Token Economy of Thebes

I'm struggling a bit to understand how the token economy is supposed to work in Thebes, and hoping someone more familiar with The Sundered Eagle or running games in the Theban Tribunal can help.

As far as I can tell, there don't seem to be enough reasons to spend tokens, unless we assume the magi of the tribunal are earning shards at a prodigious rate!

As a baseline, we know that there are about 95 canonical magi in the tribunal, and that every 7 years, we generate around 75 new tokens (math below in case I've made an error).

Unless the magi are committing a lot of high crimes, or tribunal legal councils are truly marathon affairs, we generate probably about a dozen shards per tribunal, despite the fact that "The principle use of tokens is nullification."

We also spend tokens to bid for selection as the longevity potion recipient (with a note that the winner often has 3-4 tokens). Tokens are also transferred to apprentices upon selection, but these are not removed from the system.

So where do the other tokens go? Is there some other way of keeping them from accumulating in magi's possession that I have overlooked? It seems like we would have ~60 tokens added to the supply every 7 years, with no real way to spend them, and massive "token inflation". Trading them for favors is useful, but keeps them in circulation.

Have I overlooked something? Is there a token sink that I've missed somewhere?

Tokens generated per Tribunal:
Archae 15x2=30
Archon 1x3 = 3
Polemarch 1x5 = 5
Wiz March 3+4 = 7 (varies)
Cases Brought 5x1 = 5 (varies)
Longevity Ritual 1x2 = 2
Vis Collected 6x1 = 6 (assuming ~6 sources for 50 pawns of vis)
Gifted Child 15x1 = 15
(this number increases easily, but has a relatively firm floor)

PS -- If I have not missed anything, do you have suggestions for services that the tribunal could provide to "reclaim" some of these tokens? I was considering having the ability to bid for the loan of particularly coveted items, or perhaps having all the archae participate in casting a Wizard's Communion or ritual spell at the end of the tribunal.

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I expect that the main source of shards is "Self-disqualification for election to the Council of Magistrates when eligible".
Probably quite a few magi who decide they don't have time to serve on the council right then, and thus accept a shard, planning to nullify it later.

There are also one (or maybe two) important ways of removing tokens from circulation that you missed:
When a mage dies all his tokens and shards get taken out of circulation. Presumably this also happens if a mage decides to emigrate to some other tribunal.

But yeah, I would expect that at least some magi end up with a whole bunch of tokens they don't have much use for.

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The other issue is one of dynamic balance- which is to say that the more tokens are in circulation the less a magus will worry about getting a shard, and thus the more likely they are to commit a crime which could earn a shard. At some point the rate of the two will either balance or approach balance (people commit more crimes, there are less tokens so they slow down committing crimes, and the levels oscillate) There are also addition ways to generate tokens (such as providing services for the council). Also I expect there to be fewer than one wizards march per tribunal...
also remember if someone brings charges and the charged is exonerated then whoever brought the charges receives a shard. If they are convicted they likely receive shards. So every case brought results in either one token and one shard or one token and 3 shards if the accused is convicted of a high crime.

I run a Thebes game and I have a few explanations for you:

