Relic Tycoon Development Diary 1: The Black Market

A simple forest scene.

So, I said I’d make this development diary fortnightly, and (roughly; who’s counting) a fortnight later here’s the first update. In this post I’ll be talking in a little more detail about some of the game’s central mechanics.

The Basics, or, So You Want To Be a Relic Trader:

In Relic Tycoon you, naturally, trade in relics: sourcing them on the cheap, then trying to sell them on at a substantial markup. The city’s awash with fellow traders looking for an opportunity, so you’ll be able to sell anything you own at almost any time. But since the black market – like any real-world market – is highly unpredictable the choice of when to sell is rarely an easy one. Prices will fluctuate unpredictably over time, forcing players to be careful about what they buy and sell, and when.

A campfire at night.

But it’s not just a case of waiting and praying that prices change in your favour – you can be far more proactive than that:

Insider Trading

Sometimes you’ll be able to source insider information – perhaps a contact tells you that a wealthy, eccentric gourmand is planning a huge dinner party, allowing you to buy up all the food-based relics on the market before word gets out and prices rise.

Unique Individuals

In addition to selling to other black market traders, you’ll occasionally encounter people who want to purchase specific relics for some particular use: a group of pilgrims want to use a holy shroud as a sail for their ship. A semiologist is going to explore ancient crypts, and will pay good money for your Gnashing Wisdom Teeth. These people are unique, and they’ll usually offer better prices than
other relic traders will. But they don’t hang around forever, and they might not always have the best of intentions in mind.

Supernatural Powers and How To Sell Them:

A glass of Lethean Stout.

So that’s the basics. So far so rudimentary economic simulation with a couple of twists. But Relic Tycoon isn’t about trading stocks, or simple commodities. Being relics of a holy or otherwise preternatural nature, the items you buy generally hide some hidden power – the power to talk to rats, the power of slowly inflicting madness, and so on.

For example: if your newly-purchased bottle of Lethean stout isn’t in high demand you have several options. You can store it and hope for a change in the market, you can send it off to the municipal museum to get it evaluated, or you can withdraw to your offices and try to unlock its secrets yourself.

Evaluating Relics

For a fee, the relickers at the museum will take a look at whatever you send them: both tinkering with the relic itself, and poring through historical and theological texts to determine if it has some particular significance.


A pair of Wayfarer Skulls.

Evaluating relics has three possible outcomes, (outcomes 1 and 2 sometimes occurring together):

1. Some historical information is discovered. For example: the relickers find that your vial of supposedly holy blood contains the genuine sanguine of the prophet Astrea. This may increase the item’s price, and/or it might unlock secret content.

2. Some hidden property is discovered: For example, the relickers find that your Lethean stout has the power to make any who drink it totally forget the recent past. This allows you to use it in various situations, perhaps even to defend yourself in a future police raid (more on police raids in a future update). Additionally, this might also cause changes in price, and/or unlock secret content.

3. Your relic is declared a counterfeit. For example, the genuine Fetid Bandages of Margaret of Strzyzów you bought for four hundred shillings are actually nothing more than cheap forgery – simply pieces of old fabric treated with cow’s ichor.

So, while the information you gain is usually worth the relatively small cost of the evaluation, it does have risks. Once a relic is declared a counterfeit word gets around fast, leaving it worthless. So if you can already make good money on a trade, it might be safer to sell the item on before placing it under the careful eyes of the relickers.

An icy hellscape.

In Conclusion: I Digress

The goal of Relic Tycoon is to make enough money to buy yourself into retirement before the government cracks down on the trade and manages to throw you in jail.  But sometimes simply making money isn’t always the best long-term decision. If a relic is worth a lot it’s generally because it’s useful in some way. Selling your Dream-Anchor might make you a healthy profit, but you’ll be regretting it when the doppleganger you accidentally brought into existence invades your dreams, itching for a fight.

In other words, relics can give you important benefits outside of simple profit. They can give you +1 points of bravado, or cause rats to respect you, or allow you to sponsor an expedition to the Dead Taiga, or cure you of the blindness that you were stricken with when you foolishly looked into the Mirror of Blinding for no good reason.

They can improve your abilities, unlock new areas, unlock new uses for other relics, cause you to make terrible mistakes, save you from jail time, and teach you about the strange world of Relic Tycoon.

So while the buying-and-selling mechanics outlined in this update are a central part of the game, they wouldn’t be much alone. The writing, the world, and the choices available to the player are the most important parts of Relic Tycoon. More on them in a later update.

A fading campfire.

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