One of the ways I spent my time while I was sans computer this weekend (long story) was in attempting to brainstorm some ideas about how I would implement a Gamma World style setting in an MMO.  As long-time readers may know, GW is one of my all-time favorite settings… something about the concept just fascinates me.

My trigger for the cataclysm for this implementation is biological, an imaginary disease (rabies variant?) that quickly (but sneakily) reduces the victim to paranoid delusions.  It spreads rapidly through the Ancient population, some of the infected with security clearances are not recognized in time, a little too much automation, a few too many unquestioning in the wrong places, and Boom…

-=-

Anyway, when I got to economics, I ran into a bit of a quandary.  One of the facets I enjoy about the GW concept is the juxtaposition of various levels of technological development: everything from Stone Age to Star Trek can be fit in somewhere, one way or another. 

Logically, the same should apply to forms of transaction and currency.  The possible forms I had listed after a few minutes of contemplation were as follows:

Barter: straight up trade of goods and services for other goods and services.  Perhaps implement a “bargaining/haggling” system (optional?), similar to Vanguard diplomacy, to add gameplay value and help clarify comparative values without resorting to direct currency references?

Precious Metals: ingots and coins of various possible materials.  Relatively easy to implement, comfortable to players.  Weight/encumbrance and possibility of loss via robbery/destruction potential issues to be dealt with.

Bearer Bonds/Paper Money: Next step up the ladder, potentially decouples local economy from gold standard, convenience due to lower weight/encumbrance.  Easier to steal and/or destroy.

Ancient Coinage: the future history I am postulating had an economy which had not gone entirely virtual as of the cataclysm which was it’s downfall.  Small, light coins of varying denominations made of nearly indestructible alloys (duralloy was a common imaginary material in the old GW settings) were still in use to a minor degree.  Easiest form to convert between various economic levels: assume conversion to/from virtual economy could occur at ancient vending machines and ATMs.

Virtual Economy: one of the accomplishments the intrepid post-Cataclysm Adventurer should eventually be able to gain is an “account” within the Ancient communications/financial network.  (It is assumed that this system was eventually made largely automatic and self-sustaining, such that it survived the Cataclysm largely intact, and is only slowly degrading over time, although access to it is limited).  

Access to this virtual economy should represent significant added (if only randomly accessible) utility to the character: consider an ability to order additional ammo for delivery “to nearly any location in the continental US by 1-hour robo-courier, guaranteed! (Not available in all areas, void where prohibited…)”  Or an ability to summon a hover-taxi for a quick jaunt downtown (only 25 credits per tenth of a mile, minimum charge 2000 credits)?

-=- 

The quandary is, while I think there is a decent path of progression that could be built up through the various levels such that players would have time to learn each system separately, is it too confusing for most players (even the hardcore ones I would really be focusing on) to want to deal with so many different forms of commerce?  Arbitrage opportunities would run rampant, values of various goods would logically fluctuate wildly from location to location… is it too many options?

Any feedback would be welcome… thanks!