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Adam Smith Hates Your Guts

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"The Khanate merchants grin when they see you coming. An unlicensed foreign captain? They'll pick a price and triple it."

This is the simplest way of saying that the market in a game hates you, the player, beyond all measure.

During the course of a game, the price of a valued commodity will go up, usually several times, to the point where it's prohibitive to actually buy this commodity. Heaven help you if you can't find this commodity in the game normally.

Take, for example, inn prices. The farther out from the origin point one goes, the more expensive a night at the inn is. It does not matter if the inn is in a capital city, or whether it's in a podunk village in the middle of nowhere. To understand the significance of why this is wrong, consider the following: which is going to be more expensive, given properties of approximately the same size and number of stars: a hotel room in Manhattan near Times Square, or one in Poughkeepsie? (If you don't know where Poughkeepsie is, you've proven the point.) The point is: One night's stay at an inn late in the game costs about as much as buying the entire metropolitan city you started out in.

In short, Adam Smith Hates Your Guts.

Named after Adam Smith himself (the one from the 18th Century, not the modern-era writer on finance who used "Adam Smith" as a Pen Name and whose actual name was George Goodman), who is usually considered to be the father of modern economics. Common in games that manage to avert With This Herring, and justified from a design standpoint as a form of Money Sink to avert Money for Nothing. See also Command & Conquer Economy. A hero with a 100% Heroism Rating might be able to get a discount, though.

Ironically often overlaps with Karl Marx Hates Your Guts, where the gaming economy is stacked against you so that all goods have a globally fixed price, but you can never sell things for that price, so becoming a successful businessperson is nigh impossible without serious abuse of the system. Going back to our example of the inn, the inn in Poughkeepsie and the inn in Times Square are both the same price (Karl Marx hates you), and that price keeps going up (Adam Smith hates you).

It's worth noting that, in Real Life, a person like the player character has what classical economics would call a perfectly inelastic demand for certain commodities. This means that, no matter what the price is, the player will manage to raise the funds and be willing to fork them over simply because they need to buy these items. Any merchants who are aware of this can and will charge absurd amounts of money, because they know it will sell regardless, so long as there isn't someone selling it cheaper nearby. Of course, behavioral economics reminds us that human beings are not constructs in classical economic theory, and so are prone to making decisions about prices that take into account more than just supply and demand. The most audacious form of the trope, Price Gouging is a two edged sword, however: In many places raising the price of gasoline and bottled water during a hurricane isn't just a good way to be branded a Jerkass by the local community- it can be grounds for criminal charges and seizure of goods. note  Additionally, even strongly pro-capitalist governments tend to pass anti-monopoly laws forbidding this sort of thing in the large scale.

Not to be confused with No Hero Discount (which is where storekeepers charge full price even though you're saving their butts). Also not to be confused with Adam West, though he may hate your guts too, if only because they may contain microscopic bacteria that he saw in a dream once. Teaser Equipment looks similar, but is about equipment that's priced so you won't be able to afford it until much later in the game. May involve being Scolded for Not Buying.

Compare Bribing Your Way to Victory and Shockingly Expensive Bill.

Also despite the name of this trope, it is not to be confused with Capitalism Is Bad (though works using the latter can employ this trope as a demonstration of why they believe that).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Chapter 50 of The Demon Girl Next Door, it is revealed that Sion effectively price-gouged Momo for the "Corruption Stabilizer" potion—Sion asked Momo to pay 7,289,590 yen for it, knowing well that she is not willing to completely fall to the Dark side and she can afford that much.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean: Gwess' info on Green Dolphin Street Prison is genuinely good and helpful, but the problem is that her prices are staggering, typically being $200 minimum.
  • In The Mage Will Master Magic Efficiently in His Second Life, Zeff unintentionally did this, due to setting the prices of accessories he was trying to sell at the market price he knew from the future. Lydia has to point it out to him and he has to sell them at a loss just to get what they need.
  • Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle exists in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse. As such, when the demons escort the princess to the nearest human town so she can purchase a limited edition pillow, they find that everything is extremely expensive because the nearest human town is, from the humans' perspective, the Hero's last stop before the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, and all the prices are inflated accordingly.

