Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MegaTraveller: A Cool $2 Million

I'm exhausted just reading this.

I can only think of one other game, Baldur's Gate II, that requires you to hit some kind of monetary threshold before moving on to the next stage of the plot. I'm sure there are others, and I'll be glad to hear about them in the comments, but I can't remember this type of challenge showing up so far in my chronology.

The difference, of course, is that Baldur's Gate II made the accumulation of funds fun and interesting, with numerous quests and a couple of related sub-plots. It's a safe bet that most players continue playing that chapter well beyond having achieved the monetary threshold. In MegaTraveller, in contrast, the accumulation of $2 million takes a long time, is mostly boring, and happens in maddeningly small increments. Take the screen shot that leads this post, for instance. You race between three planets to return a flag to the original planet, all for a measly $10,000--expending about $3,000 in fuel in the meantime. It's simply not worth the effort.

A "Jump 2" drive is necessary for traveling more than 1 hex at a time. Thus, you need one to reach the upper-right systems.

The $2 million is needed for a "Jump 2" drive, necessary to get out of the original cluster of systems and to the Boughene system, where an agent named Arik Toryan is waiting. Depending on how many terms your characters served and how you selected their retirement benefits, you might start with anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, but you also have to buy weapons, armor, miscellaneous equipment, and ship's equipment, so the real amount of money you need to move to the next plot point is closer to $3 million. You can accumulate it a number of ways:

1. Waiting for assassins to attack you, then taking their ID badges to the Imperial Military Security Agency on Alell for the reward. (Fortunately, Konrad Kiefer only hires "most wanted" criminals to bounty-hunt the party.) This is by far the most lucrative of the options, awarding a couple hundred thousand dollars (it varies depending on the assassin) per ID badge. Unfortunately, you can only earn up to around $600,000 using this method in the first cluster of systems, as the rest of the assassins are in areas only accessible with the "Jump 2" drive.

The manual has a detailed description of each assassin.

Grabbing an ID off the corpse of one of them.

2. Gambling. But you need a character with high "gambling" skill to make any money, and the rewards are small.

3. Cargo-trading. Recording prices at each starport allows you to buy low and sell high.

4. Finding miscellaneous items wanted by various NPCs, like gems, pendants, and artifacts. Like the "racing" option above, these provide such low reward value (around $10,000 - $20,000 each) that they're barely worth the effort. There are also a limited number of items to find and return.

These small amounts aren't really worth the trouble.

The first and fourth options are most akin to the quests of Baldur's Gate II, and in a better-plotted game, I would have been happy to run around fighting enemies and solving side-quests to earn the $2 million. But the planets of MegaTraveller are consistently boring, as is the gameplay necessary to move from planet to planet; the combat system is unimpressive; and there's almost no sense of character development (which would be the other reason to do side-quests and engage in combat), so my first attempts to earn money centered mostly on gambling.
One of these days, we're going to have to have a long discussion about gambling in RPGs. It's hard to do it well. In the real world, the game itself is half the point, but in a CRPG, you're already playing a game that's presumably more interesting than the gambling minigame, so if the minigame takes too much time and effort, you get impatient. But if it's too simple and fast, the gains and losses rack up awfully quickly, magnifying even the slightest edge towards the player or the house, either breaking the game or making the minigame an idiotic proposition.

Then there's the whole saving aspect. If the game already allows liberal saving, it's hard to make an exception just for the area of the gambling facility, but without such an exception, gambling becomes meaningless.

MegaTraveller manages to solve some obvious problems. Even though gaming is quick--a three-second slot machine spin--the losses and rewards are so small that it's hard to either gain or burn money quickly. Since you can only save in starports, this puts a little distance between the game and the gambling facility and discourages reloads. Since you can only wager exactly $100 at a time, there isn't much danger of catastrophic loss in the first place.

