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From:     Joseph Delisle <jd@?????.net>
Date:     Wed, 2 Nov 1994 16:22:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject:  Re: Groundlings using spelljammers (fwd)
In a previous message, Michael Sandy said...
> I'd like to address some of the sillier reasons against groundlings using
> Spelljammers.

	Maybe I should have stated my point a little more clearly. Anything
the DM thinks is invincible automatically is! If I, as DM, decide that
trolls are invincible (nothing can kill them en masse except a volcanic
eruption or a Meteor Swarm), then the trolls will take over everything and
nothing can stop them, period. Same argument is true for spelljammers -- if
you decide they're invincible, then common sense be damned, they will be.

> Someone suggested it would be cheaper to get control of the source area
> for a product than to build a Spelljammer fleet to transport it.  That is
> like saying it would've been cheaper for France to 'buy' the empire of China
> than build clipper ships to trade with it.  High value intercontinental
> trade is going to be in _finished_ products.

	'Twas me. My point is that if the country with the spelljammer
fleet spends too much with no tangible result, the economy will be in
ruins. On the other hand, if another country uses that same amount of money
to make acquisitions, shore up its infrastructure, etc, it will be in much
better shape. Excellent trade only goes so far when 40% of your population
dies from a plague caused by poor sanitation.

> Like magic items.  Like luxury goods.  Also, a Spelljammer ship costing
> 300,000 gold could transport, say 10 tons, 1,000 miles, every other day.
> Assume luxury goods of a modest nature, spices. Spices  of a moderately
> rare sort are listed at 2 gp a pound.  So, 20,000 in cargo, every other
> day.  Assume 10,000 gp profit, in two _months_ you've paid off the cost
> of the ship, in a little more and the operating expenses dissappear.

	Simple economics prevent this. Use the law of supply and demand,
and you'll see why this fails. Let me parapharase it here: as supply
increases and demand remains constant, price will fall.
	The other thing you're overlooking is who will buy all this
cargo. Where does this 600,000 gp come from? Let me put it to you this way:
Imagine the Big Three US automakers increase their production by
1000%. Will you buy a new car every six months instead of every six years?
Only if the price drops (or you're wealthy beyond logic). Even if the cars
are exported all over the world, there's a limit to how many cars you can
sell _at_full_price_. So now the Big Three are stuck with this massive
production rate, but nobody can afford to buy cars at maximum production;
there's a stockpile of unsold cars. That leaves them two choices: cut
production (by laying people off -- or mothballing a spelljammer) or drop
prices. Either way, profits WILL drop, either because of lower prices or
inefficiently used resources.

> The East India Company considered it a _profit_  if even one in _four_
> trading voyages was a success.

	The reason there was a profit was because supplies were limited; if
they had an unlimited supply of cargo, their prices would have dropped or
they would end up with stockpiles of unsold spices.

> Spelljammers spell the end for small kingdoms.  To deal with someone who
> has a spelljammer you either need one or be able to put extreme pressure
> on anyone who does.

	Define "deal". That's like saying "To deal with anyone who owns a
house, you need to own one as well, or be able to threaten to blow the
house up". I guess landlocked countries can't "deal" with coastal nations
with a navy, right?  :)

> If a kingdom _does_ start major trading, he is more likely to buy off his
> enemies in order to profit from higher trade.  Merchant guilds will _not_
> kill the golden goose, and will finance expeditions to get rid of pirates,
> dragons, and other rivals of the air.

	Not all enemies can be bought off. Barbarians that dislike
civilization are not going to take gold to stay away. Religious nations
have a little something called "jihad" -- holy war. Can't buy them off
either. And if you threaten to ruin another nation's economy beyond hope of
repair, it may be worth it for them to go to war.
	Maybe the merchant's guild would favor the advance of spelljammers
in trade, but what about the teamster's guild? The wheelwrights? The
caravan masters's guild? Even the barrelmaker's guild would dislike
spelljammers -- not as many barrels are needed now, and the ones that are
needed are of lesser quality (no waves on a spelljammer, so cheaper barrels
can be used). The theives guild would love spelljammers, more places to
steal from, can move hot items to distant locales to be fenced. Again, I'm
trying to use real-world type economics coupled with common sense. Money
and resources have to come from _somewhere_.
	Next... merchants organizing patrols to get rid of dragons?
Exqueeze me? I don't know how you run dragons in your campaign, but in one
of my adventures, a PC party of a half dozen characters (average level: 10)
saw a dragon heading toward them and turned tail and ran... and this was
long before the dragon's fear aura came into play. IMHO, a single dragon
can destroy a town unless significant opposition (like high level PCs or
monsters) is present. Kill a few dragons, and the whole clan is going to
get tired of the upstart monkey-boys and waste the whole kingdom. How many
dragons can a fleet of hammerships destroy? (Answer: Not many)

> The weirdest comment I saw was how a Spelljammer fleet couldn't interdict
> and underground supply line!  If my possession of a fleet requires my
> enemy to build an underground supply line, _and_ garrison his home depots,
> I consider that an excellant military investment in a device that pays
> for itself in peacetime as well!