  • In Level One Player, being a successful player can get you lots of wealth and fame, fast, but it's notoriously expensive to start out, with the known dungeons actually charging you to go in and risk your life, and if you do get lucky with a rare, or better, loot drop, you're staring down a 42% automatic tax from your sales at auction.

    Fan Works 
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, as part of his Adaptational Villainy, Agil (going by "Tiffany" in this retelling) gives up on trying to help the other players after realizing they're all a bunch of morons, and spends his time in SAO selling them crappy weapons at inflated prices. It earns him enough of a reputation that Laughing Coffin mentions him by name when they put together a video advertisement for their services.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Boiler Room: The shady brokerage firm J.T. Marlin overcharges on the fraudulent stock it is selling, getting a "rip" of two dollars for every share sold via dishonest sales tactics. Even the main protagonist doesn't know the company he's working for is an illegal operation until realizing he defrauded many clients of their life savings.
    • While securities transaction fees are an industry norm, there are rules on how much broker-dealers can charge their clients. Any investor should always look at the transaction and account maintenance fees that are being assessed before placing a trade.

  • In fifth book of the RPG Mechanics 'Verse series Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, both Welf and Lili are shocked at the outrageous prices being charged for substandard items in the item shop on the 18th floor, such as a really beaten bag being sold for 20k valis. Unfortunately they don't have a choice but to buy it, as Bell was forced to drop almost all of their items just to make it to the 18th floor safely. And they would need said items to make it back to town.
  • In-universe example in The Hunger Games. The longer the Games run, the more expensive it is for sponsors to send support to remaining Tributes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In 7 Wonders Duel, if you lack any resources you need for a building, you can purchase the missing ones from the bank. The cost of each missing resource increases as your opponent collects brown and grey cards that produce the resource you're missing.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The first edition of AD&D included rules for training costs in order to advance a level once you had earned the necessary experience points. The time required varied depending on how well you had played your class, as rated by your Dungeon Master. Training time was 1-4 weeks at a rate of 1,500gp times your level per week, plus the cost of paying your tutor, until you reached 9th or "Name" level, then it was a different base rate times your level per week based on your class note  and you no longer needed to hire a trainer. This was a pretty steep expense at lower levels. Higher levels were even more expensive note , but high-level characters also had so much wealth that they could afford the training costs fairly easily. Most groups at the time just ignored the training rules completely, and later editions of the game have made their version of the training rules optional and much less expensive, if they included them at all.
      • In the first computer adaptations, the "Gold Box" games, training cost 1,000 gold times the character's (current) level and didn't take any in-game time. This was actually an inversion, since you had few resources early on, but after completing a few quests you could always afford to promote a 2nd or 3rd level character when they had earned enough experience points, and gold was so plentiful that eventually no expense was beyond your means.
    • In third edition magic items had their price overhauled to be a great deal more than earlier editions, for example the base price of a Crystal Ball went from 5,000gp to 42,000gp. The game was also balanced so that characters were expected to have a certain gross worth of magic items, and characters who did not have those items at higher levels were generally unable to compete. Magic items could be constructed at a reduced cost and you could even make a profit making and selling them, but they also cost you experience points to construct.
    • Fourth edition, for ease of play everything has a fixed standard price (particularly visible in the way the cost of any magic item is purely a function of its level). Fair enough. However, player characters can never sell anything (including magic items) not explicitly put into the game as a cash-substitute treasure by the scenario designer for more than 20% of it's notional 'market price'... (There's a reason for that, and it's that the game developers explicitly wanted to encourage players to take their characters adventuring rather than have them sit around using weeks and months of in-game downtime making stuff to generate more money. But it still fits the trope to a T.)
      • And honestly, 20% is not all that strange if you look at it from an economic perspective; sure, the merchant seems like they're ripping you off, but how often do high-level adventurers come by town? In the default assumption, the heroes are pretty much THE heroes, and there just aren't all that many other people who would be capable of buying that + 5 flaming bastard sword that you sold to Bob's Used Weapon Emporium.
    • In Fifth Edition, it's stated that magic items would hardly ever be available for sale, but a table is given stating their approximate values based on rarity. A potion you can drink once that lasts for ten minutes can cost you the same as a ring or cloak that has a permanent effect, if the potion produces an effect that is more rare.
    • A special case is also the component cost for the Raise Dead ritual. It starts at 500 gold pieces' worth of materials... until a character reaches 11th level, whereupon it suddenly increases by a factor of ten — and then the same thing happens once more upon hitting level 21 (of 30 possible). Handwaved by the game as 'death being less willing to return great heroes'.
      This because death has to be significant enough that it is meaningful, but not significant enough that dying is a major disruption to the game. 500 gp is a pittance to a mid to high level character, so the cost needed to be increased in order to make it at least mean something. It is a constant struggle in such games for death to be meaningful, but not crippling. In previous editions, you lost levels for dying and being raised, so this is a significant step forward as far as pricing goes.
    • Lampshaded in this Full Frontal Nerdity strip.
    • A relatively recent addition to the 4th-edition rules is item rarity. Common items can be purchased, created by PCs, and sell for the usual 20%. Rare items, however, cannot be crafted or bought — they only turn up as loot if the DM specifically places them. The good news is that they sell for 50% (or even 100%) of their list price.
  • GURPS went to a ridiculous extreme in justifying and averting this trope. Magic items are balanced via a relatively simple economic system they built for the game (and explain to any GM who wants to change it).
  • Monopoly is based on this principle. As the game goes on, the players acquire more and more property, monopolize what they can, and charge higher and higher rents to other players who land on their property. Players whose income does not increase fast enough to pay off increasing rents will eventually be eliminated, until only one remains.
    • In fact, Monopoly was originally created as a criticism of the effect of private rents, as a demonstration of how it leads to mass ownership of land by a single entity. In the very first version of Monopoly, you were then supposed to play a second round with slightly altered rules that limit the ability for one player to take over: but this was quickly dropped when it entered the mass market because it's a game and pretend-bankrupting your friends is fun, at least to people who enjoy Monopoly.
  • Tesla Vs Edison limits the total number of actions any player can take in a single turn. Players rapidly realized that the best way to win the game was not to attempt to run either of the iconic power companies, but to spend all their actions stock market trading to gain the maximum benefit from the players who were doing so.

