Wealth

Wealth is an often misunderstood system, and it has a few glaring flaws, so the following section explains it a bit more clearly and eliminates the flaws.

To begin with, then, Wealth does not indicate how much money you have. It isn’t notes in your pocket or gold pieces in your backpack. Instead, it symbolically represents how much buying power you have access to at a moment’s notice. It’s designed to replicate the modern world; whether you have a certain amount of money in a bank has relatively little to do with what you can go out and purchase right now. Thus, Wealth is an abstract number measured as a bonus, just like BA or Saves, and it is fluid; it decreases when you buy expensive things and increases when you level up or come into money.

Wealth is a combination of liquid capital (money), credit (credit cards, credit rating, lines of credit, IOU’s), investments, and debts (i.e., car payments, student loans, etc.). The amount you can buy at a moment’s notice is almost undoubtedly very different than the amount of actual capital you own. You can be broke but have a dozen credit cards in your pocket. Such is the mystery of modern finance. Being in debt is already factored into your Wealth score. In fact, making large purchases on credit is the most common way to reduce your Wealth. Climbing out of that debt takes time; hence, you don’t regain that Wealth until you come into money or level up.

 

The Wealth Score

At first level, you determine your Wealth score through a process similar to how you determine your Hit Points; you factor a die roll into a formula:

  •  2d4 + Occupation Bonus (+1 for Profession ranks)

At every subsequent level, you make a single Profession check that can potentially increase your Wealth Bonus. You can also take Windfall, which grants an additional Profession check. At character creation, then, you roll the formula above to get your initial Wealth, and then you make at least three Profession checks for your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels (assuming you’re starting at 4th level). At that point, you can start making purchases.

Consult the table, below, to get a general idea of what kind of lifestyle corresponds to your Wealth Score. These descriptions are generalisations only; you can interpret your Wealth differently, if you want to. Having a fabulously wealthy character is mostly a matter of role-playing and description. Although a certain Gotham socialite or New York arms dealer might be disgustingly rich, they primarily show off that wealth through character moments such as showing up to public events with a super-model on each arm or living in a stately manor. Unless these character touches turn into in-game benefits (i.e., using the models as Contacts or the stately manor as a place to hide), then GMs should just let them go. By the same token, extreme poverty for the sake of role-play is also allowed and does not have to negatively affect your actual Wealth score. Living under a bridge but somehow also having access to strangely expensive technology could be a fun contradiction to play. Don’t stifle your creativity if it doesn’t actually break a rule. You’re allowed to look cool.You’re allowed to flaunt your status. Your GM will indulge whatever fantasy you want to live out if you can do so within the rules. The game is all about fantasy, after all.

 

Wealth and Lifestyle

+0 Impoverished: Living off of what’s in your pockets
+1 to +4 Working Poor: Living paycheque to paycheque
+5 to +10 Lower-Middle Class: Long-term, well-paying job; own a major asset (e.g., condo, car)
+11 to +15 Upper-Middle Class: Long-term career with job security; own multiple major assets (home, cars, etc.)
+16 to +20 Wealthy: Hold investments (e.g., shares); long-term, high-status career; own several major assets
+21 to +30 Rich: Living off of a portfolio of investments; possibly don’t have to work at all; own several major assets
+31 or higher Loaded: Own several major assets; investments are worth enough that markets shift with your decisions; could live like a king indefinitely without working

 

Buying

To buy something, you must make a Wealth Check against the item’s Purchase DC (PDC), which we’ll refer to as its “price” for the sake of simplicity. This roll works exactly the same as rolling to hit versus a Defence score. You roll 1d20 plus your Wealth against the price of the item. If you meet or beat the price, then you can afford the purchase. Your ability to buy things is based on a lot of factors, such as whether your rent cheque cleared, whether you’ve been paid yet, how much you’ve already put on your credit cards, etc. The purchase roll randomizes those factors so that you don’t have to track them. If your Wealth Bonus exceeds the price of the item, then there is no need to roll because you can’t fail the check; you can just buy that item with no penalty. Rolling a 1 is not an automatic failure.

