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Old 03-10-2019, 03:51 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Worth of Programmable Matter

Something I've been considering for a DF-like setting is having some of the loot in the form of what we'll call Shards - crystals of varying color that can be used in place of materials, facilities, and/or labor (time) for crafting items. They can't make anything biologically-derived (but can modify such, so they can turn a dead dragon into dragonscale armor and a delicious stew), and you can't use them to make anything you yourself couldn't make given the appropriate materials, facilities, and time*, but they're great for being able to make whatever you need (within those constraints) right away. They can also be used to enhance existing items, such as turning your favorite Fine Thrusting Broadsword into, say, a Very Fine Balanced Thrusting Broadsword. For our purposes we will consider Shards usable only in Town (and you'll typically want to take them to a craftsman to have him/her make what you need), not in the dungeon**.

Shards have a nominal value they can be used to create, ranging from $0.10 per red Shard to $100,000 per violet Shard (they follow ROYGBIV, with a x10 to value for each step along the spectrum). Creating something worth less than the crystal(s) used gives you the appropriate change. They are functionally weightless***. My question, however, is how much should such Shards be worth on the open market? The setting is basically the standard static "TL DF" (call it TL 4), and the value the Shards place on materials and labor are objective and unchanging for a given material/finished product and correspond to the "typical" value of the material. I'm thinking twice the nominal value, does that sound appropriate?

Additionally, how much should a craftsman charge to turn a fistful of Shards (provided by the client) into a finished product? It costs the craftsman functionally no time, so basically whatever they charge comes to them as profit. I'm thinking 10% of the worth of the item (plus the cost of any materials the craftsman provides). Does that sound appropriate?

As an example, lets say you want Prince Boris' Very Fine Balanced Ornate (+3) Thrusting Broadsword (LT59), worth $19,800. Creating this ex nihilo would require 1 indigo Shard, 9 blue Shards, and 8 green Shards, but we'll do it with 2 indigoes instead. Provided the armourer has the skills needed to produce such a piece, we can hand him the 2 indigo Shards and another $1,980 for the commission, and he'll hand us back 2 green Shards (which we can sell for $400, assuming we go with the "twice nominal value" price, for an end net cost of 2 indigo Shards +$1,580) and the sword. If the Prince already had a Fine Ornate (+2) Thrusting Broadsword, worth $4,800, enhancing it would only cost 1 indigo Shard and 5 blue Shards, plus a commission of $1,500. In fact, we may want to commission the armourer to enhance the balance and general quality (so adding Balanced and Very Fine), adding $12,000 to the weapon's worth (and thus costing 1 indigo, 2 blue, and a $1,200 commission), then take it to a jeweler to enhance its appearance (further +1 to Ornate), adding the final $3,000 to the weapon's worth (and costing 3 blue Shards and a $300 commission).

Were you instead willing to wait long enough for the armourer to make your fancy sword normally (or purchase one on the market), you could sell those two indigo shards for $40,000 (assuming we go with twice nominal value) and pay the normal price of $19,800, putting you $20,200 ahead after the transaction, rather than $1,580 in the hole as we were from having him create it ex nihilo.

*This is generally defined as "I have made this item before." You can use Familiarities for this if desired. Additionally, so long as the character has a base skill of 12 or higher in the relevant manufacturing skill, it's also possible to use Shards to learn how to make something - take the item, Shards equal to 100% of its value, and unmake the item. This consumes the item and Shards, but means you are now considered as having made the item before.
**Dungeons have a reversible corrupting effect that make it harder to leave if you've suffered enough of it, and can eventually kill you (or worse). Using Shards will corrupt you even faster, but the corruption doesn't have any real effect once you're far enough away from the dungeon. So, adventurers usually acquire Shards, take them to town, and either sell them or have craftsmen there use them so they only need to rest long enough for what corruption they suffered while delving fades before venturing back in.
***They're actually quite heavy for their size. Each is a crystal that looks just like a standard d8 (sans numbers, and transparent and glowing with ~1 candela of light of the appropriate color), but weighing far more - Shards have a density comparable to gold, and each weighs 0.05 lb. However, anyone transporting such will invariably have a Shardpurse, a small pouch that can only hold Shards, but does so in a extradimensional storage, negating their weight and volume. Conveniently, one can pull out any Shard - or combination of Shards that fit in the hand - that is of equal or lesser value than the total in the bag. For example, you could put 100 red Shards into the bag, and later take them out as a single yellow Shard.
GURPS Overhaul

Last edited by Varyon; 03-14-2019 at 10:22 AM.
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dungeon fantasy, magic items

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