  • Nodwick once had the explanation that Nodwick's employers were such successful adventurers that they'd ended up wrecking the town's economy due to how much gold, silver, and precious gems they'd brought back: gold was worth less than lead and emeralds were no more valuable than gravel.
  • The Order of the Stick offers an explanation for this. Prices are not actually as high as they are in video games... until they spot Player Characters moving into the town. In which case, they will bring prices up, and open up shops just to make money.
  • In Darths & Droids the players speculate that the ludicrous margins every shop maintains (charging twice what they pay for everything) means they have to be colluding; they speculate this was the origin of the Trade Federation.

    Web Original 
  • Parodied in Cracked's video "Why Shopping in a Video Game Universe Sucks".
    Link: Forty thousand rupees for a satchel? This is cheap burlap!
  • Bodger the blacksmith from Epic NPC Man sells high level equipment to players at inflated prices.
    • In "Legendary Sword", the player finds that he's not high enough level to wield what he just purchased.
    • In "Markup", the player accidentally sells Bodger his main weapon and is infuriated to learn he has to buy it back with all the gold he has.
    • In "Never buy weapons in games", the player buys a powerful sword from Bodger with all of his gold (which Bodger insists is a one-of-a-kind sword in a league of its own and that the player won't find a finer blade), only to get a +1 version as a drop from the first bandit he kills.
      Sour_Grain: You motherfu-!
  • The shopkeepers in Warrens of Oric the Awesome. There are 3 different currencies , with ridiculous exchange rates between them (10 fountain pence for a stream ruby, 5 stream rubies for a fountain pence). The shops often inflate their prices, and are the only practical way to gain stats.

Alternative Title(s): Rising Cost Of Health Insurance