Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Economy Of Isselunde

Problem one: The Nikolas does not hang out enough at the luncheon-time, with friends. This results in the dissatisfaction of said friends, leading to...

Problem two: The friends do not post on the blag any-more, and the Nikolas cannot make up the difference on his own - he barely keeps up!


What may both reward the friends for blagging, reward the Nikolas for hanging out with the friends, and be fun at the same time?

It's simple!



The Barons of Isselunde is a study in economics. Each player rules as a Baron of Isselunde, competing for money and power. Players earn money initially by blogging - 5 florins** per post, paying up to 10 florins a day. (A judge should be appointed to determine which blog posts count - basically, anything that's on the blog currently would count, from stories to illustrations to things like this. Spam, on the other hand, wouldn't.) Then, their objective is to take money away from others. Whenever all players agree unanimously that it's time to restart, the player with the greatest wealth earns immortal fame for defeating a swarm of Isselunde-ravaging monsters, and everyone's wealth is reduced to nothing. Until then: the game goes on!

The game's outline follows: Players begin penniless and landless. Once they have earned initial capital through blogging, they may purchase land from the Crown, which holds it in trust for the nation. That being accomplished, players invest money into their new-purchased land to plant the seeds for various products (manna, land narwhals, baby dragons...). The seeds bear fruit every three real-life days, players sell their product either domestically or to foreigners, and the game goes on. Through all of this, players may buy or sell land or goods from each-other at any time, to acquire a monopoly or to take advantage of a rival's penury. If the King becomes less than watchful, too, they may hire private armies - though, of course, true nobles of Iceland would never be so coarse as to attack one another...

Table of contents.
1: Of the purchase of land, for a nobleman's enjoyment and later profit.
2: Of the cycles of nature: overview.
2a: Spring: or, a time to plant.
2b: Summer: or, a time to wait, and watch.
2c: Autumn: or, a time to reap, and to profit.
2d: Winter: or, why there is none.
3: Of the sale of goods; why? What principles ought be observed?
3a: Domestically.
3b: To the Continent.
3c: On the matter of overseas shipping.
4: The Crown, and certain notes on its responsibilities.
4a: Enforcing the tariffs, and their modification, if necessary.
4b: Declaring the Whim of Nature; the rhetorical roll of the dice, if you would.
4c: Holding Peace in the Land.
4d: Private enterprise.
5: That last resort of desperate men: storage.
6: Final notes.
7. Appendix.

EDIT: I've tagged several areas with "room for expansion" - that is, I'm not going to actually run the numbers just yet, but if players want, this is a feature that could be added. YOU decide what direction the game goes in! An example (that didn't fit anywhere else) follows.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players could be able to hire thieves to loot other players' treasuries, or sabotage their production. This would add a greater element of chance to the game, but provide more options for players.

[1.] LAND.
Land is essential to the economy of Isselunde. From land, all wealth springs; and Isselunde does have ever so much wealth to offer. From Israelites who may bring down heavenly manna through appropriate propitiations, to the fearful land-narwhals (of which every by-product is a treasure), to the inhuman nikolas-wool trade and the most dangerous traffic of all, in baby dragons, there is much profit to be found for the wise baron. There are five types of land which may be purchased, of which only a limited amount is available for purchase from the Crown.

- 25 parcels of manna-bearing Israelite land; 1 florin per parcel. (20 g) [1f, 8g]
- 15 parcels of narwhal-inhabited tundra; 2 florins per parcel. (40 g) [3f, 4g]
- 10 parcels of peaceful wool-bearing meadows; 4 florins per parcel. (80g) [6f, 8g]
- 3 parcels of dragon-infested caverns; 10 florins per parcel. (200g) [16f, 8g] (These, tragically, are currently exterminated by the crown, as it is quite illegal to "tolerate a dragon to live." A waste, as any baron can see.)
- 5 parcels of trade-filled ports; 8 florins per parcel. (160g) [13f, 4g]

These last are special. Overseas trade is the lifeblood of any truly enterprising Isselunde merchant; yet, tragically, the ships that make it possible are far too expensive to reasonably purchase. Renting them, however, is quite feasible; and owning a port gives one the resources to do this; though they must be rented rather in advance...