The system is otherwise mostly nonsensical. Even though the only gambling game is a slot machine, somehow "gambling" skill affects the results. Perhaps slots work differently in the future, but I don't encourage any of you to head to Vegas thinking that you can somehow beat the slots through experience or education. To have a chance of a consistent winning streak, you need a character with a skill of 4 or 5, which is relatively hard to achieve. Recall that during character creation, you pick the category that you want to study in, but the game randomly picks the specific skill (or sub-category of skills) from the category list. "Vice" is the sub-category containing "gambling," and for all branches of service, it only shows up one time on one list. To get a skill level of 4 or 5, you have to select the master category containing "Vice" every time and hope that the random roll selects it. I went through 12 or 13 characters before I finally graduated one with a skill of 5.

A winning spin.

I added him to the party and took him to the casino, where I recorded the results of 200 rolls. With results ranging from $0 to $1,750, I averaged a return of about $140 on a $100 investment, meaning the average roll returned $40 in profit. This sounds pretty good--it would be great in a real casino--but do the math. I would have needed 50,000 rolls to achieve $2 million, and at 3 seconds per roll, that's 42 hours.

I wasn't above weighing down the ENTER key while I did other things, but the other complication is that the casino runs out of money after it loses about $30,000. You have to get into your spaceship, take off, and re-land before you can start winning again. In general, then, it was a way to make some of the money I needed while I took a shower or ran an errand, but it wasn't going to get me to my goal.

This is what happens when a casino bases its slot payouts on skill rather than luck.

I ultimately turned in three bounties, and collectively they netted me about $500,000, which was a good chunk of the money I needed. I turned in NPC rewards when they were convenient; for instance, a bartender on Efate wanted a pendant that I also found on Efate, earning me $15,000.

My most lucrative bounty.

Most of the funds came from trading. The most lucrative route that I found was to fill up my cargo hold with water in Efate for $50 a unit and sell it on Louzy for $3,390 per unit. Unfortunately, the cargo hold only carries 20 units of anything at a time. Still, the route earned $57,800 per trip, minus about $5,000 to refuel the ship each time. Once I had a system in place, each trip took about 10 minutes in real time. Supplemented by gambling, about 30 trips got me the $2 million I needed, plus a comfortable padding, and about a third of the way through the first season of The Rockford Files. That show really holds up.

(I should also mention that I was constantly spending money, too, mostly on ammunition, healing, and fuel. Earning money isn't a constant upward trajectory.)

Loading up on cheap cargo for resale.

Reader Gaguum, a big fan of the tabletop Traveller game, has commented several times that the spirit of the game involves playing a party that is usually broke and scrounging for its next meal, taking on any job or mission that it can find just to survive. In that sense, the computer version has done a reasonably good job mimicking the tabletop experience. It's just that the game world and mechanics of the computer version are so uninteresting that it makes this stage of the game an exercise in warding off tedium. Nothing interesting happens on the planets except that someone tries to attack you. NPCs never have anything interesting to say; there are no discoveries. And 1990 players didn't have Netflix to keep them company while they ran dozens of trade missions between the same two planets.

Refueling at a starport saps my hard-won credits.

In any event, I eventually had about $3 million. I bought weapons, computers, and programs for the spaceship, then blasted off on the main quest to Boughene. Before I talk about that, let's discuss the game's approach to combat, which I've mostly figured out.

Missed shots leave a blasted landscape.

There are hostile NPCs on almost every planet, and sometimes--as in the case of the gravitic city bar on Efate--it's not entirely clear why they're hostile. They just start shooting. To respond in kind, you first have to enter the "party" sub-menu and break up the party's single icon into multiple icons representing each character. The game scatters them around the initial location using any space available, sometimes putting them right on top of the hostile NPCs, which creates a bit of a problem.