For any item that’s at all unusual (i.e., something you couldn’t find at a corner store or supermarket), it takes a number of hours equal to half the price of the item to locate it. This can be time you spend browsing stores, or you can do this research from a phone/internet connection. You can Take 10 or Take 20 on Wealth Checks; doing so multiplies the shopping time by 10 or by 20, respectively.

If the price is higher than your Wealth, then you lose 1 Wealth point. You lowered your bank balance or exceeded your credit limit or something like that. For every 5 points by which the price exceeds your Wealth, you lose 2 Wealth points in total. You can determine the cost as a formula as well:

  • Wealth Loss = (PDC – Your Wealth) / 5  (rounded up)

But we’ve tabulated it as well:

 

Purchasing
PDC Wealth
PDC = Wealth +1 to +4

-1

PDC = Wealth +5 to +9

-2

PDC = Wealth +10 to +14

-4

PDC = Wealth +15 to +19

-6

PDC = Wealth +20 to +24

-8

PDC = Wealth +25 to +30

-10

etc.

etc.

 

Note that the penalties are not cumulative, so if you buy something that has a price that is 10 points higher than your current Wealth, then you lose only 4 points. Also note that it has no upper limit, so you can just take larger and larger penalties to make big purchases, effectively destroying your credit rating, maxing your cards, draining your line of credit, borrowing from family, etc..

However, you cannot make a purchase that would reduce your Wealth to below zero (0), so if you have Wealth 5, you cannot buy something that would inflict a -6 penalty. In that case, you simply can’t make the purchase at all, regardless of your roll. A natural 20 is not an automatic success. Wealth 0 doesn’t just mean you have no money. It means you literally have no power to purchase things.

You don’t lose Wealth if you fail your Wealth Check because you didn’t buy anything, and you can try to buy the item again as many times as you like, but you have to expend the shopping time all over again.

 

Selling

To sell an item, you simply use the Wealth/Price calculations in reverse. The amount of Wealth you gain equals the amount you would have lost if you had made the equivalent purchase. If the price of the item were 10 points higher than your Wealth, you would get Wealth +4 (see table, below), and if the price were equal to or less than your Wealth, you would get no increase at all. It just wouldn’t be worth your while to sell that item given how wealthy you already are. Note also that, aside from collectible items or the like, anything you sell is “used” by definition, so it’s PDC is -3.

Selling

PDC Wealth
PDC = Wealth +1 to +4

+1

PDC = Wealth +5 to +9

+2

PDC = Wealth +10 to +14

+4

PDC = Wealth +15 to +19

+6

PDC = Wealth +20 to +24

+8

PDC = Wealth +25 to +30

+10

etc.
etc.

 

Used Goods and the Black Market

Whether you’re buying or selling them, used items are three points cheaper than new items (PDC -3). This penalty doesn’t apply to art, treasures, or collectibles, though, because there’s no such thing as a “used” Action Comics #1 (although it’s probably not ‘mint’). Anything with a price of “0” just isn’t worth selling.

However, the above rules apply only if you are selling to a legitimate buyer or you have faked paperwork (e.g., forged certificates of authenticity or pink-slips). Anything you buy/sell on the black market takes a 50% reduction or a -3, whichever reduces the price more.

 

Aiding Purchase Rolls

You can Aid Another on a purchase roll. Just like Aiding a skill, you roll against DC 10 with your Wealth. If you meet or beat the DC, you grant a +2 bonus. You grant another +2 For every 5 points by which you beat the DC.

To determine the Wealth penalty of the purchaser, subtract the Aid bonus from the PDC and compare that adjusted PDC to the Wealth score. For example, the purchaser has Wealth 4 but receives Aid +2 to buy a PDC 8 item. The effective price for the purchases is PDC 6, so the penalty is -1.

To determine the Wealth penalty of the Aider, treat the Aid bonus as a PDC. For example, an Aider with Wealth 6 who grants a +2 to someone else loses no Wealth.

Note, however, that rather than Aiding someone else’s purchase, you always have the option of just buying something and giving it to them. If it wouldn’t cost you anything either way, there’s no need to go through the bother of an Aid roll.