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Two things here. First, and most obviously, more types of land and goods could be added, if things seemed a little too simple otherwise. Or if you just wanted more Isselundic oddity. Second, an option to buy ships could be added; it would cost much more than renting (initially), and fewer would be available, but maintenance would be cheaper than renting new ships, and one could keep them - providing that they weren't tragically sunk, of course. The former would add complexity; the latter would... well, just be more work for me, honestly.

For every thing, a season; so the proverb goes. In Iceland, that's more or less true, except for all the things that can be done in any season, or none, and also except winter. (See section 2d.) The game begins in spring; every season takes a day, so that on the fourth day of the game, it is spring once more.

[2a.] SPRING.
The season of life! Everything begins here. For crops to grow, they must be paid for well in advance; in fact, two seasons in advance. The Israelites must be paid, the narwhal-hunters must be commissioned, the dragon-tamers must be hired, and the only time to do it is in Spring. The prices are as follows:
- 4 groats per parcel of Israelis.
- 6 groats per parcel of land-narwhals.
- 6 groats per parcel of nikolas-wool.
- 1 florin (20 groats) [1f, 8g] parcel of dragons.
- 16 groats [1f, 4g] per parcel of trade-ships.

[2b.] SUMMER.
Summer is all about waiting, for the nobles of Isselunde; waiting for the crops to flourish. There is one important event occurring in the summer-time, however: it becomes clear, by this season, whether the harvests are to be rich, or poor. Rich harvests result in half again the usual yield for a type of good; poor harvests result in the loss of a quarter of the usual harvest. There is a 60% chance of there being a normal harvest, a 20% chance of an extraordinarily good harvest, and a 20% chance of a sickly harvest. Different types of crops have independent harvests; thus, there may be a good harvest of dragons, a poor harvest of land-narwhals, and a normal harvest of manna, nikolas-wool, and... ships. (There are just less/more available for hire, due to... kraken attack?).

NOTE ALSO that goods are NOT harvested yet. All that is determined in summer is HOW MANY goods will be harvested.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: If things seem too slow in summer - i.e., a waste of a day - then planting dates/harvesting dates could be staggered. In other words, rather than having to plant in spring and harvest in fall, players would be able to plant at any time, receiving the forecast one day later and the products the day after that. This would be much more complicated to track, as different parcels would be all in different states in all seasons (fallow, planted, ripening, just harvested) rather than just two per season. Trade-off: More choice, more complexity, more book-keeping.

[2c.] AUTUMN or FALL it doesn't really MATTER at ALL (but if you want one or the other it's COOL)
Okay, now you can harvest goods. Yields for a normal harvest are as follows:
- 2 tons of manna per parcel
- 2 tons of land narwhal byproducts (tusks, meat, fur, horn, fins) per parcel
- 50 hairs of nikolas-wool per parcel
- 4 baby dragons per parcel
- 4 trade ships per parcel

As noted above, yields for an excellent harvest are half again (1.5x) those for a normal harvest, and yields for a poor harvest are three-quarters (.75x) those for a normal harvest. Also remember that trade ships are not properly goods: they are merely rented. After they ship one load of goods, or after autumn ends without them being sent out, they are dismissed; they cannot be hoarded!

It's okay. I'm not accusing you or anything.

[2d.] WINTER.
Everyone hibernates in winter in Isselunde. The King hibernates, the nobles hibernate, the snow-flies hibernate. It's too cold!

Also, the game is faster if there's no winter.

If you really want, we can have one, but I recommend against. Three seasons are more interesting.

In real life, too.

The main mechanism of profit for a Baron of Isselunde is through the sale of the goods he so carefully cultivates throughout the year. He may sell them to other players, if he feels uncertain of his desire to make a good trade for them to the general populace, or if they offer better terms than he could get on his own, through control of the shipping or some-such. It is unlikely that players will sell all their goods to other players, though; and, barring that eventuality, they will need to sell to the populace, either Domestically or Internationally.

The populace is a steadfast beast. Individually, they may have varying desires for your goods from year to year, but as a mass, they are so predictable that they may be modeled with very simple mathematical equations. At the base price, which varies from good to good (for instance, it is 3 groats for a ton of manna, domestically), there is a given demand for the good: in the case of manna, it is 20 tons. If a player attempts to sell at a higher price, demand will lower according to the equation: in the case of manna, the demand drops by 2 tons for each groat added to the price. Similarly, the demand will rise if a good is sold at a lesser price. In general, prices are higher for goods sold Internationally than goods sold Domestically, but the cost of tariffs and shipping makes it a trade-off.