  • Shards are not just generated for High Crimes, but also for Low Crimes - things other tribunals typically punish with vis fines, a warning or other slap on the wrist, don't do this again kind of thing;
  • Being fined for something like abusing your apprentice - a low crime in Thebes where the rest of the order doesn't usually care - is bound to generate shards;
  • Don't forget things like decree of defamation which should happen at every tribunal. Someone who doesn't commit a crime but who is generally making a nuisance of himself or being annoying to be arround to most of the tribunal (think of that antisocial Tytalus who drags on a debate for hours just because it entertains him, think of that Tremere calling on certamen before trying to negotiate a solution) may pass the threshold where he gets a shard - or the magi whose annoyed by him and fails on getting a motion passed will.
  • Longevity ritual - you mention that in your token generation, but it's actually a net drain on the system. It happens every year, typically the winner bids 3-4 tokens, but the crafter only gets 1-2 and the Tribunal gets the rest. So that removes a net 15 tokens from the system per Tribunal period.
  • Bear in mind that for this system to work, then the supply of available tokens in the tribunal needs to expand in proportion with the number of resident magi. There are 55 published magi in the Theban Tribunal, excluding apprentices and redcaps and PCs. Your calculation 60 tokens per tribunal period is actually... not a lot. A magi should want to always have 2-3 spare tokens, for healing, bidding on vis, calling in a favor, etc.
  • The language of the tribunal - classical greek. The tribunal is issueing tokens for writing and translating important books into the local language (see the insert on page 29 rather than the list on page 28). Part of this may be my interpretation of the book, but for this to be a task for the common good, it has to benefit the tribunal - the corollary of this is that the book is available for copying and distribution to the resident magi. How I see this working in practice is that the tribunal has its own classical greek library, with roots and branches of the art but also lab texts, and every tribunal period there are proposals from magi to improve on the existing library by writing a higher level summae or a summae of higher quality, or sharing an innovation. This is then supplied to the tribunal for the token. The Tribunal will vote on which books are most needed, and then issue those tokens to the writer / translator (typically the writer in my game, due the desire to aim for quality books and the problem with cow and calf from foreign books, but things like the folio may get translated). The Tribunal acquires the cow and calf rights to the written books, much in the same way it has common vis sources. And the excess tokens that remain in the system from having more acts of altruism than crimes is typically spent by resident magi on rights to purchase books that are copied by the tribunal redcaps. Now it may not seem beneficial to the magi to write a copy for the tribunal for a token, when he could be selfish and try and retain the book and then get a token or vis everytime it is copied... but bear in mind that the Tribunal punishes selfishness - and the insert heavily implies that saying no to a straight request to contribute will probably lead to a decree of defamation in a successive motion. Once the Tribunal decides it needs a new Terram book, expect someone suggest only Asculator ex Guernicus of Hedyosmos is skilled enough (etc.). If you hit the reputation of being the best at something, you will be expected to contribute graciously.
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Note that the shards awarded for High and Low crimes are not instead of other punishment, but in addition to whatever punishment is judged appropriate.
Not that this really matter for the number of tokens and shards around, but anyway.

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Do people really commit more crimes because they aren't worried about getting a shard? That's... odd.

Your other points are well taken, and I appreciate the response. (I'm only quoting the part that I have questions on, for brevity.)

Do you charge all the bidders for the longevity ritual their tokens, or just the winner? Are you finding that you usually see bids of ~17 tokens in your saga (which would explain your net 15 number).

You mention that there are 55 published magi; my count is 95, including Didyma and the various unnamed magi included in the covenant descriptions but not specifically itemized. Here's the spreadsheet I am referencing: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Teh07XroAINXlXLdpVUewQwZfZneNZmVcbJ2CHPc3DU/edit#gid=0

By the way, why excluding Redcaps? Do non-Gifted Mercere not collect tokens in your saga?

Thanks again for your notes! I would love to hear more about how the token system is working for you in your saga!

EDIT to add:

I overlooked the bolded part, both in your post and in the book. I was reading it as once per tribunal, but you are correct that the book says every year. So that does serve as more of a token sink than I thought.

Also, the LR takes all the tokens the “bidder” has, they don’t make an actual bid so if they are holding onto 8 token they are almost assured of receiving the LR for that year but they will lose them all so while usually the magoi will have 3-4 sometimes that number may be quite a bit higher and much less frequently the number may be lower than 3 but since there is no upper limit and a lower limit of 1 (probably more like 2 in actual practice) the average is likely to be higher than the 3-4 since that’s not actually an average just how many the winner holds most years.

My guess is though that this analysis is ignoring some of the many things tokens are used on so actually accruing a large number is uncommon. Once a person gets 4-5 they probably are happy to spend them on access to libraries, asking an expert crafter to make them an item, help on a project, giving them to a redcap that went above and beyond in addition to their silver tips, etc. Sure, this doesn't take them out of circulation but it definitely flattens the hoarding.

Thanks to everyone for all the help. As a result, I got to a number I could work with, and was able to do the computations I needed for my saga.

In case they help anyone else, here they are:

Archae 2x15=30
Archon 1x3 = 3
Polemarch 1x5 = 5
Wiz March 3+4 = 7
Cases 5x1 = 5
Longev 7x2 = 14
Vis = 6x1 = 6
Child 15x1 = 15
== +78

Longev 7x4 = -28
Disqual 20x1 = -20
Gripes 12x1 = -12
Low Crimes 5x1 = -5
== -65
==== net +13 / 7 years

From there, I assumed there would be some additional tokens "ad hoc" when a march or special project is needed. This meant there would be enough for the 95 magi to save up ~0.5 tokens every 20 years past gauntlet, on average. From there, I adjusted for the levels of altruism displayed by the magi, to bias so that, for example, Epidauros ends up with more than the average would indicate.