Once separated, you can enter the "orders" sub-menu, which pauses the game, and issue individual orders to each character, including moving, firing at a target, reloading, and using an item like a combat drug or grenade. Exiting the "orders" menu causes your orders to execute, and characters will keep doing what you told them until you issue new orders. The character's skill with the chosen weapon affects both speed and accuracy. You watch as your character's shots and the enemy's shots criss-cross each other, often missing, sometimes leaving gouges in the floor, sometimes hitting but doing no damage, sometimes hitting and doing damage.

Blasting away in close quarters.

The dynamic doesn't sound too bad, except that:

  • Characters don't always seem to do what you tell them to do. In an early post, I remarked that I couldn't get them to fire at all. Lately, I've had problems with a single character never firing his laser rifle despite having a "laser weapons" skill of 3 and plenty of ammo.
  • Sometimes, characters do no damage. Minutes will pass in which every fired shot does 0 damage. I'll enter orders mode again, tell everyone to fire again, and suddenly they'll start doing damage.
  • Characters often mistake my orders to target a particular enemy to target the enemy's square. The enemy moves and half my characters track him and keep shooting at him, while the other half waste ammo blowing holes in the floor where he was standing a few moments ago.

Perhaps the worst part is that combat is extremely unpredictable. I've had my entire party wiped out by a foe, reloaded, and then had the same party kill him without taking any serious damage.

The only real tactic seems to be to avoid engaging more than one enemy at once. This isn't too hard, as groups of enemies wander around randomly, and with a little patience, you can separate one from the herd. Once you enter "party" mode and start shooting, enemies never enter or leave the active screen, so skillful use of the terrain lets you take them on one at a time. In confined quarters, like a building, this strategy doesn't really work.

Siphoning a single enemy from the larger pack across the river.

One major complaint that I have about the game is that the characters don't seem to be developing at all. I thought I understood from the manual that skill levels increase through use, but multiple combat victories haven't advanced anyone's weapon skills, and hours and hours spent at gambling didn't increase my character's "gambling" skill. I'm pretty sure not a single skill has increased through use. That leaves training as the only mechanism for "leveling." Training areas in some starports offer a relatively random selection of training opportunities (they change with every visit), but at around $40,000 to $50,000 per skill point, it will be a while before I can afford even a handful.

This starport offers training in "laser weapons" and "jack of all trades." I could afford two sessions, but I'm not sure it's a good expenditure of funds at the moment.

At long last, I made it to Boughene to track down the contact that the Transom agent had instructed me to visit in the game's opening scenes. A bartender told me that a man named "Viktor" wanted to meet me on the other side of a bridge. It took me a while to find it. "Viktor" turned out to be another traitor working for Konrad Kiefer, somehow high enough in the corporation that he arranged for Arik (the contact I was supposed to meet) to be transferred to the nearby planet Neaera. He explained all of this in his villain's speech:

He attacked me with five other guys, and I kept dying, so eventually I just walked away from the battle and flew to Neaera in my ship. In the only building on that planet, I found a locked door, so I figured I needed to defeat Viktor to get a key or something.

82 skills in this game and not one of them is "lockpick."

I returned to Boughene and used the strategy described above to engage and kill them one-by-one. Even as singular foes, Viktor's party was extremely deadly, and I had to run back to town to heal and save between each individual battle. Eventually, I killed him and got a keycard from his body.

I end this post back on Neaera. The keycard got me into the facility, but it's crawling with Kiefer's agents, and there are no healing services on the planet, so I'll probably have to take this slow.

If you made a list of the lamest villain names in speculative fiction, "Kiefer" would have to be close to the top, perhaps just under "Malcom Trandle."

In the meantime, a couple random observations:

  • Technically, you don't have to pay for fuel. Once you have enough money to buy "fuel scoops" for $25,000 and a "fuel purify plant" for $50,000, you can stop by any gas giant and refuel. Although the manual clued me into this, and I bought the items fairly early, it took me a while to find suitable gas giants. Planets that I thought were gas giants confounded me when they didn't do anything, and it's hard for me to see their color (dark blue or maybe purple) against the black of the main navigation map.

