign requires characters to make a pile of money or create a successful business in order to advance the plot and/or keep the players happy, then the GM should allow any reasonably good idea, competently brought to market, to become the hottest thing since the antibiotics or the telephone.

If the character concept requires them to be a "successful inventor," the GM should hand-wave everything based on campaign style and character points available in Independent Income, increased Wealth, and Reputation.

Note that "successful inventors" don't necessarily have to be hard-core gadgeteers (although they tend to be). They can be an ordinary person who had one bright flash of innovation and invented some simple, but incredibly handy device (e.g., the paperclip, the rubber band, the adjustable wrench).

They could be someone who bought (or stole) patents from someone else, or refined someone else's idea, and then successfully marketed a product (e.g., lots of Thomas Edison's "inventions").

Finally, realistically, there are very few truly novel inventions. Most inventors are people who tweak an existing technology to make it cheaper to make, more reliable, or easier to use.

For example, photography had been around for ~50 years as a specialist and rich man's hobby, but George Eastman brought photography to the masses by creating photosensitive celluloid film and establishing the commercial photo-developing industry. Celluloid film was cheap and easy to use, and commercial darkroom and film development facilities eliminated the need for ordinary people to mess with expensive equipment and potentially dangerous chemicals.
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Old 06-27-2018, 09:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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Beyond that, it all depends on the campaign. If the campaign requires characters to make a pile of money or create a successful business in order to advance the plot and/or keep the players happy, then the GM should allow any reasonably good idea, competently brought to market, to become the hottest thing since the antibiotics or the telephone.

If the character concept requires them to be a "successful inventor," the GM should hand-wave everything based on campaign style and character points available in Independent Income, increased Wealth, and Reputation.
That sounds like an approach that is directly opposite to how GURPS normally works. One does not ask whether the campaign requires the PC to deal massive damage during this swing of the sword; one rolls the damage based on parameters such as sword quality and PC's ST, compares it to the DR of the armour (that depends on the target's TL and resources) etc.

(Also, I'm trying to start small and try to see how smaller inventions than penicillin or the wheel 'work' for indie developers. Stuff like making a modest but quite useful apps for Android, or writing mystery books and publishing them independently.)
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Old 06-27-2018, 10:14 AM   #10
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Default Re: Living off making New Inventions?

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That sounds like an approach that is directly opposite to how GURPS normally works. One does not ask whether the campaign requires the PC to deal massive damage during this swing of the sword; one rolls the damage based on parameters such as sword quality and PC's ST, compares it to the DR of the armour (that depends on the target's TL and resources) etc.

(Also, I'm trying to start small and try to see how smaller inventions than penicillin or the wheel 'work' for indie developers. Stuff like making a modest but quite useful apps for Android, or writing mystery books and publishing them independently.)
Average Base Value, RS5 Turnover:

10.000 x 100 = $1.000.000.

Just as an example.

Now an approximation to J.K. Rowling.

Complex Base Value, RS8 Turnover:

1.000.000 x 300 = $300.000.000

Or increase it to RS9 or RS10 for $500.000.000 and $700.000.000 respectively.

Now an approximation to the average appstore developer:

Simple Base Value, RS2 Turnover:

100 x 30 = $3.000

Oh, but maybe even if it was such a simple piece of software it went relatively viral and became a sales success. Then increase it to RS7+1 for $30.000, or even RS10+2 for $150.000

Last edited by Alonsua; 06-27-2018 at 10:29 AM.
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