My reply to a post by Hamumu in Monday’s My Bag Runneth Over got me thinking more on economics in games. For the most part, there isn’t any.

This doesn’t apply to the “fantasy shooter” or dungeon crawl, such as Diablo or Fate. Those are all about grabbing treasure and Neat Items. There’s no reality to speak of here.

When we look at other RPGs, though, which are set in a world of some kind, it’s astonishing that events have no impact on the economy. As I said in my comment, with hordes of monsters running around, how can there be any trade?

Roads would be overrun, considering the usual numbers of critters found hither and yon over the countryside. Maybe, on occasion, a very heavily-guarded caravan might make it through. But most merchants wouldn’t even attempt it.

Merchandise of all kinds would become scarce very quickly, and prices would naturally rise. Even the cost of something mundane, such as a longsword, would be exorbitant, providing you could find one for sale.

What about food? In a feudal or quasi-feudal world, by far the majority are engaged in agriculture and raising livestock. Simple farming communities wouldn’t last long when the orc army comes marching through.

Most people in that era didn’t drink water, because it wasn’t safe. They drank alcoholic beverages. Without grain or grapes, there wouldn’t be a lot to drink, either.

Yet none of this, for the most part, is reflected in RPGs. Despite peril all around, huge numbers of enemies and monsters, there’s no lack of anything to buy, no imminent starvation from lost crops.

And there’s the other side. We talked about walking around with millions of gold. Hey, if we really had that much, would we still be risking our lives? No, it would be simpler to hire others to do it for us.

Further, the effect of so much money suddenly available would have a horrible effect on the economy. Just ask Spain. All that gold and silver pouring in from the “New World” wasn’t a good thing for them.

We could also inquire about how come there’s so much of it around in the first place. And there’s always more, wherever we go.

Now, I’m not saying that designers should suddenly become economists, and set up viable models in their games. But they certainly should think about this aspect.

For one thing, we could definitely do with less gold. Of course, there must be some. But does it need to be a lot, when we expect to find the best stuff in some enemy’s treasure horde anyway?

Also, if trade is being hit, items would be more expensive in the stores. So even a fair amount of gold wouldn’t go far. It would make coin of the realm more precious, which is what it should be in the first place.

To put it another way, less can be more. Because there’s a “Monty Haul” aspect to so many games, players don’t appreciate either gold or items. No sooner is one Neat Item acquired, than they’re looking for the next, Neater Item.

In fantasy shooters, solo or MMOG, that doesn’t apply, because “Kill and Loot” is what those products are all about. Otherwise, though, some restraint, some touch of realistic economics, could do the standard RPGs some real good.