Not a gas giant suitable for refueling.
Here we go!

  • Gaguum told  me that Traveller fans refer to the game simply as "Trav." This is, probably not coincidentally, the name of the executable that starts the game.
  • My navigation of systems is complicated by the presence of asteroids in a lot of them. They show up on the mini navigation map, but I have trouble distinguishing them from the planets, more because of the size of the dots than because of the color.

It makes a pretty cool picture, though.

  • The manual probably explains away some of my points of confusion, but the blasted thing is 85 pages long. It's tough to keep track of that much information. 
  • I experimented with buying information for $2,000 a pop on some planets. The intel has been mostly useless, discussing things that I would have found through general exploration anyway, such as the presence of a maze on Sino or the flag races on Alell.

This information is easily-discoverable by simply talking to NPCs in museums.

I hope the game moves at a faster clip now that I'm fully equipped and engaged in the main plot. I have literally no idea what percentage of the game I've experienced. For those who have played: is accumulating the $2 million a significant portion of the game, or is it just a prologue to a much longer plot?


  1. My favourite example of requiring money in an RPG is from Ultima VII: Serpent Isle.

    At one point, you need to pay some guards to let a crazy sea captain out of prison, and the guards give you a specific price. When you have that money, they increase the price. They really want a gold bar, but will keep increasing the price as long as you like. I went around stealing every coin I could find and they still wouldn't take it, even though it was far beyond what you would get for a gold bar.

    1. I remember this very well - my first WTF? moment in Serpent Isle. Sadly, not the last.

  2. I've not played this game since I eventually got around to completing it about 15 years ago, but my memory is that once you FINALLY got the $2million, the game proceeds pretty quickly and is significantly more fun.

  3. Best gambling so far has been in KOTOR.
    Bazaak is the only mini game I've played in an RPG that I could play just because it's bazaak.

    And btw that guy on the first planet cheats and boy was I surprised when I finally won the guy and he pretty much blurted it out.

    1. I remember that one. I had a lot of fun with it. I never did make heads or tails of "Caravan" in FO:NV, though, which otherwise seemed similar.

    2. Caravan was basically 3 handed blackjack (in scoring), where the face cards did special things. It wasn't a very good game, and even when I managed to figure it out (can't remember details, haven't played NV in awhile), it still was a bore.

    3. For the life of me I couldn't figure out Caravan. Not even with guides. Seems I wasn't the only one.
      Bazaak was really great. I also loved the fact that it was like a small ccg in the game.

    4. I liked Caravan. But it was only really fun during the short period from slowly getting it to mastering it.

    5. Caravan in F:NV seemed like a really cool game, but I never managed to do anything in it. As in, I literally couldn't figure out how to successfully play a card.

      When listing gambling minigames in RPGs, Arcomage in Might and Magic 7/8 and Triple Triad in Final Fantasy 8 should always get a nod. Both ended up being separately downloadable games of their own.

    6. I liked the gambling in Mass Effect. Admittedly, it was just Blackjack, but you know.

      Oh, and there was the gambling in Dragon Warrior II that was kind of fun. Again, based on real-world games, but you got items instead of cash, so it was a good way to turn cash into rare items.

    7. Today we all know that Gwent in Witcher 3 is simply the best mini-game in history ;-)

    8. Arcomage would have been a lot more fun if they hadn't tied it to a quest. It made it feel like an obligation and it could be difficult to track where you'd already won.

  4. There was a pretty fun gambling bit in Legacy of the Ancients. The fortune teller will tell you that you're going to make a fortune playing "Flip Flop." It's a pachinko like game, that is easy to exploit. The problem is, if you make too much money in one session, the guards will come after you. You can still solve all your money problems with Flip Flop, but at least it's got some humorous entertainment baked in.

    I also have fond memories of Arcomage from the late Might and Magic games. But it was actually a good enough game, they spun it off as a stand-alone release. When a mini-game is that much fun, is it still even a mini-game?

