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Cheops
While looking at Street Magic for info on my thread about Pirate Ships I stumbled across something interesting. Cotton is listed as a magical reagent and is worth 75 nuyen per kilogram (I guess). As of 22 February, 2007 the price of cotton was 42.7 cents per pound or about 1 dollar per kilogram. That's a huge increase in price. Not to mention that the South-East US is a natural home of cotton so you could find magic quality cotton there.

The only problem is you can't use modern capital to harvest the cotton. You'd have to use trained people to do so. Enter Dixie shamans and the use of Bound Task spirits as a new slave force.
ludomastro

>>> What of it? It sounds like you Yankees are ready for a second round of Northern Aggresion. This time the Confederation will be able to do what the Confederacy couldn't.<<<

- The Plantation Master

Thane36425
On page 80 of Street Magic under the description of herbal reagents, it says that the plants must be wild and never cultivated. So that means the plantation idea won't work.
Cheops
Yes, but cotton grows naturally in those parts. Do you think that magic is smart enough to know whether seeds were randomly blown onto a field by the wind or randomly blown onto a field by humans. The yield would be lower than if you could cultivate it properly but that would have to be one heck of a reduced yield to make up for a 75 times price increase. So instead of having fields you just have land where you keep one third growing and harvest two so that the third spreads to the other two. Keep to crop rotation. Maybe use some Plant Spirits to help it along.

In fact, if you told a Plant spirit to grow cotton on your land would that count as "not natural?" A Spirit called out of the Cotton could surely grow cotton in such a fashion that it would count as a reagent.
knasser
QUOTE (Alex)

>>> What of it? It sounds like you Yankees are ready for a second round of Northern Aggresion. This time the Confederation will be able to do what the Confederacy couldn't.<<<

- The Plantation Master



>>>Ulterior motives at all there, PM? I can think of only one group that would benefit from renewed hostility between North and South, and they're sitting just a few dozen miles south of Austin. Divide and conquer, indeed!

-Pyramid Watcher.
Backgammon
QUOTE (Cheops)
Do you think that magic is smart enough to know whether seeds were randomly blown onto a field by the wind or randomly blown onto a field by humans.

Well, that's debatable. Magic seems to detect *intention*. For example, we can agree that a modern planattion, rows of field of cotton, doesn't work. But really, what the differance, in terms of physics, between a field that's been aligned in rows and a bunch of plnats you'd find in the wild. The intention to cultivate it... Anyway, that's still debatable, but you see my point.

Now, cotton suitable for magic use has a price of 75 nuyen, versus 0,427. But no one said the profit margin was any better. Why do you think the price is so much higher? Because it cost more to make it. If the profit margin in 30% on today's cotton (no idea, pulling random figures here) and only 15% on magical cotton, that hardly makes for a revival of the south. Not to mention regular cotton is purcahsed in far, far, far greater quantities than magical cotton.

So really, the fact that it sales for 75 nuyen tells you absolutely nothing about how much of an economic impact it has on the region.
Jack Kain
Naturally grown cotton hasn't a different mana flow through it then cotton that has been manipulated by man.
FrankTrollman
QUOTE
Growers planting cotton on the more productive soils report production costs in the 60 to 70 cent per pound range.


I don't think cotton production is very profitable right now.

-Frank
Cheops
QUOTE (FrankTrollman)
QUOTE
Growers planting cotton on the more productive soils report production costs in the 60 to 70 cent per pound range.


I don't think cotton production is very profitable right now.

-Frank

It hasn't been since before the Civil War. That's why Lincoln is such an asshole. The Southern economy was severly depressed and was likely to collapse in another generation or two anyway which would have spelled the end of the plantation slave system. Instead he decided to send thousands of Germans, Irishmen, and who knows how many other ethnic groups to fight the rebs as well as doing stupid stuff like sending troops into New York and shelling it from the sea to put down the draft riots.

Although now that I actually look at the rules for Location and Task spirits I see that you need Survival and Task spirits don't get that.

Oh well, was kind of a cool idea. Got gimped by the traditional Mage karma sink issues.
Thane36425
QUOTE (Cheops @ Feb 26 2007, 07:41 PM)

It hasn't been since before the Civil War.  That's why Lincoln is such an asshole.  The Southern economy was severly depressed and was likely to collapse in another generation or two anyway which would have spelled the end of the plantation slave system.  Instead he decided to send thousands of Germans, Irishmen, and who knows how many other ethnic groups to fight the rebs as well as doing stupid stuff like sending troops into New York and shelling it from the sea to put down the draft riots.

Although now that I actually look at the rules for Location and Task spirits I see that you need Survival and Task spirits don't get that.

Oh well, was kind of a cool idea.  Got gimped by the traditional Mage karma sink issues.

