Opportunity Cost In Play

By | January 27, 2018

Opportunity Cost is the loss of potential gains from one option by choosing an alternative option. In Forthright Open Roleplay, Opportunity Costs come into play during every Retrospective. In the Retrospective, Protagonists gain 0, 1 or 2 Boost Points to improve their abilities or erase their Injuries. Players must choose what will be most beneficial to them: gaining a new power or removing an injury. They can also save up to buy Boost Combos or purchase Wealth. This kind of calculus is a vital part of play, and the choices players make will shape their future adventures.

For example, not healing an Injury encourages the Guide to make that Injury matter by using it to make the Protagonist’s life more difficult at every opportunity. Not repairing a Disabled Subsystem on a Vehicle has the same effect: an extra problem the Team has to deal with because they didn’t take care of it when they had the chance.

It’s through these opportunity costs that Injury gains meaning. Sure, your character doesn’t die when they run out of Luck, but a path to advancement is closed to them (for at least a little while) – they either spend their limited supply of Boost Points on healing, or they don’t and continue suffering from their Injuries. No matter which you choose as a player, you’re out something else.

Crafting can mitigate this somewhat, in that characters can craft Boosts directly with their free time. But even here, because characters must declare what they’re crafting before they begin (pg 125), there is an opportunity cost. They could be crafting new powers, abilities or tools for the Team, but instead must craft Recovery or Repair items, rituals, or the like. Every Injury and all Damage sets the Team back in some way.

This is absolutely intended as part of the design of the game. Advancement isn’t a consideration for One-Shots and the majority of Campaigns don’t last forever. Rather than designing for an infinitely-long Campaign, we expect Campaigns to conclude after 12 to 30 sessions. That means Protagonists will likely earn 12 to 60 Boost Points in their careers, which means Boost Points are already a limited resource. Combine that with the possibility that sessions won’t always have character development, significant changes to the Gamescape and working with major Factions / NPCs, and the upper limit of character advancement gets even lower.

There don’t need to be upper levels hard-coded into the game (Level 20, 500 Character Points, etc), because there are soft limits already in place. And if a Campaign does wind up lasting longer than we anticipate, we’re not punishing those players by having a hard limit.

And while Crafting can get around some of these limitations (as well it should!), it’s still limited by time (1, no more than 6 Complexity per full day of work). If a Campaign is tightly-woven (one adventure leads directly to the next, etc, with very little in the way of character downtime), then Crafting becomes less of an option for the Team. And hiring outside help requires the expenditure of Wealth, which will come from Boost Points or Crafting.

Different Guides will of course provide extra rewards that will give the Team an edge in some situations. For example, if the Team saves a city, the city might reward the Protagonists with additional Wealth they can use to purchase one or two more Boosts. This is expected, but it should not be routine.

The advancement system in Forthright Open Roleplay is tightly structured to help prevent Monte Haul situations and situations where characters are able to entirely negate challenges. There should always be a chance and risk of failure. There should always be an opportunity cost when a player makes a choice.