    1. Arcomage is fun, but it's terribly simplistic. I have a hard time imagining wanting to play it much as a stand-alone game.

    2. It's a decent game . Simplistic, as you say, but there is strategy and randomness, and that combination is often satisfying.

    3. I liked Arcomage, but it wasn't really a "gambling game." You win money the first time you play it at each tavern, but only the first time. There's no way to lose money or even enter a specific bet. Great mini-game, though.

  5. Dragon Age II has a "get enough money" gate for the first act. In that case once you get it you proceed into the final dungeon of the act. The money gate is to get you to do all of the quests available so your character gets built up and you get a glimpse into the underlying story that will come up in acts 2 and 3.

    1. I can't believe I forgot about DA2. I just played it a month ago. It's a very good example of this trope.

  6. Google Arcomage. I was surprised myself how much interest there is in it still. I probably played 10 hours or so of the stand alone game. Certainly a bit more than your average mini-game. Not a lifetime obsession, for me at least.

    1. OMG, I LOVED Arcomage! That's my favorite minigame ever!

      There's an Android clone of it called "Archmage."

  7. It's not a barrier to progression in the game, but Neverwinter Nights 2 demands a huge outlay of cash to upgrade your castle and its garrison in preparation for the climatic siege against the Big Bad.

    It's really just a money sink and demands a little under three-quarters of a million gold pieces to purchase all of the upgrades. I guess it solves the problem of heroes carrying around hundreds of thousands of gold pieces, but I can't recall if not purchasing the upgrades really makes that big of a difference aside from making the siege harder for your party to slog through.

  8. Believe you are near the end of the game. The $2 million drive felt like a cheap way of forcing a player to mindlessly grind for cash to pad the "playing time" of the game.

  9. Gambling skill was meant to abstractly represent gambling skill of some kind. Having PCs in a computer game pull a slot machine lever is just some programmer's broken understanding of what "gambling" is and how "skill" affects it. Nope, the only gambling he's heard of is slot machines, so that's what's going in the game. A skill-based slot payout? Good job there, champ.

    Rockford Files, yeah. That show was the epitome of everything a TV show should have been. A likeable lead, fun plots every week, and a great theme song. I used to never turn it off during reruns in the 80s.

    This kind of game was my bane back in the day. I used to always play them. The game that, while looking cool and having cool parts, was in fact totally broken because the programmers had never played it. Economy that doesn't work, flat featureless worlds empty of color, no reason to go anywhere other than near your home, and the few fixed encounters where you actually got a paragraph about the plot being difficult and deadly. And the problem is, you can't tell that the game is like that until investing many hours. Even today, with reviews it's still hard to know because maybe the game just didn't fit the reviewer's idea of what a game should be and thus got a negative rating.

    A pity about the manual. I used to *like* games with big manuals. Nothing worse than getting a new game and finding it had a 12-pager.

    1. Or when the "manual" was the fold-in installation instruction sheet in the front of the CD jewel case.

    2. Oh, that was the worst. Those CDs usually had the manual as a PDF on the CD, but you could hardly consult the manual and play the game at the same time (DOS, remember). Even with Windows 95, you weren't advised to switch windows too often, especially to memory-intensive tasks like long PDFs.

  10. Looks like you've had about 85% of the game behind.

    A word of advice.

    As soon as you encounter Arika's "bodyguards" try to deal with them as soon as you can.

    I think that there's no reason to delay in the completion of the adventure in this place.