But what if two players attempt to sell the same good to the same market (domestic/international?)? Why, then, they compete! The market buys the goods of the fellow with the lower price first. If the capacity of the market is filled by this, nothing more occurs. If not, then the higher priced fellow may sell some or all of his goods - either the difference between the goods sold at the lower price and the market's capacity at the lower price OR the market's capacity at the higher price, whichever is lower. (This assumes that people who would only buy the lower-priced goods buy them first, and that people who would buy at higher prices buy later.)

Selling to markets occurs simultaneously - that is, all players agree on what prices their goods will be sold at (perhaps negotiating impromptu monopolies), then the transactions are finalized. International trade works somewhat differently, as will be addressed in the relevant section.


Market capacities are as follows for selling to Isselunde. Note that money is gained within the same day of selling for domestic trade.
- 20 tons manna - (price in g - 3g/ton)*2 tons
- 20 tons narwhal - (price in g - 5g/ton)*2 tons
- 100 hairs of nikolas-wool - ((price in g - 1g/5 hairs)^2)*30 hairs
- 2 baby dragons - (price in g - 10g/dragon)*.2 dragons (rounds up)
(as price rises, the market will buy less. See discussion in section 3.)


Market capacities are as follows for selling abroad. NOTE: Revenues from overseas trade are received on the autumn following the sending of ships! Also, there are tariffs. See the section on shipping, below.
- 100 tons manna - (price in g - 10g/ton)*20 tons
- 100 tons narwhal - (price in g - 15g/ton)*20 tons
- 450 hairs of nikolas-wool- ((price in g - 2g/hairs)^2)*30 hairs
- 9 baby dragons - (price in g - 30g/dragon)*.2 dragons (rounds up)
(as price rises, the market will buy less. See discussion in section 3.)

Though Isselundic clippers are quite swift, they do not travel instantaneously! It takes them a full season to travel to the Continent and another to travel back, meaning that any profits from their journeys arrive only on the fall succeeding the one upon which they were sent. (That is, three days later.) Three other major factors encumber the otherwise-more-profitable international trade:
- Tariffs. The Crown sets tariffs upon certain goods, as also discussed in that section (4a). By default, they are 2 groats per ton of manna or narwhal and 1 groat per hair shipped overseas. This payment is determined at the time of shipping, but may be delayed (if necessary) until the revenues from that trip return.
- Shipping costs. It costs money to maintain ships - for players to rent them, in context. And, thus, it is only appropriate that players should charge for shipping. It costs 4 groats per ship for the renter; a likely fee might be 6 or 8 groats for use, assuming that the player does not simply reserve the ship for his own use. If players truly need to ship goods overseas, the Crown has its own private fleet, available to lease at 9 groats per ship; this is more expensive, but may be worthwhile for the man who really needs to move goods. (And Zig.)
- There is a slight chance - one in fifty or so - that any ship sent out will sink before it reaches its destination. This is checked before ships reach the Continent (in Spring) and before they return to Isselunde (at the end of Summer - after dudes spend cash etc.). Tragedy may strike at any moment! Beware.

EDIT: I am pretty sure that I forgot to mention how much of each type of good a ship may carry. Trade-ships, in their missions, carry only a limited quantity of goods - up to 10 tons of manna or narwhal-stuff, 200 hairs, or 4 baby dragons each. There can be no mixing of goods on a single ship, as goods tend to react poorly with each-other. (Do you really want to ship a baby dragon in a ship filled with vulnerable nikolas-wool?) Also it would be a little too complicated to track.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players could hire privateers or use their own ships to try to destroy competitors' commerce, perhaps looting the ships in the process. This would be extremely rude, and quite ungentlemanly, so I'm sure that no-one would use the feature even if it was put in place. If it was, though, it would allow more interactivity in the overseas-trade process, at the cost of... well, more complexity!

The Crown rules Isselunde with a gentle hand. The joint responsibilities of all Barons to guide, the Crown distributes public property, enforces laws, and is even held responsible for some acts of Nature. Players may pass the role of the Crown between one-another, or they may simply each act in its stead as necessary. There's not much to do, at present...

