I get the newest edition of Gamma World is a fast and loose game without needing a money system. However having a complete economy based on barter itself can get tangled up with a lot of questions. How much is a piece of junk worth? What about salvaged omega tech? For the most part I think it’s expected that players just handwave the whole affair and move on to the next set of pre-fall ruins for exploration and looting.
However if a group wanted something more of a serious game, some guidelines for a monetary system would help. An abstract system might work, with simple markers to represent wealth, but players are often rewarded with pre-fall tech and items. All these bits and pieces of technology lend itself to having some value in relation with other other goods.
For my game I wanted to delve into using monetary units, but not get too bogged down. I wanted some form of currency, and a system for figuring the value of salvage and junk. Yet at the same time not resort to a list or table of costs to figure an item’s value. So I settled on a few basic house rules to introduce an economy in my game that steps away from a complete barter system and uses a form of currency.
Bottle Caps – Taken straight out of the computer RPG, Fallout, most of monetary transactions are through bottle caps. They are lightweight, resistant to most wear and the elements, and are somewhat difficult to create. The caps do have a lifetime however, with excessive rust being an issue. As such, some caps are deemed worthless.
It is not uncommon for more devious merchants unwilling to take 5% or so of caps offered for goods. A common ploy is to complain such caps are ‘too worn for trade’. This also provides an excellent opportunity for players to wield their interaction skill and haggle a bit if desired.
Most goods and services are paid in caps. A simple local meal and a night’s rest would be a single cap, as would a full day’s menial labor (work is cheap in the post apocalypse). Most equipment that can be purchased is of relatively high quality and good craftsmanship, and would be roughly 5-6 caps a piece (ammunition being a separate purchase). Such gear and equipment might even incorporate some limited pre-fall technology, such as a compound bow having ball-bearing cams and equipped with a simple laser sight. Sets of gear like an explorer’s kit or climbing kit would run about 20 caps, a slight discount for buying several pieces of gear in one go.
Packaged, properly sealed food and drink are also worth 5 caps each and are highly prized. Fresh water, unless sealed in a pre-fall container, does not have much value. Most water must pass a sniffer test (usually some simple-to-operate pre-fall tech that quickly analyzes a portion) before it could be sold. Most communities are notorious for passing off lightly irradiated water to travelers as ‘sniffer free’ pure H-TWO-O.
Yawns – Yawns are pre-fall currency that are highly prized for their rarity and resistance to all forms of damage. A single yawn is worth 50 caps.Typically such currency is a small, engraved plastic disk with a square hole. The disks are roughly 25 mm in diameter and 2 mm thick. Yawns are lightweight and practically indestructible. They are made of an inert material and are highly resistant to radiation. Some incredibly wealthy individuals have been known to create clothing layered in such disks, almost as a suit of mail to protect themselves from radiation.
The characters and lettering on these disks are of a pre-fall language that can be found on most omega tech. Some elders claim that they were the common currency of several tribes that fell under the influence of one great power. Some claim that such power was obtained not through warfare, but through economic might, with the disks taking the name of that great tribe’s coin.
Junk Salvage Value – Junk salvage that players find are of relatively good condition and usually worth 2 caps each as a base value. Some items require a power source to operate. Such junk would be worth 5 times the base value (10 caps). Jury-rigged batteries, alternate homemade fuels, and simplified pre-fall energy producing technology (automated solar panels, geothermal power plants, tidal and wind generators, Mr. FusionTM biowaste reactors, etc.) are readily available, allowing many forms of older technology able to operate. The energy needed to operate such technology is easy to obtain, but what is lost is the manufacturing ability to create such technological marvels.
Actual scrap is worth much less that the typical junk salvage that players would find during their adventures and is the common target commodity of Junkers (people willing to gather up such scrap material). Due to their poor quality (and at times highly radioactive nature), scrap junk at best would be 1/8th the base salvage value. Usually 8-10 pieces of scrap junk might be enough to warrant a price of 2 caps. However some especially resourceful beings are able to make a living gathering such scrap, and old refuse storage facilities have been the spark of many armed conflicts between wandering bands of Junkers.
Omega Tech – Functioning omega tech is worth 50 times the base value of salvage (100 caps) mostly due to their limited functionality. Omega tech that can be jury-rigged to operate as salvageable tech is a little more reliable and worth a bit more. Omega tech that can be salvaged is worth 75 times the base amount, or 150 caps.
Some especially rare omega tech may be worth much more. Automated facilities that operate algae farms, water purification plants, and robot manufacturing facilities are some examples. These locations are highly prized and sometimes result in entire communities residing on the grounds of such places.