    1. And I agree with Bob. You don't need to "harvest" more money.

    2. One last thought.
      If you do not have a key or skills, you can always try to use the "power";)

    3. Nintendo Power? I hear it's got the clues that he could use, Nintendo Power.

  11. Traveller seems IMO like a perfect game for a troupe style of play - this week, you're an orphan on a fringe planet trying to scratch a living. Next week, you're a soldier on the front lines covering his buddies. People live & die fast. You never know how far your peons will make it, and it certainly makes up for an unique experience.
    It's terrible way for a computer game, though. People like to develop attachment to their characters, and it's impossible to do when they don't develop skills and die at every corner. And you lose any investment you put into the character.
    I remember Final Fantasy 4 had a similar thing, where party members were regullary killed by the plot. It was unique, but very annoying.

    BTW. Have you played U7 Serpent Isle, in your younger years?

    1. MT2 at least is possibly the only game I play where I hire new characters instead of reloading on character death (except high stealth chars). I attribute this to considering stealth as the only useful skill in the entre game.

    2. I have played U7P2. I remember it being fun but very LONG. I think I played it halfway through about three times before getting exhausted with it each time. I think I finally just used a walkthrough to push through to the end.

    3. I played U8 for about 10 minutes once. I couldn't get over how stupid the character icon looked, and the idea of jumping puzzles in an Ultima game didn't sit well with me. It appears my initial impressions were correct.

      Nonetheless, I'll have to play it when I get there.

    4. I played a bit of U8 when it came out, having never played any other Ultima titles, and I quite liked it.

      I get the feeling that, had it not been an Ultima game, it'd have been much more positively received.

  12. Final Fantasy VIII had an enjoyable 'gambling' minigame. You could challenge any NPC you met to a game of cards, some played, some didn't. Every time you played you'd wager a card you owned and so would they. It was exciting when you saw they had a unique card, because if you kept playing them, they'd eventually wager it.

    KotOR II's pazaak was fun, as mentioned, although the most irritating phrase in the game was Atton Rand's utterance whenever you asked him to pick a lock: "Pure Puh-Zaahk"

    I'm not surprised you don't remember FO:NV's money gate, given how trivial it is to acquire caps. If you clear every location prior to reaching the New Vegas gates you have 6-10 times the asking amount.I never bothered with the New Vegas card game, or the gambling (clearly I didn't get into the spirit of the locale)

    1. FO:NV is kind of a lame example of this, though. As you point out, the requirement amount is extremely low, and there are a few ways around it.

      NV does a great job mimicking authentic Vegas rules with blackjack and roulette. I wish they'd done the same with craps; I might have finally figured out how to play.

  13. A classic "get money to advance the plot" experience is in the third chapter of the JRPG Dragon Quest 4, a.k.a. Dragon Warrior 4. You play as a merchant trying to raise funds to start his own business, and there are multiple ways to go about that task, from working as a shopkeeper to battling monsters to quests.

    The entire chapter is memorable and popular to this day. A common self-imposed player challenge is to earn the money while keeping the shopkeeper at level 1 the entire time. It's a "money-gate" done right.

  14. In the free (but extraordinary good) RPG Dark Disciples the whole main quest is to raise enough money to repay your father's debts.

  15. I learned the basic elements of poker as a kid from a mini-game in Police Quest (I know, not an RPG...) I think you had to win a certain amount of money to advance the plot.

    1. Ugh.. I remember coming upon that one (its in the Hotel I think). Age 10, with very little English and no knowledge of poker whatsoever - needless to say I was doomed.

  16. Some stats from five years CRPG Addict.

    2801 hours spent on the games themselves = average of 1.5 hours per day

    166 games

    In this

    642 hours (23%) for 20 games (12%) rating in the range of 50-69 (mean 56.1)

    1279 hours (45.5%) of 46 games (27%) rating in the range of 33-49 (mean 44.3)

    880 hours (31.5%) out of 102 games (61%) in the range rating of 6-32 (mean 30.6)


    4 game average yearly range rating of 50 and above

    9 games per year on average between 33-49 rating

    an average of 20 games per year in the range of 6-32

    Titanic and also a very good job.

    I wish more games with higher-end rating..

    Thank you for everything.
    (And I apologize for statistics - not everyone likes them.)