 

Pooling Wealth

There are various legal means by which people can combine their money. The most common are incorporation or opening joint bank accounts. In any chase, this combined Wealth has to be a legal entity of some kind. You can’t just stuff some bills under a mattress. When you create a Wealth Pool, it starts with Wealth +0. It has no buying power. You then invest in the pool. In game terms, when you invest Wealth points into the pool, the pool itself has effectively sold something with a PDC value equal to your investment, and thus it gains Wealth just as you would have if you’d sold something. As the pool increases, you therefore must invest more and more into it to raise its Wealth. If you and several people all invest at the same time, then you combine the amount you invest into one big increase. If you invest separately, then you must calculate the increase separately.

For example , you create a joint bank account with Wealth +0. If four players give up Wealth +1 each, then the total is Wealth +4. Now, the pool “sells” that as if it were PDC 4 and gains Wealth +1. If five players give up Wealth +1 each, then the total is Wealth +5, and that same pool would gain +2. However, if a single player now tried to invest Wealth +1 into a pool that is already worth Wealth +1, then there would be no increase, just as you would have nothing to gain by selling a PDC 1 item if your Wealth were already +1. It pays to have everyone pool their money at the same time. That simultaneous investment is the Wealth system’s way of simulating the communal effort of investment.

 

Divvying Wealth

In most cases, superheroes don’t stumble upon great huge piles of cash, and if they do, they usually turn them over to the authorities, or use them for some poetically just purpose, or possibly a bit of both. This depends on the flavour of your game, of course. We’re just talking about what’s likely based on the genre, not what you have to do.

If you do end up with a pile of valuable goods on your hands, and you have a way to turn them into liquid capital, then you simply sell the loot using the Selling rules, above, and then divide the Wealth Adjustment among the PCs as evenly as possible with whole numbers (there’s no such thing a half a point of Wealth, so the remainder is lost in the division).

Remember once again, though, that if that PDC is equal to or lower than your current Wealth, then the amount just isn’t enough to alter your finances. It’ll buy a couple of lunches or fill your tank a few times, but that’s about it. Anyone with a Wealth score so high that they wouldn’t benefit from the bonus can forego their share so that everyone else gets more. Why, after all, would a billionaire bother with small change?

 

Cash

In the rare case that you do find a big bag of money, remember that it doesn’t instantly travel into your bank account, nor does it inform your credit cards that you are now flush with liquid capital, nor does your credit rating rise. In the modern world, a big bag of money is actually rather inconvenient, especially if it was acquired through illegal or quasi-legal means. The simplest solution is to just treat it as cash which you can then spend until it runs out. The GM has final say on costs in real-world currency, but it’s not very difficult to agree on these things or quickly look them up. For smallish amount of money, this works just fine. If it’s a large enough amount, however, then you might try to integrate it into your actual Wealth scores.

You have to take the time to count the money before it becomes part of your Wealth. Then you have to look up its value on the PDC to Cash table in the SRDs, and then you can divide up the Wealth bonus as described above (i.e., divide it as evenly as you can with whole numbers). However, most banks are required to report the nature of any cash deposits over a certain value, usually around US$5000, £3000, or €3500 (consult local laws about your game’s setting to be sure), so be wary.

However, the official conversion tables in the SRDs are from the US in 2001, so they don’t bear a lot of resemblance to the current economic climate, and they’re not very useful if you’re not in the US. The best thing to do is not think in dollars, pounds, rupees, or what have you, and instead think in Wealth. What kinds of items do you want your PCs to be able to buy? That’s the important question.

 

Bag of Wealth

As an optional rule, you can treat a bag of money as if it had its own Wealth score. That bag, by virtue of being filled with cold, hard cash, has buying power. A person holding that bag can make purchases out of it.  For the sake of your imagination, a Bag of Wealth is about ten times its dollar value. A Bag of Wealth +4 would be around US$200. You can buy PDC 4 items ($20) “for a while,” and the pile doesn’t visibly shrink, but start spending money on expensive stuff, and it’s going to disappear before you know it. Remember, the goal here is not to simulate an exact dollar amount. Unless the PCs stop and spend an hour counting the money, there’s no reason why they’d know it’s exact value anyway. The point is to simulate the feeling of having a big wad of cash in your hand. You start buying drinks for all your buddies off what looks like a bottomless stack of bills, but then at the end of the night it’s mysteriously all gone because around 1am you started on the really good vodka.

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