October Challenge: social currency

As I review the Baron Munchausen rules for inspiration on the idea discussed in the previous post, I start thinking about how a more complex economy might work. In the standard Munchausen rules, all the attendees at the party start with the same number of coins in their purse, and all coins are equal. My first thought is (as alluded to yesterday) having the tokens aligned to “good” and “evil”, although that’s a bit facile for my tastes, so let’s call them “renown” and “infamy”: your adventuring career may be heroic or nefarious, but you’re powerful either way. Just as in Munchausen, everyone starts with the same number of tokens, but the twist is that they’re drawn from a bag of equal parts black and white tokens. One emergent property of this decision is that you get some implicit character background to fill in during play: you may introduce yourself as a glorious paladin and then pull four black tokens out of seven, indicating that your reputation or deeds are not as sterling as you make them out to be, and everyone knows it!

More immediately, the tokens provide a more focused aspect to the intervention mechanic in standard Munchausen: instead of being able to spend just any token to interject in someone else’s tale, your use of renown or infamy are used to respectively bolster or complicate someone else’s quest. In other words, if you’re a black-hearted bastard, then not only are you not as likely to help another adventurer with a difficult quest, but you’re mechanically less capable of doing so as well.

Another element that occurs to me (although the details are fuzzy and it’s just a brainstorm) is that an additional level to the wagering in Munchausen may arise from this. Normally, you ante up a coin from your purse to challenge something in the current storyteller’s tale, and they either accept it and take your coin in compensation, or bid back with their own coin and refutation, with each side repeating until the other caves, earning the coins at the expense of narrative control. That implementation always assumes interference, however, and doesn’t allow for a cooperative interjection. Let’s say (for now) that infamy tokens work the way that the coins usually do in Munchausen, to allow someone to try to derail the storyteller with an additional detail not of their choosing, while renown tokens can be passed to the storyteller to allow the passer to intercede for the storyteller in a tough spot, with the reward for the giver of the renown token to be to gain another one themselves. Thus, good deeds are rewarded in a very modest but predictable way, while evil deeds can snowball into a great reward or catastrophe for either side. (I do foresee one issue, in that the storyteller accepting an infamy token thus becomes a little more “evil” by the loose framework we’ve set up here, just by virtue of accepting a narrative intrusion. Either the thematic representation of the tokens needs to be tightened up, or there should be an ability to exchange tokens. I’ll mull that over for a bit.)