As an artist I have had a huge on and off affair with tabletop games. War-gaming has always been my first mistress, spawning huge collections of Game Workshop armies and other miniatures, but table-top pen and paper role playing games have always been a close second. What I most enjoy about the genre is the interactive story-telling that goes on around a table, and as a creative writer 9 out of 10 times I tell those stories.
I have created many world and universe, some planned others off the cuff, places meant to aid my story and give it depth. Now how does Economics work into all of this? Simple, I believe it is a very important first step. It can be enough to know that Town A is in a desert but it doesn’t let the world run itself. Now if Town A is built near or on a large salt mine, we have depth. This salt mine requires workers, dedicated workers, this means not a lot of people have time to hunt and gather, it also gives Town A something to trade with.
Now Town B is 3 days horse ride to the west and located on the coast, it is a fishing town. So we have a town with food, and a town with salt. Town B needs salt to preserve its fish, to seasons its fish, and any other uses that may arise. Town A needs food, or at least some food to support its dedicated work force. A very simplistic Economy of trade is established and can be used to flesh out the rest of this small area. Town A will need a mine foreman, and some sort of family or bank to run the mines administration and daily activities. Soldiers may need to be hired to protect the mine from savage desert tribes, or theft, maybe even to control the prisoners that are forced to work off their sentence in the mine.
Town B will need a union of fishermen, or a market place where fish are brought and traded. Guards to protect against theft and piracy, and possibly also a banker to help control trade in and out of the town. Caravan routes will be established between the towns, even these could be guarded. So both towns will probably have blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair equipment, inns to house visiting officials, and taverns to amuse the workers. That is before we look at this any deeper, and realize that we need more towns for it to all work, a farming town could be one, a town that mines ore another.
Economy provides you with several tools, first it gives the world a reason for running. Next it gives you power bases, maybe you can have warring families fighting to control the industries of your towns. It gives you adventure hooks, places to add in corrupt officials or lax guards, noble houses to rob, murders and bounties to be committed or collected. Add in savage tribes, or warlike towns, and you have just another layer of depth. It brings a breathe of the real world to your world, a reason any of this even exists, the gears behind the red curtain.
Finally it gives you one of the steps needed to have your world continue even when the players can’t see it happening. Those towns will continue to grow, families will rise and fall, fortunes will be made, bartenders may change. Riots or wars could destroy one town, causing the other to fall into disuse, poverty or ruin. In my mind Economy is more important than the names of place, or people, its the idea that everything grows from. If you are designing a game world, its a tool that can make a world of difference, especially if you have hit a creative block.
Just one more glimpse… into my mind.