Running Bartering in lieu of Coin



Title says it all.
I don’t really want to run Coins in my PostApoc world since, to me, pre-catastrophe money is all but burnt or useless. I want to run a Trade And Barter system but don’t know where to start.
If it comes down to it, however, I’ll just turn Coin to Caps (or similar) and go from there.


I don’t believe you need mechanics for a trade and barter system. You can just say that the NPC has X and that the players want or need it. The NPC wants Y and the players may have it or have something else that can fulfill that same purpose. The Y will become worth more if the NPC is desperate or doesn’t like the PCs that much. The Y will become cheaper or more affordable if the NPC knows the players are good for it.

There doesn’t have to be an even trade, especially if the players are constantly trading with a group and are known for keeping their word. Sometimes, it’s not even items they want, but some work and time.


Work for trade was a very common thing at one point in history. A person may request a thing but had nothing to trade for it except hard work. In many cases this was a hot meal and place to sleep, other times it was skilled labor in trade for goods. Similarly the NPC could request a specific job or task be completed in trade for the item.


The original Fetch Quest!


In Altered State, I note that only the wealthy have credits, but the rest of the word functions on a barter system. But there are no mechanics behind it. Instead, that piece is up to the players to RP.

In one scene, I described the Runners coming across a bit of an improvised market. And what that looked like was one player trading five sniper bullets for a better piece of armor. That’s the sort of interactions I think you want to encourage. In post-apocalypse, it’s always that kind of thing. “Oh, you want this sawed off shotgun? Well, funny you should ask, you don’t happen to have a spare oil pump by any chance?”

That kind of stuff is far more interesting, and can lead to some fun quest lines too.


My favorite in a fantasy setting is to have an Veteran who has a pristine silver sword. The players want it because they can deal with monsters and wolves. They will not give it to you for any price. Well… except for a taste of a simple tea that reminds him of his lost love and some bacon grease so he can cook his favorite meal.

Now, is that expensive? not really. A bag of tea from the South and some bacon fat should be fairly cheap. But you don’t have it. and now you NEED IT!


I suggest you RP the deals, make haggling the norm, and roll a lot of OPPOSED CHA checks. Use theoretical values in COIN or other currencies as a rough guide for the value of things (especially relative to one another), modified by the relative demand and scarcity in your setting.


I am working on similar idea. In this Sci-Fi world money is only for the upright and upstanding citizens, who are fully integrated into the system. By default, money is linked to the personal ID. However, once you deviate from the given path or let alone reject the ruling system trade of goods is all you have.

Yet, unlike the others discussed before me I want to focus on the loot system entirely. I.e. you have scrap loot, normal loot and epic loot. Normal trade is three of the same loot rank for one upper rank loot item. With haggling you can change the ratio to 2:1 or worst case 4:1. The circumstances, e.g. really need a specific item, add or deduct another point in this trade formula.

Hope this helps you. If anyone has more ideas please let me know. I really want to reduce complexity as much as possible.


Excellent comment. I completely agree. I RP’ed the runners bartering for electronics in a dystopian junkyard at the edge of the waste and it was great. The other thing that worked it to exchange skills and labor for items or equipment. One of the players negotiated bodyguard work at an underground club for drinks and time on network. And when some thugs shot up the place one of the characters used bartered repair skills for unlimited network access.