Lincoln was probably even more hated in the north than in the south.

You are right about the plantation economy: it wouldn't have lasted much longer. If not for the political influence of the owners and the industrialists, slavery would have ended much sooner. Some machines were developed to help farmers, but just like with the Romans, the availability of cheap slaves prevented their wide use. Just look at quickly they came to be used after the war, at least in places.

Anyway, back to the topic.

I do think nature and mana would know the difference between a cultivated field and a natural one. The reason is very simple: plants don't naturally grow in evenly spaced intervals in evenly spaces rows, having been placed there by means other than the plant's natural means of seed spreading.

Just how do you get proper cotton then? My best guess would be to broadcast sow a field and let it ride for a few seasons. If any of the cotton survives the weeds and predators that long, maybe it would qualify as natural growth.

Even then you would have to make a gathering test, which means that the majority of the cotton would just be mundane. It isn't the test that makes the cotton special, but rather the test means you find that needle in a haystack of special cotton. It would be up to the GM to decide just how many units could be found, but it likely wouldn't be that many per acre. Otherwise, there would be so much "magical" cotton that the market price would be much lower than than listed.

Lastly, in SR3, a spirit appropriate to the terrain coudl add its Force in die to the gathering test. With the simplified system of SR4, I would say that an Earth Spirit would be applicable for any herbal, metal, mineral class and maybe also fo animal items too, though beast spirits would also work for animals.
Backgammon
QUOTE (Cheops)
Oh well, was kind of a cool idea. Got gimped by the traditional Mage karma sink issues.

I don't think you should write it off. I just don't think the magical cotton farming as a large-scale economical thing is feasible. But I think it's perfectly cool to have runners meet this southern gator shaman or whatever with the southern drawl who runs a magical cotton gathering operation. Maybe he uses spirits, maybe he's a voudun and uses zombies, like in the old southern horror folklore.

It's not really viable as a country-wide thing, but it works just fine as an isolated case. I mean, yo're right, where else are you gonna get magical cotton from, if not the south?
Draug
QUOTE (FrankTrollman)
I don't think cotton production is very profitable right now.

-Frank

It's not. León in Nicaragua actually went from one of the richest cities in the country to one of the poorest because of this. Like Cheops said though, that was a long time ago. The increased use of synthetic materials in clothing didn't help at all.

Also, Backgammon, I dig your idea of a voudun using zombies to gather mana-rich cotton. Absolutely awesome.

Even better, set up two of them, or some spellcaster from another tradition. Instant Shadowrunning opportunity!
Thane36425
QUOTE (Backgammon)

I don't think you should write it off. I just don't think the magical cotton farming as a large-scale economical thing is feasible. But I think it's perfectly cool to have runners meet this southern gator shaman or whatever with the southern drawl who runs a magical cotton gathering operation. Maybe he uses spirits, maybe he's a voudun and uses zombies, like in the old southern horror folklore.

It should be possible for a mage to have their own plot of land for reagents to grow in. I had a Shaman who when he "retired" from running, bought about 200 acres of land in CAS, land that wasn't too good for agriculture because it was hilly. However, much of the land was largely undisturbed and included a few mineral and fossil sites. So, he would go over the land about once a month and find enough material to refine, sell and build up to buying radicals to make orichalcum (this was based on some real sites that I know in Alabama).

On the better part, I decided it was about 15 acres, he ran an organic farm with some locals. They used natural methods and spirits get good harvests. They'd then take the produce, sell some of it as is, but would cook most of the rest into sauces and such and sell them through a matrix site.

Something like that probably would work, since most of the land was left relatively wild.
hobgoblin
QUOTE (draug)
The increased use of synthetic materials in clothing didn't help at all.


ugh, keep those away from me. they are like static shock weapons in clothing form. im sticking to cotton and wool thankyouverymuch...
Cheops
Organic Cotton Growth

Here's a site that details how to grow cotton organically. Might get a bit closer to "natrual" cotton growth. Using Plant spirits to assist should keep the yield and magic potential up. So you are yielding 2 500 lb units per acre. That'd be about 230 kg. If you can get as much as 1% of that as magical you'd get 2 reagents although in this case you skip the raw and look for refined directly (unless your GM lets you try to locate while they are growing in which case you locate radicals).

So you've got 227.7 kg at 1 nuyen and 2 kg at 150 nuyen. Wow, that's a huge jump in gross revenue for that acre. You're going from 230 nuyen per acre to 528 nuyen per acre--about a 125% jump!

But even then the profit is still terrible because you gotta pay someone, even if it is the mage that owns the plantation, to find and gather it. Someone who is average skilled and stated takes 8 days to find and gather each reagent.

