What are the Stakes?

It won’t be too much longer we hope before the long-awaited Campaign System rules will be available for Silent Death players to download and enjoy. We hope that this will add new dimensions to those who want to take their play to a bigger and more interesting level. Although as of this writing the Campaign System is not available, I wanted to get all you latent Game Masters out there thinking along the lines of creating your own “universe” in which you and your fellow players can seek your individual and collective fortunes, risking life, limb and fame…metaphorically, at least.

The problem with war games is that they reflect a relatively small part of most civilizations; most successful civilizations make war only as part of larger goals involving trade or perhaps enriching their culture. Few people will argue that most wars involve some kind of economic dispute, but where does that come into the Silent Death universe? Unfortunately, the answer is “pretty much nowhere”. In other words, if you aren’t trying to blow something up, you sort of don’t exist.

The Campaign System was written to allow for non-military entities to play a role, even if it was just getting from A to B without getting blown up. That can be exciting enough by itself, but by adopting some simple tricks, you can create an environment that adds a little more excitement to the business of schlepping goods from one star system to another.

Supposed you are Fong Wu, captain of a tramp freighter hauling a shipment of Urtnog ore along your usual route of a dozen or so light years. You’ve been underway for a week. How much money are you going to get when you dock your ship and offload that ore? It depends on the price of Urtnog. Now the game master can make this interesting by linking the price of Urgnog in the game to the price of some real-life item that trades regularly on the open market. For instance, global commodities like crude oil, corn, gold, beef, etc. are traded and their prices get posted on web sites. In the case of Urtnog, I decided to link it to the price of copper. I chose copper because it’s nice and volatile and will therefore make life interesting for our space-trader.

Chart showing copper commodity price over the last month.

The latest price is given as $3,526.67 per ton, so when Captain Fong pulls in with 100 tons of Urtnog, you can do the math and pay him off in Imperial Pounds or QVP Dinars or Unkulunkulu Lugnuts or whatever–less docking and unloading fees, of course. Next week, he may not do as well if the price drops.

Obviously, these prices are not going to tie directly into what is happening in your little universe; but at the same time you don’t want to be bothered inventing and tracking who is building what and what they’re using, which would boost or reduce commodity prices. Using “real” commodities prices like this can be an easy way for you to inject some change into your campaigns over a longer period of time. Or, if you don’t want to mess with commodities prices, try the price of your favorite (or least favorite) stock, which is probably easier to find out, and you can often configure a page on Yahoo or AOL to track those stocks for you automatically.

Try it. It’s a first step in building a larger universe that’s all yours.