    1. The average of 1.5 hours per day doesn't make me feel so bad. After all, it is my primary hobby.

      If only I hadn't been playing so many off-blog games during the period, the statistic would actually be quite healthy.

  17. You will not thwart Kiefer's plans!

  18. How about the gambling in Ultima VII? If you were a member of the Fellowship, the rat race paid 6:1, but your odds of winning were 1:4. If you bet on all 4 rats, you were guaranteed to increase your gold 3:2 every single time you played.

    Amazing game. Stupid gambling.

  19. In point of fact, it is possible to play the slots skillfully. My grandmother used to double her money with it every time she went to the casino. The key is that slot machines are designed to make sure they have a payout every so many pulls, so you watch the machines and develop an eye for the payout interval and then when somebody leaves a machine just before it reaches its threshold, you take over from there.

    It's gotten more difficult with modern, electronic slots since lots of them are wired together into sets and all you know is that one of the machines in the set is going to pay out, but I'm sure someone could come up with a way to analyze the pattern there too.

    You won't break a casino this way though. the machines pay out 80-90% of what's put into them regardless. You can't adjust the odds vs. the house to your favor, merely the odds vs. the other players.

    1. Well...I'll just say that my understanding is that isn't how slots actually work, your grandmother's experience notwithstanding. Every site I consult says that every pull is completely independent and random. The only links between machines are in progressive slot machines, but even these aren't designed to pay out at specific intervals.

    2. The myth goes that the gaming commission mandated that each slot machine has to pay out a stipulated rate of return over some claimed interval. eg A machine that a casino tells the commission pays out 0.83 to the dollar must pay out 8300 every 10 000. That's not the case and never has been. A commission's auditor merely needs to be satisfied that the design (which, since the 80s, means software) ensures that the expected return complies with state legislation.

      There are only one or two games at any Casino that can have positive value propositions for a player. One is poker, if the poker player is sufficiently better than their opponents that they can profit despite the rake. Very few players are this good.

      Under some circumstances, blackjack can be profitable, although these days casinos take a range of measures to make it more difficult for players to use card counting/shuffle tracking to maintain an edge against the house.

  20. So... It's actually possible to earn the 2M in the starting system. You need a few things. money, enough to buy a pgmp from the high-tech gun dealer on the starting world (efate maybe?), and at least one character with a stealth of 2 or better. In the same system, there's a small world with a really high law level. I can't remember the name now and my copy is packed away. Sneak the PGMP past the customs. It sells for, I want to say between half again as much as you paid for it, to twice as much. Repeat.

    To sneak 20 some through (as you'll want to do later) drop the ones you've snuck past customs on the tile the you end up on after the customs check point. Go back into customs get the confiscated ones back and repeat. If you used your characters who don't have the sneak skill while you do this you'll eventually be able to train them in sneak. MT1 requires you to use a skill a lot of times before you can pay to have it trained. It won't level itself up automatically.

  21. Another game that had a money gate was Shadowrun:Dragonfall, though it never really felt that way. Your mercenary team was trying to earn enough money to buy some information off a broker, and to that end you had to take on missions. But you couldn't withdraw money from the particular account allocated to it, and missions would pay directly into it. So the money gate was more a excuse for previous quests than something you had to loot or trade towards like here.

  22. It's interesting how much the broken economy of the game owes to the experience of *tabletop* game developers fed to the CRPG team. The whole reward system screams that it came from tabletop RPG sessions, where DM would encourage players to go onto one-off quests with relatively few money spent on ammo, and interplanetary trading with rewards would be something that would be done once in a long while, so the rewards would be much higher; yet in the CRPG context the ease of doing the two tasks would be reversed, leading to such a broken economy.

    In fact, it would be curious to figure out whether the average in-person game in these rules actually got to experience that much space travel at all; to me the numbers look like as if any form of space travel would amount to something people do in end-game rather than a main mechanic.


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1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.