It really only works when you are able to use spirits to do the work for you. I guess you could use force 6s and get them to default to 5 dice but it just doesn't quite work.
Thane36425
QUOTE (Cheops)
Organic Cotton Growth

Here's a site that details how to grow cotton organically. Might get a bit closer to "natrual" cotton growth. Using Plant spirits to assist should keep the yield and magic potential up. So you are yielding 2 500 lb units per acre. That'd be about 230 kg. If you can get as much as 1% of that as magical you'd get 2 reagents although in this case you skip the raw and look for refined directly (unless your GM lets you try to locate while they are growing in which case you locate radicals).

So you've got 227.7 kg at 1 nuyen and 2 kg at 150 nuyen. Wow, that's a huge jump in gross revenue for that acre. You're going from 230 nuyen per acre to 528 nuyen per acre--about a 125% jump!

But even then the profit is still terrible because you gotta pay someone, even if it is the mage that owns the plantation, to find and gather it. Someone who is average skilled and stated takes 8 days to find and gather each reagent.

It really only works when you are able to use spirits to do the work for you. I guess you could use force 6s and get them to default to 5 dice but it just doesn't quite work.

That's probably about the right amount would find. The rules do make it seem that there wouldn't be a lot out there. And yes, you would have to do the gathering test after the cotton was mature and before the full harvest.


This would work best if the landowner was a mage with the gathering skills and alchemy. They could gather the raw version and more of it, then refine it themselves in the off season, roughly late fall through mid spring bascially between harvesting and planting times. It is an extra step and a bit more time, but the overall yield would be higher.

Labor costs would be a problem. Spirits could handle some of the work, particularly task spirits, if you could summon them, but a lot of it would probably have to be done by people. To keep labor costs down, a smaller acrage would be best, like 5 or 10 acres, maybe 15. On the other hand, if you could find a bunch of people who wanted to go back to nature and weren't afraid to work, you could set up a commune, or my prefence, a co-op, and run it like a small business with everyone who works getting a share of the profits. That dilutes the money too of course, but the crew might be more loyal than itinerant workers.
FrankTrollman
The economics of talismongering do not work at all. It takes a professional talismonger 4 hours of work to locate a unit of raw reagents, and another 1/2 hour of work to gather it. That's... 9 hours of work for 100 nuyen.gif retail worth of enchantable bark or flowers. When you factor in that the people then have to actually sell them to a retail establishment for perhaps 30% of that, our plucky talismongers are making about 3 nuyen.gif an hour - if they don't take weekends off they'll be able to pull in about 900 nuyen.gif a month - which is enough to put a few Adam Smiths into the bank if they happen to live the Squatter lifestyle.

The only possible explanation is that when it says that it is difficulty (8, 1 hour) to find "one raw reagent" - that it really means that's the difficulty to find "at least one raw reagent". Gathering, similarly should probably throw down some extra reagents for that half-hour time investiture. As is, the take-home on a unit of raw herbals is only 15 nuyen.gif, so even an unlimited vein of reagents is going to get a 9-5er only a Low Lifestyle, which is pretty sad.

-Frank

Thane36425
QUOTE (FrankTrollman)
The economics of talismongering do not work at all. It takes a professional talismonger 4 hours of work to locate a unit of raw reagents, and another 1/2 hour of work to gather it. That's... 9 hours of work for 100 nuyen.gif retail worth of enchantable bark or flowers. When you factor in that the people then have to actually sell them to a retail establishment for perhaps 30% of that, our plucky talismongers are making about 3 nuyen.gif an hour - if they don't take weekends off they'll be able to pull in about 900 nuyen.gif a month - which is enough to put a few Adam Smiths into the bank if they happen to live the Squatter lifestyle.

The only possible explanation is that when it says that it is difficulty (8, 1 hour) to find "one raw reagent" - that it really means that's the difficulty to find "at least one raw reagent". Gathering, similarly should probably throw down some extra reagents for that half-hour time investiture. As is, the take-home on a unit of raw herbals is only 15 nuyen.gif, so even an unlimited vein of reagents is going to get a 9-5er only a Low Lifestyle, which is pretty sad.

-Frank

I agree that the numbers are very low in SR4. I attribute that to the corps having a lock on the harvesting in places like Africa where the environment isn't such a concern. They could pay the local mages a pittance, which to them might seem like good pay given the standard of living there. In that way, the corps could make a small profit off of the stuff. The profit would be evern greater because the low prices they charge undercut private concerns and solo operators, making it very difficult for them to stay in business.

The items that I think really stands out in this are the various ritual matierals. Even if made from cheap herbal and animal bits, there is scarcely any profit margin, particularly for the effort put into them. A cobbler isn't going to sell a shoe for 10% more than he paid for the leather. He's going to put a sizable markup on the finished product. Ritual materials would be the same and should cost at least twice what they do.