It's back of the napkin math, but it seems to be working out to reasonable numbers.

The reason I care is that I am planning a story in which my PCs are mediating a dispute in which competition for the help of Epidauros is a major element of the conflict, and I want to get a sense of how much influence each of the various factions (covenants, leagues, etc) has available. This particular storyline (a variation of the sidebar on Sundered Eagle p 63) should bring in all the factions: propitiation vs hippocratic vs necromantic healing, league of Constantine, etc. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

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I'm sure you're correct. I only have a list of named magi from TSE. Anything else is invented by the storyteller, really, even though some covenant description gives an idea of how many magi there are there, sure. And of course, since you include redcaps in the count and I list them separately, the number increases.

For certain, they don't have as much need for tokens as magi, and they don't have as many opportunities to acquire them either. Their longevity rituals are paid for by House Mercere - so they don't bid tokens, they can't use a lab to produce items or longevity rituals for others, they don't really have a chance to fight a magi one-on-one in a march, they're unlikely to have the tools to harvest vis in tough spots like some tribunal sources, they probably aren't required to bid on ungifted apprentices, they also have to keep records on tokens and shards, witness transactions, etc. And so there's an expectation of neutrality in token record keeping. Also, Thebes seems to treat them as second class citizens. For examples, the boards will only get redcaps assigned to them if there aren't enough real magi to fill all spots for a phyle. I haven't really thought about whether they use tokens and shards, but I'm inclined to think if the Tribunal gives them token and shards, they probably don't stay in their hands very long and House Mercere probably has a system to collect shards and tokens for them if they do to pay for the longevity rituals and items they keep sponsoring.

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Very much so. Assuming Xenias the leper is willing to perform a longevity ritual every year, as the foremost longevity expert in the Tribunal, he would snatch 14 tokens per tribunal period where he isn't in extended twilight. Which would make him a vastly influencial magi, capable of commanding a lot of help in the lab or elsewhere at a moment's notice, despite his leprosy making him someone many magi would not actively seek contact with.

Edit: Of course, that's assuming he wants to spend so much time acquiring tokens, but...

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Thebes don't really treat redcaps as second class citizens - well, no more so than in other tribunals anyway.
The redcaps are who run the bureaucracry and handle all the recordkeeping. This makes them much more important than in most other tribunals.
Serving on the various boards is mostly considered a duty rather than an honor, so the redcaps should consider themselves lucky to normally not have to serve there.

No argument that they aren't treated worst than in other tribunals. I guess what I meant is they aren't treated the same way as other magi. Do you run a thebes game? How do you handle tokens for redcap if at all?

But unless the emmigration is very spontaneous, the mage in question would simply sell/trade them, since the alternative is straight up loss.

No, Redaps aren't treated the same as other magi. Or to be precise, they aren't treated the same as magi.
Redcaps aren't mages, even if they are members of the Order of Hermes.

I am not running a Thebes game, although I would be interested in doing one.
If I did, I'd probably let the Redcaps stay outside the whole system with tokens and shards.

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He could certainly try, but depending on the time available he may not find anything suitable to use the tokens on. As noted the main uses of tokens are to neutralize a shard of some other mage in return for some service, or given as a gift as thanks for some help or service without any neutralization of shards happening.

Trading tokens or shards for vis is explicitly not allowed, else that would be an obvious thing to do.

not allowed, but possible perhaps if one is willing to sell them off cheap?

Perhaps possible, but difficult and risky since all transactions of tokens need to be recorded by a Redcap to be valid.

This requires that if there is to be a black market for shards and tokens then it requires either:

a) a corrupt redcap to record the transaction
or
b) 2 or more magi willing to manufacture a fraudulent reason for the transfer of same.

If a magus buys a fleeting service from another magus then there is little evidence of the service that merited the transfer of the service other than the testimony of the involved magi. The challenge is finding someone willing to take a few tokens fraudulently.

especially given how cheap vis is supposed to be in that tribunal- and if you want to talk about somewhere the hype doesn't match the math that would be it- the council is defined to have more vis than anyone else and claims 50 pawns every year, meaning that a standard covenant of 6 cannot gather more than 10 pawns per year per magus, which is much les than what could potentially be used in lab work alone, never mind being so plentiful that it is casually used for tipping and gift exchange. I mean other books talk about a queen of vis being a standard unit of exchange, but that is twice the net income for the tribunal governing body. That would be like finding out your state government has a gross income of $500 a year.

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