	Did you read my post? First, a spelljammer is useless if the enemy
captures one of your own cities. Imagine that the largest port is captured
by gnolls. How does a spelljammer help you? You can't bomb them with rocks,
or bring the siege weapons to bear... unless you want to raze the city,
then you've got lots of other issues to deal with. Including a smaller
economy (read: prices falling further) and civil discontent. Depending on
who was in the city your spelljammers just levelled, the king may be facing
assasination by his own personnel. ( I remember reading a piece of fiction
(don't remember what) where the main antagonist nukes a city because his
arch-enemy is in the city. Within hours, one of his most trusted aides
tried to kill him. It seems the aide's daughter and grandchildren lived in
that city).
	Second, I mentioned underground routes that _already_ existed. This
is quite possible in a fantasy world, with critters like dwarves and gnomes
around. Also, I've heard of such things actually existing in other DM's

> Why would merchants boycott a kingdom which used Spelljammers, anyway?

	Cultural taboos. Pressure from other guilds. Disputes over prices
and quantities. Unfair practices on the kingdom's part. You're not that
strapped for creativity, are you? :)

> As to kingdom not being able to spend 500,000 on one ship, if that is
> so they couldn't spend 50,000 on one Galleon!  Or however much it takes
> to build a castle.

	There is a big difference between .5 million gp and 50,000
gp. Likewise, a castle is _necessary_. Let me ask you this: do you live in
a house or apartment, or in your car? You gotta put the government
someplace secure. (Yes, a mobile base is nice, but it's also fairly
dangerous -- can be overpowerd in an aerial attack, and lacks the resources
to resist a siege (think of the asteroid scene in The Empire Strikes

>  If they _don't_ spend that money, they will be taken
> over by, or forced to trade through someone who did.

	You've got a very circular argument: anyone with a Spelljammer
becomes more rich and powerful with his neighbors, so the neighboring
kingdoms will buy spelljammers and become more rich and powerful than their
        Here's a wacky thought: kingdoms without spelljammers could
destroy a spelljamming kindgom economically. Let's say that Kingdom A
spends 1 million gp on spelljammers for trade, and can supply Kingdoms
B, C, and D with low cost imports. A does something to anger the other
kingdoms (annex territory, refuse to trade to a mutual friends, etc), so
B, C, and D close their borders to A's goods. Now Kingdom A has a
million GP worth of spelljamming equipment collecting dust. The
merchants in A have their money tied up in goods that they can't sell.
The spelljammer crews and mages still have to be paid. Kingdom A is
losing money, has no liquid assets,

> The first groundling empire to dabble in Spelljamming will become so rich
> and powerd powerful that everybody else will have to become Spelljamming
> powers too.

_must_ have consumers who are willing and able to purchase your product at
the asking price. You keep saying, "everyone will buy". That implies that
everyone can spend exorbitant amounts of money 'every other day' (your own
words). If a population can afford such a buying pattern, they don't need
spelljammers to become rich.

> Also, assassins guilds can't do anything about a military expansionist
> policy.  Killing the ruler won't stop the merchant adventurers from raiding
> your naval commerce at will, or forcing you to commit so much force to
> protecting your fleet that it may as well be sunk.  Besides, assassins
> fail, and get caught, and get hired by people who suddenly have a lot more
> moeny than you do!!!!

	Again, not all NPCs think the same way (at least in my games). I'm
sure any assassin with intelligence will be able to see that someone in the
military who thinks like he does can be "promoted".
	I'm a bit confused. First, you say that merchants have
spelljammers, next the military has them and is using them for trade.

> ps:  There is no way of controlling the source of a Spelljammers' supply
> with a measley 10 million gold.  If you control the supply of pepper, he'll
> trade in ivory, or rugs, or china, or gems....  If you could control
> supplies over 1,000's of miles you have a politcal entity capable of
> controlling that area, or he simply deals with other suppliers of the stuff.

	<SIGH> You're missing my point entirely. You repeatedly assert that
spelljammers are invincible, bound to make a kingdom rich, and ignore any
arguments to the contrary, but fail to take even simple economics into
account. Unless you run a world where people can pull gold pieces out of
thin air (literally), the situation you describe cannot take place. I
suppose the problem is that I try to maintain logical consistency in my
game worlds.

"You're waking from a very long dream,          | Joe Delisle
your eyes are focused on the fan on the ceiling,|    jd@?????.net
you realize you're a part of the machine.       | quote: "Terminal City",
Just a part of the machine."                    | Machines of Loving Grace

Previous Message: Interruption of WWW Services
Next Message: Re: Groundlings using spelljammers (fwd)
Month Index: November, 1994

SubjectFromDate (UTC)
Re: Groundlings using spelljammers (fwd)    Joseph Delisle    02 Nov 1994 21:22:39
Re: Groundlings using spelljammers (fwd)    Michael Sandy    03 Nov 1994 02:59:00

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