Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Selling IG Items for OOG Money

Anyone who follows the NERO National boards probably already heard about all the hub-bub regarding the selling of magic items.

Unbeknownst to the rules team, someone decided to sell items in the National Newsletter and on the national online store. While they were technically selling the phys-rep with the tag as an added bonus, this is clearly against NERO policy.

Here's the excerpt from the NERO General Policy that forbids it:

Selling NERO ® Items for Out of Game Money: Tagged NERO ® Items cannot be sold for out of game currency. This applies to both chapters and players. Any items sold in violation of this policy will be destroyed and the involved players will be suspended from all NERO ® International events for a minimum of 3 months. Physical Representations can still be sold, however the NERO ® tags that represent the In-Game item cannot be sold, nor can they be "included" with the physical representation sale.

I will note that the rules team flagged this incident as breaking policy, but unfortunately policy enforcement is outside of our jurisdiction. But I highly suggest none of the local players purchasing these items, since if this is ruled against policy, the new owners of the items may be suspended as well.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the effect of a game selling IG benefits for OOG cash.

I know, everyone immediately leans towards saying something like this is terrible. To put it simply, people want to compete on a fair playing field. Having some guy pay his way into being a superpower without putting in the time can be devastating for game morale.

But the truth is, "micro-transactions" could be one of the few ways for a struggling LARP to maintain stability and keep running. I know of several instances where players have kept a game up financially through a tough time. Should they be crucified if given thanks in the form of IG benefits?

I might get strung up for suggesting something like this, but I would like to see more LARP games utilize the idea of micro-transactions in order to help support the game. But here are some important rules when implementing those micro-transactions.

1. Nothing Unique
If a player pays you OOG money for something, it damn well better be available to the rest of the players by some other means. Offering player experience is fine because players can gain that experience by attending events. On the other hand, offering a player a skill or item that can only be gained through micro-transactions is going to cause some serious classism between the haves and have-nots.

2. Cost Benefit Ratio Worse than Normal Play
If you are going to offer things like experience to players, the ratio has got to be pretty poor. You're trying to get someone to help the game first, and have their character advanced second. If you sell experience for less than the cost of attending enough events to get that experience, people will make a tactical decision to pay for experience instead of attending.

3. Not for Profit
It's a lot harder to save face if your game is pulling a profit while selling items or experience. The big sell is that the money from that player is going back into the game. Players are more likely to look the other way if John Doe's $1000 donation is going to mean new props, a fog machine, and a sound system than if that same donation meant some extra spending cash for the owner. I suggest telling people specifically what was purchased with that money to keep it as transparent as possible.

4. Independent Only
Obviously, this is a lot harder to coordinate if you're playing a game that is multiple chapters. Who gets the funds to improve the game? Is it fair to let in someone's items if it meant a new computer for a completely different chapter? I really only suggest something like this for independent games.

5. No Player-Player Sales
While it may seem hypocritical, the "Do as I say, not as I do" rule should apply to micro-transactions. The game can sell items, because that money goes back into the game. When players sell items, it gets a lot more dangerous. If your game has PvP, you might have people killing others to sell their stuff. You might have players trying to get "rich" (OOG) off of others while undercutting offers of the game. Honestly, that heartache isn't worth it. Let the game sell stuff, but maintain the rules that prevent players from OOG sales.


And if after all that, you're still offended at the thought, here's something to think about; Micro-transactions have already been used in a few ways by games around here.

Some games do a "Pay, no play" option for their players. If you pay for the event, you'll get the experience for attendance, even if you don't attend. On the other hand, that person's character info is calculated into treasure distribution, so everyone who does attend gets more loot when players use "Pay, no play."

Many games (Con or otherwise) utilize a system where merch gives some IG benefit. Buy a sweatshirt and your character gets an additional hit point. Buy a t-shirt and you get 5 points of armor. While these may primarily be used for marketing, these can also be used to entice players to merch, which could be the biggest source of income for these groups.

What do you think about micro-transactions in LARP?


  1. Nice post Bill, imo :) When you put it that way, I think a lot of games already do something like this (donations get you goblins, etc, which translate to experience and other things). I think all your points and restrictions are really good. I might suggest something else - maybe a limit or cap to how much you can buy? The cost-benefit ratio probably already discourages taking advantage of the system, but it might not be a bad idea to put in place just in case. Anyway, yea, /agree

  2. I definitely agree. I was thinking about putting it in there, but who does a list of 6 things? INSANITY!

  3. I agree players selling items is in bad taste.

    Karin mentioned goblin stamps, and there are also large and small plot submissions for your character between events that can net you xp. If you spent the money you could end up with an extra 6.0 blanket (gobs + plot submission) vs the average players 2.0 blanket per month.

  4. There is also a huge issue with applying money to in-game items for three other reasons.

    1. Tax issues: I'd have to talk to Ennis, but there was a bit tax thing regarding goblin stamps. They can't have a monetary value, otherwise they are taxable in all situations or something like that. I can't quite remember, but it was a massive pain to deal with.

    2. Also, has anyone considered that people both in chapter and oog will roll players to get items to then sell to players in other chapters? HELL'S YA. Sure, here we go. I'm gonna roll a bunch of people, take their items, sell them for 10-15.00 apiece.

    3. If you purchase them OOG, and you are purchasing it for OOG money, and someone steals it, is it technically that? Stealing? I can see people sayin' that. Then we would have to deal with the issue of "items that can't be stolen."

    This is fail all the way around. Seriously. It is utterly depressing that the person that owns our game has a tremendous lack of vision (i.e. potential problems stemming from this) or understanding of his own rules (or the intent of his rules.). It amazes me why people don't trust.


  5. If don correctly there are no tax liability issues with this or goblins. None at all. It does not reach the level of a 1099 and if you call it a donation and give a gift for the donation it has no tax ramifications at all other than income.