The only real way to get along is to make orichalcum. Even that is risky because if you mess up, you're out a lot of money due to the cost of the agents.

It was a lot easier to do this with the older books that had the economic charts in them showing how much costs for different things varied from place to place. My mages would usually base in the CAS, travel to the Carribean to get cheap materials (I think there were about 60% of standard) bring them home, refine them and sell them in the CAS where the prices for magical goods were much higher than standard.
Cheops
QUOTE (Thane36425)
It was a lot easier to do this with the older books that had the economic charts in them showing how much costs for different things varied from place to place. My mages would usually base in the CAS, travel to the Carribean to get cheap materials (I think there were about 60% of standard) bring them home, refine them and sell them in the CAS where the prices for magical goods were much higher than standard.

Lol...now this thread is starting to sound a lot like my Pirates one again. Hurrah for cheap magic in the Carib!

If you want a full analysis of the profit of manufacturing orichalcum as a career path use your search fu to find the thread about Street Magic where I argued it at length.

Actually, now that I think about it, I could see a "back to roots" African-American group setting up a cotton co-op in the South. I could see it being sold as an empowering, traditionalist, very Christian thing to do. Many fundamentalist protestant churches still view farming as the one true profession for pious Christians and it is much simpler. There is also the historical tie-in for the Black community and it would be a way to come full circle so to speak. This time they'd be the masters not the slaves.

The idea definitely doesn't work as I first envisioned it as a return of the Southern Aristocracy.
Jack Kain
I think Thane's idea about the corps operation is also likely.

I find it far more likely the corps teach mundanes how to find and identify the regents. (nothing says a mundane can't find most of these ingredients they just can't make use of them)
It also be possible to program a a drone to find them. Afterwards it will be sent to a magician for refinement.
If I'm wrong about that remember that many awaken individuals only have a low magic and might not be suited for anything else.

There is no reason to assume they'd have to sell it to a retailer especially if the sell value is 30%. Why can't they demand 70% or sell themself?

I think a lot of regents would come from the people who have gone back to a wilderness livestyle. They don't require nuyen or modern creature comforts. The tribes in the area would likely learn all the places to find regents and could easily sell the extras. Possibly maintaining there own shop to sell at full retail price.

As this is shadowrun, it should be assumed ANY way of making good money. Is closed to PC's for some reason or another.

EDIT: From street magic
And what a racket that is. Aztechnology has a legion of semiskilled,
uneducated laborers doing backbreaking work without
tools in some of the most dangerous areas of Latin America—all
for a pittance while the corp rakes in the profit. All of the megas
have similar set-ups. It’s despicable
Thane36425
The return to roots idea might work. Any group of back to nature types with or without a mage could set up small, organic farms. If they prepared the produce into finished items that could be sold for a much higher value, then they coudl get along well. Its not a new idea: in the Dark Ages, monestaries used the superior farming practices they developed to be become wealthy, in spite of their vows of poverty.

I think you are right that the plantation society will not return in the CAS or UCAS because even such a plantation would have a hard time competing with the agracorps, kind of like how small farmers have trouble today. This is why I think they would have to cater to niche markets and do more than just farm to make a go of it.

Jack:

Keeping materials for oneself is always an option. Taking the time to gather the materials, refine them and then make radicals of them could provide higher pay, especially if one has a high magic rating, which would allow the creation of more radical units.

The way SR4 rules read, most Awakened people would have low magic ratings and could be trained to do the gathering and lower end alchemy. However the gathering is done, it will still take a mage to identify the proper materials. Aztechnology may be using grunts to do the digging, but that's just getting at the materials. A mage still has to sort through it to find the raw materials.

Canon also is full of stories about groups doing the back to nature thing. The area south of Tir Tairgire is full of roving bands and small villages that make some of their living by gathering materials. That also goes on in Africa and other places as well. I've had mages go to places like that and provide magical healing in exchange for raw materials gathered by the locals. Pretty dangerous given how unfriendly they can be toward strangers, but it was worth the risk given that ne needed to lie really low for a while.

The sale price is dictated by the market. If one talismonger is selling at a 70% markup and one on the other side of town is selling at a 30% markup, the 30%er will get most of the business. There are a lot of variables though. Perhaps the 30%er has a shady rep while the 70%er is known for high quality. Maybe one side buys from Aztechnology and some people won't shop their because of that.

Another option is to trade materials. One talismonger who has a high skill and ability at gathering plant materials could trade raw or refined materials for other kinds of materials. For example: a mage could spend a month or two gathering plant and mineral materials, refine them and trade them up for refined and radical elements to make orichalcum.

But once you buy a lifestyle and hove your alchemy setup, it won't matter so much what kind of materials you work with since the bulk of your living expenses are already covered.
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