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: The Crown's duties might be expanded to include inflation, which would penalize players who hoarded money too greedily. Players would somehow persuade the crown (perhaps with bribes - no, gifts...) to inflate the currency... I'm not certain that we actually need to penalize players for hoarding right now, but if the need arises, this might work.

As mentioned in passing in section 3c, the Crown imposes tariffs on certain goods. By default, the tariff is 2 groats per ton of manna or narwhal, and 1 groat per hair exported. No tariff is imposed on dragons; as they are quite illegal, all dragons are smuggled.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Players may influence the crown to raise or lower tariffs, or impose custom inspections which increase the cost of concealing dragons. (Essentially the same thing.) How they would influence the crown is unclear - perhaps they might give monetary gifts, or contribute to some other influence system... most things relating to the crown would benefit from an influence system, so that's something to consider. Variable tariffs are generally beneficial - they would make the game more dynamic, and mess with players who trade heavily overseas (possibly to their profit) - but it would require an influence system, which doesn't yet exist.

[4b.] NATURE.
The Crown is responsible for all random numbers, for such things as determining the results of harvests and whether ships sink. This should probably be done in person, to prevent the dreaded CHEATING.

Were Barons to declare war on one another - unthinkable, unbearable! - and were they to maintain it for more than two seasons, the King himself would be forced to take action against them, destroying the warring armies. This would never happen, though, obviously.

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: Systems for private armies - that is, pricing for their hiring and maintenance, conflicts, burning and conquering land... These would add another, more competitive side to the game, but would make it much more dynamic.

The Crown does buy and sell certain goods, but at prices rather removed from those of the market. They are a last choice for any sane Baron.
- buys food at 1g/ton, hairs at 1g/15 hair
- sells manna at 8g/ton, narwhal at 15g/ton, hairs at 1g/hair, ships at 9g/ship (as mentioned in section 3c, above)

ROOM FOR EXPANSION: The Crown's supply and price of goods might be made dependent on how much land of the appropriate type remains in their possession - if someone's bought up all their nikolas-wool lands, they won't be able to sell nikolas-wool anymore, and will buy nikolas-wool at a higher price. Could be amusing - slightly more complicated, though.

If Barons find the prices in the current season truly unbearable, they may store goods for a season, selling them in the following season. It costs 1 groat per ton of narwhal or manna per season, 1 groat per fifty hairs per season, and 10 groats per baby dragon per season. Note that overseas trade only occurs in the fall; thus, one must store goods for three full seasons if one wishes to preserve them for that purpose.

Remember the purpose of the game, as mentioned above. Cash for blogging. Meeting together to solidify any financial deals - though all the details should be worked out online, likely on a message-board. Inter-player transactions can take place at any time - one may sell land in Summer or goods in Fall, if one has them. The more enterprising players might even sell futures!

And, of course: have fun!

*All details are rough, and may be changed before play begins. Mutable! Be warned!
**Isselundic florins. Twenty groats to a florin, twelve florins to a Desmark.

EDIT: I forgot the Appendix. Whoops! Here it is:

(sorry about the line breaks here - they seem to be a bug of some sort.)

Resource NameMannaNarwhal Nikolas-Wool Dragons Ships
Base Land Price 1f 2f 4f 10f 8f
4g 6g 6g 20g 16g
Normal Products 2 tons 2 tons 50 slaves 4 baby dragons 4 ships
Domestic Demand 20 tons manna - (price in g - 3g/ton)*2 tons 20 tons narwhal - (price in g - 5g/ton)*2 tons 100 hairs- ((price in g - 1g/5 hairs)^2)*30 hairs 2 baby dragons - (price in g - 10g/dragon)*.2 dragons -
International Demand 100 tons manna - (price in g - 10g/ton)*20 tons 100 tons narwhal - (price in g - 15g/ton)*20 tons 450 hairs- ((price in g - 2g/hairs)^2)*30 hairs9 baby dragons - (price in g - 30g/dragon)*.2 dragons -
Ship Capacity 10 tons 10 tons 200 hairs 4 dragons -
Base Tariffs 2g/ton 2g/ton 1g/hair 0g -
Crown Buying Price 1g/ton 1g/ton 1g/15 hairs - -
Crown Selling Price 8g/ton 15g/ton 1g/hair - -
Storage Costs/Season 1g/ton 1g/ton 1g/50 hairs